Kerry Smith

On February 24, the Refugee Council of Australia called on PM John Howard’s government to grant “full and fair hearing” in Australia to any claims for asylum by a group of 83 Sri Lankans rescued off Christmas Island by an Australian naval ship.

On February 6, 400 people converged on the lawns outside the national parliament building in Canberra to protest of the continued detention of Australian citizen David Hicks at the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The February 6 Sydney Daily Telegraph reported that “Australians yet to establish a view on the Venezuelan president will have the opportunity to do so in person if the organisers of an online petition inviting him to visit get their way”.

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Greg Combet expressed “great pride” in the role played by trade unions and union members in achieving justice for the victims of James Hardie’s asbestos products.

On February 19, campaigners for the repatriation to Australia of David Hicks again demanded that the Australian parliament seeks his immediate release from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Releasing a report on mainland immigration detention centres on January 19, human rights commissioner Graeme Innes said that, while some improvements had been made, Australia’s mandatory detention laws should be repealed.

A confidential report titled Partnerships Queensland was drafted last year by the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy. The report — which found there was an urgent need to improve the standard of living for Indigenous people and take “immediate and sustained action” — was withheld from public release before the September state election. Premier Peter Beattie’s government abolished the department after Labor’s re-election.

One year ago 43 West Papuan asylum seekers arrived in North Queensland fleeing Indonesian government oppression. Today in West Papua, the oppression continues, the Australia West Papua Association (AWPA) said in a January 18 media release.

Climate action group Rising Tide Newcastle wants the proposal for the contentious Anvil Hill mine proposal to be assessed under Commonwealth law. Apart from its impact on species and ecosystems protected under the Commonwealth environment act, Rising Tide believes that the proposed mine would impact on World Heritage areas protected under the act.

The Wilderness Society has called for more government funding and support for the Indigenous Protected Area program following the release on January 9 of an independent report that concludes that IPAs are one of the most effective initiatives in environment protection in Australia.

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