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February 18 2014

February 17 2014

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February 02 2014

Counter Attack Against Western Australian Shark Cull

Save Our Sharks

Save Our Sharks
Courtesy: SCUBASQUIRREL Facebook page

Protests took place on beaches around the nation on 1 February 2014 over the Western Australian government’s shark cull, which has followed seven fatal attacks during the last two years.

On the Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research blog Conversations with AUSCCER, Leah Gibbs and Andrew Warren of the University of New England highlighted the local and international reactions to the shark cull. They argue:

But what exactly is he [Colin Barnett WA Premier] protecting Western Australians from? The cull strategy is based on no scientific evidence and no environmental assessment.

…Perhaps there are two good things coming out of this series of events. First, it has mobilised the community on an environmental issue – something we haven’t seen on such a large scale in Australia in some time. And second, it is slowly highlighting the use of related strategies in other states.

High profile social media responses included @rickygervaise and @richardbranson and Stephen Fry.

Omar Todd of the Sea Shepherd, best known for their concern for the welfare of another ocean creature, tweeted from a Cottesloe Beach rally.

Blogger Rossleigh Brisbane takes a swipe at the Federal government’s asylum seekers policy and Prime Minister Tony Abbott's recent attacks on the national broadcaster the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) with a double dose of satire: ABC Shows Bias In Their Reporting of Shark Cull!

Sharks are attempting to enter this country without a visa, so it’s clear that they’re illegal entrants.

… Once sharks come within a certain distance of shore, they’re in our territorial waters and that that gives us the right to do what we like to them.

Illustrator Ash Nathens is ‘a keen diver, kayaker, swimmer & proud sandgroper [a Westralian]‘.

This shark cull is a hopelessly ignorant task and a shamefully un-Australian endeavour. Stop playing Neptune, Mr. Barnett [WA Premier], and cease this stupidity.

Colin Neptune Barnett

Colin Neptune Barnett
Courtesy: Ash Nathens © 2014 scribblegraph PTY LTD

Clearly there are people supporting the cull. Craig McAllister was swimming against the twitter tide #sharkcull:

But not all shark attack survivors join him:

He's referring to Paul de Gelder:

Paul de Gelder - I'm a shark attack survivor and I don't support the cull

Paul de Gelder
Photo: Paul's blog – Improvise, Adapt & Overcome.

While there are a few mainstream media reports of support for the cull, there has been little noise on social media in recent days.

This oldie but a goodie from Animals1st sums up the online mood:

January 31 2014

Australian Journalist Peter Greste Caught in Egypt's Media Crackdown

Writing in Working Life, Andrew Casey highlights the risks to media freedom in Egypt as international journalists and other media workers face terrorism charges. Among them is Australian Peter Greste, an Al Jazeera journalist.

January 23 2014

East Timor: ‘Australia Spied on Us for Oil Secrets’

[The original version of this post in Portuguese was published on December 28, 2013]

Battle began this week in a case at the International Court of Justice at The Hague pitting East Timor against Australia, with the former accusing the latter of spying and interfering with Timorese natural resources and sovereignty.

Graffiti Stencil by Alfe Tutuala shared on Wikimedia (public domain)

Graffiti stencil by Alfe Tutuala shared on Wikimedia (public domain)

At stake is the accusation of Australia's illicit access to confidential information about oil and gas in the Timor Sea, which may have hampered the Timorese during their negotiations of the Treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS) with Australia in 2004.

On December 17, 2013, East Timor, also known as Timor-Leste, filed an international lawsuit against Australia in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, the highest court of the United Nations. East Timor requested the return of documents seized in a raid earlier in December of the office of an attorney who represents Timor-Leste in the dispute over the treaty and accused Australia of violating the country's sovereignty.

“A luta kontinua”

In the month of December 2013, a wave of protests set the agenda in the streets of capital city Dili and on Timorese social networks.

The Movimentu Kontra Okupasaun Tasi Timor (Movement against the occupation of the Timor Sea) and NGO La’o Hamutuk, a well-known advocate of the rights of East Timor, have mobilized dozens of Timorese, mostly young people, to protest for the sovereignty rights of the country.

The motto “a luta kontinua” (the struggle continues), which was widely used during the 24 years of Indonesian occupation until the independence of the country after the referendum of 1999, was also the closing remark of a press release [PDF] that circulated in early December calling the government of Australia to:

1. Stop stealing and occupying the Timor Sea, but show your good will as a large nation which
follows democratic prniciples to accept a maritime boundary which follows international law
2. Australia should set an example as a sovereign nation which respects and recognizes the
rights of Timor-Leste’s people.
3. Australia should not promote or continue neocolonialism against Timor-Leste’s people, who
have suffered this for centuries. We will no longer be your slaves.
4. The Abbott government should apologize to the Maubere people, who have been hugely
discriminated against by Australia from the past to the present. If not, we will continue to
demonstrate at the Australian Embassy for the indefinite future.

