He may be an Abbott, but he’s King John, not Friar Tuck

Following on from earlier….we need to talk about welfare in Australia.

Currently it’s a case of robbing the poor to give to the rich, because it seems that those in charge feel that the poor cannot speak up easily….whereas the rich keep constantly shouting out about how the mining and carbon taxes “robbed” them.

“There, there,” says Tony, “I’ve fixed that. Now what else do you want me to do?”

After all, Rinehart in particular has all that bother with the kids to deal with….

Sigh. Poor them.

———–

In all seriousness, I do pity them in a way….imagine having so much money and power that you forget how to be nice.

People at the other end of the scale are some of the hardest-working around, yet are categorised as being “dole bludgers” and “leaners” and asked to wait for a few weeks before receiving money to live on after registering.

What are they supposed to live on in the meantime? Especially given that after July 1, they will face the prospect of a $50 fine for missing a job seekers appointment without a “reasonable excuse”.

A bit of empathy and common sense would be nice.
Oh yes, that’s one of the major deficiencies of this government, my mistake.

So, anyone interested in going to these?

The Fight the Fine protest takes place on July 1st 2015 (tomorrow) outside the Max Employment offices, 470 Collins St Melbourne from 13:00 (1 pm). And then on the 11th and 12th, there will be marches.

http://theaimn.com/changing-our-welfare-mindset/

http://theaimn.com/the-australian-unemployment-union-hunting-tyrannosaurus-rex/

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It is PAST Time: Equality now, Please

So, it’s happened – marriage equality is legal across the US.
This has of course sparked the revival of the Marriage Equality “debate” in Australia, already moving after Ireland’s historic yes vote. As you’re probably aware by now, a couple of Bills on this topic have been proposed, including by Labor leader Bill Shorten and other by Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young. Certain others are still dragging their feet.

Newsflash: 68% or more of Australians (polled in The Age Monday 15/6) support Marriage Equality.

I say, it’s about time. I personally think it’s ridiculous that the debate has gone on for so long. I simply don’t understand why people insist on making it so complicated.
Well. It’s because we’re all people. Messy, complicated humans who insist on making things that on the surface should be straightforward more complex.

I’ve got mixed up and grumpy over this, as it’s even split me from others’ whose interpretations about things I’d gladly follow in other circumstances. I just see this as an equality issue. Religion doesn’t – shouldn’t – come into it (more on that in a minute). Besides, it’s about love, right? And all that “love” means.

I’ll put it more bluntly: I’m a straight, white, Catholic woman and I’m for marriage equality – and equality generally, regardless of colour, sexual orientation, religion, gender, etc. I will not budge. Why should I need to justify that? (*)

By continuing to keep to the ‘status quo’ currently defined by the Marriage Act, parliament is actively discriminating against non-heteronormative people.

It’s as simple as changing five words in the Act: Parliament simply needs to remove “a man and a woman” and replace it with “two persons”. They also need to strike the bit that forbids overseas same-sex marriages being recognised legally here. There – done!

Shorten’s Bill (snort) is the 14th such attempt. Must we keep repeating the same debate over and over? Just get on with it already – we need a conscience vote now, thank you. We’re already social pariahs on the world stage because of several issues. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could at least move one such ‘issue’ into step with 22 other countries?

As things stand now, it is currently absurd. To be prejudiced – hold a bigoted view – is one thing. To discriminate – i.e. act on that view – is quite another. To be frank, I’m sick of it. It needs to be fixed.

So, pollies, hurry up. Please?

P.S. * = I do feel the need to justify it, but as this is broader than just marriage equality, I’ve put my thoughts into a second post.

References:

http://unveiledthought.com/2015/05/24/marriage-equality-in-ireland-my-chance-to-come-out/

http://theaimn.com/marriage-equality-as-simple-as-changing-five-words/

http://theaimn.com/its-time-marriage-equality-and-why-i-support-it-updated/

http://theaimn.com/thats-one-for-bill/

http://theaimn.com/it-is-never-a-bad-time-for-equality/

https://polyfeministix.wordpress.com/2015/06/03/the-biggest-consequence-of-marriage-equality/

http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2015/06/29/science-clear-children-raised-same-sex-parents-are-no-disadvantage-0

https://kkherheadache.wordpress.com/2015/06/27/socs-roygbiv/

http://theaimn.com/gay-marriage-and-why-australia-is-the-developed-country-left-behind/

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2004/05/17/a-quick-note-to-about-to-be-married-gays-and-lesbians/

Writing Update

Ah, holidays. Schedules fly out the window, even the posting ones. Yet we always think we have more time – I think it really means more time to get distracted. 🙂 Ah well.

