Letter of the week: Howard’s game plan
It’s nice to see some passion in a journo, ie the Tampa refugees, but it is
a complicated issue which requires cooler thought and will not be resolved
by ranting (as it was late at night, you hadn’t been having a merlot or two
by any chance?). I don’t have the solution and whatever the outcome, both
short and long-term, will be complicated and not universally acceptable.
Such is life. My own inclination is to let them in, but the underlying
issues are perhaps more interesting and this is where I think Crikey could
have done better.
While it is good for your subscribers to know your editorial policy, you do
not need to overstate it, or make it the centrepiece of the product. You
need to play to your strengths, and Crikey’s is getting some inside goss,
spelling out what the papers won’t say, and providing incisive analysis.
After some temporary discomfort, the refugees will ultimately be looked
after one way or another. They have received enough global publicity for it
not to be otherwise. The real story for Crikey behind the issue is John
Howard’s determination to deliver a third victory to the Coalition, whatever
it takes. It informs everything he says and does. In spite of attempts by
the media and party apparatchats to make the impending election sound like a
contest, until last week the govt can have been in no doubt it was on the
electoral nose, holding too many marginal seats and spurned in the bush.
As ever, Qld remained a problem. And as if One Nation was not enough, the
Qld libs were fighting amongst themselves (as regularly updated by Crikey
and today’s Fairfax press) while the ALP sprung the Macfarlane/GST/Groom
ambush. A very unlovely set of numbers. Then along came the Tampa.
John Howard has always been a three dimensional pollie – and his dimensions
are industrial relations, tax cuts, and immigration/race. His actions over
the past year illustrate it. Abbott the zealot was brought in to kick union
heads, Costello and Howard have played the tax cuts card, and now the
trifecta is complete with immigration (read xenophobia and religious
bigotry), dressed up as national sovereignty. They’ll love it in the bush.
(Wonder if Howard will award SAS diggers with campaign medals for this one.)
CHOGM has now become a nuisance. There isn’t enough time for an election
before HM QE2 comes (don’t forget Hyacinth is so looking forward to hosting
tea and scones) and it would be unseemly to be actively campaigning during
CHOGM, so the earliest they can go to the polls will be 17 November. Let’s
see how they spin the reffos out until then.
Was it Keating or Hawke who said “Always back self-interest, it’s the only
horse with an honest jockey”. Traditionally, the pundits reckon the
hip-pocket nerve is the touchiest one in the electorate, but really it is
only a symptom. The underlying condition is self-interest (aka “wedge
politics”) and, in a conservative electorate exhausted by change and afraid
of the future, self-interest will be nurtured with all available fertiliser.
The stakes are high, the egos rampant, and electoral memories short. I
can already hear the approaching cacophony of non-core soundbites. Howard
is going to play very hard ball for the next 3 months – Beazley (as Peacock
was unable to do) is going to have to ask himself how much he really wants
the job. Paul Kelly was on the money on the “Insiders” last week – Beazley
has to stay focussed and disciplined.
So how does he counter the “Muslims under the bed” campaign? Tough call,
but he has to remember self-interest is the key. He was on-message with
health and services, he has to stay there and remind the electorate not to
let the last week wipe out the memory of the last six years. He has to make
Howard and Costello scarier than Muslims.
Meanwhile, I hope the professed Christians in the Coalition, especially
Kevin Andrews and his mates in the Lyons Group, pray very hard for goodwill
to all men this December. If he is still Prime Minister come December, it
will be Merry Christmas Island, Mr Howard.
signed, Anonymous Subscriber.
PS This was drafted before the Saturday papers, which cover much of the
analysis in similar fashion, and also before the announcement about Nauru.
Talk about a win-win on that one. Honest Howard keeps the Muslims from
under the beds in the bush and Qld, and Nauru, which is broke, gets
Australian dollars pouring in once again. Wait till the taxpayer finds out
how much it is going to cost. And from where will the money come –
Immigration, AusAID, the Govt advertising budget, Sneaky Pete’s surplus?
