The Ministry of Degradation

23 Jan

Operation Soverereign BordersThe history of treatment of asylum seekers who arrive by boat in Australia is a grim one, and both major parties have employed increasing degradation as a means to control, punish, and “deter” those who seek refuge here.

Even if one accepts the false narrative created by both the LNP and ALP that asylum seekers are “illegals” who are committing a criminal act in arriving by boat, this does still not explain or justify their degradation. If boat arrivals have indeed committed a crime, why aren’t they dealt with by our legal system, as is every other person accused of a crime in this country?

In a recent poll, a majority of Australians apparently feel asylum seekers are not treated harshly enough. Obviously the major parties are responding to the electorate’s need for gratification and reassurance through the degradation of a group who are despised by many voters. This can be seen as a chicken and egg situation: politicians post Pauline Hanson realised the advantages of pleasing xenophobic punters, and have since been at great pains to adjust their policies accordingly.

No matter what views one holds on asylum seekers, demanding their increasing degradation is to take a dangerous trip to the dark side. Any government willing to instigate and maintain those degradations ought to give rise to alarm. Whether it’s boat arrivals or the degrading treatment of bike riders in Queensland, any government that opts for degradation as a means of control is a government that has truly lost its way.

The Ministry of Degradation, currently overseen by Degradation Minister Scott Morrison, has been in existence for over a decade, and both major parties bear responsibility for its increasingly despicable treatment of asylum seekers. Railing against this Ministry achieves nothing. Speeches about every individual’s right to human dignity have achieved nothing. Appeals to compassion have achieved nothing. Still politicians drag us ever further along the dark road of degradation as an acceptable means of protecting our society. It isn’t. It never will be.

The only possible course of action is to persist with the contestation of the Ministry’s narrative, with facts, reason and unrelenting determination. It is not acceptable for our country’s government to treat asylum seekers who arrive by boat in a degrading manner. If the government believes asylum seekers have broken our laws, the government must employ our legal system to seek redress, not impose arbitrary punishment in the form of  deliberately degrading practices.

I don’t expect my government to contribute to the destruction of the civilised society we struggle to create and maintain. I expect my government to lead and assist us in this project. We can do a whole lot better with our asylum seeker policies. But as long as we have a government committed to the degradation and destruction of others as demanded by the vengeful, we can’t flourish. Degradation can’t be contained. It contaminates everyone.

87 Responses to “The Ministry of Degradation”

  1. Robert west January 23, 2014 at 10:23 am #

    I really think you should at least acknowledge how many people the Gillard Rudd debacle drowned
    You really are a nasty person without ja true balance


    • Anonymous January 23, 2014 at 11:00 am #

      It appears the act of talking to oneself is migrating over to the written form.


      • Jennifer Wilson January 23, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

        Ha! Some would argue it was always thus!


        • samjandwich January 23, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

          Gosh, you know that didn’t even occur to me:-/


  2. hudsongodfrey January 23, 2014 at 11:53 am #

    I agree and this is another great article, much like Jonathan Green’s last week on the Drum for which I offered most of these thoughts……

    If I could add anything it would be to say that I think over the course of the past year in particular there has been a dire shift away from how do we process people fairly to the exclude asylum claims coming from anyone seeking to take unfair advantage of our humanitarianism to an extreme right approach that rejects humanitarianism altogether. This started under Labor to some lesser extent whereas the coalition being self-identified conservatives have doubled down on that mentality. It reaches a point where we’re now looking as all asylum seekers, that is to say people claiming a well-founded fear of persecution, with a view to ensuring that whatever persecution they feared to begin with is exceeded by the way we threaten to treat them.

    At some point having gone from saying we doubt the merits of some or even many asylum claims to we categorically don’t want a certain class of refugee has its appeal to certain kind of collective mentality. It is clearly responding to dog whistle politics, starting with Howard’s “We will decide who comes to this country….” begging the question as to whether an accident of birth should be the main determinant of privilege in today’s world.

    So if I were to use words like bigotry, racism or tribalism then without wishing to evoke pejoratives I’d simply urge Australians reading this to try out the Harvard IAT tests for themselves. Even the least intentionally biased among us are stuck with the genetic disposition of pattern seeking apes, but we know how to draw away from reflexive conclusions through the agency of reflective intellect.

    I think where the issue of refugees is involved we’re collectively falling for the basest of intuitions when we know, having demonstrated what our better selves are capable in the past, that we can do better. If politicians responding disproportionately to sentiment in marginal seats continue to rely upon excusing their actions according to the polls, and we continue to allow whatever dog whistling bilge they utter to set our agenda then a confirmation loop gets set up that completely inaccurately reflects the situation in response to our lowest instincts in isolation from dialog about what we wish to aspire to.

    I think there are plenty of deeply frustrated and embarrassed Australians who see this issue as our national shame, we’re out here in non-marginal seats where we’re seldom recognised as a political force for change, but we have both consciences and an interest in maintaining our humanitarian aspirations by working on solutions as Jonathan alludes to.

    We don’t have to yield to the dog whistle rhetoric of “floodgates” and “sovereignty” in dealing with how to set up a more orderly humanitarian program, but we do have to want to do the right things to overcome a ridiculous reliance on a carrot and stick approach that is all stick and no carrot.

    I’m only asking that we do our part.

    I think the best way to do our part is by settling refugees from Indonesia alongside existing programs for others from other places. Where our responsibility differs in relation to people trying to get here from Indonesia is in that they’ve tended to die at sea in larger numbers. On the basis that we could actually be capable of a genuine response to that risk rather than looking for yet another excuse to justify excluding people we’ve taken permission to discriminate against, then work quite differently towards finding solutions that mix some carrot with the unconscionable amount of stick we’ve been employing of late.

    Gillard increased our humanitarian intake by 6,000 in accord with the Houston report, which Abbott has now cut. I bemoan the fact that Gillard never used that increase to set up a well-managed resettlement program dealing with genuine refugees stuck in Indonesia, but I also frequently wonder whether Indonesia would be willing to cooperate. At least it would be fair to say that falling out with our neighbour over cooperation with a resettlement program would be preferable to clashing over pushing back boats.

    When all’s said and done the genuine refugees who have used up whatever money they fled with and have no safe option to return will still be stuck there if they aren’t driven by sheer desperation into the sea. When we finally realise that we don’t want to become the monsters a few noisy bigots would have us be then we ought to process some of those people and try to resettle as many as we can manage. It wouldn’t be all of them, and I don’t think self-selection comes into it, primarily because refugees don’t choose to be displaced, but also because the risk of boat journeys should be eliminated and along with it the political distress it still causes a few paranoid Aussies.

    It may seem disconcerting to some that the issues we find ourselves dealing with in relation to the interminable issue of asylum seekers are all to do with resolving our domestic questions as to whether paranoia and bigotry on the one hand can be overcome by the better angels of conscience and humanitarianism. It might do us all some good to walk a mile in the other guy’s shoes when it comes to putting our concerns in perspective. If not physically then I don’t think it calls for too much imagination to show a little empathy towards others. Even if it is the case that fewer applicants are genuine focusing on the plight of children caught up in these battles of political will should be a reasonably sobering thought, one I hope would not be too lightly dismissed.

    As perturbing a thought as any for some people might be the notion that we still take around 14,000 refugees from around the world yet we seem to do our damnedest to hide the fact and refuse to discuss the mix. There is clearly a conversation we could be having about the opportunity we have to address humanitarianism with a sense of positivity that is mired in political negativity. I for one don’t think a sudden breakthrough or a swing from the ridiculous back to the sublime is likely or even particularly called for, working with the reality of the situation I think we still have the capacity to make an honest case showing domestic concerns are largely exaggerated and broadly met by gradually withdrawing from the creation of an enormously expensive edifice of anti-asylum crisis management.

