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Quaker Peace and Legislation Committee _Archive

Watching Brief: 2014 Global Peace Index--June 2014

The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) has been issuing the Index since 2007, and has recently issued its 2014 report. Essentially, the Index gauges global peace using three broad themes: the level of safety and security in society, the extent of domestic or international conflict, and the degree of militarization.
The GPI approach measures both negative and positive peace – i.e. the absence of violent conflict, and a culture of peace based on human rights and democratic participation. It covers the level of harmony within a nation as well as relations with other countries. It also uses a framework of Pillars of Peace. In constructing the Pillars of Peace, over 4,700 different indices, datasets and attitudinal surveys were analysed in consultation with recent literature about what drives peace, resilience and conflict. The framework describes eight key characteristics that define the most peaceful nations:
  • Well-functioning government
  • Sound business environment
  • Equitable distribution of resources
  • Acceptance of the rights of others
  • Good relations with neighbours
  • Free flow of information
  • High level of human capital
  • Low levels of corruption

Discussion Paper: Israel and Palestine--June 2014

The Australia Yearly Meeting Quaker Peace and Legislation Committee developed this discussion paper, which includes questions and additional resources, to encourage informed discourse about the complex and sensitive issues that surround Israel and Palestine.
Since 1948, when the State of Israel was recognized by the United Nations, the region has been marked by violence and unrest. It has also been the subject of several negotiated and tenuous periods of peace.
Broadening one’s knowledge of events such as: the 1973 war, the nonviolent ‘intifadas’ and the internal conflict between Palestinian fractions Fatah and Hamas, and the impact of President Obama’s May 2013 visit to the region leads to a greater appreciation of the many challenges that face contemporary peace efforts.

Watching Brief: Nuclear Weapons--May 2014

Friends are encouraged to:
  • Work with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) to promote wider public awareness of the dangers of nuclear weapons and to urge policy-makers to adopt policies that move towards the abolition of nuclear weapons.
  • Provide opportunities for Friends to meet and share knowledge and concern about nuclear weapons and disarmament.
  • Place relevant posters and charts (e.g. from ICAN website) on noticeboards at Meeting Houses.

Racial Discrimination Act s18: submission to Attorney-General--April 2014

In our view, the existing law is effective and strikes an appropriate balance between protecting minorities and preserving freedom of expression in our multicultural community. To the extent that any change is made, it should ensure that the Racial Discrimination Act continues to enable those who are subject to serious racial abuse to have full access to processes that hold the perpetrators accountable.

Watching Brief: Sri Lanka--May 2014

QPLC – along with other Quaker groups, especially in Britain – has had an ongoing concern about promoting peace in Sri Lanka. This report outlines the activities of the Committee over recent years, and other relevant information about events since the civil war in Sri Lanka officially ended in 2009.

Submission: Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee Enquiry into the Trade and Foreign Investment (Protecting the Public Interest) Bill--30.03.14

This submission reflects ongoing concern about the adverse impact of some aspects of international trade agreements on Australia’s capacity to maintain standards of health, environment, consumer protection, and human rights.
We ask that the Parliament take seriously the growing concern in the Australian community about the potential threat of Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions in trade agreements. These agreements are no longer just about opening trade opportunities, but are increasingly tipped in favour of large multinational corporations that can exert undue influence over Australian public policy.

Action Alert: Racial Discrimination Act---31.3.14

There is an opportunity for Friends to make their views known on the proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act. The website gives details.
In December 2013 QPLC circulated a Watching Brief on this matter, explaining plans of the Government to amend Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 to change the wording and meaning of that Section in order to give greater priority to freedom of speech. The Watching Brief included statements by a number of groups and individuals expressing concern that Section 18C offers protection to the most vulnerable and marginalised members of our community. It is notable that the concern came from diverse quarters including ethnic groups, the president of the Human Rights Commission, and Aboriginal representatives.

Action Alert: Asylum seekers--24.3.14

Many Friends remain deeply concerned at the way in which official policies towards asylum seekers are being framed and carried out. The human cost is increasing for the detainees and those involved in implementing the policies ...
Friends will be aware of the plans for a major series of rallies on the refugee/asylum seekers concern on Palm Sunday (13 April), and you are encouraged to make your presence felt as Quakers in cooperation with other concerned citizens. You are also encouraged to keep aware of the activities of other churches through the website
QPLC believes it is desirable at this stage for Friends in different parts of Australia to take up with politicians and bureaucrats the issues that are of immediate concern in their own areas, and to let us know any action taken. We can then formulate a national response more adequately and advise the Presiding Clerk accordingly.

Discussion paper: Indonesia and Australia--10.03.14

This Discussion Paper covers the history and recent developments in Australia‟s relationship with Indonesia, taking into account the implications of the increasing level of surveillance, and the controversy over asylum seekers, for that relationship. It raises a number of points for consideration by Friends and Meetings.

Access full paper here

Australian Quaker Peace Projects 2014

The Australian Quaker Peace Projects is an initiative of the AYM Quaker Peace and Legislation Committee (QPLC). The initiative provides annual small funding support for two projects of $5,000 each. The initiative provides annual small funding support for two projects of $5,000 each.
The key objective of the Program is to support Friends to respond to Friends’ Declaration to Charles II, 1660: ‘Our principle is, and our practices have always been, to seek peace, and ensue it, and to follow after righteousness and the knowledge of God, seeking the good and welfare, and doing that which tends to the peace of all’.
There are three aims for the Australian Quaker Peace Projects:
  • Aim 1: to involve Australian Friends at the Regional/ Local Meeting/Worshipping Group levels on peace related topics of either: a) national interest, or b) topics of local interest with national implications. This aim focuses on the promotion, and/or information sharing of issues of concern among Friends.
  • Aim 2: to develop a new, or enhance an existing, peace action within an Australian Quaker Regional or Local Meeting which a) has the potential to be adopted by other Friends Meetings in Australia and b) involves the wider community. This aim focuses on encouraging Friends to undertake actions that contribute to a culture of peace within either Australia or the Pacific region.
  • Aim 3: to encourage Friends to use Quaker testimonies, this we can say and Advices and Queries as foundations for building resilient peace within Australian society, economy and politics.
The QPLC has identified the following themes for the 2014 Australian Quaker Peace Projects: West Papua; Disarmament, including small arms trade; US bases in Australia; the Anzac centenary; Asylum seekers.
Final proposals should be sent to QPLC by 15 March 2014 but earlier discussion is encouraged. Applicants will be advised of their status by late March, with projects starting asap thereafter.
Contact: Harold Wilkinson, Convener, QPLC

Discussion Paper: Peacebuilding At The International Level--16.12.13

Prevention is the best way to avoid widespread and costly destruction through armed conflict. Peacemaking at all levels helps remove the causes of war, which include income inequalities, political and economic dominance, and ecological degradation. Australia can play a constructive role in promoting peace within our region and around the world.

Watching Brief: Repeal Of Section 18C Of Racial Discrimination Act--11.12.13

Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act refers to offensive behaviour because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin. It makes it unlawful to engage in behaviour that is likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or group. This constitutes the racial vilification legislation.
The Coalition made it clear before the September election that it plans as a priority to remove Section 18C. This followed several public statements since the decision in the Andrew Bolt case was made in 2011. Both Tony Abbott and Senator George Brandis claimed that the Section was against the fundamental right to free speech.
So far no move has occurred to repeal Section 18C, and it is likely that there will be some form of consultation process before legislation is presented to Parliament.
Quakers are encouraged to:
  • Watch for news of the Government’s intentions, and take up with MPs and Senators your concerns. If a consultation process is allowed, contribute to the process. QPLC will endeavour to give details of any such process.
  • · Maintain or develop contact with human rights and other groups working to preserve Section 18C, and act in cooperation where appropriate. The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Australia was one of more than 150 signatories to a letter (10 December) from the Human Rights Law Centre in Melbourne to the Federal Attorney-General asking that Section 18C not be repealed.

Discussion Paper: Towards A Vision Of A Peaceful And Sustainable Australia--24.11.13

This booklet offers a vision of hope, at a time of increasing realisation that human action is causing potentially irreversible ecological degradation of planet Earth.Towards a vision of a peaceful and sustainable Australia offers an inspired picture of a future ethical and sustainable society. Compiled by a small dedicated team of Quakers drawing on contributions and ideas offered by other Quakers around Australia, the writers envisage a better world for our children, one in which the Quaker Testimonies of Peace, Simplicity, Equality, Community and Integrity flourish.

Discussion Paper: Drones--31.10.13

This supplement to the Drones' Watching Brief of November 2012 summarises and comments on a presentation by Christian Enemark, Crawford School, ANU, titled Armed Drones and the Ethics of War . This is the same title of a book that he has written.

The New Government--9.10.13

As a result of the national election on 7 September, a new Liberal-National Coalition Government was appointed on 18 September by the Governor-General.
This paper identifies the principal players and stated policies as regards issues of international affairs, immigration, justice, welfare, and development. It is intended to help Australian Friends know more about the Government’s approach, and which avenues might be used to present views on a range of concerns.
Access the full paper here on who's who in the newly elected government, a list of policies of interest to Friends and guidelines on how to write to a politician

Watching Brief: Boycott, Divestment And Sanctions (Bds)--9.8.13

The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) explains that BDS campaigns have emerged in recent years in different forms – street protests, board room lobbying, shareholder actions, lawsuits, strikes, teach-ins and other action to call attention to corporate and institutional complicity. The principal focus is to end complicity with Israel’s occupation and violation of human rights. The Palestinian BDS refers to a call by over 170 Palestinian organisations in 2005 asking that "the international community implement broad boycotts and… divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era”.
The Palestinian BDS hopes to end the occupation of Arab lands, dismantle the wall, call on Israel to recognize the rights of Palestinian citizens, and support the right of refugees to return to their homes (UN Resolution 194). It seeks to expose and challenge repressive policies using non-violent means.
For Australian Friends this has so far not been a major area of action. QPLC believes it is timely for Friends to give closer attention to the issues raised by BDS.

Asylum seeker & refugee policy letter to PM--6.8.13

The following letter has been sent to the Prime Minister, the Minister for Immigration, the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Greens:
Australian Quakers are aware of the difficulties faced by authorities in handling the dangers and fears arising from people using boats to reach Australia, and of the manipulation of the situation by people smugglers. At the same time, Quakers are concerned that, in forming policies on asylum seekers and refugees, both major political parties (ALP and Liberal-National Coalition) are placing too low a priority on the human factor in favour of border protection ...
We strongly support an increase in the humanitarian intake within the migration program. We would also like to see greater funding for UNHCR to assist processing of claims for refugee status, expansion of the use of community detention arrangements, and a review of the work requirements for refugees. We stand ready to assist the government in living up to the higher ideals on which our nation has been developed

Discussion Paper: Creating A Peaceful World--10.6.13

This paper focuses on what might be expected in a world based on principles of non-violence and conflict resolution. It draws upon the Quaker commitment to seeking that of good in all people and situations, and affirming the power of love in creating opportunities for peaceful relationships.

Watching Brief: Defence White Paper 2013--15.5.13

On 3 May 2013 the Prime Minister Julia Gillard MP and the Defence Minister Stephen Smith MP released the latest Defence White Paper, which follows an earlier one in 2009. This Watching Brief outlines the main features of the White Paper and includes some commentary about it, before listing some questions and issues that Quakers might wish to take up in public debate or in contact with politicians.

Watching Brief: Update On Arms Trade Treaty--15.4.13

Many NGOs including Quakers have been pressing for a treaty that is comprehensive in its coverage and capable of putting a brake on the deadly flow of arms around the world. The Quaker United Nations Office has been active in supporting this concern. There have been petitions and lobbying from many individuals and groups for the regulation of the illicit arms trade which is estimated to be worth $1b a year.
The final UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was held in March 2013, but failed to reach consensus on a treaty text, despite vigorous work including by the president of the Conference, Peter Woolcott (Australian diplomat). As a result, the draft Treaty was put directly before the UN General Assembly and approved on 2 April 2013 – with 154 votes in favour, 3 against (Iran, Syria and North Korea), and 23 abstentions (including Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia).
QPLC will continue to monitor the Government’s actions to implement the Treaty, including the process required to ratify – through the States and Territories and the Federal Parliament’s Treaties Committee. Friends around the country may wish to follow-up this matter with their own Federal representatives to support the Minister’s actions and obtain a swift signing on to the Treaty.

