Thursday, July 10, 2003

“Students unrepentant about protest”

Is still flashing in the “Breaking News” alert boxes of both The Age and The SMH websites, almost three days after the story ran.

Which is no more than a petty detail about a petty story, anyway. I only bring it up because a short-lived uni student “sit-in” that somehow has acquired a plutonium-like half-life, and an air of biblical brimstone to match (doesn't every use of “unrepentant” require a "smote" in close proximity?) seems like a good metaphor for my current state of mind.

Having a brain and a point of view is futile, at least in Australia in 2003. Reading Barry Jones’s belated assessment that the 80s Dawkins uni reforms were a mistake (today’s The Australian*; no URL), I wanted to scream: “I fucking TOLD you so”. But there’s no point. Although we don’t exactly have the banana republic cycle – of dictator, death squads, new broom, and finally the amnesty (for dictator & key cronies) here, Australia’s political outrages follow a quite similar trajectory.

By the time “mistakes” get openly canvassed in official discourse, those who have spent so long at the front-line of protest/awareness etc are too hoarse, too yelled-out and too broken to receive any benefit from the admission. Not that it really matters, anyway – admissions are only made when they can be made safely; that is, when those who made the mistakes have attained some kind of immunity, as though their (mistaken) actions at the time were without consequences, or vice versa.

Today’s news does get worse, however, with another report** in today’s The Australian (no URL), regarding the summary deportation of suspected sex-slaves – Asian women found to be working illegally in Australian brothels. This is such a “Blind Freddie” issue, that I CANNOT FUCKING BELIEVE the gutlessness (and so, almost certainly, corruption) of officialdom with respect to it.

The official line with respect to deporting such women is that there is no evidence of sex-slavery and/or the women themselves do not wish to make a complaint. Fine, up to a point – but how did these women get into the country in the first place? Doesn’t it rather stretch credulity that a girl or young woman from, say, the back-blocks of Thailand, could, and would, knowingly organise an Australian tourist visa, and also be able to come up with the upfront cash to finance her travelling and settling-in expenses?

“No?” – then Blind Freddie says that SOMEONE ELSE must have been involved in bringing the girl or young woman over to Australia. But where to start tracing the trail here? Well, as the report in today’s Oz makes it clear, it couldn’t possibly be anything to do with the owners of the brothels where the girls were found working illegally, nor the employers of those girls.

As a lawyer, I just can’t even speculate about what arcane legal loopholes the girls’ day-to-day employers/minders/pimps must*** be using to argue that they are not the girls’ employers at law (which of course would immediately make those employers in serious breach of immigration laws). “Independent contractors”? – sweet irony there.

Oh, and just to make my pessimism pitch perfect – the last line in the Oz story says: the government’s view is that all is apparently under control; if there are any loopholes, they will be fixed by legislation.

* Dawkins reforms to unis ‘mistake’” by Sascha Hutchinson, The Australian 10 July 2003

** “Brothel impunity over use of illegals” by Natalie O'Brien and Elisabeth Wynhausen, The Australian 10 July 2003

*** Perhaps I am being over-imaginative here. Most likely, of course, the "loopholes" are just bought for cash, or for services in kind.

Sex slave update 11 July 2003

Just when you think that the whole system is useless, something finally happens – a brothel, in the heart of rock’n’dole Melbourne, gets raided.

An almost identical wire slug on incorrectly reports that the four accused are facing the “first ever” federal charges of sex slavery. Incorrect, because sex slavery charges were filed against a mother and son couple last month, albeit only as a result of the enslaved women escaping and going to police, rather than through a pro-active raid (of which last night’s WAS a first).

Reviewing last months clippings also alerted me to the fact that those two accused – Jenny Lai Chin Ong (47) and Aik Tong Tan, aka Raymond Tan (29) unemployed – were granted bail to reappear before the court on July 9 (same URL). No reports of this happening, so stay tuned over what will be the fate of these (alleged) scum. I hope that Centrelink are chasing the “unemployed” one in the meantime.

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