Category: Australian Politics

Is Sydney awash with a Transgender friendly culture?

By Kate Doak
By Kate Doak

A few days ago, The Guardian’s Fred McConnell asked a question that’s left me thinking pretty seriously about the society that I’m living in today. Namely, does Sydney have a progressive enough environment that LGBTI people, particularly Trans-people, can feel loved and safe within.

Now to most people that would be a pretty straight-forward question, however after some of the events that I’ve experienced over the past few months, I’m reticent to give either a definitive yes or no as an answer.

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Senator Sarah Hanson Young (Greens – South Australia) talking at a Parliamentary Friends of LGBTI Australians function in Canberra on July 16th, 2014. Her co-chairs are The Hon. Warren Entsch & Graham Perrett MP (Photo: Kate Doak)

That’s because while there’s undeniably a lot of goodwill towards the LGBTI community as a whole present within the Sydney metropolitan area, there’s also a lot of issues, concerns and events that get conveniently swept underneath the carpet within this city on a day to day basis, by both the powers that be and the LGBTI community itself as a whole.

Now for the most part, I’ve been extremely lucky ever since I packed my bags and headed down to Sydney a couple of years ago from the far reaches of northern New South Wales. From having the unwavering support of service providers such as The Gender Centre through to having a lot of friends and mentors from both the LGBTI and wider community who’ve stood steadfast beside me each step of the way, I couldn’t have wished for a better time or place to transition in.

Needless to say, with friends, mentors and allies such as Kate McClymont, Christine Forster, Michaela Whitbourn, Virginia Edwards, Amy Coopes, Lauren Ingram, Rachel Smith, Julie Lawless, Mark Textor, Sarah Davis, Ebony Allen, Peter Lloyd, Penny Sharpe, Tracey Spicer and a whole studio full of people from places such as Fairfax, News Corp, The Hoopla, SBS, Seven and the ABC amongst others, I know that I’ve got both the personal and professional networks that I need here in Sydney not only in order to thrive as a person, but to love life in general as well. Read more

2014 ~ Some thoughts from a year of being myself….

By Kate Doak

If there’s something that I’ve always wished for throughout my life, it’s been the ability to always be myself all day and every day in ways that I could only dream of previously imagining.

From exploring the utter highs and lows of humanity through to the journeys of family, joy, sorrow and love, I’ve always wanted to experience everything that life could offer me, while embracing it all.

Now while I’m now doing that and I feel as if I’m experiencing the much lauded concept of “having it all”, I can’t help but recognise the fact that for each and every one of us that there’s a different meaning to that phrase which in turn directly challenges how we live and engage with the never ending events within our lives.

Self Portrait at Museum Station, Sydney – Kate Doak – 2/12/2014
Self Portrait at Museum Station, Sydney – Kate Doak – 2/12/2014

Like a massive soap bubble taking shape within a home-made bubble wand, our minds are constantly moulding the desires that each and every one of us has throughout each and every stage of our lives. So while sometimes “having it all” may feel impossible to grasp and comprehend for any of us, at other times it can be completely and utterly within our reach.

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A journalist’s reflections on Sydney’s “Day of Days” in at Martin Place….

By Kate Doak
By Kate Doak

If there’s one thing that will stay with me for many years from the afternoon of the Lindt Cafe Siege, it’ll be the memory of seeing families strolling up the length of Martin Place and taking “selfies” from just beyond the confines of the police barricade. Like moths being entranced into the flame, it was almost as if some people were viewing the ultimately horrific scene unfolding across the street from the 7 newsroom as a festival, rather than a psychological nightmare that’d emerged from the depths of Hell.

Martin Place Siege - 15/12/2014 - Photo: Kate Doak
Looking up towards the Martin Place Siege – 15/12/2014 – Photo: Kate Doak

But while the general public is often shielded from such atrocities (hence their fascination with such events when they happen on their front door), more often than not it’s the emergency services, professional media, victim’s families and social workers amongst others who bear the full brunt of the stories that tend to unfold in extremely graphic fashion around them, as it’s ultimately their responsibility to do so. From the Royal Commission into Child Abuse through to the events within the Lindt Chocolate Cafe, sometimes there’s scenes that can neither become unseen nor be forgotten by those who witness them.

Now as a freelance journalist who occasionally works with the likes of international news divisions such as the one run by the American Broadcasting Company, on a couple of occasions it’s been my job to get in and find the hard hitting news that hurts, even when it rips away at your emotions (and those of your colleagues) in ways best left publicly unsaid. Needless to say while such stories are ultimately traumatic, they also help fully describe and showcase the true nature of the human condition as we know it, in ways that help us rediscover ourselves as people.

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A View to a (Political) Kill – A photographer’s view of ICAC’s Operation Spicer….

By Kate Doak.
By Kate Doak.
Further escapades through the department stores adjoining ICAC with Joe Tripodi - Photo: Kate Doak
Further escapades through the department stores adjoining ICAC with Joe Tripodi – Photo: Kate Doak

With ICAC’s Operation Spicer having recently drawn to a close, many people around New South Wales (and Australia as a whole) have been wondering over recent weeks just how deep the taint of corruption has reached within both state and federal politics over recent years.

From coal loaders & “Black Ops” in Newcastle through to property development within the Western Suburbs of Sydney, neither Labor nor the Coalition have escaped the ICAC’s 007-like wrath during Operation Spicer, with over a dozen current and former politicians having been caught up within one of the longest public inquiries of the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s history.

Between delivering detailed analysis and commentary of the events occurring at ICAC over recent months with a smattering of cricket related puns and Shakespearean prose for SBS News, not to mention live tweeting the proceedings of the commission to the point where even Counsel Assisting The Commissioner Geoffrey Watson was publicly saying that I was proverbially on fire, I’ve essentially had a front-row seat (with my Nikon D3200) to one of the most spectacular periods of political intrigue in Australia’s history over the course of the past few months.

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A Transgender journey “In My Shoes” – To Parliament House in Canberra and back again…..

By Kate Doak.
By Kate Doak.

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of presenting a short film on Transgender Youth to a group of politicians, staffers and other dignitaries at Parliament House in Canberra.  This group, otherwise known as the “Parliamentary Friends of LGBTI Australians”, focuses heavily on improving the lives of all Australians who are a part of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex communities, as well as their partners and allies. Furthermore, it’s also bi-partisan — having members from all of the major political parties and the cross-benches — which is a rarity within Australian politics today.

This was the second time that I’d appeared at a “Parliamentary Friends of LGBTI Australians” event having produced a radio documentary on the group for “All the Best” on FBi Radio in November 2012, prior to moving to Sydney and starting my transition in earnest in 2013.

Speaking in Parliament House - Photo: Kate Doak
Speaking in Parliament House – Photo: Kate Doak

The film in question, “In My Shoes”,  is a short production that was recently commissioned by The Gender Centre of NSW in Sydney and produced with the assistance of Monique Schafter (ABC 7-30 and Hungry Beast) as well as cinematographer Mat Govoni.  Since the idea for this production was first raised at The Gender Centre, I’ve been honoured to have a role in this film’s production in both logistical and advisory capacities, amongst others.  Needless to say, the stories of the five young adults in this film are heart-touching, educative and profound in so many ways and will undoubtedly help to save the lives of many other Transgender Youth in the years ahead. Read more

Morrison responds to questions over his Platinum-etched Sri Lankan tea set…

By Kate Doak.
By Kate Doak.

The Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has responded to questions surrounding a gift that he received from the Sri Lankan Secretary for Defence and Urban Affairs Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa earlier this year during a Joint Working Group function on asylum seekers between Australia and Sri Lanka.

In a very carefully worded statement to The Deadly Newt, the Minister’s office refused to state why he decided to keep the seventeen-piece Noritake Odessa Platinum tea set that was presented to him by Mr Rajapaksa on the 22nd of April 2014, while suggesting that Mr Morrison was entitled to keep the platinum-etched gift from his Sri Lankan counterpart according to existing parliamentary regulations on such matters.

The Hon. Scott Morrison and Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa -- Source: Sri Lankan High Commission in Canberra
The Hon. Scott Morrison and Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa — Source: Sri Lankan High Commission in Canberra

“The item was a gift of the Sri Lankan Government”, stated a spokesman from Mr Morrison’s Ministerial office.

“The Minister has complied with the relevant guidelines on disclosure.”

The spokesman also declined to answer questions over the level of engagement that Minister Morrison and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship had partaken in with Mr Rajapaksa as a part of the repatriation of 41 asylum seekers to Sri Lanka over the last weekend, as well as the status of the professional and personal relationships between the two politicians.

According to overseas vendors, the Noritake Odessa Platinum china collection in a 17-piece configuration has a Recommended Retail Price between approximately $936.14 and when purchased either online or via authorised vendors. 

Morrison receives gifts from Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence officials

By Kate Doak

The Immigration Minister Scott Morrison received a seventeen-piece platinum-etched tea set as a personal gift from the Sri Lankan Secretary of Defence and Urban Affairs, Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa on the 22nd of April 2014, according to his latest declaration to the Parliament via the Registrar of Member’s Interests.

