Posts Tagged Greens

Mental asylum: on refugee processing and protections

There have been two undeniable tragedies over the past few days as two boats carrying asylum-seekers have capsized en route from Indonesia to Australia (fortunately, the latest one seems to have been rescued fairly effectively and the loss of life was far less, although there was still one dead and three still missing). As most readers would know, this has re-sparked the gigantic debate about Australia’s asylum-seeker policy – which has reached a fervour not seen since… the last time this happened.

There seems to be consensus that the government has to “do something” to “stop the boats”. Just what that means exactly is under fierce debate. There are three main options being pushed, so I figured that I would summarise these for all you lovely people and then give some quick thoughts on the right way to go.

1. The “Pacific Solution”

This is the Liberal Party’s pet policy – they want to replicate what was done under then Prime Minister John Howard and then Immigration Minister Phillip Ruddock. This solution is designed to provide strong disincentives for people to attempt to reach Australia by boat.

It’s kind of a two-pronged assault. Firstly, anyone who arrives in Australia unlawfully and then claims asylum will be given a Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) – meaning that they are permitted to remain in Australia until it is no longer dangerous for them to be in their country of origin, at which time they will be deported “home”. This is supplemented by opening an Australian-administered asylum-seeker detention centre on a tiny Pacific atoll called Nauru, so that no one who tries to reach Australia unlawfully by boat will actually reach Australia and there are no guarantees of ever getting there.

2. The “open arms” solution

I call it that with my tongue in my cheek. This is the line being pushed by the Greens and various “refugee advocates”. At its core, the argument is that any form of offshore processing of refugees is cruel and so we should process them all in Australia and let them into the community as soon as possible.

Typically, for the people who are advocating it at least, this is a very nice and well-meaning policy but is a little detached from reality and would create huge problems if put into practise. The biggest problem is that, contrary to this narrative, not all “boat people” are just really nice, desperate people who are fleeing horrible persecution to make a contribution to our great, multicultural nation. Some of them are that, but some aren’t. In fact, the easier it seems that it is to get into Australia, the more likely it is that people who are not genuine refugees will come over.

Once someone destroys their travel documents (as these “boat people” are want to do), it is very difficult to figure out exactly who they are. This results in a small but significant number of these asylum seekers fleeing not persecution for their race, religion or politics, but for their involvement in organised crime – or even terrorism. Ignoring that element of them is dangerous, it would take just one bomb on a major piece of infrastructure and the public reaction would mean that our borders are sealed permanently (not to mention the horrible loss of life that it would inevitably entail).

3. The “Malaysia Clusterfuck Solution

This was the brainchild of the Gillard Labor government and requires a little background. The most important thing to know is that the Pacific Solution worked – boats had essentially stopped coming in 2007 when Kevin Rudd was elected Prime Minister. The new ALP government then set-about dismantling the Howard/Ruddock policies, which they had been calling “inhumane” for years, and boats promptly began coming again and have been increasing ever since.

When running for the 2010 election, Julia Gillard – aware of the political difficulty that these boatloads of asylum seekers presented for her government – announced an “East Timor Solution”. This claimed to provide the same effect as the Pacific Solution, but was supposed to be somehow different because East Timor is a signatory to the Refugee Convention (a weak argument as the Nauru centre was Australian-administered, so it was not really material whether or not Nauru had signed the Convention). Regardless, it transpired that Gillard had not seen fit to run this little idea past, you know, the East Timorese. Suffice to say it didn’t go very far.

After East Timor collapsed, the government was desperate for a solution and began floundering. They then had the genius idea of announcing that they would negotiate a solution with Malaysia after they approached Malaysia, but before they had actually negotiated a solution. Malaysia was calling all the shots and they knew it, so they eventually agreed on a kind of asylum-seeker trade: they send 4,000 Burmese Christians in exchange for 800 (presumably) Iranian and Afghani Muslims from Australia. They hate Christians, we hate Muslims, everybody wins.

After the huge outcry in Australia regarding the way refugees are treated in Malaysia (let’s just say that it involved caning of bare buttocks), the government did get Malaysia – not a signatory to the Refugee Convention – to agree to respect the refugees’ rights. In an explicitly non-binding agreement.

Problem for the government was that the Convention is annexed to the Migration Act and explicitly referred to in the provisions allowing asylum-seekers to be processed offshore, so the High Court ruled that the decision to implement the Malaysia Solution was not made according to the power conferred on Chris Bowen, the Immigration Minister, which requires that the rights and protections of refugees under the Convention are respected. The government then tried to remove these protections, but this was (thankfully) blocked by pretty much everyone else in Parliament.

Offshore in general

So here comes the real analysis (woohoo!). The most common argument against offshore processing (chiefly the Pacific Solution) is that it made no real difference and the number of unlawful arrivals in Australia is just a reflection of global trends (see, eg, this). This claim has absolutely no basis in any fact or evidence. The numbers speak for themselves really. Consider this table first from the Australian Parliament:

Year No arrivals
1999 3721
2000 2939
2001 5516
2002 1
2003 53
2004 15
2005 11
2006 60
2007 148
2008 161
2009 2726
2010 6555
2011 4565

Now, look at this table from the UNHCR:

Share of main receiving countries of asylumseekers in total number of applications

Countries 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
United States 15% 13% 13% 15% 17%
France 9% 9% 11% 13% 12%
Germany 6% 6% 7% 11% 10%
Italy 4% 8% 5% 3% 8%
Sweden 11% 6% 6% 9% 7%
Belgium 3% 3% 5% 6% 6%
United Kingdom 8% 8% 8% 6% 6%
Canada 8% 10% 9% 6% 6%
Switzerland 3% 4% 4% 4% 4%
Turkey 2% 3% 2% 3% 4%
Austria 4% 3% 4% 3% 3%
Netherlands 2% 4% 4% 4% 3%
Australia 1% 1% 2% 3% 3%
Greece 8% 5% 4% 3% 2%
Norway 2% 4% 5% 3% 2%

That is very clear evidence that Australia’s number of asylum seekers has not been keeping up with global trends. To the contrary, the number of asylum claims in Australia relative to the rest of the world has tripled since 2007. I don’t need to bother with more sophisticated statistics (although many have), anyone who looks at that data without blind bias can see that something made Australia far more attractive to asylum seekers in 2007 than it had been before.

On the other hand

I now have to write what is possibly the most difficult thing that I have ever written on this site.

Here goes…

Greens leader Christine Milne has a point.

Australia takes a negligible number of asylum seekers from Indonesia and Malaysia (somewhere in the neighbourhood of 60p/a) – the two sources of these boats. Both of these countries are not good places for refugees and in Malaysia they are actually persecuted, meaning that they still have refugee status and (as mentioned before) it is illegal to deport any refugee back there.

Disincentivising the journey is all very well, however it will not work so long as the incentive to come is still stronger. The refugees in Indonesia and Malaysia know that they have almost no hope of ever being resettled, they cannot go home and they cannot stay where they are. Getting on a boat is their only hope and while that remains true, they will continue to come.

The solution requires that incentive to be changed as well. Australia needs to substantially increase the number of refugees that we take from Malasia and Indonesia, it’s as simple as that. Once we are taking several thousand a year, they will know that they would probably make it here eventually if need be and the UNHCR camps would look more appealing than our detention centres.

To summarise

Given all of the above, here is the ideal solution in my opinion:

Combine the Pacific Solution and the surprisingly lucid Milne solution. Have a processing centre on Nauru (which, by the way, does great things for the impoverished island nation as well) but also commit to taking a few thousand asylum seekers from Indonesia and Malaysia each year. It will make the boat journeys seem unappealing while providing another option for the truly desperate people in Indonesia and Malaysia.

And no deportation to Malaysia. I was almost throwing my iPad against the wall this morning while Gillard was on it trying to sell that solution as though it is really the humanitarian thing to do. She was advocating for the removal of all the refugee rights under the Convention as ratified in Australian legislation, simple as that. It is disgraceful and inhumane – no amount of spin will change that. The principle of non-refoulement lies at the very core of the refugee framework, which means that you cannot deport someone fleeing persecution to a place where they will still be persecuted. According to Gillard and Bowen, refoulement is the humane choice. Go figure…

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Threat to press freedom: it’s not Rinehart, it’s the Greens and the ALP

Part II of my comments on the Gina Rinehart saga, this time focussing on press freedom. The first one, focusing on her as a female business leader, can be found HERE.

GINA RINEHART has bought 20% of the shares of Fairfax and is demanding three seats on the board. Listening to the way some people are talking about this, you could not be blamed for thinking that press freedom is over in Australia. To refute that claim, I would first like to juxtapose the following. First, a quote from our esteemed Foreign Minister Bob Carr and one of his colleagues in the Senate:

Greens seek laws to block Gina Rinehart | The Australian.

“We’re not being coy or raising this in the abstract — it’s about whether it’s in the public interest for a change of control to occur at Fairfax,” [Greens] Senator [Scott] Ludlam said. … “People seem to be frozen in the headlights,” he said. “I think it’s important we take action rather than wring our hands and let the market take it where it will.”

His comments came as Foreign Minister Bob Carr entered the media ownership debate, warning that a Rinehart takeover of Fairfax would “degrade” the quality of the publisher’s mastheads.

“I think Australians would be entitled to be very, very concerned. I think it would be impossible to separate her position as a controlling influence on the board, if it comes to that, a controlling influence, from the way the paper behaves,” he said. “The independence of Fairfax, which has been its glory, its boast, its pride, would be diminished.”

Second, something that a Pakistani journalist wrote a year ago (read the full story, it’s very good):

Pakistani Journalists, Dying to Tell the Story –

WE have buried another journalist. Syed Saleem Shahzad, an investigative reporter for Asia Times Online, has paid the ultimate price for telling truths that the authorities didn’t want people to hear. He disappeared a few days after writing an article alleging that Al Qaeda elements had penetrated Pakistan’s navy and that a military crackdown on them had precipitated the May 22 terrorist attack on a Karachi naval base. His death has left Pakistani journalists shaken and filled with despair.

And third, a news report from earlier in the week:

NGO fears for missing Iraqi-Kurd… JPost – Iranian Threat – News.

An Iranian journalist who advocates ties between Israelis and Kurds has been missing for 11 days, NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Wednesday, expressing concern for his safety.

“We fear the worst and we urge the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government’s authorities to do everything possible to find Mawlud Afand,” the group said. “And we therefore call for an immediate investigation into this journalist’s disappearance.”

NOW I would like to take a second to ruminate on the freedom of the press. The freedom to express any view is possibly the most  important aspect of any democracy. Without the ability to make an informed choice based on accurate information, “democracy” is meaningless – you can vote, but you have no idea who or what you are voting for. The press play a vital role in scrutinising the government and reporting on its activities to the general population, as well as conveying the discussion and debate surrounding ideas in public life.

There are, however, some justifiable limits to free expression. For example, it is illegal to say or do something that encourages another person to commit a criminal act. Preserving the “glory” of a media company that is about to go insolvent, however, is not a justifiable reason to begin limiting the freedom of expression.

Fairfax is going out of business. That is extremely important and seems to have been entirely ignored by the ALP and the Greens. At the current rate, there will be no more fairfax in a decade. When people express concern at Rinehart’s control of Fairfax, they really only care about the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald. The lamentations for our society’s debate are coming from a particular kind of inner-city elite that doesn’t generally listen to Fairfax radio (or anything that’s not the ABC) and certainly does not read any of its rural papers.

The Age and the Herald are not making any money. They have lost their revenue from classified ads and have suddenly discovered that no one actually wants to pay for their articles. They are now going to tabloid format and anticipating being phased-out completely, as well as firing all their senior editorial staff and cutting 1,900 other staff members – and that’s without Rinehart. Why is that? I think the Australian said it best:

Fairfax papers must speak to mainstream Australia | The Australian.

The myopia that predominates at Fairfax has seen its broadsheets cater, almost exclusively, to a conclave of left-leaning professionals, public servants and activists situated in inner-city Sydney and Melbourne. Rarely do they report on the shift of economic power to the north and the west of the country. They do not understand the mining boom and ridicule the idea of workers from the states in which they publish chasing the opportunity to work in the most dynamic area of the economy. Their reporting of Aboriginal Australia is confined to Redfern or St Kilda rather than exploring the important stories that can be found across the continent. Too often they focus on inner-city anti-development protests rather than life in the sprawling suburbs where most people live. A cafe opening in Western Sydney that serves “good coffee” is considered a novelty. They editorialise in favour of the latest fads and praise the Greens, who, the Herald argued, had inherited the “mantle of leadership in progressive politics”. Both papers usually champion negativity, embrace a culture of complaint, oppose economic progress and push the limits of social reform. They have missed most of the major political stories in recent years, such as the discontent over the resource super-profits tax or the lead-up to the coup that felled Kevin Rudd’s prime ministership.

Simply put, Fairfax in its current form is not a viable business and it has to radically transform or perish.

RINEHART, HOWEVER, has spent somewhere in the region of $200mln on Fairfax shares. That, to Fairfax, was a sorely needed cash injection. Fairfax shares have dropped from over $5 in 2007 to around $0.60 today, who knows where they would be without Rinehart? She bought the company valuable time and could potentially have kept it afloat.

Think about that. Fairfax’s metropolitan papers’ current editorial policy is beloved by the kinds of people currently in power (left-leaning, highly educated, wealthy, inner-city elites) but not popular enough amongst Australians in general for them to actually buy any papers. Rinehart is investing heavily in this company and would therefore benefit from the company becoming profitable and would have a duty to prevent the company from going insolvent. She is being asked to commit to having no say over the editorial policy whatsoever. That seems absurd.

It is natural that a person who holds 20% of a company should have some representation on the board – after all, the company’s success is her interest. Fairfax’s main product is determined by its editorial policy, so the board should have a say in what that is and how it is produced. No company directors could sit by and watch their company continue to produce a highly unprofitable product – this is actually a breach of their duty as company directors. They have a right, and indeed a duty, to prevent this.

