Ray Goodlass

Rays peace activism

What price Australia Day?

My Op Piece in Wagga’s DA today, based on Captain Abbott’s spectacular own goal of knighting a foreign aristocrat  may arouse some responses from the True Blue set as I used it to ask some questions about Australia Day. Indeed, a good friend said it would offend just about everybody, and if so, so be it, for I thought it about time we revisited the issue of Australia becoming a republic, and whether 26 January, being ‘Invasion Day’ to many, is the best day to celebrate Australia. I guess we’ll see.

I also managed to squeeze Climate Change into the 500 words I’m allocated

Here’s the full text:

Knighthood for Philip  

That our Prime Minister, the self-styled Captain Abbott, has scored a very embarrassing own goal by knighting Prince Philip, would not be worthy of a column of its own, but it does provoke some reflection about Australia Day.

This is not in any way to argue that we should not celebrate Australia Day, for our fortunate nation has indeed much to celebrate.

The knighthood to Prince Philip has thankfully been resoundingly condemned, so I don’t need to add to the chorus, but instead I’ll note that many have pointed the finger of blame at Peta Credlin. Isn’t it interesting how quick people are to blame a strong woman? A real sense of déjà vu here.

And regrettably the Australian of the Year award to Rosie Batty has been lost in the uproar.

The wider issue, that imperial honours (Knights and Dames) based on inherited titles are not appropriate in this day and age is also a valid point. Like most Australians, I regard the Order of Australia as all we need to honour those who have given outstanding service

Now, on to other, much wider issues, provoked by Australia Day. The first of these is the Republic question, as the leader of the opposition Labor party, Bill Shorten, has said Australians should make a fresh effort to declare their country a republic.

“Let us have the courage to ask ourselves if we measure up to more than just a grab-bag of clichés,” he said. “Let us declare that our head of state should be one of us.”

Also worth a national debate is whether or not the 26th January is the most appropriate day for our national day. At a relatively trivial level is the question of whether the establishment of a convict colony in Sydney in 1788 is something to be proud of, but of much more importance is the fact that for the indigenous population of Australia it marks an invasion of their ancestral lands.

Not everyone will agree, but I think a debate is necessary and certainly won’t hurt. What is a more appropriate date is a complex issue, but perhaps it could replace the Queen’s Birthday public holiday.

And whilst all the Australia Day hoopla was distracting us all the newest CSIRO Climate Change report was released, which contained dire projections for Australia. Thank goodness Greens leader Christine Milne’s office was on the ball enough to notice and bring it to our attention.

“These projections are not based on the findings at the bottom of a teacup; they are the work of Australia’s top scientists, incorporating observations of global warming that has already occurred.

“Addressing global warming means moving to 100 per cent renewable energy as quickly as possible. It means opportunities in renovating existing infrastructure and building new homes to new standards of resilience in the face of more extreme storms and heat “said Senator Milne.

On my way to Palestine (again)

A good day today. I booked my flight for my next Palestine trip (a month long intensive Arabic course in Occupied East Jerusalem). I hope I don’t get tear gassed this time, and that the Israelis don’t hassle me either getting in or out, as they’ve previously done both!

We also had Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi in town, largely to visit women’s organisations, and we all had lunch with her, which was very enjoyable. Mates Gully organic café was full – it’s great to see them doing such good business!

And my Op Ed column on Abbott’s sledge g boast in the DA yesterday has had good reactions. Here’s the full column:

PM’s sledging a sign of worrying tendencies

Competition between sporting teams is sometimes promoted in terms that are unhealthily aggressive, sot I was very concerned to read that ” As tensions between the Australian and Indian cricket teams reach boiling point, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has revealed sledging was his only strength as a cricketer” (SMH)

“I couldn’t bat, I couldn’t bowl, I couldn’t field, but I could sledge, and I think I held my place in the team on this basis, and I promise there’ll be none of that today,” said the former captain of Oxford’s Middle Common Room team of the Queen’s College.”

Reactions were interesting. Some saw it as normal ‘blokey’ behaviour, others as ‘boys will be boys but thankfully some dug a little deeper, noting that his boast may explain why he was an effective opposition leader but ad absolute dud as a Prime Minister. Which is all very well if you count the adversarial combat arena that passes for the democratic process in Parliament as an appropriate way of debating important issues.

