Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Asylum seekers in Australia - A Barista with a heart

Every now & then I stumble upon a piece written by someone who gets the agony of being outcast and demonized because you escaped tyranny. It is not an intellectual exercise in legalese or political rhetoric to drum up votes, but a heartfelt plea for decency and a fair go.

I have been banging away on this blog for five years or so in a quixotic way to try to convince a few souls that we have got asylum seeker policy badly wrong; that we have betrayed ourselves by letting our society tolerate a regime of punishment and persecution for people who dare to seek sanctuary on our shores.

I came across this blog post today by a barista! Here's part of what it had to say:

"Truth is no government has ever stopped the boats & the reality is no government can. I don’t know why we can’t extend our hand & help people who are desperate and are at risk, considering this is something we have committed to. We live in country where we haven’t been subjected to these types of experiences & yet we are one of the biggest critics of how people should conduct themselves when they are trying to survive. Who the hell are we to judge to people on how they should go about surviving? Life or death situations generally do not come with a guidebook with instructions on how it should be conducted in an orderly manner. Scared people do desperate things to survive, such as board an unseaworthy vessel & sail across the high seas to a country that isn’t even welcoming of them…"

When are we going to get our mojo back and treat these people as we would want to be treated in their shoes...?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Asylum seekers in Australia - is it legitimate to have punishment of boat people as a centre piece of an election platform?

As you would expect from a political party that reaps returns from its investment of political capital on the demonization of refugees, the Coalition continues its obnoxious rhetoric on boat people. Make no mistake, this is not a reasoned debate on the rights and wrongs of refugee policy. The Coalition has gained rich pickings from fear-mongering, as evidenced by the Queensland vote. The 'tea party' rump of the One Nation party has drifted back to the LNP, in thrall to simple minded messages on debt & deficit, the mining tax and good ole refugee bashing.

Following are some links to people who think and worry about this phenomenon in our body politic:

The refugee myth: How to make things seem worse than they are.

Pacific Solution no real answer.

Simplistic scare tactics will not stop the boats.

While I am no fan of our engagement in Afghanistan, to suggest all young Afghani men should fight the Taliban rather than flee from violence and persecution is reminiscent of those who criticise Holocaust victims of the Nazis for not fighting. A lot of them were young men! Following is an example of this execrable nonsense, fuelling intolerance and hate:

Our boys arrive by bodybag.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Australian media and political bastardry - finally someone (John Menadue) in the know calls for a public enquiry!

A comment on Poll Bludger this morning went like this:

"Deb Cameron on ABC 702 has just had an interview with John Menadue re the bias of the Press during the campaign in which he served it up to the ABC and the rest of the media big time.

The interview will be posted on the ABC website under Mornings on 702 later this morning and she is asking for comments – it is really worth a listen. He is calling for a parliamentary inquiry into the behaviour of the press."

Menadue's earlier critique of the media in Melbourne recently can be found at the Centre for Policy development website.

This is overdue and much needed, before we are picking over the bloodied carcass of our body politic and wondering where we went wrong. The skewed opinion settings of the mainstream media have galled me for a long time. Narrow sectional interests get a helpful leg up in most areas of debate on public policy. We also get a diet of reactionary, simple minded drivel on asylum seekers, deficit financing, interest rates; a plethora of important areas of public policy are 'spun' through the lens of media celebrities who survive on a dumbed-down strategy of sound-bites, 'gotcha' moments and limpid sensationalism. Political analysis has been reduced to talk-show patter and info-tainment for a presumed audience with the concentration span of a distracted gnat.

Well, hey, many of us out here in listener land have maintained a healthy interest in the state of our body politic, and are frankly sick of the 'me me' crowd setting the media agenda. It is time for serious journalists to re-assert themselves. There are plenty of punters that will thank them for it....

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Australia votes - the challenge will be to keep the bastards honest - the media I mean!

And so it goes on. The MSM have already launched into a partisan trammeling of the minority government outcome. Willful distortions of independent statements to suggest lack of legitimacy is the current stock in trade of the lumpen commentariat. LP has a good post on this subject.

How can we protect our democracy from the elements of the feral fourth estate that are in hock to reactionary forces in this country? It is a version of the 'howling', where wraiths run riot over the twisting and wailing body politic or a political take of the 'underworld' trilogy (I can feel a movie coming on!). It is sad that so many in the mainstream media have morphed into spruikers for the lumpen mediocrity creeping across the land.

As noted previously, we are at risk of an upsurge of lumpen commentary to assist a tea party type response to this election. Abbott is the type of politician to encourage low rent reaction as it plays to the fear and division game book. Watch the banners as the blooms of bile billow forth from the bowels of the benighted bastions of ole Grubb Street (apologies, apologies, apologies....).

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Aid to PNG - Lack of oversight - Australia's awry aid model

I WAS STRUCK by the report in PNG Attitude (No 150, August 2010) on alleged corruption within the aid program.

In 2003 I was lamenting the approach that was fast being adopted by AusAID to devolve administration and program management to Port Moresby. The setting up of sector-based program silos seemed novel at the time, but I had worries about loss of corporate memory in Canberra and, of perhaps more concern, a lack of oversight in contract governance. It seemed to me that full program devolution would bring with it a raft of problems.

One of the scenarios I aired at the time went like this: What happens when one of our large projects in the law and justice sector has a contractual problem involving misuse of funds? Under the previous arrangements, desk officers and contract managers in Canberra would oversight all aspects of a contract. It was sometimes an unwieldy process, particularly if the hands-on managers were inexperienced, but there were checks and balances in the system to minimize the opportunity for ongoing misuse of funds.

Of course,the reality of delivering complex projects on the ground throws up implementation delays, personnel problems, administrative inefficiencies and so on, and it is important to have people in the field to liaise with government counterparts and contractors and to report on these matters. But it is equally important to have a cadre of people back in Canberra who understand the activity, manage the contract and who are hands-on with the Australian managing contractor. You also need highly skilled and independent monitoring and evaluation that can be mobilized as required. Officers in the field are on two year postings. The majority move on to other things on completion of the posting. Whether they are program or contract managers, their corporate memory is limited to their time in country.

Much of the management of the program has been devolved to sector-based units, made up of high-priced consultants, AusAID officers and locally engaged staff, who manage contracts and liaise with government and project personnel. Posted officers and consultants have limited tenure in country and it beggars belief that all the complexities and governance issues associated with delivering large program activities can be managed effectively under this regime. Some of these activities can involve implementation periods of five years and more. Certain activities in the police and corrections area have been implemented over several phases covering 10-15 years or longer.

It comes as no surprise to me that corruption has raised its ugly head in these circumstances.

Two other pieces in Attitude caught my eye. One called upon Australia to scrap the aid program because it is feeding corruption and another focused on the need to get the arrangements between local government and civil society right as a starting point to reform of the PNG political system.

I would conflate these issues so that Australian aid shift focus abruptly to the urgent reform of local level government systems (including the administrative enabling and regulatory framework), decentralization of service delivery and the governance of financial and program administration at all levels of government.

Golly gosh, what a novel idea!