31 Oct 2012

Labor Learned Nothing From Howard

By Jenny Haines
Federal Labor is performing amazing policy contortions as it seeks to excise mainland Australia from the migration zone. It's another shocking repudiation of the party platform, writes Jenny Haines of Labor for Refugees
Here we go again! Labor, in an effort to try to prove it is as tough as the Howard government on refugees and asylum seekers, is preparing to do a double back flip that would make an Olympic diver proud.

Minister for Immigration Chris Bowen admits it's a backflip. He says he is changing party policy to allow for the excision of the whole of the Australian mainland, including presumably Tasmania and Macquarie Island, just in case any asylum seeker boat ever gets there. He must not be reading the same party policy as I am. The National Conference Platform adopted at the National Conference of the ALP in 2011 included the following statements in Chapter 9, A Fair Go for all Australians:

"26. Labor believes a Human Rights Framework that reflects our international obligations is necessary in reflecting our commitment to fundamental rights across social and economic policies.

We are committed to promoting the awareness and understanding of human rights, supporting the international human rights instruments to which Australia is a signatory, and properly funding the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Labor will adhere to Australia's international human rights obligations and will seek to have them incorporated into the domestic law of Australia, and have them taken into account in administrative decision-making and whenever new laws and policies are developed."

The National Conference committed us to the Refugee Convention, its values, principles and commitments. It hasn't met again to revoke this decision. That is how party policy is changed — not at the whim of a minister who is being badly advised by his department. Nor is party policy changed by the perceived demands of a party struggling to drag itself out of the mire of the polls.

But National Conference Policy, to its shame, and because Labor for Refugees could not convince delegates to vote these provisions down, also states:

"153. To support Australia's strong border security regime, Labor will maintain:

• an architecture of excised offshore places
• the non-statutory processing on Christmas Island of persons who arrive unauthorised at an excised place, except where other arrangements are entered into under bilateral and regional arrangements.

Labor is united in its commitment to prevent further loss of life at sea of vulnerable children, women and men... Such arrangements will result in asylum seekers who arrive both by air and sea being treated the same when it comes to the processing of their claims and access to support while on bridging visas."

Now we know what that "architecture of excised offshore places" and the "bilateral and regional arrangements" really means. Those clauses are supposed to be read in the context of the whole document — but obviously there is some fundamentalist interpretation of the National Conference Platform being undertaken in Canberra.

But note the last sentence. While the Minister several months ago said that those who arrive by air and those who arrive by sea will be treated equally, we are not doing that. We are now going to send those who arrive by sea directly to Nauru and Manus Island, with virtually no legal resources to process their rightful claim for asylum in Australia. Limited internet access for asylum seekers on Nauru — because there are not enough computers — does not allow for the fair preparation of a claim for asylum.

There is another way.

Labor for Refugees recently made a submission to the Houston Panel which set out the following principles as a guide for government action:

• Genuine concern and compassion for the wellbeing and future of asylum seekers who come by boat; alternatives to "dangerous journeys" should not be driven by political considerations. That people are willing to risk their lives in such circumstances is an indicator of desperation. Policy should not be simply motivated by border control and exclusion but a genuine desire to find safer alternatives for people in need of protection.

• Respect for the integrity of the Refugee Convention and the international protection frameworks and compliance with Australia's legal obligations under the convention and complementary protection legislation

• Respect for the time-honoured maritime principle of rescue at sea above all other considerations. Preservation of lives and prevention of tragedies requires constant vigilance on the part of Australia, in collaboration with Indonesia. Given Australia's superior capabilities for surveillance and rescue, it is essential that the Australian Maritime and Safety Authority take the lead role rather than relying on the lesser resources of Indonesian maritime authorities in responding to vessels in distress en route to Australia.

• Recognition that punitive policies targeting asylum seekers arriving by boat are contrary to the Refugee Convention by discriminating on the basis of mode of entry.

• Recognition of the profound psychological harm caused to asylum seekers found to be refugees of harsh deterrence policies including offshore internment in remote Nauru and Manus Island and Temporary Protection Visas.

• Recognition of compelling "push" factors including internal conflict and human rights abuses that influence the decision to seek irregular access to Australia's protection frameworks from source countries such as Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Burma.

• Recognition that the vast majority of asylum seekers who come by boat are found to be in need of protection and are therefore by definition, vulnerable people who have experienced trauma.

• Recognition of the very limited options for asylum seekers in Indonesia and Malaysia in being resettled permanently within a reasonable time-frame; that pathways to resettlement are not well established and supported in the region.

• Recognition that while it is desirable for Australia to control entry, it will not always be possible to achieve this in the context of world-wide forced migration movements.

• Recognition that Australian Government policies such as severe restrictions on refugee family reunion contribute to the number of irregular arrivals.

• That the Bali Process should involve genuine engagement and collaboration with countries of the region aimed at addressing the needs and human rights of asylum seekers and refugees, and raising the standards for protection within the region.

The most ridiculous consequence of all of this is that the Government is failing to stop the boats. Surely the test of any government policy or strategy should be, is it working? So what next?

We need to immediately establish pathways to resettlement from Indonesia. Over the period 2001-2010, Australia has accepted only 56 refugees from Indonesia per year, and only 24 in the past six months. This is despite Indonesia being the primary exit point for boats of asylum seekers to Australia and despite the fact that there are currently 4239 refugees in Indonesia awaiting resettlement. Lack of formal pathways to resettlement is directly contributing to irregular arrivals.

Labor for Refugees recommended to the Houston Panel that 2000 places be allocated annually to resettlement from Indonesia. This would effectively create a queue for resettlement in Australia.

Australia needs to assist with the processing of refugees in Indonesia and the region. This should include increased funding to the UNHCR in Indonesia in particular and processing of applications by the Australian Embassy, with staff preparing reports assessing claims which could then be sent to Immigration for completion. This may necessitate increased staffing levels at the Embassy, with costs offset against a reduction in processing costs on Christmas Island.

We need to assist the UNHCR with the processing of refugees in Indonesia. There were until recently only two people in Indonesia processing refugees, with UNHCR funding expected to be halved over the next few years. If we are serious about stopping people getting on unsafe boats, we need to increase funding to UNHCR and have more people processed in Indonesia, so refugees can see that they will have their claims heard, for free, rather than paying large sums to people smugglers.

Most importantly, as Labor for Refugees in its submission to the Houston Panel emphasised, it is crucial that we learn from the experience of offshore processing and TPVs under the Howard years. If we are genuinely concerned for the welfare of asylum seekers, these policies should not be reintroduced. The so-called Pacific Solution was high cost not only to the Australian taxpayer but in terms of adverse impacts on asylum seekers, most of whom qualified as refugees. The experience of incarceration in remote detention camps re-traumatised these vulnerable people, the majority of whom eventually resettled in Australia.

Can Labor learn? Not if the parliamentary party does not listen to its own party policy making forums. Making policy on the run does not good policy or good government make! If it is obvious that a policy or strategy is not working, then it is time to change direction and implement strategies that can work.

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miles.fotherington
Posted Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - 12:33

I would also add, it was never in Labor's (or general public's for that matter) interest to stop the boats - it was merely to stop the boats sinking.

Surely a good strategy to improve maritime safety is to actually, y'know, TRY to improve maritime safety. A good start would be to not confiscate or sink the boats that make it.

Omarkhayyam
Posted Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - 15:58

Obviously the humane thing to do is aid these asylum seekers before they embark on boats and bring them here safely.

However, humane behaviour and the behaviour of 'the powers that be' are mutually exclusive.

Generally 'the powers that be' have a very mercenary basis for their decisions, what can the profit motive be here??

lukeweyland
Posted Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - 17:02

Its time for all Labor and Coalition MPs to determine whether they have a conscience or not. Take a stand for human rights. Let your vote count in Parliament House - even if it means loss of a ministerial/shadow ministerial position - even if it means suspension or even expulsion from your party.

EG Whitlam, JM Fraser and Don Chip took a stand for refugees in the 1970s. Today the Democrats, Greens, Socialists continue to take a strong stand for the rights of all refugees.

K Brown
Posted Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - 19:25

The Labor for Refugees prescription to cure the boat people problem treats the symptoms not the cause. The prime purpose of the UN Refugee Convention is to encourage neighbouring countries to a conflict to solve it, so refugees are not created in the first place or they are protected in countries of first asylum and then returned home safely as soon as possible. Now that Australia has been elected to the UN Security Council we should make it our mission during our tenure to strengthen the Convention and encourage countries of first asylum and within the region to provide protection. Our foreign aid should be increased to 0.7% of GNP and funds should be earmarked to support countries providing protection to refugees.

Unfortunately, a major part of the problem is that neighbouring countries like Malaysia and Indonesia are doing little to deter the movement of asylum seekers to Australia. The lack of co-operation by Indonesia in stamping out people smuggling and the corruption that allows it to thrive, is the most critical factor in nearly every aspect of the boat people problem. Indonesia is relaxing visa restrictions for entry into Indonesia from source or transit countries actively targeted by the people smugglers. This fact is not only totally ignored by Labor for Refugees but their proposal to establish an Indonesian check-in counter in for refugees exacerbates this problem.

Over 6,000 boat people have arrived in the first three months of the 2012/13 year. At this rate our increased refugee intake of 20,000 for the year for is going to be blown and thousands of refugees in greater need of protection but without the resources to pay a people smuggler are left sitting in refugee camps around the World. Labor for Refugees “out of sight – out of mind” policy for these refugees is reprehensible. Surely we should follow the principle that we assist those in most need first?

Michael_Wilbur-Ham
Posted Thursday, November 1, 2012 - 17:20

We get the politicians we vote for, so a democracy is all about a well informed public deciding which party to support.

The first report on this issue I saw was Tuesday nights Lateline. This report was great for showing how Labor had reversed its position, and how the Liberals were deriding Labor for the cost of Narru when it was their idea to send people there.

The only mention of the Greens, the only party to oppose the changes to the migration zone, was from a Liberal politician who said he opposed the Greens views, but at least, unlike Labor he knew what they stood for.

So no real coverage by the ABC of the only party who opposes the change.

Wednesday's Age had two articles on this topic. Neither Michelle Gratton nor the opinion piece mentioned the Greens.

