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RU486

Senator Andrew Bartlett published the following on his blog yesterday afternoon, and it remains timely for us. Thanks Andrew for permission to republish. "Conscience votes are always a bit interesting," he said to me minutes ago, "because everyone suddenly gets human" - or something like that. Andrew's last contribution to Webdiary was Government guillotines the major laws, filibusters the minor ones, then guillotines again.

Update: I have added Andrew's summary of the voting today. 

Debate on the RU486 legislation started in the Senate around 4pm. It will continue until 11pm tonight, and start again at 9.30 tomorrow morning (Thursday). The Senate has also agreed to a motion to require a final vote on the Bill by 5pm Thursday, which will prevent any attempt to filibuster debate on the Bill through until March.

The debate is being broadcast on ABC News Radio or can be heard online through the Parliament House website by clicking here. It won’t be on radio broadcast on Thursday, so you’ll have to listen online - or you can some to Parliament House in Canberra and watch it all live of course.

Assuming the Bill is passed by the Senate, which is widely assumed to be what will happen, debate should shift to the House of Representatives on Monday. The outcome there is less certain.

For political history buffs, I believe this is the first Private Senators Bill in the names of 4 Senators from four different parties (all of whom also happen to be women).

Out of the 76 Senators, there are 49 who have put their name down on the speakers list which has been circulated. The first 4 speakers were the women who sponsored the Bill, who naturally all spoke in support. Some known opponents to the Bill were grouped to speak after that, so the tone shifted somewhat from then on.

The report of the Committee which examined the legislaiton can be found here. It has varying arguments and conclusions expressed by different Senators, as well as some good background information on the issue.

UPDATE 1: Some amendments have been circulated by opponents of the legislation, which seeks to keep powers with the Health Minister, but make any decisions made by the Minister to approve or disapprove an application to use RU486 can be disallowed by the Parliament. The text of it can be seen here - I think it is fairly self-explanatory.

Many Senators wouldn’t have looked at or be aware of the amendments yet, so it is hard to predict if it will have any impact on the result. In one sense it is an improvement on the current situation, as at least the Minister has to seek specific advice and has to table reasons in the Parliament and the Parliament can override the decision. However, it still leaves the key problem that decisions on whether or not to allow the use of RU486 is left to politicians, who are not usually experts on the health impacts of particular drugs, rather than to the TGA, the body that makes these decisions on every other drug specifically because of their expertise.

It would also mean that every time the Minister made any decision - approving or disapproving of an application of an RU486 related drug - there would be the prospect of any Senator moving to disallow that decision and we could have reruns of the whole debate, over and over again.

UPDATE 2: When debate adjourned at 11pm, 37 Senators had spoken - 23 in favour, 14 against. 39 votes are needed to pass the Bill, assuming no one abstains or is absent. There’s no real sense yet whether the amendments will siphon off any votes from people who would otherwise have supported the Bill. The vote on the second reading of the Bill has to occur by 1mp onm Thursday, but the amendments won’t be considered until after that, so we won’t know the final outcome for sure until the Third Reading vote, which has to occur by 4.45pm.

UPDATE 3: I just received an emaill urging me to vote for the Bill, which have been sufficiently scarce that it did rather stick out. It also made me think that people who do support the intent of the Bill really should get busy making damn sure their local House of Reps member knows that before next week. I suspect they will have been getting the same pile of emails and letters that I have been getting opposing the Bill, and I’m told the outcome of the vote in the House of Reps is less certain than in the Senate (which can’t be guaranteed either of course until the final vote tomorrow), especially now that the Prime Minister has effectively publicly stated his support for the status quo.

Whilst I can’t tell with all emails which state they are from, out of those that have been either from my own state of Queensland or of unclear origin, I would think the ratio of those against compared to those in favour would be close to 100-1! If support the Bill and you know others who share your views, I really suggest you urge all of them to get on to the House of Reps members - especially their own - before the debate starts there next week. That great a disparity in the expression of views from your electorate can obviously have an impact on a member who has mixed feelings about which way to vote.

    The speech I gave in the Senate on the legislation follows:

This Bill is important, and this debate is important. I am one of those who find it desirable that we have an opportunity from time to time to express our views more genuinely and openly, as we are doing in this case via what is a fairly rare occurrence—that is, a conscience vote. It is a reminder of the diversity of views that often gets hidden in parliament beneath the fairly rigid straitjacket of the party line.

Within the Democrats we have what I say is a great privilege, although also an extra challenge, in having the right to a conscience vote on every piece of legislation. I think that presenting the opportunity to do that should be taken up more often. I am not quite sure why issues like this are determined to be a conscience vote when I can think of some other very important debates that we have had in this chamber on issues that affect the lives of all Australians and that could not be seen as anything other than moral or ethical issues but where the party discipline or straitjacket has come down. We all recognise the need for party discipline, but I think that we could all benefit—and our nation could certainly benefit—from more opportunities for a bit of flexibility in that regard and for people to be able to speak and vote according to their well-informed, strongly held views from time to time.

I do understand the strong feelings that many people have about the issues that this legislation raises. Sometimes we could all do better in showing respect for opposing or divergent views that others hold, although that difficulty in showing respect is sometimes understandable when those views occasionally are expressed in highly offensive ways. I use by way of example the extraordinarily offensive, inflammatory and, frankly, puerile advertisement placed in a newspaper today by a group calling themselves Australians Against RU-486. It stated: RU-486 will probably kill only a few Australian women. Is that okay with you, Senator?

Car accidents kill thousands of Australians every year. We do not hear people calling for the banning of cars. Tobacco and alcohol kill thousands. Almost all drugs have some risks. Crossing the road has some risk. To say that by virtue of this legislation, under which we would allow the risks of this drug to be assessed by a group of health experts rather than by the random choice of the health minister of the day, we are to killers, shows how people’s strongly held views can cross the line and become stupid, inflammatory abuse.

That is part of the problem with some of the debate surrounding this matter. It is not the fact that people have strongly held, genuine and informed views that is the problem; it is the way in which they seek to impose those views on other people. To label as murderers people who choose to have an abortion or who assist someone to do that and to label RU486 as a human pesticide or a drug designed to kill babies is an abuse of language and a vilification of women. It is a vilification of women who find themselves in a situation of extreme difficulty. The last thing they need is this sort of abuse.

I see my role as a Senator and indeed as a Democrat to stand with those women in their right to choose, and their right to choose in an environment which has real meaning to the word ‘choice’, an environment free from such abuse and an environment where choice means having all of the options both available and affordable. That means that the chances of them making the choice that is right for them is maximised. It is crucial in this policy area, as in any other, to try to retain an approach which is logical and consistent, and not get diverted by emotive and misleading rhetoric.

If you are against abortion, do not have one. But whilst ever it is legal in Australia it should be a choice for each individual woman to make for herself, rather than having a range of hurdles, obstacles, inconsistencies and abuse put in her way.

As is the case with all of us here, there are some activities that some of my fellow Australians engage in which I am not enthusiastic about. Sometimes I might seek to explain or outline why I think such activities are less than desirable. But just because I find something personally ethnically offensive does not mean that I should be able to use my position as a member of parliament to try to outlaw it. If you oppose this legislation because you oppose abortion then, to be consistent, you should also be moving to prevent Medicare funding of abortion; to ban IVF, which involves the production of many surplus embryos as part of the process; and to amend the current situation with regard to RU486 by banning it altogether rather than by leaving it up to the individual, unaccountable choice of the health minister. If you are genuinely concerned about the safety of RU486 it is far more logical and safer to have any potential health risks assessed by medical experts in the Therapeutic Goods Administration, as occurs with every other drug, rather than leave it up to one individual minister.

It was quite possible that the current health minister, Mr Abbott, who as everyone knows is strongly personally opposed to the use of RU486, could have been, in the most recent reshuffle, moved out of that position. So it is quite feasible that we could have had a Liberal minister in that position today who is strongly in favour of the use of RU486. There are both here and in the House of Representatives Liberal Ministers who will, I am sure, vote in favour of this legislation. Frankly, the same problem would arise: we could have a pro RU486 minister deciding to support the drug on philosophical grounds rather than on its health aspects and a proper assessment. Whoever that person might have been, the fact is that the so-called protection that people opposed to RU486 see in the current arrangement is not a real protection at all and is certainly not a protection that is based around this facade and false cloak of concern for the health impacts of the use of RU486 on women.

Since when do politicians—or, as it currently stands, one politician, the health minister—decide on the safety of a drug? Senator Fielding said that that is what people elect us for. It is not what people elect us for. I do not think a single person voted for me—and I suspect for anybody in this chamber—on polling day on the basis of my ability to assess the safety or otherwise of a drug for release in Australia. What they do elect us to this parliament to do is to ensure that there is a coherent and credible regime put in place to ensure that all pharmaceuticals approved for release in Australia have their safety and adequacy properly and competently assessed. They elect us to do all we can to ensure the safety and health of Australians, and to ensure that all Australians have as many affordable and effective choices as possible available to them in deciding on matters that relate to their health. It is an absurd anomaly to have that principle put to one side solely for one category of drug and solely on the basis—as we all know when you strip away everything else—of some people’s individual ethical or moral opposition to the concept and reality of abortion. It is an illogical approach and for that reason it should be removed.

