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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Asylum seekers in Australia - Even the ABC beats the drum of division and exclusion!

I sent the following message to ABC Radio 666 Canberra this morning after their breakfast presenter thought it would be clever to run a straw poll on his program on what should happen to the Sri Lankans on the Australian customs vessel:

"I don't usually listen to Solly at breakfast as I find his simple minded pandering to the lowest common denominator a bit much to stomach - why ABC feels the need to compete with commercial talk back is beyond me. Our public broadcaster should be very careful with an incendiary issue such as asylum seekers. The drum beat of division and exclusion is coming from many quarters. Half-baked commentary and so-called 'straw polls' are the bread & butter of shock jocks, Sky News and low rent programs like ACA etc.

The issues surrounding the Australian vessel in Indonesia are complex and almost parenthetical to the broader issues surrounding asylum seekers.

I have worked in this area so I know a bit about the subject.

The Coalition Govt turned itself inside out to leverage Indonesian support for the idea of 'warehousing' asylum seekers in Lombok and other places. Unfortunately for Labor our erstwhile govt did not bother to properly resource the UNHCR and the IOM to manage the Indonesian processing of refugee claims humanely, efficiently and expeditiously.

Now that Rudd is looking to build on the Howard govt approach, taking a more systematic and humane approach to the processing problem, elements within the Indonesian establishment are unhappy at the prospect. They have seen Australia dump the problem on their laps before, but with little compensation and support.

Rudd has an opportunity to change the construct through adequate resourcing of the lead agencies and the Indonesian authorities. It is vital that a compassionate approach is taken to detention, enabling asylum seekers to retain their dignity and well-being whilst awaiting decisions on their future.

Australia must model best practice in this area, ensuring the provisions of international legal instruments and human rights conventions are followed to the letter. This can be a win/win for asylum seekers, the respective processing authorities, and the countries in the firing line."

You would think the ABC would demonstrate a bit more responsibility in this area, particularly given the presenter knew very little about the complex issues surrounding this current conundrum.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Asylum seekers in Australia - Coalition strategy of warehousing refugees in Indonesia comes home to bite Labor - an opportunity presents itself!




The Coalition Govt turned itself inside out to leverage Indonesian support for the idea of 'warehousing' asylum seekers in Lombok and other places. Unfortunately for Labor our erstwhile govt did not bother to properly resource the UNHCR and the IOM to manage the Indonesian processing of refugee claims humanely, efficiently and expeditiously.

Now that Rudd is looking to build on the Howard govt approach, taking a more systematic and humane approach to the processing problem, elements within the Indonesian establishment are 'arking up' at the prospect. They have seen Australia dump the problem on their laps before, but with little compensation and support.

Rudd has an opportunity to change the construct through adequate resourcing of the lead agencies and the Indonesian authorities. It is vital that a compassionate approach is taken to detention, enabling asylum seekers to retain their dignity and well-being whilst awaiting decisions on their future.

Australia must model best practice in this area, ensuring the provisions of international legal instruments and human rights conventions are followed to the letter. This can be a win/win for asylum seekers and the respective processing authorities. Australians interested in seeing their govt do the right thing should lobby their local members of parliament and the Minister for Immigration. Do not be conned by the rhetoric of the Coalition as they have no credibility on this subject.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Asylum seekers in Australia - Media Watch calls out Channel 9 and shock jocks for replacing the dog whistle with the drum beat of fear

"Howard Sattler: Now we're going to talk about another kind of rip-off. We're going to talk about the welfare rip-off by a lot of people who claim refugee status. Would you believe, this is the figures, the Centrelink benefits have gone up nearly 40% to an estimated $628 million over two years"

Radio 6PR Perth, Drive with Howard Sattler, 20th October, 2009

This charming offering from one of the most egregious offenders on the air waves set the scene for a timely indictment of a substantial slice of commercial media for its lack of integrity, honesty and moral compass in its treatment of Centrelink data on asylum seekers.

Watch the Media Watch program here.

Crikey,quelle surprise, golly gosh - what a bunch of low life bottom feeders! And they all support the Coalition...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Human Rights in China: Tibet update - BREAKING NEWS: China Executes Four Tibetans

Multiple sources have confirmed the execution of four Tibetans in Lhasa on Tuesday 20 October - the first death sentences known to have been carried out in Tibet since 2003.

Three of the four Tibetans now known to have been executed - Lobsang Tenzin, Loyak (pictured right) and Penkyi - are among the five sentenced to death in April this year in connection with events in Lhasa on 14 March 2008. Their trials were conducted in secret and in the absence of even the most basic level of legal oversight. Their executions raise grave concerns for the prospects of many hundreds of Tibetans still unaccounted for or awaiting trial.

Read more...

TAKE ACTION: Join the global campaign to the Chinese Minister of Justice

Friday, October 23, 2009

Human rights in Australia - “Let’s Act on it. Australia has spoken: give us a Human Rights Act.”

Following is media release from the Australian Human Rights Group, responding to the Brennan Human Rights Report:

"The biggest public inquiry in Australia’s history has recommended the introduction of an Australian Human Rights Act, in order to fix significant problems with Australia’s legal protection of human rights. The Australian Human Rights Group (AHRG) calls on the federal Government to implement this recommendation.

“The results are in, and they are crystal clear. 27 888 submissions, that is 87%, favoured a Human Rights Act. The sheer number of people who have taken part in the Consultation shows the strength of community feeling on this issue,” said Susan Ryan AO, Chair of the AHRG.

“Father Frank Brennan’s Committee has listened to the community and to experts on all sides of the debate. The Committee believes that a Human Rights Act is crucial to achieving balanced human rights protection in Australia.”

“The gaps in Australia’s human rights protection need to be filled. There is now a historic opportunity for the Government to act decisively on the community’s strong views, and take this crucial step in making Australia a fairer place,” said Susan Ryan.

“A Human Rights Act would bring important, practical benefits. It would make government more accountable and provide a tangible means of fostering social inclusion.”

“Countries that have the model of human rights protection proposed by the Brennan Committee, such as the UK and New Zealand, have seen significant improvement in services provided to vulnerable groups, such as people with a disability and elderly people.”

The Australian Human Rights Group calls on the government to introduce a Human Rights Act without delay."

Amen....

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Asylum Seekers in Australia - Open letter to the Minister for Immigration

Dear Minister

I am saddened that children and unaccompanied minors continue to be held on Christmas Island.

I commend the Federal Government on recent changes to the Australian refugee system, such as the termination of the Pacific Solution and Temporary Protection visas, which should be maintained.

However, I strongly urge the Government to fully commit to its vision of creating a more humane refugee system by immediately ending the detention of all children, particularly unaccompanied minors, and moving all children from Christmas Island to the Australian mainland.

Detaining children on Christmas Island violates the Australian Government’s international obligations under the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC). The immigration detention arrangements, including the construction camp facility where children are currently detained, are inappropriate for minors. The restrictive conditions of detention and lack of services have been well documented to cause long-term psychological and physical damage.

Australia has received repeated international criticism for its policy of mandatory detention and excision. The practice of detaining asylum seekers on Christmas Island, as a whole, breaches our obligations under the UN Refugee Convention.

I urge the Australian Government to meets its international obligations towards children seeking asylum by ensuring that once it is clear that a child does not pose a risk to the Australian community, that s/he be housed immediately and appropriately on the Australian mainland.

In response to the Opposition's irrational posture on asylum seekers, the Prime Minister has adopted a media strategy that has echoes of the Howard Government policy, including the use of the term 'illegal immigration' to denigate asylum seekers. Bona fide refugees are not categorized as 'illegal immigrants' under international law instruments. Australia should be modeling best practice in this area, including the education of the general public on the complex issues surrounding refugee movements and asylum seeker entitlements.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Asylum seekers in Australia - Liberals label asylum seekers 'scum', accuse PM of responsibility for their deaths - the bar gets set very low



Here we go again. The fear and smear campaign is picking up as the Coalition sniffs the possibility of a re-run of a 'border security' wedge.

Turnbull has shown his true colours in jumping on the bandwagon as soon as a sniff of political advantage came on the horizon. Andrews, Stone, Scullion, Downer et al are lining up to accuse the govt of going soft on border security and laying out the welcome mat for people smugglers. Federal Nationals Leader Warren Truss has blamed the Government for the deaths of asylum seekers at sea who are trying to reach Australia. This tacky strategy has been seen before and it makes my stomach churn.

A Northern Territory politician has been forced to explain a parliamentary gaffe in which he referred to asylum seekers as "scum". This has echoes of Senator Scullion's recent comments that boat people are a bio-security threat to Australia. Someone in my partner's family once commented that she thought it would be best if boat people drowned. Of course, she is a an avid Coalition supporter.

Whilst reasoned commentators are disputing the rationale for the Coalition posture, the media are all over it like a cheap suit. They love a rumpus that livens up the political climate.

