This week


‘It is a sensible way of dealing with a small number of cases,’ said the PM, using his very firmest voice to make it clear there was no wavering, no retreat, no bowing to public sentiment or a better argument.

‘Sensible’ to release some long term detainees into the community on borrowed time until they can be sent back to where they came from. ‘Sensible’ to keep them in permanent doubt about their future and the fate of their families. ‘Sensible’ to respond to pressure from some of his back benchers who, after years of clear evidence of mistreatment, psychological distress, community outrage, finally found the courage and the way to Baxter and Villawood to inspect conditions for themselves.

Thanks to Alan Moir from the SMH

Thanks to Alan Moir from the SMH

But this won’t be an opportunity to review the Temporary Protection Visa system which has left more than 7000 people in limbo, living on handouts, ineligible for English language programs or family reunion (including spouse and children), unable to start rebuilding their lives.

The new visas will be called The Removal Pending Bridging Visas, Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone announced today and will require the few lucky holders to report regularly to the Department. They will grant access to some benefits including Medicare and short-term income support.

Welcome into the community after all you’ve been through. ‘Compassion’ or ‘generosity’ or ‘justice’ don’t come into it, of course. And, despite the PM’s preferred term, nor does ‘sense’ – common or otherwise.

Meanwhile Tony Abbott continues to do his bit for the increasingly tabloid, ‘Bold and the Beautiful’ character of Australian politics – and the Australian broadsheets. It has been touching to see the most hard-boiled Canberra journalists succumb helplessly to the tale. Certainly Kathy Donnelly’s frankness and emotional clarity were unusual. And many women will be thanking their lucky stars they don’t have to go through something similar. One in seven women (more according to some researchers) give birth to children whose paternity could be in dispute if anyone cared to check.

Of course everyone is wondering what it will do to Daniel, but those in the media circus know that the really big question – and possibly the only one – is what it will do for Tony.

One thing it did was get Ross Lightfoot off the front pages. Or maybe the media were just obeying the Prime Minister when he said that as Lightfoot had denied delivering to the Kurdish Regional Government 25,000 dollars on behalf of an Australian oil company (and carrying a revolver when he did it), and Lightfoot is an honourable man, there was no case to be investigated. When another journalist corroborated the first story the PM declared that as the second story seemed to bear out the first one by being the same as it, there was still no case to be investigated. There’s no denying logic like this: it would do Joh Bjelke Petersen or any petty tyrant proud – or Ross Lightfoot. The man did once say that Australian Aborigines were ‘the lowest colour on the civilisation spectrum’.

Recent heroic efforts notwithstanding, the US remains well ahead when it comes to merging the personal and the political. If you need any further evidence of how grotesque it can get tune into the charade surrounding Terri Schiavo playing out this week, her family pawns in the struggle between the Right to Life and the Right to Die.

Scenes of the President addressing cheering crowds as the saviour of a woman who has been in a ‘persistent vegetative state’ for fifteen years have stemmed the tide of criticism at home about his efforts to privatise welfare and his determination to install Paul Wolfowitz as head of the World Bank. But world-wide the criticism continues. The Wolfowitz nomination turns the World Bank into the American Bank, Paul Krugman pointed out in the New York Times. ‘If Mr Wolfowitz says that some free-market policy will help economic growth, he’ll be greeted with as much skepticism as if he declared that some country has weapons of mass destruction.’


Terri Schiavo
Right-Wing Leaders Make Spectacle of Terri Schiavo’s Life, 21 March 2005, American Action Progress Fund

Juan Cole, The Schiavo Case and the Islamization of the Republican Party Truthout

World Bank
The Ugly American Bank by Paul Krugman, 18 March 2005, the New York Times.

Angry E.U. Calls Wolfowitz to Brussels over World Bank by Geoffrey Lean, 20 March 2005, The Independent

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.