Saturday, 21 September 2019

Busy Saturday (photo heavy)

Saturday didn’t really go to plan.  I’m good with that.

It was Red Cross that actually woke me.  My phone rang at 8:10am.  It was my Telecross convenor checking that I would, in fact, be making calls today.  I pulled myself together and grabbed my file and notebook and began calling the list: all clients were well.

It was still warm in the morning but there were some showers approaching the city.  I decided to do the laundry and groceries before going for a good run that I was kind of looking forward to.  I’d done this and was ironing my shirts when my pager went off for a roof damage callout in Fitzroy.  The Unit Duty Officer called for volunteers and I said I’d go.  We had good numbers (crew of 6, and two vehicles).

Unfortunately, the location was against us: a second story roof in a very built up area with no readily obvious way of setting up our rooftop safety system or even of accessing the roof by ladder.  Because the callout was in any case to commercial premises we recommended they contact their landlord.  Sometimes callouts work out that way.

On return to LHQ we set to work on some maintenance and clean-up tasks that were overdue, including cleaning up the sandbag storage.  This basically blotted up the time I’d set aside for running.  I didn’t care. I was overdue for penance and so I tried to do the work in that spirit.

I was back at my digs by 4:30 and decided to follow through on the evening’s planned excursion: going down to Middle Park to attend Vigil Mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel and a beer at the Middle Park Hotel.
Our Lady of Mt Carmel Church, Middle Park, Australia

Our Lady’s at Middle Park was built in the 1920s and seems to have been remodelled at some point to put the altar near the middle of the church.  Novel layout aside, it has a beautiful, peaceful design and the liturgy was set stunningly to organ music at a number of points.

Our Lady of Mt Carmel Church, Middle Park, Australia
The Middle Park Hotel looked good from the outside and was high-gloss inside.  The crowd was watching the Collingwood-GWS game and shouting alarmingly at intervals.  I had my pint of beer and drafted a blogpost.

Middle Park Hotel
I was a bit sick of people and just wanted some peace and quiet.  I got the tram back towards my digs and got off to go to the Brandon Hotel, which contents itself with music and comfortable chairs.  The food smells good but I haven't tried it yet.  I had a glass of very good house red and read my CW.

Brandon Hotel, Fitzroy.
I walked home from there and finished the ironing.  Once I post this I'll go and have dinner and then turn in.  It's been a packed Saturday; I've enjoyed it.

A simple Friday

Friday went surprisingly well for me.  The timing uniformly broke my way.

I woke up at 6:30am, somewhat unexpectedly.  I decided to go to early Mass rather than wait till lunch time.  I hadn’t been to confession (and had a few sins on my conscience that I expect I’ll repeat, sadly) so communion was a no-go.  This was a shame but is probably what I deserved.

Stained glass window, St Francis' church, Melbourne
Most Fridays I buy breakfast rather than making up oats and coffee in my office (as I usually do).  That’s just what I did.  Seven-11 does a good line in Vegemite scrolls and coffee and that was just what I felt like.  It’s the simple things, no?

The day itself was a bit of a blur save for conferences with clients in the morning and late afternoon.  As I usually do, I worked late into the evening, this time on a Federal Court appeal that’s coming up soon.

Seal of the Federal Court of Australia
I walked home along Lygon Street in the warm evening air.  It was still warm at about 11pm and so I stopped at the Great Northern for a pint of beer.  Once again, timing broke my way.  I arrived after that night's AFL match had finished and so I could have my drink in relative peace.  Call it prejudice, but long experience traveling on trains late on Friday and Saturday nights gave me a constant fear of AFL crowds: drunk, noisy and threatening.  Anyway, the quiet gave me time to plan my weekend to the half hour.  I was back at my digs by midnight and settled on dinner of sausage and cheese toasties and a bottle of el cheapo wine.

Simplicity, I think I can say with confidence, is a good thing.

Monday, 16 September 2019

Things misunderstood

I don't read the paper very often.  In the age of the Internet, newspapers like The Age and the Herald-Sun seem to spend most of their time playing catchup.  Even their op-ed sections are barely worth bothering with: between regular columnists and a cadre of letter writers one can readily guess what the range of opinion will be on any given topic.

While I was buying my lunch the other week, I did however flip through The Age to kill time.  One of the letters dealt with the proposal (now law) to force priests to violate the confessional where abuse allegations are concerned.  The letter itself was unremarkable apart from two surprising misunderstandings that it revealed:

The Age, 20 August 2019
The second paragraph is awkwardly worded, and one can't be sure whether the "it" refers to the Church or the Confessional.  Regardless, the assumption that either the sacrament of penance or the church itself emphasises a shame-based view of sexuality is simply wrong.  Far from shame, what we are urged to, whatever our desires may be, is simply to be more than our instincts make us.

The other misunderstanding was a belief that the confessional is an ordeal.  If it is, it is because confession demands that the penitent be honest with themself, and hear his or her own voice saying the ugly, vile things that they were willing to do when (in general) nobody was watching.  The only ordeal is the loss of the opportunity to lie and to take comfort in a half-truth.  Fearing this sort of honesty is as hard an indictment of our culture as I can imagine.

