24 April 2007


As the nation sinks ever deeper into crisis through the experience of the most severe drought in its history, calls for effective action on climate change continue.

The Seeds of Change group (readers of this bulleting who want to act together for justice) helped form the human sign "Halt Climate Change Now" on Sandringham beach, in an action organized by the Bayside Climate Change Group to raise awareness about the issue of climate change as part of Earth Day 2007

In the meantime the recently screened report on the ABC Four Corners program highlighted both the potential for renewable energy generation (wind, geothermal, photovoltaic solar and solar thermal) to provide immediate non-polluting answers to Australia’s future energy needs and the government’s failure to support these alternatives presumably because of its alliance with coal and uranium mining interests.

Human Sign Sustainability Festival, Sandringham

Human Sign Sustainability Festival, Sandringham

Human Sign, Sustainability Festival Sandringham

'Seeds of Change' members joining in the human sign at the Bayside Sustainability Festival. Thats us at the bottom of the right diagonal of the 'A' in HALT!


Most Australians can be forgiven for not recognizing the name Allan Kessing as with some exceptions, his recent conviction has not received the publicity his case deserves.

Many would argue that the retired public servant warrants the status of hero, but instead he faces the prospect of two years jail and the disappearance of his life savings in legal fees.

His crime? He allegedly leaked to the media copies of reports detailing problems with security at Australia’s airports that had been ignored or suppressed. His alleged action eventually led to the Wheeler report prompting a massive upgrade of airport security and the expenditure of $200 million by the government to ensure greater safety for airline passengers.

Rather than being thanked for his action it would seem Allan Kessing has been pursued and prosecuted for embarrassing the government.

The case is reminiscent of the campaign to discredit senior intelligence officer Andrew Wilkie following his protest resignation at the Australian government’s decision to go to war in Iraq in the face of advice to the contrary from intelligence experts – advice that is now clearly proven to have been correct.

The case raises important issues of openness and honesty in government and demonstrates the lack of protection for those individuals like Mr Kessing who take a stand for the common good when government’s behave in a dishonest and deceitful manner.


Polmin is a political lobby group that seeks to bring about systemic change in Australian society through the influencing of public policy for the common good in accordance with the principles of Catholic Social Teaching.

Polmin has thrown its support behind the campaign for the rights of workers and their families which are seen to be threatened by the Workchoices legislation which was introduced by the present government after the last election without any prior notification or discussion.

PolMin is concerned that the WorkChoices proposals fail to ensure an industrial and workplace relations system that upholds the dignity of the worker. The proposed changes threaten to encourage a society that prioritizes profit over people, and therefore undermines the common good.

PolMin seeks to ensure:-
- that Australia’s industrial relations system is built on principles of fairness and justice, to ensure respect for the dignity of all, particularly the poor and marginalized.
- security of employment for all, regardless of the size of the workplace, by ensuring access to unfair dismissal protection.
- that the minimum wage continues to be set as a 'living wage', rather than as a single adult wage.

Concerns about the Workchoices legislation have also been consistently raised by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council and other Catholic organizations such as the St Vincent de Paul Society


After several months of negotiation Edmund Rice International has signed an agreement with Franciscans International establishing a collaborative partnership to promote a social justice and human rights agenda worldwide.

The agreement provides for ERI personnel to work within the Franciscans International offices in Geneva and places ERI potentially in a strong position to advocate for global social justice and the promotion of human rights.

Currently Franciscans International is supporting the global campaign to preserve and strengthen the Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council which are under threat from a review that is currently underway.

You can support the effective promotion and protection of human rights by participating in this campaign and signing the petition which can be accessed at the above website.

10 April 2007


The success of the recent Earth Hour in Sydney, whereby thousands of businesses and households turned off their lights for one hour to raise awareness about global warming and to contribute to a reduction of energy demand in a practical way, was another demonstration of the growing realization within the community of the urgent need to address issues of global warming and climate change.

The Lights Off Australia campaign launched last month is another example of a community campaign to cut energy wastage. On the first Wednesday of each month residents are asked to switch off lights and businesses are encouraged to turn off lights that aren't required overnight. Australians are also being urged to turn off appliances left on standby - leaving mobile phone chargers, TVs and microwaves on standby accounts for up to 10% of the average household's electricity use.

As part of the celebration of Earth Day on April 22nd members of the Seeds of Change Social Justic Action Group will be cycling together to join the human sign spelling out Halt Climate Change Now as part of the Bayside Sustainable Living Expo at Sandringham.

Any readers of this bulletin are welcome to join us on that day.


While 30,000 children around the world continue to die every single day as a result of extreme poverty, the importance of developed nations fulfilling their commitment to lift aid levels to 0-7% of GNP by 2015 becomes more important than ever.

As a signatory to the Millenium Declaration Australia agreed to support the eight, internationally-agreed goals to halve global poverty by 2015.

Oxfam is currently campaigning for Australian Labor Party, which is Australia’s alternative government to make a clear timetabled commitment to increase Australia’s overseas aid at its forthcoming National Conference in Sydney. You can support that call by following the above link to the website.

In the meantime a survey carried out by Aid/Watch a not for profit activist organisation monitoring and campaigning on Australian overseas aid and trade policies and programs, has revealed that politicians are out of step with the Australian public on the issue of the purpose of aid.

In the survey almost three quarters of politicians agreed with the proposition that aid should be used to pursue Australia’s national interests and promote Australia’s domestic industry compared with only 14% of community respondents who rather saw it as a means of assisting the millions of people living in poverty in our region.


In another recent example of the questioning of the morality of the actions of its government, the National Association of Evangelicals in the United States has endorsed an anti-torture statement saying their nation has crossed "boundaries of what is legally and morally permissible" in its treatment of detainees and war prisoners in the fight against terror.

Human rights violations committed in the name of preventing terrorist attacks have made the country look hypocritical to the Muslim world, the document states. Christians have an obligation rooted in Scripture to help Americans "regain our moral clarity."

"Our military and intelligence forces have worked diligently to prevent further attacks. But such efforts must not include measures that violate our own core values," the document says. "The United States historically has been a leader in supporting international human rights efforts, but our moral vision has blurred since 9-11."

Similar questions have been raised in Australia. The Law Council of Australia, the peak national body representing the legal profession in this country, has been scathing in its criticism of the Government’s handling of the Hicks case.

Prominent Australian legal figures have even stated that the Prime Minister and Attorney General have been guilty of serious crimes themselves in their deliberate breaking of Australian law in the case of David Hicks, and in their justification of the use of coercive interrogation techniques for such prisoners.

It is a disturbing situation reminiscent of Nazi Germany in the 1930’s if the national government can ignore the law and discriminate against its citizens while large sections of the Australian population apparently remain unconcerned.


"'No, no!' said the Queen. 'Sentence first verdict afterwards'"- (from Lewis Carroll’s 'Alice in Wonderland')

Whilst the saga of David Hick’s imprisonment seems to be moving to a pleasing resolution for him and his family, many questions remain unanswered about the whole affair.

At times the bizarre nature of the proceedings have more resembled a scene from 'Alice in Wonderland' than the system of justice that has been developed slowly and painfully over centuries in western democracies.

The key issue has never been about David Hicks himself, but about the fundamental rights and dignity to which every person is entitled, and the responsibility of governments to respect those rights and uphold the law.

It is puzzling that Hicks could be held for five years, much of it effectively in solitary confinement, and demonized as one of the worst of the worst of dangerous terrorists but ultimately be offered a nine month sentence in an Australian gaol – shorter than a sentence he might receive for failure to pay a traffic fine.

With the prospect of immediate removal from Guantanamo Bay and the guarantee he would be free by the new year if willing to plead guilty, there was little likelihood Hicks would risk ongoing indefinite incarceration by maintaining his innocence especially in the face of a process that has always seemed designed to predetermine his guilt.

Unfortunately the evidence against him will now never be tested, nor will his claims of being tortured, forever leaving questions about his guilt and suspicions of a political cover-up.

Even when David Hicks is released, the continued holding of hundreds of other alleged 'enemy combatants' in Guantanamo Bay remains an issue of concern. Recently several senior figures in the Administration of President Bush including Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice have reportedly urged the closure of the Guantanamo Bay facility described by visiting US author and nun Sr Helen Prejean as "an aberration and a corruption of US values".

You can add your voice to the call to close Guantanamo Bay by supporting the Avaaz online petition.

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