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Smoke and Mirrors

By 2353NM

Inaction on climate change is already costing Australia’s farmers countless dollars, and urgent political action is needed to avoid more extreme droughts, fires and floods, according to a group of farmers who don’t agree with the statements of Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Senator Matt Canavan, former Party leader Barnaby Joyce and others in the National Party – who’s claim to relevance is representing the people in ‘regional Australia’.

Prime Minister Morrison recently announced an aspiration for Australia to be a nation that emits net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. As we’ve pointed out before

Every state in Australia, as well as 73 nations, 398 cities, 786 businesses and 16 investors have indicated that while a commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 is not easy, they intend to get there.

Morrison’s stated aspiration is similar to his pronouncements on Australia’s COVID19 response – stand up slightly after the real decision makers have worked out what to do, make a wishy-washy statement that has some relevance to the matter at hand and bask in the reflected glory of the successes of others. Even when the issue is solely a Federal issue such as quarantine for potentially infectious people coming into the country or the management of carbon emissions, Morrison is quick to abrogate responsibility to ‘the states’, ‘the market’ or ‘the regulator’ but quicker to claim responsibility when something implemented by others due to federal government inaction works as intended.

However, this time round, the ‘country bumpkins’ from the conservative rump of Morrison’s Coalition Government are upset. As David Crowe points out in the Nine Media newspaper titles, the ‘country bumpkins’ don’t believe the science and want to put one of their own, Barnaby Joyce, back into the leadership role of the National Party.

The ‘country bumpkins’ are building a straw man (something they might be good at if they really had any experience in their claimed constituency) by claiming the cost of a $30 carbon price on every tonne of burps and farts from the nation’s cow herd, then claimed this would cost farmers $70,000 each. As David Crowe goes on to point out – Morrison ruled out a carbon tax the previous day. The argument is a furphy, but watch the ‘country bumpkins’ claim that their hard work behind the scenes has saved regional Australia from an absolute catastrophe (and tearing down the straw man they constructed – the real point of the exercise). The Guardian recently presented an analysis on how the adults over the other side of the Tasman are managing a transition to a ‘net-zero’ emissions economy by 2050 – and it does include addressing every tonne of ‘burps and farts’ from cattle.

Fortunately a representative group of those who really understand and run successful businesses in regional Australia disagree with their alleged representatives – and demonstrate that they are not the ‘country bumpkins’ in this discussion

“In 2019, the last year of the drought, Australia imported wheat,” said Charlie Prell, a sheep and wind farmer from Crookwell and chair of Farmers for Climate Action.

“The potential impact of climate change on food security, not just pricing but the availability, is dramatic – the wheat fields [sic] are going through the floor.”

Mr Prell stressed he was “not a zealot” but a farmer who didn’t want to see his communities suffer the consequences of unmitigated climate change.

The National Farmers Federation also supports a target of ‘net-zero’ by 2050

The industry is making strong headway in reducing its emissions, with red meat expected to be carbon neutral by 2030, pork by 2025, and work underway for grains and dairy.

Mr Prell knows about this first hand – on his sheep farm he has wind turbines, which creates another revenue stream that’s not seasonal.

… and Ernst and Young have found that if nothing is done by 2070, the Australian economy will have a COVID19 sized hole each and every year.

Either a ‘net-zero’ by 2050 target is policy (despite the weasel wording) or it isn’t. Morrison has done nothing to convince any of us that the environmental statement was anything more than smoke and mirrors. He certainly hasn’t stood up to put the ‘country bumpkins’ back in their boxes, or to ensure everyone was on board before making the announcement.

If you want to argue the ‘country bumpkins’ aren’t in the same party as Morrison so he can’t control them, technically you have a point however federally the Liberal Party and the National Party have been joined at the hip for decades. What spin will Morrison and the ‘country bumpkins’ employ when the EU and possibly the USA decide to put a ‘cross border carbon tax’ on nations that are seen as environmental freeloaders – something that is far more likely than you might think.

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

For Facebook users, The Political Sword has a Facebook page:
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Mere men are not godly beings

By Jennifer Michels

Australian politics is filled with men and women who have and actively practice their Christian beliefs. Whilst I do not fault the individuals nor the religions themselves, I do not condone many of these values guiding the society of Australia today. Before I go any further, I must point out my own bias here as a descendant of the Stolen Generations. Christian ideals at the core of this country have resulted in me being a survivor of acts of genocide, on more than one occasion. Please know I am not trying to upset nor create any hatred towards anyone, but I think it’s about time we have this talk with ourselves as a nation to define our society’s values.

Recently, I spotted an article in the Sydney Morning Herald (‘It’s our turn’: Inside the Christian Right conference plotting a political takeover) that left me alarmed for many reasons. Firstly, due to my family history with the values that meant my Old People were slaves in all but name; dispossessed of everything in their lives to make room for the colonies. Or they were simply slaughtered. Christianity enabled slavery for more than eighteen centuries, values that established the White Australia Policy many suggest still exist in the country today. Christianity enabled the racism shown not merely on a historical level, but likewise in the systematic version seen within all aspects of Australian society towards my people.

But my fear of these groups dives deeper than my own prejudices against the religion’s history. Over the decades the world has witnessed numerous accusations of sexual violence from within this highly private system; went denied for as many years. Australia is currently in the middle of a debate regarding women’s rights in the light of alleged sexual assaults revolving around Parliament House. Many of the politicians and staff who surround the people accused, and in fact the individuals themselves, are active participants in their churches.

Whilst Aussies debate a new level of respect and normalcy for women, the groups mentioned in the above article, advocate for the conservative factors of their religious values to once again guide the nations in a deeper manner. My fear is that Christianity will be used as another shield for the powerful men who have never ceded the control of said power to the women who stand alongside them. What I find more frightening is that they are openly encouraging these potential politicians not to reveal their true purposes until they have created enough political power around themselves. Personally, I feel that is misleading the individuals who would vote and elect them to Parliament, how are the wider public to know what they stand for? How will these potential politicians guarantee they are acting in the best interests of the people they serve and not those of the church? Secrecy has caused widespread backlash across Australia in the face of legislation such as Immigration, Indigenous Rights, the Indue Card for welfare recipients, and even the report in the Prime Minister’s Office regarding who knew about Brittany Higgins’ allegations. My amazement that the general public are not more wary of these groups advocating for secretive ways before they even run for office.

During the middle of a pandemic the leaders of Christianity are counselling against a vaccine. As someone who has members of my family who belong to what we call the ‘anti-vax community’ I do not want to undervalue their opinions; but advocating against vaccines that will save millions of lives worldwide is something that horrifies me.

Many religious groups around the world refuse breakthroughs the medical industry have made and individuals whose lives can be saved are left to die when treatments are denied upon beliefs of faith. Raising fears that value placed with Australia’s various scientific research networks will be considered less important to these groups.

Most alarming to me, the article speaks of a panel discussion where the head of the Australian Christian Lobby, Martyn Iles, joked about a war with China as a distraction to concerns over climate change or gender identity. When asked if he was “advocating violence or revolution… today“, he replied, “Not yet, that’s down the line.” The use of such words by Mr. Iles worries me about his intentions. Speech like this reads to me as a threat of acts of violence they wish to see: anarchy as it could quite possibly turn out to be if left unchecked. Lawlessness of the same value right wing members of society have accused those standing alongside the Black Lives Matter movements of creating.

Whilst Australia is experiencing increasingly difficult relations with China, the last thing our international interests need, are individuals involved with Parliament House, making jokes about wars with China to distract us from our political complications. Not only would these issues re-arise after a war, but the devastation such conflict would create is not something anyone should take lightly; least of all with humour.

My apprehensiveness of disorder or lawlessness fall along similar lines to these right-wing groups. Except mine differ with regard to raising the rights of all people including individuals with black skin as equal to those Colonial Australia enjoy. Fears I harbour are with respect to the oppressive values that come along with Christianity. The denial of the position the LGBTQIA communities have fought to achieve. What I can only describe as a refusal of women’s rights, as seen by the lack of females in the heights of church’s ranks. Terrified at the possibility the systematic racism underpinning everything in the Lucky Country will deepen and widen the divide between Colonial and Indigenous Australia, in fact I fear this will occur for all the nationalities calling these shores home. Dread that I and other First Nations people like me, will be open to unfair criticism more pointedly racial discrimination as seen in our past, purely because we follow our own religious beliefs over those written in the bible.

Mr. Iles is quoted as talking about needing to get more Christians into politics as the belief of rewarding the good people and punishing the bad has gone by the wayside. But I ask how many more people do we need in politics pushing Christian beliefs before we acknowledge this has been part of the problem within our system? Since the first politicians in Australia who were mostly Christian, can we genuinely suggest any of these individuals behaved the way God intended? Were this true then a large percentage of our nation would not be currently living below the poverty line. Aussie citizens would all have access to fresh, nutritional foods and adequate housing with running power and water at all times regardless of what they can or cannot afford to pay. Preventable and treatable medical conditions such as Acute Rheumatic Fever or Trachoma would not exclusively be affecting the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders at epidemic levels. One third of working Australian women would not have endured sexual assault in their workplace. Aged care residents would too not have experienced staggering amounts of these same crimes, combined with all the atrocities the most recent inquiry have revealed.

Australians seriously need to ask ourselves as a society if we truly desire more hard-right Christian politicians running our country and pushing the ‘conservative’ messages of their past.

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Seeking the Post-COVID Sunshine: Waiting for Future Momentum in Sustainable Urban and Regional Planning

By Denis Bright

Future commentators might well wonder why the arrival of the social market in affordable urban sustainability took so long to eventuate. If some apologists for the property market had their way, the paradigm swing from market ideology towards a more inclusive style of development could be deferred indefinitely.

This scene at the Maroochy Interchange on the Bruce Highway (Highway 1) in the Sunshine Coast Region is probably repeated near most mainland capital cities. Incompatible forms of land use grate on the aesthetics at this site.

Overcoming Urban and Regional Development Blackspots

The history of this land use mix would require a separate article to unscramble. All this urban sprawl has survived fifty years of systematic planning legislation in Queensland. The evolution of land use functions at the site certainly predates the Queensland Planning Act of 2016 and the amalgamation of local shire councils in 2008.

Beyond the Brisbane City Council’s more transparent protocols, some of the eleven local authorities involved in implementing the Shaping SEQ Plan persist with town and city plans that run close to the margins of acceptable development controls.

 

Image: Brisbane City Council-BCC

 

Image: Ipswich City Council 2006

Dr Philippa England of Griffith University Law School has produced an excellent monograph on the impact of the LNP Government of Premier Campbell Newman (2012-15) in loosening controls on property development in the interests of accelerated economic growth (EPLJ 32 in 2015).

This document is readily available on open internet sites and should be looked at in its entirety by interested readers.

There are thirty-four Priority Development Areas (PDAs) across Queensland which are a legislative remnant of the Economic Development Act 2012.

PDAs can and should have a legitimate place in selectively promoting sustainable development in localities affected by major projects like Cross River Rail in Brisbane or the redevelopment of Queen’s Wharf which was an aesthetic blackspot in Brisbane’s CBD.

PDAs could have been a useful tool in the redevelopment of the Ipswich CBD over some ad hoc local planning arrangements associated with the opening of the River Heart Precincts in 2007:

Welcome to our River Heart vision. I encourage the community to take an active interest in River Heart, which will shape the City for the future.

River Heart will breathe new life and vitality into the Ipswich CBD much in the way that South Bank has revitalised South Brisbane. River Heart will be centred around our river which has been neglected as the City’s centrepiece for far too long. River Heart will draw visitors and investment to our City, which can only make the future of Ipswich even brighter.

Most importantly, the project will give our residents a special meeting place and recreational centre right on their doorstep, reducing the need to travel into Brisbane.

River Heart Vision

The River Heart Vision is about creating a vibrant city centre with a strong connection to the river – the natural heart of the City. River Heart will breathe new life and vitality into the Ipswich CBD and offer a special meeting place and recreational centre in the heart of the Ipswich CBD for residents and visitors.

Ipswich City Council is pleased to announce that the first phase in achieving the River Heart vision has been realised through the refurbishment of Ipswich City Mall, officially opened 9 December 2005. Implementation of the River Heart vision continues through the construction of River Heart Parklands, scheduled for completion December 2006.

Funding:

Provided under the Department of Local Government and Planning, Sport and Recreation’s Regional Centres program and involves funding of $3.3 million from Ipswich City Council and $3 million from the State Government. Council is also looking to enhance the scope of work in the Mall by utilising the capital component of the Mall Levy over a number of years. This will add $1.6 million worth of additional works, and through the economies of scale that can be achieved with large projects, this will maximise the return on this strategic investment.

Cr Paul Pisasale
Mayor of the City of Ipswich

Federal funding on major urban and regional projects could have eased some of the problems associated with ad hoc local projects within existing and proposed PDAs.

