Ray Goodlass

Rays peace activism

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.

My Daily Advertiser column for today, 31 October 2017

AWU Raids a Political Act by a Desperate PM

Last week Australian politics reached a new low, and with Team Turnbull beating the xenophobia drum with all the energy it can muster, that’s saying something.

The new low was of course the raids on the Sydney and Melbourne offices of the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) by the Australian Federal Police (AFP). The AWU is expected to mount an urgent Federal Court challenge.

The raids dramatically featured on prime-time evening TV news broadcasts, which at the time made me think that the media must have been tipped off about them, and as we soon found out, they were, by one of Employment Minister Michaelia Cash’s staff.

Ms Cash spent the best part of a day denying that important piece of information, which quite rightly has resulted in calls for her resignation, for given that under the Westminster system of government a minister is ultimately responsible for the actions of their department and their staff, Australian Greens Acting Co-Deputy Leader Adam Bandt’s comment that Cash’s position was untenable and that she should resign is entirely appropriate.

However, back to the main story. The AFP raids were part of an investigation by newly re-established union watchdog, the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) into AWU donations to activist group GetUp! when Opposition Leader Bill Shorten led the union.

It’s clearly part of the Government’s ongoing attack on the union movement in general and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten in particular. It is also an attack on Get Up, for Turnbull & Co certainly don’t like community based activism. As Mr Shorten said, the “AFP is doing government’s dirty work”.

The ROC said the raids were triggered after it received information that documents relevant to the investigation were being “concealed or destroyed” and sought authorisation from a magistrate for immediate AFP access to the documents.

The commission’s investigation, launched earlier this month, is examining whether the $100,000 donation was within the AWU’s rules.

AWU national secretary Daniel Walton labelled the raids “an extraordinary abuse of police resources” and part of an attempt to smear Mr Shorten.

In a statement, GetUp! said the dramatic police actions raised “concerning questions” and said that the organisation handled the 2005 donation appropriately.

“This is part of a pattern from this government trying to silence its critics or anyone who challenges it,” GetUp! national director Paul Oosting said.

Greens industrial relations spokesperson Adam Bandt MP added that “This is part of a worrying broader crackdown on dissent in Australia”.

Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary Sally McManus pointed out that the raids “Meant to intimidate us. But we will not be intimidated or stopped for standing up for what’s right and standing up to the powerful. We will continue to call them out and fight for a better deal – better and stronger rights for working people.

“When the big banks were found to have allowed terrorists and drug dealers to launder money, they did nothing. This authoritarian behaviour is what you’d expect from a dictatorship”.

Greens NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon has condemned the raids as a ruthless political act carried out by a government desperate to protect its own power and that of the business constituency it serves.

“Like the government’s shrill and baseless attack on GetUp! this raid is a sign of an insecure government desperate to tie up the largest organised sections of our progressive movement” Senator Rhiannon concluded.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for today: Turnbull has capitulated to the climate terrorists on his backbench.

Last week’s news that the Turnbull Cabinet was dumping the Clean Energy Target proposed by the Chief Scientist for a new so-called ‘affordable, reliable’ power plan is of doubtful short-term value for households and is certainly a long-term disaster for the climate and the environment, both on which of course we all depend.

This is because clean renewable energy’s share of the electricity sector will plateau from 2020 under the government’s new energy plan. Critics say it will make it harder for Australia to meet its climate goals and dent jobs in the industry.

According to the briefing documents provided this week by the government the share of renewable energy would be a paltry 28-36 per cent, including hydro and solar photovoltaics, by 2030. Even more alarmingly, the share of intermittent renewable energy, such as solar and wind, would only be “about 18-24 per cent”.

Though, at the time of writing, Labor may well, and to its shame, back the plan, there is opposition from State leaders, rightly worried that any gains they make in setting deeper emissions reductions through more ambitious renewable energy targets will be nullified by the federal scheme.

Energy analysts and the Greens have also criticised the proposal, noting the renewables share is even less than the “business as usual” forecast for 2030 contained in the Finkel review.

The national energy guarantee is “is worse than doing nothing,” Greens climate change and energy spokesman Adam Bandt said.

“It takes a particular malevolence to not just cut support to renewables but to actively pull them out of the system.”

One hotly debated detail is whether the proposed scheme will generate a shadow’ carbon price, as market watchers and others say it will. John Pierce, chairman of the Australian Energy Market Commission tries to argue that “We are not pricing carbon. What we are pricing is reliability…the ability for the mechanism to be dispatched.”

Others though, more concerned with truth than spin, highlight that as soon as trading takes place between retailers a price will emerge.