Watching Brief: Friends Peace Teams--5.4.13

Friends Peace Teams (FPT) is a Spirit-led organisation working around the world to develop long-term relationships with communities in conflict to create programs for peacebuilding, healing and reconciliation. Its programs build on extensive Quaker experience combining practical and spiritual aspects of conflict resolution. FPT works with people who do not support violence, and who do not take sides in conflicts. It also works across age, religious, class and cultural divides.

Watching Brief: Restorative Practices--18.3.13

What are Restorative Practices

These practices (sometimes called ‘restorative justice’) focus on early intervention to deal with offences in a way that does justice to the victim and provides a way
for the offender to be restored to their community … a process where all stakeholders affected by an injustice have an opportunity to discuss how they have been affected by the injustice and to decide what should be done to repair the harm. With crime, restorative justice is about the idea that because crime hurts, justice should heal. It follows that conversations with those who have been hurt and with those who have afflicted the harm must be central to the process.
(John Braithwaite (ANU), in journal The Good Society 2004)
Restorative practices are many and varied, and cover justice and education systems. This report concentrates on the justice applications.

Watching Brief: Asylum Seekers--28.2.13

In August 2012, following the report of its expert panel, the Australian Government changed its policy on ‘Irregular Maritime Arrivals’ – those coming to our shores by boat. The policy now states that these people ‘can be transferred to a regional processing country’. This means that their claim for asylum will be addressed by that country, and they will not be processed for resettlement any faster than if they had applied from overseas. Even if they are not sent to another country, the same ‘no advantage test’ will apply. In addition, if granted a visa, they will not be eligible to bring their family to Australia using humanitarian places. The Department of Immigration warns on its website that ‘if you are found to be a refugee, there is no guarantee you will be permanently resettled in Australia’.

Watching Brief: Drones--19.11.12

An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) – known as a drone – is an aircraft without a human pilot. Its flight is controlled by computers in the vehicle or by remote control. Drones are usually used for military purposes, although there are now more civil uses (e.g. fire-fighting, surveillance, policing, traffic, border patrol).
The main focus of concern at present is the military use of drones.
The Quaker Peace and Legislation Committee (QPLC) urges Friends to keep informed about what is happening, and to raise their concerns with our elected representatives, especially about Australia’s plans and actions and how they can be reconciled with the ADF official rules of engagement. QPLC will consider what national action might be taken, including approaching the ABC radio and television services to seek greater coverage of Drones in their current affairs broadcasting.
Access the full paper here.

Submission To Coag Counter Terrorism Review Secretariat--21.9.12

Acts of terror are unacceptable in our world, and everyone has a responsibility to reject a violent approach to life. The Government can assist best through an integrated approach similar to that of the European Union, with policies that focus on removing the causes of terrorism, protecting citizens, pursuing offenders, and assisting people to work together against any attack.

The criminal justice system in Australia and the rights of individuals have been put at risk by the wide-ranging nature of counter-terrorism laws adopted in recent years. Many of these laws have given unprecedented power to law enforcement and intelligence agencies, with insufficient oversight by Parliament. There are no sunset provisions for most of the legislation, and this increases the chance of circumstances changing for the better without laws being removed.
The absence of significant increases in violent crime in Australia in recent years suggests that the threat of terrorism has been overplayed in order to justify greater resources being diverted into law enforcement.
In the absence of a Bill of Rights, Australians will remain poorly protected from abuses of police and other authorities. The International Commission of Jurists has pointed to the need for states to reassert core values and principles of international law.
Australian approaches to terrorism should be guided by the framework set by the United Nations, and should pay particular attention to the UN resolutions on ensuring human rights are protected when acting against the threat of terrorist acts.
Ongoing Parliamentary scrutiny of counter-terrorism policies and agencies is essential
Access full paper here

Watching Brief: Australia's Response To Asylum Seekers--Update 30.8.12

Many Friends have a strong commitment to a compassionate and just treatment of asylum seekers. It remains to be seen how far the new policy will meet the high standards of human rights protection and justice that we seek. As we said in the earlier paper on Refugees:
From a Quaker perspective, the challenge is to affirm our commitment to humane and just policies that reinforce human dignity and encourage compassion. In addition, we must be part of the public debate about how to reconcile the needs and rights of desperate people with the fear of the impact of difference and disruption on our local communities.
To that end Friends can continue to take note of the way in which the new policy operates in practice, can re-affirm the value of Australia adhering to its international obligations, and can offer practical support to asylum seekers granted refugee status and needing community settlement.

Access the full paper here

Watching Brief: Arms Trade Treaty

There are many millions of dangerous assault weapons around the world, and many have been used to commit serious crimes against many people. As a result, there has been increasing pressure for a way to limit the spread of such weapons.

Access full paper here

Australia And The Security Council 2013-4

The Australian Government has been working to secure a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council for 2013-14. A decision on this will be made by a vote in the UN General Assembly in September 2012. This submission is made in response to an invitation from the United Nations Association of Australia (UNAA) for comments on ‘what Australia should aim to achieve if it is successful in winning a two-year term on the Security Council’.

Quakers have had a long-standing commitment to building a peaceful world based on the principles of non-violence. This arises from our peace testimony which emphasises ‘that of God’ in everyone and the belief that violence is contrary to the Spirit of Christ. As part of the witness of Quakers, there are staffed offices at Geneva and New York that focus on helping the United Nations system work more effectively. This is done partly by bringing together diplomats and others in confidential settings that enable open communication about the issues facing humanity, and partly by research and advocacy working with other NGOs to raise concerns about human rights, development, and peace.

Access full paper here

Urgent Action Alert: National Security Legislation

Friends may wish to question Members of Parliament about the proposed National Security legislation and the extent to which it may compromise the human rights of Australians, and whether the extra powers are really needed, given the wide range already available. In addition, the question could be raised whether the increasing allocation of such powers to these agencies tips the balance too far towards the state rather than the individual and places too much emphasis on security at the expense of education and building community harmony. Other points that could be made are that (a) the holding of personal data for as long as two years makes it more vulnerable to hacking and inappropriate use, and (b) regular Parliamentary scrutiny of intelligence and security agencies is essential.
Closing date for written submission is 20 August 2012.
Access full paper here

ACTION ALERT: Australia National Food Plan

Public consultation period will take place 17 July to 30 September 2012.

Website: (Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry)

Goal: This first ever national food plan will provide an integrated approach to food related policies and programs for the benefit of food business and consumers in the short, medium and long-term

Aim: To foster a sustainable, globally competitive, resilient food supply that supports access to nutritious and affordable food.

The National Food Plan green paper was launched by Joe Ludwig Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry on 17 July 2012. The paper is available on the websiteThe green paper covers a very wide range of topics which are of interest to Friends from both an environmental and peace perspective.

What Friends can do:
  • Provide a written submission on the green paper, details about how to prepare the submission are on the website – closing date is 30 September 2012.
  • Contribute to the online discussion via the National Food Plan blog (
  • Follow the consultation process on Twitter (@NatFoodPlan) Attend a public meeting – there will be 24 meetings across Australia in both capital cities and rural areas you need to register via the website.
Quaker Peace & Legislation Committee
2 August 2012

ACTION ALERT: Same-Sex Marriage Legislation 26 June 2012

What Friends might do
Friends regard the commitment between two people in a lasting relationship as primarily a spiritual bond, to be supported by the local community of Friends. Australia Yearly Meeting has allowed for the recognition of same-sex marriage, and the Handbook of Practice and Procedure makes it clear that all requests for celebration of marriage are treated equally, regardless of the sexual orientation of the partners. Quaker Meetings are free to discern their response in each situation taking into account this overall approach. The Handbook also says that ‘Australia Yearly Meeting hopes that the law relating to marriage will be amended to allow Regional Meetings to support all couples to full and equal recognition of their marriages’.
In a submission to the House Standing Committee Inquiry into the proposed legislation, Yearly Meeting quoted George Fox’s comments that marriage ‘is the Lord’s work, and we are but witnesses’. The submission affirmed that Australian Quakers consider same-sex relationships to be as valuable as other committed and loving relationships. Quakers have held commitment ceremonies for same-sex relationships, whilst being aware that these relationships do not have legal standing under the current Marriage laws. The submission expressed the hope that the law would be amended to give full recognition. The full text. along with that from Canberra RM, is appended.
If Friends are led to take action individually or corporately on the current legislation, they can
  • contact their MPs and/or Senators directly to express their views;
  • contact the leaders of the political parties; and
  • participate in the public debate with others and in the media.

Access full paper here

Watching Brief: Militarisation

Trends in Asia and the Pacific
Michael Richardson from the Institute of South East Asian Studies in Singapore wrote on 4 April (in The Canberra Times) of the following moves in the region:
  • Singapore has offered basing facilities to US combat ships.
  • Vietnam and Malaysia are in the midst of a major military build-up to protect their interests in the South China Sea.
  • The Philippines is seeking more military training with US forces and giving the US Navy greater access to its ports.
  • Japan is working for the relocation of US forces from Okinawa to Guam.
  • South Korea continues to be a major focus of the US military presence.
  • The US is realigning its forces in the western Pacific to focus more on maintaining stability in South-East Asia and protecting shipping and energy supply lines.
  • China sees this as a regional containment strategy, and continues to have claims over several areas in the region (e.g. the Spratly islands).
At the same time, there are moves in the region to prevent conflict from escalating. For example, Associated Press reported on 5 April that, at an ASEAN summit meeting, ‘South East Asian leaders have pledged to step up efforts to resolve maritime disputes with China … (and) reaffirmed the importance of the 10-year-old declaration on conduct of the parties pledging to promote peace and understanding in the disputed area’.
Friends may wish to take up with MPs and Senators their concern about the trends in militarisation in our region, and to seek ways of building greater support for nonviolent options. In doing this, Friends may prefer to work with other NGOs in raising public awareness.
Quaker Peace & Legislation Committee
April 2012
Access the full paper here.

ACTION ALERT: National Anti-Racism Strategy for Australia--Opportunities to have your say!

On 29 March 2012, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) launched its public consultation into the development of a National Anti-Racism Strategy for Australia. The National Anti-Racism Partnership and Strategy was announced in February 2011, as one of the key initiatives of Australia’s multicultural policy.

The AHRC is the lead government agency in the Partnership which includes the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the Attorney-General’s Department, and two non-government organisations: the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia and the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples as well as the Australian Multicultural Council.

People and organisations can contribute to the consultation process in three ways:

  1. Providing a submission to the discussion paper on the AHRC website at;
  2. Completing an online survey located at the same website address; and
  3. Participating at a public meeting.

The dates and locations of the public meetings are also on the website. While there is no cost to register to attend a meeting, there is limited space.

The consultations are taking place during April and early May.

You can register by emailing or by ringing them on 1800 620 241 or (02) 9284 9847.

The closing date for the online submission process is Friday 11 May 2012.

The AHRC expects the strategy to be launched in July 2012, and implemented over the next three years.

Quaker Peace & Legislation Committee

April 2012

Background Paper -- Australia in the Asian Century

Australia’s relationship with Asia will be significantly affected by the global drivers that are influencing all aspects of life today . . . If Australia is to contribute towards the stability and peace of the region, it must give priority to the challenges posed by population, climate change, hydrocarbon price increases, water, food, toxins, geopolitical change, economic fluctuations, and technological advances.

Quaker Peace and Legislation Committee and Quaker Earthcare Committee

28 February 2012

Access the full paper here


The rising tension in relation to Iran poses a severe challenge to our wish to avoid further war. In Australia we are not as conscious of the significant pressure building in the northern hemisphere on this issue. We can help raise public awareness through entering the public debate advocating restraint and the greater use of diplomacy. We can urge our political representatives not to become caught up in provocative statements, and to use our United Nations opportunities to seek a peaceful outcome.

Access the full paper here

Qplc Watching Brief : Defence Policy

This paper outlines current Australian defence policies and their shortcomings. It also suggests some important questions that need to be asked.

Access the full paper here

Watching Brief: Responsibility To Protect

The conflict in Libya has seen the first formal use of the concept ‘responsibility to protect’ in a United Nations resolution in response to a serious threat to civilians. In this paper some background will be given on the concept and its use, and some Quaker perspectives will be identified.

Over recent decades the world has seen a great increase in intra-state war among rival armed groups. This has posed a challenge to the traditional focus on inter-state conflict. The end of the cold war did not provide the expected breakthrough in collective response to world crises, and sovereignty continued to be used to legitimise repressive actions by some governments. The concept ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P) first emerged from the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty in 2001. This was an initiative of the Canadian government, with the active involvement of Gareth Evans, Australia’s former foreign minister, as co-chair.

Access the full paper here

Background Paper --- Refugees

  • Over the years there have been many movements of people fleeing danger. In the 20th century international efforts have focussed on providing support to displaced people through the appointment of special officers, leading to the creation of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in 1951.
  • War, civil disturbance, discrimination, climate, famine and poverty have all contributed to greatly increased movements of refugees in recent years. UNHCR estimates that there are 10.4 million refugees of concern, mainly in Asia and Africa, and a further 4.7 million registered refugees in Middle East camps. In addition there are 26 million internally-displaced people (IDPs). Women and children constitute the majority of these people.

  • Resettlement of refugees in different countries has been going on for many years, with a wide range of official schemes in Europe, North America, and Australia. However there has been increasing controversy especially in Europe about how to respond to the increased flow of people.

  • The Refugee Convention (1951) recognises the right of asylum seekers fleeing persecution to seek refuge, and countries that are signatories undertake not to send people back into dangerous situations. In 2001, 147 member states reaffirmed their commitment to the Convention.

  • The Refugee Convention is supplemented by Conventions on Stateless Persons which seek to ensure that people are not left without a home and identity as citizens. Only 66 states are signatories, and the UN is urging more to become parties.

  • Apart from UNHCR, which has primary responsibility for protection of refugees, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) works on wider migration issues and works for orderly processing of refugees based on upholding human dignity. In addition there are many NGOs that assist refugees.

  • The Quaker approach to life affirms the importance of responding to human need in the spirit of love, justice and compassion. Quakers have supported refugees over a long period. They work at the United Nations to promote stronger protection for refugees.

  • There are numerous examples of Quakers in different parts of the world working to assist refugees in practical ways – in USA, UK, Canada, Europe, the Middle East and Australia. Quakers also continue to be part of the public debate in these countries about policies affecting asylum seekers and refugees.

  • In an environment of greater anxiety and uncertainty, the challenge is to maintain a strong witness for justice and compassion for refugees and asylum seekers.


This paper seeks to give an overview of the refugee situation globally, and to highlight trends and approaches by Quakers and others. The intention is to bring greater clarity and perspective on current debates in many countries about how to respond to the significant flow of people displaced by war, disease and climate.

Watching Brief: Guns, Small Arms And The Arms Trade

The Challenges

Tragic incidents involving the use of guns to inflict serious violence in communities such as Norway have reminded us of the ever-present danger arising from the proliferation of guns and other small arms. In a recent press article published by The Canberra Times on 2 August from the British newspaper The Independent, A. C. Grayling said: "In response to recurring massacres in American high schools and British villages, in response to footage from Africa and Afghanistan showing ragged, untrained young men brandishing automatic small arms, in response to a man coolly murdering dozens of youngsters in a long, funfair-like shooting spree on a Norwegian island, where is the outrage at the fact that the world is awash with small arms, that people are making money legally and without blemish to their reputations out of the manufacture and sale of instruments purposely designed to kill?” He went on to insist that the sale and manufacture of guns should be seen as a human rights abuse and should be illegal except for properly controlled government agencies.

Draft Qplc Action Alert Re West Papua


The western part of the island of New Guinea became part of the Dutch East Indies in 1828. When Indonesia was created in 1949, the Netherlands retained the area as Dutch New Guinea. In 1952 the Dutch began to prepare the territory for independence, with education and technical programs, while Indonesia was asserting its claim to the territory. In 1961 the first Papuan parliament was created, a national flag and anthem chosen, and the name West Papua agreed.

When Indonesia began to send military forces into the area, initially the Dutch resisted, but then Indonesia sought support from Russia and the US decided a cold war conflict was unacceptable, and leaned on the Dutch to accede to Indonesia’s claim. In 1962 the Netherlands and Indonesia agreed to the UN taking control for six years until a national vote was held. During this time the OPM (Free Papua Movement) was born, working for independence.

In 1969 an Act of Free Choice was held, and the result was that control of West Papua passed to Indonesia, despite many doubts about the way the vote was conducted, including widespread accounts of human rights violations and the fact that less than 0.01% of the population participated. The province was re-named Irian Jaya by Indonesia. As a result there has been an ongoing conflict about West Papua – with some seeing Indonesian sovereignty as better than an independent state in a very poor area, others regarding self-determination as an essential right of the people.

There have been thousands of people fleeing from West Papua since then, some living in camps along the Papua New Guinea border.

The Canberra Lake War Memorials


There is a proposal afoot to construct two new War Memorials, one each for the two World Wars at the Lake Burley Griffin end of Anzac Parade on either side of it in Canberra. With little fanfare, an international competition has been held for a design and the successful bid was announced by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. The design is for two granite towers to tall-tree height which will bear inscriptions. National memorials are approved by the Canberra National Memorials Committee whose membership includes the PM, the opposition leader, responsible ministers and departmental secretaries. The committee has given its endorsement for the location and character of these proposal memorials. The expected cost is of the order of $25 million which will need to be raised privately. The proposal will need to be cleared under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (even though a detailed heritage assessment has already been done) and need approval from the National Capital Authority for consistency with the National Capital Plan. When the design architects showcased their plans in Canberra recently they found unexpected opposition to the proposal from a variety of sources, from landscape architects who found the design aesthetically unappealing to peace groups who felt that there was no need for additional expensive War Memorials which unduly emphasise the place of war in Australia’s history and would largely duplicate the purpose of the Australian War Memorial at the top end of Anzac Pde. Since then there has been increasing opposition if measured by the volume of Letters to the Editor of "The Canberra Times”. A group representing this opposition have set up a Lake War Memorials Forum, with a Steering Committee prominent among which is Dr Sue Wareham, a well-respected peace activist. At a recent well-attended launch they announced a website to canvas views and have announced a public meeting to be held at Albert Hall on March 23.

What you can do

Have a look at the website ( and indicate there whether or not you approve of the project. It is important that the voices of non-Canberrans are heard as this is a National Memorial proposal on National Capital land. The view of the Quaker Peace and Legislation Committee is that this is an unnecessary expenditure of funds for a purpose which is already handled well by the existing Australian War Memorial and that further commemoration of war is counter-productive to concepts of solving international conflicts by peaceful means. Additionally we believe there is nothing aesthetically appealing about the proposed design.


February 2011

Watching Brief: East Timor Gas Fields

Under a series of treaties between Australia and East Timor, negotiated between 2002 and 2006, the two countries agreed to split the profits of a joint venture to exploit petroleum from the Sunrise and Troubadour gas fields in the Timor Sea.

There is understood to be about 5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, but differences have arisen over where to process the gas into liquefied natural gas (LNG). The project is being operated by a consortium of companies – Woodside (Aust), Royal Dutch Shell, and Osaka Gas.Read the Watching Brief released July 2010.

Action Alert: Gaza Blockade

The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) has produced a document called ‘Gaza in Crisis’, detailing the history of the situation there. Read the Action Alert released July 2010.

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), adopted by the

United Nations in 1968, sought to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons by getting non-nuclear member states to agree not to develop them, and nuclear states to agree to reduce their holdings. The right to develop peaceful nuclear energy is set out in the Treaty. Since then there have been some new nuclear-weapon states and only limited moves by nuclear-weapon states to disarm. Most encouraging was the recent announcement by USA and Russia to revive their START agreement.

Read the Action Alert released in June 2010.

Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty: Among its 76 recommendations are the following:......

Human Rights Act or Charter

The Australian Government decided to establish a National Consultation on Human Rights, and appointed a committee - Frank Brennan (chair), Mary Kostakidis, Tammy Williams and Mick Palmer – to seek responses around Australia on the following questions:

(a) Which human rights should be protected and promoted?
(b) Are these rights currently sufficiently protected and promoted?
(c) How could Australia better protect and promote human rights?

The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement

The Australian Government is involved in negotiations on March 15 for a Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) which will raise all of the issues that were debated in the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The intention is to have a core agreement which will form the basis for inviting other Asia Pacific countries to join it. The Australian Fair Trade & Investment Network, Inc. (AFTINET) is campaigning for caution in Australia’s involvement in this agreement arguing that "there is no evidence that such an agreement will bring economic benefits to Australia” and that "Australia already has agreements which give market access to most of the other countries involved. Our government has said that they will try to use the agreement to improve Australian access to US agricultural markets, but the danger is that further changes on medicines and the other policies will be offered as trade-offs.”

For a full list of Action Statements issued by the Quaker Peace and Legilslation Committee, contact them – email.
Read about other Public Statements made by Quakers here

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