Food, fear and freaking out

I opted for the less healthy choice yesterday at City Diggers (2 courses for $10) but loved it.

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The book is a very healthy choice though: Peter Boyce, The Queen’s Other Realms: The Crown and Its Legacy in Australia, Canada and New Zealand (Federation Press 2008).

In this important research Professor Boyce deals with the underlying inquiry of whether the constitutional monarchical system can be developed, so as to avoid the need for radical change.  If Professor Boyce intended this research to be advocacy for either the monarchist or the republican, this has not eventuated.

In his work Professor Boyce argues that nationalism and presidential-style leadership has changed the role of the Governor-General in the former dominions.  The reader is alerted to the individual variations in practice in the three countries, as opposed to the written constitutional position.  The research identifies the development of the monarchy in the realms, with a focus on the representatives, rather than the Queen.  In reading the book, the reader is reminded of the inter-relationship that exists between the three countries; that is if one was to change its constitutional status as to the Crown, the others may follow suit.  This book is effective in its ability to discuss politics, practicality and legality.  In the end Professor Boyce poses two primary choices:  a republic or reform – only time will tell as to his conclusions.

I find it very clear-eyed and also interesting.

My food choice on Saturday, also at Diggers, was moderately more healthy: a nice winter hot pot.

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Not so healthy was the unravelling on #QandA last night: Steve Ciobo tells man acquitted of terrorism charges, Zaky Mallah, that he should no longer be a citizen. I have to say I think Zaky Mallah showed himself to be a prize idiot both during and after his brush with QandA and Mr Ciobo – who has form (“In 2005, he urged the government to change the law to strip naturalised Australians of their citizenship if they incite, support or engage in terrorist activity.”).

“From memory, I thought you were acquitted on a technicality rather than it being on the basis of a substantial finding of fact,” Mr Ciobo replied. “My understanding of your case was that you were acquitted because at that point in time the laws weren’t retrospective. But I’m happy to look you straight in the eye and say that I’d be pleased to be part of the Government that would say that you were out of the country. I would sleep very soundly at night with that point of view.”

The response provoked murmurs from the studio audience and an angry reaction from Mr Mallah, who said it was Mr Ciobo who should leave the country for having such views.

“The difference is, I haven’t threatened to kill anybody,” Mr Ciobo said. “I haven’t threatened to kill people that put their lives on the line for the values this country represents.”

Mr Mallah later tweeted: “I would pay to see that Minister dumped on ISIS territory in Iraq”….

The comment thread on that story is also quite disturbing. Hysteria is rampant.

We need to do a reality check. Visit Fact file: Five facts about terrorism in Australia, and study the information gathered on Wikipedia at Terrorism in Australia.

Yesterday Marcellous, a barrister in Sydney, posted Aux armes, citoyens!a must read.

The week before last our prime minister and Peter Dutton, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection (just have to add that because you may not know how he is otherwise) made the following joint announcement:

The Commonwealth Government intends to update the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 so dual nationals who engage in terrorism can lose their citizenship.

The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection will be able to exercise these powers in the national interest where a dual citizen betrays our country by participating in serious terrorist-related activities.

The new powers will apply to dual citizens who fight with or support groups such as ISIL, or Daesh, as well as so-called ‘lone wolves’, whether in Australia or on foreign soil.

The changes will be consistent with our international legal obligation not to leave a person stateless. There will also be safeguards, including judicial review, to balance these powers.

Orwellianly, the headline to the announcement was “New measures to strengthen Australian citizenship” = because apparently citizenship is strengthened by making it easier to take away by administrative fiat – Dutton later made clear that any judicial review proposed would go to the process, not the merits, of any deprivation. More bizarrely, it bore the legend: “E&OE.” For those not in the know, this stands for “Errors and omissions excepted” and is commonly encountered as a kind of arse-covering catch-all on solicitor’s bills, surveyors’ reports, and the like. When did this sort of thing creep into ministerial announcements?

Marcellous refers us to There’s more to be lost than gained in stripping citizenship by Sangeetha Pillai, PhD Researcher in Citizenship and Constitutional Law, Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law at UNSW Australia.

My other library book these last few weeks shows exactly what sanity looks like: Hanifa Deen: The Jihad Seminar, Crawley, University of Western Australia Press, 2008.

Deen made the right decision to eschew the case’s turgid legalities in favour of its broader implications. This gave her the licence to step out of the court room and discuss wider issues of racial and religious tolerance, from the global rise of Islamaphobia and John Howard’s identity politics to the disturbing scenes of the Cronulla Riots.

Deen is a feisty presence throughout the book. Her persistent research uncovered some of the hidden motives behind the case. She reveals it was more than just a simple dispute. Instead it was used by both sides to pursue their political means.

The ICV was supported by a large cohort of religious groups who viewed this case as an important test of how this legislation could be practically applied. At the same time the little known Catch the Fire Ministries captured the imagination of cashed up American evangelical groups, whose donations helped finance the expensive case.

Deen is a gifted writer whose lucid prose helps makes sense of some of the convoluted legal manoeuvres of the case. A secular Muslim with a love for Monty Python, she never hides her irreverent side. When it works it reveals some cutting descriptions. She describes Pastor Nalliah’s religious history as a ‘job application for the after life’, and the Muslim imams she met as ‘usually nice men, but they are now what I would call witness box material’.

The book finishes with the parable of the three rings: it’s a good one, if you haven’t read it before.

SALADIN – Since so great your wisdom, I pray you tell me what belief, what law has most commended itself to you.
NATHAN – Sultan, I am a Jew.

SALADIN – And I a Moslem. Between us is the Christian. Now, only one of all these three religions can be true. A man like you does not stand where accident of birth has cast him. If such a man remains, it is from judgment, reason, choice of best. Tell me your judgment; let me hear the reasons I’ve no time to seek myself.

Saladin demands to know from Nathan which religion is the true one. Nathan’s answer is in the form of the Parable of the Rings:

NATHAN – In gray antiquity there lived a man in Eastern lands who had received a ring of priceless worth from a beloved hand. Its stone, an opal, flashed a hundred colors, and had the secret power of giving favor, in sight of God and man, to him who wore it in confidence of its power. No wonder then, this man in the East would never take the ring off his finger, and provided that it should be preserved in his house forever. Such was the case. Unto the best beloved among his sons he left the ring, enjoining that that son in turn bequeath it to the son whom he should love the most; and in this way, by virtue of the ring alone, without regard to birth, that son should be the head and prince of the house. You understand me, Sultan?…

Do read it.

Update 24 June

Did you see the Daily Telegraph front page today? A classic case again of partisan comment being confused with news.

Much more in keeping with core Australian values was Sam de Brito in today’s Age.

It would be heartwarming watching Q&A unite both sides of politics, save for the fact such unity is only to denounce unpopular opinions. 

One week, the small “l” liberal left are fizzing about Fred Nile being part of a panel on queer issues, the next week it’s the big “l” Liberal right vapouring about a Muslim radical saying it’s understandable his bros would wanna join ISIS

…we seem to have slipped back to the time of Calvin – he who so successfully argued – “we muzzle dogs, and shall we leave men free to open their mouths as they please?”

I applaud the ABC for continuing to expose the Australian psyche to unpopular and dangerous opinions. The only thing they got wrong Monday night was Tony Jones’s cringe-worthy apology that someone actually said something unpalatable.

As a country we shouldn’t fear people saying things that offend, horrify or disgust us. 

To paraphrase a more eloquent man than I: Let truth and falsehood grapple. Truth is strong.

That was John Milton.

By the way: in my opinion Zaky Mallah’s initial question was a fair question, not “a lefty ambush.” Mr Ciobo did not actually address it, but instead went for the jugular thus precipitating Mallah into losing his rag – easily enough done, probably. I found Ciobo pretty disgraceful, I have to say.

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2 thoughts on “Food, fear and freaking out

  1. Neil, a gratuitous compliment. I have to say you have been “hitting it out of the park” (to use an Americanism) lately!

    Thanks for this latest, particularly the links to marcellous, the ABC, and the Three Rings; it is a pleasure to find such consistent thoughtful writing sometimes hidden within the increasing fearful shrieks of most personal blogs. I salute you!

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