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Eva is a freelance writer with a keen interest in legal, social justice and community matters, particularly where they intertwine with politics. She holds a Bachelor of Laws degree with First Class Honours, Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (Distinction) and a Bachelor of Social Science, majoring in Social Justice and Behavioural Science. Eva enjoys fighting politically expedient populism and is commited to empowering Australians to participate in democracy. She’s also a mother to three young children and lives in Tasmania.

Centrelink sprung telling eligible parents they can’t apply for Paid Parental Leave

In an appalling case of pre-emptive bastardry, Centrelink customer service employees have been sprung telling at least one new mother that she should not apply for Paid Parental Leave (PPL) because it is ‘double dipping’. The new mother, who does not want to be named, approached Centrelink on two separate occasions in late 2015, with queries about PPL. The conversations, with two separate Centrelink officers – in person and on the phone, left the new mother in tears, not least because she was essentially accused of trying to rort the system when she was enquiring about her perfectly legal entitlements.

“When I rang them they tried convincing me not to apply. That it wasn’t all that much money and I got maternity leave so I shouldn’t be applying anyway.”

The Health and Human Services website clearly states that “the current Paid Parental Leave scheme has not changed. It will continue to be available to eligible customers.”

Why then did Centrelink officers give this new mother such grossly inaccurate information about her eligibility for the scheme? Are the staff so untrained, unskilled or incompetent they do not know the facts about PPL? Or, have officers have been told to go ahead with enacting the Abbott/Turnbull Government’s planned cuts, despite the changes still facing resistance in the Senate, and even then, not planned to come into effect until 1 July 2016?

The new mother initially approached Centrelink in person at the Hobart shopfront, and explained her situation. She asked the officer:

“… could [partner] take Dad and Partner pay at one stage and then later the PPL… I was told that was double dipping and I shouldn’t be trying to get maternity leave and PPL since it’s one or the other.”

Why is a Centrelink officer deliberately attempting to mislead the new mother? Since when has it been appropriate for an employee of the Commonwealth to infuse political propaganda with providing advice on lawful entitlements?

The Centrelink website clearly states under the information for Dad and Partner Pay: “If eligible, your family can receive Parental Leave Pay or the Newborn Upfront Payment and Newborn Supplement for the same child for whom you receive Dad and Partner Pay … As an individual, you may be able to receive both Dad and Partner Pay and Parental Leave Pay, but not at the same time.”

Additionally, the Centrelink website, and legislation provides for the first primary care-giver to later transfer PPL to the other parent, provided that other parent also meets the eligibility criteria. The criteria are as follows:

  • be the primary carer of a newborn or recently adopted child
  • meet the Paid Parental Leave work test
  • meet the Paid Parental Leave income test
  • be on leave or not working from the time you become your child’s primary carer until the end of your Paid Parental Leave period

Paid Parental Leave does not just apply to mothers, it applies to parents. The test is not the gender of the applicant, but the nature of the care-giving responsibilities.

“Being told I was double dipping really made me mad. They just don’t understand the concept of men taking parental leave. It is PARENTAL, not MOTHERS. [Partner] needs a bond with [baby] just as much as I do.”

Both the new mother and her partner met all eligibility requirements in this case, yet again, just days after the birth of her first child in November 2015, the new mother, who had commenced her maternity leave early due to medical complications, called Centrelink, who tried to convince her the newborn supplement was the most appropriate payment, repeatedly trying to dissuade her from applying for PPL.

It was a few days after [baby] was born and I cried. I cried at everything for a while. She really, really tried to convince me that the new born supplement payment was what I should get. The different is very big. If it were the same dollar amount I wouldn’t mind, but there is a huge difference. She put through the claim I needed in the end. Just took ages.”

Given that two separate Centrelink officers in two separate locations and at different times provided almost identical and misleading advice, it can only be assumed that staff have been told to dissuade eligible families from accessing PPL.

“She really did not like the idea that [partner] was getting the PPL… ‘It is meant for the mother to spend time away from work with their child, you are getting maternity leave so you really should just apply for newborn supplement, it isn’t intended so that you get both’… ‘it isn’t all that much anyway, only about $600 a week, that’s not much’…”

The PPL scheme introduced by the Labor Government on 1 January 2011 was designed to work with employer paid schemes to enable the primary care-giver to take as close to 6 months off work as possible. The scheme envisaged the mother in particular, would receive her usual maternity leave entitlements as well as the 18 weeks Federal PPL paid at the minimum wage. The PPL was always intended to supplement employer paid schemes and could be transferred to the other partner if required.

However it seems that Turnbull doesn’t want to wait until his unpopular changes are forced through the Senate, if they go through at all. Turnbull is determined to leave the lowest paid workers up to $10,000 worse off immediately, without any legislative change at all.

How many other women have been told they are not eligible for PPL? How many other families have been left worse off because of incorrect and misleading advice from Centrelink officers? How many new mother and new fathers have been lied to by the Government?

In this case, the new mother persisted and eventually put in her claim.

“What I don’t understand is why they are saying this when the policy isn’t even passed? It was an idea at one stage; that PM is gone. So why are they still saying this? And why are they having an opinion on it?”

That is a very good question. Why do Centrelink officers have an opinion on Government policy? Their role is to provide advice to people based on the current law and eligibility criteria, not to spruik a policy that will leave up to 80,000 families worse off.

It is also completely unacceptable for a Government employee to call a mother who has just given birth a ‘double dipper’, and infer she is rorting the system when she is enquiring about a lawful entitlement. It is unacceptable that the officer should have such poor knowledge of the current law that they tell a new mother her partner is not entitled to his lawful entitlement either.

There is simply no excuse at all for Centrelink officers to be telling parents they cannot apply for PPL when they absolutely can. It is a disgrace. Luckily, in this case, the new mother knew enough about her rights to challenge the advice. How many other parents have not, and ended up missing out on vital financial support in the first crucial months of their new baby’s life?

If only pathology services tested for coal.

Modern medicine and science is an incredible thing. Compared with even a few decades ago, the options available for Australians to manage their health is impressive. A simple blood or urine test can reveal medical issues and potential complications even before symptoms appear or physical health noticeably deteriorates. No longer is a cancer diagnosis a guaranteed death sentence. MRI and PET scans, x-rays and other diagnostic tools have proven crucial to the early detection and management of cancer, disease and infection. Routine blood and urine tests are vital to the health management of millions of Australians.

Up until now, nearly all Australians, young, old, rich and poor, have had access to, and the benefit of a health system where everyone is largely treated equally, and lives are valued. Every person, regardless of gender, socioeconomic status, education, or employment status has had the opportunity of being bulk-billed for pathology services.

But not anymore – at least not if Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Health Minister Sussan Ley have their way.

From the 1 July 2016, the Commonwealth Government intends on cutting the bulk billing incentive for pathology services, putting the final nail in the coffin of affordable and accessible medical diagnostics for Australians.

And it will put the nail in the coffin for millions of Australians. Quite literally for some.

What Ley’s cuts will do is change how Australians seeking crucial testing and diagnosis are charged. Pathology industry representatives have warned that if the cuts go ahead, instead of being bulk-billed, patients will be forced to pay up front for services: Potentially thousands of dollars up front, leaving the most vulnerable and sickest patients hundreds of dollars out of pocket after the rebate has been claimed back from Medicare.

Fiercely defending the cuts, Minister Ley and her office have resorted to the most ludicrous claims to attempt to distract from her attempts to put a real dollar price on the health of Australians. In refuting the claim that pap smears, (a crucial tool to test for early signs of cervical cancer in women) will cost $30 if the incentive is removed, Ley asserted that the Medicare rebate has and will not change.

Of course she is right. The Medicare rebate for pathology services hasn’t changed in over 17 years. However costs to pathologists have continued to rise. Critics warn that the industry simply cannot absorb any more costs or government cuts. And Minister Ley intends to cut a massive $650 million from pathology services over four years.

That is a lot of money and it will affect millions of Australians who may be forced to pay up front for vital services.

According to the Australia Diagnostic Imaging Association patients may have to pay up to $93 upfront for an x-ray, $396 for a CAT scan, a minimum of $85 for a mammogram and up to $186 for an ultrasound. A PET scan could cost up to $1,000.

But patients rarely need just one test.

Each year over a million Australians present to doctors concerned about possible skin cancer. If detected early, skin cancer rarely kills. However early detection requires testing – tests that may now cost patients hundreds of dollars initially. And for the thousands of people diagnosed, upfront costs of around $1500 and out-of-pocket costs of up to $400 after receiving Medicare rebates. Over two years the costs could escalate to over $3000, with out-of-pocket expenses of up to $725.

In 2012, four people died every day from melanoma. This will certainly rise if Ley has her way.

Cervical cancer has no symptoms. The only way to detect it is by testing, and the routine pap smear is crucial for women’s health. In 2009, over 2 million routine tests were conducted, identifying 28,000 cases of high-grade abnormalities or cervical cancer. As a result of early testing, the vast majority of cases were treated successfully, leading to only 152 deaths. However, around the world, every 2 minutes a woman dies from cervical cancer, the vast majority of these in countries who do not offer routine testing.

If Ley’s cuts go ahead, the number of Australian women who die of cervical cancer will almost certainly rise as women on lower incomes forgo the vital test.

Approximately 1.7 million Australians have diabetes; they may now face up to $400 a year in upfront costs just for basic urine and blood tests which are vital to detect early signs of kidney disease or cardiovascular diseases. The cuts may see people forced to choose between medication and ongoing routine tests. Experts warn that some of the patients may go blind where complications have not been detected early enough.

