Tag Archives: Bill Shorten

Politicians shame children for caring about others.

17 Dec
A Children's Introduction to UN Global Goals

A Children’s Introduction to UN Global Goals

 

You may have noticed yesterday’s minor furore over primary school children sending a petition to various politicians protesting the vileness, criminality and inhumanity of off-shore detention policies.

The children didn’t use those words of course, rather they asked that politicians show concern for children in off-shore detention and resettle them. They also sent drawings expressing their distress on behalf of detained children.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten claimed that eight-year-olds should be writing to Santa not getting up petitions, and federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham expressed his wish that the teachers involved be hunted down and disciplined for aiding and abetting the children’s budding awareness of human rights. Children should not be “politicised,” it was bipartisanly agreed.

Off-shore detention policies are inescapably political: it is impossible to “politicise” what is inherently political. Shorten, Birmingham et al should be owning the shamefulness of their policies, rather than shaming children for objecting and protesting.

Of course politicians don’t want children knowing, let alone caring, about the crimes and misdemeanours they continue to commit against humanity in the interests of attaining and maintaining power. However, in my experience children are far more aware of the world than most of us give them credit for. They need tools with which to deal with the deceits and duplicities of politicians, and politicians have only themselves to blame for this parlous situation.

What is most wickedly deceptive and destructive is the conflation of concern for the welfare of others with so-called  “politicisation.” We’ve had decades of contempt for “lefty bleeding hearts.” We have now reached a stage at which anyone expressing concern over the state (and compliant media) treatment of refugees, asylum seekers, Indigenous Australians, those struggling with poverty, mental health, disability and the myriad other challenges people face in a country in which increasingly the only concerns that matter are those of the alpha white male and his consort, is immediately accused of the manufactured offence of “politicisation.” Or my particular favourite, Political Correctness Gone Mad (PCGM).

Do we really want to grow children who believe that caring about the fate of others is something to be ashamed of?

The abysmal legal and moral failure by both major parties to fulfil their responsibilities to asylum seekers and refugees under both international and domestic law is the core problem, not children or anyone else protesting this failure.

If you want your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, children you know and or teach to become aware of the human rights of others, I recommend this rather lovely book, titled 2030 Not a Fairytale. In 2015 world leaders adopted the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, setting seventeen Global Goals to be attained by 2030. These goals are simply explained to young children, and are an excellent introduction to caring about the world they’ll inherit and the people in it.

I know I’m being dangerously subversive, suggesting the politicisation of children. Shoot me.

As for whether or not the 2030 goals will be attained, and the usefulness or otherwise of world leaders at the UN setting them, that’s another story we have to tell children at another time. First, let’s brainwash them into caring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dear politicians. Parliament is not your safe space

2 Dec

peaceful_protest

 

The reaction of the political class and some journalists to the protest in parliament house on Tuesday is an example of the kind of arrogance and entitlement that has alienated many in the US from their major political parties, and voting patterns would indicate a similar disaffection is well under way here.

Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek advised citizens that if we wish to engage in the democratic process, we need to get ourselves elected. This remark seems to indicate that the democratic process belongs to politicians: citizens, once we’ve elected them, are excluded.

On reflection, this is pretty much what democracy has become in Australia. We elect a government based on many factors, among them promises made by candidates. Government then disregards the very undertakings that enabled their ascendance, and voters are thus excised from the “democratic” process. Plibersek isn’t that far off the mark. Citizens participate only insofar as we vote. After that, we do as we’re told.

Protesters are invariably described in pejorative terms, as if protest in itself is regarded as contemptible by politicians. One Nation’s Pauline Hanson, for example, claimed that she and her staff could “smell the protesters, they hadn’t even bothered to shower.” This is in keeping with the long association of legal protest with “the great unwashed.” During an Occupy Melbourne demonstration, former Human Rights Commissioner for Freedom turned Liberal politician Tim Wilson, tweeted that peaceful protesters should have the water cannons turned on them. Insults such as grubs, vermin, losers are hurled at peaceful protesters: a metaphorical association with “dirtiness” the political class assumes it is entitled to protection from.

The arrogance of the political class, their belief that they are superior to the citizens who elect them and pay their wages, nowhere reveals itself as starkly as in their attitudes to legal protest.When protest occurs in the House at Question Time they are confronted on their own turf, turf they believe to be sacred and protected from the citizens who put them there, citizens who are now irrelevant until the next election.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten claimed Tuesday’s protest was “the exact opposite of democracy.” Really? I thought protest was democracy in action, and  protest in the House of the people the fulfilment of democracy’s promise.

Journalist Malcolm Farr also stated on Twitter that if we want to speak in parliament we should get elected. Or perhaps we should all become journalists with press gallery credentials.

The “us and them” narrative has shown itself in all its ugliness, in these reactions. Perhaps parliament ought to be sacred ground, perhaps the HoR ought to be regarded with the reverence ideally due to democracy’s engine. But a House and a parliament is only as good as the people in it, and it’s been a long, long time since we’ve had good people driving our democracy train.

The only power we have, in between elections, is the power of peaceful protest. Take it right up to them. Protest in the House politicians have so thoroughly defiled.

Peaceful protest is not terrorism, nor is it the threat of terrorism, though they will attempt to frame it as such in an effort to suppress. Politicians want to be protected from the sight and sound of dissent. They want Parliament House to be their safe space. It isn’t. It belongs to everyone. This is still a democracy, Ms Plibersek, Mr Shorten. Shame on you.

No politician can occupy the moral high ground on QT protests

1 Dec

moral-high-ground

 

I have very little time and a whole lot of fury, so here goes.

Driving home from Lismore this afternoon I heard Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Leader of the Labor Party and the Opposition, deliver a lecture on how the protesters at Parliament House yesterday threatened our democracy and prevented debate by interrupting  question time for some forty minutes.

I’ve read the same drivel from Tim Watts MP, and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

To describe question time as either *democratic* or a *debate* is as fanciful as just about anything I’ve heard lately.

Politicians in the HoR were prevented from engaging in the abuse, vilification, insult, lies, duplicity, theatrics, dissemination of misinformation and the hypocrisy that constitutes question time in the Australian parliament. As far as I know, such behaviour is neither democratic nor can it be dignified with the title *debate.*

It’s more than a bit rich when politicians who are responsible for the imprisonment, suffering and deaths of refugees who legally sought sanctuary in this country, attempt to claim the high moral ground on the alleged disruption of democracy by people protesting those same politicians’ inhumanity, and callous courting of xenophobic votes.

The only people who have denigrated our federal parliament are the politicians who work in it. The only people who have denigrated our democracy are the very people to whom it is entrusted.

Both the ALP and the LNP have broken international law, domestic law, and committed and continue to commit atrocities against people who legally sought asylum in this country. They belong in The Hague, every last one of them.

Not one of them gets to lecture the citizens of this country about alleged threats to democracy caused by us protesting their perfidy.

There is no difference between the stand taken by Plibersek, Watts and Shorten, and that taken by any perpetrator who points the finger of guilt at the whistle-blower rather than him or herself. It is a more serious crime to protest in the HoR than it is to torture refugees?

And please note, *torture* is the word used by the UNHCR and Amnesty International to describe successive Australian governments’ treatment of refugees.

The situation on Manus and Nauru is acknowledged throughout the world to be intolerable. If you’ve got those crimes  against humanity on your conscience, you have no moral ground left on which to stand.

 

 

 

Not the full quid

20 Apr

 

Ceci n'est pas un chien. Image: Daniel Munoz

Ceci n’est pas un chien.
Image: Daniel Munoz

Barnaby Joyce is always saying something remarkable for its inanity, and the last couple of days he’s done nothing to cause me to reassess my low opinion of his tortuous thought processes.

I watched him on ABC News 24 as he descended into red-faced blather on the subject, yet again, of Johnny Depp’s damn dogs, free associating like a unicyclist careening around the pavement whilst juggling plates about at any moment to topple, on the dangers Depp’s canines presented to our biological security. Not that I wish to play down Depp’s arrogant offences but Barnaby in the mix can reduce almost any topic, however serious, to farce.

Barely recovered from that comedic interlude, I was almost immediately subjected to Barnaby’s strident claim that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull should be returned as PM on the grounds that he, unlike Opposition leader Bill Shorten, has made a quid in his life.

I confess myself somewhat unnerved by this narrative newly entering our politics and seeking normalisation, that the only requirement for holding high office is the demonstrated ability to make a quid, or rather, millions of them. It matters not how the quid is made, indeed the less said about that the better, it’s merely the having of the quid that counts because having lots of quids equals substance and talent sufficient to run a country.

By this measure it is only a matter of time before one of the Kardashians runs for public office.

Those of us who have not made a quid, and I use the phrase as a metonym for wealth rather than the middle-class comfort that aspires to and imitates the shenanigans of the wealthy, are in this narrative called upon to respect the rich and accept the fact of their greater wisdom because after all, nongs like us are disqualified from power having not earned it, because we haven’t got the nous to acquire the requisite quids.

This attitude has been joyfully embraced by right-wing Christian fundamentalists, who have now incorporated as evidence of God’s love and favour the possession of wealth. You have quids because god wants you to have quids and if you don’t have quids it’s because god doesn’t want you to have quids because you haven’t been sufficiently subservient to him and you haven’t done his will.