Jason Clare (ALP) and Scott Morrison (Lib) - Source: The Hon Scott Morrison's website.
Jason Clare (ALP) and Scott Morrison (LIB) – Source: The Hon. Scott Morrison’s website.

Within his declaration, Mr Morrison stated that he received the Noritake Odessa Platinum tea set during an Australian Sri Lankan Joint Working Group function in Canberra and that he had decided to keep the gift after paying only $4.30 to the Parliament’s Collector of Public Monies, in accordance with parliamentary regulations.

Pecuniary Interests Statement - Minister Scott Morrison - 28/5/2014
Pecuniary Interests Statement – Minister Scott Morrison – 28/5/2014 Source: Screenshot of Minister Morrison’s submission.

This gift was made at the same event where a Deed of Transfer was signed for the transfer of two Bay Class Australian Customs vessels, ACV Corio Bay and ACV Hervey Bay, to the Sri Lankan Defence Forces. These vessels will be formally commissioned into the Sri Lankan Navy over the coming days, during an event that Minister Morrison will reportedly be attending.

Mr Rajapaksa, who is the brother of the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, has previously been accused of war-crimes during the later stages of the country’s civil war by the former Chief of the Sri Lankan Army Sarath Fonseka, while a UN report that was published on the 31st of March 2011 by the Secretary General’s “Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka” has also uncovered instances of the Secretary of Defence ordering physical attacks against Journalists since taking up his position in 2005.

Noritake China – Odessa Platinum Collection. Photo courtesy of www.noritakechina.com
Noritake China – Odessa Platinum Collection. Photo courtesy of www.noritakechina.com

The Minister for Immigration’s office was approached for comment in regards to the events surrounding the gift that Mr Morrison received in April from Mr Rajapaksa, the minimal amount that Mr Morrison paid the parliament in order to keep the gift and Mr Rajapaksa’s potential involvement with the transfer of 41 Sri Lankan asylum seekers between both Sri Lanka and Australia over the weekend. However as of the advised deadline for this article, Minister Morrison’s office had not responded to the aforementioned inquiry.

According to the Noritake website the Odessa Platinum Collection isn’t available as a seventeen-piece set, while the collection itself isn’t available for sale within Australia at this time.

Grinning and Bearing it… Hartcher and Tinkler leaving ICAC in photos….

By Kate Doak
By Kate Doak

Every so often you run into a media scrum at the Independent Commission Against Corruption where everything just becomes chaotic to the extreme.  Whenever that happens, you can either grin and bear it like Nathan Tinkler sensibly did last week by walking in and out of ICAC via the front door and have the drama disappear soon there after, or you can lead the press on a merry chase through the streets and department stores of the CBD of Sydney and ensure that you become headline news as a result.

Tinkler Walking Out of ICAC
Tinkler walking calmly out of ICAC – 15/5/14 – Photo: Kate Doak

Against all political and public relations logic however, the Honourable Christopher Hartcher and his entourage of protective supporters have taken the latter option not once but twice over the past couple of days, with a few reporters being injured yesterday and another nearly getting their arm caught in a car door today in the car-park basement of the ICAC building at 133 Castlereigh Street in Sydney as the former Natural Resources Minister has tried to make two successive quick getaways.

Now for the record, I don’t begrudge people for getting a little bit pushy in such instances (within reason), as sometimes you’ve just got to clear the way in order to get out of a building.  What I do take offence to however is when the aforementioned pushing ventures into very inappropriate areas or in ways that are bordering upon assault.

Between wandering hands (and fists) in the ICAC lifts through to Lee Jeloscek being purposefully kicked and tripped by one of Chris Hartcher’s relatives during Monday’s media scrum though, one has got to wonder just what has been going on in Mr Hartcher’s office if such activities only result in a smirk from Mr Hartcher rather than some form of humanistic level of concern over people getting hurt.  Whether some people like it or not, journalists are human beings like everyone else and deserve the right to be able to go to work each day and not get assaulted as a result.

Needless to say, a couple of well placed comments to the press are also more likely to make an issue go away than having images of people getting hurt being splashed across the news.

I mean seriously…. Even Marie Ficarra’s miniature schnauzer would realise that one.

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Here we go again…. Politics, Impartiality and the ABC

By Kate Doak.
By Kate Doak.

Over the past 24 hours, there’s been quite a stir within the Australian media about a series of comments that Prime Minister Tony Abbott recently made on the Sydney radio program of 2GB’s controversial morning shock jock, Ray Hadley.  Utilising parts of the interview to pander to some of his more vocal supporters (and ABC critics) within the Coalition partyroom and the Liberal heartland of Sydney, Mr Abbott decided to make a few unwarranted comments about the levels of patriotism, political bias, value and accuracy found within the ABC, given some of the political stories that have been run by the public broadcaster over the past few months.

