Ray Goodlass

Rays peace activism

Month: September, 2017

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.

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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.