Not Wikipedia worthy: The story of Jennifer and Jordan Nash

wikipedia

One Saturday morning in July, I received a call from Jennifer Nash, a single mother living in Logan City, south-east Queensland.

She asked if I would consider writing an article about her son, Jordan Nash, to  be posted on Wikipedia, the free user-sourced internet encyclopedia. She hoped a Wikipedia article would draw attention to his sad story.

jordan nash

Jordan Nash, as a young school kid

I said I thought I could help.

Her story tumbled out over the phone: she was at war with the Queensland government and the Federal Government since Jordan  – who has learning difficulties – was removed from school almost 10 years ago.

Jennifer claimed she’d been bullied, mistreated, harassed, ignored, hit with a $28,000 court bill and been the victim of judicial corruption because a court transcript – which proved she had been bullied and mistreated – had been “edited”.

Over the next few months I spent many hours on the phone with Jennifer, an exhausted, but determined and sincere woman, as she described what had been done to her.

Much of her and Jordan’s story appeared on unofficial media sites – essentially citizen journalism or blogging sites like Independent Australia  – but some of it did make it into the mainstream media.

In March 2011, WIN Television reported her address to former Queensland state premier Anna Bligh at a community forum at Toowoomba, where she said, quite eloquently, that “this soul crushing travesty of justice cannot be allowed to be covered up any longer”.

Last year she appeared in the  Brisbane Times, which incorrectly reported that she’d called then prime minister Julia Gillard “white trash” at a community cabinet meeting at Redbank Plains outside of Brisbane. The story, later corrected by the online newspaper, was that she had in fact told the prime minister “We are not white trash” as she explained to radio presenter Gary Hardgrave on radio station 4BC

Jennifer and Jordan Nash speaking out at a community cabinet

Jennifer and Jordan Nash speaking out at a community cabinet

Her battle reached the upper echelons of power this year, when both her and Jordan were  banned from attending a federal government community cabinet in Rockhampton by Jamie Fox, a government secretary working within the cabinet of then prime minister, Kevin Rudd, who was due to speak at the event.

Asked why she’d been banned, Jamie Fox responded via email that following checks by “security agencies” the government had been advised by the Attorney-General’s Department and the state police that she had a “history of disrupting public events” at other community cabinets and would not be permitted to attend.

“I am responsible for organising community cabinet meetings and this decision is taken on my authority,” wrote Fox.

Jamie Fox's email to Jennifer Nash

Jamie Fox’s email to Jennifer Nash

Just what had a single mother without any financial or political muscle done for the Australian government to ban her from airing her views in a forum seemingly open to all?

The answer: stand up on a chair and demand justice for her and her son.

Hardly the sought of behaviour I thought to warrant a security crackdown or a sneering email from one of Kevin Rudd’s flacks.

In late August, I submitted the story of Jennifer and Jordan Nash to Wikipedia.

It was rejected by someone called “Sionk” who wrote:

This submission’s references do not adequately evidence the subject’s notability

Sionk also remarked:

Maybe there has been extensive news coverage of Jordan Nash, but there isn’t any presented here. The way this is written is also problematic, Wikipedia isn’t the place to make lengthy, one-sided (and poorly sourced) legal arguments.

Essentially, what Sionk was saying was that Jordan Nash was not worthy of  a Wikipedia article because his case had not been reported in the mainstream press and he was not someone of note.

I explained to Jennifer that no matter how many times I re-wrote it, I did not think her story would make it onto the pages of Wikipedia for the reasons above.

Every now and then I do a search for “Jordan Nash” wondering if Jennifer has managed to convince Wikipedia editors they should publish her story. But there’s still no entry.

Interestingly, many of the people who she accuses of mistreating her do have Wikipedia entries such as Queensland state member for Logan, Michael Pucci, who Jennifer says refused to help her, Supreme Court justice Jean Dalton, who dismissed Jennifer’s initial complaint at the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Tribunal (QADT) and former minister for education, Cameron Dick who dismissed further investigation into claims the court transcripts had been edited.

