Let’s talk about trust.

9 Aug

Faith-Trust-Pixie-Dust_6E9B819CFor reasons that escape me, this election is,  I’m told every time I listen to analyses, being fought on the issue of trust.

It isn’t being argued on the grounds of which party the voter ought to trust, but which man. And so we find ourselves with our feet in two incompatible electoral systems: on the one hand Westminster, bequeathed to us by the colonisers, and on the other, a Presidential system that we have voluntarily adopted from the US. Our election is to be fought presidentially between Tony Abbot and Kevin Rudd and more specifically, on the trustworthiness or otherwise of these two men. However, we are governed by the Westminster system, in which either party can replace its leader without recourse to the opinions of voters.

It’s difficult to imagine a more advanced state of political lunacy.

Leaving aside the matter of which man is more worthy of our trust, or perhaps not entirely leaving it aside, because I can’t help but observe that there’s a bee’s dick of difference between them, and neither of them ought to be trusted as far as I can spit, but be that as it may, what is this thing called trust that will determine who will govern the country for the next three years?

The dominant paradigm for trust is generally accepted as the relation held between two morally mature people, although the trust of a child is the exception to this. For our purposes, I’ll stick to the morally mature. It’s almost impossible to will oneself to trust: a cause is required, in other words, what is the justification for trusting this person?

Trust inherently involves risk, and there are arguments made for trust as the very basis of morality. Moral integrity is required for all trust relationships: when I trust you I make myself vulnerable to betrayal so I want to know before I embark on that hazardous course that you have integrity, and that the risk I’m taking, while never entirely absent because human beings fall and stumble, is minimal.

There’s a great deal of difference in the distress one feels when betrayed by a politician, and that felt when betrayed by a lover, or friend, or someone in close relationship. I hope there is, anyway. If not, that gives a whole new meaning to the term political tragic. Indeed, I wonder if the term trust is  even appropriate when it comes to our relations with politicians. Perhaps there’s an argument for replacing it with reliability. When I only rely on someone, as opposed to trusting him or her, I’m not going to feel betrayed when he or she lets me down, I’m only going to feel disappointed. Trust and betrayal. Reliability and disappointment. Yes, trust does sound entirely too intimate to be applied to the political relationship.

However, trust is a powerful word, evoking powerful emotions, compared to which mere reliability carries little emotional weight and appeal. The very fact that  politicians choose the word trust is evidence of their desire to emotionally manipulate, and therefore good reason to be wary of trusting them.

If we were asked to judge and compare Rudd and Abbott on their reliability most of us would laugh like drains and that would be the end of the campaign. When we’re asked to trust them that’s a whole other ball game, and because of the emotional power of the concept, a far more serious one.

When I Googled “trust” I encountered such gems as “Loving someone is giving them the power to break your heart, but trusting them not to.”  And “Trust starts with truth and ends with truth.” And my personal favourite from Twitter: “Truly falling in love with you is not one of the greatest mistakes of my life but trusting you madly is one of the biggest mistakes of my life ever.” Trust, then is generally perceived as belonging in the private, not the political domain. The betrayal of trust is rather a serious matter, and has consequences, most of which are very unpleasant. Once lost, it’s hard to recover.

It seems to me that fighting this election on which of two politicians is the most trustworthy is a sign of our escalating political insanity. The records of both men demonstrate their lack of integrity, and their wavering moralities. There is no justification at all for placing trust in either of them.

How much better to focus on the policies espoused by both major parties and ignore their leaders.  I need a good deal more than the faith, trust and a little pixie dust offered by Rudd and Abbott in their presidential race to win government. Gentlemen, neither of you cut the mustard in the trust stakes and you aren’t that reliable either. And if I consider a final Google gem: “To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved”, well, chaps, forget it.

Abbott Rudd

 

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153 Responses to “Let’s talk about trust.”

  1. Cranky Pants Noely (@YaThinkN) August 9, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    Isn’t there an old saying about never trusting anyone who says “Trust me”?
    While we are at it, can we also make it law that politicians be whipped if they say “Fair Dinkum” UGH!

    Like

  2. 8 Degrees of Latitude August 9, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

    You’re right on the button. It is insane to practise presidential style politics in a Westminster-derived parliamentary system. It is impossible to find the word trust in the political dictionary (in its original true sense, that is). And since the intrinsic nature of political practice is that it cannot be reliable – it must react to promiscuous change – looking for reliability is a mug’s game.

    But it’s actually worse than that. Political leaders nowadays seem to need to look as if they have the answer to every dilemma. The impossibility of that means we have to forgo plain speaking as well.

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  3. Marilyn August 9, 2013 at 4:45 pm #

    As neither of them seem to tell the truth about anything at all and the media are treating this election with the same abusive contempt that they have the last 4 I have boycotted the whole rancid thing.

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  4. doug quixote August 9, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

    Really? No difference between them?

    As readers might know I have had no brief for Rudd. But I see a degree of integrity in Rudd which leaves Abbott sprawled in the dirt far behind him.

    There is no comparison.

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    • Marilyn August 9, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

      Where?

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      • Poirot August 9, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

        Jennifer,

        I can’t go past your observation that:

        “……I can’t help but observe that there’s a bee’s dick of difference between them…..”

        Yep – sounds about right.

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    • Poirot August 9, 2013 at 10:29 pm #

      Just thinking, DQ, that Rudd really is the better perormer by a country mile, if you’re talking about selling your snake oil to the public.

      About the only place where Abbott has a modicum of eloquence is when he’s on the floor of the house giving a well-rehearsed speech (and even the he’s only middling). When it comes to being interviewed or even doing door-stops and baby kissing on the hustings, he more resembles a final year high-school student, he’s nervous and ill at ease all the time.

      And this guy is stumping up as our next Prime Minister and international representative?

      (I’ll also add that Rudd’s huge populist turn-around on refugees has removed any suspicion I might have had of him being a man of principal….bollocks to both of them)

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      • Poirot August 9, 2013 at 10:31 pm #

        That should be “principle” of course.

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        • doug quixote August 10, 2013 at 8:23 am #

          If you are going to correct all your spelling, syntax and grammar errors we will be here all day. May I suggest that unless a correction is required to correct the meaning, no correction should be attempted?

          As for the substance : I don’t like Rudd and never have; but to put him in the same category as Abbott is absurd.

          “They’re all the same” just doesn’t wash.

          On a scale of 0 to 10, I’d put Rudd at about 5, and Abbott at 1. You can rely on Abbott to pursue his social conservative agenda, and rely on him for nothing else.

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          • Poirot August 10, 2013 at 9:06 am #

            “If you are going to correct all your spelling, syntax and grammar errors we will be here all day. May I suggest that unless a correction is required to correct the meaning, no correction should be attempted?”

            Yes, it’s an absolute disgrace, don’t you think? – the amount of time I spend on this forum correcting all my “spelling, syntax and grammar errors”.

            Thanks, DQ, – although your executive-style advice seems to have taken up far more room than my correction….(you want to nip that in the bud, otherwise we’ll be here all day) 🙂

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            • doug quixote August 11, 2013 at 1:39 am #

              For future reference, Poirot, and not just for you. 🙂

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            • doug quixote August 11, 2013 at 1:40 am #

              PS Do you have a comment on the substance?

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              • Poirot August 11, 2013 at 10:30 am #

                DQ,

                Actually I’m flabbergasted that I have no-one I wish to give a vote.

                I think Abbott is relatively dim (remember Georgie W had a degree from Yale and an MBA from Harvard purchased with a bit of attendance and daddy’s money, but he was still as dumb as an ox. It didn’t stop him and his cronies from implementing the very worst neo-liberal barbarism).

                I agree that if the LNP are voted in, they will slash and burn.

                That’s pretty scary.

                So even though Labor no longer represent at all the reasons why I’ve identified as a leftie….now I’m bound to choose one of these stinkers.

                Even if I vote independent, my vote will probably end up in one or the other’s coffers.

                I think that times are a-changing. We’re experiencing a shift in the way things are. Globalisation and late capitalism are starting their long festering decline in the West – and we’re approaching a situation we’re things we once abhorred will be accepted as the norm.

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  5. hudsongodfrey August 9, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

    Certainly if the inference is that we would like to trust politicians to act in our best interests or at a democratic minimum to form part of representative government then I think we’re apt to be disappointed given that what they rather seem to represent is a choice between two evils.

    I’m thinking back to the old Chinese proverb that goes “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” and wondering whether it implies another kind of trust. One that means if our political leaders can be trusted to act as they say that they will then on several fronts I think we’d be trusting them to act exactly as we wish they would not do.

    If after a month or so of Rudd’s resurrection we’re less than impressed, inclined perhaps to say “No thanks” then rest assured that Turnbull’s polling does very much reflect the Anyone but Abbott factor that’s foremost in voter’s minds. So while it is correct to say that we don’t want to ape American presidential politics, the fact was that as Gillard departed I think we actively looked to Rudd to change direction for the better. Thus far many of us have been fairly disappointed, but it nevertheless seems likewise to be the case that Turnbull’s popularity may be linked to the notion that he might lead his party back from the extreme right to a more centrist ethos. In that sense I don’t think the leadership is all about presidential style over substance as much as the mainstream media portray it as such. I think it is both about whether we can trust them to be for us and whether we feel sure they can be trusted to continue in directions we dislike.

    One American contribution that may seem apt might be to say that what we can really trust them to do is piss on our backs and tell us it’s raining!

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    • doug quixote August 10, 2013 at 8:35 am #

      I like your first two paragraphs, HG.

      For those who apparently expected the Second Coming. tough titties.

      🙂

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      • hudsongodfrey August 11, 2013 at 1:06 am #

        He’s not the Messiah…..

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  6. doug quixote August 9, 2013 at 10:03 pm #

    Trust is altogether the wrong word. No politician, no Party and no nation for that matter can be “trusted” except where their own self interest is closely involved.

    As Jennifer rightly points out trust is a very personal thing. Even reliability is a dangerous concept, because any politician must accept compromises.

    If they are very lucky and skilful, they will be able to negotiate away things they don’t really care about and achieve things that are close to their hearts. Such a politician may be remembered as a ‘statesman’ – one who achieved x and y, and even if he lost z, no-one held that against him; it did not matter in the grand scheme of things.

    The saying goes, it is better to be born lucky than rich.

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  7. zerograv1 August 10, 2013 at 10:40 am #

    Rene Rivkin was correct when he stated that if you are a politician its part of your job to lie. What disturbs me most however about our current setup though is that we don’t have Integrity investigations of sufficient teeth to make a difference, we don’t even have an expectation of honesty and we all seem to forget that the only job of any party is to manage the distribution of taxes to provide community assets and services, legislate against perceived wrongs and nation build….anything else including most ideological platforms belong elsewhere….perhaps we should borrow from the English and set up a Speakers Corners (Hyde Park Sundays in London) to allow all the windbags and lunatics to get it of their chest elsewhere away from Parliament.

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  8. Forrest Gumpp (@ForrestGumpp) August 10, 2013 at 11:24 am #

    Jennifer refers to the Westminster system within the conventions of which our government occurs. The Constitution reflects this system with the complete absence of any reference to political parties, the leadership of such, or indeed to that of the office of Prime Minister as such, and perhaps thereby in its train, to any reference to ‘trust’. There is recognised in the Constitution only the Crown, the Parliament, and the Queen’s Ministers of State, and their respective obligations thereunder. Sections 61 and 62 make tis clear.

    Apropos this reflection of the Westminster system in our Constitution, an interesting question has arisen with respect to the recently proposed referendum upon the alteration of the Constitution to recognise Local Government therein. According to a news item in the Newcastle Star on 10 August ( http://www.newcastlestar.com.au/story/1684940/2013-local-government-referendum-postponed/?cs=1535 ) this referendum has had to be postponed, the grounds given being that moving the election date forward by one week from the long-announced 14 September date meant that under electoral law the referendum could not now be held on the new date for the Federal elections of 7 September 2013.

    An earlier ABC News item of 5 August 2013 gives a different excuse for the postponement as being because the advancement of the long-publicised intended date of 14 September by just one week now meant that the referendum could not be organised in time to be held with the Federal elections. See: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-05/election-date-puts-local-government-constitutional-recognition/4865116

    I am just wondering as to whether the Governor-General has been given defective advice with respect to the postponement of this referendum. The Constitution Alteration (Local Government) 2013 Bill passed the Senate on 24 June 2013 (two days before the government leadership reversion to PM Rudd). The now-prorogued Parliament did not subsequently repeal that legislation before its prorogation.

    Section 128 of the Constitution states with respect to any proposed alteration “… not less than two nor more than six months after its passage through both Houses the proposed law shall be submitted in each State and Territory to the electors …”. The earliest date before such submission to the electors could have occurred would thus have been 24 August 2013, with the new 7 September Federal elections date thereby in no way precluding the concurrent holding of the referendum on constitutional grounds.

    Any suggestion that ordinary electoral legislation, or regulations thereunder, could purport to preclude the holding of a referendum concurrently with Federal elections in circumstances anticipating the expiry of MORE than the two-month minimum provided in the Constitution for a referendum, would surely have to be considered as UNCONSTITUTIONAL to the extent of any conflict acting to delay a referendum otherwise able to be held within the time-frame provisions of Section 128.

