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Julian Burnside: Alienation to alien nation

I had a conversation with Tim Costello some years ago which significantly changed my way of seeing things. He told me of a time when he was running the Collins St Baptist Church. A guy who had been sleeping…

Both sides of politics are in a race to the bottom in the mistreatment of asylum seekers. EPA/STR

I had a conversation with Tim Costello some years ago which significantly changed my way of seeing things.

He told me of a time when he was running the Collins St Baptist Church. A guy who had been sleeping rough for quite a while had turned up at the Church wanting a feed. Tim was talking to him. The guy said that that conversation was the first time in two weeks he had had eye contact with any other human being.

I can scarcely imagine what that must be like. That man had, at least in his own mind, completely disappeared.

I have thought about that conversation often. The idea of such alienation haunts me. But there are many people in our society who have, at least in their own minds, disappeared. These are the people who, because of mental health problems, or simple bad luck, find themselves nursing a grievance that no-one wants to hear about. The more they complain, the more they are ignored; the more they are ignored, the louder they complain. The louder they complain, the more they are avoided, viewed with suspicion. And once that cycle sets in, their problems become more and more real to them, less and less real to those around them.

These are the people who ring late night talkback radio and harangue the host until even the panel operators know to filter them out. They are the new outcasts.

My conversation with Tim came in useful during the first round of Australia’s recent panic about asylum seekers. Between 2001 and about 2006, a lot of Australians were persuaded to be anxious about boat people arriving here. After all, the Howard government had told us they were illegals; that they had thrown their children into the sea; that they had jumped a queue somewhere. And the struggle to prevent the country from being swamped by this tide of potential terrorists was paraded as “border protection”.

Howard recognised that there were votes to be taken from One Nation if only he could make us fear the alien horde and position himself as our protector. It worked.

There is a story that I have on fair authority which shows clearly what was going on. Howard was about to enter the House of Representatives to deliver his speech explaining the government’s response to the Tampa. Jackie Kelly approached him in the lobby. She said that a lot of her constituents were deserting to One Nation. Howard waved his speech in front of her and said: “don’t worry – this will fix it”.

As most people thought at the time, the government’s response to the Tampa was purely political. Of course, Howard had a great run of good luck in 2001. His government refused to let the Tampa put its bedraggled cargo of rescued Hazaras ashore on Christmas Island; he cobbled together the Pacific Solution while the court case about Tampa continued. The judgment at first instance in the Tampa case was handed down at 2:15 Eastern Standard Time, on September 11, 2001. The result was not noticed in the newspapers next morning, because a group of Islamic extremists had attacked America.

From that moment, there were no terrorists but Muslim terrorists. There were no boat people but Muslim boat people, and although it was never clearly stated, all boat people were suspected terrorists – our worst nightmare. For those who did not see through the political opportunism, boat people were aliens to be feared.

Of course, if the true facts were understood, our response would have seemed rather odd. It did not suit the politicians to acknowledge that boat people were not illegal, that there was no queue, that they had not thrown their children overboard, and that they were trying to escape the same extremists we were so frightened of.

The Tampa incident in 2001 marked a turning point for the asylum seeker debate in Australia. AAP/Wallenius Wilhelmsen

For my sins, I became involved in the issue. I was regularly asked to speak, at public events and private, about asylum seekers. It seemed to me that the key to the problem was to explain the facts. Naïvely I thought that most Australians would recoil at the idea of wilfully mistreating men, women and children who had done nothing wrong but try to escape to safety.

A couple of unexpected things happened. First, I got a few death threats. It surprised me that, having done a few pretty contentious cases in my career, I should receive death threats for going to court pro bono on behalf of people who were, self-evidently, voiceless and powerless.

And whenever I was quoted in the media saying something outrageous like “it is wrong to imprison innocent children and drive them to suicide”, I would receive a torrent of hate mail.

The anger and intensity of the hate mail astonished me then, and it still does. It struck me as remarkable that people would write to a complete stranger in such bluntly abusive terms. And the mail I got was seriously, vigorously abusive.

Since I had set myself the goal of converting all of Australia to understanding the facts, I decided to answer all the hate mail. After all, these people had self-identified as disagreeing with my views. My reasoning, flawed as it looks now, was that if only the people who disagreed with me could understand the facts, then they would come around to my way of seeing things. If enough people changed their views, the government policy would have to change. Clearly I did not know what I was dealing with.

Still, I resolved to answer all the mail I could. Mail that came by post was impossible to answer because, as a rule, people who use the postal service are a forgetful lot who did not include a name or address. But most of it came by email and, even if I did not know the sender’s identity, I could respond by simply hitting the reply button.

I sat up late at night answering emails: thousands of them, mostly abusive. Some of them all in capitals; lots of exclamation marks and lots of very rude words. I am no shrinking violet, but I was astonished by the rudeness of many of the emails I got. Unpopularity brings strange rewards.

Since their complaints fell into a few recognisable patterns, I had a few standard responses. Typically I would grit my teeth and say something like:

Thank you for your email. I gather you do not agree with me. But did you realise that…they do not break any law by coming here asking for protection; there is no queue…etc.

If I was surprised by the rudeness and vehemence of most of the emails, what followed was even more astonishing. Nearly all of them responded to my reply…and every response was polite. The responses fell into a few patterns, but typically they said “thank you for answering me, I did not expect to hear from you. The facts you sent me are all very well, but…”, and then they would set out other objections. I replied with more facts to answer those objections.

Over the course of thousands of bits of hate mail, I estimate that about 50% ended up saying, in substance: “Thank you for discussing this issue with me. I agree with you now”; and about 25% ended up saying, in substance: “Thank you for discussing this issue with me. I don’t agree with you, but it is good that you stand up for what you believe”. The other 25% remained entirely unconvinced and, I assume, continued to vote for John Howard.

What struck me in all this was the story Tim had told me. I guessed that the people who wrote to me – and who did not expect a reply – were so alienated from the community that their only means of expressing their anger and fear and resentment and confusion was by writing to someone mildly prominent.

It occurred to me then that the passion which drove their initial hostility was the mark of people who were alienated from the community: they were accustomed to being ignored, so they fall to shouting abuse as a way of getting attention. Just once listen to them, and they quickly fall back to observing the ordinary rules of civil behaviour.

This is not just an argument for good manners: I think it goes much deeper. Too many people in our community feel alienated from it and that alienation is unstable: it tends not to self-correct, but to amplify itself.

We are a prosperous country: most of us are genuinely lucky. But we are not good at sharing our luck, and we have a strange habit of thinking that those who are less lucky must be, in some way, responsible for their own misfortunes.

There are many reasons why members of the community become alienated from it. They may have been dealt a bad hand: they have been born poor, they have been badly educated, they have a mental or physical disability, they have bad luck in employment, they make bad choices which lead them into a hopeless life. Any one of these disadvantages can lead to a cascade of events which leave a person at the bottom of the pile. And when compassion turns to vindictiveness these people suffer twice for the disadvantages they could not avoid.

Because everyone, it seems, knows my name, address and occupation I get a lot of unsolicited requests for pro bono help. It has been interesting, not to say distressing, to see the sort of troubles that plague people in our community. I get a large number of requests for help. I make it clear that all I can do is offer pro bono advice. I have a group of talented interns who help me deal with the problems.

What is distressing is that the majority of people who write to me this way do not in fact have a recognisable legal or human rights problem. Typically they are people who have had some bad luck, have made some bad choices, and find themselves trapped in a spiral of disadvantage, distress, unemployment and mental instability. At that point, anything that looks like a legal or human rights problem prompts them to reach out for help. I imagine that medical clinics have a similar experience.

When I write to them with further questions, or with advice about what to do, it usually becomes clear that they have already been to just about every imaginable place for help: Legal Aid, a Community Legal Centre, government departments, their local doctor or MP. No-one can help them, because they have no single, clear problem apart from the fact that they feel alienated from everything. Part of their distress is caused by feeling so isolated.

Former prime minister John Howard used harsh treatment of asylum seekers to his political advantage in the early part of the 2000s. AAP/Julian Smith

The most distressed, and distressing, group are people who are probably paranoid schizophrenics. One person who writes to me quite often is convinced that the police, and other government agencies, are spying on him all the time and that they have a secret control order against him. He is intelligent and well-educated. He sends video footage of ordinary street scenes, at the traffic lights, in shopping centres, in suburban streets and he asserts (and no doubt believes) that various people captured on his videos are in fact plain clothes operatives – stalking him, watching him, keeping him in a kind of open prison.

This person points out, rationally enough, that such conduct is a serious breach of his human rights. And if the innocuous scenes he sent showed what he sees, he would be right. But they do not show what he sees. They prove nothing at all. He insists that the Commonwealth government have a secret control order against him: but he can offer no explanation how a control order can work, if it is kept secret from everyone.

The difficulty with people like this man is that they cannot be convinced that their view of the facts does not line up with reality. And it is hard for a lawyer to tell a would-be client that he needs psychiatric help.

The end result is that people like him get pushed from pillar to post but rarely if ever get the help they actually need.

There are only a couple of bright spots in this dismal tale.

The first concerns a lady who turned up in my chambers one lunchtime, quite distressed and wanting to see me. We chatted for a bit, but the long and short of it was that she had been receiving treatment for paranoid schizophrenia, her treatment had been interrupted; she became convinced that her treating doctor was trying to kill her with the medications he had prescribed, so she decided not to take it any more. She wanted me to take possession of the diary she had been keeping because she was confident that she would soon be killed and she wanted me to have the evidence which would identify the guilty party.

We spoke for some time. Somehow I managed to persuade her to go to a new doctor – someone who could not possibly know or conspire with her treating doctor – and agree to take whatever medication he prescribed. In the meantime I would protect her diary.

About two months later she turned up again. She had been to another doctor. She had taken the medication he prescribed. She was feeling a lot better, and realised that she had misjudged her original doctor. In the circumstances, she did not need me to look after her diary any more.

How odd that one of my few successes in the field of human rights should result from a modicum of medical knowledge and a bit of common sense.

The second bright spot is this. Most of the people who write asking for pro bono help have simply not got a legal problem. While they may have had a genuine legal problem in the past, typically it is buried in history and statute barred years or decades before. The real problem is that their lives have gone off track, and they no longer feel any connection to the society which has let them down so badly. A surprising number of these people seem to benefit from having their problem taken seriously, from getting a written advice in response to their letter, or from being listened to for half an hour.

It is a powerful reminder of just what great work the Community Legal Centres do. Underfunded and under resourced, they exist in order to help people deal with legal problems, but in many cases the real help they give lies in the fact that they extend the simple dignity of listening to a person’s distress. They help rescue the alienated. I am hugely impressed with Community Legal Centres. They deserve to be better funded and better recognised for the work they do.

Of course, there are plenty of people in the community who have genuine legal problems who cannot afford legal representation. People who face minor criminal charges but cannot afford a lawyer; people who have a good civil claim to make, or a good defence to a civil claim brought against them, and cannot afford legal representation.

Access to Justice is a cornerstone of any democracy. Access to Justice must include the right to participate meaningfully in the legal system.

The legal system in Australia is an adversary system: competing parties advance evidence and arguments, and the court sits as an impartial umpire to decide the dispute. The adversary system assumes that both parties are competently represented: that is its most basic assumption. If that assumption fails, the system fails. Our system struggles to work properly when one party is unrepresented. But litigation is expensive, and many people can’t afford it.

Legal Aid is the government’s way of making good the political promise of Access to Justice, but Legal Aid is already underfunded, and cuts to Legal Aid guarantee that for many people Access to Justice is nothing but a political slogan.

The government is spending increasing amounts on police and Public Safety Officers. Their increased numbers result in more citizens being brought before courts. Those people need legal representation, but the government refuses to fund Legal Aid properly.

Thousands of self-represented litigants come before courts every year. This imposes unreasonable strains on judges, and it makes cases longer and more difficult than they should be. It often leads to mistakes. 25% of all appeals involve unrepresented litigants. It wastes vast amounts of judicial and other resources.

People who face a court unrepresented suffer an immediate disadvantage. Only by good luck will they get the result they might have got if they had been represented. And even assuming the court reaches the right decision it is likely that the unrepresented litigant will have understood almost nothing of the process and will leave with a rankling sense of injustice. With some justification, those people will leave court feeling that the system is not working, at least not for them. They become aliens in their own land.

But they are not alone.

Since 2001, Australian politicians have won electoral popularity by taking a tough line on asylum seekers.

During the past 15 years, asylum seekers were somehow hoisted to a position of public hatred which made it politically possible for the Howard government to treat them with increasing harshness, and made it politically necessary for Kim Beasley’s Labor opposition to support these measures. Without any protest from the press or the public, the Howard government succeeded in establishing, in the courts, that the central elements of its deterrent policy were legally valid.

Not enough people know the case of Ahmed al Kateb. He came to Australia and sought asylum in late 2000 or thereabouts. He applied for a visa and was refused. He found conditions in Woomera so intolerable that he asked to be removed from Australia. Eighteen months later he was still here because, being a stateless Palestinian, there was no country where he was entitled to be and no country was willing to receive him.

The Migration Act provides that a person who comes to Australia without papers must be detained, and they must remain in detention until either they get a visa or they are removed from the country. When the Keating government introduced those measures in 1992, one supposes that parliament suspected that either of those two outcomes would be available in every case.