Friday, 13 September 2019

Breaking Open the Confessional

It's been a long week, and in the midst of it came the news that a Bill with a bland title had been passed by the Legislative Council.  In due course, the Governor will provide royal assent and it will become law.

The bill in question is called the Children Legislation Amendment Bill 2019.  It amends a number of Acts, but the one that leaps out at me as problematic are amendments of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (CYF Act) and the Evidence Act 2008.

Image from here
The text of the bill can be found here.  Once its amendments are made, sections 182 and 184 of the CYF Act will relevantly read as follows -
Section 182 - Who is a mandatory reporter?
(1)   The following persons are mandatory reporters for the purposes of this Act— ...
   (ea)     a person in religious ministry;... .

Section 184 - Mandatory reporting
(1)     A mandatory reporter who, in the course of ... carrying out the duties of his or her office ... forms the belief on reasonable grounds that a child is in need of protection ... must report to the Secretary that belief and the reasonable grounds for it as soon as practicable ...

Penalty:     10 penalty units. ...

(2A)    To avoid doubt, a person is not exempt from the requirement to report under subsection (1) merely because the information would be privileged under section 127 of the Evidence Act 2008. ...

This amendment dovetails with section 327 of the Crimes Act 1958.  This section relevantly provides that
Section 327 - Failure to disclose sexual offence committed against child under the age of 16 years 
(2)     ... a person of or over the age of 18 years (whether in Victoria or elsewhere) who has information that leads the person to form a reasonable belief that a sexual offence has been committed in Victoria against a child under the age of 16 years by another person of or over the age of 18 years must disclose that information to a police officer as soon as it is practicable to do so, unless the person has a reasonable excuse for not doing so.

Penalty:     3 years imprisonment. ...
This all seems fairly unremarkable, and perhaps even desirable, until we come to the amendments to the Evidence Act.  Post-amendment, section 127 of that Act now relevantly reads as follows -
Section 127 - Religious confessions
(1)     A person who is or was a member of the clergy of any church or religious denomination is entitled to refuse to divulge that a religious confession was made, or the contents of a religious confession made, to the person when a member of the clergy.

(2)    Subsection (1) does not apply— ...
   (b)        in a proceeding for an offence against section 184 of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005; or
    (c)    in a proceeding for an offence against section 327(2) of the Crimes Act 1958. ...

(4)     In this section, "religious confession" means a confession made by a person to a member of the clergy in the member's professional capacity according to the ritual of the church or religious denomination concerned.
The effect of this is hopefully tolerably clear: in cases falling under the CYF Act or the Crimes Act, a priest may now be prosecuted for failing to maintain the seal of the confessional.  In these cases, a cleric is to be obliged to violate a sacrament and to excommunicate himself.  One who dies in such a condition has no hope of salvation.  It is difficult to imagine a more fundamental attack on a faith (the Minister who steered the legislation through Parliament claimed it applied to a range of faiths, although it's fair to say that nobody seriously thinks it was aimed at anyone except Catholics)

Regrettably, section 116 of Australia's Constitution offers little protection at all.  In relevant part, it says that "The Commonwealth shall not make any law ... for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion".  Leaving aside the question of whether s.116 applies to State legislatures, the High Court long ago emptied the section of most of its force.  As Griffith CJ put it in Krygger v Williams (1912) 15 CLR 366 -
To require a man to do a thing which has nothing at all to do with religion is not prohibiting him from a free exercise of religion. It may be that a law requiring a man to do an act which his religion forbids would be objectionable on moral grounds, but it does not come within the prohibition of sec. 116, and the justification for a refusal to obey a law of that kind must be found elsewhere. 
I remember my long-ago lecturer in Criminal Law went through a thought experiment where he demonstrated that virtually any law, even of the most 1984-esque type, could be rationalised as being for the protection of children. Seeing this attack on the practices of one denomination in particular, I have to agree.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Parental leave for fathers and husbands

My blog and twitter feeds are remarkably eclectic.  One line of content I often find myself reading might be classed as "old fashioned", or even traditionalist.  I'm not a great fan of the traditionalism as a concept (it seems to me to be a contradiction in terms), but the older I get I do tend to think that "the old ways" in general have merit to them.

This was brought into sharp relief for me this evening when I read a story on the ABC website by the always-perceptive Annabel Crabb.  On the subject of why men tend to take little or no parental leave she wrote -
In 2015, at the University of Adelaide, researchers decided to talk to some fathers in great depth about the decisions they made at work and why. Not just about the decisions they made as fathers, but also about what they felt were the expectations of them. Many of these men worked full-time, and many employed some kind of flexibility. ...
Significantly, the men tended to describe and identify themselves with reference to their work and their need to provide for their families, not through their roles as carers. They explained their flexible work as something they'd earned through being good workers; it was all calculated by reference to work.
The article goes on to note that workplaces in general tend to be much less flexible where fathers (as opposed to mothers) are concerned.  This is probably true, at least based on my direct experience.  Nevertheless, the passage above suggests something about family dynamics this is more profound than a mere quibble about working conditions.