    So either making a case for humanitarianism is a good deal more difficult than it ought to be or innate bigotry and narrowly self-interested entitlement a lot harder to overcome. I’ve cited our humanity, conscience, empathy, restraint, cost and opportunity without appealing to rights issues that I think need to be informed by the former in my attempt to make a different case. Doing the civilized thing now is something we have to hope others want to join in.


    • Jennifer Wilson January 23, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

      Thanks for guiding me to Jonathan’s piece, HG.
      My feeling is that unless Australian governments are able to de-politicise this situation, we are doomed to spiral ever more deeply into abject disregard for those who by an accident of birth, find themselves desperate enough to attempt boat journeys that they hope will end in an offer of sanctuary from a country that advertises itself as part of the Refugee Convention.
      The dominant “narrative” has the country its ghastly grip. The question is, how to successfully challenge that narrative?
      I fear the self-interest and entitlement currently dominate, the rights issues have become wallpaper, and anyone who attempts to make another case is, as in the climate change debate, ridiculed & discredited at every opportunity.
      In such circumstances one can only persevere, chipping away, without any great expectations of immediate change.


      • hudsongodfrey January 23, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

        I tend to agree, maybe not immediate change, but if we could bring Labor and the Greens closer on these issues I think we might see incremental change at the next election. We could even see the beginnings of something before that at some point where Morrison may be seen either to have failed or overstepped the mark by enough people that he becomes a liability to Abbott.

        In the meantime I continue to offer my attempts to see whether I can distil my own thoughts and ideas with those of others into a version of something that might be reasonably useful and not so threatening to entitled Australians as is someone else’s competing version of a rights argument.

        If we make this about flesh and blood instead of left and right maybe we can chip away at the ediface of black and white positions.


        • samjandwich January 23, 2014 at 4:21 pm #

          No time to do your comments justice, but I thought I’d add that it’s more than just political – rather it’s part of the zeitgeist. Hard to put my finger on precisely why, but I really get the feeling that a critical mass of people is becoming less empathetic and more xenophobic all the time.

          To demonstrate, I thought I’d reproduce this quote yesterday from one of my alter-egos, on a Conversation piece about being drunk and punching people: I’ll agree that the concept of responsibility is a significant component here. There are all sorts of social/cultural influences exhorting people not to take responsibility for anything – perhaps because to do so is a very direct and immediate path to being marked with what are considered these days to be the worst kinds of stigmatisation: to be wrong, to have been the cause of an inconvenience to others, or to have failed. I would think that the cumulative effect of many years of applying this sort of world view would lead to a kind of learnt narcissism, whereby the concept of being at fault at all becomes completely foreign – and very threatening when you are accused of it.

          And it goes without saying that when our leaders (whose names would be superfluous to mention) indulge in this sort of behaviour then that’s a pretty clear indication that it is being both accepted and perpetuated at the same time.

          Back to Prof. Connell’s article though, it does seem to me that you can’t understand why individuals become violent and remorseless until you look into “what else is happening in their lives. Is our society giving them secure jobs? Worthwhile work to do? Models of positive relations with women? Occasions for care and creativity?” I rather suspect there are a lot of young men out there who feel very vulnerable, and who realise that the incredible opportunities currently on offer on this planet are beyond them – and so instead of confronting and making the best of their self-limited circumstances they drown their sorrow in self-delusion and denial. And alcohol of course is probably still the most effective drug we have for the temporarily relief of self-emanating misery. But that could just be my prejudice.

          Unlike the article’s concluding remark though, it seems to me that if we don’t fully understand the reasons for this violence then we do need to take fairly stringent measures to address it… and so what it’s worth I’m in favour of the Premier’s stance because, while it’s in essence a practical solution, it may also help all those disappointed prospective revellers to contemplate the possibility that they might just be part of the problem.


          • hudsongodfrey January 23, 2014 at 5:30 pm #

            By all means post a link to that article and I might try and work out whether the contexts are comparable. On the face of it they don’t seem to be. If you want to make some kind of nature versus nurture point about what kinds of behaviour are either informed out of or condoned by the zeitgeist I think you need to be quite careful. Despite some very high toned language a lot of that stuff cancels itself out when addressed in a more straightforward fashion. We still need to be able to say we tolerate differences of opinion and expressions of culture etc without blinding ourselves to the fact that we draw the line roughly speaking at reciprocity. People who are doing the wrong thing basically know it to be the case and the more voluminous and intricate the apologetics for that tend to be then the more certain we become that something is being excused in relation to the treatment of others that we can be fairly sure wouldn’t be welcomed if done to its proponents. Otherwise their justifications would be unnecessary.

            Nor I would add would we have such difficulty in taking them out of their self serving bullshit!


          • paul walter January 23, 2014 at 10:12 pm #

            That’s not a bad post, samjandwich.


          • Jennifer Wilson January 26, 2014 at 10:33 am #

            The zeitgeist – your first paragraph I completely agree with. Am still thinking hard about why a critical mass is devolving or never evolving in the first place.


        • paul walter January 23, 2014 at 4:26 pm #

          The good news here, is that Tasmanian Labor and Greens have divorced again.

          I say “good” news because we now no longer have illusions of the ALP retaining any pretence of progressivism not just on enviro, but on asylum seekers.

          Watching Labor at this time is akin to watching a loved one dying of cancer.

          As for the Tea Party Abbott government, the latest antic involving people being physically abused on naval vessels, just seems to be the exemplar of its brutalism on so many issues here and offshore.

          It’s been a depressing six months but Jennifer was right to put up this post, because the Abbott propaganda government is first and formost about conditioning the public to broken spirited apathy, so like the right in the USA.

          Having said that, I must, to be fair, acknowledge that Marilyn has followed a similar line of thinking; that the thing not be ignored, because it is very significant in a Niemoller sort of way, both for the welfare of refugees and for our own resistance.


          • hudsongodfrey January 23, 2014 at 5:50 pm #

            I don’t want to dance around that particular mulberry bush all over again. I think Labor deserve all the criticism that is coming to them, but they’re still the lesser of two evils on this. I know there are people who come screaming in off a long run up, (or is that howling at the moon in the night?), simply don’t want to hear what I have to say on this, but in purely pragmatic terms given the two party system that we have the material needs of those we could’ve helped by now are going unmet while we realign our fucking shakras in the quest for perfect ideological soundness. It just frustrates me to have to point out to adults that politicians of any stripe will move predominantly when the people make them.


            • paul walter January 23, 2014 at 10:00 pm #

              Well, of course Minister.

              You know it; I know it, we both tend (try) to be objective and the extent to which we too have succeeded in deciphering what globalising politics is about is reflected in the sad tone in our comments- what gives in the real world is an insult to a person’s intelligence and sensibilities.

              It is almost paradoxical that the ALP of this century, purged of its progressives and independent thinkers, deteriorated into neolib/neo con group think and riddled with TeaParty types, should still remain a far better alternative for most than the mad dog current government. Just coming here from the ABC, Istopped to discover that Tasmanian Labor is still trying to blame the Greens for its woes rather than face up to its flaws.

              What’s worrying concerning this now entrenched reflex , is that many Labor pollies from the factions seem now to have come to BELIEVE their own bullshit, operating as they do within a intellectual and ethical subcultural vaccuum; surely this is a TERMINAL flaw, eventually?

              I think you are right about public opinion, but with Labor at the moment you have some thing paradoxical also.

              They move any way BUT the way the People would hope for, the people they worry about are down the Big End of town- financiers and consent- manufacturers.

              Love the long run-off analogy, you reckon the activists think they are Mitch Johnson?

              And yes, this response constitutes a juxtaposition; my response to you is radically different to the one I’d take with activists..My response to them would be the same as yours to me, eg slow down and think carefully instead of just soap-boxing,

              Yet this can’t/needn’t preclude honest inquiry and conjecture as to today’s ALP and to avoid being honest about this painfult ask just hampers an already probably non-extant hope for reform of it, to get it back on track and in the real world.


              • paul walter January 23, 2014 at 10:02 pm #

                typo, last para, task, not ask.. %@$% keyboards.


              • hudsongodfrey January 23, 2014 at 10:59 pm #

                Well yes I think there are some paradoxical elements the ALP needs to reconcile Unionism with progressive politics being chief among them. I know they’re currently about as progressive as the US democrats have become, and that’s actually a problem in itself if conservatives see themselves as being almost duty bound to outflank them on the right. But they’re the only progressives capable at the moment of actually keeping the Abbott’s and Morrisons of this world out of harm’s way, and I think that has to count for something!


      • paul walter January 24, 2014 at 4:46 am #

        Goes back to hg’s comment re conservatism.. what Australians are just starting to discover is that, under the Davos conservative vision, refugees are just the first and obvious component of a reeming process that had its next stage in the Austerity of Europe and the USA, now imported and instigated through policy here.
        We are all intended for inclusion re the New Serfdom: not only are we intended as catspaws to hold down the third world, but they, to get at us, if only from the standpoint of pretext.
        In this brave new world, NO dissent is to be tolerated.
        We live in a world becoming eerily similar to that of the early seventeenth century, where people were burnt at the stake for saying the earth is round.
        This is the DeMaistre/ Abbott “vision”, no crit thinking and unquestioning obedience.


    • Marilyn January 25, 2014 at 9:01 pm #

      Our intake is a hoax, it has no legal basis in any law in the world, including this one. No other country thinks they can have a refugee intake like we think we can do and then deny refuge to the only people who have the right to ask us for it – those who are here to ask.

      How our media have distorted and warped all of this is easy to see in the OZ today with VanOnselen saying we have to suck up the crimes we commit because a majority of morons voted for it, the once good Cameron Stewart using the propaganda of “”they are Indonesian boats crewed by Indonesia’n’s as if that justifies our brutal stupidity, and the moronic Greg Sheridan having another rant about illegal immigrants.

      Then we have the morons who claim refugees aren’t real if they pay their own way and are criminals if they don’t pay fucking Qantas or P & O.


      • hudsongodfrey January 25, 2014 at 10:30 pm #

        You’ve changed your grab for a drab green but your take on these matters seems no less unmistakable.

        Australians are paranoid if the number is set at infinity and the notion of self selection invoked. There’s some validity to anyone not wanting to be played for a mug, even when their suspicions do seem ridiculous. So as I have maintained before, we need an organised resettlement program if we’re to take the first much needed steps back from the abyss.


        • Marilyn January 26, 2014 at 2:08 am #

          There is no such fucking thing as an orderly refugee program, look around the world for god’s sake and see how ridiculous you sound.


          • hudsongodfrey January 26, 2014 at 11:51 am #

            Of course there is such a thing as an orderly refugee program. We have precedent for it under Fraser. It was and would again be a resettlement program, let them be flown in or carried by P&O as you suggest, but that is the only way to skip the dangerous fishing boat versus high seas stage of the journey. This is clearly the most prudent of humanitarian options we could suggest, limited though it might be by the domestic political concerns of which we’re all very well aware even if we dislike those implications.

            Unless we recognise that the number of refugees we can convince people to democratically accept is not infinite then we’re going to be stuck as we currently are at the opposite end of the spectrum, refusing to process anyone who might even potentially come by boat and taking very few if any from Indonesia or Malaysia. Yet you effectively want to call me “ridiculous” when I try to argue in favour of changing a situation that is for all intents and purposes stuck on zero!


            • Marilyn January 26, 2014 at 2:35 pm #

              It was not orderly, it was a frigging crap shoot with very few of the millions of Vietnamese refugees ever getting here and it was not organised. You sound as scared and weenie as the politicians whining about too many people.

              Well go and tell that piece of bullshit to fucking Jordan or Lebanon, Pakistan or Iran who shoulder 95% of the world’s refugees while we still whinge about 0.0001%.


              • hudsongodfrey January 26, 2014 at 4:27 pm #

                Is it a crap shoot the accident of birth that has some people born into the failed states, war torn regions or violent societies where refugee crises happen? I think the answer is, Yes of course!

                You can’t make an ideal situation our of these kinds of problems. Were we to try then we’d be duty bound to argue why these people aren’t able to be returned to their rightful birthplaces and those people who threatened their existence required to show levels of tolerance that Australians currently appear to be deficient in.

                At least at our end of the Vietnamese and Cambodian refugee crises we tried to strike a balance that provided places for a lot of people, and did so in shorter times than are currently likely for many of the worse refugee crises today.

                I don’t really know what your proposal is, but in arguing against a position where we seem currently to be refusing to process large numbers of people it is well understood by everyone that we’re doing so with the intent of restricting an intake. That is to say we’re at the diametrical opposite of the extreme which would be pure self-selection.

                We’re literally poles apart with the majority completely opposed to a position that borders are just a fascist construct. If that’s your position then nobody is listening or will likely in our lifetimes ever be willing to listen to it.

                It isn’t as though some people might not conceive of borderless utopia as an ideal but there are real problems for the implied social contract within our democracy if the government acts in ways neither mandated nor necessarily beneficial to the voters. We’re dealing at present with extremely narrow self interest informed by paranoia around situations that always accompany migration yet have in the past never really materialised because we maintain reasonably low numbers, so we have a way for the moment to moderate those fears.

                We’re also dealing with resistance to the social impact of any kind of foreign influx that is similarly mitigated only when very low intakes are maintained.

                We may overcome the latter if open minded people outnumber bigots, but we’ll have everyone from the isolationists at the far right to unionists at the centre left of our political spectrum arrayed in opposition to us if we simply mean to proffer some utopian ideal that can’t be shown to mutually benefit most citizens.

                I’m dumbstruck by your arguments here because I most of the time overcoming hyperbolic appeals to “floodgates” mentality is as easy as dismissing them by appealing to some finite increase in the refugee intake. Yet you’re happy to wade in where angels fear to tread and totally undo any hope we might otherwise have had of persuading Australians to defend out humanitarian positions and take our fair share from Indonesia and Malaysia. Great!


                • doug quixote January 26, 2014 at 7:48 pm #

                  Hudsongodfrey is dumbstruck???

                  I’ll take your word for it.

                  You can argue with Marilyn the bigot for the next ten years if you want to, but take my word for it that there is no help in her.

                  Just tell her to fuck off, it’ll save you a lot of time effort and verbiage. 🙂


                  • hudsongodfrey January 26, 2014 at 10:44 pm #

                    It was metaphorical! 🙂


                • Marilyn January 27, 2014 at 3:25 am #

                  The only thing that has to be defended is the right of anyone in the world to arrive here and ask for protection, if they are in Indonesia or Malaysia or on the fucking moon is irrelevant anything.

                  Resettlement is a hoax, it takes people who have a home and gives them another one while denying even one home to those who arrive here.



                  • hudsongodfrey January 27, 2014 at 9:29 am #

                    See that’s where we completely disagree. I would say that the only thing that we cannot defend is the option for refugees to claim asylum in the way that they used to when there were dozens at a time coming across a single border like the Berlin Wall when there are now at least some thousands of displaced people at any one time forced to travel in search of anyone who’ll take them.

