Category Archives: Politics

Hicks, it was political all along!

It is claimed in leaked documents not yet seen by the public that John Howard in a meeting with then VP Dick Cheney asked for David Hicks to be charged with War Crimes.

It was February 24, 2007 and the majority of the Australian public was demanding David Hicks be brought home from Guantanamo Bay. What started out as a small group of family supporters, lawyers and activists had grown to be one of the largest human rights campaigns for an individual in Australian history. For years the Howard Government had tried everything to make it go away, but on the issue of him coming home a free man they would not budge.

With an election certain for some time late in the year and new Opposition ALP leader Kevin Rudd surging in the polls Howard would look to his friends in high places. He couldn’t go to another election with the Hicks issue still unresolved and with Hicks in US hands, he would need their help. So in a meeting at his Sydney office on that February day John Howard told Dick Cheney Hicks, or more accurately his cause, had become a ”political threat” to his re-election.

Calling in a favour from a powerful friend!

As then Vice President of the United States Cheney was a man known to get things done. He had been seen the entire time of George W. Bush’s presidency as the man who pulled the strings. But more importantly he had been Secretary of Defense under Bush Snr and knew the right people to call at the pentagon. Howard was seen as a key ally for the Bush administration, he’d sent troops to Afghanistan and Iraq and followed the entire War on Terror in step with the US. This was a favour Cheney could do and wanted to do for a friend.

A week later on 1 March 2007, David Hicks was formally charged with material support for terrorism, and referred to trial by the special military commission.

He would be prosecuted by Chief Prosecutor, Guantanamo Military commissions, Colonel Morris D. Davis. With his high rank, four medals, a Juris doctorate, two Masters of law degrees and distinguished career in military law he was seen by the Bush administration as the right man to prosecute the “worst of the worst” in Gitmo. But in a recent interview with an Australian newspaper Colonel Davis has maintained there was political interference in the charge against Hicks, which he says any reasonable person would see as a ”favour for  an ally”.

Colonel Davis believes Howard asked for Hicks to be tried for War Crimes

“Colonel Davis said Hicks had been a good candidate to be transferred back to his home country – without charge – like dozens of others held in Cuba. He came to the conclusion that there was political interference in the case soon after  he received an urgent phone call from the Pentagon General Counsel, William  ‘Jim’ Haynes, who had asked him: ”How quickly can you charge David Hicks?”

”I knew for John Howard it was becoming a political liability with an  election coming up,” Colonel Davis said. That was the first and only time Mr Haynes had ever called him about a specific case and he found it to be ”odd”.  The eventual plea bargain was negotiated behind his back, Colonel Davis said.”

With internet publication Truthout claiming to hold the official documents that would back up these claims it is time John Howard answered some very serious questions. Did he ask the US Administration to charge Hicks to help his own re-election bid and why, when it is stated Australian Government policy not to interfere in legal cases involving Australian’s did he do exactly that?

Political trials, under laws that no International or US legal body, including the Supreme Court accepted are not how Australia or any other democracy should conduct itself on the International stage. To ask for a political favour for re-election at the expense of your own national interest and the interest of your citizen is disgraceful. Many prominent International law experts have stated clearly it is worse than that. And with the UN set to investigate and proceedings to determine if Hicks can keep his books profits, Howard may find his friend’s in high places are no more.

Ten years on from Tampa

For many the Tampa is not a boat, it is not a place their lives changed or even a policy that took Australia outside of International legal norms. It was a defining moment for then PM John Howard in ensuring he would win the coming election. But what about the people? The Sydney Morning Herald’s Ben Doherty examines.

A decade after their disastrous voyage, the Tampa asylum seekers sent  back to Afghanistan are still on the run.

Sarwar had been home a week when they came for him. After more than two years  away from Afghanistan – on leaky boats and in refugee camps, seeking a new  country to call home – he returned to his village in Ghazni province.

“He was at his home for one week when some men, some Taliban, came on  motorbikes. They took him from his house and they killed him. They dragged him  outside and choked him to death with barbed wire.

