Tag Archives: Australia

When an Australian PM came to the airport to welcome refugees. The manipulation of refugees for political ends

Kosovo Refugees

Refugees escaping Kosovo in 1998.

Imagine Abbott calling a press conference and saying this:

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve called this news conference ….to announce to announce a number of decisions that the Government has taken today in response to the appalling human tragedy that is unfolding in Europe … hundreds of thousands …. are now trapped in a most distressing human situation. ……It is a humanitarian crisis of immense proportions and one that is likely to get a lot worse.”

That really happened.  It was none other than John Howard in 1999 deciding to take refugees from Kosovo. Before Tampa.  Before TPVs and ‘the pacific solutions’ and Manus Island.

Still it was so long ago that the political strategists thought that Howard welcoming and hugging refugees as they walked  out of the plane was advantageous politically.  Do you imagine Abbott of Shorten doing that now?

The refugee Australian contradiction

The action of Howard when he welcomed the Kososvo refugees outline beautifully the contradiction in Australia when it comes to refugees.  One one hand we see ourselves as generous people wanting to help, but on the other we are afraid of being ‘invaded’.  You can see from the press conference the types of questions journalists were asking.

“Mr Howard, can these people be kept under some form of restraint, I mean, effective captivity so that they don’t just scatter in the community?”

“Do you have any concerns, Prime Minister, that it might lead to racial conflict here in Australia?”

This for a grand total of 4000 people.  And of course the Howard government had a bob each way.   The government  decided to fly the refugees to Australia only after a request from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.  They were sent to military barracks around the country, with limited access to the community granted temporary entry visas for three months only, and had no legal right to apply for permanent asylum.

We wanted to look ‘generous’ but the fear underlying those journalist’s questions remained.  Our generosity could go only so far.

Out of sight, out of mind

With Tampa Howard made a decision that being tough on refugees was more politically advantageous than looking generous.  From Howard with Tampa onward there has been a deliberate strategy of ensuring that asylum seekers were not seen.  Media was restricted.  The idea was not to allow Australians to see them, and therefore humanise them.  The fact that they remained faceless made the job of governments to label them as ‘undeserving queue jumpers’ or ‘a threat’ much easier.  Images were released when refugees could be portrayed in a bad light such as the children overboard lies.

Australian navy rescue asylum-seekers from a sinking boat off Christmas Island in October 2001. The government concoted a story that children were thrown overboard by refugees in an effort to stay in Australia

Australian navy rescue asylum-seekers from a sinking boat off Christmas Island in October 2001. The government concocted a story that children were thrown overboard by refugees in an effort to stay in Australia.

This spiral continues currently with the Australian Border Force Act 2015 where those working in Australia’s detention centres are now forbidden under threat of jail time from revealing information to anyone about anything they come across while doing their jobs.

Australian governments know the danger of seeing the real human images of asylum seekers.  And that is why they stop it at all costs.

We saw the power of images this week with the tragic drowning of Aylan Kurdi.  Whatever it was right or wrong to publish the photo of his body on the beach it had a huge impact on the world’s attitudes towards Syrian refugees.  This is the sort of thing the government and the ALP doesn’t want Australians to see.  They want us to see asylum seekers as a threat, as queue jumpers, as greedy people that risk their lives and those of their children to reach the ‘best country in the world – Australia’.

After all Australia already had its own ‘Ayan Kurdi’.  Three hundred and fifty-three of them.  On October 19, 2001 when SIEV X foundered. Most were women and children.

Of course both the Coalition and the ALP will say that their current policy aptly described by Waleed Aly, built on the sole rationality of deterrence – to create horror ‘saves drownings’.  But I don’t really believe it.  Is a spiral to create xenophobia and fear for political advantage.  And we are all poorer for it.

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Australian soccer fandom in need of psychotherapy.

In the new movie ‘A dangerous method‘ the first scene sees a hysterical Sabina Spielrein (played by Keira Knightley) in a coach being taken to a psychiatric hospital.  We later finds out that the reasons for her mental state is because of being punished severely from her father.