They had not allowed for the anomalous case of stateless people. You might think that a government which had paraded itself virtuously as committed to family values and a fair and decent society, might quickly amend the law to account for these few anomalous cases. But what the government did, in fact, was to argue all the way to the High Court that al Kateb, even though he has committed no offence in Australia, can be held in detention for the rest of his life. The High Court agreed.

Parallel with the al Kateb case was the case of Behrooz. That case tested this question: if the conditions in detention are as harsh as human ingenuity can devise, does the harshness make any difference to the lawfulness of that detention. The answer is No.

Al Kateb and Behrooz were decided together in 2004. Between them, they stand for the miserable proposition that indefinite detention, even for life in the worst conditions imaginable, is lawful. A third case decided that year held that the provisions apply equally to children.

The Rudd government in 2008 introduced significant changes in the treatment of asylum seekers. They were welcomed by those of us who felt that the values of the nation had been betrayed by the Howard government. In retrospect, it may be that Rudd could afford to be nice to asylum seekers because none were arriving. Things changed in 2009, after Tony Abbott had won leadership of the Coalition and started talking tough about asylum seekers.

The recent election saw the major political parties engaged in a competition to outdo each other in their promises to mistreat boat people. The theory is that this will deter others from seeking protection here.

Promising to treat innocent people badly is not usually a vote-winner. In most cases it would be seen as a mark of depravity.

But the argument starts at the wrong place. It starts with the Coalition’s oft-repeated statement that boat people are “illegals”. It starts from the language of “border protection” and “queue-jumping”: language calculated to make the public think boat people are undesirables, people to be feared, people we need to be protected from.

New immigration minister Scott Morrison has promised a ‘harder line’ on asylum seekers. AAP/Penny Bradfield

The fact is that boat people do not break any law by coming here the way they do. Over the past 15 years, 90% of them have ultimately been assessed as refugees entitled to our protection. Their arrival rate over the last 12 months has been much higher than the historic average, but even now it represents only four weeks’ ordinary population growth. While an estimated 25,000 boat people arrived in Australia in the 12 months to June 30, 2013, we received 168,685 new permanent migrants and over six million visitors came to our shores in the year ended December 2012. Boat people do not present a demographic problem for Australia.

Spooked by tabloid scare-mongering, both major parties have chosen deterrent policies: treat them harshly, push them off to small, impoverished Pacific neighbours. The low point of this is the recent Coalition promise to bring in the military to deal with the “emergency”.

The spectacular cost of these measures passes without complaint because it is seen as a kind of protection. While it is difficult to separate out the various components of the cost, indefinite detention costs, on average, around A$160,000 per person per year as of 2011-12. The actual cost varies: metropolitan detention is cheapest. It gets more and more expensive as the place of detention is more remote. On current estimates, we will spend about $4 billion each year brutalising people who have committed no offence and have done nothing worse that ask for protection.

It is not easy to understand how this has happened. Those of us who think Australia is better than its behaviour suggests now feel like aliens in our own land: bewildered at how quickly the country has lost its moral bearings.

Australia has constructed a myth about itself which cannot survive unless we forget a number of painful truths. We draw a veil of comforting amnesia over anything which contradicts our self-image.

We forget that boat people who come here to ask for protection are not illegal in any sense - they are exercising the right which every person has in international law to seek asylum in any country they can reach.

We forget that the greatest number of unauthorised boats to arrive in a single day got here on January 26, 1788.

We forget that the first white settlers in this country were true illegals: sent here by English courts for a range of criminal offences, and the soldiers sent to guard them, and the administrators who, following London’s instructions, stole the country from its original inhabitants who, if possession is nine points of the law, had the backing of 40,000 years of law to justify calling the white invaders “illegals”.

And we forget, too, the line in the second verse of our national anthem. For those who come across the sea there truly are boundless plains to share. For refugees locked away in remote detention centres, that line must cast light on the frontier which delusion shares with hypocrisy.

We forget how different it was for 85,000 Vietnamese boat people 30 years ago. They were resettled here swiftly and without fuss, thanks to the simple human decency which Malcolm Fraser and Gough Whitlam showed, and which Abbott and Rudd so conspicuously lack. We forget how hideously we scarred Vietnam; how we showered them with Agent Orange and trashed their villages and disfigured their people. Just as we forget the effects of our collaboration in Iraq. But if we knew back then why people flee the land of their birth, we seem to have forgotten it now.

When today’s refugees wash up on our shores, politicians speak with concern about the boat people who die in their attempt to get to safety. But their concern is utterly false. Instead of attacking the refugees directly, which is their real purpose, they attack the people smugglers instead. Because, aren’t people smugglers the worst people imaginable, the “scum of the earth”? They forget that Oskar Schindler was a people smuggler, and so was Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Oskar Schindler ‘smuggled’ many Jews to work in his factories during World War Two. Noa Cafri

And so was Gustav Schroeder, captain of the ill-fated MS St Louis which left Hamburg in May 1939 with a cargo of 900 Jews looking for help. He tried every trick in the book to land them somewhere safe, but was pushed away. He ended up putting them ashore again in Europe, and more than half of them perished in concentration camps. Captain Schroeder was a people smuggler, but was also a hero and if the world had not been so harsh he would have been a saviour.

And we forget that, without the help of people smugglers, refugees are left to face persecution or death at the hands of whatever tyranny threatens them. Let Rudd or Abbott say publicly that, in the same circumstances, they would not use a people smuggler if they had to.

Many recent boat people are Hazaras from Afghanistan. They are targeted ruthlessly by the Taliban, who are bent on ethnic cleansing. The Hazara population of Afghanistan has fallen dramatically over the past decade, as Hazaras escape or are killed. The Taliban want to get rid of all of them. We have forgotten that we are locked in mortal combat with the Taliban. When our troops pull out of Afghanistan at the end of this year, the Taliban will declare open season on Hazaras. It will be a bloodbath, and some Hazaras will end up seeking protection here.

How will we respond? Coldly, it seems.

So here we are: Australia in 2013. We have forgotten our origins and our good fortune, we are blind to our own selfishness. In place of memory we cling to a national myth of a generous, welcoming country, a land of new arrivals where everyone gets a fair go; a myth in which vanity fills the emptiness where the truth was forgotten.

During the election campaign, many of us watched aghast as both major parties promised mistreatment so harsh that it would act as a deterrent; mistreatment so unpleasant that it would seem more attractive to stay home and face down the Taliban rather than flee for safety.

It is painful to recognize that we are now a country which would brutalise one group with the intention that other people in distress will choose not to ask us for help.

The sight of the major parties competing to promise greater cruelty to boat people is new in Australian politics. We have never been perfect, but this was something without precedent.

But some of us remember how things once were, some of us see how things could be.

And we grieve: aliens in our own land.


This piece is based on the Tim Costello Lecture, delivered by Julian Burnside on September 18.

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    1. emily vicendese

      undergrad

      In reply to Michael Gormly

      No, what makes this brilliant is it is the opposite of "pitting against". How can we seek to make others more understanding if we do not attempt to understand them?

      The Left must engage the uncompassionate with compassion.

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    2. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Michael Gormly

      If I want someone to explain why I should change my mind about something, what I would like that person to do is not appeal to my compassion, not my indignation, anger whatever, but to explain a pragmatic stance on why this approach is a good solution to a problem. Once someone assumes a John Howard style strong defender of Australia’s sovereign border’s stance designed to engender my feelings of patriotism and solidarity with fellow Australians and join with them to repel the hordes, or an Alan…

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    3. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Michael Gormly

      "The Left must engage the uncompassionate with compassion."

      I wonder how this will work when the response is "we don't need your stinking compassion"?

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    4. Andrew Smith

      Education Consultant at Australian & International Education Centre

      In reply to Michael Gormly

      An American Australian journalist once said how smart John Howard was in his use of xenophobia to support his govt. However, it started years earlier when he expressed antipathy towards the rate of "Asian immigration" (when white Australia policy had stopped within same generation) but was quite rightly shouted down by both media and politicians.

      Meanwhile Labor went back to its old white Australia ways when Beazley more or less supported Howard re. Tampa.......

      What Howard had also learned…

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    5. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Gormly

      This can also been seen in the frequent attempts to end or restrict the 457s visa program.

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    1. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to Michael Field

      HI John, perhaps your mate should read the Koran before he sprouts an ill-informed opinion.

      There is a theological view that The Prophet was one of the early Protestant critics of the worldliness of the Roman Christian church of the sixth century. Indeed, the four basic tenets of Islam are the same as Protestant Christianity, much to the disgust of the papist clergy.

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    2. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Michael Field

      Same goes for you, Jack. Try some of the following excerpts and think about the ramifications for a liberal western society BEFORE you come out in support of the religion.
      Qur'an (4:11) - "The male shall have the equal of the portion of two females" (see also verse 4:176).

      Qur'an (2:282) "And call to witness, from among your men, two witnesses. And if two men be not found then a man and two women."

      Qur'an (2:228) - "and the men are a degree above them [women]"

      Qur'an (5:6) - "And…

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    3. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Michael Field

      G'day grumps ... haven't seen you about of late ... glad you're back.

      And you're dead right about theocratic notions of social organisation... God help us if for example, my overtures to the powerful to return to the teachings of Leviticus and Deuteronomy were ever taken seriously.... we'd run out of stones to be throwing in no time.

      But just as it is with the diversity present in 'Christian societies' there is in fact a far greater range of social organisation found across the muslim world…

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    4. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Michael Field

      I recognise the inequality and misogyny in these quotes John, fortunately the majority of Muslims do not practice these things. The fact that some countries practice Sharia law and that extremists act and would choose to run the world to their own liking is a real worry, but always was the world thus. Vigilance, not hate or fear is of course always necessary for the preservation of freedom and liberty. I am more concerned with the actions of my new present government and what freedoms it is seeking to take away from me than the possible doings of some possible terrorists in our midst. This latter concern is for the police and military and ASIO to get cracking on.

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    5. Michelle Bourke

      Tech entrepreneur and business owner at Artlivemedia, Sea of Hearts

      In reply to Michael Field

      Hi Jack,

      I think you make a really good point - there is an underlying cause, a fear, that exists underneath what politicians talk about.

      I've also read the Qu'ran (my cousins are Sunni Muslim) and I think there is a big divide on both the left and the right (taking left and right to simply be referring to politics in Australia and general preferences on each side for support of the related policies) in terms of their understanding of Islam.

      The gap on the right is in the disconnect…

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    6. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Michael Field

      Also John, according to the following link cited on another thread of The Conversation, it was Scott Morrison who reportedly argued in shadow cabinet that the Liberals should exploit community concerns about Muslim immigrants.
      http://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2012/february/1328593883/nick-bryant/so-who-bloody-hell-are-you
      Accumulating political capital by doing and saying whatever it takes is a poor substitute for doing the right thing. A poor thing for Australia and Australians generally.

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    7. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Michael Field

      And it is extremely socially destructive and dangerous Chris...riding the tiger.

      An ugly creature Morisson, filled with fear and hatred... I keep seeing him in a Hugo Boss uniform. I will enjoy watching him come unravelled in coming weeks. Won't take long.

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    8. Bernie Masters

      environmental consultant at FIA Technology Pty Ltd, B K Masters and Associates

      In reply to Michael Field

      Excuse my sarcasm, Peter, but thank you for your warm, positive, constructive comment about Scott Morrison. You epitomise exactly what's wrong with Australia's political system and why democracy is under such threat and soon likely to fail us. Attacks on the person, be they against Gillard or Howard or Rudd or Abbott, rather than attacks on the policies and on our understanding of issues are what will reduce government to its most simplistic and irrelevant levels and will make government policy and Australian community attitudes even less well reasoned and reasonable.

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    9. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Michael Field

      Sarcasm's fine Bernie.

      I'd be more than happy to offer Mr Morisson some warm, positive and supportive comments the moment he makes a positive contribution to our national discussion of these matters, let alone a constructive policy strategy.

      Sadly his role - the one sanctioned and indeed assigned to him - has been to maintain the terms of abuse that fuel the fears and hatred of the foreign. So they are 'illegals' - despite the law; 'queue jumpers' - despite the lack of queue, 'a drain on…

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    10. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Michael Field

      No Bernie ... I agree with your general premise - and have regularly posted on the appaling personality squares contest of our political debate and commentary ... it's just that Scott Morisson is worthy of an exemption... the exception that proves the rule.... a thoroughly negative and destructive influence in our public discourse and polity ... not a single redeeming or mitigating feature ... a dealer in deception ignorance and fear. And he knows it. And he doesn't care. That has been his allocated role.

      Not even Abbott or Joe Hockey merit such exceptional treatment.

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    11. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Michael Field

      OK Bernie ... here's a challenge for you ... find us a single quote in which Morisson has acknowledged the klegal realities of irregular boat arrivals or has moved us an inch closer to agreement or understanding ... just one... something that makes his contribution worthy of praise or even tolerance.

      I am not criticising this bloke's peronality ... I don't care of he smothers his kids in affection or has a more engaging sense of humour, a striking hairstyle or well cut Armani suits. I am criticising…

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    12. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Michael Field

      One can very easily agree with your basic premise Bernie that discussing the issues is so much better than playing the man and it is apposite to this present conversation, however surely it is up to our exalted tribal leaders to show the way. No matter how quiet about the personal and cynical political failings of our leaders the rest of us remain, we do not receive that same courtesy in reply from the likes of Morrison, Pyne, and Mirabella etc. They attack their particular opposition and favoured…

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    13. Greg Wood

      Energy Consultant

      In reply to Michael Field

      "But opposition to refugees is mainstream, not just the view of 'invisible' people."