I would also like to note the approach taken with this legislation. Some have suggested that this has been a rushed process. Contrast it with the approach taken last year on a range of crucial and complex bills to do with matters like workplace relations, security laws and welfare. All of these involved complex—very complex in some cases—and far reaching laws which were introduced at short notice and in some cases with a time frame that provided less than two weeks for reading the large amounts of legislation, for the public to put in submissions, for public hearings to be held and for the committee to produce a report.

While this bill is important, it is exceedingly simple and very straightforward. It was tabled in December after being foreshadowed for a long time and having been the subject of debate backwards and forwards for 10 years. There was over a month for submissions, albeit over Christmas, and three public hearings were held in three different cities seeking to get the views of a wide range of people from throughout the community. Last year we had the guillotining of debate on those major pieces of legislation with minimal notice, coupled with piles of new amendments dropped in the Senate. On this occasion all senators have known, and knew before the debate started, how much time is available for debate on the legislation. I only wish we could have a process even close to approximating this for some of those other matters.

I received, as I am sure many of us—or probably all of us—did many hundreds of emails and letters on this legislation and related matters from people who are strongly opposed to RU486. I would in this instance agree with Senator Santoro’s comment, although I was not so much surprised about that but about the volume of those in comparison to the volume in favour of the legislation. That is an interesting fact, and I note that. It is important to take account of what people contact their politicians about. Frankly, I would encourage people to do a lot more of it, even though it means there are more emails for us to read and respond to. We need to be as open as possible to the views of the community. I endeavoured to read all of those that I could tell were from Queensland, even though many had a lot of commonality in theme. As I said at the start, I respect and understand why people hold those views. They basically had the theme of being opposed to abortion, but in our society I believe that that has to be a choice for each individual woman to make.

One aspect I did find frustrating, though, with some of those emails and correspondence was the fact that many people put forward arguments against RU486 on the basis of calling themselves pro-family. Somehow or other, this drug is an anti-family thing. Frankly, I just wish those people genuinely concerned about the family had shown the same sense of urgency, outrage and concern at the end of last year when we had welfare legislation being pushed through this place which dramatically reduced the income of many of the poorest Australian families, including sole parents. That will have a far greater impact on the families of Australia than whether or not one more drug is available for them in considering their health options.

It is worth reminding the Senate and the community of the history of the anomaly of RU486 and that group of drugs being the only ones subject to approval via the health minister of the day instead of via the Therapeutic Goods Administration as are all other pharmaceuticals. It was inserted via an amendment to a Therapeutic Goods Administration legislation amendment bill back in May 1996. That amendment was moved by former Independent Senator Harradine. That amendment was opposed by all Democrats senators at the time but was unfortunately supported by the government of the day and the opposition of the day—and by one Green senator.

There was an endeavour in March 2001 by the Democrats to move an amendment to another Therapeutic Goods Administration amendment bill to reverse that situation. That again did not receive the support on the record of anyone else in the Senate at the time. People have always been concerned about this. They recognise that this is a potentially divisive debate, and even those who did not agree with the current situation—people on all sides of the political fence—felt it was better to just let sleeping dogs lie.

But it is important to note the contribution of those who last year decided it was time to wake the dog up again, as it were, and not to let the sleeping dog continue to lie. They decided to once again push the matter and again looked for a Therapeutic Goods Administration amendment bill to move amendments to in order to try and reverse what I believe is an absurd and outdated anomaly. This anomaly came about as much because of the political dynamics of 1996 as because of a well-thought through policy decision of the majority of senators at the time.

I particularly note Senator Lyn Allison from the Democrats, who pushed this more than anyone initially in flagging potential amendments to other TGA bills that were around. But I also note those men and women—women in particular—from other political parties who pushed this issue within their own parties. To some extent, I recognise that for some of them that was more difficult to do internally with their own party than it would have been within a party like the Democrats. I particularly acknowledge the extra courage and determination of all of those senators, and those women in particular, who pushed this issue and who were willing to put their hands up—and to some extent stick their heads up along with it. That is not always easy, and it is important to acknowledge that.

While I am doing that, as Senator Nash said, this is probably the first private senator’s bill since Federation in 1901 that has four senators names attached to it from four different parties. That in itself is also something to note and to celebrate. I obviously feel more celebratory about it because I support the bill, but the fact that senators can come together from four separate parties on any matter and put it forward into the arena for political debate is something that should be celebrated. I would do so even if it was a topic matter I did not support, if perhaps not quite so enthusiastically.

It is quite rare for private bills introduced in the Senate to be passed into law. According to the list in the appendix of Odgers, there have only been eight. If this does pass the Senate, as I hope it does, and then passes the House of Representatives, this will be just the ninth private senator’s bill to do so in 100 years—and a couple of those, I might say, were quite small, almost administrative, matters. That is something to note; that shows the significance and importance of the efforts of the many people who have pushed this matter forward for debate. I acknowledge their efforts in that regard.

To make it clear, there have been other private member’s bills initiated in the other place that have passed into law. But nonetheless it is fairly rare, not least because of the very tight party discipline that has been a characteristic of Australian parliamentary politics for a long time and which I mentioned earlier on. That is all the more reason why it is admirable and notable that this matter has got this far.

I urge those senators who are still considering their vote on this to vote in favour of it and recognise that it is as much about good public health administration as it is about some of the moral and ethical issues that people have raised through the course of this debate. If it is successfully passed through this Senate on the vote tomorrow afternoon, then I also urge the same of those members of the House of Representatives still considering this matter.

----------------

9th Feb

After the 2nd Reading of the Bill passed by 45 votes to 26, there were 2 sets of amendments put in the Committee stage of the debate - 1 on behalf of Senators Barnett & Humphries, (lost 28 votes to 44) and the other on behalf of Senators Colbeck & Scullion (lost 33 votes to 41).

The concluding 3rd Reading vote was called at 4.45pm. The result was announced at 4.52 pm

In Favour (45 )

Judith Adams, Liberal - WA; Lyn Allison, Democrat - Vic; Andrew Bartlett, Democrat - Qld; Bob Brown, Green - Tas; Carol Brown, Labor - Tas; George Campbell, Labor - NSW; Kim Carr, Labor - Vic; Richard Colbeck, Liberal - Tas; Helen Coonan, Liberal - NSW; Trish Crossin, Labor – NT; Chris Evans, Labor - WA; John Faulkner, Labor - NSW; Jeannie Ferris, Liberal - SA; Mitch Fifield, Liberal - Vic; Robert Hill, Liberal - SA; Annette Hurley, Labor - SA; David Johnston, Liberal - WA; Linda Kirk, Labor - SA; Joe Ludwig, Labor - Qld; Kate Lundy, Labor - ACT; Ian Macdonald, Liberal - Qld; Anne McEwen, Labor - SA; Jan McLucas, Labor - Qld; Gavin Marshall, Labor - Vic; Christine Milne, Green - Tas; Claire Moore, Labor - Qld; Andrew Murray, Democrat - WA; Fiona Nash, National - NSW; Kerry Nettle, Green - NSW; Kerry O’Brien, Labor - Tas; Kay Patterson, Liberal - Vic; Marise Payne, Liberal - NSW; Robert Ray, Labor - Vic; Nigel Scullion, Country Liberal - NT; Nick Sherry, Labor - Tas; Rachel Siewert, Green - WA; Glenn Sterle, Labor - WA; Natasha Stott Despoja, Democrat - SA; Judith Troeth, Liberal - Vic; Russell Trood, Liberal - Qld; Amanda Vanstone, Liberal - SA; John Watson, Liberal - Tas; Ruth Webber, Labor - WA; Penny Wong, Labor - SA; Dana Wortley, Labor - SA

Against (28 )

Eric Abetz, Liberal - Tas ; Guy Barnett, Liberal - Tas; Mark Bishop, Labor - WA; Ron Boswell, National - Qld; George Brandis, Liberal - Qld; Paul Calvert, Liberal - Tas; Grant Chapman, Liberal - SA; Stephen Conroy, Labor - Vic; Alan Eggleston, Liberal - WA; Chris Ellison, Liberal - WA; Alan Ferguson, Liberal - SA; Steve Fielding, Family First - Vic; Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Liberal - NSW; Michael Forshaw, Labor - NSW; Bill Heffernan, Liberal - NSW; John Hogg, Labor - Qld; Gary Humphries, Liberal - ACT; Steve Hutchins, Labor - NSW; Barnaby Joyce, National - Qld; Sandy Macdonald, National - NSW; Brett Mason, Liberal - Qld; Julian McGauran, Liberal - Vic; Nick Minchin, Liberal - SA; Stephen Parry, Liberal - Tas; Helen Polley, Labor - Tas; Michael Ronaldson, Liberal - Vic; Santo Santoro, Liberal - Qld; Ursula Stephens, Labor - NSW;

Absent: Rod Kemp, Liberal - Vic; Ian Campbell, Liberal - WA; Ross Lightfoot, Liberal - WA.

Breakdown of vote by Party: Liberal: in favour, 17 against.
Labor: in favour, 7 against.
National/CLP: 2 in favour, 3 against.
Democrat: 4 in favour, 0 against. Green 4 in favour, 0 against. Family First: 1 against.

Breakdown of vote by Gender: Male: 21 in favour, 25 against.
Female: 24 in favour, 3 against.

Breakdown of vote by State/Territory: ACT: 1 for, 1 against.
NSW: 6 for, 6 against.
NT: 2 for, 0 against.
Qld: 6 for, 6 against.
SA: 9 for, 3 against.
Tas: 7 for, 5 against.
Vic: 7 for, 4 against.
WA: 7 for, 3 against.

