May 2nd 2009

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Articles from this issue:

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Labor's 'people overboard' fiasco

EDITORIAL: Human rights consultation hijacked?

TRADE: Government pushes China free trade agreement

FIJI: Australia and NZ silent as China bankrolls military junta

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: From Baghdad to Beijing: Labor's dodgy dealings

TRADE UNIONS: WA unions host Cuban ambassador... Why?

ILLICIT DRUGS: Australia's $10 billion industry - organised crime

GLOBAL WAR ON TERROR: A desperate fight to the death

THAILAND: Land of smiles descends into turmoil

PRE-SCHOOL: Conscripting our toddlers for political activism

OPINION: Legislative assault on freedom of conscience

POLITICAL IDEAS: Crisis of credibility that has shaken the world

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Productive investment vs. financial speculation / Free speech curtailed for the sake of pluralism

Human rights hearings (letter)

Australia to import food? (letter)

Telstra (letter)

ETS to cost billions (letter)

CINEMA: Katyn - Sombre depiction of unpunished WW2 crime

BOOKS: REFUGEES AND REBELS: Indonesian Exiles in Wartime Australia, by Jan Lingard

BOOKS: GIRLS LIKE YOU: Four Young Girls, Six Brothers and a Cultural Timebomb, by Paul Sheehan

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Human rights hearings (letter)

by John Morrissey

News Weekly, May 2, 2009

It was with some interest but little expectation of a level playing-field that I attended the opening Melbourne session of the national Human Rights Consultation Committee's roundtable meetings.

Although the majority of participants were avid supporters of a national bill or charter of human rights, the conduct of the meeting and the performance of some of the wiser heads were encouraging.

The chairman, Fr Frank Brennan, appeared quite open-minded about whether we need a charter of human rights in Australia; but his associate, Mary Kostakidis, did not bother to hide her enthusiasm.

My own table included a human rights lawyer, an adult undergraduate student in the human rights degree course at RMIT University, three welfare officers from one local government area, and others similarly disposed to a charter - leaving me outnumbered, to say the least.

Speakers in the plenary session were more typically espousing hobby-horses which they believed a charter might assist, but a courteous hearing was given to more sceptical contributions.

Babette Francis of Endeavour Forum blew away the claims of an Islamic woman who sought a national charter to aid her opposition to the war on terror, while Peter Stevens of FamilyVoice Australia warned of the obstacles which such a charter would present to parliamentary government.

Robert Ward of the Australian Christian Lobby bluntly pointed out that the Victorian charter had expressly removed the rights of the unborn, the most vulnerable members of society.

It was also encouraging that other speakers were sceptical about the capacity of a written charter to change society, and asked about balancing the burgeoning rights culture with more awareness of our own responsibilities.

John Morrissey,
Hawthorn, Vic.

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