Friday lay day – being ashamed of one’s nation

It is my Friday lay day blog – a recent institution designed to give me more time for other things. This week, an Australian author, Richard Flanagan, won the 2014 Man Booker literary award for the best book of the year. It was the first year the prize has been extended to all English language literature published in Britain. That is, it included American writers this time. Previously it was confined to that curiosity collection of nations called the Commonwealth, a residual from the British colonial days plus the Republic of Ireland. The book recounts his father’s experiences on the Burma railway during World War 2. The author has caused a stir back here after he told the press after receiving the award that he was, in fact, “ashamed to be Australian” because of the Australian government’s approach to climate change policy and coal. Our Prime Minister has said recently that “coal is good for humanity” and his Government has scrapped taxes on mining and carbon emissions, as a sop to its rich benefactors in those sectors.

There are many reasons to be ashamed of being an Australian. Yes, I am also accepting the usual E-mails from those telling me that if I don’t love it then I should leave. Go where? is the obvious response. Idiot follows soon after.

Not content with his “coal is good” remarks, the Prime Minister told the world press this week that he was going to “shirtfront” Vladimir Putin, when the Russian leader was in Brisbane next month for the G20 Summit.

He thought he was being politically crafty by aligning mindless aggression with the national sympathy for those who were killed in the Malaysian flight brought down over the Ukraine a few months ago.

For those who are a little puzzled as to what he was proposing to do to the RUssian leader, here is a short explanation.

Australia has its own code of football – Australian Rules Football (AFL) which is a fairly robust game. I like it a lot by the way, and am, tragically, a Melbourne supporter (those who know will know!).

The term “shirtfront” comes from there and describes the deliberate front-on attack by one player on another – that is, a straight on charge aimed at the chest (the “shirt”) of the player being attacked.

The game is played at high speed and the players are strong and when they hit they hit. Often, the “shirtfront” is applied in a cowardly fashion when the player is running at high speed and doesn’t see it coming.

Here is a classic example from the past.

The Fairfax press offered this summary – Shirtfront explained: What Tony Abbott has vowed to do to Vladimir Putin – this week and provide other video examples:

It is usually performed in an aggressive manner, often with the aggressor leaping into the air to forcefully collide with an unsuspecting and unprotected victim.

Sometimes the victim will have his head down trying to gather the ball when he is suddenly hit.

The effects or injury of the illegal act can be significant for the victim, while the aggressor gives away a “free kick” during the game and also runs the risk of being suspended for multiple games by the AFL tribunal system …

So now you know how this Government engages in international diplomacy.

Why do we elect these characters? Answer: we are like them. That is something to be ashamed of. It is the same reason we have accepted the neo-liberal economic policy regimes – we are too stupid to know better.

Send those E-mails.

Saturday Quiz

The Saturday Quiz will be back again tomorrow. It will be of an appropriate order of difficulty (-:

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2014 Bill Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Nice video. Makes up for all the times Jezza milked freekicks against my Hawks.

    Bill, Do you remember the flying door mat ?

  2. Dear Bill

    If Tony Abbott really were to frontshirt Putin, he would most likely suffer a severe humiliation. Vladimir is in very good shape and he is an expert in martial art. Unlike so many Western conservatives, he is not a chicken-hawk.

    Don’t be so hard on Australians. if we compare Australians with Argentinians, we would have to conclude that Australians outperformed Argentinians economically, politically and culturally. People are lining up to emigrate to Australia, but not many people line up to emigrate to Argentina anymore, although there are several million legal and illegal immigrants in Argentina, mainly from Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia and Peru. Comparing Australia with Argentina makes sense because both countries are sparsely populated and are mainly European. Full disclosure: I don’t have any Anglo-Celtic ancestors and I was born and raised in South America.

    Regards. James

  3. Hi Bill. I started reading another blog the other day- it seems to be new keynsian theory- and commented on this particularly wooly one.

    Guess who was there? none other than Ralph Musgrave! I thought it might interest you to see what he wrote, you may even wish to reply, although he is something of a lost cause in comprehension I dont like the fact that he is now spreading incorrect word of your beliefs to other corners of the economic net.

  4. I’m not one to defend Tony Abbott, but I think shirtfront has another meaning (to front up to someone), and it’s only Aussie rules fans (of which Tony Abbott isn’t one) who don’t seem to realise that. I read press from Canada that quoted him without feeling any need to explain, or without any remark about being overly agressive. It’s a missunderstanding, with perhaps a bit of media beat up. They’ve got to have dramatic stories.

  5. Don’t be ashamed.
    People have no connection with fake parliamentary democracy British style.
    In times of bank scarcity stress – the system exposes its dark absurdity via various strange executive orders.

