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How can the Pentecostal Prime Minister serve his god and his country?

3 Aug
This article was first published in Independent Australia, June 28 2019 
Prime Minister Morrison sings and claps enthusiastically at a Pentecostal mass, Horizon Church, Sydney (Screenshot via YouTube)

PRIME MINISTER Scott Morrison made two noteworthy acknowledgements of his religious faith during the recent election campaign.

The first was when he invited the media to film him and his wife at prayer in their Horizon Pentecostal Church in South Sydney.

The second was his moment of triumph on election night when he claimed his victory was a “miracle”.

SBS News

@SBSNews

Scott Morrison has said, ‘I’ve always believed in miracles’ as he led the Coalition to victory

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Morrison jubilantly testified before the assembled Liberal crowd, “I have always believed in miracles”, while his wife, Jenny, could be seen behind him affirming his sentiment.

The word “miracle” could be explained as a metaphor commonly used to describe an entirely unexpected and highly beneficial event, however, for a Pentecostal Christian, a miracle is not metaphorical but literal. Pentecostals believe God works miracles in the present. It is a tenet of the faith that God will show himself to the faithful in concrete ways, in the here and now.

The Prime Minister was undoubtedly using the term literally and in the context of his faith. His victory was framed as sacred, one that had nothing to do with a profane and profoundly dishonest campaign. Neither, in the narrative of miracles, was his win assisted by the morally corrupt tactics of Clive Palmer and the support of the racist Pauline Hanson. It was God’s miracle, bestowed upon the PM as a reward for his faith and his financial donations to his church.

The Pentecostals exhort:

“Speak your faith and start seeing miracles.”

Or as one of the founders of the Prosperity Theology favoured by Morrison’s church, Charles Fillmore, expressed it in 1936, rewriting the 23rd Psalm to better suit his purpose:

“The Lord is my banker/my credit is good.”

In a piece titled ‘Was religion a sleeper issue that contributed to a Labor Party loss, the ABC’s Religion and Ethics Report details the following data:

In three marginal Queensland seats retained by the Government – Forde, Leichhardt, and Bonner – the number of Pentecostal Christians – and remember Scott Morrison’s a Pentecostal – is between 50 and 80 per cent higher than the state average. These are not seats affected by the proposed Adani coal mine. In the bell-weather New South Wales seat of Lindsay, the number of Pentecostals is more than 50 per cent higher than the State average.

While it’s not yet feasible to suggest religion was a major player overall in the election outcome, it should certainly be acknowledged as a growing influence in our politics. Morrison’s victory will be seen by Pentecostals globally, as well as locally, as a victory for their faith and a validation of their beliefs. It’s also reasonable to assume it will encourage a membership surge in Pentecostal churches. His victory can certainly be taken as proof of his much-mocked slogan, “If you have a go, you get a go”.

One of the more alarming tenets of the Prime Minister’s faith is that God has chosen some of us to be saved, and some of us to be consigned to hell. Only the born again can aspire to salvation. You can only be “saved” by Jesus. The rewards for seeking and receiving salvation are, in Pentecostal theology, materially expressed, thus material success is a signifier of God’s favour. Those not blessed with material success are held to be responsible for their own plight. Perceived failures of the individual are held to cause poverty — and structural inequality is not considered to play any part.

Belief in the Pentecostal God leads to financial success, however, while there are many wealthy people who do not share the Pentecostal faith, their wealth will do them no good in the after-life because they lack belief. This apparent contradiction in Pentecostal theology is a mystery to this writer. How the non-believing wealthy attain their wealth remains unexplained.

None of this religiosity augurs well for poor and disadvantaged Australians, asylum seekers and refugees. When your Prime Minister believes you are disadvantaged because God has given up on you, he’s hardly likely to go out of his way to ensure you’re taken care of. Indeed, your Prime Minister needs the poor and disadvantaged as symbols of the godlessness against which he and his fellow believers may measure their success.

 

 

It makes sense to such a man to give more to the deserving rich and he will take from the undeserving poor in order to be able to do that.

As Michael West suggests:

‘The elation in the big business community over the election result comes down to the expectation that they can now more easily exert their influence over policy; keeping wages and corporate taxes lower.’

In the tortuous Pentecostal prosperity theology, God is not love, God is financial success. If you aren’t prosperous, it’s because you’ve failed to adequately affirm yourself as prosperous. “Speak it into being,” the Church exhorts — because positive affirmation is your duty, required of you by God.

