News briefs

Issue 

Protest against raids on Iranian oppositionists

MELBOURNE — On July 1, 60 people attended a protest against detention of members of the pro-imperialist People's Mujaheddin Organisation of Iran (PMOI) and Australian Federal Police raids on Iranian refugees in Australia.

Nosrat Husseini from the PMOI's International Solidarity Campaign spoke at length about the repressive nature of the Iranian regime. Pamela Curr, spokesperson for the Greens on refugee issues, and National Union of Students education officer Liz Thompson spoke about the Howard government's threatened deportation of 277 Iranian refugees (hardly any of whom are PMOI members or supporters).

Labor state MP Carlo Carli argued that the PMOI posed no threat to Australia and that the police raids were another example of the consequences of the government's security obsession. He did not explain why his party had supported the passage of the government's draconian new ASIO law, which would allow an escalation of such raids.

The rally was part of a vigil and hunger strike outside the French consulate that began 12 days earlier to protest the detention of 11 PMOI supporters in France. The hunger strike and vigil ended on July 3 after they were released on bail.

Forum on free trade threat to PBS

NEWCASTLE — On July 5, 50 people attended a public meeting on the threat posed to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) by the Howard government's proposed free trade agreement with the United States.

The meeting was addressed by Dr Pat Ranald from the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network; Dr Peter Sainsbury, associate professor at the Sydney University School of Public Health and president of the Public Health Association of Australia; John Kaye, Greens education spokesperson; and Sharon Grierson, federal ALP MP for Newcastle.

The speakers pointed out that the PBS was set up in 1948 to ensure that all Australians had access to affordable medicines and that its provision of low-cost medicines might be in breach of the rules of any Australia-US free trade agreement.

In discussion from the floor, Professor David Henry, head of clinical pharmacology at Newcastle University, pointed out that Australians who are not on welfare benefits but earn low wages still have to pay too much for medications that are essential. He argued for essential drugs to be free to those that need them.

From Green Left Weekly, July 9, 2003.

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