A piece for all who criticise Islam

Helen Razer posted a piece on her Facebook page in which she criticised some Islamophobes as “racist”.  They corrected her: Islam is not a race.

She wrote them an apology. When I had finished reading it, I wished I had written it myself.  It is an incredibly good piece of writing.

To save some people the effort of writing to set me straight, let me make it clear: I deplore Islamic extremism; I deplore extremism of any kind, supposedly in support of any ideology; I deplore terrorist attacks, especially ones which kill innocent civilians; I deplore people who speak or act as if all Muslims were extremists.

With Helen Razer’s permission, here is her apology.  I recommend you read it out loud to someone dear to you:

THIS IS AN APOLOGY. In a post earlier today that linked to an article written by me I incorrectly identified those who disdain Islam as “racist”.  I am sorry  about this. As you so deftly and cleverly remind me, “Islam is not a race”. You are, therefore, not a racist.

I didn’t mean to call you a racist.

I meant to call you – how can I put this? – history’s worst reflex.

I meant to call you the frail and fearful idiot who learned nothing of the lessons of 1933.

I meant to call you the descendent of Nazism.

I meant, much more kindly, to say that your belief that a little cultural difference is responsible for all the shit in your life is a product of an under-informed mind and an ugly spirit.

I meant to say that I recognise those of you suddenly saying “Well, what about the way they treat gays?” as the same scum who used to beat me up at high school for being a –w what was it you called me? – an “ugly dyke not worth raping”.

I meant to say that you should remember Dachau, Belsen and all the other places in which human lives were sacrificed on the altar built on the foundation of your puny, disgusting hate.

I meant to say that I know your stench: it has offended my nostrils for a lifetime.

I meant to say that if you think Islam is intrinsically evil and you’ve somehow missed that the real “evil” in the world is belched from its financial centres, fuck you very much and you just keep on agreeing with Brave Intellectuals like Sonia Kruger and Andrew Bolt.

I meant to say that you do not need to love people.  You do not even need to approve.  You just need to fucking accept difference as an inevitable fact of life: but you never will, because you are made by off-cuts of history’s worst mistakes.

I meant to say you have nothing to say to me that I cannot read in the nation’s worst newspapers.

I meant to say you are a receptacle for the ideological shit of powerful others.

I meant to say you sicken me.

But I didn’t mean to call you a racist.

Helen Razer writes for The Daily Review

Peter Porter: a seminar

SEMINAR:  A POET’S ARCHIVE

Peter Porter’s Creative Legacy
The National Library is proud to be the custodian of the personal archive of poet Peter Porter. From first drafts to page proofs, from notes to correspondence, the collection reveals the life of an Australian poet in London and is a treasure trove for research.
Join Porter’s family and friends for a day celebrating his legacy in all its diversity, and for a glimpse of the richness the archive offers.
For full program details, visit nla.gov.au/event/a-poets-archive
Supported by the Ray Mathew and Eva Kollsman Trust
Friday 29 July, 9.30 am–5 pm
Theatre, $25 (includes collection viewing and light refreshments)
Book here or 02 6262 1111

National Library of Australia, Parkes Place, Canberra ACT 2600

Pauline Hanson and Sam Dastyari

Pauline Hanson and Sam Dastyari had some interesting exchanges on Q & A on Monday 18 July 2016.

Dastyari pointed out that Hanson has, in the past, expressed strident views against Aborigines, then against Asians, and more recently against Muslims.  She wants to stop Muslims coming to Australia.  She wanted to stop Asians coming to Australia.  She could hardly have objected to Aborigines being in Australia, so she advocated instead for the abolition of special government assistance for them; the abolition of native title and the abolition of ATSIC.

One of the oddest exchanges between Hanson and Dastyari on Q & A went like this:

Dastyari: “When I look at Ms Hanson’s policy document that says we should be banning Muslims from coming to this country, I have to ask: does that mean that a five-year-old Sam Dastyari should never have been able to set foot in Australia, because somewhere in Tehran there’s a document that says beside my name the word ‘Muslim’, because of where I was born?”

Hanson: “Are you a Muslim?…Really?” … “You’re a practising Muslim? This is quite interesting,… I’m surprised. I did not know that about you.”

What is odd about this is that on 2 July, the night of the Federal election, when Hanson was being interviewed on Channel Seven, Dastyari offered to take her out for a Halal Snack Pack.  That invitation, coupled with the widely known fact that Dastyari is originally from Iran, would lead any moderately intelligent person to conclude that Dastyari is Muslim.  but Hanson seemed genuinely surprised on Monday night, in the exchange quoted above.

Perhaps her real point concerned whether he was a practising Muslim.  But if that was her point she would have to refine her call for Muslims to be prevented from coming to Australia.  But her comments on Muslims seem much broader than whether a Muslim is a practising Muslim.  Here are some of her (false) claims about Muslims.

Here is the Guardian’s article about the Q & A episode:  https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/jul/18/pauline-hanson-and-sam-dastyari-clash-over-islam-on-abcs-qa?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+AUS+v1+-+AUS+morning+mail+callout&utm_term=182252&subid=7875396&CMP=ema_632

It s hard to know what is more disturbing: the fact that someone with Hanson’s strident bigotry has a strong presence in the Senate or that someone with such luke-warm intelligence has a strong presence in the Senate.

Was Eureka a terrorist event?

Yes: the Eureka Stockade, 1854, was a terrorist event by our contemporary legal standards.  The current definition of “terrorist act” is set out below.  It’s complex, but the bottom line is this: if an ordinary criminal act of damage to property or person is carried out in order to intimidate the government or the public, it is a terrorist act.  The Eureka Stockade involved fairly serious criminal conduct: 30 people were killed. and it was explicitly for political purposes: they wanted to force the Victorian government to allow miners (who paid high mining licence fees) to vote.  Their sentiment was part of the idea expressed 81 years earlier in America: the Boston tea party of 1773 and then the American war of independence were clear expressions of the sentiment: no taxation without representation.

The leaders were charged with high treason, but they were acquitted.  this was generally regarded as an expression of public sympathy for their cause.  One of them, Peter Lalor went on to be Speaker of the Victorian Legislative Council (upper House) in 1880.

The diggers swore an oath on 30 November 1854: ‘We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties’

The Commonwealth Criminal Code Act (1995) defines”terrorist act” in section 100.1.  You can see the full version here.  Here is an abbreviated version:

“terrorist act means an action where:

(a) the action falls within subsection (2)…and
(b) the action is done with the intention of:

(i) coercing, or influencing by intimidation, the government of the Commonwealth or a State, Territory or foreign country, or of part of a State, Territory or foreign country; or
(ii) intimidating the public or a section of the public.

(2)       Action falls within this subsection if it:

(a)       causes serious harm that is physical harm to a person; or
(b)       causes serious damage to property; or
(c)       causes a person’s death; or …”

However it will not be a terrorist act if it falls within sub-section 3:

“(3)       Action falls within this subsection if it:

(a)       is advocacy, protest, dissent or industrial action; and
(b)       is not intended:

(i)        to cause serious harm that is physical harm to a person; or
(ii)       to cause a person’s death; or …”

 It is a nice historical irony that another icon of Australian history is also bound up in terrorism. Ian Jones, the foremost authority on Ned Kelly, says Kelly’s activities in North-East Victoria had the ultimate objective of establishing a separate colony in that area.  Kelly’s Jerilderie Letter adds credence to that suggestion.  If his objective was a political one, then his murderous exploits fit him neatly into the modern legal definition of a terrorist.

An index to this blog (alphabetical order)

#hushtag
A Blunt Assessment
A Brief Account Of Australias Offshore Detention Regime
A Christmas Letter From Manus
A Classic Rant Against Peter Dutton
A Letter To Minister Dutton From A Refugee Advocate
A New Account Of The Ways We Manage To Mistreat Asylum Seekers. Read This And Blush
A Plea From Manus
A Proposed New Refugee Policy For Australia
Accomodation For Refugees
Ai Weiwei
An Alternative To Offshore Detention
An Angel Visits Malcolm Turnbull
And More Bad Goings On At Manus
Australias Offshore Torture Regime
Befriend A Child In Detention
Benaud Piano Trio Seeking Sponsor For Composition
Bigotry And Terrorism In More Than 140 Characters
Border Force
Border Force Cracking Down At Mita In Victoria
Calling Boat People Illegal Is A Lie
Cash For People Smugglers
Conditions In Immigration Detention Deteriorating
Corruption On Nauru Your Taxes At Work
Cruelty In Australias Offshore Detention Camps
Data Retention Legislation Act Now Before Its Too Late
Detainees In Manus Island Face Grim Prospects
Detention Australian Style
Detention Is Torture
Detention On Manus Illegal Supreme Court
Deterrents And Disincentives
Dutton On The Rampage
Fact Checking Pauline Hanson
Fare Go Report Rethinking Public Transport
From The Big Bang To The Present In 12 Months
Gillian Triggs, John Basikbasik, And Politicians Who Play God
Guards Conduct In Nauru Getting Worse
Haitch Or Aitch
Hal Wootten Lecture 2015 The Bludgeoning Of Chance
Islamophobia Rampant
Kate Durhams Speech At The Opening Of Home Here And Now
Keep The Arts Alive At Fortyfive
Let Them Stay
Lets Get Labor To Tell The Truth About Refugees
Letter From Manus
Letter From Manus
Letters To Nauru Now The Department Lies Again
Lnp Only Pretends To Be Compassionate
Magna Carta, 800 Years On
Manus
Manus Island: What Will It Take To Shock Us
Manus: An Emotional Rant
Manus: Bad And Getting Worse
Mistreatment Of Refugee Brought From Nauru For Treatment
Mohammad Albederee Update
More Bad News From Manus
More Bigotry From Sonya Kruger
More Horrors At Mita
More Misery Christmas On Christmas Island
More Mistreatment On Manus
Mourning And Weeping From Hell
Myki: Authorised Officers Behaving Badly
New Get Up Campaign To Get Dutton Out
News From Australias Gulags
News From Nauru
No Kindness For Mojgan
Norfolk Island
Not In My Name
Offshore By Madeline Gleeson
Rebranding The Nation
Refugees In Terror On Nauru
Refugees Write To Png Supreme Court
Remembering Refugees As Christmas Approaches
Schrödingers Refugees
Solitary Confinement In Manus Detention
Stopping The Boats Doesnt Stop The Deaths
Strip Searched In Lygon St
Strip Searches On Nauru
Supporting Human Rights Or What Is Left Of Them
Thailand Prosecutes Phuketwan Journalists
The Australian Border Force Act Labors Role
The Australian Border Force Act: Trying To Silence Health Workers
The Australian Now Quotes Twitter
The Border Force Hits Town: Operation Fortitude
The Drowning Argument
The Drowning Excuse
The Election
The Impact Of Cuts To Art Funding
Threatening Our Way Of Life
Tim Wintons Palm Sunday Plea: Start The Soul Searching Australia
Tom Ballard
Tom Ballard Writes About Refugee Stories
Tony Abbott Is A Bully Over Un Convention Against Torture
Turnbull Posing As Compassionate
Two New Projects Which Bear Witness To Mistreatment Of Asylum Seekers
Un Rapporteur Australias Treatment Of Asylum Seekers Breaches Torture Convention
Unrepresented Refugee Applicants
Update From Manus
What Manus Is Like
What Sort Of Country Are We
When People Bother To Ask Me Why I Support Refugees
Why Gag Doctors In Detention Centress What Are We Hiding
Why You Should Care
Wilson Security
Wind Farm Music Dedicated To Tony Abbott
Write To Federal Mps About Refugee Policy
Year 12 Student Taken From School And Put In Detention
Young Boy Held In Manus
Zaky Mallah, Steve Ciobo And Q & A

More bigotry from Sonia Kruger

Sonia Kruger went full Trump on morning television today.

A colleague of mine contacted Channel 9 and made a few points about her experience of Islam.  Here are some of the points she made:

-As a refugee rights advocate, around half my friends came here by boat. Most of them are Muslim, or from a Muslim background.
-I have attended a Mosque, and worn a hijab by choice; I actually decided never to do it again because of the way I was treated in my local shopping centre when my head was covered because I was on my way to the Mosque. I did not feel safe, and I’m not a person who scares easily.
-Never have I been disrespected by any of my Islamic friends for not being of Islamic faith, or for engaging in practices considered ‘Haram’ ie forbidden and unholy. (Trust me, I am the worst. Nobody has ever said a word about this.)
-Never have I heard anything other than condemnation from them about terror attacks practised in the name of Islam.
-Every single time somebody is given a platform to condemn the Islamic faith on national television in Australia, it has an impact on my friends, because then Aussies think it’s a good idea to racially abuse women wearing hijabs on trains-in the street-in the shops, for some reason. This is a problem we as a friendship group have almost exclusively with the 9 network.
-I am perfectly safe in Parramatta and Blacktown, where a large proportion of the population is Muslim, but I had to quit my job in my (extremely Caucasian) hometown due to sexual harassment on the way to and from work from Aussies in utes – men who are visibly not from Islamic backgrounds. I wish I was joking. Sadly, I’m not. I also had to quit jogging with my daughter when she was in her pram for the same reason. Again, a huge proportion of the people (including men) I associate with, and spend time around, are of Islamic faith. Never once have I had even a moment where I felt unsafe around any of them.

So there you have it: most Muslims are polite and respectful.  Many Aussies are not. A tiny percentage of Muslims are extremists: and a tiny percentage of Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Bhuddists etc are extremists.  It is extremists we should fear.

And hate-mongers like Sonya Kruger and Pauline Hanson.

Fact Checking Pauline Hanson

Senator Pauline Hanson must be grateful to Senator Brandis.  He declared that every one has the right to be a bigot.

Pauline Hanson is a bigot, and she revels in it.  Her bigotry is accompanied by ignorance, which makes her public utterances ugly and dangerous, because bigotry is as contagious as the plague.

Pauline Hanson has made inflammatory statements about Islam: statements which were not only offensive but also plain wrong.  Here is a brief summary of some of the things she has said about Islam FactCheckHanson

And here is a link to a detailed fact check.

It is easy to discount Pauline Hanson as a joke: but a lot of people are not laughing: they are lapping up all her anti-Islamic sentiments because they need an easy hate-target.  We have seen the same phenomenon before.  It is always ugly, and it always turns out badly.

And just in case you are wondering: I am not a Muslim; I do not adhere to any religious tradition.  I think that some of the conspicuous Christians in our Parliament (Abbott, Morrison, Turnbull …) have grotesquely distorted ideas of Christian doctrine, and have betrayed the religion they profess to observe).  Likewise, Muslim extremists debase the religion they claim to observe.  I am opposed to all extremism, whether it is based on religious or political or other ideology.

Islamophobia rampant

I have had an interesting exchange of correspondence with someone I have never met.  He has emailed me a number of times warning me about the dangers of Islam in Australia.  Here are our last exchanges (for obvious reasons, I have removed any identifying details):

Julian

French PM Manual Valls has told the French people that they have to just live with Muslim terrorism.