The toxic masculinity of neoliberalism meets the toxic masculinity of evangelical religion. Scott Morrison is the poster boy for both. Indeed, he is a new global Messiah of prosperity theology. This dark marriage of religion and capitalism is founded on exclusivity, exceptionalism and entitlement, quite contrary, one might argue, to every exhortation expressed by Jesus in his mission to spread love and equality. It’s a marriage that holds great appeal for those among us who vote for their individual benefit while ignoring the inconvenient reality that we live in a society.

That spiritual blessings are only legitimate when materially expressed is something of an inversion of the traditional Christian message. It is, however, Scott Morrison’s message — and it’s a message that should cause us deep concern.

 

But wait, there’s more. Not only is Morrison compelled by his faith (and personal neoliberal predilection) to regard the disadvantaged as undeserving and responsible for their own misfortune, he is also obliged to believe they will be consigned to everlasting punishment for their wickedness. Everlasting punishment in this instance consists of eternal torment, in a lake that burns with fire and brimstone.

As Morrison’s Horizon Church group, Australian Christian Churches states on its website:

We believe in the everlasting punishment of the wicked (in the sense of eternal torment) who wilfully reject and despise the love of God manifested in the great sacrifice of his only Son on the cross for their salvation (Matthew 25:46; 13:49-50; Luke 12:47-48; Romans 6:23; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; Revelation 20:11-15).
We believe that the devil and his angels and whoever is not found written in the book of life shall be consigned to everlasting punishment in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death (Revelation 19:20; 20:10-15).

Such beliefs sound grotesquely fantastical and it is difficult to believe any adult of sound mind can embrace them. This leads us to the serious consideration of whether or not Morrison is capable of properly carrying out his obligations as leader of this country.

A prime minister must lead his government in a style of governance that benefits all Australians. Morrison’s core beliefs are the antithesis of liberal democracy. If you are not of Morrison’s faith, your Prime Minister believes you will endure eternal damnation in a lake of fire and brimstone. This is a literal belief — it is not a metaphor. Morrison is governing for Pentecostals. He is not and cannot govern for those who do not share his faith, and remain true to that faith.

If you look at what Morrison is required by his religion to believe it is starkly clear that he is unfit to lead this country. He is obviously prepared to compromise his religious beliefs enough to present himself as an “ordinary man” — if we assume “ordinary men” do not believe their fellow humans are condemned to an afterlife of torment in a lake of fire and brimstone. His church is willing to permit these compromises, no doubt for their perceived greater good.

Morrison is the first Pentecostal world leader, and there can be no doubt of the significance of this for the global cult. However, Morrison cannot, given the rules of his cult, serve two masters — and he has been elected to serve Australians.

 

 

The four doctors who voted against Medevac

3 Aug
This article was first published in Independent Australia on July 30 2019 
Medical professionals (from left) Dr Katie Allen, Dr Fiona Martin, Dr David Gillespie and Dr Andrew Laming all voted in favour of repealing the Medevac Bill (Images via Liberal Party and National Party websites)

When a bill to repeal the Medevac legislation passed the lower house last week, four medical professionals, who are also Coalition MPs, were among those who voted in favour of discarding the current legislation.

The current Migration Amendment (Urgent Medical Treatment) Bill 2018 (Medevac Bill), passed last year, takes decisions about the evacuation of seriously ill asylum seekers and refugees on Manus Island and Nauru out of the hands of politicians and bureaucrats. Instead, two independent medical practitioners are required to assess the need or otherwise for temporary medical evacuation to Australia for treatment.

Member for Lyne Dr David Gillespie, Member for Higgins Dr Katie Allen, Member for Bowman Dr Andrew Laming and Member for Reid Dr Fiona Martin MP voted for these medical decisions to be returned to politicians and bureaucrats, rather than remain with their own professional colleagues.

In case you missed the significance of that, four medical professionals, including a paediatrician (Allen) and a psychologist (Martin), voted to give the power to assess the medical conditions of seriously ill adults and children to non-medical professionals.

Dr Daya Sharma@DrDayaSharma

Depressing to know that a child psychologist, a paediatrician and an ophthalmologist all voted to repeal the bill – which was designed to give refugees urgent medical care. It’s shameful. https://twitter.com/racsaustralia/status/1154204664918761472 

RACS@RACSaustralia

BREAKING: The #Medevac law has been crucial for 96 refugees to be medically evacuated from offshore detention. The Medevac repeal has just passed the House & we call on all Senators to block Medevac’s repeal in Nov. #SaveMedevac https://www.sbs.com.au/news/wicked-thing-centre-alliance-mp-blasts-government-over-medevac-repeal-bid 

This is a staggering example of the power of ideology and self-interest to usurp professional ethics. In what universe, one might ponder, is it ever ethically acceptable to remove the task of assessment of seriously ill patients from medical professionals and give it to non-medical actors?

