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The Dismissal - Union bashing and the silence on Human Rights

Livin' in the Land of Nod
Trustin' their fate to the hands of God
They pass by so silently
Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee

- Bob Dylan

We are now entering a long political drought. For in this election climate, we are complicit in a new and frightening dismissal in Australian politics. It is the dismissal of Human Rights.

The 2007 election is unique with its virtuality of opinion polling scything down the public agenda to leave just a handful of concerns. The forgotten cause is that of equal rights and justice. In the televised debate between Howard and Rudd, not once did we hear the phrase “human rights”. A fear and loathing about freedom of speech did briefly erupt from within the media. Channel Nine’s decision to unleash its ‘worm’ audience response tool resulted in its program feed being cut by the National Press Club. That Ray Martin should champion this relatively trivial fight for free speech shows how far off the radar genuine debate about human rights has fallen.

Crimes against humanity in Iraq and the detention of asylum seekers are two horror stories to have slipped out of mind. This is symbolised by the bland 'Kevin 07' slogan that betrays even the tee shirt’s street cred.

After failing to take up the running on human rights, the Rudd campaign now finds its core constituency – the labour movement – to be under siege. In the election’s early exchange of fire – specifically the Liberal Party attack ads – we see a retro fitting of what it is to be an Australian. Here, Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey’s backyard blitz on unionism has sought to reconstruct the image of the ‘good citizen’.

Central to this is of course the Government’s TV ad alleging that 70% of ALP frontbenchers are tainted as 'anti-business union officials'. The ad in effect criminalises these Labor Party faces to make them appear like mug shots in a most wanted poster.

At this point, it might be useful to re-examine the whole basis of what we understand as human rights.

As human rights lawyer Costas Douzinas argues, the real beneficiaries of those rights – the natural rights of man – in practice belong to the elites in society.

According to Costas, we could write the history of human rights as an ongoing struggle to close the gap between an abstract humanity with its natural rights and the real subjects of the struggle for equal rights and justice. We know that the gap can never be closed. The horizon of humanity moves further away.

As Costas tells us, 'the alien, the foreigner, the refugee, is precisely the gap between man and citizen.'

In the West, human rights have progressed by stages to the fringes of society. Groups once seen as marginal or even outcast eventually see their influence appear in the mainstream. This is above all a political process. Tolerance is not given – it must be won. However, any such progress, as we now realise, might also be reversible.

This leads us to the paradox of human rights. As the cause of equal rights (and the demand for justice) has marched onwards, adding more banners to the parade, our society has made no further progress with universal human rights. This paradox thus forever excludes the refugee, Indigenous cultures, the homeless and others denied by their powerlessness. At the same time, we cannot guarantee existing civil rights if Ministers such as Joe Hockey now seek to exclude people based on their membership of trade unions.

The erosion of civil liberties in the name of the ‘war on terror’ has dissolved national borders. Everywhere we see how identification of ‘the enemy’ exploits a similar language and fear. In this respect, Douzinas’ description of how global power denies the legitimacy of political opposition in the Third World is also relevant to our own modern times.

As Costas describes:

The action taken against those resisting the economic and political framework of the new order takes the form of a police operation which aims to prevent, deter and punish criminals rather than political opponents. [1]

We also find this tactic put to use in the election. The Liberal Party attack ad treats the ALP frontbench like criminals. Here, the Labor mug shots resemble a police most wanted poster. The result is to erase their legitimacy. It is to suggest a criminality unfit to govern.

Interviewed on ABC Radio’s AM, Joe Hockey said that the role of unions in Australian society is 'essentially over'. Nonetheless, union control, he says, would be enough to ensure that team Rudd would have no interest in areas such as independent schools, private health insurance, or small business. Nor, he says, would they be capable of national leadership. In making such claims, Ministers such as Hockey and Costello have a broader target in mind. They condemn not only the ALP front bench, but anyone of union background who wishes to take a front seat in his or her chosen field.

However, as ABC TV’s Insiders was able to prove, many of the Labor figures ‘shamed’ in the attack ad were in fact no more than union members. They had never held official union positions.

