The Walking Dead in Washington

In this fascinating article, Paul Gilding, the author of one of my favourite books, The Great Disruption, writes about the USA Presidency of Donald Trump and where we are today in regard to Gilding’s predictions in 2009 of the global effects of climate change.

Paul Gilding

We’re all focused on the drama and entertainment of Trump’s takeover of the world’s centre of military, security and economic power. For some it’s exciting and entertaining, for others terrifying and apocalyptic. I too have been glued to the news – at various times having each of those responses! But now I’ve come back to earth, recognising it all for what it is. Important, but a sideshow to a much bigger and more important game. And on reflection, I’m glad he got elected.

How can a Trump Presidency be positive? Surely this is a major setback – to action on climate change, to addressing inequality, to human rights and global security. Doesn’t it make the world a scarier and less stable place?  In isolation, all true, but in context, not so much. The context is the key.

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The Great Australian Lie

Black Mark

brun-flags-not-snags unknown, stencil, Brunswick

“Australian history does not read like history, but the most beautiful lies.” Mark Twain wrote and he knew how to stretch the truth.

There are so many lies; Australians aren’t racist but yet have managed to commit genocide and have racism in it constitution. The bullshit piles up so fast you’d be buried alive if you only listened to Australians.

Remembering that the The Commonwealth of Australia exists as nothing but words. The country that calls itself The Commonwealth of Australia is built on the lie of terra nullius; everyone knows that the Aboriginals were the true owners of the land. The only things that is definitely Australian is the word ‘Australian’; everything else is disputed territory.

“Indeed, what we think of as Australia is a species of fiction – as, in essence, is any nation. Hoaxes lie at the foundation of the European discovery and settlement…

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Happy Christmas Island Detention Centre II

Part II of this post centres on an article written by Jonathon Holmes in the Sydney Morning Herald in May 2016:

The Pacific Solution’s brutal fact: we need it.
We risk social disruption if we take more than a tiny fraction of asylum seekers.

Or, “I’ve got no ideas, so why am I bothering to write about this?”

In the article, Holmes says most people he knows deplore the Pacific Solution policy on moral grounds, but “I don’t believe one should pontificate about a policy unless one has some vaguely practical alternative to propose.”

The first hole in Holmes’ argument is that the boats have been stopped.  They haven’t been stopped, they are turned around.  The boats are still arriving.

The second is the “flood of reaction” from viewers unsympathetic to the situation of the Tampa when it was aired.  At the time, the Government, assisted by some sections of the media, worked hard to demonise the asylum seekers claiming falsely they threw children overboard, and so won an election based on a fabricated situation.

The article continues to say we can’t accept more than a trickle of refugees without social disruption, and Holmes can’t think of a better solution so champions what we have.  In other words, to maintain the status quo, we can only accept a small number of refugees who come through the “proper” channels.

To come to an end point on any problem, you have to discount what isn’t tenable:

We are signatories to the Refugee Convention, so we can’t do anything that contravenes it.  This instantly removes the option of returning refugees to the country they were fleeing.  It also removes the option of detention, once they are found to be genuine refugees.  It also removes the option of settling refugees overseas.

As long as we accept our status as signatories, we must accept our responsibilities.  If that “opens the floodgates”, then so be it.  We can stop a lot of people drowning at sea by intercepting their boats as soon as they reach Australian waters and bring them on board.  Is this a “practical” solution?  Yes, in that the money we waste on off-shore detention could be funneled into saving lives.

We may have to change our views about inclusion, accept that the era of a small Australia has ended, and realise that the global issues of over-population, climate change and food shortages will involve massive change regardless of what we do.

This sticking our head in the sand approach gives me the shits.  As a country, we are as great as how we treat our most vulnerable people.  It would take little effort on our part to settle the refugees on Manus Island and Nauru in Australia.