The charter of Budget honesty, or whatever it is called, that must be
released at the start of the election campaign, is going to be a must-read.
CRIKEY: Very incisive analysis here and fair criticism of Crikey as well. The three dimensional stuff on Howard is very
interesting and rings true. The comments on Asian immigration in the 80s were from the heart it would seem now.
Meanwhile, Howard advertises for more migrants
Hello there Mr Crikey,
Reeling with depression from the latest Howard/Ruddock/Beazley vom-fest
I thought I’d look at a few international newspapers and see if anyone
out there was giving them the bollocking they deserved. Unfortunately
the Times in London hadn’t updated their website, so they still had last
Saturday’s edition on line, but it did mean I caught an intrigueing
advert they are pitching at the nice, white, C of E home-counties Times
readership. Basically it said, “Do you want to become an Australian
citizen?” followed by a toll free number, authorised by Parliament
House, Capitol Hill, Canberra. No doubt Howard was fed up to the gills
with nasty little beige people with unpronouncable names being too
pro-active on the migrant front, time to redress the balance. Maybe
they’ve had the wit to stop running the ad by now, but if you went to
the Times archive for that day, you’d find it I’m sure.
I think ringing them up and recording the ensuing conversation for
posterity would be a nice idea.
Keep up the (mostly) good work
CRIKEY: Yes, but we only want educated, English speaking migrants from the mother country don’t we. They should love cricket, have
a white picket fence and eat bangers and mash. Isn’t a amusing how the government can’t reach their own targets on
We’re not detaining them claims the government
Went to the Federal Court today to hear the Tampa case. The government
is arguing that the people on the Tampa are not being detained!
The government argued that the reason the rescuees do not leave the ship
is not because they are being held on the ship and not allowed to leave,
but rather because a) the ship is high in the water; b) the water is
shark infested; and c) they are 4 miles from the shore. The lawyer for
Eric Vodarlis called these reasons “something out of Monty Python”.
The Judge said the question of their detention could be tested by
offering them other transport. The government replied that the issue of
another way off the Tampa hasn’t arisen. This caused laughter in the
gallery, since, as the lawyer for Liberty Vic pointed out, the SAS has
closed the port at Christmas Island and no other ships have been allowed
to approach the Tampa. The question hasn’t arisen because the government
has stopped it from arising.
The other laugh came when the government lawyer tried to claim
diplomatic privilege for the letter from the rescuees to the PM that was
passed on via the Norwegian ambassador. The government lawyer said he
“wished people in court would not gasp in horror whenever I say
If you want to see more of my report look at:
Cheers, Paul Dyson
CRIKEY: Hmmm, armed troops stopping them from getting off at Christmas Island is certainly some form of detention.
Just call yourself an asylum seeker
I had lunch with a fed MP today who suggested that all that was necessary for any of these people to claim refugee status was for any one of them to tap one of the SAS meatheads on the shoulder and say “Hey buddy I seek asylum,” and that was under Australian law. She also said that the dropping of leaflets onto the boat explaining this to the refugees was illegal, funny thing the law, but it might explain why communications between the vessel and the outside world have been cut since the SAS boarded the ship.
CRIKEY: Interesting, I wonder how many knew how to say this in English to gun-toting troops.
A global bollocking just to distract from a GST scam in Queensland
Re. this Tampa standoff, we need to declare war on Norway. We have/had adjoining borders in Antarctica so it would be a shame to waste this frontier, this can be the
site of the brouhaha, emphasis on last two syllables. Not leaving the bad puns for one moment, it would be a cold war, for the Amunsden – Scott memorial cup.
