Thursday 29 September 2011

More news from China than just buried sex slaves, please

If Julia Gillard expects Australians to look closer at China the news media has to get on board too. We need more than just news about sex slaves held for years in underground caverns - though, admittedly, the story is justifiably newsworthy.

The prime minister has said she will establish a working group to write a white paper to act as a basis for Australia's future government policies in relation to China.

But more will be needed. A government policy direction is all fine and good as it can encompass such things as military and trade links. The way companies and their executives and employees adapt their approaches to China is going to be just as important, however. And stories such as the recent expose by Ji Xuguang, a Luoyang reporter, showing how a government functionary had incarcerated six women aged 22 to 24 over a period of two years in a bunker underneath an apartment complex, hardly help to cement ties between our two countries.

The story of the illegal detention was enough to interest Western media but the subsequent developments around the story made it even juicier from the point of view of Western journalists. The New York Times covered the case - and got some facts wrong - but Australian media have yet to pick up on it. That's surprising, because the facts surrounding the treatment meted out to Ji after he started reporting on the case - he was threatened by government officials on the basis of revealing "state secrets" - are exactly the sort of odd behaviour on the part of China's leadership that excites the most interest in this country. Sure, reporting on the vicious attitude of the Communist Party toward the media is fair but if this is all we get - along with negative stories on the treatment of Tibet, Muslim unrest in the country's west, threats to Tawian, and sprays at foreign governments that criticise the Party - then we're just creating a readership that will hold overwhelmingly negative attitudes toward China. This, in turn, leads to more negative stories because the news media thinks it's giving people what they want.

Keeping women locked up underground is not something China pioneered. There have been three separate cases in Austria alone in recent years. Badgering journalists for accurately reporting on such occurrances is not, indeed, something Austrian authorities normally resort to. Yes, the Luoyang city officials who threatened Ji are in the wrong but, fearing for his safety, Ji was able to turn to China's version of Twitter, Weibo, where he generated a large volume of support from ordinary Chinese. This probably saved him from worse than mere threats. What it does show is that Chinese people are not the same thing as the Chinese government. The way that Western media report on China, the Chinese people never get a showing. It's time for this to change.

Government relations are important, the prime minister realises, but she should also be looking to improve relations between ordinary Australians and ordinary Chinese. The two countries have a lot of things that they can profitably share as the new century wears on. The Australian media is part of the problem.

Monday 26 September 2011

Brissie day trip turns surreal with great GOMA show

When I jumped in the car yesterday after a sleepless night seeking diversion, and drove 100km south to Brisbane's entertainment precinct, there to take in an art exhibition, I had no idea that Surrealism: Poetry of Dreams would be showing at GOMA. Or a Henri Cartier-Bresson show next door at the QAG. "There," I thought, "nothing like a solid dose of high modernity" to placate the spirits that had tormented me during the night and so I entered and took in the surrealism exhibition with years of exposure to the period under my size-42 belt.

I cannot say I was disappointed. The curators had done their work in bringing hundreds of artworks across the sea from France, labelling and hanging the pictures. And $20 is a small sum to pay for good editing. The crowds were a bit of a bore but nothing out of the usual for a major exhibition in any big city. No. What disappointed me was how small-scale and precious the works seemed, now, three generations on from the time when they had been created in Europe and, finally, in America. Everything seemed so precious, calculated and contrived. The shock of the new was accompanied by an unbreakable attachment to concepts of beauty that belonged to the past, and this collection of techniques served to drain the images of much of their impact. It's easier to change subject matter than to change your way of creating an image, I decided. And so when I saw the Jackson Pollock painting that accompanies this post, painted after many of the surrealists had taken themselves away from a turbulent Europe, in 1940, to the refuge that New York had become, I realised that the strength of the surrealist movement did not last long in the new world and that another, even more modern, movement was about to eclipse it and relegate it to the dry status of a historical moment.

Making these connections only after leaving the exhibition, I made my rounds looking at the careful colouring and painstaking brushwork of pieces from the 1920s and 1930s. Of course there were more-talented artists such as Miro and Ernst, but even here the attention to detail pales, now, in the light of the abstract wave that would come in America during the 1940s and 1950s, into insignficance. It's easy to make such comparisons after the fact (even abstraction can seem quaint, now), even while doing it in what was then a rural backwater with nothing even remotely approaching surrealism in terms of daring. It's easy to write off the gains made by these curious men and women in the light of what was to come afterward. But nevertheless it's useful to try to see the whole picture, as it were.

It was the right decision, my idea to drive down to the capital to take in a bit of kulcha. I got back in the car with a salmon sandwich and a chicken foccaccia for the ride home, turned onto the Go Between Bridge, and negotiated the Gympie Road as big drops of rain splashed onto the windscreen. They disappeared by the time I hit the Bruce Highway but I had the catalogue next to me on the passenger seat to peruse at greater length at some point in the future. If I start drawing again will I include nude torsos, eyeballs, or a melting clock in my frames?

Saturday 24 September 2011

The party's over and I'm ditching the Oz

I've posted in reaction to stories in The Australian on many occasions and in that sense they are driving the agenda and I'm frankly quite sick of the whole enterprise. Truth be told I know what angle they're going to privilege on any given issue so the reading is wasted, a confirmation rather than a learning experience, a new opportunity to get hot under the collar merely, and really no way to spend your time. So I've decided to say "Talk to the hand, Australian," and so saying will direct my eyeballs elsewhere on the internet instead. They're going to put their material behind a paywall in November anyway (why is noone talking about this?) and other news vehicles will no doubt follow. Most importantly, Fairfax broadsheet websites will also move in this direction in order to stop the financial leakage. The time has come to take sides.

In a way I'm preempting the inevitable because once behind a paywall the newspaper will be less important on the national stage than it is now. When the Times, in the UK, went paid someone said it had become a high-end newsletter. Making money out of his websites will force Rupert Murdoch to give up some of the influence he so assiduously cultivates by the running of campaigning newspapers. OK, I'm ahead of the pack then. Nothing to regret. Reacting angrily to another's dishonest contrivances is, indeed, no way to spend your time.

I gave up reading Murdoch's Punch op-ed blog a long time ago because of a heated exchange I had with one of its editors. My new resolution merely extends this disenfranchisement. I am no longer going to suffer the abuses of journalism that are committed daily by editors at the Australian in their quest for ownership of the national narrative. The more people who do this, the less influential the paper becomes. If you want to follow me, leave a comment and then just remove the bookmark from your browser. Let's spend our time making a better narrative, and not reacting to every editorial sin like a bunch of sharp-eyed wowsers at a metropolitan race meeting. Let the horses run and let the grog flow. I'll be keeping my money in my pocket, and my attention focused on more reputable media outlets.

Thursday 22 September 2011

Comedy of manners actually goes easy on Gillard

At Home With Julia has its supporters and its detractors. The ABC comedy has copped flak from those who say such a program would never have been made about a male prime minister and these people tend to fly off the handle pretty sharply when they criticise the show. Supporters guffaw, snicker and chortle happily. What noone has said in my proximity is that the show - especially in episodes one and two - goes really easy on the prime minister, who turns out to be a bit clueless, a career politician, and well-liked by everyone. And so I chose this image to accompany my post. It shows Gillard making a triumphant entrace to her scheduled appearance as Tim Mathieson's mannequin at a school hall in front of a crowd of Muslim voters. The triumph stems from the fact that she has negotiated suburban Canberra effectively even, at one stage, taking advantage of an offer of clothing from a dead-set bogan chick who felt sorry seeing her running around the burbs dressed in a pink dressing gown. Due to funding cuts Gillard had got locked in the bathroom at the Lodge and had escaped by climbing out the window.

