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Twenty people attended a September 28 Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA) meeting to hear Bruce Campbell, from the WA Deaths in Custody Watch Committe, discuss the campaign for justice for Mr Ward. On Invasion Day (January 26) 2008, Mr Ward, a respected Aboriginal elder, was arrested and died of heat stroke in the back of a prison van the next day while being taken 360km in 42°C heat.
Efforts to pass laws banning full veils, burqa or chador, in some European countries — particularly France — have put the issue firmly on the agenda in many other Western countries. Left and feminist positions are being challenged. The dilemma is whether to defend the right for Muslim women to choose to dress as they like (for whatever reason) or to impose the Western perspective that, due to its oppressive nature, such dress should be suppressed.
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”.
“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”.
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.
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.
Britain is said to be approaching its Berlusconi Moment. That is to say, if Rupert Murdoch wins control of Sky, he will command half Britain’s television and newspaper market and threaten what is known as public service broadcasting. Although the alarm is ringing, it is unlikely that any government will stop him while his court is packed with politicians of all parties. The problem with this and other Murdoch scares is that, while one cannot doubt their gravity, they deflect from an unrecognised and more insidious threat to honest information.
On September 28, a British Guardian reporter who interviewed me by phone published an article on the September 26 Venezuelan National Assembly elections titled “Opposition Gains Loosen Chavez’s Grip on Power.” According to the article, I said the electoral results “suggested the government should try to modify its radical discourse and accommodate the opposition, as long as it accepted the government’s legitimacy”.
We’re told that Australia is an egalitarian country. Our prime minister is a working-class migrant girl made good, while her predecessor was raised in regional Queensland by a single mother after the early death of his father. Anything is possible; our origins need not hold us back. A new report, linking health outcomes with social status, casts doubt on this. It concludes that those born poor are more likely to live in poor health during adulthood, and to die younger.
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.

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