Crikey is Australia’s most popular political website and our Federal government insider Hillary Bray has struck a real chord with her blistering attack on Heartless Howard and Robot Ruddock. Liberals with a conscience are just appalled and embarrassed as the world’s media takes aim at Australia.

Dear Stephen

Let me introduce myself to you. I’m a 34 year old male with a physical disability (cerebral palsy) confining me to a wheel chair. Let’s us say I’m in the same business as you – that of a “watch-dog” role trying to keep the bitches & bastards honest but in my case working for the betterment of my fellow people with disabilities. Fighting for their community rights & government services which isn’t easy due to lack of resources because of Scrooge Rodents’ Government. I belong to two agencies that deal with this daily – one locally & the other nationally.

As for Scrooge Rodent I don’t agree with the way he’s handling the Christmas Island affair, I believe he’s lacking sense, compassion & he’s very, very mean-spirited & if he were in the same situation as these people he would feel the same as them wouldn’t he? As well as he’s only doing this because this is an election year & wants to be popular with the masses which I think stinks. Finally, I think that Australia is going back to its White Australia Policy keeping all migrants out when Robert Gordon Menzies was in power which I don’t think is a good idea for us.

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Kind Regards to you, Paula & Laura Agnes,

Shaun

Talk back dills leave me cold

1. It seems that most Australians don’t have a clue about the Law of the Sea. According to the a SMH web poll, those who voted, by a majority of 7 to 1, wanted the Tampa people sent to Norway (10 000 +) or Indonesia (4000 +).

Most SMH polls rarely get more than a couple of thousand voting.

Quite why the citizens of the Nolitch Nayshun should come so overwhelmingly to the view that the people should be sent to Norway is a mystery. In the event that the vessel could accommodate around 450 people the only two possible ports that the MS Tampa could have taken them are its original port of departure (Fremantle) or its destination (Singapore). As the vessel quite plainly is not equipped or designed to carry such numbers of people such distances, the captain is quite within his rights under SOLAS and any number of other conventions to disembark the shipwrecked people at the port he feels most appropriate – in this case Christmas Island.

2. Richard Glover (ABC Local Sydney Afternoon Drivetime) was most upset on Tuesday when several callers referred to the fact that the Tampa people were Muslims and that, per se, was a reason for them to be sent elsewhere.

On Wednesday Glover checked out the talkback situation with Peter Maher or Rehame. Maher reported that 78% of callers to talkback shows supported Howard’s actions as against about 8% opposed. Fully 50% of the 78% included as at least part of the reasons for supporting the Howard stand the fact that “illegals” were for the most part Muslims (conveniently forgetting the 50 000 odd illegals from the US and Europe who are allowed to stay here and work without let or hindrance for the most part).

I was appalled.

I decide to listen to commercial talkback for a while. Maher was right. Egged on by the hosts, the bile that spewed out against these 450 souls and Norwegians in general was almost unbearable to listen to.

Mike Carlton (2UE Drive) was an exception. To his eternal credit he took the callers on. It was a losing battle. One caller was mercifully brief and to the point. He or she flushed their toilet near the phone and hung up – not even Carlton could come up with a response to that.

A typical conversation went like this:

MC: It’s Athol. Athol has been trying to get on for four days. Giday Athol.

A (Brightly): Now Mike I am as multicultural as the next person. (Meaning no doubt that he often has Kan Tong Noodles and Sara Lee Strudel for tea of a Sunday). But I reckon that since these people were picked in Indonesian waters they should go there.

MC: But they were picked up in international waters.

A (Less brightly): But John Howard said they were in Indonesian waters.

MC: No he didn’t.

A (Becoming menacing): Well anyway we don’t want them and their foreign ways in Australia. They aren’t the same as us… Twenty years ago you were safe. Now you can’t walk the streets…

and so on.

The only consolation that can be drawn from this is that most of the callers to the commercials and Glover sounded quite old. I suspect that the demographic of talkback callers is towards the more aged end of the population. They have the time. (You need time to get on as having been a campaigner against Badgerys Creek I spent many hours cringing on the end of a phone listening to the drivel being broadcast to try and get a point across about what I was interested in so Rehame or whoever would log it and include the “anti” call in their reports to the politicians).

