Atrocities in West Papua, but our government continues to turn a blind eye

Any decent Australian would be shocked if they knew what was happening on our country’s doorstep.

 

Massacres, tortures, the burning of villages, rapes, economic and political marginalisation, cultural suppression. All being inflicted upon people in a land situated only 250km from Australian soil. But I bet you don’t hear about it. That is partly because the Indonesian government doesn’t allow human rights monitors or journalists access into this region.

 

The land I am talking about is West Papua, the Indonesian western half of the Island of New Guinea.

 

West Papua is a land rich in many different natural resources and species of wildlife. Unlike the rest of Indonesia, the ethnic roots of indigenous West Papuans are Melanesian.

There are stories of Papuans running under heavy Japanese fire during World War II to pick up wounded Aussie solders and bring them to safety.

 

But for over 40 years, Australia has been ignoring the plea for help of the very people who risked their lives with outstanding bravery to save our own.

 

It shames me to be an Australian. It really does.  Let me paint the picture for you.

 

Once part of the Dutch East Indies, West Papua was not handed over to the Republic of Indonesia in 1949 with the other territories. The Dutch claimed it did not belong to Indonesia due to its cultural and historical differences.

 

The Dutch were preparing West Papua for independence. A national legislature was formed, the first Papuan Congress was held, and “West-Papua” was adopted as the name of the country along with a national anthem, the Morning Star as the national flag and a Constitution of 129 articles.

 

Conflict followed. The Indonesians would not rest until they had this resource-rich land.

 

The United Nations intervened and declared that West Papua was to be under Indonesian control on the proviso that within six years, Indonesia would give West Papuans the “opportunity to exercise freedom of choice” through a referendum.

 

“All adults, male and female” were to be eligible to participate in a vote of self-determination, in which West Papuans would determine whether to be independent or become a part of Indonesia.

 

In 1969, Indonesia conducted a referendum, “the Act of Free Choice.” Only 1026 Papuans, representing a population of one million, were picked to vote. Under severe duress, including threats from Indonesian military officials to cut their tongues out and kill their families, they voted to remain part of Indonesia.

 

Ever since, the West Papuans have just wanted to be free: “Papua Merdeka”.

 

The atrocities that have taken place since then have been horrifying. Indeed, some claim it has been nothing less of genocide.

 

West Papua was meant to be an independent nation. It may be a far-fetched ideal for now, but what West Papuans rightfully want and need today is freedom.

 

Freedom from Indonesian oppression: freedom of association, freedom of movement, freedom of speech, equal economic and political rights, peace and security.

 

But it gets worse. Indonesian Detachment 88 was trained and funded by Australia as a counter-terrorism unit, as part of our military relations with the neighbour. This detachment ended up being sent to West Papua where it tortured and killed innocent Papuan people.

 

Yep, Australia’s hands are dripping with blood.

 

Why has our government been so quiet? I will delve into the ‘why’ in the next West Papua blog post.

 

 

By Vince Stefano

Small Business is shockingly underrepresented. The DLP is the antidote.

There are more than 2.4 million small businesses in Australia which collectively employ around 7 million people. That is over half of the Australian workforce.

 

Small business is one of the greatest contributors to Commonwealth and State revenue. Yet, consecutive federal governments have made life harder and harder for Australian small business people.

 

The Council of Small Businesses Australia states that political parties and most bureaucrats “acknowledge the role played by small business in the economy but over the last twenty years they have not shown that they understand that a small business is different from big business and must have different policy responses and different process and rules.”

 

A look at the current make-up of our federal parliament is not very encouraging. In the House of Representatives, only a dozen out of the 150 members have experience in owning/operating a small business (5/71 ALP, 4/59 Liberals, 2/11 Nationals, 1/5 Independents).

 

The Senate is not much different. Out of 76 senators, such experience is only found in 7. One of them is a particular highlight – DLP Senator John Madigan stands out with over 25 years’ experience in operating a small business. And if this year’s DLP Victorian senate candidate Mark Farrell joins him, you can add an extra 16 years on top of that.

 

That would mean the DLP would be holding the balance of power in the Senate, with a combined total of over 41 years of experience in owning and operating a small business. Indeed, this would create refreshingly new dynamics to Australian politics.

 

The ALP government should be commended for establishing a Minister for Small Business portfolio, the first in a decade. Unfortunately, the Minister the Hon. Gary Gray has no experience in small business what-so-ever. Ludicrous? You betcha.

 

Looking to this year’s federal election, I must say that the prospects for small business aren’t great. The ALP aren’t offering anything new, the Liberals sound great but in reality are not convincing. The Greens don’t even have a small business policy. Don’t believe it? Take a look at their 2013 election website to see for yourself. The DLP have some really good ideas, but they need to gain the balance of power first.

 

Who’s going to be flying the flag for small business after this year’s federal election?

 

I will go through a more detailed overview of these parties’ small business policies in the next small business blog post.

 

 

By Vince Stefano

‘Balance of Power’ … what is that again?

The ‘balance of power’ is a term we often hear in politics. But while many of us may be familiar with the term, we may not be as familiar with its definition or implications.

In this post I will discuss three things. First, I will provide a simple explanation of what the ‘balance of power’ is. Second, I will provide examples of the balance of power occurring in Australian politics. And third, I will discuss the likelihood of who will be holding the balance of power following this year’s federal election and what implications that will have for Australian politics until at least the next election.

 

Definition
The ‘balance of power’ is the position held by a minor party, group or individual when their vote is necessary for bills or motions to be passed.

Consider this basic scenario. There are 76 seats in the Australian Senate. Let’s say there are 36 reds (the government), 30 blues (the opposition) and 10 yellows (minor party).

Now, anything that is voted on in parliament requires a majority in of total votes in order to pass. In this case, that would be 39 votes (76/2+1).

Therefore, if a bill is introduced by red, and not supported by blue, it will require the votes from yellow in order to pass with a majority of total votes. Yellow holds the balance of power – any bill or motion can’t pass without yellow’s approval.

 

History
The scenario of balance or power occurs often in the Australian Senate (upper house), but is very unlikely in the House of Representatives (lower house). That is because government is formed in the lower house, and in order to attain government, a party must secure a majority of seats in that house.

We experienced the rare case of a hung parliament following the 2010 federal election, when neither the ALP nor the Liberal/National Coalition won more than half the seats in the lower house.

There were 5 independents and 1 Greens, and the ALP managed to gain the support of 4 of them, giving the ALP the numbers to form a minority government. In this case, the 5 independents and the Greens MP held the balance of power.

A minor party holding the balance of power in the Senate has occurred several times over the years in Australian politics.

Between 1955 and 1974, the Democratic Labor Party (DLP), a minor party formed by a number of anti-communists who split from the Australian Labor Party, held the balance of power in the Senate, having between one and five seats in the Senate during that period.

In 1981, the balance of power in the Senate was secured by the Australian Democrats, which they managed to hold until 2008 when their 4 Senators failed to be re-elected at the 2007 election.

In 2010, the Greens won a Senate seat in each of the six states at the election, bringing them a total of 9 senators and giving them an outright balance of power in the Senate, similar to the red-blue-yellow scenario painted above.

 

2013 Federal Election
It is very likely that a minor party or group of individuals will be holding the balance of power in the Senate following this year’s federal election.

The political pundits are tipping DLP Senator John Madigan to be holding the balance of power in the Senate, either in his own right or together with another Senator like Independent Nick Xenophon, depending on how things go on polling day.

However, it is worth noting that if the DLP gain another senator at this year’s election, then it would be the DLP holding the balance of power in the Senate, without a doubt.

Senator Madigan has already gone on record saying, “what we will be doing if we find ourselves in this position is encouraging transparent discussion on issues and the Senate operating as a true house of review and scrutiny.”

You will often hear Senator Madigan say, “play the issue, not the person.”

 

 

By Vince Stefano