This combination of politics and religion creates a powerful discourse in which having quids is normalised as a measure of  sacred and profane achievement. Ultimately it relieves both religion and politics of the burden of giving a damn about anybody with less quids: either you haven’t earned it when you should have, or god doesn’t love you enough to let you have it so why should we?

As we approach the next federal election, assume the crash position and kiss your arse goodbye, because barring a miracle, this poisonous narrative will have found the normalisation it seeks, and the majority, who continue to show themselves as being far from the full quid, will keep the conservatives in place, normalising inequality, normalising lack of health care and education, normalising draconian police powers and further normalising the outrageous privilege of those with quids.

It is astounding how some people most disadvantaged by conservative ideology continue to support its rhetoric.

 

 

 

 

 

Behind every man…

16 Sep

 

Abbott & Credlin

 

According to Paul Sheehan, the Abbott coup wasn’t entirely about the ex-PM.  It was about his Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin.

The allegedly widely-loathed and uber-controlling Ms Credlin was rusted onto the PM, or he on her, and word is, Abbott couldn’t put his socks on without her approval. The only way to rid the party of this meddlesome female was to give her boss the flick.

Sheehan’s effort to construct this Shakespearean interpretation of events probably says a whole lot more about his attitudes to women than it does about the actual situation, however, that the PM and his CoS were a dark and destructive dyad is likely incontestable.

I must say Abbott cut a lonely figure when he said his barbed goodbyes. Where were the women in his life at his darkest hour? No flaunting of a wife and daughters clothed in white garments. And only two flags.

Enter Malcolm Turnbull, also supported by a formidable woman, wife Lucinda. At first blush, this couple couldn’t be more different from Abbott and Credlin, which is not to say that their philosophy will be anymore palatable, only that it will be more palatably presented which, if you think about it, could well be even worse for us.

Somebody better do something about LOTO Bill Shorten, and they better do it soon. He has all the conviction of a dying cod. I don’t know what’s wrong with the man, but his delivery stinks, its content is excruciating, and he has the energy levels of someone at the high-end of a depression test score. Turnbull will wipe the floor with him.

Indeed, the entire cohort of ALP MPs appeared to be in baffled retreat in Question Time yesterday, stunned by the speed of events and at finding themselves unexpectedly confronted by a government front bench revelling in its liberation from the stifling oppression of three-word slogans, and the narrow-minded narrative of goodies and baddies preached by a failed priest who never quite managed to move beyond the unctuous tones and medieval attitudes acquired in the seminary yonks ago. Shorten might well have taken this man down in the next election. But Turnbull is a whole other kettle of fish.

Bemused overseas observers claim that for Australians, changing our Prime Ministers has become a national sport. But it actually isn’t us, the people. The parties elect their leaders and the parties give them the boot. That we’ve had five PMs in as many years speaks to the inability of our major parties to conduct their affairs in a reasonable manner. The criteria they’re using to choose their leaders are well borked. Until they dig deep into their collective psyches and address what’s driving them into serial unforced errors, many of us will turn our backs and give our votes to independents and minor parties, which will result in hung parliaments and tetchy senates.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with hung parliaments and tetchy senates. They act as safeguards against increasingly fascist governments. However, revolving door leadership is draining, time-wasting and a bit pathetic, to be honest, so it would be nice if the majors took a good look at themselves and remembered their raison d’être is to serve the public, not to conduct personal feuds at our expense.

Abbott gave us all such brilliant material. I don’t know what we’ll carp about in the immediate future. Adios, Tones. Don’t let the door hit your unsaleable arse on your way out.

Leunig. The End

 

 

 

Tony Abbott: the human face of evil

1 Jul

silencing dissent

 

More than forty current and former workers at Australia’s detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island are challenging Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton to prosecute them under the new secrecy laws for speaking out over human rights abuses. 

What, exactly, is the government going to do to these forty professionals, and others who will no doubt join them? Arrest them all? Charge them?

While the very notion of threatening professional workers who speak out about human rights abuses in their workplace with prosecution is, in any western democracy, a travesty that is beyond comprehension, what’s even worse is that we are governed by individuals of such gargantuan stupidity they believe this is reasonable action to take in the first place, with an opposition that colludes, and apparently a demographic that supports this intimidatory silencing.

The government is on a hiding to nothing with these threats of prosecution. The legislation may well work as a deterrent, silencing those who might otherwise speak out, and that is likely its core purpose. However, the government now faces a direct challenge to its new laws, and the world will be watching what it does next.

No such laws have ever existed in our country before today, and I can’t think of any other comparable country in which they exist. What other liberal democratic government threatens professionals with imprisonment if they speak out about human rights abuses, including the sexual abuse of children, violence against women, and ill-treatment of people who are not criminals, not terrorists, and are in a situation of absolute helplessness and vulnerability.

They arrived seeking asylum in Australia by boat, a perfectly legal enterprise, and as we are still signatories to the Refugee Convention, though god knows why, we invited them to seek asylum here in the first place, using any means of transport they chose.

Now we have taken away the very last right they had – the right to a voice, albeit via a third-party, by threatening those third parties with prosecution if they bear witness. Yes. If you bear witness to the atrocities permitted by the Abbott government to be visited upon innocent people, you risk imprisonment. This is what we’ve come to.

This legislation has not been passed to protect Australian citizens. It has been passed to protect politicians. It will allow them to do what they like when they like to waterborne asylum seekers, without any accountability at all. This government and the opposition, who couldn’t oppose a wet lettuce, will permit all kinds of torments to be visited upon women, children and men in offshore detention, and they will prosecute and imprison anyone who reveals their secret savagery.

I’m not much given to use of the word evil. But evil has a human face and the human face of evil today is Tony Abbott. What the ALP has done is supporting this vile legislation is perhaps even more evil: they had the opportunity to resist it. Yet they did not, they endorsed it without as much as a murmur of dissent.

This is a government dedicated to secrecy, silencing, authoritarianism and the sowing of discord and disharmony, supported every step of the way by a spineless opposition. I have no idea where this will end, but every time I think it can’t get any worse, it does.

Labor is the despicable winner in the Triggs affair.

27 Feb

 

The Abbott government’s attacks on President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs, have served the ALP’s interests more than any other.

They certainly have done nothing to ease the ongoing plight of the 1,129 children successive Australian governments have kept in mandatory detention in appalling circumstances. Many of the children suffer long-term damage from the experience of being treated as criminals for no reason other than that they exist. The conditions under which the children have and continue to be incarcerated would likely make Charles Dickens flinch and look away, yet since the release of the AHRC report, nobody in the major parties has bothered so much as to mention their suffering.

Abbott’s attacks on Triggs have done nothing for the

233 assaults involving children
33 reported sexual assaults
128 incidences of self-harm
34% who require psychiatric support

documented in the recent AHRC report.

However, what the government’s latest lunacy has done is to hand the ALP on a silver platter access to a high moral ground which they do not for one moment deserve, having been as despicably callous towards asylum seekers for their own political gain as has the LNP. There is not a bee’s dick of difference between the two major parties in terms of their ill-treatment of those they consider less worthy than the rest of us, and therefore infinitely exploitable in their mutual pursuit of power.

The ALP is now bellowing self-righteously about the government’s treatment of Professor Triggs, but not, of course, about the contents of Professor Triggs’ report. About that they cannot bellow, as the report condemns equally ALP asylum seeker policies implemented under the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd incumbencies.

Labor has now referred Attoney-General George Brandis to the AFP for allegedly inducing Triggs to leave her position at the HRC for something less disturbing to him. Carefully worded denials have ensued, reminding us that language can be used for ill, and in politics, invariably will be. In case we forget what was said about the Triggs “inducement” at the estimates hearing:

 

If this disgraceful fracas surrounding Professor Triggs tells us anything, it’s that the majority of our elected members on both sides of the house care nothing for the lives and fates of asylum seekers, and logically, it is only a matter of time before they care nothing for the lives and fates of many of their own citizens. Once a government makes scapegoats of one group for political expediency,  they’ll have no qualms scapegoating any other for the same motive. Indeed, there are those who could put up a good argument that this is already the case.

We do not, in this country, have a good record for the treatment of children by authorities. The history of child abuse unfolding before us in the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse, for example, demonstrates as nothing else ever has the prevalence and consistency of the savage mistreatment of children across all demographics, from institutions that house the most underprivileged child, to institutions that house the children of the wealthiest and most influential citizens in the country. It is inevitable that our cruelty seamlessly extends itself to children of asylum seekers.

We are in dire need of politicians of calibre, who are capable of and willing to refuse the lure of political gamesmanship and instead do what they are elected to do, and represent the interests of those who gave them their trust. The ALP has no high moral ground on which to pitch its tents on the matter of the Triggs report and the ensuing unseemly brawls. Given its own foul record, the ALP has no choice but to either admit its failures and undertake reform, or make whatever miserable and poisoned political capital it can from the government’s sickening attacks on Gillian Triggs.

All in all, we are one of the most fortunate nations in the world, cast adrift in a tumultuous sea aboard a ship commanded by fools.

 

PiersonShipOfFoolsLE27x32WS

 

 

 

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