Australia

After 12 hours on the road, travelling 800 kilometres from Newcastle through Gunnedah, Narrabri, Moree and Goondiwindi, just after sundown, our big blue bus pulled into Tara showground for four days of workshops and direct action as part of the Rock the Gate festival against coal seam gas mining.
The refugee deal struck between the Australian and Malaysian governments will put vulnerable, desperate refugees in great danger. Under the agreement, the Gillard Labor government will deport to Malaysia 800 asylum seekers that arrive in Australia by boat. Malaysia has not signed the United Nations Refugee Convention. The deportations will be automatic. Men, women, children — the government has promised it will make no exceptions. They will be deemed unworthy of protection, regardless of their circumstances. See also:
Campaign groups Western Downs Alliance and Six Degrees combined with a number of other activists and organisations to bring us the Rock the Gates Festival at Tara showgrounds from April 29 to May 4. The festival was organised to elicit support for, educate and inform about the Lock the Gates campaign which is aimed stopping the corporate destruction of the land and groundwater caused by the search for and extraction of coal seam gas in and around Tara.
For many Australians, Fairfax Media is a benign alternative to Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing media empire. Well-meaning people buy Fairfax newspapers such as the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age because they believe they present a fairer picture of the news. But just how fair is Fairfax?
A group of 30 people held up construction of a second loader arm at Newcastle's third coal loader site on Kooragang Island on May 10, stopping a crane crew for about 90 minutes. The protest coincided with what would have been Newcastle climate activist Pete Gray's 31st birthday. Gray sadly lost a two year long battle with cancer on April 30.
Laura’s* mother was in Dara’a in southern Syria when the military attacked youths who had graffitied anti-government slogans in mid March. Only when she had arrived back in Sydney did she tell her family about what she’d seen of the attacks on unarmed protesters, which sparked the wave of anti-government protests across Syria.
The Roman Catholic Church has sacked the bishop of Toowoomba after 18 years of service for his belief that women can be priests. In his 2006 Advent pastoral letter to priests in his diocese, Bishop William Morris questioned the practice of sourcing Catholic priests from Africa, and suggested the shortage of Catholic priests in Australia would be better addressed by considering admitting married men and women to the priesthood. Morris met with Pope Benedict in 2009 about his views. He is now taking “early retirement” at age 67. The usual retirement age for bishops is 75.
Coalition leader Tony Abbott wrote to PM Julia Gillard in March calling for a bipartisan approach to Aboriginal issues and a “second intervention” in the Northern Territory. He flew to Alice Springs in late April to further these calls. June will mark four years since former PM John Howard launched the Northern Territory Emergency Response — or NT intervention.
An audience of more than 600 people at a forum debate in Sydney on May 10 voted by a margin of 69% to 23%, that, "All drugs should be legalised." The forum was sponsored by Intelligence2, a project of the St James Ethics Centre. It heard arguments for and against the proposal and questions and comments from the audience. Dr Alex Wodak, president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, and a founder of Australia's first needle exchange, argued: "As a starting point, we must recognise that the ‘war on drugs’ has failed. Legalisation is the only answer.
Organisers of the 2011 Human Rights Arts and Film Festival (HRAFF) have informed Melbourne visual artist Van Thanh Rudd that his artwork titled Pop Goes the System, which depicts global pop icon Justin Bieber supporting Palestinian human rights, will be banned from this year’s festival.

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