Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Age: It is time for Australia to set the refugees free

The Age Editorial December 28, 2015

Not since the Second World War has there been displacement of people on the scale that occurred in 2015; nor it seems, since that dark nadir of the 20th century, has there been such ugly division over how millions of people fleeing war and persecution might be helped.

They sailed in tiny rubber boats or wooden fishing vessels. They tramped through fields and along railway tracks, with children slung over their shoulders and old people leaning on canes. Some nations built wire fences and walls to keep them out. Some deployed armed forces, water cannon and dogs to deter them at border crossings.

Terrorism and civil wars have destabilised the governments of their nations, and always the wickedness of persecution rolls on. But instead of demonstrating compassion and care for the disadvantaged and dispossessed, political opportunists and fear-mongers have fomented wicked cynicism, racism and malice.

In Australia, our government continues to use the most despicable tactics to deter asylum seekers. For the past two years, this nation has turned back boats at sea, directing them to other countries. It has detained asylum seekers on naval vessels and handed them back to nations that persecute them for fleeing. Have we shown these people that this is a nation governed by wise and kindly people, or by political grandstanders pursuing their own interests?

The Age believes strongly, and we will say this until the policy ends, that the strategy of turning back boats carrying asylum seekers is ignoble. It demonstrates a paucity of imagination. It has been ruthlessly executed, without proper regard for the asylum claims of those people intercepted. And it has brought this nation into disrepute around the world.

The asylum seekers who arrive here have not broken the law. We will say it again: they are not "illegals". They have used the avenues allowed to anyone under international law – under the United Nations covenants to which Australia subscribes – to seek refuge from all forms of persecution.

It is time to call an amnesty, to end the imprisonment of people who came here seeking help and a better life. It is time to recognise that jailing people in detention facilities for years on end, denying them hope or any alternative, and treating them without compassion, is the most inhumane thing that we could do – short of shipping them back to the situation that they fear in their own countries.

No good can possibly be served by detaining people a day longer in camps in Third World nations. No good is served by denying refugees who are living in Australia the right to work. No good comes from demonising refugees, by ostracising them from the mainstream community.

Good will come by dissolving the oppressive, offshore prisons, by allowing the 827 people who have been detained for more than a year (436 for more than two years) to be let free and to be given a chance to make their way in this country.

The policy of locking up those who did arrive on Australian shores before late 2013, and detaining them on Nauru or Manus Island – where their options, if resettled, are extremely limited – defies common sense. It is costly, and it is a corruption of our vows to pursue humanitarian principles.

We call on the Turnbull government to allow all asylum seekers who are found to be refugees to join our community, on Australian soil. Give them the freedom to be productive members of our democracy, and show the world that we are made stronger by doing so, that we are a compassionate and free people, a resolute and confident nation that properly respects the full range of human rights.

Read more:

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

UK: National Health Service Singers – Defending 68 Years of Free Healthcare

Published on 15 Dec 2015
Please show you #LoveYourNHS by downloading the single NOW!!
http://www.nhsno1.com/download #NHS4XmasNo1 

Monday, December 14, 2015

GetUp – It's people vs big polluters

After 20 years of fraught negotiations, people like you around the world pushed our leaders to work together to tackle global warming. 

It's a phenomenal outcome. This is our chance to celebrate, reflect and ready ourselves for the real work to come.

It's a big step in the right direction. The world agreed to limit global warming to 2 degrees. And more importantly try for 1.5 degrees. It's bolder than almost anyone predicted.

On its own, it won't be enough. Australia's current policies won't get us anywhere near these targets. In fact, if every country sticks with their current domestic policies, we'll end up at somewhere between 3-4 degrees warming. An unmitigated disaster.

Forces are already at work to undermine the progress we've made. Without missing a beat, sceptics in the Liberal and National Parties are already doing everything they can to undermine the deal -- and they have the Murdoch press cheer squad on their side.

But worse still -- Environment Minister Greg Hunt and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop are using this historic agreement to back in the biggest polluters.

It's clear -- conservatives will do anything they can to undermine the Paris Climate Agreement -- and it's our job to stop them. 

We are at our most powerful during an election year, and one could be only months away. 

Can you volunteer to help change this election?

Friday, December 04, 2015

UK: Oldham – Labour Sweeps To Victory

Labour has comfortably won its first parliamentary byelection since Jeremy Corbyn became leader, storming ahead of Ukip by more than 10,000 votes in Oldham West and Royton in Greater Manchester.

Jim McMahon, the 35-year-old leader of Oldham council, will swap the town hall for Westminster after persuading 17,209 people to vote for him. Turnout was 40.26%, down from 59.6% at the general election in May, but not an embarrassment on a very rainy Thursday in December. McMahon increased Labour’s share of the vote to 62.27%, up 7.49%.

Live Corbyn: Jim McMahon's Oldham win is a 'vote of confidence' in Labour – live
Rolling coverage of reaction to Labour’s Jim McMahon winning the Oldham West and Royton byelection, with Jeremy Corbyn planning a visit to celebrate his victory

Ukip’s John Bickley, a Cheshire-based businessman, was runner-up, on 6,487. It was his fourth second place in Greater Manchester in less than two years, having lost out to Labour in byelections in Wythenshawe and Sale East in February 2014 and Heywood and Middleton in October 2015, failing again there in May’s general election.

The Conservatives were third on 2,596. The Liberal Democrats 1,024, the Greens 249.

In a statement McMahon said: “I am delighted to have been elected tonight. Michael Meacher was a close friend of mine and he was admired by people across the country as someone who worked tirelessly for the causes he believed in. I will do my best to live up to those high standards.

“My sole focus has always been on what is best for Oldham, I want to make our town a better place for my sons to grow up in and make it somewhere they can be proud of, my priority will always be Oldham.

“We also need to remember what is currently at stake under this Tory government. While everyone is looking the other way they are quietly pushing through cuts that will change the face of towns like Oldham.

“The sooner we kick the Tories out and get a Labour government back in the better for all of us. The hard work starts now.”

Widely expected to try to be the first elected mayor of Greater Manchester when elections take place in 2017, he surprised many by running in the byelection instead. “I’ve never been tempted to run for parliament before,” he said. “But it’s Oldham and I couldn’t not. There is so much I can do for this town in Westminster.”

Thursday, December 03, 2015

The Age Wednesday 10 January 1855 – Eureka Massacre

The Age Wednesday 10 January 1855 p. 5.

To the Editor of the Age.

Sir,—The late tragedy of blood at Ballarat has created a terrible sensation throughout the Australian colonies. I am not going beyond the truth in saying that in general there is but one feeling regarding the chief perpetrators of the deed, and that is of hatred and execration. The insult offered to the people of these colonies shall never be forgotten nor washed out, from their memories, and but for their strong love of peace and order, a most dire revenge would have been taken.

A more flagrant wrong, a more violent exercise of unlimited and irresponsible authority, a more daring piece of base injustice and absolute tyranny could not have been perpetrated than the recent whole- sale military and police butchery of the industrious citizens of Ballarat. Three years of misrule on the part of our rulers passed over without one act of violence by the people; again and again were strong incentives to a breach of the peace furnished them, but with a dignified forbearance and respect for authority and law worthy of them as good citizens, they replied to these, repeated acts, of provocative violence committed against their social, and personal liberties with a silence and sacrifice and good conduct which failed not to command respect in the breast of every honorable man.

Hundreds of miners on the various gold-fields, have been dragged from their work all over the diggings by the officers of the law to prison—because they have become debtors to the State—respectable men have been treated, over and over again in a manner disgraceful to any civilized Government. Our gold-fields' law administration has been the scene of the grossest corruption, the most wanton cruelty, often characterized by a malignity of purpose not to be misunderstood, a bold display of power unchecked, and of the most exasperating and insulting nature.

The victims have been made to tremble, and turn pale in the presence of their merciless judges, not a word allowed to be uttered in self-defence—even a look was sufficient to condtmn them, and send them to prison to be fed on bread and water with hard labor for a certain number of days, and if they dared to complain or make a noise; the gag was put in their mouths to stifle their cries. Men have looked on and wondered if they were in Russia, or within the regions of Satanic influence, or thougt it was all a dream—a fantasy. Scarcely a day has passed during the whole history of the Victorian gold-fields administration, but what could tell a tale of sorrow to many a digger's family.

Scores of industrious peaceable citizens have been treated as aliens and criminals, their feelings outraged—their religion cast in their faces—the place of their birth made a condem- nation against them. Vandemonian constables have been called in, and sworn to their identity as felons, where proof to the contrary existed. In fact, Mr Editor, it is impossible to give a true picture, the pen fails to do it, suffice it to say, that the residents on the Gold-fields have, for three long years submitted to a continual vio- lence scarcely credible by those, who are strangers to our circumstances and peculiar laws, and altogether foreign to the common usages of civilized society.

It is not to be wondered at that the boiler should , at length burst—that an explosion should take place. Amongst our mining popu- lation are high minded, intelligent; reflecting men, from all parts of the world. Many of these have had to submit to insult and degrada- tion—the victims of arbitrary power. As a natural consequence, their proud spirits, which were untainted with crime or dishonor, have been aroused into activity. The sleeping, but not dead, spirit of universal liberty, firmly im- planted by divine power in the soul of every man, has been awakened, and, therefore, the late agitations and the yet coming powerful organization of the oppress- ed and down-trodden people of the gold fields have sprung into living action—have become a startling and ominous reality—a problem which will exhaust the faculties and resources of our imbecile and blood-stained Government.

Sir Charles Hotham, with the advice of his Executive, has by his ill-judged and violent acts roused a spirit of open antagonism, to the present admininistration which I am pretty certain is not yet ended. Blood has been shed ; a number of Australians have been killed for defending a new faith, (politically speaking it is so). Repeated, incessant, imprudent acts of hostility on the part of the Government have driven them to adopt new ideas, and to give their, lives with enthusiasm on behalf of their new-born political creed.

The Eureka massacre will be handed down from father to son. This birth in blood of a new nation will hot, cannot die. Australia must pass through the fiery ordeal. Australia must have martyrs, but her progress onwards is certain. Those who have stained their souls with the blood of her sons will yet live to see my words a reality. The spirit of the age proclaims it, thousands of hearts throughout the boundaries of'Australia feel it, mourn it, and believe it, and all the power of thanes and despots shall not be able to stem the torrent of progress to such a consummation.

There, over those pallid bodies on which is stamped the finger of death, has the eternal vow been taken, neither persecutions nor revilings shall frighten or deter the followers of this new faith from going forward. The spirits of these dead men are with us ; it was beside their graves that the immortal vow was registered, and it will be from the monument to be erected over their sleeping bodies, that the great flag of human freedom shall float triumphantly over the ramparts of fallen despotism. Speak living history of the world ! Shall it not be so !

Mr. Editor, I have written this letter to assist the Commission of Enquiry in coming to a proper verdict. That body must have been well aware that so far as individual cases of complaint against officials were concerned, they would not get one half of the evidence. Man revolts against playing the part of an informer, but it was not because they could not have done so, but merely from an aversion to be informers. I have therefore written this letter to give publicity and expression to the system under which we have labored, so that all might rightly understand our position. I appeal to the people of the gold fields if I have not spoken the truth, and by their decision I will abide.

                                       I remain, Sir, yours most respectfully,
                                                                             AN AUSTRALIAN.
              Bendigo, 8th Jan., 1855.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Geelong Advertiser–The Eureka Massacre

Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer Wednesday 6 December 1854 p. 4.
[From a Correspondent.] 

To the Editor of the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer. 

I will not tell you of the occurrences from Thursday last, further than informing you that ------ was shot at for attempting from the troopers, two carbines were discharged at him, one bullet grazed his hand, and injured his fingers, the other struck him somewhere in the body, when -------- jumped in the air, uttered a shriek and fell, scrambled up again, and disappeared amongst the tents. I see in the paper this circumstance alluded to, and it is quite correct. Friday you know all about, I will pass that over, and give you a faint outline of what passed under my own eves. 

During Saturday, there was a great deal of gloom, among the most orderly, who, complained much at the parade of soldiery, and the same cause excited a great deal of exaspiration in the minds of more enthu- siastic persons, who declared that all parties ought to show themselves, and declare whe- ther they were for, or against the diggers. 

Then came a notice from the Camp, that all lights were to be extinguished after eight o'clock, within half a mile from the Camp. At this time it was reported that there two thousand organised men at the Eureka barricade. I was sitting in my tent, and several neighbours dropped in to talk over affairs, and we sat down to tea, when a musket was heard to go off and the bullet whizzed closed by us, I douced the light, and we crept out on our hands and knees, and looked about Between the Camp and the Barricade there was a fire we had not seen before, and occsionlly lights appeared to be hoisted, like signals, which attracted the attention of a good many, some of whom said that they new other lights like return signals. It grew late, I and R------ lay down in our clothes, according to our practice for a week past, and warn out with perpetual alarms, excitement and fatigue, fall fast asleep. 

I didn't wake up till 6 o'clock on Sunday morning. The first thing that I saw was a number of diggers enclosed in a sort of hollow square, many of them were wounded, the blood dripping from them as they walked, some were walking lame, pricked on by the bayonets of the sol- diers bringing up the rear. The soldiers were much excited, and the troopers madly so, flourishing their swords and shouting out, " We have waked up Joe ! and others replied, "and sent Joe to sleep again." The diggers standard was carried by in triumph to the Camp, waved about in the air, then pitched from one to another, thrown down, and trampled on. 

The scene was awful—two and threes gathered together, and all felt stupified—I went with R-----to the barricade, the tents all around were in a blaze; I was about to go inside when a cry was raised that the troopers were coming again. They did come with carts to take away the bodies—I counted fifteen dead, one of them was C------ , a fine well educated man, and a great favorite; I recognised two others, but the spectacle was so ghastly that I felt a loathing at the remembrance. They all lay in a small space with their faces upwards, looking like lead ; several of them were still heaving, and at every rise of their breasts, the blood spouted out of their wounds, or just bubbled out and trickled away. One man, a stout chested fine fellow, apparently about forty years old lay with a pike beside him, he had three contusions in the head, three strokes across the brow, a bayonet wound in the throat under the ear, and other wounds in the body—I counted fifteen wounds in that single carcase. Some were bringing handkerchiefs, others bed furniture, and matting to cover up the faces of the dead. 

O ! God, Sir, it was a sight for a sabbath morn that I humbly implore Heaven may never be seen again.—Poor women crying for absent husbands, and children frightened into quietness. I, Sir, wright disinterestedly, but I hope my feelings rose from a true principle, and when I looked at that scene, my soul revolted at such means being so cruelly used by a Government to sustain the law. A little terrier sat on the breast of the man I spoke of and kept up a continuous howl, it was removed but always returned again to the same spot, and when his master's body was huddled with the other corpses into the cart, the little dog jumped in after him, and lying again on his dead master's breast began howling again. ------ was dead there also, and ------- , who escaped said that he was shot in the side by a trooper, when he offered his sword, as he was lying on the ground wounded, he expired directly ; another was lying dead just inside the barricade where he seemed to have crawled. Some of the bodies may have been removed I counted fifteen. 

A poor woman and her children were standing outside a tent, she said that the troopers had surrounded the tent and pierced it with their swords. She, her husband, and children were ordered out by the troopers, and were inspected in their night clothes outside, whilst the troopers searched the tent. Mr Haslam was roused from sleep by a volley of bullets fired through his tent, he rushed out, and was shot down by a trooper, and handcuffed. He lay there for two hours bleeding from a wound in his breast until his friends sent for a blacksmith who forced off the handcuffs with a hammer and cold chisel. 

When I last heard of Mr. Haslam a surgeon was attending him, and probing for the ball. R----- from Canada escaped the carnage, but is dead since from the wounds. R------ has affected his escape. V------- is reported to be amongst the wounded. One man by the road was seen yesterday trailing along, he said he could not last much longer, and his brother was shot alongside of him. All I spoke to, were of one opinion, that it was a cowardly massacre. 

There were only about a hundred and seventy diggers, and they were opposed to nearly six hundred military. I hope all is over, but fear not, for amongst many, the feeling is not of intimidation, but a cry cry for vengeance, and an opportunity to meet the soldiers with equal numbers. There is an awful list of casualties yet to come in, and when uncertainty is made certain, and relatives and friends know the worst, there will be gaps that cannot be filled up. I have little knowledge of the gold fields but I fear that the massacre at Eureka is only a skirmish. 

I bid farewell to the Gold Fields, and if what I have seen is a specimen of the government of Victoria the sooner I am out of it the better for myself and family. Sir, I am horrified at what I witnessed, and I did not see the worst of it. I could not breathe the blood tainted air of the diggings, and I have left them for ever. You may rely upon this simple statement, and submit it if you approve of it to your readers.