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Is this Australian?

You know it's struck me, reading the "Afghanistan" thread, that refugees have only be mentioned in passing, since back early. Fair enough, I might have thought at the time. 

As they say, "a week is a long time with politics".

After nearly a fortnight of a national conversation on two interrelated and sadly conflated but seperate issues; "Big Population" in the future irritated by a mistimed announcement  from the PM,  my perspective on these is changing as the views outpour across the country. 

Now, as far as I'm concerned, the immigration debate can wait till later.

The second issue; asylum seekers and refugees, seems to be a rapidly changing one for the worse and one becoming more unpalatable by the hour in certain aspects.

It has simmered or festered for a long time both as a (now rapidly morphing) reality and an issue, but public perceptions might now start to change, since it was hijacked by hard ball, unsavoury politics from political parties and the media. Tony Abbott was first cab of the rank,whining that the Rudd wasn't "hard" enough, but the barbecue stopper was Rudd's clampdown onthese, of last weekend.

As to our politics, It has squeezed Abbott the same way Howard squeezed Beazley back during the Tampa times. Brilliant, venomous, lightning-fast politics and surely excruciatingly sweet for Labor and to the left of hard right generally, as some political commentators have noted. Particularly when capped by the  subsequent departures of their two most significant politicians to survive the 2007 trainwreck, Turnbull and Minchin.

Yet, in the wake of the last couple of weeks, I've started to wonder again what it must be like, or feel, cooped up for a long a time on a  convict hulk, in the claustrophobic hull, in the tropics.

Was it Marilyn Shepherd who once said that even the kids on the First Fleet had to steal a handerchief first to cop that?  "Merak" is of course only the tip of the iceberg for refugee conditions generally in dirt -poor Indonesia. 

My conscience is starting to prick a weeny, with this "Merak" thing.

I begin to think it untenable that a civilised country can do this, over an increasingly protracted time span.

I think Crikey's Bernard Keane and SMH's Peter Hartcher, for example, recently have been about right about the the trajectory of the national politics, from a detached viewpoint. They are just chroniclers. 

But yep, am Joe Average, and am just starting feel a bit uncomfortable as times trickle on, both for us safe and sound here and the surely now pitiable people on "Merak".

People start to talk of "othering" - it's an ugly proposition to contemplate in this actuality, if you ask if we Australians are virtually "taking hostages", as some have put it, to our own uncertainties for our own futures? I begin to wonder, with Merak, how I would react to that suffocating experience after an increasingly prolonged stay and now seemingly indefinite stay. I wonder how I'd feel, if someone from my family was there.

As time goes by, this unsavoury Indonesia/ Australia thing on this becomes as rank as it must be below decks on "Merak" , also. Like a couple of furtive bods hanging around a parklands "gents" in the twilight.

Where is the dignity in this, for Australia and Indonesia?

I'd love to see a snap election called; time for the accumulated political dross of recent times on too many issues to be swept away, as we begin to see more clearly into the future.



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White australia.

Whilst much of Australia has been drawn into the soap opera developed by media as part of this years election presentation- the supposed flaws in our main political leaders personalities/characters- other issues of more inportance may have been neglected.

Just browsing thru some pro refugee literature, I was taken aback at the extent to which our government has employed the asylum seeker issue.

Specifically, an organisation with early connections to our own Margo Kingston, "Project Safecom". The operators of the site have gathered a large number of articles, including an SMH editorial and articles by people like Sen. Hanson Young and high-profile lawyer Greg Barns, dealing with moves that appear to parallel the seemingly unrelated but also insidious net censorship plan of Sen. Conroy. These moves include a secret review of ASIO powers in relation to asylum seekers, their families and friends, now subject to rules that disallow conversations with people still in strife in places like Afghanistan, as to seeking a way for these victims out of the war zones. Phone tapping is part of the approach, best seen as  a suite of new laws, that Barns felt would replicate the conditions that brought about the notorious Dr Haneef case three years ago. 

 You can't escape the disturbing notion that these laws represent a way around civil liberties checks and balances, ostensibly  to get at the asylum seeker flow, that is actually a facilitation of burgeoning surveillance of Australians themselves. The laws represent an unreasonable burden of asylum seekers, but kill two birds with one stone, since the new conditions by which intelligence operates in Australia, surely represent a widening of surveillance. If you are a refugee advocate who also has views on say, ecology, you are subject to surveillance devoid of meaningful pretext, in which spooks find out which of your friends is also, for example, opposing rainforest logging in  Victoria. This material turns up "inadvertantly", but no doubt increases the scope and range of intelligence to intrude into unrelated areas of legitimate discourse and dissent, as well as cracking down on asylum seeker efforts to escape Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Indonesian detention centres, etc.

I suppose people will

I suppose people will grumble about Marilyn's propensity toward invective, But I think that should not discourage an appreciation of a rather grim situation at the asylum seeker coal face, the issue itself, skilfully outlined, nonetheless.

Makes sense to me that neither government or privatised models have had a clue of how to deal with refugees when in any number, but Rudd, dog collar almost showing, promised that the "trauma"  aspect would be dealt with, whatever else happened and it hasn't happened. Results, easily avoidable suffering for people who, in another life, could be our mums or kids, or us and lot of money spent creating pain for some and shame for ourselves.

Once again, gross suffering is not good for asylum seekers - they are dying of its worst causes and this is no good for Australian self respect, when we consciously commit to a system with a nasty Changi type ambience to it.

Is Merak the apex, the final monument to our much vaunted Aussie resilience and ingenuity, let alone sense of  fair go for the underdog?

Is Merak the form  we would present to the outside world as evidence of a better society, derived of Anzac values, when seeking to feel  proud before our peers in other countries?

Jailing victims of torture




(48) Program 4.3: Offshore Asylum Seeker Management

Senator Hanson-Young (L&C 100-101) asked:

a) Are mental health checks mandatory for immigration detainees, and, if so, at what

intervals are reviews done?

b) What are the arrangements for children?

c) Is there always an independent party present when children and minors are

interviewed and, if so, who is the accompanying person?


a) All people entering immigration detention undergo mental health and torture and

trauma screening as part of their health induction assessment (which is conducted

within 72 hours of their arrival in immigration detention). This information is used to inform an ongoing care plan.

Due to the high proportion of Irregular Maritime Arrivals (on Christmas Island) who have experienced torture and trauma, the health induction assessment also includes an automatic referral for torture and trauma assessment by the Indian Ocean  Territories Health Service.

As part of the ongoing health care provided to all people in immigration detention, rescreening for mental health concerns is conducted after seven days in immigrationdetention. It is then conducted every 12 and 18 months or when triggers for concern are identified. If a person remains in immigration detention for longer than 18 months, re-screening occurs every three months or whenever triggers for concern are identified.

b) Current mental health arrangements in place for minors are consistent with those for adults. However, the Department is working with the Detention Health Advisory Group to ensure that specific issues for minors are addressed. This includes appropriate screening arrangements specific to minors and ensuring that the family unit as a whole receives assistance when required. For example, where mental health concerns are raised for any member of a family unit that includes a minor, then all members of that family unit will be referred to mental health professionals for appropriate assistance, which may include assessment or treatment.

c) Yes. In cases where a minor is not accompanied by a parent or guardian, an  ndependent Person is required to be present for the Department’s immigration processing. The key role of the Independent Person in these cases is to provide pastoral or physical care to the child throughout the interview process.

An Independent Person is required to have no relationship with either the

Department or the minor. Currently, suitably qualified staff from Life Without Barriers act in the role of Independent Persons. ( they are a volunteer organisation with actual access very limited)

 On February 9 the torture victims on our very own Gitmo hell ( with less legal rights) there had been 1966 Afghan hazara, 801 Sri Lankans, 284 Iraqis, 151 Kurds, 121 Iranians and other smaller groups like the 43 Rohingyha Burmese.  There had been only 3494 in all over 20 months and yet we still girn and whine like spoilt brats.


So with an acknowledgement of vast numbers of torture victims among this lot they stop the progress of Tamils and Hazara out of sheer spite


But of course Senator Humphries is much more interested in the really important issues, like lawn mowing and ballet classes.  And shock horror, outings by the prisoners.




(45) Program 4.3: Offshore Asylum Seeker Management

Senator Hanson-Young (L&C 96-97) asked:

Provide details of the frequency of activities conducted outside the Christmas

Island detention centre. How are the excursions being managed now that

there are more people on the Island?


Each Sunday, between 15 and 20 clients from Construction Camp and

Phosphate Hill join with 30 clients from the Christmas Island (CI) IDC in going

to the Christmas island Catholic Church. Additionally, seven clients from CI

IDC attend a weekly CI Christian Fellowship meeting. Each Friday, up to 30

clients attend the CI Mosque.

In addition to these regular religious activities, a new Monthly Activities

Program is being implemented with the inclusion of weekly excursions for

clients. The two-hour excursions involve two escorted groups of 30 clients

(one in the morning and one after lunch) each Saturday, in two buses, visiting

local sites such as South Point, Margaret Knoll and Territory Park. Clients are

selected for the escorted excursion on the basis of the length of time in

detention – that is, the longer term clients are given priority.

IDC clients can also go on excursions outside the centre if they are

accompanied by a Designated Person (a person authorised by the Secretary

of the Department, or the Secretary’s delegate). Between 6 September 2009

and 7 February 2010, 59 clients accommodated in the IDC have been on

excursions outside the centre in the company of designated persons.

(93) Program 4.3: Offshore Asylum Seeker Management
Senator Humphries asked:
(1) What is the cost of flying in food for the Christmas Island IDC?
(2) What is the cost of this versus the method shipped to the local
Christmas Islanders?
(1) The cost is approximately $6.60 per kilogram on commercial flights or
about $3.80 per kilogram where Serco Australia Pty Ltd (the detention
service provider) or DIAC directly charter an aircraft.
(2) The freight component of the Christmas Island price for any food
commodity is not disclosed by food importers on the Island.

(105) Program 4.3: Offshore Asylum Seeker Management
Senator Humphries asked:
How often is the lawn mowed at the Christmas Island IDC?
There is a gardening schedule in place and the lawns are generally mowed once per
week in the wet season and once per fortnight in the dry season.

(102) Program 4.3: Offshore Asylum Seeker Management
Senator Humphries asked:
(1) What is the electricity bill of the Christmas Island IDC over the last 12 months?
The cost of electricity for the period of January 2009 - December 2009 was $1.39m.



Q and A

We also heard on Q&A that the Sr iLankans and Afghans don't want to return to their countries because they will be killed.

Why don't we return the Sri Lankans to Afghanistan and the Afghans to Sri Lanka, that way they can teach their kids all about Bin Laden and bomb making without worrying anybody.

How do you know?

How do you know Sri Lankans and Afghans speak the same language (Allan)?

 Paul Walter , I

 Paul Walter , I don't know whether Sri Lankans and Afghans speak the same language, and what's more like the majority of Australians I don't care what happens to them.



Alan strikes again

We are all aware that you don't care a toss about anyone but the face in your mirror but do you have to be so ugly and brutal about innocent human beings?

We treated Jewish refugees like this, the Australian public didn't care and that worked out a treat didn't it?

repent ye, Faust.

Must admit I find the decision last week to stop processing Sri Lankans and Afghanis for six months problematic, since these are the folks most likely to be dinkum refugees.

 It is only for six months, isnt it?

 Just long enough maybe for Labor to neutralise  Abbott's opportunism, maybe for all time?

  The trouble with expediency driven measures is that they set a slippery precedent.  You would hope our crowned Bonhoeffer, Rudd, will not, having invented and used this unilateral means once, be tempted to continue it after an election, 

 He is worse then Howard if he does, because Howard knew no better and Kevin Rudd does. As it is , our country's collective conscience can hardly be clear; even now innocent people who's situation should appeal to the  Australian sense of "fair go"are dying or suffering in places we'd have no white man suffer or die in.

Here is the evidence of the big lie

 O'Connor and Rudd are peddling the drivel that some parts of Sri Lanka and Afghanistan are safe so we can suspend refugee claims.

Well what about all these other countries?  I reckon most of them are a lot safer than the two subjected to this insane cruelty.

RRT appeals – all countries Jan to March



China – 30 

Malaysia – 4 

Philipinnes – 3

Lebanon – 5

Bahrain – 1

Sri Lanka – 1

Sudan – 1

Nigeria – 1

Algeria – 1

New Zealand – 1

Uganda – 1

India – 5

Turkey – 1

Rwanda – 1

Pakistan – 2

Jordan – 1

Zimbabwe – 1

Indonesia – 4

Fiji – 2

Somalia – 1

Burma – 1

Latvia – 1

Korea – 1

Colombia – 2

Mongolia – 2

Iran – 1

Bangladesh – 1

Macedonia – 1

Egypt – 1

Tonga – 3

Afghanistan – 1

Cameroon – 1

Nepal – 1

Tunisia – 1

Albania – 1

Guinea – 1

Serbia – 1

 Thailand – 1

Congo – 1

Vietnam -1

Palestine – 1

Bangladesh – 2

Sierra Leone – 1

Uzbekistan – 2

Vanuatu – 1


egg and chicken

Do people smugglers drive the movement of refugees, as Alan  Curran perhaps suggests, or have the large numbers of refugees allowed for the construction of a racket as a peripheral consequence?

It may be that those fearful of refugees find it difficult to blame the refugees themselves, so have invented a code word, "people smugglers", to explain what drives the flow both of actual refugees and working poor from Third World countries without making themselves unpopular by bad mouthing  actual refugees and unfortunates.

 I think there are plenty of private agents operating off of the misery of refugees and in the wider sphere, "green card" immigration, and a few who actually see themselves as performing a serv ice in helping some categories of refugees flee from hostile regimes. 

 But that there is an actual problem in the world involving violence and poverty that drives the movements, the people movers are only there as a consequence. 

  In many repects it is a modern-day "Exodus " thing: If things get really bad, no way you are going to stop frightened people from bolting from a disaster, if they can.

a lesson from Machiavelli and Orwell..

Was interested to read Malcolm Fraser's take in The Age. Who wouldda thought, after all these years, I'd be onside with the old Squire of Nareen!

Marilyn Shepherd, politics is always predicated on Plausible Deniability - by the time these things get examined and processed thru clogged legal and media channels, the short term political fix for the benefit of the polly has been sorted. "Tampa" got Howard out of trouble; by the time people got through the information embargo and woke to what was going on, it was too late. But it delayed Howard's removal from politics by six years.

Same with Bush, Cheney and Blair, and Iraq.

Memories ...

"Who wouldda thought, after all these years, I'd be onside with the old Squire of Nareen!" - Paul

Funny isn't it - how things change?

Ah yes. 1975. Back then I thought Fraser was a complete tosser and a nasty, vaguely sinister, pompous windbag with not a thing to say worth hearing and a problem with the language anyway. Now I think he is a complete tosser and a nasty, vaguely sinister, pompous windbag with not a thing to say worth hearing and a problem with the language anyway..

Yes Geoff

Yes Geoff, a long way from the abrasive hard man of the sixties and seventies.

He seems to have spent the last twenty five years trying to make amends for what he was before that.

How long do some of these characters last?

Him and Whitlam go back to times even before Joshua played full-back for Jericho.

On the topic, latest SMH has environmentalist Clive Hamilton "down" on high pop - significant because his think tank is a direct conduit for internal ALP thinking on these things.

Could I solicit from you your thoughts on high population on one hand  and the refugee issue on another?

Altho, it sounds from your reaction to the old former PM, that you are sceptical of his likely position on some issues?

The facts Maám

Marilyn Shepherd: "imaginary people smugglers."

Would you care to clear that up with some facts?

It is not people smuggling

Because no-one is being smuggled to Australia and they never have been.

They don't need to be smuggled to Australia because their right to enter Australia is enshrined in Australian law.

Easy, see.

Thursday, 10 February 2000 SENATE—Legislation L&C 205Senator McKIERNAN—I am talking particularly about the boat people. They are the people who arrive on our shores – mainly on Ashmore Islands – and who put their hands up and say, ‘Find me, find me! Take me in.’ They do not use these exact words, but they want to be found. These are not people who are escaping the scrutiny of our Coast Watch people.Senator Vanstone—Senator, I cannot resist! Perhaps you could tell Mr Beazley that so he does not keep raving on about this silly idea that we need a Coast Guard to locate the people. You at least realise that they want to be found; it would be helpful if your party realised that as well.


the media are like small children

There is something grotesque about the way the media report refugee stories as if their pathetic opinions matter when the real story is this.

Everyone has the right to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution in other countries.

Yibbedy yibbeda, that's all Folks as they say in the Classic cartoons.

Detached commentators

Hartcher, Keane, Grattan, Oakes - all of them are as vile as Rudd and co. as they seek to believe that what Rudd did last week has some basis in fact or law.

1. Refugee claims are never based on country conditions and never will be.  No-one but Brian Toohey and Malcolm Farr bothered to remember that.

2. Punishing innocent men, women and kids in the name of punishing some people smuggler who exists only in the shrivelled imaginations of gutless Australians is about as illegal as an act can be.

3. It will cost about $337,000 per person to keep Afghans illegally and arbitrarily locked up on a mound of birdshit to punish those imaginary people smugglers.

4. The lot of the disgusting cowards make me vomit my guts up, ruin my sleep and make my grand daughters enraged.

Tales of mystery and imagination.

On the muddled way the conversation turned out on QA last night,  I think it will take quite some time for attitudes to change along the lines described by Marilyn  Shepherd, above.


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