Category Archives: The Daily Outrage

The Dangerous Despotism of Scott Morrison MP

It has been another one of those weeks. A week where the Australian government surpasses itself in its three top capacities: deceit, cruelty and incompetence. I intended to document the depths of deceit, cruelty and incompetence of each minister in the Abbott Cabinet today, as per my post last week. The bit about how every single minister attacks every person for whom they are responsible. Like the way that Malcolm Turnbull destroys public broadcasters, or how Kevin Andrews thinks starving people on income support is a good idea.

But once again it is impossible to go past the depths of deceit, cruelty and incompetence of Abbott, Morrison, and Hockey. Abbott is the liar supreme, Morrison is the most heartless of power-seekers, and Hockey still does not get just quite how economically illiterate he is.

It is Morrison and his shredding of the 1951 Refugee Convention, and its founding principle of non-refoulement, under the new Maritime Amendment Act, who should be most carefully scrutinised. With the vote of an emotional Senator Ricky Muir, who spoke at length on a joint letter he received from refugees on Christmas Island (Hansard, 4 December 2014, p. 104), this thing just became law. Welcome to Morrison world, Senator.

During the debate on the Maritime Bill, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson Young said that refugee children on Christmas Island were handed telephones, to call and plead with Ricky Muir to save them from indefinite detention (Hansard, 4 December 2014, p. 121). If true, we can assume this was facilitated by staff who in turn must respond to government orders. So we also therefore know Morrison is accountable under the Westminster system, which holds ministers responsible for the actions of their departments. We can sleep at night, or not, knowing that we the people who elected this government, and in whose names its actions are taken, are no better than terrorists holding children hostage. This point was made succinctly by Justin Whelan of the Uniting Church (@juswhel).

There was no barrier, no bar at all, to Morrison releasing children from indefinite detention before the bill was passed, or at any time in the last 15 months.

Usually I vent on here at what the Commonwealth government has done in our name in the preceding week,or the week before that. Today I draw attention to an under-reported draft piece of legislation which is currently before the parliament. It is yet another abrogation of all that is decent about the principles of democracy, parliamentary sovereignty and the rule of law. These noble rules and principles have never been upheld, of course. Never. How could government ‘for the people by the people’ or ‘equality before the law’ be upheld when the whole operation is run by elite white men? This demographic knows nothing of power-sharing, or equality of opportunity, or reward for merit.

The fact that elite white men are incapable of ensuring equality in any form is the exact reason they speak to it so much and so often; and why they pour so much energy into reproducing the fictions. If elite white men were capable of ensuring that no-one is above the law, or that everyone is innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt, there would be perfect equality by now – and a lot more elite white men in prison. So no, they can not operationalise these rules and principles on which they espouse such detail, despite claiming authorship of simple notions like all humans are born equal.

The most important set of rules and principles in a democracy can be loosely grouped under the Doctrine of the Separation of Powers. Thousands o people killed and died for the purpose of establishing these rules. Classical liberalism raised these rules – from their early birth in communal and tribal societies. It’s a simple principle: to avoid despotism, the authority to legally exercise power over the lives of fellow humans – the citizenry – must be shared across different branches of government. In the common law countries, the liberal democracies, these branches are the Legislature (members of parliament in both houses), the executive (public servants like police, immigration officials, teachers) and the judiciary (judges, magistrates and assorted commissioners and tribunal members).

Across time, all over the world, all humans have always known that power must be shared. Otherwise, despots cruel the existences of our fellow humans. Our collective memory tells us that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely – and that this is not a value-free state of affairs. It does not matter whether you take an absolutist or deontological approach; or a consequentialist or teleological approach. Despots violate the fundamental human rights of others for their own ends. Their actions are inherently bad, and cause harm to their fellow humans. This is morally, ethically, philosophically, politically wrong on every level.

Over at The Guardian, Oliver Laughland described Morrison as dangerous, incompetent and ruthless; but I disagree with the middle descriptor. Morrison is not a sweaty stumbler like Hockey, or an incoherent embarrassment like Abbott. He goes about getting what he wants with cold precision. In my view, Morrison is in fact dangerously, ruthlessly competent. Given the tasks he sets himself – actions so appalling that Australian treatment of asylum seekers on his watch has been reviewed and admonished by the United Nations Committee Against Torture – it would be an improvement in many lives if Morrison was a bit less competent.

The off-shoring of asylum seekers has reached new depths of human rights abuses under Morrison; and the newly-passed Maritime Amendment Act is an abomination. But it has passed. We are stuck with it unless or until there is a change of government and a commitment by a new government to oversee its repeal.

Which brings us to the Australian Citizenship Amendment Bill 2014 tabled before parliament for Minister Scott Morrison, a despotic tyrant if ever there was one. What Morrison wants to do next, and which has not yet passed, is well worth campaigning against. There is still time to lobby micro-cross-benchers Ricky Muir, David Leyonhjelm, Bob Day and Dio Wang, PUPster Glen Lazarus and the newly independent Jacqui Lambie, and the seemingly decent and intelligent Nick Xenophon and John Maddigan.