I am currently sitting on about 70,900 words. Squeak. This is almost a year’s hard work. It’s still not quite finished, too. I’ve been writing chronologically (i.e. starting at the start of the story and going forwards) and had hoped to use these holidays to tidy things up. First though I need to finish the actual story, given that I accidentally found myself writing what could be the climatic point before it was needed.

That’s stumbled me a bit, as I have less ground to build on. Luckily I have a deadline. I must be finished by the end of July, because a loved relative is coming down for a visit then and I have promised to share the story then.

So the plan is to finish the rough story, which includes the fiddling I’m doing now to ensure all my plot points are where they are supposed to be, as well as actually concluding the thing; then, start the editing stage at the beginning of the book; then hand it off to others. It should be interesting.

So, expect more about this then, I guess.

Refugee Week: The Truth about the Asylum Seeker “Problem”

This week, from the 14th to the 20th of June, is Refugee Week. A time to acknowledge the plight of refugees and the good they can do if we help them.

On Sunday, I went to an event in my hometown. It was a public forum discussing how we as a community could “Welcome the Stranger” in light of the fact that my hometown in late 2013 was declared a “Refugee Welcome Zone”. It is a symbolic gesture with practical implications. Many things were discussed at the forum. There were two keynote speakers, two real stories from refugees and a discussion panel.
I took notes of the speeches and discussion. Over the next few days the summaries of those notes will form the basis for some writing on the blog.

Firstly, refugees are an opportunity for us; their being welcomed is a human right for them and responsibility for us.
It is that simple.
However, the debate – particularly in Australia – is one of the most toxic and complicated issues. Finding the best solution is difficult; neither hostility nor simplicity are helpful to it.

Factual overview of the Asylum Seeker ‘Issue’:
Given by the first keynote speaker, human rights lawyer Daniel Webb (*).

The challenge is not domestic (solely Australian) or regional (solely Asia-Pacific) based, but international. There are currently 11+ million refugees in the world. They must go somewhere. Most are hosted in countries close to the conflict (e.g. Lebanon, Kenya).
Australia hosts very few, less than 1%. We are ranked 87th in the world for the amount of refugees hosted compared to GDP per capita.

Over 90% of boat arrivals have been found to be genuine refugees – that is, before past and current governments began fiddling with the process. Given how consistent the “over 90%” rate was before now, we can assume that it is about the same.
They get on the boats to come here because they are people, like you or I, who make decisions by weighing up the risks and benefits for themselves and their families. Getting on an often rickety boat and sailing in treacherous waters towards Australia because it is the least bad option.
They can’t stay at home as they genuinely fear for their life for one of a number of reasons. They can’t get visas to leave via the “normal” route due to Australia’s policies. They can’t stay in Malaysia/ Indonesia/ other transit country as these countries haven’t signed the Refugee Convention so refugees have no rights there. They can’t wait in a ‘queue’ as there isn’t really one. There are no good choices.

Refugees are stuck between a rock and hard place, so why do we punish them for choosing one over the other?

The global migration of displaced persons has occurred for many years. After WWII, the occurrence of 1 million refugees prompted the formation of the United Nations Refugee Convention. The articles of this Convention can be stripped down to two promises:
1. Governments cannot penalise refugees who arrive on their borders without permission.
2. Governments must protect those refugees who genuinely need it.

Australia signed the Convention over sixty years ago. Yet our current actions demonstrate that we are violating both key principles. The method of breaching (incarcerating refugees in hellish conditions etc.) also breaches the UN Convention on Torture and possibly others.
The physical conditions of imprisonment are bad; but the worst part is the crushing uncertainty accompanying them.

We must ask: is there are better way?
The resounding answer: YES.