But it is the projected 2030 level of renewables that has many in the industry puzzled.

Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton said the share of renewables in the National Electricity Market will slow rapidly, perhaps by more than half. “That’s surprising and disappointing,” Mr Thornton said, noting that any slowdown would come even as prices of renewable energy are sinking fast.

Australian Greens Leader Richard Di Natale succinctly said it all “Today’s climate announcement, to scrap the already underwhelming Clean Energy Target and put more dirty power into the network, is dangerous and infuriating. This plan abandons renewables, abandons action on climate change and abandons households who will be paying more for their power. This is a big win for coal, for the Liberal Party’s donors and for Tony Abbott.”

Clearly this is the policy you get when you capitulate to the climate terrorists on your backbench. It’s a policy of appeasement designed to please Tony Abbott and the other Trumps on the backbench. Of course, it is also a cheap political ploy to bolster the Liberal/National coalition’s chances at the next federal election.

It is ironic that the Liberals, the party based on supporting private enterprise, is prepared to massively intervene in the free market when it needs to do so to save its own sorry skin.

My Daily Advertiser column for today, 17 October 2017: The Turnbull government’s national security agenda is all about its own survival.

A government that exploits people’s fears to win elections is nothing new, but that doesn’t mean it is anything to be proud of.

Nonetheless, examples abound, such as Britain’s 1914 ‘Khaki election’, Nazi Germany playing on fears of communist USSR, and most Western governments playing on the same fear during the Cold War.

So it needs to be made very clear what Malcolm Turnbull and his colleagues are up to when the government pushes its national security agenda.

Peter Lewis recently wrote “Are war and terrorism the last hope for a revival of Turnbull’s government?” (The Guardian), which got me thinking that this would be a topic worth teasing out.

More than half of the Australians in a recent Essential poll are quite rightly concerned that the nuclear brinkmanship displayed by both Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un will lead to all-out conflict.

And so as the Turnbull government fails to make any headway on most domestic issues it is increasingly turning to external threats to reset the political agenda to its advantage.

The first issue is the face-off between two crazy-brave hot-heads with their fingers way too close to the button. As this week’s Essential Report shows, most Australians now think war between the US and North Korean is more likely than not.

Today’s reports that President Trump told his national security advisers in July that he wanted to increase the country’s nuclear arsenal by nearly tenfold (The Age) is likely to increase our fear. Trump now of course claims this to be ‘Fake News’, as he invariably does when caught out.

Frighteningly the Turnbull government has already signalled it will follow President Trump wherever he cares to go. Real war on and possibly off the Korean peninsula ironically would relieve the current internal pressure on the Coalition, with all parties except the Greens unifying behind the US alliance.

The second threat likely to benefit Turnbull & Co is the increasing possibility of a home-soil terrorist attack. As last week’s Essential report shows, this still represents the greatest challenge to Australian’s sense of personal safety.

It is here that the Coalition has been pursuing its most proactive groundwork, establishing the truly Orwellian sounding homeland security super ministry and seeking more and more powers in the name of anti-terrorism.

What is frightening is the incrementalism of the government’s approach to its anti-terror legislation. Firstly, because by tightening the screws small bit by small bit the ‘Boiling Frog’ syndrome will apply, that is, they hope we won’t notice each small change, only waking up to the fact when it is too late to realise how many of our civil liberties have been taken away.

In terms of parliamentary politics, the government’s strategy is to probe and push until it finds a point of difference with the Opposition. To date Shorten’s Labor has matched the government each step of the way, conscious that to create a contest on national security opens the attack of being “weak on terror”.

Indeed, as Kim Beazley discovered to his ultimate demise in 2001 when the Howard government confected the Tampa stand-off, there will be a point where Labor will not be prepared to follow and that will become the point on which a winnable Coalition election campaign can be fought, perish the thought.

So war and terror will ironically be the last remaining hopes for a Coalition revival.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for Tuesday 26 September 2017: The Doomsday Clock inches closer to midnight every time Trump speaks or Tweets about North Korea

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un should take Washington’s threats of possible military action seriously because the world will not accept his state becoming a full nuclear power, Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne chirped recently.

And after Donald Trump’s threat to totally destroy North Korea in last week’s United Nation’s address, which was unprecedented in the diplomacy of the modern world, so should the rest of us, though with different reasoning to Mr Pyne.

President Trump, in his first UN speech, warns US will ‘totally destroy’ North Korea if threatened, bringing “his bullying, populist presidential campaign to the global stage in UN debut” as ABC online news accurately put it.

His comments rattled the world leaders gathered before him in the green-marbled hall, where just minutes earlier, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had appealed for statesmanship and diplomacy.

As loud, startled murmurs filled the hall, Mr Trump added insult to injury by referring to Mr Kim as “rocket man”, despite the international forum and gravity of the situation.

Since then many world leaders have rightly condemned Mr Trump for his undiplomatic and provocative statements, though, much to our shame, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop managed to ignore Mr Trump’s statements, and Malcolm Turnbull went so far as to claim Mr Trump was merely “stating the reality.”

Shortly before Mr Trump’s speech, Mr Guterres appealed from the General Assembly lectern for statesmanship to avoid war with North Korea. “We must not sleepwalk our way into war,” he said. Mr. Trump isn’t sleepwalking into it, he’s wide awake and charging full tilt with eyes (and mouth) wide open.

Trump and his war-mongering mates should take heed of the number of times since he was let loose in the White House that atomic scientists have reset their symbolic “Doomsday Clock” closer to midnight, each time pointing out that the world is moving closer to catastrophe due to threats such as nuclear weapons, climate change and Donald Trump’s election as US president.

The timepiece, devised by the Chicago-based Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists immediately after WWII is widely viewed as an indicator of the world’s vulnerability to disaster.

Recently its hands were moved to two minutes and 30 seconds to midnight, from three minutes.

“The Doomsday Clock is closer to midnight than it’s ever been in the lifetime of almost everyone in this room,” Lawrence Krauss, the bulletin’s chair, recently told a news conference in Washington.

Even during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 at the height of the Cold War the clock was only set at three minutes to nuclear catastrophe, meaning that now we are closer than ever to Armageddon.

But unlike Jack Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, who had the smarts to handle the crisis without obliterating most of the world, Donald Trump and Kim Jung-un are impulsive neophytes likely to blow us all to bits in order to satisfy their deluded egos.

However, the problem isn’t so much that a Kim Jong-un rocket launch/bomb test, or a Trump reactive fit of pique will result in immediate nuclear war, though it’s certainly possible, but rather that both sides will miscalculate and that a spiral of escalation will lead to a catastrophe that no one really wants, not even those two vainglorious fools.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for 19 September 2017: Australia rightly condemned for trying to make asylum seekers ‘homeless and destitute’

Though the Turnbull government’s decision to withdraw financial support and housing from asylum seekers and refugees to encourage them to return to Manus Island or Nauru is ‘old’ news in recent days I’ve been heartened by details coming to light of the local and international criticism it has drawn and the formal complaints it has generated to three senior rapporteurs at the United Nations (Guardian Australia. This new news prompted my topic for today.

As Peter Dutton’s decision ranks as an act of supreme bastardry these new details are worth a column.

So, what did the government actually do? Last month, the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, announced the imposition of a new “final departure bridging visa” for refugees and asylum seekers brought to Australia from Nauru or Manus Island for medical treatment.

I would have hoped that even Minister Dutton wouldn’t stoop as low as using the expression ‘final departure’, as it brings to mind the Nazi’s ‘Final Solution’ and all the horrors of the holocaust, but use it he did.

It is understood up to 400 people, including families with infant children born in Australia, face having government support withdrawn in an effort to encourage them to abandon their protection claims, or return to Australia’s offshore detention islands of Manus and Nauru.

Now, on to the reaction. Firstly, Victoria stepped in to help 100 of the asylum seekers as the Andrews government announced a $600,000 package, which includes accommodation and basic living costs for the affected group

However, in relation to the bigger picture the Human Rights Law Centre in Australia and the Geneva-based Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights are set to send urgent submissions to three relevant United Nations special rapporteurs: on the right to adequate housing; on extreme poverty and human rights; and on torture and other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The UN’s special rapporteurs are individuals who are officially appointed by the organisation’s Human Rights Council to investigate a problem or issue and then to report on it.

The joint submissions call on the rapporteurs to urge the Australian government to abandon the final departure bridging visas, reinstate housing and income support, and allow those seeking asylum to apply for refugee status in Australia. It also asks the rapporteurs to publicly condemn the government’s actions.

“The purpose and effect of these government actions is to cut off vulnerable people from basic supports as a means of pressuring them to return to a place where they fear serious physical and/or psychological harm,” they say.

“The government actions risk rendering affected people homeless and destitute as they will have no income support and little chance of finding work to provide for their food, housing, clothing and other basic needs.”

