Bartlett's Blog

Andrew Bartlett has been active in politics for over 20 years, including as a Queensland Senator from 1997-2008. This blog started in 2004 and reflects his own views, independent of any political party or organisation.

Interview with musician Ember Swift: on building bridges with Chinese music, language & ways of acting for change

This week on my regular shift on 4ZZZ FM, (Brisbane’s independent music and news radio station), I interviewed Ember Swift, an interesting Canadian-born musician and advocate for activism.  She recently made her fourth appearance at the Woodford Folk Festival, and is playing her final Australian show this weekend on Saturday night (Jan 23) at The Troubador in the Valley Mall. Her style of music has been labelled as ‘folktronic’, ...


Best blog posts of 2008

Once again this Club Troppo and Online Opinion have joined to reproduce a collection of  some of the best blog posts of 2008.  They are featuring regularly at Online Opinion throughout January. I’ve had some of my pieces published in the collection in previous years. I didn’t expect to have a piece featured this year, as my blogging in 2008 was less frequent and more fractured than previously. However, one of ...

Award for Hu Jia, Chinese democracy activist

I wrote back in April about Chinese human rights activist Hu Jia, jailed by the Chinese authorities, with his wife and baby daughter kept under house arrest.  He has just been awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, Europe’s most prestigious human rights prize, by the European Parliament.

Do-it ourselves censorship

This report from Reporters Without Borders details the decision by European satellite company, Eutelsat, to stop broadcasts into Asia of an independent US based Chinese-language broadcaster NTDTV, using the dubious claim that the halt is due to a ‘technical problem’. NTDTV includes stories on human rights issues amongst its coverage, and not surprisingly the Chinese government has condemned its material. Equally unsurprisingly, they have applied commercial and political pressure to ...

Shock! Authoritarian dictatorship restricts information & breaks public pledge – who could have predicted it?

The International Olympic Committee has been putting on a gold medal performance with their attempts to look surprised by the Chinese government’s brazen censorship of the internet and restrictions on the actions of journalists, in breach of the pledges they made when the were awarded the Games. Here's a link to the IOC's Fundamental "Principles" of Olympism, which includes many noble assertions, such as "Olympism seeks to create a ...

Olympian water diversions

Interesting piece on the Forbes website detailing the huge amounts of water being taken from Chinese farmers by the central government to provide for the Beijing Olympics.  (found thru James5)

Another Human Rights campaigner arrested in China

From PEN International: The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN is seriously concerned about the detention and well-being of internet writer Huang Qi, on 10 June 2008 in Chengdu, after criticising the Chinese government's handling of the consequences of the earthquake of 12 May 2008 in Sichuan province. Huang... was last seen being forced into a car by three unidentified men in Chengdu on the evening of June 10. ...

Torching the Olympic spirit

When the Olympic Torch made its brief stop over for a run around the block in Canberra last week, Australia's International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials gushed about the "values of the Olympic movement", coupled with some tsk-tsking about pesky protestors 'hijacking' that movement for their political agendas. It seems to me that the many people, in Australia and around the world – and most tellingly within China itself - ...

Agreeing with Peter Slipper: on Gosper and hatred

First I was agreeing with Greg Sheridan, and now I find myself agreeing with long-serving Qld Liberal MP, Peter Slipper, who has strongly criticised Kevan Gosper, Australia’s senior member of the International Olympic Committee, for his ridiculous slurs against pro human rights and Tibet protestors as "professional spoilers filled with hate and resentment". The IOC’s repeatedly justified their decision to hold the Olympics in Beijing by saying that as a consequence ...

Agreeing with Greg Sheridan!

I think it would be an understatement to say that over many years I haven’t often agreed with most of what Greg Sheridan, a foreign affairs commentator with The Australian, has written. (I wouldn’t be surprised if the feeling is mutual.) However, I have to say I agree very much with his recent comments on human rights in Tibet and the rest of China, including his support for a ...

Kevin Rudd on Beijing Olympics

Kevin Rudd is reported as saying he still hasn't made up his mind whether or not to attend the Beijing Olympics. "What we've said to the Chinese consistently since then is that we're not in a position to confirm whether we would go, it will depend entirely on timing constraints as we get closer to the event and that remains our position." Leaving to one side a disconcerting habit of ...

Chinese government jails another human rights advocate

Amnesty International launched a new website this week called Uncensor, with lots of information on the use of internet censorship to restrict information access and freedom of speech, as well as updates on the continuing failures in the human rights record of the Chinese government. In the spirit of the upcoming Beijing Olympics, the Uncensor site comes complete with its own mascot – Nu Wa. A recent story detailed on ...

Digital activism and censorship (and more about China)

I was going to do a post pointing to a couple of papers looking at the use and role of the internet in political campaigning. However, in doing so I can across some far more interesting sites which reminded me that social activism is far more interesting, so I’m pointing to them instead. I think this area has much greater significance that the narrow confines of electoral contests ...

German Chancellor to boycott Beijing Olympics

The news that the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, is not attending the Olympic Games is a reminder that there is a lot more to boycotts than governments telling athletes they can’t go. According to the report, the Prime Minister of Poland, Donald Tusk, and the Czech President Vaclav Klaus, have also stated they will not attend the Opening Ceremony. Germany’s Foreign Minister and Sports Mininster are also not attending. "The ...

Human rights conference and more elections in Taiwan

Last month I spent a few days in Taiwan, participating in a conference examining the human rights situation in China in the leadup to the Beijing Olympics. This was held just after Steven Spielberg announced he was withdrawing as artistic advisor to the Beijing Olympics in protest at the Chinese government’s links to the regime conducting the ongoing atrocities in Sudan, but before the latest government crackdown in ...

If the Olympics were being held in Zimbabwe would we want to be part of it?

The human rights record of the Chinese Communist Party government has been a matter of closer examination since the International Olympic Committee decided the 2008 Olympic Games would be held in Beijing. The current violence in Tibet has increased that focus.  The argument made by many people was the extra global scrutiny that would occur with the holding of the Games in Beijing would encourage the Chinese government to ...

Kosovo and self-determination

I've been in Taiwan for the last couple of days, participating in a conference on human rights in China in the lead up to the Beijing Olympics which start in less than six months. The population of Taiwan is about 23 million, which is slightly more than Australia's which currently stands at a bit over 21 million. Given the difficulties Taiwan has had over so many years in ...

Supporting Burma and the role of China

I attended a rally today, held in St Mary’s Catholic Church at South Brisbane, in support of the growing global campaign for human rights, democracy and freedom for the people of Burma. There was a similar rally in Brisbane’s Queen’s Park last Friday which I also spoke at, and another yesterday which I didn’t manage to get to. As I mentioned in a previous post, the fact that pictures ...

Ring the bells that still can ring

I attended an interesting function today in the Chinatown Mall in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. It was the unveiling of a commemorative Chinese bell, dedicated to all Australian military service personnel of Chinese heritage, past and present. The bell is 1.41 meters tall and 0.91 metres in diameter. Weighing in at 1080 kilograms, I think it is reasonable to describe it as a big bell. It is engraved with ...

Organ Harvesting – updated

There was a good turnout at the forum at Brisbane's City Hall tonight on the report into allegiations of organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners in China - probably about 100 people. Allegations of a calculated practice of killing political prisoners on demand to use their organs for transplants are so confronting and enormous that they seem almost impossible to believe. For exactly the same reason, the allegations cannot ...


Mini Posts

  • Rhetoric vs reality

    I’ve had a break from writing for a variety of reasons, but the reckless approach the new Queensland government is taking to their spending decisions – and the straightout nonsensicality of some of their claims – roused me enough to pen a piece for New Matilda. Time will tell whether the Newman government will start trying to ensure their statements have some connection with reality – I suggest the way they respond next year to the findings of the inquiry into child safety which they’ve established will be a significant test.

  • End of LP the end of a blogging era

    Back in October, I wrote here about the decline or re-defining of blogs, at least in the Australian political arena.  The relatively few posts I’ve done on this blog since then shows how much less useful I find it to do my own blog than I used to, and as I mentioned back then, a big reason why I don’t read many of the blogs I used to is because the valuable links to many interesting stories, ideas and pieces of information can be found more easily through Twitter or Facebook, sometimes with comment threads which are also at least as good.

    The recent announcement by the Larvatus Prodeo blog that they are ceasing to operate is quite a significant one. (more…)

  • A final comment on Labor’s leadership laments

    Fundamentally, I don’t greatly care about the outcome of Labor’s leadership travails. As my previous post indicates, the bigger issue is that the ALP is being fundamentally damaged by the toxicity of this brawl, and the fact that the brawl is happening in this way is a sign of some much greater problems within Labor. Whatever the immediate outcome, I think those problems are likely to continue.  The outcome of the leadership contest (including the size of what will surely be a Gillard victory) will shape how those problems play out, but they will still be there.

    Not surprisingly, I see this as presenting an opportunity for the Greens to build some support, but more importantly it presets extra responsibility and obligation for the Greens to be a stronger counter to what is a seriously reactionary Coalition.

    But seeing we’re all pundits now, and despite having little inside knowledge, my prediction is that there will be no ‘third candidate’ in tomorrow’s leadership ballot.  Julia Gillard will win comfortably. The instability will not disappear. It’s quite possible there will be another leadership ballot before the election but Kevin Rudd will not become leader then either. No matter how good Kevin Rudd looks in the polls, that polling lead would disappear very quickly if he was back in the PM’s job.

  • The Ups & Downs of Ups & Downs – interview with Greg Atkinson

    I’ve mentioned before my liking for the 80s Brisbane band Ups and Downs. I got a chance to interview their lead singer Greg Atkinson on 4ZzZ FM a few weeks ago. They’ve released a compilation CD of 20 of their best tunes and played a gig in Brisbane earlier this month to promote and celebrate it.

    It was a fairly long interview, but I found it very interesting to hear the views of someone who has been active in the independent sphere of the music industry for so long about what has changed and what is the same.

    You can listen to the interview at this link.

  • Speeches to refugee rally + SIEV-X exhibition

    A local activist helpfully recorded speeches given by myself and by Julian Burnside at a refugee rights rally held in Brisbane last Saturday.  You can listen to them here and here. The rally was held to mark the tenth anniversary of the sinking of the SIEV-X.  353 refugees drowned when that refugee boat sank on the way to Australia on 19 October 2001.  There is a beautiful exhibition at The Studio on the ground level at the State Library of Qld this week, commemorating that anniversary. It finishes this weekend – I strongly recommend you try to get along for a look if you have a chance. The Library also has a screening of the documentary Hope on Friday October 28 – this film tell the story of Amal Basry, one of the few survivors of that tragedy.