Monday, November 26, 2007

Post-Election 2007 - both reflection and change needed

Well, the bloggers were largely right and the journalists are still scratching around for a narrative.

In a landslide, Australia has elected its 3rd Labor Government from opposition since WW2. A sense of relief is washing over the land - it is palpable on the air waves. Howard has brought himself and his party undone.

His policies toward refugees wrought immense change in my life. The alarming shift this country took in 2001 made be angry and dispirited. I felt the moral and ethical basis of our commitment to protect human rights had been compromised, and that vulnerable human beings in need of help had become pawns in a ruthless political agenda.

Refugee issues remain a concern and I plan to advocate and track changes to Australia's refugee laws. We can do so much better on so many fronts. I hope Kevin Rudd provides an enabling environment for community to heal itself.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Election 2007 - Dirty tricks take centre stage on eve of Election

The last days of a government reveal many things. A sure government would review its performance, play to its strengths and seek to unite.

Tricky, manipulative dissinformation games are afoot. Its not pretty, but it suggests a mindset that has flourished during the Howard years. Wedge politics are nasty. Attacks on the union movement and disregard for civil society have characterised the Howard experiment.

At this election civil action has played a large role in keeping key human relations issues to the fore. Human rights, conservation and new directions in human capital investment are centre stage at this Election. Investment in social and economic infrastructure has declined over the last decade. Public disinvestment in key areas of education have held us back. Action on refugees and legislation with inadequate human rights protections has shone a light on the Howard Govt record.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Election 2007 - How can Australians elect a man the hacks don't know? - duh!

A quick round of the ABC shows this morning continues to reveal the hacks from the 'club' just don't get why Australia wants to throw Howard out. For years they have been in thrall to Howard. They have treated the electorate like fools, failing to examine forensically the toxic effects of the Howard experiment.

We have been subject to a radical reactionary agenda that has taken Australia away from the political middle ground. The bully boys and girls have been chucking everything but the kitchen sink at Labor during the campaign. 'Union devils', 'neo-communists', 'centralists' (oh not that one!) and 'just who is Kevin Rudd?'.

What the hacks don't understand is that a large percentage of Australians have finally seen through Howard, despite their (ie the hacks) lazy work on the subject, and they don't like what they see. Howard hides his real self with consummate ease, but just a casual survey of changes wrought on his watch reveals a determination to 'americanize' our society and economy. The 'Thatcherites' were much the same. Its the economy stupid and nothing else matters.

I believe profoundly that much else besides the relative utility of human beings as units of production matters if you want to strengthen community and the social underpinnings of the body politic. I'm afraid the 'insider' hacks spend too much time around the political makers & shakers who have lost sight of what matters. This would explain why human rights considerations dropped off the radar of politicians and their pamphleteers caught in the 'Howard zone'.

We need to restore a sense of hope and optimism to this scorched land.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Post-Election 2007 - A Royal Commission into the operation of the Immigration Dept is needed

This blog has called repeatedly for a Royal Commission into immigration policies and programs of the Howard Govt.

The RC Terms of Reference should include, but not be limited to, an investigation of:

1. implementation of the Pacific Solution (this of course should encompass the role and use of official aid)

2. wrongful detention of refugees and permanent residents of Australia

3. operation and financing of detention facilities on the mainland and offshore

4. wrongful repatriation of asylum seekers

5. influence of political staffers and Ministers in the determination of immigration decisions

6. role of the Prime Minister's task force on 'illegal' migration

7. influence of 'understandings' and 'deals' with neighbouring countries on the management of Australia's refugee policies and programs

This is enough to go on with. I for one would be pleased to give evidence before such a Royal Commission on the part that official aid played in the operation of the Pacific Solution.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Human Rights in Australia - Another immigration horror story comes to light

SBS & ABC reported tonight on the case of Tony Tranh. The story should make the blood of decent minded Australians run cold. His is the latest case to come to light of unlawful and mistaken detainment at Baxter Detention Centre.

Immigration's deportation of Tony Tranh's wife and son without his notification - and the far reaching impact of years of mistaken detainment on Mr Tranh's mental and physical health and livelihood - are difficult to comprehend.