The submissions argue the government’s imposition of the final departure visa is a breach of its international obligations under several international treaties, including the convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

These excoriating submissions to the UN special rapporteurs are especially awkward for Australia at present, for it appears we are certain to win election to the UN’s Human Rights Council in November. Given our track record of flouting the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights, especially in relation to asylum seekers and our First Peoples, the irony of us gaining a spot on the Council won’t be remotely amusing, as ironies usually are, it will be embarrassingly cringe making.

My Daily Advertiser column for today, Tuesday 12 September 2017: Now is not the time for new coal fired power stations

Last week I saw Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Sequel’, a powerful and persuasive follow up to his ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ film of ten years ago, which made it very clear to one and all that the world is in grave danger from climate change caused by human use of fossil fuels, while in the same week Houston, the ‘oil city’ of Texas, was reeling from Hurricane Harvey.

What struck me most about the film was that convergence, for at no time during the relentless TV news coverage of the disaster was there any mention of our addiction to coal, gas and oil being responsible. Certainly not from President Trump, who was keen to splash around billions of dollars to rebuild this bastion of prosperous and largely white addiction to fossil fuels.

But last week was also when here at home the Turnbull government failed the test it has been urging the rest of us to follow since the advent of unregulated capitalism in the 1980s, namely to listen to the market, and make decisions based on what it is telling us.

I’ve never had any truck with such anti-social neo-liberal nonsense, but at the moment I do wish Turnbull & Co would heed their own advice, for the market is telling them to get out of coal fired electricity generation.

‘Electricity crisis: AGL boss rebukes Turnbull government plan to keep coal power stations operating for longer’ headlined the Sydney Morning Herald. The smaller print told us that Australia’s largest electricity generator had strongly dismissed a new push by the Turnbull government to make the country’s coal-fired power stations run for years longer than originally planned.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull raised the prospect in Parliament of keeping the Liddell power station open beyond 2022, and also in a phone call to AGL chief executive Andy Vesey, who has ruled out keeping it open beyond that date.

Government sources say that the PM stared down resistance from the company, which has repeatedly said that it will start exiting coal-fired power generation from 2022, and complete the transition by 2050.

This is despite business, environment groups, the Greens and Labor demanding the government implement the post 2020 Clean Energy target, recommended by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, to help drive investment in new generation and put downward pressure on soaring power prices.

That recommendation has not been welcomed by conservative sections of the Coalition party room, stirred up by Tony Abbott, who oppose a Clean Energy Target and back the construction of a new coal-fired power plant, something Mr Turnbull has not ruled out.

As Adam Bandt, the Australian Greens energy spokesperson pointed out “The Turnbull government, hounded by Tony Abbott and the coal industry, is set to kill off the Chief Scientist’s plan for a Clean Energy Target and instead pay dirty and ageing coal fired stations to stay open longer”.

Worryingly, instead of opposing subsidies to dirty energy, Bill Shorten and Labor have said they are open to supporting them. With the government crumbling and Labor likely to win the next election, now is not the time to sign on to an energy policy that will lock in coal and lock out renewable energy.

We know that only new investment in wind and solar, together with battery storage, will cut pollution and bring down energy prices, and so it was good to see Mr Bandt introduce a bill to Parliament to continue and extend the Renewable Energy Target.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for today, 5 September 2017: The ‘No’ campaign morphs from dirty tricks into outright lies

A TV advertisement urging a ‘No’ vote in the Same-Sex Marriage postal survey from the Coalition for Marriage has featured mothers speaking out against gay marriage. For example, “The school told my son that he could wear a dress to school next year if he wanted,” Ms White says in the 30-second commercial.

But the principal of the school in question, Frankston High, said Ms White’s claim had no substance – in other words, her claim is an outright lie. ‘It never happened’ he said.

Like many commentators and also those without a public voice, I expected the anti-same sex marriage campaign to resort to dirty tricks, including prejudiced clichés, exaggerations, and mis-truths, but not to peddling outright lies. The ‘Vote No’ campaign could clearly teach President Trump’s team a thing or two about how to invent ‘alternative facts’.

The false claims were made by Cella White, who has previously appeared in videos attacking the Safe Schools program and whose claims have been heavily promoted by the Australian Christian Lobby.

“We checked with all the teachers; it never happened,” Principal John Albiston said.

He went on to ask “I have never had any complaints that we advised the boys they could wear dresses. We didn’t offer them that option”.

This leaves many of us wondering why this so-called incident that never happened would have anything to do with marriage equality.

Mr Albiston said Ms White had raised concerns with him about the Safe Schools program, but the school’s uniform had never cropped up as an issue.

The TV ad alleges that in countries which have legalised same-sex marriage, “parents have lost their rights to choose”.

On its website, the group claims that the ad will help Australians understand that “saying ‘yes’ to gay marriage would mean saying ‘yes’ to radical gay sex education in schools”.

Both these statements imply that it is okay for parents to condemn the sexuality of their children. Apparently even in the twenty first century the people behind this ad think that is in order. As I write this a research project has shown that 50% of Australian trans children have attempted suicide. It is attitudes and actions held by groups like this that result in such disturbing statistics.

The political motivation behind the ad isn’t hard to find, for Mrs McIvor is a former journalist who has worked for former Nationals MP and federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran, state Liberal MP Philip Davis and Family First Senator Steve Fielding.

Last year she was also the master of ceremonies at an anti-abortion rally on the steps of State Parliament and posed alongside Democratic Labour Party MP Rachel Carling-Jenkins.

“Removing gender from our marriage laws means removing gender from the classroom,” it said in a statement on its website. Totally untrue of course – what the Safe Schools program aims to do is to help reduce prejudicial attitudes towards those who weren’t born into the heterosexual binary.

Thankfully the ad has been criticised by Opposition leader Bill Shorten, who said it was “offensive and hurtful to LGBTI Australians and their families”.

“This is exactly what was predicted when Malcolm Turnbull decided to waste $122 million on a postal survey. He gave the green light to this rubbish,” Mr Shorten said.

The Equality Campaign quite rightly labelled the ad as “disgraceful and dishonest”. But where is Mr Turnbull’s rebuttal? He has spent the last few months claiming his postal survey would not result in such lies.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for Tuesday 29 August 2017

Our monuments need to reflect the unvarnished truth of our history

During the last couple of weeks or so I’ve followed the stories of the progressively minded in the United States calling for the removal of the statues of Confederate Civil War generals such as Robert E Lee, silently cheering on those cities that quite rightly tore down these monuments to racism.

I wondered how long it would take for a similar movement to take hold here? After a great deal of Twitter sphere squawking the first flesh and blood instance I came across was an ABC news story in The World Today (24 August) headlined ‘South Sea Islanders say statue of Townsville founder ‘whitewashes’ slave history’.

The statue in the northern Queensland city has appropriately raised the ire of Australian South Sea Islanders, who say it should be changed to better reflect the region’s slave history, for the monument to Robert Towns, who made his name by ‘blackbirding’ (aka people trafficking or the slave trade) South Sea Islanders in 19th century Queensland, stands in Townsville’s main street.

Like many in Australia the descendants of those who were black birded aren’t necessarily calling for the statue to be pulled down, but instead asking for the site to include a plaque and statue to pay tribute to those who were kidnapped, brought to Queensland and forced into labour on the cane fields.

This story and the US statue removing events provoked the ABC’s Indigenous Affairs reporter, Wiradjuri elder and Riverina boy Stan Grant to note that ‘America tears down its racist history, we ignore ours’.

Like Stan, I and many others have often noticed the statue of Captain James Cook in Sydney’s Hyde Park. On the base of the statue is an inscription in bold letters reading: DISCOVERED THIS TERRITORY 1770

Think of those words for a minute: “Discovered this territory.” They are nonsense, of course, for Stan’s ancestors were here when Cook dropped anchor. They, and the rest of us who have been paying attention, know now that the first peoples of this continent had been here for at least 65,000 years.

Yet this statue indicates white fellas thought of this as an empty continent, of an entire civilisation’s invisibility. It says that nothing truly mattered, nothing truly counted until a white English sailor first set foot on these shores.

The statue continues to imply ‘terra nullius’ and the violent rupture of over 500 Aboriginal nations, as well as referring to a legacy of pain and suffering that still endures today.

And as a quick side-note, if we are wanting to commemorate the finding of an Australia that had been known to its Indigenous inhabitants for over 60 thousand years, let’s not forget that the Dutch beat James Cook by over 100 years!

This whole business has led many of us to ponder the questions of heritage and hate. Hopefully we can avoid the excesses of the American alt-right (Neo-Nazis etc.) here, though given the likes of Pauline Hanson and the slightly more urbane though equally appalling Cory Bernardi I have some serious doubts.

Given their ‘white’ Australia first attitude we need to quickly, squarely and fairly address the role of those who knowingly contributed to a white invasion, settlement and almost total obliteration of our indigenous people.

All of which reminds me that our own local university is very inappropriately named after an English explorer who ‘opened up’ Wiradjuri Country to white settlement, not that it was ever ‘closed’ of course.

There are many fictions in what passed for our history, which is not surprising, as history is usually written by the victors, but if we are honest we should no longer maintain them.