An Artistic Response

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Nils Frahm play at the opera house. He is an incredible musician with a seemingly well-rounded personality. The show was something to behold, however, before a single note was played, Frahm explained that it was an honour to be playing his music in “Australia’s biggest billboard”. The crowd roared with laughter and applause, showing their appreciation for the joke that is the shambolic Australian parliament (and its parliamentarians).

Frahm later went on to make a greater point when he said that politicians and the business community often try and hijack the arts for the purposes of financial capital – thus implicitly stating that culture is only ‘a good’ if it is financially tangible. I tend to agree with this assessment of the arts under capitalism and indeed Frahm’s assessment.

There have been calls this past week to allow for human rights groups and NGO’s to advertise on the Opera House to determine whether there is some degree of favouritism for Alan Jones and his lackeys from the Liberal Party of Australia. There most certainly is, we should accept that. However, we should not accept that two wrongs make a right. We ought not to advertise anything other than arts and the celebration of Australian culture on the sails of Australia’s most recognisable building.

The Sydney Opera House is not a billboard, it is a national icon that represents Sydney’s growing culture. If we treat our most well-known building as a political or business tool, we lose the benefits of artistic culture for what is being advertised, whether political or financial.

Political Thrill n’ Spills

It is going to be a messy week in Australian politics. Yet again, the nation is being held hostage by the ebbing and flowing dynamics prevalent within political parties.

Malcolm Turnbull is Australia’s 29th Prime Minister. He seized the reigns of the nation after staging a political coup against his political rival Tony Abbott, in 2015.  Abbott won the 2013 on the back of infighting within the Labour Party – which saw Julia Gillard make a surprise attack on Kevin Rudd’s leadership in 2010, before Rudd regained his Prime Ministership for a total of 53 days before losing the 2013 election to Mr Abbott.

Since Turnbull staged his political coup, Abbott (often associated with Australia’s conservative movement) has been on the political sidelines. Over the past three years he has often been a bee in Turnbull’s bonnet, creating controversy by doing as he likes – specifically by not acting in the best interest of his government or Prime Minister’s agenda. However, Turnbull has been able to weather the Abbott storms repeatedly for two reasons: first, Turnbull has proven himself to be a more flexible and adaptive politician than Tony Abbott, who ultimately lost his Prime Ministership due to his rigid and somewhat cold leadership style. Second, Turnbull has been a stable and reasonably popular Prime Minister. I will now speak a little more broadly regarding this second point.

Malcolm Turnbull is not the best Prime Minister Australia has had. But he is probably the best person to run the country given the underwhelming selection of leaders within Parliament House. Turnbull is the longest serving Prime Minister in the last decade and his leadership has brought about a general feeling of political stability within Australia. Australia was a laughing stock following the Labour Party’s infighting and then Abbott’s downfall. With four Prime Minister’s in five years, anyone would have been forgiven for pointing at Australia and saying “that’s how not to run a country.” Nonetheless, Turnbull has provided mild stability through tumultuous times.

With such a divided political spectrum, Turnbull has provided Australia with a centrist and indeed truly liberal Prime Minster while managing those from within his party who would seek to see him fail – namely Mr Abbott. However, it would seem that his political fortunes are turning, rapidly.

This week Turnbull has shown political weakness in appeasing the conservative faction within his party by doing a 180 degree turn. His ‘NEG’ (National Energy Guarantee) appears dead in the water. There was some beauty to the NEG in that it promised to lower energy prices while keeping to Australia’s Paris Climate Agreement commitments. All appeared to be going swimmingly when Turnbull’s party internally voted in favour of legislating the NEG.

Today, Turnbull has revealed he does not have the support to pass the bill, thus, he is pulling the plug, for the time being. To make matters worse, growing support for yet another leadership spill is building momentum.

If Australia has yet another leadership spill, then it shows there are serious problems in Australia’s democracy. If Australia’s democracy were functioning to ensure stability and good leadership had at least a chance to flourish, then there would be legislation forbidding Prime Ministerial coups via means of internal party politics. Australia is at the mercy of corporatist styled parties, and democracy is not a requisite within a corporation. This is a blight on Australian politics and on the people whom our parties are supposed to be working for.

It is for the reader to imagine how much credibility political parties in Australia deserve. The two-party system in Australia is faltering. If we want to maintain a truly democratic political system we need more transparency from the major parties, though somehow I feel this will not be forthcoming.

Can we maintain faith in the Catholic Church?

This question extends well beyond whether anyone considers secularism a social goal, whether faith in the Judaeo-Christian God is worth your time or whether spirituality should be institutionalised, more generally. Rather, the question of faith in the Catholic Church extends directly from the ongoing spate of court cases the institution is facing.

Today is a turning point. Archbishop Philip Wilson has been sentenced to 12 months detention following Newcastle Local Court decision, finding him guilty of covering up child sexual abuse in the 1970s. To date, Wilson is the highest-ranking Catholic Church official to be convicted of crimes relating to the sexual and or physical abuse of children. There are wide calls for the Pope to actively acknowledge and indeed condemn Wilson, on behalf of the Catholic Church.

Business, as usual, will not hold muster. Although most of the Catholic Church’s officials, throughout history, have behaved in accord with their spiritual oaths – the abuses of modern priests must not be overlooked particularly by those at top of the Catholic tree. It is essential that senior Catholic Church officials outwardly condemn Wilson if the church expects to limit the inevitable social damage that will manifest over coming years and decades. Accountability will be essential to the continuation of this ancient institution.

So, getting back to the question at hand, can we maintain the faith in the Catholic Church? This remains to be seen. Much will depend upon what happens over the coming months and years. In reality, it will be an uphill battle to repair the social damage that has been caused in the name of the church. Wilson is just one priest that has been found guilty and it so happens he is the most senior official convicted thus far. It is highly likely he will not be the most senior official to be found guilty, for long.  The world awaits the outcome of the court case of Cardinal George Pell, who is the institutions third most prominent figure.

Whether you should maintain faith in this institution is your choice. However, the sheer enormity and scope of the cover-ups the Catholic Church is responsible for, are alarming. The severity of this problem cannot be understated, the social recovery will take a long time. Whether the Catholic Church deserves our trust is a question that begs to be answered. The manner in which the institution deals with abuse survivors and the convicted priests will speak volumes.

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