Dog whistling in the park


It could be said that Senator Pauline Hanson and the other One Nation senators have ridden the coat tails of racism and bigotry to reach the lofty heights of the Red Chamber on Capital Hill in Canberra. Hanson will tell you that she sincerely holds those views and while it demonstrates her ignorance of how discrimination adversely affects the society we all live in, she and her fellow One Nation members are entitled to their opinion.

There are, however, problems when others such as the political parties that can actually achieve government in Australia adopt the dog whistling policies of fringe parties such as Hanson’s for the political expedience of winning an election over the ‘other guys’.

Like a lot of communities around Australia, the one I live in has a Facebook group that has the usual subject matter that you would expect, dining recommendations, local events, complaints about government services, who has spare moving boxes and other equally life changing issues. The group in my area has around 10,000 members and while it claims to represent a post code, there is considerable overlap to surrounding areas. The local politicians are active members and frequently comment on local issues that are discussed – suggesting that the group is seen as representing a reasonable cross section of the region it claims to support.

Recently on the local Facebook group, a mother posted a comment (in sorrow) reporting that her three year old son was playing in a local park and walked over to some other kids about the same age who were playing together. He asked if he could join the game. Apparently the response from the other kids was ‘we don’t play with Asians’.

As you would hopefully expect, most of the comments on the thread are comprised of various community members decrying the absolute racism and discrimination displayed by the group of young kids. They also rightly question where the parents were, why didn’t they step in or apologise to the mother or her child. All valid questions, and the parents of the other kids have been silent (assuming they are members of the Facebook group). However, there is a bigger issue here. Clearly the ‘jump to the right’ by the major political parties to attempt to win at all costs has made some people feel that teaching their pre-school kids to be racist is perfectly ok.

It’s not ok: and here’s why.

Every person in Australia is either an immigrant to this country or is descended from one. It doesn’t matter that your ancestors walked across a land bridge up to 65,000 years ago , floated in on a boat sometime since 1788 or arrived in more recent times in a plane – you are an immigrant.

According to Stanford University’s Tech Museum of Innovation, there are very few differences in people that are due to DNA
So what is the average amount of difference between people of different ethnic groups? Scientists have found that 85% of all human genetic variation exists within human populations while only 15% exists between all the different ethnic groups.

And most of these differences aren't what you'd think they'd be. A few are the obvious traits we've talked about -- hair and eye colour, eye shape, hair texture, etc. And a few we haven't talked about like lactose intolerance.
Therefore, while there is a good chance that there are genetic variations between you and your next door neighbour, it’s pretty certain that the variations are not due to different ethnic origin or religion.

Racism in Australia seems to be a common topic on Quora – a US domiciled blog site that seeks opinion and factual comment on questions posed by others. There is a ‘Racism in Australia’ subject on the site and frankly there is no consensus to form an opinion as there is a lot of personal opinion. However, this article by Jenna Price in The Sydney Morning Herald from June 2016 would suggest that Shannon Murdoch (apparently no relation to the proprietors of News Corp) has certainly experienced racism on a regular basis
Someone will clutch their shoulder bag more tightly. Or lock their door. Pull their kids away. Ignore her. Walk up to her as she browses in a shop and tell her as she examines something that 'you know, you have to pay for that'. Ignore her and make sure she knows she is being ignored.

"I don't understand how you can treat someone as if they are so different to you when it's just skin. At a systematic level, I understand it; at a historic level, I understand it. There are many levels at which I get it. It's not as if I am naïve to the stuff that is behind it. But as person-to-person, I don't know how you walk up to someone and say something so cruel, so demeaning, so dehumanising, that discounts their personhood."
Shannon Murdoch is an Australian citizen, an African American by birth and the holder of a PhD in Education.

But it shouldn’t be like this. While there was not universal approval, Australia generally has welcomed waves of immigration from various parts of the world for most of the 20th century. It probably isn’t a co-incidence that the majority of immigrants through various decades came from countries that Australia has fought wars against in the decade or two preceding the immigration events. As examples, in the 1950’s and 1960’s a large number of southern Europeans came to call Australia home, followed by refugees from the Vietnam War in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Interestingly, there was support for these programs from both major political parties.

It all changed with the federal election campaign in 2001. In the wake of the airliners being flown into the World Trade Centre in New York during September of that year, then Prime Minister John Howard, faced with an imminent loss, exploited the rescue of a number of refugees en route to Australia from a sinking fishing boat by a Norwegian freighter, the Tampa. Not stopping to contemplate the damage he would cause,
John Howard declared: "We simply cannot allow a situation to develop where Australia is seen around the world as a country of easy destination." Norway's Foreign Minister, Thorbjoern Jagland told the United Nations: "Australia's attitude to the refugee incident is unacceptable and inhumane and contravening international law."
The ultimate in the hypocrisy was Howard’s Liberal Party, in this ABCTV Lateline story claiming the Tampa had no influence
LYNTON CROSBY [Liberal Campaign Director]: The most important specific reason cited by voters for voting Liberal was our strength of economic and financial management.

SARAH CLARKE [ABC Reporter]: Lies, says the Opposition and the Democrats.

NATASHA STOT DESPOJA, AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRATS LEADER (MELBOURNE): For them to argue that it was simply about economic management or indeed any other broader domestic issues is false.

TIM GARTRELL, LABOR ASSISTANT NATIONAL SECRETARY (CANBERRA): This is quite simply not in line with what happened on election day.

This is post-election rewriting to say it was actually about economic management -- it wasn't.

SARAH CLARKE: In the final days before the election, Labor says polling had Kim Beazley narrowing the gap, gaining ground selling domestic issues. That is, until the asylum seeker debate again came to the fore.

TIM GARTRELL: We turned the corner on domestic issues.We were pretty much getting to a situation of neck-and-neck and I think the Liberal Party decided to hit the button -- hit that refugee button -- which is what they did.

And the facts speak for themselves.
Former Prime Ministers Rudd, Gillard and Abbott also campaigned against humane treatment of refugees by increasing the severity of Howard’s punitive measures. ‘Stopping the boats’ (AKA demonising refugees) is one of the claimed successes of the Abbott and Turnbull governments, despite the questionable tactic of not allowing refugees being able to claim asylum in a country of their choice. Ironically, NXT Senator Stirling Griff discovered during Senate Estimates Hearings this year there were approximately 65,000 visa overstayers resident in Australia. Overstaying a visa is actually illegal (unlike seeking asylum)
"Given that almost 20,000 illegal overstayers have been in Australia for more than 15 years, it makes a mockery of the border protection focus on so called boat people and their lack of Australian placement," he said.

"Most of these almost 65,000 would have travelled to Australia by air and the overwhelming majority have settled into Australian life, with little – if any – regard for our laws and responsibilities.

"The department stated that it was a fair estimate that 20,000 were also working illegally. That's at least 20,000 illegal overstayers taking Australian jobs."
It seems to be a direct result of ‘winner at all cost’ politics that victimises a small group of people who have attempted to seek asylum in Australia. Boat people are not illegally seeking entry into this (or any other) country, unlike those who overstay visas. However, the ongoing jihad against those that ‘look different’ or pray to a different God as demonstrated by asylum seekers sailing to Australia in unseaworthy fishing boats by elected and wannabe politicians has repercussions to Australian society now and in the future.

For those that couldn’t give a toss about morals and ethics, such as those politicians using refugees for political gain, there is also an economic cost to racism
Dr Amanuel Elias from the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation (ADI) has calculated racial discrimination cost the Australian economy an estimated $44.9 billion, or 3.6 per cent of GDP, each year in the decade from 2001-11.

Dr Elias explained that being able to quantify the cost of racism to Australian society is a crucial step towards addressing racial discrimination.

“Racial discrimination costs society in both a microeconomic sense, such as indirect costs related to the labour market; and a macroeconomic sense, such as intangibles related to negative physical and mental health,” Dr Elias said.
So much for the ‘better economic management’ of the Coalition Governments! The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported the contribution of various industries to the GDP in the 2012 Australian Year Book . The cost of racism in this country exceeded a number of services and took half of the benefit of the mining industry to Australia’s economy. Dr Elias went on to comment:
“In countries like Australia, where subtle interpersonal racism exists along with some forms of institutional discrimination, anti-discrimination interventions require relatively moderate spending.”

According to Dr Elias, the good news is that racial discrimination is a preventable social phenomenon.
The boy in the local playground was born in Australia, as probably were his tormentors. His genetics are similar to yours and mine (as well as those of his tormentors). It is a really strange society that obsesses over refugees who come by fishing boat, claiming they are potentially a risk to the security and well-being of the country and ignoring the elephant in the room presented by the 65,000 visa overstayers who probably received far less scrutiny than asylum seekers when they made their application to visit Australia.

The only good news here is that the local kid’s mum posted her message on Facebook late Saturday morning. By 3pm, an open playdate had been arranged by others to include the tormented boy at a local park, a local business was supplying some ‘party food’, another one provided a decorated cake and a third business provided a gift for the boy and another for his family. Thankfully the majority of my community can see through the blatant racism promoted by the two major political parties. Unfortunately, the actions of the three year old tormentors will continue to be a drain on the morals, ethics and economy of Australia for a considerable period into the future, unless our political leaders start to lead the anti-discrimination conversation.

What do you think?
Let us know in comments below.

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She said what!


Senator Hanson recently implied that children on the autistic spectrum should be shunted off to ‘special schools’. However Hanson wants to spin it, she said
These kids have a right to an education, by all means, but, if there are a number of them, these children should go into a special classroom and be looked after and given that special attention,

Most of the time the teacher spends so much time on them they forget about the child who is straining at the bit and wants to go ahead in leaps and bounds in their education.

That child is held back by those others, because the teachers spend time with them.

I am not denying them. If it were one of my children I would love all the time given to them to give them those opportunities. But it is about the loss for our other kids.

I think that we have more autistic children, yet we are not providing the special classrooms or the schools for these autistic children.
In case you believe the ABC is biased – this link will take you the same text in a Fairfax publication, or you could try The Guardian here.

Hanson claims she was taken out of context – the context seems pretty clear here. It is an attempt by an irrelevant media manipulator to be seen to have a position on the latest ‘hot button’ issue.

There has been lots of outrage, mostly by those who have some idea of what they are talking about including Labor MP Emma Husar who has a son with autism. It is well worth watching the entire clip.

Fairfax reports that a number of people who actually do have a clue absolutely disagree with Hanson’s ill-informed attempt at bigotry. For example
Children and Young People with Disability Australia chief executive Stephanie Gotlib labelled the Senator's comments "ill-informed and deeply offensive".

"Senator Hanson should also be mindful that access to inclusive education is a human right," she said.

"Ignorant remarks such as these demonstrate that she clearly needs to take up this offer as soon as possible."

Fiona Sharkey, chief executive of Amaze (Autism Victoria), accused Senator Hanson of "advocating for a more segregated school environment rather than an inclusive one".

In response to Senator Hanson's speech, Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, read out an email to Parliament from a parent of a child with an intellectual disability.

"To hear one of our parliamentarians argue that kids with disabilities don't belong in mainstream classes doesn't shock me - but it does break my heart all over again," he said.

"It doesn't matter how many times it has happened before I feel the knife twist again."
You would expect the Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, would be one of the first to decry Hanson’s attempt at relevance. He didn’t. Even though
Dr David Roy, a lecturer at the University of Newcastle's School of Education, said studies had shown "the exact opposite" of Senator Hanson's comments.

"Children with a disability may have a deficit in one area, but will often and regularly have an asset in the other so they can support other children in the classroom who aren't good with language or literacy, who aren't good with maths … and see an alternative way of doing something."
You see, Hanson’s political party which somehow claims to represent all Australians despite only receiving around 500,000 votes across the country (and attempting to justify a Queensland Senator, Malcolm Roberts, elected on 77 direct votes) is voting in favour of what is so far Turnbull and Birmingham’s single success – Gonski 2.0.

Gonski 2.0 is not as good as the ALP’s Gonski policy as significant funding has been removed from the plan to adequately fund school education across Australia - but it is a start. For some reason the ALP and Greens couldn’t see the wood for the trees and didn’t vote for something they could ‘re-adjust’ following a possible election victory inside the next couple of years – so Birmingham needed the Pauline Hanson’s One Nation xenophobic and narrow minded Senators to pass the legislation, as well as a number of other cross-bench Senators.

Sean Kelly, who writes for The Monthly, calls the Liberal Party response out for what it is – a complete abrogation of the requirement to govern for all. As Kelly suggests
That’s why you should ignore any Liberal MP expressing outrage this week about Hanson’s latest comments on autism. The comments should not have been a shock. She’s the same Hanson she was when Cash hugged her, when Abbott recorded a video with her, when Turnbull indicated his party might preference her, and when Sinodinos said her party had changed.

Hanson wants a royal commission into whether Islam is a religion. She has encouraged parents to “do their own research” on whether to get their kids vaccinated. She supports Vladimir Putin, whose government murders and assassinates people. And that’s before you get to the views of her other senators, or candidates.
Kelly goes on to comment
As with all of Hanson’s rhetoric, this was about the ugly, ugly politics of envy. It was classic Hanson: feeding off the resentment felt by those doing it tough towards those doing it even tougher. Hanson’s entire governing philosophy is that there is only so much sympathy (and government funding) to go around, and her voters deserve the lion’s share.
And he’s right. Hanson has been preaching hatred and bigotry against groups of Australians for years. It is all that she knows how to do. As far as representing ‘average’ Australians – that’s crap – Hanson and her party have been attached to the teat of public funding of election candidates for over a quarter of a century.

In the world according to Hanson, for you to be acceptable to the community you must be exactly like her. Despite claiming to be an ‘average’ Australian, her only real job for the past 25 years or so is running for political office. She attempts to divide our community on racial stereotypes and seemingly will do anything to get her name on the front page of the paper. If she isn’t just stupid, she is manipulating and conniving without any real demonstrated ability to put her policies into legislation.

At the very worst, any class with a mixture of non-ASD and ASD students would teach all the students the ability to understand and practice tolerance. Non-ASD kids may have to wait a few minutes longer for the entire class to finish a task, the ASD kids would learn that others don’t necessarily have an extremely detailed knowledge of subjects that are near and dear to them.

Fairfax reports that Autism advocacy bodies estimate that one in 100 Australians are diagnosed with autism and Emma Husar made the statement linked above outside Parliament House the other day – it finished with the following words, addressed directly to all the estimated 164,000 Australians who register on the Autistic Spectrum
even on the days that are hard – when you’re frustrated, and your disability makes you angry – you are still better than she is on her best day.
Husar is correct. Australians diagnosed with ASD are better on their worst day than Hanson is on her best. It’s high time the Liberal Party found a backbone and treated Hanson as the irrelevance she truly is, it might help them regain some popularity from the genuinely ‘average’ Australians who believe in tolerance and an inclusive society and who rightly believe Hanson will never speak for them’.

Disclaimer – the writer’s daughter has been diagnosed with ASD. She attends a mainstream high school and is achieving average or better academic and behavioural results in the same classes as her non-ASD age cohort.

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Thou shalt not hate


In the words of The Monthly, If the name Milo Yiannopoulos means nothing to you, congratulations on being a normal, well-adjusted person. Yiannopoulos is someone we all aspire to be the complete opposite of. He was until very recently, an alt-right figurehead and said all the ‘right’ things. According to The Guardian he did a fine line in Islamophobia, misogyny, transphobia or harassment. Out Magazine, (which takes pride in its LGBTI heritage) called him a ‘super villain’. Recently, The Monthly reported:
Here in Australia, Yiannopoulos has many fans on the right. Andrew Bolt called him “fabulous” in one of his multiple appearances on The Bolt Report. Bolt's Herald Sun colleague Rita Panahi thinks Yiannopoulos is “razor sharp, insightful and funny”. Former Liberal MP Ross Cameron regards him as “an ancient form of genius”. Writing in the Spectator, Daisy Cousens described him as an “intelligent, charismatic, witty, stylish, and unbearably handsome powerhouse of a man”.
However, it seems that even the alt-right has boundaries. A Youtube video recently came out (pun intended – Yiannopoulos is gay) where he seemed to endorse intimate relations between older men and boys. He lost his job as a Senior Editor on the Breitbart (extremely conservative) news website, a book deal and some speaking engagements. Let’s give credit where it is due, those who severed connections with a person who seemed to endorse paedophilia did the right thing. However, it also brings into question why hate speech against religions, gender and those who have a different sexual orientation is permitted by the same organisations – as they are all just as abhorrent as the straw that broke the camel’s back on this occasion. Let’s face it, by supporting Yiannopoulos while he promotes hate speech, the organisations also gave implied support for his positions on those other issues. Severing the connection when Yiannopoulos seemingly ‘crossed the line’ demonstrates the principal.

The Guardian reported that during a meeting of an ultra-conservative group in North Carolina, the ‘Islamification of America’ was being discussed:
The Muslim Brotherhood, a culturally conservative organization founded in 1928 that briefly took power in Egypt after the Arab Spring, is the focal point of paranoid rightwing fears about a supposed Islamic plot to infiltrate and subvert American institutions from within and impose sharia law.

“A tactic that the Brotherhood has established over the years is establishing the presence of Islamic centers or mosques, which for them means a recruitment center for jihad, and forming a permanent foundation wherever they’re allowed to exist,” Jones said, continuing to read from Stakelbeck’s book [The Terrorist Next Door].

Jones’s presentation was repeatedly interrupted by comments about killing Muslims from Frank del Valle, a staunchly anticommunist Cuban immigrant, with little or no pushback from the others in the room.

“Can we not kill them all?” Del Valle asked, about 15 minutes into the presentation, during a discussion about the differences between the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam.
But it wouldn’t happen in general society in Australia, would it? Well it does actually. Madonna King wrote an opinion piece for The Brisbane Times recently based on the reaction to Yassmin Abdel-Magied’s recent appearance on ABCTV’s QandA. You may remember that Adbel-Magied contradicted some of the more conservative panellists’ views on the Islamic religion and Sharia Law with some facts based on her understanding of the religion as a practising member of the faith. In the piece, King rightly labelled Australians as haters pointing out that while you and I certainly have the right to decide if we agree with Abdel-Magied’s opinion, she does have the right to vocalise it without people starting petitions for her to be sacked from her job presenting a show on ABCTV’s News 24 station, which is what happened on this occasion.

Let’s look at another example. Pauline Hanson was recently reported as suggesting that young women will deliberately get pregnant to receive some perceived advantage from the LNP Government’s proposed changes to family benefits. Quite probably she is partly right — generally a small minority will take any advantage that they can find and turn it to their perceived advantage. Hanson’s argument seems to be:
I’ve gone through a bloody tough life myself as a single mother and held down a part-time job. I had no assistance, no help from anyone. But we have such a welfare handout mentality.
Apart from the fact that single parent payments, family allowances and tax ‘breaks’ for families have been the practice of Australian Governments of all political persuasions for a number of decades, meaning Hanson could have received help if she met the criteria, her rhetoric seems as shallow and self-serving as her claim not to be a professional politician despite being first elected to the Ipswich City Council in 1994, followed by running for the seat of Oxley in the Federal Parliament in 1996, then failing to be elected at most elections between the end of that Parliament and the commencement of the current one.

The issue here is that considerably more young women will use the benefit as it was intended, to ensure that while babies and their parents are both going through a major change in their living and financial arrangements, there is some assistance from the rest of our society to make the financial transition slightly easier. Remember that the children who benefit from the government’s ‘largesse’ here are those who will be paying for the roads and medical services that the naysayers such as Hanson will consume in twenty to thirty years’ time when they are retired and contributing far less taxation (if any at all). All Hanson is really doing here is inflaming the anger in those who follow her particular brand of politics when they see pregnant women or young families walk past. It’s not healthy for the victims and certainly not healthy to the level of political conversation in Australia.

Of course, our ‘major’ party politicians wouldn’t stoop to using hatred to achieve political ends –would they? Don’t be silly, of course they do. As blogmaster Ad Astra recently noted in his article Abbott’s legacy of destruction, former Prime Minister Abbott’s opposition to action on climate change wasn’t a divine revelation that there was another and better way to mitigate the man-made influence on global temperature increase caused by increasing emissions of carbon dioxide, it was purely political. It is worth looking at Abbott’s head of staff’s (Peta Credlin) statement on Sky News again.
Credlin made her comments during an episode of Sky’s Sunday Agenda: “Along comes a carbon tax. It wasn’t a carbon tax, as you know. It was many other things in nomenclature terms but we made it a carbon tax. We made it a fight about the hip pocket and not about the environment. That was brutal retail politics and it took Abbott about six months to cut through and when he cut through, Gillard was gone.”
As Ad Astra wrote,
The article continued with Credlin's comments:
“It wasn’t a carbon tax, as you know.

“Okay, okay, okay. Let’s just provide some context. Australia has a complicated history in trying to do what many countries have already done – put a price on carbon emissions.

“Emissions trading scheme proposals contributed to the demise of Malcolm Turnbull as opposition leader in 2009 and Kevin Rudd as prime minister in 2010. Julia Gillard finally introduced a carbon-pricing scheme in 2011.

“It was Tony Abbott who re-framed Gillard’s scheme as a “carbon tax”, even though after the first year the price on carbon emissions was no longer fixed, and was instead set by the market.

“Abbott rode the anti-carbon tax movement all the way into The Lodge and eventually had everyone, including Labor and the media, calling it a carbon tax".
How about we call that for what it is. Abbott lied to get the Prime Ministership. He traded off the future liveability of this country for his personal ambition.

Both Hanson and Abbott (amongst a number of other politicians from all sides of politics) also support or have supported in the past the forcible incarceration of refugees on Manus Island and Nauru while claiming to uphold ‘good Christian values’ not only in their daily lives but in their public lives. While neither ‘Thou shall not hate’ nor ‘Do unto others as you wish others do to you’ are listed in the 10 Commandments, they both have some textual context in the holy book that Abbott, Hanson and others claim to follow. How is changing an environmental imperative to a political argument, denying a benefit the country can obviously afford on the basis that some may abuse it, or treating people poorly in the Australian detention camps, not demonstrating pure and utter hatred to those who don’t meet particular world views of some extremely narrow minded people?

It’s somewhat hypocritical to suggest that ‘good Christian values’ are a part of your life while overseeing hate speech, active persecution of others for daring to hold alternative beliefs or not caring for the world we live in and are leaving for our descendants. You would have to wonder how these people can live with the basic contradiction that is obvious to a large proportion of society – if you have good Christian values, you should live by them.

Someone who should have some idea of what represents ‘good Christian values’ is the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis. He has previously made statements on climate change, education, helping those who need a hand, paying your way in life and recently made a statement on refugees which has been widely reported. Even the extreme right wing Breitbart News (yes, the same august journal that accepted the resignation of Yiannopoulos) headlined their report with:
In powerful language, Pope Francis said Thursday that Jesus abhors hypocrisy and it is hypocritical to call oneself a Christian and at the same time not be welcoming to refugees, even if they belong to a different religion.
Pity those who routinely preach their ‘good Christian values’ will not put two and two together. Thou shall not hate.
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Alternative facts and transparency


Would you believe that I am a 25 year old self-made millionaire and spend my life travelling around the world — only if I can fly in an Etihad A380 equipped with “The Residence” three room suite (only plebs travel First Class apparently!). I also have bankers beating a path to my door to lend me money for my latest development proposal — after all anything I touch turns to a platinum - plated investment opportunity.

