Frank Costigan QC: National Conference: ALP Reform

Costigan-FThis week’s (July 25-26, 2015) National Conference of the Labor Party brought back the deja vu feeling in me and the memory of the efforts of Frank Costigan QC to achieve reform in the ALP – more influence to genuine members – less power to self interested power groups. Frank was a quiet and decent person, who did a power of good in his lifetime. He had a relaxed style about him, and a sense of humour.

Many decent people, I have observed, do not usually last in politics. They usually leave the political party in disgust at the ruthlessly immoral behaviour of those strange beings without ideals who have a single-minded ambition to achieve power (and money?) at any cost. Such decent people usually then move into an area wherein they can do good without the ceaseless skulduggery.

Then there are the others (stronger decent people?) who know that they must stay in the political cesspool because that is the infrastructure within which the most good can be done for the most people. Such was Frank Costigan QC.

I was a friend of Frank’s. I admired him greatly. I want to put on record an achievement — shared with Frank — one I unashamedly take pride in.

The scene was in 1970 at the Festival Hall near the current Docklands in Melbourne. The big question was “Intervention” and the reform of the Victorian Labor Party. There were human blockages in Victoria which were a threat to a possible big victory by the ALP, then led by Gough Whitlam. The key and burning question at this meeting was whether the ordinary member could participate in the decisions of the party.

I was the first to speak at the conference. I moved a resolution seconded by Frank Costigan that 50% of voting power in the party go to the unions (who had the lot at that stage). and 50% voting power go to the members. We argued quite cogently that if the branch members were not to be represented in the party we may as well go home.

Almost every other item on the proposed agenda depended on voting this in on principle. I remember looking up at the confronting faces of Tom Burns, Bob Hawke, Jim Cairns, George Crawford and other heavies and having them look down — and they were up on high on the stage like Judges in the High Court — gazing on us and strongly saying that they wanted to follow the agenda as planned. I couldn’t believe their stupidity — as I saw it.

Our motion was not accepted, it being contrary to the agenda or something like that. Frank Costigan and I had a meeting with a few other supporters (Max and Norma Edgar, Gerry Cunningham, John Champion?) and decided to keep fighting. We wrote a pamphlet and had it printed that night. It was headlined “50-50”. The next day we gave out these pamphlets advocating the 50-50 power sharing plan to all the delegates. We built up momentum.

In the meantime, the agenda of the heavies got nowhere. Towards the end of the conference Bob Hogg moved a resolution to grant 60% representation to the unions, and 40% to the members. Hogg did not even acknowledge Costigan and myself, and spoke as if he had suddenly found the solution himself, which pissed me off greatly at the time.

But Hogg’s resolution got through and the whole agenda then sailed through — and enough democracy came through to the Victorian branch to keep a fair few of the members. Enough “Reform” had been achieved. Gough Whitlam went on to win the election.

Years later I met Frank at Sydney airport when our mutual plane was delayed. We went off and had a few beers together an jovially reminisced about our party changing stand for 50-50. Frank Costigan, who later became famous as a Royal Commissioner into the Painters and Dockers Union, died with a track record of many achievements to his credit, but this unacknowledged one was one of his most influential, and a key element in restoring the ALP to government in 1972.

POSTSCRIPT: The Costigan’s are remarkable family. By coincidence, I have had a long-standing friendship with Frank’s twin brother Michael Costigan who has done some wonderful things in his life. I also ended up living in the same apartment block as another brother, Peter Costigan, a lovely and hospitable man, with whom I shared many a red. Peter, for a while, was Lord Mayor of Melbourne. We actually planned a Ceremony/Rite-of-Passage for the young people (teenagers) of Melbourne. He died suddenly.

Dally Messenger

Life Member of the Australian Labor Party.

American in Paris -Broadway NYC

So I was in New York and friends of ours invited us to dinner and a Broadway show as an out of proportion gesture of appreciation for a favour we did them.

The show was “An American in Paris”. I anticipated that it would be pleasant  – I had seen the movie years ago. I expected good but typical Broadway. I’d seen a few Broadway shows in the real and, of course, at the movies. A few minutes into the performance, however, I became aware that here we had something above-excellent-average special. It was not just competent show dancing of the Chicago or 42nd Street mode/ genre but a touch of class over and above that. I could not take my eye off (or “off of” as the Americans say) the leading lady. I had no idea who she was, or what her name was, or where she came from. I had not even had a chance to glance at the Playbill Program.

Leanne Cope
Leanne Cope

Now I need to tell you that for ten years I was the editor and publisher of Dance Australia Magazine.

Audrey Tautou
Audrey Tautou

In this position one is exposed to many of the best dancers / ballerinas in the world. You cannot help picking up a modicum of awareness of who has the gift. I was looking at this woman and saying to myself – this is some prima ballerina plus – she could hold her own in any of the great classical ballet companies. Not only that, she can act, she can sing (“The man I love”), she can superbly dance in the style of George Balanchine or Bob Fosse. She has the stage presence of Margot Fonteyn, the fluidity of Susan Jaffe, and the come-hither eyes of Audrey Tautou.

Later I found that Leanne Cope had come direct from the Royal Ballet in London – so there you go.  So had her partner Robert Fairchild. Many more aspects I could mention, but at least a sentence to express my admiration for Christopher Wheeldon‘s choreography and staging. The superb glitz and feathers “I’ll build a Stairway to Paradise” show dance was bookended by a hangdog presentation of a nightclub singer whose dreams of stardom were beyond him. So cleverly done. If you put “American in Paris Broadway” into Bing.com / youtube.com there is a collection of video clips of the Broadway show. This trailer gives you a bit of an idea. 

Ray Dahlitz (1926-2015) – Humanist -Contributor

Ray_DahlltzRay Dahlitz (1926-2015) – a true contributor

I knew Ray (and his partner Rosslyn) as movers and shakers in the Humanist society. Ray worked all his life to make the world a better place for its own sake. He had no “supernatural infrastructure” to support him, as he strongly concluded from his university days, that no religious system stood up to scrutiny.

He was a wonderful help to me in the establishment days of the Civil Celebrant Program in Australia. It was established by our mutual friend Attorney-General Lionel Murphy – the first “Humanist of the Year”. We avoided the trap of having “Humanist Celebrants” and “Civil Celebrants“.

The Funeral Ceremony was very enlightening. Raised in the Depression Ray had periods when the money ran out the only food his family could give a young boy was bread and dripping.

He made a great success of his business life as CEO of the firm Waproo which manufactures paper and other products. His staff, from what I was told, idolised him.

I will always remember him as a warm, friendly, personable and hospitable human being.

Civil Celebrant program in Australia 2015

This is to my friend Charles Foley. Giving my ideas on how to improve the Civil Marriage Celebrant program in Australia

