This week

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Ugly Australia was on display this week. Shouting abuse at television screens, filling the airwaves and front pages of the dailies with xenophobia and vengeful cries. There was bloodlust in the response to the announcement in the Indonesian courtroom of a guilty verdict for poor benighted Schapelle Corby. And so faded the mirage of our selfless generosity in the wake of the tsunami, the myth of our special relationship with the Balinese people, the image we market of ourselves as a carefree fun-loving friendly people.

Now that the real risk of harming our complex and evolving relationship with Indonesia has dawned, the media has restrained itself. And Corby’s retaining of makeover expert Harry M. Miller might repair some of the damage done to the case by the footage of her enraged and understandably distraught family heaping curses on the judge.

Thanks to Sean Leahy

Thanks to Sean Leahy

In unfortunate contrast is Christine Rau, sister of Cornelia, who admitted when her sister’s incarceration was first exposed that she and her family had been oblivious to the conditions endured by people in detention centres. Since then she has worked to not only document her sister’s appalling case but on behalf of all long term detainees for better conditions. Christine Rau is now campaigning for a full judicial enquiry.

The revolt of the backbenchers supporting Petro Georgiou’s Private Members Bills has been confined to the Party Room and will probably stay there if the Prime Minister has his way and can flesh out what he really means by ‘a more flexible and …[pause]… compassionate response’ without derailing his boat-stopping strategy. Seven liberals have now come out in support of a new approach dubbed by opponents as ‘Petro’s Mandatory Release Policy’.

Kim Beazley, supporter of mandatory detention to the extent of boasting that Labor was its architect, has yet to indicate what elements of the bills he’ll get behind. Georgiou has agreed to delay tabling them until 20 June, during which time both sides of politics will milk the issue. We may even see the Prime Minister stared down on this one and real change eventuate.

Meanwhile in France 55 per cent of the people concerned about jobs and safety nets and a globalised European economy voted Non to the EU Constitution. The vast majority of those voting Oui were in the top income brackets or over sixty and more concerned with issues of peace and European integration. The Dutch will almost certainly follow suit causing Britain, Poland and the Czech Republic to cancel their referendums on the constitution – and the prospect of a united Europe as a real global force is fading again.

The EU free marketeers represented by Tony Blair are held in great suspicion by the French majority and others wishing to preserve European social democratic structures. Blair faced the obvious yesterday. ‘What emerges so strongly … is this deep, profound underlying anxiety that people in Europe have about how the economy of Europe … faces up to the economy of the modern world.’

Less eloquently and with less justification, Prime Minister Howard is saying much the same thing about his ideological assault upon the industrial relations of this country. Fixated by the unions seemingly because they have the temerity to exist rather than for any demonstrable barrier they present to the continuing project of workplace modernisation, the government is hellbent on dismantling a system of industrial relations unique to this country and which has evolved in tandem with business since the Harvester judgement of 1907. Then, Mr Justice Higgins in outlining the essentials needed for a decent standard of living declared that ‘every Australian was entitled to every single one of these standards, every day of their lives and that if we as a nation did not endorse this, we could not claim to be a civilised society.’

New Matilda

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