I went to listen to and film the ROHINGYAN Appeal tonight in Sydney. They’ve been stripped of citizenship, driven off the land and killed by the hundreds of thousands since 1942. They are starved, reproduction is curbed and they are not allowed to own a phone.

An estimated 8000 have been cast adrift at sea. 200 have died already and many are in acute need of medical attention. Under international pressure, Myanmar has just carried out its first rescue mission, taking about 200 back to the wide-spread persecution they fled. These people are referred to as ‘Bengalis’, and are part of a Muslim Rohingya minority of 1.3 million who have been living in Burma for many generations, but who are not recognised as citizens.

A Rohingya refugee at Langsa in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photograph: Antonio Zambardino/Guardian

Both Malaysia and Indonesia have agreed in the last week to take a number of the refugees for up to one year, in the hope that they can be re-settled elsewhere with the help of international agencies. Australia however, has shut its doors and ears on the humanitarian emergency, with a simple:

“Nope, nope, nope”

from its Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

It’s tricky… Tony won his election campaign on an arguably cruel policy of pushing back asylum-seeker boats, whatever the circumstances, and despite Australia’s international obligations as a signatory to the Refugee Convention. His government have since been referring to boat people as “illegals”, and maintaining a high level of secrecy, regarding the “Operational Matter” of getting rid of them. It is therefore unsurprising that in a recent poll, 38% of Australians said no to rescuing the dying Rohingyans.

Over one in three Australians say no.

It has been suggested that this wave of first-world apathy, which is not unique to Australia, has influenced our neighbours. But Indonesia, which has mercifully relented, is not even a signatory to the convention. Abbott’s ‘no brainer’ position is that these people should have joined a queue, and it is of little interest to the right-wing leader that there was no queue for Rohingyans.

Protestors took to the streets in cities around Australia, calling Abbott’s message to the thousands still stranded at sea, for what it is:

“Go die somewhere else.”

Are we so different Australia, from the regimes that create this level of apartheid, or is it just a question of degree, our awareness of it, and time?

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THE MEANING OF METADATA [Retention] – Scott Ludlam, Sam Castro & Jacob Grech talking global surveillance and the TPP

LADIES & GENTLEMEN, welcome to ‘Politics in the Pub’, where people can have a good old yarn about things we’re not supposed to know. It was a pleasure to serve in the interests of putting this one together. Scott, Sam, Jacob, you had the audience on the edge of their seats.

“We need a herd inoculation”

is echoing, and they say:

“Fantastic.. terrifying and inspiring”

See you for Ep 2 xx Cathy

Let's take this baby on the road


CITIZENFOUR – The Story of Edward Snowden

CITIZENFOUR (the Edward Snowden story) screened in Sydney this evening, ahead of its release in Australian cinemas on February 12th. What an amazing film. Yeah, it’s a documentary, but it felt more like a spy-thriller from the edge of my seat. As the film unfolds, the (real-life) revelations about global surveillance are of red-pill proportions – both on and off-screen – and change forever your perceptions of the world we live in, even when you’ve been interested in this area for some time. Take Glenn Greenwald’s reaction, for example. No spoilers, except to say that Big Data is watching you.

The avant premiere and Q&A was presented by Senator Scott Ludlam, our strongest parliamentary voice in Australia against the Surveillance State. He was questioned at length by the Aussie audience, about recent plans by our right-wing government to introduce mandatory data retention for all Australians. Of course we suspect that the reason for doing this is more about business than security, and after seeing CITIZENFOUR, it’s clear that the NSA, a partner of our spooks in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, has got us all under their eye already. Our boys can tap into that dragnet, for genuine National Security reasons. But the NSA too collects a lot of information that doesn’t assist national security.

Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam presents CITIZENFOUR by Laura Poitras

Senator Ludlam’s remarks this week in parliament, suggested that the government’s version of Mandatory Data Retention is a pretty ineffective tool of surveillance, since it doesn’t capture data from offshore mail services, like Gmail. Nor does it retain online chat, on platforms such as Facebook. But it is good for driving us away from Australian ISPs (Internet Server Providers), and catching people who illegally download copyright material.

The package is stamped ‘National Security’, but the contents monitor consumers; not terrorists. And this tool serves to police legislation that relates to the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). There is a clause that more or less obliges the governments of member States to protect each other’s corporate interests. In fact governments can be sued by overseas business entities, if they are seen to legislate in a way that harms trade.

We must see of great significance, concurrent moves to make copyright violation no longer a civil, but criminal matter. That would mean that our government would have to pursue breaches, rather than an individual plainiff, as has always been the case. In the longer term, metadata retention may be used to monitor and restrict what we buy online, especially if a foreign corporation in a member state claims that our choice – of pharmaceuticals, for example – harms their business. Word is, that US business entities actually write the legislation you need to join the TPP, and USG rubber stamps that, before passing it on to applicants.

Scott Ludlam will be talking in more detail about these issues on Thursday evening at another Sydney event, Politics in the Pub, in a session entitled ‘The Meaning of Metadata’. Joining him for an explosive expose and one-hour Q&A, will be National Security journalist and ex foreign affairs policy advisor, Dr Philip Dorling; as well as Samantha Castro, former spokesperson and National Council member of the Wikileaks Party and co-founder of WACA (the Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance). The event will be viewable on the Politics in the Pub website on February 7th.

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Guantanamo Blues

Download ‘Guantanamo Blues’

Today Guantanamo Detention Centre is 13 years old, and I just finished making a clip for The Justice Campaign called ‘Guantanamo Blues’. Produced by Dr Aloysia Brooks, wife of the ex-detainee David Hicks, it features the art of Molly Crabapple and the music of Les Thomas.

During a visit to Guantanamo, Molly did a number of portraits of men who had not been charged with any crime. Most of the 127 prisoners have been cleared for release – some, years ago – but they are still malingering there in conditions that amount to torture. According to a recent talk by David Hicks, most would be incapable of functioning independently again as human beings.

The song was written to raise awareness about the ongoing situation of those detained in the facility. ‘Guantanamo Blues’ songwriter, Les Thomas said:

“It is important that President Obama is aware that people from all over the world are counting on him to adhere to his promise to close Guantanamo and ensure fair trials.”

An unknown number of men are participating in a hunger-strike to protest their ongoing detention without charge or trial, and their conditions and treatment. Upon the release of the summary of the US Senate Committee Report on the CIA torture program, there is a renewed call for the Obama administration to hold those who orchestrated the torture program to account. One of the most disturbing revelations is that it was largely futile, and almost never produced any actionable intelligence. Hina Shamsi, Director of ACLU’s National Security Articulate Projectspace, commented:

“[JTF-GTMO assessments] are one-sided assessments that are full of uncorroborated information, information obtained through torture, speculation, errors, and allegations that have demonstrably been proven false.”

NB Quite by accident, we included a drawing by Steve Mumford – ‘Sgt Trisha Pinczes Reading by Camp X-Ray Disused since 2002, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba’ – believing it to be one of Molly’s. We are currently trying to contact him for permission to leave it in. Steve, if you’re reading this, please drop me a line at EDITIONS@THING2THING.COM.

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Daniel Ellsberg – TOXIC SECRETS

I visited Daniel Ellsberg as a citizen journalist in 2012, to talk about Wikileaks. He talked for a long time, with dismay, about why people haven’t leaked in the past – neither in government, the corporate sector, nor the church – about even the most heinous of crimes.

Thus, the importance of leaking; for justice, peace, democracy, well-being and the health of our planet. But if wrongful secrecy abounds, and at such a cost, surely we need more than one in a million addressing the issue…

“We must challenge the systems that make this secrecy possible”.

Daniel Ellsberg is a co-founder of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. He is best known as the whistleblower who gave the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in 1971. Ellsberg is also the author of three books: Papers on the War (1971), Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers (2002), and Risk, Ambiguity and Decision (2001). In December 2006, he won the Right Livelihood Award, known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize,” in Stockholm, Sweden, “for putting peace and truth first, at considerable personal risk, and dedicating his life to inspiring others to follow his example.”