WHICH LEADS me to another point: Rinehart has a multi-billion dollar mining company to run, she’s not exactly going to be spending her days in the Herald newsroom commissioning articles and reprimanding disobedient journalists. I also very much doubt that she will be going through each edition before it goes to print and vetting every article. The actual degree of editorial control she can/will exercise is highly questionable, especially as certain columnists, editors and correspondents are strongly entrenched in Fairfax and are key selling-points. I very much doubt that the Fairfax opinion writers can effectively be “silenced” by Rinehart – more likely, they would jump ship.

Therein lies the most important point, which is also worth putting in bold: no one is being forced to buy Fairfax papers. Who cares if they become glorified mouthpieces for Hancock Prospecting? The audience will move on. From where I sit, there is no shortage of aspiring journalists or new media outlets. The media is probably less monopolised now than it has ever been before.

If the Age and the Herald go the way that the ALP/Greens are predicting, their current writers and editors will find work elsewhere and their audience will follow. The Fairfax papers would never be able to compete with the News Ltd papers in the right-wing tabloid market, so they would become completely unviable and would probably be shut down.

THE REAL threat to freedom of the press comes not from Gina Rinehart. As a result of the Rinehart bid, both the Greens and the ALP are advocating some kind of “fit and proper person” test to be implemented for someone to control a media company. Essentially, they are making it illegal for Rinehart to control Fairfax because they don’t like her views.

That is blatant government censorship. Who the hell gave Stephen Conroy the right to choose who can and cannot own press outlets? The people who can decide whether or not Gina Rinehart’s views are worth listening to are those who opt to buy her papers, not our elected representatives. It’s not exactly like having some influence over Fairfax would be tantamount to a media monopoly, there are still plenty of outlets out there to vilify Rinehart (the ABC is going nowhere, so we can hear about how fat, ugly and greedy she is for the next decade).

This is complete government overreach. This is an open assault on our democracy. This is putting into place a system whereby the government can prevent anyone who disagrees with them from having a podium to express their discontent. The problem in Pakistan and Iraq is not that the “wrong” people own the media, it’s that the government is intervening to prevent people from expressing anti-government views. Sure, this legislation is not the same as journalists disappearing and turning-up dead, but it is symptomatic of the same kind of thinking: that “we are unpopular, but we are right and we are in power, so we can stop them from talking because they’re wrong”.

That is extremely dangerous. Australians need to wake up and see where the real threat is.

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And the Greens call themselves “progressives”…

There has been a lot of what looks like sensationalism/paranoia surrounding the Finkelstein report on the media in Australia, so I have decided to read it myself. I will write on this when I have seen more, but I did want to highlight something early on.

Firstly, Bob Brown’s call for a media inquiry (my bold):

…but the leader of the Greens, Senator Brown, called for a general inquiry into the newspaper industry. He suggested that the inquiry should canvass whether:

· publishers should be licensed
· a ‘fit and proper person’ test should be applied
· there should be limits on foreign ownership of the press
· the newspaper industry is too concentrated
· there is a need for independent regulation of the press

A few pages later, Finkelstein summarises how the idea of a free press came to the British Common Law (and therefore Australian Law) (my bold):

The newly-invented printing press came to England in 1476. It brought about a sweeping change in communication possibilities. There was now a means, which could be employed by many, of carrying speech far and wide. It did not take long for the state to exercise strict control ‘over the printing, publication and importation of books’ in the interests of the state’s ‘peace and security. As early as 1484, monopolies were granted to publishers to print particular books. Then, in 1534, it became an offence to purchase a book published abroad. This was followed by proclamations against seditious and heretical books

2.9 In 1586 the Star Chamber issued a decree prohibiting all printing other than by licensed stationers. …

2.10  …The 1662 Printing Act was the last attempt to regulate printing by statute. The Act established a licensing system. The licensor was required to certify that his work was not ‘contrary to the Christian faith … or against the state or government’.

2.11 By the early 1690s advances in technology had significantly reduced the cost of printing and it was no longer practicable for the state to keep printing under control.

2.12 The 1662 Act was allowed to lapse in 1694.

As a small point, Australia still bans the importation of foreign books to a large extent (or at least, this was reintroduced somewhere down the line).

More importantly, Bob Brown is trying to bring back the idea of licensing press outlets in order to quell criticism of the Government – an idea that our legal tradition got rid of more than 300 years ago. This is supposed to be progressive? I can’t think of many things more regressive.

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Hilarious reply to Fiona Byrne

So Fiona Byrne was in the Sydney Morning Herald trying to justify herself this morning.

The Punch published this brilliant response from sports writer (yup, sports) Anthony Sharwood:

Eskalating pressure gets council out of a pickle | Article | The Punch.

Despite butchering her run at state parliament, not to mention the credibility of both the Greens and her own council over the Israel boycott, Marrickville Mayor Fiona Byrne went down swinging in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, with a bizarre, longwinded justification of her council’s right, nay civic duty, to embroil itself in matters beyond garbage collection.

“Being involved in international affairs is part of being connected to your community and through it the broader community of the globe,” she wrote.

This statement is so laughably meaningless and waffly, it barely deserves shooting down. The simplest, straight-from-the-hip rebuttal is to suggest the council might have first targeted a boycott of all things Chinese, given the fact that Marrickville Council raises the Tibetan flag on Tibet’s national day.

Mind you, with the local councillors’ propensity to yum cha at the excellent Hung Cheung restaurant on Marrickville Rd, that might have made life a little uncomfortable.

In her Herald piece, Byrne also cited section 233 of the Local Government Act. It states that one of the roles of council is “to provide leadership and guidance to the community”.

Well, interpreting this to mean that council should involve itself in the affairs of Israel, or any foreign power, is a logic leap of staggeringly audacious proportions.

Council should provide leadership and guidance? Ok, fine. How about a little leadership in fixing the numerous potholes on Illawarra Road. Some of that guidance would come in really handy in handling the delicate issue of the proposed expansion of Marrickville Metro shopping centre too.

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The last month in Cut and Paste

Goldstone Report

Judge Richard Goldstone commented in the Washington Post on an 18-month review of the UN-mandated report that he prepared in September 2009 investigating Israel’s Gaza incursion.

He recognised that Israel did not deliberately fire on civilians and condemned Hamas for doing so and then failing to investigate it.

Our main recommendation was for each party to investigate, transparently and in good faith, the incidents referred to in our report…Israel has done this to a significant degree; Hamas has done nothin

At minimum I hoped that in the face of a clear finding that its members were committing serious war crimes, Hamas would curtail its attacks. Sadly, that has not been the case. Hundreds more rockets and mortar rounds have been directed at civilian targets in southern Israel.

That comparatively few Israelis have been killed by the unlawful rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in no way minimizes the criminality. The U.N. Human Rights Council should condemn these heinous acts in the strongest terms.

Funny thing is, Hamas had promised to investigate it – as Mousa Abu Marzook, the deputy chairman of the Hamas political bureau in Damascus said last year when the report was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council.

We thank our people, all those who support to submit again this report to the human rights committee and all the countries who voted for the report…We will co-operate with this report and we will establish a new committee to investigate.

In fact, take another look at that:

The UN human rights council has endorsed the Goldstone report on Israel’s war on Gaza, which accuses the military of using disproportionate force as well as laying charges of war crimes on Israeli occupation forces and Hamas.

The council’s resolution adopting the report was passed in Geneva by 25 votes to six with 11 countries abstaining and five declining to vote.

Terror attack in Gaza

Apparently, firing on a school bus was in self-defence, so said Hamas spokesman Fauzi Barhum on April 7 while taking responsibility for a rocket attack on a school bus in Southern Israel.

The resistance movement’s response to the enemy’s massacre comes as self-defense, and to protect the citizens. It aims to pressure the occupier to stop committing crimes.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague didn’t quite agree:

This is a despicable and cowardly act that stands in stark contrast to people’s desire for peaceful reform across the region. Violence will never deliver peace. I reiterate that Hamas must halt these strikes immediately, and rein in other militant factions in Gaza.”

Neither did the US State Department:

We condemn the attack on innocent civilians in southern Israel in the strongest possible terms as well as ongoing rocket fire from Gaza. We have reiterated many times there is no justification of the targeting of innocent civilians and those responsible for these terrorist acts should be held accountable…We are particularly concerned about reports that indicate the use of an advanced anti-tank weapon in an attack against …Any attack on innocent civilians is abhorrent but certainly the nature of the attack is particularly so.

Neither did Netanyahu, although he did offer to stop escalating tensions on April 10:

No other country would be willing to countenance the intentional firing of an anti-tank missile at a children’s bus, to say nothing of criminal attacks against civilians, and Israel is certainly not willing to accept it.

Today, the Cabinet instructed the IDF to do whatever is necessary to stop the firing at our people and restore quiet to the south. This is our intention. I hope that this will be Hamas’s intention as well. If this is what it intends, then quiet will return. If it steps up its aggression, it will feel our arm and our response will be much harsher.

According to Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas also wants a ceasefire. Although, he admitted that the military wing is a little out of control.

The Palestinian groups are only defending themselves and our people. We do not intend to inflame the situation but we can not keep quiet when faced with aggression…We didn’t know that the bus was carrying children. It was driving on a road which is often used by Israeli military vehicles, which is often targeted by armed Palestinian group

There is coordination with the political leadership over the bigger picture but on the ground, it is the armed wing which decides the appropriate time to respond to the Israeli aggressions. We give general guidance about what stance to take in response to Israel’s position, but the armed wing has freedom of action and decisions made in the field are not the responsibility of the political leadership.

