Peter Funnell’s 2003 report


Hand in prayer. Martin Davies image.

“I reflected on how much I dislike and disagree with where our PM, John Howard, has taken this nation in the last seven years. It is not the world I want for my son. When I talk to other parents, they privately share the same concern. So what stops us all from changing the way it is? Nothing!” Peter Funnell

On Wednesday I picked my son up from school, his last day for the year. It’s a good school with dedicated, concerned and hardworking teachers. The Director of the infants school is a class act – she preparing these little people to have their heads up and looking forward confidently to next year, the next step in their young lives.


I was reminded recently that when ships were prepard for long voyages, they were said to be “Outward Bound”. This little school and it’s staff place great emphasis on equity, good manners, respect for others, firm but fair discipline, development of personal responsibility and self discipline, the quest for knowledge and the need for community at all levels. Parents don’t have the option to opt out.

This day, the children had a “uniform free day”, but it looked the same to me. The children though it was a great concession. It was a joyous scene – children running everywhere, a party, parents who could get time off work, grandparents and neighbors living near the school (whom we frequently inconvenience). Simple and uncomplicated and very real!

Before I left, my son’s teacher gave me his end of year report and a mass of work completed by my son (much of the artwork now adorns our hallway). It had been a good year. The report was a window into our boy, in an environment where we are not readily to hand to lean on or put things aright or correct him. It was insightful and valuable. It was obvious how much they valued him, with all his strengths and irritations and undeveloped potential. He is “Outward Bound”!

And so it would have been for every parent. Our “Director” handed parents a note with the report, encouraging us to engage with our child in the holidays, giving us pointers for our child that will help him next year and reminding us that “they are not little for long, so enjoy every moment with them”. I looked at the playground mayhem and it was hard to hold back a tear.

So many thoughts raced through my mind – a collection of my concerns for our nation, our people and those on this planet with so much less. Funny whats set you off.

We are so bloody lucky to have grown up in Australia. Why are we doing so much to stuff it up? How very stupid we are, I thought to myself – and what am I doing about it?

What sort of end of year report would we get? Not too so good.

Webdiary has had a good year. So many good contributions and a willingness to question and challenge it all.

The year has closed on Latham becoming leader of the Labor Party. A real chance of going forward with hope. A real chance of changing the awful descent into the mean spirited, selfish, user pays, divisive society that we have become courtesy of the Howard years and Howard’s way.

Living in this nation is not easy, material, moral or ethical – it’s increasing hard and for no gain.

I had got the point that I thought it would never end, that I was out of step with the majority of Australians – certainly those that voted again and again for a Howard Government. It’s been a hard couple of years and I wondered and still wonder what they (Howard et al) will do next.

But Latham’s resuscitated my hope. I’m feeling desperate, so may be I’m an easy touch. So what. What he says is good. The last two Webdiary entries hit the spot, No spin, come and see the real thing and Wake up and smell the wattle!

I want to feel as confident and be as trusting of my Government and our nation’s future as I do when I am standing in the playground of my son’s little school. I wish every Australian could feel that way.

I looked at my son and his friends playing and I thought of all the kids and families in detention centres awaiting decisions on their immigration status. I have always had a strong position on border protection, but been repelled by the way many of these hapless people have been treated while in our care. When I discovered how bad it was, I could hardly believe this was Australia.

I have been outraged by the lies and deceit in “children overboard” and SEIV-4, and acknowledged the horrible suspicion that our Government has been involved in the deaths of many in SEIV-X.

I stuck firm with strong border protection. I have shamed myself, because I hardened my heart to their plight, and it was exploited by the Howard Government. I have no one to blame but myself for my stupidity. The end does not justify the means.

I listened, transfixed to Father Brennan’s address to the National Press Club, skewered by his clear thinking and courage of his convictions. They should have been mine. I would have him take my confession now. I will seek another way to deal with this issue and it will not be Howard’s Way!

I did not want us to be at war with Afghanistan or Iraq. I am proud of what we did in East Timor and the Solomons and Bali. I do not want to be a vassal of the USA, no matter what the perceived consequences.

I am very worried by the perceived necessity to give ground on critical civil liberties through greater powers to ASIO or any other Government authority or agency.

Where is our democracy heading? Why do we have a large surplus? Why are we reducing services to the community and placing ever increasing liabilities on charities? Why are we so easily convinced that we do not need to assist and protect those in our society with less or have fallen on hard times? Why do we have to insist they work for society’s assistance and in so doing, make life that bit harder for no gain? Why do we insist on slamming our young Australians with a dreadfully crippling debt for undertaking higher education, when the debt we seek is their duty to excel in service of the nation? Why are we so closed fisted with the aged in our community? Why do we tolerate a health care system that diminishing rapidly in its ability to service the nation and ensure that those with money will get the treatment and those without will suffer? Why cann’t we say sorry? Why have we pursued global economic objectives at the expense of those who produce in our nation? Why are we so deaf to calls to take rapid and radical action over an ever increasing and threatening array of environmental issues? Why don’t we ensure that the Australian film industry is preserved and developed and that our stories, our way, are told? What’s our story lines? Why, why why?

I reflected on how much I dislike and disagree with where our PM, John Howard, has taken this nation in the last seven years. It is not the world I want for my son. When I talk to other parents, they privately share the same concern. So what stops us all from changing the way it is? Nothing!

Smell the wattle – that’s going to be my call for 2004. No more spin, no tolerance for it, no more cheap and dirty tricks – just the real thing! You can’t do much with hope, but you can do nothing without it.

>Well done with Webdiary Margo. At times I have thought it is the one place that I could seek truth and solace. All the best with the book, Xmas and New Year.

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