Hope in politics. The international search team might finally have found MH370, if the mysterious pings feebly emanating from the depths of the Indian Ocean are any guide. In the meantime, it seems some Western Australians might finally have rediscovered their hearts if the pings emanating from the election results are anything to go by. The resounding swing to the Greens gives some hope that an honest declaration of principle delivered clearly and passionately, as it was by Greens Senate candidate Scott Ludlam, can still earn a politician votes.

As the even larger swing to the Palmer United Party in the WA Senate election also proved deep pockets continue to have an even greater effect, but hey, these days, those of us on the progressive side of the equation must take our wins where we find them. The swing to the Greens and the resounding re-election of plain-speaking Ludlam are about the only bright spots I can find, this week, however. Particularly when @Quiet_please alerted me to an article by Samantha Maiden published in News Corp papers on the weekend about public servants being urged to dob in their mates for criticising the government online. For all their fulminating about free speech, it is the totalitarian impulse of our current government that never fails to chill the blood. Public servants, it seems, may no longer have freedom of speech, even under a pseudonym or in their own time. Given that many nurses, teachers, firefighters, ambos, academics, scientists and police are also paid from the public purse, have they had their right to speak out about their concerns curtailed too?

Fortunately, just as I despair of the Coalition at a federal level, the best Education Minister in Australia, Adrian Piccoli of New South Wales, reminds me that there are still Liberals (well, Nationals, if you want to be pedantic) who have not yet gone all Tea Party on us. (Sharman Stone and Sussan Ley are two federal Liberal MPs who also give me some hope.) Piccoli’s plain speaking about the responsibilities owed by all publicly funded schools to their students — including (perhaps especially) the more difficult ones — was refreshing in the extreme.

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I also really liked this powerful reminder in Pakistan of the reality of what drone operators are doing. Whether it has the intended effect on the operators of those terrifying machines, I do not know, but when I came across it on Twitter via @malonebarry, it sure as hell affected me …

This fascinating story by Martin McKenzie-Murray via @ElleHardytweets gives me an opportunity to include something from the new The Saturday Paper in this column. Chilling and gripping in equal measure, this tale of neo-Nazis and the brave few who fight them is extraordinary.

The real mother of dragons. I also experienced something akin to a double fan-girl thrill when I came across one of my favourite ex-world leaders reviewing one of my all-time favourite television shows in The Guardian. It’s a clever idea to have a survivor of so much intrigue and politicking review a show that is all about the struggle for power. Even better, whatever you may have thought of her as PM (and I think she has been both over-vilified and over-venerated), Julia Gillard makes an amusing and thoughtful critic.

Ah, memories. This week in NSW the ex-assistant treasurer of Australia was grilled by Independent Commission Against Corruption in relation to his chairmanship of Australian Water Holdings. He apparently has a great deal of trouble with his memory, as a cheeky piece by Damien Murphy in The Sydney Morning Herald pointed out. His remarkable lack of recall also gave rise to this week’s tweet of the week, once again from the irrepressible @watermelon_man:

Lock up your daughters. But I want to finish this week with two remarkable pieces about women that, at first glance, appear to be almost completely opposite to one another but that reveal themselves to both be about our complex and contradictory attitudes to women and sex. The first, by Clementine Ford, is about the ridiculous and very creepy lengths some men will go to “protect” their daughters from a fantasy risk — having sex. And the second, from The Canberra Times, is about how our judgmental attitude towards women who “fail” to  protect themselves adequately against rape adds another ghastly layer of shame, guilt and horror to the whole ordeal.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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