    What if an Executive Council drawn, as it conventionally is, from the prospective newly-elected Parliament, was to fail to advise the Governor-General to hold the presently postponed referendum during the less than four months that would then remain under the provisions of Section 128? The alteration proposal would obviously lapse, but would that be all? Would not the Governor-General, in consequence of the defective advice from the outgoing Prime Minister of the 43rd Parliament, have been placed in a position of prospective failure to fulfil the obligations imposed under Section 61 of the Constitution? “… the proposed law SHALL be submitted in each State and Territory to the electors …”

    Could, or should, the Governor-General TRUST that Kevin Rudd, Tony Abbott, or any other potential ‘leader’ from the presently prospective 44th Parliament would not drag her reputation through the mud of history by failing in due course to advise the putting of the Constitution Alteration (Local Government) 2013 to the electors, thereby painting her up as having failed in exercise of her first duty of “the execution and maintenance of [the] Constitution”?

    I think Her Excellency is in urgent need of a new Executive Council made up of persons not presently politicians, one under the advice of which she could reset the electoral clock within the constitutionally available time remaining (elections and referendum as late as 30 November 2013). She might also be able to be well advised in such circumstances to provide, effectively, a respectable ‘none of the above’ choice for Australia’s jaded electors right across the board.

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    • doug quixote August 11, 2013 at 1:37 am #

      I don’t see how you could recognise political parties in a constitution. They are potentially ephemeral and varying things, a collection of MPs arranged together for their own convenience. A member may cross the floor whenever the member wants, subject only to subsequent sanctions by his/her party.

      As regards the referendum timing, the House of Representatives Practice (p. 27) states :

      “In some cases constitution alteration bills have not been submitted to the people, despite having satisfied the requirements of the ‘parliamentary stages’ of the necessary process.
      The history of the seven constitution alteration bills of 1915 is outlined above. These were passed by both Houses, and submitted to the Governor-General and writs issued. When it
      was decided not to proceed with the proposals, a bill was introduced and passed to provide for the withdrawal of the writs and for other necessary actions. In 1965 two constitution alteration proposals, having been passed by both Houses, were deferred, but on this occasion writs had not been issued. When a question was raised as to whether the Government was not ‘flouting . . . the mandatory provisions of the Constitution’ the Prime Minister stated, inter alia, ‘. . . the advice of our own legal authorities was to the effect that it was within the competence of the Government to refrain from the issue of the writ’. In 1983 five constitution alteration bills were passed by both Houses, but the proposals were not proceeded with.”

      It may also be that the Act had not received the Royal Assent until a date after the 7 July 2013. I am unable at present to ascertain whether this was the case or not.

      I agree that the Constitution does say that it “shall be submitted”.

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      • Forrest Gumpp (@ForrestGumpp) August 11, 2013 at 10:42 am #

        DQ,

        Interesting point you raise with respect to signification of Royal Assent perhaps having been withheld, or at least delayed until after 7 July 2013. I, too, have had difficulty running that matter to earth. I suspect the matter of Royal Assent, in perhaps this sole instance, may nevertheless be but a red herring.

        I say this because Section 128 expressly ties the window of opportunity within which any referendum is to be put to the electors to the date of the Bill’s passage, which is that of its passage through the Senate (in this case 24 June 2013) given that the Constitution specifies that a Referendum Bill must pass each House with an absolute majority of votes to be able to be put to the people.

        One could claim that The Constitution implicitly mandates the signification of Royal Assent in the one case of a Referendum Bill that has passed the Parliament. To maintain otherwise would be to subordinate the Parliament to the executive power, a situation that The Constitution exists to expressly prevent. Assent to a Referendum Bill is to be presumed because no change to any law is yet taking place, but a Constitution-mandated process of referral to the electors that the Governor-General is expressly obligated to implement is taking place.

        Given the utterly shoddy reporting of the matter in the MSM, it would be interesting to know whether there has been any attempt to obfuscate in this matter by any advising of the G-G to withhold assent to the Constitution Alteration (Local Government) 2013 Bill.

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        • hudsongodfrey August 11, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

          Okay so can anyone summarise why this matters? I mean to say the machinations may be fascinating, but they don’t seem to amount to delaying a promised referendum for which huge numbers of people are actively clamouring.

          My understanding is there was a possibility that Aboriginal recognition could finally be dealt with and another thing about recognising local government which like many people I suspect has something to do with legitimising parking fines and other impositions we don’t much care for.

          So we’re looking at a disappointing delay in assuaging our consciences with respect to indigenous people even while both sides of parliament will persist in the intervention and nothing beyond the symbolism seems likely to change. I think it’s a pity if that’s what this is about, but as you can see we already had the symbolism of an apology without much changing so I’m sure there are some who look upon these matters as I do with a certain amount of cynicism.

          As for the councils thing. Fill us in on one good reason for it. It’s already been put up in various forms a couple of times, and it is never debated or justified in any way, What do they think? That they’ll just keep slipping it in with something else enough times until gullible people decide to sign off on it?

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          • doug quixote August 11, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

            The merits of the thing! Fancy asking about that.

            It seems absurd to me, because Councils are the creatures of the State governments. Your local council may think it runs its own house, and you may think so too. But a Council can be sacked for misbehaviour, and an administrator appointed.

            It seems absurd to me that local government should need any mention in the Constitution. The Constitution governs relationships between the Commonwealth and the States. Since the councils are State creatures, there is no need to mention them.

            I would be voting No.

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            • hudsongodfrey August 11, 2013 at 6:31 pm #

              So would I Doug, so would I….

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  9. paul walter August 11, 2013 at 4:17 am #

    My take is that they are all pretty rank. Like Doug, I’d say Abbott is worse, but is four out of ten much better than two out of ten, when the flunk mark is five?
    Hang the lot of them.

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    • Marilyn August 11, 2013 at 7:08 am #

      I agree, what a bunch of small people we have in parliament today.

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      • helvityni August 11, 2013 at 9:28 am #

        And I say it to you, Marilyn for the last time; we get SMALL people as the Oz leaders, as the MAJORITY of Aussies are also SMALL…

        All we can do is to elect the least foul. People use behaviours that work for them, politicians use policies that get them elected.

        Abbott would not last one day in Finland.

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        • doug quixote August 11, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

          Not hung up by his toes in January, anyway. 🙂

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        • Marilyn August 11, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

          Why do I care if Abbott would last one day in Finland Helvi?

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          • paul walter August 11, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

            Because you are interested in keeping the gate open for continued constructive conversation in a collegiate atmosphere?

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            • helvityni August 11, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

              After my post today I learnt on another blog that Malcolm Fraser said: Australian politicians are kowtowing to rednecks…that’s what I have been saying for years.

              Also on asylum seeker policies I’m right there with the most honourable, Julian Burnside.

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    • doug quixote August 11, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

      “Is four out of ten much better than two out of ten” ? Yes a little.

      But I rated Rudd at five out of ten, and Abbott at one out of ten.

      It is not really a pass mark, an absolute thing, but a comparison only.

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  10. russell August 11, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

    I have been increasingly amazed at employers for example who demand ‘loyalty’ from employees all the while screwing them in all manner of ways. Loyalty can only be loyalty when it is practiced by both parties oops sides.That it happens in both directions. Loyalty is a two way street. If loyalty is only practiced in one direction it could more accurately be described as usury. When it is usury it could not be further from the attributes of loyalty.

    Trust is in a similar frame. If it is only the one side doing the trusting with the other being free from an obligation in kind, it becomes usury. If trust is being demanded or expected, one can be sure it will be anything but a trusting relating that develops. It will be usury.

    We have had our trust and faith in public institutions eroded continually for some years. It shows no sign of abating. From churches to public administrations, From local councils to high governance to corporate responsibility; why would we expect that this new style of campaigning is to make our world a better place? I think we are all in for the rollicking of our lives with the direction our country’s institutions seem to be taking. Downhill.

    I think this betrayal is commensurate with the degrees of expressed chagrin and hate we see and hear on our radios, tvs, social media, in public life and on our roads. It will only get worse apparently. We do not trust our pollies and they do not trust us. So be it.
    Americanization here we come. Pity for what our grandkids will have to face.

    Where is the loyalty of both major parties to the country? The loyalty and presumed trust is played internally to the benefit of one side only. To close the other side out. The country gets the left over pickings, kindly trickled down by the victors. That is not deserving of loyalty or trust or the term good governance. It can be bloody depressing. They need us to trust at least some of them but they do not need to exhibit any action of measurable trust towards us. That is a one way street. That is usury.

    Messieurs Gumpp, quixote and Godfrey (above) boggle my brain. My head hurts.
    Nevertheless will gird the loins and turn telly on for 6.30 superficial shenanigans & worm!
    Good luck to all.

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    • hudsongodfrey August 11, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

      I think you’re confusing trust with respect somewhat. One of the things that struck me immediately when the issue was raised was that I can probably trust people who I know hate me to reciprocate more than I’ll ever be able to trust somebody who holds some kind of public office to give half a rat’s tossbag for my opinions on the day after they’re elected….

      If you’re just keen on saying what a stage managed dog and pony show the contest to find the lesser of two evils has become then by all means join the queue. We all acknowledge that much.

      Alice Cooper sang “I wanna be elected” and frankly he’s looking good compared with the field we’re surveying over the next few weeks! 🙂

      Like

      • russell August 11, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

        I guess respect like loyalty and trust must, if it is to be seen to be believed and real, be earned. If it is being asked for in the first place, is it an acknowledgement by the ask er that it is not present? For an aspirant to be asking for trust is it just fancy duding work, devoid of substance and consequently void? Does the simple act of asking show that the ask er does not trust because they have had to ask for it? But it looks good on camera and could likely sell cars. Agreed it is easy to trust someone you know hates you given you know where they stand but would you trust them not to damage your prize petunias if they had the chance?

        Yep I guess I’ve been in that queue for some considerable time now.

        Hells bells, bees dicks, rat’s half toss bags and worms, what could possibly go wrong? Cheers now

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        • hudsongodfrey August 11, 2013 at 10:03 pm #

          I may earlier have gilded the lily a little to much in trying to find a more interesting way simply to say this……

          Just because I can trust somebody doesn’t mean I either respect or want to vote for them. Getting my vote depends on my being able to trust somebody to do something worthwhile.

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  11. Forrest Gumpp (@ForrestGumpp) August 15, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    Seeing things so relatively quiet on this comments thread to Jennifer’s blog post on ‘Trust’, I have taken the liberty of using it to place a few observations tangential to the matter of ‘trust’ on the record. Pseudonymously, as I do, but could not long remain, was I required to have my own blog.

    You see, a Twitter user (one that also has tweeted pseudonymously) whom I have followed for some time has recently been ‘outed’.

    Twitter userID ‘@LaLegale’ has been claimed to have been identified as Commonwealth public servant Ms Michaela Banerji. Ms Banerji has been outed as ‘@LaLegale’ as a consequence of the reporting of a judicial decision in respect to an application to the Federal Circuit Court for an injunction restraining her employer (the Commonwealth Public Service) from acting upon a departmental (DIAC) recommendation that she be dismissed from her employment. Here is a news item by Markus Mannheim reporting on that decision by Justice Neville: http://www.theage.com.au/national/public-servant-loses-fight-over-twitter-attack-on-government-20130812-2rsgn.html

    The thing that most caught my eye in Markus Mannheim’s news item was the use, in the 10th paragraph, of these words:

    “Ms Banerji initially denied the Twitter account
    was hers, but in October last year her [departmental]
    investigator, Robyn White, wrote she was ”satisfied
    that, ON THE BALANCE OF PROBABILITIES, the evidence
    provided, although circumstantial, does support the
    conclusion that the LaLegale account is yours”.”

    The emphasis and parenthetical content in that quote is my own.

    The issue of public trust, and betrayal thereof, comes to be spotlighted by the use of the phrase ‘on the balance of probabilities’ in that departmental report upon which the recommendation for dismissal was seemingly based. It has long been accepted that the public has a right to expect the Commonwealth, in any legal process, to behave as a model litigant. In this case, I contend that it has not done that.

    The way I read it is that a departmental investigation into the real identity behind the Twitter pseudonym ‘@LaLegale’ did not have the justification for officially demanding/requesting the necessary service provider information that would have identified without question the originator of the ‘@LaLegale’ tweets. DIAC, in the absence of conclusive evidence it could have obtained had it a real and recognised justification for its investigation, then proceeded to recommend dismissal of Ms Banerji.

    I am assuming that litigation with respect to a Commonwealth Public Service dismissal would effectively be in the equity jurisdiction, as opposed to the criminal, with the standard of proof consequently being that of ‘on the balance of probabilities’. So DIAC, without any conclusively identifying evidence in hand as to the real identity behind the ‘@LaLegale’ Twitter account, nor, equally if not more importantly, anything identifying the content of those tweets with any person’s being employed within DIAC, proceded to recommend Ms Banerji’s dismissal, misappropriating to its inconclusive and insufficient-of-itself identification of Ms Banerji the standard of proof meant to apply to the consideration of the TOTALITY of evidence before a judge in equity. Of course, to defend her employment by means of injunctive relief, Ms Banerji was placed in the position whereby she had to effectively provide, by way of admission, the evidence DIAC did not have when it made its recommendation that she be dismissed! She would appear to have had to abandon her pseudonymy in order not to risk perjury in instigating legal process to protect her employment.

    That smacks to me of bullying, abuse of process, and an ulterior agenda on the part of DIAC.

    Now that I think about it, I started following ‘@LaLegale’ on Twitter around the time of the improperly forced resignation, in breach of Parliamentary privilege, of the then Commonwealth Ombudsman, Allan Asher. In all the time since, until her ‘outing’, I never suspected ‘@LaLegale’ was a public servant. And I wasn’t the only one:

    So until by iniquitously forced admission, it is unlikely DIAC ever had the second and equally necessary component for its case in recommending her dismissal, a sustainable claim that the tweets made before her outing could be identified as the views of a public servant!

