June 14, 2015

Big Ideas

ABC Radio National

Tony Abbott (1957):
Nauru is humane, cost effective and it's proven.
(Nauru turns on charm for visiting Abbott, Sydney Morning Herald, 13 June 2011)

Gillian Triggs (1940) [President, Australian Human Rights Commission]:
As of February [2017:]
  • 1,400 (approximately) continue to be detained in indefinite immigration detention in Australia.
  • 378 detainees, including 45 children remain in Nauru, [and]
  • 837 adult men remain, and have remained for years, on Manus.
The average time in detention is about 490 to 500 days but many have been detained for years.
When I was at Villawood, just a few days ago, I didn't meet anybody under 4 years in detention and one woman … had been detained for 7 years …
The countries of origin, of most asylum seekers and refugees, are predominantly Muslim nations: Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Iran …
Religious persecution is one of the five grounds on which people can seek protection under the refugee convention. …
It is notable that Australia is the only common law country in the world that does not have a bill or charter of rights.
(Islamophobia and human rights, 18 July 2017)

John Winston Howard (1939) [Prime Minister of Australia, 1996-2007]:
[If] you try to institute a bill of rights, you run the danger of limiting, rather than expanding freedoms …
All you'll do is open up yet another avenue for lawyers to make a lot of money being human-rights … practitioners.
(Jon Faine, ABC Local Radio, Melbourne, 25 August 2000)

David Marr (1947):
[In February 2007, 85 Sri Lankan] men were brought in by barge from HMAS Success and herded onto Christmas Island's only wharf. …
Keeping the press at bay has remained a top priority in all the operations that have followed to scoop up boat people wherever they appear and detain them on Christmas Island.
(p 41)

According to the Australian government these people are not prisoners.
They've committed no crimes. …
(p 42)

The Immigration Department was playing its usual cat-and-mouse game: asylum seekers can only have a lawyer if they ask for one, and they have to ask for one by name.
Holding them incommunicado for as long as possible is about denying them a voice in both the press and refugee processing.
Good people take their careers in their hands to smuggle lawyers' names to asylum seekers.
(His Master's Voice, Quarterly Essay, Issue 26, 2007, p 44)

Lionel Shriver (1957):
My politics … are libertarian …
I don't like being told what to do.
Actually, deep down inside, I'm a 10 year old child with a problem with temper tantrums.
(Lionel Shriver on free speech, identity and the future of the US, 19 September 2016)

Bryan Stevenson [Professor of Law, New York University]:
Each of us is better than the worst thing we've ever done.
(The fight for racial justice in America, 19 March 2015)

Augustine (354 – 430):
The good Christian should be wary of mathematics and all those who make empty prophesies.
The danger already exists that mathematicians have made a covenant with the Devil to darken the spirit and confine Man to the bonds of Hell.

Jane Gleeson-White:
[The] logic that drives the modern corporation [privileges] financial capital over every other value on earth, including the value of nature and of human beings and our communities.
While Wall Street booms and nations stagger, we continue to tear apart the earth and effectively enslave ourselves to financial capital — money — to fuel our fixation with economic growth.
The polar ice caps melt, extreme weather becomes the norm, species become extinct, the financially rich nations of the earth are plagued by depression and obesity and the impoverished nations are haunted by homelessness and hunger.
And yet we remain blind to their interconnectedness and their cause. …
The daily operations of business are destroying the planet and human societies and they do so because they are governed by one sole legal obligation: to maximise profit.
(Six Capitals, 2014, p 280)

Jane Gleeson-White

Death by Numbers

In 1977 the Ford Motor Company used a cost-benefit analysis to weigh the relative merits of adding, or not adding, a safety device to its new Pinto car.
This involved assessing the cost of safety parts versus the cost of lives lost.
Where the cost of lives lost is the dollar value of men, women and children killed in the potentially unsafe vehicle. …

An internal company memorandum estimated that if the Pinto was sold without the $11 safety feature:
  • 2,100 cars would burn every year,
  • 180 people would be hurt but would survive, and
  • another 180 would burn to death.
The safer car would save 49.5 million dollars worth of human pain, suffering and death, but it would cost 137.5 million dollars.
Clearly the costs of the safety device far exceed its benefits in numerical terms.
And so, naturally, Ford decided not to spend the money on the safety feature …

(Michael Sandel, Justice: Putting A Price Tag On Life, February 2011)

In the 6 years that the Pinto was on the market 500 hundred people [were] burned to death …

In July [2013], Portugal's finance minister resigned over the austerity measures required for its 78 billion euro bailout.
Greece still can't pay its debts.
Italy's budget deficit is expected to rise to some 4% of GDP.
On the other hand, Europe's largest bank, HSBC has just announced its half-yearly profits have risen 10% to $US 14.1 billion …

When the English philosopher Roger Bacon [1214 – 1292] tried to promote Arabic maths in the 13th century, he was charged with magic and condemned to life imprisonment.

(Numbers rule the world, 3 September 2013)

Costa Rica Leads the World

Not only have Costa Rica's forests and natural areas been protected since the launch of [their Payments for Ecological Services] program in 1997, but large tracts of ruined land have also been restored.
In the late 1980s, only 21% of Costa Rica was covered by forests: by 2010 that had risen to 52%.
This was accompanied by improvements in the country's living standards and energy savings.
In 1985, only half of Costa Rica's energy came from renewable sources.
By 2010, this figure had risen to 92%.
(p 72)

The Cost Of Doing Business

{In 2010, eighteen Foxconn workers attempted suicide.}

[When, in March,] seventeen-year-old Tian Yu threw herself from the fourth floor of her factory dormitory at Foxconn's Longhua facility … spine and hip fractures [left her] paralysed from the waist down.
[After public pressure forced its hand, Foxconn (Apple's primary supplier) gave] her 180,000 yuan (approximately US$29,000) in compensation so she could return to her rural village, which she had left one month earlier to earn money for her impoverished family. …

Yu threw herself out of the window after working two seven-day weeks straight, more than twelve hours a day, and finding she hadn't been paid for her month's work because of an administrative bungle.
The wages she was owed for two seven-day weeks and two six-day weeks with overtime amounted to a quarter of the cost of a new iPhone 5.

(Six Capitals, Allen & Unwin, 2014)

Would you like to know more?

June 9, 2015

Robert Manne

Green Army: Persons of Interest

Robert Manne (1947)

Editor, Quadrant, 1989-97

[At the my final board meeting as the editor of Quadrant] discussion was dominated by the question of … the Aborigines.
It became clear that, for half the board, the way the magazine had treated Aboriginal matters raised serious questions about my suitability to edit a conservative cultural magazine.
On the question of the Aboriginal dispossession in general, and the Stolen Generations in particular, I had crossed over to the enemy camp. …

[Following my resignation,] Padraic McGuinness was appointed as my replacement. …
Over the next three years Quadrant led a national campaign against the conclusions of Bringing Them Home and against the quest for indigenous-non-indigenous reconciliation.
Two anti-Bringing Them Home conferences were held. …
Keith Windschuttle's revisionist history was launched.
The McGuinness-led campaign was soon joined by the increasingly influential right-wing commentariat in the metropolitan press:
  • Andrew Bolt,
  • Piers Akerman,
  • Ron Brunton,
  • Michael Duffy,
  • Christopher Pearson,
  • Frank and Miranda Devine.
The cultural Right had clearly chosen the question of the Stolen Generations in general, and the apology in particular, as their key battleground in the Culture War. …

The campaign [contended that] these children had, in fact, been rescued [from neglect and abuse] and not stolen. …
Padraic McGuinness argued that the Aborigines who presented evidence to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission inquiry were suffering from … 'false-memory syndrome'. …

During the campaign, Sir Ronald Wilson [President of the Commission] was, we were told, [suffering from] "moral vanity" — a condition afflicting those who felt deeply about causes of which right-wing cultural warriors disapprove …
Other prominent white supporters of the Aborigines — like Sir William Deane ("Holy Billy") and Malcolm Fraser ("the sanctimonious prig") — also suffered from this condition.
[Such] white supporters of the Stolen Generations … were, in Michael Duffy's delightful phrase, 'white maggots'.
They fed upon concocted stories of supposed Aboriginal suffering.
They secretly hated their country. …
Was it not weird, Andrew Bolt reflected,
that some Australians wanted to believe racist whites — their own forebears — snatched children from despairing mothers' arms?
The members of the elites who were shocked by the stories revealed in Bringing Them Home were not merely politically correct.
They were un-Australian. …

[The] anti-Bringing Them Home campaign [marked] the emergence under Howard of … an authentic Australian version of an international movement on the Right often known as historical denialism. …

The authors of Bringing Them Home argued that, following Australia's signature of the Genocide Convention in 1951, Australian authorities had committed the crime of genocide in their Aboriginal-child-removal policies.
It is now generally acknowledged that they were wrong. …

[The national apology to the Stolen Generations that] Kevin Rudd delivered to the parliament on 13 February was, in my view and in the view of many others, one of the most important in the history of Australia. …
[He] delivered his speech in the presence of every living prime minister, except John Howard.

(Sorry Business, The Monthly, March 2008)

Just as stagflation fatally undermined the Keynesian social-democratic consensus, so too will the combination of the Great Recession and the growing recognition of the destructive role played by neo-liberalism in inhibiting an effective response to catastrophic climate change eventually discredit the idea at the heart of neo-liberalism: the faith in the magic of the free market. …
[However, there] are two important differences between the circumstances surrounding the end of the Keynesian era in the late 1970s and the present unravelling of neo-liberalism.
When the Keynesian consensus collapsed, a party-in-waiting existed, ready to seize its chance.
No equivalent anti-neo-liberal party exists today.
Old-style socialism is dead.
Left-of-centre neo-Keynesians are far less ideological, far more divided and far more cautious than their neo-liberal adversaries.

Even more importantly, at the moment of the neo-liberal collapse, humanity confronts the diabolical problem of climate change.
Those who inherit the post-neo-liberal world will be obliged not merely to strive to reconcile the hope for renewed prosperity with the quest for domestic and global social justice.
They will also be obliged to reconcile both these ambitions with the gravest challenge humankind has ever faced.
No one yet knows what the new era will look like or what it will eventually be called.
Only one thing seems, at present, reasonably certain.
At the end of the era of free-market faith, we will be in a far better position to turn our attention to the kinds of ethical and environmental questions which, for thirty years, neo-liberalism encouraged us to [ignore.]

(Goodbye to All That?  On the Failure of Neo-Liberalism and the Urgency of Change, 2010, p 36)