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Tag Archives: asylum seekers

Asylum seekers languish through the job summit

In the week of the Albanese government’s job summit, the immigration department again sent out a raft of letters to bridging visa holders in Queensland advising them it was time to reapply to rollover their permission to stay in Australia. While politicians and sector representatives debated whether we needed skilled and unskilled migrants to tackle the workforce shortfall, a substantial group remain in the country in limbo and barely tapped.

This round of letters does not have the attachment containing the phrase that Labor added post-election victory: “The Australian Government’s policies have not changed and unauthorised maritime arrivals will not be settled permanently in Australia.” There remains crippling fear and powerlessness, however, in a group of people who have waited a decade to know if we will grant them safety.

In the years since most arrived, the world has only become more desperate. The Taliban have taken back Afghanistan, and the account of the women’s soccer team given safe haven in Australia illustrates how nightmarish conditions are for ethnic and religious minorities like the Hazara, or city dwellers who had embraced the opportunities protected by the western presence. Pakistan, whence many refugees from Afghanistan embark, has currently lost one third of its land to epochal floods. The rapid glacial melt augmenting the deluge promises future drought and worsening tensions with India as both nations depend on glacial melt for much of their water supply.

Sri Lanka is a shambles, with starvation and medical shortages hitting the Tamil population even worse than the rest of the country. The Rajapaksa clan’s corruption, ignored by friendly Coalition governments, is only one of the reasons the economy crashed. Like similar nations, they face a range of threats to their people’s survival, with IMF loan conditions being a substantial part of the problem.

We can’t be certain why the Albanese government has been so slow to flag what will happen to the processing backlog, and those trapped by Rudd’s desperate promise that maritime arrivals would never settle here. (Not to mention the few hundred unlucky souls abandoned on Manus and Nauru.)

It is clear Labor has overlearnt the lessons that brought Rudd down. Not only do they fear the might of the mining lobby’s PR campaigns, but the myth-making of the Murdoch organs that refugees are an existential threat. There are many factors that caused the arrival of more boats after Rudd ended the Pacific Solution in 2007, push factors large among them. It is clear, however, that the ethically dubious boat turnbacks make maritime arrivals almost impossible. Persecuting individuals as a “deterrent” is a vile reflection on one of the founding nations of the Refugee Convention.

Both Richard Marles and Kristina Keneally echoed a number of harsh talking points belonging to the Coalition in their time in the Shadow ministry. Labor kept Mike Pezzullo as secretary of Home Affairs, a role he’d held since 2018, after he turned on Scott Morrison over the election day text messaging scandal. Pezzullo assumed that role from his previous leadership of the immigration department from 2014. Under his leadership, the nation-building role of immigration was stripped, and Pezzullo’s experience in Customs colonised the department. Asylum seekers were treated like a potential pest outbreak to be extinguished with malice. The system functions to deny refuge to genuine refugees, careless of our treaty obligations. It is uncertain whether Clare O’Neil has the strength or desire to counter Pezzullo or to rebuild a department gutted of quality.

Australia’s humanitarian intake over the last decade has been shamefully low in times of record global displacement. Andrew Giles, immigration minister, has been spruiking a refugee sponsorship program. Labor has reduced the Coalition’s prohibitive costs for the design, but it remains a hollow echo of the exceptional Canadian program that continues to build a warm and welcoming nation with extensive support networks around sponsored arrivals. The 1,500 places that the Australian program plans to allow over three years remains within the current humanitarian allowance – set at a pitiful 13,750 humanitarian visas per year. (Even this small number has largely not been granted since the pandemic took hold.)

Our treatment of our allies in Afghanistan over the last year has been mortifying. Australia has proven to future local allies that we have no honour and will not stand by them when their value to us has ceased. The imminence of their death has no impact on that equation. Valiant efforts by veterans to counter this dishonour had little impact on a Coalition government where the colour of skin or faith of the applicant is more significant than their need. We found many more places for Ukrainian refugees with a rapidity that highlighted the bigotry at the heart of our failures elsewhere. The small additional commitment to those at risk from the Taliban (that the Morrison government was forced to make to keep church support) was spread over four years. This is no doubt convenient because most of those who wish to come will probably have been murdered by the Taliban.

The Albanese government needs to lead Australians in a discussion about the nation we are to be. Will we allow the Great Replacement fears underpinning Coalition government policy to continue to shape the nation we are building? This myth that (Jewish) elite forces are importing immigrants to replace the white population appears to be one that the Murdochs allow to be promoted. Are we planning to accept their propaganda, allowing it to mainstream the white supremacist radicalisation taking place on social media?

Instead we should echo the Canadian experiment much more wholeheartedly. There, generous allocations of places have been made to countries in crisis. In addition to those numbers, community groups such as religious organisations can back small groups sponsoring individuals and families to come to Canada. The money required for the process is paid into a bank account to support the sponsored for a year while they find their feet. It is fast, fair and inclusive. Part of the effect has been to foster welcome amongst the broader Canadian community as they engage personally with the new arrivals’ story and settling. We need an amnesty with support for the current caseload and people on temporary visas, to incorporate them into the community and workforce.

It is heartwarming to watch the stories of people embracing the Canadian nation which has worked so efficiently to grant them safe haven, to reunite them with their family, to make them part of community. As an Australian, it hurts to see our failures thrown into stark relief by the contrast.

This was first published in Pearls and Irritations.

 

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ScoMo plays Djoko but Dutton buys tanks

“Nine years long” reads a handmade sign in a sealed window of the Park Hotel, Swanston Street, Carlton, a grim, grey, makeshift, Melbourne gaol for forty-six refugees and asylum-seekers. Most were originally locked up on Papua New Guinea and Manus Island. Now the men are held against their will indefinitely, in contempt of international convention, compassion and human decency. Their food is mouldy and has weevils in it. A couple of floors catch fire in December, but no-one is allowed to leave the building.

Novak Djokovic also lobs here, Wednesday to Monday, a world champion reduced to persona non grata, after Border Force cancels his visa, but – in a sensational comeback – after Monday’s federal court hearing, he’s released into the care of his lawyer$.

The Park Hotel is a far cry from the Serb’s mountainside mansion in Monte Carlo, where he lives tax free. True, he has an incredible portfolio of luxury properties all over the world. New York. Miami. Soho. Even a penthouse in New Belgrade. But Border Force give him no option. Cancel his visa. Lock him up with the other poor sods.

But not for ever, Federal Court Judge, Anthony Kelly quashes the cancellation of Djokovic’s visa on procedural fairness. Border Force breaks a promise.

It’s a technical victory for the tennis star. Border Force fails to keep its word that Djokovic has until 8.30am to seek advice about his pending cancellation, instead cancelling his visa at 7.42am to finish the business before one officer’s shift ends.

Now the international tennis champion, antivaxxer, kinesiologist and property tycoon awaits a call from Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, a mate of the PM, a fellow evangelical and Morrison’s numbers man in the NSW party machine.

Mike Seccombe sees Hawke as a man made in the image of his mentor “hard-charging and abrasive”, an MP reviled by both wings of the party.

Seccombe, writes in The Saturday Paper detailing how Hawke’s leadership of Morrison’s faction in NSW, the centre-right, and his work as ScoMo’s delegate on the party’s state executive has been a catastrophe for the PM. An insider claims Hawke,

“has used his time as Morrison’s representative on the state executive in an endeavour to advance their factional position to the detriment of both conservatives and the moderates – to the point now where the conservatives and the moderates are in an alliance against Hawke. And that means against Morrison.”

In brief, Morrison’s Mini-Me is just the man to forge consensus and garner party support on the Djokovic fiasco, a blunder that splits a parliamentary party already frantic at the PM’s catastrophic failure on the pandemic, the economy, trade – everything he touches. Will the Serbian serve the coup de grâce to Morrison’s corrupted, clapped-out career?

It’s a mystery drama with a dilemma. Morrison’s Pentecostal pal, Hawke has the power to cancel Djokovic’s visa. Or Morrison, a notoriously sore loser, a man with a glass jaw, who hates us to see he’s a fool, looks a right royal prat. Which way it will go?

Hawke decides not to cancel Djokovic’s visa Monday night. He has four hours to use his personal power, under section 133 A or 133C(3) of the Migration Act 1958 if the Morrison government wants to try to keep the tennis champion in detention. Instead, he’ll let us know, Tuesday. In the meantime he discovers his party is divided.

Meanwhile it’s leaked that Border Force, our PM’s personal paramilitary is concerned the Serb or his agent may have lied on his travel declaration.

An alley cat toys with a six foot two mouse. It’s a PMO tactic to stretch out the saga; string us along. Distract. Helps distance Morrison from his minister’s act.

Meanwhile, Omicron ravages the nation while rapid antigen tests (RATS) and booster shots just can’t be found. Federal government policy in the face of a catastrophic rise in cases is a DIY testing regime. PCR test centres are overwhelmed, revealing yet again the wisdom of neoliberal outsourcing and privatisation of public health.

In an echo of its former inglorious failures, our Health Department didn’t order enough RATS. Or boosters. This helps shrink ballooning case numbers. As does the shrewd requirement that you phone in your result. Or making us pay. Other nations provide the tests free. But unless you’re a concession card holder, you pay. Or if you’re one of the millions in low paid casual work, the third of the workforce with no paid sick leave entitlement of leave, you simply do without. Such are your freedoms.

Reports of profiteering or “price gouging” as our “medium” prefers, proliferate. In an inspiring act of charity, the PM shares how his Jen is shopping for RATs, scouring Sydney’s more select suburbs, on a search and supply mission. Making herself useful. Having a go. Just one of us, really. It’s an uplifting fantasy of a Mum on struggle-street where Dad earns half a mill a year plus free board, lodging, transport and healthcare.

Also consoling to a nation wracked by coronavirus psychosis, a heady blend of fear, anxiety, depression and sheer despair is Spud’s uplifting shopping news.

Defence minister Dutton orders 120 yank tanks and other armoured vehicles, because you just don’t know when you’ll have to quell an ugly uprising by the poor. Suddenly submarines and long range anti-panda missiles are out Tanks and Humvees are in.

Spud finds a lazy $3.5 billion down the back of Abbott’s padded Defence Budget. The budgie smuggler pledged two percent of GDP to waste on war toys and other defence over-expenditure. Just for the optics. Make Labor look weak on national security.

Billions are wasted on new toys: replacing the ’59 Abrams M1A1s we bought in 2007, still in mint condition and unused in battle bar the odd ‘Roo shoot and bush bash.

As US imperialist running dogs of the century, we love buying America’s castoffs. Even obsolete military hardware can be a boon in a pandemic. A tank, or two, can help clear any congested supermarket carpark. Counter insurgency thrives in tight corners. Be just in time to quell bread riots as shelves empty across the nation. Besides hunger games, there’s the prospect of ugly insurrection over our fossil fuel mania, our ecocide.

Equally comforting in Morrison’s PsyOps is an image of the PM with a platter of two barramundi. Let’s just get Humpty Doo Barra home delivered like the Morrisons. It’s heady, aspirational stuff that helps us pull ourselves together in time of need. Almost as helpful as knowing we’ve got government ministers who can do what they like.

Hawke’s “personal power” as Immigration Minister allows him also to let the men banged up in the Park Hotel be released into the community. Or hospital. At least twenty are now sick with Covid. Not that you’d find space for ten now. Still, a triage in a taxi or a tent can save your life. If you can afford the fare. Or you can still walk.

But Hawke goes MIA. At The Park, medical care means you get one Panadol, dry, although a guard does say hospitalisation will be provided to the one or two who may need it, based on Omicron’s mild effect on the rest of the population. But that’s it.

A chap who asks for ginger to gargle to ease his Covid-affected sore throat is ignored.

Formerly, The Rydges on Swanston, The Park was May’s COVID-19 top super spreader, triggering Victoria’s second, deadly wave of coronavirus. Hundreds die. Almost all seven thousand infections, which devastate the state, are traced back to overseas arrivals at the hotel. Now it’s shaping up for an Omicron encore.

It’s a timely reminder of the Morrison government’s wisdom in not providing dedicated quarantine – and it also highlights our ongoing war on The Other which helps keep us safe, feeling relaxed and comfortable and gets Tory MPs re-elected.

Political prisoners, hidden in our midst, in shabby hotels, across Australia are suddenly thrust into the spotlight when Djokovic, Tennis World Champion, has his Visa cancelled by Border Force on arrival at Melbourne to play in The Australian Open. Is the refugee publicity an unforced error? Or are non-citizens now completely invisible?

We lead the world in secret prison camps. Calling them “detention centres” stops any hint that they are gulags. And how good is the word “processing” instead of indefinite, detention? But where we really shine is in throwing away the key.

On average, an asylum-seeker sentence in Australia is currently 689 days. Even in the US, it’s 55 days, unless they put you in Gitmo. In Canada it’s a fortnight. All you need do is arrive here by sea. It’s not a crime to seek asylum but the government still call you illegals. Neglect, maltreat and abuse you. Call you by a number, never your name.

Then PM, Abbott tells the UN to butt out in 2015, when Professor Juan Mendez, Special Rapporteur on Torture finds Australia’s asylum seeker policies violate the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Bugger rules-based order. Abbott is quick to declareAustralians are “sick of being lectured to by the United Nations.” Professor Mendez says Australia has failed to provide adequate detention conditions and that it should end the detention of children. Biloela? None of his business. Now the Park Hotel is a stark reminder on nightly TV.

Team Morrison banks on most of us not caring. Scoring points with the “tough on borders” voter. PMO advisers hope to capitalise on public outrage that a travel exemption has been made for a multi-millionaire sporting star, while families are unable to get together at Christmas. Time for a quick pivot on the politics of Djokovic’s entry.

“People are welcome in Australia. But if you’re not double vaccinated and you’re not an Australian resident or citizen, well, you can’t come,” the PM says 6 January.

Could this be the PM’s Tampa Crisis? A show of manly decisiveness. Upstage his pandemic catastrophe. Curiously, they said the same of Morrison in 2019, normalising Howard’s chicanery and cynical dog-whistling to racists, xenophobes and One Nation supporters. Yet now, opinion polls suggest that wedging your opponents with the politics of race to is unlikely to be the silver bullet Morrison so desperately needs. People just can’t avoid seeing him as a monstrous failure, a fraud and a career liar.

Guardian Australia’s Essential Poll finds that only 37 percent of us believe immigration levels are too high, down from 56 percent in 2019. Yet it remains a divisive issue.

But how good is a distracting scapegoat – especially one which lets Mo remind us all how he invented Border Force, border protection, boat turnbacks to politicise xenophobia, racism and total indifference to the plight of those forced to flee their countries of origin by boat? Two-year-wonder- PM Tony Abbott did much the same toward the end of his miserable prime ministership, largely run by his office.

“I stopped the boats,” Abbott reminds us, a lie that overlooks the Rudd government’s 2013 Pacific Solution announcement that “asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia”. Push factors such as the end of the Afghanistan war helped. Neither Tony Abbott nor Scott Morrison, stopped the boats.

Morrison is on to Djokovic’s extradition like a rat up a drainpipe. But it’s a rapid backflip even for a shit-house rat or a cunning, opportunistic politician. The PM hasn’t bothered to tell Home Affairs’ head, Karen Andrews. Someone has to go under a bus when there’s a country to run. Yet Andrews is on record as expressing a dissenting view.

Djokovic’s unvaccinated status disqualifies him for a visa but, somehow, in cahoots with one of our overweening, “peak bodies” in our pantheon of sport, the temple of Tennis Australia, (TA) Home Affairs Minister Andrews has written to the grand slam champion telling him that he has “a medical exemption”. Did TA dictate, ever mindful of its gate?

So powerful are our sporting organisations that they can tell federal governments what to do. Or at least they can try. And some are down on their luck in a pandemic.

Or was there federal government collusion to waive the big star through the visa process until it discovered that such an exemption did not sit at all well with fans?

Tennis Australia is said to be on its last $2.4 million after what The Australian (paywalled) reports as a $100 million Covid hit. Now TA’s borrowed $80 mill from the State of Victoria. It’s not only keen to get back in the game, clearly, it also has a formidable fan base. Our sports empires, or “governing bodies” as they are known are no strangers to wheeling and dealing. The game of mates. Or a bit of power play.

Tennis Australia puts the lob into lobbying.

Now things get messy. Health Minister, Greg Hunt, writes to Tennis Australia, CEO Craig Tiley, 29 November 2021, stating clearly that people who had tested positive to Covid-19 within six months do not meet exemption requirements to enter the country. But does he show the letter to Kaz? Does he ever intend to? It’s a line-ball decision.

Has Ms Andrews been set up? Morrison’s office is a Bermuda Triangle of careers that just disappear without trace -especially women’s careers -despite PMO lip-service to internal inquiry and promises, one day, to implement every one of Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins’ recommendations in her Set The Standard review.

Or could Home Affairs’ letter of acceptance be a figment of Djokovic’s imagination? His quack doctor has him on a weird diet. What he fails to provide is evidence in the form of a positive PCR test of his having had COVID-19 in the last six months. Or twice, depending on which account you read. Is he on some macrobiotic hallucinogen?

Or is it just testosterone? What is clear is the outrage from Belgrade. Is Serbia’s hero lured to Australia to be humiliated? Serbia’s President, Aleksandar Vučić says he’d do the same to Morrison should our PM ever visit. He’d have no trouble selling tickets.

Vučić vows to “fight” for Djokovic to be able to enter Australia. Another diplomatic shit storm brews. Morrison’s government alienated France after the PM lies about welching on our submarine deal in favour of AUKUS and nuclear subs we can’t even crew.

As for our biggest trading partner, China, President Xi won’t even speak to Canberra; responding instead with a trade war after Australia calls for an inquiry into the origins of the “Wuhan Flu”, pandering to conspiracy theorists and others who would like to blame China for the coronavirus pandemic. Sabre-rattling Defence Minister Dutton talks up war, Canberra must be prepared for whatever lurks “on or below the horizon”.

Across the ditch, Jacinda Ardern is miffed that we repatriate Kiwi-born Australian residents who break the law. Many were children when they left the land of the long white cloud. “Taking the trash out,” Peter Dutton calls his deporting of New Zealand offenders. If that sticks in your craw, kiwi crayfish are selling for a hundred dollars a pop in China as our federal government’s trade war sinks our own export businesses.

A $3 million marketing campaign by federal government to entice New Zealanders, is not going so well. Bookings are down 76 per cent year-on-year for the four weeks from April 19. Our pacific island workforce is also inexplicably smaller this year.

Migrant workers are critical to Australia’s farming sector and food security. What is shameful are the conditions leading so many to abscond, notes Deakin University’s Victoria Stead.

Is Morrison aiming for his own grand slam in alienating the world? Pay them back for treating him as a sick joke on curbing carbon emissions, flouting refugee conventions, and lying. Or does he just not care? As he tells Annabel Crabb on Kitchen Cabinet.

Lying? Djokovic does have a document bearing the Serbian Institute of Sport’s letterhead, which says he caught Covid 16 December. Yet there’s no medical test evidence, sniffs Home Affairs Supremo Andrews who is refused an extension to postpone the federal circuit court hearing of his case until Wednesday.

Clearly, she’s been left right out of the loop, standard operating procedure for Federal Liberals with their record of misogyny, sexism, secrecy and captain’s calls.

“The tail won’t be wagging the dog here”, Judge Anthony Kelly says

Kelly’s quip may be a sly dig at PistoI and Boo, Johnny Depp and then partner Amber Heard’s Yorkshire Terriers who, accidentally, helped us to show our borders are tough.

The stars forgot to quarantine their pets. In 2015, a righteously “tough on illegal immigrants” Barnaby Joyce threatened to euthanise the “illegally imported” pair of mutts (the pets not the actors) if they weren’t out of the country on the next plane. A document was alleged to be forged.

Heard has recently named one of her new dogs Barnaby Joyce in honour of the fiasco.

Djokovic is known for his dogged tenacity. Certainly, for a man with Covid, the star has wasted no time lying doggo in iso. A photo emerges on social media of the Serbian hero unmasked in public 17 December at a state ceremony to honour him by presenting him with a set of Serbian National postage stamps bearing his photogenic image.

For someone with a potentially deadly viral infection, Djokovic is quite the social butterfly, appearing not only to be in rude good health, but actively engaging with young people. Hugs and back pats. On December 17, he participates an open PR event. Images appear of the star embracing children at an awards ceremony at an event organised by the Tennis Association of Belgrade. Talk about infectious goodwill.

But that’s not all that’s caught in the spotlight; illuminated is an inept, cruel and increasingly desperate Morrison government which will do anything to divert us from its failures. Our PM threatens to shirt-front the Serb; put him on the next plane home. By Monday, this is toned down and Morrison’s office puts out word of amicable discussion between our PM and his Serbian counterpart – in which Morrison explains our rules.

But Djokovic is used to winning from behind. It’s his trademark. Along with abusing injury time out. With help from friends in high places in Belgrade “the Serbinator” successfully lodges an appeal against his extradition.

This is not the outcome that Morrison’s office had in mind. Or is it?

Djokovic’s lock-up is a political intercept; a stunt to distract from the Morrison regime’s disastrous mismanagement of the pandemic which by Monday, reaches 972,000 cases, after restrictions are abruptly eased in a backflip which Morrison calls Living with the Virus aka Playing with Fire as the Omicron variant rages through the population, bringing an already over-stressed hospital system to the point of collapse.

Welcome to Shitshow 2.0, an homage to Bill Shorten’s zinger: “it’s not a race” the Morrison government’s first, vaccine stroll-out fiasco, a display of extraordinary ineptitude, disinformation, outright lies and rapid back-flips.

In Shitshow 2.0 business meets the PM in secret to force sick workers in supply chains back to work. No workers’ representatives are present, nor is the ACTU invited, its secretary, Sally McManus warns. Not only does his “small” government mandate work for sick workers, it helps spread infection. Talk about sharing and caring.

But look over there! Border protection opportunity knocks. Dead cat on table time. Cancel Novak, Djokovic’s visa. What a stroke of genius.

Once again, despite a battalion of advisers and all of Scotty’s military escort, JJ Frewen’s much-vaunted, spit’n polish, military efficiency plus weapons-grade logistical expertise, it is painfully obvious that the Morrison government has stuffed up everything.

True there’s a bit of help from a friend, NSW Premier, Dom Perrottet who “lets her rip.” Now he must mend the tears to the fabric of NSW society and its tanking economy.

There are no Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) but the public must use them and phone in their results because PCR testing, heavily outsourced to private firms collapses. Boosters are dwindling. Hospitals are not coping. Doctors are angry and exhausted.

315785 active cases, underestimates the true number just in NSW. Self-administered tests are yet to be recorded, while others don’t bother to get tested. Some experts say the real number could be as much as 5-10 times higher.

  • 2,186 are admitted to hospital
  • 170 are in intensive care
  • 51 require ventilation

Hospitals are stretched. “Elective” surgery cancelled. Not only are too many cases being admitted, thousands of workers must be spelled because they have been exposed. Some simply resign in exhaustion and frustration; cross the border to work in Queensland where wages and conditions are higher and a government which is not infected with crazy libertarianism.

Everywhere there are long queues to get tested while RATs just can’t be found. Supermarket shelves are stripped bare. Customers stay at home while shops close their doors. Making it even harder on business and consumer, there’s no JobKeeper.

Yet to hear Scott Morrison, he’s a paragon of quiet, modest diligence as he quietly reassures those attending a Sydney Institute Dinner last week.

“What is most important to me as Prime Minister is that I seek to humbly do everyday things that make Australia even stronger than we are today, both now and in the future.”

Morrison’s hypocrisy is boundless. The humble housekeeper pose is laughable coming from the man who warned Julia Banks “I. am. The. Prime. Minister.”

The Bronte bogan loves a motivational slogan,

“There’s no guidebook to COVID. We all know that. And so what I think is important is the country just focuses on the task ahead. Keep looking through that windscreen. That’s where I’m looking. We’re looking forward.

Inspirational or terrifying? Government is not a self-driving Tesla. Shoulders right back, no hands on the wheel and eyes on the road ahead Morrison, is a black-belt in bumper-sticker wit and witless boosterism. And lashings of public self-adoration.

But no-one’s fooled. The task ahead is our Prime Narcissist’s own squalid political survival, not the public good or the welfare of the commonwealth. He’s a ruthless pragmatist, a truculent bully whose sole goal is to stay on top of the dung-heap; maintain his own undeserving, increasingly threatened ascendancy.

Today, Morrison wrests control of his party by appeasing its libertarians whose influence has grown since the charismatic John Howard inspired them to “big themselves up”. Despite presiding over our biggest government since Curtin, the PM declares stumps and pivots; announcing that it’s time for government to butt out of peoples’ lives.

No-one believes a word Morrison says but we all know he will say or do anything. And say and do something else tomorrow. Then deny both. Witness his witless excrescence at a cricket match, Saturday, “Australians taking wickets in the virus” while grandstanding in the Ashes commentary box on day three of the fourth Test at the SCG.

While shoppers fight over toilet tissue in panic buying and Australians are intubated in ICUs and hospitals are stretched beyond capacity and then some, only Scott Morrison would seek to buoy the spirits of a nation with a bizarre cricketing analogy.

Morrison excels in buck passing. Our fearless, leader’s fortune-cookie windscreen wisdom inspires a claque of fellow travellers; no ideas persons, moral pygmies, clowns, contrarian libertarians and fellow former apparatchiks in the confederation of dunces which passes itself off as Australia’s federal government.

Yet his latest move is to exhume the pernicious myth of personal responsibility, a version of Margaret Thatcher’s nonsense. No such thing as society, she declared.

2022, the Great Evader declares will be The Year of Taking Responsibility. AKA I’m all right Jack – and bugger the rest of you. There’s no guidebook for Covid, he lies. He’s an expert at not reading the map. Ignoring or contradicting expert advice. His ministers share a vision, an adolescent Hayekian fantasy that sanctions doing nothing .

Once we take personal responsibility for our own health, a free market will cure all. Cue the sound of one invisible hand clapping. A wag in the Canberra press gallery tackles health minister, Hunt, over his government’s lack of any clear plan to procure rapid antigen tests, last October. The Minister snaps “let that market develop”.

Living with Covid is Mo’s latest backflip, undoing two years of containment. No more nanny state. Buy your own bloody test kits. Under pressure, he backs down. Some of us may access ten free tests every three months. 6.6 million concession card holders across the nation are overjoyed. Such fun trying to find a test supplier.

Sensing a dip in credibility according to recent NewsPolls and still smarting at being an international laughing-stock because of his behaviour at last year’s G20 COP26 with its green hydrogen and “technology not taxes” claptrap, a green-washing of mining business as usual, Morrison opts for yet another cop-out. And a dead cat.

In a heaven-sent opportunity for distraction and tough-talking, his private militia, Border Force cancels anti-vax, health crank Djokovic’s visa and puts him up in the Park.

Acing the champion tennis player certainly gets everyone’s attention. An astute Djokovic clan member declares our PM “not a human being”. But Morrison loves a fuss, especially a heady brew of sport and the institutionalised racism of “tough on borders” rhetoric, despite some of the most porous borders in the world. If you fly in.

We’ll decide who gets into our Australian Open and the manner in which they do so.

Taking Personal Responsibility, a staple of Reagan and Thatcher political misrule, is a ruse to cover the Morrison government’s utter ineptitude. As it abandons all pretence at keeping Australia safe, it shifts the blame to the victim of the latest wave of the pandemic, a wave that appears fit to swamp us all.

Let ‘er rip. Politics trumps science, with the help of Neoliberal econobabble, the perversion of economics fetishised by such exalted local Tory politicians as NSW’s Dominic Perrottet or Josh Frydenberg, Treasurer of our nation’s federal Coalition of mining, business and finance Muppets. Omicron, the latest mutant variant of SARS-COVID-19 surges, bringing our infection rate to match the United States.