Do you believe that Australians just have to live with Muslim terrorism?

Cheers, P

Dear P

What Muslim terrorism has there been in Australia?

Do you think the risk of Muslim terrorism is affected at all if Muslims are publicly vilified?

Very best wishes

Julian

Julian

To date around 200 Australians died at the hands of Muslim terrorists most of them overseas. However fortunately Australia as yet does not have the same level of Muslim population as France and other European countries caught up in World War III.

We must never let it get close to this level. The Muslims bred like rabbits as they live on welfare payments to get even more.

Religion is a life style choice. An attempt was made to indoctrinate me into the religion of my parents but I was not interested.

All Muslims living in Australia have a choice to make – they can repudiate the evil religion of Islam or get out of our great Country.

I do not see why this should be such a difficult choice for any reasonable human being to make.

Any person who supports the deliberate killing of babies in prams while the citizens of a country celebrate a day of freedom or the killing of teenagers at a concert or cartoonists who have the right to express their views are fully deserving of being vilified.

I did not reject one religion to adopt the religion of “political correctness“.

After Muslims attacked Australians in 1915 Billie Hughes established concentration camps and locked all Muslims up without trial as well as German and Turkish sympathisers. I have no problem with that because it worked. No more terrorist attacks during WW1.

Cheers, P

Dear P

So it comes to this: we will adopt intentional cruelty to innocent human beings (asylum seekers held in offshore detention) and we will actively discriminate against members of a particular religion (Islam) just in case we get Islamic extremists doing here what they do in Europe.  Brilliant solution: we abandon our own principles just in case another group comes along and trashes our principles – we can do the job for them.

Now to some details about this brilliant idea.  Should we expel all Muslims from Australia or just stop new ones from coming here?

And who do we include in the group to be excluded: ones who go to the mosque each day, or each week, or just sometimes, or never?  Or do we do the German thing and check their heritage back through a few generations?

Is it possible that we could just target the extremists?  Or would that deny us the fun of generalised discrimination?

I am sure Pauline Hanson would like your ideas; I don’t.  I will go further: I think your ideas are grotesquely at odds with the Australia I grew up in, and they are probably dangerous.  But Pauline Hanson has scratched up quite some popularity, so I am probably wrong, and the mob is probably right.

Very best wishes

Julian

His reply (how sad is this):

…Well here are my principles:

– Australians should determine who comes into our Country. Japan does not allow Muslim refugees into Japan so why should we?

– People who we invite to come to Australia must have a genuine commitment to support democracy and the liberty of others

– People who have no genuine desire to work but wish to exploit our social safety net are not welcome in Australia

– People who pay people smugglers to jump the queue of genuine refugees are deserving of no special treatment, especially when they are economic refugees and not genuinely in fear of their safety

– People who promote cruelty to animals are not welcome in Australia

– People who regard women as property and second class citizens are not welcome in Australia

– Freedom of Religion has its boundaries – hate preaching must be banned and any place hosting hate preachers must be closed down. By hate preaching I mean telling others to kill those who do not believe in the same religion.

–  People who celebrate the killing of women and children are not welcome in Australia

– Religion is a lifestyle choice so do not complain if you are vilified for supporting an evil religion

– any politician who does not subscribe to the wisdom of Cicero Salus populi suprema lex esto is not worth voting for.

– any politician who puts “political correctness” such as hosting a Ramadan Dinner with Australia’s version of Lord Haw Haw (William Joyce) before the security of those who vote for him is not worth voting for

– politicians should be prevented from taking the oath of office on the Qu’ran since this evil book requires that politician be committed to the killing of “kafirs” , non-Mulsims (Ed Husic was the first politician to take the oath of office on this evil book and he should be the last).

I’ve showed you my principles which I am not about to abandon – now you show me yours!

By the way Islam is not a “race” – it is an ideology more akin to Nazism that to what most people would consider a “religion“.  World domination by violent means is what they have in common. I have no time for racially based laws and “native title” laws were the thin edge of the wedge for apartheid in Australia which will be confirmed if the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act is amended to give official recognition to “Invasion Day” and to entrench  racially bases laws in Australia. You are born with a genetic heritage which you can do nothing about. However religion is a lifestyle choice.

As Pauline says we should be “One Nation” where your racial heritage has no place for special treatment. But race and political ideology are two separate things.

Donald Trump is all for stopping Muslim immigration into American after the Muslim President Mr Obama, who was raised in the Muslim Indonesia  has opened the float gates.

I am not a lone voice. The days of the political elites who know what is best for the rest of us are numbered.

P

Conditions in Immigration Detention deteriorating

I have received several reports in the past few days which show just how bad things are getting in our ONSHORE detention facilities.

Some people – and that probably means most of the people who voted for LNP or ALP or One Nation on Saturday – don’t care, or prefer to turn a blind eye, or they’re just over it.  Anything to avoid the pain or recognising that terrible things are being done in our name.

But the judgment of history will not be kind to those of us who prefer to ignore what our government is doing.  It may be that the judgment of history will be so long delayed that today’s voters will have sunk into the grave, or dementia by the time it comes.

I only hope that the judgment of history will not be so long delayed for the real criminals: Abbott, Dutton, Morrison, Turnbull: The people who lied to the Australian public by calling boat people “illegal”, even though boat people commit no offence by coming here.  The people who built on that lie by calling the whole exercise “border protection” and persuaded the public that locking up innocent children would, in some unidentified way, protect us from terrorism.  The people who pretended to be devout Christians, but who willingly condemned innocent people to incarceration and torture and in some cases death.

So here’s the latest:

“SERCO and BorderForce are proud of their “New Operating Model- CONTROLLED MOVEMENT” which is causing great distress.

 The physical conditions at the MITA (Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation, 120 Camp Road Broadmeadows in Victoria) are deteriorating weekly under BorderForce to a standard which fails in its duty of care provision and fails in providing safety.

The men in Bass 1 and Bass 2 are crammed in rooms approximately 3 metres by 2 metres in bunk-beds. They have no outdoor recreation space, nowhere even to cry privately. Their communal space is one room, which is the dining room, kitchen, TV, pool table and English class.  The result is chaos. Meals are brought in from a central kitchen to further limit contact between compounds. The men say the noise in the low-ceiling demountable rooms is unbearable. Frequent quarrels and fights erupt because of the close quarters in which they are confined. The Gym contains two or three walking machines or bike machines in a tiny room. In order for the men  Bass 2 to get to the visits area, they must pass through five locked gates under escort and check at each gate. Similar for other compounds. There are now togged up guards of five  full-time ERT (Emergency Response Teams) on each day – looking for trouble.

Even the SERCO boss (a former Prison commandant) admitted  in a private meeting that such conditions would not be allowed in the prison system. The men have nothing to do all day except sleep and hope that they are called to visits where they may see former friends from other compounds and outsiders. The Volley ball court, soccer pitch and outdoor areas are now out of bounds beyond the fences except for short periods when SERCO elect to let them out.

We are witnessing  the physical and psychological condition of all the people deteriorate under these high security, high surveillance conditions. Even the women are now double searched every time they leave the camp to go to hospital or CASA house appointments. First they are electronically scanned and then female guards hands squeeze up and down their arms and legs and body and take shoes off, before female detainees leave, and on their arriving back at the camp. Male guards film the body search. The male detainees are often handcuffed and have two guards holding their upper arms throughout their time out in public hospital outpatient waiting rooms. Many are now refusing to attend specialist medical appointments because, as one man said last week, “Where is my dignity?” Room searches are constant and unpredictable, early morning or late at night.”

Many reports of immigration detention onshore and offshore say that the conditions in detention and the treatment of detainees is far worse than in the prison system, including maximum security prisons.  But people in immigration detention are not criminals; they have committed no offence: they are locked up indefinitely at the discretion of the government.  And the Turnbull government, with the help of the Shorten Opposition, last year made it a criminal offence for workers in the detention system to speak about conditions in detention.  I guess they would be embarrassed if the public at large knew what we are doing to people who are innocent of any offence.

The election

The Guardian Australia today published the views of a panel on the effect of the election on various aspect of Australian life.  I was asked to contribute a bit about refugees.

The whole Guardian article is here.  My bit is set out below:

So far, the election result is too close to call with much confidence.

For refugees, it hardly matters which major party wins government, since both have struggled to keep their policies as close as possible.  The Coalition policy calls the exercise “border protection”.  Labor said it would “stand firm on maintaining a policy of offshore processing”, while claiming that it would be humane and compassionate to the innocent people it would lock up.

It looks as though the balance of power will not be held by the Greens, but by Pauline Hanson (whose attitude to refugees makes Nigel Farage look tolerant) and Nick Xenophon (who still needs to understand that calling boat people” illegal” is a lie).

Offshore processing and intentional cruelty seem likely to remain.

This  means that no-one seeking protection who gets to Australia  will be allowed to settle in Australia.  They will be taken, by force and against their will, to PNG or Nauru.  Their claim for asylum will be processed there (at Australia’s expense) but those found to be refugees will not be allowed to come to Australia.  Where they would be resettled is anyone’s guess.  How long they will be left on Manus or Nauru is anyone’s guess.

I expect a Liberal win by a narrow margin.  For several months I have been predicting the Liberal party room is likely to replace Turnbull with Scott Morrison.  Morrison’s track record for lying about boat people, and his strangely un-Christian attitude to them, means that the future for boat people (and this country) looks very bleak.

Australia’s offshore torture regime

Four articles recently published in the Journal of Medical Ethics / British Medical Journal have characterised Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers in offshore detention as involving or amounting to torture.

For those of us who  have been involved in the area for some time, this does not come as a surprise: the frequency of self-harm, attempted suicide and successful suicide give a fair pointer to what is going on.  And the Australian government makes it very difficult for ordinary Australians to find out what is going on in these places.  In fact, the Australian government has made it a criminal offence for anyone who  works in the detention system to disclose anything they learn in that capacity.

But some health workers in the offshore detention system have remained true to their ethical obligations: they are exposing the facts, even at the risk of prosecution.  [That risk is very low: the government knows tht, if it prosecutes any health worker in the detention system for disclosing the truth about what is going on, that person will get the best pro bono defence this country has ever seen, and their defence will involve getting into the witness box and describing in detail the sort of horrors these articles disclose.  See my analysis of how a defence would work]

Here are the four articles.  We should be grateful that the authors had the courage and decency to publish the facts we all should know:

Is Australia engaged in torturing asylum seekers?  A cautionary tale for Europe by J-P Sanggaran and D Zion

Torture, healthcare and Australian immigration detention by Ryan Essex

The clinician and detention by Howard Goldenberg

Are healthcare professionals working in Australia’s immigration detention centres condoning torture? by David Isaacs

 

Haitch or Aitch?

There is an interesting discussion on the ABC about the correct way to pronounce the name of “H”,  the 8th letter of the English alphabet.  It is a long-running debate.  I recall that, as a child, I was told firmly that I should say ” aitch”  not “haitch”. The debate is much older than I am.

“I am told on good authority that in schools of a certain denomination, and in those schools only, it is pronounced invariably as haitch, an oddity I cannot explain” (Arnold Wall The Queen’s English, 1958).  Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the pronunciation  aitch is hard to explain.  The pronunciation of the letter H is one of Australia’s great social shibboleths:  not just the way it is sounded as the first letter of a word, but more particularly the way the name of the letter itself is said.  Some people say haitch, others call it aitch.

Although the spirit of our times is generous, forgiving and tolerant, the choice between aitch and haitch can cause a good deal of anxiety and even hostility.  Generally speaking, haitch is used by those educated in that part of the Roman Catholic system which traces its origins to Ireland.  Aitch is preferred by the rest.  Some apostates deny their origins by abandoning haitch; but there is little traffic in the other direction.  When I was a child, I was forbidden to say haitch; friends who said haitch were appalled that I ate meat on Fridays.

It is not at all surprising the issue is so confused, since the pronunciation of h, when used as the initial letter of a word, has changed significantly over the past couple of millenia.

Although nothing much is certain in matters of language these days, the prevailing view, perhaps illigocally, supports the pronunciation aitch.  The Oxford English Dictionary gives it thus, and does not recognise haitch as an alternative.  I say this is illogical, because it might be expected that the name of a letter of the alphabet would give a clue about the sound normally associated with it.  In this matter, h, w and y stand isolated from the rest of the alphabet, although the names of c, e and g represent only the lesser part of the work done by those letters.

The issue is manifested in at least 3 ways: how is the name of the letter to be said; is the h sounded or not before a vowel; does a word beginning with h accept a or an as the indefinite article?

The sound represented by H was known in the Semitic, Greek and Latin alphabets.  In the Semitic it was a laryngeal or guttural aspirate, and remained so in the Greek and Latin.  It passed from the Latin into the Germanic languages as a simple aspirate, that is, the sounded breath.  It has been variously called  ha, ahha, ache, acca, and accha.  These earlier forms of the name explain the current form, and are clearly referrable to the sound represented.

In late Latin, and in early Italian and French, the aspirate gradually ceased to be sounded.  In Italian, the h was progressively dropped in the written form of words, so that it is now absent from words which, in the French, retain it without sounding it: eretico (hérétique); istorio (histoire); oribile (horrible); osteria (hôtel).

In Anglo-Saxon speech, h was always sounded, but since the Norman conquest, the English pronunciation of words with an initial h gradually adopted the French manner: the english language has always been something of a trollop, pursuing advantage where it can.  So for hundreds of years, the h was seen but not heard in “proper” speech, at least in words which derive from the romance languages.

If the initial h of a noun or adjective is not sounded, then the word naturally takes the indefinite article an.  At least from the 11th century then, it was natural to refer to an (h)istory, an (h)otel, an (h)our, an (h)onourable woman, an (h)umble person.  The ambivalence of usage survives in words like hostler/ostler.

However, from the 18th century on, English usage began once more to aspirate the initial h.  This coincides with the arrival of the Hanoverian monarchs, whose native language had always sounded the h.  Thus words which had come into English via French began to be said with aspirated h’s, although the change was gradual and patchy.  Published in 1828, Walker’s Dictionary says that h is always sounded except in heir, heiress, honest, honesty, honour, honourable, herb, herbage, hospital, hostler, hour, humble, humour, humorous, & humorsomeSince that time, those underlined have also changed, but in the USA herb is still said with a silent hAbominable was originally abhominable at least from Wyclif’s time, and was explained as deriving from ab homine.  It lost its h in pronunciation and then in spelling, and remained unaffected by shift in the wake of the Hanoverian kings.

One of the oddest anomalies of this process is habitué, which is an unassimilated French word but which is generally spoken with a sounded h.  By contrast, an (h)abitual liar is commonly said with a silent h, although it would be odd not to sound the h in habit.  Homage is likewise anomalous

As the shift back to aspirating the h was slow and illogical, it is not surprising that it provoked uncertainty in the choice of indefinite article.  The choice is made the more difficult by a dread of dropping an aitch, which in many circles is a shocking thing if done incorrectly.  The unhappy result is such usages as: an hotel, an historic occasion, an hypothesis, an heroic effort, an hysterical outburst, &c.  If the h is sounded, the result is silly and indefensible.

The rule is simple enough: a word which begins with a vowel sound takes an; a word which begins with a consonant sound takes a.  So, an honest person, an hour, an heir,  an unusual event &c.; a hypothetical case, a historic occasion (but colloquially an ‘istoric occasion), a useful suggestion, &c.  Before initials, the choice of article depends on the way the name of the letter is sounded: a UN resolution; an S-bend, an HB pencil, an X-rated film, an MP.  But if the collection of letters is a recognized acronym, then the choice of article depends on how the acronym is said: a UNICEF official, an UNCITRAL official; a NATO resolution, a SALT meeting, a HoJo restaurant.

Postscript:

Since the publication of my article about the word fuck, I have received many comments, mostly complimentary.  That article attracted far more comment than any other I have written, which shows where the market is!  Readers will remember that I identified subagitate as the only polite word in the English language which has as its primary meaning have sexual intercourse.

However, correction comes from the least expected quarter: Robin Brett QC drew to my attention to the OED entry for swive, which reads as follows:

swive, v. Obs. or arch.

  1. trans. To have sexual connexion with, copulate with (a female). …
  2. intr. To copulate…”

I had always believed, without checking it, that swive was a slang word.  In fact it is a sturdy Old English word, related to the Old High German sweib (meaning sweep or swing). But for the fact that (apparently) its primary meaning is not gender neutral, it deserves to be ranked alongside subagitate.

Chaucer used it in The Miller’s Tale, The Reeve’s Tale and also in The Manciple’s Tale:

For all your watching, bleared is your bright eye
By one of small repute, as well is known,
Not worth, when I compare it with your own,
The value of a gnat, as I may thrive.
For on your bed your wife I saw him swive.”

Chaucer’s use of the word may not be enough to ensure its respectability.  Later in The Manciple’s Tale, the episode above is referred to again:

Masters, by this example, I do pray
You will beware and heed what I shall say:
Never tell any man, through all your life,
How that another man has humped his wife;
He’ll hate you mortally, and that’s certain.

On balance, it may still be advisable to prefer subagitate in genteel company, where clarity of meaning is traditionally subordinated to elegance.  But swive is justifiable on historical grounds, and hump will not cause too many problems, as long as you sound the h.

Myki: Authorised Officers behaving badly

Here is another account of misbehaviour by Myki Authorised Officers, sent to me yesterday.  The Transport Minister, Jacinta Allan, says the culture will change: it needs to change really soon.  Calling it misbehaviour understates its significance: if the account is accurate,  the Authorised Officers clearly do not understand the law about allowing the passenger a reasonable time to produce his ID, and one of them committed a criminal assault on the passenger’s wife.

The person who contacted me has given me permission to quote her account of what happened.  I have edited the email so as not to reveal the identity of the people involved:

My husband left his wallet at home when he took the car to be serviced near his work. He took a tram home to pick up our daughter from childcare before 6pm, as the car was being serviced, and completely forgot to get a ticket. He was approached by Authorised Officers, who told him he must provide ID and that he could pay an on-the-spot fine or a higher fine at a later time. He said he didn’t have his wallet and then told them to wait while he called me.

He spoke to me at 5.40pm for 4 minutes. He said that he was near childcare but was stuck as he didn’t have a tram ticket or ID. He said that he couldn’t pick up our daughter before 6pm.

I said that I could walk there, picking up our daughter on the way before child care closed at 6pm, and would bring his wallet to him. While we were making this plan I could hear someone yelling at him in the background. He stopped the discussion with me a number of times and repeatedly asked them to please wait for a moment while he organised for his child to be picked up and for his wallet for ID and payment method. They refused to stop and were talking over him.

During the phone call with me he asked the Authorised Officers how long he was allowed by law to provide the ID and payment, as I was coming straight away. We live 4 blocks away from where he was. The officers said that it had to be a reasonable time, and he was not being reasonable.

Our phone conversation ended at 5.44pm.  My husband asked the Authorised Officers to wait while I brought his wallet, but they ignored him and began to write a report. And they called the police. My husband explained that I was picking up the child on the way, as her childcare closed at 6pm. The female Yarra Trams officer said that it was an inconvenience.

By the time I arrived at 6pm the police had arrived and the Authorised Officers were speaking with the police officers. I approached the police officer and said that I had brought his walled ID and payment method. The police officer drove away.

My husband said that he now had his wallet, so he had ID and payment method.  He said he was happy to pay the on-the-spot fine. The Auyhorised Officers said it was too late as they had completed paperwork.

My husband and I were both recording the Authorised Officers, but they told us to stop recording the discussion. I was then physically pushed repeatedly by one of the Authorised Officers. 

Border Force

Paul Stevenson has been sacked for speaking about conditions in offshore detention.  Among other things, he said conditions in the camps were “demoralising … and desperate. … It’s indeterminate, it’s under terrible, terrible conditions, and there is nothing you can say about it that says there’s some positive humanity in this. And that’s why it’s such an atrocity.” Now he has been told his contract has been summarily cancelled.  Sacking him was probably a breach of contract, but it is important to notice that he was sacked by his employer PsyCare.  It’s fair to assume that Border Force told his employer to sack him: they are too gutless to take direct action against him under the Border Force legislation, for fear of the consequences.

On 20 May 2015, the Australian Parliament passed the Australian Border Force Act.  The Act  came into force until 1 July 2015.

It includes secrecy provisions which have potentially very far-reaching consequences, but it is to be hoped that these provisions will be read down.  What is really alarming about the Australian Border Force Act is that it shows the willingness of the government to suppress the facts connected with its brutal mistreatment of asylum seekers.  I think the attempt will fail, but it should not have been made in the first place.  It is of a piece with Tony Abbott’s response to Q & A allowing a question from Zaky Mallah to go to air: instead of regretting an error of judgment, he asked “Whose side is ABC on?”.  Abbott appears to think that the best way to deal with the world is to ignore facts which contradict your view of it.

Section 42 of the Australian Border Force Act makes it an offence (punishable by 2 years’ imprisonment) for an “entrusted person” to “make a record of, or disclose” protected information.

Entrusted person” is widely defined, to include various officials in the Border Force, as well as officers of the Migration Department. This includes people who are “Immigration and Border Protection workers”. That class is defined as including people who have been designated by the Minister, as a class, to be officers. On 27 November 2003 the then Minister designated in writing employees of various service providers to be officers.

Accordingly, an employee of a detention centre service provider is, by definition, within the definition of “officer” in subsection 5(1) of the Migration Act 1958 and is therefore within the definition of “entrusted person” in the Border Force Act.

The restriction in section 42 is modified by a series of exceptions in sections 43 to 49. Most of those exceptions are not presently relevant. However the exceptions include these:

  • disclosure to an authorised person for a purpose relating to the protection of public health, or the prevention or elimination of risks to the life or safety of an individual or a group of individuals; (s. 44 & s. 45 in conjunction with s. 46(d))
  • disclosure to an authorised person for the provision of services to persons who are not Australian citizens; (s. 44 & s. 45 in conjunction with s. 46(j))
  • section 48 has arguably the most important exception:

“48 Disclosure to reduce threat to life or health

An entrusted person may disclose protected information if:

(a)       the entrusted person reasonably believes that the disclosure is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious threat to the life or health of an individual; and

(b)       the disclosure is for the purposes of preventing or lessening that threat.”

In my opinion, if a health worker learned facts while employed by a service provider in detention and genuinely believed, on reasonable grounds, that those facts  represented a serious threat to the life or health of one or more asylum seekers, and, that disclosing those facts might help prevent or lessen that threat, the disclosure would not constitute an offence.

So far as I am aware, no one has been prosecuted under section 42, although there have been some high profile disclosures which on their face appear to breach section 42, although they would have a good section 48 defence.

Similarly, if any other employee of a detention centre operator formed the same belief, and disclosed the facts believing that disclosing them might help prevent or lessen that threat, the disclosure would not constitute an offence.

It is not clear from the Act whether disclosure is prohibited of facts learned before the Act came into force but disclosed after the Act comes into force. The normal principle against retrospective criminal laws tends to the result that the Act would not apply in those circumstances, but it is not clear.

Two practical matters remain.

First, the Act came into force on 1 July. Disclosure before then cannot be a breach of the Act.

Second, whether a prosecution would be brought in any particular case is hard to guess. If the disclosure was such as to attract a possible defence under section 48, a government acting sensibly would recognise that a prosecution would provide an opportunity for the accused to explain – in the very public forum of court proceedings – exactly what is going on inside detention centres and why those things present a serious threat to the life or health of an individual (or individuals) in detention.

The defence under section 48 is important.  It is arguably more powerful than normal whistle-blower defences.  The most disturbing thing about the Australian Border Force Act is its apparent attempt to hide the iniquities which are happening in immigration detention, on-shore and off-shore.

I have said it before, and I repeat it here: if anyone is prosecuted under section 42 after disclosing things about the detention system which, they genuinely believe, involve a serious risk to the life or health of a person, I will arrange the best pro bono defence ever seen in this country.

Shameful things are being done in our name, on out taxes and Australia’s reputation internationally is being degraded rapidly.  The only favourable thing which has been said about Australia’s policy in relation to asylum seekers was said by Katie Hopkins in the London Sun a few months ago.  Her compliment was diminished by the fact that she referred to boat people as “vermin” and “cockroaches”.  I would prefer Australia not to have the good opinion of someone who thinks like that.

Befriend a child in detention

Befriend a Child in Detention, a project established by writer and educator, Dr June Factor, calls on political candidates to bring to Australia from Nauru the more than 100 children still living there in dire, detention-like conditions, and to process the claims of the 317 children in Australia living in community detention limbo.
‘Our project’s purpose is simple,’ said Dr Factor. ‘We send books and letters of friendship to children seeking asylum. We want the children and their families to know they are not forgotten.’

See more here: befriend

Why you should care

Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers who arrive here by boat has a few distinctive and disfiguring features:

  • It is based on dishonesty and hypocrisy;
  • It is intentionally cruel;
  • It is absurdly expensive;
  • It is not in keeping with our national character, which is why the government hides the facts from us.

Dishonesty and hypocrisy

In August 2001, the Palapa was carrying 438 Hazaras towards Australia.

It began to sink. Australia asked the Norwegian cargo ship, the Tampa, to rescue them. But when it tried to put them ashore at Christmas Island, Australia sent the SAS to take command of the Tampa at gunpoint.

John Howard said the people rescued by Tampa would never set foot in Australia. He said any asylum seeker trying to get protection in Australia would be sent to Nauru: a tiny Pacific Republic with a population of 10,000 people and an area of just 21 square kilometers.

The decision of Justice North in the Tampa case was handed down at 2.15pm (Melbourne time) on 11 September 2001.  8 hours later the terror attack on America happened.  All of a sudden, we no longer had terrorists, only “Muslim terrorists”.  We no longer had boat people, only “Muslim boat people”.  And the Howard government started calling boat people “illegals”.

It is important to recognise that this is a lie: boat people who come to Australia seeking protection from persecution do not commit any offence, even if they come without papers and without an invitation.  They do not commit an offence: they are not “illegal”.

But in the weeks after 9/11, no-one was much interested in the truth.

Two months later, the Howard government stormed to electoral victory.  Mr Howard’s notorious mantra was “We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come”.  If he was talking about migration policy, he was right.  But he was talking about refugee policy, and he was plain wrong.

It was untrue, and the Liberals knew it.

The Labor party said nothing to contradict the lies. The Liberals, it seemed, had turned into a party which was prepared to lie to the electorate and gain popularity by mistreating the most helpless people in the world.

The Liberals kept calling boat people “illegals” and the Labour party never authoritatively contradicted them.

Then in 2013 Tony Abbott became PM, and appointed Scott Morrison as Immigration Minister.  Morrison issued a directive in the Immigration Department that “unauthorised maritime arrivals” must thereafter be referred to as “illegal maritime arrivals”.  And he renamed the department: it became the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.  That clearly conveys the idea that we need to be protected from boat people. By these two devices, Scott Morrison (who claims to be a Christian) and his conspicuously Christian leader Tony Abbott,  set the lie as an official directive and added another layer to it: the public perception was that we were using harsh measures to protect ourselves from criminals.

If it was true, it might have justified the cruelty. But it was a lie.

The Christians who led us had apparently forgotten the central point of Christian teaching.  Or perhaps their claimed Christian beliefs were just another lie.

Intentionally cruel

Boat people who arrive in Australia are taken by force and against their will to Manus Island or Nauru.

Manus Island is part of Papua New Guinea: it is a small island north of Port Moresby.  Unaccompanied me are sent to Manus.

Nauru is a tiny Pacific Republic with a population of 10,000 people and an area of just 21 square kilometres.  Women, children and families are sent to Nauru.

Manus and Nauru are incredibly hot and uncomfortable.  People are held there for years and are assured that they will never be allowed to come to Australia.

Here is an extract from a statement by a doctor who worked on Manus who has spent most of his  professional life working in the prison system in Australia:

“…On the whole, the conditions of detention at the Manus Island OPC are extremely poor. When I first arrived at the Manus Island OPC I was considerably distressed at what I saw, and I recall thinking that this must be similar to a concentration camp.

The detainees at the Manus Island OPC are detained behind razor wire fences, in conditions below the standard of Australian maximum-security prison.

My professional opinion is that the minimum medical requirements of the detained population were not being met. I have no reason to believe that the conditions of detention have improved since I ceased employment at the Manus Island OPC.

The conditions of detention at the Manus Island OPC appeared to be calculated to break the spirit of those detained in the Manus Island OPC. On a number of occasions the extreme conditions of detention resulted in detainees abandoning their claims for asylum and returning to their country of origin.

At the Manus Island OPC, bathroom facilities are rarely cleaned. There was a lot of mould, poor ventilation, and the structural integrity of the facilities is concerning.

No soap is provided to detainees for personal hygiene.

When detainees need to use the bathroom, it is standard procedure that they first attend at the guards’ station to request toilet paper. Detainees would be required to give an indication of how many ‘squares’ they will need. The maximum allowed is six squares of toilet paper, which I considered demeaning.

A large number of detainees continue to be in need of urgent medical attention.

Formal requests for medical attention are available to the detainees. The forms are only available in English. Many of the detainees do not have a workable understanding of English and the guards will not provide assistance.  …”

In February 2014 Reza Barati was killed on Manus Island.  Initially, Morrison said that Barati had escaped from the detention centre and was killed by locals outside the detention centre.  He was not telling the truth.  Soon it became clear that Barati had been killed inside the detention centre.  It took nearly five months before anyone was charged with the murder of Reza Barati.

Just a couple of weeks after Reza Barati was killed, I received a sworn statement from an eyewitness.  The statement included the following:

“J … is a local who worked for the Salvation Army.  …  He was holding a large wooden stick.  It was about a metre and a half long … it had two nails in the wood.  The nails were sticking out …

When Reza came up the stairs, J … was at the top of the stairs waiting for him.  J … said ‘fuck you motherfucker’ J … then swung back behind his shoulder with the stick and took a big swing at Reza, hitting him on top of the head.

J … screamed again at Reza and hit him again on the head.  Reza then fell on the floor …

I could see a lot of blood coming out of his head, on his forehead, running down his face.  His blood is still there on the ground.  He was still alive at this stage.

About 10 or 15 guards from G4S came up the stairs.  Two of them were Australians.  The rest were PNG locals.  I know who they are.  I can identify them by their face.  They started kicking Reza in his head and stomach with their boots.

Reza was on the ground trying to defend himself.  He put his arms up to cover his head but they were still kicking.

There was one local … I recognized him … he picked up a big rock … he lifted the rock above his head and threw it down hard on top of Reza’s head.  At this time, Reza passed away.

One of the locals came and hit him in his leg very hard … but Reza did not feel it.  This is how I know he was dead.

After that, as the guards came past him, they kicked his dead body on the ground …”

Australia regards itself as having no responsibility for Reza Berati or anyone else held in Manus or Nauru.  But we pay Broadspectrum (previously called Transfield Services) to run the detention centres there.

We pay Wilson Security, the Australian company which employs the guards.  It was recently disclosed that Wilson Security is incorporated in Panama.

 

Absurdly expensive

The  present system of dealing with asylum seekers who arrive by boat is hideously expensive.  The current system costs between $4 billion and $5 billion a year.  That’s a big number: think of it as one million Geelong chopper rides each year!

Not in keeping with our national character

I remain convinced that most Australians are basically decent people, who would be shocked if they knew how cruelly we treat innocent people who have done nothing worse than ask us to help them live in safety. What we are doing to them in offshore detention is impossible to reconcile with Australian values.  That is why the government has made it practically impossible to learn what is happening on Manus and Nauru.

On 1 July 2015, the Australian Border Force Act came into operation.  Among other things, the Act makes it a criminal offence for a detention centre worker to disclose things they have observed in the detention system. The penalty for disclosing facts about the detention system is 2 years prison.

The UN Special Rapporteur Francois Crepeau was due to inspect the detention centres on Manus and Nauru in late 2015.  But on 24 September 2015 he announced that he was cancelling his visit because the Act would discourage workers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea from disclosing information to him.

In civil society, it is a criminal offence to know of child sex-abuse and fail to report it.  But in Australia’s detention system, it is a crime to report it.

Ask yourself this: Why has the government made it a criminal offence for people working in the detention system to disclose anything they learn in that capacity: even cases of child sex abuse?

There are other ways of dealing with refugees

Australia’s treatment of boat people needs a radical re-think.  It is shameful that we are now trying to treat asylum seekers so harshly that they will be deterred from seeking our help at all.  It is shameful that this deliberate mistreatment of asylum seekers has been “justified” by describing them falsely as “illegal”, when in fact they commit no offence by coming here and asking for protection.  It is shameful that the deliberate Coalition lies about asylum seekers have not been roundly condemned by the Labor party.  It is shameful that, out of an alleged concern about asylum seekers drowning in their attempt to reach safety, we punish them if they don’t drown.

There are better ways of responding to asylum seekers.  If I could re-design the system, I would choose between two possible models.

A Regional solution

Boat-arrivals would be detained initially, but for a maximum of one month, to allow preliminary health and security checks.  That detention would be subject to extension, but only if a court was persuaded that a particular individual should be detained longer.

After that period of initial detention, boat arrivals would be released into the community on an interim visa with a number of conditions that would apply until the person’s refugee status was decided:

  •  they would be required to report regularly to a Centrelink office or a post office,  to make sure they remained available for the balance of the process;
  •  they would be allowed to work;
  •  they would be entitled to Centrelink and Medicare benefits;
  •  they would be required to live in aspecified rural town orregional city.

A system like this would have a number of benefits. First, it would avoid the harm presently inflicted on refugees held in detention.  Prolonged detention with an unknown release date is highly toxic: experience over the past 15 years provides plenty of evidence of this.

Second, any government benefits paid to refugees would be spent on accommodation, food and clothing in country towns.  There are plenty of towns in country areas which would welcome an increase in their population and a boost to their local economy.  According to the National Farmers Federation, there are more than 90,000 unfilled jobs in rural areas.  It is likely that adult male asylum seekers would look for work, and would find it.

However, even if every boat person stayed on full Centrelink benefits for the whole time it took to decide their refugee status, it would cost the Government only about $500 million a year (an earlier version of this post said $500,000. My mistake), all of which would go into the economy of country towns.  By contrast, the current system costs between $4 billion and $5 billion a year.  We would save billions of dollars a year, and we would be doing good rather than harm.

A variant of this would be to require asylum seekers to live in Tasmania instead of regional towns.  As a sweetener, and to overcome any lingering resistance, the Federal Government would pay one billion dollars a year to the Tasmanian government to help with the necessary social adjustments. It would be a great and needed boost for the Tasmanian economy, and Australia would still be billions of dollars better off.

Genuine regional processing  

Another possibility is to process protection claims while people are in Indonesia.  Those who are assessed as refugees would be resettled, in Australia or elsewhere, in the order in which they have been accepted as refugees.  On assessment, people would be told that they will be resettled safely within (say) two or three months.  Provided the process was demonstrably fair, the incentive to get on a boat would disappear instantly.

At present, people assessed by the UNHCR in Indonesia face a wait of 10 or 20 years before they have a prospect of being resettled.  During that time, they are not allowed to work, and can’t send their kids to school. No wonder they chance their luck by getting on a boat.

Genuine offshore processing, with a guarantee of swift resettlement, was the means by which the Fraser government managed to bring about 80,000 Vietnamese boat people to Australia in the late 1970s.  It worked, but it was crucially different from the manner of offshore processing presently supported by both major parties.  In addition, other countries also resettled some of the refugees processed in this way.  It is likely that Australians would be more receptive to this approach if they thought other countries were contributing to the effort.

A solution along these lines would face some practical problems.  At present, the end-point for refugees who reach Australia via Indonesia is a dangerous boat trip.  You have to be fairly desperate to risk the voyage, which probably explains why such a high percentage of boat people are ultimately assessed as genuine refugees: over the past 15 years, about 90% of boat people have been assessed, by Australia, as refugees lawfully entitled to our protection.  If the end-point is less dangerous, it is obvious that a number of people will set out who are not genuine refugees.  That would cause a problem for Indonesia, and Australia would have to help Indonesia deal with that problem.  But since our current system is costing about $5 billion a year, we can probably work out some arrangement with Indonesia which suits them and us.

There is another problem.  Because we have been indelicate in our relations with Indonesia in recent years, the Indonesian government may not be receptive to an approach like this.  Their reluctance may be softened if Malaysia was also recruited for a similar role.

Both of these solutions have these features in common: they are effective, humane, and far less expensive than our present approach.  But more than that: they reflect the essential decency of Australians – something which has been tarnished and degraded by our behaviour over the past 15 years.

 

Keep The Arts Alive at Fortyfive

Here is a really worthwhile message from Fortyfive Downstairs: Melbourne’s most creative an vibrant arts venue:

Dear friends of fortyfivedownstairs,

You will probably have seen something in the press about the effect the massive Australia Council funding cuts have had on Australia’s arts community, and like all of us, you will have had many appeals for funds by post and by email.

We can’t say that our need is greater than that of homeless people, or refugees, or victims of domestic violence. The fact that the need is so great is an indictment of one of the wealthiest countries in the world. But without the arts, we are a country without a soul. Our artists need our support now more than ever.

In the past couple of years, we’ve said that if everyone who comes to this venue for an exhibition, or a theatre production, could donate $10, we would be able to reduce costs for artists, and achieve our aim – to make money for artists, rather than from them.

Since 2002, fortyfivedownstairs has presented, produced or co-produced almost 200 new Australian theatre productions, and we’ve shown the work of literally thousands of artists.
The reality however is that it’s getting harder and harder to survive, let alone combat the current climate of Federal government indifference to the arts. So we are asking for your help to continue our efforts to bring exciting new work to audiences, and to reward the artists who create it.

Our artists hold up a mirror to our society, they illuminate the dark corners, they enrich our spirit. Imagine how poor our lives would be without them.

– Mary Lou Jelbart, Artistic Director

See: KEEP THE ARTS ALIVE

Fortyfive Downstairs is a curated gallery space and also a performance venue.  We showcase independent visual art, theatre and music.

fortyfivedownstairs is a Melbourne based not-for-profit theatre and gallery.

The Arts in Australia are suffering at present, because of changes to Australia Council funding.. Theatre productions in particular are difficult, if not impossible, without external funding. So people wanting to mount plays have a really hard time doing it unless they receive external funding.  That has an immediate impact on venues like Fortyfive Downstairs: if people can’t afford to put on a show, we have an empty space but we are still paying the rent.  We do what we can to help, but we need YOUR help as well.

If you feel like donating, click here

In the interests of full disclosure, I am the  founding chair of Fortyfive Downstairs. I do not have a financial stake in it; I donate to it each year. But like all Melburnians, I am enriched by the enormous contribution it makes to the arts in Melbourne.

Refugees write to PNG Supreme Court

Detainees held in the Manus Island detention centre have now written to the PNG Supreme Court, thanking the Court for the judgment, which held that their detention is unlawful and unconstitutional.

It is worthwhile  for all Australians to note that one implication of the judgment is that PNG’s human rights standards are greater than ours.  Here’s the letter.

Ltr to PNG Supreme Court

How sad it’s come to this.

New Get-Up campaign to Get Dutton Out

I don’t usually publicise Get-Up campaigns, but here is the text of their latest campaign.  I agree with them:

“In a disgusting ploy to win votes, Peter Dutton — the Minister for Immigration — just slandered many of our immigrant communities:

“They won’t be numerate or literate … They would languish on unemployment … These people will be taking Australian jobs.”1

This kind of rank bigotry and stupidity has no place in our politics. But it won’t stop until we make it cost votes and cost bigots like Dutton their place in parliament.

According to experts, Dutton is vulnerable in his electorate of Dickson.2 It’s no easy task unseating a cabinet minister, so to beat him, we’ll really have to fight.

But just imagine if we brought the full force of our national movement to bear on Dutton. That’s on the ground organisers, door-knocking, massive phone banks, a data-driven digital advertising program, sophisticated message testing and electorate-wide advertising.

He won’t know what hit him. And the only thing worse than enduring Dutton’s divisive drivel, is knowing we had a shot to end it, and didn’t give it everything we’ve got.

Can you chip in to our all out campaign to get Dutton’s bigotry out of Parliament?

Peter Dutton isn’t just the Minister for Immigration. He’s said to be the leader of the conservative wing of the Liberal Party, pulling our government and politics further to the right on everything we care about.3

And Malcolm Turnbull is so bound to the hard right of his party he couldn’t bring himself to rebuke Dutton yesterday — instead calling him “an outstanding Immigration Minister.”4 So if we want change, we’ll have to cut those strings to the hard right ourselves.

Even if we can’t get Dutton chucked out of office, cutting deeply into his vote in Dickson would deal a serious blow to his reputation and power in the party.

Critically, it would prove that bigotry doesn’t win votes or elections — it causes you to lose them. That’s the message we need to send to Dutton, Turnbull and politicians everywhere.

Can you help fund our all out assault against bigotry in our politics?

Our strategy to beat Pete is big, strategic and sophisticated:

  •    On the ground. On the ground organisers in Dickson — who know the people, know the streets and know how to organise. They’ll be leading door-knocking events, starting next week.
  •    On the phone. Massive phone banks, with the power to make thousands of calls a week to the people of Dickson — straight through to the voters who can make a difference.
  •    On message. A sophisticated, data-driven program to identify the swing voters in Dickson and determine the messages that will influence their vote.
  •    On the airwaves. Ads in cinemas, on the streets, in papers and online with the messages proven to shift the most votes away from Dutton.

It’s a lot to do, and we have to put it in place right away. Can you chip in to make it happen?

https://www.getup.org.au/ditch-dutton

Thanks for all you do,
Shen for the GetUp team.

PS – And if running offshore detention camps doesn’t convince you, here’s 10 more reasons Peter Dutton needs to go.5 Click here to chip in, when you’ve heard enough.

Here are some of Dutton’s “achievements” in parliament:

  1. Forced a raped, pregnant asylum seeker onto a late-night charter flight to Nauru.
  2. Only front bencher to boycott the apology to the stolen generations.
  3. Sent text calling a journalist a “mad f—ing witch” (to the journalist).
  4. Spent $55 million to resettle almost no asylum seekers in Cambodia.
  5. Responded to two refugees tragically setting themselves on fire by blaming activists.
  6. Caught joking about climate impacts on low-lying Pacific Islands while on diplomatic visit.
  7. Border Force’s ‘Operation Fortitude’ fiasco to randomly check visas of Melbourne pedestrians.
  8. As Health Minister, cut $57 billion from our local hospitals.
  9. As Health Minister, tried to bring in a GP co-payment.
  10. Voted “worst Health Minister in 35 years” by doctors.

References:
[1] “Peter Dutton says ‘illiterate and innumerate’ refugees would take Australian jobs”, The Sydney Morning Herald, May 18 2016.
[2] “Queensland: up to 10 LNP seats could change hands in federal election”, The Guardian, April 29 2016.
[3] “Peter Dutton supersedes Scott Morrison as Liberal Party’s conservative champion”, The Sydney Morning Herald, December 1 2015.
[4] “Election 2016: Malcolm Turnbull backs ‘outstanding’ Peter Dutton after refugee comments”, ABC News, May 18 2016.
[5] “View from the Street: Peter Dutton, strategic Coalition distraction-goose!” The Sydney Morning Herald, May 18 2016; “Refugee rape victim says Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is telling lies about abortion”, Sydney Morning Herald 19 October 2016.

GetUp is an independent, not-for-profit community campaigning group. We use new technology to empower Australians to have their say on important national issues. We receive no political party or government funding, and every campaign we run is entirely supported by voluntary donations. If you’d like to contribute to help fund GetUp’s work, please donate now! To unsubscribe from GetUp, please click here.

Our team acknowledges that we meet and work on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. We wish to pay respect to their Elders – past, present and future – and acknowledge the important role all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to play within Australia and the GetUp community.

Authorised by Paul Oosting, Level 14, 338 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000.

Schrödinger’s Refugees

Recently, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said that “They won’t be numerate or literate … They would languish on unemployment … These people will be taking Australian jobs.” (The Sydney Morning Herald, May 18 2016).  He said this in an attempt to make his deliberately cruel treatment of boat people seem vaguely respectable.

But in saying that he unwittingly created what might be called Schrödinger’s Refugees, by postulating that refugees would both languish on unemployment and take Australian jobs,.

Schrödinger’s cat   is an idea from the strange realm of quantum physics.  Here’s what Wikipedia says:

Schrödinger’s cat is a thought experiment devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. It illustrates what Schrödinger saw as the problem of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics applied to everyday objects. The scenario presents a cat that may be simultaneously both alive and dead, a state known as a quantum superposition, as a result of being linked to a random subatomic event that may or may not occur. (courtesy of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)