Speaker by Various Artists

Chicken Coops and Rotten Eggs

by Tibby June 16

I don't know what it is about these Ockers and their fascination with locking people up. I mean, people go nuts with cries of 'witch-hunt' when they put Hanson behind bars for electoral fraud, but the taxpayers keep one bloke on an island at $26k a day and he probably deserved it. For 10 months Aladdin Sisalem was detained on Manus Island in what can only be called solitary confinement. 10 months! And all this as part of Howard's 'pacific solution' to the pesky problem of Palestinian, Iraqi and Afghani refugees trying to make it to a better life Australia.

But hey, a litany of lies in the children overboard scandal got Howard back into the driving seat (probably sitting on two phone books), and the ends justify the means right? We haven't had reports of any boats for months now. But spending $216k a month to keep one bloke from 'queue-jumping', thereby infiltrating and presumably debasing Australian society is a bit steep. They could have re-edumacated him into an Aussie with a good brainwashing technique involving say, big snappy dogs, or electrotherapy, for at least half that price.

But seriously, one of things people seem to think is that refugees are likely to go on the old rock and roll and cost the taxpayer a fortune. What the? Dole for a bloke Aladdin's age is maybe $1100 a month? Even locking him in detention centre on the mainland would cost the princely sum of $4800 a month. And that's more than the average wage in Victoria.

I saw a skit show that offered to lock a few of them up in a disused chicken coop at the back of their flat for the price of a housemaid and some good kebabs. Even worse, god forbid that Aladdin might actually get a job and contribute to the economy! Someone's got to drive the taxis over here. Buggered if I will.

The reason I whinge about this is the over-reaction to Merlin's "free the refugees" statement on the latest tired version of 'Big Brother'. While I'm on the subject, will this shyte never end? Note to self, if you ever find yourself watching and enjoying crap, buy some good webcams and take up real voyeurism.

My (real-life) housemate had a rant the other day about her workmate, who had seen Merlin and stated indignantly that 'children shouldn't have to watch that sort of thing'. Yeah, those political statements are pretty dangerous when the kids have got a transsexual to discuss.

The person involved was apparently more than a little stunned to find out that there are numerous, and I mean numerous, children locked up in these very camps (posing as they do, 'a threat to Australia's immigration policies').

And speaking of big snappy dogs, Amanda Vanstone, Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, stated in an obvious case of towing the party line, "he's obviously not very well informed. There are no refugees in Australian detention centres". Apparently people in detention centres are actually called 'asylum seekers'. So silly Merlin, no refugees, plenty of naughty asylum seekers though.

Mind you this is the same Minister who stated in an informal TV interview, at the remembrance ceremony for a prominent Aboriginal pioneer of the Reconciliation Movement, that he was a good bloke who knew Aussies should 'get on with it', and not dwell on the past.

But lets do just that for a moment.

It is estimated that at least 50,000 Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families and sent to Mission stations or adopted out to white families for the sole purpose of undermining and destroying their cultural attachments. The desired outcome was to turn them into Australians in the same mould as your typical 2.5 kid suburban family. This involved being prevented from any kin contact, being made to speak English and training in menial, but 'useful' occupations. Collectively these people are called the 'Stolen Generations', and were the subject of a denied apology by Howard around the time he was also stifling the Republican movement in 2000.

What a lot of people don't know is that this forcible removal was really kicked off here in Victoria in the 1860s, around the time Grey was invading the Waikato. Remnant Aboriginal populations were rounded up and forced onto Missions after the majority had been killed by disease, starvation, poisonings, frontier conflicts with settlers and punitive excursions by Police garrisons.

By 1880 almost every Aboriginal person left in Victoria had been rounded up and confined to a Mission, and by 1910 any 'resident' had every aspect of their lives controlled by Missionaries or government-appointed 'managers' or 'matrons'. And I mean every aspect, from what they could wear, to when they slept, eat, washed, worked, to who they could marry, to when, why and how they left the Mission. This was called 'civilising'. The last of these things was only closed in Victoria in 1970.

And, I feel I should state that this isn't 'historical revisionism', a label applied by neo-conservatives here to undermine what they call the 'political correctness' and 'guilt industry'. This detention system is well documented and all too real.

I was speaking to a bloke the other day who born in a shanty town they called a 'humpy camp' on the banks of a river in the north of Victoria. His family had been forced off the Missions when the definition of "Aboriginal" was changed by statute. It seems that feeding residents was too expensive, so anyone with one non-Aboriginal parent was reclassified as "white" and shunted off the Mission to fend for themselves.

Unable to get work from white farmers or townies, many starved or eked out lives on the edges of towns or in local rubbish tips. This was still happening 1956. But of course, this is dwelling on the past, which we don't have to apologise for.

One the things I've always loved about neo-conservatives is the way they're happy to conveniently overlook the impact this type of government policy has had on current generations, while simultaneously blaming the victim for being unable to participate in contemporary society.

When airing my criticisms I even had someone ask me 'why I hate my own people so much', implying that I'm favouring outsiders. I love my people, but hate it when they do stupid, hypocritical things like impose their standards and value systems on others and then bitch that minorities 'can't cut it in the real world'. The value of diversity is being able to present a different viewpoint to anyone, anytime and thereby make them think.

The deceased Aboriginal man in question above (as far as I know, traditionally a name is withheld till the family states they are finished grieving by speaking it themselves), worked for almost 10 years within the system to make Reconciliation mean something, only to die at the ripe old age of 54 and then have himself labelled 'a good boy' by the Federal Minister for 'minorities'.

And meanwhile, people whinge and spew vitriol when a TV contestant doesn't tow the line and diversifies the agenda, much like Judith Collins MP denying our Russell the ability to speak against her viewpoint.

A word to Judith. Love, being 'opposed' to a view contrary to your own is what 'opposition' means. It's one of those pesky democratic ideals in the same vein as 'consensus'. If you want to do a little rant and then have people to agree with you all the time, become a taxi driver. But, just in case, get used to the word, you'll be hearing it attached to your name, just before the suffix 'MP' for a while yet.

Perhaps the only thing that would bring me back to New Zealand in the future is the willingness of some policy-makers to recognise that they don't live in a homogeneous society. National's Treaty policy of the 1990s was something that all New Zealanders could truly be proud of, and that ability to say "Oops. Screwed up, I'm truly sorry. Let's both make sure this will never happen again" is something that these conservative culture warriors need to absorb.