15 February 2015

So Angry About Asylum Seekers

Cathy Wilcox

The National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention was released in parliament this week - four months after the government received it in November (and at the end of a week when the PM was looking for anything to distract from his own leadership). It contains extremely distressing accounts of the lives of children in detention; the physical, psychological and in some cases sexual abuse; the trauma, the self harm, the bed wetting and nightmares; children who cannot conceive of a world outside of wire and bars and armed guards; babies unable to learn to walk because they have no safe place to learn to crawl.

The nation from our leaders on down were horrified, and immediately united to find a bipartisan solution to end this suffering.

Well, I wish that were true. Instead, our Prime Minister, the proud head of the policy to keep asylum seeker children indefinitely locked up in detention centres, said that he felt no guilt whatsoever over the plight of children in detention, including ten year olds on suicide watch and seven year olds prescribed sleeping pills. Rather than refuting the allegations in the attack, Abbott and his cronies in the right wing media, in what is surely a low in this nation's political discourse, went on the attack, declaring that exposing the shameful treatment of children in detention was an exercise in smearing the government, and personally mauling president of the Human Rights Commission Gillian Triggs and her decisions regarding the care of her profoundly disabled, and now deceased, daughter.

And whilst all decent Australians reacted with disgust, a vocal pack took to social media to declare this was Labor's fault for allowing the boats to start again, their parents fault for bringing them here, the kids are being fed and protected and not abused, who cares worry about Australians first, if we let them in we'll be overrun, it didn't matter because asylum seekers drowned under Labor - anything other than focussing on what any rational person would see is the real issue.

Can we forget about who is to "blame" for asylum seekers being in detention, who drowned in years past, who has blood on their hands, and focus on what is happening right now, and that it needs to stop?

If you hear of children being locked behind razor wire, committing self harm, being physically and sexually abused, and your first reaction is not we have to stop this - WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!

If you are justifying the sexual assault of children by blaming Labor, the Greens, their parents, or insisting that we can't let them all in, or for any other reason whatsoever - well then, I don't care if you coach netball or volunteer at the school or are always the first to help a mate - you are not a good person. If you think it's okay for kids to be abused for any reason, as long as they're not Australian kids, you're a racist anal polyp on the backside of the worst this nation as to offer and I'm ashamed to share a nationality with you and I wish you were locked up not the asylum seekers; not I don't, I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

Opponents of asylum seekers often demand "what do you suggest? We can't just let everyone in". No, we can't. I don't have the perfect solution to the issue of asylum seekers, but you no what is not an acceptable answer? Anything that involves the extended detention of children; anything that permits their abuse.

I don't care whether you think asylum seekers need our help and protection, or are queue jumping parasites. When it comes to protecting kids, no other considerations should take precedence. Worry about the blame later. Just fucking acknowledge the problem and stop making excuses for abuse. It's not okay. It's never okay.

11 February 2015

On Asperger's Syndrome and the death of Courtney Topic

This will be a much shorter post than usual, but there are just a few things I have to say regarding the tragic death of Courtney Topic, shot by police in a western Sydney carpark yesterday. The exact circumstances of her death are for the coroner to determine, but the death of any young person is a tragedy, and my deepest sympathy goes to her family and friends.

In the aftermath of her death, her family have revealed that Ms Topic lived with Asperger's syndrome, and this has set of a flurry of inaccurate comments on social media. Don't read the comments, they say, and I shouldn't have but did, and what's there is very distressing. People with Asperger's (or on the autism spectrum) are "mad", "mentally ill", "mentally challenged", "sick", "violent". This young woman should have been more closely watched by her parents, should have been looked after, we should re-open the institutions as people with autism cannot function in normal society.

Now, I've no idea how Ms Topic's autism manifested itself - every case is different, hence the common phrase "if you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism". But public awareness of autism seems to stem mostly from crimes committed by people diagnosed in the media with autism - Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza, or the inaccurate claim which persists to this day that Martin Bryant has Asperger's (he doesn't; his IQ would preclude a diagnosis). Here's what I'd dearly like to get out there:
  • Autism is not a mental illness. Whilst symptoms can be treated, and skills taught to ease interaction with the world, it cannot be cured or medicated.
  • Asperger's syndrome (AS) affects people's day to day functioning, however, it does not cause autistic people to suddenly engage in violent, erratic and uncharacteristic behaviour. Many people with AS have meltdowns throughout the course of the day, which may be small frustrations or larger tantrums. These act as a sort of pressure release valve, and are usually better out than in. A person with autism would be extremely unlikely to suddenly "snap" and grab a knife or gun to enact their frustrations on society - the angst would have been released in a meltdown long before then.
  • Nor does AS cause people to hallucinate or hear voices telling them what to do.
  • AS does not correlate with, cause or result in violence. 
  • Most people with AS are able to function in society, often without co-workers and friends realising they're autistic. Many have successful careers, particularly in the fields that value the attributes of logic and reason displayed by many Aspies, such as science, engineering and finance.
  • People with AS are not mentally challenged and in fact often have IQs above the average. 
  • People with AS do often struggle to fit in socially, however, and that sure as hell isn't helped by stereotypes and misconceptions of them as angry, violent, mentally challenged loners.
Autism - especially in adults, especially in adult women - is still so misunderstood, If you'd like to read more, there are some excellent resources from Autism UK and the Victorian Health. We can't educate everyone, but I hope to start somewhere.  

10 February 2015

Libspill Defeated, We All Win

I never thought I'd be saying the words "thank goodness Tony Abbott is still Prime Minister", but here we are. With Tony Abbott seeing off a motion to spill his leadership yesterday, we're all ahead.

The media would be popping champagne corks - Australian sparkling wine, anyway (cutbacks) - knowing that though Abbott may have survived, his leadership is now mortally wounded, and almost certain to face another spill in months to come, guaranteeing plenty more copy that just about writes itself; "new PM Turnbull guides Australia to stability" does not for scintillating news make. Julie Bishop can rub her hands together with a glee not felt since she was screwing dying asbestosis victims, knowing that the party and electorate have been softened up for her to take a tilt next time - that is, if the Liberals could quite handle a female leader.

The few remaining Liberal voters are head since they can point to yesterday's result and say "see? Abbott defeated the motion! We didn't change prime ministers. We're not as chaotic as the other lot." And the rest of Australia are winners, since keeping Abbott in office as long as possible is the best chance we have of turfing the Coalition out at the next election and trying to repair the damage done. No post war Australian Prime Minister has survived a party room challenge and gone on to win the next election:



Abbott of course is putting a brave face on things, claiming that "good government starts today", as opposed to the Coalition continuing to fight the third year of the 2013 election campaign (a pity; after some sophomoric stumbles in '14, they seemed to be really hitting their stride on the "chaos, deficit, pink batts" thing).

Really this is the best outcome we could have hoped for. We knew an Abbott government would be a horror show of epic proportions; but just think how much worse it would be if they were evil and competent. If we are forced to have an ideological Murdoch puppet run the country for the next 18 months, let it be this brain damaged buffoon staggering about desperately trying to string a sentence together and constantly watching his back; the last thing we need is Abbott looking ahead to a right wing future.

08 February 2015

Your Gluten Free, Carbon Neutral, Salted Caramel Guide to the Libspill

So as we all know, after months of chaos and dysfunction from the Abbott government, at 9am the Federal Liberal party MPs will meet to vote on a spill motion. But what does it all mean? Ask someone with a D in first year politics to clear it up.

What started all this?

Last week, WA backbencher Luke Simpkins sent an email to his fellow federal Liberal party MPs, announcing that he would be launching a spill motion at the next Federal party meeting on Tuesday 10 February (said meeting now brought forward to 9am tomorrow in the latest unpopular move by Abbott, who claims he is wanting to "end the uncertainty").

Are the Libs voting on whether Tony Abbott should remain as Prime Minister?

No. The motion being voted on is whether the senior roles in the party should be vacated ("spilled"). 

So what happens if the vote passes?

The Liberals will be required to vote for a new leader, deputy leader, treasurer and so on. MPs will be able to nominate themselves for these roles and the party will vote. Obviously the vote everyone gets excited about is for the leader, as whomever wins will become the new Prime Minister. At this stage, Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull are looking the most likely candidates. 

What happens if the vote fails?

Why, Abbott will continue his glorious reign. But seriously, even if the spill motion is defeated, the damage to Abbott's credibility and authority is apt to be terminal, and it would be likely he would either resign or lose a spill in a few months. If this happens, it is more likely that Julie Bishop would stand for leader, untainted by the stink of having knifed Abbott first time out. 

And in the longer term?

One of two scenarios - the eventual new leader can either attempt to legitimise their regime by calling for an early, double dissolution election; or they can ride out the current term of the Federal parliament, which states that an election must by held by January 14, 2017 (although the chance of a midsummer election is extremely slim and it is certain the poll would be held late November at the latest).

Where is my phone?

Check the pants you were wearing yesterday. The ones in the wash.

 See, I was right. Aren't you glad you found it in time?

What do you want to see happen tomorrow?

To be honest, I am kind of disappointed; I was hoping to see Abbott go to an election and lose, and now it seems unlikely that will happen - as above, even if he survives tomorrow, he's unlikely to be able to see out the term. You never know, though. It was always going to come to an inglorious end.

04 February 2015

Liberal Losers

There's an old cliche that no one ever went broke underestimating the stupidity of the general public. I'm not so sure. Because the Liberal and National parties are losing, well, everything by treating the general public like idiots. Greedy idiots. If you want to know everything about how the right sees the public, just see how they carry on when they lose.

The line goes from the LNP and their media supporters that their massive electoral failures are due to an inability to effectively get their message across. They have solid plans to rejuvenate the state and federal economies, but voters just won't accept that, won't join in on making the sacrifices required of us all in this time of economic difficulty.

And it's this that's making the electorate shake their heads in dismay. Not just the "latte sippers" of the left (and we should all start referring to right wingers as coffee obsessives; what's with their fixation on people's choice of hot beverage? It's not like there haven't been Gloria Jeans' in Penrith forever; lattes are hardly the sole provenance of the inner city elite. At least a few of the slightly more aware columnists are now referring to "tapas munchers". Anyway, speaking of elites, how much do you think these Murdoch columnists and talkback hosts get paid? Does Miranda Devine go down to the RSL on cheap schnitzel night then put $10 on Queen of the Nile? Has Andrew Bolt ever waited till Domino's Cheaper Tuesday to get pizza?).

Apart from the few rusted on Abbott supporters left, everyone can see that the government's budget, and the government itself, and the state governments in Queensland and Victoria, have failed because of arrogance and unfairness, not an inability to get the message across. The Liberal-National coalition and the commetariat that support them are too out of touch to

And Tony Abbott says politics is not a popularity contest. Actually, in a democracy it kind of is. Abbott knows what's best for Australia; as he told talkback host Ray Hadley this morning "it's about our people, it's about what's best for them". And he doesn't care what they think.

If he ever did.

Tony Abbott was a devastatingly effective opposition leader, but as Prime Minister simply devastating. If good opposition leader means bad PM, and the inverse, maybe we can hope that Bill Shorten will be one of our greatest statesmen, or at least finish out a term, which may be all be can hope for from here.