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Michael recently retired from the Public Service and is studying law in his retirement. His interests are politics, media, history, and astronomy. Michael holds a BA in Aboriginal Affairs Administration, a BA (Honours) in Aboriginal Studies, and a Diploma of Government. Michael rarely writes articles for The AIMN these days, but is heavily involved with the admin team.

Website: https://theaimn.com

The true guardians of Australia

History, so goes the old saying, tends to repeat itself. But the tragedy unfolding in the Murray-Darling basin is unprecedented. This is new. You won’t find a parallel in the history books. It is a tragedy caused by human intervention. It is a tragedy caused by today’s governments trying to alter the course of nature.

Oh what poor custodians of this land white Australia has been. The Murray-Darling is but one example.

But why?

To answer, we must look at the attitudes of land, from a non-Indigenous and Indigenous perspectives. It’s not a simple case of black and white.

In most western societies land ownership is considered a form of security or an expression of status. Most non-Aboriginal Australians aspire to own a piece of real estate, and to meet that dream they work, they save, borrow and mortgage their lives away. Land ownership is confirmed with a Title Deed which is identified with a Volume, Folio and sub-section number on which the land dimensions and boundaries are clearly marked. On this land the owner may build a dwelling, grow or raise produce for income, or rent out the land for profit.

In rural Australia most land is used for growling cereal crops or raising live-stock. This is done within the boundaries of the owner’s land. These ventures are filled with risk: Dramatic seasonal changes; fluctuating market prices for the produce; diseases; cash flow problems; farming on unsuitable land (poor land management) and a host of other variables could force ownership to be relinquished.

Image from library.ststephens.wa.edu.au

Traditionally, Aboriginal people do not own land. Instead, they are a part of the land and this link was formed during the Dreaming. In the Dreaming, people were created from the land and this is the land they still inhabit. It is on this basis that Aboriginal people are claiming legal title to land, supported by the belief that the spiritual ancestors who shaped the land still inhabit it; the land still embodies the sacredness of the Dreaming events. Traditional ownership was validated if your Dreaming Ancestors inhabited a particular area of land. Traditional ownership certainly does not shield Aborigines from some of the dangers that face western land owners. However their land management techniques and their attitudes to the environment make the land more sustainable.

As Aborigines are not land owners they feel that they have a responsibility to the environment. The environment, the land, and even the sky were created in one – as were the people – and all are related. With this attitude/belief is it any surprise that the Aboriginal people never took anything from nature? Aborigines are the original conservationists and their use of land management promoted ecological health.

An example of this is fire stick farming: The burning of undergrowth in wooded areas that would promote the germination of new plants, and thus attract the animals that were an important part of an Aborigine’s diet. This burning was carried out before the dry season and was done carefully and systematically. No more was burned than necessary. Burning was also more than just sound land management; it was evidence that the land was healthy and being fully utilised. There was also a religious significance to burning: As the Ancestral spirits of the Dreaming still inhabit the land, the burnings provided these spiritual inhabitants with lands on which they could hunt.

Conservation was also extended to all practices of hunting and gathering. No more food was taken than required and no food source was over exploited. In some societies prohibitions were placed on the taking of immature plants or animals. In times of crisis, such as drought or flood, land ownership need never be relinquished. The resources have been preserved.

The western attitude to the land did not encourage sound management or preservation techniques. Whereas the Aborigines were careful in their exploitation of resources, the westerners unwittingly created vast tracts of land devastation. For instance, the over grazing of stock has rendered many areas infertile. The senseless chopping down of forests has destroyed delicate eco-systems. The salinity of the waterways is largely due to pollution. It is evident that no consideration had been given to the protection of natural resources. How little are the changes of attitudes since 1788? Land exploitation was used to advance British colonisation and became the rationale for European land ownership. It is ironic that most European-Australians view Aboriginal lands as inhospitable, barren or unforsaken, when it could be argued that the reverse could apply. Need we say more:

Image from finterest.com.au

Whose guardianship do you trust?

It has only taken Europeans 230 years to destroy what the First Australians preserved for over 60,000 years. In another 230 years there may be nothing left to preserve.

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This is why I vote Labor

The first time that I published this post was in 2012 on the old Cafe Whispers blog, and republished it on The AIMN prior to the 2013 federal election. I hesitate to publish repeat posts but on this occasion I have made an exception, and present it again (slightly edited).

Why am I doing this?

Two reasons. Firstly, I want people to know the LNP that I know and from what I’ve seen this makes Labor a better alternative.

Secondly, to shut the critics up. I am a Labor voter, despite some noisy people thinking otherwise. And to those critics who might ask; “If you’re a Labor voter then why are Greens voters given a voice on this site?” My short answer is; “They are allowed to and they’re welcome to. It is their site too.” We are a left-leaning site – I won’t hide from that – and we all do our bit to put an end to the horror nightmare currently governing us. My bit is to vote Labor.

Here’s my story …

I was too young to vote for Gough Whitlam in 1972 and until then I had no interest in politics, but it wasn’t hard to get swept up in the wave of excitement of his anticipated victory. I would have voted for him. The Vietnam War was still raging and kids my age and older were dreading their 20th birthday and the subsequent prospect of conscription. We didn’t like the idea of fighting another senseless war. I think we were the first generation to take that stand.

Although my short-lived interest in politics was well behind me, in 1975 I voted for Gough as I wasn’t happy at the way he was dismissed by John Kerr (with the help of Fraser, in my opinion). In fact, I was rather angry at the whole affair.

I stayed with Labor until the early nineties. Yes, I voted for Hewson and I voted for Howard. Hewson’s loss disappointed me, probably because at the time I was not a big fan of Keating’s, while Howard’s victory brought out the champagne, as by this time I quite despised Keating (for his arrogance). In my eyes Howard couldn’t do anything wrong. He was perfect. But again, my interest – or knowledge – of politics was not vast. Rather small, actually.

It wasn’t long, however, before I would mumble to myself: “Come back, Paul. All is forgiven”.

With the benefit of hindsight, looking back at their prime ministerships both history and I will/have judged Keating to be the far better of the two. And by a country mile!

But I digress.

After securing work with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) in 1999 it soon became obvious to me that Howard was nothing but a political opportunist. Aboriginal people became political footballs and he soon caught on that ATSIC bashing provided him with the Midas touch. Despite having at his disposal hundreds of skilled and experience policy makers and Aboriginal people with their pulse on community needs and real contemporary issues, he found it was better politics to be driven by media demands and editorials. There were more votes in helping with the bashing than formulating some really beneficial programs to help these marginalised and disadvantaged members of our society.

It was sad having to visit remote Indigenous communities and make excuses as to why they were continually being ignored by Canberra. “Oh how different it might have been under Keating” I would silently mutter.

The disappointment I detected in the Howard Government in remote Aboriginal communities in South Australia was nothing compared to the detestation of him I felt within the Public Service when moving to Canberra. Frankly, it was quite a surprise and one that found me asking questions as to why.

The answers weren’t that complex.

From working closely with him and his government, Public Servants saw first hand what a mean-spirited, conniving, lying bunch of individuals those in the LNP government were. And it t didn’t take me long to discover this too! Policies were formulated to ensure their own political survival while ignoring the needs of wider Australians. Lies were told to the media about how successful their policies were when in fact they were failing miserably, and public servants were bullied into providing them with confidential information in order to secure a political advantage over the then Opposition. I am not at liberty to disclose what I witnessed, but let me say that in my eyes Howard was still perfect. The perfect a###hole, that is.

I often wished that those people interstate who worshipped him in their millions could come to work in the Public Service and see first-hand for themselves what a miserable #### he actually was. It’s a pity that the truth never ventured past the boundaries of Canberra.

On the Monday morning after he lost office, the sight of public servants going about their business with a spring in their steps and a smile on their faces gave Canberra a good feel about it. The bullying had stopped and the Public Service was again apolitical, which is how it should be.

But it was after they lost office that I saw how miserable and mean-spirited the Liberal Party was (and still is).

I am not at liberty to give exact details, but I was involved in formulating many policies for the Rudd/Gillard Governments that were aimed at assisting both disadvantaged and mainstream Australians. To see something finally being done for the wider community was inspiring. Sadly, the programs went nowhere or somewhere at a snail’s pace, keeping disadvantaged Australians disadvantaged. Why? Because the Abbott Opposition made every attempt possible to ruin these programs because the delivery of them would bring credit to the Labor Government. And naturally, the Opposition would then shout to the media that this Government was doing nothing for the average Australian … and the wider community started to nod in agreement. If the wider community knew of the billions of dollars that were wasted because of the Opposition’s tactics they might not have nodded so obligingly.

At about this time it was very easy to become demoralised as a public servant; working your arse off to get this country moving then watch everything crumble because the Liberals didn’t want it to move. They exhibited no interest whatsoever for the community or its needs. Adopting Howard’s manipulative trait, they were only interested in ruining a duly elected government and having parties in The Lodge. They haven’t changed much, have they?

I saw enough of the Liberal Party in my dozen or so years as a Canberran to carry a hatred for them for many years yet. I’m definitely Labor to the core and not afraid to admit it.

In my opinion, however, I think that since 2007 Labor have done a lousy job selling itself. Here they could take a leaf out of John Howard’s book of telling anybody with a microphone or a TV camera how good he was. Howard drummed it into us, and we heard it that many times that many actually believed it.

It’s the same manner Tony Abbott used to shout to everybody how bad the Gillard Government was. And the friendly media were happy to keep printing his lies.

Again, I’m digressing.

The point is, I will always vote for a party that puts Australians first and there is only one party that has shown me they have that commitment: the Australian Labor Party.

Can I really believe that the LNP would put ordinary Australians first? Can I really believe they’d be a better alternative for pensioners, parents or minority groups? Can I really believe they’d offer a better system for education, health or technology? No. Of course not. I’ve worked for them and not once did they convince me that ordinary Australians matter.

Can I believe that they would offer a better form of government for the upper class, the media barons or the mining giants? Yes.

I repeat: I will always vote for a party that puts Australians first and there is only one party that has shown me they have that commitment … and that’s the Australian Labor Party.

It’s time. Again.

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Christmas comes but a hundred times a year

For my school holidays in 1965 I was staying with my newly-wed brother and his wife’s family in country NSW. On Christmas Eve my brother drove me to the town’s telephone booth for the obligatory call home.

Wow, a telephone booth! As a kid growing up on Kangaroo Island a telephone booth was an invention ahead of its time. I’d never seen one, let alone ventured into one. Exciting steps indeed.

Back in those days the making of a long-distance telephone call wasn’t as ‘modern’ as the booth we were making it from. One was required to book a trunk call, and the waiting time – on this occasion – was two hours.

Two hours of picking up stones and throwing them at fence posts.

It was, you could say, a ‘remote Christmas.’

Fifteen years down the track every Christmas the parent’s house was packed to the rafters with family and friends. It was the only true annual get-together that we and others families would enjoy, and everybody made every effort to share it.

“Christmas comes but once a year,” so went the old saying. And it was that once in a year opportunity to see family from afar and actually speak to them face to face.

And that was the Christmas scene for the next few decades. Christmas 1965 seemed many lifetimes ago.

But is 1965 catching up to us?

Over the last few years I’ve heard more and more people announce with a sigh of relief that “our Christmas will be spent with just the two (or three or four) of us. Quiet and relaxed.”

With more than a touch of irony, one wonders if modern technology is the vehicle that has allowed 1965 to catch up.

Through modern technology we no longer have to wait for Christmas for the rare get-togethers. Phone calls are a breeze to make, we can Skype (or face-time) friends and family afar, we email each other what seems a hundred times a week, we can share family photos on Facebook or Instagram, and we can now fly interstate relatively cheaper than we once could. Friends and family are with us … always … and not just in our thoughts. Some would say they are in our faces!

After a year of constant communications and visitations … Christmas is the opportunity for some to take a break, wind down, and put the feet up.

And that’s what a lot of people from our generation propose when we ask; “Whachya doin’ for Chrissy?”

Maybe that will one day become the new tradition. After all, we can now have (a sort of) Christmas about 200 times a year.

History will, of course, prove me absolutely wrong, so in anticipation of my complete failure in predicting one of the greatest social upheavals of our lifetime all that is left for me to say is …

Merry Christmas, everybody, from Carol and I.

Kaye Lee once said that we at The AIMN are all a family, and it is a family that Carol and I are proud of, whose company we cherish 365 days a year. If you’re not doing anything on December 25, this is one family you are welcome to spend some time with.

Nobody works hard like Donald Trump. Nobody.

Just too funny. Too funny not to share.

Poor Donald Trump.

The President of the United States has too much work to do and, alas, can not take his taxpayer-funded golfing vacation at Mar-a-Lago in Florida.

(Sort of ironic that, given that 800,000 public servants won’t have much of a Christmas either, given the Trump-inspired partial shutdown of the US government).

But the work must be done, and let’s give credit where it is due … Donald Trump is doing it!

He said so.

In a tweet.

A tweet with a picture as proof.

A tweet that read; “Some of the many Bills that I am signing in the Oval Office … ” (you can read the rest below).

But, but, but …

Zoom in to the document he is allegedly signing. What do you see? Nothing. It’s blank.

Now zoom in to the pen in his hand. What do you see? A pen with the cap still on it.

Oh dear, Mr President. Oh dear.

Perhaps you better take that holiday after all.

“We need to change the rules in this country”: Doug Cameron

Doug Cameron knows how to command an audience. The ingredients are all there: hugely popular (and undoubtedly Labor’s most likeable senator), that fabulous Scottish accent, the passion in his voice, and the fire in his belly.

Speaking at the North East Border Trades and Labour Council he had found another captivated audience. And all the ingredients were there.

Doug Cameron is among the last of a rare breed as far as politicians go. His working-class background sets him aside from the modern-day politician who was likely to have attended an elite school and graduated from university with a law degree, or something equally ‘prestigious.’

Unlike most of today’s politicians, he knows what it’s like to do it tough, and he knows that working-class Australians are now also doing it tough. That’s why he fights for them. Relentlessly. Tirelessly.

And Doug Cameron has dedicated his time in parliament – emulating his union background – for that one cause: “Looking after working people.”

This was the theme of his talk, and it was echoed throughout.

Here is what Doug Cameron had to say on a range of important issues:

Unions and the Working Class

“My job was to look after workers and see the good decent rate of pay and make sure they had safe working conditions.

Without a strong trade union movement what do you get? Wage stagnation. Without a strong trade union movement what do you get? You get exploitation. Without a strong trade union movement what do you get? You get workers maimed and killed on the job. If there’s any basic reasons why you need a strong union movement, it’s decent wages, decent conditions, and the right to go to work and come home safely.

We do need to change the rules in this country.

I know that workers need strong unions … to advance the interests of workers and their families.

I never thought I would see the day that the Arbitration Commission would end up taking penalty rates away from working-class people in this country. You’ve got the Liberals doing the boss’s bidding in the Senate and you get all these speeches that workers need to be more flexible. Bosses don’t need to be flexible. What a terrible word, ‘flexibility’. Workers have got to be more flexible, but bosses don’t. All they want is to put more and more money in their back pocket at the expense of working people. So this flexibility is all one-way at the moment, and that’s why it’s important that Parliament actually makes the changes that allow working people to rebuild the union movement in this country. We need the union movement out there lifting the standard of living in this country, because no-one else will do it.

[Some politicians] reach out to working-class people using fear and racism as their weapons to divide the working-class. And we need to organise against that. We need to educate against that. And we need to start controlling those outcomes … because we don’t want to go down the path of Donald Trump in this country, where workers get screwed every day when they go to work.

We need to make sure we get good people in the Senate – and in the House of Reps – that stand up for working-class people and make sure that the first and final position they take is the support of the working-class in this country.

A senior Labor politician once said to me, ‘Doug, you’re a politician now, not a unionist.’ I said, ‘I will always be a unionist. Because I wouldn’t be in Parliament if it wasn’t for my union. I wouldn’t be in Parliament if it wasn’t for unionists like Sally McManus, and I hope that I have paid back the support that I got’.”

Climate Change

His dislike for one of the biggest threats to the environment – coal – could not be hidden:

“There is no long-term future for coal.

There is no long-term position where we can continue to pollute the atmosphere because everyone here will either have kids in the future or have grandkids and what we have to do is leave an environment at least similar to what we’ve enjoyed in our life because it’s unfair not the look after the environment and give kids of the future a decent life.

I say this as someone who brought my family up off the back of steaming coal.”

Free Trade Agreement

“I have never once voted for a free trade agreement. I have argued for fair trade… not free trade. Because what we get now is certainly not about free trade, and certainly not about fair trade. It’s about giving big business more and more power, and giving American companies intellectual rights over the rights of companies in this country. It’s given the right for overseas companies to attack our wages and conditions. I just think that is wrong. I opposed the free trade agreement in the Caucus, I then moved a resolution that we bring it back to the Caucus to resubmit it, and I was done over twice. I am now bound by that Caucus decision, but that doesn’t mean to say that the Labor Party member can’t get out and point out the problems with these free trade agreements. And it’s good to see that Bill Shorten has been out saying that when we win government – and I think we will win government next election – we won’t be signing any agreements.”

A Shorten Government

“There are a range of issues that we need to deal with. We need a decent education system and a decent health system. We need workers to be able to buy or rent houses at a rate that isn’t putting them into poverty. We need to make sure that big business don’t get $80 billion in tax cuts. Because when you hear people talking about small government, small government means less tax for the rich, and less services for the working class. That’s the bottom line. And never let any of the Coalition tell you that they are better economic managers than Labor. Labor brought this country through the global recession which left workers around the world in poverty. We built 150,000 jobs during that period by investing in infrastructure.

I’ll ask this, “What was Tony Abbott’s economic policy?” He cut the education system, funding for health, the ABC and the SBS. Young unemployed people were told they could starve for six months, and family benefits were cut. That was his first economic strategy. Then when Malcolm Turnbull came in, what was his first economic policy? He increased the GST. Now who does that hurt most? It doesn’t hurt the rich … it hurts working class people. That policy lasted about a week, then his final policy was trickle-down economics: $80 billion of tax cuts to the big end of town, the multi-national corporations and the banks. That was his economic policy.

And look what they did to marriage equality. They did everything they possibly could to stop Australians who loved each other from ever getting the same rights as other Australians. It was an absolute disgrace.

We want a Shorten government … looking after health, looking after education, changing the rules on industrial relations, and looking after working-class people … to bring back the TAFE system in this country, to make sure that TAFE is the backbone of the vocational education system.

Labor has good policy on the environment, good policy on industrial relations, good policy on health, and good policy on education. We want to make this once again one of the great egalitarian countries in the world.”

For me personally, what came to mind most was Doug Cameron’s difference to the modern politician: he puts people first. He is the heart of what Labor stands for.

Doug Cameron has chosen to retire from politics at the next federal election. His rapport with the working classes will be sorely missed.

“This country belongs to whoever shows up”

Imagine what sort of government we would get if only older people voted.

Well that’s practically what happened in the USA, where only 46.1 per cent of people 18-29 years old voted in the 2016 Presidential election, and 58.7 per cent of people aged 18-29 voted. That’s not a good return, is it?

The older cohorts, however, stampeded to the polling booths. Of the 45-64 age group 66.6 per cent voted, while 70.9 per cent of those aged 65 and older ticked the box.

Remember, of course, that voting is not compulsory in the United States.

Donald Trump can thank those older people who turned up to the booths, and can thank those younger people who didn’t.

Of the 65 and older voters, 52 per cent voted for Trump, while Clinton received 45 per cent. The figures weren’t much different among the 45-64 cohort.

Voting habits haven’t changed a lot since 1980, and with Americans voting in the mid-terms on November 6, one can safely assume that the trend will continue.

Why am I mentioning all this, you might ask.

A satirical election ad (created by NAIL Communications) is going viral in America begging the young to again stay away from the booths in the mid-terms. It is titled “This country belongs to whoever shows up, and do you know who shows up for every election? Old people.”

If only the older people turnout, then it’s an endorsement for Trump, and the Democrats lose all hope of controlling the House of Representatives, let alone the Senate. That’s the way older voters – who are happy with Trump – want it. If the young discard their apathy, then the much anticipated Blue Wave is real.

The short ad is too good not to share with you. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you pass it on to a young Australian who – you guessed it – doesn’t bother to vote.

If any ad is going to get them to a polling booth … this one will.

“The one big soul that belongs to everybody”

The response to our appeal in Wanted: three hundred good people to help with meeting our server costs was humbling to say the least, and because of your support The AIMN lives on. Your donations have gone a long way in covering those costs for the next twelve months and for this Carol and I say “thank you.” Let’s make that a big “THANK YOU.”

We were actually able to upgrade to an even bigger server than we had twelve months ago, and with this being an election year … we’re going to need it!

The quote from the movie of John Steinbeck’s classic The Grapes of Wrath (that we’ve used in our featured image; “A fellow ain’t got a soul of his own, just a little piece of a big soul, the one big soul that belongs to everybody” could easily have applied to all of us here. Among the comments over the years it has often been said that The AIMN is like a family. No greater compliment could ever be said of us. We are all but pieces in a very large family. All just little pieces of a big soul: the writers, the people who comment, the readers, the moderators and the admin.

One piece of the soul that gets no recognition are the poor sods who day-in day-out scroll through the spam comments that flood our site. In just over five years we have attracted 735,000 spam comments (sometimes as many as 1,500 a day), and they must all be read because as systems aren’t perfect, the occasional genuine comment gets caught up. It’s a tedious job. But it does have its up-side …

The Angry Grapes

Sometime in the mid 60s one of my teachers told his amused young class of a famous example of when words get lost in the translation: When The Grapes of Wrath was first published in Japan it was published not as the title Steinbeck gave it, but as The Angry Grapes. Oh how we laughed.

Of the 99.9 per cent of spam comments that are genuine spam, we too get a laugh. Some poor under-paid soul somewhere tries their best to sound English when they throw us a comment filled with praise in the hope that we’d click on a provided link and buy something uninteresting like clock parts. (Clock parts are the flavour of the month with spammers. The month prior it was school-bell systems. We all own a school, don’t we?)

I am aware that many people who comment on The AIMN have English as their second language, and I hope that these valued contributors take no offence at my mocking of the non-English speaking spammers, but there are some wonderful ‘Angry Grapes’ moments that you will enjoy. Here are some recent examples of spammers and their ‘Angry Grapes’ comments:

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It’s New Year’s Day! Didn’t we just have one?

New Years are sneaky little things: you just don’t see them coming.

I tend to think that the Aboriginal concept of “time” might be on the money. To them, time is circular and travels like a boomerang. “White man’s” concept of time – they say – is linear, in that it travels like a spear.

I reckon our First Australians got it right, because these New Year’s Days keep whizzing on past.

And here we are at another one.

If we reflect back on 2017 what do we see?

Above anything, we see a year where the disconnect between the political set and mainstream Australians grew larger by the day, and because of it so did inequality.

It is reflected in the growing number of homeless people, the gap between the rich and poor, countless Australians living below the poverty line, the rise of extremism in our country, our disregard of people in need, our ignorance to the suffering of the First Australians, turning our backs towards victims of domestic violence, tightening our borders to people desperate to seek a better life here, continued ignorance of the perils the planet faces, and on it goes.

It’s fair to say in that regards 2017 wasn’t much different to 2016. Slightly worse, sadly.

We cannot let 2018 be just another reflection of 2017. Or perhaps it would be more correct to say; we cannot let our leaders make 2018 just another reflection of 2017.

If we don’t get the opportunity to change our governments, we still have the opportunity to change our national psyche. Small steps, as they say.

We’d all like to take big steps, but we’ve seen how hard that is. Nonetheless, we will never stop trying. Not here at The AIMN. Not here with the tenacious, gutsy group of writers we have. Not here with the fabulous group of commenters and readers who demand less inequality.

At times it must feel that we’re losing the battle. But we’re not. We’re only just getting started!

To all those who have come with us this far – and who will march in solidarity with us again in 2018 – may you have a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.

Michael and Carol.

 

Your card is in the mail … email!

“We haven’t received many Christmas cards this year,” said a somewhat bemused Carol.

Christmas, as we all know, is a time for giving and caring, but I disregarded all that and had a moment of meanness:

”Bugger them, then,” mocked I. “Take a note of who didn’t send one and we’ll cross them off the list for next year.”

Then came the moment …

The moment I checked our email and logged into Facebook.

And what should arrive by the bag full? Christmas cards! Christmas cards and Christmas greetings from all the people I’d threatened to cross off our list. And cards from people who weren’t even on our list (though they will be added to next year’s list).

I guess that traditions change … and that’s just one of them.

Here’s another:

I was always led to believe that Christmas was for the children. Not anymore, apparently. These days it’s for … wait for it … the pet dog.

Yes, you heard right.

Dogs.

A friend noticed a lineup in Sydney of people waiting to meet Santa. The line stretched out the building, along the footpath, and around the corner. But young kids weren’t in tow, instead, lining up with them were their excited canines. Tails wagging, slobbering at the mouth, waiting to jump on Santa’s knee, having a chat with the old bloke, and hopefully pose for a snap.

And I hear it’s not just Sydney! All over the world, dogs have embraced Christmas.

One would hope that Santa has strong knees. Imagine posing with a great dane perched on lap.

What’s next? Goldfish? Horses? Canaries? The prized bull?

Anyway, where was I?

Oh, yes … Merry Christmas from Carol and I to all our writers, admin team, regular and new commenters, our readers, and those who donate to The AIMN. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing on Christmas Day, may you be filled with peace, happiness, and good health.

Our most sincere regards to you and your loved ones.

Sally McManus: Speaking words of hope

Of the thousands of words in the hundreds of articles written about Sally McManus none describe her more passionately – or more succinctly – than these offered by Trish Corry:

“Sally McManus is everywhere. Fighting the good fight. Travelling all over Australia. Standing with workers. Speaking words of hope [my emphasis]. Fighting for workers. Standing in Solidarity with the unemployed. Fighting for all of us. Knocking down walls. Smashing the insidious thought that has permeated our culture since Howard, that “Workers will get what they are given.”

Telling us to stand together to not back down. A consistent strong unwavering message of hope and fairness, every, single day. Every, single day.”

These were the words that I carried with me when I was fortunate enough to be invited to hear Sally McManus speak to an enthusiastic crowd at the North East Borders Trades and Labour Council. These words were all I needed to know. Sally McManus filled in the rest.

And I was not disappointed. I was, in fact, inspired; inspired to hear a champion of the people who so clearly and precisely – and with passion – expressed her wish to help bridge the inequality gap in this country.

Ms McManus spoke of many things, but it was the way she expressed her concern for this vital issue that hit home for me, and which I will now focus on:

“Inequality is at a 70 year high, and the question to ask is how did we get here? How did we get to this situation where wage growth is at records lows? Where 40 per cent of working people are in insecure work? How did we get to this situation?”

“We got here because for 30 years federal governments have followed the ideology of neo-liberalism – trickle-down economics: An ideology that we should privatise everything we’ve got and we should attack worker’s rights. We should create a smaller government and we should should give tax cuts to the rich. This ideology follows that we should hand over our money to the wealthy.”

“So what have we now got? A fall in the number of steady jobs. Casualisation of the workforce. Record low wage growth. Inequality.”

“Those at the top now have so much wealth that policies work in their favour. Their money goes overseas and they get tax breaks. In the meantime, worker’s rights are being taken away.”

“There are two ways we can address this: We can make everyone pay their fair share of tax; and we can give workers stronger rights so they can get fair pay rises.”

“Worldwide the ideology of neo-liberalism has failed. And we need to replace it.”

“But who can we rely on to bring on this change? We can’t rely on the government, so who do we rely on? Us. Our parents did it. Our grandparents did it. Now it’s up to us.”

“We need to give people hope that there is a solution. But we need to move public opinion.”

“However, ready to stop us is the right-wing media and the government itself.”

“But people are up to it. We just need to give them hope.”

“We don’t want the next generation after us to have the same problems that neo-liberalism has given us.”

It was a simple message: Without activism now, the next generation will have fewer opportunities and the many benefits of a wealthy society will not trickle-down to them. Instead of their future being one of security; of employment, housing, education … it will be one of continued and ever-increasing inequality.

The reason we have so much inequality is because so many people have so little power. The time has come to change this imbalance. We need to swing the pendulum back.

The growing inequality can no longer be excused away and now is the time to take action.

There are so many people in the community who simply aren’t aware of just how serious is the issue of inequality and its ramifications for the future well-being of our nation. Sally McManus is bringing this awareness to the community, however, in spite of her clear and obvious talent in representing the hopes and dreams of so many, Sally McManus cannot do it alone.

Let’s stand by her.

 

August 15, 2017: the most important day in the future

They say we can’t predict the future, but I’m damn sure we can do a lot to control the course of it.

When we look back on our own past, our country’s past, or even the world’s past … there will be a hundred signposts that we missed that could have taken us down a better path. Maybe it’s our job to now leave our own signposts. The events of tomorrow can only be guided by the events of today. If we decide to do nothing today then nothing will happen tomorrow.

Let us assume that the straight line we call ‘time’ continues on its merry way, and as we follow it to see what has happened – or not happened – we’ll be able to see that much of the events in the future are not without our influence. August 15, 2017 is a very important date in the future. Probably the most important day, as it is the first day in our future, and every event beyond this tiny 24 hours will be shaped by it.

Shall we follow that line? I’ve found the line here, at Future Timeline and a lot of what awaits us is unpleasant, yet clearly our doing. Can it be undone? Probably not, but we can control the scope of it. Anyway, let’s get moving, there’s lots to see:

2020: Glacier National Park and other regions are becoming ice-free.

2035: The Arctic is becoming ice-free in Summer.

2040: Average global temperatures have risen by two degree.

2045: Major extinctions of animal and plant life.

2050: 45% of the Amazon Rainforest has been destroyed. Air quality and visibility is declining. Bushfires have tripled in some regions. The Dead Sea is drying up.

2060: Global mass migrations of refugees. Flood barriers erected in New York.

2070: Average global temperatures have risen by 4 degrees.

2080: Polar bears face extinction. One in five lizard species are extinct. Deadly heatwaves plague Europe. Traditional agriculture is decimated.

2099: Sea levels are wreaking havoc around the world. 80% of the Amazon rainforest has been lost.

2100: Extreme drought is effecting one-third of the planet. Emperor penguins face extinction.

2190: The West Antarctic ice sheet is starting to disintegrate. This area will later be populated by over 1 million people who settle on the exposed land surface.

2200: Artificial intelligence dominates the planet.

I’ve only selected a handful of the zillions of things that await us in the future, but of those, are they really beyond our control? Can they be changed by whatever happens on August 15, 2017?

They say we can’t predict the future, but I’m damn sure we can do a lot to control the course of it.

 

We have failed the First Australians

“Her paintings have been exhibited in Paris, London, New York, Tokyo and Milan. But in her old age, renowned Aboriginal artist Kathleen Ngale lives on a mattress outdoors, unable to walk, kept warm during cold desert winter nights by about a dozen dogs who sleep alongside her.” (ABC article; “Utopia: Aboriginal elderly sleeping on ground with dogs amid calls for improved aged care“, by Neda Vanovac).

Isn’t it appalling, saddening, disgraceful that an Australian lives like that? Many do. They might be young or old, from whatever walk of life, or from whatever culture. I do not know who they are. But Kathleen Ngale is an Aboriginal Australian, and I have some understanding of the history that put her where she is today.

I once heard a comment that went something like this: “The aspirations of Aboriginal Australians are expressed through a political system designed, first and foremost, for the white majority.” In my many years in Indigenous affairs and as a student of Indigenous history it was a theme that dominated my public and academic life.

Australian history has left a legacy of Aboriginal inequality and disadvantage. In our self-congratulatory celebration of egalitarianism and the fair go, we conveniently overlooked that fact that our treatment of Aborigines amounted to a contradiction of the very values we claimed to espouse. The inability to regard Aborigines as equals has never really left the ‘white’ consciousness.

There are a number of measures that can be used to establish the degree of inegalitarian treatment accorded to Aborigines: legal equality; political equality; economic equality; equality of opportunity; and equal satisfaction of basic needs. I could broach social injustice, government ineptness and bureaucratic mis-management in emphasising these inequalities.

There are many disadvantages suffered by Aborigines that need remedying, but what needs to be dealt with, and in what order? Is it inadequate housing? Is it the parlous state of Aboriginal health which still results in unacceptably high infant mortality rates as well as a diminished life expectancy? Is it the rapid loss of Aboriginal culture? Or the high rate of Aboriginal unemployment? Undoubtedly the problem is complex, but where do governments start to seek remedies? What are the political solutions?

History illustrates government inability above all else to deliver any remedies, due mainly to the makings of the Australian polity. Federalism stands out, and in particular the complex space that Aboriginal affairs occupies within our political system. In a federation like Australia it can be very difficult to achieve uniformity of power. Why cannot governments that perceive the existence of a regional or national problem, for example Aboriginal health, work constructively to eradicate the problem? Who is to be blamed, Commonwealth or State?

Aboriginal affairs involves many areas of governmental responsibility, including education, health, sanitation, land use and relations with police forces, which are all State government responsibilities. When Commonwealth and State governments disagree in such matters, whose view should prevail? A great deal of essential service delivery falls within the responsibility of State governments, but these governments often fall short of delivering full and satisfactory programs.

However the argument goes much further than being based on pure politics. In a polity like Australia, where the development of the land by both farmer and miner has for so long been described as basic to Australia’s prosperity, it is difficult for governments to ignore claims from such powerful interests. The mining interest has fought particularly strongly against land rights and native title. The propaganda battle is rarely won by the central government. It is easier for a State Premier to claim that the Native Title Act threatens peoples’ backyards than it is for the Commonwealth to explain the complexities of the legislation.

This is but one of the many shortcomings if we focus on program failure or distortion, for it is in these results that many hopes and expectations are deflected, destroyed or frustrated. An analysis of service delivery reveals that the problem is multi-faceted, not only having to do with the nature of modern bureaucracies, but also with the activities of politicians, the attitudes of white Australians, and the perceptions of Aborigines themselves.

In this arena of political and public perceptions, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) used to come under some heavy fire; from politicians, the media, and the wider community. Perhaps there was resentment because ATSIC had given Aboriginal people a voice in the political system.

The argument on this was compelling. Many Australians watched distrustfully as, under Whitlam’s grandiosity in 1972, large amounts of money were directed to Aboriginal affairs.  As a result there was a great deal of importance placed on the need for ATSIC, in particular, to be accountable for its operations, reflecting no doubt the uncertainties of mainstream Australians concerning the standards of operations of Indigenous institutions. Following accusations of the misuse of money, audits were made of various bodies, again nominally ATSIC, and government funds for many Aboriginal services were reduced, and eventually, ATSIC was wiped from the political and social landscape. Yet claims about ATSIC’s waste of public money usually ignored the difficulties that that body had in delivering any worthwhile services to the Indigenous community. ATSIC had an unbelievable array of demands on its finite budget and was simply not in a position to meet every demand.

Also, political parties are demonstrably divided on Aboriginal issues. The Howard Government, for example,  was less sympathetic to Aboriginal issues – or too cautious in the invocation of Commonwealth power for the benefit of Aborigines – than were the previous Labor Governments of Hawke and Keating. (It was forcefully argued that Howard was indeed influenced by the claims of the more powerful interest groups). Political parties’ views are extremely important in helping explain the place of Aboriginal people in the Australian political system. A series of questions that were asked of a sample of members of parliament* revealed the existence of varying party views that form an important framework to the development of Aboriginal policy. Some of the differences between Labor and Coalition MPs were imposing. It is worth having a look at some of these answers as they clearly identify who did and did not support Aboriginal causes. Consider them as a backdrop to discussions on issues such as Mabo, Wik, Native Title, the Stolen Generation or the more contemporary Northern Territory intervention.

Members of parliament – support for Aborigines

  1. Government has responsibility to grant land rights: ALP 93.2%, LNP 40.8%
  2. Settle land claims before development: ALP 78.2%, LNP 24.2%
  3. Aborigines should have special cultural protection: ALP 76.7%, LNP 43.7%
  4. Approve of treaty recognising Aboriginal rights: ALP 85.6%, LNP 11.2%
  5. Law should allow for Aboriginal customs: ALP 60.0%, 21.4%
  6. Constitution should recognise Aboriginal self-government: ALP 29.0%, LNP 4.6%
  7. Aborigines should not be assimilated: ALP 80.3%, LNP 42.2%

I could attack the media with as much veracity as I do the political interests. Press coverage should help ensure that the area of public policy is kept well and truly on the political agenda, for without it would be very difficult for Aboriginal interests to achieve anything of importance. Perhaps the best example in recent years has been the manner in which the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody disappeared from sight once the report became public. Such a lack of sustained coverage makes it easier for governments to ignore many matters of short-term notoriety. The desire for a story often overrides considerations of accuracy or fairness. Who could argue with this? Drunkenness, rioting and poor living conditions are given more attention than the stories that could show Aborigines playing a positive role in the general community.

It just isn’t good enough.

If you are as appalled as I am about the lack of services to Indigenous Australians, why not let you local member know? They can be contacted here.

*This survey was taken during Howard’s prime ministership and goes a long way in explaining Howard’s commitment to the reduction of government spending in Aboriginal affairs. If it is representative of the Abbott and Turnbull governments, this I could only speculate. Given the apathy and funding cuts since September 2013, perhaps it does.

The window of life

Climate change is one of the hottest topics (pardon the pun) when it comes to discussion on this site but we haven’t published many new climate articles recently so readers, justifiably, have sought out the older articles to continue the exchange of ideas and opinions.

A new article is clearly overdue.

And I have just the thing!

Well, it’s not exactly new. It’s a piece I wrote many years ago for the now defunct Café Whispers, but for want of a ‘new’ article here on climate change … I’ve taken the easy option. Nonetheless, it is just as pertinent today as it was at the time of writing.

I wrote:

Life, whether it be teeming in the universe or just the rarest of miracles, has either way been lucky to find a home on our fertile planet; that small, insignificant rock (in galactic terms) that just happens to be sitting in the right place of our solar system for life to survive.

It’s quite nice here. Apart from the extremities it’s not too hot, not too cold. If we keep it like that then I’m sure our stay here won’t be tenuous.

But just how lucky are we mortal types to have found this nice little spot to populate?

Immeasurably lucky, actually. Paradises like planet Earth are as accidental as the creation of life itself. It is like an oasis amid a burning, scorching desert devoid of surrounding life.

The galactic desert that surrounds us does not welcome life. Even our own sun, without which our planet would be sterile and without life, is miraculously at a safe distance so that life can prevail.

It is worth considering how fortunate we are to be able to exist on this small rock.

The center of the sun is a ‘mere’ 14.5 million degrees Celsius. A piece of it the size of a pinhead would generate enough heat to kill a person from 150 million kilometres away. How wonderful that the outer layers of the sun are much ‘cooler’, thus enabling life to exist on this planet. The coldest places in our solar system can be found at its edges where it is minus 273 degrees. How wonderful that our planet isn’t any further, or closer, to the sun.

Under what temperature extremes could human life survive? I’m guessing somewhere from a chilly minus 40 to a blistering 60. In planet Earth the gods have offered us a very small window of life.

Why then, are we so determined to damage it?

Look at the sludge that this planet has become. Look at the filth in the air, in the water and the earth of western countries and developing countries. It’s beyond belief. We see industries which are happy to choke the land, waterways and air for the sake of more profits.

The planet, obviously, isn’t important any more. Our term here is considered a right, not a privilege.

As it is it is a hostile planet: no-one gets off alive, but it’s still the best home we have.

What was once the solar system’s paradise, is now its rubbish dump. If we keep trashing it, destroying it, polluting it, playing with its climate … how long before we receive our eviction notice? How long before the window of life closes on us?

 

Ordained genocide

Our article this morning by Kathy Stavrou: ‘Caught in the Act‘ and her subsequent Facebook comment that her article summarised “how successive NSW Governments used legislation as social engineering to extinguish Aboriginal property ownership rights” had me scurrying to an article I wrote many years ago. There was an agenda in both the colonial and early federal governments; that being the extermination of Aborigines. Not only was it the will of ‘man’ that Aborigines be exterminated, but also the will of God. Or so they believed.

I wrote:

Was the total extermination of Australia’s Indigenous people deliberately intended? Of course it was. It was OK to shoot Aborigines. God had no problems with good white Christians killing Aborigines as it was the white man’s belief that God had condemned Aborigines to extinction and the white man was simply hurrying things along for Him. It had His stamp of approval. It was ordained genocide.

But the massacre of Aborigines was frowned upon by latter Colonial and Federal Governments, however, it did not mean that they were not considered a doomed race. These governments had a sinister role to play in that consideration; that of the evolutionary masters. That of God.

Let us trace this.

The nineteenth European scientific discourse of the Great Chain of Being arranged all living things in a hierarchy, beginning with the simplest creatures, ascending through the primates and to humans. It was also practice to distinguish between different types of humans. Through the hierarchical chain the various human types could be ranked in order of intellect and active powers. The Europeans – being God-fearing and intelligent – were invariably placed on the top, whilst the Aborigines – as perceived savages – occupied the lowest scale of humanity, slightly above the position held by the apes. Such ideas were carried to and widely circulated in the Australian colonies and helped shape attitudes towards the Aborigines. So dominant was the concept that it helped develop the fate of Aboriginal people, even before Australia’s colonisation. The image of the Aborigine simply confirmed prejudices based on this doctrine of evolutionary difference and intellectual inferiority.

In harmony with the Great Chain of Being, the theory of evolution in the social sciences (known as Social Darwinism), was accepted by nineteenth and early twentieth century Australians as further justification for their treatment of the Aborigines. Central to the theory of Social Darwinism was the ideology that the Aborigines, who were considered to be less evolved, faced extinction under the impact of European colonisation and nothing could, or should, be done about it. Government policies reflected these ideologies and provided the validation of oppressive practices towards the Aborigines, founded on the perceptions of racial superiority.

Four of the major policies are those relating to protection; segregation; assimilation; and the integration of Aboriginal people into the wider community.

Protection was influenced by the evolutionary theory that Aborigines would die out as a result of European contact. Subsequently, all that could be done was to feed and protect them until their unavoidable demise. The policy thus took on short term palliative measures that saw enforced concentration of Aborigines in reserves and missions – protected from European contact and abuse (such as hunting parties) to await their closing hour.

This policy was a humane one based on its presumptions, however, nature had not selected Aborigines for extinction. Only the colonisers had. Subsequently, governments eventually and willingly used protection policies as a mechanism for social engineering. The policies of protection changed its fundamental goal to segregation. Their differences are difficult to identify although their purposes are not: Aborigines were a dying race so they were protected from the wider community; the Aboriginal race had failed to die off, so they were segregated from the wider community.

The social theories that legitimised and institutionalised racism were never more evident than in the practices of segregation. Segregation created two social and political worlds in Australia: one white and one black. Whilst the Aboriginal race had ignored extinction, Government policies reflected the attitude that, nonetheless, by the 1940s they had still failed to progress since European contact. Sentiment thus ruled that continued segregation of the Aborigines from the wider community would ensure white racial purity.

Segregation was pervasive in all aspects of public or political life. Church or social organisations discouraged Aboriginal participation, and access to community facilities such as swimming pools or theatres were severely restricted, if not refused altogether. Custom in many business establishments was also refused for fear of offending the white clientele. Perhaps the most damning indicator of this racism, however, was the neglect of medical treatment and health services by white practitioners. Policies of segregation were to degenerate into practises of apartheid when, in South Australia for example, association between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people became a criminal offence under Section 14 of the Police Offences Act 1953.

The policies of protection and segregation were continued even though the Aborigines had not faced their final hour. ‘Full-bloods’ remained on reserves until their demise, yet the problem for the government came in the form of the ‘half-caste’. These people looked increasingly like white people but behaved like ‘Black’ people. The only was this could be countered was to assimilate them into the general population.

Assimilation of the lighter-caste population was still an endeavour to destroy Aboriginality: by absorbing them into the wider community – the breeding out of the colour, the process of genetic change – it was hoped that they would eventually disappear. A radical suggestion that selective mating would breed out the colour was also proposed.

Of the endless record of horrors associated with colonisation and racial supremacy, some of the assimilation policies adopted in the 1950s equal the worst. In particular the taking of children away from their families by the Protection Board – as their legal guardians – and disposing of them as they saw fit. As a prelude to the Reconciliation Convention, the Government reflected on this practice:

Children were taken away under government policies of protection and assimilation aimed at having indigenous people adopt European culture and behaviour to the exclusion of their family and background. The assimilation policy presumed that, over time, indigenous people would die out or be so mixed with the European population they became indistinguishable (The Path to Reconciliation, 1997, p 24).

Yes, I would argue that the total extermination of Australia’s Indigenous people was deliberately intended. If not by the bullet, then by the policies of those governments that saw them as a stain on white purity. God favoured the white man and they set out to do His work.

 

Telstra’s copper network was almost dead 15 years ago, and they knew it

The internet can be a goldmine of little gems. And dig away, you might strike a little gem or two. Like these:

In October 2013 (then Communications Minister) Malcolm Turnbull announced the appointment of former Tesltra boss Ziggy Switkowski as NBN Co to lead a three-person board overseeing the national broadband network.

In his inaugural appearance at a Senate Estimates hearing, Switkowski said Telstra’s copper network is ‘robust’ and has been well-maintained for decades. Concerns expressed about the network not being up to being the basis for a FttN NBN, he added, were “misinformed”. He stressed that:

The copper network has been in place for a long time. It’s constantly being maintained, remediated, upgraded.

We are all too well aware of the criticism of the government’s NBN which is provided through Telstra’s copper network; an antiquated alternative to Rudd’s NBN.

But it was remarkable to hear Switkowski’s glowing praise of the copper network when compared to what Telstra had to say about it in 2003 while he was chief of the telco:

Telstra will replace its century-old copper wire phone network with new technology within the next 15 years, saying the ageing lines are now at “five minutes to midnight”.

Telstra executives revealed the problem at a Senate inquiry into broadband services on Wednesday.

Go figure.

I guess Malcolm must have changed his mind for him.

 

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