Thursday, October 24, 2013



By Monica Attard

October 21, 2013

What to do when a government decides to shut off the information tap, starving journalists of the facts they require – especially when those facts lead to government decisions that have an impact on the collective morality of the nation?

Maybe the new government’s modus operandi is why we report on the woes of that gift that keeps giving – the ALP, even in the absence of real evidence that venting about a former leader and the party’s factional system will contribute to the search for meaning.

Maybe it’s why some journalists are filling their column inches with puff pieces, a recent and surprising one about Tony Abbott, the heroic fireman, as large tracts of New South Wales burned like tinder.

Journalists are of course still digging and foraging – doing their job – to report on the business of government and governing. But the government is quietly changing the rules of the game.

Consider the stark difference between the information available and coverage of asylum seekers since September 7.

Before the election, the boats were arriving daily. We knew about the others that were were sinking and the people who were dying. We weren’t spared the details. Then the Abbott government announced that grim daily roll call was finished.

The legal right to seek safety and protection
Letters, The Age October 21, 2013
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has instructed departmental and detention centre staff to publicly refer to asylum seekers as ‘illegal’ arrivals and ‘detainees’, rather than clients (The Sunday Age, 20/10).
Could he please direct us to the Australian or international law that describes a person seeking refuge in another country because of fear of death, serious injury or persecution as an ‘illegal’? My understanding is that no such law exists.
I am tired of hearing our leaders demonise human beings made in the image of God for their partisan political ends. Mr Morrison, show us evidence that these people are doing something illegal.
Reverend Paul Arnott, Ringwood East

A bully's Orwellian language
Throughout history, tyrants have justified their actions by introducing language that dehumanises those they wish to bully or use for their own political purposes.
Yes, it is good to stop people from drowning but I am not convinced this is the true reason for the minister's action. The word ‘illegal’ is meant to influence the electorate, not desperate people seeking safety. We must insist that Morrison stop trying to manipulate us with his dishonest words.
And isn't it ‘illegal’ for a politician to mislead the public, or have we become so accustomed to this that we say nothing? War is now called peace, freedom called slavery, and ignorance called strength.
Rosie McKenry, Castlemaine

Instilling fear in the community
Minister Scott Morrison's directive is designed to shape the way one views the world, and is reinforced each time such language is used.
While the directive may be officially imposed within bureaucratic language, even though it is not illegal for people to seek asylum, the community does not have to be conned. One can easily see this directive as a ‘dog whistle’, inviting asylum seekers to be seen as ‘the other’. We cannot let linguistic tricks continue to damage Australia's international standing.
Julia Anaf, Norwood, SA

Why we must fight this change
This kind of nonsense belongs in Alice in Wonderland. ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.’ Contrast this to the national day of mourning declared in Italy when a large number of asylum seekers were tragically drowned. Calling refugees ‘illegal’ is central to the government's program to demonise refugees. Labor, the Greens and the community must protest vociferously at this change.
Cath Morrison, North Carlton
Read more

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Peace Poets Write From Kabul

Luke Nephew Countercurrents October 14, 2013
The flight from Dubai to Kabul:
It’s a flight full of Afghan people and soldiers. And me. And surely a handful of other curious characters. The tension is palpable in the waiting area by the gate. Eye contact between the warring parties is avoided let alone any dialogue. I think about the time when we were in the Bahrain airport where all men and woman sit in different waiting areas and I took out the guitar and played Akon’s ‘Ain’t nobody wanna see us together but it don’t matter no, because we gonna fight, yah we gonna fight, fight for our right to love.’ Against all odds that went over great, this particular moment however just didn’t feel like it was asking for a song. But then as the bus brought us across the runway to board the plane, an American soldier helped an Afghan family carry their bags up the stairs and store them above their seats. The other people watched with quiet suspicion. That’s what it is I think, as I sit myself down in the middle seat between two Afghan men, it’s a deep dark sense of distrust. Distrust dangerous ground to build anything on, let alone a country, much less nine military bases or a prison like the one at Bagram Air Force Base outside Kabul where people are kept without charges for months or years. Very dangerous ground. The plane shutters itself awake and rolls out onto the runway. The lights go off. The babies seem to all break the silence in unison. Some of us don’t have the option of distrust they cry. Their wailing for food or sleep or to be held sounds so beautiful to me in the harsh air of the old plane. ‘Where are we going?’ they seem to be asking……
There was someone there waiting for me. They just weren’t sure who I was. I stood there for a few minutes and then I noticed three guys wearing matching blue scarfs. Ahh yes, the color of the Afghan Peace Volunteers. I met eyes with one of the young men. He raised his eyebrows, took a step forward and said, ‘Luke?’ Yes. My peoples. It turned out they saw the website and something in the communication at some point made them think that out of the five Peace Poets, there we’re expecting the big dark skinned one with locks. So when I rolled through the parking lot, not even my bright Bolivian guitar case was enough of a reason for them to assume I might be the peace poet. But, eye contact and instincts are lifesavers. So Dr. Hakim, an amazing peace activist and medical doctor who lives and works with the community of Afghan youth, flashed his brilliant smile and it was big hugs all around. Abdulhai and Raz Mohammed were the youth from the community who had made the early morning trip to the airport with Hakim to pick me up. Good to be together, we hop in a cab and into the streets of Kabul…….

Remembering 12 years of war,
The streets of Kabul beg in the dust,
Distrust and revenge a city, a country, a people condemned
After 12 years of war, some estimate 78% of Afghans have psychological disorders, the taxi driver says its more, says we Afghans can’t think right anymore, he shows us scars on his knees from the day he almost died, he sighs, ‘so many stories of pain…
But who are we to say we’re sane? When we remain entrenched after 12 years of war? I dare you to come here and still say you want more?
Another day, another year, then leaving 9 military bases here,
America has smashed the windows of people’s sanity,
People are demanding we leave, nobody wants to hear Obama make a pretty speech
In Kabul I’ve see anger rise like armies
in young men’s eyes that say you have harmed me and my family for the last time,
I wanna know what will be the last crime committed in the name of freedom,
more marines relieving themselves on corpses of murdered kids,
12 years of blood that did not have to get spilled,
12 years of mothers gone mad from mourning, what have we become?
Afghanistan is a nation of American made guns and American made widows,
Hearts crumbling like bombed out windowsills
Wondering where they’ll find the will to teach their son not to kill
When inflicting death is the lesson they’ve best learned from us,
12 years of dust on boots and the truth being covered in mud,
But what will we do now…
Are we hoping a nation of 30 million will forgive and forget, would you let it go if an occupying army broke into your house killed your father and didn’t even say sorry, or admit it was a mistake, how many more years will it take Americans to wake up and say I will not live in debt while my government pays millions of dollars a day to make people hate me for my passport, want to cut my life short for my birth country’s flag, 12 years of war and not enough body bags to hold the soldiers, not enough words to say the funeral masses, not enough mass graves to hold the lives that 12 years of wartime has taken,
and when I ask a young Afghan woman named Zuhal, why she wants an end to the occupation,
She says, ‘12 years of war is too many, it’s time for the soldiers to go home to their families. They must miss them.’
Read more

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mary and Mohammad Very moving. A must see film

Compass, ABC TV October 13, 2013
The story of an unlikely friendship between a young Afghan asylum seeker and a 71 year old Australian pensioner.
Mary is a Christian who lives in a poor rural municipality outside Hobart in Tasmania. When the government opens a new detention centre nearby Mary is bitterly opposed to the arrival of its mostly Muslim detainees. But when her local knitting club is asked to make winter beanies for the asylum seekers, she embarks on a journey of friendship that finds her questioning long-held beliefs and prejudices.
Watch film

Friday, October 11, 2013


Bishops Robinson, Morris and Power recently joined with 100 church organisations backed by over four million Catholics around the world calling on Pope Francis to give priests, religious, and laity a major role in church decision making in matters such as dealing with sexual abuse, on the eve of his meeting with an eight member council of cardinals to discuss church governance.

Representatives of reform groups throughout the world submitted a letter tracing the current crisis in the church, including sex abuse and fiscal corruption in the Vatican and outlining the destructive effects of clericalism and an all-male celibate governing body on the church has been submitted to Pope Francis and the eight Cardinals, including Cardinal Pell, that are meeting in Rome now.

The three bishops are lending their support to this movement. Other supporters include Catholics for Renewal in Australia, US based groups: Call to Action, Voice of the Faithful, American Catholic Council, and the We Are Church movement worldwide. The latter has a membership of several million Catholics in nearly 50 countries.

Pope Francis has inaugurated some reforms at the Vatican. He has criticised clericalism, saying that the episcopate is a ministry of service and not one of domination. He has also insisted that newly appointed bishops be “close to the people, fathers and brothers and …not have the psychology of 'Princes.’” And in his recent interview that received worldwide circulation, he said, "The Church is the people of God, pastors and people put together. The church is the totality of God's people."

But the Pope has yet to specify to what extent the laity will be included in sharing church authority.

The letter, respectful and supportive of the direction Pope Francis appears to be moving, states that full participation of all baptised Catholics in the church’s decision making it fundamental to church reform and is firmly based on the Gospel, tradition, and the vision of the Second Vatican Council.

The letter also calls for open dialogue among its members and urges Pope Francis to reinstate theologians who have been censored in previous pontificates and to cease its “unjust and unwarranted” investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

“Our fondest hope is that Pope Francis will accept a delegation of our leaders at the Vatican,” said Bishop Morris, on behalf of Bishops Robinson and Power. “He has been reaching out to atheists, gays and others. He wants dialogue. We want that too.”

To view the letter that has been sent go to

Bishop Morris and Robinson have also been in the media go to to view the latest articles.

Please continue to promote the petition.
'Like' the For Christ's Sake Petition page on Facebook and encourage others to sign.

To date we have:
116,205 signatures on line and
2,618 signed on paper (via parishes and other groups)
Giving a total of 118,823

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

ShahzInvited to Testify by Congress, Anti-Drone Advocate Denied US Visa

ShahzInvited to Testify by Congress, Anti-Drone Advocate Denied US Visa
Pakistani lawyer represents victims of US drone attacks abroad, but their voices will be silenced, he says, if his travel is denied
Jon Queally Common Dreams September 25, 2013

ad Akbar (right), a well-known human rights lawyer and anti-drone advocate from Pakistan, has been denied entry to the US despite an invitation from Congress to testify about the destructive impact the US drone war is having on the families of victims in Pakistan. (File)
‘Failing to grant me a visa silences the 156 civilian drone strike victims and families that I represent.’ Shahzad Akbar, lawyer and victim advocate
Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer and legal fellow with the UK-based human rights group Reprieve, may not be given the chance to testify before Congress next week because the US has reportedly blocked his visa application, denying him entry.
According to The Guardian, Akbar—who also serves as director of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights in Pakistan—has met roadblocks at the State Department over his attempts to travel, along with three of his clients, to Washington, DC in order to give family members of those killed by US drone attacks a chance to tell their stories directly to U.S. lawmakers and the American public at large.
The Guardian reports:
Akbar's clients, Rafiq ur-Rehman, his 13-year-old son, Zubair, and his nine-year-old daughter, Nabila, are from the tribal regions of north Waziristan. The children were injured in the alleged US strike on the village of Tappi last year. Their grandmother – Rehman's mother, Mamana – was killed.
Rehman and his children have spent months making preparations to visit Washington after being invited by US representatives to testify in the ad hoc hearing on drone strikes.
According to Akbar, his clients' visas for the trip have been approved, but his has not. He believes the hold-up is political……
According to Reprieve, which has worked closely with some of the victims that are also his clients, Akbar traveled regularly to the US prior to 2011. It was only when he began representing victims of CIA drone strikes, they said, that the lawyer began having significant difficulty getting his U.S. visa processed. This current instance is the second time that the US has failed to grant Mr Akbar a visa to speak at a U.S. event……
Akbar told The Guardian that he believes it's not necessarily the State Department, but another government agency, that may be blocking his entry. ‘We brought litigation, civil litigation and civil charges, against CIA officials in Pakistan for their role in drone strikes,’ he explained. ‘I think it's pretty clear that I have been blacklisted because of that.’
Read more

