Ray Goodlass

Rays peace activism

Month: June, 2018

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for 26 June 2018

An election budget that is all smoke and mirrors

Superficially, and if one believes the Murdoch press unreservedly, last week’s NSW state budget from the Lib/Nat government is a good one, but a closer look will reveal it is a smoke and mirrors conjuring trick aimed at fooling the gullible in the lead up to next year’s state election. What might well be seen as an attempt to bribe the voters, as such ‘cash splashes’ always are.

Let’s get the local business out of the way first. Given that budget allocations to Wagga and the wider Riverina region are so paltry that won’t take long. A new but totally unfunded primary school for Wagga, $20 million for Stage 3 of the Base Hospital redevelopment, $10 million for the new PCYC, and 1.9 m to Wagga Wagga City Council for roads are the main points.

Nothing either locally or state-wide to address the big issues at all. Public libraries receive a massive 18%cut. Regional public transport misses out, as does housing affordability, so its bad news for renters. Ditto cyclists, as no new projects or infrastructure will be built in 2018-19.

Local government certainly misses out. Funding for NSW councils via grants and subsidies will be reduced by about $32 million in 2018-19. So do Public Services, as departments and agencies will have to find an extra $1.6 billion in savings over four years.

Seniors aren’t very well cared for either, given that they will get only $8.8 million for elder abuse services and technology training.

Right from the outset the NSW treasurer showed a complete lack of understanding about global warming and climate change when he referred to NSW’s diminished share of GST revenue being due to what he claimed us paying over $1bn in 2021 for South Australians who can’t even keep their lights on,” the Guardian Australia reported.

Responding to the NSW Budget, Jenny Leong Greens MP said “The Liberal’s budget speech did not mention climate change once and that’s indicative of the thinking behind this budget. with massive funding for private toll roads and a failure to recognise the real needs of the community”.

In its pre-election sweetener after years of spending on roads and rail, the NSW government will put more money than allocated in previous years towards schools and hospitals rather than on big ticket infrastructure and privatisation of public assets.

Yes, this is more towards these public resources than we’ve seen in recent times, but it hardly makes up for the years and years of neglect, and the fact that the Berejiklian government will continue to devote a large chunk of the budget to its ambitious roads programs, with its controversial WestConnex project to receive a whopping $3.2bn.

As Jamie Parker Greens MP said “The allocation of funds to destructive projects like WestConnex and the Western Harbor Tunnel toll road dwarf this funding. The government should be taking every cent of the billions proposed to be spent on these polluting toll roads and invest into world class public transport”.

The dollars allocated to public resources still pale in comparison with what is being wasted on metropolitan roads.

Greens MP David Shoebridge also pointed out that the government’s failed law and order auction will see record spending on police and prisons, while gutting millions from Legal Aid at a time when it is needed the most. “Thousands of vulnerable kids have been betrayed by a budget that focuses on the Minister’s ideological push for adoption rather than the hard evidence contained in the Tune Report”.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for Tuesday 19 June 2019

NSW Lib/Nat plan will destroy Kosciuszko National Park

The NSW government’s plan to protect wild horses from lethal culling inside Kosciuszko national park will “veto evidence-based management” of their environmental impact, the RSPCA has warned.

Let me say before going any further that though I strongly support severely reducing the number of feral horses in our alpine regions, with a view to eventually eliminating them completely, I do not support culling by shooting or poisoning. There are other, humane ways of doing it, as the Victorian government is demonstrating .

Bidda Jones from the RSPCA, together with a group of experts who helped draft a management plan for the estimated 6,000 wild horses in the park, have issued a scathing critique of legislation to formally recognise the cultural and heritage significance of wild horses.

They say the bill would “make it impossible to conserve the unique environmental values” of Kosciuszko and urge the government to reconsider.

Last month the NSW government scrapped a recommendation from its own environment department to cull brumby numbers in the national park by up to 90% and instead introduced legislation to ensure they are protected.

But the decision has been widely criticised by environmentalists, academics and the Victorian government, which has its own plan to remove more than 1,200 feral horses from its Alpine National Park, because of the environmental damage they cause.

The RSPCA and other experts said the bill would make it impossible to fulfil the goals of the 2016 brumby management plan they had helped the government to draft.

In a letter to members of the NSW government and opposition seen by the Guardian Australia, the RSPCA and members of the NSW government-appointed independent technical reference group said recommendations were being “ignored” by the government.

It said the 2016 expert review found that wild horses were having “a significant negative environmental impact” in Kosciuszko and that “doing nothing is not an option”.

“There is very little detail in the bill about how wild horses will now be managed in [Kosciuszko],” the letter reads. “We urge you to reconsider this approach and, at the very least, ensure that the bill includes the appointment of a new [expert group] to ensure that there is appropriate representation from the scientific community into future management decisions.”

Last week Greens NSW MP and Environment Spokesperson, Dr Mehreen Faruqi, said “This Government simply cannot be trusted to do anything good for the environment, but now their destructive agenda knows no bounds. They’ve legislated the destruction of the Kosciusko National Park and undermined the integrity of the National Parks and Wildlife Act which has the mandate to protect the environment.

The Greens moved a number of amendments to inject some much needed sanity and science into the rotten bill, but this shameless Government voted them all down.

“I moved amendments to ensure the Kosciusko National Park plan of management, the National Parks and Wildlife Act and National Park Management Principles prevail over any wild horse management plan without which we are destined for an ever-worse outcome, but the Government voted them all down” said Dr Faruqi.

Protecting the alpine regions of our country has been an ongoing battle for a long time, but this bizarre bill from the NSW government will only make things worse as the environment further degrades and more native fauna disappears.

[RG1]

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for Tuesday 12 June 2018

We need to defend public broadcasting

It has been gratifying to see Letters to the Editor (DA 6 June) defending the ABC, for recent weeks have seen sustained attacks on our public broadcaster from the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), the Lib/Nats coalition government, News Corps’ The Australian/Daily Telegraph, and Pauline Hanson and what is left of One Nation.

The Turnbull government has even resorted to bogus attacks against three ABC journalists including Emma Alberici.

At the same time the powerful, ultra-conservative IPA think tank published a new book: Against Public Broadcasting: How and why we should privatise the ABC.

It gets worse. Turnbull’s Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, the politician who holds the fate of the ABC, is a paid up, card carrying member of the IPA.

And they’re having a devastating impact. The Coalition Government has already cut more than $250m from the ABC’s budget, and now they’re cutting a further $84 million.

The ABC has lost 1,012 jobs since Tony Abbott’s first round of cuts in 2014, and Pauline Hanson has successfully mounted a chilling inquiry into both the ABC and SBS. The threat of privatisation has never been so palpable.

The Turnbull Government is becoming increasingly brazen in their ABC attacks. Why? Because they assume the only voters it bothers are rusted on ‘lefties’ who’d never vote for them anyway. They assume wrong.

The ABC is one of Australia’s most liked and trusted institutions, with supporters from right across the political spectrum.

It took a while but the ABC chairman, Justin Milne, finally went public in defence of the ABC reported the Guardian Australia last week.

“Australians should not be fooled by the current battle being waged against public broadcasting,” Milne wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald. “Fringe political interests, populists and commercial media all have a shared interest in weakening the ABC and confining it to market failure activities.”

Apart from writing Letters to Editor there is a lot we can do to save the ABC. We can lobby our MPs, for example. Get Up has launched a campaign to save the broadcaster, and has pointed out that it would be very useful to target the most strategic electorates including the ‘Super Saturday’ by-elections and especially in the South Australian seat of Mayo, where the Liberal candidate has described the ABC as a “despicable waste of taxpayer’s precious money”.

Labor didn’t commit to restoring the funding at the last election. They are yet to decide what they’ll do now.

Thankfully the Greens are much more committed to saving public broadcasting. Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has launched a campaign, making it clear that the Greens are committed to restoring every dollar lost under the Abbott and Turnbull Governments.

It’s not just funding, either. Malcolm Turnbull has launched the single biggest assault on the broadcaster’s independence in living memory.

The ABC is subject to a series of reviews and pending legislation that will hobble its ability to speak truth to power.

The Government is treating the ABC like a bargaining chip in getting One Nation to support its agenda. Nothing is off the table. Pauline Hanson said she wanted the Treasurer to “whack” millions off the ABC. This Budget, he did.

We want every dollar back. Nothing less. Pauline Hanson and her right-wing mates in the Turnbull Government don’t like the ABC because it holds them to account. But that is exactly what we need our public broadcasters to do.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for Tuesday 5 June 2018

Sneaky moves on new semi-automatic firearms

Yet another push to import a new ‘rapid-fire’ shotgun into Australia is appropriately sparking concerns, reported ABC news. The gun in question is the Verney-Carron Veloce, a French-made shotgun with a new fast fire and reload mechanism.

It is not available in Australia yet but if Queensland gun importer Rick Casagrande gets his way, it soon will be.

His battle to bring the weapon into the country is now in the Federal Court. When the Australian Federal Police inspected the gun they listed it in a special schedule of prohibited items, banned from importation into Australia.

Mr Casagrande believes the AFP got it wrong, that the Veloce is a typical lever-action shotgun and should be classified as a category B firearm, one of the two least-restrictive categories.

Gun control advocates quite rightly disagree. They say the Veloce is a dangerous new style of “rapid-fire” gun.

Gun Control Australia chair Samantha Lee says it fires faster than typical category A and B lever or bolt-action firearms.

“With this particular firearm the concern is the rapid-fire mechanism. The ability for cartridges to be loaded at a very quick capacity,” she said.

“It’s been described as like a semi-automatic firearm. It’s quite a different mechanism to what’s been imported into Australia before”.

New South Wales Greens MP and gun control advocate David Shoebridge said the guns potentially needed their own unique category.

“This is effectively a new category of weapon, a new dangerous category that a number of firearms experts have described as a semi-semi-automatic weapon, with a high rate of fire. It doesn’t fit neatly into any of our current categories.”

Mr Shoebridge said the Verney-Carron Speedline and Veloce firearms are a step up from the controversial Adler lever-action gun.

“This weapon though has an even more rapid rate of fire action. It’s designed for an extremely rapid cycling through of shot after shot, after shot, after shot.”

Mr Shoebridge has already sent correspondence to the NSW Police Minister urging rapid action by him to seek to reclassify the rifle that’s already in the country, and to ensure that he makes it known that he supports the banning of the importation of this weapon.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said the Commonwealth Government is responsible for matters relating to the import and export of firearms, while the state and territory governments have responsibility for all matters relating to possession, licensing and use of firearms.

The statement said the classification of the Verney-Carron Speedline rifle is a matter for each state and territory, and because judgement is reserved in the judicial review regarding the classification of the Verney-Carron Veloce shotgun, it would not be appropriate to comment on the matter before court.

Greens federal gun control spokesperson, Senator Lee Rhiannon, said, “The Turnbull government must uphold the intent of the National Firearm Agreement to reduce gun violence by restricting semi-automatic weapons.

Indeed, these are dangerous weapons that should not become readily available to sporting and recreational shooters under the category B classification that is favoured by the firearm lobby.

This is set to become a test for the Prime Minister. Does he have the courage to stare down the firearm lobby and uphold the National Firearm Agreement or will he turn his back on public safety?