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ASHBYGATE  

The plot to destroy Australia’s Speaker 

by Ross Jones 

 

Ashbygate

 

Tony Abbott took over the reins as Leader of the Opposition and of the Liberal National Coalition Party on 1 December 2009 and it is my personal opinion that from that day on Australian politics descended into ‘gutter politics’ in which no perceived enemy or opponent of Abbott was spared!  Abbott went on to lead the Coalition to the 2010 general election which resulted in a hung parliament.  Labor  formed  government with the help of the Greens and Independent MPs.  Abbott appears to be a vindictive and spiteful man, who  with the assistance of a large willing and supportive in-house  ‘team’ set about to undermine the Gillard Government, and consequently  destroyed  the Speaker of the House, Peter Slipper.  Abbott was re-elected as Liberal Leader unchallenged  and eventually  led  the Coalition to victory in the 2013 election  and was sworn in as the 28th Prime Minister of Australia on 18 September 2013. (Tony Abbott’s tenure as Prime Minister lasted for a year, when he was deposed by current PM Malcolm Turnbull.)

There is no doubt that a group of LNP politicians and others,   deployed a series of tactics to  undermine PM Gillard during her term of office, but this is beyond the scope of  Jones’ book  ASHBYGATE which deals solely with the destruction of Australia’s Speaker, the vital aspect of the plan to bring down Gillard’s Labor government.

Ross Jones’ book ASHBYGATE  is an account of the results of his investigation into how the Speaker was hounded from the Chair. The Speakership is the most important office in the House of Representatives. The House cannot operate without a Speaker because he/she  is the principal office holder in the House of Representatives. He/she is the House’s representative or spokesperson, the Chair of its meetings and its ‘Minister’ in respect of its support services. By all accounts, Peter Slipper was an efficient Speaker who valued his role dearly, but he also had enemies within…he had the temerity to resign from LNP to take on the role as Speaker in a Labor government. Peter Slipper and Tony Abbott were very close friends until Slipper’s  ‘betrayal’ . There wasn’t much about each’s personal life that the other didn’t know about.

Jones allows primary documents, in chronological order,  such as, emails and other correspondence, text messages, and Ashby vs Slipper court evidence,  to inform readers of the machinations that drove  the Ashbygate  saga and this gives them  the opportunity to form their own opinions about the politicians who were  involved and implicated in this sordid saga. It also gives the book validity as a valuable record of Australia’s political history.

Readers will read in the pages of ASHBYGATE   that Peter Slipper is no  paragon of virtue, and has never claimed to be.  Yes, at  times he acted foolishly, but I don’t believe he deserved the total destruction of his career and his private life which was essentially brought about by former colleagues who have themselves  much in their political histories  and private lives  to hide from scrutiny. In the end, Ashby withdrew all charges of sexual harassment against Slipper .  Slipper was cleared of all dishonesty charges relating to the fraudulent use of Commonwealth  Cabcharge dockets in 2010. Jones writes: This means the highly damaging  cases Mr Slipper had piling up against him – including claims of sexual harassment from his former media adviser, James Ashby, have been either withdrawn or  shown to have had no substance.

After reading   ASHBYGATE ,  I‘d like to pose  a few questions:

  1. Was Tony Abbott, along with his close advisers, and political colleagues,  the ‘brains’ behind  Ashbygate?  Is it conceivable that he would not have been involved given how and when the documented events took place?
  1. Was James Ashby so stressed during the short time he worked as press secretary for Peter  Slipper, not because of two or three  salacious texts and other real or imagined ‘overtures’ by Slipper, but because Ashby was unsuitable and unqualified for the position? Is there some evidence that his gay lifestyle  may have been a factor in his precarious  emotional state?
  1. Why did Peter Slipper employ Ashby, an ex DJ and strawberry farm advertising agent, for such an important role as press secretary in the first place, given Ashby’s lack of qualifications?
  1. If Peter Slipper had any case to answer, why did the Commonwealth cover the ‘shortfall between Slipper’s legal fees and the costs ultimately recovered as a result of the Rares judgement’?
  1. Why did James Ashby and Mal Brough approach Clive Palmer for funds for legal fees, which would amount to millions of dollars, in the pursuit of Slipper?  In any  event  Palmer refused, so someone  else must have assured Ashby of  financial backing; was it Christopher Pyne, as Ashby claims?
  1. Did Justice Rares make a judgment that Ashby’s sexual harassment claims were vexatious in order to protect the judge’s friends in high political places?  Would  his  finding  in favour of Ashby have led to the exposure of  Tony Abbott and other high profile politicians to a long drawn out trial, involving sworn testimony? [Vexatious litigation is legal action which is brought, regardless of its merits, solely to harass or subdue an adversary]
  1. What was the real reason Karen  Doane  sought to destroy her employer, Peter Slipper? According to her texts and emails, she was hardly ever in Slipper’s office, and spent much of the time leading up to Ashby’s public allegations,  on ‘sick’ leave?  Was Doane simply one of the most dishonest, disloyal, and laziest employees ever, or was there something more sinister in her behaviour? Whatever the reasons, she was on paid sick leave of over $1000.00 per week for years  until she finally received a huge payout of taxpayer funds in settlement for what?

In places,  ASHBYGATE  was an intense  read because of the many phone texts and emails  to work through, even allowing for the different fonts used to differentiate between the various senders and writers.  However, it is very much worth the effort. The comings and goings, the minutiae  of political office, and the effect on family life,  are intriguing . I fully realise  now,  how true is the time worn  cliché  that  ‘a week in politics is a long  time’.

There were a few minor spelling errors in the emails and texts, which may or may not have been senders’  errors, but there were also quite a number of  spelling errors in the author’s prose. Let me assure readers, that while typos  jumped out at me, they in no way detracted from what I consider to be a valuable book and a great read. Jones has obviously spent months accessing relevant documents and records, as well as  undertaking  several  interviews, in his research for this book. I congratulate him for bringing to light the story behind  Ashbygate.

I urge voters to read ASHBYGATE so they may gain insight into the actions of those politicians involved in the destruction of the Speaker of the House.

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I am not an affiliate of any political party; I bought ASHBYGATE  from one of my favourite bookstores, Readings in Carlton.  I detest any form of injustice, and I believe  that  Peter Slipper has been served a great injustice.

-Anne Frandi-Coory   20 May 2016

Also here on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/myhomelibrary/

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Updated 5 June 2017 

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A must read for anyone interested in the background of the three monotheistic religions spawned in the Middle East:

Judaism, Christianity and Islam

Christopher Hitchens’ quotes from the book:

“There would be no such churches in the first place, if humanity had not been afraid of the weather, the dark, the plague, the eclipse, and all manner of other things now easily explicable. And also if humanity had not been compelled, on pain of extremely painful consequences, to pay the exorbitant tithes and taxes that raised the imposing edifices of religion.”

“What is religion, if not political in terms of governing the people?”

“As far as I am aware, there is no country in the world today there slavery is still practiced, where the justification of it is not derived from the Qur’an.”

Read about the blatant plagiarism by Christianity and Islam from ancient Judaism and Paganism, and the violence perpetrated by all of these religions against non-believers. Christopher Hitchens is a gifted writer, historian and philosopher; I could not put this book down once I began reading it. Now more than ever, this is a book for our times, with our world in jeopardy because of the war being waged between the Christian West and Islam. – Anne Frandi-Coory

“Merciless…quite comical…trenchant and witty… God Is Not Great is a treasure house of zingers worthy of Mark Twain or Mencken.” – Daniel C. Dennett, Boston Globe

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Are USA, Australia, Secularist or Theocratic Countries?

Although the following discussion refers to USA, it could easily refer to

LNP far right conservative  government of Australia in 2017: 

The Catholic Church, Jesus, Religion in State Schools, Nazi alliance with the Vatican, Islam, Jihad, Christianity

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dawkins_hitchens in conversation photo Newstatesman

Richard Dawkins’ last interview with Christopher Hitchens in 2011 (photo; New Statesman)

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“Never be afraid of stridency”:

Richard Dawkins’ interview with Christopher Hitchens

Is America heading for theocracy?

How worrying is the rise of the Tea Party?

Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins discuss God and US politics.

Transcribed by Richard Dawkins

RD: As an Orwell scholar, you must have a particular view of North Korea, Stalin, the Soviet Union, and you must get irritated – perhaps even more than I do – by the constant refrain we hear: “Stalin was an atheist.”

CH: We don’t know for sure that he was. Hitler definitely wasn’t. There is a possibility that Himmler was. It’s very unlikely but it wouldn’t make any difference, either way. There’s no mandate in atheism for any particular kind of politics, anyway.

RD: The people who did Hitler’s dirty work were almost all religious.

CH: I’m afraid the SS’s relationship with the Catholic Church is something the Church still has to deal with and does not deny.

RD: Can you talk a bit about that – the relationship of Nazism with the Catholic Church?

CH: The way I put it is this: if you’re writing about the history of the 1930s and the rise of totalitarianism, you can take out the word “fascist”, if you want, for Italy, Portugal, Spain, Czechoslovakia and Austria and replace it with “extreme right Catholic party”. Almost all of those regimes were in place with the help of the Vatican and with understandings from the Holy See. It’s not denied. These understandings quite often persisted after the Second World War was over and extended to comparable regimes in Argentina and elsewhere.

RD: But there were individual priests who did good things.

CH: Not very many. You would know their names if there were more of them. When it comes to National Socialism, there’s no question there’s a mutation, a big one – the Nazis wanted their own form of worship. Just as they thought they were a separate race, they wanted their own religion. They dug out the Norse gods, all kinds of extraordinary myths and legends from the old sagas. They wanted to control the churches. They were willing to make a deal with them. The first deal Hitler made with the Catholic Church was the Konkordat. The Church agreed to dissolve its political party and he got control over German education, which was a pretty good deal. Celebrations of his birthday were actually by order from the pulpit. When Hitler survived an assassination attempt, prayers were said, and so forth. But there’s no doubt about it, [the Nazis] wanted control – and they were willing to clash with the churches to get it. There’s another example. You swore on Almighty God that you would never break your oath to the Führer. This is not even secular, let alone atheist.

RD: There was also grace before meals, personally thanking Adolf Hitler.

CH: I believe there was. Certainly, you can hear the oath being taken – there are recordings of it – but this, Richard, is a red herring. It’s not even secular. They’re changing the subject.

RD: But it comes up over and over again.

CH: You mentioned North Korea. It is, in every sense, a theocratic state. It’s almost supernatural, in that the births of the [ruling] Kim family are considered to be mysterious and accompanied by happenings. It’s a necrocracy or mausolocracy, but there’s no possible way you could say it’s a secular state, let alone an atheist one.

Attempts to found new religions should attract our scorn just as much as the alliances with the old ones do. All they’re saying is that you can’t claim Hitler was distinctively or specifically Christian: “Maybe if he had gone on much longer, he would have de-Christianised a bit more.” This is all a complete fog of nonsense. It’s bad history and it’s bad propaganda.

RD: And bad logic, because there’s no connection between atheism and doing horrible things, whereas there easily can be a connection in the case of religion, as we see with modern Islam.

CH: To the extent that they are new religions – Stalin worship and Kim Il-sungism – we, like all atheists, regard them with horror.

RD: You debated with Tony Blair. I’m not sure I watched that. I love listening to you [but] I can’t bear listening to . . . Well, I mustn’t say that. I think he did come over as rather nice on that evening.

CH: He was charming, that evening. And during the day, as well.

RD: What was your impression of him?

