Loading...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Human rights in Australia - Australian of the Year gets it right on mandatory detention


It was encouraging to hear the new Australian of the year, Prof McGorry, say "immigration detention centres were factories for producing mental illness and mental disorder''.

They are and it is about time the ALP stopped pandering to right wing fear mongering on this subject and enabled Australia to meet its international refugee and human rights obligations.

Today's Essential Report has Labor slipping in the area of national security. The silly season produces some daft polling numbers and 2009-10 has been no exception. Add to this a relentless campaign by Abbott and the right wing media to beat the border security drum, and it is likely those members of the permanently credulous, in thrall to these distorted fear messages, will respond by getting behind Abbott and his fellow bandwagoners.

Howard tapped in to the credulity of many Australians with devastating effect. I know as I was one of the benighted public servants dragged into managing his Pacific Solution. The Murdoch press bang the ‘border security’ drum relentlessly, and commercial TV stations like CH7 profile people from ‘mysterious’ places on shows like ‘Border Security’. So, you get a woman wearing a hijab looking suspicious as her bag is searched by a customs officer! Never mind that the great bulk of nasty substance smuggling into this country is orchestrated by home-grown villains.

The numbers of refugees arriving by boats is minuscule compared with the experience of many European countries. It is a sad reflection on the state of our body politic and lack of self-assuredness that the fear messages gain traction but there it is.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Racism in Australia - Leader of the Opposition (Tony Abbott) reveals his true colours

After a bit of a lay off the latest tawdry attempt by Abbott to create a wedge on 'culture' and 'citizenship' has got my blogging goat up in arms. True to form (it was only a matter of time) Abbott has thrown away the dog whistle in favour of the megaphone.

On the eve of Australia Day he has sounded a call to arms 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'. It would be laughable if it was'nt so ugly, with nasty consequences for those caught on the wrong side of what Abbott decrees makes a good Australian.

Following is a little of what he had to say in Melbourne on Friday, as reported by Alexander Kirk on the ABC:

"TONY ABBOTT: To the extent that it is, a celebration of our nation, Australia Day is necessarily a salute to an immigrant culture. What's curious then is the ambivalence that many Australians feel about immigration, even though it's so central to our national experience.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Tony Abbott invoked his former leader John Howard's famous 2001 utterance to argue the need for a tough approach to boat arrivals.

TONY ABBOTT: John Howard's declaration about Australians controlling who comes to his country resonated because it struck most people as self-evidently and robustly true.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: He accepts Australia's obligation to help people fearing for their lives.

TONY ABBOTT: But this has to be balanced against our obligation not to become a soft touch for everyone seeking a better life.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Opposition Leader has issued a challenge to those who argue Australia's a big country that can easily accommodate the asylum seekers who've come by boat.

TONY ABBOTT: The critics of border protection policy need to ask themselves, at what point would the size of any unauthorised influx become a concern. They further need to explain why it's better to wait for the problem to become worse before tackling it. A strong border protection policy is perfectly consistent with a large and inclusive immigration policy and in fact it's probably essential if the public is to be convinced that Australia's immigration policy is run by the Government rather than by people smugglers."

It seems the default position of the Coalition under the influence of Howard et al is to bang the fear and loathing drum at every opportunity. Bi-partisanship on such an important issue as immigration and cultural inclusiveness is impossible whilst a major political party sees populist opportunity in scaring people.

We can expect more of this nasty nonsense from Abbott as electoral defeat stares him in the face. Frankly, his ilk, extremist bully boys, need to be flushed regularly from the clearing chamber of mainstream politics, or, at the very least, confined to a narrow well-lit down-pipe that is frequently decontaminated.

I recall Abbott was a dab hand with a megaphone outside Fisher Library during our shared days at Sydney University. He was peddling a nasty message back then as well. How did a commentator in the know describe him the other day? I think it was something like 'B A Santamaria's terminator sent from the past' to whip us into shape. I think the Liberal Party would be wise to heed the ancient wisdom - be very careful what you wish for...and watch out for all those nasty migrant gangs (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), you know what I mean!