It’s a shameful, culpable dereliction of duty and abdication of responsibility that we also see in in fellow clown, Boris Johnson, muppet of the UKs Policy Exchange boffins, a front for corporate greed, fair wages and anthropogenic climate change denial.

Locally, our own mineral and Business Council flogs wag the dog of Morrison government. Rupert, Gina, Andrew and Kerry and their merry band of ruling oligarchs now urge sick workers to man the supply chains lest profits or fall or business founder.

To them, also Morrison must seem a liability. Morrison and his government may have been useful fools for a while but their future looks increasingly uncertain cloudy now they threaten to cost our oligarchs their profits.

Whilst voices with the sound of money in them call for an end to the Djokovic sideshow, there is a chance the debacle of the un-cancelling of a tennis player’s visa may alert the nation to other ways its federal government falls short in humanity and democracy. The Australian Open’s biggest drawcard may prove a Djoker in the pack.

The saga of a tennis star’s visa cancellation certainly serves to highlight the incalculable damage the federal government is suffering as it utterly fails to deal with a pandemic catastrophe which its own Libertarian easing of restrictions helped create. It also exposes a mind-boggling degree of incompetence and miscommunication, of posturing and dissembling that would be comic were it not so toxic to the health of the commonwealth.

 

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Scott Morrison Tells Us That The Bell Hasn’t Rung…

It was strangely ironic when Scottie told us last Saturday, “we will stand up for what we believe until the bell rings – the bell hasn’t rung.”

It was ironic because I’d been thinking that if the current government was a boxing match, the referee would surely have stopped the fight. I mean, when you have one boxer staggering around, not sure who he’s fighting, it’s clearly time to get the doctors to check him…

Although, on that basis, Abbott would have been gone years ago.

Of course, the trouble with the Liberals is that they don’t stand up for what they believe. Ok, they have a few times, but it’s been electoral suicide. Take Fightback ’93 as an example! Or Workchoices 2007, if you’re not that old.

In 1993, I wrote that the Liberals couldn’t work out what the lesson from Hewson’s loss in the unloosable election was. Ok, I wrote it on a bit of paper so I can’t find exactly what I wrote, but that simply means that – like the Liberals – I can pretend and nobody can call me out. Anyway, I remember writing that the Liberals couldn’t work out whether elections were about offering up a vision of an alternative future and if that vision was rejected, well, that’s democracy and we should change what we offer OR we take a stand on what we believe and we keep arguing for that until we bring the people along with us.

In the aftermath of ’93, they tended to explode and say things like, “We told them what we’d do and that was a mistake. We’ll never do that again!”

Ok, I’m not quoting directly, but if you want to search for quotes, I’ll bet you can find someone saying something pretty close… Actually, when I think about it, that’s pretty close to an accurate reflection of everything they’ve done since.

But back to the present…

There seems to be a strange view about the Wentworth by-election which goes something like this:

“No, we don’t need to reconsider our policies in light of the result because this is all down to one simple thing. It was a very, very silly thing to remove Malcolm as leader and that was all his fault, so we don’t need to think that maybe it was all about the policies and nobody gave a tinker’s cuss about Malcolm because clearly this was because everyone loved Malcolm but not because he seemed to want policies more in touch with the majority of Australia than the rest of us: it was personal. He was trying to push the party to the left so we got rid of him because people didn’t want that but unfortunately people didn’t realise that they didn’t want it and got angry because we got rid of this man because, well, he quit, we didn’t get rid of him…Sorry, what was the question?”

Yes, when Scott Morrison said, “This wasn’t unexpected,” on Saturday night, I had to wonder why wasn’t it? And not just because he used a double negative instead of saying, “This was expected.” I mean, yes, if I have three glasses of scotch, finish off the bottle of wine, see how many times I can spin around and then try to climb onto a table and dance, when I fall over and do some damage, the line, “This wasn’t unexpected,” may be true for anyone that witnessed the previous ten minutes, but the people who asked me to babysit an hour or two before, would be thinking that, while the end damage wasn’t unexpected, the drinking and twirling wasn’t something that they factored in before they entrusted their child to me.

Ok, nobody, would be silly enough to let me babysit. Unless they voted Liberal where they entrusted the whole country to Scott Morrison. To be fair, at the last election they thought they were entrustring it to Malcolm, but at the previous one, they were giving Tony Abbott the keys to the Lodge…

Actually, Tony never made it to the Lodge owing to some renovations. Scott emulated John Howard and announced that he needs to be based in Sydney owing to his young family, Fair enough, I suppose, but one really shouldn’t put one’s hand up for a caretaker role and then expect to be able to work from home.

Whatever, the Wentworth by-election does make it clear that we have an entire government with about as much self-awareness as Donald Trump on LSD… Actually, Trump may have more self-awareness after dropping acid…

The Liberals have lost one of their safest seats, but they conclude it was only because they removed Turnbull as PM and they did that when he called a spill after Peter Dutton was counting the numbers and threatening to challenge. Then, after losing, Dutton’s backers assured everybody that they had the numbers. However, owing to the Finance Minister’s inability to count, the Treasurer slipped by and emerged victorious. Turnbull then did as he promised and left Parliament, leaving an unwinnable by-election because the Liberals only held it by a margin of 17%, so you’d hardly expect that not to be down to Turnbull’s personal following. No, that’s the explanation and we don’t need to consider changing any policies because Wentworth is out of step because they’re all well-off and not like the rest of Australia. No, we don’t need to change any policies…

Oh, have we mentioned we’re bringing eleven children from Nauru for health reasons. Not a change of policy. We’ve always been nice guys where people’s health is concerned…

No, there’ll be no change of policy on anything else.To quote Tony Abbott from 2014 after a few little hiccups: “Good government starts today.”

I must go and check the news to see if the rumours of a Bishop challenge are true.That’s Julie, by the way. Bronwyn’s left Parliament and she’d make a terrible PM…

Although, when I think about it, the Liberals seem to think that’s a prerequisite for the job!

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Seldom has a government looked more ridiculous. More compromised. Incompetent. Less trustworthy.

If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever, wrote George Orwell, foreseeing, our Border Protection policy, in the news this week as Australian War Memorial Director, Brendan Nelson proposes the creation of a type of shrine or monument to paramilitary thugs; the weaponising of compassion to enable us to deny our own innate humanity.

Similarly highlighted this week is the tender loving care our government lavishes on loan sharks, insurance touts, embezzlers and other predators in “the financial advice industry” at the expense of “ordinary hardworking Australians”. Yet nothing shows our open, transparent, democratic, government so clearly as its suppression of criticism; dissent.

Group hugs must surely break out all round at Sunday’s news, that the Coalition has pressured the UN to excise from its expert report on irrigation, a critique of the government’s $13 billion failure to restore our Murray-Darling river system.

The “Australia chapter” is now cut from the UN report “Does Improved Irrigation Technology Save Water?” published online by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Down the memory hole it goes; extinguished.

Water allocations to irrigators will in fact increase an extra 605 GL under innovative “on-farm efficiency: schemes but nothing may distract us from the government’s carefully orchestrated inquisition into usury and other money-lending malfeasance this week in Melbourne, an antipodean Malleus Maleficarum, which can turn grown men to water.

Banks Behaving Badly-or Business as Usual, a spell-binding, live-streaming, morality play, stars Royal Commissioner, The Honourable Kenneth Madison Hayne, QC, AO, as Grand Inquisitor, brilliantly assisted by Ms Rowena (shock and) Orr, QC.

The show, so much better than anything Labor had planned, government ministers keep telling us, continues its blockbuster run, as a hand-picked cast of spivs, charlatans and rogues and other financial advisers show open contempt for corporate cop, ASIC, and expose Coalition nobbling. Yet mystery shrouds this week’s show. Where are the big guns?

Conspicuous by their absence, possibly in witness protection, as secure as if in Monash fox-holes, are any CEOs.

Schadenfreude seizes the nation. Outrage. The drama has our full attention. True. Bonkers Brendan Nelson does his best to distract with his proposal to honour Border Force; to extend The Australian War Memorial to commemorate those brave souls who served in the war on compassion; our nation’s glorious battle with innocents; those compelled by cruel fate to seek asylum by any means. Some troops, he says, even jumped into the water to save people from drowning.

By Monday, the plot of Banks Behaving Badly includes dead people, knowingly being charged for financial advice; The CBA pockets $118 million for advice it doesn’t provide; NAB bribes people – its innovative “Introducer Program” -pays commissions to unqualified “spotters” – no financial expertise necessary- for home loan referrals, a subplot which includes forged payslips to settle loans, and envelopes stuffed with cash. The Introducer nets NAB $24 billion in loans.

(Former banking lobbyist, Scott Morrison’s tough new fines are capped at less than 1 per cent of that. Offenders will be brought to account, thunders former Goldman Sachs banker Turnbull. NAB is laughing all the way to the bank.)

Fee for no service turns out to be a nice little earner also. AMP’s head of financial advice, Anthony Regan, says he’s lost count of how many rip-offs; how many thousands of customers are charged fees for services they don’t receive. Lives are destroyed by bad advice; or when advisers’ financial ineptitude is compounded by avarice and duplicity.

