Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Muslim suburb in Sydney

The Lakemba Hotel is one of the last Anglo holdouts in Sydney’s otherwise Middle Eastern south-western suburb. Frankly, the old joint – it opened in 1928 – isn’t putting up much resistance. Most nights the bar is closed by 8.30pm or so, because by then what few customers it attracts are insufficient to cover running costs.

Still, it’s friendly and hospitable. Staffer Poppy helpfully showed me to my $50 per night room, which is the only option in Lakemba for anyone seeking short-term rented accommodation. There are no other hotels or motels. In fact, there are no other rooms besides number 15, in the hotel’s residential wing. All the others are taken by boarders, one of whom has been here for 20 years.

It isn’t exactly luxurious. The room has a sink, which is nice, but nothing else by way of amenities. There isn’t even a Gideon’s Bible. Instead, reflecting certain demographic changes in the area, there is a Ramadan eating schedule.

Lakemba may be only 30 minutes from the centre of Sydney, yet it is remarkably distinct from the rest of our city. You can walk the length of crowded Haldon Street and not hear a single phrase in English. On this main shopping street the ethnic mix seems similar to what you’d find in any major Arabic city. Australia may be multicultural, but Haldon Street is a monoculture.

This does have its advantages. If you’re ever in need of groceries at 3am, head to Lakemba, where shopkeepers keep unusual hours, particularly during Ramadan. The food is delicious, of course. I recommend La Roche and Al Aseel, but all restaurants in Haldon Street are good. If you’re unfamiliar with Lebanese food, just go for anything with the word “mixed”.

And then there are the downsides.

A few weeks ago a large crowd of mostly young men assembled outside the Lakemba Hotel. Waving black flags, the men chanted:

Palestine is Muslim land
The solution is Jihad ...
You can never stop Islam
From Australia to al Sham.

I asked a non-Islamic local about that night. “You should see them when they really go off,” she said. “That was nothing.” Another non-Islamic woman said young men sometimes shouted “sharmuta” at her from their cars. She looked up the word online and discovered it was an Arabic term for prostitute.

Across the road from the hotel is the Islamic Bookstore, which bills itself as “your superstore of Islamic knowledge”. Three books caught my eye. Here’s an extract from Muhammad bin Jamil Zino’s What a Muslim Should Believe, a handy 64-page Q & A guide to the Koran’s instructions:
Question 43: Is it allowed to support and love disbelievers?

Answer: No, it is not allowed.

Well, that might explain a few things. The History of the Jews seems a bland enough title, but the back cover quotes lines from Martin Luther that were used by Nazi propagandists: “The sun never did shine on a more bloodthirsty and revengeful people as they.” The book offers this view, on page 16:

No one can deny the fact that the Jews are the worst kind of barbarian killers the world has ever known!!! The decent great Adolf Hitler of Germany never killed in the manner of the Jews!!! Surely only mad people or those who love killing infants, pregnant women and the infirm will think differently.

It goes on and on. Another extract:

"Humor and jokes are strictly forbidden by the Jewish religion.
This will come as a surprise to just about every Jew on earth. Another must-read is Mansoor Abdul Hakim’s charming 2009 text, Women Who Deserve to go to Hell. Turns out it’s quite a lot of them.

“Some people keep asking about the denizens of Hell and the reason why women will go to hell in large numbers,” writes Hakim in the book’s foreword, before listing various types of hell-bound females, including the grumbler, the quarrelsome woman, women with tattoos and women who refuse to have sex during menstruation. “Men’s perfection is because of various reasons: intelligence, religion, etc,” Hakim explains. “At most, four women have this perfection.”

Mix this level of ignorance and loathing with the Islamic community’s high rate of unemployment, and conflict is inevitable. The Islamic riots of 2012 ended up in central Sydney but began here in Lakemba and surrounding suburbs, where seething young Muslims formed their plans, including printing signs reading “Behead all those who insult the prophet”.

One of the men arrested in those riots was Ahmed Elomar, who was subsequently convicted for bashing a police officer with a flagpole. His lawyer claimed that Elomar was “overcome with the occasion”. The occasion continues. Lately Elomar’s brother Mohammed has posed with severed heads in Iraq, where he is fighting alongside fundamentalist Islamic State extremists.

Back at the pub, a staffer mentions rare moments of cultural overlap. “Sometimes the young blokes will come in here to buy Scotch,” she says. “They try to hide themselves under hoodies.” But when the staffer sees them later in the street, they don’t return her greeting. The hotel is haram – sinful and forbidden. Those early closing hours will eventually become permanent.


Andrew Bolt's interview with Cory Bernardi

Bernardi is a true conservative but an "extremist" to the LeftMedia

ANDREW BOLT, PRESENTER: The Abbott Government, last week, dumped its promise to reform the Racial Discrimination Act to allow more free speech. It said it had to do this to encourage Muslim Australians to help fight terrorism.

TONY ABBOTT, PRIME MINISTER: When it comes to counterterrorism, everyone needs to be part of ‘Team Australia’. And I have to say that the Government’s proposals to change 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act have become a complication in that respect.

ANDREW BOLT: Well, it didn’t work. Muslim leaders have still condemned the government’s anti-terrorism proposals. And Liberal MP Craig Laundy, whose Sydney seat has a Muslim vote of more than 10%, also found this ‘Team Australia’ approach didn’t fly at a meeting of the Muslim Lebanese Association on Friday.

CRAIG LAUNDY, LIBERAL MP: The Prime Minister used a term, and it is one that is unfortunately disappeared into the ether this week, but it is one that I believe with my heart and soul. It is Team Australia. There is no… and laugh all you like.

ANDREW BOLT: Many Liberals members now feel sold out. Former minister David Kemp, for instance, asked what the party actually stands for if it cannot defend even free speech. Some Liberal Senators even plan to vote for Abbott’s abandoned free speech reforms when they are presented to parliament by Family First Senator Bob Day. Joining me is the co-sponsor of Day’s private members bill, Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi. Thanks for your time, Cory.

CORY BERNARDI, LIBERAL SENATOR: It’s a pleasure, Andrew. Good to be with you.

ANDREW BOLT: Now, why are you cosponsoring Bob Day’s bill?

CORY BERNARDI: Well, Andrew, I believe in freedom of speech, and I think that the Liberal grassroots want to know that there are members of the Liberal Parliamentary party who are absolutely committed to it. And I have to say that the decision by the Government to abandon reform of 18C has disappointed many members of the Liberal Party. We always thought that, you know, the initial proposal put forward by George Brandis was a starting point for negotiations, but would find an accommodation that we could all agree on as part of Team Australia, Andrew.

ANDREW BOLT: Thank you for that. How many Liberals and Nationals do you think will vote for it in the Senate?

CORY BERNARDI: I wouldn’t even like to hazard a guess at it, Andrew. In the end I’ve made this decision because I believe that what Senator Day has put forward, or is proposing, is absolutely consistent with Liberal Party values. It’s to remove, you know, ‘insult’ and ‘offend’ from the 18C provision of the Racial Discrimination Act. I think most level-headed, considered people would think that’s a very sensible amendment to ensure that free speech is available in Australia without the threat of being taken to court or some tribunal, just because you’ve upset someone.

ANDREW BOLT: How upset is the grassroots, the Liberal grassroots,with what the Government has done with these free speech plans?

CORY BERNARDI: Well, Andrew, I have heard some advice from some of my colleagues that, you know, long-standing members of the Liberal Party have resigned, and you know that I have a weekly email newsletter. I canvassed this issue in that newsletter last week and received, quite literally, hundreds and hundreds of people who are saying that they’re disappointed. They’ve made different points how it could be improved or amended, but they’re just disappointed it’s been abandoned, full stop. Now, I don’t want to see the Liberal grassroots start to cast their eyes anywhere else. They’re frustrated already that the Government isn’t able to get through much of its legislative agenda, and I don’t want them to turn off the Liberal Party. So, I want to make sure that, you know, we can present something that is workable, that is acceptable to the majority of Australians, and I hope, I really hope, that Cabinet, and the Liberal Party, will consider supporting it.

ANDREW BOLT: Is there a general sense among the Liberal members you talk to that the Government isn’t really a Liberal Government, that it isn’t giving them much that justifies their support for the Government?

CORY BERNARDI: I don’t think that’s the case, Andrew. There is a sense of frustration, there’s no question about that, but the frustration is borne by the fact that, you know, there are measures that are being taken forward, that can’t get through the Senate. There are road blocks there. Where there are rational road blocks or where there are sensible amendments that are proposed, I think Liberals are accepting of that. But it seems there’s an inconsistency, you don’t know what you’re dealing with. Now, ultimately, I’m a bit more optimistic than many that the Senate will provide a workable solution, but we’ve just got to settle down and get through that, and I think, then, the Government will start to hit its straps, and many more Liberals will think, well, finally we’re getting, you know, the changes through that are necessary.

ANDREW BOLT: Are you happy with Liberal Craig Laundy’s influence in dropping this reform to the Racial Discrimination Act? He says, “Labor is appealing more to Muslim voters, and the Liberals should also soften support for Israel, as well as free speech.”

CORY BERNARDI: Well, I certainly don’t agree we should soften support for Israel. You know, it’s a democracy in the Middle East, and they’re a great ally, I think we’ve got to continue the show them a great deal of support. But one point, I think, that is lost in this, 18C deals with racial discrimination. You know, Muslims are not a race, they’re a religious… a group of religious believers. So, 18C doesn’t deal with religious vilification. There is also, I have to say, Andrew, a sense of frustration and disappointment out there in the public that, you know, a small group of Australians can seem to dictate and determine what many consider is in the national interest, and that’s, I think, a sense of frustration that we’re going to have to deal with at some point in the future. We’ve got to manage for mainstream Australia, not for particular groups within it.

ANDREW BOLT: After this particular backdown, what hope has the Government got for its plans to change the constitution to recognise Aborigines as the first Australians?

CORY BERNARDI: You know, Andrew, I know there’s polarised discussion about this, as well. I’ve reserved my judgement because I haven’t seen what the proposed wording is going to be, but there are many conservatives out there who say, “Why are we tinkering with the constitution to implement, you know, some sort of racial bias or racial delineation within it?” We’re going to have to wait and see what is put forward. But I think there are many constitutional conservatives that have concerns about, you know, what may be coming down the pipe.

ANDREW BOLT; The Government has been struggling. I mean, it’s got a bit of dissent within its own ranks about things like this. Why do you think it’s having such trouble at the moment?

CORY BERNARDI: Well, Andrew, when you say the Government is struggling, I think they’re struggling to get their agenda through the Parliament, and, basically, through the Senate. But, you know, for backbenchers, like Mr Laundy and myself, we’re able to express, you know, different views, particularly if something hasn’t been discussed in the party room. Look, it’s, there’s just frustration, I think. We’ve just got to come to terms with that, you know, the complete Liberal agenda, or the Coalition agenda, is not going to be able to get through the Senate. We have some people with competing interests there, that have different views on how the country should be managed. Some are born more in reality than others, I have to tell you. But we’ve got to deal with them, we’ve got to make it work. And, you know, that’s what we’re coming to terms with.

And I have to make this point, that it’s only, we’ve had two sitting weeks where the new Senate has been there. We asked the new senators, who hold the balance of power, to make decisions that, perhaps, they weren’t entirely familiar with. They weren’t familiar with the processes. I’m optimistic, or, at least, I’m hopeful, I have to say, that, you know, over the coming weeks, they’ll understand their role and how to play it in a more constructive manner, and I think there’s reason for us then to think that we can get through some of the important reforms that we need to.

ANDREW BOLT: And, just finally, you lost your shadow Parliamentary secretary position for some comments you made on Islam, and then same-sex marriage. Has the Government tacked too far to the left? Do you think there are enough advocates for conservative politics within the Liberal Party? CORY BERNARDI: Well, I’ve been chastised many times for my comments, but I think when people reflect on, actually, the words that were spoken and the sentiments behind them, you know, in the fullness of time people will recognise that what I’ve said is entirely accurate. But, you know, that’s for others. I’m not here to wax and wane about that or complain. I’m a backbench conservative member of the Liberal Party and I’ll continue to advocate for what I think is international interests, and a conservative, put a conservative viewpoint through my party machinery.

ANDREW BOLT: Cory Bernardi, thank you so much for joining me.

CORY BERNARDI: It’s a pleasure, Andrew, thank you.


Greens in bed with thug union

In a last-minute bid to prevent the election of Liberal Senate candidate and former ACT leader Zed Seselja in 2013, the ACT Greens received the largest donation in the history of the party branch from the pro-Labor Construction, Forestry, Mining and Electrical Union (CFMEU).

Fairfax Media can reveal a $50,000 donation was made to the ACT Greens federal account, which can only be spent on federal elections or administration, on September 3 last year, in the dying days of polling. It was by far the largest single donation ever given to the ACT Greens party and was more than twice as much as was given to the Labor Party over the same period.

It was also four times as much as a 2012 donation from the CFMEU's ACT branch, which made a few Greens members ''uneasy'' at the time.

CFMEU ACT division secretary Dean Hall said the donation had not come from the Canberra branch but from the national division, meaning he had no direct knowledge of it.

But he said it would have been donated to keep the Senate balance of power out of the hands of the Abbott government.

"It was more about the balance of power in the Senate. We tried to find a situation where we didn't have extreme right-wing legislation being passed," he said.

"[The donation] would have been for the Senate campaign. At the time there was a chance that senator Seselja wouldn't get elected [and] I think that's what it was about, trying to secure the balance of power."

He said a very small amount of the donation would have been funded by ACT voters.

ACT Greens convenor Sophie Trevitt acknowledged the party had recieved a donation from the national branch of the CFMEU but would not say where the money had gone and what it was spent on.

She said they had accepted the donation on the basis it came from the construction division of the CFMEU, compared to the mining or forestry divisions, and was derived from union member fees.

She said the ACT Greens had a lot of common ground with the CFMEU in Canberra.

"[We] have supported their calls for safer and fairer workplaces and we have worked closely with the CFMEU to improve safety in the building and construction industry," she said.

When asked whether there had been any conditions on the donation, Ms Trevitt said the Greens did not accept donations with ''strings attached''.

"All donations go through a vetting process to ensure that donations are not accepted from organisations whose principles and ethics conflict with the Greens," she said.

A spokesperson for the CFMEU's national office said all the union's donations were published appropriately and they donated to a number of parties that supported workers' rights.

She also said she wanted to stress the union did not agree with all of the ACT Greens' policy positions.

Former ACT Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur said there was a donations reference group within the party who veted every major donation and rejected it if it was inappropriate.

She said the Greens had tried to pass donation reform legislation through the assembly which would have only allowed donations from ACT electors, but it had been rejected by the Labor and Liberal parties.

Ms Le Couteur said after all, the Greens were a political party that wanted to get its candidate elected.

"Obviously we don't have anything like as much money as the Liberal or Labor parties [so] if they're playing by rules which allow donations from non-individuals then [refusing those donations] is a bit like cutting off your nose to spite your face," she said.

"We'd like it to be otherwise but ... it isn't,"


Shock!  Public broadcasters trying to economize

The ABC and SBS are exploring options for the multicultural broadcaster to abandon its stand-alone studios and offices and move into the ABC's Melbourne headquarters.

The move would result in SBS vacating its flagship premises at Federation Square, which it has occupied for more than a decade, and share space with the ABC in a new five-storey production centre at Southbank.

Giving up its Federation Square lease would free up funds for SBS to spend on new programs and services, but would prove controversial internally because of concerns about undermining the broadcaster's unique identity.

It would also leave a sizeable hole to be filled at Federation Square, which has cemented a reputation as a cultural hub by housing SBS, the National Gallery of Victoria and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image.

Shared ABC and SBS facilities was a key recommendation of the Abbott government's efficiency review of the two broadcasters.

SBS's Federation Square headquarters, which includes television and digital radio studios, was opened with much fanfare in 2003 to house its 160 Melbourne staff. The ABC is building a $176 million headquarters, including a TV production centre, next to its existing Southbank offices to replace the historic studios at Elsternwick.

Fairfax Media understands the ABC is willing to configure its new premises to house SBS's Melbourne staff and believes sufficient space could be found.

The two broadcasters would be likely to share studio facilities, cameras, equipment and other back-office functions for the first time.

One option, favoured by the government, is for the ABC to rent the space to SBS at a peppercorn rate to show the broadcaster's commitment to saving taxpayer money.

The move would be a coup for Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who has repeatedly said the government's efficiency review would encourage the broadcasters to take tough decisions they would otherwise have avoided.

Negotiations are said to be in a formative stage. Both broadcasters are bracing themselves for deeper cuts later this year after a combined $43.5 million base-funding cut in the May budget.

ABC managing director Mark Scott said last week: "We are working with SBS to see if, by working more closely together, we can make backroom savings while remaining independent editorially."

Earlier this year former prime minister Malcolm Fraser, whose government established SBS, said if SBS had to move in with the ABC then the ABC would swamp it.


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