by Barbara Ehrenreich
Somewhere in the Hamptons a high-roller is cursing his cleaning lady and shaking his fists at the lawn guys. The American poor, who are usually tactful enough to remain invisible to the multi-millionaire class, suddenly leaped onto the scene and started smashing the global financial system. Incredibly enough, this may be the first case in history in which the downtrodden manage to bring down an unfair economic system without going to the trouble of a revolution.
First they stopped paying their mortgages, a move in which they were joined by many financially stretched middle class folks, though the poor definitely led the way. All right, these were trick mortgages, many of them designed to be unaffordable within two years of signing the contract. There were "NINJA" loans, for example, awarded to people with "no income, no job or assets." Conservative columnist Niall Fergusen laments the low levels of "economic literacy" that allowed people to be exploited by sub-prime loans. Why didn't these low-income folks get lawyers to go over the fine print? And don't they have personal financial advisors anyway?
Then, in a diabolically clever move, the poor--a category which now roughly coincides with the working class--stopped shopping. Both Wal-Mart and Home Depot announced disappointing second quarter performances, plunging the market into another Arctic-style meltdown. H. Lee Scott, CEO of the low-wage Wal-Mart empire, admitted with admirable sensitivity, that "it's no secret that many customers are running out of money at the end of the month."
I wish I could report that the current attack on capitalism represents a deliberate strategy on the part of the poor, that there have been secret meetings in break rooms and parking lots around the country, where cell leaders issued instructions like, "You, Vinny--don't make any mortgage payment this month. And Caroline, forget that back-to-school shopping, OK?" But all the evidence suggests that the current crisis is something the high-rollers brought down on themselves.
When, for example, the largest private employer in America, which is Wal-Mart, starts experiencing a shortage of customers, it needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror. About a century ago, Henry Ford realized that his company would only prosper if his own workers earned enough to buy Fords. Wal-Mart, on the other hand, never seemed to figure out that its cruelly low wages would eventually curtail its own growth, even at the company's famously discounted prices.
The sad truth is that people earning Wal-Mart-level wages tend to favor the fashions available at the Salvation Army. Nor do they have much use for Wal-Mart's other departments, such as Electronics, Lawn and Garden, and Pharmacy.
It gets worse though. While with one hand the high-rollers, H. Lee Scott among them, squeezed the American worker's wages, the other hand was reaching out with the tempting offer of credit. In fact, easy credit became the American substitute for decent wages. Once you worked for your money, but now you were supposed to pay for it. Once you could count on earning enough to save for a home. Now you'll never earn that much, but, as the lenders were saying--heh, heh--do we have a mortgage
Pay day loans, rent-to-buy furniture and exorbitant credit card interest rates for the poor were just the beginning. In its May 21st cover story on " The Poverty Business," Business Week documented the stampede, in just the last few years, to lend money to the people who could least afford to pay the interest: Buy your dream home! Refinance your house! Take on a car loan even if your credit rating sucks! Financiamos a Todos! Somehow, no one bothered to figure out where the poor were going to get the money to pay for all the money they were being offered.
Personally, I prefer my revolutions to be a little more pro-active. There should be marches and rallies, banners and sit-ins, possibly a nice color theme like red or orange. Certainly, there should be a vision of what you intend to replace the bad old system with--European-style social democracy, Latin American-style socialism, or how about just American capitalism with some regulation thrown in?
Global capitalism will survive the current credit crisis; already, the government has rushed in to soothe the feverish markets. But in the long term, a system that depends on extracting every last cent from the poor cannot hope for a healthy prognosis. Who would have thought that foreclosures in Stockton and Cleveland would roil the markets of London and Shanghai? The poor have risen up and spoken; only it sounds less like a shout of protest than a low, strangled, cry of pain.
#speech" id="speech">Liberal Party Workplace Relations
Senator FAULKNER (New South Wales) (1.38 pm)-There is a long and disturbing story in Australian public life, a tale with its origins in a political and economic framework that ignores longstanding Australian values of fairness and opportunity. It is a tale that has unfolded more rapidly since the 2004 election, and the most recent chapter in this story is now before us.
The 2004 federal election saw the Prime Minister's party gain control of this chamber. That was the same election when the Prime Minister promised Australian families that he would keep interest rates at record lows but made no mention of an extreme agenda of stripping away the take-home pay and conditions of hardworking Australians. But, once Mr Howard had control of the parliament after the 2004 election, he used that control to force through the unfair industrial relations laws that later became known as Work Choices. With those laws, the Howard government also introduced two extraordinary programs of promotion: the promotion of these unfair laws and the promotion of the Howard government's re-election hopes.
The first Work Choices advertising program, the one that ran at the time of the introduction of the Work Choices laws, was a monolithic $55 million promotion exercise. It was impossible to turn on a television without seeing the Work Choices ads, and they were brought to the TV screen by the Liberal Party's own ad man, Ted Horton. But their spending program did not end there. In early January 2006, employer organisations were slamming the advertising campaign. The then Chief Executive of Australian Business Ltd, Mr Mark Bethwaite, said:
TV advertisements have not worked ... What we need is practical, solution focused materials which allow employersto apply Work Choices to their workplace.
Within days, in late January 2006, the then Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations announced:
The WorkChoices Employer Advisor Programme (EAP) is only one element of a wider information and education campaign that will ensure all workers, their families and employers are aware of the changes and receive information about how WorkChoices may affect them.
He went on to say:
The aim of the EAP is to ensure that there are advisors around Australia, including rural and regional areas, able to educate and assist employers to implement the reforms on an industry basis.
The two initial stages of the Employer Advisor Program were provided with funding of more than $20 million throughout the 2006 calendar year. A subsequent fund of $20 million has been provided for a further round of the EAP in the 2007 calendar year.
Then we came to another chapter in the Howard government's shameless self-promotion rort. That chapter started in April, when the Ministerial Committee on Government Communications approved the Open Mind Research Group to undertake workplace relations research. These reports were received in late April and have formed the strategy of the government's repositioning in industrial relations over the past four months. Thanks to leaked research detailed in the Australian, we know this research drove the dropping of the title 'Work Choices' from the government's lexicon, the renaming of its IR institutions, the establishment of the so-called 'fairness test' and the use of an 'appropriate figurehead' of the Workplace Authority in advertising.
It also lead to a new blitz of advertising - advertising that started before the full drafting instructions for the legislation had been sent to Parliamentary Counsel. And the cost for this round of advertising is $23 million, and still counting. At that time, a detailed research report by Crosby Textor was leaked to the media. In that research report, the Liberal Party's campaign directors noted:
The arrival of Kevin Rudd into the Labor leadership has also given voters renewed confidence ...to express their reservations about WorkChoices; and especially in the absence of counter claims or information to the anti-IR messages being disseminated by the unions.
But in June, when the Liberal apparatchiks down at Crosby Textor were preparing this report, they were also preparing a second research report for the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry pro-Work Choices campaign. In their research report for the business campaign, they proposed advertising that would be 'a counterpoint to the one-sided ads of the unions' as well as being 'immediate countering of Labor's and the unions' scare campaign'. Sounds familiar? Well, just yesterday, The Age newspaper detailed the fact that VECCI president Richard Holyman wrote to his board supporting the business campaign. The article read:
Holyman tried to convince fellow board members to support the advertisements. He linked the call for a donation to the fact that the Government had given grants to VECCI under the Employer Assistance Program to run Work Choices seminars.
[Holyman wrote] "It is apparent that the key contributors are not wanting a blatant political campaign, but believe that so much effort went into supporting the Work Choices package, we have to help defend it now ... we have had in excess of $600K in grants to help implement Work Choices."
This brings us to the most recent chapter in this story. This chapter concerns the advertising being undertaken by the self-styled Business Coalition for Workplace Reform. This is the group of employer organisations, led by the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, supporting a campaign of television advertising. It is important to acknowledge that only one part of the business community supports this campaign. In fact, many employers and employer organisations do not support this campaign. Many employers and employer organisations present their views in a more mature and appropriate manner. But the Business Coalition for Workplace Reform have a different agenda. They are not running advertisements advocating a specific policy position or providing important information. They are political ads. They use the partisan and pre-election messages, imageries and strategies of the Liberal Party. These organisations have received millions of dollars to promote Work Choices, and now the government calls on them to cough up money for advertising.
We now have media reports of a link between the Employer Advisor Program and the business advertising campaign. We have the role of Crosby Textor - the firm of the Liberal Party and Mr Howard's personal pollster, Mark Textor, and former Liberal Party Federal Director Lynton Crosby. They are the election strategists for the Liberal-National coalition and the advertising campaign strategists for the business coalition, and they advocate the same communication and electoral strategy for both of their clients. This is on top of a $120 million - that is $120 million, and counting - Work Choices campaign by the government, spending the tax dollars of hard-working Australian families.
This is a deeply disturbing development. It is disturbing that the BCA and ACCI have chosen to behave in this way. It is disturbing to suspect that the membership of the BCA and ACCI does not have the full story of what is being done in the name of these organisations. It is disturbing that all three campaigns - the campaigns of the government, of the Liberal Party and of the business coalition - look like they are actually just one campaign. And it is deeply disturbing that this political, partisan advertising campaign is designed to promote and argue for laws that hurt working Australians and their families.
This is just one more example of the Howard government's shameless exploitation of taxpayer funds and resources in a desperate attempt to cling on to office; one more example of shameless rorting by the Howard government; one more aspect of a taxpayer-funded reelection advertising splurge that, between the last election and the upcoming election, will come to between $800 million and $1 billion on advertising alone. Unsurprisingly, Mr Howard will not reveal just how much he will reach into the wallets and pockets and purses of taxpayers - of ordinary working Australians - to fund his re-election epic campaign. That is because after 11 years in office, I think Mr Howard actually believes that taxpayers' money is his own. It has been 11 long years of arrogance and incompetence from the Howard government, and I say again that it is time - it is long past time - that it is brought to an end.
1. Population growth and Melbourne 2030
Melbourne and outer areas do not have the option of stabilizing in any way as population growth is programmed into our future. In 2002 The Bracks Government and other stakeholders held a 'summit' in Melbourne to discuss the need or otherwise of a population policy. The then Premier, Mr. Steve Bracks, in his keynote introduction pre-empted the outcome of the conference yet to happen! He made the absolute assumption that experts would converge on the desirability of increasing Victoria's population. Many in the audience had huge reservations and objections to this path mainly on the grounds of environmental sustainability.
Melbourne 2030 is about a commitment to social engineering in the form of forced population growth.
2. Victorian Government's role in affecting the rate of population growth.
Excluding net increase from international and interstate migration, Victoria's population is increasing by more than 30,000 p.a. It will be more than this with the current baby boom. This fact should be well known, but it is not.
In the year to March 2006, the additional increase from net overseas migration was 37,068 . The total increase in Victoria's population annually is in excess of 60,000 people. The Victorian government has given itself a role in affecting this number. One way it achieves this is via its $6 million skilled migration strategy which includes international and domestic marketing (see www.liveinvictoria.vic.gov.au).
In the 12 months to March 2006, there were 65,700 extra Victorians, or in other words, an additional Ballarat.
The Victorian Government is not a passive recipient of population growth. It actively seeks it. Victoria only needs radical planning because it has very high population growth by western standards, of which more than half is not through natural increase.
3. Consultation with the Victorian people regarding population growth and Melbourne 2030.
Many people have told me that Victorians were not consulted on Melbourne 2030.... but we were. Glossy books and pamphlets were delivered in all letter boxes with invitations to attend public meetings which were facilitated to funnel ideas from the public to the master of ceremonies at each meeting. People were separated onto tables of about 8 people each and if there was sufficient volume of opinion of a particular aspect of Melbourne's future on any one table then that idea got up and was promoted to the end distillation of ideas. The underlying assumption however was that growth was inevitable rather than a political decision. The politics and policies of engineering growth remained outside the discussion and slow or no growth were not presented as options.
There was goodwill and cooperation at the meeting I attended in Moorabbin as people enthusiastically put forward their priorities apparently thinking they were having a significant say in the Melbourne which was being shaped for future generations.
I suggest that the audit of Melbourne 2030 must seek the attitudes of Victorians to the politics of population growth and to population growth itself. Adequate consultation thereto would rely on good information about what planning decisions are necessitated by population growth - in terms of amenity, environment and economic well-being of the average citizen.
4. Information re Melbourne 2030 and Population growth from the Victorian Government.
Please make clear in public statements what is actually happening to us. It is a fact that adverse changes are occurring very rapidly to our surroundings and many people express bewilderment over this. They look at housing estates covering what used to be farmland and ask "where are all the people coming from?"
We have a longstanding approximately 2:1 birth to death ratio which means our population is growing without any immigration. On 15 August 2005, the then Premier of Victoria Mr. Bracks told the Melbourne Jon Faine morning show audience that in Victoria we had a naturally decreasing population and that deaths exceeded births. I wrote to the Premier asking him where he got his figures from and told him that the reverse was true. He never replied to my letter and as far as I know never corrected this misinformation.
5. Effects of population growth
Most new settlers in Victoria go to Melbourne. Melbourne is full. Extra population puts pressure on land, there is pressure to intensify development. "Opportunistic infilling," (Dr Bob Birrell's expression) occurs in random fashion as houses come up for sale and private buyers are out-bid by developers.
There is pressure on public land. It is lost to the public (e.g. Royal Park lost 20 ha to private development plus 85 million cash) Trees and open space are taken from both private and public spheres including gardens, parks, reserves and roadsides.
Urban consolidation is not enough to accommodate the current level of population growth. This growth puts pressure on the outer areas, on wildlife, on open space. Melbourne 2030 standards are applied in what are essentially country areas, resulting in dense developments often unpopular with incumbent residents.
Wildlife - development occurs in areas inhabited by wildlife with an ensuing conflict over territory between humans and animals. This is often only managed when brought to the attention when locals complain vigorously to the authorities. It is never resolved in favour of the animals. They always lose. e.g. Somerton kangaroos.
We ask for a wildlife assessment to be done before any development takes place and for all planning to incorporate wildlife corridors in cooperation with the Coalition for Wildlife corridors - see http://www.awpc.org.au/newsite/documents/proposal_to_link.pdf
Water - we don't have enough for current needs. Melbourne 2030 and population growth exacerbate this situation. Any savings we make will be consumed by population growth.
Pressure on house prices is increasingly caused by population growth, in which demand exceeds supply. This causes prices to rise as we have observed particularly over the last decade, when we have had very high immigration.
- A real effort to keep the public accurately informed of demographic changes in all relevant government documents and public statements. Make information clear so as not to confuse or obscure data.
- 2. Seek public opinion on the underlying assumption, that we must boost our population. Does population boosting benefit the majority and, if so, in what ways? What are the negatives? How to they weigh up?
- Real Estate spokespeople now connect house prices with population growth when speaking publicly. Government should do likewise.
- Planning policy puts economic growth above environmental concerns. This needs to be redressed. Planning policy must take in the Precautionary Principle where growth compromises our environment.
- High density living in the outer areas of Melbourne which are poorly served by public transport leaves communities vulnerable to being marooned in terms of basic requirements and transport by declining oil affordability / availability. In addition, tiny lot sizes remove most opportunity for self sufficiency in food provision. To remedy this the Government should make zoning changes. R1 allows very small lots in regional towns and outer suburbs (with potential for higher population density than in Singapore and Berlin). We need to keep outer suburbs open and spacious. SPA suggest a new Residential zone 3 with a minium of lot sizes at 500 square metres and above, plus minimum permeable area of 50% per lot.
- More space for large trees in inner and outer suburbs is essential to maintain transpiration and microclimate, and to keep temperatures down. In the past 150 years increases in population and activities have impacted thermodynamically to raise city temperatures. (For instance snow rarely falls in cities anymore).
- The expected effects of oil depletion should be taken into account in planning- i.e. the layout of the city and suburbs, transport needs for commuting and provision, delivery of food and degree of opportunity for self-sufficiency.
President, SPA Victoria
with Sheila Newman, Vice President, SPA Victoria
Thursday 16 August 2007
The Coalition Government has exposed its hypocrisy on council amalgamations with its current attack on the Queensland Government according to Independent Member for Calare, Peter Andren.
"When I took a delegation of local mayors to Canberra several years ago to see then Local Government Minister Wilson Tuckey, he was enthusiastic about the need for mergers of councils," Mr Andren said.
"Evans, Oberon and Bathurst Councils were then facing amalgamation and he voiced strong support for amalgamations in the interests of better council management.
"Both Liberal and Labor Governments have never backed away from such policy.
"The Prime Minister talks of giving people a say in the process. How come the limited public input into the recent federal electorate boundary changes was largely ignored, especially from people strongly opposed to the ridiculous boundaries for the new Calare?
"There are no referendums for state or federal boundary changes, why the concern over local government boundaries determined by the same commission process?
"This is pure unadulterated election year populism from a government that is philosophically at one with any state labor Government in wanting to wind down local government to a more politically controllable entity.
"I personally oppose council amalgamations unless there are overwhelming financial reasons that will benefit ratepayers. But the major parties are as one in their desire to reduce local people power.
"Wilson Tuckey proved that when he was federal Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government," Mr Andren said.
Queensland Premier Peter Beattie and his Local Government Minister Andrew Fraser have forgotten the meaning of the word 'democracy'. Mayors who consult with their own constituents over the question of the abolition of their local governments face instant dismissal. These provisions were added to the legislation, which forces many Queensland local councils to amalgamate with neighbouring councils, at the last minute when the legislation was rushed through in the early hours of Friday 10 August.
