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Saville’s Shout: women in politics … jailbird advice … turning Japanese …

Who says women in politics are any more pure and ethical than the men? Plus a famous jailbird offering financial advice, and the art of isolation.

Women no purer in politics. The cause of women in politics suffered a few body blows last week after Liberal politicians Karen McNamara and Marie Ficarra gave evidence to the NSW Independent Commission Against Commission. Ficarra stepped down from the Liberal Party last Monday for allegedly falling foul of the rules prohibiting donations from property developers. Later in the week, McNamara, the federal member for Dobell, was in the box denying allegations she had committed “electoral fraud” while working on the 2011 state election campaign.

A witness had claimed on Thursday that while McNamara was managing the 2011 state election campaign of the member for Wyong, Darren Webber, she had instructed the donor to make out a cheque to the candidate rather than the party. McNamara has denied such an action, which, if proved, would be a breach of the Election Funding, Spending and Disclosures Act.

All this evidence was music to my ears, because it could help lay to rest once and for all one of the great myths — that female politicians are somehow more ethical and moral than men. In an article by Molly Ball in The Atlantic magazine, senior US operatives from both sides of politics said they were looking for more female candidates because voters tend to assume that women were more trustworthy and less corruptible.

The Republican National Committee’s Mike Shields and Democratic pollster Andrew Myers told the magazine that in a white-male-dominated political system, women are seen as outsiders. “Voters want change … A woman candidate personifies change just by being on the ballot.”

Well, if you believe that, then you believe that the deficit levy is not a tax. Far from being mavericks, both Ficarra and McNamara are seasoned political insiders who make Mike Baird look like a schoolboy. Ficarra, a member of David Clarke’s far-right-wing faction, was once described by Bob Carr as “Bronwyn Bishop without the delicacy”. McNamara has been active in right-wing Liberal party politics on the Central Coast for years, culminating in her wresting of the seat of Dobell from disgraced Labor pollie Craig Thomson.

The two women stand in the shoes of such notable female hard nuts as Belinda Neal and Sophie Mirabella, both of whom relished a fight. Better representation of women in Parliament is a good idea, but not if it’s done on a false premise; the cause of female equality is not served by perpetuating myths. In the words of Laurel Ulrich: “Well-behaved women rarely make history.”

Orange is the new black. With the economy slowing down, small businesses failing and bankruptcies on the rise,  it’s comforting to know there is someone we can all turn to for good financial advice. And who better to help us than someone who has himself been through the mill? Former smoke alarm salesman, motivational speaker and prison inmate Brad Cooper is currently offering his services in “personal and corporate crisis management”.

According to LinkedIn,  Cooper, who did five years of porridge for his role in the $5.3 billion collapse of insurance company HIH, can be consulted “if your life has hit rock-bottom … or if you are going through a personal crisis of any nature, regardless of what it is.” His profile states:

I know better than most the absolute gut wrenching turmoil caused by the stresses of life gone wrong or business failure, having endured 4 years court cases, being a weekly media headline, liquidator examinations, committal and supreme court trials and ultimately jail, I lived that nightmare for 9 nine years (AND DESERVED TO). It was living hell. It was totally overwhelming. Numerous law firms, lawyers, barristers, liquidators, contradictory opinions and legal advice, the court process and ultimately jail.”

On LinkedIn, Cooper says that he is now back in the free world with a “tempered moral compass and a renewed enthusiasm”. Recently seen scoffing dim sum at upmarket Chinese restaurant Mr Wong, he also seems to retained his love of fine dining, but unfortunately I wasn’t close enough to see who was paying the bill. Perhaps it was a client for whom he was “able to offer some solutions and a perspective that is simply not available anywhere else”.  He’s right about that.

Art of isolation …

Fascinating photographs of Japan are currently on display at Sydney’s Artsite Gallery. Taken by photographer Hamish Campbell, the works depict a series of isolated, uninhabitable and abandoned places. Campbell, who lives in Japan, says the images show the legacy of war and industrialisation. “In Japan, I feel like I exist in a separate, isolated stream to the general public … I am calmed by the feeling of being outside the general bustle that occurs on city streets,” he said.

This isolation parallels Japan’s own cultural history, the photographer says. “Self-imposed isolation has led them to develop a very nuanced and rich culture, which is above all unique. I don’t truly believe that what I do is completely unique, but living in Japan … allows me to see and feel things I could never dig out of myself sitting at home in Sydney.”

The exhibition, Isolation — The Japan Photographs, is on display until May 25.

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    James Tierney
    Posted Monday, 5 May 2014 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Margot Saville’s comment in Crikey that ‘…the cause of women in politics suffered a few body blows…’ after two Libs gave evidence at ICAC last week is one of the silliest things on the internet today.
    Even putting aside the shoehorning of a single article on US politics into our very different political scene, the idea that the increased political representation of women was worth doing due to the automatic moral uplift that would result has all the salience of a 1940’s press release.
    Talk about straw suffragettes.

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