Tag Archives: Julia Gillard

Dutton’s message: torture works

20 Aug

Torture Works


Yesterday I had a Twitter conversation about Kathryn Bigelow’s movie, Zero Dark Thirty, which was shown on SBS last night.

Many angry critics have  described the film as CIA propaganda advocating torture, and accused Bigelow of making an immoral argument that torture works. That wasn’t my reading as I argue here.

This revisiting of the film and the arguments surrounding it made it obvious to me that the message “torture works” is precisely the message the current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, Scott Morrison before him, and several former Prime Ministers including Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have sent to the world since the indefinite detention, off-shore and previously in the hell holes of Woomera and Baxter, of waterborne asylum seekers began.

They are not even particularly subtle about conveying this message: forcing women, children and men to live in circumstances in which they are tortured will deter others from attempting to seek asylum in Australia. It’s that stark.

To dissuade attacks from rusted on ALP supporters: Paul Keating built Woomera. I went there. It was one of Dante’s circles of hell. So please don’t come at me with the usual defence of your political party’s position on asylum seekers. There’s a bee’s dick of difference between the major parties.

Every time politicians insist that bringing refugees from Manus and Nauru to Australia will “start the drownings at sea again”, he or she is arguing, to the world, that “torture works.”

Frank Brennan, John Menadue, Tim Costello and Robert Manne have here proposed a solution to the current ghastly impasse. Their proposal retains the turn-back policy:

We believe there is no reason why the Turnbull government cannot do now what the Howard government previously did – maintain close intelligence co-operation with Indonesian authorities, and maintain the turn-back policy, while emptying the offshore processing centres and restoring the chance of a future to those we sent to Nauru or Manus Island three years ago or more by settling them either in Australia or, if any are willing, in other developed countries. Like Howard, Turnbull could maintain the offshore processing centres in case of an emergency.

Boats are to be turned back to their point of departure, usually Indonesia or in the case of Sri Lankan refugees,southern India where they continue to live as stateless people with few, if any rights.

The proposition put by Brennan et al would at least thwart the message that torture works, to which our politicians seem alarmingly attached. It’s by no means an ideal solution, but it could be our next step in addressing a situation that in its current manifestation is hideously wrong in every possible way.

Critiquing their proposition is a post in itself, and I won’t do that here.

As I argue Bigelow’s film demonstrated, the proposition that torture works is in itself a terrifying premise for debate.Who are we, that we would engage in such a debate in the first place?

It isn’t about whether or not torture works. It’s about torture even being considered, and then implemented as an option. You might argue that no politician foresaw or planned the circumstances that have evolved on Manus and Nauru, and you’d likely be correct. So we have come to torture by accident, rather than by design. Having arrived at that point, even accidentally, we are culpable and every day we reinforce the message that torture works, we add to our burden of culpability. What was initially accidental, thoughtless, ignorant, uncaring, politically self-seeking becomes, in the maintaining of it, deliberate.

Which puts us in the company of the CIA and its propaganda, does it not? Not to mention Donald Trump.






Scott Morrison to speak at religious homophobic conference

12 Apr


Eric Metaxas Protest


Twitter just alerted us to the news that Treasurer Scott Morrison will be speaking at the Australian Christian Lobby’s 2016 conference at the Wesley Centre in the Sydney CBD on Saturday, April 23.

This piece in New Matilda reveals that the conference star turn is one Eric Metaxas, a Christian who believes there are parallels between the failure of church groups to resist Nazism in the 1930s and the growing acceptance by liberal US Christians of LGBTQI people. Metaxas has also backed gay conversion therapy.

We already know the ACL and its spokesman Lyle Shelton have campaigned, successfully it seems, to have the Safe Schools program gutted. We also know that the ACL has an inordinate amount of influence over our governments, including that of atheist PM Julia Gillard, whom Jim Wallace persuaded to keep the school chaplaincy program.

Why are our politicians beholden to this minority group of fundamentalist extremists?

Also speaking at the conference are Miranda Devine, Noel Pearson and Dr Jeffrey J Ventrella, whom New Matilda describes thus: A Senior Counsel at the litigious Alliance Defending Freedom, Jeffery Ventrella argued in 2012 that the US government should divert funds from LGBTI health programs and instead spend the money convincing those in the communities to change their sexuality.

There’s no doubt in my mind that if Morrison speaks at the conference without challenging its homophobic slant, he is endorsing that perspective.

He is billed on the conference website as The Hon Scott Morrison MP, Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Australia, so we can assume from this he is appearing in his official capacity, and thus as a representative of the Turnbull government.

It is most alarming that the Treasurer of this country should support the extreme discriminatory views expressed by Metaxas and Ventrella. It’s extremely alarming that Morrison should represent the Turnbull government at a conference that seeks to disseminate homophobic perspectives.

