Ray Goodlass

Rays peace activism

Category: Uncategorized

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]

Advertisements

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?

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for today, 29 May 2018

Time to expose tax deals

Last week saw two events in Parliament House that show taxation wheeling and dealing at its worst.

The first was Pauline Hanson’s sudden about-turn on supporting the government’s business tax cuts, which means One Nation ditched a confidential written deal, and much of its credibility, but also and thankfully the likely end of the federal government’s plan for corporate tax cuts

The second was last Thursday when “Labor voted for Turnbull’s tax cuts”, as Adam Bandt Greens MP said. This week I’d like to focus on this federal budget item, but firstly let’s look at Ms Hanson’s political antics.

The senator and her two One Nation colleagues in the upper house had promised to vote for the corporate tax relief, bringing the government just two votes away from having it passed.

But last Monday, Senator Hanson said the government had not funded in the Budget the extra apprenticeships she wanted in exchange for One Nation votes.

So this time Senator Hanson issued a new set of wide-ranging, unrelated demands to re-win her approval, including an overhaul of the resources rent tax scheme and new support for coal-fired power stations!

At the time of writing it is not known if the government will accept Senator Hanson’s demands, though given they involve such retrograde steps it is to be hoped not.

The government’s budget tax cuts, which also favour the wealthy despite the propaganda of Messrs Turnbull and Morrison, thankfully are also not certain of passing both houses.

For example, last weeks the Australian Greens ruled out supporting both the Coalition and Labor’s personal tax cuts, calling for greater public investment in essential services instead.

“These income tax cut are nothing more than a bribe to try get their massive company tax cuts over the line. People on minimum wage won’t even see $4 a week, with the wealthiest Australians benefiting the most” said Greens Treasury spokesperson Senator Peter Whish-Wilson.

His position makes perfect sense when looked at from a social justice perspective. Both parties’ plans will worsen inequality, and see us lose vital revenue for the essential services people rely on. And neither of the old parties have a plan to address the tax avoidance system that’s allowing multinational companies to avoid paying a fair share of tax in Australia.

The budget tax cut package was heavily weighted to the big end of town. Students and mothers returning to work part-time will get nothing, yet the Coalition’s package would give thousands back to executives and bankers earning $200,000 a year.

It beats me how Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten can look Australians in the eye as they hand out tax cuts to people well above the median wage, yet say people on Newstart should remain below the poverty line?

Senator Richard Di Natale pointed out that economic inequality on the rise, so the priority should be to reinvest in public services.

Indeed, anyone with an eye for fairness can see that when an election is rolling around both old parties are giving away cheques like a breakfast TV show trying to increase their ratings.

It is nothing more than a reckless tax auction, a distraction from the millions of dollars stripped from our schools, hospitals and social safety net over the past decade.

While Turnbull is busy squabbling with Labor over how much they want to rip out of Australia’s institutions everyone should be aware that what is at risk is Medicare, our public schools and hospitals, and the environment.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for today 22 May 2018

Government’s live sheep export ‘solution’ a total con job

Last Thursday’s headline made it look as though the Lib/Nats federal government had acted decisively and humanely to deal with the licensed cruelty to animals that poses as the live sheep export trade.

But nothing could be further from the truth. True, space allocated to sheep on live export ships to the Middle East will be increased by up to 39% and directors of live export companies who flout the new rules will face up to 10 years in prison. Independent observers will also be placed on all live sheep and cattle ships.

These are though only superficial changes and the problem can only be solved by a transition to a total ban.

Nationals MP and Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said at a press conference in Sydney that though he was disgusted by the footage of distressed and dying sheep, implementing a ban would harm Australian sheep producers.

This is nonsense of course, for chilled meat from animals slaughtered humanely here in Australia would in fact be of far greater economic benefit than the live export trade.

The reaction to these so called reforms has been scathing. The RSPCA said the recommendations were “weak” and “not based on science or evidence”.

“These recommendations completely ignore the science and are not enough to reduce the risk of either consistent harm to animals or the catastrophic conditions we’ve seen previously,” the RSPCA’s chief science officer, Dr Bidda Jones, said.

Jones said Littleproud’s announcement was a betrayal of the trust placed in him by animal welfare organisations.

The Animals Australia founder, Lyn White, said the recommendations were “an appalling breach of faith with the Australian community.”

“This is a lily-livered government response designed to protect exporters, not animals,” White said.

There are two private member’s bills before parliament to ban live exports. The Australian Greens immediately confirmed the crossbench Senate bill to end live sheep exports will proceed on June 18 after the Independent Review of Conditions failed to give recommendations that would guarantee that the mass deaths of sheep on live export ships will end.

“Minister David Littleproud effectively set this inquiry up to deliver recommendations that suit the interests of the live export industry,” Greens Animal Welfare spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon said.

“We have no doubt the review’s author Mr McCarthy conducted his investigations in good faith,  however by not allowing the review to countenance a complete transition away from the trade, the Minister has ensured the review is a stitch-up.

“This is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The live sheep trade is going down and the Minister is failing to support farmers and processing plant owners to make an orderly transition to domestic processing.

“We will proceed with the Senate bill to transition out of live sheep exports on June 18” Senator Rhiannon concluded.

Greens Leader Senator Richard Di Natale said “I call on Labor, the Liberals and all members of the crossbench to support the Senate bill to end this cruelty.”

Basically all the government’s so-called reforms are doing is to ‘kick the can down the road’, leaving it for someone else to deal with in the future. For goodness sake, do the right thing now and ban all live animal exports. It is the humane and economically sensible thing to do.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for today, 15 May 2018

World is complicit in relation to Gaza demonstrations

In recent weeks a largely horrified world has watched disturbing television footage of the Israeli military’s lethal response to a series of peaceful demonstrations held by Palestinian residents of Gaza every Friday, leading up to the 70th anniversary of their ‘Nakba’, the Arabic word for catastrophe, which is today, 15 May.

The catastrophe in question refers to the forced expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their ancestral homes during the Israeli War of Independence in 1948. Ever since, and as legitimised by UN Declaration 194, their descendants, now numbering 3.7 million, have been calling for their ‘right of return’.

The Right of Return notwithstanding, at the heart of the Israel/Palestine conflict today also lies the question of the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since the war of 1967, which include the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

The Occupation has dramatically shrunk the territory available to the Palestinians. It has also deleteriously affected almost every aspect of Palestinians’ lives.

Palestinians can’t live free of the Israeli military presence. The occupied areas are constantly patrolled and controlled by the Israeli military. These armed soldiers have been accused of beating, detaining, and torturing Palestinians.

The Israeli blockade of Gaza prevents imports of medical supplies, building materials and energy supplies, and the export of foodstuffs grown in Gaza. Electricity is usually not available.

Palestinians can’t control their access to water in the occupied territories. The majority of the water from the area’s two main sources goes to Israel. There are frequent water shortages in the West Bank and poor water quality in Gaza.

Palestinians can’t access certain life-saving health care. Due to the blockade, in Gaza many hospitals lack critical equipment and resources. In the West Bank delays caused by Israeli checkpoints have resulted in death or, quite often, roadside births.

A huge amount of Palestinian land in the West Bank is constantly being taken for new, ever expanding and illegal Israeli settlements and the Israeli only super highways that connect them to major cities.
Most Palestinians can’t enjoy the rights of citizenship. They are effectively a stateless people, who mostly lack rights to citizenship in any sovereign nation.

Palestinians don’t have the same due process and civil rights as Israelis. They can be imprisoned without charge for a period of up to six months under the Israeli policy of “administrative detention.” After that expires Israeli officials are allowed to renew the detention indefinitely.

Military checkpoints and roadblocks are scattered throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem seriously restricting travel by Palestinians. The Separation Wall has seized thousands of hectares of Palestinian land, separates families, and cuts many farmers off from their land.

Palestinians aren’t equally protected by labour laws. Curfews are regularly imposed. Sometimes the consequences are very serious, making it impossible to shop for life’s necessities, and sometimes they are life threatening as access to hospitals is denied.

To add insult to injury, President Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will take place this month, which coincides with the 70th Anniversary of the Nakba. An unnecessary and very cruel move, Mr Trump with dangerous consequences as East Jerusalem is claimed by Palestine as its future capital.

How long will the world accept the inhumane treatment of the Palestinian people? The silence of major and minor powers is nothing more than complicity.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for today, 8 May 2018

The un-affordability of rental properties needs political action now

Last week’s news that statistics showed an alarming long-term shortage of affordable rental properties for low-income families in Wagga reflected the data from metropolitan centres, showing clearly that this is not just a problem confined to major cities.

“The figures, compiled by Anglicare, analysed 319 Wagga properties available for lease in terms of their affordability and the number of family members they could accommodate” reported DA journalist Claudia Farhart.

The data makes worrying reading. Anglicare’s research could not find even one property available for rent in Wagga for young people relying on Centrelink payments such as Youth Allowance or Newstart. That might be acceptable, I hear some readers chorus, for those who haven’t yet left the family nest, but many, possibly most, might well be of an age when they should be independent of their parents.

As the income and possibly the age level rises the news unfortunately isn’t any better. A single working person earning the minimum wage would find only 20 properties available for rent in Wagga.

It doesn’t improve for a single parent of two on a parenting payment, with only seven properties available, and for a single parent of two children employed on the minimum-wage and receiving the government’s Family Tax Benefit, there were only 33 suitable properties available in the city, which made up 10 per cent of the rental market.

The DA reported Anglicare Regional Manager for the Riverina Brad Addison saying that this is nothing new, “Seeing no improvement in the housing situation over the last several years is devastating news for vulnerable families in Wagga.” Mr Addison called on the government to implement housing reform instead of letting the burden fall to non-profit organisations.

He’s right of course, but surely charities are no solution. Indeed, it’s a sign that something in our socio-economic system is awry and that it needs fixing.

Unfortunately it seems that most politicians don’t see the need for urgent action, or indeed, any action at all. We didn’t hear a peep from the Deputy Prime Minister and our very own local member, Michael McCormack, did we?

Thankfully though not all pollies are asleep at the wheel. The Greens, for example, are working to build more social housing and strengthen renters’ rights, said Australian Greens spokesperson for Housing, Senator Lee Rhiannon, and Greens NSW spokesperson for Housing, Jenny Leong MP.

Senator Lee Rhiannon said, “It’s time to fundamentally shift Australia’s housing away from a for-profit system towards recognising housing as human right and providing homes for all.

“The Greens plan for a Federal Housing Trust would build 500,000 social homes will guarantee affordability by charging rent as a proportion of income.

“With only 6% of rental properties being affordable to people on income support payments nationwide, it’s clear that we need to fund and build a bigger social housing program,” said Senator Rhiannon.

Jenny Leong MP said, “We also need to strengthen rights for renters in the private market.
“The Greens are working to end ‘no grounds’ evictions to give renters more security. We’ll also put a cap on the amount and frequency of rent rises to ensure renters aren’t exploited for excessive profit.”

The Anglicare data makes it quite clear that this is a crisis needing an immediate political solution. It provides a big opportunity for the NSW parliament to end these injustices and give all renters some dignity and security in their homes, which is a much better idea than blowing the $2 billion you were prepared to spend on new and totally unnecessary sports stadiums.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for Tuesday 24 April 2018

Let’s get real about cannabis – take it out of the hands of criminals. 

Finally a political party with significant numbers in our national parliament has taken the common sense though courageous step towards sensible drug law reform. In what many will regard as a long overdue move, last week Australian Greens party room leader Richard Di Natale announced plans to legalise the recreational use of cannabis to take it ‘out of the hands of criminals and dealers,’ as reported by ABC TV news.

“When will politicians realise the war on drugs has failed? We need to be investing in harm minimisation drug law reforms that work” said Greens NSW MP David Shoebridge.

The Senator is not suggesting a free for all. Instead the proposal calls for the establishment of an Australian Cannabis Agency that would be given a monopoly over the wholesale supply of the drug to shops, while collecting millions of dollars in a tobacco-style tax from consumers.

Staff at the shops selling cannabis would be forced to undergo responsible service of drugs training and varieties of marijuana would come in plain packaging detailing strains and health warnings.

“As someone who was a drug and alcohol doctor, I’ve seen how damaging the tough on drugs approach is to people,” Senator Di Natale told Channel Ten.

“Governments around the world are realising that prohibition of cannabis causes more harm than it prevents,” said Di Natale, a former GP who worked in drug and alcohol addiction.

“We’ve got to take this out of the hands of criminals and dealers, [and] we’ve got to make sure it’s within the hands of health professionals.”

As part of the plan, the agency would be created to be the sole wholesaler of cannabis, as well as the outlet responsible for issuing licenses for prospective growers and retailers. There would be strict penalties for people caught selling cannabis to minors. Adults would be allowed to grow up to six cannabis plants for personal use.

Reaction has on the whole been positive, though Health Minister (the Liberal Party’s) Greg Hunt spun the lie that, “The risk of graduating to ice or to heroin from extended marijuana use is real,” and Murdoch’s the Daily Telegraph labelled the campaign a “Loopy Green pot plan”.

However, Alcohol and Drug Foundation policy manager Geoff Munro said “There may be some positive effect. It could reduce stigma around cannabis use and make it easier for people who are dependent to seek treatment.”

President of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation Alex Wodak said banning cannabis hadn’t stopped people using it, had distracted police and helped make some criminals rich.

“Regulating cannabis will give government more control and increase government revenue, which can be used to fund drug prevention and treatment,” Dr Wodak said.

The policy has support from former Australian Federal Police (AFP) commissioner Mick Palmer.

Di Natale also pointed out that legalising cannabis for recreational use could be a revenue earner. Though media reports noted that no evidence for this had been provided the US state of Colorado earned more than $260 million in tax revenue in 2016 after it sold more than $1.7 billion worth of marijuana, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.

And a costing by the Parliamentary Budget Office for independent senator David Leyonhjelm found the budget would be boosted by $259 million over the 2015-16 forward estimates if Australia legalised cannabis. In all counts this proposal could be a win-win outcome to a problem that has bedevilled the world for decades.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for 17 April 2018

Ending live sheep exports would boost regional economies

Over the past two weeks live animal exports have been much in the news after the death of 2400 Australian sheep. Many of us were disappointed to read that, as Greens Animal Welfare spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon called on the Turnbull government to end the live animal export trade, both the Federal Government and Opposition firmly resisted calls for such a ban, despite revelations of thousands of sheep routinely dying in inhumane conditions on ships.
True, there have been some small gains. The latest death ship was not allowed to leave Fremantle until conditions were minimally improved, as maritime officials demanded ventilation improvements before they issued a certificate to carry livestock.
In what was at least an improvement on the tactics employed by his predecessor, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud met with animal activists to discuss welfare aboard live export ships.
“I have now engaged with the Attorney-General’s office to help me undertake a review of the skills and capabilities and culture of the regulator, in providing a better investigative powers,” he said.
He also announced the Government would launch a whistle-blower hotline for those wanting dob in dodgy exporters.
He said the Government would also look to impose tougher penalties on dodgy exporter and their management.
But animal activists want an immediate ban on live shipments after TV broadcast footage showed sheep crowded into a small space, workers throwing dead sheep overboard, and faeces-covered pens where animals stood panting or collapsed on the ground.
The case against the way exports are currently handled isn’t limited to ‘bleeding heart’ inner city types. Western Australia farmer Craig Heggaton, for example, said “If we knew that was the situation that sheep were going in, I don’t think anyone would like to see their sheep or animals undergo that situation” though he didn’t call for an outright ban.
Thankfully others, including many sheep farmers, did see that the only solution was to completely end the live export trade. “Riverina famers call for an end to live exports” wrote the Daily Advertiser on 10 April.
Liberal MP Sussan Ley, the member for the regional seat of Farrer, even went so far as to demand that it is “Time to pick a date by which all live sheep exports must end” (DA 11 April).
So it is now acknowledged that live exports are inherently cruel and many agree that no amount of improvements will alter that. As Senator Rhiannon said, “Time and again the cruelty of the live export trade has been proven, with this latest mass death another shocking example with sheep effectively being cooked alive.”
What receives little attention though is another important aspect of this death trade: that live exports economically do not make sense when compared to other alternatives.
Senator Rhiannon also quite correctly pointed out that “Calls to tighten the rules is no solution. It is time to end this horrific practice and transition the industry to processing livestock in Australia and expanding Australia’s trade in boxed, chilled meat. The place to start is banning the live export of sheep.”
Indeed it is. Successive economic reports confirm processing the meat in Australia would create thousands of jobs and boost regional economies. Ending the live export trade would therefore mean the end of this cruel practice whilst at the same time improving the rural and regional economy. A true win-win situation.

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for Tuesday 10 April 2018

NSW government puts religion ahead of children’s safety

In what appeared to be good news last week we learnt that paedophiles are to be punished with strengthened sentencing and new laws in changes promised for NSW (ABC TV News).

The NSW Premier and Attorney-General announced a suite of changes in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse final report.

Changes to child sex abusers’ punishment in NSW will include a maximum life sentence introduced for the strengthened offence of persistent child sexual abuse and there will be new offences for failure to report and failure to protect against child abuse. Courts to be required to sentence child sex abusers using current sentencing standards, rather than applying historic sentencing principles and they would not be able to take into account an offender’s good character when sentencing for historic offences.

“We are tightening the laws, we’re making sure NSW is not leaving any stone unturned in the relation to the protection of children,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
Yet in a more than disappointing move the Premier sidestepped introducing state laws to break the seal of confession.

Indeed, the NSW Government is putting questionable religious practices ahead of the welfare and safety of children by failing to abolish the secrecy of the confessional.

The NSW Government has failed to remove the outdated and dangerous practice of priests using the seal of the confessional to avoid reporting child sexual abuse to the police. This was one of the most important symbolic recommendations from the Royal Commission.

This is very disappointing and shows a real lack of courage from the Government. Children must be protected ahead of the interests of any church or religion and surely that means abolishing the ‘sanctity’ of the confession.

Not surprisingly, the Roman Catholic Church was quick to defend the sanctity of the confessional. For example, Denis Hart, the archbishop of Melbourne, responded by saying the sacredness of the confessional was above the law, and he would rather go to jail than report any sin he heard during the sacrament of penance, reported the Guardian Australia.

However, many of us beg to differ, for abolishing the secrecy of the confessional was one of the most important recommendations from the Royal Commission. However, rather than taking leadership, this government pushed this question off to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).

So instead of putting children first, failure to remove the sanctity of the confessional shows just how much the NSW government is captured by the religious right in its ranks.
“While we welcome the government finally moving to implement our long-standing proposal to fix the unfairly lenient sentences handed down to historical child sex offenders, there is so much left undone with this announcement” Greens NSW MP and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge said.

What’s most remarkable is that the NSW Government’s headline grabbing plan for life sentences was not even a recommendation of the Royal Commission.

It is good to hear that the Greens will closely review this legislation and move to amend it to “ensure far more of the Royal Commission’s recommendations are implemented as soon as possible,” Mr Shoebridge said. Let’s hope the ALP and the cross benchers do likewise.