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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Border Farce - Needle, haystack, jackboots

The Australian government has become increasingly militant towards asylum seekers. It started with former Prime Minister John Howard unleashing the military on people arriving by boat and implementation of the Hitleresque-named 'Pacific Solution'.

In 2013, Prime Minister Tony Abbott implemented 'Operation Sovereign Borders', a military led operation to 'stop the boats'.

The Liberal Party governments of Howard and Abbott have dehumanised asylum seekers and recast them as illegals, even though it is legal to seek asylum in a country regardless of whether the means of arrival would normally be termed illegal (1).

This dehumanisation and recategorisation of asylum seekers has resonated with the Australian public, with most supporting the government's hard-line tactics and not caring about the human rights abuses being committed in the refugee camps of Nauru, Manus Island and Australia.

Abbott's latest salvo in this war on people fleeing persecution, was to establish the Australian Border Force to manage immigration security. To emphasise the militant role of the ABF, the government spent $10 million kitting them out in black Gestapo-like uniforms and promotional material. Meanwhile, the government is failing to provide asylum seekers on Nauru with proper clothing. (2)

To justify this $10 million, the ABF was scheduled to model its new uniforms in Melbourne at a paramilitary fashion show called Operation Fortitude.

Within moments of this little parade (or more accurately, charade) being announced a large crowd of protesters descended on the Melbourne CBD and hogged the steps of Flinders St Station. Which just happened to be the exact location of a press conference to launch Operation Fortitude.

The ABF and Victoria Police saw hundreds of people protesting and promptly cancelled Operation Fortitude amid a flurry of excuses, such as the press release was 'clumsily worded' (3). People all the way up the food chain to the Prime Minister denied knowledge of Operation Fortitude and opted to blame some middle-management pleb. However, it turns out that the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, who owns the ABF, did actually receive a copy of the press release about the upcoming operation. So his excuse was that he didn't read it (4). For a Minister who has just spent $10 million decking out his fascist bully-boys with the latest fashion in jackboots, surely this is a little difficult to believe. A bit like say, a President of the USA claiming he smoked a little hooch but didn't inhale.

So let's look into Operation Fortitude. It was planned that the ABF, Victoria Police and a number of other agencies would patrol the streets of Melbourne asking suspicious looking characters for their 'papers' in order to identify 'illegal immigrants'.

There's a few issues with this.

Firstly, who the hell carries their 'papers' around. It is not a legal requirement to roam the streets of Melbourne with birth certificate or visa in hand.

Secondly, there are 62,000 illegal immigrants in Australia (5). Most of these are not asylum seekers because they asylum seekers are in the community legally, while others are illegally detained on Nauru, Manus or one of the on-shore gulags awaiting processing. No. The 62,000 illegal immigrants are mainly visa over-stayers from China, Malaysia, US, Britain and India.

Thirdly, mathematics and the science of probability.

Bear with me.

Population of Australia: 23 million

Number of illegal immigrants: 62,000

That means that illegal immigrants account for 0.26% of the population.

According to the Melbourne City Council, the population of inner-city Melbourne is 844,000 (6).

It is highly unlikely that the entire illegal immigrant population is in the Melbourne CBD. It is likely most our outside of the CBD area. But even if the same rate of 0.26% applies, that could mean up to 2,000 visa overstayers in Melbourne CBD on a given day. Sounds like a lot, but randomly selecting people out of a crowd of 844,000 is really stretching the odds. They might pick up one or two if they're lucky. But considering that people don't need to carry papers it will be difficult to prove that someone is a visa overstayer.

Needle. Haystack.

Do these odds justify unleashing the ABF, Victoria Police and seven other agencies, including Metro Trains, Yarra Trams, Sheriff's Office and the Taxi Services Commission?

So why do it?

Independent MP, Tony Windsor, eloquently stated the obvious that Abbott's agenda is to create fear in the general community. Windsor goes on to make this chilling statement regarding the Abbott government's motivation in doing this:

'I have no doubt that some of the people in Abbott's government hope that something goes wrong domestically. That they can taunt a Muslim into doing something so that they can say, "we're the only ones that can protect you. The Labor Party are too weak to protect you. Vote for us". I think that's an extraordinary agenda to go to an election on'(7)

The problem is that most of the illegal immigrants aren't Muslims even though this is the image that the Liberal Party has been promoting.

Operation Fortitude was not just designed to further instill fear. It was designed to reinforce racism and Islamophobia in the community.

Crowds protest Operation Fortitude. ABC News: Stephanie Ferrier

Demonstrators gather outside Flinders Street Station. ABC News: Jean Edwards

Peter Dutton, Immigration Minister, refused an interview about the issue because he claimed it was an 'operational matter'. Meanwhile, independent MP, Andrew Wilkie stated that 'Joseph Stalin would be proud of Tony Abbott'. He went on to say that East Germany's Stasi would be 'delighted' and that Chile's Pinochet would be 'impressed'. (8)

Although Abbott has stated that government officers will never stop people to check visas (9), the problem is that the operation was conceived in the first place to fulfil the government's hard-line approach to immigration.

Many Australians are willingly exchanging freedom for an illusion of security based on delusions and deception.

This has been drummed home by Abbott's comments in an interview in which he accused a journalist of hyperventilating over the press release, which he claimed was a mistake. What wasn't a mistake was that the ABF et al were being mobilised. Coordinating nine federal and state government agencies does not happen accidentally. Denial of such an operation is yet one more lie that shows the contempt the Liberal Party has for the electorate.

Fear and deception are the LNP's modus operandi. Howard used fear and xenophobia to great effect through his dog-whistling rhetoric and deceit about the Tampa, Children Overboard, boat arrivals, weapons of mass destruction, Afghanistan, Iraq, terrorism and so on. Abbott is perpetuating this and taking Australia down a path of fascism, dehumanisation and supremacist thinking that some people are worth more than others and that liberty and rights are less important than the illusion of 'security' based on LNP lies and fear-mongering.


1. Article 31.1, United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, adopted 28 July 1951, entered into force 22 April 1954, Accessed 30 August 2015.

2. Sydney Morning Herald, Nicole Hasham, '$10 million splurge to rename Australian Border Force', 26 August 2015, Accessed 30 August 2015.

3. Sydney Morning Herald, Nicole Hasham, 'Australian Border Force farce leaves Tony Abbott under fire', 29 August 2015, Accessed 30 August 2015.

4. Sky News, AAP, 'Dutton's office ignored Border Force briefing', 30 August 2015, Accessed 30 August 2015.

5. Department of Immigration and Border Protection, 'Australia's Migration Trends 2013-14', Accessed 30 August 2015.

6. City of Melbourne, 'Melbourne in numbers', Accessed 30 August 2015.

7. ABC Radio, Elizabeth Jackson, 'Operation Fortitude parto f an agenda to create fear: Tony Windsor (full interview)', 29 August 2015, Accessed 30 August 2015.

8. ABC News, 'Controversial Australian Border Force visa checks, Operation Fortitude cancelled', 28 August 2015, Accessed 30 August 2015.

9. ABC News, Susan McDonald, 'Australian Border Force: Tony Abbott promises officers will 'never' stop people for visa checks', 30 August 2015, Accessed 30 August 2015.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

It's time for marriage equality

It beggars belief that Prime Minister Abbott claims moral outrage over same sex marriage while he continues committing human rights abuses against innocent victims fleeing persecution and has no qualms sponsoring human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, supporting Indonesia's human rights abuses in West Papua, defending Israeli war-crimes in Palestine and returning persecuted people to their persecutors to be jailed, tortured or murdered.

His statement that same sex marriage is a decision for the people shows how out of touch he is. The vast majority of people are not impacted by same sex marriage so why should they have a say? Yet the thriftless Abbott suggests conducting a referendum or a plebiscite which will cost more than $100 million.

A referendum would be required if the Constitution was to be changed. However, the Constitution already recognises 'marriage'. The High Court has recently ruled that this is sufficient to cover both opposite and same sex marriage, so there is no need for a referendum. Even some of Abbott's cabinet colleagues have conceded this.

A plebiscite could be used to determine whether the voting population supported marriage equality. However, this doesn't change the law because legislation is the domain of parliament. Abbott's claim that marriage equality is a matter for the people not the parliament shows that he is either deferring the issue for a future government or that he doesn't understand the responsibility of parliament in making legislation.

It could be argued that all laws or government activity is a matter for the people, but a plebiscite isn't sought every time the government debates legislation, policy or Australian commitments on foreign stages.

In 2004, then Prime Minister John Howard changed the Marriage Act to state that marriage is the 'union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others'. If Howard can effectively ban gay marriage using the parliamentary process, then Abbott can legalise it through the parliamentary process.

The cost to run an unnecessary referendum or a fruitless plebiscite could be saved if Abbott had the guts to allow his party a conscience vote on the issue, and for that matter, if the LNP could drag itself out of the medieval ages and allow same sex marriage by simply passing a bill legalising it. Instead the government continues wasting time and money as they masquerade under the guise of their misplaced morals.

Abbott and his government give oxygen to racists, Islamophobes and xenophobes, are profligate abusers of human rights and break international laws on refugees and torture, yet are offended by same sex marriage.  They peddle hatred and greed, but argue against declarations of love.

Opponents of same sex marriage argue that it will destroy the institution of marriage and harm children. How can allowing marriage destroy marriage? Divorce destroys marriage and often harms the children. Speaking of ... the irony when divorced people criticise same sex marriage as an affront to family values and traditional marriage  ... hmm ... the hypocrisy is strong.

Just back to the 'harming children' issue. There is a disturbing lack of concern for the horrendous treatment and incarceration of the children of asylum seekers in breach of international conventions on the rights of the child, not to mention international conventions on refugees and torture.

Marriage has enough challenges for even the most contented couple. However, as anyone who has ever been love will testify, no-one and nothing can stop two people who are deeply in love, who are committed to each other, from joining in matrimony till death do them part. How would any heterosexual couple feel if they were denied the ability to legitimise their love because of an archaic law and campaigning by others who 'don't like it' for whatever reason.

If people don't want to marry, as many don't because they see marriage as a patriarchal and anachronistic institution, then they don't have to. However, if people wish to get married then they should be able to marry, regardless of the gender of each partner.

The religious argument against same sex marriage is an interesting one because it is waged as though homosexuality is the most immoral and sinful thing in the world. Surely the abuse and persecution of the widow and orphan (in contravention of scripture and international law) by politicians claiming to be Christian is more of a concern than two loving people wanting to commit their lives and love to each other.

The only scripture in the bible that specifically targets homosexuality is in Leviticus, which is a book of ancient Jewish law. Very few, if any, of the scriptures in Leviticus are obeyed by Christians because it is archaic and contradicts many modern standards. Although  Israel, the world's only Jewish state, hasn't legalised same sex marriage, it does allow same sex marriage ceremonies and recognises foreign marriage certificates of same sex couples.

Believe in traditional marriage? Well, then the bible is probably not the place to use as a reference, considering that marriage was a tad more complicated than just being between one man and one woman. There were varying shades of polygamy, including the use of concubines (take King Solomon for instance - 700 wives and 350 concubines). Based on that formula, a husband should have a concubine for every two wives. There were laws around marrying the widow of one's brother, even if one were married, or marrying ones rapist. Traditional marriage was often arranged rather than by choice.

The following chart provides a great graphical representation of traditional marriage (1):

Homosexuality itself has featured in the marital rites of a number of cultures. Whether it was Roman Emperor Nero marrying two men or same sex marriages throughout North, Central and South America. (2)

Preventing marriage equality does not reduce the number of LGBTI people. Conversely, legalising it will not increase the numbers of LGBTI people if that is what opponents are concerned about. The world will be the same even with marriage equality. Most people will not be impacted and will not even notice it. The sky will not fall in and  God will not unleash pestilence and curses across the globe (considering that He seems to have overlooked the wars, racism and abuses committed in His name by Christians across the ages, including the neocons of modern times).

The government has stated that the parliament has more important things to consider. This is true, but there will always be something more important, therefore rather than wasting time arguing against changing the law, or running a referendum or plebiscite, just amend the legislation to allow marriage equality.

It is only a matter of time before marriage equality is legalised in Australia. It's time that conservatives accept this and let marriage equality takes its course.


1., Adam Mordecai, 'The Top 8 Ways To Be 'Traditionally Married,' According To The Bible', Accessed 16 August 2015.

2. ABC News, Fact Check, 'Tony Abbott incorrect on the history of marriage', Accessed 18 August 2015.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Die in peace is better than to die with torture - Australia's abdication of morality

Die in peace is better than to die with torture - Australia's abdication of morality.

Australia's persecution of asylum seekers continues with the news that an Iranian year 12 student, Mojgan Shamsalipoor, was dragged from her classroom to be returned to detention while the government continues negotiating with Iran to take her and others back.

In this case, 21 year old Mojgan had already spent two years living in the community and had married. Yet the federal government has seen fit to bust up her family for political purposes and return her to detention. To make it even worse, as a means of punishment, she was transferred from the Brisbane detention centre to Darwin after speaking to the ABC about her plight, without even having the opportunity to say goodbye to her husband (1).

Mojgan Shamsalipoor and her husband, Milad Jafari. (Brisbane Times) (2)

What sort of perverted minds decide to do this to innocent people fleeing persecution?

The LNP government isn't just morally bankrupt, it is evil. indefinitely jailing people who've been charged with no crime, who are escaping rape, murder and war. All the while, the government is either returning them to their persecutors (as in the case or Iraq and Afghanistan) or attempting to (as in the case of Iran). Abbott, Dutton, Morrison et al have blood on their hands, as do those who support them.

If Australians are so concerned about the legality of asylum seeking then they should be concerned about their own government breaking international laws on refugees, refoulement and torture. But when the populace is manipulated by fear, xenophobia and bigotry they give power to fascism and gross human rights abuses such as we are witnessing today.

We need a government with the guts and the moral fortitude to stand up for the weak and the persecuted. For that matter we need an opposition with the guts to challenge the racist rhetoric being spewed forth by the LNP in their quest for votes and power.

It's only the left wing that is standing up for human rights. And that isn't the Labor Party. It is only the Greens and socialist politicians who are willing to take a stand for refugee rights. Those on the right are happy to condone and commit abuse, torture and send people to their deaths at the hands of groups that we're fighting against, such as ISIS in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Or to return them to governments which are known abusers such as Iran and Sri Lanka.

When people are led by fear they can be convinced to do anything. Convolute the message of fear with issues that appeal to those who think they're taking a stand for morality, such as same sex marriage and abortion, and the government has the perfect recipe for controlling much of the population. For instance, those opposed to same sex marriage and abortion will criticise any attempt to change the laws in these areas as being a display of moral bankruptcy, while they happily support the government's abuse and torture of innocent people.

On marriage equality, Prime Minister Tony Abbott claims that the government has more important things to worry about. This is true, so why even bother debating the legislation. Just pass it and get on to the real issues, such as the government's attack on workers, on  pensioners, on health and education and of course on refugees. Those are the big issues. Stop faking moral outrage on marriage. Stop pretending that same sex marriage will undermine the family unit while breaking up families as they have done with asylum seekers. As they have done with Mojgan Shamsalipoor.

Abortion? The hypocrisy of the argument against this reeks to high heaven when its opponents support a government that jails pregnant refugees and leaves them so traumatised they would prefer abortion than bringing a child into Abbott's Australia (3). For those who do give birth, the government jails their babies. Those who vote LNP because of its stand on abortion are supporting a government that opposes workers' rights, that opposes welfare, that has cut spending in education and health. The biggest cause of abortion is poverty and yet the government is hell-bent on making the rich richer and the poor poorer. Abbott's first budget targeted the poor and low paid. If you're opposed to abortion, then also be opposed to programs that cut income to the poorest in society. Be opposed to the human rights abuses that see women chose abortion over life.

The morals of the right wing are so twisted that they honestly believe they are doing the right thing by busting up refugee families, by detaining and torturing them in gulags such Manus Island and Nauru. The government will argue it is saving lives, that no-one is drowning at sea. Maybe they aren't drowning in the Indian Ocean, but certainly many more are drowning in the Mediterranean. It is highly likely that some of these refugees have chosen Europe rather than Australia because of our harsh and inhumane treatment of asylum seekers.

The Labor Party has not had the guts to stand up against the LNP's human rights abuses and instead tags along on LNP policy like a lost puppy hoping someone will chuck it a bone and rub it's tummy for being such a sycophant to xenophobia.

Asylum seekers are real people with real lives. They've come to Australia seeking help and protection. Yet they're treated with contempt and hatred, while being subject to the government's lies about the legality of their arrival.

Those who support these policies cannot claim the moral high ground.

Australia's actions are unconscionable and illegal.

These policies drive people to desperation, to self-harm, to suicide. Mojgan summed up the feelings of many asylum seekers when she said:

'Die in peace is better than die with torture'.


1. ABC News, Eric Tlozek, 'Asylum seeker school student 'dragged on ground', put in detention in lieu of deal to return Iranian citizens, husband says', Accessed 9 August 2015.

2. Brisbane Times, Amy Remeikis, 'Brisbane student 'dragged on ground', sent to Darwin detention centre', Accessed 9 August 2015.

3. ABC News, Matt Wordsworth, 'Asylum seekers Salima and Mamun Motiur say they opted for abortion in face of conditions in Nauru detention centre', Accessed 9 August 2015.