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Copyright© 2001-2010, Renato Obeid
"Top blog/Renato Obeid's World/Today's pick: This rambling weblog is worth reading not so much for its satirical posts but more for its insight into the minutiae of life in Lebanon, including the etiquette of road accidents and how to hire a taxi.”
-Jane Perrone, The Guardian
Thursday, August 30, 2001
Thursday 30th August 2001
The front page headline of the Sydney Morning herald – “Troops told ‘whatever it takes’”.
Last Sunday a Norwegian registered freighter rescued some 438 mainly Afghan and Iraqi asylum seekers after the boat carrying them to Australia from Indonesia ran into trouble just outside Australian waters.
Pandering to the increasingly and alarmingly right-wing, racist, fascistic and xenophobic Australian electorate the Australian government defied international conventions governing assistance to people in trouble at sea (to which they are signatories to) and refused them permission to dock at nearest landfall which was Christmas Island – some 1700 kilometres off mainland Australia and merely a few miles away from where the ship ran into trouble.
A standoff ensued over the next few days with the Norwegian and Indonesian governments refusing to receive the asylum seekers.
Finally, the captain of the vessel, under apparent pressure from some of the refuges who had threatened to jump overboard and taking into consideration that there were women (some of them pregnant), children and some people in need of medical assistance aboard, proceeded towards Christmas Island.
In an extraordinary and heavy-handed move the Australian government sent in 50 SAS commandos who took charge of the freighter.
Defence sources euphemistically said that the troops had the capability to steer the ship into international waters should the captain refuse.
The ship moved several kilometres yesterday but remained in Australian waters and that is still the situation as of now.
Understandably, all hell has broken loose internationally with an international incident ensuing – Norway has reported Australia to the United Nations, the Norwegian foreign minister has described the actions as “unacceptable and inhumane” but the most appropriate comment in my opinion came from a spokesman for the ships owners who said “I would not say anything if the ship was in the vicinity of a banana republic but this is supposed to be a civilized country”
Hmm, yes – the important thing is that we don’t overreact here and send in the army or anything.
Christmas Island is Australia’s outermost territory and the port of arrival for scores of refuges who make similar journeys.
I won't make much comment about this because the developments speak volumes for themselves.
Suffice to say that this is every redneck hick’s fantasy come true!
Australian public opinion is overwhelmingly in favour of this with public opinion polls registering approval rates in the nineties.
Australia’s two main political parties (if you can actually call them two parties in this duopoly) have come out in favour of this – surprisingly the opposition Labour Party, which is traditionally the humane worldly party in Australian politics but has since abdicated that, has also sided with the government.
A cartoon in yesterday (Wednesdays) Sydney Morning Herald shows the MS Tampa (which is the name of the freighter) shows the captain at the bow of the ship addressing the refuges “I’m afraid we have to turn about or we’ll be caught in the eye of a federal election campaign’.
Which is exactly what this is all about – I’m surprised that those SAS commandos aren’t issuing how-to-vote cards whilst they’re at it.
Moreover, the captain of the Tampa who was in fact initially responding to a REQUEST BY AUSTRALIAN AUTHORITIES TO COME AND RESCUE A SHIP IN DISTRESS (the ship carrying the refuges from Indonesia which sank) has assessed and deemed his vessel to be unfit to sail into international waters – particularly with 438 passengers on-board which its unfit and not built to cater for!
Christmas Island leaders (who represent a population that is 60% ethnic Chinese, 25% Malay and 15% European) have sent a message to the Tampa’s crew and “passengers” saying that Christmas Islands elected representatives were “ashamed of the actions of the Prime Minister of our country”.
International press reaction to the situation is pretty much summed up by the German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle “Australia, a country built on immigration, continues to refuse entry to refuges saying it was sending a strong message to future asylum seekers”.
Sunday, August 26, 2001
Caught up with (I hate that Sydney expression) Anthony in Sydney last night.
We had dinner, went on a harbor cruise that Anthony was performing on and then carried on swanning around Kings Cross with some friends of Anthony’s until about 6.00am.
During the Comedy Cruise (as it’s called) the waters got a bit choppy (figuratively speaking).
As always, there were hecklers but there was a particularly persistent whole table of them who were trying to give Anthony and the other comedian a hard time.
They were pretty indicative of the type of people on the good ship Yobbo – people on bucks and hens nights etc.
Anthony gave as good as he got – “I’m working here! Do I get into the bed when you’re working!?!” (to an especially disruptive hen) and the more direct but apt “shut up you c***s” to some others.
A Chinese comedian (funny only in that his English was so incoherently bad) was impressed with Anthony’s comeback lines and even went as far as asking Anthony to repeat them to him after the gig, whereby he actually wrote down the latter insult for future use.
“How you say it? – ‘shut up you c***’?”
In an aside, Anthony told me that his was classic stuff that you just couldn’t write.
Just after that, somebody came up to them (as some people always do after gigs) to commend them on how entertaining they were and whatnot.
I tried to get the Chinese gentleman to use his newly inscribed comeback line on her but it was to no avail.
We also benefited from this peculiar cultural exchange, I recalled Deng Xiao Ping's "it doesn’t matter of the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice" quote and Anthony asked him to say it in Chinese.He did and it sounded absolutely nothing like it!Shifty Asiatic pulled a fast one on us!
