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The spying on Timor-Leste case … et cetera (part 1)

By Dr George Venturini  

4. The spying on Timor-Leste case … et cetera

Timor-Leste is a very small country in Southeast Asia: about 15,410 square kilometres; population about 1,2 million; at West, North and East is Indonesia. To the South is Australia.

Once a Portugal colony, the decolonisation process instigated by the 1974 Portuguese revolution moved into a civil war which culminated with independence, unilaterally declared on 28 November 1975. On 7 December 1975 the Indonesian military launched a full-scale invasion of East Timor, having received ‘the green light’ from visiting United States President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger the day before. Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor was marked by violence and brutality.

The East Timorese guerrilla force Falintil fought a campaign against the Indonesian forces from 1975 to 1999.

In 1999, following the United Nations-sponsored act of self-determination, Indonesia relinquished control of the territory, and Timor-Leste eventually became the first new sovereign state of the 21st century on 20 May 2002. After independence Timor-Leste became a member of the United Nations and of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries. On 30 August 1999 an overwhelming majority of the people of Timor-Leste had voted for independence from Indonesia. However, in the next three weeks, anti-independence Timorese militias – organised and supported by the Indonesian military – commenced a large-scale, scorched-earth campaign of retribution.

On 20 September 1999 Australian-led peacekeeping troops deployed to the country and brought the violence to an end. In 2006 internal tensions would threaten the new nation’s security when a military strike led to violence and a breakdown of law and order. At Dili’s request, an Australian-led International Stabilisation Force – I.S.F. deployed to Timor-Leste, and the U.N. Security Council established the U.N. Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste – U.N.M.I.T., which included an authorised police presence of over 1,600 personnel. The I.S.F. and U.N.M.I.T. restored stability, allowing for presidential and parliamentary elections in 2007 in a largely peaceful atmosphere. In February 2008 a rebel group staged an unsuccessful attack against the president and prime minister. The ringleader was killed in the attack, and most of the rebels surrendered in April 2008. Since the attack, the government has enjoyed one of its longest periods of post-independence stability, including successful 2012 elections for both the parliament and president. In late 2012 the U.N. Security Council voted to end its peacekeeping mission in Timor-Leste and both the I.S.F. and U.N.M.I.T. departed the country by the end of the year.

Timor-Leste is blessed – or perhaps condemned – because of large deposits of oil and natural gas under the Timor Sea. The on-shore deposits, including oil and gas seeps which have been collected or flared for over a century, are less-well surveyed and probably smaller than those under the sea, where war did not interfere with oil exploration. Many of the offshore fields are in disputed territory; the following map lists the major known fields which belong to Timor-Leste under current international legal principles.

The resources were divided between Indonesia and Australia with the Timor Gap Treaty in 1989. East Timor inherited no permanent maritime boundaries when it attained independence. A provisional agreement, the Timor Sea Treaty, signed when East Timor became independent on 20 May 2002 defined a Joint Petroleum Development Area – J.P.D.A. and awarded 90 per cent of revenues from existing projects in that area to Timor-Leste and 10 per cent to Australia.

The 2002 Timor Sea Treaty was intended as an interim agreement, that is without prejudice to the position of either country on their maritime boundary claims.

The International Unitisation Agreement for Greater Sunrise – I.U.A., signed by Australia and Timor-Leste on 6 March 2003, provided the secure legal and regulatory environment required for the development of the Greater Sunrise gas reservoirs. Under the Timor Sea Treaty, Greater Sunrise was apportioned on the basis that 20.1 per cent would fall within the J.P.D.A. and the remaining 79.9 per cent would fall in an area to the east of the J.P.D.A. in which Australia regulates activities in relation to the resources of the seabed and subsoil.

The Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea – C.M.A.T.S. Treaty, signed on 12 January 2006, embodied a further interim agreement, that is without prejudice to the position of either country on their maritime boundary claims. The principal aim of the treaty was to allow the exploitation of the Greater Sunrise gas reservoirs to proceed while suspending maritime boundary claims for a significant period and maintaining the other treaty arrangements in place. Australia and Timor-Leste brought the 2003 I.U.A. and the 2006 C.M.A.T.S. Treaty into force on 23 February 2007.

The Greater Sunrise project was intended as a transfer of revenue to Timor-Leste of as much as US$ 4 billion over the life of the project. The exact benefit to Timor-Leste and Australia would depend on the economics of the project. Both Australia and Timor-Leste were bound by the Treaty to refrain from asserting or pursuing their claims to rights, jurisdiction or maritime boundaries, in relation to the other, for fifty years. The two countries undertook not to commence any dispute settlement proceedings against the other which would raise the delimitation of maritime boundaries in the Timor Sea.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade offers the following view of the respective position of the two countries: 

The Timor-Leste Petroleum Fund was established in 2005, and by 2011 it had reached a worth of US$ 8.7 billion. Timor-Leste is labelled by the International Monetary Fund as the “most oil-dependent economy in the world.”

A 2005 agreement between Timor-Leste and Australia mandated that both countries put aside their dispute over maritime boundaries and that Timor-Leste would receive fifty per cent of the revenues from the resource exploitation in the area – estimated at AUS$ 26 billion over the lifetime of the project – from the Greater Sunrise development.

The Greater Sunrise Project is a pair of good-sized gas and condensate fields – the Sunrise and Troubadour.

The Sunrise partners, led by operator Woodside – which owns 33.44 per cent of the project – along with ConocoPhillips – with 30 per cent, Shell – with 26.6 per cent and Osaka Gas – 10 per cent, were prepared to spend the billions necessary to extract and process the gas wealth. But Sunrise became mired in a sink of misplaced aspirations and misunderstanding born of good intentions and an understandable national guilt. The Sunrise and Troubadour discoveries sit at the northern edge of Australia’s continental shelf, some 450 kilometres northwest of Darwin but about 150 kilometres southeast of Timor-Leste, in water depths from 100 metres to more than 600 metres in the Bonaparte Basin. The Greater Sunrise contracts between Woodside plus its joint venture partners and the governments of Timor-Leste and Australia were signed in 2003, replacing contracts with Australia and Indonesia during the illegal Indonesian occupation.

Woodside Petroleum Limited calls itself Australia’s largest independent oil and gas company. It is, in fact, much more than that.

Joining the medium-sized Burmah Oil, which had started in Assam and Burma during the British Raj, and Anglo-Dutch Shell, had been a small Australian exploration company named Woodside. Originally incorporated under the name of Lakes Entrance, a small town in Gippsland near the Bass Strait oil fields, the site of its first exploration, Woodside had since turned its attention to Australia’s north-western waters.

The Australian Government never made it clear that its view of the boundary between Australia and Timor-Leste was subject to a claim to the seabed which extended to the southern edge of the so-called Timor Trough, a valley 3,000 metres deep in the sea generally 100 to 600 metres deep. The argument was based on the alleged weight of geological opinion that this trench, much closer to the Timor coast than to that of Australia, marked the limit of the Australian continental plate.

This view certainly favoured Woodside.

Today Woodside Energy is Australia’s largest publicly traded oil and gas exploration and production company and one of the country’s most successful explorers, developers and producers of oil and gas.

Its registered office is in Perth, Western Australia; its operation, around the world.

Until August 2017 the chairman of the board of directors belonged to one of the ‘Establishment’ families in Western Australia. He had been for 22 years to 2005 managing director of Wesfarmers Limited, one of the largest Australian conglomerates, one of Australia’s largest retailers and, with more than 200,000 employees across the country, the largest private employer in Australia. Woodside’s chairman moved to the petroleum industry as a geologist working on the North West Shelf, in Indonesia and in the United States. He was almost concurrently a non-executive director of BHP Billiton Limited from 1995 to 2005, and of BHP Billiton Plc between 2001 and 2005, chair first and then director of a huge company which provides financial advisory and fund management services through its subsidiaries, including leveraged private equity transactions and buy-outs and  property investment management services. BHP Billiton Limited and BHP Billiton Plc were renamed BHP Group Limited and BHP Group Plc, respectively, on 19 November 2018.

BHP is an Anglo-Australian multinational mining and petroleum company headquartered in Melbourne, Australia – largely the receptacle for Anglo-American’s former apartheid money!

It is the world’s largest mining company measured by revenues and the world’s third largest company measured by market capitalisation.

It is one of the behemoths to which every Australian government up to 1972, and since the Royal Ambush coup of November 1975 which dispensed of the Whitlam government, must pay homage – promptly and seriously!

The Whitlam Government had other ideas as to what to do with the North-West Shelf and its utilisation in the interest of all Australians.

The project had become the obsession of the Minister for Minerals and Energy, Reginald Francis Xavier ‘Rex’ Connor. Connor wanted to develop an Australian-controlled mining and energy sector, one not controlled by the mining companies. Among his plans were a national energy grid and a gas pipe-line across Australia from the North-West Shelf gas fields to the cities of the south-east.

Connor’s economic nationalism was popular with the Labor rank-and-file, and the 1973 oil crisis seemed to many to be a vindication of his views. But the flood of petrodollars which accompanied the energy crisis proved to be Connor’s undoing.

What followed is commonly referred to as the ‘Khemlani loans affair,’ already dealt with.

Of course, by the time freshly shaped neo-liberal Labor returned to office in 1983, Connor’s economic nationalism and dreams of massive state investment in energy projects would be totally rejected.

The North-West Shelf gas field’s development would be given to Woodside.

Woodside’s former chairman was also chairman of National Australia Bank Limited, one of the four Australian banks – which form a veritable cartel, between 2005 and 2015; a member of the J.P. Morgan International Council and, to top it all and to show a respectable connection with ‘academia’, chancellor of the University of Western Australia between 2005 and 2017. A directorship of the Centre for Independent Studies, a solidly right-wing think-tank, completes the ‘colour’ and qualification for ‘the Establishment’. Woodside would in time extend its hospitality to former Foreign Minister of the Howard government upon his retirement. Mr. Alexander Downer would be welcomed in an advisory capacity, quite ‘properly’ offered through the services of Bespoke Approach an Australian corporate advisory firm and registered political lobbyist of Downer’s making. Mr. Downer’s successor, Martin Ferguson, Minister for Energy of the Labor Government would, on losing his position at the federal election of 2013, moved quickly, eagerly and directly to the position of member of the board of Woodside. And that is reward for talent!

But for an example of ‘flexibility’ it is hard to beat Mr. Gary Grey, National Organiser (1986-1993) and National Secretary of the Labor Party(1993-1999), then Executive Director of Wesfarmers (2000-2001), ‘principal strategic adviser’ and then Director of Corporate Affairs with Woodside (2001-2007) until he was elected with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2007, appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Infrastructure with Responsibility for Northern and Regional Australia in the First Rudd Ministry. He later moved to Prime Minister Julia Gillard who chose him as Special Minister of State (located in the Department of Finance and Deregulation) and Special Minister of State for the Public Service and Integrity in the Second Gillard Ministry and later Minister for Resources and Energy, the Minister for Tourism and the Minister for Small Business. Oh, for the polyvalence of the neo-Laborals!

The C.M.A.T.S. Treaty was signed by Foreign Ministers Alexander Downer and José Ramos-Horta in Sydney on 12 January 2006, in the presence of Prime Ministers John Howard and Mari Alkatiri.

Timor-Leste ratified both C.M.A.T.S. and the International Unitisation Agreement for the Sunrise and Troubadour fields separately on 20 February 2007, publishing the Parliamentary Resolutions on 8 March in the Official Gazette in Portuguese.

The C.M.A.T.S., the product of eight years of negotiation, had advantages and disadvantages for both countries. In summary, Timor-Leste increased its share of upstream revenues from 18 per cent to 50 per cent in return for accepting Australian sovereignty over areas east and west of the J.P.D.A., ratifying the I.U.A., and agreeing not to raise the maritime boundary question for 50 years. Many people in Timor-Leste expressed the view – and alarm – that the balance was not in Timor-Leste’s favour. They continued to believe that Timor-Leste has the right to all maritime and seabed resources in the Exclusive Economic Zone. The signatories and oil companies concerned had hoped that C.M.A.T.S. and the I.U.A. would open the way for Greater Sunrise to be exploited. The basic development plan for the project was still not settled by late 2012, with Timor-Leste holding out for a pipeline to an liquefied natural gas plant in Beacu on Timor-Leste’s south coast, and the Sunrise Joint Venture – led by Woodside, with Shell, ConocoPhillips and Osaka Gas – preferring a mid-sea floating plant.

Continued Wednesday – The spying on Timor-Leste case … et cetera (part 2)

Previous instalment – The Dr Mohamed Haneef case

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


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Pass the baton

By John Haly  

Children are striking in the streets and demanding an effective response to climate change, while many adults sit on their hands. It is a sharp illustration of intergenerational conflict, and Greta Thunberg has become a lightning rod for that conflict.

Greta Grief

Children are striking in the streets and demanding an effective response to climate change, while many adults sit on their hands. It is a sharp illustration of intergenerational conflict, and Greta Thunberg has become a lightning rod for that conflict.

Mind you, Greta had demonstrated quite the capacity to defend herself, protesting that, “They come up with every thinkable lie and conspiracy theory.” It’s not like the generational divide hasn’t been a feature of every previous protest and societal struggle, but with the advent of social media, the conservative minority voice has been amplified out of all proportion to their numbers.

Interestingly on that subject, rarely does the subject of the “science” emerge in the conservatives criticism. When it does, it goes beyond parroting debunked right-wing dogma, as it has revealed the enmeshed relationship between the conservative pressmining barons and political parties. These self-interested groups will stop at nothing to protect their vested interests and are quite literally prepared to sacrifice children and their future.

The millions of dollars dedicated to Climate Denial funding

Yet Greta is triggering the troglodytes and eliciting bullying from a notably dominantly loud demographic in our society – Conservative and Privileged Old White Misogynists.

Hypocrisy in action


The rage of Conservative and Privileged Old White Misogynist (CAPOWM) men is leading the charge. Miranda Divine and Daisy Cousens would demonstrate that it is not an exclusively male opposition. #notall[are]men😎 Irrespective, the role of women in outrage over Greta, is dwarfed by the sheer numbers of male counterparts.

CAPOWM men feel very affected and threatened by a 16-year-old girl in plaits in a way they do not feel affected by about thousands of scientists and adult climate activists. Despite adults protesting, the idea of children conducting a school strike is seen as an existential threat that invokes a moral panic previously unseen. This “existential threat” is breaching some fundamental principle these CAPOWM men hold to be sacrosanct.

1 These men hold that Elder men are authoritative and demand respect for their “masculine role” and Greta is challenging the status quo and daring to raise her voice to confront her elders on their failures to attend to these climate issues.

2 These men hold that woman and children should be subordinate, and Greta is challenging their authority and refuses to back down to them.

3 These men maintain that they have the right to power and authority, and Greta is building a groundswell of popular power to rise and challenge their “throne of swords”.