In those first two episodes it's Mathieson who is the stand-up guy as Gillard blithely puts her career first whenever a conflict appears between spending time with her boyfriend and looking after government business. The highlight of this charade comes when the three Independents come to dinner at the Lodge and start making unreasonable demands of the cook. Mathieson eventually cracks and tells off the three men. Gillard just keeps going, making sure her guests are happy - at Matthieson's expense. They are happy with her - as is everyone else, even the girl who gives Gillard a set of clothes from her own closet.

Episode three offers a bit of a change and features Gillard and Mathieson doing the nasty on the rug in the office at Parliament House. Instead of using a sheet they cover themselves with the flag from behind Gillard's desk. As if this scene were a bit much for the average punter to take, in this episode Gillard ends up alone cleaning dog piss off her leg after Mathieson leaves. "I'll call you," are his last words before exiting. But the reason for his disappointment is poor mobile phone reception - Mathieson thought Gillard said 'Yes' to a proposal of marriage and Gillard thought Mathieson said 'Yes' to an offer of a cushy government sinecure.

I think the reason the program got made is not due to disrespect for a woman in a position of high office. Rather, it's a reflection of the surprise felt by Australians that they had done something so audacious. Electing a single woman to lead the country turned out to be headline news in the US and the UK. The show is not an attempt to pull Gillard down a peg or two. Instead it is a piece of self-criticism aimed at the electorate itself, an attempt to play down the importance of the fact with a bit of familiar laughter. More like the admiring nudges given to a stand-out performer at a school prize-giving than an attack on Gillard's self respect.

As for the Liberals getting hot about sex in the prime ministerial chambers, they will do anything to have a crack at the ABC. It's run by socialists, after all.

Saturday 17 September 2011

Oz rebuttals to Manne uniformly antagonistic

The response to Robert Manne's Quarterly Essay, 'Bad News', which I wrote about on this blog a few days ago, was predictable. The Australian summoned forth not one or two leading lights to rebut the thesis put forward by Manne - that The Australian is a campaigning newspaper that ruthlessly pursues a set of specific agendas - but eight of them and they all read from the same script: Manne is ideologically motivated and misleading in his claims. What better proof - if any further proof was needed - of the paper's editorial bias than this uniform response to a highly convincing essay by one of Australia's foremost intellectuals and polemicists.

To be frank I didn't read much of what was published today. There's simply no point. It's a predictable litany of offenses that shamelessly tries to underscore all the things Manne missed reporting that The Australian has written over the years. The evidence is often old - some sources date from the late 90s - but it is simply a cherry-picked assortment of get-out-of-jail-free cards that some prescient editor made sure were included at the time. Anyone who regularly reads The Australian knows that it is just the PR arm of the Liberal Party and that Manne actually has understated the case because he restricted himself - usefully, it turns out - to a small set of issues. If he had cast his net wider there would have been much more damning material for the paper to deny, now, as though Manne were somehow a unique and deluded maniac with an axe to grind.

He's not. There are thousands of intelligent people who read Manne's essay with a sense of peace because all it did was say - and back up with copious evidence - what they had been thinking for a long time but never had the time or energy to prove. Manne did Australia a great service by subjecting himself to such an onerous labour. Who else would put aside the months needed to scrutinise reams of tedious and one-sided material in order to prove a point? Mann alone. And what do we get in response? Eight quick throw-offs from a bunch of interested parties who represent a media owner who most definitely has an axe to grind and takes every opportunity to do so.

You wonder how these phone calls went. Just how did Chris Mitchell get all of his trusty warriors on side? What did he say to them in order to make sure that the response to Manne's essay was as complete and unanimous as concievably possible? No emails, for starters. Rrrrrrinnnnnnnnnnngg! "Hey, Joe, it's Chris here. Just wondering if you'd had time to read Robert Manne's essay. You did? Great. I'm sure you have a lot to say, Joe. I'll be using my past experience with Rob to attack him but you might want to look at genocide. You have? That's great. OK, mate, talk later." Click. Joe turns to his computer, rubs some almond oil into his palms, checks his Facebook one last time before beginning, then sets to: "Manne is just a stupid ass and nobody likes him, not even leftie intellectuals because his prose style is boring ..." Joe highlights and deletes his first attempt ruefully. No, something more is required, he thinks. The file is named 'Manne rebuttal first draft' and by the time Joe has completed his afternoon's work there are 2000 shining, sharp-edged words sitting on his hard drive. He leaves the office, goes to his pilates class, picks up some cheesecake from the patisserie on the corner, and when he reaches his kitchen he cracks open a cold one. He silently toasts his stubbie into the empty air, thinking, "This is for you, Chris."

Meanwhile, in a cafe in Newtown, two 25-year-old locals - one a legal clerk and the other a graphic designer - are talking about - what else? - Manne's devastating essay about The Australian. "They're going to be shitting themseslves in Surry Hills," says Graeme as he takes a spoonful of sticky-date pudding and pops it ironically into his mouth. "Yeah. Fuck that shit," says Imogen as she replaces her cup for emphasis on its saucer. "I'm sick of reading that crap. It just makes me want to vomit." "Mate, you should send a copy to Aaron in New York. He'd really dig that stuff. You know he got a piece published in the New Yorker?" "I heard," says Imogen. "He emailed me the link. Great job there." "Yeah," Graeme replies.

Imagine how these two young people will react when they see the eight responses piling up on the page The Australian dedicated to the essay.

Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrinnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnng! "Hello?" "Mog, it's Graeme. Just calling to ask if you'd seen the Oz's reaction to Manne's essay on their website." "Yeah, sure," says Imogen. "I read a bit of the one by the guy who writes about Aborigines but I couldn't be bothered with that self-righteous crap." "No worries, Mogs. Hey, you right for Tuesday?" "The Fringe gig? Absolutely." "See ya." "See ya."

Back on King Street, Graeme exits the pie shop holding his breakfast in a plastic singlet bag. He navigates around the pair of police talking to the beggar in front of the IGA and enters the cavern that leads to the ticket counter of the Dendy. He picks up a few promotional leaflets, turns round, and walks home. It's not far to Alice Street but by the time he gets there, the pies are almost cold. Good thing he bought a microwave.

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Top chefs issue future-facing manifesto

A group of chefs who jointly serve on the international board of the Basque Culinary Centre have adopted a vocal position with regards to the way they will carry out their profession in an 'Open letter to the chefs of tomorrow'. Meeting in Lima, Peru, the nine chefs issued the statement in the "hope that these reflections will serve as a reference and inspiration for the young people who will become tomorrow’s chefs". The Guardian reported on what it called the "starry-eyed manifesto" which it said was "a plan to save the planet, one dinner at a time". It's an attempt to lead from the front, and a welcome one at that. There could be plenty of followers, and not just those who call themselves chefs.

Cooking has never been so popular in the West. Lift-outs in magazaines and newspapers mix it in the public sphere with special cooking sections offering readers new recipes on a daily or weekly basis. High-end foodstuffs are more and more commonly found in even the most pedestrian supermarket as shoppers look for the ingredients they are told on TV and elsewhere are necessary to produce the dazzling and scrumptious concoctions they regularly behold. Stuff that is commonplace now in the fruit or cheese section was available only through specialty outlets only a few years ago. If we are what we eat, then we are to an increasing degree a sophisticated and discerning bunch. The Lima Declaration makes that sophistication a bit more understandable for everyone.

