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Tag Archives: immigration

What do Labor voters want?

Judging from the latest polls one would assume that Bill Shorten’s head is what Labor voters want first and foremost. But moments before this disastrous poll was splashed liberally on the front pages of most media sites, Labor voters had been talking about something equally as important as leadership woes: national issues.

A few months ago Labor voters were invited to vote on the issues they wanted to discuss most with Labor (which I wrote about here). Yesterday they announced the findings of this poll, which some of you might be interested in seeing:

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Poll of Labor voters

The thing that strikes me the most is that it looks the reverse of what the media (over the last couple of years) and the Right-wing have been shrill about. It is also a message to Labor that Labor voters disapprove of the policies the Opposition is quick to show bipartisan support for with the Government.

It must be remembered that the poll closed (presumably) before the Paris attacks, and given that 7’s Sunrise have been telling us that 75 per cent of Australians believe there will be a terrorist attack on our soil, it would also be presumed that National Security might rate much higher than its low ranking.

The Paris attacks (and national security aside), one can only hope that Labor will start listening to Labor voters on the issues that are important to them. They asked what Labor voters wanted, and now they’ve been told.

I won’t hold my breath though.

 

Dutton has lost control.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has well and truly lost control of his portfolio. The past year alone provides a rich field of examples of Dutton’s incompetency. There are many instances which highlight the absurdity of his excuses, claims and justifications for the Coalition’s appalling policies. Yet despite a growing list of clear failures, there is a noticeable absence of demands for accountability. Dutton continues his awful attempts to defend the indefensible and the general public laps it up, convinced by the Government’s lies that it is all for the greater good.

Dutton has demonstrated many failures. A man with his level of ineptitude and incompetency in the private sector would have been fired a long time ago. A man in his position in any other institution, would be loudly condemned, and subject to a fiercely independent investigation at a minimum.

The latest in the string of absurdities must be Dutton’s reaction over the recent death of a person under his care and the following riot on Christmas Island. Dutton brushed off the seventh known death of an asylum seeker since early 2014, with little more than a ‘meh’, followed by loud accusations of violent, hardened criminals causing trouble for no reason at all in the remote prison. Not only does Dutton fail to recognise or even faintly appreciate the duty of care he owes to asylum seekers detained under this watch, but he loudly refutes the provable fact that violent criminals, minor offenders and asylum seekers have all been mixed together and none would be there at all if it wasn’t for him and his party’s policies.

The totally preventable death of Fazel Chegeni is the doing of Dutton. The riot, which looks to cost the Australian taxpayer $10 million dollars, on top of the $100 million dollar blowout in the billion dollar cost of offshore detention, is the doing of Dutton.

Dutton is responsible, and in being responsible, must be the most incompetent Immigration Minister since the equally appalling performance of former Minister Scott Morrison.

If Dutton was an employee in any private organisation, he would have been sacked long ago for gross incompetence. If any individual person was paying Dutton’s remuneration, he would have been sacked long ago. Yet the Australian public, every individual tax payer is paying for Dutton, and yet he continues, unchecked, with calculated, deliberate lies to try and cover up his incompetency. And Australia does not hold him to account.

The mysterious death of Fazel Chegeni, a refugee whose body was found after being chased through the Christmas Island jungle by guards, follows other preventable and inexcusable deaths. In October, out of fear of being returned to detention and dying a slow death at Dutton’s hands, Khodayar Amini doused himself in petrol and self-immolated. Leo Seemanpillai did the same last year. Asylum seeker ‘Reza’, fearing deportation on Dutton’s orders, was found dead at Brisbane airport. Earlier, Nasim Najafi was attacked while under Dutton’s care, placed in solitary confinement, and committed suicide.

Dutton is responsible for these deaths. Just like former Minister Scott Morrison was responsible for Reza Barati’s murder on Manus Island, and for Hamid Kehazaei who died from a septicaemia after a treatable infection on his cut foot was ignored.

Dutton holds the power to giving these people hope, freedom and a chance of a life. Dutton refuses.

Dutton, whose actions are slowly killing the people under his care, is doing his best to convince asylum seekers that it is better to return to their own countries and risk death in a warzone, than die a slow and lingering death under his watch. ‘Khaled’, who saw his own father murdered after they both worked as military interpreters for the US, was coerced into returning to the very city he fled from in Iraq. Officials from Dutton’s Department coerced another man, Eyad, to return to Syria, where he was tortured for twenty days by government officers, before finally making it to his home. A short time later he was injured in a shell attack, which killed his father on the spot. Dutton is responsible for this.

If any other person was responsible for so many deaths, so many atrocities, so much harm, they’d be imprisoned themselves. Not Dutton. No, he is being paid by the Australian tax payer to continue his torturous regime.

Who can forget the boatloads of Tamil asylum seekers Dutton returned to Sri Lanka, despite being subject to persecution? And his refusal to help rescue Rohingya refugees stranded at sea? Or the Vietnamese asylum seekers who were returned by Dutton, some of which were arrested and detained immediately on their return to Vietnam?

And of course there is Dutton’s implied admission that his Department paid people smugglers, in a clear breach of international law, backed up by an Amnesty International report finding enough evidence that it happened.

Dutton is determined to continue to expose children to sexual abuse, assault and torture. The Government-commissioned Moss Report, the Forgotten Children Report from the Australian Human Rights Commission, and a Senate Committee Inquiry found that offshore detention is not safe for families and children. Earlier this year Dutton ordered the transfer of a five month old baby, Asha, to Nauru, where her desperate mother is still gravely concerned for her health. Fully qualified, professional Australian doctors have labelled the Government’s treatment of asylum seeker children as torture. Dutton is unrepentant. Instead of addressing the shocking claims, he made it illegal for ‘entrusted people’ to report the abuse, threatening doctors, nurses, councillors and teachers with two years jail.

The Australian tax payer is financing this abhorrent situation. Every Australian is paying for Dutton to put in place laws to incarcerate anyone who tries to hold Dutton to account.

Dutton refused for months to help a woman who had been brutally raped while under his care. Abyan, another refugee who fell pregnant after being raped, was also denied treatment in Australia until a mass public outcry. Dutton, insistently lying to the Australian public and the world about the poor woman’s situation, despite even the Coalition’s biggest supporter, Chris Kenny, backing up her advocates, has not been held to account for his lies. Dutton only acted after a scathing press statement from the United Nations, yet he still insists that denying a traumatised woman access to a counsellor and expert medical care is appropriate treatment.

Dutton deliberately seeks to expose vulnerable men, women and children to further harm.

According to Dutton, pregnant women under his care who request to give birth in Australia are trying to blackmail him, are taking him for a ‘mug’, and are partaking in a racket to get to Australia. According to Dutton, it is acceptable to force women under his care to give birth in a third world hospital on Nauru, where a newborn baby is seven times more likely to die at birth, and the mother is fifty times more likely to die during childbirth. Dutton has ignored medical professionals and the Australian Medical Association who insist Golestan, a diabetic woman, must be immediately flown to Australia to give birth. Golestan is suffering a complex pregnancy, and despite medical staff expecting her baby will require specialist care, Dutton insists on risking the baby’s life. Will Dutton sacrifice the life of an innocent baby in his race to provide crueler conditions than those which the asylum seekers have fled from?

It is not just asylum seekers Dutton treats with loathing and contempt. A freedom of information request by Fairfax media revealed that Dutton deliberately misled the public when he said there was no way his Border Force agents would be doing random spot checks on unsuspecting and law-abiding Melburnians in August this year.

Spooked by a backlash to the press release that Government agents would stop and speak with anyone they came across during Operation Fortitude in Melbourne’s CBD, Dutton’s kneejerk response at the time was to deny all knowledge of such a planned venture.

What kind of Minister thinks it’s acceptable and lawful to expect people to carry, and produce on demand, their ‘papers’ while out shopping on a weekend? What kind of Minister then lies to say it was never planned? Obviously one who mistakenly thought Australia was a police state, or one who is grossly incompetent. Dutton forgets he is an elected representative paid for by the Australian taxpayer to represent the Australian people, not treat the very people who elected him as criminals.

Speaking of taxpayers, voters, and Christmas Island, Dutton demonstrates yet again his inability to tell the truth. Despite deliberately, unrepentantly and viciously detaining and deporting any non-citizens who have suddenly become socially undesirable, no matter how minor their wrong-doing, or the absence of any actual offence at all, Dutton is adamant only the most violent and hardened criminals are subject to section 501 of the Migration Act. Many of these people have lived in Australia for their entire lives. They have voted in elections. Many have paid their taxes and contributed positively to the community for decades. They have families, wives, husbands, partners, siblings, parents and children in Australia.

According to Dutton, a decorated New Zealand soldier, Ngati Kanohi Haapu, known as Ko, must be banished forever, despite having no criminal convictions whatsoever. Ko’s ‘character issue’ is that he is allegedly a member of a one percent motorcycle club. Despite no motorcycle club being proven to be a criminal organisation, and police and law enforcement agencies being unable to produce sufficient evidence of such, Ko has been detained and set for deportation.

Ko has committed no crime. Not like Dutton, who has paid people smugglers, enabled and condoned child abuse, rape, and torture, and is responsible for at least five of the seven known deaths of asylum seekers.

According to Dutton, a New Zealand born mother of six, who has served her time for minor drug offences is a violent, hardened criminal. If this woman had been born in Australia she would serve her time and move on with her life. But no, according to Dutton, she must be banished from Australia, despite serving her sentence, because a faceless bureaucrat has applied a mandatory provision enacted on Dutton’s command, that she be deported.

According to Dutton, a single mother of two, charged with shoplifting is such a threat to the Australian public, she should be incarcerated, away from her young child and teen daughter – banished forever from Australia, because of Dutton. There is no such thing as rehabilitation or having ‘done one’s time’ under Dutton’s watch.

According to Dutton, a quadriplegic man, who served time for self-medicating with painkillers, is such a threat to the Australian public, he must be deported, never to return to the land he called home.

According to Dutton, a British man, who has lived in Australia for fifty of his fifty-one years, who in a moment of stupidity lit a scrub fire in which no people or property were harmed, is a violent and hardened criminal. Because according to Dutton, only violent and hardened criminals are being held on Christmas Island.

Where are the cries for Dutton’s resignation? Why is the Opposition silent? Why is Bill Shorten not calling for Dutton to stand down or be sacked? Why is the mainstream media not demanding more answers?

No person in anything other than a criminal organisation, a fascist, police state or dictatorship would get away with such criminal behaviour, and wilful and deliberate lies to the domestic and international community.

