A sitting week in the Senate

Despite the name of this website, I haven’t actually done many ‘diary style’ entries on this site for a while, so I thought I’d do a quick list of some of the things I did during this week, just to give a bit of an idea of what a sitting week in the Senate can involve.

I usually catch the (very) early Monday morning flight down to Canberra these days, so I can get an extra night at home. When daylight saving is in place in the southern states, this means leaving home around 4.00am – not my idea of a good way to start the week. (See this old blog entry for my feelings on daylight saving)

Monday morning usually starts with a meeting of the different party Whips to go through what’s coming up in the Senate that day and a rough idea of how things are going to go. In this era of a government controlled Senate, there’s not much uncertainty about what things will pass. If the government supports it, it will pass, if they don’t it won’t. There are five of these meetings in a normal week – one for each sitting day plus one to look at what legislation to refer to a Senate Committee.

This is followed by a meeting of all the Democrat Senators to look over the Senate program for the week and strategise about what issues to focus on. We used to meet every morning, but as we are not in a balance of power position on many issues these days, there is less need to keep a tight track of all the issues coming up. Also, with fewer of us now, it is easier to make quick decisions on the run if we need to.

The Senate starts at 12.30 on Monday with legislation, and Question Time is at 2pm each day. I don’t normally go into the chamber unless I have responsibility for the business being dealt with. It’s a tradition that most people attend Question Time, although I’m not quite sure why as it’s not a very edifying experience most days, so sometimes I only sit in on that for a little while.

A lot of the other time is filled up with interviews, or reading Committee inquiry submissions or reports, as well as doing media statements and (ideally) interviews. I had to finalise my input for two Committee reports that were tabled this week. One was on the rewriting of the Citizenship Act and one on a major report into the operation of the Migration Act.

I probably did about 10 media interviews during the week, which is on the low side for me. Most of them were on migration and refugee issues, plus a couple on live exports and a couple on the government’s growing habit of blocking proposed Senate inquiries.

Some of the meetings I had included:

– An environment group about plans for the long-term protection of Cape York and ways to ensure indigenous management of much of the region;

– Two scientists, who visited me as part of “Science Meets Parliament Week“. This is an annual event where MPs are given the chance to nominate topics of interest and are then allocated some scientists with expertise in that area to talk with them about it. One of mine worked in the area of biodiversity, with an interest in mammals, and the other had an interest in weeds and invasive species, and was doing PhD on a specific type of Argentinean grass that was causing damage to wetlands and grazing pastures in NSW and Victoria;

– A representative from the tourist industry, talking about the new inquiry into National Parks and protected areas which I am Chairing for the Senate Environment Committee;

– A coalition of people from overseas aid groups who were trying to raise more awareness about the Make Poverty History campaign and the poor performance of Australia in the area of overseas development assistance, particularly in the light of the recent improved performances from many nations following the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals. One of the people in the group was Ben Thruley, who works for TEAR, and also does Ben’s Blog (which not surprisingly has lots of good material on aid issues). My (95% joking) attempts to wangle a meeting with Bono or Bob Geldof when they come to Australia next month to promote the poverty campaign were unsuccessful.

– A visiting German MP, Hermann Scheer, who has a long and strong record on renewable energy issues. He is President of the European Association for Renewable Energy and General Chairman of the World Council for Renewable Energy. I’d have to say that Germany’s National Renewable Energy Act puts Australia’s legislative efforts in this area to shame.

I also chaired the last of six public hearings for the Senate Environment Committee’s inquiry into salinity. Hopefully we will have a report done by the end of this month. The Committee had a further meeting mainly to do some initial planning for public hearings and site visits for our National Parks and protected areas inquiry.

I also went to a meeting of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, which looks at all the regulations and other disallowable instruments tabled by the government, of which there are more than 1500 each year. It examines their technical adequacy and their adherance to basic principles such as personal rights and parliamentary propriety, rather than their policy merits. It basically draws Minister’s attention to deficiencies or uncertainties in new regulations and gets flaws remedied. It achieves this by having a backup power of being able to recommend disallowance of the regulation, an action which it very rarely needs to take. The Committee almost always works by consensus, and almost always is successful in getting their concerns addressed, so it usually goes beneath the radar of the media, who are usually only interested in controversy.

At the end of the week, I also attended a Committee hearing into some new family law legislation – the Shared Parental Responsibility Bill. This has been a long time in gestation, being the subject a number of reports and inquiries prior to the final Bill coming forward, so there may not be a lot of scope to recommend major changes. However, there is a lot of disagreement about what various provisions of the legislation will mean in practice, and so in an area as contentious as this, it is important to try to get it as right as possible. This legislation doesn’t deal with the equally contentious area of changes to the arrangements for child support payments – that will come later. It deals with family law settlements and shared parental responsibility. There are few areas more guaranteed to get strong and diverse reactions. There has been a lot of focus on the term “equal shared responsibility” – particulalrly the word ‘equal’. It does not mean equal time living with each parent, although some fear it may create more of a bias towards Courts ruling that way. My main concern is that it may lead to a downgrading of the primacy on the rights of the child. Here is one media report on some of the evidence presented. The Committee should report next sitting week. There is also a good, measured post on this topic by Anna Winter over at Larvatus Prodeo which is worth reading.