Photo from a demonstration in front of Australia's embassy in Dili, December 20, 2013. By Veronica Fernandes on Facebook (used with permission)

Photo from a demonstration in front of Australia's embassy in Dili on December 20, 2013. By Veronica Fernandes on Facebook (used with permission)

On December 20, 2013, one more demonstration took place in front of the Australian embassy in Dili, in which several members of East Timor's national parliament participated [pt] in solidarity with the Timorese people. 

The first demonstrations in the beginning of December followed news reports from the Australian media claiming that spy agency the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) raided the office of the lawyer that defends the Timorese government in the international arbitration proceedings in The Hague.

During the raid, documentary and electronic evidence that the lawyer would have presented at the first hearing were seized.

On the same day, ASIO seized the passport of an alleged Australian whistleblower, a former employee of the ASIS (Australian Secret Service) involved in intelligence activities in East Timor, who would be willing to testify in court about the installation of recording devices in the offices of the Timorese prime minister during treaty negotiations. This former spy for the Australian government, whose identity was not revealed, was the key witness for East Timor in court. The Australian action aimed to prevent his travel to the Netherlands in order to be present in court.

Certain maritime arrangements

In April 2013, the Timorese government notified Australia that it would initiate a process of international arbitration, arguing that the Treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS), signed in 2006, should be made invalid because it was not negotiated in good faith.

According to the Timorese government, the issue at stake is the spying that was carried out by the Australian government with commercial interests, which calls into question the prerogative of good faith of both parties in the negotiation and makes the CMATS treaty invalid under the clauses of the treaty itself as well as the prevailing international law, namely the Vienna Convention.

Ratified in 2007, CMATS regulates the way the exploitation of natural resources in the Timor Sea should be shared between the two countries, namely the “Greater Sunrise” oil and gas field, whose assets are estimated to be worth about 40 billion US dollars. The oil treaty between the two countries requires East Timor to drop its requests for permanent maritime boundaries for 50 years, a stiplulation that works very much in Australia's favor: all of Greater Sunrise would fall within Timorese territory if boundaries were drawn in accordance with international law.

These issues are illustrated in a documentary produced by ABC Australia, Taxing times in Timor, which investigates the dispute between the Timorese government and the giants of the oil and gas industry:

The news from December lead the current Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, Xanana Gusmão, to react with indignation against Australia's conduct in local media. According to an article [tet, en] published by Tempo Semanal newspaper on December 11, Xanana accused the Australian government of interfering with justice and having a lack of ethics in the relations between neighboring countries. He also stressed that Australia spying on Timor was a matter of national security. 

On the Australian side, Attorney General George Brandis, who authorized ASIO's operation, defended the legality of the raid, invoking reasons of national interest. This, because according to Brandis, the revelation of the identity of former spies who served in the Australian Secret Services may jeopardize national security. 

On the other hand, former Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer, who negotiated CMATS with the government of East Timor in 2004, accused the current Timorese executive of opportunism for putting the treaty at stake. Right after his mandate in parliament came to an end, Alexander Downer became a consultant for Woodside Petroleum, a company that belongs to the consortium that exploits the fields of Greater Sunrise in the Timor Sea. This is one of the reasons why the former collaborator of the Australian Secret Services wanted to testify in favor of East Timor.

Protest in Timor-Leste against the 'return of colonialism'. Facebook page of Mario Amaral

Protest in East Timor against the “return of colonialism”. Facebook page of Mario Amaral

On the Timorese side, the diplomatic incident has been interpreted as an injustice comparable to others from throughout the history of the country. For instance, when Australia opted to illegally explore East Timor's mineral resources in 1989, by recognizing the de facto Indonesian integration of the territory and turning a blind eye towards the atrocities and human rights violations committed during the Indonesian occupation from 1975-1999. 

Demonstrators and politicians have stressed the unequal rights between rich and poor countries that this case represents, arguing that Australia's political and economic power is being used to perpetuate this kind of asymmetric relationship. 

Read also: Australia Spied on Timor Leste to Gain Commercial Advantage (December 13, 2013)

January 21 2014

Young Romanian Builds First Car Entirely Made of LEGO Blocks

20-year-old Raul Oaida from Romania has built what many dreamed of as children – the world’s first life-size LEGO car. The car, including the engine which actually runs, was built using 500,000 LEGO pieces. The vehicle can only achive a speed of some 20 to 30 miles per hour, but – it runs on air!

The young Romanian, a self-taught tech genius, paired up online with Australian entrepreneur Steve Sammartino, who procured the funds for this project on Twitter and got twice as many investors as needed in just days. The car was built in Romania and then transported to Australia, where the two unlikely partners met for a test drive.

The engine of the car is also entirely made of LEGO. It has “four orbital engines and a total of 256 pistons.” According to the project website, the top speed isn’t very impressive, around 20 to 30 km. “We were scared of a Lego explosion so we drove it slowly,” the founders wrote. Steve and Oaida say that the project was possible only because of the internet. The two even met online, when Steve accepted Oaida’s Skype request. “I’m teaching him about business and he’s teaching me a bit about physics,” Steve told the press.

January 11 2014

3D Dragon Breathes Life into 7-year-old Girl’s Vision in Australia

3D Dragon

3D Dragon – courtesy CSIRO Facebook page

A 3D titanium dragon and a seven-year-old girl are the ingredients for the best good news story of the 2014 new year. Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) were proud to report on their blog:

Earlier this week we posted about a letter we received from Sophie, a 7-year-old girl. All she wanted was a dragon.

“Our work has never ventured into dragons of the mythical, fire breathing variety. And for this Australia, we are sorry,” we replied.

Sophie's very polite letter

Sophie's very polite letter – courtesy CSIRO News Blog

They continued:

…We couldn’t sit here and do nothing. After all, we promised Sophie we would look into it.

So this morning at 9:32 a.m. (AEDT), a dragon was born.

You can watch it being made here:

Tech news site Gizmodo Australia’s reaction on twitter was typical and has been retweeted numerous times:

KMB clearly enjoyed some uplifting news:

So did Rachael McDiarmid:

Damon Meredith saw the implications in this public relations coup for a government organization:

Hugh Jørgensen was explicit about funding cutbacks:

However, there was a sour note from John Derry:

But Penny Timms liked the happy ending:

It is a girl so its name is ‘Toothless’ as requested by Sophie Lester.

Sophie's dragon

Sophie's dragon – courtesy CSIRO Facebook page

As she waited for the delivery of her dragon, her mother expressed her daughter’s delight:

Mrs Lester said Sophie was overjoyed with the CSIRO's response and has been telling everyone dragon breath can be a new fuel.

”All her friends are now saying they want to be a scientist and Sophie says she now wants to work in the CSIRO. She's saying Australian scientists can do anything,” she said.

January 10 2014

Australia: ‘What Happens When A Politician Pisses Off The Internet’

Controversial Australian senator Cory Bernardi's latest book ‘The Conservative Revolution’ has enraged many netizens, especially his views on abortion, single mothers, IVF and same sex marriage. BuzzFeed Australia staffer Jenna Guillaume complied reactions in Oz in This Is What Happens When A Politician Pisses Off The Internet.

January 08 2014

WikiLeaks Supporters Shocked by Visit With Syria's Assad

Wikileaks Party

Wikileaks Party
Photo: Courtesy Takver (Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)

Many WikiLeaks supporters were caught unawares when members of the Wikileaks Party met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in late December.

The small Australian delegation to Syria included party chairman John Shipton, father of party founder Julian Assange, along with representatives from the Sydney-based lobby group, Hands off Syria. Journalist Chris Ray, who was in the room for the 45-minute meeting, reported that the two groups “reject foreign military support for Syrian rebels and advocate a political solution to the crisis.”

The WikiLeaks platform was quick to distance itself from the initiative on Twitter.

Major Australian political parties have condemned the meeting. In a somewhat curious response, Shipton threatened to sue Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop for defamation, over critiques they made to national press concerning the Syria visit. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported Bishop as saying,

It's an extraordinarily reckless thing for an organisation registered as a political party in Australia to try and insert itself in the appalling conflict in Syria for their own political ends.

When news of the meeting first hit the Internet, it became clear that many supporters of the WikiLeaks transparency platform knew little about the party to begin with. The WikiLeaks party, although institutionally separate from the platform, was created in 2013 to support Julian Assange's candidacy for the Australian Senate. In the September Federal elections, Assange led a group of New South Wales Senate candidates, with a number of Wikileaks Party members standing in other states. Assange and his party endured a dismal electoral failure, gaining less than 1.0% of the Senate vote.

During the campaign, with its figurehead still stuck in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, the party suffered from broad cleavages among members. One candidate and other party members resigned over allocation of voting preferences to right-wing parties. Australian technology website Delimiter commented in August:

Is the party purely a vehicle for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to get elected to the Federal Senate, and thus earn himself a ticket out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London? Or is it a legitimate new political movement in Australia, which will achieve legitimacy beyond Assange personally?

Perhaps the journey to Syria was an attempt to broaden the party’s political profile. According to the latest Wikipedia entry for the Wikileaks Party:

Shipton subsequently stated that the meeting with al-Assad was “just a matter of good manners”, and that the delegation had also met with members of the Syrian opposition.

Despite John Shipton and Wikipedia indicating that the delegation also met with the Syrian opposition, details have not become available yet. Accompanying journalist Chris Ray did not mention the meetings in his post. Responding to WikiLeaks initial tweet, Wikileaks Party National Council Kellie Tranter tweeted that she too had no prior knowledge of the meeting.

This brought more questions about the party’s future:

Well-known commentator on the Middle East, Antony Loewenstein, showed his disappointment in the party, which he has given his support:

The tweet and accompanying link brought several contrary views. Loewenstein further explained his concerns on his blog:

As a Wikileaks supporter since 2006, right from the beginning (and I remain a public backer of the organisation), it’s tragic to see the Wikileaks Party in Australia, after a disastrous 2013 election campaign, descend into political grandstanding.

The Wikileaks Support Forum has been a centre of debate. Journalist Jess Hill was especially active in taking the party to task. The conversation became heated:

This tweet should act as a warning to all in the twitterverse:

Doubtless, Shipton and other delegation members will face many questions when they return to Australia.

December 13 2013

‘Australia Spied on Timor Leste to Gain Commercial Advantage’

Protest at Australian embassy in Dili, Timor-Leste. Photo from website of

Protest at Australian embassy in Dili, Timor-Leste. Photo from website of

Australia is accused of spying on East Timor leaders in 2004 when the two countries were negotiating a gas treaty. After learning about the spying, the East Timor government wanted to revoke the deal it signed with Australia.

Tensions rose last week when the Australia Security Intelligence Office raided the Canberra office of the lawyer who is representing East Timor in the spying case. East Timor is now demanding the return of the documents seized by government agents from the lawyer’s office.

Former East Timor president Jose Ramos-Horta criticized Australia over the spying allegations:

When you try to listen in to phone conversations of the president of Indonesia, a friendly country, or his own wife, or when you spy on a friendly neighbour like Timor-Leste which Australia helped to free in 1999 and which Australia claimed to be a friend, well it really undermines 10 years of our relationship…

Australia likes to lecture Timor-Leste and other countries about transparency and integrity in public life. Well, this has not been a very good example of transparency and honesty.

Horta was referring to the news report about Australia’s spying activities in Indonesia which created a diplomatic conflict between the two countries.

East Timor citizens held a protest outside the Austalia Embassy in Dili in relation to the spying case. One of the protesters identified Australia Aid as a cover for the Australian government’s spying operations:

The problem is they steal our oil then sell it in other places to buy some kind of equipment bring to East Timor trough AusAid Funding. Because of all this reason this afternoon I would like to bring to the attention of the Timorese community and International community to be careful dealing with people from AusAid. AusAid is an espionage agent.

Meanwhile, the Movement Against the Occupation of the Timor Sea urged Australia to ‘stop stealing and occupying the Timor Sea’:

For many years, Australia has been stealing the oil and gas from the Timor Sea, in an area which belongs to Timor-Leste under international legal principles. Sadly, Australia has shown its manner and its greed to make our small and poor country in this region lose our resources and sovereignty.

Stop stealing and occupying the Timor Sea, but show your good will as a large nation which follows democratic principles to accept a maritime boundary which follows international law principles.

The Timor Sea Justice Campaign provides a background to the uneven gas negotiation between Australia and East Timor

As a sovereign nation East Timor wants maritime boundaries and is legally entitled to have them. Unfortunately, the Australian Government has persistently refused to establish permanent maritime boundaries with East Timor in accordance with current international law.

The uneven negotiating positions have resulted in a series of temporary resource sharing agreements that short-change East Timor of billions of dollars worth of government royalties generated by oil and gas resources located in the Timor Sea.

The Dili protests were documented on Twitter:

La’o Hamutuk calculated the amount which Australia ‘stole’ from East Timor:

How much money has Australia taken from Timor-Leste? Our very conservative calculations show that Australia received more than two billion U.S. dollars in government revenues from Laminaria-Corallina through the end of 2012, and the actual figure is significantly higher.

December 11 2013

Australia: Vagina Knitting Not Everyone’s Taste in Art

[WARNING: This post contains content and images that may offend.]

Casing Off My Womb Image courtesy: Casey Jenkins. Photographer Tarz McDonald.

Casting Off My Womb
Image courtesy: Casey Jenkins. Photographer Tarz McDonald.

Based on some reactions in Australia and overseas, it is a fair bet that some readers will be offended, even outraged, by this story. The national broadcaster, the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), aired a radio item Is Vaginal knitting art? on 9 December 2013. It concerned a performance art work by Australian Casey Jenkins entitled Casting Off My Womb. She is spending four weeks knitting wool from inside her vagina. SBS2 (Special Broadcasting Service), a TV station that is also government owned, had shown a video a couple of weeks earlier.

Online reaction was swift. Comments on the ABC program website Books & Arts Daily were strongly divided about whether it was art and its suitability. Lux Dentata was very positive:

Of course this is art.
It is creation with a message. If that is not art, what is?
I don't understand people's disgust about inserting wool into your vagina. What do you think a tampon is? Cotton, wool, tomato, tomata…
Well done Casey, It's awesome.

Stan Osmelak’s message was brief but multi-pronged:

1st World self-indulgent twaddle

After suggesting the need for “psychological or psychiatric intervention”, Sue took aim at the messenger:

This sort of topic is also providing fantastic ammunition to the Federal Government that the ABC is not relevant and to cut funding or close it down. For goodness sake ABC – get real.

Casting Off Wool

‘Casting Off’ Wool
Image courtesy: Casey Jenkins. Photographer Leanne Waterhouse

Meanwhile, twitter had numerous reactions in Australia including:

As the hashtag #vaginaknitting clearly shows, there was a global eruption on twitter as well.

In fact, it was too viral for some. ‘American-Australian geek’ Kris Howard sought relief:

December 03 2013

Australia: Celebrating International Day of People with Disability

3 December 2013 is International Day of People with Disability. Award winning blogger Carly Findlay writes about her experiences as a person with the skin condition ichthyosis in Disability has meant finding my tribe:

Disability is showing them – the underestimators. It's a sense of community. It's friendship and a strong sense of empathy with a big dose of laughing at the ignorance of others’ reactions. Disability is a place to belong. It's finding my tribe.

November 26 2013

Indonesia-Australia Diplomatic Tension Escalates Over Wiretapping

Indonesian activists hold a demonstration denouncing the alleged wiretapping conducted by Australia in Indonesia. Photo by Akbar Gumay, Copyright @Demotix (11/21/2013)

Indonesian activists hold a demonstration denouncing the alleged wiretapping conducted by Australia in Indonesia. Photo by Akbar Gumay, Copyright @Demotix (11/21/2013)

A diplomatic row erupted between Australia and Indonesia after a document leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that Australia's Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) has been monitoring the mobile phones of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his proxies for at least 15 days in 2009.

In response, Indonesia is ceasing military and intelligence cooperation starting next year aside from planning to recall its ambassador to Australia. Other affected diplomatic cooperation includes the interceptions of Australia-bound illegal immigrants and parole for Schapelle Corby, an Australian convicted for drug smuggling in Bali.

For the past few days the Australian Embassy in Jakarta has been targeted by protesters who have condemned the Australian government's surveillance as an act which undermined Indonesia's sovereignty. The protesters have been burning the Australian flag and photos of Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Islamist mass organizations have also used the issue to intensify their criticism against Western powers. For example, many Indonesian Path users have been circulating a photo collage to illustrate the protesters’ antics.

demo kedubes australia

Photo collage of an imaginary phone conversation between US President Barrack Obama and Australian PM Tony Abbot regarding the flag burning in front of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta. From Path user Wasis Gunarto.

A group of hackers called Anonymous Indonesia also attacked several websites of the Australian government last week which included the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the Royal Australian Air Force, and the Australian Reserve Bank (ARB).

Meanwhile, a Blackberry Broadcast Message is circulating in Jakarta where motorists are urged to honk three times in protest whenever they're passing in front of the Australian Embassy:

“Untuk menujukan Protes terhadap Australia yang telah melakukan penyadapan kepada Pemerintahan Indonesia mari kita lakukan protes kepada mereka dengan MEMBUNYIKAN Klakson Mobil atau Motor anda 3 X jika melintas di depan KEDUTAAN BESAR AUSTRALIA …”

To show our protest against Australia which has been conducting wiretapping against our government, let them know by honking your car or motorbike's klaxon three times whenever you're passing in front of the Australian Embassy.

Below are some Twitter reactions over the wiretapping scandal:

Not only Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY)'s phone needs to be protected from surveillance. Everyone deserves communication privacy. None of us would like to be tapped, right?

It is not impossible that the wiretapping frenzy with Australia is a form of play to raise the value of SBY's administration before his end of tenure.

This (scandal) indicates SBY's personal fear and panic, because the First Lady Ani Yudhoyono is among the people under surveillance.

We have to believe that truth will prevail. Time is the key. WikiLeaks: SBY Abusing His Power

Meanwhile, Mark Textor, Tony Abbot's campaign strategist and adviser, tweeted a demeaning comment comparing Indonesian Foreign Minister, Martin Natalegawa, to a 1970s Filipino porn star. Textor has offered an apology for his offensive tweet and deactivated his Twitter account.

Following Textor's remark, a Filipino-owned website Interaksyon launched a poll asking the public which 1970s Filipino adult star resembled Mr. Natalegawa.

November 23 2013

Twitter Farce Follows Revelations of Australia Spying on Indonesian President

It has taken a “conservative political and communications strategist” to catch the imagination of netizens during the current diplomatic standoff between Australia and Indonesia over spying revelations. Indonesia's president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has tweeted to protest phone tapping by Australia's Defence Signals Directorate, which included his and his wife's phones in 2009:

The revelations are contained in a series of Powerpoint slides. This one lists the targets of the phone tapping:

Indonesian surveillance targets

Indonesian surveillance targets
Document leaked by Edward Snowden

On 20 November 2013 Mark Textor, pollster and political tactician for Australia’s ruling Liberal Party, experienced one of those twitter moments: ‘Apology demanded from Australia by a bloke who looks like a 1970s Pilipino porn star and has ethics to match’. [The misspelling is his own.] It was an apparent reference to the Indonesian foreign minister, Marty Natalegawa.

His deletion of the offending tweet did not save Textor from embarrassment:

His deletion was followed by an a denial and apology of sorts.

His twitter apology served to focus attention on Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s refusal to apologise because he will not discuss national security matters:

Tweets also captured the humour of the moment:

Textor has deleted his twitter account, apparently because of death threats but Vermeera has sounded a cynical note:

Inevitably it has been replaced by fake accounts:

It seems that we now have #Textor’s Law: the most social media savvy spin doctors are only 140 characters away from their inevitable brain snap. It has something to do with wishing you could eat your words.

SBY has suspended military and intelligence cooperation with Australia and cooperation on people smugglers. Meanwhile, a small crowd of protestors in Jakarta has burned Australian flags.

Demonstration in front of the Australian Embassy, Jakarta, Photo by Denny Pohan, Copyright @Demotix (11/21/2013)

Demonstration in front of the Australian Embassy, Jakarta, Photo by Denny Pohan, Copyright @Demotix (11/21/2013)

After the leaks by Edward Snowden, Australian security agencies must be wondering about the wisdom of sharing with the United States the Powerpoint about spying on the Indonesian government.

November 18 2013

Australian Prime Minister Downplays Sri Lankan Torture Allegations

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott visits the Sri Lanka Navy vessel Sayura in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Photo by Chamila Karunarathne, Copyright @Demotix (11/17/2013)

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott visits the Sri Lanka Navy vessel Sayura in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Photo by Chamila Karunarathne, Copyright @Demotix (11/17/2013)

Australians have been flabbergasted by the contrast between two conservative Prime Ministers over Sri Lanka’s human rights record, namely their own PM Tony Abbott and the UK’s David Cameron.

Cameron put Sri Lanka on notice over war crimes allegations. PM Abbott was far more conciliatory:

The Australian Government deplores any use of torture. Sometimes, in difficult circumstances, difficult things happen. The important thing is to act as quickly as you can to bind up the nation's wounds.

Many onliners took these remarks at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo [CHOGM] to be tacit approval of human rights violations including torture. These tweets were typical of the initial responses:

There was the inevitable parallel with the Nazis [Godwin’s law] and misquote:

Abbott's contentious words were reinforced by the Australian government’s gift of two patrol boats to the host country to help stop asylum seekers fleeing down under.

Bloggers have been slow to take up the issue but TURNLEFT2013 was quick off the mark. Tony Abbott condones Torture: Music And Politics features a song by Welsh band Manic Street Preachers ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next':

If we tolerate torture of others, our children may one day be next.