Led by the big stick wielding Hockey, the Government buys media time for no other purpose than to smear not only the Opposition front bench, but by implication, all those who would fail a citizen’s test of pro-business zealotry. The result goes further than damage ALP reputations. We now feel less secure about human rights seemingly fought for and won. Prospects grow dimmer for asylum seekers whose battles lie ahead. Observing this Federal Election, they must see every sign that the cause of human rights is capable of going backwards as much as forward.

Joe Hockey introduces the concept that there is a hierarchy of citizenship. In a pluralist society many and diverse groups have fought for and won equal rights and thereby enjoy a share of power. However, it seems that in Joe Hockey’s reality, some groups are more equal than others. He makes a distinction between legitimate power (pro business) and illegitimate power (as he sees it, the ‘anti-business’ unions). There is a danger in creating two categories of citizenship. Under a culture of fear, moral panic or what may ultimately become a state of emergency, ’illegitimate’ groups might too easily be excluded or denied their rights.

Suddenly we find that our standing on human rights is on shifting sand. This gives us pause to think, might not the concept of human rights itself be illusionary? If we cannot be sure of existing freedoms, how can we even begin to think in terms of universal human rights?

This attack on unions is a warning sign. Even if the rights of the worker appear to have been long since won by the labour movement, it now seems that such victories are under threat. Despite this, there is little appetite in this election to defend civil rights beyond the WorkChoices laws. The Rudd team has not yet taken up this wider debate, preferring to duck for cover and be defensive about its own credentials.

Caution would be the kernel of a Prime Minister Rudd. It would be both strength and weakness. Meritocracy has defined Australian society since the 1970’s; and today Kevin Rudd emerges as its most successful product [2]. Yet here, we find the familiar paradox of human rights. As we have argued, the story of human rights is one of struggle to close the gap between our abstract idea of human rights and the actual fight of others to attain it.

The legions of policy wonks in the Rudd mould recognise power and status once attained. To borrow a phrase from journalist Paul Kelly, they believe in 'the escalator of success'. They have no time for the non-citizen or refugee caught in ‘the gap’. There is no place for networks, solidarity or tribalism. In their pragmatism, they are unable to warm to universal human rights. In Rudd’s case, his populism and social conservatism may also shun the worldview. In order to show great leadership he will need to rise above the limitation of who he is and how he came to be.

It is time not only for a change in the face of the body politic. We need to discover the spirit of reconciliation that sees progress as more than an upward curve of relentless consumerism. We must not forget that those excluded from power and hope of well-being still see the upward curve as one of struggle. If we ignore this call, one day the worm will turn, but not in the trivial way that Ray Martin perceives injustice.

The smallest worm will turn, being trodden on,
And doves will peck in safeguard of their brood.

- William Shakespeare (Henry VI, Part 3)



[1] Costas Douzinas, 'The End of Human Rights', Humanities Research Centre seminar, Australian National University, 10 April 2006. An mp3 audio file is available here.

[2] 'Rudd – What kind of leader is he?', Saturday Extra, ABC Radio National, 27 October 2007. Audio available here. See also: Paul Kelly, 'Smart Casual Kevin', The Weekend Australian Magazine, October 27-28 2007.


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AWA'S are all about getting rid of unions.

A leading conservative economist and labour market reformer has described the federal government's AWAs as "dead".

News Limited newspapers report Mark Wooden, from the Melbourne Institute, said the government's fairness test on AWAs has prevented employers cutting labour costs.

Mr Wooden is one of a number of prominent economists who have challenged Prime Minister John Howard's claim that Labor wants to return the workforce to a centralised system.

"The advantage of AWAs evaporated with the fairness test," Mr Wooden told the newspaper.

"AWAs are dead - he (the PM) can say what he likes. You'll still get companies like Rio Tinto going for AWAs, but that will be for reasons other than cutting labour costs. They're using them to get rid of unions."

At last the truth: AWAs will not cut labour costs they are all about getting rid of unions. Even the conservatives now agree that AWAs are finished and a fatal mistake of the Howard government. 

Are We Recognising Fascism at Last?

 Besides this excellent article by Stephen Smith, I noticed another today with similar import in The Age.

 Erosion of liberty a missing issue of this election

 This is an encapsulation of some of the crimes and denial of human rights committed by the Howard "New Order".

 But with respect to the Editor of The Age, some of us in Webdiary and indeed even in the Canberra Times, have been pointing this out for about 4 years.

