An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.
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The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.
Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.
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Here are a few bits and pieces that came to my attention last week.
1. Brandis staffer oversees Labor meeting with Gillian Triggs
This scungy mob don’t know how to behave.
When Mark Dreyfus, shadow attorney general, met human rights commissioner Gillian Triggs Brandis’s deputy chief of staff, Josh Faulks, turned up at the commission’s Sydney office at the appointed time for the meeting. Both Dreyfus and Triggs asked him to leave.
Faulks refused, saying he was acting on the instructions of the attorney. The meeting proceeded with Faulks watching.
The Human Rights Commission is an independent statutory body.
At the same time Abbott refuses requests from Triggs for a meeting and Brandis has been unable to find time in recent months.
2. Abbott wades into the Bali nine affair
When Abbott promised an “absolutely unambiguous” response if Bali nine the executions went ahead, I was inclined to agree with him. I thought there should be some very overt sign of our displeasure if our neighbours kill some of our citizens. However, I thought, now is not the time to be saying this.
I also thought it was very bad form to remind Indonesia about the help we gave them during the aftermath of the Aceh tsunami. Surely we gave help because it was needed, not in the hope of future favours.
It seems that Abbott’s intervention was a real diplomatic clanger and may have undid much of the carefully crafted strategy pursued by Julie Bishop and others. Lets hope no-one takes the clown too seriously. Certainly Julie Bishop made clear to RN Drive that aid was a quite separate issue.
3. Remembering the freedom rides
Nearly every week we remember some significant event of the past. This week it was the freedom rides of 50 years ago. Ann Curthoys and Brian Aarons remember:
We travelled by bus to protest against racial discrimination against Aboriginal people in New South Wales country towns such as Walgett, Moree, Bowraville and Kempsey.
Although we had done our best to prepare, the non-Aboriginal students were shocked by what we found: desperately poor living conditions on fringe settlements, missions on which white managers controlled every aspect of Aboriginal people’s lives, white people convinced of their racial superiority, and exclusion of Aboriginal people from the basic amenities of a country town.
So, we protested against the exclusion of Aboriginal people from RSL clubs in Walgett, swimming pools in Moree and Kempsey, and picture theatres in Bowraville.
The SMH tells the story of the re-enactment. Here John Powles, Charles Perkins, Patricia Healy and Jim Spigelman plan the ride:
How much has changed? A lot, but there is more to go, according to this account of Moree then and now.
4. Remembering Dresden
Just a week ago, on 13-14 February, we remembered the 1945 carpet bombing of Dresden and the consequent fire-storm in which at least 25,000 people died. There are some historic pictures at The Atlantic:
The Daily Mail concentrates on photos of the commemoration, including the magnificent rebuilt Frauenkirche. It also includes historic photos towards the end.