Politics, Activism, Culture and Fun in Brisbane, Australia.
How will we take over the world and run it ourselves
instead of having to work for the bosses who own everything?
One thing's for sure - we'll need exciting, powerful,
curious and free people on our side, not the boring pseudo-left

Aboriginal Activists to Rally in Brisbane, maybe, after inquest says policeman killed black man on Palm Island.

Gracelyn Smallwood, a community activist, says indigenous leaders are meeting in Townsville today to think about what to do now the Queensland Coroner agrees that a policeman killed a black man two years ago in the Palm Island police station, just off the north Queensland coast near Townsville.

A rally might happen in front of the Queensland Police Headqarters in Roma St, Brisbane. The original report is from the ABC TV show Message Stick

(Note to international readers - there are no local police forces in Australia, so the officer concerned was directly employed by the state police).

Two years ago, Aboriginal man Mulrunji died in police custody on Palm Island in North Queensland, sparking riots when it seemed he had been beaten to death by Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley.

Palm Island, 70 km away north of Townsville, in North Queensland. Click on this photo, and then click on the photo that pops up, to see the image properly.

Now the coroners report, released just this last week, says that yes: S/Sgt Hurley did bash Mulrunji, and he died of the injuries after being left in a cell. Click here to read the full report as a pdf file.

Palm Island, approx 2000km north of Brisbane.Click on this photo, and then click on the photo that pops up, to see the image properly.

The coroner's report said that Mulrunji hit S/Sgt Hurley in the jaw, which made
Hurley and Mulrunji fall over. Hurley got up and, while Mulrunji was still on the floor, punched Mulrunji three times, which are the blows that killed him.

The coroner also found that Hurley did not tell the truth - he tried to say that the fatal injuries happened when he fell on Mulrunji, after Mulrunji threw the first punch - but the report doubts that the fall ever happened.

A close-up view of the Queensland Police HQ in Roma St, directly opposite the Roma St train station/Transit Centre. Click on this photo, and then click on the photo that pops up, to see the image properly.

If the rally is held, it will be to protest the fact that S/Sgt Hurley has not been suspended, but merely transferred to a desk job on the Gold Coast, while "the President of the Police Union says the inquest into the death of Mulrunji was a witch-hunt and there's no reason for Senior Sergeant Hurley to be disciplined, let alone charged." The Director of Public Prosecutions is currently deciding if they are going to charge him.

A view of Brisbane's inner city, showing Queensland Police HQ in Roma St, directly opposite the Roma St train station/Transit Centre. Click on this photo, and then click on the photo that pops up, to see the image properly.

Update...Saturday 1337 Australia Eastern Standard time

The report of Smallwood's speech is now on the mainstream ABC news website, as well as the Message Stick site.

There's also an update on today's meeting in Townsville on the ABC website.

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"How Pakistan Tortured my Brother" - Les Thomas, brother of Jack Thomas (called "Jihad" Jack in media) speaks to anti war activism rally in Brisbane.

antiwarrally062309-Big Issue Vendor

But not before the boring leaders in the anti-war movement talked for far too long. Here, this vendor of "The Big Issue" (in the yellow top) did some guerilla marketing and quickly used the mike to remind people that The Big Issue, a current affairs and entertainment magazine, only costs $4, and $2 of that stays directly with your vendor.

I'm glad he did it too, because the guy who was speaking was REALLY bad. He spoke for at least 20 minutes in a fast, angry voice that was very unpleasant to listen to. He covered, in brief, just about everything that the pseudo-left is meant to be angry about at the moment. I haven't found his name yet, but he was from the Refugee Action Collective. I was especially unimpressed at the part where he follows the Michael Moore line that the fascist 'resistance' in Iraq are the 'good guys'. But here is a 3 minute sample of 2 parts of his speech, so you can judge for yourself:

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Anyway, the rally stared off at about 11.15 am on Saturday September 23rd. I won't go into the detail of what was said, because I disagreed with most of it. (I support the war on fascist Iraq - but do believe that the Palestinian question needs to be solved by Israel withdrawing from the West Bank).

If you want to know the sort of thing that was being said, you can look at Socialist Alliance, Socialist Alternative, the Socialist Worker (from ISO Australia, who I have not noticed at Brisbane rallies for a while - has the Socialist Action Group joined up with them?), Refugee Action Collective, Fair Go for Palestine, Just Peace, the Queensland Greens, the Queensland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, or any one of the United Socialists, Socialist Unity or the Unite for Socialism Party (OK, I made the last three up).

We had a lady who was shrill and boring as a sort of MC:

antiwarrally062309-Boring MC # 1

and then the boring guy mentioned above. Then another MC started to get going. Guess what: he was boring too!

antiwarrally062309-Boring MC # 2

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At last, we got to hear Les Thomas speak. He was much better than anyone else so far that day - he did a very good job of showing his brother as an ordinary person caught up in a world where politicians manipulate what they want to get re-elected.

antiwarrally062309-13-Les Thomas

Instead of bellowing into the microphone, he spoke in a normal tone of voice. Notice that he is holding the mike a foot and a half away from his mouth, while the other speakers are far too close to the mike.

The mike volume was turned right up, and the PA system was not a good one (you can see the speaker in the extreme right of the photo) so this was good technique.

Thomas began by welcoming the 'Fiesty vanguard of this great struggle against the war', and pointing out that he needed to stand in the shade, or he would get sunburnt:

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You can see from the above photo that Thomas was standing in the shade, a long way forward of the microphone stand, which is bathed in glaring sunlight. This photo of the audience (taken maybe 20 minutes later) shows the situation:


From this angle, the sun chased the shadow from left to right away from the Square as the rally went on, making it harder to find shade. Queensland is the skin cancer capital of the world, and people planning rallies need to pay more attention to shade and water. Perhaps the cool of late afternoon would be a better time for rallies, rather than midday heat?

Thomas spoke about how Jack was in Afganistan or Pakistan at the time of the September 11 2001 attacks on the USA, and he was concerned for his brother after seeing the armed US response. He immediately started on the important job of humanising his brother - how he wouldn't be your first choice to go on "Who wants to be a Millionaire" as your Phone-A-Friend, but "...he's still a decent human being with a good heart".

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Thomas said that his brother Jack tried to get back to Australia when Afghanistan was being bombed, was arrested at Karachi airport, and ever since, the government has been trying to make an example of him. When he was arrested, he 'disappeared' for four weeks, and under interrogation by the ISID (the Pakistani secret police) he was subjected to torture, including sleep deprivation, being shackled to the floor of a cell, and being told that his children would be killed, and his wife would be raped:

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After 4 months, says Thomas, Australian officers visited Jack. Not to do anything to help him, but to take the opportunity to interview him and build a case against him. And then, he was released.

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Thomas concludes that Jack was released so that he could be used as a 'success story' by Australian authorities. If he was a real threat, why was he not held longer? Why would it take 17 months to charge him if he was a real danger? And why would TV cameras be invited to Jack's arrest if he really was a dangerous security risk?

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Thomas then described how Jack was placed in the maximum-security Acacia unit at Barwon prison on the outskirts of Melbourne, where he was locked down for 23 hours a day and got to saw his family for one hour a week. These conditions brought back his terrible experiences in Pakistan.

13 other people are in Acacia, without being convicted, at the moment - Thomas calls this 'punishment without conviction'.

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Thomas spoke bitterly of how "the person reported in the media bears no relation to the person I have known all my life." This was partly because the media needs sensation to sell newspapers.

Yet in the trial earlier this year, the jury was able to see through the 'crap' and found Jack Not Guilty of the major charge he faced:

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The Government proceeded with the lesser charges, which were also thrown out, because the judge ruled that it is not actually OK to interview someone after four months in a Pakistani jail, without a lawyer, and then use the interview in court.

Thomas also discusses his view that Jack was prosecuted to serve as an example, by people who needed to make themselves look good politically:

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Thomas described the 'howls of outrage' from the 'right-wing media' when his brother was released, and stated that there are people who want these laws to be used and precedents to be set:

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Then Thomas told us how, ten days after the charges were dropped, Federal Police turned up at the door where he was on holiday in South Gippsland (near Melbourne). He made the policemen a coffee, and they gave him an interim control order, saying that he had a curfew from midnight to five AM, and also that he was forbidden from contacting Osama bin-Laden. The satirical ABC TV show, "The Chaser's War on Everything" satirised this part of the control order rather well in the video above, in a short piece featuring Jack himself, and, at great expense to the management, Osama bin-Laden.

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Thomas wrapped up by saying that Jack's case is fundamentally important for anyone who might not fully agree with the Government's agenda. More info on the pro-Jack campaign can be found at the Justice for Jack website.

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Pro-War leftists need to be careful about civil rights. The Islamic fascists (a small minorty of Muslims) are really bad people. They want a world where no-one is allowed to ask questions, or mock gods or religious prophets.

Since Jack Thomas did apparently go to Afghanistan or Pakistan to meet with extremist Muslims, it is fair enough to keep an eye on him - we cannot just pretend that he never went there.

But the sort of treatment his brother describes would not be needed unless he was actually a leader or senior officer in a terrorist cell. There appears to be no accusation that he was involved with any terrorist plot, and when his brother says that politicians had an agenda to make an example of Jack, it sounds pretty convincing. Watch him, tap his phone, make notes on who he meets - all fair enough. But the mindless overkill - and the idea that it is OK to let the Pakistani secret police work over an Australian for a few months, and then interview him for evidence - is pretty damn dodgy.

antiwarrally062309-Juanita Wheeler
Juanita Wheeler of the Queensland Greens.

After Thomas had finished speaking, there were some other speakers, from Fair Go for Palestine and from the Queensland Greens. I was particularly interested to hear that the Fair Go for Palestine speaker made no anti-Semitic remarks, but confined himself to demanding that Israel respect various UN resolutions.

antiwarrally062309-Pro-Palestinian speaker

This was good to hear, because some people in the anti-war movement say stupid things like "We are all Hizb'Allah now". Just because Israel is doing things that must be fought, does not mean we need to go all worshippy before the nasty, anti-Semitic, anti-democratic people in Hizb'Allah.

And then the march left Post Office Square for the DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) building, on Ann St, near the corner of Creek St.

antiwarrally062309-March leaves Post Office Square
March leaves Post Office Square.

antiwarrally062309-Van of the march heads up Queen St
Van of the march heads up Queen St.

antiwarrally062309-'Get the Farq Out of Iraq', read the yellow T-Shirts
"Get the Farq out of Iraq", read the T-Shirts, which is terribly amusing, and likely to win support.

antiwarrally062309-26-Rear of the march, looking up Creek St
Rear of the march, as it heads up Creek St.

MAP: Click on this picture, then click again on the new picture, to get an overhead map of the rally at Post Office Square, the route of the march along Adelaide and Creek Sts, and the end of the march (and more public speaking) at the Foreign Affairs building on the corner of Ann and Creek Sts, in central Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

If you have Google Earth on your computer, you can click here to download a collection of photos and landmarks from the rally and march onto your computer and look at it in GE (its called a .kmz file, if you care).

antiwarrally062309-Was this driver convinced?Is it always worth doing a march? What does it do to the opinions of people like this?

antiwarrally062309-Watching the speakers at Foreign Affairs building

At DFAT there were more speeches, through a very muddy-sounding bullhorn. No shade again, either.

antiwarrally062309-Ray Bergman speaks, Tom Gillespie in purple hat listensRay Bergman, of the Queensland Palestine Solidarity Campaign speaks on the steps of DFAT, while a Mr Gillespie of the Stop the War Committee in the purple hat waits to speak.

Ray Bergman spoke about a public meeting that will be on this Friday, September 29th - the Palestinian Authority delegate to Australia will be speaking at the TLC building (Trades Hall), 16 Peel St, South Brisbane, at 7pm. He will be speaking about the difficulty of getting the very different Palestinian factions to come together just to decide what to negotiate with Israel.

MAPS of the TLC building:

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Brisbane pro-Palestinian activists to speak in city this Saturday, September 23rd.

I'll be going to an anti-war activist rally in Brisbane city on Saturday. I won't be agreeing with most of what people say there: I think troops should stay in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I don't think the USA is planning war on Iran or Syria, despite the current blustering.

What I am interested in is the Freedom for Palestine bit. I do belive that the Palestinians must have justice, and I also think there is far too much anti-Semitism from some who oppose Israel. George Galloway's statement that 'We are all Hizb'Allah now' is in my opinion very wrong. It is one thing to say that Hizb'Allah has the right to resist Israel's aggression. But you have to recognise, in my opinion, that they are quite reactionary (fascist?), certainly not democrats, and should not be blindly glorified.

Galloway's line looks pretty bad when you compare it with the Alliance for Workers' Liberty, who are very much anti-war (including the Iraq war), but refuse to chant anti-Semitic slogans, and support Israel's right to exist.

The pro-Palestinian activist who told me about the rally is, from what I have seen of him, unlikely to make this sort of mistake. He recommended Fair Go For Palestine, another Brisbane pro-Palestinian group.

The rally is in Post Office Square at 11am. To get to the Square, go to the end of the Queen St Mall on Edward St (the Valley end, not the River end), and walk along Queen St away from the mall. The big Post Office (the GPO) is about 200m away from the mall, and Post Office Square is just across from it.

If you are going by train, get off at Central station, walk straight down Edward St and turn left, or Creek St and turn right, into Queen st after you get past Adelaide St.

Aerial photos below powered by Google Earth and Google Pages. CLick on the photos to get a much better view..

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UK school employee Robin Sivapalan organises anti-Blair protest, faces dismissal.

Robin Sivapalan, a classroom assistant at Quinton Kynaston school in London, organised a protest of school children when UK Prime Minister Tony Blair visited the school to make a media announcement about his retirement, on September 7th.

Footage of the protests, from YouTube:

There is more footage here.

Sivapalan distributed a leaflet to school students on the day of the protest - the text of the leaflet is here.

Now, I disagree utterly with the politics behind the protest - at least as far as the Iraq War goes. I think getting rid of Sadaam Hussein was a good thing to do, and therefore disagree with the 'No War' chants, and the description of Blair as a 'warmonger' in the leaflet is wrong.

But do I support the right to hold this protest? You bet I do. I even signed the petition.

I was part of a very long discussion about this at Harry's Place. It's a pro-Blair site, and a lot of people were against the protest because it was organised by their political enemies - although the author of the post about the issue did come down on the side of free speech. I copped a fair bit of flak in the comment boxes for taking the free-speech line, but after I kept my cool and held my ground, we got some interesting things out of the discussion.

The most useful and striking thing that was said by the anti-protest people was by Graham:

... some of us had our own school education seriously affected by middle-class wankers palying at being "the vanguard of the proletariat" in the seventies and we are not going to stand around and let self-satisfied puffballs ruin the chances of another generation of working-class kids.
I thought this was a step away from just saying "It's a school, students aren't there to protest, he should be sacked!". While I think teachers should be able to discuss politics at school, all kids deserve a top-class education, so anyone who wants to see protests like you can see in the YouTube videos also needs to think about how we are going to deliver that education.

My reply said:

The vast majority of parents would place their child's success above free speech, so anyone who wishes to encourage messy, time-consuming democracy for 11-year olds would need to make certain that students were also taught to thrive and survive in society as it is.

There are a number of measures used by parents - behaviour, exam results, employability are probably the big three - to judge a child's education.

Is it, for instance, possible to teach students that it is ok to protest, and that is ok for teachers to talk politics and encourage protest, while also providing a solid education turning out smart, employable students?

I'd ask the people who criticise Sivapalan to say what they most want to see out of high school graduates?

FWIW, I think kids in primary school should be drilled in arithmetic and spelling till it comes out their ears. Its the only reason I can do long multiplication and division by hand today.

Which got us onto some useful discussion, as Graham replied:

I'd most like to see them not having to come to me as adults in order to learn basic literacy - in other words, I'd be quite happy if I was out of that particular job.

and continued:

In the next week or so I will probably be allocated about 30 GCSE English students with ages ranging from 16-60 (Schools do have a habit of offloading troublesome younger students to adult ed sometimes nowadays, but we will leave them aside for now.) At the first lesson I will ask them about their experiences at school and I would lay a bet that 95% will say they either had teachers who didn't care, a different teacher every week or they messed about and bunked off (and lets not forget that they were ALLOWED to mess about and etc.) All will state that their experiences of school education were "shit." All will be nervous of returning and expect the worst.

In London now David teaching is just not an attractive career option. In my opinion once upon a time (and at least at my own school) pupils really were confronted with teachers from totally different backgrounds leading to a standoff of mutual incomprehension. Over the last few years they have instead been confronted by supply teachers who really do change weekly (and who are very often your own countrymen.)

It's too a big subject to really explore in detail but here are just two illustrations of the problem: one of my best friends is from Sydney and has worked in an East end school for years now. He tried forming cricket teams and after school clubs and was frustrated by bureaucracy at every level. The only reason he stays in the country is because he married an English woman, herself a fantastic teacher, who eventually had a mini-breakdown after having too much responsibility piled on to her (along with too little support in the classroom.)

So how can the situation be improved? Well more local teachers (from all communities - but crucially who feel connected to those communities) would be a start. Am I hopeful? Not since I found out that one of my GCSE students (yes, an English GCSE student!) had at the same time as taking a geography degree, been thrown into teaching the subject in a (new) South London academy, was one week in front of his pupils in his preparation and subject matter and was in every way having his career prospects sacrificed just so that the school could say it had another black teacher.

To which I replied:

There is no way kids could ever get the education they deserve if teachers change every week. There is no way a holidaymaker can do this work, except as an invited guest into an already stable environment.

I think the activist Left (revolutionary and social-democratic together) needs to start asking people who are suffering from bad education what is going wrong, and what they need.

