2012-08-20T10:42:19.946+10:00I 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.
2011-11-03T00:15:36.761+11:00Crikey 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:
2011-10-18T14:33:21.307+11:00Occasionally 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:
2011-10-17T15:54:05.265+11:00The 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.
2011-09-22T23:47:30.903+10:00Prime 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.[...]
2011-09-01T14:13:17.218+10:00Howard'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 [...]
2011-08-25T23:32:52.262+10:00Crikey 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[...]
2011-09-21T10:34:13.162+10:00I 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[...]
2011-08-17T09:52:09.328+10:00The 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[...]
2011-07-30T11:47:37.250+10:00I was struck by an article by Paul Krugman writing in the NY Times. He writes:
2011-07-28T20:02:07.516+10:00I had the misfortune to catch the Sales interview with Nixon tonight. What an awful interrogation. Thought I'd drop them a line, as follows:
2011-07-27T23:50:53.764+10:00We 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[...]
2011-07-23T11:00:56.982+10:00I sent the following feedback to ABC24 this morning:
2011-07-18T16:09:00.918+10:00The 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.
2011-07-13T14:11:19.708+10:00The Political Sword deconstructed an interview by Sabra Lane on RN the other day.
2011-07-13T11:58:14.705+10:00And 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[...]
2011-07-07T15:23:37.329+10:00ABC 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 [...]
2011-06-28T18:11:40.677+10:00Sent the following comment to their ABC this morning:
2011-06-23T10:01:40.747+10:00The 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[...]
2011-06-22T10:51:29.094+10:00The 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....
2011-06-23T10:04:03.561+10:00Again, 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[...]