How does any doctor worth the title ever justify the abandonment of seriously ill patients – your own or anyone else’s – to decisions made by people who have absolutely no medical qualifications?

One would expect medical professionals to be outraged and highly offended by such a proposition, but no. The four doctors in the Morrison Government are voting for precisely that.

In 2006, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) adopted the World Medical Association’s Declaration of Geneva.

The AMA’s commitment to this pledge was confirmed in 2018 in this article by Dr Chris Moy, chair AMA Ethics and Medico-Legal Committee:

As examples, the WMA consistently condemns governments and others who threaten to compromise professional autonomy and clinical independence, as well as those who undermine the role of medical neutrality and fail to protect healthcare workers in areas of armed conflict.

At first blush, it appears that Drs Gillespie, Martin, Allen and Laming are members of a government that ‘threatens to compromise professional autonomy and clinical independence’, as well as a government that ‘undermines medical neutrality’.

The Morrison Government appears to compromise this independence, autonomy and medical neutrality by repealing legislation that puts the responsibility for medical decisions in the hands of medical practitioners and, instead, gives that responsibility to non-medical actors.

It is within the power of these four doctors to behave ethically towards seriously ill people in offshore detention. All four have chosen not to do this.

Not only are the four doctors members of such a government, but they are each actively voting against the ‘autonomy and clinical independence’ of medical professionals, and for the return of medical decisions about seriously ill patients and their need for evacuation, to non-medical actors.

It is difficult to imagine such a situation occurring in Australia. Imagine the outrage if a public servant or a politician had the final say on whether or not you or I were ill enough to require evacuation to another hospital where the procedure we needed to save our lives was available. However, because the people concerned attempted to come to Australia by boat to seek asylum, they are not considered by Drs Allen, Gillespie, Martin and Laming as worthy of the same treatment as any other human being.

The WMA Physician’s Pledge, supported by the AMA, states in part:

AS A MEMBER OF THE MEDICAL PROFESSION:

I SOLEMNLY PLEDGE to dedicate my life to the service of humanity;

THE HEALTH AND WELL-BEING OF MY PATIENT will be my first consideration;

I WILL RESPECT the autonomy and dignity of my patient;

I WILL MAINTAIN the utmost respect for human life;

I WILL NOT PERMIT considerations of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, social standing or any other factor to intervene between my duty and my patient;

Perhaps all four doctors, if challenged, would make the sophist argument that the asylum seekers and refugees are not their patients, therefore they have no obligation to behave ethically towards them or to ensure, when it is in their power to do so, that those patients are treated with the concern, dignity and respect they deserve as human beings.

It is within the power of these four doctors to behave ethically towards seriously ill people in offshore detention. All four have chosen not to do this. This is quite difficult to absorb. Four medical professionals in government have the power to positively affect the well being of seriously ill adults and children, and they have chosen instead to put them at further risk. They have made this choice out of self-interest and loyalty to ideology.

Medical ethics apparently mean nothing to these four doctors.

These same four doctors are part of a government that has permitted a tiny child in immigration detention in Melbourne to suffer unimaginable pain and distress, by denying her dental treatment and depriving her of the sunlight she needs. Two-year-old Tharunicaa’s mouth had been swollen from infection for months, with her new teeth emerging visibly rotten and broken. Her mother had to chew her child’s food before feeding it to her.

The family have been in detention since March last year after being seized in a dawn raid by from their Biloela home by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s Border Force paramilitary when their bridging visa allegedly expired. The child and her sister have suffered severe vitamin deficiencies since being imprisoned.

JohnPaul@jpcenzato

Dutton’s Australia: Refusing medical care to a two-year-old
A two-year-old in immigration detention has been denied hospital care as her Biloela community continues its 17-month battle to keep a beloved family from deportation. https://independentaustralia.net/life/life-display/duttons-australia-refusing-medical-care-to-a-two-year-old,12876 

Dutton’s Australia: Refusing medical care to a two-year-old

A two-year-old in immigration detention has been denied hospital care as the 17-month battle to keep her family from deportation continues.

independentaustralia.net

Dr Katie Allen, Member for Higgins, was a Doctor of Paediatrics at the Royal Children’s Hospital. She specialised as a paediatric allergist and gastroenterologist. She was a professor at Melbourne University.

Dr Fiona Martin is a child psychologist. She specialises in learning, developmental and behavioural difficulties in children.

It beggars belief that these two highly qualified doctors can vote to abandon the health of children in offshore detention to decisions made by politicians and bureaucrats.

