Ray Goodlass

Rays peace activism

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column fror today, Tuesday 15 January 2018

New evidence of corruption shows need for a Federal ICAC

Last week it was reported that in the last three years the number of federal public servants who have witnessing corruption in the workplace has doubled. When will Malcolm Turnbull wake up to the need to establish a national anti-corruption watchdog?

Last year, despite endless political scandals, the old parties still teamed up to block a motion from the Greens for an anti-corruption watchdog. What do they have to hide?

The clear majority of our public service sector do important work and conduct themselves with the utmost integrity. Yet more accounts of corruption demonstrate that we desperately need to establish an independent anti-corruption watchdog

Let’s look at the details. A survey of the bureaucracy revealed 5 per cent of respondents said they had seen misconduct, with cronyism and nepotism the most common charge.

The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) has admitted there is some corruption in the bureaucracy, but stressed it remained rare and staff were vigilant to the threat.

However, former New South Wales Supreme Court Judge Anthony Whealy said corruption could be more widespread than many realised. “We know that in the public service whistleblowing is absolutely frowned on,” Mr Whealy told the ABC.

“People who work in the public service, in many instances, would be afraid to report their superiors or even their equals who are involved in corruption.”

For the first time, the APSC has asked whether staff believed they worked in a high corruption risk environment. Most respondents in 59 agencies agreed this was the case.

Mr Whealy, who is also the president of Transparency International, said it showed the need for an independent watchdog.

“I think there is a significant chance that these figures are very conservative and the level of inappropriate behaviour amounting in some cases to corruption would be considerably higher than these figures demonstrate,” he said.

Leading administrative law barrister Mark Robinson SC said he had no doubt there was corruption at all levels of government.

“Whenever there is discretionary statutory power exercised that is not openly accountable to external and independent scrutiny, corruption can and will flourish,” he said.

Public servants are subject to Senate estimates hearings and independent audits, but proponents of a federal commission said more oversight was required.

Last month Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull did open the door to a national anti-corruption body, albeit only slightly. Now he should engage with the National Integrity Committee (NIC) set up last month to advise policy makers on the best model.

Commenting on the Prime Minister’s very small policy shift the Greens democracy spokesperson, Senator Lee Rhiannon said, “The Prime Minister will undermine his own announcement that he is considering a national anti-corruption body if he continues to advocate for a model similar to the Victorian IBAC.

“The IBAC itself has acknowledged that it is unable to investigate serious allegations because it lacks legislative teeth”.

With polling consistently showing that about 80 per cent of Australians recognise that there is corruption at a federal level the Prime Minister would be in dangerous territory if he thought he could get away with setting up a weak and restricted oversight body.

“I strongly urge the Prime Minister to follow the advice of the National Integrity Committee. This body can help remove the roadblocks that to date have stopped the formation of a federal corruption watchdog” Senator Rhiannon added.

The federal government should heed this new evidence and move immediately to establish a full federal ICAC.


My Daily Advertiser column for today, 2 January 2018

Despite marriage equality finally being achieved, 2017 otherwise not a good year

Though Australia’s belated recognition of marriage equality was a justifiable cause for celebration, the year just past had little else to shout about. Indeed, politically it was a pretty miserable year all round.

Internationally Saudi Arabia and Iran continue their proxy war in Yemen, slaughtering many and killing millions more through war induced cholera or starvation. The Myanmar military seems intent on the ethnic cleansing of the country’s Rohingya population while Aung San Suu Kyi, previously the heroine of progressives just about everywhere, looks the other way.

Speaking of ethnic cleansing, Donald Trump further extended the United States’ support for Greater Israel by recognising Jerusalem as being solely Israel’s capital, at the expense of the indigenous Palestinians, for he was in fact acknowledging Israel’s illegal annexation of Palestinian East Jerusalem, with its vastly expanded boundaries eastward into the West Bank. And just to show two can play at that game, the defeat of IS in Syria has in part resulted in the Assad’s brutal dictatorial regime being confirmed in power, courtesy of Russia’s President Putin.

