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Ugly Australia: Australian Cattle, Drug Boy and Aborigine  - A Tale of 3 Rights

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In 1972, Chairman Mao invited two delegations of Aboriginal Australians to tour China. The then Aboriginal representatives talked about their experience in China as being “the first time they have been treated like human beings in their whole life.” A reader who send me the above story few weeks ago asked me to “Read all the links including the articles from the mainstream Australian media …” and said, “… it will bring water to your eyes.”

 

39 years on, with the sorry speech made by the Rudd’s government in 2008 over the issue of the Stolen Generations, and the launched of the Anti-Racism campaign by the Gillard’s government in February 2011, has the social status and wellbeing of the indigenous people being improved in this country?

 

The following three stories taken place in 2011 may help to shed some light into the actual social status of Aboriginal Australians in the 21st century.

 

Story 1: Caring for the wellbeing of Australia Cattle in Indonesia

 

This is a very touching real life story about the caring for animal rights in Australia.

It all begin in May 2011, following the released of a graphic footage of the inhumane slaughter of Australian cattle in our largest overseas market - Indonesia. The response from our social elites is swift and hyperactive. Just to name a few examples:

The Agriculture Minister, Senator Joe Ludwig instinctively “demands inquiry into live cattle export”, and the Gillard government moved to “suspend live animal export to a number of slaughterhouses in Indonesia” (Courier Mail, 31 May 2011), putting our $330 million export trade industry at risk.

The Greens, unions, Labor MPs, Independent MPs (Andrew Wilkie and Nick Xenophon) and lobby groups such as GetUp reportedly managed to gather 200,000 online signatures within days to pressure Prime Minister Julie Gillard to do more (Sydney Morning Herald, 3 June 2011); Within days, the Gillard government caved in with a six month ban on all live export to Indonesia (The Age, 8 June 2011). 

As a result of that sudden ban, up to 5000 head of cattle mark for export were stranded in a Yard south of Darwin, with another 13,000 in waiting at Australian wharves; and a warning by Senator Chris Back that “unless exports were resumed, within three to four weeks … Australia faces it own animal welfare disaster if 150,000 cattle cannot be exported” (Sydney Morning Herald, 14 June 2011). Framers in Australia begin to feel the impact of the ban on their livelihoods with one farmer from Western Australia threaten to shoot all his 3000 cattle “because he can’t afford to keep them alive.” (WA Today, 5 July 2011).

The Gillard’s government begin to offer “$3m compensation package for live export workers” (Animals Australia, 27 June 2011), follows by another $30m for the beef industry battlers (News Limited, 30 June 2011) and another $70m as aid package to framers adversely affected by the ban (The Australian, 9 Aug 2011).

If you are an animal rights lover, you would have no doubt that, we Australians are number one in the world in loving our animals. At the end of all the above drama and expression of love with a total of $103m of money spent on the ill thought out policy to ban cattle export, we suddenly realise that the graphic footage shown on our TV screens was likely to be nothing more than a plot by Animals Australia to “shut the industry down” and the ABC Four Corner program desire “to win the Walkley Award or rating” (The Age, 24 Nov. 2011). We also learn from the Senate Inquiry that: “Abattoir workers paid to abuse cattle for TV”.

The irony is, we later learn that our farmers also practice the kind of shocking animal cruelty and torture in our own outback with WA Today described the practices  as “Not Uncommon”. The key different here is, our politicians appear to be completely silence on the news that animal cruelty has taken place on our own backyard for years. Our media also appear to lost their zeal to make this a nationwide issue by roaming the story with more investigations and reports. They appear to have spared our politicians from having to condemn our own farmers against animal cruelty in front of the cameras.

Why?

Story 2: Caring for the Australian Drug Boy Apprehended in Bali

 

Australia is a “caring” country. Not only that our animals been care for as outlines in the above story, our drug offender in Indonesia has also being well taken care off.

 

At any given one day, there are up to 1600 Australia citizens got themselves into trouble overseas and required consular help. However, when a crime is committed in a non-Western country, the offender may become a celebrity while the reputation of the country where the offence been committed may become a target of media smear campaigns.  For examples,  two months ago, when a 14 year old teenager caught possessing drug in Bali, he has enjoyed the personal phone call from the Australian Prime Minister inside his prison cell at Bali. Prime Minister Gillard was reportedly “spoken daily to Australia's Indonesian ambassador, Greg Moriarty” about the case; while the former Prime Minister and now foreign minister Kevin Rudd was reportedly “labelled the boy’s situation a priority … has spoken to his parent and had frequent contact with Mr. Moriarty” (WA Today, 10 Oct 2011). Minister Rudd was also reportedly made “repeated public statements that he would do everything to get the little bloke home.” (Daily Telegraph, 11 Oct 2011); The news of the boy has enjoy full scale daily media coverage for as long as the case goes, and the boy was reportedly offered $200,000 to 300,000 by Channel Nine for his story. The boy father later denied accepting any media deal after the boy lawyer warned that “his chances of escaping a custodial sentence have been severely damage by the speculation he has sold his story.” The boy father then claimed that “almost all media offered us this (deal), or attempted to do so, but we don’t want it.” (News Limited, 8 Nov. 2011). After weeks of fighting for the welfare of our drug boy in Bali, Indonesian court has finally spared the boy from a lengthy jail term. The boy will return home as a hero or at least a celebrity in a few days time, while the Indonesian prison has been described by our media as notorious, harsh, hell, desperately overcrowded with prisoner freely mix around and believe it or not includes this statement: “where the guards are vastly outnumbered by convicts.” (Author note: Where on earth can we find a prison where the number of guards is more than prisoners?)

 

Story 3: Caring for the Aboriginal Children and Adult Prisoners in Australia Institutional Custody

 

It is not news at all for Australia media to describe non-Western prisons as notorious, harsh, hell or whatever based on the imagination and linguistic skill of our journalists or editors. The reality is, at least most prisoners in Indonesia will walk out the jail alive and healthy. These are the comments made by a 57 year old convicted Melbourne drug offender arriving at Melbourne airport in August after serving more than a year in the so-called Bali’s notorious Kerobokan  prison: “Everyone is treated well … I am not skinny and I am not faded away … It was a time for me to reflect and to think very seriously about what I need to do to get myself back home and back on track. I actually enjoyed it.” He then called the Bali’s prison “The rehab centre” and said: “hotel Kerobokan is very reasonable” (Herald Sun, 17 Aug, 2011). Perhaps, as a matter of occupational disease working in the Australian media industry, the journalist who wrote this story continue to use the term “notorious” to describe Kerobokan prison.

 

Is Australia prison as civilise and humane as we were made to believe?

 

In 2008, a report  by the Australia Institute of Criminology on the issue of death-in-institutional-custody reveals the following:

 

· There were more than 2,200 deaths (both indigenous and non-indigenous) across Australia over the last 20 to 30 years under police and prison custody;

· Among those deaths, more than 500 been classified as dying of nature causes and another more than 500 dying of hanging, with another 22 deaths with no classification due to “missing data”;

· In 2008 alone, there were 9 out of 9 indigenous deaths and 29 out of 45 non-indigenous deaths in prison custody(in which we have no idea of the racial component of this so-called “non-indigenous” deaths) classified as dying of nature causes, without alerting our media and political elites to look into the issue.

· In fact, if we examine the age of those who die in institutional custody in Australia, 44% of indigenous Australian dying under the age of 25 years under police custody and 27% under prison custody.

 

The irony is, at the 20th anniversary of the Royal Commission Report on the issue of indigenous death in custody on the 15th April 2011, our parliament refused to accept The Human Rights Alliance requests for an inquiry into the more than 2,200 deaths in institutional custody in Australia. The Greens has at least willing to put forward a motion in the Senate on 24 March to acknowledge that 20 years after the Royal Commission Report on the 99 indigenous death in custody, the situation facing indigenous Australians on the issues of death in custody and the proportion of the number of indigenous people incarcerated into Australia prison have been worsen.  The mainstream media has been surprisingly low profile on this type of domestic human rights issue and the voice of the Human Rights  Alliance could only be heard through the Independent Media Centre website. ( Source: New Book: Racism in Australia—The Causes, Incidents, Reasoning and Solutions, published on September 2011). 

 

Conclusion

 

Human rights and animal rights are supposed to be a universal values and principles in any civilise society, but in Australia, our elites have being using them as political tools to demonise and belittle other culture or countries without the intention to practice them ourselves. The truth is many countries we demonise were often more humane and civilise then we really are. Their weakness is that they don’t have the kind of media soft-power to censor news or the culture to shamelessly demonise others with an established and extensive media network.

 

Instead of creating stories to belittle others in order to feel good and look good, why don’t we do something to actually improve on our own notorious human rights record so as to feel good and look good without all kind of negativity against others? Can human civilisation learn to accept others without prejudice? 

 

Written on 2 Dec 2011

 

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Chua, Wei Ling

 

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