Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Red News Readers,

Those members of Gen X and Y who have not registered to vote would do well to remember the words of Nelson Mandela on the day that he voted for the first time in his life. He said that this was the day that he had spent 25 years in jail for, the day on which he could vote, as a citizen in a democratic election in South Africa. They should also remember the words of UN Aid Workers in Cambodia, touched by the sight of women in Cambodia, crouched by the side of a road after having walked all night, waiting for the polling booths to open, so they too could vote for the first time in the Cambodian elections after the fall of Pol Pot. And recently I was touched by the reports of election observers in Afghanistan who observed crowds of people taking their life in their hands, under threat from the Taliban, but willing to take the risk, just for the right to vote. The right to vote is a priviledge that should not be taken lightly or ignored. Many have died and suffered for it. Register to vote and have your say. Even better, get active in a political issue that interests you. The future of this country is in your hands.

Jenny Haines

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Red News Readers,

Gerard Henderson in today’s SMH reviews some of the dark history of government decision making on refugees and asylum seekers. While he remembers Labor in a bad light, he tries to justify all that Howard et al did. My blog posting is below:-

“Some of what Gerard Henderson says about past governments, Labor and Liberal Coalition is true unfortunately, but past mistakes do not justify current repetition of mistakes or lack of humanity. On Amanda Tattersall's statement, Gerard, I refer you to Page 228, of Dark Victory, by Marr and Wilkinson, "But critically the purpose of Operation Relex was not search and rescue. It was a military operation to stop the boats and turn them back before they reached Australia." And you may like to turn to Page 291 of the same book to find their comment about John Faulkner, "the questioning of civilian and military officials was driven by Labor's John Faulkner in a ruthless forensic exercise extending over many months. He and his colleagues on the committee laid bare much of this story."

If you wish to add to this blog go to the link:


Jenny Haines

Friday, July 09, 2010


Mandatory detention destroyed my life: refugee

SMH, July 9, 2010 - 3:58PM
Gillard eats her words over refugees
Abbott smells blood
Richard Ackland: Facts and furphies
What would you do?

A former immigration detainee has told a rally protesting the government's new policy on asylum seekers that mandatory detention destroyed his life.

Iranian refugee Mohsen Soltani says he lives with the scars of his detention.

"They destroy my whole life in detention," said the poet and musician, who spent four years in immigration detention centres in Western Australia and New South Wales.

"I run away from torture and execution in my country, but here they crush all my spirit."

Mr Soltani was sent to the Port Hedland detention centre in WA in 1999 and was later transferred to Villawood, in Sydney's southwest, before being released in 2003.

He told about 60 people outside the Immigration Department offices in Sydney's CBD today that detention centres were "hell".

The rally was held to protest against Prime Minister Julia Gillard's proposal for a regional offshore processing centre for asylum seekers.

Protesters waved banners and chanted: "Say it out loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here".

Mr Soltani told the rally that Ms Gillard's proposal showed she was the same as former prime minister John Howard and his immigration minister Philip Ruddock.

"We don't want the same history repeated with more mandatory detention - with more mental people released from that bloody hell," he said

"I have a huge mental illness from the detention."

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is also proposing a return to offshore processing of asylum seekers who arrive by boat.

Jenny Haines, spokeswoman for Labor for Refugees, said Ms Gillard's proposal was an election tactic.

"To cave into that idiot Abbott's idea that we can offshore process and then send (people) back to dangerous places like Afghanistan and Sri Lanka is reprehensible," she said.

Mark Goudkamp from the Refugee Action Collective castigated both sides of politics.

"It seems like its a debate on who can be ... more tough in terms of stopping asylum seekers even getting to Australia," he said.

Ms Gillard this week announced East Timor was a possible location for a detention centre, but later had to tone down her remarks after Timorese Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao responded negatively.

The government has since had discussions with Papua New Guinea.


Tuesday, July 06, 2010


Red News Readers,

Having just read Gillard’s speech, my view is that she seems to be trying to walk the middle path in the first part of the speech and then she lurchs towards Abbott with her East Timor processing centre. Why does she need this centre? She has Christmas Island and the onshore processing centres on the Australian mainland. East Timor I presume is in addition to what we have, not in place of? .

I agree with John Dowd who I heard on ABC 702 yesterday morning. He said that if the people that have recently arrived were white South Africans or white Zimbabweans, no one would be raising a murmur. But because they are brown and from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan there is a problem. John Dowd said this is racism. And it is, and Gillard should be ashamed that she is caving in to such forces in our community.

Mind you it is a good thing that she is not sending the Hazaras back to Afghanistan immediately. William Maley, an Australian National University expert on the Hazara, said in the SMH today: ”On the day Julia Gillard became prime minister, 11 Hazaras travelling in a vehicle in Oruzgan, the province where our troops are deployed, were waylaid by the Taliban and had their heads cut off.” He said it would be extremely dangerous to send any Hazara back to Afghanistan at present, and that no Afghan specialist in the world would say that the situation in Afghanistan is improving.

But pity the Sri Lankans. At the very moment that the EU is cutting off trade benefits to Sri Lanka because of the failure of its government to improve human rights, at a time when human rights organisations are reporting continued human rights abuses, Australia is planning to send vulnerable applicants for refugee and asylum seeker status back to Sri Lanka. Will Australians be satisfied when some, or god help us all of these returning refugees are imprisoned, or worse executed on their return? I hope Gillard, Abbott and those advocating their return can lie easy in their beds, because I can’t knowing what may very well happen to the Sri Lankans on their return.

Jenny Haines

Gillard on asylum seekers: time for an East Timor Solution

by Bernard Keane, Crikey 6.7.10

Australia will establish a revised “Pacific Solution”, with Prime Minister Julia Gillard flagging a “regional processing centre” for asylum seekers to be based in East Timor, to where asylum seekers who arrive by boat would be redirected as part of a “regional protection framework”.

In an address to the Lowy Institute this morning, the Prime Minister moved to establish a tougher line on asylum seekers by announcing her intention to pursue an East Timor processing facility with President Jose Ramos-Horta, the New Zealand government and the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees.

She also flagged that improved conditions in Sri Lanka now meant Tamil asylum seekers were likely to be sent home, and that negotiations were proceeding with the Afghan government on the repatriation of failed Afghan asylum seekers. Gillard also indicated unspecified measures to strengthen penalties for people smugglers whose actions lead to death, and committed to ensuring that successful asylum seekers would receive no “special treatment”.

Gillard explicitly denied that the proposed East Timor facility would be “a new Pacific Solution”, instead insisting it would be a “sustainable, effective regional protection framework”, but the difference with the Howard government’s approach of spending large sums of taxpayer money to send asylum seekers to locations such as Nauru for processing is unclear, beyond the promised involvement of the UNHCR.

The Prime Minister indicated that, in light of the UNHCR’s overnight report indicating a significantly improved security and legal situation in Sri Lanka, most Tamil asylum seekers faced being put on a plane back to their homeland if they attempted to reach Australia, although acknowledging that case-by-case determinations would remain. The present suspension of claims by Sri Lankan asylum seekers, put in place by Kevin Rudd just under three months ago, would be lifted.
The present suspension of processing of claims for Afghan asylum seekers would remain in place, but Gillard appeared to suggest this awaited the resolution of repatriation arrangements with the Afghan government. She emphasised that nearly three-quarters of Afghan asylum applicants had been refused in recent months.

Gillard also sought to address the persistent community myth that refugees are given extensive and special taxpayer assistance. “When newcomers settle in our community, they accept their responsibilities as members of the community — to learn English, enter the workforce, and send their kids to school like everyone else. Most refugees fulfil these obligations and are grateful to be able to make a new home in Australia … But the rules are the rules. We will ensure refugees shoulder the same obligations as Australians generally.”

What action this would entail remains unclear.

Earlier today, the opposition sought to further toughen its own stance on asylum seekers by indicating those who “deliberately destroyed” identity documentation would be denied asylum, an approach that appears unworkable given Australia’s international commitments and the practicalities of establishing “deliberate destruction” in the context of escape from brutal regimes and people smuggling.

The opposition also proposed to move the Minister for Immigration back into asylum claims processing, suggesting the minister be given the right to intervene in any asylum claim. The Secretary of the Department of Immigration would also be required to sign off on all asylum claim determinations, rather than lower level officials, although the power could be delegated.

Thursday, July 01, 2010


Largest Ever Nurses' Strike Could Be Sign of Future Unrest

Robert Lowes

June 11, 2010 — A 1-day strike of 12,000 nurses in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota — said to be the largest in US history — ended as planned this morning, but experts expect more labor unrest to roil the hospital industry.

The nurses on strike from14 hospitals in the Twin Cities belong to the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA), an affiliate of an ambitious new "super union" with 155,000 members called National Nurses United (NNU). The NNU advocates nationwide adoption of nurse-to-patient staffing ratios that it deems low enough to ensure good patient care and prevent nurse burnout.

Staffing levels figure heavily into continuing negotiations between the Minnesota nurses and their hospitals over a new labor contract. Other points of contention are wages and the Minnesota hospitals' proposal to reduce the nurses' pension benefits.
The Minnesota nurses set their strike date of June 10 about 2 weeks beforehand, giving hospitals time to prepare. Maureen Schriner, a spokesperson for a trade group called Twin Cities Hospitals, said the 14 affected hospitals brought in 2800 replacement nurses on Thursday. Some hospitals rescheduled surgeries.

"Things ran smoothly," Schriner said. "The level of patient care was the same as it always had been."

The strike is the third major labor battle waged by the NNU this year. Members of an NNU affiliate in Philadelphia went on strike from Temple University Hospital for 28 days this spring, and just this week, a state judge issued a temporary restraining order to stop members of the affiliated California Nurses Association (CNA) from walking off their jobs yesterday at University of California medical centers and student health facilities. The NNU was formed last December when the CNA merged with the Massachusetts Nurses Association and United American Nurses.

NNU leaders say they will take aggressive action wherever hospitals put profits above patient care and the well-being of nurses.

"This phenomenon is not just in Minnesota," NNU co-president Jean Ross, RN, told Medscape Medical News. "In this recession, employers expect everybody to sacrifice whether there's a need to or not, or whether it's prudent or not, and it always comes on the backs of nurses.

"This union is prepared to do what it needs to do to get its needs met. What's good for nurses is good for patients."

Labor Historian Expects More Strikes in Era of Consolidation

Over the past 10 years, strikes by nurses have been "sort of rare," Peter Buerhaus, PhD, RN, a professor of nursing at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, told Medscape Medical News. Dr. Buerhaus said the drive to unionize nurses comes at a time when many aspects of the hospital workplace have improved, leading to higher job satisfaction.

"It's a much better picture than it was in the 1990s," said Dr. Buerhaus, referring to surveys of nurses that he has helped conduct over the years.

To Peter Rachleff, PhD, a labor historian at Macalester College in St. Paul, this week's 1-day strike illustrates how the nursing profession is responding to a healthcare industry marked by consolidation among health insurers and hospitals. "A new generation of nurses sees collective action as necessary to develop national standards for how they work," Dr. Rachleff said.

Asked if he expects to see more nurse strikes in the near future, Dr. Rachleff replied, "Absolutely."

In one sense, said Dr. Rachleff, nurses are trying to fill in the details of healthcare reform legislation enacted by Congress.

"The nurses are addressing issues of delivery of care that weren't clear in the larger macro discussion," he said. "They're taking it to the next level."

Opinion Divided on Value of Mandatory Staffing Ratios

One detail of healthcare reform dear to nurses in the Twin Cities is staffing levels. Their union is asking hospitals to maintain a ratio of 1 RN to 4 patients in medical and surgical units, and 1 RN to 2 patients in critical-care units, for example.

NNU co-president Jean Ross said some hospitals in the Twin Cities assign 3 patients per nurse in intensive care units instead of the 2 patients sought by the union.
"When things get more hectic, you're more likely to miss fine changes in a patient's condition," she said. "You can't be as watchful. You're afraid you're going to maim or kill someone."

The NNU maintains that mandatory staffing levels — already the law of the land in California — will not only save lives, but also solve the nursing shortage by improving job satisfaction. However, the nursing profession is divided on the effectiveness of mandatory staffing levels, with supporters and opponents pointing to research that supports their respective positions.

The trade group Twin Cities Hospitals argues that there is no objective evidence linking specific staffing ratios and patient safety. It calls the union proposal inflexible and expensive, adding at least $250 million to the annual expenses of the 14 affected hospitals.

Maureen Schriner, the spokesperson for Twin Cities Hospitals, said that previous contracts between the hospitals and nurses contained detailed language on staffing levels that in some cases exceed what the union is demanding.

"Instead of trying to work with what we already had, they came forward with their own ratios," said Schriner.



Sent to the daily papers but not pubished:

The lessons that should be learnt from the whole Dr Patel and Bundaberg Hospital saga is that rewarding managers through performance based pay based on the achievement of productivity and efficiency targets can produce terrible outcomes in the health system. But sadly, with the current economic and human resources theologies in the health system, I doubt if this will be the lesson drawn. Interesting to hear a spokesperson of the Queensland medical fraternity say that there were plenty of doctors willing to go to Bundaberg to take the surgical position Patel held, but it was considered more cost efficient to employ Patel.

All credit to Toni Hoffman, the Nursing Unit Manager who kept going to senior management of Bundaberg Hospital over a 2 year period raising concerns about Dr Patel’s standards of care only, to be rebuffed and told that she needed to learn how to get on with overseas born doctors. All credit to Anna Bligh, Premier of Queensland, who today paid tribute to Toni as a whistleblower, and recognised the suffering that Toni has undergone because she was a whistleblower.

It is not all over yet, as there is to be an appeal and the suffering of Patel’s patients, and the families of the patient’s who died, continues. To those patients and families, I pay tribute. Despite the callous indifference of some, there are many in the health system who are thinking about you, and send you our sympathies.

Jenny Haines



Julia Gillard as part of her intial policy statement as Prime Minister said that she understood the concerns of the Australian people about the arrival of refugees by boats, and would move to address those concerns, signalling that she intends to adopt and even harder stance than that of Kevin Rudd’s Government. She seemed to particularly target her message to the western suburbs of Sydney.

When I grew up in the western suburbs of Sydney in the 1950s through to the 1970s, life was not easy. The post war boom was in progress, but families struggled. In more recent times the western suburbs is now a mix of those struggling, but also the aspirational middle class. If I could summarise the apparent concerns of people in the west, it would be that they are concerned that those refugees and asylum seekers arriving by boat are queue jumpers, taking advantage of their apparent wealth compared with those still waiting in countries of origin to pay people smugglers to get to Australia on leaky unsafe boats. The taxpayer of Australia then pays for their detention while they are processed.

The big problem with this view is that there is no queue. The Australian Ambassadorial staff in the countries of origin do not put on their pith helmets and go out to the refugee camps and set up a table and chairs and take names on an orderly list. If you are unlucky enough to be in opposition, or an unwanted activist in one of these countries of origin, you probably leave in the dead of night, to avoid attracting attention to your departure. You leave behind whatever family you have, and you don’t want to imperil their continued existence after you leave. You may have sold everything you have ever owned to pay travel expenses. Your travel to a second country, and maybe a third. If you get to Indonesia, and your presence as a refugee and asylum seeker comes to the attention of the authorities there, you may be interned. You pray that you are interned in an Indonesian government run facility, as the standard of accommodation and treatment is better than the Australian run and paid for facilities. In the latter, the guards can threaten you with injury or death, and there is nothing you can do about it. If you are not interned in Indonesia, and can still afford it from what you have sold, earned, or borrowed, you find a people smuggler who will offer you a place on a boat in exchange for the last of your money. You then arrive at the dock to find the boat heavily overloaded, but you have paid you money and the people smuggler does not do reimbursements to dissatisfied customers.

If you are fortunate your fishing boat arrives off the north west coast of Australia, where you are met by Australia’s navy, and taken to Christmas Island for mandatory detention while you are processed. Having left your country of origin in the dead of night, you may not have brought with you your birth certificate, passport and all of the documentation required to identify you, so processing can take some time. Then there is the ASIO check to make sure you are not a terrorist. Mind you what self respecting terrorist would travel this way? ASIO processing takes a very long time. Even ASIO says they are understaffed. Then under the Howard Government system, even if recognised as a refugee under international conventions, you were placed on a temporary protection visa, but allowed out of detention into the community. But the trick of this was that you could not work or receive Medicare health benefits. So to survive, you relied on the goodness of charities, churches and friends. Thank heavens the Rudd Government abolished TPVs, and may they never return. Such bureaucratised cruelty!!

Life on the refugee trail is desperate and disorganised. You do what you have can to survive. Refugees who came to Australia before and after World War Two will recognise these circumstances, and no doubt be able to tell similar stories of pushing their way forward to a new life, against all of the forces arrayed against them.

Refugees arriving in Australia by boat constitute 4% of those seeking refuge in this country. The other 96% come by plane. QANTAS –Australia’s own people smuggler? The numbers of refugees arriving in this country are no threat to anyone, particularly people in the western suburbs of Sydney. I recently saw an election leaflet for one of the conservative parties. It said that the people of the electorate were being deprived of health, education and welfare services because money for these services was being spent on servicing refugee and asylum seekers arriving in this country by boat. Budget stringencies by State and Federal Governments in relation to health, welfare and education services have a multitude of other causes that have nothing to do with refugees and detention centres.

I am a member of Labor for Refugees. Labor for Refugees has become a rank and file organisation within the Labor Party that has improved party policy several times since the dark days of the Tampa Election in 2001, at National and State Conferences of the Party, I wait with interest the next moves by the Gillard Government, but remind the Government and the parliamentary leadership of the party of party policy, plus of course, the real politik that up until Julia Gillard replaced Kevin Rudd, the Labor Party was haemorrhaging to the Left ie the Greens, on the issue of refugees and asylum seekers and it is the real politik that matters on election day, not populism.

Jenny Haines