It’s time for change.

The past week has brought significant public attention to several serious, deep-rooted problems within the United States, drawing people to the streets across the world, amid a pandemic, to fight for change.

Appalling police brutality and complicity has once again resulted in the death of a non-threatening, cooperative Black man; the President of the United States has proven himself to be an aspirant fascist dictator; and lawless rioting and looting has engulfed vast swathes of every major city. All of this has happened in just one week.

Times like these make it easy to ask: what the hell is going on in the land of the free?

For decades, the United States has almost universally been seen as the leading example of democracy, freedom and successful society in the world. Now, it’s easy to argue the opposite: that the United States has become a prime example of what happens when a society is allowed to become bitterly divided.

Like so many others, I wish I had an answer to why this is happening, but I just don’t. No amount of thinking will ever allow me to understand why such deep division has come to exist in the United States. Part of me feels that it’s always been there, deep under the surface, and has been enabled by the utter depravity of Donald Trump — a man whose despicable lack of empathy for and understanding of those around him has brought the United States to what is arguably its most divided state since the Civil War.

Throughout the past week, I’ve had discussions with numerous people about what’s going on, and one thing is abundantly clear: people are angry with the world right now, and want change. It’s rare for something to get a majority of people my age politically fired up, but this week has well and truly done it.

We’re angry and concerned about what our future world looks like. We want our voices to be noticed, rather than dismissed in the old tradition of ‘children should be seen and not heard’. Something needs to change, and it needs to change now.

As idealistic as it sounds, imagine if the world was a place where everybody was equal and respected. A world where someone’s personal, political, or religious beliefs do not form the foundation of how they judge others. A world where a person of colour can have an encounter with police, without feeling threatened. A world where a woman can walk around by herself late at night, without fearing for her safety. A world where aggrieved people can peacefully protest, without fear of being forcefully moved on by armed soldiers. Imagine that world.

These problems are not exclusive to the United States, either. Right here in Australia, similar (though not nearly as divisive) problems exist. For example, in the last week, there have been at least three major news stories on law enforcement mistreating Aboriginal teenagers: a video of a NSW Police officer performing an unnecessarily forceful arrest; a video depicting an unlawful strip-search being conducted; and the High Court of Australia finding that unlawful teargassing was conducted at the Don Dale Youth Detention centre in 2014.

Ultimately, the most crucial thing to do is to stay aware of what’s going on. Don’t blindly accept what the government tells you. Challenge ideas, question why things are the way they are. Ignorance is only bliss for those who want you to be ignorant.

For decades, a simple pattern has repeated itself over and over: something happens, it gets in the news cycle for a few days or weeks, people raise awareness, then we forget, and nothing changes. Don’t allow the death of George Floyd to be in vain. Do something useful. Something more than just posting a black photo on your social media pages. Reflect on your own behaviour and attitudes. Make change. Hold people accountable. Challenge intolerant bigots. Whatever it is that you do, make a difference.

This time, let’s change for good.

One month later: COVID-19 in Australia

Just over a month ago, when the reality hit for many that COVID-19 was a real and immediate threat to Australians, I wrote about choosing to approach it as optimistically as possible, given what little we could do about the virus, besides following the appropriate health advice.

Now, a month later, I feel that I should share an update on where I think we, as a country, are at.

By all accounts, we’ve done well. Exceptionally well. Much better, I think, than anybody could have possibly expected a month ago. The vast majority of Australians have honourably followed the directions given by all levels of government, and thanks to that we are now in a position to begin slowly reopening our country — something which will certainly be one of the dominating themes of political discourse in this country over the coming months, and rightly so. After all, if we reopen too quickly we risk another outbreak; while reopening too slowly risks unnecessary damage to the economy. These are such tough decisions to have to make, and I certainly don’t envy those in government right now.

When it comes to keeping the spread of coronavirus minimal, I think it’s crucial that we harness the power of modern technology. For that reason, I’ve downloaded the COVIDSafe app, and so should you. There are few people more concerned about the increasing trend in government surveillance worldwide than I am. When I first heard about the app, I immediately refused to even consider it. In fact, I was opposed to it almost all the way up until its release. It’s a very technical thing (better explained in this thread by Matthew Robbins on Twitter), but in short: the app does not collect location data on you. Misinformation surrounding the app is rife, so please take the time to educate yourself.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been taking my normal school lessons online via Zoom. For me, it’s been great. With a bit of extra effort, and thanks to the brilliant work of teachers (who I cannot possibly thank enough), I’ve been able to keep on top of my work, and minimise the impact of remote learning.

