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David Risstrom - Victorian Greens No. 1 Senate Candidate

Rosa the Policy Watchdog drives policy!

David Risstrom News + Views Jul-Sep 07: Apr-Jun 07: Jan-Mar 07

David Risstrom News + Views: Oct-Dec 06: Jul-Sep 06: Apr-Jun 06: Jan-Mar 06

Rosa and Dave's News + Views: Oct-Dec 05: Jul-Sep 05; Apr-Jun 05; Jan-Mar 05

Rosa and Dave's News + Views Oct-Dec 2004: Jul-Sep 2004; Apr-Jun 2004; Jan-Mar 2004

Rosa and Dave's News + Views Oct-Dec 2003; Jul-Sep 2003; Apr-Jun 2003; Jan-Mar 2003

Rosa and Dave's News + Views 2002

Through Green Coloured Glasses 2003; 2002

David Risstrom's Community Involvement 2004-2001; 2001-1999; Pre-1999

Did Cr. Risstrom Deliver on His Promises for 2001-2004?; 1999-2001?

Victorian Local Government Elections 2005: 2004

 
 

NEWS AND VIEWS OF MELBOURNE CITY CR. DAVID RISSTROM: VICTORIAN GREENS LEAD SENATE CANDIDATE APRIL TO JUNE 2004

David RisstromRosa The Policy Watchdog

WITH COMMENTS BY ROSA RISSTROM: MELBOURNE CITY COUNCIL POLICY WATCHDOG AND CHAIRDOG OF THE SENATE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE

David Risstrom and Rosa, the Greens' Melbourne City Council Policy Watchdog and Chairdog of the Senate Oversight Committee, keep a watching brief on news, ideas, issues and policies. If there are issues you think need to be discussed, please contact David at david@davidrisstrom.org or Rosa at rosa@davidrisstrom.org. David last updated this site on 30 June 2004.


 

29 JUNE 2004

TARIQ ALI PUBLIC MEETING AT MELBOURNE TOWN HALL

Tariq Ali attracted a crown of approximately 2300 at Melbourne Town Hall last night, providing greatly needed acidity to the debate on Australia's involvement in the War on Iraq. The human tragedy caused by a war generated to support a cheap oil addiction is something that is sitting less comfortably with more and more Australians. I personally hope the backlash is felt at the ballot box, which appear is one of the few places that conservative Liberal and Labor politicians remain sensitive

 

GREENS WELCOME US SUPREME COURT CHALLENGE

The following message was forwarded from Senator Bob Brown following publication of the US Supreme Court decision to allow Guantanamo Bay prisoners to challenge their detention in the US courts.

The US Supreme Court decision to allow Guantanamo Bay prisoners to challenge their detention in the US courts has been welcomed by the Australian Greens.

"This is a measure of Prime Minister Howard's failure to insist on due process for the Australians David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib," Senator Bob Brown said today.

"The Prime Minister has dismissed previous calls for the men to have access to domestic courts.

"Unlike the Australian government, the British Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith has condemned the military commission process as failing to guarantee basic legal principles.

"Mr Howard must now insist that the Hicks and Habib be returned to face Australian courts."

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28 JUNE 2004

LAWYER HANNAH ROBERT SET TO FLY IN KINGSFORD SMITH GREEN CHALLENGE AGAINST PETER GARRETT

Green lawyer, Hannah Robert has been endorsed as the candidate for Kingsford Smith in what will now be a closely watched campaign. Hannah, a 28 year old Clovelly resident said to the Sunday Telegraph that she was excited by the prospect of challenging Mr Garrett on local environmental issues, with the proposed expansion of Port Botany being one of the critical issues in the election.

 

FORMER GREENS SENATE CANDIDATE PETER SINGER NAMED AUSTRALIAN HUMANIST OF THE YEAR

Well known ethicist Peter Singer and former Greens Senate candidate Peter Singer has been named as the 2004 Australian Humanist of the Year. The Humanist Society of Victoria is holding a presentation dinner for Peter at Dallas Brooks Centre, 300 Albert Street, East Melbourne, on Wednesday 21 July at 6.45 for 7 p.m. (Melway map ref. 2G C1.) The price for the three-course vegetarian meal is $38 per head, with bar service available at extra cost. The award will be presented by Professor Alan Trounson, who was Australian Humanist of the Year 2003. Professor Singer will respond with an address. Further booking details can be found at the Victorian Humanist Society website by clicking on the title.

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27 JUNE 2004

TARIQ ALI VICTORIAN PEACE NETWORK DINNER

I enjoyed an excellent dinner with friends and comrades this evening with Tariq Ali at the Lebanese House organised by the Victorian Peace Network. Tariq Ali will be speaking at the Melbourne Town Hall tomorrow night (Monday 28 June) at 7:30 pm. For those without tickets, they are available for $15 and $8 at the door. Tariq will speak on Bush, Babylon and Beyond.

 

GREENS SAY LABOR, LIBERAL MUST MOVE ON BROAD RANGE OF ISSUES

The following media release was forwarded the Greens National Council meeting in Brisbane.

The Australian Greens say that both Labor and the Coalition are a long way from attracting Greens voters' preferences on a broad range of issues.

The Greens are holding a National Council meeting in Brisbane.

"Both the old parties are traveling badly for voters who think there is much more to nation-building than pre-election handouts," Greens Senator Bob Brown said today.

"We will be judging both parties on litmus-test issues where their policies are yet to be announced. These include:
- Saving Tasmania's iconic forests and wildlife;
- Increased funding for public health, education and housing;
- Abolition of the Private Health Insurance Rebate to fund public health;
- Removing the 10% GST on public transport; and,
- A just settlement on East Timor's oil and gas reserves.

"We are assessing all policies and, in recent weeks, have seen both parties lining up to slam an extra 21% on Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme scripts for families, and to legislate against same-sex marriages, and vote for the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

"We are assessing the parties' announced or unfolding policies compared to the Greens' aim for:
- The Kyoto Protocol and need to increase the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target to 10% by 2010 and to 20% by 2020;
- 3,000 gigalitres per annum to be returned to the Murray-Darling;
- Abolition of the Higher Education Contribution Scheme;
- Bringing Australia's troops home from Iraq; and,
- An end to mandatory detention of asylum seekers.

"On forests, the Greens' policy is protection of all Australia's remaining old growth forests and their wildlife. The litmus test is the immediate protection of Tasmania's iconic forests, including the Tarkine forests, Styx River 'Valley of the Giants', and the Blue Tier.

"We will be releasing a raft of new policies in the run to the election and evaluating the Labor and Liberal policies when it comes to deciding whether to direct preferences in House of Representatives seats across the nation," Senator Brown said.

"That decision is made by electorate groups at the local level who will also be assessing local and regional issues. For example, in Queensland, the future of Cape York is very important."

 

WORST-EVER AFFORDABILITY REQUIRES URGENT ACTION - THE NATIONAL SUMMIT ON HOUSING AFFORDABILITY

This information was forwarded in an email to me by ACOSS: On the eve of the National Summit on Housing Affordability, a new Options Paper has been released by the host organisations to help stimulate Summit discussion. Copies of the Options Paper are available on the Summit website by clicking on the title.

The Summit Chair, Prof Julian Disney of the University of New South Wales, said: “Affordability of housing is at its worst-ever level. It will get even worse unless vigorous and coordinated action is taken without delay. The 200 Summit participants from around Australia will identify top priorities for improving affordability, drawing on their own expertise and key sources like the Options Paper.”

Key affordability problems
During the last decade:
· average house prices relative to household income have almost doubled
· the proportion of first home buyers has fallen by about 30%
· average monthly payments on new loans have increased by about 50% ($500)
· the proportion of low-rent homes has fallen by about 15%
· opportunities to rent public housing have been cut by about 20%.
More than 100 families with children are turned away each night from emergency refuges.

Some options for action
The Paper identifies a number of possible actions for improving affordability. They include establishing a Cabinet Minister for Housing, Urban and Community Development with responsibility to develop a five-year National Housing Plan for achieving affordability benchmarks around Australia.
The National Housing Plan could include development of:
· a National Affordable Housing Agreement with commitments of resources by all levels of government
· a substantial increase in government and private investment on low-cost housing (including at least $500 million from the Commonwealth plus extra State funds)
· a national housing tax reform package based on the findings of an Independent Inquiry
· a new strategy on regional land and infrastructure planning for affordable housing .

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25 JUNE 2004

MELBOURNE CITY COUNCIL BACKS CONCERNS OVER COODE ISLAND

Having asked Melbourne City Council for a report to Council on the proposed Butadiene storage facility at Coode Island, I put forward a notice of motion that received majority support following amendment and some vigorous debate. In accordance with the resolution, a special meeting of Council will be held within two weeks to further consider the proposal.

The details and voting on the motion and amendments is shown below.

“That Council:
1. note the information in this report and resolve to advise the Environment Protection Authority that it wishes to be advised and consulted regarding any applications to store butadiene at Coode Island.
2. request that a full report be prepared on all aspects of this issue, including environmental and safety aspects for a special Council meeting to be held in approximately 14 days time and the representation made by the Footscray SES at the Special FCSG Committee meeting
3. has serious concerns and is opposed to the escalation of quantities of hazardous chemicals stored on Coode Island
4. has serious concerns and is opposed to any increase to the transportation of hazardous chemicals through our City
5. will vigorously campaign for the best possible outcomes in all aspects of environment protection and safety
6. write to Dow and BASF expressing its concern and informing them of our position in regard to an escalation of highly toxic chemicals stored on Coode Island and transported through our community; and
7. be updated about the tender awarding decision once made, and consider further strategies to deal with any escalation of the storage and transportation of hazardous chemicals.”

The Lord Mayor, with the consent of the Council, advised that the motion would be dealt with in parts.
Paragraph 1 of the motion was put and carried unanimously.
Paragraph 2 of the motion was put and carried unanimously.
Paragraph 3 of the motion was put and carried with the Lord Mayor (John So) and Councillors Kitching, Ng, Nicholson and Risstrom voting in favour of the motion and the Deputy Lord Mayor (Susan Riley) and Crs Chamberlin and Goonan voting against the motion.
Paragraph 4 of the motion was put and carried with the Lord Mayor (John So) and Councillors Kitching, Ng, Nicholson and Risstrom voting in favour of the motion and the Deputy Lord Mayor (Susan Riley) and Crs Chamberlin and Goonan voting against the motion.
Paragraph 5 of the motion was put and carried with the Lord Mayor (John So) and Councillors Kitching, Ng, Nicholson and Risstrom voting in favour of the motion and the Deputy Lord Mayor (Susan Riley) and Crs Chamberlin and Goonan voting against the motion.
Cr Ng left the meeting at 6.00pm and did not return.
Paragraph 6 of the motion was put and carried with the Lord Mayor (John So) and Councillors Kitching, Nicholson and Risstrom voting in favour of the motion and the Deputy Lord Mayor (Susan Riley) and Crs Chamberlin and Goonan voting against the motion.
Paragraph 7 of the motion was put and carried with the Lord Mayor (John So) and Councillors Kitching, Nicholson and Risstrom voting in favour of the motion and the Deputy Lord Mayor (Susan Riley) and Crs Chamberlin and Goonan voting against the motion.

 

LATHAM TRAPPED SELF - GREENS BLAST PBS HIKE

The following message was forwarded from Senator Bob Brown following the ALP's backflip on the cost of medicines.

In a clear indication of not-much-change if Labor wins the election, Labor has agreed to the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement (in the House), and the 21% rise in Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme script costs for consumers (in the Senate).

This double endorsement of Liberal policy will send a demoralising message to the Labor-voting electorate, Greens Senator Bob Brown said today.

"Labor's non-intuitive cave-in will leave many Labor voters angry", Senator Brown said.

"The Latham opposition made a major mistake by instantly locking itself into Treasurer Costello's $14.7 billion tax-cut announcement on budget night.

"Instead of this huge allocation to the rich being reformulated to better assist low-income householders, Labor cut its option. So it was left to backflip on the PBS co-payment price rises to raise $1.1 billion to avoid a budget deficit from its election strategy which will spend big on low and middle income earners.

"Labor is targeting what it once called 'the sick and poor' in its PBS backflip to pay for promises to the healthy. It has lost its way," Senator Brown said.

More information: Katrina Willis 02 6277 3170 or 0419 704 095.

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24 JUNE 2004

GREENS CONGRATULATE LABOR PROGRESS ON WATER REFORMS BUT CATCHMENT LOGGING REMAINS AN ACHILLES HEEL

I issued the following press release on the Victorian Government's water reforms.

Greens Senate candidate and Melbourne City Councilor David Risstrom has welcomed the Bracks government's water reform as recognition of the importance of Victoria's waters but claims it does not go far enough.

"If the Bracks government were serious about water reform they would end logging in catchment areas especially the Thomson catchment which is responsible for 40 per cent of Melbourne's water supply Cr Risstrom said.

"The Thomson's water yield has been reduced by 50 per cent because of logging, which when compared to logging profits represents a $147 million loss to Victoria", Cr Risstrom said.

"The Bracks government reforms will give 10 billion litres of water to the Thomson when water restrictions are lifted but Cr Risstrom said 'this is only a short term solution while the Thomson continues to loose 20,000 megalitres of water a year because of logging."

"The governments own Resource Strategy Review Committee reported that 20,000 megalitres of water in the Thomson catchment are lost each year because of logging."

"This represents five per cent of Melbourne's water supply."

"This water could be saved for the environment and Melbourne if the Bracks have the courage to end to logging in the Thomson catchment", Cr Risstrom said.

 

GREENS ALONE IN OPPOSITION TO HOMOPHOBIC MARRIAGE LAWS

The following media release was forwarded today from Greens MP Michael Organ.

Cunningham MP Michael Organ stood alone in the House of Representatives today in opposition to Government changes, supported by the ALP, to the Marriage Act which prohibit same sex couples from marrying.

"Attorney General Philip Ruddock and the Labor party are in bed together, and the bed is homophobia. The prohibition of marriage for same sex couples offends human rights and common decency."

"If people want to marry they should be able to, regardless of their sexuality. It's an application of the basic principle of equality before the law."

"What part of that don't the ALP and Coalition understand?"

"It's another Latham back flip. At the time he was elected as ALP parliamentary leader, the Opposition Leader said that he did not distinguish between relationships on 'religious grounds whether it's a same-sex or different-sex relationship, I don't draw a distinction.' Now he's happy to prohibit same sex marriages at the blink of an eye."

"People need to know that the ALP stands for something, and that includes opposing homophobia."

"People should ask themselves just when will the ALP finally stand up for a principle?" Michael Organ said.

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23 JUNE 2004

AUSSIES EAT GE CANOLA BANNED IN EUROPE

The following media release was forwarded from Genethics today.

Amid health concerns, Monsanto's GE canola cannot be sold as food anywhere in Europe. British regulator (ACRE) says Monsanto has inadequately explained liver damage in rats fed on the canola. Yet Food Standards Australia NZ and the Gene Technology Regulator discounted the evidence of liver damage and licensed the same GE canola (Roundup Ready canola variety GT73) for sale in food and for planting here.

"Australian regulators are reckless and have broken the law which requires them to apply the precautionary principle to scientific evidence," says GeneEthics Director Bob Phelps.

"Where evidence is inconclusive or suggests unexplained dangers, applications should be rejected," he says.

"They accept company explanations that food and crops are safe without requiring doubtful experiments to be repeated, results to be independently checked or peer reviewed," he says.

A Monsanto animal feeding study found that rats fed only once on its GE canola had a 16% increase in liver weight less than a month later. The UK Government's scientific advisors - generally pro-GE - demanded, "a satisfactory explanation for this potentially adverse response".

"But our regulators uncritically accepted Monsanto's suggestion that the liver damage may have resulted from higher levels of the glucosinolate toxins normally present in all canola," Mr Phelps says.

"They recklessly put the interests of GE companies and the food industry ahead of health protection for Australian shoppers and their families," he says.

"Monsanto's licences for GE canola in food and on farms should be immediately revoked," he says.

"The GeneEthics Network calls on Australian governments to urgently review the objectivity of our regulators who assess the risks and hazards of gene technology and our food supply." he says.

"Their methods also need an urgent overhaul, to bring them up to the standards applied by the Europeans," Mr Phelps concludes.

 

ACOSS: $600 INCREASE IN FAMILY PAYMENTS NOW COULD MEAN LOWER FORTNIGHTLY PAYMENTS IN FUTURE.

This media release was issued by ACOSS on 21 June 04.

As families receive their first instalment of the Government’s $600 lump sum family payment, ACOSS raised concerns that in the future parents will receive less cash support every fortnight under the new arrangements.

“ACOSS welcomes the extra $600 a year per child in family payments announced in this year’s budget, but we have major concerns about how the Government proposes to implement it. We have two main concerns”, ACOSS President Andrew McCallum said today.

“Firstly, arrangements for the new $600 supplement will actually lead to lower fortnightly payments in the future for families, including the poorest. The fact the $600 is withheld to the end of the year combined with changes to the way the payment is indexed will see lower increases to fortnightly payments than would have been expected.” (See technical note below)

“Poor families can’t wait until the end of the year. They need their family payments every fortnight to pay for food, clothing and other essentials for their children.”

“Secondly, in the long-term, families could be no better off than if the extra $600 were never introduced. Because wages growth is expected to outstrip CPI over the next few years, the new indexation rules will see Family Tax Benefit rise more slowly than it would have under current rules. The value of the $600 increase will be washed away.”

“Ideally the legislation should be changed to ensure the $600 increase isn't clawed back over time. At the very least, families on social security payments should receive the $600 as a fortnightly payment, so that they’ll be better off now and no worse off in future”, said Mr McCallum.

“We also remain concerned that many families with dependent teenagers on Youth Allowance missed out on the ongoing $600 increase in the Budget. Although they are eligible for a one-off $600 bonus this year, low income families with older teenagers have clearly lost out compared with others– even though teenagers cost more.”

“Although the Government argues that families with older children may apply for Family Tax Benefits and receive the extra $600, to do this they would have to forego Youth Allowance, which is higher in most cases. The end result is that low and middle income families with dependent children over 16 miss out on the increase.

“ACOSS calls on the government to provide the ongoing $600 increase to families with teenagers aged 16-17 on Youth Allowance, who missed out in the budget.”

Technical note: Currently the level of Family Tax Benefit Part A is guaranteed at a minimum of a proportion of the pension rate. As well as paying the end-of-year $600 supplement, recent budget legislation also lowers this guaranteed fortnightly amount by $600 a year. If, as expected, the wages-linked pension rates rise over time at a faster rate than the CPI indexation that applies to Family Tax Benefit, this means the entire value of the $600 increase will be washed away and fortnightly payments will be reduced from what they would have been under previous arrangements.

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22 JUNE 2004

GREENS MANSFIELD MEETING A GREAT SUCCESS

The Greens hosted a great public meeting at Bernasconi's Restaurant in Mansfield last night. Jenny O'Connor, Greens candidate for Indi, Don Cummings, Mayor of Mansfield Shire and I had the chance to speak to a lovely group of involved locals people. On top of an excellent meal, the night was a real lift for me, reminding me of how many good people there are wanting better things or Australia. In the coming weeks, I will be travelling with Greens candidates from across Victoria to meet with local communities and to continue campaigning across Victoria. I will post details on this site as the events move closer.

 

ANDREW WILKIE'S BOOK 'AXIS OF DECEIT: WHTY WILKIE RISKED ALL TO TELL THE TRUTH ON IRAQ' RELEASED TODAY

“Axis of Deceit”, Andrew Wilkie’s book exposing how the Howard Government lied all the way to Iraq, hits the shelves in bookshops across the country today.

In March 2003, Andrew Wilkie resigned from the Office of National Assessments, Australia’s senior intelligence agency, in protest against the Government’s fraudulent case for Australia’s commitment to the looming war in Iraq. His courageous stance made world headlines and strengthened the growing opposition to the war.

With the release of ‘Axis of Deceit’, the world can now read in detail why Andrew decided to blow the whistle and risk everything to tell the truth about WMD’s and Iraq.

Andrew is clear that, “The book is another way to press my case against the Howard government on its unethical war in Iraq.

“I deliberately intended the book to inform public debate about Iraq because despite the media attention I've found it difficult to explain my case in any detail.”

Aimed at a broad audience, it examines how the case for war was made in Washington, London and Canberra by governments that routinely skewed and outright fabricated intelligence.

“The book offers a personal account of my decision to blow the whistle on the government, and the aftermath of that decision,” Andrew said. “It also talks about the intelligence community and how it operates, as well as about the Iraq war and the faulty case for Australia getting involved in it.”

In the months following Andrew’s startling revelations, while the Howard government desperately tried to portray him as an insignificant, disgruntled worker, Andrew was carefully considering his next move.

Andrew Wilkie joined the Greens in December 2003 and is now standing for election in the seat of Bennelong, facing off against John Howard in own seat.

“It was not long after resigning that I began to think about becoming politically active. I was repulsed by the political self-interest of the Labor Party.

“After a lot of soul searching and hard research I judged the Greens to be the best fit with my personal values, philosophy and policies.”

Already, Andrew is overwhelmed by the extraordinary level support from angry voters throughout Bennelong.

“I'm receiving incredible support from people in Bennelong; it’s a real grass-roots movement that cuts right across party lines. The support is very heartening.”

You can find out more about Andrew Wilkie's Bennelong campaign by clicking on the underlined title.

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21 JUNE 2004

GOVERNMENT ELECTORAL SHOCKER SHORTS OUT YOUTH VOTE

I issued the following press release on the Federal Government's shameful attempts to disenfranchise young voters.

“The Government’s attempt to close the rolls to new enrolments on the day they call the election is a crass and cynical move to exclude young people from their right to vote”, said Greens Senate Candidate David Risstrom.

“The government wants to send young people to electoral purgatory, because they know young voters are more likely to vote Green than conservative.”

The proposed changes in the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Enrolment Integrity and Other Measures) Bill 2004 passed the House of Representatives on 27 May and are due to be debated in the Senate this week. “The Bill is an electoral shocker and the Greens will vote it down.”

Roles currently close seven days after the election writs are issued. The Government wants new enrolments to close at 6pm on the same day and change of enrolments three working days after the issue of writs. This is despite the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters 2003 Report concluding that “the close of rolls period should remain at seven days” and that “the greatest catalyst for enrolment is an electoral event.” During the 2001 election, 373,732 voters enrolled or re-enrolled during the close of rolls period, 83,027 of them new enrolees. “Closing the rolls early will disenfranchise large numbers of people, particularly young people who are not enrolled yet, and who are much more likely to have moved house than older voters”, said David Risstrom.

“The Government is peddling an old claim that the electoral rolls must close early to allow the AEC to properly check enrolment details, a concern diminished by 2001 and one that with modern electronic roll management appears to better serve partisan interests than electoral integrity. In another example of conservative Orwellian speak, the Enrolment Integrity Bill delivers the antithesis of its title”, David Risstrom said.

The Bill also extinguishes the voting rights of a person sentenced to prison, who are currently only excluded from voting if they are to serve a sentence of five years or longer. This will disenfranchise a further 7,000 beyond the 11,000 currently affected. The change would disproportionately affect indigenous people, who are 16 times more likely to be in prison than non-indigenous people.

“Incredibly, the Bill also proposes to remove the requirement for publishers and broadcasters to furnish returns on electoral advertisements, opening the door wider for “Cash for Campaigning Comment”, David Risstrom said.

“Where does hypocrisy end and electoral accountability begin? The Government should abandon this bill and get behind moves to increase voter participation, such as those promoted by the Victorian Electoral Commission. These include electricity and water providers providing enrolment information with new connections, increased promotions in schools, providing information at citizenship ceremonies and provision of enrolment forms with proof of age cards for young people.”

David Risstrom was an Electoral Educator with the Australian Electoral Commission for 3 years. To interview David call 0418 502 713 or Simon Lansdown on 0415 535 564 - Victorian Greens Media Officer.

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20 JUNE 2004

WORLD REFUGEE DAY

I listened to the current Minister for Immigration, Senator Amanda Vanstone say on 'Meet the Press' this morning, that no refugees are held in detention in Australia. The Minister claimed that only people having had an adverse determination and awaiting appeal were held in detention. What a load of rubbish!

Ministers, including Senator Vanstone, have been on record for some time that the policy of rejecting refugees that was applied during and since the Tampa crisis, and endorsed by both the Coalition government and Labor opposition, has been an effective deterrent for people seeking asylum. The Minister's claims are political double speak, and I believe are false. As David Marr's book Dark Victory documented, a deliberate policy was used to extinguish the rights of people to lawfully seek asylum on large areas of Australia's territory.

Having attended the World Environment Day rally at the Exhibition buildings today, it is clear that many people feel betrayed by the major parties and the utilitarian poll driven polices. How much lower can they sink?

Later, sitting in Fitzroy Town Hall with Rosa listening to an Actors For Refugees play, it is moving to hear tragedy and lies woven into one. It is horrific to think we have made the appaulling treatment of people seeking refugee status our reality.

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19 JUNE 2004

GEMMA PINNELL AND BOB BROWN LAUNCH THE GREENS MELBOURNE CAMPAIGN!

Gemma Pinnell launched her campaign for the Federal Seat of Melbourne. Melbourne is one of the greenest voting constituencies in Australia, and has become much greener in recent years. Gemma Pinnell is a real possibility to be our next Member for Melbourne. The launch with Greens Senator Bob Brown received good television, radio and newspapers coverage.

The launch was followed by a fantastic trivia night hosted by Rod Quantock at the Brunswick Bowling Club, where unnecessarily difficult questions were met with unrealistically knowledgeable trivia aficionados. It was a great night, and thank you for all who attended.

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18 JUNE 2004

YOUR TAXES HELPING TO EAT VICTORIA'S ALPS

I issued the following press release on cattle grazing in Victoria's Alpine National Park.

Many Victorians are unaware that their taxes are paying for cattle to use the Victorian Alpine National Park as a fattening paddock for alpine grazing

Melbourne City Green Cr. David Risstrom and Greens Senate Candidate, successfully lobbied the Victorian Parliament to create the Alpine National Park in 1988 as Alpine Project Officer with the Victorian National Parks Association.

Prior to creating the Alpine National Park, the Victorian Government created a system of seven year grazing licences for areas set to be part of the park. The current State Government has established a taskforce to consider the impacts and future of alpine grazing.

Mountain cattlemen pay $5.50 a head for their cattle to graze the alps for around four months over summer.  The Government receives between $30,000 to $40,000 per year in licence fees, while the cost to the taxpayer is at least $600,000 of public money per year to manage the grazing. “We are subsidising a private activity in the Alpine National Park that is eating into both our natural heritage and back pockets”, David Risstrom said.

“Our concern extends beyond the Alps being damaged. Corporate interests appear to be major beneficiaries while many family farms in the surrounding regions are suffering from significant drought induced stress”, said David Risstrom. “This simply isn't fair.”

The effect of cattle grazing in alpine environments has been subject to significant scientific study. “The findings of these studies show that amongst other things, alpine grazing spreads weeds, does not reduce fire risk in the Victorian Alps, damages alpine peat beds that play a very important role in maintaining water quality, and increases siltation and nutrient load in streams and rivers supporting surrounding areas”, David Risstrom said.

The Victorian Alpine, NSW Kosciuszko and ACT Namadgi National Parks form the Australian Alps.  “It is widely believed that grazing in the Victorian Alpine National Park is stopping the Australian Alps receiving the world heritage status it deserves”, said David Risstrom.

Green Senate Candidate David Risstrom, Indi candidate Jenny O’Connor and Mansfield Shire Mayor Don Cummins will be in Mansfield on Monday 21 June for a free public function at Bernasconis Restaurant from 5:30 to 7:30 pm and $30 ($20 conc.) dinner from 7:30 to 9:00 pm  where these and other local issues will be discussed.  Bookings: Janet Mackenzie on 03 5775 2988.

For more information: Simon Lansdown - 0415 535 564 - Victorian Greens Media Officer or Greens Lead Senate Candidate Cr. David Risstrom - 0418 502 713

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17 JUNE 2004

LAUNCH OF 'THE PLACE TO BE ON PT'

I am sitting in the Yarra Room at Melbourne Town Hall for the release of the progressive public transport report 'The Place To Be on PT' Cath Smith of the Victorian Council of Social Services began the morning by identifying the obvious, but often omitted idea that "Transport access is a right." "Melbourne is still lucky that it has the strength of the tram network that it has."

Kathy McNaughtan of Environment Victoria provided some excellent information on trends for motor vehicles traffic in Victoria, identifying that "More road building and more traffic won't sort out our problems. It is like widening your belt to deal with obesity."

David Brandt, a strong disability advocate highlighted the issues of accessibility with the story of a wheel chair user getting onto a tram at Swanston St only to find it was the only stop they could get on and off the tram for the whole route. As David said, “There are people out there, including those who drive cars, who need decent public transport.”

Rob Moodie of VicHealth provided some great information on the links between physical, mental and social health and a society that gives alternatives to cars a fair go.

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16 JUNE 2004

AUSTRALIAN GREENS ELECTION WEBSITE LAUNCHED!

The following message was forwarded from Senator Bob Brown on the launch of the new Australian Green election website.

"The coming federal election is vital for the future of our country. The Greens will be offering an optimistic alternative to the major parties, striving to achieve our goal of a fair, independent and sustainable Australia.

A vital part of our campaign will be our website. Through it we will be communicating our messages and policies for a better Australia.

Our brand new election campaign website is now live at www.greens.org.au.

Our new site features information about our candidates, as well as our policies and daily campaign developments. You can also use the site to make a donation to our campaign or to volunteer for the Greens.

I hope that you will be a regular visitor to www.greens.org.au over the coming weeks. It's a wonderful way for you to be involved in our campaign and support the Greens.

Regards, Senator Bob Brown

You can see details of my Senate campaign on the site at http://www.greens.org.au/davidrisstrom

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15 JUNE 2004

VICTORIAN GREENS JOIN CANBERRA INDIGENOUS RIGHTS DEMONSTRATION AT FEDERAL PARLAIMENT

A contingent of Victorian Greens, including myself, travelled to Canberra on Monday night to join indigenous people for a demonstration on the steps of the Federal Parliament to voice our concern over the bill to demolish indigenous determination. While it is best known as relating to the abolition of ATSIC the bill does more than that. It bends the hands of time backwards,to give indigenous Australians no illusion that there sense of self will be subject to the Government's will. While White Australia has taken more than 200 years to develop an imperfect three tiered system of government, the Federal Government with the likely support of the Australian labor Party, will deny indigenous Australians even one system of governance. The rationale for this is that service delivery hasn't been good enough, when the realty is that the majority of the services are already provided through non indigenous departments and bureaucracy. Indigenous legal aid services are to be 'mainstreamed', allowing for the tender of public legal services for indigenous people to mainstream legal firms. While ATSIC has been far from perfect, and is deserving of some of the criticism I hear from within the indigenous community, the paternalism of the Federal Government ad Opposition is patently clear.

I issued the following media release in April, which sets out the opposition the Greens have to the retrograde path the conservatives (Liberal and Labor) have been cementing for some time.

Indigenous people right to decide on ATSIC

Victorian Greens lead Senate candidate and Melbourne City Councillor David Risstrom claims that the Howard Government’s and Federal Opposition’s push to abolish ATSIC demonstrates a serious lack of understanding or consideration of Indigenous Australians and their concerns and needs.

Cr Risstrom said, “The suggestion that ATSIC should be abolished without undertaking thorough consultation with Indigenous Australians shows that the leaders of Australia’s two major parties still have the colonial attitude that non-Indigenous people know what’s best for Australia's original custodians.

Cr Risstrom said, “Indigenous Australian culture is as diverse as any other culture and Indigenous Australians have differing opinions on issues like the role and relevance of ATSIC.”

“The people most effected by any changes to ATSIC will be Indigenous Australians”, said Cr Risstrom.

“Clearly then, indigenous people and their communities must be consulted about the effectiveness and appropriateness of ATSIC before any decision is made about its future”, Cr Risstrom said. “It’s about time we talked to indigenous people about what they think works best for them.”

Mr Risstrom pointed to the projects he initiated as councillor at Melbourne City Council as a way forward for reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

“I suggest that we bring people together to discuss their culture and historic backgrounds and how our cultures have effected and benefited each other and how those relationships work”, he said.

“I am very proud to say that the program I initiated to bring together Indigenous Australians and local governments created a better understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and how they can work together to overcome misunderstandings and achieve true reconciliation and equality for Indigenous people”, said Cr Risstrom.

A report released in March by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner suggested that the Howard Government’s 'practical' approach to reconciliation has failed to improve standards of living and equality for Indigenous Australians.

“The Government can not blame ATSIC for the failure of its own policies”, said Cr Risstrom.

“ATSIC was set up as an autonomous organisation to manage the special needs of Indigenous Australians”, said Cr Risstrom. “This autonomy should be respected.”

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13 JUNE 2004

KERRY NETTLE MAKING US PROUD TO BE GREEN

The following is an extract from Hansard from Senator Kerry Nettle on the appalling use of mandatory detention as a deterrent to people seeking lawful asylum. In the words of Pamela Curr, Victorian Greens Senate candidate, Kerry Nettle makes us proud to be green.

Senator NETTLE (The Australian Greens, New South Wales) (1.19 p.m.)—In the lead up to the last federal election, Minister Reith released photos that he claimed were of asylum seekers throwing their children overboard. At the same time many Australians were appalled by the story of Mr Alzalimi, whose five-, seven- and nine-year old daughters drowned at sea whilst trying to reach their father in Australia.

Last week I visited Baxter detention centre and the Port Augusta residential housing project to see whether things had changed in three years. I was particularly keen to visit the residential housing project because this is what both the government and the opposition point to when they are asked thorny questions about locking up children in our detention centres. I met a 20-year old Iranian girl Bahareh who has been held behind razor wire in Australia for the last four years. She described the residential housing project as a ‘golden cage’. She pointed to the furniture supplied by the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and said, ‘We don’t want this furniture; we want our freedom.’

The residential housing project is a gated cul-de-sac in a suburban street of Port Augusta. It is cordoned off from the community by two large fences. At regular intervals along the fence are security cameras and motion detectors. Security cameras also line the edge of the road through the middle of the area. Standing at any one point you can see the entire area, which is only about 100 metres by 40 metres. There are eight sterile demountable buildings, each with a two-metre backyard. Eight to nine guards are present daily, and several times throughout the day they walk into the homes to do a head count. Up to three families are housed in each home.

If it is hot at night, as I imagine it often is in Port Augusta, and someone opens the window after 11 o’clock at night, then guards descend on the home to check whether detainees are trying to escape out the window, past the two fences with motion detectors and security cameras and into Port Augusta. Mothers are escorted by three guards to the shops one morning a week. A detainee described to me how, if you are shopping and you see someone you know and say hello, you will be stopped from going on future shopping trips—so much for living in the community in these residential housing projects. There is no talking to neighbours through the two fences and cameras; there is no talking to friends whilst guards escort you on a weekly shopping trip. Children in these prisons who are able to go to school are body searched on the way to and from school each day.

The government boasts of allowing children in detention to attend school. I met two young people who have been in detention for four years and have faced persistent obstruction from the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs in trying to access schooling. Benjamin and Bahareh were initially held in the Curtin detention centre when they were 14 and 15. At that stage no children in Curtin detention centre were allowed to access school. The family were told that if they agreed to transfer to Baxter detention centre the children would be able to go to school. So the family agreed to the transfer. On arrival, the children, now 16 and 17, were told they were too old to go to school—regardless of the fact that they had just missed two years and schooling and that they had moved to Baxter on the promise of being able to attend school.

Years of obstruction from DIMIA in trying to access education led the children to approach a private education provider of distance education in Adelaide. The provider was supportive until they received a phone call from DIMIA insisting that the children needed permission from DIMIA before proceeding. Not only has DIMIA been obstructionist with the children’s requests to access education but it has been actively preventing them from gaining access to schooling. After four years of trying in vain to get access to education, Benjamin and Bahareh have finally been given permission to access limited study by correspondence. They cannot receive a recognition of the study they do. Baxter detention centre holds onto Benjamin’s books and other materials for so long when they arrive in the post that he cannot get any work handed in on time. These children are asked to pay $10,000 each of their own money for this privilege of accessing education.

I also visited a man by the name of Peter Qasim who is believed to be the longest serving detainee in Australia. Peter has been locked in detention for five years and nine months. He has been locked up at Perth, Curtin and Woomera detention centres and he is now locked up in the desert at Baxter, but he, like all detainees at Baxter, cannot see the desert from his compound. He says has now given up making friends, because at each detention centre when he has tried to relieve some of his pain by making friends, he has been transferred.

Ten months ago Peter applied for an Indian passport so that he could be returned home. Peter is from the disputed territory of Kashmir controlled by India and he was part of the Muslim separatist Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front. The Indian government does not recognise Peter as a citizen. With 20 million people living illegally in India, it is unsurprising that validating a former separatist is not at the top of India’s to do list. Indian authorities have said in relation to validating Peter’s identity that ‘it will take a while to hear from their end’. The fact that an Indian state, one in the midst of a conflict, has said it is looking into Peter’s identity is something that this government clings to tightly to deny that Peter is a stateless detainee and to deny that all avenues have been pursued. Peter agreed to be return home 10 months ago, but with no movement on his case, he ekes out a form of existence in our detention centres. He openly wonders how long he can keep his spirits up before he gives in. The government argues that their detention regime is not punitive. With no foreseeable movement on Peter’s case it is hard to find a more appropriate word to describe his detention by this government.

I met another young man at Baxter called Ali Gharamany. Ali has spent most of his life since childhood in prison, first as a political prisoner in Iran’s infamous Evin prison, and now in the desert prisons of this government’s mandatory detention regime. What is his crime? Struggling for democracy in Iran. He escaped the torture and persecution he received in Iran only to be locked up in Australia. This young man’s mental health is clearly under strain. All he is asking for is the chance to live a regular life, to contribute to Australian society and live free from persecution. Instead, this government locks him up.

My trip to Baxter and the residential housing project has highlighted for me the urgent need for Australia to change its asylum seeker processing system to a humane process that does not involve mandatory detention. We need to do this in order to rebuild our international reputation as a welcoming country. We also need to do this so that we as a country can benefit from all that those seeking asylum have to offer to our country. About 90 per cent of asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat are out to be genuine refugees. Years of imprisonment inhibits them from being able to enjoy and contribute to strengthening the diversity of our society.

The treatment of asylum seekers was a pivotal issue in the minds of many voters at the last federal election. Three years on, Australians have heard the stories of individual detainees and have met the TPV holders contributing to the economy of their regional towns. We have a situation where even more Australians are concerned and appalled by this government’s treatment of asylum seekers. Both the major political parties need to explain their vision for humane treatment of asylum seekers and how it differs from the current situation.

The residential housing projects and community or home detention of asylum seekers are not appropriate or humane systems for detaining asylum seekers. They are simply another form of detention; they are simply a different type of prison. The residential housing projects separates families and community detention extends the system of detention into our society in the same way that home detention of prisoners extends the criminal justice system into our communities.

Community or home detention is when responsibility for a detainee is given to an agency, often a church agency. The house in which they are kept is designated a place of detention and certain individuals are police and DIMIA checked in order to be able to interact with the detainees. Children can be taken to school only by these individuals and parents can only leave the home in the company of these individuals. If a mother runs out of milk and there is a shop across the road selling milk, she cannot simply go out and go across the road to buy some milk.

Families are locked up in these houses in the community and are completely isolated. They rely on approved and security checked individuals for any contact. It is unlike even the situation in a detention centre when there are other detainees to talk to and interact with. It is also an incredibly expensive form of detention. We heard last night about the $700,000 of taxpayers’ money spent on keeping a mother and her youngest child in a hotel in Adelaide away from her five other children. There is another mother and a child who have been kept in the same hotel for at least two years. If the costs of keeping them there are the same as the $80,000 a month to keep Mrs Bakhtiyari in the same hotel, then this government has spent $1.9 million dollars in detaining one woman and her young child. Think about the incredible community services and support that we could be providing to asylum seekers in this country with this money.

The Greens advocate for a system for processing asylum seekers where claims are assessed whilst individuals live in the community, as they do in Europe and as we had in this country in the 1970s and 1980s. We can and we should implement a policy of hostel style reception centres in our cities, which are open to our communities, for those healthy and security checked asylum seekers to come and go whilst they wait to move into the community. We should be strengthening our diverse community. We should be rebuilding our international reputation rather than locking up, in razor-wire prisons in the desert, individuals who have come to this country—fleeing torture in places like Iran, fleeing persecution in places like Kashmir—to seek asylum and the opportunity for a new life contributing to our community. They are locked up in these prisons. Their mental health continues to suffer under a mandatory detention regime that is supported by both major parties in this parliament.

We, as a country of Australians, need to rebuild our reputation internationally. When I have told these stories that I have been telling today to people whom I have met in the community, they have said, ‘That is embarrassing.’ It is embarrassing that that is the way that this country and this government is treating people, such as those fighting for democracy in Iran. It is not acceptable. A growing number of Australians are immensely concerned about what is happening and want to see a change. This election provides an opportunity for those thousands of refuge advocates around the country who have been assisting and helping these detainees to speak out to both the major political parties and say, ‘These are the changes we need. This is the humane way that we should be treating asylum seekers in this country. Let’s look to other countries; let’s look to examples in Europe and in our own country not so long ago where we had a humane system and people were in the community whilst their claim for asylum was being assessed.’ That is the path that we should be going down and that is the path that the Greens will continue to advocate for both here and in the community.

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11 JUNE 2004

HICKS FACES KANGAROO COURT - BROWN

The following media release was issued by Bob Brown today.

"Australian David Hicks, held illegally at Guantanamo Bay, now faces a kangaroo court called a military commission. It will deny Hicks a range of legal rights," Greens Senator Bob Brown said today.

The three Americans at Guantanamo Bay were sent home to the US domestic court system long ago. But the two Australians face this procedural farce, treated as second rate to Americans, with the Prime Minister's approval.

Senator Brown says an independent investigation of prisoner abuse at Guantanamo Bay would see US government officials before the courts.

Further information: 03 62 341 633 or Katrina Willis 0419 704 095

 

ADVANCE NOTICE: SCREENING OF 'THE END OF SUBURBIA' ON JUNE 29

The 'END of SUBURBIA' A film about Oil Depletion and the Collapse of The Suburban Dream (US: 2004) will be shown at 7:30 pm June 29 at the Kaliede Theatre, RMIT, Swanston St. City. A map is available by clicking on the underlined title. Entry is by donation. Duration: 78 minutes. There will also be extracts of an original interview with permaculture co-originator David Holmgren who offers some hope for low energy future with his vision of a suburbia retrofitted for a back-to-basics, communal, garden agricultural, street-reclaiming lifestyle.

What is the End of Suburbia?

The world may be entering a new era. According to a growing consensus of scientists, global oil production will soon peak and enter a period of terminal decline. It's an issue which impacts directly on economics, geopolitics, agriculture, and equally profoundly, the Suburban Dream. The END of SUBURBIA presents a compelling introduction to the issue of 'Oil Peak'.

What does Oil Peak mean for industrialised nations? As energy prices skyrocket in the coming years, how will the populations of suburbia react to the collapse of their dream? Are today's suburbs destined to become the slums of tomorrow? And what can be done NOW, individually and collectively, to avoid The End of Suburbia?

Presented by The Post Carbon Institute and Energy Bulletin.

Some quotes that apply to the film include:

"Every generation has its taboo, and ours is this: that the resource upon which our lives have been built is running out. We don't talk about it because we cannot imagine it. This is a civilisation in denial." - George Monbiot, The Guardian, 2003.

"By 2010 we will need on the order of an additional fifty million barrels a day. So where is the oil going to come from?... Oil is unique in that it is so strategic in nature. We are not talking about soapflakes or leisure wear here. Energy is truly fundamental to the world's economy." - Dick Cheney, speech to the London Institute of Petroleum, 1999.

"Today we enjoy a daily production of 75m bpd. But to meet projected demand in 2015, we would need to open new oilfields that can give an additional 60m bpd. This is frankly impossible. The implications of this are mind-blowing." -Michael Meacher, UK environment minister from 1997 to June 2003, Financial Times, 2004.

"My father rode a camel. I drive a car. My son flies a jet airplane. His son
will ride a camel." -- Saudi saying.

More information on the film is available online at the website 'End Of Suburbia'.

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10 JUNE 2004

HOW GREEN WAS THE GIPPER? A VIEW FROM DAILY GRIST

My personal politics were challenged during a 6 month trip I took through Latin America in 1988-9. What I saw of our foreign policy, and that of our allies, in action was not what I had previously understood it to be. I travelled through Nicaragua during the civil war and am still affected by learning that two seemingly very decent people I spoke to on a roadside stall on my way to the Mosquito Coast were shot the next day. And that a bus line I had travelled on and had much fun on with the people on board suffered a bombing killing all on board. And learning that the CIA had illegally bombed Nicaragua Harbour. It didn't make sense. Having seen more of the world since then, it still doesn't. The death of Ronald Reagan has been met with almost universal praise for his policies. This article by Amanda Griscom from the Ezine 'The Daily grist caught by eye.

How Green Was the Gipper? A look back at Reagan's environmental record

The news of President Reagan's passing has sent waves of emotion and rapturous eulogizing through the Republican Party and beyond. Amidst all the heartfelt tributes, it's clear that the 40th president of the United States is regarded as the true political father figure of George W. Bush - more so than the president's own dad.

Given the ideological ties between these two administrations - not to mention the election-year timing of Reagan's death - some measure of political spin on the GOP elegies is all but inevitable. But some critics are concerned that the fond remembrances are coming off as distorted hero worship.

"With all due respect to President Reagan, who was a very nice man, the Republican myth making machine is puffing so hard I'm amazed they aren't having a funeral train stop in the 17 swing states," said Phil Clapp, president of National Environmental Trust. "They are rewriting history to make a political icon out of a flawed president."

More surprising than the GOP spin, however, is the fact that many critics of the Bush administration also seem to have forgotten Reagan's flaws - particularly in the area of the environment.

Republicans for Environmental Protection, an organization that has been a staunch critic of Bush's environmental record, posted a glowing In Memoriam to Reagan on their website Monday: "REP America joins every citizen in bidding a sad farewell to President Ronald Reagan. His wilderness protection achievements are an enduring legacy for the American people. President Reagan signed into law 38 bills that added more than 10.6 million acres of spectacular forests, mountains, deserts, and wetlands to the National Wilderness Preservation System."

Also on Monday, the Los Angeles Times published an article praising Reagan for his environmental record as governor of California. The article quotes Reagan biographer Lou Cannon touting Reagan's gubernatorial eco-legacy as one of the high points of his career: "To me, the environmental achievements are enduring. Who the hell remembers or cares what the taxes or the budget was in 1967, but long after, people are going to be able to use the John Muir Trail without having to hit a highway."

John Muir is probably spinning in his grave over such misleading praise. True, Reagan had a strong environmental record as governor, but one might surmise that it was strictly a political posture meant to appeal to his pro-environment constituency in California, given that the minute he stepped foot in the White House, his record on the environment took a dramatic turn for the worse. In fact, had Reagan and his cabinet members gotten their way, wildlands around the U.S. would have been turned into highways, or worse.

"The Reagan administration adopted an extraordinarily aggressive policy of issuing leases for oil, gas, and coal development on tens of millions of acres of national lands -- more than any other administration in history, including the current one," said the Wilderness Society's David Alberswerth.

Before delving further into Reagan's track record, it's worth recalling his infamous public statement that "trees cause more pollution than automobiles do," and that if "you've seen one tree you've seen them all." This is not, in other words, a president who demonstrated much ecological prowess.

Reagan's ignorance in this area is personified by James Watt and Anne Gorsuch, the leaders he selected to head the Department of Interior and the U.S. EPA, respectively. "Never has America seen two more intensely controversial and blatantly anti-environmental political appointees than Watt and Gorsuch," said Greg Wetstone, director of advocacy at the Natural Resources Defense Council, who served on the Hill during the Reagan era as chief environment council at the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The list of rollbacks attempted by these administrators is as sweeping as those of the current administration. Gorsuch tried to gut the Clean Air Act with proposals to weaken pollution standards "on everything from automobiles to furniture manufacturers - efforts which took Congress two years to defeat," according to Clapp. Moves to weaken the Clean Water Act were equally aggressive, crescendoing in 1987 when Reagan vetoed a strong reauthorisation of the act only to have his veto overwhelmingly overridden by Congress. Assaults on Superfund were so hideous that Rita Lavelle, director of the program, was thrown in jail for lying to Congress under oath about corruption in her agency division.

The gutting of funds for environmental protection was another part of Reagan's legacy. "EPA budget cuts during Reagan's first term were worse than they are today," said Frank O'Donnell, director of Clean Air Trust, who reported on environmental policy for The Washington Monthly during the Reagan era. "The administration tried to cut EPA funding by more than 25 percent in its first budget proposal," he said. And massive cuts to Carter-era renewable-energy programs "set solar back a decade," said Clapp.

Topping it all off were efforts to slash the EPA enforcement program: "The enforcement slowdown was staggering," said a staffer at the House Energy and Commerce Committee who helped investigate the Reagan administration's enforcement of environmental laws during the early '80s. "In the first year of the Reagan administration, there was a 79 percent decline in the number of enforcement cases filed from regional offices to EPA headquarters, and a 69 percent decline in the number of cases filed from the EPA to the Department of Justice."

Sound familiar? "There are plenty of similarities between the anti-government, anti-environment ideology of the Reagan administration and that of the current Bush administration," said Sylvia Lowrance, a former EPA employee who worked as an attorney at the agency under Reagan. "But one critical difference made it far more difficult for the Reagan administration to get away with their agenda: a Democratic majority in Congress. There were strong checks and balances that we don't see now."

During Reagan's first term, there was a Democratic House of Representatives and the Senate was controlled by moderate Republicans - many of them relatively pro-environment, including Robert Stafford (Vt.), Bob Packwood (Ore.), and John Chafee (R.I.). Having control of the House enabled Democrats to hold numerous hearings and investigations into the administration's controversial initiatives, something they can't do now that they're in the minority in both houses of Congress.

But there was another, possibly even more powerful, difference between the anti-environmentalism of the Reagan era and the hostility we see today: Brutal honesty.

"James Watt had all the political skills and public relations sense of a boa constrictor," said Jim DiPeso, policy director at REP. "When Watt wanted to open up wilderness areas to mining and drilling regardless of the environmental consequences, he said just that. But at least he had the virtue of being a straight shooter."

Lowrance recalls sitting across the table from Gorsuch in a heated debate over environmental rollbacks. "We had it out," she told Muckraker. "Contrast that to today when the career people are completely shut out of the conversation. It was a much more honest debate then."

Watt's impolitic bluntness ultimately got the best of him. He made the most odious comment of his career in defense of his widely criticized decision to authorize the sale of more than 1 billion tons of coal from federal lands in Wyoming. He argued that he was immune to criticism because members of his coal-advisory panel included "a black ... a woman, two Jews, and a cripple." This comment got him fired in 1983, the same year that Gorsuch was forced to resign because documents exposed by Congress revealed major misconduct within her agency.

It's a sad state of affairs when this kind of contemptible candour is remembered fondly: "If only we could see the wolves beneath the sheeps' clothing today," said Daniel Weiss, a senior vice president at the environmental consulting firm M & R Strategic Services, who worked as an environmental lobbyist during the Reagan era. "Unfortunately, now our leaders are much more savvy -- and far more insidious. They undo laws in the dead of night. Gale Norton is nothing more than James Watt with a smile."

"As bad as the Reagan administration was," adds Wetstone, "it looks positively quaint in comparison to what's happening today."

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7 JUNE 2004

FEDERAL FUTURE FOR VICTORIA: ROADS TO CONGESTION

I issued the following press release following the release of the Government's Auslink Federal transport policy.

“The Federal Government’s Auslink land transport scheme is creating a future of more and more roads, more single vehicle car trips, continuing poor public transport and no relief for a transport system embedded in increasingly expensive and scarce fossil fuels”, said Victorian Greens Senate Candidate Cr. David Risstrom.

The Victorian road projects detailed in Auslink include the Geelong Bypass, the Calder freeway to Bendigo, the Deer Park Bypass and dual lane expansion of the Hume Highway.

“With about 85% of the $11.8 billion Auslink transport package going towards more and more roads carrying freight and people riding one their own in cars, the future of transport looks a lot like the Americanisation of our road systems: More cars, more congestion, less transport choices and another missed opportunity to make a serious commitment to modern well maintained rail services.”

“The Federal Transport Package looks more like a highway widening project leading to a dead end, than a real transport future for Victoria”, David Risstrom said. “Roads are an essential part of any transport system, but simply projecting more trips, making more roads, and leaving public transport to flounder is a recipe for congestion.”

“While Federal Coalition and State Labor government fight over who can build the most highways, next to nothing is being done to reduce our dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels and to deal with the climate change problems they create. It also means more urban sprawl, more highways emptying into residential areas and greater air pollution”, David Risstrom said.

“It is the old con.  We are being asked to accept freeways for freight and business when the majority of journeys are one person in a big car. If we want more space for trucks, we have to invest in public transport networks that give people choices to get out of their car and leave the existing roads for essential freight and business.”

“Both State and Federal governments know this but they still believe there are enough voters who will be fooled by ‘cargo cult’ freeway promises.  The Greens know that voters are smarter than that!” David Risstrom said.

 

PRIVATE HEALTH REBATE AN EXPENSIVE FAILURE

I wrote the following Letter to the Editor following further independent research from the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economics and Social Research, which confirms that the government's $2.5 billion 30% private health insurance rebate is expensive, inequitable and ineffective.

The Melbourne Institute of Applied Economics and Social Research report on the failure of the 30% private health insurance rebate confirms what the Greens have been saying and supports our policy to abolish the rebate.

The report identifies that the rebate has disproportionately benefited the rich and has not reduced pressure on public hospitals, which the Howard government has insisted is its chief purpose.

The $2.5 billion spent underwriting private health insurance would be better spent supporting public health, increasing funds for overstretched hospitals, reversing the decline in bulk billing for GP services, boosting preventative health and redressing the appalling standards of Indigenous health.

Greens Senator Kerry Nettle's move in parliament last year to abolish the rebate and invest public money in public health was not supported by either the Liberals or Labor.

The Liberals appear intent on undermining our universal healthcare system - most recently with the unfair safety net scheme - while the Labor Party, who have ruled out abolishing the rebate, appear to think it is okay for public health to haemorrhage in order to avoid offending their corporate friends.

Universal health care is too important to gamble with. Allowing public health to be run down is like hoping poor people do not get sick. It is not good enough and the Greens will not stand for it.

Cr. David Risstrom
Green Senate Candidate

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6 JUNE 2004

A GREAT MELBOURNE RALLY TO PROTECT GREAT FORESTS

For the thousands of people who took to the streets across Australia to protect our great forests, it was a lovely day to be Green. Being amongst so many good people, children, dogs, colours, music and great optimism, it was a day to behold. Let's hope the people we trust us politicians have the foresight to protect some of the priceless forest areas in Tasmania and Australia more widely, and to ensure the workers involved are properly compensated for the bad government policies that have led us to where we are.

2004 Melbourne Tarkine Rally

The Tarkine Rally in Melbourne was reported as being supported by more than 15,000 people (and at least one very special dog).

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5 JUNE 2004

GREENS THANK VICTORIANS WHO ROCK AND RALLY TO STAND UP FOR OUR FORESTS

I issued the following press release ahead of the Sunday 6 June Stand Up For The Forests Rally. The Rally begins at midday on Sunday 6 June in Swanston St. Melbourne, outside the Victorian State Library. We will be marching down Swanston St. to Federation Square where there will be a great free afternoon concert with stars including The Cat Empire, David Bridie, Peter Phelps (from Stingers), Paul Kelly and award-winning author Richard Flanagan. Rosa and I look forward to seeing you there.

Greens thank Victorians who Rock and Rally to Stand Up For Our Forests

The Victorian Greens congratulate the organisers of the Stand Up For The Forests Rally and all Victorians for their heartfelt support for Tasmanian and Victorian forests at the World Environment Day Rally in Melbourne on Sunday 6 June.

The major rally and concert will begin at 12 noon, Sunday 6 June outside the Victorian State Library finishing at Federation Square for a free afternoon concert with stars including The Cat Empire, David Bridie, Peter Phelps (from Stingers), Paul Kelly and award-winning author Richard Flanagan. The Victorian Rally is one a number of major rallies around Australia.

“The Stand Up For the Forests Rally sends a clear message to the federal and state governments that Tasmanian and Victorian forests should be saved and protected”, said Victorian Greens candidate and Melbourne City Councillor David Risstrom. “I’ll be there. I wouldn't miss it for anything.”

“People’s strong feelings about the ravaging of our native forests means this issue will not go away. Victorians will continue to stand up for the environment long after the temporary green spots of the major parties have washed away in the shower after the election”, said Cr Risstrom.

“If the major parties do not act to save Victorian and Tasmanian native forests, Victorians will demonstrate their disapproval in the upcoming federal election”, Cr Risstrom said.

“The Australian Greens strongly support those who attended the rally and call on the federal and state governments to listen to Victorians and stop logging in native forests”, Cr Risstrom said.

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4 JUNE 2004

THE GREAT GREENS GARAGE SALE ON WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY

The Great Green Darebin Garage Sale

The Great Green Darebin Garage Sale

I issued the following press release on the Great Green Garage Sales around Victoria.

The Great Greens Garage Sale on World Environment Day

To mark World Environment Day on Saturday June 5, Australian Greens Victoria branches all over Victoria will hold ‘Green Garage Sales’ to raise funds and promote ‘Reducing, Reusing and Recycling.’

The Green Garage Sales as a great opportunity to get people involved in practical environmentalism and at the same time find a bargain.

"Green garage sales are great opportunity for people to do something constructive about the environment", said Victorian Greens Senate candidate and Melbourne City Councillor David Risstrom.

"Victorians are seriously concerned about the environment. I think that many of them want to do more than attend rallies once or twice a year, they want to know that their actions have a positive effect."

"They want to put their energies and efforts towards outcomes that work.  Recycling through garage sales is a great way to do that. This means there are less resources going into production, less waste and more money stays in the community", Cr Risstrom said.

"Not to mention that it is good fun and an excellent opportunity for people to meet their neighbours, including their local Greens candidate."

"We really hope that Victorians get on-board and come along to their local Greens Garage Sale on World Environment Day and do something practical for the environment."

Greens Garage Sales will be held all over Victoria. Those in or near Melbourne include:
• Aston: 9am - 3pm at 71 Husbands Rd, Forest Hill
Batman:  10am - 4 pm at 15 Clarendon Street, Thornbury
• Gellibrand: 9am -2pm at 35 Severn Street, Yarraville and 9am -1pm at 98 Simmonds Drive Seaholme
• Melbourne: 10am - 2pm at 191 Queens Pde Clifton Hill (right near the Clifton Hill post office)
• Melbourne Ports: 9am at 4 The Avenue (off Hotham Road) Balaclava
• Wills: 9 am at 195 Barkly St, Brunswick (near Barkly Square)

For more information check the Australian Greens Victoria website at www.vic.greens.org.au

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3 JUNE 2004

MAGIC 38 - COMPLETE COALITION CONTROL OF THE SENATE - THE BIG ELECTION ISSUE

This article sprouted from our Australian election watcher in Brussels, Ben Oquist, former media officer to Greens Senator Bob Brown.

The 'Magic 38' - Complete Coalition Control of the Senate - The Big Election Issue.

This election is the one of the most important Australian elections ever. And it has nothing to do with whether John Howard or Mark Latham wins. Whatever political party you support, if you believe in democracy you'll want to keep the Senate out of any single party's control.

Even if Labor wins Government, it is possible, indeed likely, that the Coalition will secure the 'Magic 38' Senate seats. 38 is of course exactly half of the total 76 positions in the chamber. This means the Coalition in Opposition would be able to block any piece of legislation on its own.

More to the point, they could block supply without needing a single vote of any independent or minor party being required.

Imagine how hamstrung a Labor Government would be if any budget measure or any piece of legislation it introduced could be simply blocked by the Liberal/National Coalition. Such a government could be brought to its knees within months.

Worse still, imagine if the Howard Government is returned. They will have almost full control of the Senate needing only one vote to pass any legislation. They would have the numbers to stymie any opposition amendment, motion or Senate inquiry.

The very nature of our democracy is at stake.

So how is it that the Coalition could control the Senate even after losing the election?

Only half the Senate is elected at a normal Federal election. So eighteen Coalition Senators elected in 2001 will not face election this time around. As a result of their success in the previous election, the Coalition only needs to win 20 out of 40 senators up for re-election. They will only need to equal their 2001 performance - three Senate seats in each state and one in each territory - and they will reach the 'Magic 38'.

To win three seats in any state requires only 42.2 percent of the vote after preferences are distributed. Even if the Coalition loses the election, a vote of that magnitude is more than likely. In fact they may well need a much lower primary vote than that. In each State, the last Senate seat is usually won by a candidate with much less than a full quota.

Normally the Coalition is assured of one Senator in each territory (where there are only 2 spots contested unlike the 6 in each State) but this time the Greens Kerrie Tucker is mounting a substantial challenge to the incumbent Liberal Senator in the ACT. Kerrie Tucker could very easily be the best chance to deny the Coalition their 'Magic 38' seats.

And around the country the Greens Senate prospects are stronger than ever before. A good Greens vote could be enough to stop the third Coalition Senate being elected in your state.

Never before has your Senate vote been more critical. Complete Control of the Senate would be a disaster for Australia.

Ben Oquist

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31 MAY 2004

GREENS CALL ON GOVERNMENT TO COME CLEAN ON COODE ISLAND

I issued the following press release on the proposed butadiene gas ship transport and storage at Coode Island.

Greens Melbourne City Councillor and Senate Candidate David Risstrom has called on the Victorian Government to come clean on the risks to residents from butadiene gas ships and long term storage on Coode Island. Councillor Risstrom said there is an urgent need for the public to know what risks they face and whether the Government is protecting their interests.

“Shipping butadiene and building new facilities at Coode Island would place residents, some who live only hundreds of meters from Coode Island, at risk for decades to come”, said Cr. Risstrom.

“Butadiene is more dangerous than any other chemical stored at Coode Island. Butadiene is extremely flammable and highly explosive. It is heavier than air, so if a leak occurs the vapours can spread across land expanding the risk of fire or explosion.”

“It seems the only supporters for the proposal are the chemical company that produces butadiene and the company that wants to store it”, said Cr Risstrom. 

“The community is against it, the local councils are against it, environment groups are against it, even the major chemical storage operator at Coode Island has refused to bid on the proposal due to the risk”, said Cr Risstrom.

“Where do the State and Federal Governments stand on this?”

What plans are there to remove the risks relating to storing butadiene only a few hundred yards from residents? Has the State Government spoken to the Australian Federal Police about security? Has the Federal Government been consulted?”

“These are all questions the community has a right to know. Their safety depends on it.”

At a time when Australian governments and people are so concerned about the threat from terrorist attacks, it is extraordinary that the Government has no public position on the risk this proposal presents to its community.”

“The community should have a say in any proposal that puts them at risk. The Government must also reveal the process undertaken in choosing Coode Island. What alternatives, if any, did they seek?” I am writing to the Minister responsible, Peter Batchelor, to get answers.”

“We thought they may have learned from their experience over trying to establish a toxic dump. It stinks of the same failed procedure”, Cr Risstrom said.

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30 MAY 2004

COODE ISLAND GAS SHIPS AN UNACCEPTABLE RISK

I issued the following press release on the proposed butadiene gas ship transport and storage at Coode Island:

Melbourne City Greens and Victorian Greens Senate Candidate Cr. David Risstrom condemned a proposal to transport highly dangerous butadiene in gas ships up the Yarra and to keep them it storage for decades to come at Coode Island.

Making public the proposal, Greens Cr. Risstrom asked, “Why haven’t the community been made aware of the risks they will face? People have a right to know.

”The proposal by multinational Dow Chemicals involves shipping butadiene on gas ships and storing it in newly built facilities at Coode Island. Butadiene is currently sourced from Qenos at the Altona petrochemical complex, where production is expected to cease within the year.

Why is the transporting butadiene to Coode Island and storing it such a concern?
• Butadiene has a class 2 risk rating, being more dangerous than any other material we know is currently stored at Coode Island
• It is extremely flammable, a significant fire and explosion hazard and can readily form explosive mixtures in air.
• Butadiene vapours are heavier than air. The vapour can accumulate and travel along the ground a significant distance to an ignition source, resulting in a flash-fire.
• The US Department of Transportation requires fire incidents to be isolated for 1.6 kms in all directions, when Coode Island is only a few hundred metres from the closest houses.

“This would be the first time gas ships would be travelling up the Yarra to this point, making the ships an unacceptably dangerous target”, David Risstrom said.

“The increased threat of terrorism makes facilitates such as these in highly populated areas totally unacceptable.”

“It is wrong for a secret tender to be run that will see the transport and storage of a volatile and dangerous chemical at Coode Island when so many residents live dangerously close.”

“A new Coode Island butadiene storage facility means the community will remain at risk for decades to come”, David Risstrom said.

The extent of Government involvement or endorsement remains unknown. “If the State or Federal Governments were aware of this, when were they going to tell people what was happening?” asked Cr. Risstrom.

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28 MAY 2004

LABOR CHALLENGED OVER TASMANIAN FORESTS

Greens candidate for Melbourne, Gemma Pinnell and I issued the following press release following Mark Latham's environment statement this week, which appears to be sacrificing Tasmania and Victoria's forests to the business as usual destruction we have come to expect of the major parties.

Labor challenged over Tasmania's forests.

"Labor is set to endorse Prime Minister John Howard's agreement to cut down, burn and poison the grandest forests in the Southern Hemisphere at the fastest rate in history," said Melbourne City Councillor and Greens Senate candidate, David Risstrom yesterday.

“Opposition leader Mark Latham's speech on the environment shows he won't save any of Victoria and Tasmania's threatened iconic forests and wildlife from obliteration, Cr Risstrom said.

"We will never support anything which by default endorses chainsaws in Victorian catchment areas and their native forests."

“Logging Victoria's catchment areas, like The Thomson, dramatically reduces water yields. Considering the federal government recently acknowledged the important role our forests play in preserving our water resources, it is amazing that they don't stop the logging.

"We welcome the endorsement of our campaign for world heritage listing for Antarctica and to ratify the Kyoto Protocol but the aim to restore 1500 gigalitres to the Murray River over 10 years is too little, and will come too late.

"Prime Minister Howard has refused to ratify Kyoto. And his plan to spend money on developing coal technology, which would not be used in Australia's current coal-burning power stations, is a fuzzy, inadequate and contradictory plan which will fail to stem global warming.” said Cr Risstrom.

Gemma Pinnell, Australian Greens candidate for Melbourne claims Melbourne residents have already spoken, and that the government is ignoring their demands.

"I hope the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader's announcements will shine light on their true stance - and bring voters who are concerned about our forests to the Greens,"  Ms Pinnell said.

“Melbourne residents have voiced their desire to save the environment through their support of  recycling and tree-planting initiatives. It is time the government stopped ignoring the community, cutting down our future, and got behind us on this,” Ms Pinnell said.

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27 MAY 2004

WE WOULD TAKE THE COAT OFF YOUR BACK ..........

I received this email today. I can't vouch for its veracity, but it appears to be a genuine offer by a group of people to do something very worthwhile.

Winter is just around the corner and that means cold days and even colder nights and for some of us that is no problem, that's what we have heating for, but for those living on the streets (approximately 2900 children will be homeless in Victoria on any given night) it's an even tougher time of year.

So we need you to go through your closet grab that old winter coat that is hanging there (some of us may even have 2 or 3 coats among the family) and give it to us so we can get it to someone who will use it.

We are a group of six like-minded individuals bound not by religion or profit but who are driven to help others at this time of year. We aim to collect the coats during May and the St Kilda Crises Centre will deliver them from June 1, THE FIRST DAY OF WINTER 2004. We hope to get 1000 coats minimum but we are all overachievers and believe with your help there could be many more coats out there for the disadvantaged of Melbourne.

So please drop your coat at:
• Lygon Court - Carpark pay booth, 333 Drummond St Carlton
• Playbox, Southbank reservations office
• Mitre Tavern, 5 Bank Place Melbourne
• Tonic, 13 Martin St, St Kilda

Please email this on to all your email list - nothing will happen - there will be no promises of immediate good deeds for you or everlasting life or immediate wealth but what we do believe will happen is a lot more people will be warm inside and out this winter.

In anticipation, thanks for your help.

Toni Joel - Andy Dinan - Nicole Ress - Jenn Smorgon - Andrew Blode

If you would like some more information please email them at offyourback@tonic.net.au

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25 MAY 2004

$1 MILLION FOR BIKES IN MELBOURNE CITY COUNCIL BUDGET

I issued the following press release following Melbourne City Council's decision to support a budget amendment I proposed to commit $1 million to bicycle infrastructure and projects in the city.

Melbourne City Council has committed $1 million each year for the next two years for bicycle infrastructure and projects in its proposed 2004/5 annual budget.

The proposed budget was approved by the Finance, Corporate Services and Governance Committee at Council tonight, and will be distributed for public comment before its final adoption by the Council on 24 June 2004.

Greens Cr. David Risstrom, who rode to the Council meeting on his bicycle, moved the amendment to the proposed budget that was passed by the Committee tonight.

“With petrol prices above $1 a litre and heading for the sky, more and more people will be looking to dust the cob webs off their bikes and use them whenever they can”, said Cr. Risstrom.

“Bikes are a serious form of transport that have got short shrift for too long.  If we can get more people into the city with less impact and with great health and environment benefits to everyone, we’d be mad not to back them”, Cr. Risstrom said.

“The Council’s commitment sends a strong political message that they are serious about creating and funding people’s transport choices”, said Cr Risstrom. 

David Risstrom, who is also the Victorian Greens Lead Senate Candidate said, “Creating and funding transport infrastructure that gives people a choice to use more efficient, less expensive transport modes is something that Federal, State and Local governments should make an absolute priority.  It’s all about making it possible for people to make transport choices that suit them and don’t cost the earth.”

For more information: Cr. David Risstrom    0418 502 713

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24 MAY 2004

THE NEED FOR REAL SECURITY

I wrote the following article for inclusion in the June 2004 edition of Waste Management and Environment.

THE NEED FOR REAL SECURITY

Australia is suffering a paucity of national leadership that is troubling, but perhaps not surprising.

Akin to the way some males remain in denial about the state of their health, our national leaders appear to be in perpetual denial about the health of our environment.  We are not only acting unsustainably, we are damaging our environment to an extent that puts our security at risk.

If climate change results in the disruption of stable weather patterns, if soil degradation reduces our capacity to feed a rapidly expanding population, if fresh water becomes even less available, the threat to our social stability has the potential to be greater than any terrorist could ever produce.

You would think that if our survival depended on a healthy planet that we might be more careful about protecting it. With mixed benefit, we have enjoyed a period in the modern history where our confidence led us to believe that our ability to work with our environment constituted control over it.  The magnitude of the current environmental challenges we now face suggest otherwise. 

These debates rouse conservative voices that focus on uncertainty and insufficient knowledge about the impacts of our activities being a justification for continuing business as usual.  Wouldn't’t a precautionary approach be more sensible? 

Might it not also be reasonable to expect that the richest countries, whose journey to wealth has had the greatest impact on the planet, would play the largest part in making that assessment and taking action?

Australia can’t afford its political tradition of treating environment issues as something that involves putting on green spots when elections approach, and shedding them as they flow past.

Australia is a highly capable nation that should be contributing to solutions, not exacerbating them.  Being first or second in the world in per capita for waste production and per capita for greenhouse gas emissions, being very high water consumers on the driest inhabited continent and being fifth highest in land clearing is both disgraceful and unnecessary.

Disgraceful because it risks so much. Unnecessary because with some long-sighted political leadership, Australia could be amongst the world leaders in sustainability, and in doing so, build the foundations of real security.

Australian local government gives testament to the potential to innovate, which when backed federally can make real progress. 

The local government focussed Cities for Climate Protection (CCP) Program run by the International Council for Local Environment Initiatives (ICLEI) covers more than 75% of Australia’s population.  CCP Councils aim for 20% or greater reductions in greenhouse gas emissions at the same time that the Australian Government appears unwilling to commit to an 8% increase in the Kyoto Protocol.

The ICLEI Water campaign is another example of what is possible. With over 51 Australian councils setting water targets, we can begin to value water and allow its use where it is most needed. The City Of Melbourne’s 40% per capita 2020 targets have already led to a 17% reduction in water use in Melbourne, winning it the 2004 Savewater Local Government Award.

As a Green politician I am biased. I am convinced it is time to stop treating our environment as a public relations or electoral issue.  Maintaining a healthy environment is central to the maintenance of our social system.  To our agriculture, our cities, our personal lives and those who may follow. With national leadership, solving these issues will provide more security than armies can ever provide.

Margaret Mead identified a long time ago that all it takes for unusual behaviour to go unnoticed is for it to be normal. The fact that many of us continue to act unsustainably does not make our actions OK.

Australia is still a lucky country.  Lucky enough to pass our good fortune onto those who follow.  We live on a good continent on the most habitable planet in the galaxy.  You would think we might be capable of realising it is in everyone’s interest to secure a healthy environment and to look after the planet as if it matters.  As indeed our survival does.

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22 MAY 2004

MELBOURNE CITY COUNCIL'S GREENING RESULTS IN SAVEWATER AWARD FOR WATERMARK

I had the good fortune to accept the 2004 Savewater local government award for the water management lan titled Watermark. I issued the following press release which explains the significance of the award. More detail on the work that led up to the award is contained in the following two green achievements: A 20 year water management regime and ICLEI Water Campaign Pilot Council.

The City Of Melbourne’s ambitious water saving plan ‘Watermark’, which has already produced a 17% reduction in water use in Melbourne, has won the 2004 SaveWater Local Government Award.

The City of Melbourne developed Watermark in collaboration with the International Council for Local Environment Initiatives (ICLEI) and Melbourne Water. Watermark set targets of 40% reduction per capita in water consumption by 2020 across industry, the community and council activities, with the aim of using less water in 2020 than 1999.  This is notwithstanding an expected doubling of the municipality’s population in that time.

Greens Councillor David Risstrom, who is also international Vice President of ICLEI, received the award on behalf of the Council at an awards ceremony on Friday night. Cr Risstrom facilitated the piloting of the ICLEI Water Campaign in Australia and personally negotiated the ambitious targets set by Melbourne City Council that are acknowledged in the award.

“The SaveWater local government award is recognition that ambitious water saving targets are worth setting and are achievable”, Cr. Risstrom said.

“We can’t afford to keep mortgaging the future by wasting water.  Australia is the driest inhabited continent in the world and climate change has the potential to threaten our water security even further”, Cr. Risstrom said.

Although local government has again taken the lead, as Victorian Greens Senate candidate, Cr. Risstrom pledged, “He would be working for the solutions WaterMark provides to be adopted at a national level.”

For more information: Cr. David Risstrom - 0418 502 713 or Simon Lansdown - 0415 535 564 - Victorian Greens Media Officer.

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20 MAY 2004

MINISTER PHILIP RUDDOCK UNCONVINCING

I attended the law Society's Law Week Dinner where Federal Attorney General Philip Ruddock spoke to a number of issues including the detention and prosecution of Australian citizens as part of the 'war on terror'. Following Minister Ruddock's speech, I asked this question: What action will the Australian Government take if the allegations concerning irregular treatment and interrogation of the Australian citizen David Hicks are found to be true? I felt certain I was amongst a large number of people who were unconvinced by the Minister's answer. Paraphrasing his reply would not do it justice, as I did not record it, but the thrust of his answer was that the war on terror justified the curtailment of civil liberties for people we knew to be guilty, and who under domestic law, had not committed a crime that would justify their repatriation, trial and detention. So much for the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial. What a disgrace!

 

ADVANCE NOTICE OF ANTI-POVERTY WEEK OCTORBER 17 - 22 2004

I was prompted to take the following information from the Anti-Poverty Week 2004 website after picking up a flyer at a local government housing forum I spoke at today. Anti-Poverty Week is an Australia-wide initiative that began several years ago and continues to grow. In 2004, Anti-Poverty Week begins on Sunday 17 October, which has been designated by the United Nations as Anti-Poverty Day, and finishes on Friday 22 October. The National Facilitating Group for Anti-Poverty Week includes representatives from more than twenty major national organisations and social welfare services which are actively involved in efforts to reduce poverty and hardship in Australia and overseas. The Chair of Anti-Poverty Week is Julian Disney, and the Coordinator is Olivia Appleby.

The main aims of Anti-Poverty Week are to:
* strengthen public understanding of the causes and consequences of poverty and hardship around the world and in Australia;
* encourage research, discussion and action to address these problems, including action by individuals, communities, organisations and governments. Last year, about 40 organisations convened events with a total attendance of more than 1500 people around the country. There were more than 150 media references to the Week with about 50 different people being quoted or mentioned. Everyone who is interested in helping to reduce poverty and hardship here or overseas is encouraged to organise their own activities during the Week or join in some being organised by other people. The activities can be large or small, and events at the local level are especially welcome. More information is available at www.antipovertyweek.org.au

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19 MAY 2004

WASHINGTON TRADE STUNT WILL FOOL NO ONE

Kerry Nettle issued the following press release on the disgraceful conduct of the Government in signing of the United States - Australia Free Trade Agreement at the very time Senate public hearings continue around the country.

Washington trade stunt will fool no one: Greens concerned Senate Committee will bypass QLD

Greens Senator, Kerry Nettle, labelled the signing of the US Free Trade Agreement in Washington today as a stunt that would fool no one. She reiterated the Greens commitment to vote against any legislation required to implement the deal.

"Minister Vaile's signing ceremony is little more than a stunt designed to hide the fact the deal is bad for Australia and is in big trouble. This replay of the previous signing ceremony will fool no one."

"The deal still needs to get past a potentially hostile US Congress and hopefully will not pass the Senate. If it fails either of these hurdles the deal is dead"

"Hearings by the government controlled inquiry and the Senate inquiry have all head extensive evidence outlining why Australians do not want this deal to go ahead."

"That is why we are concerned that the Senate Select Committee seems to have decided to bypass the Queensland community and cancel its Brisbane hearings. "We understand that a number of community groups hoped to give evidence including medical experts looking at the impact of the deal on pharmaceuticals.

"The Senate Committee needs to allow the whole community to express their fears regarding the trade agreement."

Further information: Damien Lawson: 0400 803 281

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17 MAY 2004

STOP LOGGING IN VICTORIAN NATIVE FORESTS

I issued the following press release in advance of the public meeting on forestry at Kaliede Theatre RMIT – 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm Tuesday 18 May.

Stop logging in Victorian native forests

“The Federal Government must act to end logging in Victoria's native forest and catchment areas to protect biodiversity and water yields,” said David Risstrom, Greens Senate candidate and Melbourne City Councillor.

As a guest speaker at a forum on the effects of logging in Victorian forests on Tuesday night Cr Risstrom will argue for logging in native forests to stop.“Victorian forests, like the Tarkine and the Styx in Tasmania, are under threat”, said Cr Risstrom.

“The ongoing effects of logging on Victoria's environment is enormous. Cutting down trees and clear felling in our pristine and unique forests has put and continues to put individual species and entire ecosystems in extreme danger”, said Cr Risstrom.

“But logging in Victoria has a broader effect than the threat to ecosystems and native species, it is also a major threat to Victoria's water supply”, he said.“Water is now recognised as a one of Australia's most important and valuable resources and we realise that we must act now to ensure we have adequate supplies of water now and into the future.”

“Governments at all levels, private operators, farmers and individuals are changing practices to protect and better use this very valuable resource”, said Cr Risstrom.

“If Governments were serious about saving water they would ban logging in water catchment areas”, he said “logging in catchment areas is extremely destructive, it wastes up to 50 percent of the water and removes approximately 30,000 megalitres per year”, he said.

“We know this. Scientists know this. Politicians know this. The evidence is there but being ignored, logging forests in water catchment areas continues, despite the evidence”, said Cr Risstrom.

“The protection of Victoria's forest should be a priority for the Federal Government. The future of Victorian ecosystems and native species and the maintenance of a healthy water system depends on it”, said Cr Risstrom. “So does our economy.”

“It can be done, it just needs a politician with the will to do it but I don't think the Prime Minister has got it in him”, said Cr Risstrom. Forum details:  Kaliede Theatre RMIT – 6:30 to 8:00 pm Tuesday 18 May.

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact: Simon Lansdown Victorian Greens Media Officer: 0415 535 564 or David Risstrom: 0418 502 713

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15 MAY 2004

GREENS BUDGET REPLY SPEECH PUTS GOOD SERVICES AHEAD OF TAX CUTS FOR THE RICH

Following is the introduction to the Greens Reply Speech to the Federal Budget. It was presented in the Senate by Senator Kerry Nettle and is available as an 11 page 44 Kb pdf download by clicking on the underlined title.

After nine years in the job, the treasurer, with this budget, has perfected the art of the missed opportunity. After 13 of the richest years in Australia's history the opportunity to build the nation during these times of prosperity has been squandered. Instead of investing in our common future money has gone on waging an illegal war, on regressive tax cuts, buying swinging votes and divisive public policy - and all this whilst presiding over the most dramatic decline in our essential public services.

This budget has been hailed as a budget for families but it is not a family budget because it fails families in the long term. There is a hand out to family tax benefit recipients that many families won't see and there are lump sum payments for new mothers that fall well short of a national paid maternity leave scheme. But there is no action to support the over-stressed public services that all of us, families in particular rely on. There is no real investment in public health, nothing for public schools, nothing for universities, and nothing new for sustaining our environment. The treasurer, a man who aspires to be the prime minister, has failed to show any vision for our common future.

The Greens have a more optimistic vision, and a more responsible plan for the investment of our tax dollars. A vision of free, high quality public education; of a nation building investment in our environment and infrastructure; of strengthening Medicare; boosting our overseas aid; and at home a fairer more effective welfare system that guarantees adequate incomes for all. These are the kinds of measures Australians are crying out for in increasing numbers, because these are the kinds of ideas that, unlike election oriented tax cuts, people recognise as offering a concrete path to a better, brighter and healthier future for all Australians.

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13 MAY 2004

BREAKING THE LAW IN IRAQ DIMINISHES US ALL

I wrote and forwarded this letter to the editor on 13 May 2004.

The Howard Government appears relaxed and comfortable that while the rights afforded under the Geneva Convention protect Saddam Hussein, civilian prisoners held in Saddam's former jails are not as fortunate. Similarly, as a supine member of the coalition of the willing, Australia appears to be doing next to nothing to defend the rights of an Australian citizen, David Hicks, to lawful detention and the free and fair trial necessary to establish his guilt or otherwise.The recent revelations of the torture of prisoners by occupying forces demonstrate how dangerous a path is laid in breaking the law in an attempt to enforce it. It appear the Australian Government considers that obeying law is a matter f expediency, having travelled close to or over those boundaries on a number of occasions in recent years. By denying the lawful landing of the Tampa. By denying application for asylum made in Australian territory. By co-operating in the invasion of Iraq on grounds that pre-emptive violence might inoculate the world against violence, and b allegedly authorising Australian troop engagement in Iraq prior to declaration of hostilities.Our Government's repeated breaking of international law has diminished Australia's capacity to uphold it. Alongside, it diminishes us all.

Cr. David Risstrom - Green Senate Candidate.

 

THE FACE OF A WAR PRESIDENT

This picture forwarded to me by email is made up of pictures of American soldiers who died in Iraq since the invasion of Iraq. One might wonder how many faces might be needed for a similar picture picture illustrating the death of Iraqi people.

War President

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12 MAY 2004

RISSTROM SUCCESSFULLY DEFENDS MELBOURNE COUNCIL ARTS PROGRAM

I issued the following press release in response to the rapidly moving events concerning Melbourne City Council's Arts Grants Program. In doing so, I want to publicly acknowledge the significant work done by the arts community in supporting the value of the program. Downloadable word and pdf copies of all my my media releases are available on this site by clicking on the underlined title.

Melbourne City Greens Councillor and Victorian Greens No. 1 Senate candidate David Risstrom defence of independent public art, backed by a strong community campaign, has headed off the potential emaciation of the best local government arts program in Australia.

Amidst attacks to Melbourne City Council’s Arts Grants Program, Greens Cr. David Risstrom was on the record last week as saying, “Thoughtful public art provides a valuable platform for public engagement, and the right of artists to contribute to public life is an ideal I strongly defend.”

“I would like to thank Melbourne’s arts community and their supporters for their independent defence of important public ideals”, Cr. Risstrom said.

“Council overreaction to inaccurate newspaper stories calling for the abolition of the City of Melbourne arts grants program was wrong and ill-considered”, Cr. Risstrom said.

“I welcome the Council’s intentions to keep the arts grants programs and to defend the right of artists to lawfully explore artistic boundaries, whether or not they conform to my views”, Cr. Risstrom said. “I put the argument to my colleagues that, “Had a politically conservative artistic knife been applied to what are now classic works, many would never have seen the light of day, and society would be the poorer for it”, Cr. Risstrom said.

By agreement, two changes are set be made to the administration of the program that I endorse:
• Council consideration of the arts grants program will occur in open session of Council; a change I sought four years ago but was unable to gain majority support for at the time.
• An independent community representative will be invited to join grant assessment panels. “As I identified last week, the debate that controversial public art stimulates can be a valuable contribution to discussion of difficult issues.” Cr. Risstrom concluded, “Perhaps one good thing that has happened from this sorry incident is that the value of independent public art is making headlines and is being debated.” Contact: Cr. David Risstrom - 0418 502 713 or Simon Lansdown - 0415 535 564 - Victorian Greens Media Officer

 

FEDERAL BUDGET TO MAKE THE POOR BUDGET EVEN MORE

I issued the following press release on the Federal Budget. Downloadable word and pdf copies of all my my media releases are available on this site by clicking on the underlined title.

“The Federal Budget has totally ignored the most vulnerable, while rewarded high income earners”, said Victorian Greens Lead Senate candidate and Melbourne City Councillor David Risstrom.By buying off voters at the expense of the poor, Victoria’s disadvantaged, poor and unemployed will be forced to budget their own measly resources even more”, Cr Risstrom said. “Income and wealth inequality, which has worsened under both Liberal and Labor governments since the 1980’s is set to become much greater.”The Australians Greens believe that the budget should be used to improve services to Victorians, not to provide voting buying tax cuts to high-income earners”, said Cr Risstrom.This Government has a habit of ignoring the most vulnerable in our society and rewarding the most privileged. This budget is another example of turning a blind eye to low income earners”, he said.

There are very few winners and many losers. Low income earners, single people, young people and people without children get either nothing or very little from this budget”, he said.It seems Messrs. Howard and Costello have identified the people they are most likely to get votes from and plan to hand over the family silver to them”, said Cr Risstrom.This budget is a blatant bribe to voters, in a transparently self-interested attempt by the Government to increase their chances to get re-elected”, said Cr Risstrom. “This may be just the first shot in the vote buying war. Labor will present their plan on Thursday. Expect more bribery and vote buying”, he said.“The Greens is the only party that recognises what Australians really need and want improved services and standard of living”, Cr Risstrom said. “Public opinion polls support the claim that most people want decent services ahead of tax cuts.”“The proper role of government is to lead, not to buy off support at the expense of weaker parts of our community”, Cr Risstrom said.

 

BITE BACK: WTO HANDS OFF OUR FOOD CAMPAIGN

This email was forwarded to me from Friends of the Earth, publicising a growing worldwide movement against the genetic modification of our food supply. This is a final call to help gather more citizen's objection to the WTO GM trade dispute!!!

The US, Canada and Argentina made their official submission to the WTO panel last week attacking Europe's precautionary stance on genetically modified food and farming. Europe will make its submission in the next 2 weeks and then it is time to hand in all the citizen's objections to the WTO. We want to send a loud and clear message that the WTO must not undermine the right of the European Union and others to take appropriate steps to protect their citizens and the environment from GMO food and farming. We would be very grateful if you could help in the last push to get more citizen objections. After a hearing in June, the highly secretive dispute settlement panel of the WTO will then make a ruling in the summer on whether the EU's policy on GM food imports is an illegal barrier to trade. If the WTO rules in favour of Bush, then Europe will either have to face billions of Euros in financial penalties or weaken its rules in favour of the biotech industry at the expense of people's health and the environment. This would also send a wrong signal to developing countries warning them not to develop restrictions on GM food and farming.We have gathered objections from over 400 organisations representing 35 million citizens and more than 70000 individuals. However, we would like to increase the numbers still significantly in order to show the global resistance against this case at the WTO.

Here is what you can do: Email your friends and relatives to ask them to sign the objection online or download a multi-signature paper objection and ask them to sign http://www.bite-back.org - Attractive banners are available in different languages at http://www.bite-back.org/support/banners.htm.- Add a short text to your email signature. By doing this all your outgoing emails will help collecting more Citizen's Objections. A possible text could be: "Bite back: WTO Hands off our food! / Bush is using the World Trade Organisation / to force-feed you genetically modified / food! You can help stop them: Bite Back today and sign the Citizens' Objection to the WTO at http://www.bite-back.org"- Collect signatures. From our campaign web site http://www.bite-back.org, you can download and copy the Citizens' Objections in various languages. If you would like to print the Citizens' Objection with your organisation's logo on it, you are very welcome to do so. The text and the Bite Back design files are available at http://www.bite-back.org/