As part of the Guardian’s modern slavery in focus series journalist Pete Pattisson covers the links between development aid money and it’s links to child labour in Nepal’s brick making industry.
“Children as young as eight are working 15-hour days making bricks that have been used in major international development projects in Nepal, including a World Food Programme (WFP) project funded with $3.2m (£2m) of UK aid money.
A Guardian investigation has revealed that “blood bricks”, tainted by human rights abuses such as child labour, have also been used in other major construction projects in Nepal, including a multimillion pound upgrade of Tribhuvan international airport funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), a new Marriott hotel and a project to improve Kathmandu’s domestic air terminal.
The findings suggest that international donors, aid agencies, multinational companies and the Nepalese government are systematically failing to ensure that there are effective policies in place to keep their supply chains free from child and bonded labour, and have failed to recognise the appalling conditions prevalent in Nepal’s brick industry….”
Walking through the lower reaches of Swanson street towards Flinders Street Station is an interaction with the cultural vibrancy and underbelly of Melbourne – a interweaving of Melbourne’s communities of lack and abundance, multi and mono-culturalism, illustrating their complex and sometimes unsubtle relationships.
These interactions of Big Issue vendors, tourists, shoppers and commuters can led to telling observational moments.
Yesterday while walking through the busy weekend throng of humanity near the transportation hub of Flinders Street Station a drunken individual abused an Aboriginal man sitting near entrance to the lower Swanson Street McDonalds.
” Piss off you N****R, go back to where you came from.”
Perhaps the incident and the use of the word ‘n****r’ could be dismissed under the guise the ‘gentleman’ in question was drunk but in reality there is no excuse for any form of racist language.
And using the term “go back to where you come from” is redundant when spoken to a member of Australia’s indigenous people. Where exactly is this Aboriginal man meant to go to?
Racial abuse in Australia brings up complex issues of belonging and ownership within the ‘lucky country ‘ which is potentially about to take on new forms as the Liberal Coalition government reviews key sections (sections 18B -E) of the Racial Discrimination Act.
Under the proposed changes to the act (as covered in the SMH), led by Attorney General George Brandis, it looks likely that it will no longer be unlawful to ”offend, insult and humiliate” someone because of their race, colour or ethnic origin while making it illegal to incite hatred or intimidate. On face value these changes seem contradictory or far more allowing of hate based speech against race unless it is extreme.
How are law enforcement meant to police legal racially skewed language while making the judgment that it may or may not be being used to incite hatred or intimidation when the language itself comes from a place of hatred and intimidation? It is a net with very large holes. It is understandable that numbers of ethnic groups have raised concerns with the government over the proposed legislative changes.
But what is the real solution to addressing racially based hatred or how does government limit the use of hateful language in order to engineer an aspirational societal change? Or is that even what the proposed legislation changes are trying to achieve? Are the changes an issue of free speech? Or are the legislative changes a complicit acceptance of the prevalence of racism in Australia and a reflection that it is too difficult to address through law except in extreme cases such as the 2005 Cronulla race riots?
Australian Guardian contributor Antony Loewenstein, who supports aspects of the proposed changes from a free speech perspective writes;
“I share some of the concerns of learned law experts, such as Andrew Lynch, a director at the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law at the University of NSW, who writes in the Melbourne Age that the government has a wilful blindness to the profound power disparity between those individuals or groups who may be offended or hurt by hate speech and those most likely to be using them (such as media personalities or politicians). It’s a position utterly lost on cocooned editorial writers and also on columnist Andrew Bolt, who this week praised his ability to receive an apology for hurt feelings, forgetting that his requests come with the power of the massive corporation behind him. Bolt is neither a fair arbiter of how the law should work in relation to hateful speech, nor in a position to understand the awful effect that verbal abuse can have on an Aboriginal, refugee, Jew, Muslim, or Greek.”
If the government’s justification for changing the Racial Discrimination Act is about free speech, what is it exactly they want speech to be free to do? As going on the current proposed changes it is possible to argue, as Loewenstein does later in his column, that the major backers of the freedom to use racially charged language as part of free speech principles are all white, privileged and male. So why do people of cultural and societal privilege need to legimitise language that rarely affects them except if they are caught out using it?
A poll carried out by Fairfax in March this year indicated that 78 per cent of 2242 respondents thought that the current Racial Discrimination Act does not limit free speech.
Debates about the use of racially based language and the need to protect those whom are the most common recipients of it are complex and necessary. But legislative moves to remove protections of those vulnerable to racist language while potentially protecting the users of racially based hate speech through the guise of free speech seems counter intuitive.
Feedback from my previous blog discussing a Guardian article by Samantha Prendergast illustrating the struggles of Kiwi’s living in Australia without the legal rights to access government support has been overwhelming.
Some of the stories people have chosen to share illustrate a tenuous existence. Some said they had no desire to return home to NZ but due to the lack of legal protections for Kiwi’s who arrive in Australia post 2001 they have no choice if things go badly.
I am looking to talk with as many Kiwis in Australia and to those whom have moved back home to New Zealand due to their current legal status as guest workers with very little recourse to better their residency status except through expensive spousal visas in the “lucky country.”
Please use the provided contact form to get in touch. Please state if you wish to be contacted further and if you wish to have your identity protected.
And to the many people whom have already been in touch – thank you – I will get back to you over the next couple of weeks.
Following a story in today’s Guardian Australia by Samantha Prendergast I am looking for New Zealanders living in Australia doing it tough without the benefit of the Centrelink safety net. This is despite Australians in New Zealand having access to the full range of social support structures regardless of how long they have lived in New Zealand.
“When I came to Australia at the age of 12, I never expected to find myself age 23 with no access to social security. If I lost my job tomorrow, I’d be broke in four weeks time – and there’d be no Newstart or Youth Allowance to fall back on.
In 2001, two years before my family moved from Auckland to Adelaide, the then Howard government changed the visa rights for New Zealanders who moved to Australia. Previously, Kiwis were immediately eligible for Australian residency. But after 2001, every New Zealander who crossed the Tasman was placed on a non-protected special category visa (SCV), a temporary visa that is unique to New Zealanders and can be altered at any time. We can live here, work here, and access Medicare. But beyond that, services are limited. If people on SCVs want permanent residency and the benefits attached to it, there are few available options. Permanent residency is granted when people meet criteria that make them valuable to the Australian community – and that usually means having a long-term relationship with an Australian citizen, being highly skilled, or being a wealthy under-50 year-old with plans to invest in an Australian company. For many people, especially young New Zealanders who moved here as kids, the criteria are hard to meet and the consequences of staying on a SCV can be severe.”
New Zealanders can technically lose their residency rights in Australia overnight and it is very difficult to get other more permanent forms of residency.
You can read Samantha’s story here.
Anyone willing to share their story can get in touch through the contact form. If you wish to protect your identity please let me know within the contact form and we can go from there.