Saturday, 18 August 2012

Post for Vietnam Veteran's Day

Here is a link to a piece on reconciliation.

Forty-six years has changed little. 

It's written from the heart, and without regret or apology.

Lest we forget..........

Time for Honesty

The message (last two sentences) has been lost in the hysteria.

There are some issues in Australian politics that invite disaster unless there is a bi-partisan approach.

Amongst these, I would list national policy on disabilities, climate change and asylum seekers. There are others, but a quick glance at our history will reveal the absolute tragedy that follows the taking of adversarial positions on these three.

The best example of what follows when this principle is ignored comes from recent history, specifically our involvement in Vietnam.

The consequences of the fear, hate and bitterness generated during that conflict continue to be visited on Vietnam veterans, and often on their families. If you doubt this, check the statistics.

Pandering to fear and loathing in the electorate works, but it creates victims. For the purpose of this exercise, let's use the military term "collateral". In the case of Vietnam, returning soldiers became the collateral. Considering refugee policy, "collateral" are the asylum seekers.

Most recently, we have the spectacle of the unfortunates turning up after the legislation went through this week, being exiled (like colonies of Robinson Crusoes) in godforsaken outposts in the Pacific.

When John Howard let the genie out of the bottle back in 2001, I doubt he understood the monster he was creating. That genie, fed on xenophobia, racism, and gut fear, has overwhelmed rational discourse, and risks poisoning our value system for generations.

Again, paralleling the adversarial tone set up around Vietnam, we saw fear (the Communist hordes from the North), used effectively to wedge the opposition. This worked for a while, but inevitably, when it ceased to work, the community turned on the diggers. 

Victims were created - generally all diggers, but particularly the conscripts who had no choice. These days the victims are the asylum seekers, whose choices are also limited. At least conscripts not found to be conscientious objectors knew how long they’d be behind bars. Refugees will be denied this certainty.

We see absurdity used to justify extremity – back then random twenty year olds conscripted to kill and be killed – these days children locked up behind razor wire.

The saddest aspect of all is the hypocrisy shown on all sides of politics. The most recent legislation is justified by the Coalition as a method of saving lives. The under song has nothing to do with saving lives, and everything to do with harnessing the latent xenophobia which has been part of our national psyche since the anti-Chinese riots at Lambing Flats.

They make cynical use of this national ugliness, at the same time dressing it up as compassion. A quick reading of the blogosphere reveals this undercurrent.

Labor has capitulated because they have been wedged. Humanitarian Principles have vanished overnight. Expediency is dressed up as compassion. The expert committee was a device to outsource moral responsibility. It worked a treat.

There is and always has been a “solution” - although using this word brings us into the company of the notables who espoused the “Jewish solution”. John Howard had no qualms about reintroducing the term into our national vocabulary. This puts him in interesting company.

The successful template I refer to was written during the time of the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese boat people. It would take a decade or more – would cost a great deal – would involve some heart searching in terms of our relationships with our neighbours to our North, but it is possible.

It worked back then, because the approach in this country was bi-partisan. The xenophobia was always there, but it was never harnessed. Back then, we had leaders with backbone.

It won’t happen in 2012, because we are governed by cowards and opportunists on both sides of politics.

Howard's monster will endure. The collateral damage will last for decades.

Ask a Vietnam veteran.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

"No Forced Redundancies...."

Question - How do you know when Campbell Newman's lying?
Answer - When his lips are moving.

The evidence?

Listen and watch - 34 seconds in......

Thanks to my sister whose public servant hubby was asked to take a forced redundancy last Friday.


This takes real courage.

Everyone in Toowoomba (including Napoleon's minions) knows the identity of this person.

It takes real guts to speak out, especially when you're a member of the SES*, and your contract can be terminated at short notice. I hope he/she is still in the job next Monday. I suppose being told you have to decide which of your hard working staff are going to be given DCMs+ to keep a dodgy election promise takes its toll.

If I were Kerry Shine, I'd be eying the next state poll with optimism. If I had a dollar for every local who's told me they voted LNP and are now regretting it, I'd be shouting the bar past midnight.

The closing of the local low security facility has shaken Toowoomba local  government to its foundations. The new government has broken all records for making enemies swiftly in this part of the world.

It's not only the sackings that are causing outrage, but the fact that before the election, solemn undertakings were given which it turns out weren't worth a pinch of the proverbial.

The phenomenon of an SES member speaking out is interesting. The whole purpose behind creating a Senior Executive Service was to muzzle senior public servants. If you're on a contract that entitles you to a tax-free executive luxury vehicle, free parking in the CBD, membership of a range of professional organisations with benefits such as international travel, and a range of specific confidential perks that you negotiate individually, and you know that contract can be terminated on two week's notice, you tend to open your mouth with great circumspection.

You also tell your minister what he/she wants to hear.

In one fell swoop, the creation of the SES destroyed the tradition of  frank and fearless advice given by senior public servants.

If the LNP in Queensland were fair dinkum about saving millions (over time billions) in public service expenditure, they'd terminate the SES, and place all staff employed on contract on permanency, removing all the obscenely expensive perks.

They won't off course, as that would diminish their capacity to control them.

While they're at it, they could make Longreach the administrative capital of Queensland (the most decentralised state in the nation), a move that would keep faith with the regions and keep the rural and remote constituency content.

Longreach - geographical centre of Queensland

It would probably also lead to better government, as all the D-Gs would have to move to outback Queensland.

It will never happen. This mob are transfixed by Tea-Party inspired notions of small government, wear tin-foil hats, have partaken of the Koolaid and believe that the earth is flat.

God help Queensland.

* Senior Executive Service
+ Don't come Monday

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Thoughts on Melbourne

Big moths in Melbourne - they eat ferris wheels
As blogged earlier, I’ve spend six of the last ten days in Melbourne.

Long enough, I reckon, to form an opinion of the metropolis on the Yarra, at the arse end of the country. (If you take exception to the last sentence, take a look at a map).

First of all, let’s deal with the clichés. They’re all true.
Black everywhere - even in Chinatown

Everyone wears black.
Famous upside-down river

The Yarra flows upside down.
Everyone goes to the footy

Melbournians will attend any and all sporting events in droves irrespective of weather.

I have photographic evidence of each of these.

For some reason, my father hated Melbourne with a passion. He trained there during WW2 as a RAAF radio fitter, before he went to New Guinea.

He maintained that there were more anti-Catholic bigots per square mile in Melbourne than anywhere else in the country. There must have been an incident that generated this opinion, as my dad never spoke about any other place with such vehemence.

He also didn’t like the weather. I saw no evidence of bigotry, but he was right about the weather.
From our apartment - the locals reckoned this was a nice day

Another cliché is that the weather changes every few minutes. Based on last week’s experience, I can vouch for that. Problem was, it only ever changed for the worse.

The contact we had with Melbournians indicated to me that they are as a bunch, remarkably tolerant. They didn’t turn a hair at some of the outlandish behaviour exhibited by a group of veterans on the town, trying to recapture some of their lost youthful mojo, generally smiling fondly on us.

At least I thought the smiles were fond. I may have been wrong.

The exception to this tolerance was the taxi drivers or at least one in particular. Now I’m used to Indian taxi drivers – there’s plenty in Brisbane. But in Brisbane, they generally understand English, and know where the major landmarks are.

We found one who claimed he’d never heard of the Prahran RSL (one of the oldest in the city), and when one of my comrades said (and I quote) – “That’s bloody ridiculous”; he kicked us out of his cab for swearing. I kid you not.

In hindsight, there were four of us, and we were outside a hotel with over 500 veterans present, so we probably should have refused to budge. We could have held a sit-in. We did lots of things I hadn't done for over forty years. A sit-in would have taken me back.......

Later on, we found another driver who claimed to be ignorant of the existence of the Crown Casino. We found it for him on his GPS.

In summary then, Melbourne has some great restaurants, it’s well laid out with wide streets, the trams are great, and its cenotaph is a magnificent building.
Magnificent cenotaph

But live there? Never in a month of Sundays. It is however, a great place for a reunion so long as you avoid taxis.

Asylum Seekers

It's refreshing to find another Vietnam Veteran who shares my opinions on asylum seekers.

There are plenty, but they don't make as much noise as the bigots and xenophobes.

His take on the issue is well thought out and reasonable - also refreshing.

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...