The Bill will now go to the House of Representatives. It will probably be debated throughout next week. I expect the government will want to get it voted on and out of the way by the end of the week.

There was a much greater number of people in the public gallery to witness the final vote than is usual for a Thursday afternoon, although not as many as there were for issues like Workplace Relations. The press gallery viewing area also had 15 observers.

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Are you for 8, 6 or only 1 cooperative Bill?

It seems there is hope for parliamentary debate not completely dominated by party lines and whips after all. The senators who introduced the RU486 bill have vowed to work together on other women's issues.

Voting patterns

Now that the votes have been taken, I think that the time has come for a proper analysis of voting patterns on both the private members’ Bill and on the two amendments. Anyone care to volunteer?

What struck me, as I listened to about six hours’ debate yesterday and about three hours’ today – including the votes on the second reading – was the extreme disparity between what the women in the House of Representatives (and Senate) were saying as opposed to what the men were.

Now, I know that this sounds as though I am trying to divide the debate along gender lines. Believe me, I am not, and I am so impressed by the likes of Harry Quick who, despite his overtly and sincerely expressed Christian principles, was prepared to let this be a matter decided by proper experts. What does dishearten me, however, is that the parliamentarians who seemed most intent on dragging the issue back into an abortion / non-abortion argument were almost entirely male.

And, for goodness’ sakes, everyone who knows me – whether here or elsewhere – knows darned well that I’m not a rabid femo-whatever (actually, they’d probably say that I’m worse, but that’s their problem…). But why the hell does it seem to some men that they have the final right to say what ought to be – even though most of the people who suffer the consequences of their edicts are female?

Maybe – after all – and with all due deference to Paul Walter’s concerns, I ought to get the plumber’s wrench out!

Praise where praise is due (reluctantly)

Reluctantly, never driven to praise the chap before, have to give credit where it is due, and that is to Mr Beazley, who spoke with content and conviction as a statesman might. Impressive. He was honest enough to point out what the bill was specifically about while acknowledging that many had used it as a vehicle to object to abortion per se, rather than allowing choice of method, via a medication being assessed for safety by the experts.

I hadn't known that the deal to give veto to the health minister was via Senator Harradine in exchange for something in 1996?

I also hadn't known that the health minister's veto was silent, with no information that it had been given, no explanation and no means of redress. What a great veto if you want to stop medications of a certain kind.

Oh, and the veto was only for abortifactants.

Bingo. If that is open and accountable government then Saddam is an angel. The Bill actually increases scrutiny, refuting one of the false arguments against it. Mr Beazley also pointed out that in the UK a Blair appointee declined the health minister position as she felt it was incompatible with her strict Catholic beliefs about abortion and contraception. Well, that is an example for us all, isn't it! Not to take a position where the known duties are in conflict with one's strict beliefs. Unless one can wield veto and appoint a TGA to block a drug. I suggest this whole position was a deal to appease certain lobby groups or members of cabinet. How crafty.

All the same, I applaud Mr Abbott for his open stand and those who also took such a stand openly based upon their belief that abortion was religiously wrong. That is honest government in itself and, when elections come, voters will know what conscience vote they are putting into parliament. I see no problem with this, only courage of convictions deserving of praise. What was disgusting was the deceitful tactics used by some, the sly amendments, the twisting of facts to misrepresent the medical data including Prof Green’s study, the intended method of use of the drug, the surveys and what they meant, the smearing of the TGA itself, the "openness and accountability" of the current system, and the reasons people seek abortion.

Who doesn't think there are too many? Who wouldn't cut the number down? While the number of severely genetically deformed or damaged foetuses cannot be changed easily, contraception levels may be. Mr Abbott isn't calling for better contraception: remember, he is also opposed to anything other than the rhythm method and abstinence. Perhaps the repeated call by members to improve contraceptive practices may be examined by those genuinely interested in reducing abortions.

Mr Howard's contribution shows what happens when one's actions are determined not by conviction but by politicking, as his speech was weaselly and so was his vote for the amendments. Very poor leadership as compared to Mr Beazley's honest sounding outspoken conviction.

Just a final note. Mr Beazley made a point of reminding all that the debate about legality of abortion lies with the states. Something to consider with the fundamentalist right wing gaining control, allegedly, of the NSW Liberal party, with the smearing of Mr Brogden. Clearly, the threats from fundamentalism come in many shapes in this world.

vote: No

Not stand up and be counted, it seems.

Out of touch

The RU486 debate has allowed people to vote as their "conscience" allows and hopefully the bill will pass and remove Abbott from his current position of power re abortions.

As an aside really, I noted Peter Costello's almost emotional revelation of the drama in his family's past. Mrs Costello was apparently very ill, in a coma I think he said, and her treatment at that time may have caused fatal problems for her and or the pending child.

I found it revealing that he should seem emotional about what, to most of us, would have been a great result with both mother and child pulling through in good health.

I just couldn't balance his revelation with what most people go through in their lives. For most people that experience would have been excellent given the result. Yet he is apparently still distressed by it.

Yes, you can't compare lives. I just thought he needed to get out a bit more and talk to people with real, current issues and dramas to face.

Bigger issues?

Ross, maybe I didn't understand the gist of your argument, but you cannot be serious if I did. Yes, the outcome of his decision to ignore the medical advice was successful, but what did that prove? Call it an existential gut feeling or call it faith in something greater that governs our existence, but being tested on it with such alarming predictions - emotional! Predictions from the current priests of scientific/medical faith that our society is immersed in. The self same priests that our parliament have just further endorsed with drug decisions that destroy embryonic/foetal life. Having to look your wife in the face regularly with the knowledge that you challenged medical opinion with her life. Interesting! Your faith must be sound, I hope it holds for you.

You are right Steve

Hey Steve et al,

You're right Steve. I didn't express myself well and it was a niggardly comment to be honest. I'd rather I hadn't written it but I did as I felt strongly at the time.

All I was trying to say (hope this is clear) was that Peter Costello appeared to be upset yet shortly after that at Question Time the reversion to type was an extreme contrast.

Again, of course I know that is how Question Time is played but it still sucks. Of course Labor too do the same but I only saw Peter talking. It seemed to me that perhaps his show of a softer side had more to do with his quest for power than the actual event where his wife and child were at risk. Yes I'm cynical alright.

It also seemed to me a bit trifling to be distressed by such an event nearly 20 years later (the event was not a failure, they both lived and that is excellent). But as I wrote and you more or less said, you can't compare lives.

Yes it is certainly challenging if your faith is questioned and I understand how such religious belief makes some decisions harder than they really are on it's own.

As to faith mine is a faith that there is no greater being or entity for me to be saved by or cared for in an afterlife. It's atheism really but I do have an interest in why and how others do believe. There's that nagging feeling in me that says the billions that do believe and have a faith in a greater entity can't all be wrong.

But on the other hand I have nothing that causes me to even think it's a possibility. I am more than secure in my belief(s) re religion although I can certainly be swayed by evidence. None to date I'm afraid and that is why I feel secure in those current beliefs.

And believe me when I say I have spent time and resources searching. Found zip except many people who just say you just have to have faith. I can't until I know there is something to believe in.

Costello priming the pump?

Ross, if you are right and Costello was just milking his own emotions for political gain I would just have to feel sorry for him, but this sorrow would be less than that which I would reserve for his wife. Given that Peter had to know his wife would see any TV bite he was generating as you suggest, then I can only assume his wife supports his political methods. How sad indeed.

If you are wrong then I am happy to defend genuine faith.

Naturally your faith is your own business and I am happy it serves you well. Call it atheist or whatever; it appears you have a strong faith in your own intelligence. To me it is fairly natural in our secular society for people to place confidence in capabilities they can identify and use. If I could offer anything, I would suggest that these capabilities are not always permanent. I could say that what is given can be taken away. But I imagine this would serve no purpose, because unless you experience it for yourself, you are unlikely to pay any attention to suggestions that human capabilities can fail us, and then one is left to a greater faith or a hellish crisis-in-confidence can consume the person.

May we all keep our capabilities until our last breath.

Good to discuss with you, Steve

Hey Steve, thanks for your interest in this comment. Feels good to communicate with someone who seems reasonable and not tied to mantras like a few here on WD. As such I respond to you openly and honestly, which I try to anyway but frequently I feel that what is written by many is simply seen as a target and not replied to with genuine feelings.

Having said that, perhaps to you and me a performance like Peter's (and others too) would be an issue and maybe we couldn't do it and even if we did our partners would rip our heads off when we got home. However he is a long term politician with specific aims which his wife must be fully supportive of. My feeling is that wives or husbands of politicians must be able to see one thing in the media and actually believe what they say at home. They are used to bullshit is what I'm saying here.

I have no doubt it was a hard day or so for Peter but that was about twenty years ago following a great and deserved result from that medical situation. If he is not able to control his emotions after that amount of time and experience with media and public appearances then he would break down regularly. That sneer is too often in place for me to believe that.

I think you have actually helped me clarify what my feelings are. I hadn't thought about what I believe in that way, but I think you have hit the nail on the head.

You see, Steve, I have had depression from an early age. An illness which I didn't understand or even know about until fairly recent times. As such I have always felt "not worthy" if you like. Lacking self esteem and confidence and all the rest. I finally resolved that about 2+ years ago although I still have the illness. My mind was finally able to understand and accept is what I'm trying to say.

I am, though, fairly intelligent and have always been able to disguise my weaknesses with that. These days I am confident in myself and my abilities etc despite carrying the D bug.

