Bartlett's Blog

Andrew Bartlett has been active in politics for over 20 years, including as a Queensland Senator from 1997-2008. This blog started in 2004 and reflects his own views, independent of any political party or organisation.

Speeches to refugee rally + SIEV-X exhibition

A local activist helpfully recorded speeches given by myself and by Julian Burnside at a refugee rights rally held in Brisbane last Saturday.  You can listen to them here and here. The rally was held to mark the tenth anniversary of the sinking of the SIEV-X.  353 refugees drowned when that refugee boat sank on the way to Australia on 19 October 2001.  There is a beautiful exhibition ...


Lies, Damn Lies and really really Big Lies

With the carbon pricing legislation passing the House of Representatives, the complaints have got ever louder about Julia Gillard's 'lie' on that matter just before the last election. Coming from the party whose former leader coined the phrase "non-core promise", this might seem a bit rich. But as I was reminded tonight when I found a brief clip on YouTube, for a really world-class example of a monstrous ...

Changing Times

In the past I'd write an angry blog post on refugee rights. Now I just tweet that the ALP & Coalition both suck big time on refugee rights. (and then post the tweet on my blog) Having said that, I wouldn't be surprised if the comment thread contains statements that are little more than a carbon copy of comments posted here on this topic literally hundreds of times on this ...

Detention Insanity

There is a well known definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  The current humanitarian disaster unfolding in Australia's immigration detention centres is a classic - and disgraceful example. If there was one unequivocal, indisputable fact that arose from government policy and management of detention centres during the Howard era, it was that it was an incredibly expensive way ...

Time to remove mandatory sentencing of ‘people smugglers’

The groups of people who have suffered most from Australia's long-standing absurdly politicised, disproportionate and irrational debate around asylum seekers are the asylum seekers themselves. But another group who have been subjected to disproportionate and unjustified punishment who get very little attention are the hundreds of impoverished Indonesian fishermen who are subjected to mandatory jail sentences for participating in transporting asylum seekers to Australia. Of course, if we just ...

Just when you think they can’t go any lower ……

I wrote last week about some of the cowardly cheap shots at Muslim Australians being indulged in by some federal MPs from the 'Liberal' Party, spruiking some half-truths and lies in an effort to grow and garnish the minority bigot vote. Such lazy Muslim bashing is sadly far from uncommon, even amongst some people in leadership positions. But that has been well and truly ...

Nauru redux – it ain’t no ‘boarding school’

The prospect of the refugee detention camps on Nauru being reopened has become very real, with the issue of asylum seekers in boats apparently being of such magnitude to Tony Abbott that he would make it virtually his first priority for action above almost everything else, should he end up being elected on the weekend. Apart from a visit by Philip Ruddock and the then shadow Minister for Labor, ...

Recent Interviews

Following are links to a couple of recent radio interviews I've done, plus an online one

How to “restore integrity” by just making stuff up

Yesterday saw both the government and Opposition make policy announcements regarding asylum seekers. Most of the attention has focused on Prime Minster Gillard’s speech on the issue, although (conveniently for the government) there is so much detail yet to be finalised that it is hard to make definitive judgements on how it will all work. By contrast, the Opposition’s policy release got less attention, beyond general comments about how ...

The’political correctness’ dog whistle gets another blast

How on earth could anyone possibly believe that public or political debate on asylum seekers is being constrained by political correctness?! For at least the last decade, public commentary in letters to the editor, talkback shows and online forums have contained a vast array of views on this matter, including many that are extremely aggressive, antagonistic, abusive and vilifying - and all of which have clearly not been put ...

Refugee Day Rally & Refugee Week

This Sunday marks the start of Refugee Week, with plenty of events around the country to acknowledge and celebrate the contribution refugees have made and continue to make to our society, culture and economy. I'm speaking at a rally being held in Brisbane Square this Sunday from 1pm to mark World Refugee Day. I have attended many refugee week events over the years, and they often involve people from ...

Speaking out against refugees getting hammered once again

One of Afghanistan's most prominent human rights advocates is in Australia this week attending a conference in Canberra. Nader Nadery has been a commissioner on the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission since it was established in 2002 and he was part of the Afghan delegation to the Bonn conference on Afghan reconstruction after the US led invasion. ELEANOR HALL: What's your view of the Australian Government's change of policy on ...

Good and bad ways to reduce boat arrivals

Peter Mares is a long time follower of refugee issues and critic of the problems inherent in the former government’s approach to asylum seekers in boats.  He wrote a piece in The Age which emphasised a point about the Howard’s government asylum policies which does not get highlighted enough. former treasurer Peter Costello wrote in these pages that the only way to prevent asylum seekers coming to Australia by ...

Some facts about the people on the boats

Given all the speculation and commentary about the two boats with Tamil asylum seekers aboard currently in Indonesia, I thought it would be helpful to publish some basic facts about the people.  This information comes from Pamela Curr from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne, a person I've found to very reliable on these sorts of things - certainly far more so than anonymous, speculative or presumptive ...

The political asylum seeker debate

I had the following piece published this week at New Matilda and at Online Opinion.  One interesting aspect (at least for me) of publishing a piece on a few different websites is seeing how different the comment threads can be responding to the same piece.

Responding to People! coming here!! in boats!!!

Having explored and debated the issue of asylum seekers arriving in boats for well over a decade, there are really only two solutions which I can see that are likely to work in the longer term - and they will inevitably be only partial solutions. The first is to resolve the issues which cause people to flee in the first place. This is usually hard to do, because (a) ...

Refugees in Rocky

Refugees in Rocky In amongst the antagonism and angst that can surround debates about refugees, whether here or overseas, it is good to see a good news story about the positives for a family that has settled here in Queensland, and their keenness to start contributing to the community and economy in their new home.  This piece from the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin tells the story of 13 refugees originally ...

Wednesday night politics in Brisbane

Wednesday night politics in Brisbane Two forums are being held in Brisbane tomorrow night which may be of interest to some. One is a forum to debate Integrity & Accountability in Queensland. It is being held at the Irish Club, 175 Elizabeth St  from  6pm.  Speakers include former state Attorney-General, Linda Lavarch, journalist Tony Koch, Brian Stewart from the Urban Development Institute. The other forum is examining some of the current issues ...

A couple more pieces about asylum seekers & Malaysia

A couple more pieces about asylum seekers & Malaysia The Taiwan News〈=eng_news reports that “Malaysian authorities have arrested five immigration officers suspected of selling ‘illegal’ immigrants from Myanmar to human traffickers” – reportedly the “first time Malaysia has found evidence that government officials were involved in forced labour exploitation” Meanwhile,,,25797512-7583,00.html Mike Steketee from The Australian lays out some basic facts that must be taken into account with the current ...

Malaysia and refugees

The political responses to asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat is starting to focus more and more on other countries in our region.  Until recently this has mostly involved Indonesia, but Malaysia is now being mentioned more frequently.  I recently wrote a piece for Crikey and also had a letter published in The Australian detailing some of the serious human rights abuses inflicted on asylum seekers and ...


Mini Posts

  • Rhetoric vs reality

    I’ve had a break from writing for a variety of reasons, but the reckless approach the new Queensland government is taking to their spending decisions – and the straightout nonsensicality of some of their claims – roused me enough to pen a piece for New Matilda. Time will tell whether the Newman government will start trying to ensure their statements have some connection with reality – I suggest the way they respond next year to the findings of the inquiry into child safety which they’ve established will be a significant test.

  • End of LP the end of a blogging era

    Back in October, I wrote here about the decline or re-defining of blogs, at least in the Australian political arena.  The relatively few posts I’ve done on this blog since then shows how much less useful I find it to do my own blog than I used to, and as I mentioned back then, a big reason why I don’t read many of the blogs I used to is because the valuable links to many interesting stories, ideas and pieces of information can be found more easily through Twitter or Facebook, sometimes with comment threads which are also at least as good. The recent announcement by the Larvatus Prodeo blog that they are ceasing to operate is quite a significant one.

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  • A final comment on Labor's leadership laments

    Fundamentally, I don’t greatly care about the outcome of Labor’s leadership travails. As my previous post indicates, the bigger issue is that the ALP is being fundamentally damaged by the toxicity of this brawl, and the fact that the brawl is happening in this way is a sign of some much greater problems within Labor. Whatever the immediate outcome, I think those problems are likely to continue.  The outcome of the leadership contest (including the size of what will surely be a Gillard victory) will shape how those problems play out, but they will still be there. Not surprisingly, I see this as presenting an opportunity for the Greens to build some support, but more importantly it presets extra responsibility and obligation for the Greens to be a stronger counter to what is a seriously reactionary Coalition. But seeing we’re all pundits now, and despite having little inside knowledge, my prediction is that there will be no ‘third candidate’ in tomorrow’s leadership ballot.  Julia Gillard will win comfortably. The instability will not disappear. It’s quite possible there will be another leadership ballot before the election but Kevin Rudd will not become leader then either. No matter how good Kevin Rudd looks in the polls, that polling lead would disappear very quickly if he was back in the PM’s job.

  • A long time between hits

    In amongst all the politics and policy stuff, I try to make time to do some things that are completely disconnected from that*.  One thing I’ve found myself doing recently is doing a bit of practicing with a band, which has led to me doing a live performance for the first time in a long time.  Readers of this blog with a very long memory for minor matters may recall that I played keyboards in a couple of mini-performances with a band as part of promoting the Rock Against Howard compilation CD prior to the 2004 election.  However, drumming is what I’m better at – although I’m still a long way short of being able to say I’m good at it – which is what I am doing in the band I’m currently doing stuff with.  They’re doing their first full live Brisbane show tonight – which I think will be the first time since 1988 I’ve played drums in a live show.  It’s all nice and low-key, and for peoples’ enjoyment rather with an eye to making money out of it, so will make a nice change. *Actually, I don’t think anything is completely disconnected from politics. By coincidence, today also happens to be National SLAM Day – Save Live Australian Music.  As their website shows,

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  • The Ups & Downs of Ups & Downs - interview with Greg Atkinson

    I’ve mentioned before my liking for the 80s Brisbane band Ups and Downs. I got a chance to interview their lead singer Greg Atkinson on 4ZzZ FM a few weeks ago. They’ve released a compilation CD of 20 of their best tunes and played a gig in Brisbane earlier this month to promote and celebrate it. It was a fairly long interview, but I found it very interesting to hear the views of someone who has been active in the independent sphere of the music industry for so long about what has changed and what is the same. You can listen to the interview at this link.

  • Speeches to refugee rally + SIEV-X exhibition

    A local activist helpfully recorded speeches given by myself and by Julian Burnside at a refugee rights rally held in Brisbane last Saturday.  You can listen to them here and here. The rally was held to mark the tenth anniversary of the sinking of the SIEV-X.  353 refugees drowned when that refugee boat sank on the way to Australia on 19 October 2001.  There is a beautiful exhibition at The Studio on the ground level at the State Library of Qld this week, commemorating that anniversary. It finishes this weekend – I strongly recommend you try to get along for a look if you have a chance. The Library also has a screening of the documentary Hope on Friday October 28 – this film tell the story of Amal Basry, one of the few survivors of that tragedy.

  • Stuff from my 4ZZZ shift this week

    Every Monday morning I do a shift on radio 4ZzZ FM102.1 – Brisbane’s longest serving community radio station (36 years old this year). And almost every week I talk with social media expert and lawyer Peter Black about some current political and other issues. You can listen to our talk this week by clicking on this link (it goes for over 30 minutes and has the occasional sweary word, so probably best just for dedicated fans). You can see the songlist I played this week – as usual featuring a sizable number of local artists – at this link, which in most cases also contains further links to other videos, information or photos of the artists.