It beggars belief that these two women can remain silent on the plight of a tiny child who has suffered so horribly as a consequence of gross neglect and severe abuse, by the Government to which they belong.

The President of the AMA is Dr Tony Bartone. It would be interesting to hear Dr Bartone’s take on the conduct of the four doctors. On the face of it, it’s tempting to conclude that not one of them should continue to be a registered practitioner.

ABC The Drum

@ABCthedrum

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What I want to say

27 Feb

I was prescient, it’s not a skill peculiar to survivors of childhood sexual abuse but it is one many of us acquire as an aid to survival.

In this instance, I said to my dear person on Monday afternoon, what’s happened with Pell? Shouldn’t we be hearing about it by now and less than twenty-four hours later, we heard that a jury had found him guilty of sexual offences against children.

Almost immediately, the parade of aggrieved, disappointed, distressed, shocked, disbelieving, sad, angry Catholics and other Pell supporters began moving like a sullen, offended beast across the media, in unedifying protest at the guilty verdict. Their contempt for the twelve women and men who arrived at this decision was palpable. Despite the complainant’s evidence and demeanour being inaccessible to the public, despite the jurors having made a decision informed by evidence denied to any other commentators, the parade of righteous outrage clearly considered itself superior in knowledge and judgement to just about anybody else.

Like many other survivors, I am used to though not at ease with the involuntary emotional, psychological and physical reactions provoked in me whenever there is public discussion of the sexual abuse of children. These reactions can vary, according to what is being discussed and how, whether I have been able to prepare myself or am taken unawares, and whether or not I’m in safe surroundings when I have to deal with their intrusion. I’m pretty good most of the time. I recognise what’s happening and can implement my self-soothing rituals until the distress eases. But today, I have been utterly, utterly undone.

It didn’t take me long to understand why today is different. It wasn’t hearing the details of Pell’s crimes, hard as they are to bear. For us survivors, these are not simply upsetting descriptions of vile acts. They are vile acts many of us have lived through, in my case, for five years. It wasn’t listening to the heart-rending statement of the living victim, and it wasn’t grief for the victim who is now dead, though the impact of both enormous sorrows had me sitting on the lid of the toilet with my head in my hands, howling.

No, what has brought me to my knees this morning is the reaction of people such as Miranda Devine, Andrew Bolt, and Father Frank Brennan who are perhaps the most prominent of those I think of as The Deniers. Both Devine and Bolt strenuously and stridently defend Pell, denying any guilt on his part and expressing their implacable disbelief of the survivor’s narrative. In their story the survivor is a liar and Pell is a noble man wrongly accused, martyr to a witch-hunt perpetrated against his church by non-believers. Their assessment appears to be based on little more than the notion that Pell is, in their terms, a good man whom they respect, and their unshakeable belief in the infallibility of their own judgement.

Brennan is more subtle, and considerably more labrythine as befits a Jesuit, however his unspoken message is equally clear: the allegations are highly improbable, the circumstances unbelievable. This Prince of the Church is the victim of a terrible zeitgeist, the survivor a liar or, sadly for all concerned, a fantasist in need of treatment.

I’ve been unable to read these commentaries without experiencing the return of what I can only describe as the soul ache of being disbelieved. This is the complete powerlessness of being disbelieved. It is the hopelessness and despair of being disbelieved. It is the realisation that nobody is going to help you, because they don’t believe you. It is the understanding that your perpetrator has won everything because they believe him, and not you. These are things you think when you are fifteen years old, and you’ve been thinking them, or variations of them, since you were ten. It gets so you hardly believe yourself. You hardly believe these things are being done to your body because everyone else says they aren’t.

If you are very lucky, and I was, somebody does eventually believe you and you are taken away and it stops. And then you spend the rest of your life, even when you’re the grandmother of babies you would die for, reminding yourself that you didn’t lie, you aren’t a liar, you told the truth and you are, remarkably, living a life.

That life, however, is never entirely free of what was done to you. You learn how to manage the psychological, emotional and physical quirks that sometimes cause you to hide in your bedroom, snarl at people who care for you, drink too much, withdraw into silence, cry, ache, shiver, and, if someone has taught you how, hold with tender love the child inside who is still fearful, uncertain, untrusting, and alone.

While I won’t ever say the disbelief is as bad as the abuse, it is, for me, second on my list of wounds I cannot heal, wounds that I live with, wounds that in the main lie dormant until something or someone picks the scabs off and they start bleeding again.