The military wing, of course, don’t particularly want a ceasefire. They are pretty keen to boast about their terror attacks though:

Al-Qassam Brigades’ operations during the last Forty-Eight hours:

First: Targeting a bus was traveling between the Zionist military sites on the strip border, east of Gaza City, at around three o’clock on Thursday, 07.04.2011, ​​near the so-called “Kfar Saad,” the bus was passing in the way of tanks and artillery.

Second: Al-Qassam Brigades within forty-eight hours pounded the Zionist military sites adjacent to the Gaza Strip with 68 rockets and mortars (28 rockets and 40 mortar shells).

Al-Qassam Brigades emphasize the following:

First: The Zionist enemy is responsible for these crimes and escalation in the Gaza Strip, the Zionist arrogance and aggression will not deter us from doing our duty to respond to aggression.

Second: There is no opportunity to talk about calm between us and the occupation at a time Zionist entity bombs our people and committing massacres, but the blood of our people will not be wasted.

Third: We will continue our revolution and our jihad against the occupiers, rand our entire nation and the free world with us until liberating Palestine.

Meanwhile, Israel continued trying to stop weapons reaching Gaza by capping the guys who are smuggling them in, according to this Hamas spokesman:

”He was in Sudan co-ordinating new smuggling routes for weapons arriving from Iran, which then pass through the border into Egypt, across to the Sinai and into Gaza. No one but Israel could have been responsible for the attack.”


Bob Brown figures that BDS might have cost them Marrickville:

I think it had an effect on [the election] – that’s my feedback from the electorate and it’s no doubt something that the NSW Greens will be looking at.

Lee Rhiannon, however, reckons that BDS just wasn’t explained well:

Months before the election we needed to explain why the Greens backed BDS and we needed to work closer with our allies on BDS – academics, the Arab community and social justice movements in Sydney and MelbourneCollectively we didn’t do enough to amplify support for BDS and show that this is part of an international movement.

Kevin Rudd, however, doesn’t agree:

Senator-elect Rhiannon’s stand on a boycott of Israel is just plain loopy. But it’s more than just loopy. It verges on the dangerous. It’s dangerous because it reflects no analysis of the complexity of the Middle East peace process, nor of what Israel and the Palestinian Authority are trying to do, nor of what (Palestinian President) Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister (Salam) Fayyad are doing with their own direct engagement with Israel. This is the stuff of foreign policy being made by pre-schoolers. The whole principle of BDS…is unacceptable to Australia and ineffective in driving any real outcome in the peace process.”

Syria and the UN Human Rights Council

Last but not least, it’s ok that Syria is going to be voted onto the UNHRC unopposed, because it really cares about human rights, at least according to its UN ambassador.

The so-called turmoil does not affect our candidacy, these are two different issues… Syria considers that the protection of human dignity and fundamental rights are the base of freedom, justice and peace. Promotion and protection of human rights are of the highest importance to Syria.

Again, the US doesn’t quite see eye-to-eye:

We are deeply concerned by reports that Syrians who have been wounded by their government are being denied access to medical care. The escalating repression by the Syrian government is outrageous, and the United States strongly condemns the continued efforts to suppress peaceful protesters. President Assad and the Syrian government must respect the universal rights of the Syrian people, who are rightly demanding the basic freedoms that they have been denied.

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Lol Marrickville Greens blunder


Heh, the Marrickville Greens supplied these photos to the SMH along with unfounded claims of the involement of certain groups in putting them up. They also claimed that it was “unauthorised election material.

Thing is, it wasn’t election material – it was against the Greens, but not for a particular candidate. There is no law preventing private citizens from putting-up posters.

What did come of it was that the second-highest circulating newspaper in NSW just gave someone’s anti-Greens material much more airtime than it had in Marrickville. Good work Marrickville Greens!

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Bloody hilarious re. Greens

Joe Hildebrand in The Punch:

Greens war not kosher, says Marrickville mayor | Article | The Punch

SARAH [Hanson-Young]: Speaking of weed that makes you hungry, did anyone bring some food?

CONVENOR: Let me see. We have vegetarian, vegan, vegequarian, freegan, halal and… oh yes, kosher.

FIONA [Byrne]: That’s it, I’m boycotting this meeting.

IMRE [Salusinszky]: I’ll have the last one thanks.

BOB [Brown]: Jesus Fiona, can you knock that off?

FIONA: He’s a dirty Jew too.

BOB: Who? Imre?

FIONA: No, Jesus.

LEE [Rhiannon]: Jesus doesn’t exist.

FIONA: Neither does the state of Israel.

Also brilliant are the comments, particularly from the angry Greens fans.

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How The Greens lost Australia

Before and After, NSW election. Source: The Daily Telegraph

As you should all (hopefully) Know by now, the Liberals won Saturday’s NSW election in an unprecedented, record win – stripping away seats from Labor’s heartland that no one ever expected a Liberal to represent with swings upward of 20%. More relevant to this blog is that the Greens performed very poorly relative to everyone’s predictions, not winning a single seat in the lower house and winning only 1% of the voters fleeing from Labor (by comparison, the Libs had 11.4%).

By everyone’s account, the Greens have really collapsed in the last few weeks. Some say this had a lot to do with Fiona Byrne and her BDS effort, particularly the double-game she was playing later, trying to deny her support for the movement to the media whilst simultaneously flouting it to groups that may vote for her because of it. The Sydney Morning Herald’s editorial this morning even referred to the policy as “childish and indulgent”. Matthew Franklin and Amos Aikman give a pretty good run-down of this for The Australian, particularly regarding the Greens’ admission that the issue hurt their campaign:

Anti-Israeli stance focus of Greens review | The Australian

Federal Greens leader Bob Brown admitted yesterday that voters were upset by Ms Byrne’s repeated misleading statements over her decision in December, as Marrickville Mayor, to support a motion boycotting goods and cultural exchanges from Israel.

Ms Byrne said early in the campaign that if elected to parliament she would push for a statewide ban. However, she subsequently labelled her comments a “falsehood” when they were reported by The Australian. Ms Byrne later denied she had “pushed” for the motion, but was revealed to have been planning to speak at an anti-Israeli-apartheid rally this week.

Asked yesterday whether Ms Byrne’s actions, which plagued the latter days of her campaign, had contributed to her failure, Senator Brown said: “I think it had an effect on it — that’s my feedback from the electorate and it’s no doubt something that the NSW Greens will be looking at.”

Another issue that was brought to light in this election is that the major parties, particularly Labor, are finally realising that supporting the Greens only hurts them. Labor NSW upper-house member and campaign spokesman Luke Foley has repeatedly called for Labor to turn against the Greens, and in only one seat – Coogee – did Labor and the Greens come to any sort of preference deal, presumably because Labor candidate for Coogee Paul Pierce is rumoured to be married to a Green. Coogee fell to the Liberals regardless.

Victorian Liberal senator Helen Kroger has written on how the Greens’ ostensible success was mostly as a result of the major parties preferencing them in order to take power away from each other. Without Liberal preferences, Adam Bandt would never have won Melbourne.

Victorian and NSW election results may spell end to green team dream | Herald Sun

THE Victorian and New South Wales elections may have put an end to Bob Brown’s hopes of an advancing political greenslide in Australia. In the NSW election on Saturday night, the ALP primary vote dropped 13.5 per cent but the Greens picked up only 1.4 per cent, with the Coalition’s primary vote increasing 14.1 per cent, picking up the overwhelming majority of disaffected Labor and independent voters.

The Greens were relying on the Liberals to win four seats in the Victorian state election. We [Liberals] refused to preference them and they didn’t win a seat. On Saturday night, they were expected to win the inner-city seats of Balmain and Marrickville, but they now look like winning neither.

With a huge collapse in the ALP’s primary vote, the Greens should have won these seats where the swings required were only 3.7 per cent and 7.5 per cent respectively. More and more, the public is becoming deeply suspicious of the consequences of the extremist policies of selfish inner-city professionals who vote for the Greens.

These voters – usually on the government payroll and in secure jobs, living comfortably in wealthy inner-city suburbs – can afford to worry about climate change and not about jobs, mortgages and a future for their children.

These voters are largely disengaged from the general public in the suburbs.

This last point is particularly important. The Greens have really shown themselves to be a fringe group of “champagne socialists.” Moving more and more into the mainstream does not seem to be moderating them, but rather exposing them as ideologues and extremists with little real political credibility. This is particularly true in NSW, where their leader, Lee Rhiannon, is a former Stalinist who supported the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and of course this business with Fiona Byrne.

Readers may also be interested in watching Byrne’s concession speech, as well as the live response from the people of Marrickville.

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Apartheid, Greens, ALP and who should really feel the heat in tomorrow’s ballot

The above image is from Damien Murphy in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. NSW election is only one day away and the Greens look poised to take three lower house seats – Coogee, Marrickville and Balmain.

There was a great breakdown of why the Apartheid comparison is “nonsense” by Bruce Loudon in The Australian, a former international correspondent in both actual Apartheid South Africa and the Middle East:

Green foolish to liken Israel and apartheid | The Australian

FIONA Byrne, the Greens candidate who is favourite to win the seat of Marrickville, is being plain silly in trying to draw parallels between Israel and apartheid South Africa.

