Tag Archives: Chris Bowen

Why I can’t write anything today

26 Oct

Bellagio Hotel and fountains

I knew I was heading for trouble when yesterday I said goodnight to my iPhone. I’m only mentioning this because my entire household threatened to leave comments on Sheep about it and I want to get in first.

Then at midnight, there were really scary thunderstorms. The whole house lit up with forked lightning and big noise. The Dog is terrified of thunderstorms and has to be talked through these events. For some reason it’s always me who ends up talking him through it, while everybody else cowers under their doonas.

But last night Mrs Chook appeared, all wrapped up in the luxurious white cotton robe she bought at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas a few years ago. She manifested in the doorway, momentarily illuminated by nature’s theatrics. I glimpsed her for one terrifying instant and then there was the thunder and then there was the darkness. I screamed and leapt out of bed, treading on the Dog who was cowering beside it. The dog howled and tried to get up, with his bad back leg hampering his progress. I fell and hit my head hard on the corner of the wardrobe. Then I cried. It was shambolic. I’m exhausted. I’ve had no sleep. There’s a big egg on my forehead. I’m sick of everybody and I need to find some new friends.

Re the cotton robe: these are supplied in the rooms at this hedonistic hotel. Some people wear them down to the pool. Mrs Chook fell in love with hers and expressed an intention to nick it. I yelled about that, seeing as it was my credit card being used to pay the bill, and she was shamed into going down to the lobby shop and buying her own.

Mrs Chook also insisted on wearing hers down to the pool, so I insisted on taking a later elevator so I wouldn’t be seen with her.

It’s my intention to write something serious later in the day, but first I have to go to my aerobics class, have coffee with a few people, and get iOS 5 on the iPhone so I can get into the iCloud, which is where I really want to be today.

In the meantime, New Matilda has this on how Chris Bowen lied about Malaysia.

And there’s always something interesting over at the Watermelon Blog, where David Horton gives an account of his latest contest with seabirds on Twitter.

And you have to read this in Slate about how Occupy Wall St is framed as an anti semitic movement.

See you later.

PS I just realised this is a post about nothing and I subconsciously stole that idea from Jerry Seinfeld. I hope this acknowledgment will forestall any litigation.

Abbott determines government’s asylum seeker policy and Cabinet’s in a leaky boat.

16 Oct

Is this the face of the next Prime Minister?

Somewhere in the never-ending and increasingly despicable contest between the government and the opposition over asylum seekers and on-shore processing, the human beings around whom this furore rages ceased to matter altogether.

If you doubt that statement have a look at this article by Peter Hartcher in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald. Hartcher unpacks the politics that led to the Gillard government withdrawing its proposed Migration Act amendments last week and defaulting to on-shore processing, at least for the forseeable future.

Every aspect under discussion in Cabinet revolves around what Abbott might or might not do in reaction. And who’s the plank that said Bob Brown’s the real PM?

It’s patently clear that Tony Abbott is running this part of the show. The government reveals itself to be incapable of making any decision at all about boat arrivals without first considering what Abbott might do in response. There’s no mention of how best to design a policy that will prevent asylum seekers drowning, an endlessly cited core concern that actually looks as if it’s just trotted out for the media by both parties with the intention of applying a veneer of humanitarian concern to their self-interest.

That fake concern also has the added benefit of supplying ammunition for both sides to sneer at their opposition: “Don’t you care about what happened at Christmas Island,” followed by “Wanna see that happen again do ya, what are ya then?”

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen came up with the option of extending the Malaysian “solution” to include PNG and Nauru. This would give Abbott what he wants and cut his arguments off at the knees, Bowen claimed. If Abbott continues to protest, Bowen argues, he’ll be shown up for the malicious nay saying blood-oathing troll that he is.