Here at home the political scene has been messy, to say the least. The Liberals had to contend with sniping from their own back bench (thank you Mr Abbott) and their constantly negative poll trend, while the Nationals ended the year with some spectacular infighting of their own, like a bunch of bulls in a paddock, as the Guardian’s Katherine Murphy memorably put it.

After a year of encouraging opinion polls Labor ended the year by spectacularly underperforming in the Bennelong byelection, no doubt in part due to the Lib/Nats exploitation of the Sam Dastyari mess.

Surely Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Senate stunt of dressing in a full burqa was a real low for Australian politics. It was blatant ‘dog whistle’ designed to appeal to her voters, though perhaps it was more of a ‘fog horn’, so blatant and obviously racist was it.

The Australian Greens also had a spot of bother when the federal party room inexplicably chose to punish Senator Lee Rhiannon for upholding the Greens NSW’s constitutional right to voice that state’s position on Gonski 2.0, a position ultimately found to be spot on when we discovered how much private schools are to profit from Mr Turmbull’s largesse. It was a spat eventually papered over, as was the position of two Greens senators (Ludlum and Waters) being found to be ineligible to sit in Parliament because of just discovered dual citizenship.

The dual citizenship saga is probably the messiest aspect of 2017’s politics, though like many others I’m still waiting for Mr Turnbull to apologise for belittling Senators Ludlum and Waters, given that the Liberal and National party rooms have been found to be awash with dual citizens.

In terms of political achievements, the 1917 outcome is wholly negative, except for marriage equality, that is. Probably the standout was the creation of an American style ‘super ministry’, a massive reorganisation of Australia’s intelligence and security agencies, with Peter Dutton to head a new Home Affairs ministry responsible for ASIO, the AFP, Immigration and Border Security. Even Rupert Murdoch’s usually sycophantic The Australian remarked that it was ‘overstepping the mark’.

This wasn’t the only example of the Americanisation of Australia under the Lib/Nats coalition government. Turnbull’s Gonski 2.0 funding model has privileged private schools over public ones, and his energy policy is hell bent on aping Trump by maintaining the supremacy of coal, as visually illustrated by Treasurer Scott Morrison waving around a lump of coal in the House of Representatives, against all the rules banning the use of props.

Morrison also ended the year by further aping Trump when he called for Australia to follow the US by massively lowering the corporate tax rate, thereby of course benefiting the wealthy.

My Daily Advertiser column for today, 26 December, 2017

MYEFO’s promising balance sheet due to the cuts made to welfare and universities

The Lib/Nats Coalition government’s mid-year budget update announced last week in its MYEFO (the amusing but confusing acronym for the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook) loudly trumpeted a larger surplus of $10.2bn in 2020-21, revised up from $7.4bn, but the small print made it clear that this was due to new cuts to higher education and family payments.

The Turnbull government did its best to demonstrate that the larger than expected surplus was due to an improved economy, but the reality is very different.

For example, historically-weak wages growth is weighing on the budget, with wages in both the public and private sectors being more subdued than expected six months ago, with one consequence being that nominal GDP growth has been revised down to just 3.5% in 2017-18, from 4% in May.

More worryingly the government has used the end of year Treasury update to unveil cuts to welfare, family payments and new cuts to the university sector worth $2.1bn.

Indeed, the government has abandoned a higher education package outlined at the May budget and replaced it with cuts worth $2.1bn. The revised package will see students having to repay debts once their income reaches $45,000.

Thankfully many community sectors have not taken these cuts, which were sneaked through in the glow of its Bennelong by election (quasi) success, lying down

The Universities Australia chairwoman, Margaret Gardner, said the freeze amounted to a “real cut” in funding – due to inflation – even if universities simply maintain current student numbers.

“And for universities that are still growing their student numbers to meet the needs in their local communities and regional economies, this will be an even deeper cut,” she said.

We in the Riverina need to note that Australians who live in regional areas are only half as likely to have a degree as city dwellers and would therefore be most likely to miss out.

The Group of Eight universities chair, Peter Høj, said the government was treating the sector like a “cash cow to be milked for budget cuts” rather than a means to improve the career opportunities of young people.

The shadow treasurer, Chris Bowen, accused the government of “mortgaging the future and attacking one of the sources of Australia’s long-term economic prosperity, our higher education sector”.

Australian Greens federal party room leader Richard Di Natali wasn’t afraid to call a spade a spade when he said that “The Turnbull Government has got just that little bit meaner with today’s budget, which unfairly targets young people, struggling families and newly arrived migrants with $6 billion in cuts.”

Truth is the Government would like us all to believe that everything is rosy, but here’s what they’re not telling you: wages remain stagnant, there’s a household debt-bomb ticking away, and inequality is growing because of the Coalition’s blind faith in trickle-down economics.

As Di Natali said, “The government has a choice: boost wages for people or give tax cuts to the few and hope for the best.”

Most of today’s politicians enjoyed a free university education, affordable housing and secure jobs with steady wage growth waiting for them when they graduated. None of this will be available to the current generation of young Australians unless we dramatically change course.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed for today, 19 December 2017

Private schools the big winners from Gonski 2.0

Private schools are set to get more than they need under Gonski 2.0, newly released Freedom of Information documents reveal.

This led me to question whether private schools should receive public funding. I followed this by asking myself if in fact we need private schools at all. l’ll address these difficult questions later in this column, but first of all let’s look at a little more detail at the windfall private schools are about to receive.

Catholic and independent private schools are set to get more than 100 per cent of their needs from governments under the new “Gonski 2.0” plan, official documents released under Freedom of Information show, reported Peter Martin in the Sydney Morning Herald.

In NSW, 110 private schools are expected to receive more than 100 per cent of the so-called schools resourcing standard from governments, up from 65 schools in 2017. By 2027, when the Gonski arrangements are fully implemented, 212 private schools will receive more than their total needs from governments.

Why this is so demonstratively wrong is that the funding model increases the number of overfunded private schools while failing to adequately support public schools. This can’t be considered fair by anyone’s reckoning.

As Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon said “This is the proof of what so many have suspected- Liberal/National governments are not friends of our public schools. Australia already has a school system that entrenches inequality and this will make that injustice worse.”

Now to address the thorny question of the need to publicly fund private schools, and the even more difficult question about whether we need such schools.

The question about publicly funding private schools is quite easily answered, because it is a resounding ‘No’. It is indeed an oxymoron, for private schools aren’t public, and so shouldn’t be able to benefit from the public purse. They are in effect double-dipping.

The legitimacy of private schools is a more complex issue, but ultimately there is no justification for them. As SMH columnist Elizabeth Farrelly pointed out, the $53 billion we pour into the into a system can only divide us, for it “buys a system that deliberately tribalises children before they can read”. Tribalising children before they outgrow training wheels can only encourage class-based and religious sectarianism.

And all that effort leaves us with a system that year by year makes us less well educated. Across the board, public and private, quality is low and falling, with consistently dropping international test scores in literacy, maths and science.

There is a claim that private schools ease the burden for the public system. This is spurious, for each private school student sucks up almost two-thirds as much as each public one. Before the benefit of their fees, that is.

This is manifestly unfair. Private schools heighten inequality, privileging the privileged, hogging the teaching talent and siphoning off kids already equipped with reading backgrounds, so depriving the public system of beneficial peer-to-peer learning.

Let’s see what happens if private schools are banned. Forty years ago, Finland stunned the world by nationalising schools, revering teachers, ending streaming, entering school late, shrinking the school day, reducing homework and extending holidays – then topped every test. Dr Pasi Sahlberg, who as minister designed the Finnish system, will move to Sydney next year, to teach. Let’s learn from him.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for 12 December 2017

A week to celebrate but also a week for lamentation

What a week it has been. Some things to celebrate, such as Same Sex Marriage legislated for, and some to lament, such as President Trump’s unilateral decision to declare Jerusalem the exclusive capital of Israel, and to move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv.

While Parliament was busy congratulating itself on the passage of the SSM bill I could not but remind myself that this was the result of the peoples’ overwhelming ‘Yes’ vote in the recent postal survey, and that Parliament could have passed similar legislation years ago, and indeed, had many opportunities to do just that. So don’t congratulate yourself too much Mr Turnbull, as most people can see you didn’t have the fortitude to take on the troglodytes in your party when you should have.

The ramifications of Trump’s decision will take a while to play out, and though of course they can’t be good, I will hold off commenting, in part because it wouldn’t surprise me if he quickly followed one foolish and inflammatory decision with another, namely his Two State solution peace plan. Given the rumours of it being a one-sided pro-Zionist scheme I hope it never sees the light of day.

So instead I’ll devote my column to something worth writing about, Professor Gillian Trigg’s sensible and humane analysis of our offshore detention regime on ABC TV ‘s Q&A program last week.

The former human rights commissioner described Australia’s offshore detention regime as designed to “break” refugees, warning the inhumanity on Manus Island had reached such a point that “as a nation, we have to respond”.

Labor senator Lisa Singh, whose party reopened the offshore detention centres in 2012 said they may not have done so if they had known the situation would reach this point.

Echoing Triggs, she said the government’s refusal to accept New Zealand’s offer to take 150 men suggested they wanted people to suffer or die.

That predictably provoked outrage from Liberal senator Eric Abetz, who labelled the comment as “highly offensive”.

But Triggs, a vocal critic of the policy, said the evidence suggested otherwise. “This program is designed to break these people. And to send them back,” she said.

Triggs went on to say said offshore detention regime had now become Australia’s shame. “It’s a difficult decision for both political parties,” she said. “But I think the inhumanity has reached a level where we, as a nation, have to respond.”

There was also some action on this issue in Parliament too, when a motion moved by the Greens’ Nick McKim and supported by Labor passed the Senate, calling on the government to support New Zealand’s offer to accept 150 men from Manus Island.

Commenting in the House of Representatives Adam Bandt, Green MP for Melbourne also noted that due to government sloppiness “The House passed a Greens motion calling on the government to accept New Zealand’s offer to take some of the refugees who are currently languishing on Manus,” he said.

However, through a tricky procedural move, the government got a ‘do over’ and voted again.

One MP said he missed the first vote on Manus because he was ‘detained’. If he went to Manus he would find out what detention really looks like. If such MPs can’t be bothered to turn up and vote for liberty, then they need to get out of Parliament. And take the whole rotten government with them. It is time to evacuate Manus now.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for today, 5 December 2017

Bad news for both whales and chooks last week

Last week we were finally able to see the much-delayed stomach churning footage of what happens during a Japanese whaling hunt in an Australian whale sanctuary, evidence that the federal government did not want us to see.

After a five-year freedom-of-information battle, marine conservation group Sea Shepherd has obtained unreleased footage, shot by Australian customs officials, which reveals in distressing detail the killing of a minke whale by a so-called Japanese “research” ship.

The federal government fought to have the footage kept secret, arguing that it would harm relations with Japan, prompting accusations it prioritised diplomatic interests over protecting the whales and representing the views of Australians who want the annual killing spree stopped.

Now the footage has finally been released Sea Shepherd Australia managing director Jeff Hansen has demanded the government honour a pre-election pledge to send a customs ship to Antarctica to police the hunt, which takes place in Australian waters in contravention of international laws.

Unfortunately, many of us are not surprised to find that since coming to power the Coalition has not dispatched any such vessels. Sea Shepherd announced last August that it no longer had the resources to send its boats to prevent the hunt.

Sadly, our federal government only seems capable of mounting platitudes rather than sending ships to do the policing. Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg, for example, could only manage to say that Australia had moved two successful motions at the last meeting of the International Whaling Commission to increase the international scrutiny of “scientific” whaling.

Thankfully not all politicians are as ineffective as Mr Frydenberg. Greens spokesperson for Healthy Oceans, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, welcomed the release of the Australian Government footage obtained under Freedom of Information request by Sea Shepherd.

He added “This footage lays bare the brutality that is whaling. These whales are being killed and die slowly and in pain, sometimes drowning in their own blood. This slaughter happens for no legitimate reason and should be condemned.

 “Going into summer, when Japan is about to slaughter 333 minke whales, in our waters and against international law, the Australian Government must outline their strategy to stop this happening” he concluded.

Whales weren’t the only animals to feature in the news last week. Chooks got a mention too, though unfortunately minus the visuals that might make people sit up and take notice, though perhaps some will remember footage of a couple of weeks ago that showed a Victorian factory chook farm boiling its fowls alive.

I’m referring to the draft national Standards and Guidelines for the Welfare of Poultry that were released for public consultation last week, guidelines quite rightly condemned by Greens animal welfare spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon.

“It is inexcusable that the draft guidelines and standards have simply continued the cruel conditions that over 700 million chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese and other poultry are currently subjected to,” Senator Rhiannon said.

“For example, there is no effort to end the use of battery cages and limit stocking densities for chickens. The pain caused by trimming sensitive beaks is ignored, and the standards for housing and slaughter are completely inadequate” Senator Rhiannon concluded.

These draft standards ignore the science that confirms the cruelty of existing poultry enterprises.

As Senator Rhiannon has rightly said, and more than once, “It’s like putting the fox in charge of the hen house.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for Tuesday 28 November 2017

New Finkel report shows government renewables war is built on lies

The headline almost writes itself: “Finkel backs Labor’s renewables policy”, for a report released last week, ‘The Role of Energy Storage in Australia’s Future Energy Supply Mix’ has found that Australia can reach 50% renewables by 2030 with limited impact on reliability.

It has, inevitably, lead to claims that Labor’s target of 50% renewables by 2030 is both achievable and correct (‘Shorten goes on the front foot over 50% renewables ‘target’’), which of course is not the case, and certainly not for the reasons Labor claims. And focusing on the politics that validate Labor’s plans would be missing the point.

The report, which though dubbed The Finkel Report, is in fact by the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA), explores how much energy storage, whether in batteries, pumped hydro or solar thermal we will need as we increasingly rely on renewables.

The ACOLA report finds that only a small amount of storage would be required to balance a system with 50% renewables.

One important aspect of the ACOLA report is that it brings into focus an unavoidable fact: Australia has serious problems with its electricity system. Certainly, system security, i.e. making sure that the system doesn’t break, is an immediate concern. Reliability, i.e. ensuring the system has enough power to meet demand is however a growing problem. And energy storage is a potential solution to both.

Our politicians need to focus on the substance of this debate, rather than the headlines. Hitting each other over the head because there are too many renewables in the policy basket is pointless and will ultimately prove self-defeating. Instead, we should focus on finding an actual policy solution noted David Blowers of the Grattan Institute

True, but the real problem that the new Finkel report shows is that Malcolm Turnbull’s war on renewables is built on lies, as Greens climate and energy spokesperson Adam Bandt MP quite rightly pointed out.

Mr Bandt said the report also highlights the need for the Greens’ policy of a national plan for energy storage, including a storage target and investment in the export opportunities of solar fuels.

The report reinforces that in the medium term, large amounts of renewable energy do not need large investments in storage, but that Australia risks losing out on export opportunities and more investment in renewables without a longer-term plan for the storage industry.

“The new Finkel report shows Turnbull’s war on renewables is built on lies,” Mr Bandt said.

It shows that the so-called ‘renewables problem’ the government’s NEG policy is seeking to fix is built on a fiction that recent investments in renewables require more storage to work.

This is further evidence of why COAG should have rejected the government’s National Energy Guarantee at its meeting last Friday, and put in place a real national climate and energy plan.

Mr Bandt went on to say “I have spent the last week in Bonn at the global climate negotiations. While other world leaders released a plan to get out of coal, Josh Frydenberg was hanging with Trump’s coal-huggers.”

Indeed, the new Finkel report also shows that Australia is missing in action on the solar fuels export market that is just taking off. With effectively more sun than any other country, we should be investing in solar and exporting it to the world as solar fuels, such as safe non-polluting hydrogen.

My Daily Advertiser column for today, Tuesday 21 November 2017: Lessons to be learnt from the Vote No campaign’s spectacular own goal

Last week we finally got the result of the marriage equality survey and Australia has resoundingly voted ‘Yes’. 61.6% in fact, with only 38% voting No, which compares very well with Ireland’s vote a couple of years ago, which had 62% of votes in favour of the change and 38 per cent against. Ireland’s was a formal referendum yet only 60% of the people turned out to vote, compared with almost 80% here in an in formal postal survey.

