Last year I was invited to dinner with the then Prime Minister. There was some conversation - about keeping in shape, tough jobs, manicures. I was sitting right next to her and she looked at my tattoos and kind of wrinkled her face.
"But WHY would you do that to yourself?"
"Because it just feels so good."
The Prime Minister didn't understand. I was waiting for the appropriate time to talk to her about foreign aid and asylum seekers, decided I'd just have to butt right into the conversation between the main course and dessert. I did, loudly. As I spoke the Prime Minster sat up straight, back stiff, recalibrating her brain to talk about something "official."
"So, do you really know how many people in Australia care about asylum seekers? And how we're treating them in this country is inhumane? We have detention camps. What are you actually doing about it?"
The dessert was served - exceptional. The Prime Minister tried to explain to me how complicated it was and we ended up the conversation about how a lot of the people smugglers take desperate peoples money to step onto leaky and dangerous boats - even with their children. For a better life. Away from their unsafe countries. Her focus was on the people smugglers, not the people themselves. Nice dodge.
Then there was the "funny story" she told us all during dinner about an asylum seeker "centre" (detention camp) where often, desperate people disguise themselves and lie about coming from other countries in the chance they will be allowed to stay in Australia.
She said that oftentimes, Pakistanis look a lot like Afghanis and it's hard to tell the difference so you know what they do? (This is so funny you guys ...)
The Prime Minster told us that in the middle of a hot sweltering day, one of the guards in the detention camp drop a huge cricket bag in the middle of the field while everybody is just standing there with nothing to do.
And then they wait. It's a generalisation that only Pakistanis love cricket because people from other countries love cricket too but MAN. Can you imagine being bored out of your brain, your wife and children back at home hopefully somewhere safe while you try to establish yourself in a new, safe country ... and you're standing in the heat so bored and could quite go a game of cricket?
By the end of the day, the guards can weed out the Pakistanis who have said they are Afghanis GOTCHA!
I told my therapist this story and he said that Afghanis do actually play cricket too and I said "I KNOW!"
At the end of the Prime Ministers story I didn't laugh, just kind of wrinkled my face.
I knew I was being used to get people on her side before the election and I did all I could for Abbott to not come into power because Abbott. Didn't work so well. She needed better advisors. The Labor party were actively working against her and everything she did was pulled apart and dissected. The treatment of her was disgusting - if she were a man she'd still be in power. But still, the mentality of what she was saying was way off.
And now there's talk of the current government cutting aid AGAIN so I'd just like to quickly illustrate what the two words "cut aid" actually means ... here's some facts. I made sure to get them right.
I just got back from a gruelling week-long trip to Uganda where World Vision Australia partner with UYDEL, a local -based organisation who identify at-risk girls. These girls can hire a room in a brothel for $30,000 Ugandan Schillings per night which would require them to service six men just to recuperate this money.
They have a facility to rehabilitate and provide vocational training skills to 300 girls. The rehabilitation program goes for 6-9 months. They have seven centres in different districts. They get taught new skills, training, a better way to live their lives.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) also fund the UPLIFT Project, Currently in its second year of implementation it will run for four years. Hopefully. Sexual and reproductive health outreach is key focus and the targets are 13-25 year olds residing in slums. You ever been to a slum? Has any politician travelled to these places deciding where and why to cut money? These places are filled to the brim with people who need big help. It's as simple as that. Before he killed himself my brother Cameron would ALWAYS go to see Henry Rollins when he was on tour in Australia. I wish I went with him, just once.
Henry said a quote once about the poorest people in the world. "These people are your peers."
And they are. This is Ryans mother. Ryan is two months old and his mum is 13 years old - no dad on the scene. Unless she gets help to go back to school - which she really wants to do - then I don't know what will happen to her. At the moment she sews clothes by hand and man I just wanted to pull out my wallet from the car and give her money for a sewing machine but I couldn't be sure the money would go to a sewing machine and being part of the World Vision team, you're not allowed to give money to the people we meet in programmes. (Which didn't stop me hanging out money to people who WEREN'T in the programmes.) These projects that World Vision work on SAVE LIVES and let's be clear that when you talk about "cutting aid" you're talking about killing desperate people because without such life-saving programmes they will go back to poverty and misery and no hope. And these programs? Bring a lot of hope. Lack of hope can kill a person.
Look at the world from a broader perspective. My whole twenties I was on and off government welfare payments because I was too messed up to get a job. In and out of rehabs, a no-hoper. But I received free healthcare and enough money to get by and I don't know where I would be if I didn't.
Photo: Suzy Sainovski/World Vision
I am so grateful for the help I received when I needed it the most. We can all be oak trees, if given the chance.
I am SO DISGUSTED by the Abbot government. Asked a taxi driver in Uganda if he'd heard of Tony Abbott and he smiled.
"Yes. I saw him on CNN making derogatory remarks about women."
Yep, that's Abbott. Shame. You know how Joe Hockey danced with his wife in his office after he delivered the budget? (Hi Joe remember me? Though you didn't really look me in the eyes back then because I was beneath you.)
You know how when you're playing a game of cards and nobody is getting everywhere and the game is just not working so you throw them all in, mix them up, and start again? That's what needs to be done with this government. Chuck 'em all out, start again, people with new faces and good hearts. Tanya Plibersek is pretty cool. So's Penny Wong. Bill Shorten puts me to sleep. We need politicians with the same values as the rest of us, a bit of fire and passion in their belly. Not over-ambitious people who tread all over people to get power.
It's ironic that I filmed that piece above from Uganda before I even knew about talk of new foreign aid cuts. And if you don't like World Vision there's plenty of other causes and organisations you can get involved in. The few coins you toss into a basket, the goat you give somebody for Christmas, the child you sponsor? I take my hat off to you because you give your money in the HOPE that your money is going to the right place. It is. I have seen it. You are saving lives.
In the words of World Vision CEO Tim Costello today: "Today we are staring down a third successive cut to our aid budget in 18 months. More than 20% of all savings from the Government’s budget came from aid, and we need to tell him that enough is enough – every cut to aid has a human cost. You can contact Prime Minister Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey and call on them to maintain Australia’s aid budget.
Contact the office of Tony Abbott MP. Telephone: (02) 9977 6411 Email him via the Contact your PM page Send him a message on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #dontcutaid. Contact the office of Joe Hockey MP. Telephone: (02) 9929 9822 Email him on J.Hockey.MP@aph.gov.au Send him a message on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #dontcutaid. Thanks for your ongoing support - Tim Costello
And Joe? If you can ever be bothered to stop crunching numbers for a second and actually go visit the slum funded by DFAT in Kampala, Uganda, make sure you tell your wife to bring more than one set of stilettos for the dancing because when it rains in a slum the water overflows and raw sewerage goes everywhere and children die and your wife may get her shoes dirty.
And hopefully Ryans mum could possibly have a sewing machine by then and won't be selling her thirteen year old body to men while Ryan sleeps in the corner of a filthy hotel room.