You’re right, the statements above are overblown and you could make the claim they are alternative facts (aka completely made up fantasies). The bio listed here is far more accurate, although the alternative facts I have presented sound far more appealing than getting on the bus most mornings to go to work. Rest assured that if I need to borrow money from a bank, I am the one approaching them, cap in hand and demonstrating that they have a better than equal chance of getting their money back one day. For some funny reason, banks seem to want you to prove that you are who you are and, more importantly, have the capacity to repay your debts. In case you’re interested, my credit card limit precludes me from even dreaming about Etihad’s ‘The Residence’ class travel.

Kellyanne Conway must live in that rarefied space where banks don’t look for evidence of a capacity to repay, airlines happily allow you to travel ‘at the pointy end’ and the facts are variable dependent on the message you want to give, regardless of the consequences. Conway is the ‘councillor’ to President Trump who defended some overblown claims by Trump’s Press Secretary (Sean Spicer) by commenting that Spicer’s defence of the claim that more people attended the Trump inauguration than anyone else’s were merely ‘alternative facts’.

If it wasn’t so serious, it would be funny. Spicer was clearly wrong as the photos of Obama’s 2009 inauguration (above, on the left) and Trump’s 2017 version (on the right) demonstrate. As NBC (America) reported:
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer gathered the press to deliver a five-minute statement Saturday in which he issued multiple falsehoods, declaring erroneously the number of people who used the D.C. metro on Friday, that there was a change in security measures this year and that "this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe."

"These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong," Spicer said Saturday.

Asked on "Meet the Press" why Spicer used his first appearance before the press to dispute a minimal issue like the inauguration crowd size, and why he used falsehoods to do so, Conway pushed back.

"You're saying it's a falsehood and Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that," she told NBC's Chuck Todd.

She then went on to echo Spicer's claim on Saturday that it wasn't possible to count the crowd, despite Trump's team's accompanying insistence that it was the "largest audience".
The problem is, as reported by NBC:
Conway also suggested that Todd's insistence on asking why Spicer delivered a demonstrably false statement could affect the White House's treatment of the media.

"If we're going to keep referring to the press secretary in those types of terms I think we're going to have to rethink our relationship here," she said.
Trump’s ‘counsellor’, Conway, is suggesting that if an NBC reporter doesn’t ‘toe the line’ and report what he is told to report, NBC may have difficulties in gaining access to the US President’s press conferences. It might be that limited or no access is actually a good thing as it would demonstrate that at least one US based news organisation didn’t (wasn’t permitted to) drink the same Kool-Aid as the rest of the press pack that surrounds Washington DC.

It’s probably a bit hard to ‘toe the line’ when a week later, Conway cited the ‘Bowling Green massacre’ when defending Trump’s 90 day ban on any immigration from certain middle eastern countries.

There was no massacre in Bowling Green USA:
Conway was referring to the case of two Iraqi citizens living in Bowling Green, Kentucky, who were arrested in 2011 and later convicted of attempting to send weapons, explosives and money to al Qaeda in Iraq for the purpose of killing American soldiers.

"Neither person is charged with plotting any attacks on American soil," David Hale, then U.S. attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, said at the time. "These charges relate to activities that occurred when they were in Iraq, first of all. Secondly, they relate to conspiracy to aid al Qaeda in Iraq."

The men, Mohanad Shareef Hammadi and Waad Ramadan Alwan, admitted to using explosive devices against U.S. soldiers in Iraq in the past, but there were no deaths connected to the plot they were involved in while living in Bowling Green.
When the (in this case inconvenient) truth was pointed out to Conway, she claimed that she was referring to the ‘Bowling Green terrorists’, and that Obama had also tightened immigration requirements for people coming from Iraq and what Trump was doing was no different.

Not only was the ban ‘stayed’ by a (US) federal judge in Seattle, as the judge agreed with the argument that the ban was unconstitutional, the ban does not affect all middle eastern countries. It’s entirely co-incidental of course that the ban doesn’t include countries where Trump has business interests. This is in spite of Saudi Arabian and Egyptian nationals being almost entirely responsible for the 9/11 attack in the US — which caused the death of over 3000 people.

Of course we don’t know for sure that Trump personally still has business dealings with Saudi Arabia and Egypt as he has yet to release his financial affairs — which is ironic as he was one of those screaming for the release of Obama’s birth certificate claiming that, as Obama was born outside the USA, he could not be President. (Obama was born in Hawaii.) Others however have gone into Trump’s business empire with some rigour. Published on The Guardian’s website, Aryeh Neier comments:
In identifying Muslim-majority countries from which refugees and visas will be blocked because of concerns about terrorism, Trump left out Saudi Arabia. Yet most of those who hijacked airliners to attack New York and Washington DC on 9/11, the deadliest terrorist episode in history, were Saudis.

Does Trump shy away from offending Saudi Arabia because he has business dealings with wealthy Saudis? Or because he expects them to curry favor by patronizing his new hotel in Washington? We don’t know. By refusing to release his tax returns and by refusing to divest himself of his businesses, he raises such questions.

Another country left off the list is Egypt. Yet the leader of the 9/11 hijackers was Mohammed Atta, an Egyptian. Was Egypt omitted because Trump is developing a warm relationship with the country’s brutal dictator, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi? Again, we don’t know
Trump has domestic problems as well with his less than transparent business dealings where Trump is the ultimate owner of a number of buildings and facilities that have leases in place with the US government. For a start, one of Trump’s companies has a lease over an old building owned by the US Post Office. His company has turned it into an expensive hotel. The property lease has a clause that specifically prohibits any ‘elected official of the government of the United States’ from holding ‘any share of part of this Lease’. While Trump has nominally handed his business interests over to his family to run, Trump can revoke the trust, which was amended three days before his inauguration, at any time according to The Guardian.

While the embellishments of the Trump Presidency in Washington DC really are not that important in Australia, there are some similarities with Australian politicians. The most notable of this ‘select’ group is former Prime Minister Abbott who led an opposition and government that promised $100 lamb roasts should the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme come into effect; a faster and more affordable NBN which clearly isn’t the case — fibre to the premises as originally promised by the ALP can cope with 100mbps or better — and a mature and stable federal government.

After refusing to discuss his donations to the Liberal Party prior to the 2016 election, Malcolm Turnbull (or President Trumbull if you believe the Trump administration) finally revealed that he donated a staggering $1.75million in the current financial year which means that his largesse did not have to be reported until sometime in 2018. Given the most recent election was on July 2, 2016, Turnbull must have made the donation on election eve or soon after the election to help pay his party’s election debts. Given that $1.75 million is a sum of money of far larger value than the majority of the Australian population will ever be in a position to give away, you would have to wonder about the state of the Liberal Party’s balance sheet and what influence the donation gets Turnbull over the workings of the Liberal Party and by association the Australian government.

Not that the Liberals are the only ones that construct alternative facts and hide relevant information. Pauline Hanson, who bills her ‘One Nation’ party as the party of non-politicians, was first elected to a political office as a councillor for the City of Ipswich in Queensland in 1994. She entered federal parliament in 1996. Twenty-one years later, Hanson is in parliament again after failing to be elected on a number of occasions over the past two decades. Nearly a quarter of a century in most professions would suggest that you are making a living from the profession. The only real change to Hanson’s divisiveness and negativity is that the Asians who were going to ‘swamp Australia’ in 1996 were replaced by Africans in 2006 and by 2016 they too had been replaced by the Muslims, still going to ‘swamp Australia’. Of course, Hanson has never had to actually demonstrate how she would implement her policies.

Trump is innately conservative and obviously has people around him who believe they can say anything and get away with it. He also seems to have a lack of understanding about the need for transparency and compliance with rules that have been developed to protect both the elected leaders of the USA and the people of the USA. Abbott, Turnbull and Hanson clearly believe in similar theories, as some of their actions demonstrate.