Dear Charles
I have sent you these before but I still think they are relevant. The charging of  extra money has only solved the numbers problem to a very small extent. Once enthusiastic celebrants have lost interest – celebrancy has become only a small part of their lives. I have observed that because of the excessive numbers fewer come to celebrant meetings, and the ignorance shown on email forums is disheartening (I am a member of 3). 2000 celebrants would be plenty for this country but we have 8000, we used to have 11,000 we have 6000 in excess which leads to all the degrading of our role because of over competition and the lowest standards of ceremony in our history. I suggest a moratorium (with rare exceptions) – it might take five or ten years. Or thorough independent testing and assessments for applicants? (the applicant pays)
There have been many articles lately in the media on the exploitation of the government and the people by the plethora of Mickey mouse courses run by money makers — and not educationists. RTOs are generally bad across the board. TAFEs are going broke. Why are we in this system? We don’t have to be.
Citizenship Ceremonies
And then there are the possibilities for getting celebrants more involved in society and the culture. The late Tom Powell tried to get the government to approve celebrants (or selected celebrants) to preside at individual citizenship ceremonies. The person becomes an Australian citizen when they take the pledge in a ceremony. Then and only then. People who do not wish to go to a big ceremony, or who live in an area where the ceremonies are usually “sterile”, could opt to have a celebrant. Could the Department and the organisations work on this instead of legal trivia. Imagine how this would lift status, morale and enthusiasm.
 Here are my topics for the meeting which appear to me to come under the purview of the general agenda: the issues I raised before are still relevant. I have highlighted no. 4 in red because this is what should be 90% of any celebrant courses and OPD. Can you imagine a forum of surgeons ceaselessly talking about how to run an office, how to fill in the forms, how to market yourself better than other surgeons – instead of talking about what really matters – surgery that works, that saves lives, that help people regain health, and improves the body beautiful?
  1. The possibility of a new understanding of the relationship between the Attorney-General’s Department and working celebrants. i.e. Public Servants who are informed, supportive, and interested in what celebrants can do for individuals and society. AND celebrants who are informed with the knowledge of the history and purpose of civil celebrancy and who possess an attitude of cooperation.
  2. A thorough teaching of Section 48 of the Marriage Act – especially the last sentence of 48 (3). see – http://www.collegeofcelebrancy.com/pages4/Sect_48-Marriage_Act.html
  3. A Transfer of Section 39A to M – the powers of the registrar – to, mutatis mutandis, standing orders within the department – and the powers and responsibility be returned to the elected and accountable minister i.e. to the Attorney-General.
  4. That public servants dealing with celebrants undergo a course of training in the nature and evolution of ceremony, the importance of culture, the psychological power of memorable events, and the nature of society. The course should include attendance at celebrant weddings, funerals, namings, and other secular ceremonies — with reports and critiques – a thorough knowledge of the art and delivery of ceremony. Resources should be extensive.
  5. There should be a serious ceremony at which celebrants are inducted into the profession, attended by the Attorney-General or his equal.
  6. That the Attorney-General assist celebrants expose our exploitation by Funeral Directors, who effectively control fees by not sub-contracting any celebrant who does not conform to their low fee, thus depressing standards.
There are other issues which I have outlined in the following articles and blogs:

Alex Hutchinson-Road to Gundagai

DRM-Hutch
Dally Messenger (left) and my mate Alex.

30,000 Youtube Hits!!

My friend Alex Hutchinson has been earning living as a Musician since he was fifteen years of age. A summary of Alex’s life and achievements can be found at  – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_Hutchinson –
His own website is – http://www.jazzlegend.com

For many years, on Saturday afternoons, when I was an active marriage celebrant, if ever I had a time-space between marriages and I could manage it, I would go wherever he was playing (mostly clarinet) and listen to a master musician at work.

We share political ideals. We both believe in justice and fairness. How many of us are left?

They were the days, my fiend, before poker machines, when the hotels and many other venues valued Melbourne’s top class musicians. When I look at the scene now, I cannot help but think of the Buena Vista Social Club. Just like in Cuba, short sighted government money-chasing killed off much of the musical scene of Melbourne.

Alex turned 80 the other day. I was one of the few who had the privilege of attending his 80the Birthday celebration.

We are going to have another party to celebrate his 30,000 hits from all over the world. Music is the common language.

Have a listen – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Nrg6ytwDF0

Solar Powered House (only)

Solar Powered HouseLiving off the power grid gives me a buzz – July 27, 2014 – from the Age

Emma Sutcliffe

As the federal government touts the repeal of the carbon tax as a win for household energy bills, Australians are increasingly turning to renewable energy to save money.  My family and I went one step further, going completely off-grid and finding that it didn’t compromise our lifestyle.

My favourite phone calls start like this.

“Hello madam, I’m calling to reduce your power bills.”

My answer, usually a detailed description of why the caller is wasting their breath, can be distilled into two sentences.

“My house isn’t connected to the grid,” I explain. “I won’t have an electricity bill for the next 15 years.”