Lest me making comparison between serious mental states and football, but I couldn’t help reflect on yet another example of how some of us, as football fans, tend to react to what is happening to the sport.  Like a patient prone to melancholia and anxiety  it seems to me that perhaps negativity and dread is imprinted in Australian football psyche.  Maybe after decades  of being belittled being followers of a sport that was for (as Johnny Warren said)  ‘wogs, poofs and shelias’ may have created a situation where many of us fall into feeling low and despondent when something negative happens in football.  Also some go into some sort of perverted Stockholm Syndrome where some fans tend to join the chorus of those who denigrate Association Football in Australia .

The air of negativity is ever present.  Things that may happen are not seen as opportunities but as a sign that we are stuffed, that football in Australia is doomed and it is hopeless.  The latest example has been the announcement that the FFA will announce a new Western Sydney team today. I also believe that it is too early.  That the FFA should take more times to establish links with the local communities.  And that Western Sydney is traditionally a football area and the team should be given all the chances of success by proper planning.  However from the comments I heard it seems that this will be a total disaster. It will end in tears. It will doom the sport forever etc. etc.  This comes mainly from some Gold Coast fans pissed off that their team has been shunted for this Western Sydney team, and say they will never follow the A-League again and hope it fails. Those from places such as Canberra and Tasmania who believe they had already clubs well planned and ready to go, and will never follow the A-League again and hope it fails.  And the inevitable ‘traditional’ fans from ex NSL teams that are still outraged that their Greek/Italian/ etc. inspired team wasn’t included and wishes a total failure on the new team and continue never to follow the A-League and hope it fails.

While the disappointment and the anger from these sets of fans is understandable I am still struck by the red mist  behind those comments where it looks to me that they would rather have the A-League (and consequently the whole sport) fail in Australia because they didn’t get their own way.  I am also struck that this negativity is reflected in many comments from fans in cyberspace.

Now, before I go any further I have to agree with many that many aspects of the FFA’s management of the sport leaves something to be desired.  From the start the arrogant way traditional football teams and their fans were treated was a disgrace.  The fact that many at the helm were not football people, and consequently weren’t aware of the history of Association Football in Australia  didn’t help.  The perception that they went for the glittering price of the World Cup at the expense of local grassroots was a major blow.  An this with the belief that North Queensland Fury was created for the bid and then cut asunder when it failed.  The bid also raised questions about the all FFA accountability with that bid.  Also the whole Gold Coast United – Clive Palmer disaster has confirmed views that the FFA is not competent and worse not listening.  However the FFA hasn’t been a total disaster.  Whatever are its problems the A-League is still up and running.  Also let us not forget that we are in Asia which is extremely beneficial for football in Australia and also we qualified for two World Cups in succession, something that we could dream of only 15 years ago or so. (For a great run-down of negatives and positives of the FFA Michael Lynch did an article on it)

So I read comments in forums, or tweets where football fans after a loss in the youth team say that we will not qualify for another World Cup for another generation at least.  Or that no one cares about the A-League and the competition is doomed when one match draws a small crowd (when perhaps another match draws a healthy one).  What strikes me about these comments is that they echo many of those done by the soccerphobes.  Why we want to join them?

Many would say that we should not have rose coloured glasses.  That there are problems and should not be ignores.  And they are right.  But as any pop psychology book you pick up from the local book store will tell you, often the feelings of anxiety and negativity are caused by how we react to events, rather than the event itself.

A stark difference is how AFL fans and commentators react to negativity in their sport comparing to football ones.  Imagine if something like the Mifsud controversy happened at the FFA.  There would be a torrent of doom and gloom comments form football supporters on how the FFA lost the plot, how they could not find their way out of a paper bag etc. etc.  and that soccer is doomed in this country.  Sure.  The ‘non-football media’ would have had a field day with their ‘soccer own goal’ un-imaginative headlines (as we have seen with the Clive Palmer saga, does anyone now bothers about him?) but do we have to join them?