 After so many posts of lack of Duty of Care; breaches of Maritime Law; denial of freedom of the press; skewing the FOI policy; passing legislation that prohibits Public Servants from testifying in Court; David Hicks; the Bali nine; Cornelia Rau; concentration camps; the SIEV X 353 allowed to drown; unbridled racism; Anti-terrorism laws; Military right to shoot to kill our civilians; ASIO powers; Crimes against Humanity; and complete controlled information along with many others.

 Usually under the guise of "National Security".

 Considering Howard's most loyal "jackboot" head kickers Tony Abbott and woman hater Bill Heffernan, I suggest the following from Alison Broinowski's A Fascist Australia.

5.  Rampant Sexism. 

The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated.  Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid.  Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy. 

6.  Controlled Mass Media. 

Sometimes the media are directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media are indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives.  Censorship, especially in war time, is very common. 

 7.  Obsession with National Security. 

National security as national interest: use of fear and 'the national interest' to induce consent. 

 Surely the outstanding "New Order" belief in the ultimate power of fascism shows in everything they do - except in an election.

 Unfortunately, some of their most heinous crimes against humanity may not even cost them one vote. 

 The "Tampa" and "babies overboard" should be just a reminder of the apathy of a large proportion of our countrymen and Women.  Howard won that election on the most evil and dishonest policy ever in Australia's history.

 And he did it again in 2004 and he is "getting on with that job".

 Let's keep our eyes on WorkChoices; Climate Change; Education for all; Health for all; Universal Medicare; Human Rights - even for those who have been in a Union.  Fair dinkum.


So Joe Hockey might resign? Let's all help him.

This person is one of the most boastful of Howard’s "New Order".

Does anyone remember Howard contradicting him three times in the one day? I honestly can't remember the other two but, one was that Howard had a wonderful idea to sell the Snowy River.

Within an hour, Howard had withdrawn his intention.

Then there was the Former Australian Attorney-General - Corporations Law Agreement which was a typical trap for State co-operation and orchestrated by the disgraced former Liberal Attorney Darryl Williams and Joe Hockey, Minister for Financial services and Regulation.

I quote just one clause:

To address the States' concerns that the Commonwealth might use the referred powers to assume greater control of workplace relations, it was agreed that the Corporations Agreement will specifically exclude the use of the referred power for the purpose of regulating industrial relations. In addition, the objects clause in the State referral legislation will include a provision to the effect that the referred powers are not to be used for this purpose. This will not prevent the inclusion of provisions in the Corporations legislation necessary for corporate and securities regulation.

On 16 May last, Minister Hockey was interviewed by Tony Jones on ABC Lateline.Hockey discusses industrial relations reforms.

Tony Jones: Let's go to some facts. On April the 15th, Sunday April the 15th, you were asked, 'Do you rule out further changes to the IR system ‘Your answer in part was, 'We're not for turning on the fundamentals of these laws'. A few day later you are sitting with the Prime Minister working out a fundamental change to those laws. Now what change in those few days between when you said that on the Sunday program and when you and the Prime Minister are sitting down, presumably with advisers, working out how to change you IR reforms?

Joe Hockey: Well, obviously, I had discussions with Cabinet colleagues. I had discussions with the Prime Minister. Most significantly, we had discussions with people in the business community. We had discussion, even more significantly, with workers.

Are you really fair dinkum Joe? The "New Order had "discussions" with workers as "significantly" as with the "business community"? How did you do that when there are NO organised worker's unions in your WorkChoices?

Tony Jones: And in about a period of three or four days?

Agreeing to the figure of 350,000 on AWAs. Mr. Hockey stated that the "fairness" test came in March 2006.

Tony Jones: So your estimate at the time you brought in the fairness test is there about 350,000 people now find themselves in a different tier from the 650,000 that you expect to join up between now and the election? ....But just explain, how many people on AWAs, up until you made your change, do not get access to the fairness test?

Joe Hockey: Oh well, the 350,000.

Tony Jones: The point is those people do not get access to the fairness test. So you created a system, have you not, that has two tiers - two classes of workers - those who get access to the fairness test under AWAs and those who do not?

Does anyone really believe Joe Hockey - on anything?