“His wife and children saw him killed. They fled. I don’t know where they are  now,” Mohammad Akbar Sohrabi says.

Afghan family.Fearful … Mohammad Akbar Sohrabi, fourth from left, with members of his  extended family in their rented home where he remains largely in hiding. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Sohrabi carries a photo of Sarwar. It’s mixed up among the meagre possessions  he has from his time overseas, alongside a flimsy passport with an incorrect  birth date and a Nauru stamp in it.

The shopkeeper and the metalworker were firm friends at Topside, the  Australian-run refugee camp on Nauru. The photograph shows them in happy times,  seated, making preparations for one of the occasional parties the detainees  held. Then, they believed they would be resettled in Australia.

Eventually though, pressured to return to Afghanistan, they flew home  together, “but we faced the same problems, the same people, waiting for us”.


The Tampa’s human cargo pictured from the air as a political storm erupts in  Australia. Photo: Mike Bowers

For the complete story visit:-

Serious questions for FMG

Mining mogul Twiggy Forrest and the Fortescue Metals Group are no strangers to issues Indigenous. Whether fighting native title battles to build mines in the nation’s west, to promoting the employment of Indigenous people Twiggy has always had a lot to say.

“I know that Aboriginal people have every bit the ability any of us in this room have, and I know for sure they work as hard and when they come on board and join your company they will add value to your business,” Mr Forrest said in 2010

Earning Billions, Paying Peanuts and still complaining!

With companies who deal in Billions of dollars adding value is both in finding cheap resources that can be sold at inflated prices in the International market and by finding bargain basement labour that can dig it out of the ground for you. In the Indigenous community FMG has now found both. Buying resources from traditional land owners for peanuts (because any more would be welfare) and then selling them on for billions. Now today the ABC reports that FMG have found the answer to the labour side of the equation. Why pay people a few hundred thousand a year to fly in and fly out of your mine site when you can pay Indigenous “trainees” 50 bux and a day, not provide them accommodation or the ability to fly home.

Maybe the ABC has it wrong, maybe the workers denied a chance to speak on camera by their supervisor would give a glowing report of FMG, working in the mines on the cheap and sleeping rough. Or maybe they weren’t allowed to speak because their answers would be something we don’t want to hear? That there are Aboriginal men, working hard in the mines, trying to further their education and in return being paid much much less than their white counter parts.

Whatever the case, the WA and Federal Government must get to the bottom of it. And in the context of great pushes by mining companies such as FMG to grab traditional lands for their own benefit this must be done now!

Gay Marriage – Why the fuss?

Yesterday thousands of people rallied around Australia in support of equality. Not asking for anything others don’t have, not asking for special privileges, just the right to be treated like everyone else. Our politician’s still say no!

For some reason the debate in Australia over Gay marriage still rages. I say for some reason because there seems to be no logical political or social reason as to why two adult Australian’s cannot get married if that is their wish. Who is adversely impacted by Gay and Lesbian couples being allowed to marry? An answer is rarely offered up and usually advocates for the status quo simply state they don’t see the need for change. Which if we followed to its logical conclusion means they also didn’t see the need to change civil rights that discriminated against people based on race, gender or disability. Should slavery have remained the status quo because no politicians were Black? Should Aboriginal people still not be given the vote or counted in the census because at the time no politicians were Aboriginal and therefore they personally were not impacted? Of course not, but then following her logic Prime Minister Gillard would support women not having the vote or be eligible for elected office, because that too was once the status quo.

Thousands rally in Melbourne for Marriage Equality

When an answer to the original question does come there are usually two lines.

1. “Think of the children”. Well yes, let us think of the children! Shouldn’t children know from an early age that they live in a nation that treats all its citizens equally? And let us be honest, a very large number of Australian children are raised in less that ideal circumstances. But what is wrong with two people in a committed relationship who want to care for a child and raise them the best they can? Isn’t that what we need as a society, more people so committed to parenting that they will jump through hoops to get the chance to do it?! Children respond to love, care, affection, education and a safe environment. We help protect their rights when we protect the rights of their parents no matter who they are.

2. Many politicians and public figures will claim Gay and Lesbian marriage is against their religion. Well maybe it is or maybe it isn’t. But their religion is not what they were elected to parliament to represent. They were elected to represent their electorate and their isn’t one in Australia that doesn’t have a large LGBT community. Polls also show that the majority of Australian’s support same sex marriage, international law makes the equal treatment of all a requirement and common sense tells us it just makes sense. Your religion is your own personal  right, just as it is the right of all Australian’s to express their love for their partner in a union of marriage.

Sarah Palin is against Gay Marriage, so to is Fred Nile, Bin Laden was against Gay Marriage and George W. Bush too. Is that really the sort of ideological company you want to keep? Your marriage or your relationship with god is not altered in any way by two adults of the same sex getting married. Given how we view past generations that refused to grant rights to women, people of colour, the disabled and the lower classes. How will our children view us in the future if we maintain the status quo of denying a fundamental right?

Is this your crowd? Or do you support equality?

Marriage has evolved for centuries, the idea that it’s an unchanged institution is simply the view of rose coloured glasses of a few that are entirely blacked out. In ancient times marriage was a union simply of two people with no formal ceremony or approval of the state required. There were great periods of time when marriage was between one man and many women, a time where marriage was between a man and a female child and a time when a white man could not marry anyone but a white women. All these things have changed, with the exception of some countries whose human rights record with rightly slam. Now is the time to remove the final obstacle that simply allows two adults to be given the same legal rights as the rest of us.

The short version – Don’t like Gay Marriage? Then don’t marry a Gay man!

High Court says halt! Refugee advocates win first battle!

Last week we accused Minister for Immigration Chris Bowen of being a bad parent. We firmly believe that transferring refugees to Malaysia under the recently struck deal, is both illegal and immoral. In response one well known academic and ethicist accused of being  “totally clueless”. Well it would seem the high court agrees our assessment might be spot on and some people’s ethics don’t stack up to the law.

The High Court has extended its injunction against the federal government’s attempts to send asylum seekers to Malaysia. The government was prevented from sending 16 asylum seekers to Kuala Lumpur today after High Court judge Kenneth Hayne issued a temporary injunction yesterdayJustice Hayne today extended the injunction until the full bench could consider the lawfulness of the government’s policy. Justice Hayne said it was likely the full court could hear the matter in a special sitting in the week beginning August 22.

The issue comes down to an aspect of the law which makes the Immigration minister judge, jury and executioner. He determines who is held in detention, he is the guardian of those asylum seekers who are unaccompanied children and he makes the decision on where to expel those who are no longer permitted, by his rule, to stay in Australia (detention). Further to this he makes the assessment as to the legality of removing all asylum seekers and whether the new detaining country meets the relevant human rights obligations for which Australia is a signatory.

Seems like one MASSIVE conflict of interest and it cannot logically be argued that the guardian of children could be acting in their best interest by sending them to a country such as Malaysia where their human rights are not guaranteed and the minister cannot ensure their protection and well-being.

The Government now faces having to convince the full bench of the High court that this controversial deal is legal, this again raises further questions about this already suspect arrangement.

DAVID MANNE: It certainly does because what the court has said is that the Australian Government at the moment cannot, is prohibited from expelling our clients to Malaysia pending the outcome of this case. 
And this case is about our clients arguing that their claims for refugee protection should be considered in Australia instead of being expelled to Malaysia. 

Now the courts will decide the fate of this ridiculous piece of policy and a ruling that strikes the Malaysia deal down must certainly be another nail in the legality and morality of any and all offshore processing and forced removal of asylum seekers whose claims have not yet be reviewed.

Are we here “totally clueless” or is the High Court, public opinion and common sense swinging the way of where our national ethic of this issue should be?!

For audio of today’s ABC radio PM report – ABC AM Report

In Defense of Mia Freedman… and Cadel!