It seems to me that a father who works faces a more-or-less intractable problem.  I'm old-fashioned enough to think most men pride themselves on being hard-working, even when their work-ethic is less than entirely voluntary.  This dovetails with the economic imperative to work hard after children are born.  Children are flatly expensive, and you become desperately aware that one or two little people now rely on you absolutely to get things right.  This, too, helps you to keep working.  Working all the time, incidentally, is a good way of actually avoiding having to choose between work and family.  Like many drugs, one of work's values is that it saves you from having to confront some problems.

This all makes it seem simple, which is where we get to the problem: most men love their wives.  Even if being an involved father isn't what we're naturally called to, we know that our significant other is doing it hard and we want to help.  I don't think any man is ever indifferent to that.  So, there we immediately find ourselves pulled away from work and into the domestic realm.  But once there, a 'push' starts to work as well.  Notwithstanding the comments to the Facebook post above, my impression is that many women have mixed feelings about their husbands are an active part of the domestic space.  On one hand, there's mistrust (it was not until they were many months old that The Ex trusted me to take our daughters out on my own).  On another hand, there is esteem: my impression is that, for many wives, their husband as breadwinner remains a person worthy of respect (as it does for the husband: nothing was more crushing than being reminded that I did not earn enough to allow The Ex to spend longer at home with our daughters).  And on a third hand, I suspect there is a fear that asking too much of an employer may place the working spouse's job at risk.

A Barmaid at Work in Petty's Hotel, Sydney, 6 pm, 1941 (Image from here)
Put like this, it becomes easier to understand the Australian custom of the six-o'clock-swill, where men going home after work would drink as much as possible before the bars closed.  Cushioning the transition from work to home is understandable, if not actually laudable.

All of which says to me that whenever husbands are pondering whether to agitate for parental leave, they should think through the issues this way: Good Husband; Involved Father; Hard Worker: Pick any two.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Searching in the rain

It's been a funny sort of day here.  The best bit was the evening.  The working day was a little frustrating: I'd planned a range of things for the morning and afternoon, but by 5pm I'd only got through the morning's work.  On the other hand, the work had been done well and won't have to be redone, so it's probably for the best.

The evening took me to SES for a multi-unit land search exercise.  Northcote teamed up with SES Units from Broadmeadows, Footscray and Essendon on a large-scale search exercise in parkland in Darebin.  A staging area was set up powered by generators, and the Regional Support Unit brought over the Forward Operations Vehicle (a van equipped with all sorts of communications gear - essentially a command point on wheels).

I found myself tasked with leading a three-crew search group.  Fair enough.  I was relieved to find I managed OK, and the crews involved performed very well.  It began to rain as we returned, had some food and began to pack up.  We were back at LHQ by 2230 and I was home by 2320.

It's been an invigorating evening: doing something well reminds you what you're capable of.  I kind of needed that just now.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Sunday's diary

There are rocks in this world.  One of them is Sunday afternoon.  Once upon a time it was an afternoon for drinking heavily with the Ex and a mutual friend and watching college football (Geaux Tigers!).  It wasn't a rock then.  At worst it was a moment tinted with sadness after spending two days with my best friend.  But that was a long time ago and a very different edition of me.   But now when the afternoon is cloudy and you’ve already had too much to drink and the pub feels kind of empty?  That’s when the ship of the weekend hits the sandbar and you start wondering what happened.

It’s been an anticlimactic Sunday. I was up at 9:30am (the shame of it all!). Breakfast was coffee and a cheese-and-vegemite  scroll from 7-Eleven.  Sadly, there was no FaceTime with the girls today (Ex had gone out for her birthday and the girls were with their uncle Philip).  I put the time to use clearing my email backlog and writing a lawblog post and doing some SES paperwork.  I wasn't hungry and gave lunch a miss.  Dealing with correspondence and paperwork took until about 2pm.  There was a big rain shower coming by then and so I set to meditating for about 40 minutes while I waited it to clear.

By a little after 3pm the showers had cleared.  I put a podcast from BBC World Service's Forum on and walked to the Pinnacle Hotel in Fitzroy for a glass of wine and a bowl of chips and a spell of reading The Benedict Option.

I read until the chips were finished and then felt like doing a little people-watching.  I had a second glass of wine and walked back into the packed bar.  There were lots of groups of people, mainly young people in threes and fours, and an old couple who were tapping their feet to the (genuinely good) rockabilly band that was playing. 

I felt a bit flat and decided to walk down Scotchmer Street to the Great Northern Hotel for a beer.  The GNH has a small lounge with a couple of booths and some sofas and I settled into one of the latter with a pint of IPA and my book.  The pint finished ,I called it an afternoon and walked home, which brings me to now: typing a blogpost and listening to Safe Trip Home.

The rest of the evening?  I'll write a letter to the girls and have dinner and maybe get an early night.  Roll on summer, when I can return electrically to life.