    Expect Australians to pay for the large amounts of bunker fuel that will be needed to ship coal to Europe.
    That is what this is about I am afraid.

  6. You would hope that Flanagan’s comment would pause our PM in his rush to do the bidding of his benefactors. But it is delusional. He doesn’t hear any of that. He may be Howard’s acolyte, but lacks Howard’s common sense. So unlike Howard Abbott looks to be selling us out to the corporate world via so called “free trade” agreements. These are hardly in citizens interests considering the outsourcing of jobs and ISDS clauses are designed to suit the corporations. IMO in doing that Abbott’s government is effectively illegitimate! We the people allow them to govern but in the interests of all citizens, and they have failed to do that. Pity that apart from voting them out we don’t seem to have a way to make them pay for their sins.

  7. “Russia has been the UK’s main source of imports since 2004 replacing South Africa as the largest
    provider, contributing 45 per cent of steam coal imports in 2013”

    Taken from the UK energy trends publication – special feature coal in 2013.

    Since the end of the cold war (and to some extent before) the european entrepot has been structured to accept former soviet energy surplus that was previously expended on military stuff.
    If Russia goes down the military fiat road again …………..well then the entire european supply chain is screwed.
    Keep in mind I live withing walking distance of the last large Brewery in Cork (now owned by Heineken international)
    I cannot afford to buy a pint in a pub because half of the price is in the form of a tax.
    When you buy Heniken in a supermarket it is brewed and canned in Amsterdam…….which requires a lot of oil as liquids are heavy.
    The British / euro supply chain is beyond absurd.
    Yet yee guys will be forced to pay for it.
    It will be much like your exports of food to the UK in the first half of the 20th century.
    Another example of the absurdity of capital concentration.

  8. My sympathies, Bill. Everything you say about Australia goes double for Canada, starting with the tar sands.

  9. Assuming Abbott’s shirtfront machismo was intended purely for domestic consumption (who outside this insignificant s—hole of a country would give a rat’s a— what Australians think about world affairs?), his strategy seems to reveal an assumption on his part, perhaps accurate, that Australians are not only ignorant and stupid but incredibly delusional in holding an ultra overinflated view of their own significance on the world stage. I’ve long been ashamed to be Australian too, but any sense of embarrassment is lessened by the awareness that beyond these shores nobody is really paying all that much attention to us, and understandably so.

    Always wondered who you followed in the footy, Bill. I’d guessed (clearly incorrectly) that it might have been the hawks based on snippets you’d posted about your youth. The way my own preferred club is self-imploding at the moment (pies), the dees might at least be restoring “natural order” on future QB holidays. πŸ˜‰

  10. @peterc
    From a British naval / capitalistic perspective Australia remains important.
    The last time I checked it was a Continent more or less by itself.
    From a raw material perspective capitalism can waste a lot of your stuff building more stuff.

    This is how the center of capitalism (London) projects itself today.
    Its far too expensive and impractical to project Cruisers , nowadays its banks and think tanks which are used to concentrate resources , implant operatives etc etc.

  11. This discussion of the “shirtfront” in sport (and politics) might hinge on definitions and context.

    Perhaps I am being overly technical but I believe Magro’s challenge was a “hip and shoulder” challenge not a “shirtfront”. A shirtfront is more chest-to-chest. In rugby league and rugby union the focus would be on some illegal aspects of that Magro challenge namely;

    (a) he was attacking the man not the ball;
    (b) he was attacking a man in the air (illegal);
    (c) the shoulder charge and attacking the head aspects of the tackle (illegal).

    I don’t follow AFL so I don’t know how this attack was regarded.

    League and union would call that a shoulder charge, attacking the head and attacking or tackling the man in the air: penalisable on all counts. Shoulder charges used to be legal in rugby league but are no longer legal.

    Another respondent above is correct IMO. Many people also recognise “shirtfront” to mean to aggressively front someone nearly chest to chest in verbal argument or disagreemet. The derivation may well follow from:

    “The breast of a shirt, in particular that of a stiffened evening shirt.”

    Thus in a formal setting, males who argued vigorously would be aguing shirt front to shirt front.

    This is not to excuse Abbott. It was undiplomatic, unhelpful and boastful language.

    And as a Queenslander, I am now going to be a little parochial and very annoying to southerners. Queenslanders of course always get accused of being very parochial (with considerable truth) but the southern obsession with AFL is extraordinarily parochial. No-one else plays it (outside of Australia). To borrow the old saying and modify it. Seven billion humans don’t care about AFL. Indeed, they don’t even know what it is. It’s an extraordinarily insignificant sport.

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