At least two councillors intend to defy these laws and proceed with these ballots nonetheless. These include Mayor Donna Stewart of Warroo shire and Mayor John Brent of Boonah Shire. Both Boonah and Warroo shires are to be abolished under the Queensland local government 'reforms'.
A DEFIANT southwest Queensland council is poised to become the first sacked for organising a vote under tough new amalgamation laws.
Warroo Shire Council, which will merge with four other councils around Roma under the reforms, has indicated it will count votes already received from a survey at a meeting on Tuesday.
"It's a survey, but I'm willing to take the consequences regardless," Mayor Donna Stewart said.
"This is an attack on the democratic right of the people to have a say."
Housing minister Andrew Fraser has taken his extraordinary threats against the people of Queensland one step further by threatening to dismiss councillors who count votes for ballots that have already been sent out. The Courier Mail reported:
But the State Government warned councils not to proceed with any counting, even if survey ballots had been sent out. A dozen councils, including Tambo and Ilfracombe, are pressing ahead with the referendums.
Local Government Minister Andrew Fraser was not impressed, warning any counting or collating would attract instant dismissal.
"Obviously, they can't stop the mail arriving but they need to take no further action that proceeds with the poll in any way," Mr Fraser said.
Please send messages of support for Boonah Shire Mayor John Brent to mayor|AT|boonah qld gov au and for Warroo Shire Mayor Donna Stewart to donna_s1|AT|bigpond com and let Andrew Fraser and Peter Beattie know of your objections to their dicatatorial behaviour. Their e-mail addresses are respectively ThePremier|AT|premiers qld gov au and lgps|AT|ministerial qld gov au.
Update, 16 August 07
Queensland Local Government Minister Andrew Fraser has since backed away from his previous threat to dismiss Councils who counted votes about shire amalgamations. ABC news on 16 August reported that Warroo Shire residents had unanimously opposed the amalgamation,
Those who have read "The Latham Diaries" will have found startling confirmation of the fact the State Labor Premiers are cynical enough to deliberately damage the electoral prospects of their Federal counterparts in order to better ensure their own survival at the state level.Adapted from an article cross-posted to Online Opinion. Also, see article on webdiary "Peter Beattie bent on destruction of Rudd's chances" by Margo Kingston.
Those who have read "The Latham Diaries" will have found startling confirmation of the fact the State Labor Premiers are cynical enough to deliberately damage the electoral prospects of their Federal counterparts in order to better ensure their own survival at the state level. Former NSW Premier Bob Carr expressed it thus in his own diaries on 6 November 2001, quoted on pages 305-306 of "The Latham Diaries"(2005):
Published polls and the Party's polling starting to show Federal Labor edging up. Can't believe it. ... (Michael Egan, NSW State Treasurer said,) 'We'll be the ones weeping if Labor wins.' Yes - the secret agenda: State Labor wants to run against a rotting hated Coalition Government in Canberra. A Labor Government there only makes a third (State) term harder.
Mark Latham commented: "People used to get expelled from the Labor Party for this sort of treachery. Yet when it appeared in Marilyn Dodkin's book on Carr last year, no-one batted an eye-lid. Has it become part of the system? Everyone now expects Carr Labor to selfishly look after itself, cheering for a Howard victory, ..."
And certainly Bob Carr, together with his Victorian and Tasmanian counterparts did just that, as Latham abundantly illustrated, and we have them largely to thank for Howard's victory in 2004, together with "Work Choices" and all of his other policy abominations.
Which brings us to the forced council amalgamations in Queensland. There are no sound reasons derived from Labor principles to justify Beattie's current plans to abolish so many local governments which are in tune with the needs of their constituents. Indeed, it was a former Queensland Hanlon Labor Government which gave local government the powers they have enjoyed up until now (see "When amalgamations failed" by Dr Mark McGovern of the QUT).
The only possible motives that I see are:
- To take away the powers that local communities now have to prevent the further ravaging of their regions by property developers, and
- A cynical political stunt, in emulation of Bob Carr, to use the perpetuation of John Howard's rule to ensure the survival of his Government at the next State election.
When Hanlon introduced the Queensland Local Government Act in 1936 he spoke proudly of the ability his Labor government would give small local governments in Queensland - to legislate in their own right. This was revolutionary, he noted, and the way forward. Democratic representation and effective powers in relevant areas were localised and embedded in responsible, independent local governments.
Interestingly, the 1936 legislation did not amalgamate towns or reduce the number of shires from 124 to 74 as had been recommended by the 1928 Royal Commission. Nor did it build upon the Greater Brisbane model of 1924 which saw an amalgamation of two cities, six towns and ten shires. Why in only twelve years had the model been reversed?
The history of this troubled amalgamation and of the "greaterisation" push in the Labor party are fascinating. Whatever the earlier dream, by 1936 the Labor state government had to deal with serious problems in amalgamated Brisbane, as had the earlier Moore government.
Disturbed by the "inefficiency, extravagance and malpractice of the Labor council", the State legislated to control budgeting and financial reporting in Brisbane. Politically committed to providing public works, or infrastructure in today's terms, without increasing rates the amalgamated council had resorted to cooking the books.
A "true deficit of sixty six thousand pounds" was "converted to a surplus of one hundred and twenty thousand pounds by not charging depreciation and renewals against the city fund". Today that would be a multimillion dollar fraud. These men, it seems, did not start off with evil intent. Rather they appear caught between an inappropriate structure and the impossible task they set themselves.
The push for sewerage and city roads in a low tax amalgamated city cost Brisbane dearly. While other Australian cities were progressively sewered, Brisbane had to wait for three decades, Clem Jones' Labor and sufficient financial capacity.
Ever since, the Auditor General has kept close watch on local government finances. Local governments have generally acted responsibly, with state interventions when they have not. As demonstrated in Perspectives on July 24, local governments today are in generally reasonable financial shape, and are not playing the accounting tricks of the earlier amalgamated Brisbane.
In an era when Queenslanders and their new nation were struggling through the long Great Depression they looked with pride to Melba, Phar Lap, Bradman and other Australian inspirations that helped them hope beyond their immediate troubles. The Depression and War eventually passed - but the costs of amalgamation lingered in poor Brisbane.
The current state government push to ridicule this period by perversely using its inspirations aroused my curiosity. Laverty's chapter on "Greater Brisbane and Local Government" in "Labor in Power" edited by Murphy and others sheds much light, the quotes being drawn from it. Those with a greater knowledge of history would be aware of such things, but the rest of us may need to do a little catching up and reflect on the lessons of history.
It took less than a decade for Labor's earlier experiment with grand amalgamation to fail. Might we not learn from our own history and save our selves needless expense and pain incurred from obsessively following a grand but fundamentally flawed idea?
Written on 1 August 07 by Dr Mark McGovern. Dr McGovern is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Economics and Finance at Queensland University of Technology.
Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc.
Sunday 5 August 2007
On Wednesday morning last 1 August 2007, contractors moved into the Catani Gardens in St Kilda and, ignoring a community picket, proceeded to strip off access chutes on the metal 'possum exclusion bands' high up on the Canary Island Palms, thus effectively stranding about twenty possums asleep in the crowns of the trees. This meant that, come night time, the possums would be unable to get down the trees to feed and so would be condemned to starve to death or die of dehydration. If, in desperation, they jumped from a great height they could be killed or badly injured. Likely as not, once on the ground with no place to hide (since most trees are now banded) they would fall victim to dog attack, human cruelty or road kill.
Members and friends of Protectors of Public Lands Victoria Inc. (PPL VIC) called a commercial wildlife rescue service to come to the Gardens to work out how the stranded possums could be rescued. Council refused to engage him and deferred making a decision. On Wednesday night PPL VIC members confirmed that there were, indeed, numbers of desperate possums trapped possible 15 metres or so up in the trees, above the bands.
Next morning, on Thursday 2 August, Council stepped in and ordered Parks officers to inspect the treetops, thus proving us right that there were possums trapped there. Contractors then reinstalled the metal chutes on the trees to allow possums access to the ground and food that night. Had PPL VIC not intervened then Council would have simply left the possums to die stranded in the treetops.
Julianne Bell PPL VIC Secretary comments: "Last year Port Phillip Mayor Janet Bolitho announced that Council had employed a consultant to work out a 'humane' way to exterminate the tiny colony of possums, supposedly guilty of chewing palm fronds and damaging trees. In our opinion installation of the consultant's Heath Robinson contraptions, consisting of a unique arrangement of monster steel bands with access chutes and traps, has proved a major bureaucratic bungle being vastly expensive, completely unnecessary and exceptionally cruel. Also in our view the project is illegal under the Wildlife Protection Act 1975 and possibly under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1985. The Mayor and Councillors may imagine that the trapped possums are spirited away and euthanased quietly. But ASU members have recently refused to handle possums and local vets have denied any involvement. The tragedy is that while Melbourne City Council promotes possum spotting tours in the Fitzroy and Treasury Gardens, Port Phillip Council is attempting to exterminate the Catani Gardens possums, which draw hundreds if not thousands of tourists a year."