There’s some consolation for Jennifer. At least Jamie Fox, the government flack who barred her from the forum, doesn’t get a Wikipedia page.

(If you’d like to read more about Jennifer’s case, Independent Australia  provides a fairly comprehensive summary).

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Are thinner politicians more electable?

rudd v abbottOf all the guff that has been written about this upcoming election – and there has been a lot – an article from Brisbane’s The Courier Mail caught my attention focusing on the fact that prime minister Kevin Rudd is packing on the pounds apparently under the stress of losing his short-lived grip on power.

The story, written by Hannah Davies, had as its headline: ‘Moon-faced PM ‘comfort eating’ as the stress of the Federal Election campaign takes its toll.

The story quotes a number of nutritionist and dietician who comment on the prime minister’s fuller face and apparent appetite for pizza and beer with the insinuation that he’s becoming less able to govern by virtue of his weight gain.

They even give him free advice such a that he opt for “nuts and a fruit basket”.

Hannah Davies even went so far as to ask the PM’s spokesperson whether he was “comfort eating”. A ridiculous, irrelevant question you’d think given the broader issues being faced – she might as well also have asked if he was spending more time on the couch eating potato chips!

Anyway, it does raise an interesting point about appearances.

Contrast Kevin Rudd’s apparent podginess (It’s easy to find an unflattering photo of someone constantly be photographed, hence my use of the word “apparent”) with the superfit appearance of Tony Abbott and its easy for a conservative Rupert Murdoch-owned paper like the Courier Mail to suggest, subtely that gaining weight is a sign perhaps of bad personal management, bad habits and an inability to lead.

It’s interesting that the two other high-profile politicians to lose a lot of weight are both on the conservative side of politics: shadow treasurer Joe Hockey, whose is a shadow of the huggable bear of a man he once was and NSW premier Barry O’Farrell, whose weight has bounced up and down like a yo-yo over the last 15 years, but is now almost unhealthily gaunt.

O’Farrell explained in an interview to the Daily Telegraph in December last year that he lost the weight by challenging himself after the 2003 election to go to the gym every day for a week, a pledge he has stuck to for nine years.

Joe Hockey admits to having some help via gastric bypass surgery over the Christmas break followed up by with dieting and exercise.

He says its because he wants to be around to see his grandchildren grow up and was also tired of being called “Sloppy Joe” by former Treasurer Wayne Swan.

It’s surely no coincidence though that Joe Hockey has lost his weight in an election year.

Slimmer and fitter apparently makes you a better leader, thinker and decision maker in the eyes of many while adding a few pounds is a sign that you’ve lost your mojo.

This, of course, is baloney.

Yes, losing weight is good for your health and overall sense of wellbeing and people who lose weight are to be commended.

But fat people that suddenly become thin do not suddenly develop more brain cells, a better moral and ethical belief system and a greater sense of what’s right and wrong.

Being fat never bothered Winston Churchill, nor did it stop him defeating a far skinnier Adolf Hitler.

And there’s no indication that billionaire mining magnate Clive Palmer intends to shed any pounds as he seeks a political role.

Yes you may live longer and feel better about yourself, but let’s not confuse this with character, decency and moral strength.

After all Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush – two leaders who both puffed out their chests in front of the camera – are hardly the model of political astuteness.

On with the circus!

“Girt by sea” and yet we fear an invasion of the desperate

“Our home is girt by sea”

So rings out the fourth line of the Australian anthem, Advance Australia Fair.

visa policy

“Girt” that awkward, uncomfortable word meaning “surrounded”.

But now the line is firmly planted in my head as the national debate about our hardline approach to asylum seekers continues.

I flicked on the radio last weekend and found myself tuning into a conversation on ABC Radio National (3RN) about the new immigration policy announced by our prime minister Kevin Rudd, which will see genuine asylum seekers settled in Papau New Guinea (PNG), a place he says is “an emerging economy with a strong future; a robust democracy which is also a signatory to the United Nations Refugees Convention”.

Not so says the government’s own travel advisory website, Smart Traveller, which has an “Exercise a high degree of caution” warning about PNG and has a list of things to be careful of that includes “high levels of serious crime”, public gatherings that may turn violent, “heightened risk of armed robbery and attack at well-attended shopping centres in urban areas” and an “increase in reported incidents of sexual assault, including gang rape [where] foreigners have been targeted”.

The list goes on and on making me wonder if the South African government should not have stepped in and offered my old town of Johannesburg as an alternative off-shore centre. It actually seems a lot safer and certainly offers better opportunities for economic advancement than PNG.

This apparent government contradiction on the merits of travelling to and residing in PNG fits in just about perfectly with our feverish, illogical, national obsession with asylum seekers who arrive by boats.

Indeed I have blogged about this very issue before – on Crikey.

This point was put most eloquently by professor Michelle Foster, director of the International Refugee Law Research Programme at Melbourne University, who said on the same radio program on 3RN that we have this strange fear of being invaded when in reality – surrounded or “girt” by water – it should be low down on our list of national fears.

Perhaps we should also consider some of the other lines of the anthem:

For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.

Sadly, the spirit encompassed in these words seem to have been forgotten or discarded when it comes to the most desperate in society seeking a new life on Australian shores.

The prime minister says we are punishing the “scourge of people smugglers” by effectively making their illegal trade null and void, but it is refugees who are being punished – banished to a strange island, rife with social problems, and according to this opinion piece in the Fairfax papers, where they will be left to fight for survival in squalid urban conditions, with no rights to own land due to their foreign-born status.

None of this makes any sense and must surely confound human rights advocates looking in from overseas who can only wonder what we mean by a “fair go”.

Asylum seekers are a small problem made huge by something in the national psyche that’s turned it into an enormous political minefield.

For those Australians who say these people will take their jobs – this is apparently the burning issue in the key Western Sydney electorate – consider the facts and do some research.

Official Department of Immigration figures show that 6,004 refugees came to Australia in 2011-12, less than 5% of the 190,000 economic migrants who arrived courtesy of ‘official’ migration programs.

So if anyone is going to take their jobs and jump queues it’s skilled migrants and their families, not refugees arriving by boat or any other means.

Indeed if you have $5 million to invest in Australian bonds or managed investment schemes, the Australian government will give you a visa to stay, without even the requirement that you learn the national language. Just hand over the dosh and the government will throw out the welcome mat, complete with a jar of vegemite and a bowl of lamingtons.

But for those who are the most desperate, who risk their lives on rickety boats, they will be dumped on an inhospitable island, one deemed by our own government to be dangerous and rife with crime to be forgotten.

Shameful!

(For more on this debate, these are some excellent opinion pieces worth reading from former Howard-era immigration minister Amanda Vandstone and Victoria Stead is a researcher at RMIT University’s Globalism Research Centre.)

Tony Abbott as PM: a return to old Australian stereotypes?

tony abbottIt seems that barring a political calamity of some sort (or perhaps the return of Kevin Rudd), Tony Abbott will become our next and 28th prime minister in September.

Two article in the February issue of  The Monthly magazine, (which I picked up belatedly in the library), made me think more deeply about what sort of country we may become under a Coalition government with Abbott at the reins.

Journalist and broadcaster Mungo MacCallum writes that even though there have been desperate attempts to cast Abbott in a less misogynistic light, he remains “irredeemably macho”:

“He spent much of last year dressing up in hard hats and other tough-guy equipment and taking part in long-distance quad and pushbike rides.

“He has competed in an iron man contest. And he has started this year by inviting the media to photograph him in the guise of a fearless firefighter.

“However little it excites women, Abbott has remained determined to be seen in fluoro and lycra.”