Plus, argued Bowen,  if an extended Malaysia “solution” acted as a deterrent to boat arrivals we could up our humanitarian intake, thus making application through the proper channels more appealing to asylum seekers than getting on a leaky boat. Bowen seems to think that would work, without going into details about where our increased humanitarian intake is to be sourced. It could well pass boat arrivals right by, and there’d still be people taking dangerous journeys because they still can’t apply for a life here any other way.

But, but, Greg Combet spluttered, not Nauru! There’s some 10 years of TV footage of Julia Gillard bagging Nauru! Imagine what would happen if Abbott decided to trot a few years worth of that out, especially considering what Abbott’s done with footage of Gillard declaring there’ll be no carbon tax on her watch!  Ooooh Aaaah! It doesn’t bear imagining!

At the end of the day Gillard herself decided Nauru was off the table, presumably not wanting to look as if she doesn’t know what she’s doing on this issue yet another time because Abbott will slaughter her with it yet another time.

See? I told you. All about Abbott. Human beings? What are they and why are they relevant? Please stay on topic, we’ve got a lot to get through before Abbott starts up again.

Because of this politicking we may end up with decent on-shore processing options that are some way to the left of the options the Gillard government has been so rabidly pursuing, so for this Tony Abbott, much thanks. However, if Abbott wins the next election of course he will do a great big dismantling of everything, and having crawled laboriously up the ladder to comparative decency we’ll again be thrust back down amongst the venomous snakes of fear, self-interest, and xenophobia.

Now I ask you Mr Abbott, catholic ex-seminarian, what would Jesus do about asylum seekers? Turn back the boats? Indefinitely imprison them and their children?

At least Julia Gillard doesn’t pretend to have Christian values, well, mostly she doesn’t, only when the Australian Christian Lobby makes her.

Then there’s the curious question of who in Cabinet is leaking like an Indonesian fishing boat and why?

For another good read on the current parlous state of our political affairs as constructed by the media have a look at this piece  over at the Watermelon Blog:  Time to start again, and the whole cycle is repeated with new leader, the political party discovering, belatedly, that changing leader doesn’t stop instability (a media creation in fact), the instability having nothing to do with who the actual leader is, but merely being the signal for the media to begin a new round of destabilisation, writes David Horton.

Note to Julia: don’t go to the mattresses

2 Sep

While we’ll probably never know just what the legal advice to the Gillard government on the Malaysian solution was, it’s apparent from the Prime Minister’s shock and displeasure that some of it at least was based on the presumption that Chief Justice Robert French would maintain consistency with judgements he handed down when a judge in the Federal Court, and find in favour of Immigration Minister Chris Bowen’s declaration of Malaysia as a suitable country to which we could safely expel asylum seekers who arrive here by boat.

This advice apparently didn’t take into account the fact that there are seven judges sitting in the High Court, not just French. The result was 6-1, an overwhelming majority, and even if French had remained consistent and predictable, he would still have been outnumbered.

Julia Gillard also asserted that the High Court decision has now turned migration law on its head by virtually rewriting it. In reality, the decision has done nothing more than give substance to the protection requirement that already exists in the Migration Act, by concluding that Bowen’s declaration did not fulfil those requirements.

The legislation in question, Section 198A of the Migration Act, was written and passed during the Coalition government’s incumbency. The Court’s decision is nothing more or less than an interpretation of the language used by the Howard government. It is the task of the High Court to interpret legislation written by Parliament. It’s the job of politicians to see to it that the legislation they’re introducing is written appropriately in the first place. The High Court used Parliament’s own language. It did not write any new language. It did not rewrite the Migration Act.

Gillard’s attack on the High Court, and Chief Justice French in particular, does her no favours. Her claim that the High Court missed a golden opportunity to end “the people smuggling evil” is fanciful. It is yet another example of the weasel language used by government and opposition to wrongfully criminalize everyone involved in boat arrivals.

For example. A case is currently underway in Victoria that challenges the definition of “people smuggler” currently used by the Gillard government and the Abbott opposition. Lawyers defending an Indonesian man charged with aggravated people smuggling (a new criminal offense created last year) will argue that in order for their client to be found guilty of this offense, prosecutors must prove that there were five or more people on board his vessel who were not seeking asylum in Australia. As well, prosecutors must prove that asylum seekers brought here by boat have no lawful right to come to Australia.

Under domestic and international law, those fleeing persecution and danger have every right to come to Australia by boat without papers, and request asylum. Therefore, the argument goes, there is no “smuggling” of such people, and the boat crew cannot be charged with people smuggling. They are legitimately transporting legitimate asylum seekers.

Gillard has only herself and her advisors to blame for the situation in which she now finds herself. Casting about for scapegoats isn’t going to help.

It’s not unusual for anyone to lash out when they’re displeased and cornered. But this is the last thing Gillard can afford to do. She’s got a fight with News Limited on her mind, and has already incurred allegations of being thin-skinned in her reaction to stories they’ve published about her. She’s complained about the anti carbon tax demonstrators and their offensive placards describing her as a witch and a bitch. Anthony Albanese didn’t help by describing some of the electorate as of “no consequence” because they don’t agree with him. And now Gillard’s attacking the High Court and the Chief Justice in particular for thwarting her Malaysian solution, a solution she really ought to be grateful somebody prevented her implementing, given its immoral nature. Yes, we do need regional processing of asylum seeker claims. No, we don’t need to introduce that by trafficking in human misery.

This is not the time for the PM to go to the mattresses. There’s not one battle here she can win, or even fight with dignity. She’s coming from a position of extreme political weakness with very little public support, never a good place from which to take on institutions such as the media and the legal system. The PM is bleeding out, and she needs to staunch her wounds before willfully incurring any more.

Julia Gillard takes great pride in her tenacity and determination. I recall her mother telling the media in the early days of her daughter’s new job, that never backing down is one of her characteristics. Strength of will and steadfastness are admirable and necessary traits for someone who aspires to high political office. However, it’s equally necessary to know when to yield to circumstances with dignity and grace. Flogging dead horses because you don’t back down never did anyone any good.

Gillard could take this opportunity to accept the High Court’s decision without further castigation and accusation, and get on with organizing on-shore processing of asylum seeker claims. She could get on with the job of establishing a regional processing centre. She could choose to ignore News Limited’s sorry little campaign against her. After all we can see it for what it is, and News Limited have even less credibility with the public than the Labor government. She could choose to ignore the rude signage and crude insults aimed at her by Allan Jones and his band of ageing climate change deniers. She could, in other words, rise above the slings and arrows and be a real Prime Minister. This could be her moment. It may not save her and it may not save the government, but it would certainly go some way towards salvaging a little bit of personal dignity, and in so doing, set an example for the rest of the party.

We live in a democracy. High court judges can change their minds. People can take to the streets with placards. Newspapers can write inaccurate stories about politicians and be required to remove them. Tony Abbott says you don’t ask permission, you just say you’re sorry later. Julia Gillard herself plays fast and loose with the truth when she feels like it. What the High Court did yesterday was to enact democracy, and the Prime Minister of this country is the very last person who should be complaining about that.

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

8 Aug

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

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

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

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

Why the Malaysia Solution could be a lose lose for Gillard

25 Jul

For a government phobic about “queue jumpers”, and a Prime Minister who said only a few weeks ago that the Malaysian solution would send boat arrivals to the “back of the queue,” they’ve certainly done a serious back flip today.

The 800 asylum seekers Australia is sending to Malaysia will be entitled to work, to health care and to education. None of these benefits are available to the almost 100,000 refugees already in that country, many of whom have been there for years.

Far from being sent to the back of a mythical queue, the 800 will be in a highly privileged position in the Malaysian system. Indeed, in theory they will be better off than the refugees held in indefinite mandatory detention in Australia as they will be allowed to live and work in the community while awaiting re-settlement.