Michelle Gratton in today's (Thursday) Age again writes about this topic and again does not mention the Greens. The editorial in The Age is a strong rebuttal to what Labor is doing (supporting the view of the Greens) and yet it too fails to mention the Greens.

There is now only one party who oppose this change to our migration zone, only one party who supports the editorial of today's Age, yet the Age has totally ignored them.

This blatant bias would be hard to believe if it were not there in black and white.

What is the chance of voter's being informed if the so called 'balanced' ABC and the so called 'progressive' Age both are so biased against the only alternative?

Betty
Posted Thursday, November 1, 2012 - 20:34

Betty
If the Government can't do humane things for asylum seekers, get the troops out of Afghanistan and don't send any more to the Middle
East or anywhere else overseas that America beckons us. This is America's mess blaming them for 9/11 when it was lies to cover the Bush Administration's perfidy. Leave them to it and the consequences of it. While we have troops interfering in the lives of other countries we have a DEFINITE obligation to pick up the flotsam and jetsam we have been involved in causing - to add to the UN Convention to take care that Australia has signed and ratified.

And do not take anymore naval nuclear powered and armed vessels into our ports, least of all ADF naval base at Stirling, Garden Island, that Hillary Clinton is no doubt visiting Perth to romance out of Defence Minister, Hon.Stephen Smith parking for nuclear armed and powered air craft carriers. Serve Australia, please. It began as USA R & R in Perth and has had massive encroachment since!! NO FURTHER - STOP - THINK AUSTRALIA FIRST. We are supposed to be reaching out in friendship to Asian countries, not intimidating them.

Take Hillary Clinton for a walk to Garden Island from Point Peron when the tide is out; visit the meteorologists about prevailing winds across Perth from there, take her to Rottnest Island to see the pollution across the city by night from Kwinana Industrial facilities and up to ZIG ZAG to see another aspect of it.....but don't give her access to Garden Island ADF facilities!!

Michael_Wilbur-Ham
Posted Friday, November 2, 2012 - 09:26

Waleed Aly is a good ABC / The Age journalist ...

Have a look at this article:
http://m.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/shattering-the-facade-of-kindnes...

Which party's views is he strongly supporting?

Which party is not mentioned?

I'm getting a feeling that it would be easier for progressive commentators to come out and say that they are gay / suffer depression / are bed wetters than to admit that their view on an issue is shared by The Greens.

jennyhaines
Posted Saturday, November 3, 2012 - 10:02

K Brown - Indonesia has a population of 237 million expected to grow to a population of 265 million by 2020. There are 300 different ethinicities in Indonesia and 742 languages and dialects. Indonesia is made up of 17,000 islands about 6,000 of which are inhabited. In Java the population density is 940 people per square kilometer. The Indonesias are stuggling to manage their population and their resources in balance and since the middle of the 20th century they have had a immigrasi policy of trying to spread their population out over the land mass of Indonesia, which as we know has caused loads of tension in East Timor before independence and now West Papua. No wonder the Indonesians move refugees on to Australia as soon as they can.
Malaysia had a population of 27.5 million in 2010, making it the 43rd most populated country in the world They have a landmass 330,000 square kilometere. Malays make up 50% of the population. The rest of the population is a mix of non Malays, Chinese, and Indians. Malaysia maintains a delicate balance between its ethnicities and cultures and does not need the extra problems that refugees that are passing through bring and the strain that they place on services. No wonder the Malaysians are happy to see refugees move on towards Australia.

Labor for Refugees does not ignore the people sitting in camps of country of origin. We challenge those who profess great concern for these people to say what they are doing for these people (eg donations to charities, volunteering to work in the camps, lobbying the government to increase foreign aid) and what they expect our government to be doing for the people in the camps. It is interesting to find that those who profess great concern for people in these camps also support cutting foreign aid to countries of need. It is not Labor for Refugees who are out of sight out of mind - it is these people who are self centred and dont want to take a world view, just an Australian centric view of the world.

Labor for Refugees supports the internationally recognised right of refugees to seek asylum in third countries however they arrive, by boat or by plane. We are glad, and proud that the Greens have been principled enough in government to stand up for these rights when many in our own party have not. The Greens should be commended for their humanity and given greater recognition by the mainstream media than they are, but such is the parlous state of our media.

And Gazza - We also support and recently called on the government to support a system of private sponsorship of refugees to come to Australia. We recently wrote to the government proposing a system of private sponsorship but have not yet received a reply. Labor for Refugees is not a cabal. It is supported hy hundreds of members of the Labor Party in Queensland, NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia and the ACT.

Michael_Wilbur-Ham
Posted Saturday, November 3, 2012 - 12:03

jennyhaines - Labor for Refugees seems to make as much sense as Right-To-Life for freedom of choice.

I think we are long past the point where any progressive thinker can support Labor on a wide range of issues.

Australia is a low tax country compared to other OECD countries, yet Labor are proud that under them taxation as a percentage of GDP is the lowest it has been in 20 years.

On most issues, compared to the OECD, Labor are clearly shown to be a party of the RIGHT.

Why are we in this current mess (on refugees and many other things)?

I think it is because most of those who support progressive ideas waste all of their energy and all of their lobbying on wishing for Labor to become progressive.

If you support and vote for Labor or Liberal then you have supported the current line on refugees. Don't blame them - take responsibility for getting what you voted for.

K Brown
Posted Sunday, November 4, 2012 - 15:50

jennyhaines – I have lived in Malaysia and visited Indonesia and worked with Indonesian companies for 30 years. I think everyone is quite aware of Indonesia’s ethnic diversity and while they have a National policy of "Bhinneka Tunggal Ika" (Unity in Diversity") my Indonesian sources indicate they do not want to further complicate their ethno-religious matrix by becoming a host nation for Middle Eastern refugee communities en-route to Australia. Labor for Refugees proposal to set-up an Indonesian check-in counter for 2000 refugees per year will make Indonesia a “honey-pot” for refugees and I would be interested to know what, if any consultation you have conducted within Indonesia on this proposal. Australia has an abysmal record of consulting our neighbours before pronouncing our policies. I suspect Labor for Refugees austral Asian-centric view on this issue perpetuates this.

You make the point that we only accepted 56 refugees from Indonesia last year. The reason for that is there are millions of other refugees around the World in greater need of protection and I for one believe that the moral choice is to take those in greatest need first. Clearly you and Labor for Refugees believe refugees that have the resources to pay a people smuggler have first call. I cannot recall a bigger cop-out than Labor for Refugees platform on this issue is to “challenge those who profess great concern for these people to say what they are doing for these people (eg donations to charities, volunteering to work in the camps, lobbying the government to increase foreign aid) and what they expect our government to be doing for the people in the camps.”

The UN Refugee Convention is broke. It was never intended that signatories like Australia would have to take transnational refugees shopping around for the best economic sinecure. The intention of the Convention was for neighboring countries to resolve issues and refugees to move back to their countries.

jennyhaines
Posted Sunday, November 4, 2012 - 19:43

Isnt that interesting! Chris Bowen uses that honeypot argument to counter what Labor for Refugees proposes. But if the honeypot effect was to have happened, why didn't it happen during the period of onshore processing? There has been ample opporutnity over the last 12 years at least for the honeypot effect to happen and it hasn't. What this honeypot effect argument doesn't take into account are the difficulties refugees face in getting to Indonesia - getting out of their country of origin, financial resources, the effect on their physical and mental health from the prolonged travel, not having passports and travel papers, harassment and violence along the refugee trail and on and on with all of the things that make life difficult for asylum seekers on the trail to Indonesia.

Only accepting 56 refugees from Indonesia provides incentive for people to take a risk on a boat. If they waited in Indonesia they could be there for many years, all of the years of their childrens education.Why not at least give those who the UN has recognised as refugees better access to Australia by flying them here by plane or safe boat. Fraser flew Vietnamese refugees to Australia by agreement with the Vietnamese Government as part of the Orderly Departure Program, to stop them getting on boats and being attacked by pirates and turned around by the Malaysian military to die at sea.

Our point about the people in the countries of origin is that those who profess great concern about these people are usually full of humbug as they are doing nothing for these people, despite their great need.

The Refugee Convention was negotiated to protect vulnerable people from being returned to countries where they could face persecution, internment or death. That is what happened to the Jews returned by western countries to Europe to die in the concentration camps. The Refugee Convention was negotiated to prevent that ever happening again and its intent then and its intent now should be respected by those who lead a party called the Labor Party.

EarthFan
Posted Sunday, November 4, 2012 - 21:17

A am amazed that a political party that purports to represent the interests of working class Australians should have a policy that advocates bringing in as migrants, tens of thousands of semi skilled men and their families.

Since the International Convention for Refugees was ratified, the world's population has doubled, and many countries, Australia included, have reduced their reproduction rates to replacement levels or below. It is no coincidence that the refugees wanting to become Australians are coming from areas of the world where the birthrates are high. If Afghanistan has 30 million people, it is well and truly overpopulated and has a high birthrate as well.

Common sense tells us that, whatever a country's problems may be, a high birthrate can only add to them. It is hard to imagine how any government can supply jobs, education, clean water etc., to all their citizens while they continue to breed at the rate our forefathers did. And when they fail, conflict is inevitable. Where would the Chinese be now, if they had not introduced a one child policy 30 years ago?

Poverty breeds conflict and high birth rates breed poverty. Parents in undeveloped countries create the conditions for conflict when they try to provide for their own future security by having four or more children. It is not reasonable for them then, to demand that those who have practised greater restraint, rescue their able bodied sons from the situation they themselves helped to create.

It is time for Australia, and all other countries that are reproducing at replacement rate and below, to opt out of the International Convention for Refugees. We should not have to shoulder the burdens caused by other peoples' irresponsible breeding.

I heard Chris Bowen announce on television that Labor stands for gender equality and freedom of religion. He doesn't seem to realise that these two aims are contradictory.
Many asylum seekers are men who have chosen to believe that the Qur'an is the perfect word of God. The Qur'an is supportive of slavery, wife beating and paedophilia. and decrees that a man's legal testimony has twice the value of a woman's.
The male Muslim asylum seekers are asking for a degree of security and freedom for themselves that, by their choice of religion, they deny their wives, daughters and mothers.
Any increase in the Muslim vote, is a threat to Australian women's freedom and security. If Labor genuinely stands for gender equality, it won't pursue policies that increase the size of the Muslim voter population.