                    Your view of asylum has become something of a utopian ideal in a construct that’s never going to make sense because being a refugee comes as a result of circumstances so far from ideal to begin with that the whole notion of moral high ground becomes distorted.

                    Sadly part of the reason you won’t be able to defend that ideal is because the Australian people partly justifiably think they might be being had due to some numbers of people who don’t manage to satisfy out criteria for acceptance as refugees, and partly because the dog whistle gave them permission to feel entitled to privilege themselves to deny entry on an arbitrarily bigoted basis. But this situation has been locked in virtual stasis for the past decade now. It has in fact been a time during which things in terms of our cruelty towards asylum seekers has if anything increased to the point where we’re trying to out persecute their persecutors.

                    Anyone aware of this ought in my view to have a strong moral duty to help those who we can help. Doing things like resettlement programs chips away at the edifice of practices like refusal to process claims on their merits so that we can hopefully gradually manage to clear some of the queue that have no place to go other than to cast themselves into the sea where they’ll be lost in greater numbers while we butt heads over ideology.

                    It should be I who is asking you which part of that don’t you fucking get?

                    The right of anyone to come here and “ask” for protection was either a right or it wasn’t. It had stopped being asking and become a demand which we chose to reject. So agree though we might that our actions don’t measure up to humanitarian standards anyone would rightly aspire to, the fact is that it doesn’t matter what we signed at the UN or what you think the law says or ought to say, we stopped behaving like asylum wasn’t a question we could deny at a bigoted whim well over a decade ago. Your still yelling FUCK at people like some petulant kid who didn’t get the memo will do absolutely Jack to persuade anyone to the contrary. I just wish you and people like you would get out of the way of those of us who can see our way to finding a way to rescue some of the furniture!


  3. The Age of Blasphemy January 23, 2014 at 11:28 pm #

    Reblogged this on The Age of Blasphemy.


  4. doug quixote January 24, 2014 at 10:41 pm #

    Thank you for the article Jennifer,

    It is a matter of persistence, where the mainstream has to be educated enough to see the error of their ways. Mainstream here seems to involve a fair majority of the voting public, certainly misled and misinformed by media and politicians for far too long.


  5. helvityni January 25, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

    See Abbott in Davos and cry….for Australia. How could we have gotten it so wrong…?


    • hudsongodfrey January 25, 2014 at 6:23 pm #

      Oh I think he just followed the script didn’t he?


      • helvityni January 25, 2014 at 8:35 pm #

        Yes he did, but why did we…?


        • hudsongodfrey January 25, 2014 at 10:31 pm #

          As the tonto said to the Lone Ranger, “What do you mean we?”


          • helvityni January 25, 2014 at 10:54 pm #

            I leave it to you, Huds to untangle, just leave me out of the ‘we’…. 🙂


            • hudsongodfrey January 26, 2014 at 12:22 am #

              Leave me out of the we, or is that wee?

              and just to be completely sure….. don’t eat the yellow snow!


              • helvityni January 26, 2014 at 9:39 am #

                …tell that to Abbott in Davos…


                • hudsongodfrey January 26, 2014 at 11:27 am #

                  Too late she cried as she waved her wooden leg!


    • doug quixote January 25, 2014 at 7:13 pm #

      No! Laugh instead. The joke is on the world, and the joke is on those who voted for him. As for me –

      I told you so.



      • Marilyn January 25, 2014 at 9:01 pm #

        Who do you think you told something? WE know Abbott is below cretin level.


        • paul walter January 25, 2014 at 10:52 pm #

          He is a parody of some of the brown shirted villains you get on “Indiana Jones” movies.
          And what about Asbestos Barbie mouthing off about whistle blowers in America, much to our collective embarrasment.

          Definitely a Davros weegend.


        • helvityni January 25, 2014 at 10:56 pm #

          …he’s even below Credlin…


          • hudsongodfrey January 26, 2014 at 12:31 am #

            I get the feeling there’s nobody below Credlin.


          • paul walter January 26, 2014 at 7:25 pm #

            But that doesn’t mean Credlin is on top?


        • doug quixote January 26, 2014 at 9:19 am #

          And as for you Marilyn you useless piece of cowdung, you pathetic bigot of lost causes, fuck off and don’t bother ever replying to any of my posts ever again.

          Did I mention that I have had enough of your crap to last a lifetime? Just fuck off.


  6. paul walter January 25, 2014 at 10:53 pm #

    Ohhh tsk.. confused Davros, the Head Dalek, for the thing in Daleks there, eh?


    • helvityni January 25, 2014 at 11:00 pm #

      …not even she who has to be obeyed looked happy in Davos…


      • paul walter January 26, 2014 at 11:53 am #

        They are miserable sods by the look and much misery in the world, could be sheeted home to the one percenters.

        The ones at Davos are largely “Big” bourgeoisie; global managers and spinners, albeit elite ones on $millions a year, but the owners, are tucked out of site and attention is not drawn to them..


  7. Marilyn January 26, 2014 at 2:36 pm #

    No Doug, you need to explain first how fighting bigots like you makes me a bigot. I just loathe white supremicists.


    • paul walter January 26, 2014 at 7:18 pm #

      Marilyn, for fuck’s sake he is not a bigot or white supremacist.

      He is just cautious, like all the rest of us he sees the world in terms of a tidal wave of change, much of the sort we see discussed in this thread, still trying to work out the implications of what is going down. He’s said he doesn’t applaud what’s done to asylum seekers; he knows well enough, he is just anxious about dragged into the same position refugees are in at the moment, given the stench of fascist politics in the background.

      He might not be a hero (who is?)and he might be pragmatic about becoming grist for the mill, but let’s not gild the lilly.

      He was wrong to lose his temper with you, that last post. A bit of patience and he could have engaged in more constructive debate with you, but you make it so difficult for people you corner.


      • doug quixote January 26, 2014 at 10:32 pm #

        There is no constructive debate with a self-righteous, sanctimonious bigot like Marilyn. I’ve had more than enough of her.


        • paul walter January 26, 2014 at 11:53 pm #

          No, she’s not.

          Any more than you are a racist or bigot.

          Or, well she is at worst, but..

          Marilyn is just incredibly involved with this cause, which she sees asan issue of abslotes and principle, sometimes to the extent of losing her objectivity in dealing with people who don’t get her arguments or see the issue as she sees it, or questions the practicalities of dealing with this mess.

          She is actually good when she drops the rancour and presents an argument, rather than grousing at folk she hasn’t convinced yet, but not so good at understanding where others may come from this or trying to understand why.

          She was the only person, amongst dozens, who had the faintest idea as to what had happened to the people turned back by abbott and Morrison a fortnight ago.

          Four drowned, under a cloak of secrecy?

          I think that’s a worry.

          Remember Niemoller.


          • Marilyn January 27, 2014 at 3:26 am #

            But Paul, the only principle to be remembered here is that everyone has the right to seek asylum, that is a principle that must be upheld no matter how many morons like Doug whinge to the contrary.


            • paul walter January 27, 2014 at 4:28 am #

              Yes, an excellent normative principle.

              Back to a comment HG made earlier, when you were conducting a more substantial conversation with him:

              ” Australians are paranoid, if the number is set at infinity and the notion of self selection invoked…even when their suspicions do seem ridiculous.”

              Don’t forget that Australians, in their own canine, cunning way, do recognise the concept of sanctuary and regard Australia as theirs, since even they know the world “out there” is a hard place.

              They know that those most responsible for refugee and economic migration movements COULD do something but won’t, both in the way economics is conducted and neo colonialism, as in the mid east and if it’s ok for the 1% to do as they please, keeping the planet a Hobbesian mess “red in tooth and claw”, then they take the safety first option, because its a rigged game in the first place.

              Whether this is fair or not, it is something people with their insecurities massaged by Abbott, Bishop, Morrison, Murdoch and co, will react anxiously to.

              But since you seldom bother to read my posts, other wise we wouldn’t be still having this conversation, I will finish now.

              But I will say this, some of you activists really present the issue almost as a sort of punishment, and for the wrongs of others and this make the whole thing even more unattractive to the plebs, misinformed and stirred up as they are. We werent the ones to start the wars and ransack the poverty stricken third world and “they” have the guns.

              And before you start about it being “against the law”(enforcement?) and the pleb viewpoint being unworthy and try force a solution already used to whip up fear and hate in them on them, against their will, think of what may follow.

              Work more on consent and less on vituperation and get back to what you are good at, presenting arguments, instead of reacting abusively everytime someone doesnt quite feel comfortable with your take.


              • doug quixote January 27, 2014 at 5:58 am #

                The most curious thing is that I entirely agree with the 27 January 3.26am post.

                The right to claim asylum is a fundamental right.


                • hudsongodfrey January 27, 2014 at 11:15 am #

                  I think it gets to be a moot point when half the world refuses to be a signatory to it and even countries like Australia who adhere to the principle on paper take flagrant action to avoid doing so in reality.

                  If you look at things like Wikipedia’s page on human rights you’ll start to get the sense that a handful are fundamental and almost all of the others are inferred from those as a kind of logical extension. We could ruminate for ages over the sheer hypocrisy of how the right to freedom of religion isn’t used to infer freedom from it, to give but one most prominent example where things still manage to get into grey areas even when we’re supposed to be dealing with these most basic of precepts.

                  I see the right to claim asylum as qualified at best by the necessary practice of verifying such claims. I think it is predicated upon more basic rights to life, sustenance and freedom from persecution among others, but that these rights can be met without necessarily accepting right of passage across multiple borders or an obligation to resettle people. I think we facilitate that because it is the right thing to do rather than the only thing to do and that as such we would understand humanitarianism to obtain merit rather than being merely a reflexive default position.

                  In effect I’d probably prefer to think of humanitarianism as an ideal than a right if the former allows for merit rather than compunction to act well. I find as such that there’s less sense in which I’d be arguing to do the right thing by dictating terms with force where application thereof isn’t validated by any sense that we collectively obtain merit from things we may be doing against our will that would justify taking such drastic action. In that sense I join Marilyn in lamenting our lapsed ideals even if I think as a consequence of the need to evoke the will of the majority we’ll only be able to move forward incrementally.

                  However I do want to acknowledge that it is important to also recognise that we shouldn’t put the will of the people ahead of the basic human rights of any displaced person, refugee or not. What I think we don’t succeed in arguing in terms of what asylum represents is that it is the sole and best primary response to basic human rights in all cases under known current circumstances. In responding to it at all I think we’re always giving up hope on another set of ideals about people being able to live in peace maintain some kind of birthright in a homeland etc, and that these bigger and more pragmatically challenging ideas are being subordinated to the view that if we’re unwilling or unable to fix structural iniquities we can at least do out part to help struggling individuals.

                  Failing to get your head around that reality is I think as muddled as doing what bigots would have us do by blocking their ears to the appeals of anyone who happens to be different from them. If you open yourself up to weighing humanitarian appeals then you have to regard the whole picture not just treat the situation with magnanimous acts of random kindness.


                  • Marilyn January 27, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

                    148 nations are signatory to the convention, most uphold that convention.

                    Out of 192 registered nations I reckon that is most of the countries have ratified it.

                    You continually confuse the issue of resettlement of those who have protection of a sort in one country then apply for another country.

                    Very few nations have decided to do that because it is not a legal right nor obligation on anyone.

                    When refugees are protected, under Article 1D of the convention they are not covered anymore by the convention.

                    Why don’t you check the facts before claiming nonsense.


                    • hudsongodfrey January 27, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

                      The problem once again with that whole rigmarole is that it isn’t even close to what’s going one in the world when people simply do not operate even remotely in accordance with those provisions. You’re talking about “the facts” as if lip service is the equivalent of application in practice when we’re up to our chins in evidence to the contrary. Did you really expect us to say “don’t make waves?”

                      Under the kind of interpretation some want to make of the very provisions you’re quoting (Article 1D) people are protected from persecution in Indonesia even if none of their “rights” are properly recognised.

                      You want to make a different and perhaps even better interpretation than that, so fine, go right ahead for all the good it will do you because nobody is willing to exceed to your demands.

                      In fact what you don’t even seem to get is that people do very much see this as an issue of humanitarianism as a form of charitable magnanimity whereby we’re not really compelled to do anything but when it suits us we might out of the goodness of our hearts. They’ve been thinking that way for years so don’t even dare to dream of making demands, because as we know they respond surprisingly badly to being bullied by paper tigers.

                      These being the actual facts that you don’t want to face I’m obliged to add one final note, which is that failing resettlement we’re overlooking the issue of deaths at sea in a way that I don’t see how anyone professing to care about these people could overlook!


                    • hudsongodfrey January 27, 2014 at 4:06 pm #


                      P.S. Marilyn, Read it and weep, and I may even have to weep with you. Countries 193 (recognised by the UN), parties to the 1951 convention/1967 protocol 145/146, signatories a piddling 19. I hate to be right about something as damning as this, but 10% is less than half.


                    • doug quixote January 28, 2014 at 12:37 am #

                      See below, re “signatories”.


  8. Marilyn January 27, 2014 at 5:58 pm #

    No Hudson, that is wrong as usual. The fact is Indonesia has no refugee law, ergo no refugees are protected there. Why are you so obtuse? And 147 nations are party to the fucking convention, only a few are party to the voluntary resettlement of refugees from one state to the other.

    Don’t use frigging wikipeadia as a source, try the UNHCR. Or try DIAC instead which clearly states we are one of 147 signatory nations.

    Australia is one of 147 signatory countries to the Refugees Convention.

    The 19 refers only to fucking resettlement which is a meaningless hoax.


    • hudsongodfrey January 27, 2014 at 6:56 pm #

      I disagree completely resettlement is anything but a meaningless hoax, that’s just your characterisation that you want to make for your own petulant reasons.

      Resettlement is in fact one of the main ways that refugee crises can be resolved for individuals in the short term. If the fact that it doesn’t generally involve exceeding to demands via rights arguments means you can’t rely upon getting your way, being forced instead to rely upon the goodwill of those few signatories who comply with it, then I’m sorry you can’t get your way by blustering, but that is what I’ve been saying all along. People often need and respond best to persuasion to act more generously, there’s not a lot for many of us to like about it if the situation were otherwise.

      In fact I do my research and had checked that Wikipedia concurs with the UN websites on this, my preference being entirely informed by the fact that Wikipedia presents the information with a map and a summary explanation that are far more user friendly. And parties to the conventions are rightly bound by most of the provisions thereof, the difference in my view, and those I’m sure of many others, being that taking the extra step to entertain resettlement goes the extra yard distinguishing those nations that have the humanitarian will to extend it.

      You and I disagree. This should be now be an established as accepted fact.

      I’ve made my case for what I think is the best and most reasonable course of action, and you don’t have to like it, but if you keep going as you’ve begun then I can only see you tangling yourself up in knots trying to explain your logic. Look again at the Wikipedia map and, with the possible exception of Sri Lanka, “boat people” coming here from most other source countries are by no means making a beeline for the nearest participating nation for very good reasons. If there is no real prospect of resettlement in heading from Afghanistan to Iran or from Burma to China, then why would you?

      I find it amazing that refugees, many of them uneducated, can figure this much out and yet you don’t seem to be capable of recognising even this most basic of realities. You seem to find yourself arguing that Australians aren’t following a set of rules in a way the to many of the people we’re least likely to convince along those lines merely recommends withdrawing from the UN refugee convention. That’s very nearly what our government has already done with respect to boat arrivals. How you ever expect to persuade them to act otherwise by waving (metaphorically) a piece of paper under their noses is beyond anyone’s comprehension.


      • doug quixote January 28, 2014 at 12:45 am #

        Few countries can afford to offer resettlement to refugees. The USA, Canada, Australia and Scandinavia are the main benefactors.

        “In 2011, UNHCR submitted the files of some 92,000 refugees for consideration by resettlement countries. By nationality, the main beneficiaries of UNHCR-facilitated resettlement programmes were refugees from Myanmar (21,300), Iraq (20,000), Somalia (15,700) and Bhutan (13,000). Ten per cent of all submissions were for women and girls at risk, the highest percentage of the last six years.

        In the same year, almost 62,000 individuals departed to 22 resettlement countries with UNHCR’s assistance. The largest number of resettled refugees left from Nepal (18,150), followed by Thailand (9,570) and Malaysia (8,370). Resettlement is a life-changing experience. It is both challenging and rewarding. Refugees are often resettled to a country where the society, language and culture are completely different and new to them.”

        The provision of infrastructure and support are expensive and demanding upon the hosts.

        And yes, we in Australia deserve some kudos and thanks for so doing.


        • Marilyn January 28, 2014 at 3:47 am #

          Resettlement is not short term, it is migration disguised as protection and it has nothing to do with anything.

          Less than 1% of refugees are ever resettled and most countries don’t do it because it is expensive and a waste of resources. Do you realise we spend nearly $1 million per person over 5 years to resettle just 6,000 of the world’s 46 million displaced people and we have ZERO FUCKING OBLIGATION TO DO SO.

          We don’t deserve any kudos, our pretend scheme has resettled less refugees in 70 years than Palestinians were driven out of Palestine in 6 months and needing homes.

          Why are you so obtuse. Resettlement is a small part of the thing, the real issue is protection for all and any who arrive here.

          For god’s sake, enough already. The notion that people who have been safe in another country need help more than those who just fled a new war has always been an absurd concept but helping a tiny number of people while denying those who we are supposed to help.


          • hudsongodfrey January 28, 2014 at 12:28 pm #


            I seriously don’t know what your take on what to do with these people would be any longer. It seems to me like you want to offer protection to anyone who arrives here by boat and maybe more besides. Yet if you allow those who arrive here to stay then what is the difference between that and resettlement barring the boat journey?

            Maybe you ought to lay out your plan as to how you’d deal with the situation, after this last comment I’m as unable to find many points we coincide upon as I am to fathom what you expect us to assent to.

            If you choose to answer then be clear in your response and avoid reference to any other documents I want to hear what you think in detail rather than getting into an interminable debate as to how the UN charter ought be interpreted. Nor do I want you to focus on what we’d be obligated to do, but rather on what policy you think we should adopt.

            What would you do with boat arrivals?

            If you let them enter Australia what limits do you propose to our hospitality or would they be effectively allowed to migrate here?

            Once anyone is allowed in I think the greatest challenge for any policy maker is what to do about the principle of non-refoulement. Perhaps you’ll have some responses to that as well?


            • Marilyn January 28, 2014 at 5:36 pm #

              The difference is one is a legal obligation under our fucking law and the other is a cherry picked small group of people who benefit


              Read the facts for yourself, the humanitarian program is a voluntary scheme that has nothing to do with anything yet we try to use that as an excuse to deflect our obligations to those who are here.

              I have no problem with letting refugees who have protection in other countries come here but not at the fucking expense of those who have the only legal right to come here and to whom we have a 100% legal obligation.


              •the degree of persecution or discrimination to which the applicant is subject in their home country
              •the extent of the applicant’s connection with Australia
              •whether or not there is any suitable country available, other than Australia, that can provide for the applicant’s settlement and protection from discrimination
              •the capacity of the Australian community to provide for the permanent settlement of persons such as the applicant in Australia.
              Most humanitarian visas are granted to applicants who are outside their home country. If a person is living in their home country, it is unlikely that they will meet the criteria to be granted a refugee or humanitarian visa.

              See we take a tiny number only as a nation of last resort because it is not a fucking legal right.

              How many more ways do you have to be told the facts Hudson.


              • hudsongodfrey January 28, 2014 at 6:05 pm #

                Please answer my questions instead of trying to deflect them. I’ll repeat them to be perfectly clear.

                What would you do with boat arrivals?

                If you let them enter Australia what limits do you propose to our hospitality or would they be effectively allowed to migrate here?

                Once anyone is allowed in I think the greatest challenge for any policy maker is what to do about the principle of non-refoulement. Perhaps you’ll have some responses to that as well?

                I’m clearly as aware of the fact that we have certain obligations as I am that we’ve moved heaven and hell to avoid them, There is no point in even discussing what the rules say if we lack utterly the political will to adhere to anything even faintly resembling the spirit in which they were laid down. The very concept of obligation is made meaningless by a decade of refusal in this matter to to be bound by any!

                The next step forward isn’t to repeat yourself or express your frustration with a hearty peppering of fucks and CAPITALS, you need to figure out what you’re functionally asking Australian citizens to do, what that change would look like, how if at all it affects them, and why (the almighty persistent why to end all whys) should they decide to repent their bigotry and act like proper humanitarians?

                My view for what it is worth is that resettlement is both more palatable an has the advantage of preventing deaths at sea. Since I am quite convinced that we have to resign ourselves to the fact that we’re not meeting any obligations now, the best course of action would be to respond to the greatest humanitarian needs in the best way we’re able.

                That means negotiating policy that includes quotas that you may not like but will never be accepted without them. It means we have to assess people and deal with the problem of non-refoulement, but I hope it also means beginning the process of getting over our paranoia about people coming from the north to deal with those in Indonesia by ramping up an updated the kind of solution Fraser employed to help Indochinese refugees in the 1980’s.


                • Marilyn January 29, 2014 at 2:49 am #

                  There is no such thing as a limit and your questions are meaningless in law.

                  Everyone has the right to seek asylum here whether you fucking like that or not.

                  So called boat people are no different to any other people but we don’t torture, trade and traffic anyone else.

                  And Fraser helped bugger all of the 3 million Vietnamese, only 70,000 over 4 years.


                  • hudsongodfrey January 29, 2014 at 10:42 am #

                    I thought so. You refuse to answer just as you refuse to face the fact that your clinging reliance upon law simply isn’t getting us anywhere.

                    The Australian people have effectively said everyone has certain rights and we’re willing to allow the exercise of those rights under circumstances that are a available to nobody!

                    Rather than taking the rights away we’ve put up a dirty great obstacle course of impediments and said, “Rights? Yeah good one. Let ’em try and exercise their rights now!”

                    Even if it were still only 70,000 over four years it would be better than zero, and it wouldn’t involve what I agree are terrible methods we employ in the apparent attempt to out persecute, persecutors.

                    What we have in the meantime is a debate that is still being framed in terms of its extremes. People regard the open ended rights based approach as an appeal to make policy whereby the number of people we’d be forced to accept is infinite. Trying to explain that their hyperbolic paranoia is off one end of the scale without being willing to name a quota is about as useless as trying to get people at the opposite end of that political spectrum to accept that their ideology has failed to persuade enough of us. Neither group seems even capable of entering into meaningful discourse and yet sadly for the idealists the bigots are winning!

                    I’m not sure if the appropriate metaphor is wool as to eyes or head as to sand!


                    • Marilyn January 31, 2014 at 8:48 pm #

                      For fuck’s sake, everyone has the right seek asylum, ergo there are not fucking limits.


                    • hudsongodfrey January 31, 2014 at 9:49 pm #

                      You’ll simply never get anywhere trying to sell that to Australian voters. I think you’re pretty isolated at an extreme of the debate with those views, but its a frustrating extreme to keep hearing when you’re trying to swing some humanitarian support behind getting help for a few thousand more the trigger phrases for rejection are all to do with setting any precedent that involves open ended numbers or a situation where we’re not in control of migration. And you can call it not-migration as often as you like with as many “fucks” as you can muster but when somebody comes here from another country and stays, then the way that most people see it isn’t going to be from your perspective its going to be from theirs, and they’re not you, or me, some of them, quite a lot perhaps, are a little bit bigoted or a little bit conservative or both!


  9. doug quixote January 28, 2014 at 12:36 am #

    Both of you are misled by the term “signatories”.

    That referred to the original countries who signed up to the Treaty in 1951. Most of the countries that exist today did not exist then, except as parts of empires.


    • hudsongodfrey January 28, 2014 at 2:03 am #

      I tried for the benefit of my own interest to find out what the different terms meant, signatory, ratification and parties to treaties. It turns out to be interesting though not always informative. Some of the differences are because nations will necessarily sign off on the intent to participate before they’re able to go back and pass such legislation as their constitutions may require. Others are better able to navigate the process the other way around. It’s supposed to be multilateral but some of what I read hinted that a few nations having particular relationships with their neighbours may find themselves participating in a more limited fashion having struck a deal over an impediment the UN was willing to accommodate. But there was very little other more definite information as to who does what or whether signatory has any special meaning.

      I would have thought, as Marilyn seems to have done, that the list of nations you described as benefactors may correspond to the 19 “signatories”. The more I learned the less sure of that I became. But there are as you say some smaller number who participate in resettlement programs, and I think we’d also agree as to the generally positive nature of their humanitarian endeavour in so doing.

      As for signing in 1951 it does seem more likely the 19 were a quorm of the draftees at that stage.



      • Marilyn January 28, 2014 at 3:48 am #

        Yes and not one nation since then has withdrawn from the convention, 128 more nations have signed.


      • doug quixote January 28, 2014 at 7:49 pm #

        A Treaty is “signed”, not surprisingly, by those who are present at the time. A Treaty cannot conveniently be drawn up afresh every time a new country wants to join; thus the new joining countries “ratify” the Treaty as and how they will, and thus agree to be bound by the Treaty.

        As for them being the same thing as benefactors : the USA was not a signatory to the Treaty and has never ratified it; they have ratified the 1967 protocol only.

        Thus, by no means synonymous,


        • hudsongodfrey January 28, 2014 at 8:38 pm #

          The list I linked to pretty much shows that, not exactly as you described but close enough to be able to support the conclusions we each drew earlier.


  10. paul walter January 28, 2014 at 11:34 pm #

    Just woke up after sleeping off the hot day here in SA, experiencing something of an epiphany as to this thread.

    Despite some of the terse language and friction, I’d say my view now is that protagonists here have put their heads down and worked hard despite a little friction and that for me if no one else, there is a result; something to go home with a little more satisfied than before.

    The winkling out of the problem of terminology and how it relates to policy and more to the point, the public’s perceptions and “take” on different policy initiatives over this century is critical, thanks doug, Marilyn and hudgod for working on this.

    To me,the issue with terminology IS indeed serious, if everyone in the country has a different idea of what maybe half a dozen key words mean, depending on how youve taken the terms depending on your own upbringing and outlook; for instance, the situation could entail nothing more than offering a little sanctuary to unfortunates who’s lives are arguably ruined by the offshore policies of Western governments, OR “zip to infinity on the principle of self selection” and/or myriad other interpretations..

    The thing to me is, with this language an individual is not so much informed as invited to draw their own conclusions, which has been disastrous when the terms of reference are meddled with, emotified and the most crucial information slyly obscured (ha! thinks of Barthes) to skew a given result.

    The use ( often deliberate misuse) of terminology and misrepresentation of motives of different interested parties is classic wedge, it has made people who ought to be the best of friends suspicious of each other, crippled more practical and humane solutions, for racist jingo for political purposes and resulted in incredible loss of human life and economic wastage, simply so moron9level politicians and their allies could gain power.

    The epiphany also comes in the comprehending of the centrality and significance of an event Marilyn was deeply and personally involved in; the tentative half way housing of the Bahktiari family (Marilyn, please, if I have the spelling wrong, try to forgive me).
    The family, after public and judicial outrage at the crudity of the Howard government’s tactics employed against them for objecting to their unpleasant lot ( think also Mazar Ali and the foul detention centres), including enforced family separations, had that government defuse the situation, “human-face”, by having these people live for quite some time in Adelaide in a half way house, where Marilyn met with them, got to know them as people, heard their story and became fast friends with them.

    Here is is the thing, with the sudden and eventual deportation of this family: the family actually fitted in very well under what could have been a pilot scheme that could have been a model for dealing with refugees here.

    In short, the Bakhtiari family was removed not because they couldn’t integrate, or were dissenters, but because the experiment was SUCCESSFUL- they DID fit in and the kids did well at school, as with other kids who did well for a while here and were then removed.
    But the government didn’t want it, it didnt fit with their political aims, to be acheived through Consent Manufacture and their lazy arrogance and spite precluded them from adopting a realistic attitude and policies, anyway.

    There has been much mention of terminology and the ( often deliberate- think Murdoch) (mis)use of vague language (floating signifiers), to skew perceptions on the subject; the government back a decade, waited quite some time, till it thought it could get away with, deporting these people on the basis of the results of a protracted slagging of them through msm.
    This has become the dominant pattern ever since, spin-oriented rather than related to reality. And Labor, in taking the easy options of working within the paradigm rather than challenging it more forcefully, also dug its grave over it.

    So back to the “Resettlement” thing, whether this means asylum seeker folk here being forcibly “resettled” off shore, or people in need put to the top of the immigration queue to come here here, temporarily or permamantly.

    Two points in finishing.

    Firstly, the emotive employ of language has caused division where there could have been consensus and the issue backed off to a more proportionate place in the public’s collective mind and more managable policy wise

    Secondly, following, Marilyn’s correct contention that with the amount of money splurged on Apartheid-By-The-Sea policies derived of phobia and fantasy likely scotched a mor ehumane and above all more practical solution could have easily been implemented.

    Now, I fully expect to be shot down in flames by other poster for above, it is stream of consciousness almost and arguments like it always have unconsidered weaknesses, so feel free to blow meout of the water, because I am sick of not having an approach to this that I can live with, also.


    • hudsongodfrey January 29, 2014 at 1:16 am #

      Well I think we’d need to be able to take whatever useful stream of consciousness you have and bottle it in a way we can label for general consumption.

      If I have to explain what I meant by resettlement in less straightforward alternative language we’ll have the problem that it simple stops being relatable to people.

      I’m talking about doing roughly what Fraser did with the Indochinese. I hope by putting it in those terms to establish a precedent that we can offer to improve upon.

