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
Chatter on racist/extreme right wing parties have been one condemning the asylum seekers as criminal, asking why we should let in people who are violent, cant wait their turn nor are they grateful for food and shelter provided on the Australia dime. A comment by a commentator in the Guardian sums it up perfectly:
According to recent reports by Amnesty International and UNHCR these asylum seekers do have shelter, though because of over crowding, lack of windows and ventilation, invasion of wildlife and flooding it is considered inadequate. Indeed the asylum seekers have food and water, however they have to queue for hours for food, there is sometimes not enough to go around, and it has made people ill. There is also insufficient water.
Again there are medical supplies, but like the water there is not enough to go around. There has been a case of a person going blind in one eye due to lack of medical care as well as many detainees having to wait for medication to treat serious medical conditions. There is not even close to enough treatment for mental health conditions.
In the time that the detention centre has been reopened not one single claim to asylum has been processed, and the government is refusing to give any timetable on how long these people can expect to wait.
The conditions on Manus Island are not up to international standard. The indefinite detention of asylum seekers is against international law. According to Amnesty International the conditions on Manus Island are created in order to break people. The conditions are created to break responsible adults.
How many days, weeks, months or years would it take you to rebel if you were denied appropriate shelter, food, water and medical supplies I wonder?
The Productivity Commission released a new report showing that over the past five years, independent and Catholic schools have been receiving greater increases in government funding per student than public schools. Private schools received real increases of 3.4% per year between 2007 and 2012, while government schools received increases of just 2.4% per year. (X)
Universal education is and should be a cornerstone of our modern liberal democracy. The increasing trend of gutting public schools is worrying, one that will result in a widening chasm between the haves and the have nots, condemning thousands to subpar education and denying them from a world of opportunity.
(X) Its strange that a review of welfare reform conveniently forgets the greatest recipients of welfare (and happens to constitute a sizeable voting bloc). On top of this we have the paid parental scheme that will fork out $75,000 to high income earners. On top of this we have corporate welfare, for example mining companies receive $450m in direct subsidies and 10X that in tax concessions totalling $4.5 billion a year. Then we have the Direct Action plan which is nothing more than a $3b a year corporate slush fund. Then we have the $200 marriage counselling vouchers to help uphold the nuclear family. Of course though in this budget emergency the #1 priority is to rip resources from those who can least afford it, the unemployed, single mothers and the disabled.
If the Australian government is so keen on welfare reform it might want to look at corporate welfare rather than squeezing blood from vulnerable groups including the disabled, single mothers and the unemployed. The mining industry gets direct subsidies of $452 million and when you include tax concessions the amount increases 10 fold to 4.5 billion. The mining industry as a result of vast concessions has the lowest tax rate of any industry in Australia.
Alex White. Abbott’s direct action scheme is an ineffectual scheme whereby big corporations are paid $3 billion to stop polluting but face no sanctions if they do not meet the reduced targets. The direct action scheme is nothing more than a massive slash fund in order to line the pockets of big corporations at the tax payers expense. Even worse it exhibits a continued political farce where they pretend to acknowledge the threat of climate change publicly but privately peddle in climate change denial.
Christopher Pyne on why an update is needed. It echoes Tony Abbotts comment on Indigenous people on Q&A back in 2010:
Now, I know that there are some Aboriginal people who aren’t happy with Australia Day. For them it remains Invasion Day. I think a better view is the view of Noel Pearson, who has said that Aboriginal people have much to celebrate in this country’s British Heritage’
Our current educational system is already a racist anglocentric account of Australian history that sanitises the invasion and colonisation of Australia. Australian textbooks still refer to white colonisation as a settlement and not an invasion. It still ignores the armed resistance of Indigenous tribes. It is light in recounting the wars that were fought. Most Australian students are still painfully unaware which tribe previously had ownership of the land that they reside on. Many are incapable of identifying an Aboriginal language. A sizeable proportion of the population are completely unaware of racist laws such as the Flora and Fauna Act that identified Indigenous people as flaura and fauna and not people as recently as 1967. I don’t think its possible to sanitise or further ignore Indigenous history and culture than we already do, white history is still front and centre of our current curriculum, the achievements of ‘white civilisation’ still exalted. If Australia wants to embrace its march towards a prosperous multicultural modern nation it needs to reflect on the racist and violent roots that have borne untold misery and torn Indigenous communities apart, not ignore it.
Andrew Bolt is not the most aggrieved victim of human rights abuses in Australia. He is freer than most. To highlight his racial vilification case as a significant violation that merited more attention from the human rights community, as incoming human rights commissioner Tim Wilson has done, does a disservice to all those who suffer real rights abuses.
Why not mention Lex Wotton, the Aboriginal community leader who is not permitted to attend public meetings without government approval and who is prohibited from speaking to the media?
Why not mention Ranjini, a refugee who has spent years in immigration on the basis of a secret security assessment that she can’t challenge?
Why not mention Andrea Pickett, a mother of 13 who was killed by her estranged husband after being turned away from crisis accommodation?
Some groups like to peddle the myth that human rights organisations respond to issues according to political ideology and personal whim. In fact, good human rights organisations – including the Australian Human Rights Commission – respond to their mandate under human rights law and to actual need. They recognise that some groups in the community are more likely to be subject to serious human rights violations and less likely to obtain redress, or have their voices heard.
Over 1,000 children are still suffering, locked up in detention. Who is less free and more in need of the attention of the Australian Human Rights Commission, these children, or a wealthy, powerful media commentator?
It’s been 101 days since the election, but rather than acting as the Treasurer of Australia, he’s frozen in opposition mode, looking for someone to blame. Mr Hockey is going to attempt to argue that he has discovered “spiders in the cupboards”, and pretend that he is showing the state of the books at the time he became Treasurer.
Unfortunately for Mr Hockey, that particular trick has been made impossible, thanks to the fiscal equivalent of Mortein: the Charter of Budget Honesty.Created by Peter Costello after the 1996 election, the Charter does something very simple: it requires the secretaries of Treasury and Finance to prepare a Pre-Election Fiscal and Economic Outlook (PEFO). That document sets out the nation’s public finances at the time of the election. It ensures, as Mr Costello put it at the time, “that the Australian people know the situation before an election begins and so that elections can be conducted on the basis of the facts and not on the basis of deceit, as governments in the past have sought to do”.
The PEFO for the 2013 election showed an economy with solid growth, unemployment that was low by historical standards, and gross debt projected to peak at $370 billion in 2016-17. That is the spider-free economy Joe Hockey took on.
Alas, Mr Hockey’s early days in the job suggest a Treasurer who struggles to win the key economic arguments. His decision to give $9 billion to the Reserve Bank is bewildering, given the lack of evidence that they ever asked for such a princely sum. A tax cut to mining billionaires and removing the carbon price will cost billions in lost revenue. A parental leave scheme that gives $75,000 per baby to the highest-earners will further blow out the budget.
And let’s face it, if you really believed the nation was facing a “budget emergency”, and that the Greens were the most extreme party in Australia, would you strike a deal with the Greens to remove the debt cap entirely?