The Satchel Review - Saturday 2 May, 2012

By Liz Burke 

You know you live in a bubble when the biggest news event affecting you during the week has little relevance outside the circles in which you usually mix, is happening thousands of miles away, and swiftly stumps Gen-Y dinner party conversation at its very mention. 

The Australian Women’s Weekly office, in which this writer is resident, has been abuzz anticipating Queen Elizabeth II’s upcoming Diamond Jubilee celebrations this long weekend. You see, we even call it a long weekend even though it is only being stretched out in the motherland.

So, as excited as I am for the fanfare that will befall the Commonwealth as we usher in the Queen’s 60th glorious year on the throne, it’s never been more important to brush up on the rest of the week’s news – for the sake of everyone subject to my royal-heavy conversation starters, at least.

And so, on to issues closer to home. Even those dedicated to such non-political obsessions would struggle to turn a blind eye to the carryings-on in parliament this week. Question Time in the capital is known to get a little bit rowdy, but reached new juvenile heights with opposition leader Tony Abbott and his loyal colleague Christopher Pyne sprinting out of the chamber “like gazelles”.

The two made a dash for parliamentary doors after realising now independent MP Craig Thomson had sided with the opposition for the first time. Abbott has repeatedly said he would not accept the controversial MP’s “tainted vote” and so tried to make a run for it before the vote was finalised. He wasn’t quick enough, and the Acting Speaker was very cranky.

Deputy Speaker Anna Burke (note: no relation) later that day made a plea for federal MPs to behave themselves after the term “dead man” was yelled across the floor, which led to Ms Burke pleading with the house to be a little more sensitive as she invoked the memory of friend and former colleague of many in the House, Labor MP Greg Wilton who committed suicide twelve years ago. A rare stunned silence ensued, and hopefully the sentiment will last.

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek also came under attack over condoning childish behaviour as it was unearthed that staff in her Sydney office were allowed to display satirical posters depicting Abbott as a “woman-hating homophobe”. Though Plibersek has since announced that such material will now be banned in her office, declaring it a satire-free zone, her reputation for being politically correct copped a thrashing and saw the usually well-behaved minister who is often quick to call on Abbott for any offensive remarks, labelled a hypocrite.

Can’t we all just get along? Apparently, no more in sport than in politics. The Australian Olympic women’s rowing team made headlines this week over a row that saw teammate Pippa Savage dumped from the team following a dispute with fellow rowers just eight weeks before the London Games. The 31-year-old rower is devastated, and will be taking her case to the Rowing Australia Tribunal. Dual international cricket and soccer superstar Ellyse Perry can relate to Savage’s woes, she has been given an ultimatum by her Canberra cricket club to choose between the two sports or find another club.

Sporting clubs weren’t the only organisations giving bootings this week. Fairfax employees from The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age were on strike for two days this week protesting the company’s plans to outsource more than 60 sub-editing jobs. Cuts at the company’s rival News Ltd kicked off this weeks starting with redundancies at ahead of a  rumoured announcement of around 400 suspected job losses companywide, mainly at the Murdoch owned company’s newspapers. Unions are at the ready and employees shaking in their boots.

And while our politicians, sportspeople and media folk bicker on home soil, over in Syria barbaric atrocities are being enacted of a nature that has us ploughing the depths of our human understanding. The decision by Foreign Minister Bob Carr to expel two Syrian diplomats came after the weekend massacre of more than 100 people, almost half of them children, by Syrian government forces.

Over in Britain, Wikileaks warrior Julian Assange lost his case against extradition to Sweden, where he is accused of rape and sexual assault.Which brings us (geographically, not in subject matter) close enough to the palace and a conversational comfort zone for royal-watchers everywhere. Happy Jubilee, everyone! If anyone needs me I’ll be hanging up bunting while the kettle's on.