After three weeks of a 2am bedtimes I was a little slow to catch the hysteria that whipped up after Mia Freedman appeared on the today show and had this reaction to Cadel Evans winning the Tour de France.

“I’m the opposite of fired up. I’m fired down. I just don’t care.”.

“The way Australian sportspeople are revered as heroes and worshipped above every other profession.”.

Well that and a few other comments by Freedman shared with Karl Stefanovic on the Today Show had people going out of their minds. So much so they bombarded Freedman’s Twitter and email with abusive messages and claims that she was un-Australian. Well knock me over with a Lamington and call me Bob Downe but as someone who watched every televised second of the Tour I was not in any way offended or annoyed by Freedman’s comments. She doesn’t share my love of the three weeks in France and sport in general. So where I get joy from watching my beloved Hawthorn Hawks winning flags, I am guessing she gets her kicks from the launch of the latest Jimmy Choo’s.

That doesn’t make me or her un-Australian. If Freedman had said she couldn’t get excited about Buddy bending one back from 50 out after running the wing with a couple of bounces I wouldn’t be so offended that I’d go out of my way to personally abuse and insult her. That is un-Australian!

What followed Freedman’s comments was the usual exaggerated outrage, head shaking and angry outburst and then the aforementioned abuse that went her way. There was also the unsavoury d@#k measuring where many reeled off their list of sporting achievements in the suburban park which then some how justified their attacks. Well not one to be left out let me flop mine out on the table and see how I measure up.

Sport, I love it. I have played most sports you can name, played rep. Cricket, Basketball, Soccer and a whole host of other sports. I’ve managed Australian champion boxers, attended everything from Boxing Day test matches to Para-Olympics, written for Motorsport magazines, punted a fair chunk on the dish lickers and watch more sport on the box in a week than is probably healthy. And still, I am not offended by Freedman’s comments in the slightest possible way.

Because the achievement’s of Cadel Evans both on and off the bike can’t be in anyway impacted by a few lines of one social commentator who didn’t even watch Evans compete. Perhaps Freedman’s biggest error was to pick the one sportsman who is virtually flawless from what any of us can tell. He is a cyclist whose sheer mental strength and determination propels him above and beyond those who are seemingly more naturally talented. In a sport littered with drug abusers he is bleach white clean and if winning wasn’t enough he supports freedom for Tibet, “Trying to bring awareness of the Tibet movement is something someone in my position can do.” Not only that the list of charities and good causes he has donated to are endless and he is married a beautiful and brilliant Italian. I rank Cadel’s win in the Tour second only to Cathy Freeman’s win at the Sydney Olympics in terms of Australian sporting achievement. Both left me feeling something I cannot describe but the sort of joy that has you jumping around the living room floating with pride and elation.

In a sports mad nation that loves an underdog and the never say die attitude Cadel Evans is pretty close to Jesus Christ in Lycra. And anyone who has attacked Jesus in the USA publically probably knows how Mia is feeling right about now. But is that ok? Of course not, we are not Iran with a bunch of Ayatollahs telling us who we can and cannot be angry at. We don’t kill people for drawing cartoons and we are meant to allow freedom of speech and welcome diversity of opinion. That includes people saying things we don’t agree with.

Mia also raises a very pertinent point, Sports people really do earn too much money. There are football players (soccer to those who didn’t listen to Johnny Warren) who with endorsements earn a million bucks a week. And there are many actors, singers and “entertainers” earning similar amounts. That is obscene when we are still paying nurses, teachers, disability carers, soldiers and a whole host of other folks minimum wage. Mia Freedman simply made some valid points, expressed that she wasn’t that into sport and for having her own opinion was attacked. And it was only a few weeks ago that the mortified Karl Stefanovic made ignorant and offensive comments about an Australian who is an 8 time World Champion.

Mia Freedman didn’t attack Cadel Evans, she didn’t know enough about him to do that. What she attacked is the idea and a reality, that sports people do in fact earn a lot more than those on the front line of saving lives. But all that was lost in a level of behaviour we really should not tolerate in a modern Australia. And certainly not the sort of chest beating and abuse you would never see from Cadel Evans. How does he handle those on the other side? He grits his teeth, looks them in the eye and then rides right past them. And then when all is said and done he gives them a hug on the podium. That is an Australian that makes me proud!

A deal with Malaysia where nobody wins!

The Australian government has just struck a deal with Malaysia that will send 800 yet to be processed Asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat to Malaysia in return for 4000 already processed refugees currently in Malaysia. The numbers alone make this a very strange deal. But much of this has been debated at great length in the public domain and media ever since the idea was floated.

The whole thing is bizarre in that it is not an agreement, not a treaty and neither participant is bound to the statement laid out as the deal. In fact nobody really knows what to call this absurd attempt at international policy. Whatever we call the document, not only is it not binding or legally enforceable, it isn’t even complete. Many of the crucial details have been left out of all together. We seem to be expected to just take both sides at their word that the right thing will be done.

The UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency) had this to say on the deal: – 

“UNHCR is not a signatory to the Arrangement, however it appreciates that both Governments have consulted with the Office.

UNHCR’s preference has always been an arrangement which would enable all asylum-seekers arriving by boat into Australian territory to be processed in Australia. This would be consistent with general practice.

The critical test of this Arrangement will now be in its implementation both in Australia and Malaysia, particularly the protection and vulnerability assessment procedures under which asylum-seekers will be assessed in Australia prior to any transfer taking place”

It is clear this is not a normal deal, this goes against what is the norm right around the globe. A norm that exists for countries who deal with refugees in the tens of thousands. Not in handfuls here and there as we do in Australia. If you believe we are being over run by boat people here in Australia you simply are not across the facts. And that is the problem. The Government is banking on the fact that the majority of Australian’s simply want less “boat people” and being ignorant of the facts will mean they will swallow any policy or deal to appease that wish.

It is not easy to say your own country is ignorant, a country you are proud of and a country you believe is indeed the country of a “Fair Go”. But that is exactly what I am saying, Australia is a country ignorant of the world wide refugee issue.

The deal will cost Australia an estimated $300million, that is a lot of zero’s simply to “rid” us of 800 people. It is an immoral deal, one that voids our nation of its ethical and legal obligations to those who seek asylum in Australia. In no way does this deal stack up, so the government will rely on pure ignorance of the issue to ensure its success. Educating people on the issue of refugees and the real facts is the only way to ensure an end to the practice of keeping the worlds most vulnerable people behind bars. And now even worse, sending them to a third world country where they have no rights.

Wake up Australia!

It’s the Science Stupid

Bill Maher takes to task those who deny the science of Climate change and the nasty politics that surrounds the debate worldwide.

(Contains course language)

The Art of Aboriginal Activism

A new exhibition showcases artwork of a time when Aboriginal activists drew attention to civil rights.

“IT WAS BUT HALF a century ago, a time still sharp in the minds of a baby boomer generation, that landmark battles were waged and won by Aboriginal people, for Aboriginal people. In the 1960s, Aboriginal people achieved citizenship, financial assistance, and equal pay, and won back rights to their land and rights to the preservation of their cultural heritage.”

For many activists in NSW, one event and one year is set down in history – the Freedom Rides in 1965

For more:-  Australian Geographic Website

Make Indigenous Poverty History

In 2009 the National Council of Churches set a target to eradicate poverty among Indigenous Australians by 2015.

At the heart of the campaign is that all Australians should have a shared responsibility for the profound disadvantage that affects many Aboriginals.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have a death rate three times higher than all Australians.

Whilst only 20% of caucasian Australians die before 65, 70% of Indigenous people do. And on every key indicator, such as education, Aboriginals are far behind other groups.

The campaign recognises that money isn’t the only barrier to the problem. It’s a story of cultural dispossession, lost languages, and a lack of respect in mainstream Australia. It’s for that reason that the campaign is based on the principle that all Australians have to take a stand. It isn’t simply a problem for the government. All Australians must feel responsible for this travesty.

Follow the work here, see what you can do and demand more from our leaders!

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