Posts Tagged ‘Liberal Party of Australia’

Somali-womanVia Mamamia

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection is attempting to send Abyan, the Somali refugee who fell pregnant after allegedly being raped on Nauru, back to the island.

Abyan was brought to Australia earlier this week to have her pregnancy terminated, but according to refugee advocates she may be returned to Nauru as early as this afternoon (Friday afternoon, Australian time).

According the Refugee Action Coalition (RAC), the 23-year-old was grabbed from her room at Villawood detention centre this morning.

 

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Refugee advocates say Abyan was grabbed from Villawood this morning. Image via Getty.

She has not seen any counsellors, nor been advised of any medical arrangements for her planned termination.

RAC spokesperson Ian Rintoul told Mamamia that he had met with Abyan on Tuesday morning and she had requested to see a counsellor regarding the termination of her pregnancy.

“She is clearly distressed and said that she needed time and wanted to talk to counsellors and doctors about the termination of her pregancy,” he said. “She said she had suffered too much on Nauru and she wanted to have that information before she made that final decision.”

Mr Rintoul said Abyan had received nothing in the way of counselling or the normal medical treatment that would usually be given to a victim of sexual assault.

“Immigration is claiming that Abyan has declined to proceed with the termination, but this has not been confirmed with Abyan herself,” he said. “This attempt to remove her is the most shocking violation of her rights imaginable. It is a vindictive move by the government against someone who has already suffered months of unnecessary trauma on Nauru. This removal to Nauru must be stopped.”

 

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Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. Image via Getty.

Abyan’s case first attracted the attention of the media after a video was aired on ABC’s 7.30 program, describing an incident in which she and another 26-year-old Somali woman were raped by two Nauruan men. The second woman, Namjan (not her real name), is currently on Nauru, where the government is threatening her with charges of “false complaint” over the rape allegations.

“She again is very distressed,” Mr Rintoul said. “She is aware of what the government is saying and is most immediately aware of the threats that await her if she leaves her accommodation.

“They are threatening to expose her and to kill her… She said she is very, very afraid.” RAC are urging everyone who has been moved by Abyan’s plight and the situation of refugee women on Nauru to contact the Prime Minister and the Immigration Minister and demand that they put a halt to Abyan’s removal.

You can call Malcolm Turnbull’s office on (02) 6277 7700 or Peter Dutton on (02) 6277 7860. Or email them at malcolm.turnbull.mp@aph.gov.au and minister@immi.gov.au

Is this how a civilised country should treat people. What do you think?

UPDATE

WE WERE TOO LATE TO PREVENT THIS DISGRACE.

http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/oct/16/australia-secretly-flies-pregnant-asylum-seeker-back-to-nauru-before-hearing

As many commentators have noted, the Labor attack on Tony Abbott is carrying on with one hand tied behind its back. The restraint is easily explained. They don’t want Abbott going anywhere while his brand is so toxic. They know Tony Abbott is their best chance at springing an electoral suprise and winning the next election, and the last thing they want is to face the much more popular, amenable and centrist Malcolm Turnbull. Which is why, in Question Time yesterday, they bizarrely focused much of their attention on Turnbull, not Abbott. Attention which, it should be noted, Turnbull deflected with much more wit and aplomb than Abbott has been handling such matters recently.

Which is why the general public – who are heartily sick of Abbott – need to insist that the media and their politicians ask Abbot this question repeatedly until they get a decent answer, or until Abbott steps down or is pushed off his perch.

Almost three years ago, Tony Abbott, then-Opposition leader, rose in parliament to ask Julia Gillard a question that could and should come back to bite him in the coming days.

Ms Gillard had just faced down the first challenge from Kevin Rudd, who had days earlier resigned from his post as Foreign Minister and then announced he was running for the top job.

Gillard won the leadership ballot, 71-31. It was then Mr Abbott asked the fateful question.

“Given that one third of her parliamentary colleagues and a quarter of her cabinet colleagues have today expressed their lack of confidence in her, how can she claim to have a mandate to continue as Prime Minister?” he asked.

Well now Mr Abbott finds himself in a strikingly similar situation.

At #thespill the motion to unseat Abbott brought by West Australian Liberal MPs Luke Simpkins and Don Randall was defeated 61-39. So while the spill was averted, it still indicates almost 40 per cent of his colleagues had lost faith in the PM. A question repeatedly put to him last night by Leigh Sales on the 7.30 Report, and repeatedly ignored by the embattled PM.

Liberal backbenchers say they have sent a powerful message to Tony Abbott that they want to be consulted and policies need to change. And Mr Abbott said in a brief statement in a video message after the vote that the matter had been resolved.

“We want to end the disunity and the uncertainty which destroyed two Labor governments and give you the good government that you deserve,” Mr Abbott said.

The question to be asked is simple: How can you possibly struggle on when your own party is utterly split over your leadership? We cannot necessarily rely on Bill Shorten and his cohorts to hammer home that question in the coming days and weeks, yet it is the question that demands an answer.

Meanwhile, Abbott’s essential nature (and his nervousness) is revealed yet again in two more glaring examples yesterday. The first was the panicky “Captain’s Pick” to throw open the submarine tender – on the day that he ruled out any more Captain’s Picks for a while. The leopard has not changed its spots at all, apparently. The second was his appallingly laughable assertion that “Good Government Starts Here”, which led, entirely predictably to the blogosphere, twittersphere, and main media asking the obvious question. “What have we had for the last 500 days then?’ The glee at such rampant idiocy was hardly restrained.

We have a message for the Prime Minister. This isn’t over by a long chalk, yet.

Tony-Abbott-Wink

There are a number of reasons Tony Abbott will no longer be Prime Minister after tomorrow, and some of them are linked.

Offending your deputy. Offending half your backbench. Offending great lumps of the Australian public.

But the main reason is really quite simple. He is very obviously, as far as any elector can tell, just not a very nice man.

Being considered a nice person is a much under-rated trait in politicians, as it is in the most walks of life in the body of the population.

Most of the really powerful and successful people we have met – and we have met more than our fair share over the years – have had a few things in common. They are usually personally charming, they exhibit humility, they have “the common touch” whatever their station in life, and they genuinely care about other people’s lives. Or at the very least, they seem to.

There are other characteristics, too. They tend to be ferociously hard workers, and they maintain a sense of perspective. Sometimes things will go wrong, sometimes they will go right, but there is never a reason to be nasty, or essentially unethical. Push the envelope, don’t rip it to shreds.

They have some advantages, of course. In the realms of the uber-powerful or the uber-wealthy, the rules that the rest of us find ourselves tied up in knots in don’t normally apply.

They don’t get caught drink driving, because they have drivers. They don’t end up in jail for tax fraud because they pay top dollar to stop that happening. And anyway, their affairs are so convoluted that the tax office doesn’t really want to look too closely, stretched for resources to prosecute cases as they always are.

They don’t seem as stressed as we do because they don’t queue for airline seats and the seats they buy are more comfortable. They don’t spend a day trying to negotiate a ticketing system to see a top show or sporting event, because their personal assistant gets them a seat in the Director’s Box, where they are always welcome because of their referred authority. Their holidays, such as they are, are smoother, more private, less noisy, less hassle, and more satisfactory. And if for some reason they aren’t, they throw money or influence at the problem.

But despite all this privilige, most truly successful people have an astounding ability to drop down to our level and chat amiably about our latest problem with an internet provider, how our local supermarket has stopped stocking our favourite fruit juice, or the problems we are having with our teenage progeny. It may be that they remember when they, too, were mere hoi polloi, or it may be that they recognise that while success is nice to have, it rests on the common consent of those around them.

There is a reason all those Godfathers in American hoodlum movies are seen kissing babies and helping little old ladies as they parade down the street in Little Italy. It’s good for business. And keen observers of human nature as all successful people are, they work at it until it comes naturally.

This is not to say they are all paragons. Clearly they are not.

Some drink too much, either in binges or habitually.

The most significant politician in 20th century history, Winston Churchill consumed at least a bottle of brandy a day. People in Melbourne still talk in hushed tones of former Prime Minister Bob Hawke’s capacity for the grog, even though he had the discipline to give it up when high office beckoned.

Some are sexually wayward. A bunch of Australian Prime Ministers have been enthusiastic adulterers, (the laws of libel dictate discretion here), and all the Kennedy brothers, Martin Luther King, and Bill Clinton also come to mind without much effort. Francoise Hollande, for that matter.

Yes, powerful businesspeople run foul of the law with some regularity, especially in civil court. But rather than rant and rave at their misfortune, they merely view it as a sort of occupational hazard. A bit like the rest of us view parking tickets.

So they aren’t really like us, no matter where they started out. But in general, in our experience, it is the capacity to simply get on with people that marks the truly successful from the also rans.

Some time ago, we wrote a blog that talked about the demise of Kevin Rudd, which we titled “Kevin Rudd has his Lee Iaccoca moment”. In it, we explained that Rudd’s disonnection from the leadership of the Australian Labor Party rested entirely on his near-maniacal control freakery, which caused the distrust of those around him, (and it went back a decade), and an acid tongue which hurt people’s feelings. In simple terms, he failed the likeability test.

Yes, Rudd had the capacity to be chirpy and chipper and even make us laugh with his obvious erudition and quick wit, especially in public. Sadly, though, no one near him, or very few indeed, actually liked him. More than one political groupie muttered in our hearing that they thought he was unhinged. He was better liked in the public, mainly the first time round because he wasn’t John Howard, but he wasn’t really mourned when he left the leadership either the first or the second time, when, of course, he was only returned to the top job because he wasn’t Julia Gillard.

There were very few people rushing to lift his head away from the block when the axe started to fall in the initial leadership putsch that so reminds us of what’s happening in Canberra tomorrow. And he simply  couldn’t believe it. Him! Kev! The smiling Milky Bar kid, the good Christian, the clever little bugger who overcame adversity, and the man who beat John Howard. Who could chat to the Chinese Premier in Mandarin, no less.

He didn’t get it then, tears in his eyes at the enormity of the disaster, and probably still doesn’t now.

Political leaders need to understand something central to their careers. Not being someone – Beazely, Gillard, Rudd, Howard, Turnbull, anyone – isn’t a good enough reason to keep the top job. It might get you there, but then we want more. We want their capacity to be “not them” to turn into someone we can grow to support in their own right.

Was or is Rudd unhinged as the whisperers asserted? We suspect not. Personalities come in all shapes and sizes and types, and labelling someone barmy is just code for “not like most people”. It doesn’t really matter. But some character aspects were certainly publicly observable. Capricious when it came to policy announcements? Unshakeable certitude? Breathless cynicism? Two faced? Rudd was accused of all that by colleagues and more. Similarly, not for nothing is Abbot often referred to as “The Mad Monk”, and not just because he was a Roman Catholic seminarian at one point. People can be very harsh to those they personally dislike. Both to his face (reputedly) and to the media, Tony Abbott has had to endure a repeated theme from his colleagues in the last week.

“You’ve done this to yourself.” The phrase was no doubt delivered with some relish.

Exactly like Rudd, he has a terrible aptitude for making it up as he goes along, and his basic error has been his own over-weening self belief, expressed in an arrogant disregard for the real world outside his personal office bubble, and the Canberra bubble generally. We are not talking about mere self-confidence or a healthy regard for his own abilities. All leaders, in all spheres, need that. Abbott’s major problem has been the apparent impossibility of his genuinely (as opposed to begrudgingly) believing he could be wrong about … well, about anything, much, really. From the outside looking in, it feels like “collegiate” is a word that he only discovered last Monday.

And his righteous self-belief has been expressed with such vehemence that he has carved out a hard-edged role for himself that is so acutely defined that now he simply can’t escape it. He has created an image of himself that has become reality, inside him, and externally.

When Abbott was tearing down Julia Gillard, and just out-waiting the hapless Rudd when he returned as PM, people in general – the mug punters, you and me – even if they agreed with the need to get the Labor Governmet out before it made any more mis-steps, turned their head away from the spectacle in hand-over-the-mouth disgust at his tactics.

The people of Australia wanted the Labor Government gone so badly that their swallowed the reflux bile rising in their breasts and their concerns. But Abbott crucially mistook this mass real politik for “taking the country with him”. (Which is why his current desperate appeal is based around “the country elected me to lead our party and the Government”, which is a nonsense, of course. The country elected the Libs and the Nats because Labor needed to be flung out. They got Abbott as part of the package.)

With each prating, carping, negative act of savagery while Opposition Leader Abbott not only damaged Gillard but also his own long-term public persona. He should have seen a warning, for example, in the general head-nodding agreement – not just in Australia, but worldwide – when Gillard tore into him in the Parliament for what she characterised as his innate misogyny and sexism. People then, and now, felt sorry for Gillard, sensing that her competence might be in question, and certainly her political judgement and presentation, but also perceiving that there was a clear goal to damn her simply as a woman holding the top job.

The continual focus on her looks and dress sense in the rabid right media pack that Abbott did nothing to hose down, for example. Abbott standing and sneering in front of lunatics carrying “Ditch the Bitch” signs – such a specifically unpleasant anti-female expression – knowing full well that the TV cameras would film him grinning from ear to ear in front of them.

And then, the feeling grew, by implication, event by event, that Abbott just doesn’t like women generally, or at the very least holds views better suited to the 1950s.

Where were the women in his Cabinet? With one exception, nowhere.

His later insistence, as Prime Minister, that successful Foreign Minister Julie Bishop needed a Ministerial chaperone to the climate change conference in Peru was just one recent example of a continuing round of mis-steps in this area, and his refusal to accept her offer of help with his under-whelming National Press Club performance was just the latest, along with his clumsy and offensive co-opting of her support for his staying in the top job, only to be shot down a few hours later by a cool and clearly angered Bishop.

And during all this growing female angst, what was Abbott’s response to his enlarging personal “gender gap”? To announce a completely ill-thought through paid parental leave scheme as a “top of the head” sop to working women, that was derided as shooting from the hip and likely to be unaffordable the day it was announced, to gasps of despair from his own supporters.

Women from all walks of life noted that they didn’t need more money so they could stay home and bake cookies for a while, they needed childcare places so they could continue to pursue their career. Until last week, it appeared no-one could hear them.

And at a stroke, with “PPL”, Abbott skewered his own budget position with what looked like yet more Howardesque middle class welfare, and forced the Coalition into the position of “soaking the poor” to balance the books. It took Abbott 16 months to realise his mistake, and then his grudging retraction of the patently unworkable policy was mealy-mouthed. Tone deaf, as always.

Yet as he watches his colleagues say one thing to his face and then do another as they cast their private ballots, we would be very surprised if Abbott has any real understanding of what is happening to him. Well, we have a primer for him.

The very same people that don’t want unfettered flows of refugees into Australia also don’t want those refugees left floating about in the bowels of a navy vessel for weeks, or consigned to misery in tropical concentration camps, reduced to psychological illness, self harm, or worse. The first is an appeal to commonsense and good governance. The second is mean-minded and cruel. That our Government doesn’t seem to care about the latter upsets many more people than just those on the left.

Similarly, there may be no pressing mood for Australia to become a Republic. Australians are deeply small-c conservative most of the time, and if something’s working OK, such as our constitutional arrangements, we’re pretty much happy to leave it alone.

But we do like Australia for the Australians – we detest knee-bending to the Poms in general, and royalty in particular, with the exception, perhaps, just a little, in the case of the Queen herself, who is widely admired. The “in itself unimportant” decision to knight Prince Phillip – the decision to bring back knighthoods at all, in fact – made us feel like the whole country was a laughing stock.

That Abbott couldn’t have predicted this goes precisely to his inability to feel himself part of the herd, even momentarily or occasionally. His later embarrassed admission that his action had been a “distraction” during the disastrous Queensland election showed no sign that he really understood that he made us all feel faintly ridiculous, and as we hadn’t done anything wrong, well, that he could swallow all that, thank you very much.

It is often said that a politician can survive anything but ridicule. The ridicule that swamped Abbott in the days after the announcement revealed with stark, lightning-bright clarity one unmistakeable fact. And it is this.

We really don’t like him. This wasn’t a “Silly boy, oh well, all’s well that ends well” moment. This was a “You complete fuckwit” moment. His inability to truly take that on board in a convincing manner only made the whole sorry saga worse.

But his real problem – the one that will see him dumped – has been the gung ho manner in which he has chosen to address a “fiscal crisis” that the public simply doesn’t perceive. Backing his even more socially inept Treasurer at every turn, he foisted on the public a panicky, poorly presented and savagely deflationary budget (the only thing missing was the word austerity) that no one understands or wants, and then utterly failed to sell it.

Meandering between a self-satisfied “I know more than you do” smirk and a frowning, headmasterish “you need this” assertiveness, he managed in just a few short weeks – ably assisted by his tin-eared Treasurer – to offend just about every “ordinary voter” in sight.

As Paul Kelly wrote in The Australian yesterday, “The Abbott-Hockey fiscal consolidation is undermined by a popular revolt, Senate vandalism and election results that prove the public is unpersuaded of the case for reform.”

In this sentence, Kelly of course uses the word popular to mean “widespread” or generalised. But in fact, the core problem for Abbott is deeper than that. Not only is the broad mass of the public unconvinced of his policies, and therefore acting up, we are also communally delighting in watching Abbott being dragged bloodily from the throne. The revolution is popular. It is also popular.

In suburban households up and down the country, Madam Lafarge is click-clacking with her knitting circle in joyous expectation that Abbott’s head will soon tumble into the basket in front of them.

We. Just. Don’t. Like. Him. One too many (or perhaps a few thousand too many) ums and errs. One too many refusals to take responsibility. One too many unpleasant little jabs or full-blown haymakers. One too many unblinking cold stares.

Dear Reader, we have been on this planet 57 years, and since the age of 16 we have been actively involved in politics, current affairs or commentary to some degree or other, including even – once – facing the general public for endorsement ourselves.

Our fascination with ballot-box politics has seen us read, experience and learn voraciously everything that has passed our way from the minority governments of Harold Wilson, Ted Heath and the miners, Margaret Thatcher and the miners, Jim Callaghan’s winter of discontent, the breaking of union power in the UK, Thatcher and Reagan staring down Gorbacev, the Blair “Noo Labour”revolution, the failure of American policy in the mid-East from Reagan and Carter onwards, the near-perpetual antagonism of Howard and Peacock, the glittering landscape of micro-economic reform under Hawke, Keating and Kelty, the near-collapse of democratic Government in Italy, and now in Greece, the demise of fascism in Spain and Portugal and their current struggles to retain good governance, the economic miracle of Germany and its internally-mutually-supportive PR-based politics and worker-inclusive industry, the stumbling from economic powerhouse to economic stagnant pond in Japan, the growth and gradual opening of China (where we have done business, and a country we admire), the Asian tiger phenomenon, the descent of Central America into chaos and murderous civil conflict and it’s slow recovery, and, of course, the adventurism of Iraq and Afghanistan. All of it. We hoover it all up.

Which is why we feel it helpful to say that in all that time, and with all that political junkie obsessivenes, we have never – never – experienced such generalised dislike of a democratically-elected politician as we now experience in our daily life whenever Tony Abbott’s name is discussed. Irregardless of whether we are talking to ironed on Labor voters, Liberals, Nats or Greens, the man simply cannot buy a good word from anyone. He is no longer even seen as a necessary evil. The people have spoken, daily, for months and months, if not, in reality, for years.

We just don’t like him. We just don’t like him, a lot.

With his leadership lying in the hands of a group of people who would rather like to keep their jobs after the next election, that is why he is about to lose the Prime Ministership. Not because (as will be said afterwards) he attempted the hard yards of economic reform. But because he royally fucked it up.

As Grace Collar remarked yesterday (also in the Oz) “Trust and confidence have been lost. One decision has already been made. This government – in its present form – and the Australian people have parted ways. This decision is final. It cannot be undone, no matter what. No appeal can occur.”

People don’t like Tony Abbott. His own people don’t even like him. They may even hate him.

Malcom Turnbull, it will be noted by observant readers, is likeable.

And in politics, that, as they have been known to say, is that.

PS Even if Abbott somehow survives tomorrow – we dont think he will, but he might – he is doomed. The votes against him will reveal a very significant section of his party no longer believe in him. That is an impossible position for a Prime Minister to take to the people in 18 months or less. He has to win big – huge – to survive, and he’s not going to. Simple as that. You heard it here first.

abbottBefore he was even elected, we opined, publicly, that Tony Abbott would never make it to the next election. Or that if he did, he would never win it.

We tried, somewhat unsuccessfully, to popularise the hashtag #onetermtony to encapsulate our point of view. Clearly we haven’t cracked working Twitter yet.

Our reasons were very straightforward. In our consideration, Abbott exhibited (and continues to display) the wrong skill set to be Prime Minister.

His “crash through or crash” style and belligerent University-debating-society arrogance is all wrong for leading a party, let alone a country. He was pitchforked into the job by Nick Minchin and others (by just one vote, remember) because of their visceral distaste for the much more electorally acceptable small-L liberalism of Malcom Turnbull. We said at the time, and we say it again: this was a gigantic strategic failure born of naked personal ambition, hubris and sheer political bastadry. And now it has entirely predictably come back to bite the Liberal Party in the butt, big time.

Be under no misapprehension, Dear Reader. As things stand, the Australian Labor Party is undeservedly coasting back into national power with a leader whose main role in the run up to the next election is to appear inoffensive. Policy development? None. Vision for the country? None. Hugs and smiles? Yup, plenty. The target is not just small, it’s miniscule.

Let us just revise the history of the last 18 months – Abbott won against the terminally wounded Gillard and the terminally incompetent Kevin Rudd. Through their own infighting and their catastrophic mishandling of various key policy imperatives, the ALP had made themselves virtually unelectable. Theoretically for a generation.

That they have now defeated a competent if un-inspirational Coalition Government in Victoria, look like they are at the very least competitive against a first-term LNP Government with a massive majority in Queensland, and currently seem a shoe-in for the next Federal election, is testament to the scale of the muddled, tone deaf yet vociferous incompetence of Abbott and many in his cabinet.

The chickens are coming home to roost so fast we shall all be eating them for breakfast for months to come. On Fairfax radio this morning a “through and through” Liberal voter on callback radio accused Abbott of being the “world’s worst salesman: in danger of handing the keys to the Lodge back to Labor”. Rarely can a Prime Minister have endured such a shellacking from one of his own in public.

Yet the caller, of course, had put his finger on exactly what’s wrong with Abbott. When you are Opposition Leader, you are an attack dog. You’re not selling anything, in reality, except the incompetence of the incumbent administration. When you are in power, you need to demonstrate you are LISTENING, not just spouting off. Abbott is inherently disinclined to listen.

HowardHe sees himself in the mould of his political mentor, John Howard, who paraded his “tough little Johnnie” status to considerable effect and turned himself into one of the most successful politicians in Australian history.

But Abbott lacks something Howard had in spades: the ability to not get in front of popular opinion, and to listen to the undercurrents in the electorate as well as what is actually said. For example, despite being both a social and fiscal conservative (or saying that he was), Howard (and his Treasurer Costello) actually maintained very high rates of taxation and social welfare, the latter aimed directly at the very Middle Class which Abbott is now seeking to soak to pay for un-necessary tax cuts for business and the uber-rich. Dumb.

But there are many other mis-steps that are down to Abbott personally. His office – led by the incredibly unpopular Peta Credlin – was highly effective in keeping the Coalition caucus on message (and largely, in fact, silent) while Abbott got himself elected. But the same unbridled disciplinarian approach in Government (which appeals to another side of Abbott’s nature, ever the proto-Roman-Catholic-seminarian) has antagonised Ministers and backbenchers alike. The most obvious mis-step being to enrage one of his rivals, Julie Bishop, by insisting on sending Andrew Robb as a right-wing minder to accompany her to the climate conference in Peru in case she should actually – gasp! – agree to do something to combat climate change. That’s not the sort of “direct action” on the problem that Australians expected.

Abbott’s record in Government on Medicare has been simply woeful, too.

The initial $7 co-payment idea was effectively (and accurately) seen as dreadfully

There are no votes in upsetting little old ladies. Or those who love them. Dumber.

There are no votes in upsetting little old ladies. Or those who love them. Stupid.

unfair to those who rely on bulk-billing medical practices to help them survive poverty and/or old age, and the illnesses associated with it. Frail little old ladies unable to pay to visit their Doctor was not a good look for a party which counts the majority of retirees amongst their supporters. Astoundingly stupid.

A more recent attempt to slap on a $20 fee on short consultations which was always doomed to fail in the Senate has simply added fuel to a still spluttering fire.

Why make such a mis-step for a second time, let alone the first time? Simple: crash through or crash, in action.

As the pro-Government Murdoch-owned Daily Telegraph reported, Abbott defied Treasurer Joe Hockey and the former Health Minister Peter Dutton to impose the $20 cut to GP rebates before later backflipping on the policy he had demanded. In a highly damaging leak from the powerful expenditure review committee, senior ministers have confirmed they were told Mr Hockey and Mr Dutton opposed the move during a “heated’’ exchange with the Prime Minister. The warnings included concerns that rolling out new changes to GP consults in the lead up to the Queensland and NSW state election was “crazy’’. Doctors also immediately warned the changes would be passed on to patients, raising fears of even higher charges than the original co-payment.

But the Prime Minister instead insisted on changes including the $20 cut the Medicare rebate for short GP consults. These changes were developed by the Prime Minister’s Office and then costed by the Department of Finance and Health. Tony knows best. Although as the later reversal showed dramatically, it is clear he didn’t, fuelling both front and backbench dis-satisfaction.

Stung by a grassroots backlash to the policy by his own Liberal MPs, Mr Abbott formed the view that it must be dumped while “taking soundings’’ as he drank beers at the cricket on Thursday. These “soundings’ included a threat by senior MPs that they would go public in their opposition to the $20 rebate cut. Mr Abbott then discussed the problem with the new Health Minister Sussan Ley who was forced to disembark from a cruise ship to announce changes after they were rubber stamped by the leadership group on Thursday morning.

