One person’s take on what March in March was all about

Over the last weekend (15-17 March) hundreds of thousands of people across Australia got together and marched against the Tony Abbott-leg government, under the banner of March in March.

There were many questions about who organised March in March and what were its motives and supposed outcomes. There was some quite good discussion about these questions in the lead up to March in March. But across the weekend hundreds of thousands of Australians marched.

They marched for various reasons.

I was fortunate enough to attend Melbourne’s March in March which started out at the State Library before heading off to Treasury Gardens. As it turned out there were tens of thousands of Australians packed into the gardens out the front of the State Library and around Melbourne Central. Some estimates suggest there were between 40,000 and 50,000 people.

It was a fantastic gathering of people from all walks of life and political persuasions.

I soon realised it didn’t really matter what March in March was all about but rather that this collective expression needed to happen.

People that had never met each other were discussing why they were there. And it turns out people had a variety of reasons but the theme was definitely overwhelming; the Abbott government is unsatisfactory and hurting people. It seemed that the people I was surrounded by were mostly there because of our treatment of refugees; our country going backwards on climate change; the expansion of CSG and opening up heritage forests to logging; and the attacks on single parents, students, aged and disability pensions.

There were others that I knew were there for those reasons and the attacks on workers’ rights and unions; and the education.

Personally I was there because:

  • Our country is going backwards in tackling climate change and isn’t moving towards an economy powered by clean energy and driven by innovation;
  • Our government has abandoned science;
  • Our government’s reckless austerity measures in the face of all evidence saying austerity is not necessary – ensuring the most vulnerable are put further at risk;
  • The policies of Labor and LNP towards refugees now sees some of the cruelest policies being implemented;
  • Of the attacks on workers’ rights and unions;
  • Our government doesn’t value the investment that education is in our population;
  • Of the increasing attacks on our digital rights and the implementation of a second-rate broadband network;
  • Of a government that panders to mining magnates and media moguls;
  • Our government seems to regularly embarrass us on the international stage;
  • A seeming lack of detail in articulating any kind of plan or vision for Australia without resorting to three word slogans.

There are definitely more but then this post would be very long and probably quite boring to read.

However I’m also confident that you can add your own reasons to this list for going to a March in March event held near you.

In the end it didn’t really matter why people were there; just that they did turn out to make this massive collective expression. I know it made me feel extremely positive and that the issues I work on and campaign for do matter and do make a difference. It was something that everyone there could enjoy – that they weren’t alone in feeling that something was very wrong with our federal and state governments.

The challenge, as noted by others, is for people working on progressive issues to turn this collective expression into further action.

For what it’s worth:

Here’s some video I took from the rally – this was well after the march had started but it was so massive it took some time before we got moving. Fortunately some street performers kept us entertained and revved up.

NOTE: This is a slightly altered version of the original post published here.

Will the real Scott Morrison please stand up?

Anyone who listened to Scott Morrison’s maiden speech to Parliament in February 2008 would have been heartened that a man of such humility and humanity could one day be a political heavyweight in our country, especially of one who belonged to the Coalition. They had, after all, suffered a massive defeat at the hands of an electorate after twelve years of Howard’s mean spirited government.

After Howard’s demonisation of asylum seekers it was a breath of fresh air to hear someone new in the party speak of his love for all people and their right to share our country. One could have easily been lulled into believing this man could one day become the Minister for Immigration and through his beliefs restore Australia’s long-gone goodwill of fellow beings. Here are some extracts of his speech:

It is with humility and a deep sense of appreciation to the electors of Cook that I rise to make my maiden speech in this House. Today I wish to pay tribute to those who have been instrumental in my journey and to share the values and vision that I intend to bring to this House. I begin by acknowledging the first Australians, in particular the Gweigal people of the Dharawal nation of southern Sydney, who were the first to encounter Lieutenant James Cook, the namesake of my electorate, at Kurnell almost 240 years ago. I also commence by expressing my sincere appreciation to the people and families of the Sutherland shire in my electorate of Cook for placing their trust in me on this first occasion.

The shire community is a strong one. It is free of pretension and deeply proud of our nation’s heritage. Like most Australians, we are a community knit together by our shared commitment to family, hard work and generosity. We share a deep passion for our local natural environment and embrace what Teddy Roosevelt called the vigorous life, especially in sports. It is also a place where the indomitable entrepreneurial spirit of small business has flourished, particularly in recent years. In short, the shire is a great place to live and raise a family. As the federal member for Cook, I want to keep it that way by ensuring that Australia remains true to the values that have made our nation great and by keeping our economy strong so that families and small business can plan for their future with confidence.

At a local level, families—in particular carers—will come under increasing pressure because of the inability of local services to meet the changing needs of an ageing population. The character of our local area is also threatened by a failure to deliver critical state infrastructure such as the F6 extension for our current population, let alone the population growth targets set by the state government for the future.

On the Kurnell peninsula, the modern birthplace of our nation, we must reverse 150 years of environmental neglect, most recently demonstrated by the construction of Labor’s desalination plant—a plant that New South Wales does not need and the shire community does not want.

We must also combat the negative influences on our young people that lead to depression, suicide, self-harm, abuse and antisocial behaviour that in turn threatens our community. We need to help our young people make positive choices for their lives and be there to help them get their lives back on track when they fall.

For the past nine years, the Hon. Bruce Baird has ably represented the Cook electorate. Bruce Baird is a man of achievement, integrity, faith and, above all, compassion. He has set a high standard. I thank him for his service, his personal guidance over many years and for being here today.

From my faith I derive the values of loving-kindness, justice and righteousness, to act with compassion and kindness, acknowledging our common humanity and to consider the welfare of others; to fight for a fair go for everyone to fulfil their human potential and to remove whatever unjust obstacles stand in their way, including diminishing their personal responsibility for their own wellbeing; and to do what is right, to respect the rule of law, the sanctity of human life and the moral integrity of marriage and the family. We must recognise an unchanging and absolute standard of what is good and what is evil.

Australia is a strong nation. It is the product of more than 200 years of sacrifice—most significantly by those who have served in our defence forces, both here and overseas, and by those who have fallen, particularly those who have fallen most recently, and to whom I express my profound gratitude. But a strong country is also one that is at peace with its past. I do not share the armband view of history, black or otherwise. I like my history in high-definition, widescreen, full, vibrant colour. There is no doubt that our Indigenous population has been devastated by the inevitable clash of cultures that came with the arrival of the modern world in 1770 at Kurnell in my electorate. This situation is not the result of any one act but of more than 200 years of shared ignorance, failed policies and failed communities. And we are not alone: our experience is shared by every other modern nation that began this way. There is much for us all to be sorry for. Sadly, those who will be most sorry are the children growing up in Indigenous communities today, whose life chances are significantly less than the rest of us.

We can choose to sit in judgement on previous generations, thinking we would have done it differently. But would we? Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Nor can we compare the world we live in today with the world that framed the policies of previous generations. So let us not judge. Rather, having apologised for our past—as I was proud to do in this place yesterday—let us foster a reconciliation where true forgiveness can emerge and we work together to remove the disadvantage of our Indigenous communities, not out of a sense of guilt or recompense for past failures but because it is the humane and right thing to do. Having said this, we cannot allow a national obsession with our past failures to overwhelm our national appetite for celebrating our modern stories of nationhood. We must celebrate our achievements and acknowledge our failures at least in equal measure. We should never feel the need to deny our past to embrace our future.

We are a prosperous people, but this prosperity is not solely for our own benefit; it comes with a responsibility to invest back into our communities. Our communities are held together by the selfless service of volunteers. We must work to value their service and encourage more of our community to join the volunteer ranks and assist local organisations engage and retain today’s volunteers, particularly from younger generations. We must also appreciate that our not-for-profit sector has the potential to play a far greater role in the delivery of community services than is currently recognised. As global citizens, we must also recognise that our freedom will always be diminished by the denial of those same freedoms elsewhere, whether in Australia or overseas.

We must engage as individuals and communities to confront these issues—not just as governments. We have all heard the call to make poverty history. Let us do this by first making poverty our own personal business.

The Howard government increased annual spending on foreign aid to $3.2 billion. The new government has committed to continue to increase this investment and I commend it for doing so. However, we still must go further. If we doubt the need, let us note that in 2007 the total world budget for global aid accounted for only one-third of basic global needs in areas such as education, general health, HIV-AIDS, water treatment and sanitation. This leaves a sizeable gap. The need is not diminishing, nor can our support. It is the Australian thing to do.

What a wonderful human being. One who recognised injustice to the first Australians; one who felt for those suffering overseas and one who believed in Australia’s ability to open up its arms to the underprivileged of the world.

What happened to him?

First, as our Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship  and now as our Minister for Immigration and Border Protection we hear these words (not in chronological order):

“I have always been angry at people making moral judgements…just because we took a different position from them”.

. . .

More than 30,000 refugees living in Australia will be denied permanent settlement and have their appeal rights stripped, under a new Coalition policy released on Friday.

Mr Morrison said the system would, in part, be modelled on Howard government policies and a system currently operating in the United Kingdom.

He said it would prevent the “90% of those arriving receiving permanent visas”, and address “a backlog of more than 30,000 illegal boat arrivals” already waiting for permanent visas.

. . .

Liberal Party immigration spokesman Scott Morrison has taken the demonisation of refugees and immigrants to new depths. Morrison called last month for asylum seekers living in the community under the Labor government’s punitive temporary visa scheme to be publicly identified, forced to report regularly to the police and placed under unspecified “behavioural protocols.”

. . .

This is an appalling failure from this government where we see other governments like the Government of Canada acting to introduce temporary visas.  They understand the need to take permanent residency off the table.

. . .

Well, I think the real point here is that the Gillard Government is known globally as a soft touch on this issue and people will go where the door is open and that’s certainly the case under this Government.
. . .

THE opposition immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, urged the shadow cabinet to capitalise on the electorate’s growing concerns about “Muslim immigration”, “Muslims in Australia” and the “inability” of Muslim migrants to integrate.

Sources say Mr Morrison told the shadow cabinet meeting on December 1 at the Ryde Civic Centre that the Coalition should ramp up its questioning of “multiculturalism” and appeal to deep voter concerns about Muslim immigration and “inability” to integrate.

. . .

The Coalition won’t give up the ‘tow back the boats‘ line, even as it falls apart under scrutiny. It’s dangerous, illegal and threatens our key bilateral relationship with Indonesia.

Morrison’s media strategy is simple, but effective. Every time a boat arrives, he issues a press release and makes himself available for media comment. The line is always the same: we’ll tow them back. On 5 July, for instance, he wrote that “if elected, the Coalition will implement a full suite of proven border protection policies including turning boats around.

I could go on. And on. And on. The internet is filled with online material providing examples of what has become of Scott Morrison (look them up if you need more convincing). He isn’t behaving like the “man of such humility and humanity” that spoke to Parliament in February 2008. The new Scott Morrison seems as mean spirited as Howard himself. It’s hard to believe that the Scott Morrison of today is the same as the one of five and a half years ago.

Will the real Scott Morrison please stand up?

I’m afraid he has.

Give Tony more rope

I was often bemused as to why the Government has never set out to publicly undermine Tony Abbott. Let’s face it, he offers as much weaponry to the underminer as he does to the cartoonists; his idiocy is as obvious to an observer as are his big ears and lycras.

Then the penny dropped. Nobody needs to undermine Tony Abbott while he’s doing such a brilliant job of undermining himself.

It’s like the old adage give a person enough rope and they’ll hang themselves. Tony is certainly grasping for more rope. He’ll soon be gasping for more air, literally.