That being said, not a day goes by where I don’t think how difficult it would be right now for students not fortunate enough to have access to the resources that I do, and I think that decisive action in one form or another is going to have to be taken at some point to ensure that every child in Australia, from Ascot to Aurukun, has the right to access safe, high-quality education.

In my post last month, I placed particular emphasis on looking for positive things right now. To that end, I want to share my two favourite things from over the past month. One is quite funny, and the other will surely be the most heartwarming thing you’ll see all day.

For now, that’s all I’ve got to say. To keep track of my thoughts, head over to Twitter and follow me there. To conclude by saying ‘stay safe’ has become quite a cliché, so I will instead make a simple request of you: as life returns to a degree of normalcy, please don’t become complacent — we’ve made it this far, and it would be such a shame to erase that progress now.

Optimism over despair: responding to coronavirus

I can distinctly remember scrolling through Twitter in early January and reading an article — in the New York Times, I believe — about a mysterious new SARS-like virus that had been rapidly spreading in the city of Wuhan, China.

Back then, it would have been ludicrous to suggest that this small, localised outbreak would lead to (in a matter of mere weeks) the world facing what is arguably its greatest crisis since World War II.

Notwithstanding that, here we are. Countries are in lockdown, borders are closed, the economy is crashing and masses of people have been left unemployed; hardly a great start to the better decade we were all hoping for 10 weeks ago. But, it’s what fate has delivered, so we must do everything we can to minimise its impact, stop the spread and ultimately learn from it.

In this landscape where the news is so frequently bad, it’s important to regularly step back and look at the broader picture. The Facebook post below does a good job at highlighting what a negative mindset versus a positive mindset looks like in this situation.

On my part, I’ll be trying my best to find stories of people doing good things throughout this, and I’ll be sharing them on my Twitter page. If you’re interested, follow me there.

Moving forward, I hope that as we move past the terrible impacts this virus has had and will continue to have, humanity will draw closer (social distancing still applies!) as a result of it. Let’s allow coronavirus to serve as a reminder of our shared existence, and that we are all stuck here together.

We can defeat this thing. Stay at home unless absolutely necessary, practice good hygiene, remember to exercise common sense, and most importantly, follow the health advice. Together, we will pull through this, and emerge stronger than ever before.

Be kind to each other, and stay safe.

Why I’m supporting Elizabeth Warren for president

Many months ago, at the commencement of the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, I firmly entrusted my support in Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year old Mayor of South Bend, Indiana. With his sensible progressive policy agenda, military experience as well as Harvard and Oxford education (on a Rhodes Scholarship, no less), what wasn’t to like about Mayor Pete? Sure, he didn’t possess the largest political background, but I was (and remain) of the view that the ability to lead stems from more than just experience in selling policies.

Towards the end of November, however, I started to feel more and more disillusioned with the direction in which Buttigieg’s campaign was moving. In my view, his policies were becoming either poorly redesigned versions of what his more prominent opponents were proposing, or simply not in line with my views — a sentiment that many former Buttigieg supporters seem to hold. At that point, I felt it was time to move on from Mayor Pete. But with all the other candidates, actually deciding who to shift my support behind proved to be a slight challenge. Notwithstanding that, I eventually reached a conclusion.

Joe Biden.

Sure, I didn’t think he was by any stretch a great candidate (nor do I currently), but I knew he’d get the job done and pose a formidable challenge to Donald Trump. His policies are to effectively continue and build upon the work of the Obama administration, and for the most part that ticked all my boxes.

Later, though, I realised that it should not be about just ticking the right boxes. This election is about who will inspire the most Americans with the hope of a better future. It’s about not just promising but acting to create legislation which increases living standards for the many, not the few. It’s about making the individuals and corporations at the very top of society pay their fair share. I can tell you now, neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden will do all of those things. So, who will? Elizabeth Warren.

Warren brings to the table an inspiring plan to rebuild working-class America — lots of American Dream type stuff. Meanwhile, Biden just aims to keep things more or less the same, making changes here or there, but primarily going with the flow. As I mentioned earlier, this ticks the boxes for me (anything that’s not Trump does at this point), but why stop there? Why pick the merely satisfactory option, when an option which is so significantly better lies just beyond it.

