Nick Miller, ’Asylum seeker policy faces global criticism’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 11.11.15
Australia has copped a barrage of criticism at a United Nations human rights forum over its treatment of asylum seekers.
But Australia was defiant as dozens of countries called on it to wind back or end boat turn-backs and mandatory detention, and grant refugees their full rights.
Australia’s delegation, which included MP Philip Ruddock, insisted the methods were necessary, and had saved lives.
The UN Human Rights Council’s official review of Australia’s human rights policies took place at the Palais des Nations in Geneva on Monday. The scrutiny comes at a time when Australia is vying for a two-year term on the council.
During the review, representatives from more than 100 countries gave recommendations on how Australia should improve its human rights record. Countries including Brazil, Turkey, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Bangladesh – even Rwanda, Iran and North Korea – expressed concern over Australia’s treatment of refugees.
The presence of women and children in detention centres came in for particular criticism. Many countries called for Australia to ratify OPCAT – an international convention against torture, which would expose offshore asylum seeker detention centres to new international oversight and review. Countries taking part also noted Australia’s inadequate treatment of indigenous people, high level of violence against women, and the spread of Islamophobia.
France’s spokesman Thomas Wagner called for Australia to ‘develop alternatives to the mandatory detention of asylum seekers, especially when dealing with children’.
Germany’s representative said Australia should ‘critically review’ offshore processing.
He recommended Australia remove ‘children and their families, and other individuals at risk – in particular survivors of torture and trauma’ from detention centres.
The United States encouraged Australia to ‘ensure humane treatment and respect for the human rights of asylum seekers, including those processed offshore’.
The Google Map for the distance between Christmas (sic) Island and Australia exposes Australia’s servile hypocrisy re- China’s interests in the South China Sea.
Neither the treatment of Australia’s treatment of refugees nor its own people is worth boasting about. Unfortunately I do not think that the Australian authority has evolved beyond its mentality of colonialism. For them, the human dignity is meant to be destroyed, and the human spirit is meant to be crushed. Time has only taught them to develop slavery to a new height.
Hi Yi Ping Wang, great to hear from you!
I was just reading Elizabeth Farrelly’s obituary ‘High Noon at Bennelong Point‘ for the creator of the Sydney Opera House, Jørn Utzon, in The Sydney Morning Herald, 01.12.08.
‘…(Premier) Askin was elected premier (of NSW) in May 1965, already a vocal critic of the Opera House project. Utzon, however, welcomed the change. He and Askin had met once and, he thought, liked each other.
Ever the optimist, Utzon believed a change of guard might ease a tense situation. But, reports Drew, at an election night dinner party in Mosman, (Minister for Public Works Davis) Hughes’s daughter Sue Burgoyne boasted that her father would soon sack Utzon. Hughes had no interest in art, architecture or aesthetics. A fraud, as well as a philistine, he had been exposed before Parliament and dumped as Country Party leader for 19 years of falsely claiming a university degree. The Opera House gave Hughes a second chance. For him, as for Utzon, it was all about control; about the triumph of homegrown mediocrity over foreign genius. In 1964 Hughes began to pay Utzon not for design problems solved, but for drawings produced. Utzon remained resilient, delighting his staff, for instance, by suddenly walking across the office on his hands.
But a pattern evolved. Utzon would solve a problem, structural, acoustic or spatial; Hughes would respond by refusing to fund tests for the new solution. Utzon would receive a huge tax bill, Hughes would tighten his “chequebook control” further still.
By February 1966 Utzon was owed more than $100,000 in fees. He threatened to quit and when Hughes called his bluff, did so. He believed the government would back down. At 4.30 on the fateful afternoon of March 4, 1966, there was a farcical meeting between Utzon and Askin in the premier’s wing of the old State Office Block on Macquarie Street. Utzon ended up climbing over a rear yard wall to avoid the press and being saved from a seven-metre drop only by the quick thinking of a colleague, Bill Wheatland.
The Utzons left Sydney on April 28, travelling to Hawaii under false names to evade the press. Still, Utzon fully expected to be recalled, but the government had already set about replacing him with what Drew describes as “a conspiracy of nobodies”.
Utzon did not attend the opening of the Opera House in October 1973, refused efforts to bring him back (including blandishments 30 years on by the premier Bob Carr) and never tried to tell his version of the story.
…work was always paramount with Utzon, and in the end it was work that let him down. The Sydney Opera House could not have happened in Europe: only a wide-open New World culture would have had the innocent courage to build it, but the same cowboy-culture proved Utzon’s nemesis. Utzon and Sydney put each other on the map, but the intensity of the relationship contained the germ of heartbreak. Like Marshal Kane in High Noon, Utzon got to toss his badge contemptuously into the dust and ride off into the sunset. Although in later life he sounded reconciled both to this turn of events and to the built result, with its interloper interior, his failure to return and visit his most incandescent offspring suggests it may still have felt a somewhat hollow victory, bitter on the tongue.’
What Farrelly describes as an obsession with ‘control (and) the triumph of homegrown mediocrity’ can be better described as a hatred for the attitude the Pilgrim John Winthrop gave expression to, which is at the centre of US culture (with all their very serious problems) – vision.
I could not imagine one American who is not attuned to that concept (how they understand it is another thing), unlike ‘laid-back’, ‘down-to-earth’ (read ‘cynical’) Australians. Beyond the sales-pitch hype that universities pump out every semester as they compete for funding and students, the word is not part of an Australian’s vocabulary.
That scheming littleness of spirit which drove Utzon out of Australia (to his great credit he never allowed himself to be drawn back by the exposed Anglo-Australians who did this to him) is, in my belief, just as strong today, just as ‘visceral‘.
‘You think you have vision? You’re up yourself’ and/or ‘I don’t trust you.’ John Doyle expressed how Australians deal with this ‘problem’ on The Dream show during the 2000 Olympics (which made fun of the errors or accidents competitors made or had during the day and had record viewing for its late-night time-slot): ‘If a thing is taller than a blade of grass, cut it down.’
From the bourgeoisie’s point of view, this mass cultural sickness is a cheap and most effective tool for class control and domination. Not only do others do it to us, we are trained to do it to ourselves. Always be ‘nice’, ‘decent’, ‘hard-working’ and above all, ‘happy’. The Smiley face of capital is Big Brother watching you.
‘Yes, you can achieve excellence, but it will be under our control, with our permission and within our parameters.’
As Winthrop’s speech (the downside of which became American exceptionalism) resonates through American culture, so does the founding of a convict colony in Sydney in Australian culture. Don Watson said that the words of Phillip on landing (no speech was recorded) included that men were not to go into the women’s tents at night.
What is required, to wash this controlling religion of the ordinary and the shame and world-view that goes with it into the ocean is a large influx of people from non-English speaking countries, particularly, given Australia’s location, from Asian countries.
Best regards as always, Filippo del mondo
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Dear Phil, glad to be here.
I am afraid that the western culture in general is heavily influenced by the guilt/shame mentality of Christianity over thousands of years, and such a philosophy that denies the noble part of the human spirit is capable of enslaving the mass public. To me, this is not necessarily an issue of vision or no vision, but an issue regarding the nature of human spirit. When it comes to the nature of human spirit, even the Americans can have a rather inferior complex, as a sense of superiority was identified as one of the seven factors of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, by the developers of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, Raskin and Terry back in 1988: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissistic_Personality_Inventory
Fortunately, in the recent years, this approach has been questioned by several studies in the field, eg: http://www.researchgate.net/publication/228079575_Further_evidence_of_the_Narcissistic_Personality_Inventorys_validity_problems_A_meta-analytic_investigationResponse_to_Miller_Maples_and_Campbell_(this_issue)
As with the refugee issue, I don’t expect a government that does not hesitate to support its political master (should be, but not the people that it pledges to serve) waging regime change attacks upon another country and its people, has the moral standard to treat anyone with kindness or fairness, let alone the people whose homes and lives have been destroyed so ruthlessly by the very hand of these terrorising foreign powers.
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