Subscribe: Seeking Asylum Down Under
http://seekingasylumdownunder2.blogspot.com/atom.xml
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade B rated
Language: English
Tags:
abbott  abc  asylum seekers  asylum  australia  government  howard  human rights  interview  labor  people  political  seekers 
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: Seeking Asylum Down Under

Seeking Asylum Down Under



A view of Australia's detention of asylum seekers and a search for an antidote to the dictum "might makes right"



Updated: 2017-09-06T13:11:07.865+10:00

 



Back to the future on boat people - Australia's political culture fails the test of leadership

2012-08-20T10:42:19.946+10:00

I am appalled by the decision to reprise the Pacific Solution. On so many levels it is an abject failure of public policy. A legacy of the Howard years is a default toward fear and division on the issue of boat arrivals. It was an easy target for ideologues bent on shoring up the conservative support base with a radical reactionary agenda that lends itself easily to demagoguery.

Although the recommendations of the expert panel point toward a more humane regional framework approach as a long term objective, the reality is that many asylum seekers will be subject to years of uncertainty and an outright violation of their human rights by a Labor Government. A mandatory detention regime is a violation of human rights. To preempt someone's refugee status on the basis of their irregular arrival by boat is illogical and cruel. However, the tenor of public debate in Australia since Tampa has been infused with the kind of hysteria associated with fear politics. We have seen this construct at work all through history and it invariably succeeds for a period, until people wake up to the fact that their prejudices have been manipulated by unscrupulous politicians and their supporters for political gain.

The evil banality of the hypocrisy underpinning the Coalition's stance on boat arrivals is laid bare for anyone with a passing knowledge of refugee matters. You will hear constant mealy mouthed posturings by Coalition politicians purporting to be concerned about the refugee convention and the welfare of children. In the same breath as they plead for off-shore processing to be restricted to countries that have signed the refugee convention, they advocate turning back boats to a country that hasn't signed the convention, putting the unfortunates on board in more harm's way. Where was this great concern for the refugee convention when the Pacific Solution was initiated? No where to be seen.

The media has mainly been a pliant player in prosecuting this nasty farce. It is hard to feel proud of this country when its key institutions are so culpable in enabling this mind-numbing outcome to be foisted on the body politic. Rather than represent the best of us, these politicians have stooped lower and lower to the point where we are plumbing new depths of intolerance, fear and cruelty, with poor neighboring countries active participants in this perfidy. It is truly disgusting and should be condemned in the strongest terms.

I'm ceasing this blog activity as my will to persevere has been crushed by this demoralizing climate of bigotry and 'creeping crypto-fascism'. I find I don't have anything else to add - my previous posts sum it up. I am ashamed of this country's political culture, which routinely rewards the worst political opportunists who dress themselves in the garb of the common folk and who pitch successfully to the lowest common denominator. There are none worse in my lifetime than the current leader of the Opposition. Poor fella my country.....



Sheridan in trouble over use of the term 'illegals' - what are the odds this pamphleteer would be whipping up fear & loathing?

2011-11-03T00:15:36.761+11:00

Crikey reports today that "Sheridan flouts Press Council directive on ‘illegal’ asylum seekers". I put my two bob's worth into the fray, repeating sentiments oft articulated on this site:

"Sheridan is amongst a group of commentators on international affairs who dress narrow polemics up as reasoned analysis. This guy is a propagandist from way back.

The asylum seeker issue is fuelled by hysteria and incendiary demonising by his ilk and finds a largely credulous audience with their ready prejudices (like this twit above), ready to disbelieve the legitimate claims of asylum seekers who didn’t stand in a non-existent queue of orderly people waiting for whichever repressive regime they are escaping to allow them to migrate, or a third world stopover suffused with social and economic disadvantage. The silliness of this position overwhelms me at times.

The history of propaganda reveals you can package lies very successfully if they play to irrational fears and prejudices – it is especially difficult to counter when cloaked in the garb of ‘border security’. So the term ‘illegals’ is tailor made for the job!

The Coalition’s constant vilification of Labor for being weak on border protection has now morphed into a hypocritical concern for the rights of refugees. These of course - yes, you guessed it - will be protected on Nauru.

But how can anyone forget the Libs’ response to Tampa and kids overboard? Blame the victims for their own plight, extract as much sensationalism out of the role of people smugglers, put words in the mouth of ADF personnel who cannot answer for themselves, and then whip up public sentiment against refugees. Throw in dollops of confected outrage over your political opponents complete lack of preparedness to face down the ‘threat’ and you have your stock in trade ‘dog whistle’ response to the terrible plight of some of the most vulnerable people on the planet.

Oh, I forgot - then you can set about making weak neighbouring countries complicit in policies that violate human rights! Sadly, the Labor government fell in behind this construct too easily! It now has an opportunity to put things right.

Is it possible that our general decency might be something Australians can be proud of again? A sensible, humane and orderly approach to offshore processing, which involves regional partners to their benefit, could be a crucial element to stymie the smuggling trade, whilst enabling on-shore processing within the community after mandatory health checks are completed in short-term detention.

Arrangements with key community groups to manage welfare, work-for-allowance strategies and language training could be developed to integrate asylum seekers in the larger society soon after their arrival. Regional areas with labour shortfalls could be targeted for short-term settlement in this respect.

The UNHCR & IOM could be brought in as partners in the process to lend their mandated legitimacy to the exercise. Isn’t it time to stop playing the narcissistic school-yard drop-kick with the bullying posture and derogatory language and start behaving like responsible grown-ups?"

What are the odds?



Media nasties getting warmed up on carbon tax and asylum seekers

2011-10-18T14:33:21.307+11:00

Occasionally I wander off the reservation into hostile territory to see how the restless are behaving. Today’s sojourn was Ackerman’s blog on the Daily Telegraph, with the catchy title, “Carbon tax is like a stink bomb in a very small car”, a nasty little polemic which can be read at:

http://blogs.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/piersakerman/index.php/dailytelegraph/comments/carbon_tax_is_like_a_stink_bomb_in_a_very_small_car/

The comments section were like a tea party picnic convention, with the only thing missing being confederate flags, pit bulls and attack rifles. I left the following comment & withdrew to higher ground:

“Wow, what a grizzle fest.! This should be called Ackerman and his acolytes. Hey, you all trying to out do each other in the ‘who can be the most gratuitously vacuous and obnoxious’ stakes, you are no doubt frothing with excitement at the prospect of a political shock-jock like Abbott break dancing his way into office. Be careful what you wish for.

We get a daily diet of reactionary, simple minded drivel on issues such as immigration & asylum seekers and important areas of public policy are ‘spun’ through the lens of media pamphleteers like this author, who knows how to pitch to a well-worn prejudice and who survives on a dumbed-down strategy of sound-bites, ‘gotcha’ moments and limpid sensationalism. This is political analysis reduced to talk-show patter and infotainment for a presumed audience with a knowledge base and the concentration span of a distracted gnat. Oh, that’s right, I forgot, its a conspiracy of latte-sipping left wingers in inner city suburbs – spare me!! If you believe that drivel you and this author are made for each other.

Under the ‘great con’ Abbott has replaced the biking lycra with reflective lime industrial tops & roams bloke dominated small businesses and mining enterprises, filleting fish, carrying cartons of stuff, digging up stuff, butchering meat, rolling in oats and wheat, etc etc etc, pretending to care about working people and announcing the end of civilization as we know it. A true ‘man of the people’ with an eye to the big end of town (nudge, wink) …Howard battlers should be checking their back pockets because they’re being shafted again.”



Asylum seekers in Australia - can Australia 'grow up' and confront its past failings in this area of human rights?

2011-10-17T15:54:05.265+11:00

The Howard govt turned itself inside out to excise huge slices of the migration zone as part of its manic determination to repel 'boat people'. The Pacific Solution fiasco underpinned the 'illegal boat people' wedge Howard launched in 2001. I was part of the PM's task force that worked on these issues.

Sadly, the 'dog whistle' has been sounded loud and clear by Abbott and his conga line of wing nut mates, and the 'xenophobe' crowd have responded with alacrity. Within their simple-minded construct it's all the Gillard government's fault! Labor instigated a more humane approach to refugees, although it would have been improved by taking the Christmas Island stopover out of the equation and emphasising community processing. Rudd abolished the egregious TPV regime, which was a violation of refugee rights and a nasty scar on our human rights landscape. Having explored regional offshore processing options to negate the people smuggling trade, Gillard is now flagging a shift toward a more reasoned approach, having failed to get bi-partisanship on offshore processing!

The Coalition's constant vilification of Labor for being weak on border protection has now morphed into a hypocritical concern for the rights of refugees. These of course - yes, you guessed it - will be protected on Nauru.

But how can anyone forget the Libs' response to Tampa and kids overboard? Blame the victims for their own plight, extract as much sensationalism out of the role of people smugglers, put words in the mouth of ADF personnel who cannot answer for themselves, and then whip up public sentiment against refugees. Throw in dollops of confected outrage over your political opponents complete lack of preparedness to face down the 'threat' and you have your stock in trade 'dog whistle' response to the terrible plight of some of the most vulnerable people on the planet.

Oh, I forgot - then you can set about making weak neighbouring countries complicit in policies that violate human rights! Sadly, the Labor government fell in behind this construct too easily!

The cruel stupidity of processing asylum seekers in excised areas (unable to access the same legal rights as those who reach our migration zone by air) or in countries unwilling to treat people humanely, must end. Either by default or Machiavellian manoeuvring, Labor can now align our Migration Act with international law and refugee conventions and kick the Howard construct to the 'shit house' of history.



Asylum seekers in Australia - New approaches to onshore processing

2011-10-16T10:00:05.506+11:00

(image)

Cabinet ministers have begun discussing whether to send asylum seekers to regional areas in need of workers.

Anyone who reads this blog (at least 5 people) will know I put a number of points to the PM recently on ways and means of managing onshore processing. Trawling through Poll Bludger this morning I stumbled across a comment that quotes Misha Schubert's piece in The Age, entitled 'Off the boat, into the bush'.

It seems these ideas are percolating around policy makers in the immigration area!



Asylum seekers in Australia - PM moves to treat asylum seekers more humanely

2011-10-14T10:01:10.120+11:00

(image)
Writing in The Age, Michael Gordon, reports on the sharp shift in the Gillard Government's approach to asylum seekers:

"PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has conceded defeat on her asylum seeker policy, forcing her to signal a shift to more community-based processing of people who arrive in Australia by boat.

In a humiliating admission of failure, Ms Gillard finally conceded last night her asylum seeker legislation had collapsed - but insisted she remained committed to the Malaysia people-swap plan that the bill aimed to legalise.

In the meantime, the government says it will process more asylum seekers arriving by boat in the community to stop an expected increase in numbers overloading the immigration detention system."






Asylum seekers in Australia - Open letter to the Prime Minister

2011-09-22T23:47:30.903+10:00

Prime Minister, I'm one of those rusted on Labor supporters who let my membership lapse prior to the last election because of disillusionment with the drift away from core Labor values in the 'business' of politics. Under the Howard government mandatory detention of asylum seekers evolved into a tragic farce. Australians were alarmingly sanguine about the travesty. Its worst manifestation was the Pacific Solution, which I became embroiled in as AusAID Director of the Nauru aid program. Of particular concern to me were the tawdry misuses of official aid under the Pacific Solution and the downstream implications of the strategy, which was made up on the run by bureaucrats doing their level best to engineer good outcomes from bad political motives. The perfunctory official approaches adopted toward self-harming detainees were another disturbing aspect. As the Party responsible for the legislative framework (in particular 'mandatory detention') within which Howard evolved his refugee 'house of horrors', it is appropriate that a Labor Govt put Australia's human rights compliance at the top of the international agenda and put our domestic laws ‘house’ back in order."Tragically, the failure to shine a light on the true mentality behind the prosecution of these earlier policies saw the ghost of the Pacific Solution and the shop of horrors that was the Howard Govt's refugee program continue to linger in the corridors of power. As an erstwhile member of the Howard Government's task force on 'illegal' migration I am completely cognisant of the issues surrounding the Bali framework process. I am supportive of a regional approach that stops boats but does'nt breach the UN convention on treatment of refugees. Your current brinkmanship is no doubt good politics, but it fails to satisfy the requirements of a progressive charter in this area. The mandatory detention regime opened a Pandora's box of opportunities for low rent political agendas, which politicians like Howard and Abbott have exploited ruthlessly. Labor is continually playing catch up, rather than biting the bullet by re-examining the rationale for long-term mandatory detention and changing the tenor of the whole debate. The unedifying sight of Labor politicians jumping on the xenophobia bandwagon was one of the key reasons I left the party, as I saw defenceless people used as betting chips in a nasty bidding war. Labor could re-capture the high ground by reviewing mandatory detention and off-shore processing policy and wring the necessary changes? A public information program to explain the reasoning behind the changes, including Australia's obligations under international refugee and human rights instruments, could usher a new awareness of our collective standing and responsibility as a defender of human rights. This would be attractive to the progressive side of the Labor support base and small 'L' Liberals. Maybe its time to make our general decency something Australians can be proud of again! A sensible, humane and orderly approach to offshore processing, which involves regional partners to their benefit, could be a crucial element to stymie the smuggling trade, whilst enabling on-shore processing within the community after mandatory health checks are completed in short-term detention. Arrangements with key community groups to manage welfare, work-for-allowance strategies and language training could be developed to integrate asylum seekers in the larger society soon after their arrival. Regional areas with labour shortfalls could be targeted for short-term settlement in this respect.The UNHCR, IOM could be brought in as partners in the process to lend their mandated legitimacy to the exercise. Isn't it time to stop playing to the reactionary's game book? I for one would rejoin the ALP if this approach was followed.[...]



Asylum seekers in Australia - mandatory detention & offshore processing are failed policies!

2011-09-01T14:13:17.218+10:00

Howard's policies toward refugees wrought immense change in my life. The alarming shift this country took in 2001 left me angry and dispirited. I felt the moral and ethical basis of our commitment to protect human rights had been compromised, and that vulnerable human beings in need of help had become pawns in a ruthless political agenda. After Rudd's election Australia continued to disregard human rights in the treatment of asylum seekers. The government detained new arrivals on Christmas Island, which was commissioned by the Howard Govt when it became abundantly clear Nauru was a failed option. Throughout the decade since 2001 the usual suspects have branded irregular boat arrivals as 'queue jumpers' to justify their treatment as criminals or 'illegals'. With the latest High Court decision it has become painfully clear that the government must be required to treat new arrivals humanely and to counter attempts by politicians, media and other commentators to demonize them for political and other purposes. When Rudd came to power I wrote to the then Immigration Minister, Sen Evans, as follows: "Under the previous government mandatory detention of asylum seekers evolved into a tragic farce played out under the gaze of key UN watchdog bodies. In Australia, apart from refugee advocate groups, the general population was alarmingly sanguine about the travesty. Its worst manifestation was the Pacific Solution, which I became embroiled in as AusAID Director of the Nauru aid program. Thankfully, one of the earliest actions of the Rudd Govt was to abolish the Pacific Solution. However, I think the Govt has to go further... The Howard Govt thumbed its nose at the 'UN Committee against Torture' in 2005, standing by its asylum seeker policies as ‘just & fair’. In fact Howard et al thumbed their noses at international human rights instruments throughout their tenure and actively sought to undermine the credibility of the UN committee process. Thankfully this dark chapter is over. To signal that the change wrought by the Rudd Govt represents more than window dressing, and to keep faith with UN and other international processes, I suggest a thorough judicial review is needed of the asylum seeker policies and programs of the previous Govt. The review Terms of Reference should include, but not be limited to, an investigation of: 1. Implementation of the Pacific Solution (this of course should encompass the role and use of official aid) 2. Wrongful detention of refugees and permanent residents of Australia (taking account of the previous reviews and the report of the Commonwealth Ombudsman) 3. Operation and financing of detention facilities on the mainland and offshore 4. Wrongful repatriation of asylum seekers (a particular concern of the UN Committee against Torture) 5. Influence of political staffers and Ministers in the determination of immigration decisions 6. Role of the Prime Minister's task force on 'illegal' migration' 7. Influence of 'understandings' and 'deals' with neighbouring countries on the management of Australia's refugee policies and programs Of particular concern to me were the tawdry misuses of official aid under the Pacific Solution and the downstream implications of the strategy, which was made up on the run by bureaucrats doing their level best to engineer good outcomes from bad political motives. The perfunctory official approaches adopted toward self-harming detainees were another disturbing aspect. As the Party that put in place the legislative framework (in particular 'mandatory detention') within which Howard evolved his refugee 'house of horrors', it is appropriate that a Labor Govt put Australia's human rights compliance at the top of the international agenda and put our domestic laws ‘house’ back in order." Tragically, the failure to shine a light on the true mentality [...]



Abbott watch - what motivates the hate rallies?

2011-08-25T23:32:52.262+10:00

Crikey has a piece today by Bernard Keane, pondering the question, "What motivates the Parl house rallies?" I've proffered my two bob's worth: "Abbott and his conga line of media cronies are continuing the thinly camouflaged campaign to win government by trashing the Government’s record and its attempt to put a price on carbon. The science on climate change is routinely questioned and vilified by skilled dog whistlers and commentators compromised by their links to vested interests opposed to carbon pricing. A largely ill-informed electorate swallow the sound bites and media grabs of this shoddy bunch and are conned into believing their life-styles are under threat. Abbott pretends to care about the little people while doing the bidding of the mining and power companies. He is a fear monger-er of the worst sort. We have seen his type of politician down through the ages. They set up straw men to knock down and claim the credit for ‘saving’ the people from some imaginary onslaught. He pitches a different message to different audiences, depending on their relative levels of literacy - in the case of the recent rally outside Parliament three word slogans were more than enough. Demagogues always operate like this - it is in their DNA to tailor the message to suit the crowd and they are gifted at pressing the right fear buttons with confected outrage and anger. Another plank of the strategy is to demonize the Labor leadership, much in the way the Tea Party is demonizing Obama’s leadership in America. They paint a picture of disunity, betrayal of the body politic, a ‘stab in the back’ for decent citizens by a government beholden to ‘special interests’ and unspecified ‘elites’. More coded dog whistling to convince the electorate that their government is weak and incapable of protecting the country from outside threats and the export of jobs. Our PM is branded a liar, wooden, childless and weak. A nasty legend has been woven by misogynistic spin meisters who want their boy in power, and they will do anything (within the law presumably) to achieve it. The Coalition has gained rich pickings from fear-mongering, as evidenced by the Queensland vote at the last general election. The ‘tea party’ rump of the One Nation party has drifted back to the LNP, in thrall to simple minded messages on debt & deficit, the carbon & mining taxes and good ole migrant & refugee bashing. In much of the media and shock-jock land narrow sectional interests get a helpful leg up in most areas of debate on public policy. We get a diet of reactionary, simple minded drivel on issues such as immigration & asylum seekers and important areas of public policy are ‘spun’ through the lens of media celebrities who survive on a dumbed-down strategy of sound-bites, ‘gotcha’ moments and limpid sensationalism. Political analysis has been reduced to talk-show patter and infotainment for a presumed audience with the concentration span of a distracted gnat. Misinformation and outright disinformation have become the currency of many mainstream commentators. The template for this was set up with the formation of a minority government. Many in the print, radio and television media did not like this result. They did not anticipate it, they have no control over it, and they want it gone. A political shock-jock like Abbott thrives in this landscape. He has replaced the biking lycra with reflective lime industrial tops & roams bloke dominated small businesses and mining enterprises, filleting fish, carrying cartons of stuff, digging up stuff, butchering meat, rolling in oats and wheat, etc etc etc, pretending to care about working people and announcing the end of civilization as we know it. A true ‘man of the people’ with an eye to the big end of town (nudge, wink) …Howard battlers should be ch[...]






Our ABC - apparently obtuse, rude interviews are someone's notion of playing 'devil's advocate'

2011-09-21T10:34:13.162+10:00

I recently made the following complaint to ABC concerning a RN interview between Sabra Lane and Treasurer Swan: "As with an earlier interview on RN Lane has conducted a rude, simple-minded interview completely lacking in balance and cogent reasoning. It came across as a Coalition inspired attack on the most important structural change to our economy in well over a decade. An excellent deconstruction of Lane's earlier interview with Swan can be found at http://www.thepoliticalsword.com/ Every step of the way ABC reporters are out digging for negative reactions to the package, whipping up more fear in place of reasoned analysis of the package as a whole. Why isn't the focus on the reactions of people who actually know a thing or two about the implications of the package. I did'nt hear any question from Lane on today's survey of the reaction of economists to climate change policies. This type of journalism is execrable and doing our country a great disservice. Many people are sick of the editorialising virus that is sweeping the ABC, seeking to shift opinion on the major issues of the day. In your quest for so-called 'balance' some dreadful 'pamphleteers' get a regular airing, such as those from thoroughly compromised think tanks such as the IPA. No wonder the PM's polling is going south on matters of national importance such as carbon pricing. Our ABC is out there doing the reactionary's job for them. Journalists like Lane need to go back to journalism school. Poor fella my country..."I received the following reply from Kieran Doyle of ABC's Audience and Consumer Affairs Dept:"Thank you for your email regarding the interview with the federal Treasurer on The World Today.Your concerns have been investigated by Audience and Consumer Affairs, a unit which is separate to and independent of program making areas within the ABC. We have reviewed the broadcast, assessed it against the ABC’s editorial standards and sought and considered material provided by ABC News. The adversarial or ‘devil’s advocate’ style of interviewing, employed at times by Sabra Lane, can generate a strong and mixed reaction from the public. Part of the technique of the ‘devil’s advocate’ approach is to take major points of criticism from various sources, including opposing politicians, and put them to the interviewee. This can sometimes give the audience the impression that these are the personal views of the interviewer. This is not the case.When she is doing a one-on-one interview she has a duty to conduct a testing interview that does not allow the interviewee to use the occasion as a political platform. It is her duty to put other points of view to the interviewee and her responsibility to make reasonable efforts to ensure that the questions are answered.Having reviewed the interview with the Treasurer against the impartiality provisions of the ABC Editorial Policies, Audience and Consumer Affairs is satisfied that the interview is in keeping with those standards. The questions posed to Mr Swan were relevant and based strictly on their news value. He was afforded ample opportunity to clearly state his views in response. We are satisfied that the interview was suitably respectful and courteous. Audience and Consumer Affairs has concluded that the interview is in keeping with sections 4.1, 4.2, 4.4 and 4.5 of the ABC Editorial Policies. Sabra Lane conducted an equally rigorous interview with the Leader of the Opposition on AM that same week. ABC Radio current affairs programs AM, The World Today and PM have provided a vast and diverse range of principal relevant perspectives on the government’s carbon package and related issues, and no one perspective has been unduly favoured over another."I replied:"Oh sure, the trouble is the ques[...]



Seeking asylum in Australia - Public policy struggles to match public opinion

2011-08-17T09:52:09.328+10:00

The looming spectre of the Manus Island detention facility re-opening signals a monumental failure of public policy. I was prepared to give the Gillard Govt the benefit of the doubt on the Malaysia swap arrangement but re-visiting the Pacific Solution is a disaster. Yesterday's poll in the Age suggests public opinion remains wedded to mandatory detention but a clear majority want asylum seekers processed in Australia. Poll Bludger has a good post on the poll this morning as follows: "Nielsen struck a blow for transparency yesterday by releasing comprehensive data for their polling on asylum seekers, featuring detail on the questions and how they were asked, breakdowns by state, location, gender, age and voting intention, and no fewer than eight tables cross-tabulating various results for the eight questions asked. They even went so far as to include the raw numbers they reached after weighting the responses for age, gender and location, not that this particularly tells us much. The poll also deserves credit for posing thoughtfully crafted questions on a complex and contentious subject. No doubt taking inspiration from Murray Goot and Ian Watson’s recent paper on public opinion and asylum seekers, which noted that results had been heavily influenced by “the way questions are framed, the kinds of questions that precede these questions (and) the range of possible responses the questions allow”, the Nielsen report offered the following: It is important to note that the results of opinion polls on this issue are more sensitive to the wording of the questions asked than for many other topics. This is because the issues are often emotional for some and complicated for all. Respondent knowledge on this subject is never complete. The task of adequately condensing complex options into fair but meaningful questions is also a difficult one. The questions in this poll were stripped of their political context as much as possible. For example the ‘sent to another country to be assessed’ option was not offered in the context of deterrence, nor was any human or financial cost alluded to. It was not offered as Labor or Coalition policy (e.g. by calling it the ‘Malaysian solution’ or the ‘Pacific solution’). The Fairfax papers asserted that the poll showed voters “at odds with both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott and the perception that attitudes have hardened against asylum seekers”, and certainly the figures point to a more liberal attitude than the tenor of political debate would suggest. However, The Age gilded the lily a little with a graphic showing 60 per cent believed those assessed as genuine refugees should be allowed to stay in Australia permanently. It takes a bit of digging to appreciate that this excludes the 15 per cent who didn’t believe the asylum seekers should be assessed at all, having preferred that they be “sent out to sea”. The number supporting settlement in Australia was nonetheless a very solid 49 per cent, although there remained a combined 44 per cent in favour of the less liberal options of temporary protection visas (29 per cent support) and sending boats back out to sea (15 per cent). The same issue occurs with The Age’s figures for whether boat arrivals should be held in detention (64 per cent) or allowed into the community (32 per cent): putting the aforementioned 15 per cent back in (together with the 4 per cent “other/don’t know“), the results come down to 52 per cent and 26 per cent. Regarding the treatment of asylum seekers on arrival, the results can be broken down thus: 22% – Allowed to live in the Australian community 12% – Detained in Australia, excluding children 17% – Detained in Australia, including children 4% – Se[...]



The cult of 'balance' discernible in US media also infecting our politics

2011-07-30T11:47:37.250+10:00

I was struck by an article by Paul Krugman writing in the NY Times. He writes:

"The facts of the crisis over the debt ceiling aren’t complicated. Republicans have, in effect, taken America hostage, threatening to undermine the economy and disrupt the essential business of government unless they get policy concessions they would never have been able to enact through legislation."

It does not stretch credulity too far by suggesting the same is happening here over the carbon tax imbroglio. The difference is that Abbott has not been able to take Australia hostage yet, but it is not through a want of trying. Krugman goes on,

"Some of us have long complained about the cult of “balance,” the insistence on portraying both parties as equally wrong and equally at fault on any issue, never mind the facts. I joked long ago that if one party declared that the earth was flat, the headlines would read “Views Differ on Shape of Planet.” But would that cult still rule in a situation as stark as the one we now face, in which one party is clearly engaged in blackmail and the other is dickering over the size of the ransom?

The answer, it turns out, is yes. And this is no laughing matter: The cult of balance has played an important role in bringing us to the edge of disaster. For when reporting on political disputes always implies that both sides are to blame, there is no penalty for extremism. Voters won’t punish you for outrageous behavior if all they ever hear is that both sides are at fault."

Now that resonates with our experience. Our media has caught the same virus that sees extremist wing-nuts being trotted out on mainstream media platforms to sprout their propaganda, all in the name of 'balance'. On the ABC we get reactionary commentators and think tank apparatchiks spruiking extremism on a daily basis, lambasting the PM and vilifying the science on carbon warming. Cogent debate is sidelined by gross misrepresentation of facts, and shock jocks are given more credence than serious investigative journalists. Krugman again, with inserts by moi:

The problem with American/Australian politics right now is Republican/Coalition extremism, and if you’re not willing to say that, you’re helping make that problem worse.



Our ABC - 7.30 plumbs new depths with Nixon interview

2011-07-28T20:02:07.516+10:00

I had the misfortune to catch the Sales interview with Nixon tonight. What an awful interrogation. Thought I'd drop them a line, as follows:

"I have been underwhelmed by the quality of interviews on the re-vamped 7.30 but was prepared to give it another go as it can take time for front people to find their footing. I don't think there is much chance for Uhlmann as he just projects his own narrow take on most items. However, I had thought Sales had more substance.

After tonight's interview with Christine Nixon I have concluded it is a lost cause. We were treated to an aggressive, simple-minded interrogation that would have done Fox News proud. I am thoroughly sick of the ABC presenting as a 'soft' arm of News Ltd.

Nixon rattled corrupt male cages within Vicpol and was targeted as a result. It is a great shame that honest cops are subject to this type of demonization but welcome to modern leadership - Australia style! If you happen to be a woman the white-anting will be relentless and largely unquestioned by our fearless media."



Any lessons for Australia from Norway atrocity?

2011-07-27T23:50:53.764+10:00

We have learned over the last couple of days that the Oslo mass murderer, Anders Behring Breivik, was a reactionary Islamophobe with a messianic bent. Progressive politics was conceived by him as the arch enemy of his crusade to reprise a 'christian', white Norway under a Templar banner. Overtones of Third Reich mythologizing and racial theory are discernible in his largely plagiarized manifesto. He appears to be a self-obsessed sociopath with little or no empathy with his fellow citizens. No doubt the full extent of his pathology will emerge over the next days, weeks and months, and to what extent he had links with internal and external players. It is of passing note that he appears to have been drawn to the ideas of John Howard, Cardinal Pell and Keith Windschuttle. I'm sure all of these men would be horrified by this connection but why are they in the picture at all?A shameful xenophobia has been whipped up in this country by politicians and their apologists, particularly targeting Muslim immigrants and asylum seekers, whenever they need to shore up electoral support. They pander to a dark underbelly, where sub-cultures lurk that frequently find voice through an 'easy racism'. One Nation tapped into this phenomenon and a key legacy of the Howard years sees Coalition politicians exploiting this tendency ruthlessly. Misrepresentation of facts and ethnic stereotyping are the calling cards (or ‘dog whistles’) of ‘culture warriors’ within politics and the media, pandering to the ignorant and misinformed. The Coalition has gained rich pickings from fear-mongering, as evidenced by the Queensland vote at the last general election. The 'tea party' rump of the One Nation party has drifted back to the LNP, in thrall to simple minded messages on debt & deficit, the carbon & mining taxes and good ole migrant & refugee bashing. The relentless banging of the fear drum on immigration and asylum seekers has enabled large swathes of the reactionary commentariat to shape public opinion in an unhealthy way. Commercial TV has been a disgrace for a long time in reporting immigration & asylum seekers issues.The trend in recent times has been for serious current affairs programs to use Fox News style approaches to covering political issues. We get the constant crosses to so-called 'expert' commentators, many of whom are so politically biased as to verge on the farcical. There is also the tendency to use the lumpen media stalwarts as guest commentators. ABC News 24 constantly relies on so-called 'expert' commentary to 'fill' the analysis pieces - whose regular currency in trade is indictment of progressive policies and glad handling of reactionary approaches. The skewed opinion settings of the mainstream media have galled me for a long time. Narrow sectional interests get a helpful leg up in most areas of debate on public policy. We also get a diet of reactionary, simple minded drivel on issues such as immigration & asylum seekers; a plethora of important areas of public policy are 'spun' through the lens of media celebrities who survive on a dumbed-down strategy of sound-bites, 'gotcha' moments and limpid sensationalism. Political analysis has been reduced to talk-show patter and infotainment for a presumed audience with the concentration span of a distracted gnat. As a result of our simple-minded and largely mean-spirited approach to asylum seekers: . We still see children behind bars because their parents or guardians had the courage & temerity to arrive on our shores unannounced. Many accepted refugees struggle to find public housing and to get a toe hold on the economic ladder. Asylum seekers in the twilight limbo of our[...]



Bombs in Oslo - appalling coverage on our ABC

2011-07-23T11:00:56.982+10:00

I sent the following feedback to ABC24 this morning:

"What a woeful coverage. Constant speculation whether it was a mad man, a terrorist or an alien. Constant simple-minded analysis as to Norway's international engagement, which is substantial and complex. Constant nonsense over whether Norway is prone to extremist politics which, like every country in the region, it clearly is through just a cursory analysis of the last few decades. There is a growing extreme right wing fundamentalism that has international links and there are home grown jihadi groups with possible aspirations to take domestic action in protest over Norway's involvement in Afghanistan.

Perhaps if you spent less time worrying about the nonsense on social media sites and more time employing people with some knowledge of international affairs you might do better. Our ABC has caught the dumbing down bug which inhabits commercial media. At least some of your interlocutors have tried to make some sense of the situation, warning against jumping to conclusions.

The immediate protocol for an event like this is locking down the crime scene, forensic analysis of the explosion area and an ever widening net of investigation based on evidence. This can take quite a while. Idle speculation on behalf of dim-witted journalists trying to get ahead of the facts is extremely counter-productive."



Abbott's 3m vision - misogyny, mediocrity and mendacity

2011-07-18T16:09:00.918+10:00

The current Abbott stratagem is working a treat. He is tapping into tendencies in the Oz body politic that have endured over many generations. There are many that distrust and dislike well educated forceful women. I continually hear opprobrium bandied about on Gillard's marital status, her childlessness, her atheism, her industrial advocacy background (she must be a socialist). A nasty legend has been woven by misogynistic spin meisters who want their boy in power, and they will do anything (within the law presumably) to achieve it.

And then there's mediocrity. What has passed for journalism over the last months has been truly sad. Misinformation and outright disinformation have been the currency of many mainstream commentators. The template for this was set up with the formation of a minority government. Many in the print, radio and television media did not like this result. They did not anticipate it, they have no control over it, and they want it gone. As Keating said the other day in describing Abbott's response, 'if you are not going to give me the job I'll wreck the place'. Well yes, and he has friends to help him.

However, to get away with such a strategy you have to presume a highly credulous audience. Why do people fall for demagoguery in the first place? It taps into predilections & prejudices and panders to fear and ignorance. The anti-carbon tax campaign does all these things. Informed analysis is ignored by many in favour of dissemblers and hate-mongers. This is how the tea party operates in the US. As the esteemed intellectual Harold Bloom summed it up in a RN interview recently, the tea party signifies the growth of oligarchy in America and a creeping fascism.

Oh, and of course the whole stratagem is underpinned by mendacity. To make this work you have to paint your opponent as the 'liar'. I haven't heard an ounce of truth from any of Abbott's apologists, and certainly not from the man himself. He lies for a living and as good as admitted it in a notorious 7.30 report interview. Yet, he has the gall to fashion a political scare campaign around the central motif of the PM having lied about a carbon tax. Why does this work? The answer comes back to misogyny and mediocrity. We are mired in a reactionary mindset that enables this type of low-rent politics to succeed. Howard did it and now Abbott is doing it, and we are having it done to us.

The only way to counter this approach is to keep stating the simple truth. Opinion is malleable but the facts don't lie. The nay-sayers on climate change action can find comfort in Abbott's magic pudding, but it is illusory and will end in tears for generations to come. Putting a price on carbon is essential to achieving structural change in our economy; structural change is necessary to achieve the investment in clean energy solutions; clean energy solutions are essential for a sustainable future. It ain't rocket science, but a difficult pill to swallow in challenging economic times. Is this country to become a model for positive change or a sniveling, whingeing echo of the tea party phenomenon? Australians must be very careful what they wish for.....and keep the faith folks.



The editorializing virus sweeping the ABC strikes the World Today

2011-07-13T14:11:19.708+10:00

The Political Sword deconstructed an interview by Sabra Lane on RN the other day.

Lane was at again today on the World Today with a typically one-sided interview with Swan.

I sent the following feedback to the World Today website:

"As with an earlier interview on RN Lane has conducted a rude, simple-minded interview completely lacking in balance and cogent reasoning. It came across as a Coalition inspired attack on the most important structural change to our economy in well over a decade.

An excellent deconstruction of Lane's earlier interview with Swan can be found at
http://www.thepoliticalsword.com/

Every step of the way ABC reporters are out digging for negative reactions to the package, whipping up more fear in place of reasoned analysis of the package as a whole.

Why isn't the focus on the reactions of people who actually know a thing or two about the implications of the package. I did'nt hear any question from Lane on today's survey of the reaction of economists to climate change policies. This type of journalism is execrable and doing our country a great disservice.

Many people are sick of the editorializing virus that is sweeping the ABC, seeking to shift opinion on the major issues of the day. In your quest for so-called 'balance' some dreadful 'pamphleteers' get a regular airing, such as those from thoroughly compromised think tanks such as the IPA.

No wonder the PM's polling is going south on matters of national importance such as carbon pricing. Our ABC is out there doing the reactionary's job for them. Journalists like Lane need to go back to journalism school. Poor fella my country...."



Our ABC losing the plot again on carbon pricing - Q & A becomes a parody of itself

2011-07-13T11:58:14.705+10:00

And so it goes. Labor continues to receive the worst polling in living memory and the national broadcaster continues to operate as it if it was a promotional arm of the Coalition's media machine. I think the msm have never forgiven JG for stitching up a deal for minority govt. Few, if any, of the gallery predicted the minority govt result and they gave Gillard a snow ball's chance of negotiating with the rural independents and then expected the deal would go to hell in a hand-basket under the relentless fear campaign of Abbott. In fact the legislative record of this govt is pretty impressive.ABC 24 is littered with one liners and headlines slamming the carbon price package. It is relentless. Every step of the way ABC reporters are out digging for negative reactions to the package, whipping up more fear in place of reasoned analysis of the package as a whole. An excellent deconstruction of a Radio National interview with Swan can be found at the Political Sword blog.What will be a truly important structural change for this economy was excoriated by a relentless patter of negativity and spleen from those who are either the authors of, or who have swallowed, the fear and misinformation campaign of vested interests and the Abbott Coalition. At one of the meetings attended by Hockey, an idiot suggested it was time guns were used to convey their opposition to the carbon tax. This is what comes of a fear and loathing campaign. I can't help but think a big whack of misogynistic bigotry underpins a lot of the mindless opprobrium hurled at the PM. It truly reeks.Yesterday we had Q & A served up to us. I gave up watching the show some time back as I thought it had become a vehicle for Jones to interpolate his oh so clever interrogations of Labor politicians in a captive state. All pretty poor form & tedious, redolent with gotcha and simple-minded "oh I know what you knew when someone else thought you knew" moments (argghhh).I followed a ball by ball account of the show on one of our national political blogs and sent the following bouquet:"I didn't watch your show as I foresaw Jones grandstanding as usual, being gratuitously rude to the PM with his oh so clever interruptions (there's something about strong women that gets your Tone), and the usual ill-informed, half-baked questions that suggest a critical acuity of minus 3. I have been following reporting of tonight's show on several political websites and the overall verdict is the PM was excellent under fire and the audience was completely negative. Tone should take the time to read Lyndsay Tanner's Sideshow and think a little about the profession of journalism, and then take a hard look at what passes for 'analysis' under the guise of political commentary on our ABC. Then he should ask himself, 'did I make a difference'? As it stood, prior to his joining the 'let's destroy Julia' crowd (group/hive think courtesy of that bastion of balanced journalism, Uncle Rupe) I would have said he was holding his own. With performances like tonight's and so many in recent times on Q & A he has become part of the problem with today's msm - all gotcha moments and simple-minded wind. Keep up the great work.......Poor fella my country."Meanwhile Abbott has replaced the biking lycra with reflective lime industrial tops & roams bloke dominated small businesses and mining enterprises, filleting fish, carrying cartons of stuff, digging up stuff, butchering meat, rolling in oats and wheat, etc etc etc, pretending to care about working people and announcing the end of civiliza[...]



Asylum seekers in Australia: Memories of Tampa, a leaky boat and a dodgy government

2011-07-07T15:23:37.329+10:00

ABC Online is reporting this morning that "former Defence Force personnel have spoken out about the Tampa and children overboard affair, accusing the Howard government of manipulating events for political purposes".I was in harness in PNG when the Tampa situation arose. My heart sank and my stomach churned as I knew Howard was the type of politician to twist these circumstances to his political benefit. Little did I know to what extent I would be dragged into the disgusting quagmire that became known as the Pacific Solution.I have mused on the experience as follows:"In August 2001 news reports began filtering through that the Australian Government led by John Howard as Prime Minister had detained a boatload of mainly Afghani refugees on the high seas. The cargo vessel was the Tampa, a word that has become etched indelibly into my consciousness. The ‘boat people’ saga had begun. Ten weeks later the Australian people returned the Howard Government to office in a general election and the ignominious strategy to label offshore asylum seekers ‘illegals’ and detain them in third countries had been labelled the Pacific Solution. I am haunted by this epithet as it is resonates with sinister ‘solutions’ found elsewhere in the twentieth century in the name of national security and identity. The cover notes to David Marr and Marian Wilkinson’s chilling account of events that “shattered many of the myths Australia has about itself and changed profoundly the way it is seen in the eyes of the world” summarize events concisely: They put lives at risk. They twisted the law. They drew the military into the heart of an election campaign. They muzzled the press. They misused intelligence services, defied the United Nations, antagonized Indonesia and bribed poverty stricken Pacific states. They closed Australia to refugees – and won a mighty election victory. At the time I was well into the second year of a diplomatic posting to Papua New Guinea (PNG). I worked for Australia’s overseas aid agency, AusAID. My career had involved me in human rights and refugee activities in several countries, including Southern African states on the front line against apartheid, Nepal, India and PNG. During my working life Australia had held out a helping hand to refugees from various conflicts, including Tibet, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. Now we were turning our back on Afghanis fleeing the most repressive and murderous regime to emerge out of the ruins of the Soviet invasion, the Taliban. I traveled to Afghanistan in the early 1970s as part of a wave of adventurous backpackers criss-crossing the Middle East and South Asia during those halcyon years. A Russian military presence was evident in Kabul but the hell of military invasion was yet to unfold. Young Afghani students in western dress gathered in coffee shops, tourists mixed with locals in cheap eating houses and live music could be heard in the evenings, emanating from a myriad small guest houses and hotels. Kabul was a welcoming, relaxed haven for travelers en route to exotic destinations in this ancient tribal fiefdom, and Iran or Pakistan. Later as a doctoral student in India I had the great fortune to form deep friendships with both Afghanis and Iranians. Some were escaping the strictures of the Khomeini regime in Iran and the terrors of war in Afghanistan. India provided a safe sanctuary and a place to study. The brutalization of Afghanis and others under Australia’s [...]



ABC spruiks reactionary politics in the cause of 'balance'

2011-06-28T18:11:40.677+10:00

Sent the following comment to their ABC this morning:

"ABC24 Breakfast is at it again. Trioli was drooling over the prospect of Abbott becoming PM on the back of fear campaigns and some dunderhead Tea Party pollie entering the Presidential fray. Where in your charter does it say you should shape opinion on how people think about politics? You have players like Trioli and Clarke clearly spruiking for right wing reactionaries. I would be equally offended if they were spruiking for left wing ideologues.

There are too many opinionated flakes involved with shows on ABC24 under the guise of journalism. Breakfast and the Drum are inhabited by people trying to model themselves on commercial talk show participants, with a shallowness that is breathtakingly disappointing and it is seeping into your serious journalism.

Over time you will loose audience share because the 'concentration span of distracted gnats' crowd are'nt interested in politics and those with a brain will get their 'news' on-line. Many people are sick of the editorializing virus that is sweeping the ABC, seeking to shift opinion on the major issues of the day.

In your quest for so-called 'balance' some dreadful 'pamphleteers' get a regular airing, such as those from thoroughly compromised think tanks such as the IPA. No wonder the PM's polling is going south on matters of national importance such as carbon pricing. Their ABC is out there doing the reactionary's job for them!"



Poll Bludger comment a telling report card on Abbott's opposition!

2011-06-23T10:01:40.747+10:00

The following comment appeared this morning on the Poll Bludger blog. The author's pseudonym is Bushfire Bill. This deserves a wide readership:"So I suppose today’s The Day, one year on.We were supposed to have a plebiscite rolling the Coalition into government. According to the script, the government was sure to lose it and Tony Abbott would shame Gillard into resigning and calling an election.A carefully crafted series of polls, internet stunts like The Cloud, articles on how Rudd was all but selecting wallpaper for the Lodge and K House and and endless, buzzing barrage of shock-jock insults and mockery were supposed to soften her up, ready for the kill.Gee, it all looked so good on paper, didn’t it?The fairy story, concocted through a manic News Ltd and an outright insane Coalition leadership, that Gillard was gone, fell apart under the weight of its own ridiculousness.As proof of just how ridiculous it was, I offer you one compelling piece of logic: even Steve Fielding wouldn’t buy into it. When Fielding runs a mile, you know whatever it is he’s running from is truly frightening.When Fonzie jumped the shark on a pair of water skis all those years ago it popped the bubble of suspended disbelief that so many fans would blow around them when they sat down to watch Happy Days. Suddenly they saw their favourite show for what it was… an over-egged fantasy world where everyone was nice, even the nasties. And it was getting tired.This week I have the hope that the same has happened to the Coalition. They had their chance, nearly a year of relentless negativism designed to destabilize the hung parliament, and indeed the nation itself.The only way they could get the punters on side with their wet dream of a guerrilla usurpation of the government was to convince the gullible out there that the country was so fu*ked that even Tony Abbott couldn’t bugger it up further. They set the bar so low that even the intellectually lame and the logically halt could jump it.Some snippets…Pensioners cowering in their homes, with only their AM radios and their telephones left to call 2GB for emergency assistance, in case the man came around to burn their house down with a free set-top-box.A tinpot guano nation in the middle of the Pacific, smaller than the fullstop at the end of this sentence, held up as a stirring example of man’s humanity to man. It’s farcical government only functional enough to hold out its hand to take Australian aid dollars. Senior members of our “Alternative Government” went there to sit under the coconut tree and do a deal with this bastion of democracy, just as the Russian Mafia had done, in years past. Scott Morrison may find that the Malaysians are not as welcoming as our Micronesian welfare junkies in Nauru. Nauru may find that the Australian government is also not so welcoming to their next plea for a handout. I hope so.The News Ltd publications running public campaigns to destroy the Greens, and then crying foul when Bob Brown ticked them off about it. They published poll after poll, one upon the other, designed to make polls themselves the story, vying with each other to show an even more dismal picture for Labor. When the matriarch of the Murdoch family finally cried “Enough!” on Climate Change, the bloated, malignant Akerman, fresh from providing ballast for an ocean-going yacht, sheepishly told a national TV audience and an incredulous Insiders panel that she was past it, too old and frail to[...]



Alert & alarmed: Trivia question: Where have we seen plebiscites used to circumvent parliamentary democracy?

2011-06-22T10:51:29.094+10:00

The Coalition were strong on precedents in Parliament today. There are some interesting precedents on the use of plebiscites to circumvent the decisions of a duly elected parliament. One jumped out at me....

"On July 14, 1933, Hitler’s “Law against the Establishment of Parties” marked the factual end of the party system and parliamentary democracy. On that same day, he passed the “Law on Plebiscites,” which allowed the Nazi regime to use strategically organised plebiscites to create the appearance of democratic decision-making."

The words "to create the appearance of democratic decision-making" resonate here. In our Parliament, governed by a minority government, a type of systematic sabotage of the democratic process has taken hold, where the conventional processes of the House of Representatives are debased daily by an attempt to censure the government and/or suspend the standing orders to enable Abbott and his mob to rant & rave about 'lack of legitimacy' and 'dishonest government'. They basically want to engineer a vote of no-confidence in the Government.

Now we have the spectacle of an Opposition leader attempting to subvert the Parliamentary process through a 'non-binding' plebiscite on the introduction of a price on carbon. Make no mistake, this is a further iteration of a power grab, pure and simple. The ultimate objective is to make the Parliament unworkable, undermine the government and bring on an early poll, which Abbott sees will install him in the Lodge. We do not live in a one-party state and yes, our democratic institutions are intact and strong, but the predilections of the current Coalition leadership are a tad troubling, don't you think?

(image)



Asylum seekers in Australia - time for Labor to change the tune, rather than play Abbott's whistle!

2011-06-23T10:04:03.561+10:00

Again, the wedge is in. Labor finds itself wedged between the fear of the 'yellow peril' bogey that conservative parties have trotted out successfully throughout our short history and the progressive left's advocacy for the universality of human rights. A cursory glance at the numbers of people who arrive in this country by boat in irregular circumstances - ie, less than half a per cent of those who seek asylum - is proof enough that this divisive issue has nothing to do with a genuine concern.It is base politics, pure and simple. Are people escaping repressive fundamentalist regimes and violent upheaval today not worthy of our compassion? In his review of Caroline Moorehead's Human Cargo Mike Philips wrote,"Perhaps the element which makes Moorehead's story so urgent and terrifying is her description of a history in which governments' perception of refugees altered with the end of the cold war, when the "good" refugees fleeing communism, suddenly transformed into "bad" refugees threatening our civilisation. In fact, the vast bulk of refugees remain in their own region, or are accommodated in the world's poorest countries, which are least able to carry the burden.Australia provides the most extreme example of a state's anxiety to barricade its borders by its policy of stopping boats on the high seas and dumping refugees on its poorer neighbours. Imprisoned behind razor wire, Australia's asylum-seekers protested by sewing their lips together, an act of self mutilation reflecting the desperation to which they had been driven by their treatment."We are seeing this scenario play out again. Labor is scurrying to find a regional approach that stops boats but does'nt breach the UN convention on treatment of refugees. It will not adopt the full Pacific Solution, but in the eyes of human rights advocates it is failing to meet its progressive charter in this area. The mandatory detention regime opened a Pandora's box of opportunities for low rent political agendas, which politicians like Howard and Abbott have exploited ruthlessly. Labor is continually playing catch up, rather than biting the bullet by re-examining the rationale for long-term mandatory detention and changing the tenor of the whole debate. Leadership requires courage to take the steps to change opinion through education and cogent debate.Where does the so-called media intelligentsia stand on the current state of play in the human rights battles? Wishy washy as usual methinks. The unedifying sight of Labor politicians jumping on the xenophobia bandwagon has human rights advocates aghast as they see defenceless people used as betting chips in a nasty bidding war. Unmitigated acts of bastardry continue unabated, leaving desperate people with little choice but to self-harm or cry out through extreme acts. Abbott knows he is on a winner with large slices of the electorate, accustomed to his brand of political correctness - its ok to be afraid of refugees and to treat them like social pariahs, but 'don't worry about that while I'm around!'. This was the Howard credo, honed so well after Tampa. Get the troops out to bash Labor on every issue that panders to our darkest fears. Set up the straw dog to fear, find someone or some group to blame & punish and then put yourself forward as the saviour of the day. The security man who sells you razor wire to keep out pygmy possums, and if they still get in, rounds them up and trai[...]