The Riverina electorate’s vote of 55% is also very encouraging, as is our federal MP Michael McCormack’s announcement that he will honour the wish of his constituents and vote for same-sex marriage when it comes to a parliamentary vote. It adds some credibility to his apology for his previous hostility to the Riverina LGBTIQ community.

Referring to individual politicians reminds me of the sordid role some of them, such as Messrs Abbott and Abetz, played in this campaign. Frustrated by the Senate’s vote against a formal plebiscite they foisted the very expensive postal survey on us and then proceeded to mastermind a very misleading ‘Vote No’ argument that in truth was seriously dishonest in its claims about what same-sex marriage would lead to.

But now they should be eating very humble pie, having spectacularly scored an ‘own goal’ – and with the whole world watching too!

It’s the most spectacular own goal on the conservative side of Australian politics since Malcolm Fraser called the early 1983 election and lost.

Indeed, the marriage equality survey was an utter miscalculation by the conservatives on several fronts. They thought they could defeat marriage equality. They failed.

What will the wider results of their pig-headed miscalculation be? Firstly, many more young people are now on the electoral roll and engaged in politics. Young people are likelier to vote Labor or Green, so they have enriched their opposition.

Secondly, the “yes” vote for marriage equality is also a “no” vote for the shock-jock, News-Ltd totally untrue view of the world that political correctness has gone mad and the world is full of dole bludgers and refugees wearing Armani outfits.

Thirdly, a repudiation of the myth that “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

The survey result could also be a game-changer for Australian politics. This is because Malcolm Turnbull has at least 18 months before he faces an election. He has time to fix the mess he allowed to happen. If he is agile and innovative, he could make the survey result in his epiphany. He can take no kudos from the survey result for that belongs to us, the Australian people who, having had this unwanted agenda from the right-wing rump of the Coalition thrust upon us, turned the result around.

But Mr Turnbull can take lessons from the result, which means, unlike marriage equality, he needs to address things that are broke and need fixing, such as an energy policy that addresses climate change, housing affordability, a tax policy to fix the rorts exposed in the Paradise Papers, our inhumane treatment of asylum seekers, the appalling conditions our First Peoples have to endure, and so on.

A good start would be to limit the damage that those MPs amending the Marriage Equality Bill are trying to do by including provisions such as allowing marriage celebrants and wedding caterers to discriminate against LGBTIQ people under the false guise of religious freedom. Don’t let them legalise discrimination, Malcolm!

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for Tuesday 14 November 2017: Australia must take on UK re tax havens

Last week’s 4 Corners (ABC TV) revealed that files from an offshore law firm showed that the big multinationals organise their finances to avoid paying very much tax.

No surprises there, as we have long known this about corporations such as Apple and Nike, but what excited both the media and the public was that these rorts are also practiced by very wealthy individuals such as the Queen, Prince Charles, pop stars, leading sports figures, and members of Donald Trump’s cabinet. Well, perhaps no surprise about the latter.

Having said that it does need to be noted that tax avoidance is not illegal, unlike tax evasion, which most definitely is. 

The 4 Corners screening revealed that the world’s biggest businesses, heads of state and global figures in politics, entertainment and sport have sheltered their wealth in secretive tax havens. The leak of 13.4m files exposed the global environments in which tax abuses can thrive, and the complex and seemingly artificial ways the wealthy can legally protect their wealth.

Dubbed the Paradise Papers, it revealed, amongst other details, that millions of pounds from the Queen’s private estate have been invested in the low taxing Cayman Islands, a British territory in the West Indies.

The report also showed extensive offshore dealings by President Donald Trump’s cabinet members, advisers and donors, including substantial payments from a firm co-owned by Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law to the shipping group of US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross

The publication of this investigation comes at a time of growing global income inequality. Meanwhile, multinational companies are shifting a growing share of profits offshore, €600bn in the last year alone, as leading economist Gabriel Zucman revealed.

“Tax havens are one of the key engines of the rise in global inequality,” he said. “As inequality rises, offshore tax evasion is becoming an elite sport.”

Hopefully the disclosures will put pressure on world leaders, including Trump and the British prime minister, Theresa May, who have both pledged to curb aggressive tax avoidance schemes, but we shouldn’t hold our breath waiting for this to happen.

The problem is of course that short of world governments unanimously legislating to make tax avoidance as illegal as tax evasion already is, there is no easy solution.

However, there is one action that could seriously put an end to all these sadly legal rorts, which is to crack down on these so-called tax havens, preferably by closing them down entirely, or at least lifting the veil of secrecy they operate under. Interestingly enough, most, though not all of them, are British territories.

This has provoked Greens Treasury Spokesperson, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson to propose a very do-able solution. He has called on the Government to call in the UK Ambassador to ask why the UK continues to allow negligent levels of tax secrecy in their Overseas Territories.

“Australia needs to let the UK know that we can no longer tolerate its overseas territories, including Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands, being used by Australian citizens or companies operating in Australia for aggressive tax avoidance and potential tax evasion strategies” the Senator said.

Australia is in the early stages of negotiating a trade agreement with the UK. In Britain’s vulnerable post-Brexit state, our Government must seize the moment and immediately rule out signing any deal which would facilitate further use of the tax and secrecy havens of the UK overseas territories.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for 7 November 2017: The Consequences of the Battle of Beersheba nothing to celebrate

The consequences of Beersheba are nothing to celebrate

Last week’s national chest beating over the centenary of the Battle of Beersheba reminded me that the consequences of that victory are nothing to celebrate, and neither is last week’s other centenary, Britain’s Balfour Declaration.

Both need a dose of honest assessment, rather than the uncritically jingoist interpretation they have been given by the mainstream Australian media.

The Battler of Beersheba first. Essentially what was celebrated was the charge of the Australian 4th Light Horse Brigade of the ANZAC Mounted Division on 31 October 1917 that captured Beersheba and thus fatally compromised the Ottoman Turkish defensive line stretching across Palestine. Jerusalem, the rest of Palestine and then Syria rapidly fell to the British under General Allenby.

While this famous cavalry charge is much celebrated by the victors and the ultimate beneficiary, Israel, the immediate consequences for the Palestinians were devastating. The initial rapes and famine that killed 100,000 was bad enough, but the long-term consequences for the indigenous Palestinians were disastrous.

The post WW1 British Mandate of Palestine, the UK’s prize for its defeat of the Ottoman Turks, opened the land up to Zionist colonisation, the creation of the State of Israel, and today’s ongoing occupation by Israel of Palestine’s West Bank and Gaza Strip

As Greens MP Lee Rhiannon posted on Facebook “The dark history that followed that charge has been largely swept under – from the massacre by ANZAC soldiers in Surafend that went unpunished a year after the charge to the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population of the land by the Israeli army 30 years after that.

“But the grand re-enactment that is taking place, attended by Prime Minister Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will have no mention of the people who belong to that land – who have since been expelled,” Senator Rhiannon’s post concluded

To which I add, where were the Palestinians while Australia, NZ and Israel were partying on last week? Nowhere in sight of course. The only Arabs in view both in 1917 and 2017 were the horses.

Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten should hang their heads in shame for participating in this jingoistic piece of military play acting.

Now to the Balfour Declaration, which is not as well known in Australia as the Beersheba cavalry charge, but had even more disastrous consequences for the Palestinians.

In the Declaration the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Arthur Balfour, promised the land of Palestine as a homeland for the Jewish people. In an amazing piece of Orwellian doublethink (the ability to hold two completely contradictory thoughts simultaneously while believing both to be true) Lord Balfour added “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.

Britain’s motives were various, and though some in Lloyd George’s government, himself included, genuinely wanted safety and security for the Jewish people, the motivation was essentially ‘realpolitik’, namely to win support from the Jewish populations of Russia and the USA for the war.

So last week approximately 13 million Palestinians scattered throughout the world marked its centenary by lamenting what noted Palestinian-American academic Edward Said has rightly dubbed the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the creation of the State of Israel, its occupation of what remains of Palestine, and millions of Palestinian refugees.

The centenary was met with huge protests in Occupied Palestine, and in London, where there were demands for a British apology.

As for me, I would have liked to have attended street artist Banksy’s ‘Apologetic Party’ at his appropriately named ‘Walled-Off Hotel’, my favourite place to hang out in Bethlehem.