Absolute Rubbish


Titbits from his diet of worms



Ubud, Bali

Wednesday, Apr. 18, 2018


THE perennial problem of rubbish has yet again raised its head as a topic de jour. The trash that litters Bali’s beaches – it’s not only in the tourist-overburdened south – is something that won’t go away. At least, it won’t without concerted government-led action to set up efficient, sustainable and sufficiently funded waste management programs island-wide.

Getting troupes of anti-litter activists out onto the beaches to pick up trash isn’t the answer. It is merely a necessary immediate response (and very welcome and public spirited) to the universal practice of despoiling the island’s environment, from the tourist beaches where it’s blindingly and revoltingly evident to the piles of discarded garbage thrown away everywhere. The way to deal with the overall crisis – for that is what it is – is to reduce the amount of trash that gets dumped in the drains (ha!) and little streams and creeks, and the one or two watercourses that actually qualify as rivers. This is a local problem, not a tourist one, though of course the authorities point out that without tourism there wouldn’t be the level of waste with which they choose not to deal because official indolence is easier than effort. That way, in the methodology of Indonesian excuse making, it’s the tourists’ fault anyway.

There was an irate outburst on Facebook recently, from someone who lives in a family compound. She reported that she went off – there’s no better way of expressing what she did – when she saw one of her family neighbours littering the collective home environment. There’s no excuse for doing that. It’s not a matter of education. The only explanation is that the perpetrator doesn’t give a shit.

Yet as Yoda might say, “A shit is what we must give.” Until that happens, the criminal littering of Bali will simply continue.

Rubbish on a beach in the Sanur area recently.

Photo: Ton de Bruyn |Facebook

Plain Sailing

IT’S abundantly clear that Australia won’t be joining ASEAN in its present format, not least – as Aussie-Kiwi Indonesian hand Duncan Graham recently noted in a post on an Australian site for more conservative chatterers, On Line Opinion – because every member state has an effective veto on such matters.

Nonetheless, it’s a theoretical question that should be raised now and then, for example in the context of Australia hosting an ASEAN summit, as it did in Sydney recently. Such navel-gazing is in the interests of all parties to any such future arrangement, and James Massola, the new South-east Asian correspondent for the Fairfax media group, was right, not naïve as Graham implies, to do so. He had asked that question of President Joko Widodo and had received a Javanese answer. We’re sure Massola understood that this is what it was. But it was an answer that should be placed on the record.

Australian membership of South-east Asia’s leading geopolitical architecture would make more sense, in the future, and in the regional political circumstances that might well arise on the coattails of Chinese instead of American hegemony, than metaphorically sailing Australia round the world and anchoring it in the Atlantic in the middle of the New Anglosphere, as some Australians apparently would like.

Der Dummkopf

THE Commonwealth Games, a quadrennial sporting festival held among the countries that in long-ago days were jewels in the British imperial crown, and which have recently finished at the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia, provided the country’s leading former fish and chip shop proprietor with yet another opportunity to embarrass herself.

Two Indians won shooting medals at the games. According to Senator Pauline Hanson, she of the burka ban farce in the Australian parliament’s upper house in August last year, this was unsurprising since Indians were Muslim and Muslims do this sort of thing (shooting) for a living. She said this on Sky News television, the station of choice for those with towering intellects.

There are many Indian Muslims, but they constitute 14.2 per cent of the population. Hindus are the majority, totalling 74.3 per cent. It was possible, and indeed would be unremarkable if this had been so, that both Indian medallists were Muslim. But they weren’t, as their names would make abundantly clear to anyone even lightly briefed on the sub-continent, such as (even) an Australian fringe politician. The male winner was a chap called Jitu Rai. The female – she’s only 16 – was Manu Bhaker. For the record the men’s silver medallist was Australian Kerry Bell. He’s also neither a Muslim nor a terrorist in training.

Expeditionary Notes

WE’RE in Ubud again, as we write, with a visiting Australian friend who was last in Bali shortly after that dove got back to the Ark with a twig. She notes that things have changed. She enjoyed our drive up to Ubud from the Bukit the other day. It didn’t quite teach her any new words, but the form and expression of them was something of a novelty.

We’ve dined – again – at Kagemusha, the little Japanese garden restaurant at Nyuh Kuning, and the girls went shopping and dropped into the Diary’s favourite Monkey Forest Road café, The Three Monkeys, for a cooling drink. It’s hot work toting the totes.

Tomorrow we’re off to Candi Dasa. That’s a 57-kilometre drive which Google Maps told us today would take an hour and forty minutes. We’ll see tomorrow how long it actually takes to shift by road from Tegal Sari in Ubud to Bayshore Villas at Candi Dasa.

Tomorrow night it’s live jazz at Vincent’s. Pianist Nita Aartsen and her trio are on the bill. They’ve just performed at the closing night of the Ubud Food Festival.

Get It On

WE had a little note from Clare Srdarov the other day, telling us that An Evening on the Green is on again. This one’s on Apr. 28, at Hatten Wines in Sanur, with lots of wine, beer, games, raffles, auctions, and of course food trucks and bars. There’s music too, from four bands: Kim Patra, Muara Senja (from Ceningan), Eastern Soul and Linga Longa. Entry is by pre-purchased tickets only (Rp.200K a pop) and funds raised will go to BIWA, Solemen, Rumah Sehat and Trash Hero Sanur. Hatten’s technical adviser Jim K’alleskè, who also goes by the moniker Blue Cat Jimmy, was at last year’s show in his party hat as well as his Hatten one. This one should be a good gig too.


Pauline’s Peek-a-Boo


~ image from Senate CCTV footage


PAULINE Hanson’s stunt in the Australian Senate on Thursday – for that is what it was, banal to its bootstraps – has caused an outbreak of comment. It also caused Attorney-General George Brandis to deliver to Hanson a condign rebuke in the chamber, for which he is due high praise, whether or not you like his politics.

The burqa is not banned in Australia, and neither should it be. It is a Middle Eastern garment unrelated to Islamic beliefs, rites and practices, except by human interpretation. For some people it is a confronting thing. Perhaps it is for the women who wear it not by choice but by law, in Saudi Arabia, other Arabian places, and in societies where misinterpreted patriarchy is all the go, and where the local time is Medieval. But perhaps it is not, for other women, in other places, who choose to dress that way.

For Hanson and others who see or for political reasons wish to boost the idea of pandemic Muslim intention to murder and cause mayhem, it is a handy tool for making a political point. That’s what motivated the leader of One Nation in her Senate demonstration yesterday. She had no thought for the offence she might cause among women in Australia who wear a burqa, or that parenthetically she was offending an entire religion by her act.

She didn’t care. That’s her stock in trade. It plays to the galleries she wants to impress: those who have been taught to fear a global Muslim insurrection; and those (astoundingly, given the dispossession that British settlement brought to the Australian people who were already living there in 1788) who seem to believe that settler Australia’s way of life is fixed in amber, and consists of beer, barbecues, and plumber’s crack.

It is entirely legitimate to question the principles of the burqa, on any number of grounds. It does not reflect the general attitudes or practices of modern western liberal democracies, for example, although where women are concerned the continued prevalence and domination of the Neanderthal male is probably a greater threat. It is – so it is said – a security threat, since the wearer is obscured from view. That’s largely tosh. Most terrorists are madmen – literally, mad men: “It woz me gonads wot dunnit, Yer Onner.”

None of the Islamic terrorists who have just killed 13 people and injured scores in Barcelona wore a burqa. None of their despicable companions in a second planned attack, who fortunately were found and shot dead by Spanish police before they could do any harm, did either.

The burqa is irrelevant to the terror threat, which is very real and which must be dealt with on the spot when a murderous outrage is committed or planned.

Hanson is trying to polarise an Australian constituency for views that support a notion of “exceptionalist” Australia, something else that’s been borrowed from the land of the free and grossly over-armed. But it’s a legitimate political objective in a democracy, even though it’s completely mad. Wrapping yourself in a flag and shouting slogans is apparently less offensive than being allowed to dress as you wish.

That Greens Walkout: No, Senator, it was a Stunt


Sep. 18, 2016

PAULINE Hanson is an idiot: I mean in the general conversational meaning of that term, not the clinical diagnosis of that unfortunate condition. Her views on all sorts of things are ignorantly laughable, some are just plain dangerous, and all of them attract support from small, irritably disaffected corners of the federation.

In the federal election on July 2 a total of 4.29 per cent of Australians who voted gave their support to her One Nation party.

Hanson therefore possesses a constituency whose views, while they do not need to be accepted (perish the thought) should certainly be understood.

You could say much the same about Senator Richard Di Natale and his Greens. Their 2016 national vote was 10.23 per cent, more than double that of the One Nation party but still a minority view in the Australian electorate.

Both parties sit in the Senate, the upper chamber of the Australian legislature. The Senate is a public place – it has to be, in a parliamentary democracy: we haven’t quite reached the point where some Caligula could canvass the prospect of appointing his favourite horse to oversee its deliberations – but it is not a public meeting.

If Hanson’s views are offensive, which on some issues they most certainly are as opposed to being merely risible, and if they are being expressed at a public meeting, the options are clear: you can excuse yourself from exposure to tiresome and tedious ennui and exclude yourself by failing to be present.

But the Senate’s job, and a senator’s, is to listen as well as talk. By convention, too, senators are supposed to listen without interjection or demonstration to a new senator’s first speech. Conventions, and form, are important, even though the vastly expanded commentariat empowered by social media doesn’t seem to think so.

If the views of a new senator giving her formal first speech in the chamber are judged likely to offend, there are ways to avoid being exposed to such things, or indeed anything you believe to be nonsense. The chamber is not required to be fully present on such occasions. It wasn’t when Senator Hanson stood up to speak.

A group with formal party status, however, should understand that it has duties to the parliament that extend beyond those of an individual member. The parties of government – those either in power or with the prospect of moving from opposition to the government benches – usually ensure that someone is in the chamber.

It’s polite, for one thing; it’s convention, for another; and it’s also sensible and inclusive and democratic. These factors should have informed Greens tactics on Sep. 10 when Hanson gave her first speech.

If Di Natale – the senator for Victoria who forgot to declare his interest in his $2.3 million family farm on the register of members’ assets and who would prefer we all forgot that he employed starvation-wage workers on it, for his profit – is so offended by Hanson’s views on behalf of his otherwise socially responsible party, there are other options he could have chosen short of a staged mid-speech take-bat-and-ball-and-go-home stunt.

He could have said no one should be present during the speech (though that would have been wrong). Or he could have had all but one Greens senator absent from the chamber. One unlucky senator could then have been awarded the short straw and been detailed to sit in and listen to the nonsense.

As leader, perhaps DiNatale should have awarded himself that short straw. A vital test of leadership is never to ask someone to do something you regard as unconscionably unpleasant. That’s why, in the argot of the age, you get the big bucks.

Di Natale claimed of his contingent’s walkout that they were standing up for decency. He says, quite rightly, that Hanson’s near-tears presentation of Muslims as a risk to Australia because if they’re not stopped they’ll overrun the place is offensive and wrong.

It’s also thoroughly risible: more worth a laugh than consideration. It’s the product of a one-eyed view that is uninformed by much that appears to connect with rationality or with anything else that would withstand objective scrutiny.

Like her mewling over the (non-existent) Asian migration tsunami during her previous lamentable incarnation as a federal politician from Queensland, it’s a view that comes with an unpleasant whiff of thrice-fried bile and soggy chips.

Muslims represent 2.2 per cent of the Australian population. On the numbers alone, the country is in more danger to being overrun by One Nation. Which would be far worse, in any case.

But while the Greens may have thought they were “standing up for decency” when they walked out on Hanson’s first speech, what they were actually doing was indulging in a schoolyard protest, a high-profile but fundamentally base political stunt.

The Senate, for all its faults, should not be used for such purposes.

The Greens have much to contribute to national debate and Australian governance. They should focus on that worthwhile effort.