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Movies seen in 2013

Following from the list in 2012 and previous years, here is a list of movies that I saw at the cinema in 2013. There were plenty of good movies released this year and I managed to see a good selection of them.

Get your facts rights

I had a letter published in the Midland Express today about the importance of being factually accurate when engaging in public debate. I wrote the letter partly in response to the continual nonsense about climate change that seems to always get published on the letters pages of many newspapers. It was also motivated by letters in the Express making claims about wind power and smart meters that are not supported by any scientific evidence.

The letter notes the recently announced policies of the Los Angeles Times and Sydney Morning Herald about publishing letters discussing climate change. I have tried to emphasize that this should not be seen as censorship but as an imperative for those who engage in public debate to get their facts right.

Letter published in Midland Express, 5 November 2013

Following the announcement that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had won the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize I tweeted the following message.

The tweet follows a similar theme to a blog post I wrote last year criticising the Nobel Committee for awarding the 2012 Peace Prize to the European Union (EU). I would like to discuss this a little further.

I think the Nobel Committee is too focused on recognising institutions and processes. This is evidenced in the award of the prize to the United Nations (UN), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and EU in recent years. The work of OPWC is undoubtedly important and banning chemical weapons is a laudable goal. However, those who work for the OPWC don’t face the kind of threats and persecution that many activists do.

There are many activists around the world who face very real threats to their life and liberty just for advocating for basic human rights. Malala Yousafzai was shot and almost died for advocating that girls should have the right to an education. Three women from Pussy Riot were imprisoned for expressing their political views. Ai Weiwei was persecuted by the Chinese government for his bold artistic work and social criticism.

The bravery of people like them needs to be recognised. Activists who face very direct threats to their personal safety can gain protection through the award of the Nobel Peace Prize. Furthermore it brings wider attention to their struggle and gives them a new level of legitimacy and access. I can think of no better example of this than the award of the prize to Bishop Belo and José Ramos-Horta in 1996. It brought a new degree of attention to the situation in Timor-Leste and only a few years later the nation was able to vote for its independence.

I sincerely hope that the when deciding who will win the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize the Nobel Committee will pay attention the work of little known, marginalised and persecuted activists. It is these activists who demonstrate the greatest bravery and courage in the pursuit of peace. It is these activists for whom the prize will make the biggest difference.

In the lead up to elections organisations often put out scorecards comparing where the main parties stand on key issues. I have collected a few of these scorecards on issues such as gay marriage, agriculture, environment and public transport. It seems most organisations just score Labor, Liberal and the Greens. Other parties only score a mention on a few of the scorecards.

Activist group GetUp have put out a scorecard which assesses eight parties on a whole range of policies. It is deemed a “work in progress” but is still the most comprehensive scorecard I have found.

The National Rurual Health Alliance assesses the three main parties on their policies affecting health services in rural areas.

Several websites assess climate change and renewable energy policies.  Solar Scorecard lets you find out where local candidates stand on renewable energy. This site not only scores 12 parties, but also individual candidates in each electorate. Vote Climate scores the three main parties on their climate change policies. The Climate Institute have made a Pollute-o-Meter.

Below I have posted some scorecards which are in an easy to read graphical format.

Gay marriage vote scorecard

Source: @harrymeixner

On the issue of marriage equality the Liberals are opposed, Labor have given half-hearted support while the Greens are the only party fully committed to supporting gay marriage.

EFA election scorecard

Source: EFA

Electronic Frontiers Australia have assessed the policies of seven parties on digital rights. The Pirate Party and the Greens score highest on these issues. Continue Reading »

I wrote the following letter which was published in the Midland Express on 16 July 2013. The letter is addressed to Damian Drum MLC and concerns legislation to provide compensation for firefighters who contract cancer due to exposure to smoke and chemicals in their work. A Greens MP has introduced legislation to provide compensation to the parliament but it needs the support of the government to pass. More information can be found at http://fairgoforfirefighters.org.

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Detention Logs is a new project that seeks to inform the public about what is happening in Australia’s immigration detention network. The project’s founders wrote that:

Detention Logs was born out of what we believe is a need for more transparency. As debate about immigration becomes more heated the closer we head to the election, the harder it becomes for facts to emerge. Our aim is to publish data, documents and investigations that reveal more about conditions and events inside Australia’s detention centres. We want to help let the sun shine in on these facilities.

Collaboration with media organisations Guardian Australia, New Matilda and The Global Mail will be a key part of informing the public. However, there is an important role for the public itself to play. Currently the data about incident reports on the Detention Logs site is limited to short summaries. To find out more details of specific incidents any member of the public can submit a Freedom of Information (FoI) request. This is made very easy by the website Right to Know. It just requires a few clicks to submit an FoI request.

A recent report on SBS’s Dateline highlight the secrecy surrounding Australia’s immigration detention centres. Reporter Mark Davis visited Manus Island in PNG to attempt to gain access to the detention centre there. Despite assurances from various PNG government officials he was repeatedly denied access to the centre. Last night ABC’s 7.30 reported on how so-called “enhanced screening” of asylum seekers. This has been used to send 1,200 asylum seekers home within days of their arrival by boat. These reports highlight the secrecy and lack of due process surrounding the processing of asylum seekers by the Australian government.

After browsing through some of the incidents recorded on Detention Logs I submitted an FoI request concerning Incident 1-7AL08L. The summary of this incident is “On 22nd May 2011 client [S. 47F(1)] submitted a compliant letter that had allegations off assault and racial abuse.” You can follow the progress of the FoI request at Right to Know. When the documents are released I will write another post about the information contained in them.

At about 6:30am on Friday 17 May 2013 a truck collided with a car on the southbound lanes of Citylink approaching the Bolte Bridge. The truck was left hanging precariously from the freeway. The driver of the truck fell 15 metres onto the road below and is in a critical condition in hospital. I collated some tweets and photos from the incident on Storify. Most of the tweets and photos are from the MFB’s official Twitter account.

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