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Tag Archives: Indonesia

Selective compassion

We must ask ourselves, are we truly a compassionate nation?

I am against the death penalty. I always have been and I always will be. I cannot see how we can say murder is a crime, yet kill people as a punishment. As expedient a solution as the death penalty may be, we should not be killing people.

That said, I cannot reconcile in my mind the public outcry over the looming executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran and the lack of public outcry over the incarceration of innocent children.

Despite Jeff Kennett’s rather flippant comment six days ago, we cannot deflect the blame onto the parents of the children. If we do that and follow that logic through, we should blame the parents of Chan and Sukumaran for raising children to become drug mules and clearly that is neither appropriate nor realistic.

Yes, the parents of the children took the children on a dangerous and torturous journey, seeking a safe haven. The parents are not responsible for locking the children up behind bars. No more than the parents of Chan and Sukumaran are responsible for Indonesia having the death penalty.

I understand there is not overwhelming concern in the community for the two people in Indonesia, yet there does seem to be far more concern than for the many hundreds of children suffering in detention. The Forgotten Children report, released by the Australian Human Rights Commission this month, provides comprehensive and horrifying details of the damage to these poor innocents.

Read the comments on articles about either situation. There are people who don’t see anything wrong with the executions or with the incarceration of the children. Yet it seems to me far more people in Australia are expressing anger about the executions than are irate about The Forgotten Children. Is this because in the case of the executions someone else (Indonesians) is doing the “bad” thing, while we (Australians) are doing the bad thing with the children?

Why this selective compassion? A life is a life. Many Australians are equally concerned about both situations, but it seems to me too many are not.

Under international human rights law neither the executions nor the incarcerations should be happening.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1948, recognizes each person’s right to life. It categorically states that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” (Article 5). In Amnesty International’s view, the death penalty violates these rights.

The children haven’t committed ANY crime yet are being subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

We should be witnessing equal outrage for both situations, surely? I understand death is final, incarceration is not. Yet many of these children may be damaged for life. In one situation we are talking of two lives, in the other many hundreds of lives. Some of those children are highly likely to die in detention, probably more than two.

I do not understand the selective compassion. Do you?

Tony Abbott’s horror week is now news in Indonesia

American think tank the Council on Foreign Relations made the headlines in Australia this week when their scathing report on Tony Abbott, aptly titled ‘Tony Abbott has to go’ filtered its way to our mainstream media.

Now we notice that the Americans are not the only ones who are writing about horror year Tony Abbott and his government are enduring. Tony Abbott has been hitting the headlines – front page headlines, no less – in Indonesia too.

The kicker is today’s story in the Jakarta Globe, ‘Australian PM Under Fresh Fire After Horror Week’ with Indonesians reading about of our Prime Minister’s ‘success’ since declaring the start of good government.

It does not read well.

“Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott came under fire on Friday over controversial comments on the arrest of two terror suspects and for referring to a “holocaust” of job losses, capping a horror week” they write.

“Abbott began the first parliamentary week of the year fighting for his job after poor poll ratings, a series of policy backflips and perceived high-handed decision making saw MPs from his conservative Liberal Party force a confidence vote”.

“He survived the “spill” motion on Monday and promised “good government” from that point on with the 39 of the 102 Liberal parliamentarians who tried to oust him grudgingly agreeing to give the unpopular leader a second chance”.

It was noticed that “. . . he has stumbled since, handing his detractors more ammunition”. I’m wondering if our local mainstream media makes the same conclusion.

But possibly the most damning of their condemnation refers to Tony Abbott’s comments on the trial of two terror suspects.

“On Friday, he was forced to defend himself after revealing in parliament a day earlier the contents of a video allegedly made by two men charged with terrorism offenses.

Lawyers said the detail and his remark that it was “monstrous extremism”, made under parliamentary privilege, could prejudice a future trial of Omar Al-Kutobi, 24, and Mohammad Kiad, 25”.

In other Indonesian news, Kirsty Wynn’s article ‘When Will Abbott Get Started on Good Governance?‘ – also in the Jakarta Globe – echoes the sentiments, in part, of those expressed in the now famous commentary from the Council on Foreign Relations.

Wynn writes that:

There is no doubt that Abbott’s ferocity made him an exceptional opposition leader. Time after time he managed to shred Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd amid the Labor Party ruckus, in turn elevating his status from unknown Sydney MP to a figure appreciated because of his absolute conviction. It could also be said that this is our blowback, as the heavy-handed tact we once lauded has now become irksome. The infallible strength that inspired the public during the last election has created a PM who refuses to see his own fallibility.

Abbott must now learn that as PM he is no longer a crusader. It is not expected (or desirable, at the least) for him to continue to violently strike down challenges. As a PM he is expected to navigate them, work in consultation with his own party, at the minimum, and produce outcomes that reflect assurances made pre-election but also in tune with more recent happenings.

The desire to return to surplus was a poignant example of this. Voters indeed agreed pre-election that returning to surplus would be advantageous, but the brute force of the measures put forth by the Abbott government managed to isolate large segments of the public. It was as if Abbott had been asked by the public to unlock a door (to surplus, for argument’s sake), only for him to instead kick the door down.

There remain plenty of problems-cum-opportunities for the PM to show his potential to solving issues constructively — instead of obliterating them. Most prominently, thorns exist over chief of staff Peta Credlin’s influence over Abbott. Her role is increasingly seen by colleagues as being subversive, and for most, too encompassing. In light of recent events, this issue could be a means for Abbott to showcase a new approach.

The benefit of democracy is that Abbott remains under no illusions now. He has been called out by his own staff and made to walk the plank. He has been saved this time, but will need more than luck to continue.

Restraint and tact are traits underappreciated by most. It’s high time Abbott rises to the challenge and train in both.

In just one week, the debacles surrounding Tony Abbott’s prime ministership have received wide coverage in America and Indonesia. At this rate, Tony Abbott will be making rest-of-world headlines within the fortnight.

For all the wrong reasons, of course.

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away

It wasn’t that long ago that Australia was being praised around the world. Remember when we had an intelligent, articulate, diplomatic leader with a vision for the future?

We survived the GFC with Wayne Swan being awarded the world’s best Treasurer by the magazine Euromoney “for his careful stewardship of Australia’s finances and economic performance, both during and since the global financial crisis”.

Julia Gillard led the way in action on climate change by introducing a price on carbon prompting praise from around the world.

“Australia will create tens of thousands of clean jobs in the coming years. You will save billions by eliminating wasteful energy usage, money that can be directed to other pressing social and infrastructure demands.

Australia will be helping lead the world out of this crisis, sending a powerful message that, yes, it can be done. Despite all the barriers, despite all the bitter, misleading opposition, Australia is leading the world toward a brighter, more sustainable future.”

In April last year, Julia Gillard also displayed her diplomatic skills in China.

“TEN foreign leaders visited China this week but only Julia Gillard scored what could turn out to be the deal of the decade. The Prime Minister’s coup in striking a “strategic partnership” and securing annual talks with China’s leaders will be her foreign policy legacy. It guarantees Australia access to the growing superpower at the highest levels and is being hailed by some as one of the most significant breakthroughs since Gough Whitlam’s courageous step 40 years ago to establish diplomatic links with China.

The China deal locks in formal annual talks between Australia’s PM and the Chinese Premier, as well as meetings for Australia’s foreign affairs minister, treasurer and trade minister with their counterparts.”

I could go on listing the previous government’s achievements – introducing our first paid parental leave scheme, environmental protections with water trigger and Murray-Darling buyback and marine parks, the NDIS, the NBN, education funding – the list is long and visionary.

But for some unfathomable reason, the majority of Australians were convinced that Abbott could do a better job. We could blame the media (and I do) but in reality, it is us who are to blame for our unquestioning acceptance of the lies we were being told. It is our own fault that we have moved from a position of world admiration for a responsible egalitarian society to one where we are being lampooned internationally and well and truly screwed domestically.

The Coalition began by stating we didn’t need Indonesia’s permission for our asylum seeker policy, a statement which infuriated them. We then had the odious Mark Textor suggesting that Indonesia’s foreign minister looked like a 70’s porn star, and the revelation that we spied on the President’s wife – something for which Abbott was incapable of saying sorry. We also violated their sovereign waters because apparently our Navy can’t tell where they are. We have been vilified for setting people adrift in life rafts, and censured for presumptuous plans to collect intelligence in Indonesian villages and to buy their fishing fleet.

We insulted the Prime Minister of PNG by suggesting he had lied, and then confiscated documents from the lawyer representing Timor l’Este in the International Court where we stand accused of bugging their Parliament to gain trade advantages for private firms. Abbott also had to “offer an act of contrition” to Malaysia for his previous comments about their human rights record.

Abbott offended war veterans and their families by praising the “honour” of the Japanese who attacked us, while Julie Bishop infuriated China by calling in their ambassador to berate him for the dispute over islands in the East China Sea prompting this response in the Chinese version of the Global Times:

“China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs doesn’t even have the tools to deal with this kind of ‘complete fool’ of a foreign minister.”

When Tony Abbott rushed to condemn the Russians in the hours after the downing of the plane in the Ukraine, he incurred the wrath of both China and Russia.

The official Xinhua news agency said in an English-language commentary that officials from the United States, Australia and other Western countries had jumped to conclusions in pointing their fingers at the rebels in eastern Ukraine and for blaming Russia for the escalating violence.

“The accusation was apparently rash when the officials acknowledged they did not know for the time being who is responsible for the attack, while condemning Russia’s military intervention,” Xinhua said.

“Without bothering himself about evidence and operating only on speculation, Mr T. Abbott assigned guilt,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement. “Abbott’s statements are unacceptable” going on to say “Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has gone farther than others in making irresponsible innuendoes against our country even though one would think that her position presupposes building bridges between countries, not destroying them.”

In another inexplicable brain fart that even the US was quick to distance itself from, our Attorney General decided to inflame tensions by deciding that East Jerusalem would no longer be referred to as Occupied Territory. In the process, Australia was hailed by Israel’s government, scolded by a group of 57 Muslim-majority countries, and had multibillion-dollar export trades put under threat.

Along with defending the rights of bigots and then linking the backtrack in the repeal of the Racial Discrimination laws to ramped up anti-terrorist laws, Brandis and Abbott have alienated the Australian Muslim community.

And one can only wonder as to why Abbott has chosen to instruct the Scottish people on how they should vote in their upcoming referendum on independence. Their response:

“Mr Abbott’s comments are hypocritical because independence does not seem to have done Australia any harm. They are foolish, actually, because of the way he said it. To say the people of Scotland who supported independence weren’t friends of freedom or justice, I mean, the independence process is about freedom and justice.”

The first minister said Scotland’s referendum on independence was a “model of democratic conduct” and Mr Abbott’s comments were “offensive to the Scottish people”.

Whilst alienating Russia, China, Indonesia, Palestine, Scotland, Malaysia, East Timor, PNG, the Muslim community, and veterans, we have also earned ourselves the title of Colossal Fossil for our refusal to take part in global action on climate change.

Domestically the picture is even more ridiculous. We reinstate knights and dames, we defend the rights of bigots, poor people don’t drive cars, breast cancer is linked to abortion, we are “unprepared for global cooling”, and can someone please explain to Brandis and Abbott what metadata is?

The Australia Institute, in a scathing review of the Commission of Audit, asked the following questions:

As one of the richest countries in the world Australian people have the potential, when working together, to do anything they want. But, we cannot do everything we want. Australia will need to make choices and it is our choice whether we want to:

  • have the world’s best education and health systems or the world’s lowest taxes
  • continue to outspend our neighbours on defence or underspend on tackling climate change
  • increase the incomes of the elderly and the sick or to cut the taxes of our wealthiest residents.

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away

Now it looks as though they’re here to stay

Oh, I believe in yesterday

Julie Bishop’s SNAFU moments

image

 

On February 2, Insiders began their commentary for 2014. As usual, they included a right wing voice for “balance”. This time it was Niki Savva from the Murdoch propaganda sheet, the Australian. Whilst she may be preferable to the vile Piers Ackerman, Ms Savva adds very little to critical analysis of our political scene as she regurgitates the Murdoch script – Labor bad, Tony good.

At the end of the show the guests are invited to make a final comment. Niki chose to sing the praises of Foreign Affairs Minister, Julie Bishop saying

“Apart from a few verbal snafus, I think Julie Bishop is doing a pretty good job. After a few turbulent years, finally Foreign Affairs have got someone who is polite, professional, hard-working and can make decisions, so they are very happy.”

So let’s have a look at a few of those “Situation Normal: All F*cked Up” moments.

Before the election, Ms Bishop and others infuriated Indonesia by insisting that we did not need their permission to drag asylum seekers back to their shores. The situation has deteriorated ever since with our Navy infringing on Indonesian territorial waters, and our refusal to apologise for spying on the Indonesian President, his wife, and several members of his cabinet.

We have also had to apologise to Malaysia for comments Tony Abbott made in June 2011 at a press conference with Scott Morrison suggesting asylum seekers would face human rights abuses if sent to Malaysia.

“Imagine taking boat people from Australia to Malaysia where they will be exposed almost inevitably to the prospect of caning and other very harsh treatment”

At his first major international conference as Prime Minister, Mr Abbott offered “an act of contrition” to the Prime Minister of Malaysia, apologising for the way Malaysia got caught up in “what was a very intense and at times somewhat rancorous debate in Australia.”

“He knows we play our politics pretty hard in our country and I think he understood.”

“I made it very clear to the prime minister that our opposition was never to Malaysia, it was to the former government,” he said.

And then we have Papua New Guinea.

“PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has launched a scathing attack on Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, accusing him of spreading ”nonsense” and ”completely untrue” claims over foreign aid linked to the asylum seeker deal.

”I don’t particularly appreciate being misrepresented by others for their own political interests,” he said.

