Grief for the Present, Grief for the Future

By Elizabeth Dangerfield  Like so many in Australia at this moment my anxiety…

Comedy without art (part 4)

By Dr George Venturini  At its heart, Australia is a system of representative…

The economy is not our master

By RosemaryJ36  I have a very dear family member, who subscribes to The…

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Grief for the Present, Grief for the Future

By Elizabeth Dangerfield  

Like so many in Australia at this moment my anxiety about the future has impacted on my mental health. But those who have borne the brunt of these catastrophic fires; those who have lost their homes, property, livestock; those who have been fighting fires for weeks; those who have been trying to save animals so cruelly affected by the fires; those who have been evacuated and wondered what was ahead of them; those who do not know where their next meal is coming from, where they are going to live or how on earth they are going to start again; those who are totally despondent and exhausted: their mental health must be severely compromised by their harrowing experiences over the last months. We have all, in our way been impacted by the horror of this gigantic disaster as we have watched it unfold.

When I watched Andrew Constance, NSW MP, express his heartbreak over the devastation in his electorate and the impact on his and his family’s mental health I could not help but suffer with him. Here was a man who had stared unflinchingly into the stark reality of what had happened as a result of these bushfires and felt the suffering of others on his shoulders. The reality is that what has happened is absolutely appalling and there is no quick fix, no platitude, no forced handshake that can make the hurt go away quickly. Neither should it, we need to remember this event for what it is and recognise that people will need a great deal of support over a long time to get over this, physically, mentally, socially and economically.

My mental health issues come from a slightly different place. They started in earnest three years ago when I realised that the Earth I knew and loved was slipping away and with it a decent future for people as well as all the other wonderful living things on this planet. I am a trained zoologist with an interest in ecology, I have studied geology at university and taught science, understand probability and risk assessment, so I have been able to read the reports and research that have been coming out for many years warning of human induced global warming, its impact on our climate and the terrible consequences of not acting effectively to slow down climate change. They are compelling.

I know what the world will be like if we exceed 2°C of global warming – for example just about all coral reefs will die and ecosystems will collapse; at 3°C we are likely to have severe impacts on people with massive numbers of climate refugees, many deaths and the breakdown of our economies and societies; at 4°C, which could happen by the end of this century, the Earth may no longer be able to sustain life as we know it.

Not only that, the impact of global warming is already more severe than anticipated and although we have not yet reached a global average of 1.5°C the impact on our ecosystems has been severe. The hottest year on record, the driest year on record, the hottest decade on record, have resulted in prolonged drought, water shortages, high temperatures, longer fire seasons and exacerbated the conditions for mega fires. We have the greatest amount of CO2 in the atmosphere than we have had for millions of years. Biodiversity is plummeting. And there is great concern that we are already seeing tipping points that will accelerate climate changes such as changes in ocean currents, loss of sea ice and the thawing of the tundra.

What does it do to your mental health to know that we are squandering one of the most precious things in the whole universe; our unique planet with its remarkable biosphere What do you do feel when you have read all the predictions made about over population, over consumption and climate change since the 1970s and still there is a lack of will to do what needs to be done to fix the problem? Imagine how it plunges you into a black despair when you realise the fires we have experienced, needn’t have been so catastrophic. It is mind-numbing and it certainly keeps me awake at night. I am not the only one. One of our foremost climate scientist Joëll Gergis, a lead author of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment report, and an expert adviser to the Climate Council, recently said we are seeing the worst of our scientific predictions come to pass in these bushfires and she can’t sleep at night worrying about it either.

I know that there are strategies to deal with my grief and anxiety. You can recognise that you are not alone, and many other people feel similarly and that lots of people are working hard to change things. You can recognise that you are powerless to do anything but change your own behaviour and having done your utmost you can feel good about that. You can put worrying thoughts to one side and enjoy life in the present. You can practice gratitude. Of course, there is refuge in meditation, exercise, social events and laughter. You can seek counselling and read self-help books or join a group. Most strategies involve accepting that that’s life and making the most of it.

But one thing I cannot do is to pretend, like climate change deniers, that this catastrophe is not happening, or to do what many people do and is to go about their lives not thinking too much about it and hoping that someone will come up with a solution before too long. I cannot bury my head in the sand and nor should anyone else regardless of the mental health costs. It is not for me that I am anxious, it is for future generations, I have had a great life and climate change will not bother me too much before I die. It is not me that I grieve for but for the loss of something irreplaceable, wonderous and precious – life on Earth. We are facing an existential crisis and it is not alright and we should all be terribly upset about it.

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Comedy without art (part 4)

By Dr George Venturini  

At its heart, Australia is a system of representative government. More specifically, Australian parliamentary democracy is a variation of the Westminster system, the system which is characterised by responsible government.

The question is: responsible to whom? Both Her Majesty’s Australian Government and Her Majesty Loyal Opposition in Australia are responsible to the Queen – not to the people of Australia.

Now, the legislation enacted by the Parliament, the relative regulations, and also the international agreements and/or conventions freely acceded to and ratified by Australia must be regarded as the body of laws which is called, briefly, ‘the rule of law’. There is quite frequent reference to that in the statement. See, for instance, pp. 4 and 9 thereof.

It seems that there should be a kind of reciprocity between the government and the people: the government respects the law that Parliament has enacted or received as much and as long as the subjects do the same. It could be a condition for the protection of the people by and from the government.

The government commands and enforces respect for the ‘rule of law’ and at the same time protects the people within ‘strong borders’ and guarantees ‘strong national security.’ It is the statement proclaiming that much on p. 11, where the statement adds: “This helps to ensure that Australia remains an open, inclusive, free and safe society.” [Emphasis added]

The Australian Government of the time largely contributed to the wording of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted in 1948), where Article 14 (1) reads: ‘Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.’ (Thank you Dr. Herbert Vere Evatt). Nowadays that means absolutely nothing in Canberra.

Successive Australian governments have acceded to, ratified and made the law of the land what is largely referred to as the International Bill of Human Rights, which is the name given to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 217 A (III) and two international treaties established by the Organisation. The Bill consists of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) with its two Optional Protocols and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966). The two covenants entered into force in 1976, after a sufficient number of countries had ratified them. Australia was one such country.

Australian governments have entered into other treaties and conventions. To the extent that those instruments relate to the condition of asylum seekers and refugees in Australia, every single one of those treaties has been violated by the Australian governments of the last twenty five years, including the present.

As Christos Tsiolkas wrote on 25 March 2017 in an extract from his foreword to They cannot take the sky – Stories of detention (Sydney 2017), apropos the “destructive national debate about asylum seekers”, “In all the screaming across the parliament floor or on social media, we forget that the asylum seeker and the refugee is a real person, with a real body and a real consciousness, that they are as human as we are.”

And he went on:

“For nearly two decades now, Australian politics has been corrupted by a toxic and destructive national debate about asylum seekers and refugees. Unfortunately, fought out as much across media – traditional and digital – as it has in our parliament, the issue of asylum has become inexorably entwined with our security and existential fears arising from the threats of international terrorism.

Our leaders, across the political spectrum, have failed in the democratic imperative to ensure a cogent and humane approach to the issue. In fanning the hysteria of partisanship they have betrayed our trust. That great leveller, history, will ultimately judge us on what kind of country we created for ourselves at the beginning of the 21st century. This isn’t the place for political analysis.”

“We know that the detention centres we have built on our continent, on Nauru and on Manus Island, are not places we would ever countenance imprisoning Australians. We know what we have done. We don’t need history to instruct us on that.”

As Primo Levi had been reduce to number 174517 at Auschwitz, so we have turned all ‘undesirables’ into numbers at Nauru and Manus Island.

Such is the respect for ‘the rule of law’ by Australian governments since 1992.

One concluding observation: the 20 March Turnbull Statement on Multiculturalism boasts of Australia as “the most successful in the world.” Well, it depends on whom you are reading and to whom you are talking.

If one is talking about multiculturalism as expressing cultural diversity and/or ethnic diversity, then one could hear different voices.

A recent work by the respectable Pew Research Center presented the study of cultural diversity and economic development by researcher Erkan Gören of the University of Oldenberg in Germany.

In his paper, Gören measured the amount of cultural diversity in each of more than 180 countries. To arrive at his estimates, he combined data on ethnicity and race with a measure based on the similarity of languages spoken by major ethnic or racial groups. “The hypothesis is that groups speaking the same or highly related languages should also have similar cultural values,” affirmed Gören. He used his language and ethnicity measures to compute a cultural diversity score for each country which ranged from 0 to 1, with larger scores indicating more diversity and smaller values representing less.

Not unusually, the list of culturally diverse countries is headed by Chad, with Cameroon, Nigeria, Togo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo following. (In Chad in north-central Africa 8.6 million residents belong to more than 100 ethnic groups). These and other African countries typically rank high on any diversity index because of their multitude of tribal groups and languages. According to Gören, the only ‘western’ country to break into the top 20 most diverse is, again, Canada.

Such data should be observed with considerable caution: cultural diversity is a different concept from ethnic diversity. As a result, a map of the world reflecting ethnic diversity looks somewhat different from the one based on Gören’s cultural diversity measure which combines language and ethnicity profiles of a country.

The Harvard Institute of Economic Research developed a map similar to the one offered by Gören’s findings.

Still, a comparison of the Harvard and Goren maps shows that the most diverse countries in the world are found in Africa. Such conclusion could have been a source of worry for Mr. Turnbull, permanently concerned as he was about his difficult relations with the troglodytes at his right and with most of the ‘Nationals’.

The cave-men, and probably some of their women, would feel more comfortable with the dreams of Menzies and his “British to the bootstraps”, or the menaces of Howard and his “we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.” than with looking, if they ever look at such things, for a real multicultural experience and finding it in … Chad. The comparison with Toronto comes back here: in Toronto there live 53 per cent ‘Whites’, 7 per cent Blacks, and 40 per cent ‘Others’. Every member of the Melbournian bene society would be entitled to worry. What? Some 250,000 Blacks going about in Melbourne? There is enough to hear about ‘being swamped’ by them!

And how would Mr. Turnbull have reacted if faced with a motion similar to the one passed by 201 votes to 91 on 24 March 2017 by the Canadian Parliament? On that day, the Parliament adopted a landmark anti-Islamophobia and religious discrimination motion which calls on politicians to condemn anti-Islamic behaviour and rhetoric. It called on the Canadian Government to recognise the need to “quell the public climate of fear and hate.”

It is worth reproducing that motion verbatim:

“Whereas: “Islam is a religion of over 1.5 billion people worldwide. Since its founding more than 1400 years ago, Muslims have contributed, and continue to contribute, to the positive development of human civilization. This encompasses all areas of human endeavors including the arts, culture, science, medicine, literature, and much more;

Recently an infinitesimally small number of extremist individuals have conducted terrorist activities while claiming to speak for the religion of Islam. Their actions have been used as a pretext for a notable rise of anti-Muslim sentiments in Canada; and

These violent individuals do not reflect in any way the values or the teachings of the religion of Islam. In fact, they misrepresent the religion. We categorically reject all their activities. They in no way represent the religion, the beliefs and the desire of Muslims to co-exist in peace with all peoples of the world.

We, the undersigned, Citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the House of Commons to join us in recognizing that extremist individuals do not represent the religion of Islam, and in condemning all forms of Islamophobia.”

How can one even imagine such a thing happening in Canberra?

Try.

Beyond the words which decorate the composition of a multiethnic society such as Australia, and coming to the real substance of life – and in Australia that is money – it remains a reality that in multicultural Australia as described, the levers of command in the corporate boardrooms are still overwhelmingly in the so-called ‘Anglo-Saxon’ hands.

“Anyone that sounds different, behaves different, or has somewhat different views  –  which is the point of diversity and the strength of diversity – it can be a little hard to get into the club.” the chairwoman of the Asian Australian Foundation, Cheri Ong, told the A.B.C.

A look at the statistics bears out Ms. Ong’s point.

In the past few decades Australia has become a very different country.

Only 58 per cent of Australians still have British roots; 18 per cent are European; 21 per cent non-European; and 3 per cent of Australians are Indigenous.

By contrast, in the big end of town, three quarters of C.E.O.s are from British heritage and 18 per cent from Europe, meaning a total of 93 per cent are white.

And in the boardroom, 70 per cent of directors come from a British background.

A detailed breakdown of the other 30 per cent is not available, but they include directors from other white, first-world, countries.”’

And there is more.

“But as tough as it is for people like Ms. Long [chairwoman of A.M.P. Capital Funds Management] and Ms. Ong to become directors, there’s one group that’s completely shut out, and that’s Indigenous Australians.

I think it probably stems from the generations of exclusion of Indigenous Australians from mainstream Australi,” said Ms. Laura Berry, who is the C.E.O. of Supply Nation, a company which links Indigenous businesses with the big end of town.

As an Indigenous person making her way in the business world, Ms. Berry has no doubt there are many Aboriginal people more than capable of being company directors.

Ms. Ong had one more interesting comment: “With company boards so un-reflective of Australian society, inevitably the issue of targets, or even quotas, gets raised in discussions about how to fix the problem.

Targets and quotas actually force boards to actually explore the option, and I think that’s where as a mechanism, in a tool-kit for change, that progresses the cause, if you like,” Ms. Ong said.

Targets and quotas have been shown to work in boosting the percentage of women on company boards, but as in the gender-diversity debate, there is one issue that’s also very important on dealing with cultural diversity.

“And that is it’s not what you know but who[m] you know that can determine your board prospects.

“If you didn’t go to that private school and you didn’t meet at university, or play in the rugby club together, then it’s really hard to have that network in place to be able to be considered in the first place,” Ms. Berry lamented. (A. Robertson, ‘In multicultural Australia, corporate boardrooms are still overwhelmingly white Anglo-Saxon,’ abc.net.au, 2 October 2018).

Despite the claim to multiculturalism prejudice remain. It is not possible to dismiss that as recently in October 2018 a question was seriously being asked such as: “How much prejudice is there against Australians of Greek and Italian descent in Australia?