Some might wonder why I care so much. After all, I’m neither a citizen nor a resident of the United States. That’s true, but for better or for worse, the United States remains the undisputed leader of the free world, and as long as that remains the case the onus is on us, as members of a democratic society to maintain a key interest in monitoring the state of affairs in the US (without interfering) because what happens there is all too often mirrored here in Australia.

In that spirit, it’s my view as a non-American that the America which Elizabeth Warren is aiming to create is one which promotes equality, freedom and justice for all. An America where you’re paid enough to be able to feed your family, keep a roof over the heads of your children and enjoy world-class healthcare. An America where those at the top end of town pay their fair share.

Elizabeth Warren’s vision for the United States is progressive, sensible and inspiring, and it’s for that reason that I am supporting her campaign to become the 46th President of the United States.

Lost leader exhibiting a lack of leadership

A week ago, I posted a thread on Twitter criticising Scott Morrison for his notable lack of any useful contribution to the bushfire crisis. Almost no visits to impacted areas, no real public displays of support and concern, as well as point-blank refusing to accept legitimate realities surrounding the situation.

So, what would I have Morrison do? It’s so incredibly simple: unify the country. Have people put their political divisions aside to support those impacted in whatever way fits best. At this terrible time, strong and unifying leadership is almost all I ask of you, Scott.

Unfortunately, Scott Morrison has proven himself to be completely inept at practising leadership at that level, or even a level close to it. It’s not just his leadership that’s missing, either. The man himself has taken a “well-earned” break with his family, an opportunity that so many Australians will not have this Christmas as a result of their astonishing bravery and generosity in putting themselves on the line to battle the fires. Don’t get me wrong, I think everyone deserves a holiday every now and again, but this, a national crisis, is the sort of thing I would expect the Prime Minister to return from a holiday early from, certainly not to begin one during.

I’m not the only one who thinks this sort of thing isn’t on, either. Here’s Scott Morrison on the ABC’S Q&A programme in 2010, criticising then Victorian police chief Christine Nixon for going out to dinner during the Black Saturday bushfires.

It’s almost like he’s criticising her for abandoning her post during a bushfire-related emergency, right? How good is a hypocrite?

Scott, I’m seeing a lot of burning right now, but none from you. I’d be very surprised if Dutton and Porter aren’t counting the numbers right now.

Malcolm, you’re welcome back any time.

A week later

Well, that was a surprise. While it may not be the result myself or millions of other Australians were hoping for, it’s the result we have been given, and the result we must accept out of respect for the democratic process which our country is so lucky to have. I’m not going to do some sort of boring analysis of every little detail of the entire week that’s passed since the election, but rather provide insight into my thoughts about some of the key parts of the week.

What happened: I still don’t know. Nobody should trust a poll ever again.

The resignation of Bill Shorten: If anybody could lose the unlosable election, it was bound to be Bill. If he couldn’t win this election, he can’t win any. Time’s up for Bill.

ALP Leadership contest: Of course, from the moment Bill Shorten resigned, the ALP became abuzz with talk about who would possibly replace him. While Anthony Albanese has been the favourite to replace Shorten for a long time, I had really hoped that Jim Chalmers might be given a chance. After watching him speak throughout the campaign, and taking a look at his past, I feel that he would have been a refreshing modern change for Labor, and someone who would have been able to target multiple demographics. However, as we’re now aware, it looks like Albanese & Marles are set to take up the top two jobs within the ALP. Wouldn’t have been my first pick, but then again, its a hell of a lot better than what the Liberals have to offer.

The Second Morrison Ministry: Because we all thought there would be a second! Let’s be real though, it’s just as bad as the last one. Angus Taylor has surprisingly maintained his role as Minister for Energy, despite the water buyback scandal that emerged in the weeks leading up to the election. An interesting exclusion from the ministry is Tim Wilson, who has been creating quite the name for himself within the Liberal Party recently, most predominantly as the architect behind the furore surrounding franking credits.

Clearly it’s set to be an interesting three years which will surely be as drama-filled as the last three. To those who refuse to accept the result of the election, you aren’t doing any good for anyone. Focus your anger on holding this government fully accountable for everything they do (because they were totally prepared to maintain government). Take this as some sort of comfort, we’re already 1/156 of the way through it!

The one thing Clive’s spot on about

“Australia ain’t gonna cop it, no Australia’s not gonna cop it, Aussies not gonna cop it any more.” Those words, while hard to take seriously in their original context, tell a lot about the state of politics in Australia in 2019.