More money is almost certainly necessary. Social-democratic governments are still spooked by the need for low taxes (I blame Daddy Bush), so tax rises for anything would be fiercely resisted.

The Left can help to change that by arguing that the money spent on better education is worth it. If a majority actually want and demand it - think that a better country is worth maybe an extra few hundred dollarpounds in tax a year - that could help to change things.

I hope this will lead to some discussion at Harry's Place about what the Left can do to encourage a better education system.

And on a side note, this is an interesting example of what happens when ordinary people have access to cheap video cameras and a worldwide publishing system like YouTube. In this case, apparently the protest was reported on mainstream TV. But what happens the next time the police riot and attack a rally? I hope there will have dozens of videocams/cameraphones trained on them, and videos of police brutality all over YouTube.

Its becoming harder and harder to hush things up. And I love it.

But be prepared for the state to hit back - video blogger Josh Wolf is going back to jail in California for refusing to hand over his unpublished video footage to the Federal government.

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Surpassing Mao Zedong

I've just posted 1500 words over at Last Superpower in response to "Remembering Mao Tsetung", a post about the 30th anniversary of Mao Zedong's death, on September 9th.

One of the keys to the original post is the quote:

I just checked back on an old article It is right to rebel first published in The Age, (Melbourne Australia), on Friday 24 December 1993 under the title 'The revolution lives on long after Mao' for the Centenary of Mao's birth. Should be easy enough to pick out some obviously faulty analysis that could explain why nothing that could plausibly be described as an organized communist movement with a grasp of the ideas Mao developed has become visible again in the 14 years since then.

Sorry, still beats me. We obviously hadn't figured out what to do then and we still haven't now but I honestly still cannot see what we got wrong about the direction things were going.
I've come up with some ideas about what to do, and what to think about, right now:

We can do little to start a revolution. In fact, one of the almost-certainties of history is that if there is a genuinely revolutionary situation in Australia in our lives, we will be tagging behind as the working class finally decides that it has had enough.

What we can do is ask:

What sort of working class would be most likely to revolt, given the chance?

What sort of working class would be most likely to successfully build socialism, stop the certain counter-revolution, and progress towards communism?

and, once we have an answer:

What can we do to help working class people be like that?
Keep your feeds open. And remember - Post No Idiots.

Post No Idiots

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Taking to the Streets Exhibition at the Museum of Brisbane.

This is a set of photos from the Taking to the Street Exhibition, which is being held at the Museum of Brisbane, inside the Brisbane Town Hall, until Sunday September 10th.

The exhibition is about the 20 years of radical protest in Brisbane, and is packed full of information and details. This short set of photos shows nothing like the full range of info there.

The town hall is right in the middle of downtown Brisbane. This is a link to the Google Map. The Town Hall is the big brown dome in the middle of the map, next to the paved open space.

You can also see a set of 58 photos from the Taking to the Streets exhibition here in a set of photos on Flickr.

Or, you can see the same set on Picasa Web Albums:

Taking to the Streets
Jul 26, 2006 - 58 Photos

Both these sets of photos have a buuilt-in slideshow so you can sit back and let the exhibition pass you by.

All these photos are my work and are in the public domain. However the original text of posters , explanations etc are copyright to the original authors.

Taking to the Streets Intro and Joh-4

Taking to the Streets Intro and Joh-5

Taking to the Streets Intro and Joh-7

Taking to the Streets Right to March

Taking to the Streets Right to March-1

Taking to the Streets Cop Uniforms and Tools-2

Taking to the Streets Black Rights

Taking to the Streets Black Rights-1

Taking to the Streets Black Rights-2

Sam Watson is standing as an Independent candidate in the seat of Brisbane Central, in the Queensland State Election to be held on Saturday August 9th, 2006. I'll be voting for him, mainly because of this open letter to Aboriginal males, calling for them to resist racism and be true men and warriors, not abusers.

Taking to the Streets Black Rights-3

Taking to the Streets Black Rights-6

Taking to the Streets Black Rights-7

Taking to the Streets Black Rights-11

Taking to the Streets Culture-2

Taking to the Streets Culture-3

Taking to the Streets Culture-4

A big screen TV showing a counterculture performance, satirically praising Premier Bjelke-Petersen to the tune of Cabaret's song 'Tomorrow belongs to Me'.

Taking to the Streets Culture-5

Taking to the Streets Culture-6

Taking to the Streets Ending

There is a big chalkboard at the exhibition to scrawl your own grafitti.

Taking to the Streets Ending-1