There is of course no way of guaranteeing that the 800 will receive the preferential treatment both governments assure us will be afforded them. Once they are in the community they are at the mercy of a vigilante system that has demonstrated its hostility and aggression towards even those who carry the UNHCR cards that identify them as refugees. The 800 will be taking their chances on the streets, just like the other refugees. Singled out for preferential treatment, they may be even more vulnerable, and neither government has yet come up with a concrete plan to protect them.

Desperate people might well consider it’s worth the risk and get on boats anyway, especially if they believe they will be eligible for benefits like work, health care and education in Malaysia.

Even knowing that mandatory detention awaited them has not deterred asylum seekers from making the dangerous voyage to Australia: why then should they be deterred from persisting in their efforts to find a new life by the comparatively benign prospect of spending a few years in Malaysia, where they believe they’ll live a relatively normal existence while awaiting re-settlement?

The government’s efforts to “stop the boats” have today become farcical. Not that we needed one, but here’s another reason to mistrust the Gillard government’s judgement and integrity. If the 800 asylum seekers are treated badly in Malaysia, the deal will be like an albatross around the government’s neck, and place the opposition on fairly unassailable high moral ground. The “at least we know they wouldn’t be caned in Nauru,” sort of moral ground.

And if things go well for the 800 asylum seekers transported to Malaysia, there’s every reason to expect the boats will continue to arrive. After all, living in the community in Malaysia with health care, education and work sounds a whole lot better than war, terror, and persecution, or indefinite detention in an Australian hell hole far away from anywhere. Then the opposition will occupy the political high ground because “she hasn’t stopped the boats, has she and look how much it’s costing the taxpayer.”

Whichever way you look at it, there’s a strong possibility it’s going to be a lose lose situation for the Gillard government.






The political climate that nurtures extremism: be careful what you sow

25 Jul

Today the Minister for Immigration, Chris Bowen will sign the deal with Malaysia that will see 800 boat arrivals exchanged for Australia’s re-settlement of 4000 refugees currently held in that country. As the government has already undertaken not to expel those who’ve arrived by boat prior to today’s deal, they will be no doubt hoping the threat in itself will be enough to “stop the boats.” If this is the case it will allow the government to avoid what will inevitably be the morally messy business of actually carrying out this proposed exchange of human lives, one lot to a very precarious future in a non-signatory country, the other lot to a safe future in Australia.

The fact that we can send 800 boat people to Malaysia immediately signals that we don’t consider them as human as either ourselves, or the 4000 we are re-settling in exchange. You do not send innocent people to extremely dubious futures if you acknowledge them as human beings. The only way to send 800 people to the conditions they will have to face in Malaysia is to first deny their humanity. It is first to deny their worthiness – they are not as worthy as either ourselves, or the refugees we are accepting in their place. We do not have to be as caring about their well being as we do about our own, or the well being of the “worthy” refugees we are re-settling. Why? Because they arrived by boat? Because of where they were born? Both?

These 800 people are not criminals. Our domestic laws allow asylum seekers to arrive here in any manner at all, without papers, and to request refugee status once they get here. The Gillard government could rescind this law. That would  make boat arrivals law breakers. That would stop the boats. Permanently. The Malaysian solution is a one-off. After we reach our quota of 800 the deal is finished.

The Gillard government chooses to maintain the law that allows anyone to seek asylum and permits any manner of arrival. In a Kafakesque manipulation, the Gillard government criminalizes innocent people who are only doing what they are legally entitled to do, instead of changing the law. This is a very slippery slope, and one that should deeply concern all of us: today asylum seekers, tomorrow??

Australia was initially led down this very messy moral path by the Howard government’s racist response to asylum seekers who arrived by boat, exemplified in the events of the Tampa.  With total disregard for our domestic law, and the Covenant we signed with the UN, Howard began a slanderous campaign against boat arrivals that reached its climax in the Children Overboard affair. We don’t want people who abuse their children in this country, he declared, conveniently overlooking the fact that we already have tens of thousands of people in Australia who really are abusing children, their own and others. Australians don’t abuse their children, was the racist message based on a lie. Muslim asylum seekers coming in boats do, and we decent Australians don’t want them. Racism. Pure and simple. Replace Muslim with Jew and see where that eventually takes us.

Shaken by the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, Howard then followed George Bush into the invasion of Iraq, based on the folded lie that those responsible for the attacks had something to do with Iraq, and besides, Iraq was hoarding weapons of mass destruction.

In reality, the extremists who struck at the heart of America were from Saudi Arabia and there were no WMDs, but the Coalition of the Willing were not about to let the truth stand in the way of a good opportunity to wage war. Bush had scores to settle on behalf of his father and the first Gulf War. And then there’s the oil. Impossible as well to go after Saudi Arabia as breeders of terrorists. The Saudi princes dine at the White House and invest in News Limited. Think Fox News, and Murdoch’s support for the Iraq invasion.

Regardless of these considertions, a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment focused on Iraq swept across the US and its allies, including Australia. You’re either with us or against us on terrorism, Bush declared, and we say who the terrorists are and where they came from. In a brilliantly executed piece of propaganda, Howard conflated boat arrivals and Muslims with terrorism, struck xenophobic fear into the hearts of many Australians, and won an election that had a mere few months earlier seemed un-winnable by promising to protect us.

However Howard, like those who’ve followed him, did not move to change the law that permits asylum seekers entry. One has to wonder why. If anything would “protect” us immediately and permanently, it would be the rescinding of that law.

The Australian public’s fear and hatred of boat arrivals has not subsided. Politicians have not ceased to exploit this fear for their own gain. We are as deeply racist in this country as we have ever been. The Malaysian solution is racist to its core.

And so to Norway. The right-wing Christian fundamentalist terrorist who allegedly carried out the massacre of over 90 Norwegians on Sunday hated immigrants. He expressed rabid anti Muslim sentiments. He thought his government wasn’t doing enough to keep Norway for the Norwegians. He has expressed hope that his actions will bring about a change in Norway. His slaughter of the innocents was, he claims, gruesome but necessary.

The Norwegian slaughter represents the extreme end of a continuum. Somewhere along that continuum is the Malaysian Solution. Somewhere along it are the folded lies about WMDs and alleged Iraqi responsibility for September 11. Somewhere along the continuum is the virulent right-wing xenophobia expressed by Howard, and upheld by the policies of the Gillard Labor government. Somewhere along it are Alan Jones, Chris Smith, Andrew Bolt, and the rest of the shock jocks who conspire to agitate a fear and hatred of Muslims, and boat arrivals in Australian hearts. The extreme outcome of their racist right-wing anti-Muslim anti asylum seeker rhetoric is the slaughter in Norway.

In Australia, the unthinkable has become normalized in the Malaysian solution. The Gillard government has singled out two groups of human beings, one it considers worthy of saving, and one it considers unworthy. There is nothing we can do to ensure the safety and well-being of this latter group. We know the conditions they will encounter. We will expel these people because they accepted an invitation we continue to unconditionally extend.

You can only take such action against people you consider less than human.

Normalizing official selection practices for human survival and well being is the slipperiest slope of all. Once it becomes acceptable to decide that one group is more worthy of survival than another, once that becomes government policy and is then executed by the expulsion of the “undesirable” group, a country is deeply morally fouled.

If there is any doubt about the racist core of the Malaysian solution, ask why asylum seekers arriving by plane are not transported to Malaysia?  They are permitted to stay in this country while their claims are assessed. Generally they are not held in indefinite mandatory detention. The fact that they have papers is irrelevant to the law, which doesn’t require asylum seekers to have papers.

There is the law. And then there is government policy. In a healthy democracy there should not be discrepancy between the two. In a morally fouled country, there is increasing discrepancy between the two, and citizens should take alarmed note of such discrepancies.

