Citizen Journalism

Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

Running the Assange Senate campaign like racing into cold surf on hot day

In Federal Election, Greg Barns on April 5, 2013 at 10:45 PM


By Greg Barns
April 5, 2013

Julian Assange has been treated appallingly by the Gillard government, and the Tony Abbott led Opposition for that matter.  But Mr Assange’ s Wikileaks and its underpinning philosophies of both blowing open the world of secrecy that permeates bureaucracies and the political masters they serve – and reducing the footprint of the state in the lives of individuals in a democracy – are highly attractive.

These are the two reasons why I decided, having not been involved actively in politics since the Liberal Party threw me aside in 2002 on the basis that my attacks on its asylum seeker policies were high treason, to join Mr Assange and the fledging Wikileaks Party’s federal election campaign.  In a bleak political landscape (has it ever been as debased as it is today?) Mr Assange’s political movement is a tonic.  It’s the political equivalent of racing into the cold surf on a 40 degree day.

Make no mistake, as the veteran Michelle Grattan wrote this week, Assange is in the mix to win a Senate seat in Victoria.  And the Party can win seats in other states with the right candidates.  These are big calls to make and they are made with the usual caveat that a week is a long time in politics, but there is in the Australian community strong support for Assange and Wikileaks.

Many Australians think Julian Assange has been dealt a raw deal by the Gillard government.  It has been prepared to watch one of its own citizens hunted down by the US in the knowledge that if Julian Assange ends up in the United States he will be tortured.  Not one skerrick of political and diplomatic capital has been expended by Ms Gillard and the officials in DFAT to try and work out a political solution which would allow Assange to return to Australia after answering questions a Swedish prosecutor wants to put to him concerning relationships he had with a couple of women in that country.

That Assange’s Wikileaks movement is growing a political arm in Australia is a logical step.  There is no party in this country which unambiguously believes that we need to roll back the surveillance state.  Greens Senator Scott Ludlam from Western Australia has been a champion of this issue but he is too often a lone voice in the Senate.

Since 9/11 particularly both the Coalition and the ALP driven by the fear mongers in ASIO, ASIS, the Federal Police and the Attorney-General’s Department, has passed reams of laws and regulations designed to diminish individual liberty.  In the shameful absence of a Human Rights Act there has been no check or balance on laws which enable citizens to be surveilled and have their movements controlled or their data raided.

The other aspect of WikiLeaks and Assange’s views that appeals to me is that it’s the enemy of cosy deals between government and business.  And it rightly argues that a government that acts in secret is an undemocratic one.  The modus operandi of Australian governments from time immemorial has been to indulge in both with little or no real scrutiny.

There is in the Wikileaks Party a strand of liberalism which has long been attractive to me.  That is, that democracy works best when there is open government, transparency and a genuine commitment in word and deed to primacy of the individual.

The Wikileaks Party and Julian Assange are filling a gap in the political ideas marketplace in Australia.  Its fresh approach to policy making and to democratic values is compelling.

It has reinvigorated my interest in Australian democracy.

Refugees tell @latingle how they would change our policy and practice

In Immigration, Jane Cattermole, Refugees on March 5, 2013 at 2:13 PM

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By Jane Cattermole
March 5, 2013

I recently attended the Perth Writer’s Festival and heard heard refugees tell their own stories and describe the mistrust and bitterness they felt from some Australians. Laura Tingle moderated the forum on ‘Refugees: Where do they come from?’ and the panel was:

Robin de Crespigny, Author of The People Smuggler and winner of the 25th Human Rights Award for Literature

Kooshyar Karimi, Refugee, Author of I Confess: Revelations in Exile and General Practitioner

Carina Hoang, Refugee, Author of Boat People: Personal Stories from the Vietnamese Exodus and a Special Representative of Australia for UNHCR

Robin’s book tells the true story of Ali Al Jenabi, who fled Saddam Hussain’s torture chambers and became a people smuggler to get his family to safety. He became known as the Oskar Schindler of Asia.

