Tag Archives: Gillard

How politicians force us to make a choice we should never have to make.

11 May
Ironic points of light

Ironic points of light


The phrase, Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite, frequently attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville but in fact coined by French counterrevolutionary Joseph de Maistre, is translated as “Every democracy gets the government it deserves.”

It’s not a sentiment with which I entirely agree: many factors are at work in a liberal democracy such as ours that bring into question the core assumption of informed choice, not least of which is propaganda distributed by media with vested interests, and its collusion with political and financial elites. This piece in Alternet makes interesting arguments against de Maistre’s maxim, describing it as a toxic idea that needs to be laid to rest. It’s worth a read.

I’ve listened carefully to all the pragmatic arguments of ALP supporters, as I have for the last seven years. I know that in almost every way an ALP government is far preferable to life under an LNP administration.

And I am enraged at finding myself yet again in a situation where I would have to endorse the torture of asylum seekers and refugees in order to have a government that we in a liberal democracy deserve. This is a choice no one has the right to force upon citizens and we need to get very angry about being put in this position. 

All my life I voted Labor, until in 2009 then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd got into a face-off with Indonesia over Tamil asylum seekers picked up by the Oceanic Viking, refusing to allow them to be transferred to Christmas Island for refugee assessment.

In 2012 the Gillard government reopened detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru that had been closed by the Rudd government in 2008, at which time Immigration Minister Chris Evans described the Pacific Solution as a “costly, cynical and ultimately unsuccessful exercise.”

In 2013, newly returned Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced, “asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia.”

The ALP lost my vote in 2009 and they’ve never got it back. It was a difficult decision: my local member was a woman I admired, and it was hard to imagine her supporting Gillard and Rudd, who appeared to be in complete harmony on the matter of torturing those who legally seek asylum in this country.

Refugee policy is one of very many issues to be considered when deciding on the government we deserve. For mine, it’s a fundamental issue: if we have as our government a group of people who take pride in destroying the lives of those who have committed absolutely no offence by arriving here on boats, indeed, who have done so in response to the invitation we continue to extend as signatories to the UNHCR Refugee Convention, we have as our government a group of barbarians who will not hesitate, should it serve their purposes, to take severe action against any other group who in some way threaten their hold on power, or can be used to shore up their grip on governance.

For the last sixteen years LNP and ALP governments have used asylum seekers as scapegoats, fuelling entirely unsubstantiated public fears about the stranger as terrorist, and pitting those fleeing the destruction of their homelands and in many cases torture and death, against disgruntled voters who are being let down and damaged not by asylum seekers, but by their elected representatives.

Asylum seekers have proved and continue to prove infinitely useful to both major parties, as distractions from their own failures, inadequacies and corruptions. This is the moral calibre of our politicians: that they will actively or passively engage in and perpetuate this torture of waterborne asylum seekers for their political gain. There is not one of them, LNP or ALP, that I wish to support in their vile exploitation of human beings.

The Pacific solution uses cruelty as a deterrent to asylum seekers, and in so doing, compromises every single voter in this country, and ensures we are complicit. Every time we agree to pragmatically compartmentalise, we agree to the ongoing torment of refugees and asylum seekers. In this sense we do get the government we deserve as we agree to the ongoing torment of human beings by both major parties, in order to create for ourselves the life to which we feel entitled.

This is a piece written by a young friend starting out on his career as a journalist. It’s his perception of Manus Island and Nauru, together with information on what can be done to assist refugees. Cameron’s article  brought to mind some lines from W.H. Auden’s poem, September 1, 1939

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages…

There are among the young ironic points of light, exchanging messages in this stuporous world. In them I trust, because I have lost all faith in the adults who govern us.


♫…It might as well rain until September…♬

25 Feb

Warning: this entire narrative, while true,  is also a metaphor.

In our house we know from years of experience that when the Pacific Highway is closed to the south of us, any trip north will be a dream. No trucks, hardly any cars & no speed traps. So yesterday, overcome by cabin fever, we decided to go to the big town to bother our friends there, and see a movie.

We left in a blaze of sunshine, after kicking the beast into four-wheel drive. Ten minutes later, this:


After another twenty minutes of blinding rain slowing us to an unseemly crawl, ruining the anticipated experience of free ranging the highway from hell, we started to fight about whether we should keep going, or turn back. If we kept going, the high tide together with excessive rain would later in the day likely prevent us crossing the bridge that leads into our town and we wouldn’t get home. If we didn’t keep going, we’d all fight a whole lot more when we did get home, as frustration and disappointment would be added to the already raging group aggravation. An aporia in our narrative if ever I encountered one!

It’s stupid to keep going, one of us said. When is the last time we did something stupid, another (me) demanded. Nobody could remember the last time we’d (deliberately) done something stupid and that determined our choice: we would keep going.

This didn’t stop us:


But when we got to this:


people I always thought loved me turned. I didn’t make you keep going, I pointed out to them. I’m not even driving.  The driver is in charge, isn’t she? I asked, but very nicely. Anyway its too late to turn round and go home, I told them, we’re almost there, we’ll just have to make a detour. Let’s sing. Let’s sing “Solidarity forever!” Its ages since we last sang that!

A great deal of time later, there’s no need to say how much, we arrived at the movies with seconds to spare. See! I cried, triumphant (and relieved, imagine how they’d have gone for me if we’d missed the movie as well) I told you! The apparently stupid choice can often be the best one! You just have to be brave enough to take a calculated risk!

We still have to get home, a spoil sport darkly muttered, and your risk wasn’t exactly calculated. But I had only good feelings about getting home and guess what? I was right again! The highway home was dry as a bone, and we went wild, I tell you, wild! Driving at amazing speeds on the apocalyptically empty road! Shrieking with unrestrained joy: we did it we did it and, because I am generous and wise, I let them share the credit that was strictly speaking, all mine.

There’s a lesson in this for all of us, don’t you think? You just have to be wise enough know how and when to be calculatedly stupid. That’s all, and you’re most welcome.


Disclosure: this narrative is narrated in the first person by an unreliable narrator.

%d bloggers like this: