No, Mr Abbott, we are sick of cruelty*
March 10, 2015 5:22 PM   Subscribe

The UN has released a report finding that Australian policies may breach the international convention against torture. Prime Minister Tony Abbott's response? "I really think Australians are sick of being lectured to by the United Nations." * Not so much. Meanwhile, thousands of letters of support to detainees in Nauru have been returned, undelivered.

More details on the UN report.

This latest Abbott gaffe comes before the dust has settled on the controversy over Australian Human Rights Commission president, Gillian Triggs. But it may shift the focus back to The Forgotten Children.

So what is it like in detention? Safdar Ahmed's moving comic describing life at Villawood should give you an idea.
posted by Athanassiel (47 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
I despair, as an Australian and as a human being.
posted by misterbee at 5:33 PM on March 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


It's this thing, where he doesn't have to care what people think. Think about how rarely shitheaded heads of state ever experience any repercussions for their acts in office. He's playing the odds.
posted by rhizome at 5:34 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


He's head of government, not head of state (no matter what he might like to think). The repercussions he should (and I still hope will) be feeling include being removed from the position by his own party, and it is to the lasting shame of the LNP that he's been allowed to blunder on for this long.
posted by pompomtom at 5:39 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Isn't Australia in the middle of trying to persuade Indonesia not to execute some of its citizens, and didn't Indonesia just reply in a very similar fashion? Might as well give up on that now, if it's acceptable to deal with international criticism in such a way.
posted by topynate at 5:40 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Tony didn't gaffe. He quite clearly said 'stop the boats' twice. That's basically the only thing he and his supporters care about.
posted by um at 5:40 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Isn't the policy of cruelty pretty much bipartisan, with the ALP being as enthusiastic about it as the LNP? From what I gather, the only party with parliamentary representation that has anything to say against it are the Greens, and whenever they say something, the two major parties huddle together and vote against it, as if out of fear of the opprobrium they'd get from the Murdoch press and/or right-wing shock-jocks if they were seen on the same side as the Greens.
posted by acb at 5:46 PM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Just this morning I was listening to him live on the news justifying cutting services to remote communities because "it's not the taxpayer's responsibility to subsidize people's lifestyle choices". He predictably caught some serious flak (ABC news link) for his views.

As the head of the right wing Liberal party, he's just expressing proper Australian right wing Liberal values... the very job he was elected for... I honestly don't think he's doing such a bad job of it.

The sick of cruelty thing in particular strikes me as rather faint criticism, because the Labour party was trying to out-do the Liberal party in the area of extreme measures against refugees in the last election. BOTH major parties are aligned on this refugee and cruelty thing - one of the only policies they're actually in agreement on - and they're doing it not because of their innate party values, but because voters are voting with their feet on this issue.
posted by xdvesper at 5:48 PM on March 10, 2015


The point of this post was not that Labor is better - Chris Bowen didn't do so well when he was Immigration Minister under Gillard, and that government was certainly pursuing "solutions" equally as inhumane. And that's just the most recent Labor government (not counting the second Rudd regime).

The point of the post is that while Australian politicians sling accusations and insults at each other, there are people who are enduring conditions that are close to, if not actually, torture. Abbott is just the figurehead of all the inane comments coming out while people continue to suffer.

From Annabel Crabb's article, linked above (on the word "controversy"):
All of this has created an unedifying national bunfight that has exactly nothing to do with children who have suffered terribly in detention, a central point no-one has bothered seriously to contest, the real disagreement being rather more about who is more to blame and whether they are being appropriately birched.
posted by Athanassiel at 6:01 PM on March 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


The repercussions he should (and I still hope will) be feeling include being removed from the position by his own party

Well, his own party voted to "remov[e] any duty for the government to comply with international law or act fairly when detaining asylum seekers at sea" and to "strip[] out references to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees" from the Migration Act.

And to get that through the Senate, they blackmailed the crossbenchers by threatening to keep children locked up unless the amendments were passed.

If you think this is a "gaffe" by Abbott, or that his repudiation of international human rights law is not fully supported by the Coalition party room, you are sadly mistaken. (And that includes Turnbull, who dutifully voted for the new law.)
posted by robcorr at 6:04 PM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


The natives are getting restless. Queensland's LNP govt recently lost after one term (and QLD now has a female-dominated cabinet, yay!) and the state election in NSW in little over a fortnight is going to present some surprises for the Lib Nats. Near-future state and federal elections will incremententally increase representation by Australia's third major party, The Greens who, after 30 years in politics are maturing rapidly and finding some great talent. Once they (and like-minded independents) have real sway on the cross-benches of lower houses around the country and in Canberra, these incidences of inhuman treatment and torture will end. Greens Senator Hanson-Young has been a firm voice of reason on this issue for years. It's such a shame that the moderate Liberal humanists were forced out of their electorates before the last election. They were a light in the time of Ruddock and Howard but now there is almost no-one in either of the Lib/Lab parties willing to speak up against the cruelty.

This is why I love the activists and the feral forest protectors and the farmers chaining themselves to coal mining machinery and the human rights voices that keep speaking and articulating and refuse to be silenced because they have very important things to say.

Silence equals consent to the status quo in a democratic society.
posted by Kerasia at 6:21 PM on March 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


I think the "I really think Australians are sick of being lectured to by the United Nations." isn't exactly a gaffe.

Abbott is part of a global and collegial neo-conservative/asshole movement that includes Canada's conservative "Harper government" and Britain's Conservative government under Cameron and Osborne.

There is little respect for the UN, which the Right regards as being simultaneously a collection of Left-wing busybody whiners and thuggish dictators.

Either way, for neo-conservatives and assholes the UN has no moral authority whatsoever, which is probably what Abbott was getting at in his remarks.

Canada's recently departed foreign minister and total asshole John Baird has made similar remarks.
posted by Nevin at 6:25 PM on March 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


the state election in NSW in little over a fortnight is going to present some surprises for the Lib Nats

Aren't they poised to retain government, according to the polls?
posted by acb at 6:35 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


No, Mr Abbott, we are sick of you not listening when the United Nations lectures you.
posted by lollusc at 6:43 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


From what I gather, the only party with parliamentary representation that has anything to say against it are the Greens,

Heh. Even the Greens can't be trusted on this. Their policy is unclear. They have variously called for a shortening of mandatory detention, but also a removal of children (not adults) from mandatory detention. Sarah Hanson-Young has called for an "overhaul" of the system and a replacement of mandatory detention with "community detention", whereas Tasmanian Greens leader, Kim Booth, has called instead for refugees to be detained in Tasmania where a detention center would provide a "boost" to the economy. Even the Greens are afraid of truly supporting Australia's refugee obligations.
posted by Jimbob at 6:45 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I agree Jimbob and I am very dissapointed in Kim Booth. I cannot comprehend the nature of our slide into this immoral morass. But, ya know, thinking about it, it aint that much different from white Australia's infinite history of enslaving, isolating and reserving the land's first people. It's a virus in our cultural political blood.
posted by Kerasia at 7:23 PM on March 10, 2015


The Tassie Greens are considered slightly bonkers by most other state Green groups though. I don't think their position should be taken as the national consensus.
posted by Quilford at 7:32 PM on March 10, 2015


Also, relatedly, Andrew Wilkie is trying to have the government dragged before the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and I desperately hope it gets up.
posted by Quilford at 7:36 PM on March 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


The Tassie Greens are considered slightly bonkers by most other state Green groups though. I don't think their position should be taken as the national consensus.

The federal leader of the Australian Greens is from Tasmania, as was her predecessor. The party was founded there. It retains its highest support base there. And the links between the federal and Tasmanian state operations are extremely close. So while their position might not be taken as the national consensus, they're certainly driving it.

(oh also, the WA Greens were always considered the weird ones...)
posted by Jimbob at 7:46 PM on March 10, 2015


Just this morning I was listening to him live on the news justifying cutting services to remote communities because "it's not the taxpayer's responsibility to subsidize people's lifestyle choices".

Aren't the Nats traditionally the party of the cattlemen, sheep stations, outback, and rural communities? How's that playing with his own coalition partner?
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 7:47 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


How's that playing with his own coalition partner?

Just fine, I imagine, since those aren't the "remote communities" he's referring to.
posted by Jimbob at 7:49 PM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


The guy is just saying words. You gotta respect him for that: for his ability to form words, given his difficult birth.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:50 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'm pretty sure they mean white rural communities.
posted by mythical anthropomorphic amphibian at 7:52 PM on March 10, 2015


How's that playing with his own coalition partner?

They can hear the dog-whistle, loud and clear.
posted by pompomtom at 7:53 PM on March 10, 2015


Hey hey you guys, there's a poll about the stupidest idiotic thing that Tones has said and I actually can't decide which one it is.
posted by Quilford at 7:54 PM on March 10, 2015


Also fair enough, Jimbob.
posted by Quilford at 7:54 PM on March 10, 2015


Hey hey you guys, there's a poll about the stupidest idiotic thing that Tones has said and I actually can't decide which one it is.

Yeah that's sure a hard poll, but I really had to go with "Shit Happens" for its classic nature, broad appeal, and the way Tony vibrated when confronted about it.
Margaret: 5 stars.
David: 4 stars.
posted by Jimbob at 7:58 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ah, so "people still living on the land they've traditionally owned for 40,000 years" is what "lifestyle choices" means. Gotcha.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 8:00 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


"it's not the taxpayer's responsibility to subsidize people's lifestyle choices".

Aboriginal Australians are taking this to mean that Abbot thinks that their continuation of their multi-millenia cultural relationship with the land in places that are distant to Abbot but home to them since time began, is a 'lifestyle' choice. Like moving to Byron Bay to go surfing all day is a lifestyle choice. Or being a dickhead political leader is a lifestyle choice.

Which is just so wow! wrong headed, insensitive, ignorant and culturally dismissive and disrespectful that I don't see how he can ever wave his "I've got Aboriginal friends" flag again and not be strangled with it.
posted by Kerasia at 8:06 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


It really is stunningly ignorant. I mean, the first thing you learn when you do any research into Australian Aboriginal culture at all is how important land is to their identity. I mean, come on.
posted by Quilford at 8:11 PM on March 10, 2015


Quilford / Jimbob: Hah, I think nothing he has ever said or ever will say could trump what he said about his daughter's virginity (apparently, the greatest gift they could give someone).
posted by xdvesper at 8:14 PM on March 10, 2015


I feel, as an Australian, I must speak. We are not like him.
posted by adept256 at 8:20 PM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Nothing baffles, disgusts, and shames me more than Australian national politics, and Tony is a true virtuoso of the baffling, disgusting, and shameful. We can do better than this idiot and his like. We have to.
posted by threecheesetrees at 8:23 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I feel, as an Australian, I must speak. We are not like him.

I've given up trying to defend this country from accusations of systemic racism. No, we are not all sexist, racist, anti-science, lets-all-eat-the-poor fucknuckles like Abbott, but apparently enough of us were to get him elected in the first place, and 35% of us remain enough so to continue supporting him as PM even now. We have to face up to that.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:38 PM on March 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


He looks great shirtless tho
posted by um at 8:39 PM on March 10, 2015


I will never give up on Australia. That only lets him win.
posted by adept256 at 8:50 PM on March 10, 2015


He looks great shirtless tho

Flagged as 'offensive'.

posted by pompomtom at 9:01 PM on March 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


I feel nauseous.
posted by Quilford at 9:08 PM on March 10, 2015


ssshhh just let his nipples work their magic
posted by um at 9:12 PM on March 10, 2015


Actually as offensive and nauseous, yes he does display his nipples. That's who he is. And relevant.
posted by adept256 at 9:16 PM on March 10, 2015


robcorr: If you think this is a "gaffe" by Abbott, or that his repudiation of international human rights law is not fully supported by the Coalition party room, you are sadly mistaken.

I think none of those things. It's more that I'd hope that that very party room would boot him for his incompetence w/r/t their presumed goals (CommCar, DB super etc), and that some marginal improvement in the behaviour of our government might result.
posted by pompomtom at 9:16 PM on March 10, 2015




I feel, as an Australian, I must speak. We are not like him.

Me from elsewhere:
But I think it is important to recognise that much of the general public doesn't really care about things like due process or refugees. The current government may have manipulated the agenda to exaggerate the boat people problem and they may have demonised the refugees, but people were ready to embrace their view. If anything, I suspect that the current government is a pretty good reflection of what ordinary Australians actually think. The difference is that - unlike any previous Federal government I can think of - the government was quite prepared to indulge the baser instincts of the electorate to remain in office.
That's from 2002. The situation we have now was well established by then. Attempts to do something about it have failed and if some future government tries something more respectable the temptation for an Abbott or a Morrison will be hard to resist. Lots of people (including many Tories) are very unhappy about it, but this is what Australia has been for a long time now. Whilst we enjoyed very high terms of trade, low unemployment and avoided a worldwide recession.
posted by hawthorne at 2:54 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I kind of hope Toned Abs stays right where he is until the next election. A new PM cracking out the same bullshit but selling it better stands a much better chance of winning. And Australia really doesn't need that.
posted by deadwax at 3:37 AM on March 11, 2015


It's this thing, where he doesn't have to care what people think.

Nope, he totes does. Indeed, this fucking nonsense is part of his desperate attempts to cling to anything that the public regards the Coalition as being better on (see: Flag orgies earlier this and last month; constant mention of death cults; blaming Muslims communities for 'not doing enough' etc).

And the sad fact of the matter is that torturing refugees generally plays well with the public. There are tonnes of surveys available around this - ABC's vote compass is particularly horrifying.

I personally think that, yes, you can get into the why's of this and there are multiple reasons historical, cultural, social, and I don't think we should regard the view as set in stone. There's also research that indicates it's not really a vote maker or breaker despite the copious noise on the issue.

However, it really is indisputable that the majority of Australians applaud our inhumane treatment of refugees and indeed would like us to be more cruel, not less. It's a safe issue for the coalition in particular to play on - as the only cost is in foreign human lives and no one really gives a shit about them, sadly - whereas things like medicare, super, taxation are far more touchy with the electorate.

Regarding Labor, they certainly are as guilty, and I despise their craven bullshit and acquiescence to the myth that our refugee applicants make any material difference to Australia. Save The Children's contribution to the HRC report did note, however, that things have gotten worse, not better.
posted by smoke at 5:33 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


One good thing that came of this post is that it brought my attention to the fact that one of the major detention centres (the Villawood mentioned by the OP) is just down the road from me, and I signed up to be a volunteer there. This group runs a variety of activities there to try to make life less horrible for the detainees. (They haven't updated their webpage or facebook page since October, though, so I hope they are still active).

I encourage any of the other Western Sydneyites here to consider it too.
posted by lollusc at 6:53 PM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Good work, lollusc.

In that poll of Abbott's worst moments, what is the 'shit happens' one? I think the 'lifestyle choice' one has driven it from my memory.
posted by harriet vane at 2:39 AM on March 12, 2015




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