We spend over $3 billion (yes, billion) a year to deter asylum seekers from coming here, which is a fruitless endeavour when you consider (as I’ve already mentioned) how desperate they are. In contrast, the UN has a yearly budget of $167 million to address the causes. I don’t know about you, but something seems seriously wrong with that.

The problem is that there are no safe paths or genuine regional solutions in place, beyond foisting the refugees off onto poorer countries to deal with.
A potential solution (as outlined by Daniel Webb) does exist. It would be hard and long-term, but constructive. That’s what a real solution is.
Four main points to this solution:
1. Work with and fund UN to process refugees (instead of funding detention centres);
2. Improve our refugee intake (we can do better than 13,000/year);
3. Work with other governments to improve conditions for refugees there (setting up the basis of a true regional solution);
4. Encourage other nations to do the same.

Boat arrivals and “deaths at sea” represent a failure. Not of ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’ (eye-roll) but of our inability to address the symptoms of the “refugee problem”.
We need to provide viable options.

In Australia, we have a lot to be proud of. We also have a lot to be ashamed of as well. We must, through action, work towards a better future, where our pride outweighs our shame. There’s no point just complaining; we must act.

+++

Seeking asylum is a human right. Australia isn’t alone in facing a so-called “crisis” of refugees. We’re only a drop in the ocean compared to some, like the thousands trying to reach Europe from Africa and the Middle East, or those trying to go through Mexico to reach the US.

We, sitting in safety, must remember that this tragedy has a human face – many human faces and stories, of real people. We are only a few steps away from becoming a refugee ourselves. Don’t laugh – I’m serious.
Look at the faces and listen to the stories. Remember that, if not for circumstances of birth or past decisions, they could have been you, or your family.

Then, I hope you will do something about it.
Personally, I’m just a young dreamer of a uni student, but I hope that one day my course (Occupational Therapy) will lead me to work with refugees, too. Until then, I’ll keep on doing all I can, through signing petitions, reading and sharing, attending events – and listening.

References (a.k.a writings of like-minded people):

* : http://hrlc.org.au/staff/daniel-webb/

http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c1d.html

http://theaimn.com/to-gillian-triggs-thank-you-you-do-not-walk-alone/

http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2015/06/15/cruel-inhumane-degrading-amnesty-slams-australias-asylum-policy

http://www.theage.com.au/comment/one-familys-brutal-journey-to-nauru-20150610-ghkwp7.html

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/15/worst-refugee-crisis-since-second-world-war-report-middle-east-africa-syria

http://behindthewire.org.au/

http://theaimn.com/it-isnt-the-only-question-that-matters-mr-abbott/

http://theaimn.com/how-australians-justify-torture/

We Need to Sort it Out: Please, Can’t We Just Accept some Asylum Seekers here and commit to a real Policy?

(I thought I’d published this already. Ooops. Stay tuned for more posts like this, as it’s Refugee Week here.)

It was the fishermen from Aceh who prompted the politicians to act, by rescuing the asylum seeking Rohingya. Since I last wrote, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia have talked and agreed to stop turning the boats away and met for talks.

Indonesia even scolded Australia for not acting. But Abbott just said, “Nope, nope, nope.”

As an article from the Guardian says:

Australia has a responsibility to address the humanitarian crisis in the Bay of Bengal because it is a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees, according to the Indonesian government.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has refused to offer resettlement to Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar on the grounds it would encourage people smuggling.

Asked earlier on Thursday whether the Australian government would help resettle those who have been stranded at sea, Mr Abbott replied “nope, nope, nope”.

“I’m sorry. If you want to start a new life, you come through the front door, not through the back door,” he said.

But Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said Australia could not ignore the humanitarian crisis.

“My point is this: countries that are parties to the convention on refugees have a responsibility to ensure they believe in what they sign,” Mr Nasir said.

Indonesia is not a signatory to the UN convention.

However Indonesia and Malaysia have agreed to provide humanitarian assistance to 7000 Bangladeshi migrants and Rohingya refugees still stranded at sea and provide temporary shelter for up to a year.

This was on the provision that the resettlement and repatriation process will be done in one year by the international community.

“I hope all the countries that signed the refugee convention address the issue,” Mr Nasir said.

“If you believe it when you sign it, you should act upon it.”

Now, former refugees in Australia are afraid to speak out:

Refugees in Australia fear speaking out about asylum, ex-detainee says
Surgeon who fled Saddam Hussein’s regime says many former detainees ‘fear they will be persecuted’ if they speak publicly

Many refugees who have settled in Australia are too afraid to speak out about the country’s treatment of refugees, with some fearful their immigration status would be jeopardised, surgeon and former refugee Munjed Al Muderis has told Guardian Australia.

Earlier Al Muderis shared his experiences at the Sydney Opera House on Thursday during the ideas festival TEDxSydney 2015. After fleeing war-torn Iraq, he spent 10 months at Curtin Detention Centre in Western Australia in 1999 before being granted refugee status.

Al Muderis said many of his colleagues who had also been in detention “have this fear they will be persecuted if they talk”. One colleague warned him against speaking to the media, saying it might jeopardise his immigration status.

He also acknowledged a feeling of shame existed in the refugee community because of a view perpetuated by the government that Australians don’t welcome refugees, and said another friend – a “high-profile radio frequency engineer” – kept his refugee history a secret.

Al Muderis said during his time in detention he was deemed a troublemaker after he attempted to expose the conditions of the camp to the public. He befriended a guard who helped him smuggle in a camera and wrote letters to Amnesty International calling for the Human Rights Commission to investigate.

“I was falsely accused of being a ringleader and inciting problems in the detention centre,” he said.

The former refugee said it was important the Australian public realise “not all refugees are sucking taxpayer money and living on the dole. It’s very important to know asylum seekers and refugees are human like any other. We’re a slice of society: there is the bad, good and ugly. 

“And it’s our duty as a country to work on people who are bad, to make them good.”

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Even Gambia has offered to help out with the Rohingya refugee crisis and the US are looking into options. But not Australia, “nope”!

South-east Asia migrant crisis: Gambia offers to resettle all Rohingya refugees

The impoverished west African nations says it is its ‘sacred duty’ to help fellow Muslims and will set them up in refugee camps

A boat which carried Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants sits abandoned in Kuta Binje, Aceh, Indonesia, on Wednesday.
A boat which carried Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants sits abandoned in Kuta Binje, Aceh, Indonesia, on Wednesday. Photograph: Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

Gambia says it will take all Rohingya refugees as part of its “sacred duty” to alleviate the suffering of fellow Muslims flooding south-east Asia to escape oppression.

The government of the impoverished west African nation asked countries of the region to send them and it will set them up in refugee camps.

“The government of the Gambia notes with grave concern the inhumane condition of the Rohingya people of Myanmar – especially those referred to as ‘boat people’ –currently drifting in the seas off the coast of Malaysia andIndonesia,” it said on Wednesday.

“As human beings, more so fellow Muslims, it is a sacred duty to help alleviate the untold hardships and sufferings fellow human beings are confronted with.”

The statement appealed to the international community to send tents, bedding, household materials and medicine to help the Muslim-majority Gambia set up “habitable camps with decent sanitary conditions”.

The US has also said it would help in resettlement.

A State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, said the US would take a leading role in any multi-country effort, organized by the United Nations refugee agency.

“I think the Malaysians and the Indonesians have requested some help resettling people. We’re taking a careful look at the proposal,” Harf said. “It has to be a multi-country effort. We obviously can’t take this all on ourselves. But we are prepared to play a leading role in this effort.”

How far does our love reach? Oddny asks:

How far does your love reach?

It struck me that she was just like me

It was the mother who kissed her baby girl I remember the most from my last trip to Sittwe, Myanmar, a few weeks ago. She held her baby up to her face and kissed her while she breathed deeply and smelled the lovely smell only one’s baby has. It hit me as I watched her that she was just like me. I always did the same when my kids were babies.

The woman I watched and observed was from the Rohingya people group. According to the UN, they are one of the world’s most persecuted people. The result of that persecution was right before my eyes: Hungry and sick people, primitive and crowded shacks without a scrap of privacy, children who have no access to an education, 140,000 people, displaced to an enclosed camp they are not allowed to leave. In their own country.

The Muslim people group, who counts around one million people, had their citizenship removed in 1982. “These people don’t belong in Myanmar,” says the government even today. “They don’t look like us, and they don’t have the same religion as us.” In spite of evidence proving the opposite, the public opinion in Myanmar is that the Rohingya is not an ethnic group, but illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

The result of this demeaning treatment and the inhumane conditions they are forced to live in can now be seen on the Andaman ocean. Since this year begun an estimated  25,000 Rohingya have bought a ticket on a boat that is the promise to freedom. The problem is that no freedom, just more suffering, is in store for them.

Neither Thailand, nor Malaysia or Indonesia will allow the boats full of Rohingya refugees to come to land. Instead they use their own navy ships and pull them back out to sea. A death sentence.

My husband, Steve, together with a team from Partners and Fortify Rights, is out looking for these boats right now. They have water, food and medicines in their boat. They are also joined by lots of journalists from all the biggest news media in the world.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Labor should step up, as suggested here:

Labor’s Operation Sovereign Borders dilemma

13 Comments
Tony Kevin |  24 May 2015

The dreadful tragedy suffered this past week by Rohingya asylum seekers trapped at sea prompted an eventual softened response from Australia’s neighbours.

But there was no change from Australia’s PM, who resolutely declared late on Thursday: ‘I’m sorry. If you want to start a new life, you come through the front door, not through the back door.’

The week’s events provide a fresh challenge to Labor to rethink its support for the Abbott Government’s Operation Sovereign Borders (OSB) ‘stop the boats’ policy, which has successfully used strong-arm methods to stop boat people reaching Australia or entering Australian custody, by means that so seemingly has not involved loss of life.

The current government’s record stands in sharp contrast to that of Labor Governments between 2007 and 2013, when around 1100 people died while trying to reach Australia or Australian custody. We need to ask ourselves honestly how and why this happened, and if Labor in government could prevent it from happening again?

If, on regaining government, Labor did what most of its supporters would like it to do – instruct OSB to end its regime of aggressive, secret, internationally illegal forced returns of all asylum-seeker boats or their passengers to Indonesia, and close down the offshore detention camps  now housing around 1500 men, women and children in terrible punitive conditions in Nauru and Manus, and letting those people out into the Australian community – what would be the consequences?

Clearly, the Abbott Government, for as long as it is in power, will continue to run Operation Sovereign Borders maritime operations under the present forced return protocols, and will keep everyone now in offshore detention locked up there indefinitely. The latter is a dreadful prospect which Labor must oppose vigorously.

But I would like Labor, as a first step towards fruitful public policy discussion of this issue, to be more honest about why those 1100 people died in the years of Labor in power. They only have to study the history of each awful drowning event in our adjacent waters. Those 1100 people did not die because they were sent in unsafe overcrowded boats by ruthless irresponsible people smugglers – the 97 per cent who arrived safely were sent by the same kinds of people smugglers in the same kinds of boats.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

it’s also up to us.

We must stand up and say what we want: a fair solution that takes into account peoples’ common humanity.

References:

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/indonesia-to-australia-you-signed-the-un-convention-on-refugees-act-on-it-20150521-gh6u58.html

http://oddnygumaer.com/2015/05/20/how-far-does-your-love-reach/

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/21/former-refugee-now-medical-pioneer-warns-against-detaining-asylum-seekers?CMP=soc_567

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/21/south-east-asia-migrant-crisis-gambia-offers-to-resettle-all-rohingya-refugees

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/21/nope-nope-nope-tony-abbott-says-australia-will-take-no-rohingya-refugees

http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=43968#.VWLOdU-qpBd

Hello -Rally for Refugees

Hi everyone. I’ve been really quiet this week because it’s exam time right now at uni. I have an exam tomorrow, one next Friday and an essay due for my third subject in-between.

When things have calmed down a bit I’ll begin posting properly again – I have so much to say, like how I’m nearly at 70,000 words for Lily’s story and my views on the Marriage Equality ‘debate’ and climate change stuff and more. But study comes first.

In the meantime however, if anyone isn’t busy and is in the Bendigo area: