Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Cartoonists take on Sedition laws

Be warned! The cartoonists are ganging up against the Sedition laws.

This ABC arts blog covers Michael Leunig's concerns, and this ABC 7.30 report covers cartoonist Bill Leak and satirist Max Gillies taking on the issue, with comments from Howard and Ruddock.

Can't wait for more vicious cartoons. I am also imagining dozens, nay hundreds, of lampoons mysteriously appearing on our streets, stuck to trees, lamposts, postboxes, dogs, and picket fences, like that in In Evil Hour by Garcia Marquez, taking potshots at Howard and gang.


Read more!

Diplomacy or people power?

I signed the e-petition on the Save Van website that I blogged about, and received an email in response (thanking me, and) asking me to support a campaign to have countries sever diplomatic ties with Singapore if they proceed with the execution.

They say:
Nearly 40 contact addresses of World Leaders and Foreign Ministers have been collected. The recipients have influence over their country's diplomatic relationship with Singapore. Please send them an e-mail, asking that all diplomatic relations with Singapore be terminated if Van is hanged.
One of the names on the email is connected with this website campaign to abolish the death penalty: Save A Life - Foreign Prisoners Support Service.

I am impressed with the sincerity of those campaigning against the death penalty and the extent to which they will extend their campaign strategies, but getting countries to sever diplomatic ties with one of the most powerful and riches countries in Southest Asia?

Not likely to happen. Our governments prefer their trade, military/intelligence and diplomatic ties with Singapore, to the life of just one man. As the Cold War taught us about international diplomacy, and the Iraq War teaches us about the 'War on Terror', our governments think lives are cheap.

Is this another effort to direct our frustrated energies, and desires to not feel like our efforts and lives are futile, into another action directed at unyielding governments?

Is getting governments to cut their ties with Singapore going to work, and a useful direction for our efforts? What do you think?

At this time, I'm thinking about how Van could possibly deal with facing his death, and also how is family and loved ones could face it too. The campaign by his lawyers has turned towards accepting that the execution is inevitable, and to getting the Singaporean government to let Van's mother embrace him before he dies. And rightly so.

Read more!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Cricket tragic

I've been noticing the furor brewing in Australia over John Howard's decision to still attend the cricket test match (Australia v. West Indiess) on the morning (Friday 2nd December) that Singapore plans to execute Van. I shudder at the thought of that man smirking as Australia takes the crease, and the hang-man pulls the leaver.

Of all the letters published in the age, this one says it quite eloquently:
John Howard is by no means "obliged to attend" the PM's XI match against the West Indies on the morning of Nguyen Tuong Van's hanging. He claims that, as host, he "has a duty to go to that match", but he would earn much more respect (at least from me) if he were to show some ticker, cancel the match, and politely but firmly make quite clear to his Singapore counterpart the reasons for his decision.
Jean Jordan, Eltham
Thanks to the save Van website for posting it. And, though things seem ever more desperate, SAVE VAN NGUYEN!

Read more!

Cruddy Ruddock and Sedition laws - all bad

I have too many reasons already to dislike Phillip Ruddock (Federal Attorney General), but the latest one to get my goat is that he is championing the Howard government's latest attack on our political freedoms in Australia: the Sedition laws.

news is that he is resisting pressure from even within his party's ranks, i.e. from Liberal Senators who either care about such issues as free expression (count them on a Simpson's hand?) or they're worried the backlash will see them lose their seats... (aah, we can dream, can't we?).

No, he's not a nice boy, as he's already made his name in the Immigration Minister messing up the lives of assylum seekers and refugees coming to Australia. Now he's going to make a mess of artists, political activists, journalists, and quite likely bloggers too.

Anyone who enjoys the right to free exprssion and wants to criticise this government for the bloody war it has got us into (May a pox fall on both their houses of governement!)
should express themselves as loundly as possible to oppose it!

For a really good primer on the proposed Sedition Laws and why they should be stopped, check out the Victorian Peace Network's

Read more!

The Long Walk 2005

Former AFL footballer Michael Long has initiated another Long walk to raise awareness of Indigenous issues in Australia. But this time, everyone can get involved and walk!

But, thankfully, it is only a 3 km walk in Carlton, Melbourne, and we won't have to retrace Michael's steps to Canberra!

The walk commemorates Michael Long's famous walk from Melbourne to Canberra in late 2004 to highlight the disadvantage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and where he secured a meeting with Prime Minister John Howard to discuss his concerns.

Lots of people expressed their support for Michael and those who walked with him to Canberra in 2004. I blogged on that walk last year. I remember it was quite exciting to follow Michael's progress through regional towns, and wondering whether he would get a meeting with Howard.

So far, the walk has attracted a lot of 'celebrities' – especially sports people and the odd politician. However, I do think that The Long Walk will allow all who are concerned to join in and express their support directly.

The walk will also raise money for Sir Douglas Nicholls Fellowship for Indigenous Leadership.

“This isn't about indigenous Australia and white Australia – this is about ALL Australia.”
Michael Long
Check out the website The Long Walk 2005 to learn more and to register for this Sunday's walk.

Read more!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Road kill still life

I went to see an exhibition of new photographic work by Marian Drew at a gallery in Fitzroy this afternoon. I found her work stunning!

She had collected roadkill – Australian animals, including birds – and assembled them into striking tableaux that immediately evoked the still lives of the European masters, especially the Dutch. Her settings were sparce, with fruit, singular pieces of patterned, old crockery, kitchen implements and other food accompanying a dead animal on a table laid with a lovely embroided tablecloth (as you can see from the example).

She produced massive digital prints on etching paper, and the colour, shadow and light, detail and depth were quite amazing. Some images left me feeling that I could extend my hand right through the paper into the scene and touch the dead animal. If I could bring myself to do so.

If Marian Drew wanted her viewers to shudder at the starkness of dead animals, to flinch, almost, at seeing the wide-open, bright, staring, but unseeing eyes of these dead animals, then she succeeded with me. I loved the references to European still lifes, and found it engaging yet disturbing to see Australian animals, both familiar and not. Our fauna is so lovely, yet so precious – it's painful to think so many are sacrificed at the altars of 'civilization'.

If you're in Melbourne, you can catch her exhibition at Dianne Tanzer Gallery in Fitzroy (see the link to Marian Drew). Oh, and do check out the short documentary about how Marian Drew put together this work. It's compelling viewing too.

Read more!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Singaporeans campaign for Nguyen Van Tuong

A lot has been made here in Melbourne of how 'barbaric' Singapore is to still have a death penalty, and much chest thumping and foot stomping about efforts to save Melbourne man Nguyen Tuong Van from the death penalty there, including my own.

However, there's been little coverage in the media that I follow here of the responses within Singapore to the death penalty and to Van's impending death sentence, other than reporting that the Singaporean government is determined to see it through, and have so far resisted all efforts to pursuade them otherwise.

So, I was somewhat surprised to come across a website for a Singaporean campaign against the death penalty in their country and for clemancy for those on death row, like Van Truong. See Clemency for Nguyen Tuong Van.

A very clever thing they're doing, besides the usual online petition, is to get Singaporeans to trace their hands and send them to Van as a message of solidarity with him. Many of these are being posted on a flickr site here. Check it out. And, save Nguyen Van Truong!!!

Read more!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Favourite placcards from the Sydney IR rally

These are my two favourite home-made placcards from the Industrial Relations rally I went to in Sdyney on 15 November.


power precious

The gollum one is a clear favourite of mine

Read more!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Death by powerpoint

I was in Sydney for a conference earlier this week. What struck me most, other than the IT/AV technical hiccups, was the overuse of powerpoint for many of the presentations.

It's something I've been thinking a out for a while, but having had to sit through a few of them, I'm now convinced that powerpoint does not make for better presentations. Time to chuck away the crutches and dance up a storm on stage, folks.

Thank you to Derek K Miller ( for articulating what I've been thinking:
The story. The story. The story. Tell your story. The tools are secondary.
And thanks Derek, for also pointing me to Darren Barefoot's zen art of designing good presentations. Wow.

Read more!

I hate comment spam

I have now made 'word verification' a requirement for anyone wishing to post comments to this blog. I know it can be an annoying extra step, but I do want those who wish to post genuine comments to please do so.

Genuine, interesting and open interaction is important to me, and I enjoy reading and replying to the comments on my posts here – even if it takes me a while. I just hate spammers and others trying to generate links to their crappy websites abusing this and cluttering up this blog.

So, wrack off comment spammers!

Read more!

Melbourne-Sydney, IR rallies, bad weather and more

I enjoyed Sydney, and most of the conference I attended there, but I have to say that I am thoroughly glad to be back in Melbourne. For one, the coffee is better here.

Sydneysiders have a cheek to complain about Melbourne's weather, but I have to say, despite enjoying Sydney's balmy evenings and warm afternoons, I seriously didn't take too kindly to the storm on Tuesday afternoon that brought all fligths at Sydney airport to a halt. Especially because my 8pm flight back to Melbourne didn't end up taking off till 9.45 pm!!! Not impressed. I've since heard that flights in and out of Sydney are regularly delayed by such things. Hmph.

Also, I heard great things about Melbourne's massive industrial relations rally that filled the city centre and Federation Square. Still, Sydney's was pretty big. I attended the rally starting point at Belmont Park, near George St. Initially, I thought it was small, but after walking around a bit, a realised it was a pretty big rally. Though not as big as Melbourne's, judging from the footage we saw of the Melbourne rally – a mass of colour and people filling Federation Square and overflowing into the streets around it.

big screen rally

Still, this is not supposed to be about whether Melbourne or Sydney can generate the largest rallies. It is about trying to stop the most damaging attack on the rights and lives of working people in Australia!

Read more!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

News from a war – Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches

Sitting in my hotel room, I heard a journalist, Dahr Jamail, interviewed on a programme on 'alternative radio Australia' on the FM band here in Sydney. He is an independent journalist in Iraq who produces web-based content from Iraq.

He had a lot to say about the 'war' in Iraq, including the way the large corporations treat their local Iraqi employees, and how these Iraqis get attacked as collaborators by the insurgents and fighters.What was eye opening for me was his comments that there are over 20,000 mercenaries in Iraq – he refuses to call them 'private contractors or security' – and that is even more than the number of British troops in Iraq!

Dahr also reckons that they are cowboys looking for trouble, driving around with machine guns poking out the back of their vehicles, and are responsible for the second most Iraqi civilian deaths (after US military checkpoints).

Dahr Jamail has a range of news and resources on his website, include news postings, a weblog, images and a forum (which I haven't checked out yet, so can't vouch for). He sounds intelligent, knows his stuff, and is really trying to report on the conflict in Iraq in a way that mainstream media just can't, or won't. And he is subscriber/reader supported. Check it

Read more!

Sydney Opera House front view

Read more!

Harbour bridge sunset

Harbour bridge sunset
Originally uploaded by Mark Lawrence.
Here are some more photos from my trip to Circular Quay this evening. I saw the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Opera House, and some great sunset colours.

Read more!

Sydney Day 1

I've spent the day in Sydney – the first time I've been back here in nearly 10 years!

I arrived last night, and got in late to my hotel room in the CBD. I've attended day 1 of a conference on ICT for the community/not-for-profit sector (for my work), but I've also crammed in lots today.

Sydney is a city that really strikes me as much faster than Melbourne, whose roads are as confusing and twisting as I remember from 12 years ago (thank the gods of urban planning for Melbourne's grid), and people stay out late in the city on a Sunday night.

And where there's tunnels everywhere (according to the taxi driver who picked me up from the airport last night) – including the one which partially collapsed, bringing down a small block of apartments with it... (thankfully, no one was hurt).

There are some pretty amazing things to see, including a very vibrant Asian presence and culture around Chinatown, great Chinese food, (I'm staying in George St, in the Chinatown end), some pretty old limestone buildings, and in some places like Circular Quay, reminders of Australia's colonial history are all around.

And despite a cold wind off the harbour, Sydney's warm weather wins through. Then again, the warmth and humidity do make ideal conditions for some full-on pongs!

Yes, i got to see the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge and take copious photos, but the best thing about today was catching up with old friends whom I hadn't seen in such a long time. They so generously hung out with me an showed me around the Opera house, Circular Quay
and Chinatown. I'm wondering why I let it go so long since I looked them up.

Thanks guys! You've made Sydney great!

Read more!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Terror Australis*

With so much going on in Australia that's incredibly important and urgent, it seems rather odd that this is my first post in so long. So much has been happening, and when you've been so busy, it gets really hard to wrap your head around all the difficult and compelling issues quickly enough. But, better late than never.

The Howard government has proposed new anti-terror laws that are so draconian, some government backbenchers are getting nervous. They allow for security forces, namely ASIO and the police, to 'lock down' and entire neighbourhood, or even suburb, if they deem there to be a risk of terror activities brewing or about to occur in the area. That is bloody outrageous.

Their laws also reassert the nasty smell of sedition – that
archaic but not so quaint institution of kings and despots. This is surely one of the most significant threats to our civil rights to free expression and political participation in Australia since the bloody twin towers came down – on the other side of the world. Sedition laws to cover undermining the government of the Commonwealth? Wouldn't half the lefty blogs in Australia come under that?

Howard also urgently recalled the Senate a couple of weeks back to get an amendment to currently existing anti-terror laws urgently passed through parliament and the Senate. He claims it was necessary for security forces (ASIO) to do their job in stopping an imminent threat of a terrorist attack in Australia (which the government had reliable intelligence for). That certainly took people's attention away from the Dickensian Industrial Relations laws that Howard introduced into parliament the same week.

And they say timing is everything in comedy.

The thing is, we'll never know if the timing was deliberate to draw fire away from the IR laws. Police arrested about 16 or so men in Sydney and Melbourne on the grounds that they belong to a terrorist organisation and were plotting acts of terrorist violence in one or both of the cities mentioned. (more on this in later blogs, but the ripples have only just begun).

The IR laws are in turn so draconian that it if I were still in my previous job, it would make me quake in my boots at the thought of the laws allowing the bunch of selfish, slack-ass, control-freak 20-something-year-olds who claimed to run my former place of employment, but rather ran it into the ground, the power sack me and my then colleagues without so much as an 'excuse me'.... chills my soul. The laws even outlaw including provisions for handling unfair dismissals in workplace agreements!

That would mean if a union and employer negotiated a workplace agreement that had a procedure for an employee to take steps to complain about being unfairly dismissed, or possibly steps requiring an employer to follow before they could sack someone – it would be illegal, exposing the union and the employer to fines!

Many a time I feel we are sliding down the slippery slope into mighty bloody big hole!

That's why people should make a huge effort to join the rallies against the IR laws on Tuesday. The union movement has organised actions across the country.

I would be going to the one in Melbourne, which is promising to be the biggest worker rally in ages – to match the monster ones held before – only I'm now in Sydney for a conference.


* nb: thanks to is-not-magazine for 'terror australis'.

Read more!