In these parts, we’re engaged in a fascinating or horrifying struggle – depending on your perspective. I mean visions of what a city should be. On the one side is the Artist’s Impression bunch. We’ve all seen the increasingly slick images of a proposed new development. Shiny new buildings, fetching trees, people walking, cycling, talking. It’s very smooth and sanitised. The result is usually far from the impression, with concrete, plastic and glass buildings that are soulless. It may well be described as the modern equivalent of Baron Hausmann’s ‘revitilisation’ of Paris in the nineteenth century. The aim: obliterate the way people make the city their own; undermine resistance; and make massive profits for what we now call developers. The outcome: some cities in the United States are the best example.

The other vision is the Faux Grunge one. This is the city of cafés, bars, ambient eateries, hole-in-the-wall art galleries. It seems to grow ‘organically’, delighting in the detritus of city spaces and claiming them. Rather than obliterate the old city, it seeks to work with and around such a city. This would seem to be the direst opposite of the artist’s impression. The problem is that the grunge is inevitably manufactured and that you need money to live in such cities. ‘Cafs’, bars and rents are costly. The outcome: a Disneyworld image of the city and its past that you find in so many European cities.

As was pointed out to me not so long ago (ht cp), the crucial test of a city is how it incorporates the down-and-outs. Where do the homeless, druggies, and strugglers find their place in the city? The artist’s impression wants to obliterate them; the faux grunge is fearful of what grunge itself looks like. Thankfully, the down-and-outs are adept at reclaiming city spaces for themselves.

From time to time, Stalin addressed the Institute of Red Professors. Now that is a worthy name for an institute. Actually, it is the alternative title for our ‘Religion, Marxism and Secularism‘ project at the University of Newcastle.

But I am also rather taken with the ‘Friends of the USSR’, which had a world congress in November, 1927. 947 delegates from 43 countries attended and, among many other activities, they closed the congress by adopting an appeal to all the working people of all countries: ‘Make use of all means and all methods to fight for, defend and protect the U.S.S.R., the motherland of the working people, the bulwark of peace, the centre of liberation, the fortress of socialism!’

Come to think of it, our own red priest, Ernest Burgman, was chair of the Australian arm of the Friends of the USSR. Before becoming bishop of Goulburn in 1950, Burgmann was warden of St. John’s College at Morpeth. He earned his radical credentials and street smarts in the great working class political hotbed of the Hunter.

While the Newcastle rail saga now has more twists than a bad Russian novel (let’s say, Dostoevsky), it has also been able to produce a new term for terrorism.

The context:

1. Deeply corrupt government decision to cut railway line for the last 2.5 km into Newcastle and replace with light rail – at cost of $500,000.

2. Snobby Sydney people thinking that the locals don’t know what’s good for them.

3. Sneaky effort by state government to avoid scrutiny and the need for an act of parliament to cut the line. They plan to cut the line on 26 December (when no one is looking).

4. Save our rail succeeds in gaining a Supreme Court injunction on cutting the line – on Christmas Eve. Court rules any cutting of line requires act of parliament, which state government would lose.

5. State government appeals decision.

6. While awaiting appeal proceedings, line lies in limbo, neither cut nor used.

7. Awabakal Land Council submits a land claim. Legal opinion thinks they may succeed, since they can claim land held by the state but not used for any purpose.

8. Redefinition of terrorism is made.

Let me explain. The government is able to stop services while court proceedings are under way, but not cut the line. So they have put some temporary fencing.

IMG_6676 (320x240)

Such fencing now requires an official sign to indicate the possibility of terrorist attack:

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Four levels apply: low, medium, high …

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and yes, immenent:

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Terrorist attack is not imminent, not even immanent (which is little more intriguing), but immenent.

I have been puzzling over the philosophical implications. Is ‘immenent’ the third term of the dialectic, which overcomes the initial opposition and draws the whole situation up to another level. If so, does that mean we can be in a situation where it feels as though an attack has occurred, even if it has not?

Intriguing what unites people across the political spectrum: the deeply corrupt decision to cut the railway line to Newcastle. The corruption is obvious: the line is supposed to be cut by two stations, a total of about three kilometres. It will be replaced by a light rail line. The total cost is currently put at about $250 million. Add a ‘secret council’ that included the former lord mayor, politicians and developers, who are set to reap millions from the move. So we were out in force today, thousands of us expressing the view of the vast majority of people in town:



An allusion to the clunky slogan of the corrupt state government:


This one is a reference to the former lord mayor, who liked to dole out brown paper bags stuffed with cash. He described himself as both Mother Teresa and a walking ATM:


To put an end to it, the unions were out in force:



But the most heart-warming sight was the CPA flag:



Recently, the lid was partly lifted on systemic corruption among the political and business elite: wads of cash in brown paper bags, ‘washing’ illegal ‘donations’ through front organisations, hasty political decisions made to line the pockets of the big capitalists … it goes on. At the same time, the immense stupidity of those decisions became apparent. For instance, the railway line will be cut by two stations, or the equivalent of less than 3 kilometres. In it’s place, the proposal is to build a ‘light rail’ line – for the cost of over $200 million. Sorry, it’s not stupid if you are out to make a profit from public funds: someone has to benefit from that decision in light of the kind of money being doled out. Add to that the fact that developers get their greedy hands on the land freed up to construct even more useless buildings.