Prime Minister Abbott being interviewed by 2GB's Ray Hadley.  Photo courtesy of ABC News.
Prime Minister Abbott being interviewed by 2GB’s Ray Hadley. Photo courtesy of ABC News.

Now while such comments would obviously partially be the result of Mr Abbott and his Coalition colleagues being generally unhappy with the ABC’s portrayal of intelligence related stories and the airing of asylum seeker claims of abuse over recent weeks (which Scott Morrison has ineptly managed due to his steadfast refusal to provide transparent immigration information and video content to the Australian public which would refute such claims), it’s not as if the ABC hasn’t been giving away  “Free Kicks” to their critics of late.  As evidenced by the ABC’s New Year’s Eve coverage earlier this month, the drunken actions of a few ABC journalists, comedians and presenters can be all the mud that’s needed in order to make it appear that a public broadcaster is completely and utterly out of control when attached to other grievances.

But are claims that the ABC is biased, unpatriotic, under-regulated and un-representative of Australian society valid, or are they simply just an obvious level of pandering to a small but vocal ideological element within the Liberal partyroom and ideological base, which would like to see the ABC privatised?  Furthermore, do such claims really stack up when you take into consideration that of the 19 former ABC empolyees that had gone on to become politicians as of a Senate Estimates inquiry into the issue on the 23rd of May 2007, that nine had joined the Coalition, while the remainder had joined Labor?

Well, the devil is in the details in regards to those particular questions.

Now not counting the digital radio networks, the ABC has 60 Local Radio stations and 4 national radio networks within its possession at this time, not to mention four nationally broadcast digital television networks.  From music through to sport, arts culture, agriculture, law, mining, religion, history and science amongst others, the ABC has a wealth of units and a broad church of staff, which help them to fulfill their government mandated charter. Needless to say, all of these facilities provide a massive amount of content on a daily basis to all elements of Australian society, most of which statistics would show, isn’t of a political nature.

Pictured (clockwise from left): ABC New England Northwest's  Mornings Producer John Hyde, Regional Content Manager Jennifer Ingall, Sport Editor Mark Lowe, Breakfast Presenter Anna Moulder, Mornings Presenter Kelly Fuller, Open Producer Tim Lehā, News Journalist Kerrin Thomas.
Pictured (clockwise from left): ABC New England Northwest’s Mornings Producer John Hyde, Regional Content Manager Jennifer Ingall, Sport Editor Mark Lowe, Breakfast Presenter Anna Moulder, Mornings Presenter Kelly Fuller, Open Producer Tim Lehā, News Journalist Kerrin Thomas.

In order to prove that point, I’m going to put the spotlight on the staff and facilities of the first radio station that I interned with a number of years ago, ABC New England Northwest, which is nestled up in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range in Northern New South Wales.  A funky and innovative group of people, these journalists highlight the diversity, professionalism and patriotism which is found across the ABC on a daily basis.

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Missing the story – Indonesia’s been asking for and using “Phone Tapping” technology for years

By Kate Doak.
By Kate Doak.

Over the past few days I’ve been getting rather bemused by the phone tapping scandal that’s been hiting the Australian and Indonesian Governments.  However the events surrounding this scandal haven’t surprised me anywhere near as much as some of the comments that have been made about it.  Namely, that Indonesia didn’t have a clue that Australia was tapping the phones of Indonesian citizens.  This is closely followed by some of the seriously deficient research that parts of the Australian and Indonesian media have conducted into this story, since it first broke. The context of a story often provides its key, and in all honesty that’s what I feel has missing from this entire scandal so far.

Now as anyone who follows South East Asian current affairs and politics closely would know, Indonesia’s Detachment 88 has been tapping the phones of Indonesian citizens for ages.  Given that none of the tapped phones on the list provided by the Australian Signals Directorate to the other “5 Eyes” members were secure models, it’s no surprise at all that these phones were tapped.  As a Reuters article from 2010 shows, phone tapping technology and expertise are resources that the Indonesians have requested and received from Australia, the US, France and the UK throughout most of the period since the 2002 Bali Bombings.

Reuters:

A U.S. embassy spokesman in Jakarta declined to comment, but a U.S. government document showed the unit had received technical support, training and equipment under the State Department’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) program since 2003.

An Indonesian official, who spoke on condition on anonymity, confirmed the unit got Australian and U.S. help in advanced wiretapping technology, and also some British and French aid.

Indonesia and the United States are likely to discuss further security cooperation during Obama’s visit. Washington has been considering whether to lift a ban on military training for Indonesia’s notorious special forces unit, known as Kopassus.

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