I am grateful to Kaye Lee, the Australian Independent Media Network, Susan Argall and the Australian Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and Dame Shona of Abbottstan (@shona3003 on Twitter) for alerting me to this development.

The Australian Citizenship Amendment Bill 2014 would empower Morrison to revoke the citizenship of Australians on any grounds he sees fit, which is to say on any grounds at all. How the status of current Australian citizens falls under the purview of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection remains unexplained. What follows is drawn from the second reading speech on the bill (Hansard, 23 Oct 2014, p. 11744), delivered by Paul Fletcher.

Predictably, this supporter of Morrison mania represents one of the safest most comfortable places on earth, the North Shore of Sydney. Much like in Morrison’s region, “The Shire”, people who are pre-selected to represent the LNP for Sydney’s North Shore are invariably expensively educated white men who have never struggled or wanted for anything in their entire lives. Not once. Not ever. Nobody is less qualified to decide what is good for anyone in need, or escaping persecution, or whose rights are being violated by a government elected to serve them. It is impossible to even imagine someone less qualified than Paul Fletcher, member for Bradfield, who also tabled the bill and explanatory memorandum “for Mr Morrison” (the “first reading”, Hansard, 23 Oct 2014, p. 11743). There is no doubt about where his loyalties and allegiances lie. No Muir-esque soul-searching for Fletcher. Just the same dangerous, ruthless competence as Morrison.

The second reading speech is the one that counts. It is the “extrinsic material” to which judges typically turn when interpreting legislation, should an ambiguity or absurdity arise, in order to ascertain the intention of the parliament. It is an essential component of law-making in a democracy, where an elected representative puts to the House, and for public scrutiny, the arguments supporting the rationale and purpose of a new piece of law.

Fletcher starts by handily grouping the changes under three broad themes, reproduced below with the ordinary English translations:

“Strengthening program integrity”: allows the Minister to revoke the citizenship of an Australian citizen, no matter how that citizenship was conferred. It extends this power to minors.

“Underlining the importance of connection to Australia”: these sections even further institutionalise, by authorising in law, the racism and xenophobia of the Australian polity.

“Improving decision-making”: empowers the Minister to ‘set aside’ Administrative Appeals Tribunal decisions – ie Morrison could arbitrarily over-rule an expert independent legal body.

In that soulless LNP way, Fletcher goes about the business of producing Orwellian gibberish about each of these in turn. Even the disturbing propaganda spouted by Michalea Cash in the Senate on the Maritime Bill, while hideously dishonest and frighteningly cruel, at least contained some emotion. This stuff is dry as an outback drought. Let’s have a look at what Morrison has in store for us – and himself.

“Strengthening program integrity”: in which Morrison reserves to himself the power to revoke citizenship, whether the citizen arrived by overseas adoption, or having lived here for the first 10 years of their life, or applied later as in immigrant or permanent resident. Morrison also wants to be review decisions over minors.

 

It goes without saying that increasing the capacity of anyone to legally exercise arbitrary power, whether as odious as Morrison or not, does not “strengthen” the “integrity” of any program.

Also, we are not talking about a “program”. We are talking about the most fundamental rights in any liberal democracy, the rights that attach to citizenship. Here is what our representative Paul Fletcher had to say:

The ‘good character requirement’ extends to everyone who applies to become a citizen aged 18 years and over. The bill amends these provisions to require applicants aged under 18 to also be of good character. Character concerns are not limited to adults and indeed the Department of Immigration and Border Protection has had serious concerns about the character of certain applicants aged under 18. In practice, the change will mean that the department may now seek to obtain police clearances for 16-17 year olds. It would also be able to assess the character of youths younger than 16 if the department becomes aware of particularly relevant character issues.

Now pause for a moment and ponder the new Data Retention laws and ask yourself how the “character” of a “youth” may come to the attention of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. This department, we are told, has “serious concerns” about the “character” of “certain applicants”. Well I have extremely serious concerns about the character of the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.

If you are old enough, you may remember the last LNP Immigration Minister, the equally hypocritical and self-serving “Christian” Kevin Andrews, and his decision to send Mohammed Haneef to Villawood Detention Centre on “character” grounds. That debacle eventually righted by the integrity of several members of the judiciary and the immense courage of Haneef’s lawyer, the no-holds-barred Peter Russo, in releasing the record of interview.

These sorts of rank injustices will be repeated over and again, with little independent scrutiny, as the government violates the rights of applicants and citizens (see abolition of merits review, below). Figuring out which particular ethno-religious characteristics or memberships these individuals hold is not rocket science. Arab men are likely to be the group under heaviest surveillance, of course. We know this from the passage of the Foreign Fighters Act, which reverses the onus of proof, and legislates that those travelling to “ISIS-affected areas” prove to the government that they have a “reasonable cause” to travel.

“Underlining the importance of connection to Australia”: these sections even further institutionalise the racism and xenophobia of the Australian polity, and appear to have some homophobia encoded in there as well.