But how about the chain of causation here!? If Hannah Beazley’s appendix had behaved itself, Kimbo wouldn’t have blurred the boundary between family and politics
and had a dig at the Health Minister, then Beazley wouldn’t have been on the back foot and wouldn’t have had to crank up the leaked GST minutes scandal, and finally,
the Norwegian ship wouldn’t have had to become a modern day Flying Dutchman.
Just wondering if other people might have other bizarre chains of causation
CRIKEY: I can remember listening to the first question time after the Tampa rescue and Labor was hammering on the GST scam whilst
the Government took about 3 questions on Tampa and were very keen to talk it up. A polly in trouble will do anything for a
diversion so this sounds highly plausible.
Ageing dribbler takes the piss out of Crikey
I am 50+ and still manage not to dribble too much. I am of Anglo-Saxon descent having come from the UK 27 years ago. I enjoy the pokies on rare occasions, dont take ecstasy which I guess you do, if we are putting age groups into pigeon holes or do you snort coke?? (Only joking) Surprise surprise I can think, doh!!!! What a shame you bring divisions into the way people think of different cultures and age groups. We could argue for ever and a day on what sort of ‘person’ supports John Howard, it is irrelevant and just shows your small ‘b’ bigotry. Guess what we can still think once we get past the big 50.
I personally feel ashamed to be Australian at the present moment and wish Kim Beazley had taken a firmer stand. Don’t let us be swayed by all the rhetoric, this is politically staged to get One Nation off the agenda and John Howard will win the next election unless Labour comes up with some smart footwork and brings the real issues back on the political scene. John Howard has orchestrated the ‘us against them’ mentality to a tee. The issue of taking in ‘refugees’ ‘ asylum seekers’ or should we just call them human beings, is a world wide issue and cannot be solved by a small nation wealding the big stick. It is a problem that will face us for at least the next 20 years as more regimes become more introspective, the Teleban are not going to go away. Most religious groups that have embraced fundamentalism have a shocking human rights record and it us up to the rest of the world to embrace the problem rather than confront it with stand over tactics.
Must away to my pokie machine, whilst wiping the dribble from my mouth and butting out my ciggie!! How do you use a mobile phone?????
Have a nice day!!
CRIKEY: Very good letter. Crikey got a bit carried away in an email to subscribers about the typical ageing, pension drawing, smoking, pokie playing
Howard supporter who reckoned we should send the Tampa packing. Okay, I’m now back in my place and shouldn’t stereo-type
like that. Well said.
The Nile is not just any old river for 95 million people
I agree that Australia can support a vastly higher
population than it does currently, but comparing it
with “Egypt, which supports a population of 95 million
with just one river” is beneath your level of
From Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean Sea the length
of the Nile is 5584 km (3470 mi). From its
remotest headstream, the Ruvyironza River in Burundi,
the river is 6671 km (4145 mi) long. The river basin
has an area of more than 3,349,000 sq km (1,293,049
sq mi). (source: http://www.nilebasin.org)
The length of the Murray from its sources to its mouth
is about 2560 kilometres; the River Murray Basin of
1,057,000 square kilometres is about one-seventh of
the total area of Australia (except http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/world/A0834517.html
claims it is actually 4,685 km long, including the
Darling, which is comparable with the Nile’s various
tributaries, and consistent with the “Murray basin”
area that actually includes the Darling!)
‘The average rainfall over the Murray basin is 430 mm’
is interesting, given what’s below: source= http://www.murray-river.net/information/facts.htm
And from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats…
Murray-Darling (basin area is) 1,060,000 sq.km, with
average annual run-off (not outflow) of 24,300 GL.
Sorry, just can’t be bothered finding proper stats
info on the Nile itself, but to give you an idea, from
the same source:
Area (sq km) Av.Ann.Rain Av.Run-off Tot. r-o
Africa 30,300,000 690mm 260mm (38%) 7,900 TL
Asia 45,000,000 600mm 290mm (48%) 13,000 TL
Australia 7,700,000 465mm 57mm (12%) 440 TL
Now, just roughly speaking, I’d be voting for the “ooh
shit! that’s not a lot of water” party!
