tip off

Nigerian government bungles schoolgirl response

Crikey readers talk the missing Nigerian schoolgirls and the fuel excise.

On the ground in Nigeria

Robert Johnson writes from Nairobi, Kenya: Re. “Aussie media wakes up to schoolgirls” (yesterday). The widespread media coverage from the outset by the BBC World Service, Al Jazeera English and others of the situation of the abducted Nigerian schoolgirls makes the Australian media’s belated coverage surprisingly out-of-step in comparison. By contrast, the Australian government’s belated and muted attention is — incredibly — not far out-of-step with that of its Nigerian counterpart.  Despite its protests and spin to the contrary, the Nigerian government has been widely criticised for delayed, inadequate and even bungled responses. As late as last week, almost three full weeks after that April 14 abduction, it was announced that the number of girls kidnapped was in fact rather higher than initially reported, underscoring the Nigerian government’s increasingly perceived ineptitude in handling the situation. On Monday, as the BBC World Service was reporting another eight (now put at 11) even younger girls being kidnapped, the local chief of police reported not yet knowing anything about it.

Of course, a weak international reaction simply emboldens Boko Haram (translation: “Western education is forbidden”), and a quick and outraged reaction (especially Western) encourages them. But part of the problem seems to be that women and girls as victims continue to fail to lead to adequate and forceful responses, and not just in Nigeria. The military court sentences earlier this week in the Democratic Republic of Congo of just two of 39 government soldiers for the rape of 130 women is seen by many as “too little, too late” (in a country described as the worst in the world for such crimes) but by others as an albeit small and belated move in the right direction.

A potential conflict between national economic or diplomatic/political interests (in Australia) and women’s and girls’ rights (in Africa) is at risk of not playing out too well, be it a slow and muted response or the former outranking the latter. Given Tim Wilson’s recent tweet about McDonald’s human right to property in Tecoma, perhaps Australian banks and even foreign “investors” will be claimed to have similarly prevailing rights.

Should we pay higher fuel tax?

Paul Hampton-Smith writes: Re. “How the ANAO ended up costing taxpayers billions in lost revenue” (yesterday). I can see that there is rationale behind raising fuel taxes.  Aside from reversing questionable historical reasons for capping them, and the welcome revenue, there would be benefits too in encouraging people away from single occupant cars for their commute, and towards buying local products, thereby reducing carbon emissions.

But surely if tax increases are on the agenda, a GST increase and/or removal of exemptions would be fairer. Higher fuel tax would increase the proportional delivery cost of a melon far more than a mobile phone, giving it a much higher impact on low cost household staples.

Elizabeth Anderson writes: Isn’t increasing the fuel excise the imposition of a carbon tax?

Niall Clugston writes: What Bernard Keane’s story indicates is that the federal government doesn’t have a functioning records system.  Contacting a former employee in order to locate government briefing papers is absurd.

Pictures still worth 1000 words?

David Moncrieff writes: Re. “When photographers were always part of the story at Fairfax” (yesterday).  The decision to do away with staff photographers at Fairfax defies belief. Photo library shots will always be just photo library shots with only a vague connection with their stories. A picture is only worth a thousand words if it matches the words that go with it. The bean counters running amok!

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  • 1
    Robert Johnson
    Posted Friday, 9 May 2014 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    In the editing of my lengthy comment, my shift from Nigeria through DRC to South Sudan dropped the latter, which makes the final para seem out of place. My inclusion of South Sudan also adds a more immediate Australian context:

    In South Sudan, women and girls have been the disproportionately most tragically impacted by the current conflict. Following some claims that the UN mission in South Sudan had acted rather too partially on the side of its President Salva Kiir, it is now attempting to be more impartial, although Uganda’s preemptive siding with the South Sudanese government has hindered the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) – of which Uganda is a member – in efforts to broker a political rather than military solution. Especially post-WW2, military solutions are brutal to civilians and this has been so for huge numbers of women and children in South Sudan. The main protagonists – President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar – are due to meet in Ethiopia today, after interventions by UN Secretary-General Ban and US Secretary of State Kerry.

    Current attention on South Sudan includes pursuing measures to freeze the overseas assets of the conflict’s leaders. This is an initiative of the so-called Troika on South Sudan (the USA, the UK and Norway), which has identified three countries as being recipients of fund transfers by Kiir, Machar and their families and close associates. Secretary of State Kerry has, this past week, urged one of those countries (Kenya) to act, but I’m not aware of what the governments of the other two named countries (Canada and Australia) are proposing – if anything – to do about those calls.”

    Cue my reference to national economic interests and the human rights of corporations versus the rights of women.

  • 2
    JohnB
    Posted Friday, 9 May 2014 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    Niall Clugston is shocked that a Federal Government department has inadequate records keeping practices.

    So what? Is he suggesting that private enterprise handles record-keeping better? Or that it doesn’t matter if Bottom of the Harbour practices of yesteryear reappear in different guises regularly.

    The “I forgot” response, sometimes coupled with an “I’m a sick old man” excuse wasn’t invented by Alan Bond, but has been repeated many times since, usually to be followed by a long and otherwise healthy life on the part of the afflicted one.

    When the current government started getting busy six months back, it had did more to remove any evidence that was contrary to its philosophies than it did to publicly develop and promote actual policies more than three words long.

    Examples are numerous, but tearing down of websites and the information they contained provide excellent examples. The NDIS (health), Gonsky (education)and anything climate-related (science and more) are good examples.

    Isn’t there an Archives Act or similar in the Federal sphere? If not, why not? If so, then a few administrators and managers should do a bit of time in stir in order that those “public servants” (quaint, old-fashioned monniker, that one)remaining after the coming budget may have firmer bacbones and clearer vision on the subject of record-keeping.

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