It is my Friday Lay Day blog and it is going to be relatively quick. There was an article in the Wall Street Journal (December 23, 2015) – Economists Say ‘Bah! Humbug!’ to Christmas Presents – that says a lot about how my profession struggles to appreciate reality in all its dimensions. Every year, it…
Its the Friday lay day blog – where I roam free. This week we have had three damning reports released which provide more than enough evidence that the federal government of Australia is way out of its league as visionary leaders of the nation. On three major fronts they have demonstrated their incapacity to lead the nation: the labour market (yesterday, the unemployment rate rose to its highest value in 14 years and is biased upwards; indigenous affairs – the release of the – Closing the Gap 2015, and the release by the Australian Human Rights Commission report – The Forgotten Children – on children in our immigration prisons (so-called detention). Unfortunately, the national election is still 18 or so months away, although the Opposition Labor Party is going to need that time to abandon its own neo-liberal ways. These three reports this week indict them as much as the conservative government in power!
The Closing the Gap report documents the massive failure of government to reach its targets with respect to improving the fortunes of our indigenous population.
This failure is being compounded by significant funding cuts that the federal government has made in the policy area as part of its austerity drive.
Our indigenous population is among the most disadvantaged people in the world none excepted. There needs to be major job creation programs funded to provide some sort of hope for the population which endures chronic unemployment, substance abuse, mental health issues and high rates of incarceration.
Providing hope through income earning chances is the best step that can be taken. The government decided to cut the job creation funding.
The 324-page AHRC Report – The Forgotten Children – investigated “the detention of children under Labor and Coalition governments since 1992” who belonged to families seeking refugee protection.
Australia has a policy of detaining all families who seek refugee status via boat arrivals and they are locked up on Indian or Pacific Ocean islands in terrible conditions.
There is well-documented cases of brutality by the warders of these prisons and one refugee seeker was murdered on Manus Island recently under the watch of the Australian government.
The Report found that:
… detention had caused significant mental and physical illness to children and was in breach on Australia’s international obligations. It called for the release into the community of more than 300 children in detention on the mainland and on Nauru
There are some harrowing details in the Report.
One 17 year child in the prison camps said “My hope finished now. I don’t have any hope. I feel I will die in detention”.
Here are three samples:
Please let us have no comments that they had a choice. These are pre-school, pre-teen, pre-adult children who our government locks up as criminals for extended periods (average for all detainees is 413 days). Many of the children acquire mental health disorders as a result of the incarceration.
Both sides of politics are indicted in this massive human rights abuse. At present, our politicians are busy lecturing the Indonesian government which is planning in the near future to murder two Australian men involved in drug smuggling.
But these smug politicians (even though I agree with them calling on the Indonesians to stop the executions) should read the AHRC Report and immediately change our policy towards locking innocent people up for extended periods – a practice which amounts to torture.
The AHRC interviewed 1129 children. Most of the children were from Iran, Sri Lanka (Tamils) or were stateless. The vast majority were parented by those who had left their countries because of danger/terrorism or persecution by the government.
We claim the moral high ground as defenders of freedom by joining the axis of evil that invaded Afghanistan, for example, but then lock up those who flee the war and terror.
By September 2014, “the average length of detention for children and adults was one year two months”.
The AHRC Report found that 30 per cent of the children were “always sad/crying”, 25 per cent were “always worried” and 12 per cent did not eat properly and experienced weight loss.
It concluded that:
The mental health screening of children in detention shows alarming results both in the rates of mental disorder in these children and in the severity of their symptoms …
Results from these assessments show that 34 percent of children had mental health disorders that would be comparable in seriousness to children referred to hospital-based child mental health out-patient services for psychiatric treatment … Less than two percent of children in the Australian population have mental health disorders at this level.
The Report found that:
… there were numerous assaults and self-harm incidents in detention centres in Australia where children are held … They include … 233 assaults involving children … 33 incidents of reported sexual assault (the majority involving children); and … 183 incidents of voluntary starvation/hunger strikes (with a further 27 involving children).
Rates of self-harm are considered “very high”.
The children detained on Nauru are:
… suffering from extreme levels of physical, emotional, psychological and developmental distress …
Many of the children have physical illnesses or diseases as a result of the incarceration – skin and respiratory infections.
The Commonwealth of Australia is found to have breached its duty of care for these children.
The AHRC Report called for a Royal Commission into the policy conducted by our Government.
I could continue but the message is clear and shocking. Australia has lost any semblance of the nation I was born in some time ago. It used to pride itself on being ‘fair’ and ‘equitable’ and ‘welcoming’ (indigenous people aside who have always been treated poorly).
It is now a cruel, vindictive, sanctimonious nation with little to redeem itself. The neo-liberal individualism has distorted our national morality and created a monster of a place.
Yes, it is easy to live here if you are educated with income. Beautiful beaches, climate and very high material standards of living.
But we have lost any credibility as a nation of nice people.
Predictably, the Government sat on the AHRC Report (which it received in November) until the last possible day under the legislation. As soon as they finally released it, our Prime Minister, demonstrating his impeccable leadership skills, attacked the Report in Parliamant claiming it was a:
… transparent stitch-up … I say to the Human Rights Commission if you are concerned about real human rights, real human decency, real compassion, real compassion for people, you should be writing congratulating letters to the former minister for Immigration and Border Protection.
The monster who was the former minister (so-called Sco-Mo, that is Scott Morrison, the self-promoted Christian) is now the Minister for Social Services and he is now going to inflict cruelty on that cohort.
