Rays peace activism
November 17, 2016
More to the refugee deal than meets the eye Last week’s news that the Turnbull government has struck a deal to resettle in the USA up to 1800 refugees held on Nauru and Manus Island is superficially good news in some respects, though of course it cannot trump the fact that morally and ethically they should have been granted asylum here. My apologies for using the ‘trump’ word, but it has a bearing on my column this week. More on that below. The agreement reportedly will involve a people swap from US-overseen refugee camps in Costa Rica, which were established to deter asylum seekers and illegal migrants from trying to enter the US through unofficial channels. In effect Australia would be swapping South American land people for Middle Eastern and Asian boat people, with little change in the total refugee intake for both countries. How ironic it then that President Elect Trump holds in his hands the fate of many Central American migrants and Muslim refugees. Given his harsh rhetoric against both, the US-Australia deal must be on shaky ground. It would have been far, far better for such resettlement deals to be carried out under the auspices of the United Nations. Resettlement is as important to a deterrent refugee policy as humane conditions in offshore centres. The most important detail will be how Mr Trump reacts when he enters the White House in January. There though many more unanswered questions about this ‘deal’ that makes is less than the good news story it superficially appears to be. For example, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection has confirmed that the US is not obliged to accept a particular number of refugees, or indeed any, under the terms of its “deal” with the Australian government. “We learned today that the agreement provides no certainty whatsoever for the men, women and children that Australia has detained on Manus Island and Nauru,” Greens Immigration spokesperson Senator Nick McKim said. Like many of us, the Greens also have serious concerns about the Trump Administration failing to honour this deal and leaving people stranded, particularly given the Department’s evidence today that processing applications will take many months in some cases. Much has been made that the deal will act as a deterrent to people smugglers, but it is also arguable that a back door to the USA could be an added incentive to try for Australia with hopes of a home in another fine place. Malcolm Turnbull says “once only” but he is of the professional expediency class who live in our own fantasy land beside Lake Burley Griffin. Could it be that our bid for a position on the UN Human Rights Council in 2018 might now be free from the inconvenient taint of refugees still incarcerated in offshore detention? There’s also the nagging suspicion that the imminent transfer of power in the US, to a leader outspokenly antagonistic towards immigration of any kind, has given the plans of the Turnbull government here and Democrats in the USA a sense of urgency? Other than the saving of face for our political leaders, how has can this be more practical than finding them a place in our country? They have been proved to be real refugees. Why are we so proudly and stubbornly merciless in this aspect of Australia’s refugee policies
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November 10, 2016
Time to end the cruel Melbourne Cup. Is the first Tuesday in November really something to boast about? Your correspondent Graham correctly summed up the negative aspects of the Melbourne Cup (Web Words, DA 2 November) when he characterised it as being marked by “true blue Aussie pastimes such as not working, irresponsible gambling, excessive drinking and cruelty to animals”. Far be it from me to suggest any society should not be able to celebrate its qualities, but are these really the attributes that we want to endorse? No, they’re not, but as many will no doubt disagree, it’s worth delving deeper into exactly what the ‘race that stops the nation’ involves. Though it’s hard to escape all the hype about this race perhaps, as people become increasingly aware that horses die on racetracks, the Melbourne Cup is quickly turning into the race that divides the nation, as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) pointed out recently. Indeed, ever since Archer became famous for winning the first Melbourne Cup while already injured, in a race in which two other horses died, countless other horses have sustained catastrophic injuries on the racetrack after being whipped mercilessly and pushed past their limits. Last year sentimental favourite Red Cadeaux broke his left foreleg on the track and was later euthanised, and in 2014 the race resulted in the deaths of two horses. Less publicised is the fact that horses are dying at lower-profile races all the time, with a total of 127 horses pronounced dead on Australian tracks over the course of 12 months in 2014 and 2015, according to the Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses. All this horror is overshadowed by the glitz and glamour, champagne, fashion, and prize money, but more and more compassionate Aussies are starting to take notice. Attendance at the Melbourne Cup Carnival has fallen for the last four years in a row, it is pleasing to note. Meanwhile, anti-racing “Say Nup to the Cup” events are springing up all over the country. The wastage rate for horses in training or racing is around 40 per cent, and many of those who don’t make the cut are sent to slaughter. Those who do survive are given a gruelling training and racing schedule, many suffering muscle and joint injuries, fractures, internal bleeding, musculoskeletal trauma, and ruptured ligaments. Then there’s the whipping. It causes localised trauma and tissue damage, and is actually of little value, for a 2011 study of Australian horse racing found that it improved the race times of just 2 per cent of horses. Researchers at the University of Melbourne discovered that half of the horses they studied had blood in the windpipe and close to 90 per cent had blood deeper in the lungs. Studies in both Sydney and the US have found that over 85 per cent of horses also had lesions in the stomach lining. Sick and injured horses may also be given steroids, which can mask pain or make a horse run faster. Most broken-down horses don’t make headlines, they’re just quietly shipped interstate to be slaughtered for human consumption or pet food. There’s nothing “sporting” about a pastime in which animals routinely suffer and die. It’s time for the nation to stop “the race that stops the nation”, and to give serious thought to whether or not horse racing, along with that other abomination, greyhound racing, should be banned altogether.
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