Ray Goodlass

Rays peace activism

Month: November, 2014

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

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

Anyway, here’s the column in full:

Government going back on its word

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Muslim Conversations

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the Animal Welfare Op Ed piece:

Melbourne Cup issues are not isolated incidents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least some action from Jordan in response to Israeli provocation

A very short post today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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