Lucy Fairley, a British tourist (name and details can be supplied) wants to be on record as saying: "As a holidaymaker from England, I was thrilled to read in my guide about feeding possums in Melbourne's parks. My daughter and I visited a number of parks at dusk and finally struck lucky in Catani Gardens. There were a handful of lively and almost tame possums - they even let us stroke them; it was the highlight of my holiday. I was struck dumb when I learnt of the council's eradication plans; how they had already killed a number of possums and were on the point of rounding up and murdering these last few, defenceless animals. I am outraged - I cannot believe in such barbarous and short-sighted behaviour. Just to think of the tourist potential the council were ignoring - they should be writing to guide books to publicise their asset, instead of persecuting these beautiful animals... I, for one, would find Melbourne a far less attractive place to visit without this compelling attraction and my estimation of Australians (certainly of council officers) would be significantly reduced if the possums were to be exterminated."
Note that Tourism Minister Tim Holding has declined an invitation to visit the Catani Gardens and over the past few months has been, reportedly, too busy to meet PPL VIC representatives.
Julianne Bell, Secretary, Protectors of Public Lands Victoria (PPL VIC)
03 98184114 or mobile 0408022408 or
Jill Quirk (PPL VIC) on 03 95097429 or 040 09742927.
The article below was adapted from a post made to Online Opinion in response to an article "An end to big fish in small, shallow ponds" by Dr Paul Reynolds, Lecturer in Australian Politics and Australian Political behaviour at the University of Queensland
The argument in favour of forced amalgamations has been comprehensively demolished by, amongst others, Professor Brian Dollery of the University of New England in an interview on ABC Radio National's Bush Telegraph of 31 July (transcript not available but audio file can be downloaded from web site for another three weeks). In an article "Counting the Merger Costs" (see below) printed in the Courier Mail on the same day, he demonstrtated that the report from the the Local Government Reform Commission was seriously flawed.
He noted that the Local Government 'Reform' Commission handed down its conclusion just two months after submissions were closed on 25 May.
"In other words, we are expected to believe that in a mere two months it was able to consider tens of thousands of pages of submissions, carefully weigh in the evidence and deliver sound policy advice. ...
"It is hardly surprising that the final report is seriously deficient in several respects."
- no evaluation of the costs of alternative courses of action,
- No attempt to determine the costs attached to amalgamation and the implementation of structural reform (admitted on page 38, chapter 3 of the report)
- No account taken of experiences of amalgamation in Victoria, South Australia or Victoria, nor evidence from Canada, nor the 2007 Lyons report into British local Government.
Professor Dollery concludes :
"Evidence-free policy-making of this kind is alarming. State Government politicians should ask themselves a simple question before embarking on a potentially destructive forced amalgamation program.
"Why do financial problems persist in other Australian states that have already compulsorily amalgamated local councils if amalgamation is indeed a silver bullet for all the ills of local government?"
Deborah Tabart, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Koala Foundation has written to the Queensland Environment Minister (see #letter">below) asking the the status of Koalas in the South East Queensland bio-region be upgraded from their current listing of 'vulnerable' to 'endangered' as a result of the alarming recent increase of Koala deaths. Deborah Tabart wrote:
In Redland Shire alone a total of 362 koalas were taken into care, only 96 animals appear to have survived. A shocking 73.5% death rate. What is more disturbing from these statistics is that the deaths appear to be mainly disease related, which is clearly an indication of stress, which could well be caused by habitat loss. Although many blame cars and dogs as a primary cause of koala deaths, these statistics indicate that those deaths were minor, compared to the diseased animals. This is a disturbing trend.
The letter concluded:
Given these high death rates, it is hard to imagine that koala births in the Redland's Shire are outweighing the deaths, a sure sign of impending localised extinction.
I call on you to immediately upgrade the koala listing to Endangered and give South-East Queensland's koalas a better chance for survival.
Human population growth driving Koalas to extinction
The underlying driver which threatens the Koala with extinction has been the population growth deliberately encouraged by successive Queensland Governments. Since 1974, Queensland's total population has more than doubled from 2 million in 1974 to well over 4 million today. So, it should be little wonder that with their habitats encroached upon by residential estates, roads, industrial estates, quarries, power lines and other infrastructure that the numbers of Koalas and other Australian native wildlife has declined steeply.
Yet, in spite of this, the growing water shortages, the strains on electricity generation, traffic congestion and the overall decline in the quality of life for the human residents of Queensland, the Queensland Government persists with its reckless policy of encouragement of population growth. The latest episode in this saga are to be the planned Work, Live and Play in Queensland" expositions in Sydney from 17-19 August and in Melbourne from 5-7 August. This is to in order to fulfil the plans of the Queensland Government decreed in its 2004 South East Queensland Regional Plan to cram another 1 million into South East Queensland alone by 2026, presumably to suit the property development sector, which funds the Labor Party even more generously than the trade unions.
Unless this population growth is stopped the fight to save the Koala, as well as to preserve what quality is left in the lives of ordinary Queenslanders is doomed.
What you can do
- Write to Lindy Nelson-Carr Queensland Minister for Environment and Multiculturalism to support the Australian Koala Foundation's call to have the Koala listed as 'endangered' in South East Queensland. (E-mail EandM|AT|ministerial qld gov au or see #letter">below for phone numbers or postal address.)
- Become a supporter of the Australian Koala Foundation
- Join the Australian Wildlife Protection Council at www.awpc.org.au/newsite/join.php
- Participate in protests by the 'People Power' group against over development in Redland shire. To Contact the 'People Power' group e-mail people_power |AT| hotmail . com. (For further information visit /SaveMountCotton)
- Contact the Queensland Government and demand an end to their policy of encouraging population growth
- Contact the Commonwealth Government and demand an end to their policy of population
- High immigration (currently at an unofficial, but real, record annual rate of 300,000 up from 68,000 in 1996 - see Ross Gittins' article "Backscratching at a National Level" of 12 June in the Sydney Morning Herald
- Treasurer Peter Costello's $3,000 baby bonus
- Vote against politicians who fail to protect Australian wildlife or who encourage population growth
- Set up an account on this site, if you do not already have one, by visiting /user/registerso that you can contribute your knowledge and ideas. (You may still post comments anonymously but you may have to await the approval of the site administrator, before they are published.)
In relation to Rogers scenario or "peak oil" arriving in 2020, a few points need to be considered.
People are beginning to wake up to the prospect that the end of cheap oil will mean a massive shift in the way we live and do business. From my experience, most believe that "peak oil" as it's more commonly known, will arrive sometime around 2035. That notion is probably due to the propaganda put out by the oil industry itself, yet many of the people I speak with seem to brush off even that outside date as being of little importance. They say things such as....."That's years away." "We don't have to worry because by then, "they" will have introduced different technology." Nobody seems quite sure just who "they" are, but I'm assuming "they" are world leading scientists who can twist and bend to laws of physics to suit themselves, not to mention the ever greedier consumers.
But, how far away is 2020?
Now, lets look at the date 2020. What's so special about 2020? One very simple issue that people don't seem to be aware of is the fact that 2020 is just 12 years and 5 months away from this time of writing. The other factor concerning 2020 is that it's a date arrived at by Roger Bezdek himself by his own reckoning and whilst I don't doubt Roger's expertise in the area of peak oil, predicting the exact date of peak oil is practically impossible. For all we know, it may well be with us right now and I believe we're already seeing the first birth pangs of this new era.
... or 2035?
As to the general consensus of the date 2035. That's a bit further away, approximately 27 years and 5 months. Considering that any new technology requires a lead-in time of around 20 years to become established, what and where is this "new technology?" We need it today if it's going to be throughly implemented by 2035, but it's simply not on the horizon and for very good reasons. It all comes back to the laws of thermodynamics, physics and a constant supply of natural resources and currently, there's nothing that can match the energy derived from once abundant cheap oil. It's doubtful there ever will be. People talk about the ever elusive Electric Vehicle, but nobody realises the sheer magnitude of swapping the entire motor vehicle fleet over to electric. It's simply not possible! Batteries are the problem. There's simply not enough lead in the entire world to make the billions of batteries required. Even if there was, it would take more fossil fuel to make them than would be saved by going EV. Same with Lithium. Great for mobile phones, but it doesn't exist in sufficient mineable quantities to build all those billions of batteries.
Governments must act now to make the necessary changes
What we do require, is a Government willing to recognise the looming crisis and shift from rampant capitalism to organised power-down. Will it happen? I must say, as an Australian citizen, I remain very pessimistic on that front. The Australian Federal Government is firmly bound to International market forces and is in reality only a puppet of the huge American conglomerates and corporations. Eventually they will have to make hard choices, but by then it will be too late.
The time to act is now, if indeed it's not too late already. Some, who celebrated as they watched 1999 slide gracefully into the year 2000, are now wondering just where the last seven and a half years went. With so many cheap "toys" made from once abundant cheap oil and lives filled with distractions, time does not stand still and indeed seems to fly by faster every year. It won't seem like any time at all until 2020 and even 2035 arrives on our calenders. Will life then be a lot different to how we experience it today? The answer is yes! My only hope is that for most of us, it won't be unbearable.
Is there something endemic in state broadcasting in the Anglophone world which makes it taboo to discuss the population question and to air views that are critical of immigration? …
Since the early seventies, “a steady and insidious process among governing circles, opinion-formers, the greater bulk of the media, including the BBC, has built a powerful and near universal censorship, by consent…that the absolutely fundamental ecology question, the need for a sustainable balance between numbers and resources---is almost totally ignored. The sad corollary of this is that mass migration---since it has a major and obvious impact on the overall population situation---cannot be rationally discussed either.”
Is there something endemic in state broadcasting in the Anglophone world which makes it taboo to discuss the population question and to air views that are critical of immigration? If so, where is it coming from: the journalists, the presenters, the researchers, the producers or the administrators? Is state media more a captive of political correctness than the private media?
In attempting to answer some of these questions, it is useful to look at two fascinating accounts, one about the British Broadcasting Corporation (the BBC), another about the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (the ABC) and finally to summarize the disgraceful record of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
In “The Treason of the BBC” , the late Jack Parsons argued that “The BBC has been systematically excluding virtually all material on the question of basic population policy.” For example, BBC reporters allowed Beverly Hughes, a former Minister of Immigration, to “blandly repeat, unchallenged, the government’s mindless policy of continued mass immigration to meet the alleged needs of the economy.” Also, it granted a free pass to former Home Secretary Charles Clark to say that there were ‘no obvious limits’ to net migration and rapid growth. At the same time, the BBC did not question the fact that “our present government has adopted a policy (without discussion or mandate) of deliberately increasing our numbers by about one million every five years,” making Britain the fastest growing country in Europe with a population density almost twice that of China.
Parsons asks, “How can BBC claims about the carrying capacity of the prison system and its “overpopulation” be made so openly, so effortlessly, so devoid of fear and moral opprobrium, while not the slightest hint can ever be allowed to slip out vis a vis the vastly more important case of the carrying capacity and numbers of the nation as a whole?”
He accuses those who run the BBC of “colluding in a very Great Betrayal, fostering the myth that human numbers have so little consequence that there is no need to take them seriously.” “The charge I am leveling at all executive levels of the BBC as a corporate body concerns what I am convinced is coercive, institutionalized bias which for years has prevented virtually all BBC news of, and discussion about, a literally vital object, the long-term balance between human numbers, resources and the quality of life…; this was not always so, but has been the case for at least 15 years."
The signs of population myopia were apparent to Parsons in 1967 when he asked the BBC why it was so concerned about the Tory Canyon Oil-Tanker Spill disaster, but so unconcerned about the doubling of the world’s population in 30 years. Since the early seventies, “a steady and insidious process among governing circles, opinion-formers, the greater bulk of the media, including the BBC, has built a powerful and near universal censorship, by consent…that the absolutely fundamental ecology question, the need for a sustainable balance between numbers and resources---is almost totally ignored. The sad corollary of this is that mass migration---since it has a major and obvious impact on the overall population situation---cannot be rationally discussed either.”
Parsons, in a letter to a BBC Complaints Unit, asks, “Dare one hope that, one of these days, someone in the higher echelons of the BBC will screw his/her courage to the sticking point and actually issue and follow through on a set of instructions that free the BBC---and hence the nationfrom this appalling and near-totally disabling taboo.” He is given to wonder “Why does this large, wealthy, powerful, highly prestigious institution…cringe so abjectly at the very idea of free speech in the realm of discourse?” And why the taboo? “Has there been an explicit but secret directive to all producers to steer clear of the subject? Has this policy been built up by means of nods, winks and frowns on high; or does it stem from tacit acceptance by all concerned at the prevailing orthodoxy in the wider society?”
According to Parsons, four things are needed to reform the BBC. Firstly, there needs to be major change in ‘media Zeitgeist’ (thinking) that will permit an open discussion about population. Secondly, the BBC needs to “stop cowering beneath its cloak of political correctness” and, by honest analysis, foster the emergence of a mature, ecologically informed electorate. Thirdly, the BBC needs to hire reporters who are population experts. “Some BBC presenters, who have an overweening confidence in their qualifications, start laying down the law on those population topics which are allowed a mention, and in the process frequently display their ignorance…They pick up and mindlessly repeat half-baked notions about alleged labour shortages and pension problems, and swallow hook, line and sinker any free-floating opinions about how much better things will continue to become as numbers inexorably swell.”
Fourthly, it would be nice if the BBC followed its own Producer Guidelines. “Due impartiality lies at the heart of the BBC. All BBC programmes and services should be open-minded, fair and show a respect for truth. No significant strand of thought should go unreflected or unrepresented at the BBC.”
Until then, however, its Motto will remain that of the Three allegedly Wise Monkeys: See no population problem! Hear no population problem! Speak no population problem!
Mark O’Connor, poet and one-time Vice-President of Australians for an Ecologically Sustainable Population (AESP, re-named SPA), has made a similar assessment of the ABC. In his upcoming book, "Overloading Australia", O’Connor concedes that the ABC is critical to Australian democracy and is able to speak to the people---“and often does”. “But the ABC has in some parts of its news and current affairs sections failed to provide objectivity or fairness to portray debates or news coverage relating to population, immigration or economics." It is living the Comfortable Lie: that growth is good and sustainable, and that the mass immigration that fuels it must continue. “The fact must be faced. There is something deeply wrong in some parts of it.”
But O'Connor is unable to locate precisely where the fault lies. Whether researchers withhold information from presenters, or presenters refuse to use the research provided to them, or whether producers, strategy planners or management dictate programming, is a question outside observers can't answer. "But there certainly is a bias," he asserts.
He offers some examples of this bias. During those years when Australia had the highest per capita immigrant intake of any country in the world, the ABC refused to challenge propagandists who illogically and brazenly claimed that Australia's high immigration intake was "shamefully low" and "proof of racism". In addition, the ABC collaborated with both the government and the opposition party to promote high immigration by ignoring inconvenient facts like the one about Australia's high per capita immigrant intake and suppressing most of the debate. And while going after the jugular of the One Nation Party as if it were alone in its call for a zero net immigration policy, “among its many acts of censorship, ABC TV News suppressed the fact that the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Australian Democrats (two other parties) had long been calling for zero net migration."
O’Connor speculates as to why the ABC behaves in this manner. “The ABC’s failure through nearly three decades to deal with population issues the most important matter facing Australia today--- may have less to do with individuals than with a pervasive institutional culture.” Nevertheless, “if there are such persons blocking the debate, then it is assuredly time they were persuaded to move on to other areas where their biases will do less harm.”
He concludes, “The ABC has a problem with its news service and current affairs programs. It may not be able to rectify past unfairness, but it needs urgently to offer guarantees that the censorship will cease, and that at least in future those who disagree with high immigration or with ‘birth-bribes’ will receive equal time on its programs.” New ‘balance and accountability’ guidelines announced by management in October of 2006 “will not address ABC News’ pro-growth, pro-natalist, pro-conventional economic views.”
Can what has so far been said of the BBC and the ABC be said of the CBC as well? In one word, yes, and more. While some regional centres have attempted to bring more balance to immigration issues, CBC Radio, especially the National centre in Toronto and the Vancouver centre, have emphatically not. In general, the CBC (like the ABC previously) has refused to engage the public on the two questions that critics keep asking: Why is the government importing more people per capita than any other country in the world? And what effect is this infux, which gives us the highest growth rate of any G8 nation, having on our economic, cultural and environmental health?
Timidity and cowardice are not the exclusive province of CBC journalists, but the fact is that only the private media outlets have on occasion exposed abuses of the immigration system and questioned the country’s high immigration intake. The CBC, on the other hand, has done what it can to promote mass immigration on the basis of its misinterpretation of its 1991 legislated mandate to promote “multiculturalism”. Somehow, CBC logic equates the stated “CBC Vision” (to reflect “the cultural diversity of our people”) with support for mass immigration. In addition, to the CBC, the promotion of a diversity of cultures displaces the promotion of a diversity of opinions.
Those very many Canadians who voice negative concerns about immigration are simply denied airtime by the people they subsidize. As Immigration Watch Canada has noted, the CBC sees no contradiction between holding out one hand to ask for public funding while clenching the other in a fist to drive into the mouth of the taxpayer who dares to challenge the CBC line on immigration. Furthermore, the CBC allows generous airtime and interviews with pro-immigration groups, so that they may in turn, as a quid pro quo, advertise for the non-commercial CBC. So to partiality and deceit, one can therefore add corruption to the list of CBC immigration vices.
So what then is the remedy? Suffice it to say that the CBC’s commitment to mass immigration and multiculturalism comes at the cost of balanced, honest journalism. The House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage can obviously rectify this situation by ordering the CBC executive to answer for this conflict of interest. It can further help by demanding that the CBC terminate the corporation’s corrupt arrangements with the immigration industry, its blatant pro-immigration advocacy and the employment of its employees who engage in it.
Such measures would seek not to curb journalistic freedom, but to end shameless CBC journalistic abuse---and return public broadcasting to the public. As with the BBC and ABC, our National Broadcaster should be offering a forum where indeed “no significant strand of thought should go unreflected or unrepresented”. The exclusion of topics or the shunning of voices should be foreign to its corporate culture and democratic mission.
The BBC, ABC and CBC conspiracy to silence critics of immigration and population growth has been an insult to democracy and to the public that has had to put up with it. The conspiracy has to end now.
- How much authority is actually to be handed over by the states.
- How duplication of roles may occur and therefore duplication of costs to the taxpayer.
This has been cross-posted to the site of the Southern Cross Party
This book, by by Linda Weiss, Elizabeth Thurbon and John Mathews, the authors of "How to Kill A Country", is a damning expose of how the same Howard Government which cites "Australia's national Interest" as an excuse to sabotage international efforts to act against the threat of global warming, has, in fact, betrayed those very same interests. Subjects covered include Energy, Rural Industries, Culture, Defence and Blood.
In fact, the list is not comprehensive, as, of course, a comprehensive coverage of all of John Howard's betrayals of our national interest would be a truly massive undertaking. Some I would have also included are:
- The Privatisation of Telstra,
- the ongoing export of Australian jobs to low-wage third world economies,
- ramping up immigration to a stratospheric annual rate of 300,000 from only 58,000 in 1996, in spite of Howard having won the 1996 elections largely on the basis of dissatisafaction with Labor's high immigration policies
- the flogging of Australian real estate on the international market, thereby pricing beyond the means of Australians what was affordable to single income working class families barely more than a generation ago.
The chapter on defence(#fn1">1) shows how the Government has overruled all the normal defence equipment procurement procedures in order to impose a "Buy American" policy. As a result this country's defence forces will be forced to use inferior equipment, largely unsuited to our defence needs, that won't be delivered for years. In the case of the Joint Strike Fighter we are to be kept waiting until 2018. The book describes how this deal was secured:
How was this deal sold to a gullible Australian ministry? It was first and foremost the Prime Minister's decision, taken unilaterally during a visit to Washington in early June 2002. Discussions with President Bush were followed by a private briefing from the plane's makers, Lockheed Martin, in John Howard's hotel room. Howard seems to have succumbed easily and enthusiastically. So enthusiastically it appears, that even senior Lockheed Martin executives commented that they were 'flabbergasted' that Australia decided to make the purchase so quickly. "That was just amazing, it stopped everything in the room at the time," said Lockheed's international programs director for the JSF, Mike Consentino, about Australia's surprise announcement. "This was our first international customer so it was a memorable day." (pages 150-151)
In order to fill the gap until 2018 which exists as a result of the PM's hasty decision, we are to spend an additional $6 billion on the purchase of 24 Super Hornet (F/A 18 F) fighter aircraft, which were designed to operate from aircraft carriers rather than from land.
Other disastrous Howard Government defence equipment acquisition decisions put under the microscope include:
- The AU$539million purchase of 59 reconditioned second-hand M1A1 Abrams tanks, which require special road transporters, which cannot be airlifted by any Australian Defence Forces (ADF) transport plane, nor be loaded onto any of Australia's six heavy landing craft. The tanks cannot be used for the defence of the Australian continent because they are too heavy for Australia's roads and bridges. In spite of their reputation for indestructability, at least 80 had been put out of action by 2005 by Iraqi insurgents who found that their armour could be penetrated with surprising ease by low-tech bombs and rocket propelled grenades.
- The decision to purchase the US Raytheon combat system for Australia's conventionally powered Collins class submarine fleet. This was in spite of the fact that more suitable European alternatives had been developed for conventionally powered submarines whilst the Raytheon had been scaled down from a combat system designed for nuclear powered submarines.
The chapter on Energy shows how the Howard Government has undermined tentatitve efforts to establish renewable energy industries in order to satisfy the wishes of Australia's climate changing fossil fuel lobby. This chapter does to some degree suffer from an uncritical acceptance of all alternatives to fossil fuels, the worst example being bio-fuels. It is not altogether clear whether bio-fuels actually increase the world's stock of energy given that fossil fuel derived fertilsers are necessary to grow bio-fuels in the first place. Further the expansion of bio-fuels is exacerbating the loss of bio-diversity in the Third world as rainforests are cleared in order to grow bio-fuels. They are also responsible for making food less affordable for many of the world's poorest as more corn crops are diverted to the manufacture of ethanol.
Neverthless the case for the need alternatives to fossil fuel is indisputable and the Howard Government is deservedly condemended for its wanton sabotage of a number of viable alternatives. Whilst the previous Keating and Hawke Labor governments have vastly better records than the Howard government in this regard, a decision made, upon winning office in 1983, by the Hawke Labor government to close down a government-funded renewable energy program(#fn2">2) did also unnecesarily set back Australia's development of alternatives.
Another fact of significance, not alluded to in this work, was that Whitlam Government Energy Minister the late Rex Connor attempted, in response to the oil crisis of 1973 to make Australia independent. This was the purpose of the AU$4 billion loan that Connor attempted to secure through the Pakistani broker Tirath Khemlani. Of course, this was blown up into the "Khemlani Affair" by the Australian media establisment, most notably Rupert Murdoch's 'evil empire', and was used to destroy Connor's career as well as, ultimately, the Whitlam government in 1975.
Rex Connor died tragically early in 1978 and the since corrupted Australian Labor Party has turned its back on the legacy of this visionary and great Australian political leader(#fn3">3).
The chapter on rural industries shows how the Howard government has undermined the competitive advantage enjoyed by Australia's rural industries in order to please various US agricultural lobbies. This includes the undermining of Australia's strict quarantine regime and measures to keep out 'Mad Cow' disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy - BSE), which has compromised the U.S. beef industry. Australia has done the bidding of the U.S. on the international market to break down Japan's resistance to U.S. Beef imports because of the BSE threat. This would in fact remove the competitive advantage that Australian Beef enjoys over U.S. beef in the Japanese market.
"National Insecurity" also describes how Australia's competitive advantage in the Pork industry has been similarly undermined to suit U.S. rural commercial interests.
The chapter describes the subordination of industry groups ostensibly acting on behalf of Australia's primary producers and counter-moves by ordinary rural producers including the creation of the Australian Beef Association.
One concern I have with this issue is that all forms of large scale international trade in primary produce are largely unsustainable whether they are into or out of Australia. They are unsustainable because they depend upon non-renewable petroleum to export them to the other side of the globe and because the constant extraction of nutrients from the soil and the need for irrigation in the longer term will destroy the fertility of the soil. For further information read chapter "Farming and Food Production under regimes of Climate Change" by Edward R. D. Goldsmith in the Final Energy Crisis co-edited by Sheila Newman. A second edition is due to be published next year.
The chapter on Culture about contains more damning evidence of the Howard government's complicity in the destruction of Australia's film, television and performing industries.
The book suffers from being not sufficiently critical of the previous Keating Labor Government which, in its time made its own sterling contribution to undermining Australia's economic, cultural and environmental security. It could also use an index, but it is still a very useful and courageous contribution to a necessary debate and well worth the AU$24.95 recommended retail price.
#fn1" name="fn1" id="fn1">1. Disclaimer: I write this as one who has been, on occasions, outspoken against Australia's military adventures, notably the bloody and destructive Vietnam War and the
current inferno in Iraq
. Nevertheless, in a world which is becoming increasingly unstable, it would be suicidal for any nation in a region such as south East Asia not to have a capable national defence force. Of course, the first recourse should be to try to achieve international justice and not engage in any unjust wars.
#fn2" name="fn2" id="fn2">2. I can't cite the source for this fact but I can remember it being mentioned on the radio, probably Radio National, perhaps, 15 years ago.
#fn3" name="fn2" id="fn2">3. For further information, please see chapter 7 of "The Growth Lobby and its Absence : The Relationship between the Property Development and Housing Industries and Immigration Policy in Australia and France", Sheila Newman's 2002 Master's thesis (pdf 2.6MB) downloadable from http://candobetter.org/sheila )
Former Prime Minister Paul Keating was totally wrong in his recent media comments condemning nationalism. A strong dose of nationalism is precisely what this country needs and has always needed. It is economic nationalism that urges Australians to buy Australian, to protect Australian farmers, workers, jobs and businesses. Nationalism prevents the sell-off of our true
icons such as Telstra and Qantas. Nationalism fires the bellies of our international sportspeople. Nationalism is needed to fend off Free (not Fair)-Trade agreements that eat like a cancer on our economy. We also need cultural nationalism to preserve our history and heritage. Finally we need political nationalism so we can stand tall and strong in the world and not
be sucked into foreign wars that we have no right to be involved in and only make us a target of terrorism. While the major parties only offer divisive politics pitting workers, farmers, businesspeople - all true Australians against each other, it's only independents that can unite and truly represent the people.