What could be more sophisticated than acknowledging "a responsibility to know and protect nature, to use our cooking and our voices as a tool for recovering heirloom and endangered varieties and species"? This type of language could help to further transform the way we think about where our food comes from. Ethical purchasing is a disputed area, with retailers and food producers gradually giving ground in the battles being fought over labelling and disclosure. If a group of top chefs manages to get the message out that buying only sustainable food is cool, then we can expect to see more and more transparency in labelling in future because shoppers will ask for it. This part of the 'Open letter' is just one of seven elements but it is also number one in the agenda and, as such, stands as a keystone of the chefs' statement. Ethical sourcing must be a factor in cooking and it will be part of a retailer's job, to an increasing degree, to ensure that shoppers are given the opportunity - through clear and unambiguous labelling - to make ethical choices when they go on their rounds in the store.

Watch for coverage of the Lima Declaration down the line, folks, and make sure that you always try to encourage biodiversity and sustainable production when you shop. Tomorrow's foodies will salute you. They are already high-signing the nine international chefs shown in the picture at the top of this post.

Saturday 10 September 2011

Murdoch's Oz flagship examined in Quarterly Essay

It's funny that Australian polemicist and academic Robert Manne decided to leave the board of The Monthly immediately prior to his Quarterly Essay, Bad News (issue 43, 2011), appearing in bookshops. Or not. I'm not suggesting that he anticipates a lawsuit from News Limited (the essay is a lengthy investigation of News Limited's flagship broadsheet, The Australian) and was asked to leave by the publisher, Melbourne property king Morry Schwartz. It probably doesn't mean anything at all, but the fact that it is of interest makes you realise that The Australian has a signal relationship with controversy. They certainly have a signal relationship with a broad cross section of the public.

It's as though Rupert Murdoch and his editors globally have decided that, these days, the fiction of impartiality that newspapers give lip service to, is no longer necessary. You don't have to worry about consequences because governments everywhere in the West are so weak as a result of two generations of peace that people can be relied upon to ignore expressions of outrage from politicians. Capital rules, buddy. Newspapers like The Australian have deep pockets and, as Manne points out repeatedly in his essay, millions of words at their disposal.

If impartiality is no longer a requirement for the media and you are a conservative gentleman like Rupert Murdoch then what will happen is that your broadsheet will become progressively tabloidised. The Australian is now the broadsheet that anybody can read. Conservatives rely on the population's baser instincts in order to maintain their privileges, so if you're a conservative media guy you slap on your granddad's old helmet, gird your loins and drum up outrage among the plebs during the day. Then at night you retire to your penthouse and open a bottle of $100-a-bottle chardonnay such as any self-respecting Left-wing liberal bureaucrat or academic only dreams about imbibing. Robert Manne doesn't say as much in his essay, but he does say that The Australian has broken ground in a number of ways:
It is an unusually ideological paper, committed to advancing the causes of neoliberalism in economics and neoconservatism in the sphere of foreign policy. Its style and tone are unlike that of any other newspaper in the nation's history. The Australian is ruthless in pursuit of those who oppose its worldview - market fundamentalism, minimal action on climate change, the federal Intervention in indigenous affairs, uncritical support for the American alliance and for Israel, opposition to what it calls political correctness and moral relativism.
Manne then goes on the explain what he means by making such claims, in an essay that began a year ago this month and that has clearly occupied a lot of his time and energy. It is devastatingly well-researched and its conclusions are equally devastating. If you are interested in the spread of influence from the extreme Right (yes, it is more pronounced in the US but it's still visible here, for example in the way the Liberal Party has changed since November 2009 when Tony Abbott took over the party's leadership), or if you are interested in the media in Australia, then you should read this essay. There is no evidence that anyone at The Australian has read it - a search on their website delivers no related links - but it is bound to cause numerous sets of teeth to grind there. Hence my idea that Manne had been asked to leave The Monthly's board to limit any resulting damage if a lawsuit were to result from the publication of his essay.

The Australian's editor, Chris Mitchell, comes out of the wash looking a bit dishevelled. More precisely, he looks a lot like a tanty-throwing rugrat wearing a Hogan's-Heroes helmet. At any sign of resistance to his will the knives come out, it seems, and his myrmidons are unleashed on some unsuspecting public figure. Manne backs up the serious claim encapsulated in the extract I included above and thus links Murdoch's Australian operation to the ones he owns in the UK via the problematic relationship that seems to exist between his media vehicles and politicians in countries he operates in. In the UK there was a feeling of relief from both major parties when Murdoch began to buckle under the pressure of the Hackgate scandal. In Australia the feeling is equally heartfelt.

In short, says Manne, The Australian makes no bones at all about being impartial. It's not. It is a campaigning outfit with multiple axes to grind and it goes about its business with zest. No wonder the pollies of the Left are sharpening their own knives.

For journalists at the newspaper there might be moments of conflict. From my own experience this seems to be true. I was at a book launch at the University of Sydney in October 2007 where the topic was the media and I remember making a comment to the gathering about the lack of press freedom in Japan, where I have lived. Another person in the room said that, at News Limited newspapers, there was also no freedom and that journalists were routinely told what to write. It didn't strike me at the time because back then I was not reading the news many times a day as I have done since becoming a freelance journo two years ago. Now, however, those comments strike me as revealing.

It goes without saying that I will be monitoring the media for appearances of references to Manne's essay. If the essay gives any of the beleaguered pollies on the Left some courage, then it will have done its job. If it takes the heat off Julie Posetti, the Canberra academic Chris Mitchell threatened to sue for accurately relaying what a person said during a public meeting in Sydney earlier this year, then it will have served a purpose. If it encourages the newspaper it was written to understand to behave with more balance and adopt more ethical behaviours, the essay will have done all thinking Australians a service. For unthinking Australians, don't worry: there are scads of stories being produced by Murdoch tabloids every day. You don't have to blow a fuse, Robert Manne is doing all the hard work for you.

Friday 9 September 2011

Twin Towers a blip on global radar amid economic shift

Over the coming week we're going to see a lot of images like this. It's sort of comforting in a perverse way. It's comforting because not only are such images now plain fare for media consumers, but because they recall a moment of common purpose. Nine-eleven is a historical moment most of us can share. Those excluded - the very young - can refer to their parents' or relatives' memories and the emotions that are connected to them. The memories attached to such images must take into account a striking reality - office workers falling from a high-rise building, passenger planes colliding with buildings, a pall of grey smoke running away across the sharp New York skyline - and also the underlying reality embodied in the hatred that unleashed this quantity of violence against a symbol - for most in the West - not of oppression but of progress and prosperity.

Since nine-eleven al Qaeda has changed although its ultimate goals may not have. The overthrow of America and the establishment of a pan-national Islamic state were concepts hard enough to accept in 2001 for most Westerners, but we learned. The movement tried a few more things but since 2005 there have been few serious incidents. The official response led to a number of new laws and new protocols at airport security points, but these changes are no longer overly irksome for most people. A number of al Qaeda leaders have been eliminated, anti-terror authorities have thwarted a number of new attacks before they could be carried out, and we are left to contemplate those memorable images in relative peace.

The sleeping giant in the new post-nine-eleven world is, of course, China. The bulk of economic growth, says Angus Taylor, an economist with Port Jackson Partners, a Sydney consulting firm, has been since 2003 outside the developed world. The video is on today's The Australian website.
What we've seen in the global economy in the last 10 years has been an extraordinary flip, where if you looked prior to 2003 or so, about two-thirds of economic growth was coming from the developed world and one-third from the developing world. What happened from about 2003 is that turned on its head, so that you're seeing now about two-thirds of economic growth coming from the developing world and one-third from the developed world.
The reason that matters so much for us is that those people in the developing world are poorer and what they want as their economies grow is not so much plasma TVs or cars, but the basic infrastructure and food, fibre. [It's a] transition into the middle class.
The price of food has been named as one of the reasons for social unrest this year in the Middle East that has led to the overthrow of three governments - in Tunisia, Egypt and Lybia - rather than an al Quaeda-led shift away from the notion of the sovereign state to a multinational Islamic regime. Corruption and wealth disparities are matters of as much concern to average residents of such countries as the issue of Israel and the struggles of the Palestinians. The grievances of an organised militant operation are of less moment than the aspirations of a nominal mass of people who want the same things that Westerners have taken for granted for at least two generations.

Chinese people also want these things but the difference here is that China also stands as a destabilising influence on a global scale in a way that no country has done since the Soviet Union collapsed, starting in 1989. Nine-eleven was a blip on the radar within a 14-year hiatus during which China reconfigured itself to emerge as a major player on the global political stage. The rise of the developing world is a fact of far greater import to the West than al Qaeda's theatrical coup amid the high-priced real estate of downtown New York City.

What al Qaeda represents in a wider frame of reference, however, is a matter of identity, of status. The attacks on the Twin Towers were a visible statement that said, 'We're as good as you. Don't underestimate us.' It also pointed to the use of religion in Islamic countries as a means of stabilising personal and community identity within an environment of shifting priorities and values. As these countries have grown economically and, in many ways, begun to emulate the West, something other was needed - on both a personal and a community level - to offset the stresses of change. New commodities, new priorities, new ways of looking at the future - possibly even the idea of "the future" itself - have led to a new way of framing the world. The most obvious tool for use in this quest was, of course, religion.

'We are as good as you. In fact, we're better than you,' has been the tone of this historical moment. More wealth and persistent corruption have meant that people are looking for a way to compete on the global stage with those they are coming to rival. But in Indonesia and China the way people are working out these problems, unlike in Tunisia and Egypt, is not through regime change. There are opportunities here for Westerners to capitalise on these changes. Instead of looking at images of planes flying into buildings, we should be looking at how these countries are expressing their aspirations, and not just reporting the stories that demonstrate that we are, still, in some way better than them.

Thursday 1 September 2011

The Greens take the high road by walking the walk

It's an unmitigated disaster for Labor and a PR coup for the Coalition. The High Court's ruling in favour of refugees who want to be processed for asylum in Australia is quite clear: Malaysia cannot offer adequate protection for asylum seekers sent there, and it does not have adequate provision for access to effective procedures for gauging asylum claims. Australia's international obligations have trumped political expedience and Immigration Minister Bowen is left holding the can. He must be very unhappy right at this point in time, despite assertions that he is seeking legal advice.

Pleasing sectors of the electorate who harbour their racism behind objections to those who make a business out of trafficking people from overseas to Australia via points in Southeast Asia is something the Coalition are very good at. Conservatism almost demands that you take a xenophobic view of the world, and is more closely aligned in its values with the lower strata of society. Progressives aspire to improve the world, conservatives merely claim validity for the status quo on the grounds that it's better for business. It costs less to do things if you are stingy both emotionally and financially. Don't give 'em a farthing, is the mantra from the Right. But for Labor to align its immigration policy so closely with that of the Coalition is a behaviour that should not surprise us. Since the 1980s, Labor has been drifting Rightwards with alarming consistency. Hence the rise of the Greens.

The High Court's decision will be seen as a vindication by those who vote on their side of politics. It's a reminder that there are higher goals to which Australia should aspire, having taken on the responsibility - as well as the cachet - of progressive decisions designed to protect the weakest and most vulnerable, wherever they reside. The Greens have been saying for a long time that Malaysia is not a "fit and proper" country under the terms of our obligations, just as they aim to prove through an enquiry into the media that News Limited is not a "fit and proper" guardian of our democratic interests in the form of control of a substantial segment of Australia's media. There are real principles involved here, not just economic reasons for doing this or that. The Greens prove, again, that they are the real guardians of Australia's collective conscience, not either of the two major parties.