Political Polemics - Part 1
Political Polemics - Part 2
Political Polemics - Part 3
Political Polemics - Part 5
1) Anti-terrorism legislation
2) Workplace Relations legislation
3) Suicide and euthanasia legislation
4) (a) Gay Marriage Overseas Consular Instructions
---(b) Gay marriage in Australia
6) Identity Cards
7) Concentration Camps
8) RU486 and Abortion
The latest infringement of our rights as citizens of Australia has come from the Federal government in the form of the new “Criminal Code Amendment (Suicide Related Material Offences) Act, which became law on 6 January 2006.
According to Marshall Perron, who was chief minister of the Northern Territory, leading a Country Liberal Party government, between 1988 and 1995, and whose “Rights of the Terminally Ill Act was overturned in 1997 by the private member’s bill introduced by Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews, Australia has gone backward in this area.
During the period 1985 to 1998 many people in Australia had watched friends, relatives, lovers with AIDS and AIDS-related diseases suffer unbelievably from some of these, due to the nature of the illnesses they caused. Some of the people with these distressing and painful illnesses decided they could not go through what they had seen other people suffering and decided to end their days by euthanasia. There was not a great deal of pain management available for many of these conditions, some of which, like cytomegalovirus, caused blindness in addition to other painful diseases, and, with limited financial resources and also limited availability of care, both in hospitals and at home, it was easier to commit suicide.
There may be some statistics available of the numbers who suicided, although this is doubtful, but it has to be acknowledged that many of these suicides were assisted, by friends, partners, doctors, nurses and others who knew that the patients were going through unbearable suffering and wished to live no longer.
Fortunately, by the late 1990s, new drugs had come onto the market which, to a certain extent, has made HIV/AIDS manageable, so that many people were able to return to work and to live lives more or less normally, within the limitations of the side effects many of the drugs caused. So the suicide situation for people living with HIV/AIDS is no longer as it was in those earlier grim and unhappy times.
Back to 2006, where we have a federal government which is eroding the civil liberties of all its citizens as it increases controls over every aspect of our lives. How could one equate censorship with suicide? By passing legislation which determines that people may no longer talk about suicide, write about suicide, have any items about suicide on web sites, and will, according to Marshall Perron “prohibit free and open dialogue between Australian citizens in a fundamental way. It will make it a crime to use a telephone, fax, email or internet carriage service to discuss the practicalities of end-of-life options. Passed by the Federal Parliament in July (2005) with only the Greens and the Democrats voting against it, the law is a devastating blow to the rights of the terminally ill and to the many elderly people who support voluntary euthanasia.”
It should be noted by the federal government and all those working in the field of youth suicide, whose new law it seems is aimed at preventing young people from gaining access to any items discussing suicide, that the numbers of young males, even more than young females, committing, or attempting, suicide, are more often than not, young people from rural and regional areas where help is not available and where the issue is very often a depth of despair about the person’s developing sexuality awareness.
Rather than addressing the problems, the government thinks it can legislate the suicides out of the public’s consciousness. This will only exacerbate an already criminal situation in which governments around Australia all share the blame in allowing this horrendous situation to continue without attempting to remedy it.
We now have sedition laws which means that we can be arrested for criticising the government. If the government carries out its threats on this basis it is going to have very full prisons if people agree to go to jail rather than recant their “sins”!
Police state is on its way, Howard has shown himself unwilling to accept any challenge to his ways of thinking, and he is showing marked signs of megalomania. This is dangerous for us all, because when it is time for the next election in 2007, some situation can be manufactured which will ensure that the government, through the governor general, can declare a state of emergency and state we are under threat of terrorism and need to “protect our country”. The biggest threat to our democracy comes, not so much from the Howard control as from the fact that there is no opposition in Australia. Howard has been lucky to have a compliant branch of his party called the Alternative Liberal Party (ALP) which supports everything he has done – children overboard, Tampa, asylum seekers, sedition laws – the list is endless – and now includes censorship of discussions about suicide and everything else.
The following article appeared in The Age newspaper on 4 July 2006:
The Commonwealth is heading for a showdown with South Australia over plans to introduce a voluntary euthanasia bill before the end of the year.
A decade ago, the Federal Government overturned Northern Territory legislation allowing euthanasia. But Canberra does not have the same power over states as it does over territories, which means that if a bill goes through, it will stand.
After reports that an Adelaide woman had travelled to Switzerland to end her life, two members of the SA Parliament have signalled their intention to put up a voluntary euthanasia bill.
Labor backbencher Steph Key said that while it would be the sixth time such a bill had been introduced in SA in the past decade or so, she was hopeful that this time it would pass. Ms Key, who has just returned from a fact-finding mission to the Netherlands, and Independent MP Bob Such said they planned to introduce a euthanasia bill.
“I get the impression there is genuine support for voluntary euthanasia,” Ms Key said.
(ABC - Last Update: Friday, September 22, 2006. 3:22pm (AEST))
Euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke has compared Customs' seizure of his new book with the burning of literature in Germany during the Nazi era.
On Tuesday, 45 copies of The Peaceful Pill Handbook were seized at Brisbane airport. They will now be withheld, pending appeal.
Speaking at a conference in Sydney to mark 10 years since the overturning of Northern Territory's euthanasia laws, Dr Nitschke says the action goes to the heart of the right to free speech.
"The comment that was made was that it's an incitement to suicide, which, of course, we would argue against. There's no incitement in the book," he said.
"We've also been told that unless we take steps to legally appeal the decision, they will be destroyed in 21 days."
This article by Ian Black from the Guardian (UK) appeared in The Age Green Guide on 10 May 2007 - on an inside page!
Journalists have been very silent in Australia about what goes on with their fellow journalists around the world. What makes this situation even worse is that the journalist in question has been incarcerated in that US hell-hole Guantanamo Bay for as long as David Hicks.
Who is fighting for his release?
This article by Robert Fisk: Six years in Guantanamo was published in The Independent:Sami al-Haj, an Al Jazeera cameraman, was beaten, abused and humiliated in the name of the war on terror. He tells our correspondent about his struggle to rebuild a shattered life
Sami al-Haj walks with pain on his steel crutch; almost six years in the nightmare of Guantanamo have taken their toll on the Al Jazeera journalist and, now in the safety of a hotel in the small Norwegian town of Lillehammer, he is a figure of both dignity and shame. The Americans told him they were sorry when they eventually freed him this year – after the beatings he says he suffered, and the force-feeding, the humiliations and interrogations by British, American and Canadian intelligence officers – and now he hopes one day he'll be able to walk without his stick.
The TV cameraman, 38, was never charged with any crime, nor was he put on trial; his testimony makes it clear that he was held in three prisons for six-and-a-half years – repeatedly beaten and force-fed – not because he was a suspected "terrorist" but because he refused to become an American spy. From the moment Sami al-Haj arrived at Guantanamo, flown there from the brutal US prison camp at Kandahar, his captors demanded that he work for them. The cruelty visited upon him – constantly interrupted by American admissions of his innocence – seemed designed to turnal-Haj into a US intelligence "asset".
"We know you are innocent, you are here by mistake," he says he was told in more than 200 interrogations. "All they wanted was for me to be a spy for them. They said they would give me US citizenship, that my wife and child could live in America, that they would protect me. But I said: 'I will not do this – first of all because I'm a journalist and this is not my job and because I fear for myself and my family. In war, I can be wounded and I can die or survive. But if I work with you, al-Qa'ida will eliminate me. And if I don't work with you, you will kill me'."
The grotesque saga began for al-Haj on 15 December, 2001, when he was on his way from the Pakistani capital Islamabad to Kandahar in Afghanistan with Sadah al-Haq, a fellow correspondent from the Arab satellite TV channel, to cover the new regional government. At least 70 other journalists were on their way through the Pakistani border post at Chaman, but an officer stopped al-Haj. "He told me there was a paper from the Pakistani intelligence service for my arrest. My name was misspelled, my passport number was incorrect, it said I was born in 1964 – the right date is 1969. I said I had renewed my visa in Islamabad and asked why, if I was wanted, they had not arrested me there?"
Sami al-Haj speaks slowly and with care, each detail of his suffering and of others' suffering of equal importance to him. He still cannot believe that he is free, able to attend a conference in Norway, to return to his new job as news producer at Al Jazeera, to live once more with his Azeri wife Asma and their eight-year old son Mohamed; when Sami al-Haj disappeared down the black hole of America's secret prisons the boy was only 14 months' old.
Al-Haj's story has a familiar ring to anyone who has investigated the rendition of prisoners from Pakistan to US bases in Afghanistan and Guantanamo. His aircraft flew for an hour and a half and then landed to collect more captives – this may have been in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital – before flying on to the big American base at Bagram.
"We arrived in the early hours of the morning and they took the shackles off our feet and pushed us out of the plane. They hit me and pushed me down on the asphalt. We heard screams and dogs barking. I collapsed with my right leg under me, and I felt the ligaments tearing. When I fell, the soldiers started treading on me. First, they walked on my back, then – when they saw me looking at my leg – they started kicking my leg. One soldier shouted at me: 'Why did you come to fight Americans?' I had a number – I was No 35 and this is how they addressed me, as a number – and the first American shouted at me: 'You filmed Bin Laden.' I said I did not film Bin Laden but that I was a journalist. I again gave my name, my age, my nationality."
After 16 days at Bagram, another aircraft took him to the US base at Kandahar where on arrival the prisoners were again made to lie on the ground. "We were cursed – they said 'fuck your mother' – and again the Americans walked on our backs. Why? Why did they do this? I was taken to a tent and stripped and they pulled hairs out of my beard. They photographed the pupils of my eyes. A doctor found blood on my back and asked me why it was there. I asked him how he thought it was there?"
The same dreary round of interrogations recommenced – he was now "Prisoner No 448" – and yet again, al-Haj says he was told he was being held by mistake. "Then another man – he was in civilian clothes and I think he was from Egyptian intelligence – wanted to know who was the "leader" of the detainees who was with me. The Americans asked: 'Who is the most respected of the prisoners? Who killed [Ahmed Shah] Massoud ([the leader of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance Afghan militia]?' I said this was not my business and an American soldier said: 'Co-operate with us, and you will be released.' They meant I had to work for them. There was another man who spoke perfect English. I thought he was British. He was young, good-looking, about 35-years-old, no moustache, blond hair, very polite in a white shirt, no tie. He brought me chocolate – it was Kit Kat—and I was so hungry I could have eaten the wrapping."
On 13 June, al-Haj was put on board a jet aircraft. He was given yet another prison number – No 345 – and once more his head was covered with a black bag. He was forced to take two tablets before he was gagged and his bag replaced by goggles with the eye-pieces painted black. The flight to Guantanamo took 12 to 14 hours.
"They took us on a boat from the Guantanamo runways to the prison, a journey that took an hour." Al-Haj was escorted to a medical clinic and then at once to another interrogation. "They said they'd compared my answers with my original statement and one of them said: 'You are here by mistake. You will be released. You will be the first to be released.' They gave me a picture of my son, which had been taken from my wallet. They asked me if I needed anything. I asked for books. One said he had a copy of One Thousand and One Nights in Arabic. He copied it for me. During this interview, they asked me: 'Why did you talk to the British intelligence man so much in Kandahar?' I said I didn't know if he was from British intelligence. They said he was.
"Then after two months, two more British men came to see me. They said they were from UK intelligence. They wanted to know who I knew, who I'd met. I said I couldn't help them." The Americans later referred to one of them as "Martin" and they did not impress al-Haj's senior interrogator at Guantanamo, Stephen Rodriguez, who wanted again to seek al-Haj's help. "He said to me: 'Our job is to prevent "things" happening. I'll give you a chance to think about this. You can have US citizenship, your family will be looked after, you'll have a villa in the US, we'll look after your son's education, you'll have a bank account'. He had brought with him some Arabic magazines and told me I could read them. In those 10 minutes, I felt I had gone back to being a human being again. Then soldiers came to take me back to my cell – and the magazines were taken away."
By the summer of 2003, al-Haj was receiving other strange visitors. "Two Canadian intelligence officers came and they showed me lots of photos of people and wanted to know if I recognised them. I knew none of them."
In more than 200 interrogations, al-Haj was asked about his employers the Al Jazeera television channel in Qatar. In one session, he says another American said to him: "After you get out of here, al-Qa'ida will recruit you and we want to know who you meet. You could become an analyst, we can train you to store information, to sketch people. There is a link between Al Jazeera and al-Qa'ida. How much does al-Qa'ida pay Al Jazeera?"
"I said: 'I will not do this – first of all because I'm a journalist and this is not my job. Also because I fear for my life and my family.'"
Many beatings followed – not from the interrogators but from other US guards. "They would slam my head into the ground, cut off all my hair. They put me into the isolation block – we called it the 'November Block' – for two years. They made my life torture. I wanted to bring it to an end. There were continual punishments without reason. In interrogations, they would tighten the shackles so it hurt. They hadn't allowed me to receive letters for 10 months – even then, they erased words in them, even from my son. Again, Rodriguez demanded I work for the Americans."
In January of last year, Sami al-Haj started a hunger strike – and began the worst months of his imprisonment. "I wanted my rights in the civil courts. The US Supreme Court said I should have my rights. I wanted the right to worship properly. They let me go 30 days without food – then I was tied to a chair with metal shackles and they force-fed me. They would insert a tube through my nose into my stomach. They chose large tubes so that it hurt and sometimes it went into the lung. They used the same tube they had used on other prisoners with muck still on it and then they pumped more food into me than it was possible to absorb. They told us the people administering this were doctors – but they were torturers, not doctors. They forced 24 cans of food into us so we threw up and then gave us laxatives to defecate. My pancreas was affected and I had stomach problems. Then they would forbid us from drinking water."
Al-Haj says he completed 480 days of hunger strike by which time his medical condition had deteriorated and he was bleeding from his anus. That was the moment his interrogators decided to release him.
"There were new interrogators now, but they tried once more with me. 'Will you work with us?' they asked me again. I said 'no' again – but I thanked them for their years of hospitality and for giving me the chance to live among them as a journalist. I said this way I could get the truth to the outside world, that I was not in a hurry to get out because there were a lot more reporters' stories in there." They said: 'You think we did you a favour?' I said: 'You turned me from zero into a hero.' They said: 'We are 100 per cent sure that Bin Laden will be in touch with you...' That night, I was taken to the plane. The interrogators were watching me, hiding behind a tennis net. I waved at them, those four pairs of eyes."
The British authorities have never admitted talking to Sami al-Haj. Nor have the Canadians. Al Jazeera, whose headquarters George Bush wanted to bomb after the invasion of Iraq, kept a job open for Sami al-Haj. But Prisoner No 345 never received an official apology from the Americans. He says he does not expect one.
On behalf of the Bradley Manning Support Network, thank you for allowing us to send letters on your behalf in support of accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower Bradley Manning, "We stand for truth, for government transparency, and for an end to our tax-dollars funding endless occupation abroad... We ask that Pfc. Manning be released from pretrial confinement and the charges against him be dropped."
Courage to Resist volunteers mailed these letters to Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh and Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army General George W. Casey, Jr. today. This is a critical aspect of the international campaign to free Bradley.
Please encourage friends to also join this effort by signing the declaration online at www.standwithbrad.org. Or, we can send you petitions so that you can help gather signatures (like in the old pre-Internet days).
Also, please see the bulletin "Help end the inhumane treatment of Bradley Manning" enclosed. We're asking supporters to send letters to the Marine authorities who oversee the brig at Quantico, Virginia, where Bradley is held.
Underscoring the importance of our efforts, Congressman Mike Rogers—a member of the House Intelligence Committee—announced recently that Bradley should be put to death if convicted! Bradley's pretrial motions are already being fought out in the military justice system, but we don't expect the first pre-trial hearing until April-May (followed by the actual court martial during the fall).
On behalf of Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network,
"Soldiers sworn oath is to defend and support the Constitution. Bradley Manning has been defending and supporting our Constitution." —Dan Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers whistle-blowerApril 29, 2011
It's been quite a ride since we took up the defense of accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower Bradley Manning last July. Since then, we helped form the Bradley Manning Support Network, established a defense fund, and have raised about 75% of the total $170,000 in estimated legal expenses (that total recently increased due to the addition of the death penalty charge of "aiding the enemy").
Last week Bradley was transferred from the Marine brig at Quantico, Virginia to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. It seems clear that the military was finally forced to address the situation, but only after...
More than a half million people signed a statement decrying Bradley's treatment as a "violation of his constitutionally guaranteed human rights, and a chilling deterrent to other potential whistle-blowers committed to public integrity." Over 300 of America's top legal scholars called on the Obama Administration to end the torturous treatment at Quantico. The list of signatories includes Laurence Tribe, a Harvard professor who taught constitutional law to Barack Obama. Prof. Tribe was a key backer of his 2008 presidential campaign, and was most recently a legal adviser in the US Justice Department. And after we attended the President's fundraiser in San Francisco last week in order to sing him a protest song about Bradley. President Obama declared Bradley guilty of "breaking the law" on video while talking to our Internet coordinator Logan Price--clearly a violation of unlawful command influence, which alone should be a basis to free Bradley now.
We do not yet know if the transfer has in fact improved Bradley's conditions of confinement or not. Please check bradleymanning.org for the latest updates and featured articles. Now, I'm asking for your support of Courage to Resist so that we can continue to support not only Bradley, but the scores of other troops who are coming into conflict with military authorities due to reasons of conscience.
Iraq War over? Afghanistan occupation winding down? Not from what we see. For example, soldier Jeff Hanks continues to fight the Army for PTSD help, all the while being threatened with redeployment to Afghanistan. Jeff's situation is far from isolated.
Most of the folks who call us for help continue to be effected by Stoploss, a program that involuntarily extends enlistments (despite Army promises of its demise), or the Individual Ready Reserve which recalls thousands of former Soldiers and Marines quarterly from civilian life.
Additionally, we continue to assist Conscientious Objectors like Pfc. Colton Turner, "I was a little shocked that I didn't have anybody on my side and that I was basically being ignored," until he found help. "At this point, I know I'm a Conscientious Objector and I don't feel that I need the army's approval to say that."
Another example of our efforts is Kyle Wesolowski. After returning from Iraq, Kyle submitted an application for a conscientious objector discharge based on his Buddhist faith. Kyle explains, "My experience of physical threats, religious persecution, and general abuse seems to speak of a system that appears to be broken.... It appears that I have no other recourse but to now refuse all duties that prepare myself for war or aid in any way shape or form to other soldiers in conditioning them to go to war." We believe he shouldn't have to walk this path alone.Sincerely,
P.S. I'm asking that you consider a contribution of $50 or more, or possibly becoming a sustainer at $15 a month. Thanks again for your support!
You were recently elected to the parliament of New South Wales in what is considered a democratic election in Australia and the states and territories which are the parts of this country.
When you were elected, several other people were also elected under the same democratic process. People voted for the candidates of their choice and you were able to form government because those you represent obtained a majority in the new parliament.
You might like to bear in mind that there were also people elected who were not of your party and they have as legitimate a right to sit in that parliament as you have.
BARRY O'Farrell has signalled the end of Clover Moore's two-hat reign over Sydney, deeming it a "conflict of interest".
After Ms Moore, who is both an MP and Sydney Lord Mayor, was slammed yesterday for missing a week of parliament while on a council trip to Brazil and New York, Mr O'Farrell said "being an MP is a full time job".
Mr O'Farrell said Local Government Minister Don Page will be told to find a way to stop mayors also acting as MPs before the September council elections.
Mayors in other states, including Queensland, are banned from drawing two public pay packets.
Mr O'Farrell said about a third of an MP's work dealt with complaints about councils.
"If you're a constituent in the seat of Sydney and you've got a concern about your local council, who do you complain to?," he said.Start of sidebar. Skip to end of sidebar.
After Mr O'Farrell's attack, Ms Moore's press office circulated a three-page paper on her achievements. "Holding down two roles, as parliamentarian and lord mayor, puts me in a unique position to get things done," she claimed.
The attacks which you and your colleagues and the media have been waging against one of the members of the parliament are undemocratic and unconstitutional. The statements being made in these attacks are patently false and misleading and are done with the intention of totally discrediting one of the longest and hardest working members of the New South Wales parliament.
If it is the intention of your government to change the laws thus preventing people like Clover Moore from representing the people who voted for her at local government and state levels you are subverting the democratic process in the country and you will be remembered for these actions at the next election.
It is a known fact that most politicians treat their constituents with contempt, believing that the politician knows better than the people he/she is representing.
However, the evidence points to the fact that in the long run it is the politician who has underestimated the power of the electorate, and when voters are bombarded with spin and distortion, the voters remember at the next election.
New South Wales has been in a sorry state for many years and is now about to enter an even darker and sorrier state.
If you and your government have any integrity left, you will order an immediate cessation of attacks on Clover Moore by the government and the media you are so fond of supporting when it suits you but equally fond of condemning when they turn against you and personally attack you.
Gutter journalism is not the approach the premier of a state the size of New South Wales should indulge in – it will come back to bite you by the next election.
This will assuredly happen as you approach the next election which is only 3 years away.
I have been involved in politics in one way and another for at least 70 of my 84 years, of which at least 22 years were lived in the state of NSW. NSW voters are notoriously fickle as you may find to your cost as you set out to damage what little is left of integrity in the democratic processes in your state. If you want to make sure yours is a one-term government, you are helping the situation along with these unwarranted attacks. Have no other members of the NSW parliament been absent for a week at a time – or more – on affairs involving state - or other business - matters – all parties being equally involved?Mannie De Saxe, Lesbian and Gay Solidarity
You were recently elected to the Victorian parliament with what could not be termed an overwhelming parliamentary majority, either in the lower house or the upper house.
Your government is now trying to remove human rights from the citizens of this state which have been fought for over time and which have achieved success and relief for many people previously disadvantaged before human rights achieved the openness for which they have become so necessary.
It would appear that the attorney general of your government is determined to reintroduce discriminations which had been successfully removed and which will, by their reintroduction turn the Victorian clock of achievements back some 50 years to a time when so many people didn’t have rights which they now have.
It is worth bearing in mind that organisations which will be able to discriminate at will are those organisations which already have exemptions under the present legislation. This, of course means religious institutions which are also non-taxpayers to the society which houses them.
You and the attorney general should bear in mind the facts that you may not need the protections provided by the laws as you intend to change them, but one day when you are older and circumstances change, you may find yourselves lacking those very protections for which so many people have fought for so long.
It is also worth remembering that although people elected your government on the basis that they saw the previous government as out of touch and arrogant, it will probably not take much persuasion for people to notice that your government is acting no differently from the previous government and decide at the next election, only 3 years away, that they have had enough of the Baillieu government’s take on human rights in Victoria and will vote for change.
The gay, lesbian, transgender and HIV/AIDS (GLTH) communities are still discriminated against by religious institutions under current human rights legislation. This discrimination will now become much worse with the changes proposed by the attorney general. How you and your government will deal with this when it is discovered one day that people who are close to you are in those categories and are being discriminated against by your government will be interesting to discover.
The Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) is delighted to see that the Victorian Government is proposing amendments to the Equal Opportunity Act as recently announced by the Attorney General, Robert Clark. In particular, the JCCV sees the amendments as rectifying anomalies in Victorian Equal Opportunity legislation as it relates to religious based schools and organisations.
Searle noted that “the amendments will ensure we have a fair balance between preventing discrimination and ensuring that schools and other organisations are able to employ people who conform with the value system and beliefs of the organisation. In this way, we will limit the possibilities for clashes, offence and tension in the workplace.”
This would be a good time to stop this amendment in its tracks before it does irreparable harm to the Victorian communities it is supposed to support and help.Mannie De Saxe, Lesbian and Gay Solidarity, Melbourne
"Changes to Victoria’s equal opportunity laws which were rammed through the lower house on Wednesday are a step backwards for the human rights of thousands of Victorians", Greens justice spokesperson Sue Pennicuik MLC said today.
"The government rushed the bill into the upper house first thing yesterday morning, but I was able to use the right open to any member to deny the government 'leave' to 'second read' the bill straight away" said Ms Pennicuik.
"We had already witnessed the spectacle of the government suspending the rules of parliament to allow the bill to be reintroduced and passed in the Legislative Assembly after the government lost the vote on it last week. This has set a very bad precedent for democracy in Victoria". The bill will now be debated in the upper house on 14 June.
"This bill will allow faith-based organisations and schools to discriminate in employment matters on the basis of a person's religious beliefs or activities, sex, sexual orientation, lawful sexual activity, marital status, parental status and gender identity, without the current qualifier that the attribute must be an inherent requirement of the job (introduced by the previous government in 2010 in attempt to balance religious freedom with freedom from discrimination).
“However, neither the current act, nor the proposed changes balance religious freedom with the fundamental human rights of everyone to equality and protection against discrimination,” Ms Pennicuik said.
“There is no place for discrimination in employment on the basis of personal characteristics", she said. "Employers should not be asking employees or job applicants about their personal lives. The only questions should be about qualifications and experience that are genuine requirements of the job”.
The review of equal opportunity laws in 2008 by Julian Gardner, recommended that the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) should be empowered to uncover entrenched or systemic discrimination.
"The new Inquiry function is very important when we know that individuals do not always make complaints of discrimination for fear of the consequences”, Ms Pennicuik said. "The new laws will remove this newly won function of VEOHRC".
It is difficult to know where to start with the issue of asylum seekers trying to come to Australia - politicians are trying to outdo each other in their appalling behaviour and each is getting worse than the other! In the end, are they any different from John Howard and his Tampa and his Peter Reith??
The trouble with it all is that most people who live in Australia have been asylum seekers of one sort or another over the past 200 years. It makes one shudder to imagine what would have happened to many of our ancestors if they had arrived here to be treated like this current crop of desperate people.
What makes it so much worse is that Australia, the pathetic lackey of imperialist USA, is involved in all the nefarious exercises with that country which makes so many millions of people in various countries need to flee the terror in their homelands.
I personally needed to flee my homeland because of the police-state nature of the world in which I was living, and am in the nature of an asylum seeker. I was lucky on several counts. I am white, speak English, have a tertiary education, and had a father who happened to have been born in Australia, although he only lived here for the first 8 years of his life - enough for me to qualify for Australian citizenship by descent!!!
What if??? There were enough people wanting to flee the terror of apartheid South Africa who were none of the above and so were not able to get out of that benighted country when they were desperate.
There are many people in this country who are very unhappy about the behaviour of the politicians who are running the show. Not enough of them are raising their voices to protest at "man's inhumanity to man".
The following article in The Age of 15 June 2011 is one of too few by those who have access to the media - which I do not have - who could make a difference, but don't.
The only way I have of making my small voice heard is by putting such items on my blog and on my web pages, both of which the mass media have no control over - fortunately!!
So read the article and raise your voices, loud and clear!!
Neither side of politics has the courage to restore decent Australian values to the debate over asylum seekers.
WHEN future historians sit down to write our history, they will be puzzled and doubtless dismayed at the increasingly harsh treatment meted out to asylum seekers who fetch up on our shores after enduring hazardous voyages in small boats. Instead of receiving our sympathy and succour, they are thrown behind razor wire for long periods of mind-destroying detention. How did it come to this?
Back in early 1990, when I was writing a history of the Australian Customs Service, I flew along the Kimberley coastline in a small Coastwatch aircraft looking mainly for Indonesian fishermen. There was also the possibility of sighting a refugee boat, following the arrival weeks earlier of such a boat from Cambodia, the first to have come all the way from that war-racked place.
Looking through the Customs records in Broome, I came across the correspondence relating to that first boat, which had brought an extended family of 26 people. They had come ashore and been reported by the local Aboriginal people, who thought the people were Indonesians.
Even when their true origins became known, there was none of the hysterical hullabaloo that now infects the political debate. Instead, matter-of-fact newspaper reports showed pictures of grinning women and children relieved that their month-long journey was over, while headlines noted their ''amazing 5000 km voyage''. In that more innocent age, a Broome tourist operator even offered to house the whole group and employ its adult members.
Such an outcome would have been ideal. The refugees would have had immediate livelihoods, while Broome's labour shortage would have been eased. Alternatively, they could have been taken to a reception centre elsewhere, where their needs could have been assessed and housing and jobs organised. Instead, a posse of immigration officials escorted the refugees into months of detention in Sydney.
The bureaucratic reception was in marked contrast to the humane treatment of other refugee arrivals, whether it was Jews fleeing Hitler, displaced Europeans after the Second World War, Hungarians in 1956, Vietnamese fleeing their homeland or Chinese students seeking refuge after the Tiananmen Square massacre. And it had the unfortunate effect of locking both sides of politics into an approach that would get increasingly harsh as populist politicians and radio shock jocks began to bang away at the drums of fear and suspicion.
To his eternal discredit, John Howard took the drum-banging to new heights over the Tampa, when shipwrecked asylum seekers were met by gun-toting members of the SAS. This extreme response was a chance for then Labor leader Kim Beazley to show his mettle and remind Australians of their humanitarian obligations. But he funked his chance. There was an election in the offing and there was no time for talk of values or principles. Labor has been boxed in by the debate ever since and recently pushed into ever more extreme positions of its own desperate devising.
Now Australians are presented with the bizarre solution of sending 800 asylum seekers into the harsh clutches of the Malaysian government in return for 4000 of their refugees. The best that Tony Abbott can offer in response to this exercise in human trafficking is to suggest reopening the failed Nauru detention centre.
Back in the Howard years, when the Woomera detention centre was a byword for infamy, I suggested that it be kept as a historical monument to remind passing tourists of the moment of madness that had gripped us back then. Perhaps because of my suggestion, when the detention centre was closed, the site was bulldozed. Although there are no reminders at Woomera, every state now has a monument to our continuing madness.
Neither side of politics can take pride in the stands they have taken, the fears they have evoked and the damage they have caused to the most vulnerable of people. There is a solution, but it will take political courage. Political leaders on both sides have to restore decent Australian values and principles to the debate, which demand that people be treated with dignity, respect and humanity. Why should that be so hard, and why have political leaders of the major parties lacked the courage to do so?
Kim Beazley failed to display ticker over the Tampa, choosing short-term political results over long-term reputation, and was punished for being a tin man. Julia Gillard follows that sorry example as she thinks up ever more extreme ''solutions''. Labor has allowed Tony Abbott to portray himself as offering a more humane solution on Nauru than Labor offers in Malaysia or on Manus Island. And so Labor continues to be boxed in by John Howard's cruel political trap.
In the 21 years since that first Cambodian boat, while the politics have become increasingly fraught to the point of obscenity, the practical problem of dealing with asylum seekers has remained just as manageable as it was in 1989. There was no need to use detention centres back then and there is no need now.
Instead of fortified camps for mandatory and indefinite detention, we need reception centres where new arrivals can be briefly housed and processed, before being moved quickly into one of the many Australian communities that would welcome them. We also need a staff of immigration officers in Jakarta to process refugee applications, with preference for family reunion to deter desperate people heading here by boat. It just requires a leader with the courage to reframe the debate in terms of decent principles and values. Only then will the arguments of the fearmongers be neutralised once and for all.David Day is the biographer of three Labor prime ministers. His most recent book is Conquest: How Societies Overwhelm Others.
The following article was published in the University of Western Sydney's GradLife alumni journal - Volume 3 Issue 2 November 2011. It is an article of such importance as to merit publishing it in as many places as possible to give the matter as much publicity as possible:
UWS Law School Professor Michael Head reviews the controversial Malaysia Solution.
Inflated claims have been made by some lawyers about the August 31 High Court ruling on the refugee 'Malaysian Solution' - such as that the court has become a 'people's court' and a de facto court of human rights.
In reality, the court's decision was an extremely narrow one. It leaves in place the system of 'onshore' detention within Australia - a system that denies fundamental legal and democratic rights to asylum seekers, such as to seek political protection without being penalised, and not to be detained without trial.
It should be recalled that in 2001, the High Court permitted the forced removal of the Tampa refugees to Nauru, and in 2004 the court ruled that the government could keep refugees detained within onshore Australian detention centres indefinitely, even in violation of international law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The latest High Court decision was based on an interpretation of specific sections of the Migration Act and the Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Act.
In particular, section 198A(3) of the Migration Act was interpreted to reflect obligations under the international Refugee Convention. These obligations are minimal: not to deport someone who is officially classified as a refugee to face political persecution and not to punish people making protection applications.
As several judges made clear, the ruling does not prohibit other versions of so-called offshore processing, as long as they satisfy these very limited requirements.
The High Court decision leaves intact mandatory detention, that is, the imprisonment of all asylum seekers arriving in boats - a punitive regime that, in effect, violates the Refugee Convention by seeking to deter refugees from exercising their right to seek asylum. Australia is the only country to maintain such compulsory detention, which was first introduced by a Labor government in the 1990s.
Much of the commentary surrounding the court's ruling was guided by the conception that detention is acceptable as long as the Australian government remains in control of the process. This standpoint ignores the fact that the treatment of asylum seekers in Australian facilities is punitive and degrading, and has caused immense personal suffering.
Across Australia's detention network, incidents of self harm, most often through attempted suicide or mass hunger strikes, have escalated. According to statistics obtained by the Ombudsman from the Immigration Department, there were 1132 instances of actual or threatened self-harm in 12 months - an average of three per day. In just one week during July, there were 50 such incidents.
In line with the reaction of successive governments to any challenge by incarcerated refugees to the denial of their fundamental rights, the federal government has responded with repression, including the use of tear gas and rubber bullets. Desperate protests by inmates, attempting to draw public attention to their plight, have been met with the arbitrary removal of demonstrators to high-security prisons and threats by government ministers to retaliate by stripping refugees of their right to seek asylum.
The experience of the past two decades suggests that the conditions inside the detention centres will only worsen as asylum seekers wait longer and longer for decisions on their visa applications. The High Court late last year held that detainees on Christmas Island could not be denied access to the courts. Given the numbers of detainees and the lengthy nature of the official and judicial processes, however, many are likely to remain imprisoned, waiting months, if not years, for appeal outcomes.
The government's move to circumvent the latest ruling reveals a contempt for basic legal norms. Its draft legislation effectively repudiated the requirements of the Refugee Convention, placed all power in the personal hands of the immigration minister to declare any country an 'offshore processing country' in the 'national interest' and precluded any overriding vote by parliament.
More fundamentally, the entire political establishment, including the Greens, advocate some form of 'border protection' regime, which ultimately means using military force, in one way or another, either to physically 'turn back the boats' or to otherwise block refugees. Intrinsically, it denies the right to flee persecution and seek asylum, which means nothing if countries shut their borders.
Political and media commentators generally attribute this policy to widespread public hostility to refugees. An interesting opinion poll conducted by Fairfax Media, however, found just 25 percent support for 'offshore processing'.
To the extent that anti-refugee sentiment exists among certain layers of the population, it is largely the result of political and media campaigns aimed at fomenting xenophobic fears about the country being 'under siege' or facing 'invasion' by hordes of aliens responsible for driving 'Australians' out of jobs, lowering their wages and cutting their living standards. Such rhetoric has always been used in times of economic crisis to deflect domestic discontent away from the real culprits - the political and ruling elite and the profit system itself.
Not only the right to asylum but a more basic democratic principle is at stake in this issue: that all people should have the elementary right to live and work with full citizenship rights in any country of their choosing. Without that fundamental right they can be denuded of virtually any other civil and political right.
Article in The Age - from the Guardian:
The country's ruling party has forsaken past visionary leadership.
Last weekend the African National Congress celebrated its centenary. The party, which played a pivotal role in the overthrow of apartheid in South Africa, has much to look back on with pride, and the celebrations included concerts, church services and a political rally.
Compared with other African liberation movements, the ANC had the unique ability to unite diverse groups. The others were formed on the basis of one ethnic or regional group, and could never transcend this.
The ANC created a broad alliance that spanned the ideological spectrum, from shopkeepers to communists, and became what was called a ''multi-class'' organisation.
Furthermore, the ANC turned the struggle against apartheid into a moral struggle - and a global one.
By the 1980s the ANC had formed links with groups ranging from churches and youth groups in the West to ruling powers in the eastern bloc.
The ANC also produced pragmatic and visionary leaders with global appeal, such as Nelson Mandela and Albert Luthuli (the first African to receive the Nobel prize for peace).
The ANC's armed struggle did not dominate every aspect of the movement, as it did that of Zimbabwe's Zanu-PF or Angola's MPLA. In the ANC there were democratic forces that opposed the domination of a violent guerilla culture.
In the main, the ANC's operation ethos, whether in exile or in prison, genuinely attempted to emphasise internal democracy - consultation, inclusiveness, freedom of expression and the right to dissent - even if there were some appalling incidents to the contrary.
But as the ANC reaches its 100th birthday, anti-democratic groups appear to have a stranglehold. Key ANC leaders wrote the post-apartheid constitution - which sets a clear democratic, human rights and values framework for post-apartheid South Africa. Today, incredibly, some leaders are saying that the constitution, particularly its freedom of expression provisions, ''undermines'' development.
The intelligence and security forces and the police are routinely used in ANC leadership battles to trip up rivals. Even corruption appears to be prosecuted sometimes to sideline opponents. The cloak-and-dagger style of operations of the rogue elements of the ANC's military and intelligence wings has now become dominant within the party.
One fundamental clause in the ANC's guiding ''strategy and tactics'' document says members ''must be informed by the values of honesty, hard work, humility, service to the people and respect for the laws of the land''. The reality is embarrassingly opposite. This is illustrated in the contrast between the moral authority of a Mandela, an Oliver Tambo, or a Luthuli - all former presidents of the ANC - and the murkiness of a Jacob Zuma, who is seeking re-election as party leader this year.
In his 2007 campaign to become leader, many Zuma supporters were 100 per cent Zulu in their support for the man from KwaZulu Natal. Out of the window went the inclusive, non-tribal and non-racial ethos of the ANC's long struggle. The ANC Women's League backed Zuma's leadership bid even after he claimed he knew a woman wanted sex with him because she didn't cross her legs. ANC leaders talk about efforts to tackle poverty, yet waste of public resources and conspicuous consumption by elected officials have rocketed.
The ANC in government runs the risk of making the same mistake as other failed African liberation movements - enriching the few, mostly politically connected, rather than the poor masses.
Increasingly, top leaders in the ANC are chosen by small cliques - selected for how best they can balance factional and patronage interests.
Despite all this, the ANC is likely to be in power for some time. Opposition parties at the moment are perceived to be largely irrelevant, too disorganised or too white. There is, of course, the possibility that disillusioned sections of the ANC can break away. But most supporters will be reluctant to do so given the miserable performance of the most recent splinter group, the Congress of the People.
The lack of a credible challenger alone encourages complacency in the ANC - with leaders perceiving no reason to shape up. With the party seemingly assured of victory in elections for the foreseeable future, largely paying lip-service to the values that sustained it for a century, South Africa will struggle to reach its full potential - of becoming a global example for genuine democracy, equitable economic development and peaceful racial integration - unless truly democratic groups quickly take control of the ANC and steer it back to its roots.GUARDIAN
This article comes from the print version of the Johannesburg Sunday Times of 27 November 2011. It is an interesting fact that most of the articles from that day's newspaper are able to be found online, but not this one!! One wonders why!!
The cabinet decision on the judiciary this week seemed like a sweet offering, even a conciliatory gesture after the rancour of the secrecy bill fight. Cabinet spokesman Jimmy Manyi spoke of the independence of the judiciary, of enhancing the integrity of the Judicial Service Commission, of a mechanism that would promote the constitutionally enjoined obligation of cooperative government.
But all this was sugar coating, because at its heart there was poison for our democracy.
The core of the decision is that the role of the judiciary is to be assessed by an institute appointed by the government and that even the decisions of the Constitutional Court are to be subject to such assessment. This assessment, at the instigation of the executive, invites the assumption that the role of the courts, and the Constitutional Court in particular, as ultimate arbiters of our constitution is to be usurped.
There can be no escaping the impression that the cabinet’s cross-hairs are firmly pointed at the judiciary’s independence.
I know only too painfully well what it means when the judicial arm of government is cowed, is subjugated before the executive. Thirty-four years ago this month, the inquest into Steve Biko’s death was held. Despite the extensive and overwhelming evidence that Biko had been abused and murdered by the Security Branch, Pretoria’s Chief Magistrate delivered a verdict that exonerated each and every one of them. Counsel for the family, Sidney Kentridge, argued that such a verdict would give license to abuse helpless people with impunity. And it did. Scores died in detention in the years that followed.
A journalist wrote at the time: “There’s no word of sorrow or anger by the authorities, not even a suggestion detainees in future won’t suffer the same treatment. They just don’t care. And that is what South Africa voted for.”
And of course, that is what the small white electorate voted for.
Had the judiciary not been under the thumb of the executive, there is no guarantee that the chief magistrate would have reached a different verdict. But if the magistrate had had the assurance that finding the state culpable, that assessing fairly and independently would have earned him no recrimination from the executive, there is a much greater likelihood he would have delivered a just verdict.
Thankfully, we live now in different times. And yet the importance of strong, independent courts able to check government folly when it occurs remains. In the Treatment Action Campaign case, the Constitutional Court famously held that the government’s then policy of distributing Nevirapine, medication reducing the transmission of HIV from mother-to-child, to pregnant mothers living with HIV at only two clinics per province was in breach of the constitution’s right of access to healthcare – and unreasonable, given that the manufacturers of Nevirapine had offered it free of charge for two years and that the World Health Organisation had concluded that Nevirapine was an appropriate intervention to prevent mother-to-child transmission.
Who knows how many lives have been saved as a result of that decision. A cowed court, a court unduly fearful of executive repercussion could not have made such judgment. That the Constitutional Court did, that policy was altered, is a reflection of the health of our democracy, a tribute not only to our courts, but to our executive and legislative branches as well.
From our past, to our near past, the Constitutional Court is almost certain to be the next staging ground in the fight over the secrecy bill. Recent pronouncements by the executive highlight the fear that policies decided by a government elected by the popular vote will be countermanded through the courts. And our President is not wrong when he says: “Political battles must be fought on political platforms.” But majorities in parliament in South Africa and elsewhere – are not determinative of the constitutionality of laws made. Where there is concern for the legality or constitutionality of a law, courts must make the appropriate determination.
In many respects, the Constitutional Court is the bellwether of our democracy. It was the most significant new institution created at the time of our constitution’s enactment.
Interference with the court, implicit in the suggestion that its judgments and record are to be assessed, sets us back on the path to our constitutionally envisaged future.
And the sleight of hand – the cabinet’s talk of the need to “affirm the independence of the judiciary” through an assessment that cannot but create the impression that the independence of even our very highest court is at risk – undermines our intelligence.
As if we, who have been fighting for democracy all our lives, would not know.
This article appeared in the South African newspaper online "timeslive":
WHEN the Soviet Union collapsed, the South African Communist Party - until then one of the loyal standard-bearers of "Soviet accomplishment" - faced an existential crisis.
Would a party that had tied itself so closely to the Soviet apron strings survive on its own? The jury was out.
In January 1990, the party's leader and its leading intellect, Joe Slovo, filled the void with a paper entitled "Has Socialism Failed?".
It was a remarkable intervention because it unflinchingly accepted that the Soviet project had been an abomination. But it was remarkable for a different reason, too: it was written in one of history's rare political interregnums. The SACP had returned from exile and apartheid was doomed, but the party was not yet in power with its ANC allies.
Free of the pressures of incumbency and freed from the long journey of exile, Slovo was able to craft a paper without the coded subservience of an underground movement. He produced a damning critique that, with the value of 22 years of hindsight, was perhaps also a clear message to his comrades about the dangers that lay ahead.
He quoted murdered Marxist theorist Rosa Luxemburg: "Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party - however numerous they may be - is not freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently ... its effectiveness vanishes when 'freedom' becomes a special privilege."
This definition of freedom, which placed individuality - "one who thinks differently" - above freedom "for the members of one party" - would be captured in South Africa's post apartheid constitution in 1996. How ironic that what are today described as "neo-liberal" values rolled off the tongue of the SACP's most powerful ideologue in 1990.
In the paper, Slovo said this about Luxemberg's definition of freedom: "Without a limitation on democracy there was no way the revolution could have defended itself in the [Russian] civil war and the direct intervention by the whole of the capitalist world. But Luxemburg's concept of freedom is surely incontrovertible once a society has achieved stability."
Lenin, wrote Slovo, had envisaged a diminution of the state after the revolution.
But the opposite happened: "We know that all this is a far cry from what happened in the decades which followed. The whole process was put in reverse. The complete "suppression of the exploiters" was followed by the strengthening of the instruments of state suppression and the narrowing of democracy for the majority of the population, including the working class."
Powers that were supposed to belong to the people were steadily eroded under Stalinism. "The legislative organs did not, in any case, have genuine control over legislation; by their nature they could only act as rubber stamps for decisions which had already been taken by party structures. The executive and judicial organs were, for all practical purposes, under the direct control of the party bureaucracy. In practice the majority of the people had very few levers with which to determine the course of economic or social life."
Slovo's critique of Stalinism captures quite magnificently the corruption (in the moral rather than monetary sense) that can turn noble ideals into the playthings of a power-hungry bureaucracy. All in the name of the struggle, of course.
The state subsumed all. The trade union movement, wrote Slovo, became "became an adjunct of the state and party. Workers had no meaningful role in determining the composition of the top leadership which was, in substance, answerable to the party apparatus."
The party, inevitably, underwent "negative transformations".
"Under the guise of 'democratic centralism', inner-party democracy was almost completely suffocated by centralism. All effective power was concentrated in the hands of a Political Bureau or, in some cases, a single, all-powerful personality. The control of this 'leadership' by the party as a whole was purely formal. In most cases the composition of the highest organ - the congress which finalised policy and elected the leadership - was manipulated from the top."
The party as the centre of political organisation and debate gave way to the party as the organ of the powerful. Slovo again: "In practice, the basic party unit was there to explain, defend, exhort and support policies in whose formulation they rarely participated."
In Luxemburg's words: "Without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element."
South Africa might not be there yet, but Slovo's warning has long been forgotten.
A postscript together with a post mortem may well state that free press and democracy vainised in the western world a very long time ago and we now live in an era of spin, lies and the disappearance of our hard fought-for democratic rights. Gone, but not forgotten!
CLICK ON THE LINK TO HEAR BETTY HUTTON AND HOWARD KEEL:
The abuse of power in the United States of America grows apace, and some of the articles to be posted on this page give a clear picture of Obama's dictatorial actions in his treatment of Bradley Manning and his threats against Julian Assange.
Bradley Manning's abusive and inhumane treatment by the Obama regime is not very different from George W Bush's Abu Ghraib - but Quantico is in the USA and Bradley Manning is a serving soldier in the US Army!
Bradley Manning takes the stand, details months of abuse
Nine months in solitary ordered by brig command against the recommendations of three mental health professionals. David Coombs to speak in Washington, DC on December 3rd, and talk to be broadcast by CSPAN.
Bradley Manning took the stand for the first time this week at the motions hearings addressing his unlawful pretrial punishment at Quantico prison. Three mental health professionals who evaluated Bradley during his nine month detention in the Quantico brig, revealed that Bradley Manning posed little to no risk and that their ongoing recommendations to remove Bradley from the aggravating and abusive conditions were ignored by the brig command.
Further, testimony by Quantico officers revealed that while brig officials claimed to be isolating Bradley due to his mental health, that in reality the high profile nature of the case, and a prior suicide at Quantico brig, had resulted in a highly sensitive environment where senior officers gave directives to have Bradley Manning held in an extreme "Prevention of Injury" (POI) status throughout his stay. This directive led to the unheard of situation where brig commanders ignored the recommendations of the mental health professionals, and left Bradley Manning to endure nine months in solitary, segregated, conditions that a psychiatrist associated with interrogation techniques harsher than the treatment he had seen given to deathrow inmates.
Further, officials deceived Bradley as to the reasons he was being kept in segregated POI status. Bradley's calls to improve his situation were ignored by the military command, and it was revealed that Quantico commanders colluded to block an independant review of his conditions.
In defending the Quantico command decisions to keep Bradley Manning isolated in Prevention of Injury status, officers attempted to portray normal behaviors as being erratic - such as that he would dance in his cell and make faces in a mirror.
Bradley took the stand Thursday, testifying that yes indeed he danced in his cell as there was little else he could do. He was not permitted to lean his back against the walls of his cell during day hours, nor was he allowed to exercise in it. Dancing was however not a prohibited activity and it allowed him to move around.
Bradley also testified that yes, indeed, he spend a lot of time looking in the mirror as "it was the most interesting thing in his cell." Considering that he was not permitted to communicate with people or do anything else, three mental health professionals testified that this behavior was not only normal, but healthy, and that Bradley did a remarkable job enduring such a prolongued and abusive incarceration.
It was also revealed that the Quantico brig was ill prepared for long term pretrial confinement as it lacked the necessary staff to handle Bradley's detainment, and that in fact, it was not prepared to handle any detainee for longer than three months. Contrasts were drawn against other prisons, such as Ft. Leavenworth where Bradley was eventually transfered, where keeping prisoners isolated for so long was unheard of, and completely against regulation.
"Military feared independent reviews of Bradley’s treatment"
"Quantico psychiatrist says Bradley treated worse than death row"
"Bradley takes the stand to describe abuse, brig deception"
Watch the report from Democracy Now!
Exclusive presentation by Bradley's attorney
Washington DC. December 3rd
Talk will be broadcast on CSPAN and live streamed at www.bradleymanning.org
December 3, 2012
6pm doors/refreshments - 7pm event
All Souls Church Unitarian
1500 Harvard Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20009
(2 blocks from the Columbia Hts Metro Station, Yellow/Green lines; also near the S2, S4, H8 and 42 bus lines)
On December 3, 2012, Army PFC Bradley Manning’s civilian defense lawyer David Coombs will make his first ever public appearance to provide an overview of pending defense motions before the court and other facts regarding U.S. v. Manning. Mr. Coombs is expected to focus on the unlawful pretrial punishment that PFC Manning was subjected to for nine months while at the Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Virginia – the subject of international outrage and a UN investigation.--------------------------------------------
This article appeared in The Age newspaper on 3 DECEMBER 2012:
America's behaviour towards Bradley Manning is revealing.Wikileaks suspect testifies at hearing
US army private Bradley Manning, takes the stand at his trial, where he faces suspicion of leaking secret documents to the WikiLeaks website.More video:
OVER the past 2½ years, all of which he has spent in a military prison, much has been said about Bradley Manning, but nothing has been heard from him. That changed late last week, when the 23-year-old US army private, who is accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, testified at his court martial about the conditions of his detention.
The oppressive, borderline-torturous measures he endured, including prolonged solitary confinement and forced nudity, have been known for some time. A formal UN investigation denounced them as ''cruel and inhuman''. President Barack Obama's State Department spokesman, retired air force colonel P.J. Crowley, resigned after condemning Manning's treatment. A prison psychologist testified last week that Manning's conditions were more damaging than those found on death row, or at Guantanamo Bay.
''If I needed toilet paper I would stand to attention and shout: 'Detainee Manning requests toilet paper!','' Manning said. And: ''I was authorised to have 20 minutes' sunshine, in chains, every 24 hours.'' Early in his detention, he recalled, ''I had pretty much given up. I thought I was going to die in this eight-by-eight animal cage.''
The repressive treatment of Manning is one of the disgraces of Obama's first term and highlights many of the dynamics shaping his presidency. He not only defended Manning's treatment, but also, as commander-in-chief of the court martial judges, improperly decreed Manning's guilt when he asserted that he ''broke the law''.
Worse, Manning is charged not only with disclosing classified information but of ''aiding the enemy'', for which the death penalty can be imposed (military prosecutors are seeking ''only'' life in prison).
The US government's radical theory is that, although Manning had no intent to do so, the leaked information could have helped al-Qaeda, a theory that essentially equates any disclosure of classified information - by any whistleblower or a newspaper - with treason.
Whatever one thinks of Manning's alleged acts, he appears the classic whistleblower. This information could have been sold for substantial sums to a foreign government or a terrorist group. Instead he apparently knowingly risked his liberty to show them to the world because - he said when he believed he was speaking in private - he wanted to start ''worldwide discussion, debates and reforms''.
Compare the aggressive prosecution of Manning to the US administration's vigorous efforts to shield Bush-era war crimes and massive Wall Street fraud from legal accountability. Not a single perpetrator of those crimes has faced court under Obama, a comparison that reflects the priorities and values of US justice.
Then there's the behaviour of Obama's loyalists.
Ever since I first reported the conditions of Manning's detention in December 2010, many of them not only cheered that abuse but grotesquely ridiculed concerns about it. Joy-Ann Reid, a former Obama press aide and now a contributor on the progressive network MSNBC, sadistically mocked the report: ''Bradley Manning has no pillow?????''. With that, she echoed one of the most extreme right-wing websites, RedState, which identically mocked the report: ''Give Bradley Manning his pillow and blankie back.'' They hold themselves out as adversarial watchdogs, but nothing provokes the animosity of establishment journalists more than someone who challenges government actions.
Typifying this mentality was a CNN interview on Thursday night with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. It was to focus on documents revealing secret efforts by US officials to pressure financial institutions to block WikiLeaks' funding, a form of extra-legal punishment that should concern everyone, particularly journalists.
But the CNN host was uninterested. Instead she tried to get Assange to condemn the press policies of Ecuador, a tiny country that exerts no influence. To the mavens of the US press, Assange and Manning are enemies to be scorned because they did the job that the press refuses to do: namely, bring transparency to the bad acts of the US government and its allies.
Manning has bestowed the world with multiple vital benefits. But as his court martial finally reaches its conclusion, one likely to result in a long prison term, it appears his greatest gift is this window into America's political soul.
Glenn Greenwald is a columnist on civil liberties and US national security issues for The Guardian.
Political Polemics - Part 1
Political Polemics - Part 2
Political Polemics - Part 3
Political Polemics - Part 5
RED JOS: HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISM
Mannie and Kendall Present: LESBIAN AND GAY SOLIDARITY ACTIVISMS
MannieBlog (to December 2005)
Activist Kicks Backs - Blognow archive re-housed - 2005-2009
RED JOS BLOGSPOT (From January 2009 onwards)
This page updated on 21 FEBRUARY 2015 and again on 27 OCTOBER 2016