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Something went terribly wrong

When presenting the Derek Fielding Memorial Lecture a few days ago, president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs, singled out 2001 as the year “something went terribly wrong” with Australia.

Facing electoral defeat, John Howard latched on to the 11 September attacks and the so-called Children Overboard and Tampa affairs to redirect attention away from domestic economic matters focusing instead on the issues of border protection and national security.

The racists and bigots who had gathered around Pauline Hanson were legitimised. Refugees were potential terrorists trying to invade our shores. They were queue jumpers who would take our jobs. The hellholes of Manus and Nauru became our ‘solution’.

And now we are subjected to awkward facebook posts of Tony Abbott courting Hanson and telling us all we must respect her special brand of ignorance.

Howard was flattered to be included with Bush and Blair as he, in 2003, committed us to the unjustifiable invasion of a country who posed no threat to Australia, leading to the death of tens of thousands of innocent civilians.

Not content with the racism his ‘tough guy’ approach was causing, Howard turned his bigotry towards gays.

In 2004, he decided to change the Marriage Act to exclude gay couples and ban same-sex couples from adopting children from overseas.

“We’ve decided to insert this into the Marriage Act to make it very plain that that is our view of a marriage and to also make it very plain that the definition of a marriage is something that should rest in the hands ultimately of the parliament of the nation,” Howard said.

“(It should) not over time be subject to redefinition or change by courts, it is something that ought to be expressed through the elected representatives of the country.”

Interesting that the party who used their majority to inflict their definition of marriage on us, now refuses to allow parliament to undo the damage that they insisted was their right to impose.

Howard was also recalcitrant on the issue of indigenous affairs, failing to recognise the significance of an apology for the Stolen Generation.

Mr Howard said he did not believe that one generation could apologise for the actions of another, and, anyway, some children had been removed from their parents for good reason and others were given up voluntarily.

In 2008, then Opposition indigenous affairs spokesman Tony Abbott revealed the politics behind their eventual change of heart.

“When we were in government we could decide whether an apology happened or not, but in opposition all we could decide was an attitude to an apology which was ultimately in the hands of others,” he told The Age. “My own view was if an apology was going to happen anyway why not make the most of the situation and at the very least not rain on the parade.”

Abbott, self-described as the ‘love child’ of a PM who shamelessly used lies to win and Bronwyn Bishop, the worst, most biased, Speaker of all time, gleefully took up the cudgel, adding climate change to the list of wedge politics.

The erosion of human rights continued apace, with the government passing counter-terrorism laws that were “disproportionate to any legitimate aim to protect national security”.

“Indeed Australia has been accused of hyper-legislating counter-terrorism laws, enacting far more such laws than comparable states like the United States and United Kingdom,” Professor Triggs said.

For the first time, Australia was mentioned in the Human Rights Watch list in 2014. We have continued to receive criticism for our failures to actively address issues surrounding asylum seekers and refugees, aboriginal incarceration, disability rights, marriage equality, poverty among the elderly, and freedom of expression.

As Gillian Triggs pointed out, Australia, “the former bastion of support for fundamental freedoms has explicitly passed laws that violate our common law rights as well as international law.”

She calls on all Australians to be “alert and alarmed” at the failure of our politicians and judiciary to halt this erosion of our rights.

We rely on our government to protect us from the excesses of capitalism and to protect our human rights. We rely on the Opposition to protect us from the excesses of the executive. We rely on our judiciary to keep our politicians in line.

We are being let down.

Howard started the rot. Who will stop it?


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  1. diannaart

    Howard started the rot. Who will stop it?

    Well one thing we can be sure of, Australian politics has a long way to go before, Human Rights are considered a priority. A denial of Human Rights extends itself towards other animals, our environment and people who are considered ‘not quite the same’; be it skin colour, sexual orientation, religion or no religion at all.

    Denial of Human Rights is a tool used by the autocratic to rule, judge and condemn.

  2. Clean livin

    And to think we are referred to as “the lucky country” with Turkeys like these!

  3. win

    Rights MUST always be linked to obligations. I taught my students that and all adults should accept it. The more competent the rights claimant the greater their responsibilities. Our obligations are to those presently on earth ( including non humans and the non living environment ) AND to future denizens of our planet.

  4. flohri1754

    Kaye Lee …. as usual, very well put …. 2001, a year that will definitely go down in history for more than one reason ….

  5. Michael Taylor

    Couldn’t agree more. 100%.