Australia is inflicting a burden on Malaysia and Indonesia by offering to people from countries to their north, a western standard of living. Unlike Australia, both of those countries had the good sense to avoid signing away control of their borders by ratifying the UN Refugee Convention.

Betty
Posted Monday, November 5, 2012 - 01:44

Betty
Excellent comment EArthfan - I hope lots of politicians are reading New Matilda.

jennyhaines
Posted Monday, November 5, 2012 - 10:29

Earthfan - you don't take into account the distribution of Australia's population across age groups. With the ageing of the baby boomers and the lower birth rate in the younger generations there are shortages of skilled and semi skilled workers in many occupations in Australia. Governments are addressing this but there are still areas of shortage see the link for example. http://www.business.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/25147/Revised....

But you also fail to take account of the fact that asylum seekers are not just fleeing overcrowding caused by population growth. They are fleeing war, terror, torture, internment, and persecution. They have every right under international law to seek asylum whether they arrive by boat or by plane, whatever ethnicity or religious background they come from.

Your comments about Islam are based on ignorance. Up until the 19th century, Christian Britain supported slavery. The British Empire and early America was built by slaves. Wife beating is still common today in Australia which calls itself a Christian country. The facts are that if you go to areas where Muslims are concentrated in the population you would find they are Labor heartlands eg Auburn, Lakemba, and the majority of Muslims in Australia vote Labor. Islam like Christianity has many divisions and subdivisions. Islam is not one belief, it is many beliefs, many of whom are very tolerant of women's rights in a different way to what we understand and tolerant of other religions.

jennyhaines
Posted Monday, November 5, 2012 - 10:47

Earthfan - you talk about Muslims being pedophiles. Have you taken a look at what has been happening in the Catholic church recently? I think we already have a religion that protects pedophiles and I would be interested to see some statistics from you that back up your claims about Muslims and pedophilia.

EarthFan
Posted Monday, November 5, 2012 - 14:10

jennyhaines: Ignorance? Have you actually read the Qur'an? I have, and the Bible also. The Catholic Church has protected its paedophile priests, but that does not make paedophilia Christian. No one reveres the paedophile priests or holds them up as examples of human perfection.

Do you really think that I am not aware that Muslims vary in the way they interpret the Qur'an? Nevertheless, Muslims are united in their belief that the words dictated by the seventh century illiterate warmonger, Mohammed, are the perfect words of God, and are therefore an authority higher than any human government. And their own historians record that Mohammed married a six-year-old and consummated the marriage when the girl was nine. This is the man Muslims revere, and regard as a perfect example of how men should behave. Google "child marriage" and the names of Islamic countries for reports on government attempts to place a minimum age on the marriage for girls. It is the 21st century and Muslim clerics are opposing minimum ages above nine years because of Mohammed's example.

The Qur'an, like the Bible, takes slavery for granted, but there is nothing in it that an abolitionist could use to end slavery. There is no 'love one another' in the Qur'an. The best there is, is a requirement to be charitable, (within narrow limits) and earn rewards in heaven for doing so. And there is advice to be 'kind'. It was the Christian west that made slavery illegal.

Do you honestly think that I am not aware that there is domestic violence in all societies? But show me where in the Bible it advocates beating a disobedient wife. The Qur'an actually ADVOCATES the beating of disobedient wives. (Sura 4, 35). Because Australia is a Christian country, wife-beating is against the law.

There are plenty of non-Christian Australian men who would like to be able to beat their wives legally and others who would like to legally have sex with nine-years olds. Once Muslims have built up their numbers, they will be in a position to change the laws that, at present, protect women and girls.

EarthFan
Posted Tuesday, November 6, 2012 - 04:34

Jennyhaines: you accuse me of not taking into account the need for skilled workers. My comment refers to semi-skilled workers. How many of the tens of thousands of asylum seekers have the skills listed in your reference?

Do you really think that overpopulation is just a matter of 'overcrowding'. My comment made no suggestion that anyone was fleeing "overcrowding". What exactly do you think causes war? My point is that the conditions for conflict are created by those who seek to establish security for themselves by having four or more children. When there are too many people for the resources available, more for 'them' means 'less for us'. That people in competition for control of scarce resources ally themselves with others of the same culture and religion, does not make the wars religious. The most inhumane people in the whole refugee tragedy are the men who sire more children when they cannot provide safety and support for those they already have.

To discriminate on the basis of race is unfair because none of us can choose our race. Religion, on the other hand is entirely optional. If the UN Convention does not allow us to exclude people who believe that a woman's legal testimony is worth half the testimony of the man who attacks her, that is a very good reason to opt out of it. Excluding from Australia those who have chosen to embrace the teachings of the paedophile Mohammed, does not prevent them from practising their religion elsewhere.

