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23 Apr
Insiders - Insiders - Episode 10


Series 2017 | Episode 10CCCURRENT AFFAIRS58 mins

Barrie Cassidy interviews the Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton. On the panel: Phil Coorey, Katharine Murphy & Niki Savva plus Mike Bowers talks pictures with blogger Jack the Insider. #Insiders

Barrie Cassidy presents Australia’s most popular political program. Insiders speaks with the key players, providing analysis, opinion & robust debate from the country’s leading political commentators. #Insiders

I publish here part of what Helen Davidson says in The Guardian:

Helen Davidson is a re oporter for Guardipublisan Australia, based in Darwin.

The top police officer on Manus Island has flatly rejected the Australian immigration minister’s claim that a shooting last Friday was sparked by detainees taking a five-year-old boy into the detention centre.

The regional police commander, David Yapu, told Guardian Australia Peter Dutton’s comments were completely wrong, and maintained that the shooting began when an altercation between navy personnel and asylum seekers escalated.

“It’s a total separate incident altogether,” he said. “The incident that transpired on Friday was because a duty soldier was being assaulted by one of the asylum seekers or refugees.”

Yapu said a young boy had gone to the centre to ask for food about two weeks ago, but he was not led there and was 10, not five. The boy’s parents had not made a complaint, and police were not investigating any link between his visit and the shooting.

Last Friday evening multiple shots were fired at and around the immigration detention centre. Asylum seekers, refugees and centre staff cowered in rooms or ran into the jungle to escape the rampage, which Yapu blamed on “drunken soldiers”.

The navy and Yapu said detainees had refused to leave a soccer field on the naval base and accused an asylum seeker of assaulting a soldier – which detainees who spoke to the Guardian denied. The situation then escalated and at least two people were injured. The navy said asylum seekers had thrown rocks and all parties acknowledged soldiers were shooting.

But on Thursday, Dutton alleged the shooting occurred after local people witnessed asylum seekers leading a five-year-old boy towards the centre.

“I think there was concern about why the boy was being led, or for what purpose he was being led, away back into the regional processing centre,” he told Sky News.

“I think it’s fair to say that the mood had elevated quite quickly. I think some of the local residents were quite angry about this particular incident and another alleged sexual assault,” he said, while conceding he did not have “full details”.

The comments formed Dutton’s only public statement on the shooting since it happened a week ago.

Dutton’s account, which mirrored a witness’s statement to News Corp last week, was wrong, Yapu said.

On social media detainees also disputed Dutton’s statement, saying the allegation related to an incident two weeks ago when a young boy asked for some food and detainees told him to stay at the doorway while they gathered some up. Benham Satah said several CCTV cameras would have captured the visit and called for Dutton to release the footage.

“Security came to them later that night and asked what [the] child was doing and they explained and security left,” he said.

“My friends who were there say we are ready to testify and request for camera records of this false accusations.”

The Greens senator Nick McKim told Guardian Australia Dutton had been caught telling an “outrageous lie” and should either “resign or be sacked”.

“This is on top of consistent failures to protect vulnerable people to whom he owes a duty of care,” McKim said.

“If he won’t go the PM ought to sack him. This has disturbing echoes of the children overboard lies.”

Just now, in Insiders’ interview with Immigtation Minister Peter Dutton, Barrie Cassidy refers to the incident on Manus Island from 21st April 2017.  . . . . “

When Cassidy refers to certain facts from the above incident on Manus Island, Dutton says: “I give you the Facts!”

Interesting facts, indeed!

A Vision for the Future?

22 Apr

A brief history of Villawood and a vision for the future



Villawood Migrant Hostel was established shortly after the end of World War II in order to accommodate assisted migrants from Britain and Europe, including those displaced by the war. The grounds formerly comprised the Leightonfield Munitions Factory, which was replaced by a sea of pre-fabricated, corrugated iron dome structures called “Nissen huts”, with the establishment of the hostel. These basic little structures, each taking about four hours to erect, were the homes of many new migrants who arrived in Australia from 1949 onwards.

Although the huts were located within a compound, the residents were permitted to come and go freely. Children attended the local schools and their parents worked in local businesses, saving their money to leave the hostel and establish new lives, usually within the local community where they were already immersed. The hostel itself was a community, complete with a post office, linen store and childcare centres.

