After getting back from Canberra last weekend, I went to a dinner to mark the retirement of Tony Kelly, one of my lecturers from when I studied Social Work at the University of Queensland. His focus is community development, which is something I always felt was linked to but separate from most aspects of the more formal professional aspects of Social Work. There were a number of people there I knew and it is (almost) always good to catch up with people you haven’t seen for a while and see what’s been happening with them. As one would expect at such an event, there were lots of speeches about what a fabulous chap Tony Kelly is. He has always been a strong advocate and teacher of non-violence as a method rather than just a philosophy and he closed with a quote by Martin Luther King Jr about the power of “unarmed truth”. I had heard the words before, but he emphasised that in the context of the quote, ‘unarmed’ is just as important as ‘truth’, which shed a new light on it for me.
I pinched his quote to use the next day at a Free China rally. This was one of a growing number of actions promoting freedom and democracy in China. It includes, but is not limited to, Falun Gong practitioners. This group has been severely persecuted by the Chinese government – something which we received evidence about in the current Senate Committee Inquiry examining the way the Australian government handled the defection of Chinese Consular official, Chen Yonglin. The Senate Committee should be producing an initial report this Thursday, which I think will be worth reading. Continuing to point to the simple truth of widespread persecution is important, not as a way of trying to score political points, but to make more people aware of the reality of what is happening and the obligation on all of us not to turn a blind eye to brutal oppression.
I also spoke at another rally on Saturday to support and promote marriage equality. It is twelve months since the Liberal and Labor parties combined in the Senate to guillotine debate on and pass legislation banning legal recognition of same sex relationships, even where a couple had been legally married under the laws of another country. Same sex marriage is now legal in countries such as Spain and Canada, but those married couples are now not able to migrate here as spouses. I have noted in previous posts that few things seem to elicit the vitriolic hate mail more than promoting equal rights for all people regardless of their sexuality. Some of the stuff I got when I spoke against the Government’s anti-marriage law last year was hair-curling in its ugliness. As shown in this recent post, this sort of extremist hatred can have deadly consequences.
I then flew up to Rockhampton that night to attend a multicultural fair held at the Central Queensland University Campus. This is a large annual event and I got to make a brief speech to open the day. It was fitting that it also doubled with a citizenship ceremony. It was a chance not just to note the feelgood aspects of multiculturalism, but to emphasise the important principles that underpin it, and how important it is as a key mechanism to counter and prevent extremism. I’ve also done postings on this before and it is a priority I hope to raise in the Senate at some stage this week. While it was a bit chilly in Rockhampton, on the very edge of the tropics, it is way colder in Canberra so it was nice to fly north instead of south, even if only briefly.