Tuesday, June 28, 2011

ABC spruiks reactionary politics in the cause of 'balance'

Sent the following comment to their ABC this morning:

"ABC24 Breakfast is at it again. Trioli was drooling over the prospect of Abbott becoming PM on the back of fear campaigns and some dunderhead Tea Party pollie entering the Presidential fray. Where in your charter does it say you should shape opinion on how people think about politics? You have players like Trioli and Clarke clearly spruiking for right wing reactionaries. I would be equally offended if they were spruiking for left wing ideologues.

There are too many opinionated flakes involved with shows on ABC24 under the guise of journalism. Breakfast and the Drum are inhabited by people trying to model themselves on commercial talk show participants, with a shallowness that is breathtakingly disappointing and it is seeping into your serious journalism.

Over time you will loose audience share because the 'concentration span of distracted gnats' crowd are'nt interested in politics and those with a brain will get their 'news' on-line. Many people are sick of the editorializing virus that is sweeping the ABC, seeking to shift opinion on the major issues of the day.

In your quest for so-called 'balance' some dreadful 'pamphleteers' get a regular airing, such as those from thoroughly compromised think tanks such as the IPA. No wonder the PM's polling is going south on matters of national importance such as carbon pricing. Their ABC is out there doing the reactionary's job for them!"

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Poll Bludger comment a telling report card on Abbott's opposition!

The following comment appeared this morning on the Poll Bludger blog. The author's pseudonym is Bushfire Bill. This deserves a wide readership:

"So I suppose today’s The Day, one year on.

We were supposed to have a plebiscite rolling the Coalition into government. According to the script, the government was sure to lose it and Tony Abbott would shame Gillard into resigning and calling an election.

A carefully crafted series of polls, internet stunts like The Cloud, articles on how Rudd was all but selecting wallpaper for the Lodge and K House and and endless, buzzing barrage of shock-jock insults and mockery were supposed to soften her up, ready for the kill.

Gee, it all looked so good on paper, didn’t it?

The fairy story, concocted through a manic News Ltd and an outright insane Coalition leadership, that Gillard was gone, fell apart under the weight of its own ridiculousness.

As proof of just how ridiculous it was, I offer you one compelling piece of logic: even Steve Fielding wouldn’t buy into it. When Fielding runs a mile, you know whatever it is he’s running from is truly frightening.

When Fonzie jumped the shark on a pair of water skis all those years ago it popped the bubble of suspended disbelief that so many fans would blow around them when they sat down to watch Happy Days. Suddenly they saw their favourite show for what it was… an over-egged fantasy world where everyone was nice, even the nasties. And it was getting tired.

This week I have the hope that the same has happened to the Coalition. They had their chance, nearly a year of relentless negativism designed to destabilize the hung parliament, and indeed the nation itself.

The only way they could get the punters on side with their wet dream of a guerrilla usurpation of the government was to convince the gullible out there that the country was so fu*ked that even Tony Abbott couldn’t bugger it up further. They set the bar so low that even the intellectually lame and the logically halt could jump it.

Some snippets…

Pensioners cowering in their homes, with only their AM radios and their telephones left to call 2GB for emergency assistance, in case the man came around to burn their house down with a free set-top-box.

A tinpot guano nation in the middle of the Pacific, smaller than the fullstop at the end of this sentence, held up as a stirring example of man’s humanity to man. It’s farcical government only functional enough to hold out its hand to take Australian aid dollars. Senior members of our “Alternative Government” went there to sit under the coconut tree and do a deal with this bastion of democracy, just as the Russian Mafia had done, in years past. Scott Morrison may find that the Malaysians are not as welcoming as our Micronesian welfare junkies in Nauru. Nauru may find that the Australian government is also not so welcoming to their next plea for a handout. I hope so.

The News Ltd publications running public campaigns to destroy the Greens, and then crying foul when Bob Brown ticked them off about it. They published poll after poll, one upon the other, designed to make polls themselves the story, vying with each other to show an even more dismal picture for Labor. When the matriarch of the Murdoch family finally cried “Enough!” on Climate Change, the bloated, malignant Akerman, fresh from providing ballast for an ocean-going yacht, sheepishly told a national TV audience and an incredulous Insiders panel that she was past it, too old and frail to make a rational decision. When there’s a new low to establish, you can always rely on Piers to step up to the plate.

Rational decisions weren’t out of bounds for only the aged. “Elites” were banned from participation too. If you had money, were an actress, or a scientist, perhaps even if you’d been to school sometime in your life, you were excised from society. If someone who knew someone you knew did a corrupt deal anywhere, you were disqualified from ever working for the government.

Mike Quigley’s distant connection with some of his employees’ antics in Costa Rica was enough to have him hauled before parliamentary committees and vilified in the Murdoch press for being – not quite a crook – but definitely a shady character. It never occurred to his inquisitors that if this was all you needed to do to be barred from senior office, they’d better start packing their own bags as well, especially the egregious Senator Abetz, friend and mentor to one Godwin Grech and not too distant descendant of a long line of obedient gauleiters.

There were so many more… a nation and employment-saving scheme that built much-needed school infrastructure turned into a debacle of almost biblical proportions. An insulation program that actually saved lives, turned into a murderous rort that was killing our youth. $900 cheques, the first measure of the emergency response to the GFC, vilified as recently as yesterday for putting money into the hands of the Bogans so they could buy a bigger plasma TV. Hello? I didn’t hear Gerry Harvey complaining when all this cash was splashed about, propping up his overpriced franchises. The re-emergence of Reith, the casually cold hearted warrior against working people, touted now as the new leader of the Liberal Party, back from Paris after sucking a million or two in salary off the government tit in an obscure sinecure. How appropriatement, Reithy. the concocted crisis of the Boat People, a drop in the ocean compared to the world refugee problem, in turn vilified and then succoured by an increasingly bizarre and smirking Morrison.

And finally we had the cherry on top, the culmination of it all: The Plebiscite. A scam that, whose decision, if ever taken, and if it went the wrong way, not even its originators and spruikers would abide by. Even Fielding, a sucker for every three card trick in the book, could see through that one. It took Steve six years minus 7 days to wake up, but there you go, miracles do happen. Maybe I’ll take up God.

The bubble has burst and the shark has been jumped. The urgers from the right leave in their wake a disaster: a nation divided, miserable, in a state of chronic ire over everything, and nothing. The ultra Right made the assessment that in order to save Australia they first had to destroy it. To have any chance of scrambling into government, they had to destroy faith in governance first. What they didn’t actually destroy they would write up as destroyed anyway. Same difference, really.

Constant negativity, the politicisation of two flies crawling up a wall, the turning of a once confident country into a national Reality TV show where petty jealousies, arrogant ungratefulness, constant barking from the sidelines and vacuous, unceasing harangues from overpaid shills telling us we should be miserable and angry… these all have consequences.

If I have a prayer, it’s that the next real calamity to hit us – be it GFC#2, or another season of mega-floods and Cat-5 cyclones – holds off for long enough to allow the nation to recover its lost spirit. We can’t take much more of this dumbing-down. We’re just about stunted-out.

Australia should turn off its TVs and its radios and simply open the window. They should look outside and see that the World hasn’t ended, that the nation isn’t in ruins, that a tumbleweed rolling down the street has more substance and meaning to it than a thousand Abbott brain-farts… that they’ve been conned, but that there’s still time to recover, if only they’ll open that window."

Amen to that...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Alert & alarmed: Trivia question: Where have we seen plebiscites used to circumvent parliamentary democracy?

The Coalition were strong on precedents in Parliament today. There are some interesting precedents on the use of plebiscites to circumvent the decisions of a duly elected parliament. One jumped out at me....

"On July 14, 1933, Hitler’s “Law against the Establishment of Parties” marked the factual end of the party system and parliamentary democracy. On that same day, he passed the “Law on Plebiscites,” which allowed the Nazi regime to use strategically organised plebiscites to create the appearance of democratic decision-making."

The words "to create the appearance of democratic decision-making" resonate here. In our Parliament, governed by a minority government, a type of systematic sabotage of the democratic process has taken hold, where the conventional processes of the House of Representatives are debased daily by an attempt to censure the government and/or suspend the standing orders to enable Abbott and his mob to rant & rave about 'lack of legitimacy' and 'dishonest government'. They basically want to engineer a vote of no-confidence in the Government.

Now we have the spectacle of an Opposition leader attempting to subvert the Parliamentary process through a 'non-binding' plebiscite on the introduction of a price on carbon. Make no mistake, this is a further iteration of a power grab, pure and simple. The ultimate objective is to make the Parliament unworkable, undermine the government and bring on an early poll, which Abbott sees will install him in the Lodge. We do not live in a one-party state and yes, our democratic institutions are intact and strong, but the predilections of the current Coalition leadership are a tad troubling, don't you think?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Asylum seekers in Australia - time for Labor to change the tune, rather than play Abbott's whistle!

