Archive for May, 2011

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More Questions and More Answers

30 May 2011

My local (Federal) MP, John Alexander, left a comment here on the subject of Australia’s treatment of refugees after my last post.  I really have to take him to task on a few points:

1.   So asylum seekers may pass through other countries on their way here?  I think these other countries are already carrying a very heavy load – Pakistan has close to TWO MILLION refugees in camps there, Malaysia has about 100,000, Iran has nearly a million.   It may be an inappropriate choice of words, but the numbers seeking refuge in Australia are a drop in the ocean (6-8000 a year by air and sea).  We are a much richer nation than Pakistan and it’s rather insulting, and slightly patronising, to suggest that these countries should be carrying this burden by themselves.

2.   Under the Howard Government, apparently, our country was no longer seen as a “soft target”.  Has it even been a soft target?  It’s one of the few countries in the world that puts asylum seekers in prison, which is effectively what mandatory detention is.  And in the last few weeks a very interesting survey has shown that asylum seekers coming here are not actually aware of the rules when they get here.  So however strict the detention is, or whether there is no incarceration, would make no difference to the numbers.  Refugees in Indonesia and Malaysia aren’t avid watchers of Lateline or tune into the ABC News on a regular basis.  The Liberal Party’s  constant carping about sending the “right message” to asylum seekers is utter rubbish.  They don’t have access to the message.  I remember Howard refusing to allow children in detention (yes, we lock up children here) to receive English lessons as it would send the “wrong message”.  So offering English lessons to children would encourage people to come here??!!!   And refusing would deter them??  (And there’s an interesting blog here talking about the numbers who come here and how that correlates to the number of people seeking refuge worldwide).

3.   If anything, these are the people Australia needs.  They’re determined, generally hard-working people seeking a better and safer life.  Does anyone not remember the outcry from Australians about the Vietnamese coming here (by boat) in the 70’s.  Look around now and see the entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, teachers, musicians all around this country that this influx of refugees has given us.  This would be a poorer nation without them. 

4.   And they’re NOT usually terrorists (though John Alexander didn’t suggest they were but that is often the undercurrent in this conversation).  Al Qaeda does NOT send its operatives on leaky boats across the world.  It gives them passports, visas and airline tickets.    

5.   And finally, our detention centres are so dreadful that when Mary Robinson, then head of the UNHCR, asked permission to visit one of them, it was refused.  I think that speaks volumes.

 

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The Refugee Question (And Answers)

28 May 2011

I used to write to newspapers every time they referred to an asylum seeker as an “illegal immigrant”.  But I had to give it up as a “bashing your head against a brick wall” job.

How many times does it have to be said that people who travel to another country to seek refuge because of fear of persecution are NOT acting illegally.  Illegal immigrants are those who come here on a valid visa and stay here when that visa has expired (there are about 50,000 of those in Australia at the moment and I believe they mainly originate from the UK and the USA).  

I find it truly offensive that we demonise others like this.  I cannot for one moment imagine how desperate you’d have to be to get on a boat that you and I would reject for a trip across the Harbour, and set out to sea.  Don’t you think that if they had the option of coming here on a plane, they’d take it (it’s cheaper for a start, not to mention safer).  I remember Tony Abbott accused the Government of encouraging asylum seekers to risk their lives by travelling in “unsafe and leaky boats” then in the same breath suggested that these boats be turned around to make the return journey.  

This article puts the “refugee question” into perspective and answers some of the most frequent questions. 

Unfortunately it won’t be read by those who get their “facts” from Alan Jones or Tony Abbott.

(And I know I seem to be picking T.A, out for special criticism in the last few days, but I find HIM truly offensive as well).

 

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Just To Prove (Part 4)

26 May 2011

That I used to have long legs . . . yes, that’s what someone said when I showed them this photo.  “Didn’t you used to have long legs?” !!!

