Tag Archives: asylum seekers

Double Standards

It’s That Kind Of Day

The reports in the news sites say that Australia really swung behind getting a meaningful resolution out of the UN, in the aftermath of the MH17 event.  The SMH is really giving our diplomats a pat on the back – seems to me they’re just finally earning their keep after years of cushy livin’ in New York on the public purse! Besides, suddenly beset with Julie Bishop’s death stare, how could the unsuspecting people of the world say no?

Of course jokes about Julie Bishop’s death stare aside, the dynamic diplomatic deal-making does stand in stark contrast to the way this government minces words and tries to parse interpretations that do not exist (let alone be supported) from our commitment to the UN Charter on Human Rights and how we treat refugees. On that score, we’re one of the worst violators but we keep on coming up with legal fictions as to why it’s okay to run concentration camps on Manus Island and Nauru. Millions have been displaced by civil wars in places like Syria, and our government is buys telling them they can’t come. 37 Australians die in a plane hit by a Russian missile an we’re all over it at the UN. No mater how you look at it, it’s a kind of double standard.

In the mean time, PUP senator Jacqui Lambie has made international press on the back of an interview where she claimed her ideal man would be rich and well hung.

Later, when a prospective suitor called up the show, Lambie enquired (sic) if 22 year-old Jamie was “well-hung”.
This induced great mirth from Kim and Dave (ratings gold!), but just imagine if a male politician had offered a similar opinion, about say, a woman needing to be “really rich and have massive boobs”.

It would be a career-ending, resigning offence. Facebook groups would spring up in protest. People would make t-shirts and take to the streets in outrage.

In recent months, Tony Abbott has weathered howling storms for suggesting a Liberal candidate had sex appeal. And for winking when a talk back caller revealed she worked on a sex line.
Clive Palmer has also raised the eyebrow of disapproval for calling female journalists “madam” and “my dear”.
And yet, Lambie is sure to stroll away from her Heart appearance and into her next set of public comments with nary a scratch.
Yes, they are lighting up the internet – but only for their “omigawd” value. Not because they might be construed as demeaning and well, sexist.

The thing is, it probably is some kind of double standard that lets Lambie off the hook when if she were a member of another party and a male, she might not have gotten off so lightly. I’m not saying she should be condemned or that this bit of double standard is particularly noteworthy – merely that double standards seems to be the notion of the day.

Obviously there’s a fine line between the double standard thing and the deliberate hypocrisy inherent in the double think we are asked to endure with all its cognitive dissonance, but this is a country made up of inherently contradictory ideals. It stands to reason that there’s a different rule or standard applied to everything, based on the values of nothing-in-particular.

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News That’s Fit To Punt – 05/Jul/2014

Semaphore Of Sociopaths

It’s all about the message, and what message we’re allegedly sending to people smugglers. So goes the theory in the continuing shit-storm that is the Coalition ‘policy’ towards asylum seekers.but sometimes we’re not even sure that’s where the message is going to or whether it’s being received properly. It’s a mystery as to how this government thinks communication theory functions.

The latest corker episode appears to be Scott Morrison ordering Tamil asylum seekers  from India, to Sri Lanka, In all honesty it’s hard to fathom the depths of the kind of morally deficient mind as Scott Morrison who would surrender the said Tamils to the Sri Lankan authorities. It’s a bit like happily offering up Jewish refugees from say, Sweden and repatriating them to Germany in 1944 or something. He’s certainly not talking about what exactly was done and this government is hiding behind its usual “oh, this is a military operation so we need more secrecy” routine. Which is to say Scott Morrison is offering up the moral tenacity of a Sergeant Schultz who always insists he “knows nothing”.

Weirder still, Mr. Morrison, it turns out, is going to Sri Lanka to attend a commissioning ceremony for some boats.  You really wonder how these people live with themselves.

Financial Mischief Writ Large

The business of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia offering up inappropriate financial advice because of its incentive laden program for their sales staff has turned into the eye sore issue for the Australian financial sector. First, there were the whistle-blowers who carefully leaked the secret to the corporate watchdog ASIC. ASIC then sat on its hands for 18months and failed to investigate. After which the anonymous whistle-blowers were forced to come forwards so that ASIC could get off its backside and investigate the mess. If the 18month delay was bad, the Senate hearings into ASIC have shown that ASIC and its personnel are too close to the banking industry it regulates, for it to be a proper watchdog – (which, it must be said was also said of the SEC in America after the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scandal).

So the ALP government drafted up legislation to stop this problem, but then the Coalition government has since watered it down at the behest of the lobby groups on behalf of the big banks. In the aftermath, the minister responsible for this area Mathias Cormann claimed that there were enough safeguards and the industry had changed substantially so that the legislation didn’t need the safeguard that required financial advisers to offer responsible advice. He then went on to talk down the situation at the CBA as some kind of temporal anomaly when in fact the Senate investigation had identified the misplaced incentive as a systemic risk.

The upshot is that the CBA will be forced to cough up more money for is victims but it wants to control the process – which is a bit like letting criminals decide their own punishment in court. Once again, you wonder how these people live with themselves.

We Cut Health And Education To Buy These Toys

On of the crappiest investments our government has made over the last decade has been the F-35 JSF project. Not content with the money we’ve already spent helping to develop these planes, Tony Abbott pledged to actually spend even more to bring these planes over to Australia. The joke, – as it were – is on us because we’re about to take delivery of some of these planes that barely work in a matter of weeks, and the whole fleet has been grounded due to engine problems.

The F-35 is like ‘The Zap Gun’ in Philip K. Dick’s novel, where our civilisation comes up with increasingly unlikelier weapons systems to make a show of having come up with new exotic ways to kill and destroy. The paper specs of the F-35 is meant to put the fear of something ferocious into the hearts of America’s enemies but the only thing it’s really scaring are the bean counters who track the expenditure towards their development.

The nutshell of the problem is that they set out to deign a plane that fulfills the varied needs of the four service branches of America, each with their unique profiles. Some of these requirements were going to be mutually exclusive and contradictory. As it stands it doesn’t seem to have passed any of the tests to be commissioned. Not even the US Marines who were most bullish about getting their F-35s commissioned is looking like they will succeed by the end of this year, as they had announced.

Thus I point to the fundamental waste that is the F-35 at a time when there is *allegedly* such need to cut government services. If we should be buying any warplanes, we should be buying the F-22. At least they work, and come in cheaper.

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Quick Shots – 26/Feb/2014

Manus Island Breakout

I’ve been busy writing a script. Yes. I’m a paid writer at the moment so I’ve been a little quiet on this front. It doesn’t mean I haven’t been following the news. This business on Manus Island is turning into something rather awful as messengers keep getting shot. At the crux of the issue is fundamentally how this government actually sees the role of government and how it fits into what we might call a democracy. That’s right, we’re actually seeing a coalition government that has very little tolerance for what it takes to be a democratic government save for the bit – the election – that got them in.

I guess we ought not to be surprised when the government subcontracts out the detaining of asylum seekers, then it also subcontracts out the security to private firms. And it should not surprise us that such firms might have far less ethical staff or formal procedures when compared to a government organ, and that it should lead to mishandling a population like the detainee asylum seekers. What is worse is perhaps that the minister of immigration Scott Morrison would lie to us about the status of Manus Island and its riot. There is no other way of putting it. He made announcements to effect that were otherwise to information that he had already obtained. This is lying – in spite of Scott Morrison’s protestations to be otherwise. Worse still has been the general lack of transparency about the whole handling of asylum seekers, which admittedly not a new problem with this government but a fundamental philosophical one.

All this culminated in ALP Senator Stephen Conroy accusing General Angus Campbell as aiding a cover-up. The furore has been rather telling. Today, the Defence department chief David Hurley came out swinging in defence of Campbell. Now, the Coalition are carrying on as if some great offence has been made by Stephen Conroy. You sort of worry about how the Coalition sees the military because they’re essentially using the privilege of the military operations to say “we can’t tell you what we’re doing.” The problem with this is that it places the military out of reach of proper scrutiny. Worse still, the Coalition Government’s accountability is taken away with it, so there’s really no telling what this government is doing, but no, they’re not telling. They are effectively saying the chain of command of the ADF stops at the Prime Minister’s office for him to use at his leisure. This should be constitutionally debatable – not that anybody would bother – but it should be debated.

To add insult to injury the same government wants to break custom and break open the cabinet papers from the Rudd Gillard government so there is absolutely no quid pro quo there; worse still, they *only* do things that suit themselves for no good reason other than it suits themselves.  I can’t think of a dirtier modus operandi than that, and if that’s not anti-democratic, I don’t know what is. But I digress.  The more salient thing is that the Coalition Government has adopted the military chain of command and military protocol as its defence for not being held accountable to the Senate of the land. This is a bit like ancient Rome on the eve of the Triumvirates. You could make a cartoon of Senator Publius Conrus in a toga summoning Consul Claudius Morrisus to account on the Senate floor and Claudius Morrisus says he cannot discuss the said matter because it would affect the operations of General Pompei Campbellius in North Africa against the pirates at sea. In fact that’s exactly what it is, and what we’re seeing is the Coalition Government actively trying to limit the control of military from the Senate.

