Saturday, December 13, 2008

Natasha Stott Despoja (Again...Thanks, Dave)

I am wondering why my friend wanted me to write about Natasha Stott Despoja. My friend is a mystery to me.

Anyway, I guess I'll begin. I hope this doesn't end up being ten pages.

Despoja is another one of those who has abandoned politics. Is this abandonment permanent, or will she eventually come back?

She was born in Adelaide. 9 September 1969. I have two Australian friends with birthdays in early September. I forgot both of them. I'm sorry about that.

Birthday website time!

She's a Virgo. The first thing I think of when I think of Virgos is critical. My Australian Virgo friends don't seem too critical, but an American I know is definitely critical. Maybe Australian Virgos are less critical than American ones.

This website gives me more insight into the Virgo. They're modest, shy, intelligent, analytical, worriers, harsh, conservative, practical, and reliable.

Despoja's numerology number is 7. That's my number! For those of you who are new to this, 7 is all about learning.

In Chinese Astrology she is a rooster. In Native American, she is a bear.

Despoja is part Croatian. That's interesting.

At one point, she was the leader of the Australian Democrats. She was the Democratic Senator for South Australia in the 1990's. She became the youngest person to ever join the Parliament. She was twenty-five.

Twenty-five seems so young to me. When I was twenty-five, I was living in NYC--working as an assistant teacher in a Jewish preschool. I was engaged to be married. I spent too much of my free time on wedding message boards talking to bitchy women.

Despoja went to Stradpoke Primary. The school sounds like it's very open to different cultures. The website says they are ideal for international students. It looks like a fairly nice school.

After Stradpoke, Despoja went to Pembroke school. Lord Wiki says Kelly Preston went there. I had no idea she ever lived in Australia. Is she Australian? Okay, just checked. She lived there for awhile, but is not Australian. She's seven years older than Despoja though, so I don't think they would have been at the school at the same time.

The school has a program for hearing impaired students. That's cool.

She went to the University of Adelaide, and become president of the Students Association. I wasn't sure what a Student association was, so I looked it up. They deal with aspects of the college that are not academic-related. I think they deal with the more social aspects. I'm trying to remember if my college had a student association. The name sounds familiar. I was part of a club that dealt with campus entertainment. I think we provided the foreign film festival on campus, and we had showings of the Rocky Horror Picture show....stuff like that. I don't remember the name of the club though.

Australia has a national organization called the National Union of Students. I don't quite understand what it is, and their website isn't working. I guess it's a huge mass of students from various Australian schools. From what Lord Wiki is telling me, it seems they are associated with various political groups.

Well, anyway Despoja was an officer with the organization. During that time, she worked as a political adviser for two senators: John Coulter (I hope he's not related to Ann) and Cheryl Kernot.

Despoja was against the GST thing of 1999--Howard's thing. She said she didn't want to break party promises that were made during the election.

Here's some exciting dirt. Despoja replaced Meg Lees as leader. And it seems the two were not happy with each other. Lord Wiki doesn't have much stuff about that. Maybe I'll find some fun information elsewhere.

It seems an ectopic pregnancy is what pushed her out of politics. Or maybe I'm misinterpreting Lord Wiki. I don't think an ectopic pregnancy would cause long term physical restraints, but I do imagine it can cause severe emotional issues. Before I was ever pregnant, I don't think I imagined a miscarriage being that bad. It's not a REAL baby after all. It's not THAT bad. But then when I was pregnant with Jack, I had some bleeding early on and thought I might have a miscarriage. I was terrified and devastated. I didn't see it as being natural. I didn't consider the fact that I could always try again. I didn't want just any baby. I wanted THAT baby. I think too many of us underestimate the pain of miscarriages--which I'm sure makes things even worse for the mothers.

Lord Wiki says Despoja is married to a former Liberal adviser. I don't know much about the Australian Democrats. Are they closer to Labor or Liberal? Is this an opposites attract kind of thing, or are their political beliefs similar?

I'm going to leave Lord Wiki now and look at Despoja's website. When you click on the site, there's a little warning saying that the site is for archival purposes only. I guess now that she's no longer in politics, the website is kind of like history. She has a list of issues she's been involved with. They include:

A) Ensuring education is publicly funded and available to everyone. (I agree with this!)

B) Commercialization of biotechnology. (I have no idea what that is)

C) Securing livable government allowances for students and the disadvantaged. (I agree with this)

D) Outlawing discrimination based on genetic information (Amen to that)

E) Paid Maternity Leave (Amen!)

F) Australia as a Republic (I'm all for that)

G) Stem Cell Research stuff (And yes. I support that too).

It seems Despoja and I see eye to eye on some stuff.

I'm still not sure what commercialization of biotechnology is. I googled it, but it looks too complicated for me to understand.

She has a Q and A thing for students on her site. I'll read that.

She says she's always been interested in politics, and that when she was a child her mother taught her to stand up for what she believes in.

The students asked why she chose the Australian Democrats. She answers that she was weary of both the Liberal and Labor parties. She says, I believe that actions speak louder than words, and found the Democrats to be the only consistent party which stood up for the disadvantaged. Despoja also notes that the Democrats are the only party to have female leaders.

In terms of being a female politician, she addresses this issue too--talking about how women face scrutiny and questions that males are less likely to face. I think all politicians are under a tremendous amount of scrutiny. But I'm sure it IS worse for women.

She talks about a typical day in her career. It sounds VERY busy--long hours.

I like how she answers the question about why there are so few female politicians. In one part, she says women exclude themselves because they do not want to sacrifice time with their family life for their work. She doesn't use this as an excuse for women to be excluded, but instead says the workplace needs to be more family friendly. I completely agree with this. It's not just about mothers either. Fathers need time to be with their families as well. It's a very difficult situation because a lot of companies and organizations want employees who can be fully dedicated--willing and ready to put in those extra hours. But then when do you have time for your children?

I think it's sad.

Okay. Here's something interesting. On her website, it says she does work in South Australia for the deaf. She campaigns for them to have more access to services. I wonder if this was at all inspired by having deaf students at her high school? It seems what she was most working towards was increasing the amount of televisions and DVD's that provided closed-captioning. I think I can hear okay, but I love closed-captioning. I like when it says things like ominous music playing. I'm also better at reading than listening so I feel more comfortable when it's on.

Two other issues that she talks about on her website are pregnancy counseling and paid maternity leave.

Australia and the United States are the only modern industrial countries that do not provide paid maternity leave. Australia is slightly better than the United States because parents are at least allowed a year off. You don't get paid, but if your spouse makes enough money, or if you have money saved, you can take the year off.

In the United States, we get only twelve weeks unpaid. And that's not even guaranteed for all workers. The company has to be of a certain size, and a woman has to have worked there for a certain amount of time.

Despoja pushed for fourteen weeks of paid maternity leave. This would be great. I think the government is still working on the issue. I read somewhere that there's a push for eighteen weeks. That would be even better. It's not as good as Sweden though. There they get sixteen months paid leave. They don't get their full pay, but they get 80%. That's amazing!

As for pregnancy counseling, Despoja is against the dishonest tactics that some organizations use. I think what she's referring to is when an organization advertises that they provide counseling. You call and they try to convince you not to have an abortion. Despoja says she's not pushing pro-choice or pro-life. She just wants honesty in advertising. I strongly agree with this.

She has a bunch of speeches on her website. There's no way I'm reading all of them. I'll read some. I just don't know where to start.

Okay. Here's one about balancing work and life.

Oh! I think I totally love this woman....or her speechwriter. This quote is awesome: And so many lies are told about families by those determined not to meet their needs but wanting to sound good. So many times the word "family" is invoked as though it were the one good in our society. Maybe it is, but not because politicians have made it so.

You go, Natasha! You have my vote. Well, if I was Australian and I could vote--and you were running for something.

This speech is actually for the launch of Barbara Pocock book The Work Life Collision-What work is doing to Australians and What to Do about It. I'm going to look out for this one. It sounds a bit like the book I mentioned in a previous post. Ann Crittenden's The Price of Motherhood.

Despoja uses the term unpaid work. I like that. There's that awful question that people ask mothers. Do you work? I had a friend recently who showed a lack of respect towards women who didn't have paying jobs. I think in his eyes, if a woman stayed home with her children, she was a lazy princess waiting for her prince to work hard and provide for her.

Even if someone doesn't have a paying job, it's still very likely that they work. And just because you have a paycheck, it doesn't make you a more valuable person. Plus, the person I'm speaking of hardly even worked! He was pretty much paid for doing nothing. He had so many days off. Well, he might have been doing unpaid work, but I'm sure that doesn't count for him.

I'm now going to read a speech about the pregnancy counseling. This is a fun one. There's fighting in the room. I'm not quite sure what's going on, but the deputy president had to say Order! That was directed towards a Senator McGauran. He made an interjection. Isn't that what Bob Brown did when Bush was talking? He got suspended for twenty-four hours. Was McGauran equally punished, or is it a kissing-Bush's-ass kind of issue?

The speech is good. It's really pathetic that these women go through this. They call these pregnancy hotlines and the operator tries to scare them out of having abortions. Despoja doesn't want to shut these groups down. She just wants the advertisements to be required to say something that reveals what they are. She suggests something like this service does not provide referrals for termination of pregnancy. I'm sure most pro-life people would hate that though. I think really their whole plan, in the first place, is talking to people who are considering abortion--talk them out of it. It would be great though if their purpose was not that; if their purpose was to give support to mothers who had already decided to keep the baby or give it up for adoption. Maybe that's what they do. And if it is, they should have no problem with being upfront in their advertising.

According to this speech, she supports gay marriage. I really am loving this woman.

The ABC website has a transcript of an interview with her on a show called Enough Rope with Andrew Denton. She talks about her first day in the senate and how people paid way too much attention to her shoes. Oh! And her mom's deaf. So, that (instead of the school) might be why hearing-impairment is an important for her. Or....maybe that school was chosen for her because it had the hearing-impaired program.

Her father didn't play a big role in her life. She was raised by a single mother.

The interview mentions a bit about her conflict with Meg Lees. It doesn't go into details.  Despoja said she doesn't like to do personal judgements, but she will talk about policy.

This article gives me some insight into stuff that happened. At one point, Despoja voted against Lee's policy related to GST. I think? It's all a bit confusing to me.

All right. I'm starting to get a clearer picture. Despoja became leader in 2001. Meg Lees and others made things very hard for her and she ended up resigning sixteen months later. Despite not being the leader though, she remained in politics until recently. She doesn't promise to stay away for good though. This article says she wants to take time out for her family, but doesn't rule out returning someday. I hope she does return. I like her.