What has happened to this country? – By Julian Burnside

A concerned member of the public recently sent me a letter which, in my opinion, captures a large part of the problem Australia is still wrestling with: the problem of how we respond to people who are not the same as us.  Her letter includes this:

Despite  the  challenges of nature  and distance and its relatively  small  population,  Australia has always had the opportunity to be the best and fairest nation in the world.

Resource rich and fuelled by determined folk, the country has produced ample to provide for all. Inheriting a tested system of law and growing a new expectation for fairness and democracy, the possibility that the country could mature into a relative utopia was always in reach.

 I was born in WA, grew up proudly Australian, worked in public service and as a self–employed businesswoman, married  and had children  who  I expected  would  have the  advantages  of  a generous, intelligent, compassionate and wealthy nation.

 How wrong was I? The blinkers are off and things have changed greatly over the past decade or so.

 The opportunistic swindling of funds from those who most need them, the persecution of the most vulnerable in our society and the utter torment inflicted on people seeking asylum – all perpetrated by our government in an immoral grab for votes and control and enabled by mainstream media  – have overtaken all efforts towards social conscience and benign leadership.

 What frightens me most is the sheer number of Australians   –  including members of my family, despite my efforts to enlighten  – who have fallen under the spell of disinformation.  Paranoia is rife and the ugly fear that others may be receiving ‘more’ at our expense is too easy to incite in a poorly educated (by design?) and insecure (also by design?) public.

 Im no longer proud to be Australian.   I feel personally degraded by the inhumane treatment of refugees desperately seeking our help.  I go to bed each night and wake each morning with the burden of humiliation in my mind. Not just the humiliation of those in detention, but my own. How am I to deal with having this shame forced upon me by my own leaders? This may seem selfish, but I’m seriously concerned for the welfare of those detained on the islands and I know I’m not alone. It’s depressing to the point where the emotional and psychological impact on everyday Australians is apparent.  I was sad at Christmas and find it hard to be positive going into the new year.

 No amount of propaganda or deceit by government or media will assuage the guilt in anyone with an ounce of compassion, or the good sense to see the damaging consequences to the refugees and to Australia.  Many simply don’t see that if our government is comfortable treating human beings as disposable,  it won’t stop  with refugees, ethnic and indigenous people   –   it will extend  such ruthlessness to mainstream Australians too.  Think Centrelink and Medicare. …”

It is a sad thing when an Australian citizen no longer feels proud to be Australian.  Today’s politicians betray the country in various ways:

  • they make up reasons for putting a ring of steel around the country
  • they seek to avoid the obligations we voluntarily undertook when we signed the Refugees Convention
  • They cause Australia to breach our obligations under the Convention Against Torture
  • They cause Australia to breach our obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • They cause Australia to breach our obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

No wonder Australians feel ashamed, when they cut through the political dishonesty peddled by people like Abbott, Morrison, Turnbull and Dutton.

Facing the fact that we are punishing people who have committed no offence is very painful.

Facing the fact that we are breaking our promises to the international community is very painful.

Facing the fact that we are behaving like a rogue state is very painful.

Facing the fact that we are behaving in ways which contradict our image of ourselves is very painful.

So all credit to Justine Pitcher for capturing the problem so well, and thanks to her for letting me quote her letter.  Join with her in expressing your disgust at our political “leaders” and what they are doing to trash this country’s character and reputation.

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No, Pauline, we do not need a debate on Aboriginal identity – by: Michael Taylor

In yet another display of pandering to sensationalism, Pauline Hanson wants a debate on Aboriginal identity, lamenting to an enthusiastically agreeable Andrew Bolt that there exists no “set definition to determine whether a person is Aboriginal”.

In essence Hanson wants a debate because she doesn’t know what set of biological or cultural characteristics define a person’s Aboriginality. And I would assume that she wouldn’t be happy with the outcome of the debate unless it packaged and labelled Aborigines into something that fits perfectly into her world view. That would explain why a debate is required over, say, a simple internet search for the answer.

Since 1788 there have been literally hundreds of politicians, anthropologists or other social scientists who have endeavored to piece together the very same question posed by Hanson (without, of course, the need for a political debate manufactured to endorse a shallow world view). Through the work of those ‘others’ – and with of course the benefit of consultation and engagement with Aborigines – we have a very clear picture of what determines whether a person is Aboriginal.

It is far more complex than Pauline Hanson would ever envisage. I am assuming that she seeks a simple answer (and of course, some googling would provide one with some simple answers) but the complexity of the issue is like one large cultural jigsaw puzzle.

I mentioned the year 1788. Let’s start with that piece of the puzzle.

If we cast ourselves back to 1788 we would embrace an environment where Aboriginality did not exist, but was to soon be invented by the colonising power. The European invaders constructed Aborigines as an ethnic category based on their own notions of culture and saddled Aboriginality on the Indigenous Australians, and European ideology continued to shape European ethnic perceptions. Prominent among the perceptions it was believed that culture was carried in the blood.

Over the next hundred years European ideology continued to shape the whites’ perception of Aborigines. Among these perceptions it was believed that culture was more than simply carried in the blood, but that culture was the external indicator of biological ancestry and culture, and that cultural characteristics, either heredity or unchanging, separated human groups from one another.

Ethnographic evidence indicates that before the arrival of Europeans, numerous distinct groups had occupied the Australian continent. Although these groups shared physical and cultural features and had ties of affinity, trade, and religious cooperation, these societies were distinguished by geography, language, and culture. With the benefit of hindsight, the ethnographic evidence failed to recognise that in determining identity, Aborigines traditionally attributed greater importance to culture and genealogical ties to heredity. Groups were differentiated on the basis of presence or absence of certain beliefs and behaviours, and of spiritual ties between people and land.

Basing their construction of Aboriginality on inadequate theories of culture, early anthropologists defined Aboriginality as constituting a pristine and timeless and cultural condition. Some still saw them as savages, remaining noble, despite constraining nature and unbending adherence to rules; the Aborigines typified a fossilised and primitive stage of social evolution. Ethnocentrism further led to the attribution or projection of negative characteristics. Even to this day many people have a stereotype of Aboriginal people as being very black, standing on one leg with a spear and living in the desert.

Up until recently, the social and cultural practices in Australia rendered Aboriginal people invisible. As a consequence, while Anglo-Australians have continued to ‘know’ about Aborigines they have known them only by report. Even in the rural Australia, local Aboriginal people have been ignored in favour of ‘real Aborigines’, supposedly living in a tribal life in the bush. The public has been largely dependent on representations of Aborigines to be found in the statements of various ‘authorities’, the work of painters and photographers, the printed and recently the electronic media, or even artifacts aimed at the popular and tourist markets.

“Such representations of Aboriginality called into doubt the special status of those who called themselves Aboriginal, but lived in urban settings, practised no traditional arts or ceremonies, and generally failed to ‘look the part’. Such people had constructed their Aboriginality in other modes, primarily by reference to proximate ancestors and living kin. Some have identified it as a major component of what is called ‘the Aboriginal commonality’, implying as it does a continuous network embracing all Aboriginal people throughout the continent” (Jeremy Beckett).

Regardless, under the doctrine of Social Darwinism it was always expected that the Aborigines would not survive alongside the presumed European superiority. However, only Europeans had selected Aborigines for extinction. Nature had not. While Australia was told that Aborigines were not going to die out, it was also given to understand that Aboriginality was doomed. Timeless and unchanging, Aboriginal culture was incapable of coexistence with the modern world: the old Aboriginal cultures were collapsing everywhere under the impact of while settlement, mining exploration, pastoral expansion and the effects of State assimilation policies.

“Managing Aboriginal people under one guise or another, the State has been in a position to influence their public constructions. Not only has it determined who should have access to them, but it has played a major role in the assembling of information about them, has commissioned much of the research conducted by experts on them, and has acted as patron for artistic representations of them” (Myrna Tonkinson).

Consider, for example, the Western Australian interpretation of what constituted an Aboriginal person. Every person who is:

  • an Aboriginal inhabitant of Australia, or
  • a half-caste who lives with an Aboriginal as husband or wife, or
  • a half-caste who, otherwise than as wife or husband habitually lives or associates with Aborigines, or
  • a half-caste child whose age does not apparently exceed sixteen years, shall be deemed an Aboriginal within the meaning of this Act . . . ” (Western Australia Aborigines Act of 1905, Section 3).

Aborigines though are no longer silent objects of study, but increasingly challenge the very terms in which they are written about. However, it is not easy to re-examine the intellectual heritage; a heritage that is a body of knowledge understood by those sharing the same discourse and built into our contemporary consciousness in many intricate and hidden ways. Aborigines are exploring their own Aboriginality and are finding that the white Australia cannot accept their own view of themselves. You can’t define Aboriginality in terms of the colour of their skin or in terms of what genes and chromosomes were inherited. Aboriginal people have a very strong spiritual heritage: above anything else it is the essence of being an Aboriginal.

Consider how different an Aboriginal interpretation of Aboriginality compares with the political or social construction. The emphasis on spiritual and cultural unity is absolute. They identify the following characteristics as common to all Australian Aborigines:

  • descent from the original inhabitants of Australia; a shared historical and cultural experience, particularly that arising from relations with non-Aborigines;
  • the Dreaming, or Aboriginal worldview; intimate familial relationship with the land and the natural world, and knowing the pervading moulding character of these in all matters Aboriginal’;
  • social interaction based predominantly on the mutual obligations of kinship; observance and social importance of mortuary rituals; and
  • bi or multilingualism.

Whilst these elements constitute Aboriginality, Aboriginal values such as reciprocity and individuality could also be included, although these are not unique to Aborigines. However the list provided could be considered typical of cultural inventories: they constitute a coherent set of characteristics that are present and enduring in all Aboriginal people. However, significantly, the operative definition of Aboriginality has shifted from biological to the cultural. The Aboriginal emphasis on kinship and behaviour in determining identity is apparent. Another notable characteristic of Aboriginal social life is the self-conscious identification with notions of sociability and behaviour ascribed to Aboriginality, a world view with definable social values, attitudes and cognitive orientations.

In denying people the right to relate to themselves through their bodies and where notions of kinship are organised around cultural notions of the body is denying Aboriginal a major aspect of their Aboriginality. The dominant theoretical prescription of ideal Aboriginality would act to prevent Aborigines from creating their identities out of the body and out of biology, and would also in effect prevent them talking descent and moreover reinventing their notions of descent.

‘The assertion of Aboriginality is part of a political process’, wrote Tonkinson, further noting that:

Although the legal and social status of Aborigines has changed significantly, they are by no means equal participants in Australian society. They still suffer severe social disadvantage and defacto discrimination; in the eyes of many whites, being Aboriginal is still a social stigma. Against this background, many Aborigines are consciously and actively working to establish positive images of themselves and their cultures. This involves the rejection or reversal of dominant European definitions; the promotion of colour as a desirable feature rather than a taint; and the revival, invention, or adoption of distinctively Aboriginal cultural behaviours and symbols . . . the construction of a new identity in which all Aboriginal people can share.

So no, Pauline, we don’t need another debate on Aboriginal identity. We simply need to respect that they exist. Debate over.

About the author: Michael Taylor recently retired from the Australian Public Service, which included a decade in Aboriginal affairs, three years of which were spent visiting remote Aboriginal communities in the Flinders Ranges and the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands. He holds an Arts degree in Aboriginal Affairs Administration and an Honours degree in Aboriginal Studies.

 

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Is Michelle Guthrie remaking the ABC in Murdoch’s image? – By Martin Hirst

Martin Hirst 23 November 2016, 6:30am 63

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(Image via themonthly.com.au)

What Michelle Guthrie and her band of redundancy-happy managers are doing to the ABC is a crime against the public interest, writes Dr Martin Hirst

IT’S TIME to stop mucking around.

I wrote last Friday about the increasing levels of unhappiness with Michelle Guthrie’s leadership of the national broadcaster. I suggested that, from my reading, the relatively-new managing director is running out of friends and that her “honeymoon” is over at the national broadcaster.

I am now more convinced than before that Michelle Guthrie’s plan is to remake the ABC in Rupert’s image; this will then pave the way for it to be broken up and for parts of it to be sold to Murdoch’s News Corp.

This has been on the Institute of Public Affairs’ (IPA) planning board for a while, and both Abbott and Turnbull have adopted this as their “to do” list. If the ABC is sold-off, expect a wholesale purge of any “freethinkers” who refuse to drink Rupert’s Kool-Aid.

Only those who are able to freely express loyalty to the new regime will survive, which means that current ABC staff will have to audition for their jobs. I think the process has already started.

Chris Uhlmann — Andrew Bolt’s new bestie at the ABC?

You might remember ABC’s political editor Chris Uhlmann went out of his way to blame the South Australia blackouts on renewable energy, rather than the failure of a number of pylons carrying Victorian coal-fired electricity into the state.

There was a backlash, and a storm of protest at the time Uhlmann’s ridiculous claims were broadcast and published. Several people complained about the bias in Uhlmann’s coverage, but he was staunchly defended in the News Corp press, including by notorious denier, Andrew Bolt. Bolt is big on the motto “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

In this case, Uhlmann became a convenient “useful idiot” in Bolt’s daily rampage against the sins of the “green Left” cabal he sees under every bed:

How does Dutchie sleep with so many communists under every bed? (Source: heraldsun.com.au.)

Now, according to reports last week, an internal inquiry has found that the ABC’s most senior political reporter has done nothing wrong, and that his reporting was factual and within the organisation’s editorial guidelines. 

I wonder if Uhlmann’s tweeting around that time was also taken into account.

This one seems a little petulant, to say the least:

The exoneration of Uhlmann is a puzzling decision to many, given that over 180 complaints were lodged about his blackout reporting.

Uhlmann may be already safe, but for other high profile ABC “personalities” the loyalty testing has only just begun.

For evidence of the trend to showing fealty to the Murdoch doctrine is accelerating, look no further than this tweet from 7.30 host, Leigh Sales, praising a column in The Daily Telegraph by raging Trumpinista, Miranda Devine.

I contacted Leigh to see if this retweet equalled endorsement but, so far, I have had no reply. I wonder why Leigh Sales thinks this bitter rant by an angry, authoritarian Trump supporter is “a good, thought-provoking read”. What was so “thought provoking” in the Devine, Miss M’s column?

Was it this headline: Hillary’s crybabies need to grow up

Or was it this scintillating argument: ‘If you needed proof for why Trump won the election, look no further than the hypocrisy of the left’s crybabies and sore losers, even now imagining they can bully their way into refusing Trump the job he won fair and square’?

Fair and square? There is so much officially-sanctioned voter fraud perpetuated in the U.S. that almost no election is very fair. Minorities are actively discouraged from voting and, when they do register, in many states, it is made difficult for them to actually vote.

That’s not so say this is the only reason Trump won, or even a major one, but “fair and square” it wasn’t.

Remember, it was Trump who, right up until he unexpectedly won, was claiming “voter fraud“. Clinton won the popular vote by an unprecedented margin, Trump won a majority of the Electoral College. Millions of words have since been written to explain how this occurred and why most mainstream commentators missed it.

However, no one except Miranda Devine and her Alt-Right fringe-dwelling friends are saying that Trump won because of ‘the hypocrisy of the left’s crybabies and sore losers’.

If that’s what Leigh Sales thinks, then her credibility as a reputable political journalist just went up in smoke. Of all the analysis and commentary on the U.S. election that exists in the world, why did Sales think that this was a “good read”?

Perhaps it was the list of alleged crimes by anti-Trump protestors who, if Devine is to be believed, have been on a violent rampage since the election. Devine called these events (if they’re true) “actual hate crimes”. But, as we know, actual facts are not so sacred over at The Daily TellMeLies.

Miranda says:

‘… the bashing of a 15-year-old boy wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat in Maryland.’

She means, the kid who got into a scuffle with anti-Trump protestors after taunting them. He wasn’t some innocent bystander, he was taking political action himself. He was pushed, not “bashed” and he apparently “banged his head when he fell over”.

The anti-Trump rally was very peaceful, you can see an excellent report about here:

 

However, Miranda prefers to get her unbiased facts from websites like Freedom Daily, where this was posted.

Miranda says:

‘… a 24-year-old on the subway in New York wearing the red Trump cap [was bashed].’

The source for this is the man himself, who is alleged to have reported the incident to police, but there are no other witnesses.

However, the Daily News story has been amplified on Miranda’s favoured Alt-Right websites and so it found a way into her column. But there’s a problem, the guy’s wearing a white Trump hat in the photos. Was this “me too” or did he have to get a new hat?

Miranda’s final allegation of anti-Trump supporters being violent – and one that has been around for a while – is this one:

‘… a 50-year-old man in Chicago suspected of being a Trump supporter [was bashed] ­because he was white.’

The only problem with this one is that the anti-urban legend site Snopes has debunked it. It wasn’t about politics, it was about a traffic incident.

Here’s the Snopes verdict:

While it’s clear Wilcox was assaulted, it seems from initial police reports and his own statements that the assault stemmed from a traffic incident. Bystanders are heard taunting him for voting for Trump, but that’s not what the impetus for the beating was.

It’s also not clear, as some publications are claiming, that the battery suspects in the video were supporters of Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. One woman can be heard off camera asking, “Are you gonna pay for my shit?” which seems to align with the police statement that the fight stemmed from a traffic accident resulting in property damage.

Further, the racial undertones of some of the posts surrounding the video raises the possibility that the incident is being exploited in order to further inflame tensions on the heels of a charged and contentious election.

The story and video has been shared by the American “white nationalist” website Stormfront, which has been backing Trump.

This is what Stormfront have to say:

These are the people that Miranda thinks are worthy of her support, while she pours scorn on the “crybabies”. Sorry Ms Devine, you’ve been punked by more fake news.

Miranda also fails to mention the number of “actual hate crimes” being committed in Trump’s name since the election:

We can’t believe this, of course — just look at the “disreputable” media reporting this: CNN, The New Yorker, People, Fortune and Time. Even the BBC is perpetrating this Left “crybaby” conspiracy against good free-thinking (overwhelmingly white) Trump supporters. Why would you believe any of this when you can rely on websites run by your Alt-Right frends?

Of course, sites like Right Wing News say that all of these attacks – on women in hijabs, on African-Americans and on Hispanic-looking people – are all made up. Unlike these stories, which Miranda believes are all true.

However, let’s pause for a moment and give Leigh Sales the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps she wasn’t suggesting that this bit of Miranda’s story is so “thoughtful”. Maybe it was the long quotes about “why I voted for Trump” lifted directly from the The Washington Post. This was just lazy plagiarism on Miranda’s part — putting “quote marks” around it doesn’t make it your own work. Is this what Leigh was applauding?

Well, when we try to check out the comments of the Trump voters, it’s not hard to find the ones Miranda quotes from and the majority are registered Republican voters.

Such as this one:

How does a registered Republican “defy the stereotypes” of Trump voters? The following are also typical Trump voters, even if Ms Devine can’t see it.

Christopher Todd, 53, of Florida wrote:

‘I voted for Trump on the calculated bet that he would nominate conservative Supreme Court justices. If people want to permit gay marriage or abortion for any reason, then make both legal through the legislature, not via an unelected oligarchy rewriting the Constitution.’

Lori Myers, 51, of Texas, wrote:

‘I voted for Trump ­because the media was so ­incredibly biased. They were ­unhinged in their obvious role as the Clinton campaign propaganda machine.’

Let’s be fair, though, to the 7.30 host. Leigh’s beat is Australian politics, so maybe she thought that Ms Devine’s take on the domestic aftermath of Trump’s victory was the “thoughtful” bit of the column.

‘If Malcolm Turnbull ­really wanted to succeed as PM, and preside over a broad church Liberal Party, he would bring Bernardi in from the cold. Inside the tent, Bernardi could save the government from itself.’

Is this what Leigh Sales is applauding?

If so, she’ll be a good fit in the new Murdoch-approved ABC.

Is it too early to gauge Michelle Guthrie’s impact?

I wrote a few weeks ago that it might then have been too early to make a call on Michelle Guthrie’s appointment and its impact on the ABC, but maybe now we can begin to see the future under her leadership.

After this week’s news of more staff and programming cuts and the appointment of yet more Murdoch-approved on-air talent, there is little doubt.

As our secret source told IA on Friday, the “honeymoon is over” for Michelle Guthrie — the cuts are happening on her watch and with her approval.

And the IPA will also be pleased that one of its favoured sons, Tom Switzer, now has two programmes on Radio National.

Tom won’t display any anti-Trump bias, he knows who runs the show.

The IPA and Murdoch’s journalists can sit back and relax, because judging by what we know of Switzer’s political persuasion and the last two podcasts of Between the Lines, any worry that “Uncle Tom” might display an “anti-Trump bias” can be laid to rest.

Andrew Bolt is pleased with the removal of Jonathan Green, but Tom Switzer is apparently not conservative enough for the Herald Sun blogger.

Bolt’s readers are none-too-pleased either:

FYI Bryan, Patricia Karvelas and Nikki Savva are still on the Murdoch payroll

The ABC regards the changes to next year’s line up as the normal round of annual commissioning — a “nothing to see here” moment.

But replacing perceived “lefties” with perceived “conservatives” is upsetting to a large segment of the ABC’s loyal audience — like “Dave Bradley”, who left this comment on The Guardian’s website:

It might be upsetting to some, but one thing that axing Jonathan Green and First Dog on the Moon from Sunday Extra does do – and this may be the real reason for the shift – is it helps quieten down the barking from the right of politics that the ABC is a nest of “lefty traitors”. It also helps Ms Guthrie to get the place shipshape before the ABC firesale, which I believe will be about August next year.

It’s Malcolm’s fault, not the “elites”

Last week, Malcolm Turnbull again signalled his hostility to the ABC in an interview with Leigh Sales on 7.30.

Luckily, James Hennessy at Pedestrian TV was watching and able to call out Turnbull’s tired clichés about so-called “elite” media:

‘Folks, I warned you all yesterday. I warned that Australia’s conservatives were trying to steal Donald Trump’s ‘elites’ narrative and extremely clumsily apply it to our country. Now Malcolm Turnbull is trying it. That’s right. Malcolm Turnbull, the man with hundreds of millions of dollars who lives in a plush Point Piper mansion is suddenly not a fan of elites.’

History has not yet recorded what Turnbull thinks of former Murdoch CEO Kim Williams’ new show on Radio National, which will broadcast the thoughts of ‘high-profile Australians discussing what they believe are the issues, ideas and concerns of the day’, but let’s hope that worrying about it will keep the PM awake well into the night.

What can we do?

My story about the “Murdochification” of the ABC from last week seems to have hit a nerve. I suggested in the comments thread that people might like to write to Communications Minister Mitch Fifield to express their concerns.

Several people did, including IA reader, Oz-demigod, who sent the following email to the Minister and encouraged others to follow suit:

Minister, it is disgusting, depressing, lacking in vision and completely unAustralian that you sit back and allow the destruction of the Australian Broadcasting Commission [sic] (ABC). This current government, who you are a senior member of, is doing nothing but following the ‘policy’ directions of the IPA. I have copied in the link for you to browse at your leisure and have also copied in points 50 and 51:

http://ipa.org.au/publications…

50 Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function

51 Privatise SBS

You are an Australian PUBLIC servant, NOT a loyal employee and card carrying member of the so called ‘think tank’ IPA. How can you stand by with no conscience and watch as Australian institutions are torn apart like this[?]

Maybe you should change your official title from Minister for Communications to Chief of Propaganda and personal lackey of Murdoch and the IPA.

You should be disgusted in yourself and your colleagues.

If you do send a note to Mitch Fifield, please copy and paste it to the comments section on this article, so we can keep track. You can also sign this petition at Hands off our ABC to save science programming.

You might also consider joining Friends of the ABC in your state. You can find out more from the ABC Friends’ national office.

Read more by Dr Martin Hirst on his blog Ethical Martini and follow him on Twitter @ethicalmartini.

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Turnbull talks tax trash – By John Passant

John Passant 21 November 2016, 6:30am 34

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Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull with BCA officials Catherine Livingstone and Grant King (image via @BCAcomau).

Turnbull’s claim that rehashed “trickle down reforms” will not be “keenly felt” in the community during the lowest wage growth on record are farcical, says John Passant.

AFTER TRUMP’S ELECTION VICTORY, multi-millionaire ex banker and Cayman Islands investor, PM Malcolm Turnbull began attacking the ABC and media “elites“.

Then the harsh reality of capitalism hit and Turnbull returned to a familiar theme.

In a speech to the Business Council of Australia, Turnbull said:

“The need to undertake reforms to deliver long-term gains for all Australians, which may create winners and losers in the near term, isn’t keenly felt in many parts of Australian society.”

With real unemployment at over 9%, with inequality continuing to increase, with wages rising at a record low rate of 1.9%, and with more than 2.9 million Australians (including more than 731,00 children) living in poverty, the real question is: who will be the losers and who will be the winners? No prizes for guessing that the billionaires will be okay but that poor people and workers won’t.

Back in May, the Turnbull-Morrison Budget announced the company tax plans costing an estimated $48 billion over ten years.

The trend in Australia for decades under both Labor and Coalition governments has been one of increasing poverty and increasing inequality. The key fact behind this has been what is happening to wages.

As Richard Dennis says in the Canberra Times:

Wages account for 44 per cent of all the income earned in Australia, down from 48 per cent about 30 years ago. But it is not just the share of national income accruing to workers that has fallen steadily in the past few decades, the share of wage income accruing to low income workers has fallen faster still.

Not only has the minimum wage risen more slowly than the average wage, but the number of people working short hours on low pay has risen rapidly as well. Of course, no one is worse off financially than the unemployed, which begs the question of why Turnbull recently tried to cut their incomes by $230 a year.

Another way of looking at it is that the share of total factor income going to labour has fallen from a high of 63% to around 52-53% today. The share of total factor income going to capital has increased from about 17% to 27% over the same period.

Tax is also an important part of increasing inequality.

With cuts to the company tax rate and to the top rates for individuals, according to the OECD:

‘ … since the mid-1980s, [Australia’s] taxes have become less redistributive. Both progressivity and average tax rates have declined.’

In essence, the income tax system has become more regressive. The goods and services tax (GST) over time has compounded that.

Last year, Malcolm Turnbull said nothing was off the tax reform table. A backbencher did his dirty work and floated the idea of extending the GST to spending on essentials like fresh food, health and education — a move which would have hit low income earners much harder than the wealthy. There was also talk of increasing the rate from 10% to 12.5,  or even 15%. After a huge backlash, Turnbull ruled out any changes to the GST.

The Turnbull Government has an agenda to cut the company tax rate from 30% to 25% over the next decade, graded from small business to big business over that time. While there is some argy bargy over timing and what constitutes a small business, essentially, in ten years time, the company tax rate for billion dollar companies will be 25% if the Government gets its way.

There are a couple of flies in the tax cut nirvana ointment. First, given the budget deficit of this government, the lost revenue will be paid for by cutting services, services which overwhelmingly help poor people and workers. In an open letter to Malcolm Turnbull back in April, 50 leading Australians warned against the government’s proposed big business company tax cut plan. They said that it would be ‘ … at the expense of services that everyday Australians rely on’. They argued for fairness, the exact opposite of what neoliberals like Turnbull and Morrison want.

Bill Shorten tapped the mood of the nation when, according to Gareth Hutchens in The Guardian, he asked:

How on earth does a $50bn tax plan help Australians battling flat wages right now?

If Mr Morrison now wants Australia to go back to the failed policies of rightwing economists from 30 years ago, cutting taxes for the top end instead of investing in jobs, education, Medicare, and protecting the vulnerable, well, we need to tell him that Australia is different to that, we’re better than that, we are a kinder, more inclusive, more equal place.

Exactly.

Another fly in the ointment is Donald Trump. His promise to cut U.S. company tax rates from 35% to 15%, has emboldened the Business Council of Australia and other business figures to urge the Turnbull Government to continue with its proposed company tax rate cuts. This puts pressure on the Government, in the interests of being “internationally competitive”, to go further than cutting to 25%.

Turnbull’s “winners and losers” speech to the Business Council of Australia is basically rehashing the discredited “trickle down” theory. The argument is that the more money we throw at capitalists and the rich (tax cuts, wage cuts for their workers, subsidies, unpaid overtime of their workers, sacking some of their workforce) the more jobs and higher wages there will be. It is the false argument of rich, white fakers like Trump and Turnbull.

Apologists usually argue there will be more investment if business has more money, but even if there is, the real object of business is profit, not more jobs and higher wages — and competition often forces them to invest in labour saving devices. The experience of the past 30 years shows this idea of more investment, more jobs and higher wages to be almost globally incorrect in the short, medium and long term. Economists, economics journalists and commentators have debunked the idea.

For example, the International Monetary Fund said recently:

‘… if the income share of the top 20 per cent (the rich) increases, then GDP growth actually declines over the medium term, suggesting that the benefits do not trickle down. In contrast, an increase in the income share of the bottom 20 per cent (the poor) is associated with higher GDP growth.’

There in a nutshell is part of the answer. For those on Newstart and other social welfare payments, increase them by about $140 per week to put them above the poverty line of about $400 per week for a single adult. One way of doing this might be to consider a universal basic income, where everyone is paid enough to live on.

The best way to reduce inequality is to increase wages. We can also use taxes as a tool to reduce inequality. I have set out some tax suggestions in an earlier article here.

The letter from 50 leading Australians summarised that general direction well:

‘ … serious tax reform package designed to be “fair” should address as a priority the current generous tax concessions to the top end of town, inequitable distribution of superannuation tax concessions and the capital gains tax discount … ’

As I have argued before, a net wealth tax, dealing with negative gearing and a Buffett Rule for the 36% of big business that pay no income tax – such as imposing a small tax of say 3% on their gross untaxed revenue of $458 billion – should all be part of our tax armoury as well.

It’s time to make the rich the losers, and the poor and workers winners.

Read more by John Passant on his website En Passant. You can also follow John on Twitter @JohnPassant.

Signed copies of John Passant’s first book of poetry, Songs for the Band Unformed (Ginninderra Press 2016) is available for purchase from the IA store HERE.

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First principles of property law: The right to exclude, including Pauline Hanson – By Ingrid Matthews

Ingrid Matthews 4 November 2016, 10:30am 20

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hansonracist
Murrandoo Yanner told Pauline Hanson “you’re not welcome here”.

Our message to the Hanson-Turnbull cabal should echo Murandoo Yanner’s: “You are not welcome to keep spewing your racist hate across this country,” says Ingrid Matthews.

IF YOU have not seen the footage of Murandoo Yanner banishing Pauline Hanson from the Cairns Indigenous Arts Fair, it is well worth the 26 seconds so check the video below.

The weekend this clip was posted, I was preparing my first ever property law seminar, Basic Concepts in Property Law. Serendipitously, Yanner v Eaton [1999] HCA 53 was on the reading list.

Yanner is a winner

Mr Murandoo Yanner, a Gunnamulla man “of the Gangalidda tribe,” appealed against a fine issued by Mr Eaton of the Queensland Police Force. He won in the Magistrates Court, however, Eaton won an appeal to the Queensland Supreme Court. Yanner then appealed to the High Court. Mr Eaton was joined by four Attorneys-General. The appeal was allowed, which is the mild-mannered way the High Court has of saying that Yanner won his case. 

The case amounted to recognition by the common law of Yanner’s rights under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth). There was also a message for those four Attorneys General:

  1. Order that each of the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, the Attorney-General of the State of Western Australia, the Attorney-General of the State of South Australia and the Attorney-General of the Northern Territory pay to the appellant the additional costs incurred by him by reason of the intervention of that Attorney-General, such additional costs to be taxed.

This is one of those slap-downs that nobody ever says is a punishment because the law gets to define things. Costs orders send a strong message to the parties and costs orders against four Attorneys General are as strong a message as any from the High Court. But we are not allowed to say the order is a punishment or remedy, because punishments and remedies (fines, jail terms, damages awards, injunctions) are issued under a different curial function to costs orders. This itself is determined by the High Court, by which all other courts are bound.

But in lay terms, four wrists were slapped. A fifth wrist was too, when the entire seven-judge High Court bench doubled down and ordered Eaton to pay Yanner’s costs in the Queensland Supreme Court too.

The recording cuts in as Yanner is saying “Aboriginal people” and he continues “and now you’re kicking the Muslims around. Go, go,” he says, waving Hanson and her entourage away. “You’re just a racist,” he tells her. “Disgraceful. You are a woman lacking moral fibre. You are intellectually dishonest, and you’re not welcome here.”

Hanson turns around and leaves. As she does, cheers and applause can be heard from people off-camera.

The direction to leave the premises, the reasons given and the cheers and applause, all contain important lessons in basic concepts of property law. Especially when the clip stars the man whose spectacular 1999 High Court win is also prescribed reading. And especially when there are considerable numbers of young Muslim Australians enrolled at my university.

Here it is on video:

But would it be proper to show in week one? I messaged a mate doing his PhD at Melbourne Uni, a Ngunawal man whose judgement I trust absolutely and who has also taught undergraduate law classes.

“Should I show the Yanner clip?,” I asked.

“What will it add to the lesson?,” he replied. 

