1 Dec. 2007

DOCS and Death in Bree

The knives are out for DOCS in the NSW media these days, and I don't like to join in, given that many of the complaints leveled at DOCS amount to a call for children to be taken away from their families more easily, but this case seems to be rather different.

An infant has been killed by his carers in Brewarrina in Western NSW (this is a coroner's finding – since it is not possible to determine which of the two did it, prosecution has been ruled out). DOCS failed to intervene to prevent it, failed to notice abuse of the boy despite having visited his home. In this respect the case is similar to a number of recent DOCS scandals. What marks this case out is that DOCS had placed the boy there in the first place, against the wishes of his mother, moreover. Caution in intervening to take children away from people is advisable – giving custody of children to people who kill said children is quite another.

Now, the people who were given the custody of young Mundine tick two boxes: they were related to Mundine (an aunt and a cousin) and they were (therefore), like Mundine, Aboriginal. It is clearly preferable for Aboriginal children to be housed with relatives, or at least with Aboriginal people, all other things being equal. But, DOCS ruled out the mother's father, the boy's grandfather, who the mother wanted as carer, on the basis of a background check, before giving the boy to other relatives against the mother's wishes with no background check:

Had DOCS checked their background it would have found the foster father, Eric Orcher, a cousin of Mundine's father, was wanted by police, had "an extensive history of violence including domestic violence", and had served time in jail.But no assessment was undertaken and this "gross breach of departmental procedure" remained unexplained, the Deputy State Coroner, Paul MacMahon, found yesterday.

While we should be mindful of the racism which leads to children still being taken away from Aboriginal families in this country, we see here a different aspect of racism, a racism of indifference which allowed an Aboriginal boy to die.

Clearly, I think, there should be an inquiry into this, and I wouldn't want to prejudge the issue. Having some experience of the NSW public service, I wouldn't be surprised if the problem was not one of simple racially-biased negligence,* but rather one of a lack of training, staffing or funding, although this might also turn out to be a matter of allocations that reveal racial or regional discrimination. Brewarrina is the only local government area in NSW with a majority Aboriginal population, note.

26 Nov. 2007

Changing of the Guard

Now we have new Prime-Minister, a new government, that of the Labor Party. The Labor Party are imperialist and racist through-and-through, as they always have been. I am unconvinced it is much worth covering this event then. Unconvinced, but receptive to the possibility that things will change. Clearly, there are differences, most clearly Labor's organic links with the unions. But there is also the possibility that Labor in power will change the public discourse and the ethos of Australia in a more progressive direction. But it remains to be seen. My thesis continues to be that Rudd is nothing other than an Australian Tony Blair. It is unclear to me that any overall change for the better has occurred in the UK with Blair really – many things are better, but other things are worse. The growth in income inequality there is the great scandal.

While Rudd's promise to pull our of Iraq is welcome, official Labor Party policy is simply to use the troops from Iraq to strengthen Australia's revolting intervention in Afghanistan. The day before the election, and Australians are killing civilians in Afghanistan. We can only expect more of this under Rudd.

7 Nov. 2007

Surely this is Australia's worst nightmare:

It is understood the workers were supposed to take an Aboriginal girl by the same name but instead took a white child after telling her teacher they were there to take her on an outing.

It's good that nowadays social workers can think they're supposed to take a white child away and not a black one. OTOH, it's not super that they take kids away with such disregard, and the fact remains that they take away black ones more than white ones.

12 Oct. 2007

Howard on Australia

Howard has pronounced federation non-existent in Australia. We are not a federation he says. A country conceived as a federation is not one.

Well, this is hardly a problem. Australia is a federation of a collection of white settler states. Let's abolish these states. But Howard actually doesn't want to do that. Howard doesn't oppose federation as long as the federated units are each of them white settler states. He opposes a federation that would actually recognise and respect minorities. He opposes a federation with Aborigines. He denies the existence of Aboriginal peoples on this continent not part of the Australian imperialist settler state.

He proposes a referendum – a referendum of the majority to deign to acknowledge a minority, but not as an equal, merely their very existence, but then only on the caveat that it is as a part of Australia dominated by Howard and his ilk, a small trace in the lineage of contemporary Australia that confers legitimacy on this brutal construct by giving it a claim to be the heir of the indigenous people of this land.

21 Sep. 2007

Australia, 2007



Troops out of Aboriginal lands NOW.

11 Sep. 2007

APEC summary

We said that the media and police were preparing people for violence around APEC. That violence did not occur is, in this context, entirely to the credit of protesters and not to the credit of the police. Equine influenza also possibly played a part, as did the protesters' willingness to accede to police demands, to ignore police provocations, even including police brutality. It is possible too that the government side decided to avoid the spectacle of violence. Both sides in a sense had something to lose from that spectacle, although the media of course longed for it.

28 Aug. 2007

Horse flu interferes with plans for APEC repression


Look how forlorn they are. It looks like the horses won't be in use at APEC. But don't worry. I'm sure they'll find plenty of other ways to brutalise the protesters.

The Australian 457 guest worker visa kills recipients, is denounced as slavery.

27 Aug. 2007

Jennifer Martiniello press release

Dear Kerry O'Brien and 7.30 researchers,

I have just returned from the Northern Territory. I
want John Howard to explain why house to house raids
without warrants are being conducted by the AFP in all
the Alice Springs town camps.

I also want to know why at least two of the senior
women who toured major cities speaking out against a
uranium waste dump on their traditional lands have
been raided by the AFP on warrants issued by a Federal
Magistrate in Canberra, their furniture slashed with
knives, belongings damages, laptops and mobile phones
seized, and phones tapped. I was told by one of the
women that the warrant gave 12 hours access to her
home, and that she was told that the measures were
justified because of the security crackdown for APEC
ministers. One of those women is an elderly
grandmother.

I have also been told by town camp residents that the
AFP has set up surveillance on all households in the
town camps,and have photographed without consent,
every Aboriginal child in those town camps. In the
1990s the AFP were successfully taken to court for
exactly the same violations in Redfern.
Please report on this disgraceful conduct, and pursue
a full explanation from the Howard Government.
regards,
Jennifer Martiniello
Member, Advisory Board
Australian Centre for Indigenous History,
Australian National University

23 Aug. 2007

Australia to ban boycotts

Story.

This is surely an extraordinary measure, almost unbelievable. Organising boycotts will be banned. Of course, it doesn't ban simply making an individual choice not to consume from a given corporation, one presumes. Many I know effectively boycott McDonald's for example.

The government's defence that the measure doesn't infringe free speech is an interesting one. It's interesting in that free speech is conventionally disallowed in cases where it is dangerous – the famous 'shouting fire in a crowded theatre' case. Conveniently, of course, Australia doesn't have a legally-enshrined right to free speech, so there's no way to test this claim; in the US, where such a right is in the constitution, it has had the effect of covering the right to call boycotts.

This is another attack on the right to collectively organise in Australia.

22 Aug. 2007

Terrorgraph, @PEC

Obviously this jpg is pretty small, but you can certainly still see the menacing anarchist @ on APEC – @PEC.

What's going on here? Firstly, of course, it's a sensationalist headline to sell papers. But what's the ideological function?

1. To shift the blame for the disruption to Sydney from APEC, which is being created by the summit itself being held in the centre of the city with paranoid security measures, disruption caused essentially and purely by government,, onto the protesters. APEC itself becomes @PEC – a creature not of government but of protesters.