CH: You can only have one aim per debate. I had two in debating with Tony Blair. The first one was to get him to admit that it was not done – the stuff we complain of – in only the name of religion. That’s a cop-out. The authority is in the text. Second, I wanted to get him to admit, if possible, that giving money to a charity or organising a charity does not vindicate a cause. I got him to the first one and I admired his honesty. He was asked by the interlocutor at about half-time: “Which of Christopher’s points strikes you as the best?” He said: “I have to admit, he’s made his case, he’s right. This stuff, there is authority for it in the canonical texts, in Islam, Judaism.” At that point, I’m ready to fold – I’ve done what I want for the evening. We did debate whether Catholic charities and so on were a good thing and I said: “They are but they don’t prove any point and some of them are only making up for damage done.” For example, the Church had better spend a lot of money doing repair work on its Aids policy in Africa, [to make up for preaching] that condoms don’t prevent disease or, in some cases, that they spread it. It is iniquitous. It has led to a lot of people dying, horribly. Also, I’ve never looked at some of the ground operations of these charities – apart from Mother Teresa – but they do involve a lot of proselytising, a lot of propaganda. They’re not just giving out free stuff. They’re doing work to recruit.

RD: And Mother Teresa was one of the worst offenders?

CH: She preached that poverty was a gift from God. And she believed that women should not be given control over the reproductive cycle. Mother Teresa spent her whole life making sure that the one cure for poverty we know is sound was not implemented. So Tony Blair knows this but he doesn’t have an answer. If I say, “Your Church preaches against the one cure for poverty,” he doesn’t deny it, but he doesn’t affirm it either. But remember, I did start with a text and I asked him to comment on it first, but he never did. Cardinal Newman said he would rather the whole world and everyone in it be painfully destroyed and condemned for ever to eternal torture than one sinner go unrebuked for the stealing of a sixpence. It’s right there in the centre of the Apologia. The man whose canonisation Tony had been campaigning for. You put these discrepancies in front of him and he’s like all the others. He keeps two sets of books. And this is also, even in an honest person, shady.

RD: It’s like two minds, really. One notices this with some scientists.

CH: I think we all do it a bit.

RD: Do we?

CH: We’re all great self-persuaders.

RD: But do we hold such extreme contradictions in our heads?

CH: We like to think our colleagues would point them out, in our group, anyway. No one’s pointed out to me in reviewing my God book God Is Not Great that there’s a flat discrepancy between the affirmation he makes on page X and the affirmation he makes on page Y.

RD: But they do accuse you of being a contrarian, which you’ve called yourself

CH: Well, no, I haven’t. I’ve disowned it. I was asked to address the idea of it and I began by saying it’s got grave shortcomings as an idea, but I am a bit saddled with it.

RD: I’ve always been very suspicious of the left/right dimension in politics.

CH: Yes; it’s broken down with me.

RD: It’s astonishing how much traction the left/right continuum [has] . . . If you know what someone thinks about the death penalty or abortion, then you generally know what they think about everything else. But you clearly break that rule.

CH: I have one consistency, which is [being] against the totalitarian – on the left and on the right. The totalitarian, to me, is the enemy – the one that’s absolute, the one that wants control over the inside of your head, not just your actions and your taxes. And the origins of that are theocratic, obviously. The beginning of that is the idea that there is a supreme leader, or infallible pope, or a chief rabbi, or whatever, who can ventriloquise the divine and tell us what to do. That has secular forms with gurus and dictators, of course, but it’s essentially the same. There have been some thinkers – Orwell is pre-eminent – who understood that, unfortunately, there is innate in humans a strong tendency to worship, to become abject. So we’re not just fighting the dictators. We’re criticising our fellow humans for trying to short-cut, to make their lives simpler, by surrendering and saying, “[If] you offer me bliss, of course I’m going to give up some of my mental freedom for that.” We say it’s a false bargain: you’ll get nothing. You’re a fool.

RD: That part of you that was, or is, of the radical left is always against the totalitarian dictators.

CH: Yes. I was a member of the Trotskyist group – for us, the socialist movement could only be revived if it was purged of Stalinism . . . It’s very much a point for our view that Stalinism was a theocracy.

RD: One of my main beefs with religion is the way they label children as a “Catholic child” or a “Muslim child”. I’ve become a bit of a bore about it.

CH: You must never be afraid of that charge, any more than stridency.

RD: I will remember that.

CH: If I was strident, it doesn’t matter – I was a jobbing hack, I bang my drum. You have a discipline in which you are very distinguished. You’ve educated a lot of people; nobody denies that, not even your worst enemies. You see your discipline being attacked and defamed and attempts made to drive it out.

Stridency is the least you should muster . . . It’s the shame of your colleagues that they don’t form ranks and say, “Listen, we’re going to defend our colleagues from these appalling and obfuscating elements.” If you go on about something, the worst thing the English will say about you, as we both know – as we can say of them, by the way – is that they’re boring.

RD: Indeed. Only this morning, I was sent a copy of [advice from] a British government website, called something like “The Responsibilities of Parents”. One of these responsibilities was “determine the child’s religion”. Literally, determine. It means establish, cause . . . I couldn’t ask for a clearer illustration, because, sometimes, when I make my complaint about this, I’m told nobody actually does label children Catholic children or Muslim children.

CH: Well, the government does. It’s borrowed, as far as I can see, in part from British imperial policy, in turn borrowed from Ottoman and previous empires – you classify your new subjects according to their faith. You can be an Ottoman citizen but you’re a Jewish one or an Armenian Christian one. And some of these faiths tell their children that the children of other faiths are going to hell. I think we can’t ban that, nor can we call it “hate speech”, which I’m dubious about anyway, but there should be a wrinkle of disapproval.

RD: I would call it mental child abuse.

CH: I can’t find a way, as a libertarian, of saying that people can’t raise their children, as they say, according to their rights. But the child has rights and society does, too. We don’t allow female – and I don’t think we should countenance male – genital mutilation. Now, it would be very hard to say that you can’t tell your child that they are lucky and they have joined the one true faith. I don’t see how you stop it. I only think the rest of society should look at it with a bit of disapproval, which it doesn’t. If you’re a Mormon and you run for office and say, “Do you believe in the golden plates that were dug up by Joseph Smith?” – which [Mitt] Romney hasn’t been asked yet – sorry, you’re going to get mocked. You’re going to get laughed at.

