Ray Goodlass

Rays peace activism

Month: February, 2017

Shame on Australia’ government for welcoming an accused war criminal

It was pleasing to see that not everyone in Australia welcomed Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel and accused war criminal as enthusiastically as PM Malcom Turnbull and his yes-men colleagues did last week.

Indeed, the collective oppositional voice was very strong, with large demonstrations against Netanyahu and Israel’s anti-Palestinian expansionist policy in most capital cities. I was pleased to attend the Sydney demo and heard an impressive array of speakers passionately tell of Israel’s aggression, including Greens MP David Shoebridge.

Opposition to Netanyahu’s unwelcome presence wasn’t limited to demonstrations. The Australia Palestine Advocacy Network organised a statement signed by over 60 prominent Australians, Facebook and the Twittersphere were replete with condemnations of Israel’s policies, and the Australian Jewish Democratic Society also added its voice to the protests.

So what is wrong with Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians? Words such as ‘plenty’ and ‘heaps’ come to mind. For example, Israel continues to defy all United Nations calls for it to comply with international law in respect of its illegal settlement building, and its treatment of the indigenous Palestinian population.

For over the last 50 years, Israel has held the people of Palestine under military occupation and continues to illegally build settlements on Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It continues to confiscate Palestinian land and continues to demolish Palestinian homes. Its policy of continuing the imprisonment of Palestinians without trial even of children as young as 12 continues, as does its blockade of the 1.8 million civilian inhabitants of Gaza.

Those actions are not symbolic of a nation desirous of building peace with its neighbours. They build understandable resentment, anger and desperation amongst Palestinians.

The Australian Government needs to rethink its one-sided support for the Israeli Government. Like thousands of others, I was appalled that our Government opposed the recent UN Security Council resolution supporting the application of international law to Israel and Palestine, when most nations, including the United Kingdom, Germany, France and New Zealand, support it. Even the USA did not oppose it.

As Greens Foreign Affairs spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlum said, “The Australian Government should stand condemned for its warm welcome to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Mr Netanyahu seems determined to wreck any chances of a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” he pointed out.

Many people might not realise that Mr Netanyahu’s Government is under preliminary investigation for war crimes in the International Criminal Court. On his orders, the expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank has accelerated, as has the demolition of Palestinian homes and seizure of their land and water. Hence the appellation ‘accused war criminal’.

In 2008 and again in 2014, Mr Netanyahu authorised ground invasions and heavy bombardments of the densely populated Gaza strip, resulting in thousands of civilian casualties.

Readers will remember that only a matter of days ago Mr Netanyahu stood smirking by the side of President Trump while the US Commander in chief casually trashed Palestinian’s aspirations for statehood.

So amidst this brazen contempt for international law and all attempts to promote a peaceful settlement, I utterly reject Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s glib assurances that the Australian people would ‘warmly embrace’ Mr Netanyahu on his arrival.

 

 

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Complimentary supplements provide us with nothing more than expensive urine

My Op Ed column in today’s Daily Advertiser reads:

Last week’s 4 Corners (ABC TV) report on complementary supplements showed unequivocally that multivitamins are a waste of money and just create ‘very expensive urine’. The Australian Medical Association president also says there is a lack of evidence showing multivitamins work.

This demonstrates quite clearly that in a world of unregulated capitalism where companies are free to manufacture and market just about anything we are in urgent need of stringent, genuinely evidence based testing rather than the shonky ‘scientifically proven’ claims used by these companies.

These claims are in fact fraudulent because they are based on samples so small they prove nothing. We haven’t really moved on from the ‘snake oil’ salesmen of the nineteenth century, have we?

In commenting on these fraudulent claims and misleading advertising I am not asserting that all complimentary medicines are unnecessary. Though with a proper diet and exercise most of us don’t need such supplements, but some of us do, due to certain genetic deficiencies, or, indeed, a poor diet. My point is that we need proper scientific testing, and regulations to back up that testing, to avoid false and misleading claims.

Let’s look in more detail at what both examinations discovered. First of all, the basic statistic: seven out of 10 Australians take some form of vitamin or supplement.

Adjunct Associate Professor Ken Harvey from the department of epidemiology and preventive medicine at Monash University told the ABC’s Four Corners program there’s little evidence to suggest multivitamins actually work.

Furthermore, a consumer group Choice survey finds therapies with little to no evidence of their benefits, including Bach flower remedies and homeopathic products, being suggested to shoppers

Buying multivitamins benefits the companies that manufacture them by boosting profits, but for the average Australian multivitamins provide “no benefit”.

Naturally enough, the Australian Self Medication Industry says complementary medicines are useful because many Australians have poor diets. However, they would say that, wouldn’t they?

“Vitamin and mineral supplements can play an important role for the 52% of Australian adults who do not eat the recommended intake of fruit or the 92% who do not eat the recommended intake of vegetables each day,” the ASMI said in a statement.

However, there is good news on the horizon, in that the vitamins and supplements you buy could soon have a government tick of approval if they are found to be genuinely effective.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration is looking to reform regulation on complementary medicines so consumers have a better understanding of whether the billions we spend on them is giving us any health benefit.

At present, a listing on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods only means the product is safe, not that it delivers its stated claims.

But a review into regulation of the industry has recommended companies apply for approval if research finds its product effective.

Monash University Associate Professor Dr Ken Harvey said the change would make Australia a world leader by building trust in the industry.

“This would greatly advance the future of complementary medicine if it gets implemented,” he said.

The TGA also released a consultation paper last week seeking feedback into the review, which means we can all have our say. The consultation closes on March 28, which gives us all plenty of time to make a submission.

Childcare reform package hides stringent welfare cuts: My Daily Advertiser column for February 2017

Almost lost last week amidst the fuss over Senator Bernardi’s resignation from the Liberal Party, whilst at the same time keeping his Senate seat, salary and entitlement, was an important piece of government legislation that rolled welfare cuts into childcare reforms.

In a secret deal between the Government and crossbenchers on the family tax benefit (FTB) sneaked through stringent cuts to the social safety net that hurts families, young people and aged pensioners.

The Turnbull government has been accused of holding parents “hostage” by combining its childcare reforms with $8 billion in cuts to unemployed young people, welfare recipients and families whose employers provide paid parental leave.

The government had previously flagged it would combine its childcare changes with cuts to family tax benefits, but went further last Wednesday by rolling several previously rejected welfare cuts into the same bill. This is of course the oldest trick in the books, burying cuts that are likely to be unpopular within a reform that is otherwise likely to be supported.

 The bill now includes measures such as: increasing the age of eligibility for unemployment benefits from 22 to 25, a move that would cut payments to young jobseekers by $45 a week. People aged under 25 without a job will be receive Youth Allowance worth $438 a fortnight rather than the $528 Newstart Allowance; jobseekers under 25 will have to wait four weeks before accessing income support; abolishing the Energy Supplement, worth up to $14 a fortnight, for new welfare recipients; capping government-funded and employer-paid parental leave at 20 weeks a year and stopping pension payments to Australians who travel for more than six weeks overseas.

Jo Briskey, executive director of parent advocacy group The Parenthood, said the plan was akin to “holding families to ransom”.

Australian Council of Social Service chief executive Cassandra Goldie said: “The so-called concessions the government has made will be wiped out by other changes in the bill, leaving many low-income people worse off.

“Of course we all want greater support for families to get better-quality childcare but it cannot be funded on the backs of some of the most disadvantaged people in our country.”

Labor families spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said the opposition was opposed to the package, but One Nation leader Pauline Hanson said welfare payments need to be “reined in”.

Also  key crossbench senator Nick Xenophon said the government was “moving in the right direction” by softening its family payment cuts.

“I think the government has improved the package, improved the childcare package and in terms of Indigenous and remote communities there are some real improvements there as well, so that’s welcomed,” he said. 

However, and quite rightly, “Nick Xenaphon and other crossbenchers should think long and hard before getting behind the legislation”, Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said today.”

The Government has painted this legislation as a compromise to get the childcare package through the Senate but it is just a shopping list of the nasty social safety net measures that they have not been able to get through the senate in the past. It is an attack on families, young people and the aged.

Also tucked away in this hodgepodge legislation is the reduction of people receiving their aged pension once out of the country from 26 weeks to six weeks.

The Government is unrelentingly going after young families, and those relying on our social security safety net.

 

 

Trump is certainly no diplomat

Trump certainly no diplomat

Todays column in the Daily Advertiser:

I was spoilt for choice as to my topic this week, as PM Turnbull has blotted his copybook quite spectacularly in three different ways. As they were all of his own making he needs calling out on them.

First came the news that he had timed his $1.75 million donation to the Liberal Party during the 2016 federal election so as to avoid immediate disclosure. “He would have known that his $1.75 million donation would not be publicly disclosed until 19 months after his re-election on 1 February 2018” pointed out Greens Democracy spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon. Regardless of the timing, eventually it would come out, making clear to one and all he had bought his way to power.

Next came his National Press Cub address on the topic of our energy future. Not only did he say that he was ‘agnostic’ on energy policy and did not rule out dumping our Renewable Energy Targets (RET) he also included ‘clean coal’ in our energy mix. As countless scientists have pointed out, there’s no such thing. It doesn’t exist. Far better to fund the CSIRO to develop super batteries that can provide long term storage for electricity generated from renewable energy sources, thereby providing reliable base load power. Or perhaps he’s hoping private enterprise in the form of Tesla will do it for us. If so, say so.

But top of the list comes his first telephone conversation with President Trump. Leaving aside Mr Turnbull’s failure to condemn the President’s refugee and migration executive orders as other world leaders have quite rightly done, what rankles here is Mr Turnbull not letting us know that the conversation was a failure, abruptly ended after 25 minutes instead of the scheduled hour. Of course Mr Turnbull was being diplomatic, but a bit of truth-telling would have been welcome, rather than for us to be told on the front page of the Washington Post.

However, apart from the theatre provided by the conflict of the loud, bullying New York real estate developer approach of the President versus the honeyed words of merchant banker Turnbull, I’m concerned about this issue on two counts, and both will apply even if the issue is settled by the time this column goes to print.

If President Trump scuttles the, deal what will come of the refugees stranded in the hell-holes on Nauru and Mannus Island? There is one clear solution, and that is to do the right thing and settle them here. It is extremely doubtful if that will re-start the boats, as the original announcement of the American deal certainly didn’t, so the right wing of the Liberals, Nationals and ALP need not bother us with that argument.

But if President Trump agrees to go ahead, at what price will it be? There certainly will be one, for one thing we know about the President is that he is a deal maker. It will almost certainly be secret, the details not to be revealed for decades. For the past week commentators have speculated that it will be an increased Australian military commitment, perhaps in the Middle East, or in the South China Sea. Anyone fancy having the RAN join in a blockade of the sea lanes?

To conclude on a bright note rather than one pointing towards Armageddon, in the past week I had a day procedure at the (newish) Wagga Wagga Rural Referral Hospital, and I’m pleased to report that is appears to be an excellent facility, light, bright, airy, spacious, and well decorated. High praise too to all the staff, from clerical to aides, technicians, nurses, doctors and specialists. Exemplary service with a smile all round.g he needs calling out on them.