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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Lifters and leaners - who's really doing the heavy lifting in Australia

Lifters and leaners - who's really doing the heavy lifting in Australia

According to the Tony Abbott led government, Australia faces a budget emergency and needs immediate action to rectify it. Unfortunately, the government has decided that it will use similar ill-fated austerity measures that have ruined European economies, by slashing funding to essential services, including education and health, as well as cutting welfare and pensions.

In his May 2014 budget speech, Treasurer Joe Hockey stated 'We are a nation of lifters. Not leaners'.

Admirable words. Inspiring. Except that the government's attack on welfare recipients is implying that they are leaners rather than lifters. The real leaners, however, are those who are avoiding their tax obligations.

Part of the budget meant that high income earners (earning more than $180,000 per annum) would pay a temporary Budget Repair Levy of 2% for three years. This is pretty much the extent of lifting that they are expected to contribute. The remainder of the lifting is being done by welfare recipients, pensioners, low and middle income earners, students. Essentially, the lifting is being done by those who can least afford it.

Sadly many of these same people voted for this government, believing the budget emergency lie propagated by the LNP when it was in opposition. Australia's national debt is around $367 billion or 22% of GDP according to the government's Mid Year Economic Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) for 2014-15 (1). To put this into perspective, it would be equivalent to a person on $100,000 per annum having a $22,000 mortgage. Hardly time to panic. The government loves fear-mongering and managed to manipulate its way into power through the misrepresentation of Australia's fiscal position while it was in opposition.

Reference 1

 The 2014-15 MYEFO report mentioned above also mentions that Australia's interest payments are $13.5 billion per annum. Scary stuff - or so it the government is still saying to scare Australia into thinking they are the solution to a non-existent problem! Until you read the next line of the report that states this is less than 1% of GDP (0.8% to be precise).

Reference 1

While in opposition, the LNP gave no latitude to the Labor Party when they argued that external factors such as the Global Financial Crisis or falls in prices for iron ore or other raw materials were contributing to the deficit. This deficit which the LNP made such a big deal about prior to the election, was doubled by the LNP within only a few months of them coming to power (2). It wasn't doubled because of the debt inherited from Labor, but through spending and budget measures undertaken by the LNP, such as giving $8.8 billion to the Reserve Bank of Australia, and the repeal of revenue generators such as the carbon price and the minerals resources rent tax. Additionally, iron ore prices have plummeted recently which Treasurer Hockey is blaming for a further decrease in government revenues ... the same excuse that he refused to let Treasurer Wayne Swan get away with. What's good for the Swan is good for the ... well, you get it. Hockey's hypocrisy and hyperbole is horrendous.

During the GFC, the Kevin Rudd led Labor government, with Wayne Swan as Treasurer, ensured that Australia was kept out of recession. It was only one of two countries to avoid recession. It did so, not by implementing austerity programs, but by spending predominantly in two of the largest employment sectors: retail and construction. It was basic Keynesian economics: if the economy is sluggish, stimulate it. If no-one is spending, then the government should, otherwise consumers stop spending, businesses go to the wall and people lose their jobs. It was estimated that Rudd and Swan's stimulus program saved up to 200,000 jobs (3).

Hockey's plan is to take money out of people's pockets and slash government jobs. With less money to spend and less job security, consumer confidence will drop driving business revenue down which both reduces taxes taken by the government and increases job cuts in the private sector. Just on a year into the Abbott government's term, unemployment is at 6.3% which is an 11 year high; even surpassing the rate seen during the GFC (4).

It is clear that Australia's budget position is not in dire straits. If the government embarks on slashing expenditure in key sectors it will drive the economy into recession. Spending shouldn't be cut; revenue should be increased.

Speaking of revenue. Tax is paid on earnings. While most small and medium sized businesses pay their taxes, the big end of town is notorious for minimising, avoiding or evading tax. It was recently revealed that 75 of Australia's highest income earners paid no tax. Between them they earned $196 million or an average of $2.6 million each. Yet they paid no tax, Medicare Levy or Medicare surcharge. They did it through claiming tax right-offs that reduced their COMBINED annual taxable income to $82, or an average of $1.10 per annum each. (5)

The Tax Justice Network Australia produced a report that shows Australia's Top 200 companies paid an average tax rate of 23% instead of the statutory rate of 30% that they should have paid. This costs the government $8.4 billion per year. However, around one third had an average effective tax rate of less than 10% while 57% had subsidiaries in secrecy jurisdictions and 60% had debt levels above 75% that would have reduced their taxable earnings. (6) It is likely that were all of these factors to be mitigated there would be significantly more than $8.4 billion collected by the Commonwealth.

The tax that the government is missing out on from Australia's wealthiest individuals and its top 200 corporations is more than the combined impacts of its policies on welfare recipients, pensioners, students, low and middle income earners. Refer to the budget paper to see the measures the government is taking, including indexing pensions to CPI rather than wage increases, a $7 co-payment for medical visits (now changed to a reduction of $5 in the Medicare rebate that doctor's may claim - which will be passed onto patients), deregulating university fees, changing thresholds for claiming various benefits. The budget also included preventing recipients of unemployment benefits from claiming income support for six months of the year. (7) Thankfully, common sense prevailed and the six month suspension of income support was rejected by opposition parties and has now been withdrawn by the government.

The budget unfairly targeted the most vulnerable in society while letting the wealthiest get away without their fair share of the lifting. Revenue is the secret to reducing debt and deficit.

A Vermont government committee once stated: 'Taxation is the price which we pay for civilization, for our social, civil and political institutions, for the security of life and property, and without which, we must resort to the law of force'.

If the government is truly interested in reducing government debt and returning the economy to surplus it could certainly address tax minimisation strategies that the big end of town is using to avoid contributing to the economy. It isn't welfare, pensioners, students or workers who are risking Australia's economic future. It is the wealthy individuals and big businesses who avoid, in one form or another, their tax obligations.


1. Australian Government, Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (Released 15 December 2014), Part 3: Fiscal Strategy and Outlook, Attachment F: Debt Statement, Table 3.37: Estimates and projections of CGS on issue subject to the Treasurer's Direction. For interest payments, refer to Table 3.45: Interest payments and interest expense, Accessed 29 December 2014.

2. ABC Factcheck, 10 June 2014. 'Has the government doubled the deficit'. Accessed 29 December 2014

3. ABC News, 17 September 2009, 'Stimulus saved 200,000 Australian jobs: OECD', Accessed 29 December 2014

4. Trading Economics, 'Australia Unemployment Rate', Accessed 29 December 2014.

5. Peter Martin, 13 May 2014. 'Budget pain? Not for millionaires who pay no tax'. Accessed 29 December 2014.

6. Tax Justice Network Australia, 'Who pays for our common wealth - Tax practices of the ASX 200'. Accessed 29 December 2014.

7. Australian Government, Budget Papers 2014-15, Accessed 29 December 2014.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Was Muhammad a pedophile?

A warning! The following may offend some who read it. The point of this article is to show that attacking Islam by offensively claiming it encourages pedophilia paves the way for your own religion to be attacked with the same accusations. It is not my intention to deliberately offend or attack other religions, but it is my intention to encourage readers to be more circumspect on their own religion and to be more judicious in their approach to other religions.

In researching this, I found a number of articles that complained about how offensive it is to dare suggest that holy scriptures in Christianity and Judaism condone rape, pedophilia, sex slavery and child murder. Yes, it is offensive. However, it was interesting to note, that often those same people were happy to accuse Islam of exactly those things, in particular, accusing Islam's founding prophet, Muhammad of being a pedophile.

Matthew 7:3-5 warns against this type of hypocrisy: 'And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye. Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.'

To accuse Muhammad of being a pedophile is hypocritical and ignorant of the bible and church history. For instance, even in the Old Testament which is the basis for Judaism, Christianity and Islam, slavery and forced marriage were the norm, as was marriage of girls by the time they reached puberty. Notwithstanding this, today's Christianity is racked with accusations of pedophilia committed by the clergy.

The problem with these accusations against Islam in general, and Muhammad in particular, is that the accusers are making judgements using 21st century culture and values, as well as twisting scripture or taking it out of context.

The accusations against Muhammad are in relation to his marriage to his third wife, Aisha. It is believed that Aisha was married to Muhammad when she was six or seven years old. She remained with her parents until the age of nine or 10 when she went to be with Muhammad, who was around 53, and their marriage was consummated.

Aisha's age is in dispute. While tradition has her aged around 9 or 10 when the marriage was consummated, theories abound in which her age ranges from 9 to 19. The Koran requires marriage to be between consenting adults, and during Muhammad's lifetime adulthood for girls was achieved when they first menstruated. There is a school of opinion that she was at least 10 when she married the Prophet and probably 14 or 15 at time of consummation (1).

If Aisha was pre-pubescent when they married, and if Muhammad was a pedophile surely he would have consummated the marriage on their wedding night. Why would he wait at least two years to consummate it unless there was a compelling reason? The most likely explanation is that he was waiting for her to reach adulthood as it was understood at that time. It makes little sense for him to wait two years and deflower her while she was still a child. It is far more likely that she had reached puberty by the time the marriage was consummated, so it is highly unlikely that Muhammad was a pedophile.

Accusing Muhammad of being a pedophile ignores the fact that it was culturally accepted during that time (and for centuries before and after) for girls to be married off by the time they reached puberty. This was a common practice throughout the Middle East and Europe (2). In the Roman Empire it was common for girls to be married even before puberty.

It is only recently that girls need to be at least 16 to marry. In 1275 in England, the first secular law was passed declaring the age of consent to be 12. Breaking this law was a misdemeanor. In 1576 the law was changed to make it a felony to have sex with a girl under 10, but it was still a misdemeanor if she was between 10 and 11. In 1791, France established the age of consent as being 11. In 1875, England raised the age of consent from 12 to 13 and breaching this law became a felony. In 1885 England again increased the age of consent, this time to 16. In some States of the USA and a number of European countries, the age of consent was as young as 10. Child marriage was common among Hindus in India, so in 1861 the British Raj set the age of consent at 10. In 1891 the Raj changed this to reflect the age of marriage being 10 and the age of consent being 12. This meant that the marriage could not be consummated until the girl reached 12. Even now, in the 21st century the age of consent across the globe ranges from 13 to 18. (3)

In Australia the age of consent laws range from 16 to 18, but often come with exceptions. In the Australian Capital Territory for instance, it is legal for a 10 year old to have sex if the partner is no more than two years older than them. In Queensland and Victoria, it's a defence if the child was 12 years old or older if the 'accused person believed, on reasonable grounds, that the child was of or above the age of 16 years'. Also in Victoria, it's a defence if the accused was no more than two years older than the child. In Tasmania it's a defence if the child was 15 and the accused was no more than five years older, or if the child was 12 and the accused was no more than three years older (4).

For thousands of years, the average life expectancy was significantly lower than it is now. Fewer people lived to old age and there was a very high infant mortality rate. As a result, most cultures expected girls to breed as soon as they were able to. Women didn't have the luxury that they do today of waiting until their 30s to start a family. Having babies wasn't an option they could chose if they wanted. It was a matter of survival. If a girl hadn't given birth by 15 or 16, she was already considered to be getting too old.

Accusing Muhammad of being a pedophile not only ignores the culture of the time but opens up suggestions that most people's ancestors were pedophiles.

For Christians to accuse Muhammad of being child molester is walking a dangerous line. Any number of bible passages can interpreted as condoning pedophilia. The virgins referred to in the following scriptures, would have mainly been early teen or pre-teen as most girls were married off by puberty during this time.

Numbers 31:17-18 - Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man intimately. But keep alive for yourselves all the young girls who have not known a man intimately.

Verse 35 goes on to explain the plunder of the war included 32,000 young girls 'who have not laid with a man'. Verse 40 requires that 32 of them be given to God as a tribute which was to paid as a heave offering for the use of the priest, who in this case was Eleazor.

Deuteronomy 20:10-15 - Now if the city will not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it.  when the Lord your God delivers it into your hands, you shall strike every male in it with the edge of the sword. But the women, the little ones, the livestock, and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall plunder for yourself; and you shall eat the enemies’ plunder which the Lord your God gives you.  Thus you shall do to all the cities which are very far from you, which are not of the cities of these nations.

Judges 21:11-12 - And this is the thing that you shall do: You shall utterly destroy every male, and every woman who has known a man intimately.” So they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead four hundred young virgins who had not known a man intimately; and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.

Judges 21:20-23 - Therefore they instructed the children of Benjamin, saying, “Go, lie in wait in the vineyards, 21 and watch; and just when the daughters of Shiloh come out to perform their dances, then come out from the vineyards, and every man catch a wife for himself from the daughters of Shiloh; then go to the land of Benjamin. Then it shall be, when their fathers or their brothers come to us to complain, that we will say to them, ‘Be kind to them for our sakes, because we did not take a wife for any of them in the war; for it is not as though you have given the women to them at this time, making yourselves guilty of your oath.’” And the children of Benjamin did so; they took enough wives for their number from those who danced, whom they caught.

The bible could be accused of condoning sex slavery:

Exodus 21:7-10  - “And if a man sells his daughter to be a female slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who has betrothed her to himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt deceitfully with her. And if he has betrothed her to his son, he shall deal with her according to the custom of daughters. If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights. 11 And if he does not do these three for her, then she shall go out free, without paying money.

The bible could be accused of encouraging the murder of infants and children:

Psalm 137:8-9 states 'O daughter of Babylon, who are to be destroyed, Happy the one who repays you as you have served us! Happy the one who takes and dashes your little ones against the rock!'.

Deuteronomy 20:16 - demands that 'of the cities of these peoples which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance, you shall let nothing that breathes remain alive'.

While there are a number of scriptures that forbid incest between immediate family members, there are scriptures that describe a number of events in which there was sex between immediate members. Abraham for instance, married his half-sister, Sarah (Genesis 20:12 - 'But indeed she is truly my sister. She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife').

One of the cornerstone events in the bible is the immaculate conception of Jesus. His mother, Mary, was only a child when betrothed to Joseph. While the bible doesn't give her age, scholars believe she was only 12. Before she married Joseph, God sent the Holy Spirit upon her and she became pregnant without having sexual relations. Mary was a pregnant, unmarried teenager. She probably had Jesus when she was 13. Joseph is likely to have been much older than Mary as it is believed he had died by the time Jesus began his adult ministry as he is not mentioned during this time. (5) Would anyone see the immaculate conception rape or her marriage to Joseph as pedophilia? Unlikely, yet under modern laws it could be. It certainly doesn't meet today's cultural expectations of marriage, consent and conception.

In Judaism, the Old Testament scriptures above appear in one form or another in the Tanakh (which includes the Torah). In addition, the Baylonian Talmud, Yebamoth 60b states 'A proselyte who is under the age of three years and one day is permitted to marry a priest' (6). Rabbi Singer has refuted accusations that the Talmud encourages the marrying of children, claiming the scriptures are being manipulated (7) by both Muslims and Christians. He attacks Christian and Muslim scriptures, including the Christian belief that Jesus is the Son of God who died for the sins of the world.

The offence that Rabbi Singer has taken is understandable and is applicable to any attempt to tear down a religion, whether it be Islam, Judaism or Christianity by using that religion's own scripture. The attacks by each religion on each other is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. All three can be accused of some of the most heinous crimes against humanity and of twisting each other's truth, simply by quoting each of their scriptures whether in context or not.

For every accusation against one of the three Abrahamic religions, there will be someone from that religion who will refute the accusation, usually through placing it in context ... or maybe even taking it further out of context to sanitise it. Those who attack Islam do not give Muslims the same latitude to defend themselves. Yet, if Christianity and Judaism are going to defend themselves through explanation, justification and context, Muslims should also have the same opportunity.

There are no specific scriptures in the Koran that promote pedophilia, so to accuse the religion of encouraging it is deceitful and hypocritical considering the bible verses above and the extent of pedophilia in the modern church. It is also extremely offensive to accuse Islam of this. How many Christians were offended by the use of the above scriptures to question the bible's attitude to pedophilia, rape, incest, sex slavery and child murder? Offended? Then it is hypocritical to offend Muslims by doing the same thing to them. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!

Instead of attacking other religions, people should focus on their own religion and their own relationship with God.

It is easy to attack any religion and twist scriptures and events to suit whatever agenda one may have. In reality, most Jews, Christians and Muslims are abhorred by pedophilia and will condemn it regardless of the religion, race or nationality of the perpetrator. Pedophiles exist in all religions, cultures and walks of life. It is ludicrous to believe that any religion actually encourages pedophilia. Those who use the scriptures of another religion to justify hatred are themselves guilty of lying and fear-mongering.

The world would be far better off if each person took care of their own issues and stopped attacking others.

Get that damn plank out of your own eye.


1. Zahid Azis, 'Age of Aisha', Accessed 28 December 2014.

2. Myriam Francois-Cerrah, 'The truth about Muhammad and Aisha'. Accessed 28 December 2014.

3. Stephen Robertson, 'Age of Consent Laws', in Children and Youth in History, Item #230, (accessed 28 December 2014)

4. Australian Government, Australian Institute of Family Studies, Child Family Community Australia. 'Age of consent laws'. CFCA Fact Sheet - December 2014. Accessed 28 December 2014.

5. Truth or Tradition? 'Mary, a Teenage Bride and Mother', as well as video by John W. Schoenheit, 'How old was Mary when she gave birth to Jesus'. Spirit and Truth Fellowship International. Accessed 28 December 2014.

6. The Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Yebamoth, Folio 60b. Accessed 28 December 2014.

7. Tovia Singer, Let's Get Biblical (Part 23 of 24), 'Does the Talmud Condone Murder, Pedophilia and Idolatry'. Accessed 28 December 2014.

Other articles

This is one of a number of articles in the 'Remove the plank' series, regarding the hypocrisy of criticising Islam. Other articles include:

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Keeping Christ in Christmas

Every year Christians, and many others, celebrate Christmas. Christians will of course celebrate it as the birth of their saviour, Jesus Christ. This may mean going to mass or a church service in which they can remember and be thankful for God sending his only begotten Son to redeem the world. Jesus was a gift of love bringing a message of peace and joy to the world. He commanded we love God and each other, that we care for the poor and the widow, the homeless and the stranger in the land.

Christian or not, the Christmas celebration generally entails giving gifts and gorging food and drink. It is usually a time for families to catch up and, hopefully, enjoy partying with each other. It's a great time.

Some Christians will be quite forceful in their insistence that Jesus is the reason for the season. Certainly, if we're going to call it Christmas, then yes, He is the reason it is called that. Christmas however, was originally a pagan festival known as Saturnalia in which people partied like there was no tomorrow. Not unlike modern Christmas parties.

As a poster-child for Christmas, Jesus has competition. Put up a photo of Jesus or Santa and its likely most people will associate Santa with Christmas. Spoiler alert for those who believe in Santa: there actually is no jolly fat-man screaming around the world at light speed in a one-horse open sleigh dropping gifts down chimneys.

Funnily enough, many Christians embrace Santa and maintain the myth for their children. There are those who say that pretending to be Santa only teaches children that it's ok to lie. There are other more hard core Christians who say that Santa is an anagram of Satan. ok .... The truth is that there actually was a real Santa. He was St Nicholas (or Nikolaos of Myra). He was a Greek bishop in what is now Turkey and he used to give gifts to the poor and needy. This is somewhat different to the caricature that Santa has become who generally gives expensive and unnecessary gifts to wealthy kids, while those who can't afford such lavish gifts may feel inferior if they can't provide their children with such expensive toys.

The spirit of Christmas is expressed in platitudes such as 'Peace and Goodwill to all'. Christmas is a time for giving and a time for celebrating with family and friends. It is a great time to take the opportunity to truly show this spirit to others, to those less fortunate than ourselves.

The spirit of Christmas, that of love, goodwill and peace, has been usurped and exploited by capitalism. The fruits of capitalism are greed, gluttony, poverty, homelessness, war: all the things that the Christmas spirit of peace and goodwill is not. All the things Jesus preached against. This is the real war on Christmas.

Yes, spend time with family and friends, give to each other, but don't forget those who are suffering. Wish each other Merry Christmas, Merry Xmas or Happy Holidays, whatever floats your boat.

Many people get upset over the greetings used. For instance, they'll argue it is CHRIST-mas, not X-mas. But way back in the day, X was from the Greek letter chi, which was the first letter of the word Χριστός, which is Greek for Christ. Christrians used X when referring to Christ. Xmas/Christmas? Same thing.

Some are upset about those who say the sanitised 'happy holidays' instead of the more Christian greeting of 'merry Christmas'. Does it really matter? It is Christmas. It is a holiday for the privileged, however, poverty, homelessness, war, persecution do not take holidays and neither do their victims. If you're upset about 'happy holidays', what are you doing to help those who suffer?

It's easy to care about semantics, not so easy to care about people. It's easy to take action against words, not so easy to take action against poverty and persecution.

To keep the true spirit of Christmas alive, to truly celebrate Christ, rather than indulging in capitalistic pursuits that exploit the poor and persecuted, give your time and money to those who have no-one and nothing.

Much of the western world was founded on the exploitation of less developed nations and the funding of war and persecution for the sake of western imperialism and capitalist expansion. When the victims flee to the West for protection, many of the same people who want Christ kept in Christmas, who sing of peace and goodwill to all, then shun them, demonise them and persecute them all over again.

Stop worrying about the 'war on Christmas' and worry about real war and its victims. In fact, stop supporting and sponsoring war whether its in the name of democracy, freedom, Zionism, anti-terrorism, anti-drugs. All wars have victims and consequences. If we create victims, we should take responsibility for their welfare and protection.

Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Then live as Christ commanded: love all through word and deed, and care for the poor, the downtrodden, the persecuted.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

After the Siege

If there's one thing we should learn from the Sydney siege it is that inclusion rather than marginalisation will help combat terrorism.

The Sydney siege was a tragic event that unfolded in front of Australians through continuous coverage by most television networks. The event was televised live almost from the moment that Man Haron Monis took 17 hostages in the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place, through to its tragic conclusion in which two hostages, Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson, as well as Monis were killed some 16 hours later.

Monis ordered some of the hostages to hold up a black flag with white Arabic writing. It was originally reported as being an Islamic State (ISIS) flag and there has been speculation that Monis had originally mistaken it for an ISIS flag as well. However, it was simply the Shahada, one of the basic statements of Islam that says 'there is no god but God and Mohammed is his messenger'.

Monis forced a number of the hostages to voice his demands through a video camera and through their facebook accounts. These demands included:

  • if Prime Minister Abbott called him by live broadcast, five hostages would be released
  • if politicians announced the siege was an attack by Islamic State, two hostages would be released
  • if he was given an Islamic State flag he would release one hostage.
  • for the 'other 2 brothers' not to explode the bombs.
Facebook status of one of the hostages, Marcia Mikhael

Following the siege, the telecasts continued focusing on what had happened, why it had happened, what could have been done to prevent it as well as who the hostages were and the condition they were in.

It was called terrorism by a number of commentators who stated that Australia had now lost its innocence with terror finally coming to its shores. Some called him a jihadi, an Islamic terrorist, an extremist.

The media whipped up fears of Muslim terrorists which has only served to fuel Islamophobia and racism. Just because it was perpetrated by a Muslim doesn't mean it was spawned from religious rationale. It was aimed to cause fear in the community so on that basis it could be called terrorism, however, it lacked organisation and had no real political or religious goals unlike most terrorist attacks. The Sydney siege was not the loss of Australia's innocence. If it is to be called terrorism, then it was not Australia's first terror attack. How quick we forget:

  • East Melbourne Family Planning Clinic (2001) - Peter James Knight, an anti-abortionist, attacked the abortion clinic armed with a rifle, kerosene and lighters. He killed a security guard before being arrested.
  • Port Arthur massacre (1996) - gunman Martin Bryant entered the popular tourist spot and shot dead 35 people and injured 23. 
  • Assassination of John Newman, NSW MP (1994) - Newman had campaigned against Asian organised crime syndicates and corruption in Cabramatta. He was shot dead in a hit ordered by Phuong Ngo, a political opponent and former local government Councillor.
  • Hoddle Street massacre (1987) - gunman Julian Knight randomly fired at cars and pedestrians, killing seven people and seriously wounding 19. 
  • Turkish consulate bombing (1986) - a car-bomb exploded in the car-park of the Turkish Consulate killing only the bomber who had links to the Armenian Revolutionary Federation
  • Russell Street bombing (1986) - a car-bomb was detonated in front of police headquarters killing a policewoman and injuring 22 others. It was in retaliation for previous arrests of the perpetrators.
  • Israeli Consulate in Sydney and Hakoah Club in Bondi bombings (1982) - both bombings occured on the same day (23 December) by three suspects. Two people were injured in the Israeli Consulate bombing and no injuries were recorded in the Hakoah bombing. 
  • Assassination of Turkish Consul General (1980) - General Şarık Arıyak and his security attaché Engin Sever were assassinated by two men on a motor-cycle. Although they were never caught, the Justice Commandos for the Armenian Genocide claimed responsibility.
  • Hilton Hotel bombing (1977) - politicians from across the Commonwealth were gathered for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting, when members of a Hindu sect, Ananda Marga, detonated a bomb which killed three people and injured eleven others. 
  • Whisky Au Go Go fire (1973) - two 23 litre drums of diesel were set alight in the foyer of the packed nightclub, resulting in the deaths of 15 people. It was apparently an extortion attempt by the perpetrators. 
  • Yugoslav General Trade and Tourist Agency bombing (1972) - the bombing injured 16 people.
  • Battle of Broken Hill (1915) - On 1 January, two Turkish men shot dead four people and wounded seven others. They claimed it was in relation to ongoing hostilities between the Ottoman Empire and the British Empire.

It is believed that Monis was acting alone. There were no 'other brothers' with bombs and he was not an agent of Islamic State. IS are quick to take responsibility for terrorist attacks but have not claimed this one. Monis was not a terrorist. He was a very disturbed individual. Some of his claims and demands were delusional.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott focused on a number of issues regarding Monis. He revealed that Monis was an Iranian refugee who had applied for asylum in 1996 and was granted permanent residency in 2001. Abbott has questioned how this could have happened given his violent history. This is an irrelevant question. Monis would have been granted asylum based on the facts and information at the time. The decision to grant him asylum cannot be taken in the context of events that happened in the years after it. 

Abbott also questioned why Monis was on welfare when he was 'able-bodied'. What welfare was he on? Was he on a disability pension or unemployment benefits? There is no restriction to able-bodied people receiving the dole. By all accounts, Monis was mentally deranged. Being able-bodied does not mean he was of sound mind or particularly employable.

Abbott claims that Monis was 'having a lend of us' by being granted asylum and being on welfare. It is Abbott who is having a lend of us. By questioning both the asylum application and receipt of welfare, Abbott is fueling the fears and hatred of many in community against all asylum seekers and refugees. Abbott, yet again, is manipulating the electorate's xenophobia. He is dragging welfare recipients into this to justify his own budget attacks on pensions, welfare and low income earners.

Abbott questioned why Monis wasn't on an ASIO watch-list. While this is a fair question and one that ASIO will need to answer, Abbott has revealed that Monis was not in contact with any known radicals. Had Monis been on a watch-list it wouldn't have stopped the siege. Even 24 hour surveillance would not have detected if Monis had hidden a sawn-off shotgun in his bag. His bus ride into Martin Place would not have looked out of place and wouldn't have raised any alarm. Because he was acting alone it would have been unlikely that there would be any electronic communication that would have warned surveillance operatives of his intentions. There is no law against what someone thinks and no surveillance can read a person's mind.

While the siege was terrible and tragic, it should not be used to justify further authoritarian laws. Australia already has a raft of state and federal legislation that prohibit terrorism, murder and deprivation of liberty.

The siege also should not be used to justify hate crimes or demonisation and marginalisation of particular groups of people, such as Muslims or asylum seekers. Yes, Monis was a Muslim but his actions are not typical of the vast majority of Muslims. His actions were condemned by Muslims across the globe. Monis's own idea of Islam is questionable. He had converted from Shia to Sunni in what appears to be his own process rather than a formal one. He also established himself as a cleric with no certification or recognition from the Islamic community. In 2007, Ikebal Patel, head of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, accused Monis of being a fake who was 'deliberately stirring up anti-Islamic sentiment'.

The siege resulted in an outpouring of grief from the community with many people touched, upset and fearful. It also resulted in a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #IllRideWithYou in response to the expected attacks on Muslims in the wake of the siege.

Queensland MP, George Christensen claimed the #IllRideWithYou campaign was a 'pathetic left-wing black arm band' campaign that was offensive and portrayed Australians as 'racists who will endanger Muslims'. News for you George, is that some Aussies are violent racists who endanger Muslims. Cronulla riots mean anything? There have been numerous attacks on Muslim women wearing head coverings, on mosques and even on a Sikh who was mistaken as being a Muslim.

On the other side of the fence, some Muslims have felt that the #IllRideWithYou campaign is patronising. This may have some merit, however, given the bigotry and racism that many Australians have expressed against Islam, the hash-tag campaign is as important for non-Muslim Australians as it is for Muslims in showing that not all Aussies are consumed by the rabid Islamophobia gripping the right-wing fear-mongers.

Senator Leyonjhelm is using the siege to push for a relaxation of Australia's gun laws. He feels that the siege most likely wouldn't have happened had the hostages been armed. Perhaps Senator Leyonjhelm should acquaint himself with the 2009 Fort Hood massacre in which a gunman attacked a United States military base. Even with armed soldiers, the gunman Nidal Hasan, managed to kill 13 people and wound at least 30 others. In 2014, another shooting occurred at Fort Hood. On that occasion, Ivan Lopez, killed three soldiers before killing himself. Allowing civilians to go armed in public is a monumentally stupid idea. If anything, armed civilians will be the first ones targeted by an attacker. They are also likely to be carried by fearful people who are happy to shoot first and ask questions later if feeling threatened. Given their perpetual state of fear this will only mean far more innocent people killed than if they weren't armed.

A lot has been made about Monis being on bail for allegedly arranging the murder of his ex-wife and while facing more than 40 sexual assault allegations associated with his 'spiritual healing' business. It's certainly worth questioning what rationale would have been used for releasing him while facing such serious charges, however, it's been reported that Police didn't oppose bail.

There will be a number of inquiries into the siege. It is not known at this stage who killed Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson. Some reports have claimed that Monis fired a warning shot when some of the hostages escaped and that all the fatalities occurred when police stormed in firing multiple rounds. Other reports are that Tori was executed by Monis.

It is clear that Monis was not right in the head. In terms of religion, he was confused and manipulative. Prime Minister Abbott has said that Islam cannot be blamed for this siege, however, there is plenty of activity on social media that indicates many are blaming Islam. Those who want to wage war against Islam should consider the cost. As American talk show host, Pauline Phillips (Abigail Van Buren) once said, 'People who fight fire with fire usually end up in ashes'.

The siege is a tragedy which should not be used to promote political agendas or to reinforce bigotry, racism or xenophobia. Instead of marginalising Muslims, Australians should ensure an inclusive society that doesn't tolerate hate crimes regardless of which religion or political ideology is perpetrating it. Isolation and marginalisation only serve to encourage anger and terrorism. Working together and living as equals in society will help to prevent hate crimes and terrorist attacks.

Imam Ali, the fourth Khalifa after the Prophet Mohammed, stated 'People are of two kinds, either your brothers in faith or your equals in humanity'.

Rather than using the siege to create more division and more hatred, let's live as family, as equals. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sacrificing innocent lives for political power

The Australian government has shown that it is willing to risk and threaten the lives of innocent people to 'protect' an intolerant Australia. It is willing to return innocent people to imprisonment, torture and possible murder to protect its political position. The government has shown that it is willing to break international laws and withdraw Australia from UN conventions in the name of its ideology.

The Abbott-led government is more than happy to boast that they've 'stopped the boats', yet the harsh reality is that this is incorrect. A recent UN report stated that more people than ever are taking dangerous boat journeys to escape persecution and war (1).

Scott Morrison, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, sugar-coats these brutal policies to make them palatable and appealing to the electorate. He claims to have 'taken the sugar off the table', as if asylum seekers are nothing more than ants hunting a confectionery fix. What seems to escape the Minister is that asylum seekers are escaping persecution and war. If they were 'economic' migrants then would they really risk their futures and their lives by paying off people smugglers in order to take an unsafe ocean voyage in an unseaworthy vessel.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Morrison's own department, states that of the claims processed in 2012-13, 88% were found to be genuine (2).  Considering that the ones who are not successful in their applications are returned to places such as Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Iraq, there is evidence to suggest that even those whose applications are rejected, are most likely genuine asylum seekers with a genuine fear of persecution in their home country. Also consider that this 88% is down from 100% in 2008-09 and 98.8% in 2009-10. Situations in many of the source countries have not improved to justify this drop given the UN report mentioned earlier that indicates a significant rise in global numbers of people seeking asylum. Instead, the figures are indicative of the harsh nature of the government's policies.

With most Australians in support of the government's callous policies and willing to believe its lies, the question has to be asked, where has the compassion gone?

Discussions with those who favour these policies will usually go along the lines of them saying that boat arrivals are taking the place of genuine asylum seekers or that they are jumping the queue. Yet asylum seekers are genuine as can be seen by the Department of Immigration's statistics. As for the jumping the queue? This is a 'queue' that was created by the government. There was a time when Australia had quotas for on-shore and off-shore applicants. The on-shore ones were those who arrived by boat. This was in keeping with the UN Refugee Convention that stated that people should not be prosecuted for arriving in a country by a means that would normally be illegal. It was Prime Minister John Howard who removed the on-shore quotas and thereby artificially creating a queue.

Morrison claims he is saving lives but this is a complete fabrication. He is allowing people to languish for years in his gulags before returning them to situations where they face almost certain persecution, torture, abuse or death.

The only protection that Morrison is interested in is protecting Australia from a threat that his government manufactured for political expediency. Asylum seekers are not a threat to Australia. Many have gone on to study, start businesses and become productive citizens of this nation. Some of the more well known ones include comedian Anh Do and South Australia's governor Hieu Van Le. Both of whom fled war-ravaged Vietnam and arrived in Australia by boat.

Instead of brutalising and demonising asylum seekers we should be welcoming them and facilitating their settlement into Australia. Embracing brutality as a means of defence is only hardening Australia, making it more intolerant, fearful and violent. There has been an increase in hate crimes against Muslims (3). It isn't asylum seekers that are creating the rise in hate crimes in Australia. These crimes are a direct result of Australians embracing brutal, intolerant policies that persecute and risk the lives of innocent people.

Some claim that asylum seekers don't respect Australian values. What values would those be? The values in which innocent people are sacrificed for the sake of ignorance, fear, bigotry and xenophobia?

Free the refugees and we'll see a better, more compassionate and welcoming Australia.


1. 'Scott Morrison may gloat but asylum seekers' boats haven't really stopped', Sunili Govinnage, The Guardian, 11 December 2014. Accessed 14 December 2014.

2. 'Asylum Trends - Australia', 2012-13 Publication. Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Accessed 14 December 2014.

3. 'Rise in attacks against Aussie Muslims', WA Today, Accessed 14 December 2014.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Freedom from fear and bigotry

'Freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience. I don't believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others'. - Coretta Scott King

The rise in Islamophobia has seen a number of hate crimes perpetrated against innocent Muslims. The bigots who protest against Islam often claim they are defending Australian values and that our ancestors didn't fight in the various wars for the country to be overrun by Muslims.

What many of the bigots don't realise is that our ancestors fought alongside other Australians' ancestors, who were Muslim or indigenous or Jewish or atheist, in order beat fascism. You know, the fascism that attacks people of differing religions, races or opinions and either imprisons them or kills them ... or both. The type of fascism that spreads lies and innuendo blaming other groups for economic or social woes. The type of fascism that demonises others.

Abuse and discrimination of others isn't new in Australia. Indigenous Australians have suffered it for generations. European migrants, such as the Italians, Greeks and Spanish, experienced it. Asian immigrants suffered it. Now, the latest targets are asylum seekers and Muslims.

The current government is doing plenty of blaming of others and plenty of demonisation of minority groups to further their popularity. They're manufacturing threats that accuse asylum seekers arriving by boat and Muslims in general (whether born here or immigrants) of increasing the risk of terrorism and crime, stealing jobs, wanting to 'destroy our way of life' or any other lie of the moment.

With such a horrid future awaiting Australians if these 'threats' are allowed to flourish, the government rides in like a knight in shining armour to rescue the bigots in distress by passing laws that strip everyone's freedom. The government is fueling fear and hatred to create policies aimed at one thing: ensuring votes from the fear-stricken.

The ignorant bigots blindly accept these harsher laws, these moves to a fascist state in order to 'protect our way of life', believing the lies that claim freedom abounds only if there are enough laws to protect it. They don't see the blatantly obvious drive for power behind these laws.

This move to fascism is exactly what our ancestors fought against.

John Adams, one of America's founding fathers and its second president, stated 'Liberty cannot be preserved without general knowledge among the people'.

In order to ensure that Australians don't have this general knowledge, that they don't question our leaders' lies, the government has attacked the media by slashing the budgets of ABC and SBS, slashing education and university funding and slashing science budgets. However, in an act straight out of the dark ages, funding of priests has increased.

The Abbott government is replacing scientists and teachers with priests.

Many people are happy to blindly accept the lies of the government and its efforts to dumb down society, without questioning its actions or challenging its claims in order to 'protect our freedom'. They are confusing freedom with security.

General Eisenhower explained the difference between the two:

'If you want security, go to prison. There you're fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking ... is freedom'.

It is an insult to invoke the memory of dead diggers in conflicts past to justify racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia or any other hate crime. Even though most of Australia's previous wars were fought for imperialist objectives, the soldiers who fought and died believed they were doing so in the name of freedom. Not freedom to hate, but freedom to live in peace.

The government has implemented harsh changes to 'anti-terrorism' legislation that predominantly target Muslims, and the Migration and Maritime Powers legislation which discards the human rights of asylum seekers and promotes torture and imprisonment without charge of innocent people, including children. This might give a sense of security to bigots, but it destroys freedom. Increased laws do not mean increased justice.

Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King Jr, succinctly summed up the link between freedom and justice with a message that should be heeded by all politicians: 'Freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience. I don't believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others'.

The biggest threat to our freedom is not Islam or asylum seekers, but fear. The second Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld recognised this years ago: 'Freedom from fear could be said to sum up the whole philosophy of human rights'.

Fear is a two-edged sword. There are those, such as asylum seekers, who genuinely fear persecution. But then there are those who fear those who are being persecuted. This is the category within which many of Australia's bigots reside. It is their fear that is manipulated by the government to justify laws persecuting the persecuted.

While bigotry attracts voters to fascist policies it also acts as a distraction. While the people are running around fear-stricken and attacking others, they aren't focussing on what the government is doing. This makes it much easier for the government to not just implement fascist policy, but also to unleash neoliberalist policies on society and the economy which make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

The mettle of a government is shown by its treatment of the most vulnerable. This government, in fostering bigotry and fear for political convenience, has shown itself to be amoral and not worthy of claiming to 'defend Australian values'.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Australia - aiding and abetting global brutality

Since being elected to government in 2013, Australia's Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Scott Morrison, has spent his time increasingly attacking, demonising and persecuting asylum seekers.

The Tony Abbott led government has failed to keep much of their pre-election promises, but the 'stop the boats' promise is one that they have ostensibly kept. They kept the promise by breaking a number of international laws and skirting with piracy. Australian forces hijacked boats and towed them into international waters or forced the passengers into life rafts and sent them to Indonesia.

Meanwhile, asylum seekers who had already arrived into Australia were left to languish in prison camps on Nauru, Manus Island and Christmas Island in breach of numerous international conventions on refugees, children and torture. The United Nations has condemned Australia's treatment of asylum seekers and stated that it breaches these conventions.

The LNP justify this by saying they have saved thousands of lives from drowning at sea. What a load of garbage!

Prime Minister Tony Abbott gave two naval vessels to the Sri Lankan government to stop people, predominantly Tamils, from escaping that government's brutal persecution of them. So while this may prevent them dying at sea, they can now be tortured and murdered by the Sri Lankan regime. This makes Australia complicit in human rights abuses.

Similar, Scott Morrison began returning asylum seekers to their countries of origin if there was a less than 50% change of torture or murder. 50%! Would Morrison send his children to the shops if there was a 49% chance they would be tortured, raped, murdered? Of course not. Morrison is aiding and abetting brutal regimes around the world with his disgraceful and deplorable policies.

If these policies are about protecting lives, then how can the government justify  imprisoning innocent people (including babies and toddlers) without charge in camps that deny basic human rights.

To top all of this off, Morrison claims to be a Christian and even worse, many Christians support his brutal policies. Thank God, there are other Christians who see Morrison and the government's despicable policies for what they are: pure evil.  The Uniting Church of Australia has condemned them. Pope Francis has condemned them. Anglican churches have condemned them. There aren't just Christian groups protesting and criticising Morrison's practices, but others including Amnesty International, Red Cross, the Greens, left wing parties and refugee rights organisations.

Image courtesy of Gosford Anglican Church

On 4 December 2014, Morrison managed to get the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Case Load) Bill 2014 through parliament by using more than 700 children in detention as a bargaining chip. Morrison said he would release all children in detention if the Bill was passed. Of course, he could have released the children anyway, so he was essentially saying he would keep children in detention if the parliament didn't let him have his inhumane way. Senator Sarah Hansen-Young reported to parliament on 4 December 2014, that Morrison had arranged for children in detention on Christmas Island to call Senator Ricky Muir begging they be released. Muir's vote was the last one needed by Morrison for the Bill to pass. Morrison has taken politics to its lowest moral point in decades. As Minister for Immigration, Morrison is the legal guardian of the children. Instead of acting like their guardian, he is acting like their kidnapper demanding a ransom for their release. His behaviour is puerile, perverse and reprehensible.

The Bill allows Morrison to send asylum seekers to anywhere in the world, including countries that have poor human rights records or aren't equipped to adequately care for them, such as Cambodia and Papua New Guinea.

The Bill re-introduces Temporary Protection Visas for the 30,000 asylum seekers awaiting a decision, with the caveat that asylum seekers on TPVs can be deported at any time and will never be granted permanent protection in Australia. The bill reduces Australia's obligations under the UN Refugee Convention. It gives Morrison unfettered power with the ability to 'fast-track' the return of asylum seekers to their persecutors.

One of the concessions Morrison made to the cross-benchers to get the Bill through, was to increase the refugee intake quota. Obviously this is a good thing, but it does not justify the disgraceful content of the rest of the Bill.

The Bill bangs on about Morrison's power over people who use false identity papers or have destroyed their papers. What he seems to have not grasped is that many asylum seekers don't have papers to start with. It's not like birth certificates are issued in the height of war. Even countries that aren't at war, don't always issue birth certificates. There are numerous people groups who are stateless, such as the Kurds, Rohingya, Hazaras. Their countries of origin don't recognise them and rarely, if ever, issue birth certificates or other identity papers.

These laws are not about 'saving lives', they are about appealing to the fear, racism and xenophobia that the LNP has deceitfully spread through the community. When the government isn't accusing asylum seekers of being terrorists, they're accusing them of being economic refugees who've come to Australia to 'take our jobs'. Again, what garbage. Sadly the gullible believe this rubbish because they want to believe it. It's easier to justify racism when there's substance to the claims. The problem is, there is no substance to these claims.

Asylum seekers come here to live in safety and security, not to unleash a wave of terror against us. They aren't here to steal our jobs. Yet most Australians still support these policies because they believe the lies the LNP has used to demonise asylum seekers. According to Morrison's own department, more than 90% of people arriving by boat are genuine. Yet the way Morrison and Abbott carry on they have accused them all of being 'economic' refugees who have come here to destroy our way of life.

The biggest threat to the Australian job market is unfettered capitalism in which businesses sack Australian workers in order to engage cheaper workers in foreign markets. Most asylum seekers, even those with qualifications, end up in low-paid, unskilled work that many Australians are not willing to do. They rarely end up in high-paying jobs. It should be kept in mind that asylum seekers may not necessarily be poor. Often times, the rich are the first targeted by brutal regimes. So saying that asylum seekers are 'cashed up' is downplaying their fear of persecution and genuine claim to refuge.

Besides that, the larger the population, the greater the demand for goods and services, which actually results in job creation, not job reduction. Regardless of the level of the job they have, the more people working means more money in the economy, supporting retail and other industries, creating more demand and therefore more jobs.

Australia's aging population means that there will soon be jobs in abundance as baby boomers reach retirement. The boom in babies born post-World War II and the lower fertility rates since the contraceptive pill was introduced means that the percentage of the population working is reducing. Australia needs to increase its fertility rate or encourage migrants to the country in order to ensure the percentage of the population working, and therefore paying tax and spending so the economy chugs along. Asylum seekers, who represent around 10% of the immigration program, are not 'stealing jobs'. They are essential to Australia's economic health and longevity.

The amendments to the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation reveal the evil of Morrison's heart and provides reason for him to front the International Criminal Court for blatant human rights abuses. At the very least, a Royal Commission should be held into the government's breaches of international conventions and its illegal treatment of asylum seekers.

What could Morrison do? Well, he could release children into the community. For that matter, he could release asylum seekers into community detention, allowing them work and study rights, while their cases are heard. With more than 90% found to be genuine there is little risk that they won't get to stay and therefore become productive Australian citizens. He could ensure that no-one is returned to a situation in which they may be tortured or killed.

The LNP as a whole, could stop blaming Labor every time they get in front of a camera and instead take responsibility for their own actions. It isn't Labor's fault that boats came. There are push factors that drive people from their homelands. While the boats may have stopped coming to Australia, refugee numbers across the globe continue to swell. Given Australia's sponsorship of the Sri Lankan government, the LNP has to take some responsibility in the increase in refugee numbers.

The government could also stop spreading lies and fear about asylum seekers and tell the truth: that these are people who are genuinely fearing for the lives and who have a genuine claim to be settled in Australia under the UN Refugee Convention.

The government could stop aiding and abetting the brutality in other countries by not returning people to horrific situations.

With Australia being the only signatory to the UN Refugee Convention of the countries to the east of Africa, we have a magnificent opportunity to be a shining light of humanity. To show other countries how people are supposed to be treated. We should be encouraging more nations in our region to become signatories to the UN Refugee Convention instead of trying to outdo them on abusive treatment of others.

Australia should and could welcome refugees and be the safe haven that we claim to be.