A new look at refugees

Glen Frost writes: Re. “Iranian asylum seekers target Australia — but are still fleeing brutality” (yesterday). Thank you, Bernard Keane, for providing some clear analysis on the Iranian regime. It is always difficult to explain the circumstances in which people decide to become refugees, and the manner in which their journey occurs.

Advocacy groups try to highlight individual refugee stories, others counter using incorrect terminology, dog whistling and not just insensitive but, at times, heartless language; but hey, that’s democracy, and we all accept the right to free speech. What your article does do is shine some sunlight on the Iranian regime people are fleeing from and hopefully offers Crikey readers an opportunity to evaluate for themselves what life in Iran is like. If we want the benefits of UN membership, why be selective of our obligations under the treaties previous prime ministers have signed?

Disclosure: my wife was originally an Iranian political refugee in the UK, accepted as such by the UKgovernment in 1985 after an appeal by the local MP, who was a Conservative MP. He helped a family fleeing tyranny.

Hung Parliament across the Tasman

Malcolm Mackerras writes: In Crikey on May 13 there was an article by me titled “The extraordinary feat of a byelection-free Parliament. In that article I pointed out that it has been 62 years since we last had a federal parliamentary term without a single byelection (the short 19th Parliament, double dissolved in the autumn of 1951) and 64 years since we had a full term of three years without a byelection — the Chifley 18th Parliament, running from September 1946 to December 1949. The overall conclusion of my article was that “Australian politicians do not die these days”. So the extraordinary nature of our present House of Representatives in this regard is due to its “hung” nature.

Readers may be interested in a comparison with New Zealand, where the electoral system (known as “Mixed Member Proportional”) was designed to ensure that every House of Representatives be “hung”. Their lower house has 51 party list seats, 47 general electorates in the North Island, 16 general electorates in the South Island and seven Maori electorates, total 121. Very unusually, there has been a death among the elected members. The Labour member for Ikaroa-Rawhiti, Parekura Horomia, died recently so there will be a byelection in that Maori seat on June 29. Maori seats these days have Maori names, and Ikaroa-Rawhiti translates into English as “long fish along the east coast of the North Island”.

The most recent general election was in November 2011, and there have been four vacancies among the party-list seats. All four have been caused by resignations. The first cab off the rank was the former Speaker, Lockwood Smith, who resigned in February to become High Commissioner in London, after nearly three decades as an MP. He was replaced as the 17th party-list National MP by a certain Aaron Gilmore. However, he soon ran into trouble. He got drunk at a hotel and told the waiter, who refused to serve him more wine, that he would get him fired — and didn’t he know he was an MP and the prime minister would take a dim view of the waiter. The prime minister, John Key, heavied Gilmore out of the seat. The new member is a certain Paul Foster-Bell.

Meanwhile one other Labour list member and one other National list member has resigned. So that means there have been four vacancies automatically filled from the party lists. One has to feel sorry for Julia Gillard. If only Craig Thomson had been an Australian senator or a New Zealand party-list member he could have been heavied out of his seat two years ago — and saved the Labor Party much grief and expense.

Gentlemen who lunch (or do they?)

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Guess who’s coming to dinner?” (yesterday). Please continue to pursue the truth about the Henderson-Rundle Lunch Incident.  I am sure Gerard Henderson has kept a copy of the bill, probably as part of the bulging dossier that he seems to have compiled on Guy Rundle.  If Crikey published this, it could be crowdsourced to the Crikey Army, to forensically analyse it and help establish some hard facts about this historic encounter.  It is notable that Rundle does not deny he left Henderson to pick up the tab.  If we did see the itemised account, I’m sure all our sympathies would be with Henderson, and perhaps Rundle could be persuaded to settle his debt, if only for the honour of Brighton Grammar.

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