Posts Tagged ‘Manus Island’

UPDATE – Clive Palmer made a point of indirectly opposing the government by stating he supports reduced emission targets, accompanied by the inevitable media PR campaign on the point. However in the lead up to the re-run of the last Federal Election in a seat in WA (somehow the Australia Electoral Commission lost over 1,300 votes), Palmer has clarified this position. His point of concern is to take action, not on mankind’s contribution to the emmissions problem eg Palmer’s mining interests, but instead on ‘natural carbon emissions’. What? He wants us to stop all the cows from farting and burping? And that mindset controls Senate seats of considerable importance!

It has been quite a while since I had a good rant here but by hell there is plenty to rant about and I apologise in advance for the length of this particular rant. Yet at the same time I am barely scratching the surface of the problem that is the current Australian government under Prime Minister Tony Abbott. And every single thing discussed below has been widely reported in the media so I am hardly making it up.

The Lower House of the Australian Parliament is presided over by the Speaker who is appointed to the position from the body of Members of Parliament. The Speaker is supposed to be a neutral arbiter of business within the House. The long-standing protocol is also that the Speaker, in keeping with the requirement for their neutrality, is supposed to stand aside from party parliamentary business.

bishopOur current Speaker is Bronwyn Bishop, a long-standing member of the Liberal Party of Australia. Far from being neutral, one merely has to watch the televised Question Time to see how blatantly biased Bishop is in her conduct as Speaker. The only consistency about her rulings is that the Opposition shall always be on the losing end. The government side of the House can raise such an uproar that you can barely hear whoever is speaking. Yet nowhere near the same degree of latitude is permitted for the Opposition. In my opinion the overall conduct in the Lower House is always despicable by all parties, but the disgraceful bias by Bronwyn Bishop has really turned our Parliament into a decidedly unsavoury circus. Then there was the protocol for her neutrality – that was thrown out with Bishop not just attending party room meetings, but other attendees have confirmed she is an active participant including being a vocal anti-Australian Broadcasting Commission combatant. So the most elementary conduct of our Australian Federal Parliament has been thoroughly compromised by the colossal arrogance of an individual who clearly deems herself above the rules. And that all seems fine and dandy to Tony Abbott.

In 2011, conservative right-wing ‘journalist’ Andrew Bolt (and I apologise to any journo who may read this for lumping The Blot in with them) was found in breach of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Section 18C states, in part,

It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:

                     (a)  the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and

                     (b)  the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group.

This court case arose from a piece The Blot wrote, published by the Herald Weekly Times group, part of the Rupert Murdoch media empire, where he declared a number of prominent Australian Aboriginals were ‘professional Aboriginals’, only declaring their Aboriginality when they stood to make something from it in a material sense. I have read the piece in question and there can be no question that it was perhaps expression of personal opinion or accusations based on real evidence. The Blot made these claims as ‘fact’ supported by a raft of further alleged ‘facts’ to support his case. Except that the facts did not stand up to closer examination. Far from it. When a number of the people so defamed by The Blot took him to court under s18C, the Court not only found him in breach, the Judge also tore The Blot a new one for his poor journalistic practices.

There was no shortage of reputable journalists after the decision, declaring The Blot had been caught out by dodgy journalism. But there were also voices shouting that this had been an interference with The Blot’s right to ‘free speech.’ Among the complainants was then-Leader of the Opposition, now Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.

Abbott is now making a lot of noise about his intention to have s18C repealed as it supposedly represents a denial of free speech. However I'm not complaining, but...removal of that crucial section will make much of the Act pretty toothless. Not all of his party agree with him, with one openly declaring if this does go to Parliament, he shall cross the floor to vote against it with the Opposition. Nonetheless Abbott has made it clear that he intends removing that legislative impediment on discriminatory behaviour based on race. Consequently, should he be successful, it shall instead become effectively lawful to act in that matter. While far from perfect (very far from it) Australia has made some pretty good strides forward in matters of racial equality. But our Prime Minister has made it his quest to take a massive backward step in matters of perceived race.

Was it only the Jesuits and Oxford who educated Abbott or perhaps he took an optional extra class from the Klu Klux Klan? Certainly all white supremacists would be delighted at being able to let rip with a lawful protection to do so! And as was so clearly demonstrated in The Blot’s case where he wasn’t just dodgy with the facts but was even caught out telling a blatant lie to Court in his defence, Abbott wants an Australia that is friendly towards such behaviour, allowing whoever to make up whatever garbage they want and having it published as ‘fact.’

Stay tuned for my future post about how Tony Abbott was a notorious child molester through his schooling years. I have the testimony of one of his old classmates to prove it. Naturally I have just made that up. But guess what – under Abbott’s principles, I should be legally allowed to publish just such a pack of lies that would be clearly intended to cause harm.

Despite how Abbott may try to spin things in future, he and his government do NOT have a mandate to take such despicable action.

Perhaps at this point I should also note that The Blot is employed by Rupert Murdoch’s print media empire. And in the lead up to and during the last election, there was a blatant pro-Abbott, anti-Gillard campaign run by ALL of Murdoch’s Australian print media. Clearly Rupert knew where his interests lay. Is it merely coincidence that Abbott’s government is now seeking to further relax Australian media ownership laws thus allowing Murdoch to further increase his stranglehold? Or release the racial discrimination shackles from The Blot and others like him?

For years there has been an international conglomerate pushing to get governments to sign to an agreement that would permit members of the conglomerate to sue any governments that take actions they don’t like. To put this in practical terms, if an international pharmaceutical company inflicted us with another Thalidomide, and if the government of the day took action to remove it from it the pharmacy shelves, the pharmaceutical company could then sue the Australian government for the lost revenues resulting from the product’s ban. Do we really want impediments helping protect us from chemical disasters, removed in order to not just protect the billions in those companies’ bottom lines, but even making we taxpayers pay for it via legal recourse to punitive damages? Of course we don’t. Who in their right mind would?

Four successive Australian governments refused to have anything to do with that conglomerate’s desires: Howard (Abbott’s mentor), Rudd, Gillard and then Rudd Mk 2. Yet Abbott is openly declaring his interest in having Australian committed to that agreement. How in any possible sense could this pandering to multinational corporate giants at the expense of this country’s citizens ever be considered responsible government? Simple answer – IT ISN’T!

Australia has its own system of honours and awards eg Order of Australia. An independent committee has the job of reviewing all applications for honours and determine the awarding of these on merit. The government of the day has a seat on the committee but the protocol is that government abstains from influencing the committee’s decisions, thus maintaining the integrity of the system.

Until now.

Reports have emerged from members of the committee who were very unhappy that the relevant Minister not only attends the meetings but has sought to influence the committee’s deliberations and thus decisions. When the Minister was not available to attend, a senior member of his staff was present instead – not a senior bureaucrat from the relevant government department, but one of the Minister’s personal aides and no surprises in guessing whose interests that aide would be representing. This is yet another example of quite blatant politicising of matters that are supposed to be above party political machinations. To allow this to continue means degrading our Honours system to be worth less than the paper on which is written the letter to the honouree.

In light of the above, questions are now being asked about the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. Again, the short list etc is determined by an independent panel with the results provided to the Office of the Prime Minister. This year’s awards have been inexplicably delayed at Abbott’s end. Why? No answer has been forthcoming. Could it be that instead of recognising literary accomplishment, only literary accomplishments by politically approved authors are to be considered? Or worse, only literary products with a particular party political seal of approval?

The more one looks at things, the more that despicable and outrageously questionable things keep cropping up. Take Clive Palmer for example. For years this mining billionaire was the single biggest donor to the Liberal Party of Australia (note to my North American friends – ‘Liberal’ in reference to this political party does NOT mean liberal attitudes – quite the contrary). Palmer then had a very public falling out with the Liberals including a public shouting match with Abbott over the President of the LPA being allowed to continue as a political lobbyist. Care for a conflict of interests anyone? Palmer was eventually asked to resign his party membership, which he presumably did. First Palmer declared he was going to run for Parliament as an independent, but then instead created his own political party – Palmer United Party. But public information via the Australian Electoral Commission reveals that while Palmer was busy in setting up his own party, he was still donating money to LPA. Huh?

Will the real Clive Palmer please stand up?In reality, the only ‘united’ thing about PUP seems to be a unity in letting Clive Palmer make all decisions and call all the shots. Even statements from people he recruited to run in seats for PUP at the last election, had an appended ‘authorised by C Palmer.’ PUP has every appearance of not being so much a political party as it is Clive Palmer effectively buying seats in Parliament as a vehicle to pursue his own interests. Palmer won a seat in the Lower House but the stranglehold of Abbott’s LNP in that House makes Palmer’s voice and vote pretty much pointless there. However PUP also picked up two Senate seats in a Senate where LNP does not hold power. For LNP to get its way in the Upper House, it needs support from independents and minor parties such as PUP. Those two PUP seats therefore assume a considerable importance in the overall scheme of things.

Despite all his election blunder about all the things he was going to do and achieve in Parliament, since taking office Palmer has been very quiet. He has not opposed the government on anything of any significance. At the same time, Palmer’s application to undertake massive coal mining operations in Queensland is suddenly approved at the Federal level. And the taxpayers are suddenly paying for several hundred miles of railway to connect those operations to a coal port. And the LNP government in Queensland suddenly agrees to redevelop and expand that port to better serve the interests of Palmer’s mining. And the national Marine Authority, charged with protection of the Great Barrier Reef, inexplicably gives its formal approval to all dredging from the expansion of that coal port to be dumped on the Reef.

To badly paraphrase Shakespeare, something truly stinks. As the old saying goes, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a bloody duck. In the same way, questions really do need to be asked and answered about just what relationship there truly is between Clive Palmer, his political party and the government of Tony Abbott. While jobs will indeed emerge from those developments, the only real beneficiary shall be Clive Palmer – at the taxpayer’s expense and with a blatant display of environmental vandalism.

Then there is the matter of refugees in Australia. Almost the moment the Abbott government took power, Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, dictated that government departments whenever referring to refugees who have landed or sought to land in Australia by boat outside of usual channels, are to be referred to as and only as ‘illegals’. Is it illegal to seek entry into a country outside of the usual channels? Yes. Is it illegal to seek refugee status? No. No! NO!!

The treatment of refugees under this Australian government is growing decidedly worse than under other recent governments. The Australian Defence Force has been increasingly politicised by making them a party to keeping silent on activities such as turning boats back to point of origin and maintaining Minister Morrison’s demands for silence on everything.

Nuremburg defence, anyone?

Ask any pertinent question about refugees and Morrison almost always immediately clams up claiming ‘operational needs’ for secrecy. The morrisonAustralian taxpayer has spent tens of millions building and outfitting special launches on which intending boat-borne refugees are dumped and forcibly returned to the point of origin. But we’re not allowed to know anything about it. Or how many launches have been specifically utilised. Or where. Or when. The UN has come out in considerable criticism of Australia’s behaviour towards refugees these days, with a report detailing something like 70 specific problems that needed to be addressed, but which appear to have been largely ignored. For God’s sake, even China, who hardly has a stellar record in human rights abuses, has come out in criticism of Australia over this issue.

It took insiders blowing the whistle to reveal just how appalling conditions are in offshore places such as Manus Island where many of these ‘illegals’ have been dumped. Even then Abbott and co are playing word games, refusing to admit the problems may exist. At one Question Time I listened to Morrison declaring that any problems are really the fault of the preceding government. The fact that many matters of concern have either only appeared under this government or grown worse under its veil of secrecy seems to be irrelevant to the likes of Minister Morrison.

UPDATE – in news just to hand, Abbott has just admitted that they were a party to cancelling an independent review of the conditions of the refugees housed on Manus Island, despite previous Parliamentary assurances it was going ahead and was going to prove (somehow) that the problems started with Labor.

Did other governments have clean hands in regard to refugees in recent years? No bloody fear. But these human rights abuses under the Abbott government are growing demonstrably worse, despite all their bullshit spin to the contrary.

Now at the same time that Abbott happily turned our Defence Forces into an extension of the political system, doing the government’s dirty work on refugees under this ridiculous veil of secrecy, he also slashed the wages of soldiers still fighting in Afghanistan. And the financial support to the surviving children of soldiers killed in combat in Afghanistan has been removed entirely. Allow me to reiterate – as a soldier you can be forced to go into combat but have no say in your salary for doing so being slashed, and now there is no longer any comfort in knowing the government you served shall ensure your children are looked after. Why the hell would anyone want to enlist under these arrangements?

Come April we shall see Anzac Day, our day of remembrance for those serving men and women who have fallen in combat in the past. I am prepared to wager that on April 25th, Abbott shall come out with the usual platitudes about honouring the fallen, Anzac spirit and other phrases now made largely meaningless by overuse and inappropriate use. Send the poor bastards off to die, pay them less for it and then ignore the families of the fallen. Is that what we want from our national leader? If Abbott should deign to grace us with his presence at the Australian War Memorial this Anzac Day for the March I take part in, I shall refuse to give him the ‘eyes right’ salute on passing the podium. As far as I am concerned he has forsaken any such rights. To hell with protocols.

Remember the disgruntled person who threw a shoe at George Wubblya Bush during a press conference? For Abbott I’m thinking not so much a shoe as a fresh, steaming cow turd. I’m sure he would feel right at home in the shit.

The list keeps growing the more you look at things. A certain amount of party politics is always to be expected. Not necessarily appreciated but expected. But the behaviour and direction of our government under Tony Abbott has gone way beyond that.

This is all beyond a joke. It is beyond a farce. It is far beyond party political shenanigans. This is the behaviour of a government that is morally bankrupt. And I believe that every Australian, regardless of political persuasion, deserves a bloody sight better than this.