I’ve refrained from long-form comment on the UK’s EU referendum, partly because the debate is generally painful, but also because there are extremely clever people who’ve already made most of the points I’ve wanted to make.
One thing that I think is worth addressing, though, is the current suggestion that people are switching back to Remain because they “don’t know what Brexit looks like” (thanks to Paul Evans for the formulation here). I think this is definitely true; I also think it’s a positive response to a specific failure within the Leave campaigns , not just a fear of change.
The reason “we don’t know what it looks like” is that the people who are in favour of it have polar opposite, completely contradictory visions of what it should look like.
When Scots voted on their Remain/Leave decision, the SNP – to its great credit – published a long document containing the details of exactly what it would do in the event of independence. Some of these were criticised for over-the-top optimism about the actions of rUK and the EU, and others on the basis of their effect, but crucially Scots knew what the people in charge after a Leave vote would try to do .
That simply doesn’t exist for the UK EU referendum. The Leave campaigns, all of which include people likely to be in government in the event that Leave wins, have adopted positions that range from “staying in the free migration zone and the common market” through to “deporting settled EU migrants and relying solely on WTO basic rules for trade access”.
That – not the inherent uncertainty in doing anything that hasn’t been done before – is the crux of the “not knowing what it looks like” problem.
That deliberate, dishonest ambiguity is also why Leave has done far better than it would have done had it been forced to outline what it would actually be attempting to do in the event of a referendum win. As it is, “build a libertarian paradise with no tariffs and open borders”, and “Britain first, deport all the immigrants” types can rally round the same banner, even though they disagree with each other at least as much as they disagree with the current model.
 The existence of “Leave campaigns” with an S is probably the tl/dr of this.
 The SNP white paper was flawed and optimistic, but at least it was there for you to be able to critique its optimism and flaws. Similarly, a Leave manifesto that committed to a Norway model could reasonably be critiqued on the basis that the EU might not let us have one – but in the actual campaign we’ve seen every model of multilateralism/autarky from Norway through to North Korea thrown up, dependent on what the politician in question thinks the audience wants to hear. “Is their plan credible” is secondary to “do they even have one”…
I’ve tended not to blog here about my migration status in Australia, for reasons that are probably obvious. But to my great delight and relief, earlier this month I was sworn in as an Australian citizen .
The process, from tourist to citizen, wasn’t super-easy. However:
it was a hell of a lot easier for me than for most would-be migrants to Australia because of my nationality, age, education/skill level and income/savings.
it was a hell of a lot easier for me to do in Australia than it would be even for someone with my privileged status and position in most mid-to-high-income countries .
The first is obvious, I hope. My nationality and age gave me access to Australia’s Working Holiday Visa scheme, which gave me a year of almost-unrestricted work rights (and the option to have a one-off 12 months extension, if I took 90 days of manual labour in remote Australia during the first 12 months. EDIT: I chose not to do this and also not to pretend to the government that I had done it. This digression will become important later).
My education allowed me to navigate a complex system and was directly helpful for certain later migration hurdles, and my access to money allowed me to study at an Australian university, pay government fees, hire a migration agent, meet various other administrative costs, and pay living expenses during periods when my work rights were limited .
The second is perhaps more surprising to people who haven’t tried living across non-EU borders, especially if they’re aware of Australia’s barbaric offshore concentration campsinternment camps detention centres for refugees and reputation for being horrifically racist. But compared to most plausible countries outside the EU – certainly the US, Canada, Japan and Singapore – and to most EU countries for non-EU nationals, the path from arrival to Australian citizenship for a skilled migrant  is relatively easy.
My particular experience was more bureaucratically difficult than that of many skilled migrants, who are sponsored by an external employer, because I spent most of the time running my own business. In the US or UK, it would have been straight-up impossible for me to get a visa on this basis . In Australia, it was a complex and often expensive but entirely legitimate process, and I’m very grateful for it.
In short, a UK citizen came to Australia on a Working Holiday visa and got a job working for a small technology company.
Once the 12 month period during which he was eligible to work in Australia was over, instead of moving to a legal visa class or leaving the country, he lied to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection that he had completed the 90 days of rural labour and was eligible for another 12 months.
All of this was done with his boss’s knowledge, and quite possibly (it reads from the piece) at the boss’s instigation.
