The makeup of the WA senate looks to be 2 Liberal (-5.5% swing) , 1 Labor(-4.8%), 1 Green (+6.3%), 1 PUP (+7.4%), with the final seat dependent on how preferences flow. If Labor gets the final seat, the senate is going to be a major stumbling block for the Liberal party who will have to get seven of the 8 cross bench seats (3 PUP senators, Ricky Muir from Motoring Enthusiasts, Bob Day from Family First, David Leyonhjelm from the LDP and Madigan from the Victorian DLP) to get pass any legislation. On the other hand if the Greens and Labor work together, they only need two cross bench votes to block any legislation.
Coalition senators are trying to push through legislation that will ban environmental boycotts. This will mean political campaigns like those run by Getup! that seeks to end unsustainable logging practices through secondary boycotts will be banned.
After an embarrassing month of them falling over themselves to supposedly defend us against some projected imaginary threat to free speech ( and a nasty dose of racial politics to go with it) by trying to amend the Racial Discrimination Act, they now seem to be falling over themselves to serve corporate interests, contemplating legislation that would greatly impinge on political expression.
This is a comment from Christine Milne back in 2010. The Greens often get painted as radicals for their supposedly rabid environmentalism. Yet they make a very pertinent point. Our economy is dependent on the exploitation of the environment. A failure to look after the environment would have serious consequences for our economy. Taking aside global warming, extreme exploitation would led to the depletion of mineral stocks, agricultural land, native forest etc, all vital resources for a modern capitalist economy and to maintain our standard of living.
The problem is that we are still stuck in 1800s thinking where economic activity is relatively small in comparison to the environment. As such the environment was seen as a free good that could be continually exploited with no cost involved. However with a resource intensive economy and a population surpassing 7 billion this is no longer the case. We are extracting resources at a rate much faster than they are replenished. In other words we are funding our economic growth by putting a massive debt on our ecological credit card, its a cost that we will never be able to pay back the way we are going.
This does not mean we abandon growing our economy, rather we grow it in a sustainable way. It means we need new models and policies that are not based solely on GDP, that stops treating the environment as an externality. This is why we so desperately need market based measures like a carbon tax / ETS that recognises the harm we cause the environment through our emissions. This is why we desperately need to encourage investment in alternative and renewable energy before its too late. This is why we need laws that protect fragile areas like the Great Barrier Reef. Both major parties need to adapt to a thinking that recognises the challenges of a 21st century economy.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about George Brandis’ now infamous comment this week that Australians “have the right to be bigots” is that it was so unremarkable. Sure, it’s a grating soundbite, but as a matter of substance it’s entirely obvious. Of course we have a right to be bigots. We always have.
That’s the point that has been buried here. Nothing in the Racial Discrimination Act as it presently stands precludes bigotry. In fact I’ll go a step further: you’re even allowed to express your bigotry. Happens all the time. Read a newspaper. Bigoted views are published there several times in an average week.
Critics of the Racial Discrimination Act are simply wrong to suggest that our free speech is so curtailed that we can’t risk saying anything offensive. The courts have long made clear that the Act only contemplates serious cases. The caricature that we’re placed at the mercy of the most delicate people’s sensibilities is nothing less than a gross misrepresentation of the law.
(and) That’s what struck me most about the proposed legislation. It’s just so … well, white. In fact it’s probably the whitest piece of proposed legislation I’ve encountered during my lifetime. It trades on all the assumptions about race that you’re likely to hold if, in your experience, racism is just something that other people complain about.
Ends that are wretched will invariably produce bad means… Stopping the boats is an end, and any amount of nastiness to achieve that is justified - popularity confers legitimacy.
Maybe, in decades to come, we will look back at this time and regard it as one of the worst stains on our nation. More awful than the White Australia Policy and up there with the stolen generations. A time when our nation had a dark heart.
The asylum problem now is like the drug problem then. Debate is framed in a moral language that excites a crisis completely unrelated to the dimensions of the problem. The asylum seeker, like the drug addict, is depicted as a piteous victim who must be locked up for their own good; the “trafficker” or “smuggler” is considered a villain against whom no action is too harsh.
Policy settings in both cases depend on a zero-tolerance approach built around hugely expensive law enforcement strategies. The underlying assumption is that if only our laws are severe enough, people’s behaviour will change. But the prohibition of drugs and the prohibition of boats make the same mistake. Supply-side responses to demand-side problems often fail to make real inroads into the underlying problems.
Indeed, the case of drug policies shows that sometimes harsh law enforcement does not merely fail to stop the problem. It can actually make matters worse; much worse. Raising the stakes and driving people underground creates more profit, causes more deaths, and leads to more suffering. But rational arguments have little purchase in a climate fashioned by false assumptions as to what law can achieve, and a wilful blindness as to its unintended consequences.
In the heightened rhetoric over drug use, morality and legality became hopelessly muddled. For many years, the illegality of certain drugs was justified because of their immorality, while their immorality was explained in terms of their illegality. Drug users were criminals because they were bad, and bad because they were criminals.
A similar confusion clouds the hyperbole around asylum seekers. The Liberal Party under Tony Abbott brands asylum seekers as criminals. “People should not come illegally to this country. That’s the bottom line, mate.” In fact, there is nothing illegal about claiming one’s rights under international law or making an application for refugee status under Australian law.
Fantastic essay by Desmond Manderson in the Griffith review, advocating the removal of a zero tolerance policy towards refugees to a more humane harm reduction policy. Its also a great article that debunks the false assumptions underlying the asylum seeker debate