Australia Must Stop Racism

I’m so angry with the Terrorist events in Christchurch. I’m angry at the rhetoric over the years in Australia towards anyone from a different or non-White background. I’m angry that Australia is so quick to label someone different as a threat. But when it comes to your own, you export them to my homeland, they destroy the peace as people are praying and the rhetoric is less.

Where’s the call to strip this Australian of his citizenship? Where’s the call to stop and ban all types of people with extremist white nationalist views? Why are major political parties in Australia, this morning, still publishing attack ads against immigration? Why is the news headlines labeling the attacker as a “angel” or “working class”.

There are hundreds of Australian based social media pages that express and support these extremist viewpoints. Why are there events in Melbourne this afternoon where speakers are encouraging these viewpoints to grow? Extremism is a disease that is nearly impossible to cure, once someone is radicalised there is little hope for rehabilitation. Yet these pages and groups remain. I’m all for free speech, but not for active and permitted hatred towards the other.

It’s time to stop saying “Australia is racist” and time for Australia (as a whole) to do something meaningful about it.

Give Nothing To Racism

The boringness of the 2017 New Zealand General Election

The longer that I’ve lived away from New Zealand the less that I’ve cared about following the news and blog coverage of the day to day political dramas. However, with the 2017 New Zealand General Election less than two months away I would have expected the competition between the two main parties to have become much closer than it is.

A little over six months ago John Key stepped down as Prime Minister and Bill English, who previously lead the National Party to their biggest defeat became Prime Minister. Since then there has been a few scandals within the National Party, namely, the Todd Barclay secret recordings affair. However, despite these upheavals within the incumbent party there has been very little change in their poll numbers with a current average of around 46% primary support.

In contrast, earlier today, Andrew Little’s leadership of the Labour party came to an end as their average poll numbers dropped to 25% and lower. If the new leader Jacinda Ardern can attract voters back to the party their numbers may improve slightly, but I cannot see Labour doubling their primary vote or taking a huge amount of support away from the National Party.

The reality of the New Zealand political landscape is that it is really boring. Although the National Party has been in power for nine years over three terms they have done extremely well in not giving many concessions to their more conservative and extreme right supporters and coalition partners. As a government they have been well disciplined and as a whole the country has grown economically.

While this stability is a blessing that other countries, including Australia, can only dream about (in the same time Australia has had four Prime Ministers and many more leadership spills) it also means that the opposition party has had very few big issues to create as a point of difference from the National Party. Furthermore, when the Labour Party does try and propose something different they often go too far. For example, they currently have a policy which proposes cutting immigration to New Zealand by up to 30,000 people.

Policies which harm the economic growth or unsettle a population which is entirely built on migration are unlikely to win many new supporters. Rednecks and other anti-immigration supporters have their fringe parties to support and Labour really needs to focus on the important day to day issues which will gain them supporters from the centre and centre-right. Policies such as committing to improved rail links in the major cities or changing the taxation system such that low income earners are better off without adversely increasing the tax on higher income earners are ideas that often get broad support. In particular with taxation you could introduce a tax-free threshold, increase taxes slightly at the higher income bands to offset the tax loss without affecting the overall tax payments on a median income earner, and still introduce a small capital gains tax. Policies which are well explained and are positive for the country are likely to gain supporters from the centre of the political spectrum.

Unfortunately, it appears New Zealand is on track for yet another National Party dominated government. Once again, I wish that more young people would vote as many of the parties and policies which are best geared towards them come from parties on the left. Without a strong opposition it enables the ruling party to easily push through laws and policies which are damaging to large minority groups without consequence.

New Zealand Politics and Dirty Politics

The more that I’ve lived away from NZ the less I’ve cared about the day-to-day political scandals – also the less I’ve been involved in student politics has also contributed to this.

However, the release of Nicky Hager’s latest book, Dirty Politics, has really opened up how personal and petty NZ politics can be.

The Dim-Post has a good summary of the key issues here.

My main issues with the behaviour it has uncovered are:

  • the hacking/stealing of data from Labour party computers
  • the smears against scientists orchestrated by big tobacco PR
  • the relationship between government ministers and staff and right-wing blogs.

The NZ General Election is four weeks away. The dirt that this book has dug up could have an influence on the outcome of it. I don’t think National will lose, but their sleep walking to victory has become a lot less easy.

Bradley Manning Video

A supporters group of Bradley Manning, the US Army Intelligence Iraq War Whistle-blower, have put out a viral video detailing how ridiculous what this young man has been tried and convicted of. It’s a rather good watch.

Meanwhile within Australia, this week’s Clarke and Dawe is pretty decent.