2. To prepare the protesters in advance as targets for attack. The government too is preparing hard for its planned assault on protesters (see multiple previous posts also), but the Telegraph takes it further than ever today. It mercilessly and ludicrously tars all protest groups with the same brush. Inside, an anarchist symbol appears next to a listing of a Falun Gong protest planned during APEC. The message is clear though, that the protesters are planning violence. Thus, when violence occurs, we will be prepared to blame the protesters. We are even being prepared for the Police to attack children, with the Police themselves warning that they 'cannot guarantee the safety' of children on the protest. This is sheer intimidation.

19 Aug. 2007

Gender unbending

Australian government has removed flexibilities from the recognition of transgender people – apparently it's no longer possible for anything to appear on a passport other than a definite M or F.

11 Aug. 2007

Watch out online!

The Australian government is coming to get you:

$189 million Federal Government crackdown on online bad language, pornography and child sex predators.

The crackdown includes a $40 million increase in funding for the Australian Federal Police to track internet predators and a $90 million scheme to provide every household with software-based internet filters to install on their home computer.

Voluntary filters are fine, but hardly worthy of a government spending spree of this nature. How can it possibly cost so much? More than likely we are talking $20+ per filter installed, when the real cost of serving them should be cents.

The police honeypots for paedophiles are completely outrageous, and hardly 100% effective. While we can expect sexual predators to be more wary, a deterrent effect, this strategy will not prevent all such predation, if predation it indeed is. The strategy is based on the ridiculous assumption that anyone who takes the bait of someone posing as a worldly-wise 14 year old asking for sex is basically a monstrous pervert who will sooner or later rape a child.

6 Aug. 2007

When Aborigines attack the police

I don't know anything about the events, but we have today on smh.com.au an article, 'Rival Aboriginal gangs riot in NT'. One might think that the story is about inter- or intra-communal violence, and that is certainly how it is presented, but look at the detail:

Rioting between rival gangs at the troubled Aboriginal community of Wadeye has again erupted, resulting in minor injuries to police officers and two arrests.

Additional police reinforcements were called to the Northern Territory community, about 400km south-west of Darwin, over the weekend to try and quell the violence.

Fighting between about 200 people escalated on Sunday night when a police patrol was attacked and the car pelted with rocks.

Well, we hear it began with fighting among Aborigines, but the arrests that were made were all in connection with Aborigines attacking the police. This is in fact the typical pattern of the criminalisation of black people in Australia and of Aboriginal interactions with the police – Aborigines are typically not arrested for the crimes which the police were allegedly investigating, but for their interactions with the police. Given that the only arrests in this case resulted from the police intervention (this is not spelt out in the report, but we have two arrests and two police injured . . .), and that the police intervention seems to have resulted in an 'escalation' of the violence, is it not unreasonable to suggest that said intervention was not particularly helpful? Of course, it depends what said intervention was designed to do. The police presence in Aboriginal communities clearly has nothing to do with helping those communities qua communities, and everything with keeping them downtrodden.

Stop the presses: Australian soldiers are racist

John Howard is quite right that we shouldn't be concerned in young Australian men dressing up in KKK robes (SMH). After all, they don't have much resonance in Australian society. What we should be far more worried by is the other uniforms the boys were wearing, namely those of the ADF. Unlike the Klan, the ADF is a real and enduring force for racism and imperialism in Australia and overseas. The ADF membership is a far more likely indicator than a white hood that these men have racist sympathies, because the ADF's explicit purpose is and has always been racist: to advance Australia's interests against those of non-Australian people. Even the notion of the defence of the territorial integrity of Australia should only be seen in these terms, since the far reaches of the country in which invasion might be a remote possibility are not so much part of the Australian nation as areas occupied and defended for the mineral wealth and other potential they represent for Australian capital.

4 Aug. 2007

APEC medical planning

The Health Department denied the shutdown yesterday, despite confirmation from doctors at hospitals that they were freeing resources in the event of a disaster during the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum next month.

Now this scarcely makes sense. While there is some credible belief that a terrorist attack is more likely in Sydney during APEC, the number of victims would be less than on a normal day since there will be fewer people in the city. Consequently, there should be no need to have greater than usual contingency planning. Unless they are basically certain there'll be a lot more hospitalisations – perhaps injured protesters?

The explicit logic is in fact actually belied by the revelation that doctors have been asked to take leave. This in fact means that the hospitals will have less emergency capacity – in an emergency, they can simply turn away patients for scheduled surgery, but it the doctors aren't there – well, they could be called in if they're still in town, but it doesn't make sense as an emergency measure. Rather it would seem that the aim is to reduce the number of people, doctors and patients, in the area. Perhaps it's as simple as reducing traffic that might slow down motorcades, or preventing dignitaries from seeing sick people wandering around the beautiful harbour city.

In any case, it seems clear that there is simply no good reason to deny people their medical procedures.

3 Aug. 2007

APEC and the militarisation of Sydney

It has become clear that not only will the policing of APEC be heavy, but that Sydney will be turned into a fortress in a strict, military sense, to protect it. This being the case, it is unclear why the organisers don't, or didn't, simply elect to hold the meeting on an existing military base: if they require such security, why hold the meeting in a manifestly unsafe place (by these insane standards of security), and then insist on spending the money to make that location secure. Why does it have to be the centre of Sydney, moreover? Couldn't they house it on the outskirts? Or perhaps at the empty Olympic site in Homebush, where a WTO trade round mini-ministerial meeting was held in 2002? The reason of course is probably that the meeting is all about showcasing Australia to visiting dignitaries, the heads of states of major powers, and this means holding it in the centre of Sydney, probably the most impressive place in Australia, or at least the one that will give the most desirable impression in this case.

So, the militarisation, the military occupation of the City of Sydney: 1500 military personnel. I wonder how many terrorists they are anticipating might try to attack – it seems to me that 1500 soldiers is clear overkill. Given that there is no indication that terrorists might actually attack, one should be worried that these troops might end up being used on peaceful protesters, which, as I discussed before, is, I believe, the planned use for the thousands of police rostered for duty. Of course, it seems unlikely that the government would want to provoke a massacre, unless it is an excuse to impose martial law in order to indefinitely postpone the federal election and hang on to power. Really, I don't think this will happen, but the militarisation of the Sydney unnecessarily puts the men and materiel there to make a massacre possible.

2 Aug. 2007

APEC cometh

Over the last few years there has been a general tendency observed for the NSW Police to become more aggressive in policing protests – and this is from an already aggressive base. Horses have been used against protesters and arrests made even when protestors were peaceful and not causing obstructions. All the evidence suggests a massive, aggressive police attack on protesters is being planned for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation [sic] (APEC) meeting in Sydney next month. The evidence I speak of is the aforementioned increasing tendency of the police to break up peaceful protests with force, and the political value of doing so on this occasion. APEC will have unprecedented, and quite unwarranted, security for an event in Australia. The City of Sydney will effectively be closed down for the weekend. This will clearly impact negatively, if not too crucially, on the majority of Sydneysiders. Enough to piss people off, enough to reflect negatively on the power and privilege of the international elite who run their lives. The answer? Make damn sure that you deflect attention, and produce something that retrospectively justifies all the bullshit: in other words produce a scapegoat. There's a ready-made scapegoat in the form of protesters. Some protest group or other is bound to do something that serves as a pretext for a police attack, and if not, who cares? The important thing is that the police attack will translate to 'scenes of violence' that can be played on the news and thus legitimise the whole expense and inconvenience to the taxpayer.

It's difficult to know how the left should deal with this. The most obvious option I think is to refuse to protest. This would only work if everyone on the left agreed to it, however, but I think it makes sense, on the principle that direct action doesn't work unless it does something unpredicted, and summit protests have become entirely predictable, and thus containable. Still, this is somewhat 'unrealistic' in that left groups will not decline to protest, although they have all been playing APEC down to some extent. The reason I suspect they will not decline is moreover a fairly good one, namely that to yield to intimidation provides a victory to the government of sorts. So ultimately, I think we're just in for a kicking. My advice to protesters would be to try to do something unexpected.

