Amanda was not quite right (enough), know what I mean?

23 Jan


1. Shafting Amanda

I have always had something of a soft spot for Amanda Vanstone who has always (most unusually in this Australian government) seemed, well, human. Checking what I have said about her on this blog, and despite my not being always the greatest fan of some of the policies she has had to implement, I see I said things like “Last week we saw that Amanda Vanstone’s all-time favourite Australian movie is Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, for example; mind you, if I had to have a government member at a dinner party, I suspect Amanda would be more fun than most.” (January 6th, 2007) But she was clearly at times not “on message”, and now she has had the chop. She was a “colourful personality”, I heard John Howard say on the news tonight. Yes, that may well have been the problem, or part of it.

Looking at those few entries where I have mentioned her, a perhaps telling one (in retrospect) was on June 15th, 2006, citing Adrian Phoon:

I quote a very disturbing entry on Gay Erasmus.

I heard some disturbing news this afternoon. An acquaintance who has been heavily involved in the Liberal Party told me a rumour that John Howard, not content with overturning the ACT civil union laws, is now thinking of repealing immigration laws that currently favour same-sex couples. There was a whole sordid backstory to this, involving Amanda Vanstone and certain legislation over which she presided, that facilitates the arrival of skilled same-sex couples; this legislation was passed through parliament while Howard was out of the country. The bottom line is, Howard wants to repeal the legislation and is deliberating over the political efficacy and legal viability of doing this.

I believe this could well be true. I might add, because I really do know this, that there is no such thing as “laws that currently favour same-sex couples”. What there is at the moment, and has been for some time, is a provision for “interdependent relationships” which does not specify what those relationships might be. This was done in fact to avoid legally recognising same-sex couples, and I speak of the Hawke-Keating government there…

You may find more that I said about Amanda Vanstone earlier on Blogspot [now Floating Life on WordPress — linked there]. For example, on 22 August 2005 I had an entry on David Lange, quoting at length from his Speech on Tolerance: Otago University Thursday 5 August 2004, and I beg you all to read it to see what decent politics looks like, because we have forgotten so much, though I hope Kevin Rudd is making some progress in reminding us! Lange, you may recall, had recently died.

After quoting Lange, I wrote:

That is a large enough slice from Lange’s speech, but there is a lot more he said. You could see it as Lange’s last will and testament, his dying deposition. I urge Australians, indeed Americans, to study this magnificent speech carefully.

I mourn the passing of Lange in New Zealand. I mourn even more the directions the current Australian government has been leading us in for almost a decade now.

And no, I am not anti-American, but I am not pro-Bush. I also find it quite ironic that John Howard gets a prestigious US award for “a special commitment to seeking out informed opinions and thoughtful views” when his style for the past ten years has been to seek out the views that support his own, or come from like-minded ideologues; an award for dedicated pursuit of an ideological mission, for driving forward the destruction of the ideas of compassion (though I do think Amanda Vanstone does try compared to her chilling predecessor), community and collectivity, that would be more like it…

2. Goodbye multiculturalism

I suspect Amanda actually believed in multiculturalism. So do I. So do a few people still on Howard’s side of politics, but they have all been marginalised.

Read the page here Multiculturalism: diversity versus uniformity which begins: Many years of thought and experience have gone into this page. I commend it to my fellow Australians at this time, a dark time (in my opinion) in the ongoing evolution of tolerance in our society. Mateship appears to be turning in on itself.

Read too the analysis I did a few years back Revision or Ideological Makeover? HREOC’s “Face the Facts” Rejigged.

Face the Facts is a publication of the Australian Government’s Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission. It was first published in 1997 when it still to an extent reflected the consensus arrived at during the Fraser-Hawke-Keating Prime Ministerships, even though even at that time a comparison with the draft policy issued under Keating showed a shift away from diversity to “harmony” under Howard. My contention is that the 2003 revision represents an even greater shift along a particular ideological path. There was another revision in 2005. While some of this may be explained by changes in the state of the world since 1997, much cannot be.

I follow that with a point-by-point comparison of the earlier and later editions.

And now we find the dumping of Amanda and the elevation of the obedient Kevin Andrews, who was the Workplace Relations Minister (significant, isn’t it?), is not the only change.

The Australian Democrats have criticised a change to the title of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs. As part of the Prime Minister’s reshuffle, he has named it the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

Mr Howard says the change reflects the “entire nation’s” belief that immigrants should become Australian citizens.

But Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett says it simply reflects Mr Howard’s views on multiculturalism.

“It’s no secret the Prime Minister has never liked multiculturalism,” he said.

“He’s always wanted to promote the notion of a single, monocultural notion of Australia, which apart from anything else doesn’t reflect reality and certainly doesn’t reflect a modern nation that’s seeking to reach out confidently to the rest of the world.”

Mr Howard says he is not attacking multiculturalism but promoting the belief that immigrants should become Australian citizens.

But Senator Bartlett says the change is politically motivated and the Prime Minister has never been interested in citizenship before. “He hasn’t seen it as an important issue – he’s only seen immigrants as filling his labour market shortages and performing an economic role,” he said. “Now he can see some political benefit in waving the flag and promoting citizenship, he’s suddenly trying to pretend he’s a convert to the issue.”

I think Senator Bartlett is spot on, and you may read more on his blog.

While making some concessions on matters like the environment (perhaps), what I see in this development is that Howard is and has been the ideological driver in this government and no-one, but no-one, deviates in his great push to the Right. God I hope Rudd gets up in this year’s election, or indeed anyone prepared to undo at least some of the damage this government has done!

3. Just another day in Immigration and Citizenship…


jian_liuMy case manager from DIMIA visited me Monday morning on 8th January 2007. She informed me that I was liable to be removed from Australia and that I would be deported back to my home country China on Wednesday, 10th January 2007. She had also brought with her forms that detailed my detention costs and other costs owed by me to the Commonwealth, and she also had documents regarding my removal from Australia.

I informed her that I currently had an ongoing matter before the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. She took a photocopy of my letter / application for Ministerial Intervention from me and left, taking all the documents she had brought with her.

At no point during our meeting was I asked by my DIMIA case manager to put my signature on my removal documents. She took them with her at the end of our meeting and returned to her office to contact the Ministerial Intervention Unit in Canberra in order to verify the status of my application to the Minister.

Later that afternoon my case manager returned and saw me again briefly. She said that she had been informed by the Minister’s office in Canberra that they had indeed received my request for Ministerial Intervention but that a decision was pending on the matter. She also said that regardless of this, my deportation to China would still proceed; meaning that I would be removed from Australia on Wednesday 10th January 2007 as she had originally stated earlier that day. She then gave me a copy of my removal document / form and left. Once again, even at this point she never asked me to sign my removal form…

All this time I had been under the impression that I had an ongoing matter before the Minister’s office. Hence, I thought that by law, the Department of Immigration would not be permitted to remove me from Australia while I had an ongoing matter. But once I had been informed of my pending deportation from Australia by my case manager on Monday, I was obviously very distressed as a result. For the rest of the day I was under tremendous stress and quickly sank into depression…

The security staff saw me drink detergent in front of them at the hospital. They were aware that I had inflicted serious injuries to myself a day prior to that. They were aware of the seriousness and the extent of my injuries. In my opinion I believe that in light of the injuries I had sustained, I should not have been discharged from hospital so soon. Especially the fact that detention security personnel used force to remove me from hospital leads me to feel and believe that my rights as a human being have been violated; and negligence on part of the medical staff at the detention centre is a continuing violation of human rights.

I have been living in Australia since 1999. I have been in custody of the Department of Immigration and detained at the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre for nearly a year and a half (17 months). I fled my home country China because I was the victim of ongoing extreme persecution for my practices of Falun Gong. If I were returned to China, I would most certainly face imprisonment, torture, and most likely death. I am in a desperate situation. I feel that I am lost; my future is extremely dark and bleak; and that there is no hope…

See Another refugee’s detention horror.

Kevin Andrews has the call. What are the chances, do you think?

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7 responses to “Amanda was not quite right (enough), know what I mean?

  1. Adrian Phoon

    January 24, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    I’ve been thinking about that conflict between Vanstone and Howard a lot over the last 24 hours. My same (very reliable) source told me not long afterwards that Howard was looking to dump Vanstone.

