“I believe in capitalism. Capitalism to me is a spiritual concept. Democracy just gets in the way. Democracy is annoying. Let them buy stuff and eat cake. Where I come from, if you don't believe in capitalism you're going to hell.” A “Yes Men” parody? No, these serious words of US billionaire investor Ken Fisher give an insight into the Forbes Global CEO Conference held in Sydney on September 28 and 29.
During recent protests in Villawood Detention Centre that followed the September 20 suicide of detained Fijian exile Josefa Rauluni, detainees who tried to help rooftop protesters with water and blankets were stopped by security. One man was bashed.
A University of Newcastle student group, the Fairtrade Club, has had a win: a campus cafe has agreed to serve Fairtrade-certified coffee. The club formed earlier this year. It campaigns for shops and cafes at the university to sell fair trade products like coffee and chocolate. It also organises awareness-raising events, like “Fairtrade Fortnight”.
A “people's assembly for refugees” met in front of Parliament House on September 28 to call on the government to introduce humane policies and stop using refugees as political footballs. More than 160 people from Victoria, the ACT and NSW were joined by Greens parliamentarians Sarah Hanson-Young and Adam Bandt, and independent MP Andrew Wilkie. The rally was called by the Refugee Advocacy Network, a Melbourne-based coalition of refugee activist, advocacy and support groups. It was endorsed by 48 groups from across Australia.
Wollongong's satirical Billionaires for Coal rallied in Sydney on September 29 in defence of the Forbes CEO conference, which brought together billionaires from across Australia and the globe. The three billionaires faced off against a group of activists dressed as pirates, who were protesting against the system of global inequality epitomised by the conference.
“After the election: What now for refugee rights?” was the theme of a September 29 Refugee Action Collective forum. Wesley Widlend, from National Labor Students, condemned federal Labor’s “disgraceful display” on asylum seeker policy. “Many members of the Labor Party consider the party policies inhumane”, he said. An immediate aim of the refugee rights movement should be “community processing of asylum seekers”. The Greens’ Elissa Jenkins said it was “time for the Greens to listen to people's ideas” on the goals of the refugee rights movement and for a “real campaign plan”.
In the lead-up to the November 27 Victorian state elections, the Council of Single Mothers Action Group has expressed its concern about the right of religious institutions to legally discriminate against gays, lesbians and single parents. Until amended last year, Victorian Equal Opportunities legislation granted religious bodies many exemptions. This meant they could discriminate against many groups of people in employment and service provision. The amendments did not remove the right to discriminate against gays, lesbians and single parents.
On September 15, France’s Senate passed a bill banning women from wearing full Islamic face veils such as the burqa and niqab. Similar laws are being considered in other European countries. In the New South Wales Legislative Council, Christian fundamentalist MLC Fred Nile has introduced a private member’s bill seeking to ban wearing the burqa. Neither major party supporta the bill, so it is expected to fail.