1 Aug. 2007

Only terrorists doctor their CVs

The latest allegation against an Indian doctor: CV fraud.

This is somewhat reminiscent of the accusations of academic fraud against Ward Churchill in the US. Just as many prolific academics would be in trouble if every single one of their footnotes were investigated, but only Ward Churchill's have been, so too would many, many people be in trouble if their purported curricula vitae were examined in minute detail. Mohammed Asif Ali is not the only person ever so-examined but there's no question that his discrepancies are getting a lot of attention compared to the average petty fraudster's, despite their being completely irrelevant to his migration situation or the former criminal charges against him, and there's no question that if he hadn't been Ali none of this would have come to light at all, certainly not at this time.

Only terrorists are afraid of the Australian government

Well, the government now seems to have revealed its information on Haneef – dispelling completely the nonesense that it was secret and sensitive, as Haneef's lawyer has pointed out.

Here is the story: Haneef was warned that his brothers had been arrested and that he should therefore return to India, precisely because the Australians might arrest him for guilt by association. His decision to leave suddenly for India, has been taken as an indication of his guilt, rather than what it is, a reasonable concern that the Australian government will act to detain the relatives of

Here's the scenario: Haneef is linked to his brothers Haneef in England via the fact that when he last saw them, he left them with his British SIM card. Given that they are being detained for terrorism offences, it is reasonable to suppose that Haneef might be taken into custody in Australia. His natural response is to seek refuge in his home country, where the same levels of racist persecution of Muslims and suspension of habeas corpus do not apply. Discussions with his family of such matters are taken to imply Haneef's guilt by the Australian government, eventhough they would never stand up in court, so Hanif is barred from Australia by executive fiat.

31 Jul. 2007

Trust your government or you support the terrorists

Hey, great: the Australian government has good reasons for kicking Dr. Haneef out of the country, it's just that they can't tell us what they are, because they're secret. This is exactly what the Blair government said about its reasons for invading Iraq at the time.

There's something clearly outrageous about the line of reasoning the Australian government are following in addition to this comparison, however. It is that their information is not enough to secure a conviction, but that it is enough to throw the man out of the country. This means that, were an Australian citizen to have done exactly the same things that Haneef did, they would be walking around in Australia. This either implies there's a loophole in the law that needs to be fixed (and I'm pretty sure there isn't), or Haneef isn't actually that dangerous. Moreover, the implication is that it's fine for Haneef to be on the loose in his home country, but not here, which is again nonsense if he's actually a terrorist, which of course, he is not, even a little bit. As if Haneef would be able to mount terrorist operations given the amount of scrutiny he'd be under after this anyway.

17 Jul. 2007

Haneef

I've been silent on the Haneef case till now. I think two things have happened in the case which are relatively new and important.

Firstly, the use of immigration powers against Dr Haneef. It's not the first time Australia has used immigration powers against someone, but the modality is somewhat new. Scott Parkin was deported in 2005 for clearly purely political reasons. Haneef however is not being deported, but held in detention in Australia, and not pending deportation, as Parkin was briefly, but pending trial for a criminal offence, despite the fact that a magistrate granted Haneef bail. The immigration powers of the state simply gives the state the ability to detain people without proper judicial oversight, and this is extremely worrying. Of course, this power is only applicable clearly to non-citizens: although the state has imprisoned and deported citizens under immigration powers, it did not actually have the right to do so, and was only able to do so because the people concerned did not have the wherewithal to mount a legal challenge, which Haneef would.

The other point which is novel is the justification for this, namely deterrence. Since Haneef has not been found guilty, but rather is thus far only tarred by association with relatives of his who are also yet to be found guilty, it is rather unclear what is being deterred. Should we not associate with our relatives in case they turn out to be charged with crimes relating to terrorism? Even if his relatives are guilty, what would be the message? Commit terrorism and we'll come after your whole family? This kind of guilt by association goes against liberal juridical principles and invokes an older form of guilt by blood, as does the whole spectacle of these men being hounded for their ethnic origins.

16 Jul. 2007

Australian mercenaries die in Iraq

As the panegyrics flood in for the Australians latterly dead in Iraq, one would do well to understand what these people were doing in that country. While the media refers to them as 'contractors', a word that brings to mind for Australian certain types of worker in the building trades, and while these men presumably did work according to contracts, the more apt word to describe them would be 'mercenaries'. Yes, mercenaries have children and families, but they are paid to kill, and the people they kill have children and families of their own.

9 Jul. 2007

This is really old (last year), but I've only just seen it; a Chaser vox-pop that showcases white Australian racism. 'I'm not a racist but . . .'



This does not constitute an endorsement of the Chaser.

3 Jul. 2007

The important resistance will be happening in the outback – though the Aboriginal people of this continent are so grotesquely outnumbered, technologically disadvantaged, and beaten down that their resistance can be easily crushed. With that in mind, bloc with Aboriginal people in Sydney to resist:

Stand up with the Aboriginal community on Saturday 14th July at
10:00am at the Block to demand:

* Stop the genocide, end Indigenous deaths in custody

* Land Rights not mining rights - no mines and no dumps

* Funding for community controlled services not cops and troops

Rally at 10:00am at the Block (next to Redfern Station) for the march

These details come from Jenny Munroe, a local Redfern activist.

22 Jun. 2007

John Howard reinstitutes Apartheid in the Northern Territory via excutive fiat

Once again, in the NT, it is illegal for a black man to have alcohol, to have pornography. Once again, Aboriginal monies will be held in trust by whites. Once again, whites will have the unconditional right of trespass onto Aboriginal land. Aboriginal ownership of land is suspended. Police numbers will be increased massively to enforce all this.

19 Jun. 2007

A public-private partnership

Today I got a letter on official letterhead from Penny Shakespeare, the Assistant Secretary of the Australian Government’s Department of Health and Ageing: Private Health Insurance Branch [sic].

Dear Mr M J Beggs

You have recently registered as eligible for Medicare and under Medicare you are entitled to free treatment in a public hospital as a public patient. However, many people in Australia also choose to have private health insurance.

Private health insurance gives you more choice in relation to your healthcare - for example, the doctor who treats you, what hospital you go to and whether to be treated as a public or private patient.

Now is a good time to think about private health insurance. You can take out private health insurance at any age, but as a new migrant to Australia there is a benefit in taking it out now if you are over 30 years old….

I wrote about last week about the welfare-industrial complex, but clearly that kind of thing was pioneered in health and is now an enormous business, even in Australia with a relatively decent public health system.

Private healthcare is a cancerous growth on the health system, entirely malignant. Its proponents like to portray it as an ‘extra’ - extra choice, extra resources - but it grows at the expense of the public system because it competes with it for the most scarce resource, medical staff, and makes what it poaches available only to those who can afford it. A health system that relies on private care and insurance is - at best - regressive taxation and blatantly exclusive, not to mention inefficient.

But private healthcare gives governments a solution to a chronic problem. Healthcare costs rise faster than most prices in large part because healthcare is professional labour intensive. As with education, you can’t raise productivity without decreasing quality. Just keeping the same level of care requires an increasing amount of society’s resources. But governments find it difficult or distasteful to raise taxes and expenditure. So the system is increasingly maintained on an exclusive basis by those who have more of society’s resources to command.

Cross-posted from Scandalum Magnatum.

