Saturday, December 24, 2005

Multiculturalism - what more needs to be done?

Professor Allan Patience, a visiting fellow in the research school of Pacific and Asian studies, Australian National University, argues "the past decade has seen a sustained and deliberate white-anting of Australia's multicultural achievements. The campaign has been fostered by neo-conservative elements in the Federal Government and inflamed by shock-jocks on talkback radio. The ugly consequences of these opportunistic politics are evident in the riots in Sydney's south and west. If unchecked, the disturbances will spread."

In answer to the question what should be done he makes three points:

"First, political parties must abandon electoral strategies that promote fear and loathing. Second, research has to be conducted into flawed and failed social policies that are aggravating the shutting out of ethnic minorities from mainstream Australian society, and new policies - some of which will need to be quite radical - will have to be implemented.

Third, a new Institute of Multicultural Affairs needs to be established, to conduct cogent public education programs about our multicultural achievements and how they can be sustained and progressed. Rather than be made to stand alone, it should be placed in a university that has the resources and community connections to ensure its survival.

Over the past decade there has been too much making scapegoats of minorities for cheap electoral advantage and macho political point-scoring. It has serious long-term implications for Australia's survival as a coherent and decent society. The warning signals must be heeded."

a step toward a Bill of Rights


Victoria appears likely to adopt a bill of rights.

Remembering Van, and others

An opinion piece in The Age caught my eye this morning. The Government has forgotten Australian values and what is right, writes Tony Cutcliffe.

Following is an excerpt:

"The haunting tones of Ave Maria took on a new meaning at a recent Christmas event, an unavoidable reminder of Van Nguyen's last moments before his execution in Changi prison. Nguyen's death will soon pass into the sepia prints of our memory. As Shakespeare might have predicted, the goodness inherent in his redemption and brave death has largely been interred with his bones. We remember Nguyen, factually, but incompletely as "the convicted drug smuggler".

Disappearing less quickly is the political infamy that lingers stubbornly in our national subconscious. Many will long remember an Australian Government and a complicit Federal Opposition that allowed this state-sponsored killing to proceed behind a curtain of tokenistic protest and synchronised regret. It will be remembered that Van Nguyen's neglect does not stand alone.

It sits amid a tide of moral ambiguity and diplomatic obsequiousness that shrouds our readiness to abandon citizens in their moment of need."

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Dog Whistler

Workers Online have awarded Howard their 'Tool of the Year' Award: "If our Tool Of The Year left us any more relaxed and comfortable we'd be dead"


"In the sixties John Howard opposed Vietnam War protesters and the protesters were right and Howard was wrong.

In the seventies John Howard opposed the African National Congress and the ANC was right and Howard was wrong.

In the eighties John Howard opposed Asian immigration and immigration was right and Howard was wrong

In the nineties John Howard opposed Eddie Mabo, but Mabo was right and Howard was wrong.

In the early years of the twenty-first century John Howard opposed the UN over Iraq and the UN was right and Howard was wrong.

Now John Howard is opposed to your rights at work; is there a pattern developing here?

If John Howard thinks he has scored a victory this year gaining control of the Senate he should look up the word Pyrrhic in a dictionary.

That it will fly obliviously over the head of this third rate suburban solicitor that his Thatcherite dream for us all may not be in the best interests of society should come as no surprise...Our Tool Of The Year knows that a quick bribe and a nod towards some popular bigotry will see him over the line every time. It helps if you can whip the populace into a panic like some snake oil salesman, then sell them the quack cure.

This will win you elections, but it ain't clever.

The problem is, no matter how many times you fudge, spin, distort, obfuscate, dodge, attack as a form of defence, cheat, steal or bastardise, there is always reality down the track...John Howard has made us smaller and darker as a nation. He is hell bent on turning this country into a grasping, money-obsessed leviathan; reduced to a battle of all against all."

Gee that's tough language but from where I sit it looks about right. Goodnight and good luck!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Howard condemns “tribalism”

This article on the internet caught my attention:

"Howard’s reaction to the violence on North Cronulla Beach was indicative of the familiar modus operandi of his government. The prime minister refused to call the mob attacks racist, and suggested that the real problem was the “tribalism” of Lebanese gangs who refuse to assimilate into “Australian society”.

“I think it’s important that we do not rush to judgement about these events,” he declared. “I do not accept that there is underlying racism in this country ... it’s also important that we place greater emphasis on integration of people into the broader community and the avoidance of tribalism within our midst. I don’t think Australians want tribalism. They want us all to be Australians.”

Howard continued: “I think yesterday was fuelled by the always explosive combination of a large number of people at the weekend and a large amount of alcohol plus an accumulated sense of grievance, the full extent of which I don’t pretend to know.”

On the “Current Affair” television program, Howard was asked what he thought of the mob’s parading of the national flag. “Look, I would never condemn people for being proud of the Australian flag,” he replied. “I don’t care—I would never condemn people for being proud...”

All this is textbook “dog whistle” politics. Howard condemns the violence but in the next breath emphasises the perpetrators’ grievances and the problem of “tribalism”, tacitly expressing his sympathy for anti-Lebanese racism.

From the beginning of his term as prime minister in 1996, Howard has assiduously attempted to cultivate a racist and right-wing nationalist base for the Coalition government. When the extreme-right member of parliament Pauline Hanson assailed Aborigines and immigrants, Howard said he disagreed with her views - but then immediately called for a “debate” on the issues in order to further his own agenda.

Howard won a third term in office in 2001 after effectively subverting the election by mounting a vicious and completely dishonest anti-refugee campaign which centred on the lie that asylum seekers had thrown their children into the ocean off Australia.

The Liberal Party’s central slogan for the campaign was the prime minister’s declaration that “We will decide who comes to this country, and the circumstances under which they come.”"

