Sunday, March 02, 2014

17 "refugees" seek to return home in latest week

Illegals killing illegals is not good but it is effective at getting the rest to rethink.  And such a rethink shows that they were not refugees in the first place

JUST days after Iranian man Reza Berati was killed in the Manus Island detention centre, 11 other Iranian asylum-seekers have opted to go home.

Immigration and Border Protection Minister Scott Morrison said the 11 Iranians were among 17 asylum-seekers who volunteered to return to their home countries in the week up to 9am yesterday. They included three people who went back to Iraq, and three to India.

Mr Morrison said one detainee was sent home involuntarily to Sri Lanka. In his weekly update on Operation Sovereign Borders, Mr Morrison said 171 asylum-seekers had gone home voluntarily since the Coalition won government in September. He said no people-smuggling boats had made it to Australia in the past 71 days.

His statement did not reveal how many boats were turned or towed back towards Indonesia.

An investigation is continuing into the Manus Island violence in which 23-year-old Mr Berati was killed and more than 50 other asylum-seekers injured.

“The last people-smuggling venture that made it to Australia and had all passengers handed over to Australian immigration authorities was on December 19 last year,” Mr Morrison said.

“This means there have been 71 days in total without a successful people-smuggling venture.”

Mr Morrison said that was a result of the Abbott government’s resolve and full suite of policies, including operations at sea by the navy and Customs service patrol vessels of Border Protection Command.

There were 1325 asylum-seekers in the centre on Manus Island and 1107 on Nauru.

Refugee supporters in Sydney yesterday staged another protest demanding Mr Morrison resign over Mr Berati’s death.

The activists clashed with police in a peak-hour march through inner Sydney. Riot police were called in as hundreds rallied along George Street yesterday evening chanting “Free, free the refugees”.

At times the throng spilled on to city roads, disrupting traffic and prompting physical confrontations with police.

Asked why they had not taken to the streets when about 1200 asylum-seekers died at sea while attempting to seek asylum during the term of the Labor government, Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said the two instances could not be compared.

“There’s no comparison between people who lose their life in an attempt to gain their freedom and atrocity on Manus Island where asylum-seekers were killed and bashed by the people who were meant to be protecting them,” Mr Rintoul told The Weekend Australian.

He said Australia’s navy should be ordered to taxi refugees from Indonesia to Australia instead, with a hotline established for asylum-seekers to call and be retrieved. “If people could notify the navy when they left Indonesia they could be escorted,” he said. “It may increase numbers (of asylum-seekers) coming by boat, but Australia can just treble its increase of refugee intake.”

He said asylum-seekers should be released into the community while authorities conducted security assessments on them - “the same way as they did in 1992 before mandatory detention”.


Former union boss Ferguson blasts MUA

FORMER Labor Resources minister and union boss Martin Ferguson has blamed "rogue" unions for delaying Australia's biggest gas project and backed the coalition's industrial relations reform agenda.

Mr Ferguson, now an advocate for the oil and gas industry, singled out the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) for delays and blowouts to the massive Gorgon project in Western Australia, and urged the Abbott government to consider further industrial relations reforms.

Mr Ferguson said the government's proposed changes to the Fair Work Act were a step in the right direction, but still quite modest.

"I would urge the government to keep an open mind on the need for further reform in this area," Mr Ferguson told the Committee for Economic Development (CEDA) at a lunch in Perth on Friday.

His comments have been labelled treacherous by the WA branch of the Maritime Union, and cheered by the coalition.

Mr Ferguson, who chairs the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA), said there was potential to reach an agreement to give project developers more long-term confidence about their workforce costs and operate efficiently so they could attract large investments.

But he said high wages claims by the MUA's West Australian branch and restrictive work practices had contributed to a recent $2 billion budget blowout for Gorgon, and delays of several months.

"There are activities at Henderson which have delayed movement of equipment to Gorgon, which has had a huge impact on the productivity of the whole workforce on Gorgon which has led to a considerable increase in costs to the whole project," Mr Ferguson told ABC Radio.

Major investors had gone from being very positive about Australia to saying it had lost its competitive edge, he said.

Despite those issues, Chevron vice-chairman George Kirkland recently said the project's economics remained attractive.

Still, Mr Ferguson argued that wages paid to Australian maritime workers compared to overseas competitors were "out of kilter".

Christy Cain from MUA's WA branch said Mr Ferguson had sold out to oil and gas companies.

"He should be expelled from the ALP and he is a traitor to the working class people of this country," Mr Cain said.

Federal employment minister Eric Abetz said it was good to see a former president of the ACTU acknowledging that the coalition is sticking its election promise.


Evil and deeply untrue Leftist claims about Israel

    Greg Sheridan

WE are living in a time of infamous lies against the state of Israel and the Jewish people. We are witnessing, even in Australia, a recrudescence of some of the oldest types of anti-Semitism. One of the worst recent examples of anti-Israel propaganda that led directly to anti-Semitic outbursts was the Four Corners episode Stone Cold Justice, purporting to be about treatment of Palestinian children in the West Bank.

The program featured as a guest reporter John Lyons, of this newspaper. I have the greatest respect for John. He has produced some outstanding journalism in his time. In the aerolite he wrote for this newspaper on February 8, he made some of the same allegations that were made on Four Corners. I found the allegations at best unproved and generally unconvincing.

However, the Four Corners program was a disgrace, a crude piece of anti-Israel propaganda that revived some of the oldest anti-Semitic tropes. In the year 2014, are we really going to allege again, on the basis of the flimsiest non-evidence you could imagine, that Jewish soldiers systematically physically crucify innocent children? Is there a school of anti-Semitism 101 operating out there? Do you not think that before you would air an allegation like that, if you had any real sense of editorial responsibility, you would be 100 per cent sure that it was true; you would track down the people alleged to have done it and get their testimony? The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council has produced exhaustive rebuttals of virtually all the allegations in this program and I recommend readers visit the AIJAC website. The whole program was full of uncorroborated and intensely unlikely allegations.

You could make the same kind of film about Australia if you didn’t find it necessary to prove any of your facts. In the Four Corners program, the only Jewish settler interviewed was a religious extremist who said Palestinians must never have a state of their own and that God gave all the land to the Jews and that was it.

Yet the overwhelming majority of the Israeli population favours a two state solution. If you had even one ounce of responsibility in the way you treated these issues, and given their explosive, emotive nature, don’t you think some of that context might have been relevant? Isn’t there an obligation to convey the reality of the diversity of Jewish settlers in the West Bank?

A week or two after the Four Corners program went to air, I attended a Catholic mass in a suburban church. The priest was preaching about forgiveness. Most examples he chose were taken from the news. One, he took from the Middle East. It concerned a heroic Palestinian whose family had been killed by Israel, but who still had the moral grandeur to forgive the Israelis. The priest said nothing else about the Middle East. So of all the malevolence and genuine evil in the Middle East, the only example the apiarist thought worth mentioning was a generic Israeli crime.

With 2000 years of Christian anti-Semitism behind him, the priest had no hesitation in presenting Israel as the killer of innocent families and the only question in the Middle East being one of the moral greatness of the Palestinians in forgiving the Israelis.

So this is what we’ve come to in 2014. The national broadcaster tells us that Jewish soldiers crucify innocent children and Christian clerics routinely portray Israel as the murderous oppressor of the Middle East. But these stereotypes are both evil, and deeply untrue. Over many trips to Israel, and many visits to neighbouring Middle East countries, I have come to the conclusion Israel has the best human rights and democratic institutions and civil society of any nation in the greater Middle East. More than that, I have tried hard to make my own investigations into two questions. Does the Israeli army routinely behave unreasonably? And what is the truth about the settlements?

Israel is not perfect. Like every nation it makes mistakes, including moral mistakes. Undoubtedly, some of its soldiers have engaged in abuses. But over the years I have interviewed dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Israeli soldiers and former soldiers, many active on the Left of Israeli politics and harshly critical of their government. I have also interviewed many Palestinians. My net judgment is Israel’s army behaves with as much consideration for human rights and due process as any modern Western army - US, Australian or European - would do in similar circumstances.

Then there is the question of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Israel took control of the West Bank because it was attacked by Jordan in a war Israel fought for its very existence. Almost no one internationally had recognised Jordanian sovereignty over the West Bank and the land there is to be negotiated. The overwhelming consensus in Israel is that the vast majority of the West Bank, perhaps 95 per cent, will go to a Palestinian state with compensating land swaps from Israel proper. A few clusters of Jewish settlements will be retained by Israel.

Bob Carr, who I think was a very good foreign minister, recently argued all the settlements are illegal. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop disagrees. On this, Bishop is right and Carr wrong. The problem with discussion of the settlements is that it is so unsophisticated and typically lumps so many different communities together. If all settlements are illegal, that means the Jewish presence at the Wailing Wall in the old city of Jerusalem, access to which was denied to Jews when it was under Arab control, is illegal. It means that the historic Jewish quarter of the old city is also illegal. It means that every Jewish household anywhere in East Jerusalem is illegal.

It is worth noting, by the way, that Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem qualify for Israeli identity cards that allow them to live anywhere in Israel. Increasing numbers are buying apartments in West Jerusalem. But if all settlements are illegal then it is apparently illegal for Israelis, be they Jewish, Muslim or Christian, to buy in East Jerusalem.

I have spent many days visiting the settlements to try to find out what the people who live there are like. As foreign minister, Kevin Rudd told me the settlements occupied about 3 per cent of the West Bank. Since 2004, settlements have not been allowed to expand beyond existing borders. Very, very few settlers are like the sole woman interviewed on Four Corners. There are a lot of very orthodox Jews who live in settlements, but the ultra-orthodox do not serve in the Israeli army and are often not very nationalist at all. They live in settlements because it is cheap and they want to have their own neighbourhoods with very orthodox schools, cooking facilities, etc.

But most of the people I met in big, mainstream settlements like Gush Etzion and Maale Audumin, which are very close to Israel proper, were moderate, national religious types. The Jewish connection to the land historically certainly meant something to them, but they tended to vote for mainstream centre-right parties and live peaceably enough with their Palestinian neighbours. (Indeed, some 25,000 Palestinians work on settlements.) These settlers don’t make for very exciting TV interviews because they are so reasonable and unremarkable.

An Israeli friend put it to me that perhaps 50 per cent of settlers are basically non-ideological, and lived in settlements because they can get a house much more cheaply than in Israel proper. Maybe 30 per cent to 40 per cent are moderate orthodox or national religious, mainstream, attached to the land, patriotic, pretty pragmatic. Perhaps 10 per cent (of settlers, not of Israelis overall) are intensely ideological and believe all the land should stay with the Jews. And perhaps 1 per cent or less are genuinely extremist and some of them genuinely violent. That certainly accords with what I have observed over years of visits.

There are also outposts or settlements in the West Bank that are illegal under Israeli law. All serious Israeli negotiations involve the principle of repatriating a significant number of settlers back to Israel proper or to settlements Israel is definitely going to keep. Typically, the number of such postulated returns varies from 50,000 to 90,000.

Aspects of Israel’s settlement policy have been very ill-advised. But I know that settlements are not the main obstacle to peace. The main obstacle to peace is that most of the Arab world will not accept the idea that Israel as a Jewish state has a right to exist and live in peace and security. The Four Corners program did nothing to enlighten the debate and led to a shocking outburst of rank anti-Semitism on ABC websites.

I really thought we were beyond that.


Ban bargaining and Qantas may have a chance

QANTAS has a massive, fundamental, industrial relations problem and it won’t be fixed until it changes its industrial relations practices.

The people who have dug Qantas into its industrial relations hole do not have the bargaining skill to dig it back out. If the airline’s chief executive Alan Joyce cannot bring himself to remove them, then he must at least issue them with a simple order: stop enterprise bargaining, completely. No more EBAs for at least five years.

Last year, the HR Nicholls Society honoured Qantas chairman Leigh Clifford, perhaps because in 2011 he stood up to the unions. Yet Qantas is no model for clever industrial relations. Grounding the airline was a cataclysmic public event, which was followed by no real reform. When recent events are compared with events in 2011, we can see a pattern emerging.

Prior to the grounding in 2011, Joyce made a great public show of his union bargaining troubles. He appeared to think the Gillard government should and would assist. No one in their right mind would think Julia Gillard was ever in a position to rein in unions, even if she wanted to. This begs the question, was Joyce naive or was he just making a public show of asking?

After the 2011 grounding, wage freezes should have been mandated, bargaining processes should have been shut down and real reform should have been undertaken. None of this happened.

In 2009, legislation changed fundamentally to make companies bargain directly with workers, but Qantas, like so many of our corporates, didn’t change with it. It kept on bargaining directly with unions and making the same mistakes it has made forever.

Now, just as in 2011, we have had months of public Qantas angst, with appeals to the government to help, followed by a shocking announcement. Will any real industrial relations reform happen this time? Only if a complete ban on bargaining is issued. This is what the big investors must demand.

The company must not start bargaining with unions to get agreement to wage freezes: this would be idiotic. The company must simply inform the other parties that there can be no more bargaining whatsoever.

If Joyce ceases bargaining and sticks around for the long term, then this wage-freeze plan may assist Qantas in addressing its costs and culture. If the company has the gumption, it will let every single EBA expire and steadfastly refuse to replace any of them.

When there is a return to profit, Qantas can establish a practice of giving individuals pay increases as it sees fit. This would change the culture enormously, drive productivity and eliminate the IR costs.

For Qantas, this option is the most realistic, sensible and practical option. Call me a cynic, but I doubt it will happen.

The unions are profoundly motivated to punish Joyce and Clifford for grounding the airline in 2011. They want them both sacked. Qantas had a win against the unions then, if only a symbolic one. Within the Australian unions are some of the best haters on the planet and they hate it intensely when employers win.

An idea has been planted in the public’s mind; Qantas will be saved if only Joyce is sacked. It is clear from the way the unions behaved yesterday that they can smell Joyce’s blood in the water. Getting rid of Joyce may enable them to reverse the wages freeze and lessen job cuts. More importantly, Joyce’s dismissal would see the unions retain their control over the corporate sector.

If they claim Joyce’s scalp, it will send a strong message to other executives: don’t take on the unions, it is not worth the risk and the damage to your career trajectory. In a country where our biggest union problems are due to weakness and collusion by big business, this is a significant problem.

Tony Abbott should be uneasy. If he gives Qantas a debt guarantee, it is going to look like a reward for sacking people. Labor will say a business only gets help when it performs a sack-a-thon for the Prime Minister. It is a message that may resonate. Workers who voted for Abbott gave implicit consent to be “cut to the bone”, but voting for budget cuts isn’t the same as voting for pay cuts or job cuts.

Meanwhile, Bill Shorten and Labor are energised. The Opposition Leader thinks he is on a winner with his stodgy “fight for jobs” line. Normally, when people progress in life they become more refined, yet Shorten uses job losses to transition himself from private-school boy into a turbo-charged union roughie. Perhaps he cannot see his transparence: the only jobs Labor ever wants to save are union jobs.

Labor sees the purpose of a business as only to provide jobs. Key ALP players, all from unions, cannot comprehend beyond that mistaken concept. Business is seen as only the provider of money to workers who must be unionised, so union officials can pay for their entry into politics.

The purpose of a business is to provide a good profit to its owners, then a useful service to its customers and decent employment to its workers, in that order. Only if Qantas makes a profit can it provide a service and employ people. I hope, for everyone’s sake, that Joyce’s wage-freeze plan is real.


1 comment:

Paul said...

All I can say is I hope Gatekeeper Greg is billing them per word for doing their advertising as he does.