Monday, October 7, 2013

Islanders call on Abbott and Bishop to visit low lying Pacific nations

Sydney, Thursday, 3rd Oct 2013
Islanders call on Abbott and Bishop to visit low lying Pacific nations
Australian Islander Community seeks stronger climate action in line with latest IPCC Report.

"The very worst fears of Pacific Island Communities in Australia have been confirmed in the latest IPCC report published last week," said Pacific Calling Partnership spokesperson Maria Tiimon Chi-fang speaking at a community gathering following the release of the fifth assessment report (AR5) of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

"We would like to see Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop visit the Pacific’s low-lying island nations during the term of this Parliament," affirmed Ms Tiimon Chi-fang, an I-Kiribati woman living in Sydney whose life was featured in the award-winning SBS documentary The Hungry Tide.

"Meeting the I-Kiribati may bring them to re-evaluate the Government’s reduction commitments to bring them in line with the climate science."

"Australia’s commitment to reduce our emissions by 5% below 2000 levels by 2020, is by no means an adequate response to the evidence," emphasised Ms Tiimon Chi-fang, who is community outreach officer for the Pacific Calling Partnership. "Nor is it appropriate or sufficient given Australia’s support for the Majuro Declaration on Climate Leadership, launched in September at the 2013 Pacific Island Forum."

"Pacific Islanders increasingly feel that a mere 5% reduction in Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions puts the future of their islands at risk. They feel insecure about their futures, and are disappointed at the clear contradiction between the Government’s support for the Majuro Declaration, and their lack of effective climate change policy."

"I urge Prime Minister Abbott to reconfirm his support for the Majuro Declaration, and substantially reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions,' she said.

"Australia has a moral responsibility in two parts. First to Pacific Island neighbours who - whilst having not contributed to the problem, will suffer most from its effects. Secondly, there is also a responsibility to Australian children and grandchildren, who will inherit the effects of our lack of action."

"I call on our Australian Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister to visit my home country," Ms Tiimon Chi-fang, now an Australian citizen, said. "Not until they can see the human face of climate change will they fully understand the consequences of their inaction for my people. Cutting $4.5 billion from the overseas aid budget, as well as cutting out key climate change policy infrastructure in Australia, makes me question the Australian Government’s commitment to the survival of our Pacific Island nations.”

IPCC Assessment Report 5 ("AR5")

In AR5 a total of 209 lead authors and 50 Review Editors from 39 countries have presented evidence that: "the atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years".

These unprecedented levels of … "greenhouse gases contributed [to] a global mean surface warming in the range of 0.5°C to 1.3°C over the period 1951−2010", and higher projections for sea level rise, the range for which is now projected at 26 to 82 cm, up from the 18 to 59 cm in the 2007 report.

The report concludes that: "continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions."

For interview or comment contact:-

Jill Finnane: 0409-640-366 or Sean Cleary: 0403-434-512

Publishable PCP images for usage related to this release are available at:
- some video also viewable:

Pacific Calling Partnership -
Since 2006 the ERC initiative Pacific Calling Partnership (PCP), has worked to promote knowledge of and action with the people of the low-lying Pacific Island communities most threatened by the effects of climate change. PCP delegations, with representation from Australia & from affected low-lying Pacific Island communities, have participated in UN Climate summits: COP13 Bali; COP15 Copenhagen; COP16 Cancun; COP17 Durban & COP18 Doha.

Sean Cleary, Education Officer, Edmund Rice Centre
15 Henley Rd(PO Box 2219) Homebush West, NSW 2140
Ph 1: (02) 8090 1976 -- Ph 2: (07) 3103 7376 -- Fx: (02) 8762 4220
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