Canberra comes together against hate speech

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CANBERRANS have strongly condemned Islamophobia and hate speech, supporting a series of local events in the wake of the Christchurch terrorist attack.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr thanked community groups for organising vigils and events “for people of all faiths” saying such events “demonstrated the strength of the Canberra community”.

A SOLIDARITY rally in Garema Place featuring speakers from Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities was followed by a memorial vigil at the Nara Peace Park where the peace bell chimed 50 times, once for each life lost. Later there was a No to Racism – No to Islamophobia rally at the ANU. Two days later, the campus hosted an event under the banner “Terror in Christchurch; What’s Behind the Rise of the Far Right?”

TWO prominent Canberrans used Twitter to respond to the massacre. Former ADF group captain, now transgender writer, Cate McGregor tweeted a message of support “to all my Muslim friends, especially my mates with whom I play cricket. May God bless all of you… You have stood with me always. I am with you. Proud to call you brothers”.

Meanwhile, journalist Ginger Gorman posted an “I-told-you-so”. The author of a best-selling new book on cyber violence and bullying, chillingly tweeted: “Yes, my book ‘Troll Hunting’ does precisely describe the Christchurch killer. It also outlines dangers of @Facebook live (and quotes them saying they’ve fixed it). But goddamn it I wish 50 people didn’t have to die before anyone took notice of what I’ve been saying for years”.

ON the lighter side, life-size portraits of Senator Fraser Anning were hung around the Canberra Theatre for audience members of the Canberra Comedy Festival to throw eggs at. The controversial Queensland independent who was “egged” by a Melbourne teenager has become a political pariah since making anti-Muslim comments following the Christchurch massacre. Hundreds reportedly took up the free-range free-for-all offered by “Chaser” team member Charles Firth who supplied 1000 eggs.

A CONFUSING back-to-the-future policy appears to be the preferred way forward in addressing the ACT’s uncontrollable school-violence problem. Education Minister Yvette Berry has appointed an advisory group to “look at management of the issue” but it’s “unlikely to hear directly” from the families or teachers impacted. Minister Berry says the panel will “examine existing processes, using past incidents as case studies to determine where systems may be failing”.

Just how deeply into “past incidents” the new group digs is unknown, but a call I took from a frustrated parent of a special-needs child in 2010 might be instructive. The man’s son had been forced to change schools several times due to violence (stabbed on four separate occasions at the same school with a box cutter, sharpened ruler and scalpel). The man’s complaints were ignored by incoming Education Minister Chris Bourke who was eventually punted, only to be replaced by another in a long line of education ministers who’ve continually placed the issue in the too-hard basket.

ACT Transport Minister Meegan Fitzharris has announced April 20 as the day light rail finally rolls but quickly added a caveat that the third-party rail regulator could still derail the launch, creating a ceremonial only ribbon-cutting minus trams. A parallel could be drawn between it and the official opening of another costly and controversial project, the Alexander Maconochie Centre.

Locals still snigger at the September, 2008, official opening of the AMC, when the prison was unable to be functionally opened due to a technical glitch that prevented its gates being closed, which could be akin to a light-rail network without trams.

SEEMS old politicians never die, they just continue to hand out how-to-vote cards. Spotted outside the busy NSW election pre-polling centre in Crawford Street, Queanbeyan, was the retiring Federal member for Canberra Gai Brodtmann. The former career public servant skilfully jostled with other party volunteers, urging voters swarming into the centre to support Country Labor’s Bryce Wilson.

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Mike Welsh
Mike Welsh is a serial blogger and former Canberra radio presenter.

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