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Faith and rational thought

By RosemaryJ36

If I believe (and I am really wary about using the word!) about anything associated with ‘religion’, it is that those who seek power have used religion to turn something which could have been a force for good into, in many cases, a force for evil.

I was brought up in a Christian household, I was a Sunday School teacher in my mid-teens and an agnostic by my mid-20s. Growing up in the UK in my youth was to be in a society which paid lip-service to the Church of England (or Scotland, etc) as being the basis for the national religion, which had been, damagingly, transported to all the colonies in Africa, Asia and North America.

As an aside – the Spanish and Portuguese divided the world between them and transported the Catholic faith, while Germany and the Netherlands would have taken Lutheranism and Protestant Christianity to their colonies. All sort of well-intentioned but eventually damaging!

The ethics which underpinned my upbringing remain, but I share Stephen Fry’s attitude towards the existence of a god.

A second link involving Stephen Fry gives you a longer and just as delightfully iconoclastic insight into religion, life and death. Please make the time to watch it.

In today’s’ world, education has, IMHO, been much too much linked to religion, when it should be solely concerned with knowledge. Science, in particular, encourages asking questions and seeking answers, while accepting that there will often be more accurate information gleaned later, which updates accepted truths.

Opinions are also too often accepted as truths, and questioning accepted truths is, again, often seen as a bad thing. In the eyes of the Catholic Church, it is often condemned as heresy if it seriously conflicts with their accepted dogmas, whereas it is the only way to increase the accuracy of information currently accepted as fact.

A witness of truth bore testimony against George Pell, which convinced a jury of 12 citizens that Pell was indeed guilty of the charges laid against him of sexual abuse of a child. The Court of Appeal has confirmed this verdict, yet we have self-opinionated people like Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones – who gravitate to (preferably male) people of importance – refusing to accept that verdict. Their hubris is – in my personal opinion – disgusting!

True, Pell’s legal team are considering seeking leave to appeal to the High Court, but they will need very strong grounds to obtain that leave and would then still have to convince the High Court justices.

‘Belief’ involves acceptance of authorised information as being truth without seeking evidence. Science conducts a continual search for evidence – and in doing so has, over the centuries, upset religious institutions by demonstrating that their accepted ‘truths’ are often ill-founded. Galileo?

In Australia, instead of imposing a common curriculum on all schools which receive funding from governments, the ‘faith’-based schools are allowed to teach incorrect information because the truth does not agree with their beliefs, which in turn are based on ancient ignorance. (How much acquaintance did the authors of the Book of Leviticus and the letters of Paul the Apostle have with the modern scientific knowledge of the development of the foetus?)

For a school to be able to refuse to employ a teacher – let alone enrol a student – whose sexuality does nor align with their commonly-accepted dichotomy, is totally unacceptable. Based on current knowledge, ALL people are equal, irrespective of their sexual identity, and ALL are entitled to equal opportunity.

Growing up in England, which had multiple Christian sects, but a Catholic minority, Guy Fawke’s Night was celebrated annually and there was then (I cannot speak for now – nearly 50 years later) a deep underlying mistrust of Catholics. 

In 1957, I graduated from Imperial College London with an honours maths degree. This was a time in the Space Age when authorities were finding a severe shortage of secondary school maths and science teachers, capable of laying a foundation to bring students up to the level required to continue studies at tertiary level in these areas.

So instead of having to spend another year studying for a Graduate Diploma in Education, we were allowed to go straight into teaching, while being on probation for our first year. Maths in particular, in those days, was very textbook-oriented which made this process easier.

If we passed our year on probation, we were then granted qualified teacher status. (Sadly, when I later came to Australia, despite its sharing the shortage of maths teachers, my qualifications and experience were not deemed acceptable to be employed except casually! These uppity colonies!)

So – in 1957, not expecting easy acceptance, I applied to 3 schools who had advertised in the Times Education Supplement – and was immediately offered positions at all three! So – I chose the nearest, which was in west London and easily accessible by the Underground from my home.

It was, as had been my C of E secondary school, a State-aided, all-girls school and the Principal, a charming and very astute woman, was the Mother Superior of the Convent! The level of acceptance of the variety of others under her governance was a lesson for all!

Approximately one-third of the teaching staff were lay non-Catholics, the rest splitting fairly evenly between lay and nuns, and ALL being suitably qualified academically. Those of us in the lay non-Catholic category were not given pastoral care for a ‘homeroom’ group, nor were we expected to attend mass on Thursdays. As with most schools at that time, we started the day with a school assembly, including a hymn, a prayer, a bible reading and then general notices. As a pianist, I played the piano for the hymn.

In lieu of the pastoral care, I did yard duty for half the daily lunch hour. Because England relied on teachers having relevant academic qualifications, there were no problems in my being employed and the school syllabus was identical with that taught at all other grammar schools. At that time in the UK, there were various levels of secondary schooling and Grammar Schools were geared to preparing students for tertiary education.

Well before I left the UK, salaries for female teachers were brought up to parity with male teachers with equivalent qualifications over a seven-year period, so coming to Australia was quite a shock on many issues. 

Firstly, there was an element of time travel. Australia, in general, seemed to be about 10 years behind the UK on most issues and for Queensland, that gap was 20 years! Secondly, there were odd social differences which were gender-related. Women did not shake hands with men and at social functions, the men all kept in a bunch and predominantly seemed to talk sport, while the women also kept together. 

Also. at major social functions where there was often a smorgasbord arrangement, I was amazed to see women queuing up with two plates, and waiting on their male partner, a complete reverse of what I was accustomed to. And if one of the women wanted to go to the toilet, they always seemed to go in pairs! The attitudes often reminded me of the experience of Leslie, the young woman at the centre of Edna Ferber’s novel ‘Giant’!

But the most confronting difference was religion and the pervasive influence of the Catholic Church!

We are literally in the throes of a dramatic change with the last of the jurisdictions, NSW – decriminalising abortion. And it is 2019!

The law allowing abortions to be delivered legally (after meeting several criteria) and free, under the NHS in the UK, was passed in 1967 and I had an abortion – legally – following contraceptive failure in 1969! THAT WAS HALF A CENTURY AGO!!

Small wonder that Australia not only seems to be behind the UK – but it also seems to be falling further behind. And it is religion – remember: Fred Nile is involved in this? – acting as the brake.

We now have a Prime Minister, whose strange and – to me – un-Christian cult is defying our Constitution and dragging us further into the thrall of those who misguidedly believe that religion should be our guide to life.

I have no quarrel with the ethics which are recorded as having been espoused by Jesus Christ. They are, for me, excellent guides to living in harmony with all others. “Do unto others as you would they would do unto you.”

But once you delve into the minutiae of the rules recorded in the Old Testament, the Torah (which has much in common with the OT) and the Qur’an, you realise that they are based on the then-current knowledge, yet science has advanced our knowledge massively, making those rules totally inappropriate for today’s world.

Cults like the Pentecostal and Evangelical bear little relation to the teachings of Jesus Christ, with his instructions to give to the poor, and mislead people into attitudes which are far from ethical.

The current – and in my view totally unnecessary – push for legislation to protect religious practices appears to me to be close to breaching Constitution S 116:

The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

The current government seems to be ignoring the fact that Islam is well established for a minority of Australians, as are several other religions, a large proportion of us do not practice any religion, and – as has been only too well illustrated during the Same-Sex Marriage plebiscite and the Israel Folau family church hiatus – it is those claiming to be religious observers who are doing the damage!

This is a secular country. The Constitution leaves everyone free to practice – or not – their chosen religion. Many of us are agnostic or atheists as well as Muslim, Hindu, etc (the Buddhists practice a way of life which is generally less contentious) and, until John Howard decided to try to prevent SSM, we were all getting along just fine!

Please, can we ensure that modern science is taught in ALL schools, including the facts of the LGBTIQ sexuality spectrum, allow the safe schools project in ALL schools, to reduce inappropriate prejudices being retained because of ignorant parents, and let the religious practice in ways which do not harm the rest of the population!

We are all capable of thinking for ourselves – even our children, who are fighting a battle to force our recalcitrant government to accept the reality of the Climate Emergency and take action before it is too late to prevent the worst outcomes – and which will cause more harm to our children with their whole lives ahead of them!

BELIEVE THE SCIENTISTS, NOT THE RELIGIOUS NUTS!

 

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A conga line of bludgers: Prince Charles (part 8)

By Dr George Venturini  

On 11 and 12 February 2015 Charles visited Saudi Arabia for the twelfth time since 1986. He had been there in January to pay his condolences following the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. The Prince was representing The Queen.

The day after his arrival, on his tenth visit in February 2014, Prince Charles donned traditional robes and joined Saudi princes in a sword dance in Riyadh, and B.A.E. announced that agreement had finally been reached on the sale of 72 Typhoon fighters sold to the feudal monarchy.

The deal arrived just 24 hours before the publication of B.A.E.’s most recent results, and followed Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to the country in November 2013 in which he failed to secure a deal. The B.A.E. share price was expected to fall if sales were not confirmed.

The first in line to the United Kingdom crown dressed to the nines in traditional military regalia of the Saudi nepotistic despots.

Campaign Against Arms Trade again claimed that the United Kingdom sells more weapons to the Saudis than any other country in the world. On the day of the Prince’s arrival to Saudi Arabia a C.A.A.T. spokesman urged him “to disassociate” himself from the “despotic regime” so as not to confer legitimacy on it C.A.A.T. also urged Charles to raise the issue of human rights abuses in the Kingdom.

The following day, C.A.A.T. was more forthright and condemned Prince Charles for securing the Typhoon deal with the ruling clan. The spokesman once again reiterated the organisation’s contention that the deal primarily lends “legitimacy” to the Saudi repressive regime. On the other hand, an analyst at the investment bank R.B.C. Capital claimed that with “Salam cash coming in, this should give BAE more flexibility for cash deployment moving forward.”

Particularly during the past decade, Saudi Arabia and the Arab statelets (i.e. Kuwait, U.A.E., Qatar) designed by British Imperialism during the decline of the Ottoman Empire in the late nineteenth century have been pumping billions into the British economy keeping it afloat in financially difficult times. Each of the states has highly dubious human rights records and none are democracies in any sense of the word.

Is it really a contradiction that the world’s main harbingers and supporters of jihadism, al-Qaeda and the theology that spawns these violent trends is also the main and largest customer of the United Kingdom’s ultimate merchant of death, B.A.E.? More so, when Prince Charles complains about the ‘tragic plight’ of Christians in the Middle East is it he exposing his own and Her Majesty Government’s hypocrisy knowing full well that this plight is caused by the ‘sugar daddies’ of the British economy, i.e. the Gulf states, in their support for jihadis in Iraq and Syria in particular, and throughout the Middle East in general?

Conducting business with the Saudis and the other Gulf nepotistic despots today is just as important to the United Kingdom prosperity as piracy, the slave trade, imperialist military conquest and colonialism was in the past.

Andrew Smith, spokesman for the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, commented: “It is clear that Prince Charles has been used by the U.K. government and B.A.E. Systems as an arms dealer.”

The Prince’s aides rushed to clarify that he had nothing to do with the deal, and had not discussed it during his trip. A spokeswoman for Charles said the Salam phase of the deal “did not come up in any of his conversations” with the Saudi Royal Family and politicians, including the deputy prime minister, Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, Saudi Arabia’s former Intelligence chief.

He made his trip – the press was told – at the request of the Foreign Office. Once again, in its annual human rights report, the Foreign Office had continued to list Saudi Arabia as one of the “countries of concern”.

In 2014, for instance, it declared: “Allegations of torture continued to be heard, in particular from political activists accused of terrorist offences … We judge the allegations, by virtue of their frequency and the variety of sources, to be credible … ”

Andrew Smith of C.A.A.T. pointed out that Saudi Arabia was ranked 163 out of 167 countries and was given zero points for: “electoral process and pluralism”. The only countries ranked lower were Syria, Chad, Guinea Bissau and North Korea.

Transparency International U.K. called once again for ‘the deal’ to be subjected to close scrutiny and transparency. That must include transparency in the offsets arrangements, and the use of subsidiaries, subcontractors, and agents, so that taxpayer money is not wasted and the integrity and reputations of the governments and companies involved are protected. It noted that its Defence Anti-Corruption Index found that Saudi Arabia presented a very high level of corruption risk in its defence sector. Mark Pyman, a director, said: “Too often in the past, deals like [Al-Yamamah] have been shrouded in secrecy and beset with allegations of corruption. B.A.E. and the Saudi and British governments should have nothing to hide.”

B.A.E. denied any wrongdoing – of course.

Donning traditional robes and joining Saudi princes in a sword dance in Riyadh was obviously comical, in one sense, but not quite so funny when one remembers how the Saudi monarchy and its ‘justice’ usually employ their swords. Saudi Arabia executed more than seventy people the previous year, mostly by public decapitation with a sword. But Charles’ visit was not just defined by such distasteful “dance of shame”, but also the marketing events which immediately followed.

Prince Charles obviously did not see it that way, isolated from every day’s life as the privileged Royals are. The actions of Prince Charles and other members of his family are largely reflective of the entrenched elitism of British politics.

Perhaps Charles is too removed from reality. On the contrary, B.A.E. was aware that its share price was set to fall that very week unless agreement could be reached on its latest sales of Eurofighter Typhoon jets to Saudi Arabia. So the U.K. government sent in the royals to seal the deal. As a Buckingham Palace spokesperson – clearly reflecting that moral vacuum – said: “Middle East potentates like meeting princes.” In point of fact, Charles was in Saudi Arabia at the request of the U.K. government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Maybe, to put it plainly, Charlie does not understand. Wearing the Saudi uniform he might have thought was just like one of the many uniforms he uses ‘at home’ – full of un-earned medals for un-fought battles in un-attended wars.

Human rights organisations had highlighted Saudi Arabia’s appalling record on human rights and urged Prince Charles to use his visit to promote reform. Instead he has sent a clear signal of support for repression.

It is difficult, but not impossible, to believe that Prince Charles does not know that the religion and customs of Saudi Arabia dictate not only conservative dress for men and women, but a uniformity of dress unique to most of the Middle East. Traditionally, the different regions of Saudi Arabia have had different dress, but since the re-establishment of Saudi rule these have been reserved for festive occasions, and “altered if not entirely displaced” by the dress of the homeland of their rulers.

Saudi men and boys, whatever their social status or occupation, wear the traditional dress called a thobe or thawb – the standard Arabic word for garment – which has been called the ‘Wahhabi national dress’. During warm and hot weather, Saudi men and boys wear white thobes. During the cool weather, wool thobes in dark colours are not uncommon. At special times, men often wear a bisht or mishlah over the thobe. These are long white, brown or black cloaks trimmed in gold. A man’s headdress consists of three things: the tagia, a small white cap which keeps the gutra – a traditional keffiyeh headdress – from slipping off the head; the gutra itself, which is a large square of cloth; and the igal, a doubled black cord which holds the gutra in place. The gutra is usually made of cotton and traditionally is either all white or a red and white checked. The gutra is worn folded into a triangle and centred on the head.

The sword – sulthan is the tool which was used to spread Islam – through hatred, violence, blood, and persecution along with it. It is particularly dear to the House of Saud. It is now used for execution. One could ask Saudi Arabia’s leading executioner Abdallah al-Bishi, who takes pride in his work, who like his father before him can execute ten people in one single day. His style of killing is by decapitation, using a sword. He also removes limbs by his sword under the country’s sharia law.

Barbaric stuff by universal standard! Clownish pantomime unworthy of a serious character as Charles Windsor-Battenberg believes himself to be!

The reality is different: in May 2018 Sir Roger Carr, chairman of B.A.E., gave a speech to shareholders at the B.A.E. annual general meeting. He said: “There is no doubt that 2017 was a successful year as reflected in our sales, profits and cash flow, which, I am pleased to say, has supported an increase in your dividend for the year to 21.8 pence per share.”

Shareholders in arms production benefit from bloodshed globally. The deaths of Yemeni children pay “healthy” dividends.

It really does not matter that the embargo/blockade against Yemen and the Yemenis violates the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948 as General Assembly Resolution 260.  Article 2 of the Convention defines genocide as: “…  (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

In 2015 the United Kingdom exported £ 2.94 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia over a period of 9 months. The illegal aggression against Yemen began in March 2015. B.A.E. jumped at the opportunity to reap a harvest from the murder of Yemeni civilians.

According to Amnesty International: “[The United Kingdom] recently diverted a batch of 500-pound ‘Paveway IV’ bombs to Saudi Arabia. These bombs are used by Tornado and Typhoon fighter jets, both of which are manufactured and supplied to Saudi Arabia by the UK. arms company B.A.E. Systems.”

In May 2018 Carr said “our customers are our lifeblood” while those customers shed blood globally. Saudi Arabia is crucial to B.A.E.’s success in the arms industry and is its third largest market sector after the United States and the United Kingdom.

“According to the company’s own figures for 2015, the Saudi military market helped boost its overall performance. Sales increased by £1.3 billion to £17.9 billion.” 

In 2016 Carr was questioned regarding the ethics of supplying arms to Saudi Arabia. Carr dismissed such troublesome moral issues, saying: “We are not here to judge the way that other governments work, we are here to do a job under the rules and regulations we are given.” The shareholder returns weigh more heavily upon the minds of businessmen like Carr than the mass murder being committed with B.A.E. weapons and equipment in Yemen by a despotic Saudi regime and human rights violator of world record proportions.

In 2016 B.A.E. defended the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia with a very familiar slogan “We provide defence equipment and support to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia under a Government to Government agreement.” The old self-defence canard, deployed so rigorously by the Israeli government while it batters the concentration camp which is Gaza with chemical weapons and uses the Gazan people as lab rats for testing new armaments on behalf of firms like B.A.E.

In 2017 U.K. arms companies had earned in excess of £6 billion from trade with Saudi Arabia during the war waged against Yemen since March 2015. Profit are extracted from the bombing of schools, hospitals, civilian infrastructure, weddings, blind schools, fishing villages and residential areas across Yemen – a bombing campaign which has created the breeding ground for cholera and other silent killers.

According to Carr  – “We [B.A.E.] supply equipment government-to-government to enable the job to be done as seen fit. We separate ourselves from the war itself … we are not involved in any part of prosecuting, planning or executing the war.” This defies logic, if you knowingly hand the means to commit mass murder to a known psychopath, you are an accessory to the dreadful consequences Mr. Carr.

A report in Drone Warfare pointed out that “While being repeatedly questioned about civilian deaths by supporters of the Campaign Against Arms Trade, Sir Roger claimed that B.A.E. Systems hoped for peace in Yemen and other countries, adding: “One death of anybody is one death too many.” Carr’s rank hypocrisy was exposed when he later refused a minute’s silence to commemorate the innocent victims of his products worldwide.

The self-defence slogan was unfurled again by Carr who claimed that the U.S/U.K-supported Saudi regime had the right to “protect itself” against “Houthi” cross border missile attacks. No mention of Yemen’s need to defend itself against the ravages of imperialist super-powers and their sophisticated weaponry being rained down upon the Yemeni people!

“We are not an aggressive company. We don’t conduct wars, we manufacture equipment in order to ensure that those who protect and serve us are equipped appropriately and hope that having given that equipment it will avoid others being aggressors,” was Carr’s plea for exoneration from international justice.

But when did Yemen aggress the U.K., Sir Roger? Why not be truthful, why not admit you will supply arms to global terrorists if it expands your profit margins and maintains the cycle of perpetual war?

“The reason that B.A.E. doesn’t know if its weapons were used in the bombing of the wedding in Yemen is because it doesn’t want to know. Its entire business model is based on perpetual war. To ask questions or to take any kind of moral stance would be to jeopardise its position as a major arms exporter,” said Mr. Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade.

At the 2018 B.A.E. annual general meeting, Carr stated that “our defence customers are approved by government and products are exported under strict regulations.” How stringent are those “regulations”? How are they influenced and how are they enforced ?

It is worth noting that among Prime Minister Theresa May’s Business Ambassadors is former B.A.E. executive, Sir Richard Lake Olver, of the Goldman Sachs stable, who is the Prime Minister’s Ambassador for “Manufacturing and Advanced Engineering.” This role includes: leading trade delegations, one-to-one meetings with senior government ministers, hosting high level incoming visitors, meeting key businesses in market. and delivering keynote speeches at business events.

Effectively one of the élite influencers attached to the Prime Minister’s office was a major player in the military supply sector and a promoter of B.A.E. in particular.

Mr. Philip May is Theresa May’s husband. Philip May is also a ‘relationship manager’ at an investment management company, Capital Group. According to Capital Group “[Mr. May’s] job is to ensure the clients are happy with the service and that we understand their goals.” Capital Group happens to be the major shareholder in B.A.E. and the second largest shareholder in Lockheed Martin, also heavily invested in partnership with the Saudi regime and its campaign to wipe Yemen from the map.

It also cannot be a pure coincidence that B.A.E. profited handsomely from Prime Minister May’s unlawful aggression against Syria in April 2018 alongside the United States and France. Based upon open source narratives provided primarily by the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office-organised and financed White Helmets, May’s government clumsily put together a flimsy pretext to bomb alleged chemical facilities in Syria which had already been designated non-chemical-weapon manufacturing sites by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons earlier in 2018.

“It has been reported that the U.K.’s contribution to military strikes was to fire eight ‘Storm-Shadow’ missiles at an alleged chemical weapons facility, each of which cost £790,000 ($1.13 million) – totalling £6.32 million ($9 million). The missiles were manufactured by B.A.E. Systems.”, and so MarketScreener reports.

It is not known whether Mr. Philip May relationship assisted by consenting for that illegal strike and its subsequent financial benefits for B.A.E.?

The Conservative Government connections with B.A.E. do not end with Mr. May. The Right Honourable George Gideon Oliver Osborne, CH, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, presently editor-in-chief at The (London) Evening Standard, also works as a consultant for Blackrock Investment Institute, which  Blackrock has substantial shares in B.A.E. Since February 2017 Osborne has secured £162, 500 per quarter, plus equity as the “adviser on the global economy to Blackrock.”

On 9 August 2018 Mr. Johannes Bruwer, Deputy Head of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Yemen, reported that a total of 50 people were killed and 77 were injured. Of those the I.C.R.C. hospital in Al Talh received 30 dead and 48 injured, of which the vast majority were children A bus which was carrying a group of students attending summer classes had been targeted. (Saudi, UAE, USA, UK and France Slaughter Dozens of People, Including at Least 29 Children on a School Bus,…, 09.08.2018).

On 12 June 2018 Doctors Without Borders reported an airstrike which destroyed its newly constructed facility for treatment of cholera, in the town of Abs, built in anticipation of a third epidemic outbreak of cholera in Yemen.

Professor Isa Blumi, of Stockholm University and author of the book Destroying Yemen, believes that the goal of coalition attacking Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab peninsula, since March of 2015 is to bludgeon Yemenis into complete submission and finally to exert control over ‘a gold mine’ of resources, including oil reserves, natural gas, minerals, and the control of a strategic position.

Business profits motivate American and British  weapon companies which continue benefiting from weapon sales to the Saudi-Emirati led coalition. (K. Kelly, ‘U.S. Is Complicit in Child Slaughter in Yemen’, 10 August 2018).

Even the vassal-government of Australia got into the action by supplying military exports to both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. And the so-called ‘Liberal’ Minister for Defence Industry Minister, Christopher Pyne, has plans to expand this arms trade. (Amnesty International Australia, ‘Who supplied the arms that killed the children in Yemen’, 14 August 2018).

These conflict-investment cartels and their war-brokers will not spare a thought for lives thousands of kilometres away in a poverty-stricken corner of the world: they represent nothing more to them than attractive salaries and shareholder perks. The moral bankruptcy of these military industrial structures defines description when they can survey the broken bones and emaciated corpses of children, the birdlike skulls and protruding eyes of human beings clinging to life, without sustenance and they can super-impose balance sheets and project forward to the next killing field. (V. Beeley, ‘U.K Military Industrial Cartel and Tory Government Profit from Mass Murder in Yemen’, 9 August 2018).

In that they are aided and abetted by the insipid smile and the mindless congratulations of Prince Charles.

Continued Saturday – Charles lll

Previous instalment – A conga line of bludgers: Prince Charles (part 7)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.venturini@bigpond.com.au.

 

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The Peters and the Pauls: The fight for sex work decriminalisation in Queensland

By Jezabel  

Decriminalisation is being fought for in Queensland right now, with a symposium in Parliament today, the 21st August. Respect Inc, Queensland’s sex worker organisation, is challenging government to replace existing sex work legislation, with complete decriminalisation of the sex industry as we know it in Queensland. I am absolutely ecstatic about this! As a sex worker who has worked in Queensland on and off over the past eight years, decriminalisation will impact me and my colleagues in an extremely positive way.

The current regulation of sex workers in Queensland is fraught with problems and dangers. Queensland can learn from New Zealand and New South Wales history of decriminalisation, and improve on the legislation in those places. Northern Territory and South Australia governments are also considering decriminalisation of sex work. The lives of sex workers will not only be safer, we will have legal rights and recourse to address violence in the workplace, discrimination at the borders, discrimination in the real estate rental industry, health, banking and insurance industries and in the employment sector, in the same way that every other citizen enjoys.

Firstly, at the moment we are heavily regulated by police. This makes it extremely unlikely that sex workers will contact the police if they are abused, stalked, harrassed or threatened in the context of their work. We run the risk of being arrested ourselves, our immigration status potentially affected, our identity exposed and our choice of employment permanently placed in police and health records like a keloid scar that never heals. In the meantime, real criminals go unpunished and continue to target vulnerable sex workers in society. Police and government organisations can not adequately serve to protect us and then dob us in and prosecute us with their next breathe. This is a travesty of justice.

Early in the life of the current Queensland laws, Queensland police sought and had passed, an Amendment Bill (2011) to insert Clause 101 into the current legislation, which allowed police to continue to practice entrapment and ask sex workers for Natural (without a condom) sex services, in a supposed attempt to stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). A wholly dubious practice that has been largely shunned by almost all democratic countries in the developed world! Entrapment deliberately sets a person up to break the law where they would not normally do so. Police actually have the power to pretend to be clients, go through with services and then charge a sex worker. How inappropriate is that! Conditions can be manipulated in order to justify an arrest.

Entrapment laws tend to only target our young people, street workers and migrant sex workers the most. Our most vulnerable. Sex workers who may be naive, mentally challenged, itinerant or not so great at speaking or understanding English and whom are unfamiliar with the current laws. I consider myself an educated woman and even I have difficulty complying with the current laws around sex work.

It is not sex workers who are the cause of Australia’s burgeoning sexually transmitted infection (STI) statistics either. It is the general public, people who hold antiquated beliefs about wearing or carrying condoms and our young people who enter into the world of nightclubs and bars, become intoxicated and go on to have impromptu unprotected sex. I take full responsibility for providing safer sex practices as do my colleagues and as a result we have less risk of developing a sexually transmitted disease than the general public. Sex workers have been at the forefront of STD best practice for at least the last thirty years and safe sex is the industry standard.

Similarly in New Zealand, sex workers are taking “all reasonable steps to ensure a prophylactic sheath (condom) or other appropriate barrier is used” (Prostitution Reform Act 2003 cited in NZPC website). Perhaps a humourous state-wide advertising programme could be implemented to educate people on the risks of unsafe sex, targeting youth in order to reduce the stigma of using condoms and increase awareness? Perhaps government funded, free condom vending machines in every bar would be more cost effective? After all, 99% of sex workers comply with safe sex practices (Donovan, Harcourt, Egger, Fairley, 2010).

Under the current regulatory framework, it is illegal for me to work or associate with another sex worker. This means that I am not able to let a colleague know where I am if I’m doing an outcall, what time and for how long the booking is or when I will be expected back home. I can be arrested for attempting to keep myself safe. I am not allowed to share accommodation with another sex worker to minimise costs or have anyone else on the premises while I work. This is considered to be running a brothel. I am not allowed to ask a colleague to work with me when a client requests two sex workers during the booking. This is considered to be procurement. Clients have to source additional sex workers themselves. How ridiculous!

Presently, different Australian states have different degrees of decriminalisation and regulation and it is an absolute nightmare for touring sex workers who frequently travel interstate. New South Wales is the the only state where decriminalisation exists in Australia. Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia are all expected to follow suit. In Queensland, sex workers do not need to be registered if they are working as independents, however are required to undergo mandatory testing if they are working from a brothel. Brothel’s are completely illegal in Tasmania with no sign of decriminalisation on the horizon, although local law enforcement and the media continue to turn a blind eye to the numerous advertisements that are in the local papers and online. The double standards are very real. Private sex workers working alone or in pairs is decriminalised in Tasmania.

Secondly, we are monitored by the Prostitution Licensing Authority (PLA) whom serve as a kind of watchdog for anything to do with our advertising platforms. We are heavily regulated in what we can say about our services and what sort of images we promote. For example, we are unable to show our nipples or genitals or any images of ourselves. They only recently started to let us depict BDSM practices such as whips, canes and paddles. The problem of regulating, is that you only have to type in ‘sex’ on the internet and your browser will show a million different sites and services showing naked, pornographic images and acts. It is an impossible task. I am reminded of the days of the Truth, where the page three girls were often depicted semi naked, bearing their breasts for all those readers to see. We still have public titty bars in operation in Queensland which provides some free eye candy for our hardworking tradies.

Obviously, there are many double standards with monitoring these sorts of things and in my mind, the PLA is nothing more than a paper-shuffling organisation set up to appease right wing christian lobbyists influencing government, like the Australian Christian Lobby. Religion has no place in government! There are too many Peter’s and Paul’s and I am the wrong kind of Mary. I don’t want to see any more public and political attacks on sex workers just because we are an affront to their conflated moral’s and beliefs! Remember GK and her eviction from Ma and Pa Kettle’s motel in Moranbah? The then Queensland Attorney-General Mr Jarrod Bleijie, began a successful smear campaign to change the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 to allow legal discrimination to occur in Queensland. Sex workers across Australia have had enough! We don’t want any more exploitation for political gain (often accompanied with dodgy donations) to keep the dangerous status quo! More atheists exist in Australia than God fearing citizens and so the time has come for the rights and lives of sex workers to be respected.

Thirdly, I want to be able to enjoy the freedom of being able to work safely in the sex industry in Queensland without fear of persecution. As with any marginalised group, I live with stigma and discrimination on a daily basis. Lyon asserts that health outcomes of sex workers are directly affected by stigmatisation and marginalisation and that “It is described as the single biggest issue facing sex workers – even those who operate legally” (Lyon, 2011: 2.3.1, 45). I am at risk of being blackmailed, harassed, stalked, threatened and outed by police, real estate agents, employers, disgruntled ex partners/husbands, friends, family and even from my own colleagues, whom for a variety of reasons choose to act or react with ignorance and a sense of entitlement that justifies their violence. Violence comes in many different guises.

My own personal story involves an ex husband who rang my landlord and outed me, just because I was leaving him and his abuse, only for him to attack my only source of income and ruin my career. I was left penniless, unable to access Centrelink because I am a Kiwi who came to Australia post 911 and when significant political changes to immigration laws occurred in 2001 (New Zealanders are now considered Permanent Temporary Residents), which meant I had no access to financial support when I fell on hard times. I am not alone in wanting to create the life I choose in the sex industry. I have hopes, dreams and aspirations and I hope to one day become a dual citizen of Australia and New Zealand. Sex workers are everywhere in society, and most of the time you don’t even know we’re there because we are so discreet.

Lastly to recap, licensing slash regulation of the sex industry in Queensland, has not worked. Licensing, as opposed to decriminalisation, makes illegal operations more attractive because the legal sector is often kept smaller than the number of sex workers available to work (Lyon, 2011:10). This kind of defeats the purpose doesn’t it? Current licensing has created an impossible framework for sex workers to work within and one that often sets us up to fail by having to break laws in order to survive and work safely. Research by Respect Inc found that the mental health issues were rife in licensed brothels due to bad working conditions. Decriminalisation is a vital part of addressing the stress, bad work conditions, rights and welfare of all sex workers in Queensland.

It has been 30 years since the 1989 Fitzgerald Inquiry exposed the heinous corruption, extortion and exploitation of sex workers by Police that was occurring during the Joe Bjelke-Peterson days. In response, the Prostitution Act 1999 (Qld) introduced a brothel licensing system, but left the 1899 Criminal Code unchanged. Sadly, 80% of sex workers continue to be subject to police regulation and monitoring as a result. Essentially, we are seen as second class citizens in the state of Queensland, deemed unworthy of receiving even the most basic human rights and protections that our friends, family and communities are afforded. It is about time that numerous evidence-based research in favour of decriminalisation, is taken seriously and fully implemented by our Queensland government representatives.

Decriminalisation of the sex industry is the only way forward and is championed by many international human rights groups including the United Nations. Since the UN made a press release advocating for complete decriminalisation of the sex industry worldwide, we have witnessed several countries, their sex workers and supporters, collectively rise up in the hope that they will see history in the making. We are watching activists and governments work side by side to raise awareness for others and pave the way for the removal of harmful Draconian laws. Activists and governments are working tirelessly to navigate their way down this path to freedom not only for sex workers but for the community as a whole. Decriminalisation will bring about so many positive changes for sex workers, that our voices will finally have been heard and included in a modern society.

The benefits of decriminalisation far outweigh anything that we have seen to date. Police will finally be able to focus on real crime and stop wasting taxpayer money chasing after ghosts. Decriminalisation of the sex industry is the only way to move forward on the issue of human trafficking, sex slavery and violent crime against sex workers in Australia. It is the only accepted course of action that the United Nations advocates globally because it recognises the overall positive impact on human rights, health and safety and addresses issues of harm minimisation in the area of disease prevention, violence and illegal activity (UNAIDS, 2009).

There is nothing wrong with offering or paying for sex services by consenting adults. I think there has been a general taboo about talking about or doing anything sexual for far too long. Slut shaming is a very real thing and begins from an early age. There is still time to make a difference and jump on the second wave of the sexual revolution bandwagon and advocate for complete decriminalisation for sex workers in Queensland. Lobby your local MP’s, write emails and letters in support even if you aren’t a provider, just because it’s the right thing to do. Let your friends and family know that you are in support of sex worker rights and tell them why. All we want is a safer work place, the ability to ask for help and to receive support when it is needed. A win/win for everyone in my book!

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The Bobble-headed Boofhead

By Grumpy Geezer  

Ever since the welcome and suitably humiliating demise of the egregious ecclesiastic from Manly, Friar Fuck’d, I’ve been pondering who’d be the most suitably iconic secretion to take his place as a figurehead for the awfulness of the wretched regime that is the L/NP.

* * * * *

The Liberal/National coagulation is awash with talent: talent for greed, corruption, deceit, nastiness, book burning, malice and incompetence, from the lowliest grifter-in-training on the backbench through to that fatuous, smug twat who believes his subscriptions to Jesus-R-Us have purchased the big guy in the sky’s approval to lead the country towards the rapture.

With their tag-team bastardry how to pick just one of them as the symbol for the farce that is this “government”? Someone whose persona says “if it wasn’t so serious it’d be funny”, someone of sustained fuckwittery, someone who can replace the rabid Abbott in that role?

Of course ScumMo has the required profile and exhibits all of the symptoms for him to be the de-facto standard bearer, but as always in the L/NP there are challengers lurking.

Frank Bainimarama, PM of Fiji on ScumMo: “Insulting… condescending… nothing can be worse than him.”

Michael Bobblehead McCormack: “Hold my beer.”

Bobblehead leapt to his feet to gazump ScumMo’s insults and condescension by suggesting inundated Pacific Islanders can fall back on fruit picking in Oz once their own countries have disappeared beneath the waves. This rustic non-entity has more nasty ideas than an Al Qaeda suggestion box(1) – from disparaging Pacific Islanders, gays and women’s sport to championing corporal and capital punishment.

He’s so narrow minded his eyebrows meet at the back of his head. He’s lowered the IQ of every room he’s ever entered, including the empty ones. He would be more suited to a career as Wagga Wagga’s town scarecrow if he had the required intellect or personality; hence he’s a strong candidate to assume the mantle of Tory exemplar.

However, let’s not forget my personal favourite flag carrier of comical idiocy for whom no humiliation can undermine an opinionated self-regard – Bobblehead’s arch foe Alvin Purplehead from New England. The barmy, smarmy fornicator wants his old job back and he’s embarked on an image refresh in pursuit of that cause. There’s now no topic that’s safe from Barmaby’s ill-informed opinions as he struggles to keep his puce mug in front of the cameras; the problem being that his logic always has more holes than Oscar Pistorius’s bathroom door.

If Barmaby resumes jogging as part of his re-imaging crusade we can expect car park boom-gates all over Canberra to go berserk when Barmaby’s gelatinous white thighs thunder past as he sweats off another bender. I’d like to accelerate his fitness regime by tying a bacon butty to his fat arse and having a rotweiller chase him home.

Then there’s Peter Spud-Dutton, a graduate of the Myra Hindley Charm School who couldn’t get $5 for his autograph if it was on a $50 note yet, convinced of his own appeal he skulks, shiv to hand, waiting and plotting . His cadaverous, dead-eyed presence would suck the joy from a puppy frolic. He’s a malevolent hairless Hitler whose own dog would bite him. When his dishwasher stopped working he had her immediately deported. But Spud is a poster boy for the autocrats and the thought police who, if he ever realises his ambition, would no doubt qualify as Australia’s worst PM on his first day in the job.

But it’s not just the pollies who contribute to the gene pool of rancid nastiness that is so characteristic of the Tories. The self-aggrandising mavens of rabid right-wing propaganda and disinformation in the media have valid claims to being symbolic of the feculence of the L/NP.  They are many – Kenny, Albrechtsen, Devine, Bolt, Dean et al but two stand out as the essence of putrescence.

For an over-stayer in public facilities and author of love letters to school boys(2) Alan Gloria Jones has a warped sense of proprieties with his trademark, misplaced indignations. A cranky, poisonous, sad old soap dropper, defamer and outdoor Opera House horse race projectionist who vilifies women from behind his bully pulpit Jones wields an authority far beyond his audience of taxi drivers and querulous septuagenarians. Politicians of both sides line up to feed his ego, tugging their forelocks and polishing his apples thereby making the pathetic old fart far more dangerous than is warranted.

Peta Credlin was Tony Abbott’s groom of the stool during his short-lived glory days as the country’s most prominant vandal. Multi-tasking as the ringmaster of the circus that was Abbottism she maintains the same rabid right-wing mindset that saw the whole farce come crashing down around her boss’s flappy ears. That level of chutzpah and her Cruella De Vil  persona make her a stand-out.

* * * * *

While Bobblehead McCormack has risen briefly above obscurity to pull the headlines it’s only a temporary reprieve for a man who will disappear himself back beneath the waves of his own vapidity. McCormack will resume his old role as ScumMo’s chief noddy and then perhaps publish his memoirs as a colouring-in book with a free set of grey pencils.

Despite the rigorous competition my favourite Abbott replacement and therefore hate figure is still the smirking happy clapper from The Shire. But it’s only a matter of time.

* * * * *

(1) Bill Bailey

(2) Jonestown: The Power and The Myth of Alan Jones –  Chris Masters.

 

This article was originally published on The Grumpy Geezer.

 

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Be wary of a Trump-Morrison alliance

By Ad astra  

Have you noticed the growing bond between President Trump and PM Morrison?

Morrison has always been fulsome in his praise of Trump“He says what he’s going to do and then goes and does it; I can always rely on President Trump to follow through on what he says.”

During his recent visit to US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, participating in war games off Australia’s coast, Morrison effused: “In the time I’ve known him, he has demonstrated a real keen interest and knowledge of Australia and our relationship that extends back particularly more than a century in terms of the engagement of our armed forces and their armed services. He sees, I think, importantly our role in this part of the world and we are an important partner to the United States.”

But it was Trump who made the latest move to consolidate the bond when he invited Morrison and his wife Jenny to the White House in September for an official visit that will include a rarely offered state dinner, the first invitation of its kind to an Australian prime minister since President George W Bush hosted John Howard in 2006.

Why is it so?

That Morrison admires Trump is explicable, but why does Trump admire Morrison?

It is apparent that Trump admires Morrison’s approach to ‘illegal immigrants’ and has suggested that the US follow Australia’s lead. Their antipathy to immigrants, and their willingness to make life difficult for them, makes them fellow travellers. Trump’s wall along the border with Mexico to protect the US from unwanted immigrants equates with Morrison’s ‘stop the boats’ border protection that prevents them ever entering our country. The isolation of migrants that cross the Mexican border equates with Australia’s isolation of asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island.

There is another reason Trump admires Morrison. Trump loves a winner. He lavished praise on Morrison for his ‘tremendous victory’ in the May election, declaring that he knew he could win. ‘He didn’t surprise me but he surprised a lot of people’.

There is yet another reason Trump admires Morrison. Being enormously wealthy, Trump is a man who has a high regard for wealth. A billionaire who has prospered through his entrepreneurship, he approves of those who have ‘made good’ through their own efforts. Morrison derives his regard for wealth from his Pentecostal religion. It preaches ‘prosperity theology’, which asserts that God wants you to be rich, and if you do the right thing, God will bless you financially. Conversely, if you’re not trying, don’t expect anything from God. Thus we hear Morrison reiterate ad nauseum his Pentecostal message for the man in the street: “If you have a go, you’ll get a go”. Don’t expect anything else; Morrison’s politics cannot be separated from his faith. Of course, not everyone goes along with Morrison’s ideology.

Pentecostalism, which takes the words in the Bible literally and therefore has no place for metaphors, does not preach inclusivity. Instead, it preaches individuality, with each of us being responsible for our own prosperity. If we are poor it is because we are not trying hard enough, not praying enough, or not tithing, as Pentecostals assert we should. Moreover, Pentecostals fervently believe Australia has a special place in the Second Coming of the Lord, which they assert will commence here and spread elsewhere.

We have much to fear as these two fellow travellers reinforce each other’s views about immigration, border protection, the persecution of unwanted immigrants and the maltreatment of asylum seekers. Moreover, their derogatory views about those who are poor, unemployed, on social security, homeless, or disabled, are mutually reinforcing, to the detriment of the disadvantaged and the destitute in both countries. No milk of human kindness will salve their words and actions. Morrison will ensure that there will be no ‘unfunded empathy’!

Moreover, as Trump’s aggression around the world brings us closer and closer to armed conflict, expect him to lean heavily on Morrison for support. Already he is attempting to entice Morrison to adopt his belligerent attitude towards Iran, and even more dangerously, is now seeking his support to counter any attempt by Iran to block the transport of oil via the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20 percent of the world’s oil travelsABC News reports that “Australia is considering a ‘serious and complex’ request from the United States to help protect oil shipments against Iranian interference in the Persian Gulf.” Will Morrison be brave enough to say ‘No’ to Trump? You guess!

Rather than expanding this piece any further, I invite you to listen to two Schwartz Media 7 am podcasts, which you will find at https://7ampodcast.com.au. Scroll down and click ‘Browse all episodes’ to view the many podcasts on offer. There are two of particular relevance to this piece: Understanding Scott Morrison’s Pentecostalism, and The ballad of Trump and Scomo, which I came across after writing this piece. It shows I’m not the only one concerned about the Trump/Morrison alliance.

Make no mistake – each man is a threat to the social order in his own way; together they are menacing. Beware; be afraid!

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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A conga line of bludgers: Prince Charles (part 7)

By Dr George Venturini  

On 6 February 2015 Prince Charles started an official tour of Gulf countries including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, in addition to Jordan. On 12 February the Prince visited Qatar and the U.A.E., where he meets the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the U.A.E. Armed Forces, his highness General Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed al-Nahayyan.

On 12 February 2015 Prince Charles flew to Saudi Arabia for a two-day staying. This was Charles’ twelfth visit. He met senior members of the Saudi Royal Family.

The return to the region, just one year after Charles’s last tour, displays the significance the U.K. government places on its alliance with key partners in the area. Prince Charles previous visit to Saudi Arabia only 11 months before was explicitly requested by the U.K. government to help ‘enhance military links’. These associations strengthen the long-standing relationship which exists among the Royal Family and the ‘ruling families’ in the Gulf.

The Prince’s twelfth official visit to Saudi Arabia is a remarkable seal of legitimacy not only to one of the most repressive regimes in the world, but also one which is notorious for exporting the religious extremism that Charles finds so “frightening” – as he anxiously declared.

Prince Charles’ ‘connection’ with Saudi Arabians of weight and consequence goes back to the time when he entered the Royal Air Force College Cranwell, a thriving R.A.F. Station in the heart of Lincolnshire: March 1971. Cranwell selects and trains officers and airmen aircrew to become the leaders of tomorrow, as well as supporting and directing R.A.F. recruiting and initial training.

Prince Bandar had arrived at Cranwell in 1967.

The Princes’ friendship may be traced back to their experiences there.

Bandar, the son of Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz, was born in 1949. By his own account, and according to ‘western’ think-tanks, his actual date of birth is later. He had reportedly overstated his age in order to enter the Royal Saudi Air Force while still a teenager.

Bandar graduated from the Royal Air Force College Cranwell in 1968. He received additional training at Maxwell Air Force Base and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

In his The Prince: The secret story of the world’s most intriguing Royal, Prince Bandar bin Sultan (New York 2006), William Simpson describes Bandar’s two-and-a-half-year immersion at Cranwell as a formative period in his life, during which time he became a dedicated Anglophile. The two princes attended at different times, but shared an instructor, Sir Richard Johns, and their common experience at Cranwell as pilots was a critical aspect of their later close relationship. Two other members of the Faisal clan were classmates of Bandar at Cranwell: a brother of Princess Haifa, whom Bandar eventually married; and Prince Muqrin bin Abdulazziz al Saud, head of Saudi Intelligence from 2005 to 2012. On the death of Abdullah and the accession of King Salman, Muqrin became Crown Prince and First Deputy Prime Minister. He was replaced in April 2015 by Prince Muhammad bin Nayef as Crown Prince.

On leaving Cranwell Bandar joined the Royal Saudi Air Force, and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. His diplomatic career began in 1978 when he was appointed the king’s personal envoy.

In 1982 King Fahd made him the military attaché at the Saudi Embassy, a move which could have ended his diplomatic career. However, in 1983, Fahd appointed Bandar as Saudi Ambassador to the United States.

During his tenure as the king’s personal envoy in Washington, D.C. and later as ambassador, he dealt with five U.S. presidents, ten secretaries of state, eleven national security advisers, sixteen sessions of Congress, and the media. He had extensive influence in the United States. At the pinnacle of his career, he served both “as the King’s exclusive messenger and the White House’s errand boy.” For over three decades he was the face of the Saudi Arabia lobby. The U.S. is widely seen as one of Saudi Arabia’s most essential allies, but different members of the Saudi Royal Family feel different mixtures of trust and suspicion of the United States. Therefore, Prince Bandar’s intimate relationships with U.S. leaders and policy-makers were considered to be both the source of his power base in the kingdom, as well as the cause of suspicions within the Royal Family that he is too close to U.S. political figures.

Bandar formed close relationships with several American presidents, notably George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, the latter giving him the affectionate and controversial nickname ‘Bandar Bush’.

In June 2005 Bandar submitted his resignation as ambassador to the United States for “personal reasons”. Bandar returned to Saudi Arabia weeks prior to the death of King Fahd, upon which Bandar’s father, Sultan bin Abdulaziz, became the nation’s Crown Prince. It was rumoured that Bandar’s return was timed in order to secure a position in the new government.

Prince Bandar was succeeded as ambassador by his cousin, Prince Turki Al Faisal. Nevertheless, even after leaving the ambassadorship, Bandar continued to maintain strong relationships within the Bush Administration and to meet with high-ranking White House staff even after Prince Turki took over the post; Turki gave up the ambassador’s job after only 18 months.

In October 2005 King Abdullah appointed Bandar as Secretary General of the newly set up Saudi National Security Council.

Seymour Hersh reported in 2007 in the New Yorker that, as Saudi Arabia’s national security adviser, Bandar continued to meet privately with both President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. At that time Hersh described Bandar as a key architect of the Bush Administration policy in Iraq and the Middle East. And no irony!

On 15 April 2014 Prince Bandar was removed from his position “at his own request” according to the announcement in the Saudi state media. He remained as Secretary General of the National Security Council until it was abolished in January 2015.

In London Bandar became a close personal friend of Prime Minister Thatcher, with whom he carried to fruition ‘The dove of peace’ deal.

And the sums available from the deal were mind-boggling.

In 1992, with ‘proceeds’ from that deal, Bandar bought Glympton Park, a country house which that was built for the Wheate family in the eighteenth century. At the same time the River Glyme was dammed to form the lake in the park. The house was remodelled in 1846.

In time, Police calculated that more than 6 billion pounds may have been distributed in corrupt commissions, via an array of agents and middlemen. Newly obtained documents and investigations revealed details of where the money may have gone.

According to U.S. sources, millions went to Bandar. Up to 15 million pounds at a time is alleged to have been paid into his dollar account at Riggs Bank in Washington, D.C.

The cash for Bandar, described as for “marketing services”, was allegedly drawn from Bank of England accounts containing Saudi Arabia’s money, jointly controlled by Defence Export Services Organisation and B.A.E.

Within days of the deal being announced, an Arab-language magazine reached the desk of Charles David Powell, a key foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Thatcher during the 1980s. In detail, it accused Bandar and others of taking huge commissions. And Whitehall’s advice? Not to attempt any denial: “We suggest Ministry of Defence should simply refuse all comment.”