As a result of all that, Steve, I am fully aware of what it is like to not be able to use my full abilities. I have up to now been a top level underachiever, mainly for my own peace of mind. These days I feel more capable of using what I have got with confidence. Well, at least as much confidence as the D bug allows! I guess what I'm struggling to say here is that I have spent the best part of 45 years questioning myself, my reasons for living, my reasons for wanting to die. An almost 24/7 nightmare which I assumed was normal as it is all I could remember until recent years.

Like I said, regardless of what I feel or believe today I know myself well enough to know most of my beliefs are subject to query and change depending on further evidence. I'm not sure what would convince me re a God etc, but I don't exclude that as man really knows very little about our world and all within and without that. Our current science, beliefs, habits and the rest will look fairly primitive in another 100 years and I'm sure some of what I know as truth will be shown as false. Like most of us.

I do question others’ beliefs as I just can't understand how people just believe. Some take the Bible as the authority and simply trust it is fully correct. Others have their own personal beliefs and have got there in their own way. These people I want to talk with and understand. If my questioning that is seen as derision or some other form of insult I tend to conclude they don't know what they are talking about and really haven't looked hard for the truth. I do not mean to upset anyone, simply understand in my own way.

I rather like faith/belief as a subject myself

Ross, as you may have noticed I enjoy exploring personal beliefs myself. Although I seem to be rarely surprised, I am regularly encouraged. I love the blind faith of a child. This trust awes me more often than not and even scares me. I too enjoy discovering the strength within people who have "got there their own way", as you say. The test that life provides is beyond words and the simple capacity to endure warms me.

Thank you.

Another possibility - sauce for the gander?

Paul Walter, it is indeed difficult to be anything but sombre on this particular topic. Nevertheless, I shall try. My main reason for so doing is that this is the only Webdiary thread, both current and in the time that I’ve been reading (quite a long time, now) that seems remotely appropriate for the proposition that I shall now advance.

And – be warned – my tongue is only partially in my cheek.

My suggestion is that, at birth, all males should be fitted with a little tap in the vas deferens. All males currently on the planet should be similarly fitted. That tap can only be turned on by an appropriate authority (not the Minister for Health) when the applicant has demonstrated to the satisfaction of a jury of 6 women and 6 men that he has the social and emotional maturity and commitment to become a father and to stick around for at least the next 20 years. Of course, after the birth of the resulting offspring, the tap is turned off again.

If nothing else, it would be interesting to see whether those who proclaim that sexual intercourse should only be engaged in with a view to procreation are prepared to put their money where their … um … orifices are and remain celibate until such time as it’s “Tap on”.

good for the gander

Now come on, Fiona, that all sounds very clinical and controlled. Once certified for on permission, the tap needs a random on-off like a water hose switch. Tonight MAY be the night but what fun not to be sure and have to keep going.

Cheers

PS: The right kind of men are those I love very much, so....... I hope the tap doesn't hurt too much. Reminds me a little of the current set of metal screws inserted in the female "tubes”. Good for the gander isn't so very far from some of women's choices.

Switch - twitch - ouch!

Clinical, Angela? Controlled? Mm, the latter perhaps - although to some extent my proposition was intended - among other things - to illustrate the issue of control that (mainly) men have attempted to exercise over women and their reproductive health and rights for aeons.

And while I can appreciate the "fun" part - assuming that pregnancy is one's goal - your suggestion of the random on-off does smack of - dare I say it? - Vatican roulette (meaning no disrespect ... look ... me old dad in hospital usta be ...).

As for pain - being a long-term and highly appreciative connoisseur of the male - I have absolutely no desire that the darlings (and even the not so darlings) should suffer in the least. Must say, though, that I don't like the sound of the metal screws.

By the way, could you bend your culinary mind to the consideration of the most appropriate sauce for gander?

Cooking with Ayatollah Angela

Sauce for the Gander, Cooking with Ayatollah Angela Edition One.

Well, as they say, first catch one's goose. Although most prefer gander there are some other tastes to be accommodated, maybe in parallel editions.

Usually the gander is milling around the waterhole of the female goose gatherings. Not anatomically speaking of course, in G-rated cooking studios.

A pause to consider the important issues ,even  if one is using buckshot and a friend's farm and discussing Swiss safe havens for retirement funds, one still must have permit. Permit is always good in case one finds oneself having to discuss bagging of protected species with officials, although usually that can be done when sober the next day. AK47s, although the preferred shotmaster of Lightfoooted jetsetters, do ruin the final appearance on the table, but it is amazing what can appear and disappear, although too much oil is the usual problem in taste.

Once taken, one's goose must be cooked.

Although such an event may be put off for a short while, and certainly hanging the creature improves the flavour and final enjoyment, there is the danger of putting off for too long the event and the stench certainly starts to gather, leaving an all-encompassing smell upon the entire hunting party and attracting other rodents. These latter, of course, must be baited until dead or will definitely ruin the final feast, perhaps taking away the best when all are otherwise occupied and when no-one expects it.

The gander is best stuffed from behind with a combination of wheat, oil, and the stuff that makes black pudding black.

Sauce? (Although in times of priority, who cares as long as the goose is stuffed and cooked.)

Its own juices with creme and macadamias may be nice, but perhaps too oily. I prefer light sauces with berries, or a good wine. Actually I think I would stick to the fruit platter for many tasteful reasons. Just can't stand the killing.

Fire up the ovens, good Fi is hunting.

Cheers.

Lawyers, guns, and money...

"Whittington has been a private practice lawyer in Austin since 1950 and has long been active in Texas Republican politics. He has been appointed to several state boards, including when then-Governor George Bush named him to the Texas Funeral Service Commission."

I wonder. Naaaa, surely...

Sometimes there are more ways to skin a rabbit or cook a goose and the more spectacular the trophy the bigger the reputation that cannot be challenged.

Especially if one uses a 15,000 dollar prada (?) women's gun a gift from... guess who? Oh and how can a goose shot on the right side get pellets in their heart and liver and be "sitting up happily talking" (pants on fire Iraqi contractor Armstrong?) that night and be in intensive care "just for privacy reasons" (I hope his insurance company is reading). What is really impressive is the celebration dinner and drinks after the bagging. Did anyone accompany the guy to the hospital?

Is this the first time there has been a hit on a protected species?

Hamish: Angela, the link for the opening quote didn't work at all. If you could check it and send the right one, I'll add it in.

High, or rotten?

Angela, the nice adjustment between the high and the rotten is one that escapes all but the finest ... sensibilities (or, to be more precise, nostrils).

And thank you, m'dear - I knew that I could rely upon you for a recipe that would be at once innovative, embracing, eclectic, and to the point (in all senses). I look forward to presenting it at my next Dinner.

Yours, etc.

Southpark

Why am I thinking of Cartman's anal probe inserted by aliens in an old episode of Southpark?

You do have a vivid, black imagination. I'm avoiding you like the neighbour's pit bull, when its off the leash in the local park!

Restraint(s)

It's alright, Paul. I'm fairly safe - especially when handcuffed and muzzled...

By the way, how did the end of last academic year leave you? Well, I hope.

Thanks

Hi Fiona, yep, got through. Swore I'd avoid such places after  I handed in my last essay on politics and environment, but after a couple of months of mouldering am belatedly signing up for more. Thought it was an end but it's only a beginning, with a job in front to sort it, at least if I'd have it turn out meaningfully as per my own standards over the long haul.

God bless.

PS, your youngs got by OK?

Paul: Congratulations

Well done, Paul. It's not an easy ask at any time of life - yet, even though I suspect us mature-aged students are very good at outclassing the freshers, it's still a substantial personal challenge. (One of these days I might be persuaded to recount the story of the "geriatric study circle" of which I was a co-founder.)

My one-and-only daughter? The one nearly 18 going on 28?? Well, she's 3 weeks into Year 12 now, and is astounding me by (1) keeping up to date with her homework, (2) keeping her bedroom - and other areas within the house - relatively tidy, (3) eating in a sensible fashion, and (4) sleeping in a reasonably logical way.

I think that my best move is to get out while the going is good....

International Correspondent

Angela Ryan, I'd love to say something that would be of cheer for people reading this thread, particular those faced with the demise of a fine Persian rug, but Fiona Reynolds’ comment concerning "Pregnant Pause" has me back a couple of hours to the ABC "International Correspondent" episode tonight, which featured a fearsome segment from Bosnia about Muslim women systematically raped to make them pregnant, to swap them for male prisoners presumably killed later, as part of the ethnic cleansing of the early 'nineties.

I can't really say much more, beyond commenting upon the appalling stress these women were obviously under, as they told their stories and the impact of the agony on their reactions and subsequent decision making. Thank God I'm not a woman!

After that, it is heartening to see the responses of two excellent women as well as several other good people earlier in these threads, by way of contrast to, for example, that irresponsible, malicious idiot of a woman, Danna Vale.

How can anything ever get sorted out when people like her and others, like some of the male idiots who similarly muddy the waters here at WD, also for the worst of reasons, with equally spiteful, delinquent, pathological deceits?

You could lose faith in human nature after watching something like that segment of Foreign Correspondent, but now I reckon it's worthwhile not giving way, if only to help ensure that Angela's glorious daughter, and others of the next generation including Fiona's youngster, who I remember being told was taking the next big step with higher education, get the same fair crack at a beautiful life that I have had. This is despite all the malevolence in the world that one sees.

