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Tag Archives: Australia

Golan Heights – Questions on Australia’s role still unanswered

By Hungry Charley  

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s recent statement on a new role for Australian peacekeepers in the Golan Heights, where they would join an existing Fijian force already deployed by the UN was painted largely as boosting Australian – Fijian relations by the Government, while the scope of the Australian mission is still unclear.

The Prime Minister stated that Australians would be part of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights which has been operating since 1974 following escalation of Israeli-Syrian hostilities.

He indicated that Australian troops would be sent to ‘train and support’ the Fijian contingent deployed to Syria. The Fijians (194 in number) are already present in the Golan Heights, contributing significant numbers of peacekeepers since its first deployment in 2013.

Fiji has maintained its commitment in the Golan Heights despite around 50 deaths in the UNDOF over its mission history and an incident in which 45 Fijian peacekeepers were held hostage by militia in 2014.

UN documents released in September show the current positions of forces within the UNDOF deployment, including Fijian forces.

The announcement by the Prime Minister was given within the context of the Fiji–Australia Vuvale Partnership, signed by Morrison and Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama in September this year and the increasing interest in joint military cooperation since the announcement of Australia’s role in redeveloping the Black Rock training facility in Nandi.

Fijians embarking for Golan Heights mission (image from aspistrategist.org.au)

But despite the statements made by the Prime Minister, the size of the Australian force and its function remains unclear. There have been no media statements on this deployment by the United Nations Peacekeeping Force or any other information available from UN Information sources in Australia, despite being contacted a week ago. Similarly, there is no information forthcoming from the Australian Defence Force on the scope of the engagement, which itself is unusual, peacekeeping forces are not meant to be secret, the success of operations depends to a large extent on a high profile being maintained. Assertions that the increased Australian role will be supportive is also evidenced by the presence of an ADF officer who has been deployed since March this year with the UNDOF, presumably as an advisor, but again this is an assumption.

While deploying peacekeeping missions provides nations credit as being good international actors, the timing of the Australian participation is not consistent with Morrison’s critique of the UN in his speech earlier this month at the Lowy Institute and comments regarding ‘negative globalism’ he has recently given. Australia has been winding back its peacekeeping commitments over the years of the Coalition Government and in this sense, the mission announcement came as somewhat of a surprise.

Also, the Prime Minister’s words regarding the suitability of the mission due to a low level of risk to Australian forces does not reflect what has been happening on the ground over the last year. A UNDOF report from September this year shows that UN forces have been witness to substantial military actions between combatant forces, on both the Syrian and Israeli sides, as reported in the UNDOF September 2019 report:

“I am particularly concerned about the firing on 12 June of missiles across the ceasefire line by the Israel Defense Forces. Furthermore, I remain concerned by the continued presence of the Syrian armed forces in the area of separation. There should be no military forces in the area of separation other than those of UNDOF. The Israel Defense Forces should refrain from firing across the ceasefire line and crossing the ceasefire line. The continued presence of unauthorized weapons and equipment in the area of limitation on both the Alpha and Bravo sides is also of concern. These developments have the potential to jeopardize the Agreement.”

The area of ‘limitation’ is the area where military actions are forbidden under the UN mandate, though currently the UN only has access to 50% of the area of this area, according to the UN report. In fact the political situation in the Golan sites is much more unstable than it was a year ago, thanks in large part by Israel’s action to annex the Golan Heights in 1981 and ongoing Israeli occupation that was ratified by Trump in March this year. This is despite the area being claimed by the Syrian Government due to its location in relation to the 1967 truce line. So Israeli occupiers are technically in breach of UN resolutions on this matter.

The UN responded by declaring in March that its mission would not hindered by these political developments and that, “A majority of Security Council members on Wednesday stressed the importance of upholding international law regarding the occupied Golan , in the face of the unilateral move by the United States to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over them.” But according to UN reports Israeli forces have also been erecting barriers to movement in area of the ‘Qunaytirah crossing’, subjecting UN personnel to security checks and restricting access to the areas of ‘separation’ and ‘limitation’ in the north of the zone.

What is the Israeli/US interest in the Golans that has prompted Israeli occupation and such strong support from the US (and Australia) in violation of UN resolutions? The answer is partly settlement opportunities for Israel, but the other is oil. According to the Israeli operated Afek Oil and Gas there is ‘billions of barrels of Israeli oil’ under the ground. Except it is Syrian ground.

As reported in the Jerusalem Post, Afek has a permit to explore for conventional oil at up to 10 sites in a 39,500-hectare zone south of Katzrin (Qatsrin). This area lies within the Israeli area of control to the west of the de-militarised zone administered by UNDOF. The other key point here is that Afek is a wholly owned subsidiary of Genie Energy, a company with some by some powerful people on their strategic advisory board, Rupert Murdoch, Jacob Rothschild, former CIA Director James Woolsey and former Bush Secretary of State, Dick Cheney. Genie in turn is part of the larger parent company and many of the same owners IDT Corporation, an American tele-communications company and in their words, “… IDT’s Wholesale Carrier Services business is the largest independent carrier of voice traffic globally.”

Step in Newark lawyer and Genie Energy Acting President, Ira Greenstein. Greenstein was an official in the presidential transition team member for the incoming Trump administration. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner was also a member of this team and later became Trump’s “Middle East Envoy’. Greenstein was still Genie Energy’s acting President and according to the Millenium Report published in April this year, a breach of the conflict of interest rules for government employees in the US. Nonetheless Greenstein’s position on the transition team meant he had influence on government and UN appointments for the emerging Trump Administration and seems to have had influence over military actions Trump took against the Syrians following his election.

To give you an idea on the power of this conglomerate, Ira Greenstein has several corporate connections with Jared Kushner as well as within the pro-settlement organisation in Israel, Mosaic United, being the President and Treasurer of American Friends of Mosaic United in the US. Both Greenstein and Kushner have been involved with Israeli development of illegally settled areas on the West Bank, it seems now the Golan Heights is the next settlement front. Genie Energy is populated by strong pro-Israeli nationalists, such as the current President of Genie Oil And Gas, another subsidiary of Genie Energy, Efraim Eitam, who seems to be the one spearheading exploitation of resources in the Golan Heights and has strong relationships the within Israeli administration. He was a Brigadier General in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) Reserves and has previously called all Arabs in Israel a “cancer.”

Jared and Rupert – good friends

Rupert Murdoch is another key Genie Energy connection to the Trump administration, sharing a long-time and close friendship with Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump, as well as seemingly gaslighting Trump’s military actions against Syria. In fact Murdoch is on the record saying that Genie would help spur a “global, geopolitical paradigm shift.”

Genie Energy suspended exploratory drilling just prior to President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in March. As UN reports show there has been an increase in Israeli military activity in the Golan Heights perimeter, particularly after an Iranian drone allegedly entered “Israeli airspace.” Trump has also been to the Golan himself raising feelings of Israeli nationalism amongst settlers and politicians alike, declaring a new “Trump Heights’ settlement along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, all contrary to UN resolutions.

Given the tensions in the Golan Heights, Scott Morrison’s claims of the peacekeeping deployment being a low risk operation seems to be playing down the risks. In fact, given the recent politicking, it seems it has the potential to be a powder keg waiting to go off. A belligerent Israel with US support and an agitated Assad in Syria with increasing levels of Russian involvement due to Turkey’s recent intervention, do not add up to a stable situation for this part of the world.

Another key matter of interest is Morrison’s relationship with Trump and the Israeli administration, helped here in no short measure by ex-ambassador David Sharma. Morrison’s stance on Israel has generally been to follow the US position, herein lies the tension with the UN mission and why questions regarding our future involvement in the UNDOF need to be clarified.

It’s a shame Australia couldn’t show the same commitment to ensure the safety of Australian children and their mothers in northern Syria, not a priority it seems, but according to Morrison, neither is the peacekeeping mission.

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Beyond the ‘Palace Letters’ (part 1)

By Dr George Venturini  

Beyond the ‘Palace Letters’

Traveller would find a constant element through those three events: the Évian Conference, the Kimberley Plan, and the Dunera odyssey.

That element remains the indifference of the population, of the governments and of the institutions of Australia to ‘the Other’, not only the Jews – but anyone who was not British.

On 3 September 1939 Australia entered the second world war with Prime Minister Menzies making a declaration of a state of war in a national radio broadcast: “My fellow Australians. It is my melancholy duty to inform you, officially, that, in consequence of the persistence by Germany in her invasion of Poland, Great Britain has declared war upon her, and that, as a result, Australia is also at war.”

All of a sudden, thousands of Australian residents found themselves identified as potential threats to Australia’s national security. The war had triggered a mass fear of invasion of England by Germany and later on of Australia by Japan. Panic gripped the country that tens of thousands of Australian residents of German, Italian or Japanese origin – or simply name – might become saboteurs or spies.

Parliament enacted the National Security Act 1939.

Government regulations required ‘enemy aliens’ to register and limit their travel to between work and home and within a specified distance from the local post office. They had to obtain permission from the authorities to travel further or change residence.

The most dramatic response was the internment of many German, Italian and Japanese residents in camps – overseas and Australian-born, as well as naturalised British subjects. Australia interned some 7,000 residents, including nationals from over thirty other countries.

A further 8,000 people were sent to Australia to be interned after being detained overseas by Australia’s allies. At its peak in 1942 more than 12,000 people – mostly men, but some women and children – were interned in eighteen camps around southern Australia, including Cowra and Hay in New South Wales and Tatura in Victoria.

Australian authorities had established internment camps for three reasons – to prevent residents from assisting Australia’s enemies, to appease public opinion and to house overseas internees sent to Australia for the duration of the war.

Internees were usually separated from their families and tried to find ways to keep themselves occupied. In some cases they set up their own study classes, theatre groups and market gardens, and were issued ‘internment currency’ in order to purchase goods within the camp grounds. Many volunteered to work on Australian farms to help with the manpower shortage and some, later in the war, joined the Australian army. Most made the best of the situation, but it was a traumatic experience which left some internees permanently scarred.

Internment camps were administered by the army and run along military lines, affected by poor education, plagued by misconceptions and overcome by xenophobia – and most dangerous carriers of hate-bags.

The first camps were set up at the Enoggera (Gaythorne) and Liverpool military bases in Queensland and New South Wales and at the Dhurringile Mansion in Victoria.

As the numbers of internees grew, the early camps became too small. The Australian Government organised the construction of purpose-built camps at Cowra and Hay in New South Wales, Tatura in Victoria, Loveday in South Australia and  Harvey in Western Australia.

Life for the internees varied between the camps, particularly between those which were temporary camps and those which were purpose-built. The conditions also depended on the geographical location of the camp, its climate, the composition of the camp population and importantly, the personality of the officer in charge. (‘Wartime internment’, National Archives of Australia, and (‘Internment during World War II Australia’, Museums Victoria).

On 10 June 1940, when the Fascist Regime declared war on England and its allies, 5,000 person of Italian origin, provenance or simply name became overnight ‘enemy aliens’. Some 33,000 Italians were residing in Australia at the time. By 1940, around 40 per cent of members of the Italian community in Australia were naturalised and several thousand Australian-born. Fascism had grown very well in several states, particularly in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. It had been favoured by the likes of Premier  of Victoria, H.S.W. Lawson, Premier of New South Wales, Sir George W. Fuller and Prime Minister Robert Gordon Menzies, who had much admired Mussolini.

As late as 1939 Mussolini was still viewed in Australia and other English-speaking nations as a model of modern leadership. There was therefore some pride associated with being Fascist and Italian. Many migrants with no real understanding of politics joined the Fascist Party in a gesture of national pride. Those who had been forced to escape Mussolini’s Italy made a desperate attempt to draw attention to the looming threat of Fascism.

Fascist success in Australia had been aided by two Jesuits whom Il Duce had personally chosen for ‘mission’ in Australia the assistance by diplomats’ activity, the setting up of Fasci in several states, and the shared belief that Fascism cold be the only bulwark against Communism. The latter ‘conviction’ had aided Australian rulers and those who had been and were financially supporting in keeping a check on the activity of the unions.

A rough, inexperienced, militantly ignorant police found assistance in well positioned persons of Italian origin, many doctors, lawyers, teachers and officers whom less-educated Italians needed for everyday life. The history of Italian antifascism in Australia is full of names of such informers. Most of them saved their skin by carrying on this way. They joined in tormenting some poorchrist who had thought of coming all the way to Australia to escape from Fascist violence. They would encounter the ignorance and indifference of the police in several states. Some such refugees were herded off to local prisons to be fingerprinted, photographed and numbered. Camp authorities indifferently placed known Fascists and anti-Fascists together in the same barracks.

Internment often resulted in life-long, deep emotional scars, especially for the older men who had families. Many men lost their farms, homes or businesses, whilst other families struggled to survive under extreme conditions including acts of public hatred.

Some internees even lost their lives in Australia’s internment camps or the Civil Alien Corps under successive Australian governments of Menzies and Curtin. Others struggled in forced labour groups in the C.A.C. from 1943 to 1947. Without their breadwinner many families became destitute. Some of these impoverished women and children were even interned at the Tatura Camp in Victoria because they could not survive without an income.

In many military interrogations, Italian internees stated that they would willingly work in non-military essential services to support Australia on the home front, but would not fight. They were simply not fighting men. Most of them were not Fascist. In fact many of the Fascist Italians had succeeded in remaining free, in most cases because regarded with favour by Australians who had favoured and obsequiously visited Mussolini. They were devoted to what they considered ‘law and order’ as imposed by the Fascists in Italy.

Most of the Fascist Italians in Australia were left undisturbed. Similarly many Italians resident in Victoria who were neither pro or against the regime were able to continue to work in the community. To complicate matters, Italian families in Queensland were torn apart in 1942 when the Japanese attacked Darwin. Most of the almost 3,000 Italian cane cutters were sent to Loveday and Cowra internment camps. It was in Loveday that the Australian authorities had not cared to place together Fascist Italians and anti-Fascist Italians. The Loveday camp authorities rendered themselves complicit in the assassination of Francesco Fantin, a mild mannered Anarchist. He was killed by a Fascist thug under the indifferent eyes of the military guards. (M. Spizzica, When ethnicity counts: civilian internment in Australia during WW2’, theconversation.com, 20 September 2012 and V.G.Venturini, ‘Never give in – Three Italian antifascist exiles in Australia 1924-1956‘, Search Foundation, Sydney 2007).

By the end of the second world war the population of Australia was 7,400,000. The closeness of second world war being at Australian shores had a frightening effect upon Australia as a whole with its small population; people realised the need to grow – and quickly.

Therefore, migrants would be provided with government assistance. Europe had been devastated by war: it was easier than salvaging for many to simply uproot and start again – a fresh new start in a fresh new continent. Migrants would come from Italy, Greece, England, Scotland, the Netherlands and a few other European countries.

It all began with the Chifley Government. The government commissioned a report on the subject which found that Australia was in urgent need of a larger population for the purposes of defence and development and it recommended a 1 per cent annual increase in population through increased immigration. In 1945 the government established the federal Department of Immigration to administer the new immigration programme. The first Minister for Immigration was Arthur Calwell. An Assisted Passage Migration Scheme was also established in 1945 to encourage Britons to migrate to Australia. The government’s objective was summarised in the slogan “populate or perish.” To critics of mass immigration from non-British Europe, Calwell replied in 1947: “We have 25 years at most to populate this country before the yellow races are down on us.”

Hundreds of thousands of displaced Europeans migrated to Australia and over 1,000,000 British subjects immigrated under the Assisted Passage Migration Scheme, colloquially becoming known as ‘Ten Pound Poms’.

The migration assistance scheme initially targeted citizens of Commonwealth countries; but it was gradually extended to other countries such as Italy and the Netherlands. The qualifications were straightforward: migrants needed to be in sound health and under the age of 45 years. There were initially no skill requirements, although under the White Australia policy, people from ‘mixed-race’ backgrounds found it very difficult to take advantage of the scheme.

The immigration programme of the Chifley Government gave preference to migrants from Great Britain, and initially an ambitious target was set of nine British out of ten immigrants. However, it was soon apparent that even with assisted passage the government target would be impossible to achieve given that Britain’s shipping capacity was quite diminished from pre-war levels. As a consequence, Calwell looked further afield to maintain overall immigration numbers, and this meant relying on the International Refugee Organisation refugees from Eastern Europe, with the United States providing the necessary shipping. Many Eastern Europeans were refugees from area conquered by the Red Army and thus mostly anti-Communist and so politically acceptable.

There were initially no skill restrictions; the qualifications were straightforward: migrants needed to be in sound health and under the age of 45 years, although under the White Australia Policy, people from ‘mixed-race’ backgrounds found it very difficult to take advantage of the scheme.

The 1 per cent annual increase in population target survived a change of government in 1949, when the Menzies Government succeeded Chifley’s. The new Minister of Immigration (1949-1956) was Harold Holt.

The British component remained the largest component of the migrant intake until 1953. Between 1953 and late 1956, migrants from southern Europe outnumbered the British, and this caused some alarm in the Australian government, which was moved to place restrictions on southern Europeans sponsoring newcomers and to commence the “Bring out a Briton” campaign. With the increase in financial assistance to British migrants provided during the 1960s, the British component was restored to the top position in the overall number of new migrants.

Migration brought large numbers of southern and central Europeans to Australia for the first time. A 1958 government leaflet assured voters that unskilled non-British migrants were needed for “labour on rugged projects … work which is not generally acceptable to Australians or British workers.” The Australian economy stood in sharp contrast to war-ravaged Europe, and newly arrived migrants found employment in a booming manufacturing industry and government assisted programmes such as the Snowy Mountains Scheme. This hydroelectricity and irrigation complex in south-east Australia consisted of sixteen major dams and seven power stations constructed between 1949 and 1974. It remains the largest engineering project undertaken in Australia. Necessitating the employment of 100,000 people from over 30 countries, to many it denotes the birth of multicultural Australia. Should Australians think seriously about a real ‘Australia Day’ that could be the day when Prime Minister Chifley signed the papers for the project to start, or when the construction began: 17 October 1949. Two-thirds of the workers were immigrants from over 40 countries around the world. 121 workers lost their life during construction. The Snowy is a story of social, cultural and political change told through the experiences of those who worked on the Scheme.

During the twenty years of the Snowy Mountains Scheme migration from Europe changed the face of Australian society.

In 1955 the one-millionth post-war immigrant arrived in Australia. Australia’s population reached 10 million between 1959 and 1960, up from 7 million in 1945. (Post-war immigration to Australia’, Wikipedia).

In 1949, when Menzies returned to the prime ministership, Harold Holt became Minister for Immigration (1949-1956). He expanded the post-war immigration scheme and relaxed the White Australia policy for the first time.

Menzies was the archetypal Briton-born-in-Australia-by-accident. As Horne put it: “Perhaps when he was a young man making his way in the world those he admired most were the Australian politicians who cherished the English connection. These were the real provincials: Melbourne gentlemen who adopted what they took to be the standards of the far-distant metropolis. Throughout his long career Menzies stressed ‘loyalty’, by which he did not see to mean loyalty to Australia but to the British connection, and to the monarch (when he was not referring to loyalty to himself).” (D. Horne, The lucky country, Penguin Books, Australia, 1964, at 200-201).

He became a successful lawyer and remained an excellent debater. Of course, he was a great actor. But, as Horne observed: “He was lazy in his reading and – the truth is that he was not particularly well-read, as little interested in things of the spirit as his fellow countrymen, and in so far as he did have intellectual or artistic interests they were extremely provincial and old hat. He was essentially arrogant, although courageous, with a scorn for most other men (perhaps all other men). He used his power to little purpose.” (Id., at 198).

His appeal to the home and family, promoted through reassuring radio talks, matched the national mood as the economy grew and middle-class values prevailed. “But for the most part ordinary Australians have held him in little regard: … he was widely considered old-fashioned and had always been considered insincere.” (Ibid., 198) In return, “he seemed to prefer to frustrate talent, to surround himself with a firebreak of mediocrity.” (Ibid.,  200).

To his good fortune the Labor Party was being bitterly divided by the threat of the anti-Communist wing, reinforced by Catholic propaganda. So, after 1955, and ‘the split’ Menzies was able to rely on the support from the Democratic Labor Party, a splinter-group from the Labor Party. Menzies won seven consecutive elections during his second term, eventually retiring as prime minister on 26 January 1966.

Menzies expanded post-war immigration scheme, higher education, and the national security policies.

He was forever on the stage. If he should be remembered for anything, that should begin with the farce of his public love declaration to young Queen Elizabeth II who was visit Australia in 1963. The occasion was a formal dinner at Parliament House.

Menzies took the last two lines of the first stanza of a poem by an obscure English composer, lutenist, viol player and poet of the English seventeenth century: Thomas Ford (1580? – 1648). To the visible surprise of the monarch, during a Canberra dinner in her honour, he told her: “I did but see her passing by, And yet I love her till I die.”

Sir William Heseltine, Private Secretary to H.M. the Queen 1986-1990, would comment: “It was one of the very few occasions I think Sir Robert misjudged his audience. And I can remember that there was a frisson of embarrassment and this was perhaps reflected on the Queen’s own look on that occasion.” And the occasion might have been squeamish.

Menzies, like most Australians, fondly believed that timely help to ‘our great and powerful ally’ would ensure American protection of Australian interests in the future. In 1962, when President Sukarno of Indonesia annexed Netherlands-now-West New Guinea in the teeth of anguished Dutch – and Australian – protests, Menzies sought America’s diplomatic support. The Americans unblushingly gave it to Sukarno, but even such painful experience did nothing to shake the faith of Australian conservatives in American care for and loyalty to Australia.

Concerned Australians will remember Menzies for the ease with which he committed troops to the Korean war (1950-1953), to the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960), to the Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation (1962-1966), and to the Vietnam war (1965-1975).

Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam war began with a small commitment of 30 military advisers in 1962, and increased over the following decade to a peak of 7,672 Australian personnel following the Menzies Government’s April 1965 decision to upgrade its military commitment to South Vietnam‘s security.

He did that upon a phantomatic request from the Saigon Regime which had been installed in February 1965, resulting in Air Marshall Nguyễn Cao Kỳ becoming prime minister and Nguyễn Văn Thiệu becoming nominal head of state. No trace of such communication was ever found – anywhere.

Here is Menzies’s monument and inheritance.

Part of the United States strategy against the Viet Cong, blindly followed by the Menzies Government and executed the Australian command, was to deny them cover and food. Knowing that the area of Vietnam which borders Laos and Cambodia was a key transport route used to move troops and supplies from the north to the south of Vietnam, the United States planned to defoliate large areas of jungle to hamper these movements. The Mekong delta was also marked for defoliation, as were areas used by the Viet Cong for food growing.

The defoliant of choice was a compound of two herbicides: 24-D and 245-T mixed with kerosene or diesel fuel and containing the extremely toxic substance, dioxin. It was known as Agent Orange for the orange stripe on the 55 gallon drums in which it was transported to Vietnam. The chemicals were sprayed from aircraft to kill jungle growth and the thick canopy.

Spraying began as early as 1961 in a campaign coordinated by America’s Central Intelligence Agency. By late 1964 the defoliation campaign gathered momentum, peaking between 1965 and 1967.

Between 1962 and 1971 the United States military sprayed nearly 20,000,000 U.S. gallons (76,000,000 litres) of various chemicals – the ‘rainbow herbicides’ and defoliants – in Vietnam, eastern Laos, and parts of Cambodia as part of the aerial defoliation programme known as Operation Ranch Hand, reaching its peak from 1967 to 1969. For comparison purposes, an Olympic size pool holds approximately 660,000 U.S. gallons (250,000,000 litres).

Australian troops were also involved in the use of herbicides and insecticides, the latter being widely sprayed in Phuoc Tuy province, particularly at Nui Dat. Even during the war herbicide use attracted growing criticism in the United States with the first reports of birth defects in children born in areas subject to aerial spraying appearing in 1965.

Nearly 4.8 million Vietnamese people have been exposed to the defoliant, causing 400,000 deaths. The government of Vietnam says as many as 3 million people have suffered illnesses because of Agent Orange. The Red Cross of Vietnam estimates that up to 1 million people, 100,000 of whom are children, are disabled or have health problems as a result of Agent Orange contamination. The chemical is capable of damaging genes, resulting in deformities among the offspring of exposed victims.

The associated illnesses include cancers, birth defects, skin disorders, auto-immune diseases, liver disorders, psychosocial effects, neurological defects and gastrointestinal diseases. Fifty years after the plague continues.

Concerns about the use of chemical sprays and its effect on people emerged in Australia during the 1970s. Veterans began reporting high incidences of cancer while abnormalities in their offspring were also blamed on Agent Orange. The debate in Australia about links between chemical sprays and veterans’ ill health was reported in the media as growing numbers of veterans came forward claiming Agent Orange had affected their health or that of their children.

Unsurprisingly, the Menzies Government at first denied that Australian troops had been exposed to chemical defoliants, but later retracted that in the face of contrary evidence. The Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia, V.V.A.A. lobbied hard on behalf of their members but the material on which they relied to press their case was sometimes anecdotal and lacking in the kind of rigour necessary to prove a case. In 1982 the V.V.A.A. published a list of symptoms by which a veteran might recognise the effects of exposure to Agent Orange. The list was sufficiently broad that many people could point to at least one sign of illness. Repatriation clinics reported a high incidence of veterans presenting with one or more of the identified symptoms not long after the list was published.

Further studies followed, some commissioned by the government, until, under pressure from the V.V.A.A., a royal commission was established in 1983. The commission’s nine volume report, issued in 1985, admitted the existence of health problems, but found no link to the use of defoliants in Vietnam. It said that Australian exposure to chemicals had been very small, and that it had not affected the soldiers adversely. The commission’s report said the chemicals had prevented health problems “which may have otherwise been a problem in the Vietnam environment.”

It did, however, acknowledge that certain chemicals may cause cancer and that a connection to illness in veterans was unlikely but ‘not fanciful’.

The V.V.A.A. rejected the royal commission report and fought to have the findings overturned. Further reports, including a major study published by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, suggested that veterans’ health was indeed affected by their war service and that in certain types of cancer, links with exposure to dioxin and other chemicals used in Vietnam did exist.

It was not until 1994 that the Labor Government acknowledged that Agent Orange was responsible for the cancers and other illnesses suffered by Australian veterans of the Vietnam war. American veterans had to fight a similar battle for recognition of their symptoms – they eventually won a legal action against seven chemical companies and received a multi-million-dollar compensation payment. In Australia the government began a compensation scheme for those who had cancer caused by their service in Vietnam and for the widows of those who had died from cancer. (‘Agent Orange – The Anzac Portal’, anzacportal.dva.gov.au; see also: J. Bird, ‘In the matter of Agent Orange: Vietnam veterans versus the Australian War Memorial’, honesthistory.net.au, 15 March 2016).

By the time the last Australian personnel were withdrawn in 1972, the Vietnam war had become Australia’s longest war. That was actually the Second Indochina War, the conflict which occurred in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975.

The withdrawal of Australia’s forces from South Vietnam would begin in November 1970, under the Gorton Government, when 8 R.A.R. completed its tour of duty and was not replaced. A phased withdrawal followed, and by 11 January 1973 Australian involvement in hostilities in Vietnam had ceased by initiative of the Whitlam government.

Approximately 60,000 Australians served in the war; 521 were killed and more than 3,000 were wounded. Remains of Australians sent to die against ‘guerrillas’ near the border between Malaysia and Thailand in 1964 were returned last year.

Menzies won seven consecutive elections during his second term, eventually retiring as prime minister in 26 January 1966. At Horne wrote: “It was a feature of Menzies’ long rule that little of what he did seems to matter much. His great talent was to preside over events and look as if he knew what they were all about. His few active interventions proved mainly failures.” (Id. at 195) And again: “The positive characteristics of his ‘Age’ – the spread of affluence, the considerable relaxation in social styles, the increased in national self-assurance, the continued migration programme, the beginning of an interest in Asia and the growing intolerance of Asians residents in Australia, the demands of technology, the increasing power of overseas investment in Australia, were none of them the kind of thing that Menzies had ‘stood for’ and some of them are the opposite of what he said he hoped for before he came to power.” (Ibid., at 196).

Queen Elizabeth II had already honoured him with an exclusive knighthood, the Order of the Thistle – Australians treated such ‘elevation’ as ludicrous. To this was soon added the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports: New Romney, Hythe, Dover, Sandwich. Back 700 years!

In 1973, long after his retirement, the imperial Japanese government conferred on him the Order of the Rising Sun (First Class) for his services to Japanese-Australian friendship. Critics and admirers agreed. It was only fitting that the erstwhile “Pig-Iron Bob” should end his days loaded with overseas honours.

An air of Gilbert & Sullivan surrounded the man born in Jeparit, Victoria. Or would one go to The Government Inspector, also known as The Inspector General, which is a satirical play by the Russian and Ukrainian dramatist and novelist Nikolai Gogol?

Under the name The Inspector General Warner Bros. produced a film, very loosely based on Gogol’s play. The plot is re-located from the Russian Empire into an unspecified corrupted region of a country which suddenly finds itself under the supervision of the First French Empire. The film is dated 1949, the year of the second ascension of Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, K.T., A.K., C.H., Q.C., F.A.A., F.R.S.  As Danny Kaye, who impersonates The Inspector, might have said: et cetera, et cetera

Having succeeded Menzies as Prime Minister (1966-1967), Harold Holt also expanded Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam war, and maintained close ties with the United States under President Lyndon B. Johnson. While visiting the White House, Holt proclaimed that he was “all the way with L.B.J.”, a remark which was poorly received at home, but which had become – if any was necessary – the evidence of the shift of Australia from the ‘protection’ of the United Kingdom to that of the United States. The majority of Australians were unconcerned about the change of ‘loyalty’.

On the disappearance of Holt while swimming, John McEwen served as Prime Minister from 19 December 1967 to 10 January 1968 in a caretaker capacity. McEwen ceded power to John Gorton after 23 days in office, and in recognition of his service was appointed deputy prime minister, the first time that position had been formally set up.

The new Prime Minister, John Gorton, held power from 1968 to 1971. Not much of a distinguished career may be remembered for Gorton continuing Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War, although he began withdrawing troops amid growing public discontent. Gorton’s domestic policies, which emphasised centralisation and economic nationalism, were often controversial in his own party, and his individualistic style alienated many of his cabinet members. He resigned as Liberal leader in 1971 after a confidence motion in his leadership was tied, and was replaced by William McMahon.

A long period of ‘Liberal’ – that is to say ‘anti-Labor Coalition’ government would come to an end with  William McMahon. He became prime minister at the age of 63 – the oldest non-interim prime minister to take office. His government (1971-1972) has been described, quite generously, as “a blend of cautious innovation and fundamental orthodoxy”, although one would be justified in comparing him with some classical character which originated in commedia dell’arte of the 17th century.  McMahon continued many of the policies of its immediate predecessors, such as Gorton’s phased withdrawal of Australian troops from Vietnam. Toward the end of his tenure of office Australia was faced with high inflation and unemployment.

McMahon was defeated by Gough Whitlam’s Labor Party at the 1972 federal election, ending 23 consecutive years of Coalition rule.

Twenty-three years of reaction, inertia and ultimately bumbling on the part of the Coalition had given its members the arrogant feeling so clearly expressed by Western Australia Senator Reginald Greive Withers in moving an amendment to the Address-in-Reply critical of the government on 8 March 1973. Withers – who had earned the moniker of ‘the toe-cutter’ – said that he repudiated the idea that the Labor Party had a mandate based on what he referred to as ‘temporary electoral insanity’ in two states at the December 1972 federal election, and warned that “the Senate may well be called upon to protect the national interest by exercising its undoubted constitutional rights and powers.” Behind those words one could easily perceive the anti-Labor ethos: win-at-all-cost, always. The Address, as amended, was finally agreed to on 30 August 1973, and delivered to the Governor-General on 30 September, in a ceremony which no government senator attended.

But Withers had been an easy prophet, as already seen in the initial part of this essay.

Continued Saturday –  Beyond the ‘Palace Letters’ (part 2)

Previous instalment – The HMT Dunera scandal

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.venturini@bigpond.com.au.

 

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The enemies of free speech

By Kathryn  

The unspeakable, blatant ultra-right-wing bias of the Murdoch press in favour of the LNP is the huge elephant in the room here! Why isn’t the Murdoch’s name mentioned? The Murdoch media’s unregulated control and influence over just about every aspect of our media, especially the vile, unconscionable propaganda and relentless character-assassinating slander spewed out on a daily basis within such notorious Murdoch rags as The Courier Mail, The Daily Telegraph, The Australian and from ultra-conservative Murdoch-manipulated repugnant and truly offensive “Shock Jocks” (eg Alan Jones, Steve Price, Andrew Bolt, Ray Hadley, the ghastly Miranda Devine, Peta Credlin etc) is a criminal abuse of power! The verbal diarrhoea spewed out by these enemies of free speech and their determination to control everything we hear and see on every form of media is absolutely intolerable, and getting worse. Now we have ongoing muzzling of free speech, the arrest of essential whistle-blowers and the unlawful prosecution of journalists and protest marchers!

Every day the Murdoch press, their spineless lackeys in the LNP and their collaborators within the unelected swill of the undemocratic IPA, rage against the ALP, the Greens, unions, against the poorest and most vulnerable citizens in our country, against legal asylum seekers escaping from the tyranny of an illegal war Howard helped to create!

Every day Murdoch and his salivating shock jocks are ramping up xenophobic racism, hatred, fear, misogyny and heaping verbal attacks against young, female climate change activists on SkyNews, 2GB or the vacuous talking heads on Channels 7, 9 and 10 (the airhead, Kerry Ann Kennerly is an offensive example)! Now we have politically-motivated raids and hugely expensive government-sponsored Royal Commissions against unions, the ALP and into the offices of the ABC without one word of protest in the Murdoch press who, in fact, cheered on the fascist campaigns against these hated opponents of the LNP/Murdoch/IPA agenda!

How did all this start since the time when Labor introduced the regulation that more than 51% of our so-called democratic media could, and should, not be owned, managed and controlled by a single entity?

Answer: the undemocratic, Murdoch sycophant and infamous war criminal, John Howard rescinded the Media Ownership Laws in this nation and gave permission for the catastrophic bias, fascist lack of democracy, unashamed elitism and prejudiced right-wing bias by the LNP/Murdoch/IPA Alliance to be ramped-up to a level which goes against everything our nation values and once understood about democratic free speech, and our rights as a so-called democracy to expect and demand impartiality of the news! This unholy collaboration of totally corrupt, mutually benefiting elitists is, without any doubt, the worst, most dangerously fascist attack against our democracy in history – and it goes on and on unabated and, in fact, is escalating.

Let’s never forget that Murdoch is a non-taxpaying, non-Australian who tossed his Australian citizenship in the garbage decades ago so that he could meet the American requirements of being an American citizen in order to get his world dominance of the American press to control public opinion (to his benefit) in the USA. The internationally-despised, power-obsessed megalomaniacal Murdoch dynasty – and their truly vile, self-entitled and callously inhumane sycophants – are the worst kind of undemocratic spinners of fake news, blatantly muzzling free speech, distorting facts and presenting a phoney parallel reality to serve themselves and the agenda of the bible-thumping hypocrites in the extreme right-wing conservative end of politics.

The fact that the LNP/Murdoch/IPA have staged non-stop attacks and venomous slurs against anyone and everyone who has the courage to stand up and speak out against Murdoch’s remorseless lies, self-serving hyperbole and tyrannical, draconian influence over the right-wing Murdoch whores in conservative governments in the UK, USA and, especially, the LNP in Australia, is beyond criminal!

Let’s not mince words: The Murdoch dynasty and their mates in Murdoch’s IPA owns the LNP lock, stock and two smoking barrels! They write the LNP agenda, compose the LNP’s elitist policies and dictate what these spineless, non-achieving lackeys in the Abbott/Turnbull/MorriScum chaotic circus say and do! The Murdoch-owned media – and their disciples in SkyNews, 2GB and free-to-air TV – are as guilty for what they do not report as for the type of propaganda they do! No mention of the LNP’s current national debt and deficit disaster of more than $700 billion after they screamed blue murder about the moderate $240 billion debt left behind by Rudd and Gillard! Not one mention about the LNP using taxpayer funds, in the middle of one of the worst droughts in our history, to fund the construction of private dams for the sole use of foreign-owned cronies of the LNP in the thirsty and unspeakably greedy cotton growing industry!

No mention of the non-stop, undeclared donations handed to them by the non-taxpaying billionaires who sit on the Board of the IPA, eg Rinehardt, Twiggy Forrest et al. No mention of the evil, politically-motivated defundment of Australian taxpayer-owned ABC and SBS where the LNP/IPA is constantly threatening the ABC with further defundment and privatisation (against the wishes and best interests of the huge majority of the Australian public) if the ABC does not “toe the conservative line”! No mention of the fact that ever since Abbott crawled into power on a stack of Murdoch-published lies, broken promises and slanderous campaigns (like the horrendously misogynistic Ditch the Witch campaign that went on for months on end against Julia Gillard), the LNP/Murdoch/IPA have embarked on a deliberate, undemocratic campaign to “stack” the ABC Board with a long line of LNP/Murdoch/IPA sycophants (like Janet Albrechsten, Ita Buttrose and many more) to garnish full control of what Australians will hear and see on our taxpayer-owned television station – the last bastion of media not fully controlled by Murdoch … Yet! No mention about how the LNP/IPA are stacking every panel with vile, self-entitled elitists peddling right-wing propaganda on every panel show, especially Q&A, with insignificant, repugnant grubs like James Patterson (also a member of the IPA), the awful serial liar Alan Jones and an array of other toxic conservatives.

If there is one thing the LNP/Murdoch/IPA Alliance know and follow to the letter is what the Nazi Propaganda Minister and Hitler espoused: “If you tell a lie often enough and with enough conviction, in the end, people will believe it” and, very clearly: “When you control everything people see and hear, you can control how they think!” The Alliance are masters of manipulation, proficient snake oil salesmen, pushing filth, slander and lies, distorting facts and omitting any form of news that will damage their own fascist agenda or expose their criminal level of corruption, economic mismanagement, environmental vandalism and ongoing self-serving rorting and waste of hard-earned taxpayer funds!

BRING BACK ESSENTIAL AND DEMOCRATIC MEDIA OWNERSHIP LAWS THAT WILL INHIBIT AND SILENCE THE BLATANT, ONGOING FASCISM OF THE LNP/MURDOCH/IPA ALLIANCE.

This law must be enshrined by the judiciary to ensure that it cannot be changed or rescinded by ruthless self-serving LNP governments in the future!

This article was originally published as a comment under Government Funding and the Free Press.

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The Coalition money shuffle

One of Joe Hockey’s first acts as Treasurer in 2013 was to gift the RBA $8.8 billion.  The main reason for this was to make Labor’s deficit look bigger.  As a side bonus, it allowed the RBA to invest in the forex market, banking on the Australian dollar losing value as the mining boom subsided.

And that is exactly what happened allowing the government to draw…wait for it…$8.8 billion in dividends over the last six years.  That’s all very well (if we ignore how the Coalition screamed like stuck pigs when Labor took a one-off dividend of $500 million in 2013) except Hockey borrowed the $8.8 billion so we are still paying interest on it.

We have also paid a fortune in “fees for banking services” as investment banks have raked in hundreds of millions in trading fees.

Had Hockey not engaged in this political chicanery, we would be billions of dollars better off.

And then there are the six Future Funds which contained $198.8 billion as at June 30 this year.

The direct cost of managing these funds was over $1 billion for the last three years alone.

The DisabilityCare Australia Fund had $16.4 billion sitting in it, which must be aggravating to the many people still waiting to access services or those who have had their services reduced.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land and Sea Future Fund (ATSILS Fund) was established in February 2019 with a capital contribution of $2 billion transferred from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land Account.

The purpose of the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation, to whom the fund will make payments apparently at the discretion of the Minister if the investment mandate targets have been met, is to acquire and manage land, water and water-related rights so as to attain economic, environmental, social or cultural benefits.  One wonders how much will actually be handed over for that purpose now that Peter Costello has his hands on it.  I am sure the mining companies would prefer that money to be tied up rather than used.

In July, the government deposited another $7.8 billion into the Medical Research Future Fund.  As we were still in deficit, this was a pretty amazing feat which must have come at the cost of other research cuts and/or interest costs for the borrowed money.  It’s interesting how they can find a lazy $8 billion when they want to.

The Education Investment Fund, originally intended for new facilities in the higher education sector, had payments frozen in 2013 and it has been accumulating funds since.  These have now been taken to create the government’s new $4 billion Emergency Response Fund.

Then, on 1 September 2019, the assets of the Building Australia Fund were transferred to the newly created Future Drought Fund.

The original Future Fund was established in 2006, funded in part from budget surpluses but mainly from the sale of Telstra.  As at June 30, there was $162.6 billion sitting in it.

Kevin Rudd, as Opposition leader, suggested using $2.7 billion of it to invest in a National Broadband Network with profits being returned to the Future Fund.  The Howard government screamed blue murder, claiming that Labor intended to “raid” the Future Fund for their own means.  Gee, that has worked out well for us hasn’t it.

While legislation permits drawdowns from the Future Fund from 1 July 2020, the Government announced in the 2017-18 budget that it will refrain from making withdrawals until at least 2026-27.

What on earth is the point of sitting on that pile of money when only 20% of it is invested in Australia?

The ten year return has been 10.4% for the Future Fund which might sound good until you look at Infrastructure Australia’s High Priority Project list where every project has a cost benefit ratio of better than that.

We could be employing people in productivity enhancing infrastructure construction. We could be increasing primary healthcare and reducing hospital waiting times to save money and improve quality of life.  We could be investing in research and education, both of which bring a far greater return than 10%.

But the Coalition are obsessed with accumulating cash and apparently have zero understanding of the value of actually using the money for the benefit of our economy and our citizens.

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Piggish Problems: African Swine Fever Does Its Worst

You cannot get away from it, at least in print or in Google land. African swine fever is doing its rounds, cutting through the swine population of Asia with remorseless dedication. Since its deadly debut in China last year, it has done away with some 25 per cent of the globe’s pig population. The symptoms are dramatic and lethal (mortality rates range from 95 to 100 per cent), with the infected animal haemorrhaging and perishing between a period of five to fifteen days. This decline has sparked all manner of comment: a feared deprivation of pork dishes, a spark of hope in exports of pork untouched by the disease and alternative meat supplies, and the more serious issue of food security.

In China itself, the decline of pork is causing a strain of desperation, though it is always marked by reassurance and stiff-upper lip confidence. Pork supplies, both domestically and internationally, had been seen to be something of an essential in Chinese food security. In September, the country’s pig population, numbering some 440 million animals, had shrunk by 41.1 per cent. While figures coming out of various Chinese ministries should be viewed with a healthy dose of scepticism, the numbers from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs have caused a stir. Such contractions are perpetuating and will continue to perpetuate a loss in the global consumption of protein.

On Monday, China’s Premier, Li Keqiang did something uncharacteristic for the politburo: he ventured to a roadside stall to test the vox populi on the subject of rising pork prices. Not that the episode lacked its fair share of choreographic sense. The owner was suitably stoic; it simply would not do to panic. “Our prices have also risen a bit accordingly. The effect on business hasn’t been too big.” Bravely dishonest for party and country, perhaps?

The disastrous wasting of domestic herds, one that sees no ebbing, has caused a spike in imports in pork. The PRC saw some 1.3 million tonnes coming into the country in the first three quarters this year.

Other countries are also showing a certain fear in the face of rumour and speculation. In Europe, the fever is being held at bay, though pork consumers are seeing prices rise. But in Asian countries, the response is graver, and slightly panicked. South Korea, for instance, is mobilising snipers and civilians in an effort to shore up its border with North Korea. Drones equipped with thermal vision will also be deployed. All of this is in aid of one thing: targeting infected pigs near the line of civilian control. The South China Morning Post is positively apocalyptic. “The intensified measures aim to exterminate feral pigs in areas including Incheon, Seoul, Goseong and Bukhan River.”

As far as North Korea is concerned, the concern is that the fever is doing its worst, though official figures suggest the opposite. The North Korean agriculture ministry claimed in a May 30 report to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) that animal deaths had been modest, with only 22 recorded on a cooperative farm some 260km north of Pyongyang.

For those in the Asia-Pacific region as yet untouched by ASF, nerves are catching. Countries like Australia have demonstrated that terror characteristic of island mentalities: Be wary of what you import and what you let in. Biosecurity is a tic of the Australian policy mindset, though it does not come without its ironies: the Australian scientific and agricultural sector has been arguably more devastating and disastrous for the country’s ecology than any malicious or accidental introduction.

Be that as it may, Australia’s $5 billion pork industry is nothing to sneeze at, keeping something in the order of 36,000 people busy. But off Australian shores, the fear is that the fever is making its marauding march, with news that East Timor had become the tenth Asian nation to be added to the list.  Customs officials are proving edgier than usual, and the federal Agricultural Minister Bridget McKenzie is getting a tad judgmental. “People are still disregarding our biosecurity laws. We can send them home, we can slap significant fines on them and I’ll be encouraging our biosecurity officials to be doing exactly that with those offenders.”

On Saturday, a Vietnamese woman was sent packing after arriving at Sydney Airport with quail, squid and raw pork. The unfortunate had her visa cancelled, the result of amendments made in April. As the Department of Agriculture described it, “International visitors who are believed to have contravened particular provisions of the Biosecurity Act 2015 can have their visitor visa cancelled for up to three years.”

The biosecurity and vet gate keepers have their eye on one aspect of Australia’s pig population. The 2.5 million domestic population might well be one thing, but imagine, fears Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Mark Schipp, the prospect of 15 million feral pigs being infected. (This figure, it should be said, varies – another estimate puts the number at 24 million). But where crisis presents itself, there are salivating opportunities. Australian Pork Limited chief executive Margo Andrae is one who is drooling at the prospect that Australia can “increase production and prices to fill gaps that other markets can’t supply.”

What then, to do? From a thriving epidemic, ASF has become an enthusiastic pandemic. It is cutting through protein consumption and posing a risk to food supply, but as yet, there are no cures nor vaccines. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has also noted that the disease’s impact is complicated by “the range of pig production systems coexisting in the different countries.” Such instances, if they do at least conjure up a world without pork, may well encourage a world less reliant on the staple. But till then, individuals such as Dr Hirofumi Kugita of the OIE are punting for the border control and biosecurity obsessives.

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The Évian Conference

By Dr George Venturini  

The Évian Conference

In 1930, with the Great Depression severely affecting Australia’s workforce, the Scullin Government (1929 – 1932) tightened up entry requirements for ‘aliens’, demanding that only those immigrants who had £500 landing money, or who were dependent relatives of aliens already living in Australia, would be permitted to enter the country.

Following the election of Adolf Hitler in Germany, a group of concerned Jewish spokesmen, led by Rabbis F. L. Cohen and Israel Brodie, travelled to Canberra and personally lobbied the Minister for the Interior to admit a limited number of skilled German-Jewish refugees. But it was to no avail. Two years later, and following Hitler’s promulgation of the notorious Nuremberg Laws (German: Nürnberger Gesetze) which were purposely anti-semitic and racial laws, and had been enacted by a submitted Reichstag on 15 September 1935, prominent Sydney leader Sir Samuel Cohen presided over the formation of the German Jewish Relief Fund, which tried to emulate similar initiatives in Britain by raising funds to assist young German Jews to escape to Palestine or other ‘safe havens’.

Simultaneously, Cohen, Brodie and Brigadier Harold Cohen, among others, continued to press Government members for an easing of immigration restrictions. The successor Lyons Government (1932-1939) compromised by reducing landing money to £50 for those migrants guaranteed by family or friends. It also encouraged the formation of the Australian Jewish Welfare Society, A.J.W.S. to coordinate migration processes. Australia House in London reportedly received 120 inquiries a day from would-be immigrants in March 1938, while the A.J.W.S. received 1200 pleas for assistance in the week following the German invasion of Austria, the so-called Anschluss Österreichs, on 12 March 1938.

The A.J.W.S. was sensitive to Government and public sentiment and concerned that its actions could have been affected by the presumption that any marked increase in migrant numbers would merely jeopardise existing, and already tenuous, concessions. As a result it could accept only a fraction of the 70,000 applications for help it had received.

In July 1938 Australia followed Britain’s lead by agreeing to send representatives to Évian-les-Bains, France where a world summit was to seek solutions to the refugee problem. Named officially the ‘Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees’, the conference – originally the initiative of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and held on 6 to 15 July – brought together delegates from 32 nations.

The results of the conference were disappointing; it was clear from the outset that none of the participating countries was willing to modify its existing migration restrictions.

The Australian delegation was headed by Lieut. Col. T. W. White, Federal Minister for Trade and Customs. He bluntly informed the participants that Australia was committed to its policy of British migration, and declared that ‘as we have no real racial problem, we are not desirous of importing one by encouraging any scheme of large-scale foreign migration.’

Clearly White had not heard of the ‘Day of Mourning’, a protest held by Indigenous People on 26 January 1938, the 150th anniversary of British invasion of Australia. It was declared to be a protest of 150 years of the seizure of the land and of criminal treatment of the original population. It purposefully coincided with the Australia Day celebrations held by the non-Indigenous population on the same day. The protest became a tradition, and annual ‘Days of Mourning’ have been held ever since.

White was voicing a widespread national sentiment. According to a public survey conducted at this time, only 17 per cent of the Australian population was in favour of large-scale immigration of Jews. There was intense disquiet about the reluctance of Jews ‘to integrate’ – whatever that may ever mean – or the possibility that refugees would ‘swamp’ some professions or take away jobs from ‘Australians’. Already rigid quotas had been imposed on the number of refugee practitioners able to enter the medical profession in Australia.

At the Évian conference, the United States itself – represented not by Roosevelt or even an elected official but by a friend of the President called Myron C. Taylor – refused to increase the annual admission quota of 27,370 from Germany and Austria even before the meeting began. Edward Turnour, 6th Earl Winterton, Lord Winterton, the leader of the British delegation, clearly outlined his country’s position: “The United Kingdom is not a country of immigration.”

By 1938 more than half a million refugees would be on the move across Europe, fleeing the Nazis, who had rendered first 900,000 German Jews stateless under the Nuremberg Laws, then 200,000 Austrian Jews following the invasion in 1938.

After Kristallnacht  (literally “Crystal night”) or ‘The night of broken glass’, between 9 and 10 November 1938, which was an anti-Jewish pogrom in Nazi Germany – then including Austria and Sudetenland – and in slow response to increasingly urgent calls to increase its refugee intake, the Australian Government announced that it would accept 15,000 refugees – 12,000 of them Jews – over the subsequent three years.

This apparent ‘liberalisation’ of policy was, in fact, nothing of the kind. Australia was effectively already accepting 5,100 refugees per annum – before December 1938 – and the new quota actually reduced the proposed intake. The trick was intended to advertise the Government as compassionate, liberal and ‘humanitarian’; in reality, the new policy cynically used the opportunity to curtail whatever trend there had previously been towards a growth in refugee admissions. As it was, a mere fraction of the first annual quota had reached Australia before the second world war broke out. In fact, only some 7,000 Jews settled in Australia between 1933 and 1939. (IRIN | ‘Look back and learn: The Evian Conference, 1938’; see also: Evian Conference – ThoughtCo; The Evian Conference | The Holocaust Encyclopedia).

Once war against Germany by Britain and its allies had been declared in September 1939, immigration effectively ceased, although a small number of refugees did manage to reach Australia through the Orient in the early years of conflict. As former citizens of enemy states, quite a number of them were promptly – albeit temporarily – interned as ‘enemy aliens’.

Continued Wednesday – The Kimberley Plan

Previous instalment – Adjunct imperialist clowns (part 2)

Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini devoted some seventy years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reached at George.venturini@bigpond.com.au.

 

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Morrison’s monumental dysfunctional Pacific “family” failure

No matter how much money you put on the table it doesn’t give you the excuse not to do the right thing, which is cutting down your emissions, including not opening your coalmines.”  (Enele Sopoaga, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, 14 August 2019).

“Shove a sock down the throat of Jacinda Ardern” – urges Alan Bedford Jones, 2GB Sydney’s sock-shock jock, another former, failed, Liberal Party candidate and inveterate misogynist,Thursday, as New Zealand’s PM supports Pacific Islanders’ global warming concerns, endorsing the resolutions of all but one of the eighteen countries and territories of this week’s 50th Pacific Islands Forum, (PIF) meeting in Tuvalu’s capital, Funafuti.

Left on its own, promoting global warming is Australia. Ms Ardern says, diplomatically, that our land down-under can answer to the Pacific for itself. New Zealand, or Aotearoa, as its Maori people named it, commonly translated as land of the long white cloud, or, continuously clear light is doing what it can to limit its carbon emissions to 1.5C.

Ms Ardern expects all nations to make a similar commitment but will not lecture others.

Rabid climate change denier Jones turns puce. He rants; spits foam at the microphone. Does ScoMo’s office tell Jones to put the boot in? For Jones and his audience – and, indeed, for much of Morrison’s government, global warming, is a hoax. And an aberration, a perversion of reason. The notion is an unnatural hoax, as is the monstrous regiment of women who dare to demand their fair share of political power from blokes.

“Here she is preaching on global warming and saying that we’ve got to do something about climate change,” Jones harangues listeners from his bully pulpit. His signature outbursts of outrage, his demonising and his scapegoating are his own take on Orwell’s two-minute hate. Jones down low may be heard playing daily in all the best dementia wards in hospitals all over Sydney. Thursday, Jones goes off like a frog in a sock.

Preaching? It’s precisely what the Kiwi PM takes pains to avoid, but Jones rarely lets fact spoil his argument.

New Zealand has cows that burp and fart, he sneers, in a rare, brief, departure into scientific truth.

Jones role has little to do with reporting and even less with respecting fact. In the 1990 cash for comment scandal, where he and John Laws were found to have accepted money from a slew of corporations, QANTA, Optus, Foxtel, Mirvac and big banks, the jocks’ defence was that they were not employed as journalists, but as “entertainers” and thus had no duty of disclosure or of journalistic integrity. Yet Jones hopes the PM is briefed,

“I just wonder whether Scott Morrison is going to be fully briefed to shove a sock down her throat.”

Outraged by Ardern’s audacity – as much as the fact that she’s a Jezebel – a woman brazenly asserting authority, independence and leadership, Jones works up a lather. Arden’s an impudent hypocrite, he squawks. Australia act responsibly or answer to the Pacific on policy? Accountability is heresy in ScoMo’s government. Perhaps Jones hopes that his “sock it to her” will be an Aussie form of “send her back”.

Sending Kiwis home, if Peter Dutton doesn’t like the look of them, is at least one Morrison government policy that’s coherent. Repatriation on “character” grounds saw a thousand forcible deportations between 2016-2018. Under Morrison as Immigration Minister in 2014, the policy was expanded to include all those Kiwi-born residents who’d been sentenced to twelve months or more in prison.

Many of those deported under the “character test” have no family or friends in New Zealand; have extensive family ties in Australia and have spent very little time in New Zealand, having arrived in Australia as children.

It’s another source of friction between Australia, its major trading partner, despite China (NZ$15.3bn) now having eclipsed Australia (NZ$13.9bn) as New Zealand’s biggest export market.

Friday, Jones’ sock-jock mockery continues. “The parrot” ridicules one of New Zealand’s most popular and effective Prime Ministers; alleging Ms Ardern is “a clown” and a “joke” for “preaching about climate change”, claiming, falsely, that New Zealand’s carbon dioxide has increased per capita more than Australia’s since 1990.

The Parrot’s problems with women in power, rival those of the Liberal Party itself. Worrying aloud in 2012 about our Pacific policy and how “women were wrecking the joint” during Gillard’s highly successful minority government, Jones said he was “putting Julia Gillard into a chaff bag and hoisting her into the Tasman Sea”.

Gillard’s government invested $320 million in promoting Pacific Island women’s role in business and politics.

“She said that we know societies only reach their full potential if women are politically participating,” he shrieked in utter disbelief to listeners during an on-air hate update from Barnaby Joyce about the sale of Cubbie Station to a Chinese-led consortium.

“$320 million could have bought the 93,000 hectare Cubbie Station and its water rights, he reckoned. Kept it in Australian hands. There’s no chaff bag big enough for these people.”

“Women are destroying the joint – Christine Nixon in Melbourne, Clover Moore here. Honestly.”

Gillard’s father John a former psychiatric nurse who passed away at 83, “died of shame”, he added in 2012, “To think that he has a daughter who told lies every time she stood for Parliament.”

Also socking it to Jacinda, Jones is joined in combat by another Liberal supporter and climate denialist, One Nation’s resident empiricist, Malcolm Roberts, who knows how much Kiwis love sheep jokes.

“New Zealand has over 60 million sheep. Sheep produce about 30 litres of methane a day. If Ardern was serious about addressing ‘climate change’ shouldn’t she start by culling the entire sheep population of NZ? Or is she just climate gesturing?”

Roberts is wrong in several respects as an AAP fact check demonstrates. He can’t count sheep. New Zealand’s official data agency, Stats NZ, reports the most recent farm census, conducted in 2017, records 27.5 million sheep in the country. A 2018 provisional update reports a drop to 27.3 million.

Nor are sheep the major culprits. New Zealand’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory for 2017, released in April 2019, shows sheep produced 12.7 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Dairy cattle accounted for 22.5 per cent, while electricity generation created 4.4 per cent.

Above all, this year, New Zealand introduced a bill to reduce emissions of methane by animals to 10 per cent below 2017 levels by 2030, and between 24 and 47 per cent below 2017 levels by 2050.

Fellow climate science denier, Mick-Mack, as Coach ScoMo calls our deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, must grab a headline to delay being deposed by Barnaby Joyce. Mick-Mack chimes in with a killer argument. Lenore Taylor says on ABC Insiders Sunday, that he couldn’t be more “offensive or paternalistic” if he tried. Itinerant Pacific Islander fruit-pickers, he says, should thank their lucky Aussie stars.

“They will continue to survive,” the part-time Elvis impersonator says in his most tone-deaf, judgemental manner. “There’s no question they’ll continue to survive and they’ll continue to survive on large aid assistance from Australia. They’ll continue to survive because many of their workers come here and pick our fruit.”

And our tomatoes – for eight dollars an hour, as reported in the recent settlement of a case on behalf of fifty workers from Vanuatu, who suffered bleeding from the nose and ears after exposure to chemicals at a farm near Shepparton under the government’s seasonal worker programme.

Brisbane based Agri Labour Australia refuses to admit liability, even after being taken to court and even after agreeing to an undisclosed financial settlement. The Fair Work Ombudsman takes separate legal action. This results in nineteen workers being compensated $50,283 for wage theft – a crime rife in our migrant workforce be it in horticulture or in hospitality.  No records were kept of the workers’ labour over six months.

Seasonal worker and father of six ,Silas Aru, worked for six months, yet was paid a mere $150 in total in farms across Queensland – also as part of a government seasonal workers’ or slave labour scheme. Federal Circuit Court Justice, Michael Jarratt​ struggled to imagine a “more egregious” case of worker exploitation.

Exploited to the point of criminal neglect or abuse, men and women from the Pacific Islands are often the slaves in our nation’s overworked, underpaid, casual or part-time workforce. Mick-Mack knows how to pick ’em. Rip off the vulnerable. Trick them. Rob them blind. Then remind them what a favour you are doing them.

As the bullying of the Pacific Island leaders rapidly turns into an unmitigated disaster, something must be done. ScoMo’s staff work long and hard to orchestrate a shit-storm in response. It’s specialised work. Howard allegedly had an operative in his office solely working on “Alan Jones issues” throughout his term in office, former 2UE Jones colleague and big critic Mike Carlton tells The Saturday Paper’s Martin McKenzie-Murray.

Jones’s confected outrage is a tactical dead cat thrown on the table; distracting media from ScoMo & Co’s default policy of bullying and duplicity. Con-man Morrison promises $500 million over five years for “climate and disaster resilience” but it’s an accounting trick; a shonky repackaging of existing aid. No-one falls for it.

Pacific leaders are insulted, alienated by Morrison’s attempt to con them with a fake bribe. Our PM adds injury to insult by adding a bit of emotional blackmail.  Fijian PM, Frank Bainimarama explains.

“The PM … apparently [backed] into a corner by the leaders, came up with how much money Australia have been giving to the Pacific.” He said: “I want that stated. I want that on the record.’ Very insulting.”

Bainimarama is ropeable. By Saturday, he is all over the media after phoning Guardian Australia. ScoMo’s “condescending” diplomacy is as much of a massive fail as his government’s energy or environment policy or overseas aid abroad vacuums. The Fijian PM is clear that by alienating and insulting Pacific Islanders, ScoMo is helping drive the leaders into the arms of the Chinese. In other words, Morrison’s mission is a total failure.

Kick Australia out of the PIF, calls Anote Tong, former president of Kiribati, and veteran advocate for nations battling rising sea-levels caused by global warming. Australia’s membership of the Pacific Island Forum should be “urgently reviewed” for possible sanctions or suspension over the Morrison government’s pro-coal stance, he says. There’s a precedent. Fiji was barred until recently in a move to censure its departure from democracy.

(PIF) … is supposed to be about the well-being of the members,” Tong tells The Sun-Herald and Sunday Age“If one country causes harm to other nations, such as by fuelling climate change, “there should be sanctions”.

“Pacific people see through this facade. We won’t solve the climate crisis by just adapting to it – we solve it by mitigating it, reducing emissions, investing and transitioning to renewables, not shirking our moral duty to fight,” Greenpeace’s Head of Pacific Joseph Moeono-Kolio says. But our federal government just doesn’t get it.

ScoMo started badly by opting for antagonism and insult. Sending junior minister, coal lobby shill, Alex Hawke on ahead to set up talks did not go over well. Hawke recycles denialist garbage. Human influence on global warming is “overblown” he reckons, while in Tuvalu, he peddles the lie that our economy depends on coal.

In reality, the Morrison government’s dance to the tune of the coal barons costs us a fortune. Avoiding climate change reduces our GDP, by $130 billion a year, reports The Australia Institute, citing calculations by government consultant, Brian Fisher. Yet in the reporting of the Forum, our media helpfully relay the government’s re-framing of our global warming crisis into a choice between jobs or a few more emissions.

We are “family” insists Great White Bwana Morrison. A dysfunctional family where a crafty Father Morrison tells the younger fry lies. The Greens Adam Bandt puts his finger on it. Our wretched carry-over Kyoto credits are yet another shonky accounting trick to allow ScoMo to continue his hollow boast that “we’ll meet and beat” our Paris emissions reduction targets. The stunt certainly does not impress beleaguered Pacific leaders.

“At the moment we are not on track to meet the Paris targets. No one in the world is. We are on track to exceed 3.5 degrees of global warming, which will be a catastrophe. The Pacific Island leaders know this.”

Exploiting “a pollution loophole” is how The Australia Institute (TAI) describes Australia’s bad faith. The “pollution loophole” amounts to about eight years of fossil-fuel emissions from the Pacific and New Zealand combined, calculates, TAI, in a research paper it helpfully makes available to leaders before the Forum. The paper pulls no punches from its title onward: How Australia is robbing the Pacific of its climate change efforts.

Worse, it spells out how Islanders are paying for our denialism. Australia intends to use 367 Mt of carbon credits to avoid the majority of emission reductions pledged under its Paris Agreement target. Meanwhile, the entire annual emissions from the Pacific Islands Forum members, excluding Australia, is only about 45 Mt.

The bad faith continues. ScoMo & Co coerce Island leaders into watering down the text of their draft declaration. Or so it seems, unless you are tuned to Radio New Zealand. Local reports have it that after twelve hours, the PIF comes up with a hollow text that mimics the Coalition’s own climate change denialism.

Pacific leaders released a draft declaration in Tuvalu, Tuesday, calling for “an immediate global ban on the construction of new coal-fired power plants and coalmines” and for all countries “to rapidly phase out their use of coal in the power sector”. It echoes the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call last May.

All references to coal go from the forum communique and climate change statement. Expunged also, are any aims to limit warming to less than 1.5C or any commitment to a plan for net zero emissions by 2050.

Naturally, the Pacific leaders have the nous to issue their own separate declaration with targets which echo its draft statement and which follow the lead of the United Nations, sadly, a body increasingly ignored – if not ridiculed – by our own government and that of its great and powerful friend the US, among a host of others.

By Saturday, Morrison’s stunt with grateful fruit-picker and sock back-up is unravelling badly. Promising to be “a good friend, partner and brother of Pacific Island countries” is China’s special envoy to the Pacific, ambassador Wang Xuefeng, who is quick to exploit the rift between Australia and its Pacific neighbours.

Morrison insists the Forum is a “family gathering” and that “when families come together they talk about the stuff that matters, that’s most important to them. Over the next few days that’s exactly what we’ll do.” It’s ScoMo code, Newspeak for insulting, alienating and bullying the leaders; trashing their hopes and aspirations.

Let the Pacific Islanders worry about rising sea levels and increasing salinity which is rapidly making their homes uninhabitable. In Australia, government energy policy is dictated by a powerful coal lobby – with powerful allies in the media. The PM who brings a lump of coal into parliament also has an assistant recruited from Peabody Coal and has his fossil-fuel lobby and a daft hard right with the upper hand in mind all week.

The Prime Minister’s performance at the Pacific Islands Forum is a monumental failure. Even if his bullying, his intransigence, his inhumanity and chicanery do impress a few one-eyed partisans at home it has dealt irreparable damage to our goodwill in the Pacific, which has not really recovered since the Abbott government  cut $11bn from overseas aid in 2015, a cut which the budgie-smuggler insisted was “modest”.

Fears that China will exploit Australia’s neglectful – if not abusive – relationship with its Pacific neighbours are aired all week but the Morrison government isn’t listening. It does everything in its power to offend and alienate Pacific leaders as it clings to its ideological fixation with supporting a moribund coal industry at home.

Above all, enlisting or inspiring the support of Alan Jones, aka The Parrot, has helped the Morrison government shine a light on the unreason, the bullying, the racism and the misogyny which lie at its heart.

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CPAC’s travelling show can pack up and go home. And stay there.

“I’ve been to the border,” Fox TV’s Judge Jeanine Pirro says. US citizens living there talk of “rape trees” upon which the clothes of rape victims are hung she says. They talk of children having their hearts cut out with machetes. The US, as Donald Trump regularly tweets, is under siege; its way of life threatened by an invasion of rapists from south of the border. Trump’s re-election campaign team repeats the siege message 2199 times in paid Facebook ads since January.

Welcome to the Conservative Political Action Conference or CPAC ‘s travelling show, a rabble of far right US fear-mongers, liars and conspiracy crackpots convinced by Trump’s canard that George Soros or The Democrats fund the migrant caravan. It’s a popular idea which provokes distrust and permits inhumanity.

Peter Dutton expresses similar ideas regarding our refugees on Manus and Nauru. He claims they are “economic refugees” who own “Armani jeans and handbags”.

Add the odd stray Brexiteer and sundry alt-right camp followers. Blend in two, confused members of the Morrison government, Craig Kelly and Amanda Stoker, bestowing a type of legitimacy -and presto -we have a three-day bag-fest of racist hatred, intolerance and ignorance vital to any healthy democracy. Or so our Federal government insists.

CPAC’s enriched US politics. It helped launch Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump, two useful idiots who could attract, repel or just distract the masses while lowering taxes and elevating naked greed; allowing finance, business, mining and gambling get everything they want. It’s a recipe for success that the Morrison government is following religiously.

The gory border story is a fiction told by Trump buddy Judge Jeanine. It’s all part of the enriching offerings to a conference which our Coalition government has sagely declared not to be white hate speech at all. Nope. Nope. Nope.

CPAC’s the voice of sweet reason itself, a symposium vital to any free speech-embracing democracy to add to its community conversation about why we should hate Mexican rapists, child-murderers and fear refugee-invasion. In local content, Craig Kelly MP says the CSIRO should go to jail for its science and calls for us to embrace nuclear power plants.

How good is the power of the nuclear energy industry?

Pirro’s in Sydney to help spread hate and fear at CPAC, a forum for the lunatic right, which began in 1974, with a speech from Ronald Reagan who entered national politics ten years earlier after a televised address promoting Barry Goldwater. Reagan’s talk did not help Goldwater win the election. Oddly, voters saw Barry as a dangerous, right-wing extremist.

True, Goldwater did want to nuke Hanoi. But this strategy was also advocated in 1965 by the US military’s Joint Chiefs during Lyndon Johnson’s presidency, Daniel Ellsberg reports, a plan, he believes, which was aimed at provoking a nuclear war with China. The Joint Chiefs envisaged a big show which would need 500,000 to a million troops.

Even more oddly, Johnson said no. He chose to do some socially useful projects. His Great Society and War on Poverty.

All was not lost, however. California’s business elite saw in Reagan a man with the charm to sell right-wing extremism. Reagan was duly recruited as Republican Party candidate for Governor of California. He won easily by promising tax cuts. His victory was helped by a smear campaign against his opponent, Pat Brown. Trump’s rise to power has many parallels.

Star of her own Fox reality TV show, Justice with Judge Jeanine, Pirro is more than an incendiary hate-speaker, she’s a total pyromaniac. Her role as a tireless Trump cheer-leader has helped her to rebuild her TV career after a setback in the 1990s when her ex-husband Al Pirro, a Trump power-broker, went to jail for conspiracy and tax evasion.

Trump’s a HUGE fan. Not only does their friendship go back decades, the pair enjoy what The Washington Post’s Sarah Ellison calls “transactional loyalty”, a concept well understood by Morrison and Liberal Party leadership strategists.

“She’s as sexy as hell,” Trump tells New York Magazine; Pirro’s show is a relentless defence of everything Trump, but this week, she’s in Sydney spreading a type of lie that inflames prejudice and helps incite violence. Invasion is a fixation in the online manifesto of Patrick Crusius, the 21 year old who is accused of killing 22 people in a Texas Wal-Mart.

Headline speakers, such as Pirro, peddle xenophobia, bigotry, misogyny, hatred and work themselves into a lather with their lurid anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic murder and rape fantasies in a ballroom set up with brown vinyl chairs at Sydney’s Rydge’s World Square Hotel, Friday to Sunday. But it’s not all rabid hate-speaking. Organisers thoughtfully include some local comic talent. Clown duo, Mark Latham and Ross Cameron, for example, do the warm-up.

Boosted as the largest gathering of conservatives in Australia, in fact it’s tiny; roughly one tenth of the size of all registered Tasmanian Organ Donors or 0.17% of the Melbourne Cricket Club’s waiting list.

But size doesn’t matter. Organisers have deep pockets; grand plans. CPAC’s powerful backers tell The Guardian’s Michael McGowan, they are committed to making the event a “multi-year, forever-type project” aimed at “galvanising” the right wing of Australian politics. Why not? Luigi Galvani even made dead frogs’ legs twitch by applying an electric current.

CPAC’s a show that ScoMo & Co sagely decide we all need to see. In fact, there are more than a few members of the government mad keen to attend – but don’t for a moment think MPs’ attendance is any endorsement, cautions failed Dutton coup numbers man, Matthias Cormann. No? Nor does it add any legitimacy to see George Christensen in the crowd, Jim Molan, former deputy PM National Party hack and mining shill John Anderson with Tony Abbott on stage.

Liberal Party MP when he’s not doing stand-up comedy, Craig Kelly’s a crack-up with his routine about how Tony Abbott won the Coalition’s election for it by attracting all the “crazies” to Warringah. “Took the bullets” for the others, he says, in what has to be least well-judged metaphor of the week. But wait. There’s more. Kelly says CSIRO ought to be in jail.

He accuses the science agency of a “bogus report” on energy costs because its 2018 report finds solar and wind generation technologies are the cheapest power stations to “build new”. CSIRO, of course, is correct. So, too is The Climate Council which reports Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s conclusion,

“Due to the continued fall in the cost of wind and solar, as well as the higher international price for black coal, it is now the same cost or cheaper to build a new wind or solar plant in Australia than to continue operating old coal power stations in New South Wales and Queensland.”

“If an ASX-listed company said that in an annual report, they would likely end up in jail because of how misleading it is,” Kelly claims modelling, himself, the sort of wilful disinformation he tries to rail against.

Meanwhile, Federal Energy Minister, the Watergate and Grass-gate survivor, Angus Gravy-train, Taylor is forming “a new taskforce” to pressure AGL to keep coal-fired Liddell power station open. It’s all part of ScoMo & Co’s big-stick approach.

Taylor says his taskforce, to be set up in partnership with the NSW Government, will consider “all options” – Liberal code for putting on blinkers; propping up coal. He does not rule out using taxpayer money to extend the life of the plant. AGL responds by pointing out that doing so would cost “a lot of money” and any such move “does not stack up.”

The IMF reports that the Australian tax-payer is already subsidising fossil-fuel industries to the tune of $29 billion a year.

In the CPAC spirit of personalised ridicule, Kelly has a presentation trophy to award to Labor Senator, Kristina Keneally.

“This is the CPAC Freedom Award, which goes to the individual who has done the most to promote the CPAC conference,” Kelly tells about 200 attendees. Thigh-slapping hilarity erupts on one side only.  Keneally sees it as part of a Two-minute Hate and straight from the pages of George Orwell’s dystopian vision of the future 1984.

“It’s uncanny how much CPAC is exactly what it claims to oppose,” Keneally tweets. “They are … spending all day yelling about their ‘enemies’. This is exactly how people under totalitarian regimes behave.” And key National Party figures.

Farmers’ friend and champion of the man on the land, John Anderson was chairman of coal seam gas frontrunner Eastern Star Gas, bought out by Santos in 2011. He’s one of a herd of former Nationals MP who model transactional loyalty, locally, despite some fuddy-duddy farmers seeing the defection from agriculture to mining as a betrayal.

Former Nationals MP, and pro-coal energy minister, Garry West ,chairs, for undisclosed sums, the Integra Vale, Ulan coal, Moorlaben coal, and the BHP Caroona Coal project, adjacent to Shenhua Watermark’s mine. It’s all part of the mining industry community consultation hoax. Former Nat, Larry Anthony, a former Shenhua Watermark lobbyist, was an advocate for a coal mine which was recently in the news for rigging the storage volume of underground aquifers.

“The values used were implausibly high based on our research,” Ian Acworth, UNSW Emeritus Professor, says in May.

Asking the questions, always more engaging than a talk, Ando interviews his old pal Abbo – who makes a double debut as ex-MP, and ex-PM. Australia is now a nation that offers “death on demand” warns the former minister for women, a master of the hollow three word slogan.

In NSW, an abortion law reform bill which has yet to pass the upper house, had been sprung on voters. “No due consultation”, protests the former PM who sprang a postal vote on marriage equality on the entire nation rather than face a divided party room. Victoria’s recent, assisted dying law proves we’ve lost our moral anchor points. Christianity used to anchor our morality, asserts Abbott, whose former spiritual mentor and adviser was Cardinal George Pell.

Death on demand? Lost moral anchor? “It’s pretty rich”, writes Junkee’s Joseph Earp, “coming from a man who helped speed along an environmental apocalypse that will cost the lives of animals and humans alike.”

“Faith is a gift,” Abbott offers generously. “Some people have it, some people don’t.” Go bite an onion.

Recording or photographing Abbott’s riff is forbidden. He insists. Some of the small audience applaud. The left, he says, opaquely, is wallowing in identity. Wallowing. “Spiritually we’ve rarely been worse off than we are now,” he adds for good measure, perhaps, a typically public-spirited projection of his own long, dark, night of the soul.

Equally benighted but in Australia’s post-modern under-paid, casual, part-time workplace where wage theft is rife, Queensland senator, Amanda Stoker drones on about how industrial relations means labour hire and localised enterprise-bargaining, a vision of the future, surely, now that the government has its Ensuring Integrity bill through the lower house. The cross-bench will be sure to fall in line, especially if demon union thug John Setka’s name is mentioned.

But don’t get the wrong idea. So the government is cosying up to the lunar right in public? Don’t mean a thing. OK? But it does lend a dangerous legitimacy to the lunar right, as Jason Wright thoughtfully observes in The Guardian.

Raheem Kassam, a former Breitbart London editor who calls the Muslim holy book, the Quran, “fundamentally evil”, and Islam a fascistic and totalitarian ideology,” is a “career bigot” says Shadow Home Affairs Minister, Kristina Keneally. Last month, Keneally unsuccessfully asked that he be denied entry to the country.

Friday, in a speech largely devoted to attacking Kenneally and accusing her of putting his life in danger, Kassam says,

“She should be ashamed of herself … There’s nothing Christian about silencing your opposition,” he says, preferring an ad hominem attack on Senator Keneally and her Catholic beliefs, to any reasoned rebuttal. Kassam illustrates the fallacy of the Morrison government’s claim that CPAC even vaguely involves or promotes rational debate. Kenneally is closer to the mark when she describes the gathering as a “talk-fest of hate”. And anger.

Warming the chair for Sky’s David Speers, ABC Insiders’ Patricia Karvelas asks an evasive Simon Birmingham if “we are we seeing a more aggressive position taken by conservatives after the election of your government?”

Birmingham evades Karvelas’ question. He might well quibble with her misuse of the term. CPAC is conservative in name only.

Morrison’s government is cosying up in public to win votes from the radical right attending CPAC and those who share its prejudices, its racism and xenophobia. It is also being disingenuous about its motives and the effect of its attendance.

“Their attendance at this conference does not imply agreement or endorsement with the views of any of the other speakers attending in any way,” a dangerously deluded Cormann would have us believe. He fails to explain how or why not.

“The government will always stand against divisive, inflammatory commentary which seeks to incite hatred or which seeks to vilify people.”

“However the way to defeat bad ideas, bad arguments and unacceptable views is through debate, especially with those we disagree with. It is not by limiting our conversations only to those who at all times share all of our views.”

Cormann forgets Scott Morrison’s 2011 suggestion that the Coalition exploit anti-Muslim sentiment. Or when in 2015 Abbott allowed George Christensen to attend an anti-Muslim rally. Or Tony Abbott in 2015 insinuating Muslim leaders do not condemn terrorism: “I’ve often heard Western leaders describe Islam as a ‘religion of peace’. I wish more Muslim leaders would say that more often, and mean it.” Or when Abbott chose Syrian refugees on the basis of religion.

We could add many more examples. There’s Handy Andy Hastie’s “Islam must change.” But this just brings him into line with the budgie-smuggler who declared that Islam has a massive problem and who called for a “reformation”.

Penny Wong points out the difference between hate speech and “bad ideas.” The nonsense that any of the speakers attending is willing to enter into rational debate or is as farcical as expecting the Morrison government to heed the science on climate change or to expect Peter Dutton to retract his scare campaign on the dangers of refugees using Medevac legislation to flood our shores.  Or issue an apology for his Melbourne African gang fear-mongering.

Having Cormann lecture us on bad ideas is hilarious coming from a man who tried to make Peter Dutton PM. As for rational debate, this is the Finance Minister who claims that tax cuts for the rich stimulate the economy. Sorry Matthias, you Belgian sausage, all evidence is to the contrary – especially in Trump’s Dis-United States of America.

But it’s a top show. Sponsored mainly by US organisations and gun, oil and cigarette industries, CPAC has deep ties to the Koch brothers. Our IPA, LibertyWorks and Advance Australia are also right behind the far right.

Augmenting top acts from Trump’s America is not only “Mr Brexit” nifty Nigel Farage, former head of the United Kingdom Independence Party, introduced to the CPAC audience as “quite possibly” Britain’s next PM. Seriously?

“A snake”, hisses Nigel Farage attacking a straw man; a mythical Malcolm Turnbull who starts out all right but who engineers a serpentine leftist coup. The crowd cheers, thrilled by Nige’s Olympian detachment, halcyon objectivity and utter historical falsehood. Farage’s farrago of lies offers a ludicrous parody of the hapless captive of the right.

“Your Liberal party, your conservative movement was hijacked by the other side, taken over by Malcolm Turnbull, who pretended to be a conservative but actually turned out to be a snake.”

Wrong in fact and egregiously wrong in function, CPAC and its backers can stay at home in the USA in future. We don’t need to invite far right ideologues or neo-fascists or hate-speakers to Australia. We have enough of our own at home, already.

Nor do we need to kid ourselves that CPAC speakers are interested in debate. All we’ve seen and heard is personal abuse and an eagerness to win converts to conspiracies.

There is a world of difference between freedom of speech and being granted a licence to spread hate-speech. And the last thing our politicians need is to court the far-right or let themselves be used to legitimise your fear-mongering and your lies.

Forget the idea of a “multi-year, forever, project”. Once is way more than enough.

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Open letter to Simon Birmingham

The Weasel often writes letters to elected officials… as the dictum goes: If you smell something, say something.

The most recent pronouncement by our erstwhile federal education minister that creative careers were a lifestyle choice had a particular odour. The lack of response from the reigning opposition parties also left much to be desired. So while the intended recipient for below missive was originally for Mr Birmingham; I encourage you, good reader, to freely appropriate the text and send to all those elected officials you believe would benefit from my educational inquiry.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Dear Minister Birmingham  [or insert name of senator or MP here]

I am writing to you regarding recent comments [by the Federal Education Minister] that described creative careers as a lifestyle choice.

I would like to enquire why the government of the day is ignoring the actions of most other technologically developed nations. In the UNESCO Science Report: towards 2030, creative industries are identified as key drivers in revitalising manufacturing sectors, and on-shoring production or services that in previous decades been shifted to less expensive markets.

The U.K., France, South Korea, and Germany all have policy that explicitly links creative industries to programs designed to build or enhance innovation; and gain competitive advantage in the shift to Industry 4.0. Many countries now have dedicated creative industry hubs to create and enhance networks and connectivity between creative professionals and other industries.

To state that creative careers are a lifestyle choice ignores the essential function of cultural events in our society. It ignores the economic contribution. It ignores the contribution to the expression of the Australian character by thousands of actors, painters, dramaturges, designers, editors, architects, writers. Finally, it ignores the contribution that trained creative’s deliver in innovative thinking to thousands of Australian businesses. You can read more about how vibrant and vital creative professionals are on the AusTrade website.

If the current government is truly serious about innovation, then engagement and investment in creative careers and industries is essential. Design thinking is inherent in all creative pursuits, and those are exactly the structured innovative skills Australia needs to regain economic strength.

In the new knowledge economy, superior creative thinking can conquer limitations of scale or distribution. The emerging decentralised, interconnected, and data-rich manufacturing landscape has opportunities waiting to be discovered and exploited; and it is creative professionals who are best positioned to think outside the box, make use of limited resources, and take advantage of connectivity to drive innovation.

In light of all this, I would like an answer to the following questions:

Why does the Education Minister consider creative careers non-essential to the Australian economy?

How does the government plan to succeed with an innovation agenda without using design thinking, or input from creative professionals?

I have included links to some of the sources to which I refer in this letter. I encourage you to investigate them further.
I look forward to your reply

Yours Sincerely

The Weasel

 

austrade.gov.au: Creative-Industries

thecreativeindustries.co.uk/

creative-industries-worth-almost-10-million-an-hour-to-economy

Deutschland creative industries

UNESCO Science report: creative industries driving innovation

https://en.unesco.org/USR-contents

forbes.com: what everyone must know about industry 4.0

The Chinese political donations blow up

By Erin Chew

Well the dragon is out of the bag. The Chinese political donations scandal has taken front and centre stage in Australia, with politicians now dotting their “I’s” and crossing their “T’s”, distancing themselves from being implicated. To avoid the jury by media and the court of public opinion, they are advised to deny, deny, deny.

But the question is, how long has this been going on for, and why it has only been now that the Government is jumping up and down about it? The fact that it implicates Chinese companies and business people makes this saga all the more inflated, triggering prejudicial feelings among regular Australians and presumably the fear of a Chinese economic invasion. To those active in the Chinese community in Australia, political donations is nothing new, in actual fact, it is the norm, meaning that this is how the “Chinese” do business. This is not saying that political donations is right and ethical, but it is more so to point out that Chinese businesses do things differently than “western” businesses.

Chinese Australians are also relatively cautious when it comes to standing up and being overtly politically active. To mainstream Australia, the perception is Chinese Australians are hardworking, excel academically and in essence live the model minority life. To an extent this is not wrong. The earlier Chinese in Australia are taught to study hard and not make a big deal in the public sphere. Hence, many Chinese who were born and raised in Australia tend to shy away from schoolyard skirmishes and not to confront but negotiate and be diplomatic. And in some cases to give in, because asides from becoming a target nothing more will be achieved. It is also this perception and mindset that has worked against the Chinese in Australia, placing them in the situation they are in today. Anything which mentions the words “Chinese investment” and bidding for farmland, natural resources, electricity and purchasing mines will turn heads and cause unconscious and conscious xenophobia.

What is most interesting is that Chinese political donations to political parties, is not new news – well that is not to the Chinese Australian community. In China, the controversy surrounding Sam Dastyari wouldn’t even bat an eyelid. Corporate political donations for current/future business/publicity favours is how business is done there, and paying a legal/travel bill for a politician is part and parcel of a business/political relationship. The Chinese way of business and influence speak to the way Australia does it are on completely different sides of the cube. Where this style of doing business is frowned upon in Australia, it is acceptable within certain sections of the Chinese community. This is not saying the Chinese political donations saga is right or wrong, but it is just to make a point which has not been relayed adequately in the mainstream media.

So let’s talk about what has transpired and how did Sam Dastyari get mixed up in all this. But to understand how this all blew up, is to have some knowledge on the background to Chinese political donations in Australia. For those who take an active interest in Australian politics know that both Labor and Liberal Parties have Chinese fundraising groups, using the names of “Chinese Friends Of…” and/or “Chinese Association For…” and a number of similar style group names. Their sole purpose is to hold fundraising events and garnering support for the respective political parties, and having these groups are a way to channel Chinese political donations. The man of the minute, Huang Xiangmo and his company Yuhu Group, attends these fundraising events (on both sides of politics), as well as other Chinese and Chinese Australian business people, and this is one way where donors are able to discreetly make a donation. At these events many politicians from the respective political party are in attendance – their way of guaranteeing that they are in the good books with the Chinese Australian community – you know, taking photos, shaking hands and looking pleasant. Both Malcolm Turnbull, Bill Shorten and other senior MPs would make concerted efforts to speak and be present at these events. The more senior the MP that attends, the better chances of receiving better donations and fundraising outcomes.

Sam Dastyari was merely a scapegoat, collateral for the media to pounce and jump on. His crime in the court of public opinion was having asked and received a payment of $1,670 from the Top Education Institute, run by the businessman Minshen Zhu for travel costs. Sam declared this money. Following rules, and in the name of transparency, this declaration became public and Sam moved to pay this money back. One thing led to another, and it was found that before Sam became a Senator, Huang Xiangmo of Yuhu Group, paid $5000 to cover some legal bills. Reason for the legal bill is unknown. The only thing Sam has publicly stated is that it was for a personal matter and that the media trial by jury coordinated by the Government is just a distraction. He is not wrong there, because like Sam, other more senior politicians, such as Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop, George Brandis, former Premier Bob Carr, Tony Abbott, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have all been photographed with Huang with some politicians, including Sam himself having visited Yuhu headquarters in China.

Former MLC (NSW Upper House) Eric Roozendaal went to Yuhu Group after he resigned from politics, which paved the way for Ernest Wong, former Deputy Mayor of Burwood and friend of both Sam Dastyari (back then General Secretary of NSW ALP) as well as Huang Xiangmo to replace Eric Roozendaal as an MLC (NSW Upper House). Ernest has a strong presence and influence within certain sections of the Chinese Sydney community as well as sections of the Chinese Australian media, so politically, he was the ideal candidate. Sam as the General Secretary of NSW ALP back then justified Ernest’ entrance into NSW Labor as being a Chinese representative in Parliament, and where this is noble and is required, there was no consultation or even consideration of other candidates within the Chinese Australian community who would also be suitable for the position. But remember, Ernest is a known fundraiser and networker for the NSW Labor Party, so he was the more convenient candidate. There is not more to say on the story behind this saga, because it is adequately reported all over Australian media outlets and reports.

Although, one interesting fact which has not been clearly reported in the media, is that there is not a whole lot of backlash from the Chinese Australian community, particularly those who read, listen and watch Chinese Australian media because these media outlets are controlled by the same people who organise and coordinate these political fundraising sub groups. It pretty much operates like Chinese state owned media. The people with the biggest pockets and political influence will be able to dictate what goes in and what gets left out as well as how issues and columns are communicated.

So where to from here? Well I guess we will just have to see how deep the cracks grow and spread, and how much trial by media the Australian public demands. But it makes you wonder, whether the Chinese are being targeted for prejudicial reasons, and what about political donations from British, American, Canadian, New Zealand or other European companies – would these be seen in the same light as Chinese political donations? Remember making anything remotely “Chinese” publicly will always attract the attention of the mainstream and give media reports more crunch. And as for Sam, well he will be fine on the back bench and being young, will have adequate time for soul searching and to make a comeback when things die down. Rest assured politicians who have been associated with Huang, Zhu and other Chinese companies who make big political donations will be quiet and not comment on any media questions and reports. Remember, there is nothing remotely wrong with corporate political donations, it is really about tougher regulations and ensuring greater transparency.

Erin Chew is Convener of the Asian Australian Alliance, and Asian Australian Alliance Women’s Forum.

 

Speaking Of History: Though I Disagree With What You Say, I Am Doomed To Repeat It!

Ok, let’s have a little think about Dutton last week, but before we do that, let me just state that I’m an angry white male just like that guy with the funny name that nobody can spell. You know, whatsisname… David… David… Leyonhjelm. That’s it. Honestly, I don’t think people with names that don’t follow good old normal Aussie spelling should be allowed to say anything controversial but I guess the politically correct brigade will be on me in a flash restricting my freedom of speech by telling me that they disagree with what I say. And that’s what makes me really, really cross. After all, I’m white and I’m male, so I should be allowed to say what I bloody well like in my own country without the likes of women and other minorities having the temerity to criticise and tell me that I’m wrong.

Now, Senator Leyonhjelm – or Grumpybum, as I’ll now refer to him because I can spell that without looking it up – has recently announced his intention to lodge a complaint against Mark Kenny with the Human Rights Commission for referring to him as having “angry-white-male certitude”. He intends using 18C which – as I’m sure you all know makes it an offence to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” a person because of their race or religion. Unfortunately, Senator Grumpybum assured us all that he wasn’t offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated so most thinking people would suspect that this puts a rather large hole in his argument. Sort of like when James Ashby was complaining about sexual harassment from Peter Slipper, but that’s a whole other story. The good senator tells us that he’s only bringing the complaint to highlight the absurdity of the whole 18C thing. In much the same way that if Scarlett Johansen were to speak to me and tell me that I looked pretty cute, I could attempt to bring a charge of sexual harassment against her, because even though I didn’t mind it at all, it shows how absurd it was anyone could object to being complimented on their figure.

So, I’m very, very angry that – like Senator Grumpybum – I can’t take advantage of all the privileges of 18C just because calling me a “fat white bastard” doesn’t upset me. Well, apart from the “fat” bit and I have to concede I could lose a few kilos without the adjective “gaunt” springing to mind. As for the “bastard”, well, my parents were married, but if one means it in the colloquial sense, I’d have to agree that I could hardly be upset by what is really a term of endearment.

And that’s why I was so angry when poor Peter Dutton had to defend himself when it was leaked that there were over 2000 cases of alleged abuse against asylum seekers on Nauru. The way people carried on, you’d think that we had an obligation to investigate complaints even if we don’t know if they’re true. I mean, don’t we need evidence before we start to look into whether or not something occurred?

Certainly that was the way newly elected One Nation senator, Malcolm Roberts, saw it on QandA last night. If he finds evidence that abuse is occurring, then he’ll support a Senate inquiry to look at the evidence, but until evidence has been found, then there’s no need to look at the evidence. Say what you like about the man, he was certainly consistent. When the subject later turned to climate change, he again demanded evidence. Not just that data that had been concocted by NASA and Bureau of Meteorology – an organisation, he reminded us, that Greg Hunt wouldn’t allow to be investigated, but “empirical evidence”. And until he was given such evidence, he found no need to look at anything that anyone was asking him to examine, because, well, if it wasn’t consistent with his position, then it was clearly “doctored” or “dodgy” or “silly” or “too full of facts and figures to be worth reading” or…

But back to Peter Dutton… As he pointed out, a lot of these things are exaggerated. You know the sort of thing, a guard gives a five year old a bit of a slap on the cheek and it’s reported as though it’s assault even though no bones were broken. And as for claims of sexual abuse, well, how often do people make up claims of sexual abuse?

All right, maybe not that often in the scheme of things. And before anyone starts bringing up how the Royal Commission is discovering all these cases of sexual abuse where the person wasn’t believed and the perpetrator was allowed to stay in their position, I’d like to remind people that these things happened a while ago. In some cases, it was last century; in others, it was as far back as 2012… Whatever, it was certainly, before these asylum seekers were sent to Nauru, so that’s a completely different thing.

I’ll happily concede that we should have believed the people who are testifying at the Royal Commission, because they were true blue Aussies, not foreigners. At least in most cases…

And when Dutton said that people were self-immolating in the hope of getting to a better place, clearly he meant heaven and not Australia.

So you can see why I’m angry. I live in a country where we now have to check the spelling of people’s names and I have to worry about people’s feelings and we can’t just be cruel to foreign people without someone complaining. God, this isn’t the Australia I grew up in.

I’d suggest that we should have a day to celebrate people like me and Grumpybum and Malcolm Roberts and Andrew Bolt, but I suspect you’d end up calling it “Sooking, Sad, Old White Man” Day!

Day to Day Politics: If it were a business you would sack them all.

Friday February 5 2016

1 As opposed to the lifestyle TV show ‘The Block’ which revolves around the contestants personalities, rather that the renovations they carry out, the ABCs ‘Grand Designs’ hosted by Kevin McLeod is a fascinating insight into the construction of homes or the conversion of building into homes.

We witness the planning, the economics, the unforeseen traps, the mistakes, the personalities, the battles and the time it all takes. They are just everyday people who take on a challenge and prove to be remarkable problem solvers, able to cope with all sorts of problems that arise.

Unlike Australian politics they all have a plan even if some are rudimentary. They have a sense of purpose.

What I am getting at here is that Australian politics is like a construction where the builder thinks he is in charge but the foreman and his crew are undermining all the work because they want to do it their way. The architect drew up a grand design but everyone on the site thinks they know better. The construction is a mess and everyone thinks they have a plan but the sites pet dog ate it.

Look at our Politics. The economy is in a mess as is health and education. Immigration Policy a disaster as is the Environment.

Despite having the most qualified cabinet in Australian political history you would have to say that if they were the board of a major business you would sack them all. There would be a shareholders revolt.

You see we, with undoubtable evidence, have proved that we are just very bad at doing politics. Our democracy is badly in need of a makeover, restoration even. The problem is that everyone is so busy building their own egos that they don’t have time to plan anything, let alone fix it. The only thing they are good at is talking about what they might do.

2 On Wednesday I wrote about the politics of hate. Thursday morning I had the misfortune of seeing an interview on News24 with Cory Bernardi. Virginia Troili asked a question about returning children to Nauru. The question arose following a High Court decision that offshore detention wasn’t illegal. She framed the question in the context of criticism from many organisations interested in the rights of the child, and particularly those groups warning about the damage being done mentally to them.

He answered by saying ‘That’s our policy. I’m perfectly happy with it’

My point is that I have never heard the word ‘happy’ bastardised is such a fashion.

A short time later Immigration Minister Peter Dutton was interviewed on ABC News radio. He said during the course of it something that made my hair stand on end. (That parts a bad joke) ……’best interests of these children and those who might follow them’

In the context of what was being said it could only have meant that the children would be sent back as a deterrent to those who might consider sending other children. That the Government was prepared to sacrifice some children so that more wouldn’t come. The bastards really do know how to hate I thought to myself.

This Parliament is collectively liable for its incapacity to find solutions. With a collective communal brainpower from the best learning institutions in the world it has no answers other than hateful ones.

Moreover to make it worse it makes no attempt to find a reginal solution. The politics of hate prevail. The appeal to base instincts for political gain override the best interests of the child.

I’m tougher than my opponent has become the new mantra. It’s not the Australia I so once admired.

3 The Liberal preselection wrangles continue. Craig Kelly is being challenged in his seat of Hugh’s by Kent Johns.

Broadcaster and right wing ratbag Alan Jones will have none of it:

‘You’re not going to get anyone better than that bloke.’

‘So let me say to Kent Johns and anyone else who’s thinking of standing for the preselection out there and to put a torpedo under this bloke.’

He then threatened Kent Johns saying:

‘You’d better pull your head in, Kent Johns. Because I’ll tell you what: if you put your head up, there’ll be a hell of a story that’ll be told about you, Mr Johns.’

It rather reminded me of a few years ago when Alan was visually outraged when a NSW Premier appointed a Police Commissioner and Jones felt he should have been consulted first.

4 As I said last week. Good government has been delayed indefinitely.

Here’s proof.

A NSW government minister has launched a blistering attack on the federal government’s administration of the scandal-ridden private vocational education sector.

In an exclusive interview, NSW Minister for Skills and Industry John Barilaro told Fairfax Media that his ministerial federal coalition colleagues “have made errors that I would not have ever believed from a government” in allowing the private vocational education sector to blow out to an expected $4 billion in public debt this year.

“How have we allowed a private provider in one year to have $300,000 in funding go to a hundred million in funding?” he said.

5 Malcolm Turnbull came to power promising a new politic. One of openness and transparency.

What we have had since is a Prime Ministers department fighting tooth and nail to prevent the release of information under freedom of information laws. And they have spent $70,000 in legal fees doing so.

6 How confusing economics can be to the lay person. This is how my friend Fred Martin put it:

‘The LNP claim they are about “growth and jobs” but I fail to see how you can “grow” the economy by cutting Government expenditure and increasing taxes on consumers.’

Remember that, according to the last budget update, the only reason we are not in recession is because of Government spending.

I think they are more about “profit and loss”, profit for the big end of town and the mega rich and the loss of living standards and dignity for the rest of us.

My thought for the day.

‘Ask yourself. Does the culture we have make us feel good about ourselves?’

 

Day to Day Politics. ‘If parliamentary convention applied. Dutton would resign’

1 If you think I am going to mention the ‘F’ word and some references about sexism over Christmas then you would be wrong. This is about misleading the parliament. The facts are straight forward.

This is about a 23-year-old Somali asylum seeker known as Abyan. The fact that she became pregnant on Nauru is well documented. She sought to have the pregnancy terminated last September. In October she was brought to Australia but as quickly as she arrives she was returned back to Nauru on a private jet no less, and at a cost of $115.000.

In the parliament Dutton claimed that she decided to not go ahead with the cessation. It is recorded that he repeated the claim in many subsequent interviews.

This is what he said. Quote.

The lady, following the consultations, provided advice that she did not wish to proceed with the termination and, as a result, was then chartered from Australia back to Nauru.”

 However, Human rights lawyer Kellie Tranter sought documents under FOI which confirm that Dutton misled the parliament. Emails make it clear that she hadn’t completely made up her mind and was still open to an abortion. Nauruan officials also made this clear.

So instead of waiting until the women was well enough to make an informed decision the Government hurried her back to Nauru. They did so because in the words of the first assistant secretary for the Immigration Department Neil Skill, they believed that the women’s lawyer was just ‘buying time’ so he could legally intervene to keep her in Australia permanently.

There we have it. An Australian Agency seeking to evade our legal system. That’s serious enough but on top of that we have the flagrant disregard for the women’s health.

The Coalition has people with degrees from some of the finest learning institutions in the world so I’m somewhat puzzled as to why a dunderhead like Dutton gets a ministry before them.

He should resign.

2 A thought on free speech.

The peddlers of verbal violence and dishonesty are the most vigorous defenders of free speech because it gives their vitriolic nonsense legitimacy. With the use of free speech, the bigots and hate-mongerers seek to influence those in the community who are susceptible or like-minded.

The original intent of free speech was to give a voice to the oppressed and to keep governments honest. In the United States, the first amendment is now used as a justification to incite racism, validate hatred and promote both religious and political bigotry

In a democracy the right to free speech in given by the people through the government. Therefore, it should be incumbent on the recipient to display a decorum of moderation, truth, fact, balance, reason, tolerance and respect for the other point of view. Sadly, this seems to have been forgotten both here and in the United States.

2 What should Shorten do?

Thus it is that Bill Shorten has gone from short odds to win the next election to rank outsider.

He doesn’t have the charisma of Turnbull and although the Royal Commission has found him innocent of any wrongdoing some mud has stuck. The recent revelation of branch stacking also underscores the negative view people have of him.

On the brighter side whatever tax package Turnbull takes to the election will be a hard sell and it will give Labor a decent campaign pitch. If Shorten is the policy wanker he is supposed to be then they might put forward some that command the electorate’s attention.

Notwithstanding the importance of economics Shorten must come up with a narrative that grabs the attention of the community.

How should he go about it?

A starting point would be a narrative about the decline in our democracy and the conservative’s participation in it. He could take the moral high ground, even acknowledge the faults, the corruption on both sides together with the destruction of our parliamentary conventions (the afore-mentioned Dutton action is an example)and institutions. Shout the need for a new truly representative democracy as often as Abbott said “Stop the Boats”.

In every utterance say that good democracies can only deliver good government and outcomes if the electorate demands it. Differentiate and deliver a campaign message that speaks to young and old alike by appealing to people to participate in this new democracy where all policy is centered on the common good. I can hear the first sentence of his first speech:

“I speak to all who have a common interest in renewing our democracy regardless of ideological association”.

Besides internal reform that engages its members, Labor needs to look at ways of opening our democracy to new ways of doing politics: ways that engage those that are in a political malaise so that they feel part of the decision-making process again.

Some examples of this are fixed terms, and the genuine reform of Question Time with an independent Speaker. Among many other things, Shorten needs to promote the principle of transparency by advocating things like no advertising in the final month of an election campaign, and policies and costing submitted in the same time frame. You can add reform of the Senate into this mix, and perhaps some form of citizen initiated referendum. Also things like implementing a National ICAC. Perhaps even a 10 point common good caveat on all legalisation.

He needs to convince people of a collective democracy that involves the people. A creative and exciting one.

In a future world dependent on innovation it will be ideas that determine government, and not the pursuit of power for power’s sake.

His narrative must convince the lost voters who have left our democracy to return. (and I am assuming that most would be Labor), He has to turn Labor’s ideology on its head, re-examine it, and then reintroduce it as an enlightened opposite to the Tea Party politics that conservatism has descended into.

Uppermost in his mind should be the ‘’say it like it is’’ rhetoric of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn.

He must promote and vigorously argue the case for action against growing inequality in all its nefarious guises, cast off its image of having moved to far to the right and replace it with a simple proposition of government for the common good.

Fighting an election in the fashion that we have become used to will not win government.

My thought for the day.

‘In the recipe of good leadership there are many ingredients. Popularity is but one. It however ranks far below getting things done for the common good’

Dear America, please don’t make Donald Trump your president

So Donald Trump wants to be president.

Well I would implore all Americans to think long and hard before casting a vote in his favour. Do you really, really want him in the White House?

I love America. One of the great things about America is that it embraces religious freedom. Take that away and not only will you diminish as the ‘land of the free’ but it just might not have the results that Trump hopes for. However, I’m not here to talk about that. There’s something else I want to warn you about.

I’ll start off with what a commenter on one of the articles on this site wrote:

I remember the first couple of weeks of Trump’s campaigning.

There were those who said that it was funny. They insisted the buffoon was in it just for publicity, he’d be gone in a month. The man was so ridiculous that common sense would prevail and people would dismiss him.

Rather than burn out, Trump has dragged the Republican candidates to [a] dangerous group … he has normalised ideas that should be abhorrent … he is desensitising the mass media. His comments draw much less outrage than they should.

Letting Trump spew his relentless, loathsome rubbish has not caused people to turn away in disgust. Rather, it has placed him as a front runner to be the next US president.

As a nation [Australia] we took a laid-back attitude . . . And how did that turn out? Well, as usual, the politicians resorted to pandering to the lowest denominators … fear and ignorance.

“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” – Voltaire

The underlying message there is that we in Australia know exactly how it turns out. We’ve had a glimpse of what life under a Trump-like disaster can be like.

And that’s how it was under our recently dethroned prime minister, Tony Abbott. In two short but destructive years Tony Abbott completely turned on its head the character and soul of our nation. In two frightening years under this manipulating dangerous man we saw the rise of patriot groups, supported by rogue politicians … encouraging racists to whip up fear and hatred with a passion never before seen in this country. And that, simply, is what changed us.

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.

Tony Abbott was removed from office a few months ago but the seeds of hate he planted are now growing uncontrollably wild and unchecked.

It is as if overnight we were no longer a tolerant and welcoming nation. Fear mongering prime ministers (or presidents) don’t succeed in such nations. Their political survival hinges on maintaining their political capital: fear. And then more fear.

Yes, there are troubles in the world which must be addressed, but are they being addressed by turning people against their neighbours, their work colleagues or people sharing the same bus? Are the troubles of the world being addressed when a young Muslim lady is bashed in a busy street in your city by stirred-up punks? Punks who, only a couple of years ago, would not have batted an eye lid at the same lady.

What good is it when the public discourse is one of hatred and violence? When talk around the local bar, the restaurant table, the coffee break at work or at family get-togethers is filled with nonsense at how people from other lands or other religions are obsessed with destroying us and our country. Yes, it’s nonsense, but people are frightened into believing it to be true.

Abbott frightened us and feasted on it. Trump will do the same to you.

And like Australia you have the same gutter-dwelling media who will keep boiling the pot of racism and bigotry for their own selfish needs.

Having said all that, I must say though that we’ve been lucky to date in that only kicks, punches and threats have been flowing. Blood has not been spilled. And that’s probably because of the one big difference we have with you. We don’t carry guns.

 

Australia versus USA on social housing – how do we compare?

By Dr Heather Holst

On a recent trip to the USA I was struck by the progress being made nationally to solve the homelessness crisis. A few major cities were proudly declaring they had ended veteran homelessness, while others claimed to have ended homelessness completely in their communities.

As deputy CEO of a major homelessness agency in Melbourne I was keen to understand how a country with a strong aversion to social welfare and government intervention seemed to be accepting a level of responsibility and even leadership in efforts to end homelessness.

I knew the US had a history of developing large scale affordable housing projects in several major cities. This was largely borne of the necessity to house a growing immigrant population and low income workforce throughout the early to mid-20th Century.

Much of the newer affordable housing development in the US is supported by low income housing tax credits provided to both not for profit and for profit organizations. For some large cities like New York the impetus for setting impressive targets like 200,000 new or reclaimed affordable housing properties by 2024 continues to relate to productivity and workforce.

New York Mayor Bill de Blaso has embarked on a serious campaign to boost affordable housing stock in that city by 200,000 because essential service workers like nurses, paramedics, and teachers have been priced out of the private rental market in that city. He also wants to provide housing for low income households (those earning under $24,000 a year) who have previously not qualified for ‘affordable housing’ because their income was too low.

Under de Blaso’s plan developers will adhere to mandated affordable housing quotas in where previously quotas were voluntary. The city will offer developers incentives such as the ability to increase the size of developments to compensate for the lower income generated from the affordable stock. It will also offer tax credits and other incentives for new construction. It will also extend financial assistance to landlords who offer or extend regulated rent to tenants that provides security of tenure.

In contrast Australia’s affordable housing stock has been rapidly shrinking in recent decades and all levels of Government have contributed to the crisis that we now find ourselves in. A combination of bad social policy, a lack of leadership at the federal level and a lack of planning and investment at the state and local levels has contributed to the housing crisis affecting hundreds of thousands of Australians today.

In 2011 Australia recorded a shortage of over half a million rental properties and working in the housing sector I can guarantee that number has increased since then. In Melbourne alone it is estimated that only 1% of rental properties are affordable for low income families.

A Senate inquiry into affordable housing in Australia reported in May this year that the market was not capable of solving the affordable housing crisis. The report was critical of the lack of a coordinated national response on this issue.

One of the findings that resonates with the success of the US model was the need to attract private investors into developing low cost housing. This will only be attractive to developers if incentives are offered along the line of the tax credits available to private investors in the US.

Despite cuts in federal affordable housing subsidy programs in the US, New York’s local government has prioritized a boost in supply through a coordinated effort involving 13 city agencies and buy in from more than 200 developers, and other interested parties. They have also committed $8.2 billion in public funds over 10 years to the plan.

The Low Income Housing Tax Credit in the US is part of the Tax Reform Act of 1986. Since its inception it has leveraged over $100 billion of private investment capital which has financed the development of 2.8 million homes for low income families.

It is now widely acknowledged now in Australia that housing affordability and homelessness are not marginal issues that we can continue to ignore in the hope that they will go away. There is no stereotype of ‘a homeless person’. While people from low income and disadvantaged backgrounds or those experiencing family violence, mental health or drug and alcohol issues continue to be hardest hit by the housing crisis in this country, it is increasingly impacting on middle class households.

So how can we learn from the US experience which is by no means perfect but has made significant inroads into a problem that really shouldn’t exist in wealthy, developed nations?
The most significant factor in the success of the US model is political leadership. This leadership comes from Washington and flows down to the states and local authorities who are taking up the challenge issued from the top to end homelessness in local communities.

The approach has been considered and well planned. Where it works best it incorporates well thought out public policy and strategic planning and financing from federal, state and local governments. It refocuses the issue of homelessness and housing affordability as an issue the whole community has a level of responsibility for.

I’m hopeful that Melbourne, with a Mayor who is genuinely concerned about homelessness and housing affordability and a strong philanthropic community that includes construction companies like Grocon, can come up with a New York style plan. It might not be as impressive in scale but it would send a message to Canberra and our neighbouring states that we are serious about an inclusive and humane future for our city. One that affords everyone the very basic right to safe, secure and affordable housing.

About the author: Launch Housing’s deputy CEO Heather Holst has worked in the housing sector since 1989. Heather joined HomeGround Services in 2009 as General Manager Client Services where she led the client services teams across all sites and programs.

Heather is passionate about ending homelessness and is committed to leading Launch Housing in working towards this mission.

Her housing experience spans homelessness service delivery, tenancy advocacy, homelessness policy, program development, research, rural homelessness service coordination in both the non-profit sector and government since 1989.

Heather co-authored the Opening Doors initiative and has contributed to key Victorian housing and homelessness innovations including the coordination of all services, transitional housing, standards, data, rights-based approaches and sector training.

Prior to working in the housing sector, Heather worked in the publishing industry for Penguin Books as a sales representative and then as reader and copy editor and for the Australian Women’s Book Review as business manager.

Heather has a Ph.D. in History from the University of Melbourne. She has published scholarly articles, book chapters and a book, Making a Home: A History of Castlemaine. She taught history for several years at Australian Catholic University, including in the Clemente program for people who have been homeless.

 

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