I wonder if like me you have noticed an alarming parallel between this Christmas here in Australia and that first Christmas in Bethlehem so long ago when a Unique Infant Person came into the world and the story of humankind suddenly changed course from BCE (before the Common Era) to CE, as we now know it.

Let me explain.

Those of you who are "history buffs" will recall that at the time of the first Christmas the Holy Land was under the yolk of the Roman Empire. Oppression and gloom were the order of the day. Now think about Christmas in 2013. Unlike that of last year, when our country was free and happy and well and wisely governed, this Christmas a repressive and reactionary regime has been imposed on us by an uncomprehending electorate led astray by "shock jocks" and the Murdoch media. Fear and terror stalk the land, just as they did 2000 years ago on the day that the Word of God became Fully Human amongst us, while all around the stable at Bethlehem the nation of Israel was cowering beneath the brutal jackboot of occupying centurions.

Yes, fear and terror in the Australia of 2013, and above all for the most vulnerable among us. Fear and terror amongst the stranger and the asylum seeker who finds our ports and airport shut tight against them. Fear and terror for members of ethnic and other communities who fear that words of insult and calumny against them will soon be sanctioned by the abolition of section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act, a protective measure (enacted when we still had a government of vision and fairmindedness) that many of us believe both encourages free speech and shields minorities from "redneck" abuse. Fear and terror amongst the dedicated and hard-working members of our wonderful Human Rights Commission itself that precious "funding" may be lost, and with it, their own vital jobs in ensuring that we are a freer and more equitable society.

Fear and terror amongst our own "first Australians", the real owners of the soil we stand on, that they will remain unmentioned in our constitution - relegated to history's dustbin like the "unpersons" in Nineteen Sixty-Four, that uncannily prescient novel by an English writer whose name momentarily escapes me - was it Somerset Maugham? ("senior moments", sad to say, become part of one's lot as one moves down life's path). Fear and terror amongst humble hard-working folk in my own parish in inner Melbourne who have scrimped and saved to buy their own home and now risk seeing it shattered by the wrecker's ball to build an unnecessary road tunnel for the convenience of a few privileged motorists in four-wheel-drives. Fear and terror on a wider scale amongst householders who do not want to see their roof tree collapse into a ditch to suit the greed of "frackers". Fear and terror amongst our Islamic sisters and brothers that the irresponsible actions of a few "terrorists" among them - poor innocents, usually young, who have misunderstood the essential peacefulness of their religion - will be misinterpreted as representing the views of their whole Muslim community and used as an excuse for marginalisation and even expulsion. Fear and terror among women whose choice of terminating a pregnancy at the stage when, having been able to determine the child's gender, they have found it not quite what they wanted, is being assailed by reactionaries who call themselves Christians. What kind of Christian charity is that? Worse, what kind of sexism - to try to refuse a mother the right to decide whether she - nobody else is carrying the baby - wants a girl child or boy child? I realise that the primary parent of Jesus was denied that choice, but that was in a patriarchal society of the sort one would like to have hoped we had put behind us.

Then there is not so much the fear and terror as hurt and anger among same-sex couples in our national capital - a place that ought to be a beacon of liberty! - told by an officious court that their marriages are fraudulent. The injustice of this has struck home particularly in my own extended family, since my dear spouse Enid's younger sibling Meredith was one of the ACT "grooms". Meredith is a very genuine person who has given many years of service as a Leader in the Uniting Church Girls' Fellowship and who latterly has found fulfilment and happiness with a very sweet Indonesian lass she met on a UCGF trip to Bali. What a heartless blow in the springtime of their love!

Yet amid all the suffering, all the anguish, do we not discern a sign of Hope in that humble manger in Bethlehem? It's hard to say what kind of hope or how it manifests itself but I'm sure it's there somewhere. For just as the Roman Empire passed into history, and every other colonialist imperialist empire after it, including the British one that still holds Australians tied to the apron strings of an outdated monarchy, and just as the capitalist-commercial-armaments-Wall Street hegemony that is the American empire is passing from the scene under the capable direction of President Obama, so will it be with the regime now installed in Canberra. Indeed, it is not Hope that tells us that this will happen but Faith. We know it will. Because Faith is God's great present to us at Christmas, along with His/Her first child.

On a personal note, along with the joy of the season, this Christmas is a time of great sadness for me and I am sure for many others. The passing from among us of dear Nelson Mandela is a reminder that in the midst of life we are in death, as the psalmist says. I did not know him well, but I was privileged to hear him speak at a World Council of Churches seminar in Johannesburg some years ago on the Christian attitude to violence, or so-called violence when used as a last resort by persecuted peoples seeking a just freedom by any means. He and his charming partner Winnie gave us a very thought-provoking discussion on the pros and cons of "necklacing" as a method of rebuking those who oppose social reform, a practice in which Mrs Mandela in particular had considerable expertise. The Mandelas' fervent concern for all those who get a "raw deal" in life put me in mind of the Sermon on the Mount. Truly, if the Lord had not given us Jesus at the first Christmas in Palestine, Nelson would have made a very good substitute!

Holiday greetings to all.

The Rev. Owen Featherhead is Minister of Burchett Hill Uniting Church and an Argus religion correspondent.

24 December 2013


"Ethnic performers" will be inflicted on passengers on the Melbourne to Frankston railway line if a proposal in the battle against "racism" goes ahead. You'd think the last thing train travellers yawning their way to work at 7am or tired after a long day in the office would feel like is to have their journey turned into an odyssey of multicultural harmony at the behest of officious busybodies trying to heal problems that don't exist. But of course the passengers' feelings don't come into it. According to one of its proponents, former Frankston councillor Christine Richards, the "Multicultural Express" project with its "colourful cultural displays", music, song and ethnic food stalls at stations is intended to "bring confidence to multicultural communities who have experienced racism along the line."

Is "racism along the line" worse than "antisocial behaviour" by young people? Anyway, "Multicultural Express" is also intended to tackle that. The organisers presumably imagine that feral youths will be so charmed by the sound of the balalaika that they'll leave cowering Asian students in peace, stop ripping the seats and desist from spraying the walls and windows of the carriage (and sometimes the students) with urban art.

It won't work. It's been tried before, mutatis mutandis. An experiment to create multicultural goodwill on trams running through the inner-city municipality of Burchett Hill had to be given up when it led to transport chaos and less rather than more racial good fellowship.

Things got off to a bad start on the first multicultural tram to leave the depot. A troupe of frangipani-decked Pacific islanders performing a Welcome Dance took up so much space in the tram (their persons being on the substantial side and their movements wildly energetic) that after the first few stops there was no more room for passengers. Stranded commuters dripping in the rain or crammed into the minute shelters along the line shook their fists as the tram shot by to the strains of Isa Lei and the pungent aroma of roast boar from the lovo oven improvised by the dancers in the rear driver's cabin.

Passengers who managed to thrust themselves into the next tram found themselves enjoying an Afghan cultural display. The driver, a recent arrival in this country, had formerly been employed on the Kabul bus line. At each stop he halted the tram for twenty minutes while he inspected the mobile phone of boarding passengers to convince himself they were not connected to a detonator. Several groups of teenage schoolgirls, wires protruding from their ears, did not hear the demand to produce their phones and pushed into the tram to station themselves comfortably with their feet on the seats. Some burst into tears as their phones were snatched from them, others into language unlikely to be approved of by their headmistresses. A sparkling trajectory of iridescent mobile phones rose like fireworks into the air as the driver hurled them into the street, where they were quickly crushed under the wheels of heavy traffic.

A further Afghan cultural experience awaited passengers on a later tram. The driver, an "illegal immigrant" who had been personally sponsored for a job in the tramways by Burchett Hill's Director of Diversity Enforcement, Greens Councillor Christine Plibersek-Ng, sprang like a jack-in-the-box from his cabin and rushed with bloodcurdling yells into the passenger compartment, flailing around him with the iron bar used for changing the points at junctions. Terrified passengers dived under the seats, seeking shelter among the micturitional smells and fast-food detritus lurking there. It transpired that, far from being an asylum seeker, the driver was a senior Taliban operative despatched to Australia to "embed" himself in the tramways service and "take the war to the enemy".

The Italian tram proved at first to be very popular, clacking along to the sound of mandolins from the on-board entertainers dressed as gondoliers and with gnocchi alla romana and tiramisu served to passengers from the food stalls at stops along the way. Straw-covered chianti flasks, suspended decoratively from the hanging straps, jingled merrily. All at once a crackle on the driver's two-way radio alerted him to a gang of youths throwing bottles and generally engaging in antisocial behaviour at the next stop. With the instinct of his forebears confronted with an enemy in battle, he threw the tram into reverse, the lurch causing the dancing group performing a sprightly tarantella to sprawl across the passengers, scattering laptops and shopping. A young homemaking couple saw the multicultural Swedish dinner service they had just purchased at Ikea smashed to fragments.

At the depot there was an unpleasant scene when the driver, explaining why he had reversed the tram, was accused by a shop steward of "hate speech" in his references to the antisocial youths. This led to a formal complaint and a visit by a high official of the Human Rights Commission who addressed the tramways staff on the rights of "antisocial behaviourists" who, she asserted in a three-hour session of Diversity Counselling, "are a victim minority entitled to live their own lifestyle in a pluralistic society."

Somali performers pirated the tram to which they were assigned and drove it off the rails in an attempt to kidnap the Mayor of Burchett Hill, Councillor Les Rhiannon, and hold him to ransom. With kalashnikovs firing from every window and bell clanging, the tram crashed through the bronze doors of the Town Hall and juddered across the grand Art Deco foyer towards the Council Chamber where the Mayor was addressing a multicultural seminar on the theme  "How Sharing Our Cultures Can Enrich All Our Lives". His speech was drowned out by gunfire as the armed guard perpetually stationed at the Town Hall to protect the Mayor from "harassment" surrounded the building. Suddenly over the din came the skirl of the pipes and the Scottish tram, tastefully painted tartan, swung into Civic Square. A stall serving finnan haddock, collops and tatties was sprayed with bullets but the kilted on-board entertainers continued undeterred with their performance of "Songs of the Bonnie Highlands". They were half way through a spirited action-rendition of "Donald, Where's Your Troosers?" when shrieks of protest echoed through the tram. Two feminist passengers, both Women's Studies lecturers on their way to Manning Clark university, were complaining loudly that they had been subjected to "flashing" and that the somewhat revealing performance amounted to "virtual rape".

The English tram never left the depot. The multicultural entertainers turned out to be union officials demanding that tramways staff operating the multicultural services be paid at a higher rate than for ordinary duty since, they argued, these services fell under the Pleasure Excursions award "requiring specific additional expertise and local knowledge skills". A "process of dialogue" had just begun with tramways executives when the arrival of a troop of volunteer Morris dancers anxious to help with the entertainment and do their bit for racial harmony prompted an instant demarcation dispute. With no harmonious outcome in sight, the union officials imposed a black ban and Burchett Hill commuters are now deprived of all tramway services  sine die.

20 December 2013


            WITH "AUNTIE MERLE"

A wedding day is such a beautiful occasion that it comes as a shock to be told it wasn't a wedding day at all!

After the joy of the ceremony, the vows you went to all the trouble to write, the flowers, the best man's - I mean best person's - jokes, the flowing nectar of the vintages at the winery where you made this public declaration of your love - or perhaps, as is now very popular, you opted for a more unusual venue and exchanged rings to the warm whoosh of a hot air balloon wafting you skyward - an Invalidation is not only an anticlimax but a most distressing experience!

A number of Argus readers in our nation's Capital Territory have had their hopes and dreams shattered by the misfortune of Invalidation, and it's all the sadder coming so soon after their Big Day. Some will have heard the news while still on honeymoon (perhaps in the case of the more "roving-eyed" new grooms while endeavouring to "come on" to the waiters at Hayman Island!) or before they have even had a chance to take their going-away frock to the dry cleaners; some of the brides will have heard while climbing into the Yakka and gumboots to resume their labours on the cheese farm, or when newly returned to their desks at the Department of Human Rights and Gender Equality Enforcement. Wherever, it will have come as a blow, and several of the newly unweds have written to me to ask about the correct etiquette for dealing with this unexpected difficulty.

Here are some points to remember to make a social success of your Invalidation.


Many of your family and friends, especially those who take a keen interest in "marriage equality", will already know about your misfortune from reports in the "media". But I think is it always nice to send out a beautiful card for a special occasion. If you know anyone with a flair for illustration you might ask them to design a card in the style of that clever artist Leunig's cartoons, perhaps showing Tony Abbott (or even John Howard - Leunig does him so well!) as a wicked witch casting a spell on the happiness of two innocent lovers! - or if a witch is too misogynistic, an evil Nazi in jackboots trampling on their dreams. Those who were your guests on your Big Day might like to keep this as a souvenir of your Invalidation. And before you ask, yes, these days it is quite acceptable socially to send out cards by Touchnote or to make the announcement on Facebook.