More millions were paid by B.A.E. into Wafic Said-linked accounts in Switzerland. Bandar’s father, Prince Sultan, was described by a British ambassador as having “a corrupt interest in all contracts”.

A relatively minor, although colourful, aspect of this torrent of cash was a 60 million pounds ‘slush fund’ maintained by B.A.E. to keep Prince Turki bin Nasser sweet on his visits to ‘the West’. The arms firm provided him with extravagant holidays, fleets of classic cars, planeloads of shopping, and blond girlfriends.

B.A.E. claimed these treats were “paid for under the contractual arrangements”. But in fact bills went to the Al-Yamamah contract at the Ministry of Defence under the misleading entry: support services. The cash for all these payoffs came, simply enough, from overcharging.

Accidentally released U.K. documents reveal that the basic price of the planes was inflated by 32 per cent, to allow for an initial 600 million pounds in commissions.

That was only the start. Many U.K. sub-contractors – for jet engines, weapons and electronics – have revealed that they too were required to pay commissions.

Spare parts, maintenance, construction of local bases – every aspect of Al-Yamamah is alleged to have involved corruption.

Former U.K. Defence Secretary Ian Gilmour in the Heath government and Lord Privy Seal in the Thatcher government told the B.B.C. Two programme Newsnight: “If you are paying bribes to high-up people in the government, the fact that it’s illegal in Saudi law doesn’t mean much.”

Confronted with allegations of royal corruption in 2001, Prince Bandar said: “If you tell me that building this whole country … out of US$400 billion, that we misused, or got, US$50 billion, I’ll tell you, ‘Yes. So what ?’.” And he added: “We did not invent corruption […] This has happened since Adam and Eve. It’s human nature.”

Yet, the U.K. government still falls over itself to conceal Saudi behaviour. Michael Heseltine, Defence Secretary in the Thatcher government, was the first of a chorus, claiming: “The government had no knowledge and no dealings involving commission arrangements.” In fact, the U.K. government was heavily involved.

As to the relationship between Charles and Bandar, Simpson writes: “While Bandar has enjoyed firm friendship with many world leaders, he holds Baroness Margaret Thatcher in particularly high esteem. Equally, his friendship with Prince Charles is also very close, and Charles extended a personal invitation to Bandar to his wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles in April 2005. Charles invited only eight foreign royals, and among them were Prince Turki and his wife. The Princes’ friendship can be traced back to their experiences of Cranwell and Charles’s fascination with Islam.”

There emerges a picture of the close relationship between the top echelon of the Al Sudairi Clan and the Windsor-Battenberg Family, involving in turn the U.K. Intelligence and Saudi Intelligence, and the U.K. and Saudi Royal Air Forces, mediated by Prince Charles and Prince Bandar, in particular.

One of the organisations that Prince Charles operates is the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies – O.C.I.S., set up at Magdalen College, Oxford University, in 1985. According to the Oxford Times of 10 May 2012, Charles has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Centre since its founding.

In 1993 Charles became the patron of the O.C.I.S. and effectively took it over, to the extent that it is referred to in the press at times as Charles’ O.C.I.S.

One of the co-founders of the O.C.I.S. and chair of the Board of Trustees is Abdullah Omar Naseef. He was Secretary General of the Muslim World League – M.W.L. in 1983-93, at the height of Anglo-American support for the Afghan mujahedin against the Soviet Union. The future King Faisal had set up the M.W.L. in 1962 to coordinate the propagation of Wahhabism – from its founder Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703–1792). It is a religious movement or branch of Sunni Islam. It has been variously described as ‘orthodox’, ‘ultraconservative’, ‘austere’, ‘fundamentalist’, ‘puritanical’, and as an Islamic ‘reform movement’ to restore ‘pure monotheistic worship’ by scholars and advocates, and as an ‘extremist pseudo-Sunni movement’ by opponents. Adherents often object to the term Wahhabi or Wahhabism as derogatory, and prefer to be called Salafi or muwahhid. The movement is known for supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, a well-known U.K. Intelligence project. The M.W.L. spawned significant parts of today’s global jihadi organisation. Naseef also chaired the Pakistan-based Rabita Trust, a M.W.L. financial project. In the 1980s Naseef co-founded Maktab al-Khidamat, the backbone organisation of the Arab-Afghani mujahedin in Afghanistan, which in 1989 changed its name to al-Qaeda. According to the suit brought by the families of the victims of ‘9/11’, Naseef knowingly funded al-Qaeda through the M.W.L., Rabita, and the International Islamic Relief Organisation.

The M.W.L. is reputed to be at the very centre of the formation of the global jihad which is at the heart of global terrorism to this day. Naseef has been Prince Charles’ confidant for at least two decades.

Abul-Hasan Ali al-Nadwi was another co-founder of the O.C.I.S. and its chairman from its inception in 1985, through the late 1990s – during which time Charles was its patron. In 1962 Nadwi was a founding board member of the M.W.L.

Another member of the Board of Trustees of Charles’ O.C.I.S. from 1985 until 2006, was Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Qatar-based spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. It was Qaradawi who issued the fatwas to overthrow and assassinate Libyan head of state Muammar Qaddafi and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In July 2012 he threatened the assassination of Egyptian leader Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, now President.

The list of Charles’ friends in the O.C.I.S. includes Prince Turki bin Faisal, who was appointed Director-General of Saudi Arabia’s General Intelligence Directorate in 1979. He remained in that position until 1 September 2001 – just a few days before ‘9/11’. Turki personally recruited Osama bin Laden to become a jihadi, and to use his large financial resources to set up a network, the Maktab al-Khidamat, which became al-Qaeda.

According Pakistani sources: “Usama Bin Ladin met the head of the Saudi security service Prince Turki in 1978. Bin Laden had begun to associate with Islamic radicals who played on his feelings of inner religious crisis and growing isolation from his family to lead him towards becoming an extremist. He was introduced to local members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who only drove Usama further towards extremism. In 1979 Usama Bin Ladin went to Prince Turki for advice after he became infuriated by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Following Prince Turki’s suggestion that Bin Ladin use his financial assets to aid the Afghan resistance, Usama travelled to neighbouring Pakistan to wage jihad on the Soviet Union.”

In an interview in 2002 Prince Turki said: “In 1980, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, we in the [Saudi] Kingdom, with the United States, initiated a program of countering the Soviet invasion and helping the Mujahideen to repel the Soviets. I was directly involved in that situation.”

An article in the 1 March 2003 Observer reported that lawyers for 11 relatives of 9/11 victims served papers on Prince Turki. They charged, according to the Observer: “Based on sworn testimony from a Taliban intelligence chief called Mullah Kakshar, they allege that Turki arranged for donations to be made directly to al-Qaeda and bin Laden by a group of wealthy Saudi businessmen.”

Turki was Saudi Ambassador to the U.K. between 2003 and 2005 and to the U.S.A. from 2005 to 2006.

Another member of the Faisal Clan is Prince Mohammed bin Faisal, who also had sponsored the O.C.I.S. Mohammed is a germane brother of Turki. He heads the Dar Al-Mall Al-Islami Trust banking group, which financed al-Qaeda, according to a 2002 report to the U.N. Security Council. Mohammed was named in a ‘9/11’ family-member lawsuit.

In November 2001 Prince Mohammed and Prince Charles headed the committee which raised the money to construct the London Muslim Centre, which was an addition to the Muslim Brotherhood-controlled East London Mosque, which has a trust called the East London Mosque Trust. The mosque is known to be a centre of Wahhabism and of the Islamist group Jamaat-e-Islam. On 28 February 2013 the U.K. Department of Communities and Local Government released a statement to the effect that the current Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain is the chair of the East London Mosque, the key institution for the Bangladeshi wing of Jamaat-e-Islam in the United Kingdom.

The collaboration between Princes Charles and Mohammed revealed that Yusuf al-Qaradawi was a member of the Board of Trustees of Charles’ O.C.I.S. at the same time that he was an executive of some of Mohammed bin Faisal’s banks.

In addition to the collaboration among Charles, Bandar, and Turki in the O.C.I.S., they also work together in another intelligence front: the Prince Charles Visual Islamic and Traditional Arts Department – V.I.T.A. Charles recruited Prince Turki to join V.I.T.A. and then appointed him chairman, where he served from the early- to mid-1990s until at least 2006. In 2004 Charles set up the Centennial Fund. The Fund’s Chairman of the Board of Trustees is Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah; Abdulaziz is Deputy Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia. He is an expert on Syria, where Saudi financing of the radical Sunni opposition groups, out of which I.S.I.S. emerged, is well-known.

The Bin Laden family, headed by Mohammed bin Laden, father of Osama, was among the Saudi, Qatari, and Kuwaiti private donors of approximately US$70 million to Charles’s O.C.I.S. The Bin Laden family endowed the Mohammed bin Laden chair at O.C.I.S. Osama bin Laden was recruited by Charles’s friend and wedding guest, Prince Turki bin Faisal, to set up the Maktab al-Khidamat network, the future al-Qaeda, in which Charles’s colleague Naseef was also closely involved. His financial network included dozens of City of London banks and corporations, according to a 2001 French parliamentary investigation. (S. Coll, The Bin Landens – Oil, money, terrorism and the secret Saudi World, Penguin, London 2008).

In 1990 Prince Bandar, then Saudi Ambassador to the United States, contributed an estimated US$13-US$24.4 million to the O.C.I.S.; at that time, he was collecting US$100 million per year in fees from the Al-Yamamah deal.

Other principally Islamic nations and individuals, including Qatar and Kuwait, contributed approximately US$70 million to Charles’ Centre.

In May 2012 Queen Elizabeth II granted the O.C.I.S a Royal Charter in honour of its twenty-fifth anniversary. On that occasion, Abdullah Omar Naseef, co-founder and chair of O.C.I.S. Board of Trustees said: “This is very good news. This shows that the British government, the Queen, and the whole state are very much aware that the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies is doing very well to make relations between the Islamic world and the Western world closer and to bring Islam and its role in the international arena.”

While Prince Turki, as head of Saudi Intelligence and Osama bin Laden’s handler, is suspected of playing a commanding role in ‘9/11’, Prince Bandar played the critical role inside the United States itself, as Ambassador from 1983-2005. It was Prince Turki and Prince Sultan – Bandar’s father and Saudi Defence Minister, who, in 1978, helped bring Bandar into a position of power in Washington. At that time, they were negotiating Saudi Arabia’s purchase of 50 F-15 fighters from the United States. William Simpson, Bandar’s biographer, writes: “Assisting Prince Turki bin Faisal, Bandar quickly made his mark in Washington. He quickly became very close to the Bush family, to the point of being called Bandar Bush by the Bush family itself.”

In the late 1970s, when George H.W. Bush was head of the C.I.A., Bandar worked with Turki in support of what later became al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Then, as the ‘principal negotiator’ of the 1985 Al-Yamamah arms-for-oil barter deal between the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia, Bandar gained control of a huge offshore slush fund for covert operations. During the 1980s, when the U.S. Congress cut off funding for the Contra operation in Nicaragua, it was Prince Bandar who supplied the funding, at the request of then Vice President George H.W. Bush.

Evidence of Bandar’s involvement in ‘9/11’ is further reinforced by the disclosure that his wife, Princess Haifa, the sister of Prince Turki, passed between US$51,000 and US$73,000 to Saudi Intelligence operative Omar al-Bayoumi, who befriended two of the ‘9/11’ hijackers in the United States. There is a view that he was an accessory to the attacks. Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia has firmly maintained that al-Bayoumi was not an agent of theirs, and the F.B.I. has concluded that he was not knowingly involved in the ‘9/11’ attacks. In point of fact the money passed by Princess Haifa was used to help establish the first two ‘9/11’ Saudi hijackers to arrive in the U.S., Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, in San Diego, California.

It was ascertained that Bayoumi received a monthly payment of up to US$3,000 from Kamel’s Dallah Avco for a project in Saudi Arabia, even though Bayoumi was living in San Diego. Dallah Avco, a Saudi aviation company, is a subsidiary of Kamel’s Dallah al-Baraka bank. Dallah Avco is being sued by the families of the victims of ‘9/11’. According to the suit, the company provided a “ghost job” to Saudi Intelligence operative Omar al-Bayoumi. Moreover, plaintiffs assert that Dallah Avco was aware of Bayoumi’s activities in the United States, as illustrated by the fact that senior officials of Dallah Avco quickly squelched internal inquiries from Bayoumi’s immediate supervisor concerning the nature and propriety of his employment with the company. The Saudi Ministry of Defence and Aviation threatened to cut off contracts to Dallah if they dismissed Bayoumi.

At the time of the payments, Bayoumi and another Saudi, Osama Basnan, were bankrolling the two lead ‘9/11’ hijackers with the Dallah funds, and the direct payments from Prince Bandar and Princess Haifa.

The 28-page chapter from the Joint Congressional Inquiry into ‘9/11’ – that Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama suppressed until  15 July 2016, when the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence approved publication of the newly, heavily redacted, declassified section, contain a fairly detailed account of both the Bandar and Dallah Aviation bankrolling of the San Diego al-Qaeda cell. (J. Sciutto, D.Walsh, ‘Congress releases ’28 pages’ on alleged Saudi 9/11 ties’, 15 July 2016, C.N.N.)  Former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), who chaired the Joint Inquiry, wrote about the experience in his 2004 book Intelligence matters: The C.I.A., the F.B.I., Saudi Arabia, and the failure of America’s war on terror (New York 2004).

Continued Wednesday – A conga line of bludgers: Prince Charles (part 8)

Previous instalment – A conga line of bludgers: Prince Charles (part 6)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.venturini@bigpond.com.au.

 

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Respect

By RosemaryJ36  

One topic that has been discussed, almost to exhaustion, in recent years is freedom of speech. There happened to be yet one more discussion on the ABC radio this afternoon while I was driving home from an appointment.

Years ago, it was more common than now to link ‘rights’ to ‘responsibilities’. Just as getting a licence, having passed all necessary tests, gives me the ‘right’ to drive, it also makes me ‘responsible’ for driving according to the road rules and in a manner which does not put others at risk.

One issue which is too frequently ignored is respect. Respecting other people, however much they differ from you, is something which should be standard. OK. There are some people who so consistently do not respect others, that respecting them is difficult – but we still have to respect their right to be treated according to the law.

If it were possible to have a community where respect for others’ right to be who they are was endemic, then the issue of free speech would disappear, as would many other causes of social friction.

One of the problems with many religions in today’s world, is that they ignore advances in knowledge and go back for direction to words recorded from ancient and more ignorant times.

Until relatively recently, anyone whose sexuality was not straight was shunned by many as unacceptable – and in the case of male homosexuals, in many places they were legally regarded as committing a crime if they had a sexual relationship with another man.

Former Justice Michael Kirby bears witness to the extremities of discrimination that any member of the LGBTIQ community was once subject. But, since science has revealed that this community does not, after birth, choose not to be straight but the decision is made before the foetus reaches full term, then every single human being has the right to be treated with respect as regards their sexuality.

Sadly, old habits die slowly!

Clearly, if people refuse to accept that knowledge of the world around us is always growing, as more and more discoveries are made, discoveries are made, then they will often, in ignorance, cause hurt to others. Once this has been pointed out to them, to fall back on their religious texts to support their argument is not an option.

I often wonder how much more peaceful the world might be if people did not follow any religion at all!

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A conga line of bludgers: Prince Charles (part 6)

By Dr George Venturini  

At the end of November 2006, a U.K. newspaper revealed that Saudi Arabia had given Britain ten days to suspend the Serious Fraud Office (S.F.O.) investigation into the country’s transactions or they would take the [arms] deal to France. Mr. Robert Wardle, head of the Serious Fraud Office, also said he had received a direct threat from the Saudi Arabian ambassador to London to terminate the investigations.

There was a clear intimation that Saudi Arabia would have stopped supplying the United Kingdom with intelligence about al-Qaeda terrorists if the investigation was continued. Apparently, two weeks were given to shut it down or S.F.O. investigators could have faced “another 7/7” and the loss of “British lives on British streets” if they carried on.

“As he put it to me, British lives on British streets were at risk,” Mr. Wardle said. Prime Minister Blair’s intervention forced the inquiries to be stopped over concerns about a diplomatic row between the U.K. and the Saudi regime.

In a newspaper interview, Mr. Wardle acknowledged that the decision to terminate the investigation may have damaged “the reputation of the U.K. as a place which is determined to stamp out corruption.”

In June 2007 the B.B.C.’s investigative programme Panorama alleged that B.A.E. “… paid hundreds of millions of pounds to the ex-Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan.”

Delivery of the first two Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft, out of 72 purchased by the Saudi Air Force, took place in June 2009.