Rudd has been forced into an unedifying, hairy-chested riposte to hose down the dust of fear as it begins to rise and clog the nostrils, with the constant drum beat of the Coalition and its media conga line whipping up a storm. This serving on Crikey is an example.

Its getting ugly again. Malcolm Fraser and other progressive 'liberals' are trying to stem the tide of nastiness emanating from their side of politics, but methinks we are in for another nasty period of demonizing boat people. The term 'illegals' is being bandied about again with gay abandon, including by PM Rudd, and the usual derogation 'economic refugees' and 'queue jumpers' is across the air waves.

Friday, October 09, 2009

The human rights component of deficit financing - Lateline interview with Texan econometric purveyor

I've just sent the following feedback to the ABC's Lateline program, which featured a Texan Professor of Economics. You will note I was singularly underwhelmed both by his proffering and the lack of rigour displayed by the interviewer:

"I just watched an interview between Ticky Fullerton and a Professor of Economics from Texas. It pretty much summed up why the world economy is in such a mess. When this type of voodoo econometrics is applied to deficit spending and private Vs public expenditure and respective impacts on productivity, you get the sort of nonsense that this fellow was peddling.

There was no analysis of the effects on long term productivity from targeted public expenditure on key areas of human capital development, including education, health, R & D, and from capital investments in key infrastructure upgrades to roads, ports, railways, airports etc etc. The problem in the US is that so little emphasis has been placed on the role of the public purse in the maintenance of these crucial areas of the economy (leaving it to the private sector to exploit for profit) their public education and health system have become increasingly moribund and inefficient. You cannot get a decent education or health care unless you have money in the good ole USA.

Essential transport infrastructure is in a parlous state in many parts of the US because of a failure of the private sector to invest and the vacation from the field by the public sector. Tax returns have been incrementally reduced by predatory federal and state policies that allow the rich and corporations to minimize their tax. A huge slice of the US structural deficit relates to defence spending, much of which is transferred from the public coffers to private companies who have tax concessions and subsidies coming out their ears.

It is easy to go on and on about the problems with the analysis put forward by this 'academic'. It is a shame your interviewer seemed to know so little about the reality of the US economy to allow this nonsense to stand. You keep trotting these dry rot economists out as if they are the purveyors of all wisdom on the subject of deficit financing and the cost-benefit of public expenditure. They are not and the pity is that their construct has poisoned development policies for decades through institutions such as the IMF and the WB.

We are now reaping the benefit of their obsession with reducing public investment in human and other essential capital, food security, community development and civil society; encouraging governments to leave the welfare of their people to the mercy of a 'globalized' market.

A sensible and balanced mix of private and public investment makes sense; well regulated financial systems and markets make sense; the provision of essential services (not subject to private profit imperatives) under public funding makes sense. An appropriate redistribution of a fair proportion of private wealth through public investment in the common good makes sense.

It would be encouraging if a little more intellectual rigour was applied to these interviews! However, thank goodness for the ABC because the vast majority of the media have completely abandoned the vital ground of balanced, investigative journalism. The health of our democracy has not improved in the process."

The failure of 'pure market & rational individuals' economics has been amplified by Paul Krugman, recent Nobel Prize winner for economics. His essay in the New York Times is worth a read. He concludes:

"So here’s what I think economists have to do. First, they have to face up to the inconvenient reality that financial markets fall far short of perfection, that they are subject to extraordinary delusions and the madness of crowds. Second, they have to admit — and this will be very hard for the people who giggled and whispered over Keynes — that Keynesian economics remains the best framework we have for making sense of recessions and depressions. Third, they’ll have to do their best to incorporate the realities of finance into macroeconomics.

Many economists will find these changes deeply disturbing. It will be a long time, if ever, before the new, more realistic approaches to finance and macroeconomics offer the same kind of clarity, completeness and sheer beauty that characterizes the full neoclassical approach. To some economists that will be a reason to cling to neoclassicism, despite its utter failure to make sense of the greatest economic crisis in three generations. This seems, however, like a good time to recall the words of H. L. Mencken: “There is always an easy solution to every human problem — neat, plausible and wrong.”

When it comes to the all-too-human problem of recessions and depressions, economists need to abandon the neat but wrong solution of assuming that everyone is rational and markets work perfectly. The vision that emerges as the profession rethinks its foundations may not be all that clear; it certainly won’t be neat; but we can hope that it will have the virtue of being at least partly right."

Amen...