Why support for the Australian Government is currently unconscionable

In the Absence of a genuine Opposition prepared to take Government to task for its many transgressions, in the absence of a functioning Fourth Estate (ABC investigative journalism excepted), it falls to citizens to play both of these roles by proxy. For this reason a list of issues has been drawn up to draw attention to the government’s short-comings.  It also stands as a list of Reasons (of varying strength and in no particular order) why continued support for this Australian Government, by voting or otherwise,  is currently unconscionable.

1. Inhumane asylum-seeker policy:

a. Offshore detention of asylum-seekers on Nauru and Manus Island

b. Visa changes making refugee status temporary and preventing work

c. Failure to rescue asylum seekers at sea prior to the capsizing of a boat and many drowning deaths

d. Excision of whole of Australia from its ‘Migration Zone’

The ‘Migration Zone’ was fanciful legislative invention of the Howard Government in 2001: there was no such animal prior. To excise bits of Australia from Australia, borders had to be characterised in two ways at once: hence the  invented ‘Migration Zone.’ No mention of a ‘migration zone’ in 1958 Migration Act and none in amendments (listed here) until Howard’s changes in 2001.

So if the Government plans to reduce the size of the Migration Zone so that it covers none of the Australian mainland, why not now just delete the fabricated device from legislation? It seems likely the Govt still needs the legal instrument. Despite removing all of Australia from its own ‘Migration Zone’, the idea of such a zone (covering no area) still seems required: Government needs two definitions of Australia’s borders, one of zero size, to try to give sense to its (absurd) inhumane intent.

Hearing of invention of ‘Migration Zone’ for splitting bits of Australia from itself was for me a decade ago a cause of sharp decline in respect for the semiotics of law. I’d previously imagined the language of law rich, complex and thorough, but as the careless invention of a ‘Migration Zone’ indicated, it’s sometimes anything but. Without the Migration Zone the Australian Government would be openly flaunting humanitarian and international legal obligations. The Migration Zone (even an infinitely small one) differentiates two kinds of ‘border’, albeit in a fantastical way. This  provides a kind of crude legal loophole that allows Australia to defer refugee claims while paying lip service to humanitarian treaties. tricky way of sidestepping humane responsibilities:  legislative sleight of hand that makes a mockery of the concept of law itself.

The entirety of the mainland of Australia was somehow excised from its  Migration Zone on November 27th 2012 (two Opposition MPs, Russell Broadbent and Judy Moylan, voted against the legislative amendments).

2. Waste in purchase of pharmaceuticals:

An estimated $3 billion in unnecessary profits are granted pharmacists and pharmaceutical companies by the Australian Government by virtue of failure to implement proper cheaper pricing for generic medicines. Australian pharmaceutical costs now 40% higher than UKs, and Australia is the 3rd most expensive developed nation for pharmaceuticals (after the US and Germany), a sharp increase on a decade ago.  Meanwhile New Zealand’s PHARMAC gains citizens of that country among the cheapest pharmaceuticals in world (discussed here). For example Australia pays $38 for statins after the cholesterol lowering drugs’ monopoly expired, allowing the purchase of generic alternatives. New Zealand pays around $2 for the same drugs.

The government’s capitulation to pharmaceutical interests outlined in ABC Radio National’s Health Report in Nov 2012.

3. Weak policy on climate change

The Government has implemented a carbon pricing scheme, but this policy is contradicted by continued support for coal exports and coal mining projects, including new projects. In excess of 75% of domestic energy in Australia remains coal-fired, and there is no plan to remedy this.

4. Support for Israel’s attack on Gaza

In November 2012 Israel began military assault on Palestinian people in the territory of the Gaza strip with rocket attacks that killed Hamas personnel and civilians, including children and families. Many more were injured in the opening days of conflict in which Hamas joined, firing rockets towards Tel Aviv. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard made a statement on November 15th in which she condemned, not Israel, but ‘attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip.’ In language almost identical with that employed by British, Canadian and US politicians the Prime Minister stated that ‘Australia supports Israel’s right to defend itself against these indiscriminate attacks.’ (‘Gillard condemns attacks on Israel‘)

At the time of the Prime Minister’s statements in the first few days of the attack, ordnance rained on Gaza had killed 13 civilian citizens of the territory and injured at least 120 more. Three Israelis had died in return fire.

In endorsing Israel’s attacks the PM spoke in unison with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, and in alignment with the Murdoch press. Julia Gillard did not, though, just give her support to the IDF assault. She spoke on behalf of Australia, making all citizens of this country complicit in her endorsement.

The Australian Government’s position and the Prime Minister’s direct endorsement of Israel has placed voters in a position whereby to support Labor is to give personal endorsement to the 2012 IDF assault. Voters can condemn Israel’s action and the Australian Government’s position, or endorse it with a vote. Not both.

Interview with former IDF soldier Avner Gvaryahu from Breaking the Silence on his experiences in Gaza: ‘most of what we’re doing isn’t about security, it’s about control.’

5. Abstention on Palestinian Authority UN bid for Observer Status

Prior to a vote on non-member Observer Status at the United Nations for the Palestinian Authority former Labor foreign minister Gareth Evans warned Australia would be on ‘the wrong side of history’ if it failed to support the bid.  Prime Minister Julia Gillard made it clear she preferred a ‘no’ vote in support of the United States and Israel, but pressure from within both Cabinet and Caucus and across factional lines ‘softened’ the Government’s position.  The Australian Government determined to abstain on the vote.  Bill Shorten and Stephen Conroy supported the PM’s hard-line pro-Israel stance (details of in-house argy-bargy).

6. Failure to assist Australian citizen Julian Assange

7. Water conservation policy – Murray Darling Basin plan that favours industry over environment

8. Cutting welfare for single parents

9. Gagging of debate in Parliament

10. Using Treasury to propagandise by having other parties policies costed for political gain

11. Perpetuating funding of uber-wealthy schools

12. Perpetuation of private health insurance rebate

13. Plans to retain citizens’ metadata for two years

14. Distorted voting system that undermines democratic representation and perpetuates major party dominance

15. Allowing a binding legal document concerning rules of conduct for US military on Australian soil to remain secret at the request of the United States

16. Assistance in training Indonesia’s military, units of which are engaged in colonial oppression of West Papua

17. Failure to assist West Papuan people against repression and towards Independence

18. Abstention on a UN vote to ban the use of ordnance containing depleted uranium

19. Opposition to introducing marriage equality for same-sex couples by a simple change to the Marriage Act.

20. Compromise of a tax on profits from Australia’s mineral resources costing at least $10 billion

21. Control of the Labor Party by factional interests pursuing a programme of pragmatism that represents abandonment  of Labor principles

The takeover of the party by a grouping of AWU; HSU; SDA;Short/Cons, including Gillard and Swan, with a conscious strategy of sheer pragmatism, as bemoaned by many party elders over the past couple of years, including John Faulkner, Rodney Cavalier, and Lindsay Tanner. The outright refusal to even take up the tame ‘reforms’ of the Bracks, Carr, Faulkner party review by this grouping, let alone bring some democracy back into the party tells us the situation is unlikely to change. Perhaps Rudd would try make a change, but the numbers are probably too strong in all key party forums.

22. Continuation of the Howard Government’s Northern Territory intervention exerting ‘special’ controls over lives of Indigenous Australians


This document has two polemic aims.

i. It presents a list of Reasons (of varying strength and in no particular order) why support for this Government, including a vote at the next election, is unconscionable, and

ii. It presents a litany of reasons for the claim that Labor is NOT at present significantly better than the Opposition. Both of these polemic points stand as reasons why it is NOT sound to vote for the ‘lesser of two evils’ at the next election, which many Labor supporters will explain is the reason it is IMPERATIVE to vote Labor.

A further point to be made is that it is with sadness that this long list of short-comings and affronts has been drawn up.  The Labor Party is of long vintage and comes from a venerable tradition of representing citizens against competing and damaging interests in society. It is, though, in its current form, a political movement that has lost its way.  It is hoped that this document is, in some tiny measure, a spur to Labor’s righting itself and a return to the principles and representations that originally made the movement Great.

This document is a work in progress: it will be FLESHED OUT with deets, links and further short-comings of Government over coming days, weeks, and months. Great Works!

Finally, this document, which stands as a testimony of a kind of Citizens’ Opposition, is drawn up under the auspices of a proxy Bureau of Sabotage.  The Bureau is the concept of writer and political theorist Frank Herbert, who believed that a Government that has become too powerful, too unrepresentative and too efficient and swift in the execution of inhumane policy, requires a Brake on its activities, to slow its wheels, and bring it back within the control and earshot of the people.

List prepared by @honxqp (David Spencer) , material provided by the estimable @jaundicedv (Jaundiced View). Suggestions for further additions welcome via twitter. Great Works!

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