Also, my youthful pet cat, who is the nearest thing I'll ever have to a kid of my own, and who won me over by tugging at my heart through a tugging of my shoelaces when he was an orphan, might also need me to "stick at it", if only to open his tins. Staff, not owners, you know.

For those who may have wondered.

No, I don't think abortion is anything but a sombre subject. It evokes in me the same sensation of possibility lost that I experienced at my late partner's funeral. Grief and a sense of no-win.

But women can't be expected to carry the can while the world's affairs continue to be run in the barbaric way they are in this age. Unless women are given the basic safety, materials and protection they require for their difficult tasks, including birth and homemakeing, which can be gifts of incalculable value also for those of us around them, others have no right to ask of women what they would baulk at and alarmed, flee from themselves.

And while circumstances remain in the slovenly vein of this era, some women at least will be absolutely forced to continue "voting with their feet"- as far as the nearest clinic.

Pregnant Pause: Back to the Dark Ages?

Paul Walter, I did not see Pregnant Pause on ABC TV last Sunday, but quite fortuitously I turned on my radio in the wee small hours of Monday 13th February and heard it. And - partly as a consequence - did not sleep much for the rest of the night.

For as long as human history, women have always sought ways of ridding themselves of an unwanted pregnancy. If RU486 does not become available in Australia for prescription by medical practitioners, or if - whatever forbid - the ability of women to obtain safe, legal, surgical abortions is restricted or ended, women will do what they have always done. They - we - will resort to crude, dangerous methods, running the risk of infection that might result in (unwanted) sterilisation or, at the worst, our deaths. Or, if we have enough money, we will take advantage of our privileged position and access safe surgical methods - and back we go to the old days of protection money to the cops, not to mention another nice little earner for organised crime. Or if we cannot by whatever means obtain a termination, we will then have to face - yet again - the trauma of relinquishing our babies for adoption, or of bringing them up in a home where at least our partner does not want them...

I am old enough to remember girls at school, of whom it was whispered that they'd "had it done", who would walk around cradling their (flat) abdomens and looking pale and anguished. I am old enough to have friends whose older sisters had to give up their babies for adoption - and to have observed the psychological torment of those women for, in some cases, the last 35 years.

Of course, I am not suggesting that every woman with an unexpected and/or unwanted pregnancy wished then, or wishes now, to terminate it. The reasons for terminating a pregnancy are as varied as women themselves; the reasons for not terminating are equally varied - and equally valid. But they are - ultimately - reasons for each individual woman (with the support of her partner, if that's available - and in the teeth of that partner, if there is no support, or if there is opposition).

So I will say with as much vehemence as I can muster to the likes of Abbott, Heffernan, Jackie Kelly, and Danna Vale - not to mention all their cheer squads outside the Big House - get your rosaries off our ovaries.

And I hope that all honourable members of the House of Representatives consider well the gender split in the Senate on this Bill, and ask themselves as a matter of conscience whether they wish to condemn their mothers, (female) partners, sisters, and daughters to a return to the Dark Ages.

Yes, the people must decide, once informed completely

Hear, hear, Fiona. Right now, at 10am, I missed who is speaking but he is cutting through the lies and deception with courage and truth that sears the lying tongues cringing below. May I ask the editors to consider posting his speech? It is the most startling challenge to the fanatics and their tactics and perversion of religious motives and power in order to control the issue. He has cut through the bullshit like nothing I have heard. Cheers to the hero of those who really care about the people of Australia.

After watching the public discussion unfold and the methods used by people to influence other people in their behaviour and beliefs, and understanding what choices are available to them and their loved ones in the most terrible situation when a woman, with or without support, is considering abortion, all I can say is that the deliberate and calculating misinformation and emotive campaign run by those in the community who feel they have a right to decide what is right for the community and an individual is to be condemned. Why do these people repeatedly use such tactics? These are people who justify in their minds deliberate campaigns of deception to gain control over others in an area that they feel compassionate by moral grounds. Their morals do not include deception and manipulation.

This is a very important lesson to be learned about this issue. This is a huge warning to groups who believe in the compassionate and health orientated decision making process for an issue such as abortion. If parliamentary voting, and hence legislative control, depend upon "conscience votes" then it is important that how a person would vote is known to the voting public. This vote in parliament is the best indicator of such. It should be taken into consideration during the next election and should be well publicised. This should cause no concern for our parliamentarians, should it? This is the most honest way of accessing whether the person supports the option of the best medical choices being available to women who have already chosen to have an abortion.

Over and over in the speeches to parliament that I have listened to last night and this morning those against the Bill, even via the sly Dana Vale amendment, have declared their opposition to women having such a choice, usually on moral grounds. While it is important to have moral beliefs to guide one's behaviour, it is of concern when such moral beliefs allow such deceptions especially as supported by members of our parliament who even use bigoted racist views to inspire a fear following. What is most incredible is that the very same people, in most situations in our parliament and publicly, the very same people so against any termination options to women for an embryo - a collection of cells as a potential human - yet are so virile in their support for war as a solution to human rights issues or self defence of liberation or seeking oil justifications. This hypocrisy is flabbergastingly surreal! Compare the results of the voting for and against the Iraq invasion. Small error margins there and interesting PPV.

In summary, those who wish to continue having safe medical options available for women who have made the heavy decision of termination need to pay great attention to this debate and the tactics used and the voting pattern of our parliamentarians. This freedom and this right need to be asserted at the next election.

Cheers.

Criminal Acts?

Would the Right accept RU486 if it is shown to reduce crime and unemployment?

contraception counterpoint

Something occurs to me concerning all of this.

Is RU486 really deserving of the emotive term "abortion" with all its questionable connotations applied to it by its deceitful opponents?

The zealots have been really sly in manipulating the preconditions for discourse on the issue away from discussion of it in terms of a relatively improved form of defacto contraception; to be used prior to, basically, an embryo reaching the more problematic stage of foetus, in the sense of some thing that is actually "alive", in a philosophical sense.

As long as there is the faintest chance that a five, six, or say seven month-old foetus is "alive" in even the remotest chance of a meaningful sense, issues of ethics and sensibility can still be involved.

But a technological advance like RU 486 obviates the problem before it ever needs to become one. I ask again,  why the are the medievalists not for for RU 486, rather than so bitterly opposed to it, when it solves the problem for all concerned, by, in reality, relegating it to an issue of family planning and contraception?

A god-given solution to a hard problem?

Not on your nelly for the hard noses.They don't want a fair solution, because by nature they are not interested in fair solutions, only the imposition of their will on others, to suit the warped pathology that drives them on, no matter how illogically or destructively for others, in the first place.

With RU486, the emotion and the need for it, is removed.

Once the "oxygen" of emotionalism is removed, it becomes less "political" and hence less useful as an apparatus for ideology and domination. Otherwise, the likes of Abbott and Man of Property "Soames" Minchin are then forced to retreat to the funk  hole, to think up some new way of stirring up emotions, fear and loathing, to distract people from real issues and allowing them to get along with their own lives without other's guilt-trips, pathologies and complexes off-loaded onto them.

Without fear and anger, the preconditions for the Right's agendas being developed and imposed are denied.

Zealous oversight, maybe more needed

Perhaps someone like Steven Handley can give the official Vatican decree on when life starts, but my understanding of that version is when the egg meets sperm thus forming a "potential human" and due the protection and respect of such. Is that right?

Hence as RU486, Mifepristone, is for termination of pregnancies up until 9 weeks after the last menstrual period, I think it will attract the usual anti-abortion consideration.

Interesting that it is in use in France and has been for years. And other countries including the UK. Where else? The take home version was blocked in both places due to lack of couselling. The French protocol, for those interested in understanding what is being discussed, requires three visits. The first is for counselling. Then a week's consideration period. Then one tablet, and the patient goes home. Then another dose, 48 hours later, and the patient either goes back home or stays in clinic for the four hours required to complete the abortion. Period pain and heavy period bleeding is usually experienced. A review is conducted two weeks later.

The complication rate from US studies seems to be about the same as a surgical abortion. Both are still safer than pregnancy and delivery by a very long way. The result is very different though, isn't it?

It works, basically, by blocking Progesterone, a hormone required to keep the placenta working, a common cause of spontaneous miscarriage. Mifepristone also has other uses, such as post sex contraception, like in rape cases. It also can treat some brain tumours (meningiomas) and enodmetriousis and uterine fibroids.

If the issue is whether this an appropriate medication for a legally available procedure, then how does one argue with the data? The fine details need hammering out, but it seems an option that should be available, if abortion is to be available, for the medically indicated situations as proscribed in the law. Why should Mr Abbott's personal convictions prevent such being available? Is that how a minister should behave? It is a pity that such zealous oversight is not applied by all members of cabinet in their portfolios, eh? 

Determination of problematic.

Paul, interesting that you seem to think you have solved when life becomes problematic and subject to ethics. A foetus of 6-7 months you say. Are you insisting that we take your opinion as final. Some of us might suggest that it becomes problematic a little before then, ethical a little before then, political a little before then. This is the argument Paul.

As for defacto contraception, who is using language to suppress opposition to their opinions. I haven't defined contraception lately, but with the horse having already bolted are you not being a little cute. I certainly would like to see when the general population of our society considers human egg fertilization problematic/political. Good luck with 6-7 months is all I can say.

We discoursed for hours on Freidman...

Steve. You think that was "cute"? Wait 'till you see me in my baby doll...

You are seriously expecting me to believe that a collection of cells a few inches long has consciousness or any of the other properties that define life in a meaningful sense? 