  6. kerri

    I remember back when Andrew Denton was doing Enough Rope on aunty, an excellent interview with Sam Neill. The conversation turned to the post 911 shenanigans. Neill, with wisdom lacking in politicians then and now, outlined what I had been moaning to hubby about ever since the whole ridiculous nonsense began.
    Why oh why was Howard so hell bent on his own canonisation that he threw the entire under country under the bus? Neill’s words, which I will not quote perfectly, were to the effect, “I was happy living in this quiet little corner of the world. Being ignored and not involved in the conflicts of other countries.”
    Thank you John Howard for dumping us right in it!
    Thank you John Howard for screaming “me too me too” “Come and get me Mr Terrorist so I can save my country from a fabricated threat!,
    Howard’s legacy will live on for years as we all suffer for his selfish, needy politicising of our once honourable country. The only piece of praise I have ever held for George Brandis was his comment about “the lying little rodent”!
    Gillian Triggs is correct as always.

  7. David

    John Howard was in New York when the Towers went down. Nothing in politics happens by chance. If it happens, it was planned. John Howard was PM when the Port Arthur massacre took place. Again, nothing happens in politics by chance.

    The erosion of human rights in Australia has been orchestrated by the Main Stream Propaganda, led by Rupert. The inmates are now running the asylum in Australia, not the adults. I despair what is happening to the people of Australia and the victims of our concentration camps. Basing politics on the fear, uncertainty and doubt about terrorists coming to get us, is an easy sale. The question gets back to what can we do about it? I won’t see 70 again, but I have decided to switch off the TV, avoid the newspapers, and listen to classics on the FM radio.

    I believe we are being groomed for war. The banks have lost control of the money system, the gold is flowing from west to east, and this situation won’t be allowed to continue. Pity the younger generation!

  8. helvityni

    Agree Kaye Lee, Howard started the mess, Abbott added to it, and now we are in deep sxxt.

    Is there light at the end of this tunnel…?

  9. Don A Kelly

    We live in a society run by corporations and managed by mass media, so they are the only entities that count for LNP politicians. The government is accountable to the people, which means it must explain and justify itself. Everyone is entitled to ask questions. A government that places itself above the people it serves, gags and silences opposing views is Undemocratic and Fascist.

  10. Kaye Lee

    In the blessed absence of NoS, I feel duty bound to point out that Labor has agreed to many of these erosions of human rights for political rather than justifiable reasons.

    “Australia has become, in my view, isolated and exceptional in its approach to the protection of human rights,” Triggs said.

    “Parliamentary representatives are ill-prepared for their traditional and crucial role as the bulwark against the overreach of executive government and as the protectors of fundamental freedoms.

    “Respective parliaments have failed to protect the fundamental human freedoms in Australia, and our judges sadly have not taken up the challenge to strike down legislation that violates common law rights that are as ancient as the Magna Carta.”

  11. paulwalter

    Yes, I’ve often thought that was when the rot set in. Where was Labor when this was going on? On Tampa, Beazley went along with the government instead of letting Howard stew in his own juice and eventually went along with the Iraq lie.

    Why so sullen, some of you may complain, it is just that I have come from an article at the Conversation concerning Jenny Macklin:

    : http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/national/i-could-live-on-the-dole-says-families-minister-jenny-macklin/story-fndo1gb8-1226546184170

    Covers the same story.

  12. Michael

    Ahhh, our political ” leaders’ ” collective 15 minutes of fame = a century (?) of Australia’s shame

  13. kerri

    I watched “The Eichmann Show” on Netflix yesterday (the filming of the trial of Adolph Eichmann) and was struck by the old black and white footage at the end of the movie that showed a journalist explaining that from now on no one could vilify a race of people for “the shape of their nose or the colour of their skin or the way they worship their god”.
    Seems in Australia we can!
    Also seems that the comparisons between the holocaust and Nauru/Manus are accurate after all.

  14. Möbius Ecko

    Let’s not forget that up until the Howard government, government debt wasn’t much of a problem. Howard as Treasurer presided over a massive debt that didn’t bother too many.

    And the incongruity in Howard using debt as a fear and smear tactic is that in opposition he campaigned solely on the foreign account, not government debt. He then went onto to preside over record foreign account deficits without batting a bushy eyebrow, even after he had them professionally plucked and trimmed.

  15. Harquebus

    Who will stop the rot? I can not think of any one person that has the authority, the clout and the willingness to do so. There are many who are able but, they are unwilling. It would mean giving up their precious privileges which, they ain’t gonna do willingly.

    It will have to be the voters and I don’t fancy our chances.

    “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” — Winston Churchill

    When some event exposes the charades that are our economy and pseudo democracy, a ponzi scheme and a corporatocracy respectively then, maybe but, it will have to be soon.

    Considering that the powers that be will pursue their absurd ideologies to their illogical conclusion then, perhaps the inevitable crash and a decent rebuild should be considered rather than continually repairing a fundamentally flawed economic system and substituting one set of corporate mouthpieces for another.

    Whatever the case, in my opinion, the solutions will stem from the local level where one is dependent on those close by.

    Something I came across a few days ago.

    “Without the group, the success of the individual can be greatly hindered. Without individual minds, the success of any group is impossible.”
    “It would behoove us to start constructing our tribes now, rather than after the situation has become grim in the absolute.”

    Another good article.


  16. Lance

    The worst of all of this –whilst surviving — in the legacy of the Horrid Howard Years
    is that the taxpayers– after supporting the Howard’s from the public teet coffers all of their adult lives
    —now —- we the tax payers have to support the Howard’s with handsome retirement remunerations till their graves

    after the man tried on workchoice’s policies and laws to halve taxpayers wages and entitlements from millions of hard working Australians

    The old addage “You can’t insult a bluddger” certainly rings true when talking about these two public purse pilferers

  17. Graeme Henchel

    She is just another politician using ignorance and fears
    To keep herself in the headlines for a few more years
    She’s changed her targets and honed her shtick
    Appealing it seems to the angry and thick

    Who is to blame for the reconstitution
    Of this populist shrew with no real solution
    Somehow I think it’s much more complex
    Than a simple appeal to some racist rednecks

    The fears that she taps are as old as mankind
    Held in the darkest recess of the mind
    Exploited by shysters for thousands of years
    To garner support from gullible ears

    Australia had come a very long way
    From the days when white racists held the sway
    From Menzies to Fraser and Whitlam to Keating
    Saw the country progress and the racists retreating

    When Howard was facing near certain dismissal
    He developed the art of the racist dogwhistle
    First there was Tampa and children overboard
    Then 9/11 ensured that he scored

    Ever since then the cards been in play
    Assylum seekers, Asians, Muslims the prey
    An ugly, divisive, inhuman distraction
    Fuelled along by the medias attraction

    And while this ugly game has been played
    The stupid emboldened the enlightened dismayed
    The rich have got richer the poor not a scrap
    Laying more fertile ground for her populist crap

    She’s in the game for the power and the money
    as cunning as a rat in an outside dunny
    Perhaps it’s a good thing she’s got enough rope
    To show us that hate can’t win over hope

  18. diannaart

    Ode to Pauline Hanson?

  19. kerri

    Oh! And further on the lying little rodent, just watch on Hiwards new show Howard on Menzies as Howard paints Menzies in a bad light!
    Howard has openly contested his record against Menzies in an effort to out PM the former PM.
    He will point out any mistakes Menzies may have made or be perceived to have made in order to make himself look better.

  20. Phil

    @ Harquebus – your avatar refers to a gun – and that website you linked is as far on the mad right as you can get and with a bent for sovereignty – seems you are touting sovereignty, nationalism, conspiracy and the old standard gun rights then? Why?

  21. John Lord

    He was a product of his time. A bad time in history. A good read KAYE. Missed you last week.

  22. Harquebus

    I know better than to use my real name on the internet.

    I read a lot articles from a lot of sites. The link is just one of many that I have come across and I posted it for sharing and to put forward for comment the proposition of responding locally to the global problems that are being imposed on us.
    Who will stop the rot? It has to be us, those at the bottom of the pyramid, somehow. There does not seem to be a global or even a national coherent solution.

    Governments everywhere are appearing incompetent because, they are and they are losing control. Venezuela is one that I am currently keeping a close eye on.

    As I have said many times before, physics trumps political and economic ideology every time and that, is basically what is happening.

  23. Mick Perger

    Howard was also responsible for the destruction of Job security with WorkChoises . Four months before the last election it was reported 165,000 jobs were created , not one was permanent ….

  24. Freethinker

    Nice article Kaye.
    Perhaps Howard start the rot but the people like it and looking at the elections results they like more.
    So, it is the rot that we have to have.
    My question is, how low we can go.

  25. Max Gross

    I don’t know who will stop it but I sure as Hecate know who will not: the Muffin Man, Malcolm Fizzer PM!

  26. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Good on you, Kaye.

    Keep flying the flag for what is good and right for humanity, the environment and other living beings, as Diannaart correctly said at the start.

    I’m not wasting my time on fighting petty left politics with dinosaurs anymore, who put their egos and their reactive parties before the good causes that benefit us all.

  27. Marty Morrison


    Agitate! Agitate! Agitate! Frederick Douglass

  28. Rosemary Jacob

    We need a revolution with people out in the streets all over the country.

