Category Archives: Oceania

Australia’s Shame

Let us suppose that I am the heir of an enormous estate. Stories about my generosity abound. And let us suppose that you are a young man, ambitious but in trouble with the authorities in your native land. You make a momentous decision: you will set out on a voyage across the ocean that will bring you to my doorstep, where you will say, I am here—feed me, give me a home, let me make a new life!

Unbeknown to you, however, I have grown tired of strangers arriving on my doorstep saying I am here, take me in—so tired, so exasperated that I say to myself: Enough! No longer will I allow my generosity to be exploited! Therefore, instead of welcoming you and taking you in, I consign you to a desert island and broadcast a message to the world: Behold the fate of those who presume upon my generosity by arriving on my doorstep unannounced!

This is, more or less, what happened to Behrouz Boochani. Targeted by the Iranian regime for his advocacy of Kurdish independence, Boochani fled the country in 2013, found his way to Indonesia, and was rescued at the last minute from the unseaworthy boat in which he was trying to reach Australia. Instead of being given a home, he was flown to one of the prisons in the remote Pacific run by the Commonwealth of Australia, where he remains to this day.

Boochani is not alone. Thousands of asylum-seekers have suffered a similar fate at the hands of the Australians. The point of the fable of the rich man and the supplicant is the following: Is it worse to treat thousands of people with exemplary inhumanity than to treat a single man in such a way? If it is indeed worse, how much worse is it? Thousands of times? Or does the calculus of numbers falter when it comes to matters of good and evil?

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Posted by on November 5, 2019 in Oceania


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Why Australia’s media front pages were blacked out today

Australia’s major media organisations blacked out their newspaper front pages and websites on Monday in a coordinated push for legislative change to protect press freedom and force the government to increase transparency.

According to the organisations – which include SBS, the ABC, Nine, News Corp Australia and The Guardian – a slew of laws introduced over the past 20 years have hindered the media’s capacity to act as the fourth estate and hold the government and other powerful figures to account.

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Posted by on October 31, 2019 in Oceania



Politicians’ reluctance on climate change is bizarre – action would not only be right but popular

Australians want environmental action.

As Katharine Murphy explained a few weeks back, “private polling conducted for the environment movement and for the major parties suggests community concern about climate change is currently sitting at levels not seen since the federal election cycle in 2007”.

A survey commissioned by the Australia Institute showed the majority of voters wanted to mobilise on climate “like they mobilised everyone during the world wars”. That result was consistent around Australia, with 57% of Queenslanders and 60% of Victorians agreeing that the country faced an emergency.

The ABC Vote Compass found the environment ranked as the most important issue by 29% of respondents, up from 9% in 2016.

Why, then, aren’t we seeing the parties in a bidding war to address such concerns?

We know that if focus groups returned equivalent anxieties about refugees, the campaign would devolve into a contest to formulate new techniques for border cruelty.

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Posted by on May 14, 2019 in Oceania, Uncategorized


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Can’t-do country: how Australia is on the brink of environmental disaster

The great Australian clichés: G’day; fair dinkum; dinki-di; fair go; no worries; good on yer; she’ll be right; mateship; whingeing Poms; the lucky country. Only one of these has been known to cause its progenitor any grief. The late Donald Horne’s book The Lucky Country was published in 1964 and became an Australian phenomenon, described by one critic as “a bucket of cold saltwater emptied on to the belly of a dreaming sunbather”.

“Dad was very happy that the phrase caught on,” said Dr Julia Horne, associate professor of social history at the University of Sydney. “But if he was watching TV and saw it being used without irony he would stick his thumbs in his ears and waggle his fingers at the set. A wine started using the name and he couldn’t bear it.

“Much of the luck came from the postwar mineral boom. His point was the luck of the boom would run out. He believed that Australians were forward-thinking but that their politicians and businessmen were stunted creatively and imaginatively.”

Donald Horne died in 2005. Minerals boomed again; Australia is still lucky. Gamblers’ luck. And, as a nation of punters ought to know, that is not something that repeats itself indefinitely.

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Posted by on May 14, 2019 in Oceania, Reportages, Uncategorized


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Islamophobia is practically enshrined as public policy in Australia

The worst terror attack in New Zealand’s modern history took place on Friday, and the alleged perpetrator is an Australian.

Appropriately, this calamity has started a process of deep reflection in the man’s home country. Everywhere, decent Australians are asking, how did we get here? Do we own him?

There has been extensive, international discussion about the role of the online subculture of the far right in these events – the codes, memes and signals of internet-mediated white supremacy.

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Posted by on March 27, 2019 in Oceania


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What does Christchurch attack tell us about rightwing extremism?

The terrorist attack in New Zealand has focused attention once more on the acute threat posed by rightwing extremists.

Waves of terrorism follow a pattern: a long, unnoticed buildup followed by a massive and spectacular strike that often inflicts significant damage and casualties but focuses minds and eventually resources.

Counterterrorism agencies, driven by public outrage and concerned officials, struggle for a time to gain the upper hand until, with better funding and understanding, they begin to win the battle to keep us safe. The cycle can take many years, even decades.

Rightwing terrorism was building through the 2000s. The spectacular event came when the Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in Norway in 2011. Since then there has been a steady drumbeat of violence: the killing of 11 Jewish worshippers in Pittsburgh, the murder of the British MP Jo Cox, attacks on mosques in London and Quebec, and, barely reported, many more incidents motivated by hatred.

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Posted by on March 25, 2019 in Oceania


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White Nationalism Is an International Threat

On Friday, a gunman stormed a pair of mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, showering worshippers with gunfire, and live streaming the country’s deadliest mass killing since 1943. “I was able to hear the big sound of the shooting,” one survivor, Mohan Ibrahim, told the Canadian broadcaster CBC. Ibrahim fled through the back entrance, with people dropping around him. “Many, many bullets, I’ve never seen anything like that. Later on, we saw the video … he was reloading so many guns.” 

Brenton Tarrant, a twenty-eight-year-old Australian national, reportedly claimed responsibility for the slaughter. Police arrested the suspect and three others believed to be linked to the massacre, which by its conclusion had claimed 49 victims.

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Posted by on March 25, 2019 in Oceania


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Ardern’s response to Christchurch has put other leaders to shame – but not for its compassion alone

Cometh the hour, cometh the woman. Jacinda Ardern won her spurs last week – and that of all New Zealanders – with her response to the Christchurch atrocity. But the world’s praise for her eloquence and compassion missed the point.

Ardern was different. She fought from the start like a real politician, scorning the killer, attacking racism, slapping back at Erdogan’s revolting election propaganda – which used the murderer’s own video – and then hitting out at Trump. And insisting that New Zealand’s gun laws would change forever.

That was the measure of her. Humanity came armed with political leadership. And what a sorry lot Ardern showed our own hapless “leaders” to be.

Most of them have reacted to mass murders with instant clichés of sorrow and endless waffle about “terror”, and then operatic – and often inappropriate – praise for security forces who have in most cases failed to prevent the crime from taking place. In Christchurch, the cops appear to have driven the murderer off the road before he moved to a third mosque.

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Posted by on March 21, 2019 in Oceania


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La teoria razzista dietro la strage in Nuova Zelanda

Si è parlato molto del manifesto di 73 pagine diffuso da Brenton Tarrant, il suprematista bianco australiano di 28 anni che il 15 marzo ha attaccato due moschee a Christchurch uccidendo cinquanta persone.

Come Anders Breivik, l’assassino dei giovani socialdemocratici in Norvegia nel 2011, anche Tarrant ha fornito la chiave interpretativa della sua radicalizzazione con un testo apertamente razzista e carico di odio verso i musulmani, in cui ritroviamo un riferimento tristemente familiare in Francia grazie a una tesi sviluppata da uno scrittore francese. Parlo di Renaud Camus e della sua teoria sulla “grande sostituzione”.

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Posted by on March 18, 2019 in Oceania



No Exit

Lightning flashed behind the fiberglass banana boat, but ahead of us the night sky was clear and the water was calm. Ezatullah Kakar, a Pakistani refugee, and I were in the South Pacific Ocean, 2 degrees shy of the equator, just off the coast of Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island. As we cut smoothly through the flat sea, one of the men aboard passed the skipper a beer. The mood was tense and quiet, the three-man crew speaking only when necessary. Kakar didn’t share their apprehension. He took out his phone, ran one hand through his wavy hair, threw his arm around me, and snapped a moonlit selfie of the two of us. I must have looked nervous, because Kakar smiled encouragingly at me. “I believe if we are doing good things, no one will catch us,” he said.

The hull of the boat was stocked with shopping bags containing food and medication—bread, peanuts, cigarettes, acetaminophen—that Kakar had bought that afternoon in Lorengau, the main town on Manus Island. He had volunteered to make the hour-long boat trip every other day to smuggle necessities to the more than 400 men living inside the Manus Regional Processing Centre, an Australian offshore holding facility for refugees and asylum seekers.

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Posted by on October 6, 2018 in Oceania