Comedy without art (part 14)

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Rosemary Jacob Born and initially educated in England, arrived in Australia, 1/1/71. She has always loved maths and graduated from Imperial College London with a BSc (Special) Mathematics in 1957. Early influences have made her a strong supporter of social justice, a feminist and a believer that education is a lifelong pursuit. In 2008 she was admitted as a solicitor and barrister, practising law until 2012, while she also became an accredited mediator, practising until late 2017.She is concerned for the future of her 3 great grandchildren under the climate emergency.

The economy is not our master

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

This is part of an email I have just sent:

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

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

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

The major point is time.

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

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

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

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

And that is verging on the impossible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The only discussion then becomes one of action priorities.

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

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

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

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

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

How long is a piece of string?

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

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

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

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

And that is true at all times.

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

We have disabled people waiting endlessly for adequate help.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is only one priority.

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

And how will we achieve this?

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

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

Once more – this is my Resolution:

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

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Insanity rules

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What utter arrogance!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other incredibly important issue needing urgent attention is water.

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

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

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

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

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

Once more – this is my Resolution:

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

 

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Beyond reasonable doubt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here the word ‘increasingly’ becomes highly significant.

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

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

What is holding us back from making that decision?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We need proactive policies, not delayed reactive policies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Once more – this is my Resolution:

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

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

The clock is ticking.

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The damage Scott Morrison and his policy vacuum are inflicting on this country will be felt for decades

You could probably divide the world’s adult population into three groups. Those who have minds open to accepting new knowledge, those who have trouble absorbing anything that requires re-thinking what they have always accepted – and those who refuse to even consider that what they already know might not, in reality, be correct.

The essential scientific process is based on probability – an area which leaves many people a lot poorer after backing the wrong horse! In fact, the failure of education authorities to provide as many as possible of their students with a proper grounding in statistics and probability, enables a great many charlatans – political and otherwise – to flourish!

The scientist formulates an hypothesis to explain certain phenomena, gathers and then examines all possible evidence for the null hypothesis (i.e. that their hypothesis is false) and finally tests the power or probability that the null hypothesis is indeed true. They set a very high bar, and the whole process is very clearly documented so that fellow scientists, in the same specialist area, can repeat the process and compare results – this is what is known as peer review.

This makes it clear they are actually going in to bat for the opposition, as it were, and trying to prove their hypothesis is false – which should reassure those who believe that scientists are trying to prove their own theories!

You need to understand that peer reviewed research, when published, provides evidence of research which has been repeated and/or checked by other than the original specialist scientist, and which establishes scientific knowledge or fact – until and unless subsequent research updates those facts. Opinion has no place in this process and opinions provided by scientists in other discipline areas – unaccompanied by peer reviewed reports – carry no weight whatsoever.

Opinions published by those with neither scientific credentials nor, in particular, expert knowledge in the specific specialist area, should carry no weight and are simply smoke and mirrors, attempting to discredit, for whatever motive, information about the real scientific facts. Sadly, this succeeds far too often. The shock jocks are a source of misinformation for the gullible and should be banned, IMHO! They won’t be, because the profit motive beats social responsibility hands down!

Science and religion have fought many wars over the centuries.

Clearly documented, and available to all, is information on how the Catholic Church (and other Christian sects) have promoted the Holy Bible as being the word of god, and everything in that book is regarded as incontrovertible fact.

In fact, some religious so-called educators still promote the creationist theory – in flat contradiction of accepted knowledge of the development of the known universe.

Belief and opinion are often enemies of truth and at present we are witnessing the consequences of letting belief, opinion and vested interests, subvert public information and delay action which was shown, decades ago, to be necessary to avert catastrophic climate conditions.

Our current Prime Minister proudly boasts of his religious affiliations – a boast which should at once raise our suspicions that his judgement is biased and therefore faulty in any area which involves science!

His background as a failed marketer is responsible for his current, underhand way of promoting himself and fund-raising for the Liberal party in the guise of an information post on social media, linked to the Liberal party ‘Donate’ page!

He can’t help himself, because, on the evidence, he apparently is incapable of understanding the image he projects.

His party members are happy, because he has succeeded in leading them to an unexpected third term in government, but the damage he and his policy vacuum are inflicting on this country will be felt for decades – and may shorten many lives.

Throughout their current dominance in politics, the Coalition have promoted themselves as being better at managing the economy – and compliant media have supported this myth.

It seems that few people are aware of how massively the Australian debt has blown out since the Coalition undertook to restore the economy to balance. People do not understand national finances enough to realise that achieving a surplus is simply saying that, in the current fiscal year, the government will actually receive in taxes of all sorts – and from the sale of the country’s assets (thank you so much Peter Costello!) – more than it actually spends on services, while failing to mention that “As at July 1 2018, the budget estimate of net debt in Australia was about A$341.0 billion, up from A$174.5 billion in September 2013, when the Coalition took office. That’s an increase of A$166.5 billion, or roughly 95%, over almost five years.”

Fact Check: has Australia’s net debt doubled under the current government?

And when it comes to cutting services to achieve a surplus, what is the cost of damage to lives engendered by processes like Robodebt?

Emphasis on ‘fiscal rectitude’ has camouflaged incredible human damage, wherein the poor lack support and the borderline are actual driven into poverty and suicide.

And looming over all this is a genuine existential crisis which our government refuses to recognise by promoting appropriate actions.

It is worth repeating what everyone knows – Australia’s efforts alone will have minimal impact on world conditions but if every country took that same attitude, we are all doomed.

In fact, a significant number of countries, and States within a country in the case of the USA, are making great strides in developing policies which radically reduce the use of fossil fuels and counter pollution.

The start of serious efforts has come so late that we will be playing catch-up if we are to bequeath to our grandchildren a world in which they can do better than merely exist.

We need every innovation to be explored and every viable invention put into action.

We still have time – just – but, under this government, Australia appears to totally lack understanding of what is required.

The Prime Minister only returned early from a totally ill-timed holiday because his reputation was taking a public battering.

He only developed a policy to support the fire-fighters because he was pressured into doing so.

Initially he only offered financial support to volunteer firies in NSW – his home state – until he was made aware that it had to be a national offer.

Instead of having an experienced Public Service to advise him, he has been relying on advice from political advisers.

Their advice is directed to keeping him in power – not into doing what is right for Australia!

There are so many things on which we could expect our national government to be formulating national policy, while we have a Prime Minister who seems intent on throwing all responsibility to the State governments!

If our accidental PM had a vestige of commonsense, he would be forming a national, non-partisan government, including representatives from all states and political areas, plus experts from the CSIRO and other appropriate scientific and service organisations to deal with the climate emergency, housing those displace by the fires, related employment and food production issues – you could make your own list – it is endless and needs careful prioritising.

We are at war with the elements and the country needs to be on a wartime footing.

Can you do it, Prime Minister?

If you do not have the bottle, then step aside and let others take on a job which appears to demand more than you can give.

Once more – this is my Resolution:

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

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

Like what we do at The AIMN?

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We were once the envy of the world, but look at us now

Politics is a set of activities associated with the governance of a country or an area. It involves making decisions that apply to group of members. It refers to achieving and exercising positions of governance—organized control over a human community, particularly a state. … Politics is a multifaceted word.”

Our current Prime Minister needs to read the paragraph above very carefully. His very position and all activities in which he engages are political and both affect and are affected by the policies which he and his cabinet formulate.

A caveat: I have not studied politics in an academic context, merely observed and read widely about it over an extended period.

There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ time for issues such as the effects of climate change to be discussed – unless you take into account the need for policies which will ensure minimal adverse impact. In that case, sooner is better than later, and, if later, then greater urgency is required to put those policies into effect.

The Westminster system on which our government was established is far from perfect and has been altered by successive governments in highly undesirable ways.

The underlying concept was that politicians elected to government needed expert advice (Thank you, Sir Humphrey!) and this was best provided by apolitical advisers. Recruitment to and advancement in the APS was on merit, and permanence was a useful device to avoid politicisation of the advice.

The concept was good but those served by it have destroyed it through blatant politicisation and outsourcing. Our governments now rely on a bevy of non-APS advisers who tell Ministers what they want to hear, for the most part, and are totally politically biased. Heads of Departments are political appointments, successive governments have privatised services which do not work well in a for-profit world and paid huge fees to consultants to provide advice which is far from unbiased.

Human Services, in particular, require human – and humane – supervision and they are ill-served by algorithms!

Job seekers are people, not numbers or boxes to be ticked, and an ever-expanding population guarantees that, however many new jobs might be created, there will neve be enough to meet demand. And pushing round pegs into square holes destroys lives!

Expensive Royal Commissions (except for the purely politically motivated ones, which have revealed little of note) have exposed massive problems which regulatory bodies have ignored or failed to punish.

Our Constitution was devised to accommodate transfer of some powers from the existing States to the newly formed Commonwealth government, and the means of amending it made no allowance for the rapid technological and social changes which were to follow in rapid succession.

Now, at the start of 2020, we are still arguing over the recognition of our First People in the Constitution, we have a highly politicised Public Service, we have also politicised and gutted many oversight bodies like the AAT, we have established a soulless and incompetent mega Department of Home Affairs, which threatens to lead us into a police state, our foundation concepts of a Fair Go, mateship and egalitarianism have been warped out of all recognition, and we have growing poverty with massive corporate wealth while children live on the streets.

Hello, Charles Dickens! Are you still around?

In tying ourselves to the coattails of the USA, we have adopted a great many attitudes which are destroying the Lucky Country.

Only a decade back, we were the envy of the world in economic terms.

We were riding high through the GFC and we had a brilliant public health system which was also the envy of other countries.

But the Murdoch media empire supported the Coalition and the Coalition was more interested in tearing down than in building up, and privatisation was the name of the game. And look where that got us!

We are now invested in a world, ruled effectively by global corporations, which are generating multi-billionaires, mainly in the USA, but a growing number here, too.

Sneering conservatives refer to anyone who tries to help the needy, as a bloody leftie or – if the issue involves environmental issues – as a bloody greenie!

The fact that the health of mankind depends on a healthy environment, biodiversity supporting a complex food chain, clean air and water, proper sanitation, adequate resources to provide universal education and proper accommodation – all this is brushed aside by those whose wealth relieves them from the stresses of day to day living while they watch their millions grow!

And – NO!!!

I am not envious!

Growing up in the UK under wartime restrictions, going without luxuries – and many necessities – was normal. We had virtually no parties and limited entertainment, outside that which we created for ourselves, so that we appreciated those rare occasions when we could enjoy them.

I have had a very fortunate life in many regards for which I am most grateful, and, while now I am not even close to being ‘wealthy’, I want for nothing and can afford to support not for profit organisations, which are dependent on public support, because governments under the Coalition have withdrawn previously promised support!

I have nothing but scorn for a man like Scott Morrison whose words and actions are so incompatible.

How can you call yourself a Christian when your every action is in conflict with the recorded teachings of Jesus Christ?

That clearly makes you, by definition, a hypocrite, and not deserving to be addressed as Honourable.

I hope, Prime Minister, that it is a long time before you enjoy another holiday.

People are dying while you still ‘believe’ that we need to do nothing about the climate emergency.

Of course, we are a small cog in a very big and complex system. But – guess what? A whole machine can be destroyed because one small component fails!

We are one of many countries which have relatively low emissions in the big picture (although our per capita emissions are appallingly high) but that does not mean our efforts are not required. The more people on the rope in a tug-o’-war, the greater the chance of beating opposing forces!

In fact, we need to make a greater effort, partly to make up for those not so able to reduce emissions themselves, and partly to shame into action those others not yet doing enough.

THAT is what morality is about.

Doing something because it is the right thing to do, whatever the cost!

If I am repeating ideas about which I have written before, I make no apology.

I am watching pictures of people’s lives being destroyed, literally and metaphorically – shades of WWII – but this time we have the knowledge why, we have known for several decades, we have people claiming to be leaders who do not have the understanding to make appropriate decisions and I feel as though my pressure valve  must be released!

We ALL have a duty to put pressure on the current (hopefully for not much longer) government to form a National government, non-partisan and including appropriate experts, to prioritise an agenda for doing our share and more on reducing emissions, replacing fossil fuels, re-training fossil fuel workers for employment in industries which, using renewable energy, can manufacture the resources required, deal effectively with recycling and generally lead us away from a destination which will deny our grandchildren a future life!

Once more – this is my Resolution:

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

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Tropical winners

On 1 January 2021, I shall celebrate having lived for 50 years in Darwin, the Top End capital of the Northern Territory. Just a year to go!

I left snow on the ground at London Airport on 29 December, 1970 (it was a 24+ hour journey in those days!) when our 3 children and I flew to our new home in Darwin to join their father, who had taken up a position there a few months earlier.

Clearly the children are now in their mid-life, their father moved on to a new relationship a few decades ago and I now enjoy living on my own, in independent living, in a delightful retirement resort, within walking distance of the beach!

As a child, once WWII, with all the rationing and shortages, air raids and broken nights, was over, we were able to buy petrol again, put the car back on the road (you would not believe how many punctures we had to mend on our first long drive in 1947, after the car had been laid up for 8 years!) and head off – that moment when we crested a rise and saw the sea for the first time – that was the real beginning of our first real holiday since 1939!

Every day, here in Darwin, when I have occasion to leave home, I repeat that experience of glimpsing the sea, several times a day! Magic!

I arrived in the middle of the Wet, and yes – it was warm – but by the middle of my first Dry season, I was complaining of the cold when the temperature dropped below 20 deg C! While I do not enjoy continuously sweating, I really would much rather be too warm than too cold, and, now that I have installed rooftop solar (it is pretty standard here to have rooftop solar hot water systems anyway), I have cheap air conditioning available when I need it.

If you do not really enjoy cold weather and you have never been to the Top End, you are missing out on a gem!

We have probably the most non-racist, cosmopolitan population anywhere in Australia. There are frictions from time to time – nowhere on earth is Paradise! – but in general you will meet people in a social setting from an amazing range of nationality backgrounds.

About 30% of our population is composed of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders people and a high proportion of them live in remote communities. Because that provides us with a large number of Aboriginal rangers, with Indigenous knowledge of land management, added to the nature of the flora in the Top End, we suffer few, serious bush fires. People living on rural blocks are usually dependent on bore water, need to maintain fire-breaks and do experience an occasional bush fire situation.

Like the rest of Australia, our rainfall levels, together with our water table, are below average – which is a concern.

The fact that our government has just opened the door to fracking in the Beetaloo Basin is further cause for concern.

To look at a locality, and changes in its climate conditions over time, is not a scientific way of establishing the existence (or not) of climate change. Nevertheless, recent trends do arouse suspicions that our average temperatures are increasing and our wet season rainfall is also increasingly more variable.

We have recently experienced a significant fall in population numbers. For a great many reasons, our population and workforce are both decreasing and we need to regenerate.

Self-government has, IMHO, been a mixed blessing – apart from anything else, we have a small population from which to choose our representatives and, like everywhere – since politicians are not highly regarded – the most suitable potential candidates do not necessarily step up to offer themselves as candidates.

Reading of the horrendous bush fires, in virtually every State, with lives and property – and livelihoods – destroyed, I wonder whether the NT government should not be discussing, with other governments, ways in which industries involved in renewable energy and waste disposal could be established in the NT – we have superabundant quantities of solar energy available to supply power to manufacturing facilities – and those displaced and not wanting to re-establish in their original locations would be welcomed with open arms!

If we had a half-way competent Federal government, its leader would by now have established an oversight body to plan for recovery and for avoidance of repeat disastrous situations.

Given that the Commonwealth government seems to be fixated on religious issues and blind to urgently needed policy development, we have to put on our thinking caps to bridge the void!

My deep sympathy goes out to all those who have lost family members, their means of supporting themselves and their hopes and plans for the future.

We all need to help – we are, after all, a nation which once prided itself on its mateship.

We must now all pool resources and ideas and try to bring something good out of cataclysmic disaster.

Here’s wishing that the New Year brings healing and hope fulfilled.

My New Year’s Resolution:

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

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Divided we fail – united we can achieve miracles!

There are so many questions to which we seem unable to find answers, despite learning more and more about the human brain and the processes of evolution.

We know how we are born but there is no universal answer to the question “Why was I born?”

Research on the brain in recent decades has shown that the part of the brain which relates to empathy appears to have failed to develop in psychopaths.

We know, from work done with stroke patients and others who have sustained brain injuries that, while certain areas of the brain generally control specific functions, it is sometimes possible to train other parts of the brain to take over the function of an area which has been damaged.

The brain is, in itself almost mystical, although technicians are working really hard to develop AI which can perform as well as the brain.

I wonder whether it will develop irrational processes as well as rational ones? Certainly, early computing processes were based on logic, whereas, particularly when it comes to beliefs, the human brain is clearly capable of highly irrational processing.

Under the current government, religion has become an issue to an extent we have never before experienced. Sadly, it seems that the irrational, witch doctor approach has won out.

Having, as a teenager, studied the Scriptures – as an academic exercise – I was left with several very clear impressions.

The Old Testament, the first five ‘books’ of which form the written part of the Jewish Torah, the Law of Moses, is essentially the history of the Jews, their exile from the Promised Land during the reign of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, then going on to the teachings of their prophets and their belief in a future Messiah.

The New Testament opens when Rome occupies Israel, the gospels record the birth and ministry of Jesus Christ, whom his followers believe is the longed-for Messiah, and much of what was written was far from being contemporaneous with the events recorded.

The writings of the disciple Paul dominate the rest of the NT, and there are question marks as to whether he actually penned all that is ascribed to him. Certainly, many of his teachings were not in harmony with those of Christ himself.

There is a degree of confusion as to whether his followers thought that Christ came to help throw off the Roman yoke or to promise a future life after death. The Jews did not accept him as their Messiah, although, later, the also monotheistic Muslims, at the time of Muhammed, accepted Christ as a great prophet.

What came through to me, loud and clear, was that Moses provided a set of rules in the 10 Commandments, which, to a group who believed in one god, formed the laws by which they were bound.

All of the teachings were based on the knowledge of the time, which was clearly very different from current knowledge derived from ever-expanding scientific research.

Some in today’s world, are taught that every word in the Bible is god’s word, to be believed implicitly.

Yet the New Testament, recording an occasion when Christ was ‘asked by one of the religious leaders to identify the greatest commandment in all of the law, Jesus replied by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.Matthew 22:37-40 (HCSB)

In many ways, Jesus’ response summarised the heart of the Ten Commandments. The first four of the Ten Commandments have to do with our relationship to God, while Commandments six through ten addresses our relationship to one another.’

So, it is clear he was changing the approach to fundamental rules governing the Jews, making clear that change was not only possible but essential, and laws are not, like those of Moses, set in stone.

A lesson that too many of those who claim to follow him fail to accept.

What was also clear throughout his ministry – at least to me (but, remember, there are many translations of the scrolls on which the Bible is based, and also many interpretations of the resulting scripts!) was that Jesus was opposed to violence and had a message of love.

And with many Christian sects, their behaviour gives the lie to their claim to be following his teachings!

This is obviously to our detriment, now that we have a collection of religious nutters in power whose behaviour gives the lie to their claims to be religious zealots!

It seems that, in some perverse way, their twisted beliefs in eternal life are leading them to encourage events that will hasten the end of the world and deliver them their weird rapture!

They should be locked up and the key thrown away!

Their failure to accept the urgent need to take action (let alone actually take that action), to massively reduce emissions and deal with all pollution, is destroying lives and livelihoods of those suffering the ravages of unprecedented bush-fires – with no end in sight.,

Scott Morrison is not remotely proactive, and delayed reactions are his trademark.

He is far from alone in stamping flawed policies on his country. Modi in India is motivated by Hindu zeal to the disadvantage of Muslins in India and Kashmir. Some Muslim countries are headed by strict and intolerant religious administrations. Other countries have authoritarian leaders for whom money appears to be the god they worship!

Meanwhile – there is no Planet B.

Yes – we are bound by a Constitution which requires us to elect our governments and makes no provision for ousting a government which is incapable of taking the actions which are essential to benefit the electorate.

Not all revolutions have been 100% successful – but this current government is a 100% failure!

Growing the economy is the only thing which interests it and its methods are systematically damaging the economy.

We have a totally incompetent – read the Auditor General’s reports – Department of Home Affairs which is steering the country into a police state (don’t start me on the Department of (IN)Human(E) Services!) and we have media baron Rupert Murdoch very effectively opposing truth and progressive politics.

The French have Juillet 14 – Bastille Day.

The USA have 4 July – Independence Day.

Here in Australia there is division over celebrating 26 Australia as Australia Day, when our First Nations regard it as Invasion Day.

So, let us unite the nation by making it Australia’s People’s Day by getting out en masse to tell the government they are doing a lousy job and we want them out!

Change is scary – but not half as scary as the current bush fires.

Our children have been pleading for action and we are letting them down.

Grit your teeth, defy the government and let your children know that you really care for their future.

Please use this Australia Day to tell the government enough is more than enough and they are leading us to destruction!

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

Divided we fail – united we can achieve miracles!

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My New Year Resolution: Goodbye, Morrison

I seldom make New Year resolutions, but this year cries out for an exception.

So – here it is:

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

That is a big ask for an individual, but I know I am not alone.

My head is currently in a total jumble because of anger and frustration at the lies, ignorance and hypocrisy of the current collection of f-wits who claim to be governing us – but whose inability to see that expansion of population is exceeding growth in available jobs, that working for money for one hour a week is not being in employment, that living in poverty hampers the ability to find work and that we need to find solutions to a global crisis – so I hope you can eventually distil a coherent message out of the incoherent ramblings which follow.

I have tertiary and post graduate qualifications in mathematics, education and law, but make no claims to being a great scholar. However, thanks to a very catholic (in a non-religious sense) education, I have a broad understanding of the importance of emotional intelligence – which appears to be totally lacking in our current politicians.

We hear constantly of the importance of the economy – but it is seldom expressed in any way that accepts that it is important because it is intended to benefit us. Economic growth is very obviously only benefiting a select portion of our population, as well as a great many international corporations and political parties!

Just this morning I was hearing the results of an investigation of the current job providers network – which was positively chilling in its revelations of private providers profiting from offering a third world service to desperate job seekers.

Sadly, not a surprise, given the revelations about Robo-Debt, which the government has been forced to put on hold.

‘Brave New World”, ‘1984’ are ominous portents, and, together with our rapid progress towards a police state, are clear evidence that those in charge do not see their job as making life better for us, but using us as pawns in some monstrous bid for overall power.

The man whom the Coalition have chosen to lead them has a very unsavoury history, gained as a marketer and salesman (you can readily find reliable sources to substantiate this claim) – which gives him no relevant qualifications to formulate policy for a country in a period when we are facing an existential threat.

He is a religious nutter of particularly stubborn nature, who refuses to seek, let alone accept, advice from experts on issues on which he lacks both knowledge and understanding.

A major thread of Coalition policy is privatisation. At a minimum, a privatised service will necessarily be more expensive for those receiving the service, because their fees not only have to cover the cost of the service, but also provide a healthy income to shareholders. And the latter do not care how poor the service provided is, as long as a profit is being made.

It must be nice to be able to sit back and let your money, invested in shares, earn money for you! That helps to support a case for paying part of the wages for workers in a publicly-owned company by way of shares in the company. It would be a very incentivising strategy, don’t you think? After all, they do it for directors, so it must be good.

That aside – the current, ever-increasing gap between the truly wealthy and the poor is becoming ever more massive, and government policies are accelerating the rate at which it is increasing.

I still have not even provided any detail about the elephant in the room.

We are at war with a friend turned foe, which has much more powerful forces at its disposal than we could ever muster.

Greed, addiction to convenience and refusal to recognise facts have led us down a cul de sac, and the road is narrowing behind us, threatening to block off retreat.

The warnings have been there for over a century. Vested interests have worked assiduously to extend the period during which massive profits can be made.

It says something about the sheer stupidity which accompanies greed, that those raking in the profits have not lined up a Planet B, so the fate which now threatens the world – catastrophic weather events like floods, inundations, storms, fires and droughts – accompanied by failure of crops and severe fresh water shortages – will challenge even the most forward thinking to maintain a viable lifestyle.

If – and it is a very BIG IF – we clear the Parliamentary benches of the current riff-raff and install an emergency government, comprising knowledgeable experts and competent business managers – we might be able to bring to the fore the solutions which are currently being ignored.

This IS a global crisis.

We need to work with every other government which accepts the need to put aside insularity and private gain and concentrate on solutions for mutual benefit.

And we need to try to persuade the other governments to join us.

Look round the world and you will see that the most peaceful countries are the ones where the least able are helped and protected and the wealthy give a greater share of their wealth to assist others.

Was not that what Christ taught?

In desperation, I have bought my Extinction Rebellion t-shirt because desperate problems require desperate solutions and since reason is failing, civil disobedience is the last resort.

Once more – this is my Resolution:

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

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

The clock is ticking.

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Scott Morrison should resign

When our accidental-Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, took office, he swore an oath to ‘be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her heirs and successors according to law.’

No mention of his duties to his wife and daughters. They are a private matter and, as long as he remains Prime Minister, his duties lie to the high office to which he has (sadly) been elected, and for which it appears he totally lacks competence!

Prime Minister – this is not all about you.

You really don’t have a clue, do you?

It is not about your promises to your daughters.

It is not about sharing the grief of people whom you have let down.

It is not about getting a few more photo ops, showing the caring Prime Minister comforting the distraught property owner who has lost everything.

Or the grieving widow with a young family whose partner died fighting the fires because he cared about his community.

That is all hypocritical flim-flam which highlights your failings.

Australia, along with all inhabitants of this planet, is facing an existential crisis.

The Coalition climate deniers have also been denying their country the ability to take actions which might have – at least to some extent – mitigated the current catastrophic conditions, and without which we can guarantee this is not the end but the beginning of a growing disaster.

Yes – we are not the only country needing to take action – but we are the developed country with the highest per capita level of emissions of greenhouse gases.

Yes – countries like China, India and the USA are lagging behind in taking action, but that does not give us licence to do nothing. Instead it gives us an obligation to put them to shame by showing how a relatively small country can rapidly become carbon neutral.

Yes – action will adversely affect our economy, but – surprise, surprise! – inaction will affect it even more adversely.

Yes – emissions are not the only issue. There are also over-population, pollution and recycling needs, re-training for workers made redundant when fossil fuel production decreases – the list goes on – which all require long-term planning and immediate attention!

Has anyone thought about how and when to compensate the firefighters and their families for the losses and damage they are incurring, covered by no workers compensation insurance because the firies are volunteers?

Has anyone thought how the property losses will affect future insurance premiums – or state/territory budgets if/when they pay compensation to the uninsured?

Has anyone remembered that the CSIRO was once the envy of the world – but we lost our best innovators overseas because they lacked funds to follow up development of their inventions?

Are there communities in remote Australia where people have been unable to obtain information about their risk status during the fires because communications have not been adequate?

Are we running out of water, not only to drink, but also to dowse the fires, because foreign interests are making profits out of growing water-hungry cotton and rice using water bought from increasingly wealthy water traders?

Who is responsible for land management to ensure that the crops grown benefit all Australians?

This government has been totally asleep at the wheel as regards the interests of the electorate.

Environment groups have to fight in the courts to ensure justice for communities while the government supports its corporate mates and donation roll into political coffers.

Extinction Rebellion groups are being formed all round the world. They have met with opposition because people object to being made to feel uncomfortable.

Well – believe me! We are going to be feeling a hell of a lot more uncomfortable if this government is allowed to go on its merry way, ignoring the need for, not just action, but seriously rapid and well-planned action in an increasingly limited time frame.

Did no one realise that the driest continent on earth, suffering prolonged drought, was going to run short of water for just staying alive? And to have water-bottling companies draining bores dry to make a profit from selling the water is just the cherry on the cake!

Throw in continuing drought and continuing fires and we are really up the creek!

COME ON AUSTRALIA!

Don’t suck it up!

Get out there and force action!

You have heard all this before. So why is nothing being done?

Where is the land of the Fair Go?

Or has it just been cremated?

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China: before or after?

Not being an expert on China or its history, ancient or modern, the following observations are just that. Comments on what I have read and heard over the years.

It is hard to know whether China is now a dictatorship or an autocracy.

What is absolutely beyond doubt is that it is not a democracy, while it does not appear to be even a benign dictatorship – if there is such an animal!

The actions of Chinese leaders in recent years give rise to the suspicion that its leadership might be working towards challenging the USA for world dominance.

Having said all that, its status as a developing nation has allowed it latitude to continue to develop power stations driven by fossil fuels, so ensuring it is emitting increasing amounts of greenhouse gases.

Consequently, to those who claim we are wasting our time trying to reduce our emissions before China does, the simple answer is, that if we – and as many other countries as possible – do not substantially reduce our emissions to compensate, then we are well and truly up the proverbial creek.

And fossil fuel emissions are far from being our only problems, after decades of profligate living, leaving a damaging trail of pollution to litter land and the oceans with harmful plastics and toxic materials.

An independent observer might comment that mankind does not deserve to remain on earth, being its worst predators and most destructive inhabitants.

But what of our children? Do they not deserve consideration? They did not choose to be born!

One viable path to improve the situation would be for Australia, along with the multitude of nations which are already blazing the trail to increase use of renewable energy and reduce all other forms of pollution, to establish restrictions and standards which must be adhered to – just as was done during WWII, when all policies were directed to the war effort.

Trees are the world’s second carbon sink, the first being the oceans. We should ensure that we plant and cherish our trees, using those species least susceptible to fire and most effectively planted to reduce risk to habitations.

We need to re-think packaging, much of which is not only wasteful but unnecessary.

We need to establish effective recycling procedures which minimise energy use.

We need to maximise development of renewable energy resources – including currently overlooked ones like wave and water power, additional to hydroelectric processes.

We need to develop ways of recycling fabrics as well as plastics into usable products.

There are many scientists and other specialists, plus university students, who would be able to suggest and probably develop other ideas.

And we must stop exporting fossil fuels from Australia, instead exporting those materials which have resulted from recycling, including steel.

This needs to be a concerted effort from suitably linked consortia of countries – just as we worked with allies in WWII!

Much of this program will involve construction of relevant facilities and training workers for various associated occupations. There should be plenty of opportunity to find work for the relatively small number of people currently employed at the literal coalface.

Motivation, aspiration, innovation and determination are the key elements of the necessary program and remember – time is of the essence! The ice caps are fast disappearing.

China will be a dead weight in the beginning, but as we progress, it will become evident to its politburo that cooperation beats isolation, while the other countries, currently hanging back, will also see the benefits of belonging to those manufacturing change.

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Has Australia lost its moral compass?

As an agnostic, with no small children close to home needing to believe in Santa Claus, I still feel the world owes recognition to Jesus Christ for the ethical approach to life which he preached.

As a notionally secular country, Australian policy is currently developed around financial considerations, and far too many Australians will not be able to celebrate Christmas because they are struggling just to survive. This is also an ethical issue.

Our Prime Minister is demonstrating, by his absence while Australia is experiencing bush fires beyond any in living memory, that his personal interests outweigh the urgencies of his duties as a leader. This is a serious ethical issue.

His background in marketing has not prepared him for the gravitas of the top job, in which he is failing to even begin to understand the implications.

The issue of global warming cannot be ignored. It truly is a time for action because, if not now, action will become increasingly ineffective! This is also an ethical issue.

The spin on the economy is fooling no one.

It would appear that the government believes everything on Sky News and overlooks the fact that we all have access to other, more accurate, sources of information, which tell us we are rapidly falling behind the developed world.

And, in particular, we are becoming the world’s pariah over our dog-in-the-manger attitudes on emissions.

Blind Freddy can see that ‘Labor’s debt’ has ballooned under the Coalition and the inequality gap between rich and poor, as well as between our First Nations and the rest of us, is continuously widening. Telling lies is unethical!

The wage stagnation cannot be ignored. Having for so long hung our hats on policies which predicate that increased productivity is the foundation for increased wages, we now have growing profits – clearly due to increased productivity – yet never a move to reward the workers responsible.

Shareholders, however, are benefiting very nicely, and depositing their increases in tax havens so that taxes on interest are not flowing back into Australian coffers.

It is within the government’s power to ensure that no one goes without. That it chooses not to use that power gives the lie to its frequent incantations of following Judaeo/Christian ethics.

Religion has, under the Coalition, become a problem, yet our Constitution fell over backwards to ensure that it should be a private issue, out of which the Federal government should keep its nose!

Of course, the Constitution is at the root of many of our problems, because it was written to ensure a manageable division of responsibilities between the existing States and the newly formed Federation.

Back in the late 19th century, issues such as Human Rights, championed by writers like Charles Dickens, had yet to fully rear their heads. Despite the already established Industrial Revolution, no one could yet foresee the accelerating rate of change which would sweep round the world in a very uneven fashion.

In an equally uneven fashion, we are forever playing catch-up!

Australia is the only populated continent which is also an island, and, sadly, we are cursed with a government which is insular in its policies. I see this as both short-sighted and unethical.

Maintaining national wealth by mining and exporting fossil fuels is seen as of over-riding importance, even though, wherever those fuels are burned, they pollute the atmosphere shared by all life on Earth.

Former governments have signed up to accept many UN Conventions and many of those governments have not honoured these Convention – but I suspect that recent Coalition government would have the longest record of breaches!

We are prosecuting and persecuting whistle-blowers – the most egregious prosecutions in recent times being those of Witness K and Bernard Collaery – both courageous and honourable men who highlighted monstrous behaviour by both Coalition and Labour governments against the poorest new nation on the planet!

Refugees are being tortured, as is Julian Assange, on the Coalition government’s watch, and the lack of diligence in following up compensation for victims and addressing crimes of perpetrators revealed in the recent child abuse and banking Royal Commissions is unforgivable.

I sometimes feel that the extent to which priority is given to spending on entertainment, whether it be sport or reality TV, has reduced us to a bread and circuses dimension. Certainly, voting for the most popular has led to disastrous results when it comes to general elections!

Good governments lead the people and enable them to adjust to change. Poor governments rely on popularity polls and avoid important but not necessarily popular decisions.

Our whole political system needs a total re-think. The concepts of left and right are divisive at a time when it is most urgent to have inclusive policies.

The conservative ‘right’ and the progressive ‘left’ are figments of imagination in many ways. And for a cohesive society we need to move from the adversarial nature of our current political and legal systems to the foundation of the alternative dispute resolution systems – compromise.

Too often, everyone shares much the same view of the problem but differs strongly on how to resolve it.

In mediation, the aim is to arrive at a compromise solution which everyone can agree to accept.

We need an eminent cross-party advisory body which can produce a prioritised plan to deal with under-employment, job creation, emission controls, massively reducing pollution, closing the gap and reducing incarceration – just for starters!

Is anyone yet even thinking seriously about these problems? Or have we all lost our moral compass?

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Richard Muller and the conversion of a climate change sceptic

I had lunch with my younger son (in his early 50s!) today and, as nearly always, the issue of climate change came up. Getting other people’s perspective is important when you are concerned about a serious issue, and this conversation really proved that point.

He alerted me to a physics Professor at University of California, Berkeley, called Richard Muller, so after I came home, I looked him up.

This video – “Richard Muller: I was wrong on Climate Change” – covers the significant part of the conversion process.

And there were additionally two areas which my son drew to my attention, which had arisen from Professor Muller’s research, which were a new look at the place of nuclear energy and the role of prediction.

What follows is my personal summary of the gist of the conversation and you are welcome to fact check and correct!

Firstly, we start from the fact that we need to transition away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible, since the continuing release of CO2, in increasing quantities, guarantees rising global temperatures.

Clearly two of the greatest emitters are China and India – both of which were allowed more latitude over their rate of emission reduction, because their economies, while catching up fast, are less advanced than are most others in the developed world.

Muller’s research indicated that safe storage of plutonium might be more readily practicable than has been thought, which would provide these two countries with a viable alternative to coal, with sufficient nuclear energy resources without the accompanying pollution.

As an aside, nuclear energy has always been linked to nuclear bombs, which has led to the reluctance of those countries which already have a nuclear arsenal to allow others to have access to nuclear capacity – witness the stoush USA and Syria, for example. In my view, the rate at which our emissions are increasing puts us at considerable risk of annihilating ourselves quite successfully, without waiting for a nuclear bomb to do the trick!

So – introducing the currently excluded nuclear source – while not providing an overnight solution – would reduce the need to develop more coal-fired power stations.

The second issue raised was the reliability of predictions.

Certainly, the early research done by Exxon and Shell carried predictions as to the extent of the rise of carbon levels, which have been shown to be accurate.

To some extent, predictions about changing weather patterns have also appeared to be borne out. The point is not so much that climate change will cause certain weather phenomena but that the change will facilitate more severe outcomes. The jury is still out on that, although the bush-fires appear to support the argument.

While we ought not to cause alarm – because, like a startled rabbit, frozen in the headlights, alarm can lead to inaction! – we do need to take far more action to reduce emissions than we are doing.

And the first step to reducing emissions is to stop digging up coal, drilling for oil and fracking for gas!

Whether we use or export the resulting product, it is the shared atmosphere of our planet which is polluted. The east coast of Australia is currently enduring the results of the catastrophic bush-fires!

And it is not a good look, Scott Morrison, to say the volunteer firies want to be out there doing their job, so you would not consider paying them – while you go off to enjoy all the Christmas parties to which you have been invited and they grab a few more hours sleep and go out in the heat and the polluted air for another long day of saving others!

You are failing to do your job, while they are putting their own lives and livelihoods (for how long will their employers grant them leave?) at risk. Thoughts and prayers are of no use if not backed up by actions!

Australia is a relatively wealthy country – although that wealth is very unevenly distributed! – and we should be doing more to pull our weight and make up the shortfall in emissions reductions by other less well-endowed countries, not asking for special accounting tricks!

And just one last point to be stressed – pollution in general.

Our oceans are sick, our landfills are overflowing and yet efficient recycling methods are available but not being established. Why?

We have lots of unnecessary over-use of resources for packaging and too much use of non-reusable plastic. These are issues that could be addressed by governments in planning, policy-making and legislation.

I hope out politicians will come back from their Christmas break, brimming with clear ideas on these issues!

Forget protecting religion.

Start protecting the planet!

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION FOR ALL:

Reduce waste and pollution, recycle all that can be re-purposed and work with others to ensure a future for generations to come!

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Respect has to be earned, Mr Morrison

When I was growing up – in the olden days! – children respected their elders, who were expected to set a good example and act as role models.

Clearly not always successful!

People who were not well acquainted were much more formal than is now the case, and while an adult would call a child by its first name, a stranger was addressed formally.

Very different now!

The hierarchical nature of relationships extended beyond family. There was a degree of respect expected by those who were further up the tree, and politicians, who held the strings of power within a country, were expected to be statesmanlike in their behaviour.

That was a lifetime ago and expectations were not always met!

Change is not always for the good and today’s informality, with its implied equality, hides a level of contempt by many of those in authority for those lower down the tree.

There are always variations with different cultures and there are few cultures where women have been fully accepted as different but equal.

Clearly the ability to give birth ensures that many women will have different life experiences than do men, and acceptance of the science which tells us that human sexuality is not binary is far from complete.

Possibly, if we all had some common moral compass which required us to treat all life forms with respect, most of our societal problems would disappear like magic.

Many people wonder, at some stage in life, why the universe was created and what is the purpose of life. The world’s various religions have their own allegories – again, formed in even older days – to attempt to answer questions which will probably never be answered in their lifetime.

Similarly, most cultures have had past leaders, visionaries, priests, shamans, prophets who have contributed to establishing some sort of moral code. The details of the codes have many points in common and variations seem to relate to the culture which was current when the code was formulated.

We are currently facing a global, moral, existential challenge.

Some of the world leaders are accepting of the scientific predictions that generally refer to the climate emergency or anthropogenic climate change.

Some leaders dismiss the science, others are reluctant to accept the concomitant need for urgent policy formulation to limit the damage resulting from the emissions of greenhouse gases, while the industries responsible for providing the sources of the emissions have worked very hard – and often too successfully – to persuade people not to accept the science.

If we are to reduce emissions sufficiently and quickly enough to avoid extreme temperature increases which will render parts of Planet Earth unlivable, we need to be acting now.

The concern is not only the rising temperatures, but the effect they have on local weather patterns. Australia and other parts of the world are on fire because continuing rising temperatures and accompanying droughts have dried out vegetation to the point where the merest spark triggers a conflagration.

Changing weather patterns have made it impossible for normal land care practices to reduce the amount of combustible material to be cleared in time, because the windows of opportunity to do so have also decreased.

In recent weeks, lives have been lost, property has also been destroyed and the damage is not yet over. Further financial damage is also inevitable because insurance premiums will increase and many will be unable to afford them.

These changes were predicted and they are now happening even more quickly than was expected – mainly because too little effort has been made to date.

Fire has not been the only climate change related hazard. Storms of all kinds are becoming increasingly intense and unpredictable and before long the melting polar ice will be significantly affecting ocean levels, inundating low lying islands and invading cities in coastal areas.

Forewarned should mean forearmed – but when politicians refuse to accept the science and pretend their current actions are sufficient, we have a major problem.

A tiny ray of hope stems from the fact that, while our Commonwealth government is blatantly denying the facts of life, State and Territory governments – and, to their credit, many corporations – are responding by moving away from fossil fuels. We can only hope it is not too little, too late.

Of course, it will affect every aspect of life. We need to reduce all pollution, we need to create new industries, retrain those displaced by the changes, learn to go without many conveniences in order to reduce demands on power and some limited resources.

Agriculture in Australia will need to make significant changes – we cannot afford to grow water-hungry crops – and water will become a serious issue as well.

The planning is decades behind schedule and we really must get stuck in – NOW!

I know that the Extinction Rebellion around the world has not been well received in many places.

I am sure the French Rebellion upset a lot of people too!

But then, as now, the violent upheaval was greater than it would have been if those in power had acted sooner in accepting the need for change.

I am normally a law-abiding person because I know that most laws are there to help life run smoothly.

At present, my level of frustration at the ignorance of Scott Morrison and his cronies – and the reluctance of the ALP to speak out more boldly for action – leaves me wanting to be involved in action that will force the politicians to act before it is too late.

I do not care for myself. I have had a good life and only have a few years left.

But youngsters like Greta Thunberg have their whole lives ahead of them and the prospect of having an easy, comfortable existence is being denied them by the stupidity and selfishness of most of the world leaders.

I do not have a skerrick of respect left for any of the world leaders who have so far failed to not only recognise the need for action, but actually got stuck into a really effective plan to minimise the impact of undeniable global warming.

You know all this.

You have heard it all before.

Why do you go on ignoring it?

We need to force our leaders to do what is desperately needed – ACT NOW!

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Wake up, Australia

Some years back, there was a philosophy in mathematics education circles that students should be encouraged to create knowledge via discovery processes.

It is true that finding out how to find out is incredibly valuable, indeed actually invaluable, but the time factor has to click in at some stage.

Also, if every generation had to reinvent the wheel, progress would be abysmally slow!

So, the compromise is to accept some knowledge as fact.

Some of us have the luxury of time to explore what is going on all round the world, to research history and science, compare information sources and check the truthfulness of available information. Others, by the nature of their employment, have to follow this path in order to keep those who employ them suitably informed.

Once upon a time, most democracies employed public servants, whose role was to provide this knowledge source for governments. It was intended to be apolitical, to provide unbiased and factual information and advice, whatever the political flavour of the current government. and to ensure this, employment was permanent and promotion was on merit.

In many countries, including Australia, that system is now well on the way to being destroyed by political masters, who prefer to reduce the size of the Public Service and spend squillions on consultants whose role is to provide the information the politicians want to hear! How will you be called on again to offer advice if it does not suit the political masters?

Gone are the days of “Yes, Minister!” and “Yes, Prime Minister!” with knowledgeable experts heading up government departments!

This is also the age of ready access to information via the internet, so that anyone with a computer, time, ability to compare sources and to fact check can find out what is going on all round the world.

And it is not good!

It is clear that for over a century it has been known that burning fossil fuels could affect the climate. For over 40 years, the fossil fuel industries, having researched the effect increasing use of fossil fuels would have on climate, have funded a disinformation campaign to hide the knowledge of the eventual severity of the man-made disaster which was looming.

In the process, party political funds have been flowing in nicely and, in gratitude, the fossil fuel exploration and extraction ventures have been generously subsidised by governments.

There are other greenhouse gases other than those produced from fossil fuels, and thawing tundra in northern Europe is set to release enormous quantities of methane.

In 2018 the news was released that the rate at which climate change was happening was in fact increasing, and, this year, we learn that we are already past at least one of the tipping points which scientists have alerted us to.

The tipping points relate to the stages of climate change, defined by various temperature increases – that is the average annual global temperature – based on pre-Industrial Revolution temperatures. We are already up by one degree Celsius and we have been warned that increases above 1.5 deg C ensure more severe and more frequent adverse weather events.

The various international commitments made, the most recent being the Paris Agreement, have not been honoured by every signatory, and the latest reports indicate that levels of emissions are still increasing, making it unlikely that the Paris goals will be met.

Many people complain, incorrectly, that China is doing nothing to reduce its emissions, and examination of this graph indicates that total emissions can be divided into three similar sized pieces of pie, one of which represents China. It is worth noting that reduction expectations at Paris were influenced by several factors, one of which was the stage of development of each country – and China was recognised as still being in a catch-up period.

The total of the sectors from India through France is roughly equal to China and includes countries which are already taking significant steps to reduce emissions. The USA is a large part of the remaining third and, despite Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement, many of the States of the USA are also taking steps in the right direction.

For any country to do as Australia is doing, and hold back from having a plan because others like China are having so much more impact, is totally counterproductive. There are countries less developed than us who will struggle to meet targets, so the most developed countries need to take up the slack. We all live on the same planet, remember!

Fortunately, most of our states and territories, and many communities and individuals, are acting to reduce emissions but for some time now, business and industry have been pleading with the Coalition government to provide guidance by providing a national plan. We need to reduce emission but we also need to tackle pollution with effective recycling on a national scale.

After all, piecemeal introduction of renewable energy sources creates problems for a grid which has been severely neglected after privatisation. Many issues need to be guided by an over-arching plan.

There are, as always, many issues requiring attention. Inequality, Indigenous recognition, regulation of the banking industry and financial institution, reforms for aged care – a never ending list!

BUT – the highest current priority is saving the planet!

The activism of the Extinction Rebellion groups round the world has not necessarily been well received. Nor were the suffragettes or the French revolutionaries!

Somehow governments MUST wake up to the fact that we need a planet before we need a government!

We should all be camping on our federal politicians’ doorsteps demanding action – NOW!

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Greed is not good

“Greed is good” has been falsely attributed to Gordon Gecko – and if he had said it, he would have been wrong!

Another urban myth is that people become more conservative as they grow older.

It is true for some – those who don’t realise that learning is a lifelong process and prefer to live in the past. The ones who say “My father used to belt me when I was a kid and what was good enough for Dad, is good enough for me with my sons.”

Or the unthinking voters who say “This is how we have always voted.”

The older you get, the more you need to look back – not for models for the future, but to appreciate how much has changed and analyse how much (if any!) of that has been for the good.

When I look at the current destruction being wreaked by fires, I wonder whether our First Nations were not infinitely wiser than us. They see themselves as caretakers of the land, to protect and nurture it, because it is their duty, in a self-imposed spiritual context. Whereas, land, to ‘developed’ nations, is just another resource to rape and pillage for wealth accumulation. And when it offers no more riches? Then it is someone else’s problem to clean up the mess!

I can remember history at school in England, learning about strip farming, where a serf or peasant was allowed to farm a strip of land for produce for the Lord of the Manor – and keep a small portion of the produce for himself and his family. Has much changed? Who most benefits from food production? And why do we throw good, but misshaped, fruit and vegetables away, when people in other parts of the world are starving?

Yet there was a time when those with small-holdings grew enough grain, carried enough livestock and basically provided for their own needs, with enough left over to sell in order to buy those other requirements the land did not offer. The corporations have made sure that there is much less of that now.

In the context of which, I also remember school studies referring to the reasons for the creation of the dustbowl in the USA!

We kid ourselves by claiming we live in a democracy and that the governments we elect pass laws and develop policies for our benefit as electors.

Global corporations are in charge!

Accumulation of wealth by those already endowed with wealth who use money to make money and leave a damaged land in their wake. Capital and Labour is another economists’ myth!

The Industrial Revolution sowed the seeds of Climate Change, and, because constant growth has become the Holy Grail of economists (please note: economics is only a trial and error process, masquerading as a pseudo-science!) we are now hooked on a merry-go-round that growth must be achieved even if people’s lives are destroyed in the process.

I have no claim to being a guru. I have never had the patience to study philosophy. Even as a very small child, I wanted to be a teacher. Maths was always my best subject at school, so I specialised in maths and taught it, on and off, for the best part of half a century.

During that time, I encountered so many situations where lack of legal help had damaged people’s lives, so in 1975 I promised myself that I would study law when I stopped paid employment, for which I had to wait for nearly 30 years.

I was admitted as a Barrister and Solicitor in February, 2008 – promise kept! – and I had also become accredited as a mediator.

I rapidly learned that – while the law had some good points – my real interest was in justice, which is much more likely to be achieved, partially if not fully, through the alternative dispute resolution procedures like mediation than via the adversarial antics of our legal system.

IMHO it is sad that we inherited the confrontational British legal and political systems rather than the European investigative approach to solving legal issues.

Reality is that Australia squanders its resources, that we have extreme poverty and gross inequality in an essentially wealthy country. We have governments of all colours and prejudices which are largely more interested in keeping favour with corporations and we lack the protections that a decent Constitution and an effective ICAC might offer,

For those who have never studied the Australian Constitution, it was written to establish which powers, previously in the hands of the established states, should be passed over to a Commonwealth government in the process of establishing a federal system.

It was not remotely forward-looking – even more so as it made changing the Constitution so hard. Its major concern was to keep some balance of power between what had been autonomous States while Australia still remained a colony in many regards.

Even income tax remained in State control until a later date and the ties with Britain were not finally relinquished until passage in Australia and the UK of the Australia Act 1986!

Small wonder we have problems over nationality at Commonwealth elections!

And small wonder that we are not very good at governing ourselves when we have had such a chequered career as a country!

But now is the time when every governing body in Australia has to recognise the threat presented by global warming.

It is a fact – it is very real – and we cannot wait any longer before taking action to slow, stop and – just maybe – reverse temperature rises.

Cameras! Action! TAKE!

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