This week


How is it that UK Prime Minister Tony Blair gets severely whacked in last week’s election for his devotion to George Bush and US foreign policy, for having lied over WMDs, and for the lives lost in the catastrophe which is Iraq “ and here in our parallel universe where the economic sunshine also continues to shine, we give John Howard an increased majority and control of the Senate?

How come so much of the UK electorate resisted a battery of immigration scares and dog-whistling introduced courtesy of our own Lynton Crosby (for a reported fee of $Aust 600 000)? Yet here, ever since Hanson, the same techniques have worked strongly in the Government’s favour.

How come UK detainee policy is under intense scrutiny when ours, far worse, is not? The Opposition’s demands for a Royal Commission into immigration detention centres and deportation instead of a toothless inquiry have been muffled and ineffective, with Shadow Minister Laurie Ferguson rarely able to get beyond a ten second sound bite. But even then the protests came only after Cornelia Rau, white Australian citizen, was caught in the net.

Thanks to Peter Nicholson from the Australian

Thanks to Peter Nicholson from the Australian

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone admitted this week that ‘clearly something had gone badly wrong’ in the latest case. Australian citizen Vivian Solon, with a history of mental illness and head injuries after a traffic accident, was deported in a wheelchair leaving behind an Australian husband and two children. Whether she has managed to survive for the last four years somewhere in the Philippines is not known but Interpol has been on the case for a while, the Minister assures us.

Vanstone also reassured us that the three year old Naomi Leong locked up since birth with her mother in Sydney’s Villawood Detention Centre, and banging her head against walls and alarming child psychiatrists, is to be given ‘a taste of life outside’ allowed out to play with other children for two hours a week. Will the Palmer Inquiry solve her plight? Will Mojahed, a severely depressed and suicidal Iranian asylum seeker who arrived here by boat five years ago, be helped in time?

Our treatment of human beings is distressing and shameful. Our Government is deceitful, stupid and it seems sometimes almost wilfully cruel. The Opposition is variously tongue-tied, reactive and opportunistic, which makes it essentially complicit in the disgrace. If they don’t think so, let them ask Vivian Solon, or Cornelia Rau, or any of the other inmates. We long since gave up hope that Kim Beazley would to any significant extent differentiate himself from the Government on foreign policy, immigration policy, detention policy.

The Howard government is here for the foreseeable future and whether Peter Costello can land a punch on John Howard is immaterial and uninteresting. The signals this budget gives are unmistakable. Forget old European models of social democracy, or old Australian models of a fair go for all “ this country is to be run on the Wall Street Journal model.

It will be run by the strong for the strong, and all that mateship and fair go stuff becomes more transparently a sop every day. The conservative British weekly The Economist was refreshingly honest about it this week: splendid idea, this Australian mateship thing, they said: but it gets in the way of deregulation, keeps those sodding wages up, keeps those damned awards, holds the economy back. Prepare yourselves for a speech which demonstrates why mateship and a deregulated labour market are made for each other.

The state of the nation is writ plain for all to see in last night’s budget with its surplus of $8.9 billion and its twin peaks of tax cuts and welfare reform.

John Menadue and Eva Cox review the social benefit of its health, welfare and taxation packages, and Danielle Service, our columnist in the Budget lockup, describes what it was like in there.

UK elections
‘Escalating abstention rates, ideological convergence between political parties, personalization of the campaign …’ British Political Life Americanizes by Renaud Girard, 6 May, Truthout

‘It looked less like a vibrant contest than the night of the living dead.’ An election that nobody won by Mick Hume, sp!ked-politics

Project SafeCom is calling for a Royal Commission into the mandatory detention system and the Department of Immigration, DIMIA.

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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.