Bullying, Harassment, and Shrimps on the Barby

Posted on June 1st, 2008 by Cam.
Categories: Let's talk.

For about four years now I have been working on a series of writings that I hope to turn into documentaries and teaching resources. I hadn’t decided on a title for the series but the working title is “10 things I hate about Australia”. Oooh, harsh.

Now I love Australia, don’t get me wrong. But when you see incredible potential in something, the problems that stop it from reaching that potential need to be identified and discussed. My list includes Reconciliation (or lack thereof – this was prior to our new Government), Parliamentary Talk, Environmental Negligence, The Suicide Rate, Pornography Culture, Education Structure, etc. to name a few. There have been a few incidents recently that illustrate these shortcomings. Harassment and bullying are always on the radar.

During my time as a teacher, I did my fair share of sorting out issues to do with bullying in the playground. I also sifted through numerous programs and information packs tackling the bullying epidemic that seems to grow and change forms with the development of new techniques. There was a significant problem, however, in that all my plans and efforts were sabotaged many times a week and I would feel like we were losing the war on bullying. On of the most consistent saboteurs, I believe, is the Australian Parliament.

I think we are numb to the embarrassment that is our Australian Government during sitting. I cannot think of a better opportunity to demonstrate bullying at its finest than to turn on Parliamentary coverage during Question Time. If you want to see adults insulting each other, shouting over each other, booing each other, heckling and jeering each other, demonstrating classic mob bullying and getting away with it, you need look no further than Parliament House. It is all there. Not only is it tolerated, the members seem to love doing it.

So how do you tackle a nationwide epidemic of bullying? While schools and families struggle to contain the fallout, our nation’s leaders lead the way in how to do it properly. I would suggest that without a change in parliamentary culture and structure, we are going to continue to lose the battle. It angers me greatly to see our leaders setting this high standard of bullying, and there is absolutely no reason for it to remain. This behaviour is like a rancid stench that wafts over every facet of our society.

Another illustration. There is an entertainment show here in Australia that is based on Aussie Rules Football. There are basically a few sporting commentators, guest football players, a comedian or two and a few hosts. The guys involved generally put on their best man-voices and make football sound as essential to life as oxygen. One of the commentators recently pulled a skit where he mocked a female media colleague by stapling a photo of her face onto a mannequin and proceeded to humiliate with various actions including picking the mannequin up by the crotch and groping her.

The host was told to ‘take a break’ from the program, so I watched the beginning of the first show back where this host was first absent. For a good chunk of the show’s beginning, the two remaining hosts admitted that the skit was inappropriate. The remainder of the opening was spent making up excuses for the particular host saying things like the host probably came back a little to early after recent surgery, he hasn’t been himself recently, he really needs a good break, etc. After the barrage of excuses, they guaranteed “It may be two weeks, three weeks, or four weeks, but he will be back! Have no doubts about that folks!” The crowd clapped and cheered. Please.

Can you tell me in what other arena is this behaviour acceptable (aside from Parliament)? Where else could you do this and not be charged for harassment? Is further evidence needed? I am confused, but in the same way it is very clear to me why we have such strengths and talents in harassment and bullying in our culture. Why wouldn’t we?

So I am amazed with how little is done about this. We can count on this being a significant part of our culture until radical changes take place. Some cultures are internationally recognised by their traditional dress, dance or cuisine. We, as a nation, are quickly becoming recognised for our acceptance (and encouragement) of abuse through bullying and harassment. Being abused this way seems to be as Australian as shrimps on a barby.



Comment on June 2nd, 2008.

I hope you send part of this blog to our major newspapers, your comments need to be distributed at the highest level. I feel sorry for the women in parliament who have to endure this stuff. I hope they don’t start participating. Thanks Cameron.


Comment on June 2nd, 2008.

Unfortunately, bullying isn’t just the prerogative of Australians – it is a worldwide epidemic. Just look at the junta that is “bullying” every minority group within Burma, to the point of death (you may find what you read on the blogcast at http://www.partnersworld.org makes our parliament look like a kindy playground). Mugabe is another fine example and I am sure there are many others who will come to mind without too much effort. The thing is that nothing will change until this behaviour is recognised for what it is, and people worldwide make a united stand against it.
Lead the way, Cam!

Andrew B.

Comment on June 2nd, 2008.

Hi Cam.

Thanks for your latest post. In fact thanks for them all! Rarely a day goes by without my jumping on to see how things are going with you both. I was glad to read recently that you are looking forward to some normality and time back in the shop.

For the sake of a good discussion I want to throw a bit of support behind our parliament and the lively debate that goes on there. In particular the passionate question times that we have. I think they are a critical part of our country, our government and our future.

Of all the systems and administrations that have been delivered throughout history to help fallen and broken human beings govern their country, ours would have to be close to the best.

Parliament is about accountability and we all know that we don’t like being accountable to anyone but ourselves. Often that accountability in parliament does tend to inflame passion and the odd bit of stupidity as well.

There are also times when party politics means that some great opportunities for bipartisanship are wasted. However, to wish for bipartisan politics would be to wish for a type of politics which is destined to fail because of the inescapable self centeredness and hubris of the human heart.

How incredible is it that the government of the day has to come in and give an account for what they are doing. I remember being in Canberra just after it was announced that Australia was going to join in the Iraq invasion/war. I went to the sessions of parliament and sat in the gallery which was packed out with protesters and looked on as the Howard government explained their actions and then had to defend their policy against the questions of the then opposition.

