Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Local News

Under the screamer "Streets of shame", This Monday's Moreland Leader reports:

Muslim women are being made the target of religious and racial abuse on Moreland Streets.

Graffiti including "Kill Muslims" has been painted across a Coburg building and women wearing headscarfs have been subjected to threats and verbal abuse.

Local Muslims have told the Moreland Leader that over the past month:

  • A man in his 30s yelled "F**k off terrorist" and swerved his car at a Muslim woman as she crossed the road with her baby;
  • A Muslim woman and her three children had a milkshake thrown at them as they walked along Sydney Rd;
  • There were various instances of Muslim girls being spat at or having obscenities screamed at them from passing cars.
Inside, on page 4, the paper reports:

Ms Fartun Farah [of the United Somali Women's Organisation] said women were being targeted because they are easily identified as Muslims by their hijab garb, while Muslim men integrated with western dress.

There you go then; problem solved. If these women stopped parading around the streets in archaic garments that mark them out as the oppressed victims of a patriarchal religion, they'd spare themselves a lot of aggravation. If the blokes can learn to fit in, why can't the women? When you look at the broader context, that 30 year old bloke in the car was doing the woman a favour.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Then and Then and Then Some

The Liberal Party is a broad church. You sometimes have to get the builders in to put in the extra pew on both sides of the aisle to make sure that everybody is accommodated. But it is a broad church and we should never as members of the Liberal Party of Australia lose sight of the fact that we are the trustees of two great political traditions. We are, of course, the custodian of the classical liberal tradition within our society, Australian Liberals should revere the contribution of John Stuart Mill to political thought. We are also the custodians of the conservative tradition in our community. And if you look at the history of the Liberal Party it is at its best when it balances and blends those two traditions. Mill and Burke are interwoven into the history and the practice and the experience of our political party.

John Howard, "Address at the Launch of the Publication 'The Conservative'", Parliament House Canberra, 8 September 2005.

No argument, we may suppose, can now be needed, against permitting a legislature or an executive, not identified in interest with the people, to prescribe opinions to them, and determine what doctrines or what arguments they shall be allowed to hear. This aspect of the question, besides, has been so often and so triumphantly enforced by preceding writers, that it needs not be specially insisted on in this place. Though the law of England, on the subject of the press, is as servile to this day as it was in the time of the Tudors, there is little danger of its being actually put in force against political discussion, except during some temporary panic, when fear of insurrection drives ministers and judges from their propriety; and, speaking generally, it is not, in constitutional countries, to be apprehended, that the government, whether completely responsible to the people or not, will often attempt to control the expression of opinion, except when in doing so it makes itself the organ of the general intolerance of the public.

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty , 1869.

The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedients, and by parts.

Edmund Burke, no idea where, no idea when.

The Obligatory Tuesday 24 Post

Last night's comedy highlights:

The American President agonising (after the event) over whether Jack Bauer should be given the go ahead to torture an American citizen. Torturing a foreign national is one thing but an American citizen...

All that agonising over whether the Prez is up to the job, leading to his realisation, halfway through the episode that he isn't up to the job of Fuhrer of the Free World. But he's stuck with it, because three presidents in as many hours would be too much for public confidence to take.

Chloe, CTU's most brilliant analyst (the one with all the tact and charm of a roadkill porcupine) blows away a terrorist with an assault rifle.

Did I miss any?

Meanwhile, in the real world, the US Senate recently voted 99-9 "to force the Pentagon to set strict standards for the interrogation of prisoners and to prohibit their 'cruel, inhumane or degrading' treatment". They'll be sorry one day when a terrorist mastermind hacks into every nuclear reactor in the US, causing at least one major meltdown and follows that up by stealing a "nukular" weapon to blow up Iowa. Iowa?

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Enchanted Toasting Fork

Once upon a time, in a land far enough from our own, rather ordinary, land to satisfy the demands of narrative convention, two people fell in love. Whether they were of royal descent I do not know; all I can be sure of is that neither was a practising royal which was just as well for them because they were both divorcees. Remarriage is a complicated enough business for commoners, what with the blending of families and child custody visits. Imagine what it would be like if, on top of that, you ended up with two unfortunate enchanted princesses in your family, each needing a kiss from her very own handsome prince to lift the enchantment. It often happened, in such families, that one day, while one of the princesses was off on a visit with the non-custodial parent, a handsome prince would happen along, set on the usual business of finding a princess with whom he could fall in love and marry. And, since handsome princes aren't too particular when it comes to falling in love with enchanted princesses, so long as they can get the whole absurd business of lifting the enchantment over with as quickly as possible, the absent princess would often return to discover that her step-sister was already married off. Naturally she would then turn to wickedness and start looking for ways to get back at her step-sister and, most likely, settle on the traditional resort of placing an enchantment on her first step-niece at her christening.

As commoners, Claudio the Counting House Clerk and his bride-to-be, Cossima, were spared these complications; all they had to contend with in arranging their new marriage was the ordinary problems of commoners who remarry, such as somehow finding room in their humble cottage for all the children, maintaining friendly relations with Claudio's bride-that-was and Cossima's groom-that-was, and so on. While not as rich as royalty, they did well enough; Claudio's job, stacking the coins in the king's counting house into neat piles of tens, hundreds and thousands so that the king could count his money without straining his limited mathematical knowledge., paid well enough to support them both. They had every reason to expect that their future together would be a happy one and very few, most of which they understandably overlooked, for believing things might turn out otherwise. So, after a decorous interval of being in love (sometimes, alas, a little indecorously), they set a date to be married and sent out invitations to the wedding.

When royalty send out invitations to important social events – especially christenings of princes – they're very careful to invite everyone who might feel slighted at not receiving an invitation and so royal weddings and christenings are often very dreary, stilted affairs with a large crowd of wicked witches and step-sisters, ill-tempered fairies and the like, looking for an excuse to get offended and lay a curse on the hapless infanta. Generally, commoners have a much easier time of it; they invite as many of their friends as they can afford to and hope that no-one gets too drunk at the reception. This is how Claudio and Cossima went about arranging their own wedding.

Among their friends they had two named Petro, one of whom who considered himself a wizard. He wasn't really much of a wizard; although he had been trained in wizardry in his youth and granted a license to practice wizardry he had never held down a wizarding job. He had never got the least trace of toad bile or salamander phlegm or any of the other arcane materials that wizards use to effect their enchantments under his fingernails. Not once. For a year or so after he graduated from the wizard's academy, he had tried to get a wizard's job, sending off numerous letters of application to various royal courts where he thought there might be a wicked step-sister or step-mother somewhere in the family tree. Most royal families keep a wizard or two around the palace. Officially they're there to protect the family from various forms of vile enchantment, of course, but in practice the world of wizardry is a little murkier and the practice of it isn't quite even up to peccable standards they teach in Wizarding Ethics 101 or the much more peccable standards taught in Wizarding Ethics 103, the short course for students who don't intend to major in ethics.

When Petro the wizard manque discovered that, although invited to the wedding, he was not getting one of those invitations for “So-and-so and a friend”, he became a little peeved. He was himself divorced, like Claudio and Cossima, and after a fashion in love. Or at least he thought himself in love, which often amounts to much the same thing for a lot of people. One day, while reading Wizarding Today or The New Wizard he had found an article reporting on recent research at the cutting edge of modern wizardry which showed that a wedding reception was possibly the best occasion for an amorous swain to press his suit. He had been looking forward, with some eagerness, to the opportunity to put in a couple of hours of emotional ironing. He was very cross when he learnt that this wasn't going to happen.

So, for the first time since he had left the wizard's academy all those years ago he turned his hands to a little practical wizardry. It wasn't strictly in accord with the standards he had learn in Wizarding Ethics 103; the only thing he chose to remember from this part of his education in wizardry was the tenet that wizards must practice their craft without fear or favour, and so he put out of his mind petty quibbles about the obligations of friendship. This is the way people think when their minds turn to wickedness.

With the help of his old text books, like Badman and Fisher's The Material Basis of Malediction (Third Edition), Podgorbley's Handbook of Wizardry Practice and so on, he selected a range of appropriately vile materials. His next step was to obtain a toasting fork – a traditional wedding gift in that part of the world, although one generally considered more appropriate for newly-weds. Divorcees remarrying could generally be relied upon to have a goodly stock of toasting forks from their first weddings. That he should overlook this shows how little he knew of life and other people; although he believed that he knew the ways of the world pretty well the main thing that set Petro apart from other people was that he was differently delusional.

Once he had his toasting fork, he set about collecting the unpleasant body fluids of various amphibians, reptiles and rodents he would require for the spell and a few herbs and roots, such as wormwood and asafoetida, brimstone. A few nights before the wedding he was ready to cast the spell. He mixed the asafoetida, wormwood and brimstone with ground charcoal and placed them in a brazier. Once the brazier was lit he hung the toasting fork over the brazier and drop by drop, dribble by dribble, poured the mix of vile essences over the toasting fork as he recited his spell:

In sunny day or darkest night,
Await the touch of firelight,
Draw the warmth from heart to hand,
Down thy shaft and then do send
It into whatever on thy prongs be spiked ...

He wasn't much of a poet either but the general intention of the spell was fairly clear; each time the toasting fork was used, it would draw a little of the loving warmth of whoever held it and put it somewhere else: in whatever happened to be stuck on the fork at the time. Over time, the hearts of Claudio and Cossima and their mixed families would grow cold towards each other. Or so he expected.

Once the spell was cast, he opened the windows of his work room and went outside into the fresh air, coughing and sneezing. It was then that he remembered his Wizardry Practice instructor's advice to always have a decoction of horehound handy when casting any vile enchantment. Once he was recovered, he returned to the work room and put the toasting fork in a cardboard box, covered with in paper printed with a pattern of rosebuds and wrapped it in brass paper. To finish, he wrapped a chrome ribbon around the middle of the package and, under that, he tucked a card on which he had written “To Claudio and Cossima on their wedding day, with fond wishes for their future together, Petro.” And so, it was done.

[This story will continue at CattyRox next week. Then back here. And so on.]

More Bad Characters

What do David Djalic, Gavin George and Stefan Nystrom all have in common? Each of them has failed the character test specified in Section 501 of the Migration Act, that's what. Officially, they're none of them the sort of people we want in Australia. So what if they arrived here as minors? They went to the bad as adults and, according to DIMIA, Phil Ruddock (in the cases of Djalic and George) and Amanda Vanstone (in the Nystrom case) that ought to be good enough reason to want shot of them. Naturally, Djalic, George and Nystrom disagreed, hence the various Federal Court judgements linked to above.

Alright, so I haven't exactly researched this topic in depth yet; all I've done is crank up a quick Austlii search for cases involving s501 of the Migration Act and gone through the judgements looking for commonalities with the Nystrom case. All I can say at this stage is that the cases of Djalic and George were a little too easy to find.

To finish, here's a curious case involving the question of whether the Minister for Deportation of Undesirables has the power to revoke a visa cancellation under s501:

2 The only question argued on appeal was whether or not the appellant (the "Minister") had power to revoke the decision to cancel the respondent’s visa pursuant to s 501(2) Migration Act 1958 (Cth) (the "Act"). There is no express power so to do. Therefore the only source of such power can be s 33(1) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 (Cth) (the "AIA"). The pervasive effect of that provision upon the legislative grant of administrative powers should not be underestimated ...

7 ... The existence of an unlimited power to revisit a decision to cancel a visa would not sit comfortably with the stringent provisions regulating the grant of visas imposed by Division 3 of Part II. After all, the effect of such a decision may be, in effect, to grant a new visa. Similarly, if a decision to refrain from cancelling a visa could be revisited, the visa-holder would, notwithstanding such favourable determination, remain at risk of future cancellation upon the same factual basis as grounded the original decision. That would be an unsatisfactory basis for continued residence in this country. Neither outcome is consistent with the strict regulatory regime established by the Act. If it were possible to limit the time within which, or the circumstances in which, a decision might be revisited, the position might be otherwise. However, as far as I can see, there is no way of doing so.
[Dowsett J]

Sunday, October 16, 2005

By far the larger number of persons of German descent living in Australia were loyal to the flag under which they lived, and where this was clearly the case, the disposition of the military authorities and their useful police allies was not to molest them. Immediately after the outbreak of war there was a rush of applications for naturalisation, which was granted generally without any searching inquiry into the bona fides and loyalty of the applicant and without the military authorities being consulted. Later in the war careful enquiries were made as to all persons likely to be disaffected, and all persons born in enemy countries were required to report themselves and be registered. It may confidently be said that no persons of this class who acted and spoke with discretion suffered annoyance by official direction, however much they may have been vexed by their neighbours or eyed askance by former friends. But some Germans were boastful and aggressive. They loudly proclaimed that victory for the Central Powers was inevitable, and made no secret of their disposition. In Sydney, for instance, it was reported that many members of German firms, wool-buyers, island traders, and shippers. showed that they could not be trusted. The military authorities were not inclined to take any risks with such persons. Again, in Melbourne, after the German Club in Alfred Place, Collins-street, was closed, some of its former members who had been in the habit of meeting there nightly to gossip over beer and tobacco, continued their convivial fraternising at a cafe kept by one of their compatriots. They were to be seen emerging therefrom in the early hours of the morning. Perhaps they had not been plotting treason, or even discussing politics ; they were capable of wrangling about the categorical imperative of Kant, or the construction of a Beethoven symphony. Some of them were well known to the Melbourne public; one was a musician of some distinction, whose friends warned him that he was running grave risks. But the advice was unheeded. The police became suspicious about this knot of enemy subjects who were to be seen emerging by a side door on dark nights. The result was that the entire group was suddenly consigned to a concentration camp [sic] to meditate upon its folly.

From The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918, Chapter IV "The Enemy Within the Gates" (Ernest Scott, 1941).