The second article has nothing much to do about the current political climate in Australia, but does provide some insights into overseas perceptions of the country.

New Zealand-born writer and artist Nic Low, describes a trip he took with other Australian artists and writers to attend ‘Bookwallah’ in India – an international writing festival – where he travelled the vast country by train with Indian writers.

In Goa Low writes that the question is asked about attacks on Indian students in Melbourne while in Chennai racism rears its head with “a suggestion that Australia resembles apartheid-era South Africa”.

“Beyond polemics, the questions reveal a lingering stereotype of Australia. As [Australian writer Kirsty] Murray puts it ‘It’s an idea of Australia from a generation ago’.

Whatever the deep divisions in the current government, divisions that will likely see it ousted from power in September, the Labor government of the Gillard-Rudd era ushered in a new vision of Australia to the world.

With Rudd there was the historic apology to Aborigines and the ‘Stolen Generations’, acknowledgement of climate change, implementing a fairer industrial relations system and development of the National Broadband Network, that despite its criticism will serve Australia well in the years ahead.

Gillard, for her part, put the idea of Australia as an inherently male-dominated society in its place with her rise to be the country’ first female leader while also introducing policies like the National Disability Insurance Scheme and pushing through the contentious, but ultimately necessary carbon tax.

In short Rudd and Gillard, whatever their shortcomings (of which there are many), have ushered in a new, more progressive image of Australia to the world.

Sadly, what lies ahead is regression led by a macho, uber-male prime minister and his inner sanctum of mostly male ultra-conservatives.

As pointed out by Melbourne academic Leslie Cannold, Coalition hardliners Julie Bishop and Sophie Mirabella are the only two females out of 20 in Tony Abbott’s shadow cabinet compared with four (including Gillard) in the current Labor government.

Make no mistake, sexist views will be less harshly criticised and less harshly judged under a government led by a man, whose most famous piece of clothing is a speedo.

Even beyond the Coalition – just look for a moment at some of the other political candidates – conservative Queensland senator Bob Katter, whose trademark is a cowboy hat and mining magnate Clive Palmer, who is turning the Coolum Resort he owns on the Sunshine Coast into a monument to himself complete with a wall of framed portraits in the lobby and a new museum featuring a collection of his classic cars.

This evolving male chauvinistic attitude is most evident in the denigration of Julia Gillard as the election draws nearer.

Since the day she took office, most criticisms about Gillard have been about her sex: from the relentless derogatory comments from Alan Jones’s to the latest disgraces involving Perth shock-jock Howard Sattler incomprehensible questioning of Gillard’s partner Tim Mathiesen’s sexuality (would anyone dared or cared to have asked John Howard any questions relating to the health of his marriage?) and ‘menu-gate’ where Brisbane restaurateur Joe Richard, seemingly at the behest of Liberal National party candidate Mal Brough, drew up menu for a political fundraiser featuring among other things a dish called “Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail – Small Breasts, Huge Thighs & A Big Red Box.”

Add to these the recent revelations (though not in any way ‘news’) of “demeaning, explicit and profane” emails sent by senior male army personnel denigrating women and I wonder if we are indeed quietly setting ourselves up in the word’s of The Age’s columnist Greg Baum: “…as a land of sexist, racist, bullying troglodytes”.

This mood was also picked up by Fairfax journalist Annabel Crabb when she wrote that ” in Australia, there are people who still think that ”jokes” about women’s lady-bits are funny, whether they are composed with reference to the Prime Minister, or circulated by army perves  and “journalists who think it’s OK to ask the Prime Minister, live on air, if she is in fact a gay man’s beard?”

This fetid atmosphere is only going to get worse when Abbott takes charge, a man who in his university days was apparently not averse to throwing a punch to make his point and intimidating student rivals, even if they be women.

Yes, the next government will undoubtedly speak as one united voice with Abbott at the helm, but what does that matter if the message it sends out is:

“Welcome to Australia. Please turn your watches back 10 years.”