”I am disappointed with some of the debates put forward by some of the leaders in the opposition in Australia, in particular statements that I am alleged to have made to them which are completely untrue.”

We have also upset them by refusing to issue visas on arrival for PNG citizens coming to Australia, a move they have reciprocated.

“Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has expressed disappointment over Australia’s stand on the no visa on arrival for Papua New Guineans traveling to Australia.

He said the government cannot tell Australia what to do but would reciprocate and stand by its decision to terminate visa on arrival for Australia visitors to PNG.”

Not content with alienating our nearest neighbours, Ms Bishop, in her haste to ingratiate herself with her American counterpart, has infuriated China by siding with Japan in the escalating conflict over ownership of a few islands in the East China Sea.

And let’s not stop there. In a move that even America condemned, Ms Bishop has defended the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories, even though they have been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice. Palestine is justifiably upset at this sudden turnaround.

“AUSTRALIA has recalibrated its position on Israel and Palestine to ensure only “balanced” UN resolutions receive its support, says Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop.

Australia this month abstained from two UN General Assembly resolutions; one condemning the expansion of Jewish settlements and another calling for the Geneva Convention to apply in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The resolution to end “all Israeli settlement activities in all of the occupied territories” was supported by 158 nations. Australia was one of only eight nations to abstain.

Australia was one of only five countries to abstain from calling for Israel to “comply scrupulously” with the 1949 Geneva Convention. The resolution was supported by 160 nations.

Ms Bishop said the shift “reflected the government’s concern that Middle East resolutions should be balanced”.

We have also alienated the global community by reversing action on climate change and reneging on our commitments to renewable energy and our promised contribution to the Green Energy fund.

So aside from pissing off Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, China, Palestine and the world, minor snafus according to Ms Savva, I guess you could say “Julie Bishop is doing a pretty good job.” At what I’m not sure. It appears Armani suits, pearl drop earrings and politeness are all it takes to make DFAT “very happy”.

PS Thank you to Fed Up for reminding me about Timor l’Este on whom we also spied and then raided their lawyer just before they took us to court for bugging trade negotiations. I also neglected to mention our active support for human rights abuses both there and in Sri Lanka.

The Indonesia spy scandal and Australia’s future

Image courtesy of smh.com.au

Image courtesy of smh.com.au

With reports that Indonesia is strengthening its military to preserve its “territorial integrity and sovereignty” and that Australia is seen as their greatest threat, this guest post from Dr Strobe Driver is timely. Those reports, chillingly, suggest that Australia’s “tow-back” policy may soon ignite conflict impelled by the Indonesia spy scandal. Dr Driver argues the ball is – and has always been – in Abbott’s court.

Professor White of the ANU Strategic and Defence Studies Centre is right in his article in The Age, on 26 November, 2013: “Abbott playing with diplomatic fire in Asia.” The level of incompetence shown by the Abbott Government in dealing with the Indonesian Government is staggering, and it will have repercussions. The repercussions to which I allude, will incrementally be enforced as China rises and in turn, as Indonesia becomes more militarily robust. The objective of the Abbott Government should be one of instilling stability in to the region and this is not encouraged by platitudes in the Parliament about who are Australia’s ‘valuable friends.’ A fundamental reason why this issue is still a vibrant one is due to the Coalition when it was in opposition, telling the Indonesian Government how it will have to regulate and/or deal with any regional problems: such as people smuggling.

To be sure, the platitudes about how borders will be ‘protected’ was to placate the domestic population of Australia and make sure Abbott was seen to be a focused and forthright spokesman; and this would have the knock-on of reinforcing Australia’s dominance in the region. There is no doubt that the current prime minister was hoping for the success the former prime minister John Howard had in 2001 with his message of “We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come”, and of any of hoping for the same reverberation in the populace.

The grandstanding of Australia in the current circumstances, however, is fundamentally and decisively flawed as it does not recognise things are different now; and this is a most worrying aspect of the ongoing issues (and frictions) with Indonesia. Times have changed. For the Australian population to assume that Indonesia will not, and has not, gained confidence from the rise of China—a geographically close neighbour to Indonesia—and that it will always wish to solve problems that Australia has with it, is naïve in the extreme. Indonesia has grown as a nation-state since 2001. Moreover, for Australia to not understand this is now downright dangerous and will be problematic in the future. First and foremost, Indonesia is not the country it was when the (then) Prime Minister John Howard made his forthright statement, as Indonesia is now a much more politically robust nation-state, one that is keen to establish its place in the twenty-first century; and the Asia-Pacific region. More to the point, when China begins to move in to the western Pacific in a more forthright manner or in simpler terms, when the People’s Liberation Army Navy is able to establish an ongoing military presence in the western Pacific, its presence this will change all the current parameters.

The primary issue-at-hand is, Australia should not ignore this situation. Moreover, this is what a nation-state does when it has a burgeoning middle-class that wishes to reinvigorate their ‘place’ in the world and it happens on many levels: political, diplomatic, strategic, and financial to name only several key areas. Indonesia is no different than Australia was in the 1960s. As the middle-class of Indonesia become more and more astute and politically aware an outcome—and hence, a repercussion—for Australia will be that as Indonesia gains a ‘momentum’ there will be less reason for it to rely on Australia for imports and therefore Australia’s industries will be impacted upon in a negative way. One should not assume that Indonesia’s allegiance to Australia is anything beyond opportunistic—just as all country’s spy, all countries are opportunistic—and it should be admitted at this point that Australia has done little to actively promote a deeper mutual relationship with its Asia-Pacific partners in order to gain more meaningful relationships, is in fact, a fantasy.

In the future a peripheral of the rise of China is Indonesia will begin to look at its Asian neighbours with a renewed interest in terms of who will benefit Indonesia most; and the notion of mutuality will also come to the fore. Unfortunately, Australia is not enabling this process to be undertaken in the seamless way it could, and this lack of decisive action must mean Indonesia’s focus will shift toward its most powerful neighbour. The spying scandal essentially does nothing to invigorate Australia-Indonesia relations and actively encourages Indonesia to seek political union elsewhere. Spying and the subsequent sharing of information with Australia’s allies—which the Indonesians are fully aware of—will impact on Australia in the future, and whilst this may not be critical at the moment, it will exponentially undermine future relations with Indonesia. This will a prove to be at its most dangerous nature when China begins its strategic manoeuvrings in the western Pacific in the next decade. The recent spying scandal vividly portrays Australia’s deep-seated attitude to its nearest northern neighbour and it will not go unnoticed for a very long time. Now to the dangers for Australia. Are there any further dangers for Australia in the future as the relationship with Indonesia (a land of 250million+ people) when the situation continues to incrementally deteriorate? The short answer to this is ‘yes’! This can manifest in many ways, however, if Indonesia uses the spying issue to strengthen its ties with China, and with this backing decides to enforce its sovereignty within nautical boundaries, this will create ongoing problems and tension. Sounds far-fetched? Nation-states have a tendency when backed by other powerful state actors they to enforce their sovereign rights in a more decisive way. North Korea utilizing China’s support, and currently Japan accommodating US B-52 fly-overs of their disputed islands are just two examples of this happening. If What if the frictions continue and eventually there is a military clash? This is where the United States (US) enters into the scenario. To be sure, there remains a widely-held assumption that the US will come to the aid of Australia should there be a force-on-force collision with Indonesia. Assuming this would take place in current times is debatable, however, as tensions inevitably rise—especially in the next decade as China exerts its influence on Indonesia—it remains a possibility, though I would argue within the next half-decade not a probability. Nevertheless, ‘mistakes’ are often made, as the South Korean Navy will attest, with the (2010) sinking of one of its vessel’s in the Yellow Sea by the North Korean Navy.

Would the US come to Australia’s defence should an escalation of tensions between Australia and Indonesia take place? The answer to this is ‘no’! Why? The answer neatly returns to the element of opportunism. The Indonesian aircraft that were ordered by their president to cancel joint-exercise Elang Ausindo and fly back to Indonesia were US-built F-16 ‘Fighting Falcon’ strike fighters. The question that begs is, would the US immediately and unequivocally come to Australia’s aid at a time of crisis if, for instance, the Indonesian government threatened to curtail its defence budget which would impact on the sales of US strike aircraft, or sent signals to the US that is may seek to spend its defence money elsewhere? Once again, to automatically assume that the US would defend Australia is also naïve in the extreme, as the US is it is safe to argue, by definition, a very opportunistic of nation-state. Australia would be wise to exit from its past practice/s of near-contempt for Indonesia; and also of its assumptions about the US, and its role in Australia’s defence. The dynamics of the Asia-Pacific are changing rapidly and a re-assessment on the part of Australia in the milieu of geo-political preponderance is of the utmost necessity. Australia may, within the next decade, get caught between a China-US struggle for primacy in the western Pacific; commensurately find that Indonesia has sided with China, and Australia can no longer depend on US assistance. Decisive and perspicacious thinking is required by the Australian government–and quickly.

This article was first published on Geo-Strategic Orbit by Dr. Strobe Driver.

About Dr. Strobe Driver

After many years of interest in International Relations his doctoral thesis examined the progress of war as a mechanism of intent and as a deliberate outcome of specific actions; and moreover, how within this framework it is able to be utilized to a position of advantage.

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Has anybody seen Tony’s envoy?

Image courtesy of abc.net.au

Image courtesy of abc.net.au

”I am as happy as a pig in shit – you can quote me on that – doing what I’m doing at the moment.” – Special Envoy Jim Molan.

Has anyone seen Molan, Tony’s personal “troubleshooter” on asylum seekers who promised to convince Indonesia to sign up to the Coalition’s Operation Sovereign Borders policy?

For those of you who don’t recognise the name, he was the tame retired general who was trotted out before the election campaign to assure every news program that would have him on that the tow-back policy would work and that Indonesia would just cop it.

General Molan was instrumental in developing and promoting the Coalition’s Operation Sovereign Borders asylum-seeker policy, under which border protection would come under the command of a three-star military commander. He has been a key player including helping to launch Operation Sovereign Borders when Mr Abbott and his immigration spokesman Scott Morrison announced the policy in July (refer above photo).

General Molan denied he was a Liberal Party activist, as suggested by then Defence Minister Stephen Smith but told the ABC governments should achieve outcomes:

”I find that the people on the other side of Parliament . . . in the Opposition, have experience in doing what I want them to do, that is, secure our borders”.

”They have a greater probability of success and they’re an impressive bunch.”

Emboldened by his acceptance into the fold, Mr Molan penned a few articles. In July he wrote the following piece:

“Defence is not in the public mind as much as borders, but defence and borders are linked by the common failure of the Labor Party in government.

Australians should be quite sure that our Indonesian friends could stop the flow of people through Indonesia to Australia in a relatively short period of time. Commentators or politicians who imply that we are asking something impossible of our nearest big neighbour, are downright wrong. I make this judgement from living in Indonesia for five years and working intimately with the Indonesian security apparatus, and it applies now within a democratic Indonesia.

If the Indonesians achieved half the success in moving against the people smugglers as they have in countering terrorism, then there would be no appreciable problem. Indonesians do not see people smuggling as a significant problem for themselves, and are sensitive because they have tens of thousands of their citizens illegally overseas as workers. Corruption is also part of it with some locals on the take, and the anarchical nature of the Indonesian media means that leaders must not be too close to Australia.

To control our borders, we should not have to rely on the self-interest of our neighbour, but it would be really good if our neighbour assisted us as a friend, as we have assisted them significantly in the past. I have not forgotten our role in East Timor, but the final report of the Indonesian-Timor Leste Commission of Truth and Friendship Indonesia allows Australia to confidently occupy the moral high ground in relation to that issue. If people smuggling is truly a big enough issue, and around 70 per cent of Australians certainly consider it so, then Australia needs to impress on Indonesia the seriousness of the situation, not just go to Indonesia and list people smuggling as an agenda item.

So, if this is a real problem to an Australian government, then what will get our big friend’s attention is Australia’s resolve, part of which is returning the boats to Indonesia in order to totally disrupt the people smugglers’ business. If Australia agrees only to pay for offshore processing in some new Indonesian Galang, we will have signed a blank cheque for Indonesia to cash for as long as it wants, much Australian money will be wasted by inefficiency and corruption, and people smugglers will just move a bit further down the supply chain and once again wait us out, knowing that their customers will finally end up in Australia.

And boats can be turned back. The techniques for doing so should not be discussed openly for the same reason that we do not discuss operational detail in Uruzgan Province in Afghanistan.”

One can only wonder how this missive was received in Indonesia.

At the beginning of August we hear from Molan again:

“The nation needs South Australia’s submarines much faster, a top military mind says.

Retired Major General Jim Molan, an adviser to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and a former senior soldier, says more money is needed to get the 12 new submarines up and running. Construction will not begin until 2017 at the very earliest, and Maj Gen Molan said it was likely to be 2030 before they’re in the water.

He says Australia needs a decade of increased spending to get to “where we should be”.

Opposition defence spokesman David Johnston reiterated the Coalition policy to draw up a new White Paper within 18 months if they win the election, which would include a new Defence Capability Plan. He said the Government had a history of delaying important projects and that a Coalition Government would see the Future Submarine Project as a “top priority”.

“That’s why we’re redoing the White Paper . . . we are committed to the submarines in SA,” he said.

I wonder how that made Holden feel?

When, lo and behold, Tony Abbott then offered him the role of “Special Envoy” in late August, General Molan denied he had been offered a job for spruiking the policy:

”At no stage did I recommend that there be a regional envoy,” he said. ”At no stage in the derivation of the policy was I ever driven by self-interest. I have been retired [from the army] for five years and I am totally enjoying it. I also make a shed-load of money, so I’m not in this for the money. However, the logic of doing it is unchallengeable.

”I am as happy as a pig in shit – you can quote me on that – doing what I’m doing at the moment.”

