News Briefs

Issue 

Ruddock sued for $750,000

SYDNEY — Iranian refugees Mohammed and Zahraa Badraie announced on December 3 that they would seek $750,000 in compensation from the federal government for the psychological trauma and suffering inflicted on their seven-year-old son Shayan resulting from his experiences in the Woomera and Villawood detention centres.

The court action is based in part on a recommendation made by Alice Erh-Soon Tay, president of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC), who argues that immigration minister Philip Ruddock should apologise to the family for his department's mishandling of Shayan's care, and its decision to ignore expert advice by doctors at the Westmead Children's Hospital regarding the boy's treatment.

The immigration department rejected HREOC's findings and claimed that all appropriate steps were taken to care for Shayan and denied that he had witnessed any incidents of other detainees inflicting physical injuries on themselves.

Human rights day rally

HOBART — One-hundred people attended the annual Human Rights Week march and rally, organised by the Human Rights Week Committee on December 6.

Deborah Chandler, speaking on behalf of Tasmanian Aboriginal elder Auntie Ida West, demanded an end to desecration of Aboriginal grave sites on Flinders Island. Lindsay Toffin, of Tasmanians for Refugees, denounced the opening of the new Baxter detention centre, and read out an account from a detainee of the inhuman conditions in the centre.

Progress board calls for clearfelling phase-out

HOBART — The Tasmania Together Progress Board has refused to extend the January 2003 deadline for ending clearfelling in specific high conservation value old-growth forests, according to the December 5 Mercury.

The board is responsible for overseeing implementation of the "benchmarks" drawn up by the Tasmania Together consultation process initiated in the first term of the Premier Jim Bacon's Labor government.

Forest campaigners, with the broad public support, have strongly supported the maintenance of the original Tasmania Together deadline, despite strong opposition from logging companies and the government.

Cairns anti-war rally

CAIRNS — Fifty people rallied on December 6 to protest against war on Iraq. Organised by local group Peace by Peace, the aim of the action was to demand democratic accountability from a local Liberal MP, Warren Entsch. Entsch accepted the invitation to address the demonstration, answer questions, and receive a petition of over 400 far north Queensland residents opposed to war on Iraq.

Entsch commented that he did not want to see any loss of lives, but he did not indicate his position on a war. Peace by Peace believes that any military action against Iraq without a further UN resolution is illegal. Group members demanded that the Australian government conduct parliamentary and community debates before participating in attacks on Iraq. Peace by Peace member Michael Martin explained that the estimated number of Iraqis who would be killed would equal the entire populations of Cairns and Townsville.

New RAR formed in Torquay

GEELONG — One-hundred people rolled up on a cold and rainy night in Torquay on December 5 to form a branch of Rural Australians for Refugees. The new group will call itself "Surf Coast RAR". The meeting was attended by five guest speakers; Stephanie Tashkoff from the Asylum Seekers Network, Haider Aljuboory from the Australian Iraq Association, Alan Hands from Amnesty International, academic Ian Weeks and Tim Gooden from Geelong RAR.

Many people joined on the night and the organisers are now busy planning events to help the campaign to free refugees. Two events will be held in the New Year to raise the profile of refugees and funds for campaigns: a concert by Kavisha Mazzella and Arnoold Zable on January 16 at 8pm at the Torquay Senior Citizens Hall; and a "Dance for Refugees" with bands and speakers on March 21 at 8pm at the Jan Juc Surf Lifesaving Club. For further information contact Gisela on (03) 5261 6245.

Pay justice in sight?

HOBART — A decision is expected before Christmas by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission on postgraduate allowances for nurses. Despite offering an allowance to all nurses with postgraduate training, the state Labor government has created a distinction that did not exist previously between those with hospital-based postgraduate training and those with university training. The government has refused to give the allowance to those with hospital-based training, although they are in the large majority. Nursing unions have waged a long-running campaign that has met stubborn resistance from the government, but are confident of winning in the commission.

From Green Left Weekly, December 11, 2002.

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