RD: There is a tendency among liberals to feel that religion should be off the table.

CH: Or even that there’s anti-religious racism, which I think is a terrible limitation.

RD: Romney has questions to answer.

CH: Certainly, he does. The question of Mormon racism did come up, to be fair, and the Church did very belatedly make amends for saying what, in effect, it had been saying: that black people’s souls weren’t human, quite. They timed it suspiciously for the passage of legislation. Well, OK, then they grant the right of society to amend [the legislation]. To that extent, they’re opportunists.

RD: But what about the daftness of Mormonism? The fact that Joseph Smith was clearly a charlatan –

CH: I know, it’s extraordinary.

RD: I think there is a convention in America that you don’t tackle somebody about their religion.

CH: Yes, and in a way it’s attributed to pluralism. And so, to that extent, one wants to respect it, but I think it can be exploited. By many people, including splinter-group Mormons who still do things like plural marriage and, very repulsively, compulsory dowries – they basically give away their daughters, often to blood relatives. And also kinship marriages that are too close. This actually won’t quite do. When it is important, they tend to take refuge in: “You’re attacking my fundamental right.” I don’t think they really should be allowed that.

RD: Do you think America is in danger of becoming a theocracy?

CH: No, I don’t. The people who we mean when we talk about that – maybe the extreme Protestant evangelicals, who do want a God-run America and believe it was founded on essentially fundamentalist Protestant principles – I think they may be the most overrated threat in the country.

RD: Oh, good.

CH: They’ve been defeated everywhere. Why is this? In the 1920s, they had a string of victories. They banned the sale, manufacture and distribution and consumption of alcohol. They made it the constitution. They more or less managed to ban immigration from countries that had non-Protestant, non-white majorities. From these victories, they have never recovered. They’ll never recover from [the failure of] Prohibition. It was their biggest defeat. They’ll never recover from the Scopes trial. Every time they’ve tried [to introduce the teaching of creationism], the local school board or the parents or the courts have thrown it out and it’s usually because of the work of people like you, who have shown that it’s nonsense. They try to make a free speech question out of it but they will fail with that, also. People don’t want to come from the town or the state or the county that gets laughed at.

RD: Yes.

CH: In all my tours around the South, it’s amazing how many people – Christians as well – want to disprove the idea that they’re all in thrall to people like [the fundamentalist preacher Jerry] Falwell. They don’t want to be a laughing stock.

RD: Yes.

CH: And if they passed an ordinance saying there will be prayer in school every morning from now on, one of two things would happen: it would be overthrown in no time by all the courts, with barrels of laughter heaped over it, or people would say: “Very well, we’re starting with Hindu prayer on Monday.” They would regret it so bitterly that there are days when I wish they would have their own way for a short time.

RD: Oh, that’s very cheering.

CH: I’m a bit more worried about the extreme, reactionary nature of the papacy now. But that again doesn’t seem to command very big allegiance among the American congregation. They are disobedient on contraception, flagrantly; on divorce; on gay marriage, to an extraordinary degree that I wouldn’t have predicted; and they’re only holding firm on abortion, which, in my opinion, is actually a very strong moral question and shouldn’t be decided lightly. I feel very squeamish about it. I believe that the unborn child is a real concept, in other words. We needn’t go there, but I’m not a complete abortion-on-demand fanatic. I think it requires a bit of reflection. But anyway, even on that, the Catholic Communion is very agonised. And also, [when] you go and debate with them, very few of them could tell you very much about what the catechism really is. It’s increasingly cultural Catholicism.

RD: That is true, of course.

CH: So, really, the only threat from religious force in America is the same as it is, I’m afraid, in many other countries – from outside. And it’s jihadism, some of it home-grown, but some of that is so weak and so self-discrediting.

RD: It’s more of a problem in Britain.

CH: And many other European countries, where its alleged root causes are being allowed slightly too friendly an interrogation, I think. Make that much too friendly.

RD: Some of our friends are so worried about Islam that they’re prepared to lend support to Christianity as a kind of bulwark against it.

CH: I know many Muslims who, in leaving the faith, have opted to go . . . to Christianity or via it to non-belief. Some of them say it’s the personality of Jesus of Nazareth. The mild and meek one, as compared to the rather farouche, physical, martial, rather greedy . . .

RD: Warlord.

CH: . . . Muhammad. I can see that that might have an effect.

RD: Do you ever worry that if we win and, so to speak, destroy Christianity, that vacuum would be filled by Islam?

CH: No, in a funny way, I don’t worry that we’ll win. All that we can do is make absolutely sure that people know there’s a much more wonderful and interesting and beautiful alternative. No, I don’t think that Europe would fill up with Muslims as it emptied of Christians. Christianity has defeated itself in that it has become a cultural thing. There really aren’t believing Christians in the way there were generations ago.

RD: Certainly in Europe that’s true – but in America?

CH: There are revivals, of course, and among Jews as well. But I think there’s a very long running tendency in the developed world and in large areas elsewhere for people to see the virtue of secularism, the separation of church and state, because they’ve tried the alternatives . . . Every time something like a jihad or a sharia movement has taken over any country – admittedly they’ve only been able to do it in very primitive cases – it’s a smouldering wreck with no productivity.

RD: Total failure. If you look at religiosity across countries of the world and, indeed, across the states of the US, you find that religiosity tends to correlate with poverty and with various other indices of social deprivation.

CH: Yes. That’s also what it feeds on. But I don’t want to condescend about that. I know a lot of very educated, very prosperous, very thoughtful people who believe.

RD: Do you think [Thomas] Jefferson and [James] Madison were deists, as is often said?