“Right to exclude, moral grounds for exercising right to exclude, community consent and consensus,” I said.

“Go for it!!,” was his wise reply.

And yes, it was Ahmed who came up after class, grinning broadly, and asked:

“Is that the Yanner from the case the High Court case? Is that the same man?”  

It felt so good to smile back and say:

“Yep, that’s him. He’s a strong Aboriginal man and stands up for Muslims too.”

Contrast the current political leadership and its shadow partner Pauline Hanson with the characters in this story:

  • a strong message from our highest court to four Attorneys General and a police officer (in the form of a costs order);
  • anambiguous grounds for exercising the right to exclude a person from a specific place (you are intellectually dishonest and you’re not welcome here);
  • collegiate support from a First Nations man to gather the courage and show a radical clip like this to 160 property law students in week one (What does it add?.. Go for it!!);
  • a young Muslim man empowered by a First Nations man (is it that Yanner? The same man? Yes!)

The Dunlop analysis

The dominant political news this week is yet another ugly announcement on asylum seekers. Its point would be lost without what Tim Dunlop refers to here as Turnbull being aided and abetted by the political media.

It is worth quoting Dunlop’s bullseye prediction at length.

On Hanson, to whom Turnbull should, but like his predecessor Howard will not, say “you are intellectually dishonest and you’re not welcome here”, Dunlop notes:

‘Pauline Hanson’s One Nation can no longer in any way be considered maverick, independent, anti-establishment, anti-elitist, or in any other way marginal to the political process and the political class. They are now well and truly an establishment party, legitimised by the Turnbull Government. This will be part of Turnbull PM’s lasting legacy. The resentment and anger that has always driven Hanson’s politics is now being assuaged by this courtship and legitimisation. She has got what she has always wanted: a seat at the table, an invitation to all the best parties, and the ability to entrench her own exceptionalism.’

This prescient observation is preceded by Dunlop’s equally accurate assessment of how the Turnbull capitulation will be packaged for the punters:

‘This calming of the waters will be aided and abetted by the political media who long for a new “settlement” and the triumph of what they still insist on calling centrism. Or sensible centrism. Turnbull’s capitulation to the right and abandonment of everything he once allegedly held dear will be reinterpreted as pragmatism, sold as success, and be offered as evidence of his rising stocks. The “sensible centre” will be, as is nearly always the case, rightwing.’

Now picture any news coverage from the past two days. Any broadcast, any social media news feed, any bulletin, any hourly update, the latest headlines, any online news site, or op-ed, or analysis, or print edition. Has there been unambiguous condemnation of the racist hate and petty wedge politics gurgling from our political leadership?

Another Coalition regime, another week, another race-hate bait day

The story is that the Prime Minister and his Minister for Immigration and Border Protection are going to table a bill which, if passed, will outlaw people who have sought asylum in Australia from ever entering the country, based on one mode of transport — boat. This is the mode of transport by which Turnbull and presumably Dutton’s forebears, as well as every single person prior to the commercial aircraft industry, reached what is the largest island in the biggest ocean on earth.

Until around 60 years ago, for around 60,000 years of human occupation of this giant archipelago, there was no other way to get here. The boat obsession (as I have written before), is unreal. It is obscene. It is the right to exclude on racist steroids.

Yet Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton, like Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison before them, are choosing, for reasons of their own aggrandisement and absolutely no other cause, to disseminate yet more utterly unnecessary racist hate across the country.

Naturally, given the message makes for such compatible bedfellows, Pauline Hanson took credit for the government decision. Like Abbott and Morrison and Turnbull and Dutton, bigotry and hate-mongering are her favourite pastimes.

Oh that we could turn the tables on all of them like Murandoo Yanner did and say:

“You’re just a racist. Now you are kicking the Muslims around. Go, go… you’re not welcome here.”

The right to exclude a person from a territory

You come on my land, I sue you in trespass. Of course, there is no action in trespass if I invite you on to my land (the police are particularly sleazy and tricksy with this one. Be warned). Similarly, the law on country requires asking permission. The right to exclude is rarely needed when people have respect, and abide by the rule of asking permission.

Legal systems regulate human behaviour across a society. All cultures have rules about leaving our own place and entering neighbouring land. The English law, which is based on the English value of land as a source of wealth, emphasises the right to use and enjoyment, the right to exclude others, and the right to alienate — to transfer your interest in land to another (sale, succession).

Obviously no-one would ever accuse the English of being internally consistent — they trampled across the world with their guns and bibles, breaching their own rules with vicious abandon. This differential application of their own principles is both a source and a product of deeply racist imperial violence.

But on this continent and her islands, for 60,000 years and counting, the central value is that the land is the source of the law (Black 2011). To harm or do wrong by the land is to harm or do wrong by the society. Before crossing a border, a person with authority to speak for country must give permission. The visitors are then welcomed to country. As in many cultures, this is a public ritual which endorses or verifies individual’s actions.

This is not a complex proposition. In white law, depending on the type of land (public, private, rented etc) permission to enter is required, whether from the owner, tenant, caretaker, ranger, or other official. We might enter a park without authorisation and be issued with a notice or a fine. We might ring a doorbell, or knock on wood, bring a bottle, wait to be offered a seat. “Come in!,” we say. “Please, have a seat! Can I get you a drink?” These are host and guest norms for what we conceptualise as the private sphere; just as trespass and permits govern the wider social, or public, space. The norms and rules are shared with and taught to all members of a society.

In short, every culture on earth has systems of rules and norms for human interactions in different spaces. Australia is home to the oldest continuing culture on earth. This is one reason that Welcome to Country is not some token ritual or nod to political correctness, as many seek to portray it. A Welcome to Country is the continuation of host and guest traditions established over 60 millennia.

So who is welcome here?

It is telling, then, to see how the bad-cop-worse-cop trash talk that passes for public debate these days is playing out. Hanson took credit for the government hate-mongering on refugees, adding “refugees are not welcome here”.

Right on script, Turnbull was given all the airtime and column inches he wanted to intone gravely, in his favourite paternalistic voice, what a great country this is for resettling refugees. “The most successful multicultural nation,” he lectures us, with added erasure of First Nations people here, who have been developing multicultural protocol across 300-700 nations since megafauna roamed the earth.

Never mind the millions of words, the how many reports, including from the UN Committee Against Torture, the Senate Inquiries, the shameless bullying (and probably illegal inducement to leave) of Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs, the rapes, the murders, the self-immolations, the forced birth, the staff who sexually abuse children, the billions upon billions of dollars to corporate donors which run our “off-shore detention centres”.

“Refugees are welcome here,” Turnbull lied, disgustingly and his media cheer squad cheered. He must have some special plan up his sleeve, they hinted, in their increasingly desperate delusion that Turnbull is not really like this.

First Nations, legacy media, and the political leadership

But Turnbull really is like this. He really, really is.

Our crimes – a crime scene since 1788 as First Dog On The Moon, depressingly but accurately, put it this week – can not be sprinkled with fairy dust by a Stockholm syndrome legacy media who depend on leaks and tips rather than do their job (Andrew Elder’s searing analysis of dysfunctional media dynamic here.

Some future third-country settlement will not make the list of our gross human rights violations magically disappear. Who even thinks like that?

Well, political columnists from The Guardian to Fairfax to the ABC do, for a start. Which leaves only the independents like New Matilda and Independent Australia for anyone of basic human decency to read. Thank goodness for new media, because when it comes to Malcolm Bligh Turnbull, the fourth estate – whose duties include mediating the conversation of the demos ie between the public and political leadership in the modern nation state – has been derelict indeed.

The Yanner message is a lot clearer than the Turnbull-Hanson lies:

“I have been engaging with Indigenous communities and First Australians throughout all my time in public life and before that, but particularly as Prime Minister,” Turnbull lied, disgustingly, on his Abbottesque tour of remote communities this week. And the media cheer squad cheered, creating the impression of community consent and consensus that cheering creates.

When Murandoo Yanner asserted the right to exclude Pauline Hanson from premises on grounds of racism and intellectual dishonesty, the crowd clapped and cheered, showing community consensus; and Hanson, knowing the rules, left. She then took to the media to blather about alcoholism, just as Turnbull did in Yalata, because they both know how these things operate in the media and public sphere too.

What a repulsive pair. In their castles of sand, telling their mountains of lies, exercising the right to exclude people from this Aboriginal land, people who are fleeing persecution including wars in which we participate and all to the manufactured sound of a falsely-constructed consent.

The unambiguous message to the Turnbull-Hanson cabal should mirror the one that Yanner delivered: 

“You don’t care about Aboriginal people. Now you are kicking the Muslims too. You are just a racist. Go, go. You are lacking moral fibre. You are intellectually dishonest and you are not welcome to keep spewing your racist hate across this country.”

Ingrid Matthews lectures in law at the University of Western Sydney. You can follow Ingrid on Twitter @iMusing or her blog Oecomuse.


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It’s no wonder no-one will help Dutton – By Kaye Lee

Let’s cut to the chase.  Our refugee policy is a dismal failure and making it worse for cynical political purposes is despicable.  Dutton is a disgrace who has been increasingly emboldened by Turnbull’s weak-kneed pandering to the far right and Labor’s cowardly chase to the bottom for fear of losing the racist vote.

Stop the bullshit, admit you got it wrong, and start looking for solutions instead of someone to blame.

For starters, the oft-repeated dog whistle of 50,000 asylum seekers arriving under Labor should be put in perspective.  That is less than an average of 8,500 per year.

As Kevin Rudd points out, there were reasons for the spike in arrivals.

“During 2009-10, security circumstances changed rapidly in the region: the rolling disaster of the decision to invade Iraq led to a massive exit of asylum seekers; the new regime under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saw a fresh exodus from Iran; followed by a major civil war in Sri Lanka with Tamils fleeing from persecution.”

As inconceivable as it may have seemed that Turnbull would so completely turn into Abbott, he has now wholeheartedly taken up the “Stop the Boats” slogan, and is showing his “strength” by coming up with even worse ways to persecute people who long ago lost all hope.

Quoting Rudd again:

“This measure is about the politics of symbols, designed to throw red meat at the right, including the Hansonite insurgency, and to grovel to the broad politics of xenophobia. Turnbull, once an intelligent, global citizen, knows better.”

So have they stopped the boats and saved lives?

A report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) found that in 2014 more people than ever took to the seas in search of asylum – an estimated 350,000 people.

The UNHCR and other agencies estimate that in 2014 more than 4000 individuals, including hundreds of children, did not survive these journeys.

In our region of Southeast Asia, the same UNHCR report estimated that, in 2014, 54,000 people undertook terrible risks on smugglers’ boats, the majority of whom left from the Bay of Bengal fleeing towards Thailand and Malaysia. Hundreds of others were moving further south in the Indian Ocean. This figure represents a 15% increase over the same period in 2013, and more than triple the estimated number of departures during the same period in 2012.

The majority of these were ethnic Rohingya fleeing ongoing violence in Burma’s Rakhine state. UNHCR estimated that, in 2014, 540 people died during these journeys, due to starvation, dehydration and beatings by crew members. UNHCR reports that those who do make it to Thailand, Malaysia or Indonesia face detention, exploitation and violence.

An update from the UNHCR on September 20 describes the situation in Europe.

Despite the number of crossings this year (300,000) being 42 % lower than during the same period last year (520,000), the number of people reported dead or missing so far this year (3,211) is only 15 % lower than the total number of casualties for the whole of 2015 (3,771). At this rate, 2016 will be the deadliest year on record in the Mediterranean Sea.

This situation highlights the urgent need for States to increase pathways for admission of refugees, such as resettlement, private sponsorship, family reunification and student scholarship schemes, among others, so they do not have to resort to dangerous journeys and the use of smugglers.

We have been calling on EU Member States to increase pledges, including for unaccompanied and separated children, speed up the registration and transfers of candidates, and for more nationalities fleeing war and persecution to have access to the scheme.

Effective relocation is key to increasing solidarity and responsibility sharing in Europe, and ensuring the better management of movements, including helping to address irregular secondary movement and reliance on smuggler networks. This is particularly vital given the humanitarian situation in Greece, and the increasing number of people staying in Italy and applying for asylum.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, has pointed out that maritime movements are a growing phenomenon, which requires a range of responses including: effective search and rescue, proper systems to deal with arrivals and identifying those with protection needs. What is also required is identifying why people are fleeing and what is preventing them from fleeing by safer means.

In a speech last year, Guterres said:

But one thing is clear: focusing only on border control and deterrence will not solve the problem. It is the duty of any government to ensure security and to manage immigration, but these policies must be designed in a way that human lives do not end up becoming collateral damage… One cannot stop a person who is fleeing for life by deterrence, without escalating the dangers even more. Any effective response must also address the root causes of this phenomenon.

We have not stopped the boats or deaths at sea.  We have not stopped the people smugglers.  We have just made them everyone else’s problem and the suggestion that everyone else should do likewise is met with the disgust it deserves.

Is it any wonder that that odious creature, Dutton, can’t find any country willing to help him with his paltry (in comparison) problem brought about by his stubborn insistence on destroying the lives of a mere couple of thousand people who could so easily be brought to this country – problem solved.

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What possible justification is there for Turnbull’s new refugee ban? – By THE CONVERSATION

The Conversation 1 November 2016, 3:30pm 30

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(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

‘Since October 2013, nearly 2500 asylum seekers have had to suffer for the [Coalition] Government to send this message … Where does it end?’

THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT has announced that asylum seekers attempting to reach Australia by boat will never be allowed to enter the country on any permanent or temporary visa, including a tourist visa.

This applies to all of the 2,500 asylum seekers who have been detained on Nauru or Manus Island at one time or another since the second half of 2013.

This will prevent asylum seekers who have family in Australia from ever meeting them in Australia. We know anecdotally that there are asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru and Manus Island in this position. Indeed, it is common for refugees to follow the same path to protection as family members who had earlier fled persecution.

The numbers of asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru

As at September 30, there were 1,269 refugees and asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru (873 Manus, 396 Nauru). A further 551 asylum seekers have voluntarily returned to their country of origin since Operation Sovereign Borders began on September 18. There have also been many involuntary returns when asylum seekers have been unsuccessful in their claims for protection, but have been unwilling to return to their country of origin.

The majority of those who remain on Nauru and Manus have been found to be refugees and are awaiting resettlement. Even if they were willing to return to their country of origin, it would be wrong to facilitate this. So although the numbers on Manus and Nauru have been falling, the rate of decline has become progressively slower as a greater proportion have been found to be refugees and require resettlement.

What is the rationale for the new measure?

There has been some speculation that the reason for the new announcement is to send a message to asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island that they should take up the resettlement options offered them and not continue to hold out hope of making it to Australia.

But after three years, the Coalition Government has failed to enter a durable resettlement agreement with any other country. The Government claims that refugees can resettle permanently in Nauru and PNG. These are both inappropriate places of resettlement given the limited capacity of these countries to resettle asylum seekers and the demonstrable danger refugees face living there.

The arrangement with the Cambodian Government for resettlement of refugees was an abject failure. The Coalition Government spent $55 million to transfer five refugees to Cambodia. Only two remained for any length of time and the Cambodian Government admitted that its government “does not have the social programs to support them”.

If the new legislative proposal is an attempt to encourage asylum seekers to take up resettlement options, then the Coaltion Government needs to put some resettlement options on the table. This is surely the crucial next development in refugee policy. Further discrimination against those who attempted to reach Australia by boat is a distraction from this real issue.

Another possibility for the policy change is that there is an imminent threat of more boat arrivals.

In a press conference, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that the government was locked in a “battle of wills” with “criminal gangs of people smugglers”.

He continued:

“You should not underestimate the scale of the threat. These people smugglers are the worst criminals imaginable.”

Despite this rhetoric, the Turnbull Government has given no indication that there is an imminent threat from people smugglers. On the contrary, Operation Sovereign Borders statistics indicate that since the beginning of 2015, there have been no “illegal” maritime arrivals transferred to Australian immigration authorities and no Suspected Illegal Entry Vessels (SIEVs) intercepted.

Government statements and media reports suggest two other possible policy rationales for the proposed changes to the law.

First, the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has pointed to a phenomenon in which asylum seekers are entering Australia on partner visas, which the minister considers “unacceptable”.

If this is true, there are safeguards around partner visas. Specifically, partners have to be able to demonstrate a genuine intention to share their lives together into the future. They are initially granted a temporary two year visa, which can be converted to a permanent visa if the relationship is ongoing and proves to be genuine.

The Government might want to consider the reason refugees are forming relationships with refugee advocates. Having been on Manus and Nauru for three years, with very limited access to people in the outside world, it would not be surprising that some refugees form close relationships with the few outsiders they have the opportunity to encounter. The government also needs to consider whether it is right to prevent Australian citizens from sponsoring partners to Australia with whom they share a genuine loving relationship.

If the Turnbull Government decides there is no entitlement for Australians to have long term relationships with refugees who attempted to reach Australia by boat, a more targeted response than a blanket ban on those refugees ever entering Australia is to tighten the rules around partner visas. This would mean either changing the requirements for the relationship status for a partner visa, or excluding asylum seekers and refugees from accessing this class of visa.

Finally, there is some speculation in the media that the proposed change to the law will pave the way for agreements with New Zealand and the U.S. to resettle asylum seekers from Nauru and Manus Island, because it will mean that asylum seekers settled there will not be able to subsequently enter Australia. This is logically flawed.

It is not clear why blocking a subsequent pathway from the U.S. or NZ to Australia will act as a deterrent for asylum seekers to attempt to get to Australia by boat. There is little doubt that any of the asylum seekers on Nauru or Manus would be delighted to be resettled in a developed country such as NZ and the U.S. without ever entering Australia in the future. Deterrence lies not in the lack of choice of place of resettlement but in the lack of any resettlement options at all.

Policy based on disproportionate fear

The Turnbull Government’s fear is that if it backs down and resettles asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru in Australia, the people smuggling trade will begin again in earnest. I have argued elsewhere that this is very unlikely. Given the manifest immediate harm to refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island, it is worth risking the resumption of boat arrivals to solve the humanitarian crisis on our doorstep that is entirely of Australia’s making.

The Government’s message to people who might subsequently attempt to get to Australia is loud and clear: you are not welcome, you will not be resettled in Australia, you will spend many years in remote locations that will lead many of you to develop serious mental illness and many of you will commit suicide or self-harm. We cannot guarantee your safety at these locations. You risk being murdered or sexually assaulted. Things will be so bad that many of you will choose to return to your country of origin, where you fear persecution, rather than tolerate these conditions.

Since October 2013, nearly 2,500 asylum seekers have had to suffer for the Australian Government to send this message. Does it really need to add to the list of detriments that asylum seekers will never enter Australia in any capacity for the rest of their lives? Where does it end?

 is Deputy Dean and Director of the Public Law and Policy Research Unit, Adelaide Law School, University of Adelaide. This article was originally published in The Conversation.

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Day to Day Politics: Brandis is a control freak. – By John Lord

Thursday 27 October 2016

Power in the hands of people with chastisement in their hearts, authority on their minds, and control in their doing, do little for democracy. Control freaks usually cannot see beyond their own self-importance and are hostile to those who might threaten it.

Such a person is George Brandis, who sees the world through the prism of dominance, of muscle, privilege and rule. Through the possession and ownership of the dissemination of information and who has the right to peruse it.

Through his desire to control the Solicitor General, he has in effect destroyed yet another vestige of our parliamentary democracy. The statutory-defined independence of the Office of the Solicitor General is now forever tainted.

The only person willing to take on the vacant position will be perceived, rightly or wrongly, as a lackey of the right. A “yes” man or women.

Who would take on the position in the knowledge that it is not independent? That the Attorney General alone would decide on what you can and cannot give meaningful advice on.

One could argue that the office of Solicitor General is now redundant.

And of course any decision you arrived at would be seen to have had the Attorney Generals endorsement otherwise your job would be on the line.

From the beginning this unedifying event between Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson, SC, the government’s chief lawyer and Attorney-General George Brandis has been about one man controlling what the other can say what he can give independent advice on.

If Brandis decided that Gleeson was likely to give advice contrary to his Governments view then he wouldn’t allow it.

It seems when you look at it the only advice this Government wants is advice that of concurrence.

Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon put it this way:

”It is pretty clear these days anyone who disagrees with this government, any professional public servant who gives frank and fair advice to this government, faces termination”.

”Once upon a time, misleading the house was considered a serious offence. When it ceases to become a serious offence, then our democracy and our parliamentary system is undermined”.

On Tuesday the Prime Minister said:

”We value immensely the very frank advice we get from the Australian Public Service.”

He must have been kidding of course.

Just ask Gillian Trigg’s, Justin Gleeson, Martin Parkinson, Don Russell, Blair Comely, Paul Grimes, Andrew Metcalfe, Paul Barret and many other public servants.

It’s a sad state of affairs when all you want to hear from a public servant is the reverberation of your own thoughts.

An observation.

”No one group should think they have an ownership of righteousness, or ideas for that matter”.

Last year Turnbull said:

”What we have to do in government in my view is stop panning public servants and do more to ensure that they do their job better”.

What he really meant was that public servants will now tell the minister what the minister wants to hear, rather than what they need to hear.

The seriousness of what control freak George Brandis wants to do cannot be underestimated. The community must have confidence in our legal system. Brandis is intent on destroying it for the sake of personal control.

He has also damaged the public service in so much as those highly qualified candidates wanting to work in the public service will now have second thoughts.

Lastly, as a well-recognised and highly successful lawyer the Prime Minister is complicit because he should know better that to allow this law. He should have sacked the Attorney General.

My thought for the day.

“We all have to make important decisions in our lives. None more important than the rejection of those things that tempt us into being somebody we are not. Be true to who you are”.

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Day to Day Politics: A Government in a shambolic mess. – By John Lord

Wednesday 26 October 2016

1 Polls this far out from an election are never an indication of how people might vote. They do however, give us a guide to how people think they are being governed.

So yesterday’s NewsPoll tells us that the folk in the great Australian suburbia are disillusioned.

The Poll Bludger tells us that Labor leads the Coalition 52/48. Essential is the same.

The Prime Ministers popularity continues to tumble in the absence of any semblance of leadership. We are being led by a leader who is captive to the right of his party and the junior party of the Coalition whose leader seems to be pulling the strings. Ideologically speaking the so-called Liberal party has no idea where it stands and Turnbull cannot produce a narrative that explains just where we are heading as a nation.

2 Our Democracy is being usurped by the likes of Brandis. Freedom of Information is being hijacked by ultra-right wing power-hungry MPs and the Solicitor General’s Office, with the resignation of Justin Gleeson, has been turned into a branch of the Liberal Party. The position will now go to a Liberal Party stooge who will accept the pay the position demands and never question the Attorney General’s judgements.

Jim Moylan writing for this blog summed it up like this:

”The Gleeson Affair is as significant as the Dismissal. Perhaps more so”.

”Why am I so upset? In simple terms Mr Brandis has now turned the Solicitor-Generals Office into an office of the Government. At the heart of this matter is a despicable and almost treasonous direction from the Attorney-General’s office that any matter that the Solicitor-General might consider, from now on, has to be first cleared personally by Mr. Brandis”.

3 Barnaby Joyce’s integrity is once again being questioned over the sacking of Paul Grimes, the former head of the Agriculture Department.

A March 2015 letter has surfaced that clearly brings into question his conduct. Explosively so. Apparently the Government has spent a lot of money keeping it from the public’s eye.

It all started over the alleged changing of Joyce’s statements in Hansard.

The question arises: “Did Barnaby Joyce sack Paul Grimes to save himself?”

If Joyce is guilty of deliberately trying to change Hansard then of course he should be sacked and resign his position as leader of the Nationals.

4 The MYEFO Economic report due to be released in November will reveal that the Budget is still in a mess.

5 Tristian Ewins manages the ALP Socialist Left Forums Facebook page and is a regular letter writer to Main Stream Media. Here are a couple to Melbourne’s Herald Sun. The newspaper where the truth goes to die.

Refuting the Herald-Sun Again on ‘Welfare Shaming’:

”The Herald-Sun (16/10/16) reports that welfare-dependency figures are “shocking”.  But Disability pensioners, Carers and the Unemployed should not be ‘shamed’.  Carers save the public hundreds of millions of dollars by providing care and support for pittance that otherwise would cost the state a fortune. If we do not value their work just because it is not part of the ”market sector” then that itself says something disturbing about our priorities.  Meanwhile those with a mental illness – who are commonly looked upon as ‘not-really-disabled’ can expect a reduced life-expectancy of 16 years”.

”Or 25 years for those with Schizophrenia. Who would ‘choose’ to be in that position?  Finally, research shows there are roughly five job-seekers for every position.  Were the government serious it would develop an industry policy to create real long-term jobs – matched to people’s skills. (as some Nordic countries have tried)  Instead it tolerates an unemployment rate of around 6 per cent (much more if you include those who have given up the search), and also ‘massive under-employment’ for people looking for full-time, secure work.  Because ”Ideologically” it cannot bring itself to support ‘economic intervention”.

Refuting the Herald-Sun Again: Misleading Characterisations on the Unemployed:

”The Herald-Sun (19/10/16) proclaims on its front page:“70% of arrested meth users supported by your taxes” and also: “Dole Blown on Ice.”  While the apparent connection between Ice addiction and crime is alarming, the headline was irresponsible for several reasons. Firstly, for those who don’t read the article thoroughly there may be the utterly false assumption that most Newstart recipients are ice addicts. In fact there is no proof of anything like this.  .Secondly: ice addicts need help overcoming their addiction. Yes there must be compulsory rehabilitation programs. But a purely punitive approach could lead to a downward spiral of desperation and crime.  It seems more than an accident that the headline coincides  with the Liberal Government’s attempt to wind back benefits such as Newstart, the Disability Support Pension, the Carers’ Allowance, and so on.  To ‘make room’ in the Budget to accommodate corporate tax cuts.  And hence to demonise and vilify these people”.

6 The Coal Lovers are at it again. It seems that those who oppose the Carmichael mine have received funding from a US organisation with links to John Podesta who happens to be running Hillary Clintons election campaign and the Libs are not happy. Nor is India’s Power Minister Piyush Goyal.

So Turnbull might just revive some previous legislation that was aimed at curbing vexatious litigation by environmental groups.

On Tuesday he said:

”Coal is going to be an important part of our energy mix, there is no question about that, for many, many, many decades to come, on any view”.

A few years ago he would never have contemplated those words.

7 Among many other things the fast talking Treasurer Scott Morrison said:

The government will therefore also be discussing with the states the potential to remove residential land use planning regulations that unnecessarily impede housing supply and are not in the broader public interest. This will be the strong focus of my discussions at the next Council on Federal Financial Relations that I will convene in early December”.

Of course these are not the only problems the housing industry faces. Government also plays its part and there’s no sense blaming others when your own policy tax policy distorts the market because it produces increased inequality via wealth acquisition.

In other words negative gearing.

And to show just how badly the Government is governing they have allowed an enquiry initiated by Joe Hockey into housing to lapse.

7 Said the Prime Minister on Tuesday:

”The important thing for me, as prime minister, and for my government, is to get on with the job of governing and delivering, and that is what we’re doing”.

”We are delivering, we are governing, we are delivering the jobs and growth that we promised, and we will continue to do so”.

That of course is highly debatable.

My thought for the day.

”The study of free will is an important foundation of rational thinking and objective application of thoughts to actions. How many seriously take up the study of free will and the constraints of pre-determined facts that limit free will, and personal action?”

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Gleeson falls on sword sharpened by Brandis – By TESS LAWRENCE

Tess Lawrence 25 October 2016, 10:30am 60

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George Brandis and Justin Gleeson (Image via abc.net.au).

‘George Brandis has now set himself above the law, above the PM, above the Governor-General and thus above the Queen of Australia.’

~ Tess Lawrence, contributing editor-at-large

JUSTIN GLEESON SC fell upon his own sword yesterday and resigned as the Commonwealth’s tenth solicitor-general.

It was a sword gleefully sharpened in recent weeks by notorious serial liar, Attorney-General George Brandis QC.

There has been great public conflict and emnity between these two, ever since it was revealed that Brandis issued a secret – and perhaps illegal – edict that all requests for advice from the solicitor-general (SG) first be vetted by the Attorney-General (AG) — a ludicrous and intolerable impost upon the independence of the office of solicitor-general.

Revelations made during the recent Parliamentary Inquiry exacerbated the situation. 

This from the ABC’s 7.30 transcript, 14/10/16: 

SABRA LANE: The hearing became turbo-charged when Justin Gleeson confirmed he took a phone call from the Opposition’s Mark Dreyfus in June, in the middle of the election campaign.

Mr Gleeson says it was a brief chat; that the shadow attorney-general asked if he supported the directive and was he consulted. Mr Gleeson replied “no” to both questions.

The media, myself included, have not sufficiently emphasised what the “Brandis Rule” means outside of the key players. It is, by any measure, a nasty bit of work and works to the detriment of democracy and we citizens.

By issuing such a rule/direction, Brandis is clearly intimidating everyone into thinking twice before seeking apolitical advice from the solicitor-general. There is an implied threat; an implied warning in the Brandis Rule. It ain’t a good look. 

A formally signed letter of resignation will be given to Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove on 7 November. Ironically, under the Brandis Rule, even the Governor General and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull are barred from first seeking independent advice from the Solicitor-General. 

This means George Brandis has now set himself above the law, above the PM, above the governor-general and thus above the queen of Australia.

Disturbingly, it also means that should anyone wish to seek advice from the solicitor-general about the conduct of the Attorney-General, he or she would first have to seek permission from George Brandis himself. Preposterous. Next, Brandis will be crowning himself emperor.

What if allegations of corruption were made about an attorney-general? Under the Brandis Rule, those seeking confidential advice from the solicitor-general of the day would first have to consult the attorney-general. Stupid. One doesn’t have to have taken silk to see that. 

Independent Australia has kept a watching brief on Brandis. In a recent article, headlined Night of the generals: Gleeson and Brandis at war’we detailed some of the disturbing elements of the Brandis regime. Our country deserves better than this megalomaniacal bully. Turnbull surely has a more capable and ethical AG aspirant within his ranks. Brandis should Braxit.

Months ago, we called for his resignation or sacking. He has left irreparable damage upon both offices and, quite frankly, is seen as a dangerous and conniving buffoon by many of his peers, and certainly regarded as a lesser legal brain than Gleeson.

The Brandis Rule has ominous connotations and consequence. It is more than an affront and power grab. It is a rule designed to suppress and control our laws and legislation and arguably dictate and censure the content of those laws. 

This is untenable. The judgement and soundness of mind of the Attorney-General need to be urgently questioned and assessed — perhaps by the High Court.

Surely, some sort of challenge should be mounted against the Brandis Rule. 

In his resignation letter to Brandis yesterday, Gleeson wrote: 

I have come to this conclusion with regret, but the best interests of the Commonwealth can be served only when its first and second Law Officers enjoy each other’s complete trust and confidence within a mutually respectful relationship.

When such a relationship is irretrievably broken, as is the case here, and each Law Officer holds a term of office established by the Constitution or Statute which will not expire in the near future, there must be some resolution to the impasse.

Whilst standing down for the greater good, Gleeson refused to recant on his version of events. 

He went on to write:  

My decision does not amount to a withdrawal of any position I have taken in relation to matters of controversy between us, including before the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee …

For the avoidance of any doubt, I also make perfectly plain that I reject absolutely each and every attack and insinuation that has been made in recent times upon me personally, or upon my office, by Government members of Parliament, including you, in Senate Committee processes.

The use of the phrase ‘including you’ is a categorical indictment of Brandis. 

As a nation, we are fortunate that we have had a solicitor-general who is prepared to publicly take us into his confidence and to report what is clearly a violation of the separation of powers

He has paid a high price for being a whistleblower, as whistleblowers often do.

Under the circumstances, where else was he to go? He came to us, the people. He has shown us that no matter how high one’s office we all have an obligation to speak truth to power — even when the power is one’s superior officer. 

Around the nation, citizens have been saying that “the wrong man resigned”. And not just the Opposition:

Brandis should indeed resign. Turnbull should never have reappointed this Abbott flunky – this viper in the nest and stalwart of the Monkey Pod Cell – as the attorney-general. 

He remains loyal to Abbott and IA has received information that it is Abbott himself who was behind the Brandis Rule.

Both men have wet dreams of an Abbott resurrection. 

Last night, on the ABC’s Q&A, Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek spoke for many Australians when she branded Brandis as an “incompetent minister” and said “he should have gone long ago”.

Tanya Plibersek calls for George Brandis’ resignation on Q&A.

Perhaps the legal profession could consider boycotting the position of solicitor-general and leave an “empty chair” — at least until the Brandis Rule is revoked or turfed by the Senate.

Advocacy group Liberty Victoria succinctly put it in this tweet:

Last night, an eminent group of former office holders, gathered to debate the importance of the role of solicitor-general — among them former Solicitors-General and later Chief Justice Sir Anthony Mason QC and Bob Ellicott, later attorney-general.

Legal opinion aside, we are confronted with the reality that the nation’s first lawmaker may yet prove to be the nation’s most prominent lawbreaker. 

 

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