17 May 2007

St. Whitlam's halo is listing after recent reexaimnation of his role in the invasion of East Timor by Indonesia during his tenure as Australian PM (story). brought up again by a coronial inquest into the deaths of Australian journalists in the country, butchered by Indonesian troops. Fair play to these brave journos, but really, who are they compared to the 200,000 locals slaughtered by the Indonesian military, with the complicity of Whitlam. We know Whitlam knew that indiscriminate bloodletting was going to eventuate because he basically advised the journalists that they'd risk being killed by being in East Timor. His contention that Australia was incapable of preventing the invasion may have been true, but this is no excuse for complicity in atrocities of this magnitude. It's clear that Australian policy never essentially varied, including under Whitlam, namely that fuzzy-wuzzies are better dead than red.

31 Mar. 2007

Hicks verdict: transparently political

So, the long-awaited trial took two days. Next to no evidence was presented. A man is convicted of terrorism, apparently the most dastardly crime on the planet, a crime so dastardly that it warranted keeping Hicks locked up without trial in judicial limbo for five years, a crime which, however, apparently warrants a sentence of only nine months, a sentence more commonly handed out for – what? Bar-room brawling?

Nine months of course is almost exactly the time frame in which the next Australian federal election must be held, although to be on the safe side, Hicks has been slapped with a one-year silence order (although I suspect that this order will not be enforceable once Hicks is back in Australia).

Hicks: Stockholm Syndrome?

The latest news from the Hicks trial is disturbing indeed. Hicks is not only confessing, apparently, but has promised to lag on others. Hicks has renounced a religion he believed in so fiercely before his incarceration that he was willing to put his life on the line for it. Perhaps most disturbingly of all, the five years of incarceration will not even be retrospectively declared punishment for his crimes, meaning that the prerogative of the US government to imprison foreign nationals for such periods without any wrongdoing being proven is to be upheld.

Hicks's renunciation of Islam is in itself neither disturbing nor reprehensible from a non-Islamic perspective. Still, it forms part of a pattern by which Hicks has effectively completely surrendered to the will of his captors. After five years of psychological tricks and torture, such a general change of allegiance should not surprise us. There is no doubt that what is done to inmates in Gitmo has been done precisely, technically, purposively to break their spirit and change their allegiances. That Hicks is willing to turn on his erstwhile comrades shows the completeness of the conversion. Of course, we don't know what, if anything, he will say. People under torture will say anything, which is why it is so ineffective, and it is possible that Hicks will say things that are made up to get released – it is quite possible that he does not actually have any information useful to the US.
Still, it is also possible that Hicks will simply assist to US state by fingering others, perhaps even innocents, to save himself. We will have to see, and one suspects that the full facts will be late in emerging.

28 Mar. 2007

Of the $24 billion set aside in the Commonwealth budget for housing, 80 per cent was spent on tax breaks for "the big end of town" such as capital gains tax exemptions and negative gearing, the group estimates. Just $933 million would be spent on public and community housing, $1 billion on the first home buyers grant and $2 billion on rent assistance.

100,000 people could have been properly housed with that money.

David Hicks's conviction is a ludicrous political stitch-up. We will never accept it.

Hicks is the first person from Gitmo to be tried. There is no obvious procedure for trying people, nor for meting out the sentences handed down from any trial. Hicks is unique moerover in the fact that, more than any other prisoner, he is the subject of a significant campaign with majority support in his homeland, which is one of significant influence with the US administration, to have him returned.

As Tom Allen points out, it is all a "perfect solution" for the criminal Australian Howard administration. The Howard government needs to make the issue go away, the issue that it allowed Hicks to rot on Cuba, while convicted of no crime, a victim of the imperial hubris of Australia's international patron. By convicting Hicks, this means that his time in Guantanamo becomes legitimised as a punishment, so all ends well. By having Hicks confess, they avoid a legal battle in which the absurdities of the kangaroo trial would become clear.

It looks like it was planned from the get-go. There is no question I think that Howard orchestrated the latest trial through explicit representations to the US government. It seems most likely that what was decided was precisely that Hicks must be sent home, but first be found guilty, to legitimise the injustices so far heaped upon him. The big remaining question is whether Hicks will be sentenced to further time, to be served in Australia. Doubtless, the Australian government would rather he be locked up, but their carrying out of a dubious American sentence is hardly to their advantage. We will see. But a deal with Hicks of the form that Hicks confess and recognise the righteousness of his own mistreatment in return for repatriation seems to be what has happened. If Hicks is imprisoned in Australia, a vigorous cmapaign will surely erupt for his release. If he is not, the campaign for justice will I think still not completely evaporate, since this military court surely does not convince Australians.

27 Mar. 2007

A confession made under duress cannot be given credence. David Hicks's apparent plea-bargain with the USonian kangaroo court is perhaps even the best thing for his well-being under the circumstances, but it has nothing to do with justice, or the truth. Hicks has apparently copped to being a 'member of a terrorist orgnisation', presumably meaning the Taliban. But the Taliban was not and is not a terrorist organisation, despite its obvious character as a gross suppressor of human rights. Suppressing human rights is not terrorism. Using terror as a political tool is. Perhaps the Taliban do that, but if so it is rather incidentally to their overall function as Draconian civil authority and partisans of national liberation and unification. Moreover, it's hardly clear that Hicks was a 'member' of the Taliban – one wonders whether that organisation even has a membership structure, and moreover if it does, whether Hicks was part of it. Hicks was a foreign fighter, a blow-in, someone who does not look like he was committed to the long-term future of the organisation in question, merely someone who found common cause with the rather questionable project of political Islam it represented, but at that time represented not as a terrorist force but as the de facto national government of Afghanistan.

What a surprise, the Hicks trial is a fucking farce.

21 Mar. 2007

Murdoch looks like getting what he paid for from Kevin Rudd, with Kev promising to splurge big on broadband (story). Non-business interests shouldn't get too excited: while faster broadband is good for a lot of people, Rudd's plan invokes public-private partnerships (read taxpayer subsidise for corporate profits) and taking money from the Telstra Future Fund (read privatisation of existing telecommunications infrastructure, to subsidise coroporate profits).

17 Mar. 2007

Anti-corruption campaign runs away from politicians

The Howard regime, in their desperation to destroy Kevin Rudd, accused him of corruption. I always though this was a case of people in a glasshouse throwing stones, and now it is clear that those stones have broken more of the Coalition glasshouse than the Labor glasshouse they were launched at.

This is great to watch, because a fight between the two parties on the corruption of their rival can only show up their mutual corruption and lead to a general reduction of corruption in public life in the short-term.

This can be an important ground on which to fight, since anti-corruption campaigning can go much further. Essentially, bourgeois democracy under capitalism is corruption, given that both the major parties are completely tainted by the patronage of capital. I think the mass of the public would support measures to clamp down on such patronage, and this glasshouse stone-fight provides a moment of opportunity to push such an agenda. Of course, there is both a lack of a force capable of pushing it forward, and of course a lack of a non-corrupt media willing to publicize it to the masses.

15 Mar. 2007

Villification of the Greens' drugs policy

The most focus we've seen on the Greens all NSW campaign came when they announced a policy which was actually outside the generally-accepted political frame: a demand for the general decriminalization of drugs.

The Daily Telegraph's coverage of this, focusing on criticising Labor for even dealing with the Greens, rather than on the Greens themselves, indicates a complete unwillingness to even engage with the policy proposal – presumably because any analysis would lead their readership to some kind of understanding. Both smh.com.au and the Tele give the most hysterical reading of the policy possible, focusing on the decriminalization of methamphetamine ('ice') almost exclusively. The normally relatively sober smh.com.au ran a poll on the topic 'Greens and Ice : Rate the Greens' policy to decriminalise ice'. The SMH website didn't give any prominence to the topic other than this though, and this is not so much a lack of hysteria, so much as a complete lack of interest in the Greens' campaign.

