The right side of politics Down Under: Muslims good; atheists bad

Black-eyed Sue and Sweet Poll of Plymouth taking leave of their lovers who are going to Botany BayNo sooner do we read of one Liberal Party’s candidate being dumped by his party leader for suggesting that there is no place for Muslims in the Australian parliament, than we read of another Liberal Party candidate attacking the “ungodly” Labor leader and PM for being an atheist — and getting away with it! (The Liberal Party in Australia, to oversimplify somewhat, correlates with the Conservatives in the UK and the Republicans in the US.)

So what’s the lesson here? It’s politically correct at election time to be seen as tolerant towards Muslims; but as for being an atheist. . . ? Who cares?

Actually I don’t mind this approach to criticism of atheists. Let it all hang out. Let everyone see where everyone stands. It’s no big deal. It’s kind of funny to have politicians get up and rave about Australia being built on Christian values and how they always expect a “godly” leader. Australia? Founded on convicts, lashings, prostitution, petty tyrants among the good ‘uns, rum rebellion, — oh, and an Anglican pastor to keep it all in check? What’s the ratio of church goers to non-practicing Christians and “others” in Australia?

I suspect the Liberal Party leader’s decision to ignore the atheist jibe was quite healthy and a “true blue” Aussie response. I’d hate to see political correctness go mad and send to the guillotine anyone who raves about not believing in god and decrying how a godless prime minister simply cannot be a “godly ruler” etc. All a bit of a laugh for most in the audience.

It is the season, however, to be prudent with respect to Muslims. Hate crimes and bigotry and all that are all too real — it goes without saying. (Whoever planted a bomb outside an atheist’s convention in Australia?)

It is still real enough for a Liberal candidate to be quoted as saying that just one Muslim in Parliament must be seen as a march towards the day when Parliament will be all-Muslim! But of course, the mere fact that the sight of one of them in the “wrong place” leaves him down the slippery slope into nightmares of a taliban takeover of Australia, does not mean he has anything against Muslims personally.

Which leaves me in a delicate position at times. When I was once arranging for a leading State Muslim to conduct a public presentation to a general audience, I found myself being offered a copy of the Koran. As a gesture of good-will I accepted it, but later I had the misfortune to read it. It left the taste in my mouth of being just as mind-controlling and fear and authority obsessed as the Jewish and Christian books, only more blunt and obvious about it. So there I was, finding myself in a situation where I was seeking to foster community tolerance among two religious groups, Christians and Muslims, yet ironically having no personal sympathy or time for either of them!

As far as their beliefs were concerned, I saw (still do see) both as potentially harmful psychologically to individuals who took them too seriously. When I see some humanist scholars advocate a humanism that embraces the religiously minded as well, I do feel some revulsion. What has the anti-intellectualism at the heart of Christianity and Islam (and Judaism) to do with humanistic values? Why on earth does “spirituality” or the sense of the poetic and mystery and awe of life have to be tied exclusively to religion of any kind? But I also find myself recoiling from a few of the anti-Muslim statements of some such as Harris and Hitchens. Sure I have no time for the Muslim religion either, but these authors do seem to be unable to tease out the geo-political issues from the more universal religious concepts.

So I decided to focus entirely on the project I had got myself mixed up with as an entirely “social enterprise”. Strictly a civil service.

We’ll probably be stuck with religion as long as we will be stuck with astrology, witchcraft and the occult. If one can’t beat them, the least one can do, I guess, is to support any endeavour that promotes mutual understanding and respect.

Australia Day - Muslim Style

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post election thoughts (Australia, 2007)

Filed under: Australia,Politics & Society — Neil Godfrey @ 8:55 am

What a shift? Or should that be, What shift?

Of more interest to me than the Rudd Labor win (that was a huge emotional relief) were:

1. the demise of the religious right Family First Party (but dammit, they have 1 Senator who could make a lot of noise if he finds himself in a balance of power decider position), and

2. voices of true “liberalism” — J.S. Mill type stuff — being heard to squeak out here and there now that reactionary-squatter type “conservative” Howard has been given the boot. Liberal member Malcolm Turnbull actually said the Liberals should support a government apology to the aboriginals, some even said that the popular will rejecting their dismantling of the industrial system should be respected, and they all agreed to go along with the consensus of international opinion in respect to Kyoto.

But then the party darn gone went and chose Lord Brendon Nelson as its leader who promptly stifled some of those voices of philosophical liberalism. So it looks like Labor will continue to be the main bulwark of “liberal” politics for the immediate future.

And that leaves the Greens as the next in line to fill the gap of working for the bottom line issues of real worker and pensioner security, end of  involvement with war ventures, and environment. Whether that will happen will depend largely on events. Environment change and sellout policies by the major parties has increased their vote over recent years. I’d hate to think it will take more casualties in wars and real suffering on the part of workers and others losing their entitlements to bring about to further advance them to major-party status. Trouble is, those sorts of conditions can also become perfect tinder for extremists on the right to whip up fear and lead people to vote against their own interests.

Lots of work ahead for us Green supporters. We couldn’t have a more perfect candidate in the local area, Pauline Collins, to galvanize supporters into action as early as February next year to prepare for the next election.

Looking back on last weekend:It’s a bit strange how our extended personal identities can be so bound up with our nation in such a way that the leadership of the nation can directly affect our feelings of self-worth. So many decisions by the exiting government leader made me cringe with embarrassment and so often I told others I wanted to emigrate and find a new homeland. I hated having to admit to being an Australian when overseas. Our nation’s international image was so completely at odds with my personal values and understanding of the issues our PM appeared to be deliberately lying about.

But last Saturday I knew something new was on the move. I stood in the rain, wearing a poncho over my Green Party t-shirt and ready to hand out “how to vote” flyers at 8 am as voters came in their droves. In the pouring rain. As early as the very minute the polling opened. I had expected a trickle at that hour and in that weather, but not the crowds walking up the pathways to the booths. Surely most would wait for the rain to clear before bothering to come. But no, it was clear people were in a mood to deliver a message — I could not help but suspect they were finally wanting change, having seen through the sham and callousness and outright lies of a conservative nineteenth century squatter-values government.

It had been a depressing campaign between the two major parties. Nothing about our sons and brothers being killed and killing others in Afghanistan and Iraq, or our concentration camps for refugees via the wrong mode of transport (evoking atavistic images of being swamped by coloured races from overseas), or our desertion of fellow-citizens to the injustice and barbarity of torture and imprisonment without trial overseas — and their ongoing demonization once finally returned, or the widening gulf between the rich and poor, or the horrifying gap between white and indigenous conditions, or the gap our government had entrenched with our East Timorese and Pacific neighbours through shocking bullying and paternalism, certainly not a word about the clamping down on freedom of information and gagging of debate in Parliament and through PR spin-doctors working on behalf of government agencies. Those issues, it seems, were minor non-issues reserved for the “chattering classes”.

Bring on the real debate: Who would keep interest rates lower for home-buyers? Who would offer the best tax breaks?

To be fair, there was also much talk about WorkChoices and even Kyoto. But even there the differences between the parties were muted enough and it was rarely clear exactly how or to what extent Labor would do things differently.

But Howard, who wanted to take Australia back to the rule of the squatter where those who owned the money claimed absolute right to set all conditions of their workers, and who was a master of fear-mongering and stifling information and debate, has lost his seat. I will have to examine myself — I am one of the few who cannot bring himself to feel sorry for one responsible for so many ruined lives, and responsible for abandoning Australia’s infrastructure and educational future.


A “Where the Parties Stand” Chart and 48 hour election toolkit

Chart showing where the parties stand on the following issues:

  • Ratifying Kyoto
  • Strong short term targets to cut greenhouse pollution
  • Repeal of Workchoices
  • Dental cover in Medicare
  • Significant increase in public education
  • Broadband to rural Australia
  • Indigenous life expectancy
  • Troop withdrawal from Iraq

48 hour election toolkit


“I’d love to vote for the Greens, but I don’t want to waste my vote”

Filed under: Activist resources,Australia,Politics & Society — Neil Godfrey @ 4:41 pm
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Following is an excerpt and two YouTube video clip links from a Queensland Greens notice to party members concerning the coming election:



myths of war, grapes of wrath

Why is my grief mingled with anger and not pride? And why am I continually haunted every Anzac day by the recollection of a very different Anzac day service tone so many years ago? (more…)


Do politicians deserve to go to heaven?

Filed under: Activist resources,Australia,Politics & Society — Neil Godfrey @ 7:03 am
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Loved the spin on this sad survey by the Australia Institute to see what the public thought of Australian politicians:

http://www.tai.org.au/documents/downloads/WP106.pdf (more…)


Legislating to make us nicer

Filed under: Australia,Politics & Society — Neil Godfrey @ 8:38 pm

Marion Maddox concludes her God under Howard: how the religious right has hijacked Australian politics with an interesting reminder of the power government legislation to effect social change for the better. “[T]here is good evidence that governments can bring out people’s better side” (p. 317). The example is worth keeping in mind in order to counter the cop-out less progressive governments like to use that politicians cannot make people nicer. (more…)


another electoral winner for the libs?

Filed under: Australia,Politics & Society — Neil Godfrey @ 7:53 am

Hey, even if nothing actually happens between now and the election, like another Tampa or bomb threat in Australia, all the govt has to do is keep issuing travel warnings re Indonesia as per http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/07/09/1973454.htm and beautiful! that alone should be enough to keep many voters fearfully sheltering in the cold arms of the coalition’s policies.

Doctor terrorists: Comparing media treatment of the Arab and American Jewish varieties

Filed under: Australia,Politics & Society,Terrorism — Neil Godfrey @ 3:14 am

In 1994 a “Jewish Settler” walked into a mosque and gunned down Arab worshippers. Media generally referred to Dr Baruch Goldstein as a “Jewish Settler” or a “crazed gunman”. One can still find old media references to him on the net. His doctor status was shocking but it was not the main thrust of the media labels at the time.

In July 2007 news headlines spoke of non-white terrorists with medical qualifications as:

Doctors caught in UK terror plot net (Sydney Morning Herald)

An Iraqi Doctor was led into court . . . (CBS)

We all know from near daily reminders that the horror of these men is that they are “doctors” — sworn to do no harm to life.

Yet one must question why the doctor status of the white American Jewish terrorist and mass killer was not so forcefully accentuated.

One is reminded of the Children Overboard mendacity of a few years ago — the Howard government finding a ready reception among the larger population to think of Arabs as somehow beyond the pale of humanity — without any of the normal standards of decency.

A Jewish killer is primarily a crazed gunman or jewish settler and his doctor status is secondary, almost apologetically applied; an Arab killer, if a doctor, is an Arab who knows no normal bounds of ethics — he is all the more evil for being a doctor.

As long as the western media continues to be oblivious to its implicit racism towards much of the Islamic world it will be supporting the imperialist attitudes and policies that are now after about a century are finally beginning to “blowback” on us.


Australia to rush to U.S. side in its war on the world

Filed under: Australia,Politics & Society — Neil Godfrey @ 8:59 pm

One has become painfully used to Australian governments being the first to rush to the side of their favourite major power — once the UK, now the US — whenever it decides to declare yet another imperialist war in defiance of international opinion.

And Australia’s foremost rightwing propaganda machine, the IPA, has taxed its imagination to the limit by borrowing wholesale its culture wars and anti-environmental arguments from the U.S. neocons — see Quarterly Essay discussion

So why be surprised to wake up this morning to read how the US has invited to its side in the upcoming international greenhouse emissions summit one of the smallest greenhouse gas emitters, Australia. The news story is here.

We know Howard’s record on climate change — his silencing of CSIRO scientists, and his total focus on being an agent for the coal and nuclear industries — read Scorcher, The Dirty Politics of Climate Change, by Clive Hamilton — so can there be any doubt that Bush needs Australia to prove he’s “not alone” in his anti-world position at the upcoming summit. Only yesterday I was listening to the rationale for this summit where it was explained it was to consist of the “leading” greenhouse gas emitters! So Bush wants Howard to hold his hand there! The world can get stuffed so long as they help out their oil, coal and nuclear godfather buddies.


Report from Donna Mulhearn on the Pine Gap Trial

Filed under: Australia,Politics & Society,Religion — Neil Godfrey @ 10:51 pm

Dear friends

Tuesday: Today the trial proceedings finally began (after a colourful procession to court with banners and singing) with some house-keeping, including an attempt by the Crown Prosecutor, Mr Hilton Dembo, to place us under house arrest!

Needless to say we argued back – and we won! He also argued that we not be permitted to be anywhere within 2kms within Pine Gap, (meaning we could not attend our planned demonstrations there on the weekend). We argued back that we had a right to political protest, and we won!

The only other piece of colour today in the usually serious courtroom came from the judge and crown prosecutor. The sun-tanned, silver-haired, gowned and wigged Mr Dembo who a few months ago declared: “what is civil disobedience anyway?” is starting to fit well into a caricature of a bombastic, cranky prosecutor.

He requested that a Australian Federal Police officer be seated next to him at the bar table when the trial begins so that he could assist with exhibits. And, he added: “to be a buffer between myself and the defendants….not that I am scared of them…”

Without missing a beat, the usually poker-faced judge, Justice Sall y Thomas commented:

“Perhaps they should be scared of you!”

Meanwhile today, successful solidarity events were held all over Australia to mark the start of the trial. Thank you everyone for your support and thoughts and prayers – we are off to a great start!

Tomorrow we have jury selection at 10am, and after that the prosecution opens its case and the trial proper begins.

Here’s how the media reported today’s events:





Have a listen to late night live with Philip Adams on Radio National on Wednesday night

And this analysis from Crikey.com yesterday:

15. Pine Gap protestors facing the long, cold arm of the law

Greg Barns writes:

Tomorrow, in the Northern Territory Supreme Court, Pine Gap military base protesters go on trial. Nothing unusual in that — the US Australian military facility has long been a focal point for discontent, and the Alice Springs courts regularly process defendants charged with trespass, assault and other petty crime charges. And nearly all of these cases are dealt with a slap on the wrist for the protestors, or at worst, a fine.

But Bryan Law, Donna Mulhearn, Adele Goldie, and James Dowling, who are appearing in the Alice Springs court tomorrow, fac e jail terms because on 9 December, 2005, they managed to gain access to Pine Gap by cutting a fence, climbing onto the roof of a building and taking photographs of the facility.

This quartet of activists self-described as “Christian Pacificists” say they wanted to conduct a citizens’ inspection of Pine Gap. They, like many Australians, are opposed to the war in Iraq, and believe that Australian participation in the Iraq war has made this country more vulnerable to a terrorist attack.

But their short and harmless foray into the Pine Gap has been taken very seriously by the Howard Government and its law enforcement agencies. No easy ride through the Alice Springs Magistrates Court for this lot. Instead, the Commonwealth ha s dusted off a 1952 law, passed by the Menzies government at the height of the Cold War, and called the Defence Powers (Special Undertakings) Act 1952. Breach this Act and you can face jail terms of up to seven years.

This is the law which allowed the Menzies government to keep from public view vast tracts of South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory where nuclear tests, including the infamous Maralinga tests, were carried out. It hasn’t been used by the Commonwealth for years. In fact, according to some academic reports, this is the first time anyone has been prosecuted under this law — a remarkable fact given it has been around for 55 years and there have been literally hundreds of Pine Gap protests.

But then, Philip Rud dock is the most aggressive attorney-general this country has seen in years. As he showed when he was immigration minister, he’s prepared to use the full legislative arsenal at his disposal to enforce government policy, even if the law in question is obscure and of questionable validity in this day and age.

The importance of this case in the context of a civil liberties and human rights is evidenced by the fact that high-profile Melbourne barrister and former Federal Court judge Ron Merkel is heading the legal team for the activists.

Many Australians might not agree with direct action protest of the type undertaken by these four activists, but there’s a larger issue in this case. Should governments be using draconian Cold War laws on the citizenry of Australia almost 20 years after the Berlin Wall came down?

More news and pics soon!

We’re excited!


pilgrim Donna


Gallipoli and the Armenian Genocide

Filed under: Australia,Politics & Society — Neil Godfrey @ 7:33 am

ABC’s RN had the good sense to play a repeat of a Hindsight program on Anzac Day — a lecture by Robert Manne disussing the direct link between Gallipoli and the Armenian Genocide. It’s talks like these that remind me why I’m an internationalist, not a nationalist.

No transcript or podcast of the talk, but in the same month as the original broadcast Manne had an article based on the talk published in The Monthly.



Why I always have misgivings every ANZAC Day

Filed under: Australia,Politics & Society — Neil Godfrey @ 8:58 am

My childhood memories of school Anzac services are still very strong. I have never forgotten the grim tones of dark-suited men standing beside canon and soldier-statues in the park opposite our school warn us of the horrors of war. Their message was “Lest We Forget” but what was not to be forgotten was the horror of the battles that had brought us together that day.

It is not the same today. Or maybe my childhood experience or memory was limited. Today the government invests huge budgets in funding Anzac memorial services. The message is “Lest We Forget” but there has been a slight detour of direction. Today we are admonished never to forget the sacrifices that bought us our freedoms. Today, the message is that war is a necessary sacrifice to maintain our freedoms. In this way Anzac Day is used to justify with political spin the government’s current wars.

Anzac Day is being used to perpetuate and even increase national lies. No-one died at Gallipoli to protect our freedoms. No-one died in Vietnam to protect our way of life either. Wars have mostly been part of imperial ventures, not desperate acts to save our nation.

Is this also why there is so much emphasis now on “character”, “mateship”, “heroism”? Is this focus meant to ameliorate the horror of the reality? To justify war as an everpresent necessary act of government policy?

I can’t think of a better time than Anzac Day to ask Why our governments sent anyone to their murderous deaths and maimings. That, of course, would be sacriligious in today’s climate. But it would also surely do a lot more for reminding the nation to put a break on their government’s war policies whitewashed by their political spin.

Beside the wreaths and medals on the monuments, let’s start to place images of severed limbs and heads with their brains and eyesockets falling out and bring out for “show” some living victims from the less public institutions. “Lest We Forget”.


Easter Bunny Must Die to Save the Soul of Oz

Filed under: Australia,Politics & Society,Religion — Neil Godfrey @ 8:27 am

bunny rabbit from www.javajane.co.uk must die to save bilby (more…)


My little radio spiel March 2003

Filed under: Australia,Iraq,Politics & Society — Neil Godfrey @ 11:18 pm

I gave the following little spiel on ABC’s Bush Telegraph Country Viewpoint radio segment back at the start of the 2003 Iraq war. It looks much better on the good version — ABC’s online site here.

My son decided to join the army at time of the East Timor troubles when people were coming out into the streets begging our government to send our armed forces over there. My son saw service in the army as something to be proud of, an honourable duty. He now faces the prospect of going as part of a conquering force to Iraq instead of joining the liberation force in East Timor. How will he look back on his experience there? If he dies or is maimed there, what will have been the point of that?

I will support my son and hope for his safe return of course, but I have been doing all in my power, and will continue to do all I can, to oppose this war in Iraq. All the advice of our intelligence and foreign affairs experts is that this war is only going to make us less safe from terrorism. Why do Bush and Howard reject the advice of their experts?

In Toowoomba I have been involved with hundreds of others here in public rallies and last weekend more than a dozen of us stood in the rain as part of a worldwide candlelight vigil for peace. At every one of those rallies two things have been stressed; that Saddam has to be dealt with, and our argument is not with our troops and they must always be supported. So why does Howard continue to misrepresent our case accusing us of being naive about Saddam and betrayers of our troops?

Most of the world can see clearly that this war is not a last resort to justify what will inevitably mean the slaughter of thousands of innocents, and no clear case has been made for Saddam being a threat to us. The inspectors were, even if slowly, making progress. It seemed to me it was Bush who was the one not cooperating with the inspectors since he kept saying he would not tell the inspectors all he knew about where the illegal weapons sites were.

I’d rather pay extra taxes to keep pressure on Saddam than see my son come back in a body bag or to have him live with memories of butchery of conquered civilians and soldiers alike, with Australia’s place in the world being less secure than ever before.


Australian folk culture hijacked or exposed?

Filed under: Australia,Politics & Society — Neil Godfrey @ 9:30 pm

Okay, there’s almost certainly no one Australian “folk culture”. But I came away from Woodford disturbed after hearing one of Australia’s most popular folk singers, John Williamson, call on “true blue aussies” to stand up for the environment and to take on the chin insults that will surely follow, insults like being called “green” or “red”! John Williamson included a song in which he heartily extolled the pride of a bush worker killing off animal pests. I was reminded of Adrian Franklin’s “Animal Nation” (interviewed on Late Night Live March last year) where current public hostility to immigrants, the other, is reflected in our policies and attitudes towards the “non-native” wildlife.

But why should the word “green” be sung as an insult against those wanting to protect wildlife? Aren’t the Greens doing probably more than anyone at the moment to protect Australia’s heritage? And why is “red” also an insult to one widely seen as carrying on the 19th century mateship and working class values I thought had been extolled by the likes of Peter Lawlor and the Eureka Stockade, Henry Lawson, Banjo Patterson, C.J. Dennis? Weren’t a good portion of the returning diggers from World War 1 proud to be “red”? Wasn’t the government (the troopers) so scared of their “redness” that they quickly resettled them all over the scattered lands to prevent them from posing a serious threat in numbers in the cities?

Then it hit me slowly like a freight train in a nightmare slow motion. This most popular of Australian singers was leading thousands to take great pride in their “Australian-ness” — but it was a non-thinking bigotted Australian-ness — the type of which I have come to be ashamed. It is the type that votes for a man who smashes Australian values and undoes 150 years of Australian history and struggle by telling the willfully blind sheep that he is “the working man’s best friend”; — but does he totally smash our values or does he expose them?

Weren’t the Lawson’s also racial bigots? Didn’t the mateship of the gold fields come with a generous serving of racial vilification that eventually entrenched right up to recent times the White Australia Policy?

Were our historical “reds” also our rednecks?

Greens go beyond nationalism and are presenting a broader world humanist philosophy. Is that too much for little people who cannot even say “sorry”?

John Williamson also sang of aborigines. But I was not sure if he was singing of them as part of the “beautiful” Australian landscape. I listened in vain for a hint of a “sorry” amidst the strains of tough and hard beauty.

Maybe all that has changed is that where once it was the Left that was the political mouthpiece of “aussie values” — now it is the Right that has become their expression — nothing has changed except the custodians. Yes?

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Against Paranoid Nationalism: Searching for Hope in a Shrinking Society / Ghassan Hage (Pluto Press, 2003) Review

This was the first book I read by an Australian Lebanese academic and I found its discussion of fundamentalism and suicide terrorism most informative. It opened my eyes to seeing how our own Australian nationalism can be seen by non-westerners as just as fundamentalist as any other kind: (more…)

Australia’s blackest sporting moments: the top 100 / Stephen Hagan. (Ngalga Warralu, 2006) Review

Caveat: I am one of 14 contributors to this book. Anti-caveat: I receive no remuneration whatever from this book!

Compiler and commentator academic and aboriginal activist Stephen Hagan is highly controversial, especially in his (and my) hometown Toowoomba which the Bulletin once reported was voted the most rednecked town in Australia. Toowoomba has been the centre of his years-old campaign to have the name “Nigger” removed from a local sporting stadium, a campaign that has taken him to the Australian High Court and even to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Hagan wrote of these experiences as part of his biography in “The N Word” which won a Deadly Award for Outstanding Achievement in Literature at the Sydney Opera House in 2005. With this background one might expect this new book to be a list of the sins of the whites, but Hagan with engaging honesty confronts the racism found among both the blacks and whites on Australia’s iconic sporting fields. (more…)

Jonestown: the power and the myth of Alan Jones / Chris Masters. (Allen & Unwin, 2006) Review

Filed under: Australia,Book Reviews & Notes,Media, Propaganda,Politics & Society — Neil Godfrey @ 9:33 am

This review is very difficult for me to write given my past student experience with Alan Jones. I’m too involved emotionally and know it’s not like my other reviews and other reviewers will surely give a more rounded view of the book. But here goes anyway — at least pending the time when I will have another look back on this review of mine and reshape it to give a more objective chapter by chapter overview of the contents, sources and presentations. (more…)

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