As I don’t quite reach 5’3″, and mini skirts had to be shortened about 6″ to be “mini” on me, I’d be the last person to be having a bit cropped off my legs! 

 Judith's wedding

Aged 22, with my father and grandmother.

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Just To Prove (Part 3) . . . .

24 May 2011

That I also played in a jazz band – the Aqualantix.  I think I was 17/18 in this picture.

 Aqualantix

In my last post, Bron said that she also played the trombone and maybe would have continued with it if she’d played jazz which I’d never really thought of before – maybe my interest continued long into my late teens because I played all sorts of music.  My social life at this age was taken up with playing in various bands/orchestras/jazz bands and it was great.  I was living in a town not known for its nightlife but I got to go to lots of parties.  I think the most memorable was playing at a wedding where the bride’s mother had died the day before.  A little difficult to make the party go with a swing!

And Lynne asked “Why the trombone”.  Answer: “I have no idea”.  At the age of 5, I announced to my parents that I wanted to play the trombone.  I don’t know where I’d heard one or why I was so interested, but I bugged her about it for months apparently so when I was 6 she organised lessons for me, with the local brass band.  I was never more than competent – I’m not a particularly talented musician unlike some of those I played with – but I loved it and it certainly made me the object of a lot of (male) interest!

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Just To Prove (Part 2) . . . .

23 May 2011

That I used to play the trombone.  That’s me on the far right, aged about 17, in Woburn Sands Band (Buckinghamshire)

 WS Band

Note that there are 4 females in this band.  In the first one I played with, I was the first.  While I was recently in England, I attended a couple of the band practices and more than half of the players are now women. 

As usual, I was at the forefront of female emancipation!!

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Just To Prove . . . .

21 May 2011

That I CAN crochet.  It’s just that this is the only picture I have.  I made this when I was about 21 and this is me wearing it at a Tarts and Vicars party when I was 25!  (For those of you confused, I went as a tart – and a pretty gormless looking one at that)

Sally crochet dress

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Mediocrity Rules, OK?

19 May 2011

I suppose I returned to Australia hoping that politicians here had got their act together – but, in the common parlance, it’s same old, same old.  They really are an extraordinarily mediocre, petty-minded and parochial group of people.  Where’s the long-term planning,  the big picture? 

The big debate since the budget a week or so ago is whether we consider a family income of $150,000 a year to be called rich.  The tabloids have dragged out “typical” families who are struggling to make ends meet and frankly I don’t think the majority of Australians have a great deal of sympathy.  A family budget that includes $3000+ a month for a mortgage, private school fees and $500+ a month for TV/Internet/Phones is hardly typical of the “lifestyles” of most of us.   And insulting to a great many (the majority of) Australian families.

I do agree with most of the decisions of this Government but I wish they would present them so much better.  They don’t explain to people what they’re doing and why, and we’re left with Tony Abbott’s rants and those of the radio ‘shock-jocks’ being the only interpretation many of us get to hear.  A typical case was at the last election.  Economists tend to fall into two camps when it comes to recessions – spend nothing or inject money into the community.  The “spending nothing” brigade around the world didn’t fare very well this time and Kevin Rudd took what I thought was a bold decision to spend big.  And it appears to have worked.  We’re one of the few First World countries to have avoided a recession, employment figures are high, interest rates are low.  The Labor party could have really capitalised on that during the election in 2010 but were fairly silent on the subject.  John Howard would have sat on the cash and the $150,000 a year brigade really would be struggling – they probably wouldn’t be earning $150k any more for a start.

I’ve had a great interest in politics since I was a child (for some obscure reason – I wasn’t brought up in a particularly political household) but in both Britain and Australia  at the moment (I don’t know enough about American politics) we’re lumbered with not particularly intelligent, and certainly not charismatic, leaders.  The Leader of the Opposition is a good example – he seems unable to string a coherent sentence together for a start.  Is Tony Abbott a complete fool or does he just take the voters for fools? 

Or both (which I think is the answer)?