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Forget your coins, we want change: begging should not be a crime

The criminal offence of begging should be abolished.

Criminalising begging is tantamount to criminalising poverty. It perpetuates, rather than alleviates, the marginalisation and disadvantage experienced by people who beg. It also violates the fundamental human rights of some of the most vulnerable in our society.

Poverty goes begging for change

On the streets of Geelong and Melbourne, and around the world, we often feel uncomfortable when people ask us for money.

It seems as though the number of people begging on our streets is increasing, and I'm sure many of us struggle to know how to respond to people we don't know asking us for money.

It would surprise many of us to learn that begging is a crime in Victoria, and that people can be imprisoned for up to two years if found guilty.

First (verbal) shots fired ahead of Timor-Leste’s presidential elections

The first (verbal) shots have been fired in Timor-Leste’s presidential elections, scheduled for 17 March. Among the announced candidates for the election are Fretilin’s president, Francisco ‘Lu-Olo’ Guterres and former commander of Timor-Leste’s armed forces (F-FDTL), Jose Maria Vasconcelos, better known as ‘Taur Matan Ruak’. Current president Jose Ramos-Horta has said he will announce whether he will stand for a second term as president in early February. The Timor-Leste presidency is, according to the constitution, a largely ceremonial position. However, Ramos-Horta and Xanana Gusmao before him have tested the constitutional limits of the office. In a speech to Fretilin village chiefs in Baucau recently, Taur Matan Ruak spoke strongly in favour of his candidacy for the presidency. Fretilin, he said, had not governed well as the first post-independence government.

SHALL WE TALK ABOUT WHALES AND WHALING? (9)

This article appeared in the Sunday Debate page in the Herald Sun, 15 January 2012.
To read the argument from the anti-whaling side (Sea Shepherd), please go to the following link.
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/ipad/commercial-whaling-in-the-southern-ocea...

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Before talking about the whaling in the Southern Ocean

IT IS quite unfortunate that the current debate on whaling is somehow focusing only on the Japanese scientific research whaling in the Southern Ocean and the clash between the whalers and environmental activists. It is actually distracting the debate from the fundamental question. The focus of the debate should be on a question: How should human beings relate to this creature, the whale, in the 21st century?

Burma and the Stockholm Syndrome

There is a quickly developing sense that Burma, long an outcast in the international community, has begun a serious process of reform. It is as though the Burmese opposition, and the world behind it, are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, where a hostage comes to love the hostage taker following a small sign of kindness.
Burma’s human rights record over the past five decades has consistently been among the worst in the world. It is also one of the world’s biggest international drug suppliers.
To counter the damaging opprobrium this brings, the Burmese military-derived government has now released hundreds of political prisoners, signed a ceasefire with the country’s largest ethnic rebel group and has allowed the opposition National League for Democracy to re-form. The NLD has announced that it will challenge 23 of 48 vacant seats in by-elections to be held on 1 April.

Malaysia’s tectonic shift

The handing down of a ‘not guilty’ verdict on sodomy charges against Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim indicates a tectonic shift in Malaysian politics. Following a previous overturned conviction on a related charge, the immediate outcome of Anwar’s judicial decision is significant, but its longer term implications could be profound.
In a country in which the judiciary has been used as a political tool since the late 1980s, the ‘not guilty’ decision by Judge Mohamad Zabidin Diah went against expectations, even by Ibahim himself. Although the decision was widely viewed as a vindication of Anwar, it also reflects a possible break in political interference in the judiciary and, in turn, a relative weakening of what was a high level of central political control.

Heinz Girgarre Tomato Sauce Factory closure and the McDonalds connection

Fluorescent tomato sauce for the pies sold at the SCG this week would have been a great promotion for both Heinz and the Jane McGrath Foundation.

However, in mid year when the sauce for my McDondald’s fries was fluro pink - it was cause for real concern. On inspection, the packaging on the faulty product read “Heinz, manufactured in Qingdao”.  You may remember Qingdao as the coastal city engulfed in fluro green seaweed prior to the China Olympic Yachting events.

I have visited Qingdao several times as my brother teaches at a Qingdao University. Whilst the area is less polluted than other areas of China, the tomato farms are small and fragmented compared to their Australian counterparts. As such, quality control of herbicides, pesticides and fertiliser would be almost impossible. Whilst Qingdao factories, although not old, operate without the environmental, labour and consumer protection laws that exist in Australia.

Conroy's milking broadband spectra - while surfer's dongles suffer!

Auctions of “property rights” are a valid way of governments extracting value for the community from public assets, such as minerals, bandwidth and oceans. A recent example is Senator Conroy’s Dec 2011 proposal to auction the 800MHz bandwidth used by Telstra and Vodafone should they not agree to the $1.4 billion fees proposed by the Minister to be paid by the two companies for renewal of their licenses in 2013.

Home for Christmas? Not everyone is so lucky

As we prepare to share Christmas with our families, we're thankful that we have a roof over our head, food on our table, and family and friends to share the festive season with. Not everyone in our community is so lucky.

Report on Sri Lanka war crimes exonerates SL government

When one’s expectations are low, it is difficult to be disappointed. But even with almost no expectation that the report of Sri Lanka’s ‘Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’ (LLRC) would seriously address prima facie evidence of war crimes, it has still left a wide range of observers dismayed. The only lesson that appears to have been learned is that the government of Mahinda Rajapaksa has worked out how to get away with murder.
The Journal of Foreign Relations said the report ‘exonerates the military, does not touch on the question of accountability and includes some touchy-feely language about the country’s need to move forward, celebrate its diversity and be grateful for the defeat of terrorism’.

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