Let's keep our eyes on the real WorkChoices.


dreams and realities, may they merge without illegal drugs :)

Since we are in election language mode, Margo, I will have you know it is the joining of the SLIM green line.

Human rights, I recently read ,were a thing of the last epoch, one of the last values held from Renaissance / Enlightenment times. Now with receding resources, bottom and hairlines among the majority with the money there is an aim to make the new epoch that signified by taking what one wants if one can and the rise of fundamentalism of all kinds to justify it…

Personally I think those methods have long been practised anyway. I think we have a philosophical battle at hand in the "west". I suspect it is the same battle as has been fought for eons. Who will win the hearts and minds of the non-Diebold voting monied nations?

Slim Green lines are an excellent start. Uplifting for the spirit when one fights for the light side eh?

Human rights (fully), open accountable government, compassionate treatment of the vulnerable, and an environment one can feel proud to hand on to the next generation. What more could one dream of?


Remember the past and think new for the future.

A significant part of John Howard's political mantra is the need to divide the public so as to avoid any organised resistance.

While he copies Kevin Rudd in saying he too will have the buck stop with him, I cannot remember him ever taking the blame for anything.

But, it goes a lot further than even that.  It goes to the heart of his style of the Have and Have nots governing in every way.

His Corporation bosses demand of him a return for their financial support over all of these 11 years and, as a result, he introduces an unmandated WorkChoices and claims it is to save small businesses of less than 10 employees.  Then follows it by including businesses with less than 100!  Some small business!!!

His removal of his "Dreaded" Unfair Dismissal laws will, according to him, cover all employees throughout the country should he be re-elected. Disenfranchising the majority of Australians in the middle to lower class of workers. Removal of basic protection and security.

He spares nothing on his family trips all over the globe to posture his worldly status. Nor does he scrimp on his Ministers when they have their posh overseas jaunts.  Like Jackie Kelly's taxpayer funded trip to Paris -  AFTER she has retired.  Fair dinkum. 

He removes Gough Whitlam's University education for all by forcing fees of a nature that are far beyond the ability of the majority of working families to meet.  So tertiary education becomes only for the elite who can afford it.  Currently it is reported that the prize courses like Doctors, would cost in excess of $200,000. 

But the paupers can borrow from Howard at 6% and pay it off for the rest of their working lives. 

He divides the funding for Private and Public schools so that the per capita amounts to more for the Private than for the Public.  He obligates the Public schools to perform, conform and reform or lose their funding.  Yet there are no qualifications on the Private Schools at all.

He divides the benefits of Medicare so that the wealthy have a bigger return of the funds than the have nots.  Costello excuses that by saying that the rich "pay more taxes".  The opposite view would be that the funds are more needed by the needy.

The 30% rebate in Private Health was immediately absorbed into the Private Companies pockets but, that only made the costs even further away from the poor.

He had his mean and tricky nature exposed again when he defended Brendan Nelson for losing Private Kovco's body by using a cheap third world mortuary in Kuwait - Nelson regretted his blunder, but did not aplogise - naturally, he is protected by Howard's unaccountability for his robots.

His recent offer of money to the aged pensioners is another act so contrary to his politics that you wonder why he is actively obliging (his choice) disabled pensioners to go back into the workforce. After all "any job is better than none" for Australians!  And of course the "Aspirational Prime Minister" implied not so long ago, that we should all "work till we drop". 

Why - when they say we are so prosperous and there is a "tight" labour market?

The crimes of the Howard "New Order" could indeed, fill a standard book - it is a perfect example of "the moving target" - create such a multitude of crimes and unbelievable errors that the traps are lost in the forest. Which do you, or you, or you, care about?

Nothing sincere or solid, just straight out obfuscation.

But we have just one chance to stop the continued removal of our human rights - don't vote for any Liberal or their country cousins the Nationalists.

As a proud member of the Australian Labor Party I would naturally favour them in government if only because they are the only viable alternative left.

Bob Brown has a very good point. If the swingers want double value for their vote they could vote one Greens and preference Labor.

But, there is still the Senate.  Never before has the Senate been so important.

Governments of both major parties have loudly voiced their opposition to the House of Review.  When the true Liberals under Malcolm Fraser had that power, I cannot remember them ever abusing it - I may be wrong, but I never thought it was a major issue then.

As soon as Howard was given that power he immediately abused it and used the services of extreme right conservatives like Family First and of course, Barnaby Joyce - of "I won't let them sell Telstra" fame.

In a nutshell, every vote for a return to democracy should not be a vote for the Liberal/Nationalist coalition.


The Future

Ern, you say "He spares nothing on his family trips all over the globe to posture his worldly status".

How long do you think it will be if Rudd wins the election, before he or some of ministers are off overseas on a taxpayers funded jaunt. Snouts in the trough is a Labor Party artform, they are so good at it.

How come the Unions are not marching in the streets about the the Privatising of the Sydney Ferries? I suppose they don't want to upset Kevin.

Human rights - dirty words

Stephen – great piece, and BTW I enjoyed meeting you at Margo’s Canberra launch.  Margo, thanks for the link, it’s a nice touch that the piece is jointly authored by the founder of the Australian Arabic Council and a member of the Australian Jewish Democratic Society. 

The first part of your article reminds me of a section of the speech Arundhati Roy gave when she won the Sydney Peach Prize (if C Parsons was still around he’d be frothing at the mouth with anticipation):

Today, it is not merely justice itself, but the idea of justice that is under attack. The assault on vulnerable, fragile sections of society is at once so complete, so cruel and so clever - all encompassing and yet specifically targeted, blatantly brutal and yet unbelievably insidious - that its sheer audacity has eroded our definition of justice. It has forced us to lower our sights, and curtail our expectations. Even among the well-intentioned, the expansive, magnificent concept of justice is gradually being substituted with the reduced, far more fragile discourse of 'human rights'.

If you think about it, this is an alarming shift of paradigm. The difference is that notions of equality, of parity have been pried loose and eased out of the equation. It's a process of attrition. Almost unconsciously, we begin to think of justice for the rich and human rights for the poor. Justice for the corporate world, human rights for its victims. Justice for Americans, human rights for Afghans and Iraqis. Justice for the Indian upper castes, human rights for Dalits and Adivasis (if that.) Justice for white Australians, human rights for Aboriginals and immigrants (most times, not even that.)

'Not even that'.  The Howard Government’s complete disregard for the human rights of asylum seekers – and yes, Labor’s complicity – is a low point we’ve yet to rise from.  They're simply non-people.  Child sacrificers.  Illegals

It’s now us and them.  You’re either with us or against us.  If you’re ‘the other’, forget it, buddy.  Australians weren’t outraged at DIMIA's treatment of Cornelia Rau; they were outraged that it happened to one of ‘us’ instead of to an illegal. 

And we're OK with torture, now.  You see, it's a different kind of war, this war on terror.  New rules.  All's fair. 

How did 19 men with box cutters make our Government junk most of what we we claimed to believe in when we fought against existential threats like the Japanese and the Nazis in World War II? 

One of the hallmarks of fascism is that the state is eveything, the individual is nothing.  All dissent is ruthlessly stamped out because nothing can undermine the state, however trivial.  It’s why Sophie Scholl was beheaded – for distributing pamphlets criticising Hitler.  Democratic states are supposed to accord a bit more weight to the individual and to concepts like free speech. 

Yet human rights, like unions, have somehow become dirty words.  We’re a signatory to various UN conventions on human rights, torture and the treatment of refugees but we no longer give a fig about them.  We barely even offer lip service anymore.  This country desperately needs a Bill of Rights but it’s not even on the radar.  We’re supposed to rely on that good ol’ Aussie sense of the fair go. 

The same fair go that now says I don’t have freedom of association. 

Keeping one's powder dry?

This is a terrific take on the disappearance of human rights from the election.  There are no end of issues that require clarification (the sinking of the SIEV X) or remediation (Tampa, indigenous rights). The list is potentially very long.

So, why so quiet on the human rights issues during the election campaign?   It is not merely media acquiescence. I think that there is a sense in which Labor understands that human rights issues in Australia are not election winners.  They are potential elections losers, in fact. The Hansonite vote that went to the Liberal party was wrenched out of a mainly Labor constituency.  Human rights do not appeal to this group, especially if it appears that someone may be getting something they are not.  Including justice!

The impact of Hansonism on Labor consciousness has been profound.  It has provided a type of cultural bulwark behind the neo-liberal economic policies that the ALP adopted with the Hawke-Keating period.  What I am trying to get at here is that the ALP, in opposition, could have campaigned hard on any and all of these human rights issues but chose not to; it could, for example, have been the centre of organised opposition to the Iraqi misadventure but lacked the courage and political commitment to anti-war values necessary to take that role on.

 And why? Neo-liberal economic policies are not merely economic.  They embody cultural values which are antithetical to community and solidarity; they emphasise the individual and set the limits to social engagement at the boundary of the family.  In other words, citizens are encouraged to be very private citizens indeed, concerned with the welfare of their family and their own advantage. 

Howard set the political agenda very cleverly by linking neo-liberal obsessions with private advantage to a nasty reconstruction of Australian identity which forged a new, less generous, less tolerant, more xenophobic nation.  

Issues of justice, therefore, do not feature prominently inside either the Liberal or Labor caucuses.  In the Howard years opposition, debate, and engagement were futile. We learnt that the hard way.  There is no point advancing rational arguments against ideologically driven zealots like Howard, Costello and Abbot. 

The issue, therefore, is how do we deal with a Rudd led ALP in office?  We have kept our powder dry for a long time under Howard.  Assuming an ALP victory, the next term in office will provide critically important opportunities to advance issues around human rights and justice. The NSW right-dominated ALP, however, a centre of old-fashioned DLP Catholicism  and neo-liberalism, will be unlikely to embrace any new social agendas in a hurry. Labor traditionally reneges on its political commitments: remember how wage restraint under the accord was meant to be compensated by  the social wage? We're still waiting!

Joe Hockey

After a couple of years contemplating  I still cannot fathom why Joe Hockey's  political commentary is held in high regards...

Howard's Union bashing is Fascist.

In the Privileges and responsibilities of Australian citizenship there are several privileges to which every citizen is entitled, and there is in particular for Howard's "New Order" to contemplate. 


The two privileges that immediately come to mind are: 


  • vote to help elect Australia's governments 
  • stand for Parliament

And the first listed in the reference site is: 


  • obey Australian laws.  

Why do we as a people who value human rights and the Westminster system of justice even allow Howard's mob to demand that any section of our community is not entitled to its privileges? 


Why is the Australian Labor Party defending the accusations that some or indeed all of their party - or front bench - or backbench - or whatever, happen to be unionists or officials?  Or Protestants, Catholics, Muslims,  Hindus, or Asians, Arabs, Afro-Asians or African? 


Where is Howard's legal or moral credibility for such a depraved abuse of power? 


In what sort of a country can a government exist that demands such a breach of basic human rights? 


Fascist of course - and fascist they are. 


Get your act together media - you want the Right to Know free of unnecessary censorship? Then apply your just reasons for that to what Howard is doing to more than a million of our citizens.  



Talking Mandarin

Margo, thanks for drawing my attention to the column in the Courier-Mail, by Joseph Wakim and Harold Zwier.

In this election, very few mentions of human rights have so far emerged. There was a speech by Malcolm Fraser criticising the Government’s pro-Bush foreign policy at the expense of human rights. ABC TV News ran a report on his speech but it did not seem to get much coverage elsewhere.

In their opinion piece, Wakim and Zwier throw down the challenge:

“Now is a good time for all politicians to firmly pledge that the incoming government will be guided by the principles of human rights in all the departments it administers.”

The Robert McClelland episode shows that Rudd is not only weak on tackling Howard’s human rights abuses, but he cannot even reaffirm his own party platform. As Wakim and Zwier point out: “Kevin Rudd demonstrated that human rights are all very well as long as they don't get in the way of politics.”

By his endless rounds of ‘me-too’ statements, backtracking and clarifying, Rudd is tying himself in verbal knots. It seems to get worse every time he touches on the topic of human rights.

Kevin. You are talking Mandarin mate!

Try instead a pitch to the electorate with a clear, direct statement of what you believe.

It's all an illusion

The universal declaration of human rights might have been co-authored by Doc Evatt, the refugee convention by Robert Menzies and all the other human rights instruments we have co-authored and ratified were agreed to and partly written by Australia - but they have never been incorporated in our domestic law as we promised the UN we would do.