For these battalions of 50+ the Howard stand is the zenith of the fight against multiculturalism, non-Anglo-Celts, and change. This is their battle and they hope their victory.

One can almost picture them sitting hunched over the phone, ciggy in hand, wrinkled, with flecks of saliva in the corner of their lips getting excited whilst they rehearse what they are going to say when they finally get on. How they are going to sound reasonable even “liberal” and the sheer joy of being praised for the intelligence of their opinion by Lawsie, Alan, Richo (no one ever asks if those girls were illegals) or who ever. (Or how they are gunna stick it up that smart arse Mike Carlton.) But they let themselves down these relics of the 50s, 60s and 70s by letting their guard slip in their anxiousness to get a dig in against the ethnics.

One Carlton caller (uncorrected) pointed to the gang rapes allegedly being perpetrated by Muslims in Sydney. We didn’t have them “back then”. The caller conveniently forgot the appalling series of gang rapes perpetrated in Northern NSW and Queensland by white Christian youths in the early 70s. They were called “Trains”. The poor victims sometimes raped by dozens never got redress since the juries would never convict (the sluts were begging for it). And lest we forget Leigh Leigh.

Cheers, Chris B

Not alone in a sense of shame

Dear Stephen

My brother and I thought we were alone out here in our feelings of deep shame at the Howard Government’s treatment of refugees. He works surrounded by people who want to see the refugees tossed off the Tampa and the ship sunk if necessary. Fortunately my workmates do not feel like that but it leaves a sinking feeling when I read letters to newspapers and hear callers to radio talkback programs.

Logging on for my daily Crikey fix has greatly cheered me. I called my brother to read him some of the letters you have published. They cheered him also.

The Subhuman Cadaver who pilots our shameful immigration policy has stained this nation’s name and image around the world. When I migrated here from New Zealand in 1967 the Australian people were not like this, I swear. When I became an Australian citizen in the mid-80s they were not like this. We DID used to be a caring, humane people. I have travelled widely in the world and Australians (and New Zealanders) were always well thought of everywhere. We had no enemies. We were respected.

I have always used Scandanavian countries as a yardstick. Their peoples are always well thought of. Sweden, Norway and Denmark were the sort of countries I have always though of as sane, decent, friendly people. If we were counted alongside them then we must still be on the side of the angels, I thought. Now we have squared up to one of the most decent countries on earth. We have become a playground bully. If we are at odds with Norwegians we are at odds with decency. We have joined the Dark Side.

The day will come when Australia will be brought to book for this foul act. I want my name recorded in the AGAINST column.

I am ashamed!

David H

Lock up the Anglo overstayers too

Can we, as Australian’s, even imagine how desperate you would have to be to risk everything, yours and your children’s lives in a small boat on an open sea?

I wish I’d written Hillary’s piece on Ruddock and Howard’s reaction to the “boat people,” a name that is now both a racial slur and a stereotype.

If I had written it, though, I would have added my thoughts on the English/European visa overstayers.

They are escaping from nothing more serious than over protective mothers and their reasons for staying are not to escape oppression, poverty and perhaps death but because they found a good “screw” in a bar in Sydney.

When they get caught they aren’t thrown in a concentration camp but are put up in hotels till their deported home to Mummy.

I’ll rethink my opinions on the evil Mr Ruddock, (who I agree looks like he is being devoured by inner demons), when we see some Anglo/Celtic faces in our detention centres!

And if the majority of Australian’s agree with Howard and Ruddock then I am embarrassed to be an Australian.

Lynne C

Ashamed to be Australian

For the first time in my life I am today ashamed to be Australian.

The government sends in troops to seize control of a peaceful foreign merchant ship acting with moral and legal rectitude.

Pregnant women, unconscious men and frightened children are left adrift to cope as best they can with the spread of disease.

