Thursday, 27 June 2013

Farewell, Julia

There's a kind of post-modern irony in the fact that some of the final images of Julia Gillard as Australian Prime Minister to flood the mass media depict her knitting a toy for the new royal baby.  Why is our feminist heroine doing something so stereotypically feminine?  The rest of the tale, though, has a more classical feel, like a Shakespearean tragedy with its cycle of hubris and retribution. 

Many of my feminist friends feel Gillard's treatment over the last few months is a sign of ongoing sexism and misogyny in politics and the media.  There is something in what they say.  "Ditch the witch", the fake menu and (if we reach back to the beginning) Bill Heffernan suggesting she wasn't qualified to lead the country because she didn't have children are all incredibly gendered pieces of abuse.  But when Rudd was deposed three years ago, did anyone say it happened because he is a man?

At risk of alienating some good friends I have to say I'm not entirely convinced of Gillard's feminist credentials.  It's a further piece of post-modern irony that one of the high points of her Prime Ministership, her famous misogyny speech, was prompted by the need to deflect attention from the sexual misconduct of former Speaker Peter Slipper, the man Gillard enticed from the Liberal Party with the promise of office in order to secure her majority. 

Even more ironic if you consider that at the time she made that speech her government was passing a law which reduced the incomes of a large number of sole parents (most of whom are women) by shifting them from parenting payment to Newstart.  If this is feminism at all, and not mere cynicism, it is a kind of conservative Women's Electoral Lobby feminism where already successful women work to push the glass ceiling higher.  Nothing wrong with that, but it's hard to get too excited about it when poor sole parents are made to struggle even harder to pay the rent and feed their kids.

So much for irony, now for tragedy.  Three years ago, Gillard was convinced to dethrone Rudd because the polls were clearly showing that Labor would lose the election with him as leader.  Three years later, the polls are showing they are unlikely to even be a credible opposition with Gillard as leader but are close to a winning position with Rudd.  So the wheel turned and Rudd once again found himself on top.

In the meantime, what has Gillard left us to remember her by?  In a sense, quite a lot.  It's interesting to hear Tony Windsor talk on the subject of our supposedly dysfunctional hung parliament.  Windsor notes that large volumes of legislation have passed this parliament in the last three years as a result of skillful negotiation managed by Gillard and her Ministers.  Amongst these are some extremely important reforms, including the Carbon Tax, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the Gonski education reforms.  Sure, there have been some mis-steps - asylum seeker policy is a cruel shambles, they allowed the mining companies to con them on the mining tax, sole parents as mentioned already - but to paint this as a dysfunctional government is certainly overstretch.

So if the government is not dysfunctional and it's not simple sexism, what went wrong for Gillard?  The conventional wisdom is that the electorate is just not listening to her any more.  But why is that?  Is it because she sounds wooden every time she speaks?  Is it because her voice is being drowned out by those of her critics, both inside the Labor Party and on the opposition benches?  Is it because the media refuse to report her message any more so there is nothing for the electorate to listen to?  The sad thing is that all these alternatives suggest that it is not the government that's dysfunctional, and certainly not Gillard, but the electorate itself which refuses to take actual governance seriously and prefers to rate politics as if it were just another form of entertainment. 

I suspect the main thing to be learned from the polls that sparked both Rudd's demise and his resurrection is that polls are dumb. We have no way of knowing what would have happened back in 2010 with Rudd as leader, but I suspect that outcome in September will be a serious wipeout for Labor, followed by Rudd's final political demise. Much like Macbeth following the advice of the witches, the superficial evidence of veracity will mask a deeper tragedy. People prefer Rudd because he is absent. Once he is present they will be reminded why they spurned him three years ago.  Then they will vote for Tony Abbott and his Coalition cronies, and the tragedy will be complete.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Why Elite Sportsmen Do Dumb Things

I've been working on a theory about why elite sportsmen seem to get in trouble so regularly.

We've been hearing a bit about this recently.  Australian cricketer David Warner has two strikes to his name - tweeting angrily at journalists, and punching an opposing player in a pub.  Souths and Queensland Rugby League player Ben Te'o found himself drunk and in the company of two former team-mates and woman none of them knew.  What happened next is a matter of dispute - did he punch her, or did she injure herself in a drunken meltdown? - but either way the whole situation is completely dumb.   Another Rugby League player, Blake Ferguson, has been charged with sexual assault of a woman in a bar on a Sunday evening while in the company of another former team-mate.  All this in the last month.  A fairly typical month, really.

Of course you could blame alcohol, which is involved in all three incidents.  It's a convenient scapegoat, but alcohol doesn't drink itself. 

You could blame their youth and inexperience, but none of these three are particularly young.  Ferguson is the youngest at 23.  Warner and Teo are both 26.  I know lots of young men in this age bracket.  Most of them are well past such adolescent stupidity.  These three are old enough to know better - and it's not like they don't have enough bad examples to learn from.

So here's my theory.  Participating in elite professional sport is a form of prolonged male adolescence.  It actively prevents young men from growing up.  For as long as they are professional team athletes, there's a good chance their social and mental age will stay in the late teens.

Here's why.  Team sport as we know it grew out of the English public school system.  Sporting participation was viewed as building character.  It taught you to work with your peers and sink your individuality for the wellbeing of the team.  It taught you to follow rules and fit within a rigid structure, to do your job and rely on others to do theirs.  In short, it prepared you for the service of the empire, for participation in the armies of occupation which the British sent to India, South-East Asia, Africa, the Middle East and even Australia and New Zealand.

You may think modern elite sport is a long way from the British boarding school, but you would be wrong.  Modern sportsmen still dress in uniform off the field as well as on it.  They spend lots of time living and working with men their own age in a tight social group - when they travel they even have room-mates.  They live and work in environments from which outsiders, and especially women, are excluded.  Their daily lives are highly controlled and managed by other people - what they do each day, where they stay and with whom, what they eat, how they conduct themselves in public.  They are punished for being late for training.  Four Australian cricketers were recently suspended for not doing their homework.  How different from school does this sound to you?

All this might be appropriate for boys in their late teens, although personally I doubt it.  It's definitely  not appropriate for men in their mid-20s.  By this stage, they should be taking responsibility for their own lives.  Most men and women in their mid-20s find their own homes.  If they travel to another city, they make their own bookings.  They don't have room-mates.  They have jobs in workplaces where there are men and women of all ages.  They can't be out drinking on Sunday night because they have work to do on Monday morning.

The trouble with this state of arrested development is that it has consequences.  If you've ever been with a group of competitive teenage boys, you will know how they egg each other on.  The group mentality encourages them to stigmatise those outside, especially girls who can't be seen as people because they can never join the group.  Group members who protest against this attitude are also stigmatised, so the pressure to conform is huge.  A young man who doesn't drink, or doesn't get drunk, or who is shy around women, will be similarly stigmatised.  In a school environment, boys who don't want to do this will simply seek another peer group, but this is much harder to do in a sporting team because the team culture requires the group to be as one.  Getting drunk together is a form of bonding.  And while socially they are still adolescents, physically and legally our elite sportsmen are adults.  They can drink and enter licensed clubs.  They can stay out as late as they like.  They are past the age of consent.  They have a lot more scope for trouble than your average schoolboy.

Of course not all young men fall for this, and some of the older ones seem able to escape it, especially if they are married and have children.  But I would suggest that this happens despite the culture, not because of it.  It helps if they have an alternative culture to belong to, and an alternative social group.  It's no accident that footballers with strong faith, for instance, seem less likely to get in trouble.  The church provides them with a ready-made peer group to bolster their resistence to bad behaviour. 

This analysis suggests, however, that some other popular responses may be counter-productive.  For instance, strict team discipline, fines, suspensions and team pacts seem to simply perpetuate the problem.  How school-like is it to be suspended for bad behaviour?  How in-group is it to make a pact to change your behaviour together?  And we all know how schoolboys respond to the heavy hand of school authority.  All these things smack blatantly of first order change - that is to say, more of the same.  If you keep on doing the same things you will keep getting the same result.

Group cultures like this are incredibly hard to change, but there are ways.  Here are some ideas.
  1. Diversify your group.  Bring in people from the outside who are different.  Ensure, for instance, that there are women in positions of responsibility and respect.  Make sure the other members of the group share the responsibility for welcoming them and including them.  Make sure they are there as people, not as objects or servants.
  2. Encourage people to leave the group regularly.  Up until recently, most elite sportsmen had day jobs.  Encourage something similar - encourage them to study on campus, to work in a corner shop or a child care centre, even if just one day a week.  Not as a group, as individuals, each following their own bent. 
  3. Encourage them to take a gap year.  Get away from footy or cricket, do something completely different - travel, work, study, meditate, spend 18 hours a day playing computer games.  Then if they come back, they do, if not, well and good.
  4. For away games, give them a travel allowance and have them make their own travel arrangements.  If some of them travel as a group, well and good, but they have to organise it themselves.  If not, the only requirement is that they turn up at training and for the game at the right time and in their right minds.
  5. If they get in trouble when they are not at the game, don't make it part of the game.  If they did it on their own, let them solve it on their own.  Let them hire their own lawyers, make their own statements to the media, clean up their own messes.  Make sure they know this will be the case right at the start.
Let these young men grow up.  They'll be better for it, and so will the rest of us, especially those poor young women who are so often on the receiving end of their adolescent stupidity.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Machines of Love and Grace

When I write about music, I almost always find myself writing about middle aged men.  My songwriting pantheon includes the holy trinity of Bruce Cockburn, Richard Thompson and Tom Waits, as well as minor deities like Shane Howard, Paul Kelly...I could go on but you get the picture.

Now I'm an equal opportunity sort of guy and recently I started to worry that all my musical heroes are men.  Is this a hidden corner of chauvinism in my otherwise PC world?  Of course I could argue that music is very personal and that I found people I could relate to.  I could argue that my choices are purely emotional and nothing to do with gender or power.  But when you claim not to be prejudiced yet consistently favour one group over another, the chances are you are kidding yourself.

Of course I could initiate an affirmative action program, and start to review music by women I don't like that much.  On the other hand, I could just tell you about the marvellous Martha Tilston and her latest release, Machines of Love and Grace.

Tilston was always going to be an artist.  The only question was, what sort?  Her father Steve is a prominent English folk musician, her mother Naomi is a painter.  For good measure, her step-dad is a theatre director and her step-mum is another singer.  There was never much chance she would end up as an accountant.  The only question was, which artform?

The answer, of course, was all three.  She studied drama and took some steps on the acting path before eventually opting for music.  In between times she learned to paint.  Her work appears on her CD covers and is sold via the internet, presumably to supplement the rather uncertain income available to independent recording artists. 

Having grown up around the older generation of folk musicians, it's not surprising to find their influences in her music.  Some of the bass lines on this album and her previous, Lucy and the Wolves, sound uncannily like Danny Thompson's work with Pentangle and John Martyn.  On first listen to Machines of Love and Grace the guitar line on "Silent Women" sounded so much like Martyn himself that I found myself scrambling for the sleeve notes to see if he was guesting.  (You can relax, Martyn remains safely dead and the part is played by Nick Marshall).

However there are other more prominent influences on this album.  Tilston has already shown herself a dab hand at a tribute song on Lucy and the Wolves with "Old Tomcat", a suitably wry tribute to Leonard Cohen.  On Machines of Love and Grace she pays tribute to the redoubtable Joni Mitchell in "Butterflies".  The verses wonder whimsically about the connection between Mitchell's songs and her real life, and about what that life consists of now in semi-retirement.  However, the chorus gives the game away.

Did you ever find that river to skate away on?
Peace wasn't just a dream some of you had, you know.
Yes the bombers are still rising up in our skies
But we are your children
and we're working on turning them into butterflies.

Mitchell is, of course, a far more appropriate role model for Tilston than Cohen.  She is a strong woman in a world of men, with a voice that covers a very similar range.  Tilston shares her love for simple arrangements and melodies offset with intricate vocal phrasing.  Both also love a complex love song, but refuse to be put in the feminine singer box.  So Mitchell breaks out from her own tribute song and her voice-prints pop up all over the album.

What I admired about Tilston's earlier albums was her ability to portray the delicate nuances of relationship, the landscapes and incidents that build intimacy, and the delicate balance between longing and security that make a love song hopeful rather than simply maudlin.  There is some of that here, too.  My favourite is "Blue Eyes", a masterclass in how to match phrasing and melody to lyrical content.  It records a moment of jealousy brought on when her current blue-eyed lover hears her sing a song about a man with brown eyes.

I need to tell you how he held a corner of my heart.
For years it was the empty apple cart
I dragged around until I found you.

The phrasing becomes more frantic, the the melody climbing up the register as the argument becomes more desperate.

"But you sing about his brown eyes, his brown eyes."
It's true I do but these verses came before I knew
Blue eyes, blue blue blue blue , blue as kingfisher eggs
There is only you - I will never love brown eyes again
It's just blue for me now, blue blue blue blue and they are so blue
Sometimes I don't know what to do

Then the phrasing slows and the melody drops until it reaches a seductive murmur.

And I will never love brown eyes again
Because brown eyes never loved me like you do.

Who could resist such a sweet seduction?  Yet you are left in doubt.  Can any relationship survive once such seeds of  suspicion take hold? 

Yet placing of herself in the direct lineage of Mitchell provides inspiration for Tilston to broaden her songwriting and her thematic interests.  Many songs here are overtly political in a way Tilston hasn't attempted before.  In place of Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" we have "Shiny Gold Car" in which Tilston wrestles with the temptation to sell out for a lucrative record deal.  In the end she refuses, because she is afraid she "might start lying, writing songs I do not mean, trying to fit a scene".  Instead she finishes the song with a defiant chant.  "I don't want ten more nuclear power stations on this island, this very small island."

And defiant she is.  Perhaps it is Mitchell who also inspired "Silent Women", a song that could have come direct from 1970s feminism.  Surely its message doesn't need to be repeated now in 2013?  But then what would I know? I'm a middle aged man and isn't our media full of stories about mysogyny directed at Australia's first ever woman Prime Minister? 

Others pick up on more contemporary issues.  "Wall Street" is a tribute to the Occupy protestors.  Best of all is "Survival Guide", a song to her and everyone's children about survival in a dangerous, damaged and ever-changing world.

Survival guide to arctic narwhal
When clan meets clan in the breaching hole,
Rise up and take the air in but do not quarrel
Just join together and you'll find the shoal.
Survival footnote to all our children
Join together and share it all.

Cos the world is changing faster than light
Even light got slower just the other night
I wish I had some red shoes I could give to you
You could click your heels together three times and say
This mad world they've created, it is not true
It's time for a future with love renewed.

This is what I love the most about Tilston, that sense that somewhere there is more.  Not more stuff - Tilston deals with that in another song called "More":

It's hard these days to keep our tangled hearts clear
Got to pay the mortgage in the sofa's in arrears.
Harder still to know which happiness is true
The advertising slogan or the core of you
Cos the advertising tells you that the want is you
It says more - hey come here, you want it and we can give you more
It may leave you sore, but that's alright cos we can sell you more.

No, it's not that more.  It's the more of living in safe, secure suburbia and seeing that

The birds fly in formation here
The seasons in the changing year get stranger
It's the only real danger in our comfortable world...

We imagine there might be more out there
Please tell me there is
More out there
I've got to find out if there's more out there...

Suburbia, you understand how I've got to get out of here
Suburbia, so perfectly, perfectly, perfectly perfect...

In Lucy and the Wolves Tilston sings a song called "Who Turns" in which she asks the moon, as a being far more ancient than any of us, to explain the world.  Now, however, she is not sitting at the window asking, she is off on a search, trying to find out what that "more" is, what it is that lies beyond the shallowness of our safe existence.  Perhaps it's as simple as slipping through a hole in the fence down to the railway embankment to sit with the foxes.  Or perhaps there are staircases and rooms in your house you never knew existed.

Wherever you go in this world my old friend
Know that life is a revolving door
Turn and you will find more
Life the revolving door.
It's easy to waste so much time in a room with borrowed light
And you're stuck between fear and flight
While outside the sky is bright.

And I dreamed that there's a staircase
Hidden behind a wall
And all these rooms I'd never seen before.
Do you think that there's a staircase hidden behind the wall
Or is everything we see, everything?
Or is there more?

Monday, 10 June 2013


Anyway, enough of this angry politics. I promised you a little while ago that I would write some posts about the Apocrypha, so here is the first.

The book of Tobit is the first book in the Christian Apocrypha, and it tells you immediately why most Christian and Jewish authorites give these books less authority than the other parts of Scripture.  Probably written in the second century BCE, it is a kind of literary mash-up - a narrative spiced with extracts from wisdom literature and a couple of lovely pieces of poetry.

It's framing story is, I think, best understood as a piece of historical fantasy.  Some scholars think it may combine two stories that were originally unconnected.  We have an angel disguised as a human, a besetting devil, the symbolic use of the number seven, a magic fish and a curious and unexplained dog.

Tobit is a faithful Israelite of the tribe of Naphtali, taken captive to Nineveh when the Assyrians invaded the Northern Kingdom in the seventh century.  There he continues to be faithful the Lord amidst great peril, providing alms to the poor and risking his own life by giving proper burial to fellow Israelites who have been left unburied by their Assyrian executioners

As a result of his faithfulness, he finds himself in deep trouble - his possessions confiscated, his eyes accidentally blinded, and his family's future resting precariously on the success of his sole child Tobias.  In his extremity he prays for death. 

Meanwhile in the parallel story, in nearby Ecbatana, another exile is also praying for death after being shamed by her own servant.  Sarah, the only child of Raguel, is afflicted by a demon who has prevented her from consummating seven successive marriages by killing her husbands in the marital chamber.  As a result her community sees her as cursed, and in her prayer she protests to God that if he is going to allow this injustice he may as well take her out of the world.

The Lord hears both prayers and sends the angel Raphael to help.  Disguised as a fellow Israelite, he guides Tobias on a journey to recover some money Tobit has left in the care of a relative in Media, stopping along the way to engineer his marriage to Sarah, defeat the troublesome demon, restore Tobit's sight and ensure the future of both Tobit's and Raguel's lines.

Despite its frankly fanciful nature, the story communicates some very important ideas.  First of all, we see here in the very first book of the Apocrypha an idea that does not appear at all in the Old Testament - the idea that death involves being taken to another place, as Tobit prays:

Command, O Lord, that I be released from this distress,
release me to go to the eternal home,
and do not, O Lord, turn your face away from me.

The idea is not spelt out, but for the first time we can see a hope that the sufferings of this life are not all there is.

The second is the idea that the nation of Israel can be rebuilt in exile.  Certainly they face danger, and the lines of both Raguel and Tobit are imperilled by persecution, demonic intervention and the distance between their scattered communities and kin.  Yet two things can bring them together.  First of all, they must remain faithful.  Tobit is the primary vehicle for this message, exhorting his son to remain sexually pure, marry within his own kin, be generous in giving alms, be honest in paying wages to his workers, and always bless the Lord.  If they do this, the story assures us, the Lord will intervene on their behalf.  Through Raphael's agency the clan is regathered, and the two lone children of Tobit and Raguel bear seven sons to replace the seven husbands of Sarah killed by the demon. 