The issue for all of us is that people like this selling of simple naive political concepts, that translate well to media, diminish the standard and quality of political discourse for all of us — as it seems the only way to get the attention of those listening to the populism is to disappear down the same rabbit hole. So instead of having a rational debate over something as critical as efforts to mitigate climate change, we were treated to the then alternative prime minister of this country, Tony Abbott, running around the countryside in a hi-viz vest shouting no new taxes. While he did eliminate that particular ‘tax’ once he convinced some of the Senate crossbenchers to support the move (which took some time), he increased and implemented other taxes. Our current political leader is supporting a failed process that is scamming those in our community who have accessed social security benefits while supporting reductions in taxes paid by business.

Australia thankfully is not the USA. Australia can do better than a political leader who clearly doesn’t see a problem in being xenophobic, economical with the truth while brooking no discussion on issues that are relevant. How about we ask our politicians to treat us as adults and have a discussion, rather than repeat populist claptrap?


What do you think?
Let us know in comments below.

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Who invents this cruelty?


In the past fortnight, the Turnbull Coalition government announced proposed legislation to ensure that each person on Manus Island or Nauru sentenced to the cruel and unusual punishment for no legal or moral reason since an arbitrary date in 2013, will never come to Australia. That’s never ever; doesn’t matter if they want to visit the Great Barrier Reef before government lack of policy on climate change kills it off; doesn’t matter if the person is a famous actor, musician or movie star in their future life; doesn’t matter if the person is representing a country at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast; and it even doesn’t matter if a current refugee on Manus Island or Nauru is a head of state in the future — they won’t be allowed to visit Australia (or only allowed to visit at the absolute discretion of the minister for immigration at the time).

Blatantly unfair, unreasonable and un-called for? — certainly. Unfortunately, we should be used to the Abbott/Turnbull government doubling down on the nastiness and sheer hate defined by their policy on refugees. The Abbott/Turnbull government will tell you that they are stopping the people smugglers from sending people on dangerous open sea voyages using equipment that is clearly not designed for the purpose. Immigration Minister Dutton claims:
What we don't want is if someone is to go to a third country, that they apply for a tourist visa or some other way to circumvent what the government's policy intent is by coming back to Australia from that third country.
The Abbott/Turnbull government has a problem. After being given a lesson in humanity by the Papua New Guinea High Court when it ruled that the detention camp on Manus Island breached PNG law, Turnbull has to find a place to house the 1200 or so people we as Australians have illegally imprisoned by various governments going back to the Rudd ALP government. Politically, the government can’t let these people come to Australia as the neo-conservative right wing of the Liberal and National Parties will head further towards the divisive policies of the ultra-right wing parties such as One Nation. As well as that, if the refugees were housed in (say) New Zealand or other countries in the South Pacific, the argument could be made that refugees could simply board a plane to Australia after they had residency in the third country. Logically you would have to ask why anyone that had been treated so poorly by others would ever want to ‘darken the door’ of their oppressors, but according to Dutton it is a concern. While yes, that is a hole in the current arrangements if those on Manus Island or Nauru are successfully integrated into a third country’s society, they might want to come to Australia at a later date, has anyone stopped to think what we are potentially losing by not standing up to the vindictive and xenophobic policies of successive Australian governments?

The Political Sword looked at the contributions made to our society by refugees in March 2014. We looked at Michael Gawenda, the ‘ten pound poms’ (which include Tony Abbott, Julia Gillard, the Gibb Brothers (aka The Bee Gees), Noni Hazlehurst, Alan Bond, Frank Tyson, Harold Larwood, and the parents of people such as Kylie Minogue, Al Grassby and Hugh Jackman), Tony Le Nguyen and Munjed Al Muderis. All the people listed in this paragraph have made a wonderful contribution to this country, and if the governments that supported and encouraged the immigration of these Australians had the same racist policies of the current government, we would live in a much poorer place.

This isn’t solely the view of this admittedly left of centre political blog, this letter was shared around on social media in the few days after Turnbull and Dutton announced their draconian policy.



Clearly, Dr Al Muderis makes a significant contribution to Australia and the world — as people fly to Australia from around the world just to see Dr Al Muderis.

Noni Hazelhurst, the Bee Gees and even Gillard and Abbott have also made a contribution to this country in their own sphere of influence. So why are we persecuting those that are attempting to become refugees in Australia in the twenty teens? While many were ridiculing (probably with some justification) ex-Prime Minister Rudd’s contribution to the debate at the beginning of the month, Rudd does have a few points that are worth considering. Rudd claims:
This is both bad policy and bad politics: on policy, the far right in Australia represent the worst of the xenophobic, nationalist and protectionist wave that we now see raging across Europe and America; while on politics, appeasement of political thugs like Abbott, Dutton, Abetz, Andrews and, depending on which way the wind is blowing, Morrison, only embolden the far right to demand more, not less.
And:
This measure is about the politics of symbols, designed to throw red meat at the right, including the Hansonite insurgency, and to grovel to the broad politics of xenophobia. Turnbull, once an intelligent, global citizen, knows better.
Rudd claims that Gillard (his successor and predecessor) changed his policy.
It sought to negotiate offshore processing arrangements with East Timor and later Malaysia. These failed. Then in August 2012, the government announced the reopening of offshore processing in Manus and Nauru. The government also increased the number of refugees we would take from the UNHCR "global pool" of refugees from 13,000 to 20,000. Nonetheless, in the first half of 2013, the UNHCR delivered reports criticising the treatment of refugees, which the government sought to respond to.
It is also claimed that when Rudd regained power he made significant changes to the agreement around refugees that Australia had signed with PNG, including a clause that the Manus Island camp would only operate for one year. Rudd’s opinion article concludes by stating:
I have kept silent on Australian domestic policy debates for the past three years. But this one sinks to new lows. It is pure politics designed to appease the xenophobes. It is without any policy merit in dealing with the real policy challenges all countries face today in what is now a global refugees crisis. And it does nothing to help those refugees left to rot for more than three years, who should be resettled now.
While a lot of the article by Rudd is an attempt to justify his own past deeds, he is correct to suggest that refugees are not solely an Australian ‘problem’ and, to be realistic, Australia’s ‘problem’ is insignificant on a global scale. Rudd is also correct that far right political groups around the world are attracting votes using issues such as protectionism, isolationism and blatant racism. The Guardian runs a series called ‘The Long Read’. Co-incidentally, on 1 November, it published an article in the series titled ‘The ruthlessly effective branding of Europe’s far right’.

As The Guardian suggests:
They have effectively claimed the progressive causes of the left — from gay rights to women’s equality and protecting Jews from antisemitism — as their own, by depicting Muslim immigrants as the primary threat to all three groups. As fear of Islam has spread, with their encouragement, they have presented themselves as the only true defenders of western identity and western liberties — the last bulwark protecting a besieged Judeo-Christian civilisation from the barbarians at the gates.

These parties have steadily filled an electoral vacuum left open by social democratic and centre-right parties, who ignored voters’ growing anger over immigration – some of it legitimate, some of it bigoted – or simply waited too long to address it.
The move to the far right is not just a problem in Europe or arguably part of the reason for Donald Trump’s nomination as President by the Republican Party in the USA. The New Yorker recently published a stinging takedown of Trump and the ultra-conservatives noting:
Trumpism does not seek simply to make a point and pass on its genes to more politically palatable heirs, nor is it readily apparent why he would need to settle for this. When George Will announced his departure from the G.O.P., last summer, he offered a modified version of Ronald Reagan’s quote about leaving the Democrats—“I didn’t leave the Party; the Party left me.” But a kind of converse narrative applies to Trump; he didn’t join the Republican Party so much as its most febrile elements joined him. Trump is partly a product of forces that the G.O.P. created by pandering to a base whose dilated pupils the Party mistook for gullibility, not abject, irrational fear that would send those voters scurrying to the nearest authoritarian savior they could find. The error was in thinking that this populace, mainlining Glenn Beck and Alex Jones theories and pondering how the Minutemen would have fought Sharia law, could be controlled. (For evidence to the contrary, the Party needed look no further than the premature political demise of Eric Cantor.) The old adage warns that one should beware of puppets that begin pulling their own strings.
Australia too has its extreme right wing claiming far more influence that they deserve.

