Saturday, January 05, 2002

Rachel's blog is very funny. I'm home! Have spent this afternoon playing on my new bike. Zoom!

Sunday, December 30, 2001

Hey strangers...I don't suppose anyone checks this anymore, it has been so long. 'Sporadic' is not even the word, here. So, no promises this time! It's raining outside as i type this - yes, I am in Darwin! The room is also rocking up and down slightly. Due I think to me not quite being recovered from 4 days on a boat over christmas. It's a bit strange, this rocking. I hope it goes away soon. Darwin, though, is wonderful. I do have the luxury of an air-conditioned caravan, without which I would whinge a bit more about the heat. It's fine provided you don't have to do anything strenuous. Which i have emphatically not been doing. There's the usual holiday-malaise, as everything slows down. I have not blogged for ages due to working a lot, so it is incredibly bizarre to worry about nothing but which book to pick up next, or whether to have a swim now or in the afternoon. I've been racing through Rushdie's 'Midnight's Children', perfect in this heat - he writes of the heat inspiring acts of madness - me it just slows down. Wha? which day? breakfast? The book is wonderful. If I could write like anybody it would be that man. KABOOM!I love these storms. Unfortunately we haven't had too many of them. Last week Michael picked us up and took us to a bridge, where we watched the lightning as the storm came in. It's one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen, this Darwin lightning. There are the sharp, bright forked flashes that you'd expect (electrons being stripped - how wonderful!) but also these fluttering back-lit things - as different layers of cloud are lit for a second, pale or purple or (as when we were on the boat) bright pink and orange. It's difficult to watch for lightning, and after it is gone it's hard to believe it was ever there. This night, we walked back over the bridge and to the 'Fury' (a pub) for a beer. By our second we'd moved into the sheltered part of the verandah and it was belting down. By the time we'd finished our third the rain had stopped and we went down to the jetty (this all in Nightcliff) to watch the storm roll out. An excellent way to spend a night.

Saturday, November 10, 2001

oh my, it has been a while. this is just a little note to say that i DO intend to start this up again soon. i've relocated to the lovely lennox st, am almost finished my last essay, getting there, getting there - soon to have time to think, write, amuse you all, etc ;)

Thursday, October 11, 2001

Anyone want to write a conclusion to my thesis? I'll pay. Money, sexual favours, whatever. I'm over this thesis shit.

ps. another big peace protest on Saturday morning at town hall. 11am i think. show howard and beasley that we don't all thirst for blood of strangers.

pps. i'm serious about the thesis thing.

Monday, October 01, 2001

And thanks to Peter for his link to the Chaser's hilarious and astute take on the Tampa debacle
This dude is on the money as to the way in which people are reassured by losing their civil liberties, and also has the best idea as to how to 'win the war against terrorism' that i have heard so far: we have to love-bomb islam. Excellent stuff.

Friday, September 28, 2001

Friday, September 28, 2001

Tonight I was part of the studio audience for a 60 Minutes debate about refugees. Since I doubt the ability or inclination of the channel 9 editors to adequately represent what happened over three hours tonight in less than one hour of tv on Sunday, I'll describe what happened here for you.

Driving along Delhi Rd in North Ryde, there was no missing the studio. There was a long queue of cars at the gate and lots of people milling around. Most of us waited outside for about an hour before going in. there were clearly a lot of community groups there - people from many different ethnic backgrounds, older people, nuns, some kids. Lawyers in suits, people in sneakers. I was one of very few people who went along alone, and was standing there mooching when a woman nearby broke off and started up a conversation. Rita is about my age, most of the way through a uni degree, like me. she is Afghani, came here as a refugee with her family when she was three. She was like, 'well, I can imagine how these people feel. They could be me.' Having saved me from being bored and feeling like a doof on my own, Rita is also the first person I have met who arrived here as a refugee. Soon I am also talking to an older friend of hers, a warm, smart woman involved in an Afghani women's organisation. She tells me the number of orphans they are trying to support back in Afghanistan and it is some mind-boggling number. I also meet Abeda, who came here when she was 7, is now finishing her Psych degree and definite about the sort of work she wants to do, family therapy, helping bridge the generation gap in migrant families. I'm excited that I've been able to meet these women, they are funny and committed and friendly, interested in the same things as me, and from a community I don't usually have much contact with.

