Thursday, April 29, 2010

Abbott beats the refugee fear drum louder & louder - human rights will be the loser under a future Coalition govt!

Those of us that hoped the election of a Rudd Government would see Australia model best practice in the treatment of refugees, particularly as we take so few on an annual basis, are now alert and alarmed.

As Abbott goes about the business of whipping up fear of asylum seekers, with his appalling bus, nasty rhetoric and his conga line of supporters in the MSM, the Rudd Government has desperately tried to avoid being wedged on the issue. The chest beating and hard lines that emerge from week to week indicate an abiding level of fear in the community of people arriving on these shores. Recent polling suggests many in the electorate remain fearful of refugees that arrive by boat.

An irrational debate on population has arisen in the body politic, which threatens to turn decidedly partisan and ugly. In the absence of support for the Coalition's policy platform Abbott has taken the 'Tampa' option of cranking up the fear rhetoric; a confection of outrage towards, and threatened consequences for, desperate people who have made a dangerous voyage to escape persecution.

The 'population' posture being trotted out by Morrison and Abbott is back to the future of fear and smear; an egregious throwback to 'White Australia' thinking, much like Howard demonized Muslims to build populist support for his border control regime.

Where is the baby bonus thinking now? I thought the whole point of the Costello pantomime on having babies for mum, dad and the country was to have a bigger Australia! Yes, ladies & gentleman, you guessed it - it does'nt suit the current fear posture so lets not talk about previous policies.

Bi-partisanship on such an important issue as immigration, population growth and cultural inclusiveness is impossible whilst a major political party sees populist opportunity in scaring people.

So we will not get a human rights charter any time soon, as the right paint this as a watering down of a government's right to do as it pleases, with nasty consequences for those caught on the wrong side of what political leaders decree makes a good Australian.

The population debate as framed by Abbott and his cohort is a rallying call for those in the community in thrall to notions of exclusivity, cultural entitlement and border protection. Faced with fairly ordinary polls, Abbott is doing what Howard and Turnbull did before him - press the 'alert and alarmed' buttons on boat people, cultural diversity and 'Australianess'. We have seen it all before - the 'reds under the beds' mantra of the 50s has been replaced with 'we will decide who comes to this country', and many credulous people fall for it, hook, line and sinker, as it feeds into their prejudices...

I'm not the only one who gets the Abbott 'thing' about migration:

Read this Crikey article.

I also get Mike Carlton's take on Australia, the shonky country - right up Mr Abbott's alley, (if you know what I mean).

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

ABC radioland in Canberra - a divergent commentary but a human rights issue none the less!

I have sent the following feedback to ABC 666 Canberra Radio this morning. Of course, it is an exercise in futility as it seems their current stable of presenters are seen as the best thing since sliced white bread. No wonder I don't like sliced white bread.

I was struck by how enjoyable local Canberra ABC radio was when the current incumbents took a much 'deserved' holiday during the kiddies break:

"I must comment on the discernible improvement I noticed on Breakfast and Mornings during the school holiday break. Your usual presenter, Solly & his 'boofhead' style talk back must have sent listeners scurrying to RN in droves in recent times. His peculiarly West Australian approach to public broadcasting is not endearing to listeners with a reasonable IQ & a grasp of current affairs.

The Sloane style of cloying giggling, particularly when she comes across a line of thought she doesn't particularly agree with is an unfortunate radio tic. I appreciate her regular guests are all people she is 'comfortable' with, so we tend to get good ole Harold's take on making money in media, the daily Murdoch spin on politics or non-political takes on feral animals, local history and whatever. Whenever the subject is current political issues the take on it is invariably 'rural conservative' in slant, which is a very limited world view (giggle, giggle). More RN....By the way, Alex, 'going forward' is gen x corporate speak, not something invented by the PM. However, I do agree it is the most redundant phrase in modern blah blah...

Afternoons is taken up with pure country 'fare' with mind-numbing discussions on everything under the sun that might have occupied my mum's CWA club, if they were all suddenly given a new lease as gen X'ers and aging Y's May be there is a discernible demographic, but I suggest baby boomer and younger listeners might appreciate something a little more challenging on the cerebral front. The quaint panels that pop up on this show, trying to be oh so clever on somewhat inane subjects are pretty tedious. Sadly, RN tends to wander off into book readings and what not during this slot so local ABC is all that is left.

You can see that I am a radio addict, and I enjoy pithy and astute commentary, lively interviews and objective current affairs analysis. I don't enjoy commercial radio style projections of the personal predilections of radio presenters who try to shape their broadcasts around their narrow take on reality - like the Solly's and Sloane's of 'radioland'. Don't we have enough of this sort of obtuse editorializing on commercial talk back?"

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Refugees in Australia: UN ‘troubled’ by Australia’s treatment of asylum-seekers - Rudd does a 'Howard' on boat people!

