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Tag Archives: Refugees

The Évian Conference

By Dr George Venturini  

The Évian Conference

In 1930, with the Great Depression severely affecting Australia’s workforce, the Scullin Government (1929 – 1932) tightened up entry requirements for ‘aliens’, demanding that only those immigrants who had £500 landing money, or who were dependent relatives of aliens already living in Australia, would be permitted to enter the country.

Following the election of Adolf Hitler in Germany, a group of concerned Jewish spokesmen, led by Rabbis F. L. Cohen and Israel Brodie, travelled to Canberra and personally lobbied the Minister for the Interior to admit a limited number of skilled German-Jewish refugees. But it was to no avail. Two years later, and following Hitler’s promulgation of the notorious Nuremberg Laws (German: Nürnberger Gesetze) which were purposely anti-semitic and racial laws, and had been enacted by a submitted Reichstag on 15 September 1935, prominent Sydney leader Sir Samuel Cohen presided over the formation of the German Jewish Relief Fund, which tried to emulate similar initiatives in Britain by raising funds to assist young German Jews to escape to Palestine or other ‘safe havens’.

Simultaneously, Cohen, Brodie and Brigadier Harold Cohen, among others, continued to press Government members for an easing of immigration restrictions. The successor Lyons Government (1932-1939) compromised by reducing landing money to £50 for those migrants guaranteed by family or friends. It also encouraged the formation of the Australian Jewish Welfare Society, A.J.W.S. to coordinate migration processes. Australia House in London reportedly received 120 inquiries a day from would-be immigrants in March 1938, while the A.J.W.S. received 1200 pleas for assistance in the week following the German invasion of Austria, the so-called Anschluss Österreichs, on 12 March 1938.

The A.J.W.S. was sensitive to Government and public sentiment and concerned that its actions could have been affected by the presumption that any marked increase in migrant numbers would merely jeopardise existing, and already tenuous, concessions. As a result it could accept only a fraction of the 70,000 applications for help it had received.

In July 1938 Australia followed Britain’s lead by agreeing to send representatives to Évian-les-Bains, France where a world summit was to seek solutions to the refugee problem. Named officially the ‘Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees’, the conference – originally the initiative of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and held on 6 to 15 July – brought together delegates from 32 nations.

The results of the conference were disappointing; it was clear from the outset that none of the participating countries was willing to modify its existing migration restrictions.

The Australian delegation was headed by Lieut. Col. T. W. White, Federal Minister for Trade and Customs. He bluntly informed the participants that Australia was committed to its policy of British migration, and declared that ‘as we have no real racial problem, we are not desirous of importing one by encouraging any scheme of large-scale foreign migration.’

Clearly White had not heard of the ‘Day of Mourning’, a protest held by Indigenous People on 26 January 1938, the 150th anniversary of British invasion of Australia. It was declared to be a protest of 150 years of the seizure of the land and of criminal treatment of the original population. It purposefully coincided with the Australia Day celebrations held by the non-Indigenous population on the same day. The protest became a tradition, and annual ‘Days of Mourning’ have been held ever since.

White was voicing a widespread national sentiment. According to a public survey conducted at this time, only 17 per cent of the Australian population was in favour of large-scale immigration of Jews. There was intense disquiet about the reluctance of Jews ‘to integrate’ – whatever that may ever mean – or the possibility that refugees would ‘swamp’ some professions or take away jobs from ‘Australians’. Already rigid quotas had been imposed on the number of refugee practitioners able to enter the medical profession in Australia.

At the Évian conference, the United States itself – represented not by Roosevelt or even an elected official but by a friend of the President called Myron C. Taylor – refused to increase the annual admission quota of 27,370 from Germany and Austria even before the meeting began. Edward Turnour, 6th Earl Winterton, Lord Winterton, the leader of the British delegation, clearly outlined his country’s position: “The United Kingdom is not a country of immigration.”

By 1938 more than half a million refugees would be on the move across Europe, fleeing the Nazis, who had rendered first 900,000 German Jews stateless under the Nuremberg Laws, then 200,000 Austrian Jews following the invasion in 1938.

After Kristallnacht  (literally “Crystal night”) or ‘The night of broken glass’, between 9 and 10 November 1938, which was an anti-Jewish pogrom in Nazi Germany – then including Austria and Sudetenland – and in slow response to increasingly urgent calls to increase its refugee intake, the Australian Government announced that it would accept 15,000 refugees – 12,000 of them Jews – over the subsequent three years.

This apparent ‘liberalisation’ of policy was, in fact, nothing of the kind. Australia was effectively already accepting 5,100 refugees per annum – before December 1938 – and the new quota actually reduced the proposed intake. The trick was intended to advertise the Government as compassionate, liberal and ‘humanitarian’; in reality, the new policy cynically used the opportunity to curtail whatever trend there had previously been towards a growth in refugee admissions. As it was, a mere fraction of the first annual quota had reached Australia before the second world war broke out. In fact, only some 7,000 Jews settled in Australia between 1933 and 1939. (IRIN | ‘Look back and learn: The Evian Conference, 1938’; see also: Evian Conference – ThoughtCo; The Evian Conference | The Holocaust Encyclopedia).

Once war against Germany by Britain and its allies had been declared in September 1939, immigration effectively ceased, although a small number of refugees did manage to reach Australia through the Orient in the early years of conflict. As former citizens of enemy states, quite a number of them were promptly – albeit temporarily – interned as ‘enemy aliens’.

Continued Wednesday – The Kimberley Plan

Previous instalment – Adjunct imperialist clowns (part 2)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.venturini@bigpond.com.au.

 

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Work Health and Safety law applies to all operators of detention, custody, care or educational facilities

By Max Costello LLM*

Whether Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is looking for (some) answers – by setting up a Royal Commission into Northern Territory correctional facilities – or not really looking – by refusing to do likewise in relation to alleged abuses of asylum seekers on Nauru – the essential answer is actually staring him in the face. He just doesn’t seem to see it.

Something akin to Bill Clinton’s famous political put-down of George W Bush, “It’s the economy, stupid” applies here. “It’s the Work Health and Safety Act, Malcolm.”

Government departments and non-government institutions that have failed to prevent child sexual abuse and other mistreatment of children or adults in their care have so far not been brought to book, because no-one seems to have joined the criminal law dots.

Joining the criminal law dots

DOT #1

Ask yourself this question: what do the following institutional settings – an Immigration ‘detention centre’ on Nauru, a Northern Territory juvenile correction centre, a South Australian care institution for abused children, a boarding school, a State (or NGO) care centre for people with a physical or intellectual disability – all have in common?

Answer: they are all workplaces – places where people work. More specifically, they’re all accommodation workplaces, where people reside continuously for months, years, decades or (in the case of some persons in offshore Immigration detention centres) indefinitely. Only a boarding school gets any occupancy breaks – during term holidays.

DOT #2

All State/Territory laws governing health and safety at work, and the Commonwealth’s Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (“the WHS Act”), impose a duty on the workplace operator to ensure that both “workers” and “other persons” at the workplace are not exposed to preventable risks to their health (including psychological health) and safety.

DOT #3

Under those laws, the children (and adults) residing at the above-named institutions are the other personswhose health and safety the operator must protect.

DOT #4

Under those laws, failure to comply with a protective duty is a criminal offence.

How can WHS laws, if complied with, prevent sexual and other abuse?

The basic answer is fourfold. The operator duty obligations set out in these laws are:

(1)     pro-actively preventative – requiring the operator to first identify and list all significant risks to health and safety, then secondly, “so far as is reasonably practicable”, take steps to eliminate or at least minimise all of them;

(2)     imposed primarily on the institution – that is, on the over-all or ‘head’ workplace operator and its “officers” (such as the CEO) – rather than just on individuals generally (although “workers” do have a duty to “take reasonable care”);

(3)     non-delegable – meaning that they can’t be transferred (to another government, for example) or contracted out (to, e.g., a service provider company such as Serco or Ferrovial (formerly Broadspectrum): any attempt to do either is “void”; and

(4)     buttressed by the deterrence effect of criminal penalties – such as, under the WHS Act in cases of “reckless” non-compliance with a duty, operator fines of up to $3 million, and officer fines of up to $600,000 and/or jail for up to 5 years.

Peter Dutton knows that his Department is bound by the WHS Act

There’s plenty of public domain evidence that Mr Dutton, as Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, knows that the Commonwealth (of Australia) – in effect his Department – is the operator of the regional processing centres on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island. One item of evidence will suffice.

All of the 2,000 or so “incident notifications” that Guardian Australia made public on 10 August 2016 – documents that Mr Dutton’s Departmental staffers on Nauru sent to Comcare because the WHS Act’s section 38 compels them to do so – have a little box near the top where the name of the party in charge of the workplace must be written.

The name entered on those incident report forms is not “Government of Nauru”: it is “Department of Immigration and Border Protection”.

So, Prime Minister Turnbull, the fiction that the governments of Nauru and PNG are legally responsible for the health and safety of the “other persons” (asylum seekers) who reside at the regional processing centres on their territory now stands exposed.

As a result, the following question – “Who should be investigated in relation to, and possibly prosecuted for, offences against the WHS Act?” – shouldn’t be too hard to answer.

What is apparently too hard, Prime Minister, is for you to ask that question – it seems to be stuck in your throat. (And of course if you do ask it, you’ll have to do something about it.)

The same question must be asked, and addressed, about all detention, custody, care and residential educational facilities across Australia.

What, if anything, have our State and Territory health and safety regulators been doing to make the operators of those workplaces comply with their statutory duty of care to all the “other persons” at those facilities, not just the workers?

Max Costello is a former WorkSafe Victoria prosecuting solicitor and former Employment Law lecturer at Melbourne’s RMIT University. He co-wrote submissions to the Moss review and the Senate Select Committee on Nauru abuses.

On a Road to Nowhere?

As we all wake up today from our election hangovers, and stagger bleary eyed to work, many are considering the real implication of living in interesting times… and the real possibility that the Governor General may be forced to call a second election.  The double dissolution election brought on by #stabilityMal has surprised everyone, not least the Australian voter; who, after casting their #rageVote now wonders what they were drinking, and who it was they spent those huddled, sweaty moments with in that election booth. Therefore, in another empty attempt to make sense of it all, it’s time for more analysis and conjecture!

Battle of the Bastards
updated 1800hrs 5 July The current count on the AEC website has the ALP leading in 69 seats, and the LNP with 66. The ALP is trending in a further two seats, and the LNP in three, though all five are too close to call… which should probably be the subtitle for this election.  The AEC has five seats undetermined; four Liberal and one ALP, which according to the current tally are likely to remain with incumbents. If that is the case we are looking at a 72/73 split  between the ALP and LNP.

updated 1800hrs 4 July The ABC (i.e. Antony Green) has a slightly different tally, with ALP at 67, LNP at 68 up from 64. Out of the 10 ‘seats in doubt’ the LNP is ahead on slender margins in four seats, the ALP on a similar knife-edge in five, and Xenophon party fairly comfortable in one. Giving us a House looking like this:
TABLES-house2

One of the key factors in this election is that traditional conservative voters have felt betrayed by the Liberal and National parties.  Mining, CSG, the NBN, foreign ownership, constant cuts and privatisation have been a catalyst for conservative voters to look at what else is on offer. Some have realised that the ALP has policies they support; others have turned even further right. As a result, immigration is likely to be a continuing flashpoint, though this time around even Pauline Hanson supports socialised healthcare and the NBN.

Greens and Andrew Wilkie have a record of voting with the ALP, though Wilkie has stated he will not enter into any deals.  Cathy McGowan tends to vote with the Coalition. Previously Katter aligned with the LNP, though this time there’s no carbon tax on the table this time. Key issues for Katter are CSG, energy privatisation and land sales, all of which the ALP have made murmurs about, while the LNP are unwilling/unable to move on either. If that will shift the pragmatic Katter away from traditional alliances remains to be seen.  Xenophon has already said he will take the number of seats either party wins into account when negotiating agreements, so if that second seat in Grey comes to Team X then he will truly be the kingmaker.

Stiff Upper Lip
The new senate is going to be a mixed bag. Media and politicians alike may decry the election results as a circus as much as they like; but the people have spoken, just not coherently.

There are two truths in democracy: The voter is always right… and you get the government you deserve… and based on ABC.net.au and the AEC website, the senate is currently looking like this:

TABLES-senate

The trend for seats in doubt generally toward the right wing parties such as Katter, Shooters, Fishers, and Farmers, One Nation, and the various Christian groups.  As per predictions, the lions’ share will likely go to the major parties; though there is a chance that either Katter or One Nation will get across the line.

Given the wide range of voices represented in the senate, we need to ask the question: Where do the new senators stand on legislation?

The Sydney Morning Herald published this rough breakdown of each parties’ focus.  The Weasel takes a next step and looks at how the senators will likely vote on current key issues.

Positions garnered from official policy statements, news reports, and interest group websites.
Where there is no clear position, it can be assumed that senators will use the issue as a bargaining chip to further their own agenda.

Marriage Equality
Derryn Hinch:     Pro equality, parliamentary vote
Fred Nile:            Anti equality, pro plebiscite
Jacqui Lambie:   Anti equality, pro plebiscite, conscience vote for party.
Katter:                 Anti equality
Lib Democrats:   Pro equality, parliamentary vote
One Nation:        Anti equality, pro plebiscite
Xenophon:          Pro equality, parliamentary vote
see also Aus Marriage Equality site

Climate Change / Renewable Energy
Derryn Hinch:     No clear position
Fred Nile:            Sceptic, pro nuclear
Jacqui Lambie:   Supports action (in statements), pro nuclear, voting record unclear
Katter:                 Pro Action, stop CSG, extend emission target, boost ethanol production
Lib Democrats:   Sceptics, support mitigation, pro nuclear
One Nation:        Wants a Royal commission into climate science “corruption
Xenophon:          Pro Action, 50% reduction target by 2030

Recognition or Treaty with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
Derryn Hinch:     No clear position
Fred Nile:            Opposes Constitutional recognition, supports increased engagement
Jacqui Lambie:   Constitutional recognition, plus dedicated indigenous seats in parliament
Katter:                 Wants action, possibly prefers treaty
Lib Democrats:   Opposes Constitutional recognition
One Nation:        Opposes Constitutional recognition and treaty
Xenophon:          Supports Constitutional recognition

Education
Derryn Hinch:    No clear position
Fred Nile:           Improve education by adding bible study, and cutting Safe Schools
Jacqui Lambie:   Boost TAFE, introduce national-service style apprenticeship scheme
Katter:                 Pro funding boosts, also wants systematic education reform
Lib Democrats:  Stop Federal funding, pro deregulation, cut Austudy
One Nation:       Government subsidised apprenticeship scheme
Xenophon:         Pro Gonski, anti university deregulation

Royal Commission into Banking
Derryn Hinch:    No clear position, may support
Fred Nile:           No clear position
Jacqui Lambie:  Supports
Katter:                Supports
Lib Democrats:  No clear position, unlikely to support
One Nation:       No clear position, may support
Xenophon:         Supports

NBN
Derryn Hinch:    No clear position
Fred Nile:           No clear position, wants more infrastructure
Jacqui Lambie:  Supports FTTP
Katter:                Supports FTTP
Lib Democrats:  Prefers private competitive roll out instead of government
One Nation:       Wants high speed broadband, proposes wireless hubs for regions
Xenophon:         Supports FTTP

Federal ICAC
Derryn Hinch:    Probably Pro ICAC
Fred Nile:           No clear position
Jacqui Lambie:  Pro ICAC
Katter:                No clear position
Lib Democrats:  No clear position
One Nation:       Probably Pro ICAC
Xenophon:         Pro ICAC

Refugees
Derryn Hinch:     No clear position
Fred Nile:            Mandatory detention, prefers Christian refugees,
Jacqui Lambie:   Wants children out of detention, strict monitoring & quotas
Katter:                 Turnbacks, faster assessment, and supply work while on TPVs
Lib Democrats:   Mandatory detention, on/off shore processing, strict entry requirements
One Nation:        Turnbacks
Xenophon:          Dislikes offshore processing, increase intake, speed up processing

Healthcare
Derryn Hinch:     No clear position
Fred Nile:            Better spending, especially in aged care
Jacqui Lambie:   Supports socialised medicine, especially for combat veterans
Katter:                 Supports socialised medicine, wants more services for regions
Lib Democrats:   Abolish Medicare, privatise, The Market will provide… apparently
One Nation:        Supports socialised medicine
Xenophon:          Supports socialised medicine, focus on prevention

On the question of which senators get a six-year stint, and which three… well that is up to the senate.  There are two options:
1. Order-of-election; Out of the 12 state senators, whoever crossed the line first gets six years.
2. Recount; Votes are recounted treating the vote as a normal three-year cycle. Whoever would have been elected on that basis gets six years.
Which one the senate uses will likely depend on the three major parties, with Xenophon once again in position as king-maker. The inestimable Antony Green, of course, covers this question in more detail.

The anti-Islam voting block of Fred Nile, One Nation, and Lambie will bring up issues surrounding Muslim Australians and immigration generally; and likely to include senate inquiries into banning burkas or halal certification and labelling. The LNP could use this flashpoint as a major negotiating chip to pass other legislation; though that is unlikely to be the ABCC bill.

On practical and ideological matters of investing in education, healthcare, and infrastructure such as the NBN, the balance is definitely leaning toward the ALP.  Lambie, Katter and Xenophon have shifted to the centre on these issues, and the LNP can no longer rely on social policies to wedge support for their neo-liberal economic programme. Accepting a Federal ICAC may present the ALP with a ticket to govern, but marriage equality is unlikely to get anywhere unless the ALP can push an open vote. Action on climate will be problematic, expect another senate inquiry into nuclear power.

As predicted Derryn Hinch picked up the PUP and Ricky Muir vote, though really has very little to offer beyond his pet name-and-shame project, and animal justice.  Populist by nature, he could decide or shift his vote if a concerted push came from his electorate…

…and that is important to remember. You can write to your MP and your Senator to express your preference. This parliament is an opportunity for voters and community to have a real impact on the nature of the parliament, and what agenda the parliament pursues. Given that the independent parties may decide who gets to form government, the time to start writing is now.

Dystopian Reality – a Climate Change Future

A Climate Change Future

Predicting the future is a no-win scenario. There are so many variables that virtually anything is possible. Futurism inevitably becomes a matter of balancing likely outcomes from current trends, known factors and easily predictable future developments. Any attempt to predict the future will result in either one possible future or a range of possible futures. The one certain thing is that almost all the visions of the future must be wrong, because only one can be right.

This article offers one possible timeline for the next few decades, sketching environmental, socioeconomic, technological and military developments. This article considers the future between now and 2050 – well within the lifetimes of many reading this blog today. Consider it a thought experiment, designed to encourage consideration and discussion.

This timeline deliberately eschews disruptive events such as global pandemics, nuclear terrorism, asteroid impacts or the eruption of Yellowstone. These developments are possible, even (in the case of pandemic infections) likely, but placing them into a timeline would be entirely arbitrary, and the future may well unfold without them. Similarly, no deus ex machinae are included: there is no recourse to world-saving geoengineering or biotechnology developments. Altogether, what follows is a not unreasonable extrapolation of what the near future might hold for us, our children and our grandchildren.

These developments are all sourced in current literature and scientific research and linked directly to supporting evidence and analysis. These are processes that are happening now, and unless human civilisations immediately and radically change course, will continue to their inevitable end. An understanding of these likelihoods is necessary before we can honestly address the challenges of climate change, as the Paris agreements of 2015 recede into our past.

2016 – 2025

In the third world, civil unrest that arose in the early years of the 21st century continues unabated. Over the decades, the US and allies expend profligate effort to viciously subdue Islamic insurgencies in Syria and Iran, but new conflicts spring up more quickly than they can be put down. By 2025 the American people are thoroughly tired of continuing wars and American deaths and the US scales back its involvement, followed by its allies. The Middle East and large parts of the South-East Pacific dissolve into squabbles and conflict, swelling the ranks of refugees from tens of thousands into the low millions. The spark for all of these conflicts is increasing food scarcity and lack of drinkable water.

In Europe, the continued and growing influx of migrants contributes to the rise of right-wing political movements and a tightening of borders. In a desperate attempt to preserve the EU as member countries squabble over refugee policy and relative responsibilities, the Common European Asylum System border protection policy is progressively tightened and, slowly, refugee resettlement efforts give way to the establishment of giant refugee camps in barely habitable areas. The misery in these camps puts Australia’s Nauru to shame.

In Asia, China is pushing strongly for hegemony in the Pacific and the Arctic and Antarctic. Small chains of islands in the Pacific are claimed by China and forcibly pacified despite opposition. The territorial claims include oil fields and China doesn’t take long to start enforcing its ownership there. Other nations suffer as a result as they lose energy sources, but can’t challenge China. China is taken to international courts for a variety of cases, but while the legal proceedings drag on for years, China doesn’t hesitate to consolidate its hold, building artificial islands and industrial city-complexes as bases for its military forces. At the same time, enormous resources are poured into renewable energy generation. China begins to take a lead in solar and wind technology but does not share this technology easily. Large parts of China are becoming desertified at a rapid rate, with internal displacement of millions of Chinese into more fertile areas. Chinese cities, already congested, become ever more crowded and poor. China responds by commencing construction on new urban centres, completely powered by renewable energy, each built as industrial or research hubs.

Drilling for oil by US companies commences in the Arctic. However, China and Russia are also exploring here and not inclined to respect national borders and national territorial claims. This instability leads inevitably to clashes of forces, first between commercial enterprises (and, occasionally, environmental campaigners) and, later, military forces as all sides start patrolling the area with their own navies to protect the operations of their drillers. The distinction between US government and commercial entities begins to blur, to match the situation with both China and Russia. Meanwhile, the effects of climate change continue to accelerate. Tornadoes and freak storms batter coastal cities such as New Orleans, while unprecedented bushfires rage across large parts of the continental US and destroy many consecutive seasons of crops. Food prices, already increasing rapidly, escalate further.

In Australia, the narrow election victory of a Labor government in 2016 gives brief hope to many climate observers, but these hopes fade as it becomes clear that the new government, whilst not as outspokenly climate hostile as the Abbott/Turnbull regime it replaced, is still constrained by the narrative created by it and by the general attitudes of a climate-skeptical populace. Policy adjustments to reduce reliance on coal and oil and to increase renewables are slow and tentative, and by 2025 Australia is still heavily coal dependent and still exporting large volumes of coal and LNG. However, as predicted in the early parts of the decade, the demand for coal has decreased markedly as target markets accelerate their move towards renewables as well as their own domestic sources. Accordingly, the export price of coal and gas has fallen significantly, putting increasing pressure on Australia’s economy.

The economic downturn causes problems for Labor. The 2024 election sees a return to power of conservatives, but after eight years in the wilderness this new breed of liberals are far truer to the description and bring a raft of climate policies to the table, painting Labor as being “the friend of Big Coal”. By 2025, deep government “transition” subsidies to existing fossil fuel companies are on offer, but this disrupts the burgeoning renewable energy market which has until now been dominated by new entrants and innovators. 2024 sees the start of a process where most renewable energy companies and entrepeneurs will be bought up by BP, Shell, Exxon and others. By 2024, the first generation of university leavers, beneficiaries of Labor’s education investments, are graduating and entering the workforce.

It is likely that the first off-Earth colony will be established on Mars. Manned exploration of near-earth asteroids is either planned or commenced.

2025 – 2050

Rising sea levels, declining rainfall and frequent heatwaves are combining to turn vast swathes of South Asia uninhabitable. Asian and African countries are slowly but surely depopulating, both through climate refugee immigration and through deaths to disease, dehydration and starvation. Climate refugees are now an unstoppable tide numbering in the millions, swamping Europe as they arrive daily by the thousands. The EU is attempting to enforce borders with paramilitary forces but the refugees are too desperate and borders too expansive to be successfully patrolled.

Europe is now populated by two subgroups: Citizens and non-Citizens. Two parallel economies now exist. The grey economy is populated by and largely serves illegal immigrants. Not being covered by social support or healthcare from European governments, immigrant populations look after their own needs as much as possible, but are treated as second-class citizens. Crime, while still low on a per-capita basis, has exploded and public areas are now constantly patrolled by heavily armed police forces.

Populations already strongly influenced by hard-right governing parties, the first pogroms of the 21st century commence in some European countries.

In Asia, territorial wars are breaking out. Some are short skirmishes but the whole region is a simmering pot of conflicts. North Korea annexes South; without the US being willing to come to the aid of the South, the North has military superiority. However, within a few years the unified Korea is on the verge of collapse as, rather than benefiting from the economy and technology of the South, the whole of Korea starts to devolve towards its conquerors. By 2050, Korea attempts military expansion elsewhere but fails in its attempt at imperialism, and Korea collapses into a failed state. Japan is now fully self-sufficient, imports no oil and is falling behind economically; however, powered almost entirely by nuclear, the populace is relatively content. Rising sea levels are a concern for Japanese policymakers and resources are poured into levies and protection efforts. China is aggressively advancing its space exploration program and has a permanent settlement on Mars (and one on the Moon). It is starting to mine asteroids for rare minerals and metals.

China’s investment is starting to pay off, with thousands of high-level scientists and engineers living in custom-built technology cities, many completely enclosed in atmospheric domes: technology developed for their Mars colonies is now adapted for use on Earth. Inland desertification is continuing and food production is the country’s biggest ongoing concern. Coal is completely phased out for energy generation. At the same time, laws are passed banning export of fossil fuels. China begins construction of enormous enclosed farms for fish and crops, and continues an aggressive program of purchasing arable land in Australia and other locations. These efforts are now meeting with resistance as other governments see the signs but global courts and national economic systems are slow to react.

The global oil crisis plunges America into a deep depression, as the price of oil extraction climbs to make fossil fuels uneconomic. Attempts are made to leverage renewable and distributed power generation, but the process has been too slow and costs are extreme: the transition was not accomplished while energy was cheap. The US reduces its military spending to focus on a new insular approach – gone is the “muscular diplomacy” doctrine, as the government simply can’t afford to continue it and still put the resources into decarbonising the economy. Strong legislation is drafted to recraft the economy, putting caps on corporate and individual profits and ensuring a greater proportion goes to government revenue. Rebates and exceptions are drafted if individuals put significant resources into approved renewable energy projects. Belatedly the US starts subsidising renewable energy generation programs, but the oil crisis puts a significant brake on these efforts. Exacerbating the concerns for America, many of its cities are slowly becoming too hot for habitation. Americans still live in New York and Washington, but the hotter climate is having a measurable impact on productivity.

By 2030, China has banned the use of coal for energy generation, closing one of Australia’s major export markets entirely. India is advanced in its push to renewable energy and domestic coal sources, and the majority of Australia’s export coal has no buyer. The price of coal-fired energy in Australia plummets, putting downwards pressure on renewable energy research and take-up; nonetheless, major coal miners go out of business. The Australian economy is in terminal decline with high levels of unemployment nationwide and continual government deficits. New political microparties are in the ascendancy as both Labor and the Liberals suffer from public dissatisfaction, but the microparties do not have the strength or discipline to govern for the country’s future; governance devolves into a multitude of partisan interests, populist policies and pork barrelling. Australia has a brief advantage from an influx of technology students, but with few high-tech companies to employ new graduates and a new conservative government reluctant to fund placements and subsidies, many are forced to seek work overseas.

Some parts of Australia are becoming difficult to live in: the vaunted “New North” program is stalling due to high levels of heat stress, regular flooding and low productivity due to high wet-bulb readings. Towards the end of this period, the collapse in farmland, the continued sale to China and others of food-producing territory, and lowering aquifers and water levels are major concerns. Food prices are increasing. Meat, in particular, is becoming too expensive to eat regularly, and most Australians’ diets now include less meat overall. The 2040s see the last of the baby boomers retiring. Government revenue is insufficient to pay for comfortable social security for many, and the ranks of the elderly poor are swelling. Healthcare is also overstretched and death rates among both the young and the elderly are rising.

Beyond 2050

The world after 2050 may appear, to our 2016 eyes, as a dystopia, but this is no fantasy. There are no happy endings in store. The seeds which are planted over the next thirty years – both good and bad – will direct the fate of humanity as the state of the planet Earth continues to deteriorate.