I have confronted both ALP and Liberal on this to no avail. The High Court cannot address human rights until we have a bill of rights and while most states are doing their own there is no mention from the federal ALP.

I promised myself in 2001 that I would never vote ALP again and I remain true to that promise but still remain hopeful that the ALP will address other things.

Workchoices is one, to restore the right to negotiate collectively is very important for all workers.   In the health system they want to restore the money and services for all of us instead of just the rich, which is extremely important.

The environmental measures to date have been good, if not as good as wanted, although why the media is joining the fixation with the coal industry beats me.   Do they think we get another planet after we have stuffed this one completely?

Restoring balance in education for all is a human right worthy of an ALP and should be applauded, the closing of the centre on Nauru, the no more children in detention came about because of ALP pressure for 4 years while the government kept stonewalling.   I give bugger all credit to Moylan and co. because they sat silently by for 9 years while kids were being tortured.

Tony Abbott couldn't even bother to turn up to his own important debate on time today which just about sums up the contempt this government has today for all of us.    Howard did announce more doctor training places but that is not going to repair the damage Michael Wooldridge caused when he froze the places 10 years ago, it will take a decade to build up doctors and meanwhile we have been shut out of the world doctor market by the treatment of Dr Haneef.

By simply putting time and money into services needed by all of us instead of cherry picking a bit here and a bit there the ALP will do much better than the government has to date where the rich get very, very rich and the poor get very much poorer, no real pension rise for 14 years.    The sick and disabled not getting enough support, the lack of dental funding.

Rudd said very clearly of the Bali bombers, "let them rot in jail, I don't believe in the death penalty", and the media somehow managed to turn that into "I believe we should shoot the buggers tomorrow".   Bizarre isn't it?

Mick Keelty still defends his decision to turn in the Bali 9 because he claims it saved lives, but arresting them here could have saved the same lives without having 6 young people on death row while the drug lords walked away free and we sit and watch the poppies grow in Afghanistan.

Stephen, someone agrees with you!

Sol Salbe recommends this piece in the Courier-Mail yesterday: Politicians mum over rights.

Thank you so much for writing this piece, Stephen. There's still a few of us fighting for human rights. We've just got to keep fighting. It's all we can do. The how of it changes over time. Me, I voted Green for the first time in 2001, because the big party's position on refugees post-Tampa violated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the foundation document of the United Nations after the horros of WW11. Now I've joined the thin Green line.

Human Rights

To move the cause of justic forward I think the best way is getting individuals together.

The fragility of the legal strategy was shown by the anti-Mabo legislation.

This can be quite widespread if you get a big organisation to back it.  In Australia at the moment this probably means the churches.  They used this strategy with refugees in rural Australia with some success.

I don't find the human rights approach useful in seeking agreement or compromise.  Rights seem valuable as a way of asserting limits but as a way of negotiating.

The Dismissal Remains a Stain on Australia's politic.

I remember clearly that a government of Australia, twice elected within three years, was then removed by the overbearing power of the American CIA and the politic corruption of the Liberals.

Don't argue, Alan old mate - the facts are now public knowledge.

I understand that those who control the information, control the nation and in those disgraceful days, it was more obvious than ever.

The conspiracy to remove the Australian Government was orchestrated from the US and exploited by the CIA, the representive of which was even hosted by the Country (read National) Party's leader Doug Anthony.

It was, and still is, being excused by the claim that Gough Whitlam was corrupted; ye, Kerry Packer's father, Sir Frank Packer, was later forced to settle out of court for the lies he had broadcast against Gough, his wife, and Bob Hawke.

The abuse of the Senate majority in those days was sufficient to destroy an Australian government by refusing supply. Fair dinkum.

"Never ever" done in a democratic nation before.

To his disgrace, Malcolm Fraser was an integral part of that conspiracy. 

However I like to believe that he and the other Liberal political deceiver, Jeff Kennett, have seen the light and are now working for the benefit of the community, international and national.

Will a compassionate history forgive them, and the fascist Howardists or, will a realistic and egalitarian Australia use their abuse of the basic tenents of freedom and liberty as examples of how we could have been slaves of the 100 years of war?

The saddest words in the English language are "If only".


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