Australian writer Yang Hengjun is set to be charged in China at an awkward time for Australia-China relations



Charges against Yang appear to relate to his work as a writer and blogger in which he has been sharply critical of the Chinese regime.
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Tony Walker, La Trobe University

Australia’s relations with China will be further complicated by the news that Australian citizen Yang Hengjun is set to be charged with endangering state security.

This is a serious charge that carries the penalty of at least three years in jail.




Read more:
Australian-Chinese author’s detention raises important questions about China’s motivations


Yang’s wife Yuan Xiaoliang was notified earlier today that her husband would be charged, a day before the six-month deadline determining whether he is to be released, charged or have his detention extended.

Charges against Yang appear to relate to his work as a writer and blogger in which he has been sharply critical of the Chinese regime. He developed a large following on Chinese social media and on Twitter, and his criticisms will have infuriated Chinese authorities.

Yang was arrested after he returned to China earlier this year with his family. He has been held in a Beijing state security prison since then, without access to lawyers, and denied contact with his family.

Australian attempts to secure access have been rebuffed.

Canberra’s relations with Beijing

China’s decision to charge Yang comes at an awkward moment in relations between Beijing and Canberra.

Australia this week was obliged to step up its consular efforts to persuade China to allow Uyghur families to leave Xinjiang to be reunited with their Australian families.

This followed broadcast an ABC four Corners program that drew attention to the plight of Uighurs in Xinjiang. Up to a million out of a population of 11 million in the region are reported to be in “re-education” camps.

This has drawn outrage globally.




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Four Corners’ forced labour exposé shows why you might be wearing slave-made clothes


China’s official media responded harshly to the ABC program and to criticism of China’s treatment of Uyghurs more generally. The Global Times newspaper, which tends to reflect a hardline nationalist view, accused critics of “recklessly attacking” China.

Yang’s case reflects China’s extreme sensitivity to criticism.

This episode won’t help Australia’s efforts to get its relationship with China on more stable footing after several years of difficulties.

China had objected to criticism of its attempts to interfere in Australian domestic politics via Chinese nationals associated with Beijing. This led to a freeze on visits to China by Australian political leaders. While that freeze has thawed, tensions remain.

Chinese laws affect other western democracies

Australia is far from alone among western democracies whose citizens have fallen foul of opaque and arbitary Chinese law and legal procedures.

Canada is wrestling with the cases of two of its citizens who have been held without charge since last year. China has accused the pair of stealing state secrets.

This is a serious charge that can result in the death penalty.

The two Canadians were detained after the arrest at Vancouver airport of Meng Wanzhou, daughter of the founder of the Chinese telecommunications giant, Huawei. Meng is appealing attempts by the United States to extradite her to face charge of fraud.

This is a highly contentious issue, and one that is complicating relations between Washington, Ottawa and Beijing.




Read more:
Avoiding the China trap: how Australia and the US can remain close despite the threat


Apart from arresting the Canadians accused of stealing state secrets, China has also taken aim at Canada economically. It has stopped Canadian rapeseed oil imports, dealing a hefty blow to a multibillion dollar canola industry.

What the Canadian arrests, and now that of an Australian writer, demonstrates is that relations with China are unlikely to become less complicated. Rather, it is likely they will become more so.

Among challenges for countries like Australia is how to quarantine issues of mistreatment of its citizens and broader human rights abuses, from the functioning of broad-ranging bilateral relations.The Conversation

Tony Walker, Adjunct Professor, School of Communications, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Reading and writing assistance increases the chance of getting a Disability Support Pension



One in eight disability support claims rejected are because the applicant is unable to supply the requested information.
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Nary Hong, UNSW

The 2019 Australian Conference of Economists is taking place in Melbourne from July 14 to 16.

During the conference The Conversation is publishing a selection of articles by the authors of papers being delivered at the conference. Others are here.


The Disability Support Pension is important in the lives of the Australians who receive it. The latest figures show that’s 4% of the working age population.

Yet a huge proportion of claims for it are rejected. Over the four years from 2011-12 to 2014-15 the average “grant rate” was 43%, meaning 57% of claims were rejected.

The largest non-medical reason given for rejection is failure to supply the requested information, accounting for one in eight rejections.

In a paper to be presented to the Australian Conference of Economists in Melbourne on Tuesday I examine the extent to which that is due to a specific kind of disability – an inability to properly complete the form.

Does form-filling matter?

The Bureau of Statistics survey of disability, ageing and carers provides rich data the on employment, socio-demographic characteristics and health conditions of disabled Australians, including the extent to which they have assistance with reading and writing.

One question is

do/does you/he/she receive assistance from any organised services to help with reading and writing tasks?

Another is

do/does you/he/she receive assistance from anyone else, such as a partner or spouse/parent, family, friends or neighbours to help with reading and writing tasks?

I combined the answers to these questions to create a yes/no answer to the broader question of whether or not an applicant for the Disability Support Pension obtained help with reading and writing from any source.

Confidentialised unit record files from 2003, 2009 and 2015 gave me data on 18,141 disabled Australians between the ages of 16 to 64.

Help with reading does matter…

I found that reading and writing assistance is associated with an increase of about 20% in the probability of getting the Disability Support Pension.

Most of that reading and writing support comes from informal sources (family, friends and neighbours) rather than formal ones.

And it seems to be more than an association. Using statistical techniques to set aside the impact of other things that might be driving the effect, I find that the impact of help with literacy is even greater.

Ideally, help shouldn’t have much impact, but the claim form for the Disability Support Pension is 33 pages long.




Read more:
Financial literacy is a public policy problem


The government has introduced new assessment tables in a legitimate and successful attempt to restrain the growth of the Disability Support Pension.

But there can be no case for (unintentionally) using complexity as another means of restraining growth in use of the pension.

…we should be taking it mainstream

The strong positive impact of the reading assistance that has been available builds a case for providing more of it, through formal means, to ensure that fewer people are deterred from applying for benefits for which they are eligible.

Greater formal provision of help would also ease the pressure on informal helpers, making it easier for them to stay in the workforce and improving their emotional well-being.

This finding has implications for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, for which reading and writing is even more important to navigate. The NDIS emphasises individual choices, making the application process particularly complex.

Disability with paperwork should not be a barrier to receiving disability benefits.




Read more:
The NDIS hasn’t made much difference to carers’ opportunities for paid work


The Conversation


Nary Hong, PhD candidate in Economics, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

2019 Australian Book Design Awards Winners


The link below is to an article that takes a look at the various winners of the 2019 Australian Book Design Awards.

For more visit:
https://www.booksandpublishing.com.au/articles/2019/06/03/134179/australian-book-design-awards-2019-winners-announced/

Australia: Chris Browne and His Library


The link below is to an article about an Australian, Chris Browne, and his library of 12 000 books. This is a library of traditional books and he has me there. I have something like 2000. But if you were to add digital books I think I could give Chris a run for his money. In the comments below share with us (if you are willing of course) what your library is like.

For more visit:
https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/a-library-of-one-s-own-meet-the-man-who-owns-12-000-books-20190613-p51xhe.html

‘A woman ahead of her time’: remembering the Australian writer Charmian Clift, 50 years on



Anna McGahan as Charmian Clift in Sue Smith’s play Hydra. Long overshadowed by her husband George Johnston, recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in Clift’s life and work.
Jeff Busby/Queensland Theatre

Tanya Dalziell, University of Western Australia and Paul Genoni, Curtin University

Fifty years after her death, Australian writer Charmian Clift is experiencing a renaissance. Born in 1923, Clift co-authored three novels with her husband George Johnston, wrote two under her own name, produced two travel memoirs, and had weekly column widely syndicated to major Australia papers during the the 1960s.

Clift has long been overshadowed by the legacy of Johnston, whose novel My Brother Jack is considered an Australian classic. Her novels and memoirs are sadly out of print, yet she is increasingly recognised for her important place in Australian culture.

Charmian Clift, pictured on the front cover of her memoir, Peel Me a Lotus.
Hutchinson, 1959

In 2018 she, along with Johnston, was inducted into the Australian Media Hall of Fame in recognition of her work as a columnist. She is also being reimagined in fiction, as the subject of A Theatre of Dreamers (2020), a forthcoming novel by English author, Polly Samson, and in Tamar Hodes’ The Water and the Wine (2018).

The revival of interest in Clift is more than a collective nostalgia or feminist correction of the historical record, although both are relevant. Many of her readers from the 60s still remember her newspaper column, and the impact that it had on their view of Australia’s place in the world, with great affection.

Younger generations, particularly women, have also been exposed to Clift’s clear and passionate voice after the columns were published in several volumes in the years following her death. That Clift and her writing continue to resonate with contemporary Australia tells us something about both her and the nation.

The Hydra years

Much of the renewed interest in Clift is focused not only on her writing, but also on the near decade that she and Johnston lived on the Greek Island of Hydra. In late 2015, artist Mark Schaller’s Melbourne exhibition, Homage to Hydra, featured paintings depicting Clift and Johnston’s island lives, with several featuring other residents from Hydra’s international population of writers and artists, including Canadian poet and songwriter, Leonard Cohen.

The same year, Melbourne musicians Chris Fatouros and Spiros Falieros debuted Hydra: Songs and Tales of Bohemia, marrying Cohen’s songs to a narrative about Clift and Johnston’s time on Hydra.




Read more:
Friday essay: a fresh perspective on Leonard Cohen and the island that inspired him


In 2018, our book, Half the Perfect World: Writers, Dreams and Drifters on Hydra, 1955-1964, told in detail of the fabled decade of Clift’s life as a bohemian expatriate.

To date in 2019, Sue Smith’s play, Hydra, has been staged in Brisbane and Adelaide, casting Clift in ways that resonate sympathetically with the concerns of contemporary audiences. As Smith writes in her script’s introduction:

Charmian was a woman ahead of her time. We see this in the choices she made both in her personal life, whether it be scandalising the Greek locals by wearing trousers and drinking in bars, to insisting upon her personal and sexual freedom and, of course, through her work.




Read more:
Sue Smith’s Hydra: how love, pain and sacrifice produced an Australian classic


‘Charm is her greatest creation’

Modern readers might respond to Clift the writer, but the focus on her years on Hydra suggests there is also great interest in her charismatic personality and tempestuous life with Johnson, as their dream of a cheap and sun-soaked creative island life slowly soured.

While researching the couple’s lives on Hydra, we came across a suggestive, eye-witness diary entry by a fellow writer, New Zealander Redmond Wallis, written in 1960.

Charm is her greatest creation, Charmian Clift, the great Australian woman novelist. Charmian is very curious. She is, potentially at least, a better writer than George but she has and is deliberately creating a picture of herself … which one feels she hopes will appear in her biography some day.

The head of a literary coterie, beautiful, brilliant, compassionate but still the mother of 3 children, running a house. Sweating blood against almost impossible difficulties – a husband inclined to unfounded jealousy, the heat, creative problems, the children, the problems foisted on her by other people … and yet producing great art.

Wallis’s observations are accurate, and prophetic, in noting Clift’s capacity for self-mythologising and her belief that both she and her Hydra idyll would be remembered. Nearly four decades after Clift returned from Greece to Australia amid the acclaim for My Brother Jack, she did become the subject of an excellent biography, Nadia Wheatley’s The Life and Myth of Charmian Clift (2001).

Nadia Wheatley’s biography of Clift.
Goodreads

But there were also failures amongst the success. The vision she and Johnston shared for a writing life on Hydra floundered amid poverty, alcoholism and illness. Their return to Australia in 1964 was an unlikely triumph for Johnston following the success of My Brother Jack, but Clift did not return with the same profile.

Wheatley also traced another of Clift’s great disappointments – her failure to complete her long-dreamt of autobiographical novel The End of the Morning, a struggle that was the subject of Susan Johnson’s 2004 novel, The Broken Book.

Clift did, however, leave an autobiography of sorts, in her newspaper articles. These often focused on domestic circumstances and everyday thoughts – ranging from conscription, to the rise of the Greek military junta after she left Hydra, to the changing social circumstances in Australia, and her daughter’s engagement.

These articles might not have always reflected the experiences of her readers – not everyone invited Sidney Nolan over for drinks – but Clift’s first-person narratives of a life lived with great passion and a sceptical eye to the consequences, garnered a large readership.

These readers responded to an incisive intellect with a vision of a culturally enriched Australia. She understood well the need for the country to outgrow its entrenched conservatism in order to realise its potential; and she emerged as a generous spirit who realised that the dreams and passions that drove her life were found everywhere in Australian suburbs.

Clift’s death reported by The Canberra Times in July, 1969.

Wallis’s detection of Clift’s hubris and narcissism paints her as a potentially tragic figure. It was a fate she perhaps fulfilled, when Johnston eventually wrote of Clift’s infidelities on Hydra. Clift took her own life on July 8 1969, an event that curtailed her voice while leaving behind a legacy of loyal and grieving readers.

A natural cosmopolitan

Clift’s is one of the voices – and one of the most important female voices – that rose above the crowd during the post-war period, as the western world unknowingly girded itself for the social revolution that was to come.

Through her columns she advocated for a bolder, more outward looking future, and as someone who was naturally cosmopolitan she was avidly interested in seeing Australia become more open to the world and better integrated into the Asia-Pacific.

She didn’t always get it right (an essay decrying the rise of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones stands out!), but she helped navigate the path to a more broad-minded and inclusive vision of Australia.

Over the years Clift has emerged as someone who was not only modern, but also engaged in that most post-modern of activities, self-creation. For while Wallis scorned Clift’s self-mythologising at the time, it might now be recognised as the finest gift of the creative artist – to re-make oneself in the image of a world yet to be made. It was her gift to her readers and Australia.The Conversation

Tanya Dalziell, Associate Professor, English and Literary Studies, University of Western Australia and Paul Genoni, Associate Professor, School of Media, Creative Arts and Social Inquiry, Curtin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

2019 Australian Book Industry Awards


The link below is to an article that takes a look at the 2019 Australian Book Industry Awards.

For more visit:
https://www.booktopia.com.au/blog/2019/05/03/big-wins-at-the-2019-abias/

Victorian women poets of WW1: capturing the reverberations of loss



File 20190423 15227 1k20sjh.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Nettie Palmer’s ’s 1916 poem, Birds, was a love song from a wife to a soldier-husband.
photographer unknown. State Library of Victoria

Kevin Brophy, University of Melbourne

Just as fiction’s George Smiley made sense of the world – and even made his baffling way about a world at war through knowing the works of minor German poets – our own very real Michael Sharkey (who has an equally resonant and unlikely name) has found that his passion for a certain strain of minor poets also intersects with history, war, intrigue, political resistance and troubling nationalism.

His remarkable new anthology, Many Such as She: Victorian Australian Women Poets of World War One, arose from Sharkey’s interest in civilian poets’ responses to the war that produced those soldier poets still gracing school and university curriculums a century on.

But why civilian poets, and why women? In the spirit of redress, Sharkey has uncovered expressions of how the war felt, how it was imagined, and how it was negotiated as a moral, political and deeply personal though socially shared phenomenon by those who were doubly separated from the conflict — through being so far away in Australia, and by the fact of being women.

Paradoxically, such a project, he suggests, makes a lot more sense and is closer to home for Australians than reading anthologies of poems by British soldier-poets. Like the best writers and researchers, Sharkey went about producing the book that he wanted to read.

We know that difficult times and extreme events can take us to poetry, and perhaps this impulse was embraced in the early 20th century with more grace, confidence and a deeper conviction of what is fitting than could have been the case earlier or later, especially among women.

A natural expression of thought and emotion

As an anthology of largely unrecognised minor poets, the reader’s interest is inevitably drawn to the limitations of the works selected, and to their representative significance. It seems that many women were not only capable of turning to poetry, but that there was something natural, even expected about this avenue to public expressions of thought and emotion. Sharkey notes in his introduction that the 24 women poets included, and the many others whose poetry was not, were consistently eloquent and technically competent, a testimony to the high standards of education early in the 20th century.

Universal education though, brings with it inevitable nudging towards “prevailing tastes” and narrowing of the imagination. These poets, working with readers’ and editors’ expectations, were themselves heirs to 19th century English traditions in poetry. Hence, as Sharkey observes, much of this minor poetry tends to read to us now as “lilting or lolloping”.

Against this observation (and taking a lesson from it), the current vogue for a colloquial, free verse in English language poetry might read in the future as a sign of how far contemporary poetry has drifted from song and lyric.

Some lines that might suffice as an example of the skill and musicality in this poetry come from Nettie Palmer’s 1916 poem, Birds, a love song from a wife to a soldier-husband, written when Nettie lived at Emerald in the Dandenongs.

The rhyming on a falling meter at the moment of each stanza’s inserted couplet, together with the dramatically long line following a two-beat line, work to bring both delicacy and the sense of a faltering, yearning spirit to lines that can’t help but touch our hearts:

At morning, when white clouds like leaves drop down
Filling the hollows,
And make vast, milk-white lakes and silence follows,
There on a stump some laughing jackass clown
Stiller than wood thought all the world his own.
But all the world was ours! The birds were ours,
Because we knew them,
The trees were ours, because our love passed through them,
And every dome of cloud and all the flowers
And mountain mists that built our silent bowers.
Enough, we had been jubilant too long,
The gods have judged us,
Such vital joy their tranquil eyes begrudged us.
You fight in France: here when the thrushes throng
How can I bear alone to hear their song.

The poetry in the anthology ranges, as we would expect, from imperialistic nationalism rife with improving sentiments and sentimentality all the way to poetry of open protest against the war. In the many nuances of reaction between these extremes, Sharkey perceives that the sheer quantity of poetry by women in response to that war “pointed to a catastrophic intellectual and emotional crisis experienced by the poets.”

There was so much of this poetry that any plan to publish it would be not only grandiose, but uneconomic. Hence, the interestingly narrowed state focus of this anthology: Victorian Australian women poets: presented in alphabetical order, with each poet introduced by several pages of historical context and life history (each one meticulously referenced).

Wit and sympathy

Beatrice Vale Bevan.
Photographer unknown. State Library of Victoria.

Beatrice Vale Bevan (1876-1945) is one of those whose poetry might lilt and lollop through its paces, but nevertheless what shines through is her wit, her sympathy and her plainly human reaching towards a language that might come somewhere near sensing and expressing how deplorable death had become.

At the end of her poem debating William Locke’s statement, “Human nature is only capable of a certain amount of deploring”, in the poem that offers the book its surtitle (Many Such as She), Bevan reflects upon the flowers on the twin graves of a soldier in France and his young widow at home who, it seems, had suicided: the final stanza goes:

And he and Margaret, now above,
(since heaven’s above?) no loss deplore,
But love each other more and more!
Why say we ‘dead?’ ‘Immortal dead!’
‘Immortal living!’ some have said,
When was this violet in my hand,
When summer scorched and dried the land?

Martha Coxhead, photo by J. Ward Symons Studio, Footscray, 1916.
Courtesy of Maxwell Coxhead.

As the wife of a high ranking Congregational minister and school headmaster, Beatrice’s climactic questions, and even her asides, are hard won and bravely spoken, and do go some considerable way towards expressing a vision of widening circles of deplorable grief that a war leaves in its wake.

Among those whose poetry sees death and life as equally noble when offered to the cause of the empire, are Marion Bray (1885-1947) who offers in a short poem a simple pair of knitted socks to a soldier far away, Muriel Beverley Cole, Martha Coxhead, Violet Cramer and others.

War sprung sprightly into tripping verse

Mary Bright, a deeply committed poet and spiritualist with many publications in her lifetime, and like several of the women here, one who had lost her husband and a nephew and cousins to the war, was unafraid of imagining herself into the maddened, bewildered and patriotic minds of soldiers being killed and maimed on the battle fronts:

… we couldn’t find our mates.
They were all scattered far and wide
Through death’s untimely gates.
…. We didn’t want to die—for fame
Nor for glory did we care.
We had to go, our country called—
We did but do our share.

-From Pozières

‘E’ — Mary E. Fullerton, photo by Marietta Studio, Melbourne. Australasian, 3 July 1925, p. 14.
State Library of Victoria.

It can be difficult to know what to make of such verse. It can be a chilling experience to find that war sprung so sprightly into tripping verses. But this would be, perhaps, to mistake the tone of public literary activity in these years.

The poetry does not pretend to more than papering over what is beyond the deplorable and nearly beyond meaning. We do read tragedy between the lines here, and there is no reason this would not have been the case in 1916, perhaps especially through the prism of awareness regarding imposed and self-dictated censorship in public utterances.

Outspokenness

This situation makes the poetry of Mary Fullerton (1868-1946) remarkable for its outspokenness:

In many a cot the woman,
With the babe on her shelt’ring breast,
Is nursing his limbs for battle
A-crooning her son to rest.
All over the world the women
Give service and love and life;
While over the world the tyrants
Are brewing the brew of strife.

-From The Targets

Among the bereft was Phyllis Lewis (1894-1986), a gifted teacher and briefly fiancée to a certain Robert Menzies.

Lieutenant Raymond Lade and Phyllis Lewis (wedding photo), 20 April 1920. Photograph by David Livingston Muntz, Glenferrie Road, Malvern.
Courtesy of Penny Lade.

Her one published poem, 1918, was a eulogy to her brother Owen, killed in a plane accident near Amiens: “Oh lawless howling wind—/Oh darkness none can lift—Oh hopeless night—/Oh gibbering shadows making heavy flight—/Oh soundless gloom of mind!” her long four-part poem goes when she must face what the war took from her and her family.

Recently my father died and I have inherited some boxes of papers that detail a kind of family history. Among these papers is the telegram informing my grandmother that her son, my father’s brother, died in action in New Guinea in the last week of WWII on that island.

This loss hung over my grandmother and over the whole of her family, for that war really could not stop reverberating until they died with this loss still in them. Such reverberations are the true subject matter of this anthology, and giving them our attention might be more important than we could ever suppose.

Sharkey is to be thanked for finding a way to present these 24 poets to Victorians and to Australians, and for giving us another way to understand and hear our own history. Walleah Press have done a fine job of packaging the anthology as a sturdy paperback.

Many such as She: Victorian Australian Women Poets of World War One, is edited by Michael Sharkey and published by Walleah Press.The Conversation

Kevin Brophy, Emeritus Professor of Creative writing, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Australia: Editor Wages


The link below is to an article that takes a look at conditions and wages for Australian book editors.

For more visit:
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/mar/29/the-book-industry-isnt-dead-thats-just-an-excuse-to-keep-salaries-low

2019 Children’s Book Council Awards Shortlist


The link below is to an article reporting on the shortlist for the 2019 Children’s Book Council Awards (Australia).

For more visit:
https://www.booktopia.com.au/blog/2019/03/27/2019-cbca-shortlists/