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.

Our obsession with stopping boat people

I've written a short piece on the Asian Correspondent website about the Australian media coverage of Julia Gillard's visit to south-east Asia. I've been frustrated, but not surprised, that the majority of the coverage - at least amongst what I've seen - has been focused on the issue of a few thousand asylum seekers who arrive here in boats, and so little on the significant economic, human rights, environmental, ...


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 ...

Road map for West Papua

I wrote a piece recently about the new Cabinet of the Indonesian government, including their new Foreign Minister Marty Natelegawa who gained his PhD at the Australian National University.  As I’ve written a number of times, Indonesia has made very impressive progress in a range of areas in recent years.  I believe one of their biggest unaddressed challenges is West Papua, which is an issue with both internal ...

Mega oil spill reaches Indonesian Coast

A leaking oil rig off the north-western coast of Australia has been spewing oil into the marine environment for over two months.  Whilst there has been intermittent publicity about the ongoing oil spill, it certainly hasn’t galvanised wide-scale public concern in Australia. I have to confess that, like Northern Territory based blogger Bob Gosford, I am perplexed as to why this massive oil spill does not appear to have generated ...

Indonesian election

I’ve written on this blog about Indonesia quite a few times over the years, and had a couple of brief visits to Jakarta and once to Aceh. I’ve also tried to follow events in that country and speak with Indonesians – delegations and individuals – who are visiting Australia. The elections held in Indonesia over the course of this year have been very important to Australia and our ...

Rebuilding in Aceh

The Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 seems a very long time ago. I was fortunate to make a brief visit to Banda Aceh in mid-2005, which I wrote about here and here. Some parts of that visit I’ll never forget. This story from last weekend’s Jakarta Post (found through Breakfast Politics) gives a snapshot of the reporter’s brief visit to the area. There is still rebuilding work being done, but as the ...

Suharto and human rights

The death of former Indonesian President Suharto has naturally provided many articles examining his legacy.  Most note the major economic expansion which occurred in Indonesia during his time in power, including a relative decline in overall poverty, whilst making some mention about his “less than desirable” record on human rights (to quote Alexander Downer). Without in any way ignoring the great difficulties faced in maintaining social stability in a ...

Reluctant Indonesians

Tonight I am introducing the public lecture and book signing for Dr Clinton Fernandes, author of the recently released, Reluctant Indonesians: Australia, Indonesia and the future of West Papua. I've written many times, see here , about West Papua, Indonesia and the fraught relationship with Australia and it is pleasing to see an account that outlines the history of West Papua history from colonial times to the modern day ...

Committee reports on security treaty with Indonesia

Back in February, I wrote about the inquiry by the Parliament's Treaties Committee into Australia's new security agreement with Indonesia. I've long been vocal about my concerns with human rights abuses in West Papua, but I have also tried to emphasise and encourage some of the major democratic advances Indonesia has made in recent years. The Committee tabled its report in the Parliament today. Not surprisingly, it ...

The Security Treaty between Australia & Indonesia

Late last year, a security cooperation agreement between Australia and the Republic of Indonesia was signed on the Indonesian island of Lombok. As with all international agreements, this one, which has already picked up the colloquial title of the Lombok Agreement, is being examined by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties. The Committee is still receiving submissions. You can read the ones which have been made public to ...

An Enemy of the State?!

Media reports have stated that my name is on an “Indonesian intelligence agency watch list” in support of independence for West Papua. This report on the ABC Asia Pacific website says it is an 'enemies list' of prominent Australians and organisations regarded as being supporters of Papuan Independence. However, this story on ABC radio said “a briefing note prepared for an Indonesian delegation by the intelligence agency, BIN, names high-profile ...

More on West Papua

It is now 2 months since 43 asylum seekers from West Papua arrived in Far North Queensland. They were whisked away to our nation’s most remote, expensive and rudimentary detention centre on Christmas Island, and still await news on the result of their claims. The changes announced by the Prime Minster last June require an initial decision on an application within 3 months, so there should be news ...

Smoking restrictions – UK & Jakarta

A significant step forward in reducing the harm of tobacco smoking has occurred with the decision by House of Commons in London to ban smoking in all enclosed public spaces in England. This approach was more hardline than what was originally proposed by the UK government, and interestingly was made the subject of a free (or conscience) vote for MPs. Perhaps an even more significant development in the battle ...

More West Papua Updates

Some more reports from Christmas Island and West Papua that I've received through emails. The accuracy cannot be independently verified.

West Papua – asylum seekers and lessons from our history

The arrival in Australia of 43 asylums seekers from West Papua not only provides a test of whether there has been any substantive culture change in the Immigration Department, it also provides the best prospect for a long time of some significant public attention being paid to what is happening in West Papua. Despite some extreme control measures put in place by DIMIA to prevent photographs or contact with ...

Bali – nothing to justify terror

As mentioned below, the Senate devoted most of Tuesday to a condolence debate on the Bali bombings. It isn't a good idea to get stridently political too close to such a traumatic event. However, I do find it a bit irritating when I hear gratuitous demands of the Indonesian government that they ban Jemaah Islamiah. Indeed, in yet another example of why I find the current political environment soooo ...

I is for Immigration AND Indigenous (and Indonesia)

One aspect of the controversies surrounding the culture of the Department of Immigration Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) that I haven’t seen mentioned is how it reflects on the sort of deal indigenous Australians are getting. The second ‘I’ in DIMIA stands for Indigenous, and the recently removed Secretary of the Department, Bill Farmer, oversaw the whole Department, not just the immigration side of it. It doesn’t give ...

More impressions of Aceh & beyond

Just before leaving Aceh yesterday, our delegation was told we would probably be able to meet in the morning with the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. It would be a good finish to a visit focused on the enormous human impacts of the tsunami and earthquakes in the region. The twin messages I got from my time in Aceh (and from meeting Acehnese politicians) was the need for ...

Indonesia continues to outstrip Australia in pressuring Burma on human rights

Yesterday a petition was presented to the Indonesian Foreign Minister urging their Government to oppose Burma (also known as Myanmar) taking up its turn to lead ASEAN, or boycott all ASEAN forums under Burma's leadership unless there are immediate democratic reforms implemented by the Burmese military junta. The petition was signed by 35 of the 48 members of the Indonesian House of Representatives Commission 1 (similar to our ...

In Aceh

We left Jakarta at 6.30 this morning on the Government jet to Banda Aceh. It is further away from Jakarta than I expected - over 1800 kilometres - and is actually further west than Vietnam and Thailand and lies well north of the Equator. Accompanying us was Dr Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, who is the Director of the new Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Executing Agency for Aceh and Nias (BBR). This Agency ...


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.