Like, I sit down and have a long discussion with an embryo, arriving at profound conclusions concerning Socrates or the role of monetary policy in micro economics?

Frankly, I think the figure of seven months you claim of me was probably conservative. The philosopher Peter Singer reckons consciousness does not probably eventuate until some time after birth.

I do not accept that the medieval assumptions you pass off are based on anything more than mere opinion. Worse still, you unsuspectingly laud an anti-woman bias that arose through a historical process, out of a patriarchal impulse toward control of women through their fertility. The evolving philosophies and theologies through history are less to do with "ethics" and more to do with the ideological reification of and social reproduction of, male female relations. Here, women are gradually over historical time consigned to their role as cattle for males seeking heirs, cheap labour and compliant sexual objecthood, thus constraining their development as people, to the above convenient end.

The trouble is, men of today are burdened also from the legacy of this, as witnessed in domestic violence during and after relatioship breakdowns, and sexual and other forms of communication dysfunction.

The medievalists had no solid evidence to pursue their claims, beyond their own personal tastes. These themselves were long ago circumscribed as the terms of reference were set removing from consciousness the real ethical issues involved, thus confusing everyone, most of all the theologians themselves. The omissions and ultimately wilful down grading of the rights of women contributed to the current pathology, as revealed through people like the health minister, that poisons male/ female relations.

No, sorry. I need something a bit more substantial to go on as to the category of the embryo, than the comfortable old platitudes of a few old women; err sorry, men, doing no more than have their unconscious biases talk off the tops of their heads for them.

how to improve the problem?

Paul Walter: "Like, I sit down and have a long discussion with an embryo, arriving at profound conclusions concerning Socrates or the role of monetary policy in micro economics?"

OK Paul, I have bad news. I tried it on the three year old, the one who dispatched the Persian carpet the other day with red wine, and nope, doesn't have adequate sensitivity, as result is known. Perhaps very high specificity, but crap PPV. Perhaps the Play School Theme may be better and I have heard rumour that responding to Bach/Vivaldi in the womb is also a good sign, "to love music is to have a soul" or was it visa versa.

Shame that all pregnancies can't result in the wonderful joy of a healthy baby, but pragmatism means that at least they won't result in the death of the mother if safe abortion is available. That is the bottom line. Like it or not, head in the sand with the other misogynists. The problem is unwanted/dangerous/damaged pregnancies.

Real anti-abortionists who care about women would be looking for solutions to that not dragging Aussies back to the dark ages of knitting needles. Has Abbott introduced free, easy available contraception that works? Combined with behavioural programs to cope with getting pissed and having a virile male nearby? "Just wait while I test my mucus?" Imagine it. Hope he gets the vote he deserves and resigns, wrong job, wrong person.

...one, purl one

Angela Ryan, you may not have considered the possibility that your three year old may actually possess a variant aesthetics. Your Persian was covertly being subverted or transgressed in favour of varnished timber or good Axminster?

On the subject of knitting needles I'd recommend Webdiarists a read of the "Compass" episode transcripts from Sunday that dealt with the stories of four women who endured the tribulations of unwanted pregnancy, back in the early 'sixties. The episode including a resume on the different strategies grim Necessity imposed on the women and how they coped or failed to cope with what had overtaken them. Sitting rather stunned at the end, I marvelled at what a little historical retrospective can do for a sense of proportion on the progress of a given issue. As a kid growing up then, I was filled with the mythologies and streamlined optimism of "modern progress", but after last night's episode I ponder the likelihood that social thinking and contemporary medical and psychiatric services were barely emerging from the Victorian era or even the Dark Ages.

I suppose the real stupidity you described in your second paragraph is found in the example of Bush denying funding for family planning and contraception in the third world, due to pressure from the religious right. They don't like abortion, but they won't allow people in a resource-stretched world of six and half billion - often poor people - even the choice, let alone reality, of an alternative.

As for being misogynistic yes, I suppose so. One doesn't slough off the pathologies of a lifetime since they are often inhered by processes way beyond the control of a kid, being part of a person, before they were ever even conscious of it. In fact, what is it that comprises our consciousness? It seems a necessary precondition that one is, just, unaware of something that is part of and determining of, their very being and cultural reference.

I do what I can and hope I consciously dislike no person, or react quickly enough to withhold judgement prior to investigation, when I sense I'm falling into the trap, to avoid doing harm as often as possible.

Dana Vale rides again....

Hi Paul, actually I think she has a real problem with it, the carpet. Perhaps it is a form of free speech that some can only dream of but today she outdid the wine with two personal donations, jumped in by Barbie. Then again it was actually bought in Delhi, so the issue is confused and one should not project. An Axminster? Is that a British carpet? Or a British carpet made under license also in Delhi? Barbie would defeat it anyway: with that form of dance shoe, one is invincible.

There are little windows of hope for a compassionate society when I read of Tony Blair and the British Government stepping in to fund third world contraception in all its forms, to fill the gap that Bush ideologues has caused. A sceptic would say it is just to get a foot hold in Africa but who knows? I can't fathom the guy, as I thought he was staunchly in the Vatican/Iranian anti-contraception camp. Maybe a vote desperato especially after the latest fiasco loss. Fiona summarises it beautifully up high there on the page.

Now for the comic relief, good old Dana can be relied upon. Her Telegraph source (hehehehe) tells her some racial nutwing declares we shall be a Moslem nation in 50 years (only if Indonesia invades or we have a massive conversion, then who would be around that cared?) and dear Dana is fearful of immigration and especially FERTILITY issues, omigodanoralcontraceptive, as the cause. Yep, she seriously said that. I could see the surrounding female pro-controllers shrink away and ever so unloyally separate themselves from her statement. The journos feasted as one would expect and I haven't stopped laughing about that one for a while. Wasn't this woman a minister of something? Hilarious bit of xenophobia. Shows how dangerous it is to read the Telegraph when one has limited means to assess what is written.

Had to tune into her Parliamentary speech tonight, and wasn't disappointed. Someone had obviously said to make sure you say the debate isn't about abortion, she said it about five times, just before leading in about abortion and medication for it. She also declared with the wonderful example the Howard Ministers had shown in decision making in the going into the War in Iraq and the AWB (I kid you not, these were her examples - she must have been really pissed with the party room, eh? Ready to blab or just so stupid she believes it) that the Health Minister was the best person to have accountable power. She even got the investigation into RU486 by the infection specialists around the wrong way - there is suspicion of what may have caused the three deaths on the trial, all from a rare Clistridium, and that is going to be investigated. Usually such a thing suggests contamination, but await the enquiry. No, Dana it is not yet fuel for anti-RU486 but may even be blowback. She then got Misopritol confused in the issue, obviously out of her depth in the data. I think she writes her own speeches. It would really be interesting to read it if anyone is interested themselves in an example of a Howard parliamentary secretary in action...

Sad to see a Member of Parliament display such racist xenophobia and ignorance and stupidity, yet not surprising given her confused contradictory stand in this debate, and her little deceitful attempt to, by subterfuge, use an amendment in her name to thwart the intended result of the Bill.

Are they clever or simple

I love the argument put forth by senators that this is a decision that should be held by the TGA.  The argument has already been put that this drug could hardly be considered therapeutic, but still these senators persist.  The doctors and the scientists are the best people to judge this drug on its merits.  Are they really that simple to think that they can divorce the political element from this drug?

Yes this drug does have a politcal element.  These senators who introduced this bill alternated between sticking their head in the sand over its political element (a purely medical/scientific decision is needed) and volunteering their own pregnancy termination history as argument.

So no matter how they try they could not and will not divorce the political element from this decision.  They may have even introduced a political element into the TGA by failing to resolve it.  Who is to say that TGA appointments in the future could not be swayed by political decisions aka U.S. Supreme Court.

These senators are either ignorant or afraid of resolving the political element of this drug.  If a health minister feels strongly about this issue many of his supporters are going to look for ways for him to influence this policy if it makes it through the House of Reps.  You can not stomp on people's wishes in a democratic society. Maybe some in this forum would like to oppress their opponents so they fear to raise their heads. Good luck, I suspect you have been successful for about 30 years, but your time is coming.

This forum would like to lead by argument and discussion, well stop avoiding the tough ones and help resolve this political abscess.

TGA has no ostriches unlike the front bench, a mass of feathers

Hi Steve, am pleased to see you say that "you cannot stomp on people's wishes in a democratic society". By that I presume you are accepting of the population's support for the availability of safe abortion when medically required as stated in the present legislation regarding abortion. I wouldn't myself go as far as "freely available on demand", even though the recent published survey in the SMH showed nearly 50% were for such a further liberalisation. Surveys can be so manipulated to be any result, can't they?

So as we are in agreement that is an expected therapy to be available in certain situations, shouldn't the safest and most efficacious therapy be available as the treatment? Especially as it is cheaper and gives more money for other worthy causes like heart operations and transplants etc. So who is best placed to decide the benfits or otherwise, medically, of a therapy or a procedure? Well, of course the TGA. It is true that it is not elected by the people, but it is appointed by those as such. Would it offer greater cared and oversigth of its duties than a minister - well, it would be hard not to wouldn't it?

There have been recent controversial appointments, such as the Howard initiative of having drug companies having voting positions. The current chair, and people like Prof David Henry, have the best of qualifications and reputations to ensure a responsible decision making process with open accountability. Perhaps we could hand all government business over to such people. We may have no need for Royal commissions. Until, that is, they want the TGA broken up and a private firm to get the business. How is the AWB by the way?