Southern Cross Independent Candidate for Wide Bay
Peregian Beach, Queensland
ph 0754483784, 0408729499.
Thanks Professor Quiggin from supplying that quote#fn1">1 from our PM. It confirmed that renters do not count amongst John Howard's concerns and that is why they are forced to subsidise, with their taxes, the cost of private home ownership. This includes, amongst many other things, the first home owners' grant and rental assistance for welfare recipients. In both cases the money simply helps further fuel the housing hyper-inflation rather than help to make housing affordable.
I think this debate largely misses two other key factors which have been even more critical in forcing up the cost of housing in recent decades.
1. Much of the cost of housing is in fact the result of the privatisation of the housing market begun by Menzies.
The government-owned Housing Trust of South Australia never cost South Australian taxpayers a cent, yet for decades was able to provide affordable good quality housing to all sectors of South Australian society. Money that would have been unproductively invested in property speculation in the Eastern states was, instead, directed towards establishing viable manufacturing industries in South Australia.
2. That high housing costs are a consequence of high immigration
High immigration now at unofficial, but real and stratospheric href="http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/backscratching-at-a-national-level/2007/06/12/1181414298095.html">300,000 per annum deliberately brought about by the supposedly 'strong border control' Howard Government to suit the needs of property speculators, property developers and dependant industries. There is abundant evidence for this coming out of the mouths of the land speculators themselves. For example read www.realestate.com.au or read this from a 1973 submission by a property developer to the National Population Inquiry:
A large number of industries, including the building industry could not have developed to their present size without the immigration policy ... Population growth promotes expansion in building activity.
This is the mainstay of our economy, which as opposed to that of Japan, is substantially concentrate on national infrastructure rather than purely on export industries.
- cited in "The Growth Lobby and its Absence : The Relationship between the Property Development and Housing Industries and Immigration Policy in Australia and France" p114 of Sheila Newman's Master's thesis of 2002 downloadable from candobetter.org/sheila
As Queensland Deputy Premier Anna Bligh recently put it :
"The only way we could really (stop population growth) is to put a fence up at the (Queensland) border, or to cancel or freeze all new home building approvals," she said.
"That would have a very serious impact on the construction industry that a lot people rely on for jobs."
Remember, this is the 'left wing' female ex-student-activist Deputy Premier of the 'Smart' State speaking.
So we need to grow population in order to provide jobs for those already living here. And of course, tomorrow all of today's new arrivals will depend upon yet more new arrivals in order to create jobs for them. And the day after tomorrow all those newer arrivals will depend upon yet more new arrivals to create jobs for them, and so on until we are all only permitted to consume 5 litres of water a day each and are living stacked on on top of each other all the way up to the mesosphere in concrete boxes.
And, of course, as Professor Quiggin has pointed out, those who have invested in the hyper-inflated housing market expect the value of their investment to be at least maintained, if not increased. How else is this to be achieved without a constant flow of immigration?
How could anyone possibly question the economic capabilities of the various Governments which have brought about these circumstances?
I haven’t met anybody yet who’s stopped me in the street and shaken their fist and said: "Howard, I’m angry with you, my house has got more valuable."
The Gold Coast Spit Open Space is again under threat of development with a Queensland Government proposal to build a maritime training simulator for shipping pilots on land adjacent to the sand-pumping jetty, even though it has no windows and no need to be located on the Spit.
Lois Levy, campaigner with Gecko - Gold Coast and Hinterland Environment Council, says that this latest proposal again demonstrates Government unwillingness to listen the community's clearly expressed desire for no development north of Seaworld.
"Once again it appears the Queensland Government is planning for a commercial use of The Spit parklands with this latest proposal. The Government just can’t seem to leave The Spit alone," said Ms Levy. "It must be retained as parkland for our growing population and these commercial uses can be placed elsewhere."
Curiously, the draft application by Department of Transport for the training simulator lists the facility as "community purposes" when it is clearly intended to be a commercial operation with paying students.
"Gecko members cannot understand why this simulator has to be built on parkland when the simulator part of it has no windows and can be built anywhere," said Ms Levy. "This makes us highly suspicious that it is the thin end of the wedge. The excuse that the training centre needs to be close to accommodation and public transport just doesn’t wash."
The proposal is for a 6.5 metre building consisting of three simulator 'drums', a foyer, administration, ablution facilities, briefing / lunch rooms, instructors’ room and storage and parking for 9 vehicles on an area of 980m2 of public land. It is intended to be open from 9 – 5 for 6 - 8 trainees per day and employ 3 - 4 full time staff.
"Given that the Gold Coast does not have any shipping pilots for its seaway, it is very strange that this expensive facility will be purpose built here rather than in the Port of Brisbane and for only 6 students," said Ms Levy.
"Is this the beginning of grander plans for a marine precinct?" asked Lois. "We will be seeking further information from the Department of Transport and will keep the community informed."
For further information contact:
Lois Levy, Gecko Campaigns Committee 0412-724-222
Alzo, today we seem no closer to realising the dream of unlimited supplies of energy from nuclear fusion than we were thirty years ago. According to one scientist, who has worked on nuclear fusion, the nail in the coffin of nuclear fusion will prove to be the lack of sufficient supplies of the necessary hydrogen isotope tritium. For further information, see the forthcoming second edition of "The Final Energy Crisis" edited by Sheila Newman (http://candobetter.org/sheila).
Hazards of nuclear fission
In regard to nuclear fission, it is obviously a more viable source of energy that just may, if we are extremely careful, provide a bridge towards a more sustainable future whilst stocks of Uranium and Thorium last, however it has a very considerable environmental cost. If we increase the scale of nuclear power generation to the extent necessary to fill the gap power the environmental risks we currently face will be multiplied many times. The Chernobyl disaster. which could have been far worst if not for the quick thinking of those courageous workers on the spot is one illustration. On top of the hazards of nuclear fission electricity generation, even more environmental threats are posed by mining of uranium, enrichment, reprocessing and disposal of nuclear wastes. A likely consequence of the expansion of uranium mining in Central Australia is that the Eastern seaboard stands to be exposed to clouds bearing poisonous radioactive uranium and other toxic metals blown from the mine tailings dumps (see David Bradbury's film "Blowin' in the wind" for a graphic illustration of this threat). In the past, the long-term containment of tailings from mining operation has been problematic and, more often than not, fails in the longer term (as Jared Diamond has illustrated in describing past mining operations in Montana in Chapter 2 of "Collapse" pp35-41). I don't hold out any greater hope that the mining companies will do any better a job containing the mountains of tailings from the planned expanded Uranium mines.
Practical limitations of nuclear fission
Another problem with nuclear fission is that it can only be used to generate electricity. In order to operate transport or run factory machinery or mine milling equipment, the electricity has to be either somehow stored chemically, or transported directly as electricity using power lines, transformers and other expensive infrastructure. In the former case, energy is lost, in creating, for example, hydrogen from water, and the containment of hydrogen necessitates the fabrication of particularly strong and well-sealed containers. In the latter case, large quantities of non-renewable resources, particularly copper, are required, and it is expected that the world's production of copper will begin to decline next year (http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa003&articleID=000CEA15-3272-13C8-9BFE83414B7FFE87).
Practical limitations of other 'renewables'
The other "lots of possible energy sources" are essentially derived from solar energy or geothermal energy. All require the use of equipment, the manufacture of which now requires non-renewable rare metals, petroleum-derived plastics and fossil fuel energy. The problems in building renewable energy generators, on a scale necessary to indefinitely meet global society's demands, as well as to provide the necessary additional energy to build replacement generators and infrastructure, without reliance upon fossil-fuel energy, appear to be overwhelming. It seems unlikely that this can be done on a scale anywhere near the scale we have been able to do thus far relying on our finite endowment of fossil fuels.
Applying the precautionary principle
So, I would suggest that it would be extremely imprudent to continue to consume natural resources at our current rate, let alone to increase our rate of consumption, and to go on trashing the world's ecology as we are doing now on the assumption that we can find an easy replacement to so much of that conveniently packaged solar energy captured over tens of millions of years that we have found buried under the ground. It would be far more prudent to assume that our current practices are unsustainable, and to begin now to reduce those levels of consumption.
Those who are consuming the most whilst contributing the least to society, such as property speculators and financial advisers should be amongst the first to be made to do so.