Not unsurprisingly, during the second 12-month period, as he tried to return to Australia from a US business trip, DIBP discovered he was lying and deported him.
This would be a straight-up case of illegal immigration, carried out by someone nowhere near in dire enough financial or personal circumstances to justify it, even if it were true that he had no way of legally staying in the country in his status.
But the really particularly dumb and annoying thing is that he did.
The rules for which companies are eligible to sponsor staff for Class 457 skilled four-year employee visas are complicated, and the DIBP website doesn’t let you link directly to them, but they’re under the ‘sponsors’ tab here.
The very short version is that if you are a real company that isn’t taking the piss, and you can put documents together to show this, then you can sponsor staff for this visa, even if your company is a start-up. A quote from the website:
If your business is new, you can still satisfy this requirement [to be legally operating in Australia] if you can provide evidence that your business is in fact operating, even if this has been for only a short period of time.
I can confirm this is true because I’ve done it. The company had to provide a whole bunch of evidence that it was operating legally, that it had a business plan, that it had a plan to meet training benchmarks, that it paid any existing staff legal wages, and so on. Which it did.
Overall, achieving this required a 10-page document roughly equivalent to what you’d need to get a small business loan from a local bank to buy a van or a café, and took a couple of days to put together.
Meanwhile, at Disrupt (this is shown as a fact rather than a quote in the SMH article, but I’m 99% sure it’s verbatim from the company’s boss):
As a start-up, Disrupt is not recognised as a “business” under the Migration Act for the purpose of sponsoring skilled individuals on temporary work visas.
This just isn’t true. It is nonsense. It is made-up bollocks that any competent migration agent would have told the company was made-up bollocks, suggesting that the CEO didn’t even bother to get a migration agent’s advice before encouraging his deputy to go ahead with his hare-brained illegal scheme.
Which… well, as we’ve seen with many tech start-ups, particular in the financial sphere, tech bros are not exactly renowned for seeking the advice of local experts or for not launching hare-brained illegal schemes, are they?
Generally, but especially in the context of this post, I acknowledge and pay respect to the traditional owners of the land on which I live, the Wangal people of the Eora nation.
 And almost immediately, sworn at as an Australian citizen, because Twitter is glorious and this country is glorious.
 Except for EU ones, of course. Hurrah for the raging Brexit idiots who want to abolish their own right to do that and the rest of ours along with it.
 Paid working hours for full-time overseas students in Australia are limited to 20 per week.
 The largest sources of new skilled migrants in Australia are now China and India, with the UK in third place.
 Unless you have enough financial wealth to count as a wealthy investor, which in both cases is a hell of a lot more than I do.
I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next US general election. I also didn’t know what was going to happen in the US electoral primaries, although I don’t think there’s any great shame in admitting the current situation isn’t what I anticipated.
It seems highly likely, at this point, that Donald Trump will be the Republican candidate, barring the kind of machinations that haven’t been seen since Andrew Jackson’s day. The Democratic primary process is far closer, although Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders by a comfortable-looking margin at the moment.
Mr Trump is a squalid, crooked neo-fascist – basically Silvio Berlusconi with added racism. Anyone saying they know exactly why he’s popular is full of shit, but it’s clearly a combination of angry white bigotry, disillusionment with Washington’s specific flavour of insider crookery, and susceptibility to the daft concept of career success as a marker of general merit (the latter is also why people unfortunately listen to Richard Dawkins’ views on Muslim theology and Barry Humphries’ views on gender theory).
Various people in the pro-Clinton and pro-Sanders camps have suggested over the last couple of months that their candidate is electable, whilst the other candidate is un-electable. I’ve seen more Clinton fans go down this route than Sanders fans, but not by a huge margin.
There are arguments why this might be the case for either candidate. Mr Trump’s success is based on disillusioned white working class male voters, and these are also Mr Sanders’ strong group by a wide margin. On the other hand, Ms Clinton has managed to combine strong popularity among black voters – whose increased turnout compared to previous years was important in President Obama’s success – with grumpy acceptance among moderate centrist Republicans (including former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg) as a tolerable alternative to Mr Trump.
But with these good arguments on either side, and given the extent to which punditry in this Presidential race has already failed dismally, anyone who says “you should vote for Ms Clinton/Mr Sanders in the primary because they’re the only one who’s electable” is an absurd arrogant fool.
There’s an absolute stinker of an article in today’s New York Times, emotively talking up an terrible lawsuit. When stripped of irrelevant interviews with soldiers’ widows and scary quotes from showboating neoconservative lawyers, here’s the actual story.
The US didn’t take the news very well when its puppet state in Iran had a revolution in 1979. The affront was exacerbated by Iranian revolutionaries’ decision, after the US gave asylum to their murderous and corrupt ex-Shah, to take the remaining US diplomats in Iran hostage. This created a diplomatic crisis which wasn’t resolved until 1981 , and more importantly made the US look silly and impotent.
As a direct result, the US government, much as with the Cuban regime that followed a similar drill 20 years previously, has a hatred for Iran that far exceeds its actual wrongdoing . This includes the (completely lawful, although ridiculous) imposition of sanctions on US companies trading in Iran, and the (questionably lawful, and ridiculous) imposition of sanctions on foreign companies trading in Iran.
So banks in Europe – in this suit, HSBC, Barclays, Standard Chartered, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Credit Suisse – continued to trade with companies in Iran. Whether or not you like its current rulers , Iran is a nation state with a better human rights and terrorism funding record than many US allies (notably Saudi Arabia, which funded Al Qaeda and the exceptionally inept Islamic State) and non-enemies (China still leads the world in executions). There are no moral grounds for claiming that westerners trading with Iran are more complicit in evil than the westerners who traded with authoritarian China to make the device that you’re reading this on .
Next up, in 2003, US launched a humanitarian mission to neighbouring Iraq. You may have heard of it, somewhere, along the way. I chose the picture at the top of this post to remind us all of the mission’s humanitarian nature.
The Iranian government reacted to the collapse of its Iraqi enemy by funding Shia militias (many of which were also funded by the US government at various points, and without which the Sunni militias who later became Islamic State would have been unopposed in ethnically cleansing the Shia). In the course of the humanitarian mission, quite a few US servicemen, who had previously volunteered to sign up and fight whenever the US decided to have a humanitarian mission, were killed or wounded , some by Shia militias.
Now, the families of some of these people (the American volunteers, obviously, not the Iraqi victims) are trying to sue the European banks who traded with normal companies in Iran, on the basis that somewhere down the line, the money that was traded might have found its way via the government into the Shia militias’ pockets. As Dsquared notes on Twitter, this is roughly equivalent to suing Kellogg’s because the July 7 bombers had Coco Pops for breakfast, or suing Henry Ford because you were blown up by a car bomber in a Cortina.
One of the piece of evidence in the lawsuit, gleefully seized upon by the New York Times as highlighting the banks’ depravity, is a quote that actually highlights the opposite:
The Times’s editorialising here is a great illustration of the US’s total vanity. Its leading centre-left news outlet – and quite possibly its courts, who ruled for the plaintiffs in a similar, although less farcically indirect case – simply don’t understand that they aren’t the God-ordained rulers of the rest of the world.
 Possibly delayed due to incoming president Reagan’s backroom deal with Iran, although I’m sceptical he was bright enough to pull off quite such an intricate conspiracy.
 A hatred which has more or less guaranteed the survival of the unpleasant regimes in both countries by undermining local opposition and providing the ruling party with a plethora of patriotic rallying opportunities.
 Although if you do like Iran’s current rulers, it seems likely that you are a fairly terrible person.
 If you’re reading this on a device which has no components manufactured in authoritarian China, then I am very impressed by your dedication.
 Alongside several orders of magnitude more Iraqis, who hadn’t been quite so blessed with the opportunity to choose.
The law in force at the time provided automatic citizenship by descent on registering with the Australian government, for anyone under the age of 25. Abbott’s parents didn’t do this at the time of his birth, and also didn’t do this when they moved to Australia in 1960, when Tony was three years old, as assisted migrants (Ten Pound Poms).
Abbott acquired Australian citizenship by registration in 1981, at the age of 23, when he applied for a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University. Taking an Australian Rhodes scholarship requires you to have Australian citizenship, and to have been resident in Australia for five of the last 10 years. Abbott presumably discovered on application that he wasn’t the Australian citizen he believed himself to be .
