civil liberties

It’s another election year and we’re witnessing another round of racist fear-mongering. Along with refugees, Muslims are in the crosshairs once again and the Liberal/National Coalition opposition is trying to grab votes by playing on people's worst instincts.

On May 6, Liberal Senator and parliamentary secretary Cory Bernardi called for a ban on the wearing of the burqa, after a case of armed robbery was committed by someone allegedly using the burqa as a disguise.

Brian Walters, former Liberty Victoria president, former Free Speech Victoria vice-president and Greens candidate for the state seat of Melbourne, has long been a advocate of free speech. He is the author of Slapping on the Writs: Defamation, Developers and Community Activism.

On May 8, he addressed a rally in Brunswick, Melbourne, which called on the local Barkly Square shopping centre to end its ban on community stalls.

Photographer David Hoffman had his London home visited by British police on the day of the May 6 general elections. They forcibly removed a poster from his window featuring a photo of Conservative Party leader (and now prime minister) David Cameron and the word “wanker”, the British Guardian said on May 11.

Hoffman said police threatened him with arrest and handcuffed him during the visit, claiming the poster was “offensive campaign material”. Hoffman said police “went completely over the top”, the Guardian reported.

The coroner in the third inquest into the death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee on Palm Island in 2004, Queensland deputy chief magistrate Brian Hine, has handed down an “open finding”. This means no criminal charges will be laid against senior sergeant Chris Hurley.

Delivering his report on May 14, Hine cited the unreliability of witnesses, who changed their stories many times throughout the various investigations and inquiries, as the reason for his inability to make a definitive finding. But he also said there was evidence of collusion by police officers to protect Hurley.

Senior Queensland police officers have been accused of using improper methods to cover up for fellow police officers when investigating the death of 36-year-old Palm Island man Mulrunji Doomadgee in 2004.

A coroner has described Doomadgee’s November 2004 arrest for intoxication as “not an appropriate exercise of police discretion”. Within an hour of the arrest by Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley, Doomadgee had died from blows to his body which almost split his liver in two.

The Socialist Alliance has endorsed Dr Renfrey Clarke to run for the Senate in South Australia. Clarke was one of the founders of the Climate Emergency Action Network in 2008, and is a well-known activist and writer on environmental topics. He is a member of the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union.

A specialist on Russia and Latin America, Clarke worked for many years as a foreign correspondent for Green Left Weekly and other progressive media.

Below, Clarke outlines the priority issues around which he campaigns.

A secret review of Australia’s intelligence services has proposed giving them new powers to spy on Australians, carry weapons and conduct secretive paramilitary operations in other countries.

Powers to carry weapons are proposed for employees of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), which has already received a vast expansion of legal powers since 2001, extra personnel and a new purpose-built Canberra headquarters.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva trumpeted that he was making an important initiative on May 3 to “solve” the political crisis.

The country has been wracked by protests demanding the government — which was never elected — hold elections. The current government was installed after a military coup, far-right “Yellow Shirt” protests and judicial rulings that gave more power to the military.

On May 3, Abhisit offered to dissolve parliament in September and hold elections on November 14. Previously, he had said he would not dissolve parliament until December.

The following statement was released by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), the organisation of the “Red Shirts”, on May 6. It is abridged from wdpress.blog.co.uk.

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UDD leaders have again debunked speculation that the Red Shirt rally at Ratchaprasong will soon be packing up and the protesters returning home.

On May 8, 70 people from local groups joined with Socialist Alliance to march through Brunswick’s Barkly Square shopping centre, demanding management allow community stalls, including those held by the Socialist Alliance, to resume.

Protesters had a replica of the original cage that radical artist and Communist Party of Australia member Noel Counihan spoke from in the 1933 free speech battles in Brunswick. A speak-out was held in the shopping centre, defying police and security guards.

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