Goodnight and good luck

I have just seen this brilliant film. Should be compulsory viewing for all journalists, at least those who can still remember what it is to report the truth and to keep the bastards honest. A shrinking crew admittedly, but one can live in hope that a new generation of energetic, honest and fearless scribes will take heart from this film, don their principles and chance their arm to expose political bastardry in all its guises.

another Australian faces death in Vietnam while heroin trafficking and the HIV carnage goes unchecked

BBC News reports "an Australian man of Vietnamese origin has been sentenced to death for drug trafficking, according to an official in the Vietnamese province of Tay Ninh."

While Singapore tops the 'hanging league' countries, Vietnam is a major offender when it comes to handing out death penalties for drug trafficking.

I contend that the increasing criminalisation of the illicit drugs trade has been a disaster, amongst other things contributing to the rapid spread of HIV throughout the Asian region. Until the international community comes to its collective sense and develops strategies to address illicit drug production as an outcome of socio-economic disadvantage and heroin abuse as an health management issue, the spread of HIV will continue to rise at an alarming rate, and the criminal gangs behind the trade will continue to flourish.

Burma produces approximately 60% of the world's heroin, with Laos the third leading producer. Recent outbreaks of injecting drug use and HIV-1 in Burma, India, China, and Vietnam have been associated with Burmese and Laotian overland heroin trafficking routes. Tracking HIV outbreak rates has revealed a major heroin route to be from Burma and Laos, through northern Vietnam, to China's Guangxi Province. Experts in this field conclude that "single country narcotics and HIV programs are unlikely to succeed unless the regional narcotic-based economy is addressed."

SYDNEY - TRAVEL WARNING!!!

Sky News reports "residents overseas are being warned to be cautious visiting Australia over Christmas because of Sydney's racial riots. Britain, Canada and Indonesia have all issued travel alerts. London's Foreign Department has advised Britons to keep track of the violence, paying particular attention to Cronulla, Maroubra, Brighton-le-Sands and other parts of south-western Sydney. Canada has also drawn attention to the suburbs where rioting took place while Indonesia is warning its nationals living in Australia to avoid all hotspots."

Now we know how the Indonesians etc feel about our warnings....something to be really proud of.

Open letter urges politicians to combat racism

A dozen prominent Australians have signed an open letter to the nation urging political and community leaders to work against racism.

The group includes Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane Phillip Aspinall, former Victorian governor Sir James Gobbo and a number of academics.

The statement describes recent riots in Sydney as "symptomatic of deeply disturbing 'us and them' dichotomies in Australian society".

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Xmas gift ideas - V


Xmas gift ideas - IV


Xmas gift ideas - III


comes autographed

Xmas gift ideas - II


comes wrapped

Xmas gift ideas - I


Thanks Daily Flute

heaven forbid - not international critics of Singapore!

I was struck by this piece of Singaporean navel gazing by Simon Tay, a lawyer with an interest in international affairs. This is the voice of legal reason, arguing that Singaporeans should'nt get into another round of defending their disgraceful disregard for human rights on the basis of 'asian values'. Mounting the case that the barbarism of a mandatory death penalty can be considered inherently 'asian' is a tacky propaganda spin, and to be rightly condemned. Mr Tay asks "Are we on the verge of a second round of the Asian values debate between Singapore and critics from the West? There are reasons to hope not..." Well, golly gosh!

State sanctioned barbarism is not limited to particular racial groups, as even a cursory glance at world events will confirm. If the sanctity of human life is trashed under the guise of nationalist 'values' it is the role of critics (international or otherwise) to expose the rampant hubris and inhumanity at work.

a very bad idea


Thanks Steve...

The real face of Santa - man of Middle Eastern appearance

Saw a brilliant documentary on ABC last night, tracking the work of forensic archaelogists in establishing the true face of Saint Nicholas (patron Saint of sailors by the way), using the latest in digital forensic technolgy. Not surprisingly, given that he lived in the vicinity of modern Turkey, he was not unlike many thick set middle aged men of Middle Eastern appearance seen in the streets of our big cities. Given that Jesus was also of Middle Eastern appearance, ain't life strange?

a police state in the making

see video footage to get a sense of what racism will do to this society if allowed to go unchecked, and I don't mean by police.

The Age polls Australians on race


Monday, December 19, 2005

Amnesty International-Mauritius wants death penalty abolished

The Mauritian branch of Amnesty International (AI) has petitioned Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam demanding the scrapping of the death penalty in the island nation.

The group is also calling for the ratification of the second protocol of the UN-initiated International Pact on Civil and Political Rights in a bid to better implement the abolition.

"The death penalty is an act of vengeance that cannot be inscribed in a process of justice," the rights body said in a statement issued here Saturday.

"It (death penalty) is vain and not dissuasive," it said.

The death penalty, which was last enforced in 1989 in connection with a murder, is now on hold in Mauritius.

As my son was born in Mauritius in 1988 it is a place close to my heart. Since gaining Independence from Britain it has been a bastion of democracy in an ocean of repressive regimes and neo-colonial enclaves. Hopefully, Mauritius will again demonstrate it leads rather than follows in this crucial field of human rights...

the other Xmas story...

The Age reminds us of the real Xmas story, not the over-hyped one about a bearded cherub with a thing for reindeer (which was a sales pitch by Coca Cola), but the story of a refugee family seeking sanctuary from soldiers sent out to slaughter all males under two.

"Mary, Joseph and Jesus escaped the massacre, and fled into exile in Egypt, staying there until Herod died. So Jesus, the prophesied saviour, spent the first years of his life as a refugee, knowing fear and depending on the kindness and hospitality of strangers.

These stories have been part of the foundation of Western culture, and it might be expected, even in a Western country such as Australia where the tradition of faith is weaker than it once was, that they would continue to influence the way we treat refugees and strangers in our midst. But the resentment of asylum seekers that has become so powerful a force in our politics, and the hostility towards members of the community seen as "un-Australian" suggest we have got used to seeing nothing but the sugar-frosted version of the Christmas story. And how strange and sad it is that some people, who claim to be defending "Western values" or "Australian values", seem so unaware of the foundation of those values.

claiming the flag back - II


claiming the flag back - I


In Sydney yesterday, people wrap flags around their heads to condemn racism.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Nobel Laureate, Harold Pinter, applies for the job of Pres Bush's speechwriter

"I know that President Bush has many extremely competent speech writers but I would like to volunteer for the job myself. I propose the following short address which he can make on television to the nation. I see him grave, hair carefully combed, serious, winning, sincere, often beguiling, sometimes employing a wry smile, curiously attractive, a man's man.

'God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden's God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam's God was bad, except he didn't have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don't chop people's heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don't you forget it.'"

a day at the beach - IV


Moir in the SMH

a day at the beach - III


Nicholson in The Australian

a day at the beach - II


Bill Leak in The Australian

a day at the beach - I


Bill Leak in The Australian

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Australia Asks if Racism Was Behind Riots on a Beach - a view from New York

The New York Times reports:

"Although increasing numbers of Asians have been allowed in, the country of 20 million is still roughly 92 percent Caucasian. Critics of Mr. Howard, leader of the center-right Liberal Party, say he has fueled the country's ethnic tensions. He has refused to issue an official apology to the country's Aborigines for the manner in which they were treated for generations.

Four years ago, during a tough re-election battle, he raised fears that the country was being swamped by hordes of boat people from the Middle East, calling out the military to repel the ostensible invaders. Presumably to dehumanize them and dampen public sympathy, he accused one group of asylum seekers of throwing their children overboard.

More recently, he has campaigned for tough antiterrorism laws by creating fears of another terrorist attack by Islamic radicals."

Oh yes, our allies get the picture...

Nauru or Nuremberg? Australia - asylum seekers and war criminals

Dr Jane McAdam, a lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of Sydney and an Associate of the Sydney Centre for International and Global Law, argues on On Line Opinion:

"The recent exposé in the Sydney Morning Herald of suspected war criminals living in the Australian community sheds much light on Australia’s schizophrenic implementation of international law. Whereas Australia refuses to extradite convicted or suspected criminals to countries where they may be tortured, asylum seekers are not afforded the same protection. The risk of torture is an automatic consideration in any extradition request, but Australian law contains no mechanism that guarantees the examination of torture fears in asylum claims.

Australia’s refugee protection regime has already been much criticised for its failure to implement Australia’s international obligations in good faith, in accordance with the spirit and purpose of the 1951 Refugee Convention. But since the conclusion of that treaty, there has been an explosion of additional human rights treaties that extend the obligations of member nations to protect vulnerable individuals. For example, the Convention against Torture mandates that no individual will be returned to a country if there are substantial grounds for believing that they will be tortured.

Whereas certain persons, such as war criminals, may be excluded from protection under article 1F of the Refugee Convention, the prohibition on return to torture is absolute. It applies to all persons, regardless of their conduct, nationality or citizenship. Accordingly, it may protect those who are excluded from the Refugee Convention; those unable to demonstrate a link between torture as persecution and one of the five Refugee Convention grounds; and those overlooked as refugees due to narrow domestic interpretations of the refugee definition.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

An eye for an eye


LEE'S LAW - how Singapore crushes dissent

This book by Chris Lydgate is introduced by Geoffrey Robertson, international law expert and human rights advocate.

"Lee’s Law is a case study of the perils of dissent in Singapore, as it traces what befell the country’s most prominent opposition politician, JB Jeyaretnam. The book follows Jeyaretnam’s stellar career as an ambitious young lawyer, prosecutor, and judge, and shows how he became disenchanted with the system that promoted him. It recounts his stunning political breakthrough at Anson in 1981, and chronicles the devastating consequences of his questioning — let alone, opposing — Lee Kuan Yew and his government.

"From the haughty smoked-glass office towers of its financial district to the spotless order of its crowded streets, the city-state of Singapore represents an unprecedented feat of physical, social, and political engineering, orchestrated over five decades by Lee Kuan Yew and the ruling People’s Action Party. But Singapore’s prosperity has been purchased at a steep price: the erosion of human rights, the rise of the ‘nanny state,’ and the creation of a political system in which individual freedoms are subordinated to the greater good — as defined by the government."

"For almost half a century Jeyeretnam stood for universal values of decency, fairness, and transparency against the so-called ‘Asian values’ of hierarchical order, submissiveness, and censorship imposed by Lee Kuan Yew and the PAP machine.”'
—Geoffrey Robertson

I encourage Singaporeans to read this book (although doubtless it will not be on sale locally) and to learn something about the regime they live under.

we will decide who comes to Cronulla and the circumstances under which they come


Thanks to Daily Flute

how the hoon texting got started...


Leunig in The Age

white Australia still out there


Spooner in The Age

Marilyn Lake, a professor in the history program at La Trobe University, writes in The Age that

"Militant nationalism also breeds racism. The White Australia Policy has been officially buried — the infamous dictation test was abolished in 1958 — but true "Aussies" are still assumed to be white. We no longer nail our colours to the mast, but the whiteness of national identity is everywhere evident. The reverberations of founding national policies resound down the years; there is an odd resonance between the exclusions that marked the first decade of the 20th century and events 100 years on.

In 1908, the nationalist Bulletin adopted the logo "Australia for the White Man". Its call echoes in the text messages and political slogans of our own time. The Coalition Government has been to the fore in promoting the idea of national values. It's time, now, for it to show some manly leadership and declare, in the face of the mob, that multiculturalism is a core Australian value."

Execution Ignites New Fire in Death Penalty Debate


Candles outside San Quentin State Prison, where Stanley Tookie Williams was executed Tuesday after a high-profile campaign to save him.

