A policy to energise the PNG jobs market
Covid: The Pacific response - January 2022

Light turning to shadow, & the turning away


“Don’t accept that what’s happening
Is just a case of others’ suffering
Or you’ll find that you’re joining in
The turning away”
Pink Floyd, On the Turning Away, 2015

BRISBANE - Ten years have passed since the traumatic MV Rabaul Queen disaster on 2 February 2012.

The dilapidated rust bucket capsized at daybreak in treacherous waters as it crossed the Vitiaz Strait off the northern coast of Papua New Guinea with the likely loss of about 500 people.

Corden - MV Rabaul QueenThe precise number will never be known because the shipping company was unable to provide a genuine manifest.

Anecdotal evidence suggests Rabaul Queen exceeded its specified carrying capacity and that overcrowding contributed to the disaster with some survivors estimating 700 people were aboard.

Victims included many students and schoolchildren returning to Lae for new semesters at colleges and schools.

Rabaul Queen survivors await rescue - 246 were picked up; as many as 500 died
Rabaul Queen survivors await rescue - 246 were saved; an estimated 500 died

The plight of bereaved families, dependents and survivors over the past decade is unimaginable and inconceivable.

Many were left chasing smoke and have encountered the traditional delay, deny and die hendiatris underpinned by a patronising disposition of unaccountable power.

This malevolent modus operandi is quite evident following most natural and industrial disasters, pandemics and many other tragedies.

Several notorious examples over the past five decades include Aberfan, Bloody Sunday, Piper Alpha, Hillsborough, Upper Big Branch, Deepwater Horizon, Fukushima, Grenfell Tower and Covid-19, as vividly depicted here in Covid-1984.

Furthermore, the resurgence of entirely preventable industrial diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma, black lung and silicosis has screwed more miners than Maggie Thatcher, Jimmy Savile OBE KCSG, and an episcopacy of bishops.

Subsequent coronial inquiries make superficial gestures, although these anachronistic and dishonest forums often disappoint and typically degenerate into a ritual provocatively painful for those who survive and the loved ones of those who didn’t.

Indeed, the theatre of law has little to do with the discovery of truth or realisation of justice.

Many seasoned barristers believe cross-examining at coronial inquests is akin to working with both hands tied behind their backs:

“….there is a need in the coronial context to service the needs of all participants to investigations by coroners in a humane and empathic way, which provides information, and endeavours to arrive at understanding about what has been responsible (factually and medically) for the occurrence of deaths” - Ian Freckelton QC, QUT Law Review, vol 16 no 3

A juror protests that the subject of a coroner's inquest is alive  1826
A juror protests that the subject of a coroner's inquest is alive (1826)

This hopeful but often hopeless counsel of perfection is merely an adversarial wolf in inquisitorial sheep’s clothing.

The sheep wolf that delivers retrospective judgements of convenience, which often include enigmatic, incongruous and unfair findings or verdicts.

Despite superficial doctrines covering the separation of powers, royal commissions or public and parliamentary inquiries are usually constrained by carefully manicured terms of reference.

This enables incumbent federal or state governments to determine the magnitude of the risk and discover where all the bodies are buried.

A sanitised report sacrifices truth and accountability to protect the reputations of the powerful and preserves state and corporate interests.

Assets are secured via a tyranny of sinister bureaucratic recommendations that often neglect the needs of the powerless and subsequent losses are socialised at the expense of beleaguered taxpayers.

Following the collapse of capitalism’s festering Ponzi scheme in 2008, nominated by Americans as The Great Recession and Australians as the Global Financial Crisis, frantic rescue efforts included corporate welfare with gratuitous bailouts, which were as helpful to social equity as feeding strawberries to a donkey.

This neoliberal malaise with its deification of the Friedman doctrine (which proposed a company’s only responsibility was to its shareholders and damn society) and its insatiable quest for profit has continued unabated.

Neoliberalism’s fragility has been brutally exposed by the coronavirus pandemic and its disdain of democracy by the Republican Party’s continuing white-anting of the US voting system.

However, capitalism is remarkably resilient for a bad idea and its nodding acquaintance with fascism always run the risk of transforming into new models, like let’s storm Congress.

Indeed, a pernicious version of gangster capitalism has emerged and its venality closely resembles the narcotics trade with its illicit and clandestine drug dealing and rancorous turf wars.

Authoritarian populism has emerged throughout most Western democracies and many of its undesirable traits are evident to us each day.

Escalating inequality has left the US teetering on the brink of civil war as we saw on 6 January 2021 when supporters of soon to be electorally ousted US president Donald Trump attacked the Capitol Building in Washington DC.

Corden - borisAcross the Atlantic in the United Kingdom, prime minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is embroiled in the ‘Nightmare on Downing Street Partygate’ scandal.

A mutiny involving several prominent cabinet ministers flounders its way forward leaving the despotic and sociopathic Huboris clinging to power with superficial support from his erstwhile squeeze and for the time being fixture, Carrie (Let Them Eat Cake) Antoinette, various entitled hangers on and some newspaper owners who just think he’s having a bad day, every day.

Meanwhile in the land down under, the Australia Day awards are each year more reminiscent of a Billy Graham crusade, a Hillsong convention or a meeting of the Young Liberals.

During this year’s closing ceremony of the event, the most notable omission was a guest zoom appearance from the ‘God wants you to be seriously rich’ televangelist Kenneth Copeland performing a live version of ‘If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands’ while unsuccessfully staring down a virus.

Corden covidSo here we are, stuck in era of universal deceit where turning away is accepted policy and speaking the truth a revolutionary and treacherous act.

A time where too many people have found it too easy, and a small number very advantageous, to join in the turning away.

“It's a sin that somehow
Light is changing to shadow
And casting its shroud
Over all we have known

"Unaware how the ranks have grown
Driven on by a heart of stone
We could find that we're all alone
In the dream of the proud"

 -  Pink Floyd, On the Turning Away, 2015




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Bernard Corden

The only parole for the bereaved families is death or dementia.

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