RU486vAWB? & the winner is…DMO.

RU486vAWB? & the winner is…DMO.

Not “Getting so bloody tired of this bloody government,” Wendy? Then watch a woman strangle the Octopus Dei. Coming soon, in a national capital near you, a remarkable debate between Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd : “Who has the worst opposing minister?” Did the persistent Ms Gillard know something the Liberal front bench (and especially a “tired” Mr Abbott) didn’t?

The debate, set for March 27, was announced somewhat before Howard’s celebrated ‘shuffle’, leaving Big Kevvie with L’il Alex and Red Julia hooked up with Octopus Dei Abbott. And all their AWB and RU486 baggage. Should be a hoot.

But the current government front bench would give anybody a chance to go head to head with a bloody log – lookit the Country Party boyz, snoring contentedly In Cockies’ Corner. Saddam’s Bagmen have never had it so good. Until Blarnyby flapped onto the scene, clucking wildly, stirring up dust and frightening the hens. And poor Julian was took by foxes…

And on the Liberal side, look what Robert McClelland has to contend with over at Defence; namby pamby, workshy Brendan “I is killed all them students, duh” Nelson is all that stands between us and the War on Error. Frightening.

Meanwhile the Prime Minister, who eight years ago went to a Victorian duck shooters’ rally in full body armour, sends blokes to Iraq in ratshot, dangerous armoured vests. See the Australian front page story on the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO), “Faulty gear puts troops at risk” 11 February 2006.

By the way, what did J Winston Howard I wear in the way of armour last time he was filmed on active service in Iraq? And speaking of acronyms… Is the reason Saddam never picked up WMDs with our AWB $300M backhander because he used our DMO (now Brendan’s)? But at least the Diggers aren’t using RU486.

RU486

Sigh... This is such an emotional debate and always will be.

For me it has always been the issue that a woman has the ultimate right to make decisions about her body and that politicians, especially male ones, have absolutely no business interferring.

Now Howard and Abbott are trying to make it sound like to vote for this bill will be a vote for lack of confidence in ministerial responsiblity. What a lot of garbage! As usual Howard is trying to manipulate parliament to do his bidding. And in turn the bidding of the religious right. This is an issue only for the Thearputic Goods Administration as they are the body with the skills and expertise to decide the merits of this drug. Not some bloody minded politician with his own religious and political agenda. 

I have taken Andrew Bartlett's suggestion and written to my local MP. We need to keep the pressure on as the religious nut bags are certainly doing so. I am so tired of all this. Surely women won the rigths to govern their own reproductive choices a long, long time ago. Why stir this all up again?

People condemn the way women are treated in some fundamentalist Muslim countries. Well, surely if we go down the path of not allowing women choice over their bodies again we are just as bad as those fundamentalists?

We live in a free democracy last time I checked. Why won't governments butt out instead of thinking they know best? They don't. And they certainly don't have any sort of mandate to dictate to women how they choose or choose not to reproduce.

I am getting so bloody tired of this bloody government.

Such an Awesome Subject

I can hardly think of a better subject to discuss than pregnancy termination.  I see calls by some for Australia to mature and decide what defines us.  Well I can't help but think that the liberty and financial support we have provided women to terminate pregnancies at their wish, is so fundamental that it should be included in our values.

I regularly hear people dramatically exclaim, why are we even discussing abortion, it was decided long ago and there is nothing to add.  I accept that some people are more than happy to reject any argument that threatens a women's liberty to terminate.  I understand that many people steadfastly believe men should stay out of this discussion much less the decision.  Is that truly fair?

As males we are at least equally responsible for our societies values so how can anyone justify excluding half the population from discussing a liberty that fundamentally flavours our society, even if it involves a WOMAN'S body.  It is just liberties, like the liberty to terminate a pregnancy, that defines us to the world.  Please be reasonable.  Yes this is an emotional issue, but it does define us, so can we please rise above our emotions.

Dare I say that this liberty we grant and financially support "abortion" is a liberty at the expense of the foetus.  Like it has already been said, few women who intend to keep their foetuses, call them foetuses, regardless of how immature the development is.  But I will use foetus, from time to time to try and appease those who would like to dictate our language to us, to enable them to enjoy their liberty.  Does Australia really want to mandate and exercise a liberty at the expense of a foetus?  A foetus is human life, regardless of how undeveloped.

Is Australia mature enough to ask itself about such a liberty, to really ask the people?  I keep reading as much written on this subject as I can, and I can not help but come to the conclusion that many people reject asking the people this question.  And so many of these people who are welded to their opinions consider themselves progressive.

So I say, are you afraid of the question?  Could you handle if the question was posed in a referendum?  If you begin to get hysterical/emotional at the thought, should those of us who don't, let you try and persuade us?  Really!

Spot on

Wendy and Denise, the voting numbers tells the story don't they? A high percentage of female MPs voted for the bill and that is how it should be.

It seems to me that males don't recognise that having abortion as a choice does not mean it is compulsory. Although for certain MPs that should have been the case. Here's the point - abortion is available as a choice for women who want to take that option. Full stop.

As a male I have no idea why so many men seem to think they should have control of what is, to me, a clearly personal decision by any woman. Yes of course it should be a joint decision in a perfect relationship but it is the woman who has the right to decide what happens to her. Or should be for those countries where that doesn't occur.

Speaking of being tired of bloody governments though Wendy, I am also that sick of State governments who take the same view of us, the public. To me there is no difference between the Parties at both Fed and State level.

As to Ministerial responsibility, when did that become an issue again? I haven't seen any evidence of such responsibility for quite some years now. It makes me laugh to hear Abbott pouring his little heart out about him being the person under pressure.  Poor baby.. Wonder how he'd feel if his God suddenly granted males the ability to give birth? Perhaps he would be celibate then.

RU486 on the thin edge of the wedge

Ofcourse this is only the beginning of it all - the christian rights ultimate aim is to stop contraception altogether.

Hasn't Tony upped the stakes

Hasn't Tony upped the stakes eh? Made it no longer a conscience vote but a party confidence vote in it's ministers, how typically bullyish and slimy of this creep. He is just as he was in Uni days, using the same old tactics. The PM has thrown in his weight recognising this. So, that means the two will need to resign if the House of Reps votes for the Bill. Are you reading this Peter?? Gee, Choose: another day in front of the Sing-alongs or the leadership? Personally I think Malcolm would make the best leader, at least we should get proper corporate governship and ministers would be responsible for what goes on in their department. Maybe it would make a great message of disastisfaction for the ministers of Howard's regime. Amanda in Health and Malcom leading, Peter in? Finance still, and pull up the dissenters for some backbone and intelligence the cabinet. Might even not throught the next election that way. Anything other than more Howard or Beazley.

Nettle

This is such asn emotional and complex debate, I'm not going to even attempt it.

I will say I have one rule when it comes to politics in this country: If Senator Nettle is for it, then it must be wrong.

 

 

yay team.

Spoken like a true blue/red or what ever the current neo colours are nowadays for the team. Ya know Justin sometimes even I have found things that you say that I totally agree with - probably not visa-versa - I can accept that.

That has been what I have learnt from Webdiary. To listen to the argument, dismiss the stooge spinners but take careful reflection upon those sincere enough to share their thoughts.

I wonder how Senator Lightfoot would have voted?

Troeth in advertising

How pig-headed the zealots are!

You would think, with all the affront to sensibilites D and C abortion causes, plus trauma for women forced to use that antiquated technique later in pregnancy, something as simple, and employed so soon after conception as RU486, would be seen as a god-given solution to  the problem. This is given that an embryo or foetus could in no stretch of the imagination be considered "living", in any meaningful sense of the word, so early in pregnancy.

But no, we can't have that , can we? It would deny the whole subceptional intention of this subject in  its form as a means of/for social control; its function as a means of dominance and social control.

Have people watched the way Abbott, Minchin and Howard ( let alone some the female advocates with their hiccuppy hysteria and emotionalism! ) have carried on?

In Munchkin's case it all revolved around the fact that someone went ahead flouting his imagained sense of control; in effect disobeyed orders. That this undercurrent of male control issues paranoia with its therefore accompanying evidence of lack of self -awareness, should still have had such a collective "life" in the twenty-first century , in other forums also, stuns me as a bloke!

We are not the poor beggars who have to carry the weight for nine months, often spewing our guts up in the mornings ( the great writer Charlotte Bronte evidently met her death at a young age, through a form of this symptom). We are not the ones who have to go through the apparently excruciating, at times, ordeal of childbirth. We are not the "kid support default", with life- responsibility dumped on us by an uncaring society, when a relationship packs in, or the ones who have the threat of desertion employed as a threat to ensure compliance in other situations, once the kid is there to keep the woman "grounded".

Minchin apparently griped because the women went ahead with out first consulting him. Well, he was not even married to the her: what should she have done, given therefore the uncertainty she must have had to face concerning her future. You'd hae thought he would voted for RU 486 out of respect for what his lady had had to go through.  And we all remember the story of Abbott's response, when confronted with the threat of such a responsibility at a personal level, years ago.

The notion of an unqualified politician with the final say concerning a medication, rather than a panel of appropriately-trained scientists able to assess the medicine's efficacy is ludicris enough. But to have someone who carries such a burden  of emotional and ideological baggage as to arguably taken control of him at the expense of his judgment, beggars belief!

And for anti-RU 486 activists to say they are concerned at this issue so fundamentally involving women primarily through a supposed concern for their health; that is the most detestable tactic of all!

PS. Many others, I'm sure, have noted how the notion of "ministerial responsibility" has belatedly broke out, involving this sole issue, after so many years of being snubbed concerning things like Kids overboard, DIMIA, Iraq, etc.

Isn't the voting facinating?

A world where fanatics of all breeds rule us and lead us to their wars of deception. Why the lies in this debate? Why claim 90,000 abortions per year? Only SA has the exact figures known. Why claim the harm that is not so? Why claim the breast cancer threat which is not so? Why ignore the realities of what happens when abortion is no longer available when needed? Why run a survey pretending a change in attitude of the population and then refuse to release the details of the study to academics? Why run a survey on whether abortion should be on-demand, when it is only available for medical reasons, and then ignore that nearly 50% said abortion on-demand was OK? Why claim this is about abortion legality per se, when it is about making available a drug that will wipe out abortion clinics financially? The two groups are natural allies in this. Why pretend they care about the woman's safety when this pill is safer than a surgical termination? Why the lies, lies, lies? Why are so many dogmatic anti-abortionists found guilty of paedophile activity? Why can terrorists who are anti-abortion blow up people and maim using the belief in the sanctity of life? Why do others in the same group condone this? Why are unborn children so precious to these people, but programs to help the born children with disability and learning difficulties and behaviour problems being radically cut in the US by Bush's Budget? Why have the death penalty, why are pro-lifers the biggest supporters of such? Why so fanatical about stopping women having terminations but so easy to lie about making a case for war? Why are all the fundamentalist religions so dictatorial to women? Why are they always led by men? Why are the same men opposed to abortion against supplying and promoting efficient birth control methods that are known to work that prevent unwanted pregnancy in unpredictable situations? The pill, nor injectable long term contraceptives,available on PBS. Some pharmacies refuse to stock the pill, the most efficient birth control. Why are the same pharmacists fanatically anti-abortion availability? Why are the same people condemning of single parents? Why, if it is all right to abort a rape pregnancy is it not all right to abort an unwanted pregnancy for another reason? Why is it all right to abort a pregnancy that will kill the mother and not all right for her to chose? Who makes these rules? Where does it say in the Bible that abortion is illegal? That the pill is illegal? That post coital contraception is illegal? Says, not interpreted to say. Thou shalt not kill? But you kill animals, you kill other soldiers, you kill in self defence, you turn off the brain dead person - or is that OK? What about an embryo before brain is functioning? Heart is beating?Just a mass of cells like a dot of microscopic caviar? Who decides these rules that are life changing decisions for a woman? Why is it not a crime to drink alcohol or smoke or take drugs at any time of pregnancy as assault?

The bottom line is these are heavy ethical questions and a person's convictions and religion may make different answers right for different persons. Is there a universal right and wrong in this? The eternal queations of philosophy, maybe? No, only what you believe to be so. So, why are the Fundamentalists pretending that there is? That their belief is our belief? Because they are fundamentalists. "They have the only truth". Why are they in positions of power? Because they didn't identify themselves as such prior, with two honest exceptions.I t should be on the how to vote card as it is important in deciding the very private personal issues of our lives. Abortion, contraception, divorce, adultery, sabbath, blasphemy, killing punishment -where do they stop in the proscription and control of others when in power? Who would vote for that? Their heaven is truly our hell. Welcome to Christian Iran.

‘MEDDLING PRIEST’ RIDES AGAIN

RU486 Frank? and the bloody rest… Will it be a good chance to throw RU486’s opponents into the flames on 2 March, 6pm, at the Manning Clark lecture at the National Library of Australia? Or be consumed in the flames oneself? And much more besides, especially for WDists. But heaven forfend one should go to stir up ruckus!

Note the speaker’s CV, especially his ”latest” book, Mixing Religion and Politics! Bedtime reading for Tony A and George P. Beats Harry Potter, boyz!

Perhaps given the current tenor of the land, the address could be: The Nine Bs: Bennelong, Bullying, Brutality, Bullshit, Bastardry, Bribes, Baghdad, Bill [Heffernan] and Board [Australian Wheat for the use of]

But the Manning Clark Lecture is

an address by outstanding scholar, thinker, humanitarian, and speaker, Fr Frank Brennan SJ AO - 5R's for the Enlargers: Rights, Race, Religion, Respect and the Republic.

Oh dear! Another “kardonnay! kardonnay! you pack of shunts!” leftie whinge, over latte.

Frank Brennan is a Jesuit priest, professor of law at the Australian Catholic University and the Notre Dame Professor of Human Rights and Social Justice. An adjunct Fellow in the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies at the ANU, he is founding director of Uniya, the Australian Jesuit Social Justice Centre. Fr Brennan has recently returned from a fellowship at Boston College. His books on Aboriginal issues include The Wik Debate, One Land One Nation, Sharing the Country and Land Rights Queensland Style. On civil liberties he has written Too Much Order with Too Little Law and Legislating Liberty.

Hmmm…sounds seditious.

His latest book .Tampering with Asylum compares Australia’s asylum policies with other first world countries. Recently he wrote the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council’s paper The Timor Sea’s Oil and Gas: What’s Fair?

Pure commo bullshit. That oil belongs to EXXon or somebody, not them f****’n natives!

His latest book Mixing Religion and Politics. is due for publication in 2006[!!!]

Fr Brennan is an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for services to Aboriginal Australians, particularly as an advocate in the areas of law, social justice and reconciliation. He and Pat Dodson shared the inaugural Human Rights Award presented by the Australian Council for Overseas Aid (ACFOA). While Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in East Timor, he was adviser to the East Timorese Church Working Group on the Constitution. Fr Brennan was awarded the Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal for his work in East Timor and the Australian Centenary Medal for his service with refugees and human rights work in the Asia Pacific Region. During the 1998 Wik debate, Paul Keating christened him “the meddling priest.” The National Trust has classified Fr Brennan as a Living National Treasure.

Not the sorta talk you might hear at Kirribilli House, but ride this tiger if you’re game, WDists.

Bookings (essential) and payments through Manning Clark House, T 02 6295 9433, F 02 6295 6029, $20/head, but half for Manning Clark House members. wwwwww.manningclark.org.au

Senate passes bill 45:28

See SMH

Have acted on Andrew Bartlett's suggestion

Acting on Andrew's suggestion I have today emailed my local member, Julie Owens MP for Parramatta in support of the bill.

The main point in my message is that the reason right to lifers oppose the availability of RU386 is that they believe that some women are deterred from terminating an unwanted pregnancy through inability to access surgical abortion or because they fear the procedure. If this is indeed the case then these women need RU386 to be available as it will allow them control of their fertility which they currently lack.

A secondary point is that no drug or medical procedure is absolutely safe. The most we have a right to expect is relative safety, and the worldwide consensus among doctors is that RU386 is relatively safe compared to surgical abortion and to childbirth.

The text of my email follows:

Re bill to transfer power to authorize use of RU486 from the federal health minister to the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

The Honourable Julie Owens

Dear Madam,

I have just been reading an article by Senator Andrew Bartlett from his weblog and also posted on The Web Diary. He draws attention to the fact that the overwhelming preponderance of letters he received are from ideological opponents of the bill and he reminds supporters of the intent of the bill that “they should get busy making damn sure their local House of Reps member knows that (they support it) before next week”. Therefore I am sending you this email.

I point out that the imbalance of emails simply reflects the tight organization of the Christofascist right that allows them to marshal so many signatures; it does not necessarily represent the true balance of public opinion.

I support a woman's right to control her fertility using any safe means. Since contraception does not always work and is sometimes not used though it turns out to have been necessary, abortion is necessary as a backstop. The world-wide consensus seems to be that RU386 is relatively safe and relatively safety is the most one can expect from any drug or medical procedure. Therefore RU386 should be available in Australia. Abortion is already legal in this country therefore there is no point in outlawing one particular safe means, unless as obviously do the every sperm is sacred crowd, one believes that there are some women who fear surgical abortion or do not have access to it and therefore continue to term with unwanted pregnancies. If such women exist they need RU486 to be available.

Yours sincerely.

C W R Moulton

Sacred camels

Senator Bartlett's speech, and the commentary, is about as honest, clearcut, evenhanded and rational as we could hope.

Then, what is at the root of the screeching about "murdered mothers" coming from others in the same Chamber? The answer may lie in the direction of Catholic dogma, especially regarding their belief about the status of the newborn and the rites that are supposed to determine the eternal destiny of infants. That is, any child who does not receive a sacrament from the hand of a divinely ordained priest is at risk of being lost forever - unless I am mistaken.

The kind of fanatical deceit that is being drawn across the debate about the Bill is very similar to the Danish cartoons saga. Apparently this particular Islamic "cause" was enhanced during the rapid transfer from Europe to Lebanon, Syria and Iran. A couple of links (Juan Cole, Cartoons & Looney Tunes, phony cartoons) provide evidence that vicious propaganda was allowed to become mixed in with the original 12 drawings. The Danish 12 were banal and inoffensive, but the later additions were calculated to offend. It's no wonder there have been riots and mayhem.

Steve Bell of Guardian would do a fine job on Barnaby Joyce and Steve Fielding.

Of course, ordinary people do believe they are recipients of sacred orders, given directly from God, and that to fail is to put themselves under threat of punishment. These are dangerous times, even more so because fanaticism is cross-fertilising itself.

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