I loathe this stuff. Like John Howard and his Don-Bradman-batting-average bullshit. As if the White Australia policy and Tampa and the Northern Territory Emergency Intervention and the Stolen Generations and Reza Barati all the other rampant racist killings and injustices perpetuated by the Australian state were not enough, Morrison now wants to amend the Citizenship Act to “underline the importance of connection to Australia”.

Let’s see what our representative Paul Fletcher has to say about this one.

It is important that applicants spend a sufficient amount of time here to understand what being Australian means.

Like most of us, I do not really know what being an Australian means, and certainly not under this government. Apparently it means being scrutinised by the UN Committee Against Torture, whatever THAT means. However, Paul is silent on this point. The sentence is nothing more than racist code. He then goes on to say that

People are eligible to acquire citizenship automatically if they are born in Australia to an Australian citizen or permanent resident parent, or if they are ordinarily resident in Australia until their 10th birthday. The bill limits automatic acquisition of citizenship on the 10th birthday to those persons who have maintained lawful residence in Australia throughout the 10 years.

“Those persons” appears to referring to 10 year old children born to Australian parents? Like, just any old mainstream kid born here can have their citizenship revoked if they have not maintained lawful residence in the country of their birth, over which they have no control, while below the age of criminal responsibility? The surrounding text is concerned with overseas adoptions, changing the definitions of de facto partners (probably code for homophobia), and children born to consular officials.

But this paragraph refers to children born to Australian citizens and permanent residents. Fletcher then moves right on to the next item on his list. This is the most ominous characteristic of the paragraph. It is probably code for punishing first generation Australians for the actions of their ‘immigrant’ (but now Australian) parents. This would be in keeping with how Morrison went about his business with the Maritime Amendment Act. But it is still confounding. And despotic.

Finally, there is the “improving” decision-making section. These “improvements” improve nothing for anyone except Morrison in his lust for power. The section empowers the Minister to ‘set aside’ decisions reached by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, decisions made by expert, independent arbiters in accordance with administrative law. In other words, a nasty, ruthless despot like Morrison can interfere with – arbitrarily over-rule – an expert independent body that was established by Gough Whitlam as part of his wider reform project around Freedom of Information and open, transparent, accountable democracy.

Freedom of information and open government are not the concern of Scott Morrison. The bill also makes these arbitrary exercises of power by the Minister secret. It removes “merits” review, which is what the Tribunal does, based on administrative law, the branch of law under which all public servants operate in order that they go about exercising power over the citizenry legally. The bill retains judicial review, which means anyone affected by these arbitrary rulings by the minister must show standing and mount a whole legal case, rather than simply apply for a review of a decision as happens now with matters such as having income support payments suspended by Centrelink, for example. Judicial review only tests whether the Minister exercised his power lawfully. With this much power, it would be a tough test case indeed to prove that he had acted, not unjustly, but illegally.

And here is the nub of these proposed amendments. Everything about each section goes against fundamental principles and rules established over centuries by liberal democracies. As mentioned, none of the liberal democracies are particularly liberal or democratic, but it is what we have. Absent a revolution, it is what we have to work with in Australia.

The extent to which power would accrue in the office of the Minister under these reforms is despotic, immoral, and dangerous. Morrison wants to enshrine in legislation a fundamental breach of the separation of powers, by authorising himself to overrule the decisions of an independent judicial tribunal. He might be competent at what he sets out to do, but what he sets out to do shows a profound disregard for “what it means to be Australian”. Morrison is beyond despotic. May he rot in the hell in which he claims to believe.

* Quick shout-out to Scott’s media monitors whose job it is to read this: remember, truth is a defence. So read the supporting arguments about Morrison being a despotic tyrant carefully. The evidence is in the bill, and the bill is before the parliament, and the second reading speech is in the Hansard.

Killed by Israel in Gaza

Today I read through a list of names, ages and circumstances. It was the Palestinians killed by Israel in its latest attack on Gaza. What we call ‘casualties’ are named here as ‘martyrs’.

http://palestinefrommyeyes.wordpress.com/2014/07/09/gazaunderattack-stop-the-palestinian-bloodshed-names-and-ages-of-palestinians-who-fell-victim-to-israel-s-ongoing-attack-on-gaza-palestine/

The link came via social media. I judge social media links by the credibility of the source, and the content of the material. This link came via a trusted source; and its detail looked a lot like truth. I read on.

Although stomach turning, it felt like it would be a betrayal of the children of Gaza not to read through to the end. With every name and age recorded, I thought of my own children at that age, or of an aunty or other relative of the same generation as those killed. The post is heralded with the statement ‘Because they are people, not numbers’. This crucial fact is actively obscured by the monstering of Palestinians in Israel and much of the West.

Three years ago, I reached the appalling conclusion that Israel does not want peace. The obstructionist recalcitrance of the state in the face of any and every potential solution is rehearsed and successful. Since 1947 Israel has yielded nothing but the Sinai (over 40 years ago) and withdrawal from Gaza in 2005: and still points to these as evidence that Israel does indeed seek a resolution. Yet Gaza remains an ‘open-air prison’ and much of the Sinai remains a lawless no-go zone. Egypt is second only to Israel in its receipt of US ‘military aid’ – money and equipment for which to kill and torture people – Egypt gets US$2 billion per year to Israel’s $3 billion plus. This largely explains the geo-political status of the Sinai; its terrain explains the rest. The Sinai is not evidence of an Israel yearning for peace and resolution.