I can’t tell you how disturbing this is, because any time you cut the military loose from government control like this, it sets a precedent. A precedent which will be abused at some point in the future, even if there is not much harm today. I understand David Hurley’s protestations but he is *wrong*. This *is* a problem for Australia and Senator Conroy is correct in asking General Campbell whether the ADF is politically in bed with the Liberal National Party to such a degree that it would take such military operations out of the purview of the Australian Senate.  History is full of military operations done outside of government purview that turn into major political disasters. The Japanese Kwantung Army in Manchuria in the 1930s was such an entity that refused to be accountable to the Diet of Japan. The 1960s CIA is such an organ that created the conditions for the Bay of Pigs and in a roundabout way brought about the Cuban Missile Crisis. The rise of the Triumvirate in ancient Rome was exactly this problem, where the Roman army ended up being a privatised organ of ambitious citizens. It killed their republic – which in fact might jive well with Tony Abbott’s anti-Republican position.

Which is to say (and jokes aside), not only is this Coalition Government not very well versed in science, it appears it is not very well versed in history. And where it seems to discount scientific findings with spurious and casual disdain, it would also ignore lessons of history at its peril. In that light, I can’t say I’m impressed with Defence Department chief David Hurley or the other indignations hurled at Stephen Conroy for his remarks by Tony Abbott and company.

Now be that as it may, Stephen Conroy is still a nincompoop in my books. It pains me to defend him. But that’s the nature of having truth on your side – it’s defensible to be truthful. Morrison and his lies are not defensible in any way shape or form. The endorsement that at least Morrison is not a wimp from Tony Abbott, is a bit like claiming the best asset of Maria Sharapova’s tennis game is her grunt. It amazes me that the Coalition don’t worry about things like the truth or facts; instead they worry about form. They just seem to love it when they can push the envelope of hypocrisy as far as it can be pushed, if it looks good to them and their punters. I really worry about the mental health of people who think this is a good government or for that matter better government than they were getting under the Rudd-Gillard ALP.

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News That’s Fit To Punt – 08/Feb/2014

Burning Hands, Burning Pants

It’s been a truly crappy few weeks in politics. First there was reportage by the ABC that Royal Australian Navy personnel had burnt the hands of asylum seekers in their recent turn-back-the-boats escapade. I won’t go into how fraught and awful this exercise is in of itself, because we know the politics around it are as barren as the minds that conceived it. What I do want to recount is the extraordinary sequence of events which followed.

First there was the Prime Minister slamming the ABC and accusing them of gross inaccuracy in their reporting, and that somehow the national carrier is institutionally incapable of speaking on behalf of Australia’s interests. Now, this was kind of weird because Australia’s interests in this instance seemed suspiciously to be interchangeable with Tony Abbott’s interests as a politician. If the stretchmarks were showing, it got ugly when there was an announcement made that there would be an efficiency review of the ABC.

The Navy and the Australian government denied the allegations and have continued to deny them since they were first aired.  It has looked like for all money that the ABC journalists on the ground were too keen to couch this as a problem for the Abbott government. In essence, they’re saying the ABC journos involved are liars.

Of course, taken aback by the ferocity of the criticism, the ABC made noises about being more true to the stories they are reporting, but independent of the furor, Fairfax sent a journalist to find these people who allegedly had their hands burnt. It turns out that the ABC didn’t just make this stuff up, it wasn’t an exaggeration of an idle claim.

This week, in the Tanjung Pinang immigration detention centre on a little island off the coast of Sumatra, that changed. Fairfax Media conducted the first extended face-to-face interview with Fasher, who says he was an eyewitness to the incident, and he told his story in unprecedented detail.

His account has been consistent from the first. He says he has no doubt that what he saw at close quarters on about January 3 was three people’s hands being deliberately held to a hot exhaust pipe by Australian naval personnel to punish them for protesting, and to deter others from doing one simple thing: going to the toilet too often.

And here’s the pic.

Burnt Hand of Sudanese man

Late yesterday, the breaking news was that Defence Minister David Johnston called for an inquiry in to the ABC just about at the same time Fairfax was breaking the news corroborating the ABC’s original story. This is pretty stupid stuff so I am compelled to quote here:

”I don’t want to do anything that might complicate that task of stopping the boats and frankly I don’t want to do anything that would cast aspersions on the professionalism of our naval and customs personnel. I have nothing but respect for them … and I have seen nothing that credibly casts any doubts on that professionalism.”

Senator Johnston also said he was happy with assurances given to him by Defence brass.

”I have discussed this matter with senior command,” he said. ”They have assured me that there is no substance to these allegations.”

But he refused to detail measures taken to investigate the claims, instead calling for scrutiny of the ABC.

”If ever there was an event that justified a detailed inquiry, some reform and investigation of the ABC, this is it,” he said.

He said the navy had been “maliciously maligned” by the ABC’s coverage of the matter, dismissing the public broadcaster’s apology as “weasel words” by its senior management.

”I have not said much because, I have to confess, I was extremely angry. I required some time to cool off,” he said.

When asked why his department had not answered a detailed list of questions by Fairfax Media based on a detailed eyewitness account, Senator Johnston said it was a matter for Mr Morrison because it was a ”civil public policy issue”.

”When you give me something to act upon that is more than just hearsay, innuendo and rumour, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” he said.

How stupid is that? No, really, how deeply idiotic is that?

Talk about shooting the messenger. What can we glean from this? It seems David Johnston does not read the news. If he did, he would have to admit that there is much more than “hearsay, innuendo, and rumour”. There’s the photo above for a start. Given that there is the photo now in public with the corroborating report, I don’t see how David Johnston can maintain that he is happy with the assurance given to him by the Defence brass. If he is happy, it can only because he’s one of those docile morons that happily live with the cognitive dissonance of having wildly conflicting information in his head without the need to resolve them.

Be that is it may, he says he’s really angry at the ABC. He still thinks – in spite of the countervailing evidence – the initial report deserves an inquiry into the ABC and not the Defence department. When asked about the blatant conflict of information going, his explanation for it was that it’s a “civil public policy matter”- but he’s angry with the ABC about their “weasel words”.

Sorry Senator Johnson, the only person practising weasel words in this exchange is your awful, awful, awful, stupid self.

And this brings me to the usual gripe. Who puts idiots like these in charge of the Defence department? That would be the same idiots who put Tony Abbott into the lodge: that would be us, the electorate. The government has been in for only 5 months and it seems to go from one policy disaster to the next, and when they get pulled up for it by the press, they scream bias in coverage. This is so pathetic but worse still is the way it reflects on us all. Who could have thought that democracy could yield such ghastly results? The next time I meet a swinging voter who voted for this Coalition, I think I will blame them for all of this.

But Wait There’s More!

I forgot to mention the bit where Fairfax asked 21 pertinent questions to Immigration Minister Scott Morrison. This bit is good too.

Here’s the full text:

Scott Morrison’s response
‘‘The government does not give credibility to malicious and unfounded slurs being made against our navy personnel and rejects outright any allegations of unprofessional conduct by our people serving in Operation Sovereign Borders. If media outlets wish to give credibility by publishing such unsubstantiated claims, that is a matter for them.

I know and trust that our navy and Customs and Border Protection Service act in accordance with their training and lawful orders and would only use force where necessary and appropriate to deal with threatening and non-compliant behaviour, as appropriate.

There are clear rules and guidelines to govern their behaviour and use of force and they are well trained  to act in accordance with these rules.  I’ll back their professionalism and integrity every day over the self-serving claims of those unhappy that they were denied what the people smugglers promised them.’’

It is also not the government’s policy to give people smugglers a ‘how to guide’ on our operations by providing responses on the issues raised. To do so would put both the people who protect our borders and the operations that are successfully stopping the boats at risk.

The government is aware of reports on Tuesday, 7 January, 2014, of claims that four people may have fallen overboard from a suspected illegal entry vessel inside Australian waters.

These claims were rigorously assessed and acted on at the time they were made, and I am confident that they were not true.

It is important to note that the claimed incident occurred well before the suspected illegal entry vessel had been intercepted by Australian authorities.
For operational security reasons, the government will not go into further detail on this matter.’’

If you believe that you’ll believe anything this bunch says. What’s more worrying – apart from the tone of the reply as well as the brazen disregard for developing any kind of discourse on the subject let alone addressing fairly specific questions, is this notion that what the government does is legitimately covered in some secrecy and therefore above and beyond the citizenry and its desire to be informed. No matter how you look at it, it’s a cynical attempt to dress up something that is shonky as good and pathetic as profound. Again, we must ask ourselves how did we get here? … and we can only blame ourselves once again.

All the same, you do wonder about the education of these mendacious semantic lightweights posing as statesmen of our commonwealth. They’re shills for special interests.

They Want You To Lose Your Shirts

If you want even more evidence that they are just shills for special interests, try this one about the changes they want to make for financial planning. Pleiades sent in this one of Bernard Keane on Crikey observed behind the paywall:

First, there was the reversal of Labor’s decision to require better record-keeping and reporting for fringe benefits tax on novated leases. Note that this wasn’t a tax rise, as widely portrayed, but merely a requirement that people currently avoiding, or possibly in some circumstances evading, tax demonstrate they are doing so for the legitimate reasons they claimed. It was designed to end a straight-out tax rort perpetrated by the parasitic salary packaging industry, at the expense of every taxpayer without a novated lease. Hockey has reinstated the rort, at a cost to the rest of us of $1.4 billion over four years.

However, that’s as nothing compared to the government’s plans to reverse Labor’s Future of Financial Advice reforms, quietly revealed right before Christmas by Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos. Sinodinos proposes to dump the “opt-in” clause for financial advice fees that requires financial planners to actually get their clients’ permission to automatically skim off fees every year for advice clients have never sought and don’t want. Sinodinos also wants to get rid of requirements for advisers to reveal fees to existing clients and dramatically water down requirements designed to end the conflict of interest in which financial planners push clients into products planners stand to benefit from.

While much of the financial planning industry, large and small, is eager to move to a professional model for the financial advice that would turn away from the decades of self-interest and fee-gouging of clients, a rump of planners with close ties to the Liberals want to retain their ability to exploit the disengagement of most Australians about their superannuation in order to skim off a never-ending line of fees. The Liberals, in any event, strongly support the retail super sector of the industry, run by the big banks and AMP, which routinely underperforms the industry funds despised by the Liberals for trade union involvement.

Sinodinos’ changes may cost financial planning clients, i.e. ordinary consumers, $130 billion in lost retirement savings, which the age pension system of the future will have to help make up. It puts all other handouts by government in the shade.

At the same time, the government has also scrapped Labor’s plan to tax superannuation earnings over $100,000 a year for high-income retirees (i.e. Liberal voters) at 15% — while dumping assistance for low-income earners to increase their super contributions (i.e. Labor voters).

This government’s pretty cynical about who it helps and who it condemns. The whole process whereby they let GM close Holden’s factories in Australia and let Qantas dangle in the wind tell us that they are very much interested in smashing unions by making union employees in particular, unemployed. It sure would be one way to smash the unions if you could destroy the jobs that give them strength. So even without resorting to Work Choices which was front end bludgeon against the unions, Tony Abbott and his scabbie crew can wreak havoc on the union movement through simply letting their jobs fade.

This is some radial Thatcherite shit. No doubt there’s Rupert Murdoch cheering on this kind of thing although you wonder if all this ideological manoeuvering would be so aggressive if Murdoch wasn’t distorting the Liberals and their base into some kind of Tea Party clone.

It’s amazing that this current incarnation of the Coalition don’t want to govern for all Australians, but to remake the landscape so that they only have to govern for sectional interests. Case in point is this business of giving money to Cadbury while denying a similar amount of money to SPC Ardmona. Eric Abetz – Grand nephew of NAZI Otto Abetz – was on Insiders last week (another dismal mendacious self-congratulatory and nasty-minded effort) claiming there was a world of difference between the Cadbury and SPC situation and even threw in the Carbon Pricing as a reason these companies were  struggling (*UGH*). It might just be that Australians are lot more sadomasochistic than previously imagined and this is some grand BDSM Theatre of the absurd dressed up as politics.

Well, I for one wouldn’t mind whipping the dying snot out of this sorry lot.

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News That’s Fit To Punt – 26/Aug/2013

Mr. Rabbit On The Loose

I guess I’m not the only person a little perturbed by the polls suggesting a win by the Coalition on the 7th. Pleiades sent in this link that pretty much sums up the consternation:

The electoral atmosphere is surreal. We have a government on the back foot over its economic record – which has been outstanding when the global economic environment is taken into account.

And we have an opposition that appears to have successfully undermined the government’s credibility, based on the government’s record of fiscal debt and deficit, which has, in fact, been the foundation of the nation’s success in avoiding the global financial crisis.

The Coalition tactic recalls the 1996 election. At every outdoor political event the opposition’s debt truck would be lurking in the background, showing Australia’s foreign debt ticking over at an alarming rate. Immediately after the election the truck was put way, never to be seen again. Nor was any policy – serious or otherwise – advanced by the Howard government to reverse this alarming growth in debt.

So it will be this time unless Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey are silly enough in office to ride roughshod over their advisers in Treasury, Finance and the Reserve Bank and impose austerity policies involving massive cuts in government spending. Such policies have proved spectacularly unsuccessful elsewhere in reducing deficits or unemployment.

The article goes on to say that climate policy is getting short shrift as a result of the major parties dumbing down their pitch. Well, climate policy itself is in danger of being obliterated if an Abbott-led Coalition wins. I’m a little surprised that the swinging voters who voted in Kevin Rudd with a mandate to put in an ETS, then turned on him when he couldn’t get a deal in Copenhagen and decided to kick the can down, are now seriously contemplating voting in Tony Abbott who is clearly on record as a Climate Change Denier. I mean, really? Is that where we’re headed?

But That’s Not All! There’s The Boats!

Here’s another one from Pleaides… Out in Jakarta, they’re a little alarmed that we’re about to vote in Tony Abbott with his turn back the boats slogans.

The Australian opposition’s plan to disburse millions of dollars to Indonesian fishermen, which is partly to stem the flow of asylum seekers, is an insult to Indonesia as a nation, an international affairs expert has said.

Hikmahanto Juwana of the University of Indonesia criticized the plan and called it “humiliating” because it made Indonesian fishermen just “look like mercenaries who did dirty jobs.”

“I think the government should voice protests to the coalition’s very insensitive plan which clearly shows their poor knowledge about the situation in Indonesia,” he said in a statement made available to The Jakarta Post over the weekend.

The Australia’s opposition coalition has unveiled its plan for more regional action to stop people smuggling, pledging A$420 million for policy measures that include paying Indonesian villagers for information about smugglers and buying unseaworthy boats, according to Australian media.

When you spell it out like that, why yes, it is patronising and  reeks of Colonialist Paternalism. Of course Tony Abbott would be tone deaf (pardon the pun) to such sensitivities.  Though, it gets me that in this day and age that a leading politician from Australia basically has this kind of witheringly contemptuous outlook on Indonesia. How the hell is he going to get Indonesia to play ball with his idiotic plan if he’s already starting on the “you’re bunch of money-grubbing yokels” foot.

Not to mention that fact that the Coalition is going to do this on taxpayers’ money having harangued the ALP government about bad management of funds. I guess that’s Chutzpah for you.

The ALP’s Just Losin’ It All By Themselves

I’m sort of detached from the daily coverage of this election because a) I’ve made up my mind I’m not voting for Tony Abbott and the Coalition and; b) I hate being lied to so brazenly and c) I’m satisfied Julia Gillard isn’t part of the equation; I’m happy not to go into the nitty-gritty of what’s being said. Occasionally Clive Palmer makes me laugh with his handout of DVDs that has a bonus video of him wanting to make the Titanic II with people referring to him as “Professor Palmer”. Yes, it’s side-splittingly funny – so much so that I laughed so hard I hurt my intercostal muscles.

So it takes me by surprise that the ALP is doing so badly in the polls. What drugs are people on? Peter Hartcher’s explanation is that Tony Abbott hasn’t changed one bit; it’s the ALP that’s just going about losing support.

But most politically telling was the fact that Abbott’s big speech was substantially the same one he gave on the same Brisbane stage at the same event three years ago. This conveys four central realities of Australian politics.

First, it tells us that this election is a case where the opposition is not winning, but where the government is losing. Australia is not rushing gleefully to embrace Abbott’s Coalition but is instead rejecting Kevin Rudd and Labor.

You can tell because the main difference between the Abbott pitch of three years ago and his pitch on Sunday is that last time he wasn’t winning the election campaign, and this time he is. Abbott is standing in the same place. The electorate is moving to him, not the other way around.

Second, it tells us that Abbott’s Coalition has held its nerve, an unusual thing in a high-stakes contest. Instead of seeking to ingratiate itself by offering new goodies, the Liberal leader announced no new billion-dollar bonanzas, only some modest new help for apprentices, self-funded retirees and dementia research.

While John Howard’s campaign launches were laden with billion-dollar offerings, the only billions in Abbott’s speech were references to Labor deficits.

Third, this also tells us something about Australia. Abbott is appealing to a country disillusioned with politicians and their promises. The only credible promises are modest ones.

Abbott explicitly warns Australia ”don’t expect miracles”. A Coalition government would ”respect the limits of government as well as its potential”.

At core, Abbott’s promise is limited to uprooting much of Labor’s legacy, while preserving work on a national disability insurance scheme and enlarging Australia’s parental leave scheme.

Fourth, Abbott continues conspicuously to avoid the great, glaring problem at the centre of his policy structure: his budget. It was a mess at the last election, and remains unsolved to this day.

Be patient, and wait another week, the Liberals tell us.

What a joke, and we’re falling for it like the fascists we are.

I’ve been thinking a bit about this and I imagine that there are basically a lot of old baby boomers who are unhappy with being shackled with the carbon pricing in their old age, translating into higher power bills when they don’t even believe climate change. One also imagines a lot of Gen X people who are neck deep in mortgage hell wanting to punish the ALP government for the GFC and its aftermath. And I can well imagine there are quite a few misguided Gen Y types who -being Gen Y – want a laissez faire arrangement and they don’t care how much they pay for their education. I meet these types now and then and it always strikes me that democracy is wasted on the free world. They have the vote; the right to vote in a free country in the first world and they want to waste it on a sloganeering blowhard.

Of all the things people could do, the worst thing would be to vote for Tony Abbott’s coalition.  His government is not going to do anything but widen the gap between the wealthy and the poor and make us an even more hateful, self-possessed, mean-spirited country. He will be a Prime Minster you’d be ashamed to show anybody. But then, he did learn from the master of that sort of thing in John Howard.

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Intractable Mess

ALP In The Middle
Pleiades sent in this link today for a quick look. It’s an article by Antony Green – famous for his election coverage and breakdown of numbers – talking about just how difficult the Asylum Seeker issue has become.

With asylum seeker boat arrivals a very live debate in the 2013 election campaign, Vote Compass asked four questions on asylum seekers and immigration issues.

The results reveal a polarised electorate, but one where Coalition and Green supporters find themselves comfortably aligned with their parties’ policy positions.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-21/vote-compass/4901844

The real division was among Labor voters. Overall 48 per cent of intending Labor voters oppose the new Labor policy while 40 per cent support it. Labor has made a major policy shift to ban asylum seekers who arrive by boat from settling in Australia, but either Labor supporters have yet to adjust their position on the new policy, or just as likely, there are differing opinions on the subject within Labor’s support base.

Since 2001 the Labor Party has struggled to produce policies on asylum seekers that straddle the divide between being tough and being compassionate. This struggle is reflected in the Vote Compass data for intended Labor voters.

It’s clear that the polarisation surrounding this issue is actually making things intractable. I’ve been thinking about this very point for some time in as much as I can’t seem to find too many people who wanted to try the Malaysian solution when Julia Gillard and Chris Bowen had that project as the desired policy course. Most people I knew either wanted to go the Abbott way and send boats back forcibly, or they wanted to just let anybody in without so much as a due process.

Even ringers like Clive Palmer has a policy position on this, and his is immediate on the spot processing and if they are found to be not refugees, they get sent back immediately. Which is all very nice for Clive but the reality is that some of these people are destroying their paperwork as they get on the boats to make it harder for immigration officials.

And this sort of brings me to the next point. The people on the far left of the spectrum who vehemently criticise the also numerous other end of the spectrum don’t seem to want to have any process at all. This is sort of interesting in as much as it seems those people want to do away with the department of immigration entirely. If you listen closely to the far left, they’re saying, let anybody who comes to Australia by boat, stay. They don’t seem to understand that this massively incentivises people to get on boats; and that the people getting on the boats are counting on a sizable portion of Australians to feel pity and just let them in (“and why the hell not?” I hear them say).

All of this is surprising because Australia probably is well-served by its immigration department in most instances. Why the department and its processes don’t get the benefit of the doubt and aren’t allowed to process the asylum seekers actually escapes me.

Antony Green also goes on to point out that lack of education and income (or the lack thereof) also correlates with support or opposition to the policy. This is understandable given that they would be the most vulnerable to added competition from a sudden influx of low-skilled workers. They’re not dumb. They know it means more competition and lowering of their bargaining power. And while the term xenophobia gets bandied about readily, you’d have to give the lowly-educated low-income demographic a break for being anxious. After all, we’re living in a hollowing out economy where their jobs are more likely to be exported to ‘Chindia’ than those of the white collar demographic.

Similarly, the opposition to letting asylum seekers correlates with age as well. The older you are, the more likely you are to object – which, let’s be fair, is probably an overhang of the White Australia Policy so that one probably deserves the ‘xenophobia’ label.

In any case it’s clear that the ALP has got a real problem on its hands because  the issue sits exactly at the point where it splits the traditional blue collar voters from the varsity educated progressives. If the ALP ran on the most left-leaning policy of letting all Asylum Seekers that arrive by boats into Australia, they might feel better about themselves but the numbers say they will lose. So you can see how this necessitates the PNG solution. You wonder how the white collar ALP voter feels about this (seeing that they were the most likely Gillard supporters) on the day the ballot is cast. …or will they donkey vote? it’s 3 more weeks to wrestle with their consciences because like it or not, donkey voting will bring in Tony Abbott.

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Southern Seas Comfort

To Hell In A Leaky Boat

Many an observer who are more in the humanitarian vein are going to disapprove, but I think Julia Gillard made the most exemplary decision of her time in office by backing off her Malaysian plan and giving into the ‘Nauru Option’.

Ms Gillard said the government’s urgency to reopen Nauru and consequently Manus Island was a bid to stay one step ahead of people smugglers who were looking to crowd people on boats while Parliament debated the necessary the legislation.
”I am concerned people smugglers might try to exploit this window,” she said. ”The sooner this is legislated the better.”
The Prime Minister said she was confident Nauru could be up and running within a month, albeit with temporary accommodations including tents.

One imagines it was a tough, humiliating, teeth-grinding call. She sure didn’t have a hand worth spit with which to play better; the game was up when the boats started sinking, with a hung parliament. The people were getting on boats quicker because they knew the ALP government faced electoral annihilation, and so wanted to get here sooner while the better PM was still in office. It’s ironic when your reputation for humanity invites such crises.

To quote the movie ‘Southern Comfort’, “sometimes it’s time to abandon principles and do what’s right.” That time was clearly upon us a month or so ago when all were up in arms. Of course in that movie, the guy who says the line goes on to blow up the hillbilly’s church.

We all know what the ideal situation should be in our heads, but when all our ideals are in such fierce competition, sometimes the noblest thing is to find the ground upon which to compromise. It is humane to find a way back to something sensible. Amazingly, both the Opposition Leader and the Greens tried to scramble for moral high ground and heaped condemnation on the Prime Minster (and really it’s not as if she isn’t deserving of some of that opprobrium, however…) but in many ways the dire necessity was the need to stop people getting on leaky boats.

I imagine those who want there to be no processing and visas handed out without questions, through to those who want on-shore processing would be appalled by this back down. I imagine the people who think their own xenophobia is some kind of justified position would rejoice in this change of tactic. My own view is that an ugly pragmatism is much more nobler than the crocodile-teared hypocrisy-fest grandstanding we have seen in recent weeks by the likes of Sarah Hanson-Young and Joe Hockey.

If this decision disgusts you, then I would urge you to consider that it is the a decision that is the sum total of the entire Australian polity, and for once, Julia Gillard’s only option as executive was to make the one call she did not want to make. That she took it, actually raises my estimation of her from what I previously made of her.

…But I’m still not voting for you Julia!

Thanks Malcolm, But You’re Not Helping

Malcolm Fraser thinks that the Pacific Solution is racist.

Speaking to the National Times over lunch at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in West Melbourne, Mr Fraser said that with it being proved how mandatory detention traumatises refugees under the Pacific Solution, it was even more inhumane to reintroduce it.

Mr Fraser said amendments to legislation allowing offshore processing of asylum seekers that will be put to Parliament this week would needlessly punish some of the most vulnerable people in the world.

”I think the impact will be tougher than Howard’s Pacific Solution because there is no time limit on how long people will be in these detention centres, it’s indefinite,” he said.

He said children held in detention would be worse off under the recommendations.

”The minister will no longer be guardian of children, so the convention on the rights of the child, which we’ve agreed to, suddenly means nothing.”
Mr Fraser said the amendments would not stop the boats and that more people would be at risk of drowning.

”The Liberals and others say that Howard stopped the boats, but if you look overall at what happened, the Taliban fell. The numbers of refugees going to Europe fell just as dramatically at the same time and no country in Europe had yet introduced the punitive measures that Australia introduced.”

Mr Fraser said the sensible alternative was to have large processing centres, in Malaysia or Indonesia, with the commitment that those recognised as genuine refugees would come to Australia.

Processing centres in Malaysia! Does Mr. Fraser even read the news? If such options were available, I’m sure the Prime Minister would have leapt at it.

Cruelty Thy Name Is Asylum Seeker Policy

Here’s another article, this time with the Refugee Advocates lambasting the move.

”All we have seen is a return to the cruelty and inhumanity of the policies of the past,” said Nick Riemer, a spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition. ”If the panel’s arrangements are implemented, refugees will suffer and languish in Nauru [and] Manus Island, just as they did under the Howard government.”

Mr Riemer said the panel wanted to ”shunt [asylum seekers] off to places in our region where they had no hope of living in safety”.
”The only place that can give refugees the security and support they need is Australia,” Mr Riemer said.

The panel’s support for offshore processing also drew the ire of human rights lawyer David Manne, who led the successful High Court challenge to the Malaysia plan, which was the government’s previously preferred policy.

I know Nick Riemer in passing. He’s a very nice fellow, well-read and well-spoken and well-meaning. Not to be mean about it, but I often wish Nick would read the things I have read about politics, whether it be deSade, Bataille, Machiavelli or Tacitus. He would have a very different view o the function of the state and how a polity can be viewed, and might not be so definitive in his accusations of cruelty. I’m positive Julia Gillard did not take this course of action out of a desire to inflict cruelty – she’s much too boring and unimaginative a human being for that kind of thing.

The fact of the matter is our polity taken as a whole is nowhere near as emotionally mature as Nick Riemer, and thus, more is the tragedy. That this solution might be the best we can do, is indeed the very picture of that tragedy.

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