The Malaysian solution is a marker of how far down the slippery slope we have already  travelled. It is the most immoral action this country has taken thus far against boat arrivals. It reveals our racist heart, and our collective ability to dehumanize. Dehumization of asylum seekers has become increasingly normalized over the last ten years and our journey into these dark waters has brought us to the Malaysian solution.

The events in Norway are shocking. They did not take place in a vacuum, such events never do. A climate exists in which such madness can be rationalized and justified by terrorists and their followers. The rhetoric used in such justifications is no different from what can be heard and read in the media every day. It is the rhetoric of hatred of other, and fear of difference. Politicians and media of all persuasions whip up these fears for their own gain. We need leaders who are capable of calming the irrational, not feeding it to gain office.

Leaders who nurture fear, leaders who capitulate to the most base human emotions are, to use Gillard’s word, evil. They perpetuate evil. They nurture evil. They violate the moral law to further their own objectives. It is indeed appropriate to describe, as did Gillard, the Norwegian terrorist as evil. But evil has many faces, and evil resides quite naturally in the continuum. Our leaders would do well to re-aquaint themselves with its meaning.

Be careful what you sow. You may not be able to control what seeds and flourishes.

Gillard’s world first: state sanctioned trade of children

14 Jun

The Gillard government’s deal with Malaysia on asylum seekers has taken yet another turn. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has now conceded that he will decide whether or not to send unaccompanied children to that country’s refugee camps on a “case by case” basis. In coming to this decision he has dramatically shifted from his original position that all unaccompanied children who arrive here by boat will be sent on to Malaysia.

This backflip raises many questions, of which two are particularly pressing. The first is, what criteria will the Gillard government use to determine which unaccompanied children to export to Malaysia, and which to allow access to refugee processing in Australia?

In the Malaysian camps unaccompanied children are at risk of physical, sexual, psychological, and emotional abuse leading to long-term psychological and physical ill health. They are at risk of exploitation of all kinds, as well as inadequate nutrition, and inadequate education. In short, they are at risk of a complete loss of childhood, to which the UNHCR Convention on the Rights of the Child (yes, we signed that too) states all children are entitled.

We have failed to protect children in Australian detention centres from extensive and long-term harm. How then do we propose to exert any influence over their treatment in another sovereign state?

We need to know as a matter of urgency just what guidelines the Gillard government intends to use to enable it to judge which unaccompanied child is suitable for exposure to these risks in Malaysia, and which child is not.

Will there be a checklist test of a child’s resilience? How has this minor withstood the traumas he or she has thus far endured? Reasonably well? OK, off to Malaysia.

Is the assessment to be left to officials in the Department of Immigration? Or does the government intent to employ experts in child psychology and psychiatry who will present informed opinion on which child has a better chance of survival in Malaysia, and which child does not? I use “survival” in a broad sense, not necessarily referring to their death, though that possibility cannot be discounted.

Protocols such as the Gillard government needs now, will create a groundbreaking global benchmark for the establishment of innovatory assessment processes for child asylum seekers who arrive unaccompanied in Western countries. The processes will necessarily be designed to determine the type of personality unaccompanied minors must have, in order to be judged capable of surviving the dangers of camps in countries that are not signatories to any human rights conventions. As far as I am aware, no such assessment process of lone children seeking asylum exists anywhere else in the world.

The second pressing matter we need to consider is that Chris Bowen is the legal guardian of all unaccompanied minors who arrive here seeking asylum. The welfare of children in his care must be his first priority if he is to fulfill the legal, ethical and moral requirements of guardianship.

How would we deal with any other legal guardian who subjected his or her charges to risks of this magnitude? We would find it entirely unacceptable that a guardian would consider putting any child in his or her care on a continuum of risk that includes rape, exploitation, hunger and death. We would likely incarcerate such a guardian. We certainly would not allow them to continue to be responsible for children who have no one else to take care of their wellbeing.

