Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Taxpayer funding for a trip to the paradise of North Korea

DRIVEN by what she calls “capitalist despair” Sydney documentary maker Anna Broinowski took a taxpayer-funded trip to the North ­Korean workers’ paradise ­returning with a her new work Aim High in Creation!

“Every time I turned on the news I’d see oil tankers washing up on pristine reefs, or a McDonald’s being built in a hospital, the mining giants doing whatever they wanted, and a coal seam gas mine had just been approved 200m from my house. It felt like capitalism was on steroids,” she said in one of many publicity interviews for her film.

With that sort of attitude and a TV locked onto the ABC, it is little wonder that she was reading a book on film directing written by dictator Kim Jong-Il, the second supreme leader of risibly called Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, when she felt the urge to explore the North Korean propaganda production. Nor is it surprising that the North ­Korean masters welcomed to their studios Broinowski and producer Lizzette Atkins.

Funded by the Australian Government, the NSW ­Government, Screen NSW, the Victorian Government, Film Victoria Australia, the South Australian Government, Screen Australia and Unicorn Films, Broinowski was able to create her own anti-coal seam gas propaganda in the style of her North Korean hosts.

Though she claims awareness of North Korea’s horrific history of human rights ­abuses, it did not disabuse her of her goal, nor did it seem to interfere with her artistic drive.

“If you remove the brutality of the regime, which I didn’t see, it was serene and beautiful to be in a country with no ­internet, no advertising,” she told one interviewer.

“I’m not an apologist by any means. I know it’s an evil, ­repressive place as well, where 200,000 people are political prisoners and it’s brutal.

“However, I don’t think we’re getting the real story about the rest of North Korea. There was a purer, more innocent approach to fun than what we are used to in the jaded West.” Even the capital, Pyongyang “wasn’t the evil, diabolical place I had been led to expect,” she said.

Serendipitously, while Broinowski was honing her propaganda as a favourite of North Korea’s totalitarian regime, another Australian, former High Court Justice Michael Kirby, was putting the finishing touches on a UN report into human rights abuses in DPRK which recommended that its leadership be charged and referred to the International Criminal Court.

His commission found “an almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as of the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, information and association”.

Justice Kirby, who chaired the UN commission, doesn’t share Broinwoski’s admiration for the propaganda machine.

His report finds it is an “all-encompassing indoctrination machine that takes root from childhood to propagate an ­official personality cult and to manufacture absolute obedience to the Supreme Leader (Suryong), effectively to the exclusion of any thought independent of official ideology and State propaganda.

Propaganda, the report notes, is further used by the North Koreans to incite ­nationalistic hatred towards official enemies of the State, including Japan, the United States of America and the ­Republic of Korea, and their nationals. “Virtually all social activities undertaken by citizens of all ages are controlled by the Workers’ Party of Korea,” it says.

Those workers certainly know how to party, or at least, those favoured by the regime whom Broinowski was fraternising with do. She reports she drank copious quantities of Soju, local vodka, as she bonded with the cinematic crew.

As a foreigner and a woman, she was fortunate that her powerful friends were able to shield her from the sexual and gender-based violence endemic in the xenophobic state, where victims are afforded no protection from the State, any support services or recourse to justice.

According to the report, ­violations of the rights to food and to freedom of movement have resulted in women and girls becoming vulnerable to trafficking and increased ­engagement in transactional sex and prostitution.

One wonders what sort of small talk Broinowski engaged in as she tossed back the vodkas with her hosts.

Though hamburgers may seem scary to some Australian inner-urban dwellers, they don’t really compare with forced labour, executions, torture, rape and the denial of ­reproductive rights enforced through punishment, forced abortion and infanticide.

Perhaps there is a documentary to be made. If Broinowski is available, Justice Kirby has the script ready.


Speech laws: voters tell Brandis to back off

Voters have sent an unambiguous message to Tony Abbott and his Attorney General George Brandis: leave the race hate laws alone.

The latest Fairfax-Nielsen poll specifically asked voters if they believe it should it be lawful or unlawful to "offend, insult or humiliate" somebody based on their race.

The answer was a statistically conclusive 88 per cent - or nine out of 10 - in favour of the status quo - that is, that it should remain unlawful to discriminate.

The result is a slap in the face for Abbott and Brandis, who have been pursuing the removal of the provisions in section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, on grounds of free speech.

Urged on by acerbic conservative commentator, Andrew Bolt and the ultra-libertarian Institute of Public Affairs the government has argued that nobody has a right not to be offended and that, in normal political and public discourse, unpleasant and potentially offensive arguments can be necessary.

Yet the argument has fallen flat, failing to convince voters that the change is justified by any social or legal dysfunction.

Among Greens and Labor voters who took part in the 1400-strong nationwide telephone survey, the proportion against watering down the protections is 92 per cent and even among Coalition voters 84 per cent favour the law as it stands.

The government wants to replace the heads of the law, to wit: "offend, insult or humiliate" with a new one making it illegal to "intimidate or vilify", although, intimidate is already in the act.

On this question, the government can take comfort in the fact nine out of 10 voters want statutory provisions making it unlawful to intimidate and vilify based on race, but it is likely respondents want these provisions in addition to,rather than instead of, existing clauses as the government has proposed.

And, critics say, the prohibition on intimidation is too narrow, encompassing only physical intimidation, when in practice there are many ways a vulnerable person could be literally intimidated.

With the debate at fever pitch last month, Senator Brandis bravely told the Senate that people had the right to be bigots.

The statement was technically correct, in that citizens are free to think whatever they want, but it was a political own-goal, making the government appear to be defending dissemination of hate-speech and racial disunity.

Asked if they agreed with the statement, six out of 10 or 59 per cent of respondents said "no" compared to 34 per cent who  said "yes".

Even among Coalition voters, the government has failed to carry its constituency with 50 per cent disagreeing and 42 per cent agreeing.


Majority government restored for Country Liberals in NT

The CLP held the seat vacated by former Chief Minister Terry Mills with 53.2 per cent of two-party preferred vote to Labor’s 46.8 per cent.

The CLP polled 45.5 per cent of the primary vote to Labor’s 37.4 per cent.

That result was a 16.1 per cent swing against the Government, but it was Independent Matthew Cranitch, a vocal critic of the CLP in his role as Education Union NT President, who helped Mr Barrett to the victory with preferences.

Mr Barrett said it had “been a long six weeks”.  “It’s all a little surreal,” he said.  “Tonight was just people sitting around the computer and then ‘Oh, we won’.  “As the night progressed it set in. I’m just excited now to work with the electorate ... (and) begin implementing the programs we’ve been looking at.  “We can now get out and serve the electorate.”

Mr Cranitch polled 8.6 per cent of the primary vote, while Greens candidate Sue McKinnon polled 7.1 per cent and the CEC’s Peter Flynn 1.5 per cent.

Mr Bahnert told his party faithful that the people of Blain had voted to send Mr Giles a message.

“It’s not okay to burden our families with skyrocketing power prices, it’s not okay to sack our teachers,” he said.

A total of 68.2 per cent of registered voters turned up.

Mr Cranitch called the low turnout an “indictment on our current state of affairs”.


Daniel Andrews a CFMEU rep: Abetz

EMPLOYMENT Minister Eric Abetz has accused Victoria's opposition leader of being beholden to the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU).

In a speech at the Victorian Liberal Party conference, Mr Abetz on Saturday again condemned what he described as criminal elements within the CFMEU.

"A union which has a history of breaking businesses, of breaking court orders and, I understand, even breaking bones," he said.

"This very union finds itself being duchessed and supported by the Labor leader in this state."

He said Victorian Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews had "shepherded" the union into his party.

"I invited every man and woman in Victoria to judge the Labor leader by the company he not only keeps but actively sought out," Mr Abetz said.

"That of itself should disqualify the Labor leader from ever becoming Victoria's premier."

Mr Abetz said he dreaded the thought of Labor winning power at the November election.

"Ministerial council meetings on workplace relations would not be enhanced, to put it mildly, by a CFMEU representative posing as a Victorian government representative," he said.

An opposition spokesman described Mr Abetz's comments as "desperate" and "sad".

"With nothing to run on but an expensive dud tunnel and a federal government that is savagely cutting health and education, they have to resort to name calling," he told AAP.



Paul said...

I wonder how many of those polled even understand the "race hate" laws they love so passionately?

Brett_McS said...

Paul, agreed. Most opinion polls are sensitive to the form of the question, but one on this subject would be super-sensitive. The reverse answer could easily be obtained by asking, for example, "should the government determine which opinions you should be allowed to hear?"