There is probably an argument to be made that politicians, particularly those holding high office, ought not to publicly support any religious views in their official capacity. We are a secular country. Our governments are not vehicles for the furtherance of religious beliefs of any kind.

There is definitely an argument to be made that no politician and legislator should publicly support views that are contrary to our anti discrimination laws, such as those held by Metaxas and Ventralla.

As usual, I don’t support no platforming. I do support protest, and support for protesters if you can’t actually be there on the day.


Ms Gillard’s sickening hypocrisy laid bare

8 Nov

Gillard Three


It was with disbelief, and finally contempt, that I watched excerpts of the Al Jazeera interview with former Prime Minister Julia Gillard on the topic of her government’s treatment of waterborne asylum seekers, particularly women and children.

Gillard, now a global advocate for the education of girls and women, employed what has disturbingly become a normalised justification for Australian governments’ increasingly callous torment of women and girls in off-shore detention: we do it to stop people drowning at sea.

I have yet to get my head around the psychopathology of those who believe the torment of one group is justified in order to discourage another group from undertaking a particular action. I think such justifications are teetering precariously on just about every ethical and moral ground I can think of, beginning with the Kantian argument that it is reprehensible to use people as a means to an end, and that people are an end in themselves. To treat them in any other way is to dehumanise them, and ultimately, ourselves.

However, Gillard, Rudd, Abbott and now Turnbull apparently have no difficulty with treating waterborne asylum seekers as a means to an end, and justifying their hideous treatment of them as a necessary deterrent in order to save the lives of others.

It has been said more than a million times: arriving in this country by boat, seeking asylum, is not a crime. Indeed, as we are signatories to the UN Refugee Convention, we actively invite people to arrive here by whatever means they manage to employ.

If we want to save people from drowning at sea, and if we care about the humanity of those we already have in detention, we would cease to use the detained as scapegoats, and as examples of what will happen if you legitimately arrive here by boat. We would instead withdraw from the Refugee Convention. People come to Australia because we invite them, through our participation in the Convention, and our agreement with its principles.

Of course, we aren’t about to take that step. So instead we will continue to ill-treat asylum seekers in off-shore detention. We will continue to justify this crime against humanity by claiming it’s done to save lives.

And Ms Gillard will continue to strut the world stage advocating for the education of women and children but not, regrettably, those she imprisoned in mandatory indefinite dentition in tropical hell holes where they are abused, raped and made mad.

Women for Gillard? Non, merci.



Rudd, Gillard, Abbott, Women, Sex, Why?

24 Jun

So, if I came away with anything after last night’s final episode of ABC TV’s The Killing Fields, oops, sorry, The Killing Season, it was a sense of profound shock and awe at the ALP’s astounding ability to squander political capital to the degree that in six short years they went from owning the room to a derelict mob of squabbling, self-important cane toads with over-active thyroids and a death wish, oozing poison from every pore, who had become and remain of little use to anyone, especially themselves. Don’t let your dog lick  them. It will cark.

Apart from anything else, what kind of lunatics install Australia’s first female Prime Minister after she’s executed a midnight assassination of her ludicrously popular male predecessor? Women cannot do that, for christ’s sake. Men can coup. Women can only be behind the man who coups. What is wrong with everybody?

In the penultimate episode Rudd, quite understandably in my view, took serious umbrage at Gillard’s babbling efforts to psychoanalyse him. Last night Gillard made the breathtaking claim that she believed knifing Kevin at midnight would provide him with the opportunity for a good rest he badly needed. This put me in mind of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s claims that sacking workers offers them the chance of a new beginning. I find it interesting that two leaders from opposing ends of the political spectrum share such similar moral opinions on the misfortunes of others.

I have no idea who was lying and who told the truth in that three-part account of the ALP’s downfall, nor do I care. Mostly I just wanted to bang their stupid heads together. It takes a particular kind of perverse talent to have a country at your feet and still manage to turn it into a cock-up.

Speaking of Abbott, I once attempted to imagine him as a sexual being. My mind exploded. Everything went black. I regained consciousness in the  compost heap, with the dog licking rotting mango flesh from my eyebrows.

I pushed myself to this brink because I had just read the following comment by the Minister for Women:

I think there does need to be give and take on both sides, and this idea that sex is kind of a woman’s right to absolutely withhold, just as the idea that sex is a man’s right to demand I think they are both they both need to be moderated, so to speak.

Reading this statement I wonder first what kind of impoverished universe Tony Abbott inhabits if in it, sex comes down to a gendered right to “withhold” and gendered a right to demand, both of which, according to him, require moderation.

