Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Former PM Julia Gillard admits to "murderous rage"

A typically Leftist emotion, though not often admitted publicly.  All politicians get a hard time from opponents but that was "sexism" in her case, she alleges.  She seriously says that she was entitled to "a right to an environment that treats you with respect".  Maybe she should have joined the clergy.  Or does she want to bring back traditional "paternalist" kid-glove treatment for women?  Not very feminist.  She's suffering from a severe case of wanting to have her cake and eat it too, I suspect.  Probably a spoilt little girl

JULIA Gillard has revealed the disbelief, anger and "murderous rage" she felt over the "violent, ugly sexism" that plagued her prime ministership.

And she says it is infantile to say a woman who stands up for herself is starting a gender war.

In her first public appearance since losing the prime ministership to Kevin Rudd in June, Ms Gillard told a public forum in Sydney she was surprised at the depth of abuse levelled at her as Australia's first female prime minister.

"It just amazes me that we can be having this infantile conversation about gender wars, and ... you just feel like saying: 'Well, if it was your daughter and she was putting up with sexist abuse at work, what would you advise her to do?'," Ms Gillard said.

"Because apparently if she complains, she is playing the victim, and playing gender wars, and if she doesn't complain, then she really is a victim."

She said women and girls had "a right to an environment that treats you with respect, treats you as an equal and raising your voice about that isn't starting a war, it isn't playing the victim, it's just asking for what simply is right".

As a guest of author Anne Summers at a public forum at the Sydney Opera House, with former deputy Wayne Swan watching from the crowd, Ms Gillard said she had thought Australia was beyond that kind of thinking.

"And it's kind of depressing that we're not, but at least we know exactly where the balance of it is now and what more remains to be done for women to be truly equal," she told the crowd, adding it would be easier for the country's second woman PM.

Asked how she felt seeing the kinds of sexist cartoons and comments online about her, she said "murderous rage" best described it.

"And so for my personal liberty, it's probably a good thing that I didn't focus on them," she said.

Recent incorrect reporting that she and long-term partner Tim Mathieson had split showed another case point in the "foibles" of the media, she said.

Ms Gillard will soon take up an honorary professorship at Adelaide University and revealed she will also work on global education as a senior fellow at Washington think tank Brookings.

After keeping a low profile since losing her job, apart from writing a column in which she described the gut-wrenching feeling of losing power, she said she and Mr Swan knew she would lose the vote against Kevin Rudd on going into the Caucus vote.

"When I was getting myself together to go out and give my final speech as PM, I certainly did say to myself that I wouldn't give those ... people ... the satisfaction of seeing me shed a tear, I wouldn't do that," she said.

In a subtle dig at Mr Rudd, she said the difference between the two was that she had always worked for Labor.

"So I quickly concluded after the meeting that the best thing I could do is accept that that was the judgment that had been made and to give a gift of silence to the Labor Party during the course of the campaign, to do absolutely nothing," she said.

Ms Gillard, who will front a second Conversations forum in Melbourne on Tuesday, also had some advice for Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

"It is a big step from criticising what you think is wrong to working out and implementing what you think is right," she said.

"On current indications, PM Abbott is intending to take that step slowly."


Jakarta agrees to talks on boats:  Both sides give ground

Indonesian President Yudhoyono says bilateral talks on asylum seekers are now possible, while Tony Abbott says Australia will consult Indonesia over his government's 'tow-back' policy.

The Indonesian President has made a significant concession to Tony Abbott's demands on asylum seekers in talks in Jakarta, agreeing that Indonesia will need to make direct deals with Australia to solve the people-smuggling problem.

Until now, Indonesia's position has been that any potential policies should be dealt with at the multilateral forum, the Bali Process. Many of Mr Abbott's policies - from boat tow-backs to establishing transit ports for asylum seekers on Indonesian soil - have been considered a threat to Indonesian sovereignty.

But after meeting Mr Abbott late on Monday on his first overseas trip as Prime Minister, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono agreed the countries also needed to work one-on-one.  "Indonesia has striven to overcome this issue, but it would be much better if the co-operation was at the bilateral level," he said.

The statement opens the door to Indonesia making more concessions to Australian demands, though Mr Abbott and Dr Yudhoyono left tricky details for later.

Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison and his Indonesian counterpart, Djoko Suyanto, will meet to thrash out the details in coming weeks.

The concession comes as a senior adviser to the Indonesian Vice-President says her country does not have the legal rights to stop asylum seeker boats leaving their coast for Australia.

Dewi Fortuna Anwar, adviser to Vice President Boediono, told ABC TV on Monday there was nothing her country could do to stop boats leaving Indonesia if there were no clear violations of the law.   "Indonesia does not really have the legal right to stop boats leaving Indonesia towards Australia," Dr Anwar said.

