An Unusual Connection Between Australian Human Rights and the Sydney Public Transport System

From Jeremy G Byrne <>
Date Wed, 30 Aug 2000 11:32:14 +0800

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Dear People--

I'm not a natural nationalist, but I used to love being Australian.
Back in the '70s we made enormous strides towards the kind of
multicultural, liberal, open society that most countries only ever
dream of--and we've been sliding back into the ooze just about ever
since. Recently though, this back-sliding has gone from the depressing
to the outrageous, and I find myself watching in horror as my country's
good Human Rights record is systematically dismantled; in the absence
of worse examples of regressive social policy in "First World Nations",
Australian is rapidly becoming the (pre-Mandela) South Africa of the

Over the last twelve months, our Prime Minister has repeatedly refused
to express sorrow for the plight of the original inhabitants of this
continent, in case he might have to pay them compensation. He also
refuses even to acknowledge the existence of the Stolen Generations--an
almost universally accepted term for the victims of the institutionalised
forced separation of aboriginal children from their parents which
occurred under the misguided and openly racist policies of Australian
governments through to the 1960s. In the last 24 hours, as I write
this, our government has announced that it will no longer cooperate
with UN Human Rights committees, and has called for a complete
overhaul of the UN Treaty system, which has been very critical of its
recent policies (see,3546,1141253%255E421,00.html).
I'd like this trend to stop; I'd like our government to reconsider the
importance of our liberal traditions to the "national character"; I'd
prefer them not to destroy everything about this country that matters
to me; I'd like to feel happy to admit I'm an Australian again.

Currently, as you probably know, Australia is host to the Olympics.
Billions of eyeballs will be locked to scenes from Australia for a
couple of weeks next month, and it seems to me that an unprecedented
opportunity exists for the current direction of Australia's Human Rights
policy to be challenged, and for the international profile of
Australia's aborigines to be raised in the process, through peaceful

The Sydney public transport system is very, very fragile. The train
system alone is almost in collapse, even before the Olympic crowds
hit Sydney; see this story:,4057,1122648%255E1702,00.h

and this document about Sydney transport and the Olympics:

For further reading, these sites are useful Sydney transport resources:

It has been suggested to me that it would be very easy for a large
number of protesters (a mere fraction of the 250,000 who crossed
the Sydney Harbour Bridge on National Sorry Day on 26-May; see for example) to
purchase all-day train tickets (which I'm led to believe cost around
AUD$3.50, although that may not be the case come the Olympics, as
indicated on this page:
and coordinate "total occupancy" of the trains during the period
September 15 - October 1. (If possible, the bus system would be similarly
occupied, but that might require too many bodies.) This would prevent a
large number of people from reaching the Olympic venues, and would
provide a focus for international attention.

I do recognise that a protest such as this will hurt (mainly middle
class) Australians--my countrymen and women, who will go home
disappointed to their TV sets to watch the thing with the rest of
the world and hassle SOCOG for refunds. (To the international audience
it will simply be more interesting Olympics news; they're not
going to be put off their sport by the half-empty stadiums). However,
I think this is just too important an issue, and too important an
opportunity to miss.

Of course, there's not really time at this stage to coordinate a
complex plan to maximise the efficiency of the action, but I think
there's still time to really make an impact with a completely peaceful,
highly focussed protest action. I wonder whether this could be
coordinated with; Melbourne's not far from Sydney, airfares
are at an all-time low on the East Coast of the country, and I reckon
there's a lot more chance of making a big impact by taking out the
Sydney transport system with peaceful protest than lobbying the business
moguls of the WLF (although the defeat of MAI II is probably as important
an issue on the grand scale of things). Anyway, I thought the idea
deserved wider exposure, and I hope some good comes of it. (This may
not be the right forum to discuss such things, but it's the only
"activist" list I read--my major areas of interest lie online--and
I hope someone here may be able to pass the idea along.)


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