An Invalidation does not oblige you to return presents to their donors, since these were given in good faith before the Invalidation was pronounced. On the other hand, if the present is not to your taste, your Invalidation is a good opportunity to be rid of it without giving offence.


For two happy young people in the springtime of their love it is bad enough to see their special day of joy snatched away before the ink is dry on the marriage certificate. (Of course I am aware that not all those affected are that young and that there are some very tender "winter-spring" invalidations, particularly among the more mature grooms who have had the good fortune to travel to some of the beautiful countries in South-East Asia or to Japan, but that's not the point.) Don't make things worse by letting your Invalidation poison your happiness together! There is a certain tendency in what I believe is known as today's "me" culture to react to any little disappointment by screaming and shouting like naughty children. This sort of childish tantrum is usually directed at the nearest available target, irrespective of blame. In your case this would almost certainly be the person you love most, your "better half". PLEASE don't ruin your future by giving in to this kind of irrational anger. Gentlemen couples: no hissy fits with each other, or biting and scratching. Ladies: do not punch your partner. And remarks such as, "If you hadn't been such a tightarse we could have gone to Canada where it's legal," or "I told you we should have waited but you wanted to be first cab off the rank to impress them all at Stonewall / the women's cricket team / to shove it to your Christian fundamentalist parents" are unhelpful to say the least.

That doesn't mean you don't have a right to be upset. Of course you do, but it is always better, as Australia's greatest Prime Minister so sagely advised, to maintain our rage and direct its full blast at those who are really responsible for thwarting you. Homophobic judges in the High Court, the Australian Family Association, nasty Cardinal Pell - all these are suitable targets for your annoyance. The correct etiquette here is to find out the addresses of individuals involved in the Invalidation process and seek advice from "activism" experts such as Greenpeace, Occupy or the International Socialist Students on suitable means of conveying your displeasure in no uncertain terms!


In modern etiquette it is de rigeur socially to sue someone for any personal inconvenience. This has the additional advantage of helping defuse your irritation (see above). The most obvious candidates for legal action are the venue of your wedding, on the grounds of receiving monies under false pretences, that is, for a wedding subsequently invalidated (it should surely have been the venue operator's responsibility to ensure that the wedding was fully legal under all Australian law) and, for identical reasons, the celebrant. You could toy with suing the Australian Capital Territory and the High Court, but please consult your solicitor about likely expense. You don't want to start your Invalidated life destitute! By the way, if you don't already have a solicitor, I always recommend Messrs Slater & Gordon, a long established and eminently respectable firm which even has a former Prime Minister among its distinguished past personnel!


Some marriages, sad to say, are entered into hastily and are unlikely to last. A night's "clubbing", a chance encounter walking the dog in the park or a shared passion for Ladies' Kickboxing might not be a firm basis on which to enter into matrimony. If your new marriage was starting to look shaky, and you were already getting sick of each other, your Invalidation is providential. You and your "other half" can amicably go your own separate ways, without the expense and rancour of divorce.


Dame Nature has not been kind to "same-sex" couples, but thanks to the generous efforts of many public-spirited folk - doctors, politicians, Third World women of child-bearing age and, in many cases, kind friends - this unfair obstacle has been overcome and many such couples have been blessed with their own little "bundle of joy" before or after celebrating their union. Your Invalidation in no way threatens your parenting rights, so be thankful for that!

Unhappily, though, the trauma of an Invalidation can turn two lovebirds against each other. The next thing is a "tug of war" over your little person, just as in the "heteronormative" world. There is nothing I can suggest here except old-fashioned goodwill. Do your best to share the care of the young life entrusted to you (don't worry: etiquette decrees that you are each entitled to seek the "lion's share" of access for yourself).

If you are really lucky, though, you'll be among those fortunate couples who can avoid squabbling over these things because, for you, becoming an adoptive parent was never more than a passing fancy, a demand to show that being a same-sex couple wasn't going to stop you having what non-same-sex couples have, and once the novelty wore off your little newcomer was not really wanted at all. In these circumstances the correct etiquette is for one post-Invalidation partner, if she/he wishes, to take on sole parenting rights and, if that's too much of a burden, pass the little one on to grandma and grandpa to look after. If there is no grandma and grandpa, and if neither of you want to sacrifice your newly separate social lives cleaning up after children, contemporary etiquette would require that your bundle of joy be sent back to India or wherever, or if of local provenance, handed over to social workers to be passed on to someone else.

