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Category Archives: Social Justice

Fascism: History Repeats, Again

By Loz Lawrey

“… It was 1941. Europe was in flames. Spain had fallen to a ruthless dictator. Hitler had rolled over the continent, reduced France to an abject state, and was about to invade Russia. Concentration camps were filled with Jews (though we in America did not know much about that yet). Mussolini ruled Italy. Japan ravaged eastern China and southeast Asia, as her ultimate conquerors would later continue to do in Indochina. The enemy was fascism – and fascism did not exist only across the oceans …” (from the Rolling Stone article “Pete Seeger: Guerilla Minstrel” by Gene Marine, 13 April 1972).

It’s true that fascism, which emerged in Italy in the 1920s, was rearing its ugly head in America as well as Europe by the 1930s and 40s.

Social justice activists such as Pete Seeger knew their enemy well. The scrawled message “this machine kills fascists” on Woody Guthrie’s guitar said it all.

What is fascism? Most dictionary definitions describe a system of authoritarian government whose attributes include nationalism, racism and dictatorial/autocratic state control. Under fascism, military, corporate and political interests conjoin to impose their power over the people and suppress all voices of opposition or dissent. Hitler’s Nazi regime was fascist in nature.

Definitions of fascism tend to sound like neoliberalism’s mission statement, listing elements critical to the business model of … call them what you will: the wealthy elites, the one percent, the military/industrial complex, the economic rationalists, the political hard right, the corporate predators of neoliberalism … in other words, those who profit from chaos.

Socialism to fascists is what Kryptonite is to Superman. Fascists hate socialism, communism, even conservatism, which can appear too moderate in the eyes of these far-right bully boys. To fascists, concepts such as “human rights” and “social justice” are irrelevant.

Aspiring fascists prowl the corridors and back alleys of our federal parliament and public service.

Home Affairs, Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton presides over a vast portfolio which, it could be argued, places too much power over others in the hands of one man.

Were he ever given free reign to exercise that power at will, without checks and balances to constrain his actions, fascism would displace the last vestiges of democracy in our country.

Were the Liberal/National Coalition government not constrained by our parliamentary system and the need to maintain an appearance of social democracy and public participation, we would now be living under an overtly fascist regime.

As it is, we are witnessing the creeping resurgence of fascism both here in Australia and globally.

I was born in 1951, only six years after the end of the Second World War, a horror chapter in humanity’s ever-repeating cycle of war, conflict, genocides and self-inflicted abominations which many of us hoped had ended with the USA’s shameful atomic  mass murders at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I grew up in a time when our society truly believed fascism, which had a presence in Australia during the 1930s, had been consigned to the past, just another stain on humanity’s abysmal human rights record.

We great apes think ourselves clever, but we don’t treat each other well, do we?

It is said that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Lies, misrepresentation, fear-mongering, racism, the promotion of conflict and social division, “othering”… these are the tools of the fascist trade.

Political leaders with easy access to propaganda by mass media bring these tools to the task of grasping power and imposing control. The hysterical headlines of the Murdoch gutter press are a deliberate form of brainwashing.

How easily we forget the lessons drawn from the mistakes of the past. How short is humanity’s collective memory.

In my 66 years I have witnessed a great arc of human social improvement: Progress. A genuine, educated attempt to be truly human in our values and our social organising, underpinned by a vision of utopian possibility.

I’ve observed the struggle for civil rights in western nations, the hard-won gains of the union movement, the efforts to enshrine human values of fairness and decency within so-called democratic societies.

I’ve also witnessed that same vision of fairness, inclusion and equality being dismantled over time, diluted and diminished by neoliberalism: the cult of individualism with its “winners and losers” mentality.

Although socialism always attracts bad press, history demonstrates that some socialist values and principles of inclusiveness are mandatory requirements for any successful, healthy civil society.

For a few brief decades, thanks to the activism of our trade unions, workers enjoyed better wages, working conditions and safety standards than ever before.

With a little socialist garnish to balance its greed, capitalism actually seemed to work for a while there.

Workers earned a fair wage, a single breadwinner could feed a family and business reaped the rewards of workers’ ability to spend.

Trade unions brought rogue employers to heel. Principles of decency forced governments to endorse the standards of fairness that workers demanded.

Union members made this happen, while non-member “freeloaders” also enjoyed the fruits of endless hard-fought union campaigns. For years. And years.

Yet here we are today: Union membership is at an all-time low. Our hard-won rights, wages and conditions have been eroded and subverted, sanded down and dimished to the point of practical non-existence.

The new “gig economy” is code for a deregulated law-of-the-jungle employment environment where workers’ rights and entitlements no longer exist.

Like the crazed high priests of greed that they are, business lobby groups continually advocate for lower wages and working conditions in the name of “flexibility” and “productivity”.

We recently saw the oddly-named “Fair Work Commission” cut penalty rates for low-paid hospitality workers working outside business hours or on weekends, a decision that clearly had nothing to do with fairness for workers.

The nonsensical trickle-down economic argument supporting that decision would reduce workers to the level of indentured servants, caught up in an endless struggle for survival on wages which don’t meet the cost of living.

One has to wonder: can businesses really prosper while disenfranchising and impoverishing the very workers who are also their customers?

As long as workers are treated as “units of work” rather than people, exploitation will remain an integral part of our industrial relations system.

Penalty rates were originally conceived, fought for and won by unions seeking to compensate workers for the social disadvantages of working outside normal business trading hours while the rest of society plays.

Bloody unions! Always at it, aren’t they, trying to inject fairness into the employment space! They must be stopped! Quick! Raid their offices!

Unbelievably, I recently met a young man in his early twenties who had no idea what a trade union is. To him, the job market is a toxic jungle where concepts such as “fairness” or “living wage” no longer apply.

He sees a dog-eat-dog competitive arena where only a few victorious gladiators will ever be left standing to share the spoils of success.

To him, being a worker means being thrown to the wolves. Scars are expected. Ongoing employment and economic and social survival are now mere hopes, no longer expectations.

Is the struggle for social justice finally lost?

It could be argued that fascism has always been with us in one form or another.

Perhaps it simply changes its spots, adapting like a  chameleon to the temper of the times.

One could say that neoliberalism is fascism in sheep’s clothing, with its veneration of corporate power and market freedom, its deregulation, its austerity measures, its disregard for both the individual and the public interest, its attacks on social justice and denial of society’s right to social cohesion.

In other words, we now suffer from a different form of authoritarianism. Today industry and commerce run the show. Although the appearance of democracy and “people power” is maintained, governments listen first to the lobbyists of their corporate masters while paying lip service to voters, who are condemned to waiting for trickle-down benefits which may never materialise.

We are drowning in an ocean of often irrational lies and spin regurgitated by politicians quivering with excitement at the magnitude of corporate “donations” (some might say “payment for favourable outcomes”) to their party coffers.

Governments use the same fear-mongering (terrorists, North Korea etc) and “othering” (refugees, welfare recipients, “gangs”) as fascist regimes once did, in their ongoing attempts to divide, disempower and control us.

I’ve always found far greater inspiration in the stories of compassionate contributors to human betterment than those of conquering heroes and economic, social or sporting “winners”.

Some human stories warm the heart and inspire us to become our most generous selves, while others leave us mean-minded, competitive, judgmental, full of hubris, intolerance and nastiness.

I know that as a post-war baby boomer, I’ve been very lucky. I was born into middle-class comfort. I enjoyed a free education and a reasonably consistent working life, punctuated by short periods of unemployment, during which times my family was sustained by a viable social safety to which I myself contributed by paying tax, along with my fellow Australians.

While the media “dole bludger” label has always been with us, our social security system, though never perfect, ensured that few of us actually went homeless, unlike today’s reality when more than one in two hundred of us sleep rough.

“They” have turned us against each other. Maggie Thatcher’s “there’s no such thing as society” has come to pass.

Our own government constantly attacks and demonises our most disadvantaged citizens.

We are judged. If we accumulate wealth, we are “winners”. If wealth doesn’t materialise for us (for whatever reason), we are dismissed as “losers” and kicked to the curb.

As time passes, so does the past become devalued and forgotten. That’s why the historical record is so important.

I remember learning some years ago that the study of history was to be wound back in school curriculums. I knew then that we were making a mistake. How easily a generation forgets the lessons learned by its predecessor.

Once history is devalued and ignored, we’ve disempowered ourselves by throwing a precious resource of fact-based knowledge overboard.

Today we live in a world where people of lesser ability are elevated to high office, where stupidity is celebrated and fools are made famous by commercial media placing profit above the public interest.

Today I regularly encounter adults who’ve never read a book and are unaware of the precedents of history. I believe this trend has a lot to do with the resurgence of fascism we are witnessing globally.

Yes, fascism, Nazism … the ugliest variations on the theme of “Stupidity Uber Alles” are all around us. Fascism, that paradigm whereby bullies in jackboots with small brains, sadistic tendencies and no empathy whatsoever run the show.

As a player on the stage of life, I’ll eventually exit, stage left.

The world will go on without me and, apart from a few songs and scribblings floating in cyberspace, there will be little or no trace of me left behind. I hope to leave a small footprint: not too many people hurt, not too much damage done.

I love life, and while I do occasionally tumble into the slough of despond, I usually manage to remain positive in the face of what sometimes seems like universal awfulness.

There are, however, times when I’m overwhelmed by disappointment at what I perceive to be humanity’s bad choices.

My disenchantment began in the 1980s, with Thatcher in the U.K. and Reagan in the U.S., who infected our world with the toxic poison of “economically rationalist” neoliberal ideology, elevating selfishness, applauding greed and equating obscene wealth with success.

Today, things look worse than ever. Toxic regimes devour their own citizens. More global conflict seems inevitable.

History is repeating, again …

Once more, humanity’s fate is held in the hands of a few greedy, power-hungry men. Their deluded madness enslaves us all, and by their hand shall we bleed. Or perish.

Unless, of course, we choose otherwise.

A Fortress Mentality

If there is one particular action that is put in place by every person or agency that feels itself in need of security, power or protection, it is the almost automatic implementation of their “Fortress Mentality”. This “organic reaction” by entire dynasties, empires and individuals can be traced even in the architecture of construction of towns and forts … from the Middle Ages particularly, where the genre was perfected parallel with the rise in capability of technology to bombard these siege towns.

We can see an interesting read of the evolution of this fortress mentality below:

“Several attributes characterized the new ruling class and distinguished it from those of earlier Islamic societies. First was a strict military hierarchy, expressed in clearly stratified ranks or amirs … amirs of ten, twenty, forty, a hundred and various tiers of soldiers divided by legal status (mamluk vs. free) or ethnic group (Turkic, Circassian, Kurdish, Armenian, or Mongol). This military order represented the only path to political power and its attendant financial and landholding prerogatives, and was closed to all but few exceptional local recruits. It defined the new ruling class and distinguished it from other social groups such as merchants, alama (no translation), artisans, and peasants, which, despite their periodic disapproval of particularly corrupt rulers, seem to have rarely challenged the system itself. Bedouin tribes, organized city riffraff, and other fringe groups that could potentially pose a security risk were either heavily suppressed through routine military campaigns or bribed by attaching them to the army as auxiliary regiments especially in times of external danger. A second characteristic was the fortress mentality displayed and expressed by the new ruling class toward their subjects. This was almost always a noticeable trait, despite the internecine fights that otherwise marked the rulers’ interrelations, especially during succession contests. The fortress mentality was initially engendered by the elite’s linguistic and ethnic differences from subject populations, and ultimately became embedded in a total system that stressed exclusion and segregation as means of control, As such, separation defined most details of communal life, like habits of socialisation, business dealings, and Marriage. It was also inscribed in the spaces of the city and its suburbs, and expressed in particular and distinctive nomenclature and insignia (rank) systems and intricate dress, dietary, musical. and ceremonial codes. The Mamluk sultanate in Egypt and Bilad al-Sham (1250-I 517) was the last and perhaps the most elaborate example of this exclusive polity, which nonetheless managed to penetrate the entire social spectrum and to modify it profoundly and in lasting ways.” (Muslim Military Architecture in Greater Syria, by Hugh N. Kennedy).

The above read is of profound significance if we want to understand how to overcome the rising tyranny of corporate control. For while the Middle Ages routinely fought wars against physical armies, we of the twenty first century have to contend with invasions by computer hackers and digital marketers invading our personal space and working lives to the point of political tyranny and idealistic subjugation by associated government inspired corporations taking control of prices, work, wages and weekends!

