Friday, August 03, 2007

Control Orders

A worrying judgment by the High Court was delivered today regarding control orders for individuals who've been cleared of all terrorist-related charges, but who still pose a threat to society. The case concerned Jack Thomas, more widely known as 'Jihad Jack' (great alliteration, i must add). Briefly...

The decision means that conditions affecting Thomas including a curfew, reporting to police and prohibitions on meeting certain people will stand, despite the fact that his retrial has not yet gone ahead.

Thomas had argued unsuccessfully that control order legislation was constitutionally invalid. The judges ruled 5-2 that the section of the anti-terror laws relating to control orders was supported at least by the defence power in the constitution.

The court held the defence power was not limited to external threats or to war between nations but extended to protecting the public from terrorist acts.

I guess it defeats the whole purpose of innocent until proven guilty if the courts are allowed to control your whereabouts, especially according to such strict measures. It would make more sense if it applied to individuals charged of a crime, not to "potential" criminals. Everyone has the potential to be a threat to national security, methinks.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

What's a better way to start the blogger year

...than with a Waleed Aly article!

The West needs to show that it is willing to abide by the popular will, writes Waleed Aly.

LET no one deny that George Bush is an optimist. Even as Iraq descends further into the quagmire of civil war, the United States President is celebrating small victories. The Iraqi people voted in three elections in 2005, he enthused in his State of the Union address last week. Yes, there have been setbacks, but "it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle". Let democracy triumph. Let freedom prevail. Et cetera.

Clearly, the democratisation of the Middle East has long been part of Bush's plan. For Bush, that meant trying to turn Iraq into Sweden overnight by pounding it militarily. It was a profoundly revolutionary approach, quintessentially unconservative, and ultimately doomed to the failure we now observe.

The sadly inevitable consequence has been the emergence of the thought that democratisation is simply beyond the Muslim world. It seems that when it comes to Muslim democratisation, there are those who oppose it and those who would bomb it into existence.

Neither position reflects the desires of the Muslim world itself. We have long known of the deep unpopularity of the invasion of Iraq. But we are less familiar with the attitudes revealed last week by a Gallup poll of 10 Muslim majority countries: that public sentiment across the Muslim world is firmly in favour of democracy.

The twist is that strong majorities express their democratic aspirations within an Islamic framework. The key Gallup finding is that most believe in the happy coexistence of democracy and Islamic law. They maintain that Islam should, at the very least, be a source of legislation.

This will unnerve many Western commentators whose immediate response to public religion is, for obvious reasons, often allergic. But observers of the Muslim world will be far from surprised. Election results in recent years in Egypt, Bahrain, Morocco, Pakistan, Algeria and, most infamously, the Palestinian territories, have demonstrated the willingness of Muslim-majority populations to vote for religiously based parties.

Given decades of corruption and despotism under secularists such as Saddam Hussein, and given the strong social services and anti-corruption agenda of religious parties in the Muslim world, this is perfectly understandable.

Still, one glance in the direction of Afghanistan or Iran will be enough to have many questioning the wisdom of giving democratic expression to these popular aspirations. The long-obvious, inescapable fact is that democracy in the Muslim world is unlikely to produce results entirely pleasing to Western political sensibilities. Implicit in many Western observers' objections will be the suggestion that religious parties will do considerable damage to democracy.

This is short-sighted. It would be more meaningful to consider the exact reverse: the effect democracy will have on religious polities. It is one thing to shout pious mantras of dissent from opposition; it is quite another to govern a people and then face elections. Political reality and public accountability can have a moderating effect, and governments that do not adjust risk public resentment.

It is noteworthy that support for Islamic government is highest in Egypt and Pakistan, where it does not exist, while there is increasing public dissatisfaction with self-declared Islamic governments in places such as Iran and Nigeria, which have failed to deliver freedom.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Joyeux Noel!

It's a French film about the Christmas Truce between French, British and German soldiers of World War I. It's simply excellent in every aspect, and i still have a big, goofy grin on my face just thinking about it. My favourite part of the film is when... ah, i won't spoil it! Nevertheless, the tagline for the film sums it up pretty well: "Without an enemy there can be no war".

Watch this film, even if it's the last thing you do! And since Joey and i have been agreeing a lot lately, the end may not be as far as we previously thought it. So do it ASAP! It might even be a nice idea to watch it on Christmas Day, for those who do and do not celebrate Christmas...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Bono Vox Populi

I never liked Bono's music, and I always was a bit sus about his neverending supply of sunglasses and striking resemblance to Robin Williams. That hasn't changed of course, but this speech he made at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. earlier this year really struck a chord with me.

It's about 20 minutes long and the full transcript is available here. But for those of who can't be bothered, here are some of the best bits (well I think so anyway):


Look, whatever thoughts you have about God, who He is or if He exists, most will agree that if there is a God, He has a special place for the poor. In fact, the poor are where God lives.

Check Judaism. Check Islam. Check pretty much anyone.

I mean, God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill… I hope so. He may well be with us as in all manner of controversial stuff… maybe, maybe not… But the one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor.

God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house… God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives… God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war… God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them.


[Re poverty] There’s is much more to do. There’s a gigantic chasm between the scale of the emergency and the scale of the response.

And finally, it’s not about charity after all, is it? It’s about justice.

And that’s too bad.

Because you’re good at charity. Americans, like the Irish, are good at it. We like to give, and we give a lot, even those who can’t afford it.

But justice is a higher standard. Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties, it doubts our concern, it questions our commitment.

6,500 Africans are still dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease, for lack of drugs we can buy at any drug store. This is not about charity, this is about Justice and Equality.

Because there's no way we can look at what’s happening in Africa and, if we're honest, conclude that deep down, we really accept that Africans are equal to us. Anywhere else in the world, we wouldn’t accept it. Look at what happened in South East Asia with the Tsunami. 150, 000 lives lost to that misnomer of all misnomers, “mother nature”. In Africa, 150,000 lives are lost every month. A tsunami every month. And it’s a completely avoidable catastrophe.


We hear that call in the ONE Campaign, a growing movement of more than two million Americans… left and right together… united in the belief that where you live should no longer determine whether you live.

Preventing the poorest of the poor from selling their products while we sing the virtues of the free market… that’s a justice issue. Holding children to ransom for the debts of their grandparents… That’s a justice issue. Withholding life-saving medicines out of deference to the Office of Patents… that’s a justice issue.


This is not a Republican idea. It is not a Democratic idea. It is not even, with all due respect, an American idea. Nor it is unique to any one faith.

Do to others as you would have them do to you.’ (Luke 6:30) Jesus says that.

‘Righteousness is this: that one should… give away wealth out of love for Him to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and the beggars and for the emancipation of the captives.’ The Koran says that. (2.177)

Thus sayeth the Lord: ‘Bring the homeless poor into the house, when you see the naked, cover him, then your light will break out like the dawn and your recovery will speedily spring fourth, then your Lord will be your rear guard.’ The jewish scripture says that. Isaiah 58 again.


I want to suggest to you today that you see the flow of effective foreign assistance as tithing…Which, to be truly meaningful, will mean an additional one percent of the federal budget tithed to the poor.

What is one percent?

One percent is not merely a number on a balance sheet.

One percent is the girl in Africa who gets to go to school, thanks to you. One percent is the AIDS patient who gets her medicine, thanks to you. One percent is the African entrepreneur who can start a small family business thanks to you. One percent is not redecorating presidential palaces or money flowing down a rat hole. This one percent is digging waterholes to provide clean water.


I truly believe that when the history books are written, our age will be remembered for three things: the war on terror, the digital revolution, and what we did—or did not to—to put the fire out in Africa.

History, like God, is watching what we do.


Okay, so they're more chunks then bits, I couldn't help myself.

As far as I can gather from Youtube feedback boards, I'm sure there're lots of people who have their claws out for this millionaire preaching justice, this rockstar spewing religion. Peeps, dear peeps, lay off da man! (While we're at it, leave Madonna alone for wanting to care for a child facing a high risk of death!) What Bono is saying makes sense, almost too much sense. Maybe it's time to stop worrying about why or how these words are spoken, and starting thinking about what they actually are.

I also gather that there're more than a few who are less than happy with the heavy emphasis on religion, particularly the religions of the Book. Well...get over it. Social justice IS rooted in such religions, and nothing has been said to suggest that atheists, or those of other faiths, aren't equally capable or worthy or whatever it may be. If anything, the speech implies the contrary, encourages a unified front against poverty.

So yeah, listen to what Bono is saying. It's better than anything he's ever sung.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The woman i want to be leader of the ALP

No one's fool: lady-in-waiting boxes clever
Michelle Grattan
December 5, 2006


[Julia] Gillard, 45, in Federal Parliament only since 1998, is ambitious, talented and, as Kevin Rudd says, endowed with a bucketful of energy. As leader, Simon Crean spotted her strengths and had her forge, as immigration spokeswoman, Labor's policy in the difficult and divisive area of asylum seekers. She did it with tact and toughness, helping to defuse the issue, which was finally put to bed under Latham.

Daughter of a migrant family from Wales, Gillard studied law, and was a senior partner in the industrial law firm Slater & Gordon before becoming chief of staff to then Victorian Opposition leader John Brumby in 1995 to '98. Her experience with state Labor gives her a point in common with Rudd, who worked for the Goss opposition and government in Queensland.

Gillard was part of the Left sub-faction led by Martin Ferguson. She became a rusted-on supporter of Crean, then of Latham. This put her at odds with Ferguson, one of the delegation who tapped Crean on the shoulder in 2003 and then voted for Beazley against Latham.

One reason Gillard disliked Rudd was that she did not believe he was loyal to Crean. Also, the two were natural future leadership rivals. The irony is that both became part of the broad destabilisation movement against Beazley and now the rivals are joined at the hip as a "team".

Gillard is disciplined, organised, and good humoured. She is the ultimate tidy-desk person. Tidy kitchen too, which, when photographed, drew criticism from some who seized on it to argue that a childless, single woman would not be accepted by the community as a leader.

She is more in sync with the style of the anal Rudd than the rather shambolic Beazley. As a political saleswoman, she is relaxed, affable, effective and uses her vivacious style to persuade. With her press secretary she often tours the parliamentary press gallery, promoting lines, sharing a joke, her hearty laugh ringing through offices.


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Words Betray Tolerance of Violence

By Waleed Aly
November 25, 2006

QUESTION: which public figure made the most contemptibly misogynist comments about rape reported in the past month?

Amid the recent furore surrounding Sheikh Taj al-Din al-Hilali, you probably missed the answer: Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin was speaking with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Conversation turned to the topic of Israeli President Moshev Katsav, suspected by Israeli police of raping female employees. Putin was unaware a nearby microphone was on. He joked that Katsav was a "mighty guy". "Raped 10 women! I would never have expected that from him. He surprised us all. We all envy him."

When comments this disgusting come from the political leader of one of the world's largest nations, scandal is inevitable. The excuses were painfully familiar. "It was a joke which did not have anything to do with the official part of the talks," explained Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. It "was not addressed to journalists". Somehow, this was meant to assuage us, as if the abhorrence of Putin's remarks inhered not in their content, but the fact that journalists heard them. Still, Peskov continued: "It is not always possible to translate a Russian joke into another language in such a way that you convey its complete meaning." If so, one wonders why Putin chose to share his "humour" with an Israeli. Does Olmert possess special insight into the Russian comedic tradition?

Ultimately, we were asked to believe it was all a misunderstanding. "These words should in no way be interpreted as President Putin approving the possibility of this sort of crime," said Peskov, demanding of us new feats of interpretive gymnastics.

The defence of cross-cultural miscommunication has reached new levels of infamy after the recent the Hilali controversy. And indeed, at least in Hilali's case, it is precisely this cross-cultural element that has allowed so many commentators to adopt such a sanctimoniously outraged posture. Their rage could be unbridled because it in no way implicated them. For several commentators, Hilali's comments were immediately and exclusively co-opted into a discourse against multiculturalism. The implication is that the malady embodied in Hilali's remarks is entirely alien to us.

Sadly, this is more convenient than erudite. Only days earlier a video surfaced of a dozen Werribee schoolboys sexually assaulting a semi-naked 17-year-old girl before setting her hair on fire and urinating on her. Someone was proud enough of this production to sell copies of it for $5 in the western suburbs. The boys laughed as they did it. Two of their parents dismissed it as a bit of fun. For them, as for Putin, sexual assaults against women are a source of humour.

The facts are that the blight of misogynist thought and violence is closer to home than is comfortable. It was oft-noted during the Hilali saga that victim-blaming attitudes to rape were commonplace in Australia as recently as two decades ago — a fact evidenced by a parade of comments from judges and barristers. Certainly, it is possible that what so provoked Australians was not that such comments are threateningly foreign, but that they are menacingly familiar; that they remind us of the darker portions of our recent past.

But in truth, this is not simply a relic. Our deliverance from such attitudes on violence against women is more official, and less popular, than we might admit.

A VicHealth survey of 2000 Victorians released last month found that 40 per cent considered rape a product of men's inability to control their need for sex, while half believed, without evidence, that women falsified claims of domestic violence to gain a tactical advantage in family law disputes. Fifteen per cent still believe "women often say no to sex when they mean yes". A quarter are prepared to excuse domestic violence perpetrators if they are genuinely remorseful — which the report notes is dangerous given that domestic violence is often episodic, punctuated by remorseful moments.

Unlike the Werribee video, these attitudes cannot be quarantined to the domain of a delinquent fringe. They point to a stubborn, significant malaise in our social consciousness, and a willingness to trivialise violence against women.

Yes, other parts of the world have worse records. And yes, we have made laudable progress. Numbers of women who have suffered physical or sexual assault have declined in the past decade. Nearly everyone now accepts domestic violence is a crime. Those who believe that "women who are raped often ask for it" are now only 6 per cent. Ten years ago, they were 15. But continued progress is only possible when we acknowledge that problems remain. And they do.

Today is the day to recognise this. White Ribbon Day, the UN-declared day for the elimination of violence against women, is about keeping this global problem in our consciousness. One might have hoped the stream of news over the past month would mean we would not needed reminding. Popular attitudes suggest we do.

Waleed Aly is a White Ribbon Day ambassador.