Numerous polls show better than 90% of the public agrees with this action. The Opposition backs the government. Obviously I am the one out of step with all right-thinking Australians.

Welcome to the Lucky Country, 2001.

Dean F

If they played sport they’d be straight in

Morning Crikey,

If the asylum seekers were athletes, the government would have organised black hawk helicopters to collect them from the Tampa and they would be staying at the Sheraton on the Park while their visas were fast-tracked. It’s not like we don’t have the room! or that we don’t already have enough Asian/Middle eastern men and women who are qualified doctors that are reduced to

Driving taxi’s or being waiters in this country. Remember the Kurds staying at various army barracks? And how we kidded ourselves into a sense of pride because of this act of international goodwill?

What struck me most about last nights ABC and SBS news coverage was the quote “at this stage Mr Howard’s action have overwhelming public support”. I’d really like to know which parts of the community that comes from, because I don’t know one person who thinks the government is right on this. There’s only so many white middle-class anglo culturally-blinkered steak-and-three-veg-eating puritans left in our community, and I’m assuming this is the core group of ‘supporters’ that Mr Howard has.

Love your work. Keep it up.

Cheers, Sarah

John Howard is not playing chess

One thing that is apparent in this whole Tampa/refugee maelstrom is that the political play is as raw as it gets. How bad does the polling have to be before you hurl yourself off the cliff? Clearly, it was a better option than waiting atop the precipice to be pushed by rural and regional voters. The problem with the jumping option is that whilst it rids you of the immediate threat, and for a brief moment there is a sense of calmness as the wind whistles past; eventually you have to accept that there will be an impact. What is more it will hurt quite a bit.

Howard is playing checkers not chess. He normally is a very good chess player but at the moment he is dealing with this problem one move at a time. Chess players of course look five or six moves ahead. There is only one thing I can put his shortsightedness down to and that is shear panic.

I will bet a lifetime supply of the footy record that the government polled extensively in rural electorates very recently, both quantitative and qualitative. This move on the Tampa is straight out of the Hanson Handbook. Pauline is the de facto Minister for Foreign Affairs, Defence, Immigration, Customs and Trade. Howard should stop playing around and put her on the payroll.

The EU could be a bit of a problem though. I am not sure the Norwegian people really care too much about some red head stealing all of Howard’s battlers. They will be forced to respond soon, and lets face it, there are plenty of European states that would love to have Australian produce out of their supermarkets. I’m not sure they could find a better excuse than this.

Mind you the whole affair means good news for Mugabe. He will now have someone to talk to at morning tea during CHOGM. They can compare notes on how to repress the poor and unfortunate for political gain. Perhaps if Howard gets away with this he can do away with elections altogether. That way he will not have to panic and cause a major international incident ever again.

Meanwhile, out there on the Tampa four hundred plus pawns are finding out the hard way that John Howard is not playing chess.

Liberty

Ashamed to call us civilised

John Howard says that “we simply cannot allow a situation to develop where Australia is seen around the world as a country of easy destination.” Australia, say both the Liberal and Labor Parties, is threatened by a flood of refugees. We are, according to both John Howard and Pauline Hanson, “a soft touch.”

Wait a minute – how true is that?

What numbers are we really talking about here? According to the Department of Immigration (1), Australia will accept about 12,000 refugees this year, give or take a few hundred. That, we are told, is the “flood”, or what the tabloids call a “tidal wave”. 12,000 people seeking safety in a country of almost 20 million.

So that we can sleep easily, we have convinced ourselves that we are “a decent, generous, compassionate, caring, humanitarian country” (Howard, 7.30 Report, 27/8)

You may be surprised at the following list, from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which shows the numbers of refugees taken in by the top 10 “host countries” (2).

1. Pakistan 2 million

2. Iran 1.9 million

3. Germany 906,000

4. Tanzania 680,682

5. USA 507,290

6. Yugoslavia 484,391

7. Guinea 433,139

8. Sudan 401,027

9. The Congo 332,464

10. China 294,110

These refugees are not all asylum seekers, nor are they ever likely to be resettled – anywhere. But at least they are offered sanctuary by these host countries. In contrast, Australia has only once ever offered temporary refuge – to a few hundred during the Kosovo “war”. All but a handful of those refugees were returned home.