How many more families will be ripped apart by Dutton’s arbitrarily applied laws? How many more people must die a violent, painful and preventable death under Dutton’s watch? How many innocent children will lose their parents, and how many parents will lose their children at Dutton’s hands? The Government and the weak opposition, the detention centre contractors, and all the faceless bureaucrats, are complicit in the deaths, torture, and inhumane treatment of people under Australia’s care. Every Australian who does not make a stand against the cruel regime, is complicit.

Enough is enough. Rape, murder, suicide, torture, child abuse, violent assaults, death from medical neglect, and wilful destruction of families is all in a day’s work with Dutton in charge. And every Australian is paying for it.

 

The top 5 signs that your country’s Refugee Policy is a disaster

Australia’s Minister for Saying-We’ve-Stopped-the-Boats – one Mr Peter ‘PDuddy’ Dutton – was out and about this morning defending what he and his government believe is the best and most successful immigration policy EVER.

I decided to check out PDuddy’s claim against the following officialesque list …

The Top 5 signs your Refugee Policy is a disaster

Number Five: Refugees would rather return to possible death in a war-zone

than stay in the Refugee Centres your country provides

The Australian government has worked hard to convince as many refugees as it can to return to their home countries, despite the considerable potential risk to those refugees that doing so entails.

One Syrian refugee – Eyad – elected to return to probable death in Syria a few months ago, saying he would prefer to die with his family in Syria rather than stay on Manus island. On arriving in Syria he was arrested and tortured for 20 days. Following his release, he was allowed to return to his former home village where he was subsequently hit by shrapnel and saw his father die before him.

Number Four: You put refugees in the care of a government that has made

money from selling passports to terrorists & money-laundering

The way that Peter Dutton pontificates about ‘smashing’ the business of people-smugglers, you’d think he’d donned a cape and mask and turned into a one-man regional crime-fighting machine.

What PDuddy conveniently forgets to mention, when boasting of his crime-fighting achievements, is that the Australian government is propping up the Nauru government with our Refugee policy – and that the Nauru government is so beleaguered by corruption claims that the New Zealand government recently cut off aid to them.  PDuddy also leaves out the fact that this same government was previously heavily sanctioned by the international community for selling Nauruan passports to terrorists and laundering money for the Russian Mafia.

Number Three: Your Refugee Centres make it onto the UNHRC’s torture list

In March this year, the UN Human Rights Commission released its report on torture, naming Australia as a country who had breached the UN Convention against Torture in our Refugee camps.

Of course our government raced to immediately set up a Royal Commission to investigate the issues raised by the UN. Oh wait – no,  that was a Royal Commission into the unions. What our government actually did in response to the UN report was to say that it was sick of being lectured.

Number Two: You are spending more on your Refugee Policy than the

combined GDP of 9 small countries

In 2015, the Australian government spent at least 4 billion on its Refugee Policy – of which 3 billion was to look after offshore refugees (including just under 1600 refugees on Nauru and Manus Island).

This is the equivalent of the combined GDP in 2014 for Tonga, Micronesia, Palau, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Sao Tome and Principe, Dominica and Comoros.

By way of contrast, the UN has a budget of $157 million USD for 2015 to look after over 200,000 refugees in South-East Asia.

Number One: A country in the Axis-of-Evil thinks you’ve gone too far

Over 110 countries lined up at the UN this week to comment on Australia’s refugee policies. In fact, so many countries wanted to raise issues at the periodic UN review, that each was given a time limit of just over a minute to speak. Between them they still managed to raise over 300 concerns in just that space of time.

Among their number was long-term member of Bush’s ‘Axis-of-evil’ – North Korea – who said that they:

have serious concerns at the continued reports of … violence against refugees and asylum seekers“.

It’s official – Australia’s refugee policy is a disaster …

In all seriousness – our refugee policy really IS a disaster. It is pure propaganda  – truthiness at its finest – to suggest otherwise.

And still Peter Dutton keeps a straight face while he claims that Australia’s Refugee policy:

  • has saved lives – this is doubtful at best;
  • has stopped people smugglers – if this were true, who exactly are they paying to turn around?
  • to be the most generous in the world – this is actually an insult to countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan who lay true claim to this title. We are literally nowhere near.
  • to have protected our borders – from who exactly? From victims of war, terrorism, torture and persecution, who, if they had the funds to arrive here by plane would be allowed to stay? When did we start needing protection from victims? The reality is that these are the world’s most vulnerable people being used as political pawns. They aren’t terrorists. Or economic migrants. They are people with no safe place to call home.

It doesn’t matter what measure you pick …

  • financial
  • humanitarian
  • doing our bit globally
  • stopping crime in the region
  • making our country more secure, or
  • just plain common decency.

… there is not a single measure that doesn’t point at our government’s Refugee Policy as being at best an abject failure, and at worst a complete disaster that will haunt us in years to come.

This article was first published on ProgressiveConversation.

 

First Class Travel and the Danger of Extremism . . .

This morning Paul Sheehan quoted Canadian author, Mark Steyn who was over in Europe to see what immigration had done. Canada, of course, has been ruined by immigration – just ask the indigenous population!

However, we’re not talking about Canada here, we’re more interested in a how a Canadian perceives Europe. Apparently early on in his visit there was an a rather nasty incident. Sheehan quoted Steyn:

“I was looking forward to sitting back and enjoying the peace and quiet of Scandinavian First Class. But, just as I took my seat and settled in, a gaggle of ‘refugees’ swarmed in, young bearded men and a smaller number of covered women, the lads shooing away those first-class ticket holders not as nimble in securing their seats…

“They seemed to take it for granted that asylum in Europe should come with complimentary first-class travel … The conductor gave a shrug, the great universal shorthand for there’s-nothing-I-can do.”

Refugees taking it for granted that they should travel first class is outrageous enough, but that first class travellers should have to put with men with beards “swarming” in. Although how Steyn managed to determine that they were refugees and not hipsters, I’m not sure. Perhaps it was the “covered women’, because, after all, this was Scandinavian first class travel and it’s my understanding that everyone’s naked there most of the time, but that could be because I reduce everything to stereotypes.

Of course, the same mental powers of clairvoyance that enabled the writer to tell that they were asylum seekers and to determine exactly what the conductor meant by his shrug, enabled him to see that they both clearly knew that travel comes in classes and that they had an economy class ticket but were choosing to travel first class, out some sense of entitlement. Now, a socialist might suggest that those in first class also had a sense of entitlement but, as we know in Australia, the age of entitlement is over so that socialist would be wrong.

Of course, Paul Sheehan goes on to tell us about how this influx of refugees is causing a lurch to the right and how anti-immigration parties are gaining ground in many European countries. He talks about Germany’s decision causing problems with social cohesion because as he says:

“Too late. More than 500 arson attacks have occurred in Germany this year targeting housing designated for refugees.”

Now, I could go on to quote a lot more of Paul Sheehan’s article but the basic thrust of it seems to be an attempt to make Tony’s “Jesus didn’t know what he was taking about it and I was just so awesome that I stopped the boats speech” seem reasonable.  I think you’ve probably got the gist. It takes the view that if people are starting to believe something then it must be true, which makes an interesting contrast to views on climate change where people are just being gullible and going along with a majority.

He goes on using the sort of logic that suggests that Reclaim Australia is the result of the Liberals being too left-wing before concluding with:

“This encapsulates a growing view in Europe from which you may recoil, as it contrasts starkly with the liberal belief that the West has a moral obligation to help the wretched.

I doubt the liberal view will prevail. The dots are starting to connect. They point to a gathering storm, building on millions of small indignities and disappointments which, over time, will add up to something large.”

Yep, once you fail to see the irony in a Canadian complaining about foreigners disturbing his “Scandinavian first class travel”, then it’s a small step to argue that refugees are causing problems with social cohesion because people are attacking them.

But then consistency has always been in short supply when it comes to politics.

 

Deconstructing a dog whistle

Tony Abbott’s government has taken some body-blows in recent weeks, and Abbott’s own leadership standing is suffering. Some say that this is due to a savage budget that seeks to address a non-existent budget emergency by penalising those who can least afford it and by punching the powerless, compounded by poor communications and head-scratching political decisions. If this were the case, one might be forgiven for thinking that the best way of recovering the party’s fortunes might be to revisit the thinking behind the budget, to seek to appropriately identify who the real lifters and leaners in the economy are, and to fix the way that the government goes about doing business.

Or you could go for the approach of sowing distrust and disunity, painting an amorphous group as the “Other” in order to convince Australians that you are “One of them” and being strong to protect them from the forces of darkness. This is a skill-set and a rulebook Tony Abbott inherited from his great hero John Howard and this weekend’s video message shows that he has enthusiastically embraced it.

If national security is so important that it has prompted an address to the nation, at the expense of attention to Joe Hockey’s “Never back to surplus” budget and Andrew Robb’s TPP negotiations and the likely forthcoming execution of the Bali Nine kingpins, then it would seem worthwhile to examine the detail of Mr Abbott’s speech.

When you look at what Mr Abbott had to say, it becomes clear that he is taking two specific incidents and generalising threats from them, generalising failures from them, and using them to beat up the necessity for changes. In two minutes and 23 seconds, he commiserates with the victims of violence, generalises the threat to all Australians, spruiks the actions of the government, reminds us of the threat and reassures us that he is keeping us safe.

An examination of the specific incidents to which Abbott refers, however, tells a more sobering story. There have been no significant failures of our immigration and border protection regulations, no breaches of our balanced and considered jurisprudence and bail system. There are no practical measures that could have prevented these specific events that prompt Abbott’s address. Once you understand that any measures the government might propose can have no possible effect on preventing these specific events, the low-brow dog whistle becomes crystal clear, and it becomes possible to see the real threat behind the words – the threat of further intrusive and unwarranted interference into people’s everyday lives.

A Message from the PM

Abbott begins by referring to the recent Lindt cafe attack by Man Haron Monis. It is perfectly appropriate to “acknowledge the atrocity”. It was one man with a shotgun and three people, including the attacker, died in the event. “Atrocity” is a strong word, but Abbott commences as he means to continue. In any case, the scene is set, the tone of the address is identified: this is a message about terrorism.

Abbott continues with a pledge to keep Australia as “safe and secure” as humanly possible. Federal and State governments are conducting a joint review into the siege, and the report will be released soon. The report will make recommendations and the government intends to take some actions. History has shown us that actions taken by a government are often only a subset, or sometimes a completely different set, to the recommendations of any given report, but we will reserve judgement. In effect, Abbott is attempting to take credit in advance for an announcement the government has yet to make. He is showing the government is strong, by pointing to the future when it intends to take strong action that it can’t tell us about yet.

We may get an inkling of the actions the government has in mind when Abbott addresses the Parliament on the topic of national security next Monday. But we may have a sneak preview as Abbott continues on.

“For too long we have given those who might be a threat to our country the benefit of the doubt. There’s been the benefit of the doubt at our borders, the benefit of the doubt for residency, the benefit of the doubt for citizenship and the benefit of the doubt at Centrelink. And in the courts, there has been bail, when clearly there should have been jail.”

When we unpack this statement, in the context of recent events and of the preceding text, Abbott is effectively telling us that we have not been strong enough in our immigration policies, and failures in our bail and justice systems. Abbott refers very specifically to the one example he has mentioned, Man Haron Monis, the attacker in the Lindt cafe event. Australians – particularly those in Sydney, Abbott’s home constituency – will be very aware
also of the arrest this week of two young men, home-grown potential jihadists. Despite not mentioning them specifically, the media has been quick to connect the dots between their arrest and this statement by Abbott.

The problem is that neither our immigration, residency, citizenship nor bail processes failed in any of these cases.

Man Haron Monis was on bail for a variety of criminal offenses at the time of his cafe attack. These cases were not religious in nature. He was accused of being accessory before and after the fact for the murder of his wife by his girlfriend. Separately, he was on bail on indecency charges. Neither case could have given indication that he was planning to turn into a shotgun-wielding maniac. [Read: How was Man Haron Monis not on a security watchlist?]

There were indications perhaps of mental instability, of paranoia, and definite isolation and marginalisation. Monis was known for holding “extremist” views. That’s easy to say in retrospect. His views on the West’s involvement in Middle-Eastern conflicts would not be out of place in a Greens party room meeting. He was, until very shortly before his act of terror, a well-dressed and urbane Australian.

Could the Lindt Cafe attack have been avoided if Man Haron Monis was denied bail? Certainly. On what basis could bail have been denied, though? This was not a wild-haired fanatic before the magistrate.

Bail is a State issue of law enforcement. As it happens, laws have already been tightened in NSW that would have prevented Monis’ bail. So what exactly does Abbott, in the Federal sphere, expect to do to make Australians still safer?

The recent arrests in Sydney were of two young men, Mohammad Kiad and Omar al-Kutobi. Allegedly they were arrested just hours before they intended to attack members of the public with knives. Could either of these alleged terrorists have been captured earlier with tighter border protection policies, or more intelligence resources? Were they abusing their Centrelink entitlements?

It would appear not. Kiad, now 25, came into Australia four years ago on a family visa to join his wife. al-Kutobi fled Iraq with his family ten years ago; he came to Australia in 2009. Shortly thereafter he received a protection visa and he became an Australian citizen in 2013. Neither man was a wild-haired fanatic, nor obviously a danger to the public.

The pair were not known to police. They were not known as religious extremists. Until recently, it doesn’t appear that they were. Instead, they were young Aussie men, fond of barbeques and American TV and luxury goods. Their radicalisation occurred over the last few weeks, perhaps triggered by the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices last month in Paris. Their rapid radicalisation was reported to Australian authorities by their own community about a week ago. Mere days later, police swooped.

How were tighter immigration rules four years ago going to prevent a planned terror attack that took months, at most, to be conceived and instigated, from men who by all reports only became extreme within the last six months, and on Australian soil?

The other problematic element of this densely offensive paragraph is the reference to Centrelink. In the context of this strident message, the inference is clear: that terrorists rely on Newstart. This is so ridiculous as to be laughable – yet it plays to the same crowd who lapped up the election rhetoric about boat people clogging up the motorways of Sydney.

The other possible reading is that people who rely on welfare are as bad as terrorists. I’m not certain which interpretation is the more offensive.

Abbott continues his address with the key message: all too often, “bad people play us for mugs. Well, that’s going to stop.”

Who are these bad people? That’s not been shown. Hopefully it’s not Man Haron Monis, because if we’re going to stop people like him from “taking us for mugs”, we presumably will no longer be providing welfare to those with mental issue. Hopefully it’s not Mohammad Kiad and Omar al-Kutobi, because in order to curtail the terrorist threat they pose, we would need to prevent muslims in general from entering the country.

Abbott makes a variety of references to the “Islamist death cult”. There’s a three-word slogan that’s earned him a couple of poll points before. It is also simultaneously emotive, highly offensive to large groups of undeserving people, and impossible to criticise without coming across as an apologist. Well, this author will criticise it. Islamic State might possibly be Islamist, but using the term paints all Muslims alike. IS is most certainly not a death cult. Yes, it uses unsupportable means and revels in bloodshed, but it does so not for the sake of killing people, but rather to attract those it considers devout. The killings are a means, not an end. And the idea of a world caliphate of muslims is dear to many. Nobody should seek to defend the actions or the Islamic State. However, belittling IS with a three-word slogan ignores the complexities and the real grievances and aspirations of millions of muslims everywhere.

Abbott goes on to talk about the much-discussed “new threats” of home-grown backyard terrorists, armed with “a knife, a flag, a camera phone, and a victim”. Terrorists are everywhere, around every corner, lurking under every bed.

By all means, do what you can to identify potential attackers before they take a life. But in the same way that it’s impossible to protect the public from an armed robber in a milk bar, it is impossible to protect the public from a quiet young man who just wants to be respected.

Abbott finishes his presentation by proudly boasting of working with other nations to degrade the Islamic State through military means; and improving the powers and resources of Australian intelligence agencies. Finally, he claims the need for stronger laws to “make it easier to keep you safe”. These include the data retention laws currently before parliament, but, worryingly, might also include other laws and regulations Abbott does not describe, but which will inevitably further encroach on our liberties and our privacy. Of course, it’s all for our own good. The government is being strong to keep Us safe from Them.

“As a country we won’t let evil people exploit our freedom.” As Kaye Lee has written today, it’s a pity that credo doesn’t stretch to include the current government.

When Scott Morrison applies his Immigration Model to Social Services

Photo: YourECards

Photo: YourECards

Now there’s been a lot of angst about Scott Morrison’s appointment as Minister for Social Services. Probably coming from a few bleeding heart lefties who’ve never worked a day in their lives while earning a living as a “rent-a-crowd” professional protester! (One could see that as a contradiction but only if one thinks about it, so please stop thinking and go with the flow!!)

Personally, I see Morrison’s appointment as a turning point in the history of Australia. Up until now, Australia has always been the sort of country that valued a “fair go” for everyone whether they deserved it or not. Morrison will ensure that the “fair go” is reserved for the genuinely deserving. I picture his first interview with the ABC going something like this:

Interviewer: So, Mr Morrison, how do you see your role as Minister for Social Services?

Morrison: It’s really quite simple. We will decide who gets governmnet support and the way in which they’ll get it.

Interviewer: So what exactly does that mean for, let’s say the unemployed?

Morrison: Well, if you’re talking about the unemployed let’s be quite clear. We don’t want the unemployed just rocking up to Centrelink by whatever means they choose and trying to jump the queue. Only those who arrive by car will dealt with.

Interviewer: What about those who arrive by walking or public transport?

Morrison: Simply, they’ll be detained while we check out what jobs they’ve applied for and whether they’re attending interviews, and if we find that they’re not applying for jobs then we intend to send them to camps where they can join a work-for-the-dole scheme.

Interviewer: But how can they attend interviews if you’re detaining them?

Morrison: They should have thought of that before they began their journey.

Interviewer: So how do you intend to determine whether or not the person came by car?

Morrison: Look, can we stop refering to them as “persons” or “people”, I’ve instructed all Centrelink staff to refer to them as “illegal dole applicants”. 

Interviewer: The question remains, how will you determine whether they came by car or not?

Morrison: We’ll have ADF personel scouring the streets and if anyone comes within ten metres of a Centrelink office, they’ll be taken into custody while we check out their credentials. In fact, we’ll pick up anyone who comes within ten metres of the ten metre exclusion zone unless they’re wearing a blue tie.

Interviewer: Doesn’t this breach their human rights?

Morrison: Sorry, I don’t understand the question.

Interviewer: I said, “Doesn’t this breach…”

Morrison: I heard it, but you seem to presuming that illegal dole applicants have human rights. These rights aren’t for everyone, you know. 

Interviewer: Moving on to some of your other areas of responsibility, let’s take benefits to families…

Morrison: We haven’t actually decide to take them yet, so you’re jumping the gun there.

Interviewer: I meant, let’s look at benefits to families.

Morrison: Well that’s exactly what the Government is doing. Under the Labor Government we had the ridiculous situation of the government taking money via taxation, only to give it back to families in the form of generous payments when a baby was born or a child began the school year. 

Interviewer: What’ll you be doing about that?

Morrison: We’ll be stopping it.

Interviewer: So, you’ll reduce taxes and just let people keep the money and abolish many of the payments.

Morrison: No, we’ll be stopping children starting school. After all, in my previous portfolio I stopped the education of children in detention centres and nobody seemed to mind.

Interviewer: You intend to abolish Education?

Morrison: No, don’t be ridiculous. 

Interviewer: That’s a relief.

Morrison: Stopping Education is Christopher Pyne’s job. 

Interviewer: I can’t believe what you’re saying!

Morrison: Typical ABC bias. Look, it’s very simple. Gonski has given us a big report which according to those who read it, says that most government schools need a massive injection of funds if they’re to achieve anything worthwhile, and Kevin Donnelly has argued that government schools aren’t really teaching anything worthwhile like our Judeo-Christian heritage and Latin, so there’s really no point to them. When you add the fact that under the Higher Education changes, nobody who doesn’t already go to a secondary school that charges a fortune in fees will bother with university, we can stop all funding and then there’ll be plenty of money for the private schools, who can offer scholarships to the two or three children who are bright enough to educate but whose parents have no money.

Interviewer: How will these scholarships be determined?

Morrison: Sorry, but that’s confidential. 

Interviewer: Surely the procedures for awarding a scholarship have to be transparent.

Morrison: I’m sorry but that’s a question for Mr Abbott, but I will say that Frances is a lovely girl and fully deserved…

Interviewer: I meant as a general principle, I wasn’t refering to that particular case.

Morrison: Let’s return to Social Services, we’re really straying outside my portfolio.

Interviewer: Ok then, let’s look at the NDIS.

Morrison: Sorry, the what?

Interviewer: The National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Morrison: Oh, yes. That’s part of my portfolio too, isn’t it? Um, yes… We intend to keep that – at least the name part- but we’ll be undertaking a review of its effectiveness and I’m not able to comment on its future till that review is completed.

Interviewer: All right, then what about Seniors?

Morrison: What about them?

Interviewer: Will there be any changes in policy?

Morrison: Yes, same thing. We’ll be undertaking a review of their effectiveness and I’ll comment further when that review is finished. But I will add that Seniors are some of the most important voters in this country and we do not intend to allow their standard of living to deteriorate as long as they can still vote.

Interviewer: So what changes do you see happening in Social Services?

Morrison: At this stage all that’s proposed is ensuring that the Australian taxpayer gets the best value for money. Any developments will be announced by me at my regular weekly briefings, just like when I was Immigration Minister.

Interviewer: And what will you say at those briefings?

Morrison: No comment.

Interviewer: You want us to wait to the briefing before you announce what you’re doing?

Morrison: No, I’ll be saying “no comment”. Let’s be real here, most of the things in this portfolio relate to people’s circumstances and surely people have a right to keep their personal circumstances private. 

Interviewer: But surely the public have a right to know the general policies of the Department!

Morrison: No comment.

Interviewer: I just want to know about the general direction…

Morrison: Listen, I’ve made it quite clear that I won’t be commenting on operational matters.

Interviewer: Just finally, is it true that you’ll be abbreviating Social Services to SS on all your correspondence?

Morrison: No comment.

Interviewer: I’m afraid that’s all we have time for. Merry Christmas, Mr Morrison.

Morrison: I’m not in a position to confirm or deny that.

A Conspiracy of Convenience

Much has been written here recently about Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), the job guarantee, structural deficits, fiscal statements, fiat currency and the like. But that, it turns out, is just the tip of the iceberg. There is also the neo-liberal ideology that drives our governments, the buffer-stock of unemployed so necessary, it seems, to keep wages growth in check, the fallacy of supply side economics and a host of other measures that most people don’t understand and shy away from for fear of appearing stupid.

Most of this was foreign to me except for the gold standard; I knew about that and well remember the day Richard Nixon made the announcement that the USA would no longer tie its currency to its gold reserves. I remember that the gold price was fixed at $US35.00 per ounce and Nixon abandoned that as well. But that story pretty much got lost or buried as Watergate began to encroach upon ‘Tricky Dick’s’ tenure in the White House.

 
But last Friday, listening to ABC Radio 774 in Melbourne with Jon Faine, there was a discussion raging over the 457 visa programme and as it progressed I quickly realised its proximity and relevance to the previously mentioned buffer-stock of unemployment. The 457 visa programme, as most people would know, is designed to enable a company to employ people from overseas on short term visas; people who have the necessary skills needed for particular work where the company cannot find an Australian citizen or permanent resident to fill the position.

It was heralded as analogous to plugging a gap in the wall; a short term fix. Interestingly, such a worker with the required skills did not have to be outside the country when the application was made. Importantly, they did need to have the skills required and be sponsored by an approved business for up to four years. Holders of 457 visas could bring their families and even change jobs after they arrived provided a new employer sponsored them. Even more interesting, there was no limit on the number of people a company could sponsor.

faine

Image: Herald Sun

On Jon Faine’s programme last Friday, two particular callers alerted me to what might be described as a window to rorting on a grand scale. One caller decried the system because it allowed one applicant to be sponsored and employed as a truck driver. Just how the sponsoring company was able to convince the Department of Immigration and Citizenship that they could not find any citizen in Australia able to drive a truck was beyond both me and Jon Faine, but somehow they did.

The second caller alerted me to something even more sinister. He claimed that he had received calls from a person offering him $10,000 to sign a few application forms that would enable multiple 457 visas to be issued to persons unknown for which he (the caller) had no need.

Clearly, there is something wrong here. Notwithstanding the obvious fact that 457 visas are being issued to foreign workers when local workers could quite easily be found, i.e. truck drivers, it also looks suspiciously like it is being used to maintain a buffer-stock of unemployed in the true tradition of neo-liberal economics.
rort 2In February, the Abbott government quietly lifted the cap on business nominations for skilled migrants imposed by the former Labor government and undertook a review of the scheme.
Subsequent changes meant that businesses could increase the number of foreign workers above their initial application.

The Australian Industry Group claimed the change would help those businesses that were struggling to find highly skilled people, but clearly the move has the potential to impact on wages and conditions for Australian workers and leave foreign workers vulnerable to exploitation. Currently there are more than 90,000 foreign workers in Australia with 457 visas.

unemploy

Image: Huffington Post

When we look at what is happening with 457 visas and overlay that upon the neo liberal economic platform one can see it fits quite neatly into its broader ideology and looks a lot more like a programme designed to maintain a buffer stock of unemployed than it is to help meet the sometime dubious requirements of business. It might seem to be only a small part of a much larger conspiracy, but a conspiracy nonetheless; a conspiracy that proponents of MMT could effectively highlight and expose.

Let’s fix this mess

In 2012–13 a total of 50 444 people lodged applications for asylum under the offshore component of the Humanitarian Programme.  The Labor government increased the intake to 20,000 and granted a total of 20 019 visas, of which 12 515 visas were granted under the offshore component and 7504 visas were granted under the onshore component.

Even though there are estimated to be over 40 million refugees worldwide, when the Coalition formed government they reduced the humanitarian intake to 13,750.

As at 31 October 2013 there were 22,873 asylum seekers who had arrived by boat (including 1,811 children) who had been permitted to live in the community on Bridging Visas while waiting for their claims for protection to be processed.

The Coalition government* has now decided that anyone who arrived after 13 August 2012 will not be allowed to work so these people are now in limbo, facing uncertainty and financial distress.

[*Correction:  As pointed out by Marilyn, this policy was introduced by Labor under Julia Gillard as part of their “No advantage” policy.  Both major parties are complicit in this infamy.]

As at 31 October 2013 there were:

6,401 people in immigration detention facilities, and 3,290 people in community detention in Australia.  This included 1,045 children in immigration detention facilities and 1,770 children in community detention.

Location: 4,072 people detained on the mainland (+ 3,290 in community detention) and 2,329 people detained on Christmas Island.

Length of detention in immigration detention facilities:

•2,432 people has been in detention for 0-3 months

•2,812 people had been in detention for 3-6 months

•864 people had been in detention for 6-12 months

•170 people had been in detention for 12-18 months

•23 people had been in detention for 18 months to 2 years

•100 people had been in detention for over 2 years.

Due to Kevin Rudd’s “PNG solution”, anyone who arrived by boat after 19 July 2013 was transported to offshore detention camps.  There are more than 1,700 asylum seekers being held in detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island with capacity for many more.

Since they reopened in 2012, only one application has been processed on Nauru and none from Manus Island.

In December 2013 the Coalition announced the removal of the 4000 Migration Programme places allocated to Illegal Maritime Arrival sponsored Family.

They also announced that they would not be renewing the Salvation Army’s contract to provide “emotional support, humanitarian assistance and general education and recreation programs” to asylum seekers in detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island beyond February.  Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says the Government has been forced to make contract changes, because of the way the system was being administered by the former Labor government.

Several eyewitness accounts of the recent riots on Manus Island suggest they happened because the government refused to listen to questions from refugee representatives about their future and the conditions at the camp.  Instead they inflamed the situation by telling them “You’re never getting out of this camp, it’s indefinite detention”.  The deadly clashes on Manus Island allegedly flared after asylum seekers realised the Australian government had been ‘lying to them’ about plans to resettle them, and some asylum seekers decided to protest.

‘G4S were aware of tensions on compounds and intelligence reports indicated potential unrest for the period 16-18 Feb. DIBP [Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection ] were advised NOT to hold briefing and meeting with compound representatives [allegedly to advise them that they would not be resettled]. Despite several protests from centre managers on the day, the decision to hold said meeting was dictated from Canberra and was the catalyst for the violence.’

Reza Berati came to us seeking safe haven.  He was murdered while under our care.  Scores of his fellow asylum seekers have been grievously wounded, others have committed suicide, others are driven to self-harm, all under our care.

We have been told we must stop the boats to save people’s lives.  One thousand deaths at sea is certainly a tragedy.  The greater tragedy is that we ignore this cry for help and punish the people who are desperate enough to risk their lives seeking our protection.

I don’t presume to be the suppository of all wisdom but you have to admit guys, what you are doing is not working.  Stopping the boats and locking people up does not help one single refugee but it costs us a fortune, threatens our relationship with our neighbours, and draws international condemnation.

When you remove hope you remove life so, in order to save the lives of the over 30,000 asylum seekers who are currently under our protection, I would like to offer the following observations and suggestions.

Department of Immigration figures project that in the year ending 31 March 2014, 63,700 people arrived in Australia with working holiday visas.  A further 48,300 arrived on 457 visas.  These are not citizens of our country and do not aspire to be.  They are here to earn a buck and then go home.

Why can’t we give some of these 112,000 temporary visas to asylum seekers who have passed health and security checks while they are awaiting processing?  Instead of paying for them to be incarcerated or on below-poverty welfare payments, why not let them work and pay taxes?  Even if the jobs are not ideal, they have to be better than being locked up with nothing to do and no chance to become a productive member of our society.  Children should be in school, not locked up on a Pacific Island wondering why their mother can’t stop crying, and if they will live in a tent forever.

We do not have to increase total immigration to do this.  We could give all the asylum seekers temporary working visas and still have over 80,000 available.  More should also be done to see if Australian citizens could fill these jobs even if they are temporary in nature.

Instead of making our unemployed, disabled and single parents work in our Green Army, offer that work to asylum seekers or working holiday makers, and give our unemployed the opportunity to apply for the jobs in hospitality, agriculture and services that backpackers often fill.

Instead of importing labour on 457 visas, see if asylum seekers and our unemployed have the necessary skills to fill the positions.  Train people where there are skills shortages.  Only issue 457 visas where we truly cannot find anyone with the necessary skills.

In the last year we issued 101,300 permanent visas but only 16,500 of these were on humanitarian grounds and this number is predicted to fall to 11,000.

Increase the humanitarian intake from 13,750 to at least 30,000.  Send representatives to all transit countries to start taking applications and begin processing them.  They must give applicants a realistic time frame for processing and resettlement options.

Increase foreign aid and participate in condemning, and sanctions against, human rights abuses around the world.

Let’s fix this mess.

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