Not worrying about formal nationality was common at the time of Abbott’s birth and emigration: British and Australian nationality were only legally separated with the two countries’ 1948 citizenship acts, and up until 1973 the distinction remained irrelevant for most practical purposes. British citizens  were eligible to move to Australia without strict migration criteria, vote in Australian elections, and become Australian citizens after a year’s residence without having to undergo the naturalisation process that applied to other foreigners. For another decade, up until 1984, British citizens were eligible to vote and stand for office in Australia without becoming Australian citizens – and British citizens who were on the electoral roll in 1984 and continue to reside in Australia remain eligible.
So, Abbott’s parents were a bit crap at admin, in a context where nobody really thought that the legal difference between British and Australian citizenships mattered (the majority of Australians in 1960, and a large proportion in 1980, had been legally British during their own lifetimes despite never having set foot in the UK, because all Australians were legally British until 1948). His parents filled out a form well within the allowable 25 years allowing him to claim citizenship through birth rather than naturalisation.
People going on about this aspect of Abbott’s early life are basically idiots, with fewer legs to stand on than the average snake.
Independence Day: 3 March 1986
The Australia Act 1986, passed simultaneously in the UK and Australian parliaments, severed Australia’s remaining formal colonial ties to the UK . The UK Parliament renounced its right to legislate with effect in Australia (at state or federal level), the UK government renounced all powers to advise the Queen on Australian matters, and the UK Privy Council lost its status as Australia’s official highest court of appeal.
The long title to the Act describes Australia as “a sovereign, independent and federal nation”, and the High Court of Australia confirmed in Shaw vs Minister for Immigration in 2003 that the Act marks the start date for Australian independence. As well as being a far better date to celebrate Australia’s national day than either the current Australia Day (commemorating the First Fleet of white criminals and prison guards on 26 January, 1788) or the sometimes-suggested alternative of Federation Day (commemorating the establishment of the federal parliament on 1 January, 1901), this declaration of independence had a particularly weird unforeseen consequence for federal politics.
One of the major drivers behind Federation was settler paranoia about non-white people and people of non-English descent, and the desire to impose greater control on borders . This is reflected in the Constitution, whose Section 44i bans people who are “a citizen… of a foreign power” from standing for federal parliament.
This clause came out of fear of fifth-columnists, traitors, Germans, Chinese spies, and all the other things that continue to fill the nightmares of white right-wing hicks. Since all Australians were British citizens at the time, nobody from the British Empire was considered to be of a foreign power; that only applied to the weird ones who ate garlic, drank coffee and didn’t even speak English. But if you were of German birth and wanted to stand for federal parliament, you needed to renounce your German citizenship first, even if this wasn’t cancelled upon your acquisition of Australian citizenship.
You can probably see where this one is going
After the Australia Act 1986, the High Court determined in Sue vs Hill (1999) that since Australia was independent, the UK was now also on the list of undesirable places full of dirty foreign traitors who shouldn’t be allowed to sully the federal parliament’s door – and therefore, that anyone who was an Australian/UK dual national was required to renounce their citizenship before they were elected to federal parliament, just like dual nationals of other countries.
In a country with a flexible constitution, this would have been a good cue to take the sensible measure of repealing a ridiculous law enacted by 19th century xenophobes and serving no purpose whatsoever. But the Australian constitution is extremely hard to amend, requiring a process of national referendums, which would be overkill over a mild and faintly embarrassing procedural inconvenience – so Section 44i remains in force. Anyone born a foreign citizen seeking federal office needs not only to become an Australian citizen, but also to renounce their foreign citizenship.
Which brings us to the more significant accusations against Abbott.
Former PM Julia Gillard, also UK-born, made clear as PM that she had formally renounced her British citizenship before entering the Australian parliament in 1998. Abbott has never said this publicly in the same way, arousing suspicions from various corners. Yesterday (2 September), his office issued a statement that “The Prime Minister is an Australian citizen and does not hold citizenship of any other country”.
This is a noticeably less strong claim than the one that Gillard made: it could mean he renounced his UK citizenship either before standing for parliament, or at some point after becoming an MP, or last week.