The United Nations said Monday it was "deeply troubled" by Australia's treatment of asylum-seekers, as rights group Amnesty International condemned the reopening of a remote detention centre.

Amnesty's media release follows:

"Amnesty International has condemned the Australian government’s suspension of the processing of new asylum claims by Afghan and Sri Lankan nationals, labelling it an appalling act of political point scoring, and fundamentally inconsistent with Australia’s international obligations under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.

The organisation, which has repeatedly called on the government to show leadership on asylum and refugee issues, said the move smacks of opportunistic politics ahead of this year’s expected Federal election. Amnesty International is gravely concerned that this move will result in the arbitrary detention of people who have genuine protection claims.

“This decision is outrageous. Sadly, it appears that the government has caved into political pressure and is now attempting to override the rights of the most vulnerable to score political points,” said Andrew Beswick, Campaigns Manager for Amnesty International Australia. “People fleeing persecution should not be used as political footballs”.

The decision to suspend processing the claims of Afghan and Sri Lankan asylum seekers pre-empts the UNHCR’s official review of the security situation on the ground in either of those countries.

“This will compromise Australia’s international reputation as a leader in the region,” said Andrew Beswick.

Amnesty International calls upon the Australian Government to release the information on which it has based its claim that the security conditions in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka have improved to such an extent as to justify this sudden blanket suspension.

“The government’s rationale for this apparently unilateral decision conflicts with the information Amnesty International and other human rights organisations have received regarding the situation on the ground for many people in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka,” said Andrew Beswick.

Amnesty International believes the Australian Government’s move sends a dangerous message throughout the Asia Pacific region. The possibility exists that as a result of this decision, other governments within the region could begin to pressure UNHCR to cease processing of Afghan and Sri Lankan nationals in countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia.

The Australian Government has a rigorous process of assessing asylum claims according to the internationally agreed criteria set out in the 1951 Refugee Convention. Under that process, individuals who are found to be at risk of torture, persecution or death, are offered our protection. Those people who are not found to have genuine claims are returned to their country of origin. As Australia is a signatory to the Refugee Convention, that process should stand.

Well over 90 per cent of asylum seekers who arrive by boat are found to have genuine protection claims. This means the overwhelming majority of Afghans and Sri Lankans seeking asylum in Australia have largely been found to have genuine claims for protection. This statistic demands that the Australian Government further explain a blanket ban on these two groups.

Situations for many groups in Sri Lanka, including activists, journalists and some Tamils remain tenuous and dangerous. Similarly in Afghanistan, many individuals, in particular activists and journalists, have fled real threats from the Taliban or government-associated warlords, while women, single heads of households, unaccompanied minors, victims of trauma, people requiring medical attention and people with disabilities are at significant risk.

“There is no justification for the Australian Government’s application of a blanket suspension of the assessment of asylum claims from Afghan and Sri Lankan nationals,” said Andrew Beswick.

Amnesty International will be investigating whether the move also puts Australia in breach of its obligations under the 1965 Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination."

Amnesty International is calling on the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Immigration and Citizenship to:

* Reverse their decision to suspend the processing of new asylum applications by Sri Lankan and Afghan nationals.

* Respect the rights of all refugees and asylum seekers regardless of where they come from.

* Stop over-riding the rights of the world’s most vulnerable people for political purposes.

You can take action by clicking here.

Getup has a campaign underway to tackle the Rudd Government on its backsliding path toward human rights violations. I did'nt expect to see this from Labor but it is happening and my worst fears are being realized. Click here to hear Riz's powerful story.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Refugees in Australia: Labor falls into the trap of playing the fear game with the Coalition.

The Age reports "ALL asylum seekers arriving from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan will go into limbo for three to six months under a dramatic toughening of Australia's border protection policies aimed at curbing the boats.

Sri Lankans will not be processed for at least three months while Afghans will face a wait of at least six months, as the government flagged that people from these countries will face a much tougher battle for entry.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans said the shift coincided with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reviewing its guidelines.

But Opposition Leader Tony Abbott branded yesterday's move an ''election fix'' that would not stop the boats.

The policy reversal, which jettisons Labor's election pledge to process arrivals quickly, was announced yesterday by Senator Evans, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor."

Rudd et al have been moving toward a more hard line approach to 'boat people' as Abbott and his bandwagon ramped up the political invective on asylum seekers. In the absence of support for the Coalition's policy platform Abbott will take the Tampa option of cranking up the fear rhetoric; a confection of outrage towards, and threatened consequences for, desperate people who have made a dangerous voyage to escape persecution.

Human rights advocates will take action to test the legality of the Govt's posture. I suggest it contravenes the convention on refugees and other international instruments designed to protect human rights. It probably also contravenes Australian law, which protects individuals from government action taken on the grounds of ethnicity, nationality, religion etc.

I recently parted company with the ALP. This action confirms my decision in spades. We are again witnessing political leaders lose their moral compass over asylum seeking.