CH: I think they fluctuated, one by one. Jefferson is the one I’m more happy to pronounce on. The furthest he would go in public was to incline to a theistic enlightened view but, in his private correspondence, he goes much further. He says he wishes we could return to the wisdom of more than 2,000 years ago. That’s in his discussion of his own Jefferson Bible, where he cuts out everything supernatural relating to Jesus. But also, very importantly, he says to his nephew Peter Carr in a private letter [on the subject of belief]: “Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it ends in a belief that there is no God, you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise and the love of others which it will procure you.” Now, that can only be written by someone who’s had that experience.

RD: It’s very good, isn’t it?

CH: In my judgement, it’s an internal reading, but I think it’s a close one. There was certainly no priest at his bedside. But he did violate a rule of C S Lewis’s and here I’m on Lewis’s side. Lewis says it is a cop-out to say Jesus was a great moralist. He said it’s the one thing we must not say; it is a wicked thing to say. If he wasn’t the Son of God, he was a very evil impostor and his teachings were vain and fraudulent. You may not take the easy route here and say: “He may not have been the Son of God and he may not have been the Redeemer, but he was a wonderful moralist.” Lewis is more honest than Jefferson in this point. I admire Lewis for saying that. Rick Perry said it the other day.

RD: Jesus could just have been mistaken.

CH: He could. It’s not unknown for people to have the illusion that they’re God or the Son. It’s a common delusion but, again, I don’t think we need to condescend. Rick Perry once said: “Not only do I believe that Jesus is my personal saviour but I believe that those who don’t are going to eternal punishment.” He was challenged at least on the last bit and he said, “I don’t have the right to alter the doctrine. I can’t say it’s fine for me and not for others.”

RD: So we ought to be on the side of these fundamentalists?

CH: Not “on the side”, but I think we should say that there’s something about their honesty that we wish we could find.

RD: Which we don’t get in bishops . . .

CH: Our soft-centred bishops at Oxford and other people, yes.

RD: I’m often asked why it is that this republic [of America], founded in secularism, is so much more religious than those western European countries that have an official state religion, like Scandinavia and Britain.

CH: [Alexis] de Tocqueville has it exactly right. If you want a church in America, you have to build it by the sweat of your own brow and many have. That’s why they’re attached to them.

RD: Yes.

CH: [Look at] the Greek Orthodox community in Brooklyn. What’s the first thing it will do? It will build itself a little shrine. The Jews – not all of them – remarkably abandoned their religion very soon after arriving from the shtetl.

RD: Are you saying that most Jews have abandoned their religion?

CH: Increasingly in America. When you came to escape religious persecution and you didn’t want to replicate it, that’s a strong memory. The Jews very quickly secularised when they came. American Jews must be the most secular force on the planet now, as a collective. If they are a collective –which they’re not, really.

RD: While not being religious, they often still observe the Sabbath and that kind of thing.

CH: There’s got to be something cultural. I go to Passover every year. Sometimes, even I have a seder, because I want my child to know that she does come very distantly from another tradition. It would explain if she met her great grandfather why he spoke Yiddish. It’s cultural, but the Passover seder is also the Socratic forum. It’s dialectical. It’s accompanied by wine. It’s got the bones of quite a good discussion in it. And then there is manifest destiny. People feel America is just so lucky. It’s between two oceans, filled with minerals, wealth, beauty. It does seem providential to many people.

RD: Promised land, city on a hill.

CH: All that and the desire for another Eden. Some secular utopians came here with the same idea. Thomas Paine and others all thought of America as a great new start for the species.

RD: But that was all secular.

CH: A lot of it was, but you can’t get away from the liturgy: it’s too powerful. You will end up saying things like “promised land” and it can be mobilised for sinister purposes. But in a lot of cases, it’s a mild belief. It’s just: “We should share our good luck.”

RD: I’ve heard another theory that, America being a country of immigrants, people coming from Europe, where they left their extended family and left their support system, were alone and they needed something.

CH: Surely that was contained in what I just . . .

RD: Maybe it was.

CH: The reason why most of my friends are non-believers is not particularly that they were engaged in the arguments you and I have been having, but they were made indifferent by compulsory religion at school.

RD: They got bored by it.

CH: They’d had enough of it. They took from it occasionally whatever they needed – if you needed to get married, you knew where to go. Some of them, of course, are religious and some of them like the music but, generally speaking, the British people are benignly indifferent to religion.

RD: And the fact that there is an established church increases that effect. Churches should not be tax-free the way that they are. Not automatically, anyway.

CH: No, certainly not. If the Church has demanded that equal time be given to creationist or pseudo-creationist speculations . . . any Church that teaches that in its school and is in receipt of federal money from the faith-based initiative must, by law, also teach Darwinism and alternative teachings, in order that the debate is being taught. I don’t think they want this.

RD: No.

CH: Tell them if they want equal time, we’ll jolly well have it. That’s why they’ve always been against comparative religion.

RD: Comparative religion would be one of the best weapons, I suspect.

CH: It’s got so insipid in parts of America now that a lot of children are brought up – as their parents aren’t doing it and leave it to the schools and the schools are afraid of it – with no knowledge of any religion of any kind. I would like children to know what religion is about because [otherwise] some guru or cult or revivalists will sweep them up.

RD: They’re vulnerable. I also would like them to know the Bible for literary reasons.

CH: Precisely. We both, I was pleased to see, have written pieces about the King James Bible. The AV [Authorised Version], as it was called in my boyhood. A huge amount of English literature would be opaque if people didn’t know it.

RD: Absolutely, yes. Have you read some of the modern translations? “Futile, said the preacher. Utterly futile.”

CH: He doesn’t!

RD: He does, honestly. “Futile, futile said the priest. It’s all futile.”

CH: That’s Lamentations.

RD: No, it’s Ecclesiastes. “Vanity, vanity.”

CH: “Vanity, vanity.” Good God. That’s the least religious book in the Bible. That’s the one that Orwell wanted at his funeral.

