Reality bites as winner takes all on The Block

The much anticipated Block finale fell flat on Sunday night when three of the luxury properties struggled to attract bids above the reserve at auction. While two couples celebrated big wins in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, others wept as months of work came to almost nought.

The finale might have had a funereal vibe but the Nine Network certainly had cause for celebration as it smashed ratings records. The shock outcome has sparked calls for Nine to tweak the format of the show and even offer the failed contestants compensation.

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You already knew Thorpe was gay? No, you didn’t

 

Ian Thorpe’s declaration that he’s gay has been met with a combination of celebration and mockery. While many have praised the Olympian for speaking out, others have joked that he has simply revealed what everybody already knew.

Finally! What took him so long?

But did we really already know and who determines when it’s time to come out?

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Forgetting others in the quest for self-improvement

‘Work hard and you will achieve. The only barrier to success is your own imagination. You can be whatever you want to be, you just have to want it badly enough.’

These kinds of feel-good clichés have become mantras for the modern era.

From The Secret and Angela’s Ashes to the Biggest Loser, popular culture celebrates the idea that with hard work and determination there is nothing we can’t overcome. Today it seems we are all masters of our own destinies. Give us lemons and we’ll give you lemonade (and make a killing from the lemonade stand in the process!).

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Abbott left little wriggle room on promises

‘Tony Abbott is a pathological liar who has lost the respect of the Australian people. He leads a beleaguered government, held ransom by extremists in the Senate. His government is illegitimate. He must resign and end our collective misery!’

Of course, no one is calling for the head of our PM just yet but this is precisely the kind of hyperbole Abbott used to demolish Julia Gillard’s prime ministership when she confronted similar political circumstances just three years ago.

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Voters give Green light to resurgent party

“It’s not easy being Green.” Or, at least that’s been the claim of pundits eager to write-off the environmental party after a challenging few years.

In 2012, the retirement of leader Bob Brown sparked speculation that the Greens were heading the way of the ill-fated Australian Democrats. Swings against the party at last year’s federal election and a string of state elections added fuel to the fire. The party has also lost its mantle as the “new kid on the block”, jostling for media space with the outspoken Clive Palmer in a much more crowded Senate.

But while Palmer might grab the headlines, it is the Greens who are making history. The re-election of Senator Scott Ludlam at Saturday’s election will deliver the party 10 federal senators from July (along with Adam Bandt in the lower house) smashing the minor party record it previously shared with the Democrats. Indeed, there is reason to believe the Senate election will mark the beginning of a Green resurgence and should leave no doubt that the party is a permanent fixture on the nation’s political landscape.

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April Fool?

You could be excused for thinking April Fools Day came early this year, after watching the performance of the Abbott Government last week.

Forget the right to health or education, it’s the “right to be a bigot” that’s top of their list. Meanwhile, the return to knighthoods had all the characteristics of a sick joke. Indeed the man who as Opposition Leader was derided as the ‘Dr No’ of Australian politics, has emerged from the Lodge as its ultimate ‘Joker. ‘

But sadly these bizarre policy announcements are no laughing matter and reflect a government hopelessly out of touch with mainstream values.

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Personal attacks don’t advance the cause

Australian politics is certainly not for the faint-hearted and vitriol is levelled at politicians of all stripes. John Howard was famously described as a “lying rodent”, Julia Gillard a “bitch” and a “witch”, while Tony Abbott has been derided as an “economic illiterate” and an imbecile. But how much is too much and where do we draw the line?

It seems in answering these questions it’s difficult to stray far from partisanship and here both sides are guilty of hypocrisy.

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Confessions of a Facebook Addict

The New Year is a time for reflection and goal-setting, and so like any good Gen-Y’er, I shared my New Year’s resolutions on Facebook. As I basked in the approving likes and comments that followed, I was hit by a shocking realisation: I am a Facebook addict!

I take some comfort in the knowledge that I am not alone here. Indeed, millions of people around the world are devoted to Facebook and a host of other social networking sites. But my grim realisation gave me pause for thought: why this obsession with social media, what does it say about me, what does it say about our society and what are its consequences?

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Coming-out myths and why we fear fluid sexuality

Olympic diver Tom Daley created a media splash on Tuesday when he announced that he was having a relationship with a man. The response provides an interesting insight into community attitudes towards sexuality and suggests that while there is growing acceptance of difference, most people still have a pretty narrow view of what it means to be “not straight”.

Some media outlets greeted the news with rapture, enthusiastically proclaiming that Tom Daley had “come out as gay” while others on Facebook and Twitter burst into spontaneous applause as Daley finally confirmed what “everybody already knew”.

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Where to now for the Greens?

The 2013 election outcome could only be described as mixed for the Australian Greens. The party achieved something rare among minor parties – having not only won a lower house seat at the previous election, it also successfully defended it this time around. But the jubilation of Adam Bandt’s victory in the seat of Melbourne was offset by the realisation that the party’s nationwide share of the primary vote had declined significantly. In the House of the Representatives, the Greens hemorrhaged more than a quarter of their 2010 vote; in the Senate, around a third of voters opted to move their vote elsewhere.

The outcome sparked the usual speculation about the Greens’ longevity, and grist was added to the mill when six of Christine Milne’s senior members of staff quit within weeks of the election. Importantly, the result raised the question of whether the Greens might go the same way as the now (almost) defunct Australian Democrats.

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Playing The Man?

Julia Gillard came under fire for playing the so called ‘gender card’, but a closer examination of the Rudd v Abbott contest reveals that it is her male adversaries who have been using gender as a political weapon.

The relationship between masculinity and ‘strong leadership’ is a persistent theme in Australian politics. Hawke positioned himself as an Aussie larrikin, while Keating used his aggressive style to establish his authority. Howard channelled masculine concepts of power when the War on Terror saw him emerge as a ‘Man of Steel.’ Both Rudd and Abbott have sought to draw on these themes, projecting their own versions of masculinity and using this to define their opponents.

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Rudd’s Greatest Moral Challenge

Kevin Rudd has begun his second term as Prime Minister in much the same way as he ended his first, with back-flips and dog-whistles on immigration. Through his latest capitulation to Tony Abbott, Rudd 2.0 is providing more than just neat symmetry. He has left no doubt that win or lose this election, the conservative side of politics will continue to shape Australia’s asylum seeker policy. It’s an error that will have serious consequences for his party and our nation.

While it’s been in office for almost 6 years, many Australians are still unsure about what their Labor Government stands for.  Part of this stems from Labor’s inability to use the authority of incumbency to set the political agenda.

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War On Gillard Proves We Still Have A Long Way To Go

Julia Gillard may not be the best Prime Minister Australia has had, but she’s certainly the most resilient. During a gruelling 3 years she has endured a campaign of vitriol and vilification unrivalled in our politics.

While Keating, Howard and Rudd were all subject to scathing criticism, a special contempt has been reserved for Gillard. The reason for this is worthy of further examination and reveals much about attitudes towards gender in Australia.

I offer this analysis with an important caveat. Like many Australians I disagree with a number of the Prime Minister’s policies. Gillard has perused an immoral and ineffective immigration policy, negotiated a weak mining tax, stripped funding from universities and single mothers and shown a frustrating recalcitrance on the issue of gay marriage. All of these things are worthy of public criticism and debate. All too often however, criticism of Gillard has been more personal than political.

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Primaries Won’t Solve Our Political Problems

As the ALP battles to wrest control from the ‘faceless men’ of its party machine, Labor leaders from Steve Bracks to Mark Latham have argued for the co-option of US-style primaries.

While US elections may appear to be the ultimate festivals of democracy, all that glitters is not gold and we must be wary of embracing an alternative political system that is far from perfect.

In fact, primary-style pre-selections would radically change our democracy.

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