4 These men have always been able to blackmail, bully and bribe, but she is so bold and so young that they can find no means of leverage and find themselves in foreign territory. Perhaps not dissimilar to the British response when they faced off Joan of Arc.

5 These men realise they cannot reduce this young woman to being a sexualised compliant tool whom they can manipulate to disparage or compromise. Although Tommaso Casalin, an Italian youth football coach, thought otherwise and was justly sanctioned.

6 These men fear the loss of their wealth, power or privilege or that they will be asked to share any part of it!

7 These men realise it is inherently wrong to attack a child and are confronted by the power of her honesty. They know they lack the moral high ground and hate being out manoeuvered.

Finally, my eighth reason and one – which when I read online – I initially thought was satire. I searched in vain through the article page for the satire disclaimer. It wasn’t satire! I have seen it replicated a few times now. I baulked at adding this because – while acknowledging toxic masculinity – I inaccurately assumed, this was a minority of chest-thumping men who felt afflicted by this issue.

8 These men’s toxic masculinity has such a firm grip on their psyche; they feel that if they engage in eco-friendly behaviour, they’re worried it might undermine their masculinity. In short, being seen as “green”, is perceived as “too girly”. WTF!

As a personal interjection, I find it quite hard to wrap my head around the last one. Since I thought it was satire initially, I can only reference Mark Humphries or The Chaser’s real satire by way of providing these men with clarity.

The critical evaluation of Mysogyny

Decent Men!

Decent older men, don’t behave like this!  And I want to finish this article with an inspiration I took from the Student Climate Strike in Kyoto, Japan which our family attended on the 20th of September 2019. My son has not missed any of the School Climate strikes in Australia, but we were in Japan when this one occurred. My son is no “Greta”, even if he understands the crisis of anthropogenic climate change. He is a self-effacing lad not prone to outbursts of radical self-expression or shouting slogans in people’s faces, although I have heard him joining in the chants at protests of his own volition. Although, only when he didn’t notice his proud father looking on. I spoke of his attendance at the first strike in this embedded article.

It was witnessing the “passing of the baton” from one generation to the next, in the Japanese march that caught my attention, amidst all the photographs and recordings I made. The protest started with some speeches at Maruyama Park (an urban park known for its cherry blossoms). Protestors formed an orderly procession under the constructive direction of police officers who at intervals reminded people to drink water to fend off any dehydration. Compared to the harsher attitudes of Australian police over climate protests invoked by Government lies, the courtesy and concern of the escorting police existed as a sharp contrast. The chants expressed by the protestors alternated between English and Japanese.

Casual police presence and peaceful protest

Last efforts to carry the torch for a generation

Amongst the protestors was an old man in a wheelchair, holding a sign in his lap that read, “No peace without Global Justice”. As the parade progressed down the street, I noted he was missing. The young lady (and accompanying gentleman) who had been pushing his wheelchair was holding the sign. After not finding him in the crowd, I approached them and interviewed them, as to where he had gone. As an older man, he wanted to participate for as long as he could in the student’s strike but had a medical appointment pending. He passed his sign back to the younger lady and left, in effect passing the baton back to youth to carry the cause on. She carried his sign until the end of the march.

CAPOWM men trolling the internet

Could we perhaps refrain from being foolish misogynist old white men who keep disparaging our youth? Could we be less threatened, by a forthright young girl demanding we pull our proverbial socks up, and take a lesson from a wiser old Japanese man? There comes a time in an older man’s life when whatever effort we have made to better our world for our children, is beyond us. We pass on the baton to them in the hope they will build a better world from the mistakes we have made. For that task, the only thing worthy of an honourable man, is to pass on whatever encouragement, guidance and blessings he can.

Climate Protest by permaculture

This article was originally published on Australia Awaken – Ignite your Torches and has also been published on Independent Australia.

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The clock is ticking ever closer to Doomsday

By RosemaryJ36  

In developing a policy, as a broad generalisation, it is wise to explore the possible adverse effects as well as the advantages of adopting that policy.

But if you have an enemy on your borders and delay may mean that your efforts to repel an invasion will be unlikely to succeed, what should you do?

“India and China as well as the USA are responsible for the greatest increases in emissions. Our efforts will be wasted if they do nothing.”

“Solar panels will not last for ever and we may have significant problems recycling them.”

“We have survived an earlier Ice Age, and Warm and Cold periods have happened before, so what is the problem now?”

“Why are people so certain that mankind has been responsible for the present increase in temperatures?”

These are some of the arguments being put by people who do not agree that there is an urgent need to drastically reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

There are, in fact, plenty of countries which are not only doing something positive but are creating impressive milestones.

Please note – whenever something is stated as a ‘fact’, ideally it should be followed by the statement “based on current knowledge”. And that knowledge is based on scientific research which has determined the level of probability of a particular hypothesis – and on accurate reporting. The more likely it is to be true, the more confidence we can place in that ‘fact’.

Death, taxes and change are, after all, pretty much the only certainties in life! You don’t know when you will die, how much tax you will pay in the future nor how much change will occur!

At this point in time, we do know there is no Planet B!

People get confused by the concept of ‘climate’, which is inherently local. When scientists are talking about July 2019 being the hottest month on record, and you are freezing in Antarctica, you need to realise that they are referring to the highest average world temperature, which takes account of the whole world, not just a region.

The whole climate change, global warning issue is a whole world issue requiring cooperation which is only slowly forthcoming.

In the last election campaign, Bill Shorten was vilified because he would not answer the question as to now much his plans to counter global warming would cost.

What he should have answered, is “How much will it cost over the next decade to repair damage and recompense people if the severe weather patterns, droughts, fires and storms we have been experiencing actually continue or even worsen?”

How long is a piece of string?

The adults who criticise Greta Thunberg should be charged with child abuse!

She has a brain which is capable of analysis and research at a level way beyond most of them. She has researched the data, she is quoting the experts and she is fighting for a future for her own and following generations.

As are many adults who fear for the future of their own grandchildren. They are, in many cases, activists who are fighting for survival of humanity, against government inaction and flawed policies.

Greed and monetary interests have taken priority in most governments, including our own. We talk endlessly about the economy but we brush aside criticism of government policies which are actually hurting vulnerable people.

We have truly lost our moral compass, following get-rich-quick cults and ignoring the needs of those who do not have a chance to ‘have a go’!

We waste food while the poor in other countries – and some in our own – are starving.

We have developed a throw-away economy where manufacturers build in obsolescence.

We pollute to the point that some fresh water sources are no longer suitable for consumption.

The rate of loss of species diversity is enormous. No surprise, when we recognise that humankind is the Earth’s most dangerous predator!

The clock is ticking ever closer to Doomsday, and all the wealth, in financial terms, which a few have accumulated, will not save them forever when the air and water are polluted and the temperatures soar out of control! They might end up living lonely lives in luxurious caves!

Government funding cuts and concentration on research that brings in money has not yet quite destroyed the CSIRO. We have plenty of sources of viable plans for action.

All is not lost – yet!

Please can we persuade governments, starting with our own, that time is truly running out for action to be effective.

Stop thinking “What’s in it for me?” and start thinking “How can we ensure that humankind survives in a world which is not totally hostile?”

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The Dr Mohamed Haneef case

By Dr George Venturini  

The Dr. Mohamed Haneef case

On 1 July 2007 Scotland’s largest airport in Glasgow was shut down after a four-wheel-drive was driven into its main entrance before bursting into flames. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond confirmed that the attack was being treated as a ‘terrorist incident.’ Two men were arrested immediately after the botched attack. One of the men was Mr. Kafeel Ahmed, the other Mr. Sabeel Ahmed. They both are the second cousins once removed of Dr. Mohamed Haneef. Kafeel Ahmed – who was arrested immediately after the botched attack on Glasgow airport – died on 3 August 2007 in a Scotland hospital from burns he suffered in the attack.

On 2 July 2007, Dr. Haneef was arrested at Brisbane Airport, Brisbane, Australia on suspicion of terror-related activities. Until then the Indian-born doctor had been working as a registrar at the Gold Coast University Hospital in Southport, Queensland.

At the time of his arrest, Dr. Haneef was attempting to make a one-way trip to India. This led Australian authorities to believe Haneef’s attempted exit from Australia on 2 July was directly linked to the arrest of his cousin Kafeel Ahmed. The arresting authority discounted the possibility that Dr. Haneef was returning to see his six-day-old daughter, who had neonatal jaundice, and wife who had given birth to her first child by emergency caesarean section.

Following his arrest, Dr. Haneef’s family claimed that any link between him and the terrorists was only tenuous, and just a case of guilt by association, that he was not involved in the plot, and that he was returning to India for the already mentioned reason. Dr. Haneef’s father-in-law said that the doctor intended to take his wife and daughter back to Australia after getting the infant a passport, and – for that reason only – he was travelling without a return ticket.

The Australian Federal Police did not believe Dr. Haneef, despite the detailed explanation he had given while answering questions. And perhaps at this point, it may be said that Dr. Haneef is a practising Muslim.

Dr. Haneef told police that, as he did not have sufficient funds in his Australian bank account, his father-in-law had booked and paid for the one-way ticket with an understanding that “when I go there we can arrange for the coming back ticket. Because I just got 7 days’ leave approved.”

On 7 July 2007, a Brisbane magistrate granted the Australian Federal Police an additional 48 hours to detain Dr. Haneef.

A week later, on 14 July, and after eleven days in detention, Dr. Haneef could have been charged with recklessly providing resources to a terrorist organisation, more specifically recklessly supplying a mobile phone sim card to a terrorist organisation – maximum penalty 25 years in prison.

Australian authorities charged Haneef under Section 102.7(2) of the Criminal Code Act 1995. An offence under this section of the Act carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. The basis of the charge was the allegation that he had intentionally provided support to an organisation, deemed to be a terrorist organisation under the terms of the Act, whilst being reckless as to whether it was a terrorist organisation. The allegation centred on the gift of his own sim card to his cousin, Sabeel Ahmed.

Haneef’s links with his cousins were cited by police as a key factor in their case, and a Commonwealth prosecutor told magistrate Jacqui Payne.

Mick Kelty, who was the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police from 2001 to 2009, revealed that Scotland Yard had initially told Australian Federal Police investigators that the sim card was found in the jeep used in the Glasgow airport attack.

A review by Damian John Bugg, Q.C., a barrister, who was Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions between 1999 and 2007, revealed the allegations connected to the sim card use as “error of fact.”

Meanwhile, on 16 July 2007, a Brisbane magistrate granted bail to Dr. Haneef. He was ordered to provide a surety of $10,000 and report to the Southport police station three times a week.

On the same day, shortly after Dr. Haneef was granted bail, the Howard Government’ Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews cancelled the doctor’s visa on the grounds that he had failed ‘the character test’. He said that Dr. Haneef would be taken into immigration detention.

Mr. Andrews said that the Australian Federal Police would have issued a ‘criminal justice certificate’, the effect of which was that Dr. Haneef would have remained in immigration detention while legal proceedings were afoot. Mr. Andrews said he had revoked Dr. Haneef’s 457 temporary skills visa on character grounds, because he “reasonably suspected” that Dr. Haneef had an association with people involved in terrorism. He further said “I’m satisfied the cancellation is in the national interest. I have a responsibility and a duty as minister under the Act to turn my mind to the question of whether Haneef passes the character test.” This decision was criticised by the chairman of the Australian Bar Association, Stephen Estcourt.

The decision to revoke Haneef’s visa was given in principle (?), support by the Shadow Minister of Immigration, Tony Burke.

After the decision by Immigration Minister to cancel his work visa, Dr. Haneef chose not to post bail, opting instead to remain in police custody until his appeal against the visa cancellation decision could be heard.

On 22 July 2007, the Queensland government revealed that Dr. Haneef was being treated ‘as a terrorist’ while detained in gaol and subject to special conditions, including solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. Queensland Police and Corrective Services Minister said that the conditions of his detention included no contact with other inmates, meaning that Dr. Haneef would be alone in a cell for all but one hour a day, when he would be allowed to exercise.

On 18 July 2007 Mr. Stephen Keim, S.C., the barrister representing Dr. Haneef, released the transcript of a police interview with the accused doctor to The Australian newspaper. The Howard Government’s Attorney-General Philip Ruddock and A.F.P. Commissioner Mick Keelty raised concerns that the leak undermined the case against Dr. Haneef.

On 22 July 2007, some of Murdoch’s papers reported unsubstantiated claims from unnamed law enforcement sources that the A.F.P. was investigating Dr. Haneef’s alleged involvement in a plot to blow up a Gold Coast skyscraper. The reports also alleged that Dr. Haneef may have been one of a number of people who had expressed interest in the operations of planes at premises in Queensland. The Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty was forced to take the extraordinary step of publicly denying any substance to these claims.

Dr. Haneef was released when the Director of Public Prosecutions withdrew its charge on 27 July 2007. The Public Prosecutor said that there would be “no reasonable prospect of a conviction of Haneef being secured.” He told the court that prosecutors had made two mistakes at a bail hearing on 14 July.

One was their claim that Dr. Haneef’s sim card had been found in a burning jeep at Glasgow Airport when, in fact, it had been found in the possession of the brother of a terrorism suspect in Liverpool. The second error was their accusation that Dr. Haneef had once lived with some of the English bombing suspects, when in fact he had not. The Labor Opposition called for an external review of the handling of the Haneef case by the Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

On 27 July 2007 following the abandonment of the case by the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Immigration Minister held a press conference to announce that he had requested that the Commonwealth Solicitor General provide him with advice about whether his decision to cancel Dr. Haneef’s visa should be reviewed, given the collapse of the prosecution’s case. Pending the receipt of that advice, Minister Kevin Andrews made a Residence Determination under s.197AB of the Migration Act 1958 to allow Dr. Haneef to be detained in the community, although with some restrictions on his movements and a requirement to report to authorities daily.

On 28 July 2007, the Minister announced that the Solicitor General had completed his review of the Minister’s decision and formed the conclusion that Dr. Haneef’s appeal would fail. As a result, the Minister declined to reverse his decision and reaffirmed the intention of the Commonwealth to resist the appeal in the Federal Court.

The Minister stated that: “After taking advice, including from the Australian Federal Police, I have indicated that the Commonwealth has no objection to Haneef leaving Australia. Indeed the effect of the visa cancellation is that he should remove himself, he should depart Australia in any event.”

A day later, the minister took advantage of the circumstance – as he put it – that Dr. Haneef had acted in accordance with his own advice as evidence that ‘heightens, rather than lessens’ his suspicions about the correctness of his own as yet unpublished assessment of Haneef’s alleged bad character.

However, Dr. Haneef’s passport was returned and he departed Australia voluntarily on 29 July 2007. Immigration authorities prevented him from holding a press conference prior to his departure.

On 31 July 2007, Mr. Andrews released further details of the review by the Solicitor General which – the minister so claimed – affirmed the minister’s decision to revoke Dr. Haneef’s visa.

Mr. Andrews claimed to have cancelled Dr. Haneef’s visa based in part on an online chat that Haneef had with his brother prior to attempting to leave Australia.

Dr. Haneef’s passport had been returned to him, but his work visa was not returned.

On 21 August 2007, a Federal Court sitting in Brisbane ruled that Dr. Haneef’s visa should be reinstated. The court ruled that Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews made a jurisdictional error when he cancelled Dr. Haneef’s visa on character grounds. Mr. Andrews announced that he would lodge an official appeal.

On 29 August 2007, a lawyer representing Dr. Haneef said his client would be seeking compensation after the A.F.P. officially dropped the doctor as a ‘person of interest’.

On 21 December 2007, the Full Bench of the Federal Court upheld a Brisbane judge’s earlier decision to reinstate former Dr. Haneef’s work visa. The Rudd Government Immigration Minister Chris Evans said he would not block the reinstatement of the visa.

On 13 March 2008, the Australian Government launched a judicial inquiry into the handling of the case against Dr. Haneef. The review was to be carried out by former New South Wales Supreme Court Justice John Clarke, Q.C.

The Attorney-General labelled the Clarke inquiry a “judicial inquiry.” Dr. Haneef’s lawyer, Stephen Keim S.C. called it a “virtual inquiry.” The president of the Australian Council for Civil Liberties, Terry O’Gorman, called it a “Mickey Mouse inquiry.”

The report was presented to the government on 21 November 2008, and made public about 23 December 2008.

The report concluded: 1) that the evidence against Dr. Mohamed Haneef was “completely deficient”; 2) that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation had reported to the government two days after Dr. Haneef’s arrest that there was no information that he was guilty of anything; 3) that Commander Ramzi Jabbour, manager, counter-terrorism (domestic), had lost objectivity and was “unable to see that the evidence he regarded as highly incriminating in fact amounted to very little”; and 4) that Police officers Neil Thompson and Adam Simms, who interrogated Dr. Haneef, refused to charge him, so Jabbour did so himself.

Then A.F.P. commissioner Mick Keelty was barely mentioned in the report.

During the 2008 inquiry into the Haneef affair, documents revealed that former Prime Minister John Howard became involved in the case within 48 hours of Dr. Haneef’s arrest. Lawyers in the case have suggested that the early involvement of the Prime Minister means that John Howard colluded with Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews to politicise the issue. (C. Hammer, ‘Papers link Howard’s department to Haneef’, The (Melbourne) Age, 18 June 2008).

Prime Minister Howard has maintained that he had no involvement with the handling of the Haneef case.

There is something Nixonian about Prime Minister John Winston Howard: he could lie with conviction, almost always to be ‘believed’ by the plebes, subjects and helots.

On 29 July 2008, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation said that it did not believe Dr. Haneef was a threat to national security. The agency told the inquiry into the handling of the Haneef case it was not involved the decision to arrest, charge, prosecute or release Dr. Haneef, nor cancel his Australian visa.

On 29 August 2008, the A.F.P. dropped its case against Dr. Haneef, saying that there was insufficient evidence to charge Dr. Haneef with any criminal offence.

On 1 September 2008 the former Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock told the inquiry he had no problems with the way the A.F.P. conducted their investigation into Dr. Haneef.

On 8 September 2008, the A.F.P. Commissioner Mick Keelty said that he cooperated fully with the inquiry.

On 15 October 2008, the former Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews appeared before the inquiry.

On 16 October 2008  Dr. Haneef’s lawyers said that the A.F.P. had received advice that there was insufficient evidence to lay a charge against the doctor. They cited documents obtained under Freedom of Information legislation. (‘Not one shred of evidence’,, 25 October 2008).

In December 2008 the Clarke Inquiry into the handling of the case against Dr. Haneef concluded that he should never have been arrested in the first place. The inquiry found that former Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews did not reflect deeply enough on his department’s advice, but – it said – Mr. Andrews’ decision was not politically motivated and he did not act improperly. (‘Mohamed Haneef Case’ – Law Council of Australia).

On 1 July 2010, Dr. Haneef’s legal team lodged a defamation and wrongful detention action against former Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews. The lawyers said that they lodged proceedings in case compensation negotiations with the government did not produce a satisfactory outcome. (‘The Haneef affair: From arrest to inquiry’ – ABC News. 2 July 2010).

In December 2010, Dr. Haneef returned to Australia to seek damages for loss of income, interruption of his professional work, and emotional distress. He was awarded compensation from the Australian Government. The amount of compensation awarded was not disclosed, but was described by reliable sources as ‘substantial’. (‘Muhamed Haneef’ – Wikipedia).

Continued Saturday – The spying on Timor-Leste case … et cetera (part 1)

Previous instalment – The Tampa, Hicks, and Other Cases

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


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Why are so many so unaware of the needs of others?

By RosemaryJ36  

Few people will be surprised at the news coming out of the RC in to Aged Care.

When I was growing up, provision of public transport, water and electricity and many other ‘services’ was in the hands of some level of government.

It was not perfect, there were many grumbles, but it worked.

Plus, if the government provided the service, it also had the capacity to more readily subsidise it for those of more limited means.

More recently, governments have taken on provision of heavily subsidised hospital and medical services, while additional private health cover is an optional extra – as long as you can afford it!

Some Aged Care services are run by not-for-profit (NFP) organisations but a majority would be run by corporations – all of which have a duty to make a profit for their shareholders.

Provision of services has at times been seen as the responsibility of governments to ensure that every member of the community can be provided with basic needs.

Privatising has the immediate effect of increasing cost to the user of the service in order to accommodate shareholders’ dividends. Many would claim that a private organisation runs things more efficiently. This needs to be examined.

Both government and corporation have to employ people to run the service organisation. Cutting wage and salary expenses may reduce costs, (and increase dividends) but also may reduce the standards of the organisation.

Fewer reviews and less frequent maintenance have the same effect.

We all need a water supply, electricity or other source of power, medical services and education, so having a central, regulated provision by government surely makes more sense than expecting the least able to pay more in order to provide better incomes for shareholders?

And the latest disaster is when the most essential commodity – water – is being drawn by corporations to ‘purify’, bottle and sell while aquifers in more remote communities are running dry.

The only way privatisation can possibly work is if there is strict and realistic regulation.

That there is not has been and is being amply demonstrated in the Financial Institutions/Banking and Aged Care RCs, as well as in the privatisation of Centrelink services, which are destroying the lives of job seekers and Centrelink benefit recipients alike.

Those who make a career in politics seem to lack empathy, experience of life in the raw and a vision for the future.

Many people grumble about paying taxes, but if you look around the world, most of the citizens of the most heavily taxed countries are also the most contented. They willingly trade some of their earnings to ensure that everyone has a safety-net, there are no beggars, the sick get necessary treatment, education is available to all and necessary assistance in finding work is available.

This is not socialism in its derogatory context. It is essential humanity – which is MIA in Australia!

I am usually an optimist.

In a conversation today with a friend, she mentioned how things might be in 200 years’ time.

I expressed doubt whether our descendants will still be around in 200 years’ time!

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Don’t shoot the messenger

By 2353NM  

Those that live outside the south-east corner of Queensland probably don’t take much notice of the politics of the Brisbane City Council. Brisbane has an annual budget and population larger than Tasmania and, somewhat unusually for Australia, is a Council comprising mostly overtly party political elected members.

Brisbane residents have elected an LNP Council for almost the past two decades. The LNP has produced three Lord Mayors in this time, first Campbell Newman (who went on to become Premier of Queensland), Graham Quirk (Newman’s Deputy) and as of about six months ago, Adrian Schrinner. Until recently, the presumptive ALP Lord Mayor was a businessman, Rod Harding. Harding, who isn’t a current Councillor, also ran as the ALP Candidate for Lord Mayor at the last election. He was soundly beaten by Graham Quirk.

At the end of September, Harding was dumped by the ALP in favour of former commercial television political reporter Patrick Condren. The Queensland Local Government elections are due at the end of March 2020. To say that LNP State MP, Christian Rowan was unimpressed is an understatement. According to Nine media, Rowan tweeted

Fake news Labor journalist masquerading as “independent” for years. Leftist journalists have been infiltrating press galleries across all Parliaments running their own biased agenda at the expense of a true, fair & unbiased free press.

Apart from Rowan’s only apparent interest is that he a Queensland MP for a seat largely inside the City of Brisbane boundaries, is he making the accusation that Condren was biased through his years of reporting for Queensland commercial television? It seems to be the case, despite Condren claiming he wasn’t a member of a political party until recently.

Factually, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull were at some point in their working lives journalists so Rowan’s ‘all journalists are lefties’ claim doesn’t stack up. Sarah Henderson (recently returned to Federal Parliament as a member of the Liberal Party) is a former ABC journalist and there are numerous similar examples (on both sides of the political fence) across the three levels of government in Australia. If the reporting of any of them was consistently biased to either the left or right, it would be difficult for most journalists to rise to ‘senior’ or ‘veteran’ level, as Condren did.

Regardless of where you live, Rowan’s Twitter tirade is evidence of a large problem. Condren may have reported unfavourably on various LNP issues while holding a microphone or typing away on a keyboard. The chances are that Condren also annoyed the ‘bejeezes’ out of the ALP at times in his previous life. The media is supposed to report the facts and let individual consumers make the ‘value judgement’ on the relevance of the facts and how it compares with the individual consumer’s opinions, lived experience and beliefs. Just because you don’t necessarily agree with the facts presented by an individual reporter, doesn’t necessarily mean the reporter is biased, promotes ‘fake news’ or is part of a conspiracy by the Illuminati or any other group to take over the world.

Trump is an example of this. If the news report is not to his liking, is it the fault of the journalist or the editor or the proprietor that they disagree with Trump’s world view. It is even more concerning when Trump then recants the initial view and the media go along with it.

As Greg Jericho discusses in The Guardian, Morrison is turning into the ‘ocker Trump’ where there is only one side to an issue — his. As Jericho discusses

Morrison has demonstrated a Trumpesque ability to fudge, mislead and obfuscate, and to also suggest things are the opposite of reality.

Rowan, like Morrison and Trump are shooting the messenger. While they have every right to disagree with the position reported by some or all of the media, they also need to provide the evidence and data that would be required to demonstrate the lack of accuracy inherent in the claim of fake news. Otherwise, why should you or I believe them?

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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Ahead of Our Times: Is Political Progressivism Part of the Australia’s Creative DNA?

By Denis Bright  

Many art galleries at universities and museums will be hosting end of year exhibits to display works from a new generation of creative leaders.

While our most conservative political leaders are reluctant to join The Change Bus, creative students might be offering a different eye to the future. I intend to go to forthcoming exhibitions in Brisbane to enjoy the creative talents and of course to test the notion that such talent also forging a progressive future in the transitions of the Australian impressionist artists in the late nineteenth century. Is there perhaps another Belle Epoque in the making?

In contrast, Prime Minister Morrison and his team have chosen the path of political regression at a time of great challenges facing our nation. The Prime Minister’s shrill reply made the evening news on 1 November 2019 was not encouraging:

Scott Morrison has branded environmental protesters “anarchists” and threatened a radical crackdown on the right to protest in a speech claiming progressives are seeking to “deny the liberties of Australians”.

In a speech to the Queensland Resources Council on Friday, the prime minister said a threat to the future of mining was coming from a “new breed of radical activism” and signalled the government would seek to apply penalties to those targeting businesses who provide services to the resources industry.

Civil society groups, including the Human Rights Law Centre and Australian Conservation Foundation, and the Greens immediately attacked the proposal as undemocratic and a bid to stifle a social movement fighting for Australia to take action on climate change.

So far, the text of this address has not been added to the Prime Minister’s web site. Perhaps the rhetoric is simply too embarrassing to be transmitted to national and international audiences. Staff at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet might be too busy with other promotional duties.

Having been compromised by flattery directed at Prime Minister Morrison by President Trump during that recent state visit to the USA, I did hope that Australian leaders might move in a more independent direction as a subtle protest to the excesses of this visit. The billion dollars promised to the Clean Energy Corporation seemed to be a step in the right direction.

Prime Minister Morrison echoed the America First rhetoric in his address to the General Assembly and in a follow-up address to the Lowy Institute (ABC News Online, 8 October 2019):

The ABC News reported very negatively on the Prime Minister’s Address to the General Assembly and the US visit in its entirety:

This was an odd speech on several different levels, not least because Morrison is presenting a straw-man argument.

No-one in a position of responsibility is suggesting, as far as I know, that Australia disregard the national interest first and foremost in the conduct of its affairs.

No-one, except perhaps those on the very fringes of the debate, is advocating a “one-world” government. No-one in any sort of leadership role is recommending that we “surrender to an unaccountable internationalist bureaucracy”.

In its essence, this was not a speech that should have been delivered by the leader of a self-confident middle power bent on leveraging its influence in a complex marketplace via its conspicuous advantages of geography and wealth, and indeed alliance arrangements.

In the past, creative talent has been a torchbearer for change. Even when Australian leaders were working towards federation in the late nineteenth century, such timidity would have been laughable even in the shadows of an ageing Queen Victoria.

Progressive nationalism was in the DNA of the federation leaders on behalf of a population of 3.8 million across six colonies in 1901.

The progressive tradition is thriving still at some business institutes which also display innovative art works about Australian identity. The Queensland Government’s Q Super and QInvest are sponsors of reconciliation art with acquisitions on display in its offices in Brisbane and Townsville. Indigenous artist Martina Ah Sam graces QInvest’s Townsville office.

As a girl, Martina Ah Sam searched for bush tucker with her grandmother, collecting berries along the river and catching goannas by their tails. Ah Sam’s mother, an Arrente woman, painted, and gave her daughter small ceramic pieces to decorate.

Those childhood experiences unite in the vibrant painting Ah Sam created for QInvest’s Townsville office. At the centre of the artwork, goannas scramble toward a burrow under conkerberry bushes. Circles of lighter blue represent water holes.

The painting is called ‘Night Hunt.’

“I sponge painted to make the overlay dark and light in places, like the night sky,” Ah Sam said.

Late nineteenth century art works of the progressive tradition from the Heidelberg School from Arthur Streeton, Walter Withers, Tom Roberts, Charles Conder, Frederick McCubbin and others expressed a more larrikin spirit which reflected the optimistic perspective of a new nation. Regrettably, it had racist overtones because of the exclusion of indigenous subjects. That outreach took another half century to develop.

To their credit, the impressionist artists of the late nineteenth century communicated a deep respect for the spirit of the land and its colourful characters.

Here Walter Withers identifies with the quest for alluvial gold in this work which is now on display in the Art Gallery of NSW.

A generation later in the federation era, art moved in more formal directions.

Tom Roberts used photographic imagery to record The Big Picture to mark the opening of the first Australian parliament.

In a touch of irony, the proclamation of nationhood was endorsed by the future King George V who presided over the British Empire during the Great War.

Tom Roberts went on to serve at a military hospital in England during years when former Prime Minister Andrew Fisher was High Commissioner in London.

Robert’s impressionist colleague Arthur Streeton (1867-1943) joined the British Army Medical Corps. He was appointed official war artist with the Australian AIF in 1918 with informal instructions to avoid emphasising the sufferings of soldiers on the Western Front by concentrating on The Big Picture of the Fighting.

It was indeed a long road for Tom Roberts from The Sunny South by the beach at Beaumaris in c1887 to the formal portrait of the opening of Australia’s first national parliament to the sombre corridors of military hospitals during the Great War when King George V decided to change the royal family name from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to Windsor after the first German air raids on London had taken their toll. The death toll included nine pupils at a maths lesson in the East End.

Change can of course come in a positively reverse direction as our leaders make a bipartisan commitment to be an Asia Pacific Nation first and foremost.

From the Sunny South to the Corridors of Power

Bill Leak (1956-2017) offered some light relief from this epic presentation.

The attendees at Dame Edna’s simulated official opening of parliament do seem to be a cheery lot of radicals and social liberals in the traditions of a progressive Australia from the Impressionist Era.

Some of the political nasties with an alternative far-right vision of Australia seem to be conspicuously absent unless I have missed them in the assembled throng.

Perhaps that is the hidden message from Bill Leak.

Engage too much with advocates of a more regressive history at your peril. Such devotees of fake news will gain fresh oxygen to fan the flames of racism and disorder in reinterpreting both the past and the future.

So do check out the creative endeavours of today’s rising generation of artists at forthcoming end of year exhibitions at a gallery near your place. The events in Brisbane are later in the month but I will be pleased to add to some anecdotes to this feature article if the gallery events offer insights into our future directions as a nation.

Meanwhile don’t expect too much Sunny South from the Morrison Government which is now firmly under the control of own conservative wing from within both the Liberal Party, six National Party members of the full cabinet and our current dalliance with One Nation.

Denis Bright (pictured) is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to citizens’ journalism from a critical structuralist perspective. Comments from Insiders with a specialist knowledge of the topics covered are particularly welcome.



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The Tampa, Hicks, and Other Cases

By Dr George Venturini  

The Vivian Alvarez Solon case

In July 2001 Ms. Vivian Alvarez Solon, an Australian, while visibly unwell and mentally frail, was forcefully deported to the Philippines by officers of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, D.I.M.I.A.. She ‘looked’ Filipino and the assumption was that she had been brought to Australia to perform as a whore.

The operation was so secret that only in May 2005 it became public knowledge that she had been deported. D.I.M.I.A. was conscious of the fact that the deportation had been illegal since 2003, but kept quiet. The Solon’s family had listed her as a missing person since July 2003, and until May 2005 did not know that she had been deported. The circumstances surrounding Solon’s unlawful deportation caused considerable controversy in the Australian media.

On an agreement on the form of a private compensation, on 30 November 2006 retired High Court Judge Sir Anthony Mason awarded Ms. Solon an amount which was not disclosed but seems to have been of AU$ 4.5 million. The Howard Government refused to confirm the amount citing privacy reasons. It knew nothing and said nothing about the case.

The Cornelia Rau case

Ms. Cornelia Rau, a German citizen who was in Australia as permanent resident, was unlawfully detained for a period of ten months in 2004 and 2005 as part of the Australian Government’s mandatory detention programme.

Her detention became the subject of a government inquiry which was later expanded to investigate over 200 other cases of suspected unlawful detention by D.I.M.I.A. the Australian government’s Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs.

She disappeared from Manly Hospital on 17 March 2004, and, in February 2005, it was revealed that she had been unlawfully detained at Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre – a prison, and later at Baxter Detention Centre, after being classified as a suspected illegal immigrant or non-citizen by the Immigration Department when she refused to reveal her true identity.

On 9 February 2005 the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs announced an inquiry, and on 2 May the inquiry was extended to investigate the Vivian Solon case.

A report issued on 14 July 2005 provided the occasion for the Minister and Prime Minister Howard to apologise to both Ms. Rau and Ms. Solon. Compensation to Ms. Rau, promised in July 2005 and later but not delivered, followed in February 2008 to the tune of A$2.6 million.

The Solon and Rau scandals had been almost completely domestic, hence subject to easy deniability – Nixon style, although the Watergate-president had not invented the technique.

The MV Tampa case

The MV Tampa case would be different, in a way, in that it involved not a person but another country: Norway. But Howard saw no problem with it from the beginning. Au contraire!

Howard was looking for an opportunity to show his ‘decision making power’: 2001 was an election year and the prognosis was not that good.

In the years leading up to 2001 increasing numbers of people attempted to travel to Australia by boat to seek asylum as refugees. Many of these arrived off Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean, some 2,000 kilometres off the north-west coast of Australia and 500 kilometres south of Jakarta, Indonesia. Hundreds of people arrived on tightly packed, often unseaworthy vessels, and many paid large amounts of money to ‘people smugglers’ for their passage to Australia.

At dawn on 24 August 2001 a 20 metre wooden fishing boat, the  KM Palapa 1, with 438 persons – 369 men, 26 women and 43 children – mainly Hazara, an Afghanistani/Pakistani ethnic group, became stranded in international waters about 140 kilometres north of Christmas Island.

On 26 August the Rescue Coordination Centre Australia requested all ships in the area to respond. R.C.C. sent a fax to the Indonesian Search and Rescue Agency, BASARNAS on the night of 25 August but received no response.

Captain Arne Rinnan of the MV Tampa, a Norwegian roll on/roll off freighter,  responded to the mayday call: “We are on a voyage from Fremantle to Singapore via Sunda Strait … We have changed course and are headed for position of distress … Please advise further course of action. A Rinnan, Master.” After an hour of setting course for the vessel, Rinnan received a direction from R.C.C. apparently attempting to disown the rescue operation: “Please note that Indonesian search and rescue authorities have accepted co-ordination of this incident.”

Of the ships which acknowledged the request, the MV Tampa rescued 433 people from the KM Palapa 1.

The Palapa had been at sea for three days, having set out from Java in an attempt to reach Christmas Island where passengers were intending to lodge claims for asylum. Australian authorities had sent out the call for the boat to be rescued.

The Tampa was given leave by Indonesian authorities to disembark the rescued passengers at the port of Merak, but due to intense requests by a number of the asylum seekers and subsequent concern for the safety of those onboard, Captain Rinnan opted to sail for Christmas Island.

According to international law, survivors of a shipwreck are to be taken to the closest suitable port for medical treatment. The closest suitable port, Merak, was twelve hours away.  Christmas Island was six or seven hours closer, although it was not equipped to receive large shipping freighters.

This was not going to be the sole problem for Captain Rinnan. The Captain requested the Australian Government’s permission to unload the asylum seekers at Christmas Island, arguing that the ship could not sail to Indonesia, because it was unseaworthy – the ship was not designed for 438 people, only its 27 crew; and there were no lifeboats or other safety equipment available for the asylum seekers in the case of an emergency. The Australian Government refused permission for the ship to enter Australia’s territorial waters, and threatened to prosecute Captain Rinnan as a ‘people smuggler’ if it did so.

Pettifoggers went to work: the Australian Government cold deny any obligation under international law as Christmas Island lies within a zone designated as ‘responsibility for rescue’ according to an agreement made in 1990 between Australia and Indonesia. Indonesia had also accepted co-ordination of the rescue, and the closest suitable port was Merak in Indonesia.

The position was confirmed in the Australian Parliament and at the United Nations.

Faced with Australia’s threats of prosecution, Captain Rinnan agreed to turn slowly back towards Indonesia in the hope that the asylum seekers would not notice. About half an hour into the turn, however, some of them noticed and, rather agitated, approached Captain Rinnan. The Captain was concerned that if the ship continued to sail to Indonesia the asylum seekers could jump overboard or riot and harm the crew. He decided to head back towards Christmas Island.

As the ship approached the boundary of Australia’s territorial waters, Captain Rinnan pleaded for permission for the ship to dock at Christmas Island. He reported that several of the asylum seekers were unconscious, and others were suffering from dysentery. The doctor would later report that many of the asylum seekers were generally dehydrated and malnourished. Many were suffering from exhaustion and minor ailments including sixty one cases of scabies, forty six of head lice, and twenty four of gastroenteritis. There were also four pregnant women.

All this was later confirmed by the physician of the Special Air Service Regiment, dispatched by the Australian Government. The government would know better: it disputed the opinion of the physician.

The government offered medical assistance and food, but was still refusing permission for the ship to enter Australian territorial waters – twelve nautical miles from Christmas Island.

On 29 August, three days after the rescue, Captain Rinnan, increasingly concerned for the safety of the asylum seekers and the ship’s crew, declared a state of emergency and proceeded to enter Australian territorial waters without permission. He informed the Australian Government and waited for the worst.

It came with the reply of the government which sent the Special Air Service Regiment with the order to board the ship and prevent it from approaching any closer to Christmas Island.

Captain Rinnan anchored some four nautical miles off Christmas Island. Shortly afterwards the Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, reported the boarding of the ship to the Australian Parliament.

The Australian troops instructed Captain Rinnan to move the ship back into international waters, but he refused on the ground the ship would have been unsafe to sail until the asylum seekers had been offloaded. The board of the Wilhelmsen Lines Shipowning agreed with the captain’s decision, and the Norwegian Government warned the Australian Government not to seek to force the ship to return to international waters against the captain’s will.

In time the Norwegian Government denounced the action of the Australian Government to the United Nations, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the International Maritime Organisation for failing to obey its duties under international law, though it did not ask for the assistance of these organisations.

Captain Rinnan, an experienced mariner, then with 43 years of service, including 23 years as a captain, received the highest civil decoration in Norway as a result of his handling of this difficult incident. Of it Rinnan would say: “I have seen most of what there is to see in this profession, but what I experienced on this trip is the worst. When we asked for food and medicine for the refugees, the Australians sent commando troops on board. This created a very high tension among the refugees. After an hour of checking the refugees, the troops agreed to give medical assistance to some of them… The soldiers obviously didn’t like their mission.” (‘Tampa affair’ – Wikipedia).

The behaviour of the Howard Government represents a significant moment in the history of Australian asylum policy, political debate and international and migration law. There is sufficient evidence that John Howard had received advice from the Attorney-General’s Department that refusing the asylum seekers entry into Australia would breach international law. He ignored the advice to gain public support in the then upcoming election. Nor did he care much that Australia is party to the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951); the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (1974); the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (1979) and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982).

The refusal of the Australian Government to allow the Tampa to disembark the asylum seekers on Christmas Island, and the subsequent boarding of the vessel by Australian Special Air Service Regiment and ultimate removal of most of the asylum seekers to a hurriedly established offshore detention centre on Nauru helped to ensure that the deterrence of asylum seekers became a leading issue in the 2001 Australian federal election campaign – and in later elections, and contributed to the execrable rationale for the system of offshore processing and the policy of turning back boats which have developed since.

It all started with Howard declaration at the launch of his election speech on 28 October 2001 that: “ … we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.” Neither the Coalition nor the Labor Opposition has moved one millimetre from such cruel position.

On the other hand, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees granted the Nansen Refugee Award to the captain, the crew and the owner of the Tampa, who “demonstrated personal courage and a unique degree of commitment to refugee protection.” (‘Refugees: The Tampa case’, Julian Burnside; see also: ‘Tampa affair’, National Museum of Australia; and A. Reilly, ‘Australian politics explainer: the MV Tampa and the transformation of asylum-seeker policy’,, 27 April 2017).

In response to the ‘Tampa affair’, the Howard Government established offshore processing and called it the ‘Pacific Solution.’ It is the predecessor to the current policy – rather, tragedy – of ‘offshore processing’ on Manus Island and Nauru.

The David Hicks case

David Mathew Hicks, born in 1975, was a restless child from Adelaide, South Australia. He left school before turning 15 and  moved between various jobs, including factory work and working at a series of outback cattle stations in the Northern Territory, Queensland and South Australia.

He converted to Islam as he would reveal more for a search for somewhere to belong than for a religious inspiration. He would later renounce his faith.

Sometime in early 1999 he went to Albania to join the Kosovo Liberation Army, but one month after his arrival the Kosovo war ended and so, later in November 1999, Hicks travelled to Pakistan. The following year he moved to a border region between Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and Indian-controlled Kashmir, where he engaged in hostile action against Indian forces.

In the process he learned about the use of different types of modern weapons and in January 2001 Hicks was provided with funding and an introductory letter from Lashkar-e-Taiba. Later on he travelled to Afghanistan for further training.

In December 2001 Hicks was captured by the Afghan Northern Alliance and sold for a US$ 5,000 bounty to the United States military. He was transported to Guantanamo Bay where he was designated an enemy combatant. During his detention, he was tortured.

In an affidavit, dated 5 August 2004 and released on 10 December 2004, Hicks alleged mistreatment by United States forces, included being: 1) beaten while blindfolded and handcuffed; 2) forced to take unidentified medication; 3) sedated by injection without consent; 4) struck while under sedation; 5) regularly forced to run in leg shackles causing ankle injury; 6) deprived of sleep “as a matter of policy”; 7) sexually assaulted; 8) being made to witness to use of attack dogs to brutalise and injure detainees.

He also said he met with U.S. military investigators conducting a probe into detainee abuse in Afghanistan and had told the International Red Cross on earlier occasions that he had been mistreated. Hicks told his family in a 2004 visit to Guantanamo Bay that he had been anally assaulted during interrogation by American soldiers in Afghanistan while he was hooded and restrained. According to conversations with his father, Hicks said he had been abused by both Northern Alliance and U.S. soldiers. In response, the Australian Government blandly announced its acceptance of U.S. assurances that David Hicks had been treated in accordance with international law.

The United States first filed charges against Hicks in 2004 under a military commission system newly set up by Presidential Order. Those proceedings failed in 2006 when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 548 U.S. 557 (2006), that the military commission system was unconstitutional. The military commission system was re-established by an act of the United States Congress.

Only on 15 August 2006 Attorney-General Philip Ruddock announced that he would seek the return of Hicks to Australia if the United States did not proceed quickly to lay substantive new charges. As a result of the Supreme Court decision, the United States Congress passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 to provide an alternative method for trying detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. The Act was signed into law by President Bush on 17 October 2006.

On 6 December 2006 Hicks’ legal team lodged documents with the Federal Court of Australia, arguing that the Australian Government had breached its protective duty to Hicks as an Australian citizen in custody overseas, and failed to request that Hicks’s incarceration by the United States comply with the Geneva Convention, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Revised charges were filed against Hicks in February 2007 before a new commission under the new act. The following month, in accordance with a pre-trial agreement struck with convening authority Judge Susan J. Crawford, Hicks entered an ‘Alford plea’ (This is a guilty plea in which a defendant maintains their innocence but admits that the prosecution’s evidence would likely result in a guilty verdict if brought to trial) to a single newly codified charge of providing material support for terrorism. Hicks’ legal team attributed his acceptance of the plea bargain to his “desperation for release from Guantanamo” and duress under “instances of severe beatings, sleep deprivation and other conditions of detention that contravene international human rights norms.”

On 9 March 2007 his lawyer said that David Hicks was expected to bring a case seeking to force the Australian Government to ask the American Government to free him.

In April 2007 Hicks was returned to Australia to serve the remaining nine months of a suspended seven-year sentence. During this period he was precluded from all media contact. There was serious criticism that the Howard Government delayed his release until after the 2007 Australian election. Colonel Morris Davis, the former Pentagon chief prosecutor, later alleged political interference in the case by the Bush Administration in the United States and the Howard Government in Australia. He said that Hicks should not have been prosecuted.

Hicks served his term in Adelaide’s Yatala Labour Prison and was released under a control order on 29 December 2007. The control order expired in December 2008.

David Hicks (image from

Hicks became one of the first people charged and subsequently convicted under the Military Commissions Act. There was widespread Australian and international criticism and political controversy over Hicks’ treatment, the evidence tendered against him, his trial outcome, and the newly created legal system under which he was prosecuted. In October 2012 the United States Court of Appeals ruled that the charge under which Hicks had been convicted was invalid because the law did not exist at the time of the alleged offence, and it could not be applied retroactively.

In January 2015 Hicks’ lawyer announced that the United States government had acknowledged that it does not dispute Hicks was innocent and his conviction was not correct. (David Hicks: Former Guantanamo bay detainee, foreign fighter, author,, 23-01-2015; see also: David Hicks – Wikipedia).

The Law Council of Australia took a close interest in Hicks’ case and played a prominent role in bringing his plight to the attention of Australian public. Throughout his period of detention – January 2002 to May 2007 – the Law Council was highly critical of: 1) the inability of Hicks to effectively challenge the legality of his detention; 2) Hicks’ treatment in detention; 3) the flawed and inherently unjust rules of procedure and evidence of the military commissions; 4) the lack of any legal foundation for the charges initially pursued against Hicks; 5) the retrospective nature of the charge eventually pursued against Hicks; 6) the acquiescence of the Australian Government in Hicks’ detention without charge; 7) The acquiescence of the Australian Government in Hicks’ trial before a military commission; 8) the terms of Hicks’ plea agreement; and 9) the unnecessary imposition of a control order on Hicks upon his release.

Over this period the Law Council issued more than twenty press releases, public letters to Parliament and reports, including three reports from the Law Council’s Independent Observer at Hicks’ trial.

In early 2014 Hicks appealed against his 2007 conviction. In an eight-page majority decision delivered on Wednesday 18 February 2015, the United States Court of Military Commission Review set aside the guilty plea and sentence, and vacated Hicks’s sentence. (‘David Hicks’ – Law Council of Australia).

Through such ordeal, and for all practical purposes, the Howard Government acquiesced to the trials and tribulation of David Hicks – and one understands why: Hicks was a Muslim, and by conversion to boot, fighting with the terrorists against Australia’s Great and Powerful Friend.

That Hicks was treated abominably both by the United States and the Australia’s authorities was confirmed in the decision by the United Nations Human Rights Committee. Hicks had served seven months of his sentence in Adelaide pursuant to a Prisoner Transfer Agreement between Australia and the United States. A violation of Article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which proclaims the right to be free from arbitrary detention, was found by the U.N.H.R.C. majority and charged to Australia in respect of that period of detention.

Hicks had submitted his complaint to the Committee in Hicks v. Australia on 10 September 2010. The long time between submission and decision would reflect the complexity of the case. (Hicks v Australia (20052010) – Australian Government response).

The United States is a party to the I.C.C.P.R. However, it is not a party to the Optional Protocol to the I.C.C.P.R., which enables individual complaints against signatory states. Hence, it was not possible for Hicks to submit a complaint to the U.N.H.R.C. about his treatment by the United States. Australia has ratified the Covenant without any reservation – for what that is worth.

The decision of the U.N.H.C.R. majority noted that Australia had made no attempt to negotiate a transfer deal which was compatible with the I.C.C.P.R., even though it “exercised a significant degree of influence over the formulation of the plea agreement, upon which [Hicks’] immediate return to Australia was contingent.”

The decision unequivocally condemned Australia’s co-operation with the United States in the disgraceful enterprise of Guantanamo Bay. (S. Joseph, ‘Australia found to have breached the rights of David Hicks’, The Conversation, 25 February 2016,

Continued Wednesday – The Dr Mohamed Haneef case

Previous instalment – Beyond the ‘Palace Letters’ (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


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The backlash of change

By RosemaryJ36  

When I was a child, “In the olden days” as my children when younger used to say, Robinson’s jams had a Golliwog emblem and I had a golliwog to play with, as well as traditional dolls.

I also read Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

A decade or so later, my sister was studying medicine in London and brought home a lonely (black) African fellow student to share Sunday lunch.

About this same time, I was reading ‘Cry, the beloved country’.

Learning is not confined to the classroom, and, over time, through expanding our knowledge and understanding, we are offered the chance to cast off prejudices, respect difference and accept that change is a continuing feature of our existence.

That is perhaps an idealised expectation. Not all avail themselves of that choice.

When I was a teenager, homosexuality was a criminal offence throughout the British colonised world, as well as among those of other faiths. In the British context, this was largely a result of the translation of certain passages in the Bible – which was, itself, penned in more ignorant times.

My mother, a dedicated Christian, who was brilliant in English grammar and arithmetic, but totally ignorant of more than basic science, firmly believed in the Genesis story of creation.

Ignorance of scientific discoveries is no excuse for ignoring them once they have been bought to your attention. There is no place in a changing world for ‘believing’ something which has been shown to be false.

It is a fact, which is still being denied by the intransigent, that mankind’s addiction to increasing use of fossil fuels, with the concomitant increase in polluting emissions, is a major contribution to accelerating global warming.

It is a fact that we are running out of time to take the steps necessary to drastically reduce the level of emissions and the damage being done to our oceans by plastic pollution.

Too many wars and conflicts are already occurring around the world, and the expansion of global corporations, encouraging the greed and selfishness of shareholders, are all features contributing to a refusal by a majority of governments to accept the massive task of declaring war on climate change.

Governments think in terms of winning the next election in 3 – 5 years’ time.

This myopic approach denies them the vision of how their current policies will impact the next generation – or they do not care about others enough to think it worthwhile.

When it comes to politics, I sit on the fence.

No one party has all the answers and the way European governments form coalitions from a wide range of parties is, in my opinion, a far healthier way to achieve consensus and develop policies which are not too biased.

The current ‘Coalition’ government in Australia is setting itself up to develop a police state. The AAT is being progressively politicised by appointing liberal members, many with no legal experience and little in the way of other special and relevant expertise.

Our disgusting treatment of refugees and asylum seekers – worse treatment than is handed out to those condemned of serious criminal offences – even Ivan Milat’s cancer was given more medical attention than are the severe traumas inflicted on those confined to Manus and Nauru.

We have a Minister in Peter Dutton who seems obsessed with sadistically inflicting pain and suffering. The Biloela family could have stayed at home, contributing to the community while all their matters went through the courts.

Instead, two innocent little girls have been treated so badly that we have almost certainly breached our obligations under the UN Convention on Children, while they have probably been as traumatised for life as have the victims of institutional sex abuse.

And the cost to the taxpayer has been exorbitant – certainly more than enough to settle all the excluded refugees in jobs and contributing to the economy!

Australia – the Lucky Country? – I don’t think so!

Australia – the land of the Fair Go? – Only if you are white and wealthy!

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All Aboard The Australian Political Change Bus: Why Does It Usually Run So Late So Often?

By Denis Bright  

At last political spin doctors want Australians to move on from the rhetorical victory laps of the federal LNP after its surprise victory on 18 May 2019. Cheering on the victory laps cannot go on indefinitely even if sections of the federal LNP still want to continue the polarising rhetoric on issues like the need for more coal fired power stations for North Queensland to compete with One Nation in regional seats at next year’s state election (The Australian, 29 October 2019):

Scott Morrison and Matt Canavan reportedly had a heated argument over a new coal-fired generator in Queensland with the Resources Minister overheard shouting “this is f***ed” during the closed-door meeting.

Tensions over the roll-out of a new coal-fired generator at Collinsville in central Queensland boiled over during a fiery exchange in the Prime Minister’s office in Canberra last Tuesday, The Courier Mail reports.

The clash was reportedly so loud it was heard by others waiting in the corridor outside, including first time MP Phil Thompson and Capricornia MP Michelle Landry.

The war-of-words is alleged to have been sparked by a “go-slow” directive given by the Prime Minister’s Office on a business case for the new generator.

During the election campaign, Senator Canavan announced a $10 million study to develop the business case for baseload power options, including in Collinsville.

The row came amid a split in Coalition ranks over its drought funding strategy last week, with ­Nationals MPs blindsiding Scott Morrison with a $1.3bn policy document leaked without approval from leader Michael McCormack.

Such antics were destined to prepare for a polarising Queensland state election in late 2020. Most constituents alas are perfectly aware of the financial and environmental costs of climate change and the pragmatic value of energy transition strategies. Unlike the National Party, the wider federal LNP must also hold marginal metropolitan seats where Pauline Hanson is no folk hero.

Even the local news on 4CA in Cairns projected a strong environmental theme (30 October 2019):

The scientific community has shown that the Great Barrier Reef is in imminent danger of massive damage and, ultimately, complete loss unless global warming is limited to 1.5C.

Report author Bill Hare, director of Climate Analytics, said: “If Queensland continues to emit carbon pollution from energy use at the same rate as in 2017, the state’s Great Barrier Reef safe carbon budget will be used up in less than 12 years, by 2031.

“As the highest carbon-emitting state in Australia and custodian of the Reef, Queensland urgently needs to get its house in order and do its bit to limit warming to 1.5oC.

“To ensure that Queensland’s carbon emissions stay within a carbon budget consistent with global efforts to meet the Paris Agreement limit of 1.5oC, Queensland needs to cut energy and industrial emissions by a total of 58% by 2030 (compared to 2005 levels) and reach zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“The good news is that there are tremendous opportunities for Queenslanders in a decarbonised economy due to its cheap and plentiful solar and other renewable energy resources, advanced industrial capabilities and existing resource industry and infrastructure.

“For Queensland to take advantage of these opportunities and stay within the carbon budget it is of vital importance for the government to develop a whole of economy Great Barrier Reef safe strategy.”

State Labor currently holds four seats of Cook, Cairns, Barron River and Mulgrave in the 4CA catchment. The seats of Hill, Hinchinbrook and Traeger in the regional hinterlands from the Coral Sea to the NT Border are held by the Katter’s Australia Party (KAT).

In this time to move on from the 2019 national election campaign, Anthony Albanese used the CEDA forum on 29 October 2019 to offer a broad-church strategy from the Labor Party as the State of the States Report from CommSec.

In a responsibly conservative style, the Opposition Leader offered some hope for a new consensus between business and Labor that would also tackle the climate change emergency. Not being able to find the full text of Anthony Albanese’s headland address to the nation from the CEDA forum in Perth, I must reply on the synopsis from Matt Coughlan of the West Australian (29 October 2019):

Labor leader Anthony Albanese has vowed to “circuit-break” a crisis in training and vocational education with a new federal agency targeting skills and workforce shortages.

Mr Albanese used his first major policy speech as opposition leader to promise to create a Jobs and Skills Australia under a Labor government.

“I am determined to circuit-break the crisis in training and vocational education,” he said in Perth on Tuesday.

The agency would be established with legislation and in partnership with large and small business leaders, unions, regional experts and federal, state and territory governments.

Mr Albanese wants it to be data-driven, working with labour market technology from professional websites Seek and LinkedIn.

He said the new agency would have a similar model to Infrastructure Australia, which he established as minister in 2008 and has since become bipartisan policy.

“A collaborative model to guide investment in human capital, just as Infrastructure Australia guides investment in physical capital,” he said

Jobs and Skills Australia would undertake:

* Workforce and skills analysis

* Capacity studies, including for emerging and growing industries

* Specific plans for targeted cohorts such as the regions, workers aged over 55 and youth

* Reviews of the adequacy of the training and vocational system.

It would have an obligation to undertake workforce forecasting skills assessments for majority government-funded services like the National Disability Insurance Scheme, aged care and health.

Mr Albanese said Jobs and Skills Australia would form the basis of a new compact.

“It will work with business and unions to harness insights from industry to ensure that training is meeting not just today’s needs but to anticipate how work is changing,” the opposition leader said.

In coming months, Labor will also look at industrial relations reforms to address job insecurity and uncertainty for workers.

As Australian investment trends worsen, even the federal LNP has decided to endorse a cautious energy transition agenda which still includes the possibility of new and upgraded coal fired power stations (The Guardian, 30 October 2019):

An extra $1bn is being handed to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to invest in projects aimed at ensuring a reliable electricity supply.

The new fund – separate to the corporation’s existing capital – will be earmarked for power generation, storage and transmission projects such as pumped hydro, batteries and gas.

Eleven of the 12 new generation investments shortlisted for the Coalition’s energy underwriting program are also eligible for funding, although Guardian Australia has confirmed that both new coal power stations and coal power upgrades will be ineligible.

The underwriting program shortlist includes a proposed upgrade to an existing coal-fired power station in NSW’s Lake Macquarie put forward by coal baron and LNP donor, Trevor St Baker.

Labor’s carbon emission targets are highly compatible with the infusion of new investment in both energy transition and support for new infrastructure particularly in depressed regions and the outer-suburban fringes as covered in a recent 7.30 Report.

To avoid a repeat of the highly successful LNP scare-campaigns against progressive taxation measures, investment funding for the economy of the future must surely come from the local financial sector and overseas investment. Both Paul Keating and Anthony Albanese want no immediate return to traditional stimulus spending models against previous investment down-turns (Shane Wright for the SMH, 29 October 2019):

All governments have been urged by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) to use low rates to expand their infrastructure programs in a bid to drive down the unemployment rate and lift wages. The RBA’s official cash rate sits at a record low of 0.75 per cent while interest rates on government debt are at near-record lows.

Mr Keating said with monetary policy barely having an impact, and the economy growing at 1.4 per cent, it was time for the government to develop a growth-led agenda.

The economy is idling at the lights, it’s like the car idling at the lights, waiting for the lights to turn green again to take off,” he said. “The economy at 1.4 per cent is simply idling.”

Mr Keating, who oversaw the first budget surpluses since the 1950s when he was treasurer, said Howard government treasurer Peter Costello had been correct to follow with more surpluses. But that focus on a return to surplus was now risking the broader economy, with too many within the Liberal Party believing the budget should be run like a small corner shop.

As member for Whitlam in the House of Representatives, Stephen Jones has taken the case for more investment in sustainable mining to assist in building the new economy

Greg Jericho’s critical economic analysis in the The Guardian (22 October 2019) does suggest that the federal LNP is starting to believe its own rhetoric about economic competence during a time of global economic downturn:

Given the market sector is roughly 82% of the economy, you would expect it to contribute around 80% of the growth in the economy every year. And yet over the past year, the non-market sector actually contributed more to economic growth than did the market sector.

The market sector only accounted for 44% of the growth in the economy, and when we exclude mining, that number falls to just 15%:

Government revenue has been artificially inflated by the failure of the senate crossbench to deliver company tax reductions for large companies.

As noted by Michael West the extra revenue has come in handy if commitment to a budget surplus is to be achieved in the current financial year (Alan Austin for Michael West, 14 October 2019):

Down in Tasmania which received favourable comments in CommSec’s Leagues Table, the myth of a thriving market economy rests on extraordinary levels of federal largesse to the extent that 62 per cent of all revenue raising is derived from grants from Canberra to support the 2019-20 state budget.

But still the State of the States comparisons continue each month and are reported as fact on mainstream news services.

Change will not come easily in a slowing national economy. Some welcome green shoots have been generated this week on both sides of politics. Without an Australian financial node equivalent to Wall Street, the City of London or the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), Australians might choose to unite around social market values appropriate to a middle-sized open economy which predated the ANZAC traditions of 1915.

Anthony Albanese has made a good offer of greater consensus-building at the CEDA forum.

Regrettably, appeal from Labor for greater consensus-building is not new. It was indeed welcomed by Paul Kelly in an outstanding opinion piece in The Australian (30 October 2019).

At least the Morrison Government is now on board the energy change bus with a promise of $1 billion for Labor’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation which was established in 2012.

Perhaps the most progressive federal LNP’s spin doctors have been reading some Labor media releases from another era (from Jason Clare as Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy, 22 January 2019):

Most of the benefits of hydrogen development will be in regional Australia. For example, the deep-sea water ports of Gladstone and Newcastle are well placed to support a hydrogen export industry. While benefiting the nation as a whole, regional Queensland will be the big winner from Labor’s plan. Labor is taking a hands-on approach to supporting the new jobs and industries Queensland needs for the future.

We want regional Queenslanders to have good, secure blue-collar jobs for the future in existing and new industries.

Hydrogen can be the next great energy industry for Australia – and Labor has a plan to make it happen.

During the federation era (1901-14) prior to the formation of the Country Party, Alfred Deakin once reached across the political divide to form as association with Andrew Fisher through a progressive phase of social liberalism. The current associations between the Liberal Party and populists from both the National Party and One Nation are barriers to the return of such historical precedents. As a traditional Laborite, Billy Hughes returned Australia to the centre-right of politics which he broke with the Labor caucus over his support for conscription for the war in Europe which failed on two occasions.

Joe Lyons (Scullin’s Treasurer) also broke with the Labor caucus over his neoconservative plans for economic recovery from the Great Depression.

The Liberal Party’s current dalliance with populists in both One Nation and the National Party is an optional association which Scott Morrison can choose to terminate in the interests of economic sustainability with Labor’s support in the Deakinite traditions of the federation era.

Action on energy transition and economic sustainability in a global warning era will require bi-partisan support. The National Party and One Nation will never a more diluted populist thunder.

Look out for the Political Change Bus in the electorates around the country to break the frustrating delays in progressive Australian public policies. Perhaps the needs of people and their environments in a middle-sized open economy will ultimately receive bipartisan attention.

Denis Bright (pictured) is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to citizens’ journalism from a critical structuralist perspective. Comments from Insiders with a specialist knowledge of the topics covered are particularly welcome.


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Beyond the ‘Palace Letters’ (part 3)

By Dr George Venturini  

At the election of 2 March 1996 Labor suffered a landslide defeat at the hand of to John Winston Howard’s Liberal–National Coalition. Keating’s personal approval rating had reached historically low levels in his second term, with opponents portraying him as elitist and out of touch. He left parliament after the election, but in retirement has remained active as a political commentator.

It is perhaps extraordinary that the Labor Party turned to Neo-liberalism as a new programme of government, but then one would understand, simply by glancing at the presence in Australia of Socialisme sans doctrines – Métin called it – Socialism without doctrine, as already seen.

It did not matter much to the new Labor leadership that neo-liberalism was first tried in Chile by the Pinochet gang which assassinated the Allende presidency and with it Chilean democracy. That ‘new way’ was coming out of the Chicago School headed by Milton Friedman. And was the first, real 9/11. If it means anything nowadays, neo-liberalism, it signifies the shifting from a moderate form of liberalism to a more radical and laissez-faire capitalist set of ideas. It is closer to the theories of Mont Pelerin Society economists Friedrich Hayek and James M. Buchanan, and it is unforgettably connected with the reactionary excesses of the Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan administrations.

After Pinochet’s installation in Chile, other countries followed. One of the worst examples is Mexico. There, wages declined 40 to 50 per cent in 1984, the first year the North American Free Trade Agreement, N.A.F.T.A. agreement came into force. The cost of living rose by 80 per cent. Over 20,000 small and medium businesses failed. More than 1,000 state-owned enterprises have been privatised in Mexico. It is not possible to disagree with the view that Neo-liberalism meant the neo-colonisation of Latin America.

What scholarly theorising meant to American air traffic controllers in 1981 is still vivid in memory: on 3 August that year, after failing to reach any settlement with the Federal Aviation Administration, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, P.A.T.C.O. employees went on strike, with about 13,000 of the 17,500 P.A.T.C.O. members walking off the job. This strike was in direct contravention of a federal law which specifically banned strikes by government unions and a no-strike clause in each of their individual employment contracts. That same day, then-president Ronald Reagan called the strike a ‘peril to national safety’ and warned strikers that they were in violation of the law and that their employment would be terminated if they did not return to work within 48 hours. A mere ten percent, about 1,300, of the striking workers returned to work within the allotted two days.

Approximately 3,000 supervisors and 900 military controllers joined the non-striking workers. The people working as air traffic controllers were ready to work 60-hour work weeks. About half of the normally scheduled flights were able to take to the air.

On 5 August 1981 the 11,345 remaining striking air traffic controllers were fired and banned from any future federal employment for life. Lane Kirkland, president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, AFL-CIO called Reagan’s action ‘brutal overkill’. The International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers contemplated a boycott of United States air traffic in support of P.A.T.C.O., but, with the exception of a two-day boycott by Canadian and Portuguese controllers, no action was taken.

The firing of striking workers and replacing them with supervisors and strike-breakers was by no means a new idea. This was a tactic often used in many industries. Typically, the new contract negotiated included a ‘return to work agreement’, in which the striking workers were re-hired with full seniority and, sometimes, with back pay.

P.A.T.C.O. leaders were gaoled for ignoring the court injunction prohibiting the strike. The United States Justice Department issued indictments against 75 controllers. Fines totalling $1 million per day were levied against the union. The union’s strike fund, consisting of over $3 million, was frozen. On 22 October 1981 the Federal Labor Relations Authority decertified P.A.T.C.O. The union was dead.

Prime Minister Hawke had learned something, and put it into practice at the time of the 1989 Australian pilots’ dispute. That was one of the most expensive and dramatic industrial disputes in Australia’s history. It was co-ordinated by the Australian Federation of Air Pilots, A.F.A.P. after a prolonged period of wage suppression, to support its campaign for a large pay increase – quantified at 29.47 per cent.

The dispute began affecting the public on 18 August 1989 with pilots working ‘9-to-5’. It was never formally resolved due to the mass resignation of pilots, cancellation of their award and de-recognition of their union.

As part of this campaign, A.F.A.P. pilots imposed on their employers (on Australian Airlines, Ansett Australia, East-West, and Ipec) a limitation on the hours they were prepared to work, arguing that if they were to be treated in exactly the same way as other employee groups – as was the Government’s position – their work conditions should also be the same. This initially took the form of making themselves available for flying duties only within the normal office working hours of 9 am to 5 pm.

The dispute severely disrupted domestic air travel in Australia and had a major detrimental impact on the tourism industry and many other businesses. Then, with their awards cancelled by the Industrial Relations Commission and Prime Minister Hawke threatening massive fines and sackings, on 24 August the A.F.A.P. resigned en masse. Two days before Hawke had threatened the pilots: “You go out and it’s war.”  Hawke referred to the pilots as “glorified bus drivers” insulting both groups of workers in the process.

He proceeded to scab-herding and what that means in social terms is better explained by Jack London. His famous definition of a scab begins: “After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad, the vampire, He had some awful substance left with which He made a scab.” Scab-herding is corporate organised crime of a particularly ugly and despicable sort. In the footsteps of Labor Prime Minister Chifley, who sent troops into the mines to break the 1949 coal strike, Prime Minister Hawke declared a national emergency and allowed Royal Australian Air Force planes and pilots and overseas aircraft and pilots to provide services. The R.A.A.F. provided limited domestic air services to ease the impact of the strike. The airlines affected by the strike  recruited new pilots from overseas, and for a while, some overseas airlines operated charter 737 and 757 aircraft on the Australian east coast routes. Travel between Perth and Sydney was clumsily re-routed via Singapore, using international flights. The dispute was superficially resolved after the mass resignation of a significant number of domestic airline pilots to avoid litigation from the employers.

The R.A.A.F. ceased ‘public transport operations’ on 15 December 1989, by 31 December 1989 regular leasing of seats on international flights ceased and, by 12 January 1990, the Government ceased its waiver of landing charges. The airlines were able slowly to return to normal schedules as they hired replacement pilots. Thus no specific date can be set for when the dispute stopped impacting flights, tourism and the economy.

Ansett, Australian Airlines, East-West and Ipec no longer exist. East-West was a subsidiary of Ansett in 1989, and was absorbed fully in 1993. Australian Airlines was merged with Qantas in 1992. Ipec was acquired by Toll Holdings in 1998.

The strike crippled the Australian Federation of Air Pilots and cleared the road to airline industry deregulation. Deregulation and rationalisation are code-words for union-busting. Prime Minister Hawke was considering tens of millions in ‘compensation’ to the ‘airline industry’ – a perfect expression of capitalist ‘austerity. And that is the true face of neo-liberalism.

A conclusion is inescapable. Neo-liberalism means this:

1) The notion of ‘the public good’ or ‘the sense of community’ is replaced with the insidious exaltation of ‘individual responsibility’.

Ordinary people, always the poorest in a society, are sent to find solutions to their lack of education, health care, and social security all by themselves. If they fail, they are blamed for being ‘lazy’.

2) For such fundamental change, public expenditure for social services – such as education and health – must be reduced.

3) As a result, the safety net for the needy and the poor must be reduced. Even maintenance of the basic infrastructure – water supply, roads, bridges – is reduced, on the ‘obvious consideration’ that government role in the economy must be reduced and expenditures must be contained. Of course, ‘government assistance’ to business, often in the form of tax benefits, must continue in the interest of production.

4) Deregulation is introduced as essential.  Everything which could hinder and/or reduce ‘profit’ – including protecting the environment and secure safety on the job – must be done away.

5) Privatisation is introduced in all fields of production and consumption. To achieve that state-owned enterprises, suppliers of goods and services must be sold to private investors on the unproven mantra that ‘public is bad/private is good’. Such massive sale includes key industries, banks, electricity, railroads, toll highways, schools, hospitals and even fresh water. Usually this is done in the name of greater efficiency, which is often needed, but privatisation has mainly had the effect of concentrating wealth even more in a few hands and making the public pay even more for its needs.

When all this is safely and promptly achieved,

6) The market must be let lose to rule. ‘Free’ enterprise or private enterprise must be allowed to rule. Free from any bonds imposed by the government no matter how much social damage this may cause. There must be greater openness to international trade and investment; wages must be reduced wages by de-unionising workers and eliminating workers’ rights which had been won over many years of struggle. Price controls must be abolished There must be total freedom of movement for capital, goods and services.

The mantra is long and goes like this: an unregulated market is the best way to increase economic growth, which will ultimately benefit everyone.

Benefit everyone? And how could anyone disagree?!

It is Thatcher, Reagan, Hawke and Keating – altogether now: “supply-side” and “trickle-down” economics!  Most people are still waiting.

* * * * *

At the federal election of 2 March 1996 John Winston Howard led the Coalition to a sounding victory. From then, and for eleven long years, one may think in terms of ‘restoration’ of old ways.

A solicitor of modest intellectual means but very strong propensity and ability for cunning, he worked his ways through the Liberal Party which culminated to his election for the seat of Bennelong in 1974.

Of Howard it may be said, and very briefly, that he was in effect the Liberal Party’s first pro-market leader in the conservative Coalition and, once elected Leader of the Opposition in 1985, he spent the next two years working to revise Liberal policy away from that of Fraser’s.  In his own words he was an “economic radical” and a “social conservative.” In plain English, he was from the beginning a reactionary without many scruples: more than ‘the end justifying the means’, which could in some cases have a certain elegance – an elegance all of its own, Howard had an eye for ‘whatever it takes’.

His governments – of which there were four between 1996 and 2007 – are too recent to be worthy of mention of policy, planning and results.

Some of Howard’s activities, and how he made his mark, may be worth recalling.

Towards the end of what has been portrayed by partisan scribblers and for the benefit of distracted, ignorant readers as ‘the Khemlani affair’, Howard – a recently elected but in a hurry member of the Coalition – worn the respect of the usurper in the Royal Ambush of 11 November 1975.

The ‘Khemlani  affair’ was a political scandal of Coalition confection which would embarrass the Whitlam Government of Australia in 1975. The government was accused of attempting to borrow money from Middle Eastern countries through the agency of a Pakistani operator by the name Tirath Khemlani, bypassing ‘standard procedures’ of the Australian Treasury.

Now, one should keep in mind that pecunia non olet – “money does not stink”, as  a Latin saying goes. Ah, yes, but such money is acceptable at the periphery of the Empire only if it comes through the ‘proper channels.’ And those channels have been ‘traditionally’ to be found only in S.W.1 (London) or – otherwise, if strictly necessary – Wall Street.

S.W.1 is some kind of ‘sacred site’ to the Australian Treasury, because there is the City of London. The City of London Corporation, officially and legally the Mayor and Commonalty and Citizens of the City of London, is the municipal governing body of the City of London, the historic centre of London and the location of much of the United Kingdom’s financial sector.

Many major global companies have their headquarters in the City, including Aviva, BT Financial Group, Lloyds Banking Group, Old Mutual, Prudential, Schroders, Standard Chartered, and Unilever. A number of the world’s largest law firms are headquartered in the City.

And, according to the Australian Treasury, there was the place, and no other, where to seek a loan – if any. Whether in fact those loan providers receive, place, exchange money coming from Middle East sources would not matter. Their money would not stink.

Minerals and Energy Minister Rex Connor wanted funds for a series of national development projects. He proposed that, to finance his plans, the government should borrow $US 4 billion. The minutes authorising the borrowing were signed by the ministers concerned and duly counter-signed by the Governor-General, John Kerr. Was he acting as Queen-proxy? or as Queen John? Hard to say.  Contacts had been made on 13 December 1974. Prime Minister Whitlam, his deputy, the Attorney General and the Minister for Mineral and Energy were au fait. Minister Connor had been introduced to a Pakistani dealer by the name of Tirath Khemlani, employed by Dalamal and Sons, a London-based commodity-trading firm.

According to Khemlani, Connor asked for a 20-year loan with interest at 7.7 per cent and set a commission to Khemlani of 2.5 per cent. Despite assurance that all was in order, Khemlani began to stall on the loan, notably after he was asked to go to Zurich with officials of the Reserve Bank of Australia to prove that the funds were in the Union Bank of Switzerland as he had claimed. The government revised its authority to Connor to $2 billion.

The raising of foreign loans for the Australian Government at the time required the authorisation of the Loan Council. It was common knowledge that funds were usually borrowed from European banks or financiers. Connor’s attempt to secure the loan was unusual for several reasons: 1) the size of the loan, 2) the lack of a partnership with foreign investors, which is customary, but was excluded by Connor who wanted Australian resources controlled and owned by Australians, 3) the Minister wanted to raise the loan independently from Treasury, 4) the loan was to come from Arab financiers, not the usual, ‘respectable’ sources based in London – if really necessary, in New York, but no further.

The Middle East at the time was awash with ‘petro-dollars’, as the price of oil quadrupled between 1973 and 1974.

Connor was duly authorised to raise loans through Khemlani in late 1974.

Between December 1974 and May 1975 Khemlani sent an avalanche of regular telexes to Connor advising that he was close to securing the loan.

However, the loan never eventuated and, in May 1975, Whitlam sought to secure the loan instead through a major United States investment bank. As part of the loan procedure, this bank imposed an obligation on the Australian Government to cease all other loan raising activities pertaining to this loan and accordingly, on 20 May 1975, Connor’s loan-raising authority was formally revoked.

As news of the plan leaked, the Opposition began questioning the Government. Under questioning from Fraser, Whitlam said on 20 May that the loans pertained to “matters of energy”, that the Loans Council had not been advised, and that it would be advised only “if and when the loan is made.” The following day he told Fraser and Parliament that authority for the plan had been revoked.

A special one-day sitting of the House of Representatives was held on 9 July 1975, during which the Prime Minister tabled the documents containing evidence about the loan and attempted to defend his government’s actions. He did not know that Connor had continued to deal with Khemlani, a fact which was later revealed by Australian newspapers.

Beset by economic difficulties at the time, and by the negative political impact that the ‘loans affair’ conjured up, the Whitlam Government was vulnerable to further assaults on its credibility.

Connor’s authority to seek an overseas loan was withdrawn following leaking of the scandal, but he continued to liaise with Khemlani. A journalist from The (Melbourne) Herald tracked down Khemlani in mid-late 1975 and following an interview, revealed that Khemlani and Connor were still in contact, bringing the ‘loans affair’ to a head. When Connor directly denied Khemlani’s version of events, as reported in The Sydney Morning Herald, Khemlani flew to Australia in October 1975 and provided the Melbourne journalist with a mass of telexes, sent to him from Connor, which refuted Connor’s denial.

On 13 October 1975 Khemlani provided a statutory declaration and a copy of the telexes he had recently exchanged with Connor. He sent copy of the lot to Prime Minister Whitlam. Upon receiving the documents, Whitlam dismissed Connor from his government for misleading Parliament.

In his letter of dismissal, date 14 October 1975, Whitlam wrote: “Yesterday I received from solicitors a copy of a statutory declaration signed by Mr. Khemlani and copies of a number of telex messages between Mr. Khemlani’s office in London and the office of the Minister for Energy. In my judgment these messages did constitute ‘communications of substance’ between the Minister and Mr. Khemlani.”

The ‘loans affair’ embarrassed the Whitlam government and exposed it to claims of impropriety. The Malcolm Fraser-led Opposition used its majority in the Senate to block the government’s budget legislation, thereby attempting to force an early general election, citing the ‘loans affair’ as an example of ‘extraordinary and reprehensible’ circumstances.

Prime Minister Whitlam refused to call an election. Event precipitated and were concluded by the Royal Ambush of 11 November 1975.

What was not known at the time is that Khemlani had come to Australia several times after the 20 May 1975 revocation of commission for the loan.

He arrived during the crisis which led to the Royal Ambush and was seen carrying two large suitcases. They contained the massive correspondence from and with Connor, and related documents.

It is said that Howard and Phillip Reginald Lynch – later Sir Phillip, then Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and the future Treasurer in the Fraser Government, spent a night at the Canberra Hotel in Canberra going through the suitcases, and searching for incriminating documents. That is the kind of activity ordinarily confined to ordinary police agents – of all kind. In that way, Howard – nominally a solicitor who should have known better – was trying to earn brownie points with Fraser. Actually, he succeeded beyond expectation: Fraser would appoint him Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, in charge in particular with the assassination of the Murphy Trade Practices Act 1974.

In government the name of John Howard would be tied to several cases of violation of domestic as well as international law and treaties.

Continued Saturday – The Tampa, Hicks, and Other Cases

Previous instalment – Beyond the ‘Palace Letters’ (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


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By Hungry Charley  

The absolute failure of water and land management in Australia’s agricultural sector is starting to look like a slow-motion, out of control train-wreck in progress. While the Coalition Government is trumpeting a new ‘drought policy’, in reality, it is more of the same of what led us into this mess in the first place, while offering no acknowledgment of the failure of ‘market-based’ management of our natural resources or likely future climate scenarios.

Already the responses of the Coalition Government to the dire water shortages across much of the country, with nothing to alleviate the rapid demise of the lower Darling as an ecological system, show they have no new ideas, or rather are unwilling to contemplate others.

Following revelations by Four Corners in July that huge amounts of public money are being given to irrigators to expand their operations in the Murrumbidgee, now we hear the catchcry, “build more dams!” emanating from the National Party headquarters. This way it is claimed, more overland flow can be captured so that water will be available for towns and downstream users in times of drought. This time the intention is to target “higher rainfall” areas of the state, the proposed Upper Mole River Dam in the Border Ranges and the new Dungowan Dam on the Northern Tablelands of NSW. As well, the government announced a $650 million upgrade for Wyangala Dam, upstream of Cowra on the Lachlan River.

This dam focussed strategies has been advocated before, going back to the Coalition’s Dam Task force in December 2011 and have been underway ever since. The Australia Institute claimed that at least $200 million has been spent on dam upgrades prior to the latest round of announcements.

Investigations by Four Corners earlier this year showed Websters Limited received public money provided under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan’s $13 billion water infrastructure scheme, some $4 billion dollars, resulting in more land being cleared and more massive water storages in the Murrumbidgee. As scientists such as Richard Kingsmill and Maryanne Slattery have pointed out, this would just add further strain to the natural river system by removing yet more overland flow. These also have to be placed within the context of our complete failure to maintain a regulated and managed floodplain storage system, with most structures now un-regulated, particularly in the Northern Basin.

As the National Party elite gathered to announce the new public works for the proposed Dungowan Dam, the fan-fare was about outlining the future benefits to the community of the dam and who would be the benefactors and investors.

The Northern Daily Leader reported that Barnaby Joyce stated funding for the project has, “… been talked about as a three-way funded project between the state and the feds, with some from the growers.” The main beneficiaries are said to be Tamworth’s water supply, the environment and ‘downstream users’.

As there aren’t many people growing anything at the moment, one has to ask, who are these growers that are investing (and presumably benefiting) in these dams? Further investigation has showed that the location of the dams are in catchments where substantial investment in agricultural enterprises has recently occurred.

The Dungowan Dam will be placed in a relatively pristine area of the upper catchment stream, Dungowan Creek, which joins the Peel River near Tamworth. From here the Peel flows into the lower Namoi Catchment, historically a prime agricultural area which has seen considerable cotton development.

Some have suggested that one of the main beneficiaries of the Dungowan Dam will be the Tomato Farm at Guyra, part of the multi-national Costa Group following concerns about its future water supply earlier this year.

But 2018 was a big year for purchases from the big end of town, as reported in the Land, including in the Northern Tablelands, the Barwon and Namoi Valleys, for properties that are historically cotton or beef producing. Notable is the acquisition by Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting of ‘Sundown Valley’ and ‘Gunnee Feedlot’, part of her expansion into the Wagyu Beef / feedlot sector, primarily for the Asian market. She also bought the 3,234 ha ‘Glendon Park’ at Armidale for her beef enterprises for about $14 million.

Another corporate player, Stone Axe Pastoral, also bought up a number of properties last year including the 2,145 ha ‘Glen Alvie’ at Ebor for around $17 million and another $4 million for the nearby 784 ha ‘Alfreda’. The Land reported that Stone Axe is also the lessee of two significant New England properties acquired in 2018 by the listed Rural Funds Group, ‘Dyamberin’ for $13.4 million and ‘Woodburn’ for $7.1 million, all apparently for Wagyu beef production. Stone Axe is also in partnership with Gina Rinehart and John Dee with their beef investments in feed lots and Wagyu export operations in Warwick, Queensland.

Here we see clearly how the government is playing favourites in their plans to ‘drought-proof’ the nation. Stone Axe has received significant investment from the NSW Government, amounting to $3.3 million dollars, to assist their Wagyu operations at ‘Glen Alvie’ near Ebor.

This money was sourced from the NSW Government’s $150 million ‘GO NSW Equity Fund’, launched in 2017, along with fund partners First State Super and ROC Partners, the latter a Sydney- and Hong Kong-based funds manager.

The other notable sale on the Northern Tablelands recently was the improved 1,500 ha ‘Tenterden Station’, west of Guyra, reportedly sold by Ray White Rural for $17m (with water entitlements) to a family from Queensland, whose identity was not released to the media.

In the Lachlan Valley, no doubt expecting to benefit from improvement to the Wyangala Dam, are the recently purchased ‘Jemalong Station’ and ‘Jemalong Citrus’ at Forbes, and ‘Merrowie’ at Hillston to offshore investors, including Optifarm Pty Ltd, a Netherlands-based investment company,  for more than $115 million.

The other new dam which is listed to receive large amounts of funding is on the Upper Mole River near Tenterfield. The benefits of this dam however are expected to the electorate of Parkes. The Mole River flows into the Dumerasq, which feeds into the Barwon River, another area of intense agricultural development, including irrigation. Many of the storages currently holding water are found in this part of the country, as exposed ‘unintentionally’ by the Murray Darling Basin Authority recently.

Another recent big investor in irrigation and grazing properties is hedge fund billionaire Sir Michael Hintze, who has significant land holdings in NSW through a number of companies, particularly Premium Farms which has bought extensively in the Northern Basin and in the southern highlands. Some 40 properties are now managed by Richard Taylor (brother of Angus) of #watergate and #grassgate fame. Richard manages Future Farms and Angus still retains an interest through another shelf company.

At the same time of the Coalition’s 2011 Dam Taskforce, it seems Hintze started buying irrigation properties in the upper Murray-Darling, ‘Gundera-Red Camp’ on the Namoi River at Wee Waa and three properties he aggregated west of Walgett on the Barwon River (Mourabie, West Mourabie and Bynia). Hinze then picked up ‘Boolarwell’ at Talwood in 2014 on the Queensland side of the Dumerasq River. While it may be co-incidence that Sir Michael started investing at the same time the Coalition were putting their ideas down about a future full of dams connected by pipes, is it a co-incidence that all five properties mentioned could seek to gain from both the new dams at Dungowan and Upper Mole?

It still remains to be seen where the dam investment frenzy will go to next, but given the pattern of recent land investments, it seems that the government is backing a future for irrigation and intensive beef production. It’s a shame that these two types of production are perhaps the most water intensive.

Given the current levels of community despair at the deteriorating environment and levels of agricultural production under the current conditions, many would say these investment priorities are at odds with a sustainable future for our communities and environments. It is certainly at odds with any sense of community transparency or a climatic future where there is likely to be less rain to go around. However, none of these issues seem to figure prominently in the current Coalition’s thinking.

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The methane gun

By Julian Cribb  

In all the sound and fury over climate change, too little public and media attention has been devoted to the ‘methane gun’ [1] – and yet this terrifying phenomenon could usher humans unceremoniously off Earth’s stage for good.

Like CO2, methane (CH4) is a greenhouse gas that helps trap the sun’s heat within the Earth’s atmosphere. The big difference is that it is 25-84 times more potent at doing so.

The planet has massive stores of methane, locked as frozen ice in the seabed (the world’s largest natural gas reserve), in the frozen soils of the Canadian, US and Russian Arctic, and buried in the sediments of tropical swamps and peatlands. Like the bubbles in a stagnant pond, the gas is mostly the work of bacteria digesting organic matter over millions of years.

How large these reserves of methane are is still a matter for scientific debate – but estimates fall between 1.5 and 5 trillion tonnes. Very, very large indeed. If released suddenly, these are thought more than capable of driving the Earth’s temperature up by another 7-10 degrees, on top of the 2-5 degrees likely to result from human emissions from burning fossil fuels and clearing land (currently rising at record rates [2]).

The worst-case scenario – a large-scale, rapid release of trapped gas known as the ‘methane gun’ – could potentially render the Earth uninhabitable by humans and other large animals. This is why we need to pay attention. Now.

What has some scientists concerned – and others frightened – is that atmospheric levels of methane which have doubled since the Industrial Revolution and have been rising for steadily for the past 30 years, began to rise more steeply in the past five years, as the following graph shows:

Atmospheric methane concentrations up to October 2019: Mauna Loa Observatory, USA.

The source of the new methane is debated. Is it mainly caused by the mining of natural gas, petroleum and coal – as several lines of evidence suggest? Is it released by expanding world cattle and rice production, the draining of tropical swamps and burning of tropical forests? Is it the frozen gas seeping out of the oceans and tundra as the planet warms and its ice vanishes? Or is it all of the above? The evidence is starting to favour the latter view [3] – but the scientific jury remains undecided.

We know that a mass-release of methane can be catastrophic for life on Earth, because that’s exactly what took place 55 million years ago in an event known as PETM – the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum – when global temperatures shot up by 5-10 degrees, wiping out a number of species. [4] There were no humans round then to release carbon, so it was probably due to one or more of the natural sources rapidly giving up its gas. Recently opinion has narrowed in favour of tropical swamps and peatlands drying out and catching fire during a warming cycle, as the main source. The frozen methane, apparently, remained largely undisturbed in the ocean and tundra.

But that is not the case today. Not only are tropical forests burning and swamps being drained, but scientists have observed major escapes of methane from the Arctic tundra in the form of exploding pingos – mounts of frozen methane, mud and water – and the eruption of melted methane ice from the seabed. In October 2019 veteran Russian researcher Igor Semiletor, from Tomsk Polytechnic University, reported “the most powerful seep I have ever been able to observe” venting in a potent eruption of gas bubbles in the East Siberian Sea. [5]

Two years earlier, in June 2017, Russian reindeer herders reported a violent explosion that left a 50- metre deep crater in the tundra of the Yamal Peninsula, Siberia, which scientists attributed to a methane blast. In recent years researchers have reported numerous craters left by explosions across Siberia, the Canadian and Alaskan tundra – and even craters in the seabed. Many are recent – but some are up to 12,000 years old, and still leaking gas. Therein lies the uncertainty: are the methane explosions observed today part of a process that occurs more or less constantly through Earth history – or do they represent the start of a sudden release, ramping up to runaway global warming? The scientific jury is at odds.

Pennsylvania State climate scientist Prof Michael Mann, for instance, characterises the methane bomb idea as “catastrophism” and claims it is being exploited by the climate denial lobby to discredit climate theory generally. He says the amount of methane released will be “small compared to human emissions” of carbon. [6] Other scientists, like Gavin Schmidt of the NASA Goddard Institute, argue that it is highly unlikely that a large volume of seabed methane would be released suddenly, i.e. over a period less than thousands of years, because it did not do so in past warming events. Instead it will continue to trickle out.

Oceanography and ice expert Prof Peter Wadhams disagrees. He says loss of Arctic sea ice from the shallow continental margins could trigger such a release which “could happen very suddenly and … is the greatest single threat that we face”. He says that mainstream science, represented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), does not generally recognise the threat. [7]

Australian National University earth scientist Prof. Andrew Glikson cites the Global Carbon project finding that there are 1.4 trillion tonnes of accumulated methane stored on land and 16 trillion tonnes in the ocean, available for release if the planet grew warm enough, and this ‘could have catastrophic effects on the biosphere’.  He points out there is already clear evidence for the explosive release of methane, on land and at sea. With Arctic temperatures already 3-8 degrees warmer due to global warming, the risks of a sudden methane release “have not yet been fully accounted for in climate projections.”  [8]

At temperatures above +4 degrees, many scientists now consider the risk is increasing of the planet becoming partly or wholly uninhabitable to humans and large animals. Certainly, such heat and climate instability would destroy most of our current food production systems, spilling billions of climate refugees across the planet and causing wars to break out between and within nation states. [9]

How many would die in such an event is not knowable, because we cannot predict how humans will respond, how many wars we will start, or how many nukes we will unleash in the ensuing chaos. Potsdam Institute climatologist John Schellnhuber has said: “At 4 C Earth’s… carrying capacity estimates are below 1 billion people.” Prof Kevin Anderson of the U.K.’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change concurs: “Only about 10 per cent of the planet’s population would survive at 4 C.” Several scientists have voiced the view that the human population will be reduced from 9-10 billion to around 1-3 billion in the long run. [10]

We already know that our physical survival is in jeopardy in extended periods above 35 degrees Celsius – that is, where daytime temperatures constantly reach 40-50 degrees C or more. Such temperatures will occur frequently with +7 degrees of global warming and will render large parts of the earth uninhabitable – including the most heavily populated. Above +12 degrees of global warming, human survival becomes physically impossible. [11] However long before our heat tolerance limits are reached, local and global food and water supplies will collapse, prompting mass migration and war. Without urgent worldwide action, the global economy – and with it civilized society – are predicted to go down as we approach +4 degrees. Such warnings come, not from ‘radical greens’, but from authorities no less conservative than Bank of England governor Marc Carney [12], who states that the global financial system is currently investing in catastrophe by backing new fossil fuel projects. [13]

These numbers represent the current most-informed estimates of the impact of the unfolding climate crisis, should world efforts to halt it fail and should the climate deniers triumph.

The risk for humanity posed by the ‘methane gun’ is that rapid global mass-release may be ‘locked and loaded’ and firing before we have sufficient scientific data to confirm it. It is, as they say, an event of low probability – but very high impact. Is it a risk that a rational person would take?

Once the gun has begun to fire, there is practically nothing humans can do to stop it. It will unleash other dangerous feedbacks, potentially leading to runaway warming. It will shift the planet from its present warming state to a ‘hothouse Earth’ state [14] where human survival comes into question.

The only viable strategy – possibly – is preventative: to move civilization far faster towards total elimination of all fossil fuels and land clearing worldwide – and plant billions of trees as quickly as possible, to slow the global warming trend before it triggers the methane gun.

This means that countries like America, Australia, Brazil and Russia must cease their dangerous do-nothing policies, and stop mining coal, oil and gas, and clearing land. Countries like India and China need to cease building coal-fired power stations immediately. And every country needs to scale back carbon emissions on an accelerated time-scale from transport, agriculture, concrete and industry.

While some scientists urge geoengineering solutions, such as the artificial release of sulphate aerosol particles to erect a giant sunshade over the Earth, this represents a counsel of despair. It means allowing the atmosphere to attain virtual temperatures that would cook humans, then trying to chill them down with a planet-sized ‘air-conditioner’. The consequences, should our air conditioner fail, would be terminal. That really only leaves us with the option of trying to contain global warming by eliminating human carbon emissions – before the methane gun fires.

In the end, the worst that can happen by banning fossil fuels and regreening the planet is that we get a new clean energy system, cheaper energy, renewed economic growth and a more sustainable Earth.

If the climate deniers – fifty huge energy corporates and their political and media cheer squad – get their way, the worst that can happen is human extinction.

Which risk do you prefer?

[1] Originally dubbed the ‘clathrate gun’, the theory describes the abrupt release of oceanic methane as a potential driver of major climate changes of the past, from a cool planet state to a hot one. See Kennett JP et al, Methane Hydrates in Quaternary Climate Change: The Clathrate Gun Hypothesis, Volume 54, American Geophysical Union, 2003.

[2] Cooper R, Global carbon emissions increased at a record rate in 2018. Climate Action. Mar 17, 2019.

[3] NASA.  What is Behind Rising Levels of Methane in the Atmosphere?

[4] Jardine P, The Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum, Palaeontology Online 1.5.


[6] Mann M, see:

[7] Wadhams P, see:

[8] Glikson A, The Methane Time Bomb. International Carbon Conference 2018.

[9] Cribb JHJ, Food or War, Cambridge University Press 2019,

[10] Rees WE, Yes, the Climate Crisis May Wipe out Six Billion People, The Tyee, Sep 18, 2019.

[11] Sherwood SC and Huber M, An adaptability limit to climate change due to heat stress, PNAS, May 25, 2010.

[12] Carrington D, Firms ignoring climate crisis will go bankrupt, says Mark Carney, The Guardian, Oct 13, 2019.

[13] Carney, M.  Bank of England boss says global finance is funding 4C temperature rise. The Guardian, Oct 16, 2019.

[14] Steffen W et al., Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene, PNAS, August 2018.

This article was originally published on Surviving C21.

Julian Cribb is an Australian author and science communicator. He is a fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Science and Engineering (ATSE) and a member of the Australian National University Emeritus Faculty.

His career includes appointments as newspaper editor, scientific editor for The Australian daily newspaper, director of national awareness for CSIRO, member of numerous scientific boards and advisory panels, and president of national professional bodies for agricultural journalism and science communication.

His published work includes over 9000 articles, 3000 science media releases and eight books. He has received 32 awards for journalism. His internationally-acclaimed book, The Coming Famine (2010) explored the question of how we can feed 10 billion humans this century. His book, Poisoned Planet (2014) examines the contamination of the Earth system and humanity by anthropogenic chemicals and how to prevent it. His latest book Surviving the 21st Century (Springer 2016) deals with the existential crisis facing humanity in our time – and what we can do about it.

Twitter: @JulianCribb

Personal website:


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Scott Morrison was not invited

By Tjimpuna Ruby on behalf of the Anangu Mayatja Council of Elders  

In August and September I was personally aware that the Prime Minister and the Minister for Indigenous Australians did not have an invitation to the Uluru climb closure and Uluru Anniversary Celebrations to begin with.

That was the insult from Parks Australia to Anangu Traditional Owners of Uluru in the mismanagement of the Director responsible for Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park, although a large staff from Canberra Parks Australia were flown to Uluru and put up in the top hotels with private dinners etc.

I alerted Parks Australia that their invitation was needed and should have been on the list. I viewed the list and both Prime Minister and Minister of Indigenous Australians was not on it to begin with.

I was then notified that the invitation was too late to change already planned commitments.

That was accepted and supported by the Anangu Mayatja Council of Elders who will meet with both the Prime Minister and Minister for Indigenous Australians at a later date.

Senator Dodson and his bipartisan colleagues, however, fail at any given time to reply to or show any real interest in meeting the Anangu Mayatja Council of Elders, therefore we have met with the Minister for Indigenous Australians before the past weekend events.

Anangu Mayatja sit above any board or Chairpersons as Anangu Mayatja governance is Tjukurpa – Anangu Law, that is already acknowledged before any boards, services, organisations or Chairpersons belonging to before their existence became into effect.

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Peeling the skin off an avocado

By Ad astra  

Recall how you felt when you last fondled a plump avocado, deep green, beautifully formed, slightly soft to the touch, seemingly ripe for consumption, only to find that when your knife punctured its alluring skin and peeled it back you were greeted by grey spots, rotting inedible pulp, and precious little else.

Even as you extruded the big brown seed, hoping to salvage some usable pulp, you found yourself contemplating the few scraps that were not rotten. Not prepared to throw the whole avocado in the bin, you scooped up the scraps, added a little vinegar and mayonnaise, and made a small amount of dip as an evening appetiser. It was the best you could do, but it was a miserable reflection of the uncut fruit that promised so much.

That’s how I feel as I reflect on the performance of our recently-elected Prime Minister.

Not that I ever saw him as a pristine piece of fruit that would delight us all. Many did though. The Morrison PR machine amplified that illusion.

It gift-wrapped him as a regular, slowly-balding family guy in a baseball cap, beer in hand, replete with a big smile – clearly one of us. Experienced in the art of glib talk from his time in tourism, he quickly learned how to deflect hard questions, airily dismissing them with a disarming grin as a product of the ‘Canberra Bubble’ where stupid or inconsequential questions are generated every day by what Morrison regards as hangers-on. Any question too demanding was studiously ignored. In itself, that would not have been disappointing. It would have been just what most of us expect from the political class. What has been, and continues to be so deeply disappointing though, is the gross incompetence, the sheer ineptitude, and the alarming hollowness of Morrison and his government.

We were promised so much more. We were reminded endlessly that the Coalition was a superior manager of the economy, miles ahead of Labor, which we were told was ‘never able to manage money’. Every survey of voter opinion showed that the voters had bought this line, despite Labor’s brilliant management of the global financial crisis. Spin drowned out the facts.

Then along came reality.

For months now the Reserve Bank Governor, Philip Lowe, has warned PM Morrison and Treasurer Frydenberg that monetary policy – lowering interest rates – could not bear the full responsibility for propelling the economy out of the doldrums in which it has been becalmed month after month. He insisted that the government must do some of the ‘heavy lifting’ through fiscal policy. He cited infrastructure spending as an obvious activity that would not only benefit the nation, but in doing so would create jobs, and with it consumer spending which the economy so desperately needs.

Some pointed out that boosting the Newstart allowance would be of immediate benefit to the economy as the money would be quickly spent. That was ignored by a PM and Treasurer obsessed with the surplus they had promised. Nothing was going to deflect them from the pursuit of their ‘Holy Grail’.

Then a sledge hammer hit.

As Glenn Dyer and Bernard Keane put it in Crikey in an article titled: Morrison’s economic mire snares retailers and media alike:

The great Morrison Stagnation besetting the Australian economy has now been recognised internationally, with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) cutting its 2019 GDP growth forecast for Australia to 1.7% (down from 2.8% just a year ago) and revising its unemployment predictions for this year and next.

Scott Morrison is now declaring he “won’t be spooked” into taking any action to help the economy, in the same way a man standing on a rail line refuses to be spooked by the oncoming train. If stagnation turns into a downturn or worse, this do-nothing, agenda-less leader will own it 100%.

Cornered by a salivating media, all Frydenberg and Morrison could do to explain these awful figures was to indict ‘global headwinds’ and ‘the drought’. Of course neither of them accepted any personal responsibility for the crisis. In their view, the state of the global economy was the chief culprit, along with US-China trade wars. Their habitual ‘nothing to see here’, was trotted out once more to deflect attention.

Quizzed about the expected stimulatory effect of the tax cuts, they could not explain why these much-vaunted measures had not been effective, why instead of spending it, countless recipients had chosen to pay down debt, an outcome that even novitiate students of Economics 101 would have anticipated. They seemed astonished by the news that spending on a variety of consumer goods had slumped, that profit forecasts of some well-established firms were in free fall, and that some previously profitable businesses were threatened with closure. They clung tenaciously to the belief that eventually the tax cuts might work. Asked about infrastructure, they continued to insist that they had billions of activity ‘in the pipeline’, failing to add that the activity and its benefits were still decades away.

In response to our deteriorating economy, the media sector too was forced to expose its underbelly. Many players reported a worrisome slump in advertising, reflected in falling profit margins. Share sell-offs followed. The future of several media outlets remains uncertain.

Now we have the latest job figures. Like those unexpectedly caught in a storm, Coalition operatives cling hopefully to the miserable 0.1% drop in unemployment, all the time ignoring the legions of people who desperately want work, or want more of it. Unable to make ends meet, they are hungry for income-earning work, any work at all, to keep food on the table after paying rent, power bills and all the others that arrive every day.

But Morrison and Frydenberg assure us with every breath that the Coalition ‘has a plan’, one for every contingency, no matter how threatening. No details are offered. We are expected to accept, relax, and ‘leave it to Beaver’. Wouldn’t we all love to see their plan for managing climate change, their energy policy, their drought policy, even their plan for managing the burgeoning cohort of elderly, demented and disabled folk.

It would be difficult to identify even one area of our economy that has not been affected, or dangerously threatened by ‘The Great Morrison Stagnation’. Yet our hollow PM and our discombobulated Treasurer press on as if there’s nothing to explain, nothing that needs attention, nothing wrong with what they’ve done, nothing to do but watch, wait, and hope that the headwinds will abate and that fair winds will propel the ship of state to a conservative utopia, where ‘if you have ago, you’ll get a go’. Journalists are now waking up to Morrison’s do-nothing style. Peter Hartcher is one. He sums up the situation well in Arise Prime Minimal – your country needs youwhile Paul Keating savagely exposes the futility of the government policy of doing nothing that might threaten the cherished surplus. On another subject, Katherine Murphy berates Morrison in Scott Morrison’s climate pact with the Pacific ‘family’ exposes the hollowness of his words.

Can you see now why I began with the avocado analogy? While it looked so good on the outside to those who elected Morrison and his entourage, when the skin of the Coalition avocado is peeled back and the seed extruded, most of the inside is exposed as hollow and rotten, and even more tragically, like any rotten avocado, irrecoverable.      

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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