The word “withhold” implies an act of calculated deprivation as in withholding payment, withholding supplies, withholding access to bank accounts, withholding information. In order to use this word at all, Abbott must be starting from the assumption that men are always entitled to sex, like a worker is always entitled to payment, and if a woman doesn’t want sex for whatever reason, it’s a hostile act of denial on her part.

In other words, women are not permitted to not want sex, in Abbott’s world, without being perceived as denying a man what is his due.  In more other words, in Abbott’s world women have no autonomy, and no agency over our own sexual desires, because our sexual decisions are perceived as being entirely to do with whether we withhold or gratify male desire.

It’s in the use of the word “withhold” that Abbot reveals his attitude to women and sex. The idea that sex is a man’s right to demand part of the statement is irrelevant, really, because in the use of the word “withhold” Abbott has assumed a man’s right to demand.

This is our Minister, ladies. He doesn’t think we just don’t feel like it, are tired, have cramps, don’t find the male partner especially exciting. No. Women withhold.

Finally, if you want to see how little things have changed for women in some parts of the legal system, read this enlightening piece in Overland titled the Ethics of Defence, by barrister Catriona MacLennan . (Thanks to Maria for alerting me to this.) It takes a great deal of courage to even use the words ethics and morals these days without being laughed off the planet, unless you’re the government talking about ABC TV’s Qanda.


witholding sex








Tony Abbott, horses mid stream and musical chairs

23 Jan

Changing horses mid stream


I’m most interested to see what the LNP do with Prime Minister Tony Abbott come the next federal election. He’s been conspicuously absent in recent state election campaigns, presumably because nobody thinks he can do them any kind of good with his presence. So what on earth will his party do with its leader when we troop off to vote for our country’s next government?

Abbott subjected himself to some self-harm yesterday as he argued his case for the dangers involved in changing leaders during a government’s first term. Citing the epic game of musical chairs played by the ALP government during the Julia Gillard – Kevin Rudd leadership saga, Abbott expressed the opinion that it’s certain death to switch horses mid-stream. His party has the sense to know this, he believes, and so his leadership is secure. The country can go to the dogs and the less well-off can struggle and starve, but hey, I’m secure in my job, folks.

I know I’ve mixed metaphors, but I sort of like the image of chairs, music, dogs, streams and horses in the middle of them. It makes as much sense as anything else in our politics.

It’s hard to imagine that changing leaders could do the LNP government any more harm than staying with the one they’ve got. I suspect many people would be hugely relieved and congratulate them on their common sense if they took that step.

The dangers of succumbing to the idée fixe that because it was so damaging for the ALP to change leaders it will be equally damaging for the LNP, are many. They include an ignorance of the significance of context: the two situations are quite different in the broad perspective, the  perspective that is most apparent to voters. Rudd was an extremely popular leader who was to all appearances ousted unjustly and in a manner that outraged much of the electorate. Practically everyone has some grievance against Abbott, and many just hate him because he is.

There may be similarities in the in-house view, the view apparent to political tragics rather than more broadly, of party discontent with a leader who is perceived as out of touch and chaotic, and perhaps even a tad despotic, if leaks of discontent are anything to go by. There’s an enlightening piece on these matters by Paula Matthewson here.

What we see at the moment is a leader who appears increasingly weakened by strife, both endogenous and exogenous. Tony Abbott never seems less than strained. As we used to say when we lived on Bougainville Island, we have two seasons, wet and wetter and so it is with Abbott, he is strained and more strained, but I don’t believe I’ve seen the man comfortable with himself since his days in opposition when he raged across the table at the Labor government.

For mine, they should let him keep his job. The ALP needs all the help it can get, and Tony Abbott has to be one of the opposition’s best helpers.

If Abbott gave a stuff about anyone other than himself, he’d step down, citing ill -health or some other face-saving gibberish, and give his party a better chance at a second term. Otherwise, come the next election campaign they’re going to have to lock him in a cellar till it’s over, because the man mostly nauseates everyone, as far as I can tell.



Getting rid of dysfunctional Prime Ministers

30 Nov


Tony Abbott Announces Leadership Team


Former Liberal Premier of Victoria, Jeff Kennett this morning dumped big time on the federal LNP, claiming that dislike for Prime Minister Tony Abbott is a major factor in the Victorian election result that yesterday brought a resounding victory to the ALP, ousting the Liberal government in its first term.

Kennett claims the Abbott government is a “shambles,” and Ministers in the Napthine Government said there was “no question’’ that the unpopularity of Tony Abbott in Victoria was a factor in their defeat.

The government is in a bind about Tony. If they get rid of him in his first term they risk being seen as unstable and disloyal, allegations they levelled unrelentingly while in opposition at the ALP for its ongoing leadership woes with Kevin Rudd.

An aside on that matter. Now we have a good deal more information about that debacle, wouldn’t it have been so much better if Gillard had informed the electorate about the difficulties the government was having with Rudd, rather than leaving us to wake up one morning and discover we no longer had the extremely popular Prime Minister who’d led the Labor party to victory? Pole-axing an electorate in such a fashion and then going on to be excessively secretive as to the reasons for such drastic action would seem to be a most unwise strategy, and indeed, that’s what it proved to be.

The situation with Abbott is very different: while Rudd was still popular but behind the scenes, dysfunctional, Abbott is openly dysfunctional and unpopular to boot, so the electorate won’t go into nearly as much shock and awe if he’s chucked out of the top job in his first term.

Personally, I’d like to see Abbott stay on as leader as he’s the ALP’s best asset.

The federal government is like a dysfunctional family with a rogue father at its head. Everyone closes ranks and publicly supports the patriarch even though he’s bringing ruination down on their collective heads, because that’s what families do. They stick together in the face of adversity, and in so doing, enable the maintenance of the dysfunction. This eventually damages every family member, and the price for such misguided unity is death, of one kind or another.

There’s little more difficult than dealing with a dysfunctional leader, be it in politics or the family, and we saw how the ALP crumbled under the pressure of their Rudd woes.

The precedent for getting rid of first term Prime Ministers has been set, and there are few among us who would find it shocking the second time around. However, the LNP are likely far too spooked by the Rudd saga to risk ousting their dysfunctional leader in his first term. This could well be their downfall.


Why Julia Gillard is my sister

3 Jul

I’m not the type of essentialist gender feminist who believes every woman is my sister simply because we share biological characteristics, unlike leading public figure Anne Summers, who in this article  expresses outrage against certain female MPs who did not resign “in solidarity” with Ms Gillard when she lost the ALP leadership to Kevin Rudd last week.

I don’t usually follow the line that a high achieving woman is making things better for all of those who share her sex. That to me is a romantic idea that has little basis in reality, indeed there are women among us considerably worse off after Ms Gillard’s prime ministership, for example the sole parents shifted to Newstart, and women seeking asylum.

Summers’ test of faith I find entirely self-defeating. What would it serve Australian society if every time a woman in public office was badly treated, her female colleagues resigned? In a nano second, there would be none of us left anywhere. It’s the sort of demand a comfortable middle class feminist can make from her armchair without pausing to consider the ramifications, for individuals and the greater good of our society.

That being said, these last few days I’ve noticed a sense of relief in myself and people around me. What is this about? The cessation of sexist abuse against Ms Gillard, that’s what it’s about.

It’s only since Ms Gillard left the leadership that it’s become painfully clear just how bad and how constant the gender-based abuse was. It’s like the relief you feel when you stop hitting yourself on the head with a hammer, if you are given to that form of self-abuse.  We no longer have to witness the daily public denigration of a woman, because she is a woman. We no longer have to witness the gender war in all its frightening darkness, as fought between Ms Gillard and the sexists from all walks of life, whose first complaint against the Prime Minister was that she is female, and who viewed every other dissatisfaction through that gender prism.

We have never seen such a terrifying display of anti woman feeling in our politics, because we have never had a female leader. We couldn’t see how bad it was until it stopped. We couldn’t see how the sexist abuse distracted from the most important  task of keeping our society functioning, which Ms Gillard’s government achieved better than almost any other Western government.

There is a great deal on which I vehemently disagreed with Ms Gillard. I did not personally take to her, though as Deputy PM I thought she would one day be an excellent leader. That day came too soon, and under fraught circumstances that could not have been worse for our first female PM. That the ALP chose to depose then leader Kevin Rudd in his first term was a questionable decision. That they should seize the opportunity to install the country’s first female leader, who as well as everything else was forced to become the blood-soaked symbol of the fallen man’s “knifing” beggars belief. One can only assume that as usual, the blokes brought a woman in to clean up their mess.

Though I am wary of joining anything, let alone a sisterhood (you will not find a woman less interested in or less capable of belonging than me) every time Ms Gillard was abused because of her sex, I was also abused. The unrelenting sexist and misogynist commentary directed towards her was directed at all women, though the perpetrators would no doubt strenuously deny that. It cannot be any other way, anymore than racism can only be aimed at one individual, leaving everyone else untouched.

We should be outraged at the contempt and insult daily enacted towards Ms Gillard. At any moment it can be and is turned against any woman who falls foul of those men and  women who are so conflicted in their attitudes towards us they can only fear and hate, solely because of our sex. One of Ms Gillard’s achievements, though it is not one any sane person could have anticipated or desired, is that she has shown us, through her personal endurance, the degree to which hatred of women still flourishes in Australian society and the awful toll it takes on that society.

In sexism and misogyny, Ms Gillard is my sister.

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