Ray Goodlass

Rays peace activism

Month: December, 2014

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