Claudia Karvan, Al Clarke, members of the Screen Australia Board, you say I pose a risk to SA staff. Owing to your duty of care, you say, you cannot allow SA staff to meet with or communicate with me. You refuse to provide me with any evidence that I pose a risk; that I have engaged in ‘highly offensive conduct’. The reason is simple. There is none. And you know it. Your ban is a fatwa; punishment for a critic; a warning to other filmmakers.
Friday, September 26, 2014
# 2 letter to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop re refugees - 30th Jan 2014
The Hon Julie
Representatives, Parliament House
30th Jan 2014
are very poor. The mother and father cannot feed, clothe, educate or provide
medical care to their many children. The roof to the family home leaks and they
have no money to repair it. Their lives have been marred by tragedy and
trauma. You feel for them. You want to help. What do you do? You are
comparatively rich and in a position to pay to have the roof repaired, buy
decent clothes for the children, put them in school and provide the family with
healthy food and other basic necessities of life. You are a good person, so you
open your wallet put your money where your heart is. Your actions are to be
applauded. Everyone in the family is appreciative, thankful for the help you
are providing to keep their heads above water.
committed yourself to helping this family you discover that the father
regularly beats, intimidates and mistreats his children. You are shocked to
learn that a substantial part of the money you have provided to help the family
is being spent by the father to indulge in his own pleasures – drinking and
gambling in particular. What do you do?
not wishing to be judgmental, (this father has suffered a great deal in his
life) you take him aside and tell him, politely, that you cannot provide
financial assistance to the family if he continues to mistreat his children; to
drink and gamble away the money you give him. You suggest also that he put some
effort into finding a job so that he, too, can help support his family.
Contrite, hand on heart, the father promises to mend his ways and look for a
job. You are relieved.
It soon becomes
apparent that the father has no intention of keeping his promises. The
gambling, drinking and abuse of his children continues and you see no evidence
that he is trying to get a job. You feel a little uneasy about how your effort
to help is turning out. You wonder if, in providing his family with generous
financial assistance, the father now has no pressing need to earn a living. He
knows that you, out of the goodness of your year, will feed, clothe and educate
You speak with
the father again. More forcefully this time! Again, he is contrite and makes
the same promise to reform in his behaviour. Yes, this time he will be true to
his word, stop gambling, drinking and mistreating his children. He makes a
solemn promise. And he will put a great deal of effort into finding a job. His
promises are made with such sincerity that you give him the benefit of the
doubt; one more chance. After all, this father has suffered so much, has been
so traumatized by past experiences beyond his control, that it is unrealistic
to expect him to mend his ways immediately. It will take time. This is what you
tell yourself. This is what you need to tell yourself. This what you need to
robin of promises made and promises broken goes on for some time until, in
exasperation, you say to him, “I will provide no more support for your family
for as long as you spend the money on yourself – drinking and gambling - and
not on your family; until you get a job and stop intimidating and mistreating
your children.” The father responds, with a sorrowful expression, “But my
children must eat! If you do not provide us with money, how will my children
eat? I am a poor man. Our family has been through so much trauma. Please, you
must continue to help us. Think of the children.”
This works. You
feel both guilty and trapped. How can you possibly withdraw financial aid to
your neighbours, knowing full well that if you do, it is the children who will
suffer the most? Do you want to take on that responsibility? Do you want to be
seen as uncaring? No. So you keep on giving. You come to accept as a fact of
that the father skims a good deal off the top of what you provide for the
family - to spend on his own drinking, gambling and other selfish pastimes.
You accept that he is not going to even try to get a job so that he can
support his family himself. This is the price, you tell yourself, that you must
pay for helping his children. Surely it is better, you ask yourself, that some
money trickles through the father’s fingers to help the children than none at
all? You answer in the affirmative because the alternative is too distressing
to contemplate – namely that you have become an accessory in the father’s
mistreatment of his children by relieving him of his responsibility to support
them in an atmosphere free of intimidation and fear.
You are now,
despite your good intentions, complicit in his mistreatment of his children.
Your support for the family, well-meaning though it was at the outset, is
actually damaging the family further since the father controls the purse
strings and his purse is mostly filled with your money! That you are an
accessory to a the crime of the father’s human rights abuses within his
own family is something you must do all you can to hide from yourself. You are
a good person, after all!
One day you
discover that the father has so badly beaten one of his children that she has
been hospitalized and may die. What do you do? Withdraw your aid to the entire
family? Punish the children for the father’s bad behavior?
cautionary tale ignores the fact that others in the neighbourhood are also
providing the father with financial assistance on the presumption that it is being
used to help the entire family. If you withdraw your aid the others will step
in to fill the gap. You have, in reality, no leverage. The father is playing
you for a sucker. The only way that your threat to withdraw your aid to the
family can or will carry any weight if it is made in conjunction with all the
others in the neighbourhood that are providing financial assistance to it.
happen if you, and all your all your neighbours, speaking with one voice, were
to say to the father, “We will provide no more aid until you stop mistreating
your family and spending our aid money on yourself?” With nowhere to turn
for financial aid it may well be that the father is not in a position to play
the neighbours off against each other and has no choice but to not only agree
to change his ways, but to actually change them.
the kind I am making here are, of course, simplistic. However, they do point to
a truth so glaring that it cannot be ignored: The international donor community
has, though its billions of dollars of aid this past 20 years ($18 billion)
absolved the Hun Sen government (the ‘father’) of the responsibility to feed,
clothe, house and otherwise take care of the Cambodian people. The
international donor community has stepped in to do what the Cambodian
government should be doing in terms of providing social services. If this
community, and the gaggle of NGOs it supports, were to withdraw aid, Hun Sen
could accuse them of heartlessness, of abandoning the poor who are, after all,
poor because they are victims (albeit 2nd and 3rd generation victims) of the Khmer Rouge!
International donor community speaking with one voice, were to cut all aid to
Cambodia until Prime Minister Hun Sen acts in accordance with the Cambodian
constitution, until his government obeys the Land Laws that make it illegal to
steal the land and homes of Cambodians, and until he stops sending armed
soldiers and black-helmeted thugs armed with electric cattle prods to beat up
and sometimes kill peaceful protestors, his government would be broke within
weeks. His Ministers, members of his family and the corrupt businessman who
make up the kleptocracy that controls Cambodia – its people and resources –
would be unable to survive in the absence of the bribes that are the lifeblood
of their dealings with the international community. Something would have to
happen if the flow of money that keeps Hun Sen and his regime in power were to
come to a sudden end? There are many possibilities. Backed into a corner, Hun
Sen may respond violently and much blood may be spilt by innocent
Cambodians who want nothing other than a genuine democracy and not to be ruled,
for yet another five years, by a dictator.
On the other
hand, Hun Sen’s own party may realize that his autocratic ways have rendered
him a liability and get rid of him. Or, Hun Sen may realize that the tide of
history is against him and that it is time for him to retire and live in
comfort on the many millions of dollars he has acquired in his Prime Ministers’
salary! In the south of France, perhaps! No-one can be sure what the outcome
would be but it is hard to imagine that it could be worse than the situation
Do you, as
Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, do the Foreign Minister’s of other
countries propping up the Hun Sen government want to be a party to the
political turmoil that is racking the country now, in five years? When
Hun Sen arranges, through his manipulation of the National Election Committee
and the Constitutional Council to win yet another election in 2018, how will
you and the international community respond? Express your concern? Yet again?
Expressions of concern are meaningless unles backed up with action.
No doubt, later
this year, when Australia promises another $100 million in aid to Cambodia, Hun
Sen will make the same kinds of solemn promises of reform as he has been making
this past 20 years. Will you buy it, Minister? Is there any point at which you
and your fellow Foreign Ministers will say, “Enough”? When the international
donor community will stop expressing its ‘concern’ and actually act in a way
that has the best interests of the Cambodian people at heart?
play a leading role here in coordinating an international coalition of donor
countries to put pressure on Hun Sen to (a) allow for an independent
investigation to take place into the ‘flawed’ July 2013 elections, (b) to
implement an independent investigation into the murder of striking garment
factory workers earlier this month such that the killers, along with those who
gave the orders to shoot to kill, are identified and punished in accordance
with Cambodian law.
You do not
need, Minister, to await the arrival of more reports into what is taking place
in Cambodia. Just go online and see for yourself. You could start with this one
– footage of the Deputy Governor of Phnom Penh beating up a moto dop driver:
If the Deputy
Governor of Phnom Penh can perpetrate violence of this kind with impunity it
should come as no surprise that members of the armed forces can and will follow
suit. Is this the form of government that Australia wants to support with an
annual injection of $100 million in foreign aid?