"In the same way that the Australian government was not able to stop the so-called freedom flotilla from leaving Australian shores with the clear intention of trying to show their support for a separatist movement in Papua."

Dr Anwar added her country did not regard it as a violation of their law when refugees paid people smugglers to take them overseas.  "It depends on the perspective. These people probably don't see themselves as smugglers," she said.  "The fishermen were paid openly by those who wished to go to Australia, and they are pretty open about it."

Dr Anwar also criticised two of the Abbott government's plans to combat the people smuggling trade, one of which is to pay Indonesians to spy on people smugglers, the other to buy boats off Indonesian fisherman.  "I doubt very much that Indonesia would approve any other country spying on Indonesia, regardless what the purpose would be," she said.

"If you buy those leaky boats then the fisherman will have money to buy more boats.  "I'm not sure that will solve the problem."

Mr Abbott also said in the presence of Dr Yudhoyono: "People smuggling is an issue of sovereignty, especially for Australia."

However, he emphasised Australia's "total respect for Indonesia's sovereignty, a total respect for Indonesia's territorial integrity".

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, who has made much of the sovereignty issue, later drew attention to these comments, saying he was "reassured".

To sweeten the people-smuggling issue, Mr Abbott announced a $15 million commitment to a new Australian Centre for Indonesia Studies, based at Melbourne's Monash University, to "build trust and understanding" between the two countries.

He also pleased Indonesia by taking an unusually tough line on protesters in Australia agitating for independence for the Indonesian province of West Papua.  "The government of Australia takes a very dim view . . . of anyone seeking to use our country as a platform for grandstanding against Indonesia. We will do everything that we possibly can to discourage this and prevent this," he said.

Being overseas made no difference to Mr Abbott's strong political campaigning against Labor. He apologised in a dinner speech for Australian "aberrations" in "putting sugar on the table for people smugglers" and for cancelling the live-cattle trade.  "Never again should this country take action that jeopardises the food supply of such a friend and partner as Indonesia," he said.

The high-level talks come as a key part of the Abbott government's asylum seeker policy - transfers within 48 hours to offshore detention - has been called into question by medical experts concerned that vital health checks will be sacrificed for political expediency.

At his weekly boats briefing, Mr Morrison was forced to defend the government's policy of removing people to offshore detention within 48 hours.

The meeting between Mr Abbott and Dr Yudhoyono also comes in the shadow of the latest asylum boat tragedy off Java, with 36 people so far confirmed drowned, and the arrival of another vessel at Christmas Island carrying 78 people.


Friends through ups and downs

The Israeli-Australian relationship thrived despite the fake passport affair and death of Ben Zygier

WHEN Israel's ambassador to Australia, Yuval Rotem, returns home this week he will take a small part of this country with him.   Golden retriever Bailey, probably the most heavily guarded dog in Canberra but far from a guard dog, will still travel with the family.  "It will be her first time in the Holy Land," Rotem says.

Rotem, a career diplomat, finishes his six-year Australian posting on Thursday and has never been short on guards.

The fourth-longest serving head of mission in Canberra, a position he will give up when he leaves, has constantly had an Australian Federal Police car parked outside his home and, like all Israeli ambassadors, has his own bodyguards.

While his colleagues were targeted by botched terrorist attacks across the world, his term here was not punctuated by violence towards him.

When Rotem arrived here, he became the first Israeli ambassador to Australia to bring his children into the Yarralumla compound that has both an embassy and residence. At the time, he was the only ambassador in Yarralumla with children. "They've developed Aussie accents and they're using slang now," he says.

Children soon moved into the US, Irish, Belgian and Polish embassies as well as the European Commission to Australia.

"I think it's a very important sign for this country [Australia]," Rotem says. "The age of ambassadors is an indication of a bigger role Australia plays.

"When a country becomes a place for diplomats before they retire, it shows the place has little to offer but the moment you see a wave of young diplomats - with energy and motivation - you know it has a role to play."

Rotem says Australia's rising importance as a diplomatic destination is because of increased business links between the two countries and not solely because of our place on the G20 or the United Nations Security Council.

He points to Israeli company Elbit Systems, which won a contract worth well over $100 million to modernise the Australian Federal Police's information management system.

Rotem leaves Australia on a high. He came to this country as Labor took power and, while supportive of Israel, Labor was not as good for Israel as the Coalition will be, if first impressions are any indication.

In the words of one writer for The Jerusalem Post, Australia's federal election was a battle of the good friends of Israel versus the very good friends of Israel.

"And, with the victory of Tony Abbott's Liberal-National Coalition over Kevin Rudd's Labor Party, the very good friends won this time around," wrote the Post's Herb Keinon.

According to reports, Abbott plans to make it easier for Israelis to get Australian visas and the new government already went on the record leading up to the election saying it would make it harder for organisations running boycott, divestments and sanctions campaigns against Israel to receive government funding.