By the 2050s, the Amazon rainforest is in irreversible decline. Deforestation by humans, combined with wildfires exacerbated by climate change, have had an irreversible effect. The eventual death of the rainforest is now a certainty, and as the forest itself plays a major role in regulating the planet’s climate, its loss is one further accelerant to climate change.

The most immediate outcome is the emergence of major human diseases. As climate change pushes humans and remote insect and mammalian species into direct contact and conflict, new animal-to-human diseases emerge with alarming regularity. Fortunately, most of these diseases are suppressed before they become airborne and cut a swathe through remaining human populations, but each new disease emergency has the potential to kill millions.

International flight has been curtailed: a combination of oil shortage and punishing carbon restrictions means that jet fuel is too expensive. There’s nowhere to go, in any case: people now want to escape tropical locations with their daytime temperatures in the 40s, rather than travelling there for holidays. The Great Barrier Reef has been dead for decades, and the annual vacation overseas is now, except for the very wealthy, an indulgence of the past.

By the second half of the 21st century, death from starvation is one of the major killers of humans. Large swathes of Asia, Africa and central Europe are becoming quickly depopulated. Deserts are spreading across the United States midwest, and it is likely that at some point in the century, one or more States may secede from the union. By 2100, it seems likely that the United States will be united no longer.

Disunity in the former European Union is no less severe. Pressures over resources and land, particularly water, lead to armed conflicts. The European wars of this era are localised and in many cases informal, but they are wars nonetheless. Some smaller countries are either annexed by their neighbours, or left without sufficient water resources to feed their own peoples. Other European countries are dealing with their own civil wars or popular uprisings, ostensibly on grounds of race or nationality, but triggered by food and water shortages caused by climate change.

By the late 21st century, capitalism as we know it will have been largely replaced by a kind of socialism. The loss of the oil economy has the effect of making individual prosperity much more difficult, as a large proportion of energy generation comes from state-owned solar and wind farms that dwarf those run by private concerns. Continued and growing pressure from an ever-expanding base of unemployed citizens requires an ever-increasing investment into social security. Governmental caps and curbs on individual profit gradually metamorphise into a socialist structure, and the most prosperous in society receive an increasing proportion of their windfall gains in non-monetary forms.

By the time 2100 arrives, it is likely that our planet will be harsh and unforgiving, covered in billowing deserts and rising oceans. Sea levels will continue to rise, unstoppably, for the next three hundred years at least, and by the time this process is over they will be a minimum of six metres higher than now. This will entirely cover the vast majority of current human cities, but sheer physics constrain how quickly this can happen, and human civilisation will have either collapsed or entirely changed by then.

If humans survive in this new world, most likely they will exist in artificial environments. These self-contained cities will utilise much of the renewable energy they gather for cooling, for water purification, and for agriculture. We are building a future where we will need to be terraforming our own planet in order to continue to live there.

Near-term future

The 20th century saw immense changes in human technology, civilisation and society. The development of mankind is an accelerating trajectory, and the first decades of this century have showed that we’re not slowing down. However, the effects of climate change place severe constraints on the direction of our species for the immediate future.

The one thing that can surely be said of the next hundred years is that the world in 2100 will be mostly unrecognisable to what we know today. The predictions made in this article are strongly supported by current trends and analysis, but may easily prove to be conservative. What we do know is that we will see this future coming to pass.

Humans aren’t great at planning for the long term: anything outside of our own lifetime is so remote that we don’t generally bear it in mind when making decisions. However, we are capable of making long-term plans for our own future – we consider our retirement needs, the schooling of our children, our investments into property. So consider this: those taking out a new mortgage now will see this future shaping around them. People are buying houses now that will be underwater before the mortgage is fully paid. Or, to put it another way:

This future is nine elections away.

Is the Bible the same as the Koran?

By Bob Rafto

The Paris terrorist attacks were horrific and like any other terrorist attack they leave a trail of grief for the victims’ families to which I send my sincere condolences.

Like everyone else, I did feel revulsion but was further repulsed by the Muslin haters with Tony Abbott in the forefront sowing seeds of division against Muslims and refugees.

One thing that stuck in my craw was Abbott saying they are coming to get us: us being the infidels, the unbelievers. This led to a train of thought that since I was already aware of beheadings and stonings and other murderous teachings appear both in the Bible and the Koran, what I didn’t know was whether death to the unbeliever appeared in the Bible.

Google didn’t disappoint:

Kill All Unbelievers

“And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God …” (Deuteronomy 13: 5).

“If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers …” (Deuteronomy 13: 6).

“Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people” (Deuteronomy 13:8-9).

“Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword” (Deuteronomy 13:15).

So there it was, another similarity which led to my conclusion that the Koran is the same as the Bible and that the Koran was a plagiarization of the Bible but I needed confirmation and I duly asked Google whether the Bible and the Koran was the same.

The first entry was Pope Francis To Followers: “Koran And Holy Bible Are The Same“. I couldn’t get luckier than that, as this excerpt shows:

During his hour-long speech, a smiling Pope Francis was quoted telling the Vatican’s guests that the Koran, and the spiritual teachings contained therein, are just as valid as the Holy Bible.

“Jesus Christ, Jehovah, Allah. These are all names employed to describe an entity that is distinctly the same across the world. For centuries, blood has been needlessly shed because of the desire to segregate our faiths. This, however, should be the very concept which unites us as people, as nations, and as a world bound by faith. Together, we can bring about an unprecedented age of peace, all we need to achieve such a state is respect each other’s beliefs, for we are all children of God regardless of the name we choose to address him by. We can accomplish miraculous things in the world by merging our faiths, and the time for such a movement is now. No longer shall we slaughter our neighbors over differences in reference to their God”.

the lord commandeth1 copyOf course there is debate whether plagiarism is involved and some stories diverge in the Koran, but the murderous teachings are the same.

Perhaps it comes down to branding something like Pepsi and Coke as the same drink but with a different name, though both in existence to purely make a profit. Muslim and Christians are all but capitalists in their own right too, by tithing followers in exchange for a product called ‘Solace from God’ and the more followers the greater the profit. (One only has to look at the Vatican where Cardinal Pell found a very lazy 3 billion dollars that wasn’t accounted for).

And so it goes: America (for example – and the best one) starts wars and we become hostile when the folk who have had American bombs rained on them turn around and inflict carnage in our cities, and since the Iraq war we are seeing the second coming of exodus but for these refugees there is no promised land, the borders are closed and refugee haters, Howard, Rudd, Gillard, Shorten, Abbott and Turnbull have ensured our borders are closed but the government will determine who comes here and under what circumstances … and as long as they are Christian.

 

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

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

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

The Top 5 signs your Refugee Policy is a disaster

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

than stay in the Refugee Centres your country provides

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

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

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

money from selling passports to terrorists & money-laundering

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

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

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

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

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

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

combined GDP of 9 small countries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It doesn’t matter what measure you pick …

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

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

This article was first published on ProgressiveConversation.

 

The wrong side of history

“Whoever does not miss the Soviet Union has no heart. Whoever wants it back has no brain.”

 It’s been three weeks weeks since Vladimir Putin dropped his 50 megaton truth bomb on the United Nations General Assembly, exposing Washington’s mischief in the Middle East and calling for decisive action against any and all terrorists operating in Syria, in full cooperation with the elected government and under charter of international law. In this time Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and the SAA have achieved what the US and its coalition partners had failed to do in 18 months of reckless bombing, wanton destruction, and untold human suffering – ISIS has been all but destroyed. Ground forces are now entering the clean up phase, and word has it Saudi helicopters have begun evacuating rebel fighters, presumably moving their assets on to Yemen.

The bombing of the MSF hospital in Kunduz Afghanistan has done little for US credibility, and after Ban Ki-Moon’s recent shock suggestion that the US presence in Syria is illegitimate and that they should probably go home, one would expect to see Obama running away with his tail between his legs. Adding to the chorus of dissent, US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has called out Washington’s effort to oust Assad as both “counterproductive” and “illegal.” With no moral ground left to stand on, surely no one would expect an escalation at this point? And yet this seems to be exactly what we are seeing.

While Putin has been wiping the floor with ISIS, the US has been wreaking devastation on Syria’s civil infrastructure, conducting bombing raids on power stations and water treatment plants in scenes eerily reminiscent of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In a move that’s either brazenly audacious or just plain sadistic, the US State Department has accused Russia of bombing up to six hospitals in Syria, but refuses to provide any evidence to support its claims. Meanwhile the US has airdropped 50 tons of weapons to moderate opposition head choppers fighting the ‘Assad regime’.

In what could be the ultimate provocation Obama is now putting boots on the ground in Syria, committing 3000 troops in an advisory capacity to the aforementioned ‘moderate rebels’. A more cynical person might question if these troops were not being deployed as human shields, or for even more nefarious ends, since any American casualty cause by a stray Russian missile would undoubtedly lead to the kind of direct confrontation that the Washington war hawks cheered on by Senator John McCain and cold war policy adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski are openly spoiling for. I guess if this fails there is always the option of shooting down a civilian passenger jet, but let’s not go there, just yet.

