Sunday, 26 August 2007

End to Pacific Solution

This is an issue we addressed in our very first Progression newsletter: that the so-called "Pacific Solution" for asylum seekers is unjust, inhumane and also, stupidly costly. One very economically-minded and Liberal-voting friend told me, after reading the article, that he was now converted to ending the Pacific Solution based purely on cost alone. Now it seems Oxfam is bringing the issue to our attention once more. This is an SMH article:

The so-called Pacific solution for asylum seekers is a taxpayer rip-off that fuels mental illness among refugees and should be scrapped, a new report claims.
The findings are from an analysis by aid organisation Oxfam Australia and refugee advocacy group A Just Australia released on the sixth anniversary of the arrival of the Tampa and its cargo of asylum seekers rescued from the Indian Ocean.
The report analyses the financial, legal, human and regional cost of the so-called Pacific solution which sent asylum seekers to offshore detention centres.
The solution was developed by the government in 2001 in a crackdown on unauthorised immigration and to try to stem the numbers of asylum seekers accessing Australian courts in an increasingly costly litigation process.
But the report said taxpayers have spent more than $1 billion since 2001 to process fewer than 1,700 asylum seekers in Nauru, Manus Island and Christmas Island - a cost of more than $500,000 per person.
"By comparison, the latest estimates from (the immigration department) suggest that to process 1,700 asylum seekers for 90 days each at Villawood detention centre in Sydney would have cost around $35 million - around 3.5 per cent of the cost of processing them offshore," the report said.
Most detainees have spent two years on Nauru, it said, with some being held for up to six years and many developing psychological illnesses in detention.
"Most, if not all, of these asylum seekers have paid a substantial personal toll through poor mental and physical health and wellbeing," the report said.
"There have also been detrimental impacts on Australia's democratic and legal system, Australia's regional relationships and the international system of protection of refugees and asylum seekers."
Oxfam and A Just Australia recommended offshore processing be abolished.
"We believe it is critical that the Australian government end the Pacific solution and the offshore detention and processing of asylum-seekers on Nauru, Manus Island and Christmas Island," the document said.
"Instead, asylum-seekers reaching excised areas of Australia by boat should be processed in mainland Australia in the same way as other asylum-seekers."
The report demanded an audit into the full financial costs of running offshore detention centres, and the scrapping of arrangements that allow refugees to be resettled in the US and other third countries.
The report also called for an inquiry into whether offshore processing and the excision of islands from Australia's migration zone had decreased the number of refugee boat arrivals, as claimed by the government.
The federal government is expected to open a new detention centre on Christmas Island later this year, built at a cost of about $400 million.

Are people mad? Even if all you care about is dollars and cents, this just doesn't add up.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Rudd and the strip club

Well there had to be a story like this eventually - the question I'm interested in, is, does it matter? To be honest, I was personally disappointed in Kevin Rudd. I dislike strip clubs, I think they devalue women, and I would have expected more from a Christian and also someone who has such a strong wife, and daughter.

But despite this, I'm not sure if it matters politically. Should it? I don't know. Rudd was honest when it all came out, something that seems to distinguish him from Howard, who is seen as increasingly dishonest. If there are only so many times you can lie to the public and get away with it, John Howard must have used up all his nine lives. In a yahoo poll, the overwhelming majority said it would not affect him in the polls - and let's remember, this happened four years ago. Bush's shady past of cocaine etc didn't stop him getting elected. However, I can see it hurting his Christian vote.

So what do you think?

Friday, 10 August 2007

Leaders try for Christian vote

Here is an interesting news story...

Up to 100,000 Christians in 850 churches across Australia watched a live telecast from Canberra of the two leaders pitching their Christian values to the converted in a bid for votes.

Prime Minister John Howard hit the right notes, drawing more applause from Christians at one Sydney church while Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd won more votes - just.

About 500 Hillsong churchgoers, mostly aged 25 to 35 years, listened attentively for more than two hours the two leaders, after a rousing round of prayers for good governance and leadership.

Afterwards, five out of ten churchgoers said they would vote for Mr Rudd, while four preferred Mr Howard and one was undecided.

However, it was Mr Howard's stance on Christian identity that drew the only two bursts of spontaneous applause.

Heterosexual marriage and the affirmation of Christianity as the dominant Australian religion were apparently more popular than Mr Rudd's attack on Work Choices, climate change and foreign aid.

Indeed, Mr Rudd's support for state-based same-sex relationship registers only drew suspicion from churchgoers who feared they will only lead to gay marriage and adoption.

Assurances about the preservation and affirmation of Christianity relative to other religions was captured best by Mr Howard, 49-year-old teacher Marlene Matthew said.

"While we give others the ability to practice their faith, christians should still have the right to practice without fear," she said.

Pastor Carole Simister, 56, said Muslims were given more freedom in Australia than Christians received in Islamic countries.

Mr Howard's reference to political correctness-gone-mad when citing the example of nativity scenes being banned for fear of offending other religions drew wide applause.

"I always find it odd that you have to demonstrate your tolerance by denying your own heritage," Mr Howard said to vast approval.

Mr Rudd may have suffered by speaking second, later in the night to about 100 fewer people after supper.

But his stance education and foreign aid appealed to 27-year-old charity worker Rowan Vansleve.

"I will vote for Rudd, if not the Greens. Mr Rudd looked like a charismatic leader," Mr Vansleve said.

Mr Rudd offered student Aaron Chamberlin a vision for the future he thought Mr Howard lacked.

"John Howard spoke a lot about the past and what has been done but there was lack of direction for where we are going to go. Rudd, while unproven, offered more direction."

I find it sad Christians are more stressed out about same sex civil rights that foreign aid, but I thought this was encouraging, seeing how the Hillsong crowd is predominantly conservative. Still, it's a little annoying the prospective leaders have to "win" the Christian vote.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Tne Haneef bungle

This was part of an interesting read from the SMH opinion pieces...

Nothing is more important to Australia's security than public confidence in the Government's ability to make the right laws, and the ability of the police and the justice system to enforce them. That confidence has been sorely tested by the conduct of the case against Haneef, now on remand after appearing in court charged over an alleged connection with attempted terrorist bombings in London and Glasgow. The case against Haneef was not only weak, but contained serious errors of fact. On what we know, it would not surprise if Mr Bugg were to find it was so flimsy as to be no case at all.

Even if Mr Bugg decides the original case should proceed, serious questions will remain. How could the prosecution claim in court on the morning of July 14 that Haneef's SIM card had been found in the would-be bombers' vehicle at Glasgow Airport when federal police already knew it had not, and why was that error not corrected that day? Why were police interviews with Haneef misreported to the court in a way that incriminated Haneef? Was all this incompetence or something more sinister, and who was responsible, the police or the prosecution? Regardless of whether Haneef has a case to answer, the prosecution certainly does.

If Mr Bugg does not provide answers to why the case has been mishandled, others must. What is needed is a short, sharp inquiry. It should be conducted by either the Commonwealth Ombudsman or the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity which has oversight of the federal police. Presumably neither body would hold an inquiry while charges are pending against Haneef for fear of prejudicing the case. However, if the charges are dropped, an inquiry could - and should - proceed immediately.

Whatever the DPP decides about the court case, the Government appears determined to deport Haneef for reasons which it will not share with the public. There may be good reasons for keeping secret certain evidence concerning Haneef, but there is no such excuse for failing to expose the bungling to the strong light of day.

I for one am sick of the terrorist card being played again, seemingly without good reason. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

World Vision and Amazing Grace

Hi all, sorry it's been a while, I an my entire family have been battling chicken pox and flu
Lots has happened in the past few weeks - the Haneef disaster, new if anyone wants to drop me a line with some commentary, that would be great.

In the meantime...if any of you live near Penrith I thought you might be interested in the opportunity to see the Amazing Grace movie and support World Vision at the same time.

The movie itself is the story of William Wilberforce and his fight to end slavery. It has got rave reviews, and looks to be a great way of inspiring Christians and non-Christians alive to join the fight for social justice.

Hawkesbury World Vision Club is hosting a screening at Hoyts Penrith Plaza on Wednesday, August 8 at about 6.30pm (exact time TBC). The cost is $20 and that includes seeing the movie, a goody-bag with chocolates, popcorn, water and information about World Vision projects, and a cup of coffee and gourmet cupcake in the foyer after the show. All profits will go towards World Vision projects.

So come along and have a great time! Drop me an email if you're interested.