      The clarity and import of Julien's core premise of social alienation should prompt us to consider just how great a proportion of our 'community' is in fact alienated to some substantive degree, or at least feels that way. Given the sublime power of the human imagination, the latter is effectively the former in any case.

      I propose that the 'alienated' proportion is a majority with our society, and is thus a…

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    14. Bernie Masters

      environmental consultant at FIA Technology Pty Ltd, B K Masters and Associates

      In reply to Michael Field

      Peter, take your blinkers off and see with open eyes what you're actually complaining about. Scott Morrison (who I don't know and I don't agree with his policies, incidentally) publicly espouses views that have been supported by:
      * his leader Tony Abbott
      * the shadow cabinet, now the government
      * a majority of the elected federal Liberal and National Party MPs
      * a majority of Australians as demonstrated by their voting preferences last month.
      So, while you continue to attack the man, you are…

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    15. Bernie Masters

      environmental consultant at FIA Technology Pty Ltd, B K Masters and Associates

      In reply to Michael Field

      Thanks for the comment, Chris. I don't agree with Morrison's policy statements; I don't like Pyne and worry about what he will do to education in Australia; and Mirabella got what she deserved on election day. None of which justifies me criticising them as human beings. It's their statements and beliefs that I am opposed to and I find it unacceptable that posters delight in attacking people when they should be attacking policies.

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    16. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Michael Field

      Sorry Bernie but we wi;ll have to agree to disagree.

      I am not attacking Morisson the peronality or 'the man' as you put it. I am attacking what he does and has done consistently for the last three years.

      You are suggesting that individuals are beyond reproach and criticism for their deeds. I believe we all stand on our records and our actions. And the record of this particular individual is a source of national shame.

      Rather what will destroy our democracy is the trivialisation of politics - the absence of ideas - and the obsession with popularity, polls and tweetery regardless of ideas or policies.

      Is Tony Abbott a 'nice' man? I couldn't care less. Is he a misogynist? Again I couldn't care less. Does he advocate misogynist policies and rhetoric? ... a very different question altogether and thoroughly within the ambit of legitimate and traditional political discourse.

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    17. Bernie Masters

      environmental consultant at FIA Technology Pty Ltd, B K Masters and Associates

      In reply to Michael Field

      Not attacking Morisson the personality? Give me a break. Here's what you said in an earlier post: I "have regularly posted on the appaling personality squares contest of our political debate and commentary ... it's just that Scott Morisson is worthy of an exemption". So you're actually quite happy to make an exception in Morisson's case even though you claim to not like the personality-based contests we suffer from in politics and the media. You (as well as many others) are the cause of the low standard and personality-focus of what purports to be a democratic political process in Australia.

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    18. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Michael Field

      'I don't like Pyne and worry about what he will do to education in Australia; and Mirabella got what she deserved on election day.'

      Hmm? What's 'like' got to do with it?

      I don't 'like' Pyne's voice or mannerisms - but then I must admit Julia could sound like a chainsaw churning through a sheet of gal on a bad day. I don't 'like' Mirabella either and neither did the folks of Indi - doing us all a great favour.

      I'm only going on what I saw of here on Q&A and, more tellingly, the coments…

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    19. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Michael Field

      PS Very interesting line of work you're in. I've done some work with fungi and heavy metal contamination (on land) ... useful little machines yer plants and our fungal friends.... do lots of heavy lifting.

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    20. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Michael Field

      Michelle, thanks for the reply and the lin. What a terrific piece of writing. You have really nailed the delicacy of the balance needed on this topic. nicely done. Cheers

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    21. Graeme Smith

      Citizen

      In reply to Michael Field

      John Phillip, "Same goes for you, Jack. Try some of the following excerpts and think about the ramifications for a liberal western society BEFORE you come out in support of the religion." Please do likewise with the following John:

      Sura 7: 157 ~ "those who follow the messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (scriptures),- in the law and the Gospel;- for he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good (and pure…

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    22. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Michael Field

      Thanks Graham. The point I should have been clear about was that many people are understandably concerned about the encroachment of an intolerant religion (that is at the centre of much of the current conflict across the globe) into a secular, western democracy. The fact that there are peaceful elements to the practices of Islam in no way removes the empirical evidence that points to the myriad evidence of violence perpetrated in its name - it is not the peaceful muslim that concerns people. It is the jihadist. Until you can guarantee that no violent jihadist will come in through our refugee and immigration programs, the argument will be ever-present.

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    23. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Michael Field

      "Jihad" means "struggle".

      It can refer to the struggle that lots of people undergo to reconcile religious dogma in the lives - the use of contraception by Roman Catholics, for example, or refraining from burning witches, or eating fish on Fridays, or not using light switches on Saturday.

      Violent Jihad means the use of violence to achieve (political objectives) - getting the USA to refrain from killing people in Arabia, for example.

      So yes, anyone emigrating to Australia should undertake to obey our laws, and only kill people when authorised by our Government - even when it ignores the clear wish of the people to avoid piggy-backing on the USA's various imperialist ventures.

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    24. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Michael Field

      Gotta be a bit more precise John...

      Islam itself isn't an intolerant religion ... depends on who and where and when ... there have been periods of remarkably enlightened islam and periods of extremely dark and brutal repression - mostly of other muslims.

      Our 'best friends' in the Middle East - the al Saud family - are about the worst actually... and, as usual, the religion is used to protect and extend the political power of a ruling elite we in the west installed.

      But there are also some…

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    25. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Michael Field

      SO what mechanisms are you going to put in place to ensure that the values of a secular democracy are protected form the tyranny of religious oppression. (We're only just getting out from under the yolk of other religions, here.) Are you prepared to guarantee that there will be no sharia law in Australia?

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    26. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to Michael Field

      Well,well, Grumpy John has returned from the hustings complete with out of context religious extracts.

      I cannot be bothered going through the Christian Old Testament to discover similar verses ... there are too many positive texts in the New Testament to inspire our behaviour, like "Love one another as I have loved you".

      I hope you bring this one to Morrison's attention as he appears to have overlooked it during his political career.

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    27. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to Michael Field

      Bernie, the thinking few among us would consider that having publicly espoused policies supported by Toxic RAbbott is of itself sufficient reason to hold them in low repute.

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    28. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to Michael Field

      Thank you for the references. Unfortunately I do not read Hebrew. May I suggest you read the whole Koran rather than just selected exerpts. Indeed, may I suggest that you widen your theological reading to include some of the other 'Eastern' theological texts like say, the Vedas.

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    29. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to Michael Field

      Grumpy John, I am reminded that most of European history, that is, the history of what many people call 'Western society', is filled with wars caused by the imperialistic greed of ... the Vatican Pontifax of that time.

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    30. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Michael Field

      We have a democracy which currently has laws against euthanasia and marriage equality, both issues where the great majority want changes, opposed by people with arguments based on religion, managed by old men in funny dresses.

      Which parts of sharia law do you consider heinous?

      How do you think they would be accepted by the several hundred (mainly) men in our current Parliaments?

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    31. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Michael Field

      John: Can you imagine for one second Aussies giving up their grog, their couch and TV to go and pray?
      Why do think other religions have lost their hold?
      Far too much competing detainment!
      Sunday church, already loosing its hold when I was young, was the social day of the week. The day everyone caught up with all the gossip, the grim faced, tut tutting matrons on about the latest unmarried, pregnant girl.
      Have you been to meetings/ organisations/universities where young Muslim where the most…

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    32. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Michael Field

      Eternal vigilance is the best defence John.

      And even then it lets us down. We still open every parliamentary sitting day with prayer. The very fact a few months back that Ed Husic dared swear his oath of office on the Qoran prompted outrage from the iggnerant.

      Or we could turn to that founding state of secular democracy - established by rationalists - now transformed into 'one nation under god' and slapping 'in god we trust' on their currency (all thanks to Billy Graham and Eisenhower during…

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    33. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Michael Field

      Be fair, John Phillip posed the perfectly sensible question of how to avoid having sets of laws coming from religions (Judaic, Old / New Testament / Sharia...) taking over.

      The fact that the Old Testament is a compendium of drunken ravings justifying genocide is not the issue. The history of Roman Catholic Popes and nut-job English queens (like Mary) are not the issue.

      Is it enough to have democratic elections to stop policies based more or less purely on religious concepts being enacted in law?

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    34. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Michael Field

      Do a bit of research into sharia law and get back to me. For you to think that it is compatible with the values of a western democracy highlight your absolute ignorance on the subject.

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    35. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Michael Field

      No hustings, Jack just marking high school maths and physics assignments. The context for the religious extracts can be found in ANY examination of acts carried out in the name of islam across the globe. For starters, Jack, start looking at the Pakistani news and then get back to me about how of some of those interpretations of sharia law might translate to the Australian context.

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    36. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Michael Field

      Yea, Peter. It's all good. Nothing to worry about at all. Sharia law is fine isn't it. fits seamlessly with a progressive western society. I guess it'll be great, particularly if your not homosexual or female.

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    37. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Michael Field

      John where would you suggest we do our research.... in the sacred taxts of the 7th century or in the reality of the world in 2013?

      If the latter then there are plenty of instances of governments - even the largest Islamic nation on earth to our immediate north - where the law seems to operate within quite acceptable standards - even granting clemency for convicted drug smugglers on a regular basis.

      If on the other hand we're swapping sacred texts - I'd draw you attention to Leviticus and the observation that the roadsides of Woolibuddha abound with sinners collecting firewood on the Sabbath. By rights - by the text - they should be stoned to death.

      So do you want to argue quotes or realities?

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    38. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Michael Field

      Nice to see that you equate an opinion that differs from your own as necessarily belonging to a male who is either old and grumpy or young and retarded. Of course , that must be the case. How could any 'normal' disagree with one so enlightened as yourself.

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    39. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Michael Field

      I did NOT say I thought sharia law was compatible with ... democracy.

      I simply asked what aspects YOU thought made it so, as you seem to have some firm opinions, no doubt founded in reason.

      The question I asked is simply how do we in Australia conduct our law making to prevent it from being perverted by any group of god-botherers?

      Do we need to make changes to our Constitutions?

      Do we need to make changes to what sort of people can be elected?

      Do we need to make changes to our judiciary?

      Why are you so concerned about the infinitesimal chance that somewhere, somehow Sharia Law / Roman Catholic dogma will take over?

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    40. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Michael Field

      John, your self-selected alias is "Grumpy Old Man".

      Have you not noticed?

      Do your opinions belong to a "male who is (either) old and grumpy"?

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    41. Graeme Smith

      Citizen

      In reply to Michael Field

      Sharia law is not compatible with democracy, nor indeed is islam. However benignly progressive some contemporary instances of islam 'democracy' may appear they are in the minority, and remain 'stable' only through internally applied military force or threat of force. The seeds of autocratic paternalistic rule are deeply planted within islam. For examples take the nearby Javanese democracy repeatedly shown as islamic based imperium, and further afield the caliphate heritage bubbling away in Turkey. Islam is a system of governance, was invented, refined, and formalised as such.

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    42. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Michael Field

      Robert, perhaps you are right and we do need to make changes to our constitution to ensure that systems such as sharia are unable to be implemented/recognised in our country. Perhaps that would go some way to alleviating those concerns about the intolerance inherent under sharia.

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    43. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Michael Field

      Simple point of difference - under Catholicism, suicide and murder is a sin. Under Islam, the 'right' kind of suicide and murder rewards one with 27 virgins and paradise. (For supporting e4vidence, view any of the you tube messages left by those 'heroic' warriors of islam.)

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    44. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Michael Field

      I spent a large part of my formative years looking at appalling pictures of virtuous martyrs suffering the most gruesome ends ... not the same?

      Launching holy wars to reclaim the holy land for Christ ... heck it's been a hobby for almost 1,000 years... driving the Moors and then the Jews out of Spain .... sounds like jihad, looks like jihad ...

      Priests blessing the panzers before the battle of Stalingrad ... yep - god on our side ... a blue-eyed Aryan god of course ... not remotely Jewish....

      We have our chaplains providing moral comfort and succour to our valiant troops in Afghanistan as we speak ... "God understands collateral damage corporal... any wedding party could be a terrorist hotbed...not your fault at all..."

      You really need to get over this 'us' and 'them' view of the world John - it'll only make you grumpier... there's just us - warts and all. And we'd better realise it soon or there won't be none of us at all.

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    45. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Michael Field

      Under our law, suicide is not a crime. Assisting suicide is a crime, Publishing information about methods of suicide is a crime, and Australian websites that do so are shut down. I happen to think this is evidence of religion interfering with my right to a peaceful death, if I so choose.

      In Australia, giving up your life in battle is (sometimes) rewarded with medals, and certainly awarded great respect. If it is combined with killing lots of other people, so much the better.

      Being rewarded…

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    46. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Michael Field

      'And the grumpy old men and the few retarded young men will die out, the old because of age, or rage, the young because no young woman will have anything to do with them.'

      I was referring to Muslim migrants.
      Many old men --- and some young --- are set in their ways, their views not much changed from when they were young.

