It’s payback timeWhat is it with politicians and spite at the moment? This seems to be the dominant theme of the past week. My suspicions about a penchant for payback in the Abbott government have been growing steadily since its election, given it began with axing three prominent public servants the Coalition thought favoured the previous government, cancelling former Victorian premier Steve Bracks’ ambassadorial appointment, defunding the Climate Council and, very quietly, if what I am hearing from the NGO sector is any guide, defunding a whole lot of other groups the Coalition doesn’t approve of.

Then Attorney-General George Brandis appointed IPA stalwart Tim Wilson as head of the Human Rights Commission. Wilson is a lovely guy but about as qualified to run the HRC as I am, which is to say, not at all. Last week, Liberal backbencher Cory Bernardi condemned gays, women who have abortions and (weirdly) single-parent families. Then came the big news; Education Minister Christopher Pyne’s announcement of a review of the shiny new national curriculum, headed by Ken Wiltshire and — this was the payback bit — Kevin Donnelly, but more about that later.

Want to buy a bridge (scandal)? But first there was this gobsmacking story from the US. Out of sheer spite, because a local Democratic mayor refused to endorse republican Chris Christie for governor, staffers closed lanes on the world’s busiest bridge on the first day of the new school term, wreaking traffic havoc for days. Now that’s some political  payback, but what it reveals is that these political apparatchiks apparently regard voters and citizens like ants — collateral damage in their tit-for-tat war against their ideological opponents. As flies to wanton boys are we to our elected representatives it seems (apologies to Wm Shakespeare).

Surely, political action should only be intended to benefit the public and never to either reward or punish either friends or foes? Or is that just me coming over all Marxist again?

An education in spite. The curious thing about Pyne’s determination to have a review of the national curriculum is that it hasn’t really even been tried yet. Most of it is due to be implemented either this year or the next. In the meantime, according to Maralyn Parker, it’s already been extensively critiqued and reviewed by parents, teachers, all the states and all school sectors and has been endorsed.

 Maralyn Parker tweet

The Guardian decided to actually have a look at the shiny new curriculum and see if Pyne’s dark suspicions about its supposed left-wing bias actually stood up to scrutiny. (How sensible.)

Once again, given the depth of feeling many who are active in educational circles (and I include myself in this) have about the public views of Donnelly, the review feels like at best a distraction and at worst, payback. Still, it’s an ill wind, as they say, and all my finalists for tweet of the week come from the explosion of satire that greeted Pyne’s announcement. Two from the brilliant @watermelon_man, who was on fire. There was this (with a nod to Jane Austen):

watermelon man tweet

And this:

watermelon man tweet

But the outright winner this week is @benpobje who managed to both poke fun at the outrage on Twitter against Donnelly’s appointment and at Donnelly himself — now that’s multi-layered nuanced complexity right there.

pobje tweet

(There may be a soupcon of payback in my selection of tweets, btw.)

Rage against the dying of the Right. The vengeful fury of the conservative white male is also worrying commentators in the UK, and this provocative piece caught my eye. But whether the conservatives of any group can really hold back the avalanche of change that is upon us will be fascinating to watch –and it’s not just right-wing Westerners who need to worry, as this poignant BBC4 radio essay on Muslims who leave the faith reveals.

Who is the real enemy? I also loved this comment on Abbott’s warrior stance against the desperate by Cathy Wilcox:

Wilcox tweet

And was moved to tears by Michael Bachelard’s story about one example of our supposed enemy. Then this piece from The Conversation made me think: is everything I’ve covered here, the desire for revenge, the cruelty to refugees, even the review of Australia’s curriculum, part of a continuing backlash from 9/11?

Now that’s a sobering thought.

Peter Fray

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