Tony Abbott defied Joe Hockey and Peter Dutton to impose “crazy” GP fee.

Abbott looked what he is: rather poor at running an effective collegiate Government.

It is also clear now that the Government is very likely going to fail to introduce “fee deregulation” (read: sell more degrees to overseas students at vastly inflated cost) for Universities, against trenchant opposition from both Universities and students.

The resulting budget chaos from this “tone deaf” policy failure is likely to run into the billions. But that’s not really the core of the problem for the Government. In households with teenage kids and young adults up and down the country, worried children asked their parents, “How will I ever be able to afford to get a degree?” Most of those parents, like members of the Government remembering with embarrassed affection their own free University education, shifted uncomfortably in their seats, and the Government inexorably dropped down yet another peg or two in their estimation.

It should be pretty simple. No one ever wins elections in Australia promising to hurt health and education. Government MPs are now pondering why Abbott appears to want to do both, spending what little political capital the Government began with (as most of the reason for voting for it was really not to vote Labor, after all) with reckless abandon.

Is there really a deficit problem? If there is, the Government has failed to make its case.

There’s a deficit, but is there really a deficit problem? If there is, then the Government has failed to make its case.

The other major issue for the Government is that it simply cannot persuade the people of either the need to tackle a “structural deficit”, nor the means to tackle it if they could even persuade people it exists.

Basically a structural deficit simply means that the country’s economic situation will continue to become more and more indebted as the years pass, because the Government is committed to paying out more money than it is collecting in taxes. You wouldn’t think that was too hard a case to argue, if it’s real. Perhaps stopping using the term “structural deficit” and using something simpler like “living on our national credit card” might be easier for people to grasp, but hey, we’re in the advertising business, what do we know, right?

cut-spendingThe Government’s solution to the situation has been to seek to savagely cut expenditure, mesmerised as they are by Costello’s previous performance in returning the budget to surplus. But unlike Costello’s performance, their cuts are being perceived as falling on the innocent and those least able to cope with them, which offends Aussie sensibilities, especially as people aren’t sure why they’re happening at all (see below).

Critically, their formula ignores the fact that Costello achieved his “economic miracle” based on a growing economy and consistently high overall taxation levels (whilst cutting personal tax, to ensure the Government’s popularity). The introduction of a Goods and Services tax at 10% made all the difference. Pumping up that tax is probably the long-term solution, but the move will be unpopular, and talking about increasing taxes is tough when you were elected on a rock solid promise not to do so. A little less hubris in the run up to the election would have gone a long way … but you can’t tell that to an attack dog.

But anyhow, and this is the crucial point, it is very easy to demonstrate (and Labor will increasingly do so in the run up to the next election) that Australia’s indebtedness is still very low by world standards, and like any household deciding its level of mortgage debt, we’re not really broke at all.

In fact, our mortgage, by world standards, is very small. We are – and feel – prosperous. If we want to splurge a bit, well, hell, why not?

Stop talking, just build it already ...

Stop talking, just build it already …

As the need to invest in national infrastructure is agreed by all sides of politics – we still have no train line to Doncaster in Melbourne, let alone to the bloody airport – the siren call to “keep spending and hang the deficit” seems to be more appealing than any desperation-stakes call to tighten our belts.

Put even more simply, it doesn’t feel like we have an economic crisis, so why are we acting like we do? Especially when the Government can apparently find umpteen billions for a more than fifty new fighter bombers which no-one can actually understand where or how we could even use them.

In other words, the most important job – by far, the, er, most important job – of a Prime Minister is to, er, well, sell the plans of the, er, Government, and, er, Tony Abbott has been, um, staggeringly unsuccessful and, er, unconvincing in doing so.

(Yes, he also has the most appalling public speaking manner, which only makes him appear yet more woeful. And he looks down when answering questions he doesn’t like, which makes him look shifty. One wonders why no-one has the guts to tell him.)

PUP Senator Glenn Lazarus, speaking of the latest debacle over University funding, remarked that you can only polish a turd for so long before the exercise becomes pointless.

It is clear that a significant part of the Liberal Party now hold the same view of their Leader. How long they will keep polishing is, of course, the question.

They could have just listened to us in the first place, of course. And before anyone gets swept up in the Julie Bishop love-in, rest assured that the party will return to Turnbull when they dump Abbott, because he has proven competence, his inoffensiveness will play well against Shorten, and remember, half the Parliamentary party wanted to keep him anyway.

Although he is very unpopular with the hard right, those MPs already eyeing losing their seats on current poll standings understand clearly that he has much broader appeal than any other potential Prime Minister with the general electorate.

If this isn't the next Prime Minister of Australia, then god didn't make the little green apples, and it don't rain in Indianapolis in the summertime ...

If this isn’t the next Prime Minister of Australia, then God didn’t make the little green apples, and it don’t rain in Indianapolis in the summertime …

Little wonder, then, that a quiet smile plays on his face most of the time.

Besides his huge personal wealth offering him an out anytime he tires of the Canberra game, it also recommends him to many on his side of politics as a “performer”.

His restraint in not agitating against the usurper Abbott in recent months has been remarkable to observe. This also demonstrates he possesses a strong strategic nous, and admirable patience.

He will need to take the top job on again with plenty of time to re-establish himself, but he has a little while yet before he has to move.

When he does, we suspect he will allow himself to be dragged kicking and screaming into the role, rather than being seen to assassinate his leader as he himself was assassinated. Unless, of course, assassinating him would prove electorally popular as well as a necessary lancing of the Abbott boil to save the deckchairs on the sinking ship. In which case, he will act decisively and with steel, which he possesses deep in his soul. For now, though, he will likely keep his powder dry. Not needing the job is a big part of his charm.

And after all, in the meantime, there’s the sheer fun of watching his replacement swing in the breeze, and revenge, as they say, is always a dish best eaten cold.

viting historic

The Victorian State election is tomorrow (Saturday). It’s been so bloody dull this far most people will forget it’s on until they try to walk down the street and get accosted by wild-eyed fanatics handing out How to Vote cards.

Anyhow: non-Victorian readers who are not total election luvvies can turn off now.

For the rest of us, the only real interest in this election, given that it looks very likely than “Dan the Man” Andrews and his Labor Party will win, (although the very latest polls are showing a tightening), is what happens in the Upper House.

This house is like the Senate in Canberra – it’s elected in regions by proportional representation. Which means, of course, that it’s virtually impossible to know what will happen because preferences flow every which way, and we could well end up with an Upper House with all sorts of odd bods in it, making life tricky for any incoming government.

It also means that most voters don’t have a bloody clue how to actually vote formally in the upper house election. For all of you, here’s the facts courtesy of Anthony Green of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, edited judiciously by us.

What is your Upper House vote?

legislative council

The Victorian Legislative Council, or upper house, is like the Senate in Canberra. It is a ‘house of review’ with five members elected by proportional representation from each of eight regions.

Unlike the Senate in Canberra, the Legislative Council does not have staggered terms for its members. All 40 members of the Council face election every four years at the same time as the lower house, the Legislative Assembly, Victoria’s “House of Reps”.

Each of the eight regions consists of 11 of the state’s lower house electorates. When you turn up to vote you will be given the lower house ballot paper for your local electorate, (Melbourne, Richmond, Bulleen, etc) and the ballot paper for the corresponding Legislative Council or upper house region. Got that? Two ballot papers. On we go.

What do I see on my ballot paper?

Along with your small lower house ballot paper, (which you number “1” to however many candidates there are – you MUST number all the boxes) you will also be given a large upper house ballot paper. Your upper house ballot paper is divided across the middle by a thick horizontal black line.

Candidates and their parties are organised into columns running across the ballot paper. Each column has a single box above the line by which you can vote for a party, OR multiple boxes next to candidate names below the line by which you can indicate numbered preferences for their candidates.

Unless, of course, you’re in the North.

Sadly, the Northern Metropolitan Region ballot paper is even more complex. It has two rows of party voting boxes above the line, and two rows of party candidates below the line.

The first row of boxes above the line is for the first row of candidates below the line, and the second row of boxes above the line is for the second row of candidate boxes.

As Green remarks, it is truly horrible, but the alternative to doing this was the reduced font size and magnifying glasses issued at last year’s Senate election. Basically, good luck working out what the fuck is going on.

If you vote in Northern Metropolitan Region and get this ugly ballot paper, just double check with the Polling Officers that you have voted for the party you think you are voting for. A few extra moments checking avoids you voting for someone you didn’t mean to.

Don’t Confuse Party Names

Premier Denis Napthine leads the Liberal Party. His party appears on the ballot paper with the column heading ‘Liberal’ in the metropolitan area, and ‘Liberal/The Nationals’ in the country regions.

There is another party appearing on the ballot paper in all regions as the ‘Liberal Democrats’. Be warned that the Liberal Democrats ARE NOT the Liberal Party and have nothing to do with Premier Denis Napthine. So if you are intending to vote for Denis Napthine and the Liberal Party, don’t vote for the Liberal Democrats by mistake. Of course, if you like the Liberal Democrats best, vote for them first.

Daniel “Call me Dan” Andrews is the leader of the Australian Labor Party. They are not the same as the Democratic Labour Party (DLP). If you intend to vote for Daniel Andrews and the Labor Party, don’t give your first vote for the Democratic Labour Party (DLP). The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) ARE NOT the Australian Labor Party. Of course, if you want to vote DLP, go right ahead.

Remember, when you vote above the line for a party, THEY decide where your voting preferences go. So if you vote for any party above the line on the ballot paper, which is quick and easy, it is always possible your ballot paper will end up with another party through preference distribution.

And never start off by giving your first preference to the wrong party by accident.

How do I vote?

You have two options when you vote, voting either above the line or below the line.

You can place a single ‘1’ in one of the boxes above the line to simply vote for a party.

Or, you can vote for candidates from 1 to 5 below the line. You can then stop, or go on numbering below the line beyond five for as many candidates as you like right up to numbering the whole ballot paper.

Hang on, is this different from the Senate?

Yes it is, in a very important way. At last year’s Senate election, when you voted below the line you had to number every square. In Victoria you are only required to number from 1 to 5 below the line for a formal vote. All preferences beyond 5 are optional. Put one preference, five, ten, twenty, or the whole lot. Up to you.

What happens if I vote for a party above the line?

When you vote for a single party above the line, your ballot paper is distributed as if you have expressed a preference vote, and the preferences used will be those pre-decided by the party you vote for.

There have been some very weird and controversial preference deals struck by both Labor and the Liberals at this election, especially to the detriment of the Green Party. If you want to check the preference tickets of each party before deciding who to vote for, which we recommend, you can examine them at the VEC website.

Then again, if you believe and trust your chosen first preference party, you probably do not care much about who your chosen party directs preferences to.

Checking preference deals can be very complex. Trying to understand how a party’s preferences will be distributed requires understand the very complex counting system, and also making assumptions on what percentage of first preferences each party will poll.

So if you do care about your preferences, it is probably quicker and easier for you to vote below the line for candidates and keep writing in numbers until you don’t care any more, or you’re sure you definitely don’t want your preference to end up with the Monster Raving Loony Party*, rather than try to understand the very complex preference tickets.

*Despite what you may think we don’t have one of those in Victoria, although they do in the UK.

What happens if I give more than one preference above the line?

You can, but it won’t make any difference. Only your first preference ever counts above the line. Any 2, 3, 4 and so on preferences above the line would simply be completely ignored. Only your first preference ‘1’ counts, and your ballot paper is also deemed to have the preference tickets of your first choice party.

How do I vote below the line?

A vote below the line must have the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 in some clear order to be a formal vote. If you wish you can go on to number 6, 7, 8, and so on for as many candidates as you like on the ballot paper.

You can vote for any candidates in any group below the line. Some parties are standing 5 candidates, which means you can vote 1 to 5 in that group, but you don’t have to. You can vote 1 for a Labor candidate, 2 for a Greens, 3 for a Liberal, 4 for a Sexual Freedom For Fish* candidate, and so on.

*Nope, we don’t have any of those either

If there’s a group or party that have fewer than five candidates that you want to vote for first, then you have to go on and number candidates in more than one column. You must number from at least 1 to 5, so if you were to just number 1,2 in a single column and stop, then your vote will be informal and won’t count.

Don’t mix and match between above and below the line. You can either vote a single ‘1’ above the line, or the numbers 1 to 5 below the line. Mixing up numbering between the two options will make your vote informal.

Then again, if you correctly number at least 1 to 5 below the line, and a single 1 above the line, your vote is formal both above and below the line, and the counting rule is to always apply a formal below the line vote before a formal above the line vote. Simples, huh?

Can I go on beyond 5 preferences below the line?

Yes, and the more preferences you give, the greater chance that your vote will stay live in the count for longer. If you vote below the line, ensure you vote at least 1 to 5, and then go on giving preferences for as many candidates as you know or like or care about.

What is the best way to number my ballot below the line?

It’s this simple: number candidates in the order you would like to see them elected. Give your ‘1’ vote to the candidate you would most like to see elected, 2 to your second preferred candidate, and so on.

If you try and get really tricky-clever with so-called strategic voting you might end up outsmarting yourself. Strategic voting is only possible if you are able to estimate the vote each party will achieve. Even pointy-head experts have difficulty determining this, so the best strategy for everyone is simply to number candidates in the order you would like to see them elected and if you don’t care after a while, stop.

Can my ballot paper “run out” of preferences?

Yes. If you just number 1 to 5, and all five of your preferences are for candidates who have already been elected or excluded (“knocked out of”) the count, then your ballot paper will ‘exhaust’ its preferences. An “exhausted” ballot paper is one that has no preferences for a candidate remaining in the count, so the ballot paper is put aside as out of preferences and plays no further part in the count. It cannot be further used to determine the election of another candidate.

For this reason, it is always best to keep numbering beyond five candidates. If you think all the other candidates are a waste of space and want to stop at 5, you can do that, of course. But if you have views on other candidates on the ballot paper, and you want your vote to have the maximum impact, it is best to keep numbering for as many numbers as you see fit.

Exhausted ballot papers mean that it is possible for the final candidates in the Council to be elected with less than a full quota of votes, which isn’t desirable.

How can I work out what to do in advance, so I’m not standing in the booth for half an hour?

When you vote, you must fill in the official ballot paper handed to you in the polling place. Only a duly authorised ballot paper can be admitted to the count.

But if you want to vote below the line, there are sites where you can prepare your list of candidates, print them out and take them along to vote. Then just copy your sequence of numbers across to the actual ballot paper.

You can try Cluey Voter.

There. Now that was all clear as mud, eh? Good luck.

The Upper House election is likely to be crucial this year as regards the future governance of the State. Make sure you know what you’re doing!

Much to ponder. From rooster to feather duster in under a year?

Much to ponder. From rooster to feather duster in under a year?

 

Bad news for Tony Abbott and the Coalition continues today with the publishing of another poll that shows just how dramatically the Liberal and National parties have slumped since 2013’s election.

The latest poll shows the Abbott government is now a full 10 points below its election-winning vote. This is way beyond mere “out of honeymoon” blues.

The Newspoll, published in The Australian on Tuesday, puts Labor ahead of the coalition 55-45 per cent in the two-party preferred vote, a further depressing drop of two points for the coalition since the previous poll two weeks ago.

Primary support for the coalition is also down two points to 35 per cent, from 37 per cent, while Labor is up one point to 37 per cent – two points ahead of the coalition. This result would have seemed impossible in the dark days when Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd were engaged in their death struggle. It remains to be seen if Tony Abbott goes down in history as the only man capable of breathing new life into the Labor corpse which seemed crucified, dead, buried, with multiple stakes through it’s heart and then cremated such a short while ago. That they are even competitive again so soon is startling.

It’s not all good news for Labor. Outflanked on the left, the Greens have also gained three points in the primary vote – up to 13 per cent.

Voter dissatisfaction with Tony Abbott has reached the highest level since he became prime minister, 62 per cent, and is his worst personal result since November 2012, The Australian reports. With his approval rating at 31 per cent, Mr Abbott’s net approval of minus 31 points is the worst for a prime minister since Julia Gillard scored minus 34 points just days before she was replaced by Kevin Rudd in June last year, when she was widely considered to be leading the Labor Party to certain disaster. It will not have escaped Liberal and National backbenchers that Abbott now appears to be doing the same.

 

They also serve who only sit and wait. Is that just the hint of a smile?

They also serve who only sit and wait. Is that just the hint of a smile?

 

Whether Abbott’s vast slump into extreme unpopularity will prove enough of a motive for the hard heads in the Liberal Party to replace him with the much more moderate Malcolm Turnbull remains to be seen. We have always been of the view, even before the last election, that Turnbull would be Prime Minister before Christmas 2014. Abbott is both simply too relentlessly self-satisfied and negative to play the role of Prime Minister, a job which requires the ability to reach across the aisle to independents and natural Labor supporters to build a centrists’ coalition.

Abbot is not a conservative. He is not a “one nation” Tory. He is a radical right winger – a born-again Thatcherite, his idol in his youth. As such, he was never going to sit well in power with the essentially small-C conservative Australian public. We are seeing the hubris of Nick Minchin and others on the hard right coming home to roost. They wanted their boy – they got him up by one vote – and now he is proving to be manifestly un-re-electable. A great opposition leader doth not a great prime minister necessarily make. They might have won less big had Turnbull remained at the helm (they might have won bigger, too), but they would have won more enduringly.

Labor leader Bill Shorten has also regained a 10-point lead as better Prime Minister that he took after the budget – on 44 per cent, with Mr Abbott on 34 per cent. We do not believe he is yet “popular” – he has neither the common working man’s touch of a Bob Hawke or the swaggering certainty of a Paul Keating. But he has hardly put a foot wrong yet, revealing that he has both a good “ear” and a smart brain. His meek persona also contrasts nicely with Abbott’s arrogance.

It is well-known that Shorten wishes to keep his powder somewhat dry, and not to “knee-jerk” to every mistake or missed step from the Coalition. Thus former federal Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan played Shorten’s stalking horse yesterday when said Liberal-National Party backbenchers were too gutless to speak out against the “savage cuts” in the budget, which he sees as reflected in the Newspoll. “If they had any decency, they’d be standing up in the party room and holding the LNP to the promises they made to the people of Australia at the last election but they’re not because they’re gutless,” he told reporters in Brisbane. “There’s no spine in the LNP backbench either at the state level or the federal level. They sit back and meekly accept the savage cuts … which are going to hurt the peace of mind and welfare of families right across Australia.” You can expect to hear a lot more of that as each and every Budget action wends its way trhough the legislative process.

To be fair, Swan was probably speaking from the heart, too. As a Labor backbencher during the early 1990s, Mr Swan led a revolt against the Keating government’s unpopular post-election budget that increased taxes.

Anyhow, the next few months will be interesting indeed. From being one of the most successful Opposition leaders the Liberals have produced in a long time, Abbott may well go down as their most unsuccessful Prime Minister. A recalcitrant Senate filled with newly hopeful Labor and Green representatives is now replaced with one with even greater complexity. At first blush, the new Senate looks like a more amenable one for Abbott. But appearances can be deceiving. Clive Palmer, for example, knows full well that supine agreement with the Government – any Government – would render his populist message irrelevant. There’s no point being “anti” the establishment and then joining it, as the Australian Democrats discovered over the GST, and the Liberal Democrats in the UK and the Free Democrats in Germany can attest more recently.

We can therefore expect regular little eruptions of rebellion from Palmer and his mates, and watching his eye for publicity and gesture politics one can expect those rebellions to be on core issues, such as the politically smart agreement to scrap the unpopular carbon tax and return the dividend to ordinary voters as a reduction in household costs. And if they aren’t core issues, he will trumpet them as such, anyway. And every time he lays a glove on the Government, Abbott will not only look dumb, but weak. A terrible combination.

The essential problem that Abbott faces is that by manufacturing a financial crisis out of a structural deficit (which is not, after all, the same thing) he has critically reduced his room for manoeuvre. As a result, he is now stuck with slogging round the country telling everyone, basically, bad news, for at least the next 18 months.

He might even have pulled that off if his presentation, and that of his very lacklustre Treasurer Joe Hockey, had been less simultaneously preachily self-congratulatory and ham-fisted. But apart from his suddenly incoherent and uncertain delivery (has any senior politician anywhere in the world ever said “Er” so often?) he has also wedged himself by a serious of actions that were never going to get through the Senate, and which were guaranteed to appear mean and un-necessary.

The most obvious example is the GP co-payment, which looks and smacks like nothing more than soak the poor, and should never have been advanced in a month of Sundays. But once advanced, it was not “sold”, beyond a repeated mantra that this was somehow “for the good of the country”. Scores of worried little old ladies and the chronically ill duly queued up on talk-back radio stations of all political inclinations to tearfully ask what would become of them now they couldn’t afford to go to see their doctor. The message that the co-payment was theoretically designed to be capped at a maximum of $70 a year completely failed to cut through. Once again, the central Liberal Party message-meisters and their political puppets have been shown to be far less competent and aware than they are often painted.

Denis Napthine. If he's not careful, Abbott will do for him, too.

Denis Napthine. If he’s not careful, Abbott will do for him, too.

(A similar problem assails the Victorian Liberal and National Parties, where two years of good financial management and the resulting announcement of the biggest-ever infrastructure spending program in the State’s history – in any State’s history, actually – is being completely overwhelmed by the unpopularity of the Abbott Government. Liberal and National Party publicists seem at a loss to know how to punch their message through. (There’s a clue in this paragraph by the way, boys.) Meanwhile Denis Napthine despairs in his eyrie and Daniel Andrews hugs himself with glee, saying very little, cheerfully waiting to fall into office. But that’s another story.)

Those surrounding Abbott need to understand this: it’s one thing to drag down an unpopular Prime Minister in whom trust has been lost. It’s quite another to sell a swingeing austerity package that very few people think is needed in the first place.

They – and he – need to lift their game very fast, or yibbidah yibbidah, that’s all folks.

 

 

Scott Morrison demonstrating his usual loquacious behaviour.

Scott Morrison demonstrating his usual loquacious behaviour.

Following on from controversially limiting his relationship with the world’s media to weekly set-piece press conferences at which he steadfastly refused to offer any information anyway, “Stop the boats” Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has now indicated he will no longer even do that to update journalists about the Government’s “border protection” operations.

The Government has not held a briefing on Operation Sovereign Borders since December 20, after previously holding them on a weekly basis.

Mr Morrison, who held a briefing this morning, told the ABC’s 7.30 program that his weekly briefings will now be held on an “as-needs basis”. The briefings will be replaced by a written statement unless there is something significant to report.

“We will issue a statement on the numbers of arrivals and the transfers, and we will hold operational briefings – like we will [on Wednesday] – when we have something to say and when we have something to report,” Mr Morrison said. “We will do them on an as-needs basis to detail operational matters that are able to be released and we’ll respond to questions there.”

However, tellingly, Morrison declined to comment on reports of a protest on Christmas Island in which six people engaged in a hunger strike are thought to have sewn their mouths shut.

Astonishingly for a Minister in a so-called democracy, he offered the following nonsenical reasoning:

“We don’t comment on protest activity.”

Why, you may wonder, Dear Reader?

“We don’t publicise it because publicisation (sic) of that sort of behaviour, if it occurs, is exactly what the perpetrators want. That’s in the best interests of everybody – those who are the allegedly taking those actions and those who are seeking to manage those centres – it’s in all of their best interests and not to engage in that game.”

So let’s just unpick that. Publicisation (we think he meant “publishing”) is “exactly what the perpetrators want” but then contrarywise, its in the best interests of those “allegedly taking those actions” for them not to get that publicity. Curiouser and curiouser, you might think, and you’d be right.

So the response to asylum seekers sewing their lips together in protest that they can't be heard is to, er, make sure they can't be heard. For their own good. What sort of Kafkaesque nightmare has Australia become?

So the response to asylum seekers sewing their lips together in protest that they can’t be heard is to, er, make sure they can’t be heard. For their own good. What sort of Kafkaesque nightmare has Australia become?

We know what you mean, Minister.

Don’t think you are fooling us for one moment.

You think it is in your Government’s best interest to suppress news of disquiet, protests or riots in case the Australian people become so concerned by the concentration camp approach to legal asylum seekers that they start to question your outrageous policy settings. That is the one and only reason you are doing this. Shame on you.

At Wellthisiswhatithink we will make our attitudes perfectly clear.

  • Despite the Government’s desperate attempt to pretend it is so, there is no difference between asylum seekers arriving by boat or any other means. They are exercising a legal right to seek refuge under United Nations rules drafted, in part, by our very own country.
  • Asylum seekers who are not assessed to offer any threat to security can and should be housed in the community, not in camps. To do anything else offends for so many reasons they hardly need enunciating. Especially when so many of the asylum seekers are families, including children.
  • The appropriate response to this situation, (which by world standards of trauma-induced population movement hardly rates mentioning), and which craven politicians from both sides fail to insist upon, is to demand (not politely request) that the “way station” countries between Australia and the source countries sign the relevant conventions so migrants can stay there – for example, Indonesia. South East Asia has the lowest density of Refugee Convention signatory countries. Australia was among the first to ratify this 60 years ago but very few of our neighbours have followed our example. There is no reason whatsoever that these countries cannot offer safe haven to refugees, thereby obviating their need to riskily attempt to reach Australia by boat at all. If those countries need financial support to enable this, so be it. We are rich, we will offer it.
  • Last but not least, our refugee intake is pitifully small anyway. It could easily be doubled or trebled without anyone even noticing. The only reason it is not is fear of public angst. What we are witnessing is a total lack of compassion, of Christian values, of generosity, and of political courage. Given that senior members of the current Government parade their Christian beliefs in public, this is a disgrace. And for a nation built on immigration – built, indeed, on a policy open arms for those needing asylum – it is a disgrace that strikes a cold blow deep into the very heart of what it means to be Australian.

And now, it is a disgrace that increasingly takes place in secret.

And the level of double-speak on the topic, and not just from the Government but also from the Opposition, is so obvious and so rank that it would not disgrace Goebbels.