The policy proposed by the Greens, while well outside of the mainstream of political opinion reported in the media, is well inside the mainstream of opinions by researchers on the subject. It's not pro-drug, and only supports decriminalization of drug use, not supply or manufacture. Indeed, I think this actually puts it well within the range of sensible popular opinion. See the Greens' clarification here.

While one can perhaps understand ignoring the Greens while covering the campaign given that it will certainly not be the Greens who form the state government, the overall lack of interest in the Greens by the papers cannot, I think, be explained without some imputation of anti-Greens bias, since fairness and the commercial imperatives of reporting the election would seem to me to imply a greater amount of coverage of the campaign of a party which enjoys such support in the electorate (I cannot find data for any NSW polling – anybody?). Fred Nile's policy pronouncements get more coverage in absolute terms, hence vastly more in relative terms.

12 Mar. 2007

This is a light post, because its subject-matter is a couple of internet polls on smh.com.au. Internet polls are of course pretty much useless – self-selecting samples are completely unscientific, not to mention the imbalances caused by only polling those who visit smh.com.au. Still, smh.com.au polls can normally be relied upon to sit to the left of centre, with some exceptions. The most recent two polls in connection with the state election turned up results that at least demand real attention. Yesterday's was on a Democrats proposal to abolish the states. I wouldn't have thought this would be a very mainstream idea, but the 1789 votes were two-thirds for abolition and on-third against.

A more worrying poll result is today's, about Fred Nile's call for a moratorium on Muslim migration. 49% agree with him. 10% correctly state that this is not a state issue (migration policy is of course administered federally, whereas Nile is a state parliamentarian). Only 41% disagree, out of 3244 IP addresses. Given that the Herald tends to poll relatively-left, though disproportinately-Anglo, opinion, one wonders what the hoi polloi think on this issue – presumably they back Nile fairly strongly.

Nile's suggestion is, of course, fairly ridiculous: the practical exigencies of excluding only Muslim migrants are unassailable. Will people be banned from bringing non-Australian Muslim family members into the country? This not only attacks migration, but devalues the rights of Muslim Australian citizens. Will skilled Muslim migrants be disallowed on the basis of their religion? Are skilled migrants really a problem? And how will their religion be determined? Muslim refugees presumably will be disallowed, regardless of their need, which is going to be pretty difficult to enforce, considering that Nile wants Australia to slacken migration controls on Christians from the very same countries.

The fact of course is that at present in Australia, Muslims tend to occupy a low socio-economic position because large numbers of Muslims were allowed into the country as a wave of refugees during the Lebanese Civil War who were relatively poor and uneducated and hence tended to settle towards the bottom of Australian society. A similar effect is visible among Vietnamese migrants. Muslim migrants to Australia today are, by contrast, like all migrants filtered through a much harsher migration regime, which attempts to ensure that migrants are better than the current average Australian. Hence there are no calls to restrict Asian immigration these days, since the Chinese and Indian migrants of recent years tend to be prosperous, educated (often Australian-educated) and well-behaved. Nile's disgusting premise is that it is Islam that has made Lebanese migration a social problem, and thus that any Muslim migrant, whether they are an illiterate refugee or a cardiologist, is a danger to Australia.

Police dog savages child in Sydney. It turns out that police dogs are completely exempt from legislation against this – police dogs and their handlers cannot be prosecuted when the dogs hurt people, which means that police dogs can savage anyone they want. Presumably to death.

11 Mar. 2007

Interesting legal case: are diplomatic missions in Australia allowed to use slave labour?

The flagrant mudslinging


The Coalition have launched a campaign to neutralize Kevin Rudd, who clearly, and personally, threatens their ten-year domination of the Australian federal state apparatus. First came the ludicrous beat-up around Brian Burke. Clearly, the Coalition's muck-rakers had been out in force and had dug this up. It still seems to have absolutely no substance to it, but of course the principle of mudslinging is that some of it sticks, regardless of its provenance. And now this. Suddenly, a Queensland family are up in arms about Rudd's alleged defamation of them. One wonders why they had kept silent about it for so long? Perhaps it's only now that the National Party put them up to making a fuss. Quite why the reputation of their father is so important in all this, when he is dead and Rudd has never mentioned him or them by name, well . . . Rudd of course was all of 11 when the events concerned happened, so obviously one should expect crystal-clarity in his recollections. But it seems to be even more serious than that, in that this piece of muck seems to be without substance: at least in the linked SMH piece, there is not one iota of contradiction between Rudd's remarks and the 'other version' of events – the two are entirely in sync! Rudd says that his family were given notice mere weeks after his father's funeral, but this in no way implies that he was evicted at that time. Moreover, the 'other story' explicitly claims that the Rudds were not evicted, but their own story contradicts this, since they claim that the Rudds were only at liberty to remain in the property for a fixed period. To distinguish between terminating someone's residence in a property and evicting them is hair-splitting, if not downright delusional.


I hope that Australian electors see through these stories to the desperate and underhanded force behind them, and react with redoubled determination to remove these people from office.

Update: Yes.

4 Mar. 2007

The Aussies have attacked Same, using "tanks, helicopters and airplanes" killing four Timorese, but Reinado has escaped. No mention of how many were wounded. The Timorese government describes those killed as not being 'civilians', which seems rather extraordinary – is Timor in a state of civil war? in which Australia is intervening? They can surely expect some mighty quid pro quo from the side they support. – DOWN WITH IMPERIALISM

3 Mar. 2007

SAS allegedly dispatched

100 members of the Australian elite SAS regiment have allegedly been deployed to East Timor, in an apparent indication that Australia is planning some bloodletting there soon.

2 Mar. 2007

East Timor under Australian occupation


There are some extraordinary things in this article today. Rebel leader Major Alfredo Reinhado has called on Australian forces to leave, identifying them as an illegal invading force. This is unsurprising, of course. What is surprising, indeed shocking and appalling, is the action being taken by Australians, which is apparently to cut off water and food supplies to the settlement in which Reinhado is located. It is also alleged that Australian forces are ready to wipe out Reinhado and his contingent, in what would be a disgusting display of imperialist meddling.

27 Feb. 2007

So, when students compulsory subscriptions are dispersed in support of left-wing causes they dislike, this is unfreedom, according to the Liberal federal Arts Minister. Well, actually he claimed that the funds were channelled into left-wing 'terrorism'. I find it impossible to understand how this argument does not indict the entire Australian political process: manifestly, the people of Australia were not keen to invade Iraq, yet the elected government decided to disperse millions of tax dollars to pay for that. How is anything a student union does remotely comparable to this infamy?

24 Feb. 2007

Second Timorese killed by ADF

A second Timorese man has died as a result of the incident yesterday. The self-defence justification seems somewhat more implausible in light of this. How many others were shot but did not die, or have not yet died? Did the ADF open fire into a crowd?

Exclusive Brethren watch

Pretty good article today in SMH doing a round-up of the current knowledge of the Exclusive Brethren's influence in Australia. Not that they do know much really. While I suppose it's good news that the EB are staying out of this next federal election, they're only staying out because they won: Latham was defeated, and his plans to take some action to remove public funding from private schooling with them, in favour of Rudd and his increasingly-obvious Blairism.

23 Feb. 2007

Fairly self-explanatory article: Australian Soldier Kills Dili Man, allegedly in self-defence. Not to prejudge that excuse, but it certainly sharpens the issue of Australian involvement when Aussies start killing locals.

Australian obesity

This is kind of a throwaway post, in that I don't really take obesity to be a serious political issue, but I found this article, about Australia being the 21st fattest country in the world, amusing. I've long suspected that Australians' self-image as a sport-obsessed nation, and the massive national per capita spending on sport, function to mask and excuse the sedentary behaviour of the populace.
From the article:

Dr Booth said Australia's rich food supply, "relatively unregulated advertising environment" and love of gadgets and machinery that encourage sedentary behaviour had contributed to the obesity epidemic.

For 'rich food supply', read 'cheap meat', 'cheap fast food', '2l of Coke for $2', and oodles of alcohol. For 'relatively unregulated advertising environment', note the fact that Australian television consistently broadcasts advertising on the part of meat producers claiming that eating red meat is necessary for good health, a clearly-false claim that would never be allowed in the UK, a significantly less fat (though still mostly overweight) country. The 'gadgets and machinery' alluded to – well, what can this mean other than cars?

22 Feb. 2007

Dick Cheney: more important than any Australian

Dick Cheney's visit proves that Australia is merely a province of the American imperium. Conventional wisdom would have it that the most important people in Australia would be, say, John Howard (head of government, most politically powerful), the Queen (when she's here, the head of state – clearly more important than the Governor General), James Packer (or, when he's here, Rupert Murdoch – the richest man, most economically powerful) or Russell Crowe (most famous). Which of these men has either of these: green light motorcades on any trips they take, and three streets closed around their residence. That's right: none of them. Cheney's treatment shows that he is more important than any Australian in Australia. In having his own personal armed bodyguard from the US Secret Service accompanying him while in Australia, Cheney simply sidesteps Australian sovereignty, although of course the Australian state is willing to serve him to any degree possible. Of course, the security level also tells us something else: that Australia is a dangerous place for Cheney, and that people who live here hate this doubly-unelected (neither by America, nor by the world he rules de facto) potentate.

21 Feb. 2007

Rental crisis

I must say that Ross Gittins' article today does what I asked someone to do back in January and explains the rental squeeze very concisely.

Gittins' article is strange however in pretending to be predictive when it's really post hoc: He starts be proclaiming that rental increases will be the big housing story this year. However, this is manifestly already the case, despite the fact that the increases haven't yet – i.e. there are a raft of speculative media pieces claiming that there will be big rental increases, scare stories essentially, based on the low occupancy figures. Of course, it's entirely reasonable to say that low supply will lead to price rises, and so price rises do seem to be on the cards. The question is why the supply is lower. Gittins really offers two explanations: overall population growth and formation of new households.

I can't find growth figures for Sydney for 2006, but they've been around 40,000 a year for several years, an increase of below 1%. This is not insignificant of course if enough of it's being dumped on the private rental market. In recent years, housing stock growth has been well in excess of population growth, closer to 2%. New house building has of course collapsed since 2005, due to the stagnation in property prices. Assuming new household formation at a constant rate this does indeed imply a serious squeeze on rental accommodation. I think there can be no doubt that the essential problem is that new houses are not being built. This is meaning that new households are buying up existing properties (thus stemming the decline in house prices, and removing houses from the rental market) and moving onto the rental market itself, squeezing supply. So essentially the problem, if there is one, is simply one of supply and demand. The evidence we have of high demand and low supply, namely low rental vacancies, itself seems to imply population growth outstripping the supply of housing (and possibly to an extent people at the higher end of the income scale demanding ever more space, such that apartments that previously housed families may now house a single yuppie, etc.). The thing is that the population growth in Sydney is not necessarily going to remain steady forever. Indeed, higher rental prices are in themselves something that my tend to curtail both demographic increase (people will wait till they can afford the space to have a baby) and migration (people will be less likely to come to Sydney and more likely to leave). The lack in new housebuilding itself undermines the construction sector which is incredibly important to Sydney's economy, employing 250,000 people directly, and this may also certainly affect population growth.

The obvious solution is to produce more accommodation, rental or otherwise, preferably in the public sector to house those who can least afford private rentals. Howard instead ponders additional rent assistance out loud, surely a disastrous idea that would simply tend to raise rents even further, although it is true, as Gittins points out, that high rents will themselves stimulate construction. The non-socialist Kevin Rudd actually denies that there is a 'silver-bullet' solution to the rental crisis, which is simply untrue – there are in fact several, including government investment in public housing and rent controls.

20 Feb. 2007

Rent hike

OMG! The rent on our flat is to be raised by slightly over 5%! Isn't this the final proof that the rental apocalypse foretold by the media is finally upon us?

The answer, of course, is 'no'. The rental increase will occur after we've been living in the place for 1.25 years. It's true that over the same period, compounded inflation only amounts to slightly over 4%. However, if one assumes that the price of rent when we moved in was correct at that time, then we've being paying less and less than the true price every week since then. In short, a rental hike above the rate of inflation is necessary at this point to maintain the overall average rate of profit generated by our landlord. That is to say, that an individual rental hike being over the rate of inflation is to be expected if prices are keeping pace with inflation – it's only averaged over time that rents may actually be judged in relation to other indices of inflation.

18 Feb. 2007

Arch war criminal Dick Cheney in Sydney this week; two protests called, details below.

RALLY: 5.30PM THURSDAY FEBRUARY 22, SYDNEY TOWN HALL

PROTEST: 8AM FRIDAY FEBRUARY 23 @ SHANGRI-LA HOTEL, CNR ESSEX ST & GEORGE ST THE ROCKS
(Cheney will be giving a speech inside the hotel at approx 9.30am)

http://www.stopwarcoalition.org/

17 Feb. 2007

Desperate Houso on the absence of free dental care in Australia. Dental care is in no sense an optional extra in health care. Dental problems cause immense pain. The women cited in the daily Telegraph article quoted by DH indicates that public dental care would leave her without any means of chewing food for years, which would grossly inhibit her ability to eat healthily, etc.

Israel update

Somewhat surprisingly, the Zionist organisation, "The Australia-Israel & Jewish Affairs Council" (AIJAC), has distanced itself from Prof. Israel's comments and cancelled his speaking engagements with them. The Shalom Institute, the institution that is hosting Israel, is less than contrite, however.

I should apologise for following the SMH in so unequivocally equating Shalom with UNSW yesterday. The Shalom Institute, is based out of, and runs, Shalom College, which is a residential college on the UNSW campus. UNSW is the only university in Sydney based in the Eastern Suburbs region of Sydney, where most of Sydney's Jewish population is also located; it is, surely not coincidentally, reputed to have the highest proportion of Jewish students of any university in Sydney.

The question really needs to be asked what the interconnections here are. The Shalom Institute puts on courses, but these do not appear to be accredited by UNSW. However, it is accredited to provide accomodation to UNSW students, through Shalom College. The College is independent of UNSW, contends that its residential facilities are open to anyone, and offers scholarships to indigenous students, although it also hosts both the Shalom Institute and the Australian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS), both of which are avowedly political-Zionist organisations.

16 Feb. 2007

The University of New South Wales imports Israeli race-science. The claim being made is that 10%+ Muslim population = trouble. Quite how this can possibly be asserted, I do not know. There is only one example of such a Muslim population in the Western world – unless you count Israel – and that is France. There is no question that in France there is tumult surrounding suburban Muslim youth, but there is also tumult surrounding suburban non-Muslim African youth, and the blame for both can be placed at the door of France's exclusionary racist policies towards these minorities. Simply unscientific Islamophobia dressed up in an academic gown. Completely unempirical – I have seen no better justification for boycotting Israeli institutions than that such 'scholars' hold chairs at them.