      Young men who haven't accepted yet that they no longer have any community support ---- they will expect, nay demand that their women are chaste, while they go out seeking…

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    47. Graeme Smith

      Citizen

      In reply to Michael Field

      Jack: "Unfortunately I do not read Hebrew. May I suggest you read the whole Koran rather than just selected exerpts. Indeed, may I suggest that you widen your theological reading to include some of the other 'Eastern' theological texts like say, the Vedas."

      Why ever would you suggest that? The Hebrew there is but one biblical instance held to prophesy the coming of Muhammad... the only instance by name... all nonsense of course, as are the scriptural linguistic arguments coming the other way…

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    48. Graeme Smith

      Citizen

      In reply to Michael Field

      John: "The point I should have been clear about was that many people are understandably concerned about the encroachment of an intolerant religion (that is at the centre of much of the current conflict across the globe) into a secular, western democracy."--

      Following your list of select suras I think my main points (there were a few) in quoting Sura 7:157 juxtaposed with mention of a then future Muhammad in Songs 5:16 can be distilled down to demonstrating the absurdity of taking any/all religions…

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    49. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Michael Field

      Great, informative reply, Graeme. Thanks for the effort and clarity of thought.
      Mohamad Abdallah has an article at http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2013/05/10/3756163.htm that attempts to allay western fears but fails to address the interface of sharia and secular law. He acknowledges that there is a push for the adoption of sharia in this country
      Jan Ali's article raises some important issues regarding the adoption of a second legal system within Australia :https://theconversation.com/sharia-why-a-dual-legal-system-will-not-work-in-australia-5281

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    50. Sophia A

      Medical student

      In reply to Michael Field

      Hi John,

      I am a Muslim-Australian, one who is a firm believer in my religion but also part of the Australian community. I have chosen to reply to you because there seems to be a huge misunderstanding of Islam, and more importantly, blame on the religion when it is few individuals who take on extremist views.

      Earlier you quoted segments from the Qu'ran, and while alone they may seem misogynistic or violent, it is so important to read the entirety of the passage to appreciate the peace, tolerance…

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    51. Graeme Smith

      Citizen

      In reply to Michael Field

      "Being rewarded with 27 virgins is a bit problematical (where would you find them these days) but then again, there are all sorts of fantasies floated by god-botherers" -- Oh dear, bother, apparently something was lost in translation. The word is it is not virgins. In the original the word is raisins. Find 'em in the southern states or down at woollies.

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    52. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to Michael Field

      Hi Robert, what a conundrum you pose. Would you be so kind as to identify where there are any religious principles in Liberal Coalition policy. The only principles that appear evident are self-serving political greed and caving in to any foreigner who covets Australian natural resources.

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    53. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to Michael Field

      Graeme, thank you for your informed comment and references.

      if I understand your 'brand differentiation' argument correctly, then there appears to have been similar events in early Christianity and even as far back as pre-Israel coming out of Egypt.

      But then, the Vedas contain one book (name forgotten in the mists of time) that basically outlines the precepts of Christianity. That is why I recommended my Vedas reference.

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    54. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Michael Field

      Thanks for the considered and respectful reply, Sophia. I understand where you are coming from. It is hard, however, to distance Islam from the acts being perpetrated in its name. (The Catholic and Protestant Christian faiths had the same problem during the 'troubles' in Nth Ireland.) As a friend of a Christian Pakistani family who have had members abducted and murdered in that country (they now live in Aus) people do need to be, if they are not already, aware of the violence directed towards non-muslims…

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    55. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Michael Field

      Jack, what on earth has your attack on the LNP got to do with this? Get over it, old chap, or, alternatively, put the dummy back in.

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    56. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Michael Field

      Jack,

      According to the Sydney Morning Herald (21/22 September) Rear Admiral Abbott's Cabinet has 47% Roman Catholics, compared to 25% Australian. So one would expect that the preachings of old celibate men in strange dresses will be important when it comes to Marriage Equality, Euthanasia, and the place of women in society.

      It will be interesting to see how they handle the awful revelations of the Royal Commission into the abuse of children by religious organisations. Look forward to it being…

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    57. Sophia A

      Medical student

      In reply to Michael Field

      This is where it is so important to people to realise exactly what you say;
      'to distance Islam from the acts being perpetrated in its name'.

      Unfortunately what your Christian Pakistani family describe is all too common, and is not exclusive to non-Muslims. A much loved family friend was recently shot and killed over there and this is what people there face every day and hence why they are seeking refuge in a much more tolerant country, or so we call it.

      I would also like to link you this debate at the oxford union, one that is exactly about what you and many others fear, that inherently Islam is not a religion of peace.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jy9tNyp03M0

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    58. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Michael Field

      'you and many others fear, that inherently Islam is not a religion of peace.'

      But what of the US? Widely touted as a 'Christian nation'. then there is Israel, a religious nation.

      Is there anyone with a worse military invasion/ human rights record than these two, in the past 60 odd years?

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    59. Chris Jensen

      Ground-Up Initiative

      In reply to Michael Field

      John, I have to call you on that sweeping generalisation. I work along side Muslims who are nothing but compassionate and caring people who joyfully work alongside Christians, Athiests, Buddhists and more.

      Please back up your claim with some of the empirical evidence you have that Islam is any more inherently intolerant or violent than Christianity.

      Are there Muslim Terrorists out there? Yes. But that is an inictment of terrorism, not Islam.

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    60. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to Michael Field

      Oh dear Robert, you are documenting the jesuit Conspiracy as a reality rather than a myth. Santmaria will just not lie down in his grave. Perhaps were need to do an exorcism with wooden stakes at midnight to bring the Australian government back into the 21st century.

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    61. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Michael Field

      Chris, that is the point I am trying to make. The Islamic extremists have tarred muslims with the same brush. The world over, there are examples of murder in the name of Allah. Coupled to this, the religion is discriminatory in its views towards women and homosexuals. Sophie A has made some excellent points, but the inherent sexism of the religion is implicit in them.
      It is the combination of these, and probably other, facts that make many in western democracies suspicious/concerned about the spread of this faith. Our country is only just starting the climb out from under what could be called protestant paternalism, why would anyone accept the introduction or the gaining of traction of yet another dogmatic, patriarchal religion? In this case a religion that recognises no separation of church and state.

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    1. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Ah Peter, reading Anthony Mason and Julian Burnside are two of the literary delights of modern life.

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    2. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      I'll tell you and anyone else a story Peter. When I was a child I used to stay on a farm in SE SA, it belonged to a pioneer family. Old scot, mare called dawn in the home paddock etc. Pillar of the community. We'd drive in around this paddock, and I used to look at 5 or so longish mounds. One day I asked him what they were. "The china men", was what he told me. A quick shut-down of conversation, because as a seven year old I recognised something was very wrong. I think about them constantly. Who were they? are they remembered ? who killed them? Australia has been at this thing for a very long time. There are other things still clearly locked into my mind, but it's the whole random thing of these murders and mounds in a paddock, the wrongness of it. They used to walk into Victoria from SA. It's evil, there is evil in these attitudes and I refuse to forget on behalf of these people, who-ever they were. People who criticise minor points are probably not entirely getting it.

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  1. Thomas Fields

    "progressive" watcher

    "Alienation" is the incorrect term.
    In most cases, Australians reject asylum seekers (genuine or not) because Australia is conceived as their "home"; such as an extension of their own private residence. Asylum seekers are perceived as encroaching on their territory. Add to this the money allocated to dealing with them while the working classes work their butts off for 40 hours plus a week, and then you'll get closer to understanding how "the people" think. The shouts of "illegal" only come after…

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    1. Michael Bartlett

      PhD Candidate at ANU

      In reply to Thomas Fields

      Surely the (misinformed) belief that newly arrived refugees receive better treatment and financial support than they do is a classic example of alienation?

      Also what exactly is an international socialist fascist state? Other than a double oxymoron?

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  2. Mark Amey

    logged in via Facebook

    Julian Burnside, you probably don't realise that you DO get through to many Australians, and have changed our way of treating, not only, asylum seekers, but anyone who has been dealt a bad card in life. People do talk about you, and what you say. People read your essays and interviews and come away with a different attitude. There are pockets of Australia where asylum seekers are, not just tolerated, but welcomed. There are some pretty big pockets where they are not.

    I guess we just have to keep chipping away at it!

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  3. Chris Roche

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    Standards change over time, and so while our detention centres in Woomera are no doubt much better than gulags in Siberia were, if you adjust for the general improvement in living standards/detention standards over time, it is possible they are in fact not as different as you might first think.

    The population of gulags comprised mostly 'illegals' - people thought to present a threat to the stability of the state.

    I don't really know in what sense people who at least call themselves refugees are considered 'illegal' but I'm quite sure that an uninvited influx of a particular cultural/social group having an impact on social and economic order is part of the misguided logic. That is, there is a perception that refugees present a threat to the stability of the state.

    I think that in 50 years, we and others around the world will be looking back on a very shameful period in Australian history.

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  4. Ryan Farquharson

    Research Officer

    I've often wondered how this came to be.

    How's this for a theory:

    The 'alienated' or whatever you want to call them feel (rightly or wrongly) insecure to the point that they perceive their privileged life is under threat. Asylum seekers become the scapegoat, a focal point for all their insecurity.

    We are a lucky country - no doubt about it. And by pure luck we happen to be born here and not in Afghanistan or Iraq or Sri Lanka or wherever else. But rather than work hard and share our fortune we kick back, swill beer, smoke dope and drive V8s and it’s our god given right. How dare anyone seek flee persecution, work hard and supplant us from our comfortable, alienated lives.

    Just a theory.

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    1. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Ryan Farquharson

      Has very deep roots this stuff Ryan ... can be observed in any and all colonial settler states founded on acts of dispossession from the USofA, Africa, Latin America to Israel and ourselves.... always haunted by this spectre that it can/ could/will happen again - but this time to us. It is a paranoia not uncommon to receivers of stolen goods.

      Not necessarily conscious, not necessarily verbalised explicitly - but so often it is... the core of their fear exposed.

      Probably won't go away until we have fully reconciled and made redress I suspect.

      There's another lot - particularly vociferous - who base their feart on the factors that drove them out of Mother England in recent years... the cultural collide, the islamification, the fear of difference and the strange. You can spot the difference if you read them carefully.

      Hysterical fear is an excellent field for serious psychological study I reckon. Pity there aren't pills.

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  5. Roger Simpson

    logged in via LinkedIn

    Thank you Julian. Once again a valuable addition to public discussion in Australia. Essays like this give evidence that we aren't all a bunch of self opinionated mongrels.

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  6. Gerard Dean

    Managing Director

    Again and again Mr Burnside bemoans our cruel treatment of newcomers to Australia.

    Why so then, do millions line up and apply to enter Australia. They do because they know we are decent people who will give new arrivals a fair go and the opportunity to work hard and get ahead.

    Compare our behaviour with Japan, a rich nation with an ageing population that stretches to accept a few hundred refugees a year.

    We have the right to say who and how people should come and live in Australia.

    Gerard Dean

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    1. Jim KABLE

      teacher

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      I have no evidence for millions lining up! Please post photos/links!

      And why are you dragging Japan into this? A nation which produces only 40% of its own food needs - the rest imported! Red herrings and like with unlike. Silliness, really, G.D. - MD.

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    2. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      And Gerard, these refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan have a moral right to seek refuge in Australia because Howard invited Australia into the illegal, immoral, imperialist infidel US war to 'steal' huge Iraqi oil reserves for US multinational oil corporations at full cost to the US taxpayers.

      We helped caused the problem so it is reasonable that we provide a reasonable solution. The Scum Morrison proposals are neither Christian nor reasonable.

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    3. Leah de Jager

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Gerard, please provide the evidence that millions of people are lining up to enter Australia each year. Also, I don't see Julian Burnside mentioning anything about our cruel treatment of newcomers. He's only bemoaning our treatment of a certain, very small, fraction of would-be newcomers - visa-less asylum seekers who arrive on boats.

      Also, Japan pretty much has no space left. Seriously.

      Of course Australia has the right to say who should 'come and live' in Australia. Nobody's saying, let's throw open the doors and let whoever in! But sending them off to another third world nation (which can barely support its own people)? That's just shameful.

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    4. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Perhaps for a minute we can remember those liberal leaning women and men who ensured that we signed the united nations human rights convention after world war 2, which states that, Refugees fleeing torture and murder etc are in fact entitled to seek protection in Australia. As far as I know we are still signatories to this convention Gerard. In fact your last statement is false.

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    5. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Jack: That is the situation in a nut shell! 'We' gleefully took part in the destruction of another country, another culture, but 'we' have no intention assisting in cleaning up the mess.

      We hear it constantly: 'why should we take them in when they have made a mess of their own country!'

      'We' made the mess!

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    6. Bernie Masters

      environmental consultant at FIA Technology Pty Ltd, B K Masters and Associates

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Peter, I wonder if you have any genuine idea of what life was like in Iraq under Saddam and in Afghanistan under the Taliban. Brutal is and backward are about the kindest words that an impartial person could use to describe life there. In my view, both wars were justified but then (as they always do) the US and its allies messed up the victory by not turning Iraq into a federation of Kurds, Sunnis and Shias. I'm not as familiar with Afghanistan ethnic geography but something similar almost certainly…

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    7. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      " I'm not as familiar with Afghanistan ethnic geography but something similar almost certainly could have been devised."

      I suggest we all chip in and fly you to Afghanistan asap. I'm sure they would welcome such fabulous insight with open arms.

      You do realise that the British and Russians over many decades tried to achieve a semblance of a manageable state.

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    8. Bernie Masters

      environmental consultant at FIA Technology Pty Ltd, B K Masters and Associates

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Sorry, you miss my point which is that, for countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, we should have tried to achieve many different states, rather than cobbling together a group of people with different ethnic, religious and other characteristics who could never have lived together except under the rule of a tyrant such as Saddam or the Taliban.

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    9. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Bernie, Iraq was set up by the British, with various inherent problems, probably deliberately.

      For example Kurdish territory overlaps Iraq and Turkey and both Turkey and Saddam had problems with them. Resolved with violence, but then the Ottoman Empire was never pleasant.

      Kuwait had a democratic parliament elected in the mid thirties. The first order of business was to declare that Kuwait was part of Iraq - and it was promptly shut down by its hereditary monarch. Thank goodness our hereditary…

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    10. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Bernie: Yes, I have a very good idea of how things were in Iraq prior to the sanctions —

      On May 12, 1996, Madeleine Albright (then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations) appeared on a 60 Minutes segment in which Lesley Stahl asked her "We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?" and Albright replied "we think the price is worth it." — and before the invasion.

      A secular, prosperous, educated…

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    11. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Bernie, I wonder if you are familiar with the history of how the Saddam Hussein regime was established with the assistance of the CIA, even down to the genocide of Kurds and marsh Arabs using chemical weapons supplied by the CIA.

      2004 Reigle Commission into the Export Administration Act (2000).

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    12. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Uhm ... I think that might be 1994 Reigle Commission into the Export Administration Act (1990) US.

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    13. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Really poor logic in your argument there, Jack. It implies that we are only responsible for helping those who have fled conflicts that we, as a nation, have been engaged in. Under that same logic, one could argue that, while still in conflict with or in those nations, citizens from those countries should be interred.
      You need to get off you anti-Howard hobby horse and start talking sense. The partisan arguments you attempt to put forward make your position just seem bitter and pathetic.

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    14. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Thank you Grumpy John for the opportunity to correct your incomplete understanding of Australia's immigration policy.

      At present Australia forms part of the PRC internal migration programme with immigrants entering our country by air clutching their assets and networks. The influx was well seen in Bennelong in 2007, then again in 2013.

      Why should Iraqis and Afghans, fleeing form countries wrecked by the armed forces of Australia and her allies that established regimes intent upon killing the refugees, be treated differently to these Chinese migrants?

      Far better for the Australian government to get over the official xenophobia and expedite processing so that these persons may bring their $10,000.00 with them to establish their future rather than pay people smugglers and corrupt officials. Better to spend $5 billion per year in Australian capital infrastructure works than feed a US jail corporation to impose unjust laws.

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    15. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      I assume your use of "interred" = "buried" is a minor slip of the pen, and you really meant "interned" = "imprisoned"..

      As to whether or not we should especially favour nations where we have actively worked to destroy their infrastructure and murder their people, our new Defence Monster has recently published a list of potential future targets, including the nuclear armed Pakistan, and thus there need be no distinction at all.

      Incidentally, this amazing boofhead seems to have discounted the possibility that Indonesia, currently chasing down various terrorists quite successfully, might raise a new crop of young people who see Westerners, and us specifically, as worthy of the odd Improvised Explosive Devices as strong hints to nick off and to not interfere in their affairs.

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    16. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Robert, if you are going to go to the bother of responding, try and do it like an adult and leave the juvenile petulance out of it.

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    17. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Hear Hear John... well particularly in your case.

      You and I disagree on pretty much everything and anything but I've always found you to be willing to discuss issues and you present a sincere viewpoint (albeit utterly misconceived :)).

      Disagreement and differences are good and this forum provides an excellent place to work some things through provided we are sincere in our contentions.

      Sadly not all here are sincere and there is a cohort of 'contributors' who contribute nothing beyond sniping and polite disrepect. You aren't one of them.

      So I reckon we should try and play nice when folks are being genuine and wish to have a serious conversation.

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    18. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Robert to put some context to your asinine comments implying that 'it's all the fault of the US' several witnesses who escaped the current demonstration of islam as a religion of peace said "the attackers shouted for Muslims to run away while they methodically picked off other shoppers"

      http://www.smh.com.au/world/australian-killed-in-nairobi-mall-as-death-toll-rises-and-standoff-continues-20130922-2u7nv.html#ixzz2fga4JSRf

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    19. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Jack, your idea seems to have some sound financial logic to it. What do you do, however, when the allocated intake is reached? Aren't we just in the same boat as we are now?

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    20. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Now if they'd been seriously following the code Phillip they would have demanded that any Shias and Sufis step forward to head the list of targets ... the worst hatred and punishment is directed to heretics and apostates.

      Others who have not been exposed to the prophet's teaching or are followers of the Abrahamic tradition (jews or Xtians) get much more gentle treatment - discrimination but not execution.

      That's the point with these ratbag outfits ... they are not really about Islam at all…

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    21. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      John,

      To put some context to your comments about the US and its imperialist efforts in Arabia - I did not mention that in my post. I was referring purely to own military adventures, and the potential future insanities of our new Minister.

      As to the actions of the "attackers", Islam specifically forbids Muslims killing other Muslims - unlike Christianity where anyone is fair go, (notwithstanding the "Commit no murder" commandment), and the exhortations of the nutjob jewish god to wipe out any…

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    22. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Why would you have a limit to the number of valuable immigrants?

      You need to consider the limits to the country's "carrying capacity" and related strategies. Getting xenophobia and racism out of the discussion would be a good start.

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    23. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      ' As to the actions of the "attackers", Islam specifically forbids Muslims killing other Muslims...' not actually true Robert ... depends on what one believes to be 'a Muslim'.

      As far as the Talib are concerned for example Hazara (Shia's with asian roots) are absolutely prime targets. The Sunni Talib equivalents in Pakistan have launched attacks on Sufis - a mystical but extremely devout Islamic sect ... and a rather nice bunch in my experience.

      When it boils down to it, the fundamentalist…

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    24. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Perhaps a better statement would be that Islam forbids ill-treatment of fellow believers. And yes, the Wahhabists seem to be a bit picky about who is a fellow believer. Worse than the Pope?

      I am only going on what my neighbourly Muslim has given me to read, but the historical Messenger was pretty clear about treating people with respect - he seems to have been a far better negotiator than Rear Admiral Abbott.

      Incidentally, Sophie mentioned the multiple wives issue. Mohammed (peace and blessing be upon him) had four wives, one of whom was a "virgin" / "maiden". The other three were the widows of friends that had died in his service. I think the Quran states that men can have multiple wives PROVIDED they can support them properly in all ways including sex.

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    25. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Can't imagine anything worse myself ... I've always had more than enough trouble with just the one thanks.

      But it does make a bit of sense if you're dealing with warring tribes leaving a lot of widows about.

      My Irish ancestors had a similar - pre-Xtian - arrangement where specific types of employment were reserved for widows - like brewing and running public houses... hence the Widder Murphy of Puckoon fame. Lives on to this day.

      One of the main selling points of early Islam was the rules…

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    26. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      But we do have a limit to immigration, Robert. Getting the xenophobia and racism out of the argument is a good place to start. The unfortunate reality is that, until the Islamic faith pulls back the extremists, concerns about the inability of Islam to fit into western democracies without upheaval and unrest remain valid.

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    27. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Robert, thank you. You've just made my argument for me.
      "As to the actions of the "attackers", Islam specifically forbids Muslims killing other Muslims "
      Your problem is you make this statement of fact and then go on to try and attenuate its effect by a decontextualized reference to the 'nutjob jewish god'. Dear chap, they are one and the same. Allah=god. The Prophet wasn't God. Never claimed to be. He was.....a prophet.
      If you wish to argue about the rights and wrongs of force in general, that's another topic. What we are discussing here are some of the reasons for the Australian public's concerns about Islamic immigration. As I said, thanks for making my argument.

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    28. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      See - that's why I like talking with you John ... you'll take it in and change your views if warranted ...

      " ...until the Islamic faith pulls back the extremists..." that's the ticket!

      The hallmark of a reasonable man.

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    29. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      David,

      Remember that I think anyone who kills / murders / wounds someone else in the course of some dispute ought to have some framework for it.

      In the case of the military (us in the various wars we have gone into) there are "rules of engagement" that try to balance military actions against the danger of causing all sorts of regrettable "collateral damage" - a term invented by the Americans in Vietnam, I think)

      In the case of irregular forces in asymmetrical conflicts (peasants with rocks…

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    30. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      But do we have a limit to growth?

      A couple of snippets of history. The "Ghan" Train's name remembers the Afghan camel trainers that used to service South Australia, the Northern Territory and Western Australia. There are lots of oases complete with date palm trees in the North West.

      During WW1, a couple of Turks carried out a "terrorist attack" on a train near Broken Hill.

      After WW1, Turkey's President Ataturk Kemal paid a tribute to Australia's slain soldiers that still makes me choke…

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    31. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      I do agree with the idea of moving immigrants into regional towns - I live in one in SE Queensland. Avoiding 'enclaves' is an idea that has much merit for many reasons.
      My uncle, by marriage, is a muslim Fijian Indian.

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    32. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Our learned discussions have jumped.

      I don't understand your comment about the Prophet. I have never said he was God. This is simply blasphemy almost as bad as a certain Christian sect's embrace of idols and the nonsense about saints.

      I suppose you might claim that the Old Testament nutjob is the same as the Muslim Allah, the Jewish Jehovah, and the Christian Father, Son and Wholly Goose. I don't believe in any of them.

      So far as I am aware, Allah in his chats with the Prophet never encouraged…

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    33. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Robert: Interesting too, that with about 70 dead, the general tone is how horrendous this is.

      Drone attacks typically take out 100 plus, Israeli incursions into Gaza regularly kill more than a hundred -- just as innocent, just as unarmed, just people. Yet these things get barely a mention and the attacks are ALWAYS justified.

      How much different the world would look if all attacks were treated objectively. this: In order to try effect a change of government, and get control of Iranian oil Israel and the US have again murdered x Iranian scientists. This follows their latest attempt, three days ago to disrupt or delay Iran's nuclear program with a computer virus.

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  7. Melanie Baker

    logged in via Facebook

    Thank you Julian for taking the time to write this fantastic piece! I have saved it to my favourites :) I am encouraged by your resolve and perseverance to do good, and I would like to encourage you with the passages Hebrews 12:3 and Hebrews 6:10-12. Keep up the good fight!

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    1. Darius Flint

      Storeman

      In reply to Melanie Baker

      On a side note...Socialism has never,and given it's track record WILL never............work.I often wonder about people like Lee Rhiannon who seem to be pining for some sort of resurrection of the USSR.Not so that she could live there.Lord no.Just so she could stay here and bleat about how evil we 'capitalist white western types' are.Get on some morally superior soapbox about the virtues of a thought system long dead and long proven to be unworkable in the real world.

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    2. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Melanie Baker

      "Socialism has never,and given it's track record WILL never............work."

      All governments are socialist, e.g. the Liberal Party is a small business socialist party, the National Party is an agrarian socialist party, etc.

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    3. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Melanie Baker

      Strewth I wish they were 'Agrarian Socialists' - agrarian anything would be OK ... that at least might suggest they did anything beyond delivering dumb-arsed rural votes to the big end of town Libs on each and every issue.

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    4. Jim KABLE

      teacher

      In reply to Melanie Baker

      Why this vitriol against Lee Rhiannon - easily one of the best-informed and hardest-working politicians we have.

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    5. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to Melanie Baker

      Now, now Peter, mind your blood pressure. You know that the Notional Party is the party you have when you don't want representation, the party you have to celebrate a 19th century future, the party you have when you want to pollute the Great Artesian Basin with carcinogenic CSG extraction residues.

      It is the party that attracts such luminaries as Warren Truss, who asked one question in the last Parliament and Bumbling Joke, the member for Rinehart who owns about 1,000ha of CSG while being Minister for Agriculture. But that is not a conflict of interest, we are told.

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    6. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Melanie Baker

      I suggest that you read William Blum's 'Killing Hope' and have a rethink.
      No socialistic country has been permitted to succeed. The US methodically destroys those that are looking successful. The greatest threat to the US is for a plethora of successful socialistic nations to flourish.
      Read up on Libya, there were reasons that Gaddafi was killed, and it wasn't for the nonsense run in the western media.

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    7. Bernie Masters

      environmental consultant at FIA Technology Pty Ltd, B K Masters and Associates

      In reply to Melanie Baker

      Do you include the communistic countries from 1917 until the late 1980s as having been socialistic? If not, what about Harold Wilson's UK government or Gough Whitlam's 1972-1975 experimental government? None of them succeeded and they didn't need any help from the US to fail. They did it all themselves and fortunately the democratic vote of the electors put them to the sword.