      I’ve also expressed it in terms of carrot and stick diplomacy that’s sorely in need of a carrot. It should I hope not be too difficult to draw people’s attention thus to the fact stopping the boats however temporarily does nothing to empty the camps in Indonesia where people will still be awaiting resolution of their claims and nor will anything have been achieved by us moving some of the bodies to PNG or Nauru. Our detour into dog whistle politics and knee jerk responses is, and has always been, in every real sense fundamentally flawed.

      Lastly I’ve tried to explain that one of the better ways to solve both the problem of genuine refugees who do meet the appropriate humanitarian criteria and the problem of dangerous boat journeys at the same time, is to take a vessel and some assessors of our own over to Indonesia and cut out the so called “people smugglers” forthwith. It seems to me that the most appropriate description of such a program would be resettlement, but for some reason with the same people, making the same journey and undergoing the same assessment this is all too difficult to accept?

      I think there’s no doubt that some might wish to criticise the fact that this proposal effectively leaves Indonesia with the non-refoulement problem. As long as they remain more principled than to do the unthinkable and repatriate people to a potentially dire fate, considering all the while that they aren’t party to the UN refugee treaties, the best we can say in defence of leaving the more difficult cases behind would be that they won’t be interminably detained in Nauru or PNG. Realistically though we’d also be able to positively resolve a good number of genuine cases where the situation otherwise was stuck on permanent hold. It would in that sense represent some significant progress.

      Another source of unease is obviously the application of quotas but the opportunity is open to at least try and set reasonably generous limits and use the opportunity to disprove the current myth that a few refugees are liable to unravel the very social fabric of our nation.

      If there is to be change then it always has to start somewhere, and in a democracy it requires the support of a willing and preferably well-led populace. After a decade or more of dog whistle bullshit and three word slogans conditions are such that some compromise may be necessary and clearly one of those will be quotas. It’ll take a dynamite sales pitch to get any movement from Abbott and Morrison but they’re by no means going to be able to hide their inadequacy for ever. When that time comes, maybe not before the next election, then I hope a humanitarian nation worn down in it’s conscience by the effort of trying to ignore our own ignominious behaviour sees some way to begin slightly to reverse the situation.

      In some ways I’m just pointing out the path of least resistance.

      Some may not like it, and they’re right to say that I make a poorer job of siding with starry eyed idealists. The right to claim asylum involves a compelling appeal to our better nature, whereas the idea that it might effectively represent the right of migration on demand takes more advantage of our hospitality than practically anyone is willing to countenance. We must whether we like it or not take care at all times to honour some form of social contract that reciprocates the favour. When it happens that not everyone about us is overflowing with the milk of human kindness then we find ourselves in a very tenuous position trying to persuade them to do anything positive at all.


      • Marilyn January 29, 2014 at 2:52 am #

        The Vietnamese only worked for one reason, they were a specific group of people from one country and a war we started.

        We now have asylum seekers from about 60 different countries so what Fraser did has no hope of being implemented.

        Thank you Paul for the Bakhtiyari story family, I will not forgive this arsehole country for taking my babies and sister away.

        And what on god’s earth are you doing whinging about fucking migration, refugees ARE NOT MIGRANTS.


        • paul walter January 29, 2014 at 6:40 am #

          Doh! No, didn’t mention migration as such, or do you mean hudsongodfrey?

          That word is a prime example of one of those “floating signifiers” from which it is difficult to derive a final meaning at the best of times ( unless the user is careful to ensure her stress of the word is understood in context) and has become virtually meaningless through over/ misuse, through the long and propaganda laden saga.

          hudsongodfrey, my take on your comments would focus on the example of the Deep South in the US, where old ideas and ways have died hard if at all, also. The contant massaging of Deep South fears and resentment by political opportunists, since their Civil War, has ingrained the fear and loathing so deeply into the culture and the people that rationality cant seem to suffice as an information and healing mechanism.


        • hudsongodfrey January 29, 2014 at 10:22 am #

          Every individual is a “specific” person and that’s how we have assess their claims. One of the problems that stretches the bounds of credulity in recent times had been Labor’s initial decision to reject all Tamils out of hand.

          Of course what was done to the Bakhtiyari family was wrong and should weigh more heavily upon our collective conscience than it seems to. Sadly that case became the political prototype of how much bastardry the gathering mob would cheer for. Unfortunately these days refugee advocates can but dream of going back to being able to argue such cases on those terms. Things have gotten far worse.

          Under the heading of other things you don’t like comes the fact that once refugees come to settle here permanently they become for all intents and purposes immigrants to this country. Not the same as other migrants in fact, but for all intents and purposes the way they’ll be assessed by the man in the street will relate to whether they make a positive contribution that honours what many regard to be somebody else’s idea of charity. Many ordinary Australians don’t take pause to walk a mile in a refugee’s shoes any more than you have given enough thought to the problem of ignorant people with shallow consciences, hard nosed bigotry and a vote.


  11. paul walter January 29, 2014 at 7:05 am #

    I wonder if folk viewed the movie “Mystery Road” on ABC on Sunday night?
    I mused later if it was basically about what can ever can be done in a captive society (the country town a microcosm of bigger things) ruled by violence and corruption.

    Would the type of violence featured at the climax be the only way to rid the world of oligarchs and how would a society without equivalents to the two top gun characters, capable of matching it with the thugs on their own terms ever maintain a sustained effort to rid themselves of their tormenters?

    I guess those here who mourn the death of Pete Seeger would suggest, “no, violence begits violence and we become the new Fascists or Stalinists”, yet we are faced with an unmistakeable sight; the sight of an increasingly robust form of authoritarianism veering to fascism, coming our way.

    Will Pete’s informed Ghandian form of resistance continue to work in the future or are all destined ultimately, for a jack boot bearing down on the back of the collective neck?

    I suppose “time keeps slipping into the future”, to quote J.Giels. Perhaps the answer partly is to stay informed, get an idea of how things work and engage with the uninformed and the naive, but looking to the future, you wonde r if the boomer and x gens are up to the job done previously by our elders and betters.

    I suppose we are back to samjandwiches comment on learned narcissism, manipulation by spin and the learnbed detestation of responsibility and participation, which is the point t which this thread really kicked off after Jennifer Wilson unpacked the terms of reference.


    • doug quixote January 30, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

      I watched it. An interesting movie and much underrated as a movie. I caution you against drawing any lessons or conclusions from it.

      Fiction always seeks simple answers to complex questions.
      In this case the hero returned to his heavy drinking, gambling, smoking wife and his wayward daughter. Do you think it will have a “happy ever after”?


  12. paul walter January 29, 2014 at 7:40 am #

    A last comment forn now. Was moved to investigate samjandwiches reference to TC..yes, found you and several others whose names are familiar.

    A good thread, but was disturbed at the venom of Haskens attack on Kim Bullwinkle, to me, some jaundice in that..


  13. paul walter February 1, 2014 at 10:41 am #

    A charming sight, watching Morrison fudge and lie to Sen Carr at the Senate Inquiry yesterday.. one supposes he will still be at church on Sunday.


  14. doug quixote February 1, 2014 at 7:11 pm #

    One for Marilyn :

    (On Operation Sovereign Borders)

    The policy is disgraceful. It is Australia’s responsibility under international law and our own Immigration Act to allow anyone who presents themselves to Australian authorities to make a claim for asylum as a refugee. The claim may not succeed, and those unlawfully present (ie without a visa) are to be taken into detention pending the outcome of their claim. That is the law.

    What Morrison has our Navy – Our Navy – doing is illegal and reprehensible.


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  16. Anonymous May 29, 2014 at 12:14 am #

    Scott Morrison is linked to a church with strong associations with hillsong and together they have been intimidating people from middle eastern countries by burning effigies and posting anti-terrorist slogans etc.


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