Pauline Hanson stood as the Liberal Party candidate for the seat of Oxley in Queensland at the 1996 election and was dis-endorsed two weeks prior to the election due to some extremely ill-advised remarks made in the campaign on Aboriginal welfare. In her 1996 maiden speech in the House of Representatives, Hanson claimed that Australia was being ‘swamped’ by Asians. On the morning of Hanson’s maiden Senate speech last September, the ABC looked at her claim from 20 years ago and looked at the immigration figures from the 2011 census. It found:
By 2011, the proportion of people in Australia who were born in Asia had almost doubled to 8.08 per cent.

The proportion of people born in Australia fell from 73.93 per cent to 69.83 per cent — more than eight times the proportion of people born in Asia.
In addition, the ABC reported that:
James Raymer, head of the School of Demography at the Australian National University, said the incidence of Asian migration to Australia was hardly surprising, given our geographical location in the region and the sheer size of the world's Asian population.

"The whole Asian population represents 60 per cent of the world's population … Europe only represents 10 per cent of the world's population," he said.

"There's a lot of Asians in Europe, there's a lot of Asians in North America, a lot of Asians in Canada, and they've all been increasing."
Undeterred by her previous prediction falling somewhat short of the mark, when Hanson made her maiden speech in the Senate in September 2016, she warned Australia was at risk of being "swamped" by Muslims.

As far back as 2011, Fairfax media was questioning the racism of politicians such as Cory Bernardi:
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie should be applauded for his stand against racism in the Liberal Party and, in particular, the recent comments by Liberal senator Cory Bernardi, singling out Muslims for denigration.

Does Bernardi think that by demonising Islam he will win votes, and is Opposition Leader Tony Abbott tacitly approving this latest attempt to play the politics of hate so he can watch where it goes?

This is a disturbing insight into the thinking of some senior Liberal figures. It comes from a party that has, in turn, used fear of Muslim extremism to lead us into two wars and then used that fear to prevent the victims of those same wars coming to Australia.
The current hatred of refugees isn’t logical, moral or ethical — it is a part of a political race to the bottom of the ocean. Ultra-conservatives such as Hanson, Bernardi, Trump, Le Pen in France and so on are using the misery of fellow humans to improve the prospects of a political career and are manipulating the vulnerable and hard done by to do so.

In the 1970’s, Coalition Prime Minister Fraser and the ALP both supported the arrival of hundreds of thousands of South East Asian refugees who came to settle in Australia. While the policy at the time was not universally popular, the benefits to Australia in the long term have clearly outweighed any problems. On a logical basis, the policy was fair enough — we had been part of a coalition of armies that had bombed much of South East Asia in an attempt to stop the expansion of communism. It is now history that the Vietnam War was unsuccessful, communism didn’t expand and the refugees that came here have largely integrated into our society. So why the difference with those from the middle east? We are a part of coalition of armies that are bombing that area of the world to stop the rise of ISIS. Don’t we owe something to those that are the unintended victims of having their homes bombed back to the stone age?

In the 1950’s and 1960’s, successive Coalition Australian governments, with support from the ALP, supported the arrival of hundreds of thousands of Europeans who were displaced before or during World War 2. The photos at the top of this article are not recent, they are from social media and portray Europeans using whatever they can to emigrate to North Africa prior to Hitler’s Germany taking over parts of Southern Europe. What goes around comes around apparently. And as The Political Sword observed in September 2014, Jesus was a refugee.

What do you think?
Let us know in comments below.

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The election in numbers 2: minor parties and independents


A number of commentators made the point after the election that almost a quarter of voters did not vote for the major parties in the House of Representatives. But that is misleading on two counts. It ignores the 5% informal vote and the 10% vote for the Greens who I think are now entitled to be considered a major party — they do contest every seat after all. That leaves about a 10% first preference vote for other than major parties and, given that there were almost 150 smaller parties and independents, that is not a significant vote — an average of about 0.07% for each of them. Many of them garner only a few hundred votes: it is the sheer number of smaller parties and independents that contributes to the overall magnitude of their vote and that was not unique to this election.

We have heard most about the success of the Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) and One Nation but they contested only a limited number of seats. Two parties that contested more seats were Family First and Fred Nile’s Christian Democratic Party, which contested 65 and 55 seats respectively. Family First gained 1.5% of the vote nationally (just over 201,000 votes) and Fred Nile’s group 1.3% of the vote (about 178,000 votes). If we consider their vote against the number of seats they contested, then Family First averaged about 3,100 votes per seat and the Christian Democratic Party about 3,240. By way of comparison, the ALP averaged 31,350 votes per seat and the Liberal Party 36,300 in the 107 seats it contested (that is the Liberal Party only, not the full range of Coalition parties). And there are about 100,000 voters per seat, give or take 10%, except in Tasmania.

Nationally, NXT achieved 1.85% of the vote, or 250,400 votes, but it contested only 18 seats (11 in SA) giving it an average vote of 13,900 per seat. But NXT was not as successful outside of SA: for example, in Queensland in Moreton, it achieved 4.8% of the vote (4,072 first preference votes) and 7.6% in Groom (6,960 votes). While those Queensland results are reasonably good for an independent or minor party, they are not extraordinary. In the 11 SA seats, however, NXT averaged 21.3% of the vote or 20,120 votes. Xenophon has been an independent Senator for SA since 2007 and his high profile and popularity translated into votes for his Team but that did not extend to success beyond SA.

One Nation contested only 15 seats, of which 12 were in Queensland, to obtain 1.3% of the vote or 175,000 votes nationally, slightly less than Fred Nile’s Christian Democratic Party and significantly fewer than NXT, at an average of about 11,700 per seat. One Nation did marginally better in Queensland, averaging about 12,300 votes (13.9%) but this varied from 6,775 (7.6%) in Leichhardt (Warren Entsch’s seat) to 18,461 (20.9%) in Wright (a conservative seat that stretches west from the edge of the Gold Coast). Ironically one of the seats in which One Nation fell below its Queensland average was Pauline Hanson’s old seat of Oxley: it obtained just over 7,000 votes or 8.4% (admittedly the boundaries have changed since Hanson first won it).

So for NXT and One Nation, their ‘success’ largely came from targeting only a small number of seats, of which the majority were in their leader’s home state. At a seat level, they actually averaged more than the Greens who, in contesting all 150 seats, averaged 9,200 votes per seat.

There was also Bob Katter, who has his own party (Katter’s Australia Party) but is perhaps more like an independent. His party contested 12 seats in Queensland but obtained only 72,900 first preference votes of which Katter himself, in the seat of Kennedy, obtained 34,300. Katter is a sitting member with a high profile but his party did not fare so well averaging only 3,500 votes (a similar average to other minor parties) in the other 11 seats.

Also at a national level, over 100 independents, not linked to any party, achieved a total of 2.8% of the vote (about 381,000 votes), more than both NXT and One Nation but at an average of about 3,400 votes per independent candidate. Even that figure is inflated by high profile and successful independents like Andrew Wilkie and Cathy McGowan, and even the unsuccessful like Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott. Those four alone accounted for about 116,000 (or 30%) of the votes that went to independents: if they are removed, the vote for other independents was about 2,500 per candidate which does not suggest a major shift to independent candidates.