In particular, this could mean funding for the University of Sydney's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies - which has reportedly received more than $150,000 in federal government funds in recent years - is reduced or withdrawn.

Centre director Jake Lynch is concerned he might miss out on funding because of his views.  "I would expect my applications for research grants, on unrelated topics, to be considered on the same basis as those from any other academic," Lynch says.

"I should not be penalised or damaged in my profession simply because my opinions on the Israel-Palestine conflict do not coincide with those of members of the government … I fully understand that I can expect no government funding to publicise the academic boycott of Israel and I have never received, nor spent any."

He says Israel's military checkpoints violate Palestinian human rights and labels Israel's attacks on Gaza as war crimes. The centre he oversees refused Hebrew University of Jerusalem academic Dan Avnon's proposed fellowship with the university under an academic exchange program.

Rotem insists stripping organisations, such as the one run by Lynch, of government funding is about the correct use of public money and not about censorship.

"I also have a problem intellectually with BDS, which creates an unusual marriage between extreme left-wingers and the most extreme muslims who are anti-gay, anti-women and non-inclusive," he says.

The Abbott government's stronger stance in favour of Israel comes after rocky decisions late in Labor's reign.

Almost a year ago, then prime minister Julia Gillard was forced to back down from her personal position to vote against a resolution at the UN giving Palestine observer status. Australia eventually abstained from the vote even though Gillard apparently wanted to side with Israel and the US.

Later, then foreign affairs minister Bob Carr came under fire for saying all Israeli settlements on Palestinian land were illegal.

Not to be forgotten from Rotem's time here are the occasions Israel came under fire, such as the time a Mossad kill squad was found using fake Australian passports to do their dirty work.

Then there was the case of Ben Zygier, an Australian-Israeli citizen known as Prisoner X linked to spy activities who died in custody in Israel in 2010, a tragedy Rotem says "we all need to draw lessons from".

Despite the controversies, there have been highlights, such as when Gillard made Raoul Wallenberg, who saved thousands of Jews in World War II, an honorary Australian citizen.

But Rotem's most memorable moment was in 2008 when Rudd moved a motion to celebrate Israel's 60th anniversary, a moment watched by Holocaust survivors.

Rotem, who will not rule out a political career, will be replaced by Shmuel Ben-Shmuel, who arrives in mid-October.

Ben-Shmuel has served as deputy consul general of the Israeli consulate in New York and has also been head of the World Jewish Affairs and Inter-Religious Affairs Bureau of the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

He served in the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the Lebanese War and joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1981.


NSW prisoners to be banned from smoking

Smoking in all NSW prisons is set to be banned within 18 months after the state's prison boss expressed his concern about the health effects lighting up in jails is having on staff and inmates.

But the prison officers union said NSW risks becoming the last state to outlaw cigarettes in jails and has written to the government for funding to help inmates and staff shake the habit.

Britain's Justice Ministry announced plans last week for a pilot scheme to monitor how inmates react to a similar move there. If the trial is successful, the ban would be rolled out across all prisons.

Two NSW prisons, at Lithgow and Cessnock, have run trials banning smoking within cells and other buildings, but inmates and staff can still smoke outdoors.

Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Severin said those trials have worked "but it's only getting us halfway there". He wants the grounds of all NSW jails to be smoke-free environments.  "We are very clearly working on it," Mr Severin said.

"It is clearly a workplace health and safety issue but it is complex. It will be a significant shift: 80 per cent of inmates are smokers and it will be equally as challenging for staff as it is for inmates."

For the first time he has publicly stated a timeframe for such a ban.

"I know that there are issues raised about civil liberties, but for me it's a health issue," he said. "It's about preventing passive smoking for staff and other inmates.

The NSW Cancer Council says the prisoner smoking rate of 80 per cent makes it the highest of any distinct population group in NSW. Currently prisoners are allowed to smoke in their cells or in a designated smoking area outside.

A survey in 2009 however found that a large majority of prisoners who smoke wanted to quit.

In New Zealand it has been a "smooth transition" from 67 per cent of the prison population previously smoking to it being a smoke-free environment.

South Australia and Tasmania have pledged to have smoke-free jails by 2015.

Prison Officers Vocational Branch senior industrial officer Stewart Little said with no fixed date announced by the state government it was likely NSW would become the last jurisdiction to ban smoking in jails.

He said any ban would need a 12-month lead-in period where prisoners were given access to patches and medical treatments.

He wrote to NSW Justice Minister Greg Smith asking for funding for that treatment. "It's a health problem and it should be treated as such and it requires adequate funding and resources," he said.

A spokeswoman for Mr Smith said making all prisons smoke-free is a major step, requiring careful planning.

"Corrective Services are working with staff, unions, Justice Health and other stakeholders," she said.


No comments: