In Australia the life of a drug dealer counts more than that of a cyclist.

Observing the Australian government’s efforts to protect the life of drug dealers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran while still suffering from a traffic accident caused by a driver under the influence of alcohol and drugs, I get the impression that Australia is a country for outlaws.

The expected execution of two Australian drug dealers in Indonesia has provoked worldwide debates. Capital punishment has definitely its cons, but why is Australia caring so much? Having lived in Australia for a while, I believe to get the feel. About a year ago I wrote on this blog about a traffic accident in which I was the victim. There are two things that connect to the Chan/Sukumaran story: firstly, the vehemence with which the Australian government tries to avoid the penalization of one of their own citizens in another country while denying the rights of a foreigner in their own country, and secondly, the fact that drug dealer are part of a system that destroys lives of innocent people.

The case of which I have been the victim has still not been solved, even two years after the accident. This due to the fact that according to Australian law a hit-run accident protects the person responsible for the accident and not the victim, even if this person could be identified with the help of witnesses. Apparently a criminal by profession, the lady knows how to avoid court decisions and with the help of a team of judges could delay the long due trial again and again. What is of real concern is the ease with which people can avoid being punished. Alcoholism and drug abuse lead to many tragedies and have very high social costs. Protecting drunk drivers and drug dealers thus becomes in itself a crime, and one might come to believe that Aussies feel genetically connected to criminals if they don’t do more to address the issue. Is it the Ned Kelly effect that makes them see Andrew and Myuran as brothers that deserve their support?

Even if there might be some roots in this, I doubt that it is the main driver. The point is much more that the Australian government has completely corrupt values. Drugs are big business in Australia, while a cyclist doesn’t benefit the local economy – at least not as long as the treasurer doesn’t need to nor understands how to count the costs of carbon emissions. What’s more, the current Australian government has come to believe that they are the centre of development, while they are at the end of the world. When Julie Bishop “offered to work with Indonesia to see if we can find regional solutions to drug trafficking … (and) better education programs, better law enforcement, rehabilitation programs,” then why doesn’t Ms Bishop do it in Australia, where it is most needed? Or does she intend to teach Indonesians how to smuggle narcotics due to the heavy demand in Australia and the country’s isolation from the rest of the world?

In any case, it is the best proof that the Australian government sets the wrong priorities. Development is most needed down-under and when Ms Bishop threatens Indonesia over its reputation, then I believe that she very much overestimates not only herself, but the whole nation. It’s not Indonesia’s reputation that is at stake, Ms Bishop, it’s yours! Doing drugs is one thing, but doing politics while on drugs is not only legally wrong, but also morally. Yet, seeing that corruption is a standard procedure in Australia and that the drug mafia works directly with the Victorian police, it might also be that drug dealers are simply too important to be taken out of office, that’s why you protect drunk drivers from facing charges and help jailed Aussie drug dealers in Indonesia staying alive.

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About blaubear

Born in 1973 in a small village in rural Switzerland and into a society largely dominated by cows (not only was the human population of one-hundred-and-forty outnumbered by them, but politics driven by unreasonable subsidies for diary products) I was connected with nature from early age on. Observing nature on one hand and the deficiencies of a dysfunctional Swiss agricultural policy with farmers that had lost connection to the land that provided their income on the other, I soon started to question society and the meaning of life. Suffering also under a farcical public education I developed curiosity to discover on my own. That was how I soon learned that little of what I had been taught was true. Skepticism and interaction with people from for me new cultures fostered my interest for the world and eagerness to leave a life shaped by federalistic layman-ship. At the age of twenty-three I hit the road for the first time, an event that later translated into passion. Traveling between cultures has since become part of my life. At the age of thirty-three I finally realized my dream and did a degree in Environmental Engineering from which I graduated in 2009, only to leave Switzerland once more for my "real home" Spain. Unfortunately, the stay was a short one: a couple of months later I was offered a job in Southeast Asia, where I worked and also lived (with some interruptions, e.g. I live in Melbourne since late 2012) ever since. Having worked for a Japanese company earlier in my life, I soon felt captured again by Asian culture and thinking which makes a lovely contrast to my European heritage. My journey through different countries and cultures has taught me that regardless of how different our thinking and values are, no matter what approaches we take, we all can learn from each other. And if we are open enough to see the common instead of pointing out the differences, then we have a chance to live in harmony and peace: Life is all about integration, not exclusion! It's an old wisdom that "knowledge is power", as such I never get tired of being around new people, having interesting talks, and reading lots of good books. I hope that my blog can contribute to the conversation.
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2 Responses to In Australia the life of a drug dealer counts more than that of a cyclist.

  1. Patrick S says:

    Hi Urs – very sorry to hear you’re still dealing with the after-effects of that traffic collision and struggling to get justice.

    And you make a very striking point by comparing the lives of cyclists lost, which from the data I’ve found is above 40 per year in Australia, with a very high level of saturation media interest in the lives and cases of the two Australians convicted of drug smuggling in Indonesia and whether they will be granted some form of commutation of execution to a life sentence.

    I also think you could be right that this attitude is partly as a result of modern Australia’s heritage as a predominantly British-settler society (like Canada and the USA) taken over from the earlier indigenous inhabitants, but ‘barking up the wrong tree’ (I don’t know if this is an Australian colloquialism or from elsewhere, certainly one of our former dogs used to bark at Koalas in trees a lot) in drawing links to convicts, or Ned Kelly (*).

    The problem of car-dominance is a complex one I think related to a region’s social, economic, political history and values. In the latter respect I think it ties into the aspects of human nature, particularly for men, that cherish power and status :- and power’s sometimes behavioural cousins, aggressiveness, assertive individualism, and a willingness to ignore the plight of others, verging on brutality. Advertisers ruthlessly exploit this in car ads that trumpet the ideas of cars as providing freedom, and being a status symbol (not least in their supposed utility in impressing women). In Australia, one could plausibly argue that the country’s ‘settler society’ history, tied to the later ‘suburban dream’ of detached home-ownership in the suburbs, contributes to road behaviour in willing-ness to see cyclists as the ‘other’ and not worthy of sympathy or proper legal treatment.

    But aside from these value-aspects there is the issue that we all get tied in to a system where cars provide utility, and in Australia become seen as essential for _most_ working-to-middle class people living in suburbs and balancing contemporary demands for work, childcare, shopping, etc.

    I guess I could write a lot more about this :- including that lately I think Australia’s problems with car-dominance in the face of peak oil, housing unaffordability, brutality towards refugees, are symptoms of what I think is a condition of ‘pseudo-affluence’ in this country. I.E. that there is something that has clearly gone wrong with our societies that we can have a lot of surface wealth now but undermining not just our environment but that the social things that we once took for granted – secure housing, spare time, communities :- become increasingly precarious. But that is something I should write about elsewhere.

    I don’t want to imply that since it is a complex problem we should give up on change though – far from it – or even refrain from expressing anger & indignation. It seems anger & indignation is just as important as rational, deliberate thought when it comes to changing unjust social behaviour, rules & systems on a large scale.

    Some recent statistics show that Australia is getting worse in this respect too, and this could help campaigns showing us as an international laggard ( from http://www.news.com.au/national/australian-cycling-fatalities-rising-but-fall-in-other-developed-world/story-fncynjr2-1226799355000)
    “In its latest annual report, the OECD found Australia and Canada were the only two countries out of 27 members to record an increase in cycling deaths between 2000 and 2011.
    While countries such as New Zealand, Germany and France recorded falls up to 53 per cent in fatalities, Australia’s annual death rate climbed 10 per cent and Canada 25 per cent during the survey period.”

    But as usual I will try to bring out a few positives in amongst the unjust situation you justifiably point out:-
    * In Australia until the 1980s, it was considered fully normal for people (esp men) to go out, drink a lot, and then drive home. But in the 1980s every state introduced a 0.05 % blood-alcohol limit for drivers, and as far as I can tell these are fairly strictly enforced with significant penalties.
    * Similarly, we have pretty strict enforcement of speed limits, and fines for exceeding them – even if from a point of cyclist safety, these speeds are far too high. Apparently this is very different to the US where speeding fines can be hard to enforce because of the vagaries of their constitution and federal system.

    You can fairly directly trace a big drop in road-fatalities to the drink-driving laws, yet these would have been vastly unpopular with a segment of the population and been seen as a massive inconvenience and imposition, and perhaps disputed by a majority (IE would it have passed in a referendum? I’m not at all sure). How this change was enacted is something I want to know more about :- I.E. I know that within the transport profession that a stronger agenda of ‘road safety’ was part of it, but I’m not sure if there was a lot of civil society activism about this, or perhaps a string of particularly bad crashes brought this to a head.

    (*) – BTW :- Ned Kelly himself is an interesting figure in the context of this article, because although despite being yes an undoubted criminal, there is enough historical evidence for at least a vibrant debate that his turn to bush-ranging was partly explained by several incidents of personal experience of the institutional racism towards the Irish immigrants in early colonial history, by what was a clearly corrupt colonial police force of the 19th century in Victoria. I admit my part-Irish ancestry might be injecting some bias in pointing this out though 😉

  2. Pingback: While asking for more democracy, what citizens really want is anarchy! | Ideas for a greener environment, a fairer society and a future driven by sustainability

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