They are still independents I hear you say and that is true. But the more successful ones had a high profile in the seats they were contesting and two, of course, were sitting members (or three if we count Katter as an independent). A vote for Wilkie or McGowan was not a genuine shift away from major parties to independents but simply support for a sitting member (a rejection of the major parties could be said to have occurred in the year they first won their seat). And Windsor and Oakeshott, although not sitting members, were previous independent members in the regions they contested. The key to successful independents seems to be their public profile and/or a grass roots movement within an electorate, such as when McGowan won Indi from Sophie Mirabella in 2013 — she was drafted to run against Mirabella by a community organisation that felt Mirabella was not paying sufficient attention to the electorate. Once they do win a seat, as a sitting member they retain that advantage in subsequent elections. Another successful independent ploy is to move from a major party as Windsor, Oakeshott, Katter and Pauline Hanson the first time around, have done, often after having first been elected as a party candidate, so their profile has already been enhanced by party support (noting, however, that Hanson was selected as a candidate but lost party endorsement prior to the election).

In the Senate there are now 20 Senators (26%) not from ALP or L/NP: 9 Greens and 11 others from minor parties — and they are each minor parties although a few of them, like Katter in the HoR, are more like independents. That number would superficially seem to justify the argument that a quarter of voters did support non-major parties but, as I said in relation to the HoR vote, whether the Greens can still be considered a minor party is debatable. In the Senate the Greens secured 8.7% of the national first preference vote (almost 1.2 million votes) behind only the L/NP and ALP and double the vote of the next highest of the other parties — One Nation with 4.3% or 593,000 votes. The Senate, however, is determined at a state level and by a complicated preference distribution process, not by national first preference votes but the national figures give an indication of the actual support across the nation for the minor parties. In that regard, at the national level, NXT secured 456,000 first preference votes (3.3%), the Liberal Democrats (Leyonhjelm’s party) 299,000 votes (2.2%), and Family First and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party each secured just over 190,000 votes (1.4%). I would describe most, but not all, of the minor parties as ‘niche’ parties because they focus on only one or two key issues and so can attract a small percentage of voters who feel strongly about those particular issues — they are often issues not picked up in the broader agenda of the major parties.

But we do need to consider how the minor parties fared at the state level and achieved the outcomes they did.

NXT won three Senate seats all in SA. A first preference vote in SA of 21.7% matched its SA vote in the HoR and gave it 2.8 quotas, so it did not require a high level of preferences to achieve its three seats. NXT did contest every other state but did no better than 2.2% of the first preference vote (0.28 of a quota) in WA. So despite the high profile of NXT, it is a profile and success limited to Nick Xenophon’s home state.

Similarly, Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party contested all states but had no success outside Hinch’s home state of Victoria — 6.1% of the vote and a starting quota of 0.79. Otherwise his party did no better than 0.7% of the vote in WA and was as low as 0.2% in SA.

The Jacqui Lambie Network ran candidates in four states but like Xenophon and Hinch had no success outside her home state of Tasmania, securing a highest vote of only 0.4% in Victoria.

So it is clear that some successful ‘independents’ and their associated parties do not have national appeal but rely solely on the profile and local popularity of their principal candidate in their home state. It would appear that they formed ‘parties’ only to secure the option of an ‘above the line’ vote.

Family First won one Senate seat in SA, for its sitting Senator Bob Day, but from a 2.9% first preference vote (0.37 of a quota). Its results in other states were significantly lower, ranging from 0.64% of first preference votes (0.08 of a quota) in WA to 1.97% (0.25 of a quota) in Tasmania.

One Nation is the party that is a little different to the other minor parties because it appears, on the surface, to have had success across the country, with two Senators from Queensland, one from NSW and one from WA. Because One Nation contested all states it was able to increase its national vote to 4.3% from the 1.3% it achieved in the HoR (where it contested only a small number of seats) but again it did best in Hanson’s home state of Queensland, securing 9.2% of votes (250,000 votes) and a quota on first preference votes alone. It gained a second Queensland seat although its provisional quota (from first preference votes) was only 1.2 — so somehow it managed to make up 0.8 of a quota from preferences. By comparison the ALP went from 3.4 quotas to four elected Senators and the Greens from 0.9 to achieve only one Senator. Beginning with 0.4 of a quota is often considered the lower base from which a full quota can be gained, so a second One Nation Senator from Queensland is not really an indication of the strength of the One Nation vote but arises from the lengthy and complicated preference distribution process. Similarly, its successful candidates in NSW and WA both came from an initial position of 0.5 of a quota to win their seats (4.1% and 4.0% of the vote respectively) — although they were the highest starting quotas among the non-major parties. In NSW, however, the ALP had almost eight times One Nation’s first preference vote and in WA was seven times higher but the seat ratio became only four to one. In the other states, One Nation received only 1.8% of the vote in Victoria, only marginally more than the Animal Justice Party; in SA it achieved 3.0% of the vote, only 0.1% more than Family First; and in Tasmania 2.6% — so, for whatever reason, it performed little or no better than other minor parties in those states.

David Leyonhjelm (of the Liberal Democrats) was also re-elected to the Senate from NSW and he came from a lower starting position than the One Nation candidate in that state, with only 0.4 of a quota (139,000 votes or 3.1%) after first preference votes.

The number of Senators from the minor parties is largely a result of Turnbull calling a double dissolution election. For example, if it had been a half-Senate election, the votes received by the parties in Victoria suggest that the outcome would have been 3 L/NP, 2 ALP and 1 Green — no Derryn Hinch. And in NSW, there would also likely have been 3 L/NP, 2 ALP and 1 Green (although there could have been a battle for two spots between the third L/NP candidate, the Greens and One Nation) — so no Leyonhjelm and possibly no One Nation. For the mess the Senate seems to have become Turnbull has no-one to blame but himself. Some of the new Senators appear as if they will be more difficult to negotiate with than the likes of Glen Lazarus and Ricky Muir as they have stronger personal agendas.

In the HoR, I expect that independents like Wilkie, McGowan and Katter will continue to have success as sitting members. Whether more independents are elected in future appears to depend very much on the quality of the candidates of the major parties: the example of the reaction against Mirabella when voters perceived she was not paying sufficient attention to her electorate is instructive in that regard, as is the fact that when she recontested at this election she suffered the biggest swing against the L/NP of any seat in the country. So major parties cannot ignore independents but neither can they ignore the response of the electorate to their own candidates or they will see more independents elected.

The ALP almost shot itself in the foot in Tasmania when it moved sitting Senator Lisa Singh to the almost ‘unwinnable’ sixth position on the ballot paper but Tasmanian voters chose to vote ‘below the line’ and gave her 20,741 first preference votes in her own right: she became the fourth ALP Senator to be elected with the candidate in the fifth position being earlier excluded and the other candidate above her, in fourth position on the ballot, winning the fifth Senate place for the ALP. Although not an independent, I give that as another example of the electorate’s response to individual candidates. If she had run as an independent, after being moved down the ballot the way she was by the ALP power brokers, there is a strong possibility that she would still have won a place. That is often how successful independents are ‘born’ and if the major parties wish to keep the number of independents and minor parties as low as possible they need to heed such examples of electoral responses to their candidates.

Although minor parties and independents had some success, in both the HoR and the Senate, the overall ‘best’ average seems to remain around a 3‒4% vote for minor parties except in the home states of the key principal candidates (Xenophon, Hanson, Hinch, Lambie) and for sitting members. So it seems to come down to the local public profiles of individuals and can also be influenced by the quality of individual candidates put forward by the major parties, not simply a reaction against the major parties.

What do you think?
Is Ken right in suggesting that it is the public profile of ‘independents’ that has most influence?

Is the Senate system ‘fair’, if people can win a seat starting with only 3‒4% of the vote?

Let us know in comments below.


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Why are Abbott’s conservatives destroying our PM?
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To those of you who dispute the assertion embedded in the title, let me provide you with supporting evidence.

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The standard you walk past . . .
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Johno goes to heaven


Johno was (as they say in the classics) a good and decent man. When he dies, he goes to heaven, and St Peter shows him around. They go past one room, and Johno asks: ‘Who are all those people in there?’ ‘They are the Methodists,’ says St Peter. They pass another room, and Johno asks the same question. ‘They are the Anglicans,’ says St Peter. As they're approaching the next room, St Peter says: ‘Take your shoes off and tiptoe by as quietly as you can.’ ‘Why, who's in there?’ asks Johno. ‘The Catholics,’ says St Peter, ‘and they think that they're the only ones up here.’.