It’s bad timing, however, for government by and for the banks, a Coalition which has to sell the electorate the last $35 billion of its $80 billion tax cut package, a gift of $13.2 billion in savings to our big four banks over the next ten years.

Even worse, its big business pals are no help. In the parallel universe where senate enquiries are held, Business Council of Australia’s CEO, Jennifer Westacott is asked, this week, by The Greens’ Lee Rhiannon.

“Can you give us an example of another country where tax cuts have resulted in wage rises?”

Westacott wimps out. She’ll “take that question on notice”, despite the claim’s being a central plank of the BCA and the government’s campaign for the past two years. But let’s be fair. There’s too much business bashing around these days, as Westacott often wails. Above all, even the BCA can’t provide evidence that doesn’t exist.

Examples abound, however, from Canada or from The UK where, despite ten years’ company tax cuts, real wages continue to decline. The National Bank conducts one of Australia’s largest business surveys only to report that a mere 8 per cent of businesses would give workers a significant wage rise if they received a company tax cut.

One-in-five say they don’t need a tax cut to secure their company’s future. But who needs research in an age of neoliberal faith? The Coalition takes heart in the recent dismissal of The White House Chaplain, Jesuit Patrick Conroy who has held the job for seven years. No reason has been given for Father Conroy’s sacking. Nor is it needed. In a Trumpian universe, it’s heresy to frown upon trickle-down or laugh at the Laffer Curve or even just express dissent.

Best explanation, reports The New York Times, is that the priest is being punished for his prayer last November, at the opening of a debate on the Republican tax bill. Conroy asked God to make sure that the members’ efforts “guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.”

Amen. Fairness is the last thing our government needs in its agile, innovative business-friendly zeitgeist but former Xenophon team member, now the more prosaic Centre Alliance, Sterling Griff, (a name that conjures confidence) is quick to remind listeners of government trumpet ABC Radio National that some top BCA companies pay no tax.

Australia’s effective company tax rate is 12% already. He warns his audience, moreover, where cuts will come from.

“It’s hard to see how a reduction in corporate tax is not going to lead to a reduction in public services like health and education.”

“The economic case for these company tax cuts never stacked up. The benefits were largely to foreign shareholders, with a huge long-term revenue cost to the budget,” says The Australia Institute’s executive director, Ben Oquist when the Coalition withdraws the tax cut legislation it fails to get through the senate last month.

“It’s a tactical retreat” explains former HealthGuard and HBF Insurance companies’ general manager, Mathias Cormann.

Desperate to stop the rot, Malcolm Turnbull mounts a type of apology for his government’s howling down the very idea of a Royal Commission into banks, an opposition it kept up for two whole years. His government would have been “better off politically” to have called the Royal Commission, “several years ago”, he calls in from Berlin, Monday.

Not that he’s accepting any responsibility (Westminster or otherwise) for any malfeasance that his government has effectively enabled by its two years of spirited opposition, evasion and delay,

“The responsibility for wrongdoing lies with the people who did the wrongs. Let’s be clear about that,” he says, hopefully.

It is too little, too late and will do nothing to appease his critics who rue his dreadful political judgement; nor those who ask why his government protects wealthy banks and big businesses, while hounding and gouging the poor.

ASIC’s official boast is that it’s “Australia’s integrated corporate, markets, financial services and consumer credit regulator”. The Coalition hypes the regulator’s powers. Two years ago, Treasurer Scott Morrison claimed that,

“ASIC has the powers of a royal commission and, in fact, it has greater powers than a royal commission.”

But just in case, penalties will now be increased; jail time provided for some offences, a hollow response that overlooks the core problem. ASIC has neither the will nor the resources to act. It’s launched but one criminal case in ten years.

As this week’s testimony shows, ASIC’s the financial sector’s family pet, lying doggo or sitting up and begging to play fetch or rolling over to have its tummy tickled. Of course there’s a weasel-word for it. In ASIC- speak it “negotiated” rather than prosecuted misconduct cases which is why it’s brought only criminal prosecution in ten years.

Does Hayne’s royal command performance have more power? While a royal commission can refer suspected offences to the Director of Public Prosecutions who can then prosecute, in practice, criminal prosecutions rarely result from recommendations of either a royal commission or a parliamentary inquiry.

Key to the commission’s power are its terms of reference. Here is a huge weakness. Its terms of reference dictate that it is not required to look at anything the commissioner believes “has been, is being, or will be, sufficiently and appropriately dealt with by another inquiry or investigation or a criminal or civil proceeding”.

In other words, it will ignore the findings of at least 38 other inquiries held into banking and financial services since 2010. Sensational, shocking as it may be, the misconduct Hayne has revealed, so far, is but the latest scandalous chapter in a long series of instalments, all of which have also exposed ASIC as a Clayton’s corporate regulator; a paper tiger.

When The CBA ruined many clients with bad financial advice a 2014 Senate inquiry criticised ASIC for being “too slow to act, lack[ing] transparency and … too trusting of the big end of town”. The verdict still applies today.

In the meantime, by popular demand – and the instigation of The Nationals helped by The Greens and with the late support of Labor, the show must go on. And on. Talk abounds of an extended season. Yet can it fix anything?

Crusty Justice Hayne’s superbly orchestrated production is in danger of being upstaged by its own lurid revelations of the graft, fraud, usury, collusion, extortion, embezzlement, cheating, lying and bare-faced robbery integral to our banking system; as a series of wretched pin-striped small fry from the big four take turns to spill their guts.

Equally distracting are the sideshows. A stampede to steal the glory includes the two-bob populist Pauline Hanson, even though it was her hapless former colleague, Rod Culleton, a bankrupted WA farmer who campaigned for a royal commission. Perhaps she’s getting confused with her repeated calls for a Royal Commission into Islam.

Also confused is Hanson’s new pal, Tony Abbott who channels the Queen of Hearts. “Off with their heads”.

Tin-pot general of the monkey pod rebels, Abbott is pumped. He’s led his peacock peloton and mobile media squad coal revival cycle tour through the Latrobe Valley of death-by-coal-fire, his latest sortie in his “no sniping or undermining” war of revenge by attrition on Turnbull. He’s just back from the $100 million Monash Centre he had built in France.

He goes off like a frog in a sock. “Sack ASIC”, he shrieks, despite his own role as ASIC’s chief nobbler.

Abbott’s government snatched $120 million, a cut of 200 workers, from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, a pillaging which left the watchdog unable to do very much at all effectively, let alone chase up the banks. Instead, the corporate regulator would get banks to self-report. What could possibly go wrong?

At the same time, in July 2014, Mattias Cormann attempted to weaken Labor’s Future of Financial Advice legislation (FOFA) which sought to ensure that advisers acted in their customers’ best interests, amendments put up by the banks but lost only when two cross-benchers voted them down.

ASIC hit the panic button. It complained that all advisers would be caught on the hop. It would do nothing, it said until July 1 2015 – two whole years after the new law was supposed to apply.

This, the corporate regulator supported Cormann, giving advisers two extra years in which to charge commissions and evade their duty to put the clients first. This week has seen how AMP flouted the FOFA law with impunity.

“Through AMP’s dealings with ASIC regarding the extent and nature of its fee-for-no-service conduct, AMP adopted an attitude toward the regulator that was not forthright or honest, and demonstrated a deliberate attempt to mislead,” Ms Orr sums up Friday.

AMP and its advice businesses misled the regulator 20 times from 2015 to 2017 about the nature and extent of its fees-for-no-service practice.”

The Coalition is responsible. It can’t pretend now that it merely got the timing wrong. Surely. But that’s just what it does.

Time to chuck a U-turn. Not far from Hitler’s bunker in Berlin, in the Reichstag’s shadow, Monday, Turnbull grabs the Coalition handbrake; burns rubber in a tyre-shredding U-turn. The government’s been driving the wrong way up a one-way street for two years but a quick U-turn will fix it. Memo: Get updated talking points to Kelly O’Dwyer.

Facing overwhelming evidence that its concerted opposition to a Royal Commission into the banks was palpably not in the public interest, a willful misreading, if not contemptuous defiance, of public opinion in defence of the top end of town, the PM and his minions hastily abandon their epic, sandbagged, campaign to defend their banking mates.

Seldom has a government looked more ridiculous. Or more compromised. More incompetent. Less trustworthy.

Tragically, Terry McMaster, of Dover Financial, a pillar of the financial advice industry, oxymoron of the week, is taken ill, mid-sentence – but quickly recovers sufficient self-possession to sit bolt upright in his ambulance stretcher like some grandee being ferried up above the masses upon a palanquin. He’s excused from further participation in Hayne’s show.

But not before he’s been able to defend hiring advisers who were under investigation and later sanctioned for serious breaches. At least, he makes some incoherent response. Perhaps he’s just choking.

McMaster’s also questioned on Dover contracts which purport to give client protection yet which, in fact, attempt to indemnify Dover advisers from accusations of bad conduct. Doubtless ASIC plans to catch up with him on that, too.

Dover is the only big financial advisory group to decline to assist the Royal Commission. It has not supplied adequate documentation. Yet McMaster has dramatically collapsed in the attempt. His clients will wish him a speedy recovery.

You can’t fault the performances. The Royal Commission into crony capitalism is an orchestrated confession of wrongdoing; a lavish smorgasbord of malfeasance even if the grubby money-grubbers of the “wealth industry” themselves, are cynical, untrustworthy, grossly overpaid, self-interested spivs who’d sell their own grandmothers.

The formidable Rowena Orr, QC, continues to impress as she leads a brilliant supporting cast in homage to the English theatrical tradition of personifying justice as a Judge, a trend since Respublica, the mid-15th Century, morality play which has the body politic under insidious, deceptive attack from Avarice, Indolence, Oppression and Adulation.

By Monday, however, our political masters are back on song, a Hallelujah chorus of shock, surprise and outrage, the necessary ritual disclaimer and distancing which will enable them to snatch the whip hand back from Hayne.

“I have to say I have been surprised. I have to admit some of the revelations in recent times, I have been surprised.”

Mathias Cormann tells Sky News, Australia’s Fox News of government spin, while Matt Canavan, Minister for Coal, is “shocked“. Kelly O’Dwyer is “appalled” in a in a duet with Barrie Cassidy on Insiders. At the Self-Managed Super Fund expo in Melbourne on Friday, (no irony in the venue?) the assistant treasurer is back on stage and on song.

“The royal commission has highlighted in the most profound way, some of the devastating personal consequences that have resulted from corporate misconduct in the financial services sector,” she says.

“The government did get the timing wrong.”

That’s it, then. Just dud timing. Could happen to any government bank protection racket. As Helen Razer notes in Crikey, not one MP is surprised, or shocked, or appalled, or devastated enough to call out a scandal when they see one.

As Bob Katter fears, Karen Middleton reports, the real problem remains. Banks will continue to transfer loans between them, unilaterally dictate and then change the terms, downgrade property values and then foreclose without negotiation, seize and offload the properties at fire-sale prices, leaving borrowers still owing them the difference.

And it’s all perfectly legal.

Routed by the sheer force of numbers, rubbery figures, lies, impersonation and other evidence of illegality elicited from bankers so far, by beak of the week, Justice Hayne and his crack team of silks so far, Monday, Malcolm Bligh Turnbull beats a retreat on his quixotic Coalition forces’ foolhardy ideological charge against Labor and The Greens’ impregnable position; that there be a Royal Commission into Banking. It’s also a retreat from credibility and legitimacy.

News of the PM’s surrender from Berlin where he commends John Howard’s Pacific Solution (2001); lecture Germany on how to deal with refugees as he fills in time before opening yet another monument to John Monash and to honour his government’s militarisation of history and fetishising of war.

Some may admire his chutzpah. Germany took in a million Syrian refugees. The nonsense that border control helps build a multicultural society is insulting; demeaning to any audience. But it’s all designed for domestic consumption.

Turnbull makes no apology for his government’s enabling of what clearly amounts to a banking oligarchy; helping our new robber barons hold the country to ransom, destroying careers, wrecking families and ruining the lives of thousands.

“It was a poor political decision“, is the best the former merchant banker can manage.

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Dutton’s message: torture works

Yesterday I had a Twitter conversation about Kathryn Bigelow’s movie, Zero Dark Thirty, which was shown on SBS last night.

Many angry critics have described the film as CIA propaganda advocating torture, and accused Bigelow of making an immoral argument that torture works. That wasn’t my reading as I argue here.

This revisiting of the film and the arguments surrounding it made it obvious to me that the message “torture works” is precisely the message the current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, Scott Morrison before him, and several former Prime Ministers including Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have sent to the world since the indefinite detention, off-shore and previously in the hell holes of Woomera and Baxter, of waterborne asylum seekers began.

They are not even particularly subtle about conveying this message: forcing women, children and men to live in circumstances in which they are tortured will deter others from attempting to seek asylum in Australia. It’s that stark.

To dissuade attacks from rusted on ALP supporters: Paul Keating built Woomera. I went there. It was one of Dante’s circles of hell. So please don’t come at me with the usual defence of your political party’s position on asylum seekers. There’s a bee’s dick of difference between the major parties.

Every time politicians insist that bringing refugees from Manus and Nauru to Australia will “start the drownings at sea again”, he or she is arguing, to the world, that “torture works.”

Frank Brennan, John Menadue, Tim Costello and Robert Manne have here proposed a solution to the current ghastly impasse. Their proposal retains the turn-back policy:

We believe there is no reason why the Turnbull government cannot do now what the Howard government previously did – maintain close intelligence co-operation with Indonesian authorities, and maintain the turn-back policy, while emptying the offshore processing centres and restoring the chance of a future to those we sent to Nauru or Manus Island three years ago or more by settling them either in Australia or, if any are willing, in other developed countries. Like Howard, Turnbull could maintain the offshore processing centres in case of an emergency.

Boats are to be turned back to their point of departure, usually Indonesia or in the case of Sri Lankan refugees, southern India where they continue to live as stateless people with few, if any rights.

The proposition put by Brennan et al would at least thwart the message that torture works, to which our politicians seem alarmingly attached. It’s by no means an ideal solution, but it could be our next step in addressing a situation that in its current manifestation is hideously wrong in every possible way.

Critiquing their proposition is a post in itself, and I won’t do that here.

As I argue Bigelow’s film demonstrated, the proposition that torture works is in itself a terrifying premise for debate. Who are we, that we would engage in such a debate in the first place?

It isn’t about whether or not torture works. It’s about torture even being considered, and then implemented as an option. You might argue that no politician foresaw or planned the circumstances that have evolved on Manus and Nauru, and you’d likely be correct. So we have come to torture by accident, rather than by design. Having arrived at that point, even accidentally, we are culpable and every day we reinforce the message that torture works, we add to our burden of culpability. What was initially accidental, thoughtless, ignorant, uncaring, politically self-seeking becomes, in the maintaining of it, deliberate.

Which puts us in the company of the CIA and its propaganda, does it not? Not to mention Donald Trump.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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Speaking Of History: Though I Disagree With What You Say, I Am Doomed To Repeat It!

Ok, let’s have a little think about Dutton last week, but before we do that, let me just state that I’m an angry white male just like that guy with the funny name that nobody can spell. You know, whatsisname… David… David… Leyonhjelm. That’s it. Honestly, I don’t think people with names that don’t follow good old normal Aussie spelling should be allowed to say anything controversial but I guess the politically correct brigade will be on me in a flash restricting my freedom of speech by telling me that they disagree with what I say. And that’s what makes me really, really cross. After all, I’m white and I’m male, so I should be allowed to say what I bloody well like in my own country without the likes of women and other minorities having the temerity to criticise and tell me that I’m wrong.

Now, Senator Leyonhjelm – or Grumpybum, as I’ll now refer to him because I can spell that without looking it up – has recently announced his intention to lodge a complaint against Mark Kenny with the Human Rights Commission for referring to him as having “angry-white-male certitude”. He intends using 18C which – as I’m sure you all know makes it an offence to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” a person because of their race or religion. Unfortunately, Senator Grumpybum assured us all that he wasn’t offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated so most thinking people would suspect that this puts a rather large hole in his argument. Sort of like when James Ashby was complaining about sexual harassment from Peter Slipper, but that’s a whole other story. The good senator tells us that he’s only bringing the complaint to highlight the absurdity of the whole 18C thing. In much the same way that if Scarlett Johansen were to speak to me and tell me that I looked pretty cute, I could attempt to bring a charge of sexual harassment against her, because even though I didn’t mind it at all, it shows how absurd it was anyone could object to being complimented on their figure.

So, I’m very, very angry that – like Senator Grumpybum – I can’t take advantage of all the privileges of 18C just because calling me a “fat white bastard” doesn’t upset me. Well, apart from the “fat” bit and I have to concede I could lose a few kilos without the adjective “gaunt” springing to mind. As for the “bastard”, well, my parents were married, but if one means it in the colloquial sense, I’d have to agree that I could hardly be upset by what is really a term of endearment.

And that’s why I was so angry when poor Peter Dutton had to defend himself when it was leaked that there were over 2000 cases of alleged abuse against asylum seekers on Nauru. The way people carried on, you’d think that we had an obligation to investigate complaints even if we don’t know if they’re true. I mean, don’t we need evidence before we start to look into whether or not something occurred?

Certainly that was the way newly elected One Nation senator, Malcolm Roberts, saw it on QandA last night. If he finds evidence that abuse is occurring, then he’ll support a Senate inquiry to look at the evidence, but until evidence has been found, then there’s no need to look at the evidence. Say what you like about the man, he was certainly consistent. When the subject later turned to climate change, he again demanded evidence. Not just that data that had been concocted by NASA and Bureau of Meteorology – an organisation, he reminded us, that Greg Hunt wouldn’t allow to be investigated, but “empirical evidence”. And until he was given such evidence, he found no need to look at anything that anyone was asking him to examine, because, well, if it wasn’t consistent with his position, then it was clearly “doctored” or “dodgy” or “silly” or “too full of facts and figures to be worth reading” or…

But back to Peter Dutton… As he pointed out, a lot of these things are exaggerated. You know the sort of thing, a guard gives a five year old a bit of a slap on the cheek and it’s reported as though it’s assault even though no bones were broken. And as for claims of sexual abuse, well, how often do people make up claims of sexual abuse?

All right, maybe not that often in the scheme of things. And before anyone starts bringing up how the Royal Commission is discovering all these cases of sexual abuse where the person wasn’t believed and the perpetrator was allowed to stay in their position, I’d like to remind people that these things happened a while ago. In some cases, it was last century; in others, it was as far back as 2012… Whatever, it was certainly, before these asylum seekers were sent to Nauru, so that’s a completely different thing.

