Tag Archives: xenophobia

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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Julia Gillard: our First Hollow Woman.

3 Apr

by Debbi Long via flickr

I’ve been in denial about Julia Gillard‘s prime ministership since her first day on the job. I’ve only just decided I’d better examine this unhealthy emotional defense, and my resistance to doing even that is strong.

The most common form my denial takes is whenever I see or hear Gillard I struggle to block her right out of my awareness. I don’t just “switch off,” I wish it was that easy, no, I have to actively deny her entry into my consciousness, rather like a metaphysical turning of not just my back, but my whole being.

If I’m not quick enough, and she gets in despite my lack of hospitality, I find myself swearing without either finesse or coherence, as well as making the medieval hand gesture used to ward off the devil, that one like the “call me” sign but with the first and pinky fingers and facing the other way, usually directed towards the enemy’s third eye.

I used this against John Howard as well, I’m not partisan.

The thought that generally accompanies this bit of theatre is “She’s not really our Prime Minister, someone else is, she’s just a pretend one till the real one comes along, so I don’t need to listen to anything she says, she’s a usurper.”

It isn’t just  question of not believing a word she says. I didn’t like how she acquired the top job. I didn’t like the maternalistic undercurrents revealed in what she told us when she took over, along the lines of: “the government has lost it’s way and I’m here now to get it back on track.” Tickets on herself, is what I thought, an understandable assessment when we recall that hardly anybody in the general population knew what was going on in federal Labor at the time.

I didn’t like her rush to placate the Australian Christian Lobby‘s fears that gay marriage might be legalized. I didn’t like her rush to console xenophobic focus groups with promises of off shore asylum seeker processing in East Timor. These very early comments, when most of us were still in shock and had other things on our minds, signaled that her primary concern was pleasing interest groups the ALP perceived as pivotal to them staying in power, rather than any wider concern for the country.

I didn’t like the “real and realler” Julia idiocy, and instinctively felt that anyone who has to tell the world they’re going to be real now when they weren’t before is probably permanently untrustworthy, and terminally lacking in credibility. I wonder to this day how any self-respecting woman could think it was OK to make such coyly precious announcements about herself, while simultaneously appearing in an airbrushed and highly glamourised state in the Women’s Weekly. I wonder as well, what it says about that woman if she secretly thought the real/unreal Julia thing was crap, but did it anyway because the faceless men told her she should.

I railed vigorously about this at the time and some of my friends told me to shut TF up, anything was allowed because we had to stop Tony Abbott. I didn’t talk to them for a while, on account of what looked to me like their dodgy means to an end morality.

I still can’t get a sense of the “real” Julia. I don’t know who she is or what she stands for, and if she has any wisdom and vision, it’s not apparent to me. Julia Gillard is, as far as I can tell, entirely a product of the ALP machine, and she will do whatever it takes to keep that machine functioning and in power, like all good middle managers should.

It isn’t the country she cares about. It’s the ALP running the country that is her primary concern. In this, Julia Gillard is our First Hollow Woman.

I thought this morning that my emotions on this matter (as opposed to my rational thoughts) are rather like those of the adolescent who suddenly acquires a step-parent. The individual concerned has been around for a while as Mum or Dad’s love interest, and you’ve coped with them because they haven’t actually moved in. But suddenly there’s a marriage, or a move into de facto status, and they’re in the family, taking the place of the real parent who left or died.

You hate the interloper. You can’t help it, they’re not who you want to be there and they wield power you feel they have no right to have. Your life’s mission becomes getting rid of them. In your opinion, they have no authority, moral or otherwise. They got the position because they either pushed the real parent out, or leapt in when there was a sudden vacancy you didn’t have any control over. It’s not fair, you aren’t going to accept it, and anybody who thinks you’ll eventually come round has rocks in their head.

Which is not to say I’m pining for Kevin, because I’m not. I just want somebody I can look up to: it’s lonely when there’s no one at the top to admire.

Gillard is only PM because of those pesky Independents, she doesn’t have a mandate. It is extremely unfair, in my opinion, that we should have been faced with a choice between her and Tony Abbott, no country deserves that fate, although there are those who argue that we get the governments and leaders we deserve.

Taking a step back from my adolescent-like prejudices against the PM, and looking at it woman to woman, I find I still don’t see Gillard as having wisdom and vision. Were I to encounter her in the workplace I would watch my back, keep my distance, and never go for an after work drink with her because she’s not the type who’d consider anything off the record, and watching my mouth when I’m trying to relax is counter productive. She’s a political woman through and through, and she’d give them her life and yours.

To be fair, wisdom is a quality that is sadly lacking across the board in our politics. It seems to have become negatively associated with the ageing process, although some claim to find wisdom in the eyes of the newborn. Either way, it doesn’t have much attraction for the masters and mistresses of our political universe. Wisdom is unfashionable. A choice was made between wisdom and focus groups and the latter won hands down. Common sense was collateral damage.

As for their vision, well, that seems to be entirely restricted to their vision of their own potential power. That has quite possibly always been the case with politicians. I’m scared to posit a past when leaders were really leaders, and the people who elected them were far more deserving of quality and wisdom than are we.

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