Tag Archives: ethics

Transfield, detention centres, ethics, depression & Abbott’s Commission of Audit

2 Mar

transfield-services-clyde

 

Douglas Snedden, Non Executive Director of Transfield, the global operations, maintenance and construction services business awarded  the $1.22 billion dollar contract to provide ‘Garrison and welfare services’ to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru, is also a director of the St. James Centre for Ethics, and Treasurer of the Black Dog Institute.

Tony Shepherd, handpicked by Joe Hockey as Chairman of the Abbott government’s Commission of Audit,  was until October 2013 the Chairman of Transfield. His record is far from exemplary, according to this report by Bernard Keane, in which Shepherd is described as ‘Transfield’s doyen of debt.’

The St James Centre for Ethics works with business to promote ethics and ethical decision-making. It is extensively supported by the business community. The Black Dog Institute is concerned with the treatment of mental illness, specifically depression and bi polar disorders.

Transfield subcontracts  the security management of the detention centres on Nauru and Manus to Wilson Security. Counselling and medical remain the responsibility of International Health and Medical Services.

‘Garrison and welfare’ services are the responsibility of Transfield. ‘Garrison’ is a military term meaning a permanent military post. Transfield have considerable experience with defence.

Quite what welfare services the company is responsible for providing to the prisoners held in the camps I have not yet been able ascertain. Presumably these are the services that were previously supplied by the Salvation Army. I have also been unable to ascertain if Transfield have any prior experience of providing welfare services. Based on the company’s own account of their business, the specific welfare needs of the prisoners held on Manus and Nauru would not appear to be included in their expertise.

Former Transfield ChairmanTony Shepherd is also President of the Business Council of Australia, an association of CEOs of one hundred of Australia’s leading companies, as well as a past (2012)  Director of the Migration Council of Australia.

Isn’t this all nice and cosy?

Many thanks to @mix1127 for first pointing out some of these connections.

When it’s ethical to disclose your religious beliefs

11 Feb

I grew up in a nominally Christian household. I was educated at a boarding school run by Anglican nuns. As a young mother I had my sons baptised. Soon I’ll attend the baptism of my infant grandson.

In my early thirties, I ceased to believe in the Christian God and organised religion. A few years later feminism gave me the analytic tools to deconstruct religion and reveal it for the powerfully oppressive force it can be for women.

I look back to my time with the nuns with great gratitude, but I no longer subscribe to their beliefs.

What I learned about being a Christian is that a follower is expected to live his or her faith. It isn’t some abstract concept that is trotted out on Sundays. It’s supposed to imbue every aspect of life, every action the believer takes is to be taken in God’s light, and when a Christian encounters difficulties of any kind, a Christian prays to God for guidance and sustenance. No matter what one’s profession, one is expected to perform it as a Christian, according to Christian values.

I don’t know if all Christians learn this, but we certainly did.

Followers are also expected to identify themselves in the hope that others will “see their good works and glorify their father in heaven.” And, hopefully, join the religion.

These seem to me a commendable set of expectations. Transparency, honesty, willingness to share, and to extend invitations to others to join you in what you believe to be the best way to live a life here on earth.

As long as they remain strictly invitations.

So I am entirely unable to comprehend the attitude held by Melinda Tankard Reist that her religious faith distracts from her work and she doesn’t want to talk about it for fear of being “labelled.” Labelled what, I’d like to ask. Labelled Christian? How and why does Tankard Reist believe that being labelled as a Christian distracts or detracts from her work?

In an interview with Reist on Mia Freedman’s website mamamia is this observation: Ms Reist herself has said in the past that she is reluctant to discuss her stance on religion because people tend to use it to ‘colour’ the rest of her work.

My understanding is that a Christian is supposed to “colour” their work, indeed colour their whole lives with the presence of God. Why is this “colouring” regarded as negative by Reist to the degree that she is reluctant to discuss her religious views and appears to distance herself from them when the question of their influence on her work arises?

In the same interview a comment from Herald Sun journalist Jill Singer:

Worst of all, in my view, is that Tankard Reist protests robustly if anyone dares question what it is that informs her strongly held opinions. Specifically, she gets very, very edgy if anyone dares suggest her Christian beliefs influence her opinions.

If you are proud of your beliefs, and are living a life based on them, why would you become “very, very edgy” if anyone suggests those beliefs influence your opinions?