This time, Bolt, Devine and Brennan have torn the scabs off my wounds.  I know I’m not alone in this. I know there are many, many survivors right now reliving their own dark time of being disbelieved, because of what Bolt, Devine and Brennan have just done to us. I hope that everyone of us can remember that this too will pass. That while Bolt, Devine and Brennan may have caused us an anguish we do not ever deserve to feel, this is a temporary situation. We’ve got this far. They are less than nothing in the scheme of things. We have survived far worse than they can inflict on us and while their disregard and contempt for us mimics what we knew when we were young, it is only a pale, pale shadow, and we will prevail.

If you are reading this and you are suffering today, I send you love and strength and hope, from my bedroom where I’m holed up until this dark time passes.

Jennifer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Neeson, Racism, and Rape.

7 Feb

 

Liam Neeson is not an actor in whom I have the slightest interest. So spending the last couple of days discussing his actions has felt a little odd.

Out and about promoting his new film, a revenge saga, Neeson used a story from his own past as an example of the desire for revenge, and how irrational and primitive it can be.

Forty years ago, a close friend of his was raped. Neeson asked her if the perpetrator was a black man. The answer was in the affirmative. He offers no explanation as to why he asked that question.

For about a week Neeson cruised areas frequented by black men, hoping to provoke someone into a fight that would give him the opportunity to inflict serious harm. He wasn’t seeking the perpetrator. He admits that at the time he thought any “black bastard” would do.

Fortunately, he did not fully act out his revenge fantasy, realised his behaviour was irrational and dangerous, and sought help.

Confronted about the perceived racist nature of his fantasy, Neeson stated that he would have gone after any group that resembled the perpetrator: this rapist happened to be black. He expressed shame, disgust and regret for his fantasy and his acting out, however, he did not agree that either were racist.

His disclosure of this fantasy is puzzling. It isn’t hard to foresee the path down which such a confession will inevitably lead and it has, with global calls for a boycott of Neeson and his films, and quite likely the loss of future employment. Neeson has now been marked as an unrepentant racist, lacking the consciousness to recognise what he is, and what he did.

Going after a group as a surrogate for going after an individual perpetrator is a savage act, as Neeson acknowledged. It’s been pointed out that going after black men feeds into the racist belief that they are “all the same,” and had the rapist been white, Neeson wouldn’t have gone out looking for just any white man because white men are not perceived as “all the same,” at least, not by other white men.  People of other ethnicities have been known to observe the white people all look the same. However, it’s not likely that Neeson would have told himself that any “white bastard” will do: he would have needed some identifying characteristics that he didn’t feel he needed in his pursuit of black men.

In his explanation Neeson stated that he would have gone after “Scots, Irish, Lithuanians, Chinese”  implying that he didn’t care about the race of the rapist, his primary driver was revenge, and this rapist happened to be black.

It is the nature of a revenge fantasy that it be peopled by characters who most closely resemble the perpetrator. It makes no psychological and emotional sense that Neeson would construct a fantasy centred around a man who bore no resemblance at all to the description he had of the rapist. This is not to make an argument against Neeson’s alleged racism, about which I know nothing outside of this situation. It is to say there are many factors at work here, and it is wise to consider all of them, whether you believe Neeson to be a racist or not.

Post traumatic triggers and revenge fantasies.

Survivors of sexual assault, as adults or children or both, are familiar with the triggering experience that occurs involuntarily when something or someone triggers traumatic memories of the abuse. A powerful trigger is a reminder of the body of the abuser. You may remember the colour of an abuser’s skin, or hair, his breathing, the sound of his voice, his hands, his shape and size. You may encounter someone whose physical characteristics resemble those of the perpetrator, and you may find yourself immediately in a highly distressed state, a state that overwhelms you before you have consciously registered those similarities.

For example, two women told me yesterday that they had been stalked and abused by men of Asian appearance. Both women disclosed an ongoing fear of men of Asian appearance, and difficulties in managing their distress when encountering them. These women are not racists because they have these feelings. They are experiencing a “normal” post traumatic stress symptom when confronted with a trigger.

While there is obviously a world of difference between Neeson’s situation and the situation of a survivor of sexual abuse, there is one similarity. The revenge fantasy requires characters who most closely resemble a perpetrator. The trigger response requires encounters with situations and/or people who most closely resemble the perpetrator. Men of every ethnicity on earth  rape women. That is an horrific sentence to write.

Therefore, a revenge fantasy, be it created by an enraged male such as Neeson, or a raped woman, is going to feature characters who most closely resemble the perpetrators and that will be white men, black men, men of Asian appearance, men of Middle Eastern appearance, Chinese men, Mongolian men, Vietnamese men, Indian men, Sri Lankan men, need I go on?

Perhaps if the universal propensity of men to rape women is addressed, men such as Neeson will no longer be able to be racist about it.

The uses of fantasy

Next, we come to the uses of fantasy, and the frankly terrifying idea of policing the fantasies of others.

The therapeutic value of fantasy is well known. It offers a safe outlet for powerful feelings that otherwise have no expression. It relieves the suppression of feelings that can have negative physical, mental, emotional and psychological effects on an individual, and people around them. It can be immensely satisfying to fantasise misfortune and worse upon someone who has done you damage. In the ordinary course of events the fantasy runs its course and the fantasist moves on, released from crippling negative emotion. Neeson took his fantasy into the real world when he went looking for black men. It’s not unusual for people to do this, and still stop before they actually commit harm.

Neeson has copped a lot of judgmental criticism for having the fantasy he had, a fantasy deemed to be racist. His mistake was not in having the fantasy, which might well have helped to prevent him actually harming someone, but in admitting to it. Revenge fantasies are seldom pleasant. That’s their nature. The majority of us would not emerge from a scrutiny of our darker impulses particularly well, I am confident of that. Indeed, Neeson showed considerable courage, or some might say utter foolhardiness, in publicly confessing his fantasy of revenge.

I would like to raise here the horror of policing Neeson’s or anyone else’s fantasies, judging them unacceptable and condemning their creator.  I’m casting serious doubt on the mind set of people who have done and continue to do that. You disapprove of somebody’s fantasies? You think they should censor themselves in their own minds? You want to tell other people how they should fantasise and about what? You want control over another human’s fantasies? Really?

You are one scary motherfucker and I hope you never attain political office.

Fantasies are the one medium in which we can be at our very worst, without harming anyone. Writers, artists, filmmakers transpose fantasies into creative product we all consume. That last horror movie that so thrilled you?  Read Aristotle on catharsis.

Whatever Neeson’s intentions, and I have no idea what they were, they seem entirely self-destructive if the consequences are any measure, the outcome of his revelation is a global fire storm of condemnation, contempt, judgement, and nauseating self-righteousness.  Really, he should have kept his mouth shut and made a movie with the material.

We are creatures of the dark as well as the light. Neeson admitted his darkness. Sadly, the consequences of that admission will not encourage anyone else to do the same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Russian whistleblower denied asylum in Australia

21 Jan

Image result for Department of Home Affairs

 

In 2006, British contractor Nick Stride was hired to work on the refurbishment of a palace under construction for Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister, Igor Shuvalov, on his estate outside Moscow. The project included the construction of a luxurious greenhouse known as the “Wintergarden,” and the cost of the refurbishment is thought to be in excess of $140 million.

Shuvalov is widely regarded as one of the more “liberal” of President Putin’s close associates, a “counterpoint” to the hardliners dominant in the Kremlin. He is credited with strengthening business relations between the US and Russia, improving the problematic reputation of Russia’s international commerce, and is thought to enjoy a good relationship with Putin.

Using the pseudonym “Lucas,” Stride blew the whistle on Shuvalov’s complex web of financial manipulations, including dubious transactions and avoidance of customs tax on materials imported to refurbish the estate and construct the greenhouse. “Lucas” provided relevant documents to journalist and author, Michael Weiss, including copies of invoices. The labyrinthine details of Shuvalov’s financial arrangements for the refurbishment of his estate can be seen here in a marvellously complex account written by Weiss for Foreign Policy, an account for which Stride was the source.

In 2010, Nick Stride and his family were threatened with “severe consequences” should they ever attempt to leave Russia, because of his extensive knowledge of Shuvalov’s business dealings. Fearing for their lives, the family escaped Russia and fled to Britain. However, believing they were still far too vulnerable to Russian retribution, Stride brought his family to Australia, where they requested political asylum.

A Refugee Review Tribunal Assessor found the danger they feared to be real, yet despite this assessment, their plea for asylum was rejected in 2012. Successive immigration ministers have refused to intervene to prevent the family’s deportation. Stride and his children will be deported to Britain, while his wife and their mother, Ludmila Kovateva, will be sent by Immigration Minister David Coleman to Russia. Ludmila faces almost certain execution in her home country, as retaliation by Shuvalov for her husband’s exposure of his financial affairs to US media.

On Thursday 17 January, Michael Weiss posted several tweets, appealing for Australian legal assistance for the Stride family, and revealing Nick, with his permission, as his source, “Lucas.”

Also Using Twitter to bring the Stride family’s perilous situation to public global notice is financier and economist Bill Browder, perhaps best known for his successful lobbying of the US government to pass into law the Magnitsky Act, legislation that authorises the US government to sanction human rights offenders, freezing their assets and denying them entry to the country. Browder is also the author of “Red Notice,”an account of Browder’s own experience of falling foul of Putin, his deportation from Russia and his relationship with Magnitsky who was both his lawyer and his friend.

The only coverage of the Stride family’s situation by Australian media this writer has been able to find appears to be this piece  in the West Australian dated March, 2018. That isn’t to say coverage doesn’t exist and any links will be appreciated. This is a story of immense interest, given the current global political situation, and it’s inexplicable why the mainstream media aren’t all over it.

The people going into bat for the Stride family against the intransigent Australian Immigration Minister know of what they speak. Weiss is an authority on Russia, and specifically, its propaganda. Browder conducted a highly successful financial career in Russia before being deported. He has also testified to the US Senate Judiciary Committee on Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 US Presidential election.  Their concern for Nick Stride, Ludmila Kovateva and their children is palpable. And yet, the Australian Immigration Minister, undoubtedly supported by Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, continue to refuse asylum to this family.

Why is this so?

And why are the mainstream media apparently uninterested in the family’s fate?

Since this article was first published this background piece on the Stride family was run by the ABC

This article was first published at Independent Australia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Schooling Senator Hinch

19 Jan

 

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, January 17 2019, the body of 21-year-old Palestinian student Aiia Maasarwe was found next to a Bundoora shopping centre in Melbourne.

Police described her murder as “horrendous as you could get,” and refused to release further details out of respect for Ms Maasarwe, her family and friends.

Later that day, Senator Derryn Hinch posted a tweet that contained a most horrific detail, allegedly leaked to him by a “police contact.”  I will not repost his tweet.

Hinch’s tweet provoked an immediate and furious backlash on social media. He responded to this reaction by doubling down, and insisting that “the stark details were included to warn women in the area what this monster, still on the loose, is capable of.”

He followed this up with:

 To all the do-gooder tweeters attacking me for telling the gruesome truth about the Bundoora rape/murder. This brute is still out there. My tweet was for the memory of Jill Meagher and Eurydice Dixon.

Hinch’s posts are deeply unsettling from a number of angles. There is the legal question of publishing details of a crime, and how that may influence subsequent prosecution. His account is also unsubstantiated: we only know that he’s been told some details of the crime by an anonymous someone else. For reasons that are not immediately apparent to me, Hinch believes himself worthy of our trust on these matters.

 

Most important of all is what it must do to Ms Maasarwe’s family to see that the extreme harms inflicted on their beloved are the subject of a politician’s self-seeking tweet, dashed off in seconds, posted on a global social media platform only hours after her death. One moment spent imagining my own child ‘s suffering and death being co-opted in this way is entirely unbearable. The Maasarwe family, and friends, have to live this. It is monstrous to inflict further anguish on them by detailing the torment Aiia suffered in the form of a tweet. To do this under the pretence of protecting women, and further, to claim it honours the memory of two other brutally murdered women, is beyond belief.

Yet, this is what Hinch did, and he has continued to defend his indefensible actions.

There’s also the effects of his posts on his accidental readers, many of whom, like myself, simply opened our Twitter feed to be confronted by horrific descriptions that I, and many other women I’ve engaged with today, have been unable to erase from our minds.

The details of the attack on Ms Maasarwe will eventually become public, in court transcripts and media coverage. It will be my choice whether to read these or not. Senator Hinch denied women this choice by posting the information on social media and I, and many others, feel violated by his act.

Twitter is not the platform on which to reveal terrifying details police have decided to withhold. This was not an act of noble truth-telling by a courageous man whose only desire was to inform women so that we might better protect ourselves. Indeed, Hinch has demonstrated yet one more way men can provoke terror in women, by detailing the torment another man has inflicted via a platform where such information carries no trigger warning, and cannot be anticipated or avoided.

It is not Senator Hinch’s role to decide for women that we need to be confronted by gratuitous descriptions in order to grasp the danger we are in. We are far from unaware. We understand that if police describe a woman’s murder as “horrendous as you can get” they mean what they say. Many women live on a continuum of fear, from mild apprehension to full-blown terror, pretty much every day of our lives. We can decode “horrendous as you can get.” We do not require men such as Hinch to do this for us, and in so doing, erode what little control we have over how we can best manage our lives in a world where we are at constant risk. Hinch seems to be on a grandiose, messiah-like mission to force women to face the details he decides are necessary for us to know.

In itself, this attitude absolutely violates our right to decide what we can and cannot admit into our lives. It is a dreadful thing to do to women who have already survived male violation, and denial of our autonomy.