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  12. russell August 15, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

    The APS Code of Conduct in describing misconduct has a definition along the lines of ‘conduct other than as an officer’. The operative words being ‘other than’ or, not as an officer, or relating to an activity undertaken in non work time. If it can be shown that an activity could bring the department into disrepute it could be grounds for an investigation into an alleged misconduct. So even if the blogger was not immediately identifiable as an officer it was still open to the dept to pursue the commentary or any perceived leak.

    This seems to be a warning to other public employees to shut up no matter what they know. The blogger may have also been required to sign the Crimes Act as part of their employ. So being sacked for a proven misconduct could have been worse. They could have been facing a charge under the Crimes Act? It seems the investigation officer was satisfied with sufficient evidence of misconduct to recommend to the authorized (decision making) officer that misconduct had occurred. There are a range of penalties available, some being, admonishment, counseling, a fine, demotion, transfer or dismissal .

    In the public sector there is also prohibition of using or divulging information gained through the course of employment for non official purposes. It can be another form of misconduct if proved. A charge of misconduct may include a number of subsets.

    The investigating officer may have had evidence via the isp suffice to bring an admission? An admission as evidence is relatively powerful. I don’t know the detail of the issues of this but have had previous whistle blower.experience which can be horrendous. Often a whistle blower will show their hand by the nature of the information being revealed. eg Who in the dept had access to that information – narrows the field.

    Could employment constitute an enforced usury of conscience more than a duty to trust?

    One may wonder why trust has to struggle to survive to be seen and known as a tangible truth. The balance of probabilities alone could leave a lot of question marks if there was no confidence in the evidential process.

    Trust can often be the first casualty. That’s when the alarm bells can go off if one has an inkling of intuition and an ear to listen.

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  13. hudsongodfrey August 18, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

    Why the economic migration argument about refugees doesn’t work and the Abbott campaign has jumped the shark!

    When people come to any country as ordinary migrants trying to make a new life then there’s an implicit social contract that has to do with using the opportunity to make some kind of economic success of their new lives. It is often even coupled with some explicit requirements for skilled migration.

    In the case of refugees no such social contract is invoked. It would seem to be anathema to offering protection under provisions for asylum for us to do so. Yet it remains clear that any excessive offer of infinite social welfare to outsiders represents a level of generosity we’re not willing to extend.

    The fallacy here is in the notion that refugees being under equivalent constraints to make their way in Australian society as are effectively placed upon native born residents will somehow exclusively exhibit freeloading behaviour that can’t be tolerated. We know this not to be the case from previous experience of refugee arrivals throughout our nation’s history, but it doesn’t seem to make us any the wiser when it comes to resisting our tribal instinct to repel outsiders.

    So to call refugees economic migrants is either to argue something fallacious or to ludicrously insist that we only want refugees who won’t upon arrival get on with the business of making new lives for themselves and pulling their own weight. It is not only a poor argument it is one Abbott and Morrison have now managed to dig the only hole for themselves bigger than Rudd managed with his fraught idea of shipping people to PNG.

    What the LNP have suggested last week is that 30,000 odd people most of whom are already living in the community will not only continue to be refused due process, but they’ll be effectively enslaved within work for the dole schemes. I wonder whether the refugees will accept that decision, because I expect that if they don’t we haven’t quite thought through the implications of creating a social underclass that may well be beyond our capacity to control.

    Meanwhile since neither the debate nor the response to boat arrivals has been decoupled from an implicit agenda to stop people coming here first and foremost there is no depth of hypocrisy, or apologetics for the same, that we seem unwilling to plumb!

    Conducting an orderly refugee program was never going to be an easy thing, but failing to acknowledge that we simply don’t control the reasons why people are driven from their homelands fearing to return and compounding that error with race-to-the-bottom, dog whistle politics doesn’t help. It simply lurches from one disaster to the next because Labor’s mess on Manus already proves the PNG solution won’t work, and Abbott’s solution is even dumber!

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    • doug quixote August 18, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

      Some terms defined :

      asylum seeker – anyone who cares to turn up

      refugee – someone who satisfies the criteria for refugee status under the Convention

      good policy – does not exist

      workable solution – perhaps the PNG tactic

      unworkable nonsense – any Lib/Nat policy since 2009, when it became apparent the turn back the boats/Pacific solution would no longer work

      open borders – clearly insane until equalisation of world conditions

      we decide who comes here – a phrase hijacked by conservatives and used as a dog whistle. (I would apologise for its use, but it is at bottom an entirely appropriate concept – who else decides?)

      border protection – with no land borders we are almost uniquely protected from infiltration. (NZ and Iceland take the prize.) An amazing non-issue

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      • hudsongodfrey August 18, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

        Okay so I’ve used the terms asylum seeker and refugee with fluidity in a few places, but that’s because we have somewhere north of 20,000 who we’re simply refusing to process. On past figures most will turn out to be refugees, or should I say are refugees now. Because the circumstances in which they find themselves don’t come into existence when we make a ruling or stop being the case because we choose to delay doing so.

        I think good policy does exist in the sense that some things both respond to better motives and have greater capacity to deliver on them. If it’s perfect policy you want to complain for lack of then you stand every chance of being technically vindicated, but still none of being morally excused from trying to do the best we can.

        That’s where “workable solutions” come in, and these are not terms best applied to schemes like sending people to PNG which can only be made seem like a solution by redefining the problem in wholly inappropriate terms. We’ve made it almost entirely about a relatively prosperous nation’s unwillingness to help a certain class of refugee who happens to come in boats from the north.

        Adding insult to injury it’s an inordinately expensive bluff consisting entirely of a deterrent that has a very low likelihood of success given the stunning lack of alternatives on offer to refugees. If we take optimal care of arrivals in PNG then they may view it as an improvement over Indonesia and if we don’t then the PNG people have shown every sign of finding mounting numbers of arrivals unacceptable. Thus we enter back into a kind of calculus of cruelty that effectively pits us either against the Indonesians or refugees’ original persecutors. I am as such at pains to think of anything less workable until I cast a withering gaze in Scott Morrison’s direction knowing he’s keen to try just that!

        Do we decide who comes here? Or should it be asked whether an accident of birth should be the main determinant of that privilege? Were it put to the aboriginal people of this country (though I wouldn’t dare), then the answer effectively comes down to might is right! Should we simply stop at accepting that when it suits us then we’d better hope that Chinese don’t tire of paying for coal and minerals. If might is right, they might simply decide to invade.

        To ask who else decides would be a slightly better question. I think we know that all nations maintain (or attempt to enact) some control over the comings and goings of outsiders. However we did sign up to a few humanitarian conventions in the past and they continue to shape chunks of the legality surrounding asylum claims today. Some of what they contain actually implies willingness to help refugees. I know that doesn’t seem to be the political reality but it is a sobering thought for even our political masters to reflect on what it might be like if in walking away from asylum it might ever be refused to the likes of us.

        I think it is an will remain a huge problem for us that we would clearly respond differently in most cases where applicants were of cultural backgrounds closer to our own. And it makes this issue difficult to argue, when with the best intentions of avoiding epithets it becomes unavoidable that we must at least question why we would want to be able to choose who comes here?

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        • doug quixote August 20, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

          See what I mean? 🙂

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          • hudsongodfrey August 21, 2013 at 9:56 am #

            Not sure that I do?

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            • doug quixote August 21, 2013 at 8:06 pm #

              My clear concise definitions are addled by your glosses.

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              • hudsongodfrey August 21, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

                So you’re concisely wrong in a couple of places. Being concise and clear about such a thing doesn’t make it better.

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                • doug quixote August 21, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

                  LOL

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                  • hudsongodfrey August 21, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

                    Yep don’t want to lose your sense of humour. After all I’m riffing on Batman and seeing Rudd and Abbott as Riddler and Joker from the campy Adam West incarnation.

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        • jo wiseman August 21, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

          Of course we should decide who comes here. Who else? It’s a no brainer, and please spare us commentary about the presence or absence of my own brain.
          Who do you think should decide goes to China? Croatia? Russia? Brazil? Germany? Luxembourg? Canada? Good luck explaining to them it shouldn’t be themselves.

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          • hudsongodfrey August 21, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

            While I don’t think our obligations are infinite and would never argue that I do think that they exist and that we’ve clearly become quite heavily involved with the issue of how to discharge them.

            These obligations apply to people, and a certain group of people in particular, who qualify due to genuine well founded fear of persecution. Thankfully it wasn’t us who decided to persecute them such that they became displaced and have since sought the refuge of asylum. The fact that some of our responses to that include deterrents that appear to compete in terms of whether it is less attractive to return to persecution than to try making their way here is not a humanitarian response any of us should be comfortable in endorsing. If you can’t see how that has panned out then I would venture that you and I aren’t even in the same moral universe.

            So if we can and do decide and we’re given to some meagre modicum of moral compunction it should clearly be in favour of something other than what the two major parties have put on offer. We could in effect decide to do our part in a far more constructive and dare I say compassionate fashion. I think I would not make the attempt to even argue the point as persuasively as I’ve tried to here if that were not my sincere hope.

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            • hudsongodfrey August 21, 2013 at 7:12 pm #

              The first sentence should perhaps be split up.

              I don’t think our obligations are infinite and would never argue that. Yet I do think that they exist and that we’ve clearly become quite heavily involved with the issue of how to discharge them.

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              • jo wiseman August 21, 2013 at 9:37 pm #

                Which is all very well, but feels like a bait and switch from who should decide who comes here.

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                • hudsongodfrey August 21, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

                  Well it isn’t nor was that ever my intention. It was always to steer the conversation away from Howard era slogans towards a discussion of the means by which our politicians have gone about the business of digging holes for themselves, more below…..

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          • doug quixote August 21, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

            Thank you, Jo.

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            • jo wiseman August 21, 2013 at 9:46 pm #

              You’re welcome. Just because one side makes a common sense idea into a slogan doesn’t mean the idea is a bad one. In a way that’s a trap.

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              • hudsongodfrey August 21, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

                It is very much a slogan I would object to the implications of though.

                Our politicians have made an issue out of trying to control the movements of a relatively small number of the most disempowered individuals using the most unimaginably poor equipment and tactics on the planet. Their failure in all attempts to stop them despite a constant tirade of increasingly right wing rhetoric over more than a decade is a spectacle of grand farce to rival the emperor’s new clothes.

                That they are doing so in response to antipathy they’ve stirred up within the community when they could have exercised bipartisan restraint in avoiding the very low road they’ve taken is as great a shame as the embarrassment of their failure is.

                There is in fact nothing left in that little phrase to offer the least skerrick of comfort to anyone any longer.

                The truth is that when either Rudd or Abbott win the election then they’ll be faced with the uncomfortable and unedifying prospect of trying to keep promises that they doubtless will fail to deliver upon.

                There are only two ways that they can be decisive in this and they’re prepared to pay the political cost of neither. They have either to abandon the humanitarian undertakings we helped set up completely, and sell that to Australian people for whom the idea of being a white enclave in an Asian region where they can expect nobody to come to their aid should anything happen to this country might suddenly seem just a titch overreaching. Or we have to do our bit, be seen to do it, and therefore to be able to say at some point that we’re no longer responding to bigots and dog whistlers but we are going to put a limit on some numbers to keep things orderly and manageable because that’s a responsible way to run a humanitarian program that actually works.

                But of course putting it in those terms involves explaining a few concepts and realities that lack the punchy populism of the brainless sloganeer.

                P.S. if you think that closing line is too Sarky then, you’re wrong. There’s no such thing as too Sarky when it comes to this issue. It’s already way beyond ludicrous. I mean seriously the bad guys in a Batman comic couldn’t come up with the PNG solution or Abbott and Morrison’s weirdness!

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                • jo wiseman August 21, 2013 at 11:25 pm #

                  No I don’t think it’s Sarky. I just think that just because “we decide who comes here” was adopted as a slogan doesn’t mean it should automatically be rejected as an idea. Doing so simply polarizes and paralyses the debate.

                  If we want to put a limit on humanitarian immigration , and we do, then we will. If we chose to preference those in camps to irregular arrivals then we will. If this requires a no-advantage policy in order to function, we will implement one if we want to. If we want to stop all immigration immediately for the next ten years, including family reunions, that is our right.

                  Saying it isn’t our right to decide who comes here just shifts the debate from what is the best thing to do to instinctive defensiveness.

                  Far better to argue about what our best decisions are rather than our right to make them. Which you seem to agree with, since when you are tackled on the idea you bait and switch.

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                  • hudsongodfrey August 22, 2013 at 1:09 am #

                    If you think I’m going to buy this idea that an accident of birth is an ethically defensible determinant of privilege in the world then you’re sadly mistaken.

                    I may try and argue things by putting things in different ways in order to try and persuade others to adopt different perspectives, or merely to avoid boring repetition. Yes, I said boring repetition….. But that doesn’t mean I’m shifting my basic stance against brutalising the very people we’re supposed to be trying to help.

                    The idea that we’ll just do whatever we want to because we can suffers from any sense of perspective as to what may occur were reciprocity to be invoked even in smaller ways within our own society. Wonder to yourself whether the Australian people would approve of doing to British backpackers or any other group of people more like themselves what they’re occasionally prepared to do to anyone Muslim, dark skinned or simply arriving in a boat. There’s a clear lack of empathy there, and even if I’m wrong about some people’s reasons for behaving that way, how are refugees living here today going to process that information? …. Don’t tell me the kind of violent protest we’ve seen in the UK can’t happen here, and that the people who do that stuff bear possess no motives that are worthy of explanation.

                    Whatever you do never, ever, ask yourself what kind of society we’re becoming here.