It seems to me that when something negative happens in the ‘other codes’ it is perceived and commented as something to be looked at and overcome, while with Association Football is further proof that it is a ‘fatal blow’ and basically we should all pack up and go home.

We all know that in many ways the cards are stacked against Association Football in our country.  We have Australian Football and Rugby League which over the history of Australia have become the most popular codes.  Let’s not dispute that.  There will be many difficulties in the future and many mistakes done.  Let’s comment and criticise. We should not be un-critical cheer leaders.  But let’s be constructive and think about the progress of the sport.  Not using carping useless negativity that ultimately sides with the anti-soccer brigade that would like nothing better than  Association Football to be totally irrelevant in this country.

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1975 revisited?

When the Withlam government was brought down on the 11th of November 1975 I had been in Australia for 18 months, I was 14 and my English was still a bit dodgy.

I wasn’t really into the news or politics as I am now, but of course since then I know much more about the events of that period. On an historical perspectives the current events with Craig Thomson pale in comparison. There we had blocked supply and eventually a Governor General dismissing a government which was elected with a majority.

Also the tragedy that must have been for Labor people to finally have a government after 27 years only to have its program frustrated at every angle (which forced an early double dissolution election in 1974) and having the whole thing collapse in just three years.

But it show how then as now, the Liberal Party is ruthless in getting power. In 1975 the law was that if a senator retired or died its replacement would be appointed by the Government of that state. The convention was that it would be replaced by someone recommended by the parliamentary party of the day. But when ALP Senator Bertie Milliner died suddenly, Joh Bjelke-Petersen instead of appointing what the ALP recommended, they appointed Albert Field who despite being a member of the Labor Party was of conservative and religious openly critical of the progressive Whitlam government. I will take from Wikipedia what happened next: “Field had resigned from the Queensland Public Service immediately prior to his Senate appointment, but there was a dispute about whether he remained a public servant when appointed. This may have made him constitutionally ineligible to be chosen as a senator, so the Labor Party challenged his appointment in the High Court. Consequently he was on leave from the Senate, unable to exercise a vote, from 1 October 1975. However, going against tradition, the opposition parties refused to provide a “pair” to maintain the relative positions of the Government and Opposition [sounds familiar?] This gave the Coalition a majority in the Senate, allowing them to pass motions to defer consideration of supply and force the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis.”.

The echoes of 1975 are also very eloquently explained by Bernard Keane in Crikey.

And all this was orchestrated by someone that now is one of the poster boy of the caffelatte set, Malcolm Fraser. The fact is that the Coalition parties will stop at nothing to get power and they are good at it. I am wondering whether perhaps what I saw of the Hawke government was an aberration. Whether perhaps even if they can run the country Labor is not as politically adept in maintaining power.

Of course there are differences. Honesty, I know that I am left, but I can’t really accept that the Gillard government is ‘one of the worst government ever in Australia’ that’s bullshit. I have seen left governments which were on their last legs and unfortunately deserved to lose. The Kirner Victorian government in the 90’s and probably the NSW Kennally one last year. Like any government the Rudd/Gillard government made mistakes (like the often mentioned bats) but the basics remain sound. Unemployment, rates and inflation are relatively low. It may not be the best government we ever had but by no means the worse.

If anything, even if we now see the Withlam government with rose tinted glasses in its progressive policies (which was true) economically was pretty much a disaster. Unlike the Rudd government it failed to see that with the oil shocks of the 70’s the growth period of the 60’s was over, but it went on to spend regardless. This made inflation much worse. In 1975 it was 15.1759% (compared to the current 3.6026%). Also there was an attempt in raising funds from the Middle East and a Treasurer (Dr. Cairns) which bless his heart was really good on social policy, I don’t think was that great on the ins and outs of finance and economics. Not only he was embroiled in the aforementioned Loans affair that cost him his job, but was in a relationship with Julie Morosi, someone that he found attractive and that perhaps ill advisedly appointed her as Principal Private Secretary. The fact that they were in a relationship was known but it was heaven sent for the tabloid press, giving the idea of instability. The culmination came when Cairn admitted that he felt love for Morosi in the 1975 Conference in Terrigal NSW. Whic h while not the Gold Coast offered pictures of ALP ministers in holiday mode near swimming pools while the ‘battler’ (yes, they existed even then) was doing it tough.