With millions of refugees flooding into Europe and people perishing in their thousands attempting the perilous journey across the Mediterranean, Nobel laureate and warmonger-in-chief Barry bin-Hussein O’Bomber can no longer pretend that this war has anything to do with human rights. Without so much as a fig leaf of decency to cover its fetid plans Washington continues to demand Basher al-Assad’s removal as a condition of peace. Meanwhile recent polling suggests that Dr Assad retains the support of 80% of Syrians. US motives have been laid bare. This war has no more to do with liberating the Syrian people from a brutal dictatorship than with ridding the world of the CIAs pet terrorists. Like so many countries before it, Iran, Chile, Guatemala, Haiti, Venezuela, Cuba, The Philippines, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yugoslavia, Somalia, the list goes on and on, Syria is being punished for daring to exercise an independent foreign policy, something which US hegemony does not tolerate.

If there was ever any confusion over sides in this conflict, the battle lines should be now clearly visible. Since Russia has begun flexing its military muscle the Saudi Islamists have made their call to arms, while further north in Erdoganistan, thanks to a well timed terror attack, the Muslim Brotherhood now has majority it needs to continue its military offensive on Syria and genocidal attacks against the Kurds. The Israelis have already sold the drilling rights for oil and gas in the occupied Golan Heights, while Cypress has been signed into the EU just in time to deliver a $300bn water pipeline through Turkey to Israel. Meanwhile the North Atlantic Terror Organization positions its nuclear and biological weapons arsenals ever closer to Russia’s borders.

In his devastating takedown of US foreign policy in front of the UN General Assembly, Putin reminded his colleagues of Russia’s crucial role in the defeat of Nazi Germany, while hinting at a more subtle subtext. Just as the West created Hitler, applying pressure from above and below at a cost of millions of lives, so too the US has created ISIS to do its dirty work in the Middle East. Lest there be any doubt, Putin makes it clear, speaking of both Islamist rebels and the US backed coup which ousted the legitimate government of Ukraine: We know their names, we know who pays them, and we know how much they are paid.

In a recent interview with Kerry O’Brien, Paul Keating observed how the West through its policy toward post-soviet era Russia had created Putin, who has now turned around to bite them on the tail. Apparently that which doesn’t kill a bear makes it stronger. Trade sanctions have forced Russia to mobilise its workforce and increase domestic production while reaching out to other countries which refuse to be bullied by Wall Street and its military, forging stronger ties between the BRICS nations. At the same time we are seeing a shift in economic power as emerging industrial economies prepare to overtake their colonial masters. (China for example now holds the tender to deliver over priced nuclear energy to Britain.)

Recent posturing in the South China Sea suggests that the US is preparing for a war on two fronts, and if history is anything to go by, this will not end well. The US certainly has a gift for overplaying its hand, and in trying to squeeze Germany and Russia at the same time it may have done exactly that. Amid the ongoing refugee crisis which threatens to destabilise Europe, Angela Merkel has called for trade sanctions against Russia to be lifted immediately. While any move to embolden Russia should be welcomed by sane people everywhere as an alternative to US military and corporate domination, it may be cold comfort as we edge ever closer toward the likelihood of nuclear extinction.

 

Nauru: What do bird poop, the Russian Mafia and Australia’s refugee policy have in common?

Nauru was described by The Economist in 2001 as a hotbed of incompetence – as “Paradise Lost … an enormous moth-eaten fedora: a ghastly grey mound of rock surrounded by a narrow green brim of vegetation“.

That same year, Nauru became a cornerstone of one of the LNP’s favourite policies – their refugee policy. In the heady days of the Abbott PMship, barely a day went by when Abbott didn’t boast about stopping the boats. Even in his post-PMship days, Abbott is still annoying people all over the world with his stop the boats mantra. And our shiny new PM – Malcolm Turnbull – has picked up a similar, but predictably longer refrain about his party’s refugee policy:

The one thing that we know is that our [refugee] policies, tough though they are, harsh though they are in many respects, actually do work. They save lives.
(Malcolm Turnbull, 1 October 2015)

One country’s political hot potato is another country’s lottery win

Crucial to our government’s refugee policy – at least so they would have us believe – is the promise that no asylum seeker who arrives here by boat will be settled in Australia. To achieve this, they have renewed and reinvigorated deals with Nauru and PNG (Manus Island) that were first struck by both the previous Liberal and Labor governments.

Rather than considering this to be a hardship, Australia’s political hot potato has been a veritable lottery win for Nauru and PNG. Both have received a substantial increase in foreign aid from Australia as well as a brand new ‘Asylum Seeker processing’ industry to provide jobs and inject hundreds of millions of dollars into their economies.

But who exactly are we financing here? We’ve taken money (and jobs) out of the Australian economy so that we can send victims of war, terrorism and persecution to these islands. So surely, with the well-being and lives of asylum seekers at stake and with billions of Australian taxpayer dollars being poured into sending asylum seekers offshore, we would want to ensure that we are comfortable with the regimes we are throwing our considerable financial weight behind.

Further, as one of the other regularly promoted goals of the LNP’s refugee policy is to stop the “evil trade” of people smuggling, we would certainly want to ensure that any country we are dealing with is above board, and that we are not directly or indirectly supporting any illegal activities through our investment in their economies.

So let’s take a look at Nauru – the Economist’s ‘Paradise Lost’.

Nauru: not so much paradise lost as paradise spent

Here’s some things you need to know about Nauru:

  • Nauru has the second smallest population in the world
    Nauru is a sovereign state – a single island with around 10,500 inhabitants. It is the second smallest country (population wise) in the world – with only the Vatican City in Rome being smaller.
  • NauruSignsNauru is a speck in the ocean, just below the equator
    Nauru is only 21 square kilometers – around the size of an average university campus in Sydney or Melbourne. But thanks to mining, around 70% to 80% of the island is now an environmental wasteland – leaving inhabitants with around 5 to 7 square kilometers of inhabitable space. In fact, Nauru is so small, that it doesn’t even have a capital city.
  • Nauru has almost no arable land and no in-ground water supplies – but it does have a golf-course
    Having given up most of its land to mining, Nauru has very little room for agriculture and as a result imports most of its food (much of it from Australia). There are no clean in-ground water supplies, so all clean water is sourced from rainwater or imported. Despite this shortage of arable land and water, Nauru has still found room for a golf-course.
  • In the 70s and 80s Nauru was THE wealthiest country (on a per capita basis) in the world 
    In the 1970s and 1980s, thanks to the proceeds of phosphate mining (derived from bird poop) – Nauruans had the highest income per capita in the world. Knowing that the bird poop would run out at some stage, the Nauruan government did set aside income from the phosphate mines for the future. But it also started spending up big time. For example, it set up a national airline of seven aircraft which were often empty and ran at a huge loss. Further, it created ‘jobs’ in the public service for most of the population. At one stage the government employed some 95% of the island’s laborforce.
  • By the early 90s, most of Nauru’s mining wealth was gone
    Once the phosphate started to run out, the income started to dry up. The Nauru government also made some poor investment decisions with the money they had saved from the phosphate boom – which meant that by 1993 the Government teetered on the edge of insolvency. The 1.8 billion the government had set aside was somehow all but gone.
  • So Nauru became a money laundering centre drawing in the likes of the Russian mafia
    On an island that small, there weren’t too many money-making options left once the phosphate supplies had dwindled to a trickle and the bulk of the land was left stripped of vegetation. So some bright-spark came up with the idea of allowing foreigners to set up their own offshore bank in Nauru online. When you combine the ability to set up your own bank with laws that provide strict secrecy for any banking transactions done in Nauru – and they had created the perfect environment for money laundering. In 1998 alone, the Russian mafia is said to have laundered $70 billion through Nauru.
  • Throw in selling passports to foreign nationals (including at least a few to Al Qaeda) and Nauru was starting to look shadier than a palm tree
    To further supplement the country’s income, the Nauruan government also set up a passport-dispensing operation whereby it would sell passports to anyone who had the money. This included selling much-coveted diplomatic passports – which confer all sorts of legal immunity to the passport holder.
  • This soon bought severe international sanctions
    Not surprisingly, it wasn’t long before Nauru’s money-laundering and passport-dispensing boom brought international condemnation.  This was soon followed by sanctions – harsher than those against Iraq – which eventually forced Nauru to do something about its latest money-making schemes.
  • As a result, the unemployment rate in Nauru has been as high as 90% this century
    During the mining and money laundering booms, the Nauruan government continued ‘redistributing’ much of its wealth through government ‘jobs’. Once the government had limited income from these sources, the jobs dried up, leaving unemployment as high as 90%. While employment has picked up a bit lately, that is primarily due to Nauru hosting our Asylum Seeker Processing centre which generates 600 direct jobs and many ancillary ones. Other than that, the key sources of non-government employment are a few jobs in what remains of the Nauru Phosphate mines and a few in fishing.

Nauru finds a new money supply….

Back to 2001, and with its two major income sources under threat, Nauru was in a perilous position. It had even started discussing buying another island and starting all over again. But in the words of the Economist:

“Who in his right mind would let the Nauruans get their hands on another island?”

Luckily for Nauru, at the same time as they were looking for either a new island or a new source of income, the Liberal government of Australia was looking for a way to solve its politically charged refugee situation. Phillip Ruddock – then Immigration Minister of Australia – was in charge of implementing the LNP’s “Pacific Solution”, and offered Nauru a much needed lifeline: a new industry to bring employment and income to the island nation, along with an agreement to substantially increase Australia’s Foreign Aid to Nauru.

Back in 2001, Nauru’s role was simply to play temporary host to asylum seekers while their claims for refuge were being assessed. Once assessed, if asylum seekers were determined to be legitimate refugees they were then moved elsewhere – to Australia, New Zealand and various other countries.