As she is a Christian we can legitimately expect that Reist comes to her morality influenced and guided by the morality of her faith. If this is not the case, then one has to wonder what kind of Christianity she practices, as the concept of a Christian who is Christian in everything other than her morality is somewhat baffling.

When Reist in her role as the morals police seeks to influence public morality and public policy, it is entirely reasonable for her audience to ask if her morality is influenced by her Christian beliefs. Christians have very specific moral positions. They are not all the same, and unless Reist reveals what hers are, we can only make assumptions. To claim, as does Reist, that her Christian beliefs are in some way different from her moral campaigns and can’t be discussed as they will “distract” from those campaigns, is more than a little bizarre.

Ethically, Reist is required to reveal how her Christian beliefs influence her opinions.  The public is not required to sit meekly by and unquestioningly accept a social order likely designed according to Christian morality, particularly if that morality is in some way concealed.

My Christian upbringing taught open-ness, pride, and joy in that faith. The idea that faith would detract from a moral message is simply incomprehensible. Does one build compartments, then? In here my faith, in there my morality and the two have no relationship?

The ethics of the situation are obvious. If Tankard Reist is a practicing Christian then there is no doubt that her faith guides her moral values. If she has a relationship with God in which she seeks through prayer advice and instruction on her work, as Christians are required to do, then she is ethically obliged to disclose this.

If she is seeking to morally prescribe for the public then we need to know if she does this in conjunction with her relationship with the Christian God, or if she is acting entirely alone.

Why? Because there are millions of us who do not believe in that God and do not wish to be forced to live our lives subject to any Christian morality. We have a human right to live free of religion and the imposition of religious morality.

We have the right to ask, is Tankard Reist acting in the best interests of human beings or in the service of her God? Because the two do not always coincide. The bottom-line with just about all religions is what many of the followers perceive to be God’s will, and not necessarily the welfare of human beings. We have overwhelming evidence of this priority.

If anyone seeks to morally prescribe from such a position, I am entitled to know that and to make my decisions accordingly. In those circumstances it is, to my mind, completely unethical to refuse to discuss one’s relationship with religion and its influence on one’s very public work.


Wilson and Dines: together at the ABC Religion and Ethics website

21 Dec

It seems my review of Big Porn Inc annoyed the world’s foremost anti pornography campaigner, Gail Dines. She’s written this piece in response and Scott Stephens, editor of the ABC’s Religion and Ethics online, has put my review up as well, in the interests of balance.

If you look at the list of relevant articles beside my piece, you’ll see mine is the only one apart from Professor Alan McKee offering an alternative point of view, so they’re probable going to have to publish quite a few more before balance is attained.

ABC promotes private interests: what happened to impartiality?

6 Oct

Between June 15 and October 5 2011, the ABC’s Religion and Ethics Online and the Drum have published eight articles written by anti pornography campaigners and colleagues who share the same perspective on pornography.

Judging from many of the comments on some articles, the views of this collective are regarded as extreme, and pushing right wing Christian conservative values.

Seven of these articles were written by contributors to Big Porn Inc, a collection of anti pornography essays edited by activists Melinda Tankard Reist and Abigail Bray.

In five of the articles reference is made to the soon-to-be-released Big Porn Inc, and three of them are extracts from the book. Clive Hamilton‘s article in Religion and Ethics reads like a book launch speech, and his last two paragraphs enthusiastically promote Big Porn Inc.

Gail Dines, also an author in Big Porn Inc, appears in R&E on September 15 promoting her anti pornography position. Meagan Tyler writes in the Drum on October 5th defending Gail Dines against critics, and promoting the same anti porn position. Tyler has another anti porn piece in the Drum on September 20th.

During this period the ABC has published one, yes that’s one alternative perspective to that put forward by all the above authors. That piece was by academic Alan McKee on September 23rd. McKee addresses many of the criticisms launched at him and his colleagues by some of the above authors.

Editor of the ABC’s Religion and Ethics forum, Scott Stephens, is launching the book the ABC has been blatantly promoting in Brisbane next week.

The ABC Code of Practice states as follows:

4. Impartiality and diversity of perspectives

Principles: The ABC has a statutory duty to ensure that the gathering and presentation of news and information is impartial according to the recognised standards of objective  journalism.

Aiming to equip audiences to make up their own minds is consistent with the public service character of the ABC.  A democratic society depends on diverse sources of reliable information and contending opinions.  A broadcaster operating under statute with public funds is legitimately expected to contribute in ways that may differ from commercial media, which are free to be partial to private interests.

Judgements about whether impartiality was achieved in any given circumstances can vary among individuals according to their personal and subjective view of any given matter of contention.  Acknowledging this fact of life does not change the ABC’s obligation to apply its impartiality standard as objectively as possible.  In doing so, the ABC is guided by these hallmarks of impartiality:

• a balance that follows the weight of evidence;

• fair treatment;

• open-mindedness; and

• opportunities over time for principal relevant perspectives on matters of contention to be expressed.

By neglecting to observe the required balance, the ABC has promoted both a specific position on pornography, and  a book written entirely from this position. This has continued for five months, with only one article that challenges this perspective published during that time period.

At the editor’s website, the launch of Big Porn Inc is headlined thus: “ABC Editor Scott Stephens to launch Big Porn Inc in Brisbane October 14.”

That the ABC should promote a book that is subsequently launched by one of its employees is bizarre. The ABC is not publishing this book. It isn’t written by ABC employees.

There’s a big difference between noting publications in an author’s biography, and the kind of intense promotional activity immediately prior to a book launch we’re seeing here. There’s a big difference between the ABC interviewing an author about his or her book, and the promotional activity seen here. There’s a lot of cosiness between the book’s editors and the ABC Religion and Ethics editor. None of this is good for a public broadcaster whose mission is to convey as many perspectives as reasonably possible on issues that affect the whole of our society.

Comments on all pornography articles on the Drum in 2011 reveal a wide variety of community views, the majority of which dispute those purveyed by the collective currently dominating the issue at the ABC. There are many comments calling for the publication of other perspectives.

Licensed to Kill

3 Oct

Defence Minister Stephen Smith’s decision to allow women to assume unrestricted combat defence roles has caused ethics Professor Clive Hamilton to despair that “it is time to sound the Last Post over the rotting corpse of feminism.” Hamilton goes on to argue that the pursuit of equality has brought us to a sorry state of feminist affairs when women, like men, are granted a license to kill. This step signals the “final annihilation of difference,” and the end of women’s role as a “subtle, civilising power that has always worked to restrain the violent tendencies of men.” Without much success, one is obliged to point out.

In order to earn a license to kill, women must prove themselves psychologically, physically and mentally up to the job, a job that is on offer only from that bastion of hegemonic masculinity, the defence forces.

There are many men who would not fulfil the requirements and indeed, would not wish to. I recall my sons singing to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, “Join the army get your balls blown off” whenever a recruitment advertisement appeared on television. Being licensed to kill isn’t for everyone, regardless of genitals.

Instead of throwing in the feminist towel at this strike for equal opportunity, perhaps it’s valid to note that licensing women to kill is recognition that some women are capable of acquiring and practising the violent arts, therefore the capacity for deadly violence is not gender specific. The Defence Department has, perhaps unwittingly, subverted culturally imposed gender roles of the kind espoused by Professor Hamilton that would have women incapable of or unwilling to perpetrate violence. The Department has now acknowledged women as trainable as men, should we choose to embark on that course.

We can’t have it both ways

I’m at a loss to see how debunking that particular gender myth can be anything but positive for everybody. The majority of women will not choose to earn their killing license, just as many men do not choose that path either. At least it is now acknowledged in public policy that women are human beings capable of a wide variety of behaviours including state-sanctioned killing, just like men.

This is in direct contrast to another Gillard Government policy designed to prevent violence against women and their children. This policy defines domestic violence as overwhelmingly perpetrated by men. The policy does not acknowledge that female violence against children and other women is of equal concern, despite increasing international research and anecdotal evidence that this is indeed the case. The designers of this policy seem, like Professor Hamilton, to be labouring under the misapprehension that women are not capable of violence because it isn’t in our nature. It is only in our nature to be victims and/or soothers of male aggression.

You really can’t have it both ways. Women either are or are not capable of learning to use violence, either from the state or from the influences of their environment and their genes, just like men. You really can’t have the Defence Department heralding this as equality, while at the same time the Office for Women portrays us as overwhelmingly victims and rarely perpetrators. You really cannot insist on contextualising women’s violence (when it’s actually admitted) while leaving male violence out there as if men are born bad and it’s their base nature.

If the Defence Department has shown us anything, it’s that they consider the ability to engage in deadly violence to be non-gender specific. If we are to accept that, we must accept women are equally capable of violence in other situations as well. Joining the armed forces isn’t going to cause the sudden emergence of a brand new aggressive characteristic in the human female. It’s going to nurture and nourish what already exists.

The feminist struggle for equality

The mainstream feminist struggle for equality has always been about escaping restrictive gender roles and that escape has been perceived as our liberation. It has always been about ensuring women have equal opportunity and that has been perceived as our liberation. Mainstream feminism has rarely interrogated the type of masculinity that determines the Western capitalist culture within which it has sought equality. Mainstream feminists have not sought to radically change this culture, but rather to find an equal footing with that specific masculinity, within its parameters.

Thus we have our first female Prime Minister who is determined to deny the human rights of women and children in her urgency to pursue entrenched masculinist policies of sovereignty and border protection. Such a goal is far from feminist, yet mainstream feminists were (and some still are) ecstatic that we have a female PM. How long will it take to grasp that ownership of a vagina does not a feminist make?

What’s gone wrong with the feminist debate?

What has gone badly awry in the equality debate is a shocking lack of clarity and truth. For a movement that railed against the destructive consequences of stereotyping women, we’ve certainly done more than our fair share with regard to both sexes, and this has brought us undone.

There is no such animal as “men” and there is no such animal as “women.” Such erroneous concepts are the foundational lie on which much equality rhetoric rests. It’s a lie feminists railed against on behalf of women, yet enthusiastically embraced when it came to men. It’s a lie Stephen Smith confronted and faced down, whether he meant to or not. This lie is what is bringing feminism to its knees, not, as Clive Hamilton would have it, women being licensed to kill, or vomiting drunk on a Saturday night just like the boys.

We are rightly outraged when all Muslims are cast as terrorists. We are outraged when all Indigenous people are cast as drunken child abusers. Or we should be. Yet we don’t bat an eyelash at the use of “men” and “women” by just about everybody who has something to say on the subject. “Women’s morality differs from men’s,” writes Professor Hamilton, for example. Both sexes ought to be outraged at this stereotyping. It is an untruth, as all generalizations are untruths. I am not Woman. I’m a woman. My “morality” is the product of all of my experiences and what I have made of them. Here’s a male ethicist prescribing my female moral life, while claiming to have feminism’s best interests at heart. What is wrong with this picture?

A common enemy

It’s rarely acknowledged that many women and men share the common enemy of hegemonic masculinity. Recognising that there are infinite ways in which we are all undone, devalued and dehumanized by this dominant form of the masculine would allow us to co-operate in its demise. Instead, hegemonic masculinity pits us against one another, and we co-operate by couching our grievances in terms of gender warfare. The debate ought to be couched in terms of the dominant masculinist principles to which some women are as bound as some men, and that disadvantage whole subcultures regardless of sex, though sex may determine the manner in which the disadvantage is enacted.

Mainstream feminists have embraced these principles, with the result that some women have successfully adapted to the institutions, and the institutions themselves remain intact and largely unchallenged. The goals and aspirations of the majority of people demand a capitulation to masculinist forces that govern every aspect of our Western lives from cradle to grave, forces that remain largely unchallenged by feminism.

Who’s going to take away their license to kill?

Issuing women with a license to kill is a formal recognition of women’s equal capacity for sanctioned violence. Equality within the status quo was the intention of mainstream feminism, not radical structural change. This move by Defence is entirely in keeping with feminist goals.

We were never going to be much more than tokens in the patriarchy, and we aren’t. This isn’t going to change until we stop being victims. We will never stop being victims until we acknowledge our full capabilities, including those for violence and harm. This is what finally liberates us from victim-hood: owning our capacity for behaviours that are collectively denied in women because our culture doesn’t want women to have them, and because when the chips are down neither do we. How much nicer to be romantically imagined as “those who pacify the beast” than as those who are complicit in the beast’s violent projects.

The Defence decision acknowledges that women are first human beings, capable of feeling and acting in ways that have long been regarded as exclusively male by the orthodoxy. While in the short-term this may result in what can seem undesirable female behaviour, in the long-term it will allow us a fullness of humanity we’ve been denied for far too long. Human beings can be violent, destructive and murderous. Human beings have to learn to deal with these impulses in ways that do not bring about devastation. This can’t happen if we continue to deny that the female half of the human race has these capabilities, in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary.

Women who feel liberated enough to publicly express violence will initially do so in destructive and copycat ways, and they will call it equality because male acting-out is all they have to measure themselves against. They’re quite right. Equality is exactly what it is. The right to be equally human, for better and for worse, is what any feminist worth her salt should work towards. We can’t cherry pick equality.

