When is a prison not a prison?

Aung San suu kyi picThis is  Aung_San_Suu_Kyi. If anyone knows what it feels like to be imprisoned in a prison that is not like Long Bay, then it’s her.

We all know that if you can’t get out, you are imprisoned.  How can we deny that detention is prison?

That question was in the back of my mind while I was re-reading Arthur Miller’s The Crucible last night. Perhaps that’s why this passage leapt off the page at me :

‘Political opposition, thereby, is given an inhumane overlay which then justifies the abrogation of all normally applied customs of civilized intercourse.’

Miller was talking about the ‘justice’ meted out to the Witches of Salem, as well as the so-called Communists of the McCarthy era. In both cases, the victims were painted as demons, making it okay to punish them in ways society would not normally accept.

That was when it hit me – wasn’t that exactly what successive Australian governments had done with refugees arriving here by boat?

First we were told the ‘boat people’ were queue jumpers because they pushed in ahead of ‘good’ refugees who remained in the camps of Indonesia, patiently waiting for some country to take them.

I admit, at the time, this argument did make me stop and think; my parents and I had been refugees too. We had had to wait in a camp until a country took us. How would we have felt if other refugees had pushed in ahead of us, just because they could?

But then I learned that the number of people jumping the queue by plane far outnumbers those arriving by boat! What the?

Apparently these well-heeled queue jumpers come in by plane, with a temporary visa of some sort, and then pretty much disappear. No one seems to care too much so long as they don’t try to get onto welfare.

And this brings me to the next label – economic refugees. Apparently refugees who arrive by leaky boats from Indonesia are not real refugees because they can afford to pay the people smugglers for the privilege of drowning at sea.

Now this label resonated with me as well until I learned exactly how these ‘economic’ refugees get the money to pay the people smugglers. Think large family groups. Now think of those family groups saving every cent they can collectively lay their hands on. Once they have enough, they select one of their group to make the dangerous trip by boat.

The thinking behind this strategy is that once this person has citizenship in Australia, they can get a job, save money and bring the rest of the family group out to join them. Sacrifice for all, to pay for hope.

Now think about how much these refugees would have to do without in order to save up the thousands of dollars [6? 8?] necessary to put this desperate plan into practice.

I can’t imagine living so tough. I can’t imagine being that desperate. And that, I think is one of the biggest problems; we are all so comfortable we cannot imagine what it must feel like to be dispossessed, unwanted, with no future and no hope.

And so, instead of feeling a normal, human sympathy for these desperate people, we dismiss them as queue jumpers and economic refugees and the kind of horrible people who deliberately throw their children overboard to get what they want.

The refugees earned that last, corrosive label after the Tampa incident. It became known as the ‘Children Overboard’ affair, and was happily fostered by the then Howard government. In time, we learned that the refugees had not thrown their children overboard for gain. But of course, by then the damage was done, and the mud stuck.

So to keep these dreadful people out of Australia, we, as a nation, have spent HUGE sums of taxpayer money on building and maintaining detention centres, paying other countries to detain our problems and buying all sorts of weird orange equipment to send refugees back where they came from.

What no one is talking about is how much we would have saved had we just let these refugees in while their claims were processed.

If the Abbott/Hockey Budget is to be believed, that kind of wasted money is okay, but spending on NewStart, Disability pensions and Age pensions is not. And we accept the spin. But why?

Part of the answer lies in the dehumanizing of the refugees, but underlying that reason is another, unspoken thing – the race card. As the Daughter said, would we and the government react with such ferocity if the boat people were white South Africans?

Australia had a ‘White Australia’ policy for a very long time. It was based on fear. We were the only European country in South East Asia, and we feared that the yellow, brown and black hordes would overwhelm us if we gave them an inch.

Things have changed. Australia has become a multi-cultural country, although still largely European, and we now boast quite large pockets of Vietnamese and even Sudanese populations. But deep down inside, there are still a lot of Australians who fear these new arrivals.

That unspoken fear of the ‘other’ is exacerbated by the fear of terrorism sweeping the globe. And guess what? Heaps of those nasty boat people are both brown and Muslim! They’re probably all terrorists trying to sneak into Australia to set up home grown terrorist cells.

-face palm-

Puleeze! Do we really think any self-respecting terrorist would be that stupid? And inefficient?

Terrorists are far more likely to come in by plane. It’s far safer and cheaper than a leaky boat. Think about that.

Unfortunately most of us don’t think things through. I know I didn’t. For a very long time, one part of me was horrified by what we were doing to the asylum seekers, yet at the same time, another part of me wondered if perhaps it might not be justified.

And then, of course, we and our duly elected government have one nice, conscience-salving justification that is hard to deny – people on leaky boats die a lot.

Scott Morrison uses that high, moral card a lot, but crocodile tears aside, the truth is that we would not have this problem if 99% of the refugees did die on those leaky boats. The government’s problem is that so many of them survive.

So a few more facts:

1. Detention centres in Australia may not be like high security prisons, but they are prisons nonetheless. Aung San Suu Kyi was imprisoned in her own home for years. She may have lived in comfort, but she was still in prison.

2. No prison in Australia keeps children under 10 locked up. Detention centres do.

3. Detention centres outside Australia appear to be many times worse, in terms of comfort, than any high security prison here in Australia.

4. Children are being kept in prison as punishment for the so-called crimes of their parents.

There is no way around this, and Scott Morrison doesn’t even try. He believes that anything is justified so long as it works to achieve his aim of stopping the boats. He believes he is being cruel to be kind. He believes he is punishing children to save the lives of other children who might attempt to reach our shores by boat.

Excuse me?

If we are going to do this evil thing then at least let’s call the spade an effin’ shovel. Or have we dehumanized the refugees to such an extent that we truly believe it’s okay to do awful things to them under the pretext of saving their lives?

Apparently the answer is yes. But I no longer believe.


Playing Charlie Cool by Laurie Boris

Way back in the mists of time, I wrote a glowing review of Laurie Boris’ novel ‘Don’t Tell Anyone’ . You can find that review here. One of my favourite characters from that story was [and is] Charlie, the MC’s gay brother-in-law.

Sadly I knew Laurie did not write series, so I resigned myself to not meeting Charlie again. And then the woman tricked me [in the nicest possible way]. :D

First, Laurie brought out a novella called ‘The Picture of Cool’ which you can buy on Amazon for the princely sum of $1.

Now The Picture of Cool is a kind of sideways step in the series, and focuses on a part of Charlie’s life that is barely mentioned in Don’t Say Anything. In book 3 however, the Trager family story continues!

Not surprisingly, book three is called ‘Playing Charlie Cool’, and will be out in October, 2014. But! Thanks to Amazon finally giving us Indies the ability to promote the pre-ordering of our books, you can now pre-order ‘Playing Charlie Cool’ on Amazon. :D

I’m seriously excited about both the book [which I have already pre-ordered] and this new ability Amazon has finally given us. If enough people pre-order, the sales spike on launch day will send the book zooming up the sales rankings. And that, my friends, can make the difference between success and failure. Put simply, with so many books available on Amazon, being seen in the crowd is the single biggest problem we face.

So please, give Laurie’s new book a fighting chance to be seen. Pre-order now!



John Oliver and the Gender Gap


I’m A million hugs to Pinky for finding this priceless video clip!!!!! British comedian? John Oliver has created a hilarious but hard hitting expose of the continuing gap between what women and men are paid for the same job.

Ladies, this is a must watch. Gentlemen, wear body armour if you watch this with a significant lady other. :D

Sadly you’ll have to go to youtube to watch because the video clip doesn’t seem to be working here. Just click on the youtube icon as shown below :

youtube icon

enjoy :)


Butterless, eggless chocolate cake – DELICIOUS!

One of the ladies I help teach brought in a chocolate cake today, and it was so moist and delicious we all asked for the recipe. I’m going to try it out on the weekend but I thought you guys might like to get the recipe now.

1 1/2 cup self raising flour (do not sift)
1/3 cup baking cocoa powder
1 cup raw sugar
1/2 teasp salt
Mix the above
Make a well, add
1 teasp vanilla essence
1 tabsp vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
Then gradually add a cup of water and mix gently till all is mixed.
Do NOT over mix.
Bake in a preheated oven 190 degrees celsius for 1/2 hour.
Do NOT over bake to maintain its moistness.

Nanki sprinkled icing sugar over the top and we had it for morning tea today. I kid you not, it was wonderful.



I am not Chris James!

I’m a big fan of Chris James’ work [The Second Internet Cafe, Stories of Genesis] so I don’t mind being mistaken for him. But really, we don’t look anything alike…

This is Chris

Chris James bio pic

And this is me

self protrait1


Any fool can see that he has curly hair and I don’t!

You can read all about it at :




Last song – I promise! FFXI Keepers of the Wild

This is so EPIC I can’t keep still. I’m even typing in time to the music. Dreadful for working on spreadsheets but who cares!

Okay, that’s it. I’ll be good now. :D



Pretty gaming music to work by – Arciela from FFXI

I’ve just discovered the theme music from Final Fantasy XI’s latest expansion – Seekers of Adoulin. And I love it! Especially this short but lovely theme called Arciela.

It starts fairly bland but at about 1.07 minutes into the video clip, the music suddenly swells into this truly glorious theme. My heart catches each time I hear it. See what you think.

Oh, and in case any of you are wondering, I’m wrangling my food diary spreadsheet into shape as I listen to the music. :D



How to eat well on $9.04 per day

After a  month of recording every single cent I spent on food, and keeping a sort of diary of what I cooked with that food, I now know it’s cost me an average of $9.04 to put breakfast, lunch and dinner on the table [for each of us].

If you’re interested, the screenshot below shows the first week on my Excel spreadsheet :

shopping week 1

Once I tidy up my food diary I’ll post about what I cooked with that food. For now I’ll just say that nothing went to waste. :)




You know someone’s ‘got’ your book when…

…that someone is fellow science fiction writer Chris James, and he compares you to Stanislaw Lem. :) That’s a huge honour in my book, and modesty demands that I demure…but you know I’m dancing, right?

Okay, less of the happy-happy and more of the information. The book is Vokhtah, and the link to the review is :


I plan to write many more books before I become completely senile, but Vokhtah will always remain my special child because it was so hard to write. I’m a fairly passionate, emotional person by nature, but when writing about the Vokh and iVokh I have to keep a very tight rein on all of my softer, human emotions. That is soooooo tiring. But when someone gets what I’m trying to achieve, it feel like Christmas!

Thank you, Chris. Just… thank you.

-hugs to all-



Funnies with Frogs

No, I haven’t suddenly taken up strange habits with frogs! The title refers to the latest Friday post by Carol Wyer.  Carol is both a talented author, and a very funny lady. Every Friday, she publishes a post full of jokes. This Friday’s frog-centric funnies had me laughing out loud. This is one of them :

A boy was crossing a road one day when a frog called out to him and said, “If you kiss me, I’ll turn into a beautiful princess.”
The boy picked up the frog and put it in his pocket.
The frog said, “Hey, if you kiss me and turn me back into a beautiful princess, I’ll love you forever.”
The boy took the frog out of his pocket, smiled at it, and put it back in his pocket.
The frog yelled, “If you kiss me and turn me back into a princess, I’ll clean your house, cook for you, and love you forever.”
The boy took the frog out, smiled at it, and put it back.
Finally the frog asked, “What is it? I’ve told you I’m a beautiful princess, that I’ll cook and clean for you and love you forever. Why won’t you kiss me?”
The boy said, “Look, I’m a cub scout. I don’t have time for girlfriends, but a talking frog is really cool.”

I admit it, I’m a sucker for fairytales turned on their heads. :D

You can find the rest of Carol’s frog funnies here :


Go on, can you honestly tell me there’s a better way to start the weekend?





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