There are other differences of course and the main one is offered by Bernard Keane again:

At least back then, in Fraser and Whitlam, we had two political giants slugging it out. This time around we have, to steal Laurie Oakes’ apt phrase, two political pygmies, neither of whom the electorate appears to have the time of day for.

I just hope that once in power whether in a few weeks, or in a couple of years Abbott will ditch the unhinged and become a balanced Prime Minister, albeit a conservative one.

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Our xenophobic national anthem better reflects national mood.

My tweeter feed this morning reflected the news that the transfer of Asylum Seekers to Malaysia has been delayed by the High Court.  One such tweet by Mia Freedman stated:

Remember our national anthem “For those who come across the land we’ve boundless plains to share”

While I agree the sentiment, unfortunatley we can’t really use the National Anthem as a glowing example of Australians’ willingness of sharing our plains.  The Australian National Anthem was first performed in 1878 and was composed by Peter Dodds McCormick , a time when basically being Australian was being British.  The song has in all five verses.  Officially now the Australian Anthem has kept two, but the discarded ones are telling.

VERSE TWO

When gallant Cook from Albion sail’d,
To trace wide oceans o’er,
True British courage bore him on,
Till he landed on our shore.
Then here he raised Old England’s flag,
The standard of the brave;
With all her faults we love her still,
“Brittannia rules the wave!”
In joyful strains then let us sing
“Advance Australia fair!”

Interesting here the concept of ‘our shore’.  Obviously the Eora people who lived in the Sydney area for thousands of years didn’t really count.  But it gets better.

VERSE FOUR

While other nations of the globe
Behold us from afar,
We’ll rise to high renown and shine
Like our glorious southern star;
From England, Scotia, Erin’s Isle,
Who come our lot to share,
Let all combine with heart and hand
To advance Australia fair!
In joyful strains then let us sing
“Advance Australia fair!”

It’s clear here who Australians want. “England, Scotia, Erin’s Isle” everybody else can get stuffed and we don’t want you.   But just in case you haven’t got the message the clincher is in verse five.

Shou’d foreign foe e’er sight our coast,
Or dare a foot to land,
We’ll rouse to arms like sires of yore
To guard our native strand;
Brittannia then shall surely know,
Beyond wide ocean’s roll,
Her sons in fair Australia’s land
Still keep a British soul.
In joyful strains the let us sing
“Advance Australia fair!”

I don’t think further explanation is needed.

But perhaps we can say that this is a song ,which basically is an exultation to the White Australia Policy,  reflects values of an old Australia.  Before Federation, before the wars, before air transport before immigration from continental Europe.  And of course it’s right.  However I do wonder whether for many Australians, perhaps exemplified by those commenting in the Herald Sun, would love nothing better than the return of a White Australia Policy, and that all those years in the 70’s 80’s and dome of the 90’s where multiculturalism was supported by both major parties and Australia changed to be more culturally pluralistic basically accounted for naught. That basically Australia still secretly (and not so secretly) wants to hark back to the days where most migrant were British, if not at least Christian and white.

What other conclusions can I draw when we have both the Coalition and the ALP clambering over each other to devise the harshest anti Asylum Seeker policy possible?  Maybe we should sing the whole five verses.  Maybe it would be more honest to show the world how we really are.

Verse Four
spacer
While other nations of the globe
Behold us from afar,
We’ll rise to high renown and shine
Like our glorious southern star;
From England, Scotia, Erin’s Isle,
Who come our lot to share,
Let all combine with heart and hand
To advance Australia fair!
In joyful strains then let us sing
“Advance Australia fair!”

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Melbourne Celtic Fans call for AAMI boycott

Message on facebook:

 

Ghirls & Bhoys,
Over the past month a group of Melbourne based Celtic supporters have been planning a large green & white streamer and tickertape display that would cover the entire Celtic away section. This is no easy task and many hours have been put into this by members of the Melbourne Celtic family. We have been informed by AAMI Park that they would rather a sterile atmosphere and have banned the Celtic display.

Sure Celtic supporters have done similar displays in the Camp Nou, Hampden Park, Celtic Park, San Siro, Emirates, Old Trafford and even the Bigotdome, but AAMI Park says no.

In response to their nanny state policy, Celtic supporters backed by the CSC’s across Australia are calling on fans attending the game at AAMI Park to Boycott purchasing food and drink inside the stadium as a protest to their ridiculous policy.

Spread the word amongst the Celtic Family on line and join in on the protest. To find out more about events on the night of the game, make sure you get to the Huddle at 1pm in the city, pre game drinks at either the Pint on Punt or the Westpac Centre.

Let the People Sing……

 

Welcome to the everyday world of a Melbourne Victory active supporter.

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Andrew Jennings is no friend of Australian football

There has been quite a discussion about Andrew Jennings and his comments about FIFA. For those who might not know, Jennings is an investigative journalist who has investigated several allegations of bribery within FIFA. He has been quite a campaigner about it as iy can be seen from his website.

Of course after still smoldering from the failure of Australia’s bid to win the World Cup, and not to a traditional football country (or an economic power such as the USA) but Qatar, what Jennings is saying is confirmation that  ‘we was robbed’.

Jennings also has gone on Lateline last night ‘ stating that Ben Buckley “is not fit to clean our shoes, who’s just a buffoon. ”  And also that Les Murray was part of a ‘1956 Hungarian nexus’, in stating that consultant Peter Hargitay (which Jennings claim is a swindler) was a wonderful person.

The issue for me is not that Jennings has valid claims.  There are serious indications that the process of assigning the World Cup is corrupt.  And I also have serious reservations on whether Ben Buckley is the right person to head the FFA, considering that in many instances he has shown little understanding of the culture of football (I wouldn’t go as far as calling him a ‘buffoon’.  I have no idea on what basis Jennings can say that).

However I don’t share the enthusiasm of some fans, and commentators on twitter and facebook about him.  He has made statements which were very negative about the code in Australia.

Compiling the bids flaws, Jennings also said that the A-League’s well-publicised struggles and Australia’s mass irreverence for football were always going to be insurmountable stumbling blocks for the Australian bid to climb.

Quite simply, he says, Australia is not a football nation.

“In Australia football is a minority sport and they’ve had terrible problems trying to keep the A-League going,” he said.

“It’s in such a mess and that’s the fault of the fans, nobody else is to blame. Australians prefer other sports, it’s a minority sport. Whether it should ever have gone professional is questionable. It’s not a football nation.

When I made this point in twitter and on a football forum some people disagreed with me.  One commentator twitted: ” I’ve been disparaging about Oz football. So I’m an enemy too? Jennings was pretty much right about the Oz bid.”  But I think that misses the point.

Yes, Jennings probably is right about the bid, and FIFA itself.  However his point is to me that ‘Australia should not bother with football’ and basically we should not have bid (or even been considered if you follow that line of argument) because ‘we are not a football nation’.  That commentator that responded to my tweet has made very negative comments about the situation of football in this country, but he makes those comments because he wants the code to be better.  Jennings basically says that we shouldn’t even bother with football because we are not a ‘football nation’.  So while some of us cheers his comments against FIFA, his view of our football is the same as those AFL/NRL loving bogans that state that football is a foreign game in Australia.

The question is, does Jennings argue his point because he believes that Australia was hard done by and deserved more? Or is he basically constructing his argument that the bid was a waste of money in the first place because we ‘are not a football nation?’  I think the latter.  If I had to choose between him and ‘1956 Hungarian Nexus’ Les Murray about who has the interest of football in Australia I know who I would go for.

Frankly I put Jennings’ comments about Australia in the same basket as those of Oasis bad boy,  Noel Gallagher’s .

Gallagher, renowned for his controversial outbursts, said he did not have a great deal of respect for Australians playing soccer.

“Stick to the Aussie Rules and the tennis and the cricket and the rugby, you are good at that,” he told AAP from the United Kingdom.

“Football is the game of the intelligentsia and you are sh*t at it.

“You will never win anything so give it up.”

Different tones, same message.

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Papa Karol Wojtyla merita di essere santo? Non a Toowoomba forse.

Non penso che molti cattolici italiani sapranno dov’è Toowoomba.  Basta solo dire che Toowoomba è una cittadina australiana di circa 130,000 abitanti nello stato del Queensland.  Settimana scorsa il suo vescovo, William Morris è stato tolto dal suo incarico dal Vaticano.  La sua colpa? Di avere suggerito (abbastanza timidamente) che a seguito del calo drammatico di nuovi preti,  forse  donne o uomini sposati potrebbero essere inclusi in amministrare l’Eucarestia e altri aspetti clericali.

Oggi è apparso un articolo del corrispondente religioso Barney Zwartz su due dei giornali più autorevoli australiani (The Age di Melbourne ed il Sydney Morning Herald).  Zwartz è un difensore della Chiesa Cattolica, ma in questo articolo la critica aspramente.  Si chiede come la Chiesa possa non avere ancora dimesso 300 preti in Australia che hanno commesso gravi crimini sessuali, mentre un vescovo che esprime un’opinione viene tolto dal suo incarico quasi subito.  La Chiesa, dice Zwartz, è diventata autoritaria e rigida, e il responsabile di questo è Papa Wojtyla.

Giovanni Paolo II prese una posizione rigida e autoritaria, concentrando il controllo nel Vaticano e incoraggiando una pratica molto sgradevole dove reazionari locali (che Morrs descrive come ‘la polizia del tempio’) denunciano al Vaticano sacerdoti che sospettanodi non seguire la dottrina conservatrice della Chiesa.

Un’esperto sulla Chiesa Cattolica australiana, Paul Collins, (anche lui ex prete, che fu indagato proprio da Joseph Ratzinger come capo della Congregazione per la dottrina della fede) sa che tutto questo è fatto per esercitare un controllo totale.  Nella Chiesa post-Giovanni Paolo II, i vescovi non vengono visti come capi della loro parrocchia, ma come managers di una sezione direttamente controllata dal centro.  Collins dice che questa situazione è un’eresia e contro la tradizione della Chiesa Cattolica.

Zwartz inoltre commenta come questa situazione è relativamente recente.  L’architetto di controllo totale dal Vaticano fu proprio Wojtyla che vedeva se stesso come il vescovo del mondo.  Certamente un uomo con qualitá eroiche, ma anche con lacune di uguale misura.  La più notevole fu quella di rifiutarsi di prendere sul serio gli abusi sessuali del clero e invece dare colpa a una ‘campagna’ anti cattolica nella media, e di concentrarsi invece di proteggere l’immagine e le finanze della Chiesa.  Un’esempio fu la promozione e approvazione  del fondatore dei Legionari di Cristo Marcial Maciel, che ha compiuto abusi sessuali ripetuti e continuati su seminaristi della sua congregazione.
 Giovanni Paolo II, come tutti gli uomini ha fatto errori.  Ma a  me sembra sentendo la RAI, qui nella lontana Australia che l’aspetto negativo di Wojtyla e quasi ignorato.  Ma proprio qui in Australia si è visto come un vescovo amato dalla sua congregazione sia stato allontanato per avere espresso un’idea nella chiesa rigida che Giovanni Paolo II ha creato, mentre altre persone che veramente dovrebbero essere state buttate fuori e processati come criminali sono potuti rimanere nelle loro posizioni.  Forse un santo per il Vaticano, ma chissà se molti cattolici australiani lo vedono nello stesso modo.

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