The New York Times reports "as plans were under way to hold a large public funeral for Stanley Tookie Williams, the former gangster executed by lethal injection early Tuesday morning, and scatter his ashes in South Africa, his death was stirring fresh passion on both sides of the debate over capital punishment in California."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Why We Need an Australian Bill of Rights

John von Doussa QC (President of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission) makes the case on New Matilda. Following is an excerpt:

"After the Palmer Inquiry

It is a matter of record that many human rights advocates were at the time complaining vigorously about the injustices of the migration system, a view endorsed by the HREOC report, A Last Resort, on children in detention. However it was not until the revelations of the Palmer Inquiry following the detention of Cornelia Rau that public sentiment swung strongly behind the criticisms.

Although there was strong public support for the actions of the Howard Government at the time of the Tampa incident, and for the announcement of the first counter-terrorism legislation in 2002, I sense that public sentiment is at last changing. I have already referred to changed attitudes about migration detention. I think that the debate that has occurred over the lack of judicial oversight in proposed counter-terrorism measures provides further evidence of change.

Had there been a human rights charter of some sort, I doubt whether the occasion for the recent debate over the counter-terrorism legislation would have arisen. It is likely that human rights principles relating to a fair trial and judicial oversight would have been incorporated at the outset, and even if that had not occurred, a human rights remedy would in itself have provided protection.

It is interesting to observe that there is no close analogy to be drawn between the counter-terrorism legislation in the United Kingdom, and that proposed by the Australian Anti-Terrorism Bills of 2005. While a form of preventive detention is possible under the UK legislation, because of their Human Rights Act, people in the United Kingdom are not without remedies. This was demonstrated by the decision of the House of Lords in the case of A v Secretary of State in December 2004, which held to be incompatible with human rights principles a law which permitted the detention of unlawful non-citizens who were suspected of terrorist leanings, but who were not charged with any offence.

Conclusion

Firstly, what happened with the migration laws is being mirrored across the Executive branch of government. More and more discretionary power is given to the Executive, and less and less detail of conditions governing the rights and duties of individuals is stated in legally enforceable statutory provisions.

It is all very well for government to say we are all protected by the rule of law and the respect that Australia accords to that core principle. However, if the regulation of our lives is not stated expressly in the law, but is a matter of discretion, what protection does the rule of non-existent law give? To give real substance to the principle, enforceable and certain rights need to be express — and this could be achieved in a Charter or Bill of Rights.

Secondly, one important purpose of such a Charter will be to protect the rights of people in minority groups. One minority group in Australia that is particularly in need of enforceable fundamental rights is the Indigenous community. Aboriginal people have advocated for a treaty, but their advocacy has fallen on a deaf ears. I perceive that there are strong self-interest groups in our community who treat the notion of a treaty as giving one section of our community something which those self-interest groups would not have. For that reason they oppose it. Without debating the merits of that proposition, if there were a universal charter to protect the rights of everyone, the basic rights recognised in it would go a long way to giving protection to one community which plainly needs it.

I commend New Matilda and the co-hosts of this forum for advancing the debate on a very important topic."

Just who is un-Australian?

It's the new term of chastisement, but what exactly does it mean, asks Hugh Mackay.

"The melancholy truth is that it has, indeed, been Australian to persist with a policy of indefinite and even brutal mandatory detention of asylum seekers. Our Government has been doing it for years with broad community support, so we might as well accept that it is a characteristically Australian act. In fact, it's so characteristic of us that some other countries, including Britain, are now examining ways of adopting the "Australian" model of mandatory detention."

Now, why should we be surprised that we have race riots in the suburbs? Perhaps, like our apathy toward the suffering of asylum seekers, racism is Australian too. Certainly I can confirm racist values figured large in my experience of growing up in Australia's colony, Papua. I've often wondered how the Australian polity would have responded to our indigenous population if they were in proportionate numbers to the blacks in South Africa. Would we have had 'apartheid' or something worse? What would have been the Australian thing to do? I suspect I know what our Aboriginal citizens might say....

tough guys reconcile


Peace talks: the Bra Boys, a surfer gang, and members of the Comancheros motorcycle gang held a media conference at Maroubra Beach yesterday to condemn the riots.

sedition and racism...now there's a thought!

Following is a feedback message posted on The Age website:

"Now there's a use for the sedition laws. Alan Jones should be charged with inciting violence, racism and criminal behaviour. His support of the worst, most intolerant aspects of white Australians is a total disgrace. How ironic that we see Howard denying that racism is prevalant in Australia's underbelly whilst Jones, the leader of the media's extensive Howard cheer squad, promotes it. Howard was entirely silent whilst Pauline Hanson promoted her brand of xenophobia and racism. He then comfortably slipped her shoes on when she fell and has been walking her talk in one form or another ever since. Now we see the outcome."

Read some other thoughts on "Talkback under the spotlight" in The Age

Cronulla syndrome


Leunig in The Age

PM under attack on race riots

The Age reports "PM Howard has come under attack over his response to the Sydney riots, with claims he is burying his head in the sand by denying the potential for harm to Australia's international reputation."

Of course, Howard is dodging and weaving as usual and avoiding showing any strong leadership on this issue. It is difficult for him to agree that deep-seated racism is behind these events because he has shaped the antagonistic mindset that emerged in Cronulla on the weekend. He tapped into race fears in 2001 to win his 'Dark Victory' and has been playing the fear card ever since to prop up support for his government.

Remember this from David Marr's and Marian Wilkinson's excellent book (Dark Victory):

"They put lives at risk. They twisted the law. They drew the military into the heart of an election campaign. They muzzled the press. They misused intelligence services, defied the United Nations, antagonised Indonesia and bribed poverty stricken Pacific states. They closed Australia to refugees - and won a mighty election victory"

Howard knows his demographic very well, whether they live in Cronulla or elsewhere, and is not beyond plumbing new depths to stay in power.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

SMS raises fears of racial violence in SE Qld

ABC On Line reports "Queensland police say they are genuinely concerned about a threat of race-related violence in the state's south-east.

They say mobile phone text messages inciting racial tensions have been forwarded to people, and some media outlets, on the Gold Coast."

Malaysia urges Australia to confront racism, but should it be casting stones?

Graeme Dobell in Kuala Lumpur reports that "Malaysia will welcome Prime Minister John Howard to the annual East Asia summit with the message that Australia must confront the racism and xenophobia revealed in Sydney's riots."

But Malaysia should be a little slow to point the finger of racism. Malaysia has a sad history of race riots and exclusionist policies on the basis of race. The country's "bhumiputra," or "native son" policy granted preferences to the Malay majority. Adopted in 1969, the bhumiputra policy gave Malays preferences in business opportunities and university admissions, but it left out other groups, such as the mostly labor-class Indians who comprise 11 percent of the country's population.

The policy was created to boost the Malays' economic standing, mainly against ethnic Chinese, who make up 33 percent of the nation's population but control 70 percent of its wealth. This disparity has contributed to some of Malaysia's bloodiest conflicts.

EU official calls for end to death penalty

AP is reporting "European Parliament president Josep Borrell called on the 76 countries still allowing the death penalty to respect the right to life and end the practice of capital punishment.

Borrell said the United States is the only democratic state that makes "widespread use" of the death penalty and the EU has a duty to convince the Americans to abolish it."

Alan Jones:" I'm the person that's led this charge" - how surprising!

David Marr tell us that "by Thursday last week Alan Jones was screaming like a race caller whose horse was coming home. "I'm the person that's led this charge here. Nobody wanted to know about North Cronulla, now it's gathered to this."

The riot was still three days away and Sydney's highest-rating breakfast radio host had a heap of anonymous emails to whip his 2GB listeners along. "Alan, it's not just a few Middle Eastern bastards at the weekend, it's thousands. Cronulla is a very long beach and it's been taken over by this scum. It's not a few causing trouble. It's all of them."

Yes, I can see Alan Jones having his paws all over this, with the grand schemer safely tucked up in KL.

'the work of a few hotheads'


Petty in The Age

if the prejudice works, who cares?

Richard Ackland writes that "one Australian hanged in Singapore a week ago. Nine others face the firing squad in Bali if they are convicted of drug trafficking. Michelle Leslie walks after doing three months for ecstasy possession. And there's still Schapelle Corby, doing 15 years in Kerobokan prison for what bears all the hallmarks of a rotten miscarriage of justice.

Throughout this, senior members of the Government lecture us to not get emotional and certainly to not upset the Indonesians or the Singaporeans. Academics in the field have written that criticism of Corby's original trial is "disturbing". One columnist even said the campaign against the Corby trial outcome was a sign of our "immaturity".

The Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer, showing the depth of his prickly side, declared that the Melbourne criminal defence lawyer Robert Richter was a "creep" for stating the truth - that the Australian Government did not do enough to save Nguyen Tuong Van...

While on matters insensitive, it might be well to recall the little dance the Government did on the Nguyen case. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Affairs Minister went through their hand-wringing routine while, at the same time, never letting down the hardliners. John Howard and Downer dropped the remark into various bits of news commentary that Nguyen was smuggling enough heroin for between 20,000 and 26,000 hits.

Janet Manuell, a criminal barrister in Sydney, says this misinformation went unchallenged. The average hit available on the streets of Sydney contains between 0.15 and 0.2 grams of heroin, she says, which is a standard "foil". It costs about $50. The 400 grams for which Nguyen was executed was enough for between 2000 and 2667 hits, not 26,000. Howard and Downer were only out by a factor of 10, but, if the prejudice works, who cares?"

the role of the media - who us?

Critics say blanket press and radio coverage in the lead-up to the ugly mob scenes in Sydney over the last few days could have helped push tension to boiling point.

'Adversarial', 'us and them' - sound familiar? It is the language of politicians. It's also the media/politician nexus at its grubbiest - 'the club' referred to in an earlier blog at work and play. It seems my nightmare is coming true.

Howard's Australia V


racism by mobile phone

New text messages, including one declaring war between Sydney's Middle Eastern youths and Australians, are being circulated, after another night of violence at some beachside suburbs.

we will decide the way and place where this country will demonstrate its racism


Tandberg in The Age

Monday, December 12, 2005

Nguyen Tuong Van's death is a wake up call: legalise illicit drugs

Greg Barns, a former senior advisor to the Howard Government and erstwhile Democrat makes the case that "Van Nguyen is another victim of the refusal by the global community to end the futile policy of zero tolerance towards illicit drugs. If there was a more realistic approach to illicit drugs by countries then barbaric acts like the state sanctioned death of Van Nguyen would be consigned to history.


I agree with this view. The mindless differentiation between different classes of opiates has led generations of young people into a nightmare world of criminality, poor health outcomes and overdose deaths. The legal opiate trade is managed under strict licence in countries like Australia and India. Opiate produced under these arrangements cannot be refined into heroin, the most effective painkiller devised by humans, because it is illegal. Morphine and other opiate by-products are utilised as pain managers by health professionals as an essential component of the legal pharmacopia, but heroin is only available on the drugs black market, and is produced by countries such as Burma and Afghanistan that are outside the legitimate opiate management regimes.

If all drugs were legalised, all opiate growers (for example) could be brought within the legitimate opiate production regulatory regime that benefits Australian producers. At the same time, heroin would become available as a pain management drug, of especial benefit to people experiencing extreme pain such as many with terminal conditions. All forms of drug abuse would be managed as the social and health problems they are, in the way that alcohol and prescribed drug addiction is managed today.

If this makes sense perhaps you could write to your Members of Parliament and let them know that this madness has gone on long enough, that zero tolerance of certain types of drugs has been an abject failure and it is about time public policy makers adopted a civilised and humane approach to drug use.

Howard's Australia IV


Howard's Australia III


Howard's Australia II


Howard's Australia I


the politics of fear and exclusion reaps a savage harvest

Beach suburbs in Sydney have erupted into racially motivated violence. It was only a matter of time before this became a reality in our big cities as Howard has based his leadership on the politics of exclusion and exploiting the irrational fear of people against outsiders, such as refugees seeking sanctuary in this country.

While Howard calls the events in Sydney over the weekend 'sickening', his government has set the tone for this type of racist response. On the part of ethnic minorities, there is resentment at the racism and exclusion they experience on a daily basis. Policies of anti-terror, mandatory detention and the language of 'us and them' and what is defined as 'Australian' is used constantly by Howard government spokespersons to reinforce long simmering racism in Australian society.

This has been coming for a long time, and Howard has been fuelling it for a long time. He was determined to win back the One Nation component of the national demographic and the values of Hansonism have blossomed since Tampa and 'children overboard'. If our leaders do not show the way to a tolerant, compassionate society then we are in a lot of trouble and what is happening in Sydney is just the beginning.

amen...


Petty in The Age

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Mexico outlaws death penalty

Associated Press reported on Friday that the Mexican government formally abolished the last vestiges of its death penalty on Friday.

Mexico shares the opinion that capital punishment is a violation of human rights," said Mexican President Vicente Fox. "Today, the death penalty has been abolished."

Singapore brutality shocks the US - a view from Arizona

The Arizona Daily Star opines that "the senselessness of the death penalty was never more apparent than in the hanging of an Australian in Singapore earlier this month.

Nguyen Tuong Van, 25, was executed for a drug trafficking conviction. He was caught with 14 ounces of heroin at a Singapore airport while on his way from Cambodia to Australia, according to BBC News.

The hanging had to jolt even the staunchest of America's death penalty supporters, because here, we normally execute people only when that person has committed a murder...

While we could condemn the idea that Singapore could execute someone for drug trafficking, the sentiment was overshadowed by the fact that Boyd was only one of three people executed in this country that week. That left little room to condemn the harshness of the penalty in another country when we executed three times as many people in the same week.

But there are signs that the American public may be growing wary of the death penalty. In fact, growing evidence supports the elimination of the death penalty in this country."

The hanging of Van Nguyen - a view from Malaysia

LF Ng presents a case against the death penalty in MalaysiaKini. The following poem about Sinagpore struck a chord with me:

In a perfect country

a perfect country
of immense wealth;
wants for nothing,
save compassion

a perfect country
spick and span;
no dirt! not even
messy feelings

a perfect country
financial centre,
shipping Mecca,
Darfur of mercy

a perfect country
of resolute leaders;
articulate and brainy,
but missing a heart

a perfect country
of rules and laws;
Ok to do this that,
but mustn't hug

a perfect country
of rugged people;
fit, strong, healthy,
but without a soul

China announces important reform to death penalty process

The UK based Financial Times is reporting "China's top court has instructed local courts to hold public hearings for all death penalty appeals starting next year, part of a broader attempt to make capital punishment procedures more open.

The Supreme People's Court reported that open hearings would be held for highly controversial death sentence court appeals from January 1 and for all death sentence appeals from the second half of the year.

Beijing's efforts to reform its death sentence proceedings gradually are part of a wider attempt to reduce the number of wrongful convictions, a pervasive problem in China's criminal justice system. The notice appears to be influenced by the rash of wrongful death sentences reported recently and, in theory, will allow important witnesses or family members to voice their final concerns...

China's record on such human rights issues has come under the scrutiny of a rare United Nations investigation and some media outlets. Manfred Nowak, a UN special envoy on a research mission to China, said last week the UN was concerned with "the high number of crimes for which the death penalty can be applied" in China. It advised Beijing to "limit the scope of the death penalty by abolishing it for economic and non-violent crimes" and to consider legislation allowing direct petitioning of the highest court when lower courts fail to provide "adequate relief"."

Hopefully the UN will also scrutinise application of the mandatory death penalty in Singapore and neighbouring countries, because this is an ongoing blight on the human rights record of the region.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Art gallery 'pressured over painting' - and they tell us sedition laws no threat to free speech!!!

A NSW regional art gallery claims the Federal Government tried to heavy it over an artwork depicting Prime Minister John Howard and two of his senior ministers with their lips sewn shut.

The Club - a Xmas message

I was watching a Danish political thriller the other night on TV. The following dialogue struck a chord:

“…journalists and politicians have become one and the same. Nice salaries, houses in good neighbourhoods. It’s all about their careers. But if they’re all alike, who the hell will speak up for the weak when journalists dream of being politicians or spin doctors or getting their own crappy TV show?

…educated people are ridiculed. It’s become acceptable to question human rights. Remind you of anything? The USSR or Nazi Germany? And journalists don’t question shit because they’re scared of being left out in the cold…Journalists and politicians share the same workplace. It’s like a referee dining with the Brazilian team the night before the World Cup final.”

“What do we do about it?”
“Not a thing…”

I recently sent a critical message to the ABC “Insiders” program, because I feel the show and most of the participants are too impressed with themselves (look at me, look at me!) as political analysts. I posited that if this is truly representative of the range of analysis to which journalists subject this government it is no wonder it has been so successful in trashing key elements of our democracy such as the fundamental role of Parliament in scrutinising legislation, the primacy of human rights in the making of public policy and fundamental civil liberties.

I think the press gallery is too cosy with the politicians and too soft on the horrors being pedalled currently as public policy 'reforms'. I was particularly incensed by an interview with Howard that should have pushed him on tax dodging, the role of sedition laws in a democracy and the essence of his extremist 'welfare to slavery' and 'employer choices' laws that are undoing a century of hard-won workplace rights and social wage gains.

These are dark days indeed if you don't have the security of a well paid TV spot, a secure public broadcaster job or a regular column in the Fairfax and Murdoch press. A robust and free press is one of our key remaining defences against this current band of public policy makers.

I know there is a (shrinking) body of fearless journalists out there doing their level best to keep this government honest - and I 'comfort' myself with the notion that in a strong democracy like Australia the Danish film scenario could never happen here...

Debate the death penalty - a view from Korea

Following is an excerpt from a piece by Lee Sang-il, who is a deputy international news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo:

"Dostoevsky later spent four years in a prison in Siberia. He wrote of Petersburg Plaza in his novel "The Idiot" as follows: "I now only have five minutes left to breathe in this world. How should I use it? Two minutes for saying goodbye to my fellow members, two minutes in looking back on my life and one last minute looking at the world for one last time." Dostoevsky said, "Execution is blasphemy against the spirit." French novelist Victor Hugo wrote in his book "The Last Days of a Condemned," "Execution is not just cutting off the head of the sinner, but also the heads of his family."

Singapore - human rights abuses go hand in hand

As I've indicated elsewhere in this blog, once you accept one form of human rights abuse it is a short step to accepting others. Abuse of asylum seekers in Australia has devalued this country as a defender of human rights.

Its seems that in Singapore foreign women working as maids suffer abuse. The analysis by U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said at least 147 migrant domestic workers have died in Singapore from workplace accidents or suicide since 1999, most by jumping or falling from residential buildings.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Singapore bans death penalty references from play

The Singaporean Government ordered a theatre company to remove all references to the death penalty on Saturday, only a day after the Asian nation executed an Australian drug smuggler.

Ahead of the Saturday (03DEC05) opening of HUMAN LEFTS, a play about the hanging of Singaporean drug courier SHANMUGAM MURUGESU, the government's Media Development Authority (MDA) demanded the director remove any mention of the death penalty or the name of any political leader.

Theatre director BENNY LIM says, "The plot is still the same, about a son and father, but it's so general I've applied a different story to it."

Now I wonder why that would be. Don't tell me this repressive regime is concerned about public opinion!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Indonesia issues warning to Australia

Sky News is reporting "Indonesia has defended Singapore's right to execute convicted drug smuggler, Van Nguyen.

The Indonesian Foreign Minister has warned Australians to tone down their emotional response to the death penalty, given the Bali Nine could soon be facing the same fate.

Hassan Wirajuda says Australians need to develop a greater understanding of Asia's legal system.

He says Australians need to understand that drug offences are serious and rightfully carry the death penalty in some of Australia's closest neighbours.

The nine alleged members of the heroin-smuggling gang were arrested in Bali in April, most with heroin strapped to their bodies."

So now we are being 'warned' by a regime that is yet to bring to justice those mainly responsible for the East Timor atrocities, and that does little to clean up corruption in its own judicial backyard.

Our own Government, through the actions of the AFP, is complicit in exposing the Bali nine to state sanctioned murder in a country that has a history of police, military and judicial corruption that beggars belief.

Well Mr Foreign Minister, I don't think we should be toning anything down, but those of us who consider the death penalty to be a barbaric misuse of state power are going to shine a spotlight on the operation of the judicial process in Indonesia in the case of the Bali nine so that all the world can see...

Singapore runs a propaganda line fuelled by Australians

I have had it on good account from a Singapore resident that the local press is printing letters from Australians in support of the hanging of Van Nguyen. I suppose it was to be expected but I feel some vicarious shame that fellow citizens are out there giving comfort to this repressive regime.

Monday, December 05, 2005

PM called for a debate on death penalty as a wedge issue

In August 2003, in the wake of the sentencing of convicted Bali bomber Amrozi, the Australian Prime Minister called for a national debate on the re-introduction of the death penalty. Reiterating that he does not personally support the death penalty, Mr Howard suggested that the death penalty “could be raised by state opposition parties as an election issue” (Sydney Morning Herald 9/8/03).

By floating the idea that State Liberal opposition parties use the death penalty as a re-election policy (SMH 9/8/03), Prime Minister Howard signalled a dangerous attack on our civil liberties and the most fundamental of our human rights: the right to life.

It is no wonder that his efforts on Van Nguyen's behalf were half-hearted to say the least. And he has sniffed a further opportunity to develop the wedge by playing his 'zero tolerance on drugs' tune as the main message to be drawn from the Van Nguyen murder. You have to hand it to him - he can sniff a political advantage better than most.

In 1991, Australia acceded to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (‘OP2’). OP2 commits Australia to abolishing the death penalty. So the re-introduction of the death penalty in any State or Territory would violate international law and further tarnish our international reputation.

UN International Covenants and Australia's approach to them

For those interested in what interational covenants have to say on the use of the death penalty here are three UN sites for your information:

. United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

. OPTIONAL PROTOCOL to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

. 2nd Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

The Age is following the story of just how much the Howard Government did or did'nt do to save Van Nguyen. The more I hear and read the more I realise what a flawed approach was taken by Howard and Downer. Here is an excerpt from the The Age report today:

"Yesterday, a senior Victorian QC attacked the Federal Government over claims it did everything possible to save Nguyen's life, saying ministers ignored legal advice that backed the possibility of extraditing him to Australia.

Peter Vickery, QC, said the Government could have initiated an extradition process. "… the ministers of our Commonwealth were intransigent and refused to alter their chosen course, offering no rational reason for doing so," he said.

Prime Minister John Howard yesterday maintained that Australia could not alter the attitude of its neighbours towards the death penalty and said he pushed strongly on behalf of Nguyen.

"We have to be realistic about what can be achieved," Mr Howard told the ABC.

He also said that it ought to be recognised that Nguyen was a convicted drug trafficker — "he was carrying an enormous amount of heroin and if that had got onto the streets of Australia, it could have done a lot of damage to young Australians".

Mr Howard said he was against capital punishment and would oppose its reintroduction in Australia. While he would always lobby for a death sentence to be waived on an Australian overseas, it was unrealistic to suggest that the Government should complain as loudly about a death sentence being carried out on Saddam Hussein as it did in relation to Nguyen.

Labor foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd said there was a lot more Australia could do to oppose capital punishment.

"Australia must, with the Europeans, work through the United Nations to abolish the death penalty universally," he said. Australian policy had to be consistent — "whether we are talking about individuals in Iraq or Indonesia or elsewhere".

more shock and horror from the annals of DIMIA


Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone is under fire after revelations a former bodyguard of Saddam Hussein is living in Adelaide. Its OK for alleged perpetrators of crimes against humanity to live in the community, but people fleeing savage repressive regimes are left to rot in hellholes like Baxter. This government would be seen as a joke if it was'nt for the horrific damage being done to vulnerable people by its mindless refugee strategies. 'Let's poke an eye out' Vanstone is as usual missing in action...

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Australia needs stronger position on death penalty

Saturday AM featured a discussion on Australia's equivocal position on the death penalty.

I am hopeful a movement will emerge to galvanise public opinion to push our Government to do a lot more than wring its collective hands when the media spotlight comes on. Downer describing as a 'creep' a prominent lawyer who condemned the Government's handling of the Singapore case was typical - the lobbying done in this case was nowhere near enough to get a result and why should it when you have the Prime Minister leading the Australian cheer squad celebrating the death penalty in other cases. Who is the creep then?

It is vital we stand shoulder to shoulder with brave Singaporeans willing to voice their protest over mandatory state murder. The Age is reporting a senior Singapore nun has taken the dramatic step of calling on her Government to drop the death penalty, following the execution of Melbourne man Nguyen Tuong Van.

In a move that may anger Singapore's leaders, Sister Susan Chia, province leader of the Good Shepherd Sisters, described the death penalty as cruel and inhumane. It violated the right to life, she said.
Change in closed societies can only come from within but it is beholden on outsiders to maintain their support for those with the courage to speak out.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Not in vain...


Where to from here...

I have been profoundly disturbed by the Van Nguyen tragedy. On the strength of this case I have renewed my membership of Amnesty International, and have committed to campaign against the death penalty in all its horrendous forms.

This blog will take a particular interest in the application of the principle of 'mandatory death penalty', because this is an extreme perversion of the 'rule of law'. In these cases there is no judicial discretion - it is essentially a political dictum that has no place in a civilised society.

I will in future address issues surrounding the application of the death penalty in this region. I am going to focus on China, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam but the blog will be not be restricted to these countries.

Australia should adopt a consistent stance against the application of the death penalty, particularly the notion of 'mandatory execution', and should campaign in international fora to challenge state sanctioned murder.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Thursday, December 01, 2005

can something good come of this act of barbarity?

Whilst I am reeling from the poll result that 47% of a current Morgan Poll support what is happening in Singapore, I take heart from the 46% who oppose this barbarity.

I suppose I should not have been shocked by the large percentage of support for the death penalty; presumably many of those pollled think the Howard government's inhumane treatment of asylum seekers is also the right thing to do. The Coalition has tapped into a dark tendency in Australia that was always threatening to surface and has found full voice under Howard's brand of neocon extremism. It is ugly and brings our country into disrepute, and it needs to be challenged at every opportunity. If you devalue any area of human rights it is a small step to devaluing all human rights and supporting a horror such as mandatory execution.

It is important that we realise that the freedoms and civil liberties fought for and won by previous generations can be easily swept away by a generation characterised by rampant individualism and obsessed with irrational economic and security fears. We are currently being conned by a group of self-serving politicians into trashing key elements of our democracy, including the primacy of human rights considerations in the making of public policy. No wonder Singapore did'nt take Howard seriously.

Those citizens calling for the re-introduction of the death penalty and who are cheering Singapore's hanging culture from the sidelines, might like to think about the kinds of society where state sanctioned murder is rife.

They might also like to think about this: "Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases as a violation of the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The death penalty is an inherently unjust and arbitrary punishment, however heinous the crime for which it is inflicted. Studies have shown that it is more likely to be imposed on those who are poorer, less educated and more vulnerable than average. The death penalty is irrevocable, yet the risk of error in applying it is inescapable. While Amnesty International recognizes the need to combat drug trafficking, there is no convincing evidence that the death penalty deters would-be traffickers more effectively than other punishments."

even the AG calls it barbaric

Ruddock told Sky News the death penalty was "even worse in this case because issues of mitigation could not be taken into account. It was a mandatory death sentence''.

"We feel most remorseful this is going to happen," he said. "It's a most unfortunate, barbaric act that is occurring.''

Father Peter Norden, parish priest at St Ignatius church in Richmond, where Nguyen briefly went to primary school, welcomed Mr Ruddock's comments but questioned why Prime Minister John Howard had not done the same.

It is interesting to see Ruddock getting exercised. He and Howard have overseen the diminishing of Australia's once proud human rights tradition through the prosecution of their asylum seeker policies. I've often wondered how Ruddock manages the ethical gymnastics involved in trashing human rights and civil liberties through refugee and anti-terrorist strategies on the one hand, whilst professing to be a long-time supporter of the principles of Amnesty International on the other. Perhaps coming out on the Van Nguyen issue at this late stage is an attempt to convince someone that he is, when all is said and done, a decent human being but the hypocrisy leaves me shivering....

Attend vigils around Australia to show support for Van Tuong Nguyen.



Australians can show their support for Van and express their opposition to the death penalty by attending Candles of Hope vigils in capital cities and towns around Australia.

ready to die a good death...in a rotten place

As his last hours of life ebb away, Nguyen Tuong Van stares down the hangman who will execute him tomorrow in Singapore.

His lead lawyer, Lex Lasry, QC, yesterday stood outside Changi Prison after seeing his client.

Mr Lasry, who has fought for almost three years to save his client, said Nguyen, 25, "continues to make us proud".

I was disgusted to hear the Singapore High Commissioner on the radio this morning justifying the unjustifiable. To hear his disingenuous bleat about saving lives of Australian drug takers made me nauseous. This is not about saving lives but about an obnoxious authoritarian state asserting control. Its rich to hear this individual claiming the majority of Singaporeans support this policy when we know they are served a daily diet of state controlled media propaganda that tells them how good it is to be a wage slave in an authoritarian monoculture, which has as its cultural emblem the almighty shopping mall. Thinking people with genuine concerns for human rights are discouraged at every turn. Keep telling us about the good life Mr High Commissioner because it makes me want to.....