Your claim that Muslims vote Labor is credible. Present Labor policies stand to increase their voting power. This is a matter for concern. Democracy is a numbers game. Through immigration, and by having large families, Muslims in Europe have put themselves in a position to demand Sharia courts, because political parties don't want to risk losing their support. As I have daughters, and have read the Qur'an, I cannot vote for a political party that supports the migration of Muslims, asylum seeking or not.

The UN Convention on Refugees is sexist. What makes death from 'persecution' somehow more dreadful than death in childbirth or by starvation? Could it be that, while men are under threat from 'persecution' they don't die in childbirth or starve? Women and children do.

What is the point of resettling refugees in Australia if those left out just breed more refugees? Instead of ruining Australia, which is already overpopulated, by bringing in unskilled migrants, we should be directing our humanitarian effort towards educating girls in undeveloped countries and supplying them with contraceptive technology.

And jennyhaines: - when you come across comments that contradict your own opinions, it is the height of arrogance to accuse the author of "ignorance" or "failing to take into account…".

EarthFan
Posted Tuesday, November 6, 2012 - 04:41

Jennyhaines: you accuse me of not taking into account the need for skilled workers. My comment refers to semi-skilled workers. How many of the tens of thousands of asylum seekers have the skills listed in your reference?

Do you really think that overpopulation is just a matter of 'overcrowding'? My comment made no suggestion that anyone was fleeing "overcrowding". What exactly do you think causes war? The conditions for conflict are created by those who seek to establish security for themselves by having four or more children. When there are too many people for the resources available, more for 'them' means 'less for us'. That people in competition for control of scarce resources ally themselves with others of the same culture and religion, does not make the wars religious. The most inhumane people in the whole refugee tragedy are the men who sire more children when they cannot provide safety and support for those they already have.

To discriminate on the basis of race is unfair because none of us can choose our race. Religion, on the other hand is entirely optional. If the UN Convention does not allow us to exclude people who believe that a woman's legal testimony is worth half the testimony of the man who attacks her, that is a very good reason to opt out of it. Excluding from Australia those who have chosen to embrace the teachings of the paedophile Mohammed, does not prevent them from practising their religion elsewhere.

Your claim that Muslims vote Labor is credible. Present Labor policies stand to increase their voting power. This is a matter for concern. Democracy is a numbers game. Through immigration, and by having large families, Muslims in Europe have put themselves in a position to demand Sharia courts, because political parties don't want to risk losing their support. As I have daughters, and have read the Qur'an, I cannot vote for a political party that supports the migration of Muslims, asylum seeking or not.

The UN Convention on Refugees is sexist. What makes death from 'persecution' somehow more dreadful than death in childbirth or by starvation? Could it be that, while men are under threat from 'persecution' they don't die in childbirth or starve? Women and children do.

What is the point of resettling refugees in Australia if those left out just breed more refugees? Instead of ruining Australia, which is already overpopulated, by bringing in unskilled migrants, we should be directing our humanitarian effort towards educating girls in undeveloped countries and supplying them with contraceptive technology.

And jennyhaines: - when you come across comments that contradict your own opinions, it is the height of arrogance to accuse the author of "ignorance" or "failing to take into account…".

jennyhaines
Posted Tuesday, November 6, 2012 - 10:53

Earthfan - I admit that I am not a Koranic scholar but I am aware of the tradition of Muslim intellectual discourse on the meaning on the Koran which has taken place over centuries. In recent times with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, the demand for the one fundamentalist interpretation of the Koran has become more prevalent. I have read some of the Koran but I rely on intellectuals and experts on the subject. I particularly like the work of Tariq Ali, who was born into a wealthy Pakistani family and went on to become a socialist activist in Britain. Tariq has written dozens of books on world history and politics but on this subject I particularly like "The Clash of Fundamentalisms, Crusades, Jihads and Modernity".Tariq was born an atheist but in this book canvasses in detail the origins of Islam, Ottomanism and the place of women in Islam. As a socialist he is saddened by the retreat of socialism in the Islamic world and the success of his old rivals the Islamists, in particular the fundamentalist Islamists, who have moved in to fill the void left by the decline of socialism. Fundamentalist Islam is a religion that is being used as an organising force for political purposes in the Islamic world, riding over more moderate and tolerant versions of Muslim belief. All religions can and have been used in this way. Christianity fully supported the slaughter of Muslims during the crusades, and the Muslim world has not forgotten that. It is still very real to many Muslims who think of history in terms of centuries ago and not just last week.

The reason I used the work ignorance is because you seem determined to see the Muslim world in a certain way and not see the diversity and tolerance that can be there when that world is not under threat and at war as it is now. Chapter 6 , titled "The Joys of Heresy" of Tariq Ali's "Clash of Fundamentalisms" is about the intellectual ferment within Islam after the death of Mohammed and the formation of many of the divisions within Islam. For examples -"Ibn Sina (980-1037), born near Bukhara, laid the basis for a study of logic, science, philosophy, politics and medicine. He was critical of Aristotle's Logic, regarding it as too remote from everyday life and therefore inapplicable. His skills as a physician led his employees, the native rulers of Khurasan and Isafahan, to seek his advice on political matters. Here, like Machiavelli after him, he gave advice that annoyed some of his patrons...It was his philosophical ideas ...which engaged with metaphysical question of substance and being, existence and essence. In subsequent centuries these were to reach Western Europe, where "Avicenna" was hotly debated. He questioned the resurrection of the body, but not the soul (probably a concession to Islamic orthodoxy). This was one reason why 2 decrees in 1210 and 1215 banned his works from being studied in the Sorbonne. Fifteen years later, a more clement pope, Gregory IX, lifted the restriction."

Michael_Wilbur-Ham
Posted Tuesday, November 6, 2012 - 17:18

jennyhaines seems happy to debate EarthFan, but has not commented on my earlier post.

The reason we are in this mess is that people like Jenny support the party that does the opposite of what she wants.

Perhaps Jenny is also in favour of gay marriage, getting our troops out of Afghanistan, a mining tax which actually raises some money, increasing unemployment benefits, not selling uranium to India, not compensating the polluters with money raised by the carbon tax, not reducing the benefits to single mothers, etc etc

If you support and vote for Labor or Liberal then you have supported the current line on refugees and all these other issues. Don’t blame them - take responsibility for getting what you voted for.

EarthFan
Posted Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - 00:44

jennyhaines: "Christianity fully supported the slaughter of Muslims during the crusades,"
The statement above is false. You are confusing a belief system with people who claim to embrace the belief system, while violating its principles. There is nothing in the New Testament (or the Old Testament either, in this case) that could be used to justify the attempt by Europeans to gain control of Jerusalem. Their actions were in opposition to the very clear instructions given to Christians in the New Testament.
On the other hand, Al Qaeda has no difficulty finding quotes in the Qur'an to justify its activities.

There is an often expressed idea, that so long as Islam isn't 'fundamentalist,' it can do us no harm. I don't believe that is the case.

You have not mentioned any Muslim scholar who is willing to repudiate Mohammed's teaching on the treatment of women and girls.

jennyhaines
Posted Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - 13:44

Wilbur-Ham - you are right I have been so engaged in discussion with Earthfan than I overlooked your posts. I have been a member of the Labor Party since 1975. It is not one monolithic party. It is, or was a very diverse party in which debate is still allowed. I may support any or all of the things that you list and I certainly support those platform of Labor for Refugees that is also supported by hundreds of members of the Labor Party in Qld, NSW< Victoria, Tasmania, SA,WA and the ACT. By taking issues up through the party structure and changing party policy we are being responsible party members. Getting the politicians to adhere to policy- that is the difficult part.

Earthfan - The Crusades were a series of religious expeditionary wars blessed by Pope Urban II and the Catholic Church, with the stated goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem. Jerusalem was and is a sacred city and symbol of all three major Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam).[1] The background to the Crusades was set when the Seljuk Turks decisively defeated the Byzantine army in 1071 and cut off Christian access to Jerusalem. The Byzantine emperor, Alexis I feared that all Asia Minor would be overrun. He called on western Christian leaders and the papacy to come to the aid of Constantinople by undertaking a pilgrimage or a crusade that would free Jerusalem from Muslim rule.[2] Another cause was the destruction of many Christian sacred sites and the persecution of Christians under the Fatimid caliph Al-Hakim
(Reference, Wkipedia)

jennyhaines
Posted Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - 13:50

"Many classical Islamic scholars, such as al-Tabari, supported female leadership.[117] In early Islamic history, women including Aisha, Ume Warqa, and Samra Binte Wahaib took part in political activities.[110] Other historical Muslim female leaders include Razia Sultana, who ruled the Sultanate of Delhi from 1236 to 1239,[118][119] and Shajarat ad-Durr, who ruled Egypt from 1250 to 1257.[120]

In 1988 Pakistan became the first Muslim Majority state with a female Prime Minister. In the past several decades, many countries in which Muslims are a majority, including Indonesia,[121] Pakistan,[122] Bangladesh,[123] and Turkey,[124] and Kyrgyzstan have been led by women. Nearly one-third of the Parliament of Egypt also consists of women.[125]

Segregated Iraqi women waiting to vote in elections, 2005.According to Sheikh Zoubir Bouchikhi, Imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston’s Southeast Mosque, nothing in Islam specifically allows or disallows voting by women.[126] Until recently most Muslim nations were non-democratic, but most today allow their citizens to have some level of voting and control over their government. The disparate times at which women’s suffrage was granted in Muslim-majority countries is indicative of the varied traditions and values present within the Muslim world. Azerbaijan has had women's suffrage since 1918.

Saudi women have been allowed to vote in some elections.[127][128]"

This is easy to find online.

Michael_Wilbur-Ham
Posted Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - 17:56

@Jenny - Labor has changed since Whitlam :)

Whilst EarthFan probably just writes posts and has little political impact, as a Labor party member you probably work hard to get and then keep Labor in power. You probably hand out how-to-vote cards. You try to convince people to vote Labor.

By working to put Labor in power YOU SHARE RESPONSIBILITY for our current refugee mess. And you share responsibility for all the other things that Labor does that you oppose, like gay marriage, etc etc

I just rejoined The Greens, and I assure you that if the Greens reneged on any of the major issues which I care about I would resign. I don't care about a party, I care about policies, and I'm a member of The Greens because I support almost all of their policies.