This doesn’t even take into account the lack of
fertility of Australia’s soils based on the age of the
continent. Even the bits we think of as “new” are
really old by most continents’ perspective – except
northern africa, which is being fed by the Nile whose
various sources are in southern and eastern africa,
where the soil/rock is much newer, hence more fertile.
sorry that was so long-winded, Alan
CRIKEY: I’ll stand by the line that Australia could easily accommodate a population of 50 million and we are the most selfish
nation on earth in terms of immigration. If Egypt is not a good argument than how on earth does Nigeria support 130 million
whilst we complain about the lack of water for 18 million.
The great Telstra rip off
Congratulation on the BOOM in memberships with a noticed
10% increase in your subscriber figures! – (1450 / 1600) – Great!
Loved the stockmarket article from Dennis Depressant and I do believe that
he IS absolutely ‘spot – on’ with his deductions. As a small business
operator I often wonder, (almost daily!) in dealing with both customers and
an ever esculating dictatorial type of regulators, just what exactly drives
the increased lack of logic, that exists in these times.
Now I know – PROZAC !! Gotta get some……
Well done on winning the Walkley Award for business journalism in 1999. You
obviously know a great deal about the runnings of business. Myself, well i
am a small business operator with a turnover of approx. 600,000 pa – I have
just read the Media Release of TELSTRA’s final report.
Crikey, correct me if I am wrong in my understanding, but I read that they
have achieved a $4.058 billion profit (can I fairly assume that this is
NETT?) on a total sales revenue of $18.9 billion. WOW! If this is correct,
my basic maths tells me that they have achieved a 21.47% NETT Profit. Not
bad considering that I have read that the PCCW adventure ($6 billion ?)is
supposed to have lost some $1.8 billion already. (Add either or, of both
these figures (after Tax, etc) and an even more healthier (fatter) profit
would have been achieved.
Now, as the $6 billion (growth investment) represents roughly 33% of their
stated sales revenue figure can you imagine my business (doing around
$600,000 p.a.) spending some $200,000 on a growth project? And then, (after
‘doing’ 30% of the investment) surviving? – No bank would be silly enought
to lend against this Sales / Investment ratio and generally such an
ambitious decision would be considered a bad move (in anyone’s launguage)
that is fraught with danger. But, IF we WERE able to go ahead and do such, I
would be even more (surprised?0 happier to STILL enjoy a profit of some
(approx) $130,000! (representing 21.45% of sales revenue of $600,000)
This would basically tell me that my business’s ‘break even’ figure is
approx.$270,000. This would be unbelievable.
Incidently, the $18.9 billion represents an over $900 average ‘spend’ on
Telstra services,by every man, women and child in Australia! If a cannery
was making cans of baked beans, sellling them at $1.00 per can and was able
to achieve the Telstra result they would be ‘over the moon’. But logic tells
us that every man, women and child in Australia does NOT eat 900 cans of
baked beans per annum! (Blazing Sadlles??)
I have ‘given up’ trying to beat these ‘milking’ cow monopolies and now have
scurried off to purchase a small parcel of Telstra shares to ‘hedge’ against
the current and near future ACCC approved, rise in rental costs!
If we could only get rid of Dr Ziggy Switkowski immediately, I feel Telstra
shareholders would then have a very bright future.
Ross Bradley (Lone Subscriber)
CRIKEY: These are certainly fat margins that only a monopoly abusing its power could produce.
If the government actually knocked the banks and Telstra into shape they’d do small business a really
big favour. Our business certainly gets clobbered unfairly by these two groups.
Gay staffers article below the belt
For the record as one of your subscribers I think your article on gays in Howard’s office was completely out of character and below the belt. What exactly are you attempting to achieve through this type of exercise? For a start, you didn’t have enough guts to name any of the people you are attempting to “out”. Is a person’s sexuality relevant to the job they are doing? And why target just one office (that of the Prime Minister) and not every other political office? I think every subscriber gets value out of your relentless pursuit of corporate evildoing and political corruption. But what relevance is this type of article? Political staffers (as you well know having been one) get enough crap thrown at them without this type of cowardly piece. What it does is detract from your cred as a serious commentator on Australian political life (among other things). Just a thought.
CRIKEY: It was always going to be a sensitive issue but when the role of staffers is to advise the PM, it is paradoxical in the extreme that
the government continues to produce anti-gay legislation when several of these very advisers are gay. We didn’t name any names
and the story has been one of the most popular we’ve ever published with more than 2000 page views so there has been a lot
public interest and I still think it was in the public interest. Our readers and subscribers are not homophobes and many of them
would have known parts of this story anyway.
Get over the gay obsession Crikey
If crikey.com.au is supposed to talk about business, politics, media etc
without the bullshit, why do you publish wanky articles about gay people in
the workforce? It was cliched, coy, and full of outdated surprise that
there are a lot of clever gay men and lesbians in good positions in the
public service and in the major political parties. Oh shock!
If the former politicians involved have ALL publicly come out in national
media, why didn’t you identify the federal politicians as Neil Brown (former
Liberal Attorney General), Neil Blewett (former Labor Minister of Health),
Chris Publick (former Liberal Senator). The coy way the author spoke about
them perpetuates the myth that being gay is something that can’t be
discussed openly. And why only stop with these ones? The real list of
former and current politicians is much longer.
Presumably Howard knows the real reason why anyone hires clever gay people
is that they will work long hours, are good workers, and are very mobile. It
doesn’t take a genius to realise that these qualities make gay men and
lesbians good employees. Both parties have had many senior gay staffers for
This pseudo story does you no credit. The fact that it got a lot of hits
does not mean that it was a good story. It wasn’t even good gossip. Why not
write a realistic article about gays in government, policitians and
staffers, both Federal and State?
CRIKEY: It’s hard to win on this one. We took a real toe-in-the-water approach with a delicate but interesting and important topic and
we get bollocked for not outing people. I maintain that it is of public interest to disclose that a political party with a penchant
for anti-gay policies hires a disproportionately high ratio of gay advisers. You can argue that this fact should be censored or is
irrelevant but I’m interested in exploring why the Liberals maintain traces of homophobia and believe this is a fact that should
be on the table to argue that maybe they’re not as homophobic as some people argue.
Queensland banking scandal under-reported
Thanks for your reply. Not sure if you are now aware that Slater & Gordon and a few other solicitors have started a class action against all parties involved in this scam including action against the ANZ bank. The story was on Today Tonight on Friday 24 August 2001 over here, not sure if it went national. I cannot understand as to why a story as big as this is being treated in this fashion! Just cannot work it out.
Today’s Courier Mail started running articles where people have started bailing out by cutting their losses.
If Commonwealth Bank were caught up in a scene like this, their share price would have crashed, heads would have rolled etc etc.
Simply cannot work it out.
CRIKEY: Australia’s banking writers are notoriously captured by the PR machines of the banks and this is perhaps one reason why the
ANZ exposures to dodgy lending on the Gold Coast is so under-reported. It’s a great story and the Courier Mail’s Hedley Thomas
has done very well with it. Others should be chasing hard but for some reason they are not.
Whitlam’s litigious tactics suck
I am totally disillusioned. The fact that the NRMA is suing Channel 9 for the Sunday program is a disgrace. Surely
these people are employed to further the interests of the membership and shareholders. Whitlam is gone, it is
time to take one more scalp and consign the whole sorry disgusting episode to the history bin.
Anne Keating has resisted all attempts at removal and calls to resign and remains on the board of the
NRMA. She then has the temerity to make a song and dance about the fact that she has quit United
Airlines to concentrate on her other 5 boards.
Anne Keating is an uninspiring, one dimensional character who has used the family name and a PR
agency to scale moderate corporate heights and perform only at a mediocre level when she gets there.
The energy seems to have left your NRMA hating, please broaden your NRMA election platform from anti cash
for comment to include anti Annie. She must go.
CRIKEY: We are having a tilt at the NRMA board this year because Anne Keating, Dominique Collins and Mary Easson are up for
re-election and all have too much political baggage from the old mutual days. I’ve been concerned about
Anne Keating’s apparent conflict of interest in promoting John Singleton advertising deals for the NRMA when she sits on the
board of Singleton Holdings. And Nick Whitlam certainly is unhelpfully litigious and combative and should have learnt by now that this is not a good way to operate.
Disgraceful 4 Corners on John Newman death
While Four Corners has been given the praise it deserves for all its brilliant investigative pieces, it has also escaped without reprimand after one of the worst pieces of reporting of recent times – the Peter Newman assassination.
The murder of an MP was one of the biggest Australian post-war stories (although not according to the SMH, whose lack of coverage was an embarrassment – ”It’s out
west. They’re not our people.”). The heat to catch the killer came straight down from the premier’s office, as you would expect, and was immense. The police, with not a
thing to go on, threw Four Corners the whisper that Newman was corrupt and mixed regularly with criminals in Cabramatta.
Four Corners took the bait. The story did not produce one fact to support the theory. Not one. That alone made it unlike any other Four Corners I have seen over the years.
The fact that Newman was an aggressive, unpopular man made it that much easier to paint him as a crook.
Anyone who has reported on the way police operate could see this dummy pass a mile off. However, the cops got their way. The episode, rushed by their standards, went
to air the heat was off. Nobody wants to kick up about a crooked politician.
CRIKEY: Don’t remember the story so can’t really comment. Be interesting in hearing back someone on the show as to whether
these criticisms have any foundation.
Alston’s 4 degrees whilst in Parliament
I was at an HDTV launch last week, with Senator Alston as a guest speaker.
He was introduced as “a barrister who, during his years in parliament, has
gained a further FOUR (!) degrees”. If these were new degrees, this is cause
for concern, since it would take at least six years per degree, or 24 years
total, but even adding post-grad degrees like a Masters and a Phd would
quite a bit of work on the side, one would imagine, that may have detracted
from his primary focus.
It’s also interesting because with my workload and family commitments, I
don’t think I could take on one part-time degree, let alone four, so Sen
Alston must be a very remarkable man!
Perhaps you should start a list of senators/ministers who have gained
degrees part-time while working for us full-time (particularly in view of
whoever it was in the US, studying while he was supposed to be on a
Just a thought, anon
CRIKEY: We look forward to Alston’s office sending through the details of the four degrees and an explanation as to how
this miracle man juggled everything.
Send Mugabe and Malcolm Fraser fishing
The media reports rising concern about the visit to Australia of Robert Mugabe, the anti-democratic Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, to attend CHOGM. There could be protests. However, there is a solution to the problem. Why not pack Mugabe off with his long-time friend and supporter, Malcolm Fraser? Send the two of them fishing for a few days for mullet. Mal will love talking to his hero about the evils of world trade, colonialism and the Monarchy. Robbo can tell Mal about his support for a free press, ex-freedom fighters, multiculturalism, farmers and his concern for human rights. They’ll both enjoy it immensely. And so would the rest of us.
CRIKEY: Well put Mr Irving. I hope Mugabe suffers huge embarrassment from large scale protests.
Save the environment and cancel your newspaper
Some years ago I realised that my addiction to newspapers was that–an
addiction. Like you I had piles of unread papers everywhere that I didn’t
want to throw out in case I missed something. Yet when you read a month-old
paper you realise that you’ve missed very little.
It took a while, but about six months ago I went cold turkey, and stopped
getting all papers, except for The Australian on Thursday, because I like
its Media supplement (not least because it contains the week’s TV
It helped that I now have a broadband (cable) connection to the internet,
and work from home. So I always have the internet available. I check The
Australian, The Age and The AFR websites each morning, and the ABC and BBC
many times during the day. (I’m no fan of the ABC, but it has the only
halfway-decent local online news service that I know of.) For international
commentary I can go to the New York Times, Economist and many others.
Who needs dead trees?
(My advice to Crikey subscribers: keep up your subscriptions to your
favourite newspapers, but don’t actually read them until they are at least a
month old. Then you’ll realise how vapid and useless most of the “news” is.)
Best wishes, anon subscriber
CRIKEY: I’m trying my luck without newspapers for a while so am now down to only
The Australian because we can’t afford to resubscribe to everything at the
moment and there is about a tonne of old newspapers driving Paula around the
bend that I’m still yet to read. With Newsradio, the web and more than 100
emails pouring in a day, you can keep on top of things pretty well without
slavishly reading the products of dead tree journalism. Anyone else thought
of doing their bit for the environment like Crikey and this anon subscriber?
BHP’s huge waste of money on logo
I’d like to comment on the new logo for BHP. Using the kangaroo droppings is
inspired graphic design, alluding to ties to the BHP’s country of origin and
yet contemporaneously suggesting an ingestion and evolution into the new
Are they serious? Spending close to half a million dollars on a new
corporate identity? Show me the breakdown on the figures please. According
to today’s age Trevor Flett reckons that he had a team of 14 working on it
for 8 weeks, which works out at 4480 person hours (14
personsx8hoursx40days). That may be how he can convince the
graphically-illiterate and aesthetically-challenged Big Antipodeans to part
with $400,000, but he’s pushing it uphill when he claims that “its a
scientific process…well-researched” (The Age ,22/08/01, p. 7) But I guess
that I am prepared to pay him perhaps 1/4 of that, if only for his capacity
to maintain a straight face to sceptical board members and journalists. A
good use of shareholder funds – no way. But it does explain where some of
that equity went.
Isn’t this the same team that was responsible for Melbourne’s marvellous
Federation Arch – you remember, all those coloured sticks that adorned
Princes Bridge signifying…well…coloured sticks???
CRIKEY: The advertising industry has an amazing ability to charge like wounded bulls for crap and this $400,000
new logo for BHP is just another classic example.
Ruddock and Australia a disgrace
“Faced with the prospect of a $150m budget shortfall, the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which helps to look after more than
22m refugees and displaced people, has cut its 2001 budget by over $100m to
$862m. It is shedding 800 members of staff and closing down nine offices,
including seven in Africa.” — The Economist, 9 August 2001
Philip Ruddock keeps telling us that the people who risk their lives in
leaky boats on the high seas to reach Australian shores are “queue
jumpers”; that they should be processed according to the UNHCR’s
procedures. Just how a family pursued by Saddam Hussein’s bloody henchmen
does this is not explained.
And while Ruddock says it is the United Nations’ role to sort the “wheat
from the chaff” (his words), his government provides a pittance to the
organisation he holds responsible. Finally, because of the actions of the
rich western nations, the UNHCR has been forced to closed shop.
Those of you who saw last night’s Four Corners program on the ABC will
recognise Ruddock’s “detention centres” as nothing less than concentration
camps, with all their tortuous horror and deprivation of basic human
rights. In this country. Witnesses to this crime must surely be shamed by
the Australia’s treatment of the most vulnerable in our community.
Why do Australian governments abuse these relatively few refugees? For one
simple reason: to deter others from coming here (and upsetting our
lifestyle, costing us money, and otherwise making us uncomfortable.) Over
90% of these detainees are non-Anglo-Saxon, non-Christian, and desperately
poor. Many are nevertheless professionally qualified and reasonable people.
It is the colour of their skin that dictates conservative Australia’s
What sort of country have we, if we are unwilling to take in a fair share
of the world’s poor, the abused, and the desperate and provide them with
some hope? I believe that, under recent governments, we have become a
racist, selfish, and inhamane community. We are narrow-minded and ignorant.
And we are certainly no longer deserving of the tag of “a civilised
How far have we come, and what service has the government done, if an
increasing number of Australians are saying they are ashamed and disgusted
with their country?
CRIKEY: You mount a pretty good argument here Murf. I’m always amazed at the number of people who argue that Australia shouldn’t have
a population of 50 million. We are the most selfish nation on earth when it comes to population policy and the detention centres
are part of this closed door mentallity. If Egypt can support 95 million people with one river, surely Australia could open the door
to a stack more refugees.
Col Allan a lightweight bully
Just picked up your excellent piece on Col Allan. As someone who worked with him in Murdoch’s london bureau for three years, let me just say that the guy is regarded here as a lightweight bully who couldn’t hack it in Fleet Street. Kelvin Mackenzie was over the road at the time and allan was both terrified of him and awestruck. Of course, Kelvin probably is the best tabloid editor Brit journalism (which means the world) has ever had. Even Rupert treated him with respect. We didn’t take Col seriously in the bureau; he was always trying to steal other people’s stories, for one thing. We regarded him as totally untrustworthy and a chancer. We were certainly not overawed by him. As for being a brilliant journo … forget it. A boozer
and a tosspot, yes. But not much else.
CRIKEY: I reckon this is a bit rough on Col. He is a good tabloid editor when not too drunk or in one of his abuse the power moods.
Then again, he can’t hold a candle to Kelvin MacKenzie.
Courier, Four Corners and due credit
re: Courier-Mail, Four Corners and due credit.
Memories … I worked at Queensland Newspapers for The Courier-Mail & The
Sunday Mail from 1979 to 1987.
(I remember getting severely told off, when I was a cadet circa 1980-81, by
the CM’s editor for being disrespectful for having the audacity of asking
that nice police commissioner Terry Lewis a blunt question about police
corruption. Lewis – much later jailed for corruption – was giving a guest
speech to Queensland Newspaper cadets about police/journalist relations.)
The Moonlight State was a follow-up on a series of investigative articles
written by Phil Dickie for The Courier-Mail. I can’t see why there should be
any tension about that – publication and broadcast dates could be checked,
showing The Courier-Mail published damning allegations relating to
corruption and organised crime in Queensland well before the Four Corners
report went to air. It was the first and only show of guts I can recall from
during my time at The Courier-Mail, which was appallingly sycophantic
towards the police, state government and the establishment generally.
However, serious allegations of Queensland Government and police corruption
were published much earlier – in 1984 – by election candidate and
shit-stirrer Fast Buck$ (aka Byron Bay local Jon Anderson), in a series of
“Pink pamphlets” (he called “Pinkies”) which I helped distribute. (Fast
Buck$’ running mate, “Sir Peter Livecy”, or some absurd name like that,
stayed at my place in Highgate Hill during that election campaign.)
And informed attacks on the Bjelke-Petersen Government and Queensland
police were aired on Brisbane community radio station 4ZZZ-FM (where I was a
volunteer announcer in the mid-80s) since it began broadcasting in the
mid-70s, in satirical magazine The Cane Toad Times since the early 80s and
throughout the Joh era in student papers such as Semper at Queensland
University and Planet at what was then QIT (now QUT).
CRIKEY: The question of the Courier Mail and Four Corners in relation to the Fitzgerald inquiry is something we are exploring presently.
Chris Masters is still bitter towards the Courier for some reason but a lot of independent observers give Phil Dickie much of the
credit. Strangely, Dickie, who is one of Australia’s most sued journalists with 29 writs and his head held high, appears to have fallen
out with the Courier Mail as well these days whereas Masters is still senior reporter on Four Corners.