Have a great day!
Auntie Merle

* Auntie Merle wishes to point out that she is of mixed Scottish and English descent and is a genuine aunt as traditionally understood in the English tongue. She is not in the category of aunt as the term has begun to be used in certain Australian circles and is not available to conduct smoking ceremonies, welcomes to country etc.

16 December 2013


I don't recall how it happened but some time ago I got signed up for Facebook. Why I'm not sure because I have never used it, partly because I find the telephone and e-mails quite enough to counter any tendency I might have to the eremitic and partly because I can never think of the kind of inane triviality that Facebook users vouchsafe to each other. True, there are those around me who consider my every utterance an inane triviality, but that is an argument for keeping one's thoughts to oneself rather than publishing them to the world on Facebook.

I ought to cancel my subscription but inertia has so far prevented that and I remain a nominal member of the Facebook community, not lapsed because never practising, just agnostic about the whole thing. Facebook, though, finds that not good enough. With missionary zeal it has been reaching out to claim me for its own, that I too might be amongst the elect, my name written in golden letters in the register of faithful Facebook chatterers.

It has been conducting this campaign in stages. After I had been enrolled in Facebook for several weeks and not availed myself of its services it began to e-mail finger-wagging reminders. "Acj, your account has not been very active"; "Acj, we haven't heard from you recently." (Acj, I should explain, are the three initials of my Christian names, but Facebook has somehow got hold of the idea that they are my name pure and simple, though how it would suggest pronouncing them I have no idea: a bit like "Ng" I suppose.)

These calls to repentance went on for a while at the rate of one or two a week. I ignored them. The next phase of the campaign was to hint that I was neglecting my friends. "Acj, John Smith is waiting to hear from you," - John Smith or whatever name was mentioned being someone I know, and whom, far from waiting to hear from me, I might well have spoken to ten minutes before Facebook sent its e-mail. Indeed for all Facebook knew I might have been talking to him as the e-mail arrived, though not of course on Facebook which from its point of view is what counts. Clearly John Smith is also a Facebook subscriber, though whether practising or nominal I couldn't say, nor whether his permission was sought to tell me that he was waiting to hear from me. Perhaps without knowing I too am cited in such cases: "John Smith, Acj is waiting to hear from you."

Nor do I know how Facebook knew that I know John Smith. That's mysterious and a little creepy as though Facebook is a version of Big Brother. But however they found out, the assertion that he was waiting to hear from me, or I from him, was Facebook's little fiction.

When this recourse to invention proved ineffective Facebook began to interrogate me. "Acj, do you know John Smith, Mary White and Jamie Pollard?" I felt as though I was being grilled, like one of those suspects you read about who are coyly described as "helping the police with their enquiries". In the unlucky event that Facebook were able to reach through the computer to question me face to face, how far would it go to find out who I knew? As an American entity, would it think waterboarding justified?

Usually I did know one or two of the names cited, though again how Facebook was able to peer into my address book is not clear. At any rate this catechisation was not enough to bring me into the fold. Facebook then tried flattery, cunningly trying to butter me up by implying that as well as knowing ordinary mortals like John Smith and Mary White, I also moved in more exalted circles. "Acj, do you know David Cameron and John Smith?" "Do you know John Smith and Shane Warne?" We didn't quite make it to "Acj, do you know Barack Obama, Colonel Sanders and Meryl Streep?" or "Do you know Pope Francis I, Vladimir Putin and HM The Queen?" (all of them on Facebook I believe) but it wouldn't have made any difference. Of course I didn't know them but not even Facebook's blandishments were going to make me act as though I did and send them little announcements about what I'd had for breakfast or how I couldn't stand Tony Abbott (a staple opinion, I gather, in the world of politically aware social-media enthusiasts).

Still I resisted and resist the siren calls to join in the feast of reason and flow of soul that is Facebook conversational exchange. But Facebook doesn't give up easily. The e-mails persist, though I suspect my persecutor has run out of names of people I might really know and exhausted its repertoire of those in high places it incorrectly supposes I might aspire to know. All that's left is to hurl names at me on the monkeys-writing-Shakespeare principle that, if they name enough names, one might be the name to strike the chord that will propel me into activating my account. Any names will do, it seems, and Facebook has rummaged among its subscribers far and wide. I am as fond of multiculture as anyone but not quite a citizen of the world on the scale Facebook seems to imagine. "Acj, do you know Deborah D'cruz, Oshanie Bandaranaike and Brittany Vanderrest?" "Acj, do you know Udara Wijesinghe and Rory Walker?" You can hear the shrill note of desperation rising. "Acj, do you know Madhushani Chathurika Kariyawasam, Jayamini Lakshika Perera and Melanie Blewonski?" That was this morning's e-mail. I am waiting for, "Acj, don't you know anybody?"

