The lucky country – all you could want

Albert Tucker, The Lucky Country, 1964

Ben Groundwater, ‘Australian expats: Some Australians don’t want to come home and I don’t blame them’

Right now, there are still tens of thousands of Australians trying to get home from other countries. These are people based overseas who were told to shelter in place if they felt safe all the way back in March 2020, who have since decided that they would like to come home and yet are still waiting in a never-ending queue to return to Australia.

It’s shocking that they’re having to wait; though, at least to many of us, the idea that they’re trying to get home at least makes sense. Who wouldn’t want to come back to Australia right now? This country has handled the coronavirus pandemic more successfully than almost any other on the planet – at least, if you count success in terms of pure case numbers.

So yes, obviously if you lived in the USA or in the UK, in mainland Europe or in the sub-continent, you would be desperate to return home right now. That’s not news.

What is news, however, and what is far more interesting to me, is that for all the Australians trying to get home right now, there are many, many more who aren’t. Plenty of people have assessed the situation, seen the success Australia has had in controlling case numbers and keeping life relatively normal and still thought: nup. Not for me.

Last week, UK-based Australian journalist Kate Guest wrote a fascinating story in the Guardian about just that, about Australian expats who have elected not to return home during the pandemic, who have decided to stick it out in their new homes in France, in England, in Uganda, in Thailand. They’ve stayed for careers, they’ve stayed for family, and they’ve stayed because they just don’t like a lot of the things that current-day Australia represents, even when it’s largely virus-free.

And I have to say that so much of what was said by those expats rings true to me. I say this, too, as someone who did decide to come home to Australia as soon as the pandemic began, leaving my base in continental Europe, and as someone who – despite fancying myself as some sort of high-flying citizen of the world – does plan to call Australia home for the long-term future.

There’s a lot that I love about this place, and that suits me perfectly. But… Australia is not perfect. And that’s news. It’s also something that’s so much easier to see when you spend some time living in another country.

First problem: the anger that a simple statement like the one above will inevitably provoke. Australians are a brittle bunch, hypersensitive to any criticism, quick to shout down any dissent, quick to tell those who complain that if they don’t like it, they should leave.

We pride ourselves on our freedom of speech here, on the fact you can say anything you want – that is, unless you say the wrong thing, particularly if you’re black or Muslim, and then you will be mercilessly chased down and forced into hiding.

Still, that’s probably only a small part of what is keeping many expats from returning – though Australia’s shift to the political right is mentioned in Guest’s story. There’s talk of climate change in there, and our embarrassing lack of political will to do anything about it, plus our treatment of refugees that much of the rest of the world thinks is appalling.

Those things are important to me. But what’s also important is lifestyle, which, again, Australians tend to think we have the best of with our sun and surf and laidback attitude – but that’s all a matter of perspective.

If you want to live a socially connected life, a life of face-to-face contact with family and friends and even strangers, in a socially connected city with a dynamic culture and a strong sense of history and identity, then I’m sorry, but Australia is probably not for you.

Here we value space over social life, the desire for our personal quarter-acre trumping any chance of having a café and a bar and a few shops on every city block, the sort of places where people can congregate and socialise multiple times daily. Australians cities are designed to sprawl, so we can all have our castles, so we can all dig holes.

Australia isn’t particularly culturally rich. It’s just not. It’s lovely and it’s safe and it’s stable, and it’s the ideal place to have a family and live out your later years. But consider life in Spain, in Italy, in Japan, in India, in Vietnam, in Brazil, and there’s just no comparison.

Culture oozes from the pores of those countries, rites and traditions, festivals and carnivals, music, art, theatre, food that you’re surrounded by at every moment. Australia can’t compete with that.

There’s also the psyche of Australians. We fancy ourselves as devil-may-care larrikins but really we’re slavish rule-followers, meekly accepting draconian laws, grudgingly paying whopping fines for the smallest infractions because we love our safe, orderly society, we like to know what’s going to happen today, we like to be sure everyone will stick to the rules.

There’s a blokey, boofhead culture in Australia that I don’t always love, and that I can see would discourage many expats from coming back. Check out the ads on commercial TV here: Australians are far more comfortable with the beer-drinking everyman than they are with any other characteristic trope.