In a word, it’s nonsense. Anyone who knew South Africa in the bad old pre-1994 days of apartheid and is familiar with Israel and the Middle East knows that to be the case.

Israel is a vibrant, fully functioning, hotly contested parliamentary democracy in which every citizen can play a part. It is the only such democracy in a Middle-Eastern sea of corrupt autocracies and dictatorships that are now being challenged by Arabs seeking freedom and a new course for their countries. A place where there is completely free political debate, a completely free press and a completely free judiciary.

Contrast Israel’s democracy with the situation in South Africa during the dark days of apartheid when a small elite of whites held virtually all the political and economic power and members of the numerically overwhelming black majority – 30 million to fewer than three million – were, simply because their skin was the wrong colour, discriminated against at every level and denied any role that didn’t involve servility and servitude.

“Whites Only” signs meant that blacks were excluded from park benches, couldn’t go to beaches, had to queue in different lines at post offices, couldn’t get hospital treatment, could mostly work only as menial labourers or domestic servants, had to ride in separate elevators, and had relationships across the colour bar only on pain of being hauled before the courts and imprisoned under the Immorality Act.

For a time, blacks were even barred from placing family funeral notices in newspapers. The right to mourn the loss of loved ones was segregated. That was the evil of racial discrimination.

This message, unfortunately, has been lost on our friend Mayor Fiona Byrne, although she does seem to have miraculously realised that maybe this whole BDS kerfuffle is damaging her reputation as a real politician. Australian reporter Imre Salusinszky noted today:

Fiona Byrne dodges on Israel boycott | The Australian

A GREENS candidate in the NSW election who denied she had ever “pushed” for a boycott of Israel was slated to speak at a public rally next week in support of such a boycott, and in protest against “Israeli apartheid”.

Fiona Byrne, the Greens candidate in the inner-western Sydney seat of Marrickville, initially denied to The Australian she had agreed to address the “Sing Out Against Apartheid: Boycott Divestment and Sanctions” rally outside Sydney’s Town Hall next Wednesday.

…It is the second time this week that Ms Byrne has been caught playing fast and loose with the facts about the extent of her involvement in the global movement to isolate Israel economically and culturally.

After she denied ever expressing an intention to introduce an Israel boycott into state parliament, The Australian revealed a tape of a press conference last month where she did so.

She’s already lying on the campaign trail, this doesn’t bode well for her seemingly impending election into State Parliament.

Byrne at a press conference yesterday

Speaking of which, the ALP has been panicking about losing Carmel Tebbutt to Byrn in Marrickville, so has been telling everyone who’ll listen how evil the Greens are and why Liberal voters need to preference the ALP over the Greens because it’s better to have anyone except The Wicked Witch of the (Inner) West. Fair enough, and you would struggle to find someone who could convincingly dispute that.

Only problem is that apparently this only applies in seats where Labor is threatened by the Greens and the Liberals can help. On the other hand, if it’s the Liberals threatening Labor, they are more than happy to “deal with the devil” and hang on to power.

Greens preference ALP in hot seat | The Australian

In what is seen as a compromise, the Greens in Coogee will preference “progressive independents” before Labor, but Labor before Liberal. After informal talks with the Greens but no written agreement, the Labor Party will preference the Greens in Coogee.

This is a really worrying double standard. The Greens have only got where they are today because of Labor preferences (although Liberals helped Adam Bandt in his Melbourne bid) and even though the Greens are now posing a serious threat to Labor’s standing as the party of the mainstream Left, they still seem to be repeating the same mistakes.

I could compare it to fishers who fish all of the fish out the water until there are no fish left, only these fish never tasted any good in the first place.

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Major Photoshop Karnage: Boycott Edition

Below are a couple of Israel boycott-inspired images. Feel free to distribute them, but please put a link to my blog somewhere when you do.

My first image is responding to this story. I figured that there was something to what old Iran was saying, so I decided to really give Iran something to boycott:

The second image was inspired by this VexNews story:

The NSW Greens party is in a state of panic about signs appearing throughout the Sydney state electorate of Marrickville highlighting their candidate Fiona Byrne’s involvement in supporting causes associated with Israel’s homophobic and racist enemies, including a notorious council boycott of the Jewish state.

One anonymous broomstick-wielding Greens party hack, described by onlookers as acting in a manner that was reminiscent to them of a witch, was seen near the Petersham train station this morning attempting to use her powers to dislodge the signs that were out of reach of mere mortals.

So I figured that it would be a good idea to make Fiona Byrne look like The Wicked Witch of The West from The Wizard of Oz, just to illustrate the effect that she’ll have on NSW if elected. Anyone in Marrickville not planing on voting for Carmel Tebbutt, please preference her above Byrne, we really don’t want this moron running our state.

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