The White Australia Policy in Drag

For as long as anyone can remember Australia has been obsessed with having tight control over its immigration policy. On one hand this may seem like a noble cause of ensuring sustainable population growth and ensures that the country grows through immigrants providing skills that are needed. However, on the other hand, and more so the reality, the immigration policies over the decades have focused on race than anything else. First with the blatantly racist White Australia Policy and more recently with the various versions of the Pacific Solution.

If you believe the government spin about the Pacific Solution it is all about saving people from risking their lives at sea and stopping the terrible queue jumpers in refugee boats coming from South East Asia. However, cut through the spin about people smuggling and queue jumping and what you get is a series of governments who are obsessed with only allowing the right people from the right races into the country. Despite all the rhetoric about humanitarian efforts in war torn countries and saving the poor etc. When it comes down to really caring for those who need it most Australia is the fat bully who doesn’t want to share. Put simply the Pacific Solution is nothing more than the White Australia Policy in drag.

A tweet a few weeks ago summed up the whole silliness of stopping that boasts:

Could Australia’s treatment of refugees ever be worse than the Taliban? Currently refugees are detained indefinitely in prison camps detention centres on islands in the pacific, where refugees have been abused and mistreated again and again and again – to the point where the few brave ones are winning high court cases against the government. And just this week, it was decided that if any boat physically landed in Australia it wouldn’t legally be in the migration zone for Australia – this sort of logic of “being in a country but not being in a country” belongs in a Orwell novel, not Australian law. Furthermore, if the Liberal Party becomes government has vowed to physically tow the boats back to where they came from and reintroduce temporary protection visas – that is whenever the government decides to it can ship you back to where you came – once a refugee there is never a permanent home for you.

An opinion piece by Waleed Aly in today’s Sydney Morning Herald also highlights just messed up the system has become:

Now the Gillard government has left the satirists with nothing to say. It’s excising the whole damn country. For boat people, Australia will effectively no longer exist. Howard’s logic has been taken to its most absurd extreme – an extreme that was too much even for Howard’s own cabinet. It allows us to maintain all sorts of hollow fictions. Like the fiction that we’re good international citizens upholding the UNHCR Refugee Convention. How can you breach a convention that instructs you on how to deal with people who arrive in your country if no one ever makes it in the first place?

… We’re only interested in saving lives if it involves punitive forms of deterrence. We’re not interested in doing it through increased generosity, for example, by seriously increasing our humanitarian intake and significantly speeding up our processing times. What we really want is for asylum seekers to stop being our problem.

That’s why we’re so selective about the lives we want to save. That’s why there’s no crying in Parliament, no hand-wringing, and no cross-party soul searching when an asylum seeker is killed because we sent them back to the country they were fleeing. Those deaths don’t matter. We don’t count them. We don’t ask tough questions about the quality of the information we’re using to decide their home country is safe. And we certainly don’t go through absurd policy contortions to prevent it happening again. Why not? Are those asylum seekers any less dead?

The point is that they’re out of our system. They aren’t ours any more. No care. No responsibility. Our desperate concern for the wellbeing of asylum seekers begins only when they board boats and ends when we intercept them. It’s like we’re excising the rest of their lives from our humanitarian concern. And here the artifice becomes clear: the studied, confected compassion of our discourse is as much a convenient fiction as the one that pretends Australia doesn’t exist.

A few weeks back the government voted to reopen the immigration detention centres on Nauru. The vote in parliament to support this action was supported by both the Labor and Liberal parties with only the Greens and Andrew Wilkie opposing it. And this sums up the who political game around refugees, it doesn’t matter if you vote Liberal or Labor because both have been shown to exploit the world’s most vulnerable for political points. Ultimately, the only way that Australia will change the way it treats refugees is if the people of the country to stand up and demand it. Unfortunately this is unlikely to happen as the majority are too obsessed with pokies, the carbon tax, and who is going to win Big Brother.

Labor and Liberal Parties voting to reopen the Nauru detention centre
Labor and Liberal Parties voting to reopen the Nauru detention centre

An open letter to the politically apathetic Facebook generation #votenz

To all who will listen,

Voting: simple and easy, even from overseas.

Next Saturday, each eligible New Zealander will be given the opportunity to vote for who they wish to represent them in government for the next three years.

Unfortunately a large number of young people won’t use this opportunity and as a result their opinion won’t be expressed.

The sad reality is that many people will happily answer online polls, express frustration via status updates and in general complain (often quite rightly) about how crap it is to be young won’t leave the house to pop down to their local school or community hall to vote and make a difference where they actually can.

However, this is the true reality: there is more power in casting a vote than three years of online polls, status updates, and complaining combined.

In New Zealand, under the MMP voting system, every vote is equal, and every vote matters.

But, when you don’t vote you are giving up that equality, you are letting someone else decide, and they will surely decide what is best for themselves, not for you.

For young people this election is particularly relevant for two key reasons: minimum wage/employment and education.

Currently the minimum wage in New Zealand is $12.75/hour and in Australia it is $15.51 AUD/hour which converted to NZ dollars is $20.52/hour – almost double.

If National is re-elected to government their policy is to set a youth minimum wage of 80% of the full minimum wage. That would lower the NZ minimum wage to $10.20/hour – less than half that of Australia’s. In other words young people get screwed.

National have also spent the last three years in government making it harder and more expensive to access education. Entry to university and polytechs are now capped, fees have continued to rise, and it is much harder to get student loans and if National get re-elected expect this to get worse.

Put simply, youth unemployment is over 17%, there are few jobs, people who currently have jobs can expect to be paid less for the same work, and upskilling is a tough gig. Young people are being screwed.

However, most other parties have policy to set the minimum wage to $15/hour and increase access to education.

But while young people continue to moan on Facebook, and fail to vote, they will continue to be screwed by a government that doesn’t care about them.

Next Saturday is an opportunity to change that and elect a government that does represent you.

About a third of people under the age of 25 are not enrolled to vote. If this is you then please enrol you must do so before Friday 25th November. You can enrol here:

Most importantly make sure you go out and vote on Saturday.

Passionate young kiwi, living in Australia, wishing to call NZ home again someday.

Jon Stewart’s Speech at Rally to Restore Sanity

Overnight Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert hosted their Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear at the National Mall in Washington D.C. 150,000 people attended to witness one of the most bizzare protests/rallys you will ever see. But despite this it was also one of the biggest rallys in a generation. The speech made by Jon Stewart at the end of the rally summed up the feelings of the day quite aptly, at the same time in very much Jon Stewart style:

I can’t control what people think this was. I can only tell you my intentions. This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith or people of activism or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies.

But unfortunately one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The country’s 24 hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems but it’s existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold it’s magnifying up to our problems bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous flaming ant epidemic.

If we amplify everything we hear nothing. There are terrorists and racists and Stalinist and theocrats but those are titles that must be earned. You must have the resume. Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Partiers or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez is an insult, not only to those people but to the racists themselves who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate. Just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe not more. The press is our immune system. If we overreact to everything we actually get sicker and perhaps eczema.

And yet with that being said I feel good—strangely, calmly good. Because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us through a fun house mirror and not the good kind that makes you look slim in the waist and maybe taller, but the kind where you have a giant forehead and an ass shaped like a month old pumpkin and one eyeball.

So, why would we work together? Why would you reach across the aisle to a pumpkin- assed forehead eyeball monster? If the picture of us were true of course our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable. Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own? We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is—on the brink of catastrophe—torn by polarizing hate and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day!

The only place we don’t is here or on cable TV. But Americans don’t live here or on cable TV. Where we live our values and principles form the foundation that sustains us while we get things done not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done. Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, Liberals or Conservatives. Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do—often something that they do not want to do — but they do it. Impossible things every day that are only made possible by the little reasonable compromises that we all make.

Look on the screen this is where we are this is who we are. (points to the Jumbotron screen which show traffic merging into a tunnel). These cars—that’s a schoolteacher who probably thinks his taxes are too high. He’s going to work. There’s another car-a woman with two small kids who can’t really think about anything else right now. There’s another car swinging I don’t even know if you can see it—the lady’s in the NRA. She loves Oprah. There’s another car—an investment banker, gay, also likes Oprah. Another car’s a Latino carpenter. Another car a fundamentalist vacuum salesman. Atheist obstetrician. Mormon Jay-Z fan. But this is us. Every one of the cars that you see is filled with individuals of strong belief and principles they hold dear—often principles and beliefs in direct opposition to their fellow travelers.

And yet these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze one by one into a mile long 30 foot wide tunnel carved underneath a mighty river. Carved, by the way, by people who I’m sure had their differences. And they do it. Concession by concession. You go. Then I’ll go. You go then I’ll go. You go then I’ll go, ‘Oh my God, is that an NRA sticker on your car? Is that an Obama sticker on your car?’ Well, that’s okay—you go and then I’ll go.

And sure, at some point there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the shoulder and cuts in at the last minute, but that individual is rare and he is scorned and not hired as an analyst.

Because we know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together and the truth is, there will always be darkness. And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land.

Sometimes it’s just New Jersey. But we do it anyway, together.

If you want to know why I’m here and want I want from you I can only assure you this: you have already given it to me. You’re presence was what I wanted.

Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder. To see you here today and the kind of people that you are has restored mine. Thank you.

Len Brown – New Mayor of Auckland

Len Brown has just been elected the first mayor of the Auckland Supercity.

This is a positive result and hopefully one that will see much benefit come to Auckland. Now is the time for long term planning and investment in the city to bring it forward. Three years is both a short and a long time in politics. I don’t know how much Brown will achieve in only three years but lets hope in the long term he will deliver much needed forward thinking for Auckland.

Update 1: A earthquake happened and Bob Parker has been re-elected to the Christchurch Mayoralty. This result shows how quickly the media and natural events can change the fortunes and expected outcomes of people in politics.

Auckland Council Elections – Where My Ticks Went

It has just taken me an hour and 20 minutes to decide who to vote for in the elections for the new Auckland Council. I tried my best to read all the candidate blurbs and make an informed choice. I did not follow a particular party but instead judged each candidate on their vision and experience. And here is where my votes went:

Auckland Mayor: Len Brown.
I chose to vote for Brown to strategically stop John Banks from winning. My first preference was for Andrew Williams but the chances of him winning are so slim that I do not want to waste my vote.

Auckland Council – Waitemata and Gulf Ward: Rob Thomas.
It is likely that Mike Lee will win this seat, however, of the six candidates, I chose Thomas as he appears to have the best vision for Auckland and is not an old politician but rather a fresh face.

Auckland Council – Waitemata Local Board:

  • Anna Booth
  • Jesse Chalmers (City Vision)
  • Shale Chambers (City Vision)
  • Christopher Demsey (City Vision)
  • Rohan Evans
  • Bruce Kilmister (City Vision)
  • Rob Thomas

In my local board my votes went primarily to the left. However, I did not select every City Vision candidate, instead I chose independents who would bring a good mix of skills to the table as well as some experienced old hands.

Auckland District Health Board:

  1. Helen Gaeta
  2. Edward Saafi (Citizens and Ratepayers)
  3. Jo Agnew (City Vision)
  4. Judith Bassett (Citizens and Ratepayers)
  5. Moira Macnab
  6. Ian Ward (Citizens and Ratepayers)
  7. Jeanette Elley (City Vision)

My votes for the ADHB was split across both the left and the right. I chose candidates who have experience in the health system not those who are there for politics or business reasons.

The one certain thing about NZUSA: Dissatisfaction.

In the Otago Daily Times today there is an article about both Otago Polytech and Otago University Students’ Associations withdrawing from the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA).

The quoted reasons for withdrawing are:

OPSA president Meegan Cloughley proposed that OPSA withdraw, saying she did not think OPSA was not getting value for its annual subscription of $31,000.

She believes the NZUSA was not spending income wisely – overspending on administration costs and underspending on student activities and campaigns.

NZUSA had also been slow to respond to concerns or provide up-to-date information on expenditure and financial controls, she said.

The Otago University Students Association (OUSA) has also indicated it may withdraw from the NZUSA because of concerns over expenditure, financial accountability and value for money.

OUSA’s annual subscription is more than $100,000 – more than one quarter of NZUSA’ total annual income.

OUSA’s draft budget for next year does not include an allocation for NZUSA fees.

Two years ago when I was president of the Albany Students’ Association (ASA) I recommended that ASA withdraw for very similar reasons:

After serious concerns over the direction, focus and performance were raised of the national students’ association – NZUSA at the recent conference in Dunedin, the ASA Executive Committee is seeking feedback from students at Albany as to whether or not to withdraw from the organisation in protest.

“We are seeking direct feedback from our members, many of whom probably don’t realise that they pay a levy indirectly through the ASA budget to support an organisation in the opinion of the Executive is failing to focus on its core business of representing all students and is instead involved in internal politics between associations and spending too much time and money on small subgroups who pander up to the organisation,” says ASA President, Brad Heap.

“NZUSA have a vital part to play in NZ’s political realm and were paramount in achieving interest free student loans, they also provide training to association executives. However the question needs to be asked is can the $40k a year we put into this organisation be better spent? We could run our own training a lot cheaper and use the residual funds to increase funding to groups on campus. We believe in the ideals of NZUSA but if the organisation is not focussing on its core business should we continue to be involved?”

Satellite Issue 15, 2008

At the same time University of Canterbury Students’ Association (UCSA) withdrew after less than year’s membership of the national body.

Is the national body in crises? Or has year after year of bad practices caused systematic problems in the organisation?

Two years ago were arguing for changes and it appears that nothing has changed. NZUSA has a vital role to play in advocating for students in New Zealand. But they need to get back to their core business of doing so.