Meanwhile, in August 2013 the Serious Fraud Office announced that it had lost thousands of documents relating to a probe into B.A.E. The U.K. agency said that it had lost 32,000 pages of data and 81 audio tapes linked to the bribery probe into B.A.E.’s Al-Yamamah deal with Saudi Arabia. The lost material comprised ‘only’ 3 per cent of data about the deal. It said it lost the items when it returned more material than intended to a source in the investigation.

In February 2010 the United States Department of Justice decided to launch its own investigation since the payments had been channelled through a U.S. bank in Washington. In 2009, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who had been Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States from 1983 to 2005, was then to serve between 2005 and January 2015 29 January 2015 as Secretary General of the Saudi National Security Council, and had been Director General of the Saudi Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014, had retained Mr. Louis Freeh, former F.B.I. Director of the U. S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, to represent him on legal matters surrounding the deal.

In 2010 B.A.E. pled guilty to a United States court, to charges of false accounting and making misleading statements in connection with the sales. B.A.E. was finally sentenced to a US$400 million fine under the plea bargain. The corporation’s conduct involved “deception, duplicity and knowing violations of law, I think it’s fair to say, on an enormous scale,” said the U.S. District Court Judge John D. Bates.

In an interview with Frontline, Mr. Freeh admitted that approximately US$2 billion was sent from the Al-Yamamah account in the United Kingdom to bank accounts of the Saudi Ministry of Defence and Aviation at Riggs Bank in Washington, D.C.

Prince Bandar then Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. had control over the accounts and signatory authority. Mr. Freeh claimed that the money was sent to purchase arms through the offices of B.A.E. and the U.K. Ministry of Defence in a way which would circumvent “objections” by the U.S. Congress. Freeh did not supply any example of such a transaction.

Financing the deal with oil sales was not the only unusual feature of the contract. Correspondence towards the end of negotiations revealed that the price of the fighter planes had increased by more than 30 per cent by the time terms were agreed with Prince Sultan, the Saudi’s chief negotiator, in January 1986. Prince Sultan is the head of the Saudi Ministry of Defence and Aviation and is also Prince Bandar’s father.

The original deal listed the cost of each Tornado at 16.3 million pounds. But after further talks in Saudi Arabia, the price went up to 21.5 million pounds per aircraft, raising the price of the whole deal by 600 million pounds. One explanation for this is that the Saudis demanded additional expensive equipment be added to the aircraft. Others concluded that the overcharge was a way of hiding kickbacks. In October 1985 the Arabic-language newspaper Sourakia alleged that the additional 600 million pounds was the same amount paid in commissions to the Saudi Royal Family and ‘intermediaries’ in London. The Sourakia story was published just after the Al-Yamamah deal was negotiated. Shortly after, the story was translated from Arabic by the U.K. Foreign Office and forwarded to the Ministry of Defence with the advice that the Ministry should refuse all comment if questions were asked about the allegations of large secret commissions in the deal.

The success of the initial contract, which in the end totalled more than 43 billion pounds, has been attributed to then Prime Minister Thatcher, who lobbied hard on behalf of U.K. industry. For Margaret Thatcher it was a triumph for her policy of ‘Batting for Britain’. It was to keep 40,000 people in work until the end of the century. It was the largest arms deal in United Kingdom history. It was the biggest arms deal ever struck between two nations.

A Ministry of Defence briefing paper for Thatcher detailed her involvement in the negotiations. The Prime Minister had been wooing the Saudis in secret. During the spring of 1985 she held several meetings with Prince Bandar at 10 Downing Street, in Austria and Switzerland.

The Saudis’ main concern was that the U.K. should allow them to tie up the deal in their own way – corrupt.

Prince Bandar, son of Prince Sultan, the Saudi Defence Minister also played a key role in negotiations for the deal. From the start, the Al-Yamamah contract was shrouded in secrecy and suspicions began to surface that contracts were a result of kickbacks and bribery to members of the Saudi royal family and government officials. According to reports, the deal brought more than 15 million pounds to Bandar’s dollar account at Riggs Bank in Washington, D.C.

For the middlemen, the fixers behind the deal, it meant vast commissions. For Mark Thatcher, the son of Margaret Thatcher, it allegedly meant a 12 million pounds windfall – not bad, at the age of 31. In 1994 Sir Thomas Dalyell, a Scottish Labour Party member charged in the House of Commons that Mark Thatcher collected a 12 million pounds commission from the deal. The government did not confirm or deny it, but the competent authorities declined to investigate.

The public first saw some details about the unusual structure of the deal in the early part of this decade when the non-profit group Campaign Against Arms Trade came across classified documents between the U.K. and the Saudi negotiators which had been improperly archived by the U.K. government.

Critics say that the United Kingdom should not be selling warplanes and military equipment to a regime that is barbaric and undemocratic. They charge that the government refrains from criticising the Saudis’ appalling human rights abuses in order not to disrupt the arms sales. The Campaign Against the Arms Trade calls it an “endorsement of a country with a history of brutal repression.”

The Windsor-Battenberg Royal Family has some form when it comes to schmoozing dictators and thugs.

It has a consistent record in this department: in 2007 Prince William’s photo-ops with senior Indonesian generals prompted many human rights activists to ask whether ‘The Family’ seems to be operating merely as another lobby group for the U.K. arms industry.

The two generals appearing in the photograph on the right of Prince William happened to be among the most senior generals in the Indonesian military, and the photo caused a stir among members of Parliament and human rights groups. The encounter was seen at best, as clumsy and inappropriate. Nonetheless it left one Indonesian human rights activist asking of the Royal Family: “Have they become lobbyists for the UK arms industry?”

The Ministry of Defence had been forced to disclose details of the meeting in response to a Freedom of Information request. The meeting with then Air Chief Marshal Djoko Suyanto and Rear Admiral Didik Heru Purnomo took place in February 2007 in the hall of the Household Cavalry Regiment’s officers’ mess in Windsor.

According to the Ministry of Defence, the Indonesian chief of defence forces was paying ‘a call’ on the British Chief of Defence Staff “to build defence relations” and, “as is customary when hosting foreign representatives, a visit to a military unit was organised.” It just so happened that the unit they went to visit was the Household Cavalry; and it also just so happened that Prince William was the orderly officer of the day.

According to the Ministry of Defence, “This was purely a chance encounter.” Clarence House played the meeting down even further, saying that the Prince happened to be introduced to the generals as “they passed each other in a corridor.”

Yet, the Palace line did not placate Dr. Roger Leslie Berry, then MP for Kingswood and chairman of the quadripartite select committee on strategic export controls, who said that as “arms deals with Indonesia have been incredibly controversial in recent years it is totally inappropriate that William should be seen to have any involvement.”

The photograph was used for public relation purpose on the Indonesian embassy’s website – naturally. The Ministry of Defence insisted that Prince William was “not present in a royal capacity”. However, Symon Hill from the Campaign Against Arms Trade called the claim “bizarre”, given that “whatever he does is seen as having royal approval.”

Dr. Berry insisted it is “not the kind of thing the royal family should be touching with a bargepole.”

For more than a decade there had been widespread condemnation of U.K. arms sales to Indonesia. In 1996 Quaker activists used hammers to disable a Hawk jet aircraft destined for Indonesia. And there was outrage when former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook’s ethical foreign policy collapsed after Labour approved the sale of the aircraft in 1997.

At their height from 1997 to 2000 U.K. arms sales to Indonesia were worth roughly 100 million pounds a year, but by 2004 this had dropped to 1 million pounds. The fall was due partly to the availability of much cheaper Russian equipment. But it was also a response to U.K. public reaction to the regime’s brutality in the final stages of the regime’s presence in East Timor, and to the ongoing, vicious occupation of West Papua.

However, efforts started again to revive the trade. The Defence Export Services Organisation exists to promote U.K. arms sales abroad and works out of the Minister of Defence. At a symposium in 2007 the D.E.S.O.’s then head, Mr. Alan Garwood, soon to become Group Business Development Director in 2008 with responsibility for promoting B.A.E. globally, said that in Indonesia the U.K. arms industry was “a resurgent brand”. Although Indonesia had been “off our Christmas-card list for many years”, it was back on, he said. Ten years before Indonesia was “second only to Saudi Arabia in terms of its value to the UK defence industry,” he also said.

It is apt that Saudi Arabia should be referred to, what because of the then recent state visit by King Abdullah, the Saudi monarch, and the Serious Fraud Office investigation into allegations of bribery and corruption between B.A.E. and Saudi Arabia being dropped, after pressure from Prime Minister Blair, in December 2006.

The Saudis had signed a deal worth billions for 72 Eurofighter Typhoon jets in September 2007. The Queen had wined and dined the Saudi king in October 2007.

“I am sure that the vast majority of British people do not want the royal family to be endorsing, even inadvertently, the arms trade, especially to vicious regimes,” said Symon Hill from Campaign Against Arms Trade. “It is vital that everyone representing the UK learns to distinguish between arms companies’ profits and the British public interest.”

But it is unlikely that Prince William will have a chance encounter with anyone voicing that opinion.

Deference to royalty seems to run deep in the United Kingdom psyche, but it is taking deference too far with Prince Andrew, Duke of York. Prince Andrew has a chequered past. From the leak of U.S. diplomatic cables in 2010 one knows, through cables from the U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, some unsavoury facts. The Duke “railed at British anti-corruption investigators, who had had the ‘idiocy’ of almost scuttling the Al-Yamamah deal with Saudi Arabia.” In 2011 he received more bad press after revelation of his close friendship with the American hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein, who was convicted in Florida for soliciting an underage girl for prostitution. Prince Andrew continued his relationship with Epstein, after the billionaire convicted paedophile had been released from prison and placed on the U.S. sex offenders’ register.

The Prince later admitted that this friendship was “unwise”, but was reported on 22 October 2011 to have received “100 per cent” support from the Queen. He has also, in public at least, been given the support of the U.K. government, despite private hints from senior figures that it would cause no distress in Westminster if he were to resign.

In July 2011 his role as a trade representative was officially ended.

Yet it was announced on 23 October 2011 that the U.K. government had licensed the sale of 160,000 pounds worth of bullets and body armour to the Yemeni government after Prince Andrew met the country’s Prime Minister for trade talks.

It was the Duke of York’s third meeting in quick succession with leaders of the small Arab statelet, which had been ruled with an iron hand for more than twenty years by President Ali Abdullah Saleh, but is now experiencing the wave of popular protest sweeping the Middle East and the ravages of civil war.

Though less well-publicised than the more violent events in Libya, the Yemeni protests persisted for weeks.

Prince Andrew held three meetings with Yemeni leaders between September 2009 and January 2010, all on the pretext of boosting U.K. exports. Prince Andrew first met President Saleh in September 2009, when both were visiting Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia, where he told the President that the U.K. wanted to get more involved in Yemen and that it wanted to increase investment in the country.

Two months later, the Prince was a guest at the presidential palace in Sana’a, where he met President Saleh and other leaders, including the Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Mujawar, and was guest of honour at a lunch hosted by the President. According to the Yemeni account of the visit, the Prince praised the country’s “unity, stability and development” and urged them to open up to more U.K. investment.

In 2011, when the Yemeni government was cracking down on popular protests, Prince Andrew paid a visit to Yemen’s prime minister, which was swiftly followed by an announcement of further arms sales to the poorest country in the Arab world.

The records of the Export Control Organisation, the body which regulates arms sales overseas, show that during the first quarter of 2010 – just after the Prince’s third meeting – licences were granted for the sale of 160,245 pounds worth of bullets and body armour to the Yemenis.

Prince Andrew’s dealings with Yemen’s leaders had all been in his capacity as U.K. Trade Representative and carried the blessing of the U.K. and U.S. governments, which saw President Saleh as an ally in the war against al-Qaeda. President Saleh ruled Yemen since the two halves of the country merged in 1990. Yemen ranks 146th out of 178 in the ‘corruption index’ issued by Transparency International.

Yemen is now devastated by civil war and foreign aggression from Saudi Arabia.

In 2012 Prince Andrew was criticised for his close friendship with the brutal and corrupt president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev.

Still, in 2014, Prince Andrew was promoting B.A.E.’s jets to Saudi ally Bahrain  – despite its own ongoing crackdown.

There is another opaque side of the connection between arms trade, the government and the Royals.

For example, in a 2012 Freedom of Information Act study, The Guardian revealed how “[s]enior military officers and Ministry of Defence officials have taken up more than 3,500 jobs in arms companies over the past 16 years.” The Campaign Against Arms Trade has documented many of the more egregious examples of this “revolving door” – with ambassadors shielding arms companies from fraud investigations, before landing jobs with these same companies – illustrating the deep, reciprocal relationship between arms manufacturers and public representatives. It is, therefore, not too surprising to note that the arms industry receives a huge share of public research funding, despite the small proportion – barely 0.2 per cent of arms export jobs in the economy.

Westminster, in this sense, quite shamelessly sells itself to corporations.

But it was Prince Charles who inherited the ‘Royal franchise’ on relations with the Saudi kingdom from the time of his first visit to Riyadh in 1986. In the 1990s he helped to arrange Al-Yamamah II, the second phase of the arms-for-oil deal. During his tenth official visit, 17-19 February 2014, he finalised the massive Al-Salam arms deal third phase.

Continued Saturday – A conga line of bludgers: Prince Charles (part 7)

Previous instalment – A conga line of bludgers: Prince Charles (part 5)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.venturini@bigpond.com.au.

 

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Better Economic Managers?

By 2353NM

If you have a memory that is better than the media and Coalition Government hope you do, you would probably remember when the Rudd ALP Government, challenged by what are arguably similar economic conditions to those today, primed the economy with a three-pronged approach. The theory was that there was some immediate stimulus to the economy — effectively giving most Australian families and welfare recipients a $900 cheque, another injection once everyone had spent their ‘windfall’ in the form of subsidies for home energy efficiency measures such as insulation (with an added dividend of reducing the demand for energy into the future) and finally an injection of significant cash into infrastructure, best remembered as the school hall building program.

It is impossible to state with certainty that the Rudd Government stimulus measures were the sole reason Australia apparently did not suffer as greatly as a number of other ‘developed’ economies as a result of the Global Financial Crisis, because we don’t have the alternate lived experience to compare with. However, the UK and USA, both with conservative governments who sailed a different course, were affected to a far greater extent by the economic circumstances of the time. Even if there was absolutely no economic benefit, which is a doubtful premise as people were easily convinced to spend ‘free’ money, those that insulated their houses are generally still enjoying the benefits through reduced energy bills, as are students and staff at the numerous schools across the country that received a school hall, which have a multitude of different uses depending on the creativity of the school community.

Different people spent the cheques in different ways. Some paid it off the mortgage, did some work around the house, fixed the car and so on. Kogan released the ‘Kevin37’ — a $900 37 inch high definition television, and shock horror some chose to spend their money at the pokies. Regardless of how people spent it, it did give a lot of people some money to put back into the economy at the time. The cheque printers and Australia Post delivered additional items, shops had more people buying and even the additional spend at the pokies meant additional shifts were required by the hospitality staff who work in the ‘pokies palaces’.

However, the media were not so friendly. A number of conservative politicians and media commentators including Andrew Bolt (yes, he has been around that long) were critical

The first lot of Rudd’s cheques went out to many people who hadn’t actually earned that cash, or qualified for the handout because they already were too careless with money.

In fact, they were sent to precisely the people the Government guessed were most likely to spend them, not save.

Not surprisingly, millions promptly went on the pokies.

Frydenberg’s first budget also contained some stimulus in the form of cash handouts. Rather than mailing cheques around the country, Morrison’s LNP Government chose to retrospectively introduce some tax cuts that will give those who complete a tax return up to $1,080 per annum (depending on the individual’s tax position and income) once they have lodged their tax return for 2018/9 and the next two years. So far there is no mention of further measures to prime the economy such as Rudd’s environmental measures and infrastructure spending. Probably unsurprisingly, the Tax Office was reporting record early lodgements.

The delivery method is different (cheques are so 2008!) but the concept is similar. Up to 10 million Australians are getting a government handout for the next three years to go out and spend with no strings attached. Clearly, the ‘better economic managers’ are as they claim because they’ve shown capacity to update the value and process behind something done by the other side of politics 10 years ago.

It’s a pretty safe bet that some of the $1,080 ‘rebate’ payments will again end up being swallowed by the machines at the local pokies palace or otherwise spent in ways conservative commentators have considered unwise in the past. How people spend their ‘low- and middle-income rebate’ is really their business and none of us have the right to impose our own beliefs on others. Again, even extra demand at the pokies palaces will require additional hospitality staff to work and who knows Kogan might reinvent the ‘Kevin 37’. However, in 2019, where is the confected moral outrage by the likes of conservative politicians or commentators such as Andrew Bolt and their fellow travellers claiming that the ‘free’ money is horrible policy because some of it will be wasted by people who don’t deserve it?

