Sunday, August 07, 2005

The AmishThrasher Wrap, August 7th

Posted by AmishThrasher at 11:29 pm
The Great Cruisade:
One reason why we don't want Theocracy!
Well, it's time to take another nutritious bite of the AmishThrasher Wrap. This week, on the religious front, the Uniting Church gives its thoughts on Religious Vilification Laws, as well as an announcement about the 9th Assembly of the World Council of Churches. The Nuclear ambitions of the Environment Minister, Ian "The only options that we're pursuing are on offshore islands" Campbell come under fire on the anniversary of Hiroshima, while the Greens extend an olive branch to the Nationals over food labelling laws. The Electronic Frontiers Foundation, an Internet user right's watchdog, has been outraged by US Government moves to undermine your rights, by allowing US government agents more power to pry through your digital equiptment. On the Activist front, refugee rights group the Refugee Action Collective has announced a march on Friday, August 26th, calling for long term solutions to Australia's ongoing detention centre crisis. All that and more (including a site update) in this edition of the AmishThrasher Wrap, so click through for analysis and commentary on these issues. Certainly, you can't complain that we don't live in interesting times!

The Uniting Church gives its thoughts on Religious Vilification Laws
I'll kick off this Wrap by mentioning this recent statement, by the Uniting Church (which will participate in the forthcoming 9th Assembly of the World Council of Churches) on the issue of Religious Vilification Laws. As regular readers of the AmishThrasher will know, one of my pet peeves is radical fringe religious groups - be they Christian, Muslim, Juewish, Buddhist, or Hindu - who hijack their religions to promote an agenda of violence, racism, and hatred. Such messages often go against the key messages of the religions that these extremists claim to represent. These radical fringe groups have recently mounted a campaign of misinformation about Victoria's Religious Vilification laws, which help protect the right we have to practice our religion, or our choice not to actively participate in religion, in peace. After all, in the age of terrorism, what we need is understanding and co-operation. And accepting fear and intimidation on the part of extremist religious elements which seek to spread hate are part of a pre- 9/11 mindset. And it is great to see that mainstream Christian Churches, like the Uniting Church, agree with this position.

The key parts of the Uniting Church's common-sense position on the issue include:
* "The last thing Australia needs is intolerant religious groups going around inciting hatred against people of other races and religions. That is why we need effective laws against racial and religious vilification."
* "It is also time to stop the current campaign of misinformation and sabotage by fringe Christian groups, against Victoria’s racial and religious vilification laws"
* "These trifling claims are undermining the law by giving ammunition to certain religious groups who demand in the name of their own religion, the freedom to incite extremism and hate against others. But that is not the Australian way, and we don’t need it."
* "In my view reasonable Christian people - those who follow the message of Jesus “to love your neighbor as yourself” - need to be the most supportive of tolerance and respect for people regardless of race and religion. "

The statement itself is in response to a recent court decision that clarified a number of points about Victorians racial and religious vilification laws, which seriously undermine the fear campaign several radical groups have been running:
* The law is there to deal with extreme actions, those that inflame hatred of people based on their race or religion.
* The law recognises that you can hate an idea or religion without hating the people that believe in it.
* The law allows you to state, if you want to, that your religious beliefs are the one true religion and all other religious beliefs are false.
* The law does not prevent criticism of religion or religious practice, unless you cross the line of inciting hatred of the of followers that religion.
* The law does not prevent evangelism.

The statement itself is fairly short, so if you have a few spare moments, it's well worth downloading:
Click here to read the Uniting Church Statement.

Campbell under fire on the anniversary of Hiroshima
This past week has marked the anniversary of the nuclear attack on Hiroshima, as the world has contemplated one of the (numerous) downsides of nuclear technology. And it has led to calls for Campbell to reverse his stance on the Northern Territory nuclear waste dump (which he lied about at the last election), and to end the debate about Australia switching to outdated nuclear reactor technology for its power. As I said ealier, the real debate here isn't about nuclear power; its about how many of these agenda pushing pollies deserve to keep their jobs.
Click to read Senator Milne's Statement.

extend an olive branch to the Nationals over food labelling laws
This past week has marked the Greens presenting an olive-branch to National Party Senators who are willing to stand up for their conscience, in the face of government policy. They have done this by taking the side of farmers, whose farms have been threatened and undercut by cheap foreign imports. The biggest problem here is that Australian consumers often have no way of knowing whether the fresh produce they buy is grown locally, or overseas. This is one of a number of holes in our current labelling laws, on top of a number of other loopholes recently exposed by Choice Magazine (including one can of Diet Coke supposedly being 1.88 servings).

As consumers, we depend on honest product information to make an informed decision about what we chose to buy. If these laws are tightened up, we as consumers are the clear winners. Similarly, since most patriotic Australians would prefer to buy Australian Made and Owned rather than Cheap and Imported, our farmers and manufacturers - and the workers that are employed by those businesses - are also winners. And while tougher labelling laws are still some way off, this is a great step in the right direction.

The key quotes from Senator Nettle are as follows:
The Greens give 100% support to farmers who are protesting the Howard government allowing multinationals to abandon local producers and prevent consumers from supporting local produce by refusing to legislate real truth in labelling laws... Bob Brown will reintroduce The Greens Truth in Labelling Bill 2005 which requires food labelling to show the country of origin, and whether it came from genetically modified crops or was more than 0.5% GE contaminated (as required by tough European Union rules). The Greens also oppose more free trade deals which could end up like the lopsided US free trade with no barrier on US food imports to Australia but 20 pages of restrictions on Australian exports to the US.
In the Press Statement, Senator Nettle also criticised the Howard government for not just selling out farmers, but also students and workers, by stating that "At the same time as students are coming under attack so too are the working conditions of 95% of Australian workers, threatened with the loss of holiday pay, long service leave, sick leave and other entitlements which make our communities tick."
Read it here

The Electronic Frontiers Foundation, an Internet user right's watchdog, has been outraged by US Government moves to undermine your rights,
A scary article here, from technology rights watchdog the EFF, about how the US Government is using technology to further undermine the privacy of its citizens:
The Electronic Frontiers Foundation, an Internet user right's watchdog, has been outraged by US Government moves to undermine your rights.

the Refugee Action Collective
The date of the protest, like I stated earlier, is Friday, August 26th. By attending, you won't magically make Vanstone - and the bureaucrats under her watch - do their jobs properly. But what you will do is show that immigration lies are intollerable, that cases like Cornelia Rau and Vivian Solon are unacceptable, and that we are interested in the issue and will hold the guilty accountable come the next election.
the Refugee Action Collective Protest.

Vermont South Tram Extension
One of the causes this site champions is greater investment in public transport infrastructure, as well as long term planning for future transport needs. And given this, it's worthwhile mentioning the recent extention of the Burwood Highway tram to Vermont. Peter "No tolls" Bachelor, I want to make it clear, is not one of my favorite politicans; but he does deserve some credit for overseeing an important addition to Victoria's public transport network. That said, while having connecting busses to Knox adds value to the extension, it's really just a low-cost, stop-gap solution done in place of extending the tram to Knox (which has become a thriving retail and commercial hub in the outer eastern suburbs). It is also a dissapointment that the building of the Mitcham-Frankston Tollway was not taken as an opportunity to build a major outer-metropolitan radial line, connecting some of the suburbs which have been served by public transport the worst; and the Vermont South tram-line would add significant value to such a radial railway. As I stated earlier, what we need here is bold, long term planning covering public transport in Melbourne. And while this tram extension is a clear step in the right direction, there is plenty more which needs to be done.

Site Update
I want to finish up this Wrap with a quick update about the site. I've submitted a couple of articles to Rabelais, the Latrobe University student magazine, and hopefully they'll be included in the next issue of the student paper. So for those of you who are out at Bundoora, keep an eye out for it. Regardless if they are included, they will be republished here on the AmishThrasher in the coming weeks.

On a different note, last week, instead of doing a second AmishThrasher Wrap, I posted a string of Quick Updates on a number of issues. The logic behind doing this is that, rather than scanning through a post which discusses several issues, it may be easier to scroll to the issue you are interested on the front page. Unfortunately, this site has nowehere near the traffic (or comment) volume that makes this style of story so worthwhile on sites like Slashdot, or elsewhere. That said, I may post a few single Quick Updates some weeks to get a time-efficient update on to the site.