Meanwhile, the hideous and illegal separation wall marches over Palestinian villages and farmland and the Israeli military continue to bulldoze Palestinian homes in both east Jerusalem and the West Bank. Both areas are internationally recognised as the location for a reinstated Palestine. There is no indication that Israel will ever conform to international law; and ample counter-evidence. Galetz (Army Radio) refers to the West Bank as Judea and Samaria, staking a chosen-people Old Testament-based claim to the land, which in any case is occupied by Israeli extremists who commandeer scarce resources, like water, backed by the force of Israeli troops.

It is impossible to run through all the arguments and evidence I found of Israeli expansionism and exceptionalism and the ‘Holocaust Holocaust Holocaust’ refrain captured so tellingly by Howard Jacobson in his award-winning novel The Finkler Question . Instead I am reproducing here two of the most appalling extracts I unearthed after a Palestinian-Australian friend told me that Israel fines a soldier 100 shekels (AUS$25) for killing a Palestinian child. I remember dropping my head and taking a deep breath before I could re-establish eye contact. He said ‘and they call us the barbarians’. It was such a small detail, yet so shockingly amoral, as to hit harder than the footage of bombs and planes. I was reminded of that conversation, over five years ago now, as I read through the lists and lists of dead in Gaza today. The work of Guardian reporter Chris Urquart and the tireless Electronic Intifada verify his account. Links below.

After Moshe returned to his paratroop unit, he said there were several incidents when children and teenagers were killed after bullets aimed at their legs hit their chests. The attitude was, he said, “so kids got killed. For a soldier it means nothing. An officer can get a 100 or 200 shekel [£12.50-£25] fine for such a thing.”

– Urquhart, C. (2005) Israeli Soldiers Tell of Indiscriminate Killings by Army and a Culture of Impunity: Whistleblowers’ testimony shows desire for revenge on Palestinians. The Guardian, 06 September, 2005: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/sep/06/israel

“So usually an officer gets fined 100 shekels for killing a child…”

– Kole (2004) Interview: What the IDF is doing in Nablus. Live from Palestine, 7 September 2004, Nablus, occupied Palestine: http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article3078.shtml

Meet Jesse. She writes what she really thinks too

The posts below are from my friend Jesse’s facebook page. Jesse and I met when our sons became mates at the local public high school for bright young things. Our lives are wildly different, our views astonishingly similar. Her daily rants comprise some of the most coherent criticism of this federal government anywhere – many provisoed with claims of incoherence. So I invited Jesse to share my little corner of the web and put some of those colourful comparisons on the record.
Editorial errors are mine, all thoughts her own etc etc …Oh, and I assumed the misspelling of *asterics* below was a self-deprecating joke, coz posting to the world is scarey stuff.

June 25, 7.26am
My cup of incoherent rage runneth over. And I have an all-day school related thingy, so I have to be pleasant to people, of all things, all squeezed into a mini bus and carted around. And everywhere we go, they will serve instant coffee, or brown and water, as it is known here, and I will smile and nod pleasantly. And every time they mention funding I will, literally, bite my tongue, and then I will come home and I will rant and flail my arms wildly.

June 27, 5.35am
Slashing dementia support and the severe behaviour supplement. Oh, ffs. Enough is enough. Even if you’re demented enough to think the aged, disabled and vulnerable are unworthy, do you really think slashing funding will reduce dementia numbers? This is just gonna reduce the standard of living for those people. In fact for a money saving budget ,it seems to be just take money from people like me and give it people who already have more, cos otherwise you’ll be rewarding me for having a disabled person to care for.

June 27, 7.01am
Once again, oh, FFS! And who will be the social and cultural contributors of the future? The pigs at the trough? And how about, NO, I will not view the aged as a burden. A long life is a gift, not a profit making opportunity.

June 27, 7.51am
Kinda waiting for someone to try and tell me that most old people are really just “economic geriatrics”, you know they either chose to get old, did it themselves by living too long, or are just faking it for the benefits. Everyone knows it’s irresponsible to live a long time if you can’t afford to. I’m sure it’ll be some drivel like that, and I’m looking forward to a good laugh

June 27, 8.21am
The kind of circular logic I find myself dealing with
Me: The vulnerable in Australia could benefit immensely from more resources.
Them: There’s millions of people in the third world who’d love to be in your shoes, you know?
Me: You’re right, let’s help them.
Them: But they’re different and they only want a hand out, and they should fix their own problems instead of looking to us. What about Australia’s poor and vulnerable, huh?
Me: Ok, lets prioritise that then.
Them: There’s millions of people in the third world who’d love to be in your shoes, you know?

June 29, 10.09am
Go to shop for bacon, saw the headline “disabling rorters” and felt humiliated, and then angry. Got home, saw the banana tree lost a branch. Must have missed the power line by a hairs breath

June 30 5.42am
Ok, so you want to make welfare less attractive so people will get off it and work? I get that. So limiting what people on welfare can spend their money on will get them a job? Here’s how this will actually work. Anyone who can get a job will, and those with disabilities and mental health issues will still have disabilities and mental health issues. They’ll just have them with less autonomy. See, long term, this doesn’t affect the people who are “rorters”. It just condemns the most needy in our society to the punishment meant for a mostly imaginary bludger. Slow round of applause, ffs

June 30, 7.10pm
Read all 176 pages of the welfare review recommendations. I think whoever sees “perverse incentives” everywhere is kind of perverse, and overly suspicious

1 July, 2.11pm (by PM)
So, I have attempted to write something. It’s been years since I wrote anything other than status updates and the occasional angry letter, so it might be all rambly and disjointed, I don’t know. And I don’t know how to get it from my iPad to anything so I’m just gonna cut and paste and out it after this nice row of asterics.

***************************************************

Winter is here. The Abbott government slash and burn, sure to create a winter of discontent. Its newest weapon is a welfare review containing sweeping recommendations to overhaul a welfare system that has managed to be the best targeted welfare system in the world, while spending less than other comparable nations. The poor feel the cold, and the days are short. Twelve months ago, an Australian who had fallen upon hard times – who life had sucker-punched with illness, disability, family breakdown, unemployment, the travails of age, or what-have-you – could feel confident of the safety net that would catch them before their body hit the ground. A safety net that would support them until they got back on their feet, in a society which accepted that some wouldn’t rise up in glory, and that the safety net would be a lifetime measure for those that needed it.

That confidence is gone, and in its place is trepidation and outright fear.

Left vs right has become a demented and wicked game: of leaner vs lifter, bludgers vs taxpayers, the righteous vs the rorter. It is played on a multi sided board by people who continue to be well-paid even when they play badly. Some never lose the game. I am one of the pawns on this ideological chessboard, being swept out of the game by a bishop from the other side. The game could be won or lost without me, and there are richer prizes to be taken than a lowly pawn, but ALL the pawns are about to be taken, and if you are poor (sick, studying, unemployed, old) then I’m sorry to tell you, but you too are a pawn.

As a young person, I never dreamed of a life on welfare. Who does? I thought I’d do everything. Travel the world as journalist, design fabulous things, buy a house and car, have a family. I thought I’d get to choose. I took off from the start line at a great pace. I worked, I studied, I paid my taxes. Then life came swinging with that sucker punch. My second born son has severe autism with an accompanying intellectual deficit. He has never gained speech or significant self-care skills. I was out of the race. I needed that safety net, and unless we figure out how to rewire brains and fix brain damage, I’m going to need it for life, and for my son’s life.

To Abbott and co, I’m your classic “leaner”. I am that person living off honest, hardworking taxpayers. Maybe you saw me, lighting a cigarette outside Centrelink, with what looked like a strong, able bodied young man who needs a good hair cut. Maybe you made some assumptions about us. In fact I’m pretty sure you did. If not me, then someone like me. Maybe it was a young woman, talking on her iPhone while running fingers topped with false talons through multi-coloured hair, with a couple of kids making *too much* noise. You decided she was one of those women with children to multiple fathers, spending your hard-earned income tax on the latest thing, while the kids run wild.

An alternative explanation never even occurs. Like her mum recently had a stroke and will be requiring care, and so she’s there to find out what support is available, while talking on the phone she bought with money she earned as a nail technician, and her kids are overtired because Centrelink is taking much longer than she imagined. Our right to assume the worst trumps all. These faulty assumptions are leading to a rationale of believing the poor are poor because they make bad decisions. They are re not poor because they drink or smoke. Those things may contribute to – or relieve – their situation. But these are definitely not the root cause of the myriad problems that contribute to an individual being in a state of poverty.

The causes are as individual as the people. There is no one size fits all solution to poverty, and if you think there is, you have never been poor and you are part of the problem. Check your privilege, please. The Abbott government budget and proposed welfare reforms have taken the safety net and replaced it with uncertainty.
I don’t know for sure whether my situation will be better after these reforms, or worse, but if it is worse, I question how it is ‘reform’. If those challenged by disability and those who care for them have a lower standard of living, have less autonomy, fewer choices and even less freedom than before, how is that reform in anything but a Dickensian subplot? And what part of “no changes to pensions” – an on-the-record, rolled-gold, pre-election promise – is covered in sweeping welfare reforms? I would venture that reassessing thousands of people dependent on the Disability Support Pension is a change to pensions, particularly for those who will be forced off the DSP and on to Newstart, to look for a job that likely isn’t there, and if it was, that person would not end up as the one employed anyway.

And if that person is under thirty? I never thought I’d pity the young, but now I do. A young person on DSP who is reassessed as capable of ‘participation’ and moved onto Newstart could find themselves with nothing, for six months, and face unnecessarily punitive measures, like income management and work-for-the-dole once they finally qualify for an allowance. Has the impact on the labour market even been assessed? What business would not choose free labour over paying wages? I can not convey the emotion the young must be feeling, the bridge to their future blown away just as they’re about to step onto it, their choices suddenly narrowed and for many, disappeared. Where is the generation that never worked to justify this madness? Shouldn’t we be presented with evidence of a problem before taking steps to rectify said problem?

The figures show Australians’ dependence on welfare has been steadily falling. The mainstream media says dragons are spending all the tax payer money. Which is weird, because there are no dragons, and for PAYE earners it became government money as soon as it was earned. Only the very rich see most of it. Everyone else sees numbers scribbled somewhere – on a payslip, at the end of a docket – but letting you think it is still your money after it’s gone is a clever trick. One that’s designed to reassure you, as you voluntarily condemn part of your society as unworthy, into thinking you are doing the right thing. It’s not the right thing. How can judging people without facts ever be right? How can condemning those different to you ever be right? How can forcing the young to starve be right? How can working the elderly to death be right? How can there be “market incompatible people” instead of a people incompatible market? How can a person on Newstart with a partial or episodic disability have a perverse incentive to get a disability pension? How can getting appropriate support be a “perverse incentive”? Surely a job agency would have an equally perverse incentive to NOT find employment for all clients?

I see a perverse incentive for the demonisation of the vulnerable. By the media who make money from headlines of human misery; and by a government that gains power by wooing the hatred and selfishness lurking in empty hearts. I could present the Opposition as an unemployed government. Should they lose all benefits for six months? Obviously not, an opposition is part of the parliamentary system, and essential to democracy. A young person who loses a job, much like an opposition loses the job of governing, is part of our society, and as such that persons well-being is essential for our democracy too. I’d like to knock the board over and see the game start again. Fellow pawns, tell them, game over.

Daily Outrage: Live footage of rape in Tahrir Square

Today’s outrage is accompanied by such horrific, specific footage that it comes with a triple X warning to all thinking, caring human beings. The link at the end of this post is to video footage of the actual events described by the headline Woman stripped beaten and sexually assaulted in Tahrir Square.

Sexual assault at protests in Tahrir Square is endemic. Last year, Al-Monitor reported the tactic of surrounding women protestors as a “human shield”. This term is usually reserved for propaganda purposes – Israel frequently claims that killing civilians in Gaza, the most densely populated strip of land on earth, is unavoidable because family members shield ‘militants’. Here, however, ‘human shield’ could not be more accurate, legitimately deployed to describe the necessity of shielding women from sexual assault during the five years and counting of waves of protests across Cairo.

Was it only five years ago that the Green Revolution gave us the despicable ‘first’ of live death footage uploaded to YouTube? The death of Nena Agha-Soltan went viral – of course it did – non-censored circulation of the most horrific and public of private moments is ‘a thing’, as our callous culture would have it. I didn’t watch her death, but am both moved by and optimistic that her death was not in vain, that the wider movement raised awareness outside of Iran, and that young people in the west are, and will be, more politically engaged as a result.

We know that the ‘middle east’ is widely and regularly demonised by western conservative politicians, painted as a hotbed of terrorism for the purposes of fear-mongering to domestic political audiences in their safe and comfortable homes. It is not hard to reach out and touch the latent fear in the hearts of those who are enriched by the theft and exploitation of others’ autonomy. As an Australian, I see daily the slender, tender layer of bravado that can be touched in white Australians who know, not particularly deep down, that we walk on Aboriginal land.

The death of Nena Agha-Soltan can and should and I believe will make it harder for the powerful machines of the fear-mongers and panic-merchants to find a place in the hearts of young westerners who are alert to the facts. While we are taught to fear people with legitimate grievances; we should really fear our own war-loving, capital-hoarding, planet-destroying “elected leaders”.

To return, the long way around, to Egypt: the place of women at the protests could not be more relevant, or necessary, either. Leaving aside electoral due process and legitimacy, the struggle for secular rule is inherently, urgently, about women’s autonomy.

Last night I scrolled onto a rare long post from a colleague and friend who usually shares links without commentary. Her style is different from mine. I like to add a little blurb, or my reaction to the content, whether anger, laughter or tears. But Sandra doesn’t. She lets the reader decide. I often read the coverage she sends, which is from her PhD field work in Egypt. Sandra is researching an amazing ‘flashmob’ type networked response to sexual and other mob violence against women in the context of political upheaval. The network is connected by mobile and smart phone, by text and social media. When a woman is threatened or attacked, nearby members respond with citizen action, calling authorities and often physically corralling the abuser away from the woman. The on-ground action is complemented by awareness raising and other education and media strategies.

According to a Global Mail report from July last year, over 90 women were assaulted in just four days of protests.

“Survivors and witnesses told Human Rights Watch that some of the men claiming to help the women during the attacks were in fact taking part, further disorienting victims, who could not assess who was in fact assisting them,” the report said.

Parse that for a moment. Men claiming to help were in fact taking part in violent assaults including rape. It reminds me of those not-particularly-rare stories of police officers and priests who, on hearing a complaint of sexual assault, would commit a sexual attack of their own on the complainant. Their sick sense is of women and children being nothing more than a sexual object, and spoilt goods at that, instead of a fellow human being in need of comfort, support and healing. This icy, nasty kernel of callous hatred and objectifying brutality is found from west to east.

In response, Tahrir Bodyguard members wear neon yellow vests and helmets to circumvent this despicable exploitation. “We aim for zero cases of sexual terrorism in Tahrir and keep on working until every person can express their opinion without getting raped or assaulted.”

It is not my intention, and nor do I have the expertise, to cover here the towering importance of women’s freedom to protest in a country where political powers-that-be and powers-to-be seek to wind back reforms in such areas as female genital mutilation and the legal marriageable age. It is no coincidence that as women fight long and hard to win political progress, men draw together and together attack individual women and their freedom to protest safely. Where “safely” means “without being raped”.

http://egyptianstreets.com/2014/06/09/woman-stripped-beaten-and-sexually-assaulted-at-tahrir-square/
Today’s outrage is brought to you by men who do not want women to exercise political rights. And again, the warning: this link is to an eye-witness hand-held recorder of the actual sexual assault described by the headline Woman stripped beaten and sexually assaulted in Tahrir Square.

Daily Outrage: More evidence of Crimes Against Humanity by the Catholic Church

Today’s outrage comes courtesy of the Catholic Church, home of absolutist hypocrisy

In The Case of the Pope, a book which could be, but with wily lawyerly wisdom was not, called The Case Against the Pope, Geoffrey Robertson QC sets out in meticulous detail a potential prosecution case against Cardinal Ratzinger at The Hague. The charge? Crimes Against Humanity. A crucial component of Robertson’s argument is Ratzinger’s pre-Papal status as head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. As is the wont of powerful religious men, the Congregation’s dominant feature is co-opted from the purported characteristic of their putative God: omnipotence.

Like the rest of the Vatican administration, the all-powerful Congregation is highly secretive and not even nominally accountable to those who provide the funds, including congregations of desperately impoverished families overburdened by the huge families demanded of submission to church teachings. Only the most senior of the celibate clerics entrusted with the vast wealth of the Catholic Church have any idea where the money goes or how the resource allocation decisions are made.

Nevertheless, it is acceptable in mainstream society to not question the criminal conduct of the church, and for mainstream media to describe the Congregation as “conservative” or “powerful” without questioning the terrible crimes in which it has played an active part. The assumption seems to be that the church does “good works”, and that no-one could possibly have known of the vast numbers of priests who are also child rapists, for if they had, they would have acted to stop it. This is an odd piece of equivalence at best, given the church itself stands against moral relativism and pushes an absolutist doctrine on sin, despite the sum total of its teachings being derived from fantastical mythology, genocidal allegory or, at best, anachronistic analogy.

That no-one could have known, on the basis that they would have acted had they known, is now demonstrably false as active cover-up after passive cheek-turning emerges on the evidence. It is dangerously retrospective and fallacious: we can not assume that people who have at no time been asked whether they knew something did not know it. Nor can we presume that a character test which at no time has been evidenced (the moral fortitude, or courage and strength, to defend abused children in the face of institutional and individual concealment) has been passed. As the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse has laid bare in Australia, none of these assumptions are, or ever were, grounded in fact. The Commission has just had millions of dollars of funding revoked as the new Catholic Prime Minister re-aligns budget priorities. Investigating and revealing child rape by catholic priests has never been a priority for the Catholic Church, and nor is it a priority for the Australian Prime Minister, who is not only a company man to his well- heeled shoes, but also notoriously wrote a personal, gushing reference for a convicted paedophile priest.

As Robertson documents, there is overwhelming evidence that the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith is a human trafficking racket which moves paedophile priests around the world for the specific purpose of covering up their crimes. These acts actively and predictably create opportunities for child rapist-priests to re-offend. Simultaneously, the Congregation pretends – and expends considerable resources collected from the Catholic faithful to this end – that ecclesiastical ‘punishment’ (Hail Marys and the like) for child rape is sufficient and justifiable, and somehow precludes any further action such as reporting complaints to the relevant civil authorities. Aiding or abetting the crime of child sexual assault by relevant institutions and their agents is not even on the table, although gag orders and minimal compensation payments have been, for some time.

In Australia, the legal framework at least nominally recognises the principle of separation of church and state, despite the dominance of Judeo-Christian traditions across all aspects of civil society. Spare a thought then for the good citizens of Ireland, a pseudo theocratic state where Catholicism is inescapable and competes with England as the single greatest source of human misery inflicted on the Irish, and Irish women and children in particular, over hundreds and hundreds of years. The church and its demand for sons and daughters to enter lives of celibacy, with its harsh and harmful teachings on contraception and abortion, sits in judgement on individuals, families, schools, neighbourhoods and whole communities. To an outsider, it is beyond ludicrous that any community would accept judgement on pre-marital sex and pregnancy from celibate childless adults who adhere to a bastion of victim blaming sadism which actively conceals child sexual assault.