Kooshyar’s story began in the post-revolutionary bloodshed of the Iran-Iraq war. He practised medicine and helped desperate women and girls who had been raped terminate their resulting pregnancies. He was kidnapped and tortured over 65 days and then had to spy on his own people or be slowly tortured to death. He smuggled his wife and children out of Iran into Turkey where he hid for more than a year before the UNHCR granted him refugee status. He now lives in Sydney and works as a GP near Newcastle.

Carina was the eldest of seven children living in Saigon during the Vietnam war. After four years living under communist rule and not knowing the whereabouts of her father, Carina, still a teenager, set out for a new life with her younger brother and sister. They had seven gruelling days at sea, ran out of food and saw people die, were attacked by pirates and tossed around by violent storms. They landed in Indonesia and taken by authorities to an uninhabited island where they lived for a year. Carina was finally granted refugee status and lived in America before settling in Australia with her husband and daughter.

As you can imagine their stories of persecution, war, torture and escape were harrowing, but I will focus on their responses to these questions from Laura:

We have a federal election coming up. If there was one thing you could get changed about refugee policy in Australia what would it be? Would it just be increasing the humanitarian intake? Also there are questions about processing and all that sort of stuff, or would it be onshore versus offshore. What would be the one thing, that if a politician was actually going to be brave in this debate, what would you like to see them do?

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Please let us stay

In Immigration, Refugees on March 3, 2013 at 7:30 PM
Artist Martin Davies.

Artist Martin Davies.

By Ursula Nolks
March 4, 2013

EDITORS NOTE: Thorsten, son of Ursula and Frank Nolks, rang me yesterday about the impending deportation of his parents on Wednesday after more than 30 years in Australia. Their lives changed course when Thorsten wanted to get married in 2008, because it was discovered his parents had changed their last name after arriving in Australia on a tourist visa. Tell your story and I will run it, I said. Ursula got to work and here is her account, followed by extracts from Ursula’s and Frank’s 2011 letter to the immigration minister. The family’s Senator, Trish Crossin, wrote to the minister on their behalf, and I’m hoping she will send it to me to post here.


In 2008, Thorsten, Frank and myself were interviewed by two immigration department officers from Canberra in the Darwin office. Our then case manager Dale Astbury forwarded it direct to the Minister for Immigration for ministerial intervention. We were also told by Dale that ‘deportation was never an option’.

But when a new case manager was appointed to us it all changed. We were made to start from scratch, and we were told that we had to get a valid visa or be deported.

We were advised by a Migration Agent to apply for a tourist visa, which will be denied but would give us the stepping ground for a ministerial intervention. After paying for tourists visas, then applying to the Migration Tribunal for a hearing, paying nearly $2500, our Tourist Visas were denied. From then on we were just given the runaround all the way to today.

Our last hope was help from our Senator Trish Crossin, and she sent a letter to Minister Chris Bowen on 3 August 2012. After we received a copy of the Senators letter we discovered that she was informed from the Darwin immigration department that we have alleged links with a motor cycle gang:

‘In relation to integration Mr and Mrs Nolks have successfully owned and operated a business in the Darwin community for 17 years. This enabled them to sponsor a number of community-based groups and participate in a Rotary Club, and have therefore evidence of being part of and contributing the community. This effort is fairly substantial and I believe has been largely overlooked.

‘The alleged links with a motor cycle gang have not been detailed nor investigated or actioned by the police or relevant authorities. It is my view that unless this is proven, this may well be hearsay and should not be a reason to refuse their request to stay in this country.’

In the last three years my husband developed a heart condition, and had to go to Adelaide for a heart surgery as there are no facilities here in Darwin. His condition has not improved, and this stress is certainly not helping.

In our last meeting with the department on February 20 we were informed we had to ring Werner Braun (Third Secretary) Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, and if we do not comply we may have to be detained and may be send to a detention centre.

Our concern is that after more than 30 years living in Australia and calling Australia our home, returning would be like starting with nothing with no family. We have one son. He lives in Australia and if something happens to my husband I have my son to turn to.

We are hoping to be able to stay in this country and to see our golden years in the country we love and call home. Going back would mean never to see our son or our granddaughter again. We believe in Family and keeping families together, not separating. Read the rest of this entry »