Sunday, March 10, 2013

LAW: Beggar this

OK, this really is ridiculous. Here's Suzy Freeman-Greene to more capably articulate my thoughts:
WHY is it a crime to beg when charity touts can ask us for money on the streets? Beggars can be annoyingly in your face at times but so can eagle-eyed collectors for UNICEF or Plan International, wielding clipboards, waving and waiting to pounce ... 

Begging alms ... is a crime under the Summary Offences Act. Often police turn a blind eye to this crime and, importantly, they'll refer beggars to agencies for help. Still, between 2009 and 2011, the Magistrates Court heard 393 cases related to begging. (More than 44 per cent were dismissed but in 34 per cent of cases fines were issued.) In 2011-12, Victorian police processed 240 alleged beggars.
Apparently it's all to save us from being annoyed.
Traditionally, categorising begging as a crime was justified as a preventive measure that promoted public safety. But does this argument wash? Personally, I'd rather a junkie ask me for money to fund his habit (I am, after all, free to say no) than rob my house. According to the Homeless Persons' Legal Clinic, a further reason cited for criminalising begging has been its "annoyance" factor. Indeed, in 2011, a County Court judge described how the law helped prevent beggars "imposing upon members of the community going about their business".
It beggars belief that you can be prosecuted for alleging that you are poor and that someone in the street might be able to spare you a bit of loose change. Yes, I have seen some amazingly dressed and articulate beggars in my time. Though for really buggered-up beggars, try Pakistan where poverty practitioners are often seen with limbs missing and an eye or two gorged out.

And you thought the bloke on Elizabeth Street was annoying.

 Words © 2013 Irfan Yusuf

Saturday, March 09, 2013

POLITICS: Refugee rhetoric that makes no sense

I really would hate to be John Nguyen. This young professional is the Liberal candidate for the Victorian seat of Chisholm. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Heck, it's a badge of honour to put your hand up for public office. And Nguyen isn't new to federal elections or to the area, having been candidate in the 2010 election.

But imagine what it is like to be candidate in a party whose major slogan would, if implemented during the late 1970's, would have seen you, your siblings and your grandparents locked up indefinitely in a detention centre and made to feel like "illegals". Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison keep screaming "stop the boats". Well guess what. The Liberal Candidate for Chisholm arrived in Australia in 1979. He fled Vietnam on a boat. He escaped communist persecution on a boat. One wonders whether Mr Abbott would have wanted to stop John Nguyen's boat from arriving. Fairfax Media reports Abbott visiting Nguyen at the Mulgrave Country Club. Abbott is quoted as follows:

''This is what modern Australia is all about,'' a beaming Abbott told the morning tea in Wheelers Hill. 
''This is today's Australia: a country that makes people from the four corners of the earth welcome because they have come here, not to change our way of life, but to join our way of life. They have come here not to detract from our country, but to add to it.''

Putting aside the issue of Abbott's policy on stopping persons fleeing persecution from arriving on boats (even if this is the only feasible method for them to get here), his logic sounds rather warped. On the one hand, he says that migrants do not wish to change our way of life. On the other hand, he says migrants have come to add to our way of life. How on earth does that work? How does adding to our way of life not involve a necessary change? Yet again we see how all this divisive bullsh*t rhetoric makes no sense.

Somehow I get the feeling that the Leader of the Opposition, a Rhodes scholar, doesn't believe alot of this crap.