Getting snarky at self-righteous politicians

Hi Kelvin,
Thanks for your response. I’m sure the half-truths and hopeful assurances you provided helps you sleep well at night, however it doesn’t help me. 
I don’t sleep very well at night knowing that people- lawful asylum seekers- are being raped, mutilated, tortured and psychologically scarred for life in my name. All sanctioned by the government you are part of. 
I don’t sleep very well knowing that children (not to mention adults) are being sent to be processed and released to a country where malaria is an everyday risk, HIV/AIDS and cholera is endemic, tuberculosis, typhoid and hepatitis is prevalent and carjackings, assaults (including sexual assaults), bag snatching and robberies are common. (All of this from the Australian Government website). 
I don’t sleep very well knowing that even when people are granted a visa in Australia, they are not entitled to work to support themselves and their families, start to make a life and pay taxes, which they would dearly love to do. I can’t believe the Australian Government is so devoid of imagination that the best they can do is abuse and deny the rights of existing lawful asylum seekers in Australia, in a bizarre attempt to discourage potential asylum seekers from getting on boats. I find it bitterly ironic that we are using these people, who are here, living in the community right now, as examples of what will happen to people in other countries who might be considering an attempt to get here. Would you consider treating prisoners in jails more harshly in an attempt to discourage people from committing crimes? Apparently they are not human beings, they are precautionary tales. I must remember to tell them that next time I see them lining up for donations of food. 
I don’t sleep well with your assurance that 50 AFP officers will be sent to PNG, and they will make a significant difference to the lawlessness that pervades there. Is that a joke? 
I don’t sleep well with your assurance that they will be treated with dignity and respect, because I have no reason to disbelieve every word of Rod St George, the former Head of Occupational Health and Safety at Manus Island and his stories of appalling conditions, rape, torture and more. All sanctioned by the government you are part of. Even your Minister Tony Burke believes him, judging by his sudden trip there to investigate and the actions that have followed and will follow. 
HOWEVER, I do agree with your assertion that Australians have had enough of seeing asylum seekers dying in the waters to our north. To this end, I have attached The Greens policy approach, released today. I wholeheartedly support every one of its thoroughly achievable aims.  This is a great opportunity for the government to work outside of the bitterness of party politics that your people endlessly moan about and implement REAL solutions to REAL problems RIGHT NOW. So that we can STOP torturing children, women and men who just want a better life for themselves and their families. 
I also agree that “the Australian people have had enough of people smugglers profiting from death”. And I welcome anything the Government can do to help the Indonesian Government find those smugglers, get them prosecuted through Indonesian courts and shut down their trade. Because the trite, meaningless soundbite you reiterated might sound tough and get some cut-through in the suburbs,, but blaming and punishing the VICTIMS of the people smugglers- asylum seekers- is not ACTUALLY doing anything to stop people smugglers. And it STILL doesn’t help me sleep at night. 
Ron Holmes

From: “Thomson, Kelvin (MP)” <>
To: holmesr64
Dear Mr Holmes,
Thank you for your email regarding the Australian Government’s recent announcement that asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat will be sent to Papua New Guinea for processing and resettlement.
I have noted your concerns and make the following observations in response:
1.       The PNG Government has already made clear commitments that transferees will be treated with dignity and respect and in accordance with human rights standards.
Australia will also be deploying 50 Australian Federal Police in visible policing roles in parts of PNG as a starting point for cooperation on law and order with PNG.
This forms part of Australia’s commitment to its regional neighbour in helping address law and order issues.
2.       We will implement these arrangements in a manner that is consistent with our international obligations.
PNG is a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees and will remove its reservations to the Convention for people covered by this arrangement. Asylum seekers found to be refugees would be resettled in PNG with appropriate support from the PNG Government.
Those transferred and accommodated in PNG will be treated with dignity and respect and in accordance with human rights standards.
They will not be returned to their place of persecution, and the obligations of the convention will be adhered to.
3.       We are not walking away from our commitment to refugees.
Under our new policy, Australia will continue to take genuine refugees from around the world under the normal processes of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Australia is in the top three nations of the world for refugee resettlement, with Canada and the US, out of 22 UNHCR/Refugee Convention nations which operate a dedicated resettlement program.
Australia has increased its refugee intake to 20,000 places a year.
This is the largest increase to Australia’s humanitarian intake in 30 years.
If our changes mean there are significantly less people arriving by boat, the Government will consider increasing our humanitarian intake to 27,000 as recommended by the Houston Panel.
4.       Australians have had enough of seeing asylum seekers dying in the waters to our north.
They’ve had enough of people smugglers profiting from death.
The fact is we have a responsibility to adjust and change our policies in response to the evolving circumstances.
There is nothing compassionate about allowing people to continue to drown at sea. It is also not compassionate to not do what we can for people who have been languishing in refugee camps around the world.
5.       If someone does arrive by boat, and is assessed as a refugee, and is settled in Australia, that’s one less place in that 20,000 that would otherwise go to someone who is in a camp somewhere else in the world.
We have an obligation to do our bit to help the thousands of asylum seekers who languish in refugee camps around the world for as long as a decade as they use the normal processes for seeking asylum.
6.       Our policy is quite different from the Opposition.
This issue is too complex to be addressed by a cheap three word slogan.
Indonesia has made clear that Mr Abbott’s solution and any unilateral action is unacceptable to them. That is why our response is one based on domestic action and regional co-operation.
7.       Everyone who arrives after the announcement will be transferred once health checks are complete and appropriate accommodation is available. 
Exempting children would simply encourage people smugglers to put children on boats to Australia.
Appropriate arrangements will be available for children and families.
I hope this information is of assistance to you. I have a long-standing interest in finding real solutions for what is a real problem. If you can point me in the direction of a country – there are 200 to choose from – which has successfully implemented a superior policy, please let me know and I will undertake to investigate their approach.
Yours sincerely,
Kelvin Thomson MP

Cath Bowtell’s views on the PNG ‘Solution’

Last week I emailed Cath Bowtell, Labor candidate for the Federal Seat of Melbourne, to ask her views on the asylum seeker scandal. (Melbourne is formerly a blue ribbon Labor seat, but it was snatched by The Greens’ Adam Bandt at the last election. Labor is pulling out all stops to get it back, and will be preferenced by Liberal ahead of The Greens.)

Here it is- my email, her email, and my email back. You decide.

Dear Ms Bowtell,

You are the Labor candidate in my seat of Melbourne. I would like to hear your position on the Prime Minister’s decision to send all boat arrivals to Papua New Guinea, with the vow that they will NEVER be allowed to settle in Australia. Papua New Guinea, a country that the Australian Government cautions Australians to take “extreme caution” if travelling there due to high levels of crime and substantial levels of cholera, HIV, and malaria. Papua New Guinea, by many measures a third world country. Where one third of the population live on less than $2 per day. Where the people have had no say in their Prime Minister’s decision.
As an aside, I’d like to draw your attention to a statement Mr Rudd made in 2006:
“Another great challenge of our age is asylum seekers. The biblical injunction to care for the stranger in our midst is clear. The parable of the Good Samaritan is but one of many which deal with the matter of how we should respond to a vulnerable stranger in our midst. That is why the government’s proposal to excise the Australian mainland from the entire Australian migration zone and to rely almost exclusively on the so-called Pacific Solution should be the cause of great ethical concern to all the Christian churches. We should never forget that the reason we have a UN convention on the protection of refugees is in large part because of the horror of the Holocaust, when the West (including Australia) turned its back on the Jewish people of Germany and the other occupied countries of Europe who sought asylum during the ’30s.”
I note that your website and Facebook page is replete with photos and stories from young people of diverse cultural backgrounds, some of whom I’m sure came to Australia as refugees, and I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that you are not merely publicising your meeting with them to gain some ‘cultural credibility’. I would like to think you actually care about the lives of these people, as well as the beliefs of the residents in the electorate of Melbourne, who overwhelmingly support a compassionate approach to lawful asylum seekers arriving by boat.
So, what is your position on all of this? Where do you stand? What do you believe? What are you going to do to represent the views of the majority of residents in the electorate of Melbourne?


Ron Holmes

Dear Mr Holmes
I understand your concern about this issue and the Government’s recent announcement, much of which I share.
I know that people leave intolerable circumstances in their homeland – war, famine, persecution. Many of these people have made Melbourne their home and contribute daily to our vibrant community. I hear from many of them, particularly from some Horn of African countries who have been waiting for years for their families in camps to be processed for settlement to Australia. I can assure you that I care very deeply about these people.
I am a strong advocate for taking a significantly greater number of refugees; I also believe we have a humanitarian obligation to deter people from taking dangerous sea journeys. The number of deaths we have seen recently does require mechanisms to deter people from risking their lives, and those of their children.
Australia should provide protection to as many people as we can, and offer them the chance to rebuild their lives. There are currently 46 million such people in the world. Our country cannot provide an unlimited number of places, but it can do better.
Labor has recently committed to an increase our refugee intake to 20,000 plus an additional 4000 earmarked for family reunion. This is similar to the number of refugees resettled after the Vietnam war.
Labor has committed to consider a further increase to 27,000 per year and I will work towards achieving this goal, as a minimum.
I will also advocate for the retention and improvement of resettlement services which have been important to retain support for our multicultural and multi-faith community.
We need to work with other nations in our region so people can find protection in countries that are currently “transit” countries.
A framework of regional assessments and resettlement will not only provide protection to many thousands of displaced people, it will go some way to discourage sea journeys.
Wherever people’s claim for protection is heard, it should be done promptly and there must be a fair process to determine the claim. People should be supported during the process, with access to health care, education for their children and the right to work. I am on the record expressing concern about PNG’s current capacity to meet this standard.
We have to accept that the community is very divided on this issue. In my view, changes to Australia’s treatment of refugees will come about primarily through the efforts of people like you and me to convince others that it is the right thing to do.
My commitment is to work for this within the Labor caucus and in the community.
Please contact my office if you require any further information.
Kind regards

Cath Bowtell
Labor Candidate for Melbourne

Dear Ms Bowtell,
Thank you for taking the time to reply to my email.
I am however underwhelmed by your response, for several reasons:
You said “Australia should provide protection to as many people as we can, and offer them the chance to rebuild their lives. There are currently 46 million such people in the world. Our country cannot provide an unlimited number of places, but it can do better.” Yes, i already heard that from Bill Shorten on QandA- it was a ridiculous, obfuscating comment then and it still is now. It is nothing more than scaremongering.

You said “I am on the record expressing concern about PNG’s current capacity to meet this standard.” Great- and this will do what exactly? Big words when you’re not even an elected member, but it’ll be just as impotent if/when you’re a backbencher and PM Rudd doesn’t even know your name.

You said “A framework of regional assessments and resettlement will not only provide protection to many thousands of displaced people, it will go some way to discourage sea journeys.” So, you believe that not only PNG but the Solomon Islands and other Third World countries should be taking the asylum seekers that Australia can easily absorb do you? You’ll fit in quite nicely with the current government.

You said “We have to accept that the community is very divided on this issue. In my view, changes to Australia’s treatment of refugees will come about primarily through the efforts of people like you and me to convince others that it is the right thing to do.” Yes, except you’ll be subject to an arcane but effective system of silencing voices of public dissent otherwise known as the Labor Party, whereas I have the freedom to actually shout my anger from the rooftops.

Finally, I note that you failed to mention the awful truth (though many of us are sadly unsurprised) emerging, before you wrote, of torture, rape, mutilation and abuse occurring in at least one of the offshore detention facilities. That a former employee has been so tormented he is willing to risk prosecution, and that PNG employees have corroborated his claims (likely at a much higher risk) is a vicious indictment of the government’s hands-off attitude to the treatment of lawful asylum seekers. I personally have no doubt that these crimes are occurring at all detention facilities (I prefer to call them jails), along with the psychological trauma that all detainees will continue to suffer from their unjust imprisonment. You choose not to discuss this- I’m not surprised.

Hey- good luck in the election, I’m sure you’ll give it a good go, especially as the Libs will be preferencing you over Adam Bandt. If you want my view, I believe there are now 2 political parties in Australia: Liberal/National/Labor, and The Greens, and your preference deal just proves that. You’ve taken your place in the political world- I hope you learn to live with that.

Ron Holmes
Ps it’s not good form to censor your Facebook page just because you get dissenting comments. Ironically, I respect the fact that the Greens, with many many hateful remarks, do not remove any posts from their various FB pages. To each their own…

Thanks Kevin- the choice of where I stand is now clear.

greens_election_v1B_largeNow that there are just two major political parties in Australia (Labor/Liberal/Nationals and The Greens), it’s time to choose. Do you believe in xenophobic, racist, hateful, cruel policies towards lawful asylum seekers, or do you believe in compassionate, rational policies that treat lawful asylum seekers the way we would like to be treated?
Do you believe in a political party that promotes blind allegiance to outdated principles, authoritarian leadership, policy with a use-by date of the next election, and naked ambition to win government (not to mention party leadership) at ANY cost, or do you believe in a party that has its fair share of robust discussion but works collaboratively and openly towards policies that are morally and ethically sound with a vision far beyond our lifetimes?
I choose the latter, and I’ll be voting Greens. For the first time ever, I’m also joining the party, and I’ll be pamphletting for them.
Ironically, they have Kevin Rudd to thank for that.

You’ve Got Red On You

I love this movie- sounds strange but arguably the most realistic zombie ever! And I love The Astor Theatre- spent many hours watching double features (including one unforgettable visit when I had TWO choctops!), pining for a girlfriend in my 20’s. At that time, even a zombie girlfriend would do…

Giving them the finger

Nicky Winmar

Adam goodes
These two guys, among many others, are heroic figures both in Aboriginal and AFL circles- though the changes that have taken place (and NOT taken place) in the time between the two photos is telling.
The first photo shows Nicky Winmar, a St Kilda player who, during a match with Collingwood in 1993, became so exasperated with the plainly racist taunts he was receiving, raised his shirt to the crowd, pointed to his skin and said, ‘I’m proud to be black.” To top it off, St Kilda beat Collingwood on that day.
To illustrate the times on that very year in AFL, Collingwood’s President Alan McAlister was quoted as saying of Aboriginal players

“As long as they conduct themselves like white people, well, off the field, everyone will admire them and respect them.”

To be ironically fair to McAlister, his view was probably not far from that of the general populace.

Zoom forward to 2013, and the second photo shows Adam Goodes pointing out (literally) a young spectator who called him an ape. On a day that the AFL specifically sets aside to “…celebrate our country’s Indigenous culture and players that have shaped Australia’s Game”. So- understandably a little pissed off by this casual racism, even (especially?) from a 13 year old child.

This photo arguably illustrates a change in attitude that has occurred between 1993 and 2013. From ‘this is me’ to ‘this is you’. Not that Aboriginal people should ever have to, but Winmar took it on himself to defiantly and proudly point out his blackness for all to see. Goodes however, as a similarly defiant and proud black man, took it on himself to point out the racism that exists in Australian culture- and simultaneously demand that it be dealt with. Not by him- it is NOT incumbent on victims of racism (or any other discrimination) to fix the problem- but by society, as represented by the AFL in this situation, but rightly implicating every one of us.

Of course, that is not to say racism is on the way out. AFL footballers are very well treated, remunerated and revered, even if only for their sporting prowess- so if an elite AFL footballer experiences racist abuse during a high-profile game on live television, and I’m sure other Aboriginal players cop the same abuse regularly, then you can multiply that many times for the average person on the street, both in quantity and type.

Asking Labor MPs about asylum seeker policy.

I’m going to email/FB this simple question to Labor MPs both State and Federal and ask for their response. I’ll post the names of those I’ve sent it to and any responses I get.

Your page keeps popping up on my newsfeed as a couple of my friends are your friends, so I thought I’d ask you a question. How do you reconcile being a Labor MP with the fact that the Federal Labor Government has now far surpassed the Howard Government in its immense cruelty towards and irrational restrictions on lawful asylum seekers? I won’t bore you with a list (and it would be a long list), but just to put it a few important points out there: despite the govt declaring in 2012 that children would not be held in detention, there are now more children in detention than at any time in Australia’s history; the govt recently excised the whole of Australia from the migration zone, something even the Howard govt decided was too extreme; the cost of detaining asylum seekers for the next 4 years will be $8 billion (little more than the huge Gonski education reforms), despite the fact that currently 95% are eventually granted protection; Australia is demonstrably ‘receiving’ a tiny fraction of the world’s asylum seekers- in fact the world’s poorest countries by far receive the most- yet Labor and Liberal do nothing to dispel the myth that we are being overrun; an unknown number of asylum seekers in detention have committed or attempted suicide, including children as young as 7; acknowledged mental health experts, including some who have directly worked with those in detention, have stated ”In the months and years to come, an epidemic of child self-harm is likely to occur”; any lawful asylum seeker who arrived by boat after August 2012 will not have the right to work for an undefined period of time, forcing them into a life of poverty and destitution, and denying them the right to support and better themselves and pay taxes.
That’s a start.
So, to reiterate my question- how do you reconcile being a Labor Party MP with all that you know about the treatment asylum seekers receive from your Federal counterparts? I would be grateful if you could leave out the political babble and give me an honest response.
Thank you.

19/06/13 Posted on FB page of Jane Garrett, Victorian State MP and National Vice-President of the ALP.
19/06/13 Posted on FB page of Kelvin Thomson, Federal MP.