The Satchel Review - Friday 9 March

This week's revelations about the Australian Defence Force's machismo culture were a slap in the face in the week we celebrated International Women's Day, but a stark reminder that all is not well in the microcosm of testosterone.  

At a time when women and girls are making significant inroads, some men still have ideas about women, and their role in society, that aren't up to scratch.   

A Sydney bus driver, alleged to have used a 'covert camera' installed in the floor of a public bus to film up the skirts of passengers, including schoolgirls, over a two-year period (during which he collected 2100 images and 48 minutes of footage on DVDs), reportedly appeared in court this week. Where does one get the idea that this behaviour is okay? A culture that says "Yes!" to porn and the devaluation of women and girls to mere objects for male pleasure is part of the problem. 

Thank heavens for good news. CARE International is largely responsible for a rapid drop in children under two suffering stunted growth due to hunger in utero and their early years, an independent evaluation of by the Institute of Development Studies [titled Reaching New Heights] has shown, reported Adele Horin in The Sydney Morning Herald.

"Stunted growth can have a life-long impact on cognitive development, immunity and future health. The impact of women gaining more say in the household, finding the courage to challenge men who harassed them, and the confidence to start their own businesses had a greater beneficial effect on their children's health than giving food to the family, or measures to boost a family's agricultural production, the study found." 

Female determination is king. And so is craft, apparently.

While unlikely to compete at the same level as sport for our time and money anytime soon, the crafty arts are cementing their position as a favoured pastime, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. More women participated in cultural activities than men (31 per cent to 23 per cent), including dancing, sculpting, painting, singing, playing musical instruments and cartooning.

While 4.7 million of us participated in at least one cultural activity during 2010-11, the crafts were practised by 10 per cent, or 1.7 million, of us. These include textile crafts, jewellery making, paper crafts and wood crafts. Perhaps the Defence Force should look at the crafternoon for some creative-thinking to challenge the status quo?

David Gonski, author of the Gonski Report on education, is said to be the prime candidate for leading the Future Fund, taking David Murray's place. There is worry that, as with the appointment of Bob Carr to the Foreign Minister's post, that giving Gonski the gig will be met with contrition from within as he's an outsider. The Future Fund, overseen by a board of guardians, was established by the government in 2006 to help future Australian governments meet the cost of public-sector superannuation liabilities by growing the fund through investment. It's currently worth $73 billion.

"Jobs diverge as unemployment rises to 5.2pc" reported The Australian Financial Review; "Swan firm on surplus as tax revenue falls" reported The Sydney Morning Herald. Fiscal discipline rather than she'll-be-right complacency is the mantra of the day and everyone is committed to tightening the purse strings now for long-term prosperity as the good luck might run out (Saint Patrick's Day is not far away, by the way).

Federal Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson (not to be confused with the charismatic Michael Parkinson) has called for governments to take a longer-term view on budget planning as business tax collections had fallen 4 percentage points since the GFC, while mining companies had not contributed their fair share, which added to Treasurer Wayne Swan's treasure-chest of grievances.

"A higher dollar this time around - a symptom of Australia's relative economic success - is depressing company profits in the non-mining sectors of the economy, particularly in tourism, education services and some parts of manufacturing," reported Jessica Irvine for The Age.

"Finally, despite mining companies producing around a fifth of total profits, they represent only a tenth of total company tax paid. A huge ramp-up in investment in infrastructure means they can offset their taxable profits by claiming deductions for the depreciating value of their assets."

But in a crafty pre-polling-day move, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has committed to turning mining dollars into education for the state's children with Tomorrow Scholarships and Today Grants.

"Queensland year 12 graduates will be eligible for a $4000 education scholarship from 2015 under a policy that Premier Anna Bligh hopes will help her claw back public support before the March 24 election," reported The Brisbane Times.

"Visiting a Rockhampton school on the first full day of the official election campaign, Ms Bligh issued new details for "Mines to Minds" policy that would channel 50 per cent of liquefied natural gas royalties into education initiatives."

Liquified profits turned into educational gold? I'm sold. Though we're not about to start getting into electoral endorsements, there's nothing better than knowledge-power for a girl's self-defence and a boy's respect for women.

Girl With a Satchel