Workchoices may be making a sly return under a secret Abbott government plan to abolish minimum wage and penalty rates in Victoria, according to Premier Daniel Andrews.
If the Abbott government decides to change penalty rates, hundreds of thousands of Victorian workers could face wage cuts of up to 33%. A significant number of these employees work weekends, overtime and night shifts on a usual basis. While the nature of the proposed changes remains unclear, if the government decides to cut penalty rates it will be an enormous burden to shoulder for hard working Australians already struggling to make ends meet.
By reducing the rights of workers, we allow businesses and employers to create an environment of coercion and unfairness in the workplace. If an employee is just barely making enough money each week to cover their rent, food and bills, it is unlikely that individual will risk their job by asking or demanding for better working conditions or overtime pay. I have personally spoken to people who have been asked to stay past business hours without remuneration, and these individuals expressed concerns that were they to challenge the decisions of their employer, they would have their employment terminated.
In a job market where the ratio of jobseekers to jobs available is around ten to one, employers are in a position where replacing a difficult member of staff is easier than ever, and if we remove protections for workers we’re likely to see the quality, safety and honesty of workplaces deteriorate across the country.
In my recent article on the welfare system in Australia and the potential for Basic Income as a replacement, I outlined the way in which a guaranteed income for every citizen gives workers the freedom to negotiate better workplace conditions with their employers. Without the threat of financial ruin, employees are secure in the knowledge that even if their contract is terminated should they make a complaint about the conditions of their employment, they do not face bankruptcy or financial ruin. This allows, and encourages, honest and open dialogue between employer and employee, and would almost certainly improve workplace standards across the board for both business owners and workers alike.
Whatever direction we choose to take, it seems clear that protecting the rights of workers is instrumental to a dynamic, progressive and safe economy.
In the wake of the mudslinging directed at Gillian Triggs over her, in my opinion, necessary report on the state of care in our detention camps, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists has released a new position statement, claiming that children in immigration detention should be held for no longer than three days, and that the practice should only be used as a last resort.
As of last October, the average length of detention of a child in Australia was 14 months.
The statement goes on to describe the policy of mandatory detention as “detrimental to development and mental health and has the potential to cause long-term damage to social and emotional functioning”.
Dr Murray Patton spoke to the potential long term damages of the policy, saying that “the level of mental health disorders recorded indicates there will potentially be an ongoing need to support and treat these children even once they leave detention whether in Australia or elsewhere. Traumatic events, such as being detained for a prolonged period, can lead to mental illness in adults.” It seems likely then that current policy is likely to cost Australia more over time than the government is willing to admit or consider.
The detention of children is in contravention of Australia’s obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was ratified by parliament in 1990, with article 37(b) stating:
“Detention must be a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time; children must not be deprived of liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily.”
It seems clear that the deprivation of liberty the current government is responsible for is at the least arbitrary. What threat do children possibly pose to the social and economic status of the nation? How is a policy that has been demonstrated to cause long term damage to social and emotional functioning forging a secure social and economic future for Australia.
If we, as a matter of policy, are engaged in the psychological abuse of children, there must be immediate review into those responsible for the creation of said policy and the departments they oversee and represent. The treatment of asylum seekers and political refugees under Australia’s immigration policies has drawn condemnation and criticism from human rights advocacy groups across the globe, it has well passed the time that we started listening.
Agencies responsible for the care of homeless Australians have reported a proposed cutting of $115 million in federal funding, putting the lives of women feeling domestic violence and rough sleepers at risk.
This comes less than a fortnight after Tony Abbot’s proposal to earmark around $400 million for mandatory data retention, despite the EU Court of Justice ruling that almost identical programs overseas are a serious threat to human rights and privacy concerns, and are woefully ineffective in preventing terrorism and related acts of violence.
To put the situation into perspective, in 2013 there were 44 family violence-related deaths in Victoria, over 65,000 related calls to Victoria Police and an estimated cost as of 2009 of $3.4 billion dollars. Violence against women remains the biggest contributor to illness and premature death in women between the ages of 15 and 44, according to the Royal Commission into Family Violence.
Terrorism related deaths of Australian citizens, not per annum, but across the entire history of the nation, including those not on Australian soil number at 108 as of 2014.
How much has the government set aside for an issue affecting tens of thousands of Victorians, and likely hundreds of thousands if not millions nationwide? Thirty six million dollars. Less than a tenth of what Abbott’s administration proposes to spend on spying wholesale on its own people.
Last week’s Q&A was a poignant and necessary broaching of the subject of domestic violence and the effect it has on Australian women, yet the lack of senior government officials was telling. For a problem as severe as this, which affects more than one in three women, the government’s lack of a targeted response is not only insulting to the citizenry, it is downright dangerous.
The National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, an agreement between the states, territories and the federal government, will expire on the 30th of June, with Canberra notably silent on the continuation of the agreement. If the funding is not renewed, more than 3,000 staff who provide support for over 80,000 homeless Australians will be affected. These staff help to provide food, shelter and counselling for the homeless, an invaluable service that not only aids people in dragging themselves out of abject poverty, but helps to prevent theft and violence as a result.
The urgency of the situation has been communicated to the government at Senate estimates, with Glenda Stevens, chief executive of Homelessness Australia stating that they “spoke clearly about the number of people who are in need, about the women and children escaping domestic violence. It’s disappointing that the government is not giving priority to the most vulnerable people in Australia.”
More than fifty homeless organisations have made an unprecedented move on the issue, sending an open letter to Social Services Minister Scott Morrison, pleading with him not to end funding to the sector.
In a representative democracy, when a unanimous call to action from the people supposedly being represented by the government is ignored, faith in government is eroded. The state has a responsibility not just to those most desperately in need of assistance, but also to those who provide that assistance. Again, it seems that the cries of generous and selfless Australians in the support of human rights are falling on deaf ears.
While the spill motion two weeks ago was a point of interest across all demographics of Australian life, it has now morphed into something far more critical. Far from a handful of backbenchers calling for a vote on the leadership of the Liberal party, now practically everyone from anonymous cabinet ministers, shock jocks, business leaders, the man in the street, to some of Tony Abbott’s staunchest media allies, have joined the chorus.
This week, the second in the series of “good government”, senior ministers were sucked into the vortex of blunder, bluster and bedevilment, all trying desperately to get the ship back on course. But the more they tried, the more they failed.
The first week of “good government” began with what sounded like contradictory comments from the PM and his treasurer about the budget. Then came mixed messages about the future of the 1.5% levy intended to pay for the dumped Paid Parental Leave Scheme.
Then came Kevin Andrews and the Submarine fiasco, followed closely by the latest unemployment figures that revealed a 12 year high of 6.4%.
ruddockThat led to a debate about job losses and Abbott’s brain snap reference to the holocaust. By the end of the week, chief whip, Phillip Ruddock had lost his job.
By any measure you would think that a time-out would be called for and the government take a few weeks off to think about their tactical manoeuvring. Maybe they did take a minute or two, but what we have seen since shows an extraordinary lack of judgement on the part of somebody and nothing remotely like good government.
The second week continued where the first one left off when the Prime Minister’s attack on Human Rights Commission head Gillian Triggs turned out to be the mother of all boomerangs.
As HRC head, Triggs comes with some pretty impressive qualifications and experience. As lawyers go, there are few who could hold a candle to her. But it seems this minor detail didn’t stand in the way of the cretins in the government camp who dreamt up the plan to bring her down.
While her five year term doesn’t expire until 2017 the government decided it wanted her out now. Her ‘Forgotten Children’ report, a damning indictment of two governments on the treatment of refugee children in detention, had upset the delicate sensitivities of conservative propriety. It prompted Abbott, Brandis and others earlier this month to carry out a coordinated plan of attack to get rid of her.
In terms of monumental stuff-ups, it was a classic. Not only did they not think it through, but their approach was so poorly considered, so bullish and pugilistic, it resulted in knocking themselves out. They could have just taken it on the chin and accepted the reality of it. They could have pointed out that the number of children in detention now is considerably less than when they first gained office. If they did that, then all they had to do was promise to do better.
triggsBut no, they decided on a full frontal attack upon the person of Gillian Triggs. Both Abbott in the lower house and Attorney General, George Brandis in the senate let fly with a vitriolic outburst accusing her of bias and expressing a loss of confidence in her. Even Ian MacDonald took a blind swing. He said he had never read the report because he knew he would ignore it. Clever stuff, Ian.
It would appear, as they blustered and berated their way in parliament, that they never considered such an assault might backfire. They seemed more interested in the damage they could sustain. But when it was later revealed that Brandis had sent his department secretary, Chris Moraitis to broker a deal that would see Triggs employed somewhere else, the assault began to unravel.
Shadow Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus referred the matter to the Australian Federal Police for a possible breach of the law. Julie Bishop then became embroiled in the farce for an answer she gave in parliament and the matter became the story of the week for all the wrong reasons.
An opportunistic Malcolm Turnbull took the high moral ground and focused on the children. The resulting media coverage portrayed the government as a dysfunctional rabble.
So what does Abbott do? He deflects to the issue of national security in front of six flags. He tries to garner support by warning us of the threat of terrorism. Like we didn’t already know? Why six flags? Who knows? I suppose six flags looks more serious than the usual two.
I suppose they might have highlighted the threat of something immanent. But there was nothing in his security speech about which we were not already acutely aware. Perhaps Abbott thought it was worth a crack at deflecting from what was yet another “ragged week”.
Whatever is passing through the mind of this man right now, he must realise his tenure as prime minister is all but over. My guess is, he still doesn’t understand why. Little wonder the leadership question was the main story over the last two days and is likely to be so for the start of next week as well.
turnWhile the PM watches the cricket in New Zealand with John Key, who knows what his senior ministers are planning for Monday.
Slipper not guilty as the political wind changes
Ashbygate Trust 28 February 2015, 10:30am 216 2
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(Image via perthnow.com.au)
Peter Slipper wins his appeal against a conviction relating to $900 worth of cabcharge vouchers, while the Federal Police continues its investigation into Mal Brough. The Ashbygate Trust reports.
The matter was listed as Slipper v Turner and heard in the ACT Magistrates Court.
The prosecution alleged Slipper had misused Commonwealth funds when he toured Murrumbateman wineries with staffer Tim Knapp back in 2010.
On 22 July 2014, Megan Gorrey of the Canberra Times, wrote:
The court had heard the initial investigation into Slipper’s travel entitlements was prompted by allegations brought by former political staffer James Ashby about car trips in 2012.
In his evidence, Detective Sergeant Michael Turner, a federal agent with the AFP, told the court he had recommended the scope of an investigation into Slipper’s alleged misuse of his travel entitlements be widened to cover a period of more than two years.
He said his decision was prompted by Mr Ashby’s claims, as well as Finance Department documents released under Freedom of Information laws and related media reports about the allegations.
Detective Sergeant Turner said his recommendation had been endorsed by senior police, including AFP Assistant Commissioner Ramzi Jabbour and Deputy Commissioner Andrew Colvin
He said he did not have any discussions with members of the government about the investigation, and was not aware of other senior police having such conversations.
The Sydney Morning Herald’s Jonathan Swan had previously noted:
The former speaker, Peter Slipper, risks losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in retirement benefits if he is convicted of using his government Cabcharge card to tour restaurants and wineries.
When he retires, Mr Slipper can expect a yearly pension of about $157,000 for the rest of his life. But if found guilty of the alleged fraud, he is likely to lose everything besides a refund of his superannuation contributions (without interest).
On 28 July 2014, Slipper lost. He appealed.
The darkest hour, they say, is just before dawn.
In this case, dawn was 26 February 2015 when Burns J decided the Magistrate had erred in law:
Unless the DPP appeals, that’s it. Slipper’s legal team have triumphed. Ashby’s allegations lie strewn in the ruins of surrender, AFP allegations lie strewn in the ruins of stupidity and malice.
The political wind is changing. The days of Brandis are drawing to a close.
If Abbott hangs on the Coalition lose. If Turnbull takes over we’ll take a collective small step towards the centre. If Bishop takes over, her lightweight inabilities will become evident to all and the Coalition will lose.
Anyway you turn it, the AFP top echelon, smarter by far than any of the above-named, see the writing on the wall.
The only thing that could spoil this is Scott Morrison getting the PM gig; Sportsbet have him at 11:1, compared with Turnbull at 1.2 and Bishop at 4, so unlikely.
Even more unlikely, according to Sportsbet, is Mal Brough — currently attracting odds of 34:1.
Our friends at the Sunshine Coast Daily are, as usual, on the ball. On 27 February Kathy Sundstrom, if you ask us one of Australia’s up and coming journos, noted:
The Australian Federal Police was also continuing its investigation of Mal Brough – the man who replaced Mr Slipper and was accused of helping mastermind his downfall.
The dawn chorus has begun.
Catch up on the full Ashbygate saga here.
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Clearly not because it is ‘true’, or makes economic sense, because it isn’t and doesn’t. It doesn’t take much understanding of economics to see that cuts in government spending, depressed business confidence and investment, flat wage growth and increasing unemployment suggest we’re going in the wrong direction, and that even easing the cash rate further isn’t going to help much. And it presumably isn’t that hard to see that at least some of this arises from political decisions, such as those embodied in the last budget.
Ah, but the commentators say. There is a structural problem. Revenue is down. Health and welfare costs are rising. We can’t afford the ‘nice’ things we want. Even if this is true – and there are those Modern Monetary Theorists who say it isn’t – dealing with it remains a political problem. Need more revenue? Change the taxation regime. Too much spending? Stop spending on wasteful things. We’ve all seen recently just how hard it is to increase taxation, or stop spending on people who’ve come to expect it. But who and what you tax, and who and what you spend on are political, not economic decisions. Labor is freaked by it, understandably so, given the success of axe the tax and Labor waste throughout Labor’s term in office, and at the last election. How can they escape the current pervasive narrative?
The only way to change the politics is to change the language we use.
Modern Monetary Theorists, who think that budget deficits are and should be the normal state of affairs, and presumably neo-Keynesians, who accept the necessity for budget deficits in some circumstances (like now) all have to contend with this problem of language. Professor Bill Mitchell, a leading MM Theorist, did a great job in this article in the Guardian on the ‘unemployment industry’. Following on from his appearance on 4 Corners program The Jobs Game, he slammed the privatised employment services sector, and the thinking behind it: ‘The unemployed cannot search for jobs that are not there. It is a cruel hoax to punish the victims of the jobs shortage.’ He also pointed out the particular use of the the language in which the debate is conducted: ‘Since January 2013, employment has grown by a pathetic 2.1%, while the working age population has grown by 3.7%. Yet the public narrative still focuses on the supply-side – the allegedly “lazy” and “unskilled” unemployed.’ He also criticised both Liberal and Labor for their use of terms like dole bludgers, cruisers, job snobs and more recently, leaners –all terms that blame the unemployed and suggest they depend on tax payers’ generosity.
Professor Mitchell has also tried more generally to change the way economics is discussed at a popular as well as at an academic level. In his blog in November 2013 titled How to discuss Modern Monetary Theory, he looks at ‘the use of metaphors in economics and how Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) might usefully frame its offering to overcome some of the obvious prejudices that prevent, what are basic concepts, penetrating the public psyche.’ I hope he won’t mind my sharing an amended version of a chart he included:
|Focus of Attack||Metaphor||Intent|
|Government spending||Living beyond means, maxed out credit card||Irresponsible, excessive, need to stop spending at once|
|Budget deficit||Budget black hole, running out of money, ballooning debt and deficit||Government budget like household budget, running out of money|
|Public debt||Mortgaging the future, burdening grandchildren, intergenerational theft||Nation is a badly managed insolvent firm, being horrible to children|
|Income support||Welfare dependency, dole bludgers, leaners etc||Lazy, undeserving, parasitical|
These are the metaphors we day in day out from the LNP government and their supporters in the media, but regretfully also at times form more neutral commentators and the Labor front bench.
There’s much more to Mitchell’s post than discussion of these metaphors, including another table comparing mainstream – neo-conservative – macroeconomic prescriptions with MMT ones.
But the post also acknowledges that it’s one thing to recognise when the metaphors about the economy are serving a particular political agenda. It’s another thing to find different words. As Mitchell points out, ‘deficit’ always sounds bad, as something lacking, though a budget deficit can be either a useful tool or bad economic management, depending on the circumstances. Some of the other terms he thinks may be in need of different metaphors for explanation, or at least alternative terminology, are budget balance, budget surplus, public debt, government spending, government taxation, national income, Income support payments and full employment. Some of those commenting on the blog – and there are lots of them – recognise the need to ‘sell’ a different version of economics, but few have any really good ideas how. For example, if you can call government spending national investment, it is harder to equate it to waste, but it still doesn’t challenge the pervasive metaphor that government budget is just like yours.
Whether or not progressive politicians and commentators come to accept MMT, or remain neo-Keynesians, we still need different language to talk about what really happens in the economy, who wins and who loses, and what role political decision really play in it. If I hear the phrase ‘budget repair’ one more time, I’ll scream.
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Leonard Nimoy, Spock of Star Trek, dies aged 83
Leonard Nimoy: the man who was Spock
Leonard Nimoy, best known for playing the character Spock in the Star Trek television shows and films, has died aged 83.
Leonard Nimoy, the actor, poet, photographer and artist, has died. He was 83.
Of all his endeavours, acting was undoubtedly the most successful. And of all his roles, one stood out, head, shoulders and pointed ears above the rest: that of Mr Spock, the half-human, half-Vulcan first officer of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek.
As Mr Spock, along with Captain Kirk and his valiant crew Scott, Bones, Uhura, Sulu and Chekov, Nimoy went boldly where no man had gone before, into outer space, and to the giddy heights of fandom almost unequalled in popular culture.
Nimoy’s Spock starred in Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Animated Series, a series of Star Trek feature films in the 1980s, a guest appearance in Star Trek: The Next Generation and, finally, a role in the recent J.J. Abrams reboot of the Star Trek franchise.
In that rare and intangible way, actor and character became one. Even when Nimoy threatened not to return to the role, and Star Trek‘s creator Gene Roddenberry hatched plans to replace him with another Vulcan, Nimoy ultimately relented.
On some deeper level, he understood better than anyone, that his destiny, and his connection to that role, was inescapable.
As was ours to the character itself: the logical half of of Captain Kirk’s conscience. (The other half was the highly emotional Doctor McCoy.) Their clashes of ideology, and Captain Kirk’s reasoned moderation of their debates, became one of the enduring hallmarks of the Star Trek story.
Nimoy’s life began long before the USS Enterprise blasted off to save the Federation from the Klingons (and the Romulans), in the very Earth-bound city of Boston, where he was born on March 26, 1931.
His father was a barber who had escaped war-scarred Europe. When Nimoy ran away to Hollywood, his family were startled, if not actually disappointed. He had, after all, abandoned a scholarship to Boston College, for what?
Worse, his career did not fire up as he had hoped. He got one small, in a film too unmemorable to mention, and then ended up quitting Hollywood to join the army.
In the 1960s, however, he returned and, instead of film, pushed into television.
A handful of small roles in such as Sea Hunt and Wagon Train led to a leading role in The Lieutenant. Its producer Gene Roddenberry liked what he saw and, when he was casting for his new series, Star Trek, offered Nimoy a starring position.
Success sat easily with Nimoy, though his connection to Mr Spock did not, at least not always. In 1975 he published a memoir titled I Am Not Spock, though the title makes a far more provocative point that the prose did.
Two decades later, in 1995, he published a second memoir, this one titled I Am Spock.
Again the title makes more of the issue that the book does, but it does reflect Nimoy’s concession to the fact that he, and the logical, sensible, seemingly unemotional Mr Spock would be inextricably linked.
Ironically, Star Trek was not an outright success at the time. It was only in the 1970s, when the series was heavily repeated on US television, that a passionate fandom was born.
Out of that sprang conventions, merchandise and a series of motion pictures which put the crew of the starship Enterprise at the zenith of popular culture. It also blazed a trail in a hitherto unexplored aspect of studio business: merchandise.
There were of course, many other aspects of Nimoy’s acting work. The television drama A Woman Called Golda. A career as a film director, notably two of the Star Trek films as well as Three Men and a Baby in 1987 and The Good Mother in 1988.
And there were even the strange and surreal moments, such as a series of albums from the 1960s and 1970s including The Touch of Leonard Nimoy, The New World of Leonard Nimoy and Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr Spock’s Music from Outer Space.
As an actor, Nimoy had the rare honour of rehearsing his death countless times, in countless roles. On stage, on television and on film.
He even died as Spock, famously electing to sacrifice himself by entering a radiation soaked part of the ship’s engine room so he could repair its engines and allow it to warp to safety in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
“The needs of the many,” he said, as he lay dying, “outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one.”
Of course, in Hollywood, death is meaningless, and Spock returned in the next film – Star Trek III: The Search for Spock – to fight another day. (For the record, his jettisoned remains were regenerated by the unique properties of the planet on which he was laid to rest. But you knew that.)
But not before Captain Kirk could eulogise him, while the tear-stained officers of the Enterprise looked on.
“Of my friend, I can only say this,” Captain Kirk said. “Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most … human.”
Nimoy died at his home in Bel Air in Los Angeles, from end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, after being hospitalised briefly.
Few epithets seem more appropriate than the greeting most used by Nimoy’s logical, but beautifully flawed, alter-ego: “Live long and prosper”; or, as it is said in the original Vulcan: “Dif-tor heh smusma.”
To which we can only offer its traditional reply: peace and long life.
Senator Ian Macdonald admits being unable to read, glasses “just for show”
By the SauceFriday, February 27th, 2015
“It’s just like in the movies,” the Father of the Senate wrote this morning in a post on his personal website. “When the filmmakers want the audience to know a character is smart, they give him glasses—it’s the tell-tale sign of intelligence. In my life and career I have made use of the same illusion. That is the true reason why I haven’t read the Human Rights Commission’s report on children in detention.”
The Senator went on to confess that he also did not legitimately author any of the reviews on his Goodreads account. Instead it seems the agreed process was that he would hear a five-minute summary of a randomly chosen book from his personal secretary, who would then write up the review based on the Senator’s feelings about how the mining industry was doing that day. In hindsight, this does explain a few things.
Macdonald concluded his post with apology to Gillian Triggs and his fellow Senators at Tuesday’s Senate estimates. He avowed “I’ve always felt a bit insecure about being illiterate, I’ve always felt I had to be aggressive to hide and make up for it. I apologise unreservedly for this behaviour, and for wasting my optometrist’s time.”
ABBOTT RIGHT HAND MAN A REPEAT OFFENDER ON GP TAX FIBS
Thursday, 12 February 2015
The Prime Minister’s Parliamentary Secretary has now been exposed as a repeat offender on the GP Tax, after being caught out three times in one week wrongly declaring the tax had been “dropped” or “scrapped”.
On Friday, Mr Tudge was promoting the dumping of the GP Tax as evidence the prime minister was listening to voters and changing his policies.
Alan Tudge: you’re seeing that for example already with the GP co-payment. That’s been scrapped.
ABC News 24, 6 February 2015
On Monday he was at it again, twice listing the dropping of the GP Tax as evidence the prime minister had changed.
Alan Tudge: The paid parental leave scheme, for example, is being dropped, the Medicare co-payment scheme is being dropped. …. the co-payment scheme has been dropped.
3AW Drive, 9 February 2015
Just to confirm this was no slip of the tongue, he said it again on ABC radio on Wednesday.
Alan Tudge: We’ve dropped the Medicare co-payments and we’re starting again from scratch.
ABC 774 Fight Club, 11 February 2015
While one slip up might be considered misfortune, and two carelessness, three indicates a much more serious issue – the Prime Minister’s right hand man either does not know or is making it up.
It was up to prominent Turnbull supporter Kelly O’Dwyer to set the record straight, telling ABC listeners that “while I never like to contradict a fellow member of the team … there has been no announcement to scrap it.”
The repeated false statements about the GP Tax by the Prime Minister’s Parliamentary Secretary are a repeat of the chaos that occurred in December when Mr Abbott’s office falsely briefed journalists that the GP Tax had been dropped.
A few days later the government reworked the GP Tax and attempted to sneak it in via the backdoor over the Christmas break before being shamed into yet another backflip and a third reworking of its blatant broken promise.
The comments by the Prime Minister’s own Parliamentary Secretary highlight the complete chaos that is Coalition health policy, involving around $2 billion of proposed cuts to Medicare.
As Tony Abbott has made clear today nothing has changed and the government is still not listening.
It’s still a tax, it’s still a broken promise and it will only ever rise as long as the coalition remains in power.
Only Labor will protect Medicare.
Only Labor will protect ordinary Australian families from Tony Abbott’s attempt to wreck Medicare and push up health costs for people already under financial pressure.
In all the commotion about the timing of the AHRC’s kids in detention report, everyone seems to be overlooking 6 things:
- The kids are still in detention
- Abbott knows they’re being abused
- Abbott and his Immigration Minister are responsible for that abuse
- Abbott knows detention of children is not a deterrent
- Abbott says he feels no guilt
- Abbott agreed to remain quiet on Sri Lankan human rights abuses
That last point may seem a bit of a tangent, but it’s not. Stick with me, as I walk through each point, then draw them together…
The kids are still in detention
As I write this, nearly a fortnight after the release of the AHRC’s report, there are still 211 children held in immigration detention facilities within Australia (that’s according to the government’s own figures from January 31, 2015 – p.3).
Abbott knows they’re being abused
The AHRC report detailed the harm caused by the detention of these children (p.62):
- 233 assaults involving children;
- 33 incidents of reported sexual assault (the majority involving children); and
- 27 incidents of voluntary starvation/hunger strikes.
Abbott and his Immigration Minister are responsible for that abuse
Under international law, all asylum seekers who come to our shores and ask for protection are our responsibility. Under the UN Refugee Convention, we are required to take in asylum seekers who come to our shores, and assess their asylum claims.
And while they’re detained by us, they are legally our responsibility. The Department retains full control and responsibility for everything that happens to children in these places.
And our Immigration Minister is the legal guardian of any unaccompanied minors in detention: So he is personally responsible for any unaccompanied minors in detention…
the minister has the same rights, powers, duties, obligations and liabilities as the parents of an unaccompanied minor would have if they were in Australia. The guardian is responsible for an unaccompanied minor’s basic needs including food, housing, health, education, and protection from harm.”
Our government (and the Labor party) know that their policy of mandatory detention causes harm to children. The recent AHRC report is only one of several expert, independent reports to confirm this. Yet the government insists on pursuing its policy of detaining children. They are, therefore, knowingly committing acts of physical, sexual and emotional abuse on children. I say “committing”, not merely “enabling” because that’s exactly what’s happening, according to the government’s own definition of child abuse. The Australian Institute of Family Studies defines child abuse as:
any non-accidental behaviour by parents, caregivers, other adults or older adolescents that is outside the norms of conduct and entails a substantial risk of causing physical or emotional harm to a child or young person.”
According to this definition, a person is guilty of child abuse even if they’re not the person carrying out the acts of abuse. They merely need to do something that “entails a substantial risk of causing physical or emotional harm to a child or young person”, which clearly our government is doing (and knowingly). So, in fact, the government isn’t just sanctioning child abuse, it’s committing it. Systemically.
Abbott knows detention of children is not a deterrent
According to the AHRC report (p.11):
Both the Hon Chris Bowen MP, as a former Minister for Immigration, and the Hon Scott Morrison MP, the current Minister for Immigration, agreed on oath before the Inquiry that holding children in detention does not deter either asylum seekers or people smugglers.”
Abbott says he feels no guilt
When asked on radio if he felt any guilt, Tony replied:
Abbott agreed to remain quiet on Sri Lankan human rights abuses
Since the Sri Lankan civil war ‘officially’ ended, allegations of torture in police custody persist. UN human rights commissioner Navi Pillay warned in 2013 that Sri Lanka was becoming increasingly authoritarian. Tamils face the risk of sexual violence, torture, murder, imprisonment, and enforced disappearance. Juan Méndez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, concurs. According to an estimate by The Sentinel Project, ‘the overall risk of genocide in Sri Lanka is medium to high’, as ‘conditions point to a likely renewal of conflict in Sri Lanka that could escalate to mass atrocities including genocide’.
In a report by the International Truth and Justice Project – Sri Lanka, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said:
The evidence presented in this report gives the lie to the Sri Lankan government’s propaganda that it is reconciling with its former enemies. It shows how anyone remotely connected with the losing side in the civil war is being hunted down, tortured and raped, five years after the guns fell silent. Shockingly, more than half of the abductions in the report took place as recently as 2013-2014. The testimony collected here comes from 40 witnesses, almost all of whose families could afford to pay a bribe for their release; one wonders what happened to those whose relatives could not afford to pay and to those without relatives. The sheer viciousness and brutality of the sexual violence is staggering; as is the racist verbal abuse by the torturers and rapists in the Sri Lankan security forces. Thirty-five of these witnesses were forced to sign confessions in Sinhala; a language they do not understand. In some cases people were forced to turn informer as well as to betray innocent bystanders in order to survive and left to bear the subsequent terrible burden of guilt. I find it horrifying that almost half the witnesses interviewed for this report attempted to kill themselves after reaching safety outside Sri Lanka. This indicates the Sri Lankan government has achieved its aim in destroying these souls, who are unlikely to regain happiness and peace in their lives. My deepest hope is that the cycle of revenge will be broken. In order for this to happen, the international community must intervene. It is imperative to pierce the skein of impunity that surrounds Sri Lanka – an island where the war is clearly not yet over.
Here are a few very unpleasant victim accounts of their torture at the hands of the Sri Lankan government (click to zoom):
Indeed, Australia still warns tourists to “exercise a high degree of caution in Sri Lanka” because of an “unpredictable security environment”, “politically-motivated attacks” and ongoing “post-conflict security force activity”.
Yet in November 2013, Abbott defended Sri Lanka’s alleged use of torture:
sometimes in difficult circumstances difficult things happen”
Finally, about 10 days after the release of the AHRC report, the reason became clear. Sri Lanka’s new prime minister revealed that the Australian government agreed to keep quiet on Sri Lankan human rights abuses in return for help stopping boats carrying asylum seekers:
It was being done by people with Rajapaksa connections, but once this deal was done between Australia and the Rajapaksa government, where you looked the other way [on human rights abuses], then the secretary of defence got the navy to patrol… You could not have got anyone out of this country without someone in the security system looking the other way, the police or the navy.”
So why aren’t the media hounding him?
Clearly Abbott knows about the abuse he’s causing, enabling and helping to cover up. And in the case of kids in detention, he knows it’s not even achieving anything. Yet he persists with it. So why aren’t the media jumping up and down about this? It’s a scandal on a platter, but there’s almost complete media silence on it. Instead, they’re all reporting on the timing of the report, its alleged partisan nature, and – of course – the latest ‘terror threat’ (surprise, surprise).
Come on, Australian media. Abbott, Dutton and Morrison shouldn’t be given a pass here