What the Fuck is going on in Australia?

I keep getting asked to comment on what is going on in Australia, but my response is a) WHAT is going on in Australia? I mean, when TNT Magazine rang me to comment on whether I thought the British view of Australia was outdated; wanting me, I suspect, to trash the old routines of cork hats and bbqs, in favour of the new sophistication on show at, then upcoming, Australian Film Festival in London, I was non-plussed. Yes, the British view of ‘Oz’ is outdated – and it varies interestingly according to how alert to racism people are: black friends agree its the new apartheid, white friends want to move there because of Neighbours. But my second response is b) I’ve been away 14 years, please go read some of the people writing about Australian politics who are there today. There is no excuse for cork hats, crappy movie reruns, or uninterested dismissal. Settler colonialism is rampant, the frontier is being remade. You can read whatever Pilger will come up with in his cult-journalist persona, and that would not necessarily be wrong, but you could more usefully follow the discussions of the people who tread the paths that cult-journos will not even find out about until they have their cheques signed and broadcast slot assured. So, have a look at Ange’s stuff here and Ben here where there is at least an attempt to work out what the fuck is going on in Australia.

From the second of the above links, Ben writes, in his third(fourth) instalment on the present ‘troubles’:

exceptions (iii)

to discipline the colonised
There have been sporadic reports of resistance to the intervention by people in “affected areas”. Some have responded by saying these reports are further efforts to besmirch the image of Indigenous people, while others have viewed the media as suppressing stories of resistance and refusal as part of the corporate media’s agenda to deny the existence or significance of such struggles. It is genuinely hard to get a picture of what people are doing in response, and many of the forms of response and resistance will undoubtedly remain invisible to me and maybe to the intervening authorities. Will any leak in visibility or declare themselves as a rupture of compliance and a smoothly managed takeover?

Other themes I want to develop:

Purpose and form of the the NT intervention : a re-imposition of capitalist social relations – most centrally, in relation to property/ land and wage-labor/work – through government control of consumption (where and on what welfare can be spent), distribution of commodities (control of stores, policing of alcohol), reproduction/welfare (control of services, community organisations etcetera through the new “managers” powers to take over at will any uncooperative organisations), labour (work-for-the-dole in places of extremely high unemployment making the bulk of the population conscriptable into the work of the intervention itself and anything else). Managed through every type of coercion available to the state – dependence on welfare, the use of police, potential of child removal, imposition of forced labour.

Origins of the NT intervention: not out of nowhere in response to any report, but developed over time by elites such as, but not limited to, those supporting and working in the Cape York Institute, promoting quasi-neoliberalising but statist experiments in management of the Indigenous and the neo-lumpen proletariat, to be integrated into general strategies for the reproduction (and expansion) of capitalist social relations. A conservative Third Way, intensive state management combined with the imposition of money-as-command. Moral panic over child abuse as a tactic for imposition integrated into the agenda enough to maybe appear a response.

POSTED BY theoryoftheoffensive ON 08.30.07 @ 4:39 am

University Out Of Focus

Closet cleaner – from “Think” – a Melbourne University Education Action Group paper in 1988. Youthful enthusiasms!

“Forms of masking the minute moments of politics in this place: each time you accept the suggestions of institutional authority, however reasonable or justified – a writer, tutor, lecturer, professor – you blink; the numbers in your class rise from 15 to 20 to 25 and you blink; your classroom is shifted, your seminar is moved to the only time you cannot possibly come, the course you plan to take next year vanish from the handbook and you blink, the degree or major structure is changed yet again and so you blink. Each time you are called in to the office or asked to leave the room (private discussions, a regime of secrecy), each time you provide an explanation for your absence, late essay, ill-prepared seminar paper or lecture – all these are opportunities to blink. Pass the library and blink because you know they don’t stock the authors you want or need, pass the Union building and blink, go to the departmental meeting and blink, belong to a department too small to hold a meeting … and blink as the funds disappear and courses are cancelled despite larger enrollments. Blink at the price of texts, photocopying, parking spaces – blinking lights in the ugly foyers of ugly buildings with lights on the blink, blink here and now, everybody blink. The aesthetic flutter of the eyes which fail to see every moment as decisive – we are almost on the brink of staring back cold and hard, but who can keep their eyes from sliding shut…”

the rest is there to read if you click on the image.


There is nothing good to be said for where we are. All is destruction. Death and disaster. From the petty opportunism of rip offs and cheats, to the tragic death of the innocents and naïve. Teens killed on the city streets, random bombing of those far off, with ‘civilian casualties’ every day. I am sure this perpetual disaster is not pre-ordained, not prescribed, not always already anticipated in Kali-Yug, or the annals of nations (this has happened before, it will happen again). But the pigeons come home to roost in friendly fire, in the farcical rerun of Vietnam in Iraq, in the endless unwinnable wars of Afghanistan; as the criminal class lords it above, as Rome itself burns again. The horror of death that recurs throughout every imperial, colonial, commercial crime turns itself now into the annual bonus, the stock market gain, the dow/nasdaq/city index. The register of despair ignored and excused renders optimism obscene. I’ve run hours in the morning through empty streets thinking there’s no point, there’s no good reason, there’s no chance the flab will be shed, the years melt away, the prospects clear, the weather look fine, the war be over, the peace break out. I can’t tell you be patient, be strong, the good will prevail. They won’t, they’re dead. Killed in a stupid sacrificial suicidal frenzy. Thank fuck they’ve gone, now we can get on with stuff.

Sarawak Sights Rights and Might

Rio Tinto is raising money to buy Alcan (no debt crisis for the fat cats then), and there are rumblings about a plan to build a smelter in Sarawak, in conjunction with the chief minister of that jungle paradise (oops, I meant logging and mineral-extraction opportunity). I quote from the Herald Tribune of 7 August 2007. “Rio Tinto will hold a 60 percent stake in the venture to be known as Sarawak Aluminium Company. The remaining 40 percent will be owned by Cahya Mata, in which the family of Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud is a key shareholder”.

OK, then how strange is it that Bakun Dam issues suddenly wash downstream (Bakun electricity will power the smelter). You can read between the lines in this press release that arrived today from Suaram [MYKAD is the curiously named Pass Card/Identity card of cyber-Malaysia – old visions from Mahathir dreams come true]):

Press Statement: 24 August 2007


Dr Kua Kia Soong, a director of SUARAM was denied entry into Sarawak at 9pm, 23 August 2007. Kua, who is also principal of the community-funded New Era College, was on his way to officiate the graduation ceremony of teachers who have attained the New Era College Diploma in Education at Kuching and Sibu.

After screening Kua’s MyKad, the immigration officer at Kuching airport informed him that he had been refused entry into Sarawak because he is on the “blacklist for involvement in anti-logging activities”. From the computer reading of Kua’s MyKad, the officer also knew that Kua is a former member of parliament.

Dr Kua has been an active campaigner against the Bakun Dam project and was a member of the fact finding mission to enquire into the conditions faced by indigenous peoples displaced from the Bakun area to Sungai Asap resettlement camp in 1998.

This action by the Sarawak state government is a gross violation of Malaysians’ right to freedom of movement in their own country. How can we celebrate fifty years of independence when our state governments can arbitrarily decide to deny a Malaysian the sovereign right to move freely in their own country?

More insidious is the way the new Malaysian identity card ‘My Kad’ has become the accessory of a Malaysian police state. This is a most serious abuse of Malaysians’ human right to privacy. It is clear from this incident that the My Kad is now used to store updated information and to be used arbitrarily by the authorities without any explanation being given. The immigration officer had at first refused to divulge the reason for refusing entry to Kua. The reason was only forced out of the officer through persistent demands by Kua.

In recent years, Kua has been going in and out of Sarawak using his old identity card without being refused entry. Clearly, the new “smart” My Kad carries an entire dossier about every Malaysian and has given authorities new resolve to settle old scores!

This incident shows that all information about Malaysians is used interchangeably between federal and state governments. For certain, all government departments have access to MyKad dossier about every Malaysian. Is this dossier also available to banks and credit companies? Who decides? Do we know?

As we reach the 50th anniversary of independence, we grieve the death of our right to privacy and the coming of age of a Malaysian police state. We baulk at the fact that one who cares for the forests, resources and indigenous peoples of Malaysia can be cast out of a Malaysian state while tycoons and politicians who rape an entire forest are feted as “towering Malaysians” and patriots. This brings to mind Samuel Johnson observation that “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel!”

Suaram condemns the Sarawak government for this arbitrary exercise of state power to refuse entry to a Malaysian who has been actively concerned to protect Sarawakian forests, resources and indigenous peoples’ rights.

Suaram calls for an explanation from the federal government regarding the information about Malaysian citizens that have been encoded in the My Kad and the extent of interchangeability of this information with other authorities and bodies.

Suaram calls on the Malaysian people to demand accountability from their government regarding the invasion of their right to privacy and an end to the makings of a police state in Malaysia.

I have more on Bakun (from Left Curve 23 1999 ‘Resettling Bakun: Consultancy, Anthropologists and Development’
and more on Rit Tinto in the categories…

Migrating University Goldsmiths to Gatwick

No Detention, No Deportation;
No Borders in Education:
Freedom of Movement for All

Migrating University, at Goldsmiths,
September 14-15th 2007;
From Goldsmiths to Gatwick.

General enthusiasm for this event is very high. A feeling of frustration, and therefore energy for exploring activist options, is strong on campus. This is the joint result of the ongoing managerialism that afflicts the ‘teaching factory’ at all levels, alongside the wider malaise of neo-liberal war-mongering imperialism/Border-ism evident in the current conjuncture, everywhere. The role of the university in relation to borders between people and knowledge, between different knowledges, between peoples, between students, between students who pay ‘overseas’ fees and those who pay too much (‘training’ for industrial gain, paid for by the student??) and the ever extended morale crush that afflicts staff… linked to the obsolescence of older ideas of ‘education’ in favour of opportunism and productivity… Exclusions and …racism, murder-death-kill… there is much good reason to explore these concerns in our workshop.

At the last meeting we had taken decisions on the date, timetable and format, five panels plus Battle of Lewisham Walk (met with them and agreed mutual co-ordination); prepared a preliminary blurb (now on CCS website [currently goldsmiths sites are down]), arranged to make a banner, booked a room, still in discussion with College over the marquee; organised with Joan Kelly to visit; linked with No Borders London and No Borders general.

Confirmed speakers so far include: Ken Fero (Injustice), David Graeber (activist anthrop), Ava Caradonna (sex worker education group), Susan Cueva (union), Sanjay Sharma (author of Multicultural Encounters), Hari Kunzru (novelist), Mao Mollona (anthropologist), Harmit Athwal (Inst Race Relations), Katherine Mann (musician), Paul Hendrich (Pirate dad) and Joan Kelly (artist).

Panels and format as it stands now [this draft is not yet confirmed]:

Migrating University – Goldsmiths 14-15 September 2007

Friday 14th September – venue room 150 and 137a Richard Hoggart Building

Room 150 RHB From 10am Tea/Coffee – welcome – stalls for No Borders Camp etc

Room 137a RHB
John Hutnyk (Goldsmiths) Introduction to the day
Camille Barbagallo (Goldsmiths) this meeting is to encourage attendance at No Borders Camp at Gatwick.

10.50 -12.55 – Panel #1 – The Teaching Factory (Chair: Leila)

Does a university education offer a passport to a world of opportunity?
Are the old exclusions of race, class, gender and ability fully redeemed by our policy initiatives and “inclusive” programs? Or is the new hierarchy a filtering mechanism promising precarious labour for some, security and success for others? While some may never question their right to access, do some have to fight to move at all and others struggle daily simply to pass or fail?
This panel asks if education is really a social good, a pass to freedom; or if it is rather a ticket to a new set of subjugations?

Ash Sharma (University of East London)
Massimo de Angelis (university of East london)
Paul Hendrich (Goldsmiths)

12.55-2.30pm – Picnic on Back Field/in tent or inside if rain. With Bolivian group (Emma)

2.30-4.00 – Panel #2 – Critical Pedagogy (Chair: Francisco)

Critical pedagogy (CP) questions the relationship between education and politics, between socio-political relations and pedagogical practices, in short: the correspondence between power hierarchies in the social world and the hierarchies that mark and define educational institutions at large. Moreover it challenges the ubiquitous desire of policy makers for a non-politicized, neutral educational context, free of all social and cultural conflict.

Sanjay Sharma (Brunel University) – author of (2007) “Multicultural Encounters”.
Glenn Rikowski (University of Northampton) – author of “The Battle in Seattle” (2001)
Tom Woodin (Institute of Education, University of London)
Patrick Ainley (University of Greenwich)

4.15-6.00 – Panel #3 – Organising in the Margins (Chair: Olivia)

Migration means traversing boundaries: between nations, between legality and illegality. This panel is about organising those in the seams and the struggles for justice for those who suffer or die in such gaps.

Ava Caradonna (Sex Workers’ Union)
What does it mean to organise the unorganisable? What does union organising mean to people who are not considered workers, or who don’t necessarily consider what they do ‘work’, ‘illegal’ or worthy of stigma? How do unions take seriously the need to organise migrants workers? How can unionism be done differently in this context? Ava Caradonna will discuss such questions and campaigns relating to them.

Susan Cueva (UNISON)
Is a life-long union activist in the Philippines and UK with experience of organising the invisible, from seafarers to street cleaners. Today’s talk includes information about UNISON campaigns seeking fair terms for migrant workers affected by swings in Home Office policy on work permits.

Ken Fero (Injustice)
A short, Youtube, version of Injustice – a film about the struggles for justice by the families of people who have died in police custody – and accompanying talk by the film’s maker.

6.15 – meeting upstairs in Goldsmiths Tavern about collective attendance at Gatwick.

7.00-9.00 Joan Marie Kelly (Singapore) for workshop upstairs in Tavern (drinks).

Topic: Foreign workers in Singapore and the use of art as contact and transformation

Saturday 15th September – Venue: Cinema Richard Hoggart Building.

From 10am Tea/Coffee – welcome – point to stalls for No Borders Camp etc

10.30-12.30. Panel #4 – Critical Practice Inside and Out (Chair: John)

It is believed there was once a time when the University was a place where there thrived a rampant intelligence that was preoccupied with something more than just cramming.

Hari Kunzru (Novelist – author of “My Revolutions” (2007)
David Graeber (Goldsmiths)
Mao Mollona (Goldsmiths)
Sukant Chandan (freelance journalist and political analyst)

1.00-2.30 Panel #5 – Local Checkpoints (Chair: Camille)

Harmit Athwal (Institute of Race Relations)
Katherine Mann (Musician)
Almir Koldzic (Refugee Week)

2.30 Quick lunch

3pm-6pm: “Battle of Lewisham commemorative walk”

– a walk along the route of the march/counter-protest against the NF in 1977, including people involved at the time. At present this will start from Clifton Rise, New Cross at 3. (info/liaison with Paul).

19-24 September O7 – No Borders Camp at Gatwick

From 19th to 24th September 07 we will gather at Gatwick Airport for the first
No Border Camp in the UK. This camp will be a chance to work together to try
and stop the building of a new detention centre, and to gather ideas for how to
build up the fight against the system of migration controls.

Wednesday 19th
Arriving at Camp Site.
Thursday 20th
Workshops, Welcome-Event in Crawley.
Friday 21st
Workshops, Gathering at Lunar House, Croydon
Saturday 22nd
Workshops, Demonstration from Crawley town centre to Tinsley House Detention
Centre, next to the building site of Brook House (Background Info).
International day of Action.
Afternoon: International Forum.
Sunday 23rd
Workshops and Forum.
Monday 24th
End of the No Border Camp.

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Here is again the 1857 site, which now carries videos from the Manchester conference which are great – informative discussion of links between 1857 and imperialism today (oil, Iraq [EIC was in Basra from 1863], definition of terrorism, evaluations of Marx as journalist of 1857 etc). There is a good two hours to watch, but its informative and worth the time.

Check here for:

*The Historical Significance of 1857 by Kalpana Wilson (South Asia Solidarity Group. Speach in 1857′
*Nick Robins in 1857’s 150 years anniversary in Manchester by 1857 committee
*Q and A 1 in 1857’s 150 years anniversary in Manchester by 1857 committee
*Folk Songs of 1857: D. Ajaz, (Author Kaal Bolaindi – folksongs sung today from the 1857 uprising in Kaal Bolaindi – folksongs sung today from the 1857 uprising
*Iraq-East India Co. (1763-Factory established in Basra) to Halliburton by Hani Lazim
*Q and A 2 in 1857’s 150 years mnniversary in Manchester by 1857 committee
*Ayesha Siddiqa Speech in 1857’s 150 years anniversary in Manchester

Older comments here and article here.

Murder-death-kill on the TV news

In order to feed Goldsmiths people and enthusiasm into the No Borders Camp at Gatwick (19-24 Sept), we want to organise a workshop at Goldsmiths the weekend before, called Migrating University (14-15th Sept). It will include a session which will be a walk along the route of the Battle of Lewisham 1977 30th anniversary of the NF march in our area (see pic), but also other topics, debates, themes of relevance… (watch this space).

But in the meantime, I am somewhat stuck on this task of writing a general blurb for the workshops. Stuck I guess until we have sentences on each of the proposed panels. Lazy of mind, I’ve been haphazardly thinking about a statement on what this could be all about. To what degree can we feed Goldsmiths people and enthusiasm into the No Borders camp at Gatwick anyway? And to what degree might Migrating University become a wider educational project in itself – something that happens in other locations later…?

Themes for Goldsmiths: Problems and issues to be addressed include asylum support, campaigns against detention, civil rights and surveillance, knowledge and the state; anti-racism, media racisms, xenophobia; militarism, patriotism; technology and activism; economic migration and coercion, immaterial and precarious labour; institutional support, the teaching factory; questions of Access (fees, credentialism, openness); idea of multicultural education (really multicultural education would imply students write in their own languages, or that ‘home’ students write in other languages [idealist]); open source and digital commons; transformation of the university from old collegiate model, through mass ed to corporate agenda; radicalism and dissent, public/community engagement with citadels of knowledge; critical curriculum, pedagogy; trades union, organisations, non-academic staff, local governance, NGOs, community involvement, outreach[?]; idea of critique (Kant) versus radical criticism of everything that exists (Marx)…

Since this is based in a university, even if we are looking towards the No Borders Camp proper, can we nevertheless bring the internationalism of left movements into the disciplinary formations of the academy? – in order to wake up to relevance and engagement rather than the old ivory indulgence of credentialism or the new commercial opportunism of the teaching factory?

Murder-death-kill on the TV news every night, detentions and the eclipse of civil liberty here, and bombing campaigns for democracy abroad. Quietism is not an option.

Updated plans HERE

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