In the indefensible move, Minister Ley’s proposed changes will almost certainly see millions of Australians suffering financially, or even worse, their health deteriorating as a result of declining a test or scan due to the cost. The sickest and most vulnerable patients will bear the brunt of the cuts.

Any Australian who relies on routine testing, who has concerns about their health, any person who panics at the sign of blood coming from somewhere it shouldn’t, any person stricken by lethargy, unexplained pain, or weird symptoms that they cannot quite identify, may have to choose between paying for food to put on the table and accessing tests for diagnosis and treatment.

Conditions, such as cervical cancer, bowel and prostate cancers, hepatitis C, and many sexually transmitted infections, have almost no early symptoms. These conditions may go undetected, leading to horrific outcomes for Australians who may otherwise have been able to be treated.

In one of her favourite excuses, Minister Ley erroneously claims that the introduction of the bulk billing incentive in 2009 only saw a rise of 1% in bulk billing rates. Minister Ley additionally claims that bulk billing rates are already so high, no incentive is required. With 98.7% of all out-patients bulk billed for pathology services in 2014-15, it is virtually impossible to imagine much more of an improvement. However it is entirely feasible to see a massive drop in bulk billing if the incentive is cut.

There is little to climb from 98.7% but a very long way to fall.

Each 1% fall in bulk billing rates represents over a million people now having to pay up front for vital services.

Cancer doesn’t discriminate. Neither does serious illness or disease.

Cancer won’t wait for a pensioner to save up thousands of dollars for crucial tests.

Cancer won’t wait for a young child to grow old enough to tell their parents that they are in pain and need urgent medical attention.

Cancer won’t wait for a young man or woman to spontaneously seek a prostate or cervical examination, ‘just on the off-chance’ there’s an abnormality.

There is an enormous and very real risk that many Australians, already struggling to make ends meet, will be dissuaded from undergoing essential tests, or forgo treatment altogether, if they have to pay upfront for pathology services.

If the Coalition has its way, one thing will be certain. Hundreds of thousands of Australians will suffer, and families will be wracked with grief as they watch their loved ones lose the battle against illness, which if detected and managed early enough, could have been successfully treated.

Unable to publicly justify the cuts, Minister Ley’s office has fallen back on the Coalition’s favourite excuse; apportioning the blame on Labor. However stripping funding from pathology services is not the same as arguing who is responsible for a budget deficit. A pathetic whine that “Labor did it first, so why shouldn’t the Coalition rip more money out of a vital industry, thus putting the health of millions of Australians at risk, and potentially resulting in people prematurely dying from treatable cancer and preventable illness?” has a hollow sound when the real life ramifications sink in.

In response to the initial backlash, Treasurer Scott Morrison said, ‘the government could not justify what amounted to “handing out large subsidies” to the pathology industry.’

If only pathology services tested for coal.

It takes two to tango – vasectomies all the way

A Current Affair is seeking community feedback on a proposal to force women on welfare to be on contraceptives. This ludicrous idea is apparently the brainchild of former Labor MP Gary Johns as a way to end intergenerational welfare. This isn’t a new policy of Johns. He has raised it before, saying in 2014 that ‘it is better to avoid having children until such time as parents can afford them’. According to Johns, rather than providing better education for young people, access to free (voluntary) contraceptives and family planning facilities, ‘women on welfare’ should be ‘inserted with long-acting reversible contraception – a tiny rod inserted under the woman’s bicep.’

Apart from the obvious reasons why the policy is absurd, it is a clear violation of a woman’s right to personal autonomy and to control her own body. The very suggestion that a woman on welfare should be forced to undergo a medical procedure or be left (along with her children) to starve or fend for herself is so abhorrent, it should not be necessary to provide a genuine argument against it.

Any government who took this idea seriously would guarantee a fierce backlash from the voting public (unless they are ACA audience members who, judging by the ‘feedback comments’ are wholly supportive of vulnerable and disadvantaged women being forcibly interfered with by medical professionals), and international condemnation.

Johns proposal, while obviously insane, is also unworkable. If his intent is to stop ‘intergenerational welfare’ and prevent women from having babies while receiving tax dollars, he does not go nearly far enough to ensure that no child is born without the full protection of parental financial support.

If anything, Johns proposal only goes halfway to ‘solving the problem’.

Why? Because it only applies to half of the population.

Johns is either not serious about ending intergenerational welfare (as laughable as his policy suggestion is) or he has a weird obsession about women and their reproductive capability.

It takes two to tango. A man and woman, or more accurately, a sperm and an ovum.

If Johns’ policy is to be effective, it must be applied in every situation which might result in a woman having a child while receiving welfare benefits. There must be a contingency in place for ‘accidents’; something forced contraceptives are obviously intended to address. There must be consequences for every person involved in causing the pregnancy of a woman dependent on the State.

It must apply to the whole population.

It must account for women who fall pregnant, only to lose their jobs through redundancy or discrimination. It must account for those who separate after having children, only to reproduce again – especially men who may impregnate multiple women, leaving them to fend for themselves.

It is only once every conceivable contingency is considered and every risk mitigated that babies will be born in Johns’ idea of appropriate circumstances, to parents who can afford them.

A simple, equitable policy might look like this:

1 Compulsory Contraception

1.1. Once a male or female becomes of an age that he or she is capable of causing a pregnancy or becoming pregnant, he or she shall have medically implanted a reversible contraceptive.

1.2. For the purposes of clause 1.1., a medical practitioner is required to confirm a male or female’s reproductive capability and at that time, clause 1.1. applies.

1.3. Where a male or female first satisfies clause 2.1. but subsequently does not, he or she shall have medically implanted a reversible contraceptive.

2 Termination of Contraception

2.1. The contraceptive shall remain in place until such time as the following conditions apply:

2.1.1. The male or female has demonstrated responsibility in line with community expectations, including but not limited to:

        a. is employed and has held that employment position for a minimum of 24 months.

        b. Has an individual annual salary of not less than $60,000.00 per annum, to be indexed in line with CPI.

        c. Has been in a committed relationship with their partner for a minimum of five years as evidenced by meeting strict criteria for financial, social, domestic and interdependent factors.

2.1.2. The male or female meets strict character requirements as determined by the responsible Minister from time to time and at the Minister’s discretion.

But what happens if a person does not yet meet all the criteria and the contraceptive fails?

3 Failure of Contraceptive

3.1. If a person to which cause 1.1. applies causes to become pregnant or becomes pregnant where clause 2.1. is not satisfied, the following applies:

3.1.1. Where the pregnancy is confirmed by a medical practitioner, the pregnancy will be terminated.

3.1.2. Where the pregnancy is not confirmed by a medical practitioner, the male and female responsible for the pregnancy will become ineligible for any welfare payments upon the birth of the child and both male and female will undergo irreversible sterilization.

3.1.3. For the purposes of clause 3.1., where clause 2.1. is satisfied at the time the pregnancy is confirmed by a medical practitioner, but then ceases to be satisfied, the pregnancy will be terminated.

3.1.4. Specifically, clause 3.1.3. applies where a male or female becomes unemployed during the time of pregnancy, or where the relationship ends. Clause 3.1.3. does not apply where the male or female’s salary is below the annual salary prescribed in clause 2.1.1.b. due to unpaid parental leave, provided that leave does not exceed 12 weeks.

But what if a relationship ends or a person becomes unemployed after they already have children? Another provision is required.

4 Future Dependency on Welfare.

4.1. Where a male or female has satisfied clause 2.1. and goes on to reproduce but subsequently does not satisfy clause 2.1., clause 1.3 applies.

4.2. Where a male or female becomes dependent on welfare for any reason and already has a maximum number of two children, he or she will be undergo irreversible sterilization.

No doubt Johns and the ACA audience will warmly applaud these policy suggestions; they are not the slightest bit ridiculous or in violation of any personal rights or civil liberties. And surely, if applied consistently across the population will ensure that no vulnerable or disadvantaged person ever becomes a parent while on welfare.

But is the policy workable? Does it account for human nature? Does it go far enough to protect the State from having to support young families?

Perhaps a better policy would be this:

1 Compulsory sterilization.

1.1. All males are to medically undergo a vasectomy procedure on maturity of their reproductive organs.

1.2. Once a male demonstrates he can financially support a child and is capable of being a good parent as defined by the Minister at his sole discretion, the male may seek approval to reverse the procedure.

While possibly harsh, and a little unfair, given it only applies to half the population, this probably will provide the most surety that unwanted pregnancies will not occur and single mothers won’t become a burden on society. It certainly provides more surety than a contraceptive implant for women. It also has the added advantage of ensuring men cannot unwittingly impregnate multiple women while merrily fornicating and sowing their wild oats, thus causing immeasurable cost to the State.

What say the public?

Dutton, conservative champion, is not fit for office.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is supposedly the darling of the Liberal Party’s conservative wing. Labelled the new champion of the far right just a month ago, he is now apparently the most senior trusted member of the cabinet. One of the last remaining vestiges of the Abbott era, Dutton is still fiercely loyal to the deposed former Prime Minister. Like Abbott, he does not hide his basic contempt for humanity. He remains a strong supporter of the hard line approach to border protection. He is a firm advocate for torturing asylum seekers in offshore camps. He actively supports the trashing of human rights. And like Abbott, it is manifestly clear that he is not fit for office.

The latest scandal involved Dutton accidentally texting a female journalist and calling her a ‘mad f*cking witch’. Naturally, the usual conservative supporters are right behind him, making excuses on his behalf and justifying the serious transgression: The text was accidentally sent. The message was meant for friend and dumped colleague, Jamie Briggs. And apparently, according to the conservative fan-club, calling a woman a mad f*cking witch for publicly commenting on a junior Minister’s alleged sexual harassment of a public servant is fine, because Dutton realised immediately the error of his ways and personally apologised.

Except it is not fine. It is not even the slightest bit fine.

It is a national embarrassment, a disgrace and a further sign of the incompetence of Peter Dutton.

It does not matter even remotely if it was a flippant remark, if it was meant in jest, as a joke or a passing slur. It does not matter that the journalist in question has accepted Dutton’s apology. It is irrelevant that she has laughed the whole incident off, stressing that there are more important things to worry about than an errant text message.

Indeed, there are plenty of other important things to worry about.

And Peter Dutton’s gross failures as a Minister and elected representative are equally as serious and important.

Peter Dutton is a senior Government Minister. He is a member of the Cabinet. He is a man in such a responsible and important position that he holds the lives of innocent people in his hands.

Dutton alone, has the power to condemn people to a possible death by coercing them to return to the warzone they fled. Dutton alone, has the power to banish people from Australia forever, for something as simple as his dislike for their associations. Dutton alone, has the power to turn around boats and send them back from where they came from, with reckless abandon and nary a thought for the consequence.

Dutton, a man with enormous executive power, demonstrably cannot be trusted to send a text message to the correct recipient.

Putting aside the right to free speech and the freedom of opinion and expression, it is quite simply unacceptable for a Government Minister, a man in Dutton’s position, to refer to any person, male or female, as a ‘f*cking’ anything.

If Dutton is the champion of the conservatives; if Dutton is considered suitable for a senior Ministerial role, the standards of acceptable behaviour in the Liberal Party must be set appallingly low.

According to his supporters, Dutton’s apology has absolved him of any impropriety and wrongdoing. The unwavering support from Dutton’s colleagues and friends demonstrate what actions are condoned in the Turnbull Government. It is a telling sign of the gross contempt that the conservative parliamentarians hold Australians in. It is a clear indication of how little regard they have for respect, accountability and professionalism.

But Dutton is not absolved. An apology does not counter that Dutton thought such a message was appropriate to send in the first place.

Dutton has a problem with behaving appropriately. He accused pregnant refugees detained on Nauru of trying to blackmail him after requesting to give birth in Australia rather than an ill-equipped third world hospital. He fiercely defended his Department’s decision to deny a dying man’s family a visa to see him in his final days. He was caught out chuckling at his own joke about Pacific Islanders having water lapping at their doors. He wilfully misled Australians about the intentions of a raped Somalian refugee seeking an abortion, accusing her and her advocates of lying.

It is not the slightest bit surprising that Dutton and his conservative allies are dismissive of Dutton’s gaffe. It would not be surprising if they thought it completely appropriate to refer to a female journalist as a mad f*cking witch. In comparison to previous blunders, it has nowhere near the same disturbing consequences. International relations are not directly affected. No lives will be destroyed by his comment.

But it is not acceptable. It is not justifiable. Dutton is an embarrassment. He rivals Abbott for sheer stupidity of action and word.

Dutton is the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection. He is a member of Cabinet. He has been touted as the next deputy leader.

Dutton, who exhibits such a lack of propriety, continues to bring shame on Australia.

There are certain standards of behaviour expected of an elected member of parliament. There are certain standards of behaviour expected of a representative of the people. There are certain standards of behaviour expected of anyone holding a public position.

And Dutton fails. Again and again he fails.

The time for appeasement of the conservative right is over. Dutton is not fit for office, and like Abbott, he must go.

 

What are Turnbull and Dutton waiting for?

An open letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, said to be written and signed by the 600 men incarcerated on Manus Island, was released today, 30 November 2015. The letter is short. It acknowledges the hopeless situation of the men detained indefinitely by the Government. It acknowledges the necessity of the men’s detention to the Coalition’s cruel ‘stop the boats’ policy. It also asserts that the boats have stopped and therefore the men are no longer of use to the Australian Government. The men claim their job is done, and trapped on the island prison, without any possible end to their torture, they have presented Turnbull and Dutton with three possible solutions to end the inhumanity, the obscene waste of public money, and the ruination of Australia’s international reputation.

The men have requested to die.

“This is not a joke or a satire” the men say.

The options provided by the men appear harsh, but in the minds of the prisoners, incarcerated on the whim of the Rudd, Gillard, Abbott and Turnbull Governments, the options are a better alternative to dying gradually on Manus Island and where “every single day” they are “literarly (sic) tortured and traumatized.”

The letter is not framed by the men as yet another plea for help, or a request for fairness, a safe-haven or safety – the men have acknowledged that their requests to be freed continue to go unanswered. The letter is a statement of truth, of fact, of recognition of the abhorrent situation the men who have fled persecution, war and genocide now face at the hands of successive Australian Governments, and funded by the taxpayer.

So what are Turnbull and Dutton waiting for?

It is clear the current situation is unsustainable. Offshore detention currently costs over $1 billion a year, more than five times the United Nations refugee agency’s entire budget for South East Asia.

The indefinite detention of asylum seekers and refugees on Manus Island, Nauru and Christmas Island has been repeatedly criticised. The United Nations has found that the offshore detention regime and the conditions that people seeking asylum and refugees are held in, amount to torture. In the past week, the United Nations chief, Ban Ki-moon personally asked Turnbull to review the boat turn back policy and raised concerns again about the conditions in offshore detention centres. The UN’s Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Francois Crepeau, cancelled his Australian visit because the Government refused to guarantee that professionals and staff would not be prosecuted and face 2 years in prison, under the secrecy provisions of the Border Force Act, for simply speaking with him.

Asylum seekers and refugees have been murdered, pushed to suicide, and died from medical neglect while being held indefinitely under cruel, inhumane and torturous conditions as a deterrent to people smugglers.

The Turnbull Government claims the boats have stopped. If this is so, then the men on Manus Island are correct to say they are no longer needed – unless Turnbull and Dutton intend on holding them hostage forever just in case the slightest show of humanity leads to resurgence in on-water arrivals. However, the boats have not stopped departing Indonesia, they have simply been prevented from landing. It is clear therefore, that despite the harsh conditions the men on Manus Island (and men, women and children on Nauru and Christmas Island) are held in, that people will continue to seek asylum in Australia – as is their right under the Refugee Convention signed and ratified by Australia.

Still, Turnbull and Dutton are unphased by international obligations and humanitarian responsibility. Repeated and relentless criticism has simply hardened their resolve to further punish those detained in the island prison hellholes.

So what exactly are Turnbull and Dutton waiting for?

Are they intending to hold each and every man, woman and child in detention until they die? Are they hoping another riot will break out and a few more innocent men will be murdered? Are they hoping that a few more men will be taken out by preventable and treatable infections and illness? Are they hoping that if they treat the men cruelly enough, more will commit suicide, thus saving the Government money and negating the need to process any claims? Do they hope a couple of pregnant women will die in childbirth, or at the very least, their babies die, thus saving the Government the issue of what to do with their prisoners?

According to Dutton, it would be irresponsible to take steps that might see a resurgence in people arriving in Australian waters. In October, in response to the Royal Children’s Hospital refusing to discharge a mother and child to detention, he said, “The Defence and Border Force staff on our vessels who were pulling dead kids out of the water don’t want the boats to restart.”

Is this the worst case scenario for Dutton?

If so, what are Turnbull and Dutton waiting for?

If the refugees and asylum seekers are not going to be freed, if the men, women and children held indefinitely in detention are doomed to stay there, until they are murdered, pushed to suicide, or die prematurely through medical neglect, why not opt for a kinder option?

The men on Manus Island propose the following:

  1. A navy ship that can put us all on board and dump us all in the ocean. (HMAS is always available)
  2. A gas chamber (DECMIL will do it with a new contract)
  3. Injection of a poison. (IHMS will help for this)

The response, if any is given at all, is predicable. “Dumping at sea? A gas chamber? Injection of poison? But that is unconscionable. First world, democratic nations don’t commit atrocities against innocent people. That would be akin to genocide, a war crime, an abhorrent act of terror. Australia will not be blackmailed by these people. We stand by our commitment to keep our borders safe and to stop the boats.”

More likely, there will be no comment at all, and Turnbull and Dutton, supported by Shorten, will leave the men, women and children to suffer indefinitely. The Government will ignore the men’s pleas and continue to support a slow, painful death for those housed in Australia’s concentration camps. There will be no festive cheer or hope for the future. Merry Christmas from Australia.

What a tragic state of affairs and how shameful for Australia as a nation.

The full transcribed text of the letter is below:

30/11/15

Hello Dear Mr Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton.

As the refugees and asylum seekers trapped in Manus Island detention we wold like to request you something different this time.

As previously we wrote and asked for help and there was no respond to our request to be freed out of detention we realized that there are no differences between us and rubbish but a bunch of slaves that helped to stop the boats by living in hellish condition. The only difference is that we are very costly for the Australian tax payers and the Politicians as our job to “stop the boats” is done.

We would like to give you some recommendations to stop the waste of this huge amount of money ruining Australian’s reputation and to keep the Australian boarders safe forever.

  1. A navy ship that can put us all on board and dump us all in the ocean. (HMAS is always available)
    2. A gas chamber (DECMIL will do it with a new contract)
    3. Injection of a poison. (IHMS will help for this)

This is not a joke or a satire and please take it serious.

