A Holiday Reflection
Lucy and I do hope that you have a peaceful time over the holidays and spend more time with the people you love. When I was a younger and unduly workaholic lawyer (I know you are thinking that I am now just an older and unduly workaholic politician, but bear with me) a very wise friend said to me: “Nobody ever says on his death bed ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office’.” Good advice most of us should heed more often.
And what about love? We celebrated love in our family this past week with the engagement party for our son Alex and his fiancee Yvonne Wang. Parents pour all of their love into their children and when two families see the products of that love come together, it is a sublime and blessed experience.
And love holds us together in the dark times too. As the hijacked aeroplanes were hurtling to disaster on 11 September 2001 and the doomed passengers frantically called on their cell phones what did they say but “I love you”?
When the chips are down, love is indeed all you need.
From time to time when I refer to both Christmas and Chanukah in these seasonal greetings, I get a few complaints along the lines of “This is a Christian country, why are you talking about Chanukah?”
I was discussing this with a Rabbi recently and he said:
“I’m always amused when I’m asked, ‘So Rabbi, how will the Jewish community be celebrating Christmas this year?’ – often at the end of some seasonal interfaith TV or Radio segment.”
“My answer this year was, ‘Just like Mary and Joseph, we’ll be lighting our Chanukah candles and praying for stability and peace in Jerusalem!’”
It is a characteristically droll reminder that the roots of Christianity, and indeed of Islam, lie in Judaism. Which is why they are often called the Abrahamic faiths.
In my electorate of Wentworth there are many Christians, many Jews and quite a lot of people who either adhere to other religions or to none. Yet all of us do well to take an interest in the culture and religion of others. We may find we have more in common than we imagine.
A friend from New York, an orthodox Jewish woman, came with us to the midnight mass one Christmas at St Canice’s Church in Kings Cross. She had never been in a Christian church before. About halfway through the service, she whispered to me: “This is really very Jewish, isn’t it?”
Imagine how much less grief there would be in the world if, like her, we looked at the religions of others with eyes wide open and — while not ignoring or glossing over our differences – nonetheless rejoiced in the history and the values that we have in common.
This year we had a Christmas Party at Easts Rugby Union Club for Liberal Party members in Wentworth and many community leaders from schools, clubs, local government and of course our local churches and synagogues.
Local businesses donated some raffle prizes, including a surfing lesson from Bondi’s famous Let’s Go Surfing and as a result we were able to raise $855 for the Wairoa School which teaches kids with intellectual and multiple other disabilities.
A photo gallery of the event is on my Facebook site.
A Jacket Goes By the Wayside
I recently conducted a very interesting online exercise to find out the true value of a leather jacket – all in the name of charity.
The jacket in question has a history of its own. I received a few compliments and also some flak after wearing it two days after the 2010 Federal election on an episode of the ABC’s Q&A. The Independents still hadn’t decided who would form Government and I was, as I said, courting the informal vote.
Tony Jones was insistent I wear the leather jacket on the last show of this year, but having lost quite a lot of weight (deliberately I hasten to add) it no longer fit. The solution was to buy a new jacket that did fit and auction the old one on eBay. I was delighted that it raised $1800.
The money will now go to the Wayside Chapel at Kings Cross, a wonderful mission to the poor and homeless whose motto is as moving as it is ironic: “We’re not much like a church, which might suit you if you’re not much like a Christian.” The work they do with some of the most disadvantaged in our society is so true to Jesus’ own mission to the poor.
However, it is a fact of life that the Wayside needs a lot more than $1800 to carry on its work. To give to the Wayside, whether it be your time or some cash, please visit its website here.
Survey on Problem Gambling: The Results
I recently hosted a survey on my website on problem gambling, which was completed by almost 7,500 respondents. Almost 800 people, or more than 10 per cent of the total, were from Wentworth. A detailed breakdown of the results can be found on my website here.
In Wentworth 73 per cent of respondents supported changing federal and state laws regulating poker machines. There was slightly higher support for specific policy proposals – there was 63.9 per cent support for mandatory pre-commitment in Wentworth compared to 57.3 per cent nationally. Around 71 per cent of Wentworth supported limiting spins to $1 compared to 66.7 per cent nationally. Wentworth residents were also less likely to play poker machines regularly (7.4 per cent) than respondents overall (13.2 per cent).
In praise of dogs
Mellie, our little terrier, died on Sunday. She was nearly eleven and had been very sick for the last few months. Her heart was giving out and when we went for a walk we would carry her most of the way.
We thought she might leave us on Saturday, but I think in her funny, doggy way she knew that it was an important day – an engagement party for our son Alex and his fiancee Yvonne – a celebration of love. She loved us all too much to die that night. So she hung on until Sunday. Read the rest of an eulogy to Mellie here.
On a happier doggy note, recently I rescued a beautiful little dog, called YoYo, who had lost its owners and was about to walk under a taxi outside my office. We were delighted to return her to her humans — which was quite appropriate given that so many of our neighbours have returned our wandering dogs over the years. Read more about YoYo’s adventures here.
Recent Speeches and Writings
I recently gave a speech at Melbourne University’s Centre for Advanced Journalism on the demise of the business model for newspapers as more and more advertising moves online and the vital importance, in a democracy, of maintaining quality journalism into the future.
In Melbourne I delivered AsiaLink’s annual Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop Lecture, where I discussed the rise of China, the visit of President Obama and Australia’s engagement with the region.
I have also spoken on the poor performance of the NBN to date, and the warning signs that the project will be much more costly than originally thought.
Parliamentary speeches included reflections on the appalling massacres of Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians at the hands of post-Ottoman Turkey and on the importance of sustaining our diverse multicultural society in Australia.
I also addressed Parliament on the challenges of the war in Afghanistan and spoke directly to our troops on the obligations their nation had to them.
Podcasts and Video
I was recently a guest on the last ever ‘National Interest’ program on the ABC’s Radio National. We spoke about the future of the media and what it will mean for young journalists and also on the 730 Report discussing the Government’s bungling of the Australia Network tender and gay marriage.
Senator Arthur Sinodinos spoke with me about being Greek, sovereign wealth funds and immigration. Senator Sinodinos is, among other things, a former chief of staff to Prime Minister John Howard and has considerable experience in the business world — his maiden speech is online here and is well worth a read.
Video interviews include Financial Times editor Lionel Barber discussing the success of his newspaper and how new business models are evolving in the digital age and the Chair of Sydney Universitys China Studies Centre, Professor Hans Hendrischke about reorienting Australias exports to China from resources to services.
To complement the recent Problem Gambling Survey, I hosted videos on my site by Clubs Australia executive director Anthony Ball and Australian Christian Churches Gambling Taskforce chairman Tim Costello.
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