Tag Archives: Gillard government

Elite feminism. Who is it good for?

1 Apr

This piece by Anne Summers on women in government sent me to Twitter with the question “Can Anne Summers explain to me the advantage of having a conservative female PM over a conservative male PM?”

There isn’t an answer to that question unless you are a fanatic, which Summers seems to increasingly become on the matter of Julia Gillard, and then the only answer is, vagina.

It might be worth noting that all the women ministers remained loyal to Gillard in the attempted coup on her leadership, Summers writes. Although a few female members of caucus supported Kevin Rudd (and were willing to be filmed with him while he spoke after the meeting where Gillard was re-elected unopposed), there were no women in the key group of plotters. Nor did any women resign as a result.

An act of double treason, then, that the females who supported Rudd were willing to be filmed with him as well? They should have hidden their allegiances, perhaps, not flaunted them, standing by his side?

Is this an example of gender solidarity, Ms Summers muses. Except of course for the women, (are they real women?) who legged it to Rudd’s camp. And how to explain that failure?

This is an aspect of feminism, increasingly dominant, that I find, well, I don’t think repulsive is too strong a word. It affects me viscerally, as is required of true repulsion. The concept that female genitals correlate with good governance is dangerous in so many ways I don’t even know where to begin. Surely such a gendered concept is one women have been fighting against for centuries now? Surely it is the very cornerstone of patriarchy? 

Just what these women in government are achieving for women not in government is not immediately clear. Indeed, for many single mothers the change to Newstart, for example, is nothing short of disastrous (so much for gender solidarity). I’m informed on Twitter when I voice objections to this obscenity, it was John Howard’s legislation.

This confuses me. We are supporting our first female Labor Prime Minister, even when she perpetuates John Howard’s policies?

The Gillard government’s record on asylum seekers? Makes me want Howard back. Same-sex marriage? ‘Twas Howard who changed the Marriage Act to prevent this, & despite her party supporting a reversal of Howard’s meddling to allow same-sex nuptials, Prime Minister Gillard will have no truck with it.

But that’s all right, because, vagina.

Of course women must participate in government, and at the highest levels. But why I am supposed to support women whose policies I despise, just because women, is beyond me. This “Rah rah ra! Women are in power!” stuff shits me to tears.

It is a particularly middle class, privileged feminism that spares little thought for women who do not inhabit its exclusive clubs. It is offensively self-congratulatory. It is dishonest. It is distorted. And outside of its immediate rarified circles, I can’t see what good it does anybody.

We did once hope that when women got to the top they would take care of their sisters. Which, come to think of it, is just as naive and dangerous as Ms Summer’s position.

Flower of Life. Georgia O'Keeffe

Flower of Life. Georgia O’Keeffe

How can we hurt you? Let us count the ways…

26 Nov

Politicians from both major parties have set themselves quite a challenge to come up with a deterrent that will persuade asylum seekers that traveling to Australia by boat will result in them facing a situation worse than that they’ve fled. Potential refugees are clearly undeterred by the prospect of life threatening boat journeys: the desire to escape their circumstances is stronger than the very real threat of dying at sea.

It is a comment on the profound emotional, psychological and moral stupidity of leading politicians that they seem on the whole to be incapable of getting their heads around this core reality.

According to Amnesty International

The Australian Migration Act sets out the laws regulating migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Australia. The Act incorporates the UN Refugee Convention and defines a refugee as anyone who:

 owing to well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.

The people our politicians wish to “deter”, many of whom will be granted refugee status anyway, are fleeing circumstances of such gravity that there is no “deterrent” a self-satisfied, self-interested Westerner can impose that will make the slightest difference to their will to live, and the risks they will take to make a life for themselves and their families. In any sane world, these courageous qualities would be appreciated and the people demonstrating them encouraged and welcomed as the kind of citizens who can be expected to enrich a country.

But we are a conflicted country when it comes to the stranger. On the one hand we are signatory to the UN Refugee Convention which in its introduction clearly states:

 The Convention further stipulates that, subject to specific exceptions, refu-
gees should not be penalized for their illegal entry or stay. This recognizes
that the seeking of asylum can require refugees to breach immigration rules.
Prohibited penalties might include being charged with immigration or crim-
inal offences relating to the seeking of asylum, or being arbitrarily detained
purely on the basis of seeking asylum.
 
Finally, the Convention lays down basic minimum standards for the treat-
ment of refugees, without prejudice to States granting more favourable treat-
ment. Such rights include access to the courts, to primary education, to work,
and the provision for documentation, including a refugee travel document in
passport form.

We need go no further than the Introduction to find examples of how many of these conditions we continue to quite cheerfully breach. The latest is the Gillard government’s refusal to allow those granted refugee status who are released into the community the opportunity to work, a refusal that in itself can be described as “persecution” or as causing “serious harm.”

 In the Guide to Refugee Law in Australia Chapter Four offers the following criteria for assessing persecution, or serious harm:

SERIOUS HARM

Under s.91R(1)(b) of the Act, persecution must involve “serious harm to the person. It provides:

For the purposes of the application of this Act and the regulations to a particular person, Article 1A(2) of the Refugees Convention as amended by the Refugees Protocol does not apply in relation to persecution for one or more of the reasons mentioned in that Article unless: 

(b)  the persecution involves serious harm to the person …  

Subsection (2) sets out a non-exhaustive list of the type and level of harm that will meet the serious harm test. It lists the following as instances of “serious harm:

 (a)  a threat to the persons life or liberty;15 

(b)  significant physical harassment of the person; 

(c)  significant physical ill-treatment of the person; 

(d)  significant economic hardship that threatens the persons capacity to subsist;16 

(e)  denial of access to basic services, where the denial threatens the person’s capacity to subsist; 

(f)  denial of capacity to earn a livelihood of any kind, where the denial threatens the persons capacity to subsist.17 

Persecution necessarily involves two elements: serious harm and a failure on the part of the state to afford adequate protection.

An asylum seeker who is granted refugee status is presumably potentially eligible to become a citizen of this country. We are creating potential citizens whose first experiences in our country have been entirely negative. This does not and cannot augur well for us in the long term.

The amount of financial support offered to refugees who arrive by boat is inadequate to feed, clothe and house them. Denying them the right to work will further dehumanise them. In its cruel and ignorant pursuit of a “deterrent,” the Gillard government has hopefully reached the end of the road in terms of punishment it can inflict for arriving by boat.

This is punishment we voluntarily undertook not to inflict in our role as signatory to the UN Refugee Convention. Our parliament has demonstrated its utter contempt for the UN Convention, while simultaneously bidding for and winning a seat on the Security Council.

There is no moral or ethical dimension to current asylum seeker policy. As many have pointed out, this is a policy and a discourse entirely bereft of values. The question is, can a democracy continue to be a democracy if its political discourse is bereft of values?

Deterrence has never worked. It never will work. If we don’t want people arriving by boat and seeking asylum, we have no alternative but to remove ourselves as signatories to the UN Refugee Convention. The invitation we extend as signatories to this Convention is precisely what asylum seekers respond to, and they have every legal and moral right to expect they will be accepted in this country no matter how they arrive. That is what we have voluntarily agreed to do: unconditionally accept asylum seekers no matter how they arrive. If this is not what we intend, there is an urgent  moral imperative to withdraw the invitation, not to find increasingly cruel methods of punishment for those who accept it.

In implementing an impotent and dehumanising policy of magical thinking called “deterrence,” our parliament has made mockery of us all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malaysian solution: Judge complains government case is “half-baked”

8 Aug

In the High Court hearing on the Malaysian solution this afternoon, Justice Kenneth Hayne reprimanded the Commonwealth Solicitor-General for appearing before him with a”half-baked” case. Considering the government’s frequently expressed confidence that it has all the legal bases covered in the matter of its expulsion of asylum seekers to Malaysia, it’s remarkable that they should have irritated the judge so early in the piece. Perhaps they are not as on top of things as they would have us believe. As pretending to be on top of things while flying by the seat of its pants  is pretty much par for the course for the Gillard government, one ought not to be surprised at the “half-baked” comment. Nevertheless, I was surprised to hear they are already in disarray.

Justice Haynes extended the injunction that prevents expulsion of asylum seekers until arguments on the lawfulness of the government’s actions can be heard by the full bench.

One of the points that will be contested is that the agreement with Malaysia, in which that country has undertaken to provide certain protections for the 800 asylum seekers from Australia, is a political not legal agreement, and therefore unenforceable. This casts doubt on Immigration Minister Bowen’s declaration, in which he unequivocally states that Malaysia is a safe destination where human rights and protections will be observed. As Malaysia is not a signatory to any UN Conventions, asylum seekers will not have the protection of international law either.

I wonder what effect these shenanigans will have on Australia’s bid for a seat on the Security Council, so single-mindedly pursued by Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd? Helped by some $10.5 million in promotional funding over the next two years?

Gillard government guidelines say women don’t commit domestic violence: in On Line Opinion today.

5 Jul

In On Line Opinion this morning, I press on with my solitary mission to bring some reality into the Gillard government’s National Plan to reduce Violence against women and their children.

It’s a dark and lonely job but someone has to do it.

Every time I take this on, especially on the Drum, I’m called anti feminist (that’s an insult these days?) an apologist for rapists, a”man fondler” who is determined to attack feminism any way I can; of having a prick in my head and various other slings and arrows shot at me by women who call themselves feminists.

Yet I remain strangely unaffected.

Gillard’s premature enunciations

17 Jun

The Gillard government’s announcement of its plan to spend 12 million taxpayer dollars on an advertising campaign to sell the carbon tax  beggars belief.

The carbon tax is by no means a done deal. The multi party committee on climate change may not arrive at a consensus. The proposed carbon tax may not progress to the legislative process. The Independents without whom Gillard cannot function are enraged, both by the proposed advertising campaign, and the presumption of their compliance upon which it is based.

Informing these key players just one hour prior to making the plan public would seem to be yet another unwisely arrogant move. While in itself it will probably not affect the Independents’ committment to the negotiations, the move does imply a degree of government contempt for the process, and an assumption that the decision is already in the bag.

Perhaps one of the motives behind this bizarre campaign to sell something that does not yet exist, is a hope that if the public can somehow be convinced by the mere announcement of this campaign that it’s a certainty, the multi party committee will be forced by public opinion to reach the consensus the government wants. Independent Tony Windsor said the advertising decision bordered ”on asking us to endorse publicly funded propaganda”.

This type of tortured magical thinking is quite characteristic of the Gillard government, from the day twelve months ago when it became the Gillard government up until now. Think the East Timor solution, the Malaysia solution, and the carbon tax Gillard was never going to introduce till she changed her mind about it.

Gillard’s assumption that the carbon tax outcome is so certain that the government can already commit 12 million dollars to explaining it is mind-boggling, anyway you look at it, and everyone is scrabbling to find a rational explanation for the move.

Gillard has acquired a reputation for putting the cart before the horse. She did not consult with East Timor before assuming their willingness to take our cast off refugees. The Malaysian solution was announced way before those negotiations were settled, indeed they are on going, and we have no idea what that outcome will be. Now she wants to sell a carbon tax that does not yet exist. Isn’t that false advertising?

Although Gillard appears outwardly calm and in control, her consistently premature and inappropriate announcements reveal an underlying profound anxiety and lack of control. She continues to indulge in premature enunciations that leave everyone embarrassed and unsatisfied.

Gillard may not believe in God, but she seems to believe in some kind of supernatural force, because from day one, her government appears to have operated on a type of blind faith in itself that has no connection with reality. The arrogant assumptions as to the outcome of the multi party climate change committee negotiations is yet one more example of this excess of self belief, now looking increasingly more desperate in spite of Gillard’s outward efforts to appear calm while the boat lurches sickeningly yet again.

In circumstances such as this, Gillard’s much remarked inability to express appropriate affect becomes a positive advantage.

Magical thinking was intrinsic in the overthrow of Kevin Rudd: who else but those with their heads in fairyland would have believed for one moment that Rudd would just go away?  Instead he’s been a fierce and constant thorn in their side, and will continue to be so, publicly undermining, destabilizing and dividing just by his very existence.

Polls reveal he is considered a better contender for PM than is the woman who deposed him. Anybody could have seen that coming, but not, it appears, those who chucked him out. Actions have consequences, and frequently they aren’t the consequences you hope for. Any first year psychology student could have predicted the consequences of that coup.

“I have taken control” Gillard brayed 12 months ago when she ousted Rudd, claiming that the government under  his control had “lost its way.”

If this is an example of taking control, if this is a government that’s now found its way, beam me up Scotty.

The government’s motives in announcing this ad campaign are unfathomable. The use of public money to fund a campaign about something that does not yet exist is nothing more than a cynical exercise in propaganda. It will backfire, as has much else this government has done so far.

4000 Refugees from Malaysia – how will ASIO cope?

9 Jun

Does anybody know where the Gillard government plans to put  4,000 refugees when they arrive from Malaysia?

Presumably they’ll be subjected to the same ASIO security checks as are the other people already granted refugee status in Australia. Even after achieving this status, refugees continue to be held in mandatory detention until the ASIO checks are complete.

Does this mean we’ll need detention facilities for 4,000 more while their security status is established? How long will this take?

How will ASIO, already apparently already coping with a backlog, handle an influx of 4000 refugees needing security scrutiny before they are allowed to start their lives in the community?

There are already some 1000 genuine refugees being held in detention, some for up to 12 months, awaiting ASIO clearance. Chris Bowen has vowed not to compromise our security systems.

Will the Gillard government change the rules for the arrivals from Malaysia, and allow them into the community while their security checks are conducted? How would that move contribute to the discontent of all those refugees who are already detained behind the razor wire? Will she let them out? Who will care for the unaccompanied minors we send to Malaysia? Are the feminists still happy with our first female Prime Minister?

Oh, what interesting times in which we live!

Gillard’s choice: which kids will she send to the camps?

6 Jun

The Gillard government’s deal with Malaysia on asylum seekers has taken yet another turn. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has now conceded that he will decide whether or not to send unaccompanied children to the camps on a “case by case” basis.

Just what will be the criteria for these choices? How will the Minister assess which of the unaccompanied children (in his legal care as their guardian) he will send to the Malaysian camps?

Does Bowen have a conflict of interest in this situation? As the children’s guardian, should he not be putting their welfare before his duty to Gillard? Isn’t the well being of these children his first responsibility? How would we deal with any other legal guardian who subjected their charges to unacceptable risks?

In these camps unaccompanied children are at risk of physical, sexual, psychological, and emotional abuse; exploitation, inadequate nutrition, and loss of the childhood to which the UNHCR Convention claims all children are entitled.

What are the criteria the Gillard government will use to judge which unaccompanied child is “suitable” to be subjected to the perils and abuses of a Malaysian camp, and which unaccompanied child is not?

If we are to observe the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which we are, as usual, signatory, we cannot send any unaccompanied child to Malaysia.

And the Minister’s suitability to continue as guardian to unaccompanied refugee children needs to be urgently addressed.

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