Friday, March 28, 2014

Faces in the crowd: Melbourne #MarchinMarch

The Marches in March continue to glow with controversy. Never did so few gather so many, without engaging the usual suspects of the old media, the political parties, NGOs, the unions and the activist groups. There had to be a dark side to these events. The people can’t have minds of their own! Or if they do they must be warped!

Tim Dunlop has joined the fray with a post at The Drum: Rage against the mainstream
The fact is, the media's lame response to an estimated 100,000 citizens showing up on the streets around the country is indicative of a deeper malaise: the rules of news have changed, and increasingly legacy media companies have neither the capacity nor the wit to operate in the new environment.
His target was the Sydney Morning Herald’s Jacqueline Maley.

Tim’s piece follows Lyndon Morley spirited offence at Independent Australia in support of his sign RESIGN DICKHEAD! He was replying to Andrew Bolt’s slanted reporting at the Herald Sun. Bolt was comparing the remarks about Abbott with those of Alan Jones about Julia Gillard. As usual he saw red: "But who will apologise for the parade of hatred in today’s March in March?" He found what he was looking for, of course.

I’ll leave jousting with the black knight of bigotry to Lyndon.

Matthew Donovan tackled The Daily Telegraph’s Tim Blair over what he called “delusions and blind or wilful ignorance” on AIMN on Wednesday. His message: “I will not let you smear the good people who marched”.

I’ll just stick to what I saw and heard in my hometown. To flip the record, I’ve compiled some offcuts that didn’t make my original video piece on the Melbourne #MarchinMarch, not for the signs of the times but for the faces of the people:



One of the more appealing aspects of the Melbourne march was the signs. By and large, they were not offensive. Some seemed to have gone to extremes to be polite:

Kindness matters!

Not Happy Tony.

We Can Do Better!

Cowdy Songs Not Cowboy Govt.

Careful Now!

Wake Up Australia!

In fact most were homemade and some appeared to be the handy work of people more accustomed to writing letters-to-the-editor, pamphleteers rather than sloganeers:

Human Dignity Is Independent of National Borders. We must Always Defend the Interests of the Poor and the Persecuted.

Arbitrary Governments Use Arbitrary Detention.

The longest read:

MR ABBOTT AHD HIS GOVERNMENT HAVE SAID
NO TO CLIMATE CHANGE AND SCIENCE
NO TO MORE WOMEN IN CABINET
NO TO THEIR OWN EDUCATION PROMISES
NO TO THEIR OWN NBN PROMISES
NO TO THEIR OWN HEALTHCARE PROMISES
NO TO REFUGEES
NOW WE SAY NO TO YOU MR. ABBOTT!!!

Many were decidedly to the point:

Tony Abbott Worst PM in Australia’s History.

Wanted for Crimes Against Humanity and Our Planet.

No More Racism, No More Bull, Australia’s Nowhere Near Full!b>Welcome Asylum Seekers and Refugees.


No Justice, No Peace.

Some were a tad obscure:

Viva la Evolucion!

This one had two sides:

Dirty Coal. Clean Wind

Very few signs that I saw were truly offensive or in bad taste. This exception was timeless and certainly open to the charge of not being focussed:

Fuck the Police

It probably wouldn’t resonate with Bolt quite like ‘Fuck Tony Abbott’ T-shirts did.

Monday's Media Watch looked at a coverage paradox, namely how the old media both ignored and condemned the marches. Paul Barry picked up the threads:
A bevy of right-wing columnists have accused the ABC and Fairfax of failing to condemn some vicious anti-Abbott placards, carried by a handful of marchers.

But it was not just the Right that was unhappy with the way the March in March was covered.

Many protesters felt that 31 marches and tens of thousands of people deserved far more attention.

[This is a crosspost with the Australian Independent Media Network.]



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Monday, March 17, 2014

VIDEO: Melbourne's Massive March in March



Australians took to the streets on the weekend of 15 - 16 March 2014 to protest against the Tony Abbott's Federal government just six months after its election. Melbourne's crowd of approximately 50,000 was the largest.

One of the most remarkable aspects of this phenomenon is that it is a grassroots movement, not driven by the usual suspects in the progressive forces.

It showed the power of social media in spreading the word, as the old media gave the marches little or no coverage beforehand.

March in March's Facebook page banner proclaims: Decency, Transparency, Accountability. Its call:

March In March Australia 2014 will be three days of peaceful assemblies, non-partisan citizens’ marches and rallies at Federal Parliament and around Australia to protest against government decisions that are against the common good of our nation.

This signifies a 'people’s vote of no confidence' in government policies and decisions that go against common principles of humanity, decency, fairness, social justice and equity, democratic governance, responsible global citizenship and conserving our natural heritage.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

ALP Party Reform: a long time waiting

ALP members have waited a long time for party reform. We have watched the Federal party waste the promise of the 2007 elections, tearing itself apart with personality politics, factional feuds, and backroom deals and bullying.

The party administration and campaigning, at both Federal and State levels, have been woeful to say the least. We must breakdown the wall between the insiders and the membership if this is to improve.

Clearly we face a crisis within the ALP that requires some major changes. The dead hand of the factions requires members to take a strong stand to ensure democratic decision-making throughout the organisation, not just at local level. As I wrote in an earlier post, "It is a joke to be promoting community campaigning with local candidates and at the same time reverting to the worst of factional politics that goes in the opposite direction."

I have nominated for election as a delegate from Goldstein electorate for the Victorian State Conference and will be supporting others who are prepared to work for rules changes and a changed culture. The time has come for those who have been tied up at conference and the Public Office Selection Committee by faction loyalty or favours to move aside or embrace a new path. We must not have any more preselection debacles. We must have real policy debates where we can be proud of the outcomes whichever point of view prevails.

We need to thrash out the kinds of changes that Local Labor and Open Labor have been proposing. Many of Labor's warlords are more interested in dividing the spoils of opposition than winning office with progressive policies.

We will not get a broad base unless we are prepared to stop whispering in the corridors and walking past the totally unacceptable.

I hope other members will join in nominating as candidates to help revitalise our party. [As an ALP life member of 42 years standing, I won't be tempted to sell out for career ambitions.]




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Monday, February 3, 2014

Griffith Big Bash By-election is Just Not Cricket

There is a cricket team of candidates for the Griffith By-election on 8 February 2014. Nine of the eleven candidates represent registered political parties, but will electors really have any idea about who or what they are voting for in Kevin Rudd’s old House of Representatives seat?

The 2013 Senate results exposed some of the bizarre idiosyncrasies resulting from our compulsory electoral system: we have to vote and we have to allocate preferences to all candidates. 

The party names will be written on the Griffith ballot paper so that should help, shouldn’t it?

Policy Bazaar

If you choose the Bullet Train Party, you'll know what comedian Anthony Ackroyd will be fighting for if he wins. He may have to give up his impersonations of Kevin Rudd. However, it won’t be hard to take the mickey out of himself since he will be required to abstain from voting on any matters except the train. Now that’s taking a lot of taxpayers’ money for very little jam.

At least Family First’s candidate Christopher Williams could follow the example of former senator Steve Fielding who often made up policy on the run. In the absence of a hung parliament, he’ll have to rely on FF’s South Australian senator-elect Bob Day who doubtless will continue the traditional of backroom deals.

The Secular Party has lots of the policies you might expect: no religion in schools, support for an Aussie Republic. It stands for a carbon tax but against emissions trading schemes. Some voters may be surprised to know that they are pro-abortion and strongly favour Australia participating “in all stages of the nuclear fuel cycle, including power generation and waste disposal”. Presumably, these will not be located in Griffith’s backyard.

In order for ‘…new Australian citizens understand that their primary loyalty must be to Australia and its values, not their religion…’ the SPA’s citizenship pledge will be:
I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights, liberties and values I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey.
The list of shared values will be found in an expanded Australian Values Statement. The secularists want “Evidence of compliance with the Australian Values Statement, such as witness statements, …before permanent residence visas and citizenship are granted.’ If you’ve forgotten or never heard about the Statement, you’d better rush to read it before you vote next. It involves ‘a shared identity, a common bond’ that all Aussies accept implicitly, don’t we.

Timothy Lawrence may be regretting the shaky status of his party’s name, which will soon change from the one on the ballot paper to the Sustainable Population Party. The thesaurus doesn’t have them as synonyms. The current name could easily be associated with right-wing anti-immigration parties while ‘sustainable’ has definite green connotations.

Ray Sawyer is wearing the hat for Bob Katter’s Australian Party, having gained only 1.92% as candidate for the seat of Fairfax in 2013. They directed their second preferences to Clive Palmer and his eponymous party, who won that by a nose, but PUP has squibbed this contest.

According to independent Karel Boele, “He supports needs-based education funding and an effective solution to climate instability, for example an ETS. He supports improved discussions and trade with neighbouring countries, and a no offshore processing by Australia policy for refugees.” He is independent. Or is he?  He runs the People Decide platform and will vote on Bills in Parliament directly through the Internet. Now that’s a real pig in a poke. He will vote on each Bill in accordance with the majority of votes. It’s a bit murky as to how he will vote on amendments.

Dealing preferences

The Pirate Party proudly claims to be “the first and only political party in Australia to decide all its candidates and Senate preferences by a party-wide vote”. However, the process in 2013 involved making deals with other parties for preference swaps that were then put to the members for ratification. How many of the party officialdom or membership were aware of the possible ramifications in the Senate is unclear. They responded to a tweet about whether they helped to elect the motoring or sports mob or Palmer's miners to the Senate in 2013:

The Liberal National Party has put its faith in the reverse donkey vote in its preference allocation. Their preferences go from Bill Glasson, bottom to top.



At least one well-known Queensland Lib thinks independent Travis Windsor is worth a look. Could we stand another independent T. Windsor? Could make for some messy googling. He’s splitting his preferences but in each case The Greens are ahead of Labor or the Coalition.


The Greens have Labor ahead of the Coalition but behind five small parties. Anthony Ackroyd is their first choice. That was an easy call, as his party has no other policies to sift through. The Stable Population Party is second. Its policies line up with many of The Greens’ own goals but some commentators have argued that its motives are suspect. Malcolm King is one of them. Last August he argued:
The Stable Population Party (SPP) is using environmental and community groups to 'green wash' its anti-immigration message and split the Greens vote at the Federal election.
Next comes the Pirate Party of Australia, which shares lots of policies with The Greens and their other fancied micro-parties. Nothing illegal of course, PPA’s core business is not piracy, but freeing up copyright. However, they could be labeled copycats on many other issues, as could many of the others. It’s good to see so much agreement with marriage equality, climate change trading schemes, and humane treatment of asylum seekers.

Their other two Greens’ preference choices fit that bill. However, The Greens can’t be jumping for joy over the Secular Party’s nuclear stance. Karel Boele is a policy loose cannon for a different reason, as he’s going to follow direction from voters online. Nevertheless, they’re happy to put him ahead of Labor.

The ALP’s Terri Butler has The Greens second on her how-to-vote card, and then just numbers down the ballot paper. Less informal votes that way. There is no potential controversy as could arise if we had One Nation progeny in this field.


Now if you fancy any of the other candidates, please see what you can discover online. If you don’t know to whom Katter’s mob or any of the others are giving the nod, good luck finding out. Their preferences may well decide the result!  

The policies of the two main contenders are not canvassed here, as the residents of Griffith are no doubt sick of leaflets, phone calls, SMS, and knocks on their doors. There have been suggestions of unethical and perhaps illegal push-polling and anonymous automated calls.

Train travellers are also well serviced by political candidates, if not necessarily by governments. The Bullet Train Party, which is not directing preferences presumably because Thomas the Tank Engine isn’t running, at least has a trainspotting video.

Given the disillusionment with the major parties (including The Greens) and the complexity of the voting system, it’s no wonder that nearly 6% of ballots cast for the House of Representatives in 2013 were informal. In addition, nearly 7% of enrolled voters did not turnout. The Australian Electoral Commission also estimated that more than one million eligible Australians are 'missing' from the electoral roll, approximately 7%. So nearly two in ten did not exercise their right to vote.

So much for compulsion! People are dying around the world for democracy. Some Australians are just lying low.

Presumably, aspiring Members of the House have been visible at the Gabba lately supporting the Brisbane Heat. However, many electors doubtless believe that compulsory, preferential voting is just not cricket.

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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Ita Buttrose's Australia: Telling It the Way It Should Be

Ita Buttrose delivers the 2014 Australia Day Address
Photo: Australia Day Facebook page

If Ita Buttrose had been a candidate for the leadership of the Australian Labor Party against Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese, her 2014 Australia Day Address would have been a winner. The 2013 Australian of the Year wasn't afraid to argue for progressive directions nor to use a range of words that we won't hear from the Coalition or some Laborites in the near future.
The Australian spirit is also about lending a hand, helping those who need it the most and ensuring that we all get a fair go.
As you'd expect from the President of Alzheimer's Australia, Ita began by focusing on issues related to ageing:
...to believe that in time all Australians will adopt more positive attitudes to ageing, be more inclusive of people with dementia and disabilities and adopt social policies that ensure our country targets the precious resources we have to those who most need them.
But it was not long before she engaged in the cultures wars:
We find time to celebrate nation building through our military exploits – younger generations learning about the past through Gallipoli and the western front (all of which is a good thing) – but let’s not forget or whitewash the frontier wars with Australia’s first people in the process.
In fact, she quotes historian Manning Clark twice. As she mentions later, Ita's not into political correctness, whether it's from the left or right.

Nor does she shy away from social justice issues:
We need to keep reminding ourselves that social reform and economic responsibility can go hand in hand. It’s not a matter of either/or.

I warm to the thought that in the past – in the 1890s and the first part of the last century, and again in the post world war two years – Australia was able to achieve nation building with social reform, and we did it in our distinctly pragmatic way.
There is no place for discrimination against people with dementia – indeed against age – in the Australian psyche.
Ita sees science and education as key priorities:
I’d like to see the setting up of a national register of scientific achievements so that we could consistently celebrate the phenomenal brainpower that exists in our country.
...achieving greater equality within education and creating a system where education provides opportunities for disadvantaged students must be a fundamental focus if we are to aspire to the Australian dream of a fair go.
Ita favours a quota system for women on company boards similar to the one in Norway.
One area of inequality, close to my own heart, is opportunities for women. I am struck both by how much we’ve achieved in the last 50 years and how far we still need to go.

...Political correctness is stifling debate in Australia….Captains of industry, people in leadership roles; politicians are hesitant to say what they think about issues because of a possible media frenzy…
Her speech came before the announcement that indigenous footballer Adam Goodes is 2014 Australian of the Year but it's a choice that she is bound to strongly support.
In no two areas of policy has this been more challenging in our history than indigenous affairs and immigration.
We have made progress since federation but we all know that there is more to do.

...we have the capacity to share our country with many more refugees than we currently welcome and I believe we have a moral imperative to do so.
The e-word 'egalitarian' received much attention as did the f-word 'freedom':
For a long time we’ve defined ourselves as an egalitarian society where everyone has a “fair go” in life, regardless of whether they were born rich or poor.

Our aim should be to create a society in which we would want to live if we didn’t know in advance whether we would be rich or poor; healthy or ill; whether we might have a disability or not…a society that marries compassion with a can-do attitude.

I think that perhaps for this reason, there is a groundswell of grassroots support for major social reform such as the national disability insurance scheme, aged care and education, all of which strive to bring Australia closer to this ideal.

For a long time we’ve defined ourselves as an egalitarian society where everyone has a “fair go” in life, regardless of whether they were born rich or poor.
Our aim should be to create a society in which we would want to live if we didn’t know in advance whether we would be rich or poor; healthy or ill; whether we might have a disability or not…a society that marries compassion with a can-do attitude.

I think that perhaps for this reason, there is a groundswell of grassroots support for major social reform such as the national disability insurance scheme, aged care and education, all of which strive to bring Australia closer to this ideal.
The freedom that Australia offers is precious and must be preserved.

We have the freedom to make our own choices; to exercise our right to speak out, to hold a point of view about anything and everything; to disagree; to be an individual; to travel wherever we want in our own land; to aim for the top
Her optimism shines throughout:
I finish my 12 months as Australian of the year feeling optimistic about the future and confident that in spite of the challenging times which confront us, we possess the impetus and inherited seed of hope, which I maintain we inherit not just in our genes but from the soul of this great land of ours, to stay true to the egalitarian spirit of our nation.
The full transcript is available here or better still listen to the audio.


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Monday, December 9, 2013

ALP Democracy: We're Coming for Them!


I left the comment below on a post by Michelle Grattan at The Conversation: Factional chiefs triumph – again regarding the abuse of ALP National Executive by factions to prevent the membership voting on State Upper House preselections for the November 2014 Victorian elections. Grattan argues that:

It’s another triumph for Labor’s faceless men - another indication that, for all the talk of making the party more democratic, you can’t keep the factional chiefs down.

The cost of this exercise in factional muscle is anger and disillusionment among those grass roots members who thought the move to give the rank and file a say in electing the national leader might be the start of a new way of doing things. Silly them.

Michelle is on the money. My somewhat restrained response:

The National Executive are not the 'faceless men' of the old days. At least ten of them are Federal or State MPs including Bill Shorten, Anthony Albanese, Kim Carr and Stephen Conroy. Others are often in the news such as the Shop Assistant's Joe de Bruyn.

It seems that party democratisation is always just around the corner. It is a joke to be promoting community campaigning with local candidates and at the same time reverting to the worst of factional politics that goes in the opposite direction.

The dropping of charges against Victorian MP Geoff Shaw enabled a win-win situation. No anger, no losing face. Smiles all round.

The National Executive could have given us a new start - they fell at the first hurdle!

Being a life member, like many in our ageing party, I feel like it's a life sentence! However, there is something to offer new members and those thinking of joining us. It is the chance to get rid of self-interested factional hacks across the party. We're not going away. If they're not part of the solution, then we're coming for them!

Watch this space or send this to @billshortenmp and friends.

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Criteria for Selecting a Liberal Party Leader

In the spirit of balance the following is a list of Selection Criteria for a Liberal Party leader:

Liberal Leader - Selection Criteria
  • Bowed when being duchessed

  • Looks good in lycra

  • Not suppository of all knowledge

  • Can tell the baddies from the goodies

  • Not-bad-looking daughters

  • Friends in high (media) places

  • Master of monosyllabic catch phrases

  • Fetching in orange safety vest and hardhat or butcher’s apron

  • Tunnel and rear vision

  • Parrots platitudes perfectly

  • A touch of homophobia and misogyny

  • Avoids in depth media events

  • Attends weddings and sporting events on taxpayers

  • Invisibility: Answer no questions, tell no lies

  • Agility to keep an election promise without meaning to


Any resemblance to Tony Abbott is purely intentional.

Please add your thoughts on criteria in comments.

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Friday, September 13, 2013

Albanese versus Shorten: Democracy is coming... to the ALP?

All members of the Australian Labor Party and its supporters should be very pleased about the upcoming ballot for Federal leader. So should all those who are interested in seeing a healthy and vibrant democracy down under.

Update (24 Sep): It's definitely a presidential style campaign to fit the nature of politics these days. The vote for #LaborLeader has turned into a version of the US primaries. We have two party debates for ALP and union members this week: one in Sydney tonight, the other in Melbourne on Friday. Both are sure to be booked out already. You can watch the first one live on ABC24 at 7.30.

The media will be looking for knockout punches or embarrassing moments. Let's hope we get some vision and real policy ideas.

Update (23 Sep): The candidates seem to be agreeing with one another quite a lot. The latest is the cutback to single parent benefits. Are we about to enter another golden age of consensus Labor politics? Incidentally, who is the silver bodgie, Bob Hawke, supporting?

Meanwhile ALP member Patricia Amphlett aka Little Pattie has a video endorsement for comrade Albanese:



Comments are disabled for this video but you can can learn more about why "It's Time for Albo" at the Artists for Albo Facebook page where comments are allowed.

Update (21 Sep 2013): Please click to hear Bill Shorten's radio interview with Richard Glover on 20 Sep on 702 studio.(ABC Local)

Update (20 Sep 2013): Attended the Per Capita event on Thursday with Albo and will get to next Wednesday's forum with Bill.

I'm still waiting for more detailed proposals for party reform, including those to modernise the relationship with the unions and their membership. Anthony stated the obvious when he said the party without trade unions is not a Labor party. Party members need more commitment from both candidates on this vital issue.

The transcript of Albo's speech to Per Capita forum is here. The video is also now online. Does anyone has a version without SkyNews branding or the latest video from Bill Shorten's campaign??



Update (17 Sep 2013): I've just joined a Facebook group Local Labor: members supporting the Faulkner/Bracks/Carr reforms. Take a look if you're a party member or thinking of joining. It's an open group - just ask to join.
Local Labor is a cross-factional voice inside the ALP advocating on behalf of ordinary members and local branches for the implementation of urgent reforms to revitalise the Party and more deeply engage with our communities.
The decision of the National Executive to give all ALP members financial on election day is a real breakthrough, if just one important step towards a more democratic, collaborative party.

I'll be more than satisfied with either Anthony Albanese or Bill Shorten as our leader. At this stage I'm in the undecided camp with a leaning towards @Albo.

It is time to develop a set of Selection Criteria:

My suggestions include, in no priority order:

ALP Leader - Selection Criteria
  • Public profile and reputation
  • Potential election winner
  • Strong, articulate political performer
  • Vision for Australia
  • Proposals for ALP democratisation and revitalisation
  • Position on current issues: eg. Repeal of Emissions Trading Scheme/Carbon Price; Asylum Seekers/Refugees; Marriage Equality; Indigenous Australia
  • Ideas for Policy Change & Innovation
  • Personal Qualities
  • Communication skills

Please add your thoughts in comments. Will publish an updated list before ballot papers arrive.

For some balance: Criteria for Selecting a Liberal Party Leader

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Andrew Robb: Master of Weasel Words on Overseas Aid

I was no great surprise that Shadow Finance Minister and Federal member for Goldstein was party to the $4.5 billion cut to Overseas Aid announced today by the Liberal/National Coalition as part of their shameful five minutes to midnight election costings.

I'm reposting my coverage of the Goldstein forum during the 2010 election for Th!nkAboutIt, Survive Past Five: Making Poverty Political, for those who care to listen to Robb's 'qualified' support for overseas aid. The developing world can now eat his words, as the Opposition has walked away, not just from 0.7 but from 0.5 of Gross National Income by 2015.

Words such as  opportunist and populist do not come close to capturing the cynicism of this electioneering ploy.

Celebrating a child's fifth birthday is not an unusual event in Australia. However, a birthday cake with five candles and lots of cards is not what you normally expect at a political debate.
For many in the developing world surviving till your 5th birthday can be a special achievement. On average 25,000 children die each day from preventable diseases.
One of the Make Poverty History Electoral Forums drew a crowd of 280 in Melbourne's Goldstein House of Representatives seat on Friday night 28 May 2010. Over 550 birthday cards were handed to the local parliamentarian to take to Canberra instead of the customary petition. They urged all political parties to increase our Overseas Aid to the UN Millennium Development target of 0.7% of Gross National Income by 2015.
The Speakers included three candidates for this year's Federal election: Andrew Robb MP (Current Member, Liberal Party of Australia) Nick Eden (Australian Labor Party) and Neil Pilling (Australian Greens). Tim Costello, CEO of World Vision Australia - co-sponsors of the event, also addressed the meeting.
It was an unusual political event for other reasons apart from the presence of many locals well below the voting age. It was held in the Ormond Anglican church with sponsorship from Non Government Organisations (NGOs) including those with religious ties. The audience reflected that. Mention was made in the introdcution of a health project by TEAR Australia that styles itself as 'Engaging Christians in God's work of justice and compassion'.
The focus was Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5: reducing child mortality and improving maternal health. Issues raised included the effectiveness of aid money and programs, economic and budgetary constraints, use of consultants and technical assistance, corruption, and government funding of NGOs. An audience question about 'climate change refugee visas' raised the political heat several degrees.
It was well attended for a political forum even though few of the parties' faithful seemed to be in attendance. I'm an Australian Labor Party member and recognised only one other apart from our candidate.
The video is in two parts.
First, the non-politicos: Host Jennifer Lumsden of the Micah Challenge, junior local Barbara, Tim Costello from World Vision and Chair of Make Poverty History, plus the 5th birthday presentation:
Next come the candidates of the 3 main political parties:
It's seven minutes from seventy but hopefully it's representative of their contributions. To those at the forum: If it seems unbalanced or taken out of context, please use the comments section to set the record straight. Remarks by the Greens candidate, which received the loudest applause of the evening, are absent because I was changing the tape. Sometimes two cameras and two hands are just not enough.

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