Friday, October 5, 2007

Are other peoples' human rights any of our business?

This is an outline of the speech by Willy Bach at Southbank, Brisbane on Saturday 6 October 2007:

Are other peoples' human rights any of our business? - Yes, because this is a global world, and yes, because when the Australian government deals with dictatorships Australians lose their rights to speak out against these odious relationships

1. The Howard government want to enjoy the popularity of appearing to support the people of Burma in their struggle for democratic rights - but I think we know them better than that.

2. The Howard government has a credibility problem.

a. because they are often in breach of human rights themselves

b. they have abused power on many occasions

c. they have tried to disenfranchise voters - make sure you are on the roll

d. they have an embarrassment that they have 7 Burmese refugees on Nauru - they are desperately searching for a country to resettle them - anywhere but Australia

e. the decision to stop taking allegedly difficult African refugees coincides with the announcement that they will take Burmese refugees

f. The Howard government happily support rogue regimes that abuse their citizens' rights - evidenced by the AFP training the Burmese junta's brutal police and passing on interrogation techniques to Kopassis Special Forces in Indonesia - there are other examples.

A recent cartoon shows two Buddhist monks walking along a high fence behind which there are heavily armed riot police - one says to the other, "where do you think you are? Sydney?"

g. The Howard government has also supported the illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the US torture programme in Guantanamo Bay, even allowing 2 Australians to be grossly abused there, and support the CIA extraordinary rendition programme - we should never forgive the Howard government voting against the banning of torture in the UN General Assembly (without consulting us, mind you)

h. The Howard government, in particular Philip Ruddock, Amanda Vanstone and the current tormenter, Kevin Andrews, conducted their own torture programme in which asylum seekers have been intentionally subjected to psychiatric harm. We have already got plenty of evidence

3. If you were Than Shwe, head of the Burmese junta, you too would be laughing at the lack of credibility, the moral bankruptcy, the impotence of the Howard government's threats to act against them. And, what do you know? The crackdown is proceeding apace, thousands of arrests, torture and killings - and yes, the world community has failed the people of Burma again.

4. We all know that business comes first for people like John Howard. The powerful French oil company TOTAL, the US oil giant UNICAL, the Israeli, Chinese and Russian defence suppliers who all do business with the junta and with Australia. Remember the deals that made the news when APEC was on in Sydney.

5. Just when we need compassion we have mean spiritedness from the Howard government. Just when we need to implement boycotts we see the Howard government trying to make it illegal for Australians to organise boycotts - lets show them we can do it anyway.

6. Hello Kevin Rudd! Why is Labor so silent on this important issue. Because it is difficult for them too. They had a scurilous record on Bougenville, West Papua and East Timor. They cannot claim that they represent people struggling to gain their democratic rights. We know they cannot be trusted unless we have plenty of Greens in the Senate and even (I hope) in the House of Representatives. That is up to you!

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