Captain Abbott & Co don’t play the issue, they play the person. That is not a civilised way to conduct the democratic process.

Others noted that if sledging was/is his only talent, he should be dropped from Team Australia. Quite.

There was also comment that it was an odd boast for the Minister for Women! Yes indeed.

What really interested me though was the point that cricket is often described as a metaphor for life, and as such reflects accurately our PM’s entire political career!

His modus operandi, and for this insight I’m indebted to Bruce Grant who wrote (SMH 2 January) “Simply put, Abbott is always spoiling for a fight,”

Examples abound. His shirtfront diplomacy was one such, and seems to be instinctive for him. He could barely wait to accuse Vladimir Putin of being responsible for downing MH17.

Another is his Anglophone values, which are very dated. True, the restitution of knights and dames in Australia is nothing more than comical, but more significant is his reversal to gunboat diplomacy. He is now even talking of increasing our ‘boys’ own adventure in Iraq.

His warrior tendencies are of the past, not the future.

True, the past is attractive for a political leader with a warrior bent,. He sees Australia as bring on the ‘winning’ side in the global wars of the 20th century.

It’s an impressive heritage, which accounts for some of the confidence, even cockiness he displays. But now  our Captain seems to be batting on the wrong side of history.

For that was then, and now is now, and the world is changing, dear Captain. Surely is it time to note, as British PM Harold McMillan so perceptively remarked about decolonisation in the 1960s, “The wind of change is blowing through Africa”. Add the rest of the world to that, Captain.

An Un-Happy New Year in Palestine

My satisfaction of having my Op Ed column that included a reference to Palestine published in the Daily Advertiser yesterday as been overshadowed by the UN Palestine motion being voted down by Australia (and the USA).

As an Australian I am deeply ashamed that my country voted against an opportunity to grant something approaching a just peace for the Palestinians. Shame on you, Abbott, Bishop and all your sorry crew.

Not a Happy New Year for many.

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

Little New Year cheer in cabinet reshuffle

Last week’s cabinet reshuffle brought little joy for the New Year for those of us who might have hoped for a more compassionate government in 2015.

There were two hopeful glimmers, more of which later, but essentially the reshuffle, if anything, went in some ways from bad to worse. Much to the delight, of course, of those devoted to the cruelties of the Thatcher-Reaganite neo-liberal economic and social policies espoused by Abbott, Hockey, Cormann et al.

Indeed, the Daily Telegraph, salivating at what horrifies fair-minded people, screamed with delight in headlines such as “Minister who stopped the boats to stop the bludgers”. (22 December).

As Greens Parliamentary Leader Christine Milne commented “”Putting Scott Morrison in charge of social services will send shivers down the spines of people across the country. Scott Morrison and the word compassion don’t go in the same sentence.

“This is the government that has rejected climate change science and isolated Australia from the rest of the world”.

“Nothing about this reshuffle today changes the fundamental policies … you’ve still got their commitment to go after the most disadvantaged in our community,” said Senator Milne.

There are some slight glimmers of hope. Making up for a glaring omission, Science has been added to the Industry portfolio.

The elevation of Albury’s Sussan Ley to Cabinet is also a step in the right direction. Not because she has the Health portfolio, because she is as addicted to the laissez- faire economic and social policies where the powerful get richer and the ordinary folk pay for it as the rest of Captain Abbott’s heartless bunch.

Instead her elevation is noteworthy, partly because she doubles the representation of women in cabinet, though with Captain Abbott, or should that be Mr Misogyny, bizarrely retains the title of Minister for Women. And even doubling the number still means a grand total of only two!

Ms Ley’s elevation is important also because she had been a rare Liberal voice in support of a just peace for Palestine, having been a co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Palestine and supporter of Palestine’s UN bid for statehood.

“I support the Palestinian bid for statehood in part because it will give heart to the ordinary people of the West Bank and Gaza” said Ms Ley (House of Representatives 2011)

Let us hope in 2015 that Ms Ley doesn’t have to bury her support for Palestinian statehood in the name of Cabinet solidarity, but instead is able to use her newly elevated status for the cause of a just peace in this strife torn region.

At this stage it is of course touch and go as to how Ms Ley will proceed, but a small sign of hope for the New Year is that her address to Parliament from 2011 is still on her website.

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.


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