Visit to Villawood Detention Centre

It was a beautiful Sunday arvo. Traipsed out west to support the Refugee Action Coalition in a clash with the right-wing Australian Protectionist Party. The APP had organised the rally because they think Rudd should go back to Howard’s Pacific Solution. I listened to their speech and they actually think the Pacific Solution wasn’t harsh enough, our borders should be completely closed to “illegals” (what they call people who flee for their lives without having valid passports and entry visas sorted out a year beforehand).

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Tragic tale of first Aboriginal monks

I browsed the Yabun Festival stalls and found a fantastic book for $10, The Grand Experiment by Anouk Ride. It’s a true story of an Aussie journalist who saw an etching of two Aboriginal boys in monk outfits years ago in the New Norcia monastery, Western Australia. So she digs into the history and wrote this book.

The Aboriginal monks. Engraving: Pablo Alaborn, circa 1851, Benedictine Community of New Norcia Archive.

They were sent to Europe (by sailing ship) to learn Latin and Italian and English in Italian monasteries, and met the Pope. They travelled to England and France and South Africa.

One of them was very bright and learnt quickly but the other was homesick and hated it. The boys used to call letters “talking papers”, boats were “moving houses” and at first they thought boats were large animals.

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Social Justice Commisioner’s speech

Went to the Yabun Festival in Victoria Park to hear Tom Calma, give a speech on his past five years as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.

Tom Calma. Pic: from HREOC website

He retires from that position at the end of January (this week), so he did a summary of his achievements.

But question time was particularly spiky, with a couple of blokes saying exactly what they thought about Calma’s “shortcomings”. In a verbal sense, it was on for young and old.

I wouldn’t have expected that for a person’s “farewell to the job” speech. I felt the criticisms were a bit unfair, as they were saying they’d wanted more progress, and Calma had already outlined what was achieved and that was the best that he could do. No point banging someone over the head for that.

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The GFC and how it happened

Went to a talk about the GFC, what caused it and what’s the outlook. It was given by a Socialist Alliance member, K, and there were other contributors. I’ve amalgamated all the info.

Basically, the GFC – which will probably get worse for the next decade at least, started in the 1980s – an era when the mantras were “Greed is good”. Words and phrases such as “impossible” or “can’t be done” were for losers.

Taking notes.

In the US, giant companies such as General Electric (GE) made mechanical goods — washing machines and missiles. But the end of the 1980s, it discovered it could make bigger profits by investing in the financial industry. By the 1990s, GE’s financial arm was making 10 times more than its industrial goods section. GE went into debt because there was a lot of cheap money around to borrow, thanks to developing economies (eg workers in China – paid a pittance – but still able to save.) GE then used these loans to invest in financial “bubbles”, such as the internet “Tech wreck” bubble of 2001 and the recent Home Loans bubble and initially got large returns.

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