Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Human rights in Australia - a warning for those attacking Labor - be careful what you wish for!

I sent the following message to GetUp today. I have been a staunch critic of Rudd's back downs on human rights issues, but I have no doubt that the alternative under Abbott would be much worse:

"Whilst I applaud most of what GetUp does I am now very concerned that the relentless attack on Labor from the left and the right will realize an Abbott government. Believe me, if that happens the previous Howard regime will seem positively benign!

I agree that better ways need to be found to tackle criminality on the internet, but please temper your attack on this government’s credentials. The MSM have poured so much vitriol on Rudd that Abbott now looks like he could take office. I think Brett Solomon and Simon Sheik are articulate advocates for human rights, but an Abbott government will present such an avalanche of violations as to make this current campaign on the internet filter appear tokenistic.

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.

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.

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...

You are hammering Labor on its ETS back down; its asylum seeker policies; its internet filter - but you are letting Abbott off the hook! The wedges set up under the political dynamic in the Senate are electoral poison for Labor. With good intentions but political naivete, you are contributing to an MSM media construct of a government that is under-performing and lacking courage.

Howard took this country far to the right! Rudd has to tip toe through an electoral mine field of electors easily in thrall to hate mongering, which has become an acceptable political tool when you have little else to convince the electorate you are fit for government. It reminds me sometimes of an obscure party grabbing public attention in the beer halls of Munich in the 1920s. They banged a few fear drums too!

Whilst rightly criticizing Rudd’s back peddling on human rights issues, be aware that the alternative would be much worse! Australia would become a much uglier place under Abbott’s stewardship. His brand of socio-religious patriarchy would determine public policy parameters in such way as to make the previous 'brutupia' look positively benign.

Politics is not a zero sum game…."

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