It was just prior to the 2013 federal election that then Prime Minister Keven Rudd signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Nauru to extend their role in Australia’s refugee policy to one where they would also allow refugees to settle in Nauru, rather than just staying there temporarily. Two weeks later, when Abbott took the reins of government, he and Scott Morrison endorsed and continued the arrangements that had been made.

Australia: Nauru’s Sugar Daddy

A key part of our initial agreement with Nauru back in 2001 was to increase the amount of foreign aid we sent there from around $3.5 million per year in 2000 and 2001, to an average of around $27 million per year since then. This equates to around $2700 per Nauruan citizen per year. As a result, Nauru now receives aid at one of the highest rates per capita in the world.

And that’s just our foreign aid budget. We also spend an extraordinary amount of money on running the asylum seeker detention centre on Nauru. In the 3 months from July 2015 to September 2015, our government spent 93.26 million dollars to look after 653 asylum seekers on Nauru. This is $143,000 per asylum seeker for the quarter – the equivalent of $572,000 per year. That’s just for operating the asylum seeker centre – meals, water, staff etc.

With that sort of price-tag, you’d be forgiven for thinking that asylum seekers are living in five-star beach-side accommodation on Nauru, each with their own private chef and butler.

Not so much. The $143,000 fee that we – the Australian tax payer – paid last quarter for every asylum seeker on Nauru covered them sleeping on a stretcher in “mouldy tents full of cockroaches and rodents“.

(Now, to avoid confusion, I should point out that not all money for running the asylum seeker centre is going to the people of Nauru. The centre is actually operated by Transfield who clearly have a very large snout in the seemingly endless pool that is the asylum seeker funding trough.)

And that’s not the end of the money that continues to flow out of the Australian taxpayer’s coffers to keep our government’s refugee policy firmly in place. Here are some other examples of money spent by our government on keeping refugees out of Australia and on Nauru:

The world’s most expensive refugee policy?

It’s pretty clear that the government’s refugee policies cost Australians a fortune – over a billion dollars in 2014 for just over 2,000 refugees on both Nauru and Manus Island.

By way of contrast, the UNHCR spent $157 million (around 16% of that) over the same period to look after 200,000 refugees, half a million internally displaced people and nearly 1.4 million stateless people.

Allegations of corruption in Nauru

It’s hardly surprising that allegations of corruption are to be found on an island that provided money-laundering services to the Russian mafia and purportedly sold passports to Al Qaeda operatives. According to Tony Thomas, “anti-corruption drives are often announced and never successful, partly because among any five Nauruans, two are relatives.”

Most recently, New Zealand cut aid to Nauru due to human rights abuses and problems with the Nauruan judicial system (which saw several senior members of the judiciary removed).

There have been other accusations of corruption this year. The Nauru government has attempted to silence local dissent – recently shutting down access to social media from the island and suspending members of the opposition from parliament without pay.

Further, other than hand-picked state-friendly media, the Nauruan government has blocked many media outlets from visiting their island. In the words of  Meghna Abraham, Deputy Director for Global Thematic Issues at Amnesty International:

“Whatever Nauru is trying to hide, it can’t be good if the authorities are so desperate to block all international media from visiting or reporting from the island”

So back to my original question…

Question: What do bird poop, the Russian Mafia and Australia’s refugee policy have in common?

Answer: Nauru has managed to make money from all of them. 

But here’s the thing – there are plenty more questions that we, the Australian people, really need answers to about Nauru. Here’s a few key ones:

  • If one of the key goals of our Refugee Policy is to reduce criminal activity such as people smuggling in the region, then why on earth did we make a deal with Nauru back in 2001? There was no doubt at all at that stage that Nauru was facilitating money laundering and selling passports to foreign nationals – including to Al Qaeda. And even if we made a mistake back then, why do we continue to prop up their regime today when there are so many stories around about government corruption?
  • How could anyone in this ‘entitlement-free’ age think that spending between $400,000 and $600,000 per asylum seeker per year is a reasonable cost when the UN does it for less than $800 per year. Yes, that is the cost differential – I haven’t forgotten any zeros. The UN looks after 200,000 refugees in SE Asia for less than what it costs us to look after 4 refugees on Nauru. And who exactly is getting all of this money? It’s clearly not all being spent on accommodation or food – so whose pockets are really being lined?
  • Why would anyone select an island in the middle of nowhere with less than 10 kms of inhabitable land and a history of unemployment at 90% as a viable solution for resettling a group of refugees? Who exactly would choose an island that even the locals have considered deserting because they are doubtful that it will be able to sustain them? What could be the justification for deciding to increase Nauru’s population by close to ten percent through the resettlement of refugees? And while the government is now looking at alternatives to move some of these refugees – how is $50 million to move four of them to Cambodia any more palatable?

There are also plenty of unanswered questions around human rights abuses and the refusal of Nauru to allow any press other than a hand-picked Murdoch journalist onto the island. However since these questions are being covered extensively elsewhere, I haven’t covered them here.

Nauru: Really?

I find it impossible to look at the image of this tiny little rock in the middle of the Pacific ocean – so crucial to our government’s refugee policy – and not wonder if there is a single non-political reason for continuing our arrangements there.

To me Nauru seems like a ridiculously expensive political solution that has seen victims of war, terrorism and persecution who, having escaped hellholes in their country of birth in order to find a safe place to put their feet, end up in a location referred to by the BBC as Australia’s Guantanamo. Instead of safety, they have ended up on an island where they sleep in moldy tents and are unable to protect themselves and their children from being sexually abused. It’s no wonder Australian officials have been able to convince Syrian refugees to return to Syria – despite the war there continuing to worsen.

Further, at the end of the day it’s arguable that we aren’t doing Nauru any real favours. They clearly had more than enough of their own problems before we came along. With an economy that is probably unsustainable without the Asylum Seeker industry and with the prospect of climate change seeing many of the inhabitable parts of the island going underwater, it’s difficult to see how the island has a future. The Asylum Seeker industry – and the accompanying foreign aid – has propped Nauru up temporarily and stalled them having to face the realities of how they make a future for themselves once the Asylum Seeker Industry is gone.

It doesn’t matter which way you look at it, this government’s refugee policies are an abject expensive failure. They have stayed in place and avoided scrutiny for so long by fanning the flames of bigotry which lie in many corners of Australia, by mixing up the issue of refugees with border security, by hiding behind spurious ‘saving lives’ claims and through the self-righteous (and erroneous) proclamations of having stopped people smuggling.

One day history is going to look back on Australia’s current refugee policies in the clear light of day with horror, disbelief and shame.

This article was first published on Progressive Conversation.

 

Prometheus’ Adventures on the New Silk Road.

I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country. – Thomas Jefferson

It is telling that the same idea of free trade which has become an article of faith for neoconservatives was once synonymous with Anglo-Dutch imperialism, the very system of oligarchy which the War of Independence and Civil War were fought to liberate America from. How ironic that this same ideal of freedom would become the wellspring of American exceptionalism. How strange that for a century and a half America has loyally served its masters as the jackboot of imperialism in the face of the global south, committing satanic acts of genocide in the name democracy across five continents. To understand how it all went so terribly wrong we must turn back the pages of history to an earlier time.

In the late 18th century Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton imagined an independent nation state free from the tyranny of oligarchy. Alas the confederate states remained indentured to the old world system of slavery and primary production, so emancipation was a while coming. A century later, abolishing slavery was for Lincoln less about embracing the humanist ideas of continental philosophy than casting off the chains of colonialism. Building an industrial economy was the order of the day, and high tariff protections and a massive inland rail project soon saw the US transformed into the fastest growing most prosperous economy the world had ever seen.

Having established itself as a power in its own right, the US imagined itself moving westward across the Pacific, just as the Europeans had previously sailed across the Atlantic to the New World. These new colonialists envisioned a more modern system of trade with Germany, Russia, and Japan, and set out to create a network of independent republics in its own image. During this time the United States and Canada helped to build the first Eurasian trans-continental railway, with Russia for its part committing to build a bridge across the Bering Strait.

Like America, the newly created nation state of Germany was also thriving at this time. Under Otto von Bismarck it had fought back Denmark and France and united the 39 states previously under Austrian rule to form the greatest power in Central Europe. Inspired by what the Americans had achieved, Bismarck next turned his attention to creating a vast system of railways and canals across continental Europe, which was to include a railway between Berlin and Baghdad. As chancellor, Bismarck had kept a cool head and maintained peaceful relations with his neighbours, particularly Russia. Sadly for history, the inbred Kaiser Wilhelm II disagreed with his politics and had him sacked more or less immediately upon coming to power.

The British Empire, a private-public partnership between the English monarchy and the British East India Trading Company, had ruled the waves for 200 years, trading gold and silver from Africa for cotton, silk and tea from Asia and the Americas. Control of sea ports and shipping lanes also gave Britain a monopoly in the trade of guns, opium, and most importantly slave labour. New overland trade routes presented a threat to this business model, and so Prince Albert Edward (Edward VII) plotted an end to the project by drawing Germany, Russia and France into a war to end all wars. This is the crucial background to WWI, or at least an abbreviated version to suit our purposes.

Edward had plotted and schemed for 20 years to create the circumstances in which the European powers would turn on each other and Britain could emerge victorious. Fomenting ethnic tensions in south-eastern Europe was not difficult given its population of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians, Muslims, and other ethno-religious groupings; the varied detritus of the collapsing Ottoman Empire. By the early 20th century tensions were such that any small event could have easily triggered the descent into chaos, and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo fit the bill nicely. With Tsar Nicholas having abnegated his treaty with Bismarck and sworn to defend Belgium, it was soon on for young and old (tho to be fair, mostly young.)

WWI was a battle in which millions of men shed their blood over inches of land. 17 million deaths later, Europe had been laid waste, all according to plan. The cost of reparations would be borne solely by Germany, which would surrender its fleet, its rail carriages, its steel production, its livestock, and ultimately the dignity of its people. Such was the price of the British Empire maintaining its prestige then, and from the age of steam to the petroleum era little has changed.

 

With the invitation to nuclear war beckoning from an artificial island somewhere in the enchanted South China Sea, and the office of the presidency of the United States soon up for grabs, it seems as good a time as any to reflect on the principles and founding documents on which the world’s now dominant superpower was originally built. Jefferson’s inalienable right to life liberty and happiness was a deliberate misquotation of John Locke’s pursuit of life, liberty and property, a credo central to the work to Adam Smith, the Scottish moral philosopher and political economist credited as the father of modern capitalism. Herein lays an important distinction.

During the 1930s and 40s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt designed and implemented an economic policy which rebuilt the US economy from the ground up after the damage wrought by the great depression. After a failed assassination attempt, his first act as president was to create the Emergency Banking Act and Glass Steagall Act to underwrite savings deposits. Next was to create two million new paid jobs in parks and recreation, and begin an infrastructure program on a scale previously unimagined, putting dams and power stations near farms and bringing modernized agriculture and living conditions to rural America. Like Lincoln and Franklin before him, Roosevelt understood that the liberty implicit in the founding documents was first and foremost liberty from oligarchy. From 1933 to his death in 1945 he presided over an epic stimulus program which transformed a failed experiment in colonialism into a high tariff, high taxing, productive and prosperous economy.

 “We don’t approve of independent sovereign states.”- HG Wells, Things to Come, 1936.

While the rapid industrialisation of the United States may have given it the appearance of a superpower, to what extent it can be seen as an independent actor is a matter of opinion, since its money supply and to a large extent its foreign policy have remained for the most part under the control of the Rothschilds, Warburgs, Lehmans, Goldman-Sachs’, Rockefellers and other banking elites, a relationship set in stone by the Federal Reserve Act of 1913.

Where Roosevelt had wanted not a bar of Churchill’s planned cold war, Harry Truman proved a much more pliable president. In a recent press conference Vladimir Putin invited us to consider whether Stalin would have used the atomic bomb against Germany in 1945 with Hitler almost defeated. Years after the dual atrocities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Dwight D. Eisenhower would observe: “the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.” Eisenhower further warned in his famous valedictory speech of the growing threat posed by the military industrial complex. Was anyone listening? In 1963 JFK planned to issue government bonds as currency, effectively shutting down the Federal Reserve. This did not end well for Kennedy, and to this day Washington and Wall Street remain loyal servants of the Empire.

The post war period saw America’s physical economy hollowed out and the process of looting commenced in earnest. Roosevelt’s industrial economy was systematically dismantled. Real capital was siphoned off through privatisation and replaced with mountains of debt. Financial markets were deregulated, leading to a series of booms and busts of ever increasing magnitude. Public freehold over projects built with taxpayer dollars was handed over to private interests only to be rented back at a profit. Everything from roads to rail to water and the electricity grid was up for grabs, up to and including crucial parts of the military.

The business of war is lucrative, and the Bush family have been players for 3 generations. George Herbert Walker’s father Prescott Bush, as a director of the Union Banking Corporation, had helped fund Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ Party in its rise to power. During the second Bush administration Dick Cheney’s stocks in Halliburton netted him a cool $40bn out of a war which cost the US taxpayer $1.7 trillion and left Iraqi schools, hospitals, roads, railways, and electricity and water infrastructure utterly devastated. Are we seeing a pattern yet?

 

Today we are witnessing the birth pains of a new superpower. This is as inevitable as it is unstoppable. The difference between the economies of the old and new world was principally that the Anglo-Dutch system was based on looting, whereas American capitalism was based on productivity. From the moment the US outsourced is manufacturing base to China and Brazil, the game was over. With almost total control of global manufacturing and new multibillion dollar funds for infrastructure and development, the BRICS force has finally reached critical mass.

In a recent interview with Charlie Rose, when asked if Russia would survive sanctions, Putin replied: “Naturally, beyond any doubts, it is even out of discussion. Sanctions even have a certain advantage. Do you know what is it? The advantage is that previously we used to buy many goods, especially in the area of high technology, with petrodollars.” “Now, with the sanctions imposed and our partners having left our market voluntarily, we have an opportunity to develop.”

Compare Senator John McCain’s sabre rattling rhetoric in his recent article for CNN: “There is an opportunity here… to impose significant costs on an adversary that wants to undercut the United States everywhere.” “We must back up our policy in ways that check Putin’s ambitions and shape his behaviour.” “We must impose greater costs on Russia’s interests.”

In yet another case of history repeating, German Chancellor Angela Merkel now appears as the crucial pivot in this changing power dynamic. In statements made during the last fortnight she has not only acknowledged Russia’s historical claim to the Crimea, but also called for increased economic cooperation with Russia including the normalization of trade relations and the immediate lifting of all sanctions. This is in part to strengthen the important economic ties between the two countries, but crucially to help stem the flow of refugees into Europe caused by ongoing crises in the Middle East.

The balance of global power has shifted not just economically but it would also seem militarily. While no single country is capable on its own of taking on the US war machine, Russian ordnance currently deployed in Syria appears to be 10 years ahead of anything yet seen on the battlefield, including smart missiles which never miss their targets. Still in development is the Shenyang J31 fifth generation multipurpose medium range fighter, powered by Russian RD-93 engines and besting Lockheed-Martin’s F35 by orders of magnitude, rumour has it thanks largely to Chinese ‘cyber-terrorism.’

In every chapter of human history we see the entwinement of decadence and decline. While the empire has been busy plotting its own downfall through globalisation, free trade and the crippling economics of austerity, the war racketeers have reaped obscene profits. While greed and short-sightedness have led to the depletion of labour markets in first world countries, China, Russia and their partners have been getting on with business. With the $242 Billion High-Speed Beijing-Moscow Rail Link approved, China now plans to build a similar link to Damascus via Tehran. Obviously this cannot go ahead until Syria is stabilized and returned to its former status as a functional independent nation state.

Lest we be deceived into believing this latest clash of civilizations has anything to do with Islamist fundamentalism or the threat of global terrorism, we’d do well to consider the events and circumstances which have led us to war in times past. The game of empire has not changed; nor for the last century and a half have the players.

We are now living in the last days of empire. Only when the old institutions of finance and trade are finally swept away can there be any hope for a social order based on human dignity, which respects first and foremost the value of human life. The Malthusian economics of scarcity belongs to the past; our greatest resource has always been the creative potential of the human mind. Only through cooperation can we ever hope to solve the problems facing humanity – if we can’t manage to live together peacefully, how can we seriously hope to address the vitally important problems we face as a species; depletion of natural resources, destruction of habitat and climate change?

Human social evolution has already developed the mechanism required for humanity in all its complex diversity to coexist peacefully, not though aggressive interference by a single, strong and exceptional centre of world domination, but through respect for the sovereignty of independent nation states under the charter of international law. Sergei Lavrov made Russia’s position crystal clear in his article ‘History Lessons and New Frontiers’ in which he states that China and Russia are “stalwart opponents of imposing one’s will over sovereign states, including by force, introducing unilateral sanctions and practicing (a) policy of double standards.”

The current unilateral system of global politics now threatens the very survival of the species. Peace and democracy will only be possible when the old system of empire is replaced by a system of equality, guided by common values and common interests. Whether the current shift in power will move us closer toward this goal remains to be seen, but it certainly seems like a step in the right direction.

Turnbull and Dutton wage war on women

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

An open letter from Manus

By Jane Salmon

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

Mourning and Weeping From Hell

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

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

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

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

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

let’s see … we are waiting.

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

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

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

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

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

04/10/2015

 

Just what does “Stopping the Boats” really mean?

By Archie

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

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

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

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

Not that this could have happened.

After all, our Australian Government has STOPPED THE BOATS!

So we have been told for the past twelve months.

Just what does “Stopping the Boats” really mean?

It means: “Go and die somewhere else.”

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

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

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

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

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

It means: “We don’t care.”

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

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

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

Australia has failed to change human nature.

Australia has failed to stop the boats.

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

Some of them will not be making it.

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

 

Should we see dead people?

The image of the body of a little boy washed up on a Turkish beach is widely credited for the change of heart which has swept even Australia into a more compassionate response to the wave of refugees fleeing the horror of the Middle East. But should it have been shown at all?

The power of the news photograph brings difficult judgments for all of us, even more so in the digital age when pictures which may have once never made it past a Picture Editor’s desk are streamed seemingly endlessly into our feeds and timelines.

The image of Aylan Kurdi’s body was compared by many commentators to Nick Ut’s Vietnam picture ‘Napalm Girl’ which generated similar controversy when it was published and was credited with a similar change of heart in the community.

I grew up with Napalm Girl, the execution of a Viet Cong operative by the Saigon police chief  and countless other violent and disturbing images of the Vietnam war.

They were the first things I saw just about every Sunday throughout my childhood, on the long wall of the lift lobby at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong where many of the photographers who took those pictures gathered.

I knew the pictures. I didn’t know there was any controversy about what they showed until I started work on a newspaper and became involved in the daily discussion about whether a picture would offend the sensibilities of readers or the dignity of the dead.

While court reporting is governed by a myriad of rules and restrictions, the coverage of death is determined by morals and ethics, with a strong influence of commercial consideration on the side. A gruesome picture can lose readers as easily as win them and an Editor prepared to break convention needs to be able to argue a compelling public interest.

The case for publishing was powerfully expressed by the Editor of Bild Julian Reichelt, who took the extraordinary step of running no pictures at all in the edition of 9 September 2015. He said the decision was a bow to the power of the visual and called photographs “the screams of the world.” He wrote:

“Time and again, indeed currently we are hearing demands not to show images at all. We are asked to pixel them since human suffering is documented in too drastic a manner and people’s dignity is taken away.

“This argument ignores the most important part. It is not the photo depicting the undignified situation. It is the war! The ignorance of politics, our cowardice to step in. The photo documents the world and this world is not hidden behind pixels! We have no right to take the easy route, to look away when injustice happens. We must force ourselves to look. The pain we feel when viewing the pictures is nothing compared to the pain of the depicted. We have no right to say: I choose to look away because my pain is the same as theirs. It is not!”

The argument against publishing the picture was also made. Here in Australia, News Corp’s  David Penberthy praised the decision by some newspapers either to pixellate the three-year-old’s body, or not run the picture at all:

“It is such a confronting image and with newspapers left lying around in people’s homes, and being sold in their thousands to schools each day for classwork, the idea of one of my kids (or anyone else’s) being presented with such a picture is less than ideal. It should be a parent’s decision as to whether they child can see such a photo, not a newspaper editor’s.”

But we are all publishers now, with the power in our pinkies to share instantly and equally the gruesome and the banal with no responsibility beyond our own momentary feeling of outrage or mirth. I put them together because that’s how they can appear in a timeline – a dead baby nestled between a cute cat and a Tony Abbott meme.

It’s been a distressing week for everyone – on every side of the debate – but there’s no doubt that, not for the first time, a disturbing image of death has had the power to change people’s hearts.

In the introduction to his book Pictures on a Page former Times Editor Harold Evans observed: “It is more than a coincidence that the Vietnam war was at once the most unpopular in American history and the most photographed.”

It’s more than a coincidence too that in more recent times cameras are kept well away from our concentration camps on Manus Island and Nauru.

The argument about whether confronting images should be shown will go on as long as confronting things continue to happen in the world. There can be no definitive answer but it’s a very good argument to have and one which each of us has a responsibility to consider.

My own view falls somewhere between Reichelt and Penberthy. Yes, of course it was right to publish the picture and yet I personally didn’t share it more than once because I felt the image was already ubiquitous.

It’s a shame that it takes an image of a dead toddler on a beach to finally galvanise public opinion in a compassionate direction. And it’s a shame that the family of Aylan Kurdi must surrender their memory of an ordinary little boy to the image of his final moment on a strange shore.

But that’s the power of a picture. And that’s why there’s a moral and ethical convention to not show the dead unless there is a compelling public interest. At least think about it before you publish.

Further reading:

The following list includes discussions on the ethics of publishing the image of Aylan Kurdi and in some cases will include the picture. But the first link is to a Calvin and Hobbes inspired cartoon by Chris Downes for the Hobart Mercury who imagined the little boy on a gentler shore with a lovely companion and a timely message:

Cecil and Aylan – Christopher Downes

The girl in the picture: Kim Phuc’s journey from war to forgiveness – Paula Newton and Thom Patterson, CNN

No photos in Bild today after Syrian toddler picture – Sydney Smith, iMediaEthics

On Aylan and the ethics of circulating images of the unconsenting dead – Tara Moss

What the image of Aylan Kurdi says about the power of photography – Olivier Laurent, Time

Documenting tragedy: The ethics of photojournalism – Talk of the Nation, NPR

Your Girl Reporter blogs fortnightly on the past, present and future of journalism – from growing up in Hong Kong, to working in the UK and now observing the state of the world from my native Australia. Read more Baxter here.

Some thoughts on compassion

Our fears towards asylum seekers are unfounded, but they are enough to sway elections writes Professor Emerita Marian Quartly.

Psychologists argue that the world is suffering from compassion fatigue – secondary traumatic stress caused by overexposure to suffering. That’s got to be a first world problem! The poor worked out long ago that compassion was an emotion enjoyed by the rich. Compassion for the sufferings of the poor allowed the rich to gain the kingdom of heaven by helping the deserving – just a bit – without doing anything about the cause of their problems. To do that would have meant stopping being rich. Compassion was a way of allaying the guilt and fear that went with unacknowledged power. What Gramschi called ‘false consciousness’. And it still is.

Let’s look at compassion and refugees. Let’s acknowledge first up that we have a huge problem world-wide: wherever the borders of a stable, prosperous nation state are accessible to people from failing states stricken by poverty and conflict. From Mexico to the Mediterranean. Everywhere poor and oppressed people are moved by hope, desperation and envy to try to share the privileges and liberty of the rich. Who respond with fear, anger, guilt and compassion. OK, compassion is a better response than fear and anger. But these emotions are all of the same cloth, they all work to hide a basic contradiction. Failing states – failing for whatever reason – cannot satisfy the hopes of their citizens. And stable states cannot open their borders to all comers without self-destructing. Without getting into the issue of how far the west is actively exploiting the east and the south and the middle, it is clear that compassion is again closely allied with guilt.

Let’s look at Australian compassion and the refugee problem. Hardly a numerical problem in world terms, but enough to sway elections. Enough to rouse passionate anger amongst those who feel that their hold on the good things of Australian life is too tenuous to share. And angry compassion amongst those who cannot bear to hear yet again about drownings at sea and riots at so-called detention centres.

The compassion that focuses on individual suffering is blind. Blind to the motives driving the refugees: pity makes victims out of women and men who are in their own terms heroes seizing every opportunity to shape their fate. Blind to the political, social and economic ills that make possible death at sea the best option. Blind to the other half of the contradiction: the good things about Australian life are only ours because they are defended by means that cause suffering to would-be Australian citizens. Means like turnback, detention, deaths at sea . . .

Compassion is clearly a better response than anger. But a clear-sighted compassion should recognise that the immediate problem of the people trade requires some form of deterrence, and the longterm problem requires action to improve the political, social and economic conditions that drive people to become refugees. Not to mention the need for regional action, additional support for UN action, and an increase in the Australian intake of refugees, however they come.

And what about the angry Australians who fear the competition of newcomers for those good things of life that are not fully theirs? Their fears are not unfounded. Australian schools, hospitals, roads, public transport – all these are overcrowded and underfunded, and the economically vulnerable are the first to feel the loss. Once again it appears that the poor are always with us. Once again compassion is the easiest option for the powerful.

 

Refugees? Or Infrastructure?

The following is a guest post by the Alexandria ALP Branch.

There’s an anger in Western Sydney that could cost us the next election – “our schools, trains, roads, hospitals are full of refugees”.

We allowed and encouraged this anger to focus on how refugees can be stopped, a good Liberal issue.  We ignored and continue to ignore the underlying issue of our schools, trains, roads, hospitals being full. We allowed a single Liberal issue to displace a suite of good Labor issues.

In 2010-11, a total of 4828 Humanitarian Program visas were given to onshore applicants, not all maritime arrivals.  That number is from a total of 13,799 visas granted under the Humanitarian Program, itself a number out of a total of 158,943 new immigrants. Putting that number in wider perspective, new immigrants were part of a total population growth for 2012 of 394,200 people. Australia’s population is 22.32 million. Boat people are about 1-2 per cent of annual population growth which is about 1-2 per cent of our population.

In real terms, the nation is reducing government spending. You cannot have a decade and a half of income tax cuts without consequence. It has been a bipartisan squeeze. The squeeze hurts everyone who depends on public facilities and public services.

This is true not just in the western suburbs. There are stations in the inner city, near where I live, at which peak-hour trains are too full to board. We have kids commuting to nearby suburbs because the local schools are full. I don’t need to tell you what our roads are like. Here in the inner city we blame developers rather than refugees, but the anger is just as real. There’s a reason we’re nimbys. We’re being squeezed. Successive governments have contrived to squeeze public spending. Squeeze spending and you are squeezing the people. The people are the public. That understanding was basic to our civic culture. Used to be.

Here is the problem. Not the one that some people would like to have us believe, not that we have too many refugees, not that we have too many people. No, our problem is we do not have enough infrastructure per person. We are not investing in infrastructure.  Cut taxes, you cease investing in infrastructure. That is the basic problem that this government denies.

The UN estimates that about 1% of ‘ irregular maritime’ travellers drown, and this may be an underestimate. Presumably, a similar percentage of turned-back boats sink. A person who chooses not to become a refugee will not die at sea, but they may instead die at the hands of their own government. The calculus is complicated, and we do not have enough information to be sure that turnbacks do more good than harm.

We do know that turnbacks are damaging our relationship with Indonesia, and we know that they are illegal. We also know that refugees, after balancing the risk of drowning against the risk of staying put, sometimes chose the risk of drowning. It is no surprise that, when assessed, almost all maritime refugee applicants are found to be ‘genuine’ refugees – no one takes lightly to these boats.

We don’t need to spend billions on concentration camps. We need to spend billions on rail lines and on schools and on hospitals and on roads. It is not going to be cheap. It is necessary.

Having an adequate revenue base to facilitate spending is a debate we need to have, a debate we will win. Despite our record in recent government, the electorate perceives us as weak on refugees and economic issues, but strong on health and education and public transport. Why then should we indulge the Liberals in a debate on the refugees when we could be having a debate on health and education and public transport?

This article was first published on the Alexandria ALP Branch site.

 

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