MEDIA STATEMENT 12 July 2007
The opinions of Cr Henry are not necessarily those of Redland Shire Council/
Division 3 Councillor Debra Henry is challenging the Mayor's dismissive remark that rapid population growth in the Redlands is 'bunkum' (Bayside Bulletin 10 July, p 2).
Labeling his comments as misleading, Cr Henry has called for him to "come clean on a growth rate that is putting environmental and social services under immense pressure".
"Comparisons with Ipswich, Caboolture and elsewhere are irrelevant. The people of the Redlands have persistently identified Redland's natural features and relaxed lifestyle as valued assets to maintain and enhance. But these are quite obviously being eroded by rapid growth" said Cr Henry.
Cr Henry is concerned that the Mayor remains fixated with growth and refuses to grasp the realities of the Shire's growth. "It's simple mathematics" she says "Even what appears to be a small percentage (2%) when applied to a large number, grows quickly".
"A two percent growth rate equates to a doubling in 35 years. With a population of 135,000 two percent growth means the Shire's population will increase by another 135,000 in 35 years. It is exponential growth and never before have we faced growth of this magnitude. The Mayor's refusal to acknowledge this is disturbing" Cr Henry said.
But she believes there is a questionable agenda behind the Mayor's dismissive remarks.
"The Local Growth Management Strategy (LGMS) recently passed 6-5 by this Council and now with State Government for approval is a planning document of the highest order. It will lock the Shire into high growth for the next two decades and with his cries of 'bunkum' it appears the Mayor is trying to detract from the significance of this document" said Cr Henry.
"If approved, the LGMS will result in at least another 60,000 people in the Redlands in less than 20 years. It will result in amendments to the Redland Planning Scheme and the State's SEQ Regional Plan. It will give legal rights of development, and compensation would apply should hindsight indicate the land zonings are inappropriate".
Cr Henry considers it ironic that some of the Councillors supporting the LGMS have lamented some land zonings at Mt Cotton, saying the decision made some 20 years ago locked us into approvals, no matter how inappropriate that decision is in hindsight.
"Let's learn from the past, and use some foresight here. We can negotiate levels of growth, and we don't have to commit vast tracts of land to non-negotiable development".
Cr Henry, who has posted an "e-Petition" relating to the LGMS on www.parliament.qld.gov.au added that the Mayor's "flippant response to a serious situation, is a hindrance to democracy and a threat to sustainability".
Councillor Division 3
Cleveland South - Thornlands
Redland Shire Council
crdebrah |AT| redland.qld.gov.au
Wednesday, 11 July 2007
South East Queensland residents are using World Population Day, 11th July, to urge the Queensland Government to reverse the over-allocation of land and resources committed to development in the region.
According to the South East Queensland Branch of Sustainable Population Australia (SPA), concerned citizens are sending an appeal to the Premier that the Local Growth Management Strategies required under the SEQ Plan be delayed until biodiversity, climate change, natural resources, ecological services and quality of life issues are addressed.
"The government has committed South East Queensland to a level of development that will destroy its biodiversity," said a spokesman for the South East Queensland branch. "We are destroying our natural environment, both through the use of land for housing and infrastructure and through the consumption of natural resources, such as water and building materials."
"Quarries are already having an enormous impact on SEQ's biodiversity, destroying koala habitat and rare and threatened species; and with the increasing demand for building materials we will see even greater destruction," he said. "If the Environmental Protection Agency allows quarrying in 'of concern' regional ecosystems - those types of forests that are already down to less than 30% of their original cover - we will see massive losses of this region's species diversity."
"The South East Queensland Regional Plan was based on high projections and planning from the early 1990's, with little regard for the natural assets of the area," said the spokesman. "The Queensland Government has mapped almost all the vegetation left in the Region as being of state and regional significance for biodiversity, yet it has failed to protect this biodiversity from housing, tourism, rural industry and other impacts."
"We are asking that a moratorium be imposed until the over-allocation of South East Queensland land for development is reversed and sustainable outcomes are guaranteed," he said.
For more information about this important issue:
Sheila Davis, Secretary, SPA-SEQ, Mob: 0423 305478
Tackling climate change is now a worldwide crusade - so what's stopping campaigners driving its simplest solution?
Wednesday July 11, 2007
The simplest truths are sometimes the hardest to recognise. This month, according to the UN, world population will reach 6.7 billion, en route to a newly revised global total of 9.2 billion by 2050. The latest housing forecasts for England predict that we will need about 5m more homes in the next two decades. The economist Jeffrey Sachs devoted this spring's Reith lectures to a planet "bursting at the seams". And the most recent Social Trends analysis from the Office for National Statistics painted a picture of a Britain driven mad by overcrowding. Meanwhile, Gaia scientist James Lovelock has been warning about ecological collapse and world resources able to support only 500 million people, with many extra millions driven to take refuge in the UK.
In the midst of all these alarms is a very quiet place where the green lobby should be talking about human population growth. Today has been designated World Population Day by the UN, but you will not see any of the big environment and development groups mounting a campaign on population. Indeed, you will be lucky if they even mention the P-word. Earlier this year, Nafis Sadik, former director of the UN's population fund, berated such non-governmental organisations for being more concerned with fundraising than advocacy. Their silence on population, she observed, was "deafening".
So why isn't the green movement talking about population any more? In its early days, back in the 60s and 70s, population growth was a mainstream concern. Groups including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth (FoE), WWF and Oxfam took well-publicised positions on population issues - endorsing the Stop at Two (children) slogan, supporting zero population growth and publishing reports with titles such as Already Too Many (Oxfam). These days, Greenpeace declares that population is "not an issue for us" and describes it as "a factor [in] but not one of the drivers of" environmental problems.
FOE last year tried to answer some "common questions" on the subject, including: "Why isn't Friends of the Earth tackling population growth?" Oxfam, which as recently as 1994 published a report entitled World Population: The Biggest Problem of All, now does not list it among the dozen or so "issues we work on", and nor does it figure in the "What you can do" section of WWF's One Planet Living campaign.
The green lobby's main argument is that numbers do not matter so much - it is how we live and consume that counts. FoE even remarks that "it is unhelpful to enter into a debate about numbers. The key issue is the need for the government to implement policies that respect environmental limits, whatever the population of the UK". It is a statement that seems to treat population and environmental limits as entirely separate subjects.
There are two powerful counter-arguments to this. One is common sense: that consumption and numbers matter and that if a consumer is absent - that is, unborn - then so is his or her consumption. The second is the weight of evidence. Sir David King, the government's chief scientist, told a parliamentary inquiry last year: "It is self-evident that the massive growth in the human population through the 20th century has had more impact on biodiversity than any other single factor."
The increase in global population over the next 40 years, for example, is roughly what the entire world population was in 1950. The UK, currently around 61 million people, is on course for 71 million by 2074, by which time England's densities will have outstripped those of South Korea, which, by some measures, is currently the world's second most crowded country - second only to Bangladesh.
The Optimum Population Trust today publishes a new report, Youthquake, that warns - echoing Lovelock - that environmental degradation caused by the number of humans may force more governments to follow China's lead and introduce compulsory limits on family size.
Many suspect other motives for the green lobby's neglect of the population issue. It is a sensitive subject, bound up with issues on which the progressive left, which most environmental groups identify with, has developed a defensive intellectual reflex. These include race and immigration - the latter accounts for more than 80% of forecast UK population growth, for example - reproductive choice, human rights and gender equality. Calls for population restraint can easily be portrayed as "anti-people" - surely people are part of "the solution"? It is far easier to ignore the whole subject; let somebody else - or nobody - deal with it.
This often involves intriguing verbal contortions. The 70s organisation Population Countdown, having morphed into Population Concern, in 2003 rechristened itself as Interact Worldwide - under its former name, consultants told it, its funders, and future, would dry up.
Faced with escalating forecasts of housing need - one recent government projection says we will need 11m more households in the UK by 2050, an increase of over 40% - the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) proclaims itself in favour of "development that protects the countryside and the environment" and ignores the fact that the main cause of forecast housing growth, responsible for 59% of the total, is population increase.
So why does the CPRE not campaign on the issue that poses the greatest threat to rural England? "If we did," says Shaun Spiers, CPRE's chief executive, "it appears unlikely that our actions would have any effect on population growth, and that would lay us open to the charge of misusing our charitable funds."
How to categorise such reactions? Pragmatism? Cowardice? Sensible tactics? Or an overdose of organisational self-preservation? Whatever the reason, it is infectious - the media (and politicians) take many of their awareness cues from NGOs so the silence on population becomes society-wide. As a result, family size is seen as an exercise in individual lifestyle choice: few people consider the consequences for the planet of their fertility decisions. That means fertility rates in the UK rise, and the population keeps on growing.
· David Nicholson-Lord is an environmental writer and research associate for the Optimum Population Trust. The Youthquake report is available at optimumpopulation.org
· David Nicholson-Lord is an environmental writer and research associate for the Optimum Population Trust. The Youthquake report is available at optimumpopulation.org
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