15 Feb. 2007

Pauline Hanson has been shown genetically to be of Middle-Eastern heritage (though not, apparently, appearance). Hanson showed her appalling racism and total lack of understanding of history by claiming off the cuff that Middle Eastern stock in her must be the result of rape. This of course implies paradoxically that she is the descendent of rapists as well as those raped. She tried then to cover for her disgusting racism with a spot of her more default neo-racism, claiming that this was irrelevent since she was 100% Australian, of course alluding to the fact that her problem was not with other races per se, rather the cultural foreignness of migrants to Australia.



Peter Beattie was shown to have a much larger admixture of apparently non-European DNA. His response to this was far less superficially appalling, but in fact shows much of the same confusion as Hanson. Beattie claimed that his genetic diversity demonstrated the inherentness of multiculturalism. Culture of course is not genetic, however. Hanson's horror at her genetics show that her cultural racism is undergirded by a good dose of old-fashioned racialism. Beattie's happy acceptance of his racial diversity as proof of the appropriateness of multiculturalism show an appalling tendency to believe that culture is generated as a genetic, racial characteristic that cannot be wiped out by enculturation, exactly the opposite lesson that one should take from Hanson's genetic profile, namely that racism is itself a cultural construct, and that culture, unlike genetics, is malleable and highly contingent.

12 Feb. 2007

The Obama Controversy

Possibly overcome with hubris from throwing his weight around in Pacific island-nations, John Howard has taken the extraordinary step of thinking he can interfere in U.S. domestic politics. Not that I would decry an Australian politician speaking out about U.S. politics per se, but it's actually a very different position to that that Howard's historically held, namely that Australia is ancillary to the U.S.'s decision to be in Iraq, not a campaigner for the U.S. to be in Iraq. This puts Howard on an extreme right fringe of global politics that even neo-conservatives are deserting in droves.

Barak Obama's retort to Howard is brilliant: he points out that Australia is not itself proportionally committing to the war in Iraq, so it hardly behoves Howard to tell American politicians to continue doing something that he will not.

The revolting Alexander Downer hit back, saying that Australia's small size should be taken into account, and that committing twenty thousand Australian troops would mean committing half of Australia's army. Well, this second claim is entirely true, but not in itself a reason not to commit to Iraq. The reason Australia can't commit half it's armed forces to Iraq is because it's already using them to occupy other countries. Moreover, Obama actually called for Australia to call up 20,000 troops, not simply deploy its currently-serving ones – as should be well-known, many in the US forces are reservists.

The claim that Australia size explains its inability to field 20,000 troops is ridiculous. Obama's demand is fairly proportional to Australia's size – since the US population is 15 times as large as Australia, Obama is effectively calling on Australia to deploy twice as many troops per capita as the US, but he could just as well have said 10,000 – Australia's current contribution to the occupation is many times smaller than this.

(sorry there are no reference links. By the time I wrote this, the news coverage was dominated by the intra-Australian dimension to the controversy.)

8 Feb. 2007

There is no doubt that there is a groundswell for David Hicks happening at present. There's no saying quite how deep it is. Still, it's forced the Prime Mininister into action.

Fairfax have an extraordinary story now: the PM has apparently told the Coalition party room that he has has de facto power over Hicks's fate all along. That is to say, that Hicks has only been in Guantanamo for so long because Howard has wanted him there. Well, that's not quite true of course: Howard wants Hicks to be in prison, but not in a legal limbo, wants Hicks convicted. Howard admits that Hicks could not be tried in Australia, which is to say that he has not broken any Australian law. Yet Howard has decided that Hicks is a bad man, and must pay the price for violating Howard's personal standards of propriety – and it's Howard's personal prerogative we're talking about here, not a decision by coalition, party or cabinet.

The pressure mounting, Howard tells the US to try Hicks or free him. So ths US set up another kangaroo procedure. I see no reason to expect that this one will stand where the last fell. Indeed, the last was more or less in the same vein, a sop to Howard. The US in general seems in no hurry to regularise the status of Guantanamo detainees and remove them from the limbo it has so extraordinarily created. Indeed, why should it? That would only give them less power over the detainees. But Howard, under pressure from the Australian public, has been pushing the idea of a trial for Hicks all along. But, I would conclude, there can be no real trial, since there was no real crime.

4 Feb. 2007

Australia Day: rotten celebration of racist imperialism

Over a week has elapsed now since 'Australia Day'. What I witnessed that day was something new. The cues for a new Australian patriotism were taken directly from Cronulla, 2005. White people wandered drunkenly through the streets wearing Australian flags as capes. Where does this flag-as-cape device originate? It seems to me that it was at least popularized by Cronulla.



There is a certain tendency to write of the flag-waving in Sydney as a healthy contrarian reaction to the PC dictat of the organisers of the Big Day Out music festival not to bring flags on Australia Day. This, it seems to me, is sheer nonsense. Firstly, the organisers merely suggested people should leave flags at home, so there was no order to defy. But more importantly, the Big Day Out were reacting to the fact that the previous year, a month or so after the Cronulla Pogrom, the audience had been festooned with flags à la Cronulla. The attempt was to avert a similar display of racist-nationalism this year. This attempt was a failure, but had it not been attempted, there would have been a display anyway, and any attempt to problematise it would have been decried as unpatriotic political-correctness-gone-mad.

A man I know, of Mediterranean heritage, was passing through Woy Woy, on the very white Central Coast, on the 26th January, and stopped in a bar to use the ATM. He was subjected to a torrent of racial abuse. The patrons of the bar were already geared up to abuse any 'wog' who passed through there - they already had a flag up emblazoned with the slogan, again popularized by, and possibly invented at, Cronulla, "You flew here, we grew here".

The Big Day Out is itself an almost-all-white event. It's a festival based on the rock music popular primarily among Australian whites, far more popular among the dominant community than minority communities. As such, the event is a natural venue for racist-nationalism. In such a gathering, when young whites get together in such a concentration, we see nothing less than there emergence of a mass-racist consciousness among them, which has indeed always to some extent existed (people like to blame Pauling Hanson for this, but there was something called the 'White Australia Policy' in this country for well over a century, which people tend to forget), but which has received new impetus from Cronulla. The attempt to clamp down on this phenomenon can only backfire if there is already something to clamp down on.

28 Jan. 2007

Hizb ut-Tahrir

John Watkins, the particularly-odious Labor NSW Police Minister, has today called for Hizb ut-Tahrir to be banned. [Update: State premier Morris Iemma has now joined in.] [Update 2: the ALP's federal immigration spokesman has weighed in by suggesting a senior HuT figure's visa be cancelled. Bizarrely, the Liberals are being outflanked by the ALP on the right on this issue, with Darth Ruddock proclaiming that there is no evidence to support a ban on HuT since they do not urge violence. This is something we should bear in mind when it comes to the next election, that the ALP heavyweights consider advocacy of sharia law per se criminal behaviour, which amounts, I would say, to intolerance of mainstream Muslim views.] Hizb ut-Tahrir is a party dedicated to the restoration and spread to span the world of a new Islamic Caliphate. Since Hizb ut-Tahrir pledges to confine itself to establishing this Caliphate through peaceful means, through democratic measures, through winning people over to its side, this strikes me as in fact being an entirely-acceptable, mainstream Islamic aim. Any Muslim wants all people to embrace Islam and to establish an Islamic society. Islam has traditionally been held to be a rational faith, such that people will ultimately embrace it through rational persuasion.

To ban a party advocating the realisation of fundamental Muslim aspirations by peaceful means, by crimialising Muslim aspirations, one makes Muslim militancy inevitable. It amounts indeed to the criminalisation of radical Islam and the issuing of a challenge to radical Muslims to surrender or fight. It is tantamount to a declaration of war. This is why the British government came to their senses and shelved their plan to legislate to ban HuT.

26 Jan. 2007

New 'WorkChoices' scandal: when Tristar offshored its operation to China, it had to make workers redundant and pay redundancy packages, linked under the workers' enterprise bargaining agreement to their length of service. However, that agreement will expire in a couple of years, and under WorkChoices they will then be able to sack the workers without the payout. Their strategy therefore is only to offer redundancies to the shortest-serving workers, making the longer-serving workers keep working until their agreement expires. In the meantime, they spend their days sitting listless in a small shed.story here.

22 Jan. 2007

Apparently, Peter Debnam is to "put ministers to work" in NSW. In the incredibly unlikely event, one assumes, that he become the next premier of NSW.This is a good idea, but NSW will require that he appoint a minimum of 26,000 ministers to replace the 26,000 public sector jobs he has vowed to axe, if services in NSW are to be maintained. Unless ministerial salaries are slashed, this would hardly be a cost-effective move.

18 Jan. 2007

While its attempt to masquerade as a general history of squatting in Australia are unconvincing, this protagonists' history of squatting in Sydney since 1970 is very convincing when read as such. From the squatters' resource website, SquatSpace.

16 Jan. 2007

Houso Blog

A fantastic Australian blog has been brought to my attention, namely Diary of a Desperate Houso.It's a blog of a young woman who lives in public housing in New South Wales, and mainly details her experiences of the NSW Department of Housing and the ambiguously-named federal department of social services, 'Centrelink'. There's some great graphic design on the site. A worthy addition to our blogroll, I dare say.

10 Jan. 2007

A furore broke out a couple of weeks back when it emerged that the Australian military had some ordinance unaccounted for, basically rifles and 'rocket launchers', namely the shoulder-held anti-tank type, not the vehicle-mounted, artillery type.

Then they arrested some Arabs in Sydney allegedly in possession of some of the rocket launchers.

Now, it would seem, they're trying these men as terrorists on the basis of evidence that allegedly says these men were planning to use said rocket launchers to blow up parliament and a 'nuclear place'. This latter description obviously doesn't indicate an advanced level of planning, but presumably refers to Lucas Heights, the only nuclear facility in the vicinity of Sydney.

The obvious problem with this plan is that these weapons are designed to knock out tanks, not destroy buildings. Nuclear facilities are built to be very hard to destroy, and it's highly dubious whether any more damage could be done with such weapons than homemade explosives. Indeed, homemade explosives could be vastly more devastating. The rocket launchers allow one fire from a distance, but their accuracy is such that this would amount to taking ineffectual pot-shots, which may serve to terrorise and perhaps also kill and maim, but would have no usefulness in such dastardly schemes.

9 Jan. 2007

Spruiking rental hikes

OK, could someone explain this to me?

Through the roof: rents to soar 20% from smh.com.au today. The reason rents are supposed to soar is because people are taking money out of property investment and putting it into superannuation. I don't understand how this is supposed to make rents rise at all. Presumably the implication is that the supply of rental properties will diminish with rental landlords selling properties. However, it seems that the only parties they will be able to sell to are either other landlords or renters who want to get on the property ladder; indeed the most obvious implications of people getting out of property is for property prices to fall, reducing the demand for rentals by increasing the affordability of home ownership.

A more plausible argument in the article is that the decline in new house-building in Sydney will lead to rental rises. However, this decline is more or less matched by a decline in the growth of Sydney's population, meaning that that argument too is bullshit.

OK, assuming I am right about the vacuousness of this article, how do we explain it? Journalistically, the answer is obvious: the SMH wants to sell papers, and Sydney is obsessed with properties. Large numbers of people on the way to work today will see a headline announcing a 20% hike in their rents and buy the paper to find out what the fuck is going on.

There is another agenda of course, one in which much of Sydney has been investing heavily for years, indeed one on which much of Sydney's prosperity is based: property prices. By claiming that rents will rise enormously, a big impetus is given to the buy-to-rent market, thus indeed invalidating some of the article's own claims!

6 Jan. 2007

There's a good article on smh.com.au today about the higher rate of crime in rural versus urban areas of NSW.

The article manages to deduce that this is actually just because the bush is so much more Aboriginal, and it's Aboriginal people who are disproportionately both perpetrating and the victims of the crimes in question.

In my time in Australia, I've seen this time and again. Earlier this year, I toured outback NSW briefly, visiting Bourke, the most crime-ridden town in NSW according to statistics, and Walgett, the second most, both largely Aboriginal towns, both segregated, both heavily-policed, both out of control. But what I saw there wasn't totally new to me. In areas of Central Sydney with large Aboriginal population, namely Glebe and Redfern, in which I've lived, I've seen pretty similar stuff, if at a lower level, seen kids fight running battles with cops. Redfern St, the main street of Redfern, is fifteen minutes' walk from the bright lights of Central Sydney, but at night it resembles the main streets of Bourke and Walgett far more, shut-down and shuttered, deserted.

What does one say about this? Doubtless there is much to say. The clearest conclusion is that the indigenous people of NSW are in a dire state. No-one would dispute that. The tendency is to say that they need to be further integrated into white society. The centre-left says they must be given respect and employment opportunities, the centre-right that they must be made to work. There is a significant feeling on the popular right that the Aborigines have already been given all the help that can be given and now their plight is their own fault, showing that they are innately morally vicious. And the system responds to Aborigines in this way, by imprisoning them at astounding rates, punishing them for exhibiting the regular symptoms of social disfunction.

This blog doesn't give prescriptions for potted solutions, because what is needed is not a potted solution. Look at the facts: Aboriginal people in NSW were brutalised, herded into camps. They were forcibly torn from their traditional lifestyles, given white men's surnames. They continue to live on in townships around the state, corralled into ghettos, enemployed, while a relatively affluent white population lives a parallel life alongside them, rich on the profits from stolen land. Who in such a situation will have a healthy communal life?

5 Jan. 2007

Tanya Plibersek, widely-regarded as the most left-wing sitting ALP federal MP, and now Rudd's housing spokesperson, this morning criticised federal policy in failing to address the unaffordability of housing.

Her suggestions are predictably vacuous. At least as reported, Plibersek is claiming that financial aid must be given to homebuyers in such a way as to avoid putting upward pressure on prices. This seems clearly absurd, since any stimulation to demand will increase prices. The only way to prevent this is to directly control prices, something she would clearly not advocate as a representative of Rudd's post-socialist ALP.

Her suggestion that we need more houses, increasing supply to lower prices, is plausible, and obvious, but has a number of problems with it, primarily environmental, that are well known. Essentially there are two problems with this, the first being the destruction of important areas of farmland, recreational sites and wildlife to provide housing, the second being the pressure on clearly-inadequate existing infrastruture, primarily transport and water.

The latter problems are of course the province of state ALP governments, whose neoliberal policies are giving us expanding cities without the necessary expansions in infrastructure. But there is also a state infrastructural issue which is directly contributing to the unaffordability of housing: the failure of neoliberal state Labor governments to invest in new public housing stock. Public housing, subsidised, serves to significantly restrict the increase in private rents and house prices, since it reduces demand. At present, most people on low incomes – primarily meaning those in receipt of federal government welfare benefits – are being forced to rent privately, spending their federal benefits as a direct subsidy to the burgeoning class of private 'investment' landlords. This is completely iniquitous, and clearly leading to massive growth in disparity of income by redirecting tax dollars to existing property-owners. Government action to buy up housing stock and rent it affordably would undercut this traffic in human emiseration.