One of the things that really hit me during the debate was the different personalities of the MP’s. Some were polite and well mannered in the way they put forward their views while others where rude, dirty and pigheaded. The thing they all had in common was they were all elected in free elections by their fellow countrymen. And…they were there in the hothouse of parliament thrashing out a way forward for our country.

I personally love the passion that is displayed during these debates.

If there are serial offenders in parliament who abuse that privilege of debating and consistently bully and demean others…there future is in our hands.


Comment on June 2nd, 2008.

Andrew B… I too respect that accountability, particularly at the highest level, should be robust. But the ‘rude, dirty and pigheaded’ behaviour is where acountability turns into something else. It’s where good ideas get shouted down because of who they are delivered by, or who they are delievered too…

Re bullying, I do like to think that in some areas, there is a skin-thickening to what is perhaps robust play. It’s where the wisdom of (particularly) teachers comes to the fore, being able to tell the difference and to support a kid who’s copping it from multiple angles.

Of real concern was a story in the paper today about some Jewish kids who got beat up and jeered for their faith in Yokine by some boofheads – probably upset that people dared to exist whilst being different to them! HOW VERY DARE THEY!?!?

John and Paul had it right… ‘All we need is love’

muffin man's revenge

Comment on June 2nd, 2008.

Cam, I will not venture to comment on the status of Australian Parliamentary Procedure due to the fact that between Clinton and Obama we have enough poor mouthing going on! I will say that every year we discuss the status of bullying in our classrooms because a majority feel that it is the main cause of major incidents such as Columbine and Virginia Tech. However, I also feel that we as teachers get blamed for lots of this because we “allow” it in our classrooms. It is one of many problems we are now facing in our world.

I am glad to see you have so much spunk back in your writing. That means you are feeling better:) I also have to ask how in the heck did you get that youtube clip in your site. I have tried and tried to put a clip on a powerpoint for baseball, but I can’t do it. Help me baldy please!!!


Comment on June 2nd, 2008.

Hey Andrew,

Hip hurray for passion. Hip hurray for accountability.

You make great points Andrew, so thanks for throwing them in the mix for thought. I agree that passion and accountability are important parts of governance. A great debate is a useful tool to bring about change and resolution. Maybe if I gave specific detail, it would highlight the aspects that I believe are not only hindering beneficial progress, but being quite destructive also.

1. Question Time is a fantastic tool for accountability. The practice of asking questions and booing, heckling and dismissing the responder as he or she answers is a disrespectful waste of time. If they ask a question, they should be prepared to listen to an answer out of respect. This seldom happens.

2. While talking about respect, I believe that a significant proportion of disrespectful comments are aimed at Ministers personally. I am waiting for a leader to demonstrate strength of character by not degrading other Ministers by name. Sure, let the Party cop the flack if a policy goes belly up, but attacking people personally will always be a sign of weak integrity, and a perfect example of bullying. This practice is rife through politics and not restricted to Question Time.

3. While spending the first 17 years of a person’s life trying to teach and demonstrate the benefits of people working together and encouraging each other, there could be no greater slap in the face than to have students witness the nation’s leaders tearing their opponents to shreds. Talk about disillusionment! Imagine Parties keeping each other accountable using constructive and respectful discourse and then acknowledging each other’s contribution to the resolutions.

4. I find it difficult to separate the benefits of synergy to using bi-partisan approaches to policy. There is not ‘law of synergy’ that I am aware of, but I am sure there could be many beneficial changes made through bi-partisan involvement. They can argue over who gets the credit or the blame in their own time.

5. This culture of shouting, heckling and personally attacking is not deemed effective (or legal) in other government department or workplaces in general. This is the aspect of Question Time (and other exchanges) that I believe needs to go. It should have died out by now.

6. When things get out of control in the Lower House, we hear the Speaker demand ‘Order’. Very rarely does anyone respect the Speaker’s authority as they invariably continue the charged banter. I think that this is partly the Speakers’ responsibility and partly to do with the accepted lack of respect.

Unfortunately, passionate debate without strict boundaries often results in the mutual exchange of personal insults. I consider this law after settling countless squabbles in school playgrounds. There is only one difference between the unbridled, disrespectful personal verbal abuse you hear in the school playground to that which is heard in Parliament, that is… hang on… whoops, no, they are pretty much the same – but there are consequences for school kids.

In all my observations, I am continually asking the question “How can this be improved on? How could it be made better?” I would have to say that I have seen other methods of decision-making and accountability work better than methods used in our Parliament, so I am keen for a change.

Once again, completely agree with your points regarding passion and accountability, but I believe it could be so much better by removing the components that would elsewhere be considered bullying and harassment. Thanks for your perspective on this one, I look forward to hearing what you think about an upcoming piece on Boat People.


Comment on June 2nd, 2008.

Hey Muffin Man’s Revenge,

Firstly, it is the spunk in you that recognises the spunk in me.

Secondly, not a 100% sure about the You Tube thing. I just copy the embed code and paste it into my post. It has to be online though. Some sites allow you to download the clip and play it at will, but I ain’t tried that.

There maybe other readers who have expertise in this area who can comment. Careful though, I may have to start charging consulting fees if this site gets used for technical support.

Muchos lovos,


Guy in the white suit

Comment on June 3rd, 2008.

Well said Cam. You hit the nail on the head. We need to talk about these issues on a deeper level.

Here’s something extra for the ammo box. As of this year any suspension given out by a Primary school (in W.A) needs the consent of the parents. If a parent don’t agree, it gets overulled and the child just gets a in school detention for the day. This year at R.P.S already two parents have overulled the school!!!!!

Unfortunately, things are not getting better in Aus land. We need a prophet. We need Cam. Get writing Cam.

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