Search This Blog

Thursday, October 31, 2013

What's in a Name?

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet"

The political debate between the left and right regarding asylum seekers has always been a vexed one; with each side making claims on compassion and having the moral high ground. While I do not know what the right solution is for this issue, I am feeling more and more that the LNP argument of being more compassionate as they are "stopping" asylum seekers from drowning does not stand.

The position of the LNP has always been that the asylum seekers who come here by boat are taking the place of the asylum seekers who followed the proper process and "joined the queue" for resettlement by the UN.  Here the LNP are talking about asylum seekers that applied with the UN for resettlement and were deemed eligible for resettlement by the UN.  However, the governments
 own document states that there is no orderly queue and that there is no obligation to be registered with the UNHCR prior to arrival in Australia.

If LNP was so concerned with only wanting asylum seekers already registered, why not resettle those who exist in Indonesia?  The number is
 only 1180.  These registered refugees are saying that they are "being driven" to board boats out of sheer frustration with the resettlement process.

LNP also agues that it is more compassionate to grant asylum to people who do not have the money to fly to Indonesia and then get into a boat to come to Australia.  However, they chose not to match Labor's election promise of lifting the number of asylum seekers resettled into Australia from
 13750 to 20000 even for the people who they agree deserve more compassion.

The saddest irony of all came after the elections when the Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison stated that his department call asylum seekers illegals.  The chief executive of the Asylum Seeker resource centre, Kon Karapanagiotidis said that the instruction from Mr Morrison is dehumanising for the asylum seekers. It is not correct to call asylum seekers illegals, as Article 14 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that seeking asylum is a human right.

The language being used by the LNP regarding asylum seekers is them trying to justify the treatment received by the asylum seekers in detention centres, that somehow they have committed a crime by just daring to come here.

Considering most asylum seekers do end up being refugees and being accepted into Australia means calling them illegals does not take away from their true identity of asylum seeker.

Taking Asylum Seeker Issue to the Streets

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Conservative or Progressive? Left or Right?

The past 4 years have been a political minefield throughout the world.  Repercussions from the Global Financial Crisis lead to a lot of countries implementing harsh austerity measures, banks had to be bailed out and the Eurozone was in danger of collapsing.

Minority governments have existed in many OECD countries.  Citizens of the world have been unhappy with their governments and this has lead to a resurgence in far left and far right parties in countries such as France, Italy and Greece.

The UK conservative government has also been propped up by the liberal democrats.  This minority "conservative" government has legislated "progressive" policies such as gay marriage,  and maintaining foreign aid budget at 0.7% of national income.  Interestingly, The Economist thinks that this is the way to go as the UK's Generation Y has turned both socially and economically liberal.  The magazine also recommends young people to go to the polls in large numbers to take a stand in their country's politics.  It is only then that young people will be able to determine their collective future.

How has the UK managed to do what Australia could not?  Where are the policies coming from?

NZ also led by a conservative government legislated gay marriage as did France, who are led by a centre left party.

In Australia, 81% of 18-24 year olds support marriage equality. Yet Tony Abbott has said that Australia is inherently conservative.  Is this really the case?  Are the young in Australia both socially and economically conservative?  Where are the policy discussions in Australia taking place?

Economic policy discussion at the moment in Australia is centred around budget surplus/deficit.  During the John Howard era, it was the cash rate.  Why was this the case?  The LNP have led Australia to believe they are better economy managers than ALP.  They have done this by holding out their trump cards of cash rate and budget surplus/deficits.  The ALP, most notably under Julia Gillard, took the bait and made it their challenge to achieve budge surplus.

The irony in this is that cash rates are set by the independent Reserve Bank.  Budget surplus and deficits have been made such a big talking point as it sets LNP apart from ALP.  In trying to achieve budget surplus, the ALP shone a light onto their "weakness".  Cameron Clyne said recently that Australia has a debt problem, it does not have enough debt.  He said the debate around debt in this country was very immature.

Discussions around economy has to be more than whether a government can achieve budget surplus or deficit.  There has to be a long term vision around industry and jobs.  Australia is very lucky to be in the Asian region where the countries are showing the biggest growth.  Any future leader should use at least part of the Asian white paper as a starting vision and build on it.  Julia Gillard said in 2025, Asia will be the world's middle class.

Foreign aid budget has fallen on the wayward recently as well; however as Bill Gates pointed out, by helping the region around us, we are only helping ourselves in the long run.

