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The balloons at Baxter: endangering pricking cops guarding restricted airspace

The Non-violence at the 2005 Baxter protests

There's been some talk about whether the Easter protests at the Baxter detention were marred by violence. If you ask the South Australian police force, you're led to believe that they were violent. Personally, I believe that all the violence came from the police.

Having said that, it remains to be seen whether a protest can be effective at all if a police presence and response, paid for by the Federal government and carried out by its politicallly opposed ALP government in South Australia, is so massively "over the top" and when it is intent on a massive attack on protesters.

There are ways and means though. Khristo Newall's well-planned and carried through action (the action was planned and carried out in a team including Tonja Boyd, Nathan Harris, Dave Morris and Mike Quinn) has all the hallmarks of a Non-Violent Direct Action, and when Margo put up the details on Margo Kingston's Web Diary at the Sydney Morning Herald, a flurry of reaction followed. Below is the story.

NOTE: We're not trying to 'steal' from Margo's Web Diary - this page lives here as a copy of its original because we want to promote Web Diary as an example of new media. The replies and comments on Web Diary are listed as 'last comment on top, first comment below' - the order on this page has been reversed for your convenience.

Khristo's crime at the Baxter protests

From Margo Kingston's Web Diary
Commentary by Margo Kingston
April 5, 2005 06:56 PM

G'day. I met Khristo Newall at the Perth Social Forum a couple of weeks ago, when he was preparing to go to Baxter, where Cornelia Rau was unlawfully detained, humiliated and abused, for the Easter protests. Here is his letter to friends about the experience.

My personal account of the grappling hook action

by Khristo Newall
5 April 2005

Dear Friends,

For those of you who aren't aware, I was part of the National Convergence at the Baxter Immigration Detention Facility over Easter to protest the inhumane mandatory detention policy of our country. I had an intense experience which I am still trying to process, and which I hope to write a lot more about. However in the meantime I felt I wanted to put my main story out there for you.

I hope you will read my account with an open mind and a willingness to engage with a different way of thinking for those of you unconvinced or even opposed to activism as you may have seen it portrayed by the mass media at Baxter, or as I now describe it for me.

As some of you may have heard, I was one of the people arrested for pulling down part of the main fence, and I want to explain that briefly. Let me start by paraphrasing Rev Daniel Berrigan:

"Apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the destruction of fences instead of lives."

I do want to apologise to my family and friends for fracturing 'good order',for the creation of conflict and turmoil, but I also must stand by my actions because I believed them to be right, and knew that I did them in the true spirit of non-violent direct action.

The media release we wrote and the story below will detail more of what happened. For now I will just say that I and four others chose a spot at Baxter to jump the perimeter fence and then used a grappling hook and rope to symbolically pull down part of the main fence. We then dropped our equipment, put our hands in the air and passively gave ourselves up to the police who arrived.

I want to make it absolutely clear that we were committed to avoiding conflict with police, and did not attempt to get away or resist. A key aspect of civil disobedience/Non Violent Direct Action (NVDA) is accountability and accepting the consequences. In other words, we chose to break the law in this situation, believing that sometimes the law is wrong (eg mandatory detention), and we are now prepared to account for that and allow ourselves to face our justice system on this point.

I took this action having spent years reflecting on how I personally need to respond to the violence and injustice in the world. My answer(s) would take a much longer essay, but the short answer is that I need to respond in many ways. One of them is NVDA, and I take actions such as these based on my learning and understanding of the actions and teachings of Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, and so many others.

I take these actions inspired by the example of these figures in history, and more recently by the Plowshares movement, by the Berrigan brothers, by the Jabiluka and Anti-Nuclear campaigners in Australia, and closer to home by my sisters and brothers in local campaigns such as the forest blockades here in Western Australia.

These people - both global and local - have taught me, inspired me, and resonated with me. The local folk have not just done that; they have become my friends, my teachers, my support, my community and my family. I will write more of all this another time.

Meanwhile I want to emphasise my belief that pulling down some strands of electric fence is not violent, nor wrong; not when that fence is part of, and represents, the violence being perpetrated en-mass to hundreds of innocent people, men, women and children.

It is violence, and it is wrong, to lock up innocent people without charge or trial. It is violence to add to this by the inhumane conditions, by the isolation, by the years that this is inflicted on people in places like Baxter.

I believe it is morally wrong to not do anything about this. I am more than happy to dialogue about this further with any of you.

Below is the media release the five of us put out, followed by the way that was written up by the AAP newswire service.

Take care. With love and peace,

Khristo Newall
0408 951 375

* * * * * *

Five arrested WA activists declare their fence cutting protest at Baxter IDF 'Morally Right'

Baxter 05 Convergence

Operation Counterspin

28 March 2005

Yesterday we (as the five activists named below) peacefully tore down a small piece of the fence at the Baxter Immigration Detention Facility as a symbolic protest against Australia's policy of mandatory detention.

"We state that the damaging of the fence is non-violence, believing that in fact this fence represents the violence inflicted on innocent human beings by our inhumane policy."

Our action took place on Easter Sunday morning. The five of us crossed a small perimeter fence and then used a nylon rope and small metal hook to pull off some strands of electrified wire running along the top of the main fence. We did this away from the main protest activity and police presence. We then dropped our equipment and stood with our hands in the air, peacefully giving ourselves up for arrest as the police arrived. We remain open and accountable for these actions as we believe that they are morally right.

We took this action independently but in solidarity with the wider convergence at Baxter which was to peacefully protest against detention policy in this country.

"We are disappointed with any violence against people allegedly perpetrated by protesters, just as we are dismayed by the heavy handed police tactics, in particular the unnecessary brutality we received during our arrests. However, we especially condemn the systemic violence being committed against hundreds of innocent people in Australian detention centres."

We also want to draw attention to the hypocrisy of our 'justice' system where we who have committed a crime are free to travel and enjoy our comfortable lives, while those who have committed no crime are imprisoned indefinitely.

"We and other activists will continue to protest vigorously and non-violently until every detention centre is closed and refugees are welcomed here."

Tonja Boyd, Nathan Harris, Dave Morris, Mike Quinn, Khristo Newall

Phone contact: [contacts inserted] Currently traveling back from SA by coach but will respond when in range.

* * * * * *

Activists defend Baxter protests

The Age/AAP
March 29, 2005 - 9:04AM

Five Western Australian activists defended their fence-cutting protest at the Baxter Detention Centre over Easter, describing the action as morally right.

The five said they tore down a small piece of the Baxter fence on Sunday as a symbolic protest against Australia's policy of mandatory detention.

They were arrested at the scene and were expected to appear in court at a later date.

But in a joint statement Tonja Boyd, Nathan Harris, Dave Morris, Mike Quinn and Khristo Newall said they believed their action was a non-violent protest against the violence inflicted on innocent people.

"The five of us crossed a small perimeter fence and then used a nylon rope and small metal hook to pull off some strands of electrified wire running along the top of the main fence," they said.

"We did this away from the main protest activity and police presence. We then dropped our equipment and stood with our hands in the air, peacefully giving ourselves up for arrest as the police arrived."

"We remain open and accountable for these actions as we believe that they are morally right."

The five said they took their action independently but in solidarity with the wider protest at Baxter over the Easter weekend.

They said they were dismayed by what they described as heavy-handed police tactics during the demonstrations and also wanted to draw attention to the hypocrisy of the justice system which allowed them to be free after committing a crime while people who had not committed any offence were held in immigration detention.

Over Easter about 400 pro-refugee activists clashed with about as many police outside the Baxter Detention Centre near Port Augusta in South Australia's mid-north.

A total of 16 people were arrested and charged with a range of offences including trespassing, hindering police and resisting arrest.

C 2005 AAP, Link to the article in The Age


Gee Khristo, how brave of you. Did you also belt the police horses? Just imagine Khristo, if I stood by my beliefs because I knew they were right none of you lefty idiots would be around.
Posted by: TT Tazman at April 5, 2005 08:08 PM

Khristo you are full of crap. There are many many laws I disagree with but I don't go out and become violent. I would like to take you at your word that all you wanted to do was pull down a fence. The actions of your friends there make that hard to believe. They were saying that the police went too far and all they wanted to do was protest up to the fence.

That is absolute rubbish. If the police were not there in numbers the mob would have broken into Baxter and done serious damage. Lying is just part of the game now for activists. Far too many of these activists take way to much enjoyment in what the do.

So what is your personal position on this Khristo? Is it no-one is illegal? Or is it let them live in the community until they are assessed.

Would you be prepared to throw ANY of them out of Australia if they were judged not to be refugees, and if not why not?
Posted by: Sam Richards at April 5, 2005 08:18 PM

Tazman the Brain: "Just imagine Khristo, if I stood by my beliefs because I knew they were right none of you lefty idiots would be around."

The neocons are as into gulags, media control and "disappearing" people as their Soviet ideological founders were.
Posted by: Dave Green at April 5, 2005 08:43 PM

Sam, and of course TT, never break the law Khristo, thus their moral superiority. They always obeyed Mum too.

It seems pretty straight forward to me. You created a disturbance to make a point you felt strongly about. Nobody was hurt, no real damage done. But you broke the law and were prepared to accept the consequences.

Not my cup of tea, but I don't have a problem with it. And like you say, why should you have any more rights than the detainees?
Posted by: Phil Uebergang at April 5, 2005 08:51 PM

Khristo, you obviously did a lot of thinking before taking action. My heart goes out to you for having the strength of conviction to stand up for the rights of fellow humans. It took a lot of courage. I wish more in our community felt as you do. It is just as wrong to lock up innocent people now, as it was in the 1930's. I wish more people had shown the same courage then.

Only with continued protest will the fences come down.
Posted by: John Pratt at April 5, 2005 09:26 PM

Dave Green, I'm not sure about the Soviet ideological forefathers of the neocons. If you would care to explain further?

And as for the protest, its every citizens right to protest for their beliefs (though if Christians marched through the streets in support of Family First or anti abortion or something I wonder what the reaction would be).

And every citizen's duty is to obey the law. If the two come into conflict, a choice must be made, and either idealism must bow to the law, or the consequences of the law must be faced.

In this case, those 5 chose to break the law, and therefore in accepting that they did so, deserve anything and everything they get. Whether its a warning or jail (unlikely), it's deserved. And that's the price that has to be paid, I guess. I just hope that it was worth it.
Posted by: Stuart Lord at April 5, 2005 09:26 PM

Khristo, that is the biggest load of rubbish I have read in a long time, and I am surprised that Margo allowed you to submit it. You went to Baxter with express purpose of conflicting with the police so that it would get in the press. At the same time you endangered police personnel who were only doing their job.

Next time you want to draw attention to yourself why don't you commit suicide outside the gates at Baxter. I would come and watch you and would bring the press with me.
Posted by: Myra Heard at April 5, 2005 09:32 PM

Serious damage to what, Sam Richards, the fence, a wall, maybe the razor wire? Trust you to be more concerned about a fence than the poor sods inside who never did anyone any harm. And before you get on your high horse, it's not a crime to seek asylum.
Posted by: Jane Rayner at April 5, 2005 09:41 PM

TT Tazman, please tell me your beliefs. They sound pretty frightening even you aren't prepared to stand up for them. And tell me, are you saying that you wouldn't stand up for your beliefs if you thought they were right? So when would you stand up for them? Or aren't you sure that your beliefs are right, in which case isn't it about time you thought about changing them?

I'm really interested to find out what you are really saying because I can't work it out from this post.

For the record, There is lots of theatre in demonstrating, but rarely is much achieved.

If I thought that a serious wrong was being done, and in order to right it I had to break a law, I would do so, make it clear I had, explain the reasons why, and accept the consequences. However, if I had the opportunity, I would work behind the scenes to have the laws changed.

I'm not sure that pulling down a fence really fits in the first category. I am sure that there is lots of boring, and frustrating, but ultimately more fruitful work that can be done out of the public view that will achieve better results than what happened at Easter at Baxter.
Posted by: David Grace at April 5, 2005 09:44 PM

So now we have the 'Khristo defence': I committed a violent act but I am absolved of my actions because "I believed them to be right, and knew that I did them in the true spirit of non-violent direct action".

What a hoot.

No doubt Justice Kirby and his ilk will find some arcane piece of international law justifying this nonsense.

Keep it up people.
Posted by: Adrian Rees at April 5, 2005 09:52 PM

It's true, Jane Rayner, that in most countries it's not a crime to seek asylum. However, by doing so you place yourself under the laws of that country regarding asylum applications. If the voting majority of citizens of that nation wish to detain asylum seekers until their claims can be verified (or at least voted for the party whose position that was), then that is the process they have to go through.

If other citizens wish for more liberal laws regarding asylum seekers, then they have a perfectly legal way of achieving this, mainly by elections. Such is the way democracy runs. If this is unacceptable, then break the law by all means, as long as those who do so are willing to face the consequences.
Posted by: Stuart Lord at April 5, 2005 09:54 PM

So David Grace, if I think you are perpetrating a grave wrong can I come and destroy your home? Have you really thought through the consequences of what you are advocating? It seems not.

This is unbelievable. All law is relative - if I don't like it I do what I like because I feel it's right. And some people think the neocons are the ones dangerous to society.

Margo: Adrian, ever heard of Ghandi?
Posted by: Adrian Rees at April 5, 2005 09:56 PM

Good one Margo. Khristo Newall and the lefty rent-a-crowd are closer to Osama Bin Laden then Ghandi. Much closer.

Margo: Sam, I was referring to the principles of civil disobedience, as you well know. Go to bed!
Posted by: Sam Richards at April 5, 2005 10:20 PM

Adrian, are you suggesting all laws should be obeyed at all times?
Posted by: Bob Wall at April 5, 2005 10:29 PM

Margo - Are you serious? Khristo admits to perpetrating an act of violence, viz:

"Meanwhile I want to emphasise my belief that pulling down some strands of electric fence is not violent, nor wrong; not when that fence is part of, and represents, the violence being perpetrated en-mass to hundreds of innocent people, men, women and children."

That is not what Ghandi stood for nor what he practiced.

Your analogy is extremely inappropriate and surely misleading.

As I asked David Grace, can I damage your home because I disagree with what you are doing?
Posted by: Adrian Rees at April 5, 2005 10:45 PM

Bob Wall - I'll start with a "Yes". Please deconstruct.
Posted by: Adrian Rees at April 5, 2005 10:47 PM

Once again we get the argument that applying for asylum is not an offence; sure isn't, nor is applying for a legal resident visa, even if only admitted on a tourist visa. Arriving without a valid travel document is an offence, on the part of the passenger and the carrier. The annual Baxter/Hedland etc histrionics are becoming tiresome, and piss more people off than they convert to the cause of asylum seekers. I don't see any groundswell of public opinion calling for the stripping of bridging visas for those granted TPVs- Australians are tolerant of genuine cases, and also know when they're being snowed. Just like every jail is full of innocent people, Baxter is full of victims of a cruel and heartless system (that allows appeal all the way up to the High Court). At least "Khristo" seems prepared to take their lumps- is that because you were caught?
Posted by: paul bickford at April 5, 2005 10:52 PM

Adrian, thanks for the answer. Next question:

If a law is thought by some in a society to be unjust what processes would you deem not only acceptable but capable of achieving a change to that law?
Posted by: Bob Wall at April 5, 2005 10:59 PM

What a sanctimonious bunch of prigs some of us are.

I would like to thank Khristo for having the balls to do something I would have like to have done but didn't have the courage to or power of his convictions.

His actions were (I believe) considered and measured. The hysterical brayings of others with their heads firmly in the sand trying to equate his actions with belting police horses or trying to extrapolate hypothetical outcomes are laughable and juvenile.

Sam Richards in particular raises irony to a new and previously unchartered level with his accusations of lefty lying.

I am certain of whom I would want as my fellow Australian citizens. It is Khristo and his friends. Not these heartless moronic neo-bots who believe everything they are spoon fed.

A moral vacuum obviously is a side effect of another vacuum, between the ears.
Posted by: Stephen Callaghan at April 5, 2005 10:59 PM

"I want to make it absolutely clear that we were committed to avoiding conflict with police, and did not attempt to get away or resist. A key aspect of civil disobedience/Non Violent Direct Action (NVDA) is accountability and accepting the consequences."

I don't know Khristo, but I know something about the pathway he's travelling, and I want to affirm the integrity and thoughtfulness of his friends' nonviolent direct action.

The knockers on this site belittle Khristo by pretending he is trying to get away with bad behaviour. Far from undermining the rule of law, Khristo and his friends are affirming it. Engaging with it as a field of action/consideration/judgement. This kind of direct action is sure to draw attacks, and to stand for those attacks through moral belief is to take powerful moral action.

The Plowshares actions Khristo refers to use similar blends of material/symbolic material to create the foundation of dicussion. Police will need to demonstrate the nature of the material destroyed or interfered with. In this case an electric wire used to deter escape from a refugee detention centre. The wire is evidence of a crime far greater than wilful damage (mandatory detention). The Court will resist looking at that larger crime.

In non-violence, Khristo and his friends get their message out must now work to get their message out as broadly as they can, and mobilise as much public support as they can for looking at (and ending) that larger crime. We can help.

We can spread the word and talk about the role of nonviolent direct action in transforming our world. We can admire and support the principled engagement of Khristos and his friends with a problem requiring moral action. Hooray, and let's have more of it.

Ps, Adrian, if you want to come along and smash my house, and you're willing to wait for police and admit what you've done, then sure thing, come ahead - but it seems an expensive way to blow off a bit of steam. Pillows and sticks are much better for that sort of thing.

Destroying property used in the commission of a crime is not violence, it's peace-making.
Posted by: Bryan Law at April 5, 2005 11:00 PM

Adrian, Gandhi did use "non-violent"protest ... but don't think that meant meek and mild. Protests arranged by Gandhi were often very assertive and led to mass riots.
Anyway, look where it got him, shot in the head!

Adrian, hopefully you won't have to damage anyone's home should you disagree with what they are doing. You have recourse to the Police, your local council, other bodies such as the EPA (depending on what is being done) even the civil courts. This is where your analogy falls over. In fact these peurile analogies are getting tiresome.

Stick to the facts and the situation.
Posted by: Stephen Callaghan at April 5, 2005 11:10 PM

I support this action vigorously, because the essence of 'advanced' non-violent action, as carried out by Khristo and his group, is to stay conscious and alive, right through the fear and intimidation, and on target with the purpose of your civil disobedience.

As far as fear and intimidation goes, there was lots of it around Baxter during the Easter weekend, where your tax dollars flew out of your national pockets (is everyone reading this sentence?) by thousands of dollars per minute by having 400 cops and a helicopter guard the fences of a state-of-the-art facility protected by a 9000 volts electrical wire.

And, for those of you who heard of Cornelia Rau: don't go to remote Queensland when you're likely to be tired, a bit disjointed and out of it, so some ancient accent slurs your speech, while you gaze a little into nowhere when you're tired: you may end up in Baxter, and the mantra is "you'll never, ever leave"!

Fear is one way to react on intimidation. Anger or agression is another way. Only those who are truly big in mind and trained from the "masters of non-violence" such as Martin Luther King and Ghandi, can also start to master the transcending above this "noise" and keep conscious in the completion of an act in their work.

That was what impressed me a great deal about the actions of the "Baxter05-Five" - and yes, I did the media work for them during the weekend while they travelled back from Baxter.

Last week Lynn MacLaren MLC held her inaugural speech in the WA State Parliament, and this action became part of her speech (see it here).

How's that for a new meaning to the concept of "grappling with detention" and "hooked on Baxter"?

Love to you, Khristo!
Posted by: Jack H Smit at April 5, 2005 11:14 PM

TT Tazman, Sam Richards and Adrian Rees, Funny little people playing funny little games. You would have preferred it if Khristo was to just write a letter of protest which all your little cronies could have just ignored or even swamped with a lot of Government red tape.

All of us, including Khristo, don't just have a right, but a moral obligation to make themselves heard when things stink in the kingdom of democracy.

The wall she pulled downed was owned by Khristo, by me and by other Australians. I believe she had a moral right to pull down MY wall. If you don't like it then talk with other Australians and stop playing the card of "civility". This slight of hand magic trick of making everyone feel guilt because they have a different point of view to yours is boring.
Posted by: robert tuppini at April 5, 2005 11:19 PM

Oscar Schindler. He committed fraud and embezzlement against his nation. Broke the law. Saved lives.

For the record though I don't believe actions like this will solve the problem. In fact, I worry deeply about the false sense of hope they give to those still locked in detention just so Howard can keep the One Nation boofhead vote "locked in".

We have to get the Liberals out of Federal government, and make damn sure its a long time before they ever return. They need to do some serious time in the wilderness for this shit. I know that's not as satisfying as storming the walls so to speak, but its where we are, and reality is all that matters.

I know Labor started "mandatory" detention, but they never used it as a political tool. That should tell you something.
Posted by: Dave Green at April 5, 2005 11:24 PM

Bob Wall: I suggest you follow Stephen Callaghan's advice - try democratic elections, the courts etc.

Stephen Callaghan - You must have the Dyson Cyclonic between your ears. So whenever I run out of avenues of appeal against the law I take things into my own hands? Or am I misrepresenting you?

You were very keen to find out how many Iraqi deaths were deemed acceptable to impose democracy. How about you tell us how far you will go against a law you think is unjust? Is one death or murder justifiable?

Bryan Law: "Destroying property used in the commission of a crime is not violence, it's peace-making." I suppose I should be thankful you also didn't invoke Ghandi.

Do you also advocate assaulting the custodial staff at Baxter? How about firebombing Parliament House because they passed the laws that enabled these "crimes"? Where do you stop Bryan?

It's funny that those who advocate upholding nebulous international law 12,000 miles away don't see the need to support the definitive law we have right here.
Posted by: Adrian Rees at April 5, 2005 11:27 PM

Jack Smit - So now destruction of property is "'advanced' non-violent action".

I just love this! Are you a publicist for Orwell?
Posted by: Adrian Rees at April 5, 2005 11:30 PM

robert tuppini said: "The wall she pulled downed was owned by Khristo, by me and by other Australians. I believe she had a moral right to pull down MY wall."

Right on. Try these:

1. Hey, I don't like that planning order they passed at Strathfield Council last week. Seeing as WE all own the Council Chambers, I'll just smash it up a bit because I have a moral right.

2. Hey, that Centrelink was way unfair. I think I'll smash the windows because I pay the taxes that built the Centrelink office and I have a moral right.

3. Hey, I don't like what the Reichstag is doing. Seeing as WE all own it, I think I'll burn it down because I have a moral right.
Posted by: Adrian Rees at April 5, 2005 11:39 PM

Khristo, thank you for the letter. It is the first time that I have read anything written directly by a person in your position.

The beauty about a democracy is that everyone is allowed to express their views, non violently, freely and without fear of persecusion. Another feature of a healthy democracy is that one is allowed to disagree with someone elses opinions.

So, my take on your "non violent" protest is two-fold. I agree with your setiments, I strongly disagree with your actions.

As some have said here, the fact that you feel strongly about this issue, as I do, does not mean you have the right to break the law.

If one takes the view that actions such as yours are designed to draw attention to the issue so that changes can be instigated in this area and nothing more, then you have succeeded in achieving the former.

Changes, however, will not occur through actions such as your and your friends'. Governments, elected ones at that, only respond to numbers, they live and die by them. You did not have the numbers at Baxter, nor, I suspect, were your actions supported by the majority of us that agree with your aims.

What you're trying to achieve can only come about by the government realising there is more milage in treating those asylum seekers in a manner more suited to a benevolent and fair society.

Most successful non violent actions in history achieved their success by the sheer number of supporters working and campaigning for the cause or attending public gatherings. Cases in point; Ukraine, Philippines, Romania.

So how do you demonstrate the numbers supporting your aims to an uncaring government that would only take notice only in the presence of a demonstrated power-threatening opposition? How do you engage and activate those that agree with you and yet remain largely apathetic on the issue?

The answers I believe, lays in making it easy for them to raise their hands on the issue.

We have here a wonderful medium largely unused by the general public in matters democratic, so perhaps the better use of it may provide some answers to the questions above.

The simplest way I can think of showing what numbers you have behind you is to initiate an internet petition. The way I see it working would be as follows: Create a petition document that people can download and print. Those that are willing, would take those documents to their friends, workmates and even to shopping centres. Then as they filled those, they would mail it registered post, (trust no-one!, to a central address where the petition would then be gathered into one large truckload and delivered to parliament.

I believe you would raise several million signatures. You would need that many to generate the changes this issue merits.

Then and only then, would you possibly make people like TT Tazman reconsider their views. It might not change their opinion but the government will sit up and take note of such a large number of people telling them their wrong.

They will take note because once it is publicly demonstrated that such large numbers are against their policies, they'll know that the likelyhood of a further four or five percent withdrawing their support for the government would mean they'd lose the power they so covet.

I admire your dedication and ideals Khristo. If I thought you stood a chance of success through your actions, I'd probably make the trip next time you go to Baxter. However, I fear actions such as yours only damage the cause.

My idea is but one. I am sure there are better ones out there. To succeed, keep this in mind; At the end of the day, in a democracy, it's a numbers game.

Good luck to you and us that want decency in government.
Posted by: Rubens Camejo at April 5, 2005 11:42 PM

Adrian, since you bring up the Reichstag, it is probably a good time to bring in the Nuremberg judgement that just following orders and doing what was lawful at the time can still be considered a crime when judged by other standards. So it isn't good enough just to rely on a strict legalistic framework for your actions, you have to apply a moral judgement as well.

This is, of course, not simple, and if, like Khristo, you act out your moral judgement in defiance of the law you have to accept that you will very likely be punished. Nonetheless, by so doing you have established that you are a human being not a robot or a sheep.
Posted by: David Roffey at April 5, 2005 11:46 PM

Adrian, who murdered anybody? Yet another totally crap analogy. Mate, if you are just being antagonistically obtuse, well done. If you really cannot differentiate between murder and Khristos actions then I would suggest a series of electro shock treatment (bite down hard on the rubber bone) and a course of mild sedatives to get your perception back to normal levels.

Frankly, Yes, you are misrepresenting me. It seems to be a favourite tactic of those who cannot muster a coherent argument. One death could never be justified in overturning Australia's barbaric mandatory detention policy, hence the measured and considered actions of protesters at Baxter.
Posted by: Stephen Callaghan at April 5, 2005 11:47 PM

Adrian, I asked for your opinion, ie., what you thought. So your thoughts are:

"I suggest you follow Stephen Callaghan's advice - try democratic elections, the courts etc."

Apart from advising me what to do, which wasn't the point of the question, at least it was an answer of sorts, even if it was someone else's. Perhaps it is the best you can do. Then I suppose there is nothing wrong in referring to more informed opinion.

Next question: do you consider that there are any circumstances when the processes you advised are too slow or are obstructive to change and other methods might be justified?
Posted by: Bob Wall at April 5, 2005 11:52 PM

Doing what is right often requires courage & you have it Khristo. Never be discouraged by conservatives who sit on their hands & make noises about democratic processes, obeying the law & so on. These are the kind of hypocrites who bought us Hitler. Meanwhile, our own government is acting illegally & destroying a lot more than some fence in the process. So keen to be right about something in life, one even feigns concern for a horse whilst overlooking the obvious human concerns at the centre of the whole affair. Typical hey?

Moralistic bullying by the immoral majority is about the size of politics in contemporary Australia & at some point, the aging imbeciles who voted in this criminal government yet again will have to learn that regurgitating spoon fed propaganda is not the same as being right. Besides, anyone who cannot distinguish between a Centrelink office & an inhumane prison shouldn't be voicing opinion anyway.
Posted by: Ian Maxwell at April 6, 2005 12:01 AM

Right on, Adrian ....try these (this is how your analogies SHOULD be presented if they are to fairly reflect the actions of Khristo and what they were protesting about).

1. The planning laws at Strathfield take 2 to 6 years to pass. In that time, your house (the subject of the planning development) is locked up and you are denied access to it. You are also locked up Adrian. You only see your lawyer once every couple of months. There is of course a language barrier as the council operates with a foreign language. Your wife and children are kept in another facility seperate to you. You haven't seen them for nearly a year. On top of this Adrian, you also may be suffering from panic and anxiety regarding your last development application (you remember the one? Where Strathfield Council came into your house in the middle of the night and shot your father and took your 2 sons away to join an armed militia.) You will of course receive no help with psychiatric treatment.
You will win your development application but before you can be released to put that granny flat over the garage, Strathfield Council will change the laws and you are back at stage one.

Anyway, I again thank Khristo and friends for their actions. Well done. I really don't want to be dragged into another slinging match with people. It pains me enought to realise that these cold individuals are walking the streets with me and my children. I just want to grab them and shout into their sheeplike faces "what the hell made you such a miserable bastard?"
Posted by: Stephen Callaghan at April 6, 2005 12:05 AM

David Roffey: I wasn't aware that the Nuremburg judges found that the Reichstag burning was OK. Can you give me a transcript reference?

Stephen Callaghan: I thought you would appreciate the reducto ad absurdum approach, seeing you have used it. Get the chip off your shoulder and let me know when you actually have an argument to put rather than showy put-downs.

Bob Wall: No. If I live in a democratic society and my view isn't prevailing then I have to stick with it. And there may be a difference between truly non-violent actions and the sort of things we are seeing advocated herein.

That's enough for tonight; I'm going to bed. I hope no one destroys any property overnight because of their self-actualised moral right.
Posted by: Adrian Rees at April 6, 2005 12:14 AM

Your righteousness shines through like a beacon Stephen Callaghan. All of what you said is fantasy.

So tell me again - how far are you prepared to go against an unjust law? You've ruled out murder - what are your boundaries?
Posted by: Adrian Rees at April 6, 2005 12:17 AM

While we do nothing we are complicit in the imprisonment of people who came here to ask for our help and protection, who are now more psychologically traumatised than they were when they fled. If we keep our eyes shut, and them behind fences, we don't have to admit they're real people - just like us, only not lucky enough to be born here.
Posted by: Robyn Clothier at April 6, 2005 12:27 AM

Not fantasy. Just showing you the ridiculous nature of your analogies.

Hardly my righteousness showing through. Just my humanity.

How far would I go? I certainly do support civil disobediance by those who are prepared to pay the personal cost. Unfortunately I do not have the courage. I wish I did. I believe the level of protest that was taken at Baxter is somewhere areound the appropriate amount.
I am not aware of any "chip" on my shoulder. You can not unsettle me that easily cobber, there is no self doubt or ulterior motive here just the (basic) human ability to empathise. I do however thank you for at least rating my put downs as "showy".

When I too lay me down to sleep I shall hope for a minimum of property damage to occur.

I notice that you misrepresented David Roffey re: the Reichstag, but I shall let him take you to task on that.

If I promise to tone down the self actualising will you at least promise to start reading what others write and look up the meaning of the word analogy?
Posted by: Stephen Callaghan at April 6, 2005 12:40 AM

*****As Gummow J indicated in Al-Kateb at [86] ff, the current Migration Act, unlike its precursors, does not make it an offence for an unlawful non-citizen to enter or to be within Australia in contravention of, or in evasion of, the Act.****

Why do Tazman, Bickford and co still persist in the whining belief that arriving without a visa is an offence in our law when even the High Court says it is not? Are you really that stubbornly stupid you can' t face the fact you have been had?

I'll post it again just in case you tossers really can't read too well.

As Gummow J indicated in Al-Kateb at [86] ff, the current Migration Act, unlike its precursors, does not make it an offence for an unlawful non-citizen to enter or to be within Australia in contravention of, or in evasion of, the Act.

31 Further, as Hayne J observed in Al-Kateb at [207]-[208] the description of a person's immigration status as "unlawful" serves as no more than a reference to a non-citizen not having a "valid permission to enter and remain in Australia". The use of the term "unlawful" does not as such refer to a breach of a law.

Give it a rest now boys, if it is an offence in law just charge a small fine and get it over and one with instead of locking up people who have done nothing wrong at all for years and years, both inside and outside detention.

Now the little bit of fence broken was about $5000 we are told, to lock up one baby in Port Augusta housing is $4,600 per week - let the baby free and pay for the f....g fence.

Amir became a permanent resident last week, late and we had a talk tonight. Amir is a microbiologist I have written about many times with his permission - his story is fairly typical.

He had to run and run from Husseins Iraq, both as and educated man and a Sabean Mandaean. He had no money so he came the cheapest way, and arrived here in February 2000. He went to Woomera and came out on 10 December - good day for liberty he thought.

Until he was told about his wreched TPV which would keep his wife and kids out for at least 3 years. Now it has been 4 years and 4 months and he will have to wait another 3 - 7 months before they can come here.

If he had been able to get to England he would have not spent one day in jail, he would have been a permanent resident as soon as his claim was tested and approved and his wife and kids would have been with him years ago - in fact that goes for the other 140 nations who signed the refugee convention.

It should be a wonderful time but the sour taste in everyone's mouths, the years of torment and pain inflicted is too huge to overcome.

Amanda rang him and apologised.

Amanda has now done a number of things.

1. Reassessed and released the 86 Mandaeans that Ruddock was determined to deport. Carmen wrote about the shocking time they had in Iraq and Iran and I know quite a number of them - they are pacifist to the core and lovely people in general.

2. Released all but one of the 20 families in long term detention when she took over - she deported the Bakhtiyaris' without cause and now casually claims they went home of their own free will, as if the midnight drag out of bed with 20 guards was nothing.

3. Reassessed the christian Iranians and they are being released.

So the question remains - why did she only deport one of the families? The family court heard hour after hour of the horror those children had been through, so why only them?

I didn't support this years protest at Baxter because things always get worse afterwards but I defend to the death their right to do it.

After all with the Pankhurst sisters women would never have got the vote or got out of the kitchen.

As for those police horses being beaten by protestors - it has never happened but at the Oakbank racecourse dozens and dozens of horses were flogged and whipped to run faster and over the steeplechase which is ever more dangerous.
Posted by: Marilyn Shepherd at April 6, 2005 12:43 AM

Adrian Rees: "Are you a publicist for Orwell?"

Gawd, Adrian, you are such a dork.

But, I'll make it simple so you may just get the point when you have a bright moment. Yes, I would give a million to be Orwell's publicist. Man, wouldn't he be the equivalent of Julian Burnside QC or Michael Moore?

Adrian, there was once a psychiatrist called Ronny Laing. In a book he wrote "the map is not the territory" when he talked about the map of a country or a continent.

Similarly, George Orwell the author is not the Australian Department of Immigration he had a vision of, when he wrote his book. He is the one who wrote the book, he's not the player.
Posted by: Jack H Smit at April 6, 2005 01:14 AM

This whole arguement reminds me of the "right to lifers" who made death threats against the judges who permitted the "murder" of Terri Schiavo. Isn't there some sort of contradiction there? No! It accords with the views of the Khristo types: allowing a vegetable to die peacefully is a crime warranting violent murder, because the murder is in accordance with your beliefs that your shouldn't commit murder .... err, did I get that right?
Posted by: Peter Wilkins at April 6, 2005 07:53 AM

Bob Wall, "are you suggesting all laws should be obeyed at all times?"

I think that is the idea of laws isn't it?
Posted by: Gareth Eastwood at April 6, 2005 08:09 AM

well done Khristo. I admire you. As schoolboy I became one of the 'bastards' Robin Askin urged his driver to run over when we surged (illegally) onto the road in front of LBJ. A small act of defiance but eventually with millions of people protesting around the world an unjust Vietnam War was brought to an end. People like you will be responsible and remembered one day for bringing an end to this awful incarceration of innocent people. Stick to your ideals and don't give up, no matter what they say about some stupid fence.
Posted by: Michael de Angelos at April 6, 2005 08:37 AM

Adrian Rees: You a little balilla ( black shirt of the fascist party) not wanting anyone to demonstrate or show opposition to your point of view. I am a partisan and I am happy to stomp on your political ideals and your political home in order that others have freedom of expression.
Posted by: robert tuppini at April 6, 2005 08:47 AM

Adrian Rees, Kiss Kiss baby, come ve vil make you velcom! We'll show you that misery, hurt and pain are just a state of mind . We will put you in such extreme pain and anguish and then not allow you to communicate.

You wanker Rees, put yourself in their position. Wouldn't you want anyone on the outside to help you with any means available, or are you such a North Shore prat that the only discomfort you've had is an ingrown toe nail?

God if I hear any more from these mummy's boys I think I'll puke!!!!
Posted by: robert tuppini at April 6, 2005 09:07 AM

Just wanted to express my support for you, Khristo - good on you for standing up for the most disenfranchised and powerless people in Australia.

I find the venom with which some people have responded to your post positively bizarre, given that these people usually claim to also be championing democracy. The ability to protest and undertake civil disobedience without fear of being lined up against a wall and shot is fundamental to democracy (to the regret, obviously, of TT Tasman). How did the American civil rights movement get on the political agenda there? It wasn't through polite letters to politicians.

More and more I hear the view that yours and my participation in democracy is limited to voting once every three years. Such a view suggests that we vote in a dictator rather than a Prime Minister. The numerous MPs and Senators who are not Liberal are there for what - ballast? The Liberals themselves (some of them, anyway) are open to discussion about their party's policies; witness the current revolt by some principled backbenchers on mandatory detention. From the accounts I've read these Liberals became interested after personal representations from refugee activists/concerned citizens. In other words: we can make a difference, and should.

If it wasn't for the tireless work of refugee activists then the gross injustices of mandatory detention would only ever register with the broader community when one of 'us', like Cornelia Rau, gets caught up in the process. This doesn't happen very often. Lawful lobbying is important, I agree, but I also think civil disobedience is a reasonable response to what many Australians regard as an unconscionable policy.
Posted by: David Curry at April 6, 2005 09:12 AM

Adrian and co,

So many have answered your questions, but seeing as you asked me, I thought I'd try to help you understand the difference between principled defiance of a law and lawlessness.

To start with the worst type of lawlessness first: I want something, you have it, I'm stronger than you and I take it. If you try to stop me, I threaten and commit whatever violence is needed to obtain what I want. This is a no brainer. Unless we live in a state where there are no laws no-one would see that this is acceptable, and we all want laws to stop this type of behaviour, and expect these laws to be respected.

Another type of lawlessness is where you are powerful enough to twist the existing law to obtain what you want. We can think of things like bottom of the harbour schemes, and a range of corporate arrangements. Most people see this as legal lawlessness and hold those who do it in contempt, apart from those who benefit from this lawlessness.

The next is lawlessness where the laws are not in line with the society or are weakly enforced. Some examples would be that more than 50% of teenage children smoke dope and are therefore criminals, or almost all of us who can drive have sped, and are therefore criminals. Most of us see this as very minor and laws like this probably need to to be reviewed.

I'm sure others could mention other types, and as I am not a lawyer, I'm sure I've missed some out.

The thing which is common with lawlessness, is that it is basically selfish. There isn't any element of protest or of trying to change the state.

Now to principled law breaking. Like anything there is a shady area between lawlessness and principled law breaking which is where the examples put by Adrian Rees and others like him are focussed. In many ways that is a good place to put the arguement, because it allows us to see more clearly the minefield that can exist in that shady area.

Adrian and co have done a really good job of describing this area, and if this post is not going to go on for ever, perhaps others could read their posts if they want to get examples.

One defining characteristic of all the examples is the emphasis on selfishness (I don't like this, I'm unhappy with you) and I think that this is the connection between lawlessness and the more primitive types of principled lawbreaking.

I'll try to start from the extreme end of principled law breaking. Here we stand with the real moral giants. At this point, we are talking about people who give away their self, to change what are patently wrong laws. Gladly there are many people we can name here: Mandela and Apartheid, Ghandi and India; Bonnhoefer and the others who plotted to kill Hitler; Schindler and his rescue of Jews; John Paul II and his efforts in both World War 2 and later with Solidarity. There are many others, and we all have our favourites. At this level of principled law breaking you know that the consequences of breaking these laws will be severe, including losing your life or your liberty, as happened with many I've named here. This is also where some of the simple princples of principled law breaking fail.

For instance in order to be successful, you may not want to publicly break the law, because by doing so you will lose the ability to further undermine it. I think the important part of the principle is that you are prepared to accept the consequence once you have been apprehended and stand up as publicly as possible to say why you broke the law.

I'm pretty sure that most would see these people as real heroes who were completely justified in what they did.

Another common thread which runs through these examples is that the state itself is lawless, and often at the worst level. There is no lawful way to change a clear injustice.

To finish with a more middle way is the example we are talking about now, committing a property crime to highlight an unjust law.

As Khristo said the people who did this were careful to decide what they were going to do, and that what they did was basically symbolic. I don't think they had ideas of completely pulling down the fence.

I think that the things that have to be asked here if you are going to follow principled law breaking are:

Is it going to harm any one else?
Am I doing it for selfish purposes? This would include a politician doing it to gain support from the constituency.
Can I achieve the same result using legal means?
Will my actions achieve the result I want?
Am I clear about what I want to change?
and of course; am I prepared to take responsibility for my actions?

In my first post I said that: There is lots of theatre in demonstrating, but rarely is much achieved.

If I thought that a serious wrong was being done, and in order to right it I had to break a law, I would do so, make it clear I had, explain the reasons why, and accept the consequences. However, if I had the opportunity, I would work behind the scenes to have the laws changed.

I'm not sure that pulling down a fence really fits in the first category. I am sure that there is lots of boring, and frustrating, but ultimately more fruitful work that can be done out of the public view that will achieve better results than what happened at Easter at Baxter."

Which means I would not have taken the same path as Khristo. But I am older, less agile, and probably have more power to change things legally, so I can't say what I would have done if I was in Khristo's shoes.

Hope this helps.
Posted by: David Grace at April 6, 2005 09:14 AM

Khristo, I believe that these loathsome concentration camps should be closed down. I also think that you are acting with the most noblest of intentions.

However, I also think that what you are doing is not helping the wretched individuals trapped inside. Unfortunately, if anything, it might make it worse.

The Government's demonisation of these people started long before the Tampa sailed on to the horizon. If you remember back, you will recall that a very complicit commercial media ran GOVERNMENT FOOTAGE of the detainees rioting, throwing things and committing acts of vandalism at those "five star hotels" such as Woomera and Port Hedland.

This set the public mindset and very little has changed since then. The exception might be that rather than feeling utter contempt for the "illegals" or "queue jumpers" (my tongue is firmly in my cheek when I use these expressions), the mood has probably changed somewhat to ambivalence. Your average voter will be much more concerned about what the RBA is going to do today rather than what is going on behind the walls of Baxter.

Which brings me back to my point. There is a chance to change the public's mood, although this will be mighty difficult given the Government's ability to manipulate public mood on the subject. But, believe me, marching on Baxter and pulling down fences gives the Government, with the help of its complicit commercial media yet another chance to taint the refugee cause.

All the public sees is some "rent-a-crowd" causing trouble and wasting taxpayers' money by destroying their beautiful fences. Never mind that the Government wasted millions by keeping one Palestinian man locked up on his own on Manus island for months. How much media coverage did that disgraceful episode get?

Don't ask me what you should change your plans to, but a change in strategy is badly needed.
Posted by: Steve Turbit at April 6, 2005 09:23 AM

You know something, I just read through the 38 posts on an action on refugees and around the 30th this bell went off in my head and I though "were is Marilyn", It never takes Marilyn over 5 minutes to respond to a thread on Refugee's. But she showed up eventually so all is good. She also says that she did not support this years protests, for once Marilyn and I agree on something!

Anyway, this Khristo character is a classic example of a loopy lefty. Perhaps the quintessential lefty. Whose argument is so pathetic, mixed up and contradictory that it is almost insane. Let's lock him up, just for being a goose. "NVDA" these idiots have even invented an acronym for what they do. You can protest out the front of Baxter, get on TV, why do you need to hit Horses and pull down fences? Why do you need to put balloons in the air endangering Helicopter pilots? I have no issue with people protesting, so long as it is done within the laws. Breaking the law to show your protest and justifying this by saying all is good as Ill cop the consequences can open a whole can of worms.
Hell, when your actions have Marilyn and I agreeing on something you know you truly have totally lost the plot.
Posted by: j wilshaw at April 6, 2005 09:45 AM

Gareth Eastwood: "I think that is the idea of laws isn't it?" (confirming that all laws should be obeyed at all times)

Sometimes the law is an ass, Gareth, and sometimes it is a much more malignant animal. Once it was a crime to assist a fleeing slave. In another part of the world it was once it was a crime to give assistance to a Jew trying to remain outside an internment camp. In another part of the world it was a crime to hold hands in public with a person of another skin colour. Who are the good guys-those who upheld those laws, or those who broke them? How comfortably does all this sit with your general idea?
Posted by: Bill Avent at April 6, 2005 10:29 AM

I commend you on your actions, myself being a 'loopy lefty', I was dissapointed I couldn't make it. The system is wrong, it is so fair and inhumane and the majority of Australians are too ignorant to realise this.

Keep up the good fight.
Posted by: Benjamin Solah at April 6, 2005 10:34 AM

David, Steve et al

Plenty of boring, frustrating work has already been done by thousands of people out of the public view. Though I am reluctant to admit it, I think we have got to the point where we have to answer your question "Can I achieve the same result using legal means?" with a No. A terrible injustice has been done to asylum seekers in this country from which many, even when released, will take years to heal. How can we stand by any longer?
Posted by: Robyn Clothier at April 6, 2005 10:46 AM

Adrian Rees, "So David Grace, if I think you are perpetrating a grave wrong can I come and destroy your home? Have you really thought through the consequences of what you are advocating? It seems not".

Yet, because Saddan Hussein was perpetrating a grave wrong you support the invasion, military assault and occupation of Iraq, an action that has destroyed the homes of countless hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis who just happened to be in the way.

Adrian Rees, "In all your tirades against action in Iraq I haven't seen one argument as to why they shouldn't have democracy".

You give your full moral support to the military invasion of an entire country because you think its citizens deserve better yet are outraged because others bring down a fence believing those behind it deserve better.
Posted by: James Govett at April 6, 2005 10:50 AM

j wilshaw, how can toy balloons endanger helicopter pilots? Why do helicopters deserve a capital letter-are they some kind of deity or something? Are you sure it was just a bell that went off in your head?
Posted by: Bill Avent at April 6, 2005 11:14 AM

I draw the attention of Marilyn Shepherd and others to the inconvennience of Section 42 of the Migration Act; arrival without a valid travel document is not necessarily an offence (there are some exclusions, such as loss/theft of passport, provided you have evidence, and usually the local legation issues a document such as a laissez passe provided they are satisfied with the bona-fides of the person in question). Intentional destruction of travel documents, and arriving without documentation with the intent to gain entry to Australia is and continues to be an offence, despite the feeble efforts of activist High Court beaks; the court can only interpret statute, not change it.
Posted by: Paul Bickford at April 6, 2005 11:00 AM

Robyn, When the answer is that legal means are not working, then the calculations get harder. You have to ask what is the most effective non violent way to achieve a change in the law. You also have to start asking questions about how much of the law that it is necessary to break, and when you will decide to stop breaking the law.

I think it is also important to talk to those who aer still using legal means to acheive the same ends to ensure that you don't hurt what they are doing.

I get worried about symbolic acts because I am not sure they are very effective, and they often only resonate to those who already agree with you. As you can see from some of the posts here, you don't get many converts from the other side.

I'd be seeing a more effective way of changing the laws non legally here would be to make it clear that you would give shelter to those who have avoided these camps, making opportunities available for them to give their story across in the media.

One of the most effective things for me in the Vietnam war protests was when This Day Tonight interviewed the Attorney General of the time and then brought in a Draft dodger, who was more articulate, than this man. The Draft Dodger knew what he was doing could land him in Gaol, and the A-G spent most of his time bleating "Arrest that man", but it got across very clearly the barrennes s of the Governemtns policy and the fact that they had lost the plot. The police were called and he did make a run through the studios. I don't know if he got caught.

Gareth, I'd like to see your response to Bill Avents post. There are times where the law must be broken if you are to act morally.
Posted by: David Grace at April 6, 2005 11:20 AM

Regarding Benjamin Solah and others, I am not ignorant, nor are most Australians. We are literate and educated, and have a fine idea of right and wrong, something missing from a lot of the arguments presented here.

I have no problem with people being detained while their status is determined, and being detained prior to deportation if they have no legal grounds to remain here. Most Australians agree.

There are a lot of people of a leftist bent who believe no-one should ever be detained, no matter what horror they have perpetrated. The fact of the matter is that all the persons currently detained at Baxter, Villawood etc are only detained while they remain in Australia - they are free to leave at any time, and the Commonwealth will stump up the airfare.

The only thing keeping them in custody is themselves, and the bloody-minded encouragement of misguided activists and a few publicity-seeking lawyers. A minor number of cases are a little different, as the country of origin refuses to take back the detainee; if sufficient pressure was brought to bear by the Australian government I'm sure these decisions would be changed.

I'm amazed that supposedly rational people take everything they're told by people who are seeking a specific outcome at face value; I would have thought the Bakhtiari matter would have made such blind acceptance subject to at least cursory scrutiny.
Posted by: Paul Bickford at April 6, 2005 11:49 AM

Bill Avent: "Once it was a crime to assist a fleeing slave. In another part of the world it was once a crime to give assistance to a Jew trying to remain outside an internment camp. In another part of the world it was a crime to hold hands in public with a person of another skin colour. Who are the good guys-those who upheld those laws, or those who broke them?"

Bill, you said it perfectly!
Posted by: Carl Baker at April 6, 2005 12:09 PM

Paul, I know a man who fled Iran after his father and 2 brothers were murdered by the security forces after providing some material assistance (mainly food) to rebels opposed to the Islamic theocracy. He left a wife & 2 children with barely the time to say goodbye. He was detained for 4 years & eventually released on a TPV after appealling to the Minister's discretionary powers. Having not seen his family for 4 years, there is still no possibility of a reunion.

Now, you can accuse me of taking things at face value but, to me, there is something very wrong with a system that denies that this man is a refugee.
Posted by: Robyn Clothier at April 6, 2005 12:13 PM

Margo, this is the most pointless non debate I've seen on Webdiary yet. How can you stand it? What's the point of it? I know I saw the word 'Reichstag' in there somewhere. And 'concentration camp'. The usual insults over irrationality, political intrigue, democratic ignorance. Ho hum.

Margo: Hi Phil. Civil disobedience is a fraught topic, yes? It invites people to consider when, if ever, they would disobey the law to be true to their beliefs in the certain knowledge that they will be arrested. Naturally the debate is messy and some people seek to avoid such self-examination. I have done one act of civil disobedience in my life. I was arrested at the famous 'right to march' protest at King George Square in Brisbane when I was about 19 when I walked onto the street from the Square. At least 700 police faced us protesters off, and lots of people were arrested and put in the lock-up. There were 20 other women in the small cell I was in. I don't regret what I did, but I hope I never feel I have to do it again. An awful experience.
Posted by: Phil Uebergang at April 6, 2005 12:34 PM

Stephen Callaghan, I answer yes to your two last questions.
Posted by: Adrian Rees at April 6, 2005 12:37 PM

While I agree with the sentiments of Kristo and the group, the PROBLEM is and has always been what is the alternative? They have not put up any real alternatives and tried to actively argue them. OK, locking people up until we find out if they are refugees or not is not acceptable, so what do we do?

What happens when a people arrive claiming refugee status ?

Do we give the temporary protection visa until we verify they are who they say they are? Or do we turn them away right back then and there? Or just let them in?

Well we cannot send them back as we have obligations under a UN agreement on refugees, so that leaves visas or just letting them in.
If we give them a visa does it restrict the ability to work, marry, have kids? Because of the various appeals an applicant can pursue the process could take years.

What if after all that they are not refuges do we them deport them? What if they are married got good jobs; do we still send them and the new wife and or kids back? Or do we just let them stay?

Ok this is getting ugly, what about the last option - just let them in? Cool - no worries about detention centres, no worries about messy visas and processes, sweet!

The only question is now that they have turned put claimed they are refugees and we have let them in is how do we support them? Do they automatically get Medicare, Job start allowance, language support, housing support? To take that further do they get access to the family reunion immigration scheme?

That goes to the main question of immigration. If we have untold number of people entering the country what does that do to our immigration policy? Do we just forget about target numbers, skilled migrants etc and just let the market call the shots?

That's the problem. Our protest feels more like a media event than a real attempt to stop detention. The struggle is to answer the above questions and sell them to Australian people.
Posted by: brad spence at April 6, 2005 12:49 PM

Jack Smit, apart from all the quasi-intellectual references do you have an argument to put? I'll lay it out for you again:

Your quote: "advanced' non-violent action". This refers to those actions "as carried out by Khristo and his group".

What Khristo said in his article: "I and four others chose a spot at Baxter to jump the perimeter fence and then used a grappling hook and rope to symbolically pull down part of the main fence."

So - "'advanced' non-violent action" = damaging property.
Posted by: Adrian Rees at April 6, 2005 12:50 PM

Robert Tuppini, let me know when you find anything in my posts that says no one can demonstrate about anything I don't agree with.
Ho hum - more rude and stereotyped insults/garbage. Spare me the drivel. Try and muster an argument instead if you can.
Posted by: Adrian Rees at April 6, 2005 01:00 PM

Not for people seeking asylum Paul, that would breach article 31 of the Refugee Convention, which the department and government are well aware of. How many times do you have to be told there is no f....g offence. If there is an offence charge people, don't just lock them up and throw away the key. There is no law broken and unless a law is broken there is no bloody offence.

The Bakhtiyari case was a fraud committed by the Immigration department, not the family. Here is a fact acknowledged by the department - as soon as a person claims asylum they are legally in Australia. Have you ever once heard any person in the government claim that the people in detention have ever committed an offence? If so why don't you share it with us all.

In the Al Kateb case the government conceded there is no offence, so if 7 judges of the High Court read the law as read and say there is no offence who the hell are you to say they are wrong and why are you so determined to disbelieve everyone but DIMIA?

You are right about one thing though, everyone still in detention after all these years could be deported tomorrow - this government drags little babies from bed and deports them, they send home Chinese women for forced abortions at 38 weeks so why aren't they deporting these last few men?

In Baxter are about 30 men they are claiming are from Pakistan - why not send them out of the country on false documents? Why not send Peter Qasim to Pakistan and the Iraqis to Syria as they have in the past? They have sent home dozens of Sri Lankans and Iranians before today, so why keep just these last few locked up? Is it a deterrent for others maybe?

By the way Paul, people are only charged with having false documents if they are committing a crime called smuggling or trafficking. It is not an offence for asylum seekers to use them. It is an offence for the public servants to make them up and then blame the refugees.
Posted by: Marilyn Shepherd at April 6, 2005 01:04 PM

David Grace, thanks for a reasoned argument in contrast to the other nonsense dished out in this thread. I agree this can be a difficult area but I also think your own argument contains the answers.

We are not a lawless or totalitarian state, regardless of what some other Webdiarists assert. By your own argument, this must surely curtail the relevance of the examples you gave. There are ample democratic means of trying to change the laws or practices to which Khristo objects (e.g.changing the law, demonstrations that don't damage property).

Is it being argued that these alternatives have been exhausted? And even if this is the case (which I don't accept it is) what does that justify?

As to whether Khristo et al intended to pull the whole fence down or whatever that is irrelevant. If I deliberately injure someone and they die due to a predisposition that I didn't know about I am still culpable for my action.

Finally, one person's principle is another persons extremist or unjustifiable cause. It's not that simple.
Posted by: Adrian Rees at April 6, 2005 01:14 PM

Paul Bickford, I challenge you to watch the Four Corners repeat on the ABC tonight about Cornelia Rau and tell me you still believe that the current mandatory detention process is not unnecessarily cruel and degrading to detainees.

I think you would have to admit afterwards that the process has a helluva lot more to do with deterrence than careful vetting of asylum seekers for refugee status. That may be fine from where you and I sit, but for the poor buggers caught up in the process it is a nightmare.

But on the subject of civil disobedience, I wonder why the media coverage of almost every protest I have ever seen is invariably skewed towards the police viewpoint. It seems to me that the mainstream media is inherently conservative and will always take a position of subtle outrage while pretending objectivity. The impression is always of a 'rent-a-crowd' of misfits whose only aim at these things is to fight with police. There is undoubtedly an element of this in many demonstrations, but I've been in a few and it's almost always a small minority who could be categorised in this way.

Margo, as a journalist do you have a view on this? Is it because journalists rely heavily on police contacts for so many of your stories? Conservatism? Or is it simply down to 'if it bleeds it leads'? Or have I got it wrong?

I know the media can completely distort an event from experience. Was anybody else here at the mass union rally in front of Parliament House a few hears back, the one in which a hundred or so CFMEU members tried to bash down the front doors? For the vast majority of the thousands of unionists who turned up it was a successful rally that sent a powerful message to Howard on his industrial relations reforms. Most people present would not even have known what happened up at the doors until they got home and switched on the TV.

Of course, almost all the media covered was of the melee at the doors, which wasn't pretty, and as a result the public image of the union movement suffered a huge setback. The violence WAS clearly newsworthy, but the way it was covered gave a hugely distorted view of the rally. My own mother was appalled that I had been there, assuming I had been up front fighting with cops (I hadn't).

The Baxter protests seem to be a similar story. Although, I have to say there was a tone of disbelief in the reporting of the confiscation of balloons because they were flying in 'restricted airspace'.

Margo: The short answer is editorial direction by people behind a desk in tandem with a narrow, conflict-based 'news judgement". If there's violence it's news, if there's not it ain't. Blame the protesters? Not that simple.
Posted by: david curry at April 6, 2005 01:24 PM

Robyn, if his story is true, he probably has grounds for refugee status; what evidence does he have to support his claims? In my experience every claimant I have dealt with has raised the spectre of torture straight after claiming asylum, as if scripted.

I have no problem with the idea of TPVs either - what's wrong with returning to your own country once the treat is gone? Many asylum seekers are educated and qualified, and would be of more assistance in reconstructing their country of origin than joining an already well-supplied professional workforce in Australia.

Margo, I also was arrested (twice) during the right to march campaign, and while I now think it a little silly the Bjelke-Petersen regime was out of control; it is only marginally worse than the current Beattie government when it comes to accountability, arbitrary action and blatant cronyism and corruption. I don't see many taking to the streets to protest.

Margo: Hi fellow right to marcher! I'm out of touch with Queensland politics, having left the State in my mid 20s, but I can't believe Beattie runs a police state, as Sir Joh did. Tell me it ain't true!
Posted by: Paul Bickford at April 6, 2005 01:33 PM

Khristo, hats off to you for daring to act on your beliefs. I was at the infamous Woomera protest in 2002, and still feel like a coward for not risking my freedom to smuggle out a refugee.

So called "peaceful" protests have gotten us exactly NOWHERE in freeing the refugees. For those of you who believe Khristo's actions were "violent" - what's worse; tearing down a fence or incarcerating and brutalising asylum seekers for years on end behing razor wire?

It's easy for people who haven't seen the camps first hand to carry on about "queue jumpers", and how they should "wait their turn". But once you've been up to the razor wire, and directly seen refugees being tear gassed and beaten for NO REASON at all, it's cowardice to sit back and do nothing.

Posted by: K.Lawler at April 6, 2005 02:15 PM

Khristo, protesting is a brave thing to do. However, nothing really changes just because a few people stand outside and wave a few flags and shout a few slogans. If you want the attention of the politicians you speak in terms that they can understand-money.

Campaign contributions have always been a form of cogent and persuasive argument to any government. If you want "real" change, you work the system. If you want to improve the lives of refugees in detention, you can get interested parties to fund better facilities.
Tangible gains from affirmative action ; that is what brings about change, not revolution.
Posted by: Edmond Chu at April 6, 2005 02:20 PM

Robyn, I am not advocating that we stand by and do nothing, nor am I suggesting that we restrict ouselves to "legal" means, and yes, I am fully aware of the work that has been done behind the scenes.

But the point I am making is this. The protest that was undertaken at Baxter over Easter did NOTHING to help the cause of these people. It sent it backwards. If you want to think otherwise, fine.

You might like to go out and talk to people located in the mortgage belts of our capital cities. They will tell you that they agree with the Governemnt's policies and the treatment of detainees. And if you listen carefully, the language that you will hear will sound vaguely familiar to the Government/mainstream media propaganda.

In order to effect change you need to bring middle Australia with you. This means educating them as to what is happening, and making them realise that they are human beings just like us, and they deserve to be treated as such, not like animals. The Government has been very successful at portrying them otherwise. I am not against the idea of marching on Baxter. I just think it does the cause of the refugees no good at all.
Posted by: Steve Turbit at April 6, 2005 02:23 PM

Steve Turbit: "Don't ask me what you should change your plans to, but a change in strategy is badly needed." Sorry, Steve, it's just not good enough. If you want to assert that strong action will confuse people and blow our chances of changing public opinion, you'll need a smidgin of evidence.

Just how exactly is public opinion going to change by keeping quiet, keeping in our place? In case you haven't noticed Steve, our place is to oil and maintain the machinery that puts so many innocents in mandatory detention.

Just how exactly do you propose to change public opinion? What is your plan Steve, because you'll need one. Public opinion is a very slippery animal.

I know what Khristo's plan is - to communicate as powerfully as he can with all people by taking up the key symbols and signs of the injustice he seeks resolution for. Law, suffering, respect, practical steps towards freedom. Require people's attention. I think Khristo's plan might just work, and you won't even tell me what your plan is.
Posted by: Bryan Law at April 6, 2005 02:23 PM

NVDA is based on moral force and a personal willingness to pay a price for bringing forth justice. The question is not "whether or not" one ought to destroy property when it is used in the commission of injustice. It's "under what circumstances" ought such property be destroyed. In other words how effective will the act be in bringing about the necessary change?

Think about the circumstances at Baxter, with grown-up Star Force officers lunging forth to [cackling laughter here] burst the children's balloons. What heroes.

The media is full of allegations of property damage and violence by protestors (with balloons). Khristo and his friends achieve a calm, deliberate nonviolent action which will reverbrate for weeks and months.

On the other hand, property schmoperty - get over it.
Posted by: Bryan Law at April 6, 2005 02:30 PM

Well Brad, it has always seemed odd to me that we can talk loudly about "free" markets and level playing fields while our borders remain so impermeable. Countries like the Congo and Zambia are trying to cope with refugee:citizen ratios of 1:30 - 1:40 whereas ours is about 1:800. The luxury of a sea border! We can afford to be a lot more generous than we are currently.
Posted by: Robyn Clothier at April 6, 2005 02:38 PM

Since when do UN conventions over-rule statute? Your lack of legal knowledge is becoming apparent; as to keeping the remaining detainees as a "deterrent", that claim is a paranoid fantasy. I'm sure the Commonwealth loves spending a poultice on detention for publicity in places where such detention wouldn't rate a mention. A better display of resolve would be quick repatriation; most of the detainees held who are not pending removal still have appeals running. The main reason the Commonwealth don't choose to prosecute is that it would slow up the repatriation even more, with the time involved in preparation of a brief, getting a hearing and the inevitable adjournments.
Posted by: Paul Bickford at April 6, 2005 02:41 PM

Bill Avent: "How can toy balloons endanger helicopter pilots?"
Well, here's pilot who got killed because there was snow in his chopper's air intake nacelle. I mean, snow!

An investigation revealed that small quantities of snow inside the intake could cause engine failure.

I can easily imagine any foreign object getting inside the air intake, or any lenght of twine or cord getting around the tail-rotor could case a catastrophic failure.

Alternatively, Bill, I suppose if you were inside a chopper and some dickwad got underneath it and let a kite or a balloon float toward the rotors or engine, you wouldn't care? Like, yeah right.

(Maybe we could write to Myth Busters and get them to check it. Like, I so loved watching them firing a thawed chicken right through the perspex windschield of a Cessna 150 at a measly 110mph.)
Posted by: C Parsons at April 6, 2005 02:47 PM

Paul, I don't know the details of his case well enough to know exactly what evidence he put forward to DIMIA. I do know that a lot of the Iranians were denied access to legal representatives when they detained at Pt Hedland & were reluctant to say too much because of the Memorandum of Understanding that exists between Australia and Iran. This was counted against them when they filled out their stories later on. The evidence of his enormous grief & his struggle to remain whole psychologically is enough to convince me of his story.
Posted by: Robyn Clothier at April 6, 2005 03:16 PM

Own goal to Paul Bickford for his comment that people opposed to mandatory detention believe that "no-one should ever be detained, no matter what horror they have perpetrated". Aside from the ridiculous notion that there are all these lefties out there believing that "no-one should ever be detained" under any cicumstances, his dramatic flourish about the horror they have perpetrated exemplifies the lefties point.

What horror, Paul? What horrific crimes have these people committed?
When were they charged? And more importantly, when did the heavy mallet come down declare them 'guilty'?

Seeking asylum is not a crime. Fleeing from horror and building a better life for your family is what this great country is built upon.

What horror did your ancestors flee from, Paul?
Posted by: Caitlin Johnstone at April 6, 2005 03:28 PM

Steve, I am part of middle Australia. I'm a "housewife" - 47 years old (today in fact!) I do as much talking as I can. I was at Baxter (staying safely out of trouble, although that was pretty much down to luck) & still haven't really decided if it was effective.

But the government's spin doctors have been so successful, I think it will take something very dramatic along the lines of Khristo's action to get them to really look properly at this issue.
Posted by: Robyn Clothier at April 6, 2005 03:37 PM

So who is the greater criminal here. A Prime Minister who illegally invaded a soveriegn nation in a war in which thousands have died, or Khristo with his bent fence?
Posted by: Michael de Angelos at April 6, 2005 04:05 PM

The Qld Police are a very mild outfit these days, except when dealing with motoring miscreants, and there's no more Special Branch. The current Qld government, however, is possibly even more inept and bent than Joh at his worst, and uses a tame CMC to gloss over any malfeasance they get sprung for.

As to the 4 Corners item, certainly detention centres aren't the Hilton, but I don't recall Buchenwald having airconditioning, cable tv, catering or the freedom to leave at any time. I see primary responsibility in the Rau case lying with the psychiatric unit that let her go in the first place, secondly with her family for belatedly doing bugger all to track her down and thirdly the person in question (she's relegated to third due to diminished responsibility).

As to the "witnesses", highly reliable sources - convicted prisoners, deportees, family members (with legal representation) and disgruntled former employees. A recently posted quote by you, Margo, is fitting in this case: "The short answer is editorial direction by people behind a desk in tandem with a narrow, conflict-based 'news judgement."

It was clearly an agenda-driven polemic with little interest in the facts of the case, and a big interest in giving DIMEA a kicking. Certainly they were sloppy, but probably the least so of the myriad agencies involved.
Posted by: Paul Bickford at April 6, 2005 04:06 PM

C Parsons, did you ever stand under a helicopter? Hold onto your hat if ever you do. Their rotors create enormous downthrust. I can't imagine how a kite or a balloon could come near them. If I was flying a kite and some dickwad in a helicopter came near, I would think he was trying to destroy my kite. I can believe the snow story, but it's a pretty freakish accident. Hundreds of helicopters must fly in snowy conditions every day.
Posted by: Bill Avent at April 6, 2005 04:09 PM

As usual, taken out of context. As there are many people who believe that no-one should be in immigration detention, there are many who believe every jail is full to the brim with meek innocents, railroaded by an uncaring and arbitrary system; even those who are guilty are victims of their circumstances, and as such should not be incarcerated but counselled. As to the horror fled by my ancestors, I have no idea being about sixth generation Anglo-Scots extraction; I could only imagine it is the horror that still exists and is called Britain.
Posted by: Paul Bickford at April 6, 2005 04:49 PM

Bryan Law, when did I suggest that we "should just keep quiet, keep in our place"? Of course we should fight this, but getting some results would be handy. And so far, after about five years of marching on the detention centres intermittently absolutely nothing has been achieved.

Since when is marching on a detention centre and ripping down some fences an example of "strong action"? And why do I have to "prove" anything to you with "evidence"? We are not in a court of law.

This issue has been burning now for almost five years. Numerous polls still suggest that sympathy with refugees in the detention centres runs at about 1:4, and this is despite the fact that there have been numerous protests at Baxter, Woomera before that and Port Hedland and nothing has changed! So how can you tell me "this just might be the right way" when it hasn't shown any signs so far of doing so?

Sorry Bryan, but suggesting that marching on Baxter detention centre is going to get those people out of there or stop the detention of refugees is pure smug self-aggrandising fantasy. You'll have to do better. The feeling that you are doing something noble or taking "strong action" might make you feel warm and fuzzy for a while, but you might like to go out and talk to people in the mrotgage belts in the capital cities and you will hear them say "those people protesting at Baxter are always doing these sorts of things and they are just a bunch of hippies with nothing better to do and why don't they get a job and why should we let these people out when they are "illegals" and these people don't deserve our sympathy because they smash our lovely facilities up that we provide for them and their supporters are just as bad becuase they break things like fences too and lots of them aren't really refugees and why do they have to jump the queue why can't they wait their turn like everybody else and who knows they could be terrorists, etc., etc." Heard this somewhere before? Government? Media? It is these sorts of ignorant attitudes that we have to change before we manage to change government policy and get these people released. It is our duty to change these attitudes and the only way is education.

And you think I am making this up? This is just the mild stuff. I worked in a pollie's office at the time of the "Tampa" incident. The day Labor voted down Howard's "Border Protection" bill we got some of the most shocking, disgusting bile shouted down the telephone at us, it was hard to believe that we were living in a civilised society. After much manipualtion by the government, people showed how they truly felt. Opinion has changed very little on the subject.

Strong action? My arse!
Posted by: Steve Turbit at April 6, 2005 05:07 PM

The boatloads of folks who arrived in Australia around 1788 were "illegal arrivals". Over to those of you who hold on to the notion that arriving on Australian shores to seek asylum and those who come without any ID papers, are entering Australia "illegally".
Posted by: Jack H Smit at April 6, 2005 05:10 PM

A solid leftist report on the protest is here.
Posted by: Damian Doyle at April 6, 2005 05:42 PM

Paul, you are being so outrageously provocative in your posts that I really should just ignore them. But I have to bite. Freedom to leave at any time? Excuse me?

Presumably you're referring to an asylum seeker's right to volunteer to return to the country they fled from. If a person has left another country because of a well-founded fear of persecution and all the horrendous things that can go along with that in countries like Iran, are you seriously suggesting that repatriation is an option? If you're not referring to that nonsensical option then you're plain wrong: you are not free to leave an immigration detention centre.

And if we're going to start using Buchenwald as our benchmark for humane treatment, then I suggest we've sunk pretty low!

If you think spending four years in detention is a picnic I suggest you look at what people more qualified than your or me say about what it does to detainees (try here for starters).

On the Four Corners comments, you're welcome to cast aspersions on the cast of witnesses (which also included psychiatrists, a nun, and a senior manager from Glenfield Psychiatric Hospital, from memory) but I defy you to find an official denial of the central damaging claims about the way Rau was treated e.g. kept for 21 hours a day in isolation for days at a time as a 'management' tool.

It's interesting, don't you think, that the Government didn't want an open enquiry into the Cornelia Rau case? Or am I just succumbing to 'paranoid fantasy'?
Posted by: David Curry at April 6, 2005 05:56 PM

I am a strong supporter of Khristo's cause; I was at the Easter protests at Woomera in 2002. My account of that protest is still up here but most of the URLs referred to in it are out of date.

But I still think pulling down the fences was the wrong thing to do. Not morally wrong; tactically wrong.

The only way we're going to end the brutal insanity that is the current detention regime is by convincing the bulk of the Australian electorate that what's being done in their names is wrong.

Direct actions like this, "symbolic" or otherwise, won't do a damned thing to achieve that aim. If anything, they work against it; they allow the government and right-wing media to portray refugee supporters as a bunch of anarchist loonies (with some justification; significant portions of the Woomera protesters were extremist twits looking for a fight). Much of the campaigning done by the activist left does nothing but discredit the causes they're supposedly fighting for.

Convergences and Direct Actions do a lot to give radical activists an excuse for a party and to feel good about themselves, but very little to actually change what's happening. We need to figure out how to communicate with middle Australia, how to reach out to the mortgage-holding parents in the 'burbs and make them realise what's really going on. Their votes are the only way we can stop this.

How do we effectively do that? I don't know; if I did, I'd be doing it already. But I do know that pulling down fences in the middle of the desert isn't it.
Posted by: Craig Motbey at April 6, 2005 06:46 PM

Bill, releasing Balloons in restricted airspace, when you know there are helicopters flying overhead is dangerous. Released in quantity, as they were, can foul rotors or intakes, block pilot's vision and cause accidents. The protesters have been reported to have discussed this as a way of disrupting helicopter operations. You are trying to defend the indefensible. These are the same type of people who throw marbles under horse's feet.

There are an element of people in this protest who are passionate for the cause of refugees like Marilyn and Margo but the rest are just a bunch of pimple faced rent-a-crowds who would demonstrate against Mother Teresa if they though they could cause some form of civil unrest in the process.

Put simply if you cannot get Marilyn to a protest involving refugees then it's not really a protest in regards to refugees. Say what you want about Marilyn (and I've said a lot in the past) I do not doubt her commitment to her cause. If she says she didn't go because of what was happening there then this more than proves my point above. C Parsons thanks for the support.
Posted by: j wilshaw at April 6, 2005 07:03 PM

Robyn, maybe the comment about "Middle Australia" was a tad generalised. I also consider myself part of this group.

I think there is a consensus among the "left" on this thread who consider locking up people who have committed no crime wrong. But look at the comments coming from the "loony-right" and you will realise what we are up against!

I salute you for making the trek out there - it certainly shows committment. But after five years of nothing, surely there has to be a better way. Spreading the message, whether it be through advertising, community forums, whatever is an imperative. I think that getting rid of the present government might be a wonderful start!
Posted by: Steve Turbit at April 6, 2005 07:20 PM

The word moral (actually "morally") has only been used once in this thread (so far) and that was by David Grace when he mentioned to Gareth to respond to Bill's post. The word decent (actually "decency") has also only been used once and that was by Rubens.

After reading all the posts in this thread it certainly appears to me we avoid the words for obvious reasons. When human behaviour (and our law) is motivated by what is moral and decent we can look forward to a better world otherwise we are doomed to face the consequences of our selfish, callous, cruel and irrational behaviour.

On another note I once lived in a country where it was illegal for a black person to sleep with a white person. A particular case was brought to my attention by a friend where a black and white couple were charged with just that. The white male was found innocent by the court and the black female was found guilty by the court. Figure that one out.
Posted by: Justin Obodie at April 6, 2005 08:38 PM

David Curry, I didn't raise the concentration camp anology - it appeared early in the thread, as entirely expected. The only psychiatrist who would talk to 4C was one prefixed with his dismissal for an "unrelated matter" - not exactly what I would describe as a non-partisan witness.

The Australian Society of Psychiatry under Louise Newmann has sought open access to DIMIA detainees for some time- possibly for altruistic reasons, possibly for matters of self interest, both monetary and self-satisfaction.

The Rau case stands as an indictment of the incompetence and indifference of Australia's mental health professionals and care systems, and is irrelevant to the matter being discussed.

As to being kept in a "management unit" for 21 hours a day, what do you think she is subject to now she's sectioned in a secure psych unit in Adelaide? Certainly the experience would not have been pleasant or desirable, but certainly more comfortable and safe than living on the streets or wandering around crocodile-infested Far North Queensland.

As to the freedom to leave, if unable to return to the country of origin for any reason, detainees are free to be carried to a third country; there doesn't seem to be a queue forming to take people who have failed our entry requirements (and the UNHCR's definitions of refugee status). Australia should openly accept people that will not be accepted by their country of birth, or anywhere else?
Posted by: paul bickford at April 6, 2005 09:08 PM

On one hand I have no problem with the Khristo Newall's of this world being out there protesting about something they believe in. But I can't support the breaking down of fences or any sort of attack on police who are simply doing their job.

I think the only way this policy issue is going to be resolved - and while some won't like the outcome then so be it - is that a Full Royal Commission be held into the Catherine Rau case.

The recommendations should be the way forward.

It has to cover two areas. First - and I have touched on this before -after watching Four Corners and with my medical background telling me that what she did, like pacing around and staring into the wall - there IS a problem.

The main reason for the inquiry would be to see why two highly developed juristictions with modern communications and record keeping were unable to find out who Rau was. Now in asking this question, I also wonder what chance the Government has of finding out about someone in a country with less developed communication and record keeping systems.

I think that it shouldn't take more than a couple of months to find out where someone is from. Afterall, a murder trial can be before the Courts in 18 Months, and this delay is more due to the delays in the Courts than anything else.

I will leave with the thoughts of a Polish Friend who once said this:

"We might have lied and bribed ourselves out of Poland, but we never lied once we got to Australia."
Posted by: Bradley Wilkinson at April 6, 2005 09:35 PM

J Wilshaw, I have said about all I have to say on the danger to helicopters posed by kites and balloons. To refute it, you need to explain how something coming from beneath can possibly come close to a flying helicopter.

Even if they somehow approached the aircraft from above, which is impossible, helicopter rotor mechanisms are far too robust to be damaged by bits of string. And you'd need an awful lot of balloons to block a pilot's vision. The whole thing is really too ludicrous to be worth talking about.

"The protesters have been reported to have discussed this as a way of disrupting helicopter operations" carries no weight. Reported by whom? And even if it were true the belief would be only in the minds of those protesters that kites and balloons would hamper helicopter operations. That "pimple faced rent-a-crowd" of yours, it that's what they were, could hardly be expected to be versed in aeronautical expertise.

You say: "Put simply if you cannot get Marilyn to a protest involving refugees then it's not really a protest in regards to refugees".

I'm sure Marilyn would be flattered, and amused, by that strange comment. Next time those pimply rental protesters had better get her permission before they do something like that again, eh?
Posted by: Bill Avent at April 6, 2005 09:38 PM

For Bill Avent and David Grace. There are many unfair and unjust laws today. Our immigration laws, specifically mandatory detention are just one example.

It is a dangerous business justifying the breaking of the law on moral grounds. What do you think drives Christian fundamentalists to murder abortion doctors? (I know this an extreme example).

I don't agree with mandatory detention or temporary protection visas - these all inhibit the freedom of an individual wherever they may be from. Unfortunately the bulk of the Australian electorate is still for these policies and neither major party intends to cease them.

Civil disobedience may give someone a warm feeling inside but does nothing to change the plight of someone in detention.
Posted by: Gareth Eastwood at April 6, 2005 10:29 PM

Actually Jay I was at a protest on Thursday 24th on the steps of parliament house where Greens, Democrats, grandparents, great grandparents, aunties, uncles, mums and dads and even Natasha's baby boy Conrad spread hearts on white sheets as a protest against the coming whitewash report that will be the investigation into Cornelia Rau.

Then I monitored the redneck radio and media all weekend.

It's amazing you know - this year all the rednecks who wanted to boil the refugees in oil said the refugees should be let out and the protestors locked up in their place.

To a man and woman the facists I have been sparring with since TAMPA understand that no-one, but no-one has to be locked up for that long to find out who they are.

We don't even have a law that says we are allowed to lock up people just because we can't verify who they are.

It was an interesting weekend - when 4 more people were killed on the roads the weekend after Easter do you know Mal Hyde had no-one to blame but the drivers, no more Baxter protestors in sight.

I have this week attended a trial though in Adelaide to have some young men released to Glenside Hospital because they are so deeply traumatised and depressed after 5 years in detention they cannot function.

I wonder why? They are just boys really these so called terrorists and thugs. Some came as teenagers and are still there because the RRT said "we can't decide if they are from Pakistan or Afghanistan because some Hazara are in both countries". With about 5 million in Afghanistan and only 120,000 in Pakistan, with those in Pakistan being educated and wealthier I would have thought that commonsense would err on the side of Afghanistan. These guys got here with nothing.

Some were 17 and are now 21, others were 20 and are now 25 or like this week one arrived in 2000 and is only 32, the other arrived in February 2000 and is only 27.

What enraged the rednecks was that pedophiles are in Baxter instead of prison.

And Jay, surely a police helicopter could have landed, the protestors sure weren't going to kill themselves on a 9000 volt fence were they?

My only objection this year is that the results of the Woomera protest were so appalling for the people inside.

I spent the Saturday night watching the vision - watching Roqia faint while Samina is being taken by an Australian who meant well but seriously disturbed Roqia.

Not many people know that Roqia, Alamdar 13, Montezar 11, Nagina 9 and Samina 7 were locked up in the prison for the night while 4 year old Amina was lost in Woomera with the teargas, the riots, the beatings, the water cannonings and other atrocities carried out by the guards.

But I do.
Posted by: Marilyn Shepherd at April 6, 2005 11:04 PM

Gareth, your example is indeed extreme. Murder is way beyond mere civil disobedience.

Would you not agree that civil disobedience has sometimes resulted in positive change? It played a major part in freeing India from colonial rule. I think the freedom (relative as it may be) which we enjoy today was won by social activists prepared to break existing laws so that fairer ones might be put in their place.

Though the demonstration under discussion here cannot be expected to result directly in change of government policy, it has certainly put the mandatory detention issue before the public supposedly served by the government. Anything which does that must be a helpful step on the way to reform.
Posted by: Bill Avent at April 6, 2005 11:23 PM

Edmund Burke: "Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny."

"Never despair, but if you do, work on in despair."

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing."

"Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little."

Gareth, it is a dangerous business to break laws on moral grounds. However, it is justifiable to break laws when those laws are:

1) immoral according to your conscientiously held beliefs

2) you do not harm another human being

3) you are prepared to and have the courage to accept the consequences of your actions

Khristo, I salute your integrity and your actions.
Posted by: Jon Gresh at April 6, 2005 11:38 PM

Paul Bickford, why does entering Australia without certain legal documentation constitute an offence? What is it about persons traveling here to work, study and travel that require such strict legal protection?

I don't need a visa to travel to the US, but I need one to work. I need a visa to work in France, someone from the UK does not. I need a visa to work in the UK but not Tasmania, yet my grandfather was born in the UK and no one in my family has ever been to Tasmania.

Australian citizenship and visas are somewhat arbitrary things, you don't have to born here to get either, but if you were you can be denied them as well (ask Pixie Skase). I don't believe there is any justification for impeding an individual's ability to travel, live and work.

To prevent you dumping me in the leftie bucket, freedom of movement (like trade) and individual rights are philosophies associated with the right.
Posted by: Gareth Eastwood at April 6, 2005 11:43 PM

Adrian Rees, I leave the impossible and useless task of making you understand some of the fundamentals of civil disobedience and the right to respond in same measure to those more reasoned and eloquent than myself.
Posted by: Robert Tuppini at April 6, 2005 11:45 PM

Having just read the remarkable latest post from Marilyn Shepherd, I'm inclined to join her crusade; unfortunately I have no idea what it is for. She is deeply committed to a cause, but I have no idea what it is. She seems to have a fixation about rednecks, who seem fairly thin in my own borough; bogans, bevans and westies, for sure, but yahoos in American pickup trucks and shotgun racks are rather thin on the ground.

What is she on about?
Posted by: paul bickford at April 7, 2005 12:02 AM

Gandhi's civil disobedience movement was meant to be peaceful disobedience of authority where people would protest silently by defying the laws but not defying getting arrested,infact the whole point was to fill the jails.I am not sure whether the Baxter protest falls in to that category,but nevertheless it did not present a good PR image for the pro-asylum seeker cause and their proponents in the community.
Posted by: Greg Hynes at April 7, 2005 12:12 AM

Marilyn: "As for those police horses being beaten by protestors - it has never happened but at the Oakbank racecourse dozens and dozens of horses were flogged and whipped to run faster and over the steeplechase which is ever more dangerous."

Do you have a reference for this? I have this one

"Police yesterday alleged some of the protesters hit police officers and their horses with cricket and baseball bats during a violent clash about 150 metres from the western perimeter fence of the Baxter centre."

I didn't find any references where anyone was saying it didn't happen.

There have been the marbles & fireworks incidents with horses in the past (indeed it is a well known activist tactic), I'll dredge up those too if you like.

For the record Marilyn I personally think the police action was heavy handed. I also think the people doing the horse hitting must have a death wish or be extremely stupid or both. I will point out though these were state police i.e. not on Amanda Vanstone's payroll, but the state Labor government.

Lee Harris & Bob Wall, are you paying attention, this needs substantiation and/or clarification, true?
Posted by: Graham Rakk at April 7, 2005 12:41 AM

Marilyn what type of Kebab are you eating?
Posted by: TT Tazman at April 7, 2005 12:45 AM

Paul, my brother is the epitome of an Australian redneck - he thinks all aborigines should be lined up in a ditch and shot.

Those sorts of people ring an Adelaide radio station night after night after night and after nearly 4 years of their ranting still haven't bothered to think about what they are saying.

You don't have to ride a yankee wagon and carry a gun to be a redneck.

Just read again what they did to Roqia and her little kids.

They are humans.
Posted by: Marilyn Shepherd at April 7, 2005 01:03 AM

Any Webdiary regular who claims not to be aware of Marilyn's crusade is either a complete twat who is just here to see what shit they can stir up or has suffered a very recent stroke.

I'm guessing you ain't smelling the aroma of burnt toast and pencil shavings Paul!
Posted by: Stephen Callaghan at April 7, 2005 01:44 AM

Marilyn You may have confused me with Paul Bickford since I have not made a comment on this thread. No harm done.

I do however agree with Paul. In Australia I have come across many yoboo men and women however not the slack jawed yokel redneck as of yet.

Phone the Greens I demand an inquiry I feel as if I am missing out on something.
Posted by: jay white at April 7, 2005 02:10 AM

Jon Gresh, let's please be careful what we advocate here. A Muslim man might think it immoral for you to indulge in a bit of alcohol consumption with a lady whose face is showing, let alone her ankles. He might just follow you as you drive to her place for a bit of pre-marital sex and decide to do terminal damage to your car and then be prepared to face the law in the knowledge that wah he did was, in his opinion, compatible with his "conscientiously held beliefs"

I don't know about you, but when advocating a course of action I look at the possible implications of that.
Posted by: Rubens Camejo at April 7, 2005 02:31 AM

Gareth, Did you read my post?

The first thing I said has to be considered when deciding to break the law on principle is will it harm others. So the murder analogy just doesn't work.

There is a place for civil disobedience, otherwise there would never have been an Independent United States, or India, no civil rights for blacks in the US and women would still be in their place in the kitchen (and I am being ironic in that last example!!)

Don't forget that Ghandi and the womens movement and the Civil rights movement were all working within a democracy but needed to engage in civil disobedience.

What you need to do is not say that you must obey the laws, but if you feel you need to break a law on principle, that you take it very seriously and think carefully before you do it.
Posted by: David Grace at April 7, 2005 08:37 AM

Bill, Besides myself and C Parsons the Assistant Police Commissioner in South Australia also feels flying Balloons, and Kites in controlled airspace is a danger.
"They played a game of brinkmanship and provocation by continuing to fly kites after numerous requests not to," he said. "We've got a helicopter flying around and there's no way we want a helicopter brought down by a kite or something similar being sucked up into an air intake."

There you go Bill, they the police operate Helicopters all the time and they see it as a danger.

My comment in regards to Marylin was not strange, Marylin has in the past attended protests at Baxter (Marylin am I wrong?) When the Easter Baxter protest is the protest that gets the most media coverage, I would be surprised if TRUE detention activists were not their. I am simply picking up on what Marylin herself said and that is she did not go because of what was happening their. I read this as code for a bunch of clowns hijacking the rally for their own anarchist causes.
Posted by: j wilshaw at April 7, 2005 09:33 AM

Graham, the events at Baxter have been widely covered in the mainstream media .. and elsewhere. In my case, having heard or read many accounts I can draw my conclusions. That I was not there to personally witness the events means I must weigh the various accounts. Most people are in the same situation and I would think if they wished to opine on the matter or assess someone else's views there was no difficulty in finding at least second-hand accounts. If you think I was remiss in pointing out this obvious situation, I apologise.

As to the account you linked, yes it portrays heavy-handedness on the part of the SA police. Personally, as a lover of animals, I abhore their use in such a way. Horses are, to quote Colonel Potter, "noble creatures". Equally if there is proof of abuse of horses by protesters, I abhore that. I generally abhore violence perpetrated by people against any other people or animals.

I do not object to protest per se or civil disobedience. They are not only a right but at times, a duty. As to the last resort, I referred to the US Declaration of Independence earlier wherein it states that there comes a time when it is the duty of citizens to overthrow tyrants. We hope, should we determine that change or restoration is necessary, then it be achieved short of the last resort. Webdiary is one mechanism where that can be pursued. And why I am resolved to confront those who abuse the principles of honest and civil debate, especially when it seems an intentional act of disruption(not targetting you).
Posted by: Bob Wall at April 7, 2005 09:40 AM

Adrian Rees, "James Govett, let me get this right. Because Iraqis today don't have the perfect democracy that answers issues that countries with more established democracies have been grappling with for ages, this is a cause for criticism?"

I don't recall suggesting that.

Adrian, " How about telling us what hearing the serious questions you ask about the kind of society that Iraqis want would have received under Saddam Hussein?"


Adrian, "Are you seriously using this argument as a criticism of what is happening in Iraq - compared to what was there a year ago? Under Saddam Iraqis did not have a public debate about anything".

I don't recall suggesting that.

Adrian, "I admit to being staggered".

I'm not surprised since I think you tend to read what you want to read in other's contributions (bizarre, irrational claims that would stagger most anyone) not what they have said. You are then left arguing strawmen. The only problem for me with you arguing strawmen is that someone reading your post may actually believe that my position is indeed what you have suggested it is. It is not.

And the problem with trying to correct a strawman argument is that the response to the correction is a further strawman etc., etc., leading the sucker (the person whose arguments are continually distorted) into an endless, convoluted maze that is ultimately frustrating and annoying. I think I'll give it a miss. My original argument was posted at April 6, 2005 11:10 AM
Posted by: James Govett at April 7, 2005 09:46 AM

Graham, at least one cricket bat and lacrosse stick were in the possession of protesters for the purpose of games outside the front gates, including one called "Hit for six & never out!" There have been statements by several protesters that they were not used against horses.

I decided not to be part of the group which tried to get closer to the compounds so they could be heard by detainees, so I can't give you an eyewitness account. In the heat of the moment it's possible they were used against the horses; bear in mind that people were being charged by the horses at the time, an action which resulted in the treatment of 2 protesters at the Pt Augusta Hospital (an arm fracture and a concussion).
Posted by: Robyn Clothier at April 7, 2005 10:13 AM

Craig Motbey, I think you are just about spot-on with your assessment of the situation vis-a-vis the detainee/refugee issue. Without rehashing what either Craig or I have previously said, I would say to Bryan Law and Robyn Clothier (to a lesser extent, Robyn), go and read his post regarding this (Posted on 6 April 2005 at 6:46 pm).

And Bryan, you might notice that Craig doesn't have a plan either. Guilty as charged, M'Lud? I think the idea is to admit that the current plan is not working (as good as it might make you feel) and for all of us to sit down and nut out a new strategy.
Posted by: Steve Turbit at April 7, 2005 10:34 AM

J Wilshaw, I have news for you, C Parsons and the SA Police Commissioner - isn't he the dipstick who blamed protesters for his state's road deaths? The news is that helicopters do not suck things up; they blow things down. That is what keeps them in the air.

What is not news is that a police commissioner makes a fool of himself - again. Of course he would look for ways to show the protesters in a bad light and his police in a good one, facing danger from those evil, irresponsible disrupters of good order. Preserving the status quo is part of his job. He has chosen to follow a career in it.

Your comment in regard to Marilyn looked pretty strange to me. She does not hold a monopoly on disapproval of what is happening in such places as Baxter. Her absence from a particular protest does not reflect badly on those who did attend.
Posted by: Bill Avent at April 7, 2005 11:09 AM

I have never been near Woomera or Baxter in my life and never intend to. I cannot even visit the zoo and see animals caged up. Every year though there are claims that the horses are bashed by protestors but no-one is ever charged - because it does not happen.

The protestors like the horses, not the people on them. Human rights activists do not cage or beat animals anymore than they cage or beat humans.

My big problem this year was that the protestors didn't have a fleet of bulldozers ready to go.
Posted by: Marilyn Shepherd at April 7, 2005 11:55 AM

Robyn, I think you should re-read my comments, as I think you misunderstood them. Again the core question was not answered.

Whats is the alternative? If your answer is that we can be doing more (ie letting more in) fine; just tell me how many. Is it unlimited, because if it not we need some controls. That's the point. This debate is meaningless unless there is a REAL alternative.

Margo: Hi Brad. What is your opinion of the policy Labor took to the last election? Kids out, Temporary Protection Visas modified, media and independent experts allowed to visit detention centres, formal review of cases after certain periods in detention?
Posted by: Brad Spence at April 7, 2005 11:26 AM

Steve Turbit - ["those people protesting at Baxter are always doing these sorts of things and they are just a bunch of hippies with nothing better to do and why don't they get a job and why should we let these people out when they are "illegals" and these people don't deserve our sympathy because they smash our lovely facilities up] -
the problem I have is not that middle mortgage Australia is saying things like that. My problem is that you are saying it. "Worked in a politician's office" must mean the ex-Labor Party.

Before I respond, I haven't been engaged with immigration issues at all, and don't take personal responsibility for everything that's been done. My focus is on Peace and social justice issues. In this thread I'm affirming and supporting the nonviolent action taken by Khristo and his friends.

This is specific. The thinking, planning, principles and outcomes of that action come from modern (or is that post-Gandhian) non-violence, which I approve of.

I know NVDA to be strong action because it is transformative action. People are transformed by it, and people are the agency of needed change. I've practised NVDA for thirty years, and I've only gotten good at it about 12 years ago. I can provide you with a list of local, regional and global issues that have been progressed and improved by NVDA. Over time. With sacrifice.

Now I repeat my question. What is your plan? You'll have to be a bit more specific than, "It is our duty to change these attitudes and the only way is education."

I'd suggest that the way we change behaviour is through engagement. Right now, most of the "double income mortgage bank slaves" that you identify as middle Australia can't be engaged because they're too damn busy buying the lifestyle and supporting the state. That's why so much news is spectacle - shallow and transitory.

Our task now is to work with the best and brightest. With those citizens who show a willingness to act, to challenge, to provoke. To summon up the best qualities of those around us. To end the ancient habits of injustice. To this end the next ten years are down for extra-Parliamentary opposition and growing NVDA. What will you be doing?

I hear the ALP is about to become a national real-estate agency. Is that true?

PS: I read the Moseby post. You're wrong. It is not the time to sit down and start from a fresh page. We have established history and context for continuing civil disobedience activities.

Just because you are realising for the first time that counter spin, spin, spin doesn't work - well that doesn't mean we've all failed to notice what's going on. Maybe, just maybe, you could learn something you don't already know.
Posted by: Bryan Law at April 7, 2005 12:04 PM

Paul Bickford, did we watch the same Four Corners show? I used inverted commas around 'management tool' because it is clearly a euphemism for punishment. I don't understand how you can equate expert treatment in a psychiatric hospital with being kept in solitary confinement for 21 hours a day, alone with the voices and hallucinations in your head - and zero medication or treatment. And GSL guards perving on her while she has a shower. I simply don't understand how you are not perturbed by any of this.

I wonder if her family (who I understand Rau no longer recognises) would agree with you that nine months in detention was a positive thing.

The mental health system clearly has some inadequacies, but what happened to Cornelia Rau is, I would suggest, a much stronger indictment of DIMIA. What happened to her is routine in detention centres, not the exception. There is clearly a culture of contempt for asylum seekers in DIMIA, hence for example the perception that Rau's screaming, crying and other behaviour indicative of great distress was actually just her 'bunging it on' for effect. If you're not perturbed by these things then I suggest we have very different ideas about what constitutes humane treatment of detainees.

Paul, forget our obligatory left/right positions for one minute. Given the well-documented mental damage done by long-term detention, are you not willing to even consider more humane alternatives? After all, we didn't have mandatory detention prior to 1991, when Labor introduced it, and I'm not aware of stories of asylum seekers running riot in the community before then. My experience with Vietnamese refugees (my parents helped a refugee family establish a life here) is that they just want to work, find stability and look after their loved ones. Much like the rest of us.

Would you not consider some sort of preliminary assessment of identity, in detention - say, four to six weeks - and then allow the asylum seekers to live in the community, subject to some sort of reporting arrangement? Is it really necessary for these people to be kept locked up, at great expense to our pockets and their mental health, before most of them are let out as refugees?

I don't see how you can see mandatory detention as anything but a cruel policy of deterrence. It's very odd, don't you think, that Vanstone is offering a (very conditional) visa to those stateless individuals who have exhausted all avenues of appeal, and yet maintaining a policy of mandatory detention for asylum seekers? Surely those who have failed every possible test are a higher risk to let into the community than those whose claims are still being tested?

It's obvious that mandatory detention is part of a general policy of deterrence, along with having the Navy tow leaky refugee boats back out to sea. Howard's policy had a lot more to do with winning back votes off Pauline Hanson than any reasonable response to a relatively small number of asylum seekers. September 11 clinched for Howard what I think can only be seen as a draconian shift on policy that continues to shame a country which previously had a proud record on offering sanctuary to refugees.
Posted by: David Curry at April 7, 2005 12:19 PM

James Govett, I apologise. I was replying to a different post of yours in the What price a (more) democratic Australia? forum, which incidentally has the same date and time as the post you refer to. I put this one in the wrong place. Don't worry though - I'll repost it in the right place and you can reply for real if you want. But hey, funny thing. Maybe you posted your reply in the wrong place?!
Posted by: Adrian Rees at April 7, 2005 01:13 PM

Those of you who defend Lynton Crosby's presence in the UK as a "normal" career move, have a read of this. Nothing about Crosby is "normal" when he's widely known as the Exporter of dog-whiste politics, methinks.

Here are some of my press releases from the Baxter Easter weekend, good amongst other things for a better look at the reported "attacks" with lacrosse sticks and cricket bats on the police and their horses.


DIMIA spin, police clamp-down cannot unseat protest determination

"Protesters at the Baxter detention centre are full of bounce and energy, and their determination to challenge mandatory detention and its groteske manifestation at the Baxter detention centre cannot be undone by media spin from the South Australian police, from SA premier Mike Rann, and by DIMIA representatives," Project SafeCom's Jack Smit said today.

"Protesters are not just reviled by what we do to refugees, but also about what we do to 6-year-old children, and Australians like Cornelia Rau, and DIMIA has no credibility trying to spin te media, suggesting protesters are converging at the wrong place."

"The Australian flag has been dirtied right around the world, Australian detention policies have created shame right around the world and the flag needs ceremonial cleansing today: protesters are gathering at the fence this morning to wash the Australian flag."

"This morning's comments by SA premier Mike Rann, condemning the violence that did not take place at all at Baxter yesterday, are more of the same, but where is his fury with the Federal government's usurer attitude of his State's police resources?"

"Mike Rann should be seen for what he really is: a premier who supports human rights abuses and who's too chicken to tell Howard to go jump puddles and stop eating his scarce State police resources. Rann does not have to lend a hand at all: the Baxter detention centre is on Commonwealth land and on army land, there is no need for SA State police to be deployed on Baxter territory."

Baxter Police behaviour and "media spin" scandalous, meanspirited

"Behaviour of the South Australian State Police towards the very, very clearly non-violent Baxter protesters, and the blatant attempts at media spin by the SA Police Media liaison unit amount to a scandal, and an indication that police is involved in playing politics, going far beyond their mandate and call to duty," WA Refugee group Project SafeCom said this morning.

Project SafeCom had involvement in the Baxter protests with its usual role of networking and media monitoring from its WA office, linking protesters with media representatives and keeping an eye on reports appearing in the media.

"This has been an extremely successful protest in terms of the exemplary cohesion amongst protesters, and the clear non-violent and playful 'tactics' and expressed intent, but the "disruption agents" are clearly the South Australian police force, and they should be brought to account for it," spokesman Jack Smit said, who has contacted State parliamentarians in the South Australian government. "And what happened this morning, goes beyond belief", Mr Smit said, "and it almost makes me sick: police officers pricking into balloons and wrecking them".

This morning police disrupted a peaceful march of refugee advocates "armed with balloons" towards the centre, and forced themselves, "using sharp tools to pop all of the protesters' balloons", as reported by the ABC.

Yesterday advocates reported they had been playing cricket outside the Baxter detention centre, and some officers had been helpful by returning balls that landed across the fence, while other officers, who confiscated the balls, were named "un-Australian" by the players. The game included 'knocking them out for Six and Never Out', a reference to indefinite detention in the Baxter centre. Protesters have reported to Project SafeCom they would also be playing "Lacrosse" later that day.

But a media statement of the SA Police alleged that "protesters were armed with cricket bats and lacrosse sticks", and an Associated Press report, apparently written in Sydney based on internet material and phone conversations had appeared in the South China Post in Taiwan, which alleged that "Police said the protesters used lacrosse sticks and baseball bats against the police and their horses".

This reporting, clearly aided by police, is blatant spin and misreporting, and Australian reporters on the ground at the protest site, when contacted by Project SafeCom, also clearly saw this as untruthful reporting.

"It is bad enough that we have an oppressive detention system that is in breach of a series of international conventions, a regim that makes people sick and mad," Mr Smit said. "What we don't need, is the SA police becoming involved in creating spin, distorting the facts, and being engaged in pro-Howard politics. This goes back to the South Australian government, it goes back to Mike Rann and to his State Police Minister's support, not of Law and Order, but of the Federal government's appalling detention policies, and we intend to inform Mike Rann of this and get this issue addressed in the South Australian Parliament."

Mike Rann needs to come clean on "police dress-ups"

"Mike Rann will have to come clean on the use of Federal police dressed up in disguise, posing as members of the South Australian police force", WA Refugee group Project SafeCom spokesman Jack Smit said this morning.

Experienced and long-term refugee advocates have told Project SafeCom that they have recognised several members of the Federal Police force dressed up as SA Police force members, amongst the police on duty at the Baxter detention centre during the Easter weekend protests.

"Mike Rann will have to explain to his government and the SA opposition parties whether or not any deals, open and honest, or "done deals behind closed doors" were done with his opposition counter-part in the Federal Coalition government. This has a direct bearing on his honourability as a State premier, and he has some serious explaining to do," Jack Smit said.

"Overkill" police force arrests five Perth protesters

Five more protesters at the Baxter detention centre, all of them from Perth, have been arrested this morning by SA State and Federal police, during a protest that has been increasingly marked by brutality and overkill from the police.

Yesterday evening a "mob of police brutals", members of the STAR Police force, all of them fully clad in Riot Gear, forcibly overran a group of people, mainly women, who were flying kites at the Baxter fence, made arrests and destroyed and confiscated the kites.

This morning five Perth protesters were arrested and taken to the Port Ausgusta lock-up. The husband of one of the arrestees, Allan Boyd (phone contact below), said by phone this morning, that he was "outraged by the fact that it is my wife who was one of the arrested women this morning".
Posted by: Jack H Smit at April 7, 2005 12:20 PM

I knew the rent-a-crowd nonsense would be dragged out again. I would love to know who rented them and for what price. As I sat drinking a beer and reading the newspaper at that time I reckoned that it would take a lot of money to get me out to that hell hole in the middle of nowhere.

The protesters were there at their own expense, they expected no personal benefit to themselves and also considered the cost of being arrested and being charged. A better description of a rent-a-crowd would be those think tanks that receive money to produce propaganda.

As for the moral outrage at the damage to an inanimate object as opposed to the damage done to the innocent people incarcerated shows a very skewed sense of what is right.

Horses will not be hurt if they are not used as weapons.
Posted by: Graeme Finn at April 7, 2005 01:39 PM

The Real rent-a-crowd: Here's a fine letter to the Editor published 30 March that also made it into the Oz in reply to their pretty appalling 29/3 editorial:

"YOUR editorial (29/3) labelled the Baxter protesters as a "rent-a-crowd". I would like to point out that the protesters sacrificed their Easter holidays, paid up to $150 for a bus fare to Port Augusta, spent 48 hours on an uncomfortable bus travelling thousands of kilometres and faced police intimidation and brutality outside Baxter. This shows real commitment to a cause.

"To label these people a "rent-a-crowd" is wrong and lazy. The real rent-a-crowd are the police who were paid to be there. (from Max Phillips, Stanmore NSW)"

Margo: Hi Jack. Max is a Webdiarist!
Posted by: Jack H Smit at April 7, 2005 02:52 PM

Brad, if worldwide migration was entirely up to me, I would do without national borders and, as you put it, "let the market call the shots". It's offensive to me that in 2005 people's standard of living and security throughout the world is so disparate, and individual circumstances largely due to the chance allocation of the place of one's birth.

I'll accept that a sudden removal of boundaries would result in enormous social disruption and in Australia's case probably a lowering of the standard of living of those that are here already, at least initially. So my ideal alternative is unlikely to be acceptable to many.

Australia is one of the wealthiest nations on earth, though. Our quotas could be much larger than they are. But yes, it would require us all to be corporately more generous.

However, we could start by making the current system honest, fair, consistent, transparent and accountable. For example, why is it that some detainees who have been locked away for several years and have eventually been granted visas under the Minister's discretionary powers are then detained for a further period of weeks or months while an ASIO check is performed? Isn't this supposed to be why they were detained in the first place - to perform the necessary health and security checks while their status is determined!

We could institute the recommendations of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's report so that, amongst other things, the operation of the Refugee Review Tribunal is not so cruelly lottery-like. (eg a one-year old child born in detention on Christmas Island was recently deemed to be a refugee, but its parents were not!)

We could reformulate the policy and rewrite the Migration Act so that it accords with the UN Convention on Refugees instead of doing things like pretending some islands aren't really Australia. Most importantly, we could operate whatever system we decide on from a mindset of compassion, with a willingness to be of genuine assistance, instead of this miserly attitude of suspicion where people have to battle for every grudging concession of their perfectly legal rights.
Posted by: Robyn Clothier at April 7, 2005 03:24 PM

David Curry, the fact remains that if Rau hadn't been allowed out of a psychiatric facility while still psychotic she would have neither wound up in the hoosegow or Baxter; the idiotic obsession the "professions" in mental health have with "treatment in the community" has seen similar episodes rpeated all over the country with poor buggers hallucinating and spinning out, winding up on the streets with the junkies and dossers (and just as often winding up dead).

Seeing her family didn't bother even reporting her missing for months after she took off from the psych ward at Manly, I find their crocodile tears less than convincing, especially seeing as it appears they've briefed an ambulance-chaser over the matter.

I'm in favour of quick resolution rather than detention - it costs a bundle and is a target for every ratbag with a banner; as soon as a claim is found to have no merit, immediate deportation should occur.

You state that there weren't masses of illegal immigrants wandering around causing ruckus before MD was introduced in '91, and that is true- mainly because before the ALP started fiddling around with policy, all asylum claims had to be lodged offshore; arrival without a passport/visa or valid excuse saw you turned around at the airport or held until a flight could be found to return the passenger to the port they left; an application by someone who had tried forced entry would then not be looked at favourably.

It's only since onshore applications were accepted that the whole mess began. If the policy is merely a vote-buying exercise, pandering to no-neck neanderthals with nary a care for their fellow man, why are similar policies now coming into force all over the world, especially in supposedly liberal Europe? Mainly because the penny has finally dropped that the whole asylum seeker thing has been hijacked by professional people-smugglers who clue up their customers.

I can't blame anyone wanting to improve their lot and get out of some hideous third-world shithole, but that's why we have an immigration system - so there is benefit for the migrant and the country as a whole. Altruism is well and good, but it's supposed to be at the donor's cost. As I've said before, maybe it's time to put up or shut up.

There is a provision in the Migration Act to sponsor an immigrant - all you have to do is stump up a substantial cash deposit to cover any welfare/health claims made for a period (5 years, I believe) and also accept responsibility for the behavior of the sponsored individual; sounds just the ticket, or does the concern shown extend only to spending other people's money on attaining the required level of smug self-satisfaction?
Posted by: Paul Bickford at April 7, 2005 04:34 PM

BTW, the Vietnamese have an unemployment rate above 30%, and are highly represented in crime statistics, especially ones invlving violence; we did however take an active part in the Vietnam War, and as such had at least a moral duty to accept people dispossessed as a result of that conflict.

I have no problem with the Vietnamese who were supporters of the US (and us), they were deserving of protection from the repulsive Hanoi regime, however the new Vietnamese government (as also done by Castro in Cuba and Tito in Yugoslavia) very cleverly opened up their jails and asylums and got rid of all their criminals and dangerous lunatics, passing them off as "dissidents" (much as New Zealan continues to do to Australia). Not everyone purporting to be a refugee is fleeing persection.
Posted by: Paul Bickford at April 7, 2005 04:45 PM

Hello all. I was at Baxter this easter. Here is a summary.

Actions speak louder than words. The police charging horses into crowds are violent and mindless robots at times because they are trained to follow orders. We even got a few of them in trouble for smiling as we clowned around ridiculusly to make them laugh....a group of 4 police tapped a fellow police officer on the shoulder and took him away, reinforcing the fact that individual thought and action are not tolerated.

Here are some awesome photos of horse brutality. Here's to you Khristo and Gang for Non Violent Direct Action that can't be downplayed or ignored.
Posted by: Chris Moore at April 7, 2005 05:11 PM

Bryan, you say that your "NVDA" has changed lots of social issues over the years. Well it hasn't made one difference to the detainee/refugee issue. They are still there. By the way, would you like to give me a list of the things it has changed?

Howard and his cronies sit back and laugh at people like you. They love you. It saves them having to do all of the work.

You are worried that I am sayings the things that middle Australia are saying. Well, I'm not SAYING them. I am reciting the things that I hear out there. I hate the sound of it too. But it is the sort of garbage that people are swallowing via the Government/Media propaganda machine. There is no point in running away and sticking your head in the sand. It won't go away. This is reality. And there is a duty to combat this nasty, narrow minded garbage.

As for whether I worked in a Labor MP's office, yes I did. Is that a crime too? At least it kept me in contact with what the public were thinking. They like to ring up pollies offices and come into the office and express their views. Whereas I'll bet your source of information comes from sitting down at a party or a cafe or a pub or whatever with your friends and tut-tutting about how awful what is going on behind the razor wire and what an awful government we have and how so-and-so went out to Baxter and told me horrific stories and on and on and on. This is commonly known as preaching to the converted. It doesn't achieve much, but you sure feel good afterwards.

Oh, and I'm wrong am I? Just to remind you, here is some of what Craig said:

"Convergences and Direct Actions do a lot to give radical activists an excuse for a party and to feel good about themselves, but very little to actually change what's happening. We need to figure out how to communicate with middle Australia, how to reach out to the mortgage-holding parents in the 'burbs and make them realise what's really going on. Their votes are the only way we can stop this. How do we effectively do that? I don't know; if I did, I'd be doing it already. But I do know that pulling down fences in the middle of the desert isn't it."

See, he doesn't know what to do about this either. But I sure do agree with what he says. Pay close attention to what he says about their votes being the only way to stop what is happening.

So you haven't been involved in immigration issues at all? It shows big time. Apart from what I learnt in my job, not just about the Migration Act, but also attitudes within DIMIA, I have also been involved in community projects involving the detainees. I am a member of a number of local organisations that deal with refugees including organisations that help with the resettlement of these people.

Now, let's look at some of the things you wrote, Bryan:

"I know NVDA to be strong action because it is transformative action. People are transformed by it, and people are the agency of needed change. I've practised NVDA for thirty years, and I've only gotten good at it about 12 years ago. I can provide you with a list of local, regional and global issues that have been progressed and improved by NVDA. Over time. With sacrifice. Our task now is to work with the best and brightest. With those citizens who show a willingness to act, to challenge, to provoke. To summon up the best qualities of those around us. To end the ancient habits of injustice. To this end the next ten years are down for extra-Parliamentary opposition and growing NVDA. What will you be doing?"

Are you serious?! What a load of third-rate, undergraduate hogwash! You forgot, "We will fight them on the beaches..." If you want to go on believeing this tripe, fine, don't let me stop you. But again I will say, THE REFUGEES ARE STILL BEHIND THE WIRE AND NOTHING HAS CHANGED IN REGARD TO THEIR PLIGHT IN FIVE YEARS. If anything, the situation has got even worse.

Some people are transformed by "NVDA". And lots of people aren't. And sometimes it works, such as Vietnam. But sometimes it doesn't, as in the case at hand. When it is obvious that the strategy is failing it is time to look at a new approach.

So you go off and practice your "NVDA" in a dark room where you can't hurt anybody and weave a couple of baskets while you're at it. I am only interested in affecting real change.
Posted by: Steve Turbit at April 7, 2005 05:59 PM

Paul Bickford, Europe does not treat asylum seekers like we do. They are not allowed to because they actually have an enforceable human rights charter.

It's funny you know, when I read the human rights instruments we willingly helped to write and sign I cannot see it said anywhere that Australia is exempt from all human treatment of innocent people. I can't see anything like that at all - can anyone else?

Australian law at clause 785.411 says "a protection visa can only be applied for if the applicant is in the migration zone."

Asylum seekers and refugees are not migrants. They have an entire set of rules that host countries are supposed to enforce.

Wouldn't it be nice if we held up our own laws.
Posted by: Marilyn Shepherd at April 7, 2005 06:32 PM

Marilyn Shepherd, Europe is tightening controls on Asylum seekers, particularly Holland, the UK, France, Italy, Spain and Germany. The open-door policies are a thing of the past, brought about by a number of factors- public disquiet, rising crime (particulary ethnic/hate crimes), loss of national identity and an unsustainable rise in demand for welfare.

You can't have it both ways - if asylum seekers are aiming for permament resident status they are migrants, by definition and by nature; if they are seeking immediate security from a situation in their country of origin they are a refugee and a TPV is a logical and reasonable means of ensuring their safety, while requiring repariation when the situation improves.

A system that recognises these facts is sustainable and supported by the Australian public. Open slather is not, and never will be.
Posted by: paul bickford at April 7, 2005 07:36 PM

Getting back to NVDA, the actions of Khristo et al have really challenged my thinking since Easter & I'm starting to do some reading about King and Gandhi. Apart from being willing to face the consequences, choosing a particular action that will force the community to face up to the truth seems to have been the key thing for them. And of course numbers. And a bit of hitting the hip-pocket nerve. And it was usually about refusing to personally go on cooperating with unjust laws.

Maybe middle Australia would sit up and take notice if a different action was chosen. As an ex-nurse, I wonder if supporting a government that is creating mental illness by detaining people long-term actually breaches the codes of ethics for health professionals. "First do no harm" and all that. What would happen if health professionals started not to cooperate with the things that are being done in their name? Perhaps by withholding a portion of their tax and donating it to the nearest mental health facility.

This list seems to contain a lot of good thinkers who mostly disagree with long-term detention of asylum seekers. Let's see if we can come up with something that would actually be effective!
Posted by: Robyn Clothier at April 7, 2005 10:03 PM

Marilyn: "Paul Bickford, Europe does not treat asylum seekers like we do. They are not allowed to because they actually have an enforceable human rights charter."

You are correct Marilyn, Europe doesn't treat asylum seekers the way we do, they treat them worse. This is what they do.

"A number of European states have shown a willingness during the past year to return rejected asylum seekers to Iraq. Germany, Denmark, Luxembourg and Switzerland, have indicated that there is an 'internal flight/protection/relocation alternative' for certain Iraqis in the Kurdish-controlled zone of northern Iraq. This perspective is reflected in the E.U.'s Action Plan on Iraq, which states that 'Northern Iraq can be seen as an internal flight/internal relocation alternative for those who fear persecution at the hands of the regime in Baghdad, except in the case of specified at-risk groups and after a case-by-case assessment'. E.U. member states have rejected a number of Iraqi claims on this basis and returned asylum seekers to this area.

In August 2002, Danish Integration Minister Bertel Haarder announced that Denmark planned to send home Iraqis whose asylum requests have been rejected, despite the threat of a U.S. attack on Iraq, stating that 'the potential risks of war do not in themselves justify asylum'. According to an August report from the Danish immigration office, some Iraqi refugees can return to the country without facing any risks. Denmark announced in May that it would not deport twenty-six Iraqis on hunger strike in the Copenhagen cathedral, who were protesting the slow treatment or rejection of their asylum claims. Integration Minister Bertel Haarder stated that Denmark would 'try to send back as many refugees as possible but will not force them to leave'. It was reported that this year alone, 228 Iraqi refugees refused to return to their homeland after their asylum claims were denied, according to Danish police.

On November 8, 2001 Greece signed a readmission agreement with Turkey, which allows the Greek government to intercept (often at sea) individuals who departed from Turkey, and return them to Turkish territory. One such interception and return occurred on November 21, 2001, when forty-two migrants were intercepted as they were heading for the Greek island of Kos from the nearby Turkish port of Bodrun. Partly because of the readmission agreement, Greece purchased ten patrol boats for the purpose of intercepting people trying to reach its territory.

In 2001, Norway's strict policy toward asylum seekers from northern Iraq was further tightened and as of April 2001, one-year residence permits granted to Iraqi asylum seekers were not being renewed and applicants were being rejected if they had no individual protection grounds. Under Norway's one-year permit system, Iraqi refugees also had no right to reunify with their family members. Of the 1056 Iraqis who applied for asylum in Norway in 2001, only 2.5% were recognized as Convention refugees; however many others were granted humanitarian protection.

In April 2002, the Swedish Migration Minister Jan O. Karlsson said that Sweden would recommence deportations of asylum seekers from Iraq. Several thousand Iraqi asylum seekers who have been refused residence in Sweden are waiting to be deported to Iraq. Until now this has not been possible for practical reasons, such as the no-fly zone over Iraq. According to Karlsson, as of April 2002, the situation in northern Iraq had stabilized, making it possible to people to that region. At the same time, Sweden granted Kurds from the Kurdish-controlled zone in northern Iraq permanent permission to remain in the country.

In 2001, the United Kingdom determined that the Kurdish-controlled zone of northern Iraq was increasingly stable and was said to be exploring options of return, a result of which was a drop in its recognition rate for Iraqi refugees. In July 2002, the British government announced that it planned to deport Iraqi Kurdish refugees who failed in their asylum bids. While the UK Home Office reportedly accepted that some northern Iraqi refugees genuinely needed protection, a spokesperson stated that other asylum seekers from Iraq did not meet the criteria of the Refugee Convention."

And this:

"THE Netherlands is to force 26,000 failed asylum-seekers to return to their countries of origin over the next three years in one of the biggest mass deportations in modern European history. The deportation order, amounting to one in 600 of the population, applies to almost all failed asylum- seekers who arrived before the Dutch introduced a new asylum regime in April 2001.

"Most of those affected are from Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. Some have been in the Netherlands for 11 years, speak Dutch, have integrated into society and have children settled in schools."

Little wonder those on the Tampa, learning it was a Norwegian ship, did whatever it took to turn it around. How is it possible that Norway etc have such a low acceptance rate of only 2.5%? Is there something magical that happens when one traverses the timor sea?

Frankly Marilyn if you could see past your hatreds Australia does pretty well with refugees when compared to the rest of the world.

Marilyn: "Asylum seekers and refugees are not migrants."

Common sense suggests a percentage of them are, just as common sense suggests that a number who have been deported or are still detained may well be refugees under the convention definition. That's the problem when all we have to go on is their (very well prepared) stories. It's a very flawed process and always will be.

Marilyn: "Wouldn't it be nice if we held up our own laws."

Well, those laws have been tested numerous times in the High Court. Why isn't that good enough for you?
Posted by: Graham Rakk at April 7, 2005 10:26 PM

Steve, a basic list would include the Danish resistance to Hitler in the 40s, the PND campaigns against atmospheric testing and nuclear proliferation in the 50s and 60s, the Civil Rights campaigns in the U.S. in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Let's see, there'd be the overthrow of Marcos in the Philippines, Pinochet in Chile, and the efforts in Tian an Men Square. Independence in India was a while back now.

In Australia we'd have to count the formation of the labour movement and the Labor Party, the more recent formation of the Greens, Women's suffrage, Aboriginal rights multi-culturalism, and large parts of the fabric of what we're pleased to call a democracy. Do you think Wave Hill was a dance party? That the White Australia policy was surrendered without a fight?

Maybe a big part of your difficulty is your confinement of vision to five years. Only five years? Every day we're alive we draw on the strands of time and culture many scores of generations long.

Once upon a time the Labor Party would teach its young people about the history and traditions of working class Australia, a class that stood for independence in Indonesia and equality for all. Now its just "who's got the numbers?" The Labor Party has no vision beyond the next state or national conference.

You seem to know that we activists do things in a patterned way to make us feel good about ourselves. But is slagging us off all you've got?

You have not said word one about your alternative. What will you do?

You used to be able to define a French national as someone who could tell the difference between Hitler and Napoleon. I guess now we're identifying "social realists" as someone who can tell the difference between Howard and Beazley.
Posted by: Bryan Law at April 7, 2005 10:38 PM

Australia actually does those things - there has never been a trace of evidence that anyone in the EU has.

Graham, so desperate to be right all the time, tell me this.

1. Does any country in the EU lock them up for nearly 7 years, tear gas them, beat them with batons, lock children in prisons and isolation cells, water cannon them and strip them of all human rights and all genuine appeals?

2. I read and collect this stuff that is rabbited on about - it comes out in right wing press at election times and then nothing more happens. How many Iraqis have been deported from those countries - want to go and check now for that information?

Australia either deports them to Syria on false documents and dumps them like flotsam or leaves them locked up.

Graham, it's just possible Hitler can be said to have been less appalling than Lenin because he only murdered 6 million and Lenin murdered 12 million.

What is the scale of sickening you would like to stoop to? Can you tell me how low you are prepared to go in the bidding against refugees that the EU does at election times?

What about stocks in the streets until they confess? How about a dunking stool to drown the witches?

Saddam locked up people without charge so we bombed his country to bits - should Iraqi and Afghan soldiers now come and bomb us to bits in revenge because we locked them up without charge?

Get a life Graham. We don't have a law that says we can turn people away. We never have. Even Al Kateb only takes in a few people because we don't have a law that says we can keep people locked up as punishment.

We never have.

It's interesting though that you took the trouble to tell me what the EU ranters claim they will do - now go and find what they actually do.

Oh and Graham I wouldn't be so proud of Australia turning previously civilised nations into savages like us if I was you.
Posted by: Marilyn Shepherd at April 8, 2005 01:10 AM

Bill Avent: "The news is that helicopters do not suck things up; they blow things down. That is what keeps them in the air."

Well, no Bill, that's not how they work at all. The rotors are airfoils, with a curved upper lift surface. They rely on the venturi effect - the sum of the partial pressures in a dynamic fluid system being constant - to reduce air pressure over the top of the rotor surface, as air moving over the top has to move faster than air underneath. Like a plane's wing.

Likewise, by adjusting the trim on the tail rotors, the pilot alters the directional orientation of the craft. The tail rotors pull port and starbord, not "up and down".

In any case, if something got over the rotors, it would quickly be pulled into them. Likewise, if something got pulled into the tail rotor from nearby to the craft.

The actual documented example I gave you of snow (of all things) entering the air-intake of a chopper and crashing it is sourced, if you would care to go to the link provided.

That's an entirely different accident - where material was sucked into the engine, causing catastrophic engine failure.

Say, Bill, are you planning to take any chopper rides during this year's Bondi Festival of the Winds kite show, by any chance? Would be most amusing for us to see the outcome on the 6.00pm News that evening.
Posted by: C Parsons at April 8, 2005 09:24 AM

Paul Bickford - I resent your accusation that all I am trying to achieve for myself is smug satisfaction. It might suit you to think of opponents of mandatory detention in that way but it's not true in my case, or in fact for any of the people I have met through the local Refugee Action Committee. The ones I have met are amongst the most humble and generous people I have ever met. They devote copious amounts of their own time and money to assisting asylum seekers and refugees, not so they can crow about it (in fact that is something they never do) but because they feel compassion for these people. Compassion, I find, is much more attractive than the 'blow them out of the water' sentiments I hear from some enthusiastic supporters of Howard's policy on asylum seekers.

As a full-time worker and part-time student I don't have oodles of time, but over the last couple of years I have done what I can for a handful of real, breathing refugees and asylum seekers. I can't be smug about it because I know I could do a lot more.

As for your economic argument, can you really argue with a straight face that mandatory detention and the 'pacific solution' are a cost-effective way of dealing with a few thousand refugees? The costs for the 'pacific solution' have been estimated at between $400 and $500 million to date, hardly spare change. Where was the saving in sending asylum seekers to Nauru and Papua New Guinea? I recall that for a time there was an entire detention centre in New Guinea devoted to one detainee. Many of the asylum seekers processed in these centres ended up right back in Australia, as bona fide refugees. And you're still going to maintain it had nothing to do with vote-buying.

As for your 'put up or shut up' position, may I refer you again to the large number of ordinary Australians who are indeed prepared to 'put up', some of whom you were introduced to on the Four Corners show, if you were paying attention. They work tirelessly and selflessly to assist those who go from being asylum seekers to refugees, second class. These refugees, because they had the temerity to seek asylum in Australia, are treated very differently from refugees assessed offshore - they are given very little Government assistance and rely, initially at least, largely on charity. That is, until they can get a job, which in my experience is the first thing they do after getting a roof over their heads.

As a man of quite modest means I am not in a position to sponsor an immigrant, your helpful suggestion at the end of your post. I thought we were discussing Government policy here, not personal choices. But since you brought it up, Paul, what have you done recently to make the world a better place? If you don't believe in altruism that's fine, your choice, but maybe you should give people the benefit of the doubt on the strength of their convictions.
Posted by: David Curry at April 8, 2005 09:57 AM

C Parsons, you take a lot of words to tell me things I already knew. I ask again, have you ever stood beneath a helicopter?

Balloons released from the ground attacking the helicopter from above? Now if you can explain how that works, I would be grateful.
Posted by: Bill Avent at April 8, 2005 10:16 AM

Bryan, whilst you have made somewhat of a point, I think you are drawing a very long bow with some of your examples. Pinochet went because he was ready and wanted to, the Danish resistance did not bring about the downfall of Hitler, the Civil Rights movements had some success, but it was limited. Just ask the Black Panthers. And by the way, their demise was a direct result of a Government/Media propaganda campaign.

As for Tianamen Square, tanks were sent into the Square. They indiscriminately fired on the students and ran some of them over. The ringleaders of the protests were rounded up, tried and executed. Their aim, to bring about open debate within the CCP was an abject failure. The mastermind of the massacre, Li Peng is still a member of the State Council. As a matter of fact, he got a promotion for his good work. And you call that a success? For further information, you might like to watch a video called "The Gates of Heavenly Peace". It will also give you a good insight into the nature of the student leaders and their motives.

As for slagging you off, well you know the old saying "People in glass houses..." And speaking of slagging off, you seem to have a very lucid picture of the what the Labor Party is like, although it doesn't even begin to resemble the one I'm a member of. And I dare say that some of the rank and file who give up their time to go out and do exciting jobs like letterboxing pamphlets or handing out "how-to-vote" cards on polling day would be a bit offended by your remarks too.

And yes we do have our fair share of rotten apples, but I would challenge you to name me one political organisation that doesn't have them. I know people from just about every major party in the area (Greens, Libs) and they all contain a certain number of grubby opportunists.

Now back to the original point. Protest, non-violent demonstration or whatever you want to call it does sometimes work. But it depends on the cause, the methods that are applied, how you reach your audience and many other factors. I am not against the concept of using it as a tool to achieve certain goals. However, as I think I have clearly pointed out above, particularly in relation to Tianamen, sometimes it fails abysmally. To paraphrase someone else on this thread, I don't know the answer because if I did, I would be out there doing it. But there needs to be a new strategy on this because in five years nothing has changed. If anything it has gotten worse.

You may like to read Robyn's latest entry. As I said, I don't have the answers, but Robyn has offered one suggestion, and this is what we need more of.
Posted by: Steve Turbit at April 8, 2005 11:08 AM

Well, hasn't Khristo opened Pandora's Box? As Margo said, his action has worked on at least one level: we are now talking about unjust laws and what to do about them. Some people are even talking about thinking strategically. Maybe there is hope for social transformation in Australia yet.

When I started reading these comments I despaired. People who clearly have no idea and no willingness to learn about nonviolent direct action screaming blue murder. Literate people unable or unwilling to understand the difference between civil disobedience (so well explained by Khristo) and murder. I encourage all people to think before they write this drivel.

Thankfully the debate has become more sane. Thanks to Brian Law for clarifying some norms about NVDA to give people a conceptual picture. To add to his list of successful civil disobedience, try almost all of Eastern Europe in 1989, Serbia in 2000, Georgia in 2004. Think about the 40-hour week that we enjoy in theory at least in this country. If you are female or Indigenous, thank NVDA activists for your right to vote in this country. If you have been to Tasmania, thank the greenies there for saving the Franklin River and thousands of hectares of old growth forest. I could go on...

It should be mentioned, since nobody has yet, that Khristo's action is controversial within the NVDA community. The mainstream view (most forcefully put by Gandhi and King) is that civil disobedience but not be violent even in self-defence, to persons or property. I believe Greenpeace for example has a 'no damage to property' clause.

There are others who disagree, however. They keep the 'no harm to persons' part but are prepared to damage certain types of property under special circumstances. Khristo alluded to this with his comment that "pulling down some strands of electric fence is not violent, nor wrong; not when that fence is part of, and represents, the violence being perpetrated en-mass to hundreds of innocent people, men, women and children." Fr Daniel Berrigan is the leading articulator of this line, declaring that certain things we call property are in fact "unproperty" because they exist for the sole purpose of destruction - he was referring to nuclear weapons and other offensive military hardware - which contradicts the theory of ("productive") property we inherit from John Locke. Note that endangering human safety is not permissible under this philosophy either - and accepting arrest and trial is an essential part of it. Khristo made no attempt to resist arrest and nobody was injured by his group.

FWIW, the most famous recent example of this latter type of action was about 6 years ago when 4 middle-aged women cut some fencing and walked on to a British Aerospace site. They pulled out hammers and damaged the nose cones of 4 F-18 fighters which had been sold to Soharto's Indonesia. This damage did not threaten the ability of the plane to fly normally - pilot safety was not affected. It did disable the radar-guidance system for the missiles, however. The women amazingly managed to do this without discovery and had to call the police themselves. The main reason it is well known is because they were found not guilty by a jury of their peers (first time that happened) after using a defence of preventing a greater crime and documenting the extraordinary amount of legal campaigning they and others had been involved in to prevent the sale of these planes to Indonesia in violation of Britain's "ethical foreign policy". They were, however, willing to risk gaol sentences of up to 20 years for their beliefs.

Those of you arguing the strategic merit of Khristo's actions: please continue. As someone who supports it, I am also open-minded about its effectiveness and I am sure he is also more than interested in intelligent debate about the best way to convince the Australian people that mandatory detention is wrong. Only then will it end. These are debates we need to have because quite frankly, many of you are indirectly correct when you suggest many activists have no clear sense of strategy and how precisely they intend to effect change.

Last note of clarification: not all nonviolent action is civil disobedience. NVDA includes marches, letter writing, and other forms of legal campaigning. It is usually held that CD is legitimate only when other options have been exhausted (this is called respecting the rule of law). I think it would be fair to say Khristo honestly feels that is now the case. Many will disagree - that's okay.

For those interested in this stuff, I recommend starting with King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" which is a great primer. The Albert Einstein Institution is a key org in strategic nonviolence and its materials were used to train democracy activists in Serbia and Ukraine. For a great 1-pager see "Correcting Common Misconceptions about Nonviolent Action"

I would be happy to provide more materials to anyone interested in further reading. Feel free to email me at justin_whelan @ (link deliberately broken to prevent spam)
Posted by: Justin Whelan at April 8, 2005 12:06 PM

Bill Avent: "I ask again, have you ever stood beneath a helicopter?"

Sure, plenty of times.

Bill Avent: "Balloons released from the ground attacking the helicopter from above? Now if you can explain how that works, I would be grateful."

The air going down from the rotors comes from the general vicinty of the chopper, Bill. Not just from the column of air above. I really don't recommend sending things above, below or anywhere near a chopper in flight.

Also, wasn't the chief complaint at Baxter centred on a kite? I definitely wouldn't be flying a kite into a chopper's rotors.

Let me be clear, here, too. I have no objection to people protesting outside Baxter or whatever. I'm responding to the query about whether it could be dangerous to fly kites and balloons near a chopper in operation. My view is that it's not a good idea at all.
Posted by: C Parsons at April 8, 2005 01:25 PM

C Parsons, I'll fly the Kite.

Bill, get over it, C Parsons obviously knows a hell of a lot more about helicopters than you or I do.
Posted by: j wilshaw at April 8, 2005 01:37 PM

Bill Avent, Hi! I found this for you written by Madhu Siddalingaiah, a Physicist;
"If you look at wind tunnel tests (of helicopters), what actually happens is that air circulates around the edge of the rotor disk. Much of the air is caught in an endless vortex going through the rotor over and over."

he also comments; "In general, good helicopter pilots, or any good pilot for that matter, is always paranoid. You never take chances. Helicopters are very unforgiving of any mistakes, so it is best not to make any."
Posted by: C Parsons at April 8, 2005 01:49 PM

King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" and the statement from local clergy which prompted it can be viewed here
Posted by: Robyn Clothier at April 8, 2005 02:39 PM

David Curry- "what have you done recently to make the world a better place?" Paid tax- lots and lots of tax. Besides that, organised an uplift by air of clothing, tarps, tents etc to Thailand with the generous assistance of Thai International (free plug) after the tsunami, not that I like blowing my own trumpet. If I believed anyone in detention was a bona-fide refugee and was being ignored, if I couldn'd afford to sponsor them myself I'd fundraise to do so. All the sitting around in drafty terrace house front rooms bitching about the iniquity of things and photocopying daft screeds to be affixed to telegraph poles (and prompty ignored) achieve nothing but making the participants feel caring and important. I believe in actual direct action rather than pathetic posturings and publicity-seeking histrionics. Having been involved in immigration law for some time, I'm yet to be convinced there's any valid grounds to offer further assistance to anyone in detention. I'm also aghast at the cost of the "Pacific Solution", but it was made necessary to shut up the bleating of activists such as yourself and lawyers with a view on the long-term earning potential of endless rounds of court appearances and appeals. Immediate repatriation would be much cheaper, and a lot fairer.
Posted by: Paul Bickford at April 8, 2005 03:49 PM

Justin Whelan: "To add to his list of successful civil disobedience, try almost all of Eastern Europe in 1989, Serbia in 2000, Georgia in 2004, etc."

And thanks to you, Justin, too. Recently, a number of very prominent left wing figures, including John Pilger, Arandhati Roy, Tariq Ali, Robert Fisk and others, have come out in support of what they term the "Iraqi Resistance".

John Pilger, for instance, said that while the deaths of the innocent victims of "Iraqi Resistance" actions were regretable, "we" (himself and people like him) "have no choice but to support the resistance" because not to would offer encouragement to George Bush. Similarly Arandhati Roy argued that the struggle of the "Iraqi Resistance" is "our struggle too", and that we could not expect everyone we support in that struggle to have "our purity", so "we" should not resile from supporting the Resistance simply because they are racist murderers.

Quite apart from any consideration of whether the recent elections and formation of Iraq's new democratic government are in themselves justified or not, does you definition of "civil disobedience" also embrace support for the Iraqi "resistance".

If so, why? If not, why not?
Posted by: C Parsons at April 8, 2005 04:22 PM

Hi Margo - In reference to your question if I agreed with the Labour Policy in the area, I thought it was a start (the bit I know) - at least its a bit more compassionate way of controlling our boarders. But control it still is. My argument here is that all the posts that were rightly decrying the current system did so without offering a solution. In no way do I support the Howard Government - but at least they have nailed their plan to the wall.

Robyn - Thank you for your comments and honesty. I guess that is my point -open boarders worlds wide will never happen (or most likely) in my or my kid's lifetime . Simply freeing our boarders would cause massive social dislocation, extreme pressure on our state systems and lowering of our living standards.

Yes were are a rich country , but that wealth is not unlimited or even equally distributed. Our land mass while large is not that usable. We already degrading our land at unstainable rates our cities are growing out striping services etc - unlimited immigration will speed up this process No government will allow this to happened.

I totally agree that the processing time needs to be improved, but this is activity resisted by the actual people who it is meant to help. They (mostly) to not have any form of ID when they arrive, and do not proactively help the authorities in trying to establish if they are real refugees or not and then use every court of appeal to stay. They say that removing any appeal channel etc reduces their access to natural justice.

They could be right, but without some controls we have anarchy.

So what is the solution? - I do not know, I do know that both sides (no immigration and unlimited immigration) are impractical.

I would say it has to be a combination of improving the situation in the place of origin and lowering the numbers of refugees, stream lining processing times and an improved or humanistic detention system of people who can not be easily identified as refugees.
Posted by: brad spence at April 8, 2005 04:33 PM

Marilyn: "Australia actually does those things - there has never been a trace of evidence that anyone in the EU has."

Does what things? You are making things too easy by saying "never been a trace of evidence that anyone in the EU has". I put this into google "EU refugee deport" and got this: "Results 1 - 100 of about 19,700 for EU refugee deport".

Sorry, I don't have time to go through 19700 links, but the first 10 were enough to disprove your claims. To keep the balance I stuck to socialist/left leaning sites, and I'll leave it to you to trawl the right wing sites.

Marilyn: "1. Does any country in the EU lock them up for nearly 7 years, tear gas them, beat them with batons, lock children in prisons and isolation cells, water cannon them and strip them of all human rights and all genuine appeals?"

Not exactly - they get deported well before 7 years is up. They also die being deported. Here's some quotes.

"The use of sedatives and straightjackets, gagging, shackles and physical force are a regular occurrence on deportation flights. Only at the beginning of this year, another two people died on Air France flights after border guards used force to 'calm them down': the 52-year-old Argentinean Ricardo Barrientos and the 24-year-old Somali Mariame Getu Hagos, died during deportations on Air France flights on 30 December 2002 and 16 January 2003 respectively. At least 11 more such deaths have occurred in the past two years in Belgium,"

Marilyn: "2. I read and collect this stuff that is rabbited on about - it comes out in right wing press at election times and then nothing more happens. How many Iraqis have been deported from those countries - want to go and check now for that information? "

How's this then. from the same site.

Over the past three years more than 10,000 people are estimated to have been deported by charter flights from Germany. One major airline used for deportation is Tarom, destinations are mostly Eastern Europe, Turkey and the Middle East but also Nigeria and Sri Lanka. In Germany also, charter flights became government policy after scheduled airline flights started refusing to take deportees on board, especially after the death of Aamir Ageeb during his deportation on a Lufthansa flight in 1999. In Germany, the official focus is on 'potentially troublesome' refugees, who are seen as the maim problem with deportations. The use of force against is common and Tarom, together with German Federal Border Guards have come under criticism from the UNHCR for beating and using electric shock devices on a Kurdish refugee. Tarom employs its own security personnel."

and, just to show the EU means it, again from the same paper:

"Charter deportation in EU policy
Joint charter deportations were already discussed during the Schengen process, driven by Germany. When EU governments were forced to make public the Schengen acquis in late 1996 after sustained pressure from their parliaments, not only the extent of Germany's driving force behind the restrictive development of asylum and immigration law became clear, but the German report on the Schengen 'progress' also emphasised that "repatriation through joint charter flight by Germany, France and the Netherlands has been successful and should be expanded."

and from the World Socialist Web Site

"European Union interior ministers have intensified their collaboration for the more rapid and efficient deportation of refugees. At their last meeting at the end of November in Brussels they agreed to charter more joint flights in order to transport asylum-seekers whose applications had been rejected by their countries of their origin.

In the second week of December the EU commission announced its intention of supporting this project via the EU refugee fund, which is to contribute millions towards such flights and towards payments "rewarding" those countries which take back refugees.

Chris Patten, the EU commissioner responsible for foreign policy matters, and Antonio Vitorino, EU commissioner for domestic policies and justice, presented some statistics. During the next seven years, almost 935 million euros will be set aside for deportation purposes.

In 2002, the EU commission spent 13.7 million euros on such charter flights; the year before, it was 8.2 million euros. In addition, the 15 EU member states used 38 percent of their joint refugee fund to finance the "voluntary return" of refugees. For the current year this fund totalled 45.8 million euros. Vitorino called for an increase in order to finance not only "voluntary" returns, but also enforced deportations.

There have now been 17 million euros set aside for the return of 100,000 refugees to Afghanistan in spring 2003, which means that the government of Afghanistan will receive 170 euros per citizen who returns. According to the EU, this money should be used to finance jobs or training programs. However, given the ridiculously low sum and the catastrophic situation in Afghanistan, such measures are impossible. The flights to Afghanistan will be financed by the individual EU countries where the refugees are presently residing."

935 million euros is ~A$1.5 billion. Makes the Pacific Solution look cheap, doesn't it?

Who knows about this, from the same site

"Plans by European Union interior ministers to establish a joint border protection authority were revealed earlier this month. Beginning in 2005, the new EU agency will coordinate the protection of European borders in a bid to block the entry of immigrants and refugees. In addition, the authority will be responsible for deporting immigrants and those seeking asylum who lack official residence status."

"According to a November 7 report in the Süddeutschen Zeitung, German Interior Minister Otto Schily (Social Democratic Party--SPD), is planning even more far-reaching attacks on the right to asylum. According to the newspaper, Schily insisted at a meeting of EU interior and justice ministers at the beginning of November in Brussels that non-European states should also be assessed as "safe third countries."

The designation "safe third country" was introduced in 1993 in connection with major changes to German law that did away with the traditional right to asylum. It means that a refugee who arrives from a country that the German authorities deem to be "safe" can be sent back to that country without any investigation as to whether the individual has a valid right to asylum."

"Whoever flees to Germany from Poland, Austria or the Czech Republic can tell of the political repression he has suffered until he is blue in the face; he can even show the signs of torture on his body, he could present the authorities with a copy of his death sentence--all of this doesn't count. The only thing that counts is the route taken by the refugee to get to Germany. On this basis he will be checked and then immediately sent back."

and again

"Many refugees fail to reach Europe's borders. For example, many fatalities due to the actions of border guards are documented in Turkey. The shelling of a refugee boat near Cyprus in May 2002 by the Turkish coast guard caused widespread outrage. Hidar Akay from Turkey was killed in a hail of bullets. Nine refugees were shot and another five wounded as a group of 139 people from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan crossed the border between Turkey and Iran at the beginning of May 2000. This incident rated only a brief mention in the press.

Turkey, which has been warned that it would fail to gain membership to the EU due to its record on human rights, was in reality only following EU practice in regard to refugees. With the Amsterdam agreement and the decisions adopted at the EU summit in 1999 in Tampere, Finland, the enacting of ruthless border security measures against refugees became a requirement for EU membership. The harsh measures carried out by the Turkish border guards are also a result of the pressure the EU exerts on neighbouring counties and candidates for EU membership."

Marilyn : "Oh and Graham I wouldn't be so proud of Australia turning previously civilised nations into savages like us if I was you."

Judging by the dates in the quotes I think they beat us to it, don't you?

Personally, I'd be happier if we had a less rigorous detention regime. The way things are, as you constantly whine on and on and on about, you can be indefinitely detained if you fail to gain refugee status & won't voluntarily return. (The lawyers I think are part of this problem too). This represents one extreme of the possibilities. The other extreme is just roll out the red carpet for whoever arrives here, assuming they don't drown on the way (& plenty do - why do you never mention this Marilyn?). Both extremes to me are unacceptable. Apply, have one independent appeal if you fail, and deported if your appeal fails makes sense to me. Detention while this is happening I think is OK, on the grounds that anyone who arrives here unlawfully is unlikely to voluntarily agree to deportation & the process is quick & decisive. As our 104 year old granny recently showed, it's easy to just disappear as we are not a police state.

Granting asylum under the convention circumstances is a gift we give to people enshrined in our laws. I think we should do everything we can to make sure we are not being defrauded.
Posted by: Graham Rakk at April 8, 2005 10:54 PM

It's a sticky one isn't it? Where does civil disobedience end and vandalism begin?

Before anyone else lambasts Khristo on his actions consider the missive from Stephen saying "You have recourse to the Police, your local council, other bodies such as the EPA (depending on what is being done) even the civil courts."

Stephen - with all due credit, may I ask - what are you on and where can I get some?!!

Really, all these options are useless when the highest power in the land dictates that habeus corpus is dead.

They've marched human rights back to circa the 1960's and saying there are other options at this point (other than civil disobedience) is spurious.

Not even the dreamiest of lefties are out of touch enough to pretend that what you are suggesting is an exercise in perfect futility.

Consider the following 6 words.....


No matter your politics - this is just wrong.

Nobody can condone this and then "tch tch" the Third Reich or the gulags of the former soviet regime.

It's so far beyond politics and into the realms of the ridiculous that the good people of australia accept it. Where are all the sane compassionate people I grew up with? Chasing dollars and pretending they're safe in a nice new McMansion I guess. (or perhaps just aspiring...)

Those who say mandatory detention is the right thing to do need only tell us why. After all, we dont incarcerate innocent Australians and then justify it as a deterent to crime do we? Oh - sorry Cornelia - sadly, I guess we do.

Jailing them for years is just one step away from taking their lives. What's the use in having one if you cant enjoy it at all?

If wrecking a fence in the desert helps highlight this inhuman practice then so be it. I might not have the courage (or impetus) to trek into nowhere like Khristo but I'm never going to have anything other than admiration for those who do.

Khristo - Be carefull and realise the consequences of your actions - and if you do, and decide to go ahead and act on the courage of your of luck!

And try not to worry too much about the pedantic right wing agitators screaming about property rights and civil chaos - If Ruddock had been in power in the 60's we would have seen women burning their bra's charged under the clean air act (or more probably arson).

Kudos Khristo!
Posted by: brett lyons at April 9, 2005 12:00 AM

Paul you DIMIA stooge - the lawyers working for those on the boats are going broke as they are not ever paid a cent.

The people getting rich are the fat lawyers employed by DIMIA to appeal almost every favourable decision handed down to any refugee.

At least get your facts straight.

As to not having documents, what the hell does that matter these days? It is not a crime and as I have said before 98% of the Afghans are now here permanently and not one of them ever had any official ID.

It does not stop the processing - the government just don't do it.

Don't you ever wonder why they can manage to process 18 million movements in and out of the country each year without people waiting weeks and months but that it can take years to process the claims of a refugee.

Especially if they have papers and the government says "if you have legal travel documents you cannot be a refugee".

Think about this one - if it costs all the rest of the world $9 billion to process the applications and claims and appeals of over 500,000 asylum seekers and it costs Australia $3 billion to process the claims of 1500 wouldn't you have to concede that the rest of the world gets on with the job correclty while we whine and whinge and bitch like spoilt brats not wanting to share our toys.

Detention as it is today has only existed since 1997, we have squandered billions and gained nothing at all.

David: Marilyn, if I keep having to edit out insults on other Webdiarists as much as in the last few posts I'll stop putting your stuff up at all. If you want your voice to be heard, self-edit before posting,
Posted by: Marilyn Shepherd at April 9, 2005 12:19 AM

Paul, I don't think sponsoring an immigrant is as simple as putting up the cash. The impression I have (which has not been changed by looking at the DIMIA site) is that they still have to fit into particular categories which are subject to quotas. I would be very happy to be proved wrong though. Are you able to provide more details?

I applaud your preference for action over inaction & ineffectiveness (though I have to suggest the colour of some of your language might encourage ineffective insult-swapping rather than constructive problem-solving). I'm getting a bit worried myself about the amount of time I'm being tempted to spend just discussing things here. (This thread has been my introduction to Web-diary) I wish I could convince you to act by really getting to know an asylum-seeker still in detention.

And Brad, I also don't think there is anybody in detention who wants to stay a day longer than they have to. It is so demoralizing, nobody would choose to remain unless the alternative was worse. If my safety was at stake, I'd be appealing all the way to the High Court if necessary too, and so I'm sure would you. The Edmund Rice Centre has followed up some rejected asylum seekers to see if their repatriation has confirmed that their claims were not genuine. Its findings are in the report "Deported to Danger" and an article based on this report by Debra Jopson. Cornelia Rau's is but one of the horror stories.

Also, while we hold tight to our borders and relatively outrageous standard of living, land elsewhere is being degraded and conflicts being exacerbated because of it. One day soon we will be forced to face up to the fact that the world's natural resources are finite and that we are all in this together. Freeing the borders up may yet prove to be the path of least disruption. But in the mean-time we in Australia can continue to pretend that other people's welfare has nothing to do with us.

This may have to be the last contribution from me. I've enjoyed it. It's a great space, Margo. I'm just not quick enough.
Posted by: Robyn Clothier at April 9, 2005 03:20 AM

Marilyn Shepherd- I have never worked for DIMIA, nor intend to; I think you'll find most of the Afghans here at the moment are on TPVs, as were the Kosovars before them- a solution I have no problem with, but one that advocates hate nearly as much as mandatory detention. What's wrong with repatriation when the home country stuation improves? Many of them are educated and qualified- just what Afghanistan and Iraq will need when rebuilding and establishing modern democratic systems.

Robyn Clothier- I'm not that clued up on the actual requirements, but to the best of my knowledge sponsored migrants don't come under the quotas for business/skilled migration, hence the sponsorship requirements, so any short-term welfare/medical expenses are covered; I assisted some English migrants to sponsor their aged and infirm mother to migrate (as should have been the case with the Chinese centenarian in Melbourne). To the best of my knowledge they must meet health and criminal history checks- a problem for a number of current detainees who have extensive criminal histories. I met many asylum seekers while directly involved in processing inbound passengers, and while many had convincing stories there was always an air of suspicion as the stories were all the same; in the case of Somalis during the late '80s and early '90s, most had plenty of cash and the consensus was they were part of the ruling elite or black marketeers who were taking advantage of the chaos to improve their lot or had fallen out with a powerful clan- the only way they could afford or be able to get out of the place. As they had flown into Australia, they had to have travel documents up to when they boarded the final leg to here, and we often recovered the remains of passports in bins on the aircraft- ones disposed of in the aircraft toilet were beyond redemption.
Posted by: paul bickford at April 9, 2005 11:28 AM

C Parsons, during those plenty of times you stood under a hovering helicopter, did you notice that you were standing in a strong and turbulent downdraft? thinking about that, can you imagine what would happen to a kite, if you were holding one in your hand? Or a balloon, for that matter. I suggest that such lightweight things would be torn from your hands in a downwards direction. So to claim that someone is going to float them upwards towards the helicopter defies logic. This is the point of my question to you, (have you ever stood under a helicopter). It was an invitation to you to apply your own common sense to the question at hand.

If you know about helicopters, beyond reading a few paragraphs on a website, you will know that their rotor blades are not horizontal, but set at a pitch. The steeper the pitch, within limits of turbulence destroying smooth airflow over the upper surface, the stronger the downdraft and greater the lift. In fact it is variations in pitch which makes helicopter flight possible. The pitch of the rotor on the left side of the aircraft moving forward through the air needs to be set more steeply than the one on the right in order to make its actual lifting effect equivalent to the blade on the other side, which due to forward motion of aircraft has a higher actual airspeed. Moving forward through the air, an individual rotor blade's pitch needs to be in a constant state of change as it alternates between being on the port and starboard side of the aircraft. The degree of alteration in pitch needs to vary according to the aircraft's forward speed. As to the tail rotor, its function is to counteract the aircraft's natural tendency to turn in the opposite direction to the its rotors. If it were not there the helicopter would spin horizontally in the air. Another way of preventing this spin is to have two sets of rotors spinning in opposite directions, thus counteracting each other.

Police claims of being in danger from kites and balloons is their way of justifying in the public eye their own unlawful activities. Popping people's balloons, destroying their kites, stealing their cricket bats and balls, all are criminal misdemeanours. Police are supposed to deter such things, not perpetrate them. So having perpetrated them, and having been filmed doing so, the police needed to make up stories showing the protesters in a bad light and themselves in a good one. That is why we have stories about kites and balloons being a danger to helicopters. A clever bit of creative thinking on someone's part, but very transparent if you take the trouble to think about it. Just a pity that so few people ever take the trouble to think about anything they are told by overtly respectable people in positions of authority.

That's enough helicopters (Ed)
Posted by: Bill Avent at April 9, 2005 12:22 PM

Robyn, it would be a loss if your appearance was to be all too brief. You have brought your head and heart to the debate. And reminded us with your references to MLK of the power and beauty of words. Sometimes great eloquence can be evinced in a few simple words from a "simple" person, as in the reply a woman on a Freedom March replied when asked how she felt: "My feets are tired, but my soul is rested."
Posted by: Bob Wall at April 9, 2005 02:29 PM

Bill and C Parsons Best not talk too much about balloons, kites and helicopters for you may be accused of treason for giving Iraqi insurgents a very cheap and "effective" way to bring down American helicopters.
Posted by: Justin Obodie at April 9, 2005 02:31 PM
Posted by: Marilyn shepherd at April 9, 2005 02:53 PM

Marilyn "we have squandered billions and gained nothing at all"

Even if we squandered Billions, which we haven't, it has been worth it because they have stopped coming. They got the message, "We don't want you. You are not welcome".

Refugees can still come through proper channels, instead of us just getting the people with money who can afford to get here by bribing and paying off all and sundry.

Deterrence, Marilyn it works, almost no-one in Australia agrees with your position on this.

They can't all come and they can't all stay.
Posted by: Sam Richards at April 9, 2005 04:37 PM

Dave Green: (April 5 in reply to TT Tazman) "The neocons are as into gulags, media control and "disappearing" people as their Soviet ideological founders were."

Listen to the repeat of Sunday's Background Briefing (ABC Radio National) on Tuesday at 7.10pm. BB will reveal how the worldwide recalled Vioxx is still used on Nauru, administered to people in Australia's detention camp. I hope they also cover the case of a young boy who died whilst in the detention centre, followed by a 'nice' short post-mortem, and whose body was flown from Nauru straight to Afghanistan - not to Australia for a coronary inquest. That's our own version of making people disappear.
Posted by: Jack H Smit at April 9, 2005 05:33 PM

Brett, re-read my post. Get the context right.

I am on your side buddy.
Posted by: Stephen Callaghan at April 9, 2005 06:33 PM

Marilyn Shepherd - some insubordinate idiot gets sacked for having a punch-on on the tarmac at Dubai during a deportation procedure; your point is??
Posted by: paul bickford at April 10, 2005 11:25 AM

Robyn, there are "queueing and capping" quotas on the following types of visas: Parents, Remaining Relative (the Howard Government abolished Family Reunion) and Carers. Also, you might be interested to know that the global average for the processing of a visa under the Special Humanitarian Program is currently 61 weeks, althought this varies greatly around the world. A few years ago when Ruddock suspended the program it was over 200 weeks.

As for the Skilled Migrant Program, there is no publicly stated quota, but the Government will from time to time adjust the points score needed in order to manipulate the numbers coming through the program. For example, they just made the number of points higher.

I am fairly au-fait on this so if there is any other questions you would like to know, fire away!
Posted by: Steve Turbit at April 10, 2005 12:41 PM

Straight from the horses mouth - Sanctuary under review Senate report 2000.

Sam, tell me what we proved? Deterrence is illegal under our law. Why is there such determination to stop people doing what they are legally entitled to do?

It sure wasn't to save them from the smugglers you guys whine on about as you can't seem to tell the difference between a baby born in Australia being brutally deported , which is the point of Cork Paul, than a smuggler.

let me say this again - we are all equal in rights and dignity and we here do not have the right to treat any other human being as horrifically as we treat refugees and asylum seekers. They are not criminals.

The Refugee and Humanitarian Program

The aim of the Refugee and Humanitarian program is to assist in alleviating the plight of refugees and others in humanitarian need in accordance with Australia's international obligations. The program seeks:

to resettle refugees and others in humanitarian need who are outside Australia - the offshore component; and

provide asylum for people in Australia who engage Australia's international protection obligations - the onshore component.

*****It should be noted that whereas Australia is required by its international obligations to provide protection to persons who are actually within the country and meet the various criteria, of a refugee, Australia is under no such obligation to provide protection to people who are living overseas:*****

The duties imposed by the Refugee Convention are of little consequence in the context of Australia's selection of people overseas for inclusion in its refugee and special humanitarian program. As a sovereign nation, Australia is free to offer protection to whoever it chooses, irrespective of their international legal status as refugees. *****Where people come to Australia and seek asylum upon or after arrival, however, it is a different story. Claims for refugee status must be determined, and recognised refugees must be afforded some kind of protection.******

Offshore Humanitarian Resettlement Program

As stated above, the objective of the Offshore Humanitarian Resettlement Program is to 'resettle refugees and others in humanitarian need who are outside Australia'. The Program comprises the following categories:

Refugees - that is, people who are 'subject to persecution' and who have been identified, in conjunction with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as requiring resettlement (this category includes the Woman at Risk Program);

Special Humanitarian Program (SHP) - that is, those people who have 'suffered discrimination amounting to gross violation of human rights, and who have strong support from an Australian citizen or resident or community group in Australia'; and

Special Assistance Category (SAC) - that is, people who, 'while not meeting the refugee or Special Humanitarian criteria, are nonetheless in situations of discrimination, displacement or hardship'. In most cases, SACs require proposers of applicants to be 'close family members resident in Australia'.

The importance of having support from family or community in order to meet the criteria for two out of three above categories emphasises the value given to an existing connection with Australia. Although there are good reasons for the requirement for such support, it is possible that certain groups with limited, if any, connection see this criterion as a way of excluding them or limiting their access. It would be difficult for people from many countries to establish such a connection, unless a 'refugee' community had become established.

The Onshore Protection Program

The second component of the Refugee and Humanitarian Program Program, is the Onshore Protection Program for people already in Australia, who claim to be refugees. As a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, Australia is obliged to provide protection to refugees already within Australia (obliged to consider their case; and then obliged to provide protection if they pass the test). The basis for that obligation is in Article 33 wherein states are required not to return or refoule refugees to countries where they have a valid fear of persecution on account of their race, nationality, religion, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

In order to engage Australia's protection under the Onshore Protection Program, a person must establish that he or she is a 'refugee' within the Convention definition as it is understood in Australia. People seeking refugee status under the Onshore Protection Program do so by applying for a Protection Visa.

Now what was that Sam? Remaining ignorant in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary is lazy Sam and Paul, go and get your job back at DIMIA.
Posted by: Marilyn Shepherd at April 10, 2005 02:14 PM

Marilyn Shepherd- I have never worked for DIMEIA, and have no intention of ever doing so. Frankly I find the department inefficient, vascillating and too sensitive to media-driven public opinion- the case of the Chinese centenarian being a perfect example; I have no problem with her staying, but there is no way taxpayers should be getting hosed for ongoing medical care, pension etc- that is, and should be the responsibility of her family. It's very easy to pontificate on matters that don't affect you personally- see how many taxpayers agree with your position. The whole detainee question could be settled quickly if the Commonwealth had the bottle to play hardball with source countries- nearly all would be in receipt of aid, and if further aid was made conditional on accepting repatriated citizens of the countries in question Baxter and Villawood would be empty virtually overnight. As to the UN Charter, it can say whatever it likes- UN conventions and resolutions do not (and hopefully never will) over-rule statute, despite the best efforts of judicial activists and chancers such as Kirby J; you may not like the legislation, but a majority of voters apparently do, as evidenced by the last Federal election.
Posted by: paul bickford at April 10, 2005 03:46 PM

C. Parsons, obviously the "insurgents" as you call them are resisting a government which they regard as illegitimate and they and their supporters call themselves resistance fighters. The truth is that in unstable countries, where a reasonably sizeable portion of the population doesn't recognise the legitimacy of the incumbent regime, they will use any means to resist that regime. Our opinion of either the resistance movement or the regime in power is irrelevant, because it is a civil conflict in a country not our own, but there will always outsiders who regard one side or the other as being right. However, I think that it is right to be aghast at the casualties on both sides of the conflict and our contribution should be to bring the conflict a conclusion, which is satisfactory to both parties. But I won't hold my breath on that one.
Posted by: Jane Rayner at April 10, 2005 04:09 PM

Paul, just how much longer do you think a 104 year old lady is going to live? 40 or 50 years maybe of reaming the Australian public of a pitiful pension.

As to hardballing the source countries - you seem to think that sending people to Afghanistan and Iraq would and should be the first idea instead of a last resort. Why is that?

As to the statute, which one are you whinging about? The Refugees convention maybe, you know the one that even the government says we have to live up to.

Tell me how you feel about babies being murdered in the womb after being sent home from here? Are they not babies at all if the parents are deemed to be "not refugees"?

What about little babies born here who are then sent to the wrong country on false documents. How much do you think we had to bribe Pakistan to accept a family of 8 Afghan citizens on Australian certificates of identity that are not travel documents.

We are already so harsh with the refugees that the next and only thing we haven't done is shoot them.

Playing hardball is facism. Do you know that when Australia was the chair of the UN human rights commission they did not make one substantive statement about human rights violations in even one country.
Posted by: Marilyn Shepherd at April 10, 2005 08:41 PM

I think many have been diverted from the main issue here. Apparently as per Khristo it is now OK to destroy property for some or all of the following reasons:

* you think it's morally ok;
* you are acting out of your principles;
* you believe in non-violence (even if you don't behave in such a fashion).

Is this what you think is OK?

If not please voice your objections in the loudest terms. Don't let Marilyn Shepherd et al divert you with their repetitive dross.

Posted by: Adrian Rees at April 10, 2005 09:47 PM

Marilyn Shepherd, as opposed to the bang-up job being done by Libya in that particular chair, what's wrong with returning prohibited non-citizens to their country of origin if safe to do so?

Your continuing with the myth of Afghan origin for the Bakhtiari clan is a perfect example of the flaggelation of deceased ruminants so beloved of the activist set- having backed the wrong horse, they proceed to brutalise the poor creature once it's well and truly walked off the course.

As to the emotive and innacurate murder of babies in the womb, no doubt you would defend an Australian woman's right to late term abortion but oppose same in an overpopulated China; abortion of second children is not mandatory in China, but birth results in a higher level of taxation.

I'm not whingeing about anything - Section 42 of the Migration Act clearly over-rules the UNHCR guidelines, and that is what the government acts on.

As to the lifespan of a 104 year old, I have no idea; she might croak tomorrow, she may also pop a gasket and wind up in an ICU bed for a few years at a cost to taxpayers of $15,000 a day. Her family should be liable for her upkeep - she has never worked or paid tax in this country and should not be eligible for benefits. The idiot who issued her with a visa should also be up for a severe talking-to by their supervisors as well. You may think mention of money should not be made in relation to this subject, but in a lot of cases that is precisely what it's all about; I notice nations with little or no welfare systems are not primary objectives for asylum seekers.
Posted by: paul bickford at April 10, 2005 10:37 PM

Marilyn Shepherd, there you go sprouting rubbish again - "Deterrence is illegal under our law". What law would that be? Come one, exactly what law is that?

I have heard Government Ministers talk about deterrence; why aren't they in jail? It is government policy Marilyn. It has worked. You say "What have we proved". Well we have proved to all these queue jumpers that they will not get an easy ride into Australia.

You also make the ludicrous claim about asylum seekers "They are not criminals". Yet many have broken countless laws to get here. They have paid smugglers and paid bribes from Afghanistan to here just for a start

You feel perfectly comfortable though calling our Military "criminals". What a warped sense of loyalty you have.

Posted by: Sam Richards at April 10, 2005 11:04 PM

I thought on Webdiary we needed to have some form of proff to substantiate direct claims. If not, then we should have. If we do, Marilyn can you please provide me a link to the story about the murder of the baby in the womb you keep raising. Or the babies sent to the wrong country (I'm feeling your refering to the Baktayaris here, any proof they we're sent to the wrong country besides their word?). If you can't then please give us the facts of your argument, not the emotions.
Posted by: j wilshaw at April 11, 2005 12:35 AM

Jane Rayner: "Our opinion of either the (Iraqi) resistance movement or the regime in power is irrelevant because it is a civil conflict in a country not our own, but there will always outsiders who regard one side or the other as being right."

A bit like the wider international community's response to the pro-Apartheid forces in South Africa, I suppose? Or the role of the Ku Klux Klan in the southern USA? Or the role of the Sudanese government in Darfur?

These, like the so called "resistance", were also deeply racist minority-based political movements, active in "a civil conflict in a country not our own". Of course, the Ku Klux Klan didn't dish out quite the same level of violence that the Ba'athist-led and Islamicist factions of the insurgency. But it got close on occasions.

You say: "However, I think that it is right to be aghast at the casualties on both sides of the conflict and our contribution should be to bring the conflict a conclusion, which is satisfactory to both parties."

Given that, what would be the contribution to such a peaceful resolution of open, avowed expressions of support for the so-called "resistance" by John Pilger, Arandhati Roy and others of their ilk?

You speak of "the casualties on both sides" of what you rightly characterise as "a civil conflict".

Yet, I think that the Shia and Kurdish leadership have shown amazing forbearance in the face of outrageous acts of high-level violence by the insurgency, repeatedly offering the Sunni leadership a role in re-building Iraq. The behaviour of the two side of the civil conflict is not equivalent at all in my eyes.

I'm still looking forward to Justin Whelan's response on this topic.

Justin Obodie, at the risk of addressing a topic now firmly off the agenda, your assessment of the value of choppers as a front line tactical weapons platform is not too far off the mark. I mean, didn't some old Sunni geezer standing in a paddock bring down a Cobra with a blunderbuss?
Posted by: C Parsons at April 11, 2005 09:08 AM

Paul, I've stuck with this thread because I thought we were having a constructive argument about asylum seekers. You sound like an intelligent guy to me, so it's all the more disappointing that you insist on categorising people like me and others on this thread as 'bleating activists' sitting around in 'drafty terrace houses' and the rest.

It's apparently your variation on the standard dismissal of people who happen to disagree with the Howard Government as 'the chattering classes', 'elites', 'chardonnay sippers' etc. etc. It's as lazy and counter-productive as characterising people with your views as 'rednecks'.

You refuse to acknowledge that there is a substantial network of very ordinary Australians who have reacted with gut-level compassion to the plight of asylum seekers and refugees processed onshore by doing very tangible things to help them. There is no 'bleating' from most of these people, just a quiet determination to assist the most disenfranchised group of people in Australia. Say what you like about their views, but please no more lazy generalisations.

I actually think it is the generalisations, misnomers and downright slander of asylum seekers that has led to the current polarity in views on the issue. When I try to discuss the issue with my work collegues they insist on referring to asylum seekers as 'illegals'.

Paul, you seem to be doing something similar in characterising asylum seekers as economic refugees - illegal immigrants, in other words. Undoubtedly some of the people who arrive here in boats fall into this category, but I undersand that about 84% of all asylum seekers in Australia (Amnesty International, DIMIA) have been classified as refugees, against very rigorous criteria. This to me is the paradox of Australians who support mandatory detention for asylum seekers: most of them believe in offering assistance to refugees, yet they don't make the connection with asylum seekers. An asylum seeker is, after all, someone who claims to be a refugee. The Howard government has been very effective in demonising asylum seekers, no doubt about it.

Paul, your main problem seems to be with onshore processing. This strikes me as a very NIMBY perspective. So you're happy to accept people classified as refugees from other countries that have done the hard work in assessing them, but not if they turn up on our shores first? I think a little perspective is needed here: Pakistan, for example, has something like two million refugees. Can we really justify our indignation at a few thousand? I agree that Australia can't solve the world's problems, but processing a small number of refugees is hardly the same thing. It's messy, to be sure, but it's a hell of a lot messier in most other countries.

Finally, Paul, I pay taxes too. I would have thought that makes me just as qualified as you to have a view on how they are spent.
Posted by: David Curry at April 11, 2005 10:25 AM

David Curry, the taxpaying jibe was for Marilyn, a tax recipient rather than a contributor. As to the "drafty terrace house" line, it's admittedly a cheap shot, but I've been there on other issues in my (unlamented) social activist past.

There are various diverse groups involved in advocating for detainees, ranging in my view from the well-meaning but ill-informed, to the any issue will do set, and those acting out of self interest (Riverina fruit growers for example).

There are many people in need of our assistance, and I think we are a very generous and accomodating nation; the asylum-seeker channel has been hijacked by organised people-smugglers to get their clients an outcome they would otherwise be ineligible for, and those who are looking for any excuse to give Western democracies a free kick.

What is wrong with offshore processing? It becomes a level playing field then- onshore applicants have the advantage of the expense involved in detention/litigation/deportation having to be considered by government, as well as support from a small but vocal minority. Seems pretty unfair to the poor buggers in sub-Saharan Africa and other blighted areas who don't have the dibs to buy dodgy travel documents and pay snakeheads.
Posted by: Paul Bickford at April 11, 2005 11:40 AM

See here. Paul, meet Mrs Zhu Qing Ping, then google on the Ayers report like I did. Then tell me that an "abortion" at 38 weeks is not murder in the womb. This was a scandal for a time in 1999, before we got so cold.

I am not just saying the Bakhtiyari's are Afghans. The governnors of their provinces of Shahrestan and Ghazni say they are Afghans. Two expert language analyses say they are from Afghanistan. Two eyewitnesses from Afghanistan say they are from Afghanistan. Ali was proven to be from Afghanistan by ASIO when he first got here in 1999.

Certainly no-one ever said Roqia is from Pakistan. The Norwegian Refugee council confirmed her brother is an Afghan so therefore she is an Afghan.

Afghanistan is a catastrophe which is why no other refugees have been forced to go back there.

Fancy being Ali Bakhitiyari one day, illiterate farmer from Afghanistan, going about your life and trying to have your wife and kids released from a jail after not knowing they were here for 7 months.

The government certainly knew as you have read many, many times from people like Frank Brennan, Julian Burnside, Mary Crock and recently Steven Churches - all people who actually knew them.

How does an illiterate farmer become a Pakistani?

Easy - collect photocopies of false passports in Indonesia, "match" them to someone similar here - in Ali's case to a boys photo taken in 1975 - forget to translate the bit that said me matriculated in 1975 (when Ali was 14), "claim" that a non-existent brother is Ali's brother - make all sorts of other names up and feed them to stupid fools like Alan Ramsey and bingo - send it to an RRT member who is on side and there is no where else to go.

Except Ali is still illiterate, he is not a plumber or an electrician or a gas fitter - if he was he would be a welcome migrant.

Now for the queue jumping - that is about the most tiresome argument in the world. How does one decide which of the 12 million refugees in the world are waiting on some queue to come to Australia. Don't you read Paul? As to the taxpayer swipe - if that 's your best shot who cares.
Posted by: Marilyn Shepherd at April 11, 2005 01:10 PM

Sam Richards, I think I have missed something. When did Marilyn call our military "criminals"? Or is this something you assume because of our involvement in Iraq?

I might remind you of something too; just because you are a member of the armed services does not mean you are immune from prosecution for committing a crime. And if you are willing to defend the rule of law, even if it means accusing one of our own, it does not mean that you are not patriotic. Quite the opposite.

Posted by: Steve Turbit at April 11, 2005 01:39 PM

Steve Turbit, have a look in the thread to Australia's multiculturalism: time for assessment and renewal. Marilyn calls our military "criminals" on multiple occasions, and even when asked to clarify her position she repeats it.

As usual Marilyn hijacks every topic with her ludicrous rantings about asylum seekers.
Posted by: Sam Richards at April 11, 2005 02:05 PM

Afghanistan has had successful elections and is on its way to being more stable than Pakistan; the day I take the pronoucements of Burnside, Brennan et al seriously is when I start leaving my discarded choppers beneath my pillow for the tooth fairy. They are shameless polemics, who produce conjecture as fact; Burnside especially (as an officer of the court) should know better.

If there is such a raft of conclusive evidence on the Bakhtiari's Afghan heritage why was it never produced to DIMEIA or released in the media? The whole thing made advocates look like dills, but to continue to push this barrow is making them look unhinged. I notice the abovementioned oracles have clammed up on the Bakhtiari matter.

As to the 38 week abortion, once again I reiterate that it was performed at the behest of the mother, who made a finacial decision based on the increase in government charges for more than one child. I'm no fan of Communist China's draconian policies, but our rewarding of multiple birth mothers is equally daft. As illustrated here, China does not force abortions, but does issue financial penalties for non-compliance with the one child policy, and rewards for compliance - heavy handed, but what you would expect from an authoritarian regime with a population problem.

BTW, I read extensively. I also don't take everything I read (or am told) at face value.
Posted by: Paul Bickford at April 11, 2005 02:13 PM

C Parsons, I couldn't possibly guess what form contributions from John Pilger, Arandhati Roy or you and others of your ilk would take for a peaceful conclusion to the current civil unrest in Iraq. Do you know what their contribution would be? Should we then all bow to your omniscience?

You can only ever know your own feelings in any circumstance you encounter and even then it may take some time to come to a firm stance. You can't second second-guess other people's position on anything, particularly people you don't know at all and I'm assuming that you don't know either John Pilger or Arandhati Roy.

Perhaps they have spoken to more Iraqi people than you or I could ever hope to imagine let alone poll on their reaction to what has happened in Iraq recently and made their decision accordingly. Then again, possibly they haven't. What is concrete is your opposition to the position they take.

As for the KKK, I don't know if they regarded themselves as a resistance group and I don't think they really fall into that category. They don't seem to have the same set of political objectives as other ultra right-wing groups in the States. Their main objective seems to be terrorising non-whites, particularly African Americans, to stop them participating in the political and economic life of the country. "Keeping the Niggers in their place", if you will. However they don't seem hell-bent on overthrowing the government by force. The ultra right-wing groups do have the overthrow of government as one of their main objectives, coupled with pathological racism. But I'll lay odds that they don't reckon they're insurgents or terrorists, rather that they are the true patriots. Once again, the label depends on which side you're on, Them or Us.

Paul Bickford, countries with little or nothing in the way of relief systems are probably very much the same as the country they are fleeing. In other words, very dangerous places where going to the shop or work (if there is any), or reading a book if you're lucky enough to have even a rudimentary education, can get you killed or chucked in the slammer for a little light torture. So although you may find it amazing that your average refugee wouldn't choose such a delightful new home, the rest of us reckon that it makes sense to keep going.

Another thought. If all these asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran are just economic refugees and bludgers trying to take advantage of such generous people as yourself, why haven't they been arriving on our shores in ever-increasing numbers for the last 200 odd years, or indeed well before the first convict set foot on the soil here? Why is it only recently that they have felt the need to leave their countries in droves?

Life has always been extremely tough for ordinary people in Afghanistan in particular, but until now they haven't abandoned the land of their birth in such numbers. So enlighten us, why is it so?

BTW, let's hope that you don't develop a serious, potentially life-threatening or debilitating illness like Crohn's disease, for instance. People might reckon you're only doing it for a bludge on the taxpayer.
Posted by: Jane Rayner at April 11, 2005 05:07 PM

Jane, I'm self-insured. I've made sure I am never reliant on something as unreliable, fickle and incompetent as government for anything.

Afghans have been returning to Afghanistan in record numbers, not leaving; as to places with limited welfare being unsafe, having travelled extensively throughout Asia and other places, I would regard Malaysia, Thailand and most of the rest of SE Asia to be safer than parts of major capitals in Australia, and certainly a few communities in Far Nth Queensland and the NT. Most boat arrivals had to travel through these countries to reach a jump-off point for SIEV travel; most of these countries have sizable Islamic populations as well, and thus a cultural kinship - they don't provide a generous welfare system and family reunion schemes etc.

Certainly many Afghans work; that is not the point- I could equally point to the Iraqi population of the Riverina who regard fruit picking as below their educational and social station.

The point is there must be a reason why safe Islamic nations are bypassed in order to arrive in Australia, and despite constant denials, there are only a set number or refugee places allocated every year (12,000 I believe) and every visa issued to an onshore claimant is one that is not availble to an offshore applicant - not what I call equal opportunity.
Posted by: paul bickford at April 11, 2005 06:57 PM

Paul, don't you read anything at all beside the government spin? For the last time - we don't have any obligation to protect refugees overseas, only those here. The government knows that.

Tell me again just why you think muslims are a large amorphous blob that accepts any old muslim? Actually on the refugee application forms Malaysia and Indonesia are listed as countries that are exempt from consideration as refugee countries.

What do you mean one who comes takes someone else's place? Go on, explain to us all how that works. Paul, it is a stupid lie. Always was.
Posted by: Marilyn Shepherd at April 11, 2005 07:08 PM

(posted on Margo's request)

Announcing: The Movie Spell Me Freedom

... as shown at the premiere at the Perth Social Forum, with Perth refugees as actors ...

Spell Me Freedom signifies a first for an Australian movie where refugees as actors build, re-build and tell the story that should be told again and again to an Australian and international audience.

Spell Me Freedom is an amazing outcome of the truly felt emergency on the part of director Dean Israelite - a South African resident studying in Perth - with Australia's detention policies, and a sometimes raw and graphic capture of essential moments describing the horror of the camps.

Spell Me Freedom (on DVD - 'minus R', 7min18 secs, $25.00 plus shipping): From a collaboration between media students and refugees comes the sharply crafted short story of life in Australia's detention camps and its darkest side: lip stitching, drinking shampoo, the desperation of life inside and the dilemma of an escape, followed by the inevitable post-traumatic flashbacks.

"I think it is a terrific film. It moved me. It had a truth about it. The subject is so important - vitally important and nationally important because it exposes the fundamental sham of our "fair-go" democracy. I'm not sure, but I think it may well be the MAIN, the BIG issue." (Award-winning filmmaker Paul Roberts, Fremantle WA)

For more information and to place your order.

Jack H Smit, Project SafeCom Inc.
Posted by: Jack H Smit at April 11, 2005 08:18 PM

Marilyn: "we don't have any obligation to protect refugees overseas, only those here. The government knows that."

I never thought of that - great and well put and factually true. On that note, Paul Bickford: "Most boat arrivals had to travel through these countries to reach a jump-off point for SIEV travel; most of these countries have sizable Islamic populations as well, and thus a cultural kinship - they don't provide a generous welfare system and family reunion schemes etc."

Sounds nice Paul, but a refugee intends to claim asylum under UN Refugee Convention clauses in a country that has signed that convention. Do you really think they are happy to be "stuck" in a country that's not a Refugee Convention signatory?

A refugee's journey is not finished until he or she has reached a UN country, and status has been assessed and recognised, and UN obligations have been adhered to in this process. UNHCR recognises therefore, that refugee status "does exist prior to and independent of a State's assessment of this status", and UNHCR states this because it knows how much political wrangling and manipulation of the convention and refugee status and assessment goes on in member countries.

Paul, and for that matter some others, you seem to have swallowed government spin hook, line and sinker, and somehow, you keep regurgitating that stuff. I tell you what: you pick a fight with Marilyn, and you may get abuse, and even bile and vitriole from Marilyn, but on factual material I agree with Marilyn almost 99% of the time, not because I want to agree, but because she's done most of her homework.

It is not a good idea to pick a fight with Marilyn for that reason, but I'm not surprised that the level of debate in this thread is deteriorating to gutter attacks and attacks on person: those of you who attack Marilyn have, generally speaking, one or two things in common: 1) you sell the government line, and 2) you are ill-informed about Australia's obligations under the UN Convention. The fact that asylum claimants on this list keep being referred to as "migrants" or "illegals" or "unauthorised arrivals" is the simplest level of evidence for it.

So: who's afraid of John Howard? Or should we start another labeling excercise: "The Howard Lovers"?

Let me restate: "UNHCR states this because it knows how much political wrangling and manipulation of the convention and refugee status and assessment goes on in member countries."

Maybe those of you who think John Howard is such a hero on asylum policy, could return to the mandate of Webdiary: a debate about Australian issues with openness and discernment in order to get a government critique going: after all, we know that Margo is very, very critical of Howard. So, if you love Howard so much you're not prepared to criticise him, what on earth would you be doing on Webdiary? Margo is your host folks. Stop being neo-con stooges, you're on the wrong planet.
Posted by: Jack H Smit at April 11, 2005 08:47 PM

Marilyn Shepherd- it's simple arithmetic really; 12,000 places are issued for humanitarian visas per year- one onshore application is successful, leaving 11,999. Try a calculator. Onshore applicants are seeking an advantage over offshore applicants, and you are aiding and abetting them. All current detainees have failed in their applications in any case, and should be deported. Re your comments on another thread regarding overstayers remaining in the community, when they are caught they are deported- these was a ruckus over a family of Samoans being deported from Sydney a few weeks ago, having overstayed about 6 years. Not only are they deported, they are billed for the cost and cannot apply for any form of visa for five years; if the debt to the Commonwealth remains unpaid they can never have a visa issued. Same as undocumented boat arrivals- there is no preferential treatment; in fact the vast majority of deportees are British citizens and NZ citizens with convictions. The only real duty of a feralised government is to provide security- border, national an personal- all other activities of the Commonwealth are discretionary (and in many cases unnecessary).
Posted by: paul bickford at April 11, 2005 09:00 PM

Jack Smit- I have little interest in peddling the Commonwealth's line; if anything I find them vascillating and weak on this issue. Marilyn Shepherd obviously knows the UN convention inside out, but appears willfully ignorant of statute laid down in the Migration Act- UN conventions still (thankfully) do not over-rule statute, and despite attempts to make them do so through the Federal and High Court Systems, as long as statute is constitutional it remains the final arbiter. This of course is beside the point, as all current detainees have been tested and failed to meet the criteria of the UNHCR for refugee status; they are prohibited non-citizens, and subject to removal. This would occur quicker and with less trauma if activists didn't keep telling the poor sods they have a hope in hell of staying. I note that you seem purterbed there is opinion on Webdiary that doesn't follow the party line- is this a site for rational and polite discussion, or merely a propaganda organ for the perpetually outraged? The oracles of tolerance don't appear particularly tolerant at times.
Posted by: Paul Bickford at April 12, 2005 08:57 AM

Jane Rayner: "I couldn't possibly guess what form contributions from John Pilger, Arandhati Roy or you and others of your ilk would take for a peaceful conclusion to the current civil unrest in Iraq. Do you know what their contribution would be?"

Yes, they have both expressly stated their support for the so-called "resistance", despite the "resistance" policy of murdering civilians.

Pilger expressly stated that "we have no choice" but to support the so-called "resistance" despite their targeting civilians in an interview with Green Left Weekly

On August 16 last year, Roy expressly excused the Iraqi "resistance" of murdering civilians on the grounds that "if we were to only support pristine movements, then no resistance will be worthy of our purity."

In other words, Left wing "purity" alone will be sufficient to confer a mitigating benediction on the murderers (history repeating itself there as both tragedy AND farce). And again, "we" have no choice.

Their position on this issue is a matter of clear, documented public record, and you will note I provide only the most impeccable Australian left wing sources in support of that statement. Please read their remarks in full.

Jane Rayner: "As for the KKK, I don't know if they regarded themselves as a resistance group and I don't think they really fall into that category."

Yes, they did consider themselves a resistance group, and like their modern far-right Sunni-based and Islamicist counterparts in the Iraqi "resistance", they used violence expressly directed against targets in their homeland according to their racial profile and/or religious affiliations.

Their purpose was identical: to resist post-war occupation AND to thwart a political dispensation with a broader demographic and ethnic basis.
Posted by: C Parsons at April 12, 2005 09:25 AM

Thanks C Parsons for the follow-up questions, and apologies for my delay - I have been too busy to check-in to Webdiary for a few days.

Firstly, a clarification: Civil Disobedience is the intentional breaking of one or more laws by nonviolent means to draw attention to a greater injustice, with the full acceptance of the legal consequences of the action.

Civil disobedience is by definition non-violent (with the internal debate I mentioned about whether property damage can be non-violent). Therefore, whatever the Iraqi insurgency is, it is not civil disobedience.

Iraq is a tricky question. Let me change the context to demonstrate. If the Chinese government invaded Australia in order to secure our strategically important mineral resources, would we have the right to use violence to get rid of them? Most (I gather) would say yes. Now remember they have a lot of troops and let's say for the sake of the argument they are pretty well equipped and trained and killing them is not tactically viable because they have wiped out our standing defence forces. What if you were convinced the *only* way included killing other Australians, in particular those who were collaborating with the Chinese? To make governing unviable and hope international and domestic pressure forces them to withdraw? Gets tricky, huh.

Personally, I am convinced that the fundamental flaw in the above scenario is the assumption that violence is the only (or always best) strategic method of resistance. I'm not great at summarising why except to point to the examples of successful nonviolent resistance in history and refer you to orgs like the Albert Einstein Institution (eee earlier post) where they can give you academic-level, but easy to read, analysis of this stuff, much of it written by former Army strategic officers. Interestingly, these AEI folks are interested in NVDA primarily for its strategic value, not its moral value, as compared to say Gandhi or King.

Back to your question: no, I do not support the Iraqi resistance because I am morally opposed to violence. I do, however, support the notion of Iraqi resistance itself. Let's face it - Iraq is a client state of USA with limited sovereignty and an imposed economic liberalisation program that was the "wish list" of global capital (The Economist). "Freedom for Iraq" will not include the freedom to kick out American military bases or re-nationalise the oil industry. I didn't like Saddam Hussein, but then I remember not liking him back in the early 80s when "we" sold him chemical weapons to use on Iranians and Kurds.

And remember Scott Burchill (I think) wrote a great piece around the time of the Iraqi election about how all the good democratic progress was largely driven by al-Sistani, and resisted by the Coalition Provisional Authority. How did al-Sistani prove his power? By getting people on the streets in nonviolent protest...
Posted by: Justin Whelan at April 12, 2005 10:55 AM

Indeed, Paul Bickford, the UN Convention has no binding or overriding influence over the Migration Act. Neither has International Law - or for that matter, any other national or international conventions.

They are "gentlemen's agreements" for all intents and purposes and they lack of course any legal power.

Therefore it's regrettable that the current government has clearly intended, in its raft of Migration Act amendments, to override clauses and statutes from the UN Refugee Convention and ignore its demands to Australia as a UN Convention signatory.

Some points about your remark: "all current detainees have been tested and failed to meet the criteria of the UNHCR for refugee status".

1) in terms of Australia's assessment as to whether they're refugees or not, it pays to know that the "primary assessment" can be and is conducted by once single public servant working for DIMIA.

2) the Refugee Review Tribunal is one single person who reviews the case made under that primary assessment. That single person does not have to be physically present to review the case, and the case can only be reviewed, all the way to the High Court, in terms of whether the rules of the Migration Act have been adhered to - ALL of the reviews measure against that initial primary assessment of that single public servant working for DIMIA.

3) only two other avenues are available if all of the above fails:

3a) the becoming available of NEW information and the submission to the Minister (non-reviewable) of the NEW information (that's called a 48B application)


3b) the request for the minister to personally intervene in a case and using discretion, grant a humanitarian visa (a 417).

Many, if not most, of those you mention in your post, currently in detention, are awaiting the outcome of 3a or 3b --->>> consequently they are still not at the end of the road of their processing, and it's debatable whether you can or cannot call them "failed refugee claimants". That's the line Vanstone spins in the media, yet every months several are released on protection or humanitarian visas from Baxter.

Below is the story of one such men currently in the Baxter detention centre.

Finally, your "the oracles of tolerance don't appear particularly tolerant at times". Yep, my tolerance sometimes wears thin. There have been dozens of threads on asylum issues on Webdiary, and most of the time, while the same people who write in support of Australia's policies and treatment of refugees are present at most of these threads, the same ground is covered time and again, the same arguments are needing to be repeated. And my patience sometimes wears thin. I'm sorry.


When is a true asylum seeker not a refugee?

From RAC Canberra
12 April 2005

Answer: when the reason he will be killed is not written into the definition the government uses to decide if he will be given protection.

Jamal's Situation gives rise to the above question. Why does an Iraqi Kurd have to sit in detention with the taxpayer paying huge detention and court costs when everyone knows what the situation is like in Iraq right now and when the UN says people in his position should be given protection?

One of the problems for the Iraqis is that many of them do not fit the narrow definition of "REFUGEE" of the convention.

The African and South American conventions have a much broader definition of "refugee" but the Geneva convention was a response to the Nazi persecution and left out some forms or reasons for persecution simply because it did not imagine them at the time.

So even if it were certain a person would be killed on return, he might not get killed for a "convention reason" and so he might not be eligible for refugee status in Australia. The United Nations recommends what many other counties do to cover this problem: offer humane "complementary" protection visas.

Instead our Minister goes on national TV and says "these people have exhausted all their appeals and have been found not to be refugees", painting a picture of such asylum seekers as somehow deceitful and not in need of protection.

And so for people like Jamal - they must wait and get more and more ill and hopeless while the Minister keeps them in detention and fights to prove they are not refugees. It is another national disgrace that so many Iraqis and others are still wasting away in detention and so much money is being poured into keeping people ill and detained without hope.

A friend of Canberra RAC is in touch regularly with some Iraqis who returned "voluntarily" last year and who tell of the terrible life threatening conditions they face each day and how, while it used to be the poor who starved, now it is the middle class as well as their businesses and employment have closed down and they have nothing to support themselves.

One returned Iraqi has just taken up a job as an interpreter for the Americans even though the person who held this job before him was killed because of his association with the Americans. He knows the risks but he says he has to try to get food for his children.
Posted by: Jack H Smit at April 12, 2005 02:22 PM

Thanks for the links to the GLW, C Parsons. Interesting how context is everything. I got the opposite impression when reading their comments. I thought both Pilger and Roy were saying yes, a lot of the crap the Iraqi insurgency is doing is appalling, but the crap the USA is doing is worse. There's a kind of basic utilitarian logic, the kind that says it's okay to kill a person to stop them in the act of mass murder. Note the language: "we have no choice", "if we were to only support pristine movements, then no resistance will be worthy of our purity." These are not blinkered cheerleaders.

And FWIW, Roy is right about supporting non-pristine movements: the ANC weren't all saints, neither was CNRT (Timor Leste resistance umbrella group). And yet most people in Australia, rightly I think, supported them in their struggle for freedom against oppression.

I particularly note Roy's immediate next sentence to the one you quoted: "Before we prescribe how a pristine Iraqi resistance must conduct their secular, feminist, democratic, nonviolent battle, we should shore up our end of the resistance by forcing the US and its allied governments to withdraw from Iraq."

In other words, when we've done everything we can - not just writing letters once a month or attending an anti-war march back in 2003 but committing ourselves to doing whatever it takes, nonviolently - to get Australia out of Iraq, then - and only then - do we have the moral authority to condemn the Iraqi resistance for its callous violence.

Some people will decide, like Khristo, to commit civil disobedience as part of that strategy. Many won't, or feel they cannot do so personally for practical reasons, and will stick to lawful protest. That's what diverse movements are all about. It would be a good start if people could make sure they do SOMETHING.
Posted by: Justin Whelan at April 12, 2005 05:26 PM

Jack Smit, in other words the example you have given would return to face the same risks as every other Iraqi? We don't really have the facilities for some 15 million people. I also find it difficult to understand what problem there would be in the return of an Iraqi Kurd now - the Kurdish areas are the most secure in the country, and Iraq has a Kurdish president. By you reasoning, we should be accepting former Ba'athist terrorists as refugees, as they are in dire peril of death and injury from US and Iraqi forces whenever they pop up to point an RPG.

Justin Whelan, your moral equivalence is astounding.
Posted by: Paul Bickford at April 13, 2005 11:12 AM

Paul B, can you explain what you mean by "your moral equivalence is astounding"? Are you talking about my comments concerning civil disobedience, nonviolence and the damage to property debate, the right of Iraqis to resist invasion or something else? I thought I was making clear moral distinctions in each case, so I am curious to know your thoughts.
Posted by: Justin Whelan at April 13, 2005 02:32 PM

Justin, perhaps the statement that the current campaign of terrorism by El Que'da jihadists and Ba'ath party leftovers can only be decried if all legitimate forms of opposition to the Iraq campaign (or liberation as I see it) have tried and failed.

I'm sure Iraqis who've had family members blown to bits by "resistance" thugs appreciate your dedication to opposing a military operation that happened two years ago, and would really be happy if the sods succeeded, reinstalling a Ba'ath regime or using Iraq as the starting point for the new Caliphate. I refer you to an item by the new Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, on what his duly elected government is offering to insurgents - a lot more than what the insurgency is offering Iraqis.
Posted by: Paul Bickford at April 13, 2005 04:00 PM

Thanks Paul, I didn't say that. I agreed with Arundhati Roy that we need to do everything we can to oppose the occupation from our end before we have the moral authority to criticise the methods of others at their end. On reflection, that may be too strong, perhaps it would be better to simply say we would have "more moral authority..."

BTW, what is your answer to my hypothetical Chinese invasion scenario?

What I was trying to say, and maybe I did it badly, is that I believe Iraqi people have an in principle right to resist American occupation (do you?).

I don't support Iraqis blowing up other Iraqis. But you should remember that more Iraqis have died from US/UK munitions than from insurgent munitions. To paraphrase your comment, I'm sure the "Iraqis who've had family members blown to bits by "liberator" thugs appreciate your dedication" to their 'freedom'".

Your logic appears to be that it's okay for a uniformed soldier to kill an innocent Iraqi but it's not okay for a guerilla fighter to kill an innocent Iraqi. From where I'm sitting, that's two innocent people dead.

I should say at this point, that I think many of the Iraqi government folks are doing a fantastic job under pretty bad circumstances. All power to them. That said, the USA has imposed severe limits on Iraqi sovereignty and retains de facto veto power over what happens next.

What I would hope for the Iraqi people: a stable, democratic, power-sharing government that is accountable and responsive to the needs of all its citizens. Neither the insurgency nor the occupation are assisting that process from what I can see.

My comments about where our moral concern should lie were based on the fact that as Australians, our primary repsonsibility is what our government and our defence personnel are doing. Sorry if that was not clear.

Hmmm...we seem to have gone way off topic from Khristo's civil disobedience, huh?
Posted by: Justin Whelan at April 14, 2005 10:32 AM

C Parsons, the articles in your post state Pilger's and Roy's positions on the Iraqi resistance/insurgent movements.

Roy does say that a peaceful solution cannot begin while foreign invaders remain in Iraq. This does not seem to be unreasonable and if it hastens an end to the civil conflict, it can only be good. It may be that she has a take on the situation we can't appreciate or understand.

So why does the US etc need to remain in Iraq? Surely it would now be best to let the Iraqis get on with running their own country without continued interference from Big Brother. After all, they can make it abundantly clear that they will always lend them a hand if need be.

Or is the prospect of all that oil and lucrative contracts for big corporate players the real reason for overstaying the dubious welcome?

Whether you agree or not, their views are as legitimate as yours; you see things from diametrically opposite positions.

BTW, I still disagree with you on the KKK, but we'll just have to agree to disagree on that point, I think.
Posted by: Jane Rayner at April 15, 2005 06:23 PM