Usually I’m met with disbelief; most think it’s a novel excuse to get rid of them, others are more forceful.

“That’s illegal,” one telemarketer earnestly assured me.  “I can report you.”

I’m still waiting for the energy police to knock on the door, but, if they do, I’d be happy to show them around our own personal power station.

I’d point out the 30 panels on our north-facing garage roof, which connect to the two inverters mounted on an internal wall next to the mountain bikes and garden implements.

They’d admire my 24-cell battery bank contained within a neat plywood box complete with beautifully hinged sealing lid that my Dad, a former engineer, made for us.

In the house, we’d check the little electronic panel in the hallway that reads the current battery level which, on any averagely sunny Melbourne day, is usually at 100 per cent by lunchtime.

The truth is that living sans electricity grid is surprisingly simple.

When my husband and I bought our seven hectares of rocky clay in Little River, halfway between Melbourne and Geelong, we didn’t give any thought to power until we started to build in 2012.

The nearest power pole was over a kilometre away and a quote to install a new pole and connect power to our block came in at around $30,000, plus the costs of laying conduit-encased cable 400 metres up to the house site so the builder could fire up his nail gun.

Add ongoing quarterly power bills and it was tallying up to quite an expense; we were, after all, building a 38-square home for ourselves and two teenagers.

So began a search for an alternative which led us, via my parents’ plumber, to a couple of Geelong-based renewable energy gurus, Phil and John.

My first phone call to John was a confusing mish-mash of technical terms and questions about kilowatt hours, appliance energy efficiency ratings and absorbed glass mat battery banks.

However, it was clear that John knew what he was talking about, so I lined up a meeting and was given the address of his family home, a mud-brick four-bedroom house with composting toilets on  four tree-lined hectares in Wensleydale.

After lunch cooked on a proper wood-fired Aga, we crawled under the house to inspect gel-filled batteries and the small shed containing the back-up generator.

By the time we brushed the cobwebs off, we were sold; John and his family were living electricity-bill free in a beautiful, comfortable home – and without a dreadlock or tie-dye T-shirt in sight.

After completing an electrical audit listing which energy-guzzling appliances we’d be using, our 22 kilowatts an hour per day power station was designed and installed for $60,090, with a $7500 government rebate.

For the first few months we kept a nervous eye on the available power, but the anxiety soon wore off as the batteries hit 100 per cent almost every day.

Our first winter in the house had so few days of cloud cover that we postponed installing the back-up generator; we didn’t need it and we still don’t have one.

The maintenance required to keep the liquid electrolyte battery bank happy amounted to a quarterly top-up with demineralised water and ensuring tiny amounts of emitted hydrogen vented properly.

In two years, there have been a handful of days when we’ve been, unnecessarily, nervous about our available power, however a few hours with the TV switched off has been good for both the batteries and our square-eyed family unit.

Of course, it’s not for everyone, this off grid-goodness, especially given the upfront cost which we added to our mortgage and pay interest on.

It’s been difficult to work out whether we’ll be saving money in the long term, as somewhere around 2027 our battery bank will need replacing at significant cost.

However, with battery prices falling, we’re hopeful it won’t outweigh what we’d have saved on energy bills for the previous 15 years.

Whatever the monetary outcome, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s a wonderful feeling, this knowledge that we’re naturally harvesting energy while giving the metaphorical finger to the fossil fuel industry, climate change sceptics and a federal government seemingly intent on shutting down the renewables industry.

We’re just an average family hoping that our experience without an overhead power line prompts the type of conversations I enjoy having with people.

Especially those energy company telemarketers.

Emma Sutcliffe is a Melbourne writer. http://theoffgridsolarhouse.com/

Gough Whitlam – my great moment

At the Pommery Champagne Cocktail party hosted by the Australian Ballet. From Left- Margaret Whitlam, Dally Messenger III, the ballerina Christine Walsh
At the Pommery Champagne Cocktail party hosted by the Australian Ballet. From Left- Margaret Whitlam, Dally Messenger III, the ballerina Christine Walsh

It was when I was the editor of Dance Australia Magazine. The French wine producer, Pommery champagne, had decided, for publicity sake, to sponsor a ballet in Melbourne to be performed by the Australian Ballet.

The chairman of the Australian Ballet at the time was Sir Robert Southey, who was also president of the Liberal Party of Victoria. The administrator of the Australian Ballet was Noel Pelly. The only person they knew who voted ALP, in the whole ballet scene, was me!

The Australian Ballet, as was its custom with new sponsors, put on a welcoming cocktail party for the Pommery people to which various dignitaries were invited.

Gough Whitlam next to my friend Lionel Murphy
Gough Whitlam next to my friend Lionel Murphy
Gough and Margaret Whitlam were known to Pommery Champagne. When Gough was ambassador for UNESCO in Paris (1983-1986) Pommery was the only champagne Gough allowed on the premises. So Pommery was constantly and exclusively served at diplomatic events, which he hosted.

Pommery (very aware of his patronage) asked that the Whitlams be invited to the aforesaid cocktail party as they were staying in Melbourne at the time.

So Noel Pelly asked me to please come to the party as he could not think of anyone else who would be comfortable talking to the Whitlams. This I did. And a very pleasant meeting it was. I had a great conversation with the Whitlams, and of course, Gough knew all about my Rugby League superstar grandfather, knew a lot about ballet and the arts. And fears unfounded, Gough and Margaret interacted wonderfully well with everyone there.

The next day, Gough was at some important meeting at the Arts Centre, and, after the meeting was over, was walking down the main hall to the ballet theatre.

He was a towering figure and as he strolled down the hallway he was flanked on both sides by at least a dozen of the most important people in Melbourne.
By sheer chance I happened to be walking in the other direction along the hallway.
Gough looked up and saw me coming towards him and cheerily said – “Good Day, Dally!”
Every eye turned upon me in amazement.
I cheerily replied – “Good Day, Gough”.
It was a great moment.

Asylum Seekers: Australia: Saved from Drowning?

TO AUSTRALIAN POLITICAL PARTIES

Oh, you saved them from drowning?

But then you killed them slowly, while they were still alive, by imprisonment without charge or trial, by depriving them of hope, and the consequent death by a thousand cuts of incremental mental illness.
———————————–
Life Member of the Australian Labor Party

————————————————————–

PS Australia is one of the richest, endowed, affluent countries in the world – mostly made up of migrants (25% of Australians were born overseas). Yet we lock up indefinitely asylum seekers who comes by boat. They are a minuscule number compared to other countries. (Less that 10,000 per year.

The PBS Newshour (August 2014 – before the “Caliphate”) gave the following figures for less affluent, and troubled, countries, who protect and care for asylum seekers from Syria:-

North Africa —- 23,367
Egypt ——— 139,090
Jordan ——– 613,252
Lebanon — 1,175,504
Iraq ———— 215,369
Turkey ——– 832,508

Churchmen defend children

Nine Churches and three ecumenical groups challenge Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison.

‘The Lord your God … shows no partiality,” Moses told the Israelites. ”He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” (Deut 10: 17-19)

Saving just a few people, perhaps, from death at sea, and then killing all who survive by depriving them of hope and freedom, and thus causing them to die slowly from non-recoverable permanent mental illness.


from the Melbourne AGE – Julia Baird – Aug 1, 2014

A quiet, curious insurrection has been happening on the periphery of the public eye in Australia in the past few months. Nuns arrested, priests occupying politicians’ offices, bishops slamming government policy as ”cruelty”.

Usually dutiful Christians have been radicalised by a mounting outrage, concern and grief at the way we have been treating asylum seekers. This has prompted an unprecedented coalition of church groups determined to persuade the two Christian leaders responsible for the policy – Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison – to show more compassion to the vulnerable.

‘The Lord your God … shows no partiality,” Moses told the Israelites. ”He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” (Deut 10: 17-19)

The Bible is irrefutably clear on two things:
first, that all Christians should show love and hospitality to strangers and,
second, and crucially, we should protect and care for children. There is nothing ambiguous about these claims.

So the reaction of some to the appearance of the interdenominational group Love Makes a Wayformed to end “inhumane” asylum seeker policies through non-violent protest, was: ”At last!” or ”Where on earth have you been?”

For this is surely one thing on which all Christians can agree.

It was sickening to hear Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs report this week that nearly all the 174 children on Christmas Island were sick, depressed, self harming, having nightmares, swallowing poisons, wetting beds, wandering aimlessly behind barbed wire. It was chilling to hear babies were not crawling.

All of this under our watch?

Professor Triggs says the children were suffering symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder, and called on the government to process them onshore. There were 128 reported cases of children harming themselves in just 15 months.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison cast doubt on Triggs’ comments, saying she was not a doctor (even though she is a widely respected law professor), and dismissed her statements as “sensational” and untrue . But the next day the claims of Triggs, who pointed out as a lawyer she was trained to deal in evidence, were backed up.

At the inquiry into the detention of children, a former director of mental health services at detention centre service provider International Health and Mental Services (IHMS), Peter Young, alleged the government had covered up – or doctored data on – the level of distress among child detainees.

Dr Young said they had collected data showing ”significant” mental health problems among child detainees, ”perhaps a little higher” than adults. But he added – when pushed – that the Immigration Department ”reacted with alarm and asked us to withdraw these figures from our reporting”.

A very serious, troubling claim.

There were further allegations of physical and sexual abuse on Nauru against children by staff.

These kids are in our care. And many in the churches are horrified and furious.

In a foreword to a report by the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce – which represents nine Christian churches and three ecumenical bodies – the Anglican Dean of Brisbane, the Reverend Peter Catt, said Morrison’s position, as guardian of these children, was ”untenable”.

”The churches have a responsibility to speak,” Catt said, because of their own history. ”We’ll never again stand by and do nothing about child abuse … Institutional child abuse occurs in many different settings and it’s illegal, it’s horrific and it’s unacceptable.”

Sister Brigid Arthur from the Victorian Council of Churches went further. She said the fact that we condone the indefinite imprisonment of children ”seems to be abusive and it is state-sanctioned”.

Morrison, a policeman’s son, would hardly agree. He has been asked many times how he reconciles his Christian faith with the misery of asylum seekers and statements like that of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference that our asylum seeker policy ”has about it a cruelty that does no honour to our nation”.

In response, he has repeatedly pointed to the fact that their parents brought them here, and that he has effectively stopped or dramatically slowed  sea arrivals, which put children at great risk, and reduced the number of children in detention overall. If we welcome some, his logic goes, we endanger thousands of others.

There is truth in this.

But the problem is this: What are we doing to those already in our care? Have we not all concurred, when John Howard agreed to pull children out of detention, that this is something we do not want? Tony Abbott has said no one wants children in detention. Yet the creep has continued. More than a thousand children are locked up.

So now we need to agree to get those children back onto the mainland, where we can monitor them properly, ensure they are in good medical care, and able to go to school. Where we can make sure they don’t waste precious years depressed or regressing. The Australian Refugee Taskforce also recommended an end to closed detention of children, a national policy framework, consistent standards of care and independent reviews of claims for unaccompanied children.

Speedy processing is crucial, says the Sydney Archbishop, the Right Reverend Glenn Davies, as ”vulnerable children can be scarred by detention and feel as as though they are being treated as criminals behind barbed wire”.

Even Pope Francis has condemned the ”globalisation of indifference” towards refugees.

Obviously, this is not just a matter for the church.

But the church has a moral duty to press for this.

The founding director of the Australian Centre for Public Christianity, the Reverend John Dickson, says while the church has ”lost some credibility” when it comes to the treatment of children, the Bible ”placed the highest demands on believers to honour and protect children, especially orphans, as special examples of God’s own precious children”.

”When Jesus saw his own disciples preventing children from being brought to him, ‘he was indignant’, the text says, and uttered those famous words, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these,’ ” he said.

”These words should haunt the Immigration Minister, every Australian politician, every Australian with a vestige of respect for Christ, as our policies prevent children, many of them deeply traumatised, from entering into the freedoms and protection of our little kingdom.”

Trauma. Mental illnesss. Self harm.

We can’t ignore this any more. Enough.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/asylum-seeker-children-in-detention-why-the-church-has-a-duty-to-speak-up-20140731-zz6ca.html#ixzz39IWH85yP

http://www.theage.com.au/comment/-zz6ca.html

 

Sense of Entitlement – Rich and Poor

Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey
Where wealth accumulates and men decay.
The Deserted V
illage – Oliver Goldsmith

I extracted this letter from the Age in Melbourne (Wed June 3, 2014). I do not mind people being reasonably rich but I do object when I sense an attitude that they are entitled to what they have, but the poor and struggling are not entitled to what they have (Because they do not work hard enough!).

I’ve had enough 

In these times of class warfare, it’s important to remember how the extremely wealthy became so and remain so. Over decades, financial elites took manufacturing offshore, exploited workers, used child labour, downsized the labour force, engaged in rentseeking , pillaged the environment , treated other species as objects for trade and experimentation, made political donations in exchange for privileges, tax cuts and changes to industrial relations laws, and hid wealth in family trusts and offshore tax havens. Wealth has also been inherited, as in notable cases of media and mining empires. 

In light of the attack on the less privileged, we should challenge the legitimacy of extreme wealth. Wealth doesn’t arise from a vacuum – it comes at a cost to other people, to other species and to the environment as a whole. Nevertheless, the ongoing accumulation of wealth depends upon the passivity of the exploited and I sense we’ve all had enough. 

Tim Hartnett, Mont Albert North

TIME magazine: Australia’s Shame

TIME MAGAZINE HEADLINE : Australia’s Shame

It’s harsh policy toward asylum seekers betrays the human rights values it should stand for. 

(By Ian lloyd Neubauer – Page 33,  March 31, 2014)

Slightly edited extracts from the article. (found at http://time.com/author/ian-lloyd-neubauer/ )

Over the past six months I have watched in muffled horror as my country, Australia, voted in, and then loudly applauded, a government that has put into play a policy to stop asylum seekers from landing uninvited on our shores …

Australia sends asylum seekers to outsourced tent prisons run by private security companies in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

Their inmates stand a chance of being raped, catching malaria, and  growing so desperate that some have sown their lips together to hunger strike, or have asked their keepers for gasoline to self-immolate.

In February a 23 year old Iranian, Reza Barati, was killed during a riot at the detention centre on Manus Island.

Inmates are denied access to lawyers and journalists, and pressured to return to the hellholes they spent their life savings running away from.

The UNHCR has criticised the camps as unsafe and inhumane.

Behind the government’s smug righteousness lies a powerful but unspoken undercurrent of Islamaphobia rooted in the White Australia policy.

We hope that the government will close the camps, and find a humane solution worthy of a wealthy, multicultural nation, lest the world begin to look upon us as the monsters we have become.

————————————————–
And from Phllip Freier (Who happens to be the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne) on the Children.

http://www.theage.com.au/comment/-zqvtu.html

Manus Island – Refugees

Colin Smith writes to the Age – Apr 6, 2014
We are the problem!

”100 days without a boat” reads the headline (30/3). Problem solved.

But what was the problem? They were ”illegal”?
No. What is illegal is our failure to honour the Refugee Convention.

Photo-AchmadIbrahim
Asylum Seeker returned to Indonesia. Photo: Achmad Ibrahim

They are all ”economic refugees”?
No. Nobody would take such risks merely to better themselves. More than 90 per cent are found to be genuine refugees.

They will be a burden?
No. The burden is the huge cost of indefinite detention. And by getting here they have proved their courage and character.

But they may be terrorists?
Hardly. They are fleeing terrorists.

We must save them from drowning?
But if we were worried about that we would listen to the Greens: process people over there, determine who is genuine and fly them here – as Malcolm Fraser did with the Vietnamese.

But then we will be swamped?
No. There will be a queue at last. We will, indeed, be deciding who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.

So there’s no problem?
No. There’s a terrible problem. It is what we are doing – to them and to ourselves.

Colin Smith, St Kilda

 

Sinodinos, Russ Hinze, and Conflict Corruption

What I cannot follow is this — how the whole Liberal party cohort of spokespeople are describing Sinodinos as a person of “incredible integrity”.

He was a shareholder, director, chairperson, and paid employee of a company that was seeking a make-you-for-life government contract. And yet he was heavily involved in politics. And this same company had 5 “lobbyists” in its employ. 5 Lobbyists? – what do these guys do all day – or are they sexy persuasive women?

RussHinzeIn the Royal Commission into corruption in Queensland a few years ago, Commissioner Tony Fitzgerald asked government Minister Russ Hinze (pictured), when Hinze was given a  ca.$400,000 loan at low interest, did the lender mention the fact that his lucrative commercial development was up for approval before him as Minister that afternoon.
Said Hinze:  “You don’t have to say anything, Mr Commissioner. It doesn’t work like that. “


Sinodinos was / is in a very influential position, mixing with ministers and assistant ministers and public servants who know him, maybe like him, maybe fear his influence and power. He doesn’t have to say a word. They all know he would like his company to get the contract. They all know he would like $20 million?  Who wouldn’t?

Am I too straight or something? And there is Sinodinos is personally standing to gain the aforesaid  $20 million if the contract comes through for Australian Water Holdings – and does anyone doubt that, with the assistant treasurer etc at the centre and Liberal governments all over the place – that it would not come through? — $20 Million !!!

ObeidThe ALP is fairly muted. Now I wonder how many members of parliament (apart from Eddie Obeid and family and friends) have shares in companies that are after government contracts. This should not be allowed at all.

And perhaps this sticks up my nose as much as anything. The great advocates of the open market and free trade and dog-eat-dog competition – guess what – they don’t want to get out there and compete – they want government contracts and PPPs –  government private partnerships  – where the government ensures the private firm cannot lose !! –  (But the government doesn’t have to put expenditure on their books – who is fooled?)

Asylum Seekers and the riot on Manus Island

My colleague Linda has written the following to her local Member of Parliament – I could not agree more. I reprint with her permission.

I have sent you three letters, and I believe that this is my third email to you, since you came into office. I even hand delivered one of those letters to your office personally. However, I have not received a single response from you. I wrote to the Queen and I received a response within 17 days. As your local constituent, I am extremely disappointed with your disinterest.

My letters and emails have been in relation to the Coalition government’s inhumane policies on asylum seekers, which are in direct opposition to international law. My letter to the Queen was on the same topic.

I am deeply disturbed to read and hear reports about the riot on Manus Island, but I believe a riot was inevitable. When you lock people up indefinitely in conditions that have been condemned by the UN and Amnesty International; do not provide adequate welfare services; do not process ANY of their claims for asylum; and tell them that their only chance for resettlement is in a country with corruption, high infant mortality, regular gang rapes of women, incarceration for anyone who is gay and little or no employment opportunities, you should realise that a riot is likely. When you locate this lock-up in a country with a history of corruption, violence and little law and order, you should also realise the locals will respond to a riot by breaking into the compound and beating and attacking people.

Current Immigration Department and Border Protection policies are cruel and inhumane. They destroy people mentally and physically. They inflict more torture and terror on those who came to ask for our help to escape persecution and torture. I will not stay silent and let the government do this in my name, and I would like some sort of response from you outlining how you are comfortable with supporting the policies of your party.

Yours Sincerely,
Linda Cusworth