    So this has been a long time coming, and journos who suggest that Kevin Rudd’s traction in the polls prompted Vanstone’s demotion are only half-right. Rudd may have been the spur to this latest cabinet reshuffle, but the PM has had it in for the socially liberal Vanstone for a while now.

  2. ninglun

    January 24, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    Thanks for confirming my suspicions, Adrian.

  3. marcelproust

    January 24, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    I’m a bit with you over Amanda, though this must be qualified by the rider that she has been a Howard minister all the same. I am not so sure about how I would rank her policy performance, and I wonder if it is a mistake to respond personally to politicians – after all, it is what they do that counts, not whether they are likeable people.

    Certainly, so far a likeability is concerned, she must be miles ahead of Ruddock, who reportedly was the other candidate for relegation to the back bench, or Andrews, who is to take up her portfolio.

    In comparison to Ruddock, Vanstone has been particularly hard done by, since she has been the one to take nearly all the flak for misdeeds by the department when Ruddock was the minister in charge.

    So far as Andrews is concerned, likeability might just be relevant, since the minister for immigration has a substantial amount of discretion under the legislation in relation to last-ditch applications to stay in the country by people who have exhausted all their other avenues under the act. This is a role calling for at least some degree of compassion. I can’t imagine Andrews showing very much of this, unless an applicant is able to tug some deeply concealed heart-string leading to his conservative social values: better odds for mothers of second children from China than for Bangladeshi gay men, or so I suspect.

  4. ninglun

    January 24, 2007 at 9:32 pm

    Welcome back, Marcel.

    I wonder if it is a mistake to respond personally to politicians – after all, it is what they do that counts, not whether they are likeable people…

    That’s true, but my interest in the first part of this entry was the bind Vanstone was in. I can’t help feeling that her instincts would be towards the more liberal end of Liberal, but she also sought, and presumably traded off aspects of herself for, power. In that respect Bruce Baird, Petro Georgiou, and a few others, may indeed be more honourable. There was some irony that later last night I watched Bodies. Did you see it?

    Rob Lake (Max Beesley) starts work in the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Department at the South Central Infirmary as a Registrar under consultant Roger Hurley (Patrick Baladi). He quickly learns that Hurley is a dangerously incompetent physician, causing death after death through his practice.

    The mistakes made are frighteningly plausible. Hurley is an undeniably brilliant scientist whose research brings money and prestige to the hospital – he is just clinically incompetent and it has become politically expedient to explain away the deaths he causes.

    The half-truths, sins of omission and downright lies that are told on his behalf become routine, part of a protective structure like worker bees protecting the Queen. No room for individuality in this hive.

    Then I read norrie’s transcription of that statement from Villawood, and recalled too cases like people being deported to countries they happen to have been born in, despite the fact they left as babies and had no knowledge of the language or of any other life than Australia. That happened under Vanstone’s watch, even if the conditions had been put in place by Ruddock (and of course Howard)…

  5. marcelproust

    January 25, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    You have now stirred in a bee in my bonnet.

    Those pesky falun gongs, such a prick to a liberal conscience. I admire norrie for helping Jian Liu.

    Doubtless norrie did not have time to obtain a statement from Jian Liu about the Falun Gong’s views about human beings who may well be not locatable completely within the usual categories of male or female or gay or straight or transsexual or intersexed. If Jian Liu’s are those of their teacher, norrie’s assistance is commendably disinterested.

  6. ninglun

    January 25, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    norrie visits Villawood every second Saturday. Many of the inmates have been helped by norrie, including male or female or gay or straight or transsexual or intersexed. norrie just can’t abide people being locked up.

  7. marcelproust

    January 25, 2007 at 8:10 pm

    I agree with norrie on that. At some point, so long as an immigration system is being upheld, detention will be necessary in the case of extreme flight risks, but as I understand it in Australia you can be detained if you have just overstayed a visa, let alone, of course, arrived without one. That is setting the threshold too low.

    When people are facing deportation, if what concerns you is people being locked up, the bigger question is not the imprisonment which has already occurred but the likelihood of them being (amongst other things) imprisoned (not necessarily immediately or resulting in death) in the country to which the deportation consigns them. In the case of a genuine and enthusiastic Falun Gong adherent, I think that prospect is sufficient that it should be taken into account as a real possibility.

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