Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Friday, 17 November 2017

Madness on Manus

Pic courtesy Gippsland Times

The madness on Manus continues.

Refugees continue to be used as a political wedge by both the major parties, who share bi-partisan brutality in their treatment of this issue.

There are, however, some hopeful signs.

I hope, gentle reader, I'm not a giddy optimist, but maybe, after all these years, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

My conviction about the situation and the policy disasters that led to it, promoted by both major parties, is pretty close to this statement from Australian Catholic bishops -

A Joint Catholic Statement on the Humanitarian Crisis on Manus Island

A week after the official closure of the Manus Island detention centre, more than 600 refugees and people seeking asylum languish inside, unsafe and uncertain about their futures.  

After forcibly transferring the men to Manus Island in 2013-2014, the Australian government and its sub-contractors have now abandoned the centre and the island, leaving vulnerable people seeking asylum without access to medical care, psychiatric treatment, food, water, or electricity.  

Our government has failed to provide these men with any safe alternatives. The UNHCR has condemned alternative accommodation in Lorengau as unsuitable and unfinished. Human Rights Watch is the latest of several international organisations reporting on locals assaulting and robbing refugees across the island with local police making little effort to investigate these crimes. People in the centre have been subject to multiple attacks over the years, one of which caused the death of Reza Barati in 2014.  

Australia’s offer to relocate refugees in PNG to Nauru is no solution at all given the environment there is similarly beset by crippling uncertainty, epidemic rates of attempted suicide and mental illness, physical health ailments, well documented incidents of sexual and physical abuse, and the absence of critical infrastructure across the island.  Unlike PNG, Nauru has never undertaken to provide permanent settlement for its caseload of refugees; with a population of only 10,000, it can’t. 

The US resettlement deal appears to be stagnating and the Australian government continues to refuse New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 recognised refugees.  

We Australians have a humanitarian crisis on our doorstep in Manus Island.  It’s our fault and we should do something about it right now. 

Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA), Catholic Social Services Australia, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Australia, and Jesuit Social Services (JSS) jointly declare:  

• The men on Manus Island have the right to food, water and shelter; to freedom and liberty; to be free from inhumane and degrading treatment; and to seek and receive protection.     
• The Australian Government is legally and morally responsible for the lives of these men who have been arbitrarily and indefinitely held in limbo for more than four years.  
 • The only humane resolution to the current impasse is for the Australian Government to bring every refugee and person seeking asylum on Manus Island to Australia where they can be permanently resettled or have their claims processed in safety and with dignity.    
• Offshore processing for the purposes of deterrence, whether in PNG, Nauru or anywhere else, is inhumane and unsustainable, and must cease to be a part of any Australian policy.   We urge all Australians to express their concern for the desperate circumstances of the men on Manus Island by contacting your local federal MP to demand an immediate change to this expensive, unworkable and unprincipled policy.   

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference - Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office:

Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFMConv, Bishop Delegate for Migrants and Refugees has issued a statement on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, following the closure of the Manus Island Centre. He states: “The policy of offshore detention has failed and it is time for us to deal with the issue of asylum seekers and refugees according to this nation’s proud tradition and the best nature of its citizens. We can do a whole lot better, just as we did welcome “those who’ve come across the seas” after the wars in Europe and in Southeast Asia. The concern for maritime border security does not have to make us into a mean-spirited people. The policy of offshore detention has cost Australia dearly. But it has cost the detainees and their families even more. I appeal to the government and political leaders to act in accordance with our honourable tradition. It is time to find an alternative and conscionable solution, including accepting New Zealand’s offer of resettlement and bringing the remaining detainees on Manus Island to Australia for further processing.”

(Both of the above statements were first published on 6 November 2017).

As I have posted before, there is a solution beyond offshore processing, a solution that has worked before. It lacks the potential to be used as a wedge, so neither side of politics can be bothered with it.

The problem, of course, is that fear of "the other" has always been a powerful political weapon in this country.

The humane treatment of the Vietnamese must have been an aberration. 

Monday, 13 November 2017

The Citizenship Saga

Pic courtesy AAP

I’ve called this a “saga”, gentle reader, because no other description fits this series of events so neatly.

A “saga” can be defined as “a dramatic history of a group, place, industry”, and if “dramatic” infers to a series of unexpected and unusual events, it is indeed a very good match.

It all began with a barrister called John Cameron, who had a specific interest in, and knowledge of constitutional law. As it happens, he also has dual New Zealand/Australian citizenship. Cameron became aware that Scott Ludlum was a dual citizen, as Cameron himself was, and contacted a Green acquaintance with his evidence, who passed the information on to the Party.

Ludlum resigned 48 hours later.

Once the cat was out of the bag, and the media got the hang of the implications, the rot started.
Now, as this is written, the whole thing has descended into farce.

The situation has been picked up by the various parties as a means to attack each other’s legitimacy, and all common sense and logic has gone out of the proverbial window.

Now I understand section 44 holds, and we don’t need individuals sitting in either house of parliament for whom loyalty to the country they serve is questioned, but seriously, does anyone really believe that this is an issue for the people who have resigned?

Without wishing to sound cynical, self-interest has always trumped national loyalty in our parliaments, so national loyalty is actually irrelevant.

So, what’s the solution?

I know this opinion flies in the face of the High Court, but why not simply leave everything alone until the next election, and allow those fingered to sort out their affairs in the meantime?

After all, the people who voted for these members believed they were good Aussies entitled to represent them in parliament. How can that belief and trust be thrown in the proverbial waste basket?

The intent of the democratic process should be valued, and not steamrolled by black letter law.  It’s not as if these people who were also citizens of New Zealand and the UK (or Canada, or Italy) were going to be compromised in their decision-making in our parliament. 

I doubt the Kiwis, the Italians or the Canadians are all that concerned about decisions made in Canberra.

But I’m only a voter. It seems that my views (and those, I suggest, of the majority of Oz voters), are irrelevant. But, wait a minute, isn’t democracy a process which is founded on the views of the voter?

We’ve recently had a very expensive postal survey on same sex marriage. Why not put this question before the people –

“Do you wish to allow those democratically elected by the Australian people to remain in parliament until they can renounce dual citizenship?"

On second thoughts, given the record of referenda in this country, we might get a "no" and succeed only in prolonging the saga. There'd always be somebody bloody-minded enough to advance the "no" case. 

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Strange Days Indeed

Pic courtesy ABC news

Thirty-two Australian Federal Police raided the AWU offices this week investigating something that is alleged to have happened over a decade ago.

The investigation is looking at donations from unions, on the basis that members may have not been consulted. There seems to be a notion that the union movement has no business in seeking to influence Australian politics.

Strange indeed, considering that the Labor party has its roots in the 1891 shearer’s strike, and that you would have to living under a rock not to understand that history.

We’re being asked to believe that there is no connection between this raid and the declining stocks of the Coalition. The tactic of smearing your political opponents because you’re afraid of the power and influence of their organised supporters is as old as Methuselah.

The influence of the big end of town, characterised (for example) by the big banks, seems to be quarantined against any form of public inquiry, despite the fact that they have been caught out frequently in fraudulent behaviour, and consistently rip off their customers.

But they’re neat and clean and well-advised, these bankers, and wear ties to work, not like those sweaty unionists in their Hi-Viz vests.

Royal Commissions, on the other hand, are all the go when it comes to those nasty unionists.

There’s fear and trepidation in the ranks of the Right that progressive organisations like Getup might comprise a threat to their inviolable right to rule. How dare a bunch of individuals get active enough to seek to influence the status quo?

Members of the coalition have historically had a more charitable (and dismissive) view of Getup when it suited them. That has changed because Getup are effective.

The delicious irony in all of this, of course, is that the whole episode has landed Cash in trouble because of the leaking from her office. Now we’re expected to believe that the adviser did this without the tacit approval of his minister. What are the odds that he’d still be in his job without the Buzzfeed story?

There is something deeply sinister about a political party using the apparatus of the state to throw mud at its opponents. Michaela cash has been taking lessons from Old Mate Putin.

Saturday, 14 October 2017


The one I bought when it was mounted on the owner's NA.

My MX5 will soon be a testarossa*

I need to get some striker plates and two Frankenstein bolts and the job will be done.

By way of explanation, gentle reader, these bits and pieces are needed to attach the hardtop to the car.

These are the bits you need.

I've done all this before. I fitted my first MX5 with a hardtop before I sold it. The mounting points are located in exactly the same position in all NA and NB versions, although you have to remove a bit of trim to access them.

These hardtops are like hen's teeth, and are beginning to go for very silly money. I think I was a bit lucky to get hold of this one. I contacted the vendor on the day he advertised it on Gumtree, and was in Brisbane collecting it the next day. The Ute is indeed handy, although there was about 5 mm to spare getting the hardtop under the canopy for the journey home.

His price was reasonable, as it's in pretty good nick, even though it is ten years older than the car.

I will eventually paint it to match the car, but initially I will be driving a testarossa.

Hardtops are a blessing for a number of reasons.

They make the vehicle much more secure. Anyone with a pocket knife can gain entry to a softop. This actually happened to my current car, which explains why it has a relatively new convertible top.

In addition, they are completely weatherproof - although the softops are the same, providing they're properly fitted.

They also increase the car's rigidity if mounted properly.

But for mine, the greatest advantage is the improvement in over-the-shoulder visibility.

Driving an MX5 with the convertible top up is a bit like sitting in the bottom of a bucket when it come to rear visibility.

*Check Google translate. It's Italian.

Update: Trial fitting -

The hardtop is not compatible with the roll bar, sitting about 5 mm too high - so I'll have to remove it. Another job ahead.

What do you reckon, gentle reader? Leave it red, or have it matched?

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Home of the Brave - Land of the Free

A very young Abe Lincoln

Australians looking across the Pacific right now can’t believe what they’re seeing.

Our long-time ally, and a country which we always believed shared our values, is slowly but surely destroying itself.

Mind you, we've seen it all before.

I saw a similar phenomenon when serving beside Americans in Vietnam in 1970. Back then, American servicemen were killing their junior officers at an alarming rate. The preferred method was to put a hand grenade beside the sleeping victim, pull the pin, and run like hell.

Nine hundred died in this manner from 1969 to 1972. It was so common that it produced its own jargon.

The Yanks called it “fragging”.

The violence was a symptom of a deep national malaise in 1970, relating to the lack of support for the US military in Vietnam at home, and a growing understanding by those at the sharp end of the conflict of the sheer futility of it all.

In 2017, we are seeing similar violence, most recently the slaughter of 58 people at Las Vegas.

There seems to be a chilling inevitability about this, and the impotence of the US law makers to deal with it.

It is also a symptom of deep national malaise. The country should probably be renamed "the Disunited States of America", when you observe the quality of the hyper partisanship that has developed in the last decade.

That division in public opinion also reminds me of Vietnam.

When he was asked to put forward reasons why the US should continue to fight in Vietnam, in a memo dated March 24, 1965, Assistant Secretary of Defense John McNaughton writes to his boss, Robert McNamara, that America’s end goal is “70%” to avoid humiliation.

The “dignity” of the USA held sway over everything else. It wasn't about defeating Communism, or saving the Vietnamese. It was all about the self-absorption of the body politic in the USA.

So, the prime reason was about symbolism – saving face. We saw how that worked out.

In many ways, gentle reader, this same symbolism is at the root of the current malaise. A naïve observer is prompted to enquire why the most powerful nation on earth lacks the capacity, and apparently the will, to protect its own citizens.

And, on the face of it, if you listen to the NRA, it’s all about the symbolism of the Second Amendment.

This clause is held up as an inviolable symbol of freedom, expressed as the right to self-defence.

Now forgetting about the obvious and inevitable outcome of the practical expression of this cultural symbol (a rate of mass shootings unrivaled anywhere else on the planet) it’s important to examine the historical perspective.

You need to go back a lot further in time than Vietnam or Las Vegas, to understand that this thread of the threat of self-destruction runs through American history.

The following is an extract from an 1838 address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, by a very young Abraham Lincoln. He was talking about existential risk to the Union - 

How then shall we perform it? --At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? -- Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never! --All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions: As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

I’ve bolded Lincoln’s answer.

It’s pretty obvious that he saw self-destruction as the greatest threat. Twenty three years later the threat was realized.

We’re seeing this same threat now, in the context of a President who gained power by dividing his country, and surfing into office on the fear and resentment created by that division.

As for the line in the anthem – Home of the brave – land of the free.

The gun culture fostered by the NRA is not an outcome of bravery, but of fear, or more accurately paranoia.

And the country which characterizes itself as a bastion of freedom, has the highest incarceration rate in the western world.

The irony is stark and inescapable.

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