In Australia, we have even a morphing of our policing and security agencies into one big “corporation” of action and investigation … a sort of one-stop “shop ‘n’ strop” department … that is now under the command of just such a fortress mentality ministerial lunatic. Just like the same sort of lunatics as first come up with the idea of ‘one big wall’. Sure … that’ll work! And all this under a government itself implementing their own fortress mentality policies that are leaking like a sieve … perhaps because the idea in itself is so riddled with weakness that it never has held together in the ancient past as now.

So why do we do it? It is a lost cause at the best of times.

If we consider Jerusalem in the times of the Roman conquest of Titus: Old King Herod had reinforced the walls around the inner-city with strength and cunning, so that an invading force could theoretically be repulsed by an inferior number of troops … what he didn’t figure on was that the internecine fighting that took place between opposing Jewish factions inside the fortress, so that the defenders had almost to a man beaten the other factions up and Titus really only had to mop-up the leftovers. The fortress mentality had worked in just the opposite as was intended.

So it will be in this current mode of politics, where we can see conservative governance squabbling amongst itself and only a severely disciplined and maliciously opportunistic main-stream media is directing all attention away from the internal disputes of the LNP government. But even this turning away of eyes will not stop the divide as they continue to try and encroach into one another’s territory. As the city suburbs extend into the hinterlands, the more available material world of goods and services will extend ahead of the structured suburbs and make an influential inroad into those closer country towns that were forever conservative, bringing those metaphorical armies of fast-food outlets, cheap as chips shopping capabilities and social inclusion opportunity to the once isolated communities.

Social media will be the battering ram that will break down the last walls of those conservative fortresses. Which may explain the reticence of the LNP government to allow the citizens too much internet access speed … they do not want an “armed rebellion” within their walls of conservative security. For if there is one weapon that will free an entire population almost at once, it is information. Education, that other weapon that for a millennia was kept from the masses lest it too become “weaponised” against the ruling regime is still being denied by withdrawal of adequate funding to public schools in preference for private, elitist class education … another fortress mentality structure that, in my opinion must be torn down so that certain classes of elites cannot continue to hide their inadequacies behind fraudulent qualifications gained in the most part more from a financial advantage than meritorious application.

Now, with the inequality directed against indigenous, immigrant ethnic groups, creed, class and working peoples, we can gather together under a direct communication umbrella all these groups to form a voting block that will force the centrist Labor Party further to the left and hold to their creed of being there for the working people of the nation … by bringing the political players further into the realm of left-wing politics, the conservatives will be isolated in their ivory towers of their own doomed fortresses and be easy pickings.

The only obstacle I see in overcoming those anachronisms of conservative politics, is the innovative use of social media more as a platform of whinge and lament on the now bleedin’ obvious political situation rather than proposing new directions for social change. We are on the cusp, I believe, but the intrusion of a certain hardness of heart and the ever-present cynicism of doubt of good intention lingers.

I would encourage an optimistic approach of idealism … but with open eyes … a heart of innocence toward intentions … but with the step of caution. I don’t think we can go wrong.

Yippee! International Women’s Day

By Kyran O’Dwyer

Once a year, we have global recognition of a ‘cause’, whereby ‘World Leaders’ and ‘Very Important People’ get together at breakfasts, dinners and evening banquets to pay homage to the cause. This follows a tried and tested formula whereby Very Important People and World Leaders get together at Very Expensively Catered Events, with lots of media and celebrities, and;

  1. Acknowledge this is a serious problem.
  2. Acknowledge that little, if anything, has changed since last year.
  3. Promise to do better next year.

Cue drum roll, fanfare, back slapping and a final very expensive drink for these Very Important World Leaders to assuage what little conscience they have left, or provide the necessary stupor for them to have their well-deserved rest. How else could they possibly sleep?

There is a passage in Bryce Courtenay’s book, ‘Solomon’s Song’;

“I studied hard and learned to read and write and spent much time with the pakeha’s [white man’s] Bible. I learned that it was a good book from a merciful God and I found it so myself. But I was soon to discover that it was the pakeha’s Sunday book only and all the remaining days of the week the pakeha felt free to disobey the commandments of his own God.

It was then that I first realised that the pakeha’s word could not be trusted, not even on a Sunday, for it was not founded in his mana [impersonal supernatural power]. That his God was good only for births and burials and his word was as worthless as a broken pot.”

Like the pomp and splendour of a Sunday service, the importance and relevance of a National Day is celebrated temporarily, to be discarded either at the following dawn or the arrival of the next National Day. I’ll get back to God later.

March 8 was the turn of ‘International Women’s Day’. The annual ‘celebration’ of an international problem that is serious, just like all of the ‘International’ and ‘National’ Days.

Now, to qualify my remarks, I must state my credentials. None. Nada. Zip. Zilch. In the absence of any, I will resort to A. A. Milne for validation and verification of my entitlement to comment, which barely exists.

“Eeyore is a character in the Winnie-the-Pooh books by A. A. Milne. He is generally characterized as a pessimistic, gloomy, depressed, anhedonic, old grey stuffed donkey who is a friend of the title character, Winnie-the-Pooh.”

You see, I’m largely pessimistic, often gloomy, bordering on depressed, definitely old, grey and, most definitely, stuffed. Not to mention I’m often described as an ass, which is as near enough to a donkey as I want to get. As for the anhedonia, I had to look that up.

“Anhedonia is defined as the inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable, e.g. exercise, hobbies, music, sexual activities or social interactions.”

As I’m not a politician in Canberra with access to an unlimited expense account, most of the ‘pleasurable activities’ provided as examples don’t apply to me. Once upon a time, I did, however, derive pleasure in participating in activities that helped change things that I considered unjust. Not often successful, but knowing I tried was important for my own peace of mind.

Anyway, getting back to Eeyore, the most important qualification, entitlement, empowerment granted to me by A. A. Milne to validate and verify my capacity to comment on ‘International Women’s Day’ were the two letters you may well have missed.

HE”.

Having established my entitlement to comment, this is another gratuitous, patriarchal platitude to help make us all feel better about a situation that is wrong, that is not changing, and will be the same again next year when we do this all over again.

International Women’s Day should be all about gender inequality, discrimination, the types of crime disproportionately affecting women, their exclusion from many parliamentary forums (ostensibly due to ‘merit’ inadequacies), their absence from positions of authority, the disparity between pay and conditions in ‘gentrified’ and ‘feminised’ workplaces. The list is all but endless.

One ‘symptom’ of ‘the problem’, is the use of a descriptor that I find abhorrent. ‘Domestic Violence’. The very epitome of weasel words. As if, for whatever reason, the violent crime being committed is somehow palatable or acceptable because it happens in the sanctity of a ‘domestic’ setting. The very fact that you have a violent crime occurring in an environment that is meant to be safe because of its perceived foundation in trust, that is meant to be both loving and caring, makes it more, not less, heinous. The very fact that the perpetrator often claims that trust, love and care are, somehow, a part of their motivation for their criminal acts escapes me.

Here in Melbourne, the nightly news tonight will be focused on ‘violent crime’, as it was last night and will be tomorrow night. At the risk of sounding conspiratorial, we are heading to an election later this year. Guy has already declared law and order will be a main issue and the media are building up the perception of an exaggerated level of crime.

Whilst crime should be addressed by government, this predominance of ‘home invasion’ and ‘car jack’ reporting is designed to instill fear in the populace, that they can’t feel safe in their own home, let alone walking or driving down the street. It’s simply a localised version of the ‘terrorist’ strategy. Inflate the threat and promise to address it. That this violation of the sanctity and safety of ‘the home’ is far more reported yet far less frequent than the less reported incidents of ‘domestic violence’ is a matter of some disgrace. Not on those impacted.

On our ‘leaders’ and their media handmaidens.

Women are dying on a frequent basis (both by murder and suicide) and the incidence of physical, emotional and psychological trauma is being better recorded. The damage done to children of these relationships is only just starting to be researched more carefully. The impact on friends and family of both the victim and perpetrator are being better understood. The cost to the economy is estimated in billions, not millions.

Men are affected by these crimes as well, but at, roughly, 75/25%, the ‘victims’ are predominantly female.

Why ‘domestic violence’ is not reported with the same fervour as the far less frequent crime and the almost nonexistent ‘terrorism’ is cause for speculation.

The Victorian government has had a Royal Commission into this criminal ‘domestic’ violence and have instituted many laudable policies which are fully funded. That is a good thing and, even more encouraging, the government has been seeking advice and recommendations from women to continuously refine and evolve their strategies and programs.

On the Federal stage? Funding has been stripped, resources have been reduced or removed and they don’t like to know about it, let alone talk about it.

‘DV’ was on last October’s COAG Agenda. It was removed at the last minute due to some ‘terror’ threat which required that the entire COAG agenda be replaced with ‘National Security’. ‘DV’ was not on the February COAG Agenda.

If that doesn’t make this federal governments priorities crystal clear to the reader, nothing will.

That’s only one of the many issues faced by women that have been overtaken by the ‘MeToo’ and ‘Time’sUp’ movements. The campaigns are, quite justifiably, receiving global attention and are largely focused on the media and entertainment industries. Both industries are alpha male (on steroids) in their structure and have an inbuilt protection system. Everything from ‘she was asking for it’ to ‘she didn’t say no often enough or loudly enough’. As always, there will be a few sacrifices of shameful males, some chest thumping and righteous indignation, then some shallow changes to protocols and we’ll all go on our merry way.

As we have seen from the furore, Weinstein isn’t the only perpetrator. Whilst the focus is predominantly on the media and entertainment industries, examples are being presented in other industries.

Why the melancholy?

Jimmy Saville.

Saville passed away in 2011 and allegations about his abusing arose shortly thereafter. After more than three enquiries, it was found his ‘power’ was so immense that many knew of his depraved behaviour over a period of decades, but did nothing because of his power, derived from his ‘celebrity’ and ‘commercial value’. Even after his death, it was incumbent on the abused to prove their ‘good character’ before a complaint would even be contemplated.

Very little changed systemically, but an outraged public was pacified and we returned to the same old same old.

Weinstein has been around forever, but it was not until October 2017, six years after the demise of Saville, that enough women came out to protest his depravity. Not the ‘lowly’ women who would never have a voice, but the ‘celebrity’ women, most often in the same trade as Weinstein. When those females spoke up, those males with power did everything they could to preserve the regime. Weinstein has been dealt with (to a point, as he’s not in jail yet) but the entrenched misogyny and sexism is merely lying low, waiting for the storm to pass.

In the six years between the Saville and Weinstein ‘stories’, nothing had changed. Male power has been institutionalised for millennia and will withstand temporary setbacks.

We can go into the history of this as much as we like. The simple truth is that this is a man’s world. The immortal words of Bette Midler from The Rose struck me all those decades ago and will likely remain with me until the day I drop.

“What are we ladies? What are we? We are waitresses at the banquet of life! Get into that kitchen and rattle them pots and pans – and you better look pretty good doin’ it too, ‘else you gonna lose you good thing. And why do we do that, I’ll tell you why we do that? We do that to find love – Oh I love to be in love – don’t you love to be in love?”

Memories of Ma and my sisters re-enacting that scene will haunt me, not because of their parody (which was hilarious), but the unfortunate absence of a singing voice between them for the ‘musical’ interludes (not that I can claim to be any better). Even then, though, the solution offered in the movie reeked of the patriarchal reality.

“Or do you say, “Fuck this shit! I’ve had enough of you, you asshole! Pack your bags. I’m putting on my little waitress cap and my fancy high-heeled shoes, I’m gonna go find me a real man. A good man, a true man.”

The only escape from one ‘waitressing’ ‘job’ was to find another one.

Even with all of this current maelstrom, there are narratives being planted to cauterize the damage. Does anyone think, for a second, that the only industries or occupations effected by this structure is the media and entertainment sectors?

We have a self-confessed pussy grabber in the White House, yet politicians would have us believe that he is the exception, not the rule, and his transgressions are acceptable because ‘He’s Donald’. ‘Boys will be boys’. ‘It’s just locker room banter’.

Even here, in modern shambolic Australia, with all of the allegations against (and confessions by) Joyce, we are told that the promiscuity is widespread but ‘we don’t want to go there’, because it’s private. ‘They’re just blowing off steam’. ‘They miss their families’.

This is about power, not a power imbalance. From the cradle to the grave, we have a gendered society. The rate of change has been glacial. As a child, there were boys toys and girls toys. There were boys clothes and girls clothes. There were ‘acceptable’ behaviours for boys and they were different to what was acceptable for girls. It seems passing strange that these conversations are still occurring in 2018.

In the ‘60’s and ‘70’s there were social movements that started to address this. Bra burning and contraception were two issues regarded as controversial, even horrifying for some. Having thought that so many issues had been addressed in the societal sense way back then, how can it possibly be, in 2018, that how women dress and contraception are still considered newsworthy, let alone controversial? And why is it that men are so often the most vocal?

The simple analysis would be that the conversations are fixated on what the female is wearing or the ‘morality’ of contraception, not the basic issue. A woman’s right to choose for herself.

There is little need to study the history. We have made a habit of reliving it, ad nauseam. Going back to the start of what we euphemistically refer to as ‘civilised society’, steeped in religious belief, there were two types of females, the two Mary’s. And God.

There was the virtuous virgin preparing to give birth and the woman of ill repute granted forgiveness for her sins.

How are women defined if not in the ‘Black and White’ of virtuous or scandalous? Those worthy of protection, exaltation even, and those whose actions are to be forgiven? Any entitlement they may have to rights is based on their ‘morality’, as defined by men.

No matter how dated that scenario is, it seems that the subservience of woman to man is very deeply entrenched everywhere you look.

Even though the MeToo and Time’sUp movements have achieved much, that conversation is already being distracted. The ‘unfairness’ of public naming and shaming is being talked about as much as the allegations are. The absence of any meaningful system to deal with everything from bullying and harassment to coercion and assault (sexual or otherwise) is an act of sabotage on any long term outcome.

Any such conversation right now is a wasted exercise. Our current government is simply not up to it. If any reader has any expectation of positive action from this dysfunctional government, I can only suggest serious medication.

There was a song by the Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin in 1985, ‘Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves’.

“cause there’s something we forgot to say to you,
we say sisters are doin’ it for themselves
standin’ on their own two feet
and ringin’ on their own bells
sisters are doin’ it for themselves”

It’s nice to dream sometimes.

Imagine if women across Australia got together to form a National Women’s Congress. Where membership of the Congress wasn’t a matter of gender, but the nomination for membership could only be made by women. Between groups such as Change.Org and GetUp, forums such as this and crowd funding capacities, there is no need to wait for the ‘political will’ or the blessing (and, more importantly, financing) of VIP’s and World Leaders. I’d even hazard a guess and say many brothers would be more than happy to contribute dollars to their sisters, whilst keeping their mouths shut.

Imagine if that Congress could use the Law Reform Commission to draft legislative proposals to put to Parliament.

Imagine if there was a Women’s Ombudsman, with all of the necessary power and resources to accept and investigate claims, from bullying to assault, and take them through to prosecution and restitution. The shoddy ‘name and shame’ model can only be dispensed with when there is a legitimate process to handle such complaints.

Imagine if women had their own superannuation fund. Many current funds have ‘death and disability’ and ‘unemployment’ provisions. With a Women’s Fund, the thorny issue of ‘maternity leave’ can be addressed through a superannuation provision. Funding for women who work full time in domestic environments could also be funded through this. It could address the serious imbalance in superannuation for women and could be used as a universal basic income for those engaged in raising children. Naturally, male membership would be welcome, even though their prospects of falling pregnant would rival the legend of the immaculate conception (and likely be as profitable).

Imagine if women had their own bank. There is a lending scheme in India created by some wealthy bloke to lend ‘micro loans’ specifically to women. After several years of experience, it has been established that the default level is next to zero and the borrowers have grown business and small enterprises that have made them self-sufficient and independent in a very patriarchal society. Such a bank could look at gender specific financing of all manner of things with due regard to the vagaries of full time continuous work, varying such things as the interest rate, fees and repayment period to accommodate the employment ‘breaks’.

Imagine if the minimum wage was set for graduates based on the level of their education rather than the nature of their degree. We know that certain industries are underpaid as the work force is largely feminised, so why aren’t we looking at legislating a minimum wage for graduates, regardless of their courses?

Imagine if we could remove the ‘stick’ of forced quota employment and wages parity and put in a ‘carrot’ instead. There is legislation proposed in the EU to restrict a CEO or Managing Director (the person in charge of corporations, authorities, departments, etc) to no more than 9 times the ‘mean’ salary of their workforce, in the hope of reducing the glaring chasm between the lowest and highest paid. It wouldn’t take much tweaking to amend that to the highest paid salary in an organisation being linked as a multiple of the female employee’s wage. Watch conditions change then!

Imagine if women had their own religion. (I did say I’d get back to God, though maybe not in this lifetime!) They could invite all the God’s to explain their position and why any particular dogma should be adhered to or take precedence over another. In the event the God’s don’t respond to the invitation, they could simply start their own church. Given the role played by most of the churches in the suppression of women and women’s rights, there seems to be little point in asking the blokes currently representing the various God’s for any input. That would be as silly as asking politicians to act.

This isn’t about a power imbalance. This is about women having bugger all power. To shift that culture, given the government we are stuck with, sisters gotta start doin it for themselves. As one sister said, “if the rules broke, disobey it until they fix it”. What she didn’t say was that if the rules are seriously broke, start your own rule book.

By looking at the ‘system’, we automatically look at it through its present form. We look to change what is there, rather than ask if there is another way. This ‘power’ thing has caused a lot of problems globally. Us old, grey, dumb ass males haven’t acquitted ourselves too well. In a final act of cowardice, isn’t it fair to ask our sisters to get us out of the Pooh (one more time)?

As a parting salvo, a very dear friend, long since passed, mentored me in an organisation. One of his best bits of advice was ‘Sometimes, you gotta get a bit of mongrel in you’.

Don’t even bother with the mealy mouthed offerings of those who created the problem.

Don’t look at things that are there and ask ‘Why?’ Imagine, dream, of things that aren’t there and ask ‘Why Not?’

Oh dear. I’m going to shut up now.

now there was a time
when they used to say
that behind every great man
there had to be a great woman
but in these times of change
you know that it’s no longer true
so we’re coming out of the kitchen

cause there’s something we forgot to say to you,
we say sisters are doin’ it for themselves
standin’ on their own two feet
and ringin’ on their own bells
sisters are doin’ it for themselves

now this is a song to celebrate
the conscious liberation of the female state
mothers, daughters and their daughters too
woman to woman we’re singin’ with you
the inferior sex has got a new exterior we
got doctors, lawyers, politicians too
everybody take a look around
can you see there’s a woman right next to you

now we ain’t makin’ stories
and we ain’t laying plans
don’t you know that a man
still loves a woman
and a woman still loves a man
just the same though

How to reject division

By Loz Lawrey

“Loz, you have no class”, she said. Shocked and confused, I felt my eyebrows arching. Was my sister-in-law’s mother insulting me?

“No”, she said. “I mean, you have no class”. Then I realised: she was referring to social “class”.

This was a seminal moment for me. It had the effect of plunging me into an ocean of self-analysis and thought about myself and the societies which shaped me.

Do we have a class system in Australia? Many of our politicians seem to think so. How often do we hear the term “class warfare“ bandied about? In the country of the Fair Go, with our social democratic system which espouses equality for all, how can this be?

In truth we’ve always had a class system, but it has to go.

Multiculturalism cannot thrive and blossom in this country until it does. Well-off Australians often seem to harbour a contempt for our indigenous citizens, for refugees and “foreigners”, for our less-educated, our poor and disadvantaged. That contempt, constantly fanned by radio shock jocks, Murdoch and IPA opinionators and echoed by right-wing politicians, must end

The concept of “class” is not only imposed by the entitled few upon the less well-off many. “Class” difference is also accepted as reality and reinforced by those who benefit the least from such a construct.

My late wife used to tell me that she often heard the term “that’s not for the likes of us” from her parents. She made it clear how hard she had to struggle in later life to overcome and forget that dream-crushing, crippling statement.

Social and economic “class” doesn’t bring us together, it limits us and keeps us apart.

I’ve lived on Australian soil since 1975, but many of my earlier years were spent in other countries: the USA, Indonesia and France. My father worked for the Department of Foreign Affairs and was often posted overseas for years at a time.

I spent my final four years of high school as a boarding student. Once a year I was flown overseas by the government during the Christmas holidays to visit my family in Cairo, Egypt, and later Madrid, Spain.

Released from the shackles of boarding school, I spent 1970 in a hall of residence at the Australian National University growing my hair, listening to music, experimenting with substances, avoiding lectures and, as might be expected, eventually dropping out. I’d been locked up in an institution for far too long.

My work resume details a chequered career: I’ve been a factory worker, a beer keg roller, a wine and spirits storeman, an invoice clerk, a Commonwealth public servant (twice), a labourer, a menswear salesman, a hardware/paint salesman, a tradesman painter and decorator, and a builder/renovator.

I’ve also been unemployed for periods of time, such as the early 90’s, during the “recession we had to have”, and forced to rely on unemployment benefits, so rudely referred to as “welfare” by the Turnbull government these days.

I hope all this palaver about myself hasn’t come across like a narcissist’s picnic. I just wanted to make the point that I’ve lived and experienced life from many angles, and that’s why the concept of ”class” means nothing to me.

Now in my mid-sixties, I realise that I’ve been a very lucky boy. I’ve been living through the most prosperous period in our country’s history and I couldn’t be more grateful for the experiences and opportunities I’ve been afforded.

I’ve lived in or visited many overseas countries, each with their particular cultures, societies, languages, cuisines and idiosyncracies.

I’ve worked alongside humans of all ages, social backgrounds, education levels and racial origins.

I’ve seen enough of the world and its people to know that we are all connected and that at our core lies something beautiful, a quality beyond ethnicity and appearance that we associate with the word “human”. Dare we call it “soul” or “life energy”?

I don’t focus on “class”. I try to see not what divides us, but what unites us. Wherever I look I see human beings, each of us grappling in our own way with the demands, expectations and responsibilities of our lives, carrying the baggage and joys of our lived experience and often, sadly, the scars of abuse.

How do we, as a nation, cut through the hypocrisies of “class”, the judgmental pushing-apart, the social condemnation inflicted by the entitled well-off upon our most disadvantaged? How do we come together? Do we truly seek inclusion and equity for all as our most noble objective?

Our attempts at multicultural inclusion have been admirable to date, but it’s clear that government ministers such as the execrable Peter Dutton just don’t get it.

Has this man ever read a book? Has he travelled overseas? Has he ever imagined anything other than acquiring and maintaining power over others? Has he ever bathed in the Ganges or wandered through the marketplace in Marrakesh? Has he strolled the Champs Elysees? Has he ever experienced the warmth and hospitality of strangers that a traveller can encounter in all corners of this globe? Has he ever had the chance to perceive the oneness of humanity? Or has he only known, in his short life, the limited, fearful, xenophobic post-colonial parochialism in which it appears he was raised?

Every public pronouncement Dutton makes seems to reek of racism and condemnation, of “othering”. So far, he’s singled out Lebanese Muslims, refugees from several countries and members of our African-Australian community. “These people”, he thunders …

He may as well say it: ” these non-white people” … they’re not subscribing to “Australian values” … we must teach these “values” in schools!

Yes, Dutton. And what might those values be? The values of inclusion, of embracing difference, of learning and growing together? No, you’re just like Tony Abbott – resentful of the fact that our multicultural nation isn’t some pale reflection of mother England.

Can’t you damn right-wingers see our amazing potential? Are you unable to move beyond your petty mindscapes and see the obvious? Our country is uniquely positioned to be a visionary world leader, to develop a model of social and economic organisation that might arrest humanity’s headlong rush towards self-destruction. Why can’t you see that?

In Australia, our multicultural experiment is working. We just need to accelerate its development.

That process will require that you step down, Dutton. Just removing your toxic voice (and several others) from the arena of our public debate will give our community clear air to breathe, live and grow, together.

I believe that overseas travel and exposure to other societies and cultures should be a mandatory part of our education system.

Why should young Australians’ first taste of world travel be landing in an overseas war zone, wearing camouflage gear and carrying a gun?

Surely they need to see the world in a time of peace, to find themselves surrounded by sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures beyond those they’ve grown up with. Just to broaden their minds and open their hearts …

And I don’t mean catch a train to Footscray. While Footscray itself is well worth a visit, it still exists within the Australian paradigm, a paradigm which locks us into a bow-to-the-queen and follow-the-USA mentality, a paradigm which tries to foist a “last-refuge-of a-scoundrel” patriotism upon us all, a form of nationalism which implies and seeks to entrench a concept of white superiority which only exists in the minds of little men.

No, young Aussies. I mean: go overseas. Immerse yourself. Place yourselves on a foreign street, in a community whose language you don’t speak. Learn that communication beyond speech is possible, when the need is there. Understand that that foreign-looking brother or sister is quite willing to advise and assist you, even make you welcome in the community he or she loves.

Please, know the joy of travel. Learn to be thankful for the warmth of acceptance. Learn to share that warmth. Don’t stand on our beaches flinging stones at new arrivals.

Our Prime Minister Turnbull is quite good at playing the role of Multicultural Mal when it suits him, when the cameras are rolling.

But by their hypocrisy shall ye know them: one day Turnbull participates in a blatant attack upon our African community, enthusiastically endorsing Dutton’s vicious “African gangs” smears, the next he’s all smiles, graciously gushing and grinning like a wolf as he effusively welcomes Kenyan-Australian Senator Lucy Gichuhi to the Coalition dark side.

And then we get: “There’s no one more Australian than Barnaby Joyce!”

Actually, we get the government we deserve.

It’s really no surprise that our federal government and its brain-farts, thought bubbles and vitriolic public utterances simply reflects the confused and split personality that is our Australian psyche today.

Nothing is more illustrative of our schizophrenic national identity than the annual Australia Day/Invasion Day debate.

Poisoned by the leftover white entitlement of our colonial past so blatantly sprayed about by the Abbotts, Duttons, Turnbulls, Bernardis, Sheltons, Bolts etc. among us, public debate in Australia is constantly tainted by the rhetoric of division, of judgment, of racist bigotry, of intolerance and fear of the “other”.

It’s simple really. Do we want a united, inclusive nation?

Do we really want to live in that mythical land of the Fair Go?

Or do we want the division, the racism, the cruelty and contempt for our most disadvantaged being dished up daily by a government owned and operated by billionaires and bastards?

One thing is clear: A government that constantly singles out particular social sectors for demonisation can never unite our nation. Right-wing divisiveness is scarring Australia’s soul. To reject division and reclaim our nation’s heart, we must reject this government.

Dutton Stacks The Deck – Deportation & Section 501

14 February 2018

With the arrival of white settlers, Australia began life as a prisoner island. Many of those first immigrants were convicts; many finding themselves transported under the harshest of conditions and often for little more than acts of petty crime.

The formative years of our nation – an era where the transportation of convicts was an accepted cultural norm – is now universally viewed as a period marred by harsh violations of human rights.

The theme of convicts and immigrants still plays out in present day, but now the transportees are called 501’s. You could be forgiven for not knowing this, as much of the ‘501 phenomenon’ has played out without great public scrutiny.

In 2014 under the Abbott government, Section 501 of the Migration Act was amended to allow for the mandatory visa cancellation and detention of long-term permanent residents deemed to be of bad character. The introduction of section 501(3a) was always controversial, and the subject of much criticism and concern. In the two years following its implementation, this legislation change has resulted in a 1,100% increase in individuals placed in detention on ‘character grounds.’ Whilst this is passed off as the protection of the Australian community from a ‘criminal element’, what is particularly chilling is the set of sweeping discretionary powers this legislation gave to just one man – namely the Minister for Home Affairs.

Reason and common sense dictate that it is supreme folly to accord virtually unchecked powers to one person. It means we are left to rely on the moral fibre of an incumbent minister to uphold the spirit and intent of the legislation in a fair and just manner. With great power comes great responsibility’ as the saying goes. And therein lies the problem. In Peter Dutton we have a veritable monkey with a match in a barrel of dynamite. This is a man who displays open contempt for the judiciary; who sees the court system as little more than a frustrating impediment. He is nothing if not transparent – it is not hard to see a man consumed by self-righteousness and driven by a personal vendetta to rid the country of all that he personally considers to be vile and wrong. And in that sense, he is little more than a self-appointed vigilante – a man who holds to the belief that the soft judiciary cannot protect us; who attempts to take matters of law into his own hands.

Section 501 has effectively equipped this vigilante Minister with a weapon of mass destruction. So how does a 501 visa cancellation actually work? Simply put, it can be likened to a card game which has the deck rigged in favour of the house:

You are a permanent resident who has been given a prison sentence of 12 months. Whether you like it or not, this automatically makes you a 501 player. On completion of your prison sentence, you are notified that your visa has been cancelled and you are offered the opportunity to present a submission in writing to the Minister telling him why you feel you should keep it. Let the game begin. Even though you have a home and job to return to, you will be placed in a detention centre which is the equivalent of a maximum security prison. You are likely to be moved to a facility like Christmas Island where it is virtually impossible for your wife and children to visit you. Locked down with restricted movement, you will suffer from some degree of mental and emotional anxiety, depending on your strength of mind. Unlike prison, nobody can tell you how long you will be here. By the time the Minister has read your submission and is ready to play, you will have been in detention almost 12 months. The wait is getting longer because of the massive rise in people detained, waiting to play 501. Let us consider your cards. In your case, you have a strong hand; a ‘Full House’ – you have lived here for 40 years and your entire family now reside here. Both your young children were born in Australia. You also have a “Get Out Of Jail Free’ card – you have lived lawfully and have no criminal record apart from one mishap, and you were granted parole on the basis that you present little risk to the community. The stakes you’re playing for are your home, your loved ones and your way of life. What monetary value do you place on this? You cannot afford not to play. Sobbing on the phone, your wife tells you that if you had only become an Aussie you would be back home with them. The only reason you are suffering through this nightmare is that you didn’t apply for citizenship. And that is not actually a crime.

Anyway, back to the game. The rules from here are that the Minister must consider all the cards in deciding your fate. However he can trump any and all cards simply by saying: ‘I have looked at your cards and I think you’re a risk to the community and it is in the national interest to deport you.’ In your case, the Minister plays his standard game and does just that, saying ‘I considered your ‘Full House’ and it is not enough. Your visa remains cancelled.’

So what now? Surely there is some check and balance to ensure the Minister made the right decision? Your only course of action from here is to appeal to the referee – the Federal Court. If the Minister made a judicial error when trumping you – if he overlooked an important card – the Court may overrule his decision. So you wait another 6-9 months for the referee to review your case. By now the relentless stress has caused your physical, mental and emotional health, and that of your estranged loved ones to decline further. Your youngest daughter has withdrawn and is seeing a psychologist. Your wife is working a second job to support the family in your absence, and is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. You feel powerless and responsible, and now require medication to sleep.

Fortunately, the court decides that the Minister was in error because he did not consider that vital ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card. It is relevant because it means the judiciary have assessed you to be of negligible risk, which contradicts the Minister’s judgement that you are a threat to the community. They rule the visa cancellation decision be quashed on that basis.

The referee has ruled in your favour! So you’re in the clear, right? Wrong. In this game, the referee can’t actually give your visa back. They can only tell the Minister to review his decision according to law. So you are returned to the detention centre while the Minister looks at your cards for a second time. More weeks of waiting drag by.

Now, in a game of tennis or cricket, or any other sport for that matter, the referee’s decision is final. Not so with 501 where the Minister is hell-bent on making his decision final, no matter that a court rules otherwise. And so you rot in a detention centre, awaiting the day when the Minister makes his next play. This is most likely to be: ‘I re-considered your ‘Full House’ AND your ‘Get Out Of Jail Free Card’ and it is not enough. I still consider you a threat to the community and in the national interest your visa remains cancelled.’

How confident would you feel playing Dutton’s 501 game?

Lawyers will speak of their concern with respect to the course that Section 501 has taken. Minister Dutton has capitalised on these broad powers to remove as many people as possible, including one-off offenders with otherwise lawful backgrounds. Even people who have done prison time decades ago and left the past behind have answered a knock on the door in the small hours of the morning; finding themselves dragged away to an immigration detention centre. And like the transportees of old, all have found themselves estranged indefinitely from partners, children and family as a result. Not since the Second World War has Australia deported permanent residents in such record numbers. Dutton has demonstrated precious little by way of compassion in many of his heavy-handed decisions, which have torn families apart. It would be fair to say that he presides over a deportation regime which has effectively created a second stolen generation.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman has suggested that the monster which Section 501 has become goes beyond the original intention of the provision. The Australian Human Rights Commission concurs, and has consistently called for an end to Australia’s system of mandatory detention for ‘unlawful non-citizens’ because it leads to breaches of Australia’s international human rights obligations.

With the possibility of a Labor government taking power at the next federal election, it is time for Shadow Minister Shayne Neumann to clarify his party’s position regarding the over-reach enacted courtesy of this sweeping set of administrative powers. Can we expect more of the same heavy handed treatment under Labor, or will judicial fairness and ministerial accountability prevail?

Giving an address at the Law Council of Australia’s Immigration Conference last week, Neumann stated that Labor strongly supports the cancellation of visas on character grounds under Section 501 of the Migration Act.” He should have no complaint from the public in this respect – the protection of the Australian community must be held paramount. But here’s the thing – the majority of people now being caught in the 501 net are not ‘hardened criminals’ as Peter Dutton likes to paint them. Many have made a serious mistake which they will likely remember for the rest of their lives. They have paid their dues in the eyes of the law and the courts. Bear in mind that with respect to their risk to the community; if they were Australian citizens they would actually be back in the community, as a court or parole board has assessed them to be of negligible risk. Is it appropriate to break these people mentally, emotionally and financially while they await a second judgment by the Grim Reaper, simply because they remained permanent residents and didn’t become Australian citizens? What does the word ‘permanent’ mean, after all? How do Labor and Shayne Neumann plan to navigate this situation?

Mr Neumann further observed that “decisions made under Section 501 are too important for an Immigration Minister to get wrong or make legal errors.”

Recent history shows the Minister has made legal error on several occasions. When a Federal Court rules the Minister is in error and he subsequently over-rules the finding of the judiciary – often within hours of their ruling – I think you will agree that we have a problem. Apart from Dutton’s 501 game; how many legitimate sports can you name where one of the players can actually over-ride the decisions of the referee?

This week Minister Dutton cancelled an individual’s visa for the third time – he has now overturned the rulings of a court demanding he re-instate the man’s visa on two separate occasions.

Will this stacking of the deck’ continue under a Labor government?

***

Please share this article with Labor MPs for their review and comment:

Hon Shayne Neumann MP – Shadow Minister for Immigration: @ShayneNeumannMP

Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP – Shadow Attorney-General: @markdreyfusQCMP

Hon Bill Shorten MP – Leader of the Opposition: @billshortenmp

The vilification of Australia’s most vulnerable people

By Tina Clausen

What makes some think people on Centrelink benefits are more likely to over-spend on non-essential items than other people in society, and more likely to gamble, abuse drugs, alcohol and neglect their children? They are ordinary, normal adults like anyone else and just as capable as the rest of Australia’s people of managing their own finances and budgets without a private company telling them how and where to spend their money.

Is the Cashless Welfare Card suddenly a cure-all for addiction, child neglect or abuse, unemployment, being a single parent, being ill or disabled, being a student, for the very ‘crime’ of being in receipt of a Social Security payment?

Our Government, particularly, seems to want to entrench in the public mind the view that the card will cure unemployment. This despite limited employment options nation-wide (depending on which statistics are being used, only 1 job available for between every 10 to 17 job seekers) and there already being extremely stringent and punitive mutual obligation requirements in place for job-seekers. Managed via the much (and justly) maligned privatised for-profit Job Network Agencies.

I guess if our Government can blame the unemployed for not being able to find a job they don’t have to work on creating more employment opportunities in Australia. This despite most of our manufacturing industries having shut down, large corporations and companies outsourcing work offshore, advanced technology making jobs obsolete, many tens of thousands of work visas given out to bring in ‘cheap’ and at times less skilled overseas workers, mining companies etc slowly automating more and more of their work and so on.

But no, let us keep blaming the unemployed, people with disabilities, single parents, aged pensioners, young people and students by shaming them and calling them bludgers and rorters and whatever else the Murdoch owned mass media suggest in their monthly bash-a-welfare-bludger stories on A Current Affair, Sunrise, Newscorp media, ninemsn etc. All pushing the far-right-wing agenda of making the poor poorer and the rich richer and brain-washing ‘workers’ into believing all their trials and tribulations are the fault of the most vulnerable in society.

The ultra-rich far-right propaganda machine has spent years enticing the working-class into turning on Centrelink beneficiaries while the wealthy elite, huge multinational industries and corporate Australia are laughing all the way to the bank and even more so at our stupidity. Fighting each other makes us blind to where the real rorting is going on. $65 billion in tax cuts for big businesses ring a bell for anyone? How about large corporations paying $0 tax on $50 billion profits?

A social class division based on how, where and from whom we receive our living income based on individual circumstances has sprung up and is tearing apart and destroying our communities. The most vulnerable of our citizens are being subjected to a constant barrage of bullying, harassment and vilification by those who would formerly have been the first to give them a helping hand up.

Australia used to be a great nation, we always supported our battlers and we were sure in our belief we were all equal citizens. No longer is this the case. Now it’s dog eat dog and the spiteful and mean-spirited attacks on our fellow citizens is heartbreaking to behold.

Cruelty and Corruption – Australia’s Border Farce

Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre. One week before Christmas 2017:

It is early morning, and the door to one of the detainee’s rooms is open wide. Sitting in the doorway on a plastic chair, quietly watching over the room is a Serco welfare officer wearing a red Santa hat. The sole occupant of the room – the huddled figure asleep in the bottom bunk, perfectly oblivious to the silent presence of the officer in the gaudy red hat just inches from where he slept – is on a 24-hour suicide watch. He has spent almost 6 years in detention, and has been effectively rendered stateless. The government has been relentless in attempting to deport him from Australia where he has lived since childhood, but his country of birth will not accept him back. For him, the stand-off means that he has been condemned to a life in confinement. For the sake of anonymity, I shall simply refer to him as Gabriel.

Australian Border Force oversees and administrates a network of onshore detention centres which includes Christmas Island. It is their officers who carry out the detention of so-called non-citizens and determine their placement within the system. The centres are run as virtual maximum security prisons, and the similarity between the para-military Border Force operation and the SS run concentration camps of Nazi Germany is striking.

Border Force have seen fit to place Gabriel on remote Christmas Island where he has no possibility of contact with his wife and his young son. Added to his sense of despair at being held in a limbo which has no foreseeable end, the distress of his separation from family and the recent advice that he has been denied legal aid because he is not on the Australian mainland have caused his mental state to deteriorate to the point where he is now routinely self-harming.

I am at pains to describe to you my own anguish in witnessing the forlorn sight of this broken man quietly applying antiseptic cream to the angry red slashes on his forearms, let alone attempt to describe the hell that his life has become.

Gabriel’s pleas and representations to Border Force are voluminous, and include a psychiatric finding that he is at risk of committing suicide. The report identifies his removal from access to family as the primary cause, and recommends his transfer to a mainland facility where he can have face-to-face contact. His young son also undergoes psychiatric counselling as a result of Gabriel’s removal. Despite the weight of clearly documented evidence suggesting that a simple return to a mainland detention centre would take him out of harm’s way, each request has been flatly denied. Instead he is simply placed on a suicide watch to ensure he doesn’t attempt the loneliest form of escape in the quiet of the night.

I question the avoidable tragedy of that lonely sleeping figure, who over the past months has fought a virtual David and Goliath battle with a government department which has grown increasingly callous and smug with its reach and its powers. The calculated ignorance of psychological reports and the physical evidence of self-harm on the part of Border Force goes beyond mere negligence of duty of care. One could rightly surmise from their actions that they seek to cause intentional harm.

Even as I write these words, the image of that red Santa hat is burned into my consciousness. What it signifies sickens me to my very core. How a tragic scene like this – a broken detainee on suicide watch – can be so thoughtlessly and flippantly dressed up with a festive novelty hat, as though it is a normal event. It stands a sick testament to the terrifying fact that this culture of locking people away in indefinite detention has become normalised, and little more than a cruelly sadistic game for its perpetrators. Gabriel’s story is just one of many.

The horrors of Manus Island are just one part of this broken immigration machine. There is still another layer to Australia’s draconian immigration detention regime which is yet to be fully exposed. That is the domain of onshore detention, and it is rarely given more than a cursory glance largely due to the public perception of those who have been so detained by it.

Dutton’s modus operandi when challenged on indefinite detention of asylum seekers is now clear and well documented – he uses lies and smear tactics to demonize refugees and turn public sympathy against them. In exactly the same way it has been easy for him to deflect attention away from the onshore detention regime. The Immigration minister typically describes those detained there as ‘hardened criminals’ and ‘members of organised crime gangs’ to elicit a ‘well, they deserved it’ reaction from the public at large. Add to this the tight veil of secrecy around Immigration detention matters which has included gag orders on staff employed at detention centres, and you have a recipe which has allowed a culture of injustice and heavy-handedness to flourish and grow.

In June 2016, the Hon. Peter Dutton MP stood up in parliament and proudly boasted that he had cancelled the visas of 2,000 non-citizens, 137 of whom were members of organised gangs. That amounted to just 7% of the total, and yet nobody bothered to challenge him to explain exactly who made up the other 93 per cent.

So who are the 93 per cent? Who exactly is Australia locking away indefinitely before deporting? The stories of injustice are numerous, and many will surprise. Many individuals have lived in Australia since their childhood, and many are one-time offenders with no criminal past. Some of those detained on ‘character grounds’ have been detained for little more than traffic offences. One detainee had simply been fined by his local council for burning off in his suburban backyard during a fire ban. Chillingly, some have no criminal charges whatsoever. If you have charges laid against you which are subsequently dropped and dismissed, you now run the risk of having your visa cancelled on the claim that you present a ‘future risk to the community.’ These people have been detained for years. Not weeks. Not months. Years. These are the people Peter Dutton would have you believe are “some of the countries most hardened criminals.

So how have we arrived at a situation like this? What became of the lucky country – the land of the ‘fair go’? Australia, like other western nations like USA and the UK has bowed to a conservative narrative of protectionism which has seen the closing of borders and a ‘national cleansing’ with respect to non-citizens. The line between punishment and detention has blurred. If you add to this recipe a culture of corruption and secrecy, you have the potential for human rights abuses and cruelty, as evidenced by Gabriel’s story.

Departmental corruption is rife, and the Federal Government’s independent watchdog, the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI) recorded a historic high of 244 new corruption investigations last year. Almost half of the corruption issues investigated by ACLEI related to the Department of Immigration & Border Protection, followed by the Australian Federal Police. To understand how this culture flourishes you only need begin by looking at the key players in this farce.

The saying ‘A fish rots from the head down’ finds no better application than with Border Force and its overarching Ministry of Home Affairs. The organisation is rotten from the very top down and morale within its ranks is reported to be at low ebb. Minister Dutton’s Trump-esque propensity for outright lies and deception, and his condemnation of anything counter to his own agenda as ‘fake news’ is now well documented. He has curried precious little favour beyond the hard-core conservative faction with his recent diatribes on ‘African crime gangs’ and his attacks on the Victorian state government and the judiciary. His off-the-wall portrayal of terrified Melbourne diners is a shambling attempt to strike fear in the populace and press home government and ideological imperatives. Like Trump, he is quick to decry foreigners and he emboldens neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

Controversy has also surrounded the head of Border Force Roman Quaedvlieg, who was suspended from official duties in May 2017 which arose from an “external investigation into his activities.” according to the Department’s communications officer Sandi Logan. Eight months of investigation without resolution begs the question of just how deep those ‘activities’ go. Quaedvlieg is no stranger to corruption investigation, having been investigated by the national corruption watchdog in 2008 in his former role as Australian Federal Police Chief of Staff over the bungled sacking of an undercover police officer.

As far as moral turpitude is concerned, we fare little better with Secretary for Home Affairs Mike Pezzullo, with just one degree of separation between him and Border Force corruption. In mid-2013, the ACLEI released a report tabling allegations of foul-play involving customs officers at Sydney Airport. Four officers were charged with various criminal offences including bribery, conspiracy, drug importation and abuse of office after their involvement in the scheme was revealed.

Following the release of the Commission’s report, Michael Pezzullo, then Chief Operating Officer of Australian Customs and Border Protection, vowed to crack down on corruption within the service. What he omitted to mention was that his own brother was one of the officers in question. A 2014 investigation named his brother, Customs officer Fabio Pezzullo, as one member of the corrupt syndicate.

A senior Customs source claimed Mr Pezzullo did not disclose the charging of his brother with criminal offences when he updated a Senate committee about the Customs corruption scandal because he was being ”legally cautious.”

Despite this debacle, the Prime Minister nevertheless appointed Michael Pezzullo to the position of Secretary of the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection just months later in October 2014.

“The globalisation of terror, crime and indeed evil is becoming much more manifest and apparent to people,” Mr Pezzullo stated recently, “And the co-ordination of Australia’s security instruments, including ASIO, the Australian Federal Police, immigration and border authorities, was vital because “home is not what it used to be”.

Home most certainly isn’t what it used to be. I lament what Australia is becoming at the hands of men like Pezzullo and Dutton. The world has been here before.

“This is no laughing matter,” said Pezzullo.

Looking at the unprecedented level of corruption within your own Home Affairs ministry, and the flagrant breaches of human rights in your concentration camps, I for one am not laughing.

This month, Australian Border Force again re-affirmed their decision not to relocate Gabriel back to the mainland, citing a lack of accommodation as the reason. They have provided this explanation to him consistently as a stock letter over the past months. The latest psychiatrist’s evaluation recommended a transfer, and stated the concern that he would commit suicide in the medium to long term if he lost hope of achieving his goals.

Gabriel’s room was routinely searched after his suicide watch was terminated. His young son had made him a picture frame in his primary school craft class. It had been broken as the three officers rummaged dispassionately through Gabriel’s belongings.


In related news this week, detainees in Melbourne and Sydney immigration detention centres have commenced a co-ordinated hunger strike to protest a draconian new law which restricts visiting rights of family members. AIM Network carries the story here.

Super Ministry or Schutzstaffel?

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. It seems the passage of time has isolated all but those familiar with the atrocities of the last World War from the warning signs that signal the rise of malevolent power.

In the post-war wash-up, the world moved progressively toward globalization, and the horrors of war effectively pushed the far-right front into fractured isolation.

We live in a world of cyclical trends – be it fashion and music, or politics and ideology. With regards to the latter, what started quietly as a seed has now germinated (pardon the pun) in many quarters of the Western world into a sense of nationalism which is scarily reminiscent of the pre-Second World War era.

The threat of global terror, be it real or perceived, has driven a tide of xenophobia which runs the gamut from simmering distrust to open persecution. Islamophobia is the new black, and the fear is aggravated by deliberately skewed media spin and propaganda.

The divide between the working class and the ruling class is growing, with the rising sense that the general populace feels disrespected, ignored, and oppressed by their governments, politicians and rich business moguls. This growing dissatisfaction with ‘traditional politics’ has seen the Western world wandering down and old seemingly-forgotten path in the search for alternatives. And it’s not the yellow brick road variety; it’s the shadowy path that leads to grandma getting eaten by the wolf.

We are witnessing the rise of a far-right conservatism which is once again capitalizing on the status-quo to foster the narrative that foreigners and immigrants are to blame for our woes. We see the demonizing of foreigners in USA’s Donald Trump and in Australia’s own Pauline Hanson and the increasingly vocal conservative wing of Turnbull’s LNP government. Foreigners, if you believe the spin, are running amok in violent crime sprees. Muslims are killing our people in terror attacks. Traditional religious freedoms are under threat. Immigrants are taking all our jobs. The phrase ‘border protection’ is bandied about ad nauseam. Far-right conservatism offers protectionism and national security to counter these perceived threats. This sense of territorial nationalism, of ‘taking the country back’ particularly appeals to the poorly educated and the lower working class and unemployed demographic.

Just what is happening under this nationalistic smokescreen with the emergence of the Australian Home Affairs ‘super ministry’ should terrify ordinary Australians to the core. Problem is, as they sit watching the idiot box with a beer and a pizza it isn’t directly affecting them. Yet. Quite to the contrary, it plays to the carefully crafted perception that our streets are under siege from Islamic terrorists. And this is precisely how it happens …

“In Hitler’s Germany, first they came for the Communists but I wasn’t a Communist so I didn’t speak up …”.

Adolf Hitler rose to power in the 1930’s in similar circumstances. Following the German defeat in the First World War, Europe was plunged into the Great Depression, and Germany suffered years of economic struggle marked by runaway inflation and mass unemployment. Hitler blamed it on the foreigners. The Jews, in particular were made the scapegoat for Germany’s economic and social woes. He offered the German people a solution to make their nation great again.

From 1929 until his regime’s collapse in 1945, the Schutzstaffel, (meaning ‘Protection Squadron’) better known as the ‘SS’, was established as Hitler’s foremost agency of security, surveillance and terror within Germany and German-occupied Europe. To counter the perceived threats to the Fatherland – which eventually included communists, Jews, gypsies, trade unionists and homosexuals – SS Chief Heinrich Himmler was tasked with amalgamating the various German police and intelligence forces into a single new centralised agency called the Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei) and policing authorities took on an increasingly para-military complexion.

Fast-forward to 2016 where concerns are growing that the Australian Border Force is taking on an increasingly military style and ethos.

In January 2016 it was revealed the Department of Immigration spent more than $1.3 million on medals for its staff, outspending the Department of Defence and prompting new concerns about the militarisation of the portfolio. ABF uniforms were changed and took on a severe military air, which reportedly intimidated many travellers. At the same time, Minister Dutton was being handed more and more sweeping powers, and his department became the most litigated against of all government departments. Under his watch, long-term permanent residents have been deported in numbers not witnessed since the Second World War. What war is the government fighting, and who are the enemy? The parallel between the steady development of Border Force as a para-military force and the rise of Himmler’s SS should send a shiver down your spine.

“Then they came for the trade unionists, but I wasn’t a trade unionist so I didn’t speak up …”.

Gaining momentum in 1936, the Gestapo were used for political gain and the crushing of Hitler’s political opponents. Himmler, now promoted to Reichsfuhrer SS, further amalgamated the Reich Criminal Police with the Gestapo to form a ‘super ministry.’

In 2017, the commissioning of the controversial new Australian Home Affairs department saw Mr Dutton – a man who already possesses extraordinary unchecked administrative powers – become the head of a ‘super ministry’ which amalgamated immigration, police, security and intelligence departments including ASIO, ASIS, the Australian Federal Police, Border Force and the Criminal Intelligence Commission. The move drew concern from many quarters, including officials within the very agencies in question.

Controversy abounded in October 2017 when the Australian Federal Police staged coordinated raids on the Sydney and Melbourne offices of the Australian Worker’s Union in an attempt to uncover documents relating to alleged donations to political factions opposing the government. Not only was the Federal Police used brazenly for ideological and political gain, but the entire operation was staged with media in attendance, drawn by a government tip-off to ensure coverage. Another disturbing move which reads directly from the Nazi playbook.

“Then they came for the Jews but I wasn’t a Jew so I didn’t speak up …”.

With the Nazis established in power, and the outbreak of war; the SS and its collective intelligence arm gained in strength and momentum. They continued to pursue and implement Hitler’s ideological policies. It was of course Himmler’s SS and Gestapo who hunted and rounded up the Jews for placement in concentration camps. Operations enacted through the SS ‘super ministry’ were not constrained by judicial or administrative review, which permitted them a broad reach.

In precisely the same manner, the suite of powers afforded to Minister Dutton have permitted him a ‘ministerial discretion’ in the decisions of who may remain in this country and who may be granted a visa. What this means is that his decisions cannot be challenged by administrative review by independent bodies like the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), and judicial bodies like the Federal Court can only recommend that he re-considers visa cancellation decisions. Dutton’s resentment for the constraints of rule of law has been made abundantly clear in the numerous instances where he has overturned the rulings of the courts to reverse visa cancellation decisions. Like Himmler, he has been given unchecked power to effectively make himself judge, jury and executioner.

Flashback to 2015 when the newly formed Australian Border Force announced an ominous new initiative called ‘Operation Fortitude.’ A press release advised that ABF officers would be stationed around Melbourne’s city checking “any individual we cross paths with” to assess visa status for possible immigration fraud.

It is hard to fathom exactly how a para-military force might randomly “cross paths with individuals” and casually ask if they possessed a valid visa, like a shop assistant offering samples of cologne to passers-by. Common sense dictates that they had an agenda of racial profiling which they would employ to target potential visa holders, and that is a frightening prospect which smacks of the profiling that the Nazis employed to track down their ‘enemies.’ Fortunately, public reaction stopped Operation Fortitude dead in its tracks.

Was Border Force testing the waters for future incursions, or to assess just how much they could get away with? Tellingly, the operation was named after a Second World War operation which was enacted just before the D-Day Normandy landings in 1944.

And yes, Australia has its very own concentration camps. Make no mistake – that is what they are. Not processing centres or detention centres. We have a network of camps where refugees and non-citizens languish in indefinite detention, drawing intense criticism from the UN Human Rights Committee.

With the atrocities of Manus Island now firmly in the spotlight, 2017 saw the largest compensation payout in Australian legal history for those illegally detained there, and it seems the apple is ready to fall in the onshore detention regime as well.

“Then they came for the Catholics but I wasn’t a Catholic so I didn’t speak up …”.

So where will Dutton take his Home Affairs juggernaut in 2018? You can bet your bottom dollar that the ‘foreigners running amok in crime sprees’ theme will continue to get air-time whilst there is political mileage to be gained. This plays to the LNP government’s narrative that the opposition has gone soft on crime; that criminals are protected over victims. It also sets the scene for increasing AFP intervention in state affairs.

We will continue to be reminded of the ever-present threat of Islamic (is there any other kind?) terrorism. Dutton will remind you of the threat of more boats and the pitfalls of relaxed border protection. If we are to believe him, only an LNP government will keep us safe.

This is a ministry which operates under intense secrecy. And here’s the thing about secrets – except for keeping quiet about that surprise birthday present for your partner, you only ever keep dark things a secret. There will be secret files created on target individuals, a fact which Secretary for Home Affairs Mike Pezzullo has already openly alluded to in a scary, off-the-wall speech which confounded businessmen attending the 2017 Trans-Tasman conference.

Expect Home Affair’s intel agencies to start digging the dirt on the government’s political opponents, while Dutton himself continues to grab for further power to extend his reach. His heavy-handed dealings with non-citizens and refugees is now well documented. Hitting the ground running following his promotion to Minister for Home Affairs, he announced plans to pursue criminal offenders holding dual citizenship. In 2018 you can expect him to further test just how far he can stretch the legislation to strip Australians of their citizenship. And beyond that …

“Then they finally came for me — and by that time there was no one left to speak up.”

(Quotes in bold italics attributed to Rev Martin Niemöller – a Lutheran pastor who survived years of imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp 1938-1945).

The Stranger On Your Shore

The subdued young man sitting in front of the Border Force official looked tired and unkempt. And yet, in a stark contrast his deep brown eyes seemed alive; like quiet wells of clarity and understanding. The officer discreetly surveyed the figure sitting before him as he reviewed the confidential case notes on the screen. The man had fled from the Middle East without identification papers or passport, and enquiries had revealed him to have a record of public nuisance and disrespect for religion and government authority. He had been on a watch-list for some time as a result of his anti-social activities and it appeared that he had been detained and questioned in his own country on at least one previous occasion.

In previous interviews, the young man had revealed that he had suffered severe torture during this time, although this could not be verified by other intelligence sources. Today, he had answered each question dutifully and respectfully but offered nothing further by way of amplification or explanation. The only time that he spoke out of turn during the interview was to politely enquire as to how much longer he would remain in indefinite detention.

‘I would prefer you didn’t use the term indefinite detention’ said the officer.

‘Perhaps then, you are able to tell me when you propose to release me?’

‘I’m sorry but as you know, I can’t give you a time. It will take as long as it needs to in order to establish your legitimacy as a refugee.’

‘And is that not then by definition indefinite?’

The officer said nothing, dropping his eyes to scour the information on his profile, rather than look into those eyes. The stranger continued, his voice softly insistent:

‘I had hoped for a welcome place at your table, but instead found only tall fences and high walls.’

‘How long have you been here now?’ asked the officer, already knowing the answer.

‘It has been almost four years since our boat arrived on your shore,’ came the calm response.

‘Yes, I see,’ continued the officer, quickly searching the dark eyes that held his gaze unerringly. ‘And can you tell me why you decided to come here by boat?’

The man bowed his weary head momentarily; his patient demeanour unchanged. He had been asked the same question more than a dozen times since first arriving here. His response, when it came, was thoughtfully weighed.

‘Ask yourself, how dire must a danger be on dry land that men and women would consider the safer option for their children to be weeks on an angry sea in a small leaky boat?’

Hidden behind the screen the officer rolled his eyes; pausing to down the last dregs of his lukewarm coffee. Boat people. He had not thought to offer the swarthy man a drink, despite the heat of the day. In truth, the bearded stranger unsettled him somehow, leaving him oddly uncomfortable and off-balance.

‘What can you tell me about your family circumstances?’

‘My family had fled persecution and re-settled in a rural area. We were not wealthy, but I learned a trade from my father and earned a living that way. But I am sure you already know all of this.’

The uniformed man breathed a heavy frustrated sigh. Straightening visibly in his chair, he drew a deep centering breath and assumed an air of formality:

‘The problem is we have received concerning information that suggests you are a political dissident. An agitator. This is significant and it may affect your claims for residency in Australia. As you can appreciate, we cannot allow people of bad character to threaten our community and way of life. We are a Christian nation, and as Christians we care for one another. Do you understand?’

‘Sir, I have no criminal convictions and I have hurt no-one; nor have I encouraged anybody to do so. I have only spoken my truth, and that I understand is not a crime.’

‘You arrived here without a valid passport or travel document and that could be seen as a crime.’

‘I have never had need of a passport, but I have never represented myself fraudulently. Your people seem far more intent on proving the threat that I represent, than in who I truly am. I was given only a boat number for a name when I arrived here.’

The officer glanced back at the computer screen, grateful that the interview was coming to an end.

‘Well, perhaps you could state your full given name for me?’ asked the officer in a tired voice.

The bearded, unkempt young paused momentarily, before delivering his perfectly measured reply:

‘I am Jesus Christ, son of Joseph, son of God.’

* * *

Last week the Hon Scott Morrison MP stated that he will “fight back against discrimination and mockery of Christians and other religious groups in 2018.” In his maiden speech a decade ago, Morrison spoke of the importance of his deep personal faith. The tragic irony of this is that the Jesus Christ in whom he places this deep faith was a brown skinned young man of Middle Eastern descent. A man who had effectively been put on a ‘watch list’ as a trouble-maker and agitator. A man who, if fleeing that oppression today and seeking refuge in Australia, would very likely be thrown into a detention centre indefinitely by Christians such as Morrison and his ilk.

It seems that this hypocrisy is all but lost on our politicians as they prepare to celebrate the birth of the man whose teachings they claim to follow. It is a further irony then that these men who claim such allegiance to Christ also turn a blind eye to the human rights atrocities on a detention island named after Him – Christmas Island.

Pain and Hope, Passion and Motivation in Manus Prison Camp

“My name is Samad Abdul and I’m from Pakistan. I have been detained illegally
for years in a place where it’s so easy for hope and dreams to be demolished.
I wasn’t a writer but this place made me a writer. My pain made me a writer.
Although I can’t take my dreams from the people who destroyed them, I will
use my words as a weapon and will not allow them to destroy more dreams.”

There is always a fight between pain and hope. Pain is very powerful but hope has the huge support of passion and motivation. These two qualities work hard to control the pain. Unfortunately, they can’t kill the pain, only dampen it for a while.

The day my feet stepped into this illegal Manus Island Detention Centre where I am indefinitely and illegally held, my torture began. Instead of my life getting better, becoming safer, as I had hoped for when seeking asylum, it is getting worse. My hope has been demolished.

A refugee is a person who has left his/her family, friends, memories, and happiness, and the only dream he/she has is to be protected, to find some happiness again and to be loved again.

I sought asylum in Australia, on Christmas Island but was forcibly moved from Christmas Island to Lombrum in Manus, PNG 41/2 years ago. In the past weeks, again I was beaten, abused, scared, terrified and forced to move to another indefinite prison camp, this time in Lorengau on Manus.

Displacement of people is a global crisis and a strong and unkind government is making a horrible example of my body and life to pass their horrible message to the world. I am being used for the political benefits of others.

If I described my pain what words could I use? It’s like someone is drowning at sea and he doesn’t know how to swim.

We have already told both the PNG and Australian officials many many times that we didn’t come to PNG and we don’t want to live here. We were forced here against our will.

I have survived and suffered for years just to convince the authorities that I deserve to be free in a safe and independent environment where I can rebuild my life, where I can go to university, where I can study Human Rights, where I can become a social worker, where I can become helpful for helpless people, where I can play cricket, where I can play different games.

Nothing is as painful as staying stuck in a place where you don’t belong.

My passion and dream to be a professional cricketer has been taken away from me and my life has become a horrible example for the people who will seek asylum in the future. My body has been used so that they will accept their deaths in home countries, so they will not seek asylum.

This horrific policy was made to punish innocent people and to use them as hostages to pass horrible messages to others. It is totally inhumane, unconstitutional and unacceptable.

We need care, not detention.
We need help not fences.
We need support, not torture.
We need love not hate.

Darkness has its own fear but my dark fear is full of the fear of being used in a political game.

I’m a human just like you guys. My life should not be used for political benefits. I have rights to rebuild my life again, not to be used by others but to grow with hope, passion, and motivation.

POSTSCRIPT

I know pain, and what it looks like. Let me end the pain of the world.

When we choose ourselves for others we will be blessed with the great gift of satisfaction, hope, happiness and love, the gift will be with us forever.

Early in the morning, the sunshine on our faces brings happiness & motivation.

At midnight, sharing our day with the beautiful moon and the lovely stars brings relaxation and comfort.

Let’s learn a lesson from the sun who is shining for others.

Let’s learn a lesson from the moon and stars who are lighting for others.

Here is our hope.
Here is our passion.
Here is our motivation.

 by Samad Abdul

With support from Writing Through Fences

 

 

In Turnbull’s skewed moral universe only “good” survivors get recognition

The Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sex Abuse hadn’t quite concluded when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Social Security Minister Christian Porter embarked on their malfeasant project of creating two tiers of abuse survivors.

In their proposed and ill-named redress scheme, (there can be no “redress,” there can only be recognition of awful suffering) a survivor of childhood sexual abuse will receive no “compensation” if he or she has spent five or more years in jail: The bill excludes anyone convicted of sex offences, or sentenced to prison terms of five years or more for crimes such as serious drug, homicide or fraud offences.

At present in this country it is up to the judiciary to determine the punishment for crimes, not politicians and bureaucrats. Yet if you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who has done/is doing time for your crime, you will now be further punished by your ineligibility for recognition.

It isn’t enough that survivors have survived criminal sexual assaults, the majority of which attracted no punishment at all for the perpetrators. It isn’t enough that survivors are already punished as our judiciary deems appropriate. Now Turnbull and Porter have decided to further punish this group of survivors, because they can, and because it might save them a little bit of money they can spend on Peter Dutton’s spin doctors.

Apparently, in the skewed moral universe of Malcolm Turnbull, the damage done by sexual assaults perpetrated upon you when you were a little kid is superseded by your behaviour as an adult.

This is a sickening conflation. Survivors are not being rewarded by “compensation:” it’s a small financial recognition for lives ruined by the failure of authorities to fulfil their basic obligations and responsibilities to children in their care. No adult crime erases the legitimacy of trauma caused by childhood abuse, yet Turnbull’s two-tiered scheme implies that this is the case.

In the LNP world, childhood sexual abuse in itself doesn’t earn you the right to be recognised by your government and the institutions responsible for your suffering. You are only deserving of recognition if you are a good survivor.

It doesn’t matter what happened to you. You still need to behave like the ruling class thinks you should behave. This is what is most important. Not the crimes committed against you. Not the trauma you’ve struggled with your whole life. Not the perpetrators who escape accountability, including those who covered up the crimes against you. No. None of that.

You need to be a nice survivor. You need to behave.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

Manus lessons

By Jane Salmon

I have been glued to mainstream and social media on the Manus issue as an advocate for 3 years. And I’ve met a few refugees along the way.

But yesterday took the biscuit. The sight of Aussies swallowing dishonest propaganda whole has shaken me. We’re in deep trouble if we think that Dutton and Bishop can lie straight in bed at night, let alone display any sensitivity to the facts of four years of offshore detention.

Every knee-jerk racist troll claims that the refugees on Manus trashed their own living space yesterday. They have dutifully maintained Dutton’s line that each of us can blame refugees for anything. They even claimed that drawing on your sweating prison walls was vandalism. Well what else was there to do for 4 years? Never happens in white jails, surely!

Xenophobic patriot trolls ignore the tidier “before” pictures of Wednesday 22nd in the camp and the many touching images of tired, hungry, traumatised men cleaning up the camp “after” Dutton’s destructive proxies and PNG thugs left in the evening of 23rd.

They get their story from Ray Hadley and a glance at scant, slanted mainstream news if they notice it all. Other (very busy) trolls work for the very companies and ministry that abused the men.

Our “patriots” have missed the fact that since staff left Manus RPC, the men have been empowered and become more organised. They have done this despite a lack of water, medication, medical care, sanitation, electricity and the demoralising blockade of food. A handful of judiciously used solar battery chargers are looked on as proof that the men are lying about having no power or flushing loos. Because belief is all that matters to a racist.

[“Oh well, mate. It’s alright. They’ll get compo. They’re cool. And they got food. They’ve got their lives. What more do they want?”]

Well there are at least six men whose families would actually like their sons and their lives back. There are men who are injured permanently. There are still vibrant, dynamic, clever young adults who won’t ever forget the powerlessness they have experienced. And they have been slandered again and again by Australia’s officials and their supporters. Just because they were vulnerable.

These refugees are not saints. But jail never brought out the best in anyone. However, the abuse they experienced has led these men to cooperate pretty well. The emotional maturity and organisation that most Manus refugees have displayed under pressure is an example to us all.

As one whose grandfathers and also father came back from wars physically and emotionally damaged (Dad’s Korean War spinal shrapnel used to set off airport metal detectors, four great uncles died over Britain or France, Grandpa Jack lost an arm, Grandpa was ultimately finished off by the gassing); as one whose Great Uncle Ron, a banker, survived camps in Singapore for four years and came back pretty damn broken; as one who has worked alongside an ex-Changi inmate, I disgree that a lousy $35K will fix any of that.

And don’t the “Patriots” see the “do as you would be done by” parallel in any of this? Or are they really too thick? How long would they manage up there in the tropics? (Oh, that’s right, a few of the Aussie “security” staff got a bit violent and rapey. Marvellous!).

Career Officer Molan took professional pride in demonstrating that this Fortress Island would not be breached on his watch. (Note that this is not a man who has been directly exposed to war in his own home country. Sure, a few subs approached Darwin and Sydney in his parents’ lifetime). He probably also believes that every non-Anglo is a potential terrorist because that’s what the chaplain led him to believe in Sunday school. He has only devoted his mind to military and naval strategy since.

Foreigners are not lesser humans. Even the ones whose parents were, luckily, not killed by the Taliban or bombed out of house and home after their sons and daughters had left.

No amount of compo will change the fact that the Manus refugees were singled out because they chose boats instead of planes after July 2013. Those who arrived by plane pre-Abbott endured a shorter stint in camps and got back on their feet more easily. They were more able to support their mothers, brothers, sisters, wives and children. The “not drowning” argument doesn’t wash. Boats still come but are turned back or captured before they reach Australian waters.

“Safe transit countries” like Indonesia are overflowing with people. The immigration detention camps there are horrifying, too.

The compo is a distraction. It was a cynical settlement. It doesn’t compensate the men for their lost health, their abuse, their near death experiences, death of friends nor for isolation torture. $35K each is merely an expression of Australian Border Force culpability. We used these men as deterrents.

Bottom line, any vulnerable Australians (whether in Don Dale or at the mercy of another government institution) can expect similar treatment if we shrug off this event as a one-off.

People can be disempowered in so many ways in an information age.

Scared for their own jobs, SBS decided to imply that the remaining men elected to leave in buses today. The vision of beatings with sticks were dismissed as misattributed or not real or somehow less than persuasive. The Manus refugees have in fact lost free choice and self determination. They are back inside fenced compounds with security guards watching over them and or protecting them from machete armed raskols. Who cares that the crates are newly fitted?

The truth is, the violent ouster of the men across the past two days was in contempt of PNG court. Men like Behrouz Boochani were held in handcuffs without charge. There was undue force. The rule of law has not been respected. The next court date was for December.

As a Labor Party member, I’m not supposed to say “Shame on you” to Shorten and his ineffectual Shadow Cabinet. But I will. They let the xenophobia grow by failing to stand up to One Nation and LNP racism. The unions have only recently spoken out about Manus. Many old lefties still fear that their wages will be undercut by refugees. Even though they have seen the government grow its own budget in order to find $10 billion to squitter away on detention. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

The alternative for Labor is … quite a few more electoral routs like Northcote. And it serves them right. Because racist fascism will affect the safety and well-being of my kids as much as any time I spend online or any culinary shortcuts I dare take around their FODMAP allergies.

No more of this “jobs worth” crap from SBS or Shorten, please. Better people than you have fought and died for the truth.

Intercepting refugees in Malaysia and Indonesia will prevent some unanticipated arrivals. But swift and humane solutions would also include simply accepting people and providing them with orientation and the means manage in their new countries. There is plenty of positive work in supplying the supports the newcomers need. We don’t need to insist on unnecessary suffering. As an unadulterated leftie, I’d argue that we can afford to help everyone if we tax our own 1 per cent properly.

But we can argue about that one when Manus is over.

These men may deserve millions in compo each but they also deserve fresh starts in nothing less than safe third countries. No machetes. No racism. No fear. They have shown what they are made of and I salute them.

Nothing can distract the burgeoning community of refugee advocates from that.

Manus: Turnbull’s time to act

By Terence Mills

The agreement that Kevin Rudd signed with the PNG government in 2013 includes the provision:

“Commencing on the day of announcement, any unauthorized maritime arrival entering Australian waters will be liable for transfer to Papua New Guinea (in the first instance, Manus Island) for processing and resettlement in Papua New Guinea and in any other participating regional, including Pacific Island, states [my bold]. Papua New Guinea undertakes for an initial twelve-month period to accept unauthorised maritime arrivals for processing and, if successful in their application for refugee status, resettlement. This program will be for 12 months and will be subject to review on an annual basis through the Australia-Papua New Guinea Ministerial Forum.”

The important provision in this agreement, and one which PNG have frequently referred to, is the resettlement provision that allows for resettlement  in any other participating regional, including Pacific Island, states. This is where the meeting today between NZ Prime Minister Adern and Prime Minister Turnbull will be critical to breaking the Dutton confected impasse currently playing out on Manus Island. Former New Zealand Prime Minister John Key initially made an offer to take 150 of these refugees as a gesture of good will toward Australia and to allow the Abbott and now Turnbull governments to save face and start to dig themselves out of the hole that Dutton’s obstinacy has got them into.

It is likely that Adern will renew that offer today and Turnbull would be well advised to accept it as it may very well be the path to breaking this vindictive stand-off which seems to have become personal to Dutton. Turnbull should ignore Dutton’s perverse rationale that if any of these refugees go to New Zealand they could, after five years residency, become New Zealand citizens and armed with an NZ passport seek to visit Australia: it just makes no sense and smacks of desperate politics. Does he have the same irrational fears about those few refugees who have made it to the USA and who will undoubtedly achieve American citizenship in due course?

The problem that Turnbull faces continues to be the intransigence of the right-wing of his party who are already warning him not to accept the New Zealand offer when it comes. This opposition has little to do with refugees and resettlement strategies and more to do with the right-wing showing the Prime Minister who’s running this country: for Turnbull this is an opportunity to assert his authority and challenge the strangle-hold that the Right have him in. Will he seize the opportunity or buckle as he has in the past? We shall see.

If the meeting today can start the process and a path for properly and humanely resettling the men from Manus Island we then need to turn our attention to Nauru which has tended to be ignored in recent times, principally as a result of the limited access and media bans imposed by Nauruan authorities at the request of the Australian government.

Malcolm, the future of these unfortunate people is in your hands, please don’t flick-pass it back to Dutton and his cronies, they won’t respect you in the morning!

A single day out of 1516

Written by Sharafat Ali Sharfi, and light editing by Janet Galbraith of ‘Writing Through Fences‘.

Today is the 1516th day of my life in a camp called the Manus Island Regional Processing Center (MIRPC) run by the Australian government in Papua New Guinea. We were brought here against our will, told that we would be processedand then resettled in Australia or a third country.

My eyes open in the morning and although I am still half asleep the nightmare I see does not allow me to sleep again. Fear fills my head as I think about what will happen after the next 5 days. The Australian government want to close MIRPC at any cost on the 31st of October. As this repeats in my head I am playing with a cricket ball hung from the top of my bunk bed. I push the cricket ball and it comes back to me like like pendulum. I roll over to my right side and start looking at the wall of my bunk bed I made from empty cartons. There are many people in a single hall so everyone creates makeshift walls on his own bunk bed like this for privacy and to try to keep his belongings safe.

Still I am thinking: ‘What will happen after 5 days? What will happen if they take us to Lorengau, the small town on Manus Island?’ In the past few months two other refugees were found dead hanging from trees. Other refugees have been badly injured from knife and machete attacks by local people. Cultural differences, poverty and misinformation breed this violence. Like many here my fear and depression does not allow me to sleep.

I decide to get up and brush my teeth. As I open the hall door, the sun is shining as usual and I can hardly open my eyes. Here, the sunshine reflects on the white coral ground and burns my eyes. When I look up I see that a mentally upset and depressed person who usually sits in the hot sun by our compound gate has flowers in both ears and one in his hand. He holds it up like he is waiting for someone to arrive, or maybe he is imagining that he is in a garden somewhere.

I move on, heading to the showers. After I brush my teeth I return to my room and sit in my bunk bed. I start looking around and wonder whether I should pack my stuff before the police come inside the compound and take us to Lorengau center by force. They will use force because no one is ready and willing to go there. Everyone fears for their lives.

I don’t pack my stuff but sit there for an hour thinking about all the things circling in my head. The thoughts are growing more intense and are making me more depressed so I go outside for some fresh air. I had made a small garden in front of my compound and go to the right side where there is a tree. I sit there in its shade beside the fences. The breeze is nice and some local kids passing by have a soccer ball they are passing to each other which reminds me of my childhood days and how I used to play and love cricket. As soon as I would come back from school and had lunch, or even without lunch, I would take my cricket bat and ball and go out with my cousins and friends to the school ground in our village and play until evening. I still love cricket in the same way I used to love it in my childhood. Unfortunately I was not lucky enough to to play proper cricket which was my dream.

It’s lunch time. I decide to go and eat something because I don’t do breakfast. There is a long queue for food – about 40 people – in front of the mess gate. I sit at the end of the queue and after my number is called I go in and find there is curry and white rice. The curry taste is very bad, the meat is not cooked. I just eat the rice and come out of the mess.

At 2 o’clock I join a peaceful protest walk. It is the 87th day of our protest where men hold banners and cards filled with different slogans. asking for us to be afforded humanity. The messages say things like ‘4 years are enough indefinite detention’; ‘PNG is not safe for us’; ’Safety is everyone’s human right’. The main purpose of the protest is to explain that we don’t want to be resettled in Papua New Guinea which is a poor country without the capacity to resettle us safely, that we want to be treated humanely and this indefinite detention put to an end.

As the afternoon goes on I sit at the area near the beach and listen to some good music. It brings me a kind of peace and satisfaction like yoga might.

By 6 o’clock dinner starts and finishes at 8pm so one has to eat in-between these two hours. If you come late there is no meal so I come back and take a shower. The queue for dinner is always double the size for lunch. If something is finished they do not bring more.

Prison and our detention have the same rules but our crime is only that we came to Australia looking for safety. Although it is our human right, according to Australia it is our crime and it is for or that we have been detained here for the last 4 years, since 2013 till now.

After 30 to 35 minutes of waiting in the queue for a meal I have my dinner. I come back to my bed, pick up my pen and paper and write about a single day in this life that I am living. I write it down with my limited English language grammar and vocabulary. It is not easy to read and write here as about 30 people live in this one room with me. Some are talking, some are listening to music. It’s hard to focus.

At midnight, 12 o’clock, the light is turned off and I take my phone from my pocket to see what’s going on. I check my inbox, reply to friends and send some text message to Amnesty International, UNHRC and other organisations who work for Human Rights asking them to please look into our matter. In five days we do not know what will happen. I open Facebook, scroll through some posts that speak in our support and read the messages of raised voices around Australia that speak for us to be let free. I do want to thank those people who don’t have any personal agenda but are trying to help and support us just for the sake of humanity. I want to say to all of them, humanity is above every religion. So I write this single day out of 1516 of my indefinite detention as still I am thinking, ‘What will happen after 5 days’.

Sharafat was born and raised in Parachinar; a small town in the North West province of Pakistan. Sharafat has a Bachelor of Commerce. He loves cricket. It is his hobby and his passion.

The iniquity of homelessness

By Ad astra

What thought do we, who curl up in a warm bed after a good meal and an evening watching our favourite TV shows in the comfort of our homes, give to those who have no home, or worse still, nowhere to sleep? How aware are we of the extent of homelessness in our own country?

What follows here is largely drawn from a simple Google search for ‘Homelessness in Australia’. Let’s then start with some facts from Wikipedia.

There were 105,000 homeless people in Australia on the night of the 2011 census, one in every 200 Australians. This was a 17% increase from the 2006 census. We will not know the extent of homelessness at the 2106 census until 2018.

Who are the homeless?

They are categorized as those living in:

  • improvised dwellings, tents, sleepers out
  • supported accommodation
  • people staying with other households
  • boarding houses
  • other temporary lodgings
  • severely overcrowded dwellings.

Almost 40% were in the last category. 6% were ‘sleeping rough’; it is a myth that most homeless people sleep on the streets.

To flesh these bare facts and figures out a little, many women, young people and families move from one refuge to another, or ‘couch surf’, or sleep in their cars, or live in cheap accommodation. Some live in severely overcrowded dwellings that fall well below basic community standards, such as boarding houses and caravan parks.

56% of the homeless were male, 44% female. 30% were born overseas.

Indigenous people made up 25% of the homeless, although they constitute only 2.5% of our population.

The age of homeless people extends across all age groups, but disturbingly 17% are under 12 and 42% are under 25. A few are over 75! It is a myth that most homeless are middle-aged men.

The causes of homelessness are myriad: unemployment, mental illness, financial troubles, drug or alcohol abuse, gambling, bereavement, loss of a job, and disability. Broken marriages and domestic violence often bring about homelessness. The homeless suffer poor health and isolation.

It is a myth that being homeless is a choice.

Domestic violence is one of the main reasons people seek help from a homeless service. Every week, women across Australia, often with children, escape abusive partners with nowhere to go and no other option.

There are some other myths that need dispelling: The following account of these myths and their rebuttal appears on the Mission Australia website:

Homeless people just need to get a job:
The high cost of rental housing, particularly for low-income earners, forces many families and individuals out of their homes with no place else to live. Many of these people have a good education and jobs, but simply don’t earn enough to cover rent and their basic needs. People whose physical or mental disability means they are unable to work, or who care for others, face additional barriers to finding suitable, affordable accommodation.

Homelessness is simply about physical housing and ‘rooflessness’:
Having a safe and secure place to sleep is vital to a person’s health and wellbeing. For some people, finding somewhere to live that they can afford is all it takes to solve their homelessness. But for most, it takes more than that. They need assistance to gain life skills to be able to stand for themselves. Support such as financial advice, living skills training, mental health counselling, help in overcoming addictions, and job search assistance is crucial for people to break the cycle of homelessness and achieve independence.

Homelessness will never happen to me.
For thousands of Australians, the risk of losing their home is only one pay slip away. Factors such as sudden job loss, injury, illness, family breakdown or another unexpected disruption can affect anyone.

We will never solve homelessness.
Alarmingly, social and economic factors are contributing to more and more Australians facing the risk of homelessness. However, Mission Australia’s work is making a big difference. In 2016, through our 62 homelessness and housing services we supported 18,529 people to get back on their feet and move towards rebuilding an independent life for themselves. By the community and governments working together, we can halve homelessness in Australia by 2025.

What can, what is being done to combat homelessness?

In our largest capital cities there has been a focus on ‘removing’ the homeless from Flinders Street or Martin Place, where they are seen as ‘an eyesore’. Every year executives ‘experience’ the discomfort of ‘sleeping rough’ when they curl up in their sleeping bags during a mid-winter night to ‘identify’ with street sleepers. It’s fine gesture, but how has it improved the lot of the homeless? There’s a website: Homeless in Australia – what is being done? that details some of the solutions:

  • more low cost accommodation
  • increased levels of support for people with a disability
  • support for individuals as they negotiate the changing labour market
  • greater access to family and relationship counselling programs to reduce the levels of domestic violence and alcohol and other drug misuse within the community
  • initiatives which build stronger communities so resources and networks are in place to support people in their community.

Thereafter follows a list of programs (Commonwealth, State and Local) that governments in Australia run and/or fund with a view to alleviating or preventing homelessness:

  • The Supported Assistance Program (SAAP)
  • The Commonwealth – State Housing Agreement and the Crisis Accomodation Program
  • Rent Assistance (RA)
  • The Emergency Relief Program (ERP)
  • The National Homelessness Strategy

None of these were accessible online as the server could not be found!

We have to go overseas for inspiration.

Finland stands out among many European nations struggling with the problem of homelessness as one that has found a solution – give the homeless a home!

Here are some excerpts from an article about the Finnish solution in The Guardian by Dawn Foster written in March of this year:

So how has the country done it? By giving homeless people permanent housing as soon as they become homeless, rather than muddling along with various services that may eventually result in an offer of accommodation.

We spoke to Juha Kaakinen, chief executive of the Y-Foundation, which provides 16,300 low cost flats to homeless people in Finland, to find out more:

What is Housing First?
Housing First means ending homelessness instead of managing it. The basic idea is to offer permanent housing and needs-based support for homeless people instead of temporary accommodation in hostels or in emergency shelters. Permanent housing means an independent rental flat with its own rental contract.

In Housing First people do not have to earn their right to housing by proving their capability to manage their lives. Instead, they are provided with a stable home and individually tailored support.

Also read: Homelessness and housing problems reach crisis point in all EU countries – except Finland.

How has it worked in Finland?
Since 2008 the national homelessness strategy in Finland has been based on the Housing First model, as a result of dedicated cooperation between the state, municipalities and NGOs.

Investments have been made to provide affordable housing and shelters have been converted into supported housing units. New services and methods of help have been developed to match the multiple needs of individual tenants. Finland has all but eradicated rough sleeping and sustainably housed a significant number of long-term homeless people. Finland is the only country in Europe where the number of homeless people has declined in recent years.

What has the public response to Housing First been? Was there any backlash?

There was a strong political will to find new solutions for homelessness. There were a few local reactions concerning the location of new service facilities. However, those were mainly overcome by open interaction with the neighbourhoods.

Financially, how does Housing First work?
The key things are affordable housing and support. Extra funding that the state has allocated for flats and services has been an incentive for the municipalities to implement Housing First.

Tenants pay rent and are entitled to receive housing benefits. Depending on their income, they may contribute to the cost of the services. The rest is covered by the municipalities. They provide the support themselves or buy support from other service providers, mainly from the NGOs. Read more here.

Stable living conditions enable the use of mainstream services instead of using expensive emergency services. This will save money in a long term.

Were there any initial problems that needed to be ironed out?
The focus of the national strategy was clear from the start. The city specific implementation plans included concrete objectives and resources to meet them. Therefore, no major problems were encountered.

There was, however, some work to be done on attitudes. For example, the unconditional housing was hard to accept by some people in NGOs, which had previously been working with different a set of values.

How easily can the model be replicated in other European countries?
The Housing First model can be replicated even though housing conditions may vary from country to country in Europe. Providing permanent homes for the homeless should be a target instead of temporary solutions. There is no quick fix to all life situations but a solid base provides the foundations upon which to improve the welfare of the homeless. The first step in change is the change in attitudes.

How is it that Finland finds solutions to social problems as well as sustaining the best education system in Europe, possibly in the world?

Coming back to our own country MashableAustralia lists Eight incredible innovations helping homeless people around the world. You may care to glance through them.

Some are in place already here. In 2014 two young men instituted the Orange Sky Laundry the world’s first free mobile laundry service with two washing machines and two dryers in a van that wash and dry clothes for the homeless. Starting in the streets of Brisbane, Orange Sky has now grown to 20 services across Australia in Brisbane, Canberra, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Sydney, Sunshine Coast, North and South Perth, Adelaide, Newcastle, SE Melbourne, Wollongong, SA Northern Districts, Port Macquarie, Mackay and Hobart. Orange Sky Laundry now does over 6.2 tonnes of laundry every week. However, most importantly, it has over 1,300 hours of positive and genuine conversations with homeless people every week!

They have now introduced mobile Orange Sky Showers for the homeless. Read about it here.

The comfort these homely amenities – clean clothes and a shower – have brought to countless homeless people is immeasurable. Their expressions of thanks are heart-rending.

Image from orangesky.org.au

This piece could go on and on sketching what might be done for our own homeless. A poignant article in The Sydney Morning Herald by Miichael Short: How to fix homelessness: give the homeless a home? suggests several approaches. Do read it.

As a child who lived during the thirties, I saw homelessness in the raw as the Great Depression threw more and more out of work. Hungry, homeless men came to our back door in Nambour asking for money. My mother preferred to give them huge sandwiches. It was the spectre of these hapless souls that sparked my first notion of what job I would like to do: build houses for these homeless men – as it turns out, not a bad idea!

Yet here I am, all these years later, seeing the same iniquity of homelessness in our affluent country.

Will there ever be effective action in this lucky country to eliminate it?

Could we not be the Finland of the Southern Hemisphere?

Image from news.com.au

Your opinion is welcome.

How do you see homelessness?

What solutions do you favour?

Let us know in comments below.

This article by was originally published on The Political Sword.

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