RD: I bet he did. I sometimes think the poetry comes from the intriguing obscurity of mistranslation. “When the sound of the grinding is low, the grasshopper is heard in the land . . . The grasshopper shall be a burden.” What the hell?

CH: The Book of Job is the other great non-religious one, I always feel. “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” Try to do without that. No, I’m glad we’re on the same page there. People tell me that the recitation of the Quran can have the same effect if you understand the original language. I wish I did. Some of the Catholic liturgy is attractive.

RD: I don’t know enough Latin to judge that.

CH: Sometimes one has just enough to be irritated.

RD: Yes [laughs]. Can you say anything about Christmas?

CH: Yes. There was going to be a winter solstice holiday for sure. The dominant religion was going to take it over and that would have happened without Dickens and without others.

RD: The Christmas tree comes from Prince Albert; the shepherds and the wise men are all made up.

CH: Cyrenius wasn’t governor of Syria, all of that. Increasingly, it’s secularised itself. This “Happy Holidays” – I don’t particularly like that, either.

RD: Horrible, isn’t it? “Happy holiday season.”

CH: I prefer our stuff about the cosmos.

***

The day after this interview, I was honoured to present an award to Christopher Hitchens in the presence of a large audience in Texas that gave him a standing ovation, first as he entered the hall and again at the end of his deeply moving speech. My own presentation speech ended with a tribute, in which I said that every day he demonstrates the falsehood of the lie that there are no atheists in foxholes: “Hitch is in a foxhole, and he is dealing with it with a courage, an honesty and a dignity that any of us would be, and should be, proud to muster.” – Richard Dawkins

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The 2011 Christmas issue of the New Statesman was guest edited by Richard Dawkins. 

It was to be Christopher Hitchens’ final interview; he died as it was published.

Christopher Hitchens was  a former journalist at the New Statesman

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-Anne Frandi-Coory  3 September 2015

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The old  model of abattoir must be changed in order  to alleviate  the cruelty and torture animals are subjected to during the killing process.  It concerns me  that animals in Australian abattoir may be getting the same treatment.

American abattoir officials have banned animal rights’ organisations  from visiting abattoir with cameras and the same will probably happen in Australia and Indonesia.  I couldn’t re-print the photo of the bloodied pig displayed on the site I got this article from, but I can tell you that I will never forget the pleading look in its eyes!

Article below from Tom Philpott who was Grist’s senior food writer until May 2011. He now writes for Mother Jones.

Meat-industry abuse: not just for workers

As I tried to tease out above, the meat industry’s business model hinges on cutting costs. And relentless cost-cutting pressure translates to relentless pressure to cut corners down the production chain, from the slaughterhouse kill floor to the factory-farm pen. Workers pay the price for the mountains of cheap meat the industry pays out.

Animals pay, too. They are treated as industrial commodities — like identical machine parts being churned out by a factory — not living beings that have evolved over millennia to thrive or suffer under specific conditions. Systematically objectified, factory-farm animals are subject to routine abuse. If you worked as a quality-control inspector on an assembly line, you’d think nothing slamming a defective widget into the waste bin. Widgets feel no pain. As a matter of course, animals get the same treatment.

Now, unlike other recent cases of abuse exposure, this one isn’t likely to result in the responsible company declaring the workers involved “bad apples” and firing them. Most of what you see in the video is entirely routine and industry-standard — like the practice of cutting off the tail of piglets with a pair of shears and no anesthetics. “Tail docking,” as the practice is known, is necessary on factory hog farms, because distressed hogs tend to try to chew each others’ tails off. The same isn’t true of hogs that live outside. Note also the practice of tossing piglets roughly across rooms — which a plant manager is caught onscreen training workers to do, based on the theory that piglets are “bouncy.”

What’s happening here isn’t just a moral abomination. Public health, too, is threatened by abusing animals to the point the point they have open wounds and then hoping daily lashings of antibiotics will keep infections at a manageable level. I can’t imagine a better strategy for incubating antibiotic-resistant pathogens. According to Mercy for Animals, the group that planted the undercover investigator at the facility, documented these conditions:

  • Mother pigs — physically taxed from constant birthing — suffering from distended, inflamed, bleeding, and usually fatal uterine prolapses
  • Large, open, pus-filled wounds and pressure sores
  • Sick and injured pigs left to languish and slowly die without proper veterinary care

Rather than change practices in response to public outrage over these exposures, the meat industry has floated legislation in several states to ban the practice of sneaking cameras onto factory farms. It’s an industry that can’t bear scrutiny.

After writing about the horrific slaughter of Australian cattle in Indonesian Abattoir, I decided to check out conditions in Australian abattoir.  I located a headline which read:

“Animal slaughter: Not just horrific in Indonesia”.

It really made me think so I read through several items about abattoir in western countries, and it is clear that we humans consume far too much meat.  Our insatiable demand for meat is growing every year.  Millions of animals are slaughtered around the world for human consumption and we have to push these  through  the killing process faster and with less thought for the unfortunate animals. Money is the end game. There is no question now in my mind, that the way animals are killed in abattoir, is not ‘humane’. How can it be, when these intelligent animals are slaughtered with fear in their eyes, in an atmosphere pervaded by the smell of blood and death. Humane and slaughter simply cannot be used in tandem, but that is what most of us do when justifying our eating of so much meat. The sheer numbers of animals slaughtered means that we can’t spend the time or the money, making the process less disgusting and distressing for the animals.

Many men who have previously worked in abattoir will tell you that although vets are consulted, and cruelty such as was shown taking place in Indonesia is banned, animals are aware what is about to happen to them.  That is not to say that  animals killed in Australian abattoir are not treated with mindless cruelty, as personal statements  below will testify. I am sure that if most of us had to stand in an abattoir and watch as the meat we intended to go home and cook  was killed before our eyes, we would become vegans overnight.