The number of displaced people world-wide was around 65 million in 2015 and will no doubt get higher.  By ignoring it we aren’t going to improve the lives of millions of people.  The question is, are we prepared to share what we have in return for helping more, and if not, then what are we?  As always, it comes down to the sheep and the goats.

Happy Christmas Island Detention Centre I

Our policy of off-shore detention has sunk to a new level with the death of 27 year old Sudanese detainee Faysal Ishak Ahmed on Christmas eve, the fourth death in detention.

Faysal Ishak Ahmed had “fled Sudan in 2013, having refused to be recruited by the same militias that had tortured him, killed several members of his family, and raped his sister.”  The Age, page 1, 31/12/16

The brief history of our off-shore detention policy started with the Liberal/National coalition (PM Howard) Government in 2001.  Previously, we didn’t have a problem with people arriving by boat, because they were refugees, but somewhere along the way we lost our conscience.

The first step on to the slippery slope was former Prime Minister John Howard, as part of the Pacific Solution, declaring Christmas Island no longer Australian territory only for the purpose of unauthorised boat arrivals.  This meant any arrivals were not on Australian soil, therefore unable to apply for refugee status.

Australia is populated by 24 million people, in a country the size of the USA (324 m).  We rank second in global per capita wealth.  In the year of highest boat arrivals the numbers reached 20,517 in 2013.  Our highest number of illegal immigration is from people coming by airplane and over-staying their visa (62,000 in 2014)

“When it comes to the total number of refugees recognised and resettled by a country, Australia ranks 25th (and 32nd on a per capita basis).”  Since 2014 there has been no official boat arrivals as the Coalition policy of “stopping the boats” is in reality, turning them around so they are made to return to whatever they are fleeing.

Yet we still keep the off-shore detention centres open to house refugee arrivals from 2013.  These people have been in off-shore detention for four years and counting.

Off-shore detention is an outsourced operation funded by our Federal Government.  In that way, if anything goes wrong, they can blame either the company operating the centre, or the country where it is housed.  The Australian Government refuses to acknowledge responsibility for the people it pays to house at a rate of $400,000 per single asylum seeker per year.  Off-shore detention cost the taxpayers over $1 billion in 2014 – 2015.

Since people have been arriving by boat, the majority have been found to be genuine refugees.  As signatories to the Refugee Convention, the responsibility of care of these people begins and ends with us.  “Countries who have signed the Refugee Convention also cannot send a refugee overseas (or ‘expel’ them) except if they pose a risk to national security or public order.”

The Coalition Government has a history of silence, cover ups, gagging welfare workers, aid workers and doctors, and refusing journalists entry to the detention centres.  We find out what is happening when a whistle blower doctor or aid worker breaks ranks and risks their livelihood.  Or a former guard or teacher speaks out.  Occasionally the detainees themselves are able to get their voice heard, as in the case of  a fellow inmate of the Manus detention facility, who said Faysal Ishak Ahmed had been sick for some months and had previously repeatedly sought medical attention.

This recent opinion piece by New York Times writer, Roger Cohen, says it all:  Australia’s Death by Numbers

Next:  Happy Christmas Island Detention Centre II


The Big Comedown – Canberra Arts Funding

Insightful, essential reading that is universal to the arts.

Yolande Norris

It’s so completely boring, the continual demand on the arts sector to state its case and argue to exist. It’s boring and offensive – a total waste of time and energy. I resent writing this now. I resent thinking about it. But since learning of the complete shambolic outcome of the ACT’s most recent arts funding round, I’ve been grinding my teeth over it, so here I am.

It’s nearly a year now I’ve been away from the sector, on maternity leave. I wondered how it might be, looking at the lay of the land from a distance – and perhaps I even hoped it would be refreshing, invigorating. But no. The shifts and movements of the past eighteen months have brought me right to the edge of a bitter pit of cynicism. I’ve felt disappointed, exasperated. I’ve cringed at the sector’s apparent lack of ability to hold its…

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