July 6, 2010
Nick Brandt’s handsome exhibition of African photographs from his book A Shadow Falls, closes Wednesday 7 July at Shapiro Gallery Queen Street, Woollahra in Sydney. He does not use a telephoto lens and enjoys waiting for days, even weeks watching the extraordinary African panorama unfold closely before him. Unfortunately he has also witnessed over the years the declining numbers and the battle for resources like water. The closeness to his subjects exhibits patience and mutual trust that result in extraordinarily intimate, dignified and exquisite photographs that on a large scale, can be breathtakingly majestic. He is exclusively represented in the Pacific region by Source Photographica.
In Australia we have just had a coup d’etat, putsch, take over, dumping, or political assassination of our Prime Minister, with the formidable Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard replacing Kevin Rudd. Up until a few months ago he was polling very highly, then his public support just evaporated and he had made no Labor Party faction, allies or friends. His popularity decline started with what appeared to be his “backflip” over the Emissions Trading Scheme. He had described climate change as the “greatest moral challenge” we faced, and despite his zeal, never really explained to the public the complexities of the issues. Faced with the disappointment of Copenhagen, blocked ETS legislation in the Senate, and waning community support, he was leant on by Julia Gillard, Wayne Swan and other powerbrokers in the party, to shelve the legislation.
Julia Gillard becomes Australia’s first female Prime Minister which she is not making a fuss about, and has taken over seamlessly, overnight! She seemed to have a new wardrobe at the ready. I think she will be a very successful politician as she has already exhibited, pragmatic rather than visionary, will win the coming election, and be in power for many years. We are indebted to Kevin Rudd, especially for removing John Howard, and he seems to be effective internationally, and would be very useful at forums such as the United Nations. Barry Humphries aka Dame Edna Everage once said “in Australia if you stumble, they trample you to death”.
It has demonstrated who has power and influence with government – big business, millionaire miners, trade unions, party factions, polls, and the media.
Jessica Rudd, the ex PM’s daughter has written a book, Campaign Ruby, due out in August. It has been described in The Australian (26 June) as “a freakily prescient script for the way events actually unfolded… an incumbent prime minister rolled by his deputy… a woman, and the execution is a “swift and seamless move”.
We have witnessed not only the spectacular – and avoidable – unravelling of a prime minister, but a self inflicted spontaneous combustion. I have found it riveting, and the commentary in the papers excellent. New snippets of information are still emerging. I especially liked the articles by Peter Van Onsolen and Noel Pearson in The Australian (26-27 June). Noel advised the formerly, supposedly, left-leaning Julia “Many of the social ends you require liberal means, and what you want for the country will not transpire unless you harness the power of liberal answers to the social questions you hold dear”. Every politicians conundrum, as they battle for the centre/middle ground.
Julia has moved quickly to resolve a fight Rudd had picked with the mining industry over a new tax and now will have to articulate her policy on asylum seekers and the ETS. Many have been disappointed to learn she was in favour of shelving the ETS legislation – and she will have to explain herself! She believes in a price on carbon, but wants “community consensus” (she loves expressions like this), before she proceeds. Tim Flannery has endorsed the government’s model as effective (SMH 3-4 July), and there seems to be a momentum building again by people who do want to see some immediate action. Email your local MPs! This issue also cost Malcolm Turnbull the job as Leader of the Opposition.
The machinations and some of the accusations at the International Whaling Conference in Morocco were extraordinary, especially the behavior of the Japanese. Advaaz successfully assembled 1.2 million signatures on a petition to help fight lifting the ban on commercial whaling. Another example of successful internet activism.
A recent report states that by 2020 60% of Australia’s energy could come from 12 proposed solar-thermal plants, with the other 40% from wind energy from 23 sites (SMH 22 June Solar, wind power may meet 2020 energy use). Another report examines how industry especially could use energy much more efficiently, slashing emissions (SMH 24 June Companies told to get smart on power). There are alternatives to coal and uranium!
The Cove documentary is finally being shown in a few Japanese cinemas despite small but noisy and targeted opposition. The “mother of animal law” U.S. lawyer Joyce Tischler is visiting Australia in August (Voiceless)… Jan Cameron the wealthy founder of Katmandu clothing empire has set up the Animal Justice Fund especially aimed at the inherent cruelty of battery hen farms and piggeries. Two recent SMH “Lunch With” interviews have been heartening: young Simon Sheikh CEO of GetUp! with 350,000 enthusiastic members (SMH 26-27 June), and Linda Selvey, the recently appointed CEO of Greenpeace (SMH 3-4 July). Both are intelligent and effective advocates and leaders of campaigns for issues that concern many of us, such as the treatment of asylum seekers and climate change. Our leadership has been failing us.
All images courtesy of Nick Brandt and Source Photographica.