In the Senate itself, we saw the final speech of Robert Hill, which also drew a rare visit from the Prime Minister into the Senate, sitting in the visitor’s seats at the back of the chamber to witness the event. I did a speech noting his contribution, including a few positives from his time as Environment Minister which aren’t widely acknowledged (although is performance on greenhouse issues during that time was a shocker).

We had the government knock back 3 more proposals for Senate Committee inquiries, in two cases without even bothering to voice any reasons why they were voting it down. I put a position in favour of each of them – one into civil aviation safety, one into settlement services for migrants, and one into the Commonwealth/State Disability Agreement.

I barely watch any TV these days, but I did manage to catch South Park, which is something of a favourite, and West Wing, which is being screened again now on the ABC. They are all re-runs, but I guess I must like the sound of someone being called President Bartlet. The program has just been canned in the USA, although there is going to be a final farewell episode filmed.

One other activity which was a bit more unusual was playing a game of footy on the lawns in front of Parliament House. This was a fundraiser which also involved some members of the press gallery. It was a non-contact version, which was interesting as in some ways in requires more skill, as you have to keep the ball off the ground or possession goes to the other team. The Kangaroos AFL team were in Canberra doing ‘community camp’ sessions, which most AFL teams do around this time of year in various parts of Australia, so some of them came along to help out. Their coach Dean Laidley was there and he gave us a few pointers. I was surprised how young he is (or at least he looked young) – maybe it’s just cos I’m from Brisbane so I’m used to seeing Leigh Matthews. My team had Peter Garrett as ruckman. Bruce Billson was the best player for the other side, but we managed to hang on for a win. I’m not on the winning side often in Canberra these days, so I’ll take what I can get.

I did do a bunch of other stuff in the Senate as well in amongst all that. For anyone still reading down this far, that included:

* a speech on the latest live export scandal;

* a speech on legislation dealing with offshore petroleum exploration;

* speaking to legislation amending the Census Act, including noting recent pronouncments by the Australian Bureau of Statistics that intersex people who consider themselves neither male or female are able to write in their gender on the census form, rather than be forced to tick a box they believe doesn’t apply to them. I wonder if public awareness will be high enough in five years time for this to be directly reflected on the census form;

* a question in Question Time on the government’s response to the live exports situation;

* a Matter of Public Interest speech on the government’s inconsistent messages about multiculturalism and citizenship, with particular reference to the recent comments of Treasurer Peter Costello, which one right-of-centre commentator in The Australian labelled as “foolish, gratuitous, undisciplined, and slyly offensive”, and a reminder of “just how lazy and shallow his thinking is whenever he’s not speaking from a Treasury script.”

* a speech on the latest reports released by the Ombudsman into cases of serious long-term immigration detention;

* a speech on the report into the Vivianne Alvarez scandal;

* a speech on the future management and protection of the Gallipoli Peninsula;

* a speech on the Australian government’s blind spot towards human rights abuses in China, and the growing number of aslyum seekers from that country;

* a speech on the report of the National Water Commission and the need to do more to promote water recycling; and

* speaking to the tabling of the Senate Committee report into the operation and administration of the Migration Act, an inquiry that was started on my motion back in June last year.

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  1. Andrew i found the tone of the references committee report entirely unsatisfactory – there seemed to be almost no interest from the major parties and only a feigned interest in the final report.

    Nothing was really said about the known use of false documents to deport people even though ample evidence was presented to have been sent to the Ombudsman for an own motion investigation.

    It also would have had a greater impact if some personal studies had been done. The stuff presented by Michaela Rost for example with students being literally tortured for years just for working an hour too many. One of the cases in particular was a shocker – then the poor man had to leave with a huge bill.

    Disappointing really for me and many hundreds of others who took the time to contribute only to be largely ignored.

    Maybe the shock cave-in by DIMA, thanks to the appalling Philipa Godwin who became a whistle blower, to Shayan Badraie to the tune of over $1.4 million which includes legal costs, might have more effect than these reports have done.

    I will never forget the vile Ruddock calling that poor little boy “it” as he castigated “it’s” parents and then told his toadies like Akerman and Bolt to vilify and demonise the kid. Bet they don’t apologise though. They sure didn’t when the truth came out about the Bakhtiyari family, that DIMA had always known they are Afghans.

    Bitter, twisted, vicious little man is our Phil and I hope he gets his just deserts one day along with the lying rodent who claimed he had no regrets as he waltzed off to another hugely extravagant dinner while the battlers were beaten by cops.

    Some Australia.

    Thanks for nothing

    Oday Al Tekriti (‘Saddam’s guard visa anger’, 26/2) is one of the gentlest people I know. He co-operated with Immigration even though it kept him for years, as a “deterrent” to others, in the Woomera detention centre. He helped the centre’s terrified kids (including saving Monty Bakhtiyari when he attempted suicide) and worked for improved conditions. His crime seems to be that he is distantly related to Saddam Hussein, who made Oday’s life hell and murdered his father.

    Trevor Flugge (‘Who is the man behind the gun?’, 26/2) is a cowboy wheat seller who seems to have been involved in the funnelling of more than $300 million into the hands of Saddam when he was murdering people such as Oday’s father.

    Yet it is Oday who is being punished.

    Records released to Labor’s Senator Linda Kirk show that Immigration, despite repeated statements to the contrary, always knew that Roqia Bakhtiyari and her children are from Afghanistan.

    Yet even her baby boy was dumped in Pakistan without travel documents.

    In the meantime, a man who served a jail sentence for killing his baby is to be allowed to come to Australia to play sport.

    What the hell is going on in our dumbed-down nation?
    MARILYN SHEPHERD, Kensington

    And go figure – the AGE published this today.

  2. Howard-Vanstone-Ruddock and their ilk (not quite an axis of evil but certainly an axis of hard-heartedness) would have us believe that Australian civilisation as we know it will come tumbling down if we don’t exclude every single foreigner who may not have a 100% legitimate and verifiable claim to asylum.

    And the electorate has fallen for this hook line and sinker, or at least they’re far more interested in low mortgage rates than living in a just society. I’m an athiest, but I think the bible says it best – what does it profit a man if he should gain the world and lose his soul? Seems to me to apply to the nation as well. If a country as prosperous as Australia can’t err on the side of compassion perhaps our civilisation has already tumbled.

  3. Andrew – How do you decide amongst all that what is really important as opposed to simply topical, or sexy, or politically expedient? Apart from the footy match which is obviously number 1.

    I imagine it’s especially hard as a minor party rep when the agenda is being set by the government – how do you avoid simply responding as opposed to being pro-active on the things that really matter?

  4. Senator,

    As a research scientist (well, sort of; my field is very applied but my own work is quite theoretical), I’m very glad to hear that Parliament has such an event.

    If I may make a comment, though, the scientists you chose to meet seem to be in areas which, perhaps, you’re quite familiar with the generalities, and in which you’ve got fairly strong views of the public policy implications of science.

    There are plenty of other fields of science which have public policy implications; to give a plug for my own field, what proportion of government IT projects run on time and budget?

    Maybe next time you could choose to talk to at least one scientist in a field with which you’re not familiar?

  5. Phew! I’m tired just from reading all that.

    Its a shame there arn’t more listings by politicians into the amount of work they do each week. It may help the public impression and level of respect they have for politicians if they knew the sheer amount of work each MP/Senator puts in.

    Certainly, until I began working for DPS in broadcasting (including your salinity committie last week) I had little idea of how massive a workload was required. Politicians can’t be seen to be complaining about the workload, but honest efforts at describing the work done, as you’ve presented here might go a long way to improving public perceptions of our politicians. Which would be a good thing for the state of our democracy, especially in this cynical age.

  6. But only the members of minor parties work this hard. The main parties have meetings and decide positions.

    Most of them are seat warmers and wastes of space.

  7. Andrew

    Are you able to give some indication, if you have this information, of how many politicians pay child support, and maybe even who they are or if they’re married to a child support payer?

    I have recently read a blog on another site (posted by a child support payer) that suggested these new bills will benefit many politicians and their mates.

  8. Donna on my reading of the story the changes are pandering to the non-custodial fathers, especially the rich ones who forget they are talking about the lives of their own children.

    I think the payment rates for the rich will fall while for the middle they will rise. Ruddock’s brave new world where the children pay.

  9. Sure, you got a lot done, but what about the fans of your Friday morning appearances on 4ZZZFM in Brisbane? Where are they supposed to go for a dose of Bartlett sardonics? Keep making the world a better place (sigh) if you must but don’t forget the little people, especially the ones inside the radio that make the noises come out. Yam Yam says “Come back Senator bandwidth’s too big without you”.

  10. Responding to some of the above comments:

    Dan (#3) – being pro-active rather than just responding is a big challenge. Just responding to the government’s agenda is less than ideal, but it is also where most other people’s attention is already focused. Being determindly pro-active is not of much value if no one else noticies what you’re doing. However, to get shifts on issues, it often takes a fair bit of work over a long period, and that can mean plugging away for some time with no apparent impact. I guess you just keep reassessing what seems to be working and what doesn’t, mixed in with what needs to be done now and what can wait a bit.

    Robert (#4) – The current method is the way the organisers (who are the scientists) do it, so I presume they figure it is for the best. I think the intent is to show the value of scientific work in areas that the MP is interested in and already thinks are important, but perhaps hadn’t realised how important a role science and scientists can and do play in it. Perhaps the thinking is that if MPs met scientists from areas they weren’t interested in, they might not give as much value to what the scientist was doing. However, I’m interested in pretty much everything, so perhaps next year I’ll nominate a field I’m interested in but know little about.

    Donna (#7) – I’m afraid I don’t know that information, and I doubt it’s available. I don’t know if the adjustment to child custody determinations would help MPs much, but the mooted changes to child support arrangements sounds like it would (along with other high income earners). I suppose the media could pursue such questions to see who may have a conflict of interest, although the new formulas are the result of a separate and relatively intensive independent review panel, so I don’t think it would be fair to suggest politicians are just coming up with a new formula to suit themselves. There are few areas which receive a higher level of complaints than the Child Support Agency. (I should note the new changes are also supposed to mean a bigger crackdown on non-payers and under-payersof child support too).

    Jenny (#9) – didn’t know I had any fans of my appearances, but I’ll believe you if you insist. Next you’ll be saying the cricket team can’t win without me this season. I’m in Cairns & Mornington Island for the next few days, but should be back in grimy inner-city Fortitude Valley on Friday, so will endeavour to pop in to the radio station again. Hopefully things will be a bit less potty-mouthed than last time I was on (and I will be less at risk of getting inadvertently caught up in law suits from John Laws or Ed Kuepper)

  11. For a view of the realities of child support — as opposed to the self-interested feminist hype — read the comments on this blog entry.

    Note that the comments begin at the bottom of the page, and scroll upwards. There are over 500 of them. This is a big issue that is largely hidden from the public.


    Mazhar was born in custody in Australia on 15 October 2003. His mum, Roqia, was ill for most of the pregnancy and confined to bed for the last three months with diabetes and high blood pressure.

    He was almost lost at 11 weeks and again at 26 weeks after the forced “removal” of his uncle from Baxter.

    Mazhar was born under guard with Roqia considered a flight risk, the story went that she would run from the hospital minutes after giving birth and leave her baby and five children behind.

    His first 8 months were spent in a motel room in Adelaide with Roqia and occasional visits from Ali and the older children, but always with guards around. The records from those months chart the despair of Roqia who was even refused the right to ring Ali in Baxter for many of those months.

    Just getting visiting rights for Ali was a war of the wills with Annabelle O’Brien of DIMIA who was determined that Roqia, the baby and the five older children should be forced to visit Ali in Baxter once a fortnight. What the point of that cruelty was is not defined in the recorded emails but in the end Roqia stood her ground and Ali was allowed to stay at the motel with Roqia two nights a fortnight.

    When he was about 8 months old Mazhar and Roqia were allowed to move into the Dulwich house with the children because they had been placed back into detention. In an email from Sue Gould written at the time she made it very clear to Roqia and Ali that they were not going to get a visa, they were not going to be able to have a free life and Ali was not allowed to live with them.

    The house was huge even with guards in the house and life for Mazhar was terrific for a time. He was spoiled by everyone who ever came into contact with him just because of his sunny nature and great beaming smile.

    Many of the guards and carers were loving towards Mazhar but some were utterly heartless, in line with the behaviour and treatment of DIMA and some ACM staff. There was a notion among some of the “carers”, who had been juvenile prison guards, that the children and even Mazhar were criminals for some reason.

    One guard called Tess told me on our first meeting that the children were under guard, serving their sentence and had to obey the “rules” which seemed to be a moveable feast. After a great deal of talking with Tess she came to understand that she was not guarding criminals, just little children who had suffered terrible trauma and should be treated with care.

    She was a funny woman. On one hand she could be quite decent but on the first occasion Merlin Luck visited the children with us she came storming down the corridor of the house and manhandled us out the door into the cold.

    Monty and Alamdar were magnificent and in the end the only loser for the night was Tess whose children were great fans of Merlin’s and wanted his autograph. The boys picked up table and chairs and took them onto the front lawn for us. Roqia made Afghan tea for Pauline and the children and we had a tea party on the front lawn. Mazhar was the star of the show at almost one while Nagina was coy around such a handsome young man as Merlin.

    None of us at the party that night will ever forget the aplomb with which a couple of young boys showed adults how to behave with dignity and I suspect Merlin will hold that night dear for the rest of his days.

    Mazhar was allowed to have a 1 st birthday party which took the most extraordinary amount of organisation. Just two days before the party a thief had broken into the house and stolen all the money and goods along with phones and belongings of the older children.

    I rushed down to the house that day to find Roqia distraught and flat out on her bed with sickness and declaring the party would not happen. Samina had made beautiful invitations, Ali was ready to cook the food, the decorations had been bought – what to do.

    The family had a conference call with Ali and decided the party would happen regardless. It was amazing to go to the house on the night and see the work they had done on making the house beautiful.

    Decorations adorned the kitchen, passage, the dining room and every space the children could find. Balloons and ribbons, cards and everything any family could want for the 1st birthday of a much adored and spoiled baby boy.

    With the help of donations from a caring public Ali and Roqia had made a banquet fit for kings and when I offered to help Ali cook he chased me off with a spatula saying “this is my party, I will cook, you just enjoy yourself”. So I did.

    We all did. During the negotiations DIMA agreed to the party only on two conditions – that only 20 people were allowed which included the family and that there had to be two guards at the house the whole time. I don’t know what they thought we would do, run off with the children maybe.

    The guests included a magistrate and his wife and lawyer daughter, Father Greg O’Kelly the headmaster at the school, Jeremy Moore and his wife and youngest son, Dale West, the head of Catholic Centacare and two daughters, Pauline Frick his deputy and her two youngest children and various carers and their children and grand-children. A respectable bunch in anyone’s language so the paranoia of DIMA was very misplaced.

    In the end they remained discreetly in the background while the guests and the family had the only normal family gathering for the entire four years in Australia. It was bitter sweet and little did we know that it would be the only time we would ever get to have a party with this family we had all come to love.

    Dozens of photos and videos were taken of the day with a couple of them being sent to the Advertiser a few days later. Poor Ali was bundled back to Baxter like a criminal with his guards the next day but Mazhar was oblivious to the cruelty inflicted on his dad.

    It needs to be stated clearly that Roqia and Ali adore their children. All they ever wanted was a free life for them away from the wars and dangers of Afghanistan and precarious existence of Afghan refugees squatting in Pakistan.

    When Mazhar was tired and cranky I would make Roqia howl with laughter as I scooped him up in my arms and took him all over the house and grounds pointing at things and saying “what’s this Mazhar” or looking at photos and saying “who’s this Mazhar?” until he calmed down and went to sleep. After they landed back in Afghanistan I got a message from Roqia that he was walking all over the village with the Afghan children pointing at things and saying “what’s this?” My legacy to this baby boy I loved like my own grandson.

    On the 6th December the government called on a citizenship case in the High Court against Mazhar. The government position was that he could not be granted citizenship because he was either stateless or a Pakistani citizen and if he wasn’t a Pakistani citizen he was an Afghan citizen. DIMA’s way of saying they didn’t have a clue and didn’t care just as long as the baby was not an Australian and they could legally deport him.

    The case was adjourned until the 13th while extra information was sought and after two hours of arguments Justice Hayne stated “on the evidence presented it is at least arguable that the parents are Afghan citizens as they have always claimed” and refused his application. This was a mortal blow to all of us trying hard to get a degree of justice for this family.

    His lawyer, Jeremy Moore, was stricken and then Justice Hayne allowed the government to stick the boot right in and demand costs against the baby. Fancy asking a one year old baby to pay costs for a court case he didn’t know anything about.

    It was however, a good excuse for the government to then inflict on the family the most hideous cruelty, so cruel that their neighbours likened the behaviour of DIMA to that of storm troopers in a totalitarian regime. All the children at St Ignatius and St Aloysious were devastated at the treatment of their friends just as they were preparing for Christmas.

    The reports showed that at 7 am on 18 December 2004 about 50 guards stormed into the house and dragged all of the children from their beds. Nagina was not allowed to put on her scarf, Roqia could not change the baby or give him a bottle and the other children were terrified.

    It came out of the blue, I had talked to them on Friday and been invited for Sunday lunch. After the initial set back of the High Court they were optimistic as all the other people they had been in detention with had been granted visas. They knew they were the only Afghani children left without visas and really believed they would get theirs before Christmas. Their cousins had been found to be genuine months earlier after being in Woomera and Baxter with them for over 3 years, so we were all hopeful.

    I walked down to the house at 2 am on the Saturday over come with a sense of dread, fear that I would never see them again. People were awake in the house but still the alarm didn’t go off in my mind. Walking home I almost convinced myself I was being fanciful, that they would be there on Sunday and everything would be fine.

    They were taken to the Port Augusta housing “estate” with Senator Vanstone claiming they would be better off. It beggars belief that such traumatised children could be better off in a prison hundreds of kilometres from their friends but she would not budge in spite of the nation wide outcry.

    On the 30th December the entire media of Australia witnessed the kidnapping and deportation of this family on a hired jet to nowhere. Senator Vanstone had been informed they were from Afghanistan and at this point not one member of the media had the guts or the nous to ask for the evidence, except Matthew Abraham of the ABC.

    The last Australia saw of them was disappearing in a jet peering from the windows in despair. White faced and tormented. A rumour started a day later that they were in prison in Bangkok but this proved to be untrue. Monty managed to get an email to his friends from Dubai expressing their sadness and upset at having nowhere to go. He said that money changed hands in Dubai but he didn’t know what it was for.

    On 2 January 2005 word came that Pakistan had allowed them to enter but had denied them a hotel room because they had no papers. Mazhar was forced to sleep on the road in the snow and almost perished. A baby boy as Australian as I am dumped in a foreign country and still Senator Vanstone assured Australia they had had a very, very, fair go. I wonder how Roqia and Ali will explain this cruelty to Mazhar when he is old enough to understand?

    News from Afghanistan was scarce for weeks during which time I hardly slept and could barely stop crying. Then on my birthday I received the Freedom of Information documents that Roqia had asked for in September 2004 and the madness of the beaurocrats in DIMA became blindingly clear.

    To turn Mazhar into a Pakistani was the most bizarre distortion of the truth that I had ever seen. His birth certificate was obtained by DIMA just weeks after his birth, a certificate the family did not know existed. It stated that both Roqia and Ali were Afghan citizens who had been married in Afghanistan.

    I think at this point Ms Narelle Lee went completely insane. On 13 January 2004 she wrote to the Pakistan embassy to tell them that Mr Asghar Ali had been verified as a Pakistani national and that she wanted Mazhar to be declared a Pakistani citizen.

    She enclosed an Australian Certificate of Identity which seems to have been rejected by the Pakistani embassy so on 5 February she phoned a Mr Wali at the embassy to ask him to follow up.

    The next day she spoke to the Embassy again and then faxed them a copy of Mazhar’s birth certificate demanding that he be confirmed as a Pakistani citizen. She requested the return of the Certificate of Identity at that time and it looks like she received a letter from the Embassy stating that Mazhar was the son of Asghar Ali Bakhtiari and was a Pakistani citizen due to being the son of a Pakistani.

    Each time this letter had been presented to the Federal court and the High Court the letter explaining how he became a Pakistani citizen were not presented so I guess it was reasonable for the courts to believe they were genuine, but it is beyond belief that a birth certificate stating the Afghan nationality of a new born could then be used to turn him into a Pakistani.

    So determined were DIMA to rid themselves of Bakhtiyari children they used a tiny baby.

  13. Marilyn

    Could you kindly do us the courtesy of placing your comments under relevant posts. Your hijacking of this blog with irrelevant comments is highly disrespectful of those (including Andrew) who use the blog for its intended purpose.

    Thank you


  14. Marilyn – just accept the fact that australia couldn’t give a stuff about the bloody baktiaris. We are mean, divisive, rotten, disgusting, selfish materialistic, fearful of strangers, racist, cruel, uncaring, love torturing animlas, and generally lack culture decnecy and are uninformed, uneducated tripists.

    Just get over it.

  15. I am not so sure that all Australian’s dont give a stuff about the Bakhtaris……Please speak for yourself Ken.

    I dont agree with the way the system has dealt with and treated the Bakhtaris, I also dont agree with the way the system has dealt with and treated my children and family.

    I have problems with how the system deals with child abuse victims, victims of crime, how they deal with Aboriginal children and how they deal with issues of neglect and misconduct in general as their only concern is to cover up the failures of the adults – at any cost.

    Sure, Marilyn overdoes it at times but she has a story to tell and when so much has happened and so many things have been done that are “obviously wrong” things do seem excessive and over the top because they are!

  16. You are right Geoff, she is not the only one.

    There are alot of people suffering and fighting for Justice and vindication. I believe that we will see more and more issues coming to light as more and more people break through the beurocratic brick walls and gather the strength and courage to speak out about what is happening that is “obviously wrong”.

    It’s unreasonable to expect someone to just cop it sweet and to accept being treated unfairly and unjustly on a systemic and continous basis and not say a word.

    We have rights and it is our basic human right to be treated fairly and our basic human right to be heard.

    There are also supposed to be laws to protect the innocent and in particular the children.

  17. Dunan. If you havent’ got anything supportive or nice to say, why say anything at all? Why tire yourself out and present others negatively when really there is no need as you can just ignore and turn a blind eye!

    There are no repercussion for turning a blind eye, so surely it would present as the most appealling alteranative. Why make comments that disparage people that are complaining or discussing things and issues that are to do with the Public Service and that affect their life and family and that are very important to them? Is it just to get a boot in?

    You don’t ‘have’ to read the posts and I certainly dont ‘need’ your style of comments.

    I dont think Andrew will be giving people like me an open thread, he tends to avoid my families issues. He is no different to anybody else in Politics they dont want to rock the boat as they are protecting thier own position, and then we wonder why Australia is the state that it is in today.

  18. Although I am concerned by the nasty comments that people seem to feel free to post on what is otherwise a very informative and thought-provoking blog, I have to agree that it’s time for Marilyn and others to be much, much more careful about what they post. Geoff and co need to stop the nastiness.

    Marilyn, if you do not already have your own blog, I strongly suggest that you start one and that you save most of your comments for there. Jolanda (who similarly until recently a tendency to overuse this blog) maintains a blog that focuses on her specific concerns and is most powerful in expressing her concerns when she keeps her comments on other blogs on-topic and short. It seems that she is realizing that, although these are important issues, not everything in Australia is directly related to schools and testing for giftedness.

    Marilyn, if you have comments that are relevant to this blog or others then please post them. The issues you raise are important but not every single issue is related to the current government’s terrible treatment of refugees (which, by the way, I’d suggest about 95% of this blog’s readers agree with you about).

    If you want to raise issues on blogs other than your own then (1) try to ensure your comments are somewhat relevant and (2) keep them short, unless they are really are completely relevant. I gather that you are a supporter of much of Senator Bartlett’s work and would like to see more people gain an understanding of what he is trying to do. Because of your commitment to the spirit of the senator’s work, I am sure that you can have a go at understanding that you (AND the incessant critics such as Geoff) detract from other people’s ability to engage with these important issues. You and others need to be aware that every time you DOMINATE the blog you move closer to suffocating discussion. Restrain yourself and you might find that people will actually listen to you.

  19. Ah, Jolanda, I take my previous comments about you back. What on earth do you think you are doing when you rant on about Senator Bartlett avoiding your family’s issues? Take a look at what this guy does. Take a look at his track reckord. If anyone is going to be concerned about what you raise, it is him and the very few others like him.

    Have you ever stopped to consider that maybe the reason why you are not able to change the situation to the way that you would like it to be is because you have neither thought your agenda through nor have a reasonable way of communicating your agenda? Honestly, (and I mean honestly) I worry about your mental well-being. In all good faith, I strongly recommend that you seek help. You are doing no one – your children included – any favours by operating in the way that you have.

  20. Tanya. I appreciate what you are saying but I was named in Duncans response and my comments in this thread did not warrant his response. I believe the response was designed to discredit me and I am sick to death of being put in the same basket as Marilyn. Its a process that people use and I am fed up of being discredited and treated as though I am some sort of obsessed lunatic. What is happening to my family is real and these are real children that are being targeted and are suffering. WE are innocent victims.

    You say that I used to overuse this blog, well I didn’t realise that there was an amount and that its up to the readers to lay down the laws as to who can post regularly without question or complaint and how much people should and shouldn’t post.

    Your right not everything is about school and identifying gifted children and my families issues are not about that, they are about bias, prejudice, discrimination, victimisation, bullying, misconduct, corruption and conspiracies to cover up in the Public Sector and the culture of turning a blind eye and discrediting the complainant. A culture that is supported by the general public.

    Isn’t that different! Thats what the system wants people to do, to ostrasize those that complain, to discredit them so that they shut up, go mad, or so that nobody listens and they do this so that they can get away with what they are doing. Don’t people realise that, or what, dont people care because it is not happening to them?

    There is no way that they are going to get away with what they are doing to my family. No way in this world. If people dont want to hear my voice here, fine I will go somewhere else. I will fight this with or without public help – these are innocent children that are being systemically targeted, neglected and victimised. How can people just not care. Dont we have a standard in this Country, have standards dropped so low? Those employed by the Government have a duty of care to protect the children and they have a Code of Conduct that states that they have to exercise their duties impartially and lawfully.

    It truly is a sad state of affairs.

  21. Tanya. Take whatever you like back. Did it ever occur to you that I have tried to have these issues dealt with following the process and procedure and presenting it the way the system has designed. Has it ever occured to you that the system has designed things so as to arrive at this situation.

    For over 6 years I have tried to use the processess that the system has set up, I have been polite, I have tried to present the matter with no emotion, with emotion, through a Solicitor. It doens’t make a difference. The system is set up to cover up.

    Now I am at the stage where I have had enough of doing it thier way. Surely 6 years of hell is enough. Those in the system wont even protect the children so that it doesn’t continue to happen to them. How much can one family be expected to take. It seems that the only way to get things done is to scream from the rooftops and do the wrong thing. Criminals and those that do the wrong thing get protected you know.

    Sure Senator Bartlett does do alot of things, but he isn’t interested in helping my family and neither are any of the Democrats, I know I have written to them before. NObody is interested in helping my children and family and so I am left with no choice but to use whatever method is available to me.

    Call me crazy if you want, but I can assure you that I am not crazy. The ones that are crazy are the ones that are running this country and they are ones that you should be upset with. Not me!

  22. Jolanda: It is a sad situation and we all need to work to ensure that the vulnerable are looked after. However, to be able to bring about change, we need to have a balance between passion and calm. We need to be committed to change but also not let ourselves become so wrapped up that we lose our ability to bring that change about. The truly committed act very carefully and selectively. It is as though you have a spear in your hand and you wave it around attacking anyone – friend or foe – as well as your own self. I can understand why you do that – you feel that what has happened is deeply wrong. However, if you want to change the situation – even if you want retribution – then you need to pull back from the situation. If you do not do this then the situation will defeat you.

    Set a time limit – a couple of months can make a big difference to how you think and feel about a situation. Spend time with your family and doing what you love to do. If you do not feel you can do take time away then that is actually a sign that you are too wrapped and your efforts will be ineffective. The sense of urgency that you feel is a hindrance, not a help. Read, watch, listen to what other activists have done. Take inspiration from passionate, calm, and successful people like Nelson Mandela.

    I hope that you will not consider my suggestions to be patronising – they are not intended to patronise or to hurt. I have read too many of your posts here and on other blogs to not be concerned about your situation and your feelings about it. You would be surprised how many people really do care about their fellow citizens of the world. Step back, and give yourself the space to reconnect with your self, those close to you, and then to others. If, after a reasonable time period, you are calm and passionate, then return to trying to change the situation … hopefully, you will then be successful.

  23. Jolanda.. nothing in my post ‘discredits’ you. You do a disservice to yourself by continually pasting your personal campaign into every thread you can find. Marilyn similarly (and demonstrably worse).

    Similarly, I have said nothing nasty about you here. Your paranoia is showing. Am a DET agent now?


  24. Jolanda

    The problem here is not that your issue is not important and that your comments are not valid.

    It’s that sometimes they are not relevant to the discussion at hand and then peole get irritated because they want to be able to discuss that particular issue. You already know this.

    It’s also very clear that the problems you have experienced have and continue to be a very painful thing for you and your family. I am very sorry you have had to go through this, it sounds awful.

    As for Andrew not being interested, I don’t believe that. However you know enough to understand that education systems are state based and differ greatly from one state to another.

    Andrew is a Queensland Senator and a federal representative, the problems you have are with the NSW state education system.

    In any case I think the idea that everyone keep their comments relevant and succinct is not a bad one and consistent with the comments policy Andrew has published on this blog.

  25. Tanya, I appreciate your concern but I am multi-talented.

    I do spend alot of time with my children, husband and family and we all have the most amazing relationship. We are really close, we talk, really talk about everything, and we suport each other and my children expect me to stand up and fight for their right to be treated fairly.

    I can switch on and off in relation to emotion and passion in relation to these issues depending on what I am doing and who I am with. It doesn’t consume me anymore, that stage has passed, I accept that my family are seen as acceptable sacrifices by the system. We are beyond that.

    I am not obsessed and I do not go on about it all the time but I am in the process of trying to expose this issue as the system continues to neglect and target my children and keeping silent is not going to help and trying to use the processes that the System has set up is no good as they have already closed the matter internally in order to cover it up, and I have tried stepping back and I have tried everything that you say. What happens is nothing………You just hear nothing.

    So please dont be concerned about what I do with my family, we are loving and caring and we support each other. The concern and problem is what the system is doing to my children and family and how that is affecting my children life and how it will affect thier future.

    I am a passionate person by nature and it is something that is a positive. I was born in Spain you know from Spanish parents and everybody should know that Spanish are hot blooded and passionate.

  26. Mollie-Waterman. I didn’t take this thread off topic in the first instance. It was Marilyn and then Ken continued it. I was just upset that Ken said that all Australians dont give a stuff about what happened to the Baktaris etc. I dont think it is fair that people speak on behalf for all, especially when they are saying such horrible comments.

    Thats when I commented, in relation to that, I didn’t go on about my families matter it was a general reference and I also referred to other areas where we should be focusing on in child protection etc. Contrary to what some people think, I dont tend to take threads off topic all the time and on purpose. Thats why I have my own blog and yes, I do make references to my families situation because it is relevant as what is happening in Government, in socieity and to individuals. Covering up is a process and it is the culture.

    Marilyn is the one that always tends to go off topic and writes random things that are not even related to the subject and like I said before I am sick to death of always being referred to in the same breath as Marilyn. We are totally different and we are talking about different issues and we present them in different ways.

    My children are not refugees or immigrants. They are Australian citizens, born here to parents who are Australian citizens and they should have rights. I dont like the way Marilyn presents her case because I find her rude and insulting and I dont like being referred to in the same breath as her. I find that it discredits me and I am sorry Marilyn if this upsets you but it is the way I feel.

  27. Presumably being one of the nasty ones (althouhg I do agree with MArilyn jUST not her hyperbole)- I couldn’t agree more with the balanced and reasoned and compassioante attemtps by Tanya and others to address the uncontrollable fixations and obsessions of some on this blog. Irony obviously doesn’t work.

  28. Ok Jolanda, I take your point and apologise for having given offence. It was unintended.

  29. I agree, Jolanda was not the one that took the discussion of topic here. Marilyn and Jolanda have acted differently from each other.

    So, everyone, here’s to constantly trying to improve our blog communication skills and to helping the Senator to do a great job in representing our concerns.

  30. Thank you Andrew for letting us know the breadth and depth of the work you do in representing Queenslanders and the Australian Democrats in your Senate work.

    I particularly like the links you supply so that interested readers can be more fully informed on the issues.

  31. Geoff and co? I don’t have a co Tanya.
    Nastiness? You don’t know the meaning of nastiness.
    personally I think people have been very tolerant of certain one issue posters on this blog.

  32. re 12
    marylin, here,s an idea for you .
    i read you comments in 12 . why dont you aproach a film production comp to make a movie about them . then give them the money made from it.
    i think it would make a good movie.

  33. Marilyn
    I too am concerned by the upcoming changes.

    Evil Pundit
    Thank you for directing me towards that website. There is brilliant debate to be read. I note Yobbo’s presence there.

    I would hope a journalist would consider politicians with an interest in child support changes worth further inquiry.

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