John Winston Howard was decisively routed in last year’s national elections but the Federal Opposition is keeping the Lying Rodent's deflated football of smear and fear in play. Hysterical claims that recently arrived asylum seekers sabotaged their ramshackle boat by dousing it in petrol before a fatal dawn explosion near Ashmore Reef off the Western Australian coast, have yet to be established as fact.
The boat sank soon after the explosion and the 49 Afghan asylum seekers were transferred to Australian navy vessels HMAS Albany and HMAS Childers.
Three refugees are confirmed dead, two are missing at sea, and dozens are critically injured.
Afraid to look "weak", Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has condemned people smugglers who facilitated their passage as the ''absolute scum of the earth'' who should ''rot in hell''.
I thought he was talking about the "Liberal" Party.
The "Liberals", Australia’s ragtag right wing Opposition, are once again priming the fear-and-smear pump after immigration spokeswoman Sharman Stoned proclaimed there was a direct link between the Government's policies and this week's tragic events.
And crawling out from und er a rock, Dame Alexandra Clowner, who was foreign minister during the years of the Howard Government's shameful 'Pacific Solution', sang from the same tattered hymn book by claiming the actions of people smugglers have been influenced by the Government's changed asylum seeker policies.
As usual with Dame Clowner and the rest of that discredited rabble, she is wrong. And not just wrong.
Steadfastly upholding the Howard era tradition, the bitch is lying.
Debunking the LibNat chorus of faux outrage, the Rudd Government says surveillance by ships and aircraft has actually increased, with more aerial patrols and an additional navy patrol vessel on border protection duties. Defence sources confirm that the number of air/sea patrols on “border security operations” has not been reduced.
The former Federal Government's shameful “Pacific Solution” - condemned by refugee and human rights advocates as well as the United Nations, among others – involved deporting asylum seekers “offshore” to concentration camps on bankrupt Nauru or Papua New Guinea.
The Howard Government prohibited “unauthorised arrivals” – i.e. refugees seeking asylum by arriving here on flimsy boats - from settling in Australia even when they had been found to be genuine refugees.
At the time, there was general acceptance by Aussie voters of John W. Howard's lack of integrity, but almost no understanding of his utter disdain for human rights and for the sanctity of human life.
In contrast, the Rudd Government has streamlined detention rules, abolished Johnny’s so-called “temporary protection visas” (which abandoned asylum seekers in a bureaucratic limbo), scrapped the "Pacific Solution" and has stopped urging third countries to accept refugees who have arrived in Australia.
But it has retained the excised migration zone and offshore processing on Christmas Island of asylum seekers who arrive in boats. At the time of writing this, however, the fate of the latest asylum seekers - and whether they should be handled as offshore or onshore arrivals – was not yet decided by Rudd’s Immigration Department.
Still, not to miss a perceived political opportunity at the expense of the weak and disenfranchised (as with the so-called Children Overboard scandal in which no children were thrown anywhere), the current witless crew of Oz Tory “Leader” Turnbull’s Titanic think they see a xenophobic vote to be won.
In its disgraceful hay-day, three years ago, after upsetting Indonesia over a clumsy decision to grant temporary protection visas to 42 Papuan asylum seekers, the Howard government decided that all “illegal arrivals” would be dealt with offshore. And, as noted earlier, although Labor criticised the Bill back then, it has not discarded offshore processing since gaining office.
The new legislation was quite rightly condemned at the time by former Federal Court Justice Ronald Merkel who compared offshore processing to Switzerland turning away Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany.
Oops, in fact, that's what Australia did at the time! Ignoring Hitler's murderous intent, in those days we didn't much care for Jews Down Under.
Indeed, the refugee determination process during the Howard Years was deeply political, with systemic cover-up of abuse inflicted by authorities at detention centres, as Australia proceeded to return asylum seekers to situations of persecution, danger and death.
The Howard Government's cruel policy was paid for not only in the blood, sweat and tears of frightened and traumatised refugees. Every asylum seeker processed in offshore centres cost gullible Aussie taxpayers more than half a million dollars. By August 2007 the Government had spent $1 billion - more than $500,000 a person - to process fewer than 1700 asylum seekers on Nauru, Christmas Island and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.
Expensive, punitive, shameful and completely needless but that’s the way Johnny liked it.
The refugee-equals-terrorist mcguffin became his election-winning ploy.
Let’s recap, shall we, boys and girls?
On August 24, 2001, a political and humanitarian shitstorm erupted when a distressed wooden fishing vessel carrying 433 asylum seekers was rescued in Oz waters by the Norwegian freighter Tampa, on the eve of a federal election.
John Howard ordered our elite SAS to storm the ship – fully kitted out, guns and all - and keep it from landing its anguished human cargo onto the precious Australian soil of Christmas Island, within sight of those on board, many of whom were ill, all who whom were terrified.
Coincidentally, within weeks, crackpot Saudis had hijacked and crashed passenger planes into New York’s worst architectural eyesores and Johnny, recast as George W. Bush’s suck-hole of steel, realised that he was on a clear winner.
The times suited him. It was an election year.
The key word was ‘terrorist” and it was all any despot around the world needed to utter in order to justify any political excess.
The lie worked in Washington, just as it worked in Moscow, Beijing and Cairo; among many other nasty, less-prominent little shit holes such as Tashkent (Uzbekistan). And Canberra.
Yet, 131 of the Tampa’s asylum seekers were immediately resettled in New Zealand. The remaining 302 were processed on Nauru. Of these, 101 were found to be refugees, 14 were resettled as non-refugees, one died and 186 returned home after failing to win refugee status.
Last month, the Melbourne Age reported that four of those who were sent back to Afghanistan during one of the most disreputable chapters in Australia's political history, were found to be genuine refugees.
Speaking for his companions one of the men, spokesman Asmatullah Mohammadi, told reporters he was so desperate to escape the Taliban that he risked his life in a second boat journey with people smugglers, despite fearing he would again be rejected by Australia.
He said 11 other Tampa survivors, who were refused refugee status by the Howard Government after months on Nauru, were killed by the Taliban when they returned to Afghanistan.
That's right, boys and girls, the Australian Government of John W. Horror, Phillip Rutt, Alexandra Clowner, and Amanda Millstone etc, sent people to their death as part of their cruel, inhuman "Pacific Solution" to refugee migration.
The Howard Government had ignored the fact that these were genuine refugees, people who fled persecution in their homeland and faced torture or death should they return.
The truth is, almost everybody who has been resettled from Nauru has ended up being allowed to live in Australia.
Last year, Tony Burke, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, pointed out that "of those who were resettled from the group John Howard said would never come to Australia, more than 1000 were either resettled directly in Australia or were resettled to New Zealand, and New Zealanders have a right to enter Australia. Fewer than 50 were resettled in Europe or in North America."
Never, ever, eh, Johnny?
But what else would you expect from these ruthless ratbags who ordered navy and immigration personnel to ensure that asylum seekers received no sympathy and where asylum seekers were condemned to a life of indefinite detention and indeterminate exile, some driven to suicide or insanity.
As if Australia was some Down Under dictatorship, Howard Government policy ensured that refugees in detention had no names, only numbers.
Remember when Ruddock infamously called Shayan Badraie, the catatonic six-year-old boy held in detention for 17 months, "it"?
And in July 2005, after 7 years “detention” - and taunted by then Immigration Minister Amanda Millstone who “invited” him to apply for a new visa - Australia's longest-serving asylum seeking prisoner, Peter Qasim, ended up in an Adelaide psychiatric institution.
But neither young Badraie, nor long-suffering Qasim, nor Tampa’s helpless, reluctant passengers were the worst of it.
Most tragic of all was the sinking of SIEV X on October 19, 2001, in which 353 mainly Iraqi refugees drowned.
This rotten old boat sank 300 kilometres north of Christmas Island, within Australia's operational zone as announced by John Howard on September 1 2001.
The nearest Australian warship, HMAS Arunta, was 150 nautical miles south and could have been there in five hours. Australia was the best resourced country to help but did diddly-squat.
Refugees fleeing Afghanistan and Iraq, places where the Lying Rodent claimed Aussie troops were fighting to bring peace and security to people suffering under the secular tyranny of the one and the religious fanaticism of the other!
This isn’t just irony it’s malevolence!
With the notable exceptions of Judi Moylan, Petro Georgiou, Bruce Baird and Russell Broadbent, Howard's right wing government - for purely ideological reasons - maintained its bloody minded and bloody handed opposition to more humane, more judicious and more sensible asylum seeker policies.
Its divisive politics nurtured public fears in vicious cycles of spin-doctoring and point-scoring. The strategy ensured that even those people found to be genuine refugees were imprisoned - for years - unless they were accepted by a third country. The bastards revelled in the lie that refugee equals terrorist.
Today, Howard's decomposing detritus in the form of the current LibNat rabble seem determined to continue his grotesque opportunism.
The Rudd Government has reminded Australians that we are signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention. It has closed Nauru, Manus Island and the infamous Baxter “detention centre” in the outback. What happens now on Christmas Island will determine how far we have advanced as a civilised society since the demise of the Malignant Dwarf and his mean and tricky Tory minions.
Let’s be clear: there IS no threat to Australia from “unauthorised arrivals”.
Here’s the Max Gross down-to-the-wire reffo reality check.
According to the latest report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 36,000 boat people arrived in Italy in 2008 and about 15,300 in Greece.
Australia received about 4700 of the 383,000 asylum claims lodged in 2008, a 19 per cent increase compared with the year before. Just 179 of these came by boat.
At Christmas Island, 379 people have been detained since September last year, mainly from countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka. What a surprise.
Despite the phoney hysterics of the Tory Opposition – and PM Rudd’s very own ridiculous bleating - smugglers can only exploit an existing need. They don't create it.
There is a worldwide surge in asylum seekers because of increasing global instability, with Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq among the standouts, for reasons so obvious that you would have to be Sharman Stoned not to see it.
The UNHCR doesn't even rate Australia as a top-10 target country.
Now, back to the future, on Ashmore Reef, WA.
This week, dozens of asylum seekers were critically injured when fire sank a rotten old timber boat at Ashmore Reef, about 800 kilometres west of Darwin, suffering horrific burns of up to 70 per cent of their bodies, as well as serious fractures and head injuries.
These people come from one of the world’s most war-torn nations, from the most desperate of situations and naturally they are going to do whatever they can to escape. And the Afghans are not alone.
Sri Lanka's Tamils, for example, are suffering in an intensified civil war. And as for Sudan, well, despite its appalling horrors, it rarely rates a mention in the mainstream media.
More than 1½ million Afghans are living in dire conditions in refugee camps in Iran alone and, last year, the Government in Tehran started deporting them back to Afghanistan. In fact, Iran produces a steady outpouring of refugees created by regular political crackdowns. And Afghans continue to face persecution in and outside their long-suffering country, especially since the Taliban are back in force on both sides of the border.
In Pakistan, virtually a failed state, there are an estimated 2 million – TWO BLOODY MILLION, FOR GODSAKE! - Afghan refugees. Many have been living there since the Soviet invasion the 1980s. In recent times, Afghans are being rounded up by Pakistan's “security forces”, suspected of being Taliban supporters.
If it was you and your family, what would YOU do?
Simply put, the experiences of the past decade have demonstrated that the vast majority - more than 90 per cent - of those who risk the sea crossing are found by the Immigration Department to deserve protection.
Whatever vile and duplicitous language the LibNats use, the facts remain clear: these people are refugees.
And as we all know, over the past 200 years or so, refugees among other non-English speaking immigrants have made Australia a generally civil and civilised society that could well provide an example of stability and equality to the entire world.
Whatever xenophobic hostility the Opposition hopes to generate against refugees arriving by boat for its own political purposes, it is obviously and typically just another cynical ploy, long discredited and well past its rancid use-by date. They lost government and, given their inbred “born-to-rule” mentality, they can’t stand it.
But ending the Lying Rodent’s “Pacific Solution” was a Rudd election promise. And by god, Rudd ensured that the last detainees on Nauru were in Australia by February 2008.
Rudd had the support of then opposition leader, Brendan Nelson (aka Mr 17%) in making this policy switch. Nelson’s backstabbing replacement Mal Turnbull has said he has no plans to return to the “Pacific Solution”.
And contrary to her current frenzied yipping and yapping, shadow immigration minister Sharman Stoned made the same commitment.
That’s right, folks, late last year she was in the majority on the Joint Standing Committee on Immigration that signed on more humane principles set out in the report “Immigration Detention in Australia: A New Beginning”.
The principles were endorsed by all the Liberal members on the committee, as current Immigration Minister Chris Evans has pointed out. The LibNats did not oppose the changes Labor made but now - “opportunistically” - they are.
Oh my god, they imply, Australia is about to be SWAMPED with undeserving "queue jumpers"!
The not-so-funny joke, of course, is the fact that among the asylum seekers currently detained in Indonesia are ethnic Hazaras from Afghanistan who began their attempted journey to Australia when ex-PM John W. Rodent was cracking the whip and pontificating about the great threat to the Australian way of life, liberty and Don Bradman’s sacred baggy green posed by “illegal arrivals”.
So much for the silly claims by Turnbull’s Tory attack dogs that the latest arrivals were encouraged by policy changes by the Rudd Government.
Newspaper reports quote Nur Abdul Hassan Hassaini, who says some in his group had left Afghanistan 18 months ago while others had been trapped in refugee camps in Iran and Pakistan for years.
Now, folks, you may not realise it but most asylum seekers to Australia do not arrive by boat but fly in with valid travel documents and make their claims once they arrive.
It is a bizarre Aussie phenomenon that asylum seekers arriving by air attract none of the fury directed by LibNats at arrivals by crappy, leaking, clapped out boats.
It’s clear that John Howard, our ex-PM (aka the Mendacious Midget), created a two-tiered processing system, one for people within Australia and one for people “offshore”, entrenching discrimination and systemic breaches of the international Refugee Convention to which we are signatory.
And far from making Australia more secure, as it enjoyed loudly boasting, the Howard Government in fact undermined the defence of the nation.
We know the Australian Navy's war-fighting ability was blunted by the Lying Rodent’s efforts to keep asylum seekers out because official documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act tell us so.
In July 2007 those documents revealed that Johnny Jingo’s cruel, mean and tricky asylum seekers policy was so unpopular with servicemen and women that sailors feigned illness or quit the navy rather than enforce it.
At the height of the 2001 Tampa affair and the "children overboard" scandal - and glibly dismissed by PM Howard at the time - using major navy warships against frightened and traumatised asylum seekers was “lowering morale” and was “psychologically damaging” for sailors involved.
Howard’s “Pacific Solution” regime imposed a loss of service skills, disaffected ship crews, and limited time for training and maintenance, degrading the navy's ability to fulfil its core function: defence and border protection.
This at a time when we were constantly warned by Howard and his geek chorus that Australia was at war with terrorism, when the navy was in combat in Iraq, and when it was stretched to breaking point in critical peacekeeping and disaster relief efforts.
The Lying Rodent often expressed a sentimental attachment to service personnel and never missed a photo opportunity alongside men and women in uniform, but – unreported at the time - sailors complained that the Howard Government ignored the sailors forced to do its political dirty work.
The documents confirmed tensions between the Government and the navy that emerged during the "children overboard" scandal, when the navy disproved Howard Government claims that boat people threw children into the sea.
Four days before the 2001 election, a Navy Reserve medical officer who had been on the Arunta around the time of its encounter with the asylum seekers at Ashmore Island wrote to major newspapers.
Commander Duncan Wallace said: "These actions against boat people are morally wrong and despicable."
And there’s John Winston Howard’s epitaph right there: morally wrong and despicable.
With his “Pacific Solution”, the ousted ratbag exploited the military for political gain, squandered vast amounts of taxpayers’ money and entrenched a needlessly inhumane response to a genuine humanitarian crisis.
Once a suck-hole, always a suck-hole.
Incredibly, others worthies who have received the dubious award include former South African president and anti-apartheid hero, Nelson Mandela, and former Czechoslovak and Czech Republic president Vaclav Havel, who led the "velvet revolution", both of whom were reportedly seen shoving their fingers down their throats at the news.
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young was spot on when she said: "We're talking about the Australian prime minister who oversaw the locking up of children behind razor wire, who stonily ignored the plight of David Hicks until the 11th hour of a troubled election campaign, who demonstrated an appalling lack of compassion during the Tampa incident, and who disgracefully refused to apologise to the stolen generations."
Well, the Rodent was routed by Rudd and we're here now, not there. For all his faults – not the least being his timid and all but useless response to Global Warming - Rudd has at least ended the policy of placing children in prisons surrounded by barbed wire for committing no crime other than being born to parents who want to become Australians.
Yet Shaman Stoned, among others of her inbred tribe of Tory sociopaths and rapacious freemarketeers, is ensuring that mean and tricky slander, vacuous sloganeering and the stench of xenophobia continue to pollute political discourse Down Under.
Whatever may be the truth behind the current "burning boat" incident, let me remind Xenox News readers of one clear, unassailable fact:
There is no such thing as an illegal refugee or asylum seeker.
The term "illegal asylum seeker" was fabricated by the Howard Government as a political weapon of choice in a deliberately overheated climate of disinformation and fear mongering.
Let’s hope those daze are well and truly over, rover.
Refugees intercepted by Australia heading for Australia are Australia's responsibility, cut and dried.
Now, dear Xenox News reader, permit me to quote from an excellent article by Garima Verma, a student at the University of New South Wales, appearing on 25 November 2008, on Australia’s ABC News website:
“A punitive immigration policy not only wastes countless thousands of taxpayer dollars, but diverts money from productive activities. It's surely easier (and cheaper) to process people faster, and to help them resettle and contribute to our community. Unnecessary detention means we forego economic contributions from asylum seekers who wish to work hard and rebuild their lives. No-one benefits from the mental and emotional scars of incarceration. We must redefine our treatment of fellow human beings, regardless of their citizenship, or the circumstance in which they arrive on Australian soil.”
Touché, Garima! (Read his inspiring article in full here at http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/11/25/2428769.htm )
In conclusion, lables and genitals, I voice my total agreement with Mr Greg Barns - disendorsed as a Liberal candidate in 2002 for opposing the Lying Rodent's asylum seeker policies – who pointed out that despite the viciousness of the treatment of asylum seekers, the vast majority were accepted as genuine refugees and have settled neatly into our community.
They will no doubt prove to be better, fairer and more productive Aussies than the mean and tricky ratbags who slandered and abused them and who continue to seek political mileage in doing so.
This was Max Gross for Xenox News, seeking, settling and rummaging in the fridge for a really, really, really cold beer. Cheers!