I’ll happily concede that we should have believed the people who are testifying at the Royal Commission, because they were true blue Aussies, not foreigners. At least in most cases…

And when Dutton said that people were self-immolating in the hope of getting to a better place, clearly he meant heaven and not Australia.

So you can see why I’m angry. I live in a country where we now have to check the spelling of people’s names and I have to worry about people’s feelings and we can’t just be cruel to foreign people without someone complaining. God, this isn’t the Australia I grew up in.

I’d suggest that we should have a day to celebrate people like me and Grumpybum and Malcolm Roberts and Andrew Bolt, but I suspect you’d end up calling it “Sooking, Sad, Old White Man” Day!

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Day to Day Politics. Turnbull’s New Year Turmoil.

 

Monday 18 January 2016

1 No doubt Labor starts the year behind the eight ball. But have you considered what Malcolm Turnbull faces?

He will be anxious to erase from the electorates mind two years of abysmal governance. Not an easy task given that after five months he has hardly made any impact at all.

Conservatives will want the policies of Tony Abbott to continue as they are now. Somehow he has to put his own stamp on the party he leads or be seen as just a smooth talking power grabber. And he will have to do it with Abbott and his supporters snapping at his heels.

It’s a ‘try to keep everybody happy’ scenario that will be hard to balance in an election year complicated by internal dissent.

It may well be the next budget that defines his leadership, his political philosophy and indeed his authority over the party.

Formulating the next budget will have many implications. It will be imbedded with many dangers, with many decisions to be made. All muddled by an economic white paper requiring decisions influencing the election.

Increasing the GST, Superannuation, negative gearing. An out of control NBN, Companies not paying tax, Capital Gains Tax, Subsidies to coal miners, Climate Change, Health, Money for science innovation. Investment in renewable energy and the revenue future.

A rise in the GST would mean further tax reform including cuts to personal income tax and company tax rates, as well as compensation for low-income earners.

However it will be a hard sell. Personally I don’t much see the point in lowering the company tax rate given its hard to get them to pay tax now.

Besides the ‘where is the money coming from’ to address the Climate Change question the one most challenging is the immoral Super tax rorts for high wage earners.

An observation.

Never in the history of this nation have the rich and the privileged been so openly brazen’.

If he retains them at the same cost as pensions he will be seen as pandering to the rich. If he acts against them he will have to cop the wrath of the powerful superannuation industry.

There will come a point in time where Turnbull will have to take ownership of Government policy. The difficulty might be matching the expectations and hopes people have of him with the undoubted difficult decisions that lay ahead.

2 When is it all going to end? Asylum seekers were demonised by Philip Ruddock many years ago purely for political purposes. It has continued to the point where both parties have become so ensconced in the immorality of it that history will record them as unconscionable retards.

What does it take to get a Royal Commission? We have people committing suicide, self-harming. Charities being maligned, growing lengths of detention now averaging 445 days. Millions of taxpayers money wasted. Paying criminals to tow boats back. New Zealand’s offer to resettle people being refused so that more lengthy detentions can be seen as a deterrent.

3 Lenore Taylor writes an excellent piece on Political Donations:

‘Combining stricter disclosure rules for donations and ending political ads dressed up as government information could enhance voters’ faith in the system’.

My thought for the day

‘In the information age, those who control the dissemination of news have more power than government’.

 

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Dutton has lost control

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

The Top 5 signs your Refugee Policy is a disaster

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

than stay in the Refugee Centres your country provides

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

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

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

money from selling passports to terrorists & money-laundering

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

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

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

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

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

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

combined GDP of 9 small countries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It doesn’t matter what measure you pick …

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

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

This article was first published on ProgressiveConversation.

 

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Ms Gillard’s sickening hypocrisy laid bare

It was with disbelief, and finally contempt, that I watched excerpts of the Al Jazeera interview with former Prime Minister Julia Gillard on the topic of her government’s treatment of waterborne asylum seekers, particularly women and children.

Gillard, now a global advocate for the education of girls and women, employed what has disturbingly become a normalised justification for Australian governments’ increasingly callous torment of women and girls in off-shore detention: we do it to stop people drowning at sea.

I have yet to get my head around the psychopathology of those who believe the torment of one group is justified in order to discourage another group from undertaking a particular action. I think such justifications are teetering precariously on just about every ethical and moral ground I can think of, beginning with the Kantian argument that it is reprehensible to use people as a means to an end, and that people are an end in themselves. To treat them in any other way is to dehumanise them, and ultimately, ourselves.

However, Gillard, Rudd, Abbott and now Turnbull apparently have no difficulty with treating waterborne asylum seekers as a means to an end, and justifying their hideous treatment of them as a necessary deterrent in order to save the lives of others.

It has been said more than a million times: arriving in this country by boat, seeking asylum, is not a crime. Indeed, as we are signatories to the UN Refugee Convention, we actively invite people to arrive here by whatever means they manage to employ.

If we want to save people from drowning at sea, and if we care about the humanity of those we already have in detention, we would cease to use the detained as scapegoats, and as examples of what will happen if you legitimately arrive here by boat. We would instead withdraw from the Refugee Convention. People come to Australia because we invite them, through our participation in the Convention, and our agreement with its principles.

Of course, we aren’t about to take that step. So instead we will continue to ill-treat asylum seekers in off-shore detention. We will continue to justify this crime against humanity by claiming it’s done to save lives.

And Ms Gillard will continue to strut the world stage advocating for the education of women and children but not, regrettably, those she imprisoned in mandatory indefinite dentition in tropical hell holes where they are abused, raped and made mad.

Women for Gillard? Non, merci.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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 233 total views,  1 views today

Bodies that matter. Bodies that don’t.

Image from noplaceforsheep.com It’s profoundly concerning that Abyan, the Somali refugee currently living on Nauru and victim of a rape that left her pregnant, was forbidden to see her lawyer and denied adequate counselling for her trauma and her plight.

But now we hear that Rupert Murdoch’s minion Chris Kenny of The Australian was not only the first journalist in eighteen months to be granted a visa to enter Nauru in the last few days, he was also escorted by local police to Abyan’s accommodation, where he confronted her about her situation.

Human Rights Commissioner Professor Gillian Triggs has been denied a visa to visit Nauru, so Kenny is indeed privileged.

Kenny’s first account of his interview with Abyan, which you can access by clicking the link on Kenny’s tweet in The Guardian report above, seems to contradict Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s claims that Abyan refused an abortion and was therefore returned to the island, and instead substantiates her own claims that she did not refuse an abortion, she asked for some time, and appropriate help. Neither the time nor the appropriate help was forthcoming, and she was deported after being refused contact with her lawyer.

The likelihood of us ever knowing the truth of the situation is slim, however, no matter how you look at it, Abyan has been treated in a most despicable manner by both governments, and their agents.

Dutton has belatedly diarised appointments allegedly made for Abyan, with and without interpreters. However, there is no way at all of verifying Dutton’s claims that these appointments were in fact made, and that Abyan was offered the medical attention he claims.

I have no idea why Abyan was then subjected to further traumatisation by having to endure Chris Kenny’s pursuit of her after she was returned to Nauru. But everywhere I look in this situation I see an extremely vulnerable young woman, stripped of all power and agency, subjected to the interrogation and control of powerful men intent on furthering their own interests. The demonstration of male power & dominance over women that the Abyan story illustrates makes my blood run cold.

In his latest report from Nauru, Kenny stresses that Abyan has not reported her rape to the Nauruan police. The implication is clear: if she didn’t report it, perhaps it didn’t happen.

There are a staggering number of sexual assaults in this developed country that go unreported. The majority of rapes that are reported don’t make it into court. Reporting sexual assault to police is a harrowing experience, even when the police concerned are highly trained and care about you, and share your language group. I had a sexual assault counsellor with me when I did it a few months ago, as well as evidence, and a great deal of loving support. With all that, it was an horrific experience from which I still haven’t recovered. Reporting sexual assault if you are a young, pregnant Somali refugee woman condemned to life on Nauru for the indefinite future, must be an almost impossibly daunting prospect.

And then there is Abyan’s history, including rape and genital mutilation in her home country.

And let’s not forget that Dutton only agreed to offer Abyan an abortion in the first place because public agitation forced him to.

There is a recent pattern of unrelenting traumatisation of Abyan by men who have descended on her, for one reason or another, like vultures on a wounded animal. Most of them are white and middle class. Their actions are validated by an entirely brutal government policy that condemned Abyan to Nauru in the first place, a policy initiated by Julia Gillard and Nicolo Roxon. I wonder what these two women now think of where their policy has led us, or if they consider it at all.

An aside: a link to an interview with Nancy Fraser, Professor of Philosophy and Politics at the New School on why the “leaning in” brand of feminism actually means leaning on other women. Quote:

For me, feminism is not simply a matter of getting a smattering of individual women into positions of power and privilege within existing social hierarchies. It is rather about overcoming those hierarchies.

Yes. Indeed.

In an uneasy corollary with Abyan’s situation Nauru is a subordinate state (read feminised) dominated by and dependent on Australia. Australia sends women and children it does not want to Nauru, where they are raped and abused. Australia, however, claims this is none of our business as Nauru is a sovereign state and we cannot intervene in its legal system, or what passes for a legal system in that lawless nation.

