Politics, Activism, Culture and Fun in Brisbane, Australia.
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instead of having to work for the bosses who own everything?
One thing's for sure - we'll need exciting, powerful,
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Refugee Activism in Brisbane - Rallying, Marching, Chanting or Winning?

Yesterday in Queens Park, in downtown (CBD) Brisbane, Australia about 300 people went to a rally to back refugee rights - the Queensland branch of the Refugee Action Collective organised the rally to mark World Refugee Day. After 45 minutes of speeches, people marched 3.2 km (2 mi) around city streets, over the Queen Victoria Bridge and along Clem Jones Promenade, Southbank, to the grassy forecourt outside the Webb Building, Griffith University Southbank Campus, site of Kate Durham's exhibition, “Keeping the Flame of Hope Alive”.

NOT public domain. From this website

Queen's Park, Brisbane.

The rally was centred around new laws that the Australian Federal Government wants to bring in, which will mean that anyone who reaches Australia by sea will automatically be not allowed to enter the country, even if they do turn out to be refugees.

I arrived at Anne Street's Central Station in town, at about 10.45 am. I walked down Edward St to the corner of Adelaide St, outside the entrance to the upmarket Queen's Plaza shopping centre. A homeless man was selling a copy of The Big Issue, with the word 'REFUGEE' in big letters on the front cover. I didn't have my copy yet this fortnight, so I bought one from him. The cover refers to the bitter story of Richard Okao, a Ugandan refugee. Buy your copy today from vendors on the streets of central Brisbane (and cities right around the country) up to Sunday July 2nd – your vendor keeps $2 from every copy sold. 07 3220 3775 for more information from the Brisbane office

(+617 3220 3775 outside Australia) or www.bigissue.org.au for contact details for outher cities.

I walked through Queen's Plaza to the Queen St Mall, along the mall to Albert St, down Albert St to Elizabeth St, and along Elizabeth to Queen's Park, on the corner of Elizabeth and George Streets. I hit the park just before 11am, to find a stage set up, along with several stalls. About 50 people were milling around. Since no-one was speaking yet, I browsed the stalls – they belonged to the Refugee Action Collective, Socialist Alternative, Socialist Alliance, the Socialist Action Group, and Amnesty International (Brisbane). After a few minutes of browsing, I lay down on the grass to watch the scene.

Two people from Socialist Alternative wandered around selling copies of the magazine I had just bought. A man from the Refugee Action Collective handed me a petition and a flyer for their regular meetings, and another hander-outerer gave me a Hiroshima Day flyer.

And then I saw a sight that these days only rewards the most patient political observer – two Australian Democrats, apparently bred in the wild, and not hand reared. The Democrats were once the dominant minor party in Australian politics, with senators from most states and the balance of power in Australia's Senate, which has great powers to block new laws. But after the party ripped itself apart in 2002, it seems that their Left voters moved to the Greens, and centrist or liberal-Right supporters returned to the Liberal Party of Australia. They now have a great deal of trouble even getting candidates to stand, let alone getting volunteers to polling booths to hand out 'how-to-vote' leaflets on polling day. Seeing any form of organised presence from Democrats is indeed rare, now.

At 11.17am, I heard someone speaking from the stage. The microphone was very soft. I would have been 20 metres away from the single small speaker, and could hear almost nothing. I wonder if a sound check had been done. It did help to get people gather in closely, but if 1 000 people had turned up, they would have been disappointed. About half an hour after the speakers started, someone played with the knob on the speaker and turned the sound up so that it was easier to hear. This sort of thing must be done and checked before rallies start.

Sharman Shah, an Afghan refugee, talked about what he saw when he was a prisoner in Australia's
offshore refugee 'processing' camps:

For the first six or seven months there was no power, and it was always hot – no airconditioning or powered fans could be used. Skin cancers and eye infections were common, and there was a water shortage. People had to line up for an hour each day for water, and if you did not or could not line up, then you just did without water for 24 hours.

NOT public domain - from this site
No Water

NOT public domain - from this site

This is what happens when toilets can only flush for 6 hours a day.

Shah asked the rally to imagine what you could expect of a child who was born into a place like a refugee prison. Even those people who were allowed out of Nauru are not allowed to apply for long-term visas – the uncertainty just adds to stress and mental problems.

NOT public domain - from this site

Prisoners of Australia

Dee Dicen Hunt spoke about the case of Vivian Solon, an Australian citizen illegally deported to the Philippines by the Australian Government. Hunt specifically wanted to give people ammo to shot down the bad arguments used by some people to make Solon's case look not so bad for the Government – especially now that her claim for compensation from the Government is in the public eye.

First of all, Solon was an Australian citizen, with an Australian passport. If the right checks had been done, she would never have been deported in the first place.

The reason that Solon was noticed by the authorities in the first place was that she was in a car crash. Since she was deported, she could not use her right to claim for compensation for the crash. That is one of the reasons why she is claiming compensation.

One of the excuses that is put about by defenders of the Government is that Solon 'gave different names' to the Government. Hunt pointed out that 'many people have more than one name' – especially women, who commonly use two names in their life if they get married, and often revert to a former name following a divorce.

NOT public domain, from this site

Vivian Solon, the Australian citizen illegally deported by the Government.

There were also lies spread that Solon was a worker in the sex industry, and that her injuries were the result of being attacked by a client.

[Author's note: I support a legal sex industry, out of the hands of the Vice Squads, and do not personally feel it is a slur on anyone to have been a sex worker. However, it is a common slur to many people and the story would have been spread to try and lessen her popular support]

When Solon was deported to Manila, she was dumped at the airport, due to lazy or negligent planning by the Government. She was sent to a hospice for the dying poor. Even though she was treated 'very nicely' by the nuns there, she had no hope of getting the care she needed – she needed back surgery and rehabilitation, not to be made comfortable while she slipped away from life.

Meanwhile, the Australian Government had lost track of her, and only found her by luck. Her case is still in arbitration. Her lawyers 'quite rightly' held out for a proper compensation procedure, before advising her to return to Australia from the Philippines.

People who defend the Government on this case also have talked about how much money is going to lawyers, trying to make it seem that Ms Solon's lawyers are profiting from the case. In fact most of the money is going to the lawyers that the Government is paying, whose job it is to make sure as little compensation as possible is paid by the Government (they are now Crown lawyers on a public service wage either, but outside lawyers on a private contract).

Ms Solon's lawyers are working for a flat fee up front, with any costs over that amount to only be paid from compensation IF it is granted. Ms Hunt said that Ms Solon's lawyers deserve our 'absolute respect'.

Ms Hunt struck me as an excellent, compelling speaker

Ms Hunt struck me as an excellent, compelling speaker. She came across as firm and staunch, but not angry and ranting. When she suggested that Ms Solon had been deported because she did not look the same as a white Australian, it was AFTER her calm, reasoned build-up of facts that demonstrated her point. In my experience, most of the time when an activist accuses someone of racism, it sounds like childish anger. Ms Hunt showed how to make these accusations when they are true, and crucial, and still keep people listening.

Wrapping up, Ms Hunt asked people to use these facts to be firm with those who argue that Ms Solon does not deserve compensation, or those who argue that the Government's actions can be excused.

At 11.50am, Herman Waangai spoke. He is one of the West Papuan refugess who was granted asylum earlier this year after reaching Australia on a flimsy boat. He said that “ten minutes [is] not enough” to explain what he had gone through.

He said he did not want to be a refugee, and that he never planned to come to Australia. He spoke of what it is like to have soldiers and policemen with assault rifles in the street. He pointed out that he had not seen police in Australia attack a peaceful protest – but that it happens all the time in West Papua.

NOT public domain - from this website

He wanted Australians to use this freedom to help the West Papuans.

“I need your help. We need your help”

He wrapped up by talking about what it meant to him when he was a prisoner, to hear messages of support from around Australia.

The final speaker was Julian Burnside, QC, the well-known lawyer who represents many refugees. He said that the laws which the Government wants to pass will, in effect, mean Australia has walked out of the 55-year-old Convention on Refugees. But instead of lying down or hating, he gave a call to arms instead:

This Bill can be defeated. You can help defeat it.

Burnside spoke about what the new laws will mean. He said that offshore 'processing' means that even people who are refugees will not be allowed into Australia – they will be offered to other countries. They will have no legal protection, which means that people who are genuine refugees WILL be sent back to places they have run from – they will have no way to challenge bad or wrong decisions.

Burnside explained that he had gone to Nauru recently, and it had taken him two days travelling and almost $5 000 in fares to go there for six hours of meetings. He was not crying poor, he was explaining that very few lawyers will go to Nauru with those sort of barriers.

NOT public domain. From this site

Julian Burnside, QC

Burnside said that Australia receives fewer refugees than most other countries – many European countries get hundreds of thousands of refugees a year.

There was a loud, spontaneous burst of applause when Burnside reminded the crowd that people who were allies of Australia and comrades of Australians in World War II are going to suffer because of these new laws. This is odd, but good. The crowd would have had a fair share of peace activists, who can sometimes shy away from any reminder of war. But reminding Right-wingers that abandoning your comrades is not a good idea - well, that might just make a few of them stop and think.

Burnside also reminded people that it is not just enough to 'say these things to 200 people in Queen's Park'. He wanted people to make sure that the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, similar to the BBC) is allowed to run stories on refugee rights, and does not give in to Government pressure. The name of Keith Windschuttle, a recent Government appointee to the Board of the ABC, was booed.

Burnside is an excellent speaker, with the gift of the gab you'd expect of a good lawyer, but also able to use short words and be understood by a crowd. Many political lawyers seem to think that 'Equity' is a better word than 'Fairness' – Burnside did not make that mistake.

Burnside ended with his call to:

Make Sure The Message Gets Through

We Will Resist.

After Burnside ended, the rally started to wind up for the march. I thought the MC talked too long after people had got up and shown that they were ready to move – about five minutes.

At roughly 12.10pm, the march moved out, along Elizabeth St away from the river.

Image NOT public domain - see copyright notice.

If you have Google Earth on your computer, you can download the .kmz file for this article here, which has a tour of the march route built in, and lots of links embedded in the placemarks so you can experience all the details and colour of the rally and march.

The march went along Elizabeth St past St Stephen's Catholic Cathedral to Creek St,


and turned left up Creek St, passing next to a famous stand of Moreton Bay Figs.

moretonfigsdirectlyunderstreetsign 7-8-2006 3-19-47 PM



left into Adelaide St, all the way down Adelaide St to turn left into North Quay, then right onto the Queen Victoria Bridge.

victoria bridge

After crossing the bridge, the march turned left into the Southbank Cultural Forecourt, then walked along the Clem Jones Promenade, briefly through the Arbour, (photos here), and finally to a grassy patch outside the Webb Building of Griffith University's Southbank Campus.

Naturally, the march included chanting. Now maybe I am just not revolutionary enough, but most chants embarrass me. At least three of the different groups on the march had bullhorns, and were competing to get people chanting. Some of the chants I heard:

1-2-3-4 Johnny Howard out the door

5-6-7-8 Open Up the Baxter Gates.

Pity about winning over any Liberal-voting refugee supporters, huh? If even the
Doomed Senator, Andrew Bartlett (Democrat, Queensland),
can see that the Liberals are divided, why can't the marchers?

No borders! No Nations!
No deportations!

A good idea. I thoroughly support a borderless world. However, it is NOT what is going to convince ordinary Australians to support the cause.

Hey Hey! Ho Ho!
Amanda Vanstone's Got to GO!

My version of this goes:

Hey Hey! Ho Ho!
Mindless Chanting's Got to Go!

I am thoroughly sick and tired of this old, ridiculous slogan. Of course, it can be used against anyone you are opposed to, at least if they have enough syllables in their name. But I remember this chant being used against Senator Vanstone time and time again over the last decade. She is still here. Maybe success should be our goal, instead of yelling in the streets?

Say it loud! Say it Clear!

Refugees are welcome here!

Well, clearly they are not, or we wouldn't have to have this rally. That is what we are trying to change, and I am not 100% certain that anyone was convinced by the chanting.

The man who was leading this chant was starting to lose his voice. By this time, we had walked for at least half an hour, I had no idea where or when we were going to finish, and I was grumpy, and tired of self-righteous sloganeering.

Perhaps that is why the words:

Say it hoarse! Say it croaky!

Think this march is kinda jokey!

leapt into my head. Or maybe I'm just a bad person.

No, really. This sort of chanting is what I did when I went to the football when I was eight. It can be great fun, and I plan to do a lot of it when Australia plays in the Rugby League test at Lang Park a week before the cricket Ashes start. But what are we doing chanting about politics in the streets? Was this just a gathering for activists to make a noise so they could feel good? Had anyone thought through what effect the gathering was likely to have on casual observers?

I would suggest that if we must have chanting, we do it at rallies, instead of marching in the streets and blocking traffic and making people annoyed because their precious Saturday time is wasting away.

Instead, we could hold workshops where we talk about the best and most effective ways to get our message across into the hearts and minds of ordinary people – in one-on-one conversations, in public meetings and when we are on the media, or creating it.

Anyway, the march was too long for me – about 3.2 kilometres (roughly 2 miles). It seemed to me that only about 20% of the people who started made it to the end, but that was only a very rough guess, not based on any sort of count. I only stayed for the sake of the story, if I had just been a casual caring sort of person, I don't think I would have stayed to the end.

But it was a good thing I did. After the frustration of the chanting, I did not want to listen to any more speeches – there was a forum in the grassy forecourt of Griffith University's Southbank Campus. So after watching some women dancers from Sudan, I started looking around. Trouble was, this part of the university is basically the art school, so there were at least 3 art galleries there.

QCA Gallery – wrong

Project Gallery – right building, wrong floor. A-ha. Lift.

7th Floor, Webb Building. Yup. Found it.

Now that was a little hard to find, and I was deliberately looking hard for it. I think you should go and see this exhibition if you are in Brisbane, because it gives some good examples of work that might be able to cut through to some people. So at the bottom of the article, there are some maps to make it easy to find, with instructions and links to useful information. But first, you'll want to know why you should go.

This is Durham's vision of one of those drowned in the Siev X. (Wiki)Does it make you angry, or uneasy?

NOT public domain - from Kate Durham's website

How about this?

NOT public domain - from Kate Durham's website

"353 people drowned that night."

NOT public domain - from Kate Durham's website

Do we want to stop this, or do we just want to get angry?

NOT public domain - from Kate Durham's website

Do you think this might touch the heart of the average Australian?

NOT public domain - from Kate Durham's website
This is what this work looked like at another exhibition. This only shows 153 squares. The exhibition at Griffith Uni Southbank Campus has 273 - not everyone has a painting yet.

NOT public domain - from Kate Durham's website
Durham uses fragments of official correspondence, and 3-d models,

NOT public domain - from Kate Durham's website

including large 3-d refugee boats,

NOT public domain - from Kate Durham's website

which have lots of details to notice.

NOT public domain - from Kate Durham's website

Durham also scatters personal effects, textiles, and documents about the human side of refugees.

NOT public domain - from Kate Durham's website

What really got me were the 'letters from the Damned'. At the Griffith Uni/Southbank exhibition the letters are in arch files, not scattered around like this, but you can still read them and they are just as moving.

This is an overview of the area where the exhibition is.

The 'i' at the train station is right at the entrance to a path which leads straight to the university.

If you walk from Southbank, you will see the start of a path right next to the Southbank Arbour (the long curvy line right through the parklands). The winding path goes up the small hill to the grassy forecourt.

The 'i' at the bus station is right in between the two lifts - go down to Tribune St, and walk along Grey St to the entrance of the university.

This is a closer shot - you cannot see the path from the grassy forecourt to the entrance to the Webb building from here - but you can see where to look.

Brisbane Public Transport
Australian Street Directories
Griffith University, Southbank Campus.

Go to the exhibition. You have until Wednesday, July 12th.

And then think very hard about what is going to actually convince Australians to support refugees.

Here's a place to begin.

When the Commonwealth Games were held in Melbourne in April, Sierra Leonean athletes ran away to hide in Australia. The Sierra Leone team was cheered at the end of the Games.

Maybe not all mainstream Australians are simple racists after all?

Keep your feeds open.


Samba Drums Lead the March - It Must Be Pride Day


Good hair.

Young man, the 'Scoutcraft' Badge goes above the right breast pocket,
not on the flap. See me afterwards.

View from the bus station bridge marked on the overview map, below, looking north-east towards to city, along the Queen Victoria Bridge.

Click here for 189 more photos of Pride Day, including boys in short shorts, loving couples, homophobic Christians, flags and signs, dodgem cars, tribal dancers, a samba band and at least a thousand people - all taken by community photographer Tony Robertson.
Pictures are NOT in the public domain, please contact Tony via his site or on mobile
0417 792 509 (+614 1779 2509 from outside Australia)

Brisbane's Pride Rally, March and Fair Day was held on Saturday the 18th of June. Pride Day is different to many political events - for a start, its only about 25% political anyway. Unlike many other political events, Pride is about a group of people who have won great social gains for themselves.

Instead of focussing on the problems of someone far away, LGBTI/Queer activism is about making improvements in one's own local community - stopping gaybashing at a local nightspot, for example.

Because the LGBTI community has won battles over the years, Pride Days are about victories. One of the fruits of victory is that not everyone there is obsessed with politics - no doubt a fair few people out yesterday were just there to socialise.

Some people think this is a bad thing. I say this is just the price of victory. Win some victories, remove some threats, and some people are going to stand down and have fun. It sure isn't going to do any good complaining about 'apathy', or about how people 'don't understand what things used to be like'. That is just what people do.

The fact that at least a thousand people marched yesterday, even though some are not politically committed at all, is a good sign. It means that activism over the years has won the right for those thousand-or-more people to march without police harrasment or physical threats. If you had tried marching 1 000 non-heterosexual people down Adelaide Street, Brisbane in 1966 you would have had a fight with the cops on your hands, for sure.

Of course, I want more. I'd like to see every LGBTI/queer person develop a class analysis and join me in throwing out the bosses. But it's my job to convince people to join me. It's not their job to just do what I want. And people have the right to do what they want with their victories.

Well, onto the march.

I arrived at the Coffee Club opposite King George Square, in Brisbane City, at 9.31 am. While waiting to meet friends, I soaked up atmosphere. 2 male -> female transgendered women, one in a red sleeveless machine-knitted top, and one in a floppy rainbow hat, parachute silk tracksuit top and cargo pants chatted to each other for ten minutes, and then left to cross to the rally site.

A group of people, including a woman in a brown hoodie and grey skirt, a young thin man and a woman with a moustache painted onto her top lip were talking. They were all wearing pro-queer, anti-war T-shirts, proclaiming themselves to be part of queerbloc, a queer unionists group.

Behind me, a moderately homosexual young man discussed his social life with some female friends.

9.48...No friends yet. Oh well, over to King George Square, they'll arrive before long. As I wandered around taking notes, I saw the Brisbane Samba School with 8 drums (including the deepest harness-carried snare drum I have ever seen). I was pleased to see that someone organising a march had realised that drumming is the oldest and most effective way of inspiring and controlling a group of marchers.

I was a bit upset about the shiny green, pink and white uniforms they were wearing, though. Don't these people realising that trapping polyesters is a cruel procedure, and that we are endangering the nylon species by over-hunting?

The rally marshals were in specially printed roadworker-orange vests, handing out balloons. About 200 people were milling around, including a gothboy in a skirt and middle-aged ladies in PFLAG hats. A man had a badge declaring himself a 'recovered Pentecostalist'. A person in a costume shaped like a large, human-sized dog-head wandered around. And a man was leading a huge dog, about five feet long and two and a half feet high, which was wearing a set of saddlebags over its back. The obligatory cop and sailor costumes were in force.

Oh god, the Raelians are here. One carried a sign on a pole that was high enough to be seen from most of the square:

De-Baptise Yourself

From your homophobic, misogynistic religion.

Which would be a good time to mention the seven or eight Christian hecklers. They started at the northern corner of King George Square (see map from Google Earth, below, which is NOT in the public domain), and the leader was exhorting people to turn from their ways.

Note: This picture is not accurate, as King George Square is
having a bus station built under it. Half the Square is fenced off,
including all of the southern patch of grass - the Fair Tickets stall
was against the wooden fence. The side of Adelaide St next to the Square is also
fenced off - the street is only half as wide as usual. Photos below this one, taken about 4 weeks later, show how Adelaide St has been blocked off.

If you have Google Earth
on your computer, click here to see these maps in GE.

I did not hear what he said, because I was busy taking notes of the signs that the others were carrying:

Jesus Died So That Gays Would Repent Of Their Sin, not Glorify It.

Turn and Live!

You Shall Not:

- abortion
- hate
- unforgiveness

- sex outside of marriage
- lusting in our hearts
- homosexuality/brothels

- People use Jesus' name as a swear word
- The Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain

The Above Are Crimes Against God

Why do Homos hate a Loving GOD when God is simply warning them that they will die in their sin if they do not repent?

Gay people love their sin but hate the TRUTH

Jesus can set you free from your perversion

At least one of the Christians was wearing an anti-evolution T-Shirt. Another one seemed to be a bit overexcited, and not sticking too the party line - he called out that gay people were 'bum-sniffers' (which is unfair, some don't do that at all, they just have anal sex. Well, many gay men do.). He got told to be quiet by the guy doing all of the talking/preaching.

KGSfromhecklersiteshowingclosedsection 7-7-2006 10-30-00 AM

This is a shot of King George Square from several weeks later. This is from the same spot where the hecklers were standing.

As I was moving around noting down what was on the signs, he told me that I could write down that 'gays were bumsniffers'. I ignored him. I reckon he was the closet gay amongst that group. Hope you're reading this, sailor!

About twenty people were attracted by the noise and came over the heckle the hecklers. While there was some angry shouting, and some 'God is forgiving and loving, unlike you'-type rebuttal, most of the return heckling was quite positive - not friendly, but putting the Christians on the tactical defensive and marginalising them, without actually closing them down.

A PFLAG lady waving a small flag was the first to get up on the low wall that the Christians were on. One of the queerbloc unionists had a banner was amongst the Christians as well. Two queer-friendly Christian groups, Acceptance (link to Sydney group, Brisbane group has no site) and the Metropolitan Community Church stood silently holding their banners so the bigoted Christians could see them.

The younger anti-hecklers came back with three counter-chants:

"F**K OFF Homophobes!"

"If you're gay and you know it clap your hands"

"Suck More C**k!"

By 10.10am, the Christians were thoroughly infiltrated by queers, and moved off to Spot 2 on the map, above. Much the same thing happened to them there, when they were approached by police, and moved to spot 3, where they stayed, being mostly ignored.

While all the fun had been going on, some speeches were happening. The sound system was very soft indeed, and I had been listening the the heckling without even realising that the business had started.

I didn't try and get close enough to hear the speeches. I'm sure they were worthy. I was more interested in the fact that at least half the crowd was milling around not listening either. They had all come for a march, presumably, but the speeches were not compelling them. By 10.30, it looked like 40o-500 people were in the Square - maybe more. At 10.38, people were called on to have their 'whistles ready', and stand ready to march. I raced from the Square up onto Adelaide St, to where 45 bikes, each with at least one dyke riding it, were waiting to lead the rally. At 10.45 they moved out, one by one.

While the bikes took off, the Samba band had moved to Spot 2 on the above map. People in the Sqaure followed them to make the main body of the march. The band held place, marking time while waiting for the bikes to move out, and I realised that someone had put a lot of thought into how this march was going to work. If the band had not been there, people would have spilled all along Adelaide St, in the way of the bikes, making the marshals' and cops' job a lot harder. As it was, everyone was kept in the right place.

Map of the march route from King George Square to Musgrave Park, South Brisbane.
For more details go to Whereis.com.au, and search for the suburb 'Brisbane' in the state
'Queensland'. When you get the map, zoom in. When you zoom in far enough, you should see
King George Square marked on the map.

Behind the bikes and the band, 12 people carried a large rainbow flag.

I scurried up and down the side of the march, avoiding buses (only half the road was closed) and dodging cops on motorbikes (real cops, not costumes). And my scurrying paid off - some of the signs I saw were:

The Lesbian Said About That The Better

Just Shut Up and Eat It

Lip Balm Lesbian


Gay and Lesbian Immigration Task Force

Happy Campers

"Show your true colours - Open Doors"

"Up Yours Howard" (Prime Minister John Howard's head stuck on top of some gay porn)

"There Is No Substitute for Equality (Queer Radio - the slogan is a pun on the Arnott's Biscuits slogan "There Is No Substitute for Quality")

Brisbane Lesbian and Gay Pride Choir

QUT Student Guild Queer Department

OWLS Social Club (Older, Wiser Lesbians).


An earth-toned rainbow flag with a bear's pawprint in the canton - the International Bear Brotherhood flag.

PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) Brisbane

GLAM (Gay and Lesbian ASU (Australian Services Union) Members)

Gay and Lesbian Phone Counselling at glwa.org.au

University of Queensland Ally Program.

As we marched we were given friendly and cheers by what looked like to be a music and dance group in tribal costume, in the grounds outside the QPAC building (see map of route). There were also unconfirmed reports of some friendly builders (BLF members) as the march turned from Adelaide St to North Quay (once again, see map).

While the march was on the Queen Victoria Bridge, I walked up to a pedestrian bridge near the bus station. From there, I could see that the march stretched about three-quarters the length of the bridge - roughly 400 metres, about 7 or 8 people wide.

As the march moved on, we approached Musgrave Park. At about 1127 we hit the corner of Manning St and Musgrave Park. Since we had been smart enough to buy entry passes at King George Square, we walked straight in, instead of having to line up to pay the $5 admission to the Fair Day.

Note: Once again, this map generated using Google Earth is not accurate
There were fences all around the park, to keep non-payers out.

One of the first things I noticed, after being given my free showbag by www.gayqueensland.net, was an outside broadcast by local community station Switch 1197AM. I was mildly surprised to see that the local 'alternative' community station 4ZZZ FM was not doing this - ZZZ is the home of Dykes on Mikes, and the (recently closed, due to lack of volunteers) Queer Radio.

But the fact that an OB had been organised was pretty impressive. Any community radio station that can do this is doing a good job, and someone must have gone and made the arrangements behind the scenes. These are all signs of a healthy, working community.

Most of my fair day was spent either trawling stalls for information - mainly for events for the activist, political and community calendar that I'm putting here on Let's Take Over.

There were heaps of corporate stalls - holidays, beauty, bric-a-brac, house decorations, pets, clothes, financial services and so on.

Political and community stalls included:

Australian Marriage Equality

Team Brisbane - gay and lesbian sports teams in Brisbane

The Labor Party - including info on Rainbow Labor, and the party's campaigns against the Government's Work Choices and Telstra Sale plans.

The Anti-Discrimination Commission

2QT2BSTR8 (Too cute to be straight), help for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, intersex or just questioning people in Logan and Beenleigh, 16-19 years old (They can also help with meetings for 20-25 year olds).

St Luke's
Positive Directions program for people living with HIV/AIDS

Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)

Queensland University of Technology's (QUT) Equity Section

QUT's Galnet, for QUT staff who are GLTBIQ

QUT's Ally Network

QUT Student Guild's Queer Portfolio

The Metropolitan Community Church of Brisbane

Seventh Day Adventist Kinship Australia

Acceptance Brisbane (Gay and Lesbian Catholics, their families and friends)

Women's Health Queensland Wide

I was glad to see a lot of official information on domestic violence in same sex relationships. Since queers often face violence, it is natural to want to ignore queer-on-queer violence - bringing it up can be seen as 'playing into the enemy's hands'. The Domestic Violence Advocacy Service
has a 24/7 dvconnect number - 1800 811 811 - or call the police on 000

There was plenty of socialising and listening to the acts at the Rainbow Stage, and a quiz competition. Oh, and the Best Bum competition, and the Dance comp too.

So after a long day I headed home for an early bed (8 am start on Sunday morning, and an article to start writing.)

Anyone who organises political events needs to think about the professionalism, the competence and the organising skills that must have been needed to pull the Pride Rally, March and Fair Day together. If nothing else comes out of this, I hope to see more drums leading marches in the future.

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How Should the Athiest Left engage with believers?

I've added a 900-word comment to a great article called Religion, Theocracy and the Left, by Shuggy at the Drink Soaked Trotskyite Popinjays For WAR!

Shuggy basically suggests that it might be a good idea for the athiest Left to at least stop sneering at religion. Fully agree.

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'Respect' Activist Dave Hill, turns out to be more conservative than he probably thinks - a speech at Burleigh Heads on Australia's Gold Coast

Yesterday at Fradgley Hall at Burleigh Heads, on Australia's Gold Coast, David Hill, a
visiting Respect activist from the UK, spoke about his vision of resistance to the
ruling class.

Hill mentioned his background, where people often became policemen or soldiers, and
crime could be common, and also talked about his luck in winning entry to a privileged
grammar school.

During an academic career, he also became leader of the Labour group on the East Sussex
County Council
. This gave him the chance to be wooed by champagne-wielding,
Paris-jaunt-dispensing representatives of the rulers, but when he returned to childhood
communities, he was brought back to earth. He got rid of both his suits.

He said he was in some ways glad of Thatcher, because she made it very clear what the
ruling class were all about. She pushed him from being a social democrat to being a
Marxist. Since, he said, entryism was the dominant idea at the time, he remained in the
Labour Party until 2005, not aligned in the battles of the early 80s to Militant Tendency, but as a non-aligned Marxist hostile to the leadership of the time.

Why would he stay inside New Labour for so long, he asked? He wanted a disciplined exit from the Labour Party. He did not want to spend his career isolated from a party that had a fighting chance at winning some power - he wanted at least a largish group of people to break away at the same time and work together.

Hill described labour movement politics in the UK - in the last twelve months, There
has been a big battle for control of trade unions and two big unions have been expelled
from the Labour party.

He explained that the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) is the largest conservative-left
group in the UK. ['conservative-left' is my term, expanded below, not his, and he
would disagree, 100%, with my analysis]

Hill is not a member of the SWP, but of Respect, an umbrella group which contains the
SWP and other groups. Respect's best-known figure is George Galloway, MP.

He said his biggest influence was a paper formerly called Militant,
(now The Socialist), although he briefly touched on the exclusivity and over-physicality of the people invlved there. I think this meant they could be violent.

He said he was impressed with Green Left Weekly - he did not understand the extent of
the Work Choices proposals in Australia until he read it.

Hill changed gear, and described neo-liberal capitalism as the most naked form of class
war outside of fascism. The ruling class, he said, is neo-conservative as well as
neo-liberal - he described the use of police, the army and so on as the
neo-conservative wing.

But once you know that, what do you do from there, he asked?

He said his task at the moment was to spread class consciousness. It's common for
capitalist media to say that 'class is dead', that class war is 'outdated', and so on.

But the capitalists know they are a class. They know it for sure. They defend their
interests. But the working class has been demobilised, because its members are not even
sure the class exists.

Workers don't have leadership now who can look at the ruling class system and work out what to do about getting rid of it. Changing that, said Hill, is one of everyone's jobs.

He also clearly stated that class is the main issue in the world today. He spoke and he
witnessed to the vicious and brutal nature of racism, sexism and sexual violence, but
pointed out that the capitalists could change their sexist racist ways if they wanted
to [especially if they thought profit was involved - Author] - but they would still be the
bosses, we would still have to work for them.

He said he was critical of people who said that patriarchy, or imperialism as such, is
the problem, even though "I come from a colonial nation". He described a talk with a
Kenyan student of his. First of all this student discussed British crimes against the
Kikuyu people. But then the student pointed out that a white capitalist class had been
removed, only to be replaced by a black capitalist class.

Hurricane Katrina was another telling example. Hill spoke of talking to his stepson who
was watching the TV news reports of the [wildly exaggerated] aftermath of the hurricane
in New Orleans.

His stepson, not an activist at all, said of the TV images "Is this America? I never

Hill replied that not all the people in the Superdome were black. His stepson's loosely
formed opinion had been that race was the main problem in the USA. But the ruling class
is now recruiting talented blacks like Secretaries Rice and Powell.

Despite the no-doubt vicious and persistent racism each must have faced, they are both
rulers now, and they run the system we work for.

Hill touched on Althusser's description of what the ruling class does to keep itself in power - ideological means like controlling the media are used when possible, in order to avoid outright force.

He also reminded people of how Sir Oswald Moseley tried to march Blackshirts through the streets of the East End in the 1930s, and was forced out by the people of the area.
Hill wanted it very clear that this resistance was organised, it did not just happen.

There were some important things Hill said that I disagreed with.

The first was his misuse of the phrase 'working class', to mean 'blue collar worker'.

I would not be this pedantic if I were talking politics to the average worker. But when we are discussing serious theory, we need to be ultra-clear that the working class is comprised of anyone who has to work for a living, or they will have no money and no way to survive.

You can be a well-paid, well-treated, office worker with convenient hours, who went to a good school and lives in a nice suburb - but you are still working class if you can't leave your job for fear of poverty.

Hill also discussed the issue of 'bosses wages'. I think this is a point that the Left should drop.

Even if the bosses were not greedy, never stole a cent from anyone, and voluntarily limited their personal incomes in the name of fairness - even if we had bosses like that, they would still be bosses, and we would still have to work for them, or be homeless.

But there is a broader strategic issue where I disagree with what Hill said yesterday. Hill gave examples of the Congress (I) Party in India, that 'regulated' capitalism, and the recent street protests in France, that forced the Government there to drop a plan to give employers more control over their employees.

My argument is that yes, it is a class issue. So why are we discussing 'regulating' capitalism? It is good for the French that they can stall government action by protest, but that is not revolution. Capitalism still rules in France, it just has to be a little more careful about how it extracts profit.

I don't want to write off the need to fight short-term battles. We need to win people over, and that means helping to solve their everyday problems, not trying to convert them to revolution - at least not at first.

But, long-term, if that is our only vision, then we are on the strategic defensive. Indeed, when people complain here in Australia about the Government's Work Choices plans (making it easier to sack people and cut wages), they talk about 'defending' worker's rights.

That is conservative. That is why I used the phrase 'conservative-left' above. It is conservative to be in the habit of assuming that you will always be on the strategic defensive.

This does not mean we should just try and lead an armed attack on the state power anytime soon. It would be a foolish, romantic gesture.

But we must start spreading the idea that workers can and should kick the bosses out and take over. I don't want to be a better-treated slave, I want to be free.

Keep your feeds open.


I've been busy: Shrill Voices Thread At Harry's Place

I've had a lot to say on the Shrill Voices thread at Harry's Place.

I won't be posting here just for the sake of it, and I won't post 'This is cool'-type posts. That's what link descriptions on the site's sidebar are for, IMO.

But I put a fair bit of of my own thought and work into what I had to say on today's thread, so I think it's worth putting a trackback link and post here.

My posts start 60% of the way down. They start with the words 'The Sky Is Falling!', so you can use the Control-F command on your browser to search for my post.

Or you can just scroll.

Keep your feeds open.