What Hinch actually succeeded in doing was to make himself the centre of the story, not the women who were murdered, not their families and not their friends. We have become somewhat inured to politicians’ despicable behaviours over the last years. We don’t expect much decency. However, this action taken by Senator Hinch is up there with some of the worst political behaviours on record.

Women who survive sexual assault as adults, and/or children, and the terrifying powerlessness of being overwhelmed by male violence, are, at the very least, entitled to decide how much we can afford to know about the suffering inflicted on other victims. This is the reason for trigger warnings: to give us the opportunity to decide if we want to take the risk of having our own trauma reignited by the details of the violence wrought on another. We can say no to such information. We are not obliged to absorb the details of horror. We’ve lived horror, and we’ve earned the right to choose not to allow details such as those published by Hinch into our lives. We well know what some men are capable of. We do not forget. We certainly do not need another man to forcibly remind us.

Hinch has been reported to Twitter by numerous tweeps. Many of us have asked him to delete his post. He has steadfastly refused to do this.

It would be appropriate for his political colleagues to school Hinch on his despicable behaviour. However, I doubt any of them will bother. Yet again, it is up to us to express our disgust and contempt for the hideous actions of an elected representative.

Vale, Aiia Maasarwe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Turnbull & Shorten: Don’t wear the White Ribbon next time around.

3 Jul

In December 2017, following sexual harassment scandals in Hollywood and Westminster, a report into the sexual harassment complaints process in the Australian Federal Parliament concluded that procedures for staffers in this workplace are “incomprehensibly and woefully inadequate.”

The parliamentary policy, controlled by the Department of Finance…does not specifically address sexual harassment as defined by the Sex Discrimination Act (which clearly defines sexual harassment as unwelcome contact of a sexual nature), give examples of behaviour that would constitute unlawful sexual harassment, and, perhaps most egregiously, it does not clearly spell out an employee’s options for pursuing a sexual harassment claim and relevant time limits. The appropriate legal avenue is to make an individual complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission, but a six-month time limit applies….

Furthermore:

“Where a complaint is substantiated, Finance has no capacity to take disciplinary action against either a Senator or Member or a MOP (S) Act employee.”

At the time of writing, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten have remained woefully and incomprehensibly silent about the sexual slurs against Senator Sarah Hanson-Young made by Senator David Leyonhjelm, both in the Senate and later on the Sky News program Outsiders, a whine-fest of woeful and incomprehensible proportions with entirely comprehensible audience numbers of a mere few thousand, hosted by two of the most sadly inadequate men in media, Rowan Dean and Ross Cameron. Cameron is also a former Liberal politician, given shelter by the Sky News network retirement home for failed conservatives.

Sky News, Dean and Cameron have since apologised to Hanson-Young who has instigated legal action. Leyonhjelm,  libertarian and defender of free speech but only when it suits him, has not.

Turnbull and Shorten are the leaders of the parliamentary workplace. Leyonhjelm’s verbal sexual abuse of Hanson-Young occurred in that workplace, as well as later in the media. The Senator attempted to use Hanson-Young’s assumed sexual life as a weapon against her. In other words he slut-shamed her, in the Senate and later the media, in the time-honoured manner of misogynistic old men who have never resolved their desire for women with their simultaneous hatred of us.

It was one of the more sickening episodes to come out of a parliament that daily emits a multitude of sickening events.

The silence from Turnbull and Shorten is deafening. Indeed, it is a betrayal of every woman in that workplace, as well as those of us outside of it. No woman is required to suffer sexual slurs when she goes to her job.

Sexual slurs are at the beginning of a continuum that ends with our rape and our murder. There is no workplace occasion, absolutely none, in which it is acceptable to comment on a woman’s sexual life and choices.

Turnbull and Shorten, quick to don the White Ribbon, quick to avail themselves of the photo opportunity and publicity surrounding the ghastly murder of Melbourne comedian Eurydice Dixon, are complicity silent when a female senator’s sexual life is used in the Senate as a weapon.

Lack of respect, Turnbull famously trumpeted, is where violence against women begins. If you respect women, he claims, you will not harass and abuse us. Lack of respect is the beginning of all violence against us, according to the Prime Minister who said on September 25, 2015:

Let me say this to you: disrespecting women does not always result in violence against women. But all violence against women begins with disrespecting women,” 

Turnbull’s silence on the sexual harassment of Hanson Young in the Senate indicates utter lack of respect for women, if not contempt. Shorten’s silence indicates the same. The silence of both leaders goes a long way to explaining why the Australian Parliament has some of the most inadequate workplace sexual harassment policies in the western world. Because they don’t give a damn about women. They don’t give a damn.

 

 

 

 

 

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