Interestingly one of the respondents noted: “Growing up as Greek Australian I did face some prejudice and discrimination, especially during my early school years where I had an ethnic name and could’t speak English properly. I did change my name to an Anglo name when I moved to a different school, but I still got some racial hate. The high school I went to, there was a clear distinction between the ‘skips/Aussies’ (Australians of Anglo and Celtic descent) and the ‘wogs’ (Australians of southern Europe, Balkan and Middle Eastern descent). There were constant racial fuelled fights during lunch breaks and even after school hours w[h]ere the groups would meet at certain locations and fight. I did repeatedly get told to ‘go back to my country you wog’, have been spat on, was called s ‘greasy hair wog’ and stuff like that. Even some teachers had obvious biases too. But I never paid much attention to it.

We have integrated into society quite well and, in fact, some Greeks and Italians now don’t acknowledge their own heritage. [Emphasis added]

There are still isolated incidences [sic] that do come up every now and then. But for the most part, it is limited to really backward thinking Bogans (Australia’s equivalent to a redneck). Most of us live our lives in peace and the prejudice and discrimination we once faced is a thing of the past.”

Xian Zhao, a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Management at University of Toronto at Mississauga, in a study appearing in Social psychological and personality science has observed that “We do not suggest immigrants to Anglicise their ethnic names in order to avoid discrimination” and “This certainly puts the onus on immigrants to promote equity and our previous studies also suggest that Anglicising names may have  negative implications for one’s self-concept.” (‘Biases Against Immigrants With Non-Anglicized Names’, eurasiareview.com, 27 December 2018).

There being no question as to existence of prejudice against minorities in Australia, one may well ask: is Australia racist? The question has disturbed and is returning from time to time amongst persons seriously concerned.

One of the biggest ever survey conducted on racism and prejudice in Australia was commissioned early in 2018 by Special Broadcasting Service with the Western Sydney University.

Professor Kevin Dunn, from Western Sydney University, led the survey of just over 6,000 respondents and examined issues including attitudes to cultural differences, tolerance of specific groups and racial hierarchy.

The conclusion was that one in five Australians had experienced racism in the previous twelve months.

More specifically:

  1. 31.6 per cent of respondents claimed to have ‘negative’ feelings towards Muslim Australians, 22.4 per cent claimed to have ‘negative’ feelings towards Middle-­‐Eastern Australians while only 9 per cent had negative feelings towards Aboriginal Australians.
  2. 36.4 per cent believe the number of immigrants accepted into Australia is too high or much too high.
  3. 41.1 per cent believe Australia is weakened by people of different ethnicities sticking to their old ways.
  4. 20.5 per cent believe that African refugees increase crime in Australia. Men and older participants were more likely to believe that African refugees increase crime.
  5. 32 per cent of respondents reported having experienced racism within their workplace. 32 per cent of respondents reported having experience racism within an educational facility.
  6. Those who belong to a Language Other Than English, LOTE background reported the highest rates of workplace racism (54.1 per cent) and racism within various educational institutions (55.8 per cent).
  7. The experience of racism on public transport or in the street was the highest at 34.1 per cent, followed by at a shop or shopping centre at 32.2 per cent. Online experiences of racism were also quite high at 28.2 per cent.
  8. Those of LOTE background experienced the highest rates of discrimination in shops/shopping centres (56.9 per cent), on public transport or in the street (58.2 per cent), and online (49.1 per cent).
  9. 48.6 per cent believe people from racial, ethnic, cultural and religious minorities groups should behave more like mainstream Australians.
  10. 54.4 per cent of respondents agreed that Australia should help refugees fleeing persecution in their homeland.43 per cent believe that all boats carrying asylum seekers should be turned back. (M. Acharya, ‘Is Australia racist? Here are 10 stunning stats?’, sbs.com.au, 8 April 2018).

When Dr. Tim Southphommasane, Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner, gave his final speech ahead of stepping down on 20 August 2018, his message struck a sombre tone. Racial disharmony is on the rise, he lamented.

Dr. Soutphommasane warned that Australia’s success as a multicultural society is under threat. This threat is not from extreme factional groups or mask-wearing fascists, it is from the mainstream of Australian public life. So wrote Professor Carl Rhodes, of the University of Technology, Sydney

The real danger, Dr. Southphommasane argued, comes from “dog-whistling politicians” and “race-baiting commentators” eager to harness populist attention through the careless “mixing of race and politics”. Just about a week later, Senator Fraser Anning proved how devastatingly true that was when he called for a “final solution” to “ethnocultural diversity” in Australia in his first speech to Parliament.

“There is much more to the resurgence of cultural and gender politics in Australia than that.” wrote Professor Rhodes.” More than the playing out democratic differences, this is the acting out of white male privilege in a democracy fast turning to tyranny.

It is an absolute affront to democracy, at least insofar as democracy is understood in terms of a way of life that values equality over elite privilege.

“Nowhere is the reality of [white male] privilege more blatantly obvious than in the workplace – a location where the intersection of whiteness and masculinity dominate top leadership,” wrote Professor Rhodes. And he confirmed that “Recent research reveals that 95 per cent of corporate executives have Anglo-Celtic or European heritage. Despite comprising almost half the workforce, only 5 per cent of C.E.O.s are women. A third of those companies have no women at all in executive roles.”

For the past two decades, the gender pay gap has favoured men by between 15 and 19 per cent. Of women, 28 per cent report having been sexually harassed at work.

Clearly, the comfort and spoils of the Australian workplace are disproportionally skewed towards white men on a vast scale. Only staunch advocates of patriarchal white supremacy would have the audacity to suggest Australia is an equal society when it comes to gender and cultural difference at work.

The brute facts of white male dominance in the workplace – and politics – demonstrate that the promise of equality that is built into the very idea of democracy is not being kept. (C. Rhodes, ‘Anning and Latham fight for a white male privilege ‘final solution’, independentaustralia.net, 17 August 2018).

As Dr. Soutphommasane intimated, “If there is now political unity against racism let’s start seeing that unity and leadership every day. No more racial hysteria about “African gangs”. No more false alarms about multicultural “separatism”. No more assaults on racial equality and the Racial Discrimination Act.”

Continued Wednesday – Comedy without art (part 5)

Previous instalment – Comedy without art (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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The economy is not our master

By RosemaryJ36  

I have a very dear family member, who subscribes to The Australian, and with whom relations have been heavily stressed in ‘debating’ what I see as a cut and dried issue – climate change.

This is part of an email I have just sent:

“Throughout the ages, scientists have been doubted, sometimes sanctioned to the point of being burned at the stake – this being usually because of the church’s insisting that the Bible is truth and the word of god – but time has proved the scientists were right.

Research into the effects of fossil fuel emissions on the atmosphere and the climate has been going on for well over a century and it is documented fact that the corporations with a vested interest in mining, drilling, fracking etc are fully aware of that research and its outcomes – and have deliberately put money into supporting bogus reports that indicate that climate change is not related to those fuels.

Scientists in other discipline areas have supported the oil companies in this (has that been for financial gain or other support?) and this has added credence to the lies.

The major point is time.

Because the Industrial Revolution started the Greenhouse Gas phenomenon, as industry has expanded, so the effect on climate has increased, at a now verging-on exponential rate, in terms of raising temperatures. This in turn has resulted in changing weather patterns and encouraging increasingly severe adverse weather events.

To stop – or even (hopefully) reverse – this process, becomes a matter of reducing reliance on fossil fuels, replacing them with viable alternatives, adjusting our behaviour to fit with these changes and generally abandoning life as we have known it and entering into a changed way of regarding life – noting not only that greed is not good but we are the custodians of earth, not its owners.

There are additional issues, with increasing consumption of meat and accompanying increases in emissions of methane, another, more intense but with a shorter life, greenhouse gas, and, of course massive levels of pollution across the world causing severe damage to marine life as well as land-based flora and fauna. Recycling is not even in its infancy as yet!

These issues have to be addressed worldwide, virtually simultaneously and urgently.

And that is verging on the impossible.

Yet we cannot afford to give up, because life will not be viable for children born 20 years from now if we fail to act. Look at how many children, alive today, will suffer health problems in later years because of the current daily inhalation of the bush-fire smoke!

China is actually doing far more than most people realise, as are many USA states, and other countries, like India, are likely to make more effort if they see other, more developed, countries making major changes.

Leading by example is critically important and we have the means and the ability – but not yet the political will – to do this.

I fear my frustration with people’s unwillingness to not only accept that this is truth, not fevered imagination, boils over into impatience with having to argue the same points over and over.

I am not a fanatic with some impossible story to sell.

I am one of a (fortunately) growing group who are trying to find how best to force our current decision-makers into realising that the need to make decisions and commence effective planning and action NOW is beyond essential – and failure to do so is criminal.

We need every intelligent and informed person out there forcing the government to act – and, if it will not, forcing a change of government.

Sitting idly by and accepting the status quo is no longer an option!

The recent bush fires have seriously damaged our economy but earlier action and preparation could have reduced the severity of the nature and impact triggered by the existing drought.

I fully appreciate that hindsight is a marvellous teacher but complaining about past failures has to be abandoned in favour of rapid and effective planning for future success.

The economy is not our master. It should be our servant, but, under Coalition governments, that is unacceptable!

So, given the above, I do not see a debate on the reality of climate change as possible.

I see it as a question of accepting the facts and acting on them.

The only discussion then becomes one of action priorities.

Because the Murdoch empire is widely recognised as being at the forefront of climate change deniers, (despite Rupert Murdoch’s statements to the contrary!) and being well aware of the Goebbels techniques of brainwashing intelligent people into accepting and promulgating lies and falsehoods. I have been concerned about its influence on you on an issue which is not a ‘debate’ but one of acceptance or denial of fact.

I am not likely to change my views and can only hope you are not swayed by deliberate misinformation.”

Having written that, I proceeded to read an article in the SMH:

”What is ‘real’ action on climate change?”

And, clearly, an important further question “what would it cost?”

How long is a piece of string?

How long will full recovery from the bush fires disaster take?

Can we guarantee that recovery will not be hindered by more disasters?

Can we afford to keep asking questions to which there are no clear answers when the absolute priority is action?

The economy is not our master and if people are suffering and in need of help, that help has to be provided.

And that is true at all times.

Australia is a wealthy country yet we have homeless people living on the streets.

We have disabled people waiting endlessly for adequate help.

We have a shortage of housing for low income people while we pay out money to property owners using negative gearing.

We have women who have been unable to contribute effectively to personal superannuation, who are now living below the poverty line, while wealthy retirees pay accountants to reduce their taxable income to zero so that they can receive a cheque for franking credits.

We have inherited too many of the American attitudes that admire those who can make good and sneer at those who fail to do so, ignoring the fact that a true community spirit ensures that those who can and have, help those who cannot and have not.

We, superior white people, invaded the land of people who saw themselves as custodians of their country. We have raped and pillaged that land and deprived those people and now we are rapidly destroying that land.

I am a dual British/Australian citizen, and I am not proud of either the country of my birth nor the country of my current residence.

Both have embraced greed and selfishness while simultaneously claiming Judaeo-Christian values! What utter hypocrites!

I have joined – but not yet had an opportunity to join action with – Extinction Rebellion.

Non-violent civil action appears to be the only way we can unite those seeing policy change as essential in order to force the government to act – or go!

There is only one priority.

A flexible action plan to deal with emissions, phase out the use and production of fossil fuels, reduce pollution and increase effective recycling, use the defence forces to assist recovery activities, change tax laws to ensure our billionaires and multi-millionaires contribute effectively to the country which has helped them accumulate their wealth and, above all, establish a National, non-partisan governing body which will oversight the change and draw on all expert resources.

And how will we achieve this?

If you really want it to happen – that is where people power comes in!

The economy is not our master. It is our servant and politicians who fail in the integrity and transparency stakes should be booted out!

Once more – this is my Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

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SmoKo’s Brisbane Line

By Grumpy Geezer  

The Brisbane Line was a controversial accusation from Labor’s Eddie Ward that the ruling United Australia Party under “Honest Joe” Lyons and “Pig Iron” Bob Menzies was prepared to surrender the northern part of Australia to the Japanese in WW2. Such accusation was never proven but it is incontrovertible that SmoKo Morrison is prepared to surrender Australia’s well-being to the interests of the voracious mining moguls. SmoKo’s Brisbane Line marks the point of no-return for our environment.

Menzies’ denialism was his insistence in 1938 on the sale of pig iron to the Japanese, despite all of the warnings. Scotty From Marketing‘s denialism has now predictably morphed into denial denialism and fatalist propaganda while mother nature is turning our vandalism back on us just as the Japanese would’ve turned our pig iron back on us as munitions. The spin merchant is in whirling dervish mode but he will heedlessly persist with surrendering our country to the eco-vandals and disaster capitalists while we “quiet Australians” “adapt and become more resilient”. It’s his version of turning Japanese (1).

The Brisbane Line analogy is somewhat ironic given it was voters from Queensland who got Scotty From Marketing across the line, it is Queensland that has already surrendered to the coal warlords and it is Queensland that produces an inordinate number of Tory hard core Luddites, weirdos and mining grifters.

The Tories are not just surrender monkeys they are active collaborators.

Clive Palmer, Queensland’s white-shod version of a yellowed Trump is a dishevelled bag of laundromat lost property. Clive is calling in the Lib’s $60M IOU as he targets the Galilee Basin for tax-payer funded rail links to his planned, subsidised coal mines and the consequent water theft that goes with it while the state is drying out and burning.

Georgie Porgy Christensen, that ten pin-shaped nudie bar consultant and ping-pong ball fieldsman saw his vote at the election actually increase. Apparently his climate denialism is more important to the finger painters in his Queensland electorate than was his regular cashing in of his frequent perver points in the shady Philippine neighbourhoods of cut-price  bordellos, strip clubs and back alley knee trembles.

Poider from Security also had his vote increase at the last election. Parochial Queenslanders love nothing more than the prospect of Spud’s dark-uniformed goons tasering southern greenies. A heavily surveilled police state?  Tojo didn’t quite make it as far as our pointy-ended state so its citizens now vote for Poider as an acceptable alternative. Poider was last seen publicly when at a Gold Coast Indonesian restaurant ordering take-away nazi goering.

Matt Canavan, climate criminal number 1 who in true Tory fashion is boostering the business interests of  a family member via coal mining (2). This squinting, shifty-eyed Tony Abbott mini-me and his dodgy mate Black Angus Taylor can smell tax payer money through a concrete wall. These two despicable arseholes would happily club baby seals if they could hide the profits in the Cayman Islands.

Then of course there’s Pauline Hanson. A Ronald McDonald look-alike but with more credible clown credentials she continues to trigger coulrophobia across the land and drive down the national IQ average. The closest Pauline has come to nature conservation is deep-freezing her John Dory fillets and carving Peter Dutton images into the spuds as customer keepsakes. Pauline wants “this nonsense thrown out the window”. So do I, Pauline, so do I.

Queensland refugee, Barking Barmy Joyce, with his purple majesty tucked back into his dungarees for the moment, is never one to let an opportunity for graft or publicity go unanswered. Mouth aflap, revealing dentistry made from a discarded witchdoctor’s necklace, Barking has been throwing his deity under the environmental bus, accusing his maker of being behind the drought. If you want a do-nothing approach to planetary survival Barking is your man.

Susssan Ley, consonant abuser and Minister for the Environment (who says Tories don’t have a dark sense of humour?) has taken time out from incinerating koalas and destroying their habitats to visit a home for flambéd wildlife as an opportunistic self-promotion. Upon discovering that real koalas were much larger than the souvenir versions on her aroma therapy bracelet she took fright and passed the time poking wombats with a stick.

* * * * *

In the past I have accused the Tories of being lazy as well as incompetent. I will revise that. Their work ethic has resulted not only in the extinction of species but also their ongoing work towards the extinction of affordable health care, progressive taxation, public ownership of resources, adequate funding of public schools, open courts, the right to dissent, an independent public service, transparent government, support for science and the arts, world class comms, TAFE, manufacturing, the right to organise, affordable housing, liveable wages and freedom from religious bigotry.

Winston Churchill said, ‘Truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it, but, in the end, there it is.” The truth of climate change has caught the Tories out with their climate lies, their denialism, their distortions and their corruption. They’re now busily re-writing history, yet they will not change their underlying objectives – unconditional surrender to the coal magnates’ empire of a reddening sun. Australia’s future under the Tories is a treeless, sun-blasted quarry populated by compliant serfs and the charred corpses of whatever’s left of our wildlife.

Notes:

(1) You Boomers may recall the suggestive lyrics of The Vapors 1980 hit Turning Japanese. The underlying inference is more than appropriate for the wankers we have in this farce we call a government.

(2) Canavan’s brother John Canavan is Managing Director of Winfield Energy, a private coal company with a significant interest in Australia’s second largest coal mine (Rolleston) and financier of a export coal terminal (WICET). He’s also a former executive of Peabody Energy.

This article was originally published on The Grumpy Geezer.

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Sniffing Change in the Financial Rafters in a New Age of Aquarius?

By Denis Bright  

 

Arrival of Chinese New Year and Spring Festival in this Year of the Metal Rat brings new possibilities in the transition from this very challenging Year of the Earth Pig on 25 January 2019.

The progressive prescription for the Metal Rat must demand outstanding critical financial planning skills.

New policy directions are needed to assist Australian policymakers with a smooth transition from the excesses of market ideology and the vacuous planning goals which have taken our nation to the brink in bush-fire disasters and ignorance about the consequences of global warming.

Corporate dreams can of course continue as shown by this advertisement to promote Independent Living Units (ILUs) for seniors at Rothwell near Bayside Brisbane for less than $400,000 (Images from villages.com.au):

 

The challenge for Australian Progressives is to extend this commitment to a happy private life with a love for community development and social justice. The potential progressive support base in localities like Rothwell in the Petrie federal electorate has strayed from commitment to Labor’s Light on the Hill despite the electrified rail services to Rothwell and Redcliffe which were funded by the Gillard Government.

For seniors making lifestyle choices in the Bayside suburbs of Brisbane’s Petrie Federal Electorate, Scomo’s scare strategies worked well for the LNP at the 2019 elections with additional support from preferences allocated by One Nation with those few extra votes from the UAP and Fraser Anning’s Conservative Party. After preferences, the LNP vote increased by 4.65 per cent at the Rothwell booth to 60.73 per cent.

One sign of this social empathy came in a press release from the Queensland Government on 12 December 2019 to announce the formation of a Queensland Future Fund:

The Palaszczuk Government is committed to delivering more jobs in more industries, in addition to building the infrastructure and providing the services Queenslanders need today and in the future.

To support our current economic plan and, importantly, guarantee Queensland’s future economic success, the government will establish the Queensland Future Fund with initial funding of $5 billion… The Queensland Future Fund will be managed by our internationally renowned investment arm, Queensland Investment Corporation (QIC), who have been returning significant earnings back to the Queensland taxpayer for decades through the sound investment management of our fully funded Defined Benefits scheme….The Fund, similar to the NSW Generations Fund, will be established under an Act of the Queensland Parliament, and will require that funds can only be used to pay down debt.

With the QIC in charge of the financial rafters of the proposed Queensland Future Fund, this state’s new ventures into investment fund management will have a better start than the NSW Generations Fund.

As expected after the NSW sale of electricity distribution systems, the state LNP in NSW has not run out of assets to sell to top up its existing Generations Fund with its macro-commitment to debt reduction in the old Thatcherite traditions.

The NSW Softwood forests are the next public assets on the privatisation block (Anne Davies in The Guardian 27 December 2019). This article is best perused in its entirety as it exposes the desperation of the NSW Government to continue its privatisation agenda well beyond the proposed sale of the softwood plantations.

Unlike the canny Metal Rat in Year 2020 in the Chinese Zodiac, the NSW Generations Fund is of that gnawing variety which will eventually run out of assets to chew away in the rafters. Queensland might do better with the QIC professionally managing its proposed Future Fund.

In a middle-sized Australian economy, the proverbial digital rats in our financial rafters can and should be programmed to seek new sources of capital and technology to maintain and diversify the state public sector. Opportunities exist with a newer generation of public sector initiatives through Private Public Partnerships (PPPs) using capital invested by hedge funds particularly from overseas based corporations.

The state LNP in Queensland under Premier Campbell Newman regrettably embarked on a privatisation which the NSW Government is following today. Naturally, the operators at Transurban are all smiles about Premier Newman’s initiatives (Images from Transurban International):

All this political energy could have been used more productively to overcome a capital shortage problem in urban motorways. Premier Newman was so obsessed with the merits of privatised motorways that he overlooked signing up on the $6 billion cross-river rail project which was offered to Queensland by Prime Minister Rudd in the last days of the Labor Government. The funding provided by the incoming federal LNP Government after 2013 was zero.

Overseas corporate investors would welcome opportunities to invest in PPPs without the need for fixed rate investment returns as invited in the traditional government loans and bonds of old which attracted capital with interest rate returns well above bank rates.

Today’s canny digital financial rats would sniff opportunities from investment bonds offered by agencies like the NSW Generations Fund without the need for extended terms of investment or guaranteed returns. The stability of the Australian dollar would be enough reward for investors from corporate customers in countries where currencies are unstable. All future withdrawals would ultimately be at Australian currency rates.

Such changes would require amendments to the governance sections of the NSW Generations Funds Act 2018:

The Queensland Government is to be commended for its rejection of Premier Campbell Newman’s discredited privatisation agendas and as a late starter in the formation of a Future Fund, Queensland can easily improve on the NSW model. Having the QIC in control of assets held by the Future Fund is indeed a good start.

In the meantime, Queensland leaders should be guarded about the value of the NSW Generations Fund model in the context of a broader assessment of investment future funds in Scandinavia, Canada and Singapore and the roaring success of the QIC whose finances and investment achievements are available  for perusal by all (https://www.qic.com.au/ ).

Citizens’ journalist Denis Bright checking out the good, the bad and the ugly in corporate society and back-pedalling against unfair wages and working conditions under the false flags of free enterprise and trickle-down wealth agendas. 

 

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UniSA expert calls for ‘fire-line’ to future-proof against bushfire disaster

Media Release

As fires continue to burn across Australia, damage estimates are now in the billions. More than 8.4 million hectares have been burnt, almost 2000 homes have been destroyed, and 26 people have lost their lives.

Such immense devastation means policymakers are under pressure to identify strategies that will future-proof communities before they start rebuilding beyond the 2020 bushfires.

UniSA sustainability expert, Dr Sukhbir Sandhu says Australia should consider the establishment of a ‘fire-line’ – a bushfire demarcation line – to identify high-risk areas not recommended for human habitation.

In the same vein as Goyder’s Line of rainfall (created in South Australia 1865 to map areas liable to drought and therefore unsuitable for planting crops), Dr Sandhu says a fire-line would help people clearly recognise areas that are suitable, or not suitable, for living.

“The frequency and intensity of bushfires in Australia have changed dramatically over the past decade – our fire season is longer, the fires are more brutal, and the fallout is extensive,” Dr Sandhu says. “Accordingly, Australia’s responses to the fires must change too.

“As people look to rebuild their homes, schools and communities, we need to be asking the question – is it really safe to do so in these areas?

“The current bushfires have destroyed the livelihoods of far too many people to be remedied by standard recovery and rebuilding strategies. And, as fires continue to burn into residential areas, governments must consider something more ground-breaking in recovery.

“It’s time for policymakers to take a strong stand where it is safe for communities to rebuild, and a fire demarcation line could help achieve this.”

Dr Sandhu says that policymakers have the basic tools to start such an initiative which, in conjunction with CFS aerial footage, satellite imagery, and well-developed insurance company models (that not only identify areas susceptible to bushfires, but coastal flooding as a result of rising sea levels) would provide clear information for a new fire-line.

She says that areas adjacent to fire-lines should also be built to compulsory bushfire-resilient construction guidelines.

“We have the technology to create homes with bushfire resistant materials, and to enable houses with certain structural properties to serve as fire bunkers. But to date, there are no clear policies that support or promote these technologies for use in vulnerable areas,” Dr Sandhu says.

“This is not about quick fixes; we need long-term, sustainable strategies to address the undeniable effects of climate change.”

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Comedy without art (part 3)

By Dr George Venturini  

Australia has no official language, but its version of English has always been entrenched as the de facto national language. Australian English is a major variety of the language with a distinctive accent and lexicon, and differs slightly from other varieties of English in grammar and spelling. General Australian serves as the standard dialect.

Incidentally, having destroyed some two million Indigenous People since 1788, Australians have been destroying 600 out of 750 distinct native groups and with them associated languages and dialects. Of the remaining 150 all but 20 are endangered. This qualitatively represents the worst genocide in human history. (‘Australian Aboriginal Genocide’ – Google, as at 2015; G. Polya, ‘Ongoing Aboriginal genocide and Aboriginal ethnocide by politically correct racist apartheid Australia’, Countercurrents, 16 February 2014).

According to the 2016 census, English is the only language spoken in the home for close to 72.7 per cent of the non-Indigenous population. There was a considerable drop if compared to 76.8 per cent in 2011. Otherwise, the next most common languages spoken at home are: Mandarin – by 2.5 per cent, Arabic – by 1.4 per cent, Cantonese – by 1.2 per cent, Vietnamese by 1.2 per cent, and Italian – by 1.2 per cent. English is still the main language for three quarters of Australians, but there are 301 other different languages spoken in homes across the country. A considerable proportion of first- and second-generation migrants is bilingual.

At the time of the 2006 census, 52,000 Indigenous People, representing 12 per cent of the Indigenous population, reported that they spoke an Indigenous language at home.

When one comes to literacy and numeracy, it is difficult to speak about a truly open, informed, participatory society, in the presence of figures provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics which show that 44 per cent of Australian adults do not have the literacy, numeracy and dexterity for problem solving in technology-rich environment, and even less skills they need to cope with the demand of everyday life and work.

At Census 2011, approximately 7.3 million (44 per cent) non-Indigenous persons in Australia aged 15 to 74 years had literacy skills at Levels 1 or 2, a further 6.4 million (39 per cent) at Level 3,  and 2.7 million (17 per cent) at Level 4/5. For the numeracy scale, approximately 8.9 million (55 per cent) Australians were assessed at Level 1 or 2, 5.3 million (32 per cent) at Level 3 and 2.1 million (13 per cent) at Level 4/5. The statistics are much worse for Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders. Census data show just how badly Australia fares at ‘closing inequality gaps’. (‘Census data shows just how bad we’ve been at closing inequality gaps, N. Biddle and F. Markham, 25 October 2017, theconversation.com).

Multiculturalism, as presented in Australia, can only be viewed as a farce – a display of flags, foods and folklore – and all under the grand umbrella of ‘fair go’. To be precise, it is a comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterisation and ludicrously improbable situations.

It is something near a vaudeville, a travesty, a buffoonery, or a pasquinade, from the name Pasquino, used by the Romans of fifteenth century to describe a mutilated Hellenistic statue dating back to the third century b.c.e. which was traditionally used as the place to which attach anonymous criticisms of public persons.

It befits present day Australia.

On 20 March 2017 then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull released the Australian Government’s new multicultural statement Multicultural Australia: United, Strong, Successful. The statement ‘reaffirms the Government’s commitment to a culturally diverse and harmonious society’.

Australia’s previous multicultural policy, The People of Australia – Australia’s Multicultural Policy, was launched in 2011 by the Gillard Government. It reaffirmed the importance of Australians’ shared values and cultural traditions and recognised that Australia’s multicultural character gives the country a comprehensive edge in an increased globalised world.

The new statement outlines the strategic direction and priorities for multicultural policy in Australia. It sets out the Australian Government’s vision for embracing diversity while emphasising the country’s “unique national identity and the importance of being an integrated and united people.”

The statement acknowledges that “the mix of different cultures makes Australia more interesting and stronger.” Sharing a country’s cultural heritage “is part of celebrating what it means to be Australian, and helps everyone feel included.” The statement upholds the centrality of Australia’s “democratic institutions and the rule of law, it highlights the importance of citizenship in [the country’s] national identity, and it makes clear the responsibility … all have to respect [their] fellow Australians.”

This is in a nutshell the presentation by the Australian Government.

The statement opens with a foreword by the Prime Minister:

“Australia is the most successful multicultural society in the world.

We are as old as our First Australians, the oldest continuing human culture on earth, who have cared for this country for more than 50,000 years.

And we are as young as the baby in the arms of her migrant mother who could have come from any nation, any faith, any race in the world.

Australia is an immigration nation. Almost half of our current population was either born overseas or has at least one parent born overseas.

And we come from every culture, every race, every faith, every nation.

We are defined not by race, religion or culture, but by shared values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and equality of opportunity – a “fair go”.

The glue that holds us together is mutual respect – a deep recognition that each of us is entitled to the same respect, the same dignity, the same opportunities.

And national security – a resolute determination to defend our nation, our people and our values – is the foundation on which our freedoms have been built and maintained.

At a time of growing global tensions and rising uncertainty, Australia remains a steadfast example of a harmonious, egalitarian and enterprising nation, embracing its diversity.

Multicultural Australia: United, Strong, Successful renews and reaffirms the Government’s commitment to a multicultural Australia, in which racism and discrimination have no place.”

Some comments seem appropriate.

That very first sentence is incorrect. Once the definition of multiculturalism is reached, and by whatever conventional measure, Australia is not “the most successful multicultural society in the world.”

Canada is.

Canada understands by multiculturalism the sense of an equal celebration of racial, religious and cultural backgrounds.

The multiculturalism policy was officially adopted by Pierre Trudeau’s government during the 1970s and further developed in the 1980s. The Canadian federal government has been described as the instigator of multiculturalism as an ideology because of its public emphasis on the social importance of immigration. The 1960s Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism is often referred to as the origin of modern political awareness of multiculturalism.

Canadians have used the term “multiculturalism” both descriptively (as a sociological fact) and prescriptively (as a political ideology). In the first sense “multiculturalism” is a description of the many different religious traditions and cultural influences which in their unity and coexistence in Canada make up Canadian culture. The nation consists of people from a multitude of racial, religious and cultural backgrounds and is open to cultural pluralism. By the early twenty-first century, people from outside British and French heritage composed the majority of the population, with an increasing percentage of individuals who identify themselves as “visible minorities”.

Multiculturalism is reflected in the law through the Canadian Multiculturalism Act of 1988 and section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and is administered by the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Incidentally, no similar Act or Charter appears on Australian statute books. By the shysterish lucubrations of some prime ministers and their ‘first law officers’ Australia remains the sole Anglospheric country immune from such contagion.

Putting it at the very favourable to the Prime Ministerial statement, Australia was estimated in a serious study of 2010, admittedly seven years ago, to be the ‘second most multicultural country.’ (A.B.C., AM – ‘Australia nearly most multicultural nation in world,’ by Dr. R. Miranti, Canberra University, abc.net.au. 17 November 2010).

The second sentence of the Prime Ministerial foreword: “We are as old as our First Australians, the oldest continuing human culture on earth, who have cared for this country for more than 50,000 years.” glosses over the past and present condition of the First Australians, certainly a gratuitous identification of the peoples the British invaders of 1778 very early, abused and continued to do so until that questionable activity was taken up by derivative Australians. This is not the place to retrace the history of that abuse, superbly documented by Professor Henry Reynolds, the eminent Australian historian whose primary work has focused on the frontier conflict between the invaders and the subsequent Australians, on one side, and the Indigenous Australians, on the other.

That second Prime Ministerial sentence is no more than a rhetorical and self-glorifying camouflage of the continuous indifference to the condition of the Indigenous Peoples.

Most of the substantial recommendations contained in the ‘Indigenous Deaths in Custody, 1989 to 1996’, a Report prepared by the Office of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, and published in 1997, remain un-implemented to date. Four words sum up the most recent tragedy: the Don Dale children.

The multicultural statement abounds with words such as ‘establishment of British institutions’, ‘democratic institutions’, ‘rule of law’, ‘citizenship’, and’ national identity’ (statement, p. 4). Those words/concepts reappear with some variations further on: ‘nations’, ‘British and Irish settlement’, ‘establishment of our parliamentary democracy’, ‘shared values, rights and responsibilities’ (statement, p. 7), ‘rule of law and allegiance to Australia’, ‘parliamentary democracy’, ‘liberal-democratic tradition’, ‘fundamental rights of very individual’, ‘democratic process’(statement, p. 9).

It is extraordinarily presumptuous, nay arrogant of Australian governments and their prime or ordinary ministers to assume that all migrants do not know the difference between ‘parliamentary democracy’ Canberra style and ‘representative democracy’.

The latter means very simply one head, one vote and one weight, regardless of the personal qualifications of the elector, whether s/he is barely able to write her/his name and read her/his ballot or s/he is an astrophysics scientist. And it is the duty of the governments to provide the elevation of those less fortunate, and to set up conditions whereby who counts is not the occasional Ph.D. (P in Head Dressing – or similar profanity as conferred by the ‘new schools’ which “spark innovation, creativity and vitality”) – as the statement proclaims at p.13. The last words seem to have come from the pen of Mr. Turnbull. Waffle one would say, while others could have a choice of: rattle, chatter, babble, ramble, jabber, gibber.

So here is a suggestion: why not send the competent ministers to find out how such countries as Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland manage their elections? Better still, ample information could be obtained from the relative embassies in Canberra. None of those countries enjoys the high privilege of British birth, but they seem to be getting along fairly well, and no one would question their democratic practice. They are eight of the some forty countries governed with proportional representation.

Their citizens would be horrified at the result of the most recent Australian elections, where the anti-Labor Coalition of Liberal, Liberal National and Nationals received 5,661,209 votes, Labor gained 4,702,314 and the Greens: 1,153,736.

After the chien-en-lit which is compulsory preference distribution, the Coalition obtained 76 seats, Labor 69, while the Greens could occupy only one seat – having obtained roughly one/fifth of the Coalition and one/fourth of Labor votes. Four other seats made up to the 150 Representatives. That could be ‘parliamentary democracy Southern-Westminster-Style’; representative democracy it is not.

Disregarding for some un-reason both the experience of Dublin and Reykjavík, why not look at Helsinki? There they had the most recent election of 2015. Here are the results of representative democracy – not Westminster blessing, but one head, one vote and one weight, distributed by party, percentage of votes and number of seats.

Centre Party, 21.10 per cent, 49 seats; Finns Party 17.65 per cent, 38 seats; National Coalition Party, 18.20 per cent, 37 seats; Social Democratic Party, 16.51 per cent, 34 seats; Green League, 8.53 per cent, 15 seats; Left Alliance, 7.13 per cent, 12 seats; Swedish People’s Party of Finland, 4.88 per cent, 9 seats; Christian Democrats, 3.54 per cent, 5 seats; and Åland Coalition, 0.37 per cent, 1 seat. (from a letter by Outsider, Multicultural Australia: Malcolm Turnbull’s camouflage, theaimn.com, 30 March 2017).

One final comment about ‘loose language’: on ‘naturalisation’ a new Australian becomes a ‘subject’. ‘Citizens’ belong to a republic – and vice versa. Particularly in Trumpian times one should not look to the United States of America for identification and comparisons. But one could try: Iceland (established, @ 800 b.c.e., a republic since 1944), Finland (a republic since 1917), the Czech Republic (a republic since 1993), why – even Ireland (established between 1919 and 1949).

There is more:

“Citizenship is a privilege and, as part of the Australian Citizenship Ceremony, new citizens pledge and affirm ‘loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey.’ ”

‘Shared values’ reappear thrice, along with ‘democratic institutions’ and a ‘shared vision for the future’ on p.11.

In the statement, “the Government continues promoting the principle of mutual respect and denouncing racial hatred and discrimination as incompatible with Australian society.” (For good measure, the point is made again at p. 15 of the statement).

Further:

“The Government places the highest priority on the safety and security of all Australians. Recent terrorist attacks around the world have justifiably caused concern in the Australian community.

The Government respond to these threats by continuing to invest in counter-terrorism, strong borders and strong national security. This helps to ensure that Australia remains an open, inclusive, free and safe society.” (p. 11). [Emphasis added]

Assumptions made in the previous Prime Ministerial paragraph, and repeated by the ministers, should be carefully examined – and challenged.

There is no question that, according to English law, the first soldier to land on Australia in 1788 was carrying ‘British law’ and ‘establishing British institutions’ in his rucksack.

The two ministers might be forgiven for a wobbly knowledge of the law, in which they both graduated, and for branching together ‘British and Irish settlement’. The Irish arrived as convicts – some of them for minor offences and quite a few of them for seditious activities – no better than scum in the view of the ‘better’ British society.

This could be forgiven if coming from mediocre students of history, but would certainly not have been tolerated from Malcolm Bligh Turnbull, of Sydney Grammar School, B.A., B. of Laws from the University of Sydney, Rhodes Scholar at, and Bachelor of Civil Law from, Brasenose College, Oxford, rendered famous by his defence at the Spycatcher trial, author and once a well-known republican reformer. “Tout passe, tout lasse, tout casse et tout se remplace.”

If anything Ireland should be thanked for by old residents as well as newcomers it should be for its republican traditions, grown stronger in time despite and against British domination and Catholic oppression.

One is entitled to assume that such a scholar as Mr. Turnbull would have a more precise notion of that variable-with-time statement of ‘allegiance to Australia’ that every person who wishes to become a subject of the law in Australia is asked to swear/affirm.

Of course, Mr. Turnbull knows better; and he was the Prime Minister.

Proceeding in order: the Governor-Generalate of Australia is headed by a person nominate by the Prime Minister, appointed by Queen Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of this Realm and of Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith. Oops! And if the swearer/affirmer happens to be atheist, or perhaps not Anglican – which is the faith Queen Elizabeth is called to defend? Problem? What problem?

Second step in the investiture: the appointed Governor-General swear – maybe even affirms? – allegiance to the Queen. And then, and only then, s/he swears/affirms allegiance to the people of Australia and its constitution.

Now, a would-be-subject would have more of a little problem with the omissions and commissions of that act of the British Imperial Parliament. Much about this has been said before by many, and very learned in the field. Let us be satisfied for the moment that the Constitution of Australia was inspired by the principle laid down by Lord Palmerston (1784-1865): “Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.” The descriptor for a colony, residual though it may be, fits perfectly the present status of Australia as far as the law is concerned – not to mention ‘who really owns the joint’.

Moving on to the notion of ‘parliamentary democracy’, that is very far from ‘representative democracy’.

Some definitions would help. It is accepted that by parliamentary democracy one means that the resulting political system is based on the principle that Parliament is supreme, or sovereign.

In such a system the people choose representatives at regular elections. These representatives are responsible for a number of functions: 1) the formation of the government. This is achieved by majority vote in the lower house, in Australia’s case, the House of Representatives; 2) the passage of legislation – the laws of the nation – by majority vote of the Parliament. In Australia’s bicameral Parliament, this requires the support of both the House of Representatives and the Senate; 3) the scrutiny and monitoring of the executive government, the public service and other authorities and institutions set up by Parliament. Most importantly, this scrutiny extends to monitoring the expenditure of taxpayers’ money.

Australia’s status as a parliamentary democracy does not preclude the use of other terms which also define the political system.

Continued Saturday – Comedy without art (part 4)

Previous instalment – Comedy without art (part 2)

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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BushFire Victims v the Australian Government

By Bob Rafto  

Claim:

Unspecified damages arising from the catastrophic fires that caused loss of life and property.

Your Honour, I submit the following.

  1. 23 former fire chiefs with decades of expertise and experience submitted to the PM a plan with recommendations to meet the challenges of catastrophic fire conditions that were expected in the fire season.
  2. The PM rejected the plan.
  3. It can only be concluded the plan was rejected because of the cost and the impact it would have on the government’s projected budget surplus and also of climate change recommendations.
  4. The fire chiefs warnings were deadly accurate.
  5. From the start of the fire season offers of help were extended from the US, UK, and Canada, however the PM rejected the calls and saying Australia was adequately resourced.
  6. The 23 former fire chiefs plan showed a deficiency in resources and called for an expansion of aerial aircraft specifically large water bombers.
  7. It wasn’t till the death toll started rising that the government committed to water bombers and deploying the army and accepting assistance from other countries.
  8. On an unknown date, the department of Home Affairs produced a report and a plan on climate change.
  9. This report warned the government that Australia faced more frequent and severe heatwaves and bushfires and that livelihoods would be affected without effective action on climate change.
  10. This report was also deadly accurate.
  11. The Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has been accused of burying this plan.
  12. One can only conclude this report was buried because of the cost involved and also on the impact on the budget surplus.
  13. The government has been criminally negligent in rejecting fire plans from experts and also from the Department of Home Affairs, plans designed to mitigate loss of life and property from catastrophes.
  14. It can be said even after expert advice the government gambled on people’s lives and properties to protect a budget surplus.
  15. The result of this gamble was the cost of human lives, property, fauna and flora.
  16. Failing to implement plans is the biggest dereliction of duty the government has committed and also one of criminal negligence.
  17. The government has wilfully failed to keep its citizens safe and ask your honour to find against the government.

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Insanity rules

By RosemaryJ36  

Just how blind to reality are these people who currently strut the stage as elected Members of Parliament, selected to govern Australia?

Grieving relatives of those firefighters and other citizens who have died in the current devastating fires, plus all the farmers, business owners and residents whose homes, other property and businesses have gone up in flames, deserve much better than a few hundred dollars and prayers.

The world stared in dumb disbelief when Craig Kelly was interviewed on British Television, with his crude and ill-informed criticism of the incredibly well-qualified physicist, who knows more about accurate weather forecasting than Kelly will ever know about any subject under the sun.

The time delay between statements and response made it appear that the interviewers were talking over Kelly – which, to some extent they probably were, to try to interrupt the flow of uninformed nonsense he was spouting.

Most informed Australians would have cringed in utter shame at the stupidity and ignorance he portrayed.

In recent days there has been criticism of the way the Murdoch papers have been misreporting climate change issues on their front pages, and in seeking the above video, I came across this example!

Didn’t Murdoch recently state that his organisation had no climate deniers?

I feel that the Australian bush-fires have alerted many parts of the world to how dedicated we must be in taking action to tackle the Climate Emergency.

Handing out money, without rapidly and thoroughly assessing priorities in relation to recovery from the devastation, is a very poor look from a government which has always tried to brainwash us into believing that they are better managers of the economy than anyone else.

Whole industries like tourism have received an incredibly serious blow. Not only are beauty spots going to be a lot less attractive for a long time, but tourist accommodation, if it has not been destroyed, is not going to have visitors knocking on the doors in significant numbers, either!

Plus, so much agricultural land, already damaged because of water woes in the Murray Darlin Basin, has been devastated, while feed vital stocks have been devoured by flames.

We do not need a Royal Commission anything like as much as we need an ICAC, in order to investigate the extent to which Government Ministers have been derelict in their duty in consequence of political donations and lobbying from the coal and fossil fuels industries.

Back in April, when retired expert Fire Chiefs sought to warn of pending danger, because of the narrowing window of opportunity for preparation for the next fire season, our Prime Minister refused to meet with them.

What utter arrogance!

He has no grasp of his role. If a fire starts in NSW and travels across a mythical border into Victoria, who is responsible for it? And if fire crews can work across State borders, does that not indicate very clearly that the situation requires national coordination? And major assets like water-bombing planes should be available to all states at need.

The fact that such a high proportion of our firefighters are volunteers is utterly amazing, but to have a Prime Minister who says they do not require compensation payments because ‘they want to be out there’ is mind-blowingly gauche! They offer the country a level of service which Scott Morrison could never aspire to and our gratitude to them is as great as is our condemnation of his failings. I bet he claims every cent he can justify for expenses, despite his having a substantial income.

During the last election campaign, about the only Coalition member in evidence, here, there, and everywhere, was Scott Morrison, yet, when this dire crisis began, he was not only not in evidence, his office even refused to inform us where he was!

His promise to return as soon as possible, once he finally realised that he was in the wrong place, was immediately broken, because he could have been back at least 24 hours earlier.

Apart from Kelly’s woeful performance, few other Coalition members have made any appearance in public, just a few being dragged along on Morrison’s coattails while he rushes from here to there for photo ops in his usual seeking-the-limelight style!

Oh yes! The temporarily Acting Prime Minister did speak up once during the PM’s absence, but we are grateful it was only once!

Given his Ministry responsibilities, I think many are curious that Peter Dutton, a formerly eager aspirant for the post of PM, appears to have vanished into the ether. It appears the actual PM does not believe in an ‘all hands on deck’ approach, or maybe he just does not want to share the limelight.

They have had a much-shortened amount of sitting time this last 12 months and it would be good to see them all hard at work, seeking solutions through genuine debate. Sorry! Another pipe dream!

I was delighted, in a very unkind way, when the less than welcoming reception he received on visits to some devastated areas led to his rapid withdrawal to limit the unwelcome publicity which has gone viral.

As pointed out in references to his earlier career, he lacks staying power and when the going gets tough, he is off to new endeavours – only this time he is forced to take on a job he does not want and which, frankly, many of us believe he is not competent to do.

Instead of muttering about Royal Commissions, he should have already established a non-partisan Recovery Commission, stacked with all relevant experts from CSIRO, universities, business and industry and have already declared policy to cease all subsidies to fossil fuel companies and discontinue support for the development of new mines like Adani.

The other incredibly important issue needing urgent attention is water.

A Recovery Commission should already be discussing the viability of constructing desalination plants all around our shoreline, because not only are we running out of water, more importantly we are facing a future with seriously polluted water.

The massive destruction of animal and plant life has left the ground covered with soot and decaying bodies, which will necessarily pollute such water supplies which we do have.

To allow miners and frackers to operate using scarce water resources is criminal.

All of these issues need really urgent attention and one person cannot begin to cover all that is necessary.

Sorry, ScoMo – you need to share the glory and just maybe some really competent people could be allowed to pick up the threads! If you choose well, you might, eventually, deserve our thanks – but I am not holding my breath!

Once more – this is my Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

 

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Comedy without art (part 2)

By Dr George Venturini  

Apartheid, anyone?

Choices are open to the 40 per cent who complete secondary schooling in the private sector. It means, though, that state high schools are left to cater for a less affluent 60 per cent. Despite excellent exceptions, these schools achieve significantly lower rates of entry into university. This leads to a further discrimination: the richest 25 per cent of schools release almost two in five students in the top quartile of achievement; the poorest 25 per cent have one in five.

And that is not the end: students from wealthy family can secure a university place by paying full fees. And what is a student who just missed out on a publicly funded place to make of the entry of full-fee-paying students who scored say up to 10 points lower, in the case of some law degrees, and up to 20 points for less lucrative arts qualifications?

Public-private disparities in education are the most critical perpetrators of disadvantage through the generations, but are not the only ones.

Of course, no one can reasonably expect that people will not use the advantages that money brings to benefit themselves and their children. Australia is a market-based society. Money is everything and is responsible for ‘natural’ divisions. No exception to such iron rules may be even thought of.

At the same time, it is rarely considered that when wide-ranging disadvantage is  reinforced from one generation to the next, the notion of a ‘fair go’ begins to look pretty tenuous, self-serving for those on the right side of the tracks, and in the end totally hypocritical.

One enters into the realm of political rhetoric on social justice. The latter is a concept difficult to grasp and organise into a programme of action. Here comes the game played by the two parties of ‘the system’, muddling though the difficulties of gaining the confidence of a part of the electorate without offending the other, which could very well be more powerful. It is not hard to understand why so many ‘ordinary’ Australians are disenchanted with politics and regard the two major parties as ‘out of touch’ – ‘all the same’ perhaps?

The projection of a future which looks an awful lot like a country of two classes goes unremarked. The plebs prefer the illusion of comforting myths, easy slogans, simple – often non sequitur – expressions of profound ignorance. Better still, the two classes may settle down for a sickened and sickening atmosphere better expressed in a famous quote by Amos Bronson Alcott: “To be ignorant of one’s ignorance is the malady of the ignorant.” Alcott was an American teacher, writer, philosopher, reformer and educator. He was a transcendentalist, friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson and, perhaps more famously, the father of Louisa May, the author of the  novel Little Women in 1868.

It may be hard to accept that the vaunted spirit of ‘fair go’ is nothing but a myth.

And if one accepts that, nothing can be out of reach. Most tools of public life in Australia are designed to proceed with myths, tales, common places.

Another common insidious ‘value’ necessary to become ‘a real Australian’ is the acceptance that there is freedom of religion.

That freedom is predicated on the assumption that Australia is a secular society  –  another myth in everyday’s life. Not only is Australia a secular society, but the common ethic which united Australians is founded on the tradition of the ‘Judeo-Christian civilisation’. This cold ‘value’ has the result of excluding almost half of the Australian population, as noted. One who does not live by that tradition is not a good Australian.

In fact, the situation is more complex.

Australia is a religiously diverse country and, although it has no official religion, the frequent reference to the so-called ‘Judeo-Christian tradition’ is considered an omnibus blanket to cover all sorts of things, and not always welcome. In public life in particular one observes frequently a ‘special kind of hypocrisy’, for instance: the various governments of Australia refer to the Christian God in their ceremonies, as do the various Australian Courts. And on the same line, Christian symbols appear on public buildings, such as universities, not to mention publicly-paid-for hospitals bearing the name of persons connected with the Christian religion and/or the name of this or that ‘royal’ celebutante.

On taking her/his chair every day in Parliament the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate deliver the following Christian prayer:

“Almighty God, we humbly beseech Thee to vouchsafe Thy special blessing upon this Parliament, and that Thou wouldst be pleased to direct and prosper the work of Thy servants to the advancement of Thy glory, and to the true welfare of the people of Australia.

Our Father, which art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil; for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.”

So much, one would comment, for the ‘values’ of ‘respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual’ and ‘freedom of religion’.

Most interesting, the text would conform with Catholic tradition, but rather with the Anglican liturgy.

A big parenthesis may go well at this point: in 2016 there were 3,101.200 Anglicans in Australia = 13.3 per cent of the population. Anglicans were a minority within a rather slim majority of Christians: Catholics, 5,291.800 (22.6 per cent) and Other Christians 3,808.600 (16.3 per cent).

Christianity remains the predominant practice in Australia, though this is diminishing, changing and diversifying. At the Census 2016, 52.1 per cent of the Australian population acknowledged to some variety of Christianity. Over the fifty years since 1966 the proportion of the population who self-identify as Christian, combining all Christian denominations, has fallen from 88.2 per cent. In 2016, 30.1 per cent of Australians declared “no religion”; a further 9.6 per cent chose not to answer the question. The remaining population is a diverse group which includes Muslims – 2.6 per cent, Buddhists – 2.4 per cent, Hindus – 1.9 per cent, Sikhs – 0.5 per cent, and Jews – 0.4. Result: Christians 52.1 per cent, Others 47.9 per cent.

Apart from all that, there are in Parliament persons clearly of the Jewish faith and several of the Muslim, in addition to those who cannot be classified because, among other reasons, they believe that what faith they may have, if any, is nobody’s business. Correct, but not sufficient; there have been several attempts, mainly by the Greens ‘to scrap’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 January 2014, to ‘letting go of the Lord’s prayer’, A.B.C., 17 January 2014, with renewed attempts in the federal Parliament as well as in state Parliaments – but all in vain. As an on line entry put it: “The Lord’s prayer in Parliament – what the hell?”, propertychat.com.au, 4 March 2016. Precisely.

But there are more serious aspects of Australia’s dependency on foreign symbols.

Consider for instance the flag. On the top corner of the Australian flag there is a Union Jack. Now, that symbol combines aspects of three older national flags: the red cross of St George for the Kingdom of England, the white saltire of St. Andrew for Scotland, and the red saltire of St. Patrick to represent Ireland. Ireland is now an independent republic and it is only a source of sorrow that six counties be occupied by Britain, and conveniently called Northern Ireland.

The last thing Australia should do is interfere with that problem. Trouble is that the present Australian flag suits the Englanders and their fantasies. The original union of England and Scotland goes back to 1606, and the addition of the Irish saltire goes back to 1801, both dates largely preceding the formation of Australia in 1901.

None of such moral ruins has (should have anyway) anything to do with Australia.

Symbolism it is, yes, but a matter which could be of painful concern to sentient ‘new Australians’, those who may prefer to be participants than lazily settle down as spectators.

Symbolism surrounds the opening of every session of the federal Parliament. Thus, a publication of the Parliament of Australia provides the history of the mace.

And that goes back a long time.

As a symbol, the mace is purely a monarchical one. It was back in medieval times that the Royal Serjeants-at-Arms were distinguished by their power of arrest without a warrant. To an increasing extent, their maces – originally ordinary weapons of war, similar to a club – became their emblems of authority. Authority?

Maces were stamped with the Royal Arms; and in an age in which few men could read or write, the Serjeants effected their arrests by showing their maces and not by producing any form of written warrant.

The evolution of maces from weapons of war to symbolic representations has seen the flanged head decrease in size into an ornamental bracket, while the butt end, which carried the Royal Arms, has expanded to accommodate larger and more ornate Royal Arms and an arched crown surmounted by an orb and cross. As a result of the expansion of the butt end, maces began to be carried upside down with the crown uppermost.

The mace of the Australian House of Representatives is the symbol not only of the Royal authority but of the authority of the House. Because it is held that “the authority of the Speaker and of the House are indivisible”, the mace also symbolises the authority of the Speaker.

When the Speaker is in the Chair, the mace lies on the Table, with the orb and cross surmounting it pointing to the government side, that is, to the Speaker’s right.

The Serjeant-At-Arms is custodian of the mace. Bearing the mace upon the right shoulder, the Serjeant-at-Arms precedes the Speaker when the Speaker enters and leaves the Chamber at the beginning and the end of a day’s sitting.

The fable surrounding the mace is so old that there is a view – taken seriously by the monarchists – that the House of Representatives may not be properly constituted unless the mace is present on the prescribed brackets in the Chamber!

The magic surrounding the mace is enhanced by the practice of travelling with the Speaker on formal occasions – such as when s/he appears to the presence of the Governor-General after election, when the House goes to the Senate to hear the Governor-General’s opening speech, and on the presentation to the Governor-General of the Address in Reply to the opening speech. On these occasions, the mace is covered with a cloth or left in an antechamber before entering the Governor-General’s presence.

The symbolism reaches a paroxysmal, divine point of loyalty of the subjects: being the symbol of the Royal authority, the mace becomes unnecessary in the presence of the authority itself. How un-free can monarchists be?

Beyond the theatricality which seems to enchant the plebs there is a more insidious way of ‘moving forward’ – as the jargon dictates – by looking backward.

Preserved for veneration much as a religious relic, there is in Parliament House in Canberra a copy of the 1297 version of the Magna Carta preserved in a lightbox style window.

The Magna Carta, or ‘Great Charter’, dates back to 1215. It is seen by some, mainly persons with eyes on the back of their head, as an important step in the development of democracy and the British Parliament, and has influenced the creation of founding documents such as the 1689 British Bill of Rights and the 1901 Australian Constitution.

The first version of the Magna Carta, written in 1215, was a peace treaty between King John of England and his barons. It was a ‘deal’; in modern jargon one could regarded it as establishing a ‘principle’: that all people, including the king, had rights and responsibilities under the law. This anyway is the favourite interpretation, convenient to people in power- without-responsibility in Australia.

Prior to the Magna Carta, King John had absolute power as a feudal monarch. He gave the barons their titles and estates (the land, boys!) in return for their loyalty. King John was an untrustworthy partner and a cruel tyrant, who expected the barons to give him money and troops to fight a long and pointless war with France. The barons had to tax their people harshly to pay for the war and force men from their estates to fight in the ongoing conflict.

By 1215 the barons were fed up with the king’s behaviour and many rebelled against him. They seized the Tower-Of-London and demanded the king listen to them. In June, in a meadow at Runnymede, the king and the barons met and agreed on the terms of the Magna Carta. As was common practice, the document was copied out, fixed with the king’s seal and sent to all parts of the kingdom to be read out to the people, many of whom were illiterate.

In return for the barons pledging loyalty to King John, the Magna Carta limited the king’s power, with most of the document detailing the rights of the barons under the feudal system. However, it also described what is commonly referred to as ‘the rule of law’, including the important point that the king was subject to the law, like all others. Individual rights and liberties were defined, with one of the most notable sections reading:

“No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.

To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.”

No historian, no constitutionalist, no political scientist and most certainly no professional politicians in the Westminster System, no one who was not paid for her/his opinion would dare to interpret without blushing that document as a charter of rights for everybody – a foundation of the Australian ‘values’.

In fact, almost immediately after signing it, King John ignored the Magna Carta and broke his agreement with the barons. King John tried to butcher the authors of Magna Carta. (‘King John Tried to Butcher the Authors of Magna Carta,’ free.org, 15 June 2015).

He died in 1216 and his nine-year-old son, Henry lll, became the king. As he grew, his guardians made three more editions of the Magna Carta, in an attempt to win back the support of the barons. Some changes were made, but many of the original ideas stayed the same, perhaps just simply ‘ideas’.

In 1225 King Henry lll, at the old age of eighteen, issued the fourth, and heavily revised, version of the Magna Carta, in return for a kingdom-wide grant of tax. As his father had before him, the king fought with the barons. In 1264 Simon de Montford, a baron, overthrew the king and became the ruler. De Montford believed that the king’s power should be limited. He called together knights and some non-noble representatives from across the kingdom to meet in a parliament. Although it would be many years before parliament met regularly and included commoners in its ranks, the idea of the modern English parliament might have germinated then.

In 1265 de Montford was killed on the battlefield by King Henry’s son, Edward, who succeeded his father as king in 1272. Throughout the 1200s, the Magna Carta was increasingly quoted as laws were made and petitions were prepared against the unfair use of power.

Edward l ordered that an Inspeximus – from Latin, and to mean: “we have inspected”. It was the first word of ancient English charters confirming a grant made by a previous king. The word opens the edition of the Magna Carta reissued in 1297. In that edition King Edward declared that the Magna Carta would from then on be a part of common law and that any court judgements which went against it would be “undone and holden for naught.” This is the official Australian view, and from it the preceding information is taken.

Preserved at Parliament House, Canberra is a copy of the 1297 version.

Some comments seem appropriate.

As recently observed by Professor Tom Ginsburg, who teaches international law and political science at the University of Chicago, the Carta’s “fame rests on several myths.”

”First, it wasn’t effective. In fact, it was a failure. John was a weak king who had squandered the royal fortune on a fruitless war with France. Continually raising taxes to pay for his European adventures, he provoked a revolt by his barons, who forced him to sign the charter. But John repudiated the document immediately, and the barons sought to replace him. John avoided that fate by dying.”

His young son reissued the Magna Carta, without some of the clauses. It was reissued several times more in the thirteenth century. But the original version hardly constrained the monarch.

A second myth is that it was the first document of its type. Writing in 1908, Woodrow Wilson called it the beginning of constitutional government. But in fact, it was only one of many documents from the period, in England and elsewhere, codifying limitations on government power.

Consider, for instance, the history of Iceland. There, in 930 c.e. the ruling chiefs established an assembly called the Alþingi – correspondent to the classic Norwegian Althing. It was a parliament, convened each summer at Þingvellir – an early form of Senate, where representative chieftains – Goðorðsmenn or Goðar – made and amended laws, settled disputes and appointed juries to judge lawsuits. Laws were not written down but were instead memorised by an elected lǫgsǫgumaðr – ‘Lawspeaker’. The Alþingi is viewed by many as the world’s oldest existing parliament. Importantly, there being no central executive power, laws were enforced only by the people.

Iceland enjoyed a mostly uninterrupted period of growth in its so-called commonwealth years, between 874 and 1262 c.e.

A third myth is that the document was a ringing endorsement of liberty. Even a cursory reading of the translation into understandable English reveals a number of oddities. One clause prevents Jews from charging interest on a debt held by an underage heir. Another limits women’s ability to bear witness to certain homicides. A third requires the removal of fish traps from the Thames.

In fact, Magna Carta was the result of an intra-élite struggle – class war? – in which the nobles were chiefly concerned with their own privileges. When they referred to the judgment of one’s peers, for example, they were not thinking about a jury trial. Indeed, in 1215, the jury trial – as it is known at present – did not exist; guilt was often determined by seeing how suspects reacted to physical ordeal. The reference to one’s peers meant that nobles could not be tried by commoners, who might include judges appointed by the king.

Why then all the fuss about the Carta? Well, the veneration of the relic  began  in the early seventeenth century, when members of the English Parliament and the famous jurist Sir Edward Coke revived the document in their struggle with the Stuart monarchs. They argued that free Englishmen had enjoyed a set of rights and privileges until they were disrupted by the Norman Conquest of 1066. In their view, Magna Carta embodied these rights, so it was held up as a model of a glorious past and part of an ancient constitution. Consistency and objectivity did not seem to enjoy great popularity.

Throughout the tumultuous seventeenth century, Magna Carta was invoked by opponents of whoever was in power, leading Oliver Cromwell famously to refer to the document as “Magna Farta.” In the eighteenth century, parliamentary sovereignty replaced monarchical absolutism, but Magna Carta continued to be invoked by reformers, now focused on Parliament rather than the king. (T. Ginsburg, ‘Stop Revering Magna Carta’, The New York Times, 15 June 2015).

On both sides of the Atlantic the Carta is venerated by a kind of priesthood – and understandably so; why, it is old, it is English and, because no one other than philologists has read the original, which by modern standards in incomprehensible English, it is easy to invoke to fit contemporary needs.

George Henry Brandis, Q.C., since May 2018 His Excellency The Honourable George Brandis Q.C., the Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, was very fond of referring to it, and in the process of  ridiculing, while Attorney-General of the Abbott and Turnbull governments, any attempt at providing Australia with a Charter of Human Rights because Australia has had the good fortune of ‘inheriting from mother England’ the Magna Carta. Even admitting that George Brandis might have never read the Carta in its original version, such ‘good fortune’ leaves Australia as the only country of English language without any form of Bill of Rights. The common law, said Brandis is sufficient to uphold and protect human rights. It is the classical case of ipsedixitism – an unsupported dogmatic assertion.

Many Americans – and some of their vassals – are not alone in revering Magna Carta. Mohandas K. Gandhi cited it in arguing for racial equality in South Africa. Nelson Mandela invoked it at the trial that sent him to prison for 27 years. Americans, and Australians for that matter, are not the only ones, it seems, willing to stretch old legal texts beyond their original meaning. Like the Holy Grail, the myth of Magna Carta seems to matter more than the reality.

Continued Wednesday – Comedy without art (part 3)

Previous instalment – Comedy without art (part 1)

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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Clive James: Climate Change Sceptic

The Climate Change sceptics have been quite excited about the publicity attached to the passing of Clive James, who has been celebrated as a sceptic in the IPA publication Climate Change: The Facts 2017, but at the same time the sceptics have been angered by the ABC which has not made Clive’s scepticism widely enough known.

In 2016 Clive wrote a poem, Imminent Catastrophe, expressing Climate Change scepticism, published in The Times, London.

In his essay in the IPA publication, Mass Death Dies Hard, 2017, Clive tells us that he does not know anything about the mathematics of “modelling of non-linear systems,” but he does know, he says, about the mass media and ‘the abuse of language’.

He later goes on to say that when the Attorney General of the USA proposed that Climate Change sceptics be suppressed by law, he decided he would be a ‘dissenter’. So dissenting became his thing.

Where would he find sceptic dissent? From other dissenters/sceptics? By adding some dissent/scepticism of his own?

And would he also be very knowledgeable about the IPCC science about which he is so sceptical so that he could oppose the claims of the IPCC?

Looking at the opening lines of the poem Imminent Catastrophe we see:

“The imminent catastrophe goes on,

Not showing many signs of happening.

The ice the North Pole that should have gone

By now, is awkwardly still lingering.”

In his essay Mass Deaths Die Hard, he elaborates by claiming that the melting Arctic has the “miraculous capacity to go on producing ice in spite of the instructions of Al Gore.”

The sceptics deride Al Gore in particular because he made some high-profile statements about ice melting in the Arctic. Wikipedia, discussing predictions made by non-scientists, tells us about Al Gore:

Former US Vice President, when speaking at the UN’s COP 15 meeting in December 2009 said “Some models suggest that there is a 75% chance that the entire North Pole ice cap during some of the summer months will be completely ice-free with-in the next 5-7 years.” Dr Wieslav Maslowski, of the Naval Postgraduate School of Monterey, California, whom Gore used to source, disagreed with Gore’s forecast and told The Times: “It’s unclear to me how this figure was arrived at”, and clarified his forecast calling for “a six year projection for the melting of 80% of the ice,” but he said he expects some ice to remain beyond 2020.

So, is Gore the right person to listen to about melting Arctic ice? He was a non-scientific politician – and we know that politicians are not always to be believed, entrapped by ideology as they so often are. Why criticise Gore when so many real scientists expect Arctic sea to clear by 2040. Does that not concern sceptics as much as Gore’s mistaken prediction?

And are sceptics also entrapped by ideology? See for example, these claims by Watt’s Up With That: ‘The polar ice melt myth’, May 2019:

“…a more accurate view* of sea ice can be had from satellite images taken every day at the poles since 1981.These images show that between summer and winter, regardless of the degree of summer melting, the sea ice completely recovers to its original size the winter before for almost every year since the pictures were taken. The sea ice has been stubbornly resistant to Al Gore’s predictions. In fact the annual average of sea ice has been essentially the same since satellite observations began in 1981.”

Is this the kind of place where Clive James found his melting ice claim for the poem?

NASA tells us this:

“Arctic ice meets its minimum each September. September Arctic sea ice is now declining at a rate of 12.85% per decade, relative to the 1981 to 2010 average … The 2012 sea ice extent is the lowest in the satellite record.”

How can there be this kind of discrepancy in the reporting of observable events?

The same WUWT site mentions Professor Chris Turney. It claims that Turney was sailing in 2013 in an expedition to prove that Antarctic sea ice was undergoing catastrophic melting only to have his ship trapped in sea ice such that he could not be rescued by modern ice breakers!

Another site, (blog.heartland/2014/Antarctic-trip-too-far-chris-turney) features James H Rust, professor of nuclear engineering and policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.

Rust refers to an interview by Emma Alberici where Turney explains he was “…trying to answer questions about how climate change in the frozen continent might already be shifting weather patterns in Australia”. And Turney says windswept sea ice trapped the ship.

But Rust claims:

“Nowhere in Turney’s article [of explanation later] was it mentioned that global warming in the Antarctic was to be studied. No one seemed to pay attention to how Mawson sailed to shore at Commonwealth Bay in 1911, while sea ice prevented Turney from sailing closer than 65 kms off Commonwealth Bay shore in 2013. Is this a proof of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels causing global warming?”

What is this proof Rust is asking about? See how it is fixed in the heads of sceptics/deniers that if there is global warming then there cannot be ice in the Antarctic. Yet they are also happy to claim that there is no melting of sea ice in the Artic, when there is.

Joanna Nova, Australian sceptic/denier, makes an appearance in this same site, criticising the ABC – and Turney:

“The ABC PR machine covers for their embarrassment [over the ship stuck in ice] – lest anyone think that climate scientists might be clueless. In the ABC’s world an “Australian Research Team” with “60 scientists” left because “scientists believe there is evidence of climate change”. After they got stuck in ice they didn’t predict, and looked like partying fools on an ill-prepared junket, the magic wand of the ABC-apologia stopped using the term “climate” and underwent a magical transformation to become a “Russian Passenger Ship”.

See the ridicule and obfuscation employed by Nova. Oh yes. It was just a Ship of Fools! ‘Ill-prepared’! And the article goes on to add more distraction with examples of people who made long journeys and failed. Totally irrelevant.

Elsewhere Turney explains what happened to the Australian Mawson Centenary Expedition of 2013-14.

He says:

“…huge gaps in knowledge remain across the region investigated by the original [Mawson] expedition. To tackle these questions we spent the last two years building a team of experts keen to work with individuals outside their area of expertise. Meetings were held and questions honed. We decided, for instance, that among many other things we would investigate the circulation of the Southern Ocean and its impact on the global carbon cycle and the potential for records of past climate change using tree ring and peat sequences on the subantarctic islands…

“Today Mawson’s Huts lie behind 65 kms of sea ice, the result of a 2010 collision between an enormous berg known as B09B and the Mertz Glacier Tongue. As a result of this clash, B09B lodged itself on the seabed of Commonwealth Bay, changing the circulation dramatically.

“Climate Change was part of our programme, but the Australasian Antarctic Expedition is much more…

“Unluckily for us, there appears to have been a mass of thick, multiyear sea ice on the other side of the Mertz Glacier; years after the loss of the Mertz Glacier Tongue. There was nothing to suggest this event was imminent…

“(It seems) we had inadvertently followed the footsteps of the Edwardian Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, whose ship had become caught in pack ice in 1915.”

Turney also tells us that they did find a way to get to Mawson’s Huts and that earlier in the season the research ship Aurora Australis was also stuck in ice.

We see how ideologically twisted the sceptic/ denier version is, so lacking in relevant details and intent only on ridiculing Turney and his expedition, trying to muddle the so-called “debate”.

Tony Eggleton, in his book on climate change (CUP, 2013) writes about loss of ice.

“From the satellite data alone, by the end of the summer of 2011 the Arctic sea ice cover had declined by 40% from its 1979-89 average.” (page 99)

And about the Antarctic: re several teams of researchers –

“All found an overall mass loss, though the annual amounts estimated ranged from 30 to 250 cubic kilometres.

“Another analysis of ice loss in just the Amundsen Sea catchment estimated about 40 cubic kilometres of ice was lost in 2009. From the perspective of ‘that’s not much’, using the larger figure (250 cubic kilometres a year) it would take 120 000 years before all the Antarctic ice melted. From ‘that’s a lot’ perspective, enough ice melted in 2009 to make an ice block one kilometre wide and one kilometre high, stretching the distance between Canberra and Sydney.” (page 101)

We see how far from understanding the sceptics/deniers are, with their woolly thinking, their ideological confusion and their irrationality. There is no coherent denier science.

Clive James was mistaken to try to borrow from the sceptic/deniers and to use them for his dissenting. Their way of thinking is at a far remove from the kind of thinking we would expect of Clive James. We might be forgiven if we thought Clive James’s writing is a satire/parody of sceptic denial.

What would Clive have made of the present catastrophe, the burning of his beloved Australia?

And all that discussion arising here in this post after looking at just four lines of his poem. There could have been more! We could look at more details of Clive James’s writing in his essay and then at some of the statements made by individual denier/sceptics elsewhere in the IPA publication.

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Where’s Poida?

By Grumpy Geezer  

The Department of Home Affairs is the Australian Government’s interior ministry with responsibilities that include emergency management. Emergency management is the organisation and management of the resources and responsibilities for dealing with all humanitarian aspects of emergencies. The Minister for Home Affairs is Peter Dutton.

Scotty from Marketing’s covert desertion of an incinerating Australia in favour of a sun lounge and mai tais on a Waikiki beach during the bushfire crisis was an inevitable PR disaster, exacerbated by Where’s Wally’s subsequent behaviour that underlined his couldn’t-give-a-fuck attitude and tin-eared incompetence.

Other Tory rats abandoning both the burning ship and their responsibilities included Linda Reynolds, yawning donkey impersonator and Minister for Defence, who apparently thought that the beer swilling sousers and yobs found in abundance in Bali would conveniently camouflage her presence.

Bloated gourmand and NSW Minister for Emergency Services David Elliot‘s European holiday le grand repas français was of such monumental imbecility that it’s hard to imagine that it was anything other than a calculated distraction from Morrison’s own l’storm de merde.

John Barilaro, NSW Deputy Premier and member for the now-charcoaled seat of Monaro sought holiday solace in London where a flute of Laurent-Perrier and a poached pear and frangipane tart at Claridges is a snip at £90 per.

The good ship Australia was left in the hands of Michael the bobble-headed Whatsisname, a gormless rube of such stupifaction that sheep have been seen falling asleep in his presence; a man who thinks exploding cow pats cause the bush fires that “we’ve always had” and that any concern is the “ravings of some pure, enlightened and woke capital-city greenies”.

The ‘blame the trees’ schtick was taken up by VB sommelier and orthodontics before-shot model Barking Barmy Joyce. The purple pontificator is happy to leave our fate in the hands of the big man in the sky while in the same breath blaming greenies for a lack of hazard reduction. Self-contradiction is a Barking speciality.

Various other non-entities, hacks, flying monkeys and gagas have proferred their own obfuscations, distractions and conspiracy theories such as the never-was that is Craig Kelly, a bibulous blob with the physique of a half-deflated dinghy and an intellect that is challenged by crayons and a colouring book.

While all this ducking and weaving and finger-pointing was going on there has been one notable absence.

Dutton dressed as yam©, the potato-headed Her Kipfler and Minister for Home Affairs never shies away from an opportunity to fear-monger or the possibility of a good progrom or the chance to demonise. There’ll be protestors to pepper spray, greenies to arrest, dissent to quash, so, where’s Poida? He’s supposed to manage emergencies, he should be up the front.

Those sounds you hear are the clicking of boot heels, the jubilant clapping of hands and delighted chuckles from a Machiavellian assassin taking pleasure at Scotty From Marketing’s travails. You can be certain that Poida From Security has been making a list and checking it twice, he’s been honing the cutlery and practising his underarm, he’s been sowing discontent amongst the Tory quizzlings and quaverers. The only question is the timing of the great potato strike.

(I’ve got a slab riding on this, Poida. Don’t let me down).

Image from static.wixstatic.com

This article was originally published on The Grumpy Geezer.

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Beyond reasonable doubt

By RosemaryJ36  

While a far from perfect system, trial by jury has certain important features which should be taken into account in making our own judgements on issues which affect our own lives.

Firstly, the system requires that the jury be comprised of the ‘peers’ of the accused – that is people from a similar enough background to that of the accused to be able to assess the evidence using similar standards to those which governed the circumstances of the accused’s actions.

And, secondly – and more importantly – the unanimous verdict reached by the required minimum number of members of the jury must be “beyond reasonable doubt” – and here the critical word is “reasonable”.

This means that the discussion by members of the jury must not be founded in emotional responses to the reported actions of the accused but on a logical examination of the facts, and must result in a decision requiring certainty that the accused intended to commit the offence and was, in fact, properly identified as the perpetrator.

And to establish the case against the accused, the prosecutor depends on the facts as evidence of the intent and action on the part of the accused.

The system falls over backwards to protect the accused, who is regarded as innocent until proved guilty, by avoiding publicising any previous criminal history until such time as the jury finds the accused guilty and the judge then proceeds to consider the history of prior offending in deciding an appropriate penalty.

The scientists have presented the world with a case against fossil fuels in relation to the cause of global warming, which is predicted to inflict considerable damage through its effects on the world’s climate.

The issues here are, firstly, whether the world’s climate is actually experiencing increasing temperatures – and, with evidence of polar ice melting and ‘hottest days on record’ being reported, few of us are in doubt on this point – and, secondly, whether the burning of fossil fuels by human beings is the most significant factor responsible for rising temperatures.

The climate scientists have also predicted that, if we fail to reduce emissions, we will experience increasingly frequent and severe weather events, including floods, droughts, fires, storms, landslides and inundation by rising oceans.

Here the word ‘increasingly’ becomes highly significant.

Do we just report events as they happen, allowing the list to lengthen until we are convinced that the scientists are indeed correct?

The alternative is to examine closely the evidence and arguments so far documented and decide, on the evidence, is the wisest course of action to accept the advice of the scientists and start following their recommendations, before temperatures have increased beyond our power to subsequently lower them, or, again, can we safely ignore the possible harmful effects on our descendants and postpone action until we feel the proof is strong enough to require that action?

What is holding us back from making that decision?

We have governments in many countries which see maintaining or improving current living standards as being their first priority.

Or they believe the actions deemed necessary will cost too much and adversely affect their country’s economy.

Or we have governments which simply refuse to accept the facts presented by the scientists because to do so will require them to accept they have been wrong or, in some cases, they have a deep-rooted but misguided ‘faith’ in what they have accepted as directions from some supernatural being in which they have placed their trust.

They make no attempt to provide evidence for their insistence on denying the truth of climate change and they seem impervious to the damage and destruction that is currently occurring as predicted.

To ask what it will cost to take the recommended action on the climate emergency is the old – ‘how long is a piece of string?’ question.

Far more pertinent is to look at what is occurring currently in Australia and ask – how much will it cost to rebuild lost homes, redevelop agricultural – and other – businesses, restore trade and – for the bereaved – assure them that governments are doing everything in their power to ensure no more lives will be lost unnecessarily because of a lack of proper forward planning?

It appears that too many politicians, once elected, feel no further need to consult their electorates or outside experts.

How can people, with no or little scientific knowledge or experience, be allowed to make decisions which require expert knowledge?

A halfway-decently qualified, apolitical public service would make it an unlikely event, but when political advisers and contracted consultants guide the policy, their highest priority is not necessarily the public interest!

I lived through WWII in the UK under an apolitical National Government, established to ensure that all expert advice was utilised as effectively as possible and the war effort was the paramount issue.

Winning the war was the only priority and civilian life was directed to assist that end.

The elements have declared war on us and we are not using resources efficiently in order to fight back, because our present government refuses to accept that it is priority number one.

We need proactive policies, not delayed reactive policies.

We need someone in charge who is better at leading than in creating slogans.

The answer to “Where the bloody hell are you, Prime Minister?” is clearly “Hiding from the truth!”

To be fair – many are also asking “Where is the Opposition?”

If they have coherent plans to put forward, now is the time, because they sure as hell are getting no opposing plans from the so-called government!

Latest announcement from the PM, as I write, concerns troops staying in Iraq.

OK – the rest of life must go on, but without more, careful attention to action on the climate emergency, life won’t go on for our great grandchildren!

Once more – this is my Resolution:

“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”

Will you join me and get out on the streets – maybe Australia Day would be appropriate? – and tell those whom we rashly elected that they need to go because they are not governing for us!

The clock is ticking.

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Comedy without art (part 1)

By Dr George Venturini 

6. Comedy without art

“Commedia dell’arte, (Italian: “comedy of the profession[als]”) Italian theatrical form that flourished throughout Europe from the 16th through the 18th century. Outside Italy, the form had its greatest success in France, where it became the ComédieItalienne. In England, elements from it were naturalized in the harlequinade in pantomime and in the Punch-and-Judy show, a puppet play involving the commedia dell’arte character Punch. The comical Hanswurst, of German folklore, was also a commedia dell’arte character.

The commedia dell’arte was a form of popular theatre that emphasized ensemble acting; its improvisations were set in a firm framework of masks and stock situations, and its plots were frequently borrowed from the classical literary tradition of the commedia erudita, or literary drama. Professional players who specialized in one role developed an unmatched comic acting technique, which contributed to the popularity of the itinerant commedia troupes that travelled throughout Europe. Despite contemporary depictions of scenarios and masks and descriptions of particular presentations, impressions today of what the commedia dell’arte was like are second hand. The art is a lost one, its mood and style irrecoverable.” (‘Written by the Editors of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, commedia dell’arte, www.britannica.com).

Australia is quite a different place from what was put together by Englanders in 1901.

Australia has grown from a population of estimated 750,000 Indigenous People in 1788, to one of 3,765.000 non-Indigenous in 1901, to one of 23,401,892 people – of whom 649,171 Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders – on census night, 9 August 2016, and estimated 25 million late in the evening of 7 August 2018.

At the 2016 census, 26 per cent of the Australian resident population, or 6,163,667 people, were born overseas. The distribution by place of birth is as follows, and only countries with 50,000 or more are listed hereafter:

Australia15,615,531
England    907,570
New Zealand    518,466
Mainland China    509,555
India    455,389
Philippines    236,400
Vietnam    219,355
Italy    174,042
South Africa    162,449
Malaysia    138,364
Scotland    119,417
Sri Lanka    109,849
Germany    102,595
South Korea      98,776
Greece     93,743
Hong Kong     86,886
United States     86,125
Lebanon     78,653
Ireland     74,888
Indonesia     73,213
Netherlands     70,172
Iraq     67,352
Thailand     66,229
Pakistan     61,913
Fiji     61,469
Iran     58,112
Singapore     54,939
Nepal     54,754

 

Due to several waves of immigration, the European component of the population is declining as a percentage.

The Australian population hit 23,401,892 on census night 2016.

Until the second world war, the vast majority of immigrants came from the British Isles, and a majority of Australians have some British or Irish ancestry. These Australians form an ethnic group known as Anglo-Celtic Australians – an absolutely bloody mis-nomer. Anglo-Celtic may serve the lazy Englanders, but has nothing to do with the truth.

The number of overseas-born Australians coming from England has steadily declined over the years, while one has seen increasing arrivals from China and India, particularly since 2006. In the 2016 Australian census, the most commonly nominated ancestries were: English, 36.1 per cent; Australian, 33.5 per cent; Irish, 11.0 per cent; Scottish, 9.3 per cent; Chinese, 5.6 per cent; Italian, 4.6 per cent; German,  4.5 per cent; Indian, 2.8 per cent; Greek, 1.8 per cent, and Dutch, 1.6 per cent.

At the 2016 census 47.3 per cent of people had both parents born in Australia and 34.4 per cent of people had both parents born overseas. And on this subject one should not dismiss the effect of the recent ‘bleedings’ of parliamentarians, due to their dual subject-ship – citizenship in some, rare cases – and the other which will undoubtedly developed from that insipid, mouldy, thread-bare, moth-eaten piece of paper which is the Constitution of 1901. Consider the little problem that present members of Parliament, who so often mouth about multiculturalism – of which they know little-to-nothing – may have from the ‘new reading’ of sections 42 in relation to section 44.

Now, by s. 42 “Every senator and every member of the House of Representatives shall before taking his seat make and subscribe before the Governor-General, or some person authorised by him, an oath or affirmation of allegiance in the form set forth in the schedule to this Constitution.” And the Schedule offers: “I, A.B., do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen [Elisabeth II], Her heirs and successors according to law. So help me God!” or “I, A.B., do solemnly and sincerely affirm and declare that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen [Elisabeth II], Her heirs and successors according to law.” Any republican around?

Section 44 (i) provides that any person who: “is under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power;

… shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.”

Every consideration about a candidate’s personal faith, political or religious, could cause some problem. Perjury comes to mind. Perhaps, just perhaps, these two provisions are clashing. Queen Elisabeth II – yes, of course, also ‘Queen of Australia’ – could be regarded as a ‘foreign power’ no matter how much the soi-disant ‘Mountbatten’ (actually Battenberg, from the town of Battenberg, Hesse) (Windsors) crowd may try to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the Haus Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha, which is an effluent of the Haus Wettin, itself a lair of German counts, dukes, prince-electors and kings who once ruled territories in the present-day German states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia.

And the more one reads about Buckingham Palace’s interest in Cayman Islands and other tax havens the more one sees the alien.

It seems fair to presume that people who have experienced the questionable ‘blessings’ of imperial or colonial domination – whether of a political or socio-economic nature – would welcome the final liberation from the condition of subject and the opportunity to belong to a republic. There is no magic in that; there are only guarantees which are contained in a truly modern constitution. Anyone heard of Finland, younger than Australia?

The experience of people coming from overseas may be different, but there is no reason to suspect that, in a truly open, informed, participatory society, people born in countries such as China, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, Italy, South Africa, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Germany, South Korea, Greece, Hong Kong, United States, Lebanon, Ireland, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Iraq, Thailand, Pakistan, Fiji, Ian, Singapore, Nepal would not appreciate the advantage of a modern, democratic, secular and peaceful republic.

There is still hope that the opportunity could attract even people from Australia, England, New Zealand and Scotland. It would make, at present, a balance of about seven million new-arrivals to seventeen million of mother-country-subjects.

First things first

The title is deliberately offensive, but not of the First Nations – as they later came to be known.

When the English invaders arrived on 26 January 1788 the estimated 750,000 Indigenous People did not exist – official. They were later mistaken as fauna, disposed of with the gun, poisoned with unwanted foreign food, killed when possible, massacred repeatedly, or chained up, rounded up in lagers to be Christianised, catalogued, classified with reference to their colour, blood, size and appearance, registered as objects – and always with the design and hope that they would die out, and when that seemed not the case that they be ‘improved’ in missions, ‘civilised’ so as to appease the succeeding waves of other occupiers, and more recently ‘advised’, consulted – up to a point and to the extent, convenience and comfort of the occupiers, introduced to ‘responsible government’, and in May 2017 once again deceived by the latest manager of the post-colonial show. The ignorant rustic clowns, and some learned but morally deaf leader said that, “No, that was not the way.” The Indigenous People should try again and, for the time being, improve their show. When they debased themselves to propose a double sovereignty – one to the Old Culture and the other to the modern representative of the original invaders – they were not even told thank you for that. What they were told is that their proposed “ ‘voice to Parliament’ was impractical and offensive” to the ‘establish order’; the Westminster System as transplanted in Australia in 1788!

Making the subjects

So, how does that 25-plus per cent of newcomers become Australian? By acquiring ‘Australian values’, that is how. More insidiously, how would a person – an intending visitor or a new resident – go about to apply for a ‘selected visa’?

And what are those ‘values’? Well, the Australian Government decides.

To begin with, “Applicants for a permanent or provisional visa must:

read the Life in Australia book, then sign or accept the Australian values statement.” (Australian Values Statement, immi.homeaffairs.gov.au).

And those ‘values’ include:

  • respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual
  • equality of men and women
  • freedom of religion
  • commitment to the rule of law
  • parliamentary democracy
  • a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces mutual respect, tolerance, fair play, compassion for those in need and pursuit of the public good
  • equality of opportunity for individuals, regardless of their race, religion or ethnic background.

These ‘values’ may be expressed in different ways by different people while still maintaining the same meaning. They are not unique to Australia, but have broad community agreement and underpin Australian society and culture. So, anyway, says the Australian Government.

The ‘values’ statement is included with most visa application forms either as a question or as part of the declaration.

So, on the appointed day a newcomer may join a multitude of others – some of them holding a little Australian flag, as a visual symbol of patriotic fervour – and take an oath or make an affirmation similar to the one previously indicated.

Does that include an oath to the Constitution, that horse-and-buggy piece of paper approved by the Imperial Parliament in London and designed to satisfy the interests of the former colonials, skilfully divided from each other in repetitive states and theoretically united in what would better serve a confederal system, born-old and now over one hundred years of age?

As already seen, the text of that document is such that no sentient person would take it seriously as a foundation-pact even for a theatrical troupe.

It is doubtful if a newcomer would fully comprehend the consequences of accepting ‘parliamentary democracy’ as a defining ‘value’, particularly if s/he erroneously were to understand by that ‘one head, one vote, one weight’ in the electoral process purported to set up, arrange and sustain that form of democracy.

Most of those ‘values’, collectively and separately considered, are not worth the time.

The truth telling, it is almost impossible to disagree with Donald Horne, when he wrote: “A large part of Australians’ values are measured in money. Describe our economic life and you describe a large part of our culture.” (Death of the lucky country, Penguin Books, Ringwood, Vic. 1976, at 62-63).

It is hard to believe that in Australia there is ‘freedom of religion’ with or without ‘equality of opportunity for individuals, regardless of their race  (that word, again!), religion or ethnic background’ in the light of a clear prejudice   from the leaders up-there  to the populace out-there – against people of the Muslim faith, for instance, as cultivated by the very Australian Government.

The national identity projected by the government is wrapped up in an egalitarianism which clashes with a growing sense of inequality and the patent danger of a permanent division of the country into two classes.

‘The average Australian’, the ‘mainstream’, ‘middle Australia’ and the over-used ‘fair go for all’ are expressions of a collective illusion cultivated and propagated by public persons and commentators to persuade the plebs that the Australian is a classless society.

The fundamental distinction and chasm between two groups of Australians begins with education. And by that one should understand the liberating force which may draw one out of the lowliest circumstances. So the value of a good start at school is almost incalculable. While most children attend state primary schools, students from high-income families are often already ahead of those whose parents can afford only to send them to a single, subsidised preschool year. By secondary school the natural desire of higher-income families to pay for the-best-schooling-money-can-buy has resulted in a drift to private schools with superior resources and facilities and better teaching conditions. Learning? that is a different, often incidental matter.

It does not matter that the pupil is totally indifferent to the advantage guaranteed by possession of money. Nor does the paying family care, usually because the only distinction of it is the possession of that money.

What matters are the externalities, sublimated in the uniform preferably completed by the boater. Nowadays boaters are rarely seen except at sailing or rowing events, and what average Australian family can afford that luxury? The boater is more suitable for  period theatrical and musical performances – barbershop music, for instance – or as part of old-fashioned school uniforms, particularly popular in the late 19th century and early 20th century and still a nostalgic re-evocation of ‘home’ for incurable Englanders.

The wearing of the boater class-ifies a pupil and gives him (mostly it is for boys) a sense of belonging to an exclusive club – the Anglosphere? – with components such as Harrow ‘at home’, or Shore and  Knox in Australia, or Maritzburg, Parktown and Wynberg in South Africa. The boater signifies separation and commands respect from the plebs.

Continued Saturday – Comedy without art (part 2)

Previous instalment – Our mate: Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti (part 8)

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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Climate Change Isn’t The Elephant In The Room… It’s Capitalism

By Loz Lawrey  

In the arena of our public debate, various loud quacking voices seem to have recently fallen silent.

Australia’s national firestorm tragedy has driven many of the usual right-wing, Newscorp, coal lobby, anti-science climate change denialists back into their caves.

Stark factual reality has a way of subverting ideology and belief, no matter how strongly we cling to our chosen “views”. It’s hard to argue that climate change is a greenie conspiracy when its impacts are so evident: lives lost, homes destroyed, dreams shattered. Extreme weather events are now occurring on a global scale.

Where are Malcolm Roberts, Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt, Peta Credlin, et al? Where’s that guy who regularly rings ABC Radio talkback regurgitating the dodgy claims of  Rupert Murdoch’s opinionators?

The battlefield of climate change debate is now littered (figuratively) with the bodies of the denialist fallen.

Who shall fight the good fight on behalf of the billionaire class to repel those hordes of scientists, with all their researched facts and evidence, before they take the castle of the plutocrats?

Don’t worry, Gina. Don’t worry, Rupert… you still have Tony Abbott and Craig Kelly, those staunch legionnaires, out there proselytising on your behalf: “Reality be damned!” they cry. “Facts don’t matter, it’s how you interpret them.”

Despite the crisis unfolding across Australia, there they were, slytherin soulmates strutting the world stage, making total galahs of themselves:

Former politician Abbott, still dwelling in the mental labyrinth of denialist delusion, was hard at work, helpfully explaining on Israeli Radio that “Australia is in the grip of a climate cult!”… (Giggle. This from he who is known as the “Mad Monk”, failed priest of the darkest cult on the planet): Tony Abbott, former Australian PM, tells Israeli radio the world is ‘in the grip of a climate cult’.

Meanwhile, backbencher Craig Kelly’s overt rejection of climate science drew scorn, contempt and condemnation from conservative commentator Piers Morgan on Britain’s ITV:

 

 

In fact, when it comes to addressing climate change our Prime Minister has drawn great criticism from world leaders globally.

As our national fire crisis unfolds and Australia burns as never before, world leaders look on aghast, openly criticising our inept and possibly criminal government for its lack of response.

It takes a brave idiot to claim “nothing to see here, it’s just another drought and the greenies won’t let us do hazard reduction burns”.

Sadly, in our country idiots have never been in short supply, brainwashed over time by the conservative right, high priests of the cult of greed that is capitalism.

Capitalism. It’s been with us a long time and its legacy of planetary destruction must be confronted before it’s too late.

Look at Australia. In just 200 years we, the foreign invaders of British/European descent, have trashed the place. Our land management practices (or lack thereof?) have left this nation well on the way to becoming, forever, a scorching desert.

This didn’t have to happen. Imagine a scenario where white men came as visitors from abroad, with open minds and hearts and respect for the dark-skinned inhabitants of this great continent, eager to learn and understand their language, their local customs and culture.

After all, who really had historical seniority when Cook’s pale-faced sailors stumbled ashore in Botany Bay in 1770? Britain was only founded in 1536. It was historically and culturally a baby in comparison to Australia’s native population, who, evidence tells us, have occupied this continent for some 50,000 years.

The “western civilisation” we so often hear about from conservatives such as Tony Abbott is nothing more than an unschooled baby compared to Aboriginal civilisation, with its 50,000 years of learning and cultural development.

“Western civilisation” was exported from Europe and Britain. For native Indians in America or Aborigines in Australia, it meant genocide and attempted cultural annihilation imposed, always, by gun violence.

In their arrogance, the European arrivistes saw themselves as superior and “civilised”, the local natives as “savages”. And yet the real savagery came with the gun culture of the invaders.

The British Empire globally was founded on savagery, yet the perpetrators of that savagery always perceive themselves as the champions of “civilisation”.

Of course, with “civilisation” came capitalism.

Capitalism, that greed-driven system of private ownership and profit-driven exploitation of people and resources. The system we’ve been stuck with since the dark days of feudalism.

Capitalism. That free-market economy “winner-takes-all-and-let-the-rest-perish-in-poverty-amidst-the-scorched-remains-of-a-ruined-planet” system so beloved of the rich and the business elites.

Yes, the “top end of town” does actually exist. Driven by greed, they use their wealth and power to perpetuate denialist claims and maintain the status quo that suits their agenda of self-interest.

I’ve been on this planet for nearly seventy years, and since my first visit to a local rubbish tip in Wyong, NSW as a child, capitalism has never seemed “quite right”.

How could a system that requires constant “growth” ever be sustainable in the long term, in a finite world? Surely thinking people have always been aware that we live in a fool’s paradise? Our resources were always bound to run out and despite our refusal to admit it, we’ve always subconsciously known they would, eventually.

Since I looked down, as a young teenager, from the deck of an ocean liner, at the man-made rubbish floating in the ocean, capitalism has always seemed suspect to me.

And yet we were born into this system and it’s all we’ve ever known.

Over the years I’ve watched what can only be called the beast of western imperialist capitalism devour whole sections of humanity through war, politically-driven genocide, poverty and famine.

Distracted as we all are by the need to survive, to provide for our families and loved ones, most of us find little time to consider in depth the broader context of human existence – the world as we make it. We’re all bobbing like corks on the ocean, just trying to stay afloat.

And now we’re also trying to avoid being consumed by fires such as we’ve never experienced before, fires that result directly from anthropogenic (human-induced) climate change.

Climate change, the bastard child of capitalism.

Capitalism, which will never acknowledge or admit to its own destructive impacts upon our environment and our societies.

Capitalism, that abusive system which has only ever truly served the privileged few.

Capitalism, that cult of greed which preferences the worship of money over respect for life itself.

Capitalism, not climate change, is the real elephant in the room.

Now that Australia is ablaze, those of us who, infuriated by the denialism of the greedy, have seen these impacts coming for years, take no pleasure in “I told you so’s”.

We sense a quickening in the public consciousness, an awareness that we may be reaching the awful degree of human suffering necessary for us to finally admit there’s a problem and do something about it.

As always, our media feed us distractions such as more nonsense from Tony Abbott and Craig Kelly. It all feels like yet more reactionary bait-and-switch, a “look over there!” diversion from the real issue.

As long as we keep debating the existence or otherwise of climate change and do nothing in real terms to change our behaviour, our headlong rush towards self-destruction continues apace.

Capitalism has always been detrimental to much of humanity. Yet we’ve tolerated it because it wears the sheep’s clothing of “freedom” or “liberty” and offers the promise of “growth”. It has always painted itself as the “least bad” system available to us.

It’s time to admit that this “least bad” system is, in fact, bloody terrible.

And now we’re facing the final dystopian impacts capitalism always threatened, through human-induced climate change, to deliver.

To those who are now saying “we-need-to-admit-climate-change-is-real-and- have-a-conversation-about-it,” I say no.

We need to address the real problem: capitalism. We need a new system.

We need to change our behaviour and the very way we live.

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