Ray Goodlass

Rays peace activism

Month: March, 2018

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for today, 27 March 2018

Who’s right and who’s wrong about kangaroo killing?

Recent weeks have seen much media coverage of the news that Australia is planning to kill more than a million kangaroos this year, supposedly to protect both agricultural land and endangered grasslands.

However, we have a complex relationship with ‘our’ kangaroos and many people argue it is a needless slaughter, as the recent and controversial new film ‘Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story’ graphically shows us. Given all the controversy it’s time to bite the bullet and address this thorny topic, as also did Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, who was in Brussels recently to speak at the European premiere of the film.

The movie suggests kangaroos are a “disappearing resource”, and shows footage of the animals being shot en masse, with many dying very slow and painful deaths.
But the National Farmers Federation and meat processors have all slammed the film as a misrepresentation of the situation that ignores the basic facts.

Let’s look at the arguments for and against before reaching a conclusion.

The arguments for are partly driven by agricultural concerns, in that kangaroos eat and otherwise destroy crops. This problem is in part exacerbated by much of our agriculture being irrigated, which no doubt helped to increase the ‘roo population by providing them with more to eat or drink. They are a pest, in other words, putting our food security at risk.

The other main argument for culling is an environmental one, claiming that the increased numbers mean that native vegetation is being destroyed.

Let’s now look at the opposing arguments showing that the culling is unnecessary and needlessly cruel.

The cruelty issue isn’t necessarily that killing any sentient animal is in itself cruel, though of course that case an be made, but rather as the film points out, though shooters are instructed to use a ‘brain shot’ this is not always easy to do to a fast moving animal. There is unfortunately ample evidence that the ‘brain shot’ is often not achieved. So the cruelty argument has validity.

So has the ‘numbers’ issue. Senator Rhiannon addressed this question fairly squarely in a recent Senate address in which she explained that the government’s own data reveals a serious trend of decline in kangaroo numbers since surveys began some 30 years ago. “The published science of kangaroo reproductive biology and population ecology shows that the so-called population explosions described in the data are biologically impossible for this slow-breeding marsupial” she said.

Indeed, current analysis of the survey methodology and raw data is now suggesting systematic and massive deliberately false inflation of kangaroo numbers, from which corresponding excessively inflated commercial shooting quotas are extracted, so that larger numbers may be shot from shrinking populations. In other words, the data is skewed to justify an increased kill quota.

To my mind though the most compelling case against ‘roo culling comes, despite the pro-shooters’ arguments, from an environmental perspective,. The problem arises because we ‘white fellas’ have introduced exotic species such as sheep and cattle that don’t thrive on native grasslands whereas ‘roos do. Most kangaroo shooting in NSW occurs in the dry western rangelands where agricultural productivity is poor.

So instead of the unproductive cull or not cull quarrel wouldn’t it be better to invest in Indigenous peoples and other land managers to manage the least productive portions of the land for the Indigenous suite of species, thereby controlling feral animals, weeds and bushfires ?

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for 20 March 2018

Cruel, punitive and unfair treatment of asylum seekers

Last week, in news barely reported, we learnt that asylum seekers living in the Australian community were having their income support summarily cut by Peter Dutton’s Department of Home Affairs, and being left at risk of destitution.

Some of those who have had their status resolution support service (SRSS) cut arrived in Australia as unaccompanied minors and have since graduated from high school here. Some have won scholarships to university. With the withdrawal of financial support, some have been forced to withdraw from university because they cannot survive while studying.

Others who are studying English or training for a work qualification are being forced to choose between continuing their studies or finding immediate work to support themselves

Changes to the SRSS regime were imposed late last year, when individual asylum seekers, who were living legally in the Australian community on bridging visas, were told they were being cut off from their support. But details of the breadth of the policy have become clearer over recent weeks, with more and more asylum seekers affected, reported the Guardian Australia.

In a very cruel and ironic justification the government has outlined its rationale that asylum seekers judged to be “work-ready” will be required to be working: those who are seeking work, but are unable to find it, or who are studying for work qualifications or to improve their English, will not be eligible for assistance.

It is unclear how many people might be caught up in the changes, but agencies supporting asylum seekers estimate it could affect up to 10,000 people across the country, mainly but not entirely in Sydney and Melbourne.

Refugee advocates have said those stripped of their SRSS are vulnerable to exploitation in the workforce, forced to take any job, under any conditions, in order to survive.
Melbourne’s Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said the changes to the payments meant individuals and families waiting for their protection claims to be assessed could not pay rent, buy food or access mental healthcare.

The centre said the changes had not been clearly explained to asylum seekers, and said it was a “cruel twist of irony” to demand higher language requirements of would-be citizens while removing support from those studying English.

“If you don’t support people to meet basic needs, how can they learn to speak English and pass the government’s own proposed language test?” the ASRC’s Jana Favero said.
In Sydney, the principal solicitor with the Refugee Advice and Casework Service, Sarah Dale, said “It’s not just a choice of ‘do I continue my studies?’, this is a choice about their future, we are limiting their ability to build a new life for themselves, and to integrate in Australia” she said.

The Greens’ immigration spokesman, Nick McKim, said cutting support payments to asylum seekers was “unconscionably cruel and punitive”.

Indeed, this is a deeply unfair decision which could force people into poverty, homelessness and exploitative jobs. Many people affected by these cuts are studying, and all of them are trying to rebuild their lives.

To retrospectively punish people in this way is unconscionably cruel, but sadly that’s what we’ve come to expect from Peter Dutton.

To add insult to injury we learnt last week that Mr Dutton is proposing to fast track offers of settlement to white South African farmers, which that government quite rightly described as “Offensive”.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for 6 March 2018

Michael McCormack’s climate change views leave constituents high and dry

Michael McCormack’s elevation to the leadership of the Nationals and consequently the Deputy Prime Ministership has been fully commented on in the media over the past week and so there is no need to repeat the commentary here, though there are two issues I think worthy of further discussion.

One is his infamous homophobic Daily Advertiser editorial of 1993, and the other is his views on climate change. Both have implications for both his local and now national constituents.

Firstly, a brief comment in his homophobic editorial. As we all know, Mr McCormack has apologised for the hateful bile he wrote 24 years ago. Apologies are all well and good but they neither repair the damage he did, nor give back those years to those whose lives were lost or blighted by his attack.
I was a Senior Lecturer in Drama at CSU back then, and relatively ‘safe’ in what was essentially a privileged position, but hundreds of young people were not so fortunate, and had their lives blighted by Mr McCormack’s slurs. As a Letter to the Editor (Carl-James Asimus, DA, 1 March) wrote “Too often young gay people take their own lives as a result of hatred voiced against them by such figures as Mr McCormack.”

I challenged Mr McCormack to at least partly make amends by marching with me at the 40th Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade last Saturday, but sadly and unsurprisingly he didn’t show.

Let’s hope Mr McCormack will be more thoughtful in his new role, and may he do less harm, though damaged lives can’t all be repaired by the passage of time.
However, it is Mr McCormack’s views on climate change that will be of greater concern to most of his regional constituents. Last week Greens spokesperson for climate change and energy Adam Bandt MP used Parliamentary Question Time to question the new Deputy Prime Minister about his position on climate change.
“‘It appears that the second most powerful man in the country doesn’t believe in climate change,” said Mr Bandt.
The evidence comes from what Mr McCormack referred to as ‘so-called climate change’ in Parliament in 2012. In his first speech, he stated that just because there is less rain ‘It does not mean we all need to listen to a government grant-seeking academic sprouting doom and gloom about climate changing irreversibly’ he said, despite all the scientific evidence provided annually by the Bureau of Meteriology.
The irony of Mr McCormack’s stance as a climate change denier is plain to see. Climate change will lead to more extreme and more frequent droughts, heatwaves and bushfires, which impact on regional and rural Australia far more than they do on the major cities. His constituents are therefore in for a shock if they expect him to look after their interests.
It seems that Mr McCormack does not understand or does not want to understand the urgency of tackling climate change. As inaction on climate change is an ingrained Turnbull government specialty, the people Michael McCormack claims to represent will be left hot, high and dry.
The rise of the man from Wagga Wagga is a case of new face for a set of neoliberal, selfish policies that don’t serve the needs of rural and regional Australia let alone the office of Deputy Prime Minister.