He’s going to hang himself. Every time he opens his mouth the noose is tightened.

And just how is he managing to undermine himself?

To speak, and know absolutely nothing about the subject on which you are speaking or have little knowledge of the audience to whom you are speaking, can make one appear ridiculous.

Here are just a handful (of the many) subjects that Tony knows nothing about:

Reality

A soon-to-be released book titled Tony Speaks provides us with a sample of just how out of touch with reality Tony is. By reality, I mean the ideologies held by the wider community; one that is no longer under the trance of Christianity or prisoner to racist and sexist doctrines. Here are those samples:

Tony speaks – on honesty: “One man’s lie is another man’s judgment call.”

Poverty: “We just can’t stop people from being homeless if that’s their choice.”

Climate change: “Absolute crap.”

Divorce: “Come 2020, I’m confident that . . . families won’t break up any more often, because old-fashioned notions about making the most of imperfect situations will have made something of a comeback.”

Female equality: “I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.”

Christian teaching: “Jesus knew that there was a place for everything and it is not necessarily everyone’s place to come to Australia.”

On the basis of those gems alone, it confirms Tony Abbott is divorced from reality.

Interest Rates

On this subject Tony Abbott appears not only a dill but also the consummate hypocrite. In April he said:

The Federal Government’s economic policy is to blame for the latest interest rate rise . . .

Does the man think we are stupid? Or perhaps he thought Howard and Costello were stupid. After all, they presided over 11 straight interest rate rises before the found themselves out of Government in 2011.

Interest rates have been falling during 2012 and in Tony Abbott’s view this must be a good thing. It surely must be good for the Government. It certainly must be good for home-buyers; many of whom would be keeping a more interested watch on their bank statements that the thoughts of Tony Abbott.

He continued:

The best way to restore confidence and get interest rates down was to ”change the government as soon as possible.”

”As long as we have the current government, we’re going to have bad economic policy and we’re going to have pressure on the forgotten families of Australia.”

Tony, don’t be an idiot.

I wonder if he ever stops to think what might be the consequences of his actions or words before he performs or delivers them. Those little moments when most people pause to consider the ramifications of what they are about to say, are lost on Mr Abbott. He just opens his mouth and talks, and in doing so, reveals himself again and again to be the consummate hypocrite.  Or two-faced.  Make your own call on this example below.

Citizenry

A surf lesson turned into a political dialogue when Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott took an Afghan refugee for a paddle at Sydney’s Manly beach.

Mr Abbott had donned his infamous budgie smugglers, but they were soon covered by a wetsuit when he gave the organised surf lesson to Riz Wakil.

The lesson was sponsored by advocacy group GetUp! after it raised $16,100 to bid on the surf lesson prize at last year’s Canberra press gallery’s mid-winter charity ball.

Mr Abbott made no bones about the fact Mr Wakil had arrived in Australia by boat in 1999.

“He’s an Australian now,” Mr Abbott told said today. “To my way of thinking he’s no longer an illegal boat person.

“He’s an Australian, and he’s entitled to all the rights and all the courtesies that Australians are entitled to.”

Yes, that right, he said:

“He’s an Australian now. To my way of thinking he’s no longer an illegal boat person.

“He’s an Australian, and he’s entitled to all the rights and all the courtesies that Australians are entitled to.”

Let’s consider those statements.

“He’s an Australian now. To my way of thinking he’s no longer an illegal boat person.

Yes, he’s an Australian, but he has never been an illegal boat person, unless of course he was fishing in restricted waters, which I’m sure he wasn’t.  But to Abbott’s way of thinking he once was an illegal boat person even though legally there is no such thing.  As a lawyer Mr Abbott should have known that, but don’t let the lawful truth get in the way of immoral politics.  To my way of thinking he’s an Australian now, full stop.

“He’s an Australian, and he’s entitled to all the rights and all the courtesies that Australians are entitled to.”

So even though Mr Abbott was quite happy to have the boats turned back, those people who manage to make it here are (eventually) entitled to the same rights as all Australians.  So why consider blowing ships out of the water if they are filled to the decks with future Australians? But haven’t the opposition been telling us that these boats are packed with undesirables not welcome in this country?

Did you notice the year Mr Wakil arrived by boat in Australia?  Yes, 1999 when Howard was Prime Minister.  Maybe in Abbott’s view it’s OK for those that made it to this country under Howard (the man legendary for stopping the boats).  But from the time he won government in 1996 up until the eve of the 2001 election, 221 boats with refugees were welcomed in this country.  Mr Wakil was on one of them.  Had have he been on boat number 222 he would have later found himself on the Tampa, and from that day on be known as an illegal boat person.

I’ve picked three subjects where Tony Abbott so beautifully undermines himself by simply opening his mouth. There are dozens. His idiocy on subjects such as economics should alone provide him with enough rope to hang himself. Those few above are just a teaser.

More racist, right-wing bullshit

Another one of those anti-refugee emails is doing the rounds again. We’ve all seen them. We all receive them from racist, right-wing friends or relatives.

Here’s one I received the other day with with “This one came from the UK!!!!!!! We must be the laughing stock of the world !!!!!!” as a forward to the content.

Here’s the rest of the email.

Good Day and welcome to a brand new edition of : ‘ASYLUM’.

Today’s program features another chance to take part in our exciting competition: Hop on a boat and win A FREE HOUSE!

We’ve already given away hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of dream homes, courtesy of our sponsor, the Australian Taxpayer. And don’t forget, we’re now the fastest growing game on the planet. Anyone can play, provided they don’t already hold a valid Australian Passport, and you only need one word of English: ‘ASYLUM’

Prizes include all-expenses-paid accommodation, cash benefits starting at $800 a week and a chance to earn thousands more begging, mugging and accosting drivers at traffic lights.

This competition is open to everyone. Buy a ticket to Indonesia and catch the first available boat. No application ever refused – reasonable or unreasonable.

All you have to do is destroy all your papers or burn your boat once you enter Australian waters, and remember the magic password: ‘ASYLUM’

A few years ago, 140 members of the Taliban family from Afghanistan were flown Goat Class from Kabul to Indonesia gateway, where agents were on hand to fast-track them to their boat trips to luxury accommodation. They joined tens of thousands of other lucky winners already staying in hotels all over Australia.

Our most popular destinations also include the Baxter reef and the world famous Christmas Island resort.

If you still don’t understand the rules, don’t forget, there’s no need to phone a friend or ask the audience. Just apply for legal aid. Hundreds of lawyers, social workers and counsellors are waiting to help. It won’t cost you a cent. It could change your life forever. So play today.

Iraqi Terrorists, Afghan Dissidents, Albanian Gangsters, Pro-Pinochet Activists, Anti-Pinochet Activists, Kosovan Drug-Smugglers, Tamil Tigers, Bogus Bosnians, Rwandan Mass Murderers, Somali Guerrillas . . . COME ON DOWN!

Get along to the Indonesia fishing ports. Don’t stop in Thailand or Bali. Go straight to Australia and you are: GUARANTEED to be one of tens of thousands of lucky winners in the easiest game on earth. Everyone’s a winner, when they play ‘ASYLUM’.

FORWARD THIS TO EVERY AUSTRALIAN TAXPAYER YOU CAN!

And there I was ready to start drilling holes in this rubbish, especially the bit about receiving cash benefits starting at $800 a week when it hit me: The email is right – we must be the laughing stock of the world . . . IF WE BELIEVE THIS EMAIL.

Here’s a version of the email way back in 2008 and it relates to England. Here’s a later one referring to Canada.

And well, well well; there’s even an American version.

Maybe I was a bit cruel in believing that Australians are the laughing stock of the world. But I do reckon that the racist right-wing wankers who believe this bullshit definitely are.