And yet – here I am. I have the astonishing and unearned privilege of being able to choose where in the world I would like to live, and I’ve chosen Australia.

However, plenty of people have not, even in the worst global crisis to affect many of us in our lifetimes. Still, they stay away. And that, to me, is news.

China accuses posturing US toady Australia of killing not only civilians but children in Afghanistan

Khan Mohammed

Australia’s Prime Minister Morrison demands an apology. Political leaders outraged.

Recommended reading: Death in Kandahar

Barely a mention of this in the capitalist media

China’s Chang’e 5 Mission Launch

Think of the front-page coverage this launch would have been given if it had been organised by our masters the Americans, rather than by those nasty communist Asians. Another credit to NASA.

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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.”

Servile Australia – the ‘perfectly behaved alliance partner’

U.S. spy base at Pine Gap

https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/latenightlive/pine-gap-peace-crimes/12674824

The 1975 British-American coup in Australia

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Undated photo shows the radar domes of the top-secret joint US-Australian missile defence base at Pine Gap near Alice Springs in central Australia.

John Pilger, ‘The British-American coup that ended Australian independence’, The Guardian, 23.10.14

In 1975 Prime Minister Gough Whitlam dared to try to assert his country’s autonomy. The CIA and MI6 made sure he paid the price.

Across the media and political establishment in Australia, a silence has descended on the memory of the great, reforming prime minister Gough Whitlam. His achievements are recognised, if grudgingly, his mistakes noted in false sorrow. But a critical reason for his extraordinary political demise will, they hope, be buried with him.

Australia briefly became an independent state during the Whitlam years, 1972-75. An American commentator wrote that no country had “reversed its posture in international affairs so totally without going through a domestic revolution”. Whitlam ended his nation’s colonial servility. He abolished royal patronage, moved Australia towards the Non-Aligned Movement, supported “zones of peace” and opposed nuclear weapons testing.

Although not regarded as on the left of the Labor (mw: note the American spelling) party, Whitlam was a maverick social democrat of principle, pride and propriety. He believed that a foreign power should not control his country’s resources and dictate its economic and foreign policies. He proposed to “buy back the farm”. In drafting the first Aboriginal lands rights legislation, his government raised the ghost of the greatest land grab in human history, Britain’s colonisation of Australia, and the question of who owned the island-continent’s vast natural wealth.

Latin Americans will recognise the audacity and danger of this “breaking free” in a country whose establishment was welded to great, external power. Australians had served every British imperial adventure since the Boxer rebellion was crushed in China. In the 1960s, Australia pleaded to join the US in its invasion of Vietnam, then provided “black teams” to be run by the CIA. US diplomatic cables published last year by WikiLeaks disclose the names of leading figures in both main parties, including a future prime minister and foreign minister, as Washington’s informants during the Whitlam years.

Whitlam knew the risk he was taking. The day after his election, he ordered that his staff should not be “vetted or harassed” by the Australian security organisation, Asio – then, as now, tied to Anglo-American intelligence. When his ministers publicly condemned the US bombing of Vietnam as “corrupt and barbaric”, a CIA station officer in Saigon said: “We were told the Australians might as well be regarded as North Vietnamese collaborators.”

Whitlam demanded to know if and why the CIA was running a spy base at Pine Gap near Alice Springs, a giant vacuum cleaner which, as Edward Snowden revealed recently, allows the US to spy on everyone. “Try to screw us or bounce us,” the prime minister warned the US ambassador, “[and Pine Gap] will become a matter of contention”.

Victor Marchetti, the CIA officer who had helped set up Pine Gap, later told me, “This threat to close Pine Gap caused apoplexy in the White House … a kind of Chile [coup] was set in motion.”

Pine Gap’s top-secret messages were decoded by a CIA contractor, TRW. One of the decoders was Christopher Boyce, a young man troubled by the “deception and betrayal of an ally”. Boyce revealed that the CIA had infiltrated the Australian political and trade union elite and referred to the governor-general of Australia, Sir John Kerr, as “our man Kerr”.

Kerr was not only the Queen’s man, he had longstanding ties to Anglo-American intelligence. He was an enthusiastic member of the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom, described by Jonathan Kwitny of the Wall Street Journal in his book, The Crimes of Patriots, as “an elite, invitation-only group … exposed in Congress as being founded, funded and generally run by the CIA”. The CIA “paid for Kerr’s travel, built his prestige … Kerr continued to go to the CIA for money”.

When Whitlam was re-elected for a second term, in 1974, the White House sent Marshall Green to Canberra as ambassador. Green was an imperious, sinister figure who worked in the shadows of America’s “deep state”. Known as “the coupmaster”, he had played a central role in the 1965 coup against President Sukarno in Indonesia – which cost up to a million lives. One of his first speeches in Australia, to the Australian Institute of Directors, was described by an alarmed member of the audience as “an incitement to the country’s business leaders to rise against the government”.

The Americans and British worked together. In 1975, Whitlam discovered that Britain’s MI6 was operating against his government. “The Brits were actually decoding secret messages coming into my foreign affairs office,” he said later. One of his ministers, Clyde Cameron, told me, “We knew MI6 was bugging cabinet meetings for the Americans.” In the 1980s, senior CIA officers revealed that the “Whitlam problem” had been discussed “with urgency” by the CIA’s director, William Colby, and the head of MI6, Sir Maurice Oldfield. A deputy director of the CIA said: “Kerr did what he was told to do.”

On 10 November 1975, Whitlam was shown a top-secret telex message sourced to Theodore Shackley, the notorious head of the CIA’s East Asia division, who had helped run the coup against Salvador Allende in Chile two years earlier.

Shackley’s message was read to Whitlam. It said that the prime minister of Australia was a security risk in his own country. The day before, Kerr had visited the headquarters of the Defence Signals Directorate, Australia’s NSA, where he was briefed on the “security crisis”.

On 11 November – the day Whitlam was to inform parliament about the secret CIA presence in Australia – he was summoned by Kerr. Invoking archaic vice-regal “reserve powers”, Kerr sacked the democratically elected prime minister. The “Whitlam problem” was solved, and Australian politics never recovered, nor the nation its true independence.

•John Pilger’s investigation into the coup against Whitlam is described in full in his book, A Secret Country (Vintage), and in his documentary film, Other People’s Wars, which can be viewed on johnpilger.com.

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https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/latenightlive/guy-rundle_john-kerr/12505310

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Saturday Matinee: Afghanistan War Exposed: An Imperial Conspiracy — Desultory Heroics

Every American should watch Abby Martin’s New Afghanistan War Documentary “Afghanistan War Exposed: An Imperial Conspiracy.” It is a tour de force, a must watch for every American seeking a holistic understanding of American’s longest-running war. By MintPress News Desk. The perpetual occupation of Afghanistan has become so normalized that it mostly […]

via Saturday Matinee: Afghanistan War Exposed: An Imperial Conspiracy — Desultory Heroics

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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.

 

Sydney University – exposed for what it is

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Protesters throw a statue of slave trader Edward Colston into the Bristol harbour this week

Natassia Chrysanthos, ‘Subjects on US slavery and fascism slated for cuts at Sydney University’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 11.06.20

History subjects about the making of the US, American slavery, fascism and anti-fascism are nominated to be cut from the University of Sydney’s arts and social sciences faculty due to budget-saving measures. …

It comes as the statues of slave traders are torn down in Britain and thousands worldwide protest against police brutality in the Black Lives Matter movement, after the death of George Floyd in the United States.

History student Annabel Pettit said she was hoping to study American slavery next semester.

“It feels like a vital time to be thinking critically, and learning as much as we can about what has led us to this particular moment in history,” she said.

“It’s disappointing news to hear as a student, and deeply concerning given the current global anti-racist movement and the upcoming US election.”…

Seventy history students have written to the arts and social sciences dean, Annamarie Jagose, petitioning to save the subjects.

“These are vital subjects to study in a world where the mass Black Lives Matter movement has been threatened by the US President with military action to disperse protesters,” they wrote.

Senior history lecturer David Brophy said students felt they were being denied the opportunity to study topics that were “really important at this point”.

“It’s not a good time for Sydney to be weakening its offerings in these areas,” he said. “We’re in the middle of a global uprising against racism centred in America, and we’re stripping away these units that speak directly to the current context.

“There’s also an intense discussion that’s sparked up again about the way we speak about history, the debate about the commemoration of figures involved in slavery. They would normally be expected to attract significant interest in a time like this.” …

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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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