Ray Goodlass

Rays peace activism

Australia’s shameful role at Lima

Publication of my Op Ed column on Australia’s shameful role at the UN Lima climate change conference today has been overshadowed by the outcome of the Martin Place hostage situation.

I hope it doesn’t result in a fit of Muslim bashing, and I echo the words of the Greens NSW MPs, who issued a press release that read  “Let’s make sure that this tragedy doesn’t tear us apart but makes  us stronger and more united as a society that prides itself on inclusiveness, peace and harmony.”

Anyway, here’s the full text of the Op Ed column:

The news from Lima is worse than expected

Reluctant as I am to write a follow-up column, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s appalling actions at the UN Lima climate conference demand a response to last week’s piece. For we continue to be the chief obstructer at these talks, making efforts to remove the most basic things from the draft text which have already been agreed to, like a commitment to global solidarity and long term temperature limits,” Senator Milne said.

Julie Bishop has exposed Australia’s true colours to the delegates in Lima. Her statements are nothing more than global warming denial.

The Minister’s question ‘How could one possibly commit to having a fossil fuel free world by 2050?’ certainly tells the story. The Abbott government does not accept the science, continues to support coal expansion and can’t see that they will be left behind as plenty of countries commit to a fossil fuel free world.

As Green leader Senator Christine Milne observed, “The sad reality is that Australia is embarrassing itself all over the place in order to soften the ground for Australia abandoning genuine action altogether.

“Everyone knows the whole point of a global climate agreement is to constrain global warming and to find the fairest and most effective way of doing it. But everything Australia has done flies in the face of good faith and ignores the science,” said Senator Milne.

Of course, Ms Bishop got off to a bad start by only contributing a measly $200 million to UN funds. For though the Murdoch media and right wing shock jocks have shrieked that we are being over generous with tax payers prescious funds, this is comparatively a tiny amount, of which we should be ashamed.

And to add insult to injury, Ms Bishop has taken that money from the Foreign Aid budget, a funding source she said she would never use for climate change purposes.

And yet I don’t hear Alan Jones et al calling Ms Bishop a liar. Perhaps it is because ‘Julie’ doesn’t morph into ‘Juliar’ as easily as the former PM’s given name of Julia did.

As I write this the Sydney Morning herald’s front page headline is ‘Bishop seeks special deal on emissions’, and the text explains that she is busy at Lima trying to change the rules around measuring carbon emissions. Clearly she’s really using Lima for domestic politics.

Perhaps Captain Abbott should bring his entire team to Wagga Wagga next July to attend Erin Earth’s important forum entitled ‘Are we being misled?’, which asks if the free market is really the most socially and environmentally just way of living.

For as last week’s topic of Naomi Klein’s ‘This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate’ makes clear, it is rampant free market policies are behind the climate catastrophe we now face.

So Captain Abbott’s excursion to Wagga should be by train, or coach/train if they are travelling from Canberra.

A Christmas Present for Julie Bishop: Australian Foreign Minister needs to read Naomi Klein

Good to see the Greens Regional, Rural and Remote Working Group created at last weekend’s State Council. Also, my Daily Advertiser Op Ed piece recommending Julie Bishop reads Naomi Klein’s ‘This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate’ published today. After cutting Australia’s funding to the UN climate body by 80% she’s representing us at the Climate Change conference in Lima, Peru. Go figure!

Here’s the full text:

A Christmas present for the Foreign Minister

Treasurer Joe Hockey urged us to “Spend up big” for Christmas (ABC TV, 2 December) and whilst it is debatable whether his reducing Christmas to nothing more than crass consumerism and avarice, it did remind me that a book I have recently been reading would make an excellent end-of-year present for Foreign Minister Julie Bishop as she jets off to the UN Climate Conference in Lima, Peru.

The book is Naomi Klein’s acclaimed ‘This changes everything: Capitalism vs the Climate’ by Naomi, published by Alan Lane. It would also be useful for all the climate change sceptics still sticking their heads in the sand.

More of the book in due course, but why would it make a good present for Ms Bishop?

Not just because she ignores the weight of climate science, but because as Foreign Minister she has a public voice denied to most, and power to put her misguided views into practice.

For despite calling for ‘strong’ greenhouse gas emission cuts (SMH, 5 December), she is also promoting really dangerous ideas, such as nuclear energy being an option for Australia, describing it as an “obvious direction” as it considers how to cut carbon dioxide emissions after 2020.

Others of course are aware that uranium is dangerous to mine, to transport and use as fuel, and that it remains fatally toxic for millions of years, as renowned Australian scientist Helen Caldicott has been warning for years.

I guess Ms Bishop is just preparing a case for when, at the Lima conference, Australia will face pressure to announce its climate targets for beyond 2020.

Which reminds me, why isn’t Captain Abbott sending the Minister for the Environment?

Anyway, at Lima Ms Bishop may also become the pariah of the international community for her slashing funding to a key United Nations environment agency by more than 80 per cent.

Not surprisingly, environmental groups are stunned.

Now, what would Ms Bishop learn from Ms Klein’s most recent book? In it she examines in exhaustive detail the politics, ethics and realities around climate change. She shows how the Western power elites remain in denial about the extent of the problem because it suits their economic interests to do so.

Klein tackles big business, big banks, oil and gas, compliant environmentalists, and a mainstream media that largely follows the narrative set by its paymasters and advertisers, all issues dear to the neo-liberal ideology of Team Abbott..

She also points the finger at corrupt trade deals such as the one being negotiated with Australia, The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would allow multinationals the power to sue Australia for loss of income, lessening our sovereignty.

So something to help Ms Bishop while away the hours as she jets across the Pacific.

Actions about Children in Detention

My Op Ed column about refugee children in detention (the ‘We’re better than this’ celebrity action, and the local Children’s Cage event to take place here in Wagga this Thursday and Friday on the forecourt of the Civic Centre) published in the Daily Advertiser today.

Here’s the full text:

Children in detention

It is the nature of newspaper Opinion Pieces to comment on something that has already happened, and that is how this week’s column starts, but fortunately this time it can go on the discuss something that is about to happen locally.

Firstly, what has already happened, and a comment to begin. Putting the often dubious nature of celebrity to good use high profile Australian sports stars, actors and media personalities have come together in a slick television and online campaign with a simple message to the Australian government: remove children from immigration detention.

Titled “We’re better than this” they include former Australian cricket captain Ian Chappell and  journalist Ita Buttrose who criticised the incarceration of asylum seeker children, particularly in the offshore processing centre in Nauru and the detention centre on Christmas Island.

They are joined by actress Deborah Mailman, author Tom Keneally, and film critic Margaret Pomeranz in the short one minute advertisement, while Bernard Fanning from Powderfinger has lent his musical skills to the production.

I’ll believe every child deserves a safe place to play,” Ian Chappell says in the video. “I mean Christmas Island, it’s a phosphate mine; it’s dangerous and it’s dirty and it’s got to affect the health of children. We’re better than this.”

Rosie Scott, an author and the founder of the movement, said she wanted to attract the attention of mainstream Australia through a campaign that could shine a light on the “horrors of children in detention”.

“This is just the beginning.”

There are currently 603 children being held in Immigration detention, including on Christmas Island, and 186 children being held in Nauru, according to the Department of Immigration. The average length of detention is currently 413 days.

Children kept in immigration detention are shown to suffer from high rates of depression and mental health problems.

In July the government’s medical health group the International Health and Medical Service told an Australian Human Rights Commission inquiry into children in detention that the Immigration Department requested they withdraw alarming mental health figures of children in their report.

The ‘about to happen locally’ aspect of this column is the ‘Free the Children’ event taking place at the (Wagga) Civic Centre forecourt all day each day on Thursday 4 and Friday 5 December.

Part of a national tour organised by ChilOut and the Australian Coalition to End Immigration Detention of Children its centre point is ‘cage’ installation created by ‘Agency of Sculpture’ in which are dolls symbolising the children locked up by our government.

The public are invited to ‘free a child’ by entering the cage and remove the doll’s ID card, which is a letter to federal MPs and the Immigration Minister – a symbolic but also direct and positive way to take action on this important issue.

After the Wagga Wagga event the cage will move on Leeton and Griffith

Op Ed colum on the government now not accepting bone fide UN recognisecd refugees.

My Op Ed column about the Abbott government’s about face on accepting refugees recognised by the UN in Indonesia published today in the Daily Advertiser. I began the column with a brief reference to the government’s broken promise cuts to the ABC, and unfortunately the paper used that as the headline. Perhaps the Sub Editors only read the first sentence!

Anyway, here’s the column in full:

Government going back on its word

This past week there have been two glaring examples of the Abbott government going back on its word. The first was a clear broken election promise not to cut ABC and SBS funding, which, very damaging though they will be to both organisations, seem to be driven by an anti-public broadcasting ideology rather than economic sense, given that the dollar amounts are proportionally not significant in the big picture of the Abbott/Hockey phantom budget crisis.

Though some National Party MPs have spoken out against these cuts, Michael McCormack, at the time of writing, has been silent on the issue. Your colleagues know the importance of the ABC to regional and rural Australia. Don’t you?

However, disturbed though I am by the prospect of getting my news and public affairs commentary via Rupert Murdoch and his ilk, this week I also want to comment on something else equally disturbing, which is the news that Australia has taken its stand against boat arrivals to a new level, saying it will no longer resettle asylum seekers found to be refugees by the United Nation’s refugee agency in Indonesia who registered after July 1.

There are also rumours that the decision could be wider than this (SMH, 20 November), and may be applied to all asylum seekers found to be genuine refugees recommended by UNHCR in transit countries such as Syria, Iran, Malaysia and Iraq.

But human rights advocates were appalled at the decision, questioning the real motives behind it. Refugee Council of Australia chief executive Paul Power said the decision was “absolutely outrageous.” “This will put Indonesia under even more pressure,” he said.

It is understood Labor will be seeking answers and clarification on the impacts of the decision, whilst Greens spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young, ever a gutsy spokesperson for the rights of refugees, said the decision was “narrow-minded” and “hard-hearted”.

“This is the exact opposite of what the government should be doing,” she said.

“We should be working with our neighbours, accelerating refugee processing and increasing Australia’s intake from the region so that people are given a safe way to reach protection. That’s the only way we can save lives at sea while caring for refugees.”

Elaine Pearson from Human Rights Watch said: “If Australia really cared about saving lives at sea, then it would take more people from Indonesia, not less, because it would want to prevent people taking perilous boat journeys.”

What really troubles me is that for many years the Liberal/Nationals coalition has been arguing that asylum seekers who have got as far an Indonesia should ‘Join the queue and apply for UN refugee status. Now Captain Abbott’s team is contradicting itself by cutting off even this tenuous lifeline.

And to compound their sin, surely they are as aware as the rest of us, that there are no UN refugee offices in places where most of the asylum seekers are fleeing from, such as Afghanistan and Iraq. Pull the other one, Mr Morrison.

Muslim Conversations

A short post today. I went to an excellent and very well attended ‘Muslim Conversations’ forum at the Civic Centre in Wagga Wagga, today, with Zach Matthews and Susan Carland as speakers. The event also included oud playing, food and tea, and also hijab tying.

Alongside was the ‘Faith Fashion Fusion’ hijab exhibition in the Historic Council chambers museum, which has been showing for a few weeks now.

As the audience for the Conversations was comprised largely non-Muslim Wagga people I think it was a great exercise in cross-cultural understanding as many myths were shown to be just that. An atmosphere of peace and understanding prevailed.

Animal Welfare, more illegal Israeli settlements, and worrying campaigns against Halal certification

Positive response so far to my Op Ed piece about Animal Welfare, but Letters to the Editor may be different.

Bad news on the wider political scene: Israel building more illegal settlements and I’ve finally heard about the online campaign against Halal certification.

Here’s the Animal Welfare Op Ed piece:

Melbourne Cup issues are not isolated incidents

In the past week I have been drawn to stories of animal welfare, one the Melbourne Cup, and the other Barnaby Joyce skiting about a live cattle export deal with China.

Before expanding on that statement I should confess my personal ethical interest, being a card-carrying member of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). .

At the Melbourne Cup one horse died after the race, and another was put down because of a broken leg. It reminds me of that excellent 1969 film, ‘They shoot horses, don’t they? We don’t shoot people because of broken legs. Surely a horse’s broken leg is also not a life threatening issue?

Or do they shoot these horses because it might be too difficult, costly or inconvenient to nurse a horse back to health before putting it out to pasture, if not back to racing? These are not insurmountable problems.

Apologists for the racing industry have tried the hoary old defence that people also die from sporting industries. Of course they do, but humans have choice. Animals don’t.

As Green NSW MP Dr John Kaye said, “Rather than help Racing NSW continue to treat horses as commodities that can be discarded once they are no longer profitable, the NSW Parliament should be responding to community concerns by launching a full and thorough investigation,” Dr Kaye said.

Dr Kaye said: “The NSW Liberal National party is addicted to the tax from wagering on thoroughbred racing. They are in bed with an industry that makes the rich richer at the expense of problem gamblers and often the welfare of many horses.

Now, to live cattle exports. Over the past thirty years Australia has exported more than 160 million animals overseas. More than 2.5 million have died on those voyages alone. Around 20,000 sheep die on ships each year , from heat stress, illness, injury and failing to eat the unfamiliar food on board, before they even reach their destination.

But commenting on live cattle exports to China, Greens spokesperson for animal welfare Senator Lee Rhiannon said “Instead of working with farmers and the industry to rebuild domestic meat manufacturing, the Abbott government has again chosen to turn a blind eye to the suffering of animals shipped for live exports.

Indeed, an ABARES report earlier this year confirmed that live export pales in comparison to Australia’s boxed meat exports in terms of economic benefits.

In conclusion I end on a note of irony. Rather unthinkingly I won a sweep on the Melbourne Cup, but too late I noticed that the winning horse was being whipped down the straight. I’m told that is to “get the best out of them’, but when did you last see a human athlete being whipped along?

To assuage my ‘guilt by complicity’ I should put my money were my mouth is and donate my relatively meagre winnings to an animal welfare organisation.

At least some action from Jordan in response to Israeli provocation

A very short post today.

Pleased to see that Jordan is taking at least some action, however small, by withdrawing its ambassador from Israel, but concerned that Israel is still be provoking the Palestinians by encroaching on the Al Aqsa mosque. Of course I don’t in any way condone the Palestinian reprisals, though I do understand the cause.

The area where the Palestinian driver ploughed into the tramway stop is in the border area between Palestinian part of Occupied East Jerusalem and Israeli West Jerusalem. It is close to the Palestinian area where I have previously stayed, Al Zahra, and close to where I am renting a small apartment for my month of Arabic Language course next April.

Op Ed column pointing out the problems with Abbott’s Direct Action deal with Palmer

My Op Ed column pointing out the problems with  Abbott’s Direct Action climate change deal with Clive Palmer published today in the Daily Advertiser. Here’s the full text:

Underneath the climate change deal is the oldest trick in the book

When I first heard the headlines about Clive Palmer’s Direct Action climate change deal with the Abbott government I remarked to a dear friend “I smell a rat”, but she replied “That’s an insult to rats”.

She’s quite right, for despite their reputation for being dirty, rats are very intelligent and perform vital functions in our eco-system. She’s right too in that Palmer’s deal making is nothing to celebrate, no matter how much Messrs Hunt and Palmer tout it as a breakthrough. But more about the ‘rat in the ranks’ later.

Direct Action, the key plank of which is a $2.55 billion fund that pays major polluters to reduce their emissions became law on Thursday night. On the surface it is a substantial backdown from Mr Palmer’s declarations earlier this year that Direct Action was “hopeless and dead” because it would be too expensive with little environmental outcome.

But to achieve it, the government left in place the Climate Change Authority and with it the possibility of a return to an emissions trading scheme at some point in the future, for Tony Abbott has left open that possibility as part of his trade-off with PUP.

Labor’s environment spokesman Mark Butler welcomed the retention of the CCA, branding it a minor broken promise in the scheme of things, but said there was absolutely no need for further study on an ETS as that work had already been done.

The Australian Greens say coal miner Clive Palmer has helped our climate denier Prime Minister to demolish emissions trading in favour of a complete sham that benefits coal miners and polluters. “All Clive Palmer’s huff and puff about global warming has come to absolutely nothing.  He has torn down emissions trading and the mining tax, is promoting a massive coal mine, and is now pretending he cares about global warming. He cares no more than Tony Abbott, which is not at all. What a joke” said Christine Milne. Thankfully Senator Milne went on to say that “Now the Greens will move amendments in the parliament, to try to give this pathetic excuse for climate policy some actual spine and rigour . And what is the rat I smelled? Nothing more than though touting the possibility of a return to an emissions trading scheme at some point in the future as part of the deal both Captain Abbott and his Mate Greg Hunt said this would never happen (“Funding Climate Change Authority when its “Efforts will be ignored” Paul McLoughlin, DA Opinion Piece 1 November), so have Mr Palmer and the Australian people been taken for a ride?

Captain Abbott must be hoping that Mr Palmer isn’t aware that sending something off to an authority to investigate is the oldest trick in the political book to make sure that it will never see the light of day. He can perhaps fool Mr Palmer, not all of us.


Comment on Israeli activity, and also my Op Ed column on Ebola

Good news that Israel’s Soda Stream has pulled its production out of an illegal settlement in the Occupied West Bank. A small BDS victory, though much bigger ones are needed to end Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.

And after some days of closing off the dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa mosque in Occupied East Jerusalem it has re-opened them to both Muslim worshippers and the wider public, though naturally enough  Palestinian frustration remains.

In other news my Op Ed newspaper column  on Australia’s slow and weak response to Ebola was published the other day. I’m now working on next week’s piece, about Clive Palmer’s amazing deal with Captain Abbott and Co on the government’s abysmal direct action climate plan.

Here’s the text of this week’s piece:

Australia slow to act on Ebola

Last week a politically savvy friend, after commenting on the government’s failure to assist West Africa’s Ebola outbreak, and Labor’s call to help, commented that he hadn’t seen or heard anything about the Greens response. Were they silent on this very serious problem, or had the media just no bothered to cover it?

I was happy to inform him that it was very much the latter. Through several media releases the Greens had argued strongly for an Australian response, and then I was happy to fill in the gaps left by our somewhat lazy media.

For example, on Monday, Sep 29th, 2014 I read that the Greens have called on the Australian government to join the growing international response to the Ebola crisis by sending a large scale on-ground team to West Africa to undertake medical and logistical work.

“The Australian government should be part of the international team that have committed logistical and health personnel to the region,” Greens overseas aid spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon said.

“Australia has a responsibility to play its part in this massive health and social crisis by joining the teams from Britain, China, the USA and Cuba” Senator Rhiannon said.

And in relation to our own readiness at home, Australian Greens Health Spokesperson, Dr Richard Di Natale publicly questioned the Federal Government’s Chief Health Officer about what training that has been provided to Australian health personnel that could be deployed to combat Ebola in our region.

“The Federal Government’s Chief Medical Officer told Senate Estimates this morning that Australia has not provided specific training to our health workers that could be deployed.

But now it seems as though we might finally be catching up with the rest of the world, for as Paul Osborne reported (SMH 24 October) Australian medical teams could be heading into West Africa to fight Ebola after what officials say have been very positive talks on safety guarantees.

However, no mission will be launched until ‘appropriate risk mitigation procedures’ are in place” Mr Abbott said..

One is left wondering why the Australian response has been so tardy. Is it because Captain Abbott thinks we all see it as simply being ‘over there’ (i.e. West Africa) and either not a threat to us, or of our concern. Perish the thought, if that it the attitude.

Equally reprehensible is the excuse that it is not in our strategic interest, in that major sea routes such as the Suez Canal are not threatened and there are no major oil reserves, unlike the Middle East, where we have been quick to act. Again, perish the thought if our government should be so selfish.

Or was it, as has been recently reported (ABC TV and SMH), that Immigration Minister Scott Morrison was busily trying to bolster the size of his portfolio by having his Operation Sovereign Borders team take charge of Australia’s response to the Ebola? Yet again, perish the thought.

Op Ed colum, and Gough Whitlam’s death

The publishing of my Op Ed column in the Daily Advertiser today about Abbott’s attempts to stifle discussion of climate change at the forthcoming G20 conference in Brisbane was overshadowed by the news of Gough Whitlam’s death. His victory in the 1972 election ushered in a much more socially just Australia, and his government’s progressive legislation was undoubtedly a key reason for my decision, as a recent ‘Ten pounds Pom’, to stay in Australia and become a citizen. Vale Gough.

Here’s the text of the Op Ed column:

Captain Abbott on the wrong side of history about climate change?

Despite much of the media being seduced by the prospect of Captain Abbott ‘shirt fronting’ Russian President Putin at the forthcoming G20 meeting in Brisbane in November the real significance of that conference is on much more profound issues than two ‘bovver boys’ with excessive testosterone having a ‘bit off a bif’.

Of course it would be wonderful if a ‘robust discussion’ between the PM and the President did produce an admission of Russian complicity over the shooting down of MH 17, but the conference will focus on much more important matters.

On one of the more profound issues to be discussed the Australian Prime Minister is more than likely to find himself on the wrong side of history, for in Brisbane he will have few international delegates agreeing with his comment that “Climate change is absolute crap” (The Australian 12 December 2009)

However, climate change will be discussed actively in Brisbane, despite Abbott’s insistence that it be listed only as “energy efficiency”. But he’ll only have the support of fellow sceptic and absentee at Obama’s fore-mentioned leaders’ summit, Canada’s Stephen Harper.

US and European leaders want it thoroughly discussed. “Mr Obama’s international adviser at the White House, Caroline Atkinson, said the G20 economies generated 80 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions and should give a political push to ‘specific steps’ to reduce global warming,” The Australian Financial Review reported last week.

To date the Government has justified its stance by defending a paltry commitment to a 5 per cent cut by 2020 on year 2000 levels. This is already way out of date, for on top of whatever emerges from the G20, the international community will meet in Lima in December to discuss progress towards post 2020 emissions reductions targets.

The big players, the US, EU, and China, are preparing to set those targets in the first quarter of 2015 as they move towards the major climate change summit in Paris in December, reports Mark Kenny (Sydney Morning Herald, 17 October.

For Australia to meet its share of that based on our size, that means emitting no more than 8 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2050 – the trouble is, on present emissions, we get to that by 2030. It is just more evidence of the parallel reality in which Australia is living.

Abbott began last week talking about coal as “essential for the prosperity of Australia and … the prosperity of the world … for many decades to come”.

Perhaps, but he may end his first term talking about much stronger action on climate change whether he likes it or not after Brisbane, Lima, and Paris.

At least let’s hope he does.


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