  29. wam

    howard left a trail of slime carefully consumed by the rabbot.
    I agree JMS only loonies will stick with the diludbrankim frew fick and fin.
    Don’t be shy, et in and set labor back on task. Let’s begin buy oops by retiring dastyari

  30. Peter F

    Great work, Kaye. I too have been dismayed when the ALP went along with Coalition policy. I am aware though, of the controlling influence of the MSM, particularly Murdoch’s empire. We will only improve when he is no longer around.

  31. Kronomex

    Photo of Howard saying, “My eyebrows used to be this big before I had them trimmed.”

  32. Uncle Davy

    The backstory: Howard is a *clever politician – he had been playing the Race Card – since the late 1980’s (see the SBS doco ‘Once Upon A Time in Punchbowl’). Remember Hanson had been elected to Fed Parliament in ’98 – and ON had scored 11 seats in the QLD elections – taking votes & seats from the LNP. Howard knew he had to do something federally to head her off.

    So, the ‘Tampa Crisis’ was a false-flag operation. As was reported in 2002 on the Channel 9 ‘Sunday’ program (hosted by Jim Waley) there were AFP agents in Indonesia – ostensibly to recruit boat ppl. Howard *knew the refugees hadn’t thrown their children overboard – but it allowed him, with mock indignation, to exclaim “We will decide who comes to this country, and the manner in which they come”. Even in spite of polling higher on the 2PP, Labor didn’t win Government!

  33. Michael Taylor

    Davy, I remember the opinion polls before 9/11. They had the Coalition facing a wipeout.

  34. helvityni

    Before putting my glasses on, I thought the heather picture was a hairy coconut..

  35. Steve Laing

    Can’t beat a nice war to bolster your votes. A trick that Thatcher discovered and Howard copied. Cynical and nasty, but divide and conquer is an easier way to keep power in an adversarial political system than trying to find concensus.

  36. helvityni

    …and Abbott was itching to send our troops somewhere, anywhere, you got to keep fighting.

    Dear old Bronny did so her best to at least look Thatcher-ish…

    By the way, when are those Syrians arriving, has Dutton forgotten about his promise.

  37. diannaart

    How do our pollies look?

    Labor can start to build a cleaner image, right now, by dumping Sam Dystyari – he is, after all, a senator, his removal will not effect the ‘balance of power’.

    Labor and the Greens can keep up the pressure on the Syrian refugee ‘promise’ by Dutton – as Kaye Lee has noted, 29 people is hardly making an effort to help people in need.

    Some good news George Brandis has been told he must give up his precious diaries:


  38. Carol Taylor

    I thought that I’d do Howard a favor and correct his statement for him:

    We’ve My wife decided to insert this into the Marriage Act to make it very plain that that is our view of a marriage (and I wouldn’t dare contradict her or she’s threatened to do a ‘tell all’) and to also make it very plain that the definition of a marriage is something that should rest in the hands ultimately of the parliament of the nation whatever my wife’s opinion might be,” Howard said.

  39. townsvilleblog

    It defies belief that the politically aware are calling out for a federal Crime and Corruption Commission yet the only party advocating for it is The Greens. There has been a massive shift of public money away from Australian working families in the past 3 years, yet the Labor Party cannot get the media opportunity to explain this to everyday Australians. Labor would benefit from being the oldest and the first political party in Australia to demovratize itself.

  40. townsvilleblog

    Carol Taylor September 6, 2016 at 10:46 am right on Carol, as vicious and evil as he is he is under the thumb.

  41. Kaye Lee


    “The full bench of the federal court dismissed Brandis’s appeal and ordered him to pay Dreyfus’s costs.”

    And just who will be paying THAT bill?

  42. Carol Taylor

    Diannart, now let me see. Dastyari did the wrong thing, but interesting that it’s taken around 2 years for the Libs to complain and only after Sam became an effective advocate as a counter to the anti-Muslim extremists. The LNP have therefore spent the entire week demanding that Shorten sack Dastyari while at the same time backtracking on any criminality involved. All that they’ve got is that because at one time Dastyari backed China’s stance on the South China Sea issue (since recanted), and received a gift (since donated to charity) therefore he MUST BE on China’s payroll. A large stretch..guilt by association.

    One small problem – spotted in wee tiny writing and hidden right at the end of the article (where they thought few would see it), included by The Australian is the fact that LIBERAL MP David Coleman actually hosted the event at the Australia-China Relations Institute attended by Bob Carr and Sam Dastyari. Oh yes, and Mr Coleman somehow ‘forgot’ to put the catering on his register of interests. That is, Dastyari organised the event and Liberal MP Coleman hosted it. Wow..that’s such a scandal…

    I’m with Shorten, let the right wing media jump up and down, let the LNP do their demanding, stick with your people and support them, be united and never, ever do something just because the LNP and their cheer squad in the Murdoch media tell you that you have to.

  43. helvityni

    Dastyari’s minor mishap drowns in the sea of the sins and wrong-doings of the Liberals; we can’t all be lilywhite like Bernardi , Brandis, Dutton, Morrison and rest of them…

  44. Freethinker

    Is the Rolex gifts affair all forgotten?
    Some times make you wonder if some politicians do not go to Italy to learn “few tricks of the trade” at the cost of us the tax payers.

  45. Kaye Lee

    In May 2014 – a month after negotiations on the free trade agreement with Japan ended and when Japan was seeking a contract to build our submarines – Tony Abbott declared a Shimano Dura-Ace bicycle gears and wheels and an assembly voucher from Mr Abe.

    Tony Abbott, Stuart Robert and Ian Macfarlane were given $250,000 worth of watches out of a plastic bag by Chinese instant noodle billionaire Li Ruipeng.

    Companies linked to Chinese conglomerate Yuhu Group made a donation to then trade minister Andrew Robb’s fundraising entity the day the trade deal was clinched.

    Chinese businessmen with links to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop have donated half a million dollars to the Western Australian division of the Liberal Party during the past two years, political disclosures reveal.

    All the donors have links to the Chinese government, and the vast bulk of the money was given by companies with no apparent business interests in WA. Ms Bishop, the leading federal member of the party in that state, has singled out each of the three key donors for praise.

    Several of the donations have been obscured by the channelling of funds via executives or related companies, or by the donors’ failure to disclose them to the Australian Electoral Commission, in apparent breach of Commonwealth law.

    Sam’s $1600 was a stupid mistake but he sure ain’t the only one to make it and it pales into insignificance in comparison.

  46. Wayne Turner

    100% spot on,and why Howard is one of the worst PM’s this country has ever had – His negative legacy lives on,from the Iraq disaster,to the “ok to be a bigot”, to “middle class to upper class” welfare,and the “selfish” turn of most Australian’s.Plus he is a serial liar.That wasted the mining boom.

    What makes Howard even worse,is that plenty of people still think he was a good PM.

  47. Michael

    Kaye Lee September 6, 2016 at 11:05 am

    “The full bench of the federal court dismissed Brandis’s appeal and ordered him to pay Dreyfus’s costs.”
    And just who will be paying THAT bill?

    Put it up for auction/tender – all invited!

  48. helvityni

    Freethinker, I think they do go to Italy, Albo once famously called Turnbull the Merchant of Venice…

    I wish they also learnt from the Italians how to treat the asylum seekers humanely…

  49. diannaart


    While you, quite rightly, took issue with my suggestion that Labor can divest itself of Dystyari without too much loss, I was doing some further research, seems Dystyari (I admit I am ignorant unless something drops on my head), was a part of the great Cayman Island Expose. Turnbull has reason to find some dirt of Dystyari… so it goes…


    Labor senator Sam Dastyari, who has done really important work highlighting corporate tax avoidance and appalling behaviour by financial planners, led the charge against Turnbull. But on this occasion the senator didn’t quite go the distance.

    A shame, Turnbull was able to slime his way out.

    In summary, I believe the sooner that donations are vetoed from the hands of our politicians the sooner we can focus on governance as opposed to revenge politics. Both Labor and the LNP have form – if we can’t have a federal ICAC, then stopping the flow of money-with-strings-attached would be one of the best things that could happen in our years of dismal politics.

  50. Kieran Butler

    The seeds were sown in 1996 when Martin Bryant went to Number 1 in the world for most people killed in a shooting spree.

    Howard’s government was already rubbish and he was only a month in. Remember core and non-core promises? The banning of guns (which everyone always praises Howard for) was really a cynical attempt to redefine his government which was already under pressure.

    Howard wanted to look tough. However, it pissed off the red necks who coalesced around Hanson and One Nation in response. As Hanson became prominent, she began writing the future LNP policy that Howard would appropriate entirely by 2001.

    Australia began to go terribly wrong the moment Bryant fired off the first few rounds. He was the catalyst. Ironic isn’t it, a nation that’s history is rooted in the massacres of it’s indigenous people, is defined by a modern massacre.

  51. Freethinker

    Today in the news, Andrew Wilkie, the Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young and three Danish politicians have been refused a visa to visit Nauru this year.

    This shows that these draconian government and the one from Nauru have something to hide.

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