As long as violence sanctioned or not is perceived as gender determined, no society can adequately address its causes, its effects, and what can be done about it. Rather than gnashing and wailing that women are becoming as awful as men, we should be questioning the limited means of expression both sexes have within a hegemonic masculinity that depends for survival on strict gender roles. We should be recognizing that these expressions are determined and controlled not by “men,” but by a specific manifestation of masculinity that disadvantages and dishonours both sexes. Then we can really examine violence and war, not as fought by men or women, but as perpetrated and fought by human beings on and against other human beings.


Porn debate moves to ABC religion/ethics; end of Catalonian bull fights; go the f***k to sleep

26 Sep

And while we’re on the subject, for some reason articles on pornography seem to have been removed to the Religion and Ethics section of ABC’s The Drum from the main Drum Opinion pages, where they always drew a great deal of very varied commentary. My  first article there, Pornify This, resulted in some 472 comments before the thread was closed.

Why the ABC no longer appears to consider the pornography debate a mainstream issue is a mystery. Apparently it only concerns those who come to it from a religious and ethical perspective, and those are the terms in which the debate has now been framed on the public broadcaster.

Pornography is a mainstream issue, as those who rail against it are forever reminding us. It’s everywhere we look, they claim, from Bill Henson’s photographs, to women’s magazines, to outdoor advertising, to the cosmetic industry, to fashion houses, to Barbie dolls. So how come the ABC has marginalized the topic to Religion and Ethics?

On the positive side, at least the extremists aren’t getting the coverage they used to enjoy when their articles were front page. That’s not all good, though, because the debates their convictions inspired were lively and full of engaged energy, ample proof, I would have thought, that the topic is of great interest to a lot of people.

Three years ago in a Barcelona square on a hot July afternoon, I signed a petition to end bullfighting in Catalonia. I’d just given a conference paper titled: The Experience of Being Injured: an Otherwise Perspective at the Myth, History, and Memory Conference at Barcelona University.  Today, bullfighting is finally ended, in Catalonia at least.

This is just a small example of how anybody can help make a change, even at the other side of the world.

I’m away for the next few days attending the birth of a grandchild, up there on the list of my life’s very bestest experiences. Seeing my children with their children almost makes motherhood worthwhile.

I’m taking Mr Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck with me in the form of cereal bowls and cups, as well as Go the F**ck to Sleep, made (in)famous by Noni Hazlehurst‘s reading here on YouTube, a gift for the first-time parents who have told me a million times that the baby isn’t going to make any difference to their routines. A wise woman, I say nothing.

See you in a few days.

Guns and God: Fred Nile says secular ethics led to Nazi atrocities

5 Aug

Christian democrat MP Fred Nile today claimed that the secular humanist philosophy on which he believes ethics classes in schools are based led to the worst Nazi atrocities of the second world war.

It’s unclear whether or not the Reverend Nile knows what secular humanism is, and it’s also worrying that he seems to equate Nazism with communism.

I find it difficult to see anything the least bit ethical in Nile’s attempts to blackmail the NSW government into dropping ethics classes from schools. But what is most puzzling is the Christian furore over these classes in the first place, and the insecurity that gives rise to it. This insecurity must be considerable if they resort first to Godwin’s Law.

Apparently Christianity is on such shaky ground in NSW that its proponents feel they must destroy anything they perceive to be the least bit competitive. Non-Christians are under attack. We have the school chaplaincy program trying to get converts, and telling our troubled young that Jesus loves them, and Fred Nile trying to quelch (is that a word? Did I just make it up? A neologism?) any alternative to Christian values. Actually, there are no alternatives, according to Fred. You can’t have ethics without Christianity. Where this leaves all the rest of the world’s religions, who knows.

I’m over these Christian types who try to impose their will on the rest of us. They have some nerve. I’ve met a few over the years and one thing that has always seemed incongruous about them is their reluctance to die. Yes. Faced with serious illness they do not want to go to God. They take as many evasive measures as those of us who think we’re looking at annihilation. I do not understand this. If you’ve lived your life in anticipation of the much better time you’re going to have after you’re dead, why put it off?

The linking of secular humanist philosophy with Nazi atrocities signals a new low in Fred’s fight. He’s always been an irritant, like something you get in your eye on a windy day. Elevated to his current position of power, he’s a menace. In NSW we are in the hands of gun-mongering lunatics who want every school child to learn how to shoot, and god- mongering lunatics who will break things if they don’t get their way. Guns and God. Now that combination should scare the bejesus out of any right-minded person.

%d bloggers like this: