When we entered the last few years of the first decade of the 21st Century, Australia left behind twelve years of painfully staring into the broiling contents of its own guts.
When we changed the government in November 2007, we left the 'father of arch-conservative Australians', John Howard, behind.
The twelve years of peering deeply and intently into the slimy broth of a witches' cauldron while being forced to take breaths over the toxic stench emanating from it, was tough, very tough.
It has been stated and re-stated in many ways - usually in more eloquent terms or in a very civilized manner - that without the rock-solid guarantee of a Bill of Rights, Australia's Indigenous people, workers who belong to Trade Unions, journalists wanting to protect their sources, refugees, and Muslims, are all at great risk of having their unalienable rights curtailed, undermined, and ultimately destroyed.
This page provides a short summary of some principles underlying the human rights issues Project SafeCom has worked with since 2001, and then continues on to briefly guide you into this website - in particular the grey section.
14 February 2008: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's Motion of Apology - Yesterday, Australia's Federal Parliament reconvened after the resounding win for ALP Leader Kevin Rudd, and the very first motion put by Australia's new Prime Minister under 'government business' was the speech to The Motion Of The Apology. Here's the movie and transcript of Kevin Rudd's speech.
3 March 2008: The Bill of Rights resources archive - Project SafeCom's archive of Bill of Rights resources: speeches, papers, presentations and books have seen the light of day right around Australia since the 2001 Tampa standoff and the anti-terrorism legislation introduced during the Howard years. This page brings together our resources on a Bill of Rights for Australia.
During the Paul Keating years, the Sydney suburb of Redfern became synonymous with Paul Keating's famous 1992 Redfern speech. During the 'Howard years' from 1996 to 2007, the same Sydney suburb was the place of race riots around the death of an Indigenous youngster, and the suburb was eventually bulldozed, and now brand-new apartments replace the slice of history that 'should not be seen'.
Now that the neo-conservative government of John Howard has gone to the dustbin, Australia is changing again: the first day of the ALP government's Parliamentary sitting saw Kevin Rudds's famous "Sorry Motion". And as things rapidly unfold, Macquarie University economics professor David Throsby writes in the Sydney Morning Herald:
"...three issues have stood out as important battlegrounds on which they have been fought in this country, labelled by some observers as the three R's: the republic, reconciliation and refugees. All three have been issues on which Howard staked a strong position against his progressive opponents, and there has been some significant movement on all three since the change of government." (Source)
4 October 2007: Kevin Rudd: Howard's Brutopia; the battle of ideas in Australian politics - "the culture war is essentially a cover for the real battle of ideas in Australian politics today: the battle between free-market fundamentalism and the social-democratic belief that individual reward can be balanced with social responsibility. Howard's culture war is in large part an electoral strategy drawn straight from the Republican Party's campaign manual."
13 February 2008: Archive of Indigenous Issues pages - the number of pages dealing with some aspects of Australia's First Peoples has been growing steadily since we started our work in 2001, so it's appropriate we bring them all together on one page. Here's our archive of Indigenous issues.
This website, and even our organisation, started because of our fury about Australia's treatment of refugees, in particular 'unannounced boat refugees', or, as the Australian government wants to call them, also the Rudd government, "unauthorised arrivals".
Project SafeCom has always been fairly blunt in its response to political spin coming from our Federal government, and even while the climate rapidly changed from the beginning of 2008, the three foundation stones underlying Australian society still call for a confrontation with politicians who maintain the term of "unauthorised arrivals".
Australia is a signatory to the United Nations Convention for the Status of Refugees
Because the UN Convention was crafted (in the time of- ) for boatpeople, it defines per se the notion of privileged access of those seeking asylum - also those who use boats - into those countries that have signed the UN Convention;
The UN Convention intends to transform the "occasional grace and humane treatment" by some countries, into a notion that to seek asylum from persecution is a universal right applied by all member countries, and does so successfully;
The UN Convention specifically enters into setting guidelines, through its ExCom Conclusions for asylum seekers staying in 'other countries' on their way to the country of their destiny, it remains convinced that locking up asylum seekers because of the way they arrive is a breach of the Convention, but most Australian politicians since Paul Keating have acted as if this has not been the case.
Article 14 of the International Declaration of Human Rights leaves no room for doubt about an asylum seeker's international right, and especially since an Australian External Affairs Minister our country at times rather likes to forget (Doc Evatt) helped draft and implement it, we owe it to every asylum seeker to treat them a lot better than we have in the last decade. Article 14 (1) states:
Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
Australia is, and Australians are, on the whole, people who are much better than their politicians: the Howard government, and in particular John Howard himself, have seriously undermined the highest and best of our nation's ethics and morals in the way he proposed his vilifying policies.
Macquarie University economics professor David Throsby again:
The cultural dimensions of the third R, the refugee issue, reach deep into the heart of Australian identity and values. During and after the 2001 election campaign, supporters of Howard's position, including the then attorney-general and successive immigration ministers, were outspoken in dismissing any dissent from the government's hardline stance.
Yet not only was there clear evidence that Australia's treatment of detainees violated fundamental human rights, it was also contrary to an essential element of Australians' view of themselves, the concept of the "fair go". If there were indeed some inconsistency between this basic Aussie value and the country's refugee policy, it did not appear to trouble Howard. (Source)
10 December 2003: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights - On the occasion of the 55th Anniversary of the International Declaration of Human Rights, we created this page with pop-up windows detailing how Australia breaches the Declaration through its asylum seeker and refugee policy. "Now, Therefore the General Assembly proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations..."
1 January 2002: Boatpeople: those that Come by the Sea - One of our early pages about "boat people", so vilified by John Howard. Includes a section of the UNHCR Revised Guidelines Report and Recommendations, and a public statement by 600 lawyers to Australia's Prime Minister.
We're touching on many topical issues in this section. Of course there are many pages with the way Australia deals with "unannounced boat arrivals", but, because Australia under former Prime Minister John Howard was at war with refugees at home as well as at war with the home countries they fled from - Afghanistan and Iraq - we've also created many pages about the Iraq War, neo-conservative policies and the undermining of "frank and fearless" reporting of these and other issues by the Australian media.
The website has six topic sections marked by their colors. From any page you can jump to any of the sections using the menu bar at the top. List bullets with the same colours help you identify the 4-5 line page summaries that you'll find throughout the website. Below are the section descriptions, showing these bullets, following the order of the top menu bar.
The red section was developed as part of our 'election campaign' during the 2004 Federal election. It carries the nick-name "Fixing Australia", because Project SafeCom's Blog was set up as part of that section.
They grey section is our human rights section. With about 400 pages, the grey section is by far our largest section, dealing with Australia's refugee and asylum seeker issues, indigenous issues, the campaign for a Bill of Rights, Australian media issues, and the Iraq War.
The olive green section, nick-named 'sustainable earth' contains some environmental issues and the climate change debate in Australia. Issues about climate change and 'environmental refugees' are also stored inside this section.
The 'sustainable shelter' section presents some ideas for alternative housing and low-impact shelter and living environments.
The orange section was created as a response to Australia's draconian Anti-Terrorism legislation proposed during the neo-conservative government of John Howard from 2003 to 2005 - and its implications for citizens' rights and freedoms.
The blue section is the section for organisational matters and the section of our Association matters; it includes the 'closed section' for our organisation's members.
The white field at the right side of the top menu bar is not a section: if you're one of our members, it brings you to the page where you can log in to the members-only section.
The page summaries for the Blog are marked with this little swirl to mark it as distinct from the usual 'red' section page summaries.
All pages that deal with indigenous issues or speeches written by indigenous leaders are marked with this tiny Aboriginal flag.
surfing this website
A brief explanation of the coloured sections of our website. Note that all the menu button images below are "clickable": they bring you to the places we describe!
If you're visiting our website for the first time, we welcome you! You may like to know that you're in the presence of 2,000 to 4,000 others who are visiting the site today (figures of April 2008). And if you're one of our returning visitors, you may already be excited: since January 2008 we've re-edited the entire website, and it's more attractive and comprehensive than ever!
using your mouse
Move your mouse over any of the menu buttons below and in all menus: an explanation of what the page is all about will show.
Currently you're in our grey section, which was created as our first section in 2001, when we as an independent citizens' group developed our organisation and started responding to Australia's treatment of refugees. So, it's no wonder, that it carries more than six hundred pages!
This grey section counts hundreds of pages about Australia's undermining of International rights for 'unannounced' boat refugees and asylum seekers; our treatment of Indigenous people; Australia and "the Iraq War", the state of our media and our need for a human rights charter.
Exploring all sections of our website will be easy by using the "What's New" page as your starting point (bookmark it!), because that page not only links to all archived pages since 2001, but it also lists every new page we create, usually on the very day we create it.
In addition, throughout all six sections of the website you'll find this documentation button, leading you to hundreds of background documents, action flyers, petitions, research papers and briefing papers for and from Non-Government Organisations, churches or affiliated church groups, refugee activist groups, Federal Members of Parliament, Human Rights Watch, the United Nations, sustability groups and climate change organisations.
We use smart "inverted" colours in the menu buttons when you are already at the page listed amongst the buttons in the menu. A good example of 'inverted colours' is here in the orange section - where the menu on the section hub page shows a bright cyan: the inverted colour of the colour orange.
and there's some more
If you see a page summary with the little "PS" logo (also shown in all browers' address bars, except for Internet Explorer), then you're looking at page that's authored, and usually published, also outside this website by Project SafeCom or with Project SafeCom.
If you see a page summary with the little "PS" logo and a red letter "e" overlaid over the logo, then you're looking at a page for one of the terrific Project SafeCom public events.
We've also made sure to include some more buttons on every page of this website:
Project SafeCom is of course an Non-Government Organisation, or an NGO, and entirely independent as an organisation - and proud at that - but that also means we're self-funded: we pay all our bills and we generate all the money we need to pay those bills ... a never-ending quest!
So, by including the row of four red and green buttons as displayed here on every page of our website, we ask you to visit our online Shop, our page for making donations, while you also should enjoy visiting our Events page - since our beginnings in 2001, we have organised forums, film events, speakers' events and theatre fundraisers.
orders and payments
Our international preferred payment agent for all books and videos in our online Shop and for donations is PayPal. All products pages have an instant PayPal payment button installed for our visitors' convenience. While we are clearly a "not-for-profit" organisation, your donations to us are under Australian law not tax deductable.
Since 2001 our income has been generated from the sale of products via the website, the proceeds of local events and fundraisers, from donations and periodical pledges, and (until recently) from membership fees. We accepted local and worldwide members , and we had members living in all Australian States as well as overseas, like in the USA. For more than fifteen years our many members also received and read our acclaimed News and Updates.
Enjoy your visit to our website!