We are dying in Manus gradually, every single day we are literarly tortured and traumatized and there is no safe country to offer us protection as DIBP says.

Best regards

Merry Christmas in advance
Manus refugees and asylum seekers.

 

 

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.

 

What extremism, Australia?

The Federal Government has made quite clear its belief that Australians are at risk from extremists. It is so concerned about the threat of fundamentalists influencing young minds, it sanctioned the well-publicised anti-radicalisation booklet to be distributed in schools around the country. Whether this belief is founded, rational and based on admissible evidence appears irrelevant to the ruling class.

There is no doubt that fundamentalism, extremism and radicalised youth may, potentially, one day, if all circumstances and opportunities align, be a threat. However while the Government is focussing its attention on examples that conflict with its ideology, organisations of a specific religious persuasion are confidently and quite publicly corrupting and indoctrinating the minds of Australian children.

For not the first time, certain Christian organisations have been caught out inflicting their own warped idea of how society should function, on Australian youth. Under the guise of ‘religious education’ in the classroom, these apparent moral arbitrators are teaching teenagers the kind of stuff that would be funny, if it wasn’t so deadly serious.

According to the latest news, young Australians are being taught to “thank God for cancer” and that cancer is “the result of a mucked-up and broken world caused by sin.”

Religious instructors in New South Wales’ schools are allegedly teaching that “being sick or having your period isn’t a sin — but it reminds us that the body and therefore all of humanity now live with the curse of sin.”

Seriously?

In 2015, teenagers are being instructed that female menstruation is a sign of humanity being cursed with sin?

As if this isn’t extreme (and bizarre) enough, children in state funded, public schools, have been told that “wives should submit to their husbands in everything’’ and to “be prepared to die for God.”

This is not the eighteen hundreds. It is not even 1950. This is the stuff being taught in the twenty-first century.

The latest fundamentalist Christian teachings follow an instance earlier in the year where young teenage students in Victorian state schools were “warned not to have multiple sex partners or risk becoming like overused sticky tape.”

According to these religious instructors, clearly experts in the human body and reproductive organs, “a chemical released in females’ brains made them more needy than boys”, and having multiple sexual partners can break a “special chemical bond”, and “harm a woman’s capacity to form future relationships.”

None of these teachings will be news to those who endured a private Christian schooling. However this is not being taught in Christian schools, where parents and students expect a level of religious indoctrination and propaganda, but in public schools, in many cases without the parents’ knowledge or consent.

Some Christian groups are insistent on their right to teach harmful and dangerous anti-gay and anti-divorce messages. There appears to be no concept of the damage any of these teachings have on the wider community and vulnerable people targeted by the hate messages.

Why are these people not more loudly and publicly condemned?

Is it because these religious instructors are largely white, middle-classed, conservative Australians?

Is it because they share the same cultural heritage as a vast majority of the population?

Is it because we are so attuned to thinking extremism and fundamentalism corresponds with brutal, physical violence that we ignore the damage these disturbing teachings are having on society?

This year, the New South Wales Government demonstrated its full support of Christian indoctrination, inferring that Christian studies were mandatory by including it in a listing of ‘core subjects’. The Federal Government has made it clear that it will only support religious chaplains in schools to ‘support’ young people with ethical and moral dilemmas.

No doubt the supporters of this absurdity proclaim that Christian fundamentalism is not a threat to Australian society. Australia was, after all, founded on Christian principles when the British arrived in 1788 and set about brutally murdering the local Indigenous population in an attempt to annihilate the race.

But these kinds of so-called Christian teachings do immense damage.

These Christian organisations, endorsed in many public schools, are teaching the next generation that women must submit to their husbands, that women are inferior, that living with a partner unmarried is a sin, that basic bodily functions which almost half the entire world population experience or have experienced, is a sign of sin.

These Christian so-called educators, mainly volunteers who have been welcomed into state schools, are instructing that gay people are unnatural, that children will be harmed if they do not live within the confines of a heterosexual marriage with their biological mother and father.

Domestic violence is a massive issue for Australia. So far, 69 women have been murdered in 2015, many by husbands and partners.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has found prolific, repeated and systematic cover-up of rapes, sexual assaults and child abuse going back decades. Many of those exposed as perpetrators and protectors are religious organisations, and many are Christian denominations.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex Australians have the highest rates of suicidality, (the risk of suicide) of any population in Australia. Same-sex attracted people have up to fourteen times higher rates of suicide attempts than heterosexual Australians, with young same-sex attracted Australians having rates up to six times higher than their peers.

Each year, several thousand Australians take their own lives, the vast majority male. The two key factors for whether a person will experience suicidal ideation is if that person is experiencing both depression and if they feel socially undesirable. It is not inconceivable that dangerous messages taught in schools about gender roles, sexual orientation and health play a part in feelings of social desirability.

The Christian values of love, compassion, inclusion, and forgiveness are sadly lacking from contemporary education, and appear to be replaced with socially divisive and grossly biased ideological messages.

Religion and religious influence is an important topic for children to learn about. People, insistent that their personal religious beliefs hold supremacy, are responsible for wars, genocide and brutal massacres of indigenous cultures and races. Religion is used as an excuse for many atrocities, discrimination, and the deliberate exclusion of certain people in society.

All people have a right to religion, but that does not include the right to force religion onto others. It does not include the right to indoctrinate the young and impressionable. It does not include forcing personal spiritual beliefs onto the wider community.

Earlier this year the Victorian Government announced that it had scrapped religious instruction from school curriculums from 2016, instead replacing with classes that address domestic violence and respectful relationships. This is a far more productive way of addressing the real issues facing young Australians.

Extremism has no place in schools, and this includes extremism which complies with the agenda of the Government.

 

Ode to Karen – Lyrics: Eva Cripps, performed by Kim.

 

What is better than drowning, according to the Australian Government?

The Federal Government is determined to stick to its policy of torturing innocent people to deter criminals. Apparently the only way to take power away from people smugglers is to ensure that perfectly legal asylum seekers who previously made it safely to Australia by boat are treated in the most barbaric way possible. In some kind of twisted Coalition logic, it asserts by its actions that the most effective way to prevent people drowning at sea is to torture those that survive.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton appears to understand that actions are more important than words, as does former Immigration Minister and current Treasurer, Scott Morrison. Both have made it clear that it’s not acceptable to simply intercept boats making their way to Australia, remove asylum seekers and detain the people smugglers. No, the only way to save lives is to detain and subject every man, woman and child to the cruellest, most inhumane treatment possible. The Coalition has a strong message for asylum seekers, “Dare to flee war, persecution or genocide, and we will make your lives so rotten you’ll beg to return to where you came from.”

According to the Coalition, there is nothing worse than drowning at sea. According to the actions of Dutton, Morrison, and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, arbitrary detention, torture, rape, sexual abuse, violent assaults, and denial of medical treatment are all better than drowning.

In some respects, they have a point. Death is final. It is the end. There is no return from death. Drowning really is a final outcome.

Torture, on the other hand, rape, sexual abuse, violent assaults, denial of medical treatment; none of these things results in immediate death. No, these things, continuously supported by the Australian Government by its lack of action, ensure that people stay alive; although not so much alive as a lingering, painful existence from which there is no escape. Asylum seekers who attempt to escape by ending their own lives, are subjected to more pain and torture.

It seems the Australian Government is determined to stop people drowning at all costs.

Based on the events of the past few years, the Government has demonstrated a number of things that it believes are better than drowning.

  1. Being bashed to death by security guards who are meant to protect you.
  2. Dying a slow, lingering death from septicaemia from an untreated foot infection.
  3. Housing a five month old baby in a stinking hot, rat-infested tent without access to appropriate formula, hygienic facilities to prepare food, and placing her mother in so much stress she can’t breastfeed properly.
  4. Being so suicidal you can’t be trusted to be left alone for five minutes with a lawyer or husband, but considered well enough to be flown to detention in Nauru.
  5. Depriving women of basic sanitary items and forcing them to ask male security guards for pads while blood clots run down their legs.
  6. Leaving a young child with a broken arm untreated for weeks.
  7. Being brutally raped as a 23 year old, and denied medical treatment for weeks, if not months, and forced to continue a pregnancy that is making you physically sick.
  8. Having medical treatment delayed after being brutally raped and attempting suicide.
  9. Young boys being attacked, beaten and robbed.
  10. The sexual abuse of children.
  11. Sending children who are suffering from serious mental health issues back to detention where they won’t have access to proper treatment and their condition will worsen.
  12. Waterboarding and being cable-tied to a bed and dropped from height.
  13. Dying after being denied medical treatment for two weeks.

Astoundingly, while on one hand declaring that the arbitrary and indefinite detention of asylum seekers is necessary to deter the people smugglers, and proudly boasting of its cruel policies, the Government’s main defence in a High Court challenge to offshore detention was that it has no control over the detention centres and besides, there is now no detention after the Nauruan Government coincidentally opened up the centre several days before the challenge was to be heard. This is not the first time the Government has changed the rules at the last minute to thwart any attempts to test the legality of the offshore detention policy and hold it accountable.

The Australian Government behaves as though what happens on Nauru is not Australia’s responsibility. It deliberately and publicly sends men, women and children, including tiny babies, into torturous conditions, yet steps back and says, “its not our problem.” It says the detention centre is not “controlled” by Australia.

The Government’s defence amounts to “it’s nothing to do with us”. At least in this respect the Government’s words and actions are consistent. It continues to fail to act on mounting evidence of appalling conditions for asylum seekers and refugees on the remote island prisons, despite Turnbull recently expressing “concern”, as though the barbaric treatment of innocent people is news to him.

The Government uses the harsh treatment of asylum seekers detained in a third world shithole to attempt to deter people lawfully seeking asylum. It actively sends people to Nauru and Manus Island, and uses tax payer money for the management of the facilities, visas, and the security of the detention centres, yet absolves itself of all responsibility.

The Forgotten Children Report from the Australian Human Rights Centre provides clear evidence of the abhorrent conditions of immigration detention.

The United Nations has found that Australia’s immigration policy and conditions in detention centres amounts to torture.

The Moss Report, commissioned by the Government itself, found that there is evidence of rapes, sexual assaults and drugs for sexual favours in the Australian run centre on Nauru.

A Senate Committee Inquiry found that the Nauru detention centre is not safe for children.

United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants cancelled a visit as the Government could not guarantee that people who spoke with him would not be prosecuted under the Border Force Act.

Despite ongoing criticism, the Government insists on promoting the same tired line that anything compassionate, humane and in line with the basic standards of human rights expected in a Western democracy will lead to more deaths in Australian waters.

It seems that it’s not the deaths the Government fears; it’s the method of death and the publicity surrounding it. Heart wrenching images of children washed up on beaches turns asylum seekers from illegal immigrants to be feared into humans who deserve care and help. Instead, the Government supports the slow, lingering, torturous death of innocent people in detention, which it does everything to hide, threatening two years jail for doctors, nurses, teachers and other professionals for publicly disclosing the appalling treatment of asylum seekers, including the sexual abuse of children.

“You’re going to die from a hunger strike protesting your inadequate treatment after being bashed in immigration detention? You shouldn’t have sought asylum by boat”, will be the next heartless press statement from Dutton. “If we relax our draconian policies, people might drown”.

Apparently anything is better than drowning.

 

Has anything changed? Not judging by the comments.

While many Australians, and no doubt the rest of the world, are still breathing a collective sigh of relief at the deposal of Tony Abbott, his supporters are still smarting and licking their wounds. Abbott himself is still pretending to not wreck, not snipe and not undermine, by telling his supporters he could still have won the election, while those within Abbott’s camp have conveniently forgotten Abbott’s own overthrow of Turnbull not even a decade ago, albeit as leader of the opposition.

Malcolm Turnbull is by far more popular than Abbott. A jump in the polls after Turnbull ascended to the top is a pretty clear indication that Abbott as leader was the problem. Even a commitment to retain the most odious of Abbott’s policies has not dampened Turnbull’s popularity. Likewise, Andrew Hastie’s easy win in the Canning by-election after the coup was a good indication that the Coalition’s policies were not the problem for most people – the problem was Abbott.

Despite Turnbull now giving the Coalition a fighting, and likely, chance of winning the next election, Abbott’s supporters are still coming out hard. With the Liberal party effectively split in two for loyalty, diehard Lib fans continue to fiercely support Abbott’s legacy. As a result, they are reminding Australian’s of what the Coalition stands for, regardless of leader. Consequently, Australian’s cannot forget that the same party is in charge and nothing has really changed.

On Saturday, 3 October 2015, Malcolm Turnbull (or his staff) posted a rather innocuous photo and caption on his Facebook page, to which I replied. Some of the responses to my light-hearted comment serve as a reminder of the sheer ignorance and wilful deceit of the Coalition rhetoric and propaganda.

Turnbull’s initial Facebook post which prompted my comment was not remarkable. It was rather normal and not the slightest bit inflammatory. It hardly gave the impression of aiming to boost Turnbull’s standings in the polls, nor indicated a desperate attempt to show Turnbull leading the nation as a humble servant.

The post showed a photo of Turnbull with actor Chris Hemsworth, with the following words:

“Good to meet Chris Hemsworth today – talked about the contribution of the creative sector to our economy. But a bit weird he insisted on me calling him Thor“.

My comment, intended as a light-hearted comparison to what we had come to expect was:

“I can just imagine Tony Abbott’s caption to this photo, ‘Good to meet Chris Hemsworth today – talked about the contribution of the creative sector to our economy. He told me I could be a god just like him because of my superpowers stopping the boats’.”

This sparked an immediate tirade of misinformation, absurd assertions and a litany of personal abuse. Clearly critical thought and fact checking are not considered necessary for the diehard Liberal supporters.

The obvious response, and one of the most perpetuated lies of the Federal Government was that Abbott did indeed stop the boats.

“He did stop the boats as promised.

Granted, he stopped any boats landing on Australian shores, but he did not stop the boats. The Commonwealth has openly admitted that 20 boats were prevented from landing on Australian territory up until August 2015, and the Government has never refuted that it paid people smugglers to turn a boat around. If the boats had actually stopped there would be no need to turn them back.

Abbott cannot even claim credit for the massive reduction in boats leaving Indonesia: the credit belongs to Kevin Rudd II and his hard-line asylum seeker stance just before the 2013 election, where he declared no person arriving by boat would ever be resettled in Australia.

One response on the post demonstrated complete ignorance of Coalition policy and spending, saying:

“So you would rather pay for illegals than pay for what Australians need like bigger pensions better child care education etc etc. fix our own because no one else will, would or could!”

Ignoring the fact that it is not illegal to seek asylum, the Federal Government currently spends $1 billion a year on offshore detention. It also intends to cut pensions. Extra childcare funding is reliant on cutting family payments, leaving thousands of families worse off. New Treasurer, Scott Morrison has also announced that the Coalition is pushing for privatisation of health and education. It seems pretty obvious that the Government has a very clear intention to spend billions on arbitrary detention, and as little as possible on the Australian family.

Another poster astutely remarked:

“Eva is so far from the left she could probably fall over, let me guess your against offshore detention you probably believe in global warming. … I bet Eva is also against Christianity and private education.”

This disturbingly amusing ‘insult’ is a perfect example of the ignorance of the typical Coalition supporter. Apart from the billions of tax dollars currently used to arbitrarily detain asylum seekers and refugees, including young babies, it is laughable that someone would attempt to use the situation to cast aspersions on my character given the offshore detention regime supports rape, sexual assault, and physical abuse. A growing list of people are calling for the detention centres to be closed, on top of a Senate Committee inquiry recommending that children and families be immediately removed from Nauru.

Global warming, or climate change, is a pet hate of the Abbott supporter. With 97% of scientists agreeing that climate change is a serious issue, Australia has been criticised by a UN climate expert for its abysmally low greenhouse gas emissions targets. Despite Turnbull’s previous stance and criticism on the Coalition’s environmental policy, he has indicated an intention to retain Abbott’s laughable Direct Action. No doubt the Coalition supporters found Dutton’s recent shamefully embarrassing climate change ‘joke’ hilarious too.

It’s possible the curious comment on my alleged anti-Christian sentiment comes from the commenter’s observation of a satirical anti-radicalisation meme on my Facebook page: ‘Case Study: Jesus of Nazareth’. The meme describes Jesus as a ‘radical’ who left his loving family, was tempted by Satan, attempted to recruit followers, went against the Romans and the priests, and was ultimately hanged with thieves. Clearly the irony of this meme would be lost on most Coalition supporters, who would consider Karen, the alternative music loving, political activist, and environmentalist a genuine threat to their conservative, capitalist ideals.

Despite the overwhelming majority support of the Coalition and conservative politics within the mainstream media, Australians now source most of their news online, with a recent survey finding that 59% of people access news on their smartphones and 48% relying on Facebook. While there is no real evidence that the mainstream media in general has anything more than a ‘muted’ influence over an actual election outcome, the use of social media to access the news provides a new opportunity for all political stances and ideologies to share facts, lies, and opinions, whether informed or not.

A recent Nielson report found that approximately 13 million Australians (over 50% of the population) are active users of Facebook every month. The information also shows that on average, 60% of those that discover new information on Facebook will go on to learn more. Equal numbers of people reportedly use YouTube, with around a quarter of the population using WordPress.com and approximately 11% using Twitter.

With the rise of the use of social media, and the use of the same by the ill-informed, it is crucial that Australians who care about human rights, who believe in equality, and who deplore the dehumanisation of anyone other than white, middle-class, privileged Coalition party members and their friends, continue to speak out and demand accountability.

Turnbull’s new leadership will bring with it some changes, but not enough if Australia is to reach the standard expected of a Western democracy in the 21st Century. Abbott returned Australia to the 1950’s with his personal ideology, and medieval times in more than one policy. However, as Abbott so kindly pointed out, “Border protection policy the same, national security policy the same, economic policy the same, even same-sex marriage policy the same, and climate change policy the same. In fact, the rhetoric is the same…” under a Turnbull leadership.

Turnbull may be popular, but the Coalition remains the same.

 

The question should be “Will you marry me?” not “Can you marry me?”

On the 16 September 2015 the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee reported on an inquiry into “The matter of a popular vote, in the form of a plebiscite or referendum, on the matter of marriage in Australia”. The committee took submissions from the public and received 77 submissions that complied with the terms of reference. The Committee issued one recommendation:

“…that a bill to amend the definition of marriage in the Marriage Act 1961 to allow for the marriage between two people regardless of their sex is introduced into the Parliament as a matter of urgency, with all parliamentarians being allowed a conscience vote.”

This recommendation was released two days after the deposal of former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. Given Abbott’s demonstrated contempt for Senate committee recommendations in the past, it was sure to be ignored had he remained leader. However there was hope that the new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, being previously a vocal supporter of a conscience vote for marriage equality, would act on the recommendation and put the matter to an end.

It seems like Turnbull is determined to go down the same path as Abbott. The Coalition is still committed to a plebiscite, wasting millions of dollars in the process, and running the real risk of igniting anti-gay sentiment in the community.

It is disappointing but not surprising the lengths the Coalition Government is going to, to ensure that same-sex couples and families continue to be discriminated against. It seems absurd that a Senate inquiry was required to begin with, to decide on something as basic as ensuring equal rights for all Australians.

It is also disappointing that despite the findings of an unnecessary Senate References Committee, a plebiscite is still being pursued for marriage equality. It seems absurd that an expensive opinion poll, involving the entire voting population of Australia is required to determine whether a consenting, adult couple may have the same rights as every other couple in their own personal business – that of whether or not they may marry, simply because of the gender of their partner.

It also seems absurd that Constitutional changes are still being considered. The High Court has already determined that ‘marriage’ may include same sex marriage. The only possible desired result is to institutionally embed discrimination into the governing document of our nation.

People do not choose to be gay, no more than they choose to be left handed. Some of the loud opponents of equality state that the nation should not change the definition of marriage based on a minority. This is a particularly cruel way to view the debate and demonstrates a clear intention to maintain discrimination and inequality based on a narrow, unfair definition of what is ‘normal’.

Left handed people are a minority. At one point in time, left handed people were forced in school to write with their right hand.

Imagine for the moment if the parliament passed laws to ban left handed people from driving cars, working in certain industries or from adopting children? Imagine if the laws extended to red heads?

It would be ridiculously absurd. There would be righteous outrage. It is equally absurd that adult Australian couples cannot marry simply because they are attracted to the same sex.

Society – or at least most of society – has moved on from the wife being the possession of the husband. The basis of marriage is no longer about property rights or biological reproduction – if it ever was. Society has also moved on from writing with ink and feather quill, thus removing the only possible legitimate reason for discouraging the left handed among the population. Yet while left handed people are now largely free from prejudice (left handed scissors are a rarity), free from attempts to change their biology and free from personal slurs, gay people suffer some of the highest rates of discrimination, have been subjected to bizarre ‘conversion therapy’ in an attempt to ‘un-gay’ them, and are over-represented in suicide.

Legalising same sex marriage will not have the slightest impact on the value of heterosexual relationships, in the same way as a child will not be the slightest bit affected by sitting next to a left handed student in school. The arguments against same sex marriage are ideologically driven – there is simply no valid reason why same sex couples should not have the right to marry.

There should be no need for public endorsement of ‘marriage equality’ for it to be legalised; just as no public opinion poll was considered necessary for schools to stop caning students who wrote with their left hand – and no plebiscite considered necessary for former Prime Minister, John Howard to change the definition of ‘marriage’ in 2004 to expressly exclude same-sex couples. The government should stop pandering to the bigots and to ideologically driven prejudice.

Gay people are considered equal in every other area of society. The government considers gay people equal enough to pay taxes. Gay people have to pay exactly the same for parking and public transport as every other person. Gay people have to pay the same for water, electricity and other household amenities. Council’s consider gay people equal enough to pay rates on property at the same value as straight people.

Are gay people only equal when the governing bodies can make money from them?

Gay people are obliged to obey every Australian law yet are not afforded equality at law. There are no gay exemptions from paying income tax, no gay exemptions for obeying traffic regulations, no gay exemptions from exercising a duty of care to other people, and no gay exemptions from compulsory voting.

On the 23 September 2015 the Western Australian Government joined a long list of critics of the Federal Government, and questioned the need for a plebiscite, recommending instead that a conscience vote in parliament be supported. This is the simplest, easiest and most cost effective path to marriage equality and acceptance for all couples and families, no matter their sexual orientation.

It is unacceptable in 2015 that all adult Australians, no matter their sexual orientation, are not afforded the same rights at law, yet they are expected to meet all legal obligations. The question for every adult Australian in a loving committed relationship should be “Will you marry me?” not “Can you marry me?”

 

Dual citizen? Beware the Border Force street patrol

In many cases, buying into a conspiracy theory may result in an instant loss of credibility. However as reality becomes increasingly more absurd and Government policy more outrageous, what may once have seemed ludicrous now verges on genuine possibility. Friday the 28 August 2015 will go down in history as the day the citizens of Melbourne stood up against a police state and fascism. It will also be remembered as one of the most appallingly planned and ridiculously thought-out operations by a Government agency ever. And it demonstrates just why the instant revocation of citizenship in the proposed Allegiance to Australia Act is so incredibly dangerous.

Just weeks ago, the notion of Abbott’s paramilitary Border Force, prowling the streets of Australian cities and towns, searching for ‘visa fraudsters’ would have been laughed off as lunacy. The very thought of immigration and customs officials leaving their posts on the actual border of the nation and mingling among Saturday shoppers in the CBD of Melbourne would have been written off as an April Fool’s Day joke.

But no. Friday’s events showed that national security is no laughing matter for Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the now-missing-in-action Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton. The suggestion of potential identity checks of thousands of Australians meandering through the CBD was not so much of a suggestion, as part of an actual, real, planned inter-agency ‘safety’ operation with Victoria Police.

Astoundingly, the Australian Border Force issued a statement inferring that officers would be checking the visa status of people who crossed their paths on an ordinary weekend in Melbourne. There was no high profile event to warrant the operation, no actual security risk or suspected imminent incident of a terrorist nature. No. It was part of a crackdown on antisocial behaviour and outstanding warrants and to promote a ‘secure and cohesive’ community.

While Friday’s events were analysed, examined and ridiculed endlessly from every angle in the hours following the debacle, the whole concept of on-the-street visa checks ties in quite cleanly with another of Abbott’s new national security policies.

Earlier this year Abbott introduced the Allegiance to Australia Bill, which sets up a number of circumstances under which dual citizens may lose their Australian citizenship. While in some cases an actual conviction for an offence is required, there are many other cases where a person automatically renounces their citizenship by action.

Section 33AA of the Bill provides that where a person ‘acts inconsistently with their allegiance to Australia’ the renunciation has immediate effect from the moment the person does that action. Naturally, once the Minister becomes aware of the act and renunciation of citizenship, the person may be detained and deported.

The actions considered to be inconsistent with Australian allegiance include such things as engaging in terrorist activities; providing or receiving training connected with preparation for, engagement in, or assistance in a terrorist act; and financing terrorism or a terrorist. According to the University of Sydney’s Dr Rayner Thwaites and Dr Anne Twomey, a highly respected legal expert, the broadly worded provisions potentially apply to many innocent dual citizens. It means a law-abiding science or chemistry teacher, gym instructor or a member of a shooting club could inadvertently revoke their Australian citizenship if the skills they imparted or shared later helped a person commit a terrorist act.

As if this isn’t concerning enough, organisations such as Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherd have been labelled as terrorist organisations, as have other environmental groups. People protesting against mining are considered such a threat, ASIO has reportedly spied on them.

Of course, the Allegiance to Australia Bill has not yet become law, but section 501 of the Migration Act 1958 already allows the Minister to cancel the visa of any Australian resident who is not a citizen on a range of ‘character’ grounds. The ‘test’ does not require any actual criminal convictions or any proof of criminality; not that the Minister has to provide the evidence used for a decision anyway if he can cite ‘national security’. The Minister basically decides a person is not of the calibre expected of an Australian resident and abolishes their right to live in the country – no matter how many decades they may have called Australia home.

With 28% of Australians born overseas, and an estimated third of Australians thought to be dual citizens, there are potentially millions of Australians at risk of detainment and deportation. Approximately 600 visas have already reportedly been cancelled by the Minister on ‘character grounds’ in the past year alone.

Which raises the question – just which ‘visa fraudsters’ was Mr Don Smith and his Border Force officers intending to intercept?

Many commentators have pointed out the absurdity of notifying visa over-stayers of an operation cracking down on illegal immigrants. Clearly those without lawful authority to be in Australia would have stayed clear of the Melbourne CBD.

But now, consider the operation was jointly between Victoria Police and other agencies, including the Border Force. According to Victorian Police Minister, Wade Noonan MP, it was a standard police operation focusing on antisocial behaviour and to ensure the safety of the community. He accuses Border Force of ‘unfortunate and inappropriate characterisation’ of the joint venture.

This may be so, but it does raise serious questions about how such an operation, if it had continued, would have been carried out. How many people, lawfully in Australia, holding permanent resident visas, would have been potentially caught up in the fishing exercise? How many would find themselves suddenly detained on the murky grounds of failing to meet the ‘good character’ requirements of the Migration Act? There need be no criminal offence committed, conviction or even evidence provided. What constitutes ‘antisocial behaviour’, and would suspicion of such warrant the immediate detainment and deportation of a New Zealand national, for example?

And if Abbott has his way and the Allegiance to Australia Bill becomes law, how exactly does Dutton intend to ‘discover’ those automatically renouncing their citizenship? Will the sight of Border Force agents patrolling shopping centres and malls be a regular and common occurrence? Will the Border Force be sent out to catch dual citizen commuters automatically revoking their citizenship by dropping a gold coin donation in a Wilderness Society tin? Will Border Force agents be pouncing on dual citizens buying chemistry sets from the National Geographic shop?

The ramifications of Friday’s aborted operation are huge. Despite Victoria Police seeing sense and cancelling the ridiculous event, the fact it was planned in the first place is cause for alarm.

The concerns about Border Force and Operation Fortitude has gone beyond racial profiling. Are we in the midst of a national cleansing program?

 

“We want you to be scared and compliant”.

It is safe to say that the Federal Government has taken Australia one step closer to complete authoritarian rule and dictatorship. In a statement released today, Friday, 28 August 2015, the Australian Border Force regional commander for Victoria and Tasmania, Don Smith, proudly revealed that officers from the para-military organisation will be checking the visas of people ambling around Melbourne’s CBD on Friday and Saturday.

The venture, named Operation Fortitude, is reportedly a joint exercise between a number of security agencies including Victoria Police. The stated aim is to fight crime and keep Melburnians safe. The operation will be targeting anti-social behaviour to outstanding warrants, and naturally, the Border Force agents will be cracking down hard on anyone suspected of visa fraud.

Mr Smith is clearly keen to show a presence in Melbourne. His officers will be located at strategic positions around the CBD and will apparently be ‘speaking with any individual we cross paths with.’

This is an astounding move. A horrifying and grossly invasive move. It marks a distinct end to whatever personal freedoms and liberties law-abiding Australians have left.

This is an operation in Melbourne’s CBD. It is not an operation on the ‘borders’ of Australia. It is not an operation at the entry and exit points of the nation, or indeed any state. It is not at an airport. Or at a sea port. It is not at suspected entry points for people seeking asylum.

It is the central business district of Victoria’s capital city.

The newly created Australian Border Force comes complete with a no-nonsense military style emblem. It has sharp, cutting slogans splashed across the homepage of its website: ‘Border Watch – Help Protect Australia’s Border’, ‘Report Suspicious Behaviour’, ‘70 Years of Post-War Migration’, ‘Australian Citizenship – Your Right, Your Responsibility’, ‘Join us on the Frontline’.

Except that frontline has moved: From a line at the front, to meandering among the Australian population going about their usual weekend business.

The intentions of the operation are clear – to ensure all Australian’s know that Tony Abbott and his band of merry henchmen are doing everything possible to keep its citizens safe and fear-free.

But only its citizens.

And only those who are white, respectable, and probably just the ones who vote conservative.

In fact, just the ones who look exactly likeTony Abbott and pasty-faced Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. Or at least what they want Australians to look like.

And it is all about looks. Mr Smith has made that clear. The officers from Border Force will be speaking with anyone who crosses their paths. And by ‘crossing paths’ he certainly means anyone his over-zealous, enthusiastic and patriotic officers launch themselves in front of. And those people will be selected by their looks.

Of course, there is simply no possible way to identify a visa fraudster on looks alone. They do not have ‘Illegal Immigrant’ stamped in red font across their foreheads.

No. Visa over-stayers look remarkably like Australians because Australia is a multi-cultural nation with millions of people born overseas calling it home. In fact according to the Australia Bureau of Statistics, on 30 June 2014 28% of the total population was born outside of Australia. Reports from 2013 show that the majority of ‘visa fraudsters’ arrive by plane, with 1.2% of visa holders being unaccounted for. They are mostly people from China, Malaysia, United States and the United Kingdom.

What does this mean?

This weekend, every Melburnian out shopping with friends, chilling with family or rushing to work may be stopped and required to prove their right to be in Australia. On the street. In Melbourne’s CBD. However it is almost certain that the only people who will cross the paths of the agents will be those un-descended from Abbott’s favoured Motherland, despite UK citizens being the fourth most likely populace to over-stay a visa.

Instead, any person of non-obviously-white and pure-bread British heritage, every person who’s ancestry hails from Europe, the Middle East, Asia, the Balkans, every person who has dark skin, distinct facial features, a mop of black hair, may be stopped and face demands to account for themselves. Aboriginal Australians will be thrown in with any other nationality of dark skinned appearance and questioned ruthlessly on their heritage.

But rest assured. The operation is about keeping Australians safe. It is about ‘our common mission of promoting a secure and cohesive society.’

So what are Melburnians to do? How are they to react when confronted by Mr Smith and his Border Force agents? Carry their birth certificate? National identity documents? Smear their faces with white foundation and powder and dye their hair to alleviate suspicion? Dress in traditional Australian garb – thongs, Bonds vest and King-G work pants? Or Blunstone boots, red Speedos and a wide-brimmed Akubra hat?

What kind of accent should Melburnians practice to ensure they pass the initial sniff test of Australianness? Should they practice their “g’day mate”, “struth” and “she’ll be right, mate” lingo?

This farce must end. And soon. Before this appallingly fascist Government completely destroys what is left of Australia.

Canning pre-selection; strategic or the best person for the job?

The pre-selection of ex-SASR soldier, Andrew Hastie as the Liberal Party candidate for the September by-election in Canning, Western Australia is a clever move by the Liberals. Who better to know of the dangers of ISIS and the threat of asylum seekers arriving by boat than a man who has served three tours of Afghanistan, and who has already advised Abbott on Operation Sovereign Borders? The former Captain, who was in charge of troops who reportedly chopped off the hands of dead Taliban fighters in 2013, is no stranger to the gruesome nature of war.

Fresh faced and youthful at 32, Hastie’s pre-selection photos give no indication of the horrors he has certainly witnessed. This is not a man who shirks his national responsibilities. He has demonstrated this with his service for Australia. Hastie has seen first-hand the impacts of terrorism and extremist fighters in the Middle East. He should understand intricately the consequences of war to innocent people, and has no doubt seen the thousands of refugees fleeing in fear of their lives.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is already running the Government like his own personal army. He is notorious for making Captain’s Calls. He has warned Coalition MP’s and Senators of the consequences for voicing alternative views to his hard-right policies, including promising to sack any who cross the floor on marriage equality. Abbott has militarised immigration with the new Border Force, clearly not content with the regular Defence Forces. He has threatened imprisonment to professionals exposing Government-sanctioned torture and abuse.

It seems a natural progression from Abbott running the Coalition-led Government like a para-military organisation – complete with the blokey atmosphere and entrenched under-representation of females, to endorsing a candidate who has stepped straight out of the armed forces the very week his pre-selection is announced.

Who better to be the face of national security and public protection than a former Captain in the Special Air Services Regiment?

This is not a slight against Hastie as a soldier. Soldiers of all rank are paid to do a job. And that job includes defending Australia, its allies and interests on the whim of whichever political party is in power. Soldiers are deployed to war zones, on peace keeping missions and to help with natural disasters. Many experience horrors unimaginable to the ordinary citizen, leaving veterans up to twice as likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder in their lifetime compared with other people in the general community.

However it is in the context of the current Liberal party’s neo-conservative nationalist regime, fascist policies and Abbott’s authoritarian leadership that Australians should be worried by the pre-selection of a freshly retired SASR Captain.

It should be of serious concern that a man who has witnessed the atrocities of a war zone is standing up to represent a party who uses war, terrorism and asylum seekers as political playthings.

There is no suggestion that Mr Hastie is not a man of integrity. There was no cloud over his head when he resigned from the Defence Force this week. However the Liberal Party’s pre-selection of a man such as Mr Hastie, at a time when Abbott’s popularity is at yet another low, must be viewed cynically. Is Abbott afraid that multiplying the number of flags for each successful national security announcement is not having a strong enough impact on the nation?

Does Abbott believe that Australians are not taking the threat of terrorism seriously enough, and feels the need to enlist a candidate who has personally witnessed the atrocities of war to help convince the public of the need for fear?

Mr Hastie took no time at all going from his apolitical role as a Captain in the Defence Force, to making it unequivocally clear of his political allegiances and persuasion.

Has Hastie sworn his loyalty to the party which believes in the ‘inalienable rights and freedoms of all peoples’, a party founded on the principles of ‘a just and humane society’, and the importance of the role of law and justice being maintained? Or has he sworn to uphold the ideology of the Abbott-run Liberal Party which boasts proudly of its cruel asylum seeker policies?

It is clear from an objective viewpoint that Hastie’s pre-selection ties in perfectly with Abbott’s ‘national security’ agenda; an agenda Abbott has used predictably for months to deflect from poor opinion polls, woeful economic performance, and other accusations, like branch stacking on conscience votes for marriage equality, and his embarrassingly inadequate greenhouse gas emissions target.

Who better to give legitimacy to the Liberal Party’s draconian policies than a man who has actively fought in a war zone? Who else to give credibility to the need for harsher, more controlling and restrictive legislation than a man who has seen the worst of humankind?

There is no question about Hastie’s personal character. But there are certainly questions about the motivations for the Liberal Party to pre-select a man of Hastie’s experience and qualifications.

National security and stopping the boats are seen as vote winners for Abbott. Hastie has publicised involvement and knowledge of both. Perhaps Hastie brings other skills to the table, but in his first major speech he promised that his ‘combat skills’ would help his electorate. He says that after putting his life on the line for Australia he would use those same skills to represent his electorate. His background appears almost exclusively military.

It’s hard to see how the Liberal Party’s Canning campaign will be based on anything other than its ability to prioritise and promote national security, and protect the public from the Death Cult, with Hastie as the perfectly chosen representative.

 

Abbott: The homophobe

Let us call it how it is. Prime Minister Tony Abbott is a homophobe.

Homophobe, as defined by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary:

“A person who hates or is afraid of homosexuals or treats them badly”.

Let’s just analyse that definition in the context of Abbott’s behaviour, language and actions.

A person.

This may be debateable in the context of Tony Abbott, but on the understanding that a person is an individual human, Abbott will likely scrape through. Of course, he appears to lack a moral compass, empathy, honesty, or compassion, but these are not prerequisites for being classed as a person.

Hates or is afraid of homosexuals.

This one is easy. Abbott has admitted himself that he is threatened by homosexuals. He believes that anything gay should be, you know, kept private, and not spoken about. He prefers a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy on same sex love. He believes that homosexuality threatens the ‘right order of things’. Because everyone knows that the ‘right order of things’ relates to exactly which sexual organ goes where, and that is all that matters when it comes to love and relationships.

Or does ‘the right order of things’ really relate to his belief that women should treat their virginity as a gift not to be given pre-marriage? Or that women should remain at home, doing the ironing, while their husbands are doing the man’s thing at work? Of course, Abbott tempers his further ‘right order’ views that a woman should not withhold sex from her husband, by clarifying that men should not demand sex.

Regardless, the whole ‘right order of things’ issue does seem to have a kind of ‘sexual focus’.

Naturally, Abbott has attempted to counter his clearly homophobic attitude with the traditional defence against any sort of socially unacceptable discrimination.

‘I have many friends who are gay’, Abbott says.

Just as the racist-in-denial declares they have many friends who are ‘black’. The admitted bigotry only extends to those who aren’t friends, although Abbott is clearly happy for his friends to be treated as second class citizens when it comes to marriage equality.

Abbott’s language also provides a clue as to the depth of his fear of the homosexual lifestyle. In 2010, he reportedly told Tony Windsor that he would do anything to be Prime Minister, except ‘sell his arse’. He will do anything. Anything at all. Except compromise the sanctity of his rear. Of course this is just a standard saying, one of those commonly heard phrases that no one should take personally – just like calling a person ‘gay’ as an insult. Oh. Right.

Treats them badly.

Abbott has been loud and clear on his personal fear of people of same sex orientation. But up until this point, his personal view has not been forced onto the rest of the nation.

But now it has.

Abbott, while declaring to the Coalition that marriage equality is a ‘deeply personal’ issue, has forced his own ideological beliefs onto the rest of his party by refusing a conscience vote on same sex marriage legislation. As a result he has almost certainly quashed the likelihood of same sex marriage being legalised any time soon.

And how did he do this? By tricky, slippery means, called out by Education Minister, Christopher Pyne, as something akin to ‘branch stacking’. When Pyne is the voice of honesty, transparency and fairness in Government, there is a serious problem.

Same sex couples already have the same legal rights as married couples. Legalising same sex marriage will simply have the effect of affording all couples acceptance in the community and place them on an equal standing with every other family. All mums and dads can be married. All children have the opportunity to grow up in a nationally recognised institution if their parents so wish. All couples can stand before family and friends and say ‘I love you’, with perhaps a ring that is the symbol of a legally binding relationship. Marriage.

But no. Abbott doesn’t want that for gay people.

And he has yet to provide even the remotest acceptable reason why. Why would he force his personal ideology on the rest of the nation? A nation that has majority support for marriage equality?

Abbott has been accused of misogyny, of being sexist, of having a ‘woman problem’. But perhaps Abbott is just obsessed with sexuality. He is a man who clearly struggles to keep sexuality and physical attractiveness out of politics.

He described a female Liberal Party candidate as having ‘sex appeal’.

‘I’m the guy with the not-bad looking daughters’, he told the nation.

‘A bit of full body contact never hurt anyone’, Abbott happily told a bunch of teenage netballers.

‘You’d be the most popular girl in the place, wouldn’t you’? he famously asked a female utility worker.

And who can forget that wink and smirk when confronted by the angry pensioner who worked on an adult sex line to make ends meet.

Abbott has a penchant for prancing around in the most revealing of sportswear. Skin tight lycra, nifty red speedos, and tight running pants. Does he see himself as so insanely attractive that if same sex marriage was legalised he would be inundated with proposals? No one is asking Tony to be gay. Or even to sell his arse.

All Australians want is equality.

If anything is to come from this, at least we know this is a rare occasion when Tony is actually being honest. Even if it does ensure Australia’s same sex couples are continued to be treated as second class citizens.

 

Abbott is threatening to jail the wrong people.

Tony Abbott has made many terrible decisions during his tenure as Prime Minister. Broken promises, backflips, outright lies, and a fierce defence of travel rorters shows a typical pattern of behaviour. However the decision to threaten doctors with jail for speaking out about asylum seeker matters is perhaps the worst of all. The public anger over the Government’s enactment of the Border Force Act 2015 continues unabated and will certainly play a part in Abbott’s ultimate demise.

The campaign against the Act started with an open letter signed by more than 40 doctors on 1 July 2015, the day the Act came into force. The national unease, led by people intimately entrusted with the health, education and care of vulnerable people, has not been quelled by Abbott and Dutton’s attempts to clarify the scope of the Act.

Section 42 provides for up to 2 years jail for ‘entrusted people’ who record or disclose ‘protected information’. Both major parties are keen to reassure that the whistleblower legislation protects those wishing to make a public disclosure. This was conditionally confirmed by an ABC Fact Check. However the complex interrelation and application of the Border Force Act and whistleblower laws indicates that professionals are far from protected. It demonstrates why there should be serious concerns about section 42.

When all is taken into consideration, there is absolutely no certainty that professionals who speak out about the health and welfare of asylum seekers will be protected under any  Australian law.

But there is certainty that if professionals speak out, they risk 2 years imprisonment for unlawful disclosure. No amount of clarification of the legislation or explanation of the provisions removes this fact.

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 protects conduct that contravenes a commonwealth, state or territory law, is corrupt, unreasonably endangers health and safety or involves the abuse of a person’s position. Internal disclosure must be made first. Public disclosure may only be made if the ‘whistleblower believes on reasonable grounds that the internal response to their disclosure has been inadequate’.

There is a considerable burden on the whistleblower to prove that the conduct comes within the protections of the legislation, and to demonstrate the reasonableness of their belief in the inadequacy of the Government’s response. Additionally, the person must also comply with requirements that on balance the external disclosure is not ‘contrary to the public interest’. They must only disclose information that is ‘reasonably necessary to identify one or more instances of disclosable conduct’.

The effect is that even if disclosure is ultimately defensible, professionals may be seriously deterred from publicly disclosing information due to the threat of jail.

Disclosure comes at a high risk to doctors, nurses, counsellors and other professionals who wish to speak out about conditions in asylum seeker detention centres. The combined legislative provisions are so complex that it would be difficult for a person to know if they were breaching section 42 by speaking with the media.

The practical considerations of when to make a public disclosure are immense. At what point does an untreated, yet treatable medical condition, become an unreasonable danger to health or safety? How long should those who make internal reports to the Government wait before deciding that the response is ‘inadequate’? At what point should the information be made public?

Is two weeks after making an internal report a reasonable amount of time to wait?

Two weeks was too late for a man identified as Mohammad Nasim Najafi, who died from a suspected heart attack after allegedly being refused access to a doctor.

Three weeks?

Three weeks was too late for Hamid Kehazaei who died from a treatable foot infection.

How many months should a health worker wait before publicly disclosing the length of time it takes for medical tests or medicine to arrive?

A child on Nauru suffering from a deadly bacterial infection was reportedly forced to wait three months before medical tests were ordered – and a further three weeks for medication to arrive. At what point in time would a health worker defensibly alert the public to this failure?

How many asylum seekers need to be murdered before the Government acts on the reports of inhumane conditions on Manus Island?

Or will the Government continue to defend the guards and operators of the detention centres, even if they allegedly commit drug and alcohol-fuelled rape?

The Government has known about the awful conditions of the detention centres for at least several years. It is fully aware of concerns about the welfare and safety of asylum seekers. And it has done almost nothing about it.

The Government has been provided independent reports of rape, sexual assault and child abuse in off-shore detention, yet it still thinks Nauru is a suitable place to detain young children – including baby Asha, transferred at just five months old.

Rather than act on the Human Rights Commission ‘Forgotten Children’ report, Abbott and his Ministers launched a personal attack on Professor Gillian Triggs.

Given the Government’s track record on stalling the implementation of recommendations from independent reports, there should be no legislative impediment to workers speaking out. The Government has demonstrated, irrefutably, that the health and welfare of asylum seekers is so low on its list of priorities as to be non-existent.

Abbott has not satisfactorily explained the need for such draconian provisions. Australia is not at war. The arguments for operational secrecy are absurd given there are no such restrictions on information in Indonesia, where many of the people smuggling boats depart. If anything, the Government might encourage the public disclosure of the abhorrent and unforgiveable treatment of vulnerable people if it truly believed that harsh treatment actually deterred.

There is clearly one purpose for section 42 of the Border Force Act.

It is an attempt to prevent the public having access to information about the Government’s repugnant treatment of people in its care.

And why?

Abbott knows there is significant public interest in Australia’s handling of asylum seekers. He knows great power lies with information becoming publicly available via the media. And there are those within Government who would be well aware of how Abbott’s actions are impacting on Australia’s international reputation.

Does Abbott fear that the popularity of his boat turn back policy will be overshadowed by the electorates’ disgust at the Government’s full endorsement and support of cruel and inhumane treatment and abuse of those people arbitrarily detained simply for seeking asylum and safety in Australia?

Fortunately the doctors, nurses and other professionals will not be silenced. And prominent human rights lawyers, including Julian Burnside, have promised to defend any health workers charged.

The Abbott Government clearly cannot be trusted to adequately deal with the objectionable conditions in detention centres. It cannot be trusted to adequately address the health and safety needs of the people in its care. It has deliberately and wilfully refused to act on reports of sexual assault and abuse. The lack of action is unconscionable and cruel. The United Nations has stated that Australia’s asylum seeker policies amount to torture.

And yet it is doctors, nurses, counsellors and other professionals who are being threatened with jail.

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