The only people blind to their pride in servility and loud-mouthed hypocrisy are Australians themselves

Utopia, 2013. Director, John Pilger

Jonathan Kearsley and Eryk Bagshaw, ’Why keep silent?: China to target Australia’s human  rights record’ The Sydney Morning Herald, 20.11.20

China’s foreign ministry plans to target Australia’s human rights record on Indigenous affairs and aged care as it ramps up its dispute with the Morrison government.

The escalation follows a sharp rejection of China’s threats by Prime Minister Scott Morrison who on Thursday said Australia would not compromise on national security or freedom of speech after the Chinese embassy released a list of 14 grievances with Australia that threatens up to $20 billion in trade.

Mr Morrison said Australia would never compromise its national interests or hand over its laws to any other country.

“We make our laws and our rules and pursue our relationships in our interests and we stand up with other countries, whether it be on human rights issues or things that are occurring around the world, including in China,” he said.

The embassy’s list blamed the deteriorating relationship between the two countries on the Morrison government’s decision to ban Huawei, fund “anti-China” research at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, block 10 Chinese foreign investment deals, and lead the call for an independent investigation into the origins of COVID-19, among other disputes.

China accounts for up to 40 per cent of Australia’s exports and one in 13 Australian jobs.

After handing over the list to Nine News, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on Tuesday and warning China was “angry”, a Chinese embassy official said China would use “international bodies to talk up about Indigenous Australians and treatment in aged care”.

The Prime Minister says he will not back down over an explosive dossier listing Beijing’s problems with Australia

After handing over the list to Nine News, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on Tuesday and warning China was “angry”, a Chinese embassy official said China would use “international bodies to talk up about Indigenous Australians and treatment in aged care”.

“Why keep silent?,” the official said.

China has detained up to 1 million Uighur Muslims in re-education camps. It has been condemned by dozens of countries for its human rights record in Xinjiang and its crackdown in Hong Kong. Human Rights Watch has accused China of systemic human rights abuse and labelled it “an exporter of human rights violations”.

Utopia

Australia has faced criticism for its record on Indigenous human rights. The Australian government’s Closing the Gap report found Indigenous Australians face shorter life expectancy, higher rates of infant mortality, poorer health outcomes and lower levels of education and employment.

Indigenous people represent 2 per cent of the total population but 27 per cent of the nation’s total full-time adult prisoner population.

The Aged Care Royal Commission found Australia’s aged care system failed to meet the needs of its older citizens after reports of abuse and neglect across the system.

“The Royal Commission into aged care quality and safety has provided evidence of human rights abuses within residential aged care in Australia,” Sarah Russell, the director of advocacy group Aged Care Matters, said.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar, Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck were contacted for comment.

A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman said as a liberal democracy, Australia is open and transparent and expects our human rights record to be scrutinised accordingly.

“Australia raises its human rights concerns about other countries respectfully and constructively,” he said.

“The Australian Government has serious concerns about a range of human rights issues in China. We have consistently raised our concerns, including at ministerial level, both directly with China and in multilateral forums, and will continue to do so.”

The Chinese embassy official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to speak publicly, also said China may withdraw Confucius Institutes from Australian universities if proposed laws pass this year which would give the federal government power to tear up international agreements.

Responding to the reports on Thursday on Twitter, the White House’s National Security Council said: “Beijing is upset Australia took steps to expose and thwart Chinese espionage and to protect Aussie sovereignty.”

“Their “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy is backfiring; more and more nations worldwide have Australia’s back.”

In a joint statement on Thursday, foreign ministers from Canada, the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand ratcheted up diplomatic pressure on Hong Kong after opposition candidates were disqualified from the territory’s Legislative Council by Beijing for breaches of new national security laws.

“We urge the Chinese central authorities to reconsider their actions against Hong Kong’s elected legislature and immediately reinstate the Legislative Council members,” the Five Eyes statement said.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham on Thursday repeated his calls for Beijing to open its lines of communication.

“We value the relationship, we want to and are open to having the dialogue to work through issues,” he said.

“We would urge that dialogue to happen and not through anonymous drops of documents but instead through actually sitting down and talking.”

Slavery in Australia – in the laid back n’ easy goin’ ‘land of the fair go’

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In 1891 a ‘Slave Map of Modern Australia’ was printed in the British Anti-Slavery Reporter

Thalia Anthony, Stephen Gray, ‘Was there slavery in Australia? Yes. It shouldn’t even be up for debate’, The Conversation, 11.06.20

Prime Minister Scott Morrison asserted in a radio interview that “there was no slavery in Australia”.

This is a common misunderstanding which often obscures our nation’s history of exploitation of First Nations people and Pacific Islanders.

Morrison followed up with “I’ve always said we’ve got to be honest about our history”. Unfortunately, his statement is at odds with the historical record.

This history was widely and publicly documented, among other sources, in the 2006 Australian Senate report Unfinished Business: Indigenous Stolen Wages.

What is slavery?

Australia was not a “slave state” like the American South. However, slavery is a broader concept. As Article 1 of the United Nations Slavery Convention says:

Slavery is the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised.

These powers might include non-payment of wages, physical or sexual abuse, controls over freedom of movement, or selling a person like a piece of property. In the words of slavery historian Orlando Patterson, slavery is a form of “social death”.

Slavery has been illegal in the (former) British Empire since the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade of 1807, and certainly since 1833.

Slavery practices emerged in Australia in the 19th century and in some places endured until the 1950s.

Early coverage of slavery in Australia

As early as the 1860s, anti-slavery campaigners began to invoke “charges of chattel bondage and slavery” to describe north Australian conditions for Aboriginal labour.

In 1891 a “Slave Map of Modern Australia” was printed in the British Anti-Slavery Reporter, a journal that documented slavery around the world and campaigned against it.

Reprinted from English journalist Arthur Vogan’s account of frontier relations in Queensland, it showed large areas where:

… the traffic in Aboriginal labour, both children and adults, had descended into slavery conditions.

Seeds of slavery in Australia

Some 62,000 Melanesian people were brought to Australia and enslaved to work in Queensland’s sugar plantations between 1863 and 1904. First Nations Australians had a more enduring experience of slavery, originally in the pearling industry in Western Australia and the Torres Strait and then in the cattle industry.

In the pastoral industry, employers exercised a high degree of control over “their” Aboriginal workers, who were bought and sold as chattels, particularly where they “went with” the property upon sale. There were restrictions on their freedom of choice and movement. There was cruel treatment and abuse, control of sexuality, and forced labour.

A stock worker at Meda Station in the Kimberley, Jimmy Bird, recalled:

… whitefellas would pull their gun out and kill any Aborigines who stood up to them. And there was none of this taking your time to pull up your boots either. No fear!

Aboriginal woman Ruby de Satge, who worked on a Queensland station, described the Queensland Protection Act as meaning:

if you are sitting down minding your own business, a station manager can come up to you and say, “I want a couple of blackfellows” … Just like picking up a cat or a dog.

Through their roles under the legislation, police, Aboriginal protectors and pastoral managers were complicit in this force.

Slavery was sanctioned by Australian law

Legislation facilitated the enslavement of Aboriginal people across the Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland. Under the South Australian Aborigines Act 1911, the government empowered police to “inspect workers and their conditions” but not to uphold basic working conditions or enforce payment. The Aboriginals Ordinance 1918 (Cth) allowed the forced recruitment of Indigenous workers in the Northern Territory, and legalised the non-payment of wages.

In Queensland, the licence system was effectively a blank cheque to recruit Aboriginal people into employment without their consent. Amendments to the Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897 gave powers to the Protector or police officer to “expend” their wages or invest them in a trust fund – which was never paid out.

Officials were well aware that “slavery” was a public relations problem. The Chief Protector in the Northern Territory noted in 1927 that pastoral workers:

… are kept in a servitude that is nothing short of slavery.

In the early 1930s, Chief Protector Dr Cecil Cook pointed out Australia was in breach of its obligations under the League of Nations Slavery Convention.

‘… it certainly exists here in its worst form’

Accusations of slavery continued into the 1930s, including through the British Commonwealth League.

In 1932 the North Australian Workers’ Union (NAWU) characterised Aboriginal workers as “slaves”. Unionist Owen Rowe argued:

If there is no slavery in the British Empire then the NT is not part of the British Empire; for it certainly exists here in its worst form.

In the 1940s, anthropologists Ronald and Catherine Berndt surveyed conditions on cattle stations owned by Lord Vestey, commenting that Aboriginal people:

… owned neither the huts in which they lived nor the land on which these were built, they had no rights of tenure, and in some cases have been sold or transferred with the property.

In 1958, counsel for the well-known Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira argued that the Welfare Ordinance 1953 (Cth) was unconstitutional, because the enacting legislation was:

… a law for the enslavement of part of the population of the Northern Territory.

Profits from slaves

Australia has unfinished business in repaying wages to Aboriginal and South Sea Islander slaves. First Nations slave work allowed big businesses to reap substantial profits, and helped maintain the Australian economy through the Great Depression. Aboriginal people are proud of their work on stations even though the historical narrative is enshrined in silence and denial.

As Bundjalung woman Valerie Linow has said of her experiences of slavery in the 1950s:

What if your wages got stolen? Honestly, wouldn’t you like to have your wages back? Honestly. I think it should be owed to the ones who were slave labour. We got up and worked from dawn to dusk … We lost everything – family, everything. You cannot go stealing our lousy little sixpence. We have got to have money back. You have got to give something back after all this country did to the Aboriginal people. You cannot keep stealing off us.

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Addendum: the above addresses only part of the story – e.g. convicts were also used as slave labour.

 

A Greek, a Chinese, an Australian and truth

Aristotle in 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle

Aristotle portrayed in the 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle as a scholar of the 15th century AD.

‘falsity is the assertion that that which is is not or that that which is not is and truth is the assertion that that which is is and that that which is not is not.’

Aristotle, The Metaphysics, Trans and Introduction by Hugh Lawson-Tancred, Penguin, London, 2004, 107 (Gamma 7 1011b)

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Austllink chairwoman Amy Mo, a Beijing education agent who has operated in the Australian market for 15 years, said the deteriorating relationship (between Australia and China) will bring “immeasurable economic losses to Australia”.

“If Australian politicians don’t regret and keep being the running-dog of the United States in the name of so-called values, Chinese tourists and students will not go there,” she said.

“I hope Australia can change its attitude toward China. If a country loves Chinese money but doesn’t like Chinese people, China surely is not willing to do business with it.”…

Luke Sheehy, executive director of the Australian Technology Network of universities, which include RMIT and UTS, said the sector had prioritised welfare of students during the COVID-19 crisis and campuses were “vibrant, safe and welcoming places”. …

Eryk Bagshaw, Fergus Hunter, Sanghee Liu, ‘Students “to be steered to UK instead”‘ The Sydney Morning Herald, 11.06.20

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