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Fear and Loathing Down Under

There is a case before the high court of Australia at the moment which could snap Australia out of one of the ugliest periods in Australian history. That is the system of the off shore processing of asylum seekers. This case involves a group of Sri Lankan Tamils, refused asylum in Australia, whose lawyers are claiming that the Federal Government's processing procedures on Christmas Island are unlawful and unconstitutional.

In 2002, I remember with a deep sense of disdain, cynicism and loathing, the machinations and manoeuvrings of George W Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and the rest of his ultra right wing military minded henchmen as they shamelessly negotiated with their long term nemesis, Cuba, permission to reestablish a high security prison camp on Cuban soil. Cuba, after a fleeting period of mock indignation, readily accepted an obscene amount of freshly printed US bills as rent, and quickly granted this permission.

The camp already existed as a US run refugee detention centre, but was run down and in disrepair since its use was declared unconstitutional by a US District court judge in June of 1993.

This facility which we all know today as the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, or Gitmo, was quickly transformed into a high security military detention centre by US department of defense through its principal private defense contractor Halliburton.

The single objective of reopening this facility was to secure a location outside of the jurisdiction of American law in order to prevent their own people from prying into the insidious activities they intended to pursue within its confines. That’s right! They desperately had to find a way to circumvent the very laws which they are sworn to uphold, protect and abide by.

They also had to come up with a new term to classify prisoners so as to escape the strict parameters of international law. The new classification they devised was “Unlawful Enemy Combatants”. This new classification allowed the US to treat the inmates as prisoners of war and removed any avenues of representation through the international courts.

And the rest, as we say, is history. It is a dirty, disgusting and unbelievably shameful history of multiple breaches of the international convention on civil and political rights. Some of these abuses include sleep deprivation, water boarding, sexual degradation, prolonged exposure to extremely loud noises or music, prolonged sensory isolation and brutal beatings just to name a few. Added to this list should also be the psychological torture of the prospect of indefinite detention without charge. Something any US citizen can now be lumbered with at will thanks to the Patriot Act.

To his credit, the present US president, Barrack Obama has recently announced the imminent closure of this facility. But alas, even the US president is being stonewalled on this issue by the US Senate, which has recently passed an amendment which blocks the funding needed for the transfer of prisoners to the US mainland.

Our own PM at the time Gitmo was being re-commissioned was John Howard. Remember him? He had securely attached himself like a limpet to George W’s arse some years before. For his entire term as prime minister he was something akin to a lick spittle lap dog at the beck and call of the US administration at every turn. I wasn’t particularly surprised by this. I was sickened and ashamed, but not surprised.

One should never be surprised to find ultra right wing minnows sucking up to ultra right wing goliaths. It’s like the snot nosed little wimp befriending the school yard bully for protection.

But I was surprised when John Howard put forward his very own Pacific/final solution. Not so much by the fact that he did it, but more by the fact that we allowed him too. The fear and frenzy whipped up by the mainstream media in the wake of the attacks on the twin towers galvanized public anger to the point where almost anything seemed reasonable. Right here in Australia, there were attacks on mosques, people of Middle Eastern appearance, a term the media loved to hammer home, were being attacked for no rational reasons whatsoever. Any budget approvals regarding matters of defense or security were fast tracked and rubber stamped through the senate almost without scrutiny.
The CFMEU unwittingly played a hand in this by handing control of the senate over to John Howard on a plate. I will forever remind them of their stupidity on this matter.

I remember writing an article at the time highlighting the insanity of it all. I made the point that for the cost per head for each detainee, we could have put them all up in 5 star hotel accommodations. We could have given each of them the best legal and medical care money could buy, hired 24 hour security guards for each and every one of them and still come out of it with quite a lot of change in comparison to the money we were squandering on off shore solutions. Obviously I was never suggesting that this was how they should be treated, but I thought it a comparison worth noting at the time. On matters of costs, I don’t believe that a great deal has changed in this regard.

The reason for this is that the marketing of fear is big business. There are vast fortunes to be made in the services of the fear mongers. I was quite disillusioned in 2007 when the ALP failed to put an immediate stop to the off shore processing of refugees. But I was tolerant. These things take time I told myself. It wasn’t in the ALP policy platform when they were elected. Public opinion was still very much in the grip of fear and loathing. We would need to slowly change the zeitgeist. The mood of the times had to be changed first or the electorate would never buy it. Labor had made some significant inroads into the more humane treatment of refugees and at last we were having open discussions on the topic.

Then along came Tony Abbott and the 2010 election. In the finest of ultra right wing conservative traditions, Tony Abbott cranked up the rhetoric. “WE WILL STOP THE BOATS” was his mantra. He bombarded the media with this disgusting and shameful declaration, reigniting the completely unwarranted fear across the community that we were at risk of being inundated by millions of illegal immigrants in leaky boats, each of them waving a copy of the Koran and bringing with them an unshakeable hatred of the infidel and a deep seated love of Sharia law. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There must come a time soon in Australia when the truth on these matters is brought to the forefront of political debate. A time when facts and verifiable statistics are administered to the fearful and doubting public as a powerful sedative to counteract the anxieties created by a decade of hate based stimulants being mainlined into our collective psyche on a daily basis.

I believe the ALP may have just missed that opportunity. Had ALP policy allowed Julia Gillard to publicly and passionately slam Tony Abbott to the canvas on this issue, we may not be in the political deadlock we now find ourselves locked into until we go to the polls again. Had the ALP had a little more confidence in the better angels of the nature of the majority of Australian people, instead of caving into the ignorance and fear of the red necked Kath n Kim demographic, the results could well have been very different.

And if I am wrong, which I may well be, and the results swung heavily to the conservatives, at least the ALP could have walked away from a good scrap knowing that they still held the moral high ground. But they didn’t. Either way, public education on the realities of people seeking asylum here must be given extra attention.

In my own opinion, the off shore treatment of refugees, Howards final solution, should be jettisoned from ALP policy once and for all. Change the zeitgeist and win the battle. Right now, there are a small handful of independents a few Greens that, if invited, might be ready to hop onto this boat.

Labor can either grab this initiative right now and claim it as their own, or they can wait for the high court to decide for them and forever have it said that the moral high ground was forced upon them. This of course is based upon the assumption that the High Court of Australia has a moral inclination towards justice.

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Rainbow Warrior

"Over the millennia...religions too have evolved...Until two thousand years ago great cities arose only to disappear. Religions based on power, guilt, retaliation, and heirarchy could not sustain the great cities....

Not until a transformative millennium..from 600 BCE to 700 CE did Buddhism, Confucianism, Chjristianity and Islam become established. Although it may sound incongruous to some modern ears, these newer organized religions emphasised love and compassion rather than fear and dominance. It was this transformative millennium that may have permitted great cities to endure. Unlike early cities of hsitory thatself-destructed, the more mdoern communities that have survived successfully transformed the city from a concatenation of competing tribes into a more egalatarian hive....

During the twelve centuries between 600BCE and 700CE, the spiritual sages and prophets developed insights and emotional rituals that utilized inborn positive limbic emotions to counter agression. The empathic practices of the world's great relgiions served to mitigate the equally hardwired xenophobia and territoriality that is largely responsible for tribal violence."

From Spiritual Evolution. The author is a psychiatrist and professor at Harvard University.

We need to stop seeing life in black and white. It is glorious technicolour.

Just look at the photo Michael


Then tell me she is not Hazara.

And I have the RRT here if you would like to read it. They said she couldn't read the Afghan calendar, there is no such creature. They did mention that she is illiterate so of course she could not read anything.

At the end of the decision they simply said she was stateless and left her in limbo for years.


I can't tell from that. I look for Mongoloid features which I can't see, unless in the cheek bone. I can see such features in the husband very clearly.

To my untutored eye the Indo-Iranian outweighs, at least, the Mongol heritage in the wife.

good samaritan

Michael Talbot-Wilson, you'd have to agree that whatever the exact racial mix, the people themselves were/are not rich, joyous and free like us.

Nor, significantly was there much effort put into giving these battlers an even break, which is supposed to be the Australian way. Why do someone, say a racial or cultural "other", a good turn if you can kick them in the guts?

What happened with the Bhaktiyaris back early-mid decade was that they were unwittingly roped into a challenge on the system at that time operated by Howard and Ruddock, because certain aspects of their own situation that seemed significant to activists and civil libertarians and so fell foul of the authorities - there was no real error in their claim but the government was looking to make an example of someone to emphasise its hard line populist approach and also didn't like having their authority challenged in several ways by activists and the Bhaktiyaris themselves.

Like Haneef, Rau, Solon and many others, these asylum, seeker unfortunates became victims of a system introduce to downplay human rights and emphasise the power of the state as much as regulate flows of population movement. Like the Aboriginal Intervention, a nasty precedent that flew under the radar of many people that could later apply to us, too, were it to move from exception to precedent , to a general, habituated rule.

Whistle-blowers, deliberate or unconscious, apart from attracting the savage ire of authority, point out trends that could be applied to all and if we don't like being treated in the way the Bhaktiariys were treated , why would we want to set in train a system that could fairly within its own terms, be eventually applied to us, as flippantly as it was to people like the Bhaktiyaris.

Hazara only marry each other

They are cousins, like all marriages in Afghanistan. Ergo if one is Hazara so is the other.

In fact though it is Ali who has a Pashtun father from the days when there was a little peace - which is what put their lives doubly at risk.

Good grief, the Hazara are not all totally mongoloid and Roqia is 100% Hazara.

Reedited comment on wedge politics inthe US and Australia

I have reedited my long comment on wedge politics to put back the missing spaces and to add a comma. This is a tedious process which should not be necessary, does anyone know how to avoid this problem?

How does one enter an anchor tag in web diary?

Does anyone know how to include an anchor tag including a link in Webdiary?

I find no problem doing so on other websites but on Webdiary I gave up trying.

Anchor Tag

This was discussed here just a couple of days ago or a couple more.  Check back in date order for Fiona's post on Links or one by Richard.  There is also a bull in the china shop method which I explained at length a day or so earlier, which is more widely reliable.

Richard:  Again for luck.. highlight text, click on tenth button from the left, paste or type the URL, and Bob's your uncle. 

Wedge politics in the US and Australia

Something disappeared from Australia after the Howard government gained power, it was the bipartisan consensus against the scapegoating of disliked minorities for political advantage. Since 2003 when I left work I have been spending far too much to much time reading and posting on US political blogs. I believe that I have reached a stage where my reading qualifies me to pontificate at least a little bit on the similarities and differences between US and Australian politics.

The wedge politics which John Howard introduced were copied from the techniques used by the US Republican party (more commonly referred to as the GOP which stands for "Grand Old Party"), but John Howard's wedges brutal as they seemed to us here, were actually gentle instruments compared to the heavy weapons used by the GOP. Actually a pilot study on wedge politics was carried out earlier in the Northern Territory by the CLP and this kept it in power for many years despite demographics that otherwise should have favoured the ALP.

Until the advent of the John Winston Howard federal government, racial scapegoating in Australia was confined to the Northern Territory where the large proportion of the population that was Aboriginal struck sufficient terror into the hearts of poor white Northern trash that it motivated enough of them to vote against their interests and kept the CLP in power.

We look back now and see the Howard ascendency as inevitable and as the result of John W's political genius, but in seeing things this way I think we are underestimating the extent to which he was lucky in the serendipitous arrival of a sequence of issues relating to minorities that were already well hated or against whom it was easy to stir up animosity. These issues not necessarily complete nor listed in order of importance included:-

  1. Native title;
  2. The dysfunction in the communities of un-Australian Aborigines;
  3. The September 11 2001 airlinerings of the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon;
  4. The war against an abstract noun;
  5. The war against mind altering substances other than caffeine, ethyl alcohol and nicotine;
  6. Refugees arriving by means other than scheduled airline flights.

The first of John W's wedges related to the descendants of unlawful migrants who sneaked into Australia 40,000 years before the arrival of the rightful owners. John Howard missed very few chances to insult the un-Australian Aborigines, to do so publicly and in situations where a large proportion of the non-un-Australian population could see it. He wielded this wedge with such vigour that it started to show signs of wear. Luckily shiny new wedges arrived which he also used to effect. Had John W insulted Australia's Blacks only a once or twice it could have been put down to insensitivity, I forget my exact count which I included in posts or newspaper letters of many years ago but I think it was about 8. The high count indicates that he was exquisitely sensitive to Aboriginal pain and knew exactly where to sink his slipper. I still puzzle as to whether John W is actually a racist or not and if racist of what kind. I suspect that he may be quite sincere when he indignantly denies any racist taint and if this is so it would mean that the calculations on the extent of political advantage in appealing to the prejudices of a large proportion of the population all occurred below the level of consciousness. It may be that he is just very similar in his unconscious beliefs with those who heard his dog whistles. On the other hand one can conceive that even Adolph Hitler might himself have had no animosity towards Jews but that he was just a psychopathic politician who realized the political gains that could be made by exploiting the widespread and intense racism of his fellow Germans.

John Howard had a good run from his scapegoating, but it ended in 2007. I speculate that by then it not only ceased to work for him but that it actually worked against him. Prejudiced people are not necessarily evil, and when they realize that someone has been exploiting them by appealing to their worst natures they may react against that someone. Also initially the dog whistles were not heard by that proportion of the population without dog ears and who would have been put off had they heard, but over time these people learned to hear and turned against the government perhaps convinced by the cumulative chattering of the soy latte sipping chardonnay swilling politically correct types like those of us who infest this blog.

I look at America and see that its politics is extremely right wing, even Tony Abbott would be considered a pathetic leftish liberal wimp by typical American politicians. The Democratic party in the US is far to the right of our Liberal and National parties, I think that President Obama is more right wing than was Richard Nixon and yet there are about 20% of the US population who believe that he is a white-hating socialist Muslim who wants to destroy the free market, when in fact he is as loyal a servant of the US overclass of the obscenely rich as was George W Bush. This does not mean that there are not Americans conscious of the dysfunction of their politics but this consciousness has little effect on elections. The kleptarchy has several ways of staying in control despite the will of the overwhelming majority:-

