Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Province of Faceless Bureaucrats

Those MPs in opposition to the legalisation of the drug RU486 (Mifepristone) are increasingly desperate. Perhaps they sensed that arguing against the removal of the Health Minister's control of the drug by focusing on the immorality/unacceptibility of abortion was bound to fail. After all, abortion is already legal in this country (ignoring some technicalities in state legislation that convention usually overrides); and besides - this bill isn't about abortion anyway, it's about which body is best-placed to judge the merits and safety of RU486: the Health Minister, or the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

So, they have shifted the focus of their arguments.

It seems that the new argument to make against the bill is something along the lines of 'we don't want shady, unaccountable bureaucrats making decisions like these'. John Howard, for instance, has stated that what is important here is "the principle that important decisions affecting the community should be made by people who are directly accountable to the community"; Tony Abbott has stated that the bill is effectively a "no confidence vote" in ministers; and similarly, the Nationals' De-Anne Kelly believes that it is better for politicians to have control over the drug than "bureaucrats in a back alley". From yesterday's Age:

"The Australian people want to hold governments and ministers accountable," Mrs Kelly said.

"It comes down to do you support ministerial accountability or do you want to relinquish decision-making to faceless public servants."


"This is not a vote in favour of RU486, this is a vote of confidence in a minister — of any political colour in any government."

What these people forget is that decision making in this country is already the province of faceless ministers - or so the Howard government would have us believe. How many times have the Prime Minister, Amanda Vanstone or Mark Vaile - to mention but a few examples - escaped censure for their mistakes, laziness or straight out deceptions by claiming that 'they weren't told by their department'? If we were to take the actions of the government as our guide, then we would have to conclude that it is acceptable for unaccountable bureaucrats to:
but that it is not acceptable for public servants to freely use their expertise to judge whether or not Mifepristone, a drug which is in use in most European countries and the U.S., should be made available to Australian women.

Faceless bureaucrats! Watch out for them. They lurk in the back alleys and offices of the public service, always looking out to make robotic, automatic decisions that devalue the sanctity of human life.

But if you do spot one, oh politicians, then there is no need to panic. In fact, you may be in luck: these critters, though sinister and faceless, are invaluable if you need someone to take a fall for you.

Lest the public realise that you, too, are unacccountable!

Bureacrats making decisions: don't have a face.

Tony Abbott, Health Minister: "I've got one".

John Howard, Prime Minister: could he too be under their sway?



From a post by Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett on the Webdiary, I include this rather interesting breakdown of the vote on the RU486 bill, which was passed in the Senate a few days ago. Of particular note is the section on gender.

Breakdown of vote by Party: Liberal: in favour, 17 against.
Labor: in favour, 7 against.
National/CLP: 2 in favour, 3 against.
Democrat: 4 in favour, 0 against. Green 4 in favour, 0 against. Family First: 1 against.

Breakdown of vote by Gender: Male: 21 in favour, 25 against.
Female: 24 in favour, 3 against.

Breakdown of vote by State/Territory: ACT: 1 for, 1 against.
NSW: 6 for, 6 against.
NT: 2 for, 0 against.
Qld: 6 for, 6 against.
SA: 9 for, 3 against.
Tas: 7 for, 5 against.
Vic: 7 for, 4 against.
WA: 7 for, 3 against.

When stupid people say stupid things, part one:

As reported in The Age:

LIBERAL MP Danna Vale has raised the prospect of Australia becoming a Muslim nation, warning "we are aborting ourselves almost out of existence".

As five conservative Coalition women promoted a compromise amendment to keep the fate of abortion drug RU486 in politicians' hands, Mrs Vale said she had read that the Imam at Sydney's Lakemba mosque had predicted Australia would be Muslim in half a century.

"I didn't believe him at the time. But … when you actually look at the birthrate, when you look at the fact that we are … aborting ourselves almost out of existence by 100,000 a year — a guesstimate," Mrs Vale said.

"You multiply that by 50 years — that's 5 million potential Australians we won't have here."

Truly, the moronic hoard of MPs that sit in the Federal Houses of Parliament is the greatest blight on the hope that anything worthwhile might come of public politics in this country. I know of nothing more depressing than listening to the proceedings of Parliament. It is dominated by boors. Here is the slather from the mouth of but one of them.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

From a Jordanian newspaper:

"This one is anti-semitism ... This one is racism ... But these all come under free speech!"

Lenin's Tomb:
"Free speech". What a lugubrious phrase. It's a logocentric fallacy, for what is under discussion is a form of expression that is not speech. The phrase invites us to think of such expression as being nothing more serious than words falling into offended ears. But, okay, let's call it speech, then - what do these cartoons "say"? That "these Muslims are bloodthirsty, sword-wielding, limb-choppers, suicide-bombers, fanatics, sand-dwellers, despotic, lazy, corrupt, hidebound, medieval (for in 'Asiatic' history, there is no progression, unlike in Europe)". This is being presented as a mere religious jest - why shouldn't we "make fun" of others' beliefs? Malicious, racist slander is, then, nothing more serious than comedy. Get a sense of humour (racists always seem to believe themselves to be uniquely blessed with that quality). In what environment did the editors of a Danish newspaper commission these depictions? is one in which Pia Kjærsgaard, as leader of the far right Danish People's Party - which in the last elections took 13.3% of the vote to become the third biggest party in Denmark - is encouraging people to heed a "call-to-arms" against "Islamism", which they describe as a "world revolutionary movement" seeking to impose Shari'a all over the globe. [....] Similarly, Queen Margrethe in her recent authorised biography urged the Danes to "stand up" to Islam. Louise Frevert of the DPP suggested that Muslims believe that it is their right to rape and assault Danish people and asserted in a pamphlet that the Muslims were conspiring to take over Denmark.
We should not forget that the publication of the cartoons in Denmark took place in the context of a political situation in which Islamophobic sentiments enjoy legitimacy. But to deplore the role that the cartoons have played in the local Danish situation, and to deplore the way in which they, and the ensuing controversy, will be used by racists in the UK and elsewhere, should not lead us into the invidious position of defending Islamism, a creed, which, as Houzain Mahmoud and Nadia Mahmoud will tell you if you doubt it for even a moment, is bigoted, brutal and inherently hostile to egalitarian aims. Islamophobia is noxious not because it attacks Islam but because it racialises Muslims, treating them as an amorphous subhuman scourge, whose rights and lives can be stripped away. But defending Muslims from racist attacks should not entail defending Islam as a religion, still less should it involve defending Islamism as a political position, any more than rejecting anti-semitism should mean supporting Judaism and Zionism.

Two idiots from The Age's letters page:
I find it incredibly hypocritical that Muslims are outraged by the publication of cartoons in light of their intolerance of other religions and the atrocities that have been performed in the name of Islam. It is Muslims who perform such despicable acts as destroying the World Trade Centre, who video cutting off the heads of innocent people in Iraq to be broadcast on al-Jazeera television, who perform countless bombings of embassies, churches, bars and other buildings, who blew up the Buddhist statues at Bamiyan in Afghanistan, who murder members of the Bahai faith in Iran, etc, etc, etc. Yet they think their religion should be above being lampooned or caricatured.

Surely if they want respect then it must be earned. Tolerance has to be a two-way street.

Bryan Lawrence,

Once again the outrage of the Muslim world stuns us in the West into disbelief. I ask myself what is in the minds of people who cannot tolerate any questioning of their ways, their society and their religion? How can people hold whole nations to account for the actions of a few newspaper editors? Where is the balance in their judgements, where is the reason without emotion?

As a formerly tolerant and open-minded Australian who used to believe that we can accept and live with each others' differences, I now strongly believe that Western traditions, beliefs and freedoms are incompatible with the Muslim world. I ask now, why do Muslims wish to live in Western societies if they find our freedoms so abhorrent? I ask, what do they bring to our society but venom and anger? I ask, why should we allow them into our tolerant society?

I am now a racist.
James Collette,