Many of the post-gig well-wishers were disavowing themselves from and condemning the hecklers.
Surprisingly one of the hecklers even approached Anthony and apologized – saying that he was only mucking around and that Anthony didn’t have to respond so (he thought) aggressively.
“I’m nobody and your somebody”.
That, to me, sums up the psyche and impetus of a heckler.
I observed that it was strange that people on boats wave to people on other boats but didn’t do that sort of thing when they were on land, say in cars or buses (you don’t see people in cars or buses waving to people in other cars or buses do you?).Anthony kindly obliged me by mentioning it in his act.
Maybe they’re waving because they’re about to crash – Sydney ferries crash far too often for my liking.
Put it this way – Sydney gives Bangladesh a good run for its money when it comes to ferry crashes.
Friday, August 03, 2001
“To eat they had a handful of white sugar sachets, to drink a liter of water which froze at night and in pursuing their dream of fleeing Australia for a better life they rode across the continent on the roof of a goods train at speeds of up to one hundred and ten kilometers per hour.
Three Iranian men who escaped from the Woomera detention center waited for days in the desert before jumping the train for the 2150-kilometer journey to Perth.
To get to another country with a more sympathetic attitude to their application for refugee status.
Their big disappointment was that the train was headed the wrong way.
One wanted New Zealand, another wanted to head for Canada.
Australia, which they had been told by people smugglers who brought them from Indonesia would treat them well had become a country they wanted to flee…
Sentenced to eight months jail for escaping…
Mr. Keily (their solicitor) said the men were not upset about going to jail – “they made the comment to me that the remand center here is much more comfortable than Woomera”.
This left the Magistrate with few choices he said – “what sort of penalty do you give to people who have just escaped from a concentration camp? – a bond wasn’t an option so the choice was prison or a detention center and they prefer prison”
- “Escapees jump on the slow train to a country jail” (Andrew Stevenson, today’s Sydney Morning Herald)
This reminded me of the equally ill-fated convicts who used to escape their prison settlements and trek across the country in the vain hope of reaching China (which they thought was across the continent) in the early days of White settlement here.
Plus ca change.
Putting aside the Aboriginals (the decimated and alienated ghost people who make up one percent of our population), everybody else in Australia, from the British colonists who founded the colony, to the most recent Asian immigrants are illegal immigrants in this country.
Nobody is an Australian but everybody is an Australian.
We’re all in it together; nobody has primacy over anybody else – just a couple of years.
E.g. Anglo-Australians, whose ancestors arrived here two hundred years ago, have simply been here longer than an Asian who arrived five years ago.
By coming from somewhere else and settling on Australian soil, you, like any existing Australian or any Australian who’s ever existed or will exist, are an Australian.
I think that almost anybody who manages to get to Australia should be allowed to stay here because they have passed the unwritten Australian test – they got to Australia (like every other Australian has ever done before).
Australia is like the try zone on a rugby ground – the melee that occurs on the rest of the field is like the chaotic rest of the World.
But if you can get the “ball” from that and into the safe zone (Australia), then you’re in.
A terrorist threw a bomb into a crowded Jerusalem marketplace today (police are looking for a man of Middle Eastern appearance).
Commenting on Australian sports stars and the reverence they’re accorded, somebody retorted with “how many gold medals have you won?”
I replied that I hadn’t known that winning a gold medal was the prerequisite for expressing an opinion in this country.
FIGHT BREAKS OUT ON SET OF JERRY SPRINGER SHOW
The Kremlin has declared the Russian nuclear submarine the Kursk, which remains at the bottom of the Barents Sea along with the remains of it’s 118 man crew after sinking nearly a year ago, “the most successful submarine ever”.
“We don’t understand what all the fuss is about – it’s a submarine and submarines are meant to be underwater”.
“The Kursk is a victim of it’s own success”
BEJIING TO HOST 2008 OLYMPICS
- Hangman to debut as an Olympic sport
Cigarettes don’t kill people, smoking does.
PHILOSOPHERS URGED NOT TO ANSWER EVERY CENSUS QUESTION WITH A QUESTION
A couple of weeks ago I met a Waspish urban thirty-something yuppie who made the very rich claim that she was descendant from the exotic nomadic spear-carrying mountain dwelling Berbers of North Africa.
This strikes me as typical Western yuppie grass is always greener on the other side-ism.
I got to wondering whether there were Berbers who claimed to be descendant from “exotic” sedentary mobile phone-carrying urban Sydneysiders.
I also wonder whether there are exotic Tibetan Buddhists who have converted to “exotic” Australian Anglicanism picketing the Australian Embassy in Beijing demanding that their Australian co-religionists be released from the oppressive yoke of, say, the GST – just like the Australian Anglicans who have converted to Tibetan Buddhism picket the Chinese Embassy here demanding freedom for Tibet.
Despite all the media rabblerousing incitement about ethnic crime gangs here in Sydney, such ethnic crime gangs are not a new phenomenon here – ethnic crime gangs first appeared in Australia circa 26th January 1778 (wearing t-shirts that said “you don’t have to be a criminal to get sent her but it helps”).It can also be argued our most famous folk hero, Ned Kelly, was a member of an (Irish) ethnic crime gang.