Australian Politics

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In the same way you appreciate the love and support of friends and family in tough times, you too can provide emotional support by sending some love and support to asylum seekers trapped in offshore centres. With many already suffering from trauma in their land of origin and continuing to face horrible conditions in detention centres, warm words can mean the world of difference. Click the link to see how you can send a letter.

progressiveauspol:

Indigenous history in focus: The day of Mourning

As the Australian government’s oppression of Indigenous people continued opposition manifested itself in various forms. One such political body was the Aboriginal Progressive Association. The APA made a powerful response to the 150 year celebration of Australia Day, a day that marks the invasion of Aboriginal land by European colonisers. They held a protest meeting which they called The Day of Mourning and released a manifesto that attacked white imperialism:

The Old Australians

You are the new Australians, but we are the old Australians. We have in our arteries the blood of the original Australians, who have lived in this land for many thousands of years. You came here only recently, and you took our land away from us by force. You have exterminated our people, but there are enough of us remaining to expose the humbug of your claim, as White Australians, to be a civilised, progressive, kindly and humane nation. By your cruelty and callousness towards the Aboriginies you stand condemned in the eyes of the civilised world.

- Australia Day 1938 (Patten & Ferguson)

Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus was killed this week covering the presidential election in Afghanistan. Pictured above are some of her amazing pics.

Image 1: Afghan day labourer Mesbah, 12, takes a rest after preparing kilns to fire bricks at a factory on the outskirts of Kabul on 7 November 2013

Image 2: In this photograph from last month, Pakistani bank notes covered in blood are displayed on the body of a dead suicide bomber. Police found them in his pocket after an attack on the former Afghan intelligence headquarters in Kandahar

Image 3: A Libyan rebel prays next to his gun on the outskirts of Ajdabiya, Libya, on 21 March 2011

Image 4: In this photograph from November 2012, a young girl reaches out to a Pakistani policeman securing the road outside Kainat Riaz’s home in Mingora, Swat Valley, Pakistan. Kainat was wounded by the same Taliban gunman who shot Malala Yousufzai and 13-year-old Shazia Ramazan on their way home from school. Malala was shot for her outspoken insistence on girls’ education

See some more of her portfolio here

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.

The Black Rats of Tobruk

Hundreds of Indigenous soldiers fought in WW2, with many paying the ultimate sacrifice little changed upon arrival back in Australia. While White Australians received pensions and soldier settlement blocks, Indigenous servicemen were denied these things. To add insult to injury some had their children taken away as part of white Australia’s insidious stolen generation policy , fined or jailed for drinking and faced continued harassment and vilification from their white neighbors. 

It is estimated that almost 50 Aboriginal Servicemen served in the Boer War (1899-1902) as trackers but were not allowed back into Australia because of the White Australia policy. There are efforts now to find their descendants in South Africa. (X)

'Every Australian knows that if you have two credit cards, it is very bad management to pay off your debt on one of them by racking it up on the other.” The budget ”pulled down the national economic debt, but it continued the process of racking up our ecological debt

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.



(via progressiveauspol)

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.

Waleed Ali on proposed amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act. (X)

Images drawn by children held in indefinite detention on Christmas Island:

The most alarming aspect of the pictures drawn by children detained on Christmas Island, and revealed by the Human Rights Commission’s national investigation into their plight, is what is blanked out – the children’s boat IDs. In every detention facility I have visited, children sign their artworks with this ID; they respond to this ID; they know each other’s ID numbers. The institutionalisation of these children is all-pervasive and will take a very long time to recover from if they are ever released into society.(X)

The pretense of the Coalition that the amendment to the Racial Discrimination Act is about free speech is sickening. The issue at hand is not free speech at all. Under current law conversations about race are not limited at all. Political commentators like Bolt who were found in contravention of the act were found in breach not because he made comments about light skinned Aboriginals but because he made assertions about light skinned Aboriginals that were factual in error and not made in good faith. The issue was not what he said but how he said it.
If the government was truly committed to free speech or human rights they might want to address more pressing issues than the right of a white man to spout bigoted crap based on factual errors. They could address more pressing issues like :
 Lex Wetton, an Aboriginal community leader prohibited from attending community meetings or talking to the press, after a speech he made about police brutality incited the Palm Island riots.
While we are on that we might as well address the fact that free speech is not actually explicitly protected by our constitution
Or our appalling domestic violence rate. 60% of women killed are at the hands of their partner. Our support services are woeful and put our nation’s women and children in real danger.
The appalling conditions that Aboriginals face, not only low life expectancies but woeful infrastructure investment in health and education. Not to mention the continued removal of Aboriginal children from families . As of June last year 14,000 children have been removed from their families. $44 million was spent by the government to monitor Aboriginal families and only $500,000 to support these impoverished families. 
The way we treat asylum seekers including the indefinite imprisonment of children, woeful conditions and emerging claims of abuse in these centres.
The list goes on but the impetus for a change in the Racial Discrimination Act is embarrassing in the face of far more pressing human rights issues.

The pretense of the Coalition that the amendment to the Racial Discrimination Act is about free speech is sickening. The issue at hand is not free speech at all. Under current law conversations about race are not limited at all. Political commentators like Bolt who were found in contravention of the act were found in breach not because he made comments about light skinned Aboriginals but because he made assertions about light skinned Aboriginals that were factual in error and not made in good faith. The issue was not what he said but how he said it.

If the government was truly committed to free speech or human rights they might want to address more pressing issues than the right of a white man to spout bigoted crap based on factual errors. They could address more pressing issues like :

The list goes on but the impetus for a change in the Racial Discrimination Act is embarrassing in the face of far more pressing human rights issues.

This sculpture by Issac Cordal in Berlin is called “Politicians discussing global warming.”

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 language of morality and fairness around the asylum seeker debate) is disingenuous. Most refugees currently come from a few countries including Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Iraq and Iran. These outflows are not a function of their lack of moral fibre or the trickery of smugglers, but directly related to insecurity, violence, and persecution in their countries of origin. The overwhelming majority of those who arrive in Australia, or are processed in “off-shore facilities” such as Nauru, are found to be genuine refugees – more than double the rate of those who apply for refugee status in other ways. In 2011–12, the final grant rate for Afghani IMAs was 95.8%, 93.1% for Pakistanis, 86.9% for Sri Lankans, and over 90% of all applicants.
Desmond Manderson (X)

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