August 2013

Back when the Greens opposed mandatory detention... Policy Snapshots Booklet 2007

Back when the Greens opposed mandatory detention… Policy Snapshots Booklet 2007

Sarah Hanson-Young gets up at a refugee rights rally, sobs for a bit, then tells people to vote Green. It’s not good enough. Here’s why.

1. The Greens could have scuttled the re-opening of camps on Manus and Nauru but didn’t

It wasn’t an Abbott government that introduced the most retrograde policy on refugees in a decade. A policy so appalling even the Howard government was eventually forced to wind it down when faced with a revolt from the liberal wing of his own back bench. Oh no.

Julia Gillard and Labor re-opened the camps on Nauru and Manus Island, and they did so with the support of the Greens.

In 2001 Bob Brown proclaimed that the Greens were not a single issue party and took the Greens into bat on the issue of refugees. It was why in 2001, as a fourteen year old, I got involved. But when push came to shove in 2013, when the Greens precious hold on the balance of power finally gave them the chance to walk the talk, they utterly failed.

The new round of crimes on Nauru and Manus Island are only possible due to Greens weakness. They were not even prepared to push.

2. The Greens support mandatory detention

The Greens favour the mandatory detention of refugees. Including children. Perhaps indefinitely. Oh they mouth a few platitudes like “refugees to live in the community as soon as possible”, but will they close down Australia’s system of barbaric prison camps? No, they will:

“Establish 30 day time limits of detention so initial health, security and ID checks can be done, and periodic judicial review of any detention thereafter” – “Caring for Refugees in Our Community”.

As Nazeem Hussain explains:

The Greens know a ’30 day cap’ for security checks is little more than a sentiment. You can’t rush ASIO, they take as long as they like ‘need’. 40 Sri Lankans and an Iranian have been waiting in detention for ASIO clearance, some waiting up to 4 YEARS!

Under Greens policy, after 30 days – will they just release detainees even with no security clearance?? Why detain them in the first place if security checks aren’t actually imperative?!

NZ only detains ppl for 7 days for health checks and performs security checks in the community. Noone complains.

It’s not a crime to seek asylum, yet the Greens policy will imprison refugees, including children, perhaps indefinitely.

3. The Greens consider the standards of at least some detention centres acceptable

Before you delude yourself into thinking that The Greens mandatory detention camps will be nicer than Abbotts or Rudds, consider this:

“The Greens … will … close down the worst Australian detention centres on the mainland and on Christmas Island.”

As far as the Greens are concerned, only “the worst” of the camps are the problem. At least some of the camps that now exist are acceptable.

I ask, will the Greens nominate which of the camps in the Australian gulags will the Greens not close down? If Nauru is unacceptable, what about that nice new camp on Christmas Island? Or if that’s no good, what about that centre of fun and games in Broadmeadows? It’s compartively low security, refugees only occasionally try and starve themselves to death in order to get out.

4. The Greens support a “Malaysia” style “solution”

Instead of defending the absolute right of people to seek asylum from persecution, the Greens “Safer Pathways” policy accepts the absurd concept of a “queue” and proposes a “Malaysia” style “solution”.

The Greens policy document The Right Way Foward on Refugees even quotes the absurd Houston Panel in support of it’s policy, the same “expert panel” the Gillard government established as cover to reintroduce the camps on Nauru and Manus Island.

The key points the Greens highlight in their document include:

Increase Australia’s humanitarian intake to 30,000 … including resettling at least 3,800 directly from our immediate region, including from Indonesia, as recomended by the Houston Panel.

This statement accepts the false logic of a queue, that people should somehow have to wait for permission to exersize their fundamental rights. It accepts the absurd notion that Australia should set limits on the number of people somehow allowed to seek asylum here, as if a rich country like Australia should be able to say “wait, no, you might have an absolute right to seek asylum but we’ll pick and choose”.

Their document also talks about “regional processing” in Indonesia. Despite rhetoric to the contrary, under the Greens Australia would still outsource it’s international obligations.

This policy from the Greens treats asylum like a charitable jesture, as if refugees do not have absolute rights, and our racist government can just meet part of it’s obligations, in small amounts, when it feels like it.

5. The Greens wont even close Nauru and Manus Island

The Greens have already conceded on Nauru and Manus Island. It is clear they were not prepared to take the Gillard government to task over it’s treatment on refugees, and they wont make the closure of Manus Island and Nauru conditions for forming government after the next election.

They have a whole policy that accepts that Manus Island and Nauru detention camps wont close. Instead, they propose a laughable figleaf, an Independent Health Advisory Panel.

Read it and weep:

“The Australian Greens want to put a stop to offshore detention altogether. But whilst it is in place, Australia remains responsible for looking after the health and wellbeing of refugees we send to detention camps. There must be special oversight of the impacts of indefinite detention on these already traumatised people.”

That’s right, The Greens won’t actually stop the barbaric treatment of refugees, they’ve clearly signalled that with this policy. Instead they’re prepared to accept some totally meaningful oversight, so we can watch and wait for the inevitable result of barbaric and inhumane treatment.

Consider the tone of all of these documents. The Greens care. They Greens want to look after these poor traumatised people. The Greens don’t seem to accept that refugees are people with agency, fighting for their lives, who we have to stand with shoulder to shoulder.

Would be Greens Senator Janet Rice agrees that 30 days mandatory detention is A OK.

Would be Greens Senator Janet Rice agrees that 30 days mandatory detention is A OK.

The alternative…

It’s time to stop placing our faith in the great Green hope.

In a recent Facebook exchange, Victorian Greens party figure and psephologist Stephen Luntz justified his party’s drift to the right on the grounds that he hasn’t heard criticism from the refugee movement and support campaign:

If they’ve got criticisms of our policy point me to them, but so far all I have encountered is people from both categories asking me where they can sign up to campaign.

The Greens are in the process of mainstreaming. They assume the million or so Australians on the left are locked in, and they are on the move rightwards in pursuit of what Greg Barber used to describe as “the next ten percent”.

If you think voting is enough, if you think the Greens are enough, you are sadly mistaken.

We need to tell the Greens they’re not bloody good enough. They take your $2.10 for granted.

We need to build a refugee movement that stands in solidarity with refugees, that absolutely defends the right to seek and enjoy asylum:

“This is an important issue because there is a long history of workers who support unions being persecuted because of their belief in standing up for workers’ rights.

“There are still many countries where working for a union or being part of a union can place workers in danger. We believe it is important these people, like all people fleeing for their safety, have the right to ask Australia for safety. We believe it’s Australia’s responsibility to treat these people fairly. – Victorian Trades Hall Council

We need to build a militant refugees movement that goes beyond a paltry focus on the electoral cycle. We need to stand with those who resist and take the battle to those who profit.

Don’t just vote, get organised.

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For the first time in her Federal career Sophie Mirabella has faced a serious challenge to her control of the seat of Indi. It’s provoked a bit of national media attention and some mirth.

Skeletons... she has a few.

Skeletons… Sophie Mirabella has a few.

I grew up in Indi, I live in Indi, and back when I still believed in the possibility of reform through the electoral process, I campaigned in Indi.

Initially I said Cathy McGowan doesn’t stand a snowflakes chance in hell of winning in Indi.

McGowan has an energised campaign, but it’s an energised campaign of traditionally labour, Greens and soft left independent voters. Alan Lappin for instances polled nearly 6% in 2010. Mirabella won with 52% of the primary.

It doesn’t matter how much the soft left is energised in Indi, Sophie Mirabella polls a clear majority in her own right.

And she polls like that despite being widely disliked. Her performance inside and outside the parliament is often considered unbecoming. There is the receipt of large donations from big tobacco (whilst engaged in these negotiations) and just a general dislike of people who come across as “a bit too big city”, it all plays against her.

The conservative majority vote for her even if they don’t particularly love her.

On the surface, I’d write Cathy McGowan off. But before you do, have a look at this, the 2010 results for the state seat of Benambra (emphasis added):

O’CONNOR, Jennifer Greens 3658 11.09%
TILLEY, Bill Liberal 18424 55.86%
MACAULAY, Haden CA 2241 6.79%
CAVEDON, Robert FAMILY FIRST 1125 3.41%
WILLIAMS, John ALP 7537 22.85%

Contrast them with the 2006 results for Benambra (emphasis added):

MAHOOD, Lisa ALP 10358 32.97%
ROBINSON, Helen Judith Greens 2109 6.71%
BAXTER, Bill Nationals 5680 18.08%
CORBOY, Martin FAMILY FIRST 842 2.68%
PEARCE, Shane 296 0.94%
TILLEY, Bill Liberal 12135 38.62%

And then there is Benella:

CORDNER HUNT, Kammy Greens 2756 8.28%
HUNT, Rochelle CA 2546 7.65%
ALLEN, Rowena ALP 6124 18.39%
WILLIAMS, Nicholas 804 2.41%
SYKES, Bill Nationals 21072 63.28%

Indi is a conservative seat, but it’s Benambra that keeps Indi Liberal rather than National.

And even within Benambra there are a solid minority who would rather be represented by a National.

For the Greens and for Labor this is of little significance. But it shows how Cathy McGowan could win, if she can bridge the sectional interests of people who would rather a National, and the soft left who would vote for anyone who wasn’t Sophie Mirabella.

It’s a delicate act of positioning. She has to appear National enough in one corner if the total non-Sophie vote is to go below 50%, but left enough to ensure she outpolls Labor on primaries and has a chance on preferences.

The result are positions like these:

Q: Did you agree with the commonwealth government intervening to stop Alpine cattle grazing?
Again about me agreeing about things. In those very controversial issues it’s not matter of me agreeing, it’s saying there’s complexity of views about that particular issue. And when I’ve been speaking to the cattle people, and I’ve been speaking to some very strong environmentalists, I’m saying let’s wait and see what happens with the government and then my role is to represent your views. And I understand the complexity and my job will be to work with you to make sure the government of the day hears your views. I’ve had great admiration for the way members of parliament like Bill Sykes, who’s the member for Benalla, has been working with his community on these things.”

It’s evasion Kevin Rudd would be proud of!

In terms of her electability, I learned two things today that are politically more significant than the strong support she is receiving from Labour and the Greens.

The publican at the Dederang pub has endorsed her. The Dederang Pub has had something of a “no politics” rule for over thirty years. Dederang is politically conservative dairy and beef country located in the Kiewa Valley. Cathy Mcgowan signs now dot the Kiewa Valley Highway.

She went for a walk with Ken Jasper. (I’ve also heard rumours of a walk with Bill Sykes at the sale yards in Wangaratta, but I can’t get this confirmed).

Endorsements are subtle in a community like this, but it’s a powerful signal.

She could win. Just. Maybe. Unlikely. But still.

A few final comments.

  • The anti-Sophie campaign that has played out online actually plays in Sophie’s favour. She might be an outsider in terms of this electorate, but compared to the left of the big cities, Sophie is “one of us”. Rural communities might express their disapproval of one of their own, but if they see one of their own under attack by outsiders, they close ranks. Doesn’t matter how much they dislike that person.

    If the internet ridicule of Sophie was well known amongst the small “c” conservative support McGowan is trying to split from the Liberals, they would close ranks behind Sophie.

  • I don’t hold out great hopes for Cathy McGowan politically. The overt appeal to a bit of pork barrelling sits uneasily for me, and the kind of politics she will have to play in order to get elected and stay elected in Indi should disgust anyone who’s enamoured with her from the left. She would not be able to win or hold this seat without functioning as a conservative MP.
  • Irrespective of my dislike for McGowan’s politics, it would be interesting and politically significant (in terms of the future of rural Australian politics) if someone like Sophie Mirabella was unseated by someone like Cathy McGowan.
  • In terms of capitalism, if Independents in the style of Peter Andren, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakshott do eventually wrest control of regional areas from the Liberal and National parties, it could might have disruptive effects for coal and gas exploration. The interests of the agricultural petit bourgeoisie do not align with the mining industry.
  • In this vein it’s interesting to see how much the Nationals campaign highlights repealing the so-called mining tax. I would have thought they would skirt that issue, considering how the Greens have been trying to use the impact of coal and gas development to develop political links with the Nationals traditional support base amongst small agricultural capital.

Clash Of Clans Cheat And Hack Tool

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I’m so late it’s embarassing.

Melbourne’s third annual Anarchist Bookfair went off at Abbotsford Convent, August 11.

The Melbourne Anarchist Bookfair is a fair representation of the state of anarchism in Melbourne. That’s not a ringing endorsement.

Jura Books were down from Sydney (thanks guys!), the Melbourne Anarchist Club brought their spread, and a couple of small zine distros had a diverse array of photocopied pamphlets. But if you were a tourist having a sticky beak, you might be left with the impression that anarchism had more to do with Sea Shepard, a rail tunnel, and reformist projects like Real Democracy Australia, than fighting capitalism. There were a few insurrectionists, some interesting queer literature, and self described “post modern anarchists” like Joe Toscano. It’s all a bit of a swamp.

The Good…

There were at least a couple of hundred people not normally engaged in the anarchist “scene” there, showing some kind of interest in alternative ideas.

The group I participate in had a stall! We had a bunch of interesting conversations with people about anarchism!

There was a bit of an interesting discussion in our workshop on strategy and tactics in the refugee movement in Australia. I am not sure we did it very well, but we tried to convey some of the concerns we have with the conservative approach of what is apparently the radical wing of the refugee campaign.

Liz of Renegade Activists gave an excellent presentation in the “Get it Together” panel (which I totally disagreed with, but that’s beside the point!). Discussion about organisation is critical if anarchism in Melbourne is to break out of it’s current stagnation.

The organising collective has continued with the strong Safer Spaces Policy adopted earlier this year for Camp Anarchy.

The organising collective recognised the problems of sexism in anarchism in Melbourne and continued with a policy of prioritising female voices in things like speaking lists.

The Bad…

This year was not as well promoted. Attendence was lower. A lot of people who did attend just happened to be at Abbotsford, more moved on for lentils than attended a workshop.Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)

The absense of a clear political understanding of anarchism in the organisation of the bookfair shows. For example, the panel I was on was lumped with the title “anarchism for everyone”. Sounds warm and fuzzy? But this idea of “anarchism can mean whatever you want it to mean” has been the gaping hole through which fascist arseholes like these have walked through in their attempts to lay claim to anarchism.

The decision making process behind what was represented and what was not, was flawed. Whilst they didn’t attend, the absense of a clear political understanding of anarchism saw the likes of the Henry Georgite Prosper Australia cleared to participate, seemingly because some members of that organisation consider themselves anarchists. On top of everything else that is wrong with Georgism, it is capitalist and statist.

The downright ugly.

For all the good intentions of the organising collective, to many who call themselves anarchist seem to believe that “anarchism” protects their right to be an arsehole.

All the good a policy of gender balance does, when the only woman on a panel is basically told to shut up and piss off by once of the first males called to speak (saw it in two sessions). Only one of the three sessions I made it to had gender balance on the panel.

I don’t blame the promising young anarchists who go off and join Socialist Alternative and alike. If the anarchist “scene” in Australia was how I judged anarchism, I would not be an anarchist.

I still think the Melbourne Anarchist Bookfair is a worthwhile endeavour. It is the only event that reaches people beyond what is presently anarchism in Melbourne. But still the challenge remains, to bring some anarchism along.

To build an anarchist movement in this country, as opposed to a small and nasty swamp, we need to bring a clear political understanding of anarchism to events like the Melbourne Anarchist Bookfair.

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