So the whole process has been shown to highly corrupt. Anyone would expect an immediate inquiry. Not at all. Instead, there is an unseemly haste to act on the corrupt decisions before any such inquiry can begin.

Stalin and corruption 03a

Stalin and corruption 04a

The other day I suddenly realised that this is the first time in four years that I have been home for a full spring and summer. I’m thoroughly enjoying it: the days have that almost indescribable feel of the first heat of summer; the beaches are some of the best in the world in an unpretentious working town; swimming every day in the ocean; and reading Hegel’s Philosophy of Right and Marx’s critique. What more could you possibly want? There’s no other place quite like it.

201 March 064a

2012 June 045 (Newcastle)b

Some more pictures from our hike yesterday on a section of the Great North Walk – the last part that runs along some of the beaches around here.

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A 0.2 position (1 day a week) is available for the rest of 2013.


General Information

The Humanities Research Institute is coordinating a research program on Religion in Political Life in 2013. The outcomes of this project include six edited books and special edition journal volumes, which will require the assistance of a highly qualified copy editor.  The Editorial Assistant will work under senior editors, and perform a variety of proofreading, copy writing and general office duties.

This position is available on a fixed term, part-time basis of 7 hours per week (0.2 FTE) for the period 11 March 2013 to 6 December 2013.

HEW Level  6: $36.43 to $40.20 per hour, plus a generous employer superannuation contribution of 9%.

Applications close:  Wednesday 13 February 2013$VAC.QueryView?P_VACANCY_REF_NO=2102


FACULTY/DIVISION: Faculty of Education
SCHOOL/UNIT: Humanities Research Institute

Role Statement:

Provide professional editorial support to the Humanities Research Institute’s Religion in Political Life Research Program in order to produce final edition publications to the publishers of its six edited book and journal volumes. The editorial assistant will work under senior editors, and perform a variety of proofreading, copy writing and general office duties.

Training level or qualifications

Persons employed at Level 6 will typically perform duties at a skill level which assumes and requires knowledge or training equivalent to a humanities bachelors degree with subsequent specialist experience in copy editing.

Level of supervision

The editorial assistant will work under the direction of senior editors.

Task level

Perform work assignments guided by policy, precedent, professional standards and technical expertise. Staff members would have the latitude to develop or redefine procedure and interpret policy so long as other work areas are not affected. In technical and administrative areas, have a depth or breadth of expertise developed through extensive relevant experience and application.

Organisational knowledge

Perform tasks/assignments, which require proficiency in the work area’s existing rules, regulations, processes and techniques and how they interact with other related functions, and to adapt those procedures and techniques as required to achieve objectives without impacting on other areas.

Judgement, independence and problem solving

Discretion to innovate within own function and take responsibility for outcomes; undertake planning involving resources use and develop proposals for resource allocation; exercise high level of written and critical editing skills for complex collections in humanities literature.

Typical activities

• work as part of a research team and undertake a range of editorial tasks

• provide a range of library services, including bibliographic assistance, original cataloguing and reader education in library and reference services;

• supporting editorial staff in all activities leading to a publication, including acting as a personal assistant to commissioning and other editors at different levels

• liaising with other in-house teams, writers, photographers, printers, designers and production staff to negotiate and monitor timescales for stages in the publishing process;

• organising and researching multiple projects to tight deadlines;

• summarising written material into abstract form;

• correcting manuscripts to final editorial form according to author guidelines and in some cases camera ready production;

• obtaining rights to use materials from other publications;

• using computers for word processing, desktop publishing and email;

• filing, photocopying and other routine administrative tasks.

Selection Criteria

Please note: In accordance with the University’s Staff Selection Guidelines, your application will be assessed based on the following selection criteria. It is essential that you address each criteria to enable the selection committee to properly assess your application and suitability for interview.

• A degree with significant relevant experience; or extensive experience in technical editorial fields; or an equivalent combination of relevant experience and/or education/training.

• Demonstrated knowledge of modes of communication typical of humanities research scholarship.

• Strong project management and copywriting skills, with a demonstrated track record in planning and/or delivery of camera ready publications to editors under tight deadlines

Excellent analytical and problem solving skills with experience of complex research documents

• Excellent interpersonal communication skills.

• High level of computer literacy and familiarity with standard applications and project management tools (e.g. MS Office, Adobe Acrobat, Endnote bibliographic management software).

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