  1. The kleptocrats own both political parties capable of having candidates elected. Gore Vidal long ago described the US as being governed by one party, the Property Party that has two right wings called the Democrats and the Republicans. It may have been hyperbole back in the mid twentieth century when he said this but there is no doubting its truth today. The Republicans are unashamed in pandering to the interests of plutocrats. Most of the time they can afford this because they have managed to appeal to the prejudices of anti-Negro and anti-Hispanic racists and the misogynist sex obsessed foetus fetishists of America's Christian Taliban. Occasionally GOP government becomes so on the nose that the GOP loses power as in November 2008. For cases like this the Democrats serve as a backup party for the plutocratic oligarchs. During election campaigns they promise to reverse Republican policies and to implement Democratic ones for which there is overwhelming voter support, but after election the Democrats become paralysed, they find reasons why they can't implement their policies, they can't get bipartisan agreement from the minority party not to filibuster in the Senate, conservative members on their own side disagree. Many commenters on blogs whine plaintively, but attribute the paralysis to weakness, to irrational fear of being accused of being a liberal, to fear of what Fox news will say or to incompetence in the management of business in the legislature or to the president not putting his influence behind proposed legislation, but they are wrong, those reasons are just excuses, the Democrats do what they do and avoid doing what they don't do because that is what their real masters want. See this post by Bob Jacobson in The Smirking Chimp, he describes the Democratic party as "occupying political space" by which he means they block the emergence of any new parties to serve the interests of the majority of non-elite US citizens;
  2. The US electoral system is much more hostile to minor parties than is ours, people are afraid of wasting their votes on minor parties with the result that the candidate least wanted by them wins;
  3. Running for election is outrageously expensive and monied interests can deluge their favoured candidates with cash and the US supreme court has recently struck down those limits on corporations donating to political campaigns that did exist;
  4. The majority of white non-elite citizens have successfully been brainwashed into supporting a free market ideology that tilts the terms of trade between the kleparchs and all other citizens decisively in favour of the plutocratic elite. They talk and vote as if their American dream of upward social mobility might actually come about;
  5. The Negro wedge. The US has about 12% of its population who are visibly of African descent, most of whom are the descendants of slaves. During slavery white Americans were terrified of a slave revolt, and this fear did not disappear when the slaves became nominally free men. Over 155 years this fear has changed form but it still exists and is the most important reason that the left in America is so powerless and that bellicose thieving war mongers are entrenched in power. Each time that Black Americans have made economic advances there has followed a vicious white backlash, for a short period after the civil war called Reconstruction, Negroes could vote and many achieved public office. The backlash that followed involved passing laws to deprive Blacks of the franchise such as literacy tests or knowledge tests which of course were waived for illiterate and ignorant whites and KKK terrorism and lynching for uppity niggers who persisted in voting. The next phase of Black advancement came with the civil rights movement of the sixties and the counter-attack came in the seventies with the War on Drugs. This didn't get into high gear until the Regan administration of the eighties but the policies that advanced it were explicitly targeted at residents of poor communities of colour. The result is that although Negroes actually use and trade in drugs at a rate slightly lower than do whites, the rate at which they are convicted for drug crimes is such that 1 in 3 Black males will be imprisoned in his lifetime while the collateral damage to white children of the respectable class is low enough to be tolerable. The effect of the drug war is to tar all Negroes, not just those actually convicted as felons and make non-elite whites hate and fear them and react angrily to policies that help poor people because they fear undeserving Black welfare cheats getting anything that they don't deserve. I strongly recommend the book, "The New Jim Crow" by Michelle Alexander and the website Friends of Justice run by Alan Bean. A review of the book is at this url at the aforementioned website.

My argument is a very condensed summary of Michelle Alexander's book. Friends of Justice is devoted to the discriminatory impact of US criminal justice policies and its archives provide rewarding browsing.

The Aboriginal population in Australia is not large enough to be used as a wedge except in rural and northern parts of the continent which is one reason why right wingers in Australia have not managed to use it to drag both parties to the far right. But the Labor party has capitulated and is afraid of being seen as promoting justice for minorities. I think that this fear is overblown and that the ALP could with the right arguments actually attract votes from many who actually support human rights. One reason Labor did so disastrously in the recent election is the loss of votes from such people. Why vote ALP when its policies on things such as boat people are so like those of the Coalition?

Topsy turvey

On a lighter (and perhaps somewhat relevant) note, we are not down under. It's a narrow-minded delusion.


Peripheral, then.


This is the best discussion I have seen for a long time at WD.

The contributions are thoughtful and each adds something new.

For example, Marilyn Shepherd points to the reality of a conservative court particularly back mid-decade, when the terrorism scare was at its peak.

It is not unfair that Shepherd sides with interpretations of the law more likely favourable with eminences like Gaudron J,  Burnside and Kirby J.

These are legal progressives who stress human, international and civil rights in their approach to their calling. But they have been outnumbered, finally outflanked, by a increase in conservative judicial appointees over the era of John Howard and most are likely still there as a "conservative" High Court, taking  its view point from the conservative perspective of Carlyle Moulton through to the more nuanced centrists like Michael Talbot-Wilson, et al.

Jay Somasundaram's comment on "no win" in reply to Alan Curran, shines the belated light of reality abruptly back on to a region only just featured on the news a week ago for massive floods that left homeless an already largely poor population something the equivalent of the entire Australian population.

Dark stuff and precious little pity in this world at this time in history for it not to be questioned in the future, as we might consider the futility of the Thirty Years War of the early sevententh century.

The meaning of "final solution"

In reply to Allan Curran.

I think everyone in the world knows what I mean by the term "final solution". There are only two possible solutions to the Israel/Palestine problem:-

1/ Genocide;

2/ Ethnic cleansing.

It is obvious that Israel's client state the USA will not allow Israeli Jews to be the ones subjected to genocide or ethnic cleansing but will prevent the other nations of the world stopping Israel doing it to the Palestinians.

An America in hock will have no hawks

Caryle, US power is already over-committed. The evil empire is on the decline.

Israeli Jews should be negotiating a peace with the Palestinians now. In the future there will be no US to rely on.

An America in hock will have no hawks— or at least none that anyone will take seriously

The unworkable refugee convention

It is time to recognize that the International Convention on Refugees of 1951 is to use one of John Winston Howard's favourite words unworkable as it is in conflict with a nation's prime duty to protect its borders. The convention was adopted amid feelings of guilt about having returned Jewish refugees to Germany where they were gassed or shot. But those who turned the refugees back were doing the right thing, they are not in any way guilty for the subsequent killings, the guilt for that belongs solely to Germans and to Germany.

1951 is almost 60 years ago, and sanity has returned and governments are realizing that their predecessors who signed the convention made a foolish mistake and that it is necessary to limit the threat posed by refugee flows to current citizens of their nations. If anyone contests this, he/she should go and ask an un-Australian aborigine in one of the squalid refugee camps near outback towns or a Palestinian from the West Bank or Gaza. These would be suitable representatives of peoples who failed to protect their borders. The Palestinians were overrun by genuinely unfortunate genuine refugees who as soon as they had the numbers proceeded to dispossess and ethnically cleanse their hosts and are working themselves up to the inevitable final solution to the Palestinian question.

It is my opinion that the rate of arrival of Muslim refugees does not in the foreseeable future pose a threat to current Australian citizens, but I may be like those foolish Palestinians who befriended those constituting their refugee problem. The core idea of the refugee convention is that a signatory nation has no alternative to accepting genuine refugees no matter that they come in numbers exceeding that nation’s tolerance or that the citizens of the signatory nation do not think they are of sufficiently good character to be allowed to immigrate. According to the refugee convention any genuine refugee has a right to arrive at the border of a signatory nation and claim refugee status. Obviously for any signatory nation there exists a rate of refugee arrival that is unsafe for existing citizens, what that level actually is a matter of opinion and there is a strong tendency to underestimate it. The honest thing to do is to withdraw from the refugee convention, but Australia has another solution to limiting the flow to tolerable levels.

In 1951 most migration was by boat, but since then air travel has completely supplanted it, and one cannot even board an international flight unless one has both a passport and a visa for the destination country. Not all refugees possess passports and Australia does not give visas to people who intend to apply for refugee status and I suspect that it would not give them to people who fitted the profile of refugees in transit if it recognized that.

The 1951 convention on refugees did not define a procedure involving an orderly queue from which signatory countries could cherry pick suitable candidates up to the number that they were willing to accept. Australia's pretence that refugees arriving by boat and those who bring them are doing something really really wicked is hollow. Do you really think that refugees would risk paying through the nose to travel in overcrowded and unseaworthy boats if they had the choice to pay less to travel quickly and safely by air? The fact is that people smugglers are providing a service made necessary by Australia's lack of a land border and refusal to fulfil its duties as a signatory of the UN convention. Of course many people smugglers are of bad character typical of those who traffick in illegal markets made necessary of prohibitions that go against human nature such as those against trading in sex, drugs, rock and roll etc, but some are simply poor former fishermen who have lost their livelihood from fishing.

Of course the overcrowded unseaworthy boats risk the lives of refugees, but it humbug for Australia to put all the blame on the people smugglers. If you were a people smuggler and you knew that your boat after one trip would be confiscated and burned you would hardly use a valuable boat or limit overcrowding. Every refugee drowned is as much the fault of Australians who try to institute an orderly queuing process as it is of the people smugglers.

I call on the Australian government to withdraw from the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees and to admit the reason, that is that there is the possibility of genuine refugees arriving at a rate that the nation would legitimately refuse.

What, tell the truth?

The convention is perfectly workable, it is idiot, lying, lazy governments who pretend it is not and use the refugees as political fodder just because they can.

We love bombing countries to bits but we sure don't want to take any responsibilty for the fall out.


Keith Warren, But I was surprised when John Howard put forward his very own Pacific/final solution.

My you do have a way with words, perhaps you could explain what you mean by "final solution".

Obsolete Convention

Agreed. I have been thinking allong similar lines, but  Carlyle Moulton has expressed it better than I could. I think I agree with every one of his points.

However there are several variants and extensions of the Convention. There might be a version that meets our need.

We need to accept genuine refugees for whom Australia is a reasonable place of first refuge, including perhaps persecuted Indonesian Christians or persecuted Indonesian Chinese of any religion, East Timorese under certain circumstances, West Papuans ditto, Fiji Indians (Hindus) ditto.

If we were to withdraw from an international convention and protocol we would need an appropriate Australian law which created corresponding rights for such peoples.

The problem is that the Convention allows long-distance, world-wide refuge, and that creates the problem that the number of refugees is too large. Reasonably, a refugee is a person who has escaped across the border from his country of nationality or from a region of warfare and that is the end of it. Long-distance resettlement in a chosen country is not part of it.

And as far as Australian arrivals are concerned they are almost never legitimate refugees in a de facto sense for that reason, because they are choosing to move on from their first refuge. Excepting Tamils, if they are genuinely from Sri Lanka, if they are genuine refugees, and if they have sailed directly.

Not true, you don't get it

RRT appeals – all countries Jan to March

China, Malaysia, Philipinnes, Lebanon , Bahrain, Sri Lanka, Sudan , Nigeria , Algeria, New Zealand, Uganda ,India ,Turkey, Rwanda ,Pakistan, Jordan, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, Fiji, Somalia, Burma, Latvia, Korea, Colombia, Mongolia, Iran, Bangladesh, Macedonia, Egypt,Tonga, Afghanistan, Cameroon, Nepal, Tunisia, Albania, Guinea, Serbia, Thailand, Congo, Vietnam, Palestine, Bangladesh, Sierra Leone, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu.

It seems to me that we don't persecute people from any of these nations who manage to fly here.

And coming direct has nothing to do with the neighbours, it has to do with who signed the refugee convention and who has the domestic processes to deal with them.

Let's compare two cohorts of asylum seekers.

Last year over 400 Indians made claims - 98.4% of them were bogus. Have we demonised them, abused them, called them "economic refugees" or whatever? No, we never hear a thing about them, yet they can appeal to the Refugee Review Tribunal (one member), the Magistrates Court, the Federal Court, the Full Federal Court and the High Court. And they can stay in the community for years on end while they continue their bogus claims.

The Afghans on the other hand had a 99% success rate because they have a well-founded fear of persecution. We locked all of them up though in case 1% were bogus, allow them no lawyers or access to courts - we waste over $100,000 each locking them up to save maybe $3,000 on one appeal. Stupid and moronic.

If all 147 signatory countries thought they could behave like us when we have the tiniest number of asylum seekers in the rich world then no-one would be protected.

And of course it allows long distance refuge - if Hazara are slaughtered in Pakistan and pushed out of Iran why on earth would you think it rational that they try and stay there?

We don't get to behave like a rogue state.

Not our war

Regarding the Afghans that come here in boats, why can't they stay in Afghanistan and help free their country from the Taliban.

We hear that if some of them are returned they will be killed by the Taliban, but we have Australian troops being killed by the Taliban whilst they are doing the job that the Afghans should be doing.

They can break out of camps and keep police busy for 2 days, why can't they do the same thing to the Taliban, at least give our troops a hand.

Distant refuge

As Marilyn Shepherd says, they are Hazara Muslims who are routinely slaughtered by Pashtun Muslims and have been for over 150 years. The Pashtun are the cruel conquerors of most of the country.

But they are not slaughtered on grounds of religion, a sect of Islam which they share with the more numerous Tajiks. They are slaughered on grounds of race. And as to that we are doing nothing to help. Because the Pashuns have slaughtered so many within the boundaries of their empire they now form a slight majority of the population within those boundaries.

Therefore, Australia and the United States, operating on the stupid principle that it is polically incorrect to have any regard to race, who ignore race when race is the primary issue and is why people are dying, have made a single electorate within those boundaries and installed a Pashtun overlord, Karzai, and he has proceeded to corrupt everything he touches including the subsequent election.

The Taliban are simply the Pashtuns when acting like Pashtuns, and the goofball Americans and Australians are in Afghanistan to help them and them only, but being goofballs, don't know it.

The Hazaras who escape are definitely refugees. There is absolutely no doubt about that.

But an issue is that they have left the country of refuge, Pakistan.

And Afghanistan is surrounded by adherents to the UN Convention and Protocol, namely Iran, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, all except Pakistan and Uzbekistan, but the latter has only a tiny portion of the border.

The UN Convention was designed to meet the situation in Europe at the end of World War Two and the idea of long-distance, world-wide refuge was reasonable in that situation only.

Even if they suffer some minor discrimination in Pakistan, and I have not heard of it, I question whether people who found refuge there are or should be entitled to refugee status in Australia.

There is no question that West Papuans reaching Australia meeting the UN condition of a well-founded fear are refugees entitled to refugee status in Australia.

There is no question that Hazaras have a well-founded fear. But it is reasonable to question whether those reaching Australia, who have left the non-adherent country of refuge, are entitled to refugee status in Australia.

And although Marilyn Shepherd says they are all Hazaras she has something to say elsewhere about the non-Hazara Bakhtiari brothers and parents who were returned to Pakistan and from there voluntarily returned to Afghanistan.

Bakhtiari is not a family name or surname, it is the name of a tribe whose homeland is in south-western Iran. Traditionally there is no such thing as a family name or surname in Iran or in these countries. Reza Shah imposed them in Iran and until then he was just Reza, only afterwards Reza Pahlavi, an invented surname. Queen Soraya of Iran was a Bakhtiari.

Iran has a border with Afghanistan and is an adherent to the UN Refugee Convention and Protocol.

It is therefore questionable whether the Baktiaris should have a right to refugee status and settlement in Australia.

It is reasonable to reject arrivals by boat of both Hazaras and Bakhtiaris, as it is not in the case of West Papuans. To simply lie down, and allow indiscriminate invasion from the sea, which would immediately explode if not discouraged, would be irresponsible on the part of the government.

The Serbians allowed uncontrolled migration across the Kosova border and as a result Kosova was lost to them.

But I don't like the scapegoating of boat people for demographic and religious changes in Australia. I think it is a tactic being employed by both parties to distract attention from damagingly high levels of legal migration.

I guess that makes me a Hansonite on every criterion.

Michael that is tripe

The Bakhtiyaris are Hazara and not one person ever said they weren't.  They were not rejected because they were not Hazara, they were forced back to the wrong country without papers because they embarrassed Ruddock.  This is s direct quote from Roqia'a Refugee tribunal finding:

The tribunal accepts that the applicant is an Hazaraand a shi'ite, and accepts that Hazara and Shia's are persecuted in Afghanistan

And they don't have protection in Pakistan although Pakistan does allow 1.7 million or more Afghans the shi'ites and Hazara are slaughtered the same as they are in Afghanistan.

Read today's papers for heaven's sake.


Yes, it was accepted that they were Hazara. Or the father was. The mother apparently is not.

There is an apparent UN Human Rights Committee judgment in which Australia claims:

"both the original decision-maker and the RRT made findings of fact that Mrs Bakhtiyari and the children were not from Afghanistan. The original decision-maker noted that she was unable to name the Afghan currency, any of the larger towns or villages around her home village, any of the names of the provinces surrounding her home or which she had passed through on her way out of the country, or a river or mountain near her village. In drawing adverse inferences concerning her veracity, the decision-maker made explicit allowance for her age, level of education, gender and life experience in determining the level of knowledge she could be reasonably expected to have, acknowledging limitations suffered by her as a woman in a Muslim country. The RRT also noted, inter alia, that the results of linguistic analysis showed a distinct Pakistani accent, and that she could name neither the Afghan currency nor the years in the Afghan calendar in which her children were born. While she had been unable to provide any information to the original decision-maker concerning her travel route from Afghanistan, by the time she reached the RRT her story had, in the RRT's words, "considerably evolved" and it took the view that she had clearly been coached in the intervening months."

I grant that the "original decision maker" may have been lying, such was the nature of the Immigration Department of the era. If so we have the Commonwealth of Australia committing perjury.

But the point that there was refuge in Pakistan, and other countries adjoining Afghanistan, still holds. They might desire to go to another country they think better on several grounds, currently better economic opportunities, currently better security, currently safer, but why should they have a right of settlement there, some country they picked off the map of the world, chose to select? Why go slumming in a country of infidels when they are in Pakistan, a culturally agreeable country, an Islamic Republic, where they are delightfully surrounded by true believers, as they disgustingly would not be in Australia, a country in which the Koran would oblige them to isolate themselves from unbelievers, from essentially the whole population, with which they are not allowed to integrate? Why, because they so choose, should they acquire such a right of settlement? Why should a country that is not their first refuge be obliged to treat them as refugees?

Michael, the are Hazara

The RRT accepted that she was hazara and shi'ite.  Why do you continue with this tripe?

I knew the family really well, they are hazara and were born in Afghanistan.

And the point that there is refuge in Iran and Pakistan does not hold, or they would have stayed there.

Once either Iran or Pakistan withdrew protection as they often do, they were not safe and could not go home.

And not a jot of the nonsense you spout makes one ounce of difference to the fact that the family were always Afghans.

That quote was from Roqia's RRT.

At the coalface

An armchair critic must defer to a real activist at the coal face.  You have my admiration.

Wales are more important

Comments like yours makes me so angry, Alan.

If its not our war, why the hell did we poke our f*ck*ng nose in there?

Afghani civilians are in a no-win situation. Both combatants, whether it is the Taliban on one side, or ourselves and our friend Karzai on the other are evil and corrupt. There are no good guys in war. There is no integrity and there is no dignity 

The gung-ho politicians think its a vote-winning John Wayne movie. Our soldiers tell them no different. They think all the latest toys will make them invulnerable. And after all, for soldiers, war is the path to relevance and promotion. 

Every time an Aussie soldier dies there is loud wailing and rending of clothes. How many Afghani civilians does that equate to? No, they are not humans. They don't count.

We are a democracy. The blood is on every one of our hands.

What would they fight with?

They are Hazara shi'ite muslims who are routinely slaughtered by the pashtun sunni muslims and have been for over 150 years.

What on earth would they fight with?


Regarding  pashtun sunni muslims and  Hazara shi'ite muslims they are all Muslims and I assume they are also all Pakistanis.

I don't care if they have been killing each other for 150 years but  Marilyn Shepherd what have they been killing each other with?

They could try using improvised explosive devices or small arms fire or car bombs against the Taliban, we have seen the damage they can do to our Australian troops.

How long before Sunni muslims and  Hazara shi'ite muslims start throwing bombs at each other here in Australia?

Give it a rest

Afghans of all varieities have been in Australia since the 19th century and to my certain knowledge not one of them has ever thrown a bomb at anyone here.

Former court cases

B & B, the Bakhtiyari kids, were released by the family court on welfare grounds.   The High Court found that kids have zero legal rights in Australia if they seek asylum with their parents and jailed them again.   Surely even North Korea allows that kids have rights to freedom?

s134 said that family reunion rights could be stripped from refugees just because they came by sea, the high court confirmed 5-2 with Gaudron and Kirby dissenting, that the family didn't matter a toss because the Australian constitution gives no protection of human rights to anyone.

 s157 was a privative clause brought in by Ruddock during the Tampa that tried to disallow any appeal process whatsoever in any court, it was largely found to be invalid by the high court so many cases were over turned.

QAAH was the 7 day rule that said people could not get permanency if they stayed 7 days in any other country even if that country was not a signatory to the conventions and people could not apply for asylum.   That was over turned and deemed invalid.   Many got permanent residents.

NAGV & NAGW was a case brought by Russian Jews found to be refugees but deemed invalid for protecion here because they should have gone to Israel - that was dismissed as ludicrous by the full bench of the high court.

Behrooz deemed that any conditions of cruelty and privation did not excuse escape from detention but that tort law applied for anyone damaged and they could claim compensation.

 Al Kateb deemed that the Palestinian man could stay in jail for his whole life just because he could not be deported.

Al Khafaji brought at the same time found the same thing.   Thankfully NAGV & NAGW overturned the notion that although he was a refugee he could have applied in Syria and he is now a citizen.

Cruel and unusual treatment under any circumstances I would think.

But the ALP don't care

The thing is that when push came to shove over the Nauru and Tampa stuff the ALP simply did not care enough to even argue the toss.

I have written on these pages what happned on that day, 26 September 2001, when I walked around the streets of Norwood in SA listening to the parliament crying as they voted to stop the Tampa and ship refugees off into limbo.

Now it seems that they care even less as they scarcely try and argue the law which states that anyone is allowed to arrive and seek asylum in this country without being punished for the method of arrival.

They are being ably assisted by the Murdoch rags who find it more worthy to demonise people like me when I point out the law than point out the law themselves although Peter VanOnselen and Mike Steketee weighed in when it was all too late.

Why on god's green earth it is considered a "flood" when a mere 4168 people or 17 per day on average on one boat every 2.6 days comes to an island and asks for help is beyond me and it is crazy that places like land-locked Lindsay should raise one jot of concern about events 5,600 km away.

What is heppening now is completely deranged.

When the refugees arrive at Xmas Island we claim they are not in Australia but Evans, out of the goodness of his heart, allows people to make refugee claims and if they succeed they let them into the country.

The poor Indonesian fishermen meanwhile are not charged until the refugees are accepted and brought to Australia because of course the refugees were not in Australia until we brought them.

Then we send the poor Indonesian fishermen to jail for not smuggling people into Australia.

And I knew this was the policy when a former friend called Mike Tumbers, an old CFMEU bloke, who works for Senator McEwen told me way back in February 2008.

The jailing in Indonesia is not new, we have been paying IOM to jail people as far away as Cambodia since 2001 and now we jail them in Malaysia.

For the record - it seems we spend $300 million per annum indulging ourselves by inviting a lousy 6,000 of the world's 15 million refugees to come and live here when they already have protection in other countries and then we spend another $470 million apparently to lock up the few thousand who have to come via the sea and yet it costs only $12 million per annum for the thousands who fly here and are not locked up.

It's a shameful disgrace and neither side of parliament takes one jot of notice of the UNHCR, the UN human rights committees, the HREOC here, Amnesty or Human rights Watch as they continue this brutal tomfoolery and wasting of taxpayers money to sustain a stupid lie.

Which lie you might ask?  The lie that the only refugees who are entitled to a place here are those in camps, they are not entitled and never have been.

It's just a sick and expensive hoax used to try and negate our absolute obligations under the refugee convention.

"ewige" refugees

Keith Warren sees things fairly similarly to myself. I certainly hoped that, finally free of Howard/ Murdoch hysteria from 2007, that  things would begin to improve. 

But the ongoing antic from the opposition after a few new boats turned up, amplified by a wall of noise, fear and loathing from tabloid telly, radio and newspapers, spooked labor and things closed down again.

I'll wager Keith, like meself, tended to feel that the opposition had done so badly that labor would drive the redneck remnants out at election 2010.

But labor got the jitters and "choked"at the wrong psychologial moment, and we are now a cigarette paper away from the unlikely prospect of an Abbott reactionary government in power.

I know Marilyn Shepherd is not everyone's cup of tea, but I remember and respect her posting of reams of material on previous court battles on this subject, going back to early Howard days.

I hope she reads Keith's post and it encourages her, or other refugee advocates following WD, to relate these previous court battles, against this current one, for the sake of a perspective for those of us not so "up" on these things.

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