Cross-posted from Larvatus Prodeo. Thanks to Mark Bahnisch for convincing me to return to this subject.
I have to confess that I couldn’t bring myself to watch Monday’s Four Corners on the scandal of Australia’s “offshore” asylum seeker processing regime. I’m on the Sydney Refugee Action Coalition email list and read horrifying stories from Manus Island on an almost daily basis. Rather than being numbed by this atrocity exhibition I am scared I will simply lose control of my rage and frustration if I have to actually see the human cost on TV.
What makes me doubly angry is that it is a Labor government doing this. Now, I’m one of those hardened Marxist types who expects the reformists to do bad stuff, but there is something debased in this government’s attempts to surpass Howard’s record in “toughness” on refugees. To hear that Labor is now back-flipping on its policy of keeping children out of mainland detention centres just days after the Four Corners special suggests that their strategy is to plough ahead undeterred by basic questions of human decency. Clearly this government is not for turning; at least not in this race to the bottom. Continue Reading
Golden Dawn’s MPs in the Greek parliament
by KEVIN OVENDEN
Below are the points, updated and a little amplified, I made in a contribution to the highly successful Unite Against Fascism conference in London on 2 March. The speech (and I’ve incorporated my summing up) was in a workshop with Petros Constantinou from Greece, Marwan Mohammed from France and Glyn Ford MEP from Britain, who all made extremely clear and thought-provoking contributions.
Tears in parliament, but no solution in sight
Left Flank has been away on holiday, but we’re back now. Below is a repost of my response to the sickening asylum seeker “debate” that happened in late June. Since then the issue has been shifted off to an elite “expert” committee which, as The Piping Shrike has pointed out, represents the exhaustion of the Gillard government’s agenda in political terms.
MUA protest against the Enterprise Migration Agreement
I’m reposting a recent piece I wrote for Overland Journal’s blog, in response to the debate over the contentious Enterprise Migration Agreement negotiated between the Gillard government and Gina Rinehart to allow the mining billionaire to import up to 1700 skilled workers from overseas. It was written as an open letter to Paul Howes after an op-ed he wrote. He has indicated he’s interested in responding formally at some point.
For some background on the question of migrant workers in the context of the notorious “British Jobs for British Workers” campaign a few years ago, this excellent essay by UK-based political economist Jane Hardy is highly recommended.
And here is an excerpt from a speech by AMWU Western Australian State Secretary Steve McCartney at a fringe event at the recent ACTU conference.
To his credit Bob Brown was one of the clearest opponents of Pauline Hanson when she rose to infamy in the 1990s, not something the major party leaders could have been accused of at the time. But more recently he has pushed both population limits arguments and a line against skilled migration. Yet Hanson used similar economic nationalist rhetoric in her attempt to build a far Right party, mobilising many of the same arguments Brown is now using.
The point is not that Brown is a racist (he most certainly isn’t), but that he is tapping into an economic nationalist discourse that has long been utilised to set Australian-born against migrant workers and which can unwittingly open the door to legitimising the sort of extreme nationalism that Hanson was so adept at stoking.
It is worth looking at the language in more detail.
Have the Greens decided to join the chorus of anti-immigrant racism that has bedevilled Australian politics for over a century? It seems so, with Bob Brown using the term “queue jumpers” to describe skilled migrants entering the country. Criticising Julia Gillard’s “Malaysian Solution” to deport asylum seekers, he argued:
We know more than 90 per cent of them [asylum seekers] turn out to be [refugees] and we should be integrating them into an Australian economy where we are going to see, I think in the budget tomorrow night potentially, queue jumpers being brought in, at the interest of the mining corporations.
The term “queue jumpers”, of course, has been the stock-in-trade of politicians confecting cries of “unfairness”, even “injustice”, in immigration policy. Not a description of some real queue but an emotional appeal to distract from well-founded bitterness at the real injustices of a society run in the interests of the rich. The trick, therefore, is the displacement of social insecurity into insecurity about borders or ethnicity. To hear it used in this way by Greens politicians must come as a shock to even the most cynical observers of mainstream politics.
Despite shock being professed around the world, the shootings in Arizona over the weekend shouldn’t be surprising. The United States stands out for its high levels of political polarisation in a rich, industrialised country, and as Gary Younge points out, this polarisation has reached new highs during the presidency of Barack Obama. It is this that provides the context (if not the cause) for the act of political violence — we’d call it “terrorism” if it wasn’t a White American doing it — in Tucson.
The rise in far Right extremism is in part a product of the growing turn by sections of the Republicans, especially those around the Tea Party movement, to develop an extraparliamentary base from which to mobilise electoral support. This has fed the confidence of more radical groupings intent on using political violence to achieve their ends. A US Department of Homeland Security report [pdf] has identified the combination of several factors as underpinning the increase in far Right activity, in particular the economic downturn and the election of an African-American President. In addition they identify legislation around illegal immigration and gun control as weather vanes around which extremists can rally support.
There is often little to separate the words of Republicans like Sarah Palin from the propaganda and actions of militaristic quasi-fascist fringe groups. Such rhetoric makes a mockery of statements by leading Republicans trying to dissociate themselves from any responsibility in creating such a climate.
ABC’s The Drum Unleashed has published my analysis of refugee policy today. I take on Robert Manne’s recent surrender to the inevitability of coercive state policy towards asylum seekers as a fact of political life: