Asylum seekers seek Aussie homes

The federal government is offering up to $300 per week to households that accept asylum seekers into their homes while awaiting for their claims as refugees to be processed.

The government was initially approached, and the concept put forward by the Australian Homestay Network (AHN) 12 months ago. The AHN is an organisation that facilitates short term stays for overseas students.

The original article on this new plan was an ‘exclusive’ by Simon Benson published in the Daily Telegraph. The article although on the surface appeared neutral enough, it was not. While it kept to the facts and gave the first quotes to a representative for the AHN, it gave three consecutive paragraphs of quotes from the opposition spokesperson on immigration Scott Morrison, who was pugnaciously negative on the subject. The article then finished with a quote from a government spokesperson – a  sentence long – rejecting the criticisms.

However what made the article so negative was not the article itself, but the layout of the page it was on. To the left was a poll asking respondents if they would accept asylum seekers into their homes – the 90% negative response was there for all to see, and below that, related articles with headlines such as, ‘Asylum boats will keep coming’, and ‘1500 and the boats keep coming.

The only other publication that I saw that had an article about this iniative was, who reported that the response had been quite positive by the public, with over 300 households willing to take up the offer.

What was by far the most worrying aspect about this however were the comments made by the public on the Daily Telegraph’s website. Only two out of 95 were positive towards the plan, and most of the negative comments were based on ignorance or misunderstanding. An example of this is the following comment by Pete, “What a joke, my tax dollars paying for strangers whom have contributed nothing to this country.” There were almost 30 comments bemoaning the spending of $300 a fortnight, yet when compared to what it costs to keep asylum seekers in remote detention centres is quite miniscule.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, no matter who is in government the boats will keep coming, and it will only get worse when the United Nations pull out of Afghanistan.

Australia’s population has always been made up of refugees of one type or another, from the aborigines 40,000 years ago to the convict settlers in colonial days, to the Greeks, Italians and Vietnamese of the 20th century. It really is time for the media and politicians to be honest about this issue.


‘Boathouses’ call produces its own flood of asylum seeker hosts

Aussies asked to take in asylum seekers, and be paid for it


Defence budget cuts

As the date for the delivery of the budget draws closer, there will be many articles forecasting where and to what extent budget cuts may occur for the government to bring the budget back into surplus this year. Today there were a number of articles on possible cuts in defence spending.

The Australian had the following three articles Our national defence put at risk by savage budget cutCuts to ‘put soldiers behind desks’, union warns over jobs, and Anger as Defence set for $3bn budget hit. As can be seen, each headline is negative in connotation.

The first article ‘Our national defence put at risk’ is written by retired Major-General Jim Molan, and in it he asks legitimate questions on government policy regarding defence spending, criticising the government, and especially defence minister Stephen Smith. This dis-satisfaction with Stephen Smith seems to be constant issue between him and retired military brass, contrary to the belief of the minister. Major-General Molan led the multinational task force in Afghanistan.

The other two articles concentrate more specifically on upcoming cuts to defence spending – totalling around 3 billion according to these articles – and are also written in a negative frame, criticising the government heavily. The articles do this by using selective quotes from various sources. A prime example of this is a quote attributed to Chief of Army Lieutenant-General David Morrison in a speech he gave last month in which ‘he warns the government against defence cutbacks’. Morrison’s speech went for 28 minutes, and was full of positives, yet this negative quote was the only one used.

In the ‘put soldiers behind desks article a a semi positive quote is used, however it is two thirds of the way down the page, and is immediately followed by more negative quotes, thereby using the pyramid structure of news writing to figuratively bury anything positive within the article.

Defence cuts won’t impact military staff appeared in the Herald Sun and only used quotes from Stephen Smith, assuring us that defence will experience budget cuts, but Australia’s security will not be put at risk, nor will military staff. This article was neither positively or negatively framed.

Although all the articles published in the Australian were all negative towards the government, there was a video giving a more balanced view of the proposed defence cuts in a sidebar. In this interview Brendan Nicholson says the goverment’s plans make sense. See above image.


Update Friday 4th May


As I mentioned in the opening paragraph of the above post, there will be more articles concerning proposed budget cuts. Below are links to some that have appeared since I wrote the post.

$4bn stripped from Defence

Now it’s cut-rate defence

Smith hits back at critics of defence cuts

Labor launches $4 billion attack on defence budget

Defence in firing line for Budget cuts of $5bn

Military faces huge cutbacks

Another boat; the blame game continues

Another illegal boat was intercepted today – the third this week – and around 164 people taken to Christmas Island for processing. Being a continuing and ongoing issue in the media, and a political football used by both major parties, these arrivals were covered by all major news outlets.

Perhaps surprisingly (although it was an AAP article), the most neutral coverage came from the Daily Telegraph. This article reported the facts – where and when the boat was intercepted, the numbers aboard and that they were transported to Christmas Island for processing. The article also used quotes from Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen – who blamed the opposition, and Tony Abbott who happened to be delivering a speech on this very subject today. He of course blamed the government and put forward his solution to the issue.

The Sydney Morning Herald and the Age both covered Tony Abbott’s speech using an article written by Jacqueline Malley. It was also written from a neutral viewpoint, reporting only on what Tony Abbott said. In the article Abbott suggests that in his first week as PM he will visit Indonesia to ”politely explain” that we do not appreciate Indonesian boats “disgorging” asylum seekers here, and reiterated that he would ‘turn back the boats when able’. Because of this statement Malley also included quotes made earlier this month by the Indonesian Foreign minister during his visit to Australia, at which time he stated that this course of action would “not be advisable”.

The Herald Sun had a very short article announcing the arrival of the 300th illegal boat to Australia since the government scrapped the Howard governments’ Pacific Solution.

The Australian however sensationalised the arrival, and used facts, figures and opinion to put the blame squarely at the feet of the federal government.

The Australian had many articles on the story,  including an article announcing in the headline that the 300th boat had arrived, then quoted only the opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison, who estimated that almost 17,000 asylium seekers had reached Australian waters since Labour came to power.

Another article in the Australian written by Lanai Vasek with the grandiose headline ‘Another asylum-seeker boat arrives in Australian waters, and this time it’s a big one’ on its own appears to be neutral – using facts and quoting only Chris Bowen – it is when all the articles are taken as a whole that it can be seen that there is an underlying agenda to the Australian’s coverage of this issue; one that is highly critical of the current federal government and its handling of situation.

As I mentioned in a previous post, once western soldiers pull out of Afghanistan the number of asylum seekers will surely rise, and if as expected the coalition regain power it will be an unfortunate situation these people will find themselves in if they try to make it to Australia. We need to protect our shores, but we should remember that Australia is what it is today because of immigration, and therefore treat legitimate refugees with the utmost respect. The way the media and politicians use this issue is a disgrace, and dare I say it, unaustralian.

The Collins-class is sunk: What’s next?

Picture: Mike Burton: AdelaideNow

The problematic Collins-class submarines were in the news again this week after a recently resigned submarine commander made public his criticisms of the fleet.

Commander James Harrop, a twenty year veteran, and commander of two of the Collins-class submarines, is obviously someone who is in a position to speak out on this subject, and it was covered by most mainstream media. However all the articles covered the story in the same way, and most, from the same angle.

Each article used many of the same quotes from Harrop – “the least reliable diesel engines ever built”, “Throughout my command of both Collins and Waller, full capability was never available and frequently over 50 per cent of the identified defects were awaiting stores”, “Collins has consistently been let down by some fundamental design flaws, leading to poor reliability and inconsistent performance”.

The negative framing of these articles towards the Collins-class submarines is not new, it has been the trend for many years now, and will continue to be so as long as they are in service. Cameron Stewart of the Australian in his article ‘Obsolete Collins fleet ‘a lost cause’‘, did include a positive quote from Harrop, saying that Harrop did believe the Collins-class had “serviced the navy well and achieved much”. He also included a quote from Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, who earlier this week said “I remain confident in the capacity of the submarine force to meet the operational requirements of government”.

This quote from Griggs was in response to a report released earlier this week by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, examining the future of the submarines, and their replacement by 2030. This report questioned the ability of the Collins-class to perform its duties in war time, and also criticised the government for not having a firm plan to replace the fleet as yet, three years after the ASPI released their ‘How to buy a submarine’ report. They suggest this procrastination by the government could possibly leave us without any submarines in 2027, as reported by Dylan Welch of the Age in his article ‘Navy faces years with no subs Study warns of catastrophe‘.

However according to Hugh White of the Sydney Morning Herald, the wait could be a wise option. In February of this year in his opinion column ‘Submarine shopping should start with a few key questions’, he suggests that until we are sure of what the specific requirements of our submarine fleet will be, we should not commit ourselves. He also uses the Collins-class and its poor record as an example of why the decision must not be hurried.

Photo: Paul Rovere

The government’s choice is also not made any easier by pressure from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union to have the submarines built in Australia, as writes Cameron Stewart in his article ‘Government urged to build submarines at home’. In the recent ASPI report it is suggested that small cheap European  submarines may be the only way to have submarines in service by 2027. AMWU acting secretary Paul Bastian argues against this, stating “The alternative of buying off-the-shelf, Ikea-style submarines and bolting them together will not build our long-term capability”.

Greg Sheridan of the Australian has another point of view. In his opinion article ‘Gillard returning country to deep neglect of military‘, he claims that the government, and in particular Julia Gillard, are so determined to get the budget into surplus by 2013, that they will cut defence spending by a billion dollars in the next 12 months, and seven billion dollars over the next four years.

He also says that when Kevin Rudd was PM, he continued with the defence strategies put forward by the Howard government, and that when there were meetings on defence strategy and spending, Julia Gillard, then deputy PM, did not attend those meetings. He goes on to add that Stephen Smith ‘does not fight for his portfolio’, suggesting he also is not interested in defence. This is an interesting observation after what retired major-general John Cantwell wrote in his article earlier this year, of which was looked at in a previous post – ‘Minister Under Attack From Defence Forces.’

One option included in the ASPI report is to purchase US Virginia-class submarines, and although this is an expensive option, it is the right one according to many readers who have commented on this issue. John Tait, from Merimbula, NSW wrote ‘As a former submariner, I served on nuclear boats for many years. The US Virginia-class boats are a proven success. Australia could purchase six for considerably less than it would cost to build 12 Collins replacements.’
This could be a very viable option, and because of the recently strengthened alliance with the US it is even more so. Either Perth or Darwin could be used as ports for both Australian and US submarines. If we allowed the US to use either of these cities as their major ports in the Pacific, we would not have to have a complete fleet as quickly, as the US could help defend our coastline until that time. The increased submarine traffic would also create jobs, perhaps easing the pressure from the AMWU.

Australia’s Withdraw From Afghanistan.

April 17, 2012 1 comment

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced today that the withdrawal of Australian troops from Afghanistan would begin in the next few months, with most of our diggers being back home in the next 12 to 18 months.

The story was covered by most, if not all mainstream media, with the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian quoting excerpts of Gillard’s speech the day before she actually gave it.

Most articles commented on the timing of the withdrawal, and rightly so. As stated above, most of our troops should be home in the next 12-18 months, just in time for the federal election due in August next year. There is also a presidential election in the US in November, and Obama wants a withdrawal plan firmly in place before then. Both Gillard and Obama are having popularity issues respectively, and the war in Afghanistan is becoming more unpopular to voters the longer it drags on.

Jeff Sparrow on made an interesting analogy about how long and drawn out the war in Afghanistan has become in his article ‘Afghanistan withdrawal deadline has lots of wriggle room.’ In it he makes mention of @RealTimeWWII on Twitter, which recounts events from World War 2 in 140 characters. He goes on to say that had they done this in real time, and for the length of the war in Afghanistan, they would also be tweeting about the Soviet’s successful nuclear testing program, and the Chinese revolution. WWII lasted only six years, while the Afghan war is now in its 11th year.

What would seem, at least on the surface, a purely popular political decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, may actually backfire on both Obama and Gillard if comments made on these articles by the public are anything to go by. Although most seem to want Aussie soldiers home as soon as possible, they do not want it to be before we have been successful, and they do not want the death of 32 diggers be in vain, not to mention the approximate seven billion dollars we as a nation have spent, wasted.

Withdrawing our troops from Afghanistan for political popularity also gives credence to the growing comparisons being made with the Vietnam war in the 60s and 70s. And although none of the media I read mentioned it, if history does indeed repeat itself, there will be a huge amount of refugees seeking safety if NATO forces leave before the Afghanistan is secure.

There was also an interesting difference of angles between the articles of The Australian and The Herald Sun. While the Australian used a quote from the former commander of our troops in Afghanistan, “At the level of the soldier and their families, you have to say is it worth it?” Major General Cantwell said. “I, as a commander, asked myself that question many times, and I really, really struggle with it.” Where as the Herald Sun used comments made by Corporal Ben Roberts, who said “My view is that if I am there and that stops terrorism seeping into our country – and I have to fight them there and my friends die there – I would rather that happen than for terrorism to come to our shores and affect everyday people in this country.”

Although this story was given plenty of coverage, there were certain aspects that were not looked at in the mainstream press, such as the timing of the announcement. It seemed odd to announce the withdrawal just days after a major incursion by the Taliban into Kabul on the weekend. When questioned on this the PM said “the fact the attacks were successfully countered by the ANSF without direct support from International Security Assistance Force ground forces in Kabul is an encouraging sign for the future of the counter-insurgency operation and for the success of the transition to Afghan security leadership.”

Yet this incursion was hailed as a success by the Taliban, and a spokesman for the group claimed they had rehearsed for months, even building military style models and pre-positioning weapons. It was also the start of their spring offensive, and showed they could indeed gain access to Kabul.

In the last hundred years three super powers have invaded Afghanistan, and they have all been unsuccessful, the British tried twice in the early part of last century, the soviets tried in the 80s, and now the US and NATO. According to Marwan Bishra, the US and its allies are in denial, and will fail, just like the Brits and the Soviets before them. Only time will tell.

US Marines Arrive. Who Knew?

As was discussed in a previous post, the first deployment of an expected 2500 US marines arrived in Darwin yesterday, yet I doubt many Australians would be aware of what is a quite a big step forward in our relationship with the United States, as there was hardly a mention of this story in any of Australian news sites.

It would appear that Matthew Newtons’ arrest in Miami, Tony Abbots’ sister coming out, and the sacking of a nightclub worker because she danced to close to Paris Hilton are far more newsworthy stories.

The Australian covered the arrival quite extensively, however to find an article in another publication was a major undertaking of research.

 US Marines touch down in Darwin ahead of six month training program

The Huawei Issue

Chinese telecommunications company Huawei was informed late last year not to bother tendering offers for any projects on offer for the National Broadband Network due to security concerns. The same concerns that the United States government has had, and which have hampered the company’s expansion into the US.

The NBN is a 36 billion dollar investment in telecommunications infrastructure, and as such should be safe guarded against any and all possible threats. Chinese businesses have long been encouraged by their government to purchase strategic resources overseas, which is only sensible considering their vast population and limited arable land, and they have already invested heavily in Australia.

None of this is to say that Huawei have any ulterior motives in this case, however Australia must be vigilant with anything as important as the NBN, and if there is any doubt or concerns over any company tendering offers for projects  on the NBN they should be rejected.

Although the original story is months old, it has continued to remain in the news. In the last five days alone the Australian newspaper has published more than 10 articles on this topic, including the Chinese governments response, which was understandably less than pleased. It also must be noted that some prominent Australians work for Huawei, including chairman John Lord, a former rear admiral in the Australian Navy, who also criticised the decision to ban Huawei from tendering offers.

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