If you can only hear crickets, it’s probably because the ‘better economic managers’ are handing out the cash this time.

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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The facts

By RosemaryJ36  

I don’t suppose that Senator Malcolm Roberts watched ‘The Facts’ on ABC on Sunday night. After all, Malcolm does not have a very high opinion of one of the world’s greatest experts on the environment and all the flora and fauna that is in it.

Probably few of our Federal government Ministers troubled to watch it, either. After all, most of them have a firm belief in an almighty god and a second coming, having a high expectation of being well looked after until being gathered up to heaven.

However, a pretty large proportion of the population does not share their beliefs nor the Senator’s confidence in his ability to certify that Climate Change, Global Warming and all that stuff which Greta Thunberg waffles on about can be summarily dismissed.

I am one of a growing number of people who would have watched ‘The Facts’ and found it confirmed what they have been saying and believing for far too long.

Our problem is that we can take action on a small scale in the local area, but we do not have the power to force people to do all the things necessary to begin the required action on the necessary scale.

Only governments can establish a state of emergency in which they can mandate reduction in waste, proper recycling procedures, accelerated use of renewable energy, drastic reduction in use of fossil fuels for transport – the list is not endless but it is long and we are running out of time to implement effective action.

Other countries in the world are already taking massive steps, while we fail to realise that coal is fast becoming a stranded asset!

Perhaps our problem is that we live on an island and fail to realise that what happens in another country affects ALL countries, and our contribution to emissions is helping to kill people elsewhere.

Surely there enough people of sound mind in Australia to persuade politicians at all levels to open their eyes before it is too late?

Together we can succeed!

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A conga line of bludgers: Prince Charles (part 5)

By Dr George Venturini  

For the past fifty years, at least, the United Kingdom has been a major supplier of armaments to Saudi Arabia. The major source is the B.A.E. Systems plc, based in the City of Westminster. This is a huge combination of various aircraft, shipbuilding, armoured vehicle, armaments and defence electronics corporations. There is a subsidiary in Australia. B.A.E. Systems was named on 29 June 2018 as the preferred tenderer to build Hunter-class frigates for the Royal Australian Navy, through ASC Shipbuilding and building the nine ships in South Australia. (BAE Systems Selected as Preferred Tenderer to Deliver Australia Sea 5000, markets.businessinsider.com, 28 June 2018; S. Benson, ‘Britannia rules waves: UK’s $35bn frigate win’, The Australian, 29 June 2018; A. Greene, BAE Systems beats Spanish and Italian designs for $35 billion warship building program …www.abc.net.au/newsabc.net.au, 29 June 2018).

In 1964 the British Aircraft Corporation, B.A.E Systems plc, a manufacturer formed from the government-pressured merger of several large companies in 1960, conducted demonstration flights of its Lightning – the only all-British Mach 2 fighter aircraft – in Riyadh, and in 1965 Saudi Arabia signed a letter of intent for the supply of Lightning and Strikemaster aircraft as well as Thunderbird surface to air missiles. The main contract was signed in 1966 for 40 Lightnings and 25 Strikemasters, eventually raised to 40. In 1973 Saudi Arabia signed an agreement with the United Kingdom government which specified B.A.C. as the contractor for all parts of the defence system. Overall spending by the Royal Saudi Air Force was over 10 billion pounds.

Al-Yamamah, which means ‘the dove’ in Arabic, would be born out of Saudi Arabia’s need for state-of-the-art weaponry in the early 1980s as part of a rolling programme to counter ‘the growing threat from Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East’.

In the 1970s some United States defence contractors won major contracts, including 114 Northrop F-5s. In 1981 the Saudi Air Force ordered 46 F-15Cs and 16 F-15Ds, followed in 1982 by the purchase of 5 E-3A AWACS aircraft. Following these deals and partly due to pro-Israeli sentiment in the United States Congress, which would have either blocked a deal or insisted on usage restrictions for exported aircraft, Saudi Arabia turned to the United Kingdom for further arms purchases.

Britain and France were the obvious choices, with the Americans privately favouring Britain. Two rival camps were formed to fight for the deal. On the French side were two wealthy international arms dealers, Akram Ojjeh and Adnan Khashoggi. On the U.K. side was another arms dealer, Wafic Said, a Syrian-born Cambridge graduate whose name, and contacts with the Saudi royal family, were well known to British defence officials.

Mr. Said had been brought into the deal by a group of businessmen, financiers and Ministry of Defence officials known as the ‘Savoy Mafia’ because they held their meetings at the London hotel, led by Alan Curtis, the former chairman of Lotus and a long-time friend of Denis Thatcher, Prime Minister Margaret’s husband. When the Saudi business began looming large, they decided to enlist the services of Mark Thatcher, Margaret’s son; his name, they believed, would be sure to impress the Arabs.

Sources close to the ‘Savoy Mafia’ have said that Mark Thatcher was attractive to its members; they believed that the Saudis over-estimated his influence over his mother. One senior Ministry of Defence official said: “We knew he was involved, and we didn’t like it. We wanted a clear run at the Saudis and we were afraid he would get in the way.”

The fortunes of the two groups ebbed and flowed, with the French bid, offering Mirage 2000 fighters, gaining early ground. It is understood, however, that members of the U.K. team, possibly including B.A.E. executives, flew to Geneva at the end of 1983 to persuade Mr. Ojjeh to withdraw. It is not clear what form the persuasion took, but it resulted in vain attempts by an abandoned Mr. Khashoggi to get on board the British bid, and the French challenge collapsed. Mr. Said’s team is reported to have received 240 million pounds for arranging the deal.

The deal between B.A.E. and the Saudi government may well have been brokered by a range of deep politicians at Le Cercle, a foreign policy think-tank specialising in international security. Set up after the second world war, the group has members from twenty-five countries and meets at least bi-annually, in Washington, D.C.

Chairman of Le Cercle, Mr. Jonathan Aitken, a former U.K. government Cabinet Minister, and member of the Privy Council, was later convicted for perjury in related matters. Another Le Cercle member, Lord Charles Powell, was one of Margaret Thatcher’s most trusted foreign policy aides and helped broker the Saudi deal. The first stage of the deal was signed on 26 September 1985, at which time Sir Norman Lamont, formerly a Chancellor of the Exchequer, already member of Le Cercle and later a chairman of the same, had been Minister for Defence Procurement. Also involved were the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, and son of the then Saudi king, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, as well as Wafic Said, who employed Mark Thatcher as a channel to his mother.

Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher lobbied hard for Al-Yamamah arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

Since early 1984 intensive efforts had been made to sell Tornado and Hawk to the Saudis. When, in the northern autumn of 1984, they seemed to be leaning towards French Mirage fighters, Mr. Heseltine, Defence Minister, paid an urgent visit to Saudi Arabia, carrying a letter from Prime Minister Thatcher to King Fahd. In December 1984 the Prime Minister started a series of important negotiations by meeting Prince Bandar, the son of Prince Sultan. The Prime Minister met the king in Riyadh in April 1985 and in August the king wrote to her stating his decision to buy 48 Tornado IDS and 30 Hawk.

In 1985 the U.K. and Saudi governments began negotiations on a series of unprecedented arms contracts known as Al-Yamamah, ‘the dove’ in Arabic. They continue to this day. The parties signed an initial Memorandum of Understanding, but there were secret Letters of Agreement which were attached to the M.O.U. and which have never been publicly released. The deal, which involved 6 billion pounds of corrupt commissions, has been covered up by the United Kingdom for decades. The Al-Yamamah arms deal involved massive orders for British Tornado fighter planes, helicopters, tanks and ammunitions, most of which were built and supplied by B.A.E. and its predecessor British Aerospace.

In time the deal developed along three main stages. They were:

  1. Al-Yamamah I, finally agreed on 26 September 1985 when Michael Heseltine, the U.K. Defence Minister, and his Saudi counter-part signed a Memorandum of Understanding in London, worth between 40 billion to 50 billion pounds, for 48 Tornado IDSs, 24 Tornado ADVs, 30 Hawk training aircraft, 30 Pilatus PC-9 trainers, a range of weapons, radar, spares and a pilot-training programme.
  2. Al-Yamamah II, was signed on 3 July 1988 in Bermuda by the respective defence ministers for another 48 Tornado fighter jets.
  3. Al-Yamamah III, was signed in 2005 for 72 Eurofighter Typhoons for up to 10 billion pounds. This latest development is better known as Al-Salam, which means ‘the peace’ in Arabic. In July 2005 Prime Minister Tony Blair flew to Riyadh to promote the deal.

It was to become ‘The dove of peace’. Obviously the Saudis had heard of – perhaps even read – Orwell!

In return for the arms, the Saudis agreed to supply up to 600,000 barrels – 95,000 cubic metres – of crude oil per day to the U.K. government.

Since the oil had to be shipped out of Saudi Arabia and sold on the world market, British Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell became part of the negotiations and were asked, for a commission, to ship the hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil per day from the Saudi peninsula and sell it on the world market. The oil companies then deposited the proceeds from the oil sale into a specially set-up British Ministry of Defence account. From this account, B.A.E. was paid for the arms and support services. It was reported in the United Kingdom press that the U.K. government took a 2 per cent fee from the Al-Yamamah accounts, which amounted to close to US$1.6 billion over the life of the twenty-plus year contract.

The deal and the sale of Saudi oil thus generated a large fund of money in the U.K. account which was separate from the normal budget of the Saudi Ministry of Defence and Aviation. And the Saudis were apparently able to request that some of these Al-Yamamah funds be used for arms purchases from other countries.

According to reports in the United Kingdom press, an audit of the Al-Yamamah account at the Ministry of Defence, conducted by the U.K. government in 1992, was considered so secret that even members of the House of Commons on the relevant oversight committee were not allowed to see it.

The full extent of the deal has never been fully clarified, however it has been described as “the biggest [U.K.] sale ever of anything to anyone”, “staggering both by its sheer size and complexity”. It may be estimated that, at a minimum, it involves the supply and support of 96 Tornado ground attack aircraft, 24 Air Defence Variants (ADVs), 50 Hawk and 50 Pilatus PC-9 aircraft, specialised naval vessels, and various infrastructure works.

B.A.E. has approximately 4,000 employees working directly with the Royal Saudi Air Force.

There were no conditions relating to security sector reform or human rights included in the contracts. The U.K. government secretly insures B.A.E.’s deals with Saudi Arabia. This means that the government will pay B.A.E. 1 billion pounds if the Saudi regime collapses and the country cannot pay its debts to B.A.E.

The relevant contracts have been underwritten by the Export Credits Guarantee Department, a taxpayer funded insurance system. Guarantees on a contract worth up to 2.7 billion pounds were signed by the U.K. government on 1 September 2003. In December 2004 the House of Commons Trade Committee chairman, Martin O’Neill, accused the Government of being foolish for concealing the 1-billion-pound guarantee that it has given to B.A.E.

Al-Yamamah and Al-Salam have been controversial for many reasons. Within weeks of the deal being signed in 1985 allegations of corruption surfaced.

From the start, the contracts were shrouded in secrecy, and although little could be substantiated, suspicions began to surface that kickbacks and bribery were central to the deal.

The public first saw some details about the unusual structure of the deal in the early 2000s when the non-profit group Campaign Against Arms Trade came across classified documents between the U.K. and the Saudi negotiators which had been improperly archived by the U.K. government.

There have been numerous allegations that the Al-Yamamah contracts were a result of bribes to members of the Saudi royal family and government officials.

Some allegations suggested that the former prime minister’s son Mark Thatcher may have been involved. Of course, he has strongly denied receiving payments or exploiting his mother’s connections in his business dealings.

In February 2001 the solicitor of a former B.A.E. employee, Edward Cunningham, notified the Serious Fraud Office of the evidence that his client was holding which related to an alleged ‘slush fund’. The S.F.O. wrote to Sir Kevin Reginald Tebbit, then Permanent Under Secretary of State for the Ministry of Defence, who notified the Chairman of B.A.E. – but not the Secretary of Defence. No further action was taken until the letter was leaked to and reported on by The Guardian on 11 September 2003.

The Serious Fraud Office was reported to be considering opening an investigation into an alleged 20 million pounds slush fund on 12 September 2003, the day after The Guardian had published its slush fund story.

In May 2004 Sir Richard Evans appeared before a parliament’s defence select committee and said: “I can certainly assure you that we are not in the business of making payments to members of any government.”

In October 2004 the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Money Programme broadcast an in-depth story, including allegations in interviews with Edward Cunningham and another former insider, about the way B.A.E. alleged to have paid bribes to Prince Turki bin Nasser and ran a secret 60 million pounds slush fund in relation to the Al-Yamamah deal. Most of the money was alleged to have been spent through a front company called Robert Lee International Limited.

In November 2004 the S.F.O. made two arrests as part of the investigation. B.A.E. stated that they welcomed the investigation and “believe[d] that it would put these matters to rest once and for all.”

But the investigation would be stopped towards the end of 2006 just as Swiss banks were preparing to release details of the accounts held by middlemen in the deal.

In late 2005 B.A.E. refused to comply with compulsory production notices for details of its secret “offshore payments to the Middle East.” The terms of the investigation were for a prosecution under Part 12 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.

An audit into Al-Yamamah I by the National Audit Office at the Ministry of Defence was conducted by the U.K. government under Sir John Bourn, a former Comptroller and Auditor General, therefore a former head of the National Audit Office, in 1992. But it was considered so secret that even members of the Public Accounts Committee were not allowed to see it. Police, however, later calculated that more than 6 billion pounds may have been distributed in corrupt commissions, via an array of agents and middlemen. Before its ascendancy to power the Labour government promised to publish the audit report, but never did and so, as of 2006, it was the only report on the subject which is not publicly available.

Charged with running a slush fund, B.A.E.’s chief executive Mike Turner did not deny the charge. At a press conference following the revelations, he stated: “They are old allegations and they are old hat. They are history.” Turner added: “Everything we do is legal and that is all I am prepared to say. Whatever the law is, we are legal.”

Those allegations have never gone away.

Article 5 of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Convention on Combating Bribery prohibits the decision to drop investigations into corruption from being influenced by considerations of the national economic interest or the potential effect upon relations with another state. This does not however explicitly exclude grounds of national security.

This prompted the investigation team to consider striking an early guilty plea deal with B.A.E. which would minimise the intrusiveness to Saudi Arabia – essentially that B.A.E. had paid massive bribes to Saudi royals – and would mitigate damage. The Attorney General signed off on the strategy, but briefed Prime Minister Blair, who in a reply dated 5 December 2006, urged that the case to be dropped. Prime Minister Blair wrote a “secret and personal” letter to the Attorney General to that effect.

Despite affirming his government’s commitment to bribery prosecution, he stressed the financial and counter-terrorism implications. That same day, Prince Bandar met with Foreign Office officials, after spending a week with President Jacques Chirac to negotiate a French alternative to the B.A.E. deal.

A week later, after consultation with the S.F.O., the Attorney General met with Mr. Blair to argue against dropping the case. It was Blair’s opinion that “Any proposal that the investigation be resolved by parties pleading guilty to certain charges would be unlikely to reduce the offence caused to the Saudi Royal Family, even if the deal were accepted, and the process would still drag out for a considerable period.”

On 13 December 2006 the Director of the S.F.O. wrote to the Attorney General to inform him that the S.F.O. was dropping the investigation, “real and imminent damage to the U.K. national and international security and would endanger the lives of U.K. citizens and service personnel.”

On 14 December 2006 the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith announced that the investigation was being discontinued on grounds of public interest. The 15-strong investigation team had been ordered to turn in their files two days before. The statement in the House of Lords read: “The Director of the Serious Fraud Office has decided to discontinue the investigation into the affairs of B.A.E. Systems plc as far as they relate to the Al-Yamamah defence contract. This decision has been taken following representations that have been made both to the Attorney General and the Director concerning the need to safeguard national and international security. It has been necessary to balance the need to maintain the rule of law against the wider public interest. No weight has been given to commercial interests or to the national economic interest.”

Prime Minister Blair justified the decision by saying “Our relationship with Saudi Arabia is vitally important for our country in terms of counter-terrorism, in terms of the broader Middle East, in terms of helping in respect of Israel and Palestine. That strategic interest comes first.”

Jonathan Aitken, a former Tory government minister and convicted perjurer, who was connected with the deals in the 1980s, said that even if the allegations against B.A.E. were true, it was correct to end the investigation to maintain good relations with Saudi Arabia.

Dr. Mark Pieth, director of anti-fraud section at the O.E.C.D., on behalf of the United States, Greece, Japan, France, Sweden and Switzerland, addressed a formal complaint letter before Christmas 2006 to the Foreign Office, seeking explanation as to why the investigation had been discontinued. Transparency International and Labour MP Dr. Roger Berry, chairman of the Commons Quadripartite Committee, urged the government to reopen the corruption investigation.

In March 2007 the O.E.C.D. sent their inspectors to the U.K. to establish the reasons behind the dropping of the investigation. The O.E.C.D. also wished to establish why the U.K. had yet to bring a prosecution since the incorporation of the O.E.C.D.’s anti-bribery treaty into U.K. law.

Nothing happened.

Continued Wednesday – A conga line of bludgers: Prince Charles (part 6)

Previous instalment – A conga line of bludgers: Prince Charles (part 4)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.venturini@bigpond.com.au.

 

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AUSMIN Meeting at Kirribilli House: Advancing the American Frontier into Hazardous Waters?

By Denis Bright  

The extent of Australia’s moves towards the centre-right of global politics is illustrated by the eyewitness media space given to Andrew Hastie’s remarks about the extent of Australia’s economic and strategic relations with China.

Australians must surely detach themselves from such comments and continue with their long-standing financial ties with the world’s largest economy in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) terms. The whole economy of West Australia which Andrew Hastie represents as member for Canning is highly dependent on trading and investment ties to China. It is unfortunate that Andrew Hastie has a higher political profile as Chair of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Security and Intelligence. The minutes of actual minutes are not released on the parliamentary web site which still offers some useful anecdotes on the activities of the Committee. These are available on the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security website.

Andrew Hastie’s personal concerns about the rise of China are endorsed by some powerful friends on the global speaking circuit from the Trump Administration. Attendees at the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultation (AUSMIN) meeting at Kirribilli House on 4 August 2019 certainly got a thorough briefing on the need to deepen the scope of the US Global Alliance across the Indo-Pacific Basin.

The mainstream media is a big player in promoting the outreach activities of the US Global Alliance.

The Weekend Australian used its print and electronic outlet to welcome the AUSMIN event. The headlines in the print edition in the Weekend Australian came with additional endorsement from Foreign Editor, Greg Sheridan the day prior to AUSMIN.

The extent of the Weekend Australian’s endorsement of the AUSMIN brand of threat anticipation did suggest that something might be in the wind at Kirribilli House on Sunday 4 August. Here defence and foreign ministers of Australia and the US conferred with specialist staff on the strategic state of play in the Indo Pacific Basin.

As always, our LNP federal ministers wanted to assure everyone that the discussions were in the old traditions of the ANZUS Treaty of 1951. The confident assurances came before the AUSMIN meeting in a joint statement from our foreign and defence ministers as early as 26 July 2019:

Our relationship with the United States is built on an historic alliance – established by the ANZUS Treaty in 1951 – and deepened by our shared vision for a safer and more prosperous Indo-Pacific

The Reality of a Politically Oriented AUSMIN?

Back in Washington D.C., the Department of Defense web offered instant endorsement of the joint statement from the AUSMIN event. Our own DFAT web site responds more cautiously. The 2018 AUSMIN Meeting in Palo Alto, California is still the latest event on the site.

In Washington, D.C., staffers authorised to on Mark Esper’s global outreach campaign on behalf of the Pentagon. Anyone can make bad typing errors but was the misspelling of Australian allies more of a Freudian protest at the need for tedious consultation with allies across the seas?

Defence Secretary of State Esper continued his liaison with supportive leaders in New Zealand, Mongolia, South Korea and Japan to assure media networks back home that he had competently replaced the former Secretary of Defense, James Mattis who had resigned over policy difference with President Trump.

Staged political theatrics were evident throughout each phase of the engagements attended by the new US Secretary of Defense. The message of All the Way with the USA was much the same at every stop, even in Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia which the US Military Times spells correctly in modernist mode and not the way I used as a teenager at university (7 August 2019).

Like Australia, Mongolia is classified as a NATO Partner (Image: US Department of Defense). Perhaps Secretary Esper’s arrival in an air-force plane rather than the usual plush VIP jet is significant. Was the plane allowed to transit Chinese or Russian airspace I ask before the exotic grandeur of state visits prevailed (Military Times, 7 August 2019):

Perhaps the 34-year history of AUSMIN can assist in explaining just why Australia is on such a carefully staged briefing circuit here and abroad.

The consultative aspects of ANZUS receive scant attention today. It was a different matter when the ANZUS Treaty was enacted in 1952.

History of Australia’s Involvement with AUSMIN

The protocols for AUSMIN consultations have been shrouded in mystery from the first event in Canberra in 1985. Discussions at AUSMIN are not open to public scrutiny. The earliest meetings did not generate easily accessible public files at the National Archives of Australia (NAA) in Canberra.

Much of the material released of later meetings is of limited news value with an emphasis on posed photographs and the final joint statements.

Hence The Australian newspaper with its own global  intelligence links can offer supportive speculation on confidential proceedings (The Australian, 4 August 2019).

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Defense Secretary Mark Esper have used the annual bilateral Ausmin summit to speak out strongly about the US commitment to the Pacific and against what they described as aggressive, destabilising behaviour by China in the region.

Mr Pompeo told reporters in Sydney today the time was “right for the US and Australia to do much more together in the region and beyond”.

“We care deeply about that. We’re here to stay and we want all Australians to know they can always rely on the United States of America. Just as we talk of Britain as a special relationship, we think of this as an unbreakable relationship.”

Mr Esper described the Indo-Pacific region as the “priority theatre” for the US and warned China against “predatory” economic and other aggressive behaviour seeking to extend its influence among island states.

“We firmly believe no one nation can or should dominate the Indo-Pacific,” Mr Esper said.

“We also stand firmly against a disturbing pattern of aggressive behaviour, destabilising behaviour, from China.”

Let me be clear, the US is a Pacific nation,” Mr Pompeo said.

After the AUSMIN event, the US Secretary of Defense was off to New Zealand to check out the political mood in a former ANZUS state. Dr Esper almost crossed paths with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on a missionary two-day visit to New Zealand before his arrival in Australia. The international campaigning to talk up more support for America First Strategies was on in earnest.

Some fence mending was in order across the Tasman. Here the Labour Government, with Winston Peters as Foreign Minister from the New Zealand First Party, is currently slightly behind the National Party in the two latest opinion polls.

The Ardern Government in New Zealand through its Disarmament Ambassador to the UN co-ordinated lobbying for the successful treaty to abolish nuclear weapons in 2017. Nuclear powered military vessels and aircraft carrying nuclear weapons in transit are not welcome in NZ. All this must be very confronting to the Pentagon.

From his public lecture at Victoria University in Wellington to his quay-side press conference with Defence Minister Reynolds in Australia, General Stoltenberg offered an invitation to become more committed to NATO operations globally in support of the US Global Alliance System. The time for old-style consultation as required in the ANZUS Treaty has been replaced by a new call to military commitment on behalf of the US Global Alliance.

Mark Esper was a senior corporate lobbyist for Raytheon before he replaced James Mattis as Secretary of Defense.

Like Raytheon, the Secretary of Defense is well versed in brand marketing with a patriotic hue both in Australia and overseas.

All this militarism is of course good for business at Raytheon:

The missionary zeal of apologists for Raytheon and the Pentagon is a reminder of the historical pressures which were placed by great powers like Britain in favour of more strategic commitment in a bygone but bloody era.

Diversion to Italy’s Interaction with the Great Powers

Let’s take the secret Treaty of London which paved the way for Italian participation in the Allied Campaigns against Austria and on the killing fields of the Western Front after 1915. It was finalised the day after the Gallipoli landing in a desperate effort by Britain to widen the number of fighting fronts.

This action undermined efforts by Pope Benedict XV to extend the Christmas Truce begun in 1914 into a permanent cease-fire across the Western Front. These efforts were documented by John Pollard in Benedict XV: The Unknown Pope and the Pursuit of Peace which is available from Amazon:

Benedict XV is one of the least known Popes of the 20th century, but one of the most important. Elected in 1914 after the outbreak of the First World War he dedicated his Papacy to achieving peace throughout Europe. In August 1917 he offered a ‘Peace Note’ to the warring powers to bring about the cessation of hostilities, engaged in humanitarian activities and was instrumental is setting up the Save the Children Fund.

The Treaty of London had come just after a disastrous earthquake in L’Aquila in 1915 with a death toll of 30,000. Despite shootings of anti-war protesters, thousands of Italian troops were escorted to the Austrian front and to the killing fields of the Western Front. The Italian death toll reached 60,000 by 1918. Italy was merely compensated by some token territories across the Mediterranean and not the strategic prizes that were offered in the Treaty of London.

In the spirit of Pope Benedict XV, Pope Francis will take his opposition to nuclear weapons to Hiroshima on a forthcoming visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in late November 2019. By then, plans for the installation of new short to medium range missiles by the US across Asia will have advanced a notch (AsianNews.it, 6 June 2019).

Commentators need to tune into the new style of US Global Alliance established through agencies like AUSMIN in key allied countries.

Rewriting ANZUS without Guiding Protocols?

The Australia-US Alliance has evolved into a whole of government partnership which strays from the original strategic partnership into wider political and business networks.

The media plays a very significant role in strengthening these whole of government partnerships which strengthen the shared hegemony of the US Global Alliance over national politics globally.

These protocols seem to change with each US Administration and are currently interpreted in a more hawkish manner by US Ambassador Culverhouse in Canberra on behalf of President Trump (Financial Review, 5 December 2018).

Prior to last year’s AUSMIN Meeting, the ABC Conversation Programme made the following assessment of the strategic protocols in place:

“The 2018 AUSMIN Consultation in Palo Alto will be the 28th in 33 years (it is supposed to be an annual event). AUSMIN has existed in its current form since 1985, following New Zealand’s refusal to allow US nuclear submarines into its ports that year and the United States’ subsequent suspension of its ANZUS security commitment to Wellington. Past AUSMIN forums have included many formal resolutions strengthening the US-Australia security alliance, including the Sydney Statement (1996), the Memorandum of Understanding on Ballistic Missile Defense (2004), the Space Situational Awareness Partnership (2010), and the US Force Posture Agreement (2014)”.

These interpretations of Australia’s changing place in the US Global Alliance, are all short of defined protocols as approval in the ANZUS Agreement of 1951.

Even during the Obama years, Australia’s Prime Minister Abbott opted to join the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) despite concerns from US Intelligence Networks. Thanks to Tony Abbott’s pragmatic decision, Australia has deposits of over AU$4.5 billion in the AIIB and 3 per cent of the voting rights on the AIIB Board. This is comparable to the influence of Britain, France, South Korea and Indonesia. The AIIB has attracted deposits from countries on all sides of the political spectrum including Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Russia. Only the US is not involved with the AIIB and discourages Chinese investment in our immediate region with countries like Samoa, PNG, Vanuatu and Fiji through financial institutions that have greater rapport with Wall Street networks.

Despite assurances from both the foreign and defence ministers on 29 July 2019 that Australia is acting under ANZUS Protocols, the current defence minister Senator Reynolds is gun-ho about the new possibilities for the US Global Alliance during the Trump Era.

These developments do suggest that AUSMIN is a commitment to centre-right economics and a style of Australian government with a similar ideology and almost identical strategic policies.

While not welcoming the immediate deployment of US short and medium range cruise missiles from bases in Northern Australia like Tindal near Katherine, our LNP team has expressed no dissent from the Trump Administration’s rearmament of Eastern and South East Asia from a nucleus of bases in the Marshall Islands, Guam, Japan and Diego Garcia (Lolita C Baldor, “Esper: US to soon put intermediate range missile in Asia“, ABC News, 2 August 2019):

Some Pentagon estimates have suggested that a low-flying cruise missile with a potential range of about 1,000 kilometres  (620 miles) could be flight-tested this month and be ready for deployment in 18 months. A ballistic missile with a range of roughly 3,000 to 4,000 kilometres (1,860 to 2,490 miles) could take five years or more to deploy. Neither would be nuclear armed.

The INF treaty was signed in 1987 and banned land-based missiles of ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometres (310 and 3,410 miles). Its demise comes as world powers seek to contain the nuclear threat from Iran and North Korea. And it signals another milestone in the deterioration of relations between the U.S and Russia.

Esper also added his voice to those who believe that extending the New START Treaty may not make sense. New START expires in February 2021 and is the only remaining treaty constraining U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.

Trump has called New START “just another bad deal” made by the Obama administration, and has said he wants to negotiate a three-way nuclear arms control agreement among the U.S., Russia and China.

Esper said the U.S. should look at bringing in other nuclear powers and expand the types of weapons controlled by the treaty. He added that he does not believe this will trigger a new arms race, but that the U.S. needs to deploy missile capabilities that can protect both Europe and the Pacific region.

Loyalty to the Trump Administration largely prevents public criticism of current trade and investment war strategies by senior LNP ministers. There are dissidents within the federal LNP Ministry including the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Trade Minister Simon Birmingham who dare to be more honest about the value of commercial and investment relationships with China (The Guardian 4 August 2019). Prime Minister Morrison has the political skills to maintain consensus between the strategic, regional and financial arms of his ministry.

This dissent also comes with the support of the Big End of Town from firms like Deloitte Economics and KPMG.

Financial markets globally have now temporarily stabilised again after the biggest corrections of 2019 as the thirtieth anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall approaches on 9 November.

Now, it is President Trump who wants a New American Wall to protect the US from global modernity.

Allies worldwide are expected to bear the costs of the current investment and trade war on China with extra strategic commitment to global trouble-spots and more support for regime change as required in the future.

Denis Bright (pictured) has a background from post-retirement studies in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is committed to citizens’ journalism to raise issues for critical discussion. Comments are welcome, particularly from specialist insiders to move the debate along the new protocols at work in the new US Global Alliance. Like all articles based on computer research, this one can have its blind spots from someone with no experience in the military or the relevant strategic departments. I am merely the messenger who is accountable to readers of the AIM Network.

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Destruction and disaster are the consequences of delay

By RosemaryJ36  

The recent COAG meeting had recycling on its agenda, but predominantly in the context of requiring the states and territories to stop shipping waste overseas, and with no commitment by the Commonwealth government to mandate a reduction of use of plastic in packaging.

I fully appreciate that the States were established before federation, and that only some of the powers of the states were ceded to the Commonwealth. But – and it is a very big BUT – we are a large country in area and issues like recycling and reducing emissions would be seen by anyone with an iota of commonsense as being a national issue. After all, as a nation, we have the greatest per capita level of emissions in the world, so the whole nation must be involved in national action!

As long as our government remains in love with coal, continually subsidising fossil fuel entrepreneurs – thanks to all their donors – and refuses to recognise the urgency of the need to slow, stop, and (hopefully) reverse the effects of the emissions which are creating this climate emergency, we are dooming future generations to a planet which is in self-destruct mode.

The rate of loss of biodiversity is alarming and it is a moot point whether any other species (apart from the insects!) will survive until mankind is wiped off the face of the earth. And, without urgent effective action, we are talking decades, not centuries or millennia!

Many communities are taking action but this is not universal and is not enough. We need to be put into wartime mode, with caveats on waste of all sorts. We need national laws in relation to use of fuels and their derivatives, phasing out or converting vehicles using fossil fuels, rapidly moving to using renewable energy through rooftop installations and solar farms, with battery storage development accelerated to ensure continuous supply.

There are jobs galore to be created if the government took its head out of the Bible and read the scientific literature!

We need recycling plants which can handle all forms of waste without producing harmful emissions.

If we are put into wartime, national emergency mode, everyone will be required to forget nimbyism and join in the effort.

I know – Australia cannot save the world. But every country that starts to make a genuine and substantive effort will help to incentivise other nations.

Greta Thunberg is rubbished by those who put money before well-being, but her research is supported by many, including the specialist climate scientists.

We are in unexplored territory in predicting what is to come, because we have a welded-on belief that we can predict the future based on the past. But examination of weather patterns since the Industrial Revolution makes it quite obvious that the pattern is now continually and more rapidly changing as the years go by, with severe weather events occurring increasingly in both frequency and severity.

Anyone who cannot accept that the whole world needs to take action is living in a fool’s paradise – or doesn’t give a damn about future generations of life on earth!

 

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When social media turned from a trickle of users into a flood

By Anthony Andrews  

When social media turned from a trickle of users into a flood, the trade union movement – among others – were quick to grasp its potential.

Here was a way to get the message out to the masses, build solidarity and inform the members of various issues.

But it created problems.

The masses spoke back.

It was soon discovered that many of the union members, interacting amongst themselves on the various platforms, were quite opinionated.

So many in fact, were interacting and being opinionated, that it became impossible not to hear them.

Many of the voices (not what a lot of those in the upper levels of the movement expected) expressed ideas and opinions that they definitely didn’t identify with.

In fact, some of the views the upper levels of the movement were exposed to were actually quite offensive and this created a dilemma.

How, as a movement, do you deal with unwelcome or outrageous opinions from the members and still promote the idea of ‘every worker needing to be heard!’?

As the years went by, the amount of voices ‘needing to be heard’ became impossible to count … or to hold accountable.

As most of the voices wrote like they spoke, using language that was blunt, coarse, and with far too many swear words, it was decided that something needed to be done to protect the brand and the reputation of each member that consciously participated in these online discussions.

Soon after, many union social media sites stopped allowing members to post on their pages, burdening themselves with total control over all information disseminated to the masses.

The leadership deserved no blame for that decision, because they knew intimately that the public see what their political enemies want them to see.

And of course, as we all know, “loose lips, sink ships.”

The masses though, continued to talk.

They argued politics, religion, society in general and even discussed the weather.

They fought and threatened each other, fell in love, and some … probably … even died.

All while actively engaged on one of the high numbers of non-affiliated trade union pages that popped up. The ones that a quick scroll through the Facebook news feed, would also have located for them.

Or one of the many ‘member only’ groups, that, through their interest and willingness to add, in some way, to the cause, appear to have bypassed the movement’s leadership and its control of the message.

That will change.

The precarious political and legal position of individual trade unions and the movement itself, means it’s not just ‘on the cards’ for unions to take control of these sites or shut them down, it is inevitable … well, it needs a pretty watertight and workable solution at least.

The recent high court loss of a government employee’s right to express views on their country’s political direction or create a verbal picture of the society that they are a part of, as well as other court actions, will force the issue to a head, but who will actually benefit from the changes that, for legal reasons, will need to be addressed sooner, rather than later.

It’s my opinion, that it will be the trade union movement’s political enemies and the multinationals that sponsor them, that will see the most benefit from too draconian a crackdown.

With the best of intentions, directions from the executive level of the movement, raised at individual trade union national conferences and general meetings, will see ‘motions from the floor’, addressing the perils to our movement of these social media pages that can’t be controlled or directed.

Members will express outrage at the levels of sexist, racist, and bigoted remarks.

At the threats of violence and the abuse.

With righteous indignation, the motions will pass … and that will be that.

And I agree, they do need to be looked at carefully, but does a motion raised, seconded, and voted on by the membership … to close down a non-affiliated Facebook page for example, remove the right for the union to claim they have no association with it or legal liability?

Legal liability.

These words pose a constant threat for administrators of these ‘non-affiliated’ Facebook groups. It is used by officials and employees of the relevant union to insist the pages are sanitised and disciplinary action is initiated against individual members that transgress the bounds of decency and respect.

Again, you can’t blame them. They know how the legal system works and are conscious of the fact that the law may hold the administrator, themselves and other members that are also participants within these forums. Or the union itself…accountable.

But the other side of that coin is the challenge of still being in a position to hear the individual voices of the collective.

The problem seems to be that it’s a lot to digest. To interpret. To govern.

But it’s not always going to be like that.

The way I see it, at present, when people post or comment online, any reply is viewed defensively.

Whichever way it goes – a positive comment or negative – when someone replies, it’s like they’ve put their seat back on a flight and you’re behind them.

It’s a ‘road rage’ inspiring mechanism for when people invade your space.

It produces an overflow of emotion … but we’re getting used to it, soon exposing too much of what we really think will be countered intuitively. Our children are already doing it.

But we’re the first.

The first generation of online communicators. Soon, it will ‘govern’ itself, but until then, it’s got to be allowed to develop without too much interference from those who communicate in a different way or just prefer to.

All aspects of the legal ramifications for individuals and organisations need to be explored, not just funds allocated to the ‘why it should be shut down’ side of the debate.

That’s not to say that the union movement isn’t fighting hard for online freedom because it is, maybe though, we need to see beyond the legal now, to what will be in the future. To spend more time looking at who should really be responsible for their own behaviour in an online world.

It’s too easy for the legal system to make collective rulings based on limited precedence, yet, isn’t responsibility for one’s own actions a cornerstone of our society?

Is a union responsible when a member consciously breaks the law or attacks another member in the workplace?

Are the individual delegates in that workplace?

Is this online world so vastly different from the one we already occupy, that it should have different rules regarding who is responsible for each individual’s own behaviour?

How the union movement remain ‘inclusive’ when it comes to online interactions will depend on how the issues are approached now.

Reporting, blocking and banning those that see themselves as ‘progressives’, but hold views that are racist, sexist or whichever other ‘ist’ the movement doesn’t support, as well as those that threaten and abuse others, are tools to be used, they are not a solution.

If anything, they distort our view of the world, creating a false sense of understanding the people we can’t see, effectively blinding us when it comes to “every worker needing to be heard!”

You can’t fix society by pretending only some parts of it exist or ‘call out’ the transgressors of forum rules by ‘locking them under the house’.

Until they see the error of their ways, through confrontation, legal obligation and observation of the way others behave, they will learn nothing …

But still blame the union.

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A conga line of bludgers: Prince Charles (part 4)

By Dr George Venturini  

Once a year, the Royal Family is required to make some financial information available to the public. The 2018 reports revealed that Prince Charles’s travel habits do not come cheap, especially given that taxpayers foot the bill for expenses on official royal visits through the Sovereign Grant.

Perhaps, having lost any hope for the real thing, he contents himself with being what he is frequently murmured as: the King of the Spenders.

A detailed breakdown of the Royal Family’s 6.1 million pounds (AU$9.2 million) official travel bill reveals charter flights for the tour cost 460,387 pounds (AU$692,720) after officials determined it was not possible to fly scheduled.

Charles has a particular taste for luxury travel.

When chinless Prince Charles and his chisel-chinned wife Camilla interrupted their Balmoral holidays to visit victims of 2011 summer’s London riots, they sent the Queen’s hard-up subjects a bill for nearly 20,000 pounds (AU$30,000) for their flights: to visit Tottenham, Lambeth Hackney and Croydon by private jet.

And weeks after their riots visit, they cost the public purse 16,047 pounds (AU$24,233) for another flight from London to Aberdeen, this time after a memorial service to mark the 10th anniversary of September 11.

In October-November 2011 Prince Charles made a nine-day tour of the Middle East – friendly countries such a Kuwait and Qatar – and then on to Tanzania and South Africa with the Duchess of Cornwall which cost taxpayers almost half a million pounds.

In the same year Prince Charles and Camilla charged the taxpayer 30,000 pounds for a return flight from Clarence House to Balmoral for a private four day break on which no public engagements were undertaken.

It also emerged from the figures made available that before his trip to the Middle East, early in 2015 Charles flew by charter to Saudi Arabia to pay his condolences on behalf of the United Kingdom following the death of the Crown Prince – at a cost of 67,215 pounds (AU$101,134).

Charles may further claim over 2 million pounds from the taxpayers to pay for foreign travel, public relations and administrative support.

And so, just about every year since.

Prince Charles’ trip to India, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore in the fall of 2017 with Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, was the most expensive of any royal tour last year, costing £362,149, or roughly US$475,000.

This is partly down to his air fare. The Prince might need expensive, non-scheduled flights on Royal Air Force planes for security reasons, but costs could be kept down if he had a smaller entourage.

The second most expensive royal trip of the year, Princess Anne’s visit to Ghana and Sierra Leone, cost a fraction of that, £68,815 or US$90,000.

In November 2015, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, arrived in Australia to be feted again by crowds while sampling the fine local wines, cheeses and seafood at South Australia’s Barossa Valley, before attending Remembrance Day ceremonies in Canberra. It was Charles’ fifteenth visit – a ‘Royal visit’ for many Australians.

Who would pay?

Prince Charles’s lavish lifestyle is funded directly from, or at the expense of ‘home’ public purse. His travel costs, part of his press office and the costs of maintaining Clarence House, his official residence, are paid for by taxpayers through the Sovereign Support Grant, while his round the clock security – likely to cost tens of millions each year – comes out of the Metropolitan Police’s budget.

Everything was going so well, but a new poll released by the Australian Republican Movement carries a blunt message from Australian voters: 51 per cent would prefer an Australian head of state to ‘King Charles’ when the time comes for him to replace his mother, Queen Elizabeth.

The poll of 1008 voters, commissioned by the A.R.M. and conducted by Essential Research from 5 to 8 November, asked “When Prince Charles becomes King of Australia, will you support or oppose replacing the British monarch with an Australian citizen as Australia’s head of state?”

Apart for the poverty of the suggestion – most likely the result of ‘animation’ rather than education – in fact the succession to the throne will be governed by the Bill of Rights of 1688, the Act of Settlement of 1701 and the Royal Marriage Act of 1772 which were part of U. K. law well before the invasion of Australia in 1788, along with other rules of the common law which are said to have been extended to Australia at that time. Any doubt about their application was dispelled by the enactment of the Australian Courts Act of 1828. From then on, those foreign acts applied as part of the law of the Australian colonies, first, and of Australia, now.

Any other view would suffer from fawning adulation, dismissive contempt, every-day sycophancy or plain, downright ockerism.

There remains in the end – but solidly – the power of celebrity gossip, on which undoubtedly Charles and his Camilla rely, and of course the more solid connection of undeclared interests.

As Charles and Camilla arrived in Canberra on 11 November, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, once a prominent republican, brushed aside questions about whether he still believed – as he has previously argued – that Australians would struggle to accept Prince Charles as king of Australia one day.

He made a safe and legalistic point – but one too ‘academic’ to be understood by the populace – when he said: “If the Queen’s reign comes to an end and the constitution is in the form it is today, Prince Charles will become our head of state … so if Charles become the King of the United Kingdom as I have no doubt he will be, unless our constitution has been changed, he will become the King of Australia.”

And the prospect of such constitutional change? Just zilch.

Australians should be left with a constitution, which is an act of the Imperial Parliament, and is racist, out-dated, reflective of surviving colonial domination and the foundation – if that is the word – of a pantomime parliamentary democracy. Parliamentary democracy is not representative democracy; of course, it suits the profound interests of a surviving money-based empire.

On his part, on 24 July 2015 Mr. Bill Shorten, Her Majesty’s Leader of the Opposition, speaking at the opening of the 47th Australian Labor Party National Conference, had called for an Australian republic within 10 years – by 2025. He said: “Let us make this the first decade where our head of state is one of us. We can be an Australian republic, with an Australian head of state.” Perplexing words at least those are, because the Governor General is often referred to as ‘the head of state’, both by confusing monarchists and loose, temporary republicans.

On the same day, the ALP Conference passed a resolution that a future Labor government appoint a minister or parliamentary secretary with responsibility for promoting a republic. (‘Bill Shorten calls for Australian republic by 2025 at Labor national conference’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 July 2015).

The Australian Republican Movement chairman, Mr. Peter FitzSimons said that while the movement welcomed Charles and Camilla to Australia, “We look forward to the day when members of the royal family make the trip as our equals and not Australia’s current and future rulers.”

Commenting on the public view, he said: “This polling makes it abundantly clear, the question of an Australian republic is not a left/right issue: support exists across the Australian community, and the Republican Movement hasn’t even really started campaigning yet.”

“As our future King and his wife touch down for their five-day tour, the Australian people are getting behind the idea of an Australian head of state in a big way. And that support is only going to increase, especially if Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull makes it a priority as we hope and expect he will.”

This, of course, is at best: aria fritta = hot air.

For too long the Prince of Wales has shown himself too vain to accept the limits of constitutional monarchy, perhaps because he is closer in his frame of mind to his eleventh predecessor, George I, who did not even speak English.

As one Nick Cohen put it in a blog on 4 February 2015, “When republicans meet, we console ourselves with the thought that our apparently doomed cause will revive. The hereditary principle guarantees that eventually a dangerous fool will accede to a position he could never have attained by merit, we chortle. With Charles III, we have just the fool we need.”

One wonders whether Mr. Cohen is familiar with Thomas Paine – a former Englishman, by the way – observations on monarchy and hereditary succession in his Common sense, the pamphlet Paine wrote in 1775–76 which inspired people in the Thirteen Colonies to declare and fight for independence from Great Britain in the summer of 1776. Here is what he wrote: “To the evil of monarchy we have added that of hereditary succession; and as the first is a degradation and lessening of ourselves, so the second, claimed as a matter of right, is an insult and imposition on posterity. For all men being originally equals, no one by birth could have a right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others for ever, and tho’ himself might deserve some decent degree of honours of his contemporaries, yet his descendants might be far too unworthy to inherit them. One of the strongest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in Kings, is that nature disapproves it, otherwise she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule, by giving mankind an ASS FOR A LION.” [Capitals in original]

Now 70-year-old, Charles is portrayed as a ‘passionate’ prince with an array of deeply-held views on issues from farming to architecture. And he speaks with aristocratic de haut en bas interventions on just about any subject. To some – mainly a troop of adulators, courtiers, sycophants, lackeys of all kind – he is a trailblazer. They would say so. They claim the Prince to be championing issues of sustainable development before they caught national attention. Others see him as an all-around-ignorant, a nuisance pushing eccentric causes. His outspokenness has prompted debate in the U.K. about how the monarchy would change if he becomes King Charles III. He held 36 meetings with government ministers between 2010 and 2013 since the Conservative-led coalition took power in 2010. This was up 13 from the same period of the last Labour Government. Critics said that it showed how much he enjoyed undue political influence.

Not long before Prince Charles trip to Australia in 2015, the Supreme Court was called upon to consider whether 27 letters between Charles and government ministers should be published following a ten-year freedom of information battle between The Guardian and Whitehall. The government and ‘The Palace’ argued that correspondence and meetings with ministers were a necessary part of Charles’ preparation for kingship and in 2012 the then Attorney General Dominic Grieve said that they had to be kept confidential to protect Charles’s position of political neutrality. The letters were finally released to the public on 13 May 2015. Nicknamed the “black spider memos”, for the Prince’s unusually spiky handwriting, the letters were sent to a wide variety of government departments. The Prince had written to just about every government department, proffering his unsolicited advice: to the Environment Minister to curb illegal fishing and the Education Secretary to criticise modern teaching methods in 2004, to  Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2004 to encourage consumers to demand British produce, in 2005 about the armed forces in Iraq and later about badgers and tuberculosis in cattle, to the Department of Health in 2005 regarding the redevelopment of a hospital, to Dame Tessa Jowell, who was a Labour Member of Parliament from 1992 to 2015, asking about the conservation of Antarctic huts built for the first polar expeditions, in the case the Prince also offered to help find wealthy individuals to help the conservation project if the government could not find the funding.

The move to publish the letters followed a Freedom of Information Act request by The Guardian and a ten-year legal battle. In March 2015 the Supreme Court approved their release, after it had previously been blocked by former Attorney-General Dominic Grieve. The letters were finally released on 13 May 2015.

Speaking for the Prince, Clarence House had earlier said it was “disappointed the principle of privacy had not been upheld.”

Charles has been particularly vocal in lobbying against the Human Rights Act, writing “rubbish” on a response he received in 2001 from Lord Irvine who, while Lord Chancellor, defended the Act to Charles.

In March 2015 Prime Minister David Cameron said he was disappointed at the court’s decision, saying: “This is about the principle that senior members of the Royal Family are able to express their views to government confidentially. I think most people would agree this is fair enough.” This is likely to be the only glimpse the U.K. public gets of Charles’ correspondence with ministers. Since the original request by The Guardian to see the letters the government has tightened up the Freedom of Information Act to provide an “absolute exemption” on all requests relating to the Queen and the heir to the throne, making future release very unlikely.

Few supporters of the monarchy understand that Prince Charles’ views are almost medieval in their obscurity. His published writings show that in the dispute between Galileo and the papacy, the future English sovereign is on the side of the papacy and against the scientific method, and remains on the papacy’s side four centuries after the event and long after the church has conceded defeat.

Charles is an old man who lacks a well-rounded adult’s ability to learn his own limitations as well as the limitations of monarchical power. As the reign of Charles III approaches, it is the duty of monarchists to tackle him. The hereditary principle is their system. Prince Charles is their problem. It should not become Australia’s problem. At the very least, the English monarchists should insist on their Parliament defining where a royal can intervene in politics and public life. If they had any sense – and one doubts that grovellers and hangers-on do –  they would insist on the crown skipping a generation. They must surely have seen enough by now. They must surely know that a King Charles III will be nothing but trouble.

Let it be English, or the Ukrainian empire’s trouble.

But there is another side of Prince Charles: commission salesman is perhaps the right call.

Continued Saturday – A conga line of bludgers: Prince Charles (part 5)

Previous instalment – A conga line of bludgers: Prince Charles (part 3)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.venturini@bigpond.com.au.

 

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