"In the new year, the progressive community needs to take up the cudgels for all those who continue to suffer human rights abuses in this country", Sam Watson, Murri activist and Socialist Alliance Senate candidate in the recent federal elections, told a speak-out for International Human Rights Day on December 7. He condemned the attacks on Aboriginal rights inherent in the former Howard government's invasion of the Northern Territory, and the infringement of civil liberties represented by the mandatory detention of refugees and the "anti-terror" laws.
The speak-out was organised by the Stop the War Coalition, under the call, "Dear prime minister [Kevin Rudd], don't forget to bring all the troops home, restore Dr Haneef's visa, free the refugees, and more ... Howard has gone, but his so-called 'war on terror' and the attacks on human rights that came with it remain. Now is the time to say we want real change."
Jeff Brunne, from Just Rights Qld and the People's Charter Group, told the audience that the US invasion of the Middle East had now gone on longer than both World Wars I and II, and it was time to withdraw. Hassan Ghulam, a representative of the Afghan refugee community, called on the new Rudd Labor government to "totally re-think its policy on intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan", and described the sufferings of the civilian population of both countries after their invasion by the US and its allies.
Don Sinnamon, from Australians Against Capital Punishment and an Australian Democrats candidate in the recent federal elections, called for a continuing campaign against capital punishment as a basic infringement of human rights, and urged the Rudd government to take a firm stand on the issue. He also called for people to support those Australians facing the death penalty in Indonesia at present.