Sample lyrics:

The future teaches you to be alone
The present to be afraid and cold
So if I can shoot rabbits
Then I can shoot fascists …

And if you tolerate this
Then your children will be next
And if you tolerate this
Then your children will be next

Jeff Sparrow, editor of progressive magazine Overland, wrote an opinion piece, Refugees and human rights abuses: we can’t pretend that we do not know, in Guardian Australia’s Comments are free section:

…we have a responsibility to oppose Australia’s shameful refugee policy, it’s not simply for the sake of asylum seekers caught up in our jurisdiction, but because of the consequences for oppressed people elsewhere.

It received some comments arguing for a ‘realpolitik’ approach to human rights in Asia. TheGreatCucumber argued:

I'm afraid that worries about universal human rights have become a luxury that the developed world is increasingly unable to afford. The UK has enough trouble in maintaining our current level of development for our citizens without having to worry about saving the world's waifs and strays.

Another comment by trevofbillysville on the same post echoed the earlier responses on twitter:

Abbott, mouth in gear as usual ,brain not.Slogans are all he knows .What a shocker.

November 05 2013

Melbourne Cup Brings Mixed Emotions

melbourne cupMelbourne Cup day, 5 November 2013, has been a day of mixed emotions. Favourite Fiorente’s win has been a triumph for trainer Gai Waterhouse. She became the first woman to train the winner of the race that stops a nation. It certainly stops its home city where there is a public holiday that brings a crowd of up to 110,000 people.

However, the glory was dimmed by the death of one of the runners, Verema, which had to be put down afterwards. It was owned by the Aga Khan IV, one of the sport of kings’ richest patrons.

Twitter was a mixture of…


Fabe Keily, is CEO of Women In Management Australia ‘What Working Women Want'.

Some humour:

Followed by sadness with the news of the “euthanized” horse.

Plus a fair bit of anger:

With some black humour:

In a sign of the online times, the Wikipedia entry for the Aga Khan was updated within two hours of the race:

Thoroughbred horse racing

…On 5 November 2013, one of Aga Khan's horses – Verema – fractured it's right fore cannon[90] and was put down at the Melbourne Cup, Australia.

October 25 2013

VIDEO: “Myths and Murals” of East Timor

East Timorese and Australian artists have come together to reflect and create around Myths and Murals, ”promoting a common sense of national identity through art and story and collaborative strategies for engagement”.

The cross-cultural public art and literacy project, between artists from Melbourne and the East Timorese free art school Arte Moris, takes on the well-known legend of the creation of East Timor, The Boy and the Crocodile, to create a series of murals throughout the territory, as the synopsis of the project explains:

13 murals will be painted in public locations in each of the 13 districts of East Timor. The murals will leave unique cultural heritage for cultural tourism and serve as a symbolic reminder of East Timor's shared identity and the spirit of collaboration. Using The Boy and the Crocodile in a workshop environment, artists from East Timor's free art school, Arte Moris, lead students through the visualisation of their region’s myths. Students and teachers then collaborate on painting these stories.

October 19 2013

Sydney's Devastating Early Season Bushfires Spark Climate Change Brawl

Takver Takvera examines the devastating Spring bushfires in New South Wales that have destroyed nearly 200 homes so far on his Climate Citizen blog: Raging Bushfires surround Sydney with early start to Fire season: Is there a link and is it appropriate to air the debate while the disaster is still unfolding?

October 16 2013

On Blog Action Day, Thousands of Blogs on Human Rights

Today, thousands of bloggers join forces for Human Rights. It is Blog Action Day – a massive event that reaches a collective audience of millions and unites bloggers around the world.

Global Voices is a partner of Blog Action Day again this year, and we have been looking forward to another round of dedication to an important and ever-relevant topic. Some Global Voices contributors have also taken part in the event, and below you'll find excerpts from their personal blogs.

To participate in Blog Action Day, you can register your own blog on Blog Action Day's website. On Twitter, the hashtags to keep an eye on is #BAD13, #HumanRights, #Oct16.

Braille block floor in Japan helps guide the visually impaired. By Miki Yoshihito on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Braille block floor in Japan helps guide the visually impaired. By Miki Yoshihito on Flickr (CC BY)

This post will be updated throughout the day as new blogs are published.



Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

Australian Catholic Cardinal Center of Child Sexual Abuse Scandal

This Human Rights post is part of Blog Action Day on 16 October 2013.

Two sisters were repeatedly raped by their parish priest in an Australian primary school. One later committed suicide. The other became a binge drinker and is disabled after being hit by a car. Their parents want laws to make the Catholic Church look after victims properly. Their mother told the story in her book Hell On The Way To Heaven.

Since its publication in 2010, action is finally being taken. There are currently three government inquiries in Australia into institutional responses to sexual abuse of children.

As Clerical Whispers reported in May 2013, the State of New South Wales investigation followed police whistleblower Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox's allegations of Catholic church cover-ups in the Hunter Valley region.

In the State of Victoria, the Family and Community Development Committee of parliament has the task of reporting:

…on the processes by which religious and other non-government organisations respond to the criminal abuse of children by personnel within their organisations

The committee was set up after admissions by the Catholic hierarchy of forty suicides among 620 victims of child sexual abuse by its clergy. It is due to report in November 2013.

Then Prime Minister Julia Gillard established the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in late 2012. The commission is examining:

…how institutions with a responsibility for children have managed and responded to allegations and instances of child sexual abuse.

…any private, public or non-government organisation that is, or was in the past, involved with children, including government agencies, schools, sporting clubs, orphanages, foster care, and religious organisations.

Despite the broad brush of the terms of reference, the Catholic church has taken the brunt of public criticism so far. In particular, the Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell has been the centre of the controversy for his approach to offenders and victims over an extended period. His appearance at the Victorian committee in May 2013 created a storm when he admitted church cover-ups.

Ian Richardson's reaction was typical of the twitterverse:

Rock in the grass was incensed by the Cardinal's moralising:

Sam Butler made the inevitable comparison with Rupert Murdoch’s evidence in 2011 to the British parliamentary committee concerning the phone hacking scandal:

It was just one of a multitude of tweets linking to well-respected journalist David Marr’s report for the Guardian.

Meanwhile Cartoonist Jon Kudelka had his usual eye for The Details:

Kudelka - The Details

Cartoon – The Details. Courtesy Jon Kudelka

At The Conversation blog Judy Courtin assessed Pell’s apology:

If we were to rate his performance as an actor with his apology he would have just passed as an actor. The apology, along with any empathy or compassion, was entirely lacking.

Subsequently David Marr has written an in-depth essay for the September Quarterly magazine: The Prince: Faith, Abuse and George Pell (Essay 51):

He [Pell] knows children have been wrecked. He apologises again and again. He even sees that the hostility of the press he so deplores has helped the church face the scandal. What he doesn’t get is the hostility to the church. Whatever else he believes in, Pell has profound faith in the Catholic Church. He guards it with his life. Nations come and go but the church remains.

Jeremy von Einem's tweet is representative of the general reaction to Marr’s essay:

John Lord captured the revulsion and the anger that many readers felt:

Whilst reading it I had to stop many times and reflect on the enormity of the sins of the fathers. More than once I shed a tear whilst uttering the word, bastards.

But this essay is as much about Pell (I don’t feel the need to be particularly aware of protocol and use his title) the man as it is about child abuse. When all is stripped back we see a man of very little love for flock but great love for the institution of church, the privileges that come with it and the power it commands. Consequently Pell is adored by the church but despised by the people.

Cardinal Pell responded to the essay with a written statement:

A predictable and selective rehash of old material. G.K.Chesterton said: ‘A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; a bad novel tells us the truth about its author. Marr has no idea what motivates a believing Christian.

The Prince has its critics. Andrew Hamilton is consulting editor at Eureka Street, the online publication of the Australian Jesuits. In his analysis Marring the Cardinal's image he sees the essay as “elegant” but “unfair”:

The limitations of Marr's account are the obverse of its virtues. It is not a dispassionate judgment but a prosecution brief. It sifts Pell's motives and words but not those of his critics, and simplifies complexities.

Kate Edwards at Australia Incognita is a critic of Cardinal Pell but thinks Marr missed the ‘Real Story’:

The article provides no new insights on the Cardinal's various disastrous interactions with victims and the laity in relation to the scandal; no new insights into just why he and many others in the Church were so reluctant to listen or act. To me that seems a great shame.

Despite being the central player in the sordid history of abuse and cover-up, the Catholic Church was not first case study off the rank at the Royal Commission public hearings. That dishonour went to the Scouts, reinforcing a long-held stereotype.

The Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council has made a lengthy submission to the Commission’s Towards Healing processes. Meanwhile, an appearance at the inquiry by Cardinal Pell is eagerly awaited by both critics and supporters.

Outside the Victorian inquiry, support group CLAN (Care Leavers Australia Network) spoke for people brought up in “care”:

Care Leavers Australia Network outside Victoria's Parliament House

Care Leavers Australia Network outside Victoria's Parliament House. Courtesy CLAN website

The Royal Commission is expected to take several years to complete its investigations and make recommendations to the Federal government.

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