Tag Archives: SBS

And now Morrison (yes him again) denies us our history

5 Jan

Woomera Detention Centre Riot SMH

 

Author Peter FitzSimons recently completed a documentary on the history of race riots in Australia. The first episode of “The Great Australian Race Riot” aired on SBS on January 4th.

FitzSimons wanted to include the 2001 riot at the Woomera Detention Centre. However, then Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Scott Morrison (yes, him again) refused FitzSimons access to the long-closed facility, and demanded the crew not film within 150 metres of the site.

“That furiously annoyed me,” says FitzSimons. “We couldn’t shoot in Woomera itself, which staggered us. We were attempting to take a serious look at a sometimes difficult multicultural society.”

This is a deliberate attempt by the Abbott government to control a historical record of racial unrest in Australia.

The 2001 Woomera riot took place on the Howard LNP government watch. It is a period steeped in turmoil over asylum seekers arriving here by boat. It was at this time the notorious Tampa stand-off took place,causing an international incident between Australia and Norway as well as profound domestic political unrest as then Prime Minister John Howard made his infamous declaration: “We will decide who comes to this country and the manner in which they come.”

Howard exploited populist xenophobic fears incited by Pauline Hanson, then leader of right-wing One Nation, a conservative, anti multicultural political party. Co-opting Hanson’s xenophobic policies, Howard attracted her voter base and went on to win the 2001 federal election.

Woomera Detention Centre was central to the combination of circumstances that elevated the exploitation and incitement of xenophobia and racism to the central platform they remain for both the LNP and the ALP to this day. That period began what has become an increasingly isolationist and inhumane Australian response to the global problem of stateless persons.

The treatment of asylum seekers imprisoned in the Woomera and Baxter detention centres marked the beginning of increasing public acceptance of the state’s dehumanisation of those fleeing persecution, and laid the ground for popular acceptance of Morrison’s narrative of border protection. Morrison’s alleged “war” against waterborne asylum seekers has been used to justify the ludicrous and sinister secrecy in which the Department of Immigration and Border Protection is now irrevocably steeped.

It is astounding that the Abbott government has in this instance successfully engineered the recording of Australian history to exclude any reference to the Woomera riot. Fortunately many records of these events exist. Morrison and Abbott are fighting a losing battle if they believe the voices of this period of our history can be silenced. Indeed, their attempts to control information appear increasingly desperate and naive, as they consistently fail to recognise that what one attempts to omit from the narrative eventually becomes the narrative, and all they are left with are increasingly sullied reputations drenched to the bone in lies, secrets and guilty silence. History eventually will judge Morrison and Abbott, and the Australian Labor Party, and find them all excruciatingly wanting.

 

Woomera Riots Two

 

 

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ABC & SBS: Things move on, says Abbott

1 Dec

tony_abbott_drawattention

Finally conceding that he has broken his pre-election promise not to cut the budgets of the ABC and the SBS, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has given as his reason for breaking that promise: “things move on.”

The Prime Minister needs to explain to the electorate just exactly what has “moved on” since he made that promise a mere fourteen months ago.

While of course some things do move on, we do need to know precisely the changes that have caused the Prime Minister to go back on an undertaking he made quite specifically on the eve of the 2013 election.

“Things move on” is in no way an adequate explanation for the breaking of such a significant promise. This is yet another example of Tony Abbott’s paternalistic refusal to inform the citizens of this country of what he’s doing, and why. It is arrogant, it is ignorant, and it is completely unacceptable that a Prime Minister of this country has the audacity to believe “things move on” is an adequate explanation for the deceit he’s engaged in with the Australian public over the ABC and SBS.

Things do move on, Prime Minister, and Prime Ministers also move on. Leaders who treat citizens like mushrooms can move on pretty damn fast. Tony Abbott urgently needs to explain what has changed so significantly over the last fourteen months that justifies him “moving on” from his pre-election undertakings. If he can’t or won’t, he’s going to continue to look like a liar who lied to win an election.

Pyne. Turnbull. Hubris.

20 Nov

christopher-pyne-1200-vertical

When the goddess of language came up with the word hubris meaning overconfident pride or arrogance that incurs the wrath of the gods who then punish the offender, mightily humiliating him, she had Christopher Pyne in mind. Look:

Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence, accomplishments or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.

Yes, that could apply to most of the government. Sad, isn’t it?

Pyne’s latest caper is setting up an online petition to protest ABC production cuts  leading to the loss of jobs in his own electorate, as a consequence of budget restrictions imposed by his own government. His move has been described as hypocritical, but I think of it more as calculatedly provocative, designed to arouse precisely the reaction it has. Pyne loves above all things to cause outrage. It makes him feel powerful. He needs it like he needs the air he breathes. This is not a good characteristic for a politician in government.