                    If you think you have rights then you’ve probably heard that saying about rights coming with responsibilities. I, on the other hand, don’t think of misusing that capacity to act in a certain way as a right, when it is violates the rights of others to some more basic level of decent treatment then I think of that as wrong.

                    You talk about what polarises and paralyses the debate then it’s the base appeal to indecency contained in that slogan that’s divisive here and always will be, not only between opinionated Australians on either side of a political debate, but also in terms of the wedge we’re driving between haves and have nots in the global community when we fail abjectly to care about anyone or anything more than our own sorry arses.

                    The best thing to do is probably too idealistic for any of us to expect, but the reasonable way to respond is clearly and exclusively to reject all policies that are transparently dedicated to stopping people coming here from particular sources above all else. If we don’t we can dance this absurd dance of apologetics for as long as you want to play musical chair, but at the end of the day the last chair we’re going to have to pull out from under the dancers is called bigotry, plain and simple. It may not truly be at the root of your issues with my posts or Doug’s but to fail to understand how these policies play and to whom on both sides of the debate one would have to be truly and wilfully blind to the tensions and divisiveness the slogan you’re defending here has created.

                    I think we do have a responsibility to provide some kind of help to refugees in our region regardless of how they come. I don’t see camps in Indonesia as that much different from those in Africa, Burma or now Syria. What I do see is a genuine need to address deaths at sea by making sure that people who are being told to get in a queue have one to stand in line at that actually works within a reasonable amount of time. Otherwise our deterrents to people traffickers are all stick, no carrot and have absolutely zero chance of working.

                    It’s called doing our part, and it can’t, given the political landscape either here, in Indonesia or in refugees’ source countries, ever be called the best thing. Persecution, displacement and having to uproot and make a new life aren’t part of a set of choices people make because the situation is ideal. This is simply a case where I look at Australia’s report card and say more than just “could do better”. I say we’re a nation of immigrants ourselves so WTF are we thinking treating the situation so horribly unsympathetically?

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                    • doug quixote August 22, 2013 at 7:19 am #

                      Any brief reply provokes you to an avalanche of words.

                      A lengthy reply is a waste of time, for you fail to see the wood for the trees.

                      It matters not what idea you “buy” as an argument; it is the way things are in the real world.

                      Read it carefully, for here is wisdom.

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                    • hudsongodfrey August 22, 2013 at 9:26 am #

                      I agree that the discourse has reached that low point, but that shouldn’t mean we have to accept it without at least trying a little to convince people the humanitarian cause is worthwhile.

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                    • jo wiseman August 22, 2013 at 7:36 am #

                      Why thank you, doug quixote.
                      Hudson – I haven’t said any of the things you’re attributing to me and you haven’t answered what I did say. I’m not interested in repeating it.

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                    • hudsongodfrey August 22, 2013 at 9:27 am #

                      You’ve defended the use of a slogan I detest, the rest is implied. My intent was to confront you with that.

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                    • jo wiseman August 22, 2013 at 9:38 am #

                      I’ve said that before it became a slogan it was a valid idea and remains so despite having been sloganised. The rest is not implied, you just chose to make a jump because you couldn’t make a good argument for it being wrong and didn’t want to acknowledge it was right. So instead you put unrelated words in my mouth and argued against those.

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                    • hudsongodfrey August 22, 2013 at 9:55 am #

                      If you think I’ve verballed you and can back it up by engaging with some of the counter perspectives others including myself are offering then I’m more than happy to apologise. Profusely if needs be. I sincerely live in the hope that one person will change their approach even slightly on this, and I also just as sincerely embrace the discussion as part of a process that I know changes me.

                      I’ll write something in response to Paul below that backs this up, but after enduring this issue for over a decade there are any number of arguments I’ve heard put that all add up to the one thing…. They’re excuses for saying we don’t accept that we have a responsibility to help others, especially people who we lump in together with prejudicial generalisations and stereotypes. I don’t mean to say that everyone starts with their prejudices and works backwards to craft apologetics for bad slogans, but I do mean that once you’re informed that this is what happens when you go along with that then you have a clear choice to make, and I hope to persuade some readers that the right choice is to reject the race to the bottom.

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                    • jo wiseman August 22, 2013 at 10:38 am #

                      How about you address my point. I suppose it really was Doug’s point and I just took it up. Then I might address some of yours.
                      My point is of course we decide who comes here and we have a right to do so. Who else should decide for us? Who else should decide for other countries but themselves? My further point is that while you refuse to concede this you will make limited progress in turning the debate towards how much we should do to help.

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                    • hudsongodfrey August 22, 2013 at 10:59 am #

                      I have addressed that point when I argued that if rights come with responsibilities then we can’t claim the right to do one thing on the basis that we trample the rights of others. Human rights are always going to be so basic and fundamental in their very nature that they do tend to project beyond political boundaries and borders. That’s a game changer for the slogan you’re defending because violating human rights is a wrong we have a responsibility a decent people to avoid and militate against at least within the limits of our capacity to do so.

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                    • jo wiseman August 22, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

                      The basic principle is We Decide Who Comes Here. But if a basic principle could cover all eventualities a law degree would take days, not years.

                      I think we can all (vast majority) agree with the basic principle Thou Shalt Not Steal while accepting that there are mitigating circumstances and particular cases.

                      The overwhelming majority accepts that if people at our borders are in immediate danger of life and limb we should let them cross the border to safety. But they want it to be our decision. You have nothing to lose by conceding this to them as the result will be the same – the overwhelming majority will decide as you want.

                      A problem arises when people deliberately place themselves in immediate danger for the purpose of crossing our borders when they otherwise would not have been. Another problem arises with how much assistance we should give people once the immediate danger is over, and whether they should be allowed to stay and whether allowing them to stay encourages others to place their lives in immediate danger.

                      None of these things negate the basic principle.

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                    • hudsongodfrey August 22, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

                      Okay so in those terms what’s in dispute is how that prerogative to help is acted upon or not. If we decide to act decently then I agree that has merit. But we don’t act decently we act indecently and we assume the right to do the wrong thing. That’s my point about this.

                      There is a second part of what you started to get into about how far we should go to help. I don’t think what you’re offering is nearly enough. In fact I think its the opposite of that. It’s still all about deterrents that are constructed in ways that won’t work and basically can’t work unless you consider success limited to any situation where people aren’t allowed to come here and claim asylum by any means whatsoever.

                      As I have said elsewhere, you’re informed of the sentiments this plays to and the paradigm it has constructed within our political discourse, and with that in mind I cannot excuse that the meaning behind not being willing to at least take a decent amount of people from our region is at the very least appeasement to bigotry.

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                    • jo wiseman August 22, 2013 at 1:41 pm #

                      We have the right to decide who comes here and the circumstances under which they come. Full stop.
                      Instead of arguing that you should be arguing what you think our decisions should be. Because if instead you argue our right to make the decisions I guarantee you that will occupy the main agenda for many and stop them even listening to what you think the decisions should be.

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                    • hudsongodfrey August 22, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

                      Maybe you’re trying to flip this to saying I shouldn’t criticise people’s motives because that may cause them to become more entrenched in their positions. I admit I’m coming from a position where one of my main things is that I’m just fed up with the kind of BS and doublespeak that always, always, always comes back to not permitting anyone to come here from the north either in boat or even in organised resettlement programs.

                      But then in the exchanges we’ve had over the course of the past day or so I have discussed numbers and responses that I think would make a reasonably good start. I don’t think that this discourse genuinely goes anywhere good if your one and only point is this immutable article of dogma in the form of a slogan that I’ve already refuted and you’re gradually reduced to defending in terms that amount to telling me not to say things you don’t want to hear!

                      To recap just one of those points; I think Australia ought to be willing to go to Indonesia and fly over a number of people who are in camps there and who the UNHCR have already have identified as genuine refugees. When our government raised the quotas by 6,000 they disappointingly failed to go over there and do that one thing that would set up some kind of functioning queue. That is the carrot that needs to go with the stick I’ve mentioned a couple of times now.

                      If you want to try this another way then you should answer a few of the questions like how many you think we ought to take per year from our region.

                      I’m not averse to taking more than twice what we take now and allocating most of the increase to clearing out backlogs in our own region. If we get that kind of policy despite clinging to your slogan but applying it in a way that’s more charitable then I’ll celebrate the merits of our generosity. Otherwise you’re basically stuck with trying to justify a misappropriated use of the word “right” in a sentence.

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                    • jo wiseman August 22, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

                      I apologize if this comes across badly, but you’ve lost me. I can’t keep up with all the words and there are too many paths leading off in different directions. Good day to you.

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                    • hudsongodfrey August 22, 2013 at 7:54 pm #

                      I’ve tried to make this into an exchange of opinions. Although it has been a discussion based largely around your defence of a slogan we all know that the issue goes well beyond that, and at some point I think it reasonable to ask you to reciprocate on some of those questions I have for you, so I’ll make it easy…..

                      The question was…. How many refugees do you think we should take annually from our own region?

                      It shouldn’t be too hard to toss a figure out there, and I find it next to impossible to believe that your comprehension skills suddenly fail when you’re challenged to ask something that straightforward.

                      My answer was at least six thousand maybe more. I don’t think we’d readily cope with an order of magnitude more than that, but I will add this figure is as far as I’m aware approximately one order of magnitude larger than the paltry 600 we were currently taking at last report.

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                    • jo wiseman August 22, 2013 at 8:48 pm #

                      As for your question I simply never reached it. But as far as I’m aware there are no refugees from our region.

                      But that’s as far as I go. See jo wiseman August 22, 2013 at 10:38 am.
                      I don’t think you can reasonably complain that I refuse to follow you down tangential paths on multiple issues when you refuse to engage in any point I raise regarding the original issue I bought into.

                      I leave the stage free for your closing speech.

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                    • hudsongodfrey August 22, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

                      I think you’ll find a few in Indonesia, you know the ones that keep getting onto boats.

                      What am I saying! Of course you know, you’re just dodging the question, and frankly doing so in a way that’s more than a little transparent and does you no favours.

                      Have at it if you like but frankly it is a pretty disappointing way to end a conversation when one participant simply chooses to ignore all the inconvenient parts.

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                    • doug quixote August 22, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

                      It’s all about you isn’t it HG – your self-righteous rejection of what you see and hear as a dog whistle. Well guess what, HG : you are the dog! You come racing whenever you hear that fucking whistle.

                      “We decide who comes here” (wheeet!) HG comes slavering and slobbering up to piddle some more on the hated slogan/meme.

                      Well guess what again : We (Jo and I ) do not support the slogan, so try piddling somewhere else. 🙂

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                    • hudsongodfrey August 22, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

                      Let’s face it Doug, that comment isn’t an argument it’s the written equivalent of an indignant pout at best!

                      Seems it all gets too hard for some people when their motives are questioned.

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                    • jo wiseman August 23, 2013 at 8:54 am #

                      Refugees in Indonesia aren’t from our region. What are you talking about? If you meant people heading to Australia through Indonesia why didn’t you just say so?

                      Your way of arguing is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

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                    • hudsongodfrey August 23, 2013 at 9:46 am #

                      I’ve tried to give you every opportunity to say a number that we could take to release the pressure on UNHCR identified refugees stuck in Indonesia so they’d stop electing to take the boat option.

                      It seems that’s just all too hard.

                      This is what that slogan excuses. People who for reasons I can’t agree with want to be able to say that the number of people we’re going to take or resettle that come here via Indonesia is zero.

                      I think that is wrong, and if we persist in maintaining any kind of humanitarian program whatsoever then it will probably be reduced to one that picks and chooses people using arbitrary selection criteria that I find unacceptable then resorts to brutalising anyone we choose to reject.

                      Sorry if I left off trying to persuade you at some point, but if you won’t come to the party on doing something in our region that doesn’t involve violating these people’s human rights then I have an issue with your politics far larger than any minor quibbles we may have with one another’s writing style.

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                    • jo wiseman August 23, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

                      So, you’re saying the reason you won’t engage with my arguments is because you think I might not want Australia to accept any refugees via Indonesia? Stuff it. Your loss, not mine. You might have said so in the first place instead of drowning me in wordiness.
                      By the way, you don’t give me an opportunity to say a number. Jennifer supplies the blog not you.

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                    • hudsongodfrey August 23, 2013 at 1:09 pm #

                      You refuse to dignify a simple question with an honest answer in good faith.

                      We are at an impasse whereupon I cannot but presume your politics to be indefensible from your own unwillingness to defend them.

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                    • doug quixote August 23, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

                      You want a number, of refugees, for us to take?

                      Isn’t the latest 20,000 or thereabouts, largely preempted by the boat arrival numbers? I’d agree we could take more, but I doubt any given number would satisfy the “open borders” lobby. We could say 30,000 they’d want 50,000. If we said 50,000 theyd want 100,000.

                      Say it is not so.

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                    • hudsongodfrey August 23, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

                      It is so. I’m not disagreeing with that. I’m disagreeing with people who I know are using a slogan to justify a completely different number…. Zero!

                      The part of the argument where I try to make a point about the intake, that we agree could stand to increase a little, is also to say that it makes sense to take a good number from Indonesia to relieve pressure upon those refugees already there whose only way out probably seems to lie with getting on a boat.

                      Like

                    • jo wiseman August 24, 2013 at 7:28 am #

                      Presume away. If you can’t recognise simple annoyance that’s your problem.

                      Like

                    • hudsongodfrey August 24, 2013 at 1:02 pm #

                      Wrong answer

                      Like

                    • jo wiseman August 25, 2013 at 9:41 am #

                      Welcome to BP Pick-a-Number. No $64,000 for me because I didn’t want to play.
                      Or is it Who Wants To Be A Millionaire with Eddie McGodfrey?
                      The stakes were high and I blew it.
                      Get over yourself.

                      Like

                    • hudsongodfrey August 25, 2013 at 9:53 am #

                      More like Let’s make a Dope Deal with Bob Bitchin.

                      It ends with Bob being busted which is pretty much what happens when you play the game right up to the point where the questions get a bit difficult and then you try and back out.

                      Like

                    • jo wiseman August 25, 2013 at 10:47 am #

                      That’s a good description. The question was too hard for you so you went rambling off on some imaginary game with different questions where you’re in charge. Seek help.

                      Like

                    • hudsongodfrey August 25, 2013 at 11:05 am #

                      Just for the record.

                      I answered your question quite definitively. My answer was that if rights come with responsibilities then to trample the human rights of others renders the use of the word “right” in the context of that slogan a malformed proposition.

                      That is my answer with which you may continue to disagree but it is nevertheless a good and complete answer.

                      When you were asked for quid pro quo you refuse to respond to a question that targets your prejudices or hopefully lack thereof. Your refusal to grace that question with a reply can only around suspicion of the former.

                      Like

  14. Anonymous August 22, 2013 at 1:28 am #

    Oh dear… unfortunately I must for once have to acknowledge Jo and one her points.
    Strictly speaking, the refugees are more the responsibility of the nations (or rather shopfronts for TNC banks and corporations) responsible for the gargantuan waste of money and all the bloodshed in third world countries, that generate mass people movements.
    Given the control they have over the masses both in the third world and the West. it is probably too late in the day to see a challenge to the system that restore democracy in the meaningful sense to it: am GLAD am getting OLD, because I have surely seen a noose fastened round the neck of what people once used to call “civilisation”.
    And nor have THEY, shown much if any, sign of the significant self insights as to what they do- the closest to some sort of grasp of the real value and meaning of the bloodshed poverty disease and violence that blights the lives of billions of people with the same feelings and humanity as their own pampered families, is Obama, who has kindheartedly instigated the employ of drones fired from ten thousand miles at goatherds and women and children in villages, to save his West Virginia SS the trauma of doing the dirty work by hand.
    Obama remains the best of the worst because he has also recognised that direct intervention fails and it is better for locals to kill locals and cheaper- hence the installation of military proxies and local kleptocracies to suppress the people as well.
    So yes, Jo you are probably right within a similar sort of frame of reference as to me, on its own terms (to my eternal shame, despite also agreeing with you on what could be called the practicalities)), but it’s Hudsongodfreys comments in response that arouse sympathy and reminds us of one dimensionality of the underlying attitude and thoughtthat makes the broader picture so ugly.
    What goes on today in the world is a repulsive commentary on so called, gut -turning “humanity” and “civilisation”; I must join in wonder, and shock and dismay with hudsongodfrey, at the compassionless, disgusting scene he sees, what it says of the reality of so-called “civilisation” driven by “ressentiment” rather than open mindedness and offer consolation to him for what he feels.
    Can we consider a moral or humane aspect that ought to inform narrow legalisms?
    Would this colour the pencil outlines for a more complete view of the whole?
    If there is a deity, She must wince in pity at the sight of us; our fears, night terrors, rationalisations, alibis, self justifications self mystifications…and grieve for the suffering of her billions of other children avoided by we fearful, greedy ones let alone the cold blooded mongrels who run everyone’s lives.

    Like

    • Anonymous August 22, 2013 at 1:29 am #

      No, not “anonymous”, f—g computer.
      Paul Walter.

      Like

      • jo wiseman August 22, 2013 at 8:01 am #

        Mr Walter, I’m saying that people are more likely to act on sympathy if they aren’t busy defending their rights not to act on sympathy.

        Like

  15. paul walter August 22, 2013 at 3:58 am #

    A brief addendum.
    The current edition of” the Conversation” has Liz Minchin presenting a really nasty story about why this inflamed mess is as it is.
    This concerns another particularly filthy piece of dog whistling from the opposition spokes- thing, Rob Morrison concerning what he tendentiously describes as the current government’s “tick and flick” approach to processing of boat and other arrivals.
    The inference is that Labor is allowing too many refugees stay, in comparison to other countries; that what he feels are high eventual acceptance rates for both categories indicate over-generous assessment polices by the government.
    Our Christian friend has forgotten about the Commandment referring to the “bearing false witness against thy neighbour”, of course.
    On one level is the smear against asylum seekers, that they would put themselves through great difficulties, just to upset us.
    The sly inference that Labor is “soft” on border issues, again rears its head. It suggests- to the government has capitulated to the inner city elites and decadent activists.
    I don’t know if we take more asylum seekers and others from distressed areas more than other countries or not. But I don’t think 25,000 unfortunates a year is going to break the economy or send it into a terminal downwards spiral.
    But the Race Hatred deliberately and malevolently stirred by opportunist, sociopathic scum masquerading as leadership material is not going to facilitate larger numbers of genuine victims being helped out by us.

    Like

    • doug quixote August 22, 2013 at 7:25 am #

      Well said.

      Like

    • hudsongodfrey August 22, 2013 at 10:06 am #

      Yes well said.

      I probably unravel a point differently than others, but to parts of your earlier point as to who is and should be responsible I really don’t think that calculus is one we should entertain. Of course the persecutors who displaced these people are worse than the residents of any other country who from their positions of relative comfort reserve the right to turn a blind eye, but doesn’t that just wind up turning a blind eye.

      At this point refugees have been used as political bargaining chips in Australian politics for over a decade with result that I’m about as cynical as one can get. It may well be my fault that I can’t hear the apologetics that excuse certain things without filtering through the prism of that cynicism. Any argument that results in people coming here in boats from the north being treated prejudicially ignites what I should by now have thought are a range of obvious suspicions about the nature of its motives.

      The numbers say that if we took 20,000 per annum in the 1940’s and 50’s when the population was topping 5 million we can theoretically deal with more than we’re accepting right now without creating huge social distress. Other numbers say we don’t need to take that many to make a difference. But nothing but prejudice and dog whistle politics playing to narrow minded selfishness says that we have to create excuses for taking either none or next to none from our own region.

      I reach the point where I want to ask whether Australians who say that they don’t support bigotry and prejudice of the worst kind aren’t compelled to resist it somehow?

      Like

  16. paul walter August 22, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

    Thanks hudsongodfrey, et al.
    I suppose I shouldn’t allow myself to be poisoned by cynicism.
    Jo Wiseman, you have honoured me with the soubriquet, “Mr”.
    You need not be in awe of me,
    Paul will do just fine, amongst friends..

    It is true that in the era of proto-totalitarianism, as surveillance/rule by fiat/censorship/ disinformation,etc consolidate a straight-jacket on democracy that makes even consciousness of reality difficult, that the person in the street is increasingly sidelined and resistant in a vacuum: we instead become complicit against our own wills in any number of crimes, as resistance becomes tenuous.
    To start with it is very important to accept the comments of people like Jo Wiseman, as the base from which we commence our resistance.These people who are maybe a little more conservative than the rest of us, but we will get no where until we can answer their objections at the point where there is validity in them.
    I see her point and unfortunately respond at gut level, even though I know the point is exclusively defensive and offers no solution to the problem, including for her and us if she didn’t know it already.
    The wedge was well thought out from earlier in the century (by psychopaths?) and has worked well in turning society against itself. it’s part of the reason things have slipped to their current macabre, dystopic level.
    They turn human against human and in the end, divided against the centre, we all become asylum-seekers, as the system intends. This is why Jo’s point has some validity the paradox comes in both accepting it and rejecting it.
    The system’s response to people’s outrage at inhumanity has been to slyly demand that help for refugees and the poor must cost us exclusively when culpability rest so much more with them. so its also true the cynicism ultimately originates from the oligarchy: their refusal engenders anxiety and triggers refusals eventually from many of the rest so society becomes divided.
    Complicity is also disempowerment, which adds to a disturbing complexity.
    We are in strife if we advocate for OR against, as we learn of our disempowerment at the hands of this system- we can neither change things, or keep the things the same.
    “Oh, Brave New World
    with creatures such as these in it”.
    As I’ve said to advocates in the past, dismissing questioning is unhelpful, unless large slabs of the public can be won over change becomes a mountain.
    For the resistant, there must be honest reassurance, not scolding. and If some remain close minded the battle remains protracted, because those peope will also consider they have a cause, like the folk of Ol’ Dixie, if sufficently alienated by ridicule, regardless of whether this is earned or not.

    Like

    • hudsongodfrey August 22, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

      It is very interesting what you say Paul but I suspect in answer to the apparent paradox of competing political theories a simpler way to answer might be to say that we’ve already tried going further to the right on this issue than many Aussies can stomach and ask whether we couldn’t at least try some other more humanitarian alternatives within modest limits.

      I accept that to do even that is a big thing because the criteria for success can no longer be measured by a complete refusal to accept or even process asylum seekers, but what other alternatives have we to offer? It has already been a decade where the repeated failure of draconian measures to make a difference has cursed us. When are we going to realise we’re not the sole factor in determining the circumstances in which refugees arrive on our doorstep?

      Like

      • paul walter August 22, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

        That is a strange reply from you of all people. My point has been, there is what the theorists call a “rupture”, a definitive change in social relations compared to what we are familiar with.
        Politics is now done exclusively through the lens of neo liberalism rather through consensus and inclusion and the Enlightenment idea, as once was the case.
        We have seen it all happen, death of effective trade unions, the left consequent to de- industrialisation, the tricks of bosses to drive down local conditions, the wilful denial of ecology, civil liberties and justice, education knowledge and intellect.
        After the last generation, huge portions of the public no longer trust the promises of politicians, given all the sly deals and sellouts done behind their backs via big business via commercial in confidence, suppressed free trade deals and consequent things like gas fracking regimes welfare cuts and deteriorating workplace and infrastructure conditions in their lives., basically all neolib “reform”(regress).
        People know that when governments come up with ideas these are generally against their interests, and in the interests of their
        enemies in our time
        If people identified as insincere in their attitudes toward “we bogans” lecture them about doing good and then retreat to elite lifestyle conditions themselves, the event doesn’t go unnoticed.
        People in places like Sydney’s West just see open ended numbers of people coming here as a variation of the old trick of swamping the labor market to drive down blue collar conditions and have the boss classes boot in the neck so hard that ANY attempt to EVER remove
        it is gone.

        Like

        • paul walter August 22, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

          Even if it is just underlying organic ressentiment, I still get the feeling that now it is doubly bad because the boss classes have learned how to manipulate fear and loathing to the point where a person will hate her own mother, if the buttons are pushed sequentially.

          Like

        • hudsongodfrey August 22, 2013 at 10:58 pm #

          Don’t get me wrong Paul I like a good political theory as much as the next person and I agree with a good deal of the tenor of your remarks even if I wouldn’t personally adopt some of the same same language. The problem with some of the language others use is that half of what’s said our political discourse around this issue is code for sentiments that the hypocritical side of the room are trying to disguise. Sometimes we all reach the point when we just want to ask what’s wrong with trying to do the right thing. So correct me if I’m wrong but it seems like that hasn’t been tried in a while.

          But for the sake of conversation let’s try on honest reassurance…. Did you read the part a couple of days back where I wrote about refugees being possibly no more or less compelled to make their way in life than citizens who happen to have been born here. Either may to a great or lesser degree be afforded opportunities which they then either choose to grasp or to waste. There’s not a lot in any of the political theory that I’m aware of that insists migrants of any stripe fail to contribute equally to societies given the chance, and I think that’s a reassuring thought in itself. Perhaps you’ve others we could explore. Who knows it might even lift my cynical mood.

          Like

      • doug quixote August 22, 2013 at 9:21 pm #

        Part of the problem is that the Howard/Liberal draconian policies are perceived by the right to have worked. They are wrong of course – when have they ever been correct – but their statistics are a millstone around our necks.

        No soft-left solution is going to be acceptable until that perception changes, hopefully as a result of diminished numbers over the next year or so under a re-elected Labor government.

        With the pressure off the system, there might then be a chance for genuine reforms.

        We live in hope.

        Like

        • hudsongodfrey August 22, 2013 at 11:18 pm #

          That’s a far better comment and one I can at least respect.

          Yes, but have you ever heard of religion? It happens when people believe what they most earnestly wish to be the case in spite of the evidence. This populist dogma Howard borrowed from Hanson is pretty much the same thing.

          I think one underlying truth might be found in pondering how it was that Fraser got away with bringing in more Indochinese refugees than we’re being asked to accommodate today on a per capita basis. The factors were resettlement programs rather than boats, and bipartisan agreement to steer clear of the dog whistle.

          I hope I’m not being to unoriginal in asking precisely why we don’t borrow that idea instead of the one’s Howard used?

          What’s more, to put the record straight I’ve never argued that asylum should be open ended. In fact as you know I’ve called out others for being so unrealistic as to do just that. I think it damages our ability to make progress towards a balanced humanitarian policy.

          But seriously short of holding your feet to the coals it seems impossible to get Jo to budge from the figure of zero refugees via Indonesia and yourself to get off the fence to throw a little more weight behind doing our bit here.

          Like

          • doug quixote August 23, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

            Me? “Get off the fence”?!? Hudsongodfrey – Hudsongodfrey – says that to me? Talk about pots calling the kettle black!

            I’m flabbergasted!

            Like

            • hudsongodfrey August 23, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

              I would have said flabbergasted, but unmoved…. to get of the fence that was, but you posted just earlier that we could probably increase the quota, and if that can also be seen as a first step away from abusing people’s human rights then I welcome it.

              The UN criticised us again the other day, pointedly perhaps because it comes during an election campaign, but this evaluation of what we have become doesn’t just come from me. I’ve pointed out that I’m not the bleary eyed idealist wanting to open borders unreservedly, but I baulk at some of the ways we’re treating people in order to deter them. I’ve made the case for what’s wrong with it and why it won’t work enough times so that I hardly think I’m on the fence about this issue.

              And let me also add that when somebody, such as myself, is somewhere in the middle on an issue then arguing they’re on the fence because they fail to adopt a position on either the extreme left or the far right is a pretty ludicrous way to be categorically dismissive of any and all valid argument anyone could raise.

              Like

              • zerograv1 August 26, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

                Te whole problem I have wih the aruement to increase or change humanitarian intake of refugees is that it appears to be a decision taken in isolation from what Australians want (rightly or wrongly) We don’t have to argue rights and responsibilities or anything else until that fundamental decision is resolved. Some in the electorate want to play good daddy or Father Christmas, where others see various threats from following that path – I wont pander to the fear mongers by listing them here – they are already well documented. The UN agreement we are a signatory to, is something of a political girl guide badge, something to preen ourselves over on the mantel, but if you read he wording of what each nation is required to do I strongly doubt any country in the world is even close to meeting its obligations. As a document its puffery and ideology at its worst and therein lies the problem….if we agree to its terms to the letter Australia doesn’t even come close to having the money, resources, education, people or will power to adhere to its obligations, it demands approximately a 600% increase in or intake by my reading just for Australia to receive parity of intake (I could be wrong so happy to be corrected on this one) If instead we turn our backs on the whole matter, we isolate ourselves from the the other goodies the UN can entice us with like trade agreements, defense co-treaties, ego strokes and dare I say lots and lots of political junkets and conferences. I think the referendum needs to be held as to whether we stay in the agreement at all (and perhaps draft our own standalone policy), and arguments about where we house and process new arrivals of any type is secondary to that. Until this is discussed and resolved the poor treatment will continue. ONCE thats decided (and face it isnt this really the issue that is being backhandedly voted on in the terms of stop the boats etc?) then we can proceed.

                Like

                • hudsongodfrey August 26, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

                  I have to disagree with the logic behind basing rights and responsibilities upon any premise as fluid as “what Australians want (rightly or wrongly)”.

                  I think it would be unprincipled to regard an accident of birth as the main determinant of privilege in the world. That would be a privilege maintained wholly and solely by a doctrine of might is right. That is to say something only ultimately possible for a nation mightier that all others, and even then as exemplified within the world’s sole remaining superpower it tends to favour mostly those not born poor and/or either Black or Hispanic. We rank nowhere near the top of the world’s most powerful nations so there’s some logic behind not simply wanting to ride roughshod over the rights of others, even if it only relates to what might happen to us when our turn comes around perhaps at the hands of developing nations that are already much more powerful than we are and have long memories regarding their colonial histories.

                  I’m pretty sure the 600% figure is outrageously high. I don’t know how it could possibly be deduced. Maybe you’ll provide that background.

                  In the meantime the humanitarian remedy to refugee crises that I believe we signed up to be a part of involves doing our small part in a limited fashion that recognises this is an act of good international citizenship not necessarily a domestic priority. Unlike half of the populace we aspire to elect politicians who can walk upright and chew gum. The balancing of some of those priorities is something we can reasonably discuss and expect to resolve without appealing either to the extreme that says we’ve an obligation in relation to every last displaced person on the planet, or to simply use that hyperbolic logic to selfishly insist that the number we really want to assist is…. ZERO!

                  Like

                  • zerograv1 August 26, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

                    “I think it would be unprincipled to regard an accident of birth as the main determinant of privilege in the world.”…if we aspire to this, then why do we have poverty in outback regions, dental health that doesnt even match 2nd world countries? Homelessness? …it may be we want to portray ourselves for whatever reason as humanitarian in world eyes, why do we so obviously and blatantly neglect real need inside our own existing population? This I guess makes me “selfish” but I cannot see that the role of government first extends to others from countries we have little else to do with and effectively no relationship with in any way before these basic needs are addressed.

                    Like

                    • hudsongodfrey August 26, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

                      You have some good questions. Did I mention being able to do more that one thing passably well at the same time? Do you think we should just give up because progress is difficult?

                      Nor does everything have to be measured in terms of narrow self interest in the short term. A lot of the problems we have in the world today relate to selfish acts of previous generations. If there’s a lesson from that history worth learning then it ought to be about not repeating the mistakes of the past. But it can also be about reclaiming the successes of the past, and some of the most resounding success for this country have been egalitarianism and immigration.

                      It simply doesn’t follow that more people mean less resources, they often work quite to the contrary by providing more resources of labour and innovation to invigorate an economy making it more productive. I wouldn’t say that there are no limits to any policy but it takes too misanthropic a view to say nothing good will come of doing our part as humanitarians when the opposite perspective would single us out for criticism as a nation that could have helped but chose not to.

                      Like

                    • paul walter August 27, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

                      This is good until “..the role of government.”
                      It operates on a misconception of what “government” is in our times. Government in the context of actual power and who controls it is not located in the Australian parliament or even US congress, it is far more diffuse and more unaccountable than that and is what keeps the system
                      self perpetuating and dislocated from human need.

                      Like

                    • zerograv1 August 28, 2013 at 9:33 am #

                      OK in clearer terms could you define what you believe the “role of Government” is? I’m not asking for a description of how you see the current setup is, more what you believe it should be….

                      Like

                    • hudsongodfrey August 28, 2013 at 10:12 am #

                      While a comprehensive description of the role of government is a tall order I think that the part Paul wanted to concentrate on has to do with whether it is democratic to treat power as the right to rule in the interests of an elected lobby or to govern for all of the people in their best interests.

                      Clearly it is a huge problem for how decisions are made that corporate power and influence becomes such a large factor as to occasionally outweigh the best intentions of ordinary citizens of a democracy.

                      In terms of this debate its a bit tangential, but the point could be made that if wealth and power were more evenly distributed then the assumption might be that pressure on perceptions of how scarce resources are and how far charity should stretch might vary towards the positive end of the scale. We so seldom attempt anything so remotely egalitarian as to provide concrete examples. Communism wasn’t one, so at best I expect we refer ourselves to times when societies like ours have seemed more generous places for migrants and minorities and then try to work backwards from there to see what we did well during those times.

                      I refer people back to Fraser taking in the Indochinese at a time when it seemed the consensus was that the kind of racist or isolationist discourse we’ve had over the past decade was something we’d do better to simply avoid. In retrospect many would say that our best interests were served even if the will of the people might had they been asked have answered as it often does in Australia to the dog whistle.

                      Like

        • paul walter August 22, 2013 at 11:29 pm #

          Thanks, doug quixote, for a fair reading.

          Like

          • paul walter August 28, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

            and hudsongodfrey..

            Like

            • doug quixote August 28, 2013 at 7:36 pm #

              HG is always fair; if the Devil appeared in our midst and slaughtered just about everyone, HG would want us to be fair to him.

              Even as he was torn in half he’d be calling for polite and lawful treatment for Old Nick.

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              • hudsongodfrey August 28, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

                Maybe it’s out of order to bring in debates from elsewhere, but when I was for intervening against Assad you were the one pleading caution. Maybe the generalisations don’t always hold.:)

                Like

                • doug quixote August 29, 2013 at 11:35 am #

                  “Maybe the generalisations don’t always hold. 🙂 ”

                  Now there is wisdom, HG.

                  Hyperbole is much more than it is cracked up to be. 🙂

                  Like

                  • hudsongodfrey August 31, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

                    To the tune of the Beatles Yesterday….

                    Hyperbole, now I’m twice the man I used to be.
                    I’m exaggerating constantly.
                    Oh how I hate hyperbole.

                    Like

  17. russell August 26, 2013 at 9:01 am #

    Yes but what has this to do with trust? As in Mr Abbott requesting us the populace to just trust him? It puts the shivers up my spine because it appears to be anything but a sincere or substantial request (demand). Is it his hope that if he merely asks/demands, that it will be granted? It rings of shallow politicking. A confident demand based on a promise devoid of proven (or costed) substance. His current campaign is based on projecting ill will for example on Gillard. Everything that his side did (ditch the witch bitch etc) he now blames Gillard for; inciting gender wars. That is far from a legitimate basis to appeal for general and accepting trust. It is the shock and awe tactics of the Texas tea party. Did people just trust Shambles Newman then and do they now? Hollow liars the lot of them.

    Like

    • paul walter August 26, 2013 at 10:11 am #

      It is more case of stand and deliver. Do you know of the ascent of an individual called Cameron to power in GB and what happened next?
      Ypu certainly would.
      Unlike most Australians, it seems..

      Like

    • doug quixote August 29, 2013 at 11:41 am #

      Yes russell. According to this serial liar it was Gillard attacking his character!

      The mark of a psychopath is to project his own behaviour onto others, preferably his enemies.

      “Psychopaths project and blame you for what they themselves do; i.e., accuse you of being negative when they are usually the most negative person you’ve ever met. They also gaslight you into believing that when you have a normal reaction to something they do, like being angry and hurt because of their silent treatment, broken promises, lying, or cheating, that it’s your reaction that’s the problem and there is something wrong with you. That when you call them out on their inappropriate and unacceptable behavior, you’re the abnormal one who is too sensitive, critical, or always focusing on the negative.

      This is part of the head-fuckery they put us through. Acting inappropriately, unacceptable, and downright abusive, and then trying to turn it around to make it our fault. It’s adding insult to injury at that point. Not only do they intentionally cause the pain we don’t deserve, while denying they’ve done anything at all, they try to make it our fault so that we blame ourselves for something that supposedly didn’t happen. Yes, re-read that. That is how illogical it is. At the D&D and afterwards, it’s their parting “gift” to make us take all the blame for the “failure” of the entire relationship when it never had a chance to begin with.

      If only we had maintained that glowing optimism and naivety we had during the love-bombing stage through all the subsequent lies and abuse, everything would have been fine. If only we hadn’t questioned the contradictions we saw in one sentence or the email we were reading that they denied sending.

      Yes, if only we had stayed compliant and brain-washed, in spite of the evidence they make certain was staring us in the face – just to test us – then all would be fine. But even then, they would be bored and disappointed we hadn’t caught on or challenged them, and would invent something to accuse us of in order to justify their abuse and create drama. No matter what you do, it’s always a lose-lose situation with a psychopath and he wants you to believe you’re the loser when it’s really him.”

      http://www.psychopathfree.com/content.php?166-Focusing-on-the-negatives

      Like

      • hudsongodfrey August 29, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

        Yes it’s recognisable isn’t it. At least I find that it is. Granted that I’ve generally used more choice terms than psychopath to describe people like this I’ve encountered.

        Like

        • paul walter August 30, 2013 at 4:50 am #

          You’ve called them mouse’s ears?

          Like

          • hudsongodfrey August 30, 2013 at 8:51 am #

            Shellfish even, very undignified!

            Like

            • paul walter August 31, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

              Must remember that for the footy this arvo.
              After calling the umpire a mouse’s ear I will turn around and call the Westies fans foolish bivalves, cockle sense and no mental mussell to speak of, the silly bearded clams!

              Like

              • hudsongodfrey August 31, 2013 at 9:45 pm #

                There’s no coming back from those insults 🙂

                Like

  18. Forrest Gumpp (@ForrestGumpp) September 28, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    Yesterday, Twitter userID ‘@OZloop’ tweeted this:

    The linked post in that tweet makes reference to the use by Australian government agencies of ‘Blue Coat Systems’ software to bypass website security measures emplaced by other users. Ms Banerji has separately made reference to DIAC’s possible use of ‘Radian6’ technology to monitor the generality of the Twitter conversation on the asylum-seekers issue, in the course of which DIAC may have come to suspect her, as a person known at that stage ONLY BY THEM to be a public servant, to have been an identifiable participant in that conversation.

    It would not have been difficult for DIAC, based upon such suspicion or indication, to have then ‘constructed’ a circumstance in which Ms Banerji was ‘observed while tweeting to be userID ‘@LaLegale”, thereby obviating any need to expose (and subsequently justify) its use of other, and perhaps improperly intrusive, means of surveillance.

    It is, in my opinion, worth noting that the time in 2011 around which the then DIAC claimed to have identified ‘@LaLegale’ as PS Michaela Banerji, the month of May, was also around the time at which the then Commonwealth Ombudsman, Allan Asher, was engaging in an email correspondence with Greens Senator Hanson-Young in relation to funding deficiencies for the Immigration Ombudsman function of his office. That email correspondence was later to figure in a chain of events that was to result in the Ombudsman being (improperly) ‘carpeted’ by the then Special Minister of State, Gary Gray, and the then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the subsequent effective forcing of his resignation.

    It could be that matters relating to the forcing-out of the then Ombudsman constitute at least part of that ‘other layer’ to the Banerji dismissal to which Steve Davies (‘@OZloop’) refers in the opening embedded tweet. Removal or censure of an Ombudsman, by the nature of the office, was a matter not for any Minister to decide, but one reserved to the Parliament itself. The formal revelations as to that email correspondence upon which that wrongful ministerial censure was based arose from testimony freely given before Committees of the Parliament by Asher himself, testimony for which he should have had the benefit of privilege, but was denied it.

    It is interesting to see Allan Asher’s observations in the context of Michaela Banerji’s dismissal:

    Like

    • hudsongodfrey September 28, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

      I’m not much of a twitterer, or whatever the appropriate term for a devotee of the tweet life is. That however doesn’t preclude knowing a little about the difference between hacking and data mining the stuff that is in the public domain already. The problem as I see it, and I’d stand to corrected once I’m heard out, is that employers may not be under any real obligation to respect the privacy of employees using their networks for other than job related communications. So if that is what has occurred, once a public servant has their anonymity compromised by their employer under the seemingly legitimate auspices of “hey what are you using this computer network for on the boss’s time” then if I understand it correctly the possibility exists for employers to find out what their staff really think but thought they were expressing anonymously. It is important to note however, that those (supposedly anonymous) thoughts were disseminated into the public domain in the form of tweets, so no actual hacking is really required to access them.

      As an aside I might show some ignorance of precisely how twitter works by reference to the fact that other social media have private and public channels so that if the tweets were made privately then clearly they’re not intended for the public domain.

      This is where I think we need to start drawing distinctions between what should happen, what does, and how the information about that is presented in the media and elsewhere.

      Suppose you’re a social media user and according to revelations of the kind that were reported in connection with the Edward Snowden case now the NSA have obtained some of your details. What then needs to be understood about that, and very much matters, is whether you as a user shared that information in the public domain. Because whether for example Facebook Inc. cooperated or not it would only be a matter of time and the right software to get that information without violating anyone’s privacy.

      The next level where this sort of thing becomes concerning is if information that was either shared with nobody other than the social media company themselves or with a select group of trusted “friends” is properly protected under the social media company’s privacy provisions (you know the ones we all agree to without reading the fine print), or indeed whether national or international law provides any real recourse or protections for users’ privacy at all.

      I think it is also very important to note that between the media and what so called security organizations and other data miners will disclose there seems to a both a sensationalization and an interest in having us believe that they’re getting the latter rather than just the former. We are it seems simply meant to become resigned to the fact that big brother is watching us, including violating our privacy.

      I think we need to be thinking about whether anonymity is a protected condition of privacy or should be, and whether privacy itself is adequately defined and protected under law. What I hope we aren’t being is duped!

      We can surmise whether there would be real harms done if for example the veil of security was drawn over a great big lie. That lie would be that they have very little of our personal information nor the imagined resources to collect it, but they’d like us to think for any number of obvious reasons that we have no real ability to exercise any of the rights we thought we had and might as well in that case simply become compliant citizens.

      Now the above paragraph is intentionally somewhat vague referring to authority merely as “they” and taking broadly about the idea of disempowerment of the citizen thorough technology coupled perhaps with a smidgeon of ordinary apathy. It may ever refer to the kind of ideas one often associates with conspiracy theories. I nevertheless think that with or without the cloak and dagger theatrics we are being impacted by the sense that we may not have to resign ourselves to technological surveillance we have no real basis to either trust nor distrust unless and until we find ourselves personally impacted in some way by it.

      Here I could read you the Niemoller warning, but I think we’d better get back to the real problem of the public service…. I think we should try to be a bit savvy about what they technically can and can’t do, as well as how the legal framework operates within which we can discern any kind of abuse to have transpired. I don’t know the answer to that, but having said what I have above I’m a little circumspect about allegations of hacking but a lot less so about what amounts to politicised bullying within the public service.

      ~

      What I also want to take some time to celebrate are the humanitarian concerns and courage of both Allan Asher and Michaela Banerji.

      It puzzles me that anyone would be able to work for any government department that carries out orders to violate people’s human rights without being affected by it. So much so that it would defy my faith in human nature if somebody hadn’t wanted to tweet something about the situation. Maybe the silver lining out of this might be that more information about attitudes of former public servants in these contentious areas can now be revealed with greater impunity. It may help to shed a bit more light on the culture within those departments and how what seems morally insupportable by many on the outside looking in is enabled by the mindset that prevails there.

      Like

      • Forrest Gumpp (@ForrestGumpp) September 28, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

        As I understand it, the ‘@LaLegale’ tweets were made on her own equipment in her own time, but that some form of monitoring of the Twitter conversation in general enabled DIAC to identify her notwithstanding.

        See this discussion:

        Having satisfied itself that ‘on the balance of probabilities’ the ‘@LaLegale’ tweets were those of Michaela Banerji, DIAC then moved against her continued employment. That forced Ms Banerji to seek injunctive relief from the Federal Circuit Court to protect her employment. As part of having resorted to the Court for relief, she probably saw it as necessary to admit to what in the first instance she had justifiably denied in expectation of a right to privacy in her own online doings using a pseudonym, that of being Twitter userID ‘@LaLegale’.

        It was not upon the quality of any proof as to Ms Banerji being ‘@LaLegale’ that DIAC initially depended, but upon a bullying power to threaten her employment, in the completely above-board attempted defence of which the admissions necessarily came out, as I read the situation.

        Like

        • hudsongodfrey September 28, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

          I don’t know, but would like to find out how her assumed identity was compromised. If she’s logged into twitter from work then it becomes a heck of a lot more understandable than it would had she only ever tweeted using her own equipment and network access.

          Obviously if somebody was seen to have harassed another employee under any circumstances then that might be seen as bullying, whereas merely holding a political opinion should not be.

          So while I would be most concerned that if anyone had actually hacked into her online activities that would be both a breach of privacy and an act of harassment against her, I would also be loathe to assume that has happened in a way that makes those in positions of authority seem to more powerful and less accountable than they actually are. I think they’d love to project that kind of power and that I suspect their whole department is riddled with a kind of moral turpitude that I find unfathomable, but I don’t willingly allow that they’re any more than bullies who aren’t fooling anyone and are due a tremendous comeuppance.

          My hope is that Ms Banerji will now be the willing instrument of their exposure for the troglodytes they almost certainly are.

          Like

          • LaLegale September 29, 2013 at 9:07 pm #

            Thank you again Hudsongodfrey. I learned to use social media as part of my job, I did not take to Facebook, but I found Twitter just fabulous. I did not tweet at work, only ever in my own time after work or on weekends or in the morning on my way to work or after work, evenings and when on leave.

            Like

            • hudsongodfrey September 29, 2013 at 11:49 pm #

              Thanks again for your reply. I’ve basically rolled the follow up questions I’ve asked about this into my longer reply.

              I personally do use twitter and facebook, but neither very much or at all incautiously. I make a practice of creating anonymous email accounts to go with the pseudonyms I adopt depending upon my purpose so that I can create a stronger separation between my personal stuff and conversations I want to conduct in a spirit of greater openness. I see no deceit in this as I imagine nobody considers me to be other than as I present myself, and I am moreover a believer in the marketplace of ideas and conduct myself in a way that is at pains not to dishonour other’s willingness to engage in that enterprise, so hopefully nobody comes away the loser as a result of the encounters I participate in.

              Like

      • LaLegale September 29, 2013 at 8:58 pm #

        Thank you for your kind words HudsonGodfrey. It was a most unhappy experience working for an organisation that treats you badly. People would say to me “Just get another job”. As if it is that easy. When you have an employer who is bent on making your life hell, they are not going to be the ones to write you a good reference so that you can move to another areas. I was on the merit list for legal officer position on two occasions, both of which expired because my director would not release me, and secondly because my manager wrote such a bad reference for me, one that I refused to use, in the belief that to use it would be to be an agent in my own defamation. I wrote a number of EOIs to the legal division, and finally was told by a director who wanted to pub me out of my misery, that Legal Division would never have me because I was a person who was “high maintenance” or words to that effect. So, not being able to get another job, I was stuck. The conclusion that I have come to is that I was sacked for my upholding of the APS Code of Conduct, not breaching it. My managers breached the Code of Conduct in their behaviour towards me, but they still have their jobs. As my son often says to me “Mum, you can’t reason with unreasonable people!” He is right. One has to find another way, and act in a way that they can and do understand. It seems to me that the only thing they understand is legal action, but in the end legal action can throw the applicant a curved ball, and that’s when it really gets sad,

        Like

        • hudsongodfrey September 29, 2013 at 11:33 pm #

          Thanks for bothering to reply to me, I’m going to assume you’re the person I think you are without having any real way to check, because I can’t see any reason you would not be. So once again I need to start out by saying you have my sympathies with the situation you find yourself in. It certainly sounds at least as bad as some of the worst dilemmas I’ve encountered and I’ve had the misfortune to have seen one or two desperately compromising ones over my own journey to compare yours with.

          I also write using a pseudonym, not because I’ve any exaggerated notion of my own importance but simply because it affords me the luxury of being more forthright and occasionally provocative in saying the kinds of things I wouldn’t necessarily choose to share quite so openly with colleagues and clients. So while I don’t think I am as “doc drop” worthy as you obviously were I get that sometimes we should have the right to express ourselves a little less reservedly and that really ought to be protected in defence of the more honest kind of dialogue it fosters.

          That anonymous kind of dialogue is clearly very different for the belief users of social media have that what they’re saying isn’t going to spill over into their civilian lives by employers or authorities whose social or political prejudices may veer to the opposite extremes against them. Obviously some people just use anonymity to afford them the opportunity to abuse or troll others, but it turns out in my experience that they’re the exception rather than the rule. Anonymity is the ability for me to argue as a liberal and an atheist with anyone who’s interested in my thoughts without having others who aren’t meaningfully engaged in those conversations to take those labels and use them against me unsympathetically.

          So what I think very lamentable about your situation is that you didn’t appear to intend to say what you did as a form of trolling or abuse, but as a way to pursue a conversation that we need to have but which you couldn’t otherwise actively explore without being seen to be inappropriately professional in your job. That to me ought to be a form of protected speech, and the fact that the individual is often afforded next to no legal protections in their online activities flies in the face of the common belief that the internet is a bastion of freedom and freer speech. We ought to correct that!

          I’m interested whether you know for sure that your twitter ID was hacked, whether you gave Twitter your real identity in setting up the LaLegale account, and whether despite being professional enough to only use it during your own time you used departmental equipment or networks to access the twitter account. That is to say that I imagine “own time” could include lunchtime on the work network. If you did then although I don’t consider myself a particular expert in the field I’ve a feeling I could with the right access to your network have uncovered your real identity without too much trouble, and perhaps without needing to even break any laws.

          People who are reading this and wondering I’m getting at, or what they could do to protect themselves, should realise that traffic can be monitored on some work networks, that places of work are rarely democracies, that every computer has an IP address and possibly a login ID that can be used to identify you, and a Twitter password is not a strong form of security.

          That said I think we all know that whether laws were broken or not most people’s idea of what is ethical was certainly violated here. And I understand if you’ve your own reasons for not wanting to disclose that information to me. Nor would I want you to think I could necessarily deduce anything from it that might help your cause. Unfortunately all I can offer is a little sympathy and perhaps the impetus for activism to address the lack of protection you received.

          Nor do I mean that to come off as offering untimely advice at the expense of the anguishing process I imagine you’ve been put through, and I hope you’ll accept that myself and others wondering whether they’re at risk would appreciate knowing where the risks lie.

          ~

          I’d also wonder if you’re now considering writing an exposition of sorts about the culture of your former workplace, or whether you’re even free to comment upon that?

          I imagine this is all very recent and raw in a way that you may not have time to consider. Yet I feel many of the Australian people have so many of the kind of questions Allan Asher supplied to Sarah Hanson Young that are still yet to be adequately answered. Many of us hope that you can and will.

          Like

        • doug quixote September 30, 2013 at 7:14 am #

          Greetings. I have read the judgement in the FCC. Whilst I am unimpressed by the quality of the judgement, and of the view that the matter is far from over, I think you may have acted prematurely in seeking the declarations, The old adage is that a lawyer who acts for himself has a fool for a client.

          Exhaust the process and then sue the bastards would have been better.

          As regards the merits, it seems difficult to argue that you did not breach your duty under the Code of Conduct and the Act. I suppose I do not need to tell you that. No doubt the Department has closed ranks against you, “high maintenance” then and “poison” now. You have my sympathy.

          Like

          • hudsongodfrey September 30, 2013 at 9:28 am #

            That said Doug, once the process is exhausted I think it seems very easy to argue in the court of public opinion that the code of ethics is an anti-democratic violation of free speech. The legal problem as I understand it is that you can’t build a case around free speech here in the way you might in the US, but if she’s been deliberately hacked then that may be a different kettle of fish….

            As you say suing the pants off them may be one course of action. Going public with a book or an article may be another. I admit to rather hoping the later would transpire out of sheer curiosity as to what the hell’s going on in that department, because it seems to me that there’s more than one kind of poisonous attitude about their work.

            Like

  19. Forrest Gumpp (@ForrestGumpp) September 29, 2013 at 8:14 am #

    This tweet provides a link to a New York Times article by JAMES RISEN and LAURA POITRAS that gives a good lay explanation as to how social media monitoring, such as is indicated may have been used to undermine the privacy of former public servant and DIAC employee MICHAELA BANERJI in her private usage of the Twitter pseudonym ‘@LaLegale’, can be used to identify persons using social media:

    Concerned citizens both in Australia and the US have EDWARD SNOWDEN to thank for the revelations as to the extent of such surveillance activities by the US National Security Administration (NSA), access to which Australian government agencies in all probability share. Before Snowden, those same citizens have JULIAN ASSANGE and WIKILEAKS to thank for the development of a means whereby such revelations could be published in circumvention of a largely tame and moribund MSM, one that is only now beginning to rise to the challenge of keeping the public informed.

    Returning specifically to the case of Michaela Banerji, it is important to note the repeated assertion in the reporting of her case that what were eventually acknowledged to be her tweets were critical of government policy, Ministers, and other public servants. Here is an example:

    Whilst such assertions as to her being a critic can be claimed to be fair reporting of what was on the public record from the litigation Ms Banerji was effectively bullied into commencing to save her job, those assertions are DIAC claims, not established facts. Due to the ephemerality of Twitter and the limitations on public access to older tweets, the public have had no ready means of checking the accuracy of these unchallenged assertions for themselves. This seems to be an inherently unfair advantage that DIAC has been able to take in its terminating of Ms Banerji’s employment.

    Perhaps for the more digitally adept there has come to be a means of redressing that imbalance. It may be that this tweet offers that missing access to Ms Banerji’s tweets (and those of others) made around the time the DIAC surveillance brought the social media activities of ‘@LaLegale’ to notice:

    Like

    • hudsongodfrey September 29, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

      Okay so you may be interested in listening to this Canadian interview with Phil Zimmermann creator of PGP and Silent Circle. Before you do it is probably necessary to be aware that Phil basically sells security of the kind the fortune 500 companies, governments and military organisations he works with do need and we probably don’t. There’s a US context to this, but I think when it comes to the internet that the US situation as often or not sets the temperature for the environment we find ourselves interacting with. The better parts are towards the end where he talks a little about what metadata is, and how the people who backed legislation want us to be resigned to surveillance

      http://www.cbc.ca/q/blog/2013/09/02/you-have-even-less-privacy-than-you-think-says-internet-pioneer/

      And perhaps reading more about what metadata is, because I think most people misunderstand that term.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metadata

      After you’re done potentially having the pants scared off you then maybe we all need a good strong emulsion of Brownian motion producer and a couple of deep breaths. Because this stuff for the most part still whether we realised it to be or not, in the public domain. We may, and perhaps we should quibble, rather forcefully, that we never expected it to be used this way, but it clearly can be, as some of your supplied examples illustrate.

      It has long been the case for the most part that security agencies have a basic volumetric problem with the data that may conceivably be at their disposal. Even if emails we’re encrypted reading them all takes time, and the well encrypted stuff too much time to break into at random, so the main use of metadata is to build the picture of what may be of interest to them so they know where to invest their energies. That’s the more or less legitimate sounding explanation for sieving metadata. The hard part as Zimmermann observes is stopping mission creep.

      Perhaps somewhat ironically it may be the case that when people are mostly compliant opportunities for mission creep would be at their most tempting. As we know somebody here already has little enough to do that they’ve chosen to abuse their little bit of cyber power to play what basically amounts of office politics in the Banerji case. I think it already goes without saying that her sacking is deplorable.

      You may be ahead of me in saying that allowing the use of metadata is the catalyst for what could be the slippery slope we all fear could already represent a capitulation of any freedom we imagined the internet was a bastion of. The view I take of it is that with respect of most of us it isn’t hacking per se, but it stands nevertheless to contravene standards of privacy for users of and accountability for stewards of the internet. As a point of separation between being spied upon by international hackers and surveilled by our own the other telling point Zimmermann makes is that the Chinese aren’t going to knock on our doors in the night. He might have added they aren’t going to harass us out of our livelihoods either.

      On the one hand I think it’s a bigger problem for us in Australia when there a few enough efforts by the American to people to pursue their democratic rights, while we’re even more enfeebled for lack if international accountability as users of things like US based social networks.

      On the other I think the point is well made that any nation that spies on it’s own populace using the internet should be held to account lest it simply become the cyber version of Stasiland. A nation whose democracy is fundamentally undermined when the government, its instruments and authorities can no longer be trusted by the populace.

      Like

  20. Forrest Gumpp (@ForrestGumpp) September 29, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

    There has already been suggestion that the dismissal of public servant Michaela Banerji from her job at the then DIAC may have had an aspect of the removal of a (perhaps unwitting) witness from a position in which, if she remained, she might eventually have become able to put two and two together about a possible scheme to force the then Ombudsman, Allan Asher, from office:

    It is of course speculation that there may have been known within DIAC to be any scheme to be rid of any departmental embarrassment attributable to the activities of the then Commonwealth Ombudsman. Allan Asher has intimated that many within government, unbeknown to him at the time, may have been involved in a scheme to force him from office.

    I raise this speculation because it provides an insight as to the impartiality Michaela Banerji was able to maintain with respect to the proprieties of government in her use of her private Twitter account. I first became aware of her Twitter presence as ‘@LaLegale’ during the hashtag conversation ‘#reinstateallanasher’ that arose following the forced resignation of the Ombudsman in late 2011.

    I had become aware, through the study of the Hansard record of Asher’s testimony to various Parliamentary Committees, that Asher had become subject to censure by both the then Prime Minister, and the then Special Minister of State, over matters that had arisen out of Asher’s own freely-given and supposedly privileged testimony to those Committees. Due to the office of Ombudsman being a Statutory Office by appointment of the Parliament, any censure of an Ombudsman was one for the Parliament alone to lay, and not one for Ministers of State to usurp. Likewise, the proper channel for the handling of matters such as resignation of Statutory Office is via the Office of the Governor-General, rather than through any Ministry of State, a fact that will shortly be seen to be of importance with respect to the ongoing Twitter conduct of Ms Banerji.

    As I developed an awareness as to the improprieties surrounding the forcing of the Ombudsman’s resignation, I recorded much of it in a long series of posts to an Online Opinion General Discussion topic. Here is who we now know to have been public servant and DIAC employee Michaela Banerji on the Twitter record in November 2011 expressing willingness to assist in an attempt to have Allan Asher reinstated as Ombudsman:

    An outline of the proposal with which she was agreeing to assist can be seen by clicking the link in my tweet. As to what, if anything, she was able to do to advance that approach to the reinstatement of Asher, I had, and have to this day, no idea. I had no idea at the time that she was, effectively, an insider as an employee of DIAC. Whatever, the proposal to approach the Governor-General during a window of opportunity whilst Acting-PM Swan was briefly the head of government was one that did not involve any undermining of the government-of-the-day by Ms Banerji. If anything, the proposal could have been regarded as a ‘pouring of oil upon troubled waters’, the seizure of a face-saving opportunity to set things right with respect to the proprieties relating to the statutory office of Ombudsman.

    In this regard, Ms Banerji’s expressed willingness to help advance such a proposal is one of complete propriety and loyalty to the government-of-the-day, and stands out as superior conduct to that of the entire membership of the 43rd Parliament with respect to the upholding of the Ombudsman’s office and the privileges of the Parliament. Was DIAC even maintaining surveillance of the ‘@LaLegale’ account in November 2011, given that it had already set in place Ms Banerji’s eventual ‘outing’ in May of that year? Had it been, one would have thought DIAC may have had second thoughts as to the wisdom of continuing to threaten her employment in the face of such demonstrable propriety on Twitter.

    Yet Michaela Banerji’s eventual reward for playing her part in ‘open government’ on social media has been dismissal. Why?

    In a footnote to the forcing out of the Ombudsman in 2011, it is interesting to note what could have been complicity by the then Opposition in distracting one of the then Parliamentary Committee Chairs, Senator Humphries, who would normally have been expected to have led the charge in the upholding of the privilege of the testimony of Asher. In what I initially thought was a deal done by the government with the Greens, the then Opposition lost the appointment of Chair of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Review Committee to the Greens. Senator Humphries was shortly to be no longer Chair of that Committee with the power and duty to pursue any breach of Parliamentary privilege. I got the impression at the time that the appointment of Chair of LCAR going to the Greens was viewed by them as having been like manna from heaven. All of it right in the middle of the outcry over the forced resignation of the Ombudsman!

    Perhaps the then Opposition did not wish to interrupt its opponent, the Gillard government, while that government was making what was considered to be a mistake.

    It is interesting to note the apparent absence of the Special Ministry of State from the list of portfolios into which Ministers were sworn following the recent Federal elections, given that Ministry was involved in the wrongful censure of Asher. I wonder why that might have been?

    Like

    • hudsongodfrey September 29, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

      Interesting! Though I’m not really sure that Ms Banerji’s done as much for open government she has for at least trying to show some kind of support for somebody in Allan Asher who certainly did try to blow the whistle on DIAC, as was I think his duty.

      In so saying I’m not committing the fallacy of saying Ms Banerji did not do far more than we know. The concern I have being that I wouldn’t be at all surprised if DIAC was overrun by a nest of right wingers who’ve also done for more than we can say that we know about to hide their unprofessional activities, and the political agenda behind them.

      I think conspiracy theories never do us any good, because just having questions in general isn’t really a productive state of affairs unless there’s some sufficient body of evidence to justify a real investigation.

      I’d love to see someone like Allan Asher back in the Obudsman’s seat, but in so saying I also think we can’t allow the affair to continue to be played out as a battle of competing political agendas. If we were just putting Asher in there to be a voice for the left then I think we’d still be missing the point that what’s needed in an Ombudsman is impartiality of oversight tinged with a sense that is isn’t always a bad thing to maintain standards of professionalism in the public service in the interests of the people over and above the political interests of their masters.

      Like

    • LaLegale September 29, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

      FG, when you first suggested this connecting of dots, I could not see the logic. Since reading this second post from you, something has suddenly made sense, I need to think more about this. I seem to recall something very important and very relevant. Thank you for taking the trouble to write your observations and thoughts.

      Like

      • hudsongodfrey September 30, 2013 at 5:37 pm #

        Should be interesting watching 4 corners tonight.

        http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2013/09/30/3857148.htm

        Like

        • paul walter September 30, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

          I should be watching, Another scam from the Wheat Board era, except this time it the Reserve trying to flog our money printing patent to Iraq.
          They all do it, but woe unto they who are caught out, couldn’t be the system, just atypical rogues.
          Maybe tomorra, if the sinus wears off…

          Like

      • Forrest Gumpp (@ForrestGumpp) October 1, 2013 at 11:51 am #

        LaLegale,

        Only too happy to have been of any help. All too often persons simply doing their jobs come to be seen as inconvenient, even if unwitting, witnesses to impropriety in public administration.

        I wont try to draw you out as to what it is that has suddenly made sense for you in the lead-up to your present situation. That would probably be unwise on a public forum accessible to all.

        There is one thing about which I did get a very strong gut feeling, and that was that a tweet by you about a seemingly unrelated matter may have acted as a catalyst for the PUBLICISING, if not the finalization itself, of the Federal Circuit Court decision on your request for injunctive relief against dismissal. It was the one in the link, made AFTER the leadership change to Rudd, and BEFORE the elections, on 4 August 2013:

        I always had a seat-of-the-pants feeling that what I saw as the ‘setting-up’ of Asher was also somehow tied in with the leadership contentions that were simmering within the government around that time, and upon the outcome of which the then Opposition hung (and perhaps did more than hang) with ‘bated breath.

        Bear in mind that Andrew Metcalfe, the then PS head of DIAC who went on extended leave just after Ombudsman Asher was forced out, has been sacked by the newly-elected Abbott government. Was/is he to be feared, were he to have remained in his former position, as a likely ‘inconvenient’ witness in any inquiry that might have been/yet be made?

        Bear in mind that it looks like Sandi Logan, with whom you were more directly related in your work setting, has been moved (promoted?) to another position outside of the immigration department by the new government.

        Bear in mind that the Heiner Affair bore upon child abuse matters, and that you were threatening in your private capacity to resurrect interest in it at a time when there was a Royal Commission pending in relation to just such matters, quite apart from the infamously historic Heiner Inquiry records destruction seeming not to have been Rudd’s finest hour in his early political career.

        Bear in mind that closely following upon the loss of his parliamentary appointment as Chair of the Senate LCAR Committee, Senator Humphries had to deal with the added distraction of a branch-stacking within his ACT constituency party structure, one that cost him endorsement for re-election to his Senate position. Senator Humphries remains, however, one of your ACT Senate representatives until the end of June 2014 (as indeed does Senator Crossin for the NT), one perhaps having a personal interest in your circumstance of having become ‘collateral damage’ in a contest not of your making. The Abbott government may not even last until the end of June 2014 if over-confidence leads it into the seeking of a double dissolution, an event that would, collaterally, see all endorsements thrown back into the melting pot.

        http://www.ambitgambit.com/2013/01/27/hey-nova-what-happened-to-your-kneebone/comment-page-1/#comment-38207

        Like

  21. paul walter September 30, 2013 at 1:26 am #

    Congrats, you guys. You appear to have moved to shore up the position of a frontline soldier, some where out there in the trenches, who is symbolic of what life is to be in the new authoritarian successor to democracy.
    La Legale, they only thing haven’t got off you is your self respect. But what else is worthy of keeping, when you are the only one in the room of capable of looking themselves in the eye, in the mirror.
    Ugly cautionary tale of the times..

    Like

    • Forrest Gumpp (@ForrestGumpp) October 1, 2013 at 7:03 am #

      paul walter,

      Your simile of a frontline soldier in the trenches calls to mind a scene from that tragi-comic musical ‘Oh what a Lovely War’. That scene was one in which a company of diggers was lounging around in a rest area behind the lines, evidently near a headquarters.

      The assembled troops were singing ‘They were only playing leapfrog’ as half a dozen British staff officers actually did some leapfrog on the grass in front of the company.

      ‘They were only playing leapfrog, when one staffofficer jumped right over another staffofficer’s back’.

      The scene in memory seems to resonate somewhat with the whole situation we see around government in relation to what is called the ‘asylum-seeker issue’. I always thought that the film scene captured the ethos of the Australian military rather well.

      Like

      • hudsongodfrey October 1, 2013 at 9:49 am #

        Oh what the heck…. youtube.com/watch?v=9Pg3rmc243g

        Like

      • paul walter October 1, 2013 at 5:37 pm #

        “” And another staff-officer jumped
        right over
        anther staff officer’s back”
        Those were the days, when the world could be so easily explained by a Trevor Howard or Lionel Jeffreys or John Mills, to untangle things so it would all make sense.

        Like

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