Saturday, June 27, 2009

Open letter to members of Australia's Parliament from Iranian human rights activist, Ardeshir Gholipour

Dear Member of the Parliament of Australia ,

You will have heard of the flagrant human rights abuses occurring on the streets of Iran. The government of coup d'etat sees in arbitrary detention, torture, beating and killing of defenseless people its sole means of survival. It is clear its baneful existence will not last. Among the detained are many journalists, intellectuals, union leaders, student activists, and elderly politicians, some with serious medical conditions. Also, hundreds of people have been arrested, some severely beaten. Students were thrown out of the windows of their dorms. They were forced to crawl in broken glass. Buttons were pressed into their eyeballs. Can such atrocities be borne in silence? Should we not make it clear that the civilized world will not tolerate such barbaric violation of the most basic rights of a human person? Should not the voice of Neda Agha Soltani, the beautiful student of philosophy whose chest was pierced with the bullets of evildoers, resound in every ear? Her 'Neda', her voice cries: Freedom!

I therefore write to you to ask for your support for the innocent people of Iran. The Iran expert, Jason Rezaian, who has just returned from Iran says what really weighs heavily on people’s hearts is that they think they are alone in their truly heroic struggle. He says that when he told a number of the protesters he met in the street that the whole world was standing with them against tyranny, they broke down crying.

The government of Ahmadinejad is illegitimate. Australia must expel its ambassador from Canberra. In our opinion, this is the most appropriate course of action. It signals to the Iranian people that Australia is with them in their legitimate demand that their choice and vote be respected. A democratic country cannot be indifferent to the flagrant violation of the most fundamental institution of democracy. The expulsion will also be welcomed by the future government of Iran. There are already clear signs that the erstwhile fellow travellers of Ahmadinejad are abandoning him. Thus, the expulsion makes good political and moral sense.

Ardeshir Gholipour
PO Box 573
Civic Square
ACT 2608
Ph: (0427) 339 761

Please address all email to:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Human Rights in Australia - Asylum seeker procedures changed but mandatory detention retained

While 'utegate' spectacularly morphed into 'fakegate', leaving 'truffles' looking like a conniving spiv prepared to enter into any kind of 'faustian' deal with anyone who could bring him closer to the glittering prize, important changes to asylum seeker procedures went through the lower house today.

The Canberra Times reports, "The cracks in Coalition unity have spread, with Liberal backbenchers Petro Georgiou and Judi Moylan both arguing for a Government Bill that will abolish charges levied on asylum-seekers held in detention.

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull and Coalition immigration spokeswoman Sharman Stone both argued against the Bill in Tuesday's joint party room meeting.

But Mr Georgiou and Ms Moylan, who have both criticised the party in the past for their approach to asylum-seekers, have supported the Bill, while fellow moderate Russell Broadbent could also support it."

The Government has been quietly getting on with reform to several key areas that impact on human rights, not least, of course, putting in the hard yards to keep Australia the best performing economy in the developed world. This has reduced the harm to vulnerable groups that would have ensued from a major economic meltdown.

They have been attacked relentlessly over deficit financing of human capital investment and essential infrastructure by one of the least impressive Oppositions. The Coalition has hurried to the status of champion bottom feeders and have lowered the tone of our political culture substantially. After Howard's lost decade I would have thought the Opposition needed to claw back some of the middle ground of the body politic, but it seems the radical reactionary agenda continues unabated.

It is interesting that the Coalition faces a similar problem to the GOP in the US - their appeal to a narrow demographic base through extreme right-wing agendas has left them largely irrelevant to the new paradigm emerging in the wake of the GFC.

The Coalition's response to asylum seekers is a case in point. The dishonest dissembling and nasty posturing of the Howard years does'nt wash any more, and as we discover the extent of lost reform and productivity opportunities in a time of a revenue bonanza, Australians with compassion and wit will look back in anger and regret at the human rights malaise we endured.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

OBITUARY - REG THOMSON (2 June 2009, Aged 89)

Reg was born in the Victorian goldfields in 1919. He left school at thirteen to work in a series of jobs in rural Victoria; joined the YMCA and enlisted in the Australian Army in 1941. He served in several theatres of war, including on the Bulldog Road in New Guinea and at Balikpapan in Borneo.

Following his demobilization Reg gained admission to the University of Adelaide under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Scheme. On completion of a Diploma in Social Science he joined the colonial administration in PNG as a junior education officer. In preparation for his colonial service in early 1949 he was admitted to the ASOPA in Sydney. His association with the school lasted for 24 years, both as a student and later as a sometime lecturer.

From the late 1950s until 1973, Reg was chief of the Division of Social Development and Director of Child Welfare within the Papua New Guinea government. This was a time of rapid social and political change, and his responsibilities were many and varied. Specialized offices in his division included child welfare, urban resettlement, training, youth work and women’s activities. His community development officers were based in all districts. Their duties included community development projects and community education including health promotion and political education. Referrals under child welfare and adoption legislation brought them into close contact with courts and legal aid agencies. They worked with government and non government agencies in many activities including case work and counseling, migration referrals, grants in aid, pensions and sports development and the licensing and inspection of child care centres.

Prior to Reg’s arrival there were few written guidelines in many of the areas mentioned above. Child welfare and adoption legislation were relatively new. Reg and his staff produced a wide range of publications which provided a “road map” through unfamiliar territory.

Through the activities and programs and in many other ways, Reg helped build up a number of agencies which became part of a modern social welfare system for PNG. His staff remembers him with respect and affection. And he has been honored by the PNG government for his outstanding contribution.

At the age of 89, Reg recently published his memoir, Looking for a Good Book. Early in his life Reg became an avid book collector. His book is a ‘tale of a gentle madness’, the story of a book collector thrown hither and thither by tumultuous events beyond his control.

Reg is survived by his son Mark, and daughter Julie.

Mark Thomson/Graeme Parry