Month: August 2017

Truly, madly, deeply but mostly madly

Fifteen years ago today, I kissed my husband for the first time. It was bold. I’m not sure he saw it coming. In a brief moment of madness, I decided to go for the shock and awe strategy. It worked.

It was a messy, tricky, awkward, jolting, stop-start at the get-go and took a while to get to that place where the word marriage popped up. He proposed to me on bended-knee on his birthday, in the snow, after gallons of Absinthe. I said ‘yes’. I’d never thought I would do it again, having been a staunchly independent single mother for so many years before meeting him. But love is a pie-eyed bolting mustang and when you are in its path, it is very hard not to get mowed down and mangled by it. When I said ‘yes’ to the proposal it was one of the happiest moments of my life. I wanted to kiss this man every day for the rest of my life, even if it was on the cheek, in a text or over the phone.

With the debate about marriage equality raging in my country at the moment and a postal vote about to happen which will ask me to say yes or no to same sex marriage, I feel terrible. Awful. Wrong. Icky. This is not my business. This should not be up to me. I have no right to play this game. When my Zeus asked me to marry him, I cried, I smiled and I said ‘yes’. I didn’t have to ask permission from a stranger, let alone millions of strangers and hope that enough of them said yes and that the powers-that-be then recognised that popular endorsement. This all reminds me uncomfortably of the days of old when peasants had to ask their overlord for permission to marry. Sometimes the overlord even ‘broke-in’ the maiden for her husband in return for his permission. What flipping century are we living in that some people, consenting adults in love, must ask for permission from strangers to be allowed to smile and promise to kiss one another every day for the rest of their lives, in a ceremony sharing that commitment with loved ones?  Why must they ask for permission to live a life of happiness and all the normal ups and downs of marriage? It feels very, very wrong.

When I look at the monstrous hate and vilification of ‘others’ in Charlottesville this week, it reminds me, also uncomfortably, of this postal vote on marriage equality. It’s a fight with the same agenda and I don’t believe a government with the well-being of its people at heart, should conscript us into this debate. There really are no sides. When you are forced, coerced and actively encouraged to take sides in a war that is fuelled by intolerance, everyone loses. A good government works to bring their people, all of them, together. A bad one, divides and encourages division. Australia should be better than that. It’s not compulsory but in this case silence will be taken as an objection. If you don’t vote, it will be a ‘no’ by default.

For the last fifteen years I have been with the man I love. We have watched each other graduate from university, mopped up each other’s vomit, stared into the eyes of our newborn children, travelled on long road-trips and supported one another’s dreams. I never look at the bit of paper we signed to say we were husband and wife but we share the memories of that day at the lighthouse in Ballina with our children. We have photos, a dvd, rings, mementos. We write new vows to one another on our anniversary.

Sometimes we can’t stand one another. He scrapes the fork on his teeth and snores. I am an obsessive compulsive freak who spins out like the exorcist kid if the bin has no liner in it for more than seven seconds. Our family is like a time-travelled proto-type of Malcolm in the Middle but it’s a family that Australia at least recognises as ‘a family’.

Please vote ‘yes’ when you get your bit of paper that gives you similar powers to the raping overlords of old. I don’t agree with the concept. It sucks. But if I can kiss ‘my husband’ and we can share each others names (not that I did) and tick that next of kin box and kiss in public and make cheesy jokes about the ‘old ball and chain’….then everyone in love should be able to.

I truly, madly, deeply believe in marriage equality.

Yes ‘I do.’

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POLI-DEBT

SECTION 44 of the Constitution of Australia states that a person holding or entitled to hold citizenship of a foreign power may not sit as a senator or member of the House of Representatives. Sheesh. It’s pretty clear that you need to address that if you want the big politician bucks and perks BEFORE you run for office.  I explained that to my 12 year old and he gets it!

With this citizenship-gate all over the place, from the front of my newspaper to pinging out from every social media feed, I can’t help but draw an uncomfortable parallel to the whole robo-debt Centrelink fiasco. What happens when it transpires that a Centrelink recipient is found to have been paid money they were not technically eligible to receive? Come on? It’s a no-brainer. They have to start paying it back immediately and they have no say in the matter, it just gets quickly and painfully siphoned from their payments. Gone. Before any pending counter-investigation is even launched.

There’s no thumb-twiddling, with payments remaining unchanged and paid, while we wait for a High Court decision about whether or not ‘being ignorant’ is a valid excuse for thinking you were entitled to payments when you weren’t. Average Jane can’t muster the money for any legal defense or for that matter, bread and milk, because the funds are being deducted from her Centrelink payments and/or her working wage almost as soon as the ink has dried on the debt recovery notice. The system runs like a high-speed train hurtling through a dim tunnel. And everyday Australians are hurting from it. These despicable welfare cheats are hammered financially and moaned about in the halls of parliament as being a drain on the public purse.

I’m sorry? Excuse me?

I’m a writer and because I am woefully poor, I enter writing contests a lot. And when I do, there are always these things called TERMS AND CONDITIONS. I can’t go in the Australian Vogel Award because I’m over 35. Not eligible. Others rule me out as I have had three books published. So, it’s not rocket science to know that you have to read the small print to see if you are eligible and if you are, you tick that box and enter the competition and cross your fingers.

This is pretty standard procedure for just about every application process. Getting enrolled in university, applying for jobs, bringing pets into a country (you see what I did there). My point is that life is structured around the rules; i.e terms and conditions. At every bloody turn. And they are about as easy to navigate as boiling an egg. Perhaps easier.

Just because you didn’t read the small print before clicking the box doesn’t make you exempt from the rules. That’s not how it works. Anywhere. In any universe. Using any excuse at all just doesn’t cut it. You will be disqualified.

Politicians, by the very nature of their jobs, deal with legislation. Every day. That’s what we pay them for. We naturally assume that they read the terms and conditions of the job before applying, because that is expected of …human beings applying for jobs. It’s really basic. It’s so basic that the very idea that there could be any excuse for not doing so, beggars belief.

The argument that citizenship of various countries can be tricky and complicated is nonsense. I was born in Australia. My parents and all my grandparents were born in Australia. I’m fairly certain there’s no sneaky Italian citizenship lurking in the shadows but if I was going to claim hundreds and hundreds of thousands from the public purse, I would be checking out the great-grandparents just to be certain. It’s not hard to check!

If you or one of your parents was born overseas, it would be brain-numbingly obvious that there was a possibility of dual citizenship. If you claimed ignorance of that fact, as an educated grown up, you would be admitting that you were outrageously NAIVE. And naiveté is not a defense. Not when filling in a competition entry form and not when putting your hand up for a job in our Australian Government as a representative of the people and not in the High Court of this country.

If the Deputy Prime Minister of my country thinks that because he didn’t go online and check in three or four easy finger-clicks whether there was a possibility that he was a kiwi as well as a kangaroo, then he isn’t entitled to the job. Frankly, I wouldn’t employ him to boil an egg.

So if the High Court rules that ignorance and naiveté or just plain disinterest in reading the terms and conditions of the Constitution, is a good enough excuse to allow hundreds of thousands of dollars from the public purse to be paid to politicians who are technically and constitutionally ineligible for the job, then it must also be accepted as an excuse for those Centrelink debtors who misunderstood their own eligibility for money from the same source. Everyone pays back the debts or no-one. Because we live in a land that promotes equality, don’t we? Oh….that’s right.