A legal minefield

11.30pm: I was just about to leave when Law lecturer Simon Evans sent this memo on the Border Protection Bill, introduced into Parliament tonight. He’s also sent it to politicians. First his legal opinion, then yet more of your reaction – with the balance starting to shift a little.


Simon wrote:



I attach for your information my short analysis of the Border Protection Bill introduced into Parliament today. It’s a shocking piece of legislation and ought not be passed, quite irrespective of the current situation.


To peruse the bill, go to www.aph.gov.au/legis.htm and click on Current Bills (by title).




From: Dr Simon Evans, Faculty of Law, University of Melbourne

Date: 29 August 2001

Subject: Border Protection Bill 2001

To: Politicians and Webdiary, sent tonight.


The Border Protection Bill 2001 (the Bill) was introduced into the Parliament on 29 August 2001 by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. It is expressed to be:


A Bill for an Act to provide for the removal of ships from the territorial sea of Australia, and for related purposes.


This memorandum sets out my serious concerns about the drafting of the Bill. I hope they can be taken into account in the Parliamentary proceedings on the Bill.


The provisions of the Bill


1.1: Direction that ship be removed from Australian territorial sea


The Bill’s key provision is s 4 which provides in part:


(1) An officer may, in his or her absolute discretion, direct the master or other person in charge of a ship that is within the outer limits of the territorial sea of Australia to take the ship, and any person on board the ship, outside the territorial sea.


‘Officer’ is defined by section 3 to mean a person:


who is authorised (whether orally or in writing) for the purposes of this Act by the Prime Minister or the Minister, and is one of the following:


(a) the Secretary, or an employee, of the Department;


(b) a person who is an officer for the purposes of the Customs Act 1901;


(c) a member of the Australian Federal Police or of the police force of a State or an internal Territory;


(d) a member of the police force of an external Territory;


(e) a member of the Australian Defence Force.


1.2: Enforcement and use of force


Section 5 provides for the enforcement of directions made under s 4 and authorises an officer to:

detain the ship, and take it, or cause it to be taken, outside the territorial sea of Australia. For this purpose, reasonable means, including reasonable force, may be used by the officer or another person.


Section 6 also authorises an officer or a person assisting an officer to use reasonable force to return a person to the ship if they have left it.


1.3 Exclusion of review and exclusion of liability


Section 4(2) provides purports to prevent the courts from reviewing a direction given under s 4(1).


Section 7 purports to prevent proceedings (civil or criminal) being taken against the Commonwealth in relation to action taken to enforce a direction made under s 4.


It also purports to prevent proceedings being taken against officers and any person who assists an officer to enforce a direction made under s 4 provided only that the officer or person acts in good faith.


Section 8 purports to prevent proceedings being taken to prevent removal of a ship from the Australian territorial sea once a direction is made under s 4.


1.4: No applications for protection visas


Section 9 prevents a person who is on board a ship at the time when a direction is given under s 4 in respect of the ship from making an application for a protection visa.


1.5: Commencement and retrospectivity


If passed the Act will be taken to have commenced on 29 August 2001 at 9.00 am (Australian Capital Territory time): s 2.


Section 11 operates to validate retrospectively any direction of the kind contemplated by s 4 that is given after that time and before the Act is assented to, provided that:


the Prime Minister or the Minister authorised a person described in any of the paragraphs of the definition of officer in section 3 to give a direction of the kind described in section 4 (however that authorisation was expressed).


2: My concerns about the Bill


2.1: The Bill authorises the use of force: a vigilant approach is required


Once an officer makes a direction under s 4 requiring that a ship be taken outside the Australian Territorial sea that officer and others are authorised to use reasonable force to enforce that direction. The officer and others are also authorised to use reasonable force to return a person to the ship if they leave it after the direction is given.


Any legislation that authorises the use of force against individuals ought to be scrutinised carefully to ensure that its provisions do not go further than is necessary to pursue the legitimate objectives of the legislation.


This Bill goes too far and should be amended before it is passed.


2.2 Ministerial authorisation should be limited in time and place


The Prime Minister or Minister may authorise any one of large number of people ‘for the purposes of the Act’. Once authorised that person is an ‘officer’ and has an ‘absolute’, unreviewable discretion to give a direction under s 4.


The Prime Minister or Minister need not limit the authorisation to a particular period of time or to a particular vessel. A standing authorisation is possible under the Bill.


This is inappropriate, particularly given the limits on review of a direction made by an officer once he or she has been authorised by the Prime Minister or Minister.


The Prime Minister or Minister ought to be required by the legislation to limit authorisations in time and place, to table authorisations in the Parliament and to maintain a register of all active authorisations. Absent such a requirement there is limited facility for holding the Executive accountable for the exercise of the coercive powers under the Act.


2.3: Ministerial authorisation should be in writing


The Prime Minister or Minister may authorise a person for the purposes of the Act ‘orally or in writing’.


Oral authorisation should not be possible. There ought to be a formal record of these decisions for the reasons outlined immediately above.


2:4 Officer’s discretion should be confined


An officer’s discretion to make a direction under s 4 is unconfined. This is inappropriate.


The discretion conferred is ‘absolute’. It can be exercised in any circumstances, for any reason or no reason. Once exercised it provides a justification for the use of force and immunity for the consequences of using force.


There are no preconditions to the exercise of the discretion (for example, an established defence or quarantine risk).


No standards are provided by reference to which the discretion is to be exercised. For example:


– the officer is not required to consider whether the ship is seaworthy and can safely be taken outside Australian territorial waters;


– the officer is not required to consider whether any persons on the ship are in need of medical or other assistance;


– indeed the officer is not required to consider whether the ship is an Australian ship and the people on the ship are Australian citizens: under s 4 the officer can direct that such a ship with such a crew leave the Australian Territorial sea.


The statement of the Act’s purpose (‘to provide for the removal of ships from the territorial sea of Australia, and for related purposes’) does not provide any useful guidance.


Such an unconfined discretion may be appropriate at the highest levels of policy formation. But it is inappropriate when it can be conferred (for example) on any employee of the Department or any member of the Australian Defence Force. It is particularly inappropriate given the consequences of the discretion and when no reason is apparent for not identifying preconditions and standards for the exercise of the discretion.


The discretion should be conditioned on the existence of some need to remove the ship from the Australian Territorial sea; and the Act should provide standards by which it is to be exercised.


Incidentally, amending the Bill in this way before it is enacted would assist in removing doubts about its constitutional validity.


2.5: Officer’s discretion should be reviewable


An officer’s discretion to make a direction under s 4 cannot be ‘called into question, or challenged, in any proceedings in any court in Australia’.


This prevents all judicial review of the officer’s decision to make a direction under s 4, unless the officer acts in bad faith.


It cannot be the case that every instance calling for the exercise of this discretion is so urgent, sensitive or involves issues of national security such that judicial review is inappropriate.


Provision should be made for judicial review of officer’s decisions under s 4 except in situations where that is clearly inappropriate.


2.6: Proceedings should be available to prevent removal of the ship if the discretion is inappropriately exercised


It follows from the comments immediately proceeding that s 8 is inappropriate and should be removed.


2.7: Reasonable steps should be required to ensure that the master of the ship understands the direction


A direction under s 4 is given effectively even if:


there was no master on board the ship to receive the direction; or


the master did not receive or understand the direction.


Given that the making of a direction authorises the use of reasonable force to enforce that direction, the officer giving the direction ought to be required to take reasonable steps to ensure that the master receives and understands the direction.


2.8: The persons who can assist the officer to enforce the direction ought to be specified


A direction under s 4 can be enforced using reasonable force by the officer or another person: s 5. Similarly a person can be returned to the ship by the officer or another person: s 6.


The Act does not restrict who that other person is: it need not be a person who is capable of being authorised as an officer for the purposes of the Act.


That category of person – which includes members of State, Federal and internal and external Territory police forces – ought to be wide enough to provide persons capable of assisting an officer to enforce a direction under s 4.


The need to authorise any wider category of person to use force ought to be clearly demonstrated before it is allowed.


Moreover ‘another person’ ought have the power to use force (and immunity from liability for that use of force) unless they are acting at the request of the officer and assisting him or her to carry out his or her powers and functions under ss 5 and 6. (Section 6 hints at such a requirement: ‘An officer, or a person assisting an officer, may return to a ship a person who … ‘. The requirement ought to be more direct and ought to be present also in s 5.)


2.9 The Act ought to comply with Australia’s international obligations under the Refugees Convention


I have not had an opportunity to determine fully whether s 9 complies with Australia’s obligations under the Refugees Convention; at first sight it appears doubtful that s 9 does comply. No doubt others will provide commentary on this issue.


3: Summary


The Bill if enacted would confer an absolute unreviewable discretion on potentially junior officers, without providing standards for its exercise, and authorise the use of force with only the most minimal safeguards.


The Bill ought not be passed in its current form. I urge Members and Senators to consider these matters most seriously.


Gjert Myrestrand, 27 years old, Stavanger, Norway


Hello in Sydney.


I would like to make the following statement on your message board “Australians and Norwegians speak out”:


There is a human tragedy under development in the sea off Australia. The captain of the Norwegian ship is put in an impossible situation, having to make “life and death” decisions because nobody wants his “problem”.


Australia and Norway are among the wealthiest nations on the planet, and I have a hard time believing what’s happening. This is not a case of granting asylum, but of saving human lives.


I understand that Australia needs to control the influx of refugees, but do not let this fact lead to people dying on the high seas.


If a Norwegian government had refused to help people in severe distress, I’m one hundred percent sure that this government would have had to resign within days.


I urge the Australian government to allow the vessel to call at an Australian port. Save the lives of those poor people first, then deal with the political implications.


Australia has a nice reputation worldwide in humanitarian affairs, but this reputation is being more and more tainted every minute the “Tampa” is refused to enter Australian waters.


If Australia wanted to make a political statement about asylum seekers, you have succeeded long ago.


Now, save lives.”


Mike Kudla


I am not a fan of John Howard, but if he does not cave in on this matter he will rise rapidly in my view.


The ship’s captain should have immediately proceeded to Indonesia. If he allowed his command to be usurped by people wishing to make him their pawn and take over the direction of his vessel that is his and Norway’s problem.


John Howard is showing strong leadership in sticking to the principles of law.


Peter Dew


When I first moved to Norway I used to miss Australia a lot. The sun, the surf, the cheap beer.


After a while I found things in Norway to replace them, the mountains, the snow, the beautiful women. I stopped thinking about Australia so much.


The events of the last few days have appalled me as an Australian (still) and I realise now why I left the country and more importantly why I stopped missing it. Bigotry, racism, sexism, idolatry of sport (if the Afghans could play rugger or cricket this wouldn’t be a problem) and of course “little Johnny”.


What a prick! It pains me to say it but I am ashamed of my country. So the best thing to do would be to let them land, get them healthy and send them to Norway. It is a better place to live. And please, please, please, don’t vote for the liberals.


James Hodges


I’m an expatriate Australian who works in Japan. When I left Australia, Bob Hawke was still PM. Generally speaking, I am not in favor of our government locking up people who are legitimate refugees. Furthermore, after reading the SMH over the last couple of years, I don’t think much of Howard’s policy of locking up children. It doesn’t do much for our international image.


With regard to the current issue, however, I think that the Liberals have made the right decision. These people who get in clapped out vessels and set sail to Christmas Island or the mainland and expect to be welcomed with open arms have to be dissuaded where possible. Failure to do so will just invite more of them to make the journey.


Bhautik Jitendra Joshi


I live in Sydney but at the moment I’m working in Copenhagen at a university full of people from across Europe and the world. The situation is a sad, sad reflection of Australia’s poor position as an international citizen and seems to serve only to highlight how far the country has to go in terms of international relations.


Granted, yes, as a percentage there are a large number of refugees arriving compared to the size of the population; however most of these people take a hazardous journey across land and water to get to Australia.


In Europe, the distances are far less and the numbers far greater; the numbers of refugees entering Australia simply pales in comparison to the numbers travelling across all of Europe.


An Italian friend of mine was appalled at the reaction of the Australian government; his country processes tens of thousands of refugees every year.


Every Scandinavian I know here who has commented on the ugly affair has had nothing positive to say about the Australian reaction, and see it as an abuse of the good intentions and faith of maritime law.


The media here paints a sympathetic picture of the refugees, and most people feel that the government has over-reacted and put lives at risk.


There are indications in the press that the Indonesian government has to shoulder part of the blame, but the lack of compassion and inhumanity is shown to have come from the Australian government – specifically John Howard. They have been labelled reactionaries and racists, and compared to the lunatic DPP party in Denmark, led by the P. Hanson-esqe Pia Kjaersgaard.


This may not be the truth, but overseas, perception in the popular press is everything.


If Australia wants to become an international citizen, it better start to shoulder all of the responsibilities that come with it, rather than selectively supporting issues that carry political gain.


This whole incident doing very little for the international position of the country.


Stephen Reynolds


Who cares what Norway thinks, it’s not a Norwegian problem.


These people claim to be refugees seeking a safe haven. But first they entered Malaysia, where presumably they were safe enough. From Malaysia they entered Indonesia, and then travelled the full length of Indonesia.


Presumably they were also safe enough in Indonesia. From Indonesia they set sail for Australia. Why? Weren’t they safe enough in Indonesia or Malaysia? Why didn’t they seek sanctuary in Malaysia or Indonesia? Perhaps the majority of Australians are right, maybe these people are just economic refugees, trying to jump the legitimate refugee queue into Australia?


The Prime Minister and the Government are pursuing the correct course.


Beazley is just confirming what we always suspected, he really is just a sanctimonious windbag without the ticker to become Prime Minister.


Ian Cameron


Disclosure: I’m currently studying Government, Business & Society at the Queensland University of Technology.


Below is a email I just sent to Natasha Stott Despoja.:-




Thank you for not passing the Border Protection Bill 2001. You will be receiving my senate vote in November. All I can say is thank god for the Senate.


If the federal government was set up like Queensland, with no house of review, imagine the situation that Australia would be in.


Once again, thank you for bringing a voice of saneness to the debate.


Jeremy Young


I honestly can’t understand what the problem is.


They are terrorists.


Let them land. Take them into custody and send them back to Afghanistan.


As for the vessel: it should be seized and sold off to recover some of the costs which have resulted from the Captain’s failure to obey international law.


K. Ogland, Oslo, Norway


I’m Norwegian who has lived in the Asia Pacific region for years, but have recently returned to Norway. I can only join in with my countrymen in their disbelief over the Australian behavior in this matter.


How can Australia ask for help to rescue 438 refugees in their own waters, and then refuse to accept the ship afterwards?


How can you put not only the refugees lives at risk, but the Norwegian crew’s as well? The Tampa and her crew have done nothing but to assist and save lives.


Norway has accepted thousands and thousands of refugees over the years. Just recently more than 5000 Kosovo Albanians were airlifted into Norway. Our country has always been generous in that respect. It’s time that Australia show some responsibility too.


I just can’t understand that a you’ll put your well respected reputation in jeopardy like this. The whole world is watching, and I can assure you, it looks ugly!


Matt Murphy


The newest batch of asylum seekers are fleeing a country where a repressive regime reigns over a poverty-stricken, cowed people in a country which has been engulfed in a tribalist-fuelled civil war for over 20 years.


The kind of refugee program Margo Kingston seems to advocate would quite rapidly see such conditions duplicated here in Australia.


Ajey Godbole


I am not Norwegian, nor am I Australian. I am Indian and have lived in Sydney for over two years and am now in New York. Coming to NY brought home to me the casual, almost flippant Aussie attitude to racism. That is what this Tampa business is about. I wonder how long it would take the Howard government to give citizenship to a boat load of South African white ‘refugees’?

Webdiary women

Debate has begun on the women thing. The inaugural winner of the contribution of the week competition goes to Polly Bush on the topic. As this stage this will also be the last award, Denise Parkinson having accused me of further descending into male-only space with the idea.


Fiona Ferrari, who noted the recent dearth of female contributors first, now says: “Women generally need more encouragement than men, they need to hear you say that you really want to hear from them and why you want to hear from them.”


This site did not begin as a forum, it just became one. I don’t know the gender balance of readers, but can’t see why it wouldn’t be about even. So long as women are reading, it doesn’t worry me that fewer women contribute. Cathy Bannister used to write a lot, but she did it often at 3am, while breastfeeding, and kept swearing she’d stop through lack of time.


What can I do to encourage female contributors – a women’s spot, a guarantee that all female contributions will be run? No way. If female readers think some of the contributions are too didactic, they can redress the balance if they wish. No-one can say most male contributors eschew emotion – the opposite for several of them.


First timer Heather Cameron provided some reassurance. “Fiona Ferrari in Nice, but… said that maybe women weren’t writing to your Webdiary because “your aggro style appeals more to men”. I must say that your style is a breath of fresh air, in the perpetual stream of women hedging around trying not to disturb the guys. How are the guys ever going to know, if you don’t tell them?”



We’ll start with women on the Webdiary women question, through Polly Bush, in a welcome return, Denise Parkinson. and regular Elen Seymour, then to Paul Zikking on women and cloning. The drugs debate – which attracts regular comment in Webdiary – is back courtesy of Howard’s never, ever remarks on heroin trials and Polly BushRobert Lawton and Jackson Manning. Then debutante Simon Ross on politician’s perks and new Liberal contributor Jeremy Raine on that old favourite, globalisation.




Polly Bush


My excuse is I’m time poor. I print off the Webdiary extracts in a bizarre ritual each morning at work, and save the 100 odd pages to read on the weekend. By that stage I’ve lost all opportunity to respond to something because the issue has moved on.


I did however, somewhat agree with the description of the page being like a public bar. I tried to envisage this:


Tie up my old tired horse outside the saloon bar. After a last minute paranoid infused check I wipe the sweat beads off my forehead and push through the swinging doors of Kingo’s Club Chaos. Greeted by the familiar smell of wacky tobacky, I light up a big fat number to calm the nerves and try to settle in. Breath.


Kingo’s taking the orders for tonight’s feed while Don pours the drinks. I tip my hat to Jack who’s got his own bench seat and seems to be where the action is: the fellas are all gathered round focussed on his animated rantings. Sidle on over avoiding the significant group of cowboys drinking milk.


Door bitch Fiona strolls in reinforcing her muscles to customers. Look at the stairwell, but alas, there’s no Doris Day breaking out into Once I had a secret love. Damn. Kingo drops a tallie and the room gasps to silence.


With the country twang of guitars the businessmen from outta town are here. Davo cruises in, plying a cigar open with his teeth, and after spitting, proceeds to announce drinks are on him. Wojdylo sits in a corner muttering to himself about how the Austrian coffee here just isn’t the same. Davo proceeds to tell his latest and the crowd seems torn between him and Jack.


Kingo tries to level things and reads a postcard from Ottowa. I’m desperate to talk to Robert at the bar as he reminds me of my father: a sheriff with a social conscience. Wojdylo’s around so Rob and I end up discussing the Crows chances of making the top eight.


The debate between Davo and Jacks groups has picked up so Robert decides to go join Davo’s camp coz theres talk Kingo may be organising a gunfight. After pausing in the middle I decide to blow this chicken stand.


No chance I’ll drink ride home – somehow I’m too turped up. So I put spurs to dirt and sidle on out, booking a gallery seat for the next piss-up.


Denise Parkinson


It is a good point you made, Fiona Ferrari, about Webdiary being dominated by men. For some time now I have mentioned Webdiary to my female friends, but they don’t seem to be interested in even reading it, let alone writing pieces for it. These are women who are very well educated, well read, and who will sometimes debate issues with me. So, from my point of view I am basically clueless.


Personally I have never seen you as aggro – you do bite back at times in the diary, but make good points when you do. This could be seen as being an aggro trait by some, but again I personally don’t find this to be the case.


One current point of disagreement is that you’ve taken up the suggestion that diary should now be turned into a competition. Oh big moan and groan Margo, this is a mistake. Let’s not turn our little corner of free speech into winners and losers – the world is already so full of all that.


Besides for whatever reason women are not writing in, this may prove to be a further disincentive.


My own reasons for writing are fairly straightforward. The last 4 months have been the first time I have ever written to columns or contacted journalists. Apart from a public forum I was instrumental in putting together, I have been silent all of my life, never feeling that I had the expertise or writing ability to contribute to any public debate.


A number of things have happened in my life to change that, probably forever. One is my personal disillusion with being an artist in this country. The other is that I fear the direction this country is heading in, for example work place relations, the aggressive stance against unions, the Defence Legislation Amendment (Aid to Civilian Authorities) legislation last year and the proposed National Medical Data Base, to name a few.


So I have decided, for what it is worth, to say what I feel about the end of even an illusion of fair play in this country. And lets face it, it has to be bad when a dyslexic, non-writing artist feels such an overwhelming need to enter the debate.


Elen Seymour


Thank you, Sean Richardson in Bring back Hewson, you made me get off my butt and contribute again. Hey, I reckon I can tear myself away from talk of weddings to contribute to the gender debate.


I think I can posit a theory regarding gender contributions. I once read some research paper or another into women’s participation at university; it concluded that women’s participation was more limited than men’s due to several factors:


1) they were more reluctant than their male peers to interrupt either the lecture or someone else talking


2) they were less likely to keep their hand up in the air for longer than 2 minutes as compared to the five minutes of their male peers, and men were more likely to keep their hand in the air when someone else was talking; whereas women were more likely to take theirs down


3) they were less likely to believe that they had a valid contribution to make to a lecture or tutorial than their male counterparts.


It boils down to this. Men interrupt more, and believe that what they have to say is important enough to warrant interrupting others, even the “expert”.


And since we’re talking pubs here, my personal experience empirically backs this up.


Why do I contribute? I enjoy the discussions and feel like adding my two cents worth. I admit that I have never been shy in expressing an opinion.


And Sean, in regards to weddings, I am willing to bet you failed to hear beyond the word “wedding” and listen properly. You assume that because the subject matter seems trivial than the act of discussing the wedding is also trivial. This is not necessarily so. Women talking are doing more than just filling the environment with hot air.


And I’m not prepared to concede that even when you and your male mates discussed “deep issues” that you in fact achieved anything other than hot air yourselves. There is more to discussion that simply the subject matter under discussion.


You said: “After two hours the blokes had covered police corruption, globalisation and industrial relations. The sheilas were STILL on the wedding!”


But how did you cover police corruption, globalisation and industrial relations? To what depth? In two hours you covered three of the biggest topics around today. How on earth did you do that? Did Mate A say “the police corruption is bad.” you all agree, then Mate B tell an anecdote about police corruption and you all shake your heads and agree again it was bad? Did you discuss options on how to solve it? Did you identify other related issues overlooked by the media?


The women, on the other hand, were still discussing the wedding after two hours but it was no doubt in exhaustive detail and no doubt they all felt at the end that they understood each other better and had progressed the subject. No doubt Miss About to be Married now has ideas on how to deal with her awkward sister and where to buy cheap but nice flowers and been reassured that two flower girls won’t look pretentious because every body understands that cousins have to be at the wedding. Solutions to issues, reassurance, statements of the value of family relationships, budgetary concerns, bonding. Important stuff.


It’s a cheap shot to blithely assume because you and your fellow blokes spoke of subjects that come under the “serious” label that you actually are more serious and achieving things. Equally that a discussion for two hours about weddings could be anything other than shallow and frivolous.


Have you ever planned a wedding? Of all the subjects to pick to have a go at women for a wedding should be the last on your list! Most weddings I know have more planning involved than invading a country, more politics than Labor factional meeting and more social implications than almost any other event of which I can think.


Leave weddings alone!


Paul Zikking


My major gripe is with the treatment of women in the news.


How little notice there seems to be about the value of women and the things they do. I recall a book published years ago called “Media She”. It lampooned the way in which women are portrayed as sex objects in the daily press, radio and TV. Nothing much has changed if one does a quick view of what is on offer in the new stands or the rest of the media these days.


Not only do we have orthodontically correct “girls” who are so slim they

look like they’d faint into a coma if they so much as smelt a butter menthol but they have to be virtually children to work in that field.


Males are portrayed in even more bizarre poses. From the frenetically jazzy hip and smooth to the Rambo roided look a like favoured by the biz tech crew cutters. Don’t you think there is something really weird going on?


Instead of maturing in respect of the way media treat women we seem to have had men dragged across to sort of conform to a view of the world held by a few corny subeditors from Penthouse! The ultimate dumbing down. Treat all as silly sex objects or just objects, silly!


I’m leading to my main topic and that is human cloning by two (2) [mad] Italian doctors. Some male members of the medical profession just can’t seem to get away from trying to control women’s lives.


I really cannot understand why women don’t stand up to this sort of stuff. It may or may not be a medical advance to have the ability to clone humans or clone anything else for that matter. But what are we doing to the reproductive side of the species if it isn’t to create some sort of production line or system for reproducing males (or the self loved & universally loathed males who can’t establish proper human relationships).


I understand from the press reports that at this stage only children of the male gender [and probably deformed by the process] will be able to be born this way. Don’t we have an oversupply of men on this planet right now? I know it seems like it to me!


It is early news about this latest cloning idea but what on earth is happening to us all? I mean it really is bizarre that 2 male doctors can be calling for 200 volunteers (all women) to proceed with this project. God help us if the doctors cut corners a bit and clone themselves!


I think of the other things so necessary for a better life all round being ignored while these stories and people go on with all this stuff and I’m dismayed. I would have thought a cure for cystic fibrosis would have been a higher priority?


To add further insult to the viewer this story, as it appeared on TV included film footage of a running/shouting match between pro and anti cloning scientists at a press/media conference [all of the “scientists” were male and wore cardigans or brown suits and looked like the winning candidates for a Century 21 Real Estate agency].


It is quite obviously a male only affair and women are only permitted to participate on the basis that they are supine and non controversially involved as “factories”! I wonder what will the terms and conditions of the confidentiality agreement they sign with these 2 “doctors” contain?


Will the “mothers” of invention be permitted to have media conferences? Will they impose a form of sexual apartheid? What about the “girls” who want to give birth to “girls”? What about the boys who may, as these things sometimes turn out, want to be “girls”? What about warranties and indemnities to the mothers/unborn? What hospital is going to allow this? Will it be privately funded? Will it be owned by an insurance company?


Don’t we have a few issues worth looking at here?


I also think the idea of cloning to make yourself a “complete” person is another form of marketing. I mean really! I saw one bereaved woman on TV who advocated cloning her dead daughter so that she could relive her kids upbringing. You know, like go over the good times with a replica! What about the person who is not the real thing but the copy? How bizarre is that?


Do any of these people understand the concept of selfishness? I mean what does that say about the intrinsic values people bring to parenting? Is it about self, self, self?


I also saw on the same program a woman who held the view that we should value the individualism and diversity that natural reproduction brings to the wider community. It was important what she had to say. Ethics is not sexy.


I know it might seem corny but what on earth do we need to repopulate some parts of the first world? Why don’t they just take a relaxatab and give all of us a rest?




Polly Bush


I sit here pathetically sobbing like a fool. Nothing like getting in touch with your emotional demons AGAIN. I have a problem – a vicious cycle that won’t go away. Ive been a little extra stressed with work lately, and unfortunately this drives me aggro. So aggro my random thoughts turn to incomprehensible, violent acts I would not dream to act on. When they subside the irreversible next phase hits – my thoughts turn to the possibility of using smack again, the quick fix solution, and while I do not act on these thoughts, I hate myself for thinking them. To me it represents all that is weak within myself.


It’s been years since I pierced needle to skin, and despite assurances from several psychiatrists that the further away you distance yourself from using the less frequently these thoughts will appear – my head always ends up there after a bout of stress.


I heard someone describe past addiction as a sleeping lion in a closet. That lion sleeps there for your entire life, and you have the power at any moment to unlock the door and wake up the beast.


I rue the day I first tried the stuff. At the time, I knew an ex-user who warned me that smack destroys souls. Too bloody right. I wasn’t joking last time when I said I felt middle aged. There is a vacuum in my soul that has never been replenished. It stole my ambition, it robbed me of my drive. Jumping to thoughts to use again after stress in my life is such a hindrance.


I hate this mid-twenties crisis shit. Half of me wants to pack up and head up to the northern NSW coast, go feral, live off the land, perhaps run an ice-cream truck in between surfing. But hey, the last time I was in that part of the world I drove through Nimbin and the people on the street were green and it had nothing to do with the weed! I couldn’t even pull over because all I could see was the walking dead. Reminders are also a hindrance.


What doesn’t help my sobbing today is headlines along the lines of Losing the war on drugs. Nothing new, prohibition will always be the loser. I hate hearing people talk up injecting rooms because nothing else is working. Thats a lame and limp response. Supervised injecting rooms in a country that supports zero tolerance? HA! Now that’s just funny.


I’m still wondering whatever happened to addressing the underlying reasons people turn to drugs – and I don’t just mean drug education in schools, I mean a proper study. I know the phrase prevention is better than cure is very naff, but there is a point to it. If we stop some kids becoming emotional tossers we would really be saving lives.


Sure people have told me I’ve come a long way and at some level I’m a stronger person for going through the experience. Pity I cant stop smoking. Ultimately, a lot of the time I wish I’d just never gone there – I’d rather take idealism and ignorance over washed up cynicism most days of the week.


Robert Lawton


I’ve just seen this quote attributed to Peter Costello on Thursday in connection with the Treasurer’s horrified reaction to the possibility of legal heroin trialling. “Don’t take them.”


Drug policy is a break-the-camels-back issue for me. If Mr Costello is fair dinkum on this point (shades of Nancy Reagan) then I’ll happily stuff envelopes for Labor.


What a crazy attitude for someone who has the opportunity to see the bigger picture on intoxicants; and what appalling arrogance to think that this “message” will reach anyone other than a few news junkies.


Perhaps I need rehab from my “public affairs” use. Extended exposure to this kind of crap can only harm my mind.


PS: Maybe the women are staying off Webdiary because of the somewhat over-personalised ranting between some of your male contributors. I have been hoping for a new issue to crop up…have been getting a bit bored of the same old same old about evil rightwingers and good leftwingers.


Jackson Manning (nom de plume)


John Howard seems obsessed with finishing his stint as the heroic PM who *always* stood in the way of all forms of social progress.


Perhaps he sees himself as Moses, parting the seas of sin to allow his chosen people (fundamentalists and corporations) to walk to the promised land (core or non-core?).


Just this week he’s scuttled his own Superannuation Choice legislation rather than agree to the Democrats’ amendment allowing gay couples to leave their super to their partners.



He’s as obstinate on the drugs issue, disallowing even a limited trial. It’s all zero tolerance rhetoric, glossy, pro-abstinence PR, useless scare campaigns in schools and minimal funding for rehabilitation.


If, like John Howard, you plan on building a world where wealth always wins, you’ve got to expect a helluva lot of human spirits are gonna get crushed and lot of drug lords are gonna get rich.


I’ve never done heroin, but I’ve known a few junkies in my time. Each of them were deeply scarred by their childhoods. As adults, they were frightened and tragic. They said heroin was “like being wrapped in cotton wool”. Heroin mothered them.



Although most had turned to crime to support their addiction at one time or another, the underlying problem was a mental health issue. Surely, it makes more sense to at least trial the supply of those already addicted with a controlled dosage of heroin which can be decreased over time in a clinical setting.


We all pay for the current failed system with home invasions, high insurance premiums, bribery and corruption, organised crime and the pointless imprisonment of people so ill they need rehab and stability, not the PhD in crime they get in jail.


It’s tragic our Moses cannot understand that rather than parting the waters of sin, he’s simply leading us further and further out to sea.


Simon Ross (nom de plume – he’s a federal public servant.)


Disclosure: I work for a government department and am a member of the Liberal Party.


I believe the debate around perks for members of parliament is one that we ought to have. However, I have serious problems with the notion that the Department of Finance should be making the types of recommendations as outlined in your piece in Bring back Hewson.


When the bureaucracy dictates policy to the elected representatives of the people (ie the parliament) than our democracy is effectively dead.


Yes I agree that the system needs to be overhauled, but if changes are to be made they should be driven by the parliament itself. It would be easy to say that they are happy with the current system and so will remain to keep their “snouts in the trough”. However, I believe the changes will happen.


Peter Andren, the Independent Member for Calare, has started the ball rolling and it won’t take long for the changes to come, given the political implications of not being seen to do anything – particularly in an election year.


Recently the Prime Minister was credited with having the Australian Tax Office vary the penalty rate imposed on taxpayers who were subject to penalties after having various deductions disallowed, particularly in Western Australia. I was astounded at the lack of outrage from the public of the very concept of the PM directly administering the very laws he was elected to make. So much for the separation of powers!


MARGO: Audit office draft reports of any sensitivity go to the minister before the department responds. You’ll recall the explosive audit report on national highway funding on the eve of the Western Australian election this year, which found government had breached their legal obligation to spend certain amounts on national highways. The draft went to John Anderson’s office late last year – and he sacked two staff members after the report’s release for not warning him of its contents.


The special minister of state, Eric Abetz, commented on the entitlement report’s release that everything was fine, querying only the cost of conducting the audit! So its fair to assume he cleared Finance’s appalling responses.


On Andren, he put up a private members bill on pollies super, forcing Howard to put in his own law stopping politicians elected FROM NOW ON from claiming their super till they reached 55. Existing members keep the rort. Howard refused to back Andren’s demand that super contributions be equivalent to those of everyone else’s super.


On the tax scammers Howard intervened to protect, the campaign was run by an ex-Labor pollie, George Gear. Both sides play dirty pool near election time, and most of the scammers live in Kalgoorlie, a marginal seat. Witness Howard’s big gift this week to the developers of a magnesium refinery in Queensland. Taxpayers money to subsidise dividends to private investors in the early years! Two marginal seats are involved – Hinkler and Capricornia in central Queensland.


Jeremy Raine


Michael West’s comments on globalisation in Who can I trust? were interesting in that he raised the issue of control and how it affected him personally. Isn’t it more that the political and economic forces we are subject to within our societies, particularly in the last 15 years or so, are challenging our ideas and sense of self, place, gender etc. and because we are challenged we feel that we are losing control?


The expansion of ancient Greek traders in the Athenian maritime empire, the spread of the Roman empire , the renaissance and growth of the Venetian trading system, the growth of the British empire based on its industrial and maritime power, were all periods of massive economic expansion internationally , and as with the last few years one key factors was the application of new technology.


We entered a period of economic and political chaos after, a period of every nation for itself dominated by the depression and WW2. While the issues raised by our recent experiences with globalization are a cause for concern , we need only look at the period between the wars as a warning as to what can happen when nations turn in on themselves.


I’m a supporter, but not a zealot) of forces characterised by the term “globalization “, even as I have had to cope with its less generous side – downsizing and aggressive competitiveness.


The stark fact is that there is a trade off for everything we do.Witness Michael West’s comment that he has found parts of globalization good for him in that he is able to access technical resources for his job that are not available in Australia and is servicing clients in the US and South America without leaving Sydney!


Just think about it- businesses in the United States and South America has approached a business in Australia seeking a service or business solution. Michael West is one of the contributors to Australia’s staggering growth in service’s over the last 10 years and and this is one of the reasons we have managed to stay out of serious recession regionally as our neighbours have gone in the opposite direction.


Michael Porter of Harvard University said in Australia recently: “You can’t press some lever , announce some grand policy…this is a long arduous process…competitiveness is something where everything matters…the quality of the roads…the quality of the schools…the tax policy matters…it’s a huge process…its an endurance race, not a sprint.”


This issue inevitably leads to talk of developing industry policy , and the supposed divide in Australia , between the libs and labor. It is not so much about “the picking winners policy ” supposedly loathed by conservative governments, it is providing coherent policies to build on and create viable business.


This has been one of the most contentious issues in the left/right policy debate in western democracies over the last 20 odd years, simplistically characterised by the Thatcher/Reaganite view of the world versus the social democratic/left world view.


This is also probably the biggest bone of contention I have with the ideological position of the libs at the moment, aside from the lack of adequate attention given to the concept of “society”.


Ultimately it is the negativity and whining quality that bugs me about people who bemoan our condition on a regular basis, be they reactionary conservatives , ON supporters , antedeluvian Democrats and Greens. Provide a coherent body of policy and I will begin to listen.


What we have achieved in this country over the last few years is astounding , never more obvious than the Sydney olympics and paralympics. They are a superb example of a collective effort to achieve a goal, a combination of public and private effort, and while this model is not applicable in every case, the core ingredients of multiple skills from the public and private sectors point the way.


All of this occurred within the context of a global economy , and ultimately the issues thrown up by grappling with globalization should be pointing us towards asking what the country wants to become, how we want the global community to see us, and whether we see competitive pressures as a positive rather than as a negative force.


PS: Response to David Eastwood’s critique in Bring back Hewson of my comments on what’s wrong with the NSW Liberal party (see Nice, but…).


David, political parties have always been vehicles for career advancement as well as containing people who sought the betterment of society.


I agree that the right ingredients don’t just consist of political and organizational talent. Yes, they also need to focus on a coherent vision, empathy and a sophisticated view of the world within which they interact. But if talent, of any sort, is not nurtured within the organization, any organization, we will see ossification and decay. The liberal party in NSW is in an advanced state of decay. In Queensland it is does not exist in a meaningful way.


If you have members not effectively performing you will fail to get elected. That means perennial opposition, and with that comes the risk that intelligent and informed debate will cease, handing the other side the treasury benches and the risk that power will corrupt. We are seeing it already with the carr government’s handling of any number of issues.


I’m not so sure I agree with Margo’s solution, that voters decide to make every seat marginal, but the anarchic/humorous side of me would be fascinated to see the result.