Parliament and Dual Citizenship

Two Greens Senators, Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters, recently quit the Senate after discovering that they held dual citizenship: Ludlam is, apparently, a citizen of New Zealand, and Waters is, apparently, a citizen of Canada.  You wouldn’t have guessed: both have normal Aussie accents, and both have worked tirelessly in support of Australia’s interests.

The sudden departure of Ludlum and Waters from the Senate focussed renewed attention on section 44 of the Commonwealth Constitution.  Section 44 provides:

“44. Any person who:

(i) is under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power …

shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.”

Senator Ludlam said “About a week or so ago it was brought to my attention that I hold dual-citizenship nationality of Australia and New Zealand”.  Given that section 44 is the relevant provision, it is ironic that Scott Ludlam, who is now 47 years old, has lived in Australia for 44 years.  He came here when he was a 3-year old.

A few days later, Senator Larissa Waters also announced she was leaving the Senate, as she had been born in Canada and came to Australia when she was 11 months old.

According to news reports on 20 July, Senator Richard di Natale is now trying to find papers showing that he has renounced any rights to Italian citizenship.  It is significant to notice that, if your citizenship of another country  is a thing of the distant past, digging out documents to show that you no longer adhere to that other country could be challenging.  Given that a lot of people come to Australia as young children born in another country, or are born here to parents who came here from another country, the challenge is a large one.  And add to this that you would have to find out whether the law of the country where you were born, or where your parents came from, recognised you as a citizen in the particular circumstances.

In a multi-cultural country like Australia, it looks a bit crazy.

When a person is elected to the Commonwealth Parliament, they take an Oath of Allegiance in the following terms:

“I [name] do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her heirs and successors according to law, So help me God”

This is a little less comprehensive than the Governor-General’s Oath of Office:

I, [name], do swear that I will well and truly serve Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her heirs and successors according to law, in the office of Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, and I will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of the Commonwealth of Australia, without fear or favour, affection or ill will. So help me God!

It is mildly surprising that members of the Parliament have to swear allegiance to a person who would be disqualified from being a member of the Australian Parliament.  Queen Elizabeth the Second is a British national, she is not a citizen of Australia, but she is our Head of State.  It is also disconcerting that the Governor-General is not constrained in the way members of parliament are.  the governor-General might or might not be a citizen of Australia, and traditionally was a British, but not an Australian, national.

But putting those minor quibbles to one side, no-one has ever suggested that Ludlam, Waters (or any other Greens member) has been untrue to their oath of allegiance.  Given that their connection to New Zealand or Canada respectively is so remote, and so slight, that is not surprising.  Whatever your views about Greens policies, Australian democracy is the weaker for losing Senators Ludlam and Waters.  We should consider very carefully whether section 44(i) is too wide and indiscriminate in its reach.

And here is Ian Holland’s take on the same question, published on 20July 2017 in the Brisbane Times 

Changes to Citizenship Laws

The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee is holding an enquiry into proposed changes to the Citizenship Act.  The bill being considered is the “Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017”.

The Bill includes the following provision:

“At the end of section 46 Add:

Required information or documents

(4)              …

(5)              The Minister may determine:

          (a)              an Australian Values Statement; and

          (b)              any requirements relating to the Australian Values Statement….”

The Minister (that is, the Immigration Minister) is therefore given the power to decide what constitutes an appropriate statement of Australian Values. The significance of that power should not be underestimated.

The values which define a nation’s character are, typically, very diverse. It is not easy to imagine that every person in any nation would identify the same values as characteristic of that nation. The proposed amendments noted above would produce the result that adherence to Australia’s values would become a touchstone to citizenship. It seems odd then that one person should have the power to determine, for the nation at large, what its values are. For example, the history of Australia since white settlement could lead a person to suppose that Christian principles were central to Australia’s values. But that proposition would be inconsistent with aspects of Australia’s conduct (past and present) and inconsistent with section 116 of the Constitution, which says:

“The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.”

It is worth noting that the proposed s. 46(5) may not prevent a Minister from including, in a Statement of Australian Values, a requirement to adhere to Christian principles. This would be objectionable on at least four obvious grounds:

  1. The fact of growing Islamophobia in the community;
  2. The fact that people from various religious backgrounds join the Australian community and contribute greatly to it;
  3. The fact that such a requirement would be inconsistent with section 116 of the Constitution, even if not in breach of it;
  4. The fact that the indigenous peoples of Australia embrace religious views which are pre-Christian.

It seems highly undesirable that any one person, whether a Minister of the Crown or not, should have the power to determine what the nation’s values are, especially when his or her determination has the potential to affect a person’s right to citizenship.

There is a further point. A Statement of Australian Values already exists, as part of the process of applying for permission to enter Australia. If it is a template for what is proposed, then we have a problem.

The Australian Values Statement, in Form 1281, provides as follows:

“AUSTRALIAN VALUES STATEMENT

This statement must be signed by the main applicant and each person aged 18 years or over who is included in the visa application, unless they have already signed it on the visa application form…

I understand:

  • Australian society values respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual, freedom of religion, commitment to the rule of law, Parliamentary democracy, equality of men and women and a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces mutual respect, tolerance, fair play and compassion for those in need and pursuit of the public good;
  • Australian society values equality of opportunity for individuals, regardless of their race, religion or ethnic background;
  • the English language, as the national language, is an important unifying element of Australian society.

…”

(emphasis added)

What is notable about the parts emphasised is that they are difficult to reconcile with the idea of imprisoning innocent people who have sought a safe place to live, and in particular they stand awkwardly with treating asylum seekers the way we do in order to deter others from seeking asylum in Australia.

If we are to have a Statement of Australian Values, the Parliament should ensure that it genuinely reflects Australia’s values as reflected by its conduct as a nation, and the Parliament should ensure that all members of the Parliament could, in good conscience, say that they embrace and live up to the Values reflected in the Statement.

It is notorious that Australia’s treatment of people seeking asylum has been trenchantly criticised by various NGOs. If we are to have a Statement of Australian Values, it should either reflect our willingness to behave in ways that had attracted that criticism, or else our conduct as a Nation should be made to conform to the Statement of Values. Failing one or other of these, the proposed Statement of Australian Values would only survive at the frontier where self-delusion meets self-congratulation.

And while it is true that the English language is important in Australia, there are some Federal MPs whose grasp of English is so tenuous that they would probably fail the Values Statement.

Submissions can be made online at http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/ Committees/OnlineSubmission or via email to: legcon.sen@aph.gov.au

The text of the bill and the Explanatory Memorandum can be found here

Nauru: How it is

I have received a first-hand account of how things are on Nauru at present.  It’s not good. How much are we paying each year to maintain out offshore warehousing?  $500,000 per person per year…

Sounds like pretty bad value.

Nauru is a very small island nation. It is smaller in area than Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne.  Here is the report I received.  I have edited it slightly to ensure that the person who wrote it cannot be identified:

The ring road (the only real road) is 23 km long. From the ring road you can drive up to the Island’s centre, which is elevated. There, it is much hotter without any breeze like you get on the ring road. On this elevated plateau are the RPC’s (Reception and Processing Centres).

RPC1 is occupied by service providers like Broadspectrum and IHMS.

Due to lack of housing, ‘positives’ remain located in either RPC 2 or RPC3. So-called ‘settlements’ are scattered around the ring road and most refugees prefer to live there, because there is access to the ocean, the shops and a cooling breeze.

HOST International works from the Community Resource Centre, located close to the airport on the ring road. HOST employs refugees in numerous positions. Some work as IT support, some as community liaison officers, others as employment officers. In the office, refugees are treated with respect by ex-pats. In the office are also Nauruans. They are part of the government and predominantly work in housing, employment and child protection.

Australia’s history with Nauru centred on phosphate mining. By nature, Nauruans are not hard working. Think Fiji, Rarotonga, Vanuatu…developing countries. Not as poor as PNG, but nevertheless without much prospect, mainly due to its isolated location and tiny size.

The Nauru government holds all power. This power is absolute. They issue or, as the case may be, withdraw visas for ex-pats.  Land can only be owned by Nauruans (this is a very important issue). Nauruans in general are not well educated. However, they are well looked after: they have land, they do not pay rent and they have been given power over ex-pats and refugees, because after all, it is their island.

So, imagine this tiny island being run by not so well-educated, entitled people: Nauruans feel they are very, very precious and every single ex-pat and refugee have to bow to their whims. It leads to unrealistic situations. Example: ex-pats and refugees-are told over and over again that they MUST NOT overtake Nauruans while driving on the ring road. They must be extremely cautious NOT to splash Nauruans by driving through water. Consequences are dire: Nauruans will cut off your car and bash you up, regardless of age or sex. Example: One refugee who works on Nauru, accidently cut off a Nauruan. Before he could apologise, the Nauruans got out of their car and bashed up the refugee very badly. No point going to the police because they are Nauruans also. Refugees are routinely bashed up by angry locals for no specific reason. Nauruans are a very jealous people. Example: Some Iranians refugees had settled on the ring road. They started a business – as many try to – by renting a huge house on the beach front and converting it into a restaurant. Hard working, and with stunning ocean views, the business thrived. Soon the Nauruan landlord found out, and told them to pack up. He simply evicted them. The building has been empty ever since.

Housing is a real issue. Some Nauruans are extremely rich but they do not want refugees to live in their houses. So, all along the ring road you see empty, neglected houses and units which could easily house numerous refugees who are instead housed in the hot and oppressive camps (“Reception and Processing Centres”). No-one can do anything: it is in the hands of the Nauruans.

In the office, ex-pats have to be very careful talking to Nauruan staff. Nauruan staff MUST always be in the right. If not, they simply revoke your visa. Example: An Australian worker had a difference of opinion with a Nauruan staff member. Within half an hour that person’s visa was revoked and he was transported to the airport, never to return. HOST International is powerless to stop any of this. Employees are warned by HOST, to be very careful NOT to criticise Nauruans or their government, because it is not possible to know what is being overheard.

When it comes to dealing with foreigners, Nauruans, and the Government of Nauru, have all the power and, although many welcome refugees on their island, many do not. Refugee children are bullied at school but the Nauru Government has no policies in place with respect to child protection. It is all new to them and they are unwilling to take advice from experienced ex-pats. Refugees have limited opportunities: They can NEVER own land, they are ALWAYS  at the mercy of ruthless landlords, jobs will go to Nauruans first and, even if a refugee manages to get a job, they can easily lose it due to jealousy of the Nauru Government. Most refugees who are employed, are employed by HOST or by Broadspectrum.

 

 

Quadrant, Franklin and other nastiness

It is alarming to see the views some Australians have.  On 23 May, Roger Franklin published an article in the online edition of Quadrant, in which he said it would have been better if the bomb which killed so many in Manchester had instead been detonated in the ABC studios during last Monday night’s Q & A.  Specifically, he wrote:

“Life isn’t fair and death less so. What if that blast had detonated in an Ultimo TV studio? Unlike those young girls in Manchester, their lives snuffed out before they could begin, none of the panel’s likely casualties would have represented the slightest reduction in humanity’s intelligence, decency, empathy or honesty.”

Beyond that bit of foolish poison from Roger Franklin, there is a person who emails me regularly, advocating various anti-Muslim responses.  For example, he advocates:

  • banning all Muslims from Australia
  • supporting Pauline Hanson and Donald Trump
  • putting all Muslims in Concentration Camps
  • strafing Muslim boat people (for the millennials, strafing means machine gunning)

More recently, he wrote this:

  • (in relation to Angela Merkel): “Poor Herr Hitler must be rolling in his grave to see that Germany is being led by: (i) a women, (ii) a former Communist, (iii) who is inviting in the enemies of the Aryan race to destroy the Fatherland.  This is not going to end well”
  • (in relation to the Manchester bombing): “After the attack in the UK do [you] now agree Concentration Camps are the answer to protect our children from Muslims?”
  • (in relation to 2 Sudanese refugees, accused of involvement in a home invasion): “How about electrocuting these bastards as well or at least putting them in concentration camps as did our former Prime Minister – Billy Hughes?”
  • the famous “Rivers of Blood” speech of Enoch Powell … must be one of the greatest speeches of our time.”
  • “Human Rights are bullshit”

And he fired up about Yassmin Abdel-Magied:

“Do you recall the fate of the American William Joyce who was better known as Lord Haw Haw? Joyce promoted an evil ideology of world domination through violence using the media. Yassmin Abdel -Mageed (sic) is also promoting an evil ideology of world domination through violence using the media.

The British hung Joyce. What punishment should be given to Yassmin the Traitor?”

The trouble with stuff like this is that it gives vent to some weird inner frustration with no regard to the facts.  Lord Haw Haw campaigned against Britain during the second World War and was hanged as a traitor.  Yassmin Abdel-Magied quietly invited us, when we are not at war,  not to forget refugees held on Manus and Nauru, and not to forget Syria and Palestine.  They are things we should not forget.  Maybe my frequent emailer is the real traitor, for betraying the values Australia defended during two world wars.

What people like Roger Franklin (and my frequent emailer) do not seem to understand is that their rabid views are just as dangerous as the views of Islamic extremists and other madmen.  Dangerous because, by inciting hatred against all Muslims, they run a very clear risk of radicalising some Muslims who (understandably) feel that they are not welcome in our community, even if they have never said or done anything which could be a threat to any of us.  Radicalising young people is a foolish and dangerous thing to do: it creates the very risk Roger Franklin (and my frequent emailer) are so upset about.

Incidentally, Roger Franklin was very rude about Lawrence Krauss, who was on the Q & A panel which Franklin would have liked to see bombed.  What Franklin wrote was this:

“A smug stick insect and tireless self-promoter, fellow guest Lawrence Krauss, the warmist shill who has the gall to present himself as a man of science, couldn’t resist the temptation to demonstrate a nuanced acuity. Below are his actual words, reproduced verbatim. Try not to throw up.

You’re more likely to be killed by a refrigerator, in the United States, falling on you.

If you need to read this loathsome creature’s glib sophistry once more, just to grasp the full breadth of its breathtaking brazenness, brace yourself and do so.

Tumbling refrigerators are a bigger hazard  than Islamic terrorism? God Almighty but that Krauss is a filthy liar.”

Let’s put to one side that Franklin did not understand Krauss’ point.  The simple fact is that dying in a terrorist event is a very unlikely way of dying.  I am not trivialising it: it is a terrible thing.  But here are the statistics:

 

The effects of Trump’s travel ban

The piece below was written by Mem Fox, the much-loved Australian children’s author.   It details the shocking treatment she received when she tried to enter USA recently.

It is important to remember that, if you give people great power, they will use it. And some will misuse it.  Read this piece and imagine being a hapless traveller to gulag America. Imagine  being a boat person stranded in Nauru or Manus.  .

**********************

I was pulled out of line in the immigration queue at Los Angeles airport as I came in to the USA. Not because I was Mem Fox the writer – nobody knew that – I was just a normal person like anybody else. They thought I was working in the States and that I had come in on the wrong visa. I was receiving an honorarium for delivering an opening keynote at a literacy conference, and because my expenses were being paid, they said: “You need to answer further questions.” So I was taken into this holding room with about 20 other people and kept there for an hour and 40 minutes, and for 15 minutes I was interrogated. The belligerence and violence of it was really terrifying The room was like a waiting room in a hospital but a bit more grim than that.

There was a notice on the wall that was far too small, saying no cellphones allowed, and anybody who did use a cellphone had someone stand in front of them and yell: “Don’t use that phone!” Everything was yelled, and everything was public, and this was the most awful thing, I heard things happening in that room happening to other people that made me ashamed to be human. There was an Iranian woman in a wheelchair, she was about 80, wearing a little mauve cardigan, and they were yelling at her – “Arabic? Arabic?”. They screamed at her “ARABIC?” at the top of their voices, and finally she intuited what they wanted and I heard her say “Farsi”. And I thought heaven help her, she’s Iranian, what’s going to happen? There was a woman from Taiwan, being yelled at about at about how she made her money, but she didn’t understand the question. The officer was yelling at her: “Where does your money come from, does it grow on trees? Does it fall from the sky?” It was awful.

There was no toilet, no water, and there was this woman with a baby. If I had been holed up in that room with a pouch on my chest, and a baby crying, or needing to be fed, oh God … the agony I was surrounded by in that room was like a razor blade across my heart. When I was called to be interviewed I was rereading a novel from 40 years ago – thank God I had a novel. It was The Red and the Black by Stendhal – a 19th century novel keeps you quiet on a long flight, and is great in a crisis – and I was buried in it and didn’t hear my name called. And a woman in front of me said: “They are calling for Fox.” I didn’t know which booth to go to, then suddenly there was a man in front of me, heaving with weaponry, standing with his legs apart yelling: “No, not there, here!” I apologised politely and said I’d been buried in my book and he said: “What do you expect me to do, stand here while you finish it?” – very loudly and with shocking insolence.

The way I was interviewed was monstrous. If only they had been able to look into my suitcase and see my books. The irony! I had a copy of my new book I’m Australian, Too – it’s about immigration and welcoming people to live in a happy country. I am all about inclusivity, humanity and the oneness of the humans of the world; it’s the theme of my life. I also had a copy of my book Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes. I told him I had all these inclusive books of mine in my bag, and he yelled at me: “I can read!” He was less than half my age – I don’t look 70 but I don’t look 60 either, I’m an older woman – and I was standing the whole time. The belligerence and violence of it was really terrifying. I had to hold the heel of my right hand to my heart to stop it beating so hard. They were not apologetic at any point. When they discovered that one of Australia’s official gifts to Prince George was Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, he held out his hand and said: “It’s been a pleasure to meet you, Ms Fox.” I was close to collapse, very close to fainting, and this nearly broke me – it was the creepiest thing of all. I had been upright, dignified, cool and polite, and this was so cruelly unexpected, so appalling, that he should say it was a pleasure. It couldn’t have been a pleasure for him to treat me like that, unless he was a psychopath. In that moment I loathed America. I loathed the entire country. And it was my 117th visit to the country so I know that most people are very generous and warm-hearted. They have been wonderful to me over the years. I got over that hatred within a day or two. But this is not the way to win friends, to do this to someone who is Australian when we have supported them in every damn war. It’s absolutely outrageous. Later in the hotel room I was shaking like a leaf. I rang my friend, my American editor and bawled and bawled, and she told me to write it all down, and I wrote for two hours. I fell asleep thinking I would sleep for eight hours but I woke up an hour and a half later just sobbing. I had been sobbing in my sleep. It was very traumatic.

After I got back to Australia I had an apology from the American embassy. I was very impressed, they were very comforting, and I’ve had so many messages of support from Americans and American authors. I am a human being, so I do understand that these people might not be well-trained, but they now have carte blanche to be as horrible and belligerent as they want. They’ve gone mad – they’ve got all the power that they want but they don’t have the training. They made me feel like such a crushed, mashed, hopeless old lady and I am a feisty, strong, articulated English speaker. I kept thinking that if this were happening to me, a person who is white, articulate, educated and fluent in English, what on earth is happening to people who don’t have my power?  That’s the heartbreak of it. Remember, I wasn’t pulled out because I’m some kind of revolutionary activist, but my God, I am now. I am on the frontline. If we don’t stand up and shout, good sense and good will not prevail, and my voice will be one of the loudest. That’s what it has taught me. I thought I was an activist before, but this has turned me into a revolutionary. I’m not letting it happen here. Instead of crying and being sad and sitting on a couch, I am going to write to politicians. I am going to call. I am going to write to newspapers. I am going to get on the radio.  I will not be quiet.

No more passive behaviour. Hear me roar.

Wilson Parking: hopeless

What sort of operation is Wilson Parking running?  How hard can it be to run a  car park?  Apparently it is much to hard for the geniuses who run Wilson Parking.

For almost a decade I have had a permanent car park at a site run by Wilson Parking.  In February 2017, the Wilson people had the brilliant idea that they would replace the card by which permanent parkers get into and out of the car park.

Problems started (probably due, at least in part, to the fact that Wilson car parks have no staff: just a machine that you touch your card on in order to get in or out).

First, the card would not let me into the car park.  So, you press the intercom button on the machine at the entry to the car park and eventually a human being speaks to you.  You explain the problem, while other drivers queue up (impatiently) behind you: they also want to get in.  they do something from their remote vantage point and the boom opens to let you in.

I tried ringing Wilson Parking.  they are as difficult to contact by phone as Centrelink is. Eventually I managed to get someone to speak to me: they said they would reset the card.

Resetting a card must be awfully difficult: for the first half of February, I had to use the intercom help service every time to get into the car park.

Second, For the whole of February, when I try to leave the car park, the machine has told me either that my car is not present or that the car park number is invalid.  I do not understand how the first message could possibly be true, and I do not understand what the second message means.

So, every time I have tried to leave the car park in February, I have had to wait for someone to respond to the intercom call.  It can take a while.

Most of the time, they tell me again that my card will be reset.  I can’t wait.  Just imagine the luxury of being able to park my car and (at the end of the day) leave, without having to wait at the end of an intercom in order to explain that their system is hopeless.

Third, I wrote to them in mid-February, politely explaining the problem, since speaking to them is so difficult. Here is my email to them:

To whom it may concern:

  1. Please take this email seriously
  2. Please read this email
  3. Please reply to this email
  4. I have had a permanent car park at 200 Queen St Melbourne for about 8 years
  5. Recently Wilson Parking introduced the Wilson One card
  6. Every day last week, and again this morning, the boom gate does not respond to the card: this happens when I am entering and when I am leaving.
  7. This morning I had to speak to 4 different people on the intercom before I could persuade someone to allow me in.
  8. I have tried ringing Wilson Parking to explain the problem, but no-one answers the phone.
  9. If this problem is not fixed by this afternoon, I am going to detail my concerns on social media.  I will not hesitate to suggest that people use a parking service that treats its customers properly (eg, by letting them in and out)

Very best wishes …

Three weeks later, I have not had a response.

This is part of the same corporate beast that runs security on Manus and Nauru.  And parking people in those places is vastly more expensive than parking a car with Wilson Parking.

PS: I posted this on Monday 27 February.  On Tuesday 28 February, I tried to enter the car park and the machine told me I was already present!  Yet again I had to press the intercom button and wait for someone to ask me to read out the 16-digit number on my Wilson One card and (eventually) let me in.  My attempts to call head office continue to end in frustration.

.

Climate Change

Climate change denial is on the rise, encouraged no doubt by the example of that great intellectual President Donald Trump.  That other intellectual giant Andrew Bolt had a crack at me recently for what I thought was the modest suggestion that we need to listen to what the scientists are telling us.  Good on Bolt for his ability to take cheap shots from behind the shelter of the Murdoch press.  But still, it was a cheap shot on an issue which deserves more serious attention.  Trump may not have the intellectual rigour to think about these things, but Bolt might.

What drives people to question climate science is the desire to profit from exploiting coal resources.  But what climate change sceptics like Trump and Bolt ignore is the precautionary principle.

If global warming is real, it threatens everyone.  It raises questions about the viability of the human species on Earth.  In simpler times, the worst consequences of global warming would threaten only a portion of mankind.  However, the growing interdependence of all people means that a catastrophe in Western agriculture or in Chinese manufacturing or in the major trading cities will have consequences for practically every human being.

The solution to global warming is, primarily, a question of science.  However, history shows us that scientific solutions are generally compromised by politics.  Politicians in most nations are answerable to their people.  Without careful leadership, the people of most nations will prefer their own interests ahead of others’ interests.  This is true locally and globally.  The refusal of Australia and the USA to ratify the Kyoto Protocol was a regrettable example: it was a triumph of selfish, insular concerns over the dictates of science and the interests of the entire world.

The debate about global warming is a useful illustration of the way politics and self-interest can damage public discourse.  The  5th report of the IPCC is clear: global warming is real, dangerous, and to a significant degree the result of human activity.  These findings are accepted as true by about 97% of the world’s scientists.

Some groups have a vested interest in slowing or stopping action to combat climate change.  Big oil and the coal industry are obvious examples.  They have a lot to lose, and delaying action on climate change serves their interests.  The debate, unfortunately, has tended to focus on sniping at specific facts identified by the IPCC.  And some people, quite correctly, argue that science is not decided by democratic majority.

Morgan polls indicated that in 2008 about 35% of Australians nominated the environment as a major issue: by 2013 this had fallen to 7%.  The debate shifted from acceptance to doubt to indifference.  What is staggering about the shift is that it ignores the seriousness of the problem itself.

If climate scientists are right, we have less than 5 years in which to act on climate change.  Even Tony Abbott eventually acknowledged that climate change is real and (at least in part) anthropogenic.  Even so, it must be noted that his chief business advisor, Maurice Newman, denied climate change as did some members of Abbott’s cabinet.

Turnbull seems to have thrown his hat in the ring with the fossil fuel industry, so if he has any concerns about climate change, he has subordinated them to his political survival.

If climate scientists are wrong and, of course, they might be wrong, then we will spend a lot of money for no advantage.  But if they are right…

Suppose there is an 80% chance that all the scientists are wrong (that is, only a 20% chance they are right).  If we do nothing about climate change there is only a 20% chance of an avoidable catastrophic outcome.

But that is worse odds than Russian roulette.  In Russian roulette, a revolver with 6 chambers has just one bullet in it.  When you hold the revolver to your head and pull the trigger, you have a one chance in six of a bad outcome.  One in six is more favourable odds than on in five

It may be objected that, in Russian roulette, you hold the gun to your head, and if the one in six chance goes against your child, then the child dies.  If climate science is right, we won’t all die.  OK, so try playing Russian roulette with your children, but hold the gun to their stomach: if the one in six chance goes against your child, it’s not fatal, just dangerous and very painful.

Other arguments which support taking action just in case include: if you were told that 97% of engineers predicted that the bridge will collapse, will you walk across it?  If the airline tells you there is a 97% chance that the plane will crash, will you nevertheless get on board?

Those who would withhold action on climate change (by denying it, or by extending the argument about the steps that should be taken, thereby delaying any action at all) are playing Russian roulette with our children’s future.  But those who doubt will ultimately fall back on the idea that it is people in other countries who will bear the brunt of climate change.  This idea is rarely articulated, because it is self-evidently unrespectable to say that other people’s suffering is less important than our own.  But if anyone makes the argument, they are not only immoral, they are also wildly optimistic.

George Brandis QC A-G

Q&A on Monday 20 February 2017 included Attorney-General George Brandis QC.

Brandis showed rather unhappy aspects of himself, as he sought to justify enormous and extravagant expense allowances for Federal parliamentarians while justifying the meanness of NDIS funding, disability allowances, Community Legal Centre funding and the harshness of automated Centrelink debt recovery.

There was a common theme in Brandis’ position.  He seemed to prefer meanness to generosity.  He seemed unsympathetic to people who are struggling to survive; he does not care what we do to refugees; he does not care that his party has lied systematically to the public for years about boat people; he can’t be bothered to check the law in an area which, whatever your position, is contentious.

He chose to blame Labor for every difficulty, no matter that his party has had years to correct the situation which, he asserted frequently, was created by Labor.  I don’t have much time for Labor, but watching him blame everything on a government which was defeated four years ago is simply pathetic.

It would be charitable to assume some kind of neural deficiency rather than a deep-seated personality disorder.

On robo-debt, Brandis seemed mildly concerned that a man had committed suicide after being chased for an alleged debt of $18,000 (this was later revised down to $10,000, without explanation).  The way the system “works”, the burden is on the recipient of the debt notice to prove the demand is wrong.  Most lawyers (at least, most lawyers who have actually practised law) respond instinctively against civil claims in which the Defendant has to prove that they do not owe the money claimed: the usual situation is that the person who makes a claim must prove it.

Brandis urged that anyone who received a robo-debt demand should ring Centrelink and discuss the claim: he seemed not to understand that getting Centrelink to answer a phone call is extraordinarily difficult.  Several people in the audience with practical experience of the matter told Brandis how difficult it is to get Centrelink to answer a call, but our esteemed Attorney-General continued urging the same course.  He cruised calmly on like a Spanish galleon in full sail, completely untroubled by any facts. Perhaps that’s the world he lives in: when he wants to speak to someone he simply instructs a staff-member to arrange it. He appears to know nothing of the world experienced by ordinary people, and did not seem willing or able to learn anything about it.

When tackled about the reduced funding for Community Legal Centres, he tried to blame Labor.  It seemed not to occur to him that, as Attorney-General, he could arrange increased funding for Community Legal Centres and for Legal Aid.  After all, Community Legal Centres deal with about  260,000 clients each year.  Their total funding is about $40 million a year.  So it costs the government about $153 per client for a CLC to help people who can’t afford lawyers.  That’s pretty good value, but government funding is about to fall to about $30 million a year.  Brandis did not seem to notice this as a problem, just as he didn’t notice the grotesque difference between his position on welfare payments and his position on parliamentary entitlements. Interestingly, Brandis presides over a department which spends about $792 million per year on lawyering.  He has access to excellent legal advice.

Perhaps Brandis regards his government’s legal problems as vastly more important than the legal problems of any ordinary Australian.

And then we got to refugee policy.  Confronted with the awkward fact that several thousand men, women and children have been locked up on Nauru and Manus for over 3 years, Brandis again tried to blame it on Labor.  It is true that Kevin Rudd’s government  put them there, but Brandis party, in government, could have removed them. Instead, it left them to swelter for years on end, suffering torment and abuse which includes hundreds of reported cases of child sex abuse and at least 5 deaths that we know of.

But the most surprising development was when I asked Brandis directly whether boat people commit any offence by arriving in Australia seeking protection from persecution.  He said Yes, they do.  He is wrong about that.  I asked him to identify the provision in any legislation which makes it an offence.  He protested that he could not be expected to identify a particular statute and a particular provision.  He is wrong about that, too.  The Coalition government has, for the past 15 years, called boat people “illegal”.

I assume Senator Brandis sometimes finds time to consider his party’s policies.  So he can hardly have missed the fact that men, women and children who have fled persecution were being branded as “illegal”, and were being locked up in shocking conditions for years.

Unless he has slept through the past 15 years (and I would not rule that out as a possibility), Brandis must be aware of a few related things:

  1. the Coalition, of which he is part, has called boat people “illegal” for the past 15 years;
  2. some irritating people (including me) have been pointing out for years that boat people commit no offence by coming to Australia as they do.
  3. If they don’t commit any offence by coming here, calling them “illegal” is misleading at best, and dishonest at worst.
  4. He has a big staff of highly qualified lawyers and access to lots more.

If he had ever had any of his staff research the question, he would know affirmatively that boat people do not commit any offence by coming here the way they do.

And yet, when I asked him what offence he thought they committed, he protested that he could not be expected to remember what section of what Act.

If the first Law Officer of the country paid more attention, he might have paused to wonder whether his own party’s marketing was honest or not; he might have paused to wonder why no boat people are ever prosecuted because of their means of arrival.

But it seems that our Attorney-General is much too busy enjoying the fat perks of office to think about these things. Either Brandis does not care or he is a hopeless lawyer.  In either case, it will be a relief to see him leave the Parliament and the country.

The only available conclusions are either:

  • He has never bothered to have the question researched; or
  • He lied, because he knew the true answer

Really, Attorney-General?  Did you expect anyone to believe you?

Brandis is a disgrace to the office he holds.  The first law officer of the country should be a bit more curious and a bit more honest.

[Incidentally, both before and after the show, Brandis conspicuously avoided speaking to me in the Green Room.  So I will add pettiness and a lack of manners to my criticism of him]

The Apology, 9 years on

On 13 February 2008, Kevin Rudd apologised to the stolen generations.  It was not great rhetoric, but it was a fine moment, because (for once) we heard a Federal Politician who sounded sincere. 9 years later, here is a message from Liberty Victoria:

Yesterday marked the ninth anniversary of the apology to the Stolen Generations. For many Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians, it was a hugely significant day and an important step towards redressing the extraordinary and inexplicable harm leveled against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders by successive governments.

It also marked the start of a new commitment: to do more and do better for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and to close the enormous gap across basic health, education and employment indicators.

Yet nine years on, the gap remains a gaping gulf. In many areas, that picture is even worse than it was nine years ago.

This anniversary, Liberty Victoria joins the call for the inclusion of specific and measurable justice targets. Curbing the over-imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, one of the most imprisoned groups of people in the world, and reducing the number of children in out-of-home care, must be priorities if we are to meaningfully close the gap and start redress the harm done by past and present governments.

This anniversary of the apology, take the time to rewatch the apology Kevin Rudd gave back in 2008. Imagine – or remember – the hope that these words gave to so many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders; that, this time, the change would be real and it would happen. As a country, we need to seriously grapple with the need to do better across all areas, including the justice sphere, and we need to do that now.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiLnsFyAVqE

 

What’s wrong with politics today

It is blindingly obvious that something is seriously wrong with politics at present.  In the West, at least.

Barry Jones wrote a great piece on that theme for The Saturday Paper.  The article included the following observations:

Lincoln’s views, published on broadsheets, were extremely subtle and nuanced, without bitterness, personal attack or exaggeration.  He could always see the other side of an argument and often set it out, fairly.  In 2016, 156 years later, Donald Trump won the Presidential nomination of Lincoln’s Party. … Lincoln was reflective, self-doubting…Trump is unreflective, posturing in a way that may conceal deep insecurity, narcissistic, always personalising issues (the hero v.  the devil), talking – shouting, really – in slogans, endlessly repeated with no evidentiary base.  He appeals to fear, anger, envy and conspiracy theories.  …” 

Here is the full article.  It should be compulsory reading in Canberra: Trumpism-Barry Jones

Anti-Islamic rants

A person who lives in Australia emails me regularly (at least a couple of times a week) ranting about Muslims.

He is clearly having an unhappy, insecure life.  Some part of me feels sorry for him.  But my pity for him is dimmed when he advocates:

  • banning all Muslims from Australia
  • supporting Pauline Hanson and Donald Trump
  • putting all Muslims in Concentration Camps
  • strafing Muslims (for the millennials, strafing means machine gunning)

This is a real person with some seriously toxic ideas.  And just a few days ago (just before the election in the USA) he wrote:

“America’s first Muslim President will soon be history and the States are now saying that they want no part in the invasion of the USA by Muslims”.  It boggles the mind.

Here is a selection of his emails from the past: anti-islamic-rants

A passenger talks back to Myki system

Dr Michael Enright had a bad run-in with Authorised Officers over a Myki disagreement.  So far, nothing out of the usual.  The Myki officers issued a summons seeking to have him fined.  The summons was eventually withdrawn, but with a “warning”.

He was offended, and wrote back to them.  Here is his letter, which I publish with his permission:

“How dare you write to me in such a braying and patronising manner.

By what authority, moral or legal, do you both withdraw a charge and issue what you claim to be an official warning? If your original charge had been so enforceable, why was it withdrawn? You cite your discretion. I would cite the ineptitude of the system you represent.

 Those who preside over the system you represent are engaging in a dance with fantasy, grounded as it is in a perception of infallibility in the face of mounting public and legal pressure to the contrary. I challenged your officers on the day the fine was imposed and stood by this to represent not just myself, but all the other unfortunate, valid myki-carrying card holders who have endured your officers bringing their bullying tactics onto the civilized streets of this city.

 I do not recognise your authority or your so-called warning.

 You represent a morally bankrupt and largely unenforceable regime characterised by standover tactics, relying as it does on officers employing an instrument of extortion. Apart from being generally dishevelled and unkempt in appearance, your myki officers occupy public places in a manner and with an appearance one would associate with the more unsavoury street gang elements, albeit endowed with powers clearly in excess of their social skills and beyond their capacity to interpret in the immediacy of a situation.

 Your system is a disgrace, ignores reasonable argument, and has a press gang air that has no place in Australian twenty-first century society.

I trust that your vile, cruel, bullying, foul and odorous system, those who oversee it and those who seek to enforce it will soon be consigned to their rightful place in a democratic society; the dustbin of the inglorious past.”

Myki Officers still behaving badly

The culture of many Myki Authorised Officers continues to be appalling.  Consider this message I received recently:

(On a suburban train) I was approached by a ticket inspector who asked me to show him my ticker.

At the time I was reading reports from my family overseas about my grandmother who had had a heart attack and so I asked him to wait. He then asked me again to show him my ticket and I again asked him to wait. This happened a couple more times at which point he said he was going to book me for refusing to provide a valid ticket. At this point I gave him my ticket, which he scanned on his portable Myki reader. The ticket was valid but he proceeded to write me up.

I asked why I was being written up and one of his co-workers told me that I had refused to provide my ticket. I replied that I had never refused to provide my ticket and he stated again that I had. 

At this point we arrived at (my stop). I walked off the train walked up to a couple of PSO’s standing on the platform. The ticket inspectors followed me and  accused me in front of the PSO of refusing to provided them with a valid ticket and refusing to give them my details. I told the ticket inspector that I had done neither and asked one of the PSO to note that the ticket inspector had my Myki in his possession. I then gave both the PSO’s and the ticket inspectors my name and address.

I received the two infringement notices and appealed them to the relevant authority. I supplied them with proof that I had a valid ticket at the time, and the details of the event.

I received a reply saying that they accept that I had a valid ticket but that because I failed to produce my ticket “without delay” they would not waive any of the infringement notices. 

So: he had a valid ticket and he offered ID, but they booked him anyway, and on review the Public Transport Victoria decide to pursue him.  What a waste of time and money.  The PTV seems to have an unerring ability to make the public hate the government.

The Grand Mufti’s comments concerning homosexuality

Postscript: since I wrote the piece below, I have been the target of various people who prefer to hide behind anonymous Twitter handles, abusing me for what I say below.  For the anonymous haters, I have great pity: most of them seem to suffer from one or both of:

  • a reading disorder, which prevents them from actually reading what I wrote; or
  • an intellectual disability, which leads them to misunderstand what I wrote: in some cases, so completely that they attribute to me things which are the opposite of what I say below.

Still, it’s nice that they try.

So: let me make my position plain for the people who have been hurling abuse from behind the safety of an anonymous keyboard:

  • I do NOT approve of attacks on gays, whether the attacks are motivated by religious belief, malice or hatred.
  • I do NOT approve of extremist views – whether ostensibly justified by religious doctrine or any other ideology
  • I do NOT adhere to any religion, although I was raised as an Anglican
  • I do NOT disapprove of gay people: I think every human being should be able to live their own life, guided by their nature and instincts.

Furthermore, the things I wrote below were not supposed to cover every nuance of religious thinking, nor were they intended to exhaust the field of LGBTI issues.  I tried to deal with a limited question posed by someone who seems very excitable, and who has been one of the chief abuse-hurlers.  Specifically, it is worth remembering that I was persuaded to comment on things said by the Grand Mufti of Australia, in response to some specific things said by Sheikh Shady. I have no interest at all in chasing everything said by Sheikh Shady: I doubt I would agree with him on much.

———————-

Someone called @BasimaFaysal got very excited recently on Twitter about the fact that the Australian Grand Mufti, Dr Mohammed, dined at Kirribilli House with the Prime Minister and others recently.

The asserted cause of the excitement was a statement by Dr Mohammed regarding things said six years ago by Sheikh Shady about homosexuality.

@BasimaFaysal told me I had to respond to the comments.  I was on holidays at the time.  I have now had a chance to research the matter.  In fairness, I should say that I do not adhere to any religion, and I take a much more lenient view of homosexuality than any  of the Abrahamic religions do.  It seems that Sheikh Shady’s comments were confined to the likelihood of practising homosexuals contracting diseases, which is probably accurate as a matter of medical observation,  and it seems that  the Grand Mufti’s comments were accurate as a matter of religious doctrine.

In 2010 Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman said that Allah will give gay people ‘diseases that they have never experienced before …  if you speak to a doctor – he’ll tell you the most terrifying disease come from what?  From sexual activities… or also homosexuality that is spreading all these diseases.’

Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohammed wrote a two page statement in which he said the sheikh had ‘simply conveyed a religious ruling. … Despite Islam’s long standing position on homosexuality, which no person can ever change, no matter who they are. … That which Sheikh Shady has said regarding homosexuality is simply a conveyance of a religious fact which is known to every practicing person in the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths.’

What Sheikh Shady said appears to have medical support.

What Dr Mohammed said is undoubtedly accurate.  Here is the official position of various religions on the subject of homosexuality:

On being gay:

Christianity: not generally considered sinful in itself, though some see it as a purposeful perversion. Some accept it as a natural alternative, while others regard it as a non-chosen mental disorder akin to alcoholism.

Islam: Not generally condemned

Judaism:

Orthodox: Condemned as rebellion against God.

Conservative: Neither condemned nor affirmed.

Reform: Generally accepted as alternative.

On engaging in homosexual acts:

Christianity: Traditionally considered sinful. Many Christians and denominations continue to uphold this belief, while others have reconsidered it or in the process of doing so.

Bible:

“A man shall not lie with another man as with a woman; it is an abomination.” -Leviticus 18:22

“Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” -Romans 1:27

Islam: Sinful and punishable under Islamic law.

Qur’an: “We also sent Lut: He said to his people: Do ye commit lewdness such as no people in creation (ever) committed before you? For ye practice your lusts on men in preference to women: ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds.” -Qur’an 7:80-81

Judaism:

Orthodox: Strongly condemned.

Conservative: Violation of Jewish law, disqualifies from Jewish marriage and religious leadership.

Reform: Approved in context of committed relationship; civil marriage supported, but generally not religious marriage.

Bible: “A man shall not lie with another man as with a woman; it is an abomination.” -Leviticus 18:22

It seems that Sheikh Shady’s comments were accurate as a matter of medical observation  and that  the Grand Mufti’s comments were accurate as a matter of religious doctrine.  That said, I do not agree with the official position of any of the Abrahamic religions on this issue.

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.

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. 

Bigotry and terrorism in more than 140 characters

Some arguments need more than 140 characters.  A minor dispute on Twitter on the link between bigotry and terrorism demonstrates this.  So, for those with the skill and stamina to read more than 140 characters, here goes:

It is a matter of ordinary experience that a person who is treated badly may, eventually, react badly.  If people in the West regularly condemn all Muslims, it is inevitable that some Muslims will begin to feel as though they are seen as the enemy, as though they are hated in the West.  So, for example,  British mosques have been attacked by anti-Muslim groups.  In Australia, the construction of mosques has been violently opposed by some community groups, who were vocal in their condemnation of Muslims.   Donald Trump has, in substance, said that Muslims should be excluded from the USA.

Any group confronted with hostility like this is likely to be offended. As a matter of ordinary human nature, it is easy to understand that some members of that group will react badly.

I do not approve of terrorists, whether Muslim, Red Brigade, Irish separatist or anything else. But I worry about the consequences of treating one group as if all members of that group present a threat to our Society.  What we need to learn is that we are threatened by extremists.  Of course there are Muslim extremists, just as there are extremists who adhere to other ideologies.  We would be making a catastrophic mistake if we treat all Muslims as if they are extremists.

Until an expert in the field can show me that I am wrong, I will continue to hold the opinion that being the target of relentless bigotry will drive some people to extremism, and is therefore one cause of  terrorism.

We are being very foolish if we continue to tolerate public abuse of Muslims generally.

The Australian now quotes Twitter

On 30 March, the Australian Newspaper offered up the following morsel:

Pack your bags, Julian Burnside, your companion is ready

Julian Burnside on Twitter on Sunday:

Bigotry creates terrorists, by radicalising people who were willing to see hope in everything

Rodger Shanahan (associate professor at the Australian National University’s National Security College, and research fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy) replying over several tweets:

Comment from someone not very well travelled nor versed in areas in which he prognosticates. Am sure that the people killed (in) Nairobi mall, Paris, Brussels, New York, Ankara, Istanbul, Bali, Tunis etc were questioning their bigoted past before they were killed. Travel in some hard parts of the world, economy class by foot may expand your rather closed mind. I know your “thing” is to be controversial and eloquent, but some real life experience may temper your strange world view. Possibly. Education is supposed to allow discernment. Tempered by real life experience it is powerful. Alone it is like an empty vessel. Methinks you are an empty vessel railing against things about which you have theoretical learning but nil practical experience.

But Shanahan doesn’t just come bearing criticism, he brings a solution, too:

I would recommend a holiday to real world. Happy to travel with you. Warning: may involve real-life ­experience.

The Australian newspaper saw fit to extract just some of the relevant tweets:  One of mine and all of Rodger Shanahan’s.  Presumably the editorial theory is that, if you strip out the context, you can skew the result.  As in most things, even on Twitter the context can be important.  Here’s how this little non-story developed:

On 27 March at 11.15 am @DanWosHere wrote:

It’s terrorism @JulianBurnside and it is Muslims from refugee backgrounds committing it. End of story

On 27 March at 4.02 pm I responded:

People like you, Miranda Devine &c will radicalise some who may become terrorists. You’re part of the problem

And then at 4.06pm I said:

Bigotry creates terrorists, by radicalising people who were willing to see hope in everything

 

The next day, 28 March, Rodger Shanahan, came in swinging.  (I will confess, I did not see his tweets until the Australian printed them, so the article was not entirely useless).  His contributions went as follows:

7.41 pm:

Comment from someone not very well travelled nor versed in areas in which he prognosticates. Am sure that the people killed (in) …

7.43pm:

Nairobi mall, Paris, Brussels, New York, Ankara, Istanbul, Bali, Tunis etc were questioning their bigoted past before they were killed.

7.43 pm:

Travel in some hard parts of the world, economy class by foot may expand your rather closed mind.

7.46pm:

I know your “thing” is to be controversial and eloquent, but some real life experience may temper your strange world view. Possibly.

7.50 pm:

Education is supposed to allow discernment. Tempered by real life experience it is powerful. Alone it is like an empty vessel.

7.51 pm:

Methinks you are an empty vessel railing against things about which you have theoretical learning but nil practical experience.

I did not respond to Shanahan, because I did not notice his tweets until The Australian put them up this morning.

All in all, it was a fairly standard bit of trolling by Shanahan: abuse without any attempt at argument, although the second tweet suggests that he had misunderstood the point I had made.  I have never suggested that all terrorists are the result of bigotry, merely that bigotry can radicalise some people, thus forming one element in the process which results in them turning to terrorism.

In all of this jollity, there is a serious point to be made, which @DanWosHere exemplifies, and Shanahan leaves completely unanswered. It is a matter of ordinary experience that a person who is treated badly may, eventually, react badly.  If people in the West regularly condemn all Muslims, it is inevitable that some Muslims will begin to feel as though they are seen as the enemy, as though they are hated in the West.  So, for example,  British mosques have been attacked by anti-Muslim groups.  In Australia, the construction of mosques has been violently opposed by some community groups, who were vocal in their condemnation of Muslims.   Donald Trump has, in substance, said that Muslims should be excluded from the USA.  And don’t forget what was said at the start of the Twitter exchange: @DanWosHere “It’s terrorism and it is Muslims from refugee backgrounds committing it. End of story”.

Any group confronted with hostility like this is likely to be offended. As a matter of ordinary human nature, it is easy to understand that some members of that group will react badly.

The strangest part of Shanahan’s response is that it does not appear to draw on his professional credentials, and it does not seem to acknowledge  ordinary human experience.

I do not approve of terrorists, whether Muslim, Red Brigade, Irish separatist or anything else. But I worry about the consequencws of treating one group as if all members of that group presnet a threat to our Society.  What we need to learn is that we are threatened by extremists.  Of course there are Muslim extremists, just as there are extremists who adhere to other ideologies.  We would be making a catastrophic mistake if we treat all Muslims as if they are extremists.

Until Shanahan, or an expert in the field, can show me that I am wrong, I will continue to hold the opinion that being the target of relentless bigotry will drive some people to extremism, and is therefore one cause of  terrorism.

We are being very foolish if we continue to tolerate public abuse of Muslims generally.

 

Fare Go report: rethinking public transport

WEstJustice today released a ground-breaking report called Fare Go: Myki, Transport Poverty and access to education in Melbourne’s West.

Here is the report: Fare Go Report

It makes the point that, especially in disadvantaged suburbs, Myki fares compete with a kid’s ability to get breakfast or buy books:

There are many poor families in this school community who can’t even feed their children breakfast – they are fed through the school. Many families can’t afford the initial payment for Myki.”

 “A lot [of students] stay at home, miss out on school until they can top up [Myki], starting the cycle of educational disadvantage.

In the course of 12 years at school, a student will pay about $7,500 in public transport fares.  Public transport is an important integer in our social life.  Making sure kids can get to school is essential. Public transport is not just about revenue raising.

The system is complex, even for adults, and especially for kids:

“I helped one boy to contest fines…. I made numerous phone calls…tried to explain that he had a mental illness… also had an insecure home life… I spoke to three different people three times, got the same response, then someone said, ‘go and plead the mercy of the Magistrate’. Going to court then causes much stress and anxiety. In fact, this boy was struggling to speak in sentences. I can’ t imagine him going to court. I haven’t heard from him, so I don’t know what happened to him.”

We should never allow the cost of public transport, and the complexities of the system of fines, get in the way of a kid’s education.

The Report includes some very sensible recommendations, including:

1. Provide free public transport travel to all passengers up to 18 years of age and to any passenger who is a secondary student where their parent, carer or guardian is in receipt of Centrelink income or a healthcare card.

2. Accept identification issued by any authorised educational institution as evidence of age or student status for the purposes of free travel.

3. Authorise educational institutions to issue Myki travel cards to students free of charge.

4. Cancel all outstanding public transport fines related to Myki ticketing issues and fares which were incurred while a young person was under 18 years of age.

5. Abolish the public transport fines system for all young people under 18 years of age.

If you value the education of children, urge the Victorian Government consider the contents of this Report.