No, no and no again. But if the day comes when I am friendless and thinking life no longer worth living I'll have a rich store of Facebook names to turn to for companionship. "Deborah, Oshanie, Brittany and Udara, Rory, Madhushani, Jayamini and Melanie, Acj wants to know you. And hurry."

9 December 2013


Attempts to broker a peace deal in the inner-city municipality of Burchett Hill have failed, with two councils claiming control of the city.

"The People's and Workers' Council" (PWC), an alliance of Greens and independent socialists led by long-serving Mayor Councillor Les Rhiannon, is still in possession of the Town Hall and other municipal facilities. A new municipal council, made up of Coalition and "free enterprise" candidates, is waiting to take office after its members won 93 per cent of the vote in last September's election.

Councillor Rhiannon maintains that the election was "shamelessly rigged - thousands of 'postal votes' for our party received before the election and held in our headquarters to be added to the ballot boxes on the day were destroyed in a fire caused by climate change," he says. "The electoral commission has denied us the most basic justice. We demand to be allowed to ask the senders of those votes to vote again."

The source of the votes-consuming blaze, according to firemen on the scene, was a faulty souvlaki cooker in the kitchen of Salmonella's Bar & Grill next door to Hoxha House, the Greens headquarters. Flames spread quickly, helped by the fact that Hoxha House was recently refurnished in "sustainable vernacular" style with recycled redgum, hessian and wattle bark. "If the day had been cooler, which of course it couldn't be with global warming, the fire would have been out before this national tragedy occurred," Councillor Rhiannon explained.

In spite of the loss of the "postal votes" Councillor Rhiannon believes that the "not insubstantial" percentage of ratepayers who voted in favour of the PWC "legitimises us as the majority-preferred choice for the continuing good governance of the city", a view endorsed by the ABC's Burchett Hill Local Radio and the Fairfax-owned Burchett Hill Clarion. "Seven per cent of votes by democratically-minded ratepayers dedicated to improving conditions for the victim groups of the community is worth 700 per cent cast by selfish bourgeois property owners only interested in money and the value of their houses and slashing social services to the needy," thundered the Clarion in an editorial. "There is no point in mathematical quibbles. The 'Burchett Hill 7 per cent' are the people with a heart and conscience and in that sense are morally a majority," the Clarion told its readers (104 according to the latest circulation figures, mostly through subscriptions to the municipal library and council offices).

The same point was made by Councillor Rhiannon's new "partner", Carmel O'Halloran-Plibersek, a former organiser with the Union of Diversity Enforcement Officers, who is herself a Greens councillor and likes to be known as "La Pasionaria". Facial hair bristling, she told IBC Radio's Women's Empowerment Hour programme that "frankly, fascist votes don't count". "We're in power," she shrieked, "we're staying in power and to want me and the party I belong to out is basically misogyny against women."

Councillor Rhiannon has refused to meet a parliamentary delegation from Canberra sent to Burchett Hill to defuse the situation and pave the way for a peaceful handover of power, describing the delegates as "agents of terror despatched by the oppressive and discredited Abbott regime to stifle the forces of self-determination". Claiming to be fearful of assassination, he has enlisted as his "personal protection force" the Sons of the Caliphate (courtesy of Imam Ibn al Choppa-Hedoff Poofa of Burchett Hill Mosque), the dazzling scimitar-performance group and arts grant recipients whose whirling blades caused several cases of accidental genital mutilation at last summer's Burchett Hill International Festival of Multiculturalism and Fun.

Most of the votes in favour of the PWC were in Sharkey Ward where a number of public institutions such as Manning Clark University and the Burchett Hill Women Against Vaginal Exploitation Collective are located. Councillor Rhiannon has ordered that necessary municipal services such as rubbish collection and street cleaning be concentrated on this ward and withdrawn from other wards to "punish" them for their "disloyalty". At the same time, the council's entire staff of parking inspectors will be deployed in the "disloyal" wards with tripled daily "targets" and major roads there blocked off and replaced by bicycle lanes, rockeries and skateboard parks.

2 December 2013