Please write to your local MP and to the major party leaders expressing your concern and contempt for this injustice. You might like to seek advice on

1. what steps are being taken by the Australian Government and DIAC to offer compensation and assistance to Mr Tranh and his son, and to resolve the issue of Tony Tranh's so called 'statelessness?

2. what steps are being taken to investigate DIAC's breach of procedural guidelines in this case?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Election 2007 - "Democracy and disillusionment"

This blog post caught my eye. Malperdy's list of Howard's betrayals resonates with fear, greed and malignant power:

"* The Australian Wheat Board scandal over deals with the Saddam Hussein government in Iraq
* The Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq scandal
* Improper support for the invasion of Iraq instead of urging alternative solutions
* Extreme anti-terror laws
* The failure to recognize the international environmental crisis
* Failure to plan for the national water crisis
* The failure to support alternative forms of energy production
* Permitting the untrammelled selling off of natural mineral resources
* Use of dubious definitions of being 'employed' to provide favourable statistics
* Lack of affordable housing, and rising mortgage interest rates
* Failure to produce an effective reconciliation with Aboriginals
* Unqualified and uncritical support for the Bush regime in the USA
* Shameful treatment of asylum seekers who find their way to Australia
* The bogus children overboard scandal
* Shameful refusal to demand the release of Australian Guantanamo Bay detainees
* Blatant trickery over a national referendum on Australia becoming a Republic
* Dishonesty and deceit amongst those holding high office
* Abusing and jeering at its opponents instead of responding to their arguments
* Lacking statesmanship and dignity, and providing appalling role models for younger generations"

Friday, November 09, 2007

Human Rights in Australia - Howard's record critiqued on eve of election

Radio Australia reports "A prominent Australian human rights advocate and lawyer has warned that Australia's anti-terrorism and refugee legislation poses a growing threat to democratic freedoms.

Julian Burnside has been writing for almost ten years on Australia's refugee policies and anti-terror laws.

He's long argued that Australia's treatment of asylum-seekers breaches international law and amounts to serious human rights abuse.

Now he's brought his arguments together in a new book appealing for change.

He spoke to Radio Australia's Connect Asia program about the book.

"Our treatment of asylum seekers is more than just a passing phase, I think it's something which has in an uncomfortable way identified something about the Australian character," he said.

The book, "Watching Brief" also examines Australia's anti-terror laws and call for a Bill of Rights.

"Look to the extent that these things [the anti-terror laws] dilute the rule of law yes it does challenge our democracy. A striking example of that is the laws that allow for orders to be made for preventative detention and for control orders thos are both orders that dramatically curtail a person's liberty not because you have committed an offence but because you might," he said.

You can hear the full story at the Connect Asia website:

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Election 2007 - Howard warns of social ruin if Rudd elected - 'bring out your dead'

The anticipated shrill hysteria from Howard and cohort is kicking in. Babies won't be born, anarchy will rule, society and marriages will collapse, recession is inevitable. Can you believe people voted for these clowns FOUR times?

Sound the bells, alert the town cryer, batten down the hatches, and shiver yer timbers - Howard is going into meltdown. Its not pretty and it certainly isn't edifying, but entertaining? The question is whether he will lose the plot completely, which would be worth the price of admission.

Sorry Mr Howard, just go...

Let them eat shit Peter...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Election 2007 - Vote for someone who cares about human rights

This is to inform you about a public forum which will take place in Dickson, Canberra on the 8th of November.

The forum is under the auspices of The Justice Project
( ), whose aims are to protect and promote Human Rights in Australia. It is a non-partisan event to which every federal candidate in the ACT is invited, and the keynote speaker is respected ANU academic Hilary Charlesworth. Marion Le is also speaking.

As someone with an interest in human rights, your support for this forum would be valuable.

A flyer can be accessed here.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Election 2007 - "Exclusive footage: detention centres, riots, refugees. Remember them?"

One of this blog's readers (thanks Steve) brought this footage posted on Crikey to my attention. Part of Crikey's commentary follows:

"So far in this election campaign the only r word employed by politicians has been peppered through the Treasurer's press conferences.

But the footage we reveal today, which has never been released to the public, concerns a subject that has featured promimently in elections past: refugees.

The video includes footage of the Port Hedland detention centre riots from May 2001 and was leaked by an anonymous guard shortly after the riot occurred, a time when the media was denied access to Australian detention centres.

The footage came to light after producers of the US reality television program Most Shocking sought it from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre this year. The producers of the program, which airs on Channel Seven, eventually rejected the Port Hedland tape on the grounds that it wasn't "pro government forces".

Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre has told Crikey that the video was filmed by the government contractor Australasian Correctional Management to be circulated in the Department of Immigration."

Don't you think verbal gaffes like Garrett's pale into insignificance when you consider the appalling human rights record of the Howard Govt.? Our political culture has been degraded and demeaned by shock jocks and a large slice of the commentariat who have stood by while this country has been hijacked by dangerous buffoons. I sent the following comment to SKY News the other day. Their election coverage was positively frothing with the Garrett story at the time:

"I know you are pitching constantly to the moneyed part of the society (because they can afford pay TV), but your political coverage is awful. Your ridiculous polls indicate the skewed demographic you appeal to.

Your constant trawling for slip ups and minor inflections by candidates is disappointing. You have fallen into the trap of most political journos in thrall to the Howard experiment and have started believing your own spin. A word to the wise, if you want to be taken seriously as a current affairs outlet, lose the skewed polls and try to insert some balance and intellectual integrity into your coverage.

You might consider employing someone who has been around longer than 10 mins on your political team to bring some gravitas to the content. It is no accident that Howard has a preference for SKY coverage - it is because you mainly seem in thrall to his side of politics and his constituency.

Certain of your presenters might consider loosing the deeply troubled look when Labor or the Greens pitch a message. One of your female presenters always looks as though there has been a death in the family. Don't worry its not that bad!

Try to imagine what it's been like for people who value social equity, community cohesion, reconciliation, and respect for human rights, rule of law, fairness and good international citizenship over the last 11 years - in a word, ghastly!"

Saturday, November 03, 2007

New Matilda: Howard’s Australia: The Bureaucratisation of Evil

Julie Macken remembers some key moments in the recent history of John Howard’s Australia relating to the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.

If you merge the Arendt dictum on the "banality of evil" with this one you get Howard and the dark elves, Kevin (I am not Mr Bean) Andrews and Philip (I am not a wraith) Ruddock. Banal, bureaucratic and evil - a heady cocktail to take a country's reputation for fairness, compassion and good international citizenship to hell in a hand-basket. G'day and good luck.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Election 2007 - Journos just don't get it!

After a decade of going soft on Howard's nasty experiment, that has seen Australia hijacked by ideological extremists, the 4th estate seems to assume the rest of us are blank slates waiting for their latest 'extraordinary' insights. Lord help us all if that was the case.

I tuned in to Fran Kelly's 'political panel' discussion this morning on Radio National Breakfast. Even the seasoned political journo, Michelle Grattan, seemed to be in fierce agreement with the others (Kelly, Farr & Bongiorno) that the bulk of the electors have'nt really turned off Howard, they're just in to a mindless 'it's time' construct.

Oh dear, what can the matter be, all these journos hoist by their flattery (of Howard that is). Oops, sorry, just got carried away for a moment.

I listened to Hugh Mackay's chat with Phillip Adams on LNL yesterday. What a contrast from the mealy mouthed 'me tooisms' of the gallery hack pack. Hugh was talking about his new book, Advance Australia Where?

He refers to the Howard years as the 'dreaming', when Australia tuned out of issues such as reconciliation, refugee rights and general human rights, and rule of law concerns. Money and lifestyle obsessions saw these issues 'back-seated', facilitated by a media culture in thrall to Howard's radical reactionary agenda.

Now that Australians are waking up to the fact that loss of social cohesion, genuine community and fairness is not the Australia we aspire to, the journos are all at sea trying to explain why the electorate is getting set to thump the Coalition.