White, privileged, and apparently having suffered nothing more traumatic than being the butt (sorry) of a Chaser’s joke concerning sex with a dog, Chris Kenny feels he is entitled to pursue and interrogate the traumatised Somali refugee because, well, he is white, male, privileged, and works for Rupert Murdoch. He has no expertise in the matter of trauma and sexual trauma. If he had the slightest idea, and any compassion, he would not have subjected Abyan to his inquiries, and he certainly wouldn’t have arrived at her home with a police escort.

The bodies that matter are firstly, white. Then they are male. Then they are the bodies of women of calibre. They are bodies that belong to our tribe. I think, almost every day, what would the man who sexually assaulted me do if his daughter had been treated as he treated me? He observed more than once that I was “not of his tribe,” a comment I found ridiculous at the time, but with hindsight I see that his perception of me as other allowed him to behave towards me as if I was less vulnerable, less hurtable than women who were “of his tribe.”

Multiply this a million times when the victim is a Somali refugee abandoned by Australia to fend for herself in Nauru, and it isn’t hard to understand why there were difficulties reporting the rape.

The headline “Rape Refugee” says it all. Written on the body. Written on the body that does not matter, by the body that does.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

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Turnbull and Dutton wage war on women

When Tony Abbott was Prime Minister it was difficult to imagine myself feeling more contempt and loathing for any politician than the contempt and loathing I felt towards him.

The emotions one experiences for public figures are paradoxical: they can be fiercely visceral and at the same time entirely abstract, as the relationship is not a personal one and the individual is unknown, except superficially. Nonetheless, they can keep you awake at night if the anger provoked is strong enough.

Tonight my contempt and loathing meter has exploded with the news that Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull have conspired to secretly remove a raped and pregnant refugee, brought here just a few days ago for an abortion, back to the scene of her rape and the purview of her rapist, whose child she is now almost certainly doomed to carry to term.

The woman had, on the advice of psychologists and doctors conveyed to her through her lawyers as the government did not permit her to see either professional, requested counselling for both the sexual assault and the termination of the pregnancy it caused, before she underwent the procedure.

No counselling was permitted by the government. The date set for the procedure passed as she repeatedly begged for precursory assistance. The government then disingenuously decided she had refused the abortion, and whisked her back to Nauru on a chartered plane without allowing her lawyers to speak with her.

If you have been sexually assaulted, if your body has been, against your will, violated by another, it is going to be traumatic to undergo any subsequent procedure that involves the penetration of your body, even if it is with your permission. Only people of immense stupidity or immense, unspeakable cruelty could fail to appreciate this reality.

What Turnbull and Dutton have done is truly horrific. It ought to make every woman tremble in fear and rage. This is what powerful men can do and will do to women, in the pursuit of their own interests. This is how they still despise us, devalue us, abuse us and use us. This is a war on women, expressed today and in this manner against a Somali refugee, expressed tomorrow against whichever woman who in some way they fear presents a threat to their hold on power.

I happened to be at Question Time yesterday when Turnbull gave a splendid performance of urbanity, sophistication, confidence, superiority, authority, intelligence and charm, self-deprecatingly admitting his financial privilege which he attributes to fate, and nurtures in the Caymans. Hockey and Abbott sat side by side on the back benches, grim as the two evil fairies at the christening. The contrast between Turnbull and Abbott could not have been greater.

And yet . . . Abbott was the iron fist in the iron glove. Turnbull is the iron fist in the velvet glove. Turnbull denigrates woman as much as does Abbott. He’s simply a lot more sophisticated in his ability to conceal the denigration. He’s simply a great deal better at paying lip service to women he believes will further his cause than Abbott ever was. Turnbull has as much of a double standard towards women as did his predecessor. There are still women of calibre, and then there’s the Somali refugee.

I can only hope the feminists in this country will stop fighting about who is allowed to call herself a feminist and who isn’t, and the eternally fraught questions of body hair and breast implants as symbols of hard-won choice, and instead turn their energies towards fighting Turnbull. With Abbott we at least knew where we stood. Turnbull will trash us with charm and blinding eloquence, and we won’t even notice until it’s too late.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

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An open letter from Manus

By Jane Salmon

This epic howl of anguish came from the RPC on Manus via the internet today.

Mourning and Weeping From Hell

These words are coming from hell. There are many broken hearts screaming with heartache because we have been kept for such a long time, with nothing except failing lives …

Our stories might not be interesting to you. If you spend lots of time doing nothing, please listen to our voices and try to feel what these voices and what this letter tells you. It is not magnificent, it’s pain, yes extreme pain. That pain makes tears for all and everyone’s tears have made this letter for this beautiful nation.

Yes, our dreams are failing, we are failing with our hopes and we are failing with our future too. Our lives were set on fire by inhuman politics, that fire burns us little by little every single second.

Those who can feel our bodies and souls burning with our dreams … you’re the real Australians and great humans.

We can’t imagine why humanity is disappearing from this Nation…Waiting and waiting, but there is nothing, just a little bit of hope in everyone’s deep hearts, that the disappearing humanity will return back to everyone. Then we can see that humanity will feel our pain and extreme grief and share our feelings.

let’s see … we are waiting.

We have kids. We can’t think about our future. We can’t do anything for them, even their smallest wish. Our kids are dying slowly in front of us. We can see it with our own eyes, every second our hearts are crying so badly about our kid’s futures. Where are they going to go, what they are going to do? All these questions are killing us. You also have kids, you’ve made plans for when they are growing up. But what can we do? Just one thing: dying all together slowly, day by day, every single second.Please give us your hand to get us out of this deep dark hell. We are so broken. Our souls are crying silently every night. Only our pillow and bed knows. We can’t share our pain with each other here because everyone is in the same boat. We are travelling into the deep darkness, with extreme pain … we can’t smile, we can’t be happy, these things are all gone. Our mind is melting away from us.Now our heads are empty, our lives too. Oh our Nation, many fathers and mothers have children and babies … yes … they are all happy with their freedom and they trust in their lives but we are wasting our lives inside the fence. Our joy and freedom is locked up in this hell. Still, we can’t start our life.

We are asylum seekers. Sorry but we have forgotten our names because now we are just called by our boat numbers. We have been in detention for years in this hell you call offshore processing centre. We cannot describe our suffering. We are tired of being tired. We are dying every single second because of your inhumane treatment. Our presence is burning here. How can we have a future? All you give us is extreme pain and grief …

When we came here we became the victims of your policy. Sent to offshore processing centres and kept there with 2000 people. By the end of 2012 almost 27000 asylum seekers reached your country by boat. Where are they now? You know well some are unlucky and innocent and are still kept in the hell of offshore processing centres.
All the time we are sorry about our life inside the fence on this dry land. We are coping with time and emptiness day by day you make life hard every second and cause us pain too.

Wondering why our lives were saved in the ocean, if we died in the sea it would be wonderful because we can’t cope with your inhuman actions. You took our joy, you took our hope, dreams and locked us up inside the fence … We can’t breathe freely.

844 people from Manus an Nauru signed this letter (but because of our fear we just sent the signatures to one Senator).

04/10/2015

 

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Has anything changed? Not judging by the comments.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He did stop the boats as promised.

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

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

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

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

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

Another poster astutely remarked:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Just what does “Stopping the Boats” really mean?

By Archie

The Guardian is reporting this morning that yet another boatload of Asylum Seekers has been intercepted. This time off Java’s South coast. In Indonesian waters.

From the Guardian report, “The 21 asylum seekers, including children, on board were taken to the southern Javan port of Cidaun, where they have been detained by immigration officials. Some of the group are understood to hold UNHCR refugee cards. The asylum seekers, reportedly from Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, were found off the coast of Java by fishermen, who towed their vessel to Jayanti beach, Cianjur.

It is understood the asylum seekers had set out for Christmas Island three days ago, but were hampered by difficult weather and large waves.They had been floating without fuel for three days, and were running low on food and fresh water. “When we found them, they were lacking food and drink,” a fisherman named Mamun told news website Okezone. [Indonesian site] “Most of them are adults and some brought kids. We took them to the beach and then they were secured in Cidaun police station.”

It is understood the asylum seekers had set out for Christmas Island three days ago, but were hampered by difficult weather and large waves.They had been floating without fuel for three days, and were running low on food and fresh water. “When we found them, they were lacking food and drink,” a fisherman named Mamun told news website Okezone. [Indonesian site] “Most of them are adults and some brought kids. We took them to the beach and then they were secured in Cidaun police station.”

Not that this could have happened.

After all, our Australian Government has STOPPED THE BOATS!

So we have been told for the past twelve months.

Just what does “Stopping the Boats” really mean?

It means: “Go and die somewhere else.”

It means: “Go and die out of our sight.”

It means: “You may as well die before we see you.”

It means: “How dare you leave the home where you were going to be killed!”

It means: “How dare you come to our notice with your needs.”

It means: “We Australians couldn’t care less about human suffering.”

It means: “We don’t care.”

We have seen the political demise of four Prime Ministers who created, supported and extended the rolled up welcome mat on the coast of our nation. Not one of them thrown out because of that policy.

I wonder if Malcolm Turnbull will see the light and return us to some semblance of collective humanity.

There is still the unanswered question: How many refugees have dies at sea this year?

Australia has failed to change human nature.

Australia has failed to stop the boats.

They may not be getting far, but escapees from oppression are still setting out or planning on setting out.

Some of them will not be making it.

This article was originally published as Refugees at Sea; 24th September 2015 on Archie’s blog; Archie’s Archive.

 

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