Does Bowen therefore have a conflict of interest in these circumstances?  If his duty is first towards the vulnerable children in his care, might this not conflict with Gillard’s demands that he send any of these children to Malaysia?

Bowen has been quick to point out that the numbers involved are few. We aren’t looking at sending very many unaccompanied children to fend for themselves in Malaysia. This situation may change with the government’s recent decision. Denied income from adult cargo, smugglers may well resort to moving boatloads of minors, with the selling point that they do have a chance to stay in this country and it’s well worth the risk.

When Scott Morrison complained about the burial of drowned asylum seekers and their babies it looked as if we had reached an ethical and moral nadir in Australian politics. Now the Gillard government has again shifted the goalposts in the game to see who can stop the boats. Nauru is looking like the lesser of two evils.

What does it say about the character, competence and complete moral turpitude of our politicians, that the best choice they can come up in this situation has to be between two evils?

You watched the Australian cows – now watch what they do to human beings in Malaysia

10 Jun




They cane refugees there don’t they? But wait! Gillard and the U.N. can stop them! Yeah!!!

Gillard and the UN have triumphed over the domestic laws of a sovereign state!! Watch and learn, punters! Watch and learn!

Oh, the feminists must be soooo proud of our first female PM!


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

6 Jun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Bowen outdoes Philip Ruddock: who would have thought?

3 Jun

The opposition is quite within its rights to call for marching in the streets as a reaction to the Gillard government’s deal in progress with Malaysia to send boat arrivals to camps in that country.

What we know, however, is that the opposition doesn’t give anymore of a stuff about the well-being of boat arrivals than does the government. It’s just an opportunity to score points. The calls for demonstrations against the Malaysia plans are hollow and hypocritical. I can’t imagine why any one of the opposition would think the punters actually believe they care, except perhaps those who’ve forgotten the children overboard saga, and Woomera, and the sinking of the Siev X.

I’m not sure how much more sickening this whole thing can get. The human capacity for vile behaviour never ceases to amaze me, and that’s probably more a comment on my inability to to acknowledge that the triumph of hope over experience is far more common than the other way round.

What has to be accepted, it seems, is the reality that fear and xenophobia are setting the political agenda in this country. Emotion and irrationality have won the day.

Emotion and irrationality are never a good foundation for deciding anything. Yet the whole asylum seeker debate is driven and dominated by nothing more substantial than the xenophobic emotions of focus groups. People who’ve never seen an asylum seeker  and likely never will, are in charge of making refugee policy.

When they’ve managed to stop the boats, these people will begin to notice that their lives are no better for it. It wasn’t the asylum seekers that were causing their misery after all. Their misery comes from the inside, and nothing is going to make it go away.

Focus Groups

The policies of both major parties are held hostage by a demographic that lift its leg and pisses on the UN Conventions to which we are signatory. This demographic doesn’t give  a flying f**ck about Australia as part of a global community, and the responsibilities that come with that. They have no awareness of the origins of white settlement in this country and could care less, or of how our presence here counts for less than a nanosecond in deep time. They just don’t want boat people here. They just don’t like them.

It would have been quite something to have a government that was capable of standing up to these bullies,  instead taking a principled stand on boat arrivals in keeping with the Conventions to which we are signatories, and our domestic laws. But that ship has long since sailed.

It remains to be seen how much Chris Bowen will capitulate to Malaysian demands. We are quite likely already the laughing stock in our region. Our neighbours must be enjoying having us by the short and curlies. Rudd’s farcical “solution” with Indonesia and the Oceanic Viking. Gillard’s premature announcement of her plans for a detention centre in East Timor. Nauru just begging us to come back. And now, Malaysia having us dance to their tune. If we aren’t ashamed of the government’s treatment of asylum seekers, we ought to be cringing at how demeaned we are by our humiliating begging for someone, anyone (except Nauru) to make this all go away.

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