This is a sample of The Echidna newsletter sent out each weekday morning. To sign up for FREE, go to theechidna.com.au
The boy Premier of NSW has his hand out. There he was the other day asking for Canberra to help pay for his police to keep the peace at the protest marches which have become a regular feature of the Sydney weekend.
The protests, he sniffed, were a foreign policy issue and not one NSW should be expected to foot the bill for, all on its little lonesome. A million dollars every weekend, he complained. How quickly he forgot how readily he waded right into this foreign policy minefield on October 9, when he agreed to light the Opera House in the white and blue of the Israeli flag.
The cost was a lot more than the $100,000 light show, a reason cited by Chris Minns for not illuminating the sails in purple to mark the King's coronation in May. Lighting the Opera House in white and blue triggered a nasty confrontation between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli protesters, which police warned was likely to happen, advice Minns chose to ignore.
Since then, in that political kindergarten that is local government, we've seen Israeli and Palestinian flags flown atop council buildings, in solidarity with one side or the other. Enough, I say. The only flags on public buildings should be ours - the national flag, the Aboriginal flag and Torres Strait Islander flag. And guess what, I'm not alone. A poll in Nine newspapers found that 68 per cent of people surveyed did not want either the Palestinian or Israeli flag flown on council buildings. And only half were in favour of allowing protests about the conflict.
Like Bill Shorten, who yesterday warned against importing conflict, I'm horrified by the events of October 7 and appalled by the loss of lives in Gaza that has followed. The polarisation the conflict has fuelled in our country is also worrying. Shorten is right in urging community leaders of all persuasion to dial it back a bit - even if that is easier said than done.
Anti-semitism and islamophobia have been on the rise since October 7, with ugly confrontations playing out in the streets of our big cities and threats and hate calls being made to mosques, synagogues and community organisations. In NSW, hate speech provisions in the Crimes Act are being reviewed because since they were introduced in 2017 there has not been one successful prosecution. The boy Premier is right on that score.
The distress in our Jewish and Muslim communities cannot be understated. Just as it would be inhuman not to be moved by the horror perpetrated by Hamas in Israel on October 7, it would also be monstrous not to be sickened by the loss of lives in Gaza.
The federal government has been walking a precarious tightrope on this issue, which threatens to cause pain in electorates with heavy concentrations of Muslim voters. Lean too far towards Israel and it's accused of ignoring the plight of Palestinians; lean too far the other way and it's accused of anti-semitism.
And, true to form, the opposition is stoking division by seeking to make political capital whenever the government urges restraint by Israel or hints that steps towards a ceasefire should be made. You can sense them calculating how many votes they can claw back in the electorates dominated by Jewish voters.
The rest of us simply want peace. Peace in the Middle East and peace in our cities on the other side of the world. Oh, and Chris Minns doesn't want the police overtime bill.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Are you concerned the Israel-Hamas war will lead to conflict in our streets? Is it possible that both sides in the conflict are wrong? Should Canberra foot some of the bill for state police forces which have to keep the peace at rallies? Email us: email@example.com
SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoy The Echidna, forward it to a friend so they can sign up, too.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
- Optus has pinned the cause of a national outage on a routine software upgrade. In a statement the telco said routers weren't able to handle changes to the network and disconnected to protect themselves, leading to the nine-hour outage on November 8.
- Former prime minister Scott Morrison has confirmed he was a guest of former UK prime minister Boris Johnson on their recent "solidarity trip" to Israel which was later pilloried by Malcolm Turnbull as "showboating".
- Federal Liberal MP Russell Broadbent has quit the party to sit on the crossbench after he was dumped from preselection. The MP for the Victorian seat of Monash, who was first elected in 1990, told Coalition colleagues in Canberra on Tuesday he would see out the rest of his term as an independent.
THEY SAID IT: "An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind." - Mahatma Gandhi
YOU SAID IT: Roads can be fixed but bad drivers are another matter altogether.
Hank writes: "When it comes to hoons and loons on the road, some states punch well above their weight. Queensland has an ongoing severe shortage of blinker fluid, judging by the lack of indicator use on its roads up here. Second guessing which exit drivers are actually taking on roundabouts requires Jedi mind skills. And then there are the dual-cab ute drivers who think it's a fun sport to see how close they can get their roo bar to the car in front of them, as they barrel along at 140kmh. No wonder the Queensland road toll is going up, not down."
"We were very lucky with our son and driving habits," writes Scott. "As soon as he had P plates I enrolled him in driver safety course (one my wife and I had done some years earlier). After the course, my son had slowed his driving speed by around 10kmh and his driving awareness improved out of sight. Sadly our course was at the old Amaroo race circuit and our son at Oran Park raceway. Neither of these race tracks exist any more. I am a firm believer in better driving instruction at the start."
Susan writes: "Summernats has no place in a city like Canberra which is a horrible place to drive. Every year the driving, smell, noise and aggression get worse for at least a week before and after the event. I moved to the country and noticed the increase in tailgating and really loud fast driving especially in the 50kmh zones. Worse in my opinion are the TV ads showing gas guzzling SUVs destroying beaches and woodland tracks for no apparent purpose. Are people really feeling so powerless they have to behave in this way to attract attention to themselves? Car culture sucks and always has."
"Great article on driver behaviour," writes Peter. "Spot on with all your comments. There's no driver courtesy - 'I am more important so get out of my way.' Enjoy reading yours and Garry's comments and observations. Keep up the great work."
Alison writes: "Tailgating is the worst. Especially at night with their lights on high beam. Now 80, I gave up driving two years ago, moving to a place with nearby public transport. When you're obviously old and small to boot, and in a small car, you cut no ice with younger drivers in monster cars. Giving up driving while you're ahead is a good idea, and, no, I wasn't a dawdling oldie!"
"No one plans to crash but unfortunately we are poorly trained in planning safe driving especially for long trips," writes Arthur. "There are good drivers and bad drivers. There are bad drivers who think they are good drivers."
Jennifer writes: "Many drivers don't indicate when they're turning a corner, so a pedestrian walking across what was a clear road is suddenly confronted with a car turning in front of them. Terrifying! Many drivers have told me they don't need to indicate to pedestrians, just to other cars. Stunning stupidity! A complete lack of perspective?"
"In my town of Port Macquarie the local drivers have a device called a confirmation lever," writes Tim. "It is used to confirm that they have already started turning the steering wheel to make a turn. In other areas it is called an indicator, but not where I live."
Hilary writes: "As always your essay is spot on. I am linking this essay with your one on kindness. If we were kind to our fellow drivers all the grievances you list would be solved. One grievance I have is drivers who don't move forward enough at traffic lights to let cars in the left lane turn left."
Sue writes: "My son borrowed my (slightly newer than his) car to travel 200km to a university interview with a friend when they were both 18. Ironically, he also borrowed my mobile phone but was out of range when the roo bounced out in front of them. Both roo and car were write-offs. A good Samaritan called for assistance for them when he got to town. In the dark, my son hadn't been able to see the damage but when he did he was amazed they had survived and survived unhurt. I always think of this as a 'good' car accident. He was not a bad driver, nor even a hoon driver, but the accident definitely improved his attitude and approach to driving."