By Georgina Pickers, NCWQ International Relations and Peace Adviser

The horrific events at the mosques in Christchurch, followed by the attacks on Christians in Sri Lanka then shootings at a Synagogue in the United States serves as a tragic reminder that those with “black hearts” of religious intolerance still live amongst us.  These despicable cowardly acts target ‘soft victims’ – defenceless people in sanctuaries of peace and worship.

The fortitude, empathy and dignity shown by New Zealand Prime Minister Adhern was an inspiration for all World leaders as well as offering genuine comfort to all those affected.

It was timely to note that in the last budget the Federal government allocated increased funding for cyber security and offensive cyber operations programme to $833 million for 2019-20.

While privacy issues and rights of the individual must be a consideration, there is a growing necessity to counter the trend for the internet and various social media platforms to be used to facilitate the planning and publicity for terrorism, the spread of ‘hate speech’, of misinformation, or the glorification of unlawful ego driven acts, or simply nasty, racial or personal mischievous attacks.

At a recent NCWQ dinner, guest speaker Brigadier Susan Coyle CSC, DSM Commander 6thBrigade Australian Army mentioned in her address the growing technological capabilities the ADF now deploy for cyber security and monitoring including drones for surveillance.

It is distressing to civil libertarians but inevitability vital for international relations and peace. That countries closely cooperate in this space to monitor and by necessity, counter threats

The monitoring of cyber-space, the use of CCTV and face recognition soft-wear is going to ignite much ongoing debate.  The balance of freedom of speech and human rights as opposed to maintaining security locally let alone globally is a compelling emotive one.

The plight of Australian women, particularly children languishing in Syrian refugee camps needs to be speedily and sympathetically addressed by the incoming federal government. Whatever the sins of these parents, their children are the innocent parties.  While there are no doubt numerous deserving refugee and asylum seekers these cases should be treated with priority.

Rarely publicised, but a no less important as a human rights issue, is the dilemma of Saudi women asylum seekers.  While it is perceived they come from affluent backgrounds and some may ask why they would have any human rights claims their personal reality is quite different.  Their appeal for freedom and a better life is as justified as any individual seeking our country’s refuge.  While Home Affairs states that most asylum claimants are granted bridging visas the question arises whether these women are treated equably under Human Rights conventions with the protection these covenants should guarantee?

The growth of digital media websites with official and unofficial number of media outlets that are fuelled by 24/7 news demand, has made press reporting at the best, risky to hazardous, but at the worst a deadly occupation.  The Committee to protect journalists (CPJ) reports on the number of journalists killed on assignment.  UNESCO reported between 1993 and 2019, 1324 journalists have been killed.  In 2017, 71 journalists were killed.  5 have been killed this year.  Generally journalists were welcomed.  Now it is a case of “if you don’t like the message, shoot the messenger”

The incoming Federal government is reminded to keep in front of mind, the Millennium Sustainable Goals for all policy, planning, and budgeting allocation.  Australia’s Foreign Aid for 2018-2019 had a budget of $4.2 billion but will be reduced in the 2019-2020 budget to $4.2 billion.

On a final local note the Queensland Museum has an on-going exhibition dedicated to the heroic stories and sacrifices of WW1.  It balances those stores with the organisations who advocated peace or provided comfort, kind words, a cup of tea, or welfare to soldiers and their families.  The irony of war and the extremes it produces delivers quite a contrast in this exhibition.

We are all human beings only in this life for a blink of an eye.  The world would be a kinder more peaceful and happier place if we could start with postings on social media, remembering the old saying “if your can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all”

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