Tony Abbott went on to say that:
There won’t be a Royal Commission into children in detention … This is a blatantly partisan politicised exercise and the Human Rights Commission ought to be ashamed of itself.
After the PM attacked the Report a swathe of sycophantic ministers (Brandis, Morrison, and Dutton) were wheeled out with similar effect.
A former conservative Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser was highly critical of the current Government’s response. He said:
The government’s response is a disgrace. It is based on a lie. They claim to have saved lives by stopping the boats and that the trauma inflicted on children by detaining them, is a small price to pay. They deliberately chose an inhumane way of stopping the boats.
This Fairfax report (February 13, 2015) – Revealed: Abbott government tried to remove Gillian Triggs as head of the Australian Human Rights Commission – reveals what a nasty lot the government leaders are.
It has now been confirmed that the:
Abbott government sought the resignation of the president of the Australian Human Rights Commission Gillian Triggs two weeks before it launched an extraordinary attack on the commission over its report on children in immigration detention.
They even said “some other opportunity” would be available if she went quietly.
The President of the AHRC has a five-year tenure, which is protected against political interference for obvious reasons.
The incompetence of our political leadership in this nation has not gone unnoticed abroad.
Last week, the – Council for Foreign Relations – a so-called independent, nonpartisan body, predominantly based in New York and Washington, published a scathing assessment of our Prime Minister – Tony Abbott Has To Go.
The article suggested that Tony Abbott was:
… the most incompetent leader of any industrialized democracy? … in less than two years as prime minister, Abbott has proven shockingly incompetent, which is why other leaders within his ruling coalition, following a set of defeats in state elections, may now scheme to unseat him. They should: Abbott has proven so incapable of clear policy thinking, so unwilling to consult with even his own ministers and advisers, and so poor at communicating that he has to go.
The advice we were given by the article – “a country that for decades has punched above its weight on nearly every international issue surely can do much better for a prime minister than Tony Abbott”.
Well, in fact, Tony Abbott is a reflection of us. We (royal sense) made characters like Tony Abbott.
We have supported successive governments who lock children up on remote islands and torture them into mental illness.
We support governments who inflict cruelty on our unemployed and force them to live on income support that is well below the poverty line.
We support a lot of other shameful policies that violate freedoms, equity and undermine opportunity.
To get rid of the likes of Abbott we are going to have to undergo a major progressive reformation ourselves. The leadership for that sort of transformation is lacking.
I have reported recently that I have had meetings with the Australian Progressive Party who were keen to embed some of the macroeconomic principles of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) into their policy narrative.
It was an exciting prospect. Well my enthusiasm was short-lived. The President and some other key players have now left or were forced out of the party by a group on the Executive who disavowed MMT. One document I read from the group that presumably is part of the putsch was pure neo-liberal economics and the author couldn’t even get that doctrinal mess right! So if you planning to hitch your dreams up to this group I would forget about it.
And this week, a group calling itself Independent Australia, who claim to be a news service promoting progressive journalism … democracy etc … and are “seeking out the truth and informing the public” requested rights to reprint one of my blogs.
I replied in the negative because I didn’t want to be associated with sites that carry advertising that I might not agree with – for example, questionable ageing remedies, subscription ancestor search sites, sites promoting ‘Warren Buffet’s Secrets’, software which claim to speed up your computer, sites pushing sharemarket advice subscription services, sites flogging hummer limos for parties etc.
I also pointed out that “this raises issues of association and revenue being earned from my work without reward to the author”. With that I politely declined the invitation.
I received a reply from the managing editor:
That’s fine with me Bill, I have a policy of not being involved with the pompous and insufferably sanctimonious.
Since when has it been pompous and sanctimonious to want to protect one’s work and be paid for that work if others are planning to profit financially from it?
Is that what a progressive, truth seeking organisation thinks these days?
Our political leadership
Someone has been briefing our senior politicians that you should continually repeat that they love the country or are passionate about it. And so the weekly press briefings and interviews went.
By week’s end, after surviving a one-man contest 61 votes to 39, where the entire cabinet was required to vote among the 61 (meaning probably more than 50 per cent would have preferred the PM to quit), the Prime Minister then proceeded to demonstrate why he is unfit to lead the nation.
The Love my Country bit from the Prime Minister came after the spill vote. Then the Treasurer Hockey was interviewed that night on national current affairs. A few days later, the national unemployment rate was revealed to be 6.4 per cent (up from 6.1 per cent) and the highest in 14 years and all the Treasurer can say is that he is passionate about the nation and wants to hack public spending even more.
Then came the finale from the PM. Here is a sample of his performance yesterday (February 12, 2015) where he told the Australian Parliament, just a few weeks after the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, that the previous government had created a “holocaust of jobs”.
The little poodle to the right of the PM (Pyne) was nodding happily because he wouldn’t know better but the Deputy PM to his left (Bishop) looked justifiably horrified.
This is our leader – that fact reflects on all of us!
This video replaces our music segment today.
As an aside, I did a radio interview for ABC Sydney 702 Morning show this morning. I answered two questions which were then going to be put to the Federal Treasurer who was being interviewed. The questions were: (a) Is a fiscal surplus necessary? (b) Is a fiscal deficit damaging for intergenerational well-being?
I didn’t hear the segment myself (I did a pre-record).
You can hear the segment – HERE – it is 23 minutes long and probably not worth listening to.
The Saturday Quiz will be back again tomorrow. It will be of an appropriate order of difficulty (-:
That is enough for today!
(c) Copyright 2015 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved