At a protest for Julian Assange, which commenced outside the Victorian State Library at 12:00pm on Sunday 28 September, protestors demanded that the Australian government use the power vested in it as a sovereign national government to make British Prime Minister Liz Truss end the illegal imprisonment and torture of Julian Assange.
This article can be printed on two sides of an A4 sheet from this file (but, please be warned, it costs a lot more to print it as colour rather than as black and white).
Dear Prime Minister Scott Morrison,
I am writing to you concerning the imprisonment, psychological and physical torture, in Britain, of an Australian citizen, Julian Assange, who has committed no crime. So far Julian Assange has endured more than eight and a half years of this, and if the United States' government has its way, this will continue for the rest of his life.
On 11 April 2019, shortly after Julian Assange was taken from the London Ecuadorian Embassy and placed under arrest, Foreign Minister Marise Payne issued a statement:
"I am confident, as the United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt publicly confirmed in July 2018, that Mr Assange will receive due process in the legal proceedings he faces in the United Kingdom." 
If you, Prime Minister, or Marise Payne, have been able to closely follow the legal proceedings to which Julian Assange has been subjected for over one year now, in Woolwich Crown Court, you will be aware of the following:
For breaching bail on 19 June 2012 to seek asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy, which he is entitled to do under Article 14 of United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 , he was sentenced to 50 weeks imprisonment,  the absolute maximum sentence for this offence;
On 13 September 2019, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser further extended Julian Assange's imprisonment when she ruled that Julian Assange would not be released on 22 September because of the United States prosecution's extradition request, the case for which, it had evidently not been able to fully prepare in the seven and a half years that Julian Assange had been imprisoned for at that point in time;
On every day of the hearing, even before Judge Vanessa Baraitser had listened to any of the testimony or cross-examination, she came into court with her judgement for that day pre-written! 
From the first day of the trial (25 February 2020) Julian Assange was brought in handcuffed, and "confined at the back of the court behind a bulletproof glass screen … from which it is very difficult for him to see and hear the proceedings." 
Magistrate Vanessa Baraitser "refused repeated and persistent requests from the defence for Assange to be allowed to sit with his lawyers." 
Reporting on these preceedings, on 22 October 2019, Craig Murray, who, until then, had been skeptical of claims that Julian Assange was being tortured, declared himself, "badly shocked by just how much weight my friend has lost, by the speed his hair has receded and by the appearance of premature and vastly accelerated ageing. He has a pronounced limp I have never seen before. Since his arrest he has lost over 15 kg in weight." 
Craig Murray continued, "But his physical appearance was not as shocking as his mental deterioration. When asked to give his name and date of birth, he struggled visibly over several seconds to recall both. … his difficulty in making it was very evident; it was a real struggle for him to articulate the words and focus his train of thought." 
On 21 February 2020, during that single day, "Julian had twice been stripped naked and searched, eleven times been handcuffed, and five times been locked up in different holding cells. In addition to this, all of his court documents had been taken from him by the prison authorities, including privileged communications between his lawyers and himself, and he had been left with no ability to prepare to participate in [that day's] proceedings."  Julian Assange was subject to this sort of treatment for the duration of the trial.
"For months, he was denied [physical] exercise and held in solitary confinement [for 23 hours a day] … At first he was denied his reading glasses, left behind [on 25 February 2020 when he was arrested inside the Ecuadorian Embassy]. He was denied the legal documents with which to prepare his case, and access to the prison library and the use of a basic laptop."  
How is this 'due process'? How could this be procedurally fair to Julian Assange?
What I have written above describes only a fraction of the abuse and torture to which Julian Assange has been subjected, just since the court hearings began on 25 February last year. This follows seven years asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy, whence he fled from injustice and in fear for his life. The constraints of asylum have been described as 'arbitrary confinement' by Nils Melzer, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, after he visited Julian Assange in prison. 
In the last two decades alone, the United States, in a rampage of war-crimes leveraged on flagrant lies, has destroyed economies and caused the death of many hundreds of thousands in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Venezuela, Ukraine and elsewhere, apparently with impunity. In contrast, Julian Assange, who revealed many of these crimes to the world, and who himself has no history of violence, has been kept in solitary, stripped of his health, his clothing, his belongings, friends and family, and justice.
This is not 'due process' and certainly not procedurally fair. Unless this situation is rectified, Julian Assange, who is not a U.S. citizen, faces the prospect of being extradited to the United States, where he will face, in secret, a trial in the eastern district of Virginia, before a jury most likely to be made up from employees and the families of the U.S. intelligence agencies based in that area - in other words a rigged trial, hidden from public view.
Under such unfair trial conditions a guilty verdict is the expectation. Julian Assange stands to be sentenced for up to 175 years imprisonment in solitary confinement in the United States - a fate which he considers to be worse than the death penalty.
Like the many Australians who are well informed about Julian Assange, I consider this treatment of him by the British government an outrage. I would expect your government to act immediately to end this outrage:
If your government truly:
- cares for the welfare of each and every one of its citizens;
- believes in human rights;
- believes in the right to free speech;
- believes in the right of journalists to investigate matters of public concern and
- upholds the rule of law (Australian law, British law, International law and United States' law, including their constitutional right to free speech)
then I would expect of you the following:
To contact British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, advise him that an Australian citizen, Julian Assange, has been illegally imprisoned in Belmarsh prison and request that Julian Assange be released immediately, and assisted to return to Australia or to go to any place he chooses.
To communicate to Boris Johnson that if Mr Assange's detention were to continue, Australia would be raising the matter at the United Nations and, if neccessary, at the International Criminal Court.
 Although this statement can be found on Senator Marise Payne's web page through the link I have given above and on Facebook, I could not find this statement on what is currently Page 19 of the "Latest News" section of your web page, which currently contains news items dated from until 15 April 2019.
The above media statement continued: "We have made 19 offers of consular assistance to Mr Assange since 2019 that have gone unanswered. We will continue to offer consular support." As I have not seen the messages containing the offers of support that Senator Marise Payne said she made to Julian Assange, I cannot comment. I will endeavour to contact Julian Assange's support team for their response.
 "Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees" (1951) United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) at https://www.unhcr.org/3b66c2aa10
 The 50 weeks imprisonment to which Julian Assange was sentenced on Wednesday 1 May 2019 would have lasted until Wednesday 15 April 2020 (if the day on which Julian Assange was sentenced is included). Both the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the BBC also reported on 1 May 2019 that Julian Assange was sentenced to 50 weeks imprisonment (see WikiLeaks' Julian Assange sentenced to 50 weeks' jail over bail breach at https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-01/julian-assange-sentenced-in-london-over-bail-breach-wikileaks/11064356 and Julian Assange: Wikileaks co-founder jailed over bail breach at https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-48118908). See Sunday 22 September 2019, the day Julian Assange was supposed to be released, according to other cited reports is 'only' 24 weeks and 4 days from Wednesday 1 May 2019 - still an outrageous and wholly unjustifiable sentence. I have not been able to find an explanation for this apparent discrepency.
 "Beyond Words" (8/4/2020) by Craig Murray at https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2020/04/beyond-words/
 "Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day 1" (25/2/20) at https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2020/02/your-man-in-the-public-gallery-assange-hearing-day-1/
 "Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day 2" (26/2/20) by Craig Murray at https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2020/02/your-man-in-the-public-gallery-assange-hearing-day-2/
 "@njmelzer/state-responsibility-for-the-torture-of-julian-assange-40935ea5d7c3">State Responsibility for the Torture of Julian Assange" (16/12/2019) speech by Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, at the German Bundestag in Berlin, 27 November 2019 (English translation) at https://medium.com/@njmelzer/state-responsibility-for-the-torture-of-julian-assange-40935ea5d7c3
Julian Assange was bundled away by British police after Lenin Moreno, the president of Ecuador, gave the green light for the expulsion of the Wikileaks publisher from the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Assange's arrest represents an abuse of power, highlighting not only how true journalism has now been banished in the West, but also how politicians, journalists, news agencies and think-tanks collude with each other to silence people like Julian Assange and his Wikileaks foundation who are a nuisance to US imperialism.
Assange is “guilty” of two “cardinal sins”: revealing US war crimes committed in Iraq and committing the unpardonable sin of publishing the emails of Clinton, Podesta and the Democratic National Committee, thereby revealing such chicanery in US domestic politics as the fraud committed against Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primaries.
These revelations among the many (Vault 7, Torture, Diplomatic cablograms), by Assange’s Wikileaks, these transgressions in the eyes of the US ruling elite, struck at the very foundations on which the edifice of “American exceptionalism” is built, namely, the democracy that is meant to be a light unto the world, and the “just wars” that flow from a missionary zeal to make the world safe for democracy. The media and politicians accordingly crow about the “beautiful missiles” and other high-tech weaponry that will be employed in the ensuing humanitarian interventions, while omitting to mention that the military-industrial complex that benefits so much from endless wars may be the very donors who fund the warmongering politicians into office, and that the warmongering editorial line of newspapers may be influenced by share portfolios of the editors themselves.
Releasing footage of US military personal laughing as they slaughter dozens of clearly unarmed Iraqis civilians from the distant safety of an Apache helicopter is one of the strongest ways of showing how false, artificial and propagandistic the concept of “humanitarian war” and “responsibility to protect” (R2P) is.
In today’s communication age, that footage, those images, that laughter, are a very powerful antidote against the lies we are daily fed by our media corporations.
The mainstream media will never tell us that the reason why Washington has been at war for half of the last two centuries is because of US imperialism. They will never tell us that the ceaseless interventions are driven by an insatiable greed for resources, or often enough by the simple desire to plunge a country into chaos if its recalcitrant leaders refuse to genuflect appropriately and show due respect.
That footage straightforwardly debunked all the thousands of accumulated hours of media propaganda that had been built up to convince us that Washington beneficently bombs countries in order to bring democracy and free the oppressed.
In the same way, by pulling back the curtain to show how the Democratic primaries were a farce, Wikileaks revealed how the concept of democracy in the United States is worn out and in fact now non-existent. The political parties are fed and controlled by donor money, and the accompanying media coverage can be bought, allowing for tens of millions of Americans to be fed on a steady diet of false news, lies and promises that will never be kept.
It becomes clear, reading the revelations published over the years by Wikileaks, that terms such as democracy and R2P are nothing more than excuses and justifications for the US to bomb whomever it wishes. The moneyed interests ensure the election into office of those who can be relied upon to look after the interests of the 1% at the expense of the 99%, all the while giving moral lectures to the rest of the world while ignoring the inherent double standards.
The mainstream media are tasked by the powers that be with marketing war in order to advance US foreign-policy objectives. Without the moral justification for war, it becomes more difficult to convince Americans and Europeans to send their sons to die thousands of miles away from home. It is straightforward Brainwashing 101: repeat a lie long enough, and people will start to believe it.
The only way the US sees to fix the problem is to silence the source and ignoring the consequences, even when we are talking about a journalist of international fame who has sought asylum in an embassy and has been confined there for seven years.
This Australian has succeeded in simultaneously becoming the number one enemy of the military-industrial complex, the Democrats, and therefore for all American Russophobes. He did his job so well that he managed to become a target of practically all of the Washington establishment, which is determined to lock away the likes of Assange and Snowden (if only they could) and throw away the key.
His destiny seems marked, with a probable extradition to the US, where a secret trial based on false accusations awaits him, without him even being able to examine the evidence with a lawyer. They would have sent him to Guantanamo at an earlier time, but the effect is the same. Of course this is not bad news for everyone, with many rejoicing at the news of his arrest. All the #MeToo crowd and groups related to human rights applaud Lenin Morero's decision to kick Assange out of the embassy and his arrest by the British police. Those who would be expected to make their voices heard reveal themselves to be agents of imperialism by their shameful silence.
Print and broadcast media outside the US play their role in contributing to a wave of disinformation, omissions and lies in the interests of US propaganda. They may be divided over US presidents and their preference for Democrats or Republicans, but they are firmly united in the belief that that Washington (and Tel Aviv) is always in the right.
In the meantime, we see more and more wars caused by the US, whether directly or indirectly and regardless of who sits in the White House. True, authentic journalism disappears under the waves of censorship. In the West, lies and fake news runs rampant, and the three-year Mueller hoax will be remembered in history as a prime example of how the elite can program the minds of tens of millions of citizens by simply repeating again and again a complete and utter falsehood without any supporting evidence.
Assange's arrest and those of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese technology company Huawei, and Marzieh Hashemi, anchorwoman for Iran's English- language Press TV, leads us to pause for a moment to reflect on the changes taking place and on how the US empire is reacting aggressively to the ongoing transformation from a unipolar to a multipolar world. The loss of prestige, respect, dignity, loyalty and honesty are all consequences that the US now faces, partly as a result of the excellent journalistic work of Wikileaks over the last 15 years.
Arresting a journalist, who is an Australian citizen, in an embassy, then extraditing him to a third country, to be tried in secret, without seeing the evidence (because classified top secret), where he is accused of espionage, is is a new low even for Washington, which should worry anyone who still cares about freedom of information.
The flaccid response of Assange's journalistic colleagues can best be explained by the words of the late Udo Ulfkotte, a German journalist who revealed that he had published fake material fed to him by the CIA, claiming that this was common amongst mainstream journalists:
“Non-official cover occurs when a journalist is essentially working for the CIA, but it's not in an official capacity. This allows you to create a partnership between your partner and your partner. The CIA will find young journalists and mentor them. Suddenly doors will open up, rewards will be given, and you know it, you owe your entire career to them. That's essentially how it works. I was publishing articles under my own name written by agents of the CIA and other intelligence services, especially the German secret service. I was taught to lie, to betray and not to tell the truth to the public.“
Or we could mention the great Robert Parry:
“This perversion of principles - twisting information to fit a desired conclusion -- became the modus vivendi of American politics and journalism. And those of us who insisted on defending journalistic principles of skepticism and even-handedness were more shunned by our colleagues, to hostility that first emerged on the right and by neoconservatives but eventually sucked into the progressive world as well… The demonization of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia is just the most dangerous feature of this propaganda process -- and this is where the neocons and the liberal interventionists most significantly are together. The US media approach to Russia is now virtually 100 percent propaganda.“
Basically, Assange’s major fault lies in having revealed the true face of US imperialism through images, news, emails, cablograms and videos, an imperialism that has for decades brought wars, death and destruction around the world for its own political and economic gain, using illegitimate justifications that are backed up by self-proclaimed experts and amplified and repeated endlessly by the mainstream media.
Dear Prime Minister Scott Morrison,
I write to ask you to act to bring to an end circumstances faced by Julian Assange which certainly have already harmed his health and may well end his life if those circumstances are not rectified soon.
An investigation by the Australian Federal Police into Julian Assange ordered by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard in 2010, found that he had committed no crime.
In spite of that, he was threatened with extradition to the United States to face, in its rigged court system - as attested to by former CIA officer John Kiriakou, amongst others - charges that the United States is not even prepared to reveal to the public. Julian Assange, who is not even a United States' citizen, could face many years of imprisonment - or worse - for merely having made known, through Wikileaks, information that the public should know about world events of recent years.
To prevent this, he sought asylum inside the London Ecuadorian Embassy in October 2012. Asylum was granted to him by former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa as required by International Law.
Unfortunately, Assange's asylum inside the Ecuadorian embassy has been turned by the British government into an illegal detention. This has been found twice - on 5 February 2016 and on 30 November 2016 by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. This illegal detention has now lasted six and a half years and has had terrible consequences for Julian Assange's mental and physical health. In all this time, he has seen no sunlight, had little exercise and has been refused medical attention - clearly a violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of international law.
President Lenin Moreno, who succeeded President Rafael Correa in 2017, has made Julian Assange's already dire living situation worse - putting him under constant surveillance, denying him access to the Internet or even reading material and restricting visitors.
On top of this, there are rumours that the Ecuadorian government may soon expel Julian Assange from the Embassy. Should he be expelled he faces what he has endured so much up until now to avoid - extradition to the United States.
Surely, neither the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States, nor his continued confinement under the degrading conditions he has been made to endure for so long, are alternatives that should be acceptable to an Australian government showing a basic duty of care to each and every one of its citizens.
I therefore urgently request that you act now to end the illegal detention of Julian Assange. You could despatch today a contingent of Federal Police to fly to London, go to the Ecuadorian embassy and escort Julian Assange back to Heathrow Airport and thence back to Tullamarine Airport. I doubt if any British government authority would dare obstruct a contingent of Federal Police clearly acting to uphold the law and to end such a cruel denial of basic human rights.
Should your efforts to free Julian Assange somehow fail, you could try to ensure that he receives fair judicial process in the United States. He should be given an attorney of his choice funded by the Australian government and the United States be asked to conduct the trial in public. Certainly any charges arising from what is already been revealed to the public through Wikileaks should be tried in public.
Only then, if found guilty by a fair-minded and impartial jury, could any of what Julian Assange has endured since 2010 be seen to have been deserved. However, I believe that he would almost certainly be found not guilty if such a trial were to occur and he would then be able to walk free.
So, I appeal to you, even at this late stage, to use the powers vested in you to end Julian Assange's ordeal and to ensure that justice and the rule of law ultimately prevail in this instance.
See also: Pamela Anderson Says Trump Should Pardon Julian Assange Next (6/6/18) by Jasmine Sanders |the Cut.More news about Julian Assange on the World Socialist Web Site about Julian Assange: Australia has a legal obligation to protect Julian Assange (11/6/18) by Richard Hoffman, Press conference to be held in Sydney ahead of rallies in defence of Assange (11/6/18), The pseudo-left stabs Assange in the back (11/6/18) by Andre Damon, Sheila Coombes, Professor Tim Hayward and journalist Vanessa Beeley demand freedom for Julian Assange (11/6/18), Free Julian Assange! Support the June 19 vigil in London (11/6/18).
At 1:00pm on Sunday 17 June, there will be a demonstration at the Town Hall Square in Sydney to demand freedom for the heroic and visionary Australian journalist, Julian Assange. Julian Assange has been illegally imprisoned  in the London Ecuadorian Embassy for almost six years now The alternative to his ongoing imprisonment is extradition to the United States, show trial, and long imprisonment, should he be made to leave the embassy. Should Assange remain, he faces grave threats to his health due to a lack of exercise within the embassy walls and lack of direct sunlight, so far, for six years.
The demonstration has been called by the Socialist Equity Party (SEP). The excerpt below, from the SEP's article advertising the protest, explains Julian Assange's plight:
Assange's situation stems directly from the Australian government's refusal to protect one of its citizens from persecution by other governments. Canberra has instead trampled on Assange's rights in the most reprehensible manner.
The American state accuses WikiLeaks and its personnel of "espionage" for publishing leaked data in 2010 that exposed the extent of its war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and its sinister intrigues around the world. Last year, WikiLeaks published further material that exposed CIA operations to hack and spy on Internet and other communications.
If Assange were put on a show trial in the US, he could face decades of imprisonment, or even the death penalty (my emphasis), for doing what a journalist should do: provide the world with the truth.
In late 2010, the Australian Labor government of Prime Minister Julia Gillard took no action when a Swedish prosecutor initiated a politically-motivated investigation into allegations that Assange “may” have been involved in sexual assault. Under conditions of a furious campaign against WikiLeaks for the damning information it was publishing about US war crimes, the aim of the slander was to both discredit Assange and justify a warrant for his extradition to Sweden for “questioning.” If he were detained in Sweden, Assange and his lawyers rightly feared he could have faced rendition on to the US.
Instead of defending Assange, Gillard and her Labor ministers denounced WikiLeaks for "illegal" actions and declared they would assist the US to prosecute him.
Denied any protection by Australia, Assange was forced to seek political asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London on June 19, 2012, after a British court rejected his last legal appeal against extradition to Sweden. For six years, he has been effectively imprisoned in the embassy by the insistence of the British government that if he leaves the building it will arrest him on a charge of absconding on bail. The British government, moreover, has refused to give any guarantee that it would not facilitate his extradition to the US (my emphasis).
This was despite the finding of a United Nations working group in February 2016 that Assange had been arbitrarily detained in contravention of his human rights, and should be allowed his freedom.
In May 2017, Swedish authorities, after finally agreeing to question Assange in Britain, dropped their investigation. No charges were ever laid against the WikiLeaks editor.
The Australian government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, however, refused to intervene and demand that Britain drop its pursuit of Assange over bail-related issues and allow him to leave the London embassy.
After six years of confinement inside a small building, with no direct sunlight and deprived of necessary medical treatment, Assange's health was already severely compromised before the immense pressure of almost total isolation was inflicted on him. Reports indicate that Assange is being pressured by Ecuador to leave the embassy, or that the Ecuadorian government may even renege on its grant of asylum and hand him over to waiting British police.
Under conditions in which the British government will not relent on its determination to charge Assange, or guarantee he will not be extradited to the US, the full culpability of the Australian government and the broader political and media establishment is evident.
The Australian state has undeniable means at its disposal to extricate an Australian citizen and journalist from persecution. It can act to return him to Australian territory and provide him with an unconditional guarantee that he will not be extradited.
There are obvious recent precedents.
Australian journalist Peter Greste was arrested by Egyptian authorities in December 2013, along with other Al Jazeera employees, on framed-up charges of “damaging national security.” He was subjected to a show trial and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment.
In response to immense public outrage in Australia, the government, backed by Washington and the United Nations, called for Greste’s release. Intense diplomatic pressure was applied on Egypt. On February 1, 2015, Greste was released and deported back to Australia.
Earlier, in 2007, under the pressure of widespread anger over the imprisonment of Australian citizen David Hicks in the US concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, the government entreated the Bush administration to release him.
If the British government continues to insist on railroading an Australian citizen into an American prison or worse, then there are a wide range of actions that the Australian government can take to secure his return to Australian jurisdiction.
It would only do so, however, under conditions of the greatest pressure produced by the mobilisation of the working class. Under both Labor and the Liberal-National Coalition governments, the Australian state has demonstrated its hostility to Assange and WikiLeaks.
The article cited above is spot on when it says:
The Australian state has undeniable means at its disposal to extricate an Australian citizen and journalist from persecution. It can act to return him to Australian territory and provide him with an unconditional guarantee that he will not be extradited.
Had the Australian government carried out its basic duty of care as suggested in the above quote and as it had towards Peter Greste, also cited in the article, this whole shameful episode could have been ended years ago.
Every Australian voter, who shares our concerns about Julian Assange, should ask of his local member of Parliament, what he/she has done to help Julian Assange during his last six years of imprisinment. He/she should also ask of every candidate, seeking his/her vote in the next federal election, how he/she intends to help Julian Assange once elected.
Other rallies for Julian Assange in Sri Lanka and India - #whyNotMelbourneAlso">Why not Melbourne also?
The Socialist Equity Party must be applauded for publicising Julian Assange on the pages of the World Socialist Web Site and for taking the intiative to organise this rally in Sydney. However, I am sure that a good many others in other parts of Australia - Brisbane, Townsville, where Julian Assange was born, Melbourne, where he spent more than 15 years of his life before leaving Australia, Canberra, etc. - would also like to show their support.
Unless another rally is officially called in the meantime, those, in Melbourne, who want to show their support for Julian Assange could, perhaps, at 1pm on Sunday 17 June, the same time as the Sydney rally, assemble, with placards and leafleats, on the steps of the Victorian State Library as supporters of Syria did on Monday 30 April.
Appendix: Video from RT article
In the video embedded above, Bob Beckel, a former presidential strategist calls for the U.S. to "illegally shoot the son-of-a-bitch". Also, in that video, another spokesman for the U.S. government said of Julian Assange "that if we catch you, we're going to hang you."
 Two rulings by the United Nations have found the detention of Juian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy to have been illegal. So, figures in the the Swedish government, the British government, including Prime Minister Theresa May, and others complicit in the detention of Julian Assange since 19 June 2012, almost 12 years ago, have broken international law and should face trial before the International Criminal Court for their actions.
On 23 June, just prior to the vote on whether Britain should leave the European Union (referred to as 'Brexit'), Paul Craig Roberts (pictured right) put the case for Brexit in a 30 minute interview with Richie Allen (pictured left).
The interview is embedded below as a YouTube video. This 30 minute interview, provides clear, compelling arguments as to why it is urgently necessary for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, not only to preserve its national sovereignty, but to prevent the war against Russia planned by the rulers of the United States. In the interview Paul Craig Roberts also confronts, and thoroughly demolishes, claims by those arguing for Britain to remain in the European Union, that those advocating Brexit are racist and xenophobic.
He puts clearly and succinctly the arguments that everybody has the right to control the numbers of people entering their community. It is not unreasonable for a community to object to large numbers of people from a different culture suddenly moving into their midst.
Paul Craig Roberts argues that while the British and other Europeans are right to object to as sudden high influx of refugees and immigrants, they should remember that these people are fleeing their own countries because of wars that the rulers of Europe and Britain have inflicted upon their countries.
Paul Craig Roberts "NATO Wants Britain In the European Union For War with Russia. Vote LEAVE Today!"
Updates (18/8/15) : 1. "Julian Assange and the Value of WikiLeaks: Subverting Illusions" (17/8/15) | Global Research republished from Roots Action, 2. Manning barred from legal library before solitary confinement hearing (17/8/15) | RT.
This article has been adapted from the original article which was published on RT on 10 Aug 2015. The fate awaiting Julian Assange should he be extradited to the United States is indicated by the treatment of fellow whistleblower Chelsea Manning at the hands of the United States Government. See Chelsea Manning faces indefinite solitary confinement, lawyer says (13/8/15) | RT.
A member of Assange's legal team, Jen Robinson, says that a number of important questions have been raised, adding that "Julian hasn't been charged, yet he is being punished."
"First, they refused to take his testimony while he remained in Sweden. Then they refused to hear it in the UK, saying it was illegal to come here. Five years later, after being rebuked by their own courts, they say they'll consider it," she told the Press Association.
"Instead of hearing what he had to say, the prosecutor chose to cast a shadow of suspicion over Julian by seeking his extradition. We offered his testimony from London before the arrest warrant was issued, and have continued to offer it since."
In March, the Swedish director of public prosecutions, Marianne Ny, agreed to question Assange on Ecuadorian embassy soil, as the sexual assault allegations reach the statute of limitations in August.
However, the meeting planned for June 17 was called off at the last minute, as Ny said Sweden had not received official permission from Ecuador to enter its London embassy. Assange scorned Ny's decision, saying it was nothing more than "a public relations exercise."
Meanwhile, UK human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell#fn1" id="txt1"> 1 said that by agreeing to interview 44 people in the UK, but not Assange, Sweden was "guilty of double standards and victimization," adding they are "making an exception of him."
"It is wrong to deny Assange the option to be interviewed in the UK, which has been extended to others and which he has been offering for five years," the Press Association cited him as saying.
"The Swedish authorities are not applying the law about overseas interviews consistently and fairly. They are acting in an exceptional and discriminatory way towards Assange. Julian Assange has been in various forms of detention for five years, without ever having been charged with any offence. This amounts to pre-trial punishment and is a gross abuse of his human rights and the legal system."
If Assange steps out of the Ecuador Embassy, he will be arrested and extradited to Sweden. Police officers are keeping a round the clock watch on the Australian's refuge, which has already cost the British tax payer more than £12 million ($18.6 million).
"Will the Cameron government spend another £12 million to detain a person who hasn't been charged, simply because Sweden refuses to make use of the mechanisms available to resolve Julian's case?" Robinson asked.
The 43 year-old sought asylum in the embassy because he fears that his extradition to Sweden on suspicion of rape and sexual assault will lead to his transfer to the US, where he could face trial over WikiLeaks' publication of classified US documents.
Assange denies Sweden's accusations, calling them politically motivated. He claims that the ultimate goal of this legal process is to transfer him to the United States.
Whilst much of the content on Peter Tatchell's web-site, including his defence of Julian Assange, is laudable, other content on his site, unfortunately repeats the lying narrative of the mainstream media. Examples can be found in Iran nuclear deal: Why aren't we talking about Iranian human rights abuses? (23/7/15):
The country's rulers have ambitions to be a regional and, eventually global, power. Having nuclear weapons would give them leverage and a place at the top table in international affairs. Tehran calculates that the world would have to take them seriously, and would not be able to pressure them, if they had the bomb.
Iran's desire for expanded geo-political influence in the Middle East echoes the existing US and Saudi Arabian influence in the region. The ayatollahs are already projecting their power beyond their own borders; supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and Assad in Syria.
Whatever may be the truth behind Peter Tatchell's claims that Iran persecutes gays in the above article and elsewhere, the scale of the alleged persecution seems trivial compared to mass killings in neighbouring Iraq since 1990 and Syria since 2011 at the hands of United States military and its proxy terrorists. See Former US Attorney General: US (& Australian) sanctions against Iraq are genocidal (Jan 2014).
I could find nothing about any of this on Peter Tatchell's web-site.
Those rightly outraged at the murder of Tori Johnson and the death of Katrina Dawson on 16 December at the end of the Martin Place siege and at the murder of 11 people on 7 January 2015 in Paris by terrorists (see #appendix1">embedded Syrian Girl video) should also contemplate the fact that, since March 2011, the people of Syria have suffered terrorism on a scale which is vastly greater than these two tragedies. Since March 2011, they have faced an invasion by hordes of foreign terrorists coming from almost every corner of the globe and not just the Arab world. These invaders have been paid for and supplied by the United States, its European allies and its allies amongst the Arab dictatorships including Saudi Arabia and Qatar. So far, over 200,000 Syrians have been killed at the hands of these terrorists. As a consequence, the Syrian government has demanded of the United Nations act against the terrorists' sponsors.
The article below was previous published in SANA (12/4/15).
Damascus, SANA – Syria demanded deterrent measures by the United Nations against the terrorist organizations and the states backing and sponsoring them.
The Syrian demand was expressed in two identical letters which the Foreign and Expatriates Ministry addressed to Chairman of the UN Security Council and UN Secretary General on Sunday.
It was prompted by the bloody terrorist rocket attacks which hit Aleppo city yesterday, leaving heavy casualties of at least 19 civilians dead and scores of others wounded and causing massive material damage.
The new crime, the letters said, came as a response from the regimes of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Jordan to the "important" outcomes that were reached at the latest Moscow inter-Syrian talks.
In their "clear message" delivered by their agents of the so-called "moderate opposition", those regimes have sought to foil any political solution that could be reached by the Syrians themselves without foreign interference, the letters added.
The Foreign Ministry dismissed the claim of those and other countries of them sending "non-lethal" weapons to the terrorists, stressing that a new type of destructive weapons seemed to have been used in Aleppo attack.
Several four-story buildings were completely demolished, falling on their inhabitants’ heads, according to the letters.
The Ministry blamed the continuation of terrorist acts on those countries which have not ceased providing direct support to the Takfiri terrorist organizations, including the notorious Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusra, in addition to the so-called "Free Army", "Islam Army", "Islamic Front", "Liwa al-Fateh", "Ahrar al-Sham Movement", "Al-Ansar Front", etc.
Striking out at this continued support, the Ministry said the terrorist organizations would not have been capable of launching such bloody attacks, was it not for those countries shielding these organizations against punishment and continuing to supply them with weapons and explosives.
It named France, Britain, Jordan and the US as accomplices in backing the terrorists.
The Ministry demanded a Security Council non-politicized action towards enforcing counterterrorism resolutions in deeds not only in words.
The Security Council, it said, is also called upon to cooperate and coordinate with the Syrian government, which "has been combating terrorism for years on behalf of the entire world people."
The Syria government, the Ministry said, stresses dodged determination to continue fighting terrorism in Syria and defend its people by virtue of its constitutional responsibilities.
#appendix1" id="appendix1">Appendix 1: "The Charlie Hebdo Attacks Exposed" by the Syrian Girl
#related" id="related">Appendix 2: Other related articles
Land Destroyer | Syria: America's Democratic Terrorists? (10/4/15), VoltaireNet | Western wars have killed four million Muslims since 1990 (11/4/15), Global Research | Syria at the UN: US, Britain, France, Jordan Refuse to Name ISIL as “Separate Terror Group" (11/4/15), Global Research | Syria: "Al-Qaeda Linked Rebels" Are Al-Qaeda (13/4/15), Global Research | Israel moves to Cover-up its alliance with al-Qaeda in Syria (14/4/15), PressTV | Turkey, Saudis to form anti-Syria military alliance: Report (14/4/15).
Syrian Fee Press | Israeli [occupation] army admits aiding al-Qaeda in Syria (12/4/15) – Asa Winstanley. Whilst informative it dismisses some 'conspiracy theories' about the Syrian conflict:
Popular conspiracy theories have it that al-Qaeda and the “Islamic State” (also known as DAESH, ISIS or ISIL) are Israeli- and/or US-intelligence creations.
While there’s no evidence for that, it’s certainly true that the US-UK invasion of Iraq in 2003, and its consciously sectarian occupation regime of the country thereafter, created the conditions in which al-Qaeda in Iraq (later known as ISIS) was formed and thrived. Veteran journalist Patrick Cockburn demonstrates this most convincingly in his essential new book The Rise of Islamic State, which I have previously lauded here.
From my recent viewing of some of the articles about the Syria conflict to which Asa seems to be referring, a conspiracy by the United States and its allies to set up ISIS as a bogus extremist 'anti-west' army to undermine popular domestic opposition to war seems to be a highly plausible explanation of the recent course of events. However, having read these words by Asa Winstanley, I will have to re-examine these articles more closely.
Another irritating feature of this article and so much other material which otherwise seems to be strongly opposed to the United States' planned aggression against Syria, is its insistence on labeling of the Syrian government a 'regime' :
Hizballah (my spelling is 'Hezbollah' - Ed) and Iran, allies of the Bashar al-Assad regime, are aiding the government in Syria and fighting on the ground alongside Syrian army troops against al-Qaeda, the “Islamic State” and other Sunni rebel groups.
Could Asa be truly unaware that on 4 June 20914, Syrians overwhelmingly endorsed President Bashar al-Assad in presidential elections, as attested to by four International observers at a United Nations Press conference. See Global Research | Syria's press conference the United Nations doesn't want you to see (20/6/15) with embedded 52:45min video, republished on Candobetter.
Comedian Russell Brand condemned Fox News as a "fanatical terrorist propaganda organization" during a heated, 10-minute tirade recorded on video and uploaded to the web this week.
The 39-year-old British stand-up comic-turned-actor is now making headlines for the video footage, which was uploaded to his personal YouTube channel on Tuesday this week under the title: Is Fox News More Dangerous than Isis?
Throughout the duration of the clip, Brand responded with sheer outrage to recent remarks made on-air by Fox host Jeanine Pirro, a former prosecutor, who said during a broadcast of her program last weekend that the United States should bomb Iraq en masse in order to eliminate the growing insurgency there that has cause an international crisis.
"When they do these bombings, it creates more insurgents, that's what creates them," Brand responded. "Don't think of a bomb as going down there and destroying stuff, think of it as like a seed that goes into the ground, and grows insurgents out of it, it creates more terrorism, doing it."
"I think that the mainstream media likes to control the parameters of debate so important ideas never reach mainstream ideology. Because if people knew what was happening, they wouldn't tolerate it; if people knew how exploited they were. Ignorance is a necessary ingredient for oppression," he said.
This article was originally published on Russia Today 16 August 2013 with the disclaimer, "The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT." Whilst on-line news services such as Russia Today Press TV are good sources from which to learn the truth, particularly about the conflict in Syria, which is contrary to what we are fed from the mainstream news media (msm), they unfortunately mirror the msm's political correctness in regard to immigrants and claimed asylum seekers. A substantial number of articles from such news services have reported on the plight of prospective immigrants attempting to enter countries such as Canada, the United States, Europe and Australia, without regard to the already dire economic circumstance of many native inhabitants of those countries, which can only be made worse by the arrival of more immigrants also seeking shelter in a tight housing market and employment where unemployment is already high. This article by Tony Gosling is a welcome change from Russia Today's usual political correctness on the immigration question. A similar viewpoint was recently put by Australian Labor Party MP Kelvin Thomson at the inaugural meeting of Victoria First on 1 December 2013.
Britain's shadow minister for borders and immigration, Labour's Chris Bryant, promised to take on the big corporations this week. But as his embargoed speech was leaked to big business, the nation watched his political resolve melt into nothing.
Friends and corporate funders of the ruling Conservative-led coalition have been sacking thousands of workers. They then market those same jobs to cheaper foreign workers, bringing misery to Labour's traditional working-class supporters.
Frequently those jobs are not even advertised in the UK. Former employees have to re-apply for their old jobs so long as they're prepared to accept worse pay and conditions.
Standing nervously behind the workers directly hit by this practice are millions of other apprehensive wage earners. They can see how this further corrodes what has become an increasingly brutal job market.
It is the dedication of staff, not just how much they're paid, that determines how good a service the public receives. Staff who know they can be sacked at the drop of a hat do what they are told by their managers out of fear, rather than respect. Before long that culture of fear impacts on everything a business touches.
From the voice on the phone, through quality control, to the customer facing staff, as the company's commitment to the employee goes down, so the glue that holds the business together starts to come unstuck.
The figures, of course, look good on paper. Boardroom presentations with those efficiency graphs zigzagging gradually up accompanied by photographs of smiling staff in neatly-pressed uniforms.
But as well-paid lobbyists for these multinationals successfully demand the erosion of employment rights, trust in these cost-cutting companies is undermined. Trust doesn't figure on the balance sheet, but it's the only truly important quality a company has (or doesn't have).
Britain's opposition Labour party immigration minister, Chris Bryant.(Reuters / Luke MacGregor)
Britain's opposition Labour party immigration minister, Chris Bryant.(Reuters / Luke MacGregor)
This is one of the chief reasons why recruitment agency Office Angels found last week that over half of Britons in work want out of their present job, for the first time in decades. Off the balance sheet again: an unhappy company is a bad company.
Practices like these are turning the UK into a "conscript economy". Thirty years of retreat from Labour's 1970s policy of full employment has tipped the balance between employer and employee off the scales, until the employer holds all the cards.
Yet, despite the slump, there seems no let-up in the flood of economic migrants moving to Britain. Last week's net migration figures show that in the year to June 2012, 165,000 people, or nearly 500 a day, moved to the UK.
On New Year's Day 2014, Bulgarians and Romanians too are about to be allowed to work in the UK — boosting the net figure to over 200,000.
This influx is doubly bad, cutting both ways into UK disposable incomes. It helps keep house prices artificially high, and wages artificially low. So Labour has realized that not all critics of immigration are racists and, we are told, is seeing the error of its ways.
Party chiefs, for the first time, have been weighing the rights of the British worker who loses their job against the right of the migrant to work anywhere in the EU. Weighing up, too, the good work an immigrant worker might do, against the cost to the British taxpayer of yet another British family on the dole.
So, for Britain's opposition party, standing up for dwindling employment rights should have been an open goal.
Yes, migrant labor is justified and welcome when a country has full employment but with, for millions, wages not enough to live on and real unemployment hovering around 10 percent, to low-paid workers bringing in migrant labor just drives them further into poverty.
So Labour's Chris Bryant was going to weigh in this week to explain that Her Majesty's Opposition now thought it was wrong. A plea both to the origins of the Labour Party, standing up for the victims of cruel and greedy bosses... and to pragmatism. That it wasn't racist to discourage economic migration.
Reuters / Andrew Winning
"Take the case of Tesco, who recently decided to move their distribution centre...." he was due to say, "...staff at the original site, most of them British, were told that they could only move to the new centre if they took a cut in pay. The result? A large percentage of the staff at the new centre are from the Eastern bloc."
But Tesco's friends in the London media tipped them off with a leaked copy of the speech, so after a call to Labour Party headquarters from Tesco this became:
"Take Tesco. A good employer and an important source of jobs in Britain... Yet when a distribution centre was moved to a new location existing staff said they would have lost out by transferring and the result was a higher proportion of staff from A8 countries... Tesco are clear they have tried to recruit locally."
Rarely do we get the opportunity to see so transparently how meek our politicians have become in the face of corporate lobbying. Tory Tesco effectively rewriting the speech of an opposition politician, no doubt with strong-arming from Labour Party apparatchiks, too.
Bryant's key allegation about the cut in pay disappeared. Instead, Tesco is "a good employer" that has "tried to recruit locally." Dead on the cutting-room floor, too, is another fact that many low-paid UK jobs are not even advertised in Britain any more.
To the tune most of us know as "Oh, Christmas Tree" or "Tannenbaum," Labour Party activists used to traditionally sing "Let's Keep the Red Flag Flying Here" on May Day, which called for a worldwide, worker-managed utopia with no borders. But when the Labour Party is no longer allowed to criticize practices that take food out of children's mouths, throw hard-working people out of a job, and possibly onto the streets, that party may as well pack its bags.
If the present leadership is not purged, Labour may go the whole hog and, as in Greece, show its true blue colors by going into a formal coalition with the big corporations.
When I recently re-read my article
Murdoch media contradicts itself on immigration of 18 Feb 09, I found that the articles in the Murdoch Press I had cited and linked to from that article were no longer available on-line. (See also, my comments at the end of that article.) If publishers are not prepared to preserve copies of documents published on the Internet, then why should others be prevented from doing so by the copyright laws?
When I recently re-read my article
When I recently re-read my article
"Murdoch media contradicts itself on immigration," of 18 Feb 09 I found that the articles in the Murdoch Press I had cited and linked to from that article were no longer available on-line.
As the title of the article suggests, it showed contradictory information about immigration in three different articles in the Murdoch press. The articles were:
- "Honour for Frank Lowy, king of the malls" in the Australian of 6 Feb 09
- "Rupert Murdoch urges Aust to open door to migrants" in the Courier Mail of 5 Feb 09
- "English expats make Moreton the only Bay in the village" in the Courier Mail of 10 Jan 09
The first two were unambiguously pro-immigration. The first was of a supposed immigration success, Frank Lowy, whose principle contribution to Australia is the building a vast empire of shopping malls which have replaced the publicly owned markets where small retailers could once sell their wares to the public and make a decent living for a fair day's work. Today, small retailers are charged phenomenal rents to able to do business in Lowy's vast concrete mausoleums. The second was a report of the Courier Mail's owner's public lobbying for more immigrants.
The last story, whilst seemingly also of the successful immigration of English immigrants to Australia might have caused many readers to wonder, if high immigration and high population growth were so beneficial, then why did it seem to cause people from a country which had opened its doors to immigration to want to flee from there?
Not wishing to be in breach any copyright laws I limited the amount of material I quoted from those articles in my own.
That was fine, when interested readers could check the articles in full for themselves. However, these excerpts are now all that is left of those articles that candobetter site visitors can easily access. So, they are unable to get more information available in those articles about how the Murdoch organisation has been seeking for some years to impose high immigration on Australia and they are unable to view the article on English immigrants in Moreton Bay in order to better verify my claim that the article bears out my argument that high immigration to the UK has been detrimental to UK residents.
It seems that one effect of copyright laws is to allow important historical documents that could well embarrass some powerful vested interests to go missing.
Perhaps it should be made a condition of granting copyright that the owners of the copyrighted work undertake to preserve the work and on-line access to it at least until such time as anyone who had expressed to the copyright owner interest in having a copy of the work had been given an opportunity to obtain his/her own copy. If the person seeking copyright is not prepared to give such an undertaking then copyright should be refused.
As Australians we pride ourselves with the presumption we live in a democracy, benefiting from the universally accepted principles of 'equality and freedom'.
We are supposed to have a "government of the people, by the people, for the people" [Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865], where our Constitution underscores basic personal and political rights, fair and free elections, and independent courts of law.
Every individual Australian and social group is supposed to have a guarantee of basic human rights. We are supposed to have a separation of powers between the institutions of the state - government [executive power], parliament [legislative power] and Courts of Law [judicative power].
We are supposed to have the freedom of opinion, speech, press and mass media, religious freedom, one person - one vote, and our governments are supposed to exercise good governance in public interest and free of corruption.
Failings of Representative Democracy
In Australia, we are denied direct democracy ('people power'). Why?
Is our political system intended to benefit of the dominant political parties and the interests of their corporate financiers, or the people of Australia?
Why are Australians forced into accepting this lesser standard of 'representative democracy simply due to British commonwealth heritage'?
Elected representatives of the people are supposed to make decisions that represent the wishes of the people, but they don't. Typically in the run up to elections, the political parties nominate their favourite (compliant) candidate and then spend the vast us of money they get from wealthy financiers attached with guarantees of payments in kind (i.e. bribes).
These party brown nosed candidates promise all sorts of things to the electorate which they have targeted from the same funds to pay for professional electorate research. Thee same funds to pay for clever targeted campaigning. Of course the dominant parties get voted in. Independent candidates don't have a democratic chance except once in a blue moon if they have financial resources behind them.
But Australia is not America. Most Australians would disagree that wealth needs to be a condition of entering parliament in order to represent the people. Yet this has become the reality of Australia's electoral process. The two dominant political parties, Labor and Liberal continue to be recipients of obscene levels of financial donations received as inducement for political favours in kind. Such systemic practice is no different to the infamous corruption of nations to Australia's north. It is corruption no less.
Former Prime Minister Ben Chifley, the son of a blacksmith and a train engine driver from Bathurst wouldn't stand a chance in 21st Century Australian millionaire sponsored politics. Yet perhaps like no other Australian prime minister, Chifley remains regarded as one of Australia’s most respected Prime Ministers. Chifley maintained his connections with his electorate at Bathurst until the end of his life. He was born and raised in Bathurst. He held represented the people of the Macquarie Electorate (including Bathurst) throughout his political life. He is buried in Bathurst. Chifley was a true democratic representative of his electorate and he extended this philosophy to his prime ministership of Australia during our uncertain and impoverished post WWII period.
Australia's 'parliamentary democracy' remains a British model adopted over a hundred years ago. It perpetuates an undemocratic dominant two party system allowing the slimmest of majorities control the country, but this is not representing the people.
Australian voters only get an opportunity to choose their representatives once every four years. They base their vote on the promises by their local representative on delivering what most of the people want of their government or the next four years.
But between elections, aside from protests by the Opposition parties and the media screaming to hold the elected representatives accountable for their election promises, voters are denied any say.
Australia's Illiberal Democracy
Australia has a narrower definition of full democracy. It has become less tolerant, less encouraging of real political reform and social progress and less respectful of civil liberties.
Although elections across Australia are conducted fairly, candidate pre-selection and branch stacking is undemocratic, voters are excluded from government agendas, denied any say into party policies, denied any say in drafting legislation, denied any say in constructing government budget priorities. Party politics is where the real political power lies in Australian politics, but this is not democracy.
Our so-called elected representatives keep letting us down. Look at Howard and Rudd! Look at Garrett or Costello! These lot are controlled by their own political party agenda, and Party discipline comes before the wishes of a member of parliament's electorate. Our legislative voting is along party lines, not according to the say of local electoral seats these 'representatives' are supposed to represent.
If every parliamentary lower house and upper house vote was allowed a conscience vote, secret ballot and a vote that represented the wajority wishes of an MP's electorate we perhaps would have genuine democracy, but this doesn't happen. Look what the 'party' did to Liberal Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull when he exercised a conscience vote against Liberal Party policy supporting the government on the Emissions Trading Scheme.
Party gagging policy is more than undemocratic; it is Politburo.
Capable leaders of principle in Australia such as Malcolm Turnbull, Bob Carr, Neville Wran, Andrew Refshauge, Craig Knowles, Laurie Brereton, Petro Georgiou and Graham West are discouraged and discarded by Australia's unprincipled party politics. Any wonder why Australian politics lacks capable leaders. Leaders get more respect in the corporate sector.
Australia has effectively an 'illiberal democracy' - one in which, although elections take place, voters are excluded from the political agenda of party politics, denied any say into party policies, denied any say in drafting legislation, denied any say in constructing government budget priorities. Party politics is where the real political power lies in Australian politics.
In fact we have an illiberal democracy, in which, although elections take place, citizens are cut off from knowledge about the activities of those who exercise real power because of the lack of direct democratic power by the people.
Australia's dominant two political parties are right-wing - economically liberal and socially conservative. Liberal and Labor are almost indistinguishable in political and social philosophies. They are merely 'Lib-Lab' factions of the same philosophical oligarchy.
Australia's mainstream media are not independent. They are dominated by Murdoch's News Ltd and Fairfax - a similar oligarchy with allegiances to the two dominant political parties. They shape public thinking to the agenda of the major political parties and deliberately omit publishing news and issues not aligned with the interested of these two parties.
Australian are denied a bill of rights or human rights act. The dominant parties argue that rights are already well protected in Australia in the Constitution, the Courts and by our parliamentary processes an freedoms. But Australian law does not recognise universal human rights in Australia. Look at the treatment of asylum seekers and anyone suspected of being a terrorist by ASIO or anyone suspected of being a member of a 'bikie' gang in South Australia. Such people can be detained without charge by police just like they are in dictatorships.
Most Australians are denied fair access to our legal system because of its prohibitive cost. Parliamentary laws are increasingly made to give absolute discretion to the minister of the day, who make party political decisions. Development planning and environmental legislation are current examples at both federal and state levels. There may well be separation of powers between the government and the courts, but increasing legislation is being drafted to remove the discretionary powers of the judiciary - again especially in relation to development planning and environmental legislation.
We are supposed to have the freedom of opinion, speech, press and mass media, yet the Australian Communications and Media Authority controls and regulates broadcasting, radio communications and telecommunications and Internet content standards. Currently, the current federal Labor Government is proposing to implement pervasive Internet filtering legislation which will censor all online content.
Australian governments do not exercise good governance. They waste countless billions of public moneys (Rudd's failed insulation scheme, Defence spending wastage, school building programme associated with Rudd's Education Revolution).
And Australian governments have recurring history of corruption.
The abuse of privilege and parliamentary code of conduct by NSW Labor's MP in Penrith, Karen Paluzzano and Minister Ian MacDonald do not send a positive message to the electorate that NSW Labor can be trusted.
Australian Political Reform
What is needed is political reform in Australia. This has many dimensions. The first step is that Australians need to translate their dissatisfaction with the dominant parties, their frustration with the political process, their dis-empowerment by being in 'safe seats', their disillusionment with repeated broken election promises into calls for political reform.
Enough is enough!
Sir Winston Churchill may well have famously said, "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried", but British style constitutional democracy has evolved since the Magna Carta. Why stop evolving it?
Electoral Mandate Imperative
We need a overriding 'electoral mandate' enshrined in the Australian Constitution.
Although Australian elections are not rigged like in Nigeria or Sri Lanka, Australia has a history of gerrymandering, of branch stacking, and a system of party pre-selection for representative candidates.
Preselection of political party candidates for Australian electoral seats at both state and federal level, are appointed typically by a selection committee with a political party which sets rules and conditions for candidates to ensure the agenda of the party is perpetuated. It is a party within a party - a faction. It perpetuates its own party power and influence by choosing who it lets in.
The people of the electorate have no say in the process. In many cases even the rank and file party membership has no say in the process. In 2003, the factional Right in NSW Labor 'installed' Tanya Gadiel, a staffer in Police Minister Michael Costa's office, as Labor's candidate for the 'safe' Labor electoral seat of Parramatta. The electorate were denied a say. Even the rank and file membership of Labor's Parramatta branch were denied a say. The popular former Mayor of Parramatta, David Borger, was cast aside because he belonged to Labor's left faction. Preselection perpetuates political factionalism. It ignores merit and favours cronyism. It is undemocratic.
Political party 'safe seats' practically guarantee power retention by one of the dominant political parties. The federal seat of Kingsford Smith in southern Sydney has long been a safe Labor seat. It was held by Labor's former Deputy Prime Minister Lionel Bowen between 1969-90. Bowen handed over the keys to Laurie Brereton who was a prominent cabinet minister in Keating Ministry. Before retiring in 2004, Labor engineered the local numbers to allow Peter Garret to win pre-selection,who has become Labor's federal environment minister.
Australia's sense of electoral mandate has been eroded by governments not being legally held to account when they break their electoral promises.
Just what do elections entrust governments to do? What are the parameters of that trust?
What happens when those parameters are exceeded mid-term or simply ignored?
At present, nothing! This is undemocratic and unacceptable.
Former Prime Minister John Howard's distinction between 'core and non-core promises' were unacceptable. The concept of a politician at election time making non-core promises is to mislead the electorate. Similarly, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's claim that only his scripted remarks can be taken as "gospel truth" but "in the heat of discussion you go a little bit further", also unacceptable.
Australians have a right to expect and rely on the promises and undertakings made by politicians. Australians have a right to expect their elected representatives will rightfully represent them in parliament, will listen to their needs, be ethical, respect Australian values, exercise their delegated power with due diligence and appropriate governance.
Politicians and political parties have a moral contract with the people when making electoral promises. That moral contract needs to be enshrined in law. Broken promises and exceeding promised parameters constitute a breach of electoral contract and this needs to start triggering re-elections.
Source of illustration
The only way the global sustainability and justice predicament can be solved is via something like the inspiring Transition Towns movement. However thought needs to be given to a number of themes or it might fail to achieve significant goals.
The Transition Towns movement began only about 2005 and is growing rapidly. It emerged in the UK mainly in response to the realisation that the coming of “peak oil” is likely to leave towns in a desperate situation, and therefore that it is very important that they strive to develop local economic self sufficiency.
What many within the movement probably don’t know is that for decades some of us in the “deep green” camp have been arguing that the key element in a sustainable and just world has to be small, highly self sufficient, localised economies under local cooperative control. (See my Abandon Affluence, published in1985, and The Conserver Society, 1995.)
It is therefore immensely encouraging to find that this kind of initiative is not only underway but booming. I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that if this planet makes it through the next 50 years to sustainable and just ways it will be via some kind of Transition Towns process. However I also want to argue that if the movement is to have this outcome there are some very important issues it must think carefully about or it could actually come to little or nothing of any social significance. I want to suggest l below that there is a need for a much more focused and detailed action strategy, giving clearer guidance to newcomers, and following a much more radical vision than seems to be informing the movement at present.
My comments won’t make much sense unless I first make clear the perspective on the global situation my comments derive from. Most people would reject this view as being too extreme.
Where we are, and the way out.
The many alarming global problems now crowding in and threatening to destroy us are so big and serious that they cannot be solved within or by consumer-capitalist society. The way of life we have in rich countries is grossly unsustainable and unjust. There is no possibility of the “living standards” of all people on earth ever rising to rich world per capita levels of consumption of energy, minerals, timber, water, food, phosphorous etc. These rates of consumption are generating the numerous alarming global problems now threatening our survival. Yet most people have no idea of the magnitude of the overshoot, of how far we are beyond a sustainable levels of resource use and environmental impact. ln addition our way of life would not be possible if rich countries were not taking far more than their fair share of world resources, via an extremely unjust global economy, and thereby condemning most of the world’s people to deprivation.
Given this analysis of out situation, there must be transition to a very different kind of society, one not based on globalisation, market forces, the profit motive, centralisation, representative democracy, or competitive, individualistic acquisitiveness. Above all it must be a zero-growth economy, and most difficult of all, it cannot be an affluent society.
However almost everyone in the mainstream, from politicians, economists and bureaucrats down to ordinary people, totally fails to recognise any of this and proceeds on the comforting delusion that with more effort and technical advance we can solve problems like greenhouse without jeopardising our high “living standards” or the market economy or the obsession with growth. Our fundamental problem therefore is one of ideology or consciousness. Most people in this society are a very long way from having the understandings and values required for transition. Most seem not to know or care that they live as well as they do because the global economy is extremely unjust, or that affluence and growth are incompatible with ecological survival. Changing that consciousness is the key to transition.
I have appendixed some of the support for this perspective on out global situation. A more detailed account can be found at http://ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/
Given the above view of our situation, we must work for transition to a very different kind of society. I refer to it as The Simpler Way. Its core principles must be
- Far simpler material living standards
- High levels of self-sufficiency at household, national and especially neighbourhood and town levels, with relatively little travel, transport or trade. There must be mostly small, local economies in which most of the things we need are produced by local labour from local resources.
- Basically cooperative and participatory local systems,
- A quite different economic system, one not driven by market forces and profit, and in which there is far less work, production, and consumption, and a large cashless sector, including many free goods from local commons. There must be no economic growth at all. There must be mostly small local economies, under our control via participatory systems.
- Most problematic, a radically different culture, in which competitive and acquisitive individualism is replaced by frugal, self-sufficient collectivism.
Some of the elements within The Simpler Way are, -- mostly small and highly self-sufficient local economies with many little firms, ponds, animals, farms, forests throughout settlements – participatory democracy via town assemblies – neighbourhood workshops – many roads dug up – “edible landscapes” providing free fruit and nuts – being able to get to decentralised workplaces by bicycle or on foot voluntary community working bees – committees - many productive commons in the town (fruit, timber, bamboo, herbs…) – having to work for money only one or two days a week – no unemployment – living with many artists and crafts people – strong community --small communities making many of the important development and administration decisions.
Simple traditional alternative technologies will be quite sufficient for many purposes, especially for producing houses, furniture, food and pottery. Much production will take place via hobbies and crafts, small farms and family enterprises. However modern/high technologies and mass production can be used extensively where appropriate, including IT. The Simpler Way will free many more resources for purposes like medical research than are devoted to these at present, because most of the present vast quantity of unnecessary production will be phased out.
There could still be many small private firms, and market forces could have a role, but the economy must be under firm social control, via local participatory processes. Thus local town meetings would make the important economic decisions in terms of what’s best for the town and its people and environment. Rational assessments of basic necessities would be the main determinants of economic activity. We would not allow market forces to bankrupt any firm or dump anyone into unemployment. We would make sure everyone had a livelihood. The town would have to work out how to adjust its economy in the best interests of all.
Thus only an Anarchist form of government could work. Only if all participate in making the decisions and implementing them without authoritarian institutions will people enthusiastically contribute to effective town functioning. (There would still be some functions for state and national governments.)
Because we will be highly dependent on our local ecosystems and on our social cohesion, e.g., for most water and food, and for effective committees and working bees, all will have a strong incentive to focus on what is best for the town, rather than on what is best for themselves as competing individuals. Cooperation and conscientiousness will therefore tend to be automatically rewarded, whereas in consumer society competitive individualism is required and rewarded.
What we will be doing is building a new economy, Economy B, under the old one. Economy B will give us the power to produce the basic goods and services we need not just to survive as the old economy increasingly fails to provide, but to give all a high quality of life. The old economy could collapse and we would still be able to provide for ourselves.
Advocates of the Simpler Way believe that its many benefits and sources of satisfaction would provide a much higher quality of life than most people experience in consumer society.
It must be emphasised that The Simpler Way is not optional. If our global situation is as has been argued then a sustainable and just society in the coming era of scarcity has to be some kind of Simpler Way.
In my view the contradiction between consumer-capitalist society and The Simpler Way is so enormous that we are unlikely to make it. Nevertheless it is clear what we must try to do. Following are a few of the key points to consider in the discussion of transition strategy.
There is not much to be gained by trying to fight against the present system directly. Not only is it far too powerful and the dissenting forces far too weak, there isn’t time to beat it in head-on conflict. More importantly, even if we could for instance take state power, either by violent revolution or green parliamentary action, it would not be of any value to us whatsoever. State power cannot build self sufficient, self-governing local economies full of conscientious, responsible, creative, happy citizens. If the old industrial centralised system was still a viable model for a post-revolutionary society then maybe coups and revolutions and rule from the top might be relevant – but that model is irrelevant now.
Transition must therefore be a grass roots process whereby people slowly develop the consciousness, the skills, the local systems and infrastructures that will enable ordinary people to come together to run their own local communities. Much diminished state governments could have a valuable although secondary role, but we will have to do most of the thinking, work and learning ourselves in the towns and suburbs where we live. This is a basically Anarchist vision, and given the need for localism, frugality, participation, cooperation etc. set by the coming era of intense scarcity, we will have no choice about this.
The good society can and must be, as the Anarchists say, “prefigured”. We can begin now building aspects of it here within the failing old system, and indeed there is no other way to get from where we are to the kinds of settlements and systems we must have eventually.
There is no chance of significant change while the supermarket shelves remain well-stocked. Almost everyone will stolidly plod on purchasing, watching sport and playing electronic games until scarcity hits with a jolt. However, as the old systems run into more serious problems, people will come across to join us, realising that we are enjoying the benefits of the new ways. When oil starts to get seriously scarce people will see that they must either take up our examples or starve.
This revolution could therefore be smooth and non-violent. If we are lucky the old system will more or less just die away as people “ignore it to death”. The super-rich will resist desperately but without oil and confronted by millions of scattered people in their towns and suburbs doing their own thing they will have little capacity to stop us.
It is therefore of the utmost importance that we get the alternative examples up and running. Nothing will be more persuasive than pockets here and there where The Simpler Way can be seen as being lived and enjoyed within mainstream towns and suburbs.
Until around 2000 the basic pioneering work had been done by the Global Eco-village Movement. It’s possibly thousands of small communities have shown that a better way is possible. However the world’s soon-to-be 9 billion people cannot all form Eco-villages on green field sites. What they can do, however is transform the settlements they are living in into Eco-villages. And this is what the Transition Towns movement is in principle about.
The Transition Towns Movement.
The Transition Towns movement has emerged very rapidly and is spreading around the world. Towns in the UK have led the way, the best known being Totness. Although Rob Hopkins and his colleagues seems rightly to receive most of the credit for getting the movement going, its rapid spread testifies to a strong general grass roots readiness to take up the idea. There are now towns in several other countries joining the movement, including Australia and New Zealand. The website is inspiring, linking to many towns and projects, reflecting energy and enthusiasm. A handbook and other documents have been published.
The key concept referred to is building town “resilience” in the face of the coming peak oil crisis. The kinds of activities being taken up include, “re-skilling” whereby courses are run on things like bread baking, the planting of commons, e.g., nut trees on public land, local food production and marketing, especially community supported agriculture, and the encouragement of volunteering. These are not new ideas of course, but it is important that they are being linked together in whole town strategies for resilience. Notable is the fact that these initiatives have not come from states, governments or official bodies, but from ordinary people.
Despite my enthusiasm, I have serious concerns about the movement and I want to suggest some issues that require careful thought. If we do not get them right the movement could very easily end up making no significant contribution to solving the global problem.
Goals? Only building havens?
First there is the danger that it will only be a Not-In-My-Backyard phenomenon, that it will be about towns trying to insulate themselves from the coming time of scarcities and troubles. This is a quite different goal to working to replace consumer-capitalist society. It is not much good if your town bakes its own bread or even generates much of its own electricity, while it goes on importing hardware and appliances produced in China and taking holidays abroad. It will still indirectly be using considerable amounts of coal and oil in the goods it imports. The wider national society on which it depends for law, postal services, security etc. cannot continue as it is unless it maintains the Third World empire from which it draws so much wealth. Unless we eventually change all that then our Transition Towns will remain part of consumer-capitalist society, and will go down when it goes down.
In other words, given the view of the global situation sketched above the top concern must be to work to make sure the movement is explicitly, consciously and primarily about nothing less than contributing to global transition away from consumer-capitalist society. That kind of society is the cause of our problems, it is leading us to catastrophe, it is not possible for all, it is only possible for us because the Third World is plundered, and it destroys the environment. It condemns billions to dreadful conditions. Our top priority must be to replace it, as distinct from making our town “resilient” in the face of the trouble it is causing. This vision is not evident in the Transition Towns movement literature or in its web sites. If it was the movement would probably be much less popular.
Does this mean I should accept that I want to see a quite different movement, one that is for quite different goals, and therefore I should back off and not lecture the existing movement that its goals are mistaken, and go form my own? Perhaps this is so, but my hope obviously is that the existing movement will be willing to endorse goals that are wider and more critical/radical than they are at present. If it doesn’t then I don’t think it will make much difference to the fate of the planet. I have thought in terms of a Simpler Way Transition Strategy whereby we try to work within Transition Towns initiatives to get the broader vision and goals accepted. The practical involvement in building town self-sufficiency is the best means for doing that.
What are the sub-goals? The lack of guidance.
The website, the handbook and especially the 12 Steps document are valuable, but they are predominantly about procedure and it is remarkably difficult to find clear guidance as to what the sub-goals of the movement are, the actual structures and systems and projects that we should be trying to undertake if our town is to achieve transition or resilience. What we desperately need to know is what things should we start trying to set up, what should we avoid, what should come first. Especially important is that we need to be able to seethe causal links, to understand why setting up this venture will have the effect of creating greater town resilience. But unfortunately people coming to the movement eager to get started will find almost no guidance in the current literature as to what to actually try to do, let alone anything like a suggested plan of action with steps and do’s and don’ts and clear explanation of why specific projects will have desirable effects.
The advice and suggestions you do find in the literature are almost entirely about how to establish the movement (e.g., “Awareness raising”, “Form subgroups”, “Build a bridge to local government”), as distinct from how to establish things that will actually, obviously make the town more resilient. There is some reference to possibilities, such as set up community supported agriculture schemes, but we are told little more than that we should establish committees to look into what might be done in areas such as energy, food, education and health.
The authors of these documents seem to be anxious to avoid prescription and dogma, and it is likely that no one can give certain guidance at this early stage, but that does not mean that advice regarding probably valuable projects should not be offered. The lack is most evident in The Kinsale Energy Descent Plan, which does little more than repeat the process ideas in the 12 steps documents and contains virtually no information or projects to do with energy technology or strategies. It lists some possibilities, such as exploring insulation and the possibility of local energy generation, and reducing the need for transport, but again there is no advice as to what precisely can or might be set up. We need more than this; we need to know l how and why a particular project will make the town more resilient, and we need to know what projects we should start with, what the difficulties and costs might be, etc. Just being told “Create an energy descent plan” (Step 12) doesn’t help much when what we need to know how might we do that.
I suggest some possible concrete projects below, drawn from my tentative thoughts on The Simpler Way Transition Strategy. We might eventually realise this is not a good approach, but they indicate the kind or guidance people coming to the movement must be given. Otherwise we run the risk of people not having much idea what to set up, and rushing into exciting activities that are a waste of time, or becoming disenchanted with the failure to make much difference to the town’s situation.
What should be the top goal? Build a new economy, and run it!
I want to argue that the focal concern of the movement should not be energy and its coming scarcity. Yes all that sets the scene and the imperative, but the solution is not primarily to do with energy. It is to do with developing town economic self-sufficiency. The supreme need is for us to build a radically new economy within our town, and then for us to run it to meet our needs.
It is not oil that sets your greatest insecurity; it is the global economy. lt doesn’t need your town. It will relocate your jobs where profits are greatest. It can flip into recession overnight and dump you and billions of others into unemployment and poverty. It will only deliver to you whatever benefits trickle down from the ventures which maximise corporate profits. It loots the Third World to stock your supermarket shelves. It has condemned much of your town to idleness, in the form of unemployment and wasted time and resources that could be being devoted to meeting urgent needs there. ln the coming time of scarcity it will not look after you. You will only escape that fate if you build a radically new economy in your region, and run it to provide for the people who live there.
All this flatly contradicts the conventional economy. We have to build a local economy, not a national or globalised economy, an economy designed to meet needs not to maximise profits, an economy under participatory social control and not driven by corporate profit, and one guided by rational planning as distinct from leaving everything to the market. This is the antithesis of capitalism, markets, profit motivation and corporate control. Nothing could be more revolutionary. If we don’t plunge into building such an economy we will probably not survive in the coming age of scarcity. The Transition Towns movement will come to nothing of great significance if it does not set itself to build such economies. Either your town will get control of its own affairs and organise local productive capacity to provide for you, or it will remain within and dependent on the mainstream economy, and be dumped.
In other words, the goal here is to build Economy B, a new local economy enabling the people who live in the town to guarantee the provision of basic necessities by applying their labour, land and skills to local resources…all under our control. The old economy A can then drop /dead and we will still be able to provide for ourselves. This kind of vision and goal is not evident in the TT literature and reports I have read. There is no concept of a Community Development Cooperative setting out to eventually run the town economy for the benefit of the people via participatory means. The movement at present implicitly accepts the normal consumer-capitalist economy and merely seeks to become more resilient within it.
The need for coordination, priorities and planning – by a Community Development Co-op
If we focus on the goal of local economic developed run by us to meet our needs we realise we must somehow set up mechanisms which enable us to work out and operate a plan. It will not be ideal if we proclaim the importance of town self-sufficiency and then all run off as individuals to set up a bakery here and a garden there. It is important that there be continual discussion about what the town needs to set up to achieve its goals, what should be done first, what is feasible, how we might proceed to get the first and the main things done, what are the most important ventures to set up? Of course individual initiatives are to be encouraged but much more important are likely to be bigger projects requiring whole-town effort.
This means that from the early stages we should set up some kind of Community Development Cooperative, a process whereby we can come together often to discuss and think about the town plan and our progress, towards having a coordinated and unified approach that will then help us decide on sub-goals and priorities, and especially on the purposes to which the early working bees will be put. Obviously this would not need to be elaborate or prescriptive and would not mean people would be discouraged from pursuing ventures other than those endorsed by the CDC.
My impression from the Transition Town literature is that this is something that needs urgent attention. Often it seems that inspired and energetic people are doing good things, but as independent “entrepreneurs” and according to their individual interests and skills. There will always be plenty of scope for this and every reason to encourage it, but the most important projects will be collective, public works which provide crucial services for the town. For instance the building of community gardens, sheds, premises for little firms, orchards, ponds, woodlots and the commons from which free food will come are whole-town projects that will be carried out by voluntary committees and working bees. Before these projects could sensibly begin we would need to have thought out at least an indicative plan which included priority, logistical, geographical, feasibility, research, resource etc. considerations.
What should the CDC actually do?
Following is an indication of the kind of projects that I think of as making up The Simpler Way Transition Strategy. These are the kinds of actual projects I had hoped to find in the TTR literature (and some are there).
• Identify the unmet needs of the town, and the unused productive capacities of the town, and bring them together. Set up the many simple cooperatives enabling all the unemployed, homeless, bored, retired, etc. people to get into the community gardens etc. that would enable them to start producing many of the basic things they need. Can we set up co-ops to run a bakery, bike repair shop, home help service, insulating operation, clothes making and repairing operation.... Especially important are the cooperatives to organise leisure resources, the concerts, picnics, dances, festivals? Can we organise a market day?
One of the worst contradictions in the present economy is that it dumps many people into unemployment, boredom, homelessness, "retirement", mental illness and depression – and in the US, watching 4+ hours of TV every day. These are huge productive capacities left idle land wasted. The CDC can pounce on these resources and harness them and enable dumped people to start producing to meet some of their on needs, thereby moving towards the elimination of employment. To do this is to have begun to set up Economy B. We simply record contributions and these entitle people to proportionate shares of the output. (This is to have initiated our own new currency; see below.)
This mechanism puts us in a position to eventually get rid of unemployment – to make sure all who want work and "incomes" and livelihoods can have them. It is absurd and annoying that governments, (and the people in your neighbourhood) tolerate people suffering depression and boredom when we could so easily set up the cooperatives that would enable them to produce things they need and enjoy purpose and solidarity. (Of course any move to do this would be rejected as “socialism”, which we all know does not work.)
• Help existing small firms to move to activities the town needs, setting up little firms and farms and markets. Establish a town bank to finance these ventures. Making sure no one goes bankrupt and no one is left without a livelihood.
• Organise Business Incubators; the voluntary panels of experts and advisers on gardening, small business, arts etc., so that we can get new ventures up and running well.
• Organise the working bees to plant and maintain the community orchards and other commons, build the premises for the bee keeper...and organise the committees to run the concerts and look after old people...
• Research what the town is importing, and the scope for local firms or new co-ops to start substituting local products.
• Decide what things will emphatically not be left for market forces to determine – such as unemployment, what firms we will have, whether fast food outlets will be patronised if they set up. We will not let market forces deprive anyone of a livelihood; if we have too many bakeries we will work out how to redirect one of them. The town gets together to decide what it needs, and to establish these things regardless of what market forces and the profit motive would have done.
• Stress the importance of reducing consumption, living more simply, making, growing, rep-airing, old things… The less we consume in the town the less we must produce or import. Remember, the world can't consume at anything like the rate rich countries average. As well as explaining the importance of reducing consumption the CDC must stress alternative satisfactions and develop these (e.g., the concerts, festivals, crafts…) It can also develop recipes for cheap but nutritious meals, teaching craft and gardening skills, preserving etc. The household economy should be upheld as the centre of our lives and the main source of life satisfaction, more important than career.
• Work towards the procedures for making good town decisions about these developments, the referenda, consensus processes, town meetings.
• Throughout all these activities recognise that our primary concern is to raise consciousness regarding the nature, functioning and unacceptability of consumer-capitalist society and the existence of better ways.
One concern the CDC would have is what not to try to do, or not yet. For instance in my view it is not at all clear that in the early states towns should make much effort to produce their own energy. Producing most forms of renewable energy in significant quantities is difficult and costly. Further, its significance for town independence or resilience is questionable. For instance if your town builds a wind farm this will benefit the nation but is not likely to be of much benefit to the town, other than as an export industry (sending surplus electricity to the grid…without which it could not function.) When the wind is down the town would have to draw from the grid.
More significant however would be the effort to reduce energy consumption, as distinct from increase production, by for instance insulating houses, cutting down on unnecessary production, localising work, cutting town imports, increasing local leisure resources and especially increasing local food production. (The Kinsale Energy Descent Plan recognises this.) Town resilience is going to depend more on the capacity to get to work and produce necessities without using much energy, than on whether the town can produce energy.
The introduction of local currencies.
Although the introduction of our own local currency is very important there is much confusion about local currencies and often proposed schemes would not have desirable effects. There is a tendency to proceed as if just creating a local currency would do wonders, without any thinking through of how it is supposed to work. lt will not have desirable effects unless it is carefully designed to do so. I have serious concerns about the currency schemes being adopted by the Transition Towns movement and I do not think the initiatives I am aware of are going to make significant contributions to the achievement of town resilience. It is not evident that they are based on a rationale that makes sense and enables one to see why they will have desirable effects.
It is most important that we are able to see precisely what general effect the form of currency we have opted for is going to have; we must be able to explain why we are implementing it in view of the beneficial effects it designed to have. To me the main purpose in introducing a currency is to contribute to getting the unused productive capacity of the town into action, i.e., stimulating/enabling increase in output to meet needs. (Another purpose is to avoid the interest charges when normal money is borrowed, but this can’t be done unless the new money is to be used to pay for inputs available in the town; it can’t pay for imported cement for instance.)
Following is the strategy that I think is most valuable. Consider again what happens in the above scenario, when our CDC sets up a community garden and invites people to come and work in it. When time contributions are recorded with the intention of sharing produce later in proportion to contributions, these slips of paper function like an IOU or “promissory note” (although that’s not what they are.). They can be used to “buy” garden produce when it becomes available. They are a form of money which enables everyone to keep track of how much work, producing and providing they have done and how great a claim they have on what’s been produced. The extremely important point about the design and use of this currency is that it helps in getting those idle people into producing to meet some of their own needs. Obviously the introduction of the currency was not the most important element in the process; organising the “firm” was the key factor. Also obvious is the way the currency works; you can see what its desirable effects are. So just introducing a currency of some kind does not necessarily have any desirable effect and it is crucial to do it in a way that you know will have definite and valuable effects.
At a later stage we can use our currency to start trading with firms in the old economy. We can find restaurants for instance willing to sell us meals which we can pay for with our money. They will accept payment in our money if they can then spend that money buying vegetables and labour from us in Economy B. But note that the normal shops in the town cannot accept our money and we in Economy B cannot buy from them, unless there is something we can sell to them. They can’t sell things to us, accepting our money, unless they can use that money. Nothing significant can be achieved unless people acquire the capacity to produce and sell things that others want. So the crucial task here for the Community Development co-op look for things we in Economy B might sell to the normal firms in the town.
Councils can facilitate this process, for example by accepting our new money in part payment of their rates—but again only if there is something they can spend the money on, that is, goods and services they need that we in Economy B can provide. Therefore the CDC must look for these possibilities.
Sometimes it makes sense for a council to issue a currency to enable use of local resources, especially labour, to build an infrastructure without having to borrow and pay interest to external banks. This can only be done for those inputs that are available locally. If for instance the cement for the swimming pool has to be imported then it will have to be paid for in national currency, but it would be a mistake to borrow normal money to pay the workers if they are available in the town. They can be paid in specially printed new money with which they are able to pay (part of) their rates. Note however that the council then has the problem of what to do with these payments. If it burns them the council has actually paid for the pool via reduced normal money rate income, and will have to reduce services to the town accordingly. Better to keep the money perpetually in use within a new Economy B, so those workers and the council can go on providing things to each other.
Now consider some ways of introducing a new currency that will not have desirable effects.
What would happen if the council or a charity just gave a lot of new money to poor people, and got some shops to agree to accept it as payment for goods they sell? The recipients would soon spend it…and be without jobs and poor again. The shops would hold lots of new money…but not be able to spend it buying anything they need. (They could use it to buy from each other, but would have no need to do this, because they were already able to buy the few things they needed from each other using normal money.) Again if things are not to gum up it must be possible for the shopkeepers in the old economy to use their new money purchasing something from those poor people, and that’s not possible unless they can produce things within a new Economy B.
Sometimes the arrangement is for people to buy new notes using normal money. This is just substituting, and achieves nothing for the town economy. What’s the point of people who would have used dollars now buying using “eco”s they have bought? Again there is no effect of bringing unused productive capacity into action.
What about the argument that local currencies encourage local purchasing because they can’t be spent outside the town? This reveals confusion. Anyone who understands the importance of buying local will do so as much as they can, regardless of what currency they have. Anyone who doesn’t will buy what’s cheapest, which is typically an imported item. Obviously what matters here is getting people to understand why it’s important to buy local; just issuing a local currency will make no significant difference.
Similarly, currencies which depreciate with time miss the point and are unnecessary. Anyone who understands the situation does not need to be penalised for holding new money and not spending it. In any case it’s wrong-headed to set out to encourage spending; people should buy as little as they can, and any economy in which you feel an obligation to spend to make work for someone else is not an acceptable economy. In a sensible economy there is only enough work, producing and spending and use of money as is necessary to ensure all have sufficient for a good quality of life.
The TransitionTowns movement is characterised by a remarkable level of enthusiasm and energy. I think this reflects the long pent up disenchantment with consomer-capitalist society and a desire for something better. There is a powerful case that the only way out of the alarming global predicament we are in has to be via a Transition Towns movement of some kind. To our great good fortune one has burst on the scene. But I worry that it could very easily fail to make a significant difference. My hope is that the foregoing thoughts will help to ensure that it does become the means whereby we get through to a sustainable and just world.
Appendix: An indication of the limits to growth case re the global
Consider some basic aspects of our situation. I have detailed this case in several sources including http://ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/ and will only refer here to a few of the main themes.
• If all the estimated 9 billion people likely to be living on earth after 2050 were to consume resources at the present per capita rate in rich countries, world annual resource production rates would have to be about 8 times as great as they are now.
• It is now widely thought that global petroleum supply will peak within a decade, and be down to half the present level by about 2030.
• “Footprint analysis” indicates that the amount of productive land required to provide one person in Australia with food, water, energy and settlement area is about 7- 8 ha. The US figure is closer to 12 ha. If 9 billion people were to live as Australians do, approximately 70 billion ha of productive land would be required. However the total amount available on the planet is only in the region of 8 billion ha. In other words our rich world footprint is about 10 times as big as it will ever be possible for all people to have.
• It is increasingly being thought that in order to prevent dangerous increase in global warming all CO2 emissions will have to be totally eliminated by 2050. There are good reasons for concluding that this is not possible in a consumer society, firstly because the alternative energy sources such as the sun and wind cannot meet demand, (Trainer, 2008) and even if they could there isn’t time to do so.
The point which such figures makes glaringly obvious is that it is totally impossible for all to have the ”living standards” we have taken for granted in rich countries like Australia. We are not just a little beyond sustainable levels of resource demand and ecological impact – we are far beyond sustainable levels.
However the main worry is not the present levels of resource use and ecological impact discussed above, it is the levels we will rise to given the obsession with constantly increasing volumes of production. The supreme goal in all countries is to raise incomes, “living standards” and the GDP as much as possible, constantly and without any idea of a limit. That is, the most important goal is economic growth.
If we assume a) a 3% p.a. economic growth, b) a population of 9 billion, c) all the world’s people rising to the “living standards” we in the rich world would have in 2070 given 3% growth until then, the total volume of world economic output would be 60 times as great as it is now.
So even though the present levels of production and consumption are grossly unsustainable the determination to have continual increase in income and economic output will multiply these towards absurdly impossible levels in coming decades.
Such enormous multiples rule out any possibility that technical advance can enable us to continue the pursuit of growth and affluence while greater energy efficiency, recycling effort, pollution control etc. deals with the resulting resource and ecological impacts.
The second major fault built into our society is that its economic system is massively unjust. We in rich countries could not have anywhere near our present “living standards” if we were not taking far more than our fair share of world resources. Our per capita consumption of items such as petroleum is around 17 times that of the poorest half of the world’s people. The rich 1/5 of the world’s people are consuming around 3/4 of the resources produced. Many people get so little that 800 million are hungry and more than that number have dangerously dirty water to drink. Three billion live on $2 per day or less.
This grotesque injustice is primarily due to the fact that the global economy operates on market principles. In a market need is totally irrelevant and is ignored. Resources and goods go mostly to those who are richer, because they can offer to pay more for them. Thus we in rich countries get almost all of the scarce oil and timber traded, while billions of people in desperate need get none.
Even more importantly, the market system explains why Third World development is so very inappropriate to the needs of Third World people. What is developed is not what is needed; it is always what will make most profit for the few people with capital to invest. Thus there is development of export plantations and cosmetic factories but not development of farms and firms in which poor people can produce for themselves the things they need. Many countries such as Haiti get no development at all because it does not suit anyone with capital to develop anything there…even though they have the land, water, talent and labour to produce most of the things they need for a good quality of life.
These are some of the reasons why conventional development can be regarded as a form of plunder. The Third World has been developed into a state whereby its land and labour benefit the rich, not Third World people. Rich world “living standards” could not be anywhere near as high as they are if the global economy was just.
These considerations of sustainability and global economic justice show that our predicament is extreme and cannot be solved in consumer-capitalist society. The problems are caused by some of the fundamental structures and processes of this society. There is no possibility of having an ecologically sustainable, just, peaceful and morally satisfactory society if we allow market forces and the profit motive to be the major determinant of what happens, or if we seek economic growth and ever-higher “living standards” without limit. Many people who claim to be concerned about the fate of the planet refuse to face up to the fact that this society cannot be fixed. The problems can only be solved by vast and radical change to some very different systems.
Also published on Online Opinion on 21 Apr 09.
As the G20 summit of world leaders tries to resolve the economic crisis, where are we really heading? Many key issues are being ignored in the rush to "restore growth" at any price.
Back in May 2008 seven former European heads of state, five former finance ministers and two former presidents of the European Commission wrote a prophetic open letter to the EU Commission. They warned that the global financial system risked systemic collapse. The financial world, they argued, "has accumulated a massive amount of 'fictitious capital' with very little improvement for humanity."
Among the measures they proposed, was a world conference to reconsider the current international financial system. "When everything is for sale, social cohesion melts and the system breaks down." Were Gordon Brown and other world leaders asleep?
At the centre of UK economic policy for 12 years, Brown is forced to wake up to the biggest economic crisis we face and first claims the UK is particularly well placed to ride the storm. As we hit the grim reality, he tries to tell the world he can lead us back to prosperity. If he succeeds in this manoeuvring it will be an unworthy triumph of spin.
Lost in a maze of targets, controls and sticking plaster policies, Brown first promised a weary electorate to "let the work of change begin." "Change in our NHS, change in our schools." The British public is weary of endless calls for 'change'. His speeches are mindless, recycled clichés devoid of real ideas.
Despite well-documented criticisms of his 'stealth taxes' and warnings by the International Monetary Fund that the UK tax burden is the highest in 20 years, Brown pointed to his 'prudent' grasp of the economy and relatively low unemployment -- now rising rapidly. As we now realise, much of the feel good factor in the UK economy was not down to underlying strength, but more to do with property price inflation fuelling spending and Britain's record £1.3 trillion debt mountain.
In truth, Brown breaks much of what he touches. The think tank Civitas concluded "that big spending promises on health and education have been tested to destruction and have not produced the expected improvements." Like most politicians, Brown does little more than kick the usual political footballs and repackaged promises on education, health and crime, where ever-more money is spent with little effect.
Now he is spending public money big-time, like a gambler trying to recoup his losses. After promising billions of taxpayers' money to bail out greedy money markets and watching the pound plummet, Gordon Brown and his crew have thrown savers overboard in a last ditch attempt to float the sinking British economy.
Zero interest rates and printing money to fuel inflation lie ahead and still we have high lending rates. Many fat-cat bankers will be laughing all the way to their offshore bank accounts. The public is given no say. Unlike the US Congress, where are the big debates in Parliament and on TV as the Government hoses billions around to little avail? With weasel words of 'fiscal stimulus' and 'bank restructuring', he increases the medicine of debt and bailouts to restore the financial web that got us into this mess. Instead of bailing out failed banks and toxic debts, where is the strategic thinking to build a genuinely sustainable economy in a sustainable environment?
#EuroMiscalculation" id="EuroMiscalculation">Euro miscalculation
After fudging for years over his 'five economic tests' on whether Britain should join the euro, sterling's collapse after the Bank of England slashed interest rates to half a per cent in a matter of weeks, will make it more difficult to persuade lenders to invest in the pound and they will demand high returns - adding to the UK's debt burden. The merits of saving investment have also been ditched.
Britain's gloomy economic vision and the plummeting pound is hitting businesses, devastating pensions for British retirees in Europe and squeezing holiday makers into deeper debt. The UK is no longer a big exporting economy like Germany so claims this will be good for exports are overstated. We are a major importing economy and the weak pound is already inflating prices. How will markets now judge the City of London's financial competence, when it is a key part of the UK economy?
The Treasury Select Committee now discovers that the taxpayers' bail out is potentially liable for billions more in bank debts and assets based on foreign lending, subject to exchange rate risks and a weak pound. We are back to the instability and speculation of the '90's and may bitterly regret not joining the strong and stable Euro Gordon Brown and George Osbourne disdain.
#RichesToRags" id="RichesToRags">Riches to rags on oil and gas
Oil imports paid in dollars and rising long-term global demand will see bills for UK consumers rise further. Britain's North Sea oil reserves are running down rapidly and we will be reliant on more expensive oil and gas imports. A study for the Department of Business Enterprise: UK Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Production and the UK Economy, predicts that in five years the UK could run up a cumulative deficit in oil and gas imports of over $500 billion.
#PensionsAndPFI" id="PensionsAndPFI">Pensions and PFI
Brown also embraced the costly Private Finance Initiative (PFI), off-loading debts from Treasury balance sheets to look prudent, but in reality, storing up a huge burden on taxpayers for years ahead. Now, the PFI sector is rattling the begging bowl, claiming a 40 per cent, £4 billion shortfall in funding. A double whammy on the taxpayer. The respected Institute for Fiscal Studies estimated that creative accounting by the Treasury already conceals a £500 billion public service liability for PFI schemes, Network Rail debts and public sector pensions.
Much of the blame for Britain's pensions crisis also rests with Gordon Brown for his tax raid on pensions in 1997, according to former Treasury adviser Dr Ros Altman, costing pension schemes an estimated £5 billion a year. Now we are told his 'quantitative easing' or printing money will further hit pension funds. Why doesn't Brown help hard-pressed pensioners now reeling under near zero interest rates on any savings by removing this tax on pension funds?
#BillionsToTrillions" id="BillionsToTrillions">Billions to trillions
As the economic crisis unfolds, we need to ask whether throwing trillions into the marketplace will do more harm than good? Governments around the world have already pumped in around $10 trillion into banks. This should have solved the toxic sub-prime mortgage problem, but the underlying problem is the financial 'debts and bets' market amounting to $500 trillion, when the annual GDP of the whole planet is around $50 trillion. Where has all the money gone? We need to think radically about how to ditch this impossible financial burden. Bankers need to do more than say sorry as they walk away with knighthoods and obscene rewards for failure.
Now the bubble has burst, instead of the casino deregulation popularised by the Thatcher and Reagan administrations, we need to get back to real financial values and quality investment. It is one thing trying to keep people in their only home, but the taxpayer should not be bailing out the buy-to-let property market. Nor are many sound businesses about to collapse. We need to rethink and rebuild.
As Brown spends billions he hasn't got "to restore growth," in a world of finite resources that are depleting rapidly, Green parties should be welcoming this warning for the endless "growth is good" mindset that will wreck our planet.
After years of crazy price inflation, house prices are beginning to drop to more affordable levels. A modest reduction in market capitalisation would be a buffer on the free-spending leverage and investment that creates so much unnecessary growth - in speculative empty office blocks, hedge funds and a shopping binge economy.
Journalist Paul Mason points out the fragile interdependence of the globalised economy, where 10 countries can be involved in the supply chain to produce a single disk drive manufactured in Thailand.
In a few years, the markets will face another major trauma when they realise that once plentiful oil supplies are running down rapidly and the 'globalised' economy this has supported will have to rethink completely. Major investment in a 'Green New Deal' to help us adjust to post oil realities would be a start.
A crack down on money laundering and tax avoidance by the super rich using tax-free enclaves, needs more than talk about "naming and shaming" countries that are not transparent in their banking practices. We have long known of this problem, yet with a bundle of tax havens under UK jurisdiction, socialist Gordon Brown for years looked the other way.
Where is the choice and fresh thinking from our leaders, locked in a world of 'me too' politics? The electorate deserves more than bailing out bankrupt politicians and bankers.
OPT for a sustainable planet
On Thursday, August 21, a spokesperson for the Optimum Population Trust, (OPT), stated that continuing large-scale population growth threatens Britain’s future security.
(The stream of immigrants fleeing the crowded British Isles is also exacerbating overpopulation in other countries, such as Australia.)
Record immigration, emigration and rising birth rate
Commenting on the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, which showed UK population growth running at 0.6 per cent (388,000) in 2007, along with record immigration and emigration and rising numbers of births, David Nicholson-Lord, OPT policy director, said: “In an era of growing food and energy shortages, population growth of this magnitude is simply storing up trouble for the future. The UK is already one of the world’s most overpopulated countries, relying on imports for more than two-thirds of its total needs. The more overpopulated we are, the greater our environmental and food insecurity and the more vulnerable we shall be to price rises and disruptions in supply.
UK far from self-sufficient in global competition for diminishing resources
“OPT calculations suggest that even if we comprehensively greened our lifestyles, the UK could only support 27 million people – less than half its present population – from its own resources. It’s tempting to think we can always buy our way out of trouble but apart from being grossly unfair to poorer people in developing countries, this would be an exceptionally high-risk strategy in a world of growing hunger and increasing resource nationalism.”
What is OPT?
The OPT, a think-tank and campaign group, was founded in 1991 by the late David Willey. Its main aims are to promote and co-ordinate research into criteria that will allow the sustainable or optimum population of a region to be determined. Its patrons include Sir Partha Dasgupta, Frank Ramsey professor of economics at Cambridge University; Paul Ehrlich, professor of population studies, Stanford University; Jane Goodall, founder, the Jane Goodall Institute, UN Messenger of Peace; John Guillebaud, emeritus professor of family planning and reproductive health, University College, London; Susan Hampshire, actor; Aubrey Manning, broadcaster and professor of natural history, University of Edinburgh; Professor Norman Myers, visiting fellow, Green College, Oxford; Sara Parkin, founder director and trustee, Forum for the Future; Sir Jonathon Porritt, chairman of the UK Sustainable Development Commission; and Sir Crispin Tickell, director of the Policy Foresight Programme, James Martin Institute for Science and Civilisation, Oxford University.
For more information, See www.optimumpopulation.org, or contact 07 976 370221
Optimum Population Trust, News Release, August 21 2008
Tel: 07976-370221 www.optimumpopulation.org info[at]optimumpopulation.org
Registered charity No: 1114109 Company limited by guarantee No: 3019081
This story was originally published in the Canadian foreign policy weekly magazine Embassy on 11 Jun 08 as Immigration Debate Needs to Get Serious. It is being reproduced here with the kind permission of the author Michelle Collins.
Days before Bill C-50 was approved, experts warned that Canadians must start taking a realistic look at the country's immigration policies.
By Michelle Collins
MONTREAL—Canadians must wake up to reality and debate on the pros and cons of its immigration system because a serious mistake will be "set in stone for generations to come," a leading migration expert from the UK at conference last week.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the UK-based Migrationwatch, was speaking at the second annual international Fraser Institute conference on migration, days before Parliament approved controversial changes to the immigration system.
Speakers at the conference included former diplomats, professors and authors who all had harsh criticisms for the government's handling of immigration over the years, and were adamant that major reforms are needed and fewer immigrants should be admitted.
Throughout the conference, numerous experts urged the government to do more research on migration and charged that Canadians are hiding from debating the issue.
Sir Andrew, whose organization tracks migration flows, said the British government's failure over the years to fully examine and plan for the effects of its rapidly massive immigration rates dramatically changed sectors of society and is one reason 120,000 Britons choose to emigrate from the country each year.
"In Britain, immigration is probably the most important issue of our generation," Sir Andrew said. "I'm not sure if Canada's realized it or not, that it's in a rather similar position."
For years, the debate around immigration has centered on keeping Canada's door for thousands of immigrants wide open—Canada is the only country in the world#main-fn1">1 that aims to bring in almost 300,000 people each year.
But there is a growing movement now to re-frame that debate and reform the immigration system in a way that focuses on what's best for Canada and Canadians, namely identifying who will bring the most benefit to the country, how to expedite their entry and how to ensure newcomers become dedicated, loyal Canadians.
Sir Andrew said it is essential Canada's immigration system be reformed, but that the greatest challenge to doing so is a general reluctance to talk about immigration for fear of being perceived as racist. The same attitude was prevalent in Britain, he said, with negative repercussions.
"People [in Britain] now realize it's a subject that can no longer be avoided, the numbers are vastly greater," Sir Andrew said of the British experience. "Net immigration has tripled in the last 10 years, this has alerted the public and now it's impossible to avoid a debate on what needs to be done."
He said surveys show that the majority of Britons feel their whole society is being changed beyond recognition, that the public has never been consulted about this, and that their government has deceived them over a period of years.
"Eighty per cent of the population do not trust the government to be honest and open about immigration," he said.
Also bringing an international perspective for Canadians to consider was Jean- Paul Gourévitch, an international expert on immigration from the University Paris XII, who said emotional sensitivities must be removed from any policy debate about immigration.
"We tried for years to de-emotionalize the debate as much as we could," Mr. Gourévitch said, speaking in French. "Those with different views could at least come together in debate."
Mr. Gourévitch said society's attitude toward immigrants has improved vastly over the last 10 years. He said Canada's problem is rooted in a lack of information and transparency, and that the government should be collecting information and statistics.
"We went nuts to do this in France," Mr. Gourévitch said. "Try to achieve a maximum transparency in the system…try to approach the question of costs."
To gather the necessary information, he recommended Canada establish local and regional reporting bureaus to collect and monitor data on immigrants who move into their areas.
McGill University professor Stephen Gallagher echoed this and said one of the fundamental problems is the lack of proper research and cost data on immigration, and this works to the advantage of emotional appeals.
To that end, he said, Canada stands alone as a country where mass immigration is accepted as a policy norm and is celebrated as an election promise, something that would be political suicide in many other developed countries.
Former executive director of Canadian immigration services James Bissett called the frank discussion at the conference a major step forward for the "thorny issue of immigration." He said immigration is a subject that receives very little attention from the public and as a policy issue.
He said Toronto and Vancouver are on track to becoming "Asian cities," and that this will have significant impacts and should at the very least be talked about.
The conference last week was highlighted with a keynote address from Immigration Minister Diane Finley, who shared what she called "our vision of a 21st century immigration program that will put an end to the sad cliché of doctors driving taxi cabs."
IRPA Changes Praised
On Monday night, the changes she had proposed to the immigration act, which are contained in the budget implementation act, passed a vote in the House of Commons as Liberals abstained in droves.
"I'm absolutely delighted," Ms. Finley said afterward. Ms. Finley said the government will have to wait for the bill to pass in the Senate before implementation legislation can be introduced.
"This still has to get through the Senate," she said. "Once it gets through the Senate, through Royal Assent, we'll be proceeding on it very rapidly."
During the conference, Fraser Institute co-chair Martin Collacott praised Ms. Finley as the first minister to take an interest in what is best for Canada and declared that she had the institute's full support for the changes.
Also delivering high praise was University of Western professor Salmi Mansur, who said immigration is an issue no one wants to touch for fear of being labelled racist, and encouraged Ms. Finley to bring in even more changes.
"Faster, please," Mr. Mansur said. "We need more reform, we need deeper reform, and someone needs to convey that to [Ms. Finley] and the consensus in Ottawa."
But while there was a consensus for change to the immigration policy, most were at odds with Ms. Finley's assertions that this is the solution to Canada's labour challenges.
William Robson, president and CEO of C.D. Howe Institute said another policy option would be to raise the age of retirement to 75.
"Despite discouraging research findings, many Canadians think immigration can maintain growth potential in the workforce," Mr. Robson said. "If immigration is to be the solution, levels would have to be much higher."
Fraser Institute senior fellow Gordon Gibson said Canada's immigration policy is one of "benign neglect" fuelled by Canadians' guilt for having many advantages over others in the world.
Rather than helping by importing people, Mr. Gibson said Canada should increase it's foreign aid spending, which he said is only a fraction of the net cost of immigration.
"The fact that immigration is necessary for economic prosperity is just not true," he said. "Much worse, the fact that it is held out as the answer to an aging society gives the excuse to politicians of not having to address the problems of an aging society.
"If reform is needed, it must be institutional in nature so that all politicians can hide behind it," he said, suggesting that Canada establish a royal commission and an immigration policy think-tank at arms length from the government to lay out facts and options.
He said Canada should dramatically change its priorities from immigration to aid and that any study of immigration should focus on what is good
mcollins [AT] embassymag.ca
#main-fn1" id="main-fn1">1. #main-fn1-txt">↑ That changed on 14 May 2004 when Australia's Federal immigration minister Chris Evans announced that Australia's already record high immigration quota would be lifted to 300,000.
The (House of Lords Economic Affairs) committee has rebuked the Government for using "irrelevant and misleading" economic statistics to justify the boom in immigration in the past decade.
The committee...includes the former chancellors (Finance Ministers) Lord Lawson and Lord Lamont, former City figures such as Lord Turner and Lord Vallance and leading economists including Lord Skidelsky and Lord Layard. Several ministers are members.
Lord Wakeham said: "The argument put forward by the Government that large-scale net immigration brings significant economic benefits for the UK is unconvincing. (Our 8-month study has) found no evidence to support their position.
There is little or no economic benefit to Britain from the present high level of immigration. The immigrants are not needed to fill labour shortages or help fund the state pension for retiring Britons.
- High levels of immigration threaten to price millions of Britons out of the housing market over the next 20 years.
- Government statistics on immigration are "seriously inadequate" and compromise the ability accurately to set interest rates and allocate £100 billion in public funding.
- Certain groups, including the low-paid, some ethnic minorities and young people seeking to get on the jobs ladder may suffer because of competition from immigrants.
- Immigrants have an "important economic impact" on public services with some schools struggling to cope with the rapidly-rising number of children who do not speak English as a first language.
"House of Lords' immigration report 'forgets environment'" by the UK's Optimum Population Trust which is critical of the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee for understating the environmental impact of immigration. Also published here.
"Migration has brought 'zero' economic benefit" By Philip Johnston and Robert Winnett, 29 March 2008 in the UK's Telegraph newspaper.
"Report says immigration costly" By Hsin-Yin Lee 9 April 2008, in the Washington Times
Optimum Population Trust
News Release- April 1 2008
Peers’ immigration report “forgets environment”
Large-scale immigration poses threats to the environment largely overlooked by the House of Lords economic affairs committee, the Optimum Population Trust said today (Tuesday, April 1).
The committee’s report, which found “little or no” benefit for the resident population from current high levels of immigration, was published today. It echoes many of the arguments put forward in recent years by the OPT - notably on pensions, job vacancies and impact on GDP – but devotes relatively little attention to the environmental impacts of mass immigration, which are potentially just as serious as the economic ones and carry their own economic consequences.
Immigration is responsible for at least 70 per cent of the UK’s projected population increase, which will take the UK from 61 million today to 85 million by 2081, according to the latest principal projection from the Office for National Statistics, published last October. The high-variant projection from the ONS says the population could be as much as 109 million in 2081.
Valerie Stevens, OPT chair, said: “The environmental consequences of such a massive population rise are alarming. They include growing water and energy shortages, problems of food production and food insecurity, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, loss of countryside and green space and all the psychological stresses that come with high population densities, overcrowding and loss of tranquillity. Britain is not only a small and crowded island – it is one already beyond the limits of sustainability.”
“Yet apart from a few paragraphs on what it calls ‘wider welfare issues’ [paragraphs 181-185 of report] the committee lays little emphasis on the environment. Even its section on housing, which points out what we have been saying for a long time – that increased population and immigration levels have contributed to higher house prices – deals largely with prices rather than the impact on green space or productive land.”
OPT analysis of the 36,000-word report shows that water, energy, food production and climate change are not mentioned at all, noise and congestion only once and the countryside only twice. The words “environment” or “environmental” are only used four times and “green” only once.
Valerie Stevens added: “For too long many people with environmental concerns about immigration levels have been afraid to speak out for fear of being labelled racist. If the Lords report succeeds in finally exploding this conspiracy of silence, it will be very welcome.
“Unfortunately, their primarily economic brief has had the effect of seriously underplaying the entire environmental dimension – even though environmental problems usually carry severe economic consequences. The Lords make the point that the Government ‘appears not to have considered these [wider welfare] issues at all’* - but it is time somebody did.
“A recent OPT study found that the UK could support a population of only 17 million if it had to provide for itself from its own resources. We urgently need a serious environmental examination of just how many people these islands can sustain.”
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.