Bobby calves are taken from their mothers and killed immediately or spend their lives cooped up in small pens and fed a diet that will keep their meat pale and it is then served up in restaurants as veal for the wealthy.  I have always refused to eat veal for this reason.  However, I was completely unaware of the disgusting and heartless way chickens are treated on killing conveyor belts.  More on this in link below.

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Bobby calves headed for slaughter. Photo: Animals Australia

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Pigs are known to be very intelligent animals yet they are killed in abattoir and suffer the same agonies as the rest.  Meat workers say that animals scream and squeal in Australian abattoir just like the animals in Indonesian abattoir because they are terrified and aware of what is about to happen to them.  One former meat worker said that the animals let out “haunting screams”  which are difficult to forget.  Although animals differ from humans in many ways, they share our desire to live and will fight for their survival.

Jane Goodall, the scientist who has worked for years with chimpanzee, was asked recently what she thought of the footage showing what went on in Indonesian abattoir.  Ms Goodall said that in the seventies, after visiting an abattoir, she later looked at the piece of meat on her plate in front of her and said to herself that it represented pain and torture for the animal, and she never ate meat again. When we actually stop and think about the meat we eat, it is quite obvious that we are contributing to the huge demand for the slaughtering of animals – we are after all eating the flesh of slaughtered animals.

Nick Pendergrast is PhD candidate in Sociology at Curtin University in Western Australia. His research focuses on the animal advocacy movement, primarily in Australia and the US.  He says:   “In 2011 when we have no need to consume the products of slaughter, I think we can go beyond only questioning whether or not the treatment of animals in Indonesian slaughterhouses is acceptable and also ask whether it is acceptable to be contributing to the slaughtering of animals at all”.

A side effect of all this slaughtering of animals is the damage it is doing to our planet because of all the feed and water that is required to rear so many millions of animals simply to slaughter them for food.  This in turn is reducing the habitat of other species of animals and bird life.  I for one believe in Karma.

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Having learned so much about the slaughter of animals in abattoir, I understand why Mark Zuckerberg has vowed to kill his own meat.

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A must to read

http://alidark.com/the-gruesome-truth-about-australian-abattoirs/

Indonesia Abattoir Takes Us Back Two Centuries

Steeplechase  is a form of horse racing and derives its name from early races in which orientation of the course was by reference to a church steeple, jumping fences and ditches and generally traversing the many intervening obstacles in the countryside.  (Wikipedia)

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Updated 22 May 2014.

Frances Nelson and John O’Connor how can you justify the killing of these beautiful horses? Three horses have died already in 2014 jumps racing season. Shame on you. Only Victoria and South Australia still hold jumps races.

Below- Submission to State of Victoria, Members of Parliament, Dec 2008:

‘Jump racing is a form of horse racing generally run over longer distances than flat races and with heavier jockeys. As the name suggests, it requires the horses to jump typically  to  as many as thirty three fixed obstacles. For decades, jump racing has created a major horse welfare concern due to the cruel nature of the sport. This is supported by damning statistics and media exposure that has consistently reported the unacceptable risks to horses through frequent deaths, falls and injuries. It is not surprising that jump racing was described in the Australian media in 1991 as “the most disgusting of animal sports in this part of the world”, and more recently as “horrifically cruel”.  There are two types of jump races: hurdles and steeplechases. Hurdle races are normally run over 3,000 to 3,500 metres over low fences and at a relatively fast speed. Steeplechases are normally longer races run over 3,450 to 5,500 metres over higher fences and at a slower speed.

In 1995 jump racing was banned in NSW. It now only occurs in Victoria and South Australia. As a result of the unacceptably high death rate, falls and injuries, several reviews of jump racing have been conducted in Victoria in recent years. However changes that have been implemented as a result of these reviews have done little to improve safety for the jockey.’

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An excerpt springs to mind from Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenin set in 19th Century Russia:

‘The steeplechase was an unlucky one: more than half the field of seventeen were thrown and hurt. Towards the end of the race everyone was in a state of agitation, intensified by the fact that the Emperor was displeased. Everyone was loudly expressing his disapproval and repeating a phrase someone had uttered “lions and gladiators will be the next thing,” and everyone was feeling horrified…’   Tolstoy describes the agony of the dying horse  as she and her rider stumble on the race track:  “All at once his [the rider’s] position had shifted and he knew that something horrible had happened… Vronsky was touching the ground with one foot and his mare was sinking on that foot. He scarcely had time to free his leg before she fell on one side, gasping painfully and making vain efforts of her slender sweat soaked neck to rise, and began fluttering on the ground at his feet like a wounded bird…had broken her back…Frou- Frou lay breathing heavily before him, bending her head back and gazing at him with her beautiful eyes…again she writhed like a fish, creaking the flaps of the saddle, put out her forelegs, but, unable to lift her back, immediately collapsed and fell on her side again…But she did not stir and, her nose nuzzling the ground, only gazed at her master with her eloquent eyes.’  She was then shot.

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Although Anna Karenin is fiction, only a person who has witnessed such an event, could re-tell it with such heartfelt detail.You will never hear this type of description of a horse’s suffering from a jumps racing driver – he would be out of a job!


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I really don’t see a great deal of difference in the cruelty of bull fighting and that of horse jumps (hurdles) racing.  Both are spectator sports where frightened animals are forced to do things in the name of human titillation and gambling.  All the power is in the hands of humans. Since this post was written, several more horses have had to be destroyed following falls at jump races!

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Yesterday at a jumps racing event in Warrnambool at least six horses ditched their riders to make a run for freedom.  For so many horses to act in unison has to send a message to race organisers.  Horses have had enough.  Who or what gives humans the right to torture animals when we are all creatures on this earth; all special.  Horses are intelligent animals to be respected and allowed to live as nature intended.  Not whipped into jumping fences,  even though they are terrified and panicked; they are aware that they risk life and limbs to make the jumps at speed.

So far in the 2011 jumps racing season three horses have had to be euthanised because they fell during the jumps, breaking their necks and/or legs.  So many horses have died in recent years, that the public outcry has forced changes to hurdles etc.  But the carnage continues.  This event must be banned and there is evidence that opposition to the jumps is growing among the general public.

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Another horse dies for spectators in Australia

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Bull fighting has been banned in some parts of Spain, but is still a popular spectator sport in others. In 2010 a brave bull  mounted the spectator stands in one arena in Spain, absolutely enraged and terrified after incessant goading with a red cloak.  Needless to say, the bull was killed to protect the previously blood thirsty crowd.  At least this particular bull was saved from a long and torturous death, one with skewers hanging from him and blood pouring from his wounds.

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The sickening torture of a bull in a Spanish arena

These glamorised bull fighters are merely animal torturers

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The Romans killed hundreds of thousands of wild animals in arenas for public spectacle, driving many species to extinction in certain areas of the globe.  I thought we had moved on from those barbaric days!

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See previous post: We Are Creatures Too

 Updated 17 September 2013

So, Tony Abbott, Australia’s greatest misogynist, is now Prime Minister of Australia, and he has only one woman on his Front Bench. Two less than Afghanistan’s!

While The Lodge is being refurbished, PM Tony Abbott is living in the ADF Barracks. With the sex scandals and misogyny alive and well in Australian Defence Force, is this a good move?

Australia’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was vilified in Murdoch’s Press and by the Opposition led by Tony Abbott. His leadership of LNP focused on the fact that PM Julia Gillard was an atheist, unmarried and childless. And yet she proved to be an exceptional leader and Prime Minister.

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“To be roused by a man means acknowledging  oneself as conquered”. – Wilhelm Stekel,  from ‘The Sexual Dynamics of History’.

Mr Stekel, in the early 20th Century, made it clear that he saw heterosexual sex, and specifically sexual intercourse, as a necessary and appropriate regulatory mechanism in the maintenance of male dominance and female submission.

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Perhaps the above statement  is the secret mantra of the Australian Defence Force?  I wonder how these young men, and indeed, all the men that graduate from the ADF Academy treat the women they come into contact with on overseas missions.

The latest scandal to come out of the ADF is a reflection of, not only the culture within the Force, but also society as a whole.  One just has to read the latest news regarding the sexual misconduct of  AFL players and those of other male sporting codes.   A young woman is fair game sexually, and once ‘acquired’ is discarded and branded a ‘slut’, a ‘bitch’, or much worse.

The young ADF student, named ‘Kate’ in the media, was filmed having sex with a young man, also an ADF Academy student, without her knowledge or consent.  She believed it to be a private act, while he, on the other hand, had set up a web camera in the bedroom where the incident took place,  and arranged for six of his mates to view the scene from another room.  The film was then passed around the internet.  Mobile phone still shots were also taken by the men and passed around.

The whole incident came to light when ADF commanders were informed of it by another student.     One of the  Academy rules  states that students are not permitted to fraternise with each other at the Institution.  During a meeting with the investigators, Kate, by now feeling ill and embarrassed,  told them that she knew nothing about the filming.  All the males, from students to top commanders,  had all the power and none of the victimisation.  What an unequal forum; you would expect at least that the young woman would be allowed the presence of a female officer. However, the commanders considered that she was at fault for engaging in sexual activity with another student.   When Kate discovered that nothing was going to be done about the matter,  she contacted the media.  Since then she has been told to apologise to the young men and has been vilified and harassed by other students.  She has not been offered any counselling for the trauma we can only imagine she has gone through.  She has told the media that  when she read the statements by the seven young men involved, she had to run from the room, and was physically sick.

Kate is an 18-year-old student and was not doing anything that any other student wouldn’t do, as part of growing up, in any university or academy in the western world. She was away from home, in a new and challenging environment, and therefore was a vulnerable target.  The same cannot be said of male students at the academy; it is after all a male dominated one. The whole incident amounts to one of planned abuse.  The young man in whom Kate placed her trust, violated that trust, and systematically planned, along with his classmates, to sexually humiliate her. (The young men involved have since been convicted).

During research for my book,Whatever Happened to Ishtar? I came across many stories of deliberate sexual humiliation and sexual abuse of women and girls.  My family tree has many such stories, not least that of my mother, a vulnerable and lost woman who was preyed upon by three male members of one family.   The result was that she, the victim, was demonised, while the men lived on within the family without any recrimination whatsoever.   These stories didn’t come from inside institutions; they came from inside families, inside homes.  In other words, from inside our own society.  Recently, Tony Abbott, leader of the Australian Federal Opposition, stood in front of clearly misogynist signs at a political rally to vilify the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard,  about some of her policies.  However, instead of attacking the PM’s policies, he made derogatory remarks about her, and the placards behind him,  in full view of television cameras, gave him full support.   Standing beside Tony Abbott are two female members of his Opposition one of whom, Bronwyn Bishop, (front left in the photo below), he has made Speaker in his newly elected  government.

Oh, there was plenty of debate after the event, about Mr Abbott’s behaviour. But at the time not one person in the crowd protested the wording on the placards or Mr Abbott’s treatment of Australia’s first woman prime minister. How can we expect young men to respect women if this is the way politicians behave? I have yet to see these types of sexist statements used against male PMs. The use and abuse of females has been going on for centuries, and appears to be ingrained in our culture.  Kate is very brave to speak out, and by doing this, changes can be effected, albeit slowly and painfully.

Sexist Signs referring to PM Gillard supporting Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott

It is estimated that reported sexual abuse  is just the tip of the iceberg.  The embarrassment and shame women and girls feel about letting anyone else know what has happened to them, prevents them from going to the police.  I think that most of us can understand that stance.  However, nothing will change in our society unless this abuse and societal malaise  is dealt with openly.  Nothing will change if we continue to ignore the voice of women and elect  men such as Tony Abbott and his all-male-but-one Front Bench to govern our country.

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See   The Problem Being Female

Female Sex Workers

Catholic Dichotomy of Females

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