Sure, Australia is one of a few countries that offers refugees permanent resettlement. That is, we accept the best, ignore the rest, and imprison those who “jump the queue”. We are adamant that the vast bulk of the world’s miserables have no right to our protection, let alone a chance to share in our basic rights and comforts.

And, supposedly, that makes us a generous, decent, caring people.

Well, my friends, the truth is this: I reckon that makes us a particularly poxy people. Selfish, uncaring, and inhumane. We should be ashamed to call ourselves “civilised”.

But don’t let it worry you. As long as the bodies rot out of sight on the open seas, or in our concentration camps in the desert, we can all sleep easy, can’t we!

Murf

(1) http://www.immi.gov.au/statistics/refugee.htm

(2) http://www.unhcr.ch/un&ref/numbers/numb2000.pdf

Beazley just as culpable

Fellow boat people & other immigrants. Blackfellas aside (and the pm’s been doing his best to keep them aside), we’re all boat people, or at least people from somewhere else, having got here by means often questionable if not downright foul.

How can we sit by and watch as johnny tampers with the tampa and it’s miserable human cargo? What’s more, how can we stand by and watch as Kim wimps out and declares that Johnny’s gross act of wedge politics is ok?

The prime miniature has always made me ashamed to be Australian. Beazley’s wimp act breaks my heart. Forget beazley’s objection to Johnny’s rushed piece of legislation to force the tampa out. up until that wretched bill was introduced into parliament last night, Kim and Labor were with the government all the way.

If you think kim is being gutless, tell him: Kim.Beazley.MP@aph.gov.au

Stephen

Appalling Howard plays to Pauline

Australia’s Prime Minister, John Howard, says that “we simply cannot allow a situation to develop where Australia is seen around the world as a country of easy destination.”

Both major political parties, Liberal and Labor, claim the country is threatened by a flood of refugees. That’s because we are, according to the likes of John Howard and Pauline Hanson, “a soft touch.”

Yet just how true is that? Official statistics tell us quite the opposite. According to the Department of Immigration, Australia will accept about 12,000 refugees this year, give or take a few hundred. That, apparently, is a “flood”, or what the tabloids here call a “tidal wave”. Some 12,000 men, women and children seeking safety in a country of almost 20 million.

Two days ago, Howard proudly proclaimed Australia to be “a decent, generous, compassionate, caring, humanitarian country.”

He deludes himself. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are 21 million displaced persons in the world, the consequence of war, famine and persecution. Of this miserable lot, Australia, a rich nation by any measure, takes in just a few thousand carefully chosen applicants each year. The vast majority of those it rejects are forced to live and die in squalid camps in the Third World.

Pakistan “hosts” about 2 million refugees, Iran almost as many. Of the rich western nations, only Germany (906,000) and the United States (507,290) provide any substantial relief. In the main, impoverished nations such as Tanzania, Guinea and Sudan somehow cope with the other millions.

Not all refugees are asylum seekers, nor are they ever likely to be resettled in their own countries, or indeed anywhere. But at least they are offered indefinite sanctuary by these host countries. In contrast, Australia has only once ever offered temporary refuge – to a few hundred during the Kosovo “war”. All but a handful of those refugees were forced to return home as soon as that conflict was ended.

Agreed, Australia is one of only a few countries that offers refugees permanent resettlement. But that “generosity” is only in our self interest. We accept the best, ignore the rest, and imprison and persecute those who “jump the queue”. We are adamant that the vast bulk of the world’s miserables has no right to our protection, let alone a chance to share in our basic rights and comforts.

And, supposedly, that makes us a generous, decent, and caring people. Or so we say. In fact, Australians increasingly turn their backs on those in desperate need. We are deaf to the sick, the impoverished, the persecuted, and the homeless. We are especially insensitive to non-whites and non-Christians. So ls long as the bodies rot out of sight on the open seas, or inside our concentration camps in the desert, we all sleep easily in the knowledge that we are kind and generous people.

But the truth is we are a particularly selfish, uncaring, and inhumane people. And I, for one, am ashamed to include myself amongst these so-called civilised people.

Chris Murphy

Refugee treatment a blot on our history

Hi Stephen

Hillary’s article on the boat people was sensational. It takes courage to speak out and gives Crikey a tremendous place in history.

My effort:

As the storm rages over the boat people, we must be seen as the most inhumane country in the world. Our country was built on immigrant population. Our dying country towns need more people – not false promises by an uncaring government. Surely as a society, we the people of Australia can think up a better solution than sending all of the current refugees back to lands torn apart by civil war. Labelling these people is a despicable effort and embarrassing to the rest of us. Should we perhaps welcome these people and cast our bigots away in boats? Tens of thousands of people enter via our airports each year and overstay their welcome. My family were immigrants caught in an international incident in 1956 – a boat caught in the cross fire in the Suez. We were fleeing the cold weather – these people are fleeing something much more serious. The so-called comparatively small number of “boat people” have fled tyranny and war-torn countries for the sake of their children, begging for a new life. It is mostly decent men and women who flee tyranny, people who are desperate. Where is our humanity? Where are the Churches in all of this? Surely we can rid ourselves of one particular racist Minister and his offsider, in the next election. There are wonderful people in Australia who are attempting to help the refugees as they arrive and to comfort the children. Perhaps we should all lend a hand before we earn the right to criticise. Are we all so self-interested in our own miseries we are forgetting our fellow man (and woman) in all of this? Are we back to judging people by the colour of their skin or their differences? Which parent amongst us would want a future in a detention camp for years and then an uncertain life in a war-zone? Australia’s policies and negative, racist approach by authorities to the long drawn out “processing” of human lives, is becoming a blot on our history.

Denise Brailey

Never agreed more with Crikey than on the Tampa issue

Dear Stephen,

I don’t think I have agreed with anything more than the piece Hillary wrote on the Afghan refugees. I could not believe the hypocrisy of Howard and Ruddock calling Australia a compassionate and decent society at the same time as they are turning their backs on these people. How will their attitude affect the behaviour of other ships in the area? Will they stop to help, or will they turn a blind eye as boats sink and refugees drown. In view of Howard’s attitude that would appear to be the prudent course. This government diminishes us all.

Joanna

Despicable treatment of refugees

I do not always agree with Hillary. Politically I am probably way to the left of where Hillary stands. But I am in full agreement with what Hillary has to say on immigration After faithfully voting liberal for years, it was their stand on the treatment of ‘illegal immigrants’ that gave me reason to reconsider at the last election. Our treatment of refugees, whether they are economic or political, is despicable. Desperate people fleeing desperate situations are being treated like criminals. And as they grow more desperate, attempting suicide, sewing their lips together or retreating into despair, they continue to be demonised by the Department of Immigration, the popular press and the Liberal Party (and their allies in crime through their silence – the Labor Party)

It is not the first time our nation has done this. We refused access to people fleeing the hell that is Vietnam. And we are doing this because our politicians are scared to stand up and do what is right. They are scared to provide leadership in showing mercy and justice to people who are aliens in our land. Instead they are pandering to our ugliest motives – to our greed and our hatred of people who are different to ourselves. We as a society are acting wrongly and our politicians lead us on.

Garry

Us West Australians are just bigots

Dear Crikey,

What hypocrites we are over refugees, if only we had an independent foreign policy. Our political “leaders” are actually followers. Over here in the redneck West we want to drown them, shoot them and many think that the Islam invasion is a plot to destabilise our Anglo society.

Meanwhile HMAS Anzac steams up and down the Gulf, the tenth Australian ship to enforce the blockade of Iraq that helps to create refugees.How many hospital beds could we spend that money on?

The Iraquis and Afghanis are victims of US foreign policy,who created and armed the Taliaban and Sadaam Hussein?.Sadaam was our friend when he was killing Iranians by the hundreds of thousands! During the Gulf War the Kurds in the north of Iraq and the Marsh Arabs in the south were encouraged to rise up,then the Americans didn’t finish the job.

All this is manna from heaven for Howard and Hanson of course. Graham Campbell added his two cents worth the other day,build a detention centre on Xmas Island and ship all the residents here. Good thinking, but aren’t most Islanders Malay Moslems? Good god Graham – more Moslems invading.

Campbell and Crichton Brown are sleazing around providing propaganda for the bigots, we keep hearing over here the old chestnut about no carols allowed in schools. I rang One nation the other evening and asked for more information.

Oh yes, said the old codger. We have members who are retailers and the Moslems stopped carols in shopping centres. Oh, and schools too when I prompted him! I am tired of the bigotry, we don’t want to take refugees under a UN treaty but we willingly send ships to enforce a blockade that comes from a UN resolution.

Regards, Humphrey

Complete lack of leadership from mean-spirited Howard

Bravo Hilliary! Her outrage is justified. Her column makes several interesting and valid points, most conspicuously noting the utter lack of leadership of John Howard and his ilk. When in doubt, Howard retreats to stubborn, mean-spirited obstinacy, which arises, not from principle, but from moral cowardice.

When there are enough votes in it, Howard will change his mind. I note that Ruddock is quoted in today’s Age as saying the refugees are not Australia’s problem. I wonder if he is aware that these were the very same words of refusal used by an Australian official in the lead up to World War 2, when asked to take boat loads of Jewish refugees.

Of course, it’s our problem! It’s everyone’s problem or has Ruddock forgotten that he lives in a Christian country where we are our brother’s keeper?

The example of leadership is needed from our politicians to counteract and encourage the ignorant and frightened in our community to remember their generosity and compassion – not to indulge, a la Hanson debate, in another cynical, hateful, cranking of the people meter to test how far down the road we can go in racism and bigotry.

Humphry

ALP spineless as Hillary hits the spot

Dear Hilary,

I always enjoy your column (and occasionally agree with it). I just wanted to thank you for your column on the asylum seekers this week.

Of all the people I’ve heard commenting on the issue, you are the one who has really articulated what I feel. As a typical bleeding-heart armchair socialist lefty, I find it encouraging that the centre right and centre left have more in common than I realised.

The spineless attitude of the ALP in this situation has made me more open to a tolerant, compassionate Conservative force. If you ditch the Nats, weed out the ideologues and preselect more women, I might be persuaded to cross the line and consider casting a vote for the blue side in 2004.

Mary

Howard morally bankrupt

Bravo Hillary.

Couldn’t agree with you more. If only Howard or Beazley had some moral courage, but with an election looming I’m just hoping the politics of fear won’t be used as a trump card (Gee, I’m sounding like Hugh Mackay).

Former moderate Ruddock is given in to party pressure, and the cynical rhetoric of ‘queuejumpers’ does him no service. He makes refuge applications sound as simple as the ‘8 items or less’ aisle at your local supermarket.

But how do we overcome this fear of migration, this xenophobia – LEADERSHIP – something that Little Johnnie has in only very small supply. To combat these preconceptions you have to actually engage the public in a rational debate – sounds a bit too risky for our Johnnie.

For example the assumption refugees will be a burden on the public purse for the rest of their lives is a ridiculous argument. The boat people who left Vietnam in the 70s (excluding a small minority, which the tabloids love to demonise), have proven with hard work and determination they can prosper. America was virtually built on immigration (what would it be without the many refugees from Eastern Europe and Germany during the World Wars). Think of the many refugees in Australia who have gone on to achieve – Sir Gustav Nossal, Victor Chang, the list is quite extensive.

We are a nation crying out for more people, we desparately need to increase our population. But when the major parties pander to the Hansonites I think it is the nation who is the biggest loser. Not only does this contradict our image as a tolerate, compassionate nation, but we also maintain an underpopulated island which desparately needs more people.

Jeff Kent