If only you, and the many people like you, could forget about Labor's proud history and decide who to support by policy and how each party votes in parliament,

I care about refugees. You care more about Labor.

jennyhaines
Posted Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - 19:53

Wilbur-Ham - while I am a Labor member you have no idea how I vote. I am one of those party members who advocate strongly for greater co-operation between the Labor Party and the Greens to my cost. It is because I care about refugees that I have taken a stand to support Labor for Refugees, again to my cost within the party. We have copped a beating for praising the Greens stance on refugees. It is hard to remain principled within the modern Labor Party, but it can be done, but it costs you. It may be comfortable for you within the Greens where your fellow party members are more likely to agree with you. It is harder to stay in the Labor Party and argue for more humane practices in government based on the policy changes we work hard to achieve.

jennyhaines
Posted Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - 19:53

Wilbur-Ham - while I am a Labor member you have no idea how I vote. I am one of those party members who advocate strongly for greater co-operation between the Labor Party and the Greens to my cost. It is because I care about refugees that I have taken a stand to support Labor for Refugees, again to my cost within the party. We have copped a beating for praising the Greens stance on refugees. It is hard to remain principled within the modern Labor Party, but it can be done, but it costs you. It may be comfortable for you within the Greens where your fellow party members are more likely to agree with you. It is harder to stay in the Labor Party and argue for more humane practices in government based on the policy changes we work hard to achieve.

EarthFan
Posted Thursday, November 8, 2012 - 00:24

jenny haines: You are correct, there is nothing against a woman voting in the Qur'an. Whether she votes or not will depend on whether her husband decides to allow her to vote.
Saudi women vote for exactly what? They aren't allowed to drive or even leave their homes unaccompanied.
And those female leaders in Pakistan etc.? Most of them were figureheads representing the male relatives who have died.
Pope Urban II was hardly a Christian even though he headed the Catholic church. Until the reformation, the papacy had little to do with the teachings of Christ or his followers.

Michael_Wilbur-Ham
Posted Thursday, November 8, 2012 - 10:47

Jenny - I think your post proves my point - that your loyalty to a party is more important that any of the policies which you support.

I met several Green federal politicians a few weeks ago and we didn't discuss policies. There was no need - I knew what they stood for and I supported them.

I am passionate about many policies, and it just so happens that the Greens support most of what I support. I chose to become a Greens member because they represent my views in parliament.

If my views were to change, or if the Greens politicians veer away from what I support, I'll stop supporting the Greens and try to find a better match. I don't care about party - I care about policy.

The reason we are in this mess (refugees and many other issues) is that most progressive thinkers campaign for Labor to change its ways rather than support the Greens.

The Age newspaper does this best - lots of articles and editorials which strongly support Greens policy (and slam what Labor is doing) but no mention of the Greens in these articles/editorials.

We see the same again and again on Q&A - the non-politician speaking against Labor what Labor is doing, not mentioning the Greens, and thus implying that the only way to get things right is for Labor to change.

Why is staying a member of the Labor party more important than policy? It makes no sense to me.

jennyhaines
Posted Thursday, November 8, 2012 - 12:33

Wilbur-Ham - you have made your choice to join and support the Greens. Good for you. I choose to stay in the Labor Party that I have been a member of for a long time. Parties are not just single issue parties. Labor has a large and complex platform built on labor values. Labor is still a possible party of government where it can implement that platform, if it wishes.

The Greens are a thriving party of the left, but the Greens have their divisions and their factions, just like any other party. There are some views on some issues in the Greens that I like and some I don't like. I think Labor and the Greens should work closely on our commonalities because we need each other in a conservative world.

Policy is very important to me. That's why I am a member of Labor for Refugees that holds policies that differ significantly from the parliamentary party in government. We believe our policies more truly reflect Labor values than what is being implemented by the current government. But we will continue to lobby and do whatever we can to bring about a more humane approach to refugees and asylum seekers by the Labor Government in Canberra.

EarthFan
Posted Friday, November 9, 2012 - 20:09

Jennyhaines: Have you found any Islamic scholars who assert that a woman's legal testimony is equal to that of a man's? Do any of them repudiate Sura2, 280 and Sura 4, 35 of the Qur'an?
If Muslims are to be Australian citizens, and serve on juries, how will any Australian woman be able to count on the protection of our courts? There will be people making judgements on rape and domestic violence cases who regard the victim's legal testimony as having half the value of the testimony of the man who is charged with attacking her.

Michael_Wilbur-Ham
Posted Saturday, November 10, 2012 - 17:25

Haines (I'm not sure why you call me by my surname, but as this seems proper for you, I do the same for you.)

In the past Labor has done some great things. But looking at today's Labor I genuinely wonder what Labor value are?

I can very easily write a long list of why I think Labor is now just an uncaring party of the right. Amazingly I can even give examples of where Labor is more to the right than Howard!

I decide who to support and who to lobby for in forums such as this based on the policies I support.

I think it is clear that you support Labor, and thus share responsibly for all that they do, even when their policies are the opposite of what you desire.

People like EarthFan will always disagree with compassion for refugees. He is not the problem. The reason that Australia has moved so far to the right is people like you - those who pretend to care but still support Labor.