Yes, it’s basically an old Dave Allen joke about religious difference (and would have been much funnier if you saw him tell it rather than read it). In contrast, Nick Earls recently wrote an article that discussed Australia’s seemingly never-ending preoccupation with ‘religious difference’ in The Guardian that shows wit and humour as well as having a good point. Earls claims:
I arrived in Australia in 1972 at the age of eight in the middle of an apparent Irish joke boom, and spent much of my lunchtimes over the next couple of years being dragged aside and read pages of Irish jokes. As fun goes, it had its limits.

But it wasn’t as bad as being the kid from the Italian family who had his “wog” lunch thrown in the bin most days, only to watch the perpetrators spend $10 in cafes 20 years later for the exact same food — focaccia and prosciutto — with no recollection of what they’d done.
Earls noticed a difference when travelling after the ‘9/11’ attacks in the US when those born in Northern Ireland were no longer ‘randomly selected’ for ‘special clearance procedures’ yet again. He also relates the history of Australia where the first Catholic Priest, a convict, was transported to Australia in 1798, then allowed to conduct masses from 1803 only until there was a rebellion of Irish convicts in 1804. The claim was that the rebellion was plotted during the mass (it would have been in Latin and the guards probably weren’t the smartest people in the room). The next Catholic mass in Australia wasn’t held until 1820.

Earls argues that the current discrimination against Muslims is equally as silly as the many decades of discrimination against the Irish around the world. While some Irish did belong to the IRA and were willing to do anything to ‘further their cause’, there were a hell of a lot of Irish people around the world that really didn’t care that much about the ‘free Ireland’ the IRA proposed. A lot of the Irish weren’t even Catholic! It would be nice to record here that discrimination and profiling by assumed religious characteristics died in the early years of this century when the world finally realised that every person with an Irish name or place of birth wasn’t a religious nutter with a bomb hiding in their luggage, but to believe that would be delusional.

As Earls mentions, early this century the focus switched from some Irish person going to blow you up to some Muslim person going to blow you up. While there have been some horrible atrocities around the world in the past 15 years caused by those claiming to further the Muslim cause (despite the mainstream Muslim religion abhorring violence), let’s look at some facts.

In September 2014, Crikey looked at various facts around terrorism. Between the Sydney Hilton Bombing in 1978 and September 2014, 113 Australians were victims of terrorism. While each life lost is a tragedy, Crikey points out that from 2003 to 2012, there were 2617 homicides, something like 8500 victims of car accidents and 22,800 suicides. The number of terror related deaths in 35 years is even eclipsed by the number of people who died from falling off a ladder (230), electrocution (206) and, surprisingly in a first world country, more died of shingles (228) as well as gastro and diarrhoea (168) in the 10-year period between 2003 and 2012.

So, is terrorism a problem? Of course it is — but is it an issue so all-encompassing that politicians like Pauline Hanson are correct in demanding CCTV cameras be installed in mosques? Of course it isn’t. Going back to numbers again, Hanson claims that she has a right to free speech and while there is no such clause regarding freedom of speech in Australia’s constitution, there is an implied right for anyone in this country to say what they want provided it doesn’t injure the reputation of others. Hanson also claims that she speaks for the majority of ordinary Australians. This too is debatable as her political party received around 500,000 first preference votes from the 16 million or so that were entitled to vote in the 2016 Federal Election. Mathematically, that means that around 15,500,000 Australian voters specifically decided that Hanson did not speak for them.

One of those who determined that Hanson didn’t speak for him is Barnaby Joyce (Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the National Party). Joyce countered Hanson’s suggestion of CCTV being installed in mosques by stating that every religion has ratbags and suggesting that if all Muslims were terrorists, all Catholics were members of the IRA. Joyce is also correct in suggesting that:
… the democratic process which saw Pauline Hanson elected to the Senate should be respected and he did not want to start the new parliament with a “fight”.

“I am happy to have a cogent debate where nobody is insulted but I am happy to argue these things on the facts and on the reality of the nation I live in,” he said.
Last weekend, a teenager shot and killed 10 people in Munich, 27 other people were injured. It appears that the person with the gun had mental issues and thought highly of Anders Behring Breivik who murdered 77 young people on the Norwegian island of Utoya in 2011. Yet the same ABC online news report that reports all this in the first paragraph goes on to identify the perpetrator as a German-Iranian. Since when is the ancestry of a mass murderer relevant to the crime?

Earlier this year, Omar Marteen walked into the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and shot 102 people (49 of whom subsequently died). According to the US authorities, while Marteen acted alone, he had mental health issues and was inspired by radical material he found online. On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza killed his mother, then drove to the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and shot 28 people, including 20 children. Lanza had mental health issues.

All mass murders are horrific, but the ancestry and/or religious beliefs of Lanza were not discussed in the reporting of the events that occurred. See the difference?

Locally, most will remember the siege at the Lindt Café in Sydney which was initially claimed to be a terrorist attack — including this breathless reporting:
At 10.30am, the seriousness of the ISIS threat forced the remaining TV production staff to leave the premises, throwing to the network’s Melbourne news crew, anchored by Nick Etchells and Laurel Irving.

TV executive producer Max Uechtriz tweeted confirmation of the terror scenario, with hostages forced to hold up the sinister black flag of the Islamic terror group.
The reality was Man Haron Monis, who perpetrated the crime, had a long history of borderline criminality and certainly ‘was known to authorities’. And the ISIS flag at the Lindt Café that proved the connection with terrorism — well apparently it wasn’t the ISIS flag and didn’t prove a thing.

Curtis Chang was a NSW Police Service accountant, shot and killed by a teenager while leaving work in Parramatta in October 2015. The claim at the time was the teenager had been ‘radicalised’. Senator-elect Hanson recently cited incidents such as the Lindt Café siege and Chang’s murder as reasons for a Royal Commission into religion on the ABC’s Q & A program telecast on July 18. Chang’s son has written an open letter to Hanson requesting that an entire religion is not blamed for the actions of a 15-year-old boy. From the letter:
As a high school teacher, I have Muslim students and I have met their parents and family. They have the same hopes and dreams of all Australians; to be successful in their lives and enjoy the freedoms we enjoy. I have not changed my hope for them to be successful members of Australian society.

This fearmongering directed at minorities is not a new phenomenon in history. Nor is it new with me personally. When I first arrived to Australia, I remember being a victim of the hateful and fearful attitudes that the One Nation Party promoted. I remember being told I will be sent back to where I came from because I was Asian and, therefore, not Australian. I remember feeling ostracised and isolated from the country and identity with which I had adopted — in harmony with my cultural heritage.
If anyone has the ‘right’ to ‘hate’ in Australia, surely it is Chang — not Hanson.

The Federal Member for Moreton, Graham Perrett recently reported in an opinion piece published by Fairfax:
At Eid Down Under earlier this month I had some halal lamb and cevapi and they tasted exactly like Australia. Despite being raised a Catholic in country Queensland I felt right at home at a Muslim celebration on Brisbane's southside. It wasn't a tradition from my childhood or my culture or my religion, but it was enjoyable — and the food was delicious!

Some politicians have mistakenly suggested that, in order to protect "our" culture and "our" way of life, the parliament should curtail the freedom of Australians to practise any religion that is not Christianity. As well as being offensive to around nine out of 20 Australians, such a restriction is contrary to our own Constitution.
And he’s right. Section 116 of Australia’s Constitution allows all those who live here freedom to practice their own religion. As Perrett points out, the Constitution was written by a number of ‘white blokes’. Those ‘white blokes’ apparently could tell the difference between an Irish Catholic and a member of the IRA. It’s a pity that those who attempt to victimise people based on some tenuous link between their appearance or name and a religious group over one hundred years later don’t have the same ability.

What do you think?
How is Australia less safe now than it was 50 years ago?

Have there always been religious ‘nutters’?

Let us know in comments below.

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