Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Climate change legislation: political opportunism or matter of principled stance!

We can assume that our prime minister is hoping that the opposition would make their biggest mistake and block the climate change legislation. Such move that could pave his way to call for double dissolution and have very early election. There is no doubt that he is watching very carefully the progress of the global and local recession. There is no doubt that the deterioration of the economic situation further (and there are many indications that the economy will deteriorate soon very drastically) would mix all cards and give the opposition more games to play on the claim of historic Labor incompetence in managing economy.

Would the opposition makes this biggest mistake, many political parties would dance from joy. This dance is not because they stick to their policies or that they have achieved major victory. On the contrary. Many political players would have shame in their history forever would they block this legislation. On the top of these would be the Greens party and Nick Xenophon team.

The Greens party in particular would be left with no excuse to be trusted or to be voted for, ever. Imagine that a party that was established to protect environment, would block a legislation that would reduce carbon emissions by 10 – 15 %, pave a way to other major polluters nations to convince their citizens and voters of the need to take big steps in this direction and lastly would see Australia play major role in Copenhagen conference. (I talked about this issue in more details in previous article http://jamaldaoud.blogspot.com/2008/12/greens-blocking-of-action-on-climate.html)

So why the Greens is so keen to block this legislation?

First I want to stress again here that the Greens party is merely an opportunistic party that has no ideology or principles to stick to. The Greens is just a party of populist stances to get more votes, hence get more power and makes more millionaires. I will give some examples later in this article to support this assumption.

If we go back to the issue of climate change, the Greens is so keen to block this legislation just to pave a way for double dissolution with more chances to increase their representation in the senate (and not for any principled reasons whatsoever). As the Greens is standing at the moment nationally on around 7% of the vote, there would be no guarantee that they could increase their representation in the senate. There is no guarantee even to maintain the numbers they are having now. To win a seat in the senate in normal election needs 14.5% of the vote in each state and 33.5% in the territories. The Greens would have big gamble to win any seat in normal election. They never won a senate seat on their own votes, except when Bob Brown won his seat in Tasmania on 2007.

But in a double dissolution scenario, The Greens needs only 7.5% to win a seat on their own. This means that in any double dissolution, the Greens would have big chance to win senate seat in each state and maybe 2 seats in Tasmania. This is why the Greens is so keen to block this legislation in a bid to achieve this outcome: double dissolution.

So the Greens’ blocking of the climate change legislation definitely would not be on principled grounds. Let us compare the Greens stances on other issues to realize this fact.

The Greens had the chance to block the legislation to approve 2 stimulus packages, and then they can enforce the PM to call for early election and double dissolution. I, personally, could not believe that any progressive politician could approve the largest economical vandalism in the history of this nation. The wasting of national common wealth to support mainly addictions (on gambling, drugs, alcohol or shopping), which did not create single job, would not have support of any clever semi-progressive politician. The Greens supported this major economical vandalism and major national wealth waste because it was very popular amongst the voters. The Greens could not afford to gamble by taking principled stance on issue that could cost them many votes.

The other political players who would benefit from the double dissolution scenario are the Nick Xenopohn team and Family first party.

Especially the family first senator is in very vulnerable position. His party got less than 2% in the last election. In normal election he needs a miracle to be re-elected. But in double dissolution, he needs a mini miracle to win a seat.

So what is about the Liberals? And why Tony Abbot raised alarm recently about this legislation and the possibility of double dissolution?
There is no doubt that the coalition will be the biggest losers would double dissolution be called. The Liberals were put in very difficult situation here. If they would agree to pass the legislation, the party would be seen to betraying the business sector, which are historically the loyalist voters for Coalition. So they would lose many voters in the long term. And if they block the legislation, they will pave a way for early election and so to a big defeat and possibility of losing seats in both houses.

The problem of Australian politics is that it is very static, not dynamic. Different parties are using the same rhetoric, tactics and tricks for decades. It is very difficult to introduce new concepts easily.

So what other options Malcolm Turnbul has to avoid such fate of total disastrous early election and internal fighting among different factions?

Malcolm, if he thinks deeply, can use the new – old tactics of gentle retreating with minimum casualty. With current situation in the parliament, the Liberals can vote against the legislation in the house. The Labor government has numbers there to pass it. Then Malcolm can declare that the party would block the legislation in the senate. But at the same time, he would arrange for few senators to cross the floor and vote for the legislation. By doing this, he can avoid double dissolution trigger and major loss in both houses.

The most important lesson we learned from this issue (after adding to the other issues in the past few months) is that there is total lack of principled political parties in our parliament.

Should we allow this to continue? Or may be the more important question should be: can we afford to allow this to continue?

The deterioration of the situation of marginalized groups (at all levels) is sending strong message that we should take steps to address this leadership vacuum.

The club of white, middle class and privileged politicians had proved to be incompetent to tackle any issue that matters to ordinary and marginalised citizens. The issue of climate change is a good example of the need for strong leadership to lead Australia into better future. What we have at the moment is a sold-off leadership running after their personal interests.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sectarian hate in Sydney: Why I will not fly with Etihad Airways, ever!!

The “political” money of Lebanese and Arabic regimes and political parties did not only destroy the sectarian tolerance in Lebanon, but has reached Australia and is affecting the lives of tens of thousands of Muslims living here. It is normal now to hear that there was fight here or there because of sectarian hate comments against the Shia or retaliatory attacks on Sunni.

We forget all our problems of deep racism, low representation in decision making bodies and high representation in the tabloid media. We forget all about crusade war on our homelands of Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Lebanon, ….etc. But we all discovered that we are either from this sect or from the other one.

The latest disgusting sectarian and racist attack I witnessed was on 16 June 09 at the Sydney International Terminal at Sydney Airport. My friend (Palestinian who was born in Syria) was traveling to Syria after 8 years without a visit. He was both very exited but deeply scared.

At the Etihad counter a lady called him and his family to check in. I was there to support him and give him hand if he needed it; especially as he has many health problems. The following 30 minutes was horrific and brought to my mind memories of third world countries and practices of secret agencies of dictatorships and totalitarian regimes.

It helps a lot to put the horrific treatment into dot points, to simplify things:

1- After she checked the Australian passports of my friend and his family, she realised that most of them were born in Damascus, Syria. At that point she lost her mind. She opened the passports and shouted: you were born in Damascus? Is that in Syria? Do you admit? I remembered the Bush administration with its “Axis of Evil” slogans. As if she wants to tell him: are you part of this evil regime? She then asked them to make their Syrian ID documents available. When they said that they do not have any Syrian documents, as they are traveling on Australian passports, she told them that without showing her their original Syrian ID documents she will not process their checkout, and they would not be allowed to fly. After terrorising the whole family regarding the possibility of them missing the flight and losing thousands of dollars, she pretended that she talked to her manager who allowed the checkout. It was very clear that she was taking some revenge actions for treatment she (or one of her family members) received at Syrian checkout points in Lebanon during the presence of Syrian army there.
2- After she commenced the checkout process, she started to be very strict with the allowed weight for the family. At one stage, she told them that there was half kilo needed to be removed from one of the hand bags. After they removed a pair of shoes from this hand bag, she went on and on, with threats that she will either not allow them to fly or charge them $400 (for half kilo????)
3- At some stage she became very aggressive, stood on her feet, removed the luggage sticker and said that they will not fly today. I then asked her to give me her name to complain later against her. She refused and asked to remove all of us from the front of the counter.

At that point and when the whole family started to cry and become nervous, I intervened and asked to speak to her manager. She refused to call the manager. I then asked her to give me her name, but she also refused. I had no other option but to call the police. When her manager saw the police coming and other passengers in the Airport clustering around us, she asked her to finish the torture of the family and send the bags on.

I talked to my friend in Arabic, and she understood us. She was clearly Arabic speaking. And she clearly had problems either with my friend’s Syrian place of birth, or she had problem with my Palestinian traditional scarf. Or maybe she had problems with both. And I believe she had problems with both.

How would sectarian blind hate, based on no reason, allow someone to persecute her fellow Australians?

Did not this lady learn from history that this sectarian blind hate lead to massacres in her homeland? Would she want to see similar here in Australia, even only by starting to discriminate against each other and abuse power to humiliate the “other”?

We will not let this go on an on. This is why we wrote to the Etihad airways. The response so far was good, but with no action to address the discrimination or any action to prevent further oppression. This is why we are taking this matter further to the Human Rights Commission. And we may take it further. At the end of the day, my friend was not responsible for the mistakes of Syrian government, committed by deep encouragement and agreement with all Lebanese forces attacking Syria now.

We can understand and accept that this lady can form Anti-Syrian and Anti-Palestinian movement and campaign against “us”. But in business, we deserve fair trading, especially if operating in Democratic society. And we will get it.

And I will not fly with Etihad which allowed this discrimination to happen without any serious disciplinary action against this customer officer.