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Tag Archives: Japan

Is Uranium the Asbestos of the 21st Century?

After reading about incoming Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, and his interest in nuclear power today, I remembered that it wasn’t too long ago that Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said similar things of which I wrote about back in December 2014.

The minister for foreign affairs Julie Bishop, reignited the nuclear energy debate in Australia saying that it remains an option and a way to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions after 2020. “It’s an obvious conclusion that if you want to bring down your greenhouse gas emissions dramatically you have to embrace a form of low or zero-emissions energy and that’s nuclear, the only known 24/7 baseload power supply with zero emissions,” she told Fairfax Media. A “baseload power supply” is basically a continuous power supply. “I always thought that we needed to have a sensible debate about all potential energy sources and, given that Australia has the largest source of uranium, it’s obvious that we should at least debate it,” she said.

In 2006 businessman and nuclear physicist Ziggy Switkowski, headed the Review of Uranium Mining Processing and Nuclear Energy in Australia (UMPNER). Mr Switkowski is mostly known for being the former Telstra CEO that oversaw the initial privatisation of Telstra. He stepped aside controversially in 2005 with a “golden handshake” two years shy of his contract ending amid share prices slumping, and the fallout from risky financial decisions. Recently he is back in telecommunications after nearly a decade when the minister for communications Malcolm Turnbull, appointed him as Chairman of the national broadband network (NBN) in October last year. Ms Bishop was minister for education, science and training and minister assisting the Prime Minister for women’s issues, in the Howard government when the UMPNER review was released. She expresses dismay at the end results of the review: “The debate didn’t go anywhere. It descended into name calling about which electorates I intended to place a nuclear reactor in, and would I rule out Cottesloe Beach – that kind of puerile debate. So it didn’t ever get off the ground,” she said. Mr Switkowski’s review was pro-uranium mining and pro-nuclear power but many critics did not agree and felt that the narrow terms of reference set by the federal government restricted the panel to a study of nuclear power, not a serious study of energy options for Australia. And that there was already existing research indicating that meeting energy demand and reducing emissions can be done with a combination of renewable energy and gas to displace coal, combined with energy efficiency measures, without needing to use nuclear power. Another critic Dr. Mark Diesendor said that the report has no basis for its claim and that: “Nuclear power is the least-cost low-emission technology …” “How can the panel assert that nuclear is least cost, when it has neither performed any analysis nor commissioned any on this topic? To the contrary, wind power is a lower cost, lower emission technology in both the UK and USA and would also be lower cost in Australia.”

After hearing Ms Bishop’s comments, Mr Switkowski said: “It’s a big call for our leaders to engage in this debate, but a good one because it will take some time for communities and industries to get comfortable again with the current and future generations of nuclear technology.” He is of the belief that Australian community sentiment has been warming since the Fukishima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011, where the aftermath is ongoing, with 100 thousand people still displaced. The disaster occurred due to a major earthquake and a 15-metre tsunami that disabled the power supply, cooling three Fukushima Daiichi reactors causing the accident. Mr Switkowski appears to have his hopes pinned on advances in Small Modular Reactors (SMR), which are part of a new generation of nuclear power plant designs being developed in several countries. “The small modular reactors will provide a real opportunity to consider nuclear power again because they are a tenth of the size of a nuclear or coal-fired powered station.” He also hoped that they could address concerns most people held about the reactors being waste, their closeness to residential areas and the risk of accidents such as the Fukishima or the Chernobyl nuclear power plant catastrophe in 1986. He admits however, that if there were improvements in wind and solar technology over the next twenty years, renewable energy sources could be more viable. “It’s a bit of a race, given the time that’s been lost due to Fukushima,” he said.

I would hope that we are on a race to come up with the best alternative energy options including renewable energy, rather than putting all of our eggs into one nuclear basket.

The 5th Annual SMR conference in Washington D.C. was held in May this year. Senior Policy Adviser, National Resources Defence Council (NRDC) Christopher Paine, commented that “no speaker even mentioned the swiftly emerging reality that in 2025, potential SMR deployments will be competing against cleaner simpler renewable electricity plus energy storage systems – nuclear power will no longer be able to market itself by playing on customer fears of the “intermittency” of renewable energy sources.” Mr Paine also noted that no presenters at the conference had made a case that the economics of an SMR power plant would be better than those of an advanced conventional nuclear plant. On average a nuclear plant takes between 5-7 years to build, not including the planning and licensing. The initial outlay is very high and up to 75% total of it’s lifetime which is around 40-60 years. Exact figures for the construction of nuclear power plants are often commercially sensitive and hard to provide. Recent examples in the United States though have been priced from $5-$12bn per reactor over a relatively short construction time span. Even though the running costs of a nuclear plant are fairly low, the upfront costs associated with the construction and financing of it make it much more expensive than fossil fuel power, or coal. Mr Paine mentioned “energy storage systems”, this would solve the “baseload power supply problem” that is used to explain why nuclear is better than renewable energy. In fact, the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) researchers are working on new battery technology promising more efficient and affordable solar and wind energy. The three year project has received a $750k investment from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (AREA) as well as $1.24m industry support. “The focus of this project is to find a storage solution. Solar energy is not continuous; it is only when you have sunshine that you can generate electricity. The same goes for wind and other renewable energy sources. We intend to develop a rechargeable battery that can store these renewable energy sources and make them available for later use.”

Australia supplies between 12-20% of the global market and we have around 30% of the world’s reserves of uranium. Prior to the Fukushima disaster, Japan bought around 2,400 tonnes of uranium from Australia, our second largest market next to the European Union. The former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, came to tour Australia this year at the end of August for a week and to campaign for large-scale renewable energy. It’s of note that the current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Australia and where he addressed the Australian Parliament a month before hand. Mr Kan, a trained physicist, was once convinced that nuclear power was the future but this changed in March 2011 with the Fukushima nuclear disaster, when he faced the prospect of evacuating 50 million Japanese citizens from their homes. “Japan as a country would have lost its capability to function for decades,” he said, adding that only luck and “the mercy of God” stopped the crisis from reaching such a scale. He started his tour in the Northern Territory (NT), where the Ranger uranium mine is located, and most likely the source of some of the uranium oxide that found its way to the Fukushima plants. Energy Resources Australia (ERA) and it’s majority owner, Rio Tinto, won’t confirm this, citing commercial confidentiality. What is known is that Australia was the largest supplier of uranium to Japan; ERA produces more than half our uranium ore; and that Canberra’s nuclear safeguards office confirmed in October 2011 that Australian uranium was present in the Fukushima plants. Mr Kan doesn’t doubt some of Fukushima’s pollution originated at Ranger. ERA insists it abides by the world’s best environmental safeguards and practises, that are policed by both the NT government and the federal government’s supervising scientist, who is the federal regulator of the site. There has been more than 200 safety breaches and incidents over the past 30 years at the site, according to the Environment Centre NT. The worst one to happen was last December and the third mishap that month, when a leach tank with a 1.5 million litre capacity burst and spilled out a radioactive and acidic slurry. Mine operations were closed for several months before the Abbott government declared no harmful effects had been detected from the spill.

The traditional owners were opposed to the mining of uranium on the site, yet a 1976 act of Parliament allowed mining to go ahead on Mirarr lands anyway. Justice Russell Fox, the chair of the evironmental inquiry into Ranger, and who recommended that the mine go ahead also noted that “the evidence before us shows that the traditional owners … are opposed to the mining of uranium on that site”. Nevertheless, he said, “we form the conclusion that their opposition should not be allowed to prevail”. He also expressed hope that the mine would improve the “general happiness and prosperity of the region”, he also acknowledged that “the arrival of large numbers of white people … will potentially be very damaging to the welfare and interests of the Aboriginal people there”. Based on his recommendations, the Kakadu National park came to be, with its boundaries carefully drawn to exclude the Ranger site. Toby Gangali, was a Mirarr man, and his documentary was shot more than thirty years ago, and was shown to former Japanese PM Mr Kan during his visit. Mr Gangali talked of ancient sacred sites nearby, and of his fears that “something might go wrong if the mine goes ahead … snake might come … big rainbow … he might kill all over the world”. Downstream from Ranger, inhabitants of the small Aboriginal settlement of Mudginberri are worried about what the mine may one day send their way. Mark Djandjomerr and May Nango, who spoke through an interpreter, said they live in “constant fear there could be an accident. We know that a lot of jobs have been created by the mine. But we are the people who have to live downstream from it, we are always frightened something could go wrong”.

As traditional landowners, the Mirarr take responsibility for the impacts that activities such as mining on their land, has on others. The possibility of uranium being incorporated into a nuclear weapon or present at the site of a nuclear accident is of enormous concern to Mirarr. In April 2011, after the Fukishima disaster, Yvonne Margarula wrote to UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon and expressed her sorrow at the impacts radiation was having on the lives of Japanese people. She noted that, ‘it is likely that the radiation problems at Fukushima are, at least in part, fuelled by uranium derived from our traditional lands. This makes us feel very sad. It was confirmed by Dr Robert Floyd, Director General of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), that, “Australian obligated nuclear material was at the Fukushima Daiichi site”.

David Sweeney is a long-standing nuclear free campaigner with the Australian Conservation Foundation and he poignantly said: “Australia did not stop extracting and exporting asbestos because we ran out of the resource, we stopped because the resource ran out of social license and the companies involved in this toxic trade ran out of excuses. The same will happen with the uranium sector.”

We do have a moral obligation and a humanitarian responsibility for the potential hazards posed by the uranium we sell. Once it leaves our shores, there are so many dangerous risks that we are taking and the ramifications of proliferation, nuclear waste and nuclear disasters could all have catastrophic impacts, on not just our country and economy but our neighbour’s countries and economies.

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe’s government, is set to restart at least two nuclear power plants operated by Kyushu Electric Power early next year, but is facing resistance from local lawmakers concerned that the evacuation plans in the event of an accident were inadequate, as one example. Other power companies would like to follow Kyushu Electric Power’s lead and reopen reactors next year, however many of the nation’s 48 reactors are aging or located in seismically sensitive zones. In a poll conducted in October 18-19 this year by Kyodo News, 60% of respondents said they were against restarts, while 31% were in favour. Japan has also just re-entered a recession and is using quantitative easing as an economic measure to counteract it, which I have written about as well and the link is included in this sentence for ease. When Mr Abe made his case in late 2012 that he was the man to save the economy and revive Japan, including tackling Japan’s national debt, which currently stands at around 240% of their Gross Domestic Profit (GDP); voters handed him a landslide win. Just two years on out of a four year term, Mr Abe has dissolved the Japanese government and declared a snap election for December 14th this year. “We cannot”, he thundered, “let this chance go.” Many Japanese think they are being asked to buy the same horse twice. Mr Abe’s popularity has tumbled from the levels that he enjoyed early on and analysts believe he is seeking another four-year term now before issues begin next year over defence policy and the restarting of Japan’s closed nuclear plants and more grow.

Prices for uranium however have been depressed since the nuclear crisis in Japan in 2011 and most of the Australian uranium miners haven’t made a profit since then. Exploring all of the sides of nuclear energy is pause for thought, before we can even contemplate using nuclear energy in Australia. That is not to say that we can’t keep on exploring better ways to harness nuclear energy safely, because let’s face it, it’s great emission wise, just really bloody dangerous, but it would be great as a back up plan. We can never have too many of those.

This article was originally published on Political Omniscience.

 

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Greater Australia-Japan Military Ties: another dangerous step for Australia in the coming age of pax-Sino

The upgrading of Australia-Japan defence ties by the Abbott Government sends a dangerous and irresponsible signal to China, writes Dr Strobe Driver.

Bishop, Johnston and what the West helped teach China

The recent trip of Foreign Minister Bishop and Defence Minister Johnston to Japan in order to build greater ties via the articulation of defence needs, and talk intellectual/product/intelligence interchanges is a very dangerous stance for Australia to adopt. The level of this type of political intimacy would be okay if times were different, but they are not. What should be understood is that China is rising at an astonishing rate and whilst this process is taking place it is utilizing the pathway of postulation via threat-of-force. This is manifesting in what it believes to be a ‘reclaiming’ of its territories.

To be sure, China is only following the pathway that the United States (US) and the Soviet Union taught the world in the Cold War; and more recently what the US and its allies have consistently shown the world in the invasions of Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan (including ongoing US drone-strikes in the sovereign state of Pakistan) and with regard to the Soviets, Chechnya, the Ukraine, and to a lesser extent Georgia. France and its meddling in Indo-China and Algeria, Britain in Malaya and the Islas Malvinas/Falkland Islands have also succeeded in sending clear messages to China that invasion cum occupation are vibrant post-preponderance mechanisms.

From these examples there is no historical reason for China not to pursue its ambitions using preponderance through the prism of threat-of-force with an understanding that there will be a follow-up application of actual military force if need be—this in current circumstances would happen most likely by the geo-strategic stretch of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, and has been recently displayed in their recent intrusions further into the Pacific Ocean.

Australia – Japan and ‘defence’

The political movement of significantly closer Australia-Japan relations at this friction-filled time in the region is dangerous in the extreme for Australia. Why? First and foremost it sends a message to China that Australia will show allegiance to Japan militarily if there is a China-Japan ocean clash. One must ask if this were to occur what Australia could do about this in order to defend show its allegiance to Japan. The answer is ‘very little,’ beyond voicing its concerns in the United Nations (UN).

The unpalatable truth of the matter is Australia simply does not have the capabilities to facilitate a military response even if it wanted to, and with this in mind, what could Japan do if there was an Australia-China ocean clash in the region? Before an answer to this question is offered, it is timely to observe that as recently as the 11th June, 2014, a reference to the continuing frictions—which have a serious potential to drag Australia into a regional conflict—was brought up in a recent senate hearing.

Australian Defence Department head Dennis Richardson in an assessment of the instability in the region and the possibility of a unilateral action (read: China) destabilising the region, he stated in part “…there is always the risk of an accident or a miscalculation … ”.[1] What then would be the outcome and what could Japan do if a Royal Australian Navy (RAN) ship sustained damage, or was sunk in an exchange of fire? Japan could also do nothing, as it does not have ‘blue-water’ or ‘ocean-going’ navy capabilities to exercise any form of significant control beyond its littoral boundaries. In simpler terms, Japan possesses a ‘green water’ navy only. Moreover, and contributing to the non-interventionist strategies that would come to the fore is Japan’s neighbours have deep-rooted animosities toward it, and therefore to act in such a way would signify a resurfacing of its historical expansionist tendencies; and create a storm of protest from its near-neighbours. Hence, Japan would be very hesitant to act on behalf of another country, whether Australia or the US, due to its severe regional history.

Moreover, the sensitivity of its neighbours and the fact that such an action might trigger and then encourage China and Russia to act in a more definitive way on their territorial claims is the opening of a Pandora’s box that Japan simply does not want. Whether the territorial claims of China and Russia are valid is a moot point and beyond the scope of this essay, however the socio-psychological and geo-strategic intentions of Japan’s neighbours should not be underestimated as they play a significant role in Japan’ geo-political environment.

History and fear

To be sure, Japan’s other enormous fear, which one could suggest outstrips any other in terms of engaging in a conflict is its complete and absolute reliance on imported oil and this too, should not be underestimated. For instance, a concerted effort by China to limit and/or cut off supplies to Japan would place the Japanese economy in a parlous condition. Bearing in mind this is exactly what the US did in gaining the unconditional surrender of Japan in the Pacific phase of World War Two (WWII) is to acknowledge the issue remains alive in the island nation.

More to the point and an important part of the scenario of geo-strategies is to realise, in more contemporary times, the aspect of Japan’s reliance on imported oil can be observed in that, part of the reason the US invaded Iraq the second time in 2003 was to exercise a level of control over oil supply exports from the country. This had, and has, the ongoing residual of contributing to an ‘understanding’ by Japan that it is somewhat ‘tied’ to the US geo-strategically; discourages the questioning of the ongoing post-WWII positioning of US forces in Okinawa; and extrapolating on Jacques argument, encourages Japan to ‘think of itself as an Asia-Pacific power rather than [an] East Asian power’[2] and further highlights Japan’s post-Meiji stance of respect for the West and contempt for Asia.[3]

Nevertheless, where does this leave Australia if an ‘accident or a miscalculation’ were to take place and if these closer Australia-Japan military ties resulted in an RAN ship being damaged/sunk in an engagement? The default position of the Abbott government is that the US would immediately step in and come to the ‘defence’ of Australia—the ANZUS treaty notwithstanding. Relying on an assumption as the region becomes more friction-filled is dangerous in the extreme; and has the potential of placing Australia in a perilous position.

Essentially, Australia’s position is one of being involved in the region to the extent of overtly demonstrating an alliance with a distant neighbour that has no military response capabilities in terms of coming to Australia’s aid; and of assuming the US will respond immediately and precisely with a corresponding show of force is fragile. If Australia must take sides the Abbott Coalition and conservative government needs to seriously assess whether the US, in the next two decades, will exercise any form of robust response to Australia’s ‘needs’ in the Asia-Pacific (A-P) region. Moreover, it is an already acknowledged fact that America is a war-weary and “foreign policy fatigue[d]”[4] nation, whose people are perplexed by the lack of appreciation shown for its endeavours in saving and/or rescuing other nations (such as Afghanistan and Iraq), have the will to interdict in the A-P region, regardless of what their president states.

To believe this stance would change if Australian forces were threatened/destroyed is a fantasy.

To assume the US would intervene, if there were a force-on-force collision on the high seas, is a belief that has its roots in a time long gone. America will do what is best for America, and to assume otherwise befits an historic underpinning that is now superseded. Moreover this attitude displays in the Coalition a genuine lack of awareness of the coming state-of-affairs; and what the coming storm—consisting of a deliberate containment of China—will bring.

The historical situation remains transfixed in the minds-eye of this Coalition government (as it was the previous Labor government), by what the US accomplished in the ‘saving’ of Australia as the Japanese advanced through the A-P region in the (early) phase of the Pacific theatre in WWII. The US did come to Australia’s aid at this time and to be fair, after the bombing of Darwin Australian policy-makers had been caught completely off-guard by Japanese advances; and were in a state of disarray.

The here and now: how times have changed

The above-mentioned scenario, of Australia being caught by surprise and needing to have acute intervention is, in contemporary times, not applicable. In the late twentieth and the early twenty-first century the dissemination of information is much greater and the awareness, information and debate is robust in political, military and academic realms. There is a vast amount of information with regard to China’s rise and the possible trajectories, the threat it may pose, and the potential collisions that may occur—there are none of the ‘surprise factors’ that were present in 1941-42.

Therefore, to not understand or to blithely ignore the enmeshment of history and the severe implications it could have for Australia—or to continue on an ‘as normal’ pathway when dealing with Japan in the current state-of-affairs—borders on a wilfull denial of Japan’s history in the region; a the impact the rise of China will have on Australia from a military perspective; and harnesses a misguided belief that the regional power-stakes will not undergo seismic change in the near-future. Ministers Bishop and Johnston’s behaviour on behalf of the Abbott government signal a retreat to the sanctuary of the past in which the US—as it did in the early 1940s—will come to the aid of Australia immediately and completely; and that Japan will remain steadfast in its military allegiance to Australia as the pressures from China grow.

These are the gravest of mistakes and the positioning of Australia by Bishop and Johnston’s actions send a clear and overt signal to an up and coming regional strength that previous relationships matter at the expense of creating new and vibrant ones. Thus, the upgrading of Australia-Japan defence ties (even if the end result is one of only symbolism) sends a dangerous and irresponsible signal to a burgeoning China—a land of a sixth of the world’s population, and a country that has over a million-plus military personnel—and makes the coming era of pax-Sino for Australia an increasingly dangerous place, within a progressively fragile environment overall. Australia’s default should be one of striving for inclusiveness in all the A-P region, and not be one of sending exclusive signals to one country which might antagonise another.

It is timely here to consider the actual worth of US’ assurances, and reflect on the history of such ‘assurances’ in the ‘cold light of day.’ There were assurances given to the Southern Iraqi (Marsh) people during the latter stages of the First Persian Gulf War, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnamese Army) were also given assurances during the latter stages of the Vietnam War, the Hmong people of the Central Highlands of Vietnam were also given promises by the US government during the Vietnam War in their fight against the North Vietnamese.

In recent times Iraq was told the US would stay the course, and Afghanistan was told it would be helped until complete independence: all in one way or another were rescinded upon. For Australians’ to think they are of greater importance than any of the aforementioned is irrational; and unsupported by reality. Lastly, a perspective on the Americans’ coming to Australia’s rescue in the Pacific phase of WWII should also be given its place, if only to observe what could happen if the above-mentioned Australia-China collision comes to pass and the region explodes into a kinetic-phase of military action. American policy with regard to Australia at the time of WWII is able to be seen in its true light when Wurth’s recent book, 1942 Australia’s greatest Peril, is examined. Wurth states:

The security of Australia had just been listed very low on a secret US Army list of strategic priorities – in fact, behind seven other priorities -beginning with maintaining Britain, keeping Russia in the war as an enemy of Germany, and maintaining the status quo in India, the Middle East and China.[5]

Foreign Minister Bishop and Defence Minister Johnston should ask the US where Australia actually is placed in its current list of priorities, as one could (and should) based on history, doubt that it is at number one. Regardless of where Australia is on any foreign powers’ list, a more measured and articulate approach needs to be taken toward China in the A-P region. A more coherent and sensible approach to China is sorely needed, if only because China is now on a pathway to exercising preponderance with the addendum of force; that we are in no way assured of America’s response if a ‘miscalculation’ leads to conflict, regardless of our joint histories; and that Australia wishes to show China it is an independent, critical thinking nation, one capable of making its own way in the region free of American influence.

To go in the Bishop-Johnston direction on behalf of the Abbott government is tempting a future military fate; and Australians’ should further understand, time is running short to have a positive input in balancing the region before a war breaks out.

Footnotes:

[1] Mike Head. ‘Australian Senate committee discusses threat of US-China war.’

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/06/11/wars-j11.html?view=article_mobile

[2] Martin Jacques. When China Rules the World. London: Penguin Books, 2009, 400.

[3] When China Rules the World, 394

[4] Tom Switzer. ABC Lateline ‘Friday Forum.’ Presenter/Reporter: Emma Alberici http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2014/s4025260.htm 13, June 2014.

[5] Bob Wurth. 1942 Australia’s greatest peril. Sydney: Macmillan Australia, 2008, 19. Italics and highlight mine.

This article was first published on Geo-Strategic Orbit and had been reproduced with permission.

More articles by Dr Strobe Driver:

What a State demands, what a citizen gives, and what Abbott and Hockey simply don’t understand

People ‘cost too much’: the Abbott Government and Neoliberalism

 

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War games

From the very beginning, Tony Abbott has been even worse on the world stage than we could have possibly imagined.

Everyone is our bestest friend ever.

Stick to the economy saying how bad the previous government was but avoid discussing any action with anyone other than the Murdoch press.

Small talk is excruciating. Body language is just wrong.

Trying so hard to take a stand then quickly changing as he looks over at what the other guy is doing, unless it’s about climate change, in which case we can’t see you.

And my personal favourite, though it was hard to choose what with climbing mountains and scaring French children, only agreeing to talk about climate change if it’s called “energy efficiency” instead.

But as he barrels around the world having his photo taken with his “best friends”, what is Tony actually doing, other than scoping out new casino sites for James Packer, since he doesn’t bother taking any expert advisers with him?

In the latest news, it appears we are going to become arms dealers for Stephen Harper.

Reading an ABC article I came across this line

“Canada wants Australia to help it engage in security issues in Asia.”

In trying to find out more about this I came across this article from 2011.

“Finally the government released its latest deeply-flawed report on Canada’s military exports between 2007 and 2009.

According to the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI) — a government-funded lobby group representing 860 member companies — Canada now exports $5 Billion to $7.5 Billion in military and so-called “security” products per year.

Despite massive loopholes in the government’s report, their data does reveal that almost all of Canada’s military exports went straight into the arsenals of about 40 belligerent nations fighting in the Iraq and/or Afghan wars, which have killed over 1.5 million people.

Few know that in 2009, Canada was virtually tied in a three-way race for sixth place among the world’s top arms exporters, right behind the U.S., Russia, Germany, the UK and China.

Nowadays, with $4 billion a year in military products streaming stateside, Canada is America’s top military supplier, and their hardware is deeply embedded in U.S. weapons fighting on three important war fronts: North Africa (Libya), the Middle East (Iraq and Israel) and Central Asia (Afghanistan). Such U.S.-led invasions, occupations, proxy wars and regime changes have long enforced unjust structures of economic control over resources in the Third World. Canadian complicity in manufacturing, exporting and deploying the instruments of war, has helped maintain their high-rank among the world’s most prosperous nations.”

Perhaps we are going to pay Canadian security firms to house refugees on an island in the Arctic Ocean. Who knows?

Reporting about Tony’s trip to China in April, the Australian said:

“Earlier, the Prime Minister declared Australia’s “trust in China” as he outlined plans for greater defence links including joint military exercises, days after tightening alliances with Japan and South Korea.

Countering the “strategic pessimism” about security in Asia, Mr Abbott assured 1800 government and business officials in Shanghai that the rise of China could bring prosperity for all, including an Australian economy that already receives $60 billion in annual Chinese ­investment.

But in an apparent warning on China’s territorial claims, Mr Abbott said it would be “unthinkable” to put everything at risk by failing to settle disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law.”

Abbott declared at the East Asia Summit leaders’ meeting last year that Japan was Australia’s “best friend in Asia”. Abe’s cabinet has already increased defence spending and eased restrictions on arms exports. An expert review panel is expected to recommend that Japan can exercise its right to participate in collective self-defence with its allies.

While this constitutional change is generally assumed to be referring to the US – Japan’s key ally – it could also involve Australia. Since 2002, Australia, Japan and the US have occasionally held the Trilateral Security Dialogue meetings between their defence and foreign ministers. The ADF and the JSDF could therefore conceivably conduct combined combat operations with the US in future.

So we are forming defence links and having military exercises with China, who are in a dispute with Japan, whose side we have openly defended, even castigating the Chinese Ambassador, whilst brokering arms deals for Harper, presumably to both sides since we are ON both sides, but we are warning them to be peaceful. But what of the US?

Just to make sure that everyone is being peaceful, we are going to send $12 billion into the US economy to keep their armament industry thriving in the hope that ten years down the track they will have worked out how to make those 72 planes fly.

In the meantime we’ll spend $4 billion buying eight highly-sophisticated P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol planes for the Royal Australian Air Force. The US-built aircraft will be delivered in 2017 to replace the Cold War-era P3 Orion aircraft. The Poseidon will come equipped with torpedoes and harpoon missiles to destroy submarines and warships.

And just to make sure American arms manufacturers have enough of our money, a report in February said seven US-made drones would be purchased for Aus$3 billion ($2.7 billion), but Abbott said the details of how many and when had yet to be finalized.

And why should South Korea be left out. After admonishing Tony about a Gillard decision to cancel a gun order, he appears to have promised the South Koreans that we will buy guns from them too because Lord knows, we need more guns.

The Navy’s two supply ships, HMAS Sirius and HMAS Success need replacing, so the Government is buying two new ships but only two firms, one Spanish, and one South Korean, will get the chance to tender for the job.

I think that Tony is getting a tad too much of his advice from the military who seem to have an endless budget in these days of belt-tightening. The other smarter leaders are taking advantage of Tony’s enthusiasm to make friends, sign free trade agreements, and play with army stuff. That’s not fair, guys, picking on the dumb new kid.

 

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When will the truth be told about Fukushima?

Image courtesy of gizmodo.com

Image courtesy of gizmodo.com

Is the Japanese Government being honest about Fukushima? In this guest post by Rowan Douglas, Rowan thinks the answer is clear: No.

I’ve just finished watching a short film supplied by Tepco (a major Japanese electric utility company) on the removal of fuel rods from the stricken Fukushima Nuclear power plant.

The workers at Fukushima would have to be some of the bravest people on the planet, and there can be no doubt that they deserve far more recognition than they are receiving at the moment. These dedicated professionals are getting stuck into a job that few would even be prepared to contemplate, placing their lives at risk in order to fix just one of a plethora of problems requiring resolution. This newly-released film from Tepco highlighted to me just how much attention is being given to this reactor and its particular problems.

But maybe it’s what they are not focusing on that’s the real issue.

I started to research the Fukushima and the Chernobyl nuclear disasters in August this year. The company I worked for is planning on heading into Japan at the start of 2014, and it was, in fact, the way the company was not acknowledging the recent mainstream media reports coming out of Japan that got me researching this topic.

The company that I worked for is the prestigious entertainment production company Cirque Du Soleil.

Of late though, Cirque has been failing to attract the crowds it has become used to over its thirty-year history. It is a fact, in this particular production from Cirque, they have just had four months off due to not being able to find a market to successfully sell their product in. This has never happened in Cirque’s history. If they were not to take this production into the promoter market of Japan, then they would not have any place to take this show. Cirque has been relying increasingly upon promoter markets since the GFC in 2009. A promoter market is when a particular promoter pays for the Cirque product (show) upfront and then sells and promotes the product they have purchased. This has proven to be the most cost effective and profitable way for Cirque to run. I perceived their lack of acknowledgment of the change in the situation at Fukushima as trying to downplay the potential dangers presented in Japan. This being due to the fact that they have been hemorrhaging staff since the unpaid break of four months. I believed that they were putting the lives of their employees and their families at risk in order to keep the production alive and make millions of dollars profit from the Japanese promoter market.

What worried me further, after looking into it more deeply, is the fact that the promoter for Cirque in Japan is the television network Fuji, which if you do not know, is the largest television network in Japan. This is the very same television network that is participating in the media black out of Fukushima. After Cirque’s initial non-acknowledgment of the situation and my awareness of who the promoter Fuji actually was, I felt I had no safe choice but to resign from my position. At this point I need to make it clear that Cirque has since covered itself and acknowledged the changing situation in Fukushima. It only did this after I sent out a company wide email addressing the change in the Fukushima situation.

During my own research into this topic I learned that the Japanese government and Tepco had been aware of the ongoing leakage of radioactive water into the ocean and had continued to keep this information concealed. I became incensed. How could a government lie to its people and to the world about such a perilous situation? I also discovered that they had been deceitful since the incident at Fukushima in saying that there had only been one meltdown when in fact there had been three.

The situation comes down to me now as a question of trust. Both the Government and Tepco has by their own admission been deceiving the public since the very beginning, so why should I or anyone trust anything they say now?

During the period I was researching, Tokyo was named host of the 2020 Olympics. I was astounded. How could a country that has just undergone the worst nuclear disaster in history, and really only just begun the process of cleaning it up, be awarded this privilege?

It was all a little strange and far too coincidental for me.

The Japanese Government has assured the world that they have this disaster under control. Obviously ‘control’, at least by the Japanese government’s definition, means releasing 350-400 tons of radioactive waste into the ocean on a daily basis.

The Olympic committee seems to be satisfied with this explanation. The world’s mainstream media seem to be satisfied as well. They have gone strangely quiet since the Olympic announcement. It is like someone has waved a magic wand. All reports of water leakage and ‘ice walls’ seemed to have vanished. They have been replaced by short pieces on the work being done on removing the fuel rods from the spent fuel pools at reactor no.4. Personally, I have only come across one piece on the water leakage since the announcement.

I turned my attention instead to the underground media on the Internet. A common theme I immediately found among these many sites was a huge amount of fear. Most of the fear centres around the potential for a huge nuclear release from the moving of the fuel rods. It seems strange to me that everyone is focusing solely on the potential for something that may or may not happen. Shouldn’t we be focusing on the range of problems holistically and then dealing with all of them as such? Is not like independent sources have not been offering Tepco other solutions to the water leakage either. During my research I came across Arni Gundersen from the energy watchdog Fairewinds. He approached Tepco with the following solution two years ago ‘Surround the plant with a trench filled with material called zeolite. That’s just the volcanic ash. The volcanic ash is very good at absorbing radiation. But the solution isn’t to keep the water from getting out. The solution is to keep the water from getting in. So, outside the trench that they surround the plant, if they pull the water level down (the clean water outside the trench) that would prevent further water from leaking into the Daiichi site.’ Why then are Tepco only focusing on reactor no. 4?

It feels like the same charade that governments and corporations play the world over. The old sleight of hand parlour trick. While we have our attention on something that may happen, they continue to do nothing about what actually is happening. This raises further questions. Is it because the problem is so huge and will cost so much money that they cannot afford to fix it? Is it simply something that cannot be fixed by any known technology or science? Or is it that we cannot see the damage being done so therefore it is easier to not to focus on it?

These are just some of the questions that I feel the world’s media should be asking. As an aware citizen I believe we have a right to the truth, especially when it comes to issues such as these. Governments have a responsibility to their people and to the rest of the world to tell the truth no matter how bad or incompetent they look.

One thing I do know for sure is that the truth always prevails. How long this will take and how much damage will be done until such a time, it seems, is up to the Japanese government.

The very same government that has been lying since the beginning.

So, you see, for me it is not a question of truth any more.

It is a question of when.

When is the world’s media going to start asking these questions?

When will someone have the guts to stand up to the obfuscation peddled by the authorities and demand cold hard facts?

When is the actual truth going to be told?

See more from Rowan Douglas on his blogsite Time to Share, Time to Act.