Photographs from that period show children playing cricket, posing in their school uniforms and stringing Christmas decorations from the curved roofs of their huts. A resident of the area at that time recalls strolling into Villawood regularly to play table tennis and visit mates, and another describes Villawood fondly as “a great place to arrive at in 1960”. In 1964 the hostel was home to 1425 residents and it was around this time that The Easybeats were established, which, for those too young to remember, was the Australian “It” band of their day formed by five new migrants from three different countries who called Villawood home.

But of course, photographs do not tell the entire story, and there is a tendency to imbue old times with a warm nostalgic glow that belies the severe realities of life. For those migrating from cold European climes, the Western Sydney sun beating down on those sheds was unbearably hot and humid at times. The conditions were cramped, with multiple, large families sharing small quarters, described by some former residents as putrid and shocking. Hostel resident Patricia Donnelly put it bluntly, “Nothing in the hostels, where most people went, was as it was shown in the brochures. Hostel life was terrible.”

Asylum seekers who arrived by boat from Vietnam in the 1970s were housed with refugees who had already been granted visas. These asylum seekers were not allowed to leave the hostel while they were being processed, but processing was swift and there was no moral question hanging over their heads. There was no suspicion about whether they were “real refugees”. The Government understood why the Vietnamese boat people were fleeing, and why they were doing so as quickly as they could.

In 1992, mandatory detention was introduced. The 1958 Migration Act had allowed for discretionary detention of those who arrived without a visa, and the government had been exploiting this discretion to detain the increasing number of Cambodian refugees arriving since 1989. In 1992 a number of detainees applied for judicial review of the decision to detain them. Pre-empting the result of the case, the Keating Government, with the support of the Coalition, amended the Migration Act to undercut future applications for judicial review on the same grounds.

According to then-immigration minister Gerry Hand, the amendment was intended “only as an interim measure” to contain the number of Vietnamese, Cambodian and Chinese boat arrivals – yet it remains in force more than 23 years later. Hand’s fierce declaration that “a clear signal be sent that migration to Australia may not be achieved by simply arriving in this country and expecting to be allowed into the community” represents the beginning of the misguided conflation of the term “asylum seeker” with the umbrella term “migrant”, which remains to this day in the Australian dialogue. Al Jazeera has recently announced that they will no longer use the term “migrant” where “asylum seeker” or “refugee” is appropriate  we can only hope to see the media take a similar stance here.

“Australia, with its boundless plains to share,
could become a country renowned for its
compassion instead of its cruelty.”

People seem to have trouble imagining an Australia without mandatory detention for boat people, but mandatory detention is relatively new. It is not difficult to imagine a future policy that acknowledges the right of a person to ask for our help, a policy that does not completely strip a human being of their freedom, dignity and hope. Malcolm Fraser’s Coalition Government dealt with Vietnamese boat people by accepting, housing and processing those who made the journey, whilst simultaneously increasing humanitarian intake in an effort to reduce the numbers making the inarguably dangerous journey.

Australia’s relative geographical isolation means that we are unlikely to ever be at risk of a constant stream of boats, but the number of refugees in the world – 19.5 million at last count and ever increasing – will not decrease simply because we turn our back on them. Increasing humanitarian intake, and directing funds into rescue measures rather than punitive measures, is the way to stop deaths at sea.

For better or for worse, modern Australia is a country founded on immigration of many kinds. Apart from our Indigenous population, the rest of us are descended from persons from elsewhere – convicts, refugees, those seeking employment, better living conditions, sun and sea.

If we strain our imaginations, with the aid of a few sepia photographs, perhaps we can imagine creating the conditions under which human beings who have suffered incredible trauma are be able to recover and flourish. Perhaps we can imagine ridding our country of immigration detention centres and recreating, and improving upon, hostels like the old Villawood Migrant Hostel. Australia, with its boundless plains to share, could become a country renowned for its compassion instead of its cruelty.

Sadie Grant Butler is a philosophy student, writer and activist from Sydney. She tweets sporadically @spadiegb

Feature image: Kate Ausburn/Flickr


How the US Uses War to Protect the Dollar

14 Apr

The Most Revolutionary Act

The Gods of Money

William Engdahl (2015)

The first video is a 2015 presentation by William Engdahl about his 2010 book The Gods of Money. It focuses on the use of US economic and military warfare to maintain the supremacy of the US dollar as the global reserve currency.

As his point of departure, he begins with the 1944 Bretton Woods agreement, in which the Allied powers agreed to use the gold-backed US dollar as the world’s reserve currency. In 1971 when Nixon was forced to end the gold standard,* the gold-backed US dollar was replaced by the “petrodollar.” According to Engdahl, it was so named because of a secret agreement the US made with Saudi Arabia – in return for a guarantee that OPEC would only trade oil in US dollars, the US guaranteed the Saudis unlimited military hardware.

In this way, oil importing nations (most of the…

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Tuesday, 4th of April 2017

4 Apr

Pictures from our excursion to Wollongong Harbour.

Soon after i had taken these pictures of the Maui Van we got caught in a very heavy downpour. Peter had run further down where we had parked our car. He thought it was urgent that he did get the car up for us, for me as well as Peter Uwe and Astrid. Very dark clouds were already approaching. Before Peter did get to the car, the downpour started already. In the end we all did get quite wet. Our umbrellas were not of much use in this extremely heavy downpour.
When we were up at Mount Keira earlier in the day we were very lucky that some rain had just stopped and a bit of sun did break through. We had a few enjoyable minutes looking towards the sea and Wollongong and watching all these looming clouds in the sky. But before the next downpour came we were already back in the car and on our way to Wollongong.

I took heaps of pictures from Mount Keira too and am going to publish them in my next post.

Pesticides in Fruit and Vegetables

24 Mar

Sustainable Gardening Australia (SGA) is a not-for-profit social organisation dedicated to achieving a healthy biodiverse planet and vibrant, sustainable communities.

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We are all aware that fruit and veggies produced commercially, unless they are certified organic, have been exposed to pesticides at some stage in their growth and that they may still contain residues when we buy them. But do you know that there are some which are more contaminated than others? If ever you needed an incentive to grow your own, recent analyses of pesticide content provide just that. The resulting listings of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen indicate which ones you will be best advised to grow yourself.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) in the USA has just released its 2015 Shopper’s  Guide to Pesticides in Produce1. This large not-for-profit, independent group is comprised of many experts including scientists and other researchers. They analysed data from the US Department of Agriculture and the US Food and Drug Administration from 2013, covering 34,000 produce samples, and found that almost two-thirds contained pesticide residues.

All produce was tested as it would be consumed i.e. washed and peeled if appropriate. The Dirty Dozen was calculated from combining rankings of each product according to 6 criteria:

  • Percent of samples tested with detectable pesticides
  • Percent of samples with two or more detectable pesticides
  • Average number of pesticides found on a single sample
  • Average amount of pesticides found, measured in parts per million
  • Maximum number of pesticides found on a single sample
  • Total number of pesticides found on the commodity”1

The report’s key findings are:

  • “99 percent of apple samples, 98 percent of peaches, and 97 percent of nectarines tested positive for at least one pesticide residue
  • The average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other produce
  • A single grape sample and a sweet bell pepper sample contained 15 pesticides
  • Single samples of cherry tomatoes, nectarines, peaches, imported snap peas and strawberries showed 13 different pesticides apiece”1

Is this relevant to Australia?

You might say, “But Australian food has a reputation of being clean and green and U.S findings don’t relate to us”. But the few Australian studies that we could track down showed considerable overlap with the EWG findings. And commercial agriculture and pesticide use are similar in both countries.

In 2011, the Friends of the Earth (FoE) obtained a grant from the City of Yarra to produce a food guide and analysed Australian data from 2000 – 2011. Because monitoring of food is not performed consistently by a Federal government body, FoE analysed reports from the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) Failing Food Reports, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) National Residue Surveys 2008-2010, FSANZ Total Diet Surveys 2003 and 2011, Victoria’s Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Produce Monitoring Reports 2007/8 –2008/9 – 2009/2010, Food Watch WA and other state based monitoring programs.2

Fruits and vegetables most likely to contain pesticides#

U.S. Produce1 Australian Produce2
2010 2011 2013  2000 – 2011
Celery Apples Apples Apples
Peaches Celery Peaches Pears
Strawberries Strawberries Nectarines Strawberries
Apples Peaches Strawberries Grapes
Blueberries Spinach Grapes Lettuce
Nectarines Nectarines (imported) Celery Nectarines
Sweet bell peppers Grapes (imported) Spinach Peaches
Spinach Sweet bell peppers Sweet bell peppers Tomatoes
Kale/Collard greens Potatoes Cucumbers Apricots
Cherries Blueberries Cherry tomatoes Carrots
Potatoes Lettuce Snap peas (imported) Plums
Grapes (imported) Kale/collard greens Potatoes Green beans

#Listings are from highest to lowest levels of pesticides

Which pesticides?

The most frequent types of pesticides in food in Australia, according to the FoE study, are shown in the table below.

Type of Pesticide Percent of samples containing them
Insecticide 39.5
Fungicide 32.1
Synergist# 5.6
Herbicide 4.1
Other 8.6


#Synergists block the ability of the target organism to break down the pesticide

These include a range of highly toxic chemicals such as chlorpyrifos, fenitrothion, difocol and dimethoate3,4. Many are prohibited for use in the European Union and the U.S. Many persist in soil or find their way into waterways where they harm aquatic life.

An example is chlorpyrifos which is used commercially on a wide variety of crops, including fruits and vegetables. The safety advice prepared by manufacturers of commercial insecticides containing chlorpyrifos warns that it should not be used by householders in or around homes since it is too hazardous. Children and animals are more susceptible. It affects the nervous system and has been linked to interference with development of intelligence and to behaviour problems in children. It is toxic to bees, aquatic organisms including fish, and to some invertebrates and is currently under review by the National Registration Authority for Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals. However, this chemical is present in some current garden products to kill lawn beetles and grubs.

strawberry1In 2008, Choice conducted a study on strawberries from 27 growers in all states (except Tasmania and South Australia) and found residues from 9 different pesticides with 17 samples containing 4 different chemicals5. Among the residues found were chlorpyrifos and dimethoate mentioned above.

Regulation of allowable pesticide residues

In Australia, Food Standards Australia & New Zealand (FSANZ) and the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) set Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) for pesticide levels in fruit and vegetables. These limits are based on residue levels that might be expected if the use of the pesticide has been in accord with manufacturer’s instructions and with required withholding periods which are set so that produce is safe for consumption6. MRLs also take into account the amounts of each food likely to be consumed.

Monitoring of residue levels in food is conducted in an Australian total Diet Survey by FSANZ every 3 years and by the Department of Agriculture in its National Residue Survey. States and territories also conduct surveys such as Food Watch in Western Australia and the Sydney Markets Residue Survey. The latter tested 6,900 samples of fruit and vegetables from 1989 to 2005 and found that most (97.5%) complied with the MRLs. Only 171 samples exceeded acceptable levels7. However, testing does not sample every grower or processor or every food. Imported fruit and vegetables make up over 10% of the total available, but only about 5% are tested by the Australian Quarantine and Information Service (AQIS). Not all pesticides are tested for and not all survey results are publicly available.

Should I eat only home-grown or organic?

Are the reports of pesticides in produce just scaremongering? Reliable scientific evidence shows that pesticides which have been detected are implicated in cancer and in disruption of nerve and reproductive pathways5. And these chemicals find their way into our bodies.  For example, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 96% of a sample of 5000 people aged 6 or older had pesticides in their blood and urine.

The degree of risk associated with consuming non-organic fruit and vegetables is difficult to determine for any given individual. It depends on the amounts and combinations of pesticide residues consumed, at what stage of life, whether any effects accumulate over a lifetime and whether monitoring actually includes samples that would not meet MRLs.

The EWG’s Clean Fifteen have the lowest levels of pesticides. Starting from lowest levels they are avocadoes, sweet corn, pineapple, cabbage, frozen peas, onion, asparagus, mango, papaya, kiwi fruit, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower, sweet potato.

If you want to reduce levels of pesticides in your body when buying commercially grown produce, choose from the Clean Fifteen, buy less of the Dirty Dozen and seek out certified organic produce.  Better still, grow you own with a focus on the Dirty Dozen – and avoid pesticide use in your garden.  If you feel you must use a pesticide, choose from SGA’s Low Environmental Impact listing in our Garden Product Guide – Safe for You ‘n’ Nature. The criteria used in this Guide take into account effects on humans, insects and aquatic life.

For the full listing of produce examined by the EWG and FoE and more details on pesticides see the references below.


1. Environmental Working Group (2015) EWG’s 2015 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.
2. Friends of the Earth (2012) The dose makes the poison.
3. WWF and National Toxics Network (2010) Australia’s Most Dangerous Pesticides
4. Pesticide Action Network (PAN) (2014)
5. Choice (2014) Strawberries and pesticides. How do you pick the best and avoid an extra serving of chemicals?
6. Food Standards Australia & New Zealand (2013)
7. NSW Department of Primary Industries (2006) Spray sense. Information on Pesticide Issues, No. 3




From “Wings of Desire”

22 Mar

Myths of Migration

22 Mar

Much of What We Think We Know Is Wrong

The debate over migration is plagued by a variety of inaccuracies and misunderstandings — on both the right and the left. Here is what the research really shows.

By Hein de Haas

I copy here just part 8 of a very long article by Hein de Haas. This section brings the article to a conclusion. Of course this is written from a EU perspective, but would probably apply to other developed countries as well.

8. No, we aren’t living in an era of unprecedented migration.

And finally, a look at the broader picture. For over half a century, the number of migrants as a percentage of the world population has remained remarkably constant at levels of roughly 3 percent since 1960. Even as the number of international migrants has increased from 93 million in 1960 to 244 million in 2015, the global population has increased at approximately the same rate, from 3 billion to almost 7.3 billion.


The idea of a global “refugee crisis” likewise has no basis in fact. On a global scale, refugees represent a relatively small share of all migrants. While the number of refugees decreased from 18.5 million to 16.3 million between 1990 and 2010, the total rebounded to 21.3 million in 2016, primarily as a result of war in Syria. Still, refugees only represent between 7 and 8 percent of the global migrant population, and about 86 percent of all refugees live in developing countries.

Countries such as Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Ethiopia and Jordan currently host the largest refugee populations. Western societies, by contrast, receive a comparatively low number of refugees, and current numbers are anything but unprecedented. Currently, about 0.4 percent of the total EU population is a refugee. That figure hovered around 0.5 percent between 1992 and 1995.

The main change in global migration patterns has been the dominant direction of population movements. Whereas in past centuries, it was mainly Europeans who migrated to foreign territories (or conquered them), this pattern has been reversed since World War II.

With its strong economy and aging population, the EU has emerged as a global migration destination, attracting between 1.5 and 2.5 million non-EU migrants per year. Although this sounds significant, it corresponds to between 0.3 and 0.5 percent of the EU’s total population of 508 million.

Furthermore, between 1 million and 1.5 million people leave the EU every year. Net migration in European countries like France and Germany tends to fluctuate, as illustrated above, in parallel to business cycles, but the long-term trend does not show an increase.

There is an urgent need to see migration as an intrinsic part of economic growth and societal change instead of primarily as a problem that must be solved. It is inevitable that open and wealthy societies will experience substantial immigration in the future as well, whether they like it or not.

This exposes one of the paradoxes of liberalization: The political desire for less migration is fundamentally incompatible with the trend towards economic liberalization and the desire to maximize economic growth. The erosion of labor rights, the rise of flexible work and the privatization of formerly state-owned companies in recent decades have significantly increased the demand for migrant labor in Europe. The heated migration debates in Britain and the U.S. – both strongly liberalized market economies facing persistently high levels of immigration – are powerful illustrations of this liberalization paradox.

As such, the only way to really cut down on immigration seems that of reversing economic liberalization and strictly regulating labor markets. That, though, could also decrease levels of wealth across the board. The question then becomes: Is that really what we want?


Hein de Haas is a professor of sociology at the University of Amsterdam. He was a founding member and former co-director of the International Migration Institute (IMI) at the University of Oxford. For more information on research findings underpinning this article, see and