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Friday, August 31, 2007

Rudd-Gillard Response to Howard's IR Policy

The meaning of Australian citizenship: Part 1

What does Australian citizenship mean? Can it be bestowed? Can it be taken away? Can its full entitlements apply to some and not to others? Is there mutual obligation within citizenship? What is the obligation of the citizen to the state? What is obligation of the state to the citizen?

Under John Howard, there are continued attempts to promote and coerce 'Australian values'.

There was the aborted attempt to have such a preamble to the Constitution. Les Murray, perhaps our greatest living poet, was hired to right such a preamble. But that did not suit. There is now a test of sorts to be placed before applicants for citizenship.

Many years ago, under a conservative political regime, Australia refused a passport for 17 years to a controversial citizen, Wilfred Burchett.

Under John Howard, there has been an attempt to deprive those confined in prison of their right to vote. It has not succeeded but has reverted to the previous situation whereby prisoners serving beyond a certain minimum term are denied the right to vote. The High Court has not yet published its reasons.

However, the question needs to be reviewed and we need to ask again: should a citizen ever be denied the right to vote? If there is a case for denial, under what conditions should this be done? What does the limiting of citizens' rights in any regard mean? Can the State limit other rights of the citizen? But then we have to ask: as Australians how are our rights guaranteed without a specific charter, without a Bill of Rights? Are our rights to be held captive to politicized judicial appointments? But then are they to be held captive to the burden of lawyers' arguments?

On the matter of the State's obligation to citizens, Australia has seen its citizen, David Hicks, subjected to gross injustice at the hands of its powerful ally, the United States of America. We have cases in Australia where people who are convicted of crimes are deported to their country of birth. The highlighted cases are of of people who were born outside Australia but have lived here since infancy without formally taking out Australian citizenship. Australia has formed them. For good or for ill, their lives have been lived among us - in our society, under our government. Do we have no responsibility or recourse but to cast them forth to become strangers in a strange land, taking with them to a foreign land their troubles which were formed among us?

Citizenship can never be taken for granted. But the citizen must always hold the entitlement and obligation of citizenship up to the light. Unless this is done, encroachment on the liberty of any may mean encroachment on the liberty of all.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A prisoner's right to vote upheld - partially

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When is a citizen not a citizen?

When you are sent to prison for more than three years. So the High Court giveth with the right hand and keepeth its left behind its back when it comes to giving the right to vote for prisoners.

Who's missing? UR in IR

What's missing from Labor's industrial relations policy?

You - if you are on an AWA

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Yahoo, Channel 7 & Kevin Rudd: masters of disrespect

Miss Eagle continues to battle back to health as the flu won't give up its grip. However, life - and blogs - go on. The email address connected to Miss Eagle's blogs has been provided by Yahoo which, in Australia, is in alliance with free-to-air media corporation, Channel 7. To-day, Miss Eagle has opened an email account with a different provider for blog readers and has spent the day transferring documents and emailing contacts with the new address.

So, dear Reader, if you have the Yahoo address for Miss Eagle but haven't had an email to-day, please contact me rather quickly while the Yahoo account remains open for just a little while longer.

Then Miss Eagle will cancel the account - and there is a reason. Or, to be more correct, there are two reasons.

Firstly, and most importantly, there are the allegations which link Yahoo in China to the imprisonment and torture of bloggers. Secondly, there is the Channel 7 malpractice in which it purchased stolen medical records relating to AFL football players. It is possible that Channel 7 may face police charges in regard to the matter. AFL footballers - except for Essendon who are sponsored by Channel 7 - are boycotting Channel 7 refusing to speak to the channel's reporters. Channel 7 is reported to be in discussion with the AFL and the AFL Players Association. No sign of an apology yet. Two items about which Miss Eagle wonders:
  • about Channel 7 demonstrating a conflict of interest in relation to its sponsorship of one AFL club and reporting denigration of the members of another;
  • if the Howard Government will be brave enough to try to incorporate such activity under the coverage of its recent ACCC boycott legislation.

The matters facing Yahoo and Channel 7 have one thing in common: lack of respect for the individual, in the former a right to free speech and the right to be free of torture and in the latter the right to privacy and the right to patient confidentiality. In each case, a corporate body has assumed rights for itself and made them paramount to the legitimate rights of an individual. In each case, power has been wielded well beyond the power that the individual can bring to bear. In other words, the individual has no prospect of exerting countervailing power against the corporation - public or private.

Which brings me to Kevin Rudd's backbone. You will recall, dear Reader, that Miss Eagle has taken an interest in Kevin's backbone for quite a while. Miss Eagle has wondered when curvature of Kevin's spine, under pressure, would become evident. It is now there for all to see in the form of Labor's announced IR policy.

Miss Eagle asks Rudd and Gillard and Kevin's Krew:

  • how do you think you got to where you are in the polls?
  • is this how you show respect for working people?
  • what else will you do to show your disrespect for working people?

In case you are too middle-class and dumb to figure it out, you have done it on the backs of working people and people who care about workers' rights. These people vote and you assume they will vote for a Labor government who, supposedly, can bring them change.

Will all the executives at BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto and their $100K + a year miners vote for you, Kevin? Will they give you the numbers to govern? Or have you figured out that you can take working people for granted? Are their votes in the bag, Kevin, and you don't have to give a fig for their rights and realities?

I'd like to take you for a ride too, Kevin, when Michele O'Neil and her TCFUA officials have finished with you. Through the bleak and poor western suburbs in each of the capital cities of the eastern seaboard. You know the ones Kevin: the ones that are safe Labour seats. The ones that have a Whitlam Swimming Pool and a Wran Community Hall. The ones that are bleak and treeless. The ones that are not known as salubrious, leafy suburbs. The ones where inequity is palpable. The ones where you and Therese would never want to live - and neither would a BHP Billiton or Rio Tinto executive or their $100K+ a year miners - let alone Howard who could not tolerate Lane Cove while Kirribili was on offer.

Miss Eagle was pleased to hear Michele O'Neil on Radio National's Breakfast this morning critical of the policy and challenging Rudd to do the rounds of her members of the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union. Michele spoke powerfully of the realities of life for her members and how they could not wait the projected five years of the Rudd-Gillard policy to get out from under oppressive wages and conditions.

Miss Eagle has to-day been provided with a copy of an open letter to Rudd and Gillard by a senior union official here in Victoria. This letter is also published on Unite.

The following is an open letter to the leaders of the Australian Labor Party, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. It was written by Michele O'Neil who is the Victorian State Secretary of the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA).The TCFUA, like UNITE are extremely disappointed at Labor's latest sellout in regards to their industrial relations policy. UNITE calls on all sections of the union movement to join with us and begin to seriously discuss the question of political representation of working people. Workers deserve much better than Rudd's Labor Party.

Dear Kevin and Julia,

Don't you get it?I represent some of the lowest paid workers in the country. They sweat in backyard garages, shopfronts, and factories to make the clothes on your back. Some of our members have now faced three years without a pay increase. If they are still getting the minimum rates, and many are not, they take home about $460 each week. If they work at home as outworkers they likely get $3 to $5 an hour.

Yesterday one of the union's officials described how after a call from a worker, she went to a factory and the employer made her sit for two hours in a small room. The boss said that if any worker wanted to see her they were welcome. He didn't tell the workers the union was on site. He wouldn't let the union notice advising workers that the union was coming, go up on the notice board. And he sat a supervisor at the door of the room.

No worker came to the room. A worker rang the union describing payment of $4 an hour. For us to inspect the time and wage book in the factory I have to name the worker, something she doesn't want me to do as she says she'll be bullied and sacked. She's scared and asks me, "why can't you fix this without the boss knowing that I rang the union?" Under the Right of Entry Laws you've promised to keep, I cannot.

Earlier this year, one of my members was badly injured when the company under those same Right of Entry Laws, forced him to walk outside in the dark during a nightshift to a room 10 minutes away from where he worked to speak to his union. He fell and broke both his hands and doesn't have good prospects of returning to work.

Last week we received two calls from women workers in tears because they were being forced to give up their rights by signing an AWA in order to keep their job. They signed the AWA because they were threatened. The same AWAs which you will now leave in place for five years. Under those Right of Entry laws, because all the workers are on AWAs, we have no right to enter that workplace or visit our members.

You know that television ad from the 'Business Action' coalition with 3 thuggish blokes turning off the power in a clothing factory? Did you believe it? Would you like to meet the women who work for this union trying to get into workplaces that exploit textile, clothing and footwear workers? You could listen to our stories about what really happens when we try to use 'Right of Entry.

'My experience of violence and thuggery is of a company boss pulling a large chopping knife out of his draw and placing it on the desk between us as he explained that he didn't employ any outworkers and that I should leave his factory now.

We like other unions, have spent our hard earned union members' money on the ACTU's campaign which has increased your chances of being elected. How do I keep explaining to them what a vote for you will mean? They can't wait until 2010 for justice and fairness or rights - that's like asking them to wait for another election. They need them and deserve them right now. Stand up for the members of my union or don't expect us to stand up for you.

I invite you both to take a day to spend on the road with an official of my union visiting factories and sweatshops, so you can understand and reconsider today's announcement.

In unity,

Michele O'Neil

Victorian State Secretary, National Assistant Secretary, Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA)

Miss Eagle thinks that the only hope for a different Labor IR policy when Rudd is Prime Minister is another Howard copycat me-tooism.

Could it be, dear Reader, that this is Rudd's first non-core promise?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Influenza, sympathy for horses, and a goose gets a saucing

Hooh, boy. Miss Eagle sure does feel sorry for the horses. You see, dear and gentle Reader, your correspondent has been, for about the last ten days, battling the 'flu. Way back in April, I had my annual 'flu injection. This is always a good protection and I rarely get a sniffle. This year was different. Herself, though, tells me to stop grumbling. People have died of the 'flu this year, she reminds me. And this is true. There have been a number of infant deaths in and around Melbourne due to the 'flu. There have been frail and elderly people stricken with it and hospitalised. As for me, I have felt just one step away from the hospital door. I am writing to-day, so I must be feeling better. But you see, there's no telling. How many days have I arisen with optimism in my heart and mind only to be feeling deathly ill by nightfall. I say to Herself that I have done my best to keep going. She replies that she thinks I should have hidden quietly in a darkened room and things might have been better much more quickly.

I have been tempted back to the blog with a story of "what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander" proportions involving a Cabinet minister of rather goose-like proportions himself. He is pictured below: Kevin Andrews, the Minister for Immigration and member for the Melbourne seat of Menzies, over Doncaster way.
Now, Kevin - our goose getting a saucing - has distinguished legal qualifications. He is also a very public Catholic political voice. He came to national attention when he led the push - which not only included fellow Liberals and Nationals but members of the ALP Right - to overturn the Northern Territory's euthanasia legislation. A fact which Territorians have never forgotten. When he was the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, he introduced the draconian Work Choices legislation - which appears set to lose the Howard Government the 2007 election.

However, when the going gets tough Kevin is not among the tough who get going.

He was not able to successfully sell the Work Choices message so he was shifted and the dreadful job was given to the avuncular media star, Joe Hockey. Now, in the matter of Dr Haneef, he has found the going very tough, Haneef's legal team very determined, and the public expressing profound doubt. There have been times, as Andrews has tried to defend his ministerial decision to revoke Haneef's visa, that he has given every appearance in manner and body language that he has felt hung out to dry by Ruddock and Howard.

Andrews is prepared to do the courageous act but he is not prepared for the heavy political in-fighting which might be required to bring the act to a successful conclusion and bring concomitant glory to himself. Miss Eagle thinks he does not have the taste or relish for it.

But then there is to-day's story whereby it appears that Andrews has committed a foolish act. A law degree from Australia's most distinguished and prestigious law degree factory. A post-grad from another distinguished Melbourne academy. Ambition enough to get a fairly safe Liberal seat with which to enter Federal parliament. Yet he lists five publications: three for 1990, one for 1994, one for 1998. Hardly enough to demonstrate fitness for the publish or perish strand of academe or the publish to be taken seriously strand of modern politics. Mmmm.

Such a modest publishing record could have been omitted perhaps? Under the cover of humility and contemporary relevance? So much better, Miss Eagle thinks, than the current pointing of the finger towards a saucy goose with the assertion that Andrews has claimed a false status for himself.

Friday, August 17, 2007

ALP : Think power. Ditch Local

It isn't in this morning's press but it appears Rodney Cocks is now, officially, the ALP candidate for the seat of La Trobe. Funny the things that pop into one's mind at times. I couldn't help thinking this morning of the environmentalist slogan "Think globally: act locally". Except. Except I altered it a bit. "Think power: ditch local". Because - unless the ALP and Rodney Cocks tell us where he lives and if he is on the La Trobe roll - Rodney Cocks has been appointed over and against the hard-working already endorsed ALP candidate, Greg Pargeter.

Of course, with Rodney overseas, is he on an electoral roll anywhere. Wouldn't be the first time a candidate has slipped up, would it?

Of course, in Queensland "Think power: ditch local" is being enacted on a broader scale in the battle to amalgamate councils and the consequent legislative battle between Peter Beattie and John Howard.

An old mate of Miss Eagle's, Brian Courtice - former ALP member for Hinkler centred on Bundaberg and who comes from a long and distinguished AWU and ALP lineage - has been vocal on Radio National's breakfast this morning outlining the federal seats which he believes the ALP has now no chance of winning when it needs Queensland seats stacking up to win government.

Courtice had a beaut quote: Beattie is Bill Clinton without the intellect. Not a bad description - but I am sure, dear Reader, you can think of a few question such a statement begs.

Kevin Rudd has publicly supported Howard against Beattie on the amalgamation issue. When the polls come in showing endangered seats endangering his Prime Ministerial challenge, will we at last see the colour of his money, the steel of his statesmanship. Will we be able to measure his true political stature? We wish. We wait to see.

This morning's The Age is related to celebrity candidature and, while not supporting the editorial in its entirety, I give it the last word with a worthwhile quote:
  • The ALP does need to be mindful of the risks of parachuting in a candidate from outside the electorate. This can alienate party members who have worked for years on behalf of local candidates. The public may also see this as a trivialisation of politics.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Rod Cocks -v- Greg Pargeter and the people of La Trobe

Rodney Cocks and Greg Pargeter: contenders in the seat of La Trobe

The word to Miss Eagle is that Greg Pargeter has re-nominated for the re-opened pre-selection process in the Victorian seat of La Trobe for which late-comer, new-comer Rodney Cocks is rumoured to be endorsed.

Miss Eagle congratulates Greg on his decision to re-nominate for the seat for which he has been a hard-working candidate. Why go down without a fight? Silent indignity in the face of dis-endorsement in favour of a person who was not even a member of the ALP a week ago is not the best way to go.
A couple of comments Miss Eagle has received:
  • I think any preselection less than 12 mths out from an election is a waste of on the ground campaigners time. Whats the point?
  • I have great concerns over the dumping of Pargeter. Firstly several months ago, the Fed's were happy to leave La Trobe alone, it was seen as unwinnable. But Pargeter and a dedicated campaign team have worked hard, Pargeter is out every weekend running mobile offices, attending fetes, shows,anywhere he can engage the electorate. And it's started to bite, we are now seeing letters in the local papers critical of sitting member Jason Wood (whose time in the house is being seen as filling the numbers). The undecided of La Trobe have realised there is an alternative to just another Howard lackie. Pargeter was local, was family, was worker and he took an interest in the community. The incumbent Lib' Wood on the other hand is aloof, arrogant and unwilling to engage the community on the big issues, whilst he is happy to give Boy Scouts water tanks, he is unwilling to comment on IR for fear of bad press, his stance on climate change was similar. Rodney Cocks is the unknown and hence my concern. Firstly give the man his dues, he's a national hero and that's a good thing as it counters Jason Wood's "trust me I'm an ex-counter terrorism copper" On national security Wood talks the talk, but Cocks will walk the walk. But in politics, all politics is local and Cocks may lack credibility if he is not up to speed on local issues.

Miss Eagle believes that the National Executive of the ALP will vote on the pre-selection to-day.

We wait to see what wisdom emerges from this process.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Banduk Marika: a prophetic voice

Her art speaks for her - most of the time. To-day, she speaks out. Here is a truly prophetic voice - but it is a voice speaking of history and experience, a voice well-founded in its own culture. Listen....please!

Philip Freier: Aboriginal voices of prophecy

People - Christians among them - frequently get the concept of the prophetic voice all wrong. In the Biblical tradition, there is a future context within the prophetic call and voice. Closer examination of the prophetic voice clearly shows that it has a quality of forth-telling, not merely fore-telling.

Philip Freier makes this plain. He also makes it plain that politicians who pander to certain sectors of the body politic are merely re-inforcers of the status quo. They are not people who can move in a prophetic way
  • to provide leadership;
  • to bring justice to those treated unjustly; and
  • to bring clarity to our journey into the future.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The khaki parachute for La Trobe - but the locals aren't marching

Miss Eagle is an elector in the Federal seat of La Trobe. Miss Eagle is not a member of any political party but is one of the sometimes mentioned group described as Rusted On Labor Voting Green [ROLVG]. In other words, I generally identify with Labor. I generally don't identify with The Greens but they have been getting my No. 1 vote.

Australia has a system of preferential voting in the House of Representatives and proportional representation in the Senate. Through the preferential voting system, I always ensure that the ALP ends up with my vote and that the Liberal-National Party coalition do not receive my vote. I had decided that, in this election, I would change my voting behaviour. The issues are so serious. The need to get rid of John Howard is so urgent that, for the first time in years, the ALP would receive my No. 1 vote. I am now revisiting that decision.

Miss Eagle, you see, is disgruntled. In fact, her gruntle has been thoroughly dissed.

The cause of diss effect on my gruntle is this.

Here you can see the nice, hard working Greg Pargeter. Greg, from a dyed in the wool Labor family, has approached endorsement by the Labor Party for the seat of La Trobe in the traditional manner. He got himself an education; into education; then government at a policy level. Then he was off to become a senior industrial officer for the United Firefighters Union of Australia - Victoria Branch. He grew up in this electorate. His father has strong local government connections in the southern part of the electorate. Greg and his family live in The Hills at Selby. He has immersed himself in this community: educationally, socially, and politically.

Connections, connections, connections. But not good enough, Greg. Far from good enough.

On another continent, in another country, in another city, Greg - and his Firefighters background - would be seen in the heroic tradition. Staunch, working class, public spirited and providing heroic public service. But clearly not in Australia. Not in the ALP. And certainly not in Greg's political faction, the right-wing Labor Unity - Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd's very own faction.

Much is talked about candidates being parachuted into electorates. La Trobe is now the victim of the Khaki Parachute as yet another army officer is about to get rubber-stamped for pre-selection, this time in the seat of La Trobe.

Join the ALP on Friday and within the week you are selected to contest a marginal seat - in which the ALP has decided to invest an extra $100,000 and is the focus of an intense battle based on Howard's workplace relations legislation with an ACTU Your Rights at Work organiser in the electorate and the Catholic social justice based PolMin (Australian Political Ministry) making the electorate its Victorian focus.

There have been political fixes done time and time again to ensure the selection of particular candidates to run for Parliament. The La Trobe fix might well take the cake for the following reasons:

  1. The seat of La Trobe already has a well established pre-selected candidate with an active campaign committee.
  2. The re-opening of pre-selection so close to an election.
  3. Preferencing a stranger: not a member of the ALP, not known whether he lives in the electorate, not known what connections he has with the electorate.

Why would such a thing happen? Miss E really does need the dots to be joined for this one but it appears that the soon to be rubber stamped Rodney Cocks is both military and heroic which equals military hero.

It would appear that the ALP has certainly American-ised (for this read militarised and religionised) its campaign. Three former Army officers are running for parliament: one each in Western Australia, New South Wales and, now, Victoria. Rudd has joined Howard in actively courting the numbers of the Evangelical and Pentecostal Churches who are, predominantly, supporters of conservative right-wing policies. But then, as Mick Kir of Vermont pointed out in Letters in The Age yesterday, the two parties are Australia's conservative bloc. He might have added: with the ALP dominated by Labor Unity, a conservative faction.

But Miss Eagle would remind Rodney Cocks and Kevin Rudd - the latter from Queensland and formerly Wayne Goss's right hand man - of an interesting piece of political history.

In 1989, prior to Wayne Goss becoming Premier and ending the National Party's 32 year dominance of Queensland politics, Ken Davies was endorsed for the seat of Mundingburra. Ken was not a member of the ALP. Ken was a pleasant middle class accountant in his own practice. Mundingburra was a nominally conservative seat. Ken was seen to be a good, personable match for the voters of Mundingburra. To join the ALP, it was arranged that Ken would join the Aitkenvale-Cranbrook Branch. David Barbagallo, then North Queensland organiser for the ALP whose work in North Queensland was a major factor in Goss's landslide victory, rang the Secretary of the A-C Branch to confirm what would happen.

Now, the Secretary of the Branch was a bit of an ALP traditionalist and, while realizing the political facts of life, put forward the reasons why the Ken Davies situation was a mistake and could well prove disastrous. One of the major reasons put forward was the strong culture of the ALP and that pushed forward candidates have no experience of such a culture and that when things go wrong, they can go badly wrong. Quite prescient of the Secretary, don't you think? Because bad times did emerge between Wayne Goss and Ken Davies. There is nothing new about these sort of things. But, within the culture of the ALP, it is most often better to take adversity on the chin, live to fight another day, and wait for the pendulum to swing back. After all, this is how Peter Beattie came to be Premier.

But Ken, the newcomer to Labor culture, did not take adversity on the chin. He felt dumped and cut off. He spoke out in a very public and damaging way. The seat of Mundingburra was lost in 1996 to the Liberal Party and thus began, officially, the downhill slide of the Goss Government.

My advice to Rodney Cocks is that this could happen to you.

Rodney, you have no political chips to deal with.

The ALP - and Labor Unity - can make you. They can also break you. Once you get to parliament - provided you can take the seat in circumstances such as these - you will become a party cypher. If you don't believe me, take a look at the experience of Peter Garrett. Peter Garrett has some political chips to deal with. He has money, fame, and political clout in the wider community. He was familiar with policy development and advocacy, particularly through his work with the Australian Conservation Foundation before he even joined the ALP. Can you match that, Rodney? Then go on to take a close look at Garrett's experience within the ALP. Certainly not a dream run as he mixes it in the cauldron of ambition, hard heads, and canny political experience. How will you go with all that, Rodney?

And, Rodney, will you recognize the nuances of the culture into which you are about to become immersed? Will you notice it, understand it, and not be able to put a foot wrong within it? Or will you be a newby, a green-horn, waiting until you are snowed once too often and you wake up and learn what is really going on.

I'm sure Kevin Rudd will give you every assurance, Rodney. But another reminder? Goss and Co. did not see their electoral defeat coming. Goss was still polling as the most popular premier in the country. Keith de Lacy, the Treasurer in the Goss government, said on the Sunday morning after the night before that there was a message in the loss somewhere but he didn't know what it was. Rudd was in all that. The wider electorate knew the Goss government was a-goner. The Goss government didn't.

The question is: what did Kevin Rudd learn from all that - and what has he learned since?

And one more thing. Rodney, where do you stand in relation to trade unions, union rights, and Howard's workplace legislation? You see, Miss Eagle was a union organiser in a place known as a garrison city for its large military (both Army and RAAF) presence. The majority of military personnel Miss Eagle met were anti-union. In fact, the large Army base in the garrison city has only rarely voted in the majority for the ALP. Now, Rodney if the seat of La Trobe was a garrison city your pre-selection might make some political sense - but The Hills are not alive with the sound of marching.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Howard's Government - unhinged...or unplugged?

Leadership and critique on the Howard Shock and Awe Intervention

Many people, black and white and blog, have drawn attention to shortcomings in the Northern Territory State of Emergency otherwise known as Howard's Shock and Awe Campaign.

The Labor Opposition under Kevin Rudd has provided no leadership on the issue. While attention is drawn to this, a lot of us go along with it in the hope that as he leads the opinion polls so it will be on election day and we have Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister. The only problem with this is - what if he doesn't win; what if he turns out to be nothing like the Prime Minister that we want and the nation needs.

At last, a leader has spoken up. Not caustically, as this blog has the freedom and inclination to do. An old lady can do little else but snipe from the sidelines. But a knowledgable, experienced and forthright Archbishop? Well, he might actually have an opportunity to discuss something with a Prime Minister sometime, somewhere. He needs to have channels of communication to be kept open. He does not have the same freedom as Miss Eagle - even if this was his inclination - to sound off.

So the Archbishop of Melbourne, Philip Freier, makes his point moderately while bringing into focus THE major issues - community consultation, communication and respect.

Last night, Rudd and Howard presented their respective viewpoints on a national internet presentation hosted by the Australian Christian Lobby. Tens of thousands of Christians gathered at over 700 [or 850, depending on which report is read] venues across Australia to watch a live webcast featuring speeches from John Howard and Kevin Rudd. [Please note, dear Reader, the numbers. The megachurches love the numbers and the income they provide. So do politicians. Twin species?]

Miss Eagle made no attempt to get involved in this internet hook-up. The mind-set of the ACL is not Miss Eagle's except that we both claim the name of Christian. In no media coverage that I have heard to-day, and there is nothing on the ACL website as at 10.25am to-day, which would indicate that the welfare of Aboriginal people got a guernsey in this For Christians Only debate. Clearly, Howard thought the people at the For Christians Only debate gave highest priority to pornography. Who can say he's wrong?

[Miss E is anti-pornography too. I am anti-pornography not only for all the usual reasons but because a family member is a victim of the pornography addiction of a spouse. My take on pornography is much more sophisticated than any arguments that I have heard from the ACL constituency. I also contest the high priority given to pornography in that constituency in contrast to matters such as poverty and employment. ]

Miss Eagle, at the time of writing, has been unable to find transcipts of the Howard and Rudd speeches.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Supersizing me where I live - Part 2

I - as I am sure you do, dear Reader - sometimes daydream about living in another period of human history. For Miss Eagle, her daydream is about time travelling to live as an Edwardian. Not a poor Edwardian mind you - probably an upper middle class Edwardian. So many things were happening then. New ideas, a new century and clothes were s-o-o elegant. But my daydream is tempered by the quote from John Rawls: The best measure of a just society is whether you’d be willing to be thrown into it at random.

That, dear Reader, is the crunch - is it not? I certainly would not want to be thrown at random and willy-nilly into Edwardian society. Would you, dear Reader, wish to be thrown random and willy-nilly into the first decade of 21st century Australian society? Before you give an unthinking yes to that question or reply that if you could come back as a miner in the Pilbara, let's pause for thought. Perhaps randomness and willy-nillyness would see you come back as a traditional Aboriginal person in a remote community in the Northern Territory. Or you might come back as a woman of Islamic faith who wears a hajib speaking with a broad Australian westie accent. Or a young man of middle-eastern appearance in Lakemba with a similar accent. Are you still willing to subject yourself to such randomness and willy-nillyness?

If your answer is no then Australian society in the first decade of the 21st century is not living up to the best measure of a just society as defined by John Rawls, the great moral philosopher of the 20th century.

As Australia heads for an election and the possibility of electing John Howard (who is in his sixty-ninth year) as Prime Minister for a fifth term heading for twelve years in office (the President of the USA can only have two terms of four years each), the question we should ask - as we should always ask of our nation - is: is Australia a just and fair society?

And, Miss Eagle has discovered, we give ourselves away on the justice issue in one crucial and historically verifiable way: our height. Now I am not clear where Australians are on the height table in relation to other nations but take a look at this article about the height of Americans vis-a-vis Northern Europeans. It appears that we write our communal and national history in our bodies and we can transcribe that history through our measurements, our personal vital statistics. We can match those vital statistics to historical events, to economic data like GDP and we can see what we are doing and have done to ourselves and to others.

Similar measures are outlined in the WHO Issues New Healthy Life Expectancy Rankings. Japan is top of the list and Australia is No. 2. The USA is not in the top ten. It rates 24th. Miss Eagle wonders if Australia might have topped Japan if mainstream Australia had been as concerned for Aboriginal health and well-being as it is for its own. Certainly, in the USA, efforts are poor at having an inclusive attitude to national health and well-being. Let's take a look:
  1. You die earlier and spend more time disabled if you’re an American rather than a member of most other advanced countries.
  2. Some groups, such as Native Americans, rural African Americans and the inner city poor, have extremely poor health, more characteristic of a poor developing country rather than a rich industrialized one.
  3. The HIV epidemic causes a higher proportion of death and disability to U.S. young and middle-aged than in most other advanced countries. HIV-AIDS cut three months from the healthy life expectancy of male American babies born in 1999, and one month from female lives.
  4. The U.S. is one of the leading countries for cancers relating to tobacco, especially lung cancer. Tobacco use also causes chronic lung disease.
  5. A high coronary heart disease rate, which has dropped in recent years but remains high.
  6. Fairly high levels of violence, especially of homicides, when compared to other industrial countries.
  7. Lack of universal access to medical insurance thus limiting access to health care.
  8. Eight million Americans are without a job.
  9. Forty million Americans are without health insurance.
  10. Thirty-five million Americans live below the poverty line.

So, dear Reader, next time rich, famous, and infamous Americans catch your attention and life looks great over there, please remember these ten points. Next time an American celebrity gives away lots of money and looks good doing it, remember the unfairness of those ten points.

Ask yourself, dear Reader: if you were one of those people in the statistics quoted in these ten points, would you rather have fairness and equity brought to you by public policy voted on by every citizen entitled to vote or would you rather be one of the deserving poor dependent on the selectivity of a rich person?

Now look at the Australian picture:

  1. 1.05 million households have been classified as having "low economic resources" by the Bureau of Statistics. To fall into that category households had to have low levels of both income and wealth.
  2. More than 820,000 children aged under 14 live in the 1.05 million households that have been classified as having "low economic resources"
  3. After adjustment for family size and composition, the disposable income for low economic resources households was $262, less than half that of middle-expenditure households.
  4. One in every eight of people living in "low economic resources" households are saying they gone without meals in the previous 12 months because of a shortage of money.
  5. Almost one-third of the households said they spent more than they earned, suggesting they were either running up debt or drawing on meagre savings to make ends meet.
  6. The number of sole parents who receive a pension is on the decline for the first time since 1997.
  7. The proportion of lone mothers in the labour force - either in work or looking for work - grew from 49 per cent in 1997 to 60 per cent last year

The last two items need to be look at more closely in relation to income, child care costs, who is looking after the kids and in what circumstances?

Our national government has neglected Aboriginal voices for more than a decade. State and Territory Governments records are not good either. And the Australian voter has not given a sufficiently high priority to Aboriginal health and well-being - instead focussing on its own income and tax-cuts - to impress politicians with a demand for urgent attention. There is a lot of goodwill out there towards Aboriginal people and their concerns but mainstream Australia is not prepared to forego its own financial well-being or do without a tax cut to bring others, black or white, into a position of equity. Please read this speech by Lieutenant General John Sanderson and have a big think.

And what evidence do I have that mainstream Australians are prepared to put themselves and their own well-being ahead of other citizens? I give you the saga of the Merseyside Hospital in Devonport, Tasmania. This is a town with a population of just over 20,000 souls which has access to two nearby hospitals within a half hour and an hour's drive yet has demanded that its own hospital be kept open to the tune of at least $45 million in spite of the difficulty of attracting highly skilled staff and maintaining their skills, in spite of the fact that the hospital itself may not be able to operate in a manner in which safety is guaranteed.

A venal Prime Minister desperate to advance his election prospects has met these demands and thus encouraged a queue of similar demands to form.

It is not only our bodies that are getting fatter and taller, our minds are becoming sloppy and unreasonable and more grandiose.

Supersize me, Prime Minister, some citizens are saying - and do it right where I live.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Supersize me - but do it where I live

Miss Eagle seldom is on message with Paul Kelly of The Government Gazette. However, his analysis yesterday of what Howard is up to at the moment - and it is a moment by moment policy roller-coaster ride - is sound. Governance, not only under Howard but under any future Federal Government, is the issue.

Australia has a three tier system of governance: Local, State, Federal. Governance is on a declining scale of parochialism from Local up to Federal. Until now, when a Prime Minister who has been able to gain neither traction nor momentum against Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd is becoming desperate. Howard has long demonstrated a bottomless capacity for buying votes but this attribute has now reached proportions which are both grandiose and parochial.

The Shock and Awe intervention appears to have some sort of policy identification and the place, the Northern Territory, seems to have been merely the place over which the Commonwealth had power to intervene easily.

John Howard, with Member for Braddon Mark Baker, make the most of a celebrity welcome at Mersey Hospital, Devonport as part of their Stick it to the States Campaign

The Shock and Awe modus operandi has continued week by week. Last week, it was the intervention in Tasmania singling out one hospital in one small community (the 70,000 population figure by Abbot is a blatant lie and does not describe the population of the community serviced by the Mersey hospital). This week it is offering disaffected local councils in Queensland funding for plebiscites in their municipalities on amalgamations proposed by Peter Beattie's Labor Government after long consultation with local government.

The ACT is the latest government in Howard's "Embarrass a Government To-day" program. This time he is offering to fund timber mill employees' entitlements to the tune of $5 million on the condition that the NSW Government issues the mill with a long-term licence. Now, there appear to be a number of interests coalescing here.

  1. Most of the employees are resident in the electorate of Eden-Monaro. Eden-Monaro is known as a bellwether seat. Eden-Monaro, since 1972, has been held by whichever party forms government.
  2. The purpose of the proposed funding and the request for a long-term licence is that the mill can be sold as a going concern. So, while employees may benefit and continuing employment in a marginal electorate are supported, the main beneficiary could well be the employer/company. Another case of business welfare?
  3. The relevant union is the CFMEU. This union is a blessing and a curse to the constituency of the Federal Government. Its members employed in the timber and forest products industry cost Labor two Tasmanian seats at the Federal Election of 2004 and have forced the ALP this time into a me-too Howard-image policy which dares not deviate in any environmentally responsible way or it will pay dearly in Tasmania. On the other hand, Howard and Co loathe the CFMEU's members employed in building and construction and have done everything they can to legislate against and prosecute the CFMEU's officials and members in this industry. But...timber and forest products industry union members appear to be a well-beloved species!

So since the Shock and Awe Campaign, Howard has struck at two states and two territories. Three states if one considers the position of the NSW Government in relation to a long-term licence for the ACT timber mill. So WA, SA, and Victoria are still to come. WA is open to vilification because they were the one stand-out state against Howard's armed intervention in Aboriginal affairs. Victoria has been a stand-out on the Howard Government attempt to nationalise water policy with all its private sector market-driven consequences. So there is room for Howard nastiness and meanness to operate against WA and Victoria.

So what will happen in SA? Undoubtedly, somewhere along the line will be incursion into Pitjantjatjara lands. And, just as certainly, the excuse will that Pitlands cross the border of South Australia and the Northern Territory.

So Back to Reality.Yesterday, the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Bill 2007 [NTMERB] passed through the House of Representatives in spite of Labor attempts to amend the legislation and in spite of the difficulties faced by Warren Snowdon and Senator Trish Crossin.

CEO of NITV, Pat Turner AM, at the Indigenous leaders press conference in Canberra yesterday.
Valda Shannon, a significant Aboriginal woman from Tennant Creek, at the press conference
Bill Heffernan, Homo Horribilis, puts in an appearance and an interruption at the Indigenous leaders press conference in Canberra yesterday

And who should raise his head above the parapet but that shameless and nasty old homo, Bill Heffernan. Homo, you ask? Homo Horribilis, don't you think Dear Reader? Aboriginal leaders came to Canberra yesterday to discuss the NTNERB and held a press conference. Bill the Buzzard came along, clearly seeing fresh meat to pick over, more dreadful people to put on his hit and smear list. He had the hide to interrupt. But good manners have never been the hallmark of of our hero, Homo Horribilis.

But perhaps I sell him short. Perhaps he only wanted to see what Aboriginal people look like. Maybe there haven't been many around his property in Junee lately. Maybe Bill just wanted to get to know some Aboriginal people before he sunk his ploughshares into their land as he farms Northern Australia!

Anyway, they told Bill where to go. Miss Eagle loves the photograph of Jack Ah Kit eyeballing him.

So, if Bill Heffernan was shameless yesterday, another Senator, Stephen Parry of Tasmania, found himself feeling shameful. Stephen, it is now believed, has learned not to open his mouth in lifts when uncertain of the discretion of all present. Parry has thought about this. So have the clinicians who have resigned from Mersey at the prospect of a Howard take-over. And then there is the Tasmanian Labor Government and its view.

So John Howard has let it be known that, if anyone anywhere in the nation has a proposal which is believed to have been neglected by a State Government, get in touch and they will put it on the list. Word has it that people are queuing up.

Parochialism across the nation is standing up and demanding to be supersized by superhero government. Damned is good governance.

Thoughtful policy is for the birds when making it up on the run and trying to shaft Labor is much more fun.

And Mal Brough is expressing concern about whether his legislation can survive a Federal Labor government. Well, Mal, when you carry on like this why would you expect the legislation produced to stand the test of time? When you expect everyone to toe the line when you say the magic words "child abuse" because they fear being labelled as unsupportive of efforts to combat it, why should you be surprised when more considered opinion will want to override your legislation? And when people realise that you have lead them up the garden path by failure to implement the recommendations of the very report you have used to force action after a decade of neglect, you still expect them to say you did the right thing?

Miss Eagle wonders what the so-called committee hearing will produce on Friday. What can it produce that will be meaningful? Some sound grabs?

And, dear Reader, if you are still not clear about what good and sound governance in this nation might look like, you can get an idea of it here. Whatever happened to this process, Miss Eagle wants to know? Buried between the manila folders and red tape of bureaucracy or withering for lack of funding by a grandstanding Prime Minister and his political, advisory, and bureaucratic lackeys?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

What we haven't learned

This afternoon, I have been watching the 1985 television movie, The Dunera Boys. Now, movies based on true stories can be heavily fictionalised for dramatic impact and my guess is that this is the case with The Dunera Boys.

But the real story of the Dunera boys is cemented in Australian history and is legendary.

It is the story of Jewish men, refugees in England, who were victims of an overzealous government who forced them to endure horrors and indignities that they never should have suffered when they were rounded up by the British government and transported to Australia to be imprisoned on the stark, bare plains of western New South Wales.

The picture below, from the National Library of Australia, is a photograph by Henry Talbot taken at a re-union of the Dunera boys in 1997. Read more here.

Of those Dunera boys who, on release in 1942, opted to remain in Australia, many went onto become distinguished, even famous, citizens. We might have locked them up as we went along with Britain's error, but they generously paid Australia back many times over by their contribution to building a young nation.
Otto Marx, Fred Gruen, Felix Behrend, and Leonhard Adam provide an idea of the brilliant minds rounded up in the Dunera Affair and we thank them for becoming part of Australian life and culture with such outstanding contributions.

But, oh, how we forget.

We made a grave mistake then. We continue to do so in modern times as Phillip Adams reminds us.

Chester Porter QC reminded us again on Radio National to-day.

Chester is a proponent of continual improvement in investigative policing. Police, Chester warns, will always seek increased powers. Incompetent police are most likely to ask for increased powers. Executive government, he reminds us, can abuse these powers: in World War II, Labor rounded up right wing people, the United Australia Party rounded up communists. None of these people committed an offence.

The case of Dr Mohamed Haneef and its legal fall-out has called into question what Australia's government is doing in the name of terror. Many citizens are questioning what the limiting of democratic freedoms is doing to us, will do to us.

We have become a nation that is not afraid to use concentration camps for refugees, immigrants, and its own citizens. We have become a nation that is not afraid to use high security imprisonment and deportation - even without speedy trial - for suspicion with little real and admissible evidence.

It would be good if The Dunera Boys could hit the television screens again - particularly the tabloid type screens of Channels 9, 7 and 10.

Australians have to question who they are as a people and a nation and who are they electing to office to govern in their name.

John Howard: more shock and awe. Part 1

It seems that there is a week-by-week plan to impose Howard's presence across government policy in Australia - irrespective of any other properly constituted forms of government. Now it is direct intervention - announced via You Tube in the early hours of the morning - in the running of hospitals. A desperate grab for headlines and votes and an election win!

Miss Eagle is no fan of the states. In the best of all possible worlds, Miss Eagle would opt for a two-sector model of government. Abolish the states, abolish local government and have the national government plus regional government based upon geographical and historical communities of interest.

But Miss Eagle is no fan of the centralizing tendencies of John Howard - the most centralizing Prime Minister in the history of this nation. Without debate, without national consultation, without referendum, he is putting his nose in everywhere - Aboriginal affairs, technical education, and hospitals. Can you imagine, dear Reader, if Paul Keating had acted in the same way? There would have been uproard - particularly from Howard and his constituency.

And does Howard not think that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander too?

Miss Eagle, dear Reader, does not expect Kevin and Krew to protest too much. Firstly, Kevin is not into protesting too much lately; and, secondly, Kevin probably thinks - why not? Let Howard roll it out and see where it leads because you never know when we might find it useful to do the same thing.

The issue here is that we have erosion of constituted government without debate, without a referendum, and without consultation. Do you think, dear Reader, that this is the work of a dictator?

Remembering the despicable days of Joh Bjelke-Petersen - what better excuse for Commonwealth intervention could there have been?