Yet further:

“I have a good understanding of the region . . . and I have many friends up there. I will be the troubleshooter, I will be the fixer. Technically I have been directed to facilitate regional co-operation. That is the political speak . . . what it means is I will be concentrating on a number of countries to make sure we have a regional deterrence framework. The vast majority of the solving can be done internally in Indonesia and they want to solve it. People smuggling is against their domestic law. And there is a kit bag of tools that we can use to make this work.”

“I’ve been retired for five years, I have lived in fear of being offered a job I would want to take . . . and now it has come. This is a job we in the military can do well. And it is critical we get it right.”

Is it just me, or is he showing an unhealthy enthusiasm to have gunboats to play with again? Most people who deal with asylum seekers are traumatised by the encounter rather than “happy as a pig in shit”.

A little history about Special Envoy Major General (retired) Molan . . .

He was the chief of operations of the allied forces in Iraq with responsibility for the operations in Fallujah. Faith in military solutions convinced Molan that George Bush’s troop surge in Iraq delivered “victory” to the Western occupiers, a reasonable judgement if victory is defined as the destruction of the country and the immiseration of its population. If you claim to have run the war in Iraq, it may be necessary to believe this nonsense. By almost any measure, the war in Iraq has been one of the greatest military catastrophes of modern history.

In 2009 he recommended in articles in The Interpreter and in the Australian Army Journal to send a further 6000 Australian troops to Afghanistan for up to 5 years. Despite growing public opposition to sending more troops (65% of Australians were opposed) and a failure to subdue the Taliban since we first attacked them in October 2001, Molan still believed a military victory in Afghanistan was “a fair probability,” even if he could neither define it nor explain why the course of the war would suddenly change with additional foreign troops.

In language borrowed from the Bush Administration, Molan claimed “our enemies play on our morality and exploit our goodness,” blaming the waning ‘popular’ support for the war for exposing “our greatest vulnerability, our resolve.”

Finally, in a paragraph about the mismanagement of the war and corruption in Kabul, Molan blames NATO, a “poor constitution,” and “Hamid Karzai’s natural Afghan ways . . . ” What is he suggesting here? That Afghans are naturally corrupt and untrustworthy, hence our failure to ‘win’ the war? There is no other interpretation of these extraordinary and unfortunate remarks.

Scott Burchill, in a scathing assessment of Molan, said “it would be surprising for military men to advocate political solutions to global conflicts. It’s not their area of professional expertise. By default they lead with their strongest suit – organised violence – not geopolitics or diplomacy.”

The Coalition has budgeted $1.1 million for the role of Special Envoy over two years. Why is the person who designed the asylum seeker policy, and who is supposedly the “fixer”, the man who has “friends in high places” and who has been flying around at our expense visiting them – why is he not at the weekly briefings instead of that poor benighted General Campbell?

Could it be because they have chosen as “Special Envoy” a man who enjoys wars, a man who thinks we need more guns and submarines, a man who thinks all Afghanis and Indonesians are corrupt ? No wonder we are in trouble.

Turn back – you are going the wrong way

If we don’t do something to halt the direction that this country is heading then we are in danger of a crash of catastrophic proportions.

While the rest of the world recognises the critical threat of climate change, and moves towards global action to address it, we remove carbon pricing, dismantle all climate change bodies, change environmental protection laws, and move away from initiatives like Marine Parks and the Murray-Darling water buyback.

When the rest of the world begins transitioning from the dependence on fossil fuels, we approve the largest coal mines in the world and the infrastructure to support them. We ramp up CSG mining. Rather than making the polluters pay, we decide to pay them with taxpayer money, and remove the mining tax that would at least give us some share of the money made by exploiting our dwindling resources.

When the rest of the world is increasing the share of renewable energy, we cut $20 million from the Energy Efficiency Opportunities program and $40 million from Australian Renewable Energy Agency, and wind up the Low Carbon Communities program which provides grants to local councils and other groups to make energy efficiency upgrades to community buildings. We cap government spending on reaching our emission reduction and renewable energy targets, and refuse to contribute to the Green Energy Fund.

In the face of rising unemployment, instead of investing a relatively small amount in the car industry, about one tenth of what we give to the mining companies, we choose to let the industry die and put tens of thousands of people out of work. But never fear, Sophie Mirabella has been appointed to build submarines instead.

We cannot afford to have the Salvation Army doing humanitarian work with asylum seekers and we cannot afford the mental health experts that were assessing and treating them, but we can afford $1.2 billion for more tents, and $1.1 million for Special Envoy Jim Molan to do something, though I am not sure what. We apparently can spend “whatever it takes” to stop the boats.

We have just appointed as Human Rights Commissioner someone who told a Senate Committee last year that the Human Rights Commission should be abolished. His main goal is to champion freedom of speech and a free press. He feels there has been far too much emphasis on left wing humanitarian silliness, and that we should have the right to racially vilify people.

We have condoned human rights abuses in Sri Lanka and West Papua, been caught spying on Indonesia and East Timor, infuriated China by taking sides with the US, and Indonesia by our boat tow/buy back rhetoric, ignored the UN by siding with Israel, refused to address whaling with the Japanese, and in general, vacillated between tough guy and fawning friend at a rate that would make your head spin.

In the area of health, Westmead Children’s Hospital will lose $100 million in funding for the first stage of a comprehensive redevelopment, while the Children’s Medical Research Institute will lose $10 million and the Millennium Institute will lose $12 million, amongst many other funding cuts.

Even though we have a gambling problem, we undo the poker machine reforms. Even though we have a drug and alcohol problem, we get rid of the alcohol and drug advisory board. Even though new figures show Australians are fatter than ever, more than $18 million has been cut from obesity prevention programs. Even though we have a disproportionately high number of indigenous Australians in gaol, we cut $43 million from indigenous legal aid funding.

With the looming crisis of an aging population, we scrap the Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing six months before they completed a three year report to help the government design a policy to deal with challenges posed by Australia’s ageing population. We also block pay rises to aged care workers. Rather than encouraging low income workers to invest in superannuation to relieve some of the future burden on the old age pension, we cut the co-contribution and delay the superannuation guarantee increase, whilst giving further tax breaks to very high income earners.

Congestion on our roads, parking, and the pollution from cars is a growing problem. Rather than investing in public transport, we are building more roads, even ones people don’t want, and ignoring Infrastructure Australia’s priorities.

With a slowing economy, rather than looking to raise more revenue, we have employed big business to tell us how to cut spending.

Rather than waiting for the Productivity Commission to finish the many reviews they have been tasked with, we are employing private consultants like Price Waterhouse Cooper to produce reports that say what the government wants to hear.

Even though the Productivity Commission said that replacement wages for paid parental leave would be too costly, inequitable, and of little benefit to workforce participation, we are pushing ahead with a scheme that will cost us over $5 billion a year giving money to people who don’t need it. At the same time we are blocking the payrise to childcare workers, and cutting $450 million from before and after school care programs, something that would help with job retention and productivity.

Even though we have already had 8 enquiries into the home insulation scheme, we are now to have a Royal Commission. To pay for this we have cut $6.7 million from the Caring for our Country program, which grants money to conservation projects.

We are also cutting about $1 billion from education by stopping initiatives like the trade training program.

The minister for education, Christopher Pyne, has appointed David Kemp and Andrew Norton to undertake a review into the demand-driven funding system for universities. Kemp was minister for education in the Howard government and Norton was his adviser on higher education policy.

Rather than continuing with the rollout of FttP NBN, we have gone back to square one and employed Malcolm’s mates to stonewall the Senate Committee. It appears from the redacted documents that some of us will get a far inferior service for much more than anticipated sometime much later than promised, and they will be the lucky ones.

We are rushing to sign free trade agreements in secret which will sign away our rights to make laws in our own country. We will be at the mercy of foreign corporations and our health initiatives and PBS scheme, environmental safeguards, and perhaps even gun laws, could be at risk.

In the face of growing debt and blown-out deficits stretching into the future, we borrow $8.8 billion dollars to give to the Reserve Bank who said they didn’t need it. Mr Hockey denies this was a political ploy to make Labor’s debt look bad and, when he takes out the dividends before the next election, that won’t be just to make him look good. The interest over 3 years will go close to $1 billion dollars. Expensive PR exercise from the party who promised to stop the waste, pay down the debt, and get the budget back into the black.

The government is restricting access to information, appointing cronies to every position, gagging debate, and pushing ahead with an agenda that blatantly favours big business and the very rich and looks increasingly like the IPAs 100 point wish list.

Unfortunately it is at the expense of our environment, our children, our health, our humanity, and the very fabric of our society.

Western Australians could find themselves with a very grave responsibility in the new year. At the moment, the only check on Tony Abbott’s ravages is the Senate.

If you get the chance to vote again next year, think very carefully about what Abbott will hand to the big corporations should he have control of both houses. Think of the repercussions to health and education and social services and workers’ conditions. Think about how minor parties will vote and who they will give their preferences to.

Currently you have voted for these three Liberal Party Senators:

Linda Reynolds. Apart from the fact that she was recruited by Brian Loughnane, Peta Credlin’s husband, I can find little about her.

David Johnstone. Even though he has been Minister for Defence for three months I have not seen or heard anything of him. Actually, I don’t recall much from him in his time as Shadow Minister either.

And of course, Michaelia Cash, the “Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Woman” as the sign on her door describes her. Who could forget her recent Senate performance.

Perhaps these people represent your local interests well – I don’t know – but, should you be asked to vote again, I would say think wisely Western Australia – the fate of the nation could be in your hands.

Image courtesy of rendezvousofme.blogspot.com

Image courtesy of rendezvousofme.blogspot.com

The First REAL 100 Days of Government

The Abbott Government have celebrated their first 100 days and awarded themselves a tick in every box. Everything they have done has been handled efficiently, smoothly, swiftly and professionally. That is, of course, if you listen to the Government’s own glowing but exaggerated assessment.

Thanks to Michael Trembath, here is a link to the articles that provide us with the real story of the Abbott Government’s first 100 days. Satirically sub-titled ‘Delivering on our Plan‘ it delivers an absolute mockery of the claim that the Government has done just that. Our thanks go to Michael for giving The AIMN permission to reproduce his compelling list.

Here is Michael’s fact-finding assessment and evidence of the first real 100 days of the Abbott Government:

Delivering on Our Plan

Commitments and Action Taken

Stop the boats

Operation Sovereign Borders

Offshore detention

Rules and funding of offshore detention

Conditions

Asylum seekers in detention

Immigration

Indonesia

Relations with the Indonesian Government

Relations with Indonesian Media and Social Media

Indonesia and asylum seekers

Animal Cruelty/Live Cattle Trade

Sri Lanka

China

East Timor

Other

Fix the Budget

Commission of Audit

Debt

Privatisation

Foreign Ownership etc.

Business

Other

Repeal the carbon and mining taxes

Boost productivity, reduce regulation and create jobs

Reduce cost-of-living pressures for families

Reducing access to superannuation and other entitlements

Reducing pay rates

Increasing costs

Paid Parental Leave scheme

Deliver better services and a better society

NBN and internet

Infrastructure

ABC

Education

Other

Deliver stronger and better communities

Indigenous Australians

Social Services and other organisations

Same-sex Marriage

Other

Deliver a cleaner environment

Climate change

Bushfires and climate change

Removal of carbon pricing and emissions policy

Removal of environmental funding and protections

Approval of projects etc.

Other

Deliver strong, sustainable and accountable government

Secrecy and control

Ministries

Parliamentary entitlements

Conduct in Parliament

Other

Commitments and Action Taken

Stop the boats

Operation Sovereign Borders

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has now been renamed The Department of Immigration and Border Protection

When asked about a boat arrival the day before, Acting Commander of Operation Sovereign Borders claimed “if I haven’t reported it, it didn’t happen”

Angus Campbell reveals no boats have been purchased under the Government’s controversial boat ‘buy-back’ policy because Indonesia does not support the idea.

Aiming to ‘hide the boats’ with changes to announcements about asylum seeker boat arrivals (they later backed down, the government now will brief journalists each Monday) Christmas Island residents will ‘do everything they can to announce boats arriving’ One people smuggler ridicules their silence on boat arrivals

Operation Sovereign Borders Commander General Angus Campbell will no longer be present for the entire weekly briefing, giving his weekly report on the number of boat arrivals and take a few questions before leaving after previously repeatedly refusing to give details about questions he said related to “on-water matters”..

Immigration Minister accuses media of ‘misrepresentation’ and claims that they “never had a policy of towing boats back to Indonesia” despite on occasions, the then Opposition Leader suggested he would bring the policy back

An Australian Customs patrol boat had to rescue about 40 asylum-seekers at the weekend after accidentally ripping the bow of the boat away and causing it to start sinking.

Unwinding parts of Labor’s crackdown on cheaper foreign ships operating on Australia’s coast

Australia and Indonesia were involved in a mid-ocean stand-off in the early hours of Friday morning as a customs vessel tried unsuccessfully to return a boatload of rescued asylum seekers to a reluctant Indonesia

The Immigration Minister said that for the sake of correcting the public record … two (boats) were accepted and two were not. The Jakarta Post reported on Saturday that Agus Barnas, spokesman for the Indonesian co-ordinating minister for Legal, Political and Security Affairs, said his country had declined to receive three out of six Australian requests for transfers since September.

The Australian Greens’ Order for Production of Documents passes the Senate and forces the Coalition to table reports about on-water incidents under Operation Sovereign Borders.

Immigration Minister defies Senate order to release information about Operation Sovereign Borders

Immigration Minister refuses to tell Parliament whether any asylum-seeker boats have been turned back to Indonesia – a Coalition election policy – prompting ridicule from Labor He acknowledges a Senate motion calling him to release reports on asylum-seeker arrival

Offshore detention

Rules and funding of offshore detention

Immigration Minister has instructed departmental and detention centre staff to publicly refer to asylum seekers as ‘illegal’ arrivals and as ‘detainees’, rather than as clients: a leading asylum seeker agency describes this as designed to dehumanise people. A spokesman for the Immigration Minister said he would not comment on internal government communication.

Customs officials confirm they were directed by the immigration minister, Scott Morrison, to describe asylum seekers arriving by boat as “illegal”.

Immigration Minister imposes information blackout on self-harm in detention centres as it could encourage copycat behaviour among detainees

The birth of children and clinical depression are no longer being formally reported as incidents in Australian detention centres, while self-harm events have been downgraded from critical to major

Abbott raises the prospect of Australia leaving the United Nations refugee convention, risking damage to Australia’s regional and international reputation, especially as it is currently a member of the UN Security Council and is hosting the G20 summit in 2014.

AusAID (Australian Agency for International Development) responsible for administering the $5 billion official aid program will be “integrated” back into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, potentially putting the 1300 Canberra-based staff members out of work

600 staff members of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service would have to be sacked in the next four years due to budget cuts of $733 million

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has announced the creation of a new taskforce to stamp out corruption in the Customs and Border Protection Service: which will identify officers or groups who pose a risk to the service, as well as their outside criminal associations

Withdrawing funding to The Welcome Centre, which provided support to asylum seekers, refugees & new arrivals through English classes, volunteer & work experience opportunities, emergency relief and friendship.

Dumping the Salvation Army as a long-term partner in providing services in offshore processing centres, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison refusing the confirm the details

Formally disbanding the Immigration Health Advisory Group, which provided independent advice on the health needs of asylum seekers, sacking all the groups members except the current chair who will set up its own advisory panel despite having little mental health experience

Conditions

Asylum seekers in Darwin complained that only two toilets were available for 500 people in one section of the Christmas Island detention facility. The Immigration Minister said these complaints “unsubstantiated” – two asylum seekers who spoke to the ABC were sent to offshore detention

First ever images leaked from within the Australian asylum seeker detention centre on Nauru, including pictures of children playing in the dirt and asylum seekers being forced to hang their clothes on fences due as building work is incomplete.

Amnesty International details a report, describing Manus Island’s detention centre as ‘cruel, inhuman, degrading and violating prohibitions against torture’. They also highlight that gay asylum seekers on Manus island are being told they will be reported to the PNG police if they engage in homosexual relations while in detention

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has played down the United Nations’ Refugee Agency’s scathing assessment of Australia’s offshore detention centres, describing the report’s criticism as ‘‘overstated’’.

The former high court chief justice Gerard Brennan has prepared a damning assessment of a “whatever it takes” approach to politics, questioning the asylum-seeker policies of both parties.

Asylum seekers in detention

Labor calls on the Coalition to reconsider a decision that will deny a Somali woman facial reconstruction surgery for gunshot wounds.

Two unaccompanied minors on Manus Island may not have a legal guardian after federal legislation in 2012 changed the minister’s role for asylum seeker children sent offshore.

An asylum seeker who was moved off Nauru to give birth is being locked up for 18 hours a day in a detention centre in Brisbane while her week-old baby remains in hospital with respiratory problems A spokesman for Mr Morrison yesterday said doctors at the hospital had advised that it is common for mothers not to stay overnight because of bed restrictions, but the Mater Hospital suggested the mother should have been allowed to visit her child whenever she wanted. Abbott: “deeply regrets” that “they’ve happened because people have come to Australia illegally by boat”

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison on a profoundly disabled four-year-old Tamil asylum seeker in a Brisbane detention facility who will be transferred offshore along with her father: “It doesn’t matter whether you’re a child, it doesn’t matter whether you’re pregnant, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a woman, it doesn’t matter if you’re an unaccompanied minor, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a health condition – if you are fit enough to get on a boat, then you can expect you’re fit enough to end up in offshore processing.”

An unaccompanied teenage girl has been sent to Australia’s immigration detention centre on Nauru.

A group of unaccompanied child asylum seekers have been transferred from Nauru to Brisbane amid concerns about their mental health and fears they may try to self harm.

Lawyers sought a court order to stop the removal of a two-week-old baby and his asylum-seeker family from Brisbane to Nauru

Group of 70 asylum seekers, including many children, arrive on Christmas Island

Undetected asylum seekers on Christmas Island shows Sovereign Borders is failing, Labor and Greens say

Immigration

About 20 Hungarian riggers brought in on 457 visas to work on the construction of a warehouse at Eastern Creek in Sydney’s west were sent home after complaining that they were being paid less than the award wage (less than $15 an hour.)

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison limits the number of Permanent Protection Visas to 1,650 – meaning that no more further protection visas can be provided to onshore applicants until June 30 2014 Guardian article

The Immigration Minister will not try to prevent a convicted double killer from appearing at the Sydney Opera House, despite US rapper Snoop Dogg being refused a visa to visit Australia

Indonesia

Relations with the Indonesian Government

The president of Indonesia has lashed out at Tony Abbott in a series of angry tweets, accusing the Australian Prime Minister of taking the spying scandal too lightly.

Abbott: ‘We don’t comment on operational matters’…’all governments gather information’…’we use the information that we gather, for good, including to build a stronger relationship with Indonesia’

Indonesia will call back its ambassador to Australia and “review” Australian diplomatic positions in Jakarta as anger rises in Indonesia over revelations that Australia tapped the phone of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife

Abbott refuses to apologise over revelations that Australia tried to tap president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s phone: “I sincerely regret any embarrassment that recent media reports have caused him.”

Abbott’s election adviser Mark Textor has sparked a diplomatic storm after apparently comparing Indonesia’s foreign minister to “a 1970s Filipino porn star” on Twitter. An Indonesian responds directly on Twitter

A delegation of Russian politicians was in Indonesia to discuss the Australian phone tapping revelations, while giving “permission” from Moscow to Indonesian MPs to meet with former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who lives under temporary protection there.

Tony Abbott says he has no evidence Australia’s spy agencies have acted outside the law and argues current “stringent” safeguards work to prevent overreach by the intelligence services.

Abbott proposes security round table with Indonesia SBY says cooperation won’t resume until Australia signs code of ethics Which Abbott has declined to immediately commit to, but suggests a security round table be established so both nations could be more open with each other and build greater mutual trust In a significant departure from the normal government formulation, which is declining to comment on intelligence matters, Trade Minister Andrew Robb spoke of the surveillance of Indonesia in 2009 as a matter of fact.

Australia’s handover of an old C-130 Hercules to Indonesia will go ahead, despite cooperation being suspended between the two countries.

Two Indonesian nationals have been questioned by Customs for allegedly trying to smuggle birds on a C-130 Hercules being handed over to Indonesia.

Relations with Indonesian Media and Social Media

Abbott shut out the local press while meeting business and government delegates in Indonesia *which is considered commiting an offence in that country

Demonstrators in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta have burnt an Australian flag in protest over the alleged tapping as anti-Australian sentiment continues to escalate.

Indonesians express Aussie hatred with hashtag #GanyangAustralia which means ‘Crush Australia’

The publication of a sexually lurid cartoon of Tony Abbott on the front page of Indonesia’s Rakyat Merdeka newspaper on Saturday is the second time in seven years that the same newspaper has courted the outrage of Australians by inking an offensive image of the Prime Minister.

Indonesia and asylum seekers

The Indonesian government is being urged to relax its preventive measures against boat people using Indonesia as a stepping stone in their onward journeys to Australia.

Abbott capitulates to Indonesia, ordering a Customs boat with up to 63 refugees on board to go to Christmas Island

The Immigration Minister describes Indonesia’s refusal to accept asylum boats ‘very frustrating’ and that there is “no real rhyme or reason” why Indonesian authorities had not taken stricken asylum seekers back to their shores after a three-day impasse

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison refuses to reveal what anti-people smuggling activities have been shelved in Indonesia as a result of the spying scandal

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says boats can be stopped without Indonesia’s co-operation

Abbott says ‘high time’ Indonesia resumes cooperation on smuggling, describing their decision to suspend military cooperation as “singularly unhelpful”

Abbott says Indonesia’s suspension of co-operation on asylum seeker boats is one of the reasons behind an increase in boat arrivals.

Indonesia’s cooperation with Australia on people smuggling, trade, police and military exercises will stay on hold until after Tony Abbott has agreed to a “code of ethics” for the use of intelligence.

Animal Cruelty/Live Cattle Trade

Abbott over-rules his Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce on the subject of foreign land ownership, while encouraging the live cattle trade from Australia to Indonesia

Increase in live cattle exports to Indonesia from 75,000 cattle this year on top of the 260,000 quota

Despite a new video mishandled in Mauritius alarming animal cruelty activists and renewing calls for tougher penalties on exporters, Abbott says ‘the government was unmoved on its stance on live exports’

Agriculture Minister says he will not shut down the exports of live sheep to Jordan, despite the latest revelations of animal cruelty where sheep were being dragged along the ground to the place of slaughter, where they are killed next to the bodies of other sheep, thrown into car boots and carved open at the throat. Other animals have stones thrown at them and some are sat on by children. He also scrapped the position of Independent Inspector General of Animal Welfare, announced by Labor to oversee the live export industry, amid fresh evidence of cruelty towards Australian animals overseas. The Agriculture minister has ‘full confidence that my department is currently seeing how this leakage (of the footage) occurred

The Abbott government was rebuked by Japan and New Zealand for ditching Australia’s commitment to monitor closely its catch (the lion’s share of a global catch split between nine nations) of the critically endangered southern bluefin tuna. Parliamentary secretary to the Agriculture Minister Richard Colbeck has shelved the proposal, claiming its $600,000 cost was unwarranted in an industry worth $150 million a year in exports.

The latest threat from Indonesia to freeze Australia’s live cattle trade takes the fallout from the spying scandal to a disturbing new level.

Barnaby Joyce postpones trip to Indonesia, state-owned cattle firm halts talks amid spying allegations

Indonesian Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan has confirmed that the dispute with Australia over spying allegations has accelerated his country’s desire to source beef from other countries.

Sri Lanka

Abbott is being pressured by the Greens to boycott CHOGM in Sri Lanka because of human rights abuses.

Abbott distances himself from concerns over Sri Lanka’s human rights record, suggesting the country should be judged by a different standard to others

Abbott on Sri Lankan human rights abuse: “Obviously the Australian Government deplores any use of torture. We deplore that, wherever it might take place, we deplore that. But we accept that sometimes in difficult circumstances, difficult things happen.” Scribd: Tony Abbott on Sri Lanka

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has praised Sri Lanka for its efforts to address human rights issues and allegations of war crimes at the opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

Australia will donate two navy ships to Sri Lanka to promote enhanced collaboration on people smuggling, despite its human rights record The former Customs boats will be given a $2 million facelift and handed over by mid-2014

China

Beijing has delivered an angry rebuke over what it says are “irresponsible remarks” made by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop regarding Chinese territorial claims in the East China Sea.

Tony Abbott has refused to take a backward step in a deepening diplomatic spat with Beijing, declaring “China trades with us because it is in China’s interest to trade with us”.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has refused to back down over comments to China regarding its newly declared air defence zone in the East China Sea, despite an angry response from the Chinese government. Treasurer Joe Hockey: she is doing exactly the right thing.

Australia faces strained diplomatic ties on a new front after China lashed out at comments from Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and called for an immediate correction. But Abbott says Australia will speak its mind on China’s territorial dispute with Japan

The Chinese foreign minister has launched an unprecedented public attack on the Australian Government, accusing it of “jeopardising bilateral mutual trust” as the row over the East China Sea escalates

East Timor

The government of Timor Leste – East Timor – believes Australia’s overseas spy agency covertly recorded Timorese ministers and officials in Dili in 2004. They say it happened during negotiations over a treaty that governs billions of dollars in gas revenue between the two countries.

A lawyer representing East Timor in its spying case against Australia says his office has been raided by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). East Timor’s prime minister says he is shocked by the Australian Government’s decision to authorise raids on a lawyer and whistleblower who were set to provide evidence against Australia in The Hague.

Other

PM Abbott told Aung San Suu Kyi (house arrest roughly 15 years), “I was an Opposition Leader myself for 4 years.”

Abbott arrived noticeably late to the first session of the APEC leaders meeting in Bali. Mr Putin being less than pleased and ignored Mr Abbott’s presence when he finally turned up to be seated next to him

New Zealand Opposition Leader David Cunliffe has used a high-level meeting in Sydney to lobby for New Zealanders to be treated the same as Australians living in New Zealand: i.e. student allowances and loans, public disability insurance

Fix the Budget

Commission of Audit

The National Commission of Audit will report to the Prime Minister, Treasurer and Minister for Finance with the first phase due by the end of January 2014; and the second phase due by no later than the end of March 2014

Members of the team hand-picked by the Abbott government to lead the commission of audit will be paid $1500 a day: more than what a family received through the scrapped Schoolkids Bonus each year.

Tony Abbott’s hand-picked auditor charged with assessing government spending and advising on outsourcing runs a company that has won contracts from the federal government worth more than half a billion dollars.

The NDIS will not be exempt from its commission of audit and may allow the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) to contract out some administrative functions to the private and not-for-profit sectors

Debt

Treasurer Joe Hockey wants to cut waste by hiring expert external consultants to repeat an audit of Treasury forecasts which was done 10 months ago by expert external consultants

Treasurer considers delaying mid-year budget to “avoid hurting confidence”

The Abbott Government has borrowed $8.7billion in 26 days, or $335 million a day – despite campaigning that there was a ‘budget emergency’

They are expecting to confirm a deficit of just under $50 billion in its Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO), $20 billion more than the deficit forecast by Labor in its last economic statement before the election

The Abbott Government has now abandoned its target of returning the budget to surplus in four years, blaming the “profligacy” of its Labor predecessor.

However, Australia had just recorded the most contractionary year for fiscal policy ever seen, a different outcome to the ‘budget emergency’

Concedes that it will have to boost its own spending (and debt levels) if it is to get a rapid injection of funds into infrastructure projects, overlooking spending on programs such as welfare and education

The Treasurer announces increasing the Commonwealth debt limit to $500 billion while announcing a five-person Commission of Audit including former Liberal minister Amanda Vanstone and Tony Shepard from the Business Council of Australia

Abbott is accused of dishonesty over his plans to increase the government’s credit limit to $500 billion.

The Treasurer denies the federal government is bailing out the Reserve Bank with a $8.8 billion contribution (analysis by Michael Pascoe) 2nd analysis

Treasurer Joe Hockey will seek an agreement with the Greens to abolish the debt ceiling this week as he faces new projections showing 13 more years of continuous budget deficits – enough to last the life of this government and the next four. Despite Abbott saying in August 2013, that the Greens have ‘fringe economic policies… no one has that kind of economic policy’ Video of Abbott confirming and committing to never to do a deal with a minor party ever Christine Milne article on the debt ceiling debate

Treasurer Joe Hockey denies being “married to the Greens” after the Federal Government brokered a new deal with the minor party to scrap the debt ceiling

Privatisation

Treasurer is seriously considering a proposal for states to receive a share of company tax revenue in lieu of revenue they would forfeit when assets were privatised – effectively paying the states to privatise public assets

Planning to sell Medibank Private despite sales growth of 7% and health fund membership growth of 145,000 lifted total group revenue to $5.4 billion

Foreign Ownership etc.

Treasurer Joe Hockey says the country needs to accept that keeping Qantas in regulatory handcuffs, which limit foreign ownership in the national flag carrier, will come at a high cost to taxpayers.

Transport unions warn thousands of Qantas maintenance, catering and other support staff could be sacked and their jobs sent offshore if restrictions on the foreign ownership of the national carrier are lifted

Treasurer Joe Hockey has scrapped a set of foreign ownership conditions stopping the Chinese company Yanzhou from taking full ownership of an Australian coal miner, less than two weeks after rejecting a US firm’s $3.4 billion takeover bid for GrainCorp

The Attorney-General reinforces NBN ban on Huawei, a blow to the world’s biggest manufacturer of telco equipment and could strain ties between Australia and the Chinese government, which are negotiating a free-trade agreement that Abbott wants signed within a year

Business

The Federal Government negotiated with Holden in November 2013 over a new round of funding. If the funds do not materialise, Holden has said it will pack up shop and leave. The Treasurer declares the Government will “not negotiate with a gun to our heads”

Holden makes the decision to pull out of Australia as early as 2016 Toyota insists it will stay in Australia after posting a $149 million profit, making it the only local car maker to be in the black.

Treasurer Joe Hockey said in Parliament that Holden managing director Mr Devereux should “come clean with the Australian people” and be “honest”, “Either you’re here or you’re not,” A company insider sends the text message: Are you seeing this question time attack on Holden? during Parliamentary Question Time. Taunting (Holden) to leave. It’s extraordinary.

Holden confirms decision to cease manufacturing operations in Australia by 2017

The fleet of high-security Holdens used by the Prime Minister will be replaced with bomb-proof BMWs.

Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane says Toyota employees must adjust to changed working conditions (including shorter holidays, ‘time off to give blood, ‘three week shut down over Christmas on top of their annual leave’) in the wake of Holden’s decision to cease manufacturing in Australia.

Abbott rules out more money for Toyota: providing additional money is “not the right way to go”

A monthly private survey has found business confidence has fallen back towards its pre-election levels as optimism fades and conditions remain weak

Other

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is on track to run out of money within months and Treasurer Joe Hockey is pointing the finger of blame at the previous Labor government, despite the financial position of the ACCC has been made public every year in its annual report and there is no crisis

Shares fell for the sixth day in a row as offshore investors trimmed their Australian equity portfolios ahead of expectations a depreciating local currency will eat into their profits, the longest losing streak in 17 months for shares

Its promise to axe 12,000 federal public service jobs is on hold as not enough funding has been allocated for redundancies

The Treasurer is determined that his senior public servants spend more time in the ‘real world’, with executives, bankers, bond traders and corporate investors by decentralising Treasury. Shifting parts of Treasury out of Canberra – last done in the early 1990s but reversed in the late 1990s to save money

Setting up a Royal Commission into the former government’s home insulation scheme Despite data showing far from increasing the rates of fire occurring from installing insulation – as it actually reduced the rate of fires and likely reduced the rate in a quite substantial manner.

Repeal the carbon and mining taxes

Abbott will be unable to abolish the fixed price on carbon pollution before 2015 unless he goes to a double-dissolution election, before July 2014

Clive Palmer is threatening to block all the Abbott government’s legislation – even measures he supports such as scrapping the carbon price – unless his party gets more staff and resources

Early repeal of carbon price scheme could cost $2 billion

Boost productivity, reduce regulation and create jobs

Redirected millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded research grants to fund research in dementia and other diseases Guardian article: ‘Politicians shouldn’t have a say on the worth of research grants’

A razor taken to the CSIRO with almost a quarter of scientists, researchers and workers at Australia’s premier science institution will lose their jobs under the federal government’s present public service jobs freeze

AusAID (Australian Agency for International Development) responsible for administering the $5 billion official aid program will be “integrated” back into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, potentially putting the 1300 Canberra-based staff members out of work

600 staff members of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service would have to be sacked in the next four years due to budget cuts of $733 million

Reduce cost-of-living pressures for families

Reducing access to superannuation and other entitlements

Keeping 18 of 92 unlegislated tax proposals, remainder will be either dumped, amended or reviewed, a cost of $3.1b to budget. The $2000 cap on self-education expenses dumped, low-income superannuation tax offset linked to mining tax scrapped but rolling back the proposed 15 per cent tax on superannuation earnings over $100,000 a year., fringe benefits changes for car industry dumped, but keeping Labor’s tobacco excise increase, raising $5.3b for budget

Axing the $820/yr Schoolkids Bonus and removing the low income superannuation offset

Industry superannuation funds are warning plans to axe a rebate for low-income workers will affect half of all working women and will disproportionately hit rural workers.

Australians would be denied access to both superannuation and the age pension until they turn 70 under a radical plan that goes far beyond the one proposed by the Productivity Commission

Providing relief payments of up to $1,000 to help people in the aftermath of the New South Wales bushfires but does not include people who have been cut off from their homes or who have no electricity have not been deemed eligible in the first round of disaster payments

Reducing pay rates

The chairman of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council declares that ‘we cannot hide the fact that Australian wage rates are very high by international standards’ The government is distancing itself from these controversial comments John Howard’s former “fair pay” umpire, Ian Harper, has poured cold water on suggestions that the minimum wage affects Australia’s economic competitiveness.

Already facing pressure to get rid of penalty rates

Intending to abandon $1.5 billion of union-linked wage increases for up to 350,000 workers in aged and child care while suspending payments from the $300 million Early Years Quality Fund established by the Gillard government to cover wage increases for childcare workers

The child-care wage increases would have increased certificate III childcare workers by $3 an hour and early-childhood teachers by $6 an hour.

Thousands of aged care workers will miss out on an expected pay rise after the Federal Government dumped a $1.2 billion fund set up by Labor.

Abbott is asking childcare providers to “do the right thing” and hand back $62.5 million given to them to improve wages in the poorly paid sector

Increasing costs

The Education Minister floats the possibility of privatising $23 billion of HECS student debt Which when done in the UK, investment bank Rothschild had pushed for students’ interest rates to be raised

WikiLeaks leaks the Trans Pacific Partnership exposing details of secret trade negotiations that could leave Australians paying more for drugs and medicines, movies, computer games and software, and be placed under surveillance as part of a US-led crackdown on internet piracy.

Refusing the Senate access to the secret text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal it is negotiating in Singapore, saying it will only be made public after it has been signed.

Introducing a Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 including seven Acts to replace the student start-up scholarship with an income-contingent student start-up loan while enabling an interest charge to be applied to certain social security debts, removing regulation on national gambling and the requirement for employers to provide paid parental leave as well as acts in relation to child support and the stillborn baby payment

Considering changes to lower the GST threshold on imported goods from $1000 to $20, raising more than $550 million per year in extra revenue at the cost of $1.5 billion per year in administration costs

Paid Parental Leave scheme

One of their MPs believes the Paid Parental Leave scheme go to the Productivity Commission for a cost-benefit analysis and has held out the possibility of voting against it in Parliament

National Senators may consider crossing the floor to oppose Tony Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme, arguing the policy favours already well-off women

Abbott’s plans for paid parental leave could be capped at $50000 if he wants Greens backing

Industry Super Australia urging the Government to fund the low-income superannuation payment by trimming its paid parental leave policy

Deliver better services and a better society

NBN and internet

Repealed their internet filter policy before the election which Abbott “quickly” read, although their revised policy still refers to internet filters (except that parents will install them themselves)

The Attorney-General is keen to attack the “supply side of piracy”, potentially by blocking access to websites that are seen to facilitate copyright infringement

In a phone interview with the Washington Post, in response to the question about Labor wanting to extend fiber to every household: ‘Welcome to the wonderful, wacko world of the former government.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull brushed aside a record petition of more than 200,000 online signatures to save Labor’s NBN

An online crowd funding group has raised more than $26,000 within two days to fund ads in community newspapers calling on the minister to build the NBN that Australia is asking for

The board of NBN Co was asked to resign by the Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Telstra also managed to build a test site in a laboratory to test the FTTN option and began a trial just after the election.

Former Telstra boss now confirmed to be the new NBN Co Board Chairman the man responsible for causing Telstra’s share price to halve with a marginal increase in dividends

The Opposition claims it it is being inundated by “countless” complaints by Australians alarmed after the new Coalition Government ‘wiped them off the NBN rollout map’ with “no apology and no real explanation”

Phone and internet services are already being cut in areas of Tasmania, even though some customers are still waiting for connection to the NBN.

NBN Co’s interim satellites are reaching full capacity and the government-owned company has started turning away new customers in rural Victoria. These customers must rely on existing broadband infrastructure until NBN Co launches two custom-made satellites in 2015.

The shadow minister for communications, Jason Clare, calls on the Government to fully disclose the contents of the NBN Strategic Review.

The department led by Malcolm Turnbull – who last year said NBN Co was more secretive than the Kremlin – has refused to release its briefing to the new government under freedom of information laws.

The newly-formed senate committee examining the NBN said it has been forced to summons NBN Co executives to appear as witnesses at planned hearings this week. NBN Co executives have been “reluctant to attend the committee in person”.

The union representing Telstra field staff says the telco’s copper-wire network is “beyond repair” and “an absolute disgrace”, casting new doubts over the federal government’s plans to use it to deliver faster broadband in its mixed-technology national broadband network

The Abbott government expects to make less money from the NBN because of slower speeds available under the Coalition’s copper-based network, a Senate committee has heard. ABC link

The Coalition’s national broadband network model will prove inadequate for many businesses, is poorly planned and is unlikely to be completed on time, according to NBN Co’s internal analysis for the incoming Abbott government.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull admitted the Abbott government will break its NBN election promise of giving all Australians access to 25 megabits per second download speeds by 2016

Executives of NBN Co has told a senate select committee that it has not conducted any trials of the Fibre to the Note model since the change of government

He also said that job losses are “likely” at the NBN Co after a review of the Government’s broadband plan found it will be billions of dollars more expensive than the Coalition had promised. The Conversation article One in three Australian premises will miss out on the Coalition’s NBN: ‘They are selling us a technology that’s already obsolete – this is the greatest con in Australian history,’ critic claims

Bill Morrow, chief executive of Vodafone for 19 months, has now been appointed CEO of NBN Co

Infrastructure

Handing over $1.5 billion in federal funding for the east-west link without seeing the full business case, despite an election promise that any investment of more than $100 million would require a published cost benefit analysis.

Scrapping $700 million slated for train lines in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth in favour of fast-tracked spending on motorways, such as $1.5 billion for WestConnex

The $6-8 billion east-west link will trigger huge increases in traffic on key sections of Melbourne’s road network

Federal Government pulls plug on $76m Gawler line electrification

A 10,000 bat colony in NSW delays work on the Pacific Highway and adds $10 million and two years to provide an alternative route, sparking talks on “reducing green tape”

ABC

Abbott threatens to extend the parliamentary sitting calendar into Christmas during a joint party room meeting consumed by fiery speeches about an unbalanced ABC and a joking suggestion that former MP Sophie Mirabella could take over the running of the national broadcaster.

Abbott accuses the ABC of acting as an “advertising amplifier for the Guardian” by collaborating on the story that revealed intelligence agencies’ attempts to tap the Indonesian president’s phone.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull rings the ABC boss Mark Scott to tell him he had made an “error of judgment” in teaming with the Guardian to run revelations that the Indonesian president’s phone was bugged

Senator Cory Bernardi declares that ABC’s funding should be cut and the national broadcaster forced to sell advertising and paid subscriptions online to compete with commercial newspapers

WA’s Young Liberals will call for the federal Liberal government to “eliminate laws that require radio and television broadcasters to be `balanced'”.

Education

Scrapping Labor’s targets to lift participation by disadvantaged students while opening the door to re-introducing caps on university places, removal of the equity targets which will disproportionately affect regional universities, axing the compulsory fee collected by universities to support student services Despite stating in August 2012 that the Coalition had no plans on capping university places

Nationals colleagues were “surprised and shocked” about plans to axe the university student services and amenities fee and the Coalition were warned that regional members would object.

The Government says abolishing the MRRT (Minerals Resource Rent Tax) will save the budget $13 billion by axing other measures it says it was meant to fund, including Labor’s Schoolkids Bonus ($410 boost to family tax payments for primary school students, and $820 for families with children at high school) and the small business instant asset write-off

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne has abandoned his pre-election pledge that every school would receive the same amount of funding under the Coalition as under Labor, while claiming to be too busy to meet the expert panel that devised the funding model Despite Abbott saying in August 2013 that if the Coalition won government, it would honour Labor’s funding commitments across the four years of the budget forward estimates. Pyne’s funding model has been described as ‘quick and dirty’ by a Gonski panel member The NSW Premier blasted his federal colleagues for abandoning the schools funding agreement he struck with the former Labor government, saying they should stop acting like an opposition. Pyne blames journalists for getting confused about his school funding promises, amid growing anger over the Coalition’s reneging on its pre-election commitments. The Coalition’s pre-election promise

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has rejected accusations the Coalition misled voters on education funding ahead of the election, saying Labor “utterly mismanaged” the issue.

Abbott on any misunderstanding on their promise to keep schools funding: “We are going to keep the promise that we actually made, not the promise that some people thought that we made, or the promise that some people might have liked us to make.” video link

Visits to www.schoolfunding.gov.au are redirected to the departmental website of Education minister Christopher Pyne, where there is no mention of the word “Gonski” at all, let alone a copy of the report or its 7000 submissions.

They are now planning to end the historical role of state governments in operating universities, starting with controlling governance of NSW’s 10 universities as part of a national takeover

The Education Minister says independent public schools are improving student outcomes in Western Australia. However, there have been no measured improvement in student outcomes in WA’s independent public schools

Other

Considering a plan for Australia Post to take over Centrelink’s front office operations Guardian article

Deliver stronger and better communities

Indigenous Australians

Reducing $42m of funds to Indigenous legal aid (not mentioned to legal aid groups during meetings leading up to the election)

Abbott and Attorney-General George Brandis will fulfil an election promise and introduce legislation to repeal a section of Racial Discrimination Act that conservative journalist Andrew Bolt was found guilty of breaching

“He’ll repeal parts of the Racial Discrimination Act making it dangerous to ask why some people identify as exclusively Aboriginal – and deserving of special treatment – when all but one of their great grandparents were white.”

Jewish leaders are preparing to fight Abbott government plans to weaken race hate laws, saying they could encourage persecution and racially motivated violence.

Abbott forms the Prime Minister’s indigenous council to provide advice on Aboriginal economic reform by recuiting powerful business and indigenous figures

Aiming to review $25 billion spent on indigenous affairs – “If there’s no economy and there’s no job there we need to think about other options that will move people to productive engagement.”

Social Services and other organisations

The social inclusion board – which advised the former government on the causes and effects of entrenched disadvantage – is being disbanded. (alternate link)

Savings of $30 million to be gained by a so-called “streamlining” of processes in the Family Court, described by chairman of the Law Council’s family law section as an unexplained one-liner in the Coalition costings

The Community Cabinet, the Major Cities Unit, the Social Inclusion Unit, the Australian Institute of Criminology, the Australian National Preventative Health Agency, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the National Health Performance Authority, the Independent Reviewer of Adverse Security Assessments, the Australian Research Council, the embassy in Senegal, the national Children’s Commissioner and the Human Rights Commission all facing cuts or abolition.

In a bid to ‘cut red tape’, aiming to abolish the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission which was designed to reduce the amount of time charities spent on administration via national accreditation

Funding for the Alcohol and other Drugs Council (ADCA), the national peak body representing organisations and workers in the sector, has been axed, undermining years of work to minimise alcohol and other drug-related harm across the Australian community Forcing the immediate closure of the 50-year-old organisation.

Scrapping grants for the Building Multicultural Communities Program which had offered up to $160,000 for the small infrastructure projects of community groups.

Same-sex Marriage

Abbott’s gay sister has proposed to her partner, and are planning their nuptials despite same-sex marriage not yet being legal in Australia.

Abbott says he will “do the right thing” and attend his gay sister’s wedding but could never support the marriage.

The Government confirmed it will challenge the ACT’s same-sex marriage laws in the High Court as soon as they are passed

Governor-General Quentin Bryce has publicly backed both Australia becoming a republic and gay marriage in a landmark speech in Sydney.

The first same-sex couples were legally married in Canberra Which were annulled less than a week later, with the High Court unanimously ruling that the ACT’s laws were inconsistent with the Federal Marriage Act, and were therefore unconstitutional Guardian article Abbott: They knew the risk that their marriages would be knocked down by the High Court Malcolm Turnbull says the current Parliament may change marriage laws to allow same-sex couples to wed.

Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi has called on former Liberal leader and current Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull to stop publicly advocating gay marriage or quit the ministry.

Other

Abbott says a gentle smack is sometimes the best thing for a child, rejecting the United Nations recommendation that all corporal punishment be banned in Australia. SBS article

Attorney-General George Brandis has asked the Australian Law Reform Commission to conduct a sweeping review of Commonwealth legislation to find provisions that encroach upon “rights, freedoms and privileges”.

Deliver a cleaner environment

Climate change

Tim Flannery sacked, Climate Commission dismantled

Reduced the amount of money it is spending on its Direct Action carbon reduction plan by more than $300 million ($50 million will be saved by scrapping plans for three clean energy research centres; $200 million, comes from halving the amount the Coalition plans to rebate consumers for installing solar panels and solar hot water systems; spending money on solar energy projects over six years instead of four, and moving $50 million for geothermal and tidal energy projects to the industry budget)

Taking back $53m of clean technology grants from more than 100 companies, a scheme very similar to the Coalition’s Direct Action policy

Environment Minister Greg Hunt won’t attend annual United Nations climate change talks in Warsaw, saying he’ll be busy repealing the carbon tax in the first fortnight of parliament

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has rejected a proposal from the 53-nation Commonwealth to establish a new fund to help poor and island countries to combat climate change.

Scrapping the $10b Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which funds loans investing in technologies like solar panels and wind farms while returning on average around 5.8 per cent where cost of government funds is around 2.8 per cent

Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos has backed away from his suggestion that he would reconsider the government’s decision to shut down Labor’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation, given the corporation’s apparent financial success.

The Environment Minister was forced to defend Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s views on climate change after a BBC host quizzed him on Mr Abbott’s past description of climate change as “absolute crap”

Representatives of most of the world’s poor countries have walked out of increasingly fractious climate negotiations after the Australia and other developed countries insisted that the question of who should pay compensation for extreme climate events be discussed only after

The decision to repeal the carbon tax and dismantle all climate and clean energy institutions and initiatives sent it down six places to number 57 of 61 of the annual climate performance index

Bushfires and climate change

Abbott dismisses a UN assessment that the New South Wales fires are linked to climate change, accusing a senior UN official of “talking through her hat”

The Environment minister “looked up what Wikipedia” said that bushfires are not linked to climate change and it was clear that they were frequent events that had occurred during hotter months in Australia since before European settlement

Prime Minister Tony Abbott dismisses the comments of a senior UN official who said there was a clear link between bushfires and climate change, arguing fire is a part of the Australian experience

A NSW state by-election in Miranda is predicting a 27% swing from Liberal to Labor: “After the worst bushfires in NSW in over a decade, Miranda was completely blanketed in smoke this morning, and firefighters were at every booth asking people to put the Liberal Party last”

Firefighters handing out “vote Liberals last” cards at polling booths for the Miranda by-election were harassed by Liberal MP Brad Hazzard and other party members Labor’s Barry Collier was returned to State Parliament on the back of a 27 per cent swing – the largest swing ever recorded at a New South Wales by-election

Removal of carbon pricing and emissions policy

Abbott: “Let’s be under no illusions the carbon tax was socialism masquerading as environmentalism”

Abandoning its longstanding policy to reduce Australia’s emissions by between 5% and 25% of 2000 levels by 2020

The decision to repeal the carbon tax and dismantle all climate and clean energy institutions and initiatives sent it down six places to number 57 of 61 of the annual climate performance index

Removal of environmental funding and protections

Spending the $650 million on the Murray-Darling Water Buyback Scheme over six years, instead of over four to fund the construction of various motorways

Wanting to remove protection from about 170,000 hectares of land in the central highlands recently added to the World Heritage Area: “I love Tasmania, but it needs to be an economy as well as a national park”

The Environment Minister is undertaking a review of the list of threatened ecological communities, threatening to overturn the listing of the Murray River

Starting talks with UNESCO to reduce Tasmania’s newly-expanded World Heritage Area

Under pressure from the forestry industry to reverse its election promise to scrap the Tasmanian forestry peace deal, which was an attempt to end decades of division and conflict between loggers and environmentalists that crippled the industry

Striking a deal to devolve environmental powers to the states and territories, a move conservationists warn could dismantle safeguards first put in place 30 years ago.

Ministers will no longer be forced to consider formal conservation advice for endangered species in projects approved before the end of this year, under changes to the national environment law agreed on by the Coalition and Labor.

Approval of projects etc.

Uranium processing has been shut down at a Northern Territory mine which was the source of a million-litre radioactive spill in Kakadu national park as a comprehensive audit of the entire site is undertaken.

Boosting production of coal seam gas (CSG) in NSW cited by the Industry minister as the most urgent resource issue facing the government

Approving the creation of one of the world’s largest coal ports near the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, sparking outrage from conservationists and the Greens.

Other

Prosecuting conservation groups who seek boycotts of products alleged poor environmental practices Greens blast Coalition proposal

Taxpayers would be stung with a $150 million penalty if it broke the fifteen-year lease Labor signed to house the Department of Climate Change in the six-star energy efficient “Nishi” building in New Acton

Deliver strong, sustainable and accountable government

Secrecy and control

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet decided to keep secret its first briefing for the Prime Minister: “(if publicly released, it is) less likely to provide comprehensive, frank briefing material to incoming prime ministers in the future as it is likely to be tailored to a different audience or with different interests in mind”

Silence echoes across Canberra as the Coalition clams up: Since winning office, Abbott has fronted the nation’s media just eight times (in two months). Calls to his office, and to his ministers, frequently go unanswered or unreturned. (Includes list of roadblocks)

Treasurer Joe Hockey has defended Tony Abbott’s low profile since the September election, saying the Prime Minister is “flat out” running the country

Shutting out the local press while meeting business and government delegates in Indonesia which is considered committing an offence in that country

The Treasury has decided to keep its advice to new treasurer Joe Hockey secret, despite the same document having been released in part after the 2007 and 2010 elections

Refusing the Senate access to the secret text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal it is negotiating in Singapore, saying it will only be made public after it has been signed.

The department led by Malcolm Turnbull – who last year said NBN Co was more secretive than the Kremlin – has refused to release its briefing to the new government under freedom of information laws.

All national media interviews on television, radio and print of Abbott’s Ministry must be approved by the Government’s press secretary

Liberal National Party senator Ian Macdonald, delivers a scathing attack on the Prime Minister’s office, as Abbott and his chief of staff Peta Credlin are enforcing a culture of “obsessive centralised control phobia” and are out of touch with voters

Ministries

Ministries gone; Resources, Citizenship, Multicultural Affairs, Science, International Development, Youth, Climate Change, Disability Care, Disability Reform, Mental Health, Energy, Resources, Financial services, Status of Women, Ageing, Seniors, Tourism and Housing and Homelessness, Tertiary Education and Skills. New Ministry; Border Protection. Upgraded to Cabinet: Sport (also only one female)

Parliamentary entitlements

In defence of using over $23k in taxpayers money on Abbott’s trips linked to a cycling race and attendance at a car race and the cricket, ‘You don’t want members of parliament to be prisoners of their offices’

Abbott quietly repays $609 in taxpayer-funded entitlements he claimed to attend the 2006 wedding of one-time colleague Peter Slipper, who is now facing charges for alleged expenses rorts Link to a comprehensive list of travel allowances claimed by Abbott totalling $84k in 3 years

Abbott defends MP Don Randall’s tax-payer funded trip to Cairns where he took possession of an investment property during the overnight stay with his wife: some discussions were “best done face to face”. Abbott ignored the question of why Mr Randall’s wife went on the Cairns trip given it involved a work meeting, and was driven away.

Don Randall says he can “sleep well at night” about his $5000 business class taxpayer-funded trip with his wife to Cairns, adding that while he visited his investment property “it wasn’t as if I got the keys or anything”.

Weeks after becoming the face of the government’s expenses scandal, West Australian MP Don Randall has been reappointed to the parliamentary committee overseeing privileges and members’ interests.

Defence Department records revealed that senior figures in the Abbott government were among those who enjoyed free travel on VIP military aircraft to fly to Canberra for parliamentary sitting weeks, amassing a taxpayer bill of more than $2 million

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has been busted for a third time using taxpayer funds to attend a wedding, repaying more than $300 claimed on ComCars to attend a journalist friend’s wedding five years ago

Attorney-General George Brandis’ orders for a second taxpayer-funded library have, for the time being at least, been shelved after concerns of being unable to move his $13000 taxpayer-funded books and magazines into his new Parliament Office

Abbott has ordered cabinet ministers and top public servants to personally approve the airfares and hotel bookings of tens of thousands of bureaucrats (not politicians) as part of a crackdown on government travel costs

Conduct in Parliament

Abbott: “this chamber should always be a place of spirited debate. But it should never be a place where motives are impugned or characters assassinated.” -Cue laughter.

The parliamentary speaker, Bronwyn Bishop, faced fresh complaints about her impartiality after she appeared to take a dig at two Labor frontbenchers over who was serving as the party’s key tactician – repeating a ‘puppet of the unions’ taunt

Federal Parliament descends into chaos last night, with the Opposition accusing Speaker Bronwyn Bishop of taking sides. An example Hansard She was the 6th highest serial offender in 43rd Parliament to be ejected under 94a

Other

Abbott considers national war cemetery for Canberra: ACT RSL president comments “I would be horrified at the thought of people proposing to dig up and uproot graves of people that are long dead or recently dead”

Foreign Minister warns Australians travelling overseas they need to take responsibility for their own actions and can’t count on the federal government to bail them out if they get into trouble

Tony Abbott was asked to comment on a report that followed an inquiry in Victoria, which was highly critical of Pell, his attitudes to the problems evidenced in comments before the inquiry and the institutional failures of the Catholic church in stopping child abuse. “He is in my judgment a fine human being, a great churchman. Abbott said he was yet to read the Victorian report, issued on Wednesday, and did not see Cardinal Pell’s evidence to the inquiry. Abbott’s response to child sexual abuse by clergy angers victims

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet signed a 12-month lease on a house in August, during the caretaker period. Mr Abbott made it clear shortly after the election he did not want to live there, costing taxpayers $3,000 a week to rent a house in Canberra that Prime Minister Tony Abbott does not want to live in.

Apple releases its first transparency report on the demands it gets from governments for access to people’s information, and Australia is near the top of the computer giant’s list

Some may want to Charge Andrew Bolt and The Murdoch Press with Treason!

Now, I know some of you approach Andrew Bolt like some people approach climate change. If we just ignore it, it will go away. Unfortunately, that’s not true. So, if you’re one of those people that hates reading about Bolt, turn away now. Don’t comment that I shouldn’t be writing about him, because there are things you’d prefer me to write about. Write to him and tell him that I’m charging him with treason.

Blot’s been in his “Free Speech, what’s that?” mode lately. He’s great the way he can swing between someone being told that they can’t print falsehoods is an enormous threat to democracy to people who write things I don’t like should be sacked or jailed.

So, according to the Nut’s blog, the ABC and The Guardian have betrayed our national interest by reporting on the tapping of the Indonesian President’s phone. Let’s completely overlook how public the story would have become anyway. And let’s completely overlook the idea that when the press start not reporting stories because it would “embarrass” the security agency or the Government we’re going down a very well-worn path. Certainly, let’s completely ignore the idea that if a journalist can get hold of “top secret” information, then probably the fact that we have a leaky secret service is a problem in itself – it’s like complaining that someone got hold off those naked photos you have of yourself and published them. You really should ask yourself what you’re doing with 1) naked photos of yourself and 2) not making sure that they’re so secure that nobody would ever find them.

But no, apparently it’s the ABC and Fairfax that are to blame. They shouldn’t have published. It was against the national interest.

Now, let me just repeat that. They shouldn’t have published. It was against the national interest.

I’m tempted to repeat it again with CAPITALS.

For once, Bolt has convinced me that he’s right. Newspapers who publish things against the national interest are wicked, evil traitors.

So, let’s forget about this and move on to the more important business of boats arriving.

Young Scotty Morrison – he’s a Christian, you know see here – was asked to provide the Senate with information about boat arrivals. However

‘Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has defied a Senate order to release more information about asylum seeker operations, citing “national security” and the “protection of public safety”‘

He claimed that reporting the arrival boats would help people smugglers, and that it would jeopardise military operations.

Therefore, it would be treasonous to report the arrival of boats. And surely anyone doing it doesn’t have Australia’s interests at heart. If anyone knew about a boat arriving…

Wait, something is echoing in my head. Ah…

They shouldn’t have published. It was against the national interest.

Ah, so all those times that the Murdoch press published boat arrivals they was doing the very thing that Blot condemns. (As for reporting the hacking of someone’s phone, well, the Murdoch press never report on that so we can’t accuse them of hypocrisy there.)

Surely, Murdoch must be ashamed. How can he call himself an Australian?

Oh, that’s right – he doesn’t.

No News is Good News – Abbott’s Trip to Indonesia a Great Success

TONY Abbott says he wants to “bring on” Indonesian joint ventures to buy Australian cattle as he defended Indonesian abattoirs as being “quite comparable” to those in Australia.

Wrapping up his two-day visit to Indonesia, the Prime Minister also said both nations were united in wanting to stop asylum seeker boats because the issue was “bad for both countries”.

He said it was a “border security nightmare” for Australia while Indonesia suffered from tens of thousands of people coming through their country “and not necessarily up to much good while they’re here”. #

* * *

Mr Abbott refused to specifically say if the leaders discussed the turn back the boats policy and the plan to buy Indonesian boats and help pay for information about people sugglers but said he stood by his policies.

“I am not going to spill the beans on discussions which necessarily should be confidential if they’re to be as constructive and collegial and as candid as they need to be between trusted partners,” he said.

The Herald-Sun, October 1st, 2013

#Emphasis added.

“Media stunned. Abbott not the bungler in Indonesia they falsely claimed”

Andrew Bolt The Herald-Sun, October 2nd, 2013

So let’s see if I have this right. Abbott went to the election announcing policies to turn back boats, buy Indonesian fishing boats and pay locals for information. It was argued that these policies would be opposed by Indonesia and that they were simplistic. Abbott is elected. He goes to Indonesia, says things that they agree with, tells them that we over-reacted when banning live cattle exports, agrees that people smuggling is a problem for both countries and talks about the need for greater trade between the countries. Did he discuss the issues of disagreement? Can’t say, some things need to be confidential.

And this is being hailed as a great success?

Well, I suppose that it wasn’t a failure. After all, he didn’t tell any of the Indonesians that their daughters had sex appeal. Unlike the AFL Grand Final Breakfast, where he didn’t seem to be aware that Fitzroy Football Club ceased to exist as an AFL club last century, he didn’t refer to Indonesia as the Dutch East Indies. He wasn’t thrown out of the country, so that’s a plus. But there doesn’t seem to be any announcement of any trade deal. Apparently, twenty businessmen went with him – were they taxpayer funded or is that only for weddings? Perhaps they had some success. Apparently, he raised the cases of the Bali 9, and nobody is suggesting that this may lead to their immediate execution or a lengthening of their sentences, so they should be very grateful.

A few days ago, it was being reported that the Australian Navy picking up asylum seekers from a sinking boat and returning them to the Indonesians was an example of “turning back” a boat. If anyone looks at the details, this becomes a little more complicated. They were picked up in Indonesian waters in response to a distress call. Under maritime law, ships can return rescued people to the nearest port. It’s what the captain of the Tampa tried to do in 2001, but we ignored international protocols and refused to take them.

All in all, it seems that nothing much has changed after the visit, so I guess Abbott’s supporters see that as a win. Of course, it does seem to be the way the media is judging everything else he’s doing. “People said he’d do a lot of damage if he became PM, and he’s hardly done anything. What a great job so far!”

I guess it reminds me of an old joke about which ends with, “He’s like a dog chasing cars, he wouldn’t know what to do with it if he ever caught one.” Abbott won the election, but, so far, he seems a bit unsure about what to do with it, and we’re being encouraged to see every day where nothing happens as an example of the restraint and thoughtfulness of the new government.

Ah well, at least the emergency is over, and we don’t have to worry when Hockey raises the debt ceiling above $300 billion.

“Anger Is An Energy” but as it’s renewable, I think the Liberals will ignore it!

“They put a hot wire to my head
Cos of the things I did and said
And made these feelings go away
Model citizen in every way

Anger is an energy
Anger is an energy
Anger is an energy
Anger is an energy
Anger is an energy
Anger is an energy

I could be wrong I could be right
I could be wrong I could be right
I could be wrong I could be right
I could be black I could be white
I could be right I could be wrong
I could be black I could be white

Your time has come your second skin
Cost so high the gain so low
Walk through the valley

The written word is a lie”

Rise

Public Image Limited.

There’s a lot of anger in the air. Of course, many would suggest that Abbott’s opportunism in blaming Labor for anything that went wrong is the reason.

Others would blame the Labor Government itself. “It’s because of the incontinence of Labour that the country’s broke”. (Not sure about that, but I definitely nearly pissed myself after reading that.)

And I know that Abbott is going to make a lot of people angry over the next few years. People such as Andrew Blot and the shock jocks go out of their way to say things which seem perfectly reasonable to their fans, but likely to provoke an irate response from any thinking person.

Personally, I’ve decided to take Gandhi’s advice and “be the change you want to see in the world”. (It was Gandhi, wasn’t it? I’m sure if I’m wrong I’ll have some halfwit Abbott groupie writing in the comments that I’m a “moron” and that it was actually said by Bono.)

So, I have to say that it’s totally unfair to blame Tony for the asylum seeker boats still arriving. I mean, it’s the Indonesian Government’s fault for allowing them to leave, right?I’ve read this in many places today. It’s just not right to blame the Australian Government for boat arrivals. And while Tony did promise to “stop the boats”, he never put a timetable on that. In fact, I can’t find any quote that says exactly where he plans to stop them either. Stopping them at Christmas Island is one place. Stopping at the Australian coastline is another. We don’t want those boats sailing on past the coast and unto our highways. (See Fiona Scott) So long as they are stopped, he’s keeping his part of the deal.

Yes, I know that some of you will think that we shouldn’t be stopping boats at all, but look at the terrible record of boat people in Australia. For example, at the election, one of my local candidates had arrived by boat in the seventies, and now he was standing for the Liberal Party.

But it doesn’t just end there. Tony Abbott, for example, arrived by boat.

On 7 September 1960, Abbott and his family left the UK for Australia on the Assisted Passage Migration Scheme ship, Oronsay.

September 7th – a day that will live in infamy.

And, of course, we have all those other refugees who arrived by boat after World War 2. Plus the “economic migrants” from Greece and Italy throughout the 60’s. As for the Gold-diggers who rushed to Australia to dig up our gold in the 1850’s. Similarly, the First Fleet (and the Second and Third) was comprised mainly of criminals.

It’s probably too late to round them all up and send them back where they came from, so I guess we’re stuck with their descendants.

As for some of the other things that Abbott has done – like get rid of the Climate Commission – well, they were part of his election policy, so he can hardly be criticised for keeping his promise to remove everything that Labor did on Climate Change, and replace it with his Climate Change Reduction Action Program (or CCRAP, as it’ll soon be known).

Another thing that has made people angry is the story of George Brandis claiming travel expenses to attend Mike Smith’s wedding. People were furiously drawing comparisons between this and Peter Slipper. However, if one examines this more closely there is an enormous difference: Peter Slipper has been accused of deliberately misusing taxpayer funds, and George Brandis is a Liberal.

So, I’m breathing deeply, and remaining calm. And if anybody wants to bring up anything about the Labor Government, I’ll tell them to stop living in the past. If they want to do that, they may as well join Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party.

P.S. There some excitement when it was thought there’d been a rare sighting of an endangered Canberra species “The National Party Leader”, but it turned out to be a false alarm – it was merely a dodo.

Operation Sovereign Borders. Doubly Disillusioned.

Image from theconversation.com

Image from theconversation.com

Over the past several years Tony Abbott has electioneered on two platforms: that climate change is crap and that asylum seekers arriving by boats are “illegals”. Abbott also chose to create a sense of urgency, a sense of fear, the fear of the other and an impression that somehow the Australian people were under threat. The nationalistic name which Abbott conjured up, Operation Sovereign Borders consists of the same overblown rhetoric reminiscent of the Bush/Howard era, and is described in the Coalition’s Policy document as a response to “a national emergency”.

With the coming of Tony Abbott to power, Operation Sovereign Borders was described as “gearing up”, and as endorsed by The Australian newspaper, put into action by immediately “shutting down the flow of information on the arrival of asylum vessels and the transfer of people offshore”:

All requests for information from Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Immigration – on issues ranging from boat arrivals, to detention centre capacity levels, the numbers of detainees on Manus Island and Nauru, or violent incidents in the detention network – are now directed to the mobile telephone of Mr Morrison’s press secretary.

This is of such importance, such an emergency that all enquiries must immediately be directed to . . . a press secretary?

The Sydney Morning Herald hence reports:

The public might never be told whether the Coalition is meeting a key election promise in having the navy turn back asylum seeker boats, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has said.

The above is the entire crux of the matter: we might never be told whether or not Tony Abbott is meeting a key election promise and the very promise which for many, won him the election.

It was 27th April 2012 when the headlines from news.com were ablaze with the following:

TONY Abbott will tell Indonesia that people smugglers “disgorging” asylum seekers are like Australians smuggling drugs into Bali should he win government.

The Opposition Leader today said that, if elected Prime Minister, he would fly to Jakarta in his first week to explain his policy of turning back people smuggler boats.

And he would call a double dissolution election if he can’t get his tougher border security measures, including re-introduction of temporary protection visas, through Parliament . . .

“Every illegal boat marks a failure of foreign policy, a failure of security policy and a failure of immigration policy.”……..

Then Immigration Minister Chris Bowen responded with the statement that Abbott was putting relations with Indonesia at risk by again pledging to turn boats back.

“Mr Abbott’s claim that he will have a ‘Jakarta focussed’ foreign policy is questionable as he rides roughshod over the repeated and clear message from Indonesia that they would not agree to towing back the boats,” said Mr Bowen.

It seems that as a matter of public information this issue no longer exists with the urgency now relegated to weekly information sessions or via Scott Morrison’s press secretary, that every illegal boat which “marks a failure of foreign policy” will be information disseminated perhaps accurately but certainly not in a timely manner. Urgency has drifted to once a week information sessions.

Is it that Prime Minister Abbott has little desire to fulfill his previous commitment to call a double dissolution election on this issue? “Failures” may or may not be known by the public, or even more suspect: Is it that the Abbott government intends to set its own asylum seeker policy up for failure?

By making conditions so onerous and insulting for the Indonesian government is it that Abbott has a ready-made fall guy? The vast majority of Abbott’s rhetoric is that he will tell Indonesia what he intends to do with their country – from turning boats back to their shores, to buying fishing boats (en mass it is assumed) from Indonesians, to setting up “transit ports” on their soil. All rhetoric speaks of infringements against Indonesia’s sovereign rights to do what they want in their own country. For Operation Sovereign Boarders to succeed it needs the cooperation of the Indonesian Government, which has not, and will not be forthcoming. For their failure to comply with Abbott’s infringement upon their sovereignty I can see that they are nicely being set-up as the fall guy.

That is only one are of failure. There are possibly more.

Again from the Sydney Morning Herald:

Under Operation Sovereign Borders two frigates, seven patrol boats and numerous Customs vessels will patrol the seas between Christmas Island and Ashmore Reef and Indonesia.

Anzac Class frigates cost about $207,000-a-day to operate compared with $40,000-a-day for Armidale Class Patrol boats.

Seven frigates at $207,000 a day means that Operation Sovereign Boarders would cost the taxpayer over $520M a year for the Navy’s contribution alone. Then there are the Global Hawke Drones, if he decides to go ahead with them, at a cost of $US218M each. How many might he want? In an environment of a budget emergency, how long before the taxpayers rest a little uneasy about the enormous expense of detecting or intercepting the boats that are apparently going to stop coming?

Then there are other logistics. Officials would conduct health checks on the ship or at the port, and the smuggled people would be taken to nearby airports for charter flights direct to Nauru and Manus Island. They can’t go to Indonesia, of course, because Indonesia have sensibly rejected Tony Abbott’s invasive plan.

And which port, by the way?

So we are now back to where we were at any period over the last six years, but at a higher cost to the taxpayer. However, Tony Abbott can no longer blame Kevin Rudd or Julia Gillard so he will directly blame Indonesia. Will this be an excuse to not call a double dissolution? We’ll see.

Operation Sovereign Borders will not only go down as Tony Abbott’s biggest policy flop but one of great expense.

But we’ll never hear about it.

* A post by Michael and Carol Taylor

What happened when asylum seekers were sent back to Indonesia: Tony Abbott’s own words

asylum

Image courtesy of the eastasiaforum.org

In mid-October 2009, 78 Tamil asylum seekers were intercepted en route to Australia and taken on board the Oceanic Viking. They were then taken to Indonesia. What did Tony Abbott have to say about the matter?

On October 27, 2009 – then an Opposition frontbencher – he joined ABC’s Lateline to discuss the Rudd Government’s management of those asylum seekers that were due to be detained in Indonesia. Here is some of the transcript.

TONY JONES: The diplomatic problems posed by these 78 asylum seekers still onboard the boat Oceanic Viking worsened this evening with the regional politicians saying Indonesia should not be used as a dumping ground for refugees. Is the fate of these people likely to be once again the focus of Question Time tomorrow?

TONY ABBOTT: I think that’s quite likely, Tony, because once they were picked up by that Australian Customs vessel, they became in effect Kevin Rudd’s responsibility. Now, he could have brought them to Christmas Island. He chose to send them to Indonesia. He said he had an Indonesian Solution; well, it looks more like an Indonesian shambles than a solution right now.

TONY JONES: He could have brought them to Australia to Christmas Island. Are you saying that’s what should have happened?

TONY ABBOTT: No, I’m not, but that’s certainly what he has been doing up till now.

TONY JONES: Well, what are you saying should have happened?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, I’m not the Government, Tony. I’m here to hold the Government to account.

TONY JONES: No, but I’m asking your opinion. You must have an opinion on what you think should have happened to these people. You obviously don’t think they should have gone there.

TONY ABBOTT: Well, what I think shouldn’t have happened is that Kevin Rudd should not have unpicked the carefully put together policies of John Howard, which stopped the flow of boat people. You see, John Howard found a problem and created a solution. Kevin Rudd found a solution and has now created a problem. And, plainly, his shrill responses, his obfuscation in the Parliament today shows that this problem really is getting on top of him.

TONY JONES: So what do you believe should happen to those 78 asylum seekers now? Should they be brought to Christmas Island? Should they – as the Indonesian regional officials are suggesting? Or should they be taken back to Sri Lanka as they’re also suggesting? What do you say should happen?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, Tony, as I said, I’m not the Government. I’m holding the Government to account. Kevin Rudd said he had this problem under control because he had sorted it all out with President Yudhoyono. Plainly, it hasn’t all been sorted out. At the very best, all you can say is that his Indonesian Solution is a boat-by-boat improvisation.

TONY JONES: So you don’t have an opinion on what should happen to these people yourself. Is that what you’re saying? Or are you not allowed to have an opinion, I mean . . . ?

TONY ABBOTT: No, no, I’m just telling you, Tony, that I’m not the Government. But, if you are going to stop the flow of boat people, you’ve got to have policies in place which deny people the prize of Australian permanent residency. As long as that prize beckons, you are going to have people, understandably, wanting to come in search of a better life in Australia. Now, by closing down the offshore detention centres, by abolishing temporary protection visas and by stopping the occasional practice of turning boats around, Kevin Rudd put out the welcome mat for these people.

TONY JONES: You said earlier that these people became Kevin Rudd’s responsibility when they were picked up by an Australian vessel. Are you saying, indeed, that they are Australia’s responsibility?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, they were picked up by an Australian vessel in the Indonesian search-and-rescue zone. Kevin Rudd said that he had secured an agreement with President Yudhoyono of Indonesia for Indonesia to take these people. Now, whatever Kevin Rudd has done, thus far at least, it hasn’t worked.

TONY JONES: OK. Let’s assume they’re not allowed to go ashore in Indonesia. What do you believe should happen to them?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, I think that Kevin Rudd should not make arrangements with foreign leaders that he then can’t deliver upon, and that plainly seems to be the situation tonight.

TONY JONES: So, it seems all so clear that you can’t actually say what you think should happen to these people.

TONY ABBOTT: Well, I’m not now in Government, but when I was in Government I supported the policies of the Prime Minister and the Government, which stopped the boat people from coming. You see, the difference, Tony, between John Howard and . . .

TONY JONES: OK, but – alright, I’ll let you finish. Sorry.

TONY ABBOTT: Let me say my piece.

TONY JONES: Yes, I will.

TONY ABBOTT: You know, the difference is John Howard’s policies were tough, but effective. Kevin Rudd’s policy looks like being brutal, but infective.

TONY JONES: OK, if you were to follow the policies of the previous government – the Howard Government, your government – these people would be sent to somewhere in the Pacific like Nauru. Is that what you think should still be happening?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, we’re not now in government and we don’t know what could possibly be done with the Indonesians, perhaps with the Sri Lankans, which seems to be the current major source of boat people. And if we were in government and were able to engage in detailed discussions with the Sri Lankans and the Indonesians, I might be able to say more. But the Australian Government, which is in a position to have these discussions and which apparently has had discussions with President Yudhoyono, even thought it had a deal with President Yudhoyono, hasn’t been able to deliver.

TONY JONES: So, it’s eight days now or more than eight days that these people have been on this vessel. Do you think Kevin Rudd should get back on the phone to President Yudhoyono?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, he’s got to do something, otherwise he looks like a Prime Minister who is both inept and hypocritical. Let’s not forget the high-volume moral outrage, the high-octane moral outrage which came from Kevin Rudd when he was opposition leader, and lots of other people as well. And I have to say, Tony, that those people who furiously denounced the Howard Government but are now silent are exposed as partisan rather than as principled.

TONY JONES: Moral outrage today from several of your colleagues in both the House and the Senate asking if the Government could guarantee that the children on board that vessel will not be kept in detention in Indonesia. Is that confected outrage or is it genuine concern?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, certainly, we do not want anything inhumane to happen to anyone. And the difference between John Howard and Kevin Rudd on this, Tony, is that, sure, the former government put tough policies in place, but they worked. Handing people over to the Indonesians is going to be far more brutal and it’s not going to be effective in stopping the boats.

TONY JONES: As you heard today, the Prime Minister made the rhetorical point immediately this was suggested that this from the former government which put children behind razor wire.

TONY ABBOTT: And let me say this to you, Tony: those camps in PNG and Nauru, that were run by Australians were, I put it to you, far more efficient and far more humane than the kind of things that we have just seen on your program in Indonesia, which apparently is what Kevin Rudd wants to condemn people to.

TONY JONES: OK, let’s get your own reaction to the conditions then. You’ve just seen the pictures, you’ve just referred to them in those detention centres filmed by the Melbourne lawyer Jessie Taylor. What did you think when you saw those pictures?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, I think that they are very, very rough circumstances in which to leave people. I’ve got to say they’re not untypical of Third World countries, and if those boat people were in camps in Sri Lanka, I dare say they would be experiencing similar conditions. The problem – the charge that I lay against the Prime Minister, Tony, is two-fold: one of ineptitude in not being able to strike an effective deal with President Yudhoyono, but above all, of hypocrisy in furiously denouncing the policies of the Howard Government, but now implementing policies which look far more tough in one sense on boat people, but which have no real hope of stopping the flow.

TONY JONES: Well, I mean, they’ve levelled the charge of hypocrisy right back at the Opposition for what they did in government, as I said earlier. And indeed it was the Howard Government which put money into the renovations of the detention centre into which these may in fact go on the island of Riau.

TONY ABBOTT: Yeah. But you’re not seriously suggesting, Tony, are you, that the Australian-run detention centres in Nauru and in PNG were anything like the detention centres in Indonesia, which Kevin Rudd wants these people to go to.

TONY JONES: So, your argument is that there is no way that these asylum seekers should be taken to Indonesia, or that Kevin Rudd should encourage the Indonesian Government to pick up asylum seekers headed for Australia and take them back to Indonesia. That, indeed, is the Indonesian Solution.

TONY ABBOTT: No. I’m not saying that, Tony. I’m saying that Kevin Rudd should act like a Prime Minister and he should move effectively to stop the flow of boat people. Now, I’m not saying that that’s going to be easy and I’m not saying that it’s going to be pretty. But nevertheless, John Howard did it, he did it effectively, and I think on the evidence of what we saw tonight, he did it more humanely than Kevin Rudd is proposing to do it.

TONY JONES: Anthony Albanese told us last night that the Government’s Indonesian Solution is quite different to the former government’s Pacific Solution. Do you agree with that?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, yes, because the Government’s – the current Government’s – so-called solution doesn’t work and it looks like being far more brutal than anything that was done by the former government.

Does this mean his commitment to instruct the navy to turn around asylum-seeker boats and return them to Indonesia was nothing but a con job to win votes?

In case you missed it, here’s a summary of what Abbott said:

  • The asylum seekers should have been sent to Christmas Island.
  • To return them to Indonesia was “brutal”.
  • There would have been nothing wrong with sending them to PNG.
  • Australia needs a good relationship with Indonesia to help address this problem.

His words now imply incredible hypocrisy, beyond belief. Meanwhile, Indonesia says:

“We will reject his policy on asylum seekers and any other policy that harms the spirit of partnership and (Indonesian) sovereignty and national integrity,” Mr Natalegawa told a House or Representatives meeting on Wednesday.

Yes, I have an aching suspicion that Tony Abbott has been conning us all along when it comes to any of his policies on asylum seekers. He’s not interested in boats. He’s only interested in votes.

Tony Abbott says he’ll turn back the boats

There’s nothing new about his foolhardy plan. He’s always made that bold claim, however it has now been celebrated with some pathetic journalism from the news.com stable. Under this glaring headline “Tony Abbott says Indonesia will accept boats turned back” we see these amazing predictions.

Exactly how do you solve a boat?

And what is the true purpose of this article? It certainly says nothing to confirm how Tony Abbott will turn back the boats. It appears just another Labor bashing exercise to me, as the sub-headings would suggest.

Instead of making up this rubbish why doesn’t the media try reporting facts?

Here’s Fact 1:

Tony Abbott’s plan to send back all asylum-seeker boats has drawn fire from Indonesia’s police as well as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees as dangerous and in breach of international law.

The expressions of alarm came a day after The Age reported former Australian Defence Force chief retired admiral Chris Barrie saying it would be close to impossible as well as expensive to send all the boats back.

Yesterday, Indonesia’s police questioned whether Mr Abbott’s policy of using the navy to turn back asylum seeker boats contravenes international law, amid widespread disquiet in the country about the opposition’s hardline position.

Here’s Fact 2:

A former defence chief has declared naval officers would disobey orders from a future Abbott government to turn back asylum-seeker vessels, saying commanders would always put safety ahead of policy.

The Opposition Leader today maintained the controversial policy was the most effective strategy to secure Australia’s borders and prevent mass drowning of asylum seekers.

But Admiral Chris Barrie (ret), who served as Chief of the Defence Force at the time of the Tampa crisis, said government policy could not override international law.

“Policy can’t override international law; nor can it tell a commanding officer what decisions he must make at sea at the time,” he told ABC radio.

Here’s Fact 3:

. . . Tony Abbott stated the following:

Within a week of taking office, I would go to Indonesia to renew our cooperation against people smuggling. I would, of course, politely explain to the Indonesian government that we take as dim a view of Indonesian boats disgorging illegal arrivals in Australia as they take of Australians importing drugs into Bali.

Despite what our individual opinions are of asylum seekers, it is NOT illegal to seek asylum in Australia.

Tony Abbott more than anyone else should know this, and if he doesn’t, then it is soley because of his own ignorance.

As a member of the Refugee Convention, Australia has certain responsibilities in handling asylum seekers.

As a party to the Refugee Convention, Australia has agreed to ensure that people who meet the United Nations definition of refugee are not sent back to a country where their life or freedom would be threatened. This is known as the principle of non-refoulement.

Australia also has obligations not to return people who face a real risk of violation of certain human rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention Against Torture and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. These obligations also apply to people who have not been found to be refugees.

Facts aren’t really hard to find, are they?

And here’s another fact: Indonesian authorities have since expressed their opposition to the policy. Yes, it’s in the article . . . but not the headline. Readers might find their way to it if they haven’t been busy clicking the links to anti-Labor rubbish that preceded it.

Instead of stopping the boats, why don’t we instead stop the bullshit?

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