Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Crickey.com.au copped out

As I mentioned yesterday, Stephen Mayne, the founder of crikey.com.au is not a fan of Glen Milne's work, and vice-versa.

There was no mention of Milne's story from yesterday's "Sunday Tele" in today's Crikey. As I predicted, the Crikey people are thinner skinned than the people they like to attack.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Howard "Old, Desperate and Sneaky"

Hey, its not my wording - its straight from the Sunday Telegraph.
In fact it is a screaming headline, on Page One.

And even Glen Milne (the journalist involved) can claim, as he does, that these are the conclusions from a poll done by the Labor Party, but "obtained by" the Sunday Telegraph.

Cute expression that one: not "leaked to", but "obtained by".

I suggest that you read the full article (use link above).
I must say, I am surprised that the Labor Party would so obviously release something as potentially damaging to Howard, vis-a-vis Costello. They must also have polling which tells them they are even more likely to win against Costello than Howard. Risky gamble, that one, I think.

Howard is definitely "on the nose". While he is sneaky, and tricky, he is definitely not able to experience a "honeymoon" effect, which could just happen with Costello, should the Liberals decide to dump Howard prior to the election.


Now here is an interesting challenge for crikey.com.au

Normally they would headline this story - in tomorrow's edition. They love all this political controversy, and internecine Liberal Party politics, especially Costello stories (they usually refer to him as "The Smirk").

But the article is written by Glen Milne, who is memorable for his "apparent assault" on Crikey's founder Stephen Mayne, at a televised Walkey Awards ceremony earlier in the year - on account of Milne's obvious dissatisfaction with Mayne's entitlement to the award he was given. The link above takes you to the Age's report of the Awards, and photo and discussion of the "incident".

You can even follow this link to see it all, over and over again, on YouTube

How forgiving is Stephen Mayne? We shall see tomorrow.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Dr Haneef = India's David Hicks

If you were an Indian citizen, why would you not think that Australia was treating Dr Haneef just as the Americans treated David Hicks?

Dr Haneef - in a prison van.
Photo Eddie Safarik - SMH 19 July 2007

The costume looks familiar - with different colour code, that's all.
Bare feet is a nice touch, don't you think?
He's clearly enjoying his stay in Australia.
A new "poster boy" for the Tourism Australia, perhaps? It gives a whole new meaning to their major (and expensive) advertising campaign:
"So, where the bloody hell are you?"

Incidentally, Tourism Australia's website reports Indian tourism is the 15th most important market for Australian inbound tourism.
  • "India is Australia's fifteenth largest source market in terms of total expenditure. In 2006 travellers from India spent a total of $395 million on trips to Australia, with an average expenditure of $5,032 per trip."
Back on the parallels with the Hicks case:
  • OK - maybe a few less torture threats, but apart from that - there is not much to choose between their cases.
  • Mysterious charges;
  • no appeal;
  • legal remedies denied.

So, why would the Indian Government and people not be outraged? Just as Australians eventually became outraged by the American treatment of Hicks.

Read what the Sydney Morning Herald said this morning.

Then read what the Bloggers say, over at the "Road to Surfdom". Why not say what you really think, guys? Nothing like a bit of vibrant discussion - especially when getting stuck into the Attorney(hypocrite)-General - whom they refer to as the "Corpse who walks" - cute.

Read the "comments". Very informative, or at least enlightening to see what people are saying on the Internet, at that site.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

How many is too many, Mr Bush?

Here is a report straight from today's edition of crikey.com.au
16. Iraq: more deaths than during the Rwandan genocide?

Jeff Sparrow writes:

Some time back, the prestigious medical journal The Lancet published a study that put the number of violent deaths attributable to the invasion and occupation of Iraq at 601,000.

While Messrs Bush, Blair and Howard – noted statisticians all – dismissed the figure with lordly waves, an impressive array of Australian scientists was less sanguine. They explained to The Age why they judged the report valid: “The cross-sectional household cluster sample survey method used is a standard, robust, well-established method for gathering health data. A copy of a death certificate was available for a high proportion (92%) of deaths. Conservative assumptions were made about deaths of uncertain cause and about the small areas not sampled.”

The Lancet study was based on data current to July 2006. Now the American group Just Foreign Policy has produced an updated figure, suggesting that to date the war and occupation have killed nearly a million Iraqis.

As Just Foreign Policy acknowledges, the number is an extrapolation and it lacks the methodological rigour of The Lancet report. Basically, it projects the earlier figures forward, using a rate based on the Iraq Body Count project’s tabulation of deaths reported in the media.

Less than perfect, sure – but the best estimate we have. And it indicates that more people have died in Iraq than during the Rwandan genocide. Now what took place in Rwanda was undoubtedly a crime. So what about Iraq?

It should be remembered that, in 2003, many – perhaps most – experts doubted that the invasion had any basis in international law. As thirty-one Canadian law professors explained in one of the many open letters circulating at the time, the Iraq war represented “a fundamental breach of international law (that) would seriously threaten the integrity of the international legal order that has been in place since the end of the Second World War."

Of course, as recent events have shown, law enforcement maintains its own priorities. Recklessly loaning a SIM card lands you in indefinite detention; devastating another country, not so much.

Whatever the legal consequences of the Iraq death toll, the moral implications are inescapable. WH Auden put it perfectly, in lines that might have been composed after reading the Just Foreign Policy report:

And the truth cannot be hid;
Somebody chose their pain,
What needn’t have happened did.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Dr Haneef - Guilty - of being an Indian

Oh Please! Kevin Andrews, wake up. You are the problem here.

First we lock up "an Indian National", working in Australia on a "457" work visa. Then, despite the provisions of the anti-terrorism legislation which Phillip Ruddock dreamt up, which was supposedly designed to be ultra-secret, the "authorities" leak his name and photograph, and accuse him of being a cousin of a "Terrorist". Then we leak the story that he "recklessly gave material aid to Terrorists".

How many people do you know who have swapped mobile phones? Or sold them on cheaply to mates, because there was another model they liked more? Mobile Phones are not like "real property" - they are lost, stolen, passed on by younger people. It is only old boring people like me who tend to keep their "mobiles" for long times.

Then, despite the supposed water tight provisions of Ruddock's legislation, the Magistrate is about to release Dr Haneef, because clearly she is not convinced that he poses any threat to man, woman or child in Australia.

Then Kevin Andrews gets a call from the head of the Commonwealth Police, to warn him what is going down, so they decide that the Minister can use his powers (under Section 501 of the Migration Act) to deem Dr Haneef to be a person of "bad character".

He does not have to be proven to be of bad character. It is the Minister's judgement (only) which is the "test" - without any evidence being required, or any court of law to sit in judgement.

Kangaroo Court? No. No court required! Just Kevin Andrews.

Racist Humbug? Or just plain Howard Government political Humbuggery? You decide!

If you think I am going over the top, you should see what they are saying, over at crikey.com.au

I was treated (successfully) in hospital, in Canberra, in 2005 and 2006, by a succession of young, intelligent, well trained foreign doctors. The majority of them were of Indian origin. I was deeply grateful to them, as individuals, and frequently expressed my personal appreciation for the work they did for me. Does that make me guilty of providing emotional support to Terrorists? Or, by being sufficiently sick that my illness created employment for them, perhaps even guilty of indirectly providing material support for Terrorists?

Oh, please, Ministers Ruddock and Andrews - get a life. It's preferable to destroying one.

How will you staff the hospitals of Australia if your jack-booted colleagues go around scaring away the same young, intelligent and well-trained foreign doctors?

Have you even thought of that?

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Welfare "reform" madness.

On Saturday 14 July 2007, both the Liberal Party (Government) and the Labor Party (Opposition) announced eerily similar "Welfare reforms". Both policies are equally unrealistic and nonsensical (in my humble opinion).

In essence, both parties promise the Centrelink will monitor child welfare, assessing school attendance by children, and then will "punish" negligent parents (whose kids do not attend school), by garnisheeing some of their child support benefits (or other benefits), and then will ensure that the money which is withheld from their "benefits" is then used to pay for food, or electricity bills, or other needs of the family.

The idea is that this will withdraw income from negligent parents to prevent them from using the funds intended for child welfare, from being squandered on alcohol, gambling or other such indulgent expenses. I can see why a desperate Government might be panicked into taking this stand - but, but - Hello?

When did the Government ever have these kinds of powers - to decide who will spend what, on whatever bills?

How can Centrelink, which is already overstretched, possibly cope with this extra function? How on earth can Centrelink, which does not have those kind of policing staff at present, possibly be expected to fulfil this task?

Centrelink is not noted for having good links with the State welfare agencies (DOCS, etc), State Police and Educational authorities. Even those State agencies are not empowered to make these investigations , let alone buy food for needy kids, or supervise them getting to school.

The whole idea is crazy, totally crazy, and unrealistic. Indeed I would go so far as to say that it is a policy which is totally antithetical to the supposed "laissez-faire" political philosphy of the Liberal Party. The word "hypocrites" springs to mind.

(This critique of course, is temporarily ignoring - only temporarily - the outrages which the Howard Government is currently inflicting upon Aboriginal Families in Australia).

These dual policy announcements constitute a move towards Totalitarianism which would have made the infamous Ceau┼čescu regime of Romania blush. Remember media stories of all those abandoned children in orphanages, hospitals and asylums in the failed state of Romania, under Nicolae Ceau┼čescu? Can you imagine Australia accepting such outrages? Well, watch this space, folks. "Parents Rights" just evaporated in Australia.

In saying that, I am not sticking up for negligent parents - just asking quite how the Government is going to decide which of the families of ordinary Australians meets that definition? And, if we do, is it a permanent state of affairs, or is there a scale of negligence, or incompetence as parents, or are we to be judged, once and for all, by "Secret Agents from the Welfare"? Should we have a network of Informants - perhaps from the Tuckshop at school, or should the "nice ladies" from the "Harper Valley PTA" have a vote on our adequacy as parents?

The timing of two simultaneous policy announcements, and their similarity, smacks of heavy political espionage, and also a move towards "lowest common denominator" politics. It is a War on Welfare, to match the War on Terror.

It is going to be a bad lead up to the next election, folks.