News National Q&A: Border Force visa checks ‘create a climate of fear’

Q&A: Border Force visa checks ‘create a climate of fear’

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A prominent British-Pakistani author and political activist has slammed the Abbott government for its aborted Operation Fortitude plan slated for Melbourne last weekend as militaristic, “quite disturbing” and “worrying”.

Tarik Ali told the ABC’s Q&A program on Monday night that the Australian Border Force’s failed plan to check visas in Melbourne wasn’t far removed from France, where people of colour are forced to carry their “papers”.

He added that the visa crackdown in Melbourne – which was cancelled following public backlash and protests on Friday – was reminiscent of a government “preparing to go to war”.

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“The fact this is happening, is quite disturbing and the reason it’s worrying is because what it creates having this force in the main cities patrolling, all it does is create a climate of fear,” Mr Ali said.

“It worries people … Usually it is done when countries are preparing to go to war. I hope this Government learns the lesson from what happened in Melbourne.

“It is a disgusting sight on the streets of France when you see three or four young black people, usually children of migrants, stopped on the streets and cops piling on them taking them into vans.”

The Q&A panel comprised of overseas-born authors, academics and activists – and all agreed that Operation Fortitude was a step too far.

Conservative columnist and Between the Lines ABC Radio National host Tom Switzer said it was “an excessive overreach by the State”.

“No one checked the press release apparently. That’s pretty poor form,” he said in reference to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s office failing to read a release detailing the crackdown on visa fraud.

Capitalism and climate change: ‘That model isn’t working’

With global warming advocate and author Naomi Klein also on the panel, discussion soon turned to climate change.

She argues that climate change is very difficult to fight while the world is gripped in a capitalist system.

“Capitalism is waging war on life on earth,” Ms Klein said. 

“The triumph of capital has systematically stood in the way of what we need to do in the face of climate change.”

However she faced strong climate science scepticism from Mr Switzer: “History shows that capitalism, for all its flaws, is responsible for lifting so many people out of poverty.

“It [global temperatures] is going up marginally, not in accordance with the models. This is not an isolated view among many distinguished climate scientists,” he argued. 

Mrs Klein countered later: “I’m making an argument for systemic change and I know it is difficult.

“Attempts to just tinker around the edges and respond to climate change in ways that we won’t even notice … has led to global emissions going up by 63 per cent over the years we have been trying to lower them.

“That model isn’t working.”

While Mr Switzer and Ms Klein dominated climate change and capitalism debate, theologian Miroslav Volf did offer this interjection.

“I am not sure of the proposal to dismantle capitalism,” he said. “I am not sure if that is counterproductive but attention to systemic influence is important.”

‘Privacy no longer really exists’

Earlier in the program, Mr Switzer claimed “privacy no longer really exists”, in response to a discussion about the Ashley Madison website data breach. 

The panel shared the broad view that the Ashley Madison hack was simply technology highlighting the act of “cheating”, which has been occurring for a long time.

“[Cheating or] lying to your partner, makes you a d***,” said journalist Laurie Penny. “But we are jumping on this bandwagon, shaming people.

“Instead of being outraged people’s private data is being stolen by criminals.”

Mr Volf observed: “I think it is an issue of morality. I think it’s an issue people have rights to do with their lives what they please.

“I don’t think at the same time we should kind of gleefully watch what’s happening now and, therefore, celebrate this invasion of privacy.”


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