Medevac and the Politics of Fear

Medevac and the Politics of Fear

In line with the various desperate and dogmatic moves made by the federal government, rhetoric has shifted increasingly to the area of final resort. From the last preponderances on dealing with climate change under Malcolm Turnbull, to the current threatening hyperbole of Scott Morrison spreading fear of “paedophiles and rapists” coming in their “thousands” to our shores, the massive shift from a position of attempting to govern to just pure politicking is fully self-evident. Whereas Turnbull initially built his leadership on an attempted departure from the reactionary conservative politics of his predecessor — of abandoning the three-word slogans — the Morrison government has been defined by its return to the roots of modern Coalition politics. Cajoling and rabble-rousing over the issue of refugees is always a fraught area and prone to borderline racism, but it too often pays dividends for conservative politicians to be passed over by a desperate conservative government which lacks any real policies; which has to concoct crises for which they can contend to hold the anecdote.1 The dangerous consequence is the vile rhetoric and the justification of hate and prejudice which follows.

The Migration Amendment (Urgent Medical Treatment) Bill 2018 or “Medevac Bill,” is a relatively benign amendment to the Migration Act which allows for refugees being detained in offshore “processing facilities”2 to be treated for medical illnesses in Australia. What makes the legislation so benign (watered down) are the various caveats that have been attached: 1) seeking medical treatment in Australia is contained to those refugees who a) cannot be otherwise treated by the inadequate facilities in PNG or Nauru, b) are not marked as a national security threat by Home Affairs, c) are already being detained, meaning that the law does not apply to future arrivals, d) are subject to a multi-week process of objection and review if the Minister chooses to interfere on any grounds, and 2) the refugee remains, for all intents and purposes, under detention for the duration of their onshore medical treatment, meaning they will be handcuffed and/or imprisoned and segregated from the public as would be a criminal.

In spite of the massively watered-down nature of the legislation, which was itself a prerequisite to attain the support of the more right-leaning independent members of the House of Representatives, the government has had to react by way of open warfare. The defeat — any defeat — on the floor of the house is a major political blunder for any government. It was secured, at all costs, by Labor for the hoped-for political dividends that would be repaid by having the government on the back-foot.3 The result has not been the calling of an early election, nor even the humane treatment of refugees, but rather a more vitriolic rhetoric from the government as it ramps up the dog whistle. Layered in alleged bleeding-heartedness for those who have drowned in transit, is a deep seated racism at its core that the government hopes the low-education and low-information voters who constitute the hard-swinging section of the electorate will hear and respond to with fear and votes for the government. The obfuscation of this nasty racism by a proclamation of supposed humanity for “preventing drownings at sea” serves as the sweet-tasting veneer needed by the rest of the more educated swinging voters in order to make the hardline anti-refugee policies of the government palatable and even justifiable.

This, notwithstanding the fact that the drownings at sea are in fact encouraged by current border security arrangements. Towing unseaworthy vessels back out into the open ocean, refusing entry to Australia via safer means of transport, and actively buying up or destroying seaworthy vessels, are all aspects of a policy that has never in fact been predicated on the supposed good-will of preventing drownings. It has always been about subtly hinting at the public that they are safely protected from the fear-inducing other; the brown-skinned and non-English-speaking desparates who maliciously await their opportunity to displace the white working class and recolonise Australia as a Sharia haven. In truth, the fear of displacement and recolonisation is a fear based on a mis-truth spread with the aim of distracting the general public from those whom they should truly fear: the wealthy and powerful elites who readily abandon any morality and brutalise and imprison the weak and infirm just to secure their own prosperity and the poverty of others. More dangerous to Australians than the possibility of desperate human beings being given some humanity, dignity, and the opportunity for a new life, is the desperate dogma of a dying government and the politics of fear which it uses to divide and destroy the lives of those detained on remote tropical islands and those who dare to question the basis of the at-its-core racist and inhumane border security policies.


  1. The only alternatives being to either develop policies to address real issues, or to admit self-defeat and resign. ↩︎

  2. This is the offical term for these places. However, if you have no alternative and are compelled to the confines of these under-resourced and over-crowded tropical camps, you cease to define the facility as a processing centre and instead refer to it as what it has become — a prison. ↩︎

  3. It would have been a tough debate internally for Labor. They recognise any issues around refugees to be an Achilles heel for them; but the potential consequences of a monumental legislative defeat for the government including greater instability and a potentially earlier election, are just too good to pass up, especially whilst they remain ahead in the polls and can take risks. ↩︎

Louis’s Latest Set

It was okay. Not great. Louis, before his downfall, was the most successful comedian in the world and provided powerful self-deprecating insight into modern society. However, Louis C.K.’s most recent foray into the world of comedy, after a nine month hiatus, was amateur and immature. 

His well-worn style of frank and fearless comedy has taken on a streak of loathing and laziness. His surprise set in a New York comedy club recently was discernibly Louis, but far enough from it to be almost an imitation. Has he lost his mojo? Definitely. Can he get it back? Maybe.

There is a clear and obvious theme in his 45 minute piece of trying to push the envelope. That itself is pure C.K. Where it differs is in its laziness; whereas circuitous routes were previously taken to mocking the already distainable, Louis now takes to mocking the vulnerable or embryonic and does so with a real lack for any hidden meaning. Ostracism of trans people is something that the best comedian can pull off and have the trans community laugh along with it, but Louis failed in that and can now only provide the boring view of a stale old white man, grasping at the straw of gender-neutral pronouns. The idiots may laugh, but his core audience now rolls its eyes.

The devolution of a once-great comedic commentator into a Dane Cook-style hack could be attributed to many factors. Perhaps he has deliberately distanced himself from reality as it has from him, or maybe reality has distanced itself from him in revulsion. In either case, the originating cause is in his sexual misconduct. 

In either case, C.K. had the opportunity and intellect to return to his glory days through a precisely targeted set which acknowledges his wrongdoing and turns it on its head in a purely C.K. way which is of self-mocking and of lambasting the equally blemished. Had he come out as a full force against both his past self and those whom the media has equated him with, he would have most definitely been welcomed back into the mainstream. He could have, with one eleqouent stroke, have mocked both Kevin Spacey and the New York Times who outed then both.

Instead, he took the easy and lazy route of shrugging off any self-responsibility, totally side-stepping the elephant in the room, and instead choosing from an array of topics only bothered with by the ill-informed or talentless of his peers. 

I was and remain a fan of Louis C.K.’s work. His latest is not noteworthy and will be only a footnote in his career. Whether that footnote is followed by a new chapter is up to him. But unless he can re-engage that past genius which elevated him to the height of show business then I will not be paying any mind to his future works. For any other fans, I suggest you judge for yourself whether he is really back or whether, as I posit, he is now just a shadow of his former self.  

Violence in Chelsea

Visiting my friend’s cafe on Thursday evening, I was alerted to an unusually large police presence in central Chelsea. I initially dismissed it as being because of the large number of beach-goers combined with the fact there is a large police station on Chelsea Road, likely doing patrols for the broader area.

The following day, reports in the media suggested something more nefarious. Aside from the relatively benign idiotic confrontation between some jet-skiers, the primary cause of concern to police was the attempted robbery and assault of beach visitors by petty thieves.

The Age is now alleging these thieves to be part of a ‘gang’ responsible for assaults in the western suburbs as well as the events in Chelsea and, earlier in the year, in St Kilda. I would question, firstly, whether it is reasonable to refer to the group as a gang given that there is no apparent organisational hierarchy, coordination, or other attributes commonly found in organised crime. It would appear that they can, at best, be defined as young thugs, or petty criminals. The Melbourne Mafia would eat these kids for breakfast, or perhaps hire them to make breakfast. This distinction of ‘gang’ not being applicable is reinforced by Victoria Police being historically unwilling to label the associated demographic1 as such, both for the reason that they don’t meet their criteria, and so that they don’t aspire to claim such a label in future.

Further issue is to be found in the Age’s coverage of the events in Chelsea. Mainly, their use of witnesses, none of whom are (known) residents of Chelsea, and who do not claim to have directly witnessed the events at all. One is a couple from Greensborough, the other a woman from Heathmont. Two local business owners were also interviewed, who of course were not present at the time and could offer only understandable concern for their trade.

Police are to be commended with the rapidity and strength with which they responded and continue to make patrols of Chelsea. I think the issue is probably gone and was just passing through in any case. Chelsea and its neighbouring suburbs have very low crime rates and are rarely witness to specifically violent crimes. It is likely the unexpectedness of crime in a low crime area which made this front page news the following day. Perhaps it was also to do with the ethnic origin of the perpetrators.

That these people deserve to be held accountable for their violence is unquestionable. However, that we (and the media) must stop hyperventilating every time a black person commits a crime is certainly a notion we should entertain. People have the potential to suck no matter their racial background, and as a liberal democracy we should understand this and use different tactics2 to confront the issue that don’t involve further isolation and discrimination towards the perpetrators. Ending the cycle of crime is certainly much easier whilst the criminal is young and open to impression, both positive and otherwise.


  1. Young male African immigrants.
  2. Youth engagement programmes, English classes, job and educational opportunities, etc.