Again, the wedge is in. Labor finds itself wedged between the fear of the 'yellow peril' bogey that conservative parties have trotted out successfully throughout our short history and the progressive left's advocacy for the universality of human rights. A cursory glance at the numbers of people who arrive in this country by boat in irregular circumstances - ie, less than half a per cent of those who seek asylum - is proof enough that this divisive issue has nothing to do with a genuine concern.

It is base politics, pure and simple. Are people escaping repressive fundamentalist regimes and violent upheaval today not worthy of our compassion? In his review of Caroline Moorehead's Human Cargo Mike Philips wrote,

"Perhaps the element which makes Moorehead's story so urgent and terrifying is her description of a history in which governments' perception of refugees altered with the end of the cold war, when the "good" refugees fleeing communism, suddenly transformed into "bad" refugees threatening our civilisation. In fact, the vast bulk of refugees remain in their own region, or are accommodated in the world's poorest countries, which are least able to carry the burden.

Australia provides the most extreme example of a state's anxiety to barricade its borders by its policy of stopping boats on the high seas and dumping refugees on its poorer neighbours. Imprisoned behind razor wire, Australia's asylum-seekers protested by sewing their lips together, an act of self mutilation reflecting the desperation to which they had been driven by their treatment."

We are seeing this scenario play out again. Labor is scurrying to find a regional approach that stops boats but does'nt breach the UN convention on treatment of refugees. It will not adopt the full Pacific Solution, but in the eyes of human rights advocates it is failing to meet its progressive charter in this area. The mandatory detention regime opened a Pandora's box of opportunities for low rent political agendas, which politicians like Howard and Abbott have exploited ruthlessly. Labor is continually playing catch up, rather than biting the bullet by re-examining the rationale for long-term mandatory detention and changing the tenor of the whole debate. Leadership requires courage to take the steps to change opinion through education and cogent debate.

Where does the so-called media intelligentsia stand on the current state of play in the human rights battles? Wishy washy as usual methinks. The unedifying sight of Labor politicians jumping on the xenophobia bandwagon has human rights advocates aghast as they see defenceless people used as betting chips in a nasty bidding war. Unmitigated acts of bastardry continue unabated, leaving desperate people with little choice but to self-harm or cry out through extreme acts.

Abbott knows he is on a winner with large slices of the electorate, accustomed to his brand of political correctness - its ok to be afraid of refugees and to treat them like social pariahs, but 'don't worry about that while I'm around!'. This was the Howard credo, honed so well after Tampa. Get the troops out to bash Labor on every issue that panders to our darkest fears. Set up the straw dog to fear, find someone or some group to blame & punish and then put yourself forward as the saviour of the day. The security man who sells you razor wire to keep out pygmy possums, and if they still get in, rounds them up and trains them to do your every bidding. Its always easy when the group you are hounding are defenseless, vulnerable and scared of being kicked back over the fence.

Way to go Abbott. Something you and your following can be very proud of.

Message to Labor - time to change tack in tackling this wedge!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Open letter to Tony Abbott, Leader of the Coalition

You come from a party that has fostered some notable statesmen and public intellectuals.

You are doing this country a great disservice by framing the issues of comprehensive action on climate change, decency toward asylum seekers and a fair distribution of mining wealth as left wing political agendas. I know you are desperate to achieve power but be assured your tactics on these issues will damage the body politic of our country. You pander to tendencies in this country that stem from ignorance, fear and isolation.

It is the duty of elected officials to act as trustees of the nation; to be custodians of power bequeathed to make decisions in our national interest. Highly educated people have a similar duty in my view. And yet, you are determined to pitch everything you do and say at the lowest common denominator to garner electoral support.

Your conscience does not seem to trouble you one bit, as you hold this country back from becoming a beacon of reason and humanity in a global maelstrom. It is a shame that you cannot rise above your petty ambitions to do something noble, and offer bi-partisanship in areas that are vital for social justice and harmony

You met with the Dalai Lama. You would be wise to study his words carefully for therein lies wisdom and a way forward for humanity.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Abbott's very own Devil's Island - for the protection of asylum seekers!

My interest in asylum seeker issues gathered pace as Director of the aid program put in place to leverage Nauru’s part in the policy to keep boat people outside Australia’s immigration zone, otherwise known as the ‘pacific solution’.

From a paltry few scholarships per annum, post Tampa the Australian taxpayers footed a huge bill to keep Nauru on side. Nauru was lurching toward becoming a failed state prior to the AusAID and Immigration funding that formed the ongoing ‘bribe’ to keep the detention camps open on Nauru. The treatment of asylum seekers detained on this benighted speck of guano was done in our name, paid for by our taxes.

In his statement on behalf of the Human Rights Council of Australia to the 61st Session, UN Commission on Human Rights, April 2005, Howard Glenn, Executive Director, Rights Australia, had this to say

“On the Pacific Island of Nauru, a State which like Australia, has acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, there are six children whose situation is instructive. With their parents, they left Afghanistan and tried to reach refuge in Australia by boat. They were picked up by the Australian Navy in late 2001 before reaching Australia, and have spent their lives since in detention. These children have been in detention now since 2001, as part of the Australian Government’s “Pacific Solution”, a program to deter others from seeking asylum in Australia.

The three girls are now aged 14, 8 and 7; the boys are 15 and 9, and a third boy was born in detention and is two years of age. The children are amongst the last 54 of 1200 people who were detained on Nauru, in the detention camp established following the interception of the Norwegian ship, Tampa. Remaining with the children are 4 women and 44 men.

According to reports from the camp, the children are all lonely and have found it difficult to watch all the other children leaving to begin new lives. They have no friends left to play with. They of course don't understand http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifwhy they have been left behind. The parents are traumatised and find it difficult to cope with parenting in that situation. They are in a camp full of depressed people…."

Welcome to Tony Abbott's very own Devil's Island.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Asylum seekers in Australia - Lies, lies and more lies in Pacific Solution gambit

Susan Metcalfe nails the lie at the heart of Abbott's gambit to reintroduce the Pacific Solution and TPVs to the asylum seekers landscape in Australia. An excerpt from her article in today's Age follows:

"This week, the UNHCR made its position clear on the past Nauru policy, as it has many times before: ''The Pacific Solution, including the use of Nauru, was a deeply problematic policy, both as a matter of principle and for those refugees and asylum seekers affected by it.''

In spite of this, Liberal senator Simon Birmingham said on Sky News that the detention centre on Nauru had been ''overseen and approved'' by the UNHCR, and the Nauruan government continues to claim that the camps operated ''under the auspices of UNHCR''.

A UNHCR spokesman said: ''UNHCR was not involved and, indeed, distanced itself from any role in overseeing or managing the processing facilities on Nauru under the Pacific Solution. Recent media reports that the centre on Nauru was approved by and run under the auspices of the UN are factually incorrect.''

Nauru is a country with a record that doesn't match the governance expectations of most Australians."

This country was sold a dud by Howard when his government set up the Nauru facilities. I have posted many messages on the miscasting of aid to Nauru and elsewhere under the PS and the alarming 'somnambulism' of the Australian people as these events unfolded. I have been critical of Australia's fourth estate for largely failing to expose and condemn Howard's approach to refugee rights. The profound negative implications of the Howard experiment for the health of Australia's body politic will be the subject of much reflection in the coming years.

We see the profound negative implications continuing to play out in the Coalition's shoddy posturing on asylum seekers. Along the way Australian officialdom has bribed, bullied and coerced a desperate failing state in a cynical, mercenary gambit to host our offshore detention facilities, without the slightest interest in a regional solution or one that actually improved the plight of refugees. At least the Labor Govt is trying to operate within a regional framework that engages all the interested parties. The Coalition are not interested in a regional solution but only seek to wedge the Government politically.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

A further iteration of the ABC complaints saga - I have turned off but others may still have some arrows in the quiver!

I received a further reply to my complaint of political bias on 7.30 and ABCNews24. It went like this from Kieran Doyle of ABC's Audience and Consumer Affairs area:

"Thank you for your email.

Should you wish to substantiate your claims regarding the manner in which ALP and Greens members are interviewed on the program, or the contributions of what you refer to as “extreme right commentators”, we will be happy to investigate any specific examples you are able to identify and will provide you with a considered response. Please include the time and date of the specific broadcasts that concerned you.

Your comments are noted."

My reply follows:

"I appreciate it is difficult to respond to these complaints. However, the trend I identify is real and of great concern. I published my complaints and your reply on a couple of national political bogs. I got strong support from their readership. Uhlmann has been a disaster for the ratings of 7.30. Reasonable viewers are deserting in droves. It was once compulsory viewing for politics tragics like myself but now it is unwatchable. It would be difficult to provide specific examples in future as I have simply turned off.

The same can be said for News24, which is dominated by journalists such as Melissa Clarke, Virginia Trioli, et al, who wear their political predilections on their sleeve. Trioli rudely demands accountability from Ministers, as if they are some how answerable to her, and treats politicians she likes as if they were cousins. We get enough of that biased claptrap from shock jocks and the great majority of the Murdoch press. Poor fella my country....

However, I will put your reply on the political blogs as there may be others still watching."

Over to you bloggers and other miscreants.