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Working for Peace

By Robert Wood

Our international response must to the most vulnerable, those people who experience scarcity and difficulty on a daily basis. We can feed the poor, dig a well, help construct roads, provide basic access to medicine, help with environmental safeguards and clean up pollution.

In short, by being an activist state we must intervene in the affairs of other nations in a way that replicates the best work we have performed in Australia. That is what diplomacy is about because it is about the people, not about canapés and cocktails in fancy houses making secret deals with offshore powerbrokers.

There are the cost-effective programs in international development that Australian agencies need to participate in and enable. The specific requirements for what is good growth need to be determined by experts in those fields as well as on the ground and by communities with ideas of self-governance. The way to improve the world then, to change it, is not necessarily through compromise but collaboration, which is to say, a new project that exists out there must be agreed upon by everyone involved.

Development needs to be co-ordinated by the government. Which is to say, governance in NGO, the state and corporation, needs to be brought together to plan and implement the best possible good for the greatest number of people. This is about caring for people, which is what Australia should aim towards, as it continues to be a valued world citizen.  This is the opposite of Manus Island and the Pacific Solution.

This means we must keep our gaze firmly on global poverty. In speaking of Abhijit Bannerjee and Esther Duflo’s book Poor Economics: a radical rethinking of the way to fight global poverty, Pranab Bardan argues:

The poor often lack basic information about the benefits of children’s immunization and nutrition, the dangers of over-medication, the risks of HIV infection, how much fertilizer to use, and the quality of politicians vying for election….In response, Banerjee and Duflo suggest nudging poor people in the right direction by establishing various default options: savings accounts in which money is easy to deposit but somewhat difficult to take out, simple chlorine dispensers at drinking water collection points, and easy availability of salt fortified with iron and iodine. Of the various Randomised Control Testing findings, the two most cost-effective programs seem to be de-worming children in areas where intestinal worms are rampant and providing remedial education for poor children who fall behind in class.

But these are simply examples from specific cases that we can learn lessons from as well. This means the government must engage with international actors, prime among them, the United Nations.

Before the government backbench scuppered his candidacy for Secretary General, Kevin Rudd claimed there were ten essential elements in his plan to reform the UN. They were:

1. Integrating missions and agencies.
2. Planning policy that looked to the future.
3. Creating prevention rather than being simply reactionary.
4. Creating better crisis response.
5. Prioritising field operations over head office.
6. A Team UN that is multi-disciplinary.
7. Real results not conference halls.
8. ‘We the People’ partnerships with civil society and private sector.
9. Centrality of women.
10. Operations that are efficient, effective and flexible.

Although Rudd does admit that ‘these 10 basic principles are not exactly rocket science’, he leaves aside the fact that there are similarities between his principles (1, 5 and 7; 2 and 3). What is perhaps most galling however is that there is no agenda in terms of key problem areas.

The United Nations is a complex organisation just like any government, multinational corporation or international NGO. It has its own culture, its own history, its own metier. If outsider Jim Yong Kim’s difficulty in leading the World Bank is any guide, reforming the UN takes more than bureaucratic language and willpower.

In that way, it is salutary to return to when it was created and invest in its original purpose as a body devoted to peaceful co-operation. The United Nations is essentially a pacifist organisation, hence it has peacekeepers rather than soldiers.

The biggest change that the United Nations needs to make is to reform the relationship between the permanent and non-permanent members. That the division is essentially a Cold War one (USA and UK vs China and Russia, with France mediating discussions), reflects the fact that the UN was founded in an era before decolonisation, which is to say, before the independence of many of its member states.

The representation these countries continue to have, particularly the UK and France, does not adequately reflect the geopolitical conditions, now let alone, what they are predicted to become. Brazil, India and Nigeria each have greater claim than the faded European nations, but perhaps we would do better if there was no veto power because there was no permanency.

That is to say the method by which the Security Council is elected, with each of the world’s regions having a representative, has a better chance of creating consensus, stability and democracy in today’s world. Only when there is reform at this fundamental level might we see a truly democratic process in the diplomatic world.

Australia, as an activist state, must learn to interpret what is good in our own society and adapt and apply it to people elsewhere. I am thankful for our relative material equality, our emphasis on the natural environment, our toleration of religion and diversity, our hope.

These are all qualities we cannot take for granted at home and about which we must continue to fight. But it is also something we must learn to cultivate in pockets overseas. We must make our peacekeepers and diplomats ambassadors of non-violence, people who can take our enacted and embodied definition of the good life to the four corners and seven seas.

That is not about inventing a new plasma screen tv, but about sharing our Indigenous football codes, our paintings, our stories, our culture, as services that can build community no matter where we find people. That means treading new paths and re-invigorating old ones, it means changing with the times as well as being mindful of what has worked well in the past.

The key to good relationships is not the same type of knowledge, but it takes practice to learn how to get on with people. When we search for familiarity we will find it, and familiarity, as that starting point for connecting, is part and parcel of feeling good, and as Australians, we could feel better about our role and place in the world if only we saw through to our very best nature.

Robert Wood’s writing has been published in numerous literary and academic journals. He has interned for Overland,  edited for Peril and Cordite, been a columnist for Cultural Weekly. At present he works for The Centre for Stories. 

Advancing Australian Tourism


By Denis Bright

Denis Bright invites discussion on the social market foundations of Australia’s successful tourist sector. Do the policy structures which keep this sector going so well have implications for ailing sections of the wider economy in the post-resources boom period?

The current wayward trends in opinion polling in both Queensland and WA show that the community wants more in the way of smooth delivery from all tiers of government. Without this smooth delivery, there are new social tensions and profound alienation from mainstream political processes.

With few exceptions, members of the federal parliamentary LNP are locked into old style solutions based on a profound reverence for The Miracle of the Market as embraced by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in bygone times. Even President Trump has regressed back to America First as his current signature tune which is an even less sustainable option.

When GST entitlements to the states and territories are excluded in a growing national economy, other payments to the states and territories are in sharp decline:






Australian Budget 2016-17 Budget Paper No.3

The highly successful Australia tourist sector shows how alternatives to market capitalism are operating to break through this apparent impasse, through a high level of productive government involvement. This is a model which could be applied in other important sectors such as housing, environmental management and infrastructure delivery under more progressive national, state and local governments.

As self-proclaimed lovers of Australian traditions, federal LNP leaders should be the first to revisit the social market model which was the foundation of prosperity during the federation era before 1914.

The progressive social market structures of the Australian settlement drew bipartisanship from a commitment to full employment within fair industrial awards and a proactive role for government in early phases of national pension schemes.

A century later bipartisanship continues over some commitments to trade and investment liberalization but the federal LNP is still not ready to accept an Indo-Pacific alternative to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The federal LNP fosters fears of refugees and asylum seekers as a substitute for a more inclusive and socially just society which was the hallmark of the Australian settlement.

Instead the electorate is assured that wealth will trickle down from the tables of financial and social elites to homeless people who choose park benches in prestigious inner city postcodes.

In a globalized era, mechanized rural, mining and manufacturing sectors are struggling to maintain the living standards of more than 75 per cent of the workforce in one of the service sectors of the economy.

The tourism sector is one of the most vibrant components of the service sector. Its successes might have some lessons for the wider economy in demonstrating the value of progressive government involvement on behalf of the majority of Australians who are working in the service sector.


1 Highlighting Tourism in the National Economy

Since the publication of last year’s Info graphics, the Australian tourist industry has continued to develop and diversify.  Australia welcomed 8.26 million international visitors in 2016, after posting an increase of 11 per cent on the previous year, to achieve another record year for tourism.

“The record results confirm the strength of Australia’s tourism industry and desirability of our tourism offering internationally,” Tourism Australia Managing Director John O’Sullivan said.

All this has been steered with a minimum amount of federal government funding for Tourism Australia, Tourism Research Australia and the Tourism Demand Driver Infrastructure Programme (TDDI) within Austrade.

Tourism Australia was projected to receive $156.8 million in 2016-17, including $$2.5 million for the working holiday maker campaign and $14 million for the Asian Marketing Fund.

Remarkably, Tourism Australia generated an additional $70 million from its own initiated partnership revenue. This includes strategic partnerships with airlines to facilitate access to regional centres and support for the Australian Tourism Exchange (ATE).

With the current federal budget deficit still in the $35-40 billion range, it could be a bipartisan commitment to allow federal, state, regional and local tourist networks to generate more of such income for co-ordinating promotional agencies.

Social market strategies have been built into existing tourist promotion and event strategies at state, territory, regional and local levels. Examples are provided of the possibilities for Tourism and Events Queensland (TEQ).

2 Expanding Tourism and Events Queensland (TEQ)

TEQ is a statutory body of the Queensland Government to steer tourism and major events for both local and overseas visitors. This is a major niche in the Queensland economy with a big focus on all regional districts where some parliamentary representatives are seeking a greater share of the state budget to cover unemployment and environmental problems generated by coal seam gas projects and questionable developments near waterways and the Great Barrier Reef.

TEQ parallels Tourism Australia’s commitment to industry partnerships to assist with funding. The positive impact of tourism is a cornerstone of regional employment as shown by the projections in the TEQ’s Strategic Plan for 2020.

Projected turnover generated from tourism is expected to exceed $1 billion in nine Queensland regions if the estimates from the Fraser Coast and Bundaberg are combined because of their proximity.

In a tight 2016-17 state budget, Queensland made a commitment to $400 million in funding over four years for TEQ to overcome cut-backs under the previous LNP government.

As with the Tourism Australia, TEQ would benefit from additional involvement in public sector business investment funds to support government projects and public-private partnerships to advance tourism in Queensland.

TEQ could operate an innovative booking service for road rail bus connections for long distance travel, travel insurance, major musical or cultural events, accommodation bookings and tours. Consultancy services could be operated to support sustainable tourist ventures.

Commercialising TEQ could replace the need for some government spending by new commercial endeavours from commissions collected from online booking and ticketing as shown by the booking system used by the Spanish railways.

This overseas funding arrangement is dwarfed by the Queensland Government’s commitment to the Queen’s Wharf Project in Inner Brisbane:

On Monday 16 November 2015 the Queensland Government reached contractual close on the $3 billion Queen’s Wharf Brisbane Integrated Resort Development. Contractual close represents a key aspect of the final stage of the procurement process, which was successfully delivered by the Department of State Development.

The Destination Brisbane Consortium—The Star Entertainment Group (formerly Echo Entertainment Group), Far East Consortium (Australia) and Chow Tai Fook Enterprises—is now the contractor responsible for delivering the world-class tourism, leisure and entertainment precinct in the heart of the Brisbane CBD.

The Queensland Government in partnership with the Destination Brisbane Consortium will deliver economic growth for Queensland with the creation of more than 2000 jobs during peak construction and 8000 jobs when the Integrated Resort Development is operational in around 2022.

The revitalised precinct will provide improved facilities for everyday use and public events, showcasing Brisbane to locals, interstate and international visitors.

The electorate is clearly looking for such new social market solutions to a perceived failure of governments to deliver services because of inadequate funding from the current federal LNP.

New taxes and charges are definitely unpopular but social market solutions should be well received as the outcomes are highly transparent and accountable.

The social market concept is a return to some aspects of pragmatic democratic socialism that can be funded by commercial investment in business investment funds within the public sector at all levels of government in a globalized era.

If this sounds like a way of recreating viable enterprises like the Commonwealth Bank in the tradition of the people’s bank or Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (CSL), let’s consider it more carefully as an option for the future in the proposed banking royal commission. How many federal LNP members will break ranks to make this possible?

Denis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in promoting discussion about progressive pragmatic public policies compatible with contemporary globalization.














The Australia-US Alliance in the Trump Era

By Denis Bright

The arrival of President Trump must surely justify a complete reappraisal of Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper. While acknowledging the vital importance of both China and the US in the geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific Region until 2035, the White Paper comes down with the following dogmatic conclusion:

A strong and deep alliance is at the core of Australia’s security and defence planning. The United States will remain the pre-eminent global military power and will continue to be Australia’s most important strategic partner. Through this Defence White Paper, Australia will seek to broaden and deepen our alliance with the United States, including by supporting its critical role in underpinning security in our region through the continued rebalance of United States military forces.

The stability of the rules-based global order is essential for Australia’s security and prosperity. A rules-based global order means a shared commitment by all countries to conduct their activities in accordance with agreed rules which evolve over time, such as international law and regional security arrangements. This shared commitment has become even more important with growing interconnectivity, which means that events across the world have the potential to affect Australia’s security and prosperity. The Government is committed to making practical and effective military contributions to global security operations to maintain the rules-based order and address shared security challenges where it is in our interest to do so.

Department of Defence Online 2016:15

The architects of the ANZUS Treaty (1951) had no inkling of the possibility that a US presidential demagogue with a majority in both houses of congress might return to the America First Strategies of bygone eras when the US was involved in its own territorial consolidation and industrialization.

After the New Deal Era and the successful conclusion of the Second World War, America First Strategies were no longer needed. The US had become the undisputed global superpower. Softer international diplomacy could prevail at least before the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945.

In 1951, the UN Charter was still a binding commitment for like minded representative democracies in negotiations about future military commitments. Democratic consultation was still the buzz word.

The Parties will consult together whenever in the opinion of any of them the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened in the Pacific (Article III Australian Treaty Series 1951-52).

However, since the Vietnam War Era, the federal LNP conveniently generated the belief in the value of ongoing strategic loyalty to the prevailing US administration. The old caveat of consultation was replaced by the brash All the Way with the USA misinterpretation of the Australia-US Alliance.  

These reservations about consultation have largely been forgotten by most national opinion leaders on both sides of politics.

1 The Value of Transparent Consultative Mechanisms

In 1984, Prime Minister Bob Hawke responded to concerns from within the Labor Caucus on the lack of transparent consultation within the ANZUS Treaty.

Former Prime Minister Fraser had made a commitment to President Reagan about the need for involvement by the RAAF to test the accuracy of test firings of Trans Pacific MX Missiles to impact on targets in the Tasman Sea. Did such missile tests foreshadow the recent North Korean efforts at national aggrandisement?

A consultative body known as the Australia United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) first met in Canberra in 1985 to overcome the lack of any transparency in this strategic relationship.

New Zealand had already left the formal ANZUS Alliance over its opposition to visits by nuclear armed ships to its ports.

Former Defence Minister Kim Beazley who attended the first meeting of AUSMIN in 1985 still seeks to continue the old strategic certainties from the 1980s.

The challenge now is how we use that connection to influence American policy in our region where all our friends and allies are deeply disturbed by what they heard from the GOP nominee. Trump’s campaign positions translated into administration policy would result in the suspension of America’s leadership of the post-World War II liberal international project. Originally, the project focused on global free trade, a rules-based system for the global commons, and a comprehensive Western alliance under a system of American extended deterrence. More recently, those priorities have been joined by an effort on nuclear disarmament and a coordinated response to climate change (Kim Beazley in The Strategist Online 18 November 2016).

The Trump style in international relations with its Shakespearean overtones of divine right principles really has no place in the ANZUS Treaty. It has become a political appendage over almost seventy years of mutual commitment.

As the Cold War intensified, Prime Minster Menzies assured Australians that the dangers of a resurgent Japan had now been replaced by the threat of communism at home and in countries like Japan and the Philippines where US troops were stationed (Adelaide Advertiser 3 September 1951 on Trove Online).

2 When Presidential Tweets Replace AUSMIN Communiqués

President Trump’s style of diplomacy overturns the conclusions from the last joint AUSMIN Communiqué.

Noting that 2015 marks the tenth anniversary of the Australia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, both countries welcomed the dynamism and diversity in the economic relationship, including significant business engagement and substantial two-way investment, which serve to boost productivity, innovation and economic growth.

The United States and Australia reiterated their intent to work together to deepen regional economic integration, and welcomed conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).  They agreed to continue working toward bringing TPP into force in order to reduce business costs, and to promote growth, job creation and higher living standards across the region (AUSMIN Online from Boston 13 October 2016)

Australia’s commitment to China’s alternative Indo-Pacific Free Trade Zone simply offers a better and fairer commitment to the AUSMIN Communiqué.

Financial relationships between China and Taiwan are good and there is no reason to prevent Taiwan from becoming a participant.

The architects of ANZUS in 1951 had no inkling that the US would become a threat to Australia’s economic development and financial security.

3 Imposing Presidential Arbitrary Barriers to Australian Trade

In contrast to our commercial relationships with the US, trade with the current ASEAN-10 Bloc generates a hefty surplus on both commodity trade and exchange of services.

The benefits of Asian trade also extend to profitable relationships with China and Hong Kong. These benefits are summarised by Dr James Laurenceson for the SMH Online:

In fact, trade with China generates our largest trade surplus, worth $21.8 billion.

And there’s more, because our third largest surplus is with Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, which is worth another $7.2 billion (SMH Online 30 November 2016).

Dr James Laurenceson adds that the combined trade surpluses with China and Hong Kong for 2015-16 compensate for our trading deficit of $25.4 billion with the US.

Threats of hurting China by new US tariff barriers and the remilitarization of Taiwan are only going to upset the current stability of Australia’s excellent trading performance for December 2016:

Record surplus: Australia posted a record trade surplus of $3,511 million in December, up from the $2,040 million surplus in November.

China trade: Australia’s annual exports to China lifted from $76.2 billion to US$80.2 billion in the year to December- 23-month high and up 6.6 per cent on a year ago.

Economic growth: Commonwealth Bank group economists expect net exports (exports less imports) to contribute 0.8 percentage points to overall economic growth in the December quarter (The Bull.Com.Au 2 February 2016).

The losses from US imposed mercantilism are compounded by President Trump’s threats of a return to militarism in Asia and the wider Indo-Pacific Region.

It is unlikely that President Trump himself is even aware that ANZUS was negotiated as an extension of the UN Charter with a commitment to peace in the broader Pacific Region rather than an America First Strategic Exercise.

4 The Costs of the New Militarization to Australia


Long before the election of President Trump most major US Allies in the Indo-Pacific Region were potentially breaching the ideals of ANZUS by ignoring the consequences of increased military spending.

Saudi Arabia’s use of newly imported military technology to take sides in the civil war in Yemen is hardly an extension of the UN Charter.

Australia had become the world’s equal fourth arms importer according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Yet this financial burden of defence spending is enthusiastically endorsed by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) with the support of its corporate donors, some with the credentials of membership of the global military industrial complexes.

Journalist Paul Dibb endorses this commitment from the ASPI:

The Turnbull government’s defence white paper is more financially robust than any of its predecessors.

For the first time, we have a 10-year financial commitment of almost $450 billion that, if it is followed through, will deliver an Australian Defence Force that’s potent for its size.

(Paul Dibb in The Australian 11 March 2016)

Labor veteran Kim Beazley now favours appeasement with the new US Administration. This is a recipe for more costly commitments to global military industrial complexes which could precipitate a new century of international tensions across the Indo-Pacific Region.

There are more sustainable alternatives which are embedded in commitment to the UN Charter First and military action as a very last resort.

Do North Korea’s recent missile tests invite a military response and commitment to regime change?

5 The Challenges Posed by North Korea’s Missile Tests

Previous underground nuclear tests and a recent missile launches in North Korea pose a real challenge to the countries of the Indo-Pacific Region along with the nuclear threats to peace from India, Pakistan and Israel.

The new US Administration has already responded with urgent consultations with North Korea through the Security Council to prepare for more sanctions with the support of Russia and China.

The tensions on the Korean Peninsula are not just from North Korea.

According to NTI, South Korea tested a longer-range ballistic missile in mid-2015 which can hit all parts of North Korea.

South Korea has made progress towards the development of its own weapons of mass destruction.

South Korea first became interested in nuclear technology in the 1950s, but did not begin construction of its first power reactor until 1970. South Korea currently has 24 civilian nuclear power reactors in use and four under construction. Changes in the international security environment influenced South Korea’s decision to begin a nuclear weapons program in the early 1970s. Under significant pressure from the United States, however, Seoul abandoned this program and signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in April 1975 before it had produced any fissile material. Seoul is a state party to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Zangger Committee (Nuclear Threat Initiative [NTI] Online 2017).

Diplomatic progress has been made in the past to bring the Korean Peninsula back from the brink of continuing conflict:

In November 1991, President Roh Tae-woo declared that South Korea would not “manufacture, possess, store, deploy, or use nuclear weapons.” Two months later, North and South Korea signed the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. In this agreement, Seoul and Pyongyang agreed not “to test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons,” and not to “possess nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities.” However, both sides failed to implement the agreement’s provisions relating to a bilateral inspection regime.

Although North Korea has clearly violated the Joint Declaration, particularly in light of its three nuclear weapons tests (in 2006, 2009, 2013, and 2016), South Korea never officially renounced its obligations under the declaration, and has called on the North to abide by the agreement. Seoul has been a participant in the Six-Party Talks since their inception in 2003, which are aimed at ending the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula (NTI Online 2017).

In the short-term, the US is proceeding with the installation of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile systems in South Korea which would be operated by US forces to complement shorter range Patriot missiles.

Australia supports both Security Council and US strategic responses to the North Korean provocations. The Russian foreign ministry described the launch as a “another defiant disregard” for UN security council resolutions, and a cause for “regret and concern” (The Guardian Online 13 February 2017).

These strategic responses still falls short of measures to seek a more permanent and peaceful resolution of the political tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

China is particularly willing to become part of the solution.

Geng Shuang, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said: “All sides should exercise restraint and jointly maintain regional peace and security.” He told reporters in Beijing that China would take part in UN security talks expected later on Monday with a “responsible and constructive attitude”.

But the Chinese Communist party newspaper said US demands for Beijing to pressure Pyongyang into abandoning its nuclear and missile programmes were pointless, unless Washington examined its own role in fomenting current tensions.

The Global Times said North Korea had been angered by the “very real” military threat from the US and its allies, and the imposition of tough UN sanctions. The editorial, published on Monday, said by insisting that China take action, the US and other countries were ignoring the “root cause” of Pyongyang’s provocative behaviour (The Guardian Online 14 February 2017).

Signs of instability in President Trump’s accountability were being played out when Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau visited the White House. President Trump’s national security Michael Flynn just tendered his resignation (ABC News Online 14 February 2016).

Details of the resignation of Michael Flynn were apparently deferred so that favourable media coverage of Canadian leader’s visit to Washington would not be interrupted. Emphasis in some media coverage focused on speculation about the significance of the differing handshaking styles rather than matters of real substance (CNBC 14 February 2017).

In the real world of geopolitics, both Australia and Canada have the capacity to assist in generating some real solutions to seventy years of strategic road blocks on the Korean Peninsula.

Inviting Russia and China as key trading and strategic partners with North Korea should be a crucial alternative to any return to Cold War Diplomacy in this sensitive region. Michael Flynn had breached diplomatic protocols by being too enthusiastic about phone calls to the Russian Ambassador in Washington, Sergey Kislyak during the period prior to inauguration day (Sputnik Online 14 February 2017).

Threats to global peace by selective remilitarization of both Japan and South Korea should also be a stackable offence irrespective of whether it is before or after 20 January 2017.

This is letting down the spirit of the ANZUS Treaty which attracted bipartisan support from Dr Evatt as Opposition Leader in 1951.


Denis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in promoting discussion about progressive pragmatic public policies compatible with contemporary globalization.

We Talk About 21st Century Learning While Looking In The Rearview Mirror!

Schools have always been under-rated! Politicians and some media outlets like to concentrate on the problems while ignoring the fact that they’ve educated vast numbers of people. Yes, there is room for improvement, and no, the occasional spelling mistake does not make that person (and an entire generation) “functionally illiterate” !

So, in a profession where one is constantly given harsh feedback – forget the media, think Year 8s on a Friday afternoon – it’s only natural that when teachers are presented with the “new, improved” model of education called 21st Century learning that there’s a certain amount of cynicism. Of course, some teachers will point to the distractions of technology and suggest that it’s just being pushed by people who love their toys and gadgets, while others will complain that they don’t have the capacity to embrace it due to poor resourcing and Internet access. When concepts such as “20% time”* are suggested, some educators often react as though “100% time” has been suggested for student projects.

While much of what people call “21st Century learning” is just what good teachers have always done in one form or another, but repackaged and rebranded, the phrase itself suggests massive change and disruption. And while most people find too much change stressful and threatening, we now live in the twenty-first century and the world around schools will change no matter how much individuals want to cling to the “way we do it here”.

Some of you will have heard the term “disruptive innovation”, which describes how many companies continue with their old business model and ignore the threat of new ideas or inventions because it doesn’t seem a threat to them. By the time they understand, it’s too late! Think old large computing firms ignoring the PC; think Kodak ignoring digital cameras. For schools, the innovations in the world around them can either by “disruptive” or made “sustaining” by adopting and adapting them to suit the needs of education. At first, some maths teachers wanted to ban the calculator, but it’s become a compulsory item. Similarly, many teachers have embraced word processing in order to allow students to draft and improve their work. These innovations have sustained and supported what teachers do.

However, the main problem with the way schools are looking at learning in the current century is that they’re looking at what WAS, rather than what IS, and very few educators see at as their role to help shape what WILL BE. Schools often merely take textbooks and put them online, rather than embracing the potential of the technology.

For example, just forget education for a moment. Let’s look at life in the twenty-first century: many people have a fitbit or smart phone which tracks all sorts of things from the steps you take to sleeping patterns. Google and Facebook are constantly recording the sites you go to, your preferences, your habits. We live in a world where all sorts of things are tracked. Yet, apart from a few standardised tests, most teachers would find it hard to access information about what Johnny did last week, let alone last year.

Historically, being able to access what a student has done in the past would have had two concerns: Privacy, and workload for teachers recording the data. But while protocols and safeguards around privacy would need to be addressed, how much information could we be collecting now about where students are having difficulty and falling through the cracks by simply using existing technologies in an education setting? And when the technology that allows us to see when a person looking at a screen is losing focus or concentration, should schools embrace it or not?

Oh wait, technology like that is already here. Just not widely available.

Yes, as William Gibson said, “The future is here, just not evenly distributed”!

Whatever your views on software that can track kids progress, whether you think that Big Brother is coming or whether you think it really is a brave, new world, these are the sorts of conversations we need to have now.

What is the potential of the technologies that will be here before we know it and, just as importantly, what are the ethics of the coming technologies?

*In simple terms, giving students free rein to work on any project of their choice. Based on Google’s one day a week to work on projects.

First Published Victorian Professional Development

The Need for Diversity in Higher Education

By Robert Wood

There is space for diversity in the university context in Australia. I do not say this in the way Christopher Pyne has, or even of people all the way back to John Dawkins. When I say diversity I do not mean it as a sneak attack argument for de-regulation. We need far greater public investment in higher education even as we need to sharpen the differences between specific institutions.

This is so they do not congregate around some mediocre average of teaching and research. The vast majority of universities in Australia have student populations between 25,000 and 50,000 students. Charles Darwin University is the smallest with 11,000 and Monash tops the scale with 64,000. Although this is simply one measure, it means that we do not have an adequately diverse landscape at a very basic level. The social conditions in which people can produce research and most importantly teach students, means that there is a tendency to homogeneity.

The Australian National University has similar student numbers to Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge and there was a self-conscious attempt to make this Australia’s finest university when it was first established. But in precious contrast to the elite universities overseas, it has little land and a very small endowment. This is where Australian higher education simply cannot compete as it presently stands, which is why we continue to languish in ranking systems worldwide. One might want to interrogate those systems in the first place, but one might also want to ask: what is the language of our shared inheritance that means we can offer the best education in this place?

In answering that question, we might not need to create new things, but we might need to retrofit that which already exists. This might mean the conscious recalibration of student populations so to create universities that offer different experiences, precisely because young people desire that. Using the United States as an example, Williams College has 2000 students as does Amherst and Swarthmore. Wesleyan has a mere 600. Each of these places offer some of the best undergraduate educations in the liberal arts anywhere in the world. Students in Australia want those experiences on native soil. And the government needs to lead the way to make that happen. We need then a handful of elite liberal arts and sciences colleges that have a small selective enrolment and focus on Australian subjects.

This is only one possibility of diversification in the higher education sector. As the ALP suggested in the previous election, there is the possibility of higher education institutes. University of Canberra Vice Chancellor Stephen Parker suggests, these would ‘bridge vocational education and training (VET) and higher education. These bodies would provide highly practical, industry-connected courses taught by staff whose focus does not include research per se.’

Undoubtedly the appeal of these institutes is because of the monotonous uniformity of university education coupled with the appeal of reaching out to students who do not want to engage with the academic rigors of a bachelor degree. It is more difficult to ascertain what the practical realities of this are and what demographic they would serve. Perhaps a more likely outcome, and a simple one at that, is to retrofit and contain the existing institutions, allowing them to service a greater population through diversification. This would be a genuine attempt at making TAFE and university have a wider appeal precisely because they can individually become far more specialized.

What that might engender is a distinct national culture, where one may indeed think little of traveling to the University of Sydney for history rather than assuming that the homogenous uniformity of any Group of Eight university could stand in for any other, which means very few students leave their capital cities. In other words, Australian higher education conceives of itself as being a states’ based market rather than a national one precisely because of the lack of student movement and the geographic distribution of excellence.

What that means is the sector is smaller than we think and the dream that Australia has a truly elite university, when measured against ‘world’ expectations, will inevitably fall short. Learning to evaluate our own institutions, and from the evaluation learning to respond to our local circumstances including the problems that are already here, is part of being a republic in a full and meaningful way.

Being an activist state means we must intervene, particularly in the educational opportunities that are offered to the disadvantaged.

Robert Wood’s writing has been published in numerous literary and academic journals. He has interned for Overland,  edited for Peril and Cordite, been a columnist for Cultural Weekly. At present he works for The Centre for Stories. 

Castles in Spain and Beyond: Summer Days in Europe 2017

By Denis Bright

With the good currency conversions to the Euro and the British pound, some Australians will be looking forward to extended travel in Europe this year. Despite the inroads made into industrial awards, Australian wage-earners in permanent employment can still enjoy long service leave and retirement benefits to the fullest.

Fully escorted land and sea cruises are readily available in Europe. Use of such soft options is far beyond the limits of many budgets as shown by the sample of APT Tours for 2017 (refer main photo).

So much money can be saved with independent travel using affordable public transport by plane and train.

Others would detest these options and seek the use of hire cars and rental vans. There are uncertainties with overseas travel. The smarter move might even be to enjoy the travel in Australia and its immediate environs during our winter months.

Qualifications aside, let me pass on some options for economical travel to Europe.

Getting There

The long flight to Europe can be made a little softer with an overnight stopover en route. Extra airport taxes must be expected with every stopover. These costs are offset by a reduction in the jet lag from long flights.

With Emirates Airline, the stopover in Dubai on the outward journey from Australia is quite close to all the European destinations. There are reservation facilities for overnight stays in Dubai at the International Airport. First visitors to Dubai may prefer hotels in the town centre but more modest accommodation places near the Airport are quite comfortable and affordable.

Colombo in Sri Lanka can be a half-way stop on the return flight to Australia. Other stops in South East Asia are certainly closer to home. The cost of the return ticket will become really expensive if multiple stops are required. Some airlines regard tickets with multiple stops as a series of single journeys.

Emirates and Etihad have opened up varied European arrival points. Getting to arrival points like Lisbon, Nice or Athens once required time consuming transfers from major European air hubs.

Here are some samples of the thousands of options available to independent travellers.

First Night in Majorca

After arriving without jet-lag in Madrid from Dubai on an economy ticket from Australia, a pre-booked online ticket can take you onto the Balearic Island of Majorca for a cost of less than $A150 with Iberian Airlines or another local carrier. Some seasonal fares can be much lower in price.

Spanish Attractions Online 2017

Majorca is large enough to combine the usual tourist escapism with walks through historic precincts as well as visits to farming villages, the mountainous interior and rugged coastlines.

Palma de Mallorca is the hub of two lines of light rail services which both extend for almost 30 kilometres.

Palma’s Cathedral rises magnificently above an older residential district and has largely been rebuilt after an earthquake in 1851.

The Cathedral towers above a historic residential district. A free escorted walking tour for small groups is available from the tourist office near the Cathedral.

Local knowledge will fill you in on the best locations outside Palma de Mallorca on a large island which extends for up to 100 kilometres from west to east.

Ferry services are available to the Spanish mainland at Valencia. From here, the whole of Spain and Portugal beckon.

The Spanish railway system (RENFE) offers an innovative web site that supports this quest for adventure.

Spain and Portugal online

Spanish Railcards can be purchased online in Australia using forms in English from the RENFE site. The timetables and costs of RENFE tickets are easily checked out. A sample tariff from Valencia to Zaragoza is provided.

The cost of this journey from Valencia to Zaragoza is reduced from $A50 to $30 in Turista Class for holders of a senior’s card known as a Tarjeta Dorada in Spain. On a Youth Card (RENFE Joven), the cost is $36.50. The RENFE Joven is available to visitors between 14 and 26 years of age.

These concessional cards can be purchased at a nominal cost in Spain or by prior registration from Australia. The concessions are also extended to travelling companions from a different age category (example 1, example 2).

Fronting up to a RENFE station with your Australian passport seems to be the easiest option if concessional fares are being requested. Even with prior arrangements from Australia, tickets will need to be issued locally. Major stations in Portugal also offer concessional fares on presentation of Australian passports for overseas seniors.

There are some pleasant diversions even on this 355 kilometre journey from Valencia to Zaragoza.

Halfway between Valencia and Zaragoza, an overnight stop can be made at the hillside city of Teruel with its impressive towers and cathedral.

Local buses will take visitors from Teruel to nearby hillside towns.

Located by the Ebro River, Zaragoza is another architectural gem in a surprisingly large city of about one million inhabitants.

Consult the free online guide to the city which can be downloaded from Zaragoza Turismo.

Panorama of Zaragoza

Travel options do not end at Zaragoza.

The opening of the Trans Pyrenean Railway in 1928 brought Zaragoza onto a new main trunk railway route from Paris to Madrid through the Samport Tunnel at Canfranc. Canfranc Station became a major international rail terminal at the break of gauge between the French and Spanish rail systems.

Following a fatality-free rail freight accident in 1970, a major bridge installation on the French-side of Canfranc was damaged beyond repair. The famed Trans Pyrenean route ceased to exist. The remnants are now used for local passenger traffic with the exception of a missing link of 33 kilometres between Bedous and Canfranc.

Canfranc International Station

Regular international buses now follow the international road route from Canfranc to Bedous for visitors who want to make a nostalgic Trans-Pyrenean Journey.

From the recently reopened line to Bedous, it is just 64 kilometres to Pau on the main trunk line across Southern France.

Detailed timetable connections across Europe can be checked on the Deutsche Bahn (DB) online timetable as well as the local national online rail site. DB is more geared up to cross-Europe travel destinations.

French Rail Cards are also available at a cost of $70-105. A discount is offered on all tickets purchased. The fee for the purchase of the card varies for the different age categories. Even with the high purchasing costs, the French Rail Cards are more economical and more convenient than one country Eurail Passes.

Long Plane Hauls to Greece

High reservation fees on some long distance rail services, justify the use of air travel particularly on long hauls to Greece. Holiday time is limited and it is sometimes better to compress a week’s travel time into a few hours.

There are some great deals on travel within Europe especially with the safe but more economical airlines like Olympic, Aegean, Meridiana, Air Malta and Iberia. Olympic and Aegean are particularly good airlines because of the range of connections in Southern Europe. Numerous budget airlines like EasyJet ply these tourist routes and may offer lower fares.

Waterfont at Naxos

Travel around Greece can be completed on local ferries from the island hubs to avoid costly overnight sea crossings from Piraeus.

Emirate’s connections back to Dubai and Australia are available from both Athens and Larnaca in Greek Cyprus. Larnaca is served by some domestic Greek air services. Travel in Greek Cyprus is made easier by the excellent motorways which use left-hand drive because of the long history of British settlement.

A range of online guides are available for travel in Greece and coverage of the options is hardly necessary when specialist advice is so readily available.

So make the most of this coming summer in Europe if it is your time to travel. There is no pressure to go. Winter holiday destinations abound in Australia and its environs are equally appealing. The choice is yours.

About the author: Denis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in promoting discussion about progressive pragmatic public policies compatible with the more qualified commitments to contemporary globalization by President Trump.



The making of Australia: a foreign piece of work

A letter sent to The AIM Network 28 January, 2017 for the attention of Michael Taylor

Dear Michael,

I have listened to, and now read – although only in part, as printed – Prime Minister Turnbull’s address on the occasion of ‘Australia Day’ 2017.

I found in it the usual salutations to those around the barbecue, playing cricket or observing the tennis games.

In the printed version a tribute to “the first Australians … for more than 40,000 years” and their “continuous human culture” was followed by a mention of “the cultures of all our migrants. … Each new Australian adds another thread to our national tapestry, magnificent in its diversity and the most successful multicultural society in the world.”

Rhetorical flair and historical references – to Mr Turnbull ‘s own family, to start – did not go amiss. An immodest display of erudition is always present in Mr Turnbull’s utterances. The Prime Minister concluded with a sense of satisfaction: “Together we have built a remarkable nation.”

There was the customary complacence in “our democracy, the rule of law, those values which we uphold as thoroughly Australian values here and in the great land we call home.”

The words such as “land we call home” attracted my attention and stimulated my memory.

I shall now come to the purpose of this letter, and I trust that what I am about to write will inspire your readers to thoughts, reflection and – I hope – reaction.

On Friday 24 July 2015 Mr Bill Shorten, speaking at the opening of the 47th           Australian Labor Party National Conference, called for an Australian republic within 10 years – by 2025. He said: “Let us make this the first decade where our head of state is one of us. We can be an Australian republic, with an Australian head of state.” Perplexing words at least those are, because the Governor General is often referred to as ‘the head of state’, both by confusing monarchists and loose, temporary republicans.

On the same day, the ALP Conference passed a resolution that a future Labor government appoint a minister or parliamentary secretary with responsibility for promoting a republic. (‘Bill Shorten calls for Australian republic by 2025 at Labor national conference’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 July 2015).

More recently, 18 December 2016, Prime Minister Turnbull, speaking to the Australian Republican Movement on the occasion of its 25th anniversary dinner, extended his oratorical gifts and spoke of “the spirit that has brought us together tonight. Patriotism – pure and simple. Love of this nation above all others. A profound commitment that every office under our Constitution should be held by an Australian.”

Clichés abounded and were repeated: “our values of democracy, the rule of law, mutual respect, a fair go, mateship” – they were all there in the Prime Minister’s address. And the Constitution? That “does not belong to the Government, or the Parliament, or the Judges. It belongs to the People.” Out of hackneyed expressions, a foreign piece of work, refractory to meaningful amendments, ‘our Constitution’ more belongs to a frozen continent than to one of the warmest parts of the world. Most reading Australians would know that.

The Prime Minister went on to say that “The vast majority of Australians have known no other Head of State than the Queen.” And for good measure he added: “She is so admired and respected that few of us can say – whether monarchists or republicans – that we are not Elizabethans.”

Mr Turnbull concluded: “I do not believe Australians would welcome let alone support another republican referendum during her reign. And as you know I have held this view for some time.”

The italicised words are crucial.

The Prime Minister returned to the point further on in his speech: “As I have said before – and this is the cold, unyielding practical reality – it is hard to see how this issue will return to the forefront debate in this country during the Queen’s reign.” [my emphasis added].

So much by way of introduction of the theme: how to make Australia a republic.

Wanting to know more I went to entries such as ‘succession to the British throne’ in Wikipedia – surely a universally available source.

There I learned that succession “is determined by descent, gender (for people born before October 2011), legitimacy, and religion.”

The English Bill of Rights 1689 and the Act of Settlement 1701, both of them as amended in March 2015, restrict the succession to the legitimate Protestant descendants of Sophia of Hanover who are “in communion with the Church of England.” Marrying to Roman Catholics no longer disqualifies, and Protestant descendants of those excluded for being Catholics are eligible to succeed.

Queen Elizabeth II’s heir apparent is her eldest son, Charles, Prince of Wales.

Next in line after Charles is Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, the Prince of Wales’s elder son. Third in line is Prince George of Cambridge, the son of William, Duke of Cambridge, followed by his sister, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge. Fifth in line is Prince Harry, the younger son of the Prince of Wales. Sixth in line is Prince Andrew, Duke of York, the Queen’s second-eldest son.

The Bill of Rights 1689 and the Act of Settlement 1701, restated by the Acts of Union 1800, still govern succession to the throne. They were amended in the United Kingdom by the Succession to the Crown Act 2013, which was passed mainly “to make succession to the Crown not depend on gender” and “to make provision about Royal Marriages”, thereby implementing the ‘Perth Agreement’ in the United Kingdom and in those realms which, by their laws, have as their monarch automatically whoever is monarch of the United Kingdom.

Upon the death of a sovereign, the United Kingdom Accession Council meets in St. James’s Palace to proclaim the new sovereign.

In the Commonwealth realms, of which the United Kingdom is one, upon the death of a sovereign, the heir apparent or heir presumptive succeeds to the throne immediately, with no need for confirmation or further ceremony. Nevertheless, the Accession Council meets and decides upon the making of the accession proclamation, which by custom has for centuries been ceremonially proclaimed in public places, in London, York, Edinburgh and other United Kingdom cities.

The other fifteen Commonwealth realms are Antigua and Barbuda, Australia,   the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. They are independent of each other, while sharing one person as monarch in a constitutionally equal fashion, and the same order of succession.

The Bill of Rights 1689 and Act of Settlement 1701 are, and the Royal Marriages Act 1772 was, ‘received’ into Australian law, and the Act of Settlement is part of the laws of the Australian states and territories, and therefore not only Australia but also its states had to change their laws.

The Perth Agreement is an agreement entered into by the prime ministers of the sixteen Commonwealth realms during the 22nd Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 28-30 October 2011 in Perth, Western Australia, concerning amendments to the royal succession laws, namely, replacing male-preference primogeniture, under which male descendants take precedence over females in the line of succession, with absolute primogeniture; ending the disqualification of those married to Roman Catholics; and limiting the number of individuals in line to the throne requiring permission from the sovereign to marry. However, the ban on Catholics and other non-Protestants becoming sovereign and the requirement for the sovereign to be “in communion with the Church of England” remained.

By December 2012 all the realm governments had agreed to implement the proposals. New Zealand chaired a working group to determine the process for reform. It was affirmed that legislation in those realms which required it would commence when the appropriate domestic arrangements were in place in all the realms and the Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom announced on 26 March 2015 that the amendments had come into effect ‘across’ every realm.

At a meeting of the Council of Australian Governments in mid-December 2012, the then Prime Minister, Ms Julia Gillard, and the premiers of five states agreed each state legislature would pass a law permitting the federal parliament to alter the line of succession for the Commonwealth and all the states. Queensland raised objections which, however, were overcome by the passing of a separate, amended, bill on 2 May 2013.

The Australian Parliament passed the Succession to the Crown Act on 19 March 2015 and Royal Assent was granted on 24 March 2015. The change to the succession law in the United Kingdom and throughout the other Commonwealth realms finally came into effect on 26 March 2015.

This seems to be the legal position.

It would be helpful to learn from Messrs Shorten and Turnbull how they would proceed to make Australia a republic.

For the time being, the opinion of your readers would be quite welcome.

Thank you for your attention.

Warmest regards,



NSW State architect rolls in his grave

By June Bullivant OAM

NSW State architect rolls in his grave – 200 years later his work faces destruction.

If Francis Greenway was alive today, he would be on the streets protesting about what the modern day State Architect is proposing to do to his work that has lasted for 200 years. Peter Poulet – the current State Architect –  is not a designer of grand old buildings, instead he likes modern art, “A well travelled artist” as this story in the Daily Telegraph tells us.

The question therefore has to be asked why a fellow that has no experience in design becomes the State Architect in charge of the ‘Architects Office’. Of course, the answer is a very simple one. You have a NSW Government that does not believe in saving our heritage and wants to sell it at any price. And that the original State Officer Francis Greenway remains relegated to a $10 note.

Francis Greenway (1777-1837), architect, was born at Mangotsfield, near Bristol, England, son of Francis Greenway and Ann, née Webb. The Greenways had been stonemasons, builders and architects in the west country for generations. Francis was in private practice as an architect in Bristol when in March 1812 he was found guilty of forging a document.

He was sentenced to death but the penalty was later changed to transportation for fourteen years. He arrived in Sydney in February 1814 in the transport General Hewitt, and was followed in July by his wife Mary, whom he had married about 1804, and three children in the Broxbornebury.

This is what the community is facing NSW from the State Government, no longer is heritage a precious commodity to be saved for the future use of the people, but a treasure to be sold. It is ironic then that poor old Francis is put on our currency, for that is what is happening.

Peter Poulet presides over the work of the heritage destroyers ‘Urban Growth’, which is the development arm of the State, but managed by young inexperienced people who think that a visit by the Premier or minister to announce a grand plan of destruction, is the best thing ever. Urban Growth have lodged a development application with the Baird Government appointed Administrator at Parramatta which will see the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct sliced into three to sell off to the highest bidder.

The office of the State Architect – whatcha has been a powerhouse for 200 years – has been dumbed down. It has now been reduced to an artist’s studio, not a design of grand buildings in sight, and the NSW community are fighting for their very life to stop the destruction of their heritage for the history and the future economy of NSW and Australia.

The problem with all of this is that when it is sold, when it is destroyed by high rise buildings, there will be nothing left that can bring tourist revenue to Parramatta. If the politicians – including Geoff Lee the local member – had an original thought that was sold by someone like Francis Greenway, they could see what a potential tourism site this could be: a desired destination of tourists from all over the world and it would boost the Parramatta economy for many years to come. But no, Mr Lee has been advised (wrongly) that he will get the site World Heritage Listed after the site has been destroyed.

Not so, Mr Lee, not so.


Urban Growth: NSW development application to subdivide and vandalise Australian history lodged

North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) have been alerted to the fact that the State Government’s Development Arm UGNSW last week lodged the first Development Application with City of Parramatta council for the Fleet Street Heritage Precinct: an ill-conceived proposal that will turn public land containing Australia’s oldest and most intact heritage buildings into a high density residential suburb of 3000+ units.

This precinct was placed under a total Greenban by the CFMEU and Jack Mundey in August 2015 after the community concerns went ignored by the State Member for Parramatta Dr Geoff Lee.

“Dr Lee is ignoring constituents who have been working tirelessly to save our indigenous and colonial heritage from being desecrated, while he is gleefully handing it over to Mr Baird to sell for private residential development,” said Suzette Meade, President of NPRAG

State Member for Parramatta Dr Geoff Lee continues to ignore the community who have been fighting against this inappropriate development for almost 2 years. All we hear is Mr Lee promoting Mike Baird’s mandate to sell every remaining piece of public land in Parramatta for residential or commercial development.

Before our local government was unceremoniously sacked and replaced by a State Government-appointed representative Ms Chadwick, the former Lord Mayor Paul Garrard of Parramatta City Council wrote to Planning Minister Rob Stokes demanding this totally inappropriate development be at least paused until the National Heritage Listing was finalised. Requesting further transparent consultation with the wider community and other interested stakeholders was carried out. This fell on deaf ears.

How can the future of this most precious site be under the autonomous control of a State Government appointed administrator who is absurdly making decisions on a development application that is being fast tracked by a State Government department who’s only mandate is to reach maximum residential density on public land.

This sort of undemocratic decision making process is something we would expect in North Korea but not here in Australia. It is a disgrace – a slap in the face to the Darug custodians of the land, the tens of thousands of women and girls from 1818 to 1974 whose lives were changed forever after being incarcerated within this precinct.

If the Greater Sydney Commission’s Lucy Turnbull is fair dinkum about making Parramatta Australia’s next great city then she will step in and stop this State Government proposal to vandalise Australia’s most significant precinct by dumping a new high density suburb here. Residents of Parramatta are calling on Lucy Turnbull to champion the peoples’ plan for the best and biggest arts and cultural precinct for NSW to be created in this world heritage worthy oasis on Parramatta River.

The residents of Parramatta demand that NO development application pertaining to the Cumberland Hospital site be accepted by City of Parramatta council. No land sold and not a sod turned until we have democratically-elected representatives returned to represent the community in the Local Government Elections in September 2017 – demanded Ms Meade.

Contact – Suzette Meade (0412 990 880) smeade@nprag.org



There’s national pride in national precincts

By R D Wood

In 2011-12 alone, governments around Australia earned $5.5bn from gambling losses whereas $15bn ended up in ‘not-for-profit’ sports clubs and the private sector. A lot of that money came in some relationship to sport, be that at local sports clubs in NSW or through gambling on professional codes. In that same period they only spent $1.8bn on sports stadiums.[1] It is important to have hallowed grounds we can all enjoy, but the infrastructure money spent on sportgrounds needs to come from clean sources and at a time when the economy needs stimulation. The budget crisis facing Western Australia for example, could have been avoided if there was long-term planning for life after the construction phase of the mining boom. This is not even to discuss the value of mining in the first place let alone the corporate structure that underpins this. But I do think we do need a national flagship program that speaks to who we are as a people. That is why I favour a National Precinct for Indigenous Cultures in Darwin. This would be a place for storytelling, song, dance, material culture, and heritage as well as a football stadium that brings people together. It is a project that could be built when we need to stimulate the economy again.

Northern Australia, and Darwin in particular, will play an increasingly important role in Australia’s development in the future. What that development looks like depends on national planning and on the role of special interests. In the 2015 White Paper on Northern Australia titled ‘Our North, Our Future’ the authors write:

“Many previous efforts to develop the north have floundered through a lack of foresight and the absence of markets in our region for high value goods and services … the Commonwealth Government is putting in place the right policies, at the right time, to unlock the north’s vast potential.”

They go on to state that:

“It is not the Commonwealth Government’s role to direct, or be the principal financier of, development. Developing the north is a partnership between investors (local and international investors who provide capital and know-how) and governments (that create the right investment conditions).”

However, this is quickly followed by a list of investment commitments, which not only demonstrates the hypocrisy of the self-styled infrastructure Prime Minister Tony Abbott who signed off on this paper but also the unavoidable role of government in regional development.

But this bureaucratic and political vision for Northern Australia is mired in a twentieth century idea of the frontier. They see the North essentially as a resource rather than a complex place of natural and cultural significance. In that way, not only does the Commonwealth underestimate the value of the place as place, but they also significantly undermine its autonomy as something other than a place of extraction and exploitation. That Indigenous perspectives are marginalized in favour of mining and farming interest is a symptom of how the North remains a target of a colonial mentality.

By comparison, a National Precinct for Indigenous Cultures is the flagship project for our North. It leapfrogs the easy primary industry that the government has slated due to its special interests, and instead proposes value added economies that will be beneficial to a greater number of Territorians. It is democratic, strategic and imperative for Darwin as well as Australia, and builds on the fine work of art centres, the talent of footballers and the thriving music scene all in a place that is a true melting pot of culture.

Indeed, it appears a fait accompli that stadiums are infrastructure projects that are supported by the community. Museums on the other hand have been more contested. This was especially the case with the National Museum in Canberra, which had its detractors when it first opened. But this opposition was on account of the specific design rather than the concept and as such might not be seen as reason to avoid building important cultural institutions. In that regard, the two recent Smithsonian Museums that have been added to Washington DC Mall – the Museum of the Native American and the Museum of the African American Experience – have developed into financially profitable and internationally significant sites. There is no reason why Darwin cannot follow their example, or the example of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. When coupled with a world-class sports stadium, Darwin can become a magnet for Australians seeking a gateway to the top end as well as attracting the growing middle class of Asia. Indeed, it is this latter demographic that will help Australia develop in the coming century, either through buying our produce as the White Paper is keen to ensure or by visiting our shores.

[1] ‘Are we spending too much on stadiums?’ http://www.theroar.com.au/2012/01/07/are-we-spending-too-much-on-stadiums/

Skoda Stadium (Sydney Showgrounds) – $20 million
Metricon Stadium (Gold Coast) – $144 million
Sydney Cricket Ground – $186 million
Melbourne Cricket Ground (Southern Stand) – $55 million
Simonds Stadium (Geelong) – $29 million
Adelaide Oval – $570 million
Burswood Stadium (Perth) – $700 million
NIB Stadium (Perth) – $82.5 million
Bellerive OVal (Tas) – $21 million (applied for)
WIN Stadium (NSW) – $29.8 million
Penrith Stadium (NSW) – $5 million

See also: ‘AFL the big winner from decade of investment in sporting infrastructure’ http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-09-27/kennett-correct-on-afl-investment/4983476


Bush, Blair and Howard – Three reckless adventurers in Iraq (Part 41)

The Iraq Inquiry Report (2009-2016) documents how Tony Blair committed Great Britain to war early in 2002, lying to the United Nations, to Parliament, and to the British people, in order to follow George Bush, who had planned an aggression on Iraq well before September 2001.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard conspired with both reckless adventurers, purported ‘to advise’ both buccaneers, sent troops to Iraq before the war started, then lied to Parliament and to the Australian people. He continues to do so.

Should he and his cabal be charged with war crimes? All this, and more, has been investigated by Dr George Venturini in this outstanding series.

Australia’s involvement in Iraq (continued)

The Iraq Inquiry Report showed quite clearly that two friends may differ on certain points and yet maintain a solid relationship. The United Kingdom and the United States disagreed at several moments of recent history: Suez, Vietnam, the Malvinas/Falklands, Grenada, Bosnia, the Arab/Israeli crisis, and the long ‘troubles’ of the six Irish counties occupied by the United Kingdom, without any crack in their partnership.

Of course, Howard twice referred to Australian ‘national interest’. Would that describe the Australian Wheat Board scandal of violating the United Nations embargo on Saddam Hussein by joining him in that kind of corruption the consequences of which have not yet been resolved?

Not all Australians are ignorant, or indifferent.

A few days before Howard’s lecture, a vapid former Foreign Affairs Minister Downer, explained “Why the Iraq war was right.” He spoke of Saddam Hussein as “The world’s most brutal dictator … who had run a corrupt, kleptocratic, sectarian, self indulgent regime in Baghdad.” True, of course, but was not Saddam Hussein good enough to run the racket associated with AWB ? And was not Downer overseeing that corrupt practice ?

Howard’s interview with Tony Jones of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation took place on 7 July 2016 in the wake of the Iraq Inquiry Report.

Questioned over the statement in the Report that the United Kingdom “chose to join the invasion of Iraq before peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted” and keeping in mind that that statement “does have big implications … for [Howard] who advised both Blair and Bush, and for Australia”, Howard replied: “What Chilcot says was that the decision to go into Iraq was based on flawed intelligence. Well, that’s a conclusion based on facts that became available after the decision was taken.” [Emphasis added].

When Howard was advising Blair had there been no reference to the so-called Downing Street Memo of 23 July 2002 – seven months and a half before the invasion – which memorandum gathered the opinion of Sir Richard Dearlove, head of MI6, who conveyed the unease with which the intelligence community was watching its qualified judgments on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction presented as hard facts in various dossiers ? Those ‘hard facts’ were collected in the paper: Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Assessment of the British Government, a document published by the British government on 24 September 2002. At the meeting of 23 July 2002 Dearlove told the Blair ministers that in the United States “intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” Was Howard relying on that propaganda to inform himself on the facts ? And how could he be credible now?

As a matter of fact, the decision to go to war had been made almost one year before July 2002, and agreed to by Bush and Blair at their meeting in Texas in April 2002. Now Howard knew absolutely nothing about it.

How was it that Howard had counselled Bush that a resolution authorising military action was essential to legitimise the invasion, as well as to win public support, and yet all that became unimportant in March 2003? And why were not the threatened veto by French and Russians, as well as the negative opinion of the Germans, sufficient to dissuade Howard, Blair and Bush?

Here is Tony Jones: “28th January, 2003, you and Tony Blair agreed, according to the Report, that you should pencil in a deadline beyond which, even without a second resolution, they should take a decision to go to war. Do you recall saying that ?”

Howard shilly-shallied.

Tony Jones: “It’s in the report.”

John Howard: “Yeah, look, I’m not gonna argue over that. Look, I’m not arguing that by January and February Tony Blair and George Bush and myself and others were very pessimistic about getting another Security Council resolution explicitly authorising military action, although it had been my belief for a long time and had been Bush’s belief and in the final result it was also the belief of Lord Goldsmith, the British Attorney-General, that a case existed under the existing resolutions to take military operations. But, we’re talking …” [Emphasis added].

First: Bush did not care about a second resolution. He had wanted war since 2001. And that, too, is in the Report. And counsellor and enabler Howard knew about it.

Second: For the better part of two years Lord Goldsmith, QC had held and documented the view that the war would have been illegal, and it was only after his return from Washington and having spoke with American legal officers that he changed his mind and thus wrote to the House of Commons.

Tony Jones: “So let me go back to the report. On 13th February, 2003, you have a breakfast meeting with Tony Blair. Did you tell him that Blix was optimistic?”

John Howard: “I would have reported what Blix told me and I would have certainly reported that, but I would have also had my views about bursts of optimism from Hans Blix in the past. And, I mean, Hans Blix was a – he was a genuine employer and servant of the UN and a weapons – understand all of that. But I …”

Tony Jones: “Who proved to be correct, incidentally, in his view that there were no weapons.”

John Howard: “Well, there were lot of people in the intelligence agencies of Britain and America and Australia who didn’t agree with that and if you ask me do I agree with – take the word of the intelligence agencies rather than Hans Blix, I’ll take the view of the intelligence agencies.”

And that is so, no matter how ‘doctored’ their information is or how un-intelligent those agencies may be! In the case of Australian agencies, the Defence Intelligence Organisation and the Office of National Assessments, an examination of their findings by Philip James Flood AO, a distinguished former Australian diplomat and a former senior public servant, as Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, described the evidence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction as ‘thin, ambiguous, and incomplete’ in his Report of the inquiry into Australian intelligence agencies (Canberra, 20 July 2004).

The Defence Intelligence Organisation and the Office of National Assessments had concluded that:

  1. the threat from Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was less than it had been a decade earlier, in 1991;
  2. under sanctions which prevailed at the time, Iraq’s military capability remained limited and the country’s infrastructure was still in decline;
  3. the nuclear programme was unlikely to be far advanced. Iraq was unlikely to have obtained fissile material;
  4. Iraq had no ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States;
  5. there was no known chemical weapons production;
  6. there was no specific evidence of resumed biological weapons production;
  7. there was no known biological weapons testing or evaluation since 1991;
  8. there was no known Iraq offensive weapons research since 1991;
  9. Iraq does not have nuclear weapons;
  10. there was no evidence that chemical weapon warheads for missiles had been developed; and
  11. no intelligence had accurately pointed to the location of weapons of mass destruction.

Then something extraordinary happened during the interview.

Tony Jones prefaced: “We’re now trying to put ourselves in your shoes, in other words, to find out what really happened.” and then asked: “Did you at the breakfast meeting [of 13 February 2003] also make the case that a second resolution was not needed for legal reasons? You’ve just mentioned that.”

John Howard: “Well the legal advice we had was that there were sufficient [sic] and that was the legal advice [which, of course, was dated 12 March 2003] that we tabled in Parliament [on 18 March 2003].”

Tony Jones: “And you told this to Tony Blair, but as it turns out, you were way ahead of him at the time because he didn’t know or think that at the time.”

John Howard: “Well, I don’t know what he thought and I’m not claiming I was way ahead or way behind him. I’m just … I’m telling you that we got legal advice, which I tabled in the Parliament, saying that sufficient authority existed under previous resolutions to take the action that we did.”

Tony Jones: “Tony Blair, at that breakfast meeting, was surprised to hear that and said, ‘No, they need the second resolution.’ ”

Here there is a serious problem of times. The serious problem is: how could a legal ‘advice’ dated 12 March have been submitted to Blair on 13 February 2003?

Before coming to the end of the interview, John Winston Howard gave himself an opportunity to emulate the idol from whom he was named. He interrupted Jones and said: “and then I’m talking from my own experience and it’s directly relevant to your question and because it was an operation conducted in conjunction with the United States. The United States is a hugely important ally for Australia and we should never lightly dismiss the value of that alliance. That doesn’t mean to say you give a blank cheque or you give a tick to everything the Americans want to do. You treat each operation on its merits and that’s what I have done.”

It was for Lord Alexander of Weedon, Q.C. to remind the audience of his lecture on 14 October 2003. He said that it would be advisable for any [British] prime minister to follow “the long-standing Atlanticist view succinctly expressed by Sir Winston Churchill in the last week of his premiership: ‘We must never get out of step with the Americans – never!’ ”

Lord Alexander also thought, and said quite clearly, that Lord Goldsmith, QC’s turn-around of 17 March 2003 – one of the grounds of Howard decision to go to war – was “risible”, and so was the “quaint concept of the ‘revival’ of Resolution 678”.

Ascertaining the truth about Australia’s intervention in Iraq cannot be left to interested, self-justifying tricksters and their associates.

Correctly Andrew Wilkie MP said: “Until we have an effective inquiry into the invasion of Iraq … then people like John Howard and Alexander Downer and others won’t be properly scrutinised and held to account”. Along with that, the inquiry should examine to whom the so-called war powers belong: a cabal of ministers, the Cabinet, Parliament?

The inquiry could be entrusted to Parliament, or a joint committee thereof; it could be assigned to a Commission – the so-called Royal Commission with commissioners appointed by Parliament to guarantee independence, to protect submissions and evidence presented and guarantee the immunity of witnesses. The Commission should have the amplest powers to call for witnesses and experts, who would communicate by solemn declaration, or oath if preferred, to call for documents by way of summons and request for the production of those documents.

The last words should be left, as admonition, to a very much missed historian departed years ago. They go like this: if one does not know history, it is just like being born yesterday. And if one is like being born yesterday, then any leader can say anything – in the case of Iraq – with impunity.

– Conclusion –

GeorgeVenturiniDr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini – ‘George’ devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975, invited by Attorney-General Lionel Keith Murphy, Q.C., he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra – to serve the Whitlam Government. In time he witnessed the administration of a law of prohibition as a law of abuse, and documented it in Malpractice, antitrust as an Australian poshlost (Sydney 1980). He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.

➡️ Part 40

Bush, Blair and Howard – Three reckless adventurers in Iraq (Part 40)

The Iraq Inquiry Report (2009-2016) documents how Tony Blair committed Great Britain to war early in 2002, lying to the United Nations, to Parliament, and to the British people, in order to follow George Bush, who had planned an aggression on Iraq well before September 2001.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard conspired with both reckless adventurers, purported ‘to advise’ both buccaneers, sent troops to Iraq before the war started, then lied to Parliament and to the Australian people. He continues to do so.

Should he and his cabal be charged with war crimes? This, and more, is investigated by Dr George Venturini in this outstanding series.

Australia’s involvement in Iraq (continued)

In Australia there remain – rare, given the ‘climate’ – men of conscience. One of them is Andrew Damien Wilkie, presently the independent federal member for Denison, Tasmania. He had been an army officer and an intelligence analyst in the Office of National Assessments. He resigned both appointments saying that: Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction program is very disjointed and contained by the regime that’s been in place since the last Gulf War. And there is no hard intelligence linking the Iraqi regime to al-Qaeda in any substantial or worrisome way”.

He would go on: “The unwarranted invasion of a sovereign state for fraudulent reasons was ultimately not an option for me. This was not a matter of choosing between two rights. No, this was a matter of right and wrong. I resigned about a week before the invasion and went to the media.

There could be little doubt that starting a war in Iraq would result in a humanitarian disaster with a great many people killed, injured and dislocated.”

The war started in earnest in March 2003, but for him – as he wrote: “the Iraq War started the year before when I was a senior analyst in the Office of National Assessments, Australia’s top intelligence agency which is responsible for providing advice to the Federal Government on other countries, as well as transnational and thematic issues. Working there I had long kept an eye on Iraq as a source of asylum seekers to Australia but, in 2002, as a former army lieutenant colonel, I was ordered to turn my mind to the impending war.”

Prime Minister John Howard suggested – with feigned generosity – that Wilkie was ‘irrational’ – from such a mouth, a charitable word for ‘mad’. ‘Idealist’ – in pub language.

Recently Wilkie clarified his views as follows: “Until the politicians who dishonestly got us into this mess are held to account we are bound to repeat their mistakes.

This is also why I remain outspoken about the need for the Australian Parliament in future to decide when we go to war, so long of course as time permits for such consideration.

This is already the case in most other developed nations, including the US, UK, France and Germany.

The Chilcot Inquiry … helps to prove that Australia’s joining in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and subsequent combat involvement in that country, is our nation’s biggest ever foreign and security blunder.

Sometimes my critics say I should not dwell on these matters, but national and global issues are exactly what the Australian Parliament is responsible for. [Emphasis added]. National security policy is, after all, as much about putting limits on the exercise of power as it is about the unrestrained exercise of such power. There are questions to be addressed about the politicisation of the nation’s security services.”

Wilkie gave an example:

“For instance the Australian Federal Police still refuses to resolve the 2003 leak to Herald Sun journalist Andrew Bolt of the report I prepared in 2002 about the possible consequences of going to war in Iraq. This ham-fisted bid by the Government to discredit me appears to be a serious criminal matter because the assessment was classified Top Secret Codeword, which means that some of the information it contained, and some of the sources of intelligence it relied upon, were especially sensitive. [Emphasis added].

Unauthorised disclosure and publication of classified material are issues covered under the Crimes Act.

The [Chilcot Inquiry] also adds weight to the argument that John Howard and others should front an international tribunal where they could respond to war crimes accusations. And the inquiry vindicates the millions of people who marched in protest against the impending war in February 2003, including here in Hobart.”

It is hard to say whether these are popular views. The press is in the hands of two cartels – one quite larger than the other, and that is Murdoch’s stable. It is there that the opinion was authoritatively expressed, on the onset of the invasion, that “As we approach war with Iraq, it’s becoming obvious that George W. Bush is really a modern Winston Churchill.”

This apparently sycophantic folly could find comfort in the already mentioned article by Professor Phillip Sands, QC ‘A very British deceit.’ Writing in August 2010, when the Chilcot Committee had already been well on its work, and when expectations were not great, cynics might have considered the possibility that the Committee would produce the fifth in a series of British whitewash reports relating to the war. Three inquiries had already dealt with secret intelligence and one with the ‘suicide’ of Dr. David Kelly, an Iraq weapons inspector.

So Professor Sands wrote: “The carefully chosen composition of the five-members panel did not lead to a quickening of public interest. One member, the historian Sir Martin Gilbert, had previously suggested that Tony Blair and George W. Bush might eventually bear comparison with Winston Churchill and FDR.”

It is a case of ubi maior, minor cessat, where the weak gives way to the strong. (minor) capitulates before the strong (major).

One wonders how such music sounded to the uneducated ear of John Winston Howard.

Not much can be read in the Chilcot Report about Howard’s character. Obviously he had an opportunity to counsel both Bush and Blair on several occasions. What he might have said to a simpleton like Bush earned him the moniker of a ‘man of steel.’ The Texan might not have cared much for unctuosity, and not much of that might have been offered by the cunning patsy from Down Under, who undoubtedly has more respect for the gobsmacking atmosphere of St. James Palace. Howard might have preferred the description as a ‘tough guy’ offered by Blair’s spin doctor.

In the end Blair expressed some degree of regret. Nothing of the sort came from Howard. He just resorted to the demeaning tactic of blaming the unintelligent intelligence.

In the end, it is possible to conclude that three reckless adventurers resolved to invade a debilitated Iraq because they thought it would be easy.

If Blair’s capacity to believe what suited him seems boundless, Howard’s use of his position was even more cynical.

On 4 February 2003 Howard told Parliament: “The Australian Government knows that Iraq still has chemical and biological weapons and that Iraq wants to develop nuclear weapons.” He also said: “Iraq continues to work on developing nuclear weapons-uranium has been sought from Africa that has no civil nuclear application in Iraq; . . .”

It was left to his Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer to write in The Sydney Morning Herald of 18 June 2003 that “. . . an intelligence claim about Iraq’s effort to acquire uranium from Africa proved to be erroneous”. Howard had made the claim.

On 9 February 2003, asked by a journalist in Washington whether in his talks “tomorrow, especially at the Pentagon, do you expect to lock in a possible role for Australia if, further down the track we do decide to join a coalition of the willing ?” Howard hesitated a moment and then replied: “Look, there have been contingency discussions going on between the American and the Australian military and it’s always important in these situations to leave those sorts of things to the militaries of the two countries”.

Telling the truth was left to President Bush, the following day 10 February 2003, in the Oval Office and in the presence of Howard. In reply to a journalist: “Could you tell us whether you count Australia as part of the coalition of the willing?”, Bush said: “Yes, I do”.

Six days before Howard had told Parliament that the government had not and would not make a final decision to commit to war “unless and until it is satisfied that all achievable options for a peaceful resolution have been explored.” By that time Australian troops had already been deployed to the Middle East.

Out of Parliament, Howard returned to the matter of the invasion on two occasions: the already mentioned lecture at the Lowy Institute of Sydney on 9 April 2013: ‘Iraq 2003: a retrospective’ on the tenth anniversary of the aggression, and an interview with Tony Jones of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on 7 July 2016.

To give him a credit he does not deserve, Howard could be placed with the restored Bourbons. This morose class had ‘learned nothing and forgotten nothing’ – as Talleyrand observed. Though the Talleyrand quote may proffer a reason for their repeating mistakes of the past over and over, in this case a more accurate reference is to Einstein’s definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.

Some points from the Lowy lecture bear re-examination: “My Government never saw the obtaining of a fresh [Security Council] resolution as a necessary legal pre-requisite to action the removal of Saddam. It was always our view that Resolution 678, dating back to 1990 provided sufficient legal grounds for the action ultimately taken. That was reflected in the formal legal advice tendered to the Government, and subsequently tabled in Parliament.[8]”

Footnote [8] refers to the ‘Memorandum of advice to the Commonwealth Government on the use of force against Iraq, tabled by the Prime Minister in the House of Representatives, 18 March 2003, which had been prepared by the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department and DFAT, 12 March 2003. [Emphasis added].

Not quite so! The ‘advice’ – not even a legal opinion – was signed by two middle level public servants. And it can be said that by 2003 not many had survived of the type of ‘public servants’ who by accepted definition used to advise ‘without fear or favour’. Almost all had been ‘privatised’ in the new climate of neo-conservatism.

Whether by accident or design, the two signatories of the ‘advice’ had ignored Art. 2 (3) and (4) of the United Nations Charter. They had made no reference to the fact that all fourteen members of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office legal team had advised the Blair government that Iraq could not be attacked without a specific authorisation from the Security Council, because no such authorisation could be subsumed in Resolution 1441.

The two signatories had not related the whole story of Lord Goldsmith, QC’s constant view for two years up to 7 March 2003. What Lord Goldsmith, QC was writing might have not been what Blair wanted to read. And this is, presumably, why Lord Goldsmith, QC was sent to Washington to hear Bush’s legal advisers. And, on return, to use only 337 words to change his mind and invent the ‘revival’ in 2003 of Resolution 678 which dealt with ceasefire after the first Iraq war.

In the lecture Howard said:

“The Clinton administration thought that 678 gave blanket legal coverage for all the military action it took to enforce the terms of that resolution.”

That might have been so, but in 1998 ! And, anyway, by that time President Clinton was already under pressure from Cheney’s oilmen and the strategists of the Project for the New American Century.

Howard went on:

“Another criticism was that joining the Americans and the British in Iraq would permanently damage us in the eyes of the Muslim world, and in particular Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country of all.” Well, is that not true?

“In Australia, there was a parliamentary inquiry, as well as the Flood Inquiry which canvassed the pre-war intelligence. In its submission to the former, “ONA said in a report of 31 January 2003 that there is a wealth of intelligence on Saddam’s WMDs activities, but it paints a circumstantial picture that is conclusive overall rather than resting on a single piece of irrefutable evidence.” [Footnote [10] Commonwealth of Australia (2003), Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIO, ASIS and DSD].

The Defence Intelligence Organisation said in its submission to the same inquiry “Iraq probably retained a WMD capability – even if that capability had been degraded over time. DIO also assessed that Iraq maintained both an intent and capability to recommence a wider program should circumstances permit it to do so”. [Footnote [11] Ibid.].

The Flood Inquiry found “no evidence of politicisation of the assessments on Iraq either overt or perceived” or that “any analyst or manager was the subject of either direct or implied pressure to come to a particular judgement on Iraq for policy reasons or to bolster the case for war.” [Footnote [12] Flood, Phillip (2004), “Inquiry into Australia’s Intelligence Agencies”, p 28].

Flood further said that “assessments reflected reasonably the available evidence and used intelligence sources with appropriate caution.” Flood said that the obverse conclusion that Iraq had no WMDs “would have been a much more difficult conclusion to substantiate.” [Footnote [13] Ibid.].

Neither inquiry gave a skerrick of support to the proposition that members of my Government had manufactured convenient intelligence or strong-armed the agencies into saying things they did not believe.”

There is no evidence that government had manufactured the intelligence or abused the intelligence officers, but an inquiry would establish that most definitively.

Then Howard said:

“Although the legal justification for the action taken against Iraq was based on her cumulative non-compliance with UN Security Council resolutions, and a properly grounded belief that Saddam possessed WMDs, a powerful element in our decision to join the Americans was, of course, the depth and character of our relationship with the US. Australia had invoked ANZUS in the days following 9/11. We had readily joined the Coalition in Afghanistan; Australia had suffered the brutality of Islamic terrorism in Bali. There was a sense then that a common way of life was under threat.” The words in Italics just demonstrate the many assumptions, generalisations, myths and mis-truths which cannot seriously explain a decision to commit to war.

Towards the end, Howard declared his attitude not to the United States but to the Bush Administration: “At that time, and in those circumstances, and given our shared history and values, I judged that, ultimately, it was in our national interest to stand beside the Americans.

There were many who argued that we should stay out; we should say “no” to the Americans for a change; that the true measure of a good friend was a willingness to disagree when the circumstances called for it, and that in the case of Iraq we would hurt our country by backing the United States, and that in the long run declining to participate in the Coalition of the willing would be good for the alliance. That argument escaped me then, and it still does. In my view the circumstances we recall tonight necessitated a 100 per cent ally, not a 70 or 80 per cent one, particularly as no compelling national interest beckoned us in the opposite direction.”

Continuing and concluding tomorrow: Australia’s involvement in Iraq (continued)

GeorgeVenturiniDr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini – ‘George’ devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975, invited by Attorney-General Lionel Keith Murphy, Q.C., he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra – to serve the Whitlam Government. In time he witnessed the administration of a law of prohibition as a law of abuse, and documented it in Malpractice, antitrust as an Australian poshlost (Sydney 1980). He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.

⬅️ Part 39

2016: the Top 5

A good indication that 2017 has started off as our busiest yet is that we are a few days late in publishing our annual Top 5 posts of the previous year.

We apologise for this tardiness, but we certainly have been busy!

In previous years Tony Abbott has always found a spot in the Top 5, but in 2016 it appeared that Tony was no longer newsworthy. In his place stepped ‘ordinary’ people. Oh, and a bloke called Donald Trump.

Anyway, what were The AIMN’s five most popular posts in 2016?

(The Top 5 is based on the number of views only. It does not take into account the number of comments or the post’s popularity with other online media sites such as Facebook or Twitter).

Number One . . . Is everybody happy now?, by The AIM Network.


By now everybody in Australia knows who Duncan Storrar is. Until a week ago he was just an Australian battler who had faced more challenges in his life than most … until he asked a simple question on the ABC’s QandA program. A question that could have been asked by one of a million people, but it was he who had the guts to ask it, and it threw him headlong into the national spotlight.

He has been lauded as a hero of millions for doing so, but sadly, he has also been punished mercilessly. Mercilessly by a media giant who considers that it is themselves who decide how the Australian public will think and decide on what opinions they will hold. The LNP narrative was supposed to be “average” Australians get tax cuts, “small” business get tax cuts and that it’s Mr and Ms Average who hold multiple negatively geared properties. And if you don’t fit into how the Libs want “average” perceived, then you are a leaner, a no-hoper, a sponge on the public purse. Mr Storrar gave us all a reminder of what “average” in Australia is likely to be – a struggler who has to scrape to find enough money to take his daughters to the pictures, not someone who has a negatively geared property tucked away for their 1 year old baby.

And then something even worse happened (as far as the Murdoch media was concerned), the public rallied in support of Mr Storrar. Rip him up and tear him down as he has destroyed the narrative.

And the media attacks on Duncan have been appalling. We’ve all seen it. How could you not have?

Number Two . . . James Mathison takes it up to Andrew Bolt, by The AIM Network.


Last week Andrew Bolt interviewed James Mathison – an independent candidate for the seat of Warringah which is currently held by Tony Abbott.

Because nobody watches Andrew Bolt the interview slipped under the radar, and we may never have known it ever existed if not for one of our readers stumbling across it on Facebook.

It may be the only interview you’ll ever watch in which Andrew Bolt takes part.

And it is definitely worth watching.

… he displays a few qualities at least that most of our politicians don’t possess when tackled by the media: he knew what he was talking about (in both policy and facts) and his answers weren’t a jumble of waffle. And best of all . . . he served it back to Andrew Bolt.

Number Three . . . The Weasel’s incomplete guide to the 2016 Senate, by The Weasel.


Who exactly are all these jokers? And how am I supposed to figure out who they are among all the acronyms?  The Weasel provides a quick run-down of the players in multiple electorates…

The Senate
There are 76 senators; 12 from each state and two each from the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.

While the House of Representatives is where policy is tabled, The Senate is where is gets checked off and approved.  Senators have a longer term at six years, and can have a large effect on what policy gets passed.  This is why so many smaller parties aim for Senate seats.  Be careful of what parties call themselves; almost all the parties with ‘liberal’ or ‘democratic’ in their name are generally neither.

Number Four . . . Let them eat toast, by Jennifer Wilson.


By now, you’ve probably all heard the tale of Duncan Storrar, the man on $20,000 a year who asked assistant treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer on QandA why people much wealthier than him are getting tax breaks and he isn’t …

Let us not pay attention to the entirely legitimate question Duncan asked, a question many millions of us would dearly love to have answered by Treasurer Scott Morrison or, if we have no other choice, Kelly (let them eat toast) O’Dwyer. Let us instead go through the questioner’s trash cans in a mammoth effort to discredit and invalidate the perfectly legitimate question he is perfectly entitled to ask from his seat in the QandA audience upon which he is entirely entitled to settle his bum, even if he only earns $20,000 a year, because last time I looked, asking questions didn’t have a means test attached to it.

Number Five . . . Dear America, please don’t make Donald Trump your president, by Roswell.

Despite (just) being Number 5 for 2016 this post could arguably be considered among The AIMN’s most popular posts of all time. After it was published on The AIMN it was picked up by a couple of American sites where on one of which, we were told by the owners, it received 330,000 views in its first two hours.


Dangerous, powerful men – supported by an obliging media – can easily change any nation. If they can change an easy going, laid back nation like Australia one can only shudder what they might do to a nation that has been on edge since the terrible events of 9/11.

You’ve been lucky not having a leader anything like Abbott: One that has made us frightened of shadows; of having us fear anyone with a long beard, a tanned skin, or a different religion. Of making us afraid that these people, at best, will take our jobs and security. At worst, slit our throats.

He turned us into a nation of nervous, frightened, angry vigilantes. Vigilantes who have set fire to homes belonging to people who speak Arabic; who threatened to kill people just because their skin was dark; who wanted people expelled from this country simply because they spoke a different language; who assaulted people in the streets because they wore a scarf around their head. No questions asked. Anyone who looked ‘different’ was a threat to our national security and had to be dealt with. Attacks on these people have become more daring, more devastating, and more frequent as each week passes.

It hasn’t helped us or ‘saved’ us one little bit, because to put it simply, the threat wasn’t there in the first place. If anything, payback might be on the horizon. Or worse still, blowback.

All great articles, but we could happily add another 500 to the list from all of our authors.


Bush, Blair and Howard – Three reckless adventurers in Iraq (Part 39)

The Iraq Inquiry Report (2009-2016) documents how Tony Blair committed Great Britain to war early in 2002, lying to the United Nations, to Parliament, and to the British people, in order to follow George Bush, who had planned an aggression on Iraq well before September 2001.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard conspired with both reckless adventurers, purported ‘to advise’ both buccaneers, sent troops to Iraq before the war started, then lied to Parliament and to the Australian people. He continues to do so.

Should he and his cabal be charged with war crimes? This, and more, is investigated by Dr George Venturini in this outstanding series.

Australia’s involvement in Iraq (continued)

Five years ago Dr. Jenny Grounds and Dr. Sue Wareham made a heartfelt appeal for an inquiry. They were writing on behalf of the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (Australia), of which they were president and vice-president, respectively. They concluded: “If we are to learn anything from this disaster, we must establish how it unfolded and the role, if any, played by the ample warnings that accurately predicted its full horror.” They advocated for nuclear disarmament and peace, condemned the war, and advocated for an inquiry on Australian intervention in Iraq.

A ‘real Australian’ might have shouted: ‘Do-gooders’!

At about the same time, Dr. Alison Broinowski, who had already written extensively against the war, that she branded a humanitarian, legal, political and strategic disaster, edited a booklet promoting a call for an Australian inquiry, and succeeded in gathering around herself a solid group of specialists in the subject.

The reaction might have been one more shout: ‘Intellectual’!

Professor Ben Saul, an international law expert at the University of Sydney, had long called for a wide-ranging inquiry along the lines of the Chilcot Inquiry. He renewed his request in 2012.

Observing that, [t]he contrast to Britain’s collective soul-searching could not be more stark than in Australia.” he melancholically concluded: “Here, the Iraq war has long been forgotten. Since the withdrawal of Australian troops, there is an unspoken bipartisan agreement to bury the inconvenient past. There are no calls for an inquiry. [Emphasis added].

As one Australian journalist said to me, Iraq is no longer a story.

But, “Political amnesia is not good for our democracy or the rule of law. Australia should follow Britain’s lead in establishing a broad inquiry into Australia’s invasion of Iraq. Democracies bear a special duty to uphold the international rule of law, to lead by example in a world where our best defence against security threats is to strengthen – not tear down – the multilateral system. Repressive countries are already doing enough to weaken the UN and international law.

An Australian inquiry should examine the decision-making that led us to war, including the intelligence assessments, political and strategic calculations, and legal arguments. A particular focus should be whether any Australian government officials committed the international crime of aggression – that is, waging an illegal war against peace. It may be recalled that after the Nuremberg trials, we executed Nazi war leaders for the crime of aggression.

An inquiry is also an opportunity to look forward, to improve our decision-making about future wars. For instance, when waging war is an executive prerogative as in Australia, with no role for Parliament, there is precious little to hold back a government bent on the war path. This can be our salvation when the nation is faced by a supreme emergency threatening its shores.

In the long sweep of history, I have no doubt that our children will scratch their heads and wonder why we attacked Iraq. They may well be puzzled about why there was no reckoning for those who took us there, and no justice for the innocent dead. I hope it gives them pause before mounting their own cavalier escapades to smash foreign governments and kill their peoples.”

This was just too much for indifferent Australians. And the cry went up: ‘Academic’!

‘Do-gooders, intellectual, academic’ are common terms of abuse by a populace which prefers to be ‘comfortable and relaxed’ as a ‘practical’ pettifogger offered and largely delivered for eleven years.

An item of news arrived, to disturb such indifference, on 11 July 2016, a few days after the release of the Chilcot Report: a new group – Chilcot Oz – had formed in South Australia during the weekend to advocate for a full inquiry into Australia’s involvement in the Iraq war. Responsible for the initiative were the ‘usual group of university students’, no doubt assisted by ‘the usual suspects’.

In the wake of the Iraq Inquiry Report, Paul McGough – one of the last reflecting journalists to be read in Australia – wrote a piece on the Chilcot Report: The mind-boggling incompetence of Bush, Blair and Howard laid bare. It is not the kind of performance one has become accustomed from the choirboys of the Murdoch’s stable.

“The three buccaneers” he said, “took leave of their senses in invading Iraq – George W. Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard”.

Well, no sudden action or reaction there: a long, premeditated connivance and the servile, unquestioning friendship with George Bush could most likely better describe the process.

First, Bush. “An ignorant person”, soberly but precisely and with the brevity which belongs to a final sentence impossible of appeal, said Thomas Buergenthal, a former judge at the International Court of Justice and now Lobingier Professor of Comparative Law and Jurisprudence at The George Washington University Law School. He specified: “[Bush is] an ignorant person who wanted to show his mother he could do things his father couldn’t.” He also thought that Vice President Dick Cheney should – and eventually would – stand trial for war crimes. Judge Buergenthal fingered Dick Cheney and his Task Force. The Energy Task Force – officially the National Energy Policy Development Group – had been set up by President Bush in 2001, during his second week in office, and Dick Cheney had been named chairman. The Force’s stated objective was “to develop a national energy policy designed to help the private sector, and, as necessary and appropriate.” State and local governments would be called to promote dependable, affordable, and environmentally sound production and distribution of energy for the future. One can envision Cheney with all his maps, redrawing the borders of Middle Eastern countries, dividing up Iraq’s oil riches among ‘western’ oil companies. It is possible to see how that was one motive – perhaps the motive – for waging an unjustified and illegal war of aggression. Saddam Hussein’s decision to trade oil in other than American dollars was also a crucial factor. Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz had long time before joined in a camarilla which had established the think-tank Project for the New American Century. In 1997, in that combine, they wrote an open letter to President Bill Clinton calling for regime change in Iraq. Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were three of the ten out of twenty five original founders of the Project who went on to serve in the G. W. Bush Administration. On the other side of the Atlantic, the just elected British Prime Minister Tony Blair, was comfortable with a longstanding policy of containment, which was considered successful. Hussein was vile, but international sanctions had crippled him. The C.I.A. agreed.

One will recall the famous love declaration that Bush received from Blair on 28 July 2002, when the decision to go to war was more than a year old, as far as Bush is concerned, and no less than several months as far as Blair’s position.

Blair was offering: “I will be with you, whatever.” hoping, perhaps, for a favourite place at the decision table. It was a “mawkish opening line [which] reveals a man more smitten by power and the lure of a yes-man man role at Washington’s table than any European confabs.” As The Age editorialised on 8 July 2016, “This was sycophancy and stupidity, a betrayal of Britain’s true national interest”. Bush rewarded such lover’s loyalty by treating it with contempt: the English were given no role in the Coalition Provisional Authority which initially ran post-invasion Iraq.   Blair became no more than a ‘Washington’s poodle.’ In the end, Bush-the-vulgarian showed what he believed of Blair: that he had no cojones. Here comes Dubya Bush the polyglot!

President Bush’s response to the release of the Chilcot Report went no further than having declared by a spokesperson that “the President continues to believe the whole world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.”

How is it, one might well ask, that the United States, a nation which according to George W. Bush “has always been guided by a moral compass,” has not conducted its own Iraq inquiry? While there is plenty of evidence which shows Bush’s dominant position among the reckless adventurers, one should return to the so-called Manning Memo detailing a two-hour meeting between Bush and Blair on 31 January 2003. That memorandum makes clear that Bush intended to invade Iraq regardless of whether weapons of mass destruction were found, and set the date – 10 March – “to begin the bombing.” Even more damning is the revelation of his plan to provoke Saddam Hussein into initiating conflict by disguising a United States surveillance plane as belonging to the United Nations in hopes that the Iraqi leader would shoot it down. Similar adventure had been entered into before: the Gulf of Tonkin incident. The memorandum shows Bush also entertained the possibility of an outright assassination. That, too, had been done before: Mosaddegh.

Amongst the papers collected by the Chilcot Inquiry there is a 1 October 2001 memorandum to Bush which confirms Blair’s knowledge of a pending U.S. invasion of Iraq. Blair assures Bush that while “we need to deal with Saddam … I am sure we can devise a strategy for [him to be] deliverable at a later date.” Two months and three days later, in another memorandum, Bush is told by Blair that “any link to 11 September and [Al Qaeda] is at best very tenuous … so we need a strategy for regime change that builds over time.” To ‘soften-up’ Iraq, Blair counsels Bush: “we should mount covert operations.” Blair was apparently unaware that the C.I.A. had convened a “covert Iraqi Operations Group” a month before the 9/11 attack.

An imbecile like Bush did not need Blair’s flair to device how to solve a ‘problem like Saddam Hussein.’

As Dr. Broinowski noted, “The peculiar personality of Blair, the Catholic convert, who surprised a U.S. authority on Saddam Hussein by asking “Isn’t he evil ?” hovers over Chilcot’s report. Hidden from view is his friend George W. Bush, whose replies to Blair’s 29 personal notes in the months before the war were not released for publication by Washington.”

Caroline Patricia Lucas, the first Green member of Parliament and now co-leader of that party spoke for many in the United Kingdom when she said that Tony Blair is a ‘war criminal’ and he should be punished because he took the United Kingdom into an illegal conflict. Ms. Lucas said that everything in the Chilcot Report implies that Iraq ‘was an illegal war’ and said the former prime minister must now be held to account.

On the same day Blair was apologising, with grovelling voice, for the mistakes in the planning and process of the war, but he stood by the key decision to invade.  Blair insisted he had never lied, imploring: “Please stop saying I was lying, or I had some kind of dishonest or underhand motive”.

Addressing protesters in Westminster after the findings were published online, Ms. Lucas said: “It confirms that Tony Blair lied when he took this country to war on a false prospectus.

It lays bare for us to see that he made commitments to George Bush six months before he stood up in Parliament saying Saddam Hussein could still avoid war.

That was not true and we will hold him to account.

  • He lied by setting standards for the weapons inspectors which he knew would be impossible for those weapons inspectors to meet.
  • He lied by pulling those weapons inspectors out of Iraq before he knew they had been able to finish the job that had been set for them.
  • He lied when he said the threat from Weapons of Mass Destruction was growing when he knew they was no evidence to make that case.

We have been right to be holding Blair to account.”

Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Paul Philip Flynn said that the Iraq Inquiry Report amounted to an ‘utter condemnation’ of Blair’s terrible decision to commit British troops to the U.S.-led invasion. Perhaps, there was no desire to go beyond those words: the Conservatives en masse, and a large number of the Labour members had voted for the war.

Labour had been hopelessly divided. Against the government motion for war, 139 Labour MPs submitted an amendment saying there was no moral case for war against Iraq and voted against the government’s line. Fifteen Tory MPs also defied their leadership by voting against the government’s policy.

All 53 Liberal Democrat MPs voted against the government – in line with their leadership. The final result had been: for 412 MPs, against 149, with a majority of 263.

On the release of the Report the former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron said that, given its importance, he would make provision for two full days of debate the following week.

Early in July 2016 there were rumours, even plans, of a cross-party group of MPs putting a resolution to Parliament holding Blair in contempt for his conduct in the run-up to the war.

Dusting off an old procedure for ‘impeachment’ – used the last time in 1806 – Blair could be prosecuted; alternatively, a provision dating back to the nineteenth century could have been activated charging Blair for ‘misconduct in public office.’

Two weeks later the vast majority of the 650 MPs responded with a big “So what ?” as they absented themselves from the debate. On the first day only 40 to 50 MPs bothered to show up, with sometimes as few as 15 or 20 MPs present for the second day. In the course of the entire two days only about 50 MPs spoke.

Not until the end of the second day the front bench members of both parties were even obliged to speak in order to make ‘wind-up speeches.’ Neither the new Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May nor the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn participated. The media took the same approach. No national newspaper, including The Guardian, produced a full report of the two-day debate. With the exceptions of MPs from the Scottish National Party and a few others, who made vague calls for Blair to be called to account, the debate consisted largely of MPs defending the actions of the Labour government and the Tory opposition, who had supported them in voting for war.

When 81-year-old Labour MP Paul Flynn spoke in the Business of the House session which preceded day two, he said: “Chilcot has given its verdict. It is a thunderous verdict of guilty not just for one man but for this House, the previous Government, the Opposition and three Select Committees. We are guilty, and are judged guilty, of commanding our valiant troops to fight a vain, avoidable war…”

In response, other Labour MPs present walked out in protest.

* * * * *

The major points of the Iraq Inquiry Report place a heavy responsibility on Blair as prime minister:

  • Blair wrote to Bush in July 2002: “I will be with you, whatever.”
  • Blair ‘overestimated’ his ability to influence American decisions.
  • Throughout the Report there is a devastating criticism of Blair’s personal position which sidelined the Cabinet.
  • The US.-U.K. special relationship ‘does not require unconditional support where [British] interests or judgements differ.’
  • Blair ignored warnings that going to war could heighten the risk of terror attacks on the United Kingdom.
  • The possible consequences of the invasion were ‘under-estimated.’ Planning for after Saddam’s overthrow was ‘wholly inadequate.’
  • No special ‘hindsight’ was required to have identified the risks of regional instability.
  • The policy on Iraq was made on the basis of ‘flawed intelligence and assessments.’
  • The ‘intelligence’ might have based a key claim about Iraq’s chemical weapons capability on the Hollywood film The rock.
  • No proof was found that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction: a dossier to the contrary was presented ‘with a certainty which was not justified.’
  • Saddam Hussein posed ‘no imminent threat’ at the time of the invasion.
  • Blair repeatedly misled the Parliament and the media about the threat of the weapons of mass destruction he claimed Saddam Hussein had.
  • Blair publicly distorted the advice he was given in order to make the case for war.
  • The Attorney General Lord Goldsmith’s decision that there was a legal basis for invasion, having spoken and written for two years that intervention would have been illegal, was taken in a way which was ‘far from satisfactory.’
  • The United Kingdom’s decision to act without gaining a second U.N. Resolution ‘undermined the Security Council’s authority.’
  • The invasion of Iraq was not a ‘last resort’ and Blair chose military action before ‘peaceful options had been exhausted.’
  • Soldiers had shoddy equipment and poorly-protected patrol vehicles.
  • The Ministry of Defence was slow to respond to threat of improvised explosive devices.
  • British troops were reduced to doing deals with local militias to stop targeting them.

Chilton said that his Report ‘is an account of an intervention which went badly wrong, with consequences to this day.’

It is absolutely astonishing that, on his resignation from Parliament, Blair should be appointed as Special Envoy by the Quartet on the Middle East – made up of the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia – albeit if only involved in mediating the peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He held that office until 27 May 2015. He now runs a consultancy business and has set up various foundations in his own name, including the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.

Tomorrow: Australia’s involvement in Iraq (continued)

GeorgeVenturiniDr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini – ‘George’ devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975, invited by Attorney-General Lionel Keith Murphy, Q.C., he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra – to serve the Whitlam Government. In time he witnessed the administration of a law of prohibition as a law of abuse, and documented it in Malpractice, antitrust as an Australian poshlost (Sydney 1980). He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.

⬅️ Part 38

➡️ Part 40

Bush, Blair and Howard – Three reckless adventurers in Iraq (Part 38)

The Iraq Inquiry Report (2009-2016) documents how Tony Blair committed Great Britain to war early in 2002, lying to the United Nations, to Parliament, and to the British people, in order to follow George Bush, who had planned an aggression on Iraq well before September 2001.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard conspired with both reckless adventurers, purported ‘to advise’ both buccaneers, sent troops to Iraq before the war started, then lied to Parliament and to the Australian people. He continues to do so.

Should he and his cabal be charged with war crimes? This, and more, is investigated by Dr George Venturini in this outstanding series.

Australia’s involvement in Iraq (continued)

Part Two of the Draft Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind prepared by the International Law Commission in 1996 contains the following:

Article 16. Crime of aggression

“An individual who, as leader or organizer, actively participates in or orders the planning, preparation, initiation or waging of aggression committed by a State shall be responsible for a crime of aggression.”

The following notes attached to the Commentary are of assistance. “(1) The characterization of aggression as a crime against the peace and security of mankind contained in article 16 of the Code is drawn from the relevant provision of the Charter of the Nürnberg Tribunal as interpreted and applied by the Nürnberg Tribunal. Article 16 addresses several important aspects of the crime of aggression for the purpose of individual criminal responsibility. The phrase “An individual … shall be responsible for a crime of aggression” is used to indicate that the scope of the article is limited to the crime of aggression for the purpose of individual criminal responsibility. Thus, the article does not address the question of the definition of aggression by a State which is beyond the scope of the Code.

(2) The perpetrators of an act of aggression are to be found only in the categories of individuals who have the necessary authority or power to be in a position potentially to play a decisive role in committing aggression. These are the individuals whom article 16 designates as “leaders” or “organizers”, an expression that was taken from the Charter of the Nurnberg Tribunal. These terms must be understood in the broad sense, that is to say, as referring, in addition to the members of a Government, to persons occupying high-level posts in the military, the diplomatic corps, political parties and industry, as recognized by the Nürnberg Tribunal, which stated that: “Hitler could not make aggressive war by himself. He had to have the cooperation of statesmen, military leaders, diplomats and businessmen”. [Reference omitted].

(3) The mere material fact of participating in an act of aggression is, however, not enough to establish the guilt of a leader or organizer. Such participation must have been intentional and have taken place knowingly as part of a plan or policy of aggression. [Emphasis added]. In this connection, the Nürnberg Tribunal stated, in analysing the conduct of some of the accused, that:

When they, with knowledge of his aims, gave him their cooperation, they made themselves parties to the plan he had initiated. They are not to be deemed innocent because Hitler made use of them, if they knew what they were doing. [Reference omitted].

(4) Article 16 refers to “aggression committed by a State”. An individual, as leader or organizer, participates in that aggression. It is this participation that the article defines as a crime against the peace and security of mankind. In other words, it reaffirms the criminal responsibility of the participants in a crime of aggression. Individual responsibility for such a crime is intrinsically and inextricably linked to the commission of aggression by a State. [Emphasis added] The rule of international law which prohibits aggression applies to the conduct of a State in relation to another State. Therefore, only a State is capable of committing aggression by violating this rule of international law which prohibits such conduct. At the same time, a State is an abstract entity which is incapable of acting on its own. A State can commit aggression only with the active participation of the individuals who have the necessary authority or power to plan, prepare, initiate or wage aggression. [Emphasis added] The Nürnberg Tribunal clearly recognized the reality of the role of States and individuals in stating that:

Crimes against international law are committed by men, not by abstract entities, and only by punishing individuals who commit such crimes can the provisions of international law be enforced. [Reference omitted]. Thus, the violation by a State of the rule of international law prohibiting aggression gives rise to the criminal responsibility of the individuals who played a decisive role in planning, preparing, initiating or waging aggression. [Emphasis added]. The words “aggression committed by a State” clearly indicate that such a violation of the law by a State is a sine qua non condition for the possible attribution to an individual of responsibility for a crime of aggression. Nonetheless, the scope of the article is limited to participation in a crime of aggression for the purpose of individual criminal responsibility. It therefore does not relate to the rule of international law which prohibits aggression by a State.

(5) The action of a State entails individual responsibility for a crime of aggression only if the conduct of the State is a sufficiently serious violation of the prohibition contained in Article 2, paragraph 4, of the Charter of the United Nations. In this regard, the competent court may have to consider two closely related issues, namely, whether the conduct of the State constitutes a violation of Article 2, paragraph 4, of the Charter and whether such conduct constitutes a sufficiently serious violation of an international obligation to qualify as aggression entailing individual criminal responsibility. The Charter and the Judgment of the Nürnberg Tribunal are the main sources of authority with regard to individual criminal responsibility for acts of aggression.

(6) Several phases of aggression are listed in article 16. These are: the order to commit aggression, and, subsequently, the planning, preparation, initiation and waging of the resulting operations. These different phases are not watertight. Participation in a single phase of aggression is enough to give rise to criminal responsibility.

(Text adopted by the International Law Commission at its forty-eighth session, in 1996, and submitted to the General Assembly as a part of the Commission’s report covering the work of that session (at para. 50). The report, which also contains commentaries on the draft articles, appears in Yearbook of the International Law Commission, 1996, vol. II, Part Two. Copyright © United Nations 2005, Draft Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind).

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court lists the crime of aggression as one of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, and provides that the crime falls within the jurisdiction of the Court. The Rome Statute was signed by Australia on 9 December 1998, ratified on 1 July 2002, and came into force between 28 June and 26 September 2002, by operation of the International Criminal Court Act [No. 41 of] 2002 of the Parliament of Australia.

However, Article 5.2 of the Rome Statute states that “The Court shall exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression once a provision is adopted in accordance with articles 121 and 123 defining the crime and setting out the conditions under which the Court shall exercise jurisdiction with respect to this crime. Such a provision shall be consistent with the relevant provisions of the Charter of the United Nations”.

The Assembly of States Parties of the Rome Statute adopted the following definition at the Review Conference which took place from 31 May to 11 June 2010 in Kampala, Uganda.

Article.8 bis is now part of the Statute. It reads as follows:
  1. “For the purpose of this Statute, “crime of aggression” means the planning, preparation, initiation or execution, by a person in a position effectively to exercise control over or to direct the political or military action of a State, of an act of aggression which, by its character, gravity and scale, constitutes a manifest violation of the Charter of the United Nations.
  2. For the purpose of paragraph 1, “act of aggression” means the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations. Any of the following acts, regardless of a declaration of war, shall, in accordance with United Nations General Assembly resolution 3314 (XXIX) of 14 December 1974, qualify as an act of aggression:

(a) The invasion or attack by the armed forces of a State of the territory of another State, or any military occupation, however temporary, resulting from such invasion or attack, or any annexation by the use of force of the territory of another State or part thereof;

(b) Bombardment by the armed forces of a State against the territory of another State or the use of any weapons by a State against the territory of another State;

(c) The blockade of the ports or coasts of a State by the armed forces of another State;

(d) An attack by the armed forces of a State on the land, sea or air forces, or marine and air fleets of another State;

(e) The use of armed forces of one State which are within the territory of another State with the agreement of the receiving State, in contravention of the conditions provided for in the agreement or any extension of their presence in such territory beyond the termination of the agreement;

(f) The action of a State in allowing its territory, which it has placed at the disposal of another State, to be used by that other State for perpetrating an act of aggression against a third State;

(g) The sending by or on behalf of a State of armed bands, groups, irregulars or mercenaries, which carry out acts of armed force against another State of such gravity as to amount to the acts listed above, or its substantial involvement therein.”

The Court may exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression, however, the relative amendments to the Statute stipulate additional conditions. The amendments must have been ratified or accepted by at least thirty States Parties, and in addition States Parties must “activate” the Court’s jurisdiction through an additional decision to be taken on or after 1 January 2017 by a two thirds majority. On 26 June 2016 Palestine ratified the amendments to the Rome Statute on the crime of aggression.

By this ratification, Palestine deposited the thirtieth instrument which opened the possibility of giving jurisdiction to the International Criminal Court to try the crime of aggression.

Two points should be made:

1) the provision of Art. 8 bis cannot be enforced retroactively, and

2) more importantly, it is clear that the United Nations General Assembly resolution 3314 (XXIX) of 14 December 1974 is held in great consideration in defining an act of aggression.

The preceding information about the increased jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court is given for completeness.

In fact, by the International Criminal Court (Consequential Amendments) Act [No. 42 of] 2002, an Act to amend the Criminal Code Act 1995 and certain other Acts in consequence of the enactment of the International Criminal Court Act [No. 41 of] 2002, and for other purposes, the provisions of Arts. 6 – Genocide, 7 – Crimes against humanity, 8 – War crimes, of the Rome Statute have been ‘imported’ into the Australian Criminal Code 1995 by the addition to Chapter 8 on Offences against humanity and related offences of Division 268 – Genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes against the administration of the justice of the International Criminal Court.

The Division contains nine Subdivisions, from A to J.

There is a kind of ‘parallel jurisdiction’, if that is the proper expression. That was tested in at least one case, promoted by a small, activist Sydney organisation.

Conscious of the importance of exhausting the domestic jurisdiction, had it been necessary to go to the International Criminal Court, by respecting ad litteram Art. 17 of the Rome Statute, on 16 March 2012 the organisation submitted a complaint to the Australian Federal Police against former Prime Minister John Winston Howard, “for his decision to send Australian Forces to invade and wage war against Iraq”, and accusing him of violation of the provisions of Division 268, as ‘receiving’ Arts. 6, 7 and 8 of the Rome Statute. The complaint, supported by twenty six annexes, had been prepared by a distinguished Sydney Senior Counsel. On 3 May 2012 the A.F.P. communicated that “the information … supplied [did] not disclose an offence against Division 268”. Once re-examined by another Senior Counsel, and found already sufficiently well argued and documented, the complaint was submitted on 9 May 2013 to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, who on 18 June 2013 informed the complainant that he had “considered … [and decided] “not ]to] initiate a prosecution … based on the material [submitted] because the “material [was] not a brief of evidence, containing admissible evidence against Mr. Howard”.

On 3 September 2013 the complaint was e-mailed to the International Criminal Court and a hard copy left Sydney on 4 September 2013, by air mail letter registered, number RP007553525AU, with return receipt. The receipt was not returned. Attempts at communicating with the Information and Evidence Unit of the I.C.C. Office of the Prosecutor in The Hague produced no reply.

Of course, any renewed attempt to prosecute in Australia would require consent of the Attorney-General.

Others have been more successful with the Court: on 19 May 2014 a lady from Western Australia was able to lodge and have accepted for consideration by the Prosecutor a complaint against Prime Minister Abbott and some of his ministers responsible for the execrable ill-treatment of intended refugees who had arrived to Australia by boat to seek refuge, presumably under Art. 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, without satisfying the bureaucratic process. They have been languishing: men, women and children – some of them for more than three years – in some hellish places hired by Australia in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. The scandal has been known for years at the United Nations.

On 22 October 2014 Andrew Wilkie, the Independent Member of Parliament from Tasmania, assisted by a lawyer, wrote to the I.C.C. Prosecutor, inviting her to initiate a proprio motu an investigation of the activity of Prime Minister Abbott and all the nineteen members of his Cabinet, some assistant ministers and two generals involved at the ‘militarised’ border in the same ill-treatment of would be refugees-by-boat.

On 8 July 2015 the Refugee Action Collective of Victoria filed a communiqué for the Office of the  I.C.C. Prosecutor. It contains a notice of  intention to request the I.C.C. to investigate and act against the Prime Minister of Australia, the past and present Immigration and Border Protection ministers and the Attorney-General.

This submission charged violation of international law, of the 1951 U.N. Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and of Art. 7 of the I.C.C. Statute.

The submission also makes reference to Art. 14 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as proclaiming: “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution”. It points out how “The Australian government also ignores the standards of human rights as set in the Rome Statute, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child”.

The submission, clearly articulated along eleven points, and well documented, charges and, with a view to aiding the investigation and possible prosecution, relies heavily on the concept of judicial notice. Judicial Notice is defined by the Australian Law Reform Commission Report 102, February 2006, Section 144, as: “common knowledge [which] covers facts, both local and general knowledge, which are so widely recognized that requiring proof of them would be a superfluous exercise.” And further “while matters of common knowledge falling within s. 144 need not be proved formally, parties to a proceeding are not precluded from leading formal evidence of such matters”.

The complainants add for good measure that they “are aware that the [I.C.C.] has the choice of either a narrow or broad interpretation of the concept of judicial notice, and they urge the court to apply the latter, given that much of what is alleged is common knowledge in Australia and is much resented by both humane and expert opinions”.

Refugee Action Collective charged that the Australian governments have repeatedly brushed off a number of extremely damning reports – both domestic and international – which emphasise the brutality of the offshore detention system. These include: the 2015 ‘Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of punishment’, submitted to the U.N.’s Human Rights Council by Juan E. Méndez, the 2015 ‘Review into recent allegations relating to the conditions and circumstances at the Regional Processing Centre in Nauru’ – otherwise known as the ‘Moss Report’ – commissioned by former Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, and the 2014 report ‘Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention 2010’ by Professor Gillian Triggs, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission. Such reports have amply condemned the Australian Government for its cruel and unlawful detention of children, women and men who have committed no crime.

Tightly written and cogently argued, the submission is signed by a distinguished retired academic and countersigned by dozens of organisations.

It could not be ignored, and might – just might – proceed. Success can only be hoped, but habent sua sidera lites = disputes have their own stars.

Tomorrow: Australia’s involvement in Iraq (continued)

GeorgeVenturiniDr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini – ‘George’ devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975, invited by Attorney-General Lionel Keith Murphy, Q.C., he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra – to serve the Whitlam Government. In time he witnessed the administration of a law of prohibition as a law of abuse, and documented it in Malpractice, antitrust as an Australian poshlost (Sydney 1980). He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.

⬅️ Part 37

➡️ Part 39