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Abbott: Labor made me do it.

15 Dec

article-5898-hero Independent Australia

Prime Minister Tony Abbott promised this prior to gaining office :

…and the commitment that I’ve been giving to the Australian people is that there’ll be no surprises and no excuses under a Coalition government.

Source: May 21, 2013 – Joint Doorstop Interview, Bundamba, Queensland

It was, of course, a ludicrous promise to make. There is nothing as constant as change, and any credible adult government must deal with change that may at times cause decisions to be reviewed, and commitments to be re-assessed. The Abbott government has spectacularly failed to demonstrate this fundamental adult coping skill, not least in Abbott’s fantastical undertaking to protect us from the inevitable surprises of inevitable change in the first place.

No surprises

While on the one hand using that refuge of scoundrels the old “situations change” line to excuse broken promises and commitments he never intended to keep, Abbott continues to cling to his no surprises and no excuses mantra. He can’t have it both ways. If he wants unexpected situational change (surprise) to explain his backflips, he can’t have a commitment to no surprises as well. Hell, he needs surprises to explain his changes, because nothing else credibly achieves that.

Promising citizens there will be no surprises is elephant excrement, unless we’re all about to die, in which case we can reasonably expect there likely won’t be anymore surprises, not in this world anyway.

Annabel Crabb noted that in the first three months of Abbott taking office his party could well be renamed “The Surprise Party.” The broken promises and unexpected decisions just keep on keeping on.

No excuses

If he wants to continue to claim that his is a “no excuses” government, Abbott is going to have to stop blaming the ALP for every difficulty the LNP encounters. They’ve been in office for over twelve months now. No government can blame its predecessor indefinitely, otherwise political rhetoric will come to consist entirely of what they did made us do what we did, or some infantile variation on that tiresome theme. Anyone involved in the management of children knows the old he/she started it is a path to hellish infinity that endears the instigator to nobody.

“The ALP made me do it” is no way to run a country. If you are making changes because a situation has altered since you took office, how is that the responsibility of the previous government? If these changes are genuine, why not clearly explain them? Any other approach is an excuse that insults the intelligence of all thinking people.

LNP narrative consists almost entirely of unpleasant surprises and excuses for them, or really only one excuse: the ALP made us do it.  Did this government know nothing before it was elected? Was it so naive, so ill-informed, so out of touch that it took office as if newly born into political life? Doesn’t it know every government has to deal with the decisions of its predecessor and that we don’t actually care about that, it’s part of their job description and we expect them to stop whining and get on with it?

This government urgently needs to grow up and understand the serious responsibility they have towards the  citizens of this country. We need a government that has at least achieved tertiary standards of development, and not one that is still toilet training in day care.

Too little, too late, Prime Minister

12 Dec

Abbott on Women's Work

 

 

Prime Minister and Minister for Women Tony Abbott yesterday claimed that criticisms of his Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin, are “sexist.” His observation followed reports that relations between Ms Credlin and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop have soured, leading to them being described by one frontbencher as “two Siamese fighting fish in the same tank.”

The frontbencher didn’t mention the gender of the fighting fish.

It’s hilarious to hear Tony Abbott accuse his own party of sexism. It can’t even be taken seriously enough to be given the label hypocrisy. It’s a blatant attempt to adopt principles the man simply does not have and never will. Abbott has still to grasp that he has no credibility, and no amount of politically correct language co-option is going to give it to him.

There’s nothing he can say about finally contributing to the UN Green Climate Fund, “sweating blood” for constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians, or protecting women from sexism that will provoke anything in the community but scoffing guffaws.

Abbott has left his run for decency far too late. His dire unpopularity seems to be causing a spin-doctored rethink in his politics, however, it’s painfully evident that any rethink is not a change of heart, but a superficial shift of attitude designed to haul his sorry arse out of the sinkhole of public contempt in which it has become increasingly mired.

So he can try to sell it again, one presumes.

 

Abbott on women

Morrison now seeks sole authority over citizenship decisions.

10 Dec

Diagram_of_citizenshipThe Department of Immigration and Border Protection, under the authority of Minister Scott Morrison, is in the process of seeking amendments to the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 that will give the minister draconian powers over not only asylum seekers, but  anyone who has become or wishes to become an Australian citizen.

The Australian Citizenship and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014, will give Morrison the power to set aside decisions made by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal on the character and identity of those applying for citizenship or who have already received it, in a public interest test determined solely by the Minister.

The DIBA submission to a Senate committee argues that an elected member of parliament and minister of the Crown has gained a particular insight into the community’s standards and values. This particular insight therefore qualifies Morrison to overrule AAT decisions. It is the bill’s intention to grant a minister, in this case Morrison, the power to determine an individual’s “good character” or otherwise, regardless of any ruling made by the AAT. Morrison’s decision will be unchallengeable.

The bill also aims to give Morrison the right to determine “fraud” or “misrepresentation” in applications for citizenship. In such instances Morrison can revoke papers regardless of whether or not the individual concerned has been convicted of either offence. 

That is, Morrison or the minister concerned has the power to determine “guilt” outside of any criminal proceedings, denying individuals the presumption of innocence.

The notion that anyone has particular insight or is entitled to absolute power because he or she is an MP and minister of the Crown is extremely dangerous. It is confusing the office with the human being who holds it. High office does not automatically endow its holder with integrity or insight. We are all too familiar with “killers in high places who say their prayers out loud” as Leonard Cohen puts it.

Morrison’s ongoing lunges for absolute power must be challenged. This is a liberal democracy. We do not have ministers who overrule the expert opinions of experienced tribunals. We do not have ministers who are above the rule of law and entitled to deprive any human being of the presumption of innocence. We do not have ministers who are answerable to nobody, whose decisions are unchallengeable, and who are allowed to carry out their department’s business in absolute secrecy. No, we do not.

Pyne’s advertising campaign is long-term LNP propaganda

9 Dec

anti_public_education_propaganda_by_8manderz8-d5xz1cjOnly days after the education reform bill was defeated in the Senate, the government has launched what it describes as an “information” campaign, funded by tax payers, that claims to educate the public about the failed proposed reforms to higher education.

The campaign to promote understanding of the failed bill is funded by taxpayers. The Abbott government justifies this by claiming the campaign meets all necessary guide-lines to qualify not as political advertising, but as information that is in the public interest. Obviously, the campaign was prepared in anticipation of a Senate defeat.

Shadow Education Minister Kim Carr claimed this morning on ABC Radio National’s early AM program that the advertising is deliberately misleading, and falsely claims that the government will pay “around half of your undergraduate degree.” Carr has fact checked this claim with universities in Western Australia and Queensland and depending on the discipline, students will pay between 57% and 88% of the costs of their degrees.

This is a job for the ABC’s Fact Check unit, if it still exists.

The government’s goal is to create a narrative in which the LNP is struggling to introduce reforms that are positive for students financially (good) and is being thwarted in its efforts by an uncooperative opposition and minor parties (bad). In other words, the Abbott government is striving to gives us what’s best for us against a relentless opposition that doesn’t care about us.

Their goal, I imagine, is to ignite resentment and discontent in the electorate towards an obstructionist ALP and minor parties, a narrative we can expect to see strengthen in the next two years as we approach the next election.

The fact that this is a dud reform quite rightly prevented from realisation is irrelevant. There is also no mention of proposed cuts to universities in the campaign.

Tony Abbott, his ministers and backbenchers take every opportunity to persuade us that all their troubles are the responsibility of the previous Labor government. There is only so long a government can use this tactic to distract from its own incompetence. I’d suggest the Abbott government has long since passed that time limit.

The government is engaged in an ongoing election battle that began years ago when Abbott became LOTO. This most recent taxpayer-funded “information campaign” is yet another sign that Abbott is not so much concerned with good governance as he is with winning the next election. The education reform bill advertising is long-game propaganda, and contributes to Abbott’s over-arching narrative of governmental good intentions thwarted both by Labor’s legacy, and its alleged ongoing obstruction.

 

 

Morrison’s powers: nobody will know who he’s sent back to be killed

7 Dec

scott morrisonMinister for Immigration and Border Protection, Scott Morrison, is the only minister who is not answerable to anyone for his decisions, with the exception of the decision to take us into war, which can be made by the Prime Minister alone.

New legislation passed this week gives Morrison unprecedented, unchallengeable and secret powers to determine the futures of those who come to Australia seeking sanctuary from homelands that are no longer hospitable to them. This includes the practice of refoulement, the ability to return asylum seekers to situations that are hostile and in some instances deadly without first determining if they are at risk, a practice that is inconsistent with international refugee law: Section 197 gives the government express permission to engage in refoulement irrespective of whether there has been an assessment of Australian obligations to that person. 

Morrison is not required to determine in advance what risks an asylum seeker will face in being returned to the country they’ve fled, therefore, he has the power to send human beings to endure torture and death, and nobody will ever know he’s done it.

Within his area of responsibilities, Morrison is now a dictator. In the midst of a government determined to be as small a government as possible there is a department with a dictator at its head, whose control over some human beings is absolute.

In principle giving any politician, or any human being for that matter absolute power over anything, cannot be good. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Why is it necessary?

Of course, it isn’t necessary in any way other than the political. It serves the government’s purposes to cloak the fates of asylum seekers and refugees in secrecy. It doe not make our borders any more secure, it does not prevent us from being attacked by terrorists. What Morrison’s new dictatorship does do is fly in the face of the tenets of our liberal democracy, specifically its opposition to: suspicion of concentrated forms of power, whether by individuals, groups or governments.

There is no reason why the people of this country should be kept in the dark about our government’s decisions as to the fate of asylum seekers and refugees, or any other decision our government takes, unless it is a matter of security. No matter how hard the Abbott government has worked to frame waterborne asylums seekers  as a threat to our sovereign borders against which we are waging a war, they are not a threat and this is not a war.

The passing of the latest legislation finalises the relentless campaign conducted by both major parties to “stop the boats.” It has taken the matter of asylum seekers arriving by boat out of the public conversation. While this will come as relief to many politicians, the rest of us should be very afraid that in our treasured liberal democracy we have a minister who answers to nobody, and will conduct his nefarious business in absolute secrecy. This cannot be good for anyone.

Abbott uses taxpayer dollars to narrow divide between church and state

5 Dec

Separate church & state

 

Under the Abbott government’s proposed education reforms, taxpayers will fund bible studies colleges and the training of priests while support for secular universities will be cut.

Abbott has already flagged that his government will provide $244 million for a new school chaplaincy scheme while removing  the option for schools to employ secular welfare workers. The only possible explanation for this is that it’s the government’s intention to impose Christian ideology on students in secular public schools.

To me, Christian religious belief equates to a kind of madness. While I’m fascinated by metaphysical thinking, I’m offended to the core by the imposition of Christian constructed narratives attributed to imaginary transcendental exteriorities being foisted on anyone, let alone our young.

Another broken promise?

We are all influenced by a value system that we hold, but in the end, every decision that a politician makes is, or at least should, in our society be based on the normal sorts of considerations. It’s got to be publicly justifiable; not only justifiable in accordance with a private view; a private belief. Tony Abbott on ABC TV Four Corners’, March 2010.

There is no public justification for governments funding religious colleges and school chaplains at all, let alone at the expense of secular universities and schools. It is a decision entirely based on private views and private beliefs. Tony Abbott demonstrates yet again that despite his much touted Christian values he is willing to lie to the electorate before an election, and renege on his undertakings when he’s won.

The man is a liar. A Christian liar, and so a hypocrite as well. His religious beliefs don’t belong in our government. If religion is a private matter then keep it privately not publicly funded. You can’t have it both ways.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Casualties of “Border Protection”

3 Dec

 

Operation Soverereign BordersIt ought not to surprise anyone that naval personnel are vulnerable to post traumatic stress disorder as a consequence of implementing the ALP and LNP governments’ asylum seeker policies.

This investigative report by the ABC describes in detail what sailors are required to do in so-called “border protection” actions.

Over a decade ago I interviewed staff at the Woomera and Baxter Detention Centres. Many of them described the same symptoms of PTSD as do the naval personnel interviewed by the ABC. Those staff were, like the navy, caught up in a culture of deliberate dehumanisation of asylum seekers that first requires a dehumanisation of the self, in order to be implemented to the satisfaction of political masters in Canberra.

Both major parties have long known that the best way to calm an outcry about waterborne asylum seekers  is to hide them away from the public gaze, criminalise their perfectly legal right to come to this country by boat, and if possible never allow them to be seen as human. One sailor explained that the only way he could continue his work was to think of the asylum seekers as numbers, evidence that these dehumanising tactics work. Their consequences, however, manifest in both victim and perpetrator as post traumatic stress that can cripple a life and destroy a spirit.

Political masters are protected from the front-line traumas that are a direct consequence of their self-serving decisions, but in reality the blood both real and metaphorical of asylum seekers and the men and women who are directly involved with them, is on politicians’ hands and they cannot clean it off. The sight of MPs visiting workplaces is a common one, perhaps PM Tony Abbott and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison might spend a day or two attempting to haul bodies from the sea and experiencing the horror of finding their hands full of drowned human flesh that has separated from drowned human bones.

One of the sailors interviewed expressed the opinion that current secrecy surrounding “Operation Sovereign Borders” exacerbates the difficulties and traumas experienced by those charged with its front-line implementation. The potential danger of secrecy is well-known to anyone who’s worked in mental health. It doesn’t take much imagination to understand that the combination of the work they are called upon to do combined with the strict secrecy surrounding it, is likely to result in traumatic stress.

It’s outrageous that any government should demand its employees endure such extreme working conditions outside of war (despite what Morrison has claimed we are not at war with people smugglers, though many of us are at war with budgie smugglers) and purely to win that government votes. I can’t forget that the trauma endured by asylum seekers remains largely unacknowledged, is exacerbated by the continuation of dehumanisation after they’ve been despatched to off-shore detention centres, and ongoing uncertainty about their futures.

While a culture of dehumanisation adversely effects everyone involved, at least naval personnel and other staff have some hope of escape from their situations, and treatment.

Obviously the answer is for politicians to cease their barbaric practices and treat both their employees and the asylum seekers with at least a modicum of concern. Politicians are destroying people, literally, in their pursuit of power. Is it any wonder so many of us despise them?

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