Saturday, 2 January 2010

Sanity in Retrospect

Mike Steketee writes in today’s Australian on the topic of refugees.

Towards the end of his article he compares the Fraser government's approach to the arrival of boat people in the seventies to that applying in the current political climate -

A few factors worked in Fraser's favour. One was the sentiment that Australia had a moral obligation to help the victims of a war in which we had fought. It was an argument he put forcefully, together with his admiration for the refugees. "If you embrace a positive view and embrace the courage of the people who are prepared to try and get a better life for themselves and their families, I think the political pressure starts to diminish," he says.
The contrast, of course, is with the Howard government, which pandered to the fear following 9/11 that Iraqis and Afghans fleeing by boat included terrorists (ASIO did not reject a single person on these grounds). Yet Australia's moral obligation was as strong as that following the Vietnam war: the refugees were fleeing Saddam Hussein and the Taliban, who the Howard government thought sufficiently reprehensible to wage war against. But the government never put the argument.
The key factor in resolving the issue in the 70s was an international agreement that stemmed the flow from Vietnam but allowed large numbers of refugees to go to Western countries. Such co-operation, combined with humane treatment of asylum-seekers, is the best way to cut boat arrivals.

Fraser is also quoted in yesterday’s Canberra Times -

''It demeans Australia to be having a purely political argument on this subject. When I was prime minister, Gough [Whitlam] initially opposed accepting Indo-Chinese refugees but then he changed his position and we had a bipartisan agreement,'' Mr Fraser said.
''Turning the boats back is pure Hansonism, you could well ask what has happened to the Liberal Party. Abbott said he would consult, implying Turnbull didn't, but he has announced this policy and I doubt he had a cabinet meeting before announcing it.''

I’ve blogged on this before. The tragic outcome of Howard’s behaviour in 2001 is that the issue has been appropriated by the merchants of hate. It’s interesting to look back to what was a more enlightened time.

Thursday, 31 December 2009

Aging is a Bugger

I’ve always believed that age is a state of mind. Until a few days ago, I was pretty comfortable in that belief.

I still do all the physical things I used to when I was 25. The difference now is that it takes much longer to recover.

This was brought home with a vengeance a few years ago when my bride and I took our two daughters on a holiday to Noosa. I had just “retired” so was looking forward to a holiday that would herald a new carefree lifestyle. After running a series of Special Schools for eighteen years, this release from responsibility looked pretty good.

My youngest daughter enjoys all manner of sporting activity, so we made use of both the tennis courts at the resort and the nearby beach break. I had always enjoyed body surfing and decided to give her some expert tuition.

After a morning (about three hours) on the tennis court and an afternoon in the surf, the four of us (bride and other daughter as well) went to a restaurant in the evening. This capped off a perfect day.

The next day was not so perfect. I woke up stiff and store, and by lunch time could barely move. My whole upper trunk was one massive ache generated by protesting muscles which had done little for months except manipulate a keyboard, and load stuff in and out of cars. They had not coped well with hours of tennis and surfing, and were letting me know in no uncertain terms.

My lower body, on the other hand was fine, as at that time I was jogging daily.

These days I walk.

I had to take a rain check on daughter’s requests for more of the same, and the BMW Z3 we’d hired for three days sat in the garage. I couldn’t lift my arms to the steering wheel.

It took about three days for the stiffness and aching to subside.

I was reminded of this during the last few days. On Sunday I gave the MX5 a good cleanup. The easiest way to clean the interior is to take the top down, and use a vacuum cleaner whilst standing outside the car. As I bent over with the nozzle to access a particularly hard-to-find corner, something on the lower right side of my chest let go.

I’ve been in pretty severe pain since. My complaints have generated lots of advice from my bride to visit the quack, but I’m aware that this will probably not be useful, as it’s a matter of giving the torn muscle time to heal. I’ve been to my GP with torn muscles before, and was told – not altogether sympathetically – “You’re getting older, you know – you can’t expect to be able to behave as you did when you were 30”.

He needed seven years of study to tell me this?

This particular muscle seems to be employed in everything I do, from cleaning my teeth to bending over to retrieve something dropped, so it aches pretty much all the time.

I couldn’t even take the garbage out last night.

Hugh White - Without America

Hugh White is always provocative, and doesn't pull any punches when it comes to criticising current defence policy. In 1995, he was appo...