Finally the story includes a beautiful prayer or song placed in the mouth of Tobit, which on its own would justify the preservation of the book.  Here are a few extracts - read the whole thing!

Blessed be God who lives for ever,
because his kingdom lasts throughout all ages.
For he afflicts, and he shows mercy;
he leads down to Hades in the lowest regions of the earth,
and he brings up from the great abyss,
    and there is nothing that can escape his hand.
Acknowledge him before the nations, O children of Israel;
for he has scattered you among them.
He has shown you his greatness even there....

If you turn to him with all your heart and with all your soul,
to do what is true before him,
then he will turn to you
and will no longer hide his face from you.
So now see what he has done for you;
acknowledge him at the top of your voice.
Bless the Lord of righteousness,
and exalt the King of the ages.
In the land of my exile I acknowledge him,
and show his power and majesty to a nation of sinners:
“Turn back, you sinners, and do what is right before him;
perhaps he may look with favour upon you and show you mercy.”...

It is not simply that the people of God can be preserved in the land of Exile.  They can serve God's purposes there, revealing the Lord to their captors and providing them in their turn with a chance to repent and turn to the Lord before they are destroyed.  This is a theme we see in the Old Testament in the book of Jonah where the people of Nineveh, the city of Tobit's exile, are successfully called to repentance.

Then, as the culmination of this mission to the nations, we see the glorious restoration of Jerusalem (also seen in the later chapters of Isaiah and in some of the other prophets) not just as a home for the Israelites, but as a destination of pigrimage for all the nations who have been brought to the Lord by the faithfulness of his people. 

O Jerusalem, the holy city,
he afflicted you for the deeds of your hands,
    but will again have mercy on the children of the righteous.

Acknowledge the Lord, for he is good,
    and bless the King of the ages,
so that his tent may be rebuilt in you in joy.
May he cheer all those within you who are captives,
and love all those within you who are distressed,
to all generations for ever.
A bright light will shine to all the ends of the earth;
many nations will come to you from far away,
the inhabitants of the remotest parts of the earth to your holy name,
bearing gifts in their hands for the King of heaven.

These messages stand out above the frank absurdity of the tale and give it its universal resonance.  We are not abandoned in our sufferings.  No matter where we are we can and should still serve God and do his work.  Our sufferings won't be forever.  Messages appropriate for our age, and for every age.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Farewell TAAS?

Sorry everybody, I'm going to break the rule again and talk about something related to my work.  It's because I'm feeling frustrated.  To put it mildly.

In Queensland we have a service called the Tenants' Advice and Advocacy Service (TAAS).  It's a network of little services that provide advice to, and advocate on behalf of, tenants who are in dispute with their landlords.  The service is funded from the interest on tenants bonds held in trust by the Residential Tenancies Authority.
In the midst of their cost-cutting frenzy last year, the then Housing Minister Bruce Flegg announced that the program would be discontinued and the funds reallocated to build new public housing.  Flegg and his successor Tim Mander have been unmoved by the outcry that has followed this decision.  Not so the Commonwealth Government, who stepped in with interim funding to keep the services open until the end of June this year.  They even offered another $2.5m to take it up to the end of the year on condition the State guarantee funding after that, but Mr Mander refused.

I find the decision disappointing and stupid, but then I'm used to being disappointed by stupid political decisions.  What's new about that?  What's really got me frustrated is the way both ministers, Mander in particular, have brushed off objectors with nonsensical explanations and refused to engage with the issues involved.

Here are three reasons why TAAS is important, and why the funds should not be redirected into providing public housing.
  1. Tenants are at a natural disadvantage in any dispute with their landlord.  90% of private rental properties are managed by real estate agents - trained professionals who manage property for a living and know how the system works.  Tenants on the other hand usually have very limited knowledge and experience of these issues.  Hence if they have no source of help, the contest in any dispute will always be uneven.
  2. A large proportion of lower income households live in the private rental market, and more than half of these have no choice but to pay more rent than they can afford.  This means they are at constant risk of homelessness.  Given the shortage of public housing, the Housing Department itself is increasingly reliant on the private market to house those in need.  It is essential to do everything possible to help these people stay in housing and TAAS plays a key role in this.
  3. The service is funded from tenants' own money.  The bonds they pay on entering their tenancies are held by the Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) and earn interest.  About 10% of this interest goes to fund TAAS services.  The other 90% funds the operations of the RTA, an independent regulator which provides services and information impartially to tenants, landlords and real estate agents.  Landlords and agents do not pay a cent for this service - it is all paid for by tenants.  The redirection of these funds into public housing, while legal, represents a breach of trust.
Since announcing this decision the two successive Housing Ministers have provided three main justifications, all of which are nonsense.  Here they are.
  1. The government can't afford it because of its budget crisis.  Even if you accept that there is a budget crisis (and I don't) it is irrelevant, since TAAS is not funded by the government.  It is funded by tenants.
  2. The service duplicates other services.  Bruce Flegg's initial line, repeated many times by Tim Mander, is that the same service is provided by the RTA.  It isn't.  The RTA provides information but as the regulator it is unable to advise or advocate.  It has to stay impartial, unlike TAAS which is on the tenants' side.  Mander has lengthened the list, citing the Salavation Army and Community Legal Centres as alternative service providers.  Both have denied that they are able to fill the gap, since they have neither the resources nor the expertise.  All three alternative providers cited by the Ministers have repeatedly confirmed that they refer such cases to TAAS.
  3. The money is better spent on more public housing to solve homelessness. This is a false choice.  They are not alternatives and there's no reason the government can't do both.  The $5m taken from the TAAS service will provide no more than 20-30 new social housing dwellings each year.  The social housing system loses over $100m per year and losses are rising.  There are 30,000 households in the social housing waiting list.  There are over 25,000 people homeless in Queensland on any one night.  $5m worth of new housing will have minimal impact.   In the meantime, more and more low income households rely on the private rental market, and services to help them sustain their tenancies are vital to help them avoid homelessness.
A lot of people, including yours truly, have pointed out these flaws to Minister Mander as well as to the Premier and anyone else who will listen.  I'm pretty sure staff of the Housing Department and the RTA will have said the same in confidential briefings.  Yet these same arguments continue to be trotted out.  It beggars belief that these are their real reasons.  So to round out my sets of three, here are three reasons why they might continue to trot them out.
  1. They know little, and care less, about the service they are defunding.  They made the decision ages ago, they don't want to think about it any more because they are busy with their own priorities.  Those protesting the decision and trying to get them to change their minds are just so many annoying flies to be swatted away with letters written from a template by junior staffers.
  2. They are ashamed to admit the real reason.  Perhaps the real reason is some grubby pre-election deal cut with the real estate industry to wind back protections for tenants.  Perhaps one of the TAAS services got up the nose of an influential LNP member and so they are seen collectively as political enemies.  I don't know, I'm just speculating here.
  3. They know they have made a big mistake but don't want to lose face. They would rather persist in a wrong-headed decision than be seen to make a back-flip, U-turn, back-down or whatever perjorative term you prefer.
It's possible none of these is correct and there's some other reason.  However what's not in doubt is that this decision is a huge mistake which will harm tenants and deliver no substantial benefits to anyone, except perhaps to the minority of unscrupulous landlords who will find it easier to roll over their tenants.  June 30 is approaching fast.  Time for a change of heart before it's too late.

*If you want to add your voice to the cause before it's too late, find out how at the Save Tenant Services website.  The diagram in this post comes from there.  Since I wrote this the Commonwealth Government has stepped in with a further 6-months funding for the services, although they did it so late that some have already closed.  The future after that is still up in the air, so keep up the pressure on the State Government!