Think about what the United Australia Party’s main vote winning strategy is across the nation. It’s not stopping the boats, or blocking the Adani project. It’s the promise of ending the political chaos of Canberra, and focusing on making the lives of the people of Australia better. No matter your view on the UAP, I think we can all at least accept that to quite a large amount of people, the idea of Canberra being refreshed is an appealing one.

If you aren’t convinced that people are losing faith in democracy in Australia, I’ll point you to this article in The Guardian, which shows that between 2013 to 2018, peoples satisfaction in Australian democracy fell from 72 percent to 41 percent. At this rate, fewer than 10 percent will have trust in Australian democracy by 2025. This is an alarming statistic, and one which is not receiving anywhere near as much attention as it should.

I’m not saying that the UAP or its policies are necessarily good (and I personally disagree with the party on almost all fronts), but rather pointing to it as an example of what happens when people lose faith in the system. Just look at the 2016 US Presidential Election if you don’t think distrust in the system can turn bad very quickly.

No matter which party gains a majority at the next election, Australian politicians need to work together more on both the issues they agree on, and especially those that they don’t, to achieve a better future for all of us. In today’s divided world, the last thing we need is an unnecessarily divided nation.

Uniquely united in the wake of the burning of Notre Dame

United. For the first time in a long time. A community united over something which wasn’t an intentional attack upon them.

In the wake of the burning of the Notre Dame cathedral, it occurred to me that the sadness shared by us all in response to this incident is completely different to anything we as a society have seen in a long time. In the past, when people have united like this, it’s been because of something a very bad person has done, and yet in the case of Notre Dame, it’s because a building which has seen it all and is loved by all has suffered a horrific fate.

This caused me to do some thinking about if there had even been a point in my lifetime where the world had united this uniquely, and eventually conceded that this is likely to be the first time in my life where, as stated previously, the world has united in this way due to something that wasn’t done in a deliberate act of evil.

It’s poignantly beautiful to see that the world is capable of uniting in such a way, and such a shame that it takes things like this for us all to be on the same page.

The “Canberra Bubble” shouldn’t exist, yet it does

This morning I spoke with Rebecca Levingston and Virginia Trioli on ABC Radio Brisbane, where I briefly raised the topic of the so-called Canberra Bubble. Of course, for those of you who listened in, you’d be aware that I’m not a fan of the phrase, but for those of you who didn’t hear, I’ll share it below:

One phrase that really annoys me a lot is the phrase “the Canberra Bubble” because I feel that it makes people think that certain things are really just restricted to politicians, and I think that that’s not what the Australian Parliament should be about. It should be open and accountable to all of the people of Australia.

We hear it all too often, to the point where I can literally hear Scott Morrison (ScoMo, for those who refuse to accept that there should be some basic standards when it comes to referring to the PM of Australia) in my head saying, “I really think that that’s a matter for the Canberra Bubble to deal with.”

It’s clearly a term used to effectively try and tell journalists that the answer to their question isn’t important, and doesn’t affect the Australian people. However, here’s the problem with that – the answer is important, and most certainly does affect the Australian people!

What seems to be so quickly forgotten by almost every MP and Senator is that they are there to represent their constituency (but, considering the amount of Section 44 compliancy issues, they might not realise this considering how few of them seem to have actually read the Constitution). Throughout Australia, there isn’t nearly enough communication between Members of Parliament and their constituents, and what doesn’t help is when this communication is seemingly viewed as a “benefit of membership” by some political parties, as you’ll see below from the ALP Queensland Membership Page:

As a member you have direct access to our politicians, candidates and elected officials. Communicate directly with the decision makers, on the issues you care about.

Of course, I could be interpreting this wrong, but to me this appears as if the Queensland Labor Party believes that unless you’re a member of their party, you aren’t worthy of having access to your local member (assuming they are Labor) . While I’m sure that this is not the case, the fact that this is even being used as a way of “selling” membership is despicable.

Australia’s politicians have an accountability issue. There’s no other way to put it. There are very very few who will just answer the tough questions as they’re asked. The phrase isn’t the main issue, rather it is an embodiment of our politicians unwillingness (certainly not inability) to answer reasonable and sensible questions about policy decisions which will affect Australians both now and in the long-term, and that is why I’ve got such a big issue with it.