Bleats

Scott Morrison Finally Addresses The Fires By Refusing To Boost Volunteers

Have a go, mate.

After doing his best Harold Holt impression by disappearing off the face of this green(ish) earth as bushfires are raging across NSW, Scott Morrison has finally emerged from wherever he was to address the big elephant in the room: The religious discrimination bill.

Oh, Scotty also talked a bit about the NSW bushfires and, well, his response leaves much to be desired.

Speaking of the Australia bushfires…

During a visit to a smoke-filled Sydney to chat about his religious discrimination bill, Scott Morrison was asked about the bushfires and concerns over how the many thousands of volunteer firefighters – many of whom are taking leave from work to combat the bushfires – can keep this up without any pay (especially with 89 fires still burning), and our PM’s response was essentially “they want to be out there.”

“And the fact is these crews, yes, they’re tired, but they also want to be out there defending their communities. And so we do all we can to rotate the shifts to give them those breaks but … in many cases you’ve got to hold them back to make sure they get that rest. And I thank them all for what they’re doing, particularly all those who support them.”

Uh what?

Not sure what bushfires Scott Morrison has been following but we’re pretty sure volunteer firefighters aren’t skipping work to do this because they “want to be out there.”

When asked about sending aid to the thousands of volunteers so they don’t have to worry about money and also get some rest during this bushfire season, Scotty said no to the idea of professionalising these firefighters.

“The volunteer effort is a big part of our natural disaster response and it is a big part of how Australia has always dealt with these issues.

“We are constantly looking at ways to better facilitate the volunteer effort, but to professionalise that at that scale is not a matter that has previously been accepted and it’s not currently under consideration by the government.”

So despite the former Fire and Rescue NSW Commissioner warning that volunteer firefighters are on their last legs and a current firefighter begging for more resources, Scott Morrison, who is our PM in case people needed reminded, won’t spare a cent while saying that those folks want to be out there fighting the bushfires.

NSW may be burning down, those fighting the bushfires may be on their last legs, and Scott Morrison may be refusing to help the efforts, but at least ol’ mate got the latest draft of his religious discrimination bill done so that’s something at least!

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Lets Remember The Non-White ANZACs That Australia Tried To Forget

Asians, Indigenous Australians, and women all deserve to be celebrated just as much.

When someone says the word “Anzac”, the image usually conjured up is one of young white men who risked their lives fighting for Australia at Gallipoli during WWI.

While this isn’t strictly an inaccurate picture of the Anzacs, it does do a bit of a disservice to the proportion of those non-white and non-male members who either fought alongside their comrades or supported them off the battlefield.

Just as how all the white men who fought in WWI deserve to be celebrated on Anzac Day every year, all the Asians, Indigenous Australians, non-whites, and women who played an important part in defending Australia yet people seem to forget also deserve the same amount of attention and respect.

Australia has had a long history of multiculturalism and the late 1800s gold rush saw many Asians (particularly the Chinese) immigrating to the country to start a new life. As Australia was still a young country starting afresh, many migrants wanted to be part of that fresh start and signing up to the army was one way to do it.

When WWI broke out, Australia still had that god awful “White Australia Policy”, meaning that anyone who wasn’t white or European enough can’t enlist. The rules were eventually relaxed when the war was going belly-up for Australia and the need for more soldiers meant that the higher ups decided to give non-Europeans a good ol’ “fair go.”

Many Asian-Australians, including over 200 Chinese migrants and their children, ultimately enlisted and went to the front. The fact that enlisted Asian-Australians, many of whom decided to risk their lives for a new country on the admirable idea that, “if Australia is good enough to live in, it’s good enough to fight for”, were subsequently forgotten by Australian history until relatively recently is upsetting and something that Australia still needs to work on.

Put it another way: Billy Sing was one of the deadliest snipers of WWI who happened to be Asian-Australian and he died penniless and forgotten until about a decade ago. The country is doing something terribly wrong because if it managed to somehow forget a war hero like Billy, then that leaves little to no hope of recognition to all the other forgotten Asian-Australians who also served with him.

This particular story is similar for Indigenous Australians who enlisted during WWI. Not only was enlisting a way to a better life and something resembling equality, their involvement carried the emotional motivation of defending the country of their ancestors, a country that was ultimately taken from them by some white folk who arrived in a bunch of ships (which is another story for another day).

While legislation like the “Australia Defence Act 1903” prevented Indigenous Australians from enlisting, some 1,000 men managed to get around the rules through various shenanigans such as lying about their background and changing their names. However, the enlistment records have more holes than a wheel of Swiss cheese so even that number is a little sketchy.

Much like Asian-Australians, Indigenous Australians were largely forgotten by history upon their return from battle. It was only recently that they finally started getting some long overdue recognition, such as a documentary film called Black Digger and a three-year visual arts project by Country Arts SA to capture the stories and experiences of all those Aboriginal men and women who served in Australia’s military from the Boer War to the present day.

And of course, we absolutely need to acknowledge the important role women had during war time, something that has been neglected by Anzac tradition for the longest time until only recently.

While women didn’t fight on the battlefield at Gallipoli, they had the important responsibility of serving as nurses on hospital ships and field hospitals. In fact, these brave military nurses were a big part of the early Anzac Day commemorations until their role started getting smaller from about the 1920s onwards until they were all but neglected from all proceedings.

This sort of thing continued post-WWI and throughout WWII, where women took on all the jobs of men during the war but were rewarded with little acknowledgement. This was followed by an unceremonious punt back to the kitchen once all the men came back from battle and can take up their old jobs again.

It’s only been in recent years when enlisted women were finally given their long overdue recognition. 2013 saw the ban on front line and combat roles be lifted for women and 2017 saw the official definition of “veteran” be revised so many older service-women will be officially recognised as veterans. 2018 Anzac Day was a big moment for service-women as the annual parade was led by hundreds of female veterans for the first time.

It sounds ludicrous that Australia has actively tried to forget the contributions of Asian-Australians, Indigenous Australians, non-whites, and women in the military during every ANZAC Day but that’s exactly what happened. School textbooks only glance over their roles at best and you have to do an almighty amount of research to find out more, and even then the picture isn’t complete.

For a country that prides itself on giving everyone a “fair go”, Australia has done a pretty poor job in forgetting its non-white and female Anzacs. We can do better. We can remember them fairly and accurately.

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