Pyne’s move is also an example of conservatives adopting left-wing methods of protest in a “look, we can do this too” attempt to undermine those methods with ridicule, and it is a co-option that is intended to render them puny and ineffective.  However, as the tactic is blatant, hypocritical and just plain stupid, all it succeeds in achieving is a few laughs for the in-group and in this case, Pyne momentarily in the spotlight where he most loves to be.

Like his leader and many of his colleagues, Pyne has all the substance of a stick of fairy floss, or cotton candy as our friends in the US like to call it. I am struggling to find any sign of vision, or genuine concern for anything other than their own power in the government, no matter at what cost to the country and its citizens. This consuming self-interest  is destroying them, individually and collectively, as consuming self-interest always will eventually. Hubris.

Malcolm Turnbull for example used to have some authority in the world, a short term in the Abbott government has transformed him into the most hollow of hollow men, as if the virus of ambition has worked on him like psychic Ebola, leaching out of him all his vital fluids and leaving him dry as a bone in the Western Desert. The man is pathetic and utterly dismissible. He was not always thus.

A good leader inspires and embiggens her or his followers. Abbott is slowly but surely destroying every decent thing there might once have been in the members of his government. The man is satanic in his talent for destruction. In opposition he was very noisy about it. As Prime Minister he is far more stealthy, and even more lethal.

Go back to where you came from

22 Jun

fuck-off-we-are-full

 

Go back to where you came from, aired on SBS last night,  is a three part series with a unique approach to educating it’s audience on the complex issues of boat arrivals and refugees in Australia.

In part one we’re introduced to the six participants, three men and three women, who have a diverse range of views on asylum seekers, from understanding and compassion, to angry rejection. There’s a young woman Raquel for example,who hates Africans, a position that presents something of a challenge for her when she’s sent to stay for three nights with a refugee family from Burandi and Congo.

Interestingly, while Raquel discovers herself capable of genuine empathy after listening to the sufferings endured by her hostess, she later declares that they were just one nice family, doesn’t mean she’s going to get friendly with Africans per se, whom she still doesn’t like.

The use of reality TV techniques, such as dramatic music and the friendly but authoritative manner of the program’s host, refugee researcher Dr David Corlett, are reminiscent of Big Brother and Survivor. I read this as ironic comment on reality TV shows that similarly challenge participants to take time out of their comfort zone to see what they can become, but unlike the SBS series, take no interest in anything other than the personal emotional journey.

In widening the focus the series becomes part reality TV, part documentary. This is a fascinating combination.

Already the participants have begun a psychological process of decompensation, as they’re thrust into situations entirely foreign to them, including embarking on a leaky boat for an unknown destination, bereft of passports, wallets, phones, money and ID. Just like real boat people. Tempers fray, harsh words are exchanged, and the experience may well have given Rae, a 63 year old retired social worker, pause for thought. At the beginning of the show Rae told us that when the boat was wrecked at Christmas Island last December she thought: “Serves you bastards right.”

While not agreeing with all of their views, nonetheless I very much admire this motley crew. They can never experience the life threatening dangers and torments boat people and refugees actually endure, but they are willing to go way outside of their physical, emotional and psychological comfort zones. This is brave, even if there is a camera crew and later, UN and US troops guarding them as they enter into dangerous territory. It’s a long way from Cronulla beaches, idyllic farmlets and safe lives with people who love you. All credit to them for volunteering to take themselves into something completely different.

The series promises intriguing insights into human behaviour under extraordinary stress, combined with profound insights into what asylum seekers and refugees are actually fleeing. As a social experiment it’s got to be unique. With the wide range of views represented by the participants, there’s someone for everyone to identify with, and this is smart. It wouldn’t have been nearly as useful if the group were like minded either way.

There seems to be little concern about the presence of cameras. I don’t think anyone is performing, though they may certainly be restraining themselves at times. It’s an unnatural situation in every way, and nobody’s going to behave as they do in their own homes without surveillance. Be that as it may, the participants seem to be honest in their expression of emotion and opinion, and this is one of the most powerful aspects of the program as they react, for example, to their initial visit to the Villawood Detention Centre where they talk to Iraqi detainees.

The program is a powerful argument for how people’s attitudes can shift when they are face to face with human suffering. All the propagandists from John Howard on have recognized the need to hide boat people away in desert camps and behind razor wire, to prevent their faces and their stories being known. Dehumanizing them by rendering them faceless continues to be a primary tool in the manipulation of Australian public opinion.

The first rule of propaganda is to stereotype your target.  Go back to where you came from challenges the propaganda head on, and for this alone, I’m glad to see it out there.

 

 

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