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Abbott Government cripples the Australian Broadcasting Corporation

It was roaring at the Sydney Town Hall yesterday as Labor and Greens politicians united with media personalities to say no to the Abbott government’s crippling financial attack on the ABC. This comes after a litany of protests from our climate change denying, refugee punishing right-wing government, claiming that the channel was, as one hashtag described it, a…


Tanya Plibersek, Member for Sydney and Deputy Leader of the Opposition reminded us that Tony Abbott said: “No cuts to the ABC”, the night before he was elected. Word had it however, that as punishment for being too left-leaning – showing asylum seekers’ burnt hands, for example – the damage was going to be around $50 million. Plibersek now assures us that we can add a zero…

“A broken promise is a broken promise and a lie is a lie. Before the election: “No cuts to the ABC”. How much have they cut? $43 million in the May budget… $223 million from Australia Network… Now, $254 million from the ABC… and almost $54 million from SBS. We’re talking about, probably 500 jobs… You cannot maintain quality.”

“These are real people doing valuable work, telling Australian stories. They deserve their jobs to be protected, and I know that all of you will SUPPORT THE MEAA, THE CPSU, THE STAFF ASSOCIATION AND ALL THOSE OTHER ASSOCIATIONS FIGHTING TO PROTECT THESE JOBS AND YOUR ABC.”

The Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull has denied that the cuts – half a billion dollars and ramping up, according to Senator Ludlam, over the next 5 years – will impact upon programming. The reality is that ABC South Australia will be closing its doors soon, and we have already had ‘Stateline’ axed, along with its Walkley award-winning journalist Quentin Dempster.

Dempster opened his speech with an acknowledgement of wide-spectrum support for the ABC:

“Those of us who are about to be industrially executed are buoyed by your solidarity. I thank the Media & Arts Alliance; the Community Public Sector Union; the Friends of the ABC; GetUp; Jonathan Holmes; and our professional colleagues, friends and allies throughout the Australian Media Industry – including commercial television and radio; the now many online news, conversation and analysis websites; the print media, including Fairfax; and our closet supporters in News Limited.”

Michael Tull of the CPSU distinguishes our national broadcaster from its US counterpart by way of its principled dissociation from commerce and corporate ownership. Therein he says, lies the force of its of checks and balances. Tull thinks that an attack on our ABC’s capacity to report independent news is an attack on our democracy. Rightly so, if only compliant media is to be heard in the future, and little of what the government wants silenced… The penalty of 10 years jail for journalism has already been set.

Actor Geoff Morrell makes it clear that this is about the Australian stories that will not be told; the programs that will not be made; and the talent that will never get a chance. It is a looming nullification of the arts and local culture, and most disturbingly, on regional news, most of which is only reported by the ABC.

But as most of the speakers pointed out, the ABC belongs to the Australian people… and they pay for it! Constitutionally, they would have to be on a winner if they stood by the firm recommendations of their broadcaster, regarding how their much-loved, and much needed services can be maintained.

The rally was as joyous and determined as it was mournful and nostalgic, but there was one exquisite moment. After the president of the Media and Entertainment Arts Alliance (MEAA) – Australian entertainer Patricia Amphlett (Little Pattie) – reminded us of a song she had once sung, she asked:

“What Gough would say…”

Old man, the timing was perfect. We will maintain the rage and the enthusiasm!

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Senator Ludlam Raps Knuckles with Tony Abbott pre G20 Summit

Senator Scott Ludlam is back! with another viral video addressing Australia’s Prime Minister, Tony “Dum Dum” Abbott. Aussies were wowed by Ludlam’s fiery “Welcome to Western Australia” speech, in anticipation of Abbott’s visit to WA earlier this year. The speech got close to a million views within days, and Ludlam is indeed widely followed and cited by Australians across social media. So why all the politicians leave the Senate when Ludlam speaks is a mystery. Could it be as simple as Metadataphobia?

Meanwhile, news from Rap News…

“The G20 Summit is happening and the leaders of the wealthiest nations on the planet are converging on Australia to come and learn directly at the feet of the master of fascist dystopian fuckwittery: Tony Abbott. Join the noble Australian Prime Minister as he lists his recent achievements and launches the opening of the G20 Summit in Australia, backed by a faithful and compliant mainstream media, represented by our favourite local correspondent Ken Oathcarn.

This episode features a magical cameo from Wizard Senator Scott Ludlam, who has been campaigning tirelessly in speeches to empty Senate rooms to stop the Government’s proposed mandatory data retention laws – coming up soon for a vote in the Senate. After this G20 episode, no one will be in any doubt why Australia is leading the civilised world in the global race to towards 1984.”

Written and created by Giordano Nanni and Hugo Farrant in a suburban backyard home studio in Melbourne, Australia, on Wurundjeri Land. Juice Rap News

Special thanks to Scott Ludlam for working on this video, and for all his tireless work to fend off the forces of Mordor.


BREAKING: Ludlam Senate address (28/10/14)

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In the wake of a High Court break-through concerning Operation Sovereign Borders, AUSTRALIANS ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS to refugee specialists, Dr Joyce Chia and Dr Lucy Fiske, live at Politics in the Pub. Joyce Chia works at the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, UNSW, and Lucy Fiske is a Chancellor’s Post Doctoral Fellow at UTS.

In this highly candid Q and A session, we hear heart-breaking accounts and questions raised about children in detention; how Australia’s actions may influence those of other countries, and importantly, what federal Labor should be doing to oppose the Abbott Government’s appalling treatment of asylum-seekers and refugees.

Australians are becoming increasingly skeptical about the Government’s claim to be “Saving Lives at Sea”, given that two asylum seekers have died on Manus Island, and that self-harm has become commonplace, even among children. In February this year, asylum seeker Reza Barati was allegedly murdered by detention centre staff, two Papua New Guinean Nationals who worked with the Salvation Army, and G4S Security respectively.

This month, vigils were held Australia-wide for another Manus Island detainee, Hamid Kehazaei, who died of blood poisoning from a cut foot…

With countless reports of neglect and unsanitary conditions, and the torture of seemingly endless detainment, one might well ask what quality of life the Australian Government is offering as an alternative to drowning at sea? Refugees are after all, the people Australia pledged to keep safe – not drive to the depths of despair, criminally neglect or murder.

Read Dr Joyce Chia’s article in the Guardian – ‘High court verdict spells the end for Australian immigration detention as we know it’ – to see what kind of changes the High Court is likely to impose, so as to insure that ‘protection’ is what Australia is really giving.

Starring the questions of the audience - Politics in the Pub - Q&A on Refugees

After learning that the very legality of ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’ is on the line, we wait with fond anticipation the outcome of a refugee case currently before the High Court, and the upcoming challenge to the Australian Government, concerning the refoulement of Tamils to Sri Lanka.

If Julian Burnside QC is correct, Australians can look forward in the longer term, to seeing Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott in the dock, in the Hague. We’ll soon see if the High Court deems Operation Sovereign Borders to be illegal. Then comes the case of the Tamils…

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Dr Joyce Chia on Australian High Court’s Refugee Stance

Dr Joyce Chia, from the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, UNSW, spoke and answered questions from a live audience on Thursday evening at Sydney’s ‘Politics in the Pub’, regarding surprising developments earlier that day in Australia’s High Court. In her article for the Guardian, entitled ‘High court verdict spells the end for Australian immigration detention as we know it’, she made clear the implications of the Court’s ruling:

“Thursday’s decision has profound implications for asylum seekers and refugees in Australia. The detention of thousands of people who arrived irregularly before July 2013 is now potentially unlawful and the government will have to either release these people or at least resume processing. Prolonged cases of detention can be challenged before the courts. The policy of locking people up indefinitely, without carefully considering whether it is justified in the individual case, is unlawful under Australian law.” Read more…

Dr Joyce Chia spells out the High Court's position on prolonged detention

Also speaking on the subject of the Australian government’s “barbaric” policy on refugees was Dr Lucy Fiske, a Chancellor’s Post Doctoral Fellow from UTS, Sydney. Ms Fiske focused on the impact Australian Refugee Policy is having on the practice of our near neighbours, and the increasing criminalisation of asylum seekers’ crossing of borders.

Dr Lucy Fiske, speaking on Refugees at Sydney's 'Politics in the Pub'.

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