 

 

With eight federal ministers currently involved in the delivery of financial support for urban and regional infrastructure, there is a strong supportive role for the delivery of sustainable infrastructure by the federal government. Such antics have eroded the revenue base of the federal government and widened the income divide in Australia while still generating legitimate economic growth that is not always in the spirit of sustainable planning guidelines.

There are few policy levers left to promote a commitment to sustainable urban and regional planning at all levels of government. Perhaps public sector corporatized investment funds are a possibility at national and state levels if they are opened up to safe-haven investment by local and overseas business networks without the imposition of fixed dividends as with traditional treasury loans.

National and state investment funds could indeed direct investment into sustainable investments in urban consolidation around TOD hubs that increased the supply of affordable housing in housing catchment areas that could be served by effective public transport connections.

A corporatized federal Advance Australia Investment Fund could be rigorously supervised by the RBA in co-operation with the Australian Treasury to address the shortfalls in financial commitments to sustainable planning and infrastructure initiatives to overcome a traditional dependence on the need for public sector financial allocations. States and territories could choose to operate their own investment funds provided they remained compatible with national economic priorities.

This contrasts with the rundown of the federal government’s potential revenue base through changes to taxation schedules and overly generous support to family focused investment through taxation write-offs and misuse of family trusts.

Federal taxation relief is invariably skewed to benefit wealthier families. State governments are forced to make pragmatic choices between conventional development goals and more sustainable outcomes.

After circulation of a glossy Draft Shaping SEQ Plan in 2016 and the release of this final document, three vital paragraphs in support of federal involvement in the funding of sustainable planning were conveniently removed from this final document.

Investment in higher density retail and housing projects has been a proven success in commercial developments such as Montague Markets and Residences as a TOD development in Brisbane’s West End on the popular Translink Bus Route 60. This could be a model for the expansion of housing supply in less advantaged outer suburban and regional localities with financial support from federal and state investment funds.

 

Image: West End Magazine 2020

 

Unexpected New Options for Sustainable Planning

A surprising breakthrough in the political log jam over the delivery of sustainable investment in infrastructure and community development has come with the initiatives taken by SEQ Mayors on their recent appeal for greater support from the federal government.

Here is the full media release from the Toowoomba Regional Council in support of this initiative (19 March 2021):

The South East Queensland (SEQ) City Deal is on the cards.

That’s the clear message Toowoomba Regional Council Mayor Paul Antonio received during a two-day trip to Canberra as part of a delegation of the Council of Mayors (SEQ).

“The SEQ Mayors used this delegation as an opportunity to stress the importance of the SEQ City Deal and this was well received by both the government and opposition,” Mayor Antonio said.

“During the trip we met with 18 representatives including the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader and there was good support for the delivery of the SEQ City Deal.

“It’s clear both sides of the government understand how critical this Deal would be in ensuring the SEQ area is well connected for future growth.”

The SEQ City Deal is a 20-year agreement between three levels of government and industry to jointly identify and deliver infrastructure and economic priorities for South East Queensland. Due for completion last year, it was stalled amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent delays to Federal and State budgets.

“Two years ago, we received a commitment for this deal and with the Olympic Games now well and truly a realistic chance of taking place in SEQ, the timing is right to seal the deal,” Mayor Antonio said.

“It was also great to feel a real buzz in Parliament House around the Olympic proposal. There was a clear sense of pride about the Games proposal and what it could mean for the south-east, Queensland and Australia.

“The representatives we met with listened to what we had to say and with their support I hope we can progress to the next stage of the City Deal as soon as possible.

“The South East corner is home to around 70% of the State’s population and around one in seven of the nation’s population lives here.

“Due to our liveability we estimate the population is going to increase by about 1.6 million in this part of Australia by 2041 and it’s vital we have the necessary infrastructure in place to accommodate this growth.

“It was also pleasing to receive positive feedback from the Federal Government in regards to our waste management proposals. They’ve suggested we could be a global leader in the environmental space and were a good example of how Councils can take a lead in this area.”

In addition to City Deals, a number of regional issues were discussed as part of the Canberra visit including the Brisbane 2032 proposal, the Resilient Rivers Initiative and the SEQ Mayors’ regional approach to waste management in South East Queensland.

The Council of Mayors (SEQ) represents 11 Councils and more than three million residents of South East Queensland. Its membership includes Brisbane, Ipswich, Gold Coast, Lockyer Valley, Logan, Moreton Bay, Redland, Scenic Rim, Somerset, Sunshine Coast and Toowoomba Councils.

No media releases were generated on the site of our Deputy Prime Minister to coincide with the visit of the SEQ Mayors to Canberra. There was nothing in the full range of media interactions from the Hon Paul Fletcher as the new Minister for Communication, Urban Infrastructure and the Arts. This minister seems coy about advertising his macro-policy initiatives and prefers to concentrate on specifics like the Kenmore Roundabout in the local LNP electorate of Ryan in Brisbane.

Perhaps the Mayors from SEQ are in the federal LNP’s naughty corner for raising issues of substance for the benefit of a grateful public. If only the mainstream media could be more interested in such issues, the cause of Australian sustainability might have been raised a notch.

Do take a glance at the mainstream medias interview with Steven Miles (Deputy Premier and Minister for Infrastructure) at the Urban Development Institute of Australia’s SEQ Growth Forum on 3 March at the Sofitel Hotel in Brisbane. Not one question of substance was directed to the minister on his actual portfolio. Questions drifted back to health issues which the Minister handled so competently during the COVID-crisis throughout 2020 prior to the reallocation of portfolios after the state election on 31 October 2020 (YouTube).

In the absence of profound media questioning on traffic congestion issues, where indeed are the solutions for a more sustainable future?

 

Image: Brisbane Development.Com-Go Tall Not Sprawl

 

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

 

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Was COVID-19 born in the United States? (part 11)

Continued from: Was COVID-19 born in the United States? (part 10)

By Outsider

President Trump’s political future could be bet on toxifying any discussion about COVID-19 and China – no matter how insane and reckless. The simplistic aim was to rally American voters behind the flag and paint China as the nation’s enemy.

It did not really matter that, as Pompeo had just agreed, there was no reliable intelligence concerning the origin of the virus. This would not have been the first time that United States ‘intelligence’ would fabricate history by concocting lies for wars. The memory of the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 was too close to be forgotten.

Pompeo himself, as former head of the C.I.A., had openly boasted about lying and cheating as a professional attribute of him. In fact, America’s ‘top diplomat’ has zero credibility, much like his bleach-prescribing president. (F. Cunningham, Pompeo: US Knows Nada, Information Clearing House, 02.05.2020).

The dossier stated that to the “endangerment of other countries” the Chinese government had covered-up news of the virus by silencing or “disappearing” doctors who spoke out, destroying evidence of it in laboratories, and refusing to provide live samples to international scientists who were working on a vaccine.

According to the dossier, China had been ‘refusing’ to let W.H.O. take part in COVID-19 investigation.

The dossier also purported to reveal that the Australian government had trained and funded a team of Chinese scientists who belong to a laboratory which went on to modify genetically deadly coronaviruses which could be transmitted from bats to humans and had no cure, and “was not the subject of a probe into the origins of Covid-19.”

As ‘intelligence’ agencies investigated whether the virus inadvertently leaked from a Wuhan laboratory, still according to The Saturday Telegraph, “the team and its research led by scientist [Dr.] Shi Zhengli featured in the dossier prepared by ‘western’ governments which pointed to several studies they conducted as areas of concern.” Dr. Shi was the director of the Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The dossier cites their work discovering samples of coronavirus from a cave in the Yunnan province with striking genetic similarity to COVID-19, along with their research “synthesising a bat-derived coronavirus that could not be treated.” Its major themes include the “deadly denial of human-to-human transmission”, the silencing or “disappearing” of doctors and scientists who spoke out, the destruction of evidence of the virus from genomic studies laboratories, and “bleaching of wildlife market stalls”, along with the refusal to provide live virus samples to international scientists working on a vaccine.

Key figures of the Wuhan Institute of Virology team, who feature in the dossier, were either trained or employed in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory where they conducted foundational research on deadly pathogens in live bats, including SARS – Severe acute respiratory syndrome, as part of an ongoing partnership between the C.S.I.R.O. and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

This partnership was continuing, according to the website of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, despite concerns that the research is too risky.

Politicians in the Morrison government were recorded as speaking out about the national security and bio-security concerns of the relationship in that the controversial research into bat-related viruses had come into sharp focus during an investigation by the Five Eyes intelligence agencies of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In Wuhan, in China’s Hubei province, not far from the suspected Wuhan wet market, Dr. Shi and her teamwork in high-protective gear in level-three and level-four bio-containment laboratories studying deadly bat-derived coronaviruses.

At least one of the ­estimated 50 virus samples Dr. Shi has in her laboratory is said to be a 96 per cent genetic match to COVID-19. When Dr. Shi heard the news about the outbreak of a new ­pneumonia-like virus, she spoke about the sleepless nights she suffered worrying whether it was her laboratory which was responsible for the outbreak.

At this point the story about the dossier becomes rather complicated. There is the view of The Saturday Telegraph: “As she told Scientific American magazine in an article published this week: “Could they have come from our lab?” Since her initial fears, Dr. Shi has satisfied herself the genetic sequence of COVID-19 did not match any her lab was studying.” And then there is the view presented by F.R.N. – Fort Russ News in an article by J. White, titled “Renown coronavirus expert Dr. Shi Zhengli provides PROOF – SARS COV-2 NOT an accidental release from Wuhan.” The latter article carries the following Editor’s Note (4/24/20): This article was originally published online on March 11. It has been updated for inclusion in the June 2020 issue of Scientific American and to address rumours that SARS-CoV-2 emerged from Shi Zhengli’s lab in China.”

Nevertheless, The Saturday Telegraph insisted on writing: “Yet, given the extent of the People’s Republic of China’s lies, obfuscations and angry refusal to allow any investigation into the origin of the outbreak, her laboratory is now being closely looked at by international intelligence agencies,” as if The Saturday Telegraph were sufficient evidence of anything.

The Australian government’s position is that the virus most likely originated in the Wuhan wet market but that there is a remote possibility – a 5 per cent chance – it accidentally leaked from a laboratory.

The United States’ position, according to reports as at early May 2020, was that it is more likely the virus leaked from a laboratory but it could also have come from a wet market which trades and slaughters wild animals, where other diseases including the H5N1 avian flu and SARS originated.

The position of the ‘Western governments’ research paper’ was said to be similar. There is reference to a 2013 study conducted by a team of researchers, including Dr. Shi, who collected a sample of horseshoe bat faeces from a cave in Yunnan province, China, which was later found to contain a virus 96.2 per cent identical to SARS-CoV-2, the virus which caused COVID-19.

The dossier also makes reference to work done by the team to synthesise SARS-like coronaviruses, to analyse whether they could be transmissible from bats to mammals. This – The Saturday Telegraph observed – means they were altering parts of the virus to test whether it was transmissible to different species.

A November 2015 study, done in conjunction with the University of North Carolina, concluded that the SARS-like virus could jump directly from bats to humans and there was no treatment which could help.

The dossier acknowledges the incredible danger of the work the scientists were conducting.

“The potential to prepare for and mitigate future outbreaks must be weighed against the risk of creating more dangerous pathogens,” the dossier pointed out. The extreme danger presented by the work seems to be contained in the following technical passage: “To examine the emergence potential (that is, the potential to infect humans) of circulating bat CoVs, we built a chimeric virus encoding a novel, zoonotic CoV spike protein – from the RsSHCO14-CoV sequence that was isolated from Chinese horseshoe bats – in the context of the SARS-CoV mouse-adapted backbone.”

One of Dr. Shi’s co-authors of that paper, Professor Ralph Baric from North Carolina University, said in an interview with Science Daily at the time: “This virus is highly pathogenic and treatments developed against the original SARS virus in 2002 and the ZMapp drugs used to fight ebola fail to neutralise and control this particular virus.”

A few years later, in March 2019, Dr. Shi and her team, including Dr. Peng Zhou, a research affiliated with the Wuhan Institute Of Virology, who had worked in Australia for five years, published a study ­titled ‘Bat Coronaviruses in China’ in the open-access medical journal Viruses, where they wrote that they “aim to predict virus hot spots and their cross-species transmission potential”, describing it as a matter of “urgency to study bat corona­viruses in China to understand their potential of causing another outbreak.” Their review stated: “It is highly likely that future SARS or MERS like coronavirus outbreaks will originate from bats, and there is an increased probability that this will occur in China.” The review examined which proteins were “important for interspecies transmission.”

Despite ‘intelligence’ probes into whether her laboratory may have been responsible for the outbreak, Dr. Shi plans to head a national project systemically to sample viruses in bat caves, with estimates that there are more than 5,000 coronavirus strains “waiting to be discovered in bats globally.” “Bat-borne coronaviruses will cause more outbreaks,” she told ScientificAmerican. “We must find them before they find us.”

Dr. Shi spent time in Australia as a ­visiting scientist for three months from 22 February to 21 May 2006. She worked at the C.S.I.R.O.’s top-level Australian Animal Health Laboratory, which has recently been renamed.

The C.S.I.R.O. would not comment on what work Dr. Shi undertook during her time in Australia, but an archived and translated biography on the Wuhan Institute of Virology website states that she was working with the SARS virus. “The SARS virus antibodies and genes were tested in the State Key Laboratory of Virology in Wuhan and the Animal Health Research Laboratory in Geelong, Australia,” it states.

TheSaturday Telegraph had obtained two photographs of Dr. Shi working at the CSIRO laboratories, including in the level-four laboratory, in 2006.

Dr. Shi’s protégé, Dr. Peng Zhou – now the head of the Bat Virus Infection and Immunity Project at the Wuhan Institute of Virology – spent three years at the bio-containment facility Australian Animal Health Laboratory between 2011 and 2014. He was sent by China to complete his doctorate at the C.S.I.R.O. from 2009-2010.

During this time, Dr Zhou arranged for wild-caught bats to be transported alive by air from Queensland to the laboratory in Victoria where they were euthanised for dissection and studied for deadly viruses.

Dr. Linfa Wang, while an Honorary Professor of the Wuhan Institute of Virology between 2005 and 2011, also worked in the C.S.I.R.O. Office of the Chief Executive Science Leader in Virology between 2008 and 2011.

Federal Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson said it was “very concerning” that Chinese scientists had been conducting research into bat viruses at the C.S.I.R.O. in Geelong, Victoria, in jointly funded projects between the Australian and Chinese governments. “We need to exercise extreme care with any research projects involving foreign nationals which may compromise our national security or bio-security.” she said.

While the United States has cut all funding to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the C.S.I.R.O. would not respond to ­questions about whether it is still collaborating with it, saying only that it collaborates with research organisations from around the world to prevent diseases.

“As with all partners, C.S.I.R.O. undertakes due diligence and takes security very seriously,” a spokesperson said. “C.S.I.R.O. undertakes all research in accordance with strict bio-security and legislative requirements.”

The United States withdrew funding from controversial experiments which make pathogens more potent or likely to spread dangerous viruses in October 2014, concerned it could lead to a global pandemic.

The pause on funding for 21 ‘gain of function’ studies was then lifted in December 2017.

Despite the concerns, the C.S.I.R.O. continued to partner and fund research with the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The C.S.I.R.O. refused to respond to questions from The SaturdayTelegraph about how much money went into joint research collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Science and its Wuhan Institute of Virology. The Wuhan Institute still lists the C.S.I.R.O. as a partner while the United States has cut ties since the coronavirus outbreak.

The argument is whether it is worth developing these viruses to anticipate and prevent a pandemic when a leak of the virus could also cause one. Debate in the scientific community is heated.

There have also been serious concerns about a lack of adequate safety practices at the Wuhan Institute of Virology when dealing with deadly viruses.

A ‘‘sensitive but unclassified’’ cable, dated 19 January 2018, obtained by The Washington Post, revealed that United States embassy scientists and diplomats in Beijing visited the laboratory and sent warnings back to Washington about inadequate safety practices and management weaknesses as it conducted research on coronaviruses from bats.

“During interactions with scientists at the [Wuhan Institute of Virology] laboratory, they noted the new lab has a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory,” the cable stated.

The dossier declares: “Scientific consensus is that the virus came from a wetmarket. But the US’s top spy agency confirmed on the record for the first time [on 1 May 2020] that the United States intelligence committee is investigating whether Covid-19 was the result of an accident at a Wuhan laboratory.”

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence acting director Richard Allen Grenell said that the virus was not created in a laboratory.

“The entire Intelligence Community has been consistently providing critical support to US policymakers and those responding to the COVID-19 virus, which originated in China,” he said.

“The Intelligence Community also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified. As we do in all crises, the Community’s experts respond by surging resources and producing critical intelligence on issues vital to US national security. The [Intelligence Community] will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan.”

Despite Mr. Grenell’s statement and scientific consensus that the virus was not created in a laboratory, based on its genome sequence the governments’ research paper obtained by The Saturday Telegraph notes a study which claims it was created.

South China University of Technology researchers published a study on 6 February which concluded: “the killer coronavirus probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan. Safety level may need to be reinforced in high-risk biohazards laboratories.”

“The paper is soon withdrawn because it ‘was not supported by direct proofs’, according to the author, professor Botao Xiano,” the dossier noted, continuing to point out that: ‘“No scientists have confirmed or refuted the paper’s findings’, scholar Yanzhong Huang wrote on March 5.”

TheSaturday Telegraph did not claim that the South China University of Technology study is credible, only that it has been included in the government research paper produced as part of the case against China.

The dossier obtained by The Saturday Telegraph deals with “the suppression and destruction of evidence” and points to “virus samples ordered destroyed at genomics labs, wildlife market stalls bleached, the genome sequence not shared publicly, the Shanghai lab closure for ‘rectification’, academic articles subjected to prior review by the Ministry of Science and Technology and data on asymptomatic ‘silent carriers’ kept secret.”

The Saturday Telegraph intended to paint a picture of how the Chinese government deliberately covered up the coronavirus by silencing doctors who spoke out, destroying evidence from the Wuhan laboratory and refusing to provide live virus samples to international scientists working on a vaccine.

The United States, along with other countries, has repeatedly ­demanded a live virus sample from the first batch of coronavirus cases. This is understood to have not been forthcoming despite its vital importance in developing a vaccine while potentially providing an indication of where the virus originated.

Out of all the doctors, activists, journalists and scientists who have reportedly disappeared after speaking out about the coronavirus or criticising the response of Chinese authorities, no case is more intriguing and worrying than that of Huang Yan Ling. (See: J. Little, How We Got Here, Part 1: The Tragic Tale of Huang Yan Ling and COVID-19, OmegaShock.com, 27.04.2020).

While Dr. Huang Yan Ling was a researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the South ChinaMorning Post reported rumours swirling on Chinese social media that she was the first to be diagnosed with the disease and was ­‘patient zero.’

Then came her reported disappearance, with her biography and image deleted from the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s website.

On 16 February 2020 the Institute denied that she was ­‘patient zero’ and said that she was alive and well; but there has been no proof of life since then, fanning speculation.

On 31 December 2019 Chinese authorities started censoring news of the virus from search engines, deleting terms including “SARS variation, “Wuhan Seafood market” and “Wuhan Unknown Pneumonia.”

On 1 January 2020, without any investigation into where the virus originated from, the Wuhan seafood market was closed and disinfected.

It has been reported in The New York Times that individual animals and cages were not swabbed “eliminating evidence of what animal might have been the source of the coronavirus and which people had become infected but survived.” The Hubei Health Commission ordered genomics companies to stop testing for the new virus and to destroy all samples. On 3 January 2020, China’s leading health authority, the National Health Commission, ordered Wuhan pneumonia samples be moved to designated testing facilities or destroyed, while instructing a no-publication order related to the unknown disease.

Doctors who bravely spoke out about the new virus were detained. Their detentions were splashed across the Chinese-state media with a call from Wuhan Police for “all citizens not to start rumours, not spread rumours, not believe rumours.”

A tweet from the Global Times on 2 January 2020 stated: “Police in Central China’s Wuhan arrested 8 people spreading rumours about local outbreak of unidentifiable #pneumonia. Previous online posts said it was SARS.” This had the intended effect of silencing other doctors who may have been inclined to speak out.

So – according to the dossier – the truth about the outbreak in China has remained shrouded in secrecy, with President Xi Jinping aggressively rejecting global calls for an inquiry.

The dossier is damning China’s constant denials about the outbreak.

“Despite evidence of human-human transmission from early December, People Republic of China’s authorities deny it until January 20,” it states.

“The World Health Organisation does the same. Yet officials in Taiwan raised concerns as early as 31 December, as did experts in Hong Kong on 4 January.”

The dossier exposes ‘the hypocrisy of China’s self-­imposed travel bans’ while condemning those of Australia and the United States, and declaring: “Millions of people leave Wuhan after the outbreak and before Beijing locks down the city on January 23.” “Thousands flew overseas. Throughout February 2020, Beijing’s authorities pressed the United States, Italy, India, Australia, Southeast Asian neighbours and others not to protect themselves through travel restrictions, even as the People’s Republic of China was imposing severe restrictions at home. According to the dossier, the western governments were busy “pushing back at what they call an assault on international transparency.”

“As European Union diplomats were preparing a report on the pandemic, the People’s Republic of China was successfully pressing Brussels to strike language on P.R.C. disinformation,” the dossier said.

“As Australia calls for an independent inquiry into the pandemic, the P.R.C. threatens to cut off trade with Australia. The P.R.C. has likewise responded furiously to United States calls for transparency.”

Chair of Australia’s Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security Andrew William Hastie, a Liberal Party member of the Australian House of Representatives, said that after ‘the cover-up and disinformation campaign from China’, the world needed transparency and an inquiry. “So many Australians have been damaged by the mismanagement of Covid-19 by the Chinese government, and if we truly are as close as Beijing suggests we are then we need answers about how this all started,” he said.

The dossier provided a list of the following ‘key dates in COVID-19 cover-up’:

“November 9, 2015: Wuhan Institute of Virology publish a study revealing that they created a new virus in the lab from SARS-CoV.

December 6, 2019: Five days after a man linked to Wuhan’s seafood market presented pneumonia-like symptoms, his wife contracts it, suggesting human to human transmission.

December 27: China’s health authorities told a novel disease, then affecting some 180 patients, was caused by a new coronavirus.

December 26-30: Evidence of new virus emerges from Wuhan patient data.

December 31: Chinese internet authorities begin censoring terms from social media such as Wuhan Unknown Pneumonia.

January 1, 2020: Eight Wuhan doctors who warned about new virus are detained.

January 3: China’s top health authority issues a gag order.

January 5: Wuhan Municipal Health Commission stops releasing daily updates on new cases. Continues until January 18.

January 10: P.R.C. official Wang Guangfa says outbreak “under control” and mostly a “mild condition”.

January 12: Professor Zhang Yongzhen’s laboratory in Shanghai is closed by authorities for “rectification”, one day after it shares genomic sequence data with the world for the first time.

January 14: P.R.C. National Health Commission chief Ma Xiaowei privately warns colleagues that the virus is likely to develop into a major public health event.

January 24: Officials in Beijing prevent the Wuhan Institute of Virology from sharing sample isolates with the University of Texas.

February 6: China’s internet watchdog tightens controls on social media platforms.

February 9: Citizen-journalist and local businessman Fang Bin disappears.

April 17: Wuhan belatedly raises its official fatalities by 1290. (S. Markson, Coronavirus NSW: Dossier lays out case against China bat virus program. (The Daily Telegraph, 02.05.2020).

To be continued…

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We knew it back then, so when did we cave in?

By Jennifer Michel

Whilst researching a book I stumbled across information about an event called preventing the punitive expedition into Arnhem Land in 1933. The accounting by Paddy Gibson described how the Australian Unemployed Workers Union was the backbone and fundamental movement that saved the people of Arnhem Land from the last officially sanctioned act of genocide. Paddy tells of how every day Australians were pushed to the outskirts of towns, forced to live in squalor alongside the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Making friends with each other these individuals realised there were very little differences between them, besides the cultural beliefs. Being members of the Unemployed Workers Union they worked together and fought to prevent the massacre that was planned by both the NT Administration and a department within Canberra responsible to the Federal Government. They fought because they realised many Australians were being forced to endure the same conditions that lead their forefathers to become convicts upon a ship bound for the ‘new land’. Their message was simple we are not different and deserve equal rights.

Almost 100 years later not much has changed for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nations, and equality is an aspect many Australians still do not see. Within the colonial world these lands have become families struggle to support themselves, medications have been shown to be widely inaccessible for many, further education is entirely out of reach for a large percentage. For individuals like myself, learning the cultural values of my Aboriginal forefathers is impossible. Unless I am willing to sleep with 20 others in a three-bedroom house and give up the ability to access fresh running water, electricity and fresh foods for my young family.

How many of us grew up on stories about England as it was 200 years ago? Take a look around at the truth of our society we find that Australia is not all that far from those conditions, we simply got trickier at hiding them. We call ourselves the ‘Lucky Country’. I would argue it is only lucky for some.

Meet the Australian Dream as I understand it: The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Share in the Lucky Country as it means to me: Don’t find yourself in circumstances you
didn’t expect, you get punished for them.

Australia has proudly boasted of not having a social class system within the shores of this country, but let’s be honest with ourselves for once, since colonisation there has always been a system of social class seen. Historically it was settlers, then convicts, followed by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island clans who were considered the lowest of the low. Today, those of us who have Indigenous roots have repetitively seen the Aussies who are allocated to the lowest ranks of the Australian Social Class; people we call family. Some of us, also like myself, have grown up in single income/parenting families, and/or life on a pension.

Being forced to live on the Carers Pension when my child was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder is difficult, to say the least. After working for years to better my circumstances creating opportunities for a career within the Human Resources Industry; I am in a worse situation than my parents ever were on one income. The most recent inquiry into the disability industry has shown many Australians have gone without to see their children can have something as simple as fresh fruit and vegetables, let alone a piece of chocolate once in a while. We have families unable to afford the medications they require or the therapies needed to improve both mental and physical disability.

COVID-19 has revealed deep cracks within our society and its ability to provide for all in an equal manner. Many Australians today who have found work are still struggling to make ends meet. We often hear of the underemployment rate but it is not explained in full detail every time. The word literally means people have jobs that do not provide the hours for them to earn enough to support their lives. Government programs have offered pathways to retain employment, such as JobKeeper. We have seen many divides formed within our society over the handling of this program, and personally I feel these would have been spotted by other governments of the past, but we never really will know what could have been.

Newer programs initiated by the Morrison Government are designed to move individuals not living in regions to locations where the jobs are. Many opinions I have read on social media suggest this program does not consider a wide array of aspects when it comes to uprooting even a single individual for employment. As a child, my father’s career was as a mechanic, we moved many times which resulted in a life of lost opportunities as much as it provided for others. Depending on the location we lived in we were considered to be wealthy – places like Katherine and Groote Eylandt in the Northern Territory.

Australia’s Social Class is something I have witnessed and experienced my whole life, often I have looked at those on TV, politicians such as Scott Morrison whom proudly boasts of his 5x grandfather being a convict subjected to horrific hardships. My eyes turn towards my clans living in Ngkurr and Borrollola in the Northern Territory and do not see the same Lucky Country our Prime Minister spoke about on Christmas Day in 2020. Neither do I see the ‘one’ the anthem change suggested on New Years 20/21. I see the Prime Minister’s images from his plush home, projecting the wealth his family has gained over 5 generations, showing off his family and wishing us good tidings from a religious belief I do not share. Whilst I likewise see 20 people living in a three bedroom home where children have contracted Acute Rheumatic Fever due to over population. These two images clash in my mind, is this what a first world country is? One unable to provide the treatments nor enact simple preventative measures to save children from life threatening illnesses. Conditions the World Health Organisation have eradicated in third world countries such as Trachoma. How can we claim to be the Lucky Country when one section of it lives with the financial ability to do anything they can dream of and the other cannot even feed themselves? Again, I suggest we cannot claim either title, because we are not as lucky as we let on, and neither do we behave in a manner
that would see us come first.

In February 2021 the United Nations came together for a five-year review of the Human Rights of all member nations. During the convention more than thirty countries turned to this first world country who claim to be lucky and accused us of breaching the international laws we agreed to uphold on this subject, Australia breaches human rights, frequently. We are one of the few first world countries not to have created and enacted a Federal Human Rights Act after agreeing to do so when we signed the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. Australia too signed the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, only to turn around and refuse to enact the legal framework to abide by the minimum standards towards the rights of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nations of Australia.

Australia’s Social Class is heavily centred around the values this country was founded upon, including the White Australia Policy. Legislation that prevented the immigration of any individual outside of the regions of Europe with a predominantly white population. We see aspects of this policy in place today; we only need to look at the way our politicians vote towards the treatment of refugees to know this is true. There are ways segregation is still in place within Australia, too. I remember being a young woman in a nightclub and looking around to see all the multicultural aspects of the country mingling between their own groups and never straying to others. This is also true of the number of Aussies who integrate with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, how many have lived with us instead of just buying something from a white owned retailer. We suggest there is no Social Class, but we should be admitting we failed at that as much as we have failed at human rights in general; anyone else hear the call for women’s rights to be improved just then? Oh gosh, I must be hearing things again. Oooh, I’m sure heard it again…

My mind always boggles at the privilege our nation displays to the world. Because, until our first world country behaves like the Lucky Country, there is no basis for the titles we apply ourselves. These titles mean privilege, look around Australia do we fit the bill?

#FederalHumanRightsAct
#UNDeclarationOnTheRightsOfIndigenousPeoples
#EqualHumanRights

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Absolute power corrupts absolutely

By 2353NM

We really shouldn’t be surprised that Facebook banned news coverage from their platform for around a week in Australia recently. Their ‘real’ objective isn’t to be the world’s back fence that everyone leans on to have a chat, it is to sell advertising that is based on your interests. They analyse your interests based on what you don’t scroll past or look at on other webpages that have an interface with Facebook, store the information then go to advertisers and promote that 10,000 people living in the state of Victoria with an interest in poetry will be aware of your new poetry book if you buy some publicity using their targeted advertising system. The targeted advertising they sell is quite profitable, and effectively they have the market to themselves. After all, if you want to check in on family and friends on an alternate social media platform, you have to convince your family and friends to move to that platform as well.

So, when the government of a middle ranking, western democracy threatens that income, Facebook responded as it does best, by throwing all their toys out of the playpen. Certainly there were other options and negotiation eventually won the day, but you have to remember where Facebook came from to understand their mindset. Mark Zuckerberg (the founder of Facebook) wrote a computer program to rate the ‘hotness’ of the girls at his university and shared it with his fellow Harvard University students, until the University closed the system down.

The morals and ethics behind the company seem to have stayed the same as Facebook became legitimate and grew. Until shamed into action, the company saw nothing wrong with Donald Trump’s misinformation campaign, providing the platform for a number of terrorists to broadcast live the killing and inflicting of serious injury to others or re-publishing ‘information’ about crackpot theories such as COVID-19 vaccinations being used to inject 5G receivers in your body on their site. They eventually get around to identifying, and either moderate or delete the offending posts. It’s hard to ignore that the ban on news coverage in Australia was immediate, poorly targeted and removed posts from organisations such as Queensland Health, 1800 Respect, SA Health and even Communications Minister Fletcher’s favourite example, North Shore Mums from view. Typically, Facebook again rolled someone out to say they were sorry that the implementation was flawed, but in the next breath went on to blame someone else for their failings. In short, the business model is, “we’ll do what we want, you will be grateful that you get anything and by the way, it’s our way or the highway.”

It’s our way or the highway is a characteristic shared by Facebook and the Morrison Government. At least they should have understood each other’s bargaining position. As Katherine Murphy recently pointed out in The Guardian

My colleague David Marr has noted recently Morrison’s reluctance to be transparent dates from his “on water matters” days in the immigration portfolio. Marr noted during those days as immigration minister, with the “uncomfortable piece of set decoration” General Angus Campbell at his side – “neither man answered a single question that mattered”.

Not answering a single question that mattered seems to also be a policy that Morrison has carried into his Prime Ministership. Last month, The Monthly published a long article that listed a number of occasions where the Morrison Government’s senior members have been less than open and transparent with us, the people that pay for the excesses and demonstrations of absolute power.

Commencing with the premise that in the Coalition Government

Private-sector leadership is sought and the public service is mocked. Economic stimulus is funnelled through business while government agencies survive in a state of austerity, under constant threat of “efficiency” cuts. Under a Coalition with few plans for government beyond diminishment, but a fierce sense of entitlement to power, the eventual devolution of standards was inevitable.

The Monthly’s editor, Nick Feik concludes by suggesting

The next time a scandal breaks – and one will break soon – the public might be outraged, but will be neither shocked nor surprised. This is simply what happens with a government that pursues those who keep it accountable, ignores ministerial codes of conduct, is unconcerned by conflicts of interest, is intent on shielding its workings from the public, and distrusts its own agencies and institutions. To the Coalition government, citizens are, as the saying goes, like mushrooms: to be kept in the dark and fed bull***t.

While Feik has a point, it seems that in February a scandal broke in the halls of Parliament House that even Morrison can’t silence by convening an enquiry or an investigation that reports back long after the caravan has moved on. This time, the scandal is coming from within the halls of power on Capital Hill.

Brittany Higgins, a former employee of the Ministerial Staff of Minister Linda Reynolds, alleged that she was raped in the Ministerial Offices after a party in 2019. It seems that at the time, the area was cleaned rather than protected to enable Police to gather evidence, Higgins was ‘counselled’ that a Police investigation leading to a criminal prosecution would be detrimental to her current and future career prospects and the Coalition would arrange a Parliamentary investigation. Higgins publicly revealed the rape by a senior staffer in February 2021 after the promised investigation had seemingly been taken down a dark corridor and strangled. Three other Parliament House staffers have since come forward and made similar allegations against the same senior staffer who seemed to have a magical ability to be able to move to a different Minister’s Offices when things got ‘difficult’. Friends of another woman (who has since taken her own life allegedly due in part to her horrific experience) have released documentation that claims that a current Federal senior Minister raped her in 1988, prior to entering Parliament.

For the record – any form of assault is never acceptable.

Morrison’s response was also not acceptable. He was purely transactional (start an enquiry, yada, yada, yada) until his wife had a chat with him and pointed out the moral and ethical concerns of the nation by suggesting he should reflect how he would feel if one of his daughters was sexually assaulted. Incredibly, Morrison told the press of the conversation so you could question if he really sees the poor behaviour and lack of morals or ethics in his actions. And well done Mrs Morrison for ‘having the discussion’.

Facebook has demonstrated its absolute power by removing newsfeeds from its platform because it could, or the numerous examples of ‘pork-barrelling’ discussed in The Monthly occurred because the Coalition was exercising its absolute power. While both alleged rape perpetrators have the right to protest their innocence until the matters are tested in the appropriate Courts of Law, the number of individuals who have bravely told their stories suggest there is something to see here. It seems there is considerable evidence that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

For Facebook users, The Political Sword has a Facebook page:
Putting politicians and commentators to the verbal sword

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House of Saxony

By Robert Stygall

‘On tonight’s show I’d like to welcome all the way from Mel-born, Australia – Robert and Liz.’

‘Hi, Oprah – we’re excited to talk to you.’

‘Now we’re speaking to you tonight because you are making an amazing claim – you say that you are the rightful King and Queen Consort of the United Kingdom.’

‘That’s right. I can trace my ancestry directly back almost a thousand years to the original Saxon Kings. In fact, back to Harold the Second in 1066. Whilst the current usurpers only go back as far back as Edward the Seventh in 1901 with the so-called House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. You got to admit that doesn’t sound very British does it. Look a hundred years ago rebranding your name to the House of Windsor to disguise your Germanic origins, may have worked on the plebs, but surely today people are too sophisticated and well educated to believe such contrived mythology – setting aside Donald Trump supporters of course?’

‘I think we’ll leave Donald to one side – so how did you end up missing out?’

‘Well, my Great, Great, Great etc etc Father had the throne illegally stolen from him by William the Conqueror. And as we know he was about as British as garlic snails. So, the end result is we have had close to a thousand years of various usurpers and families stealing the monarchy from the previous thieving incumbents. So, I am here to restore the purity of English monarchy and to re-establish the link back to the true and original Kings and Queens of England, the Saxons.’

‘So, you are sure you can prove your direct lineage to Harold the Second.’

‘Yes, my DNA matches perfectly with the DNA recently recovered from the arrow in the eye that killed him. I now have the best constitutional lawyers in the world supporting my claim. As a consequence, I will shortly be serving notice on the present usurpers the House of Windsor, to vacate my numerous residences.’

‘So, what will you do with these newly acquired properties?’

‘Well, Oprah, mention is often made of the people’s palace, well I will return Buckingham Palace to the people. It will be converted to a theme park and entertainment centre. I have already booked the headline acts for the first concert ‘Queen’ and ‘The Pretenders’ – lets Ruck the Buck, oh yes.’

’Windsor Castle I will retain for my own use but of course it will be renamed Saxonia Castle.’

‘Robert, isn’t there a problem, with you living in Australia and being King of the United Kingdom?’

‘Well, Oprah, for over a hundred years the Australian head of state has been a Windsor King or Queen located in Britain, so I can’t see how they can complain when we reverse the situation.’

‘What about Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales?’

‘Let’s face it. They are a vestige of Colonisation. I will give them Independence and ironically, they will then most likely cede autonomy by re-joining the EU. However, I know I speak for many when I say we will miss the many cultural contributions, these countries have made to the British way of life. For example, deep fried Mars bars, sectarian tribalism and massed male choirs.’

‘Robert do you think you and your family have the moral authority to rule England.’

’Well, Oprah no family is perfect, but I can assure you no-one in the House of Saxony, as we will be known, has been a Nazi sympathiser, exploited and sexually abused young girls or boys, lived a luxurious and decadent lifestyle off the taxpayer via Royal stipends, made racist and insensitive remarks on an ongoing basis, had multiple extra-marital affairs, or exhibited mad or bizarre behaviour as a result of generations of in-breeding; so I think that is a good start.’

‘What about the system of honours – will you keep them?’

’Firstly, all existing honours will be cancelled. However, you have to admit they are a very clever way of allowing power and influence to be exerted at virtually no actual cost. No, instead, we will have a lottery each year and Knighthoods and the like will be randomly drawn out. To be honest this will probably result in more worthy recipients than the current system. Rolf Harris, I rest my case. By the way, when I say randomly drawn out, we will of course ensure there will be an appropriate representation of aged, female, physically handicapped, LGBTIQ, left-handed and racially diverse recipients.’

‘Well thank you, Robert, we have to leave it there and good luck with your claim.’

‘Thank you, Oprah, and God Bless The House of Saxony.’

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Consent and Flirting

By Tina Clausen

I am sick and tired of the many ignorant comments by all genders that I keep coming across in the current climate of discussions around ‘consent for sexual activity’ and ‘flirting’.

Firstly regarding ‘consent for sexual activity’: Unless you have a very clear, happy and enthusiastic consent expressed to you (in whatever way) then you must automatically assume that you do not have consent.

If you feel uncertain or confused about consent in any given situation then, very simply put, you do not have consent.

Someone asleep, severely impaired or incapacitated by alcohol, drugs, illness etc is incapable of giving consent which means you do not have consent. At this point, whatever type of sexual activity you may proceed to engage in is sexual assault or rape.

Secondly, regarding flirting: I am over seeing ordinary behaviours which all people engage in (eg smiling at, looking at, talking to, making eye contact etc) getting falsely interpreted by recipients as you obviously flirting with them or somehow leading them on. No! Unless there is a wider context where corroborating evidence and behaviours exist then you do not have the right to assume that any kind of flirtation or expression of sexual interest is taking place.

As for comments about how everything is now confusing and nobody dares to flirt anymore, all I can say is this: If your ‘flirting’ gets ignored, rebuffed, maybe judged as inappropriate or gets an angry response then it is because you have either forgotten or ignored one of the core tenets of flirting; namely, ‘mutuality’. Flirting is a two-way street that both participants are taking part in and enjoying. If only one of you is enjoying it then it is sexual harassment.

People have the right to choose whom they want to flirt with and whom they want to respond positively to. Don’t just launch into what might be unwanted flirtation. Talk to people normally and nicely and try to establish a connection. If they rebuff that approach, then assume they are not interested. If they are happy to talk to you at that level but then non-responsive to subsequent flirting attempts, then they are very likely not interested and are just being friendly or polite. Either way, it’s time to back off. And no, you do not have the right to get pissed off or abusive for being friend-zoned.

If you are at all uncertain about anyone’s level of interest, then you need to assume that you do not have the go-ahead for anything even remotely sexual.

It must also be noted that just because someone engages in playful flirting it does not automatically mean that consent is given for anything more than that to occur. Nor must an assumption be made that any kind of interest in taking things further must exist purely based on that bit of flirtation.

Oh, and one last thing: Don’t ever tell a stranger in a pub or club (or a colleague or casual acquaintance for that matter) to ‘smile’. Nobody owes you a smile, especially not a stranger. Besides, you have now put that person in a really shitty situation. If they don’t smile, they get judged as rude or stuck-up, and if they do smile out of politeness, they leave themselves open to being seen as receptive to further interaction when that may not be the case or, even worse, the smile is falsely interpreted as flirting or showing interest in you. Telling a stranger to ‘smile’ is patronising and demeaning however way you look at it. Just don’t do it!

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Patriarchy has had its day

By Loz Lawrey

When it comes to toxic masculinity, neither Labor nor the Coalition occupy the moral high ground.

Both parties have male “rats in the ranks.” Women in both camps, whether politicians or staffers, continue to suffer from the insidious repression of their power, forced upon them by our patriarchal system.

It’s clear that our overarching Australian male-dominated social culture itself is the problem and, when it comes to the mistreatment of women, neither side of politics is beyond reproach.

Liberal MP Nicole Flint has called out sexist attacks and stalking she has endured, claiming that the safety of women should be “above politics,” while in the same breath accusing Labor of refusing to condemn the perpetrators.

As a woman, she deserves support and redress for any mistreatment she has suffered, yet her Labor-blaming demonstrates the usual right wing conservative politicisation of issues and response to criticism: avoid responsibility, refuse to address the facts and deflect, deflect, deflect…

Yet patriarchy is non-partisan. Male privilege and entitlement is everywhere.

It’s on the right, the left, and in the centre. Our system entrenches it as if this is nature’s way, the “natural order.”

It’s so easy, as a man, to accept that this is simply “the way of things” and thank our stars we weren’t “born a woman.”

To my shame, at times in my own life, I have had this very thought.

I’m now in my seventieth year. Yet still I continue to try to learn and grow my understanding. We can all improve on our former selves.

As I hear more and more women speak out about the mistreatment they endure,

I learn. My instinct is not to try to shut them down, but to listen. I know that if I do, I will learn, grow, and become a better person. I will connect with my own empathy and understand in some small way what it is to walk in a woman’s shoes.

Whatever my own political affiliation, I must listen and act on the knowledge and understanding that listening delivers.

At this moment in time, our federal parliament stands exposed as a disgusting cesspit of sexism and exploitation.

In the parliamentary workplace, which has no human relations department to address the issues of those who work there, a toxic culture endures, nurtured and maintained by men of privilege from across the political spectrum.

There’s an opportunity here.

Australia needs to change.

Who should lead that change? Our federal government.

Who speaks for them? Scott Morrison.

Is this man capable of even comprehending and addressing the problem?

Sadly, no. Scott Morrison is the emperor with no clothes, a hollow man of “faith” devoid of the consideration and understanding needed to change our system.

The activist Grace Tame highlighted his gormless response to the issue of women’s safety during her speech at the National Press Club, pointing out that; “It shouldn’t take having children to have a conscience.”

Morrison’s pathetic reference to his own wife and daughters, while intended to imply; “I understand the problem – I get it,” did just the opposite.

He doesn’t understand the problem. He simply doesn’t “get it,” which is why he sought guidance from his wife.

Scott Morrison is, purportedly, the leader of our nation.

He sits at the top of the very system that perpetuates the repression of women.

He himself is a product of that system, and thus a part of the problem.

Will he do anything to address the issues of women’s safety and inequality at their source?

Will he encourage cultural change in schools, sports clubs and churches, those petri dishes of toxic masculinity?

Will he call for mutual respect our streets?

Will he speak for “equal rights for all, regardless of gender”? Probably not.

Make no mistake. Private boys’ schools exist to entrench and maintain the patriarchy and the “male power” that sustains it. They are breeding grounds for the sexism that preferences one gender over another, and the entitled men these institutions produce go on to infect our culture and society at large with their toxic attitudes and behaviour.

I myself am a product of this system, and it’s taken me a lifetime to understand this.

Toxic masculinity exists everywhere – in all pollical parties, in the business world, in our wider communities. It is not partisan, and the issue of women’s safety should certainly be above and beyond politics.

Addressing this issue requires more than the mumblings of a conservative evangelist, one who appears completely unable to even understand the problem.

We need a real leader.

Australia needs a female prime minister, one who can foster greater understanding and acceptance between men and women.

We had one once.

Her name was Julia Gillard, and we all witnessed the champions of patriarchy in Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian attack and revile her throughout her term in office.

What a cringeing embarrassment that was to witness: our nation at its very worst. What a poisonous presence in our society Murdoch has been.

Ms Gillard did her best. Her “misogyny speech” resounded around the world.

History will remember her kindly. Murdoch? Not so much.

In Australia, sadly, the patriarchy is entrenched.

Dismantling it requires the collective effort of us all.

Our nation must change.

Our culture must change.

The education and upbringing of men must change.

These things will only happen once we all work together to change the very system that entrenches patriarchy and male entitlement.

Men must realise that this implies no threat to them, no disenfranchisement nor emasculation.

Empowering women will not disempower men but rather help to, as Robert Kennedy said in 1968; “tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.”

In the civilised world, in these troubled times, the very survival of humankind depends upon collaboration, cooperation and mutual understanding.

Patriarchy has had its day.

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Was COVID-19 born in the United States? (part 10)

Continued from: Was COVID-19 born in the United States? (part 9)

By Outsider

Quam parva sapientia regitur mundus! (With how little wisdom is the world governed!)

On 4 May 2020 the United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there “is a significant amount of evidence” that the COVID-19 outbreak originated from a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Mr. Michael Richard Pompeo is a qualified attorney at law, as well as a businessman, politician and diplomat who, since April 2018, has been serving as the seventieth United States Secretary of State. He is a former United States Army officer and was Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from January 2017 until April 2018, when he was chosen as Secretary of State.

Behold Mike Pompeo chuckling with his audience at the Texas A&M University, on 15 April 2019: “When I was a cadet [at West Point] our motto was: ‘You will not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do.’ [And when] I was the C.I.A. director, we lied, we cheated, we stole. It was like we had entire training courses. It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment.

He was a member of the House of Representatives from 2011 to 2017, a Republican from Kansas. Within the Republican Party, Mr. Pompeo was a prominent member of the Tea Party movement, a very conservative branch. But he is by training a lawyer, and as such he should be familiar with the strictures of the law of evidence. (‘Significant evidence’ virus came from Wuhan lab: Pompeo, The New Daily, 04.05.2020).

There are several sources which would condition Mr. Pompeo’s last statement.

Writing in September 2020, Mr. Peter Andrews, an Irish science journalist and writer based in London, who has a background in the life sciences, and graduated from the University of Glasgow with a degree in genetics, brought to life a new study from the United States which indicated that people were falling ill with ‘coronavirus-like’ symptoms in December 2019, but doctors at the time dismissed it as ordinary flu.

A team of doctors from Los Angeles scouring the hospital records from the previous winter had discovered a series of smoking gun clues which almost guarantee that COVID-19 was present in America well before the end of December 2019.

Scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles had analysed over 10 million hospital records from 1 December 2019 to 29 February 2020. Comparing that winter to previous ones, they noticed a 50 per cent increase in ‘coughing’ as a symptom on admission forms. In addition, 18 more people than would ordinarily be expected were hospitalised with acute respiratory failure.

In fact, the scientists estimate that there may have been 1,000 or more COVID-19 sufferers in Los Angeles alone during the previous winter – and presumably those were just the symptomatic minority. At the time, of course, all of this was put down to a moderately bad flu season. Officially, COVID-19 did not turn up in Los Angeles until 22 January, when a traveller in Los Angeles International Airport fell ill. He was from Wuhan, and was identified as Covid-positive four days later.

This bombshell fits an emerging body of evidence on an earlier coronavirus timeline. Many people may remember the reports of a strange vaping-related illness which ravaged Americans towards the end of last year. (CDC raises alarm after mystery vaping-linked lung disease kills 5, sickens 450+ across U.S.; CDC raises alarm after mystery vaping-linked lung disease kills 5, sickens 450+ across US, 07.09.2019).

There was a good deal of study on it. Scientists at first thought it was the oils in the e-cigs congealing in people’s lungs, but soon debunked that hypothesis. In hindsight, it is difficult to look past COVID-19 as the real culprit. Pneumonia-like symptoms, ordinarily fit people falling severely ill. It was COVID-19 all over.

These revelations came hot on the heels of a very different story from England, which nonetheless points to the same conclusion. One Peter Attwood died at the age of 84 on 30 January, having been sick for over a month. But in subsequent weeks, an autopsy confirmed that he died of COVID-19, with which he was probably infected in 2019. Underlining this, Attwood’s daughter was sick with similar symptoms two weeks earlier still.

All of this happened in Kent, a county in South East England. But, according to the government there, the first COVID-19 death in the United Kingdom did not happen until March. Afterword Attwood’s family wanted answers from the Chinese government on why they did not tell the W.H.O. earlier about the coronavirus, which, as it commonly known from leaked memos, was identified in mid-November at the latest. (C. Pollard, Daughter’s anguish. Brit was first to die of Covid outside of China last Xmas – daughter says ‘he’d still be here if Beijing hadn’t lied’, The Sun, 08.09.2020).

If coronavirus burned a track through the United States and the United Kingdom towards the end of 2019, is there any reason to suspect it was not doing the same everywhere else? In July, reports came in of coronavirus DNA being found in Spain, Italy and South America as long ago as the spring of 2019. (Plot twist! The coronavirus is NOT CHINESE, says famed British epidemiologist but his reputation precedes him, rt.com, 07.07.2020).

How far back does this story go? One will probably never know.

Nor will one ever be able to track the precise journey of the novel coronavirus around the globe, despite being nearly certain of its origin in Wuhan. But when the inquiry is done, surely findings like these have to be taken seriously, and built into the retrospective model of the pandemic. And if the coronavirus was spreading freely in 2019, the questions are: What was the point in beginning lockdowns sometime in March 2020? Is it really credible that they could have made a blind bit of difference, coming as late as they did?

This whole mess demonstrates the problem with relying on official data and records, as they are bound to be incomplete and tardy, particularly at this stage. Despite such understandable failings in government information, people have an unfortunate habit of treating it like the gospel truth. This is absurd, and yet thinking of this quality seems to inform so much COVID-19. (Was Covid-19 spreading freely worldwide BEFORE last Christmas? The evidence keeps stacking up, rt.com, 11.09.2020).

At mid-November 2020 it appeared that the COVID-19 virus had been active in Italy months before it was first officially detected, new research has found, raising further questions about the true origins, extent and actual duration of the ongoing pandemic.

The new ground-breaking study, conducted by scientists within Milan Institute of Cancer and the University of Siena, was published at mid-November 2020 by the Tumori Journal. (G. Apolone, E. Montomoli, A. Manenti, Unexpected detection of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the prepandemic period in Italy, 11.11.2020).

The research is based on the analysis of blood samples from 959 people, collected during lung cancer screening tests conducted between September 2019 and March 2020.

More than 11 per cent of the tested – 111 people – turned out to have had coronavirus-specific antibodies. All the tested people were asymptomatic and were not showing any signs of the disease. Some 23 of the positive results date back to September 2019, suggesting that the virus was actually present in the country as early as during 2019 summer – some six months before the pandemic ‘began’ and ‘reached’ Italy.

The new research is poking new holes in the already well-battered belief that the novel coronavirus emerged from the Chinese city of Wuhan around December 2019 and that it turned into pandemic in January 2020. The data from Italian researchers are particularly valuable, as they are based on actual blood samples, as compared to the earlier, less conclusive findings which also suggested that the established pandemic timeline could be wrong.

The study’s conclusions appear to be consistent with the reports of severe respiratory symptoms and ‘atypical flu’rampant among Italy’s elderly late in 2019. Another study, published by Italian scientists back in June, showed that traces of the coronavirus were found in sewage water analysed as early as December 2019.

Similar findings have been made by scientists from other countries as well. Spanish researchers have claimed that they have traced coronavirus in sewage samples taken as early as March 2019.

Analysis of hospital records from late 2019 in the United States has also suggested the unusual amount of ‘flu’ patients, many of whom experienced heavy ‘coughing’ and other severe respiratory symptoms.

Globally, the number of registered COVID-19 cases had gone past the 54-million mark, while more than 1.3 million people have perished, the latest figures as available from the Johns Hopkins University. With the mounting evidence that the outbreak began well before its ‘official’ start, it was becoming more likely the true extent of the pandemic will one day be revised. (Covid-19 was present in Italy as early as September 2019, study of lung cancer screenings shows, rt.com, 15.11.2020).

Confirmation, of sort, came from an unusual source: the World Economic Forum, the international N.G.O. based in Cologny, Geneva Canton, Switzerland, and founded in 1971. It issued a fairly cryptic information: (Ryan, W.E.F admits COVID was around in mid-2019 & it is admitted the vaccine will not return us to normal, posted on 16.11.2020).

Mr. Pompeo’s declaration differed from that of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who said on 1 May 2020 that he had seen no evidence suggesting a laboratory was the likely source and the most likely scenario was a Wuhan wildlife wet market. Mr. Morrison has no medical and/or legal qualifications; before entering politics he was an advertiser.

President Trump had announced the week before Mr. Pompeo spoke that he had a high degree of confidence that the virus came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The president’s statement prompted the World Health Organization to reiterate its view that the new coronavirus was of natural origin.

United States intelligence agencies confirmed that they were still examining the claim that COVID-19 started in the Wuhan laboratory – but Mr. Pompeo was more definite. “I can tell you that there is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan,” Mr. Pompeo told America’s ABC TV network on 3 May 2020.

 

The Wuhan Institute of Virology. Photo Getty

 

Mr. Pompeo said that China “has a history of infecting the world and they have a history of running substandard laboratories.” “These are not the first times that we’ve had a world exposed to viruses as a result of failures in a Chinese lab,” he said.

He also briefly contradicted a statement issued the previous week by the top United States spy agency. “The best experts so far seem to think it was man-made. I have no reason to disbelieve that at this point,” Mr. Pompeo said.

When the interviewer pointed out that that was not the conclusion of United States intelligence agencies, Mr. Pompeo retreated saying: “I’ve seen what the intelligence community has said. I have no reason to believe that they’ve got it wrong.”

His statement came in a four-page U.S. Department of Homeland Security report obtained by The Associated Press, which claimed that Chinese leaders “intentionally concealed the severity” of the pandemic from the world in early January.

The report, which is dated 1 May, stated that, while downplaying the severity of the COVID-19, China increased imports and decreased exports of medical supplies. It attempted to cover up doing so by “denying there were export restrictions and obfuscating and delaying provision of its trade data,” the analysis stated.

The report said that China held off informing the World Health Organization of the full extent of the outbreak so it could continue to order medical supplies from abroad.

Mr. Pompeo told the ABC TV network that he had no reason to believe that the COVID-19 was deliberately spread but said that China had a poor record on viruses. “Remember, China has a history of infecting the world, and they have a history of running substandard laboratories,” he said.

He said that the Chinese government could have prevented the spread of COVID-19, but instead used disinformation and concealment, with the help of the W.H.O., to hide and confuse the world. He said that the world was united in wanting to understand how the outbreak began – and supported a call from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison for a global inquiry into the COVID-19 outbreak. (A. Hamblin, Australia calls for probe into WHO and China amid questions over coronavirus ‘transparency’, The New Daily, 20.04.2020).

“The Australians agree with that,” Mr. Pompeo added, as if the agreement of the Australians were necessary. “You hear the Europeans beginning to say the same thing. I think the whole world is united in understanding that China brought this virus to the world,” with A.A.P.

The United States determination to pin the blame – and probably the bill too – on China for the COVID-19 pandemic had been collected in a 15-page dossier compiled by intelligence agencies, which had been leaked, according to reports.

The dossier, amply described by The (Sydney) Saturday Telegraph, had been prepared by “concerned Western governments.”The publication reported that the Five Eyes intelligence agencies of the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom were investigating China. (S. Markson, Coronavirus NSW: Dossier lays out case against China bat virus program, 04.05.2020).

The authors of the research found some quite unusual ways to paint China’s response to the outbreak – a negative and even sinister way. For instance, despite a presumed requirement for brevity in such a short paper, it refers to a study which claimed the killer coronavirus had been created in a laboratory.

The scientific community’s consensus held a different view, and spoke otherwise, while United States intelligence is on the record agreeing with the dossier’s position. The work itself had been withdrawn because there was no direct proof to support the theory, as its author, now professor, Botao Xiao acknowledged. But the ‘China dossier’ found a warm spot for a mention, it appears.

A large portion of the dossier is apparently dedicated to the Wuhan Institute of Virology and one of its top researchers, Dr. Shi Zhengli, who has a long and distinguished career of studying SARS-like coronaviruses and bats as their natural reservoirs. It seems that the dossier is not interested in the database of bat-related viruses Dr. Shi helped create but rather in the claim that the COVID-19 pandemic started as a leak from her laboratory.

The dossier points to the so-called gain-of-function research in which Dr. Shi was involved. Such studies are aimed at identifying possible mutations in infectious agents which may occur naturally and make them much more dangerous to humans. Creating stems with such mutations in the laboratory allows to prepare for a possible outbreak, though whether such research is worth the risk of accidental release or even bioterrorism attacks has been subject to much debate.

In the contents of the dossier however the implications seem clear: what if China lost control of one of its dangerous samples and then did everything it could to cover it up? The alleged obfuscation seems to be the main focus of the damning document. It claims that Beijing was engaged in “suppression and destruction of evidence”including by disinfecting the food market believed to be the ground zero of the COVID-19 pandemic. China is also accused of hypocrisy because it imposed a ban on internal travel from the Hubei province while arguing against a ban on international flights.

“Millions of people leave Wuhan after the outbreak and before Beijing locks down the city on January 23.” the newspaper cited the dossier as saying. “Thousands fly overseas. Throughout February, Beijing presses the United States, Italy, India, Australia, Southeast Asian neighbours and others not to protect themselves via travel restrictions, even as the [People’s Republic of China] imposes severe restrictions at home.”

The leaked dossier is yet to be made public for independent scrutiny. But the dramatic tone of the quotes in TheSaturdayTelegraph and the far-fetched implications indicate that it is along the lines of infamous intelligence assessments and media leaks by anonymous officials, which have been the staple of western foreign policy for decades. One could remember the story of how Saddam Hussein was said secretly to have obtained yellowcake uranium and to be ready to strike Europe with his missiles in 45 minutes, or the Russian bots which swayed the 2016 election with memes. If true, one should have expected many ‘revelations’ in months to come. (CIA & MI6 put together ‘scientific’ dossier ‘targeting China’s Covid-19 cover-up’ – as West readies to demand Beijing COMPENSATION, rt.com, 03.05.2020).

In fact, all the Secretary of State’s bluster blaming China for the COVID-19 pandemic appeared as empty posturing. He had admitted it on public TV on the same week.

Mr. Pompeo was asked about the origin of the virus and, specifically, United States’ claims about it being leaked from a laboratory. He told Fox News: “This virus originated in Wuhan, China. We don’t know the precise location.” [Emphasis added] (Secretary Pompeo: We know the Covid-19 crisis began in Wuhan and the Chinese government tried to cover it up. 30.04.2020). And that was the best that Mr. Pompeo could do. He was simply “repeating what the rest of the world already knows: that the new coronavirus had emerged in the city of Wuhan.” Mr. Pompeo had no further detail on an alleged laboratory release, and openly said so himself.

He was quite generous with innuendos and inanities, but an indirect information could be gathered from Mr. Pompeo’s admission that the United States simply knew nothing about “the precise location” from which the virus had come. And that was a damning remark, because Secretary of State Pompeo and President Trump, among others, had been claiming that United States intelligence indicated that the virus somehow leaked out of a laboratory in Wuhan, the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

While Mr. Pompeo was accidentally telling the truth about American ignorance, President Trump had unashamedly been claiming that intelligence was coming in and “we are not happy”, implying that the Americans had something incriminating on China. (N.P.R., The coronavirus crisis, Virus Researchers Cast Doubt On Theory Of Coronavirus Lab Accident, 23.04.2020).

However, Mr. Pompeo’s professed lack of knowledge about the origin of the virus also had not stopped him from asserting that China is recklessly running other laboratories creating dangerous pathogens. (T. Korso, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claims multiple labs in China are working in contagious pathogens, 29.04.2020). Ominously, he had vowed that the United States would convince other nations that China is responsible for the global outbreak and that Beijing should be held liable for financial compensation. That suggested that the United States was deeply engaged in ‘finding evidence’ to fit a predetermined conclusion blaming China.

The allegation of the virus escaping from a laboratory has been roundly rejected by international scientific assessment. (K. G. Andersen, A. Rambaut, W. I. Lipkin, E. C. Holmes and R. F. Garry, The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2, 26 Nature Medicine, 450-452, 2020). The scientific consensus is overwhelmingly that the virus might have originated in nature, possibly in bats from where it passed into humans. And that is a biological accident, so to speak, for which China is not and should not be made liable. The scientific assessment concurs with the position of the Chinese government. (J. Bowler, Scientists Are Tired of Explaining Why The COVID-19 Virus Was Not Made in a Lab, Science alert, 20.04.2020).

China has repeatedly denounced the allegations made by the Trump Administration as “preposterous disinformation.” The World Health Organization has also concluded that the virus originated in wildlife and was not due to a laboratory release or bioengineered. But with the toxic politics flying in the United States, the W.H.O. had been vilified as the “Wuhan Health Organization” working in cahoots with the Chinese Communist Party.

So there was little chance of reason or objectivity prevailing in American discussions. That toxic politicisation of the pandemic would allow people like Pompeo to propagate his China bogeyman story and to try to blame all of America’s woes on Chinese Communists.

Given that the number of Americans infected by COVID-19 represents about one-third of the global total, it is understandable that the Trump Administration was desperate to find a scapegoat for its own abysmal failings. The period of end-of-April-beginning-of-May saw the United States death toll exceed 60,000 – more than all the American military deaths incurred during the Vietnam war.

It was thought that the presidential election in November could have shaped up as a referendum on Trump’s botched mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic, that some regarded as ‘criminal’.

The only way for President Trump to try and salvage his re-election bid was to redirect anger on to China. Hence, China was being accused of releasing the virus from a laboratory or ‘covering up’ the severity of the outbreak. Neither of these claims had any substance. It was just a hoax – or “fake news”, as President Trump liked to rail against when it suits his offended monumental ego.

Hoax aside, President Trump and his unpleasant enabler Mike Pompeo were going to keep pressing the propaganda smear – even at the risk of starting a war. President Trump was going to make an election campaign out of it, and his Democrat rival, former Vice-President Joe R. Biden Jr. would be portrayed as “Beijing Biden” and branded “soft on China.”

To be continued…

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Seeking the Post-COVID Sunshine: Marching4Justice

By Denis Bright

The mobilization by Australia’s womenfolk on Monday 15 March was a real turning point in Australian social history.

SBS and other news services captured the significance of the March4Justice event on the lawns outside Parliament House (15 March 2021):

One month ago, Brittany Higgins broke years of silence to announce her alleged rape inside Australia’s halls of power.

On Monday, she bravely returned to the lawns of Parliament House to address the thousands who attended the Women’s March4Justice rally in Canberra.

The former Liberal Party staffer was not expected to speak at the rally, but she says she did so out of “necessity” and in the hopes of protecting other women from sexual violence.

“We are all here today not because we want to be here, but because we have to be here,” Ms Higgins said.

“We fundamentally recognise the system is broken, the glass ceiling is still in place, and there are significant failings in the power structures within our institutions.

“We are here because it is unfathomable that we are still having to fight this same stale, tired fight.”

 

Brittany Higgins

 

Cut-off from the wider world by travel restrictions associated with COVID-19, Australia’s womenfolk and wider sections of the progressive movement are welcoming a new spirit of dreaming. Life in a vast country that is Girt by Seas can be better and more inclusive without the contamination of colonial myths about the place of women in society. The real historical factors of the role of women in colonial society are beyond dispute.

Women of course raised the children of Colonial Australia on both sides of the divide between indigenous and immigrant society.

Less than forty years after Ipswich in Queensland had ceased to be a convict settlement, riverboats brought freight from Brisbane and returned with wool and other supplies from rural districts.

Families tuned into the ambience of a sunny climate with the occasional interruptions of disastrous floods like the two epic 1893 floods.

Surprisingly, Ipswich as part of the federal electorate of Moreton, elected an Independent Labor member to the first two parliaments in far-off Melbourne in 1901 and 1903.

A spirit of political innovation saw women’s suffrage extended to an Australian national election in 1903.

During the Great War (1914-18), the women’s vote contributed to the defeat of conscription for overseas military service in the referenda of 1916-17.

However, the excesses of colonial conservatism re-surfaced in the post-war reconstruction as the financial burdens of war became more apparent with re-enforcement from 15-20,000 deaths from the Spanish flu pandemic.

Popular magazines promoted a love of domesticity. Preoccupation with fashions and consumerism replaced just some of the social activism of the pre-1914 era.

Gossip about developments in the royal family added to the alienation from evolving social realities in the very socially divided Australia of the 1920s.

When this domestic bliss was punctured by the Pacific War, the late Sir Robert Menzies opened the prospects of a return to the leadership of those middle class Forgotten People in his broadcasts on the Macquarie Radio Network which commenced in 1942.

With Queen Elizabeth on the throne of the British Commonwealth from 1952, Menzies would encourage involvement in Australian politics by women with the support of conservative women’s networks.

The late Dame Enid Lyons (1897-1981) (widow of Prime Minister Joe Lyons) became the federal member for the NW Tasmanian seat of Darwin (1943-51). She was the first woman to be elected to the Australian parliament but had strong reservations about the leadership style of Robert Menzies.

The Labor Party was slow to endorse women to winnable seats. It was a groundswell from women activists who fostered a change in direction. Joan Child (1921-2013) entered federal parliament after her husband’s death and held the position of House Speaker (1986-89) in the Hawke years.

Had the Labor Party acted earlier to endorse women to winnable seats, Gough Whitlam’s government may have enjoyed greater longevity with better senate results to permit the smooth passage of progressive legislation to avoid The Dismissal Saga on 11 November 1975.

Winning the seat of Henty in Melbourne was not an easy task for Joan Child, even in 1972. Her seat was lost to the LNP in 1975 but reclaimed successfully in 1980.

While women battled for pre-selection and positions of political influence in government, the structures of mainstream mass culture often promoted misogyny under the banner of personal liberation from the old shackles of domesticity.

In her short term as prime minister in a minority government (2010-13), Julia Gillard brought a permanent challenge to the gender divide which has continued to grow since her departure from formal national politics (Image and Quote from Curve, July 27, 2019):

 

Julia Gillard talks to politician and former Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party, Tanya Plibersek

 

From Julia Gillard 2019 at the Women’s Leadership Forum-King’s College, London

There is just so much poison in social media. We have polarised debate so much today that a lot of people of good will think, ‘I don’t want to spend my life being the subject of such awful personal commentary’.

Australia has regressed back into a bygone era under two of the three LNP prime ministers since 2013.

The excuse of being too busy in the office to meet the assembled crowds at the March4Justice in Canberra by Scott Morrison and senior ministers was a fatal political mistake which will be remembered for generations ahead across the sexual divide in Australian society. The March4Justice was a successful turning point in Australia’s social history. It approached like an unexpected political storm and is far too strong to be resisted as in 2013 when Australian society regressed against its true historical character.

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

 

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Living with our ‘transactional’ prime minister

By Ad astra

Writing in The New Daily, it was Dennis Atkins who drew our attention to the notion that we had a ‘transactional’ Prime Minister. He recounted an exchange between Nick Xenophon and the PM when Xenophon asked him if he’d like to catch up for a coffee to have a chat about issues, to which Morrison responded: ‘What for?’ ‘No, mate. I’m purely transactional.’ It was Morrison’s way of saying: “What’s in it for me?’. Reflect on that and then ask yourself how often he behaves in this self-seeking way.

The word ‘transactional’ evokes memories of the heady days when so-called ‘transactional analysis’ (TA) was in vogue. It was used to give insight into behaviour at many levels of society: in the corporate world, in business, in education, in law enforcement, indeed in almost any aspect of human interaction. It was applied in schools, in organisations, in community and sporting groups, in prisons, even in the home. It was all the go. Older readers will remember Erik Berne’s books Games People Play and What do you say after you say hello? as well as his more formal book: Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy.

This is what Wikipedia has to say about transactional analysis:

Transactional analysis (TA) is a psychoanalytic theory and method of therapy developed by Eric Berne in the late 1950s wherein social transactions are analysed to determine the ego state of the communicator (whether parent-like, childlike, or adult-like) as a basis for understanding behaviour. In transactional analysis, the communicator is taught to alter the ego state as a way to solve emotional problems. The method deviates from Freudian psychoanalysis which focuses on increasing awareness of the contents of subconsciously held ideas.

As Berne set up his psychology, there are four life positions that a person can hold. Holding a particular psychological position has profound implications for how an individual regards his or her life. The positions are stated as: I’m OK and you’re OK. This is the healthiest position about life and it means that you feel good about yourself and that you feel good about others and their competence. I’m OK and you’re not OK. In this position you feel good about yourself but see others as damaged. It’s usually unhealthy. I’m not OK and you’re OK. In this position you sees yourself as the weak partner in relationships as the others in your life are definitely better than yourself. If you hold this position you will unconsciously accept abuse as OK. I’m not OK and you are not OK. This is the worst position to be in as it means that you believe that you are in a terrible state and the rest of the world is as bad. Consequently, there is no hope for any support.

Reflect on how our PM handles those positions. The first ‘I’m OK and you are OK’, reminds us of how he dealt with maverick Craig Kelly, telling us that despite all Kelly’s bizarre, indeed dangerous ideas and crazy behaviour in the media and on his social media platform: ”He’s doing a great job in Hughes”. Hardly a ‘healthy’ position to take! Subsequent ‘dressings down’ were no more than a sop to an enraged media and electorate, which was appalled by Kelly’s behaviour.

The second, ‘I’m OK and you’re not OK’ is the position he takes repeatedly with members of the Opposition, or indeed with anyone with whom he disagrees.

The third, ‘I’m not Ok and you’re OK’ is not a Morrison position.

The fourth, ‘I’m not OK and you’re not OK’ is another position he never takes.

How does our ‘transactional’ PM rate in your estimation? Is he simply applying the self-serving ‘What’s in it for me’ principle?

Let’s take a few instances. Why did he decline to condemn Donald Trump for the part he played in the raid on the US Capitol? To keep in good relations with him should he ever need him again?

Why did he take so long to ‘dress down’ the stupid Kelly? To placate the hard right core of his team – Kelly’s mates? The people of Hughes were so unimpressed with their man that they would replace him in a flash, and probably will when preselection next arises. Morrison judged their opinions less useful to him.

Why does Morrison repeatedly decline to set a target for emissions reduction? To avoid a savage reaction from his coal-hugging mates and the fossil fuel industry, his solid support base? That’s what in it for him!

Why does he smugly dismiss (complete with smirk) any questions during press conferences that reflect on his judgement? To avoid any hint of uncertainty or indecision? To always look firmly in control? That’s what in it for him!

Why does he defend his Attorney General so vehemently, refusing to stand him down to at least partly defuse the explosive rumours enveloping him? To avoid any question of weakness? Or to don the mantle of loyalty? Is that what’s in it for him?

Why does he so vehemently assail the Opposition during Question Time? To enable him to wear the mantle of the ‘strong man’, the ‘smart man’, the one who always has a cutting response that his members and supporters will applaud? That’s what in it for our transactional PM!

Taking the transactional approach – What’s in it for me? – is Morrison’s preferred modus operandi. It suits him and his backers.

But wouldn’t we all like to know: ‘What’s in it for the rest of us?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword

For Facebook users, The Political Sword has a Facebook page:
Putting politicians and commentators to the verbal sword

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Standard digital camera and artificial intelligence to monitor soil moisture for affordable smart irrigation

UniSA Media Release

Researchers at The University of South Australia have developed a cost-effective new technique to monitor soil moisture using a standard digital camera and machine learning technology.

The United Nations predicts that by 2050 many areas of the planet may not have enough fresh water to meet the demands of agriculture if we continue our current patterns of use.

One solution to this global dilemma is the development of more efficient irrigation, central to which is precision monitoring of soil moisture, allowing sensors to guide ‘smart’ irrigation systems to ensure water is applied at the optimum time and rate.

Current methods for sensing soil moisture are problematic – buried sensors are susceptible to salts in the substrate and require specialised hardware for connections, while thermal imaging cameras are expensive and can be compromised by climatic conditions such as sunlight intensity, fog, and clouds.

Researchers from The University of South Australia and Baghdad’s Middle Technical University have developed a cost-effective alternative that may make precision soil monitoring simple and affordable in almost any circumstance.

A team including UniSA engineers Dr Ali Al-Naji and Professor Javaan Chahl has successfully tested a system that uses a standard RGB digital camera to accurately monitor soil moisture under a wide range of conditions.

“The system we trialled is simple, robust and affordable, making it promising technology to support precision agriculture,” Dr Al-Naji says.

“It is based on a standard video camera which analyses the differences in soil colour to determine moisture content. We tested it at different distances, times and illumination levels, and the system was very accurate.”

The camera was connected to an artificial neural network (ANN) a form of machine learning software that the researchers trained to recognise different soil moisture levels under different sky conditions.

Using this ANN, the monitoring system could potentially be trained to recognise the specific soil conditions of any location, allowing it to be customised for each user and updated for changing climatic circumstances, ensuing maximum accuracy.

“Once the network has been trained it should be possible to achieve controlled irrigation by maintaining the appearance of the soil at the desired state,” Prof Chahl says.

“Now that we know the monitoring method is accurate, we are planning to design a cost-effective smart-irrigation system based on our algorithm using a microcontroller, USB camera and water pump that can work with different types of soils.

“This system holds promise as a tool for improved irrigation technologies in agriculture in terms of cost, availability and accuracy under changing climatic conditions.”

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Seeking the Post-COVID Sunshine: Crossing Old Divides Through Critical Journalism

By Denis Bright

As it is my 75h birthday on 13 March 2021 – today – I will take this opportunity to remind readers of the positive reasons for my commitment to articles for The AIM Network.

Although my articles for The AIM Network cover a range of topics, they are often linked to one or more of these mega-themes:

  • support for responsible democratic activism and inclusiveness
  • commitment to peace, disarmament and human rights as foundations for strategic policy
  • commitment to the sustainable social market within contemporary globalization

Let me illustrate how these commitments positively affect my writing within the MEAA’s ethical code and commitment to Fair Comment.

 

Commitment to Responsible Democratic Activism

Journalism should always have an activist component. Apologists for eyewitness news service as a mechanism for neutral coverage of the day’s events overlook the extent to which the news agenda is a planned promotional event. Staged events showing leaders making pasta derivatives at the opening of an apprentice policy launch are hardly newsworthy. However, they are soft news items which foster loyalty to the federal LNP and improve audience ratings.

Australians would be more open to alternative critical journalism over news communications from media releases. Lots of fellow Australians are rightly turned off from involvement in formal politics by the largely rhetorical nature of mainstream political debate with its emphasis on point scoring over a quest for real solutions.

Having worked in political positions almost continuously since graduation, our political insiders should be aware of Labor values as eloquently expressed by Labor’s Victorian Branch:

 

 

Some elements of royal privilege have permeated the mindset of political insiders and minders who could easily be at home in the House of Windsor. Even the right of members to express informed opinions are questioned in the Yes Minister traditions.

As a financial member of the MEAA, I should be protected against such excesses in defence of the right to fair comment which was enshrined as a journalistic right even in colonial times before 1901.

Non-members of the MEAA of course enjoy common law rights to free expression. There should be few concerns about the right to social communication when every point in my articles is well sourced. I often use block-quotes to promote discussion on issues which require specialist knowledge.

This right to fair comment is embedded in common law which was restated in colonial defamation acts such as Queensland’s Defamation Act 1889.

A block quote from the Defamation Act 1889 would be a tedious exercise. Interested readers should check s.13-14 of this colonial legislation. This legislation was enacted in a still very conservative era of Queensland colonial politics when strong personalities competed for electoral support from a male only constituency long before the extended periods of Labor Governments in Queensland (1915-57) with the exception of that single term of the Moore Government (1929-32) under the banner of the Country and Progressive National Party.

From commitment to inclusive democratic activism, this article will move onto the other two mega-themes.

 

Commitment to Peace and Disarmament in Accordance with the UN Charter

While global freight moves at a slower pace during current COVID restrictions, Australia is more seriously affected by a curtailment of service trade including tourism, international student enrolments and all forms of travel. Added to these shocks, are the current trading, investment restrictions and strategic problems between Australia and China.

Australians are being asked to make more commitment to the US Global Alliance through continued support for Freedom of Navigation exercises in the South China Sea when China’s goodwill could be tested without undermining traditional strategic goals. Ironically, the US superpower has not yet signed the UN’s Law of the Sea conventions (1982) which was implemented from 1994.

With the US in domestic crisis, a proactive ally like Australia will hopefully press for diplomacy over more strategic tensions as noted in New York Times coverage of the two-hour telephone conversation between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping:

In a summary of the call, the White House said that Mr. Biden “underscored his fundamental concerns about Beijing’s coercive and unfair economic practices, crackdown in Hong Kong, human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan.”

But the leaders also discussed “the shared challenges of global health security, climate change and preventing weapons proliferation,” according to the summary.

According to the official Chinese account of the two leaders’ call, issued by Xinhua, Mr. Xi cautioned Mr. Biden that the two powers had to cooperate or risk calamity, and gave no sign of giving ground on Xinjiang (NW China), Hong Kong or Taiwan.

Contrast such possibilities with gung-ho press statements by US military leaders who are stoking up tensions in the Taiwan Straits in the traditions of the old Cold War era (US Defense News, 5 March 2021):

 

A Taiwanese Air Force F-16, in foreground, flies on the flank of a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force H-6 bomber as it passes near Taiwan on Feb. 10, 2020. (Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense via AP)

 

WASHINGTON – The United States should provide “consistent arms sales” to Taiwan to deter Chinese aggression in the Pacific region, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said Thursday.

“And I would say, you know, for the greater U.S. government – consistent arms sales to Taiwan to help in this deterrence strategy is critically important. And again, that takes a balance to capabilities to go to them,” he added.

Davidson’s comments come amid a tour of Washington to make the case for funding the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, for which his command is seeking $4.6 billion in fiscal 2022, and $27 billion through 2027, to build up capabilities in the command’s area of responsibility. Part of that funding involves reinforcing ties between the U.S. and its partners and allies in the Asia-Pacific region.

For military planners, Taiwan remains a potential flashpoint in the region, with U.S. intelligence analysts saying in 2019 that the Chinese military is getting closer to the point it may feel it can successfully invade Taiwan. Both the U.S. and China have stepped up activity around Taiwan in recent months, with Davidson expressing concern about recent activities from China.

Surely, the disputed Island of Kinmen, now occupied by Taiwan, could be a shared picnic area for people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits. It currently lies within in sight of the Chinese city of Xiamin but is off-limits to Chinese citizens.

 

Map Image of Kinmen: National Parks of Taiwan

 

Every billion dollars spent on military manoeuvres or non-essential purchases of military equipment, detract from commitments to reduce the social and economic divide in Australian society.

Many of my articles also address this social divide in Australia. Pragmatic policies can make market ideology more inclusive in an era of rampant and legalized tax avoidance which the current LNP persists in fostering.

Stoking up a return to old style market ideology is no exercise in long-term political stability on both international strategic and domestic fronts in Australia.

One of my previous articles addressed the economic and social divide between Riverview in Ipswich and Moggill in the Ryan electorate. Excessive tax concessions to wealthier families and opportunities for legalized tax avoidance have contributed to problems with delivery from the federal government.

Bill Shorten offered an alternative to such delays in his 2019 policy launch but it was rejected by the electorate with a net loss of one Labor seat in the House of Representatives and some big swings to the federal LNP in Queensland where Labor currently only six of the available thirty federal seats.

How did the political and social divide on the Riverview-Moggill Straits along the Brisbane River in Metro West respond to Bill Shorten’s legitimate appeal for a change of heart?

 

Alternative Commitments to the Sustainable Social Market Within Contemporary Globalization

 

Image: QT 16 June 2016 of the Unbridged Social Divide Between the Blair and Oxley Federal Electorates at Riverview in Ipswich

 

Although Ipswich, as part a sprawling Moreton electorate, elected an Independent Labor Member to the first two Australian parliaments in Melbourne in 1901 and 1903, interest and involvement in social democratic movements has not been maintained in very recent federal elections. Falling rates of trade union membership outside key unionized sectors should be a cause of real concern to the future of the broader Labor movement.

 

Steering Traction for Social Democracy

While the Labor Party was comfortably ahead in Riverview at the 2019 national elections, there was a strong indirect swing to the LNP through preferences from One Nation (21 per cent primary vote) and the disciplined preference flows from the UAP and Fraser Anning’s Conservative National Party.

On the more comfortable side of the Brisbane River at Moggill in adjoining the Ryan electorate, Labor performed relatively better.

The irony of the whole exercise was a small swing to the Left (2.85 per cent after preferences) in the traditional LNP seat of Ryan but a 6.93 per cent swing against Labor in Blair on the other side of the social divide.

Ryan and Leichhardt in North Queensland were the only federal seats where Labor slightly increased its primary vote. In the case of Ryan, the LNP primary vote was down by 3.51 per cent. This was the fourth largest reversal in the LNP’s primary vote across Queensland in 2019 (after Moncrieff -6.84 per cent, Kennedy -5.11 per cent and McPherson -5.05 per cent).

 

Beyond Political and Social Divides

Despite the recent regressions in Australian political life over insider bullying and support from saber-rattling by joint US-Australian naval convoys on so called freedom of navigation jaunts, most Australians are still quite detached from involvement in formal politics. For many, a quick scan of news coverage on mobile phones as a substitute for real involvement in public affairs with an occasional glance at an eyewitness television news programmes if the coverage offered is entertaining enough.

The major challenge facing Labor in 2022 is the need to draw back some of those protest votes from both the left and right. Adding more players to the Labor team is a logical imperative. The ghosts of those Cold War era splits in Labor’s support base from that 1955 national conference in Hobart still lurk behind the scenes in Australian federal politics.

Readers might check the policy agenda being offered and offer their own feedback as welcomed on the Labor Special Conference site (Image: Labor Special Conference Platform).

Labor is planning to fine tune its policy frames with a special platform conference of four hundred delegates in late March 2021 and involvement from across the Labor Movement to develop an appealing change agenda.

 

 

Even if your perspectives lie to the left or right of the Special Conference Platform, why not take a glance at the policy platforms on the site and submit your comments to your nearest local Labor federal member and senators.

With communication links still affected by the current global COVID-crisis, critical journalism can assist in reporting on developments across the three mega-themes which are a recurring feature of my own articles.

 

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

 

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2021 Human Rights Action, or Rather, Inaction

By Annasis Liz Kelly and Jennifer Michels

Human rights core fundamental worth is that all people are treated as equals, covering a wide range of areas it is said to be high on the list of values within Australia. But we are regularly left asking how can it be equal when it is dependent on your colour, beliefs, sexual orientation, social stature and gender.

Australia has proven over and again that, if you are a white, straight, Christian male with financial means, you can get away with a fair bit of crap. We merely need to look at the times a politician has been sacked instead of charged to know this is true. But can a trans woman of colour who is poor get the same deal? How about an Indigenous child whose family have been heavily involved with the police for that child’s entire life? No, in fact these demographics are treated like they are the worse people in the world; when in most instances they have done nothing to deserve such treatment.

My own life experience includes a Mother who judged her husband as innocent of raping a child, valued his time and respect as worthy. While towards her own blood, it’s like she says “Liz your sexual orientation is one I do not like and makes you unworthy of the same respect I give my husband.” Christian beliefs instilled into the Australian society valuing those human rights so highly. As children, we are taught that if you want respect then you first show it, but when these are our teachers, the people meant to guide societies values where do human rights come into your purview?

When the British came to Australia, they never showed any regard to the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders yet when the English demanded respect none was given so they were smacked and degraded into submission. Today, British and Aussie citizens still wonder why First Nations Australians refuse to respect the European descendants, when we don’t show any themselves.

Equal human rights include aspects such as abiding by international laws with regards to how Aussie rights are managed. But, Thursday, 13 September 2007 the United Nations adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Australia was not among one of the countries to adopt the Act, even though First Australians aided in the creation of the document.

Human rights include the right to live free of torture. Recently while scrolling through Twitter I have seen posts discussing accounts of torture from someone I follow; many Australian’s follow this man, just as many know of him and his plight. He is someone we have locked up, a man we are subjecting to acts of torture! His name is Nauroze Anees, and Border Force Australia are holding him at Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Sydney, NSW.

Wednesday 17 February Nauroze posted on Twitter, as he does most days, in this tweet he shared a video and wrote: “Not content with keeping me in Solitary Confinement & withholding my vital medications. Now @AusBorderForce is playing loud music via the intercom speaker at 0450am, to keep me sleep deprived. They don’t just want to kill me, they want to do it painfully.”

 

 

Saturday 6th March he posted: “To Date the Australian LNP Govt has subjected me to State Sanctioned: 1509 Days of #ArbitraryDetention, Physical Torture, Psychological Torture, Sleep Deprivation Torture, Withheld my Medication, Solitary Confinement, Dehumanisation.”

 

 

We know why he’s been locked up, well we think we do at least. Australia’s government have been extremely tight-lipped over the immigration policy currently being worked on. Jacqui Lambie recently wrote an article for the Canberra Timeswhere she explained why she was back flipping on her promise to reveal the policies, stating:

“The problem I’m facing is that the agreement I made gets torn up if I reveal it. Not out of spite, mind you. The reason it gets torn up is because it can’t be delivered if it’s out in the open. It literally can’t be. To work, the people affected can’t know.”

My issue with trust, is the fact that numerous human rights have been impeded for decades. For example, women, elderly, and Indigenous rights have been violated as have the many individuals in this country live below the poverty line on welfare payments. Rights regarding accessing health care services are all but denied to the remote First Nations communities facing epidemics in preventable and treatable diseases such as Acute Rheumatic Fever or Trachoma. Basic rights for example water or fresh foods all but denied to the remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities. With these facts in mind, it is very difficult to extend the trust the Government are requesting when it comes to the immigration policies being worked on by our politicians.

Australia has a long way to go before we are ready to tackle human rights with an adequate plan. If it wasn’t for black men in America who voicing outrage regarding the mistreatment and lack of equality, women in general wouldn’t have been able to have their own rights established. Even then there are more than a few issues.

Included within the UN standards of Human rights is having full control over one’s finances regardless if they are working or receive welfare from governments. But, in Australia this right was refused to those relying upon Centrelink Payments to live. Initially this program was introduced in the NT in 2007 and solely focused at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations; after the NT Intervention was enacted. This first program was named the Basics Card and distributed 50% of social security payments onto the card while the rest was deposited into a nominated bank account. December 2020 other regions in Australia have been forced onto the Indue CDC, or Indue’s Cashless Debit Card. One of the main differences between the Basics and Indue cards is that the latter has 80% of social security payments restricted to the card, where the individual is unable to access their money as cash. Any extra income, such as family tax returns, or even advance payments from Centrelink are 100% on both cards. You have to ask permission to use any extra money.

These cards have shown to be extremely concerning for those forced to use them. Disabling the parents to provide for their families. For example, due to the inability to access cash, families are unable to purchase a cheap air-conditioning unit, or fridge. If they (Centrelink) deem it too much money to spend, yet you are left to swelter in the heat or feed a family without a fridge.

Both cards now subjected to Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, with the hopes of becoming a national program for all individuals accessing welfare payments in Australia. Resulting in a violation of the basic human rights for every citizen forced to rely upon them!

With money being paid by the government to Indue to manage it at approximately $10k per person. All to “stop drugs and alcohol” being consumed. But with punitive measures like this, no wonder why numerous people turn to these substances as a means of evading the reality of their lives. Approximately 80% of women are on this card. Some have escaped from DV to be controlled by someone else.

Is this the legacy we want left for our future children? Remember, Australia, if we wish to retain the title of a first world country, we had best behave as though we are one!

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