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    8. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Melanie Baker

      Well, I’m glad you have that all worked out neatly Bernie, because I having lived through those times have often wondered what it was all about. Socialism was it? And all the things that Gough did are still in place. So I guess the people of Australia liked their bit of socialism; sewerage, troops out of the Vietnam War, conscientious objectors out of jail on the very first day of Whitlam becoming Prime Minister; no waiting around a week dithering for Gough, Medibank, financial support for sole…

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    9. Bernie Masters

      environmental consultant at FIA Technology Pty Ltd, B K Masters and Associates

      In reply to Melanie Baker

      Chris, I don't know how old you are but I lived through the Whitlam era. In fact, I voted for him twice in 1972 and again in 1974 but have never voted Labor since. Every government leaves behind some useful legacies, but Whitlam in particular left behind a history of incompetence that was and still is breath-taking. His government crippled the induystry I was working in thanks to Rex Connor's hair-brained scheme to buy back (nationalise) the mining industry which included imposing export controls…

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    10. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Melanie Baker

      The Khemlani loans affair, Jim Cairns' love affairs, a minister sacked for getting too close to a Chinese spy….The Khemlani loan did not happen, Jim Cairns love affair was his business and a minister sacked. This is enough to describe a socialist government? Nothing wrong with wanting to buy back the farm Bernie, even if it didn’t happen.

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    11. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Melanie Baker

      "delivering dumb-arsed rural votes to the big end of town Libs"

      They were socialist for someone.

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  8. Comment removed by moderator.

  9. Tracy Sorensen

    Writer at Squawkin' Galah Communications

    I remember the all-caps letters to the editor from when I worked at the St George & Sutherland Shire leader in 2001. They came from lovely old people who would give you a cup of tea if you met them in person (which I did). But they were, as Donald Horne warned us they would be in 1964, puzzled. They were baffled and nobody was listening to them, or engaging with them, except to add fuel to the fire of their anxieties in order to pick up a few votes. It's hard to talk with or engage with people who scream at you in all capitals. Somehow, we need to find a way to do it. I take my hat off to Julian Burnside for having the fortitude to do so, one by one.

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  10. Sam Jandwich

    Policy Analyst

    Thank you for this wonderful article Julian.

    However one perhaps obvious question raised by the section on access to justice might be, that wouldn't it be better, more fair, and more just, to remove the representation element from the equation? Instead of having cases presented in their most favourable light through the knowledge and interlocution skills of lawyers, why can't the courts learn to listen to and interpret people's stories, regardless of how competently they're delivered, in the same way that you would, were they to come into your office and have a conversation with you, for example over their suspicions about their doctor?

    In many other disciplines the objective is to get as close as possible to the originating source of information - otherwise you get what is usually called "Chinese whispers". Why can't the courts do this?

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  11. Elizabeth Bathory

    9-5 project drone.

    Mr Burnside,

    I have an enormous amount of respect for the work that you've done in championing human rights. However, ever since I heard that you were representing James Hird in the "Essendon doping saga", I have experienced a twinge of sadness, nay, disappointment, while reading your writing.

    For want of a better term - I thought you were better than that.

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    1. Elizabeth Bathory

      9-5 project drone.

      In reply to Elizabeth Bathory

      Michael, I consider my comment to be highly salient to the topic. Given Mr Burnside's prolific writings on the importance of defending the rights of the most marginalised and "invisible" people in society, I thought his decision to represent James Hird - a wealthy, Anglo-Saxon man - seemed fundamentally incongruous to his publicly stated values.

      I, too, agree that everyone deserves a fair trial, and that someone has to do it, but I would have thought that someone like Chris Murphy and his ilk would have been a better fit, PR-wise.

      I don't believe that I am the only person to have pondered the same thing.....

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    2. Michael Gormly

      Editor at Superkern Design Pty Ltd

      In reply to Elizabeth Bathory

      I just know that if you are in business you can't afford to apply ideology to choosing your clients - apart from the problem of pre-judging them. I imagine a socially conscious lawyer needs high-paying work to subsidise all the pro-bono work. If Hird is guilty he'll go down anyway - his accusers have plenty of representation.

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    3. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to Elizabeth Bathory

      More importantly Michael, is the presumption of innocence.

      But then the Inquisition style of this ASADA 'investigation' is hardly the British adversarial approach to evidence.

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    4. Lynne Newington
      Lynne Newington is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to Elizabeth Bathory

      Not if they have deep pockets, there are appeals and higher appeals...
      I recall going into Owen Dixon Chambers many years ago where a barrister [Catholic of course as I am myself], was representing a clergyman charged with all "manner if demeanors", was as guilty as sin, yet was pleading not [and under oath].
      The barrister stated what has been said here, innocent before proven guilty, and the right to representation.
      It took years for him to be jailed, it didn't do him any good, not being advised to plead guilty even on a moral basis being a clergyman or his accusers, but lined the barristers pocket, who would have known darned well he was guilty.

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  12. John Pollard

    Casual Observer

    Another superb offering from Julian Burnside, who is an admirable human. He makes many valid arguments in defence of boat arrivals. Just a few points though, that muddy the water for me. When he claims that "They are exercising the right which every person has in international law to seek asylum in any country they can reach." Is it not correct that under the convention, asylum seekers are obliged to ask for protection from the first safe state they arrive at, not the most desirable? I believe that the argument that the first fleet was an illegal invasion is emotive and irrelevant. With regard to boat people arriving at our door unannounced, all I ask is please show us your identification or passport. Finally, the smugglers, far from being humanitarian saints, are making huge profits, up to a half million dollars per boatload, for their efforts. So I don't believe this trade in humanity, however desperate, is as justifiable as Julian Burnside supposes.

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    1. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to John Pollard

      Julian: Thank you, as always.
      I don't know how it is that you keep going, keep attempting to educate,
      inform, correct.
      whatever, I applaud the strength.

      'I believe that the argument that the first fleet was an illegal invasion is emotive and irrelevant'.
      Why? that is exactly what it was.

      'With regard to boat people arriving at our door unannounced, all I ask is please show us your identification or passport.'

      So easy, so 'westernised', so damned unknowing of how much of the world is!

      Passport, Identification? What the hell is that?
      I am >>> son/daughter of >>>>> of (village/area.)

      THAT is 'identification'. That when I was young was 'identification' in New Zealand.

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  13. Dianna Arthur
    Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Environmentalist

    I can only echo the compliments and gratitude Julian Burnside, that others after reading your article, have expressed.

    Long may you continue to be a voice of reason.

    However, that said, I have no doubt that many people who hold similar levels of compassion think to themselves, "There, but for the grace of god, go I". I have to write and say that this once reassuring expression is simply complacency, a complacency of a country that is wealthy, independent only for the foreseeable secure…

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  14. Julie McNeill

    Writer

    You have amazing stamina - and are inspirational. It's like shell-shock when even my own side of politics has become so cruel. We have Labor 4 Refugees trying in vain to make the points - stop saying they are illegal!
    All the rationale and facts about the whole issue of persecution and the Golden Rule slips over their professed Christian prayers in Parliament time.
    May I add a relevant fact in our so called generosity and compassion and hospitality to those in need of our help regarding the time…

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  15. Chris O'Neill

    Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

    "politicians speak with concern about the boat people who die in their attempt to get to safety. But their concern is utterly false. "

    That's obvious considering that the politicians are responsible for destroying the boats once they've reached Australia. Who's going to put up a good boat for taking people to Australia if it's only going to be destroyed when it gets here?

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  16. Bernie Masters

    environmental consultant at FIA Technology Pty Ltd, B K Masters and Associates

    Julian, welcome to the world of politics! You state in your article that you decided to be publicise some causes that were close to your heart (good on for doing so) but then were concerned at the death threats and abuse thrown your way. Well, sorry, no sympathy from me for these negative outcomes. You decided to become an unelected, unpaid 'politician' and the reception you've copped is exactly what virtually all MPs around Australia have to cope with on a regular basis. In my years as a relatively…

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  17. Robyn Kerrison

    Consultant - Human Rights and Protection

    There is another bright spot in this story, for me...

    It is the number of people who, upon receiving your reply, appear to have actually engaged with the information you provided and were willing to examine their previous assumptions and beliefs.

    I've long held the view that those of us who want to see change are not spending enough time engaging those who disagree with us in this kind of dialogue.

    I'm as guilty as anyone of posting and re-posting clever memes and articles on FB where…

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  18. Marilyn Pemberton

    Just me

    Thanks Julian. I too feel like an alien in my own land and am almost ashamed to be an 'Aussie' - Despite the dreams I had for my nation (and the dreams of my parents who were WWll veterans) the clear reality is that we are a nation of bogan yobbo's. So perhaps we deserve whatever bogan yobbo government we get.
    So thankyou for helping me to feel that I am not alone in my alienation...

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    1. Robert Smith

      retired

      In reply to Marilyn Pemberton

      We are no more a nation of bogan yobbo's than muslim countries are nations of fundamentalist killers.

      Politicians often play on peoples fears, fear of extremists, fear of radical lefties/righties, fear of bogans, fear of the likes of you or I.

      When it comes to immigrants, there is always a degree of fear, fear of the unknown and the different. Humans to one degree or another like stability.

      When it comes to Muslim immigrants there are more fears based on the events seen overseas and the…

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  19. Jim KABLE

    teacher

    Julian,

    Thank-you. Oh so very much thank-you! Not a thought I have not had over the past number of years - while living for for nearly two decades in Japan - from before Howard took the pm position till arriving back in the country before the first dense of Rudd. You have summed up the entire period of shame from both sides of the major political party fence - only the Greens with Sarah Hanson-Young able to hold their heads high on this issue - and ably supported by firmer pm Malcolm Fraser…

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  20. Leah de Jager

    logged in via Facebook

    As someone very unhappy with the current asylum seeker policies of both major parties, I do agree with most of what you have written here.

    However, it is worth remembering that Schindler and Bonhoeffer did not charge their 'passengers' thousands of dollars for the benefit of being smuggled to safety, did not promise them cruise liners and legal documents, only to dump them onto rusty boats and walk off with their pockets lined with cash. I am not familiar with Schroeder but by the sounds of it, he didn't either. It sounds like he was out there on the boat with them!

    I accept that there are some people who work for people smugglers out of desperation similar to that of the asylum seekers they are smuggling. But the truth is that most (if not all of) modern people smugglers are not doing this out of the goodness of their heart, at much risk to themselves, with any interest in saving lives. They are profiteering off people fleeing for their life. They truly are disgusting.

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    1. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Leah de Jager

      And such a waste of money Leah...

      I'd much prefer Qantas or Virgin to be flying in pre-approved refugees and these folks could use their available cash to set themselves up and stimulate the economy a bit.

      The people smugglers are just exploiting our inability to run a decent moving queue... parasitic and disgusting - business as usual.

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  21. Chris Saunders

    retired

    What is really needed at this point is a look at strategy. There were myriad strategies I observed among the rather disparate group of those working or arguing for the better treatment of asylum seekers. Some strategies come to mind that were just awful and counterproductive:
    1) denying the concept of the queue.
    2) stating that the two major parties were as bad as each other in the race to the bottom.
    3) Green supporters insisting that their pure way was the only way.
    4) refusal to accept…

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  22. Marcus Anderson

    logged in via email @marcusanderson.com.au

    Is this a lecture or a sermon?

    I don't agree with the general disparaging of all Australians (collective "we") for the purpose of advancing a political ideology, however worthy. The world is full of evil, but Australia is not the saviour of the World. There are real limits to (collective) "our" capacity to help others (even in the crossed contexts used above). Failing to recognise limits is an omission of a relevant fact.

    The limit to immigration is "alienation" by failing social role valorisation…

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  23. Allan Gardiner

    Dr

    Julian, whilst it may be perceived as being a noble act that you've taken the time to write and submit this article, truth be known, not everybody has forgotten the many things that you say they have when you've interlarded your article with such things as: "They forget that....we forget that....we seem to have forgotten etc.", before ever-so-contrarily wrapping up in your penultimate paragraph by saying:

    "But some of us remember how things once were, some of us see how things could be." I'm…

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    1. Michelle Bourke

      Tech entrepreneur and business owner at Artlivemedia, Sea of Hearts

      In reply to Allan Gardiner

      I could be wrong Allan but I think Julian was being poetic when he was writing those sentences. I'm sure he is well aware that not everyone has forgotten. Its just a way of getting his point across.

      And what Germans call us, or what things we as Aussie's commemorate (ANZAC wasn't a major focus of Australians before Howard made it so) isn't really an argument to the opposite.

      I think its more important to read the spirit of Julian's article rather than looking purely at semantics otherwise the whole point is missed.

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    2. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Allan Gardiner

      I enjoyed your play on words Allan (and your point of view). The french refer to us as Australie and if you remove the first five letters you are left with lie. Maybe, the politicians en masse meet that definition better, or at least equalyl to alien.

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    3. Allan Gardiner

      Dr

      In reply to Allan Gardiner

      Given that Julian's main concern is about refugees having a rough time of it Chris, instead of anyone going overboard and perhaps getting heavy with any of them, perhaps it'd be in our best interests to just lie in weight for they're a rival...just to see how the land lies.

      Further on "Australien", and I know this won't be lost on Julian, just like Australia won't be lost to any of us without a fight should push ever come to sh_ove'rt, the "lien" part gives us rightful ownership to this land that…

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    4. Allan Gardiner

      Dr

      In reply to Allan Gardiner

      I don't think that you're wrong Michelle about Julian perhaps being poetic, and if he was, then more power to him, because one of the most difficult things to do is to get one's message across in entirety with this thing we call language.

      As an example, when Julian mentioned Australia's adversary system, and its assuming that both parties will be competently represented, that may be all well and good, but when he says that "the court sits as an impartial umpire to decide the dispute", that bit…

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    5. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Allan Gardiner

      'John Howard may have reinvigorated ANZAC in the eyes of some present-day Australians and others but there were many folk who'd done so well before him, and some may need to do so again later on.'

      Why? That is why is why would you bother?
      Sending young men to die in a futile endeavour is hardly worth remembering. And history shows that neither people nor nations learn from their mistakes.

      Idiots would go off to war again, to save --- well no longer the Empire, but what? To uphold the 'right' to deprive others of their resources?
      To kill 'enemies' who know nothing of us, and want nothing but to get on with their own lives?

      Hopefully history will see the 19th, 20th, and beginning of the 21st century for the disastrous, brutal, unprincipled period that it was/is.

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    6. Allan Gardiner

      Dr

      In reply to Allan Gardiner

      It's evidently no bother at all to the many folk who do regularly undertake the role of ensuring that many Australians, New Zealanders and others don't forget about ANZAC, and as far as any learning goes, about anything whatsoever, the moment you completety forget something forever then you've no longer learnt it. Man strives to know his limitations and there's only one thing that needs obtain to show him what they are, make no mistake about that.

      Australia doesn't any more send its young men or women off to die overseas than does a loving parent anywhere in the world send their children off to school each morning to lose their lives or suffer serious injury but it does happen unfortunately, which proves that no country can yet be considered as being completely safe, regardless of where they choose to send not only their military personnel, but anyone at all.

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    7. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Allan Gardiner

      Allan: anybody who takes employment where they habitually carry a gun, is knowingly making themselves a target.
      When that is the military, and you join an invasion, if you don't expect to die then you are a supper optimist, or a blithering idiot.

      Back around the first and second WW's, it would have been extremely difficult to be informed.

      Today there is no excuse for anyone. Join the military and you must expect to be called upon to repress, harass and murder those whose country you have invaded. .

      They and their parent cannot help but to know that.

      I will keep my sympathy for their victims.

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  24. Deborah Huismann

    Teacher

    I just keep thinking about the title of Alan Paton's book about South Africa that I read many years ago: 'Cry, the Beloved Country'. Julian's words sum up exactly the sadness I feel about what Australia has become. I came here when I was 12, my parents were 'ten pound poms' who came here for better opportunities for myself and my siblings, so whenever I hear the phrase 'economic refugees' bandied around disparagingly I ask myself isn't that what we were in a sense? and what's so wrong about wanting a better life for yourself and your children? Don't we all?

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    1. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Deborah Huismann

      Be thankful Deborah that your parents came with positive intent and hope.

      Not so the cohort who fled here in the 80s and since, posturing as self-declared refugees from the miscegenation and multi-culturalism of modern England. Seems we've picked up a horde of disgruntled National Front supporters over the last few decades.

      But you're dead right of course. For this place to be denouncing 'economic immigration' is the height of historical (and personal) absurdity. A mask for something else altogether.

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Deborah Huismann

      The ten pound poms as you refer to your parents Deborah or assisted passage migrants for the more formal description were part of an enormous drive by the Australian government post WW2 when our population was less than ten million and there were significant development programs to be undertaken for which workforces were needed, the Snowy Mountain Hydro Electric Scheme and Power Stations in various states etc.
      It was certainly a different time then to what Australia and the planet face now so whilst you might consider that your family were economic refugees, they were also being sought by the government of the day.

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    3. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Deborah Huismann

      Admiral Abbott is proposing to pay the gondoliers of the birth canal about $20,000 each through his big new tax, the PPS "scheme".

      The 30,000 or so refugees that have paid for their own way here, fully fledged and ready to work in Gina's remote mining towns (and are even used to the heat) have saved us about $600,000,000 in baby bounties alone.

      We have chosen to vilify and dehumanise them at the cost of about $160,000 pa each, and STILL they risk death to come here.

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    4. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Deborah Huismann

      And all of those things - those dreadful capital works programs - were funded by debt Mr North ... vile, perfidious evidence of our 'living beyond our means'.

      Based on your previous economic policy exhortations here, this is a 'disgrace' - saddling future generations with massive burdens paying down our extravagant ambitions and lifestyles over centuries. Thank god all that is behind us now and we will never be building anything again.

      I'm still awaiting your first salvo against the new…

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    5. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Deborah Huismann

      It's all about purpose and relativity Peter and as for the swarthy Europeans, much of Australia including the Snowy was built through the contributions of the swarthy and less swarthy, many having working and housing conditions that people these days would take one look at and disappear home again like some immigrants do.
      The way of life may have been under threat by the way some people may have looked at it.

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  25. Robert Molyneux

    Citizen

    Julian, this is wonderful work.

    You mention the "children overboard" lie.

    The famous video of the refugee holding a child over his head was generally shown with no sound, or overlaid with statements supporting the claim that children had indeed been threatened.

    In fact, the man says, very clearly, in good English, "Please do not shoot at us, we have children on board".

    These days we see images of refugees with their faces obscured to "protect their privacy".

    A couple of weeks ago there were published photographs of refugee ships that subsequently sank with all aboard lost, and again, the faces of those on board were obscured to "protect their privacy".

    In fact of course, this line is run to prevent us from seeing and recognising our fellow human beings.

    We can expect very shortly government directives that news agencies must not show anything of the implementation of their foul policies.

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  26. Lynne Newington
    Lynne Newington is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Researcher

    You can't beat the down to earth Baptist's, much admiration is due to Tim Costello and his army of workers.
    My question for Mr Burnside, with all the valid insights produced here, where was his voice when the University he is affilated now and before, with connections to the bishop who claimed we didn't need an Inquiry [ nothing would be gained] called for by State Premier Ted Baillieu, into the treatment of children connected to the same religious institution, the precurser to the Nationwide Royal Commission now in place, with all it's horror.
    His voice would have carried as much weight then as it does here in this instance.

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    1. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Lynne Newington

      Chronic shortage of saints of late Lynne ... Julian here comes close but even he must accept the brown paper parcel from Essendon to subsidise the good he can do. Perhaps that's why Athena as Lady Justice wears a blindfold.

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    2. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Lynne Newington

      Aw shucks Ms Lynne ... just smatterings remain I'm afraid ... atrophies with disuse like everything else.

      Speaking of things saintly, gee I'd reckon Pell and the like might be putting out a godly contract on this new bloke in Rome afore too long... obviously a slavvering bolshevik... and the bugger's infallible.

      How on earth did this happen? Do cardinals have microparties and complex preference deals?

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  27. Elizabeth Gunn

    Literacy Teacher at Education and Training

    Thank you for these facts and reflections on Australia's harsh treatment of asylum seekers.

    I'd like to share my impressions of the Hazara teenagers I have met through my role as a literacy trainer. Despite the hardships they have endured in their journeys to Australia, being separated from their families and adjusting to an alien culture, they maintain an equanimity and passion to learn that would make any parent proud. Theirs is obviously a sophisticated and learned culture.

    There is so…

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  28. John Bernacki

    retired child protection officer

    I am another who feels alienated in my own country in my support for people in need of asylum. I therefore wholeheartedly thank you for this brilliant and eloquent piece. Among readers who made comments are some making straw person arguments or have missed your whole point and the big picture. As you alluded to, some would be feeling alienated themselves for various other reasons but instead of that enhancing their empathy for other vulnerable people or shared sense of humanity, they perceive others as rivals or threats.
    What is counterintuitive or paradoxical for many, is that empathising & reaching out to help others is the best way to increase your own sense of contentment & satisfaction in life. It is win-win for all.

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    1. Allan Gardiner

      Dr

      In reply to John Bernacki

      It sounds good on the sur_face'tiousness John, but onIy in a perfect world would it veritably be win-win for all, but given you're feeling alienated, and in your own country to boot, plus the fact you've said that you're another one so alienated, and notwithstanding your being alienated putting the kybosh on it being a perfect world, it looks horribly like we could soon have more aliens here that we know what to do with.

      What about if we trialled an exchanging of our homegroan[sic] aliens with…

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  29. Greg North

    Retired Engineer

    You do raise many points Julian and I am obe who has corresponded with you by email, not the abusive kind even if I disagreed with your point of view and I still have different views.
    I'd not say that my lack of abuse was because of not being alienated, nor that I am though I would possibly put myself down as a fringe dweller of sorts and especially on forums such as TC which like many forums does seem to get a far greater percentage of people with particular political views and some can be quite…

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Greg North

      Whichever one you want to take Robert, a couple of key ones being
      . It is not black and white re people using people smugglers.
      . There are many people who will make comments, not because of being alienated but having a view on various situations and being prepared to put them out there, Julian being one to his credit.
      On particular detail, I have submitted regularly on TC that the PNG deal was likely to run into troubled waters and that does seem to be happening already.
      And your point Robert, a point of view perhaps?

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    2. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Greg North

      I read your post, but could not understand what you were positing.

      My view is that we are faced with a relatively small influx of people coming by boat (as compared to coming by air) and we as a nation have chosen to vilify and dehumanise them.

      Julian's fine article as I understand argues that there are people in our community who have become alienated in different ways for various reasons, and that perhaps the vicious, illogical and counter productive way we are treating refugees reflect this alienation.

      We are laying the ground for future victimisation and maltreatment of own own citizens.

      With regard to the PNG deal, it is shameful for us that a small nation that has historically been our responsibility and has major problems of its own has undertaken to take on part of our responsibility, albeit in return for some financial assistance with regard to infrastructure.

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    3. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Greg North

      My post is in English Robert and sometimes people may say they do not understand because they do not want to because they disagree with views put.
      As to the very small numbers you mention, it may have started out that way and there being more people who arrived by air that would seek asylum, not all being granted it and in fact very few and now there were according to immigration department records more people using people smuggler boats than what come by air.
      That is something of the crux of the issue for the question has always been what is the number that you think Australia can accept as asylum seekers?
      I disagree that we vilify and dehumanise people and that is a tag people just put on the fact that we detain them whilst their claims are assessed.
      W

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    4. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Greg North

      Oops, hit a wrong key, so continuing for you Robert:
      Whilst you may feel that Julian draws a valid link between alienation and views on asylum seekers via his experience of abusive contacts, that is his view and mine is that there are plenty of abusive people in communities whereas there are also many people who will hold differing views on the asylum seeking issue and are not necessarily abusive.
      " and that perhaps the vicious, illogical and counter productive way we are treating refugees reflect this alienation.
      We are laying the ground for future victimisation and maltreatment of own own citizens. "
      You may choose to see our treatment of refugees that way though Australia has had a solid humanitarian visa program for decades, that very program being somewhat undermined by those using people smugglers.
      I struggle to see your connection to the future of our own citizens.

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    5. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg,

      As a decent Australian, if you were living in a place where your children had no future, and where in some cases they were being killed / having acid thrown in their faces / systematically discriminated against, you would try to get them out - and you would ignore BS about non-existent queues and dreadful evil people smugglers. To do otherwise would be un-Australian.

      If you were faced with more or less certain death or extreme suffering for your family, and you had a choice of gently…

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    6. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Greg North

      Robert: while I agree with your obvious logic, for that is what the ancestors of those of us around now did, you miss the equally obvious fact that Europeans generally swarmed across the globe like locusts, not in 'need', but in greed.
      They plundered the wealth and resources of those who were less warlike, less belligerent, who often, foolishly, were prepared to share.
      The sense of entitlement is deeply ingrained, Australia is 'ours'!
      When Libya was being destroyed a friend raved on about how stupid and incompetent Gaddafi was. when I pointed out that Libya had no debt and where sitting on reserves of 140 odd tonnes of gold his immediate response: 'I hope we steal it!'.
      Never underestimate the depth of that sense of entitlement, nor the greed that underpins it!

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    7. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Greg North

      I blame our politicians for not explaining issues better.

      I used to think that Howard was simply pandering to the Hansonites, but that as an intelligent (white) man, he did not really believe the slogans.

      Perhaps Rear Admiral Abbott and Major General Morrison have come up with simplistic slogans, but have always had some rational thought behind their harsh faces.

      They might come to understand just how offensive their mindless chants are to Indonesians, who are the keys to the success of any regional approaches.

      Time will tell.

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    8. Allan Gardiner

      Dr

      In reply to Greg North

      Whilst your friend might want to wallow in a sea of stolen gold Peter, he's only one person, and "One's_wallow does not not make a $um_mer'itocracy".

      Only the $trong shall survive. Your friend's expression of entitlement reminds of one of Charles Darwin's, but this one was of the facial kind when he saw a photograph of himself, but he did express himself quite well nonetheless in reference to it when he wrote to his friend Hooker: "If I really have as bad an expression, as my photograph gives me, how I can have one single friend is surprising."

      Goldfinger Gaddafi -- not unlike Christopher Skase -- probably stole everything he could lay his hands on, and more besi_des'potically, as was his wont.

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    9. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Greg North

      Goldfinger Gaddafi -- not unlike Christopher Skase -- probably stole everything he could lay his hands on,. . .

      Where does this idea come from? His country was thriving, they had no debt, gold reserves of 144 tonnes . . .

      Your information is --- hell, can only be based upon western propaganda.

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  30. Figgles61

    logged in via Twitter

    Thank you for this - most librarians who deal with the public are familiar with the alienated you so eloquently describe. And I'm in awe of your patience in responding calmly and compassionately to each piece of hate mail, usually in social media the response is "don't feed the trolls". I will rethink my responses in future...

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    1. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Figgles61

      Figgles61, I support your contribution.

      Could I suggest that you use a real name in future?

      Different for twitter, perhaps.

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Figgles61

      And Robert, you post stuff like
      " Admiral Abbott is proposing to pay the gondoliers of the birth canal about $20,000 each through his big new tax, the PPS "scheme". "
      The title is Prime Minister whether you like it or not.

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    3. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Figgles61

      I have decided to call him Rear Admiral Abbott - a fragrant reference to his statement to Tony Windsor during their negotiations.

      "Prime Minister" means first among equals, usually. Given the makeup of his Cabinet (by a Prime Minister who has unfettered power to select it - according to Liberal propaganda - unlike the awful ALP with its Caucus processes) surely he has judged the Liberal Ladies uniformly unmeritorious.

      I suppose "Head Boy" might be used as an alternative once the "Hide the Boats" campaign has been completed.

      What about "gondoliers of the birth canal"?

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    4. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Figgles61

      Robert...

      I'm at a loss .... what did Honesty Tony say to Tony Windsor back in 2010??? Did the Rear Admiral promise a naval base for Armidale?

      I know he made some grossly corrupt offers to Andrew Wilkie but I missed the bribes offered to Windsor... fill me in.

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    5. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Figgles61

      Peter,

      According to Tony Windsor, a thoroughly decent and reliable statesman, during their negotiations Abbott said that he was rather keen on becoming PM, and would do anything "short of selling (his) arse".

      I think your "fill me in" is an unfortunate choice of words!

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    6. Graeme Smith

      Citizen

      In reply to Figgles61

      Peter, I'd bet Robert refers to offers of a backside for sale, the Rear Admiral well knowing the term for the aft most sail of his flagship is "spanker".

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    7. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Figgles61

      Gee that's disappointing.... I thought Abbott would do anything for the cause ... and may have made Windsor an offer to bizarre to refuse.

      It's the same wimpish complacency that's stopped Barnaby Joyce volunteering for a tad of gender re-assignment for the sake of the new Cabinet.

      Whatever happened to conviction politics - you know - change we can believe in?

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    8. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Figgles61

      You mean change his name to Barnyard Joy?

      And Cory Bernardi could become Coy St Bernard and embrace equal opportunity bestiality with gusto.

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    9. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Figgles61

      Erk ... too soon too soon Robert. Don't go planting such obscene images in my addled noggin on a Sunday.

      The one - well the only - upside of an LNP restoration is the satire- led recovery... always heralds a Golden Age for cartoonists.

      Now I'm going to have to have a rummage around in the kitchen to find the pill that will wipe those images from my mind hopefully forever.

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    10. In reply to Figgles61

      Comment removed by moderator.

    11. Jack Arnold

      Director

      In reply to Figgles61

      Now, now boys ... mind your manners. Bumbling Joke is the Member for Rinehart and Monster for Agriculture who owns about 1,000ha of CSG rich land in the PIlliga Scrub in NW NSW ... but we are assured that this could never be a conflict of interest.

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    12. Allan Gardiner

      Dr

      In reply to Figgles61

      Wouldn't that be a waving red flag_rant in reference to Abbott's being a Rear Admiral....given he's now gone to water?

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    13. Allan Gardiner

      Dr

      In reply to Figgles61

      Given that the Rear Admiral's p_untrusting of everyone, and therefore known to enjoy doing everything p_unaided, all will be fine from here on in as long as he's never actually seen to be falling down on the job, as he'll then feel caused to get up himself.

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  31. Ken Rowland

    logged in via Facebook

    As ever an intelligent and compassionate opinion, that incorporates justifiable and quantifiable facts and data to support Julian's opinions. If this man had political aspirations for high office this great country would be the better for it. They are refugees, not criminals, the word illegal is racist rhetoric.

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  32. Leigh Burrell

    Trophy hunter

    "The fact is that boat people do not break any law by coming here the way they do."

    That is a bald faced lie. Their transit through Indonesia is in violation of Indonesian law. Notably, any person who avoids processing by immigration authorities when leaving exits the country illegally.

    They are illegals. End of story!

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    1. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Leigh Burrell

      Leigh,

      I know you fellas keep saying that these refugees are 'illegals' ... could you point to the actual Australian laws they are breaking... or is it just wishful thinking?

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    2. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Leigh Burrell

      Do they?

      I must be stupid ... I'm not up on Indonesian law ... enlighten me ... which Indonesian laws are being transgressed Leigh ...

      But I acknowledge the implied admission that there are in fact no Australian laws being violated here. Unless you can point me towards those as well.

      I love this new notion of demanding that other countries uphold their laws to help us 'stop the boats'.... sort of buck passing really.

      Here's one I prepared earlier:

      If we're talking 'irresponsible…

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    3. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Leigh Burrell

      Leigh: You must be very well up on the laws pertaining to Muslims in Muslim countries to be so stridently sure of yourself.
      It used to be -- but this is years back --- that a Muslim was free to travel in may Muslim country, unhindered.

      Just as we (whites) born into British empire used to be able to travel unhindered, as today members of the EU travel unhindered throughout the EU.

      You may of course have more up to date info than do I.

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    4. Leigh Burrell

      Trophy hunter

      In reply to Leigh Burrell

      http://www.imigrasi.go.id/phocadownloadpap/Undang-Undang/uu%20nomor%206%20tahun%202011%20-%20%20english%20version.pdf#page=69

      "CHAPTER XI

      CRIMINAL PROVISION

      Article 113

      Any person who knowingly enters or exit the Indonesian Territory without passing through an examination by the Immigration Officer at Immigration Checkpoint Venue as contemplated in Article 9 paragraph (1) shall be punished with imprisonment for a maximum of 1 (one) year and/or fine sentence at the maximum of Rp100,000,000,00 (one hundred million Rupiah)."

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    5. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Leigh Burrell

      The law regarding British subjects in the colonies was that they required a visa for Australians.

      For white Australians you didn't need to bother, that was up until the Whitlam era when he demanded changes to the law. today, Australians have jump through the hoops.

      NZers, unless it has changed, do not.

      Nor do you factor in that Muslims may well have spoken to Indonesian authorities. As I said earlier, Muslims do have right of passage through other Muslim countries.

      Grabbing one paragraph out of any law is likely to lead you astray. If it was that simple, there would be no need for lawyers!

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    6. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Leigh Burrell

      That's better ...

      Passed in April 2011 - after representations from, yes you guessed it, the Gillard Government... but in practical reality virtually unenforceable if you look at a map.... impossible to police.

      Here's the background - from the RED China newsagency ... http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2011-04/08/c_13819711.htm

      As I understand it - which I'll readily admit is shallow and superficial - the 'examination' referred to in the above is not what we see at the customs…

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    7. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Leigh Burrell

      Here's a hint ...try Article 11 ...

      ' In emergency the Immigration Officer can provide an
      emergency Entrance Sign to the Foreigners.'

      Now I'd reckon that'd be a licence to print money for any Immigration Officer lucky enough to grab a fistful of refugees travelling without documents... instant 'Entrance Sign' visas issued on the spot. No law being broken here folks ... move along.

      Don't these Indonesians understand that when we uttered the Universal Truth ... we will decide who comes and the circumstances in which they come ... it was a universal truth ... Howard meant them as well ...

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    8. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Leigh Burrell

      Peter: had a bit to do with both the Indonesians and Malaysia. I left Malaysia, without paper work, on an ill advised sea trip. Got back some time after my visa had expired.
      Rang in and told them I was coming, when a very angry Indian demanded that I get in there immediately or he would come and arrest me.
      I told him he must be bloody clever, as he didn't know where i was and hung up. Called the NZ embassy, asked them to come rescue me if I didn't get back to them by six.
      My Chinese friends, horrified…

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    9. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Leigh Burrell

      Leigh: Normally, on this forum people are at the very least, civil.
      Mere opinions count for naught.
      Abuse is normally not tolerated.

      Your comment: ' Burnside is either lying or doesn't know what he's talking about.' effectively eliminates you from any rational debate.

      Your ignorance so displayed makes it a waste of time acknowledging you.

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    10. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Leigh Burrell

      Nothing speeds the course of justice than a few 100 rup notes stuffed into the socks Peter ... pretty much anywhere I've ever travelled in Asia.

      In fact I had an excellent pair of hiking boots with a secret pocket in the tongue designed for exactly this purpose. Sadly missed since they were pinched by a cop in West Irian.

      It's a real art knowing how to invest that money most cost effectively... bribe too early and too low down the pecking order and you have to bribe the entire station or…

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    11. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Leigh Burrell

      So Leigh, all your foaming at the mouth is because the refugees are breaking INDONESIAN law. How very altruistic of you!

      But wait! There's more. The Sri Lankans fleeing persecution will have broken Sri Lankan laws re leaving their country without going through official channels.

      So you can froth again because these evil men, women and children have broken SRI LANKAN law!

      Many countries in the world require EVERYONE to carry on them at all times their identity papers on pain of various police actions. Lucky old us, we have to carry a driving licence when we are driving, BUT outside of that, we do not have to carry any identification at all.

      So now you can roll on the floor frothing (ROFF for short) because virtually any non-Australian has probably broken the internal passport regulations of EVERY country they have passed through.

      O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!” He chortled in his joy.

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  33. Gabrielle Deakin

    musician

    Having lived outside Australia for the past 15 years, I have an on-off relationship with Australian politics and public feeling... My most recent vist in August of this year coincided with the election campaign and I was frankly shocked by the terms of the debate. I've since had a private time of mourning for the Australia I grew up in; the Australia that was learning to appreciate soy sauce and olive oil and liberate itself from second hand Britishnessness. That Australia feels long gone now in this culture of contemporary Aparteid... Thank you for this article, Julian, I hope it is widely read and circulated.

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  34. John Phillip
    John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Grumpy Old Man

    Julian, I feel you contradict yourself when you describe the first white settler as the true illegals and then go on to say that they were sent here against their will. Surely they were in the same boat as the original inhabitants in the sense that they had no choice? Perhaps, on this point at least, we need to be a little bit more discerning and discriminating when we choose to categorise or stereotype people.

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    1. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to John Phillip

      Depends on whose law you mean John ... under the local law operating at the time there were pretty solid ground rules governing who could go where and the permissions required. Didn't really have any way of dealing with immigration, chained or not. Only way they dealt with them was to assume they were dead guys visiting - and then to ignore them and just hope they'd take the hint and go away.

      It would be a mistake to interpret our legal status purely by our own self-referential and self-serving definitions. I think this was the point of Julian's expression.

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    2. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to John Phillip

      Peter, Julian is doing just that by the way he employs stereotypes in his argument.
      I'm a bit lost with your first para - can you clarify? Cheers

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    3. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to John Phillip

      Mornin' John,

      By 'local law' I mean the law in operation in Australia prior to our arrival and before English law was actually implemented (beyond the confines of Sydney Town, convicts and the lash) ... Blackfella law... Aboriginal law ... or as I prefer to call 'em - the locals.

      Some folks might call it lore rather than law. The High Court might one day disagree - should do if they were consistent re Mabo and recognition of common law principles ... lot more to it than a bit of hunting and fishing if we were serious about it.

      That help?

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  35. Chris Jensen

    Ground-Up Initiative

    Thank you Julian for all that you've done to help those being alienated and to inform others.

    For those of us reading that would like to share the rational arguments. Can you point us to a few good sources of information and facts that we can use when making an argument for compassion?

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  36. William Raper

    Retired

    Thank you Julian for your continuing support of the underdog. You are one of the few voices of compassion, sanity and data we can read today. Thank you for pointing out the small proportion of Asylum Seekers to other immigrants entering Australia. It is amazing how little this data is published in the press or heard from politicians. It seems that the legal practice of advocacy has found its into both these forums instead of unbiased communication of information.

    On reading the comments made to date, I did notice a few threads suggesting fear of Muslim values being behind many negative references to "boat people". I apologise for using this term, but what I am seeking is data on the number of Muslims amongst them in comparison to the number of Muslims entering Australia by air or ship. I have the feeling that again, this information might help to ally those fears, as we never seem to hear much about denying Muslims entry via these means.

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  37. Dianna Arthur
    Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Environmentalist

    The Sovereign Borders Policy, AKA the Secretive Boats Propaganda has been militarised in order to control news of refugee arrivals.

    When Labor was in office, the Murdochracy screamed proliferate minute by minute publication of leaky boatfuls of asylum seekers. Now all news and, therefore, discussion has been closed down. Is this the much vaunted freedom of speech demanded by the Bolts, the Alan Joneses and other far right minions?

    Again, we need to seek the truth from the fifth estate, such as:

    https://archiearchive.wordpress.com/2013/09/22/refugee-boat-timeline-updated-to-september-22nd/

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    1. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Surely if "operational issues" preclude the daily release of the score in the Great Sovereign Borders Caper, this has always applied and Rear Admiral Abbott and Major General Morrison have been treasonous in their daily bugellings?

      However, if you looked at the body language of the poor stooges facing MGM (now there's a thought!) you could see what they thought of the unsinkable creep, so leaks (not just of boats) should start very shortly.

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  38. Jarrod Chestney-Law

    logged in via Facebook

    As noted by John above, I'm curious about the law that addresses asylum seekers being obliged to ask for protection from the first safe state they arrive at. Every time I see this raised, it is never answered. Can someone address why this is not applicable? It is not addressed in the article either, even though it is alluded to. Is it not a part of international law (that is, did I imagine reading it a few years ago), or is it simply something people do not wish to answer?

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