And so, to the latest revelations of Catholic church works and how the Catholic church works. Almost 800 baby and child corpses re-discovered in a septic tank on site at an institution run by Bon Secour (good help/safe harbour) Catholic nuns. At least three mothers have been confirmed to have suffered the same fate. “Buried” is too inaccurate a term here, with the dignity and humanity it implies. Extraordinary courage must have been required of historian Catherine Corless for her tireless work in bringing the fate of these tragic lives to light.

Sister word presser Stephanie Lord writes in No Country for Young Women: Honour and Infanticide in Ireland, that thousands of young women

“had violated the honour of their communities, by bringing shame on their families through “illegitimate” pregnancy and therefore had to be hidden at all costs, and punished for their transgressions. The children died as they lived, discarded like the refuse of society that the Church considered them and the mothers that gave birth to them to be. Most of the children who survived were put to work in industrial schools under the supervision of perverts and sadists.” https://feministire.wordpress.com/author/stephanielordeire/

Lord takes no prisoners in her description of the Catholic Church as a central agency for attracting, rewarding and reproducing infanticide, sadists and perverts, and is equally frank on its power-hungry, child trafficking and wealth stripping activities:

“These children certainly did not die for lack of money or resources on the Church’s part (they had an income from the children they sold), and the fewer children of this kind there were, the less threat there was to the church’s control over society.”

Today’s outrage is brought to you by the Catholic Church.

Daily outrage: anti-homeless person spikes

Today’s outrage comes courtesy of the UK, home of the Tory abomination.

homeless studs

England has been exporting oppressive use of resources to break the human spirit, and lying about it, for well over 500 years. The UK ruthlessly pursues and promotes self-interest, in all things local and international, alongside aggressively righteous theorising, proclaiming self-interest to be the dominant human impetus. Simultaneously, the English tout the majesty of their legal system, the stability of constitutional monarchy, the beauty of parliamentary democracy, and various versions of the repugnant nonsense loosely known as trickle-down economics. Centuries of imperial destruction, coupled with recent decades of struggling to retain relevance, can be understood via careful analysis of the word common.

The common law is a law for everyone: under this system, we are all equal before the law; and no-one is above the law. The verity of this noble claim can be tested by the demography of imprisonment in common law countries. Every prison known to the former English colonies is full to overflowing with impoverished illiterate survivors of child neglect and abuse with mental illnesses, intellectual disabilities and long histories of unemployment and homelessness. Prison populations do not mirror the society in which the prison sits. So either poor, Indigenous and otherwise marginalised people are inherently criminal, or prison populations demonstrate the oppressive use of resources to break the human spirit.

The House of Commons is the house of the people, where the majority of elected representatives form government, and thence pass laws to which all are subject, and no-one is above (see above). This, too, can be checked by a glance at the demography of members elected to the House of Commons to see whether the legislature is a microcosm of the society over which it governs. Turns out that legislative members everywhere court wealthy donors and pass into law measures which facilitate the transfer of public money to private interests, notably to wealthy donors and elected members of legislatures. By definition, there are no representatives who are unemployed. Almost by definition, there any no government MPs who have experienced long term generational homelessness and other sure indicators of ill health, low income and poor education outcomes. Tory governments by design are composed of people who have never wanted for necessity in their lives, and never will.

The Commonwealth is a very special use of the word common, for it embraces all that England loves: wealth for England. The Commonwealth is shorthand for centuries of forced transfer of wealth from a multitude of countries to England, in exchange for being lied to about the transfer of wealth from the country to England. This wealth came in many forms: the spices of the middle and far east, the rubber and sugar of the Caribbean, diamonds from Africa, wool from Australia, silver and or gold from just about everywhere. Most repulsive was the enthusiasm for trading in human beings, an age-old, multicultural practice which was eventually outlawed. Having exhausted its profit margins and any remnant of colonial goodwill except among slave traders, England switched from chief trader in human flesh to self-proclaimed abolitionist hero.

Much like the law, the legislature, and empire, the common room at Eton, or Kings College, or Mallory Towers, is hallowed ground. As anyone who follows the special use of the English language made by the English, as is surely their prerogative, a public school is a secondary education institution strictly unavailable to all but the wealthiest and most connected blue blood members of the public. It is in such places that the common room is to be found. One has already learned, of course, that one is not common; and learnt also to shun anyone who displays the tiniest hint of common behaviour, accent, or protocol breach.

A commoner, by contrast, is common. It is common for a commoner to fall on hard times, become homeless, and destitute. It is uncommon for a commoner to be assisted by the state. It is common for a commoner, a homeless and destitute commoner, to be criminalised by the state, to be actively further marginalised and dehumanised, to be refused access to state services, which are dismantled by Tory governments wherever and whenever they may be.

Today’s outrage is brought to you courtesy of the UK, home of the Tory abomination. These spikes were installed not to prevent homelessness. According to neighbours, these spikes were installed to prevent homeless people from sleeping in the meagre shelter provided by the wind break of a unit block in London. Thank you Tories, thank you England: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jun/07/anti-homeless-studs-london-block-uproar