So I went into the studio feeling pretty positive. The mood inside turned sharply after Liz Hayes introduced the segment and showed the pre-recorded pieces of the show. These, as you will see if you watch on Sunday, are about people-smugglers. 60 minutes' had an Australian Pakistani man pretend to want to go to Australia, with a secret camera, showing how easy it is to get here, how exploitative the people-smugglers are, and how some of them encourage rich Pakistani people to pretend to be poor Afghani asylum seekers. It was literally a set-up, not questioning the troubles people might have in leaving these countries legally, only contrasting the fate of the very poor in huge refugee camps with those who are rich enough to 'jump the queue.' At no point in the entire forum did anyone raise the question of whether for some it is impossible to join the queue, if indeed there is one. At the conclusion of the video 15 or so people stood up and began walking out, many people loudly protesting about the inappropriateness and one-sidedness about the segment we had just watched. We were there to talk about Australia's policies towards refugees, not about people-smugglers. How they get here, as Robert Manne pointed out, is not the important issue here. Several also pointed out that this kind of reporting enforces the idea of asylum-seekers as criminal or illegal. It was a shoddy piece of journalism and was not a good start to the 'debate.'

Liz Hayes failed to provide any effective mediation or facilitation of what was a very heated and chaotic discussion. There were several in the audience she targeted for specific quesitons: Philip Ruddock, Robert Manne, David Oldfield, and others. Bizarrely, Philip Ruddock was the only person to speak against more generous treatment of refugees with any intelligence. There were too many people there with enormously important things to say; there was never going to be any hope of getting them all in. and because of the lack of facilitation, those who spoke were those who stood up and shouted. The woman sitting in front of me sat with her hand in the air for the entire 2 hours of the debate. She was not heard. Some very idiosyncratic views were. As a debate it lacked coherence all together, often swinging far from what I'd consider to be the important points. There was a great deal of shouting, boo-ing, clapping - though I don't doubt that we will see this, more sensational, stuff on the show on Sunday. People were so upset, so angry, so anxious to have their say. It was pretty upsetting, as a few people yelled abuse at others. 'wog!' someone yelled, and 'send them all home!' at another point. The people making these comments were few - there would only have been 2 of them (4 if you include the One Nation candidates, one of whom managed to make a complete fool of herself.) The vast majority of this varied audience were in favour of a more compassionate stance towards refugees. People argued statistics, as they always will - the question of just how generous Australia is in relation to other countries came up AGAIN, as did that of how many we actually take and whether those we take from onshore (from boats, etc) take up spaces that would otherwise go to those waiting in camps overseas. Everyone seemed to agree that more had to be done to address the crises facing these refugees closer to their countries of origin. Some argued for the importance of protecting our borders, our sovereignty, etc. I was surprised to here people arguing over the merits or otherwise of multiculturalism. Several spoke proudly of Australia's cultural diversity, of how vital this is to our identity as a nation, others thought that it had gone too far and that we are in danger of being 'swamped.' Hayes put the question, 'what sort of Australia do you want to live in' and most people said they wanted a multicultural, harmonious one. There were a few religious figures, all of whom called forcefully for compassion. Others spoke also of caring, generosity, considering what it would be like in some other person's shoes.

It is a pity, though, that some important voices and arguments were not heard. Much of the time went to a few people airing strange personal grievances or theories, and not enough to the broader context, the details of Australia's policies, or the recent changes to legislation. We heard from very few migrant women (although there were many who had their hands up) nor were the Amnesty delegates asked any specific questions (as we had expected them to.) It was a very angry, very polarised argument. It was nasty. A few people walked out, which is always a bad sign. If people can't even participate, what hope is there? I was frustrated and sad and this kind of water-treading, and at the extremity of the distress shown by several of the migrants in the room, as well as the virulence of the few very racist members of the audience. It was more of a Jerry Springer-style shitfight than a debate. It was polarising, and will be even more so on TV. Moderate voices are not heard in this kind of discussion. Public debates are important - there should be more of them - but they must be diligently facilitated, and the ratings must not be involved.

Thursday, September 20, 2001

Will respond more fully to the disastrous state of things at present, but for now just wanted to pass on that there is going to be an anti-retaliation rally tomorrow afternoon (Fri Sept 21) at town hall steps at 4.30pm.