Screeching Birthers are still talking out of their arses
But Tony Abbott’s eligibility to be a federal MP in this parliament doesn’t hinge on whether he had renounced UK citizenship in 1994, when he first became MP for Warringah – it hinges on whether he had renounced UK citizenship at the date of the last federal election, which was his second as Leader of the Opposition and prospective Prime Minister. It’s vanishingly unlikely, given that Section 44i and Sue vs Hill are both known quantities, that the Liberal Party would have been incompetent enough to go to election twice with a leader who was ineligible for office.
Even if this had somehow happened, which would be hilarious, the result would be to invalidate Abbott’s election as MP for Warringah, forcing a by-election in an safe Liberal seat, with a large continued Liberal-National majority in the lower house even in the extremely unlikely event that the by-election were lost. There would be no requirement in the constitution for Abbott to stand down as PM at this point: the PM isn’t mentioned in the constitution, and there is no legal requirement for the PM to be an MP. More likely, he’d stand in the by-election (since we know he is now eligible), win it, and then carry on regardless.
Nonetheless, the whole shebang does draw attention to an extremely silly constitutional provision that Australia would be best without.
 Something rather like this happened to a friend’s sister, who was born in Australia after the 1986 Australian Citizenship (Amendment) Act to parents who at the time were not permanent residents. She discovered aged 18, having lived her whole life in Australia, that she wasn’t an Australian citizen and needed to apply for naturalisation rather urgently.
 For reasons that are painfully complicated, the law actually referred to British subjects, which is not quite the same thing as British citizens, but that’s a post for another day.
 Elizabeth II’s powers in Australia are as Queen of Australia, not as Queen of the United Kingdom.
 luckily, this no longer applies to anybody ever.
“We’re really excited about this Russian-language film festival we’ll be hosting with you guys. But, um, we’re a bit uncomfortable with the fact that Putin’s rights-abusing and civilian-killing government is contributing to the funding. Their grant is only GBP1,400 so it’s no biggie; we’re happy to make up the difference ourselves as long as you turn down the donation.”
“THAT’S OUTRAGEOUS AND WE REFUSE. YOU ARE RACIST AGAINST ALL RUSSIAN SPEAKING PEOPLE.”
His leaving letter to his missus went, “what good is a husband, father, brother that sits in comfort, sleeps in comfort, eats in comfort but neglects the cause of women being raped, children being attacked, mothers being decapitated, and daughters being murdered?” – this is, in case you’ve lost track of Syria, people being murdered by the government of genocidal lunatic Bashir Assad, who is backed by (not genocidal! Yay Russia! So much progress!) lunatic Vladimir Putin.
Homage to catatonia
I don’t want to minimise the extent to which Choudhury is terrible. He is very terrible. Syria is pretty terrible. Choudhury seems very much like the Stalinists who Orwell wrote about in Homage to Catalonia, who were dogmatic and were as keen to execute non-dogmatic leftist fighters as they were to shoot fascists.
But, rather as with Hausa women in northern Nigeria being kidnapped by organisations that combine Hausa and Wahabbi dogma to come up with something that is revolting, again, what the fuck are we doing intervening in this?
Between 1958 and 1965, my dad grew up in Lagos, the capital of Christian, trading, southern Nigeria; my granddad was one of the most impressive engineers I know who shaped modern Lagos; my grandma was a teacher (I wish she wasn’t also a massive bigot who non-stop tried to get my granddad to move to Australia because there weren’t any blacks left there, but she was).
45 years later, I worked in Lagos, because I was the person at the London office of the multinational consulting firm I was with who said “yes I have family ties to Nigeria; yes I’m willing to do this”. It was the best thing I’ve ever done and the most painful thing I’ve ever done. I knew that I could never live there, but I hated it far less than every other consulting assignment.
My mum was Welsh; every progressive thing that my family did feels like it erases the Welsh side of the myth. Now I live in Australia, and I don’t feel even slightly at home in England (London doesn’t count), and the concept of English as opposed to British revolts me. I find UKIP people revolting, and obviously Australia is racist as hell in some ways, but I love the fact that at least Australia – correctly – assigns British people as British, rather than the bullshit divisions between British people that dickheads like Salmond or Farage wish to impose.
I’m British more than I am Australian, but if grandstanding fuckwits abolish Britain on me, then I’m sure as fuck more Australian than I’ll ever be English, Irish or Scottish.