In policy discussions, there is a need for us to take off our glasses and see the world without labels.  We need to forego whether we are Labor or Liberal voters, conservative or progressive, left or right.  It is only then we can form an unbiased opinion on policies.

The policies we set now, will determine our future.  If the young do not think long term, who will?

Endnote: The NZ parliament broke out into a beautiful Maori love song after the passing of gay marriage bill.   

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The World is Getting Angrier But Australians are just Depressed

I am in a melancholic mood today.  My aunt who is like a mother to me, is going to have a major operation some time next week.  I was told today that about 50% of the staff in my department will be let go within the next 3-9 months.  I am also disappointed that my favourite AFL team, the Essendon Bombers are being investigated by ASADA.  OK, it is the Bomber's fault for taking drugs in the first place but it does feel like the world around me is crashing.  

I will start this blog by admitting to be interested enough in politics to attend the Victorian Youth Parliament in 1995.  I was trying to make sense of politics especially after seeing first hand the after effects of the 1987 coup to Fiji.  It had seemed to me that the '87 coup had more to do with politics and power than the actual people.  OK, the attraction of free camp was there as well.

The speech I remember most at the Youth Parliament was by the then speaker of the Legislative Assembly. It was about the opposition and the media. He said that the media loves to report the arguments that occur in the parliament as it makes the story more newsworthy; however most of parliament legislations flow through without issues. Most of the public assume that parliament is hostile but in general the parliamentarians worked together in the spirit of cooperation. 

I feel that the media is worse today than it was before as the concentration of news articles are on personality and in-party fighting than policy. I also saw the irony of the media presenting Kevin Rudd's "policies" rather than personality when he resumed the role of the Prime Minister, as opposed to what Kevin was up to or what Julia was doing wrong only a week before.  

The job of the opposition was not only to keep the government accountable, but also to provide feedback, including amendments if need be in order to improve Bills as they pass through parliament. 

In the 43rd parliament, the Opposition went into re-election mode immediately by trying to show that the government lacked confidence and leadership. This was obvious in the number of attempted and non-attempted motions of no confidence. It is to Julia Gillard's credit that the 43rd parliament ran its course by not being defeated by a vote of no confidence, always having supply, passing major pieces of legislation and the Prime Minister always having the confidence of the House of Representatives. The critical question for the opposition is whether they exercised this strategy for the betterment of Australia or whether they did this to destabilise the government. 

A stable government, even if it is less than effective is paramount in any country. A slow turning wheel is better than a wheel that does not turn at all.

This brings me to my 2nd love, poetry. I read the Dylan Thomas poem "Do Not go Gentle Into that Good Night" used in a speech by the ex Prime Minister Julia Gillard after her father passed away. It is a sublime poem about the need to fight on for what you believe in.

I believe you should fight for what you believe in. But the world is changing. What should we be fighting for? Are we correct in wanting the government to continue to provide as much services as it does now into the future? What is the government's responsibility regarding our collective future? Are secure jobs the way of the past or the future? Is Australia a quarry for the world? Where will we be in 20 years time?

Many countries in the world are experiencing large amount of protests, the citizens of the world are angrier and able to demonstrate their anger quicker than ever before.  Australia has largely not experienced this.  This is a good.  This means we can still work together and work out better plans for the future.  Policy discussions should be happening in the pubs of Australia and in every home.  It is only then that the media and the Opposition will sit up and take notice.

Come on Australia, rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Here is the sublime poem, read by Anthony Hopkins:

Footnote: the article above is largely based on my understanding of the Australian Parliament.  The statement by the Victorian Speaker if based on my memory of an event which took place 17 years ago now.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Dear Ex PM Julia Gillard

I would like to congratulate you on your tenure in the Australian Federal Parliament.  While I was never a fan of John Howard, I did not find in the ALP a person who could lead the nation.  This is why I did not vote primarily for the ALP until 2007. The reason I voted for the ALP was not Kevin Rudd, I did not know much about him, it was because of you.  You were fantastic in opposition and displayed a great sense of humour in your attacks on the then government.

I feel that you were given an insurmountable task in leading the ALP with its myriad of party problems that had existed for a long time.  The opposition made sure you were blamed for everything, with the media adding to the great unbalance by sprucing party rumours rather than policy wins.   

You were questioned about raising women's issues.  I can't believe in this day and age, issues that affect 50% of the population can't be raised without getting negative feedback.  How dare a woman, even if she is the Prime Minister of a country, raise women's issues?  Can we really say that there is no sexism in this country if the Prime Minister of a country can't raise it without being roundly bashed for it?  

Women's representation in parliament should be a core issue for all parties.  Without this, women's voices are not heard.  The UN is encouraging this.  So is the World Bank.  The World Bank is encouraging labour policies that affect women to be improved.  A key policy for your government was paid parental leave, a fantastic achievement.  

There are a lot of people who believe women in Australia are empowered and that strong women do not face sexism.  They should read about domestic violence statistics as presented in this report by the government.  Anyone who thinks strong women do not face violence is mistaken.

Women's issues are continuously looked at as men bashing.  Since when was providing a safe and fair society for both men and women seen as "men bashing"?  There is a fantastic talk by Jackson Katz where he says that violence against women is a men's issue.  Also, other men suffer from it too.  Society needs to realise this, not bash the women who raise these issues.

You never served the gender card.  You were given it.  By women who were proud to finally have a female Prime Minister, by people who expect females to have higher standards than can be expected from men and by those vile bullies who thought they could bring you down by doing what sexists have done to women for centuries, say and draw vile things about them and their gender.

Thanks for being a fabulous female lead, a fantastic feminist and role model, strong and graceful, steely and lady like at the same time.     

To the former Prime Minister of Australia, I solute you.

Yours in admiration,

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Multiculturalism and Racism

I felt compelled to write a post after the ABC QandA episode "Racism, Hypocrisy and Hot Air"

Racism is an important subject which is often not discussed as it is an uncomfortable topic.  However, it can have a drastic impact if not removed from the beginning.

I however have spent a lot of time thinking about it as I am from Fiji where there is a continual cycle of coups in part due to racist notion of one race taking over the country at the expense of the other.

In the country of my birth Fiji, multiculturalism was and is an asset for the whole country.  We all loved each other's foods, culture and learnt each other's languages.  This was the case for many decades, if not since Indians were brought over from India by the British.

However, biased opinions against each other's races persisted.  This was the case for all races, no one race was worse than the other.  Worst still, "racist" jokes persisted.  Most people believed that everyone was getting along just fine, with inter-religious, inter-cultural marriages increasing, kids learning all the 3 major languages at school and no fights happening amongst the races.  Fiji was "the way the world should be".

People did not see that there was "systemic racism" prevalent throughout Fiji, where any government form you had to fill out, asked which ethnicity you were.  Neither did people question degrading racist jokes (although a lot of these jokes were self-deprecating).

All this changed in 1987, when the first of the few military coups happened.  

One of the main observations I made during this time and afterwards was how readily people accepted "news" without checking it.  This further incensed the racist bias and fuelled further divisions, which many thought were not a cause of concern before.   

One of the main reasons it is thought that the first coup happened, is that ethnic Fijians were beginning to feel marginalised in their own country.  That their opinion and good did not matter.  Post coup, the new government created a constitution where the number of Fijian parliamentarians always exceed others.

So why have coups continued to happen in Fiji on a routine basis?  Fiji has had many years of reconciliation.  Why is there still no satisfaction with the government?

To give the people of Fiji credit, almost everyone is friendly and welcoming and love the multicultural nature of Fiji.  For most part, all ethnicities have continued to get along well.  Most people agree that any trouble is a result of power hungry people in Suva, the capital of Fiji and they want to stay out of it.

To come back to last Monday's QandA program, I felt that the lady who asked why was Islam being taught in Australian schools curriculum, but Christianity wasn't, is that she was feeling "marginalised" and that her opinion and her faith did not matter.  My opinion is that as Christianity is the dominant religion in Australia, kids learn about it inherently.  Islam has been in the news a lot in the last twelve years and this is why kids are taught about it as it is typically foreign to them.

Some people are weary that other cultures and religious views will come to dominate Australia.  They forget that people can practice their culture and religion in Australia as long as it is within the laws of Australia.

Australia has a long history of being secular, and there is nothing to prove that it is moving in the other direction.

They have also forgotten that recently Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC CVO, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia took a historic step in ending child marriage, a tradition that is still practised in some cultures.  

The law is there to protect everyone and treat everyone as equals.

Racism is dangerous.  It is especially dangerous if people don't feel there is any need to work on it.  It is a very powerful way of creating an us and them attitude and this attitude needs to be crushed from the beginning.

Any country that is multicultural, needs to be anti racist and against discrimination.  This is why #racismItStopsWithMe is an important slogan to follow.