NSW Senator Marise Payne is a classic small `l’ Liberal. She fought hard to stop mandatory sentencing of kids in the Northern Territory, is disturbed by the demonisation of boat people, and – in her greatest contribution to the health of the polity so far – chaired the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee inquiry which deconstructed the Government’s jack-boots terrorism legislation.
That inquiry saw Liberal and Labor Senators produce a powerfully argued joint report which changed the goal posts of the debate. It gave Labor some backbone and, most importantly, forced the players to use its blueprint for new laws, not the government’s, as the basis for a negotiated settlement. That means we’ll get better, tighter, more civil liberties-friendly laws than even the inquiry’s bottom line.
The irony for Payne is that she is in the Senate for another six years courtesy of the Tampa. She lost a battle with Helen Coonan for second spot on the second ticket after Coonan renounced her moderate history and turned hard and dry to win with Howard’s support. In normal times, the Liberals would not have won three Senate spots in NSW. They did due to Tampa emotion.
After her committee’s report, Payne joined Liberal colleagues on the backbench committee overseeing the Attorney-General’s portfolio – Julie Bishop (WA) George Brandis (Queensland) and Christopher Pyne (SA) – to reject the government’s terror bills and several compromise offers. George Brandis in particular, a genuine as distinct from reactionary conservative from Queensland and a brilliant lawyer, has led the charge to force the government to dump its plan to allow the banning of political organisations.
The battle is in stalemate, although I understand there is a new compromise offer floating around since John Howard took charge of the matter after a stormy special party meeting this month. Last week parliamentary draftspeople were busy working on new clauses to put to the Liberal dissidents.
After Howard’s startling statement in China last week that the Australian people were right to reject Menzies’ referendum to ban the Communist Party, the feeling is growing that he might drop his ban plan. This is reinforced by a private Howard comment to backbenchers that the Communist Party matter was “a powerful precedent” against banning powers.
If the ban does go, congratulations are due to some determined and principled Liberals. Without their stand, Labor could have agreed to a compromise.
A reader recommends a new weblog with a Muslim perspective – www.amirbutler.com
1. Marise Payne on the terror legislation
2. Daniel Maurice, Wayne Beswick, Pater Woodforde and George Ooi on the SIEV-X mystery (see Cover-up or stuff-up?)
3. Fiona Katauskas on detention policy in practice.
4. Michael Rowney, Con Vaitsas, Glenn Condell and Tim Dunlop box on in the Third Way debate.
Fattening the wedge
By Marise Payne
Issues which generate quite a bit of heat in the political process have a way of creating employment in the local post offices of our parliamentarians. Increasingly, correspondence on key policy issues has taken the form of email campaigns, which bring the electorate into direct and instant contact with their elected representatives.
One “chain email” circulating within Australia’s on-line community in June 2000 drew attention of parliamentarians to the plight of Afghan women under the Taliban regime and to honour deaths – resulting in the Parliament’s Human Rights Committee deciding to raise the matter in the United Nations to focus the attention of the world community.
I have received over 250 emails in the last ten days that relate directly to the Taliban regime, an Australian parliamentary committee and to human rights – but the rights in question are those of Australians – not Afghans.
The agreement reached by the major party members of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee in its recent inquiry into draft anti-terrorism bills shows that the modern function of the Senate – to review bills – is in good health. The upper house is well regarded by international standards as an extremely effective house of review.
The legislation was developed and the report was handed down in a climate of fear and urgent haste following the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US and in the midst of a public debate on reforming the Senate. As it warns against applying the thin end of the wedge to our basic freedoms, I believe it speaks volumes for the effectiveness of the committee system in the Australian parliament as a public forum on important issues.
While the bulk of letters to MPs and Senators urge amendments to protect civil liberties, they rightly don’t argue that the legislation should be shelved. A few, under the title: “End them, don’t amend them!” pointedly refuse to acknowledge the clear and present threat of terrorism.
ASIO has noted a number of factors that have contributed to the heightened level of terrorist threat including: The attacks of September 11 themselves, Australia’s role in the response to those attacks, the specific mention of Australia by Usama Bin Laden on two recent occasions, the domestic presence of militant groups that view terrorism as legitimate, and the allegation that some Australians have trained in al-Qa’ida terrorist camps in Afghanistan.
Prior to September 11, Australia and the international community were reasonably satisfied that a comprehensive multilateral approach to countering terrorism existed. Australia is a party to 9 of the 12 internationally recognised counter terrorism instruments and is in the process of becoming a party to two of the remaining 3. Since September 11, the United Nations Security Council has also adopted Resolution 1373, representing a new approach: If you cut off the life blood of the terrorists it will be more difficult for them to carry out their activities.
In Australia’s Report to the Counter-Terrorism Committee of the UN Security Council and elsewhere, the government has stressed that holes in our defences could relate to a range of issues including the extraterritorial reach of our laws, the absence of specific terrorist offences or terrorist financing provisions or, simply, the disjunction between the terrorist phenomena and the various existing laws. Witness the uncertainty about whether the Australian David Hicks had committed any crime under our law by making common cause with al-Qa’ida.
In an effort to fill these gaps and in response to the new security environment, the Government has introduced a package of counter-terrorism legislation that became the subject of the Senate Committee’s inquiry. The report, recommending adjustment of the draft legislation, has been acknowledged by the government, and currently the Prime Minister and the Attorney General are reviewing it. This commitment is to ensure that the legislation is a design which fulfils its intent but ideally also addresses the issues of the Senate Committee’s report.
One area in need of attention is the necessary tightening of the definition of terrorism. Terrorism must refer to those who have an intention to intimidate the public or coerce the Government – as provided for in similar Canadian and UK legislation.
The bills also take the almost unprecedented step of imposing absolute liability in relation to offences carrying a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Such offences include possessing a `thing’ connected with a terrorist act. The effect is that people may be convicted of terrorism offences where they had no intention to assist or participate in terrorist acts, and in the current draft legislation they can apply to offences that may not have occurred.
It is crucial that with terrorism charges must come proof that at least the accused was reckless to whether his or her activity was `connected with’ terrorism. The banking industry’s concerns that tellers who unwittingly receive terrorist funds would themselves be engaging in terrorism provides adequate example of the uncertainty under the legislation as drafted.
The power to proscribe organisations should be vested in more than an individual (the Attorney General) and representatives from banned organisations should have adequate rights of appeal. A variety of options to challenge an act of proscription are available here, from widening the grounds of review by the Courts to allowing parliamentary scrutiny.
We need a free and open society which is also reasonably secure from terrorism. While basic freedoms should indeed be unassailable, it would indeed be a “braver” new world that disarms itself of protection from violent fanatics. Clearly, the government has a mandate to address the terrorist threat with appropriate legislation – and while our system of government remains so inclusive, constructive input in all forms into the debate is most welcome.
Footnote: Payne’s website is www.marisepayne.com. The Senate committee’s summary of evidence and recommendations are in Liberalism fights back on terror laws (May 8). The text of the anti-terrorism legislation is in Coming soon: Too many terrorists (April 26).
Your admiration for the “forensic” children overboard inquiry apparently knows no bounds. One question. Why don’t the fearless Labor senators just compel Reith and the Ministerial staffers to appear? Obviously this will set a precedent for similar “forensic” inquiries by a future opposition into a future Labor government, but why should that be a worry to the current inquisitors, who are obviously soley motived by the a search for the “truth”?
Why would they fear a future search for the “truth”? It couldn’t be, for example, that our good senators are seeking to exploit the asylum seeker issue for base reasons of their own political advantage – the very charge they lay against the Government? Surely not!
I’d find your take on the issue if interest.
Margo: Excellent point. I want to analysis this and other children overboard inquiry issues by the end of the week.
I remember feeling physically sick a number of times during the election last year – Tampa was one and the extraordinary story of 350 women, children and men drowning at sea another. Mundaroo Yanner on Latelinethe other night got it right – how can one group of boat people tell another group of boat people they’re not welcome? We are rapidly becoming a tawdry, mean, opportunistic and expedient culture, which I suppose reflects our political leadership on both sides.
What I would like to know is how the PMs office was interacting with Defence and intelligence during the period of SIEV-X and WHO WAS GIVING THE ORDERS?
Peter Woodforde in Canberra
So much for prayers (see my message of April 23 below). I’m really not looking forward much to the probing work of John Faulkner on the SIEV-X, admirably forensic though it will be. I just feel horror and disgust.
I wonder, though, what sort of values would be applied to the SIEV-X tragedy by the folk intent on thumping the small group which gathered at Nancy Crick’s side as she took her own life. Nancy, of course, wanted to send a message, but unlike the women and children of the SIEV-X, she had a choice. Unlike the central figures in the most ghastly reported image of the SIEVX’s victims – the drowned mother with her drowned new-born child trailing its umbilicus in the water – Nancy appeared to have led a full and secure life. Her pro-euthanasia friends and intimates were secure in their moral knowledge and capacities when she took her fatal dose.
Meanwhile, Australia has a navy and a federal administration which has not only applied Force 10 effort to detecting and catching or rescuing SIEVs but also had an enviably impressive rescue record, as the sensational Autissier and Bullimore sagas demonstrated.
What is morale like among the young men and women of the RAN? After all, their work on the Indian Ocean is underwritten by the constant application of international maritime and humanitarian law, unsullied by Liberal Party campaign needs.
On April 23, I wrote:
Did you collect stamps as a child, Margo? There’s a pathology to it you know.
Justin Tauber of St Peters in Sydney asked: “What would it take to produce an effective deterrent against people desperate enough to do anything to escape the conditions they lived under in Afghanistan?” and replied that odious conditions comparable to Afghanistan would do. He might be right, but Tony Kevin’s submission to the Senate inquiry suggests that Justin may be optimistic.
Kevin’s submission suggests something too horrible to contemplate. I sincerely pray (bleeding heart, poorly educated, redneck leftists do pray, Ma’am; it’s one of the things that make us entertaining to the knuckledragging $lobbering classes) that he is wrong. Justin’s deterrent, diabolical though it is, is worse than bad enough.
Even if Kevin is wrong, I still have to look at my innocent children and know that there are people in power in my country who would, given the right circumstances and their need for power, imprison them behind razor wire in the desert like so many little philatelic items arranged by country or “theme.”
George Ooi in Melbourne
Our Navy has much to answer for this tragedy, be it a conspiracy or stuff-up! I wish we had Geoffrey Robertson to cross-examine those top naval brass. Have you read his book “The Justice Game”? His account of a couple of cases exposing lies by the British PM John Major’s ministers and the cover-up by top civil servant-mandarins is a required background read for anyone who still believes in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the word of our Ministers and top public servants!
Fiona Katauskas in Sydney
I’ve been visiting Villawood detention centre lately and have discovered some stuff you might be interested in. On the wall in the entrance area is a plaque proudly stating that one of ACM’s missions is to “Cheerfully uphold our financial responsibilities to our stakeholders” (I’m not sure I’ve got the wording exactly right, but it’s very close to that). One of the ways this corporation upholds these financial responsibilities is by employing detainees in the kitchens, mowing the lawns and cleaning the stairwells. Kitchen workers earn $70 per week, lawnmowers $60 and cleaners $48. They are not paid in cash, but in phonecards – cash is not allowed inside.
I tried to verify this by visiting the ACM website ( http://www.acorm.com.au/) which offers absolutely no information other than contact details and links to a promotional website for their parent company Wackenhutt. I then called ACM and politely enquired as to whether I could get some information about detainees being employed in the centres. The receptionist told me they did not give out information and I would have to talk to the department. When I replied that it was not a departmental matter, but a commercial one, I was bluntly told that no information is given out. I asked to speak to someone else and was told that I could only continue if I gave my name and contact details. I refused, stating that I was a member of the public, and was told that I could go no further.
Is there any way of finding out what ACM does behind the commercial in confidence facade?
4. THIRD WAY
Michael Rowney (nom de plume)
Mark Latham actually believes that personal service labour and consulting fundamentally change the relations of production and are more liberating than work in a production-line manufacturing plant. Wow!
A couple of decades ago I worked as a floor sweeper in a sewerage plant. The work was mind-numbingly boring, true, but I was always aware that our labour was essential for the survival of the city. Also, the conversations with my workmates, which ranged over all areas of philosophy, science, religion and politics were wonderful. I was active in the union, attended conferences where fierce debates raged, and functioned as and was respected as a member of a class and community.
Eventually I quit that job and more or less by accident moved into adult education and training. Lovely, white-collar “personal service labour”, in fact. Where once I had a steady job with dependable hours now I was a consultant working occasionally for 60 hours a week for months with no time for my family but with a river of gold. Occasionally, for months, I worked for zero hours a week with no money for my family.
Where once I had a union and dependable workmates to defend my interests now I swam with the sharks and was occasionally bitten.
Where once I was a shit-shoveller with dignity I became a shit-shoveller with a necktie (the tie is meant to bestow dignity). The money was better (when it was flowing) but the relations of production were actually worse.
Last year during the election the ACTU website, for a short period, carried a graph showing the transfer of Australia’s national wealth from the working class to the rich. The graph was pulled pretty fast because the researchers had done their work too well. The timeline went back decades, and it was perfectly obvious that the growth in inequality began with the election of the Hawke Labor government and merely continued its trend under Howard.
Mark Latham’s Third Way is the latest justification for this process. The post-modernist jargon is just a fig leaf to cover the poverty of ideas.
Con Vaitsas in Sydney
You’ve gotta hand it to Mark Latham. The bloke is consistent and endless on how he has the solution to end poverty for all those who dwell in the suburbs. Surely the most prolific pollie opinion writer in the media, he was at it again on Monday with a piece in the Australian paper giving us a new word to contemplate. It’s `communitarianism’, which he describes as “governments facilitating the rules of community engagement, acting as brokers in the relationships and connections between people”. “This is a vital strategy for combating individualism and restoring social capital.”
The word reminds me of the Liberal Party’s `incentivation’ word in the early 90s. Try mentioning the `communitarianism’ to an unsuspecting voter out your way Mark and you’ll end up in another scuffle. Still, at least you’re trying.
Dr Aaron Oakley in Dalkeith, Western Australia wrote: “Responding to my comments in `For those who give two hoots’, Glenn Condell in `Third Way revisited’ engages in argument through false analogy. He tries to argue that although brain surgeons would agree about technique, economists wouldn’t. Sure, a marxist economist would disagree with a free-market economist. But similarly, a new-age quack healer would disagree with a brain surgeon.”
Marxist economists are still economists. ‘New age quack healers’ aren’t brain surgeons. My analogy may not be waterproof, but it’s safer than yours.
Clearly, Mr Condell and most other Webdiarists don’t like what they sneeringly refer to as `rational economics’.
I made no such reference. If asked, I would indicate my opposition to `economic rationalism’ as it is normally understood (ie the elevation of market logic at the expense of human beings), but such opposition does not imply support for `economic irrationalism’ or anarchy. I’m sure all sensible people would support the less loaded term `rational economics’ but it’s pretty vague and would mean different things to different people.
The funny thing is that most real economists don’t talk about `rational economics’ in the same way that most scientists don’t talk about voodoo.
Scientists don’t talk about voodoo because it’s a superstition, not to mention irrelevant. Is the implication that `rational economics’ is also beyond the empirical pale? I’m afraid I’m a bit lost with this reference.
They tend to talk about Austrian Economics, Keynesian economics etc. An economically literate friend of mine said that people don’t like so-called rational economics because it tells them harsh truths that they don’t want to hear.
What exactly are these `harsh truths’? Here’s one: capital is flowing from the third world to the first in record amounts in the same way as it is trickling up the economic food chain in the US rather than down as we’d been promised. Truths like this aren’t told to us by `rational economics’; indeed they are hard to find even if you’re looking. No, the relationship of professional economics to facts such as these is rather closer to the bone. Political adherence to `economic rationalist’ (or `free’ market) policy at the behest of neo-liberal economists over the last 25 to 30 years has led to deeply flawed institutions of global financial governance which minimise risk for investors (read US and the West) and maximise it for the peasants and workers they purport to be helping. They may do a lot of good when things are going swimmingly; everyone wins for a while. But when push comes to shove, who gets shafted?
Mr Condell sets up a straw man by attacking me as an economist for commenting on economics. I am not, and I never claimed to be.
I apologise unreservedly for implying that you were an economist! Seriously, I think you referred to Mr Jackson as `my editor’ so I assumed you were in the same game. In any case, your airy dismissal of Tim Dunlop’s economic literacy led me to believe you were qualified (that word again!) to comment on it. I may have attacked a straw man, but you created him.
Nor do I occupy a “mountaintop eyrie”, as Mr Condell sneeringly puts it.
My face hurts from all this sneering. Have a look at your original contribution and see how it rates on the sneerometer. In fact, it was the tone rather than the content of it that prompted me to respond at all.
If he read my contribution properly, he would have seen that I deferred to a certain Mr Gerry Jackson, who knows a great deal more economics than most people, and provided links to his articles that debunked the nostrums Tim Dunlop preached. So why doesn’t Mr Condell address what Mr Jackson said?
In the same way you’ve so comprehensively addressed Mr Stiglitz’s comments? I was addressing what you said and, more to the point, the way you said it. I also made the point that respected economic opinion could be found to support almost any shade of policy, and I’m sure Mr Jackson’s work eloquently does so for one stance as Mr Stiglitz’s does for another. Like yourself, I’m not qualified to dissect these professionally, but interested enough to have a look and venture an opinion.
Is it too much work? Is Stiglitz? You read Stiglitz and I’ll read Jackson. If you’re as time poor as me, it will have to wait til next week.
Mr Condell refers to books by Joseph Stiglitz as some sort of proof that Dunlop et al have a point.
Just as you referred to Jackson to prove he hasn’t.
But how can he judge the economics of those books? Could he tell whether the arguments stood up to scrutiny?
Could you do so for Mr Jackson? You obviously think Mr Dunlop’s don’t and that Mr Jackson’s do, but how would you know, not being an economist and all? (There’s a Pythonesque element creeping in to this conversation.) You must first impose upon yourself any test you set for me. It was you after all who threw the first stone.
Wouldn’t it help to have some sort of economic training to do so? Could he read a detailed technical work on quantum physics and identify its errors as well?
Economics isn’t quantum physics. What was that about false analogies?
While Joseph Stiglitz may have something valuable to add to the debate, how can economic illiterates like Tim Dunlop, Glenn Condell, and, indeed, myself judge?
We simply do because it’s too important to leave to the pointy-heads. How many people are vitally affected by trends in quantum physics theory? Economics is a human science that crosses all sorts of borders affecting the range of human activity. You seem to be implying that you and I and Mr Dunlop should desist from putting our two bobs worth in on a subject if we don’t have a degree in it.
Webdiary would be a poor wee thing indeed if everyone thought the same way. Sometimes it does seem like there’s too many voices to hear anything distinctly but this is preferable to the past when very few spoke outside their ken and it’s certainly better than societies where people don’t even have the freedom to make gooses of themselves.
To me, especially after September 11, everything is everyone’s business should they wish it – the more the merrier. These voices are the sound of a functioning democracy in action and they have a way, in that environment, of sorting themselves out eventually into some sort of harmony; partial perhaps, but again, better than the alternative.
The role of `experts’, `professionals’ et al is perhaps even more important now than it ever has been, but I feel that to elevate them to a position of final arbiter is to invite gullibility or apathy from the public, not to mention hubris from them. They ought to be seen as advisers, in much the same way as courts give weight to expert testimony but see it as only one contributing factor to a decision.
A more informed, active, engaged community driving policy debates – exemplified by the sort of effort Mr Dunlop made and occasionally perhaps corrected or supplemented by `experts’ – is a more desirable scenario than an increased reliance on professionals. The world, `changed, changed utterly’ since last year, needs ordinary people to stick their necks out, get involved and say their piece. Anything else, particularly deferring to experts, is an abdication. Use them by all means, but come to your own conclusions.
The idea of civics has fallen on hard times, but reviving it requires that people get off their butts and become more informed so that they are able to contribute, to partake in their democracy. Before September 11 you could count the number of times I’d written to editors or politicians on one hand. Since then my extended family wouldn’t have enough digits to cover the missives I’ve sent to unfortunate movers and shakers all over the world.
I may not have changed anything but I feel I’ve contributed. It seems to me a lot of people feel the same; the huge spike in Webdiary readership after major events recently is a good indicator. My trawls through the work of Stiglitz (and yours through Jackson) should be seen as an essential element of our contribution to the democratic process, but their obvious erudition shouldn’t cow us into accepting their conclusions.
OK Mr Dunlop, Mr Condell and friends, tell us where Mr Jackson, who actually knows something about economics, is wrong on what he considers to be the interventionist failures of South East Asia. Once again, here are the relevant links: ( http://www.newaus.com.au/econ39c.html) and http://www.newaus.com.au/econ41a.html ).
Something to look forward to…
Aaron Oakley in For those who give two hoots writes that, “Clearly, Dunlop has simply chosen economic thought that reinforces his prejudices, and cobbled it all together in his long-winded article”. If he means by this that I’ve gathered expert opinions that support my argument, then I have to agree with him.
Nonetheless, Dr Oakley is correct to question a person’s grasp of the facts. What I think is illegitimate, however, is to seek to discount all non-expert opinion as having nothing to contribute to a debate and to seek to demean and bully non-experts. It is an unfortunate rhetorical ploy, as I doubt my lack of expertise would have been an issue if I had chosen economic thought that reinforced Dr Oakley’s beliefs. Still, I’m not surprised. Where I do have expertise is the sociology of knowledge (the area of my PhD) and I can assure him that he is far from alone in being a credentialled person who uses this technique.
It is worth noting, too that the opinions I gather are hardly from the looney left, or even from the left at all: Paul Krugman, George Soros, Joseph Stiglitz, for example. Even the ones I long-windedly quote, Galbraith and Ormerod, are not exactly anti-capitalism, free markets or globalisation. So any questioning by Dr Oakley of economic credentials must extend to these people as well.
As I made clear, there are no knock-down arguments and there is legitimate disagreement even amongst like-minded experts. What I invited third wayists to do is to acknowledge this, rather than blithely highlight what they perceive as the benefits of particular economic settings and to disregard the down-side. My mustering of economic argument goes not much further than that.
The interesting thing about the articles Dr Oakley gathers to support his case is that they throw no doubt at all on the statement of mine he quotes. He quotes me as saying, ‘”Far from being the beneficiaries of `free trade’, the economies of East Asia owe any success they’ve had to an increase in international trade made possible by and coupled with strong government control”.
The article Dr Oakley recommends argues exactly that, though with a different emphasis. For example, the thrust of Dr Oakley’s first source is that interventionist policies have led to misallocation of resources and would have been better left to `market’ allocation. Wherever the emphasis lies, it makes the same basic point I do, that Singapore cannot be considered a guiding light of `free market’ economics. Dr Oakley would therefore be better advised to direct his criticisms at the likes of various third wayists who DO claim Singapore and other `Asian tigers’ as exemplars of free market economics.
Anyway, maybe Dr Oakley should read my article again (or read it). He won’t find someone trashing neo-liberalism in its entirety, just its misuse by third wayist and other advocates who make claims for it that can’t be sustained, and especially that can’t be claimed as `democratic socialist’.
Also in the `two hoots’ entry, Paul Walter says he thinks I don’t like Mr Latham. Untrue. I don’t know him. I just don’t like the Third Way. (And I really warmed to him with his recent attack on the hypocrisy of the Coalition, published in Talk tough, young man.) Nonetheless, I can see why Paul made his claim, so I’ll add a paragraph that didn’t make it to the final draft of my article. “To address the third way in Australia is to address Mark Latham. He is its most articulate, prolific and well-read supporter. So there is nothing personal in the singling out of his work for criticism: it’s just inevitable. Whatever others think of the analysis offered here, there is no doubt a debt owed to Mr Latham for his vigorous advocacy of the Third Way.”