Australian Politics 2022-06-07 07:32:00

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A damaging obsession?

Since ancient times, women have long sought to improve their appearance by colouring their faces and hair in various ways -- and that is a major industry to this day. Modern times differ in the availability of surgery -- with face-lifts and boob-jobs being well-known.

The article below is aimed at curbing the surgical adventures. But it is not clear why that should be so. Where the procedures do harm, one can be critical with some justification but otherwise if it gives satisfaction, why not?

The small point in the critique below is that people sometimes feel pressured into undergoing the procdures and are not really happy with it. But that is a personality matter. Susceptibility to social pressure is real but so can the the ability to withstand it be. And if that resistance is lacking, who else is able and entitled to supply it?.

I personally inherited a "Roman" or "aquiline" nose, which is both unusual and sometimes regarded as ugly. I have never felt the slightest urge to alter it but I understand that affected women sometimes do


Australians' body image problems are getting worse. Amidst an 'epidemic of body image anxiety', could one simple act change everything?

The term 'body modification' covers everything from hair-dye and braces, to lip fillers, nose jobs and butt augmentation.

What's considered normal or extreme comes down to who you hang around with: depending on your social circle, you might consider make-up unusual, or regular botox injections the norm.

But across the spectrum of procedures, there are two powerful common points. More of us are opting for body modification than ever. And more of us are judging the choices others are making. UK philosopher Heather Widdows says we are increasingly comparing ourselves to others online, with a "moral judgement that goes both ways".

It's directed towards those who do and those who don't modify their bodies, she says. And it's becoming a destructive force. "We have an epidemic of body image anxiety," Professor Widdows says. "We have to move away from that."

In Australia, more than 43 per cent of people are highly concerned about their body image, according to Monash University's Body Image Research Group.

In a study of over 3,000 mostly female Australians, aged 18 and over, the Butterfly Foundation found that over 70 per cent said appearance was "very important" and wished they could change the way they look.

Roughly one-fifth of the respondents had attempted to change themselves to look like images they saw on social media. Nearly half felt pressure to look a certain way.

Behind statistics like these is the influence of beauty ideals on body image "” and it's time to talk about that, Professor Widdows says. "We need to start taking it seriously."

Joseph Taylor, 36, says he grew up hating his "stereotypical [ethnic] big nose". He's since had three nose jobs, the first when he was 17.

Schoolyard teasing played a part in his decision. "Kids can be horrible," he says. "Someone probably said something like, 'Oh, you big nose'. "It must have, at some point, really got to me."

"When we're young, we're constantly trying to be the best that we can be on the exterior because we feel that's all that matters "¦ and we're so impressionable," Mr Taylor says.

But it's not only in our youth that we are susceptible to this influence. For young people and adults alike, beauty has become "our primary obsession", Professor Widdows argues.

She's not out to criticise beauty rituals. After all, as she notes, "we are embodied beings; we live in our bodies. It's how we see other people, how we relate to them".

The cosmetic enhancement industry in Australia is booming. We meet the people chasing their aesthetic ideal and those jumping off the cosmetic enhancement conveyor belt.

And plenty of beauty practices are enjoyable. Mr Taylor, for example, says today he is happy and confident with his appearance, and he feels in control of the influence of beauty in his life. "I've definitely grown to like the way I am," he says.

It's when beauty ideals tip into an obsession that problems can arise. For example, when not weighing what you'd like ruins your day. When getting one selfie right takes hours of preparation and editing before posting. Or when not being happy with the way you look might even stop you leaving the house.

These, Professor Widdows says, are things she's observed in researching her latest book, Perfect Me: Beauty as an Ethical Ideal. She believes they signal a "very profound shift" in values.

"We've gone from beauty being one thing we care about to it being almost defining of who we are," she says. "How we present success used to be the car or the house. Now it's how we look."

Professor Widdows suggests several reasons for this shift.

* We live in a more "visual culture" today, where "the image always speaks louder than words", she says.

* Courtesy of social media, we are able to constantly examine our appearance in relation to that of others.

* Also, where once beauty treatments were "very topical and superficial", now "we literally can change the shape of our bodies", she says. "You go from the cut of the dress to the cut of the breast."

Philosopher and physician Yves Saint James Aquino argues that with an increase in accessibility, there's now a "normalisation" of body modification, which has also fuelled its rise. "Now because it's so common, it's part of people's lives, they feel less stigmatised "¦ and therefore they feel freer to do it," he says.

Dr Aquino says another factor has led to the rise of body modification: prolonged exposure to our own faces on video calls throughout the pandemic.

Yves Saint James Aquino says body modification has become normalised and destigmatised. ABC RN: Siobhan Marin
"People are encountering their faces more than ever," he says. "That's when they start noticing things that they haven't really noticed before."

This, Dr Aquino says, has led to an uptick in cosmetic surgery around the world.

In the last five years or so, there's been a sharp increase in the use of injectables (such as in wrinkle-reducing or lip-filling procedures) in Australia. And the Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL) operation is the fastest growing cosmetic surgery in the world today.

At 2018, Australians were spending more per capita on cosmetic surgery than people in the US, with anti-wrinkle (Botox) injections the most popular operation at the time. And while it is mostly women choosing cosmetic surgery, the number of male clients is growing.

Former Vogue Australia editor-in-chief Kirstie Clements had the majority of her cosmetic procedures in her 40s, including lip fillers, Botox and collagen injections.

A decade later, she'd had enough. "I didn't like that sort of overworked look that it gives you, the kind of chubby cheeks and squinty eyes," she says. "When I got to my 50s, I thought, 'Oh, who are you kidding now?' "So I gave it up."

Ms Clements, now 60, believes ageism is a driving force in the increase of cosmetic enhancement. "The pressure is for us to try and keep up and to stay young and to be fresh," she says.

And cosmetic procedures are even more readily available today. "There are now literally lunchtime procedures where you can go back to work and nobody cares that there's a few marks in your face," Ms Clements says.

"They're not taboo. It's as fashionable as getting a piece of clothing, which is quite sobering. It's your skin that's being punctured."

Ms Clements calls out the "constant hammering" of edited or altered images that prompt us to question if we should benchmark ourselves against them. "It's the brave woman who says, 'No, I don't care what any of you do. I'm happy in my own skin'," she says.

But resisting pressure isn't just about bravery or defiance; it's about deflecting messages that arrive with increasing frequency. Where once we might have encountered beauty images 12 times a year in a monthly magazine, today "you're seeing things 12 times in 10 minutes" on social media, Ms Clements says. "It's getting more and more pervasive ". So it's the strong person who can stand back and say 'no'."

Professor Widdows is concerned about a future in which we might "begin to see exceptionally modified bodies as normal".

To downgrade the status of beauty in our lives, she is calling for a culture shift.

What do people of colour, who've often been racially vilified for their appearance, have to say about others cherry-picking their features?

She wants us to ditch the negative comments about other people's bodies and appearance. "Often, cosmetic surgery recipients report that their insecurity began with a nasty comment," she says.

Professor Widdows believes more of us need to understand the harm that negative comments and body shaming can cause, arguing that it should be considered as seriously as any other form of discrimination.

"I say, if you don't do [body modifying], don't feel smug because you don't feel the pressure," she says. Similarly, if you do engage in body modification, don't question those who don't.

"Rather let's think about, culturally, do we want to live in a society where people feel pressured to engage more and more? That's the bit I want to push back against, the social pressure," she says.

Professor Widdows' plea? Stop talking about other people's bodies "” full stop. "Let's not look at what people do or don't do. Let's not say, 'this practice is okay, that perhaps is not'," she says. "Let's just take the pressure completely off."

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Greens fury as Labor won’t rule out more coal to deal with energy crisis

THE energy and gas crisis has put the days-old Albanese Government under pressure after it did not rule out increasing coal-fired power output to deal with shortages, sparking a fiery response from the Greens fresh off record-breaking election wins.

There was large swing to the Greens in Brisbane which saw the party pick up three seats, with climate change a big issue in the areas.

New Energy Minister Chris Bowen said he was not ruling any options “in or out” as the government seeks to deal with a “very serious” gas shortfall driving up wholesale power prices.

A “perfect storm” of coal-fired power outages, flooded coal mines and the war in Ukraine impacting gas supply has caused prices to soar, leaving the east coast states at risk of a supply shortage in the coming days.

Last month more than 30 per cent of the coal power capacity in the National Electricity Market was estimated to be offline.

Origin Energy boss Frank Calabria has called for government and industry to work together to increase coal power in the short term.

Asked about the comments, Mr Bowen said the Federal Government’s ability to up output might be “limited” compared to the private sector or states. “If there is advice to me about sensible and measure actions that can be taken, I will take them,” he said.

Mr Bowen confirmed he had spoken with Mr Calabria, and would convene an emergency meeting with all state and territory energy ministers early next week to discuss the crisis. He is also in talks with heavy industry and regulators to work on options to ease the extreme pressure on the Australian market.

Incoming Greens Griffith MP Max Chandler-Mather said Labor should not be considering ramping up coal or opening up more gas to deal with the issues.

“Fire chiefs and climate scientists are begging Labor to take urgent climate action – but instead, they’re doing the complete opposite by backing massive new gas projects,” Mr Chandler-Mather said.

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Pandering to women won’t save the Libs

Bettina Arndt

‘Women were the forgotten people in this election’, pronounced Katherine Deves on Sky News Australia, following the election. The Liberal candidate for Warringah claimed, ‘Women want to be listened to and they need to have a voice,’ suggesting the Morrison government’s failure to pay attention to women contributed to the 6 per cent swing against her in Tony Abbott’s former seat.

Deves took a brave stance arguing for females not only in women’s sports, but supporting the notion that the Coalition government didn’t do enough for women – which is absurd.

For decades our conservative governments have bent over backwards to pander to feminist demands in an extravagant display that failed to win them votes but repelled their true base – namely, the majority of men and women keen that both genders in this egalitarian country should receive fair and equal treatment.

Yet Deves is joined by a mighty chorus of Coalition figures indulging in the same delusion. The newly appointed Deputy Opposition Leader, Sussan Ley, told Australian women that her party ‘hears them’ and is determined to ‘win back women’s trust’.

Give me a break. Won’t these people ever learn that the folk who created this notion of the Coalition’s ‘women problem’ would never think of voting for a conservative party? This is the same mob who ignored the fact that Julia Gillard’s famous misogyny speech was a desperate attempt to detract attention from her political reliance on Speaker Peter Slipper, who was then in trouble over a text comparing female genitalia to ‘a mussel removed from its shell… salty c***s in brine’.

We’ve seen successive Coalition governments cowering to the feminist lobby, throwing endless money trying to appease their insatiable appetite for an obscenely large slice of the cake. Malcolm Turnbull’s first act as Prime Minister was his plea for ‘respect for women’ as he announced the first $100 million of the never-ending bucket-loads of funding poured into the domestic violence industry. Last year, Scott Morrison topped up these rivers of gold with a 150 per cent increase in funding, from $100 to $250 million per year, as a result of the feminist’s Covid scare campaign about women being locked up with dangerous men – money paid out even as official statistics showed decreased violence during lockdowns.

Just last week, Tom Burton in the Australian Financial Review named the ‘shameful failure to end family violence’ as the greatest social policy issue which he claims led women to vote for ‘real change’. Do these journalists really have no idea that domestic violence rates are being artificially inflated by the current epidemic of false accusations related to family law battles?

The former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson has published a conversation with me covering, in detail, the evidence of how feminist ideology has risen to dominate public policy. It reveals how the movement has set about advantaging women at the expense of men through the distortion of the Australian media, tilting law, promoting anti-male ideology in schools and workplaces, and consistently manipulating government statistics to demonise men. This is the alternate reality that is usually kept well hidden from the world of powerful men.

It wasn’t that the Morrison government didn’t listen to women. This whipped crew sniveled and groveled, like a cuckolded man clutching desperately at the ankles of his departing wife. Remember the awkward apology to Brittany Higgins? Or Morrison’s forced smile when Grace Tame gave him the side-eye? Or the cowardly act of allowing Christian Porter and Alan Tudge to be pushed out of their ministerial roles over unproven sexual assault allegations? Or the cringing over the parliamentary harassment report, denying the very low incidence of actual harassment and high rates of female bullying…?

Recent Coalition governments have gone in for the shameless promotion of women into every conceivable public role. We had Susan Kiefel appointed Chief Justice of the High Court. Ita Buttrose as Chair of the ABC. Lorraine Finlay for Human Rights Commissioner. Cathy Foley as Chief Scientist. Women, women, women. A constant stream of beaming female faces endlessly gracing our news.

Consider the extraordinary appointment of Christine Morgan, as National Suicide Prevention Officer, at a time when six of the eight people killing themselves each day were men and 4 of every 5 beneficiaries of their ‘gender neutral’ prevention programs were women.

The results of the Coalition government’s relentless push to get more women into higher levels of the public service are all too apparent in grossly biased policy outcomes, like the March 2022 budget allocation of $2.1 billion to services for women and girls and just $1 million to ‘improve long term health outcomes’ for men and boys.

For the last few weeks we’ve been treated to unabashed celebration from our biased media about the ousting of the Coalition and wild assertions that this was all due to angry women turning on Morrison. No mention, of course, of the fact that conservative parties everywhere are now struggling to attract women.

Irrespective of how desperately the Coalition tried to win them over, women are turning left. Five years ago, I wrote about the growing power of left-wing women, making the point that women are becoming more left-wing in their policy preferences – not only in Australia, but across much of the Western world. Analysis by the Australian Election Study (AES) of 2019 election results confirmed an ever-widening gender gap, starting back in the 1990s marked by dropping female support for the Liberal Party.

By 2019, 45 per cent of men and 35 per cent of women voted Liberal, while the split for the Greens was 15 per cent to 9 per cent.

The AES asked voters to rate themselves on a scale from left to right, where 0 is left and 10 is right. In 2019 the average position for men was 5.2 whereas for women it was 4.8, a significant shift from the 1990s when there were minimum gender differences.

One of the key factors I identified back in 2017 for why the shift was occurring was leftist university education.

‘The hearts and minds being captured in our universities belong mainly to young women’, I wrote, pointing to fascinating research from the AES showing women emerge from university education notably more left-leaning than women without degrees, whereas male graduates aren’t very different from less educated men in their political views.

Women’s increasingly left-wing policy preferences have been showing up in AES data on issue after issue: asylum-seekers; government spending on indigenous affairs; stiffer criminal penalties; positive discrimination for women and same-sex marriage. The 2017 postal survey on same-sex marriage showed that more women voted yes in every age group from 18 through to 75.

Over 60 per cent of graduates are now female, so women are disproportionately affected by the ideological indoctrination taking place in our universities, particularly as they are mainly the ones studying humanities subjects steeped in identity politics and neo-Marxist propaganda.

Unlike many men who become more conservative as they age, the work/life patterns in most women’s lives simply reinforce these beliefs. Women predominantly work in education, health care, and welfare services or as public service professionals. They make up 58 per cent of public service positions and are more likely than men to work in unionised jobs. All this means their working environment provides a culture that supports rather than challenges their political beliefs.

Then there’s the motherhood issue, with mothers particularly receptive to the Left’s big spending promises – and scare campaigns – on health and education. The growing number of single mothers significantly dependent on government benefits is another key issue, with the left-wing parties playing up their support for such disadvantaged families.

So, it goes on. Hardly surprising then that polling suggests the indoctrinated mob of professional women flocked to the Teal faux Independents with their trendy list of leftist policy proposals. No doubt when proper analysis of the gender gap in this election is available, we will discover even more women across the board may be turning their backs on traditional conservative beliefs.

But the biggest risk for the conservative parties currently licking their wounds is to believe the mad left media claim that they were ousted by the wrath of angry women. Somehow, we need to convince Coalition politicians that they have long been bleeding votes from ordinary folk who have had a gutful of seeing women endlessly privileged whilst the men they love, their fathers, sons, brothers, and friends, are pushed to the back of the bus and at every point denied fair treatment.

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Has Albanese government’s support for a 5.1pc pay rise lit the fuse to its demise?

TERRY MCCRANN compares the Albanian to Whitlam

Will the Albanese government’s support for a 5.1 per cent minimum wage rise come to be the signature policy exercise that combines with and unleashes forces which end up destroying it?

Like has happened with every other Labor government in the 77 years since the Second World War?

In the 1970s, it was the Whitlam Government’s shock – dashing and daring – 25 per cent across the board tariff cut.

This was aimed at fighting surging inflation, by slashing the prices of almost the entire array of consumer durables – fridges, TVs, washing machines, stoves and the rest – in a way not possible in today’s tariff-free all-imported reality.

It was bold. It was innovative. As a young commentator, I supported it.

But it turned into both an economic and political disaster – especially when joined with, so ominously, portentously, resonant of today’s 5.1 per cent – another Whitlam agenda.

This was the deliberate policy of having big public sector wage rises, literally to “set the pace” for wage rises across the economy, precisely like with the 5.1 per cent, to keep pace with inflation.

The tariff cut did zero in taming inflation – which through the mid-1970s was running at 14-16 per cent a year.

Joined with the big pay rises, businesses and jobs in manufacturing and across the economy were destroyed.

This joined with a whole range of other forces, which were so destabilising to both the economy and the government.

Back then the world was smack in the middle of the first oil shock. Back then, the Coalition had far, far more powerful supporters in business.

Then in the 1980s came the 18 per cent Reserve Bank interest rate which sent home loans rates to 17 per cent. Try putting that in your loan repayments calculator.

The savage rate increases weren’t only supported by then treasurer Paul Keating; he actually urged the RBA on – and sent the economy plunging into a real recession, which dwarfed anything we’ve seen over the past two years.

The by-then Keating-led Labor government should have lost the 1993 election. It was saved by a totally inept opposition leader named John Hewson and his infamous GST cake.

But as the consequences of those high rates ground on, the reckoning was only postponed, until 1996 and someone named John Howard.

In the Rudd-Gillard years, the signature policy move was – well, there were probably two: the boats and the carbon tax, along with the budget deficits after Peter Costello’s unending surpluses and even more potently, his yearly tax cuts.

Tony Abbott promised to axe the tax and stop the boats. He won the election and did both. Missing him, yet?

You can argue over the appropriateness of the policy decisions, whether they got ambushed by circumstances outside their control, or just the reality of ‘unintended consequences’.

But all that is subsumed by the ‘only poll that matters’ – as so many prime ministers in trouble have intoned over the years. The one on election day.

So why am I suggesting that the support for the 5.1 per cent might be this government’s ultimate Achilles Heel?

Surely it’s a classic, even obligatory Labor policy? Having the lowest-paid at least keeping up with inflation?

Won’t it actually be helpful for the economy? Can’t it be limited, as the government wants?

Ah, that’s the problem. It can’t be and it won’t be. The government is directly replaying the Whitlam pace-setting reality. In the 1970s it was public servants; today it’s the low-paid. I have to add, it’s pretty obvious which were/are more deserving.

It is also doing so, precisely into a world – that I suggest you can pretty obviously see – that is ‘right on the edge’ in so many ways and across so many fronts.

Energy prices – all of them: gas, petrol and electricity – are rocketing, and are not going back to 2018 levels anytime soon if indeed ever. Indeed, price is bad enough, we may actually be heading into rationing.

We’re still grappling with the Covid legacy.

What it’s done directly to our economy and our lives; plus all the supply-chain issues; a China which is not the benign China pumping cheap product into the world of the pre-Covid years.

The war against Ukraine has already unleashed a global food crisis; and again it’s only going to get worse. The high prices our farmers will get will be only a small offset.

Then there’s the way that we have built the entire world economy on this great bubble of zero interest rates and multi-trillion dollar money printing.

We are going to see the RBA raise its rate – it has to raise by at least 0.4 per cent – on Tuesday, with more to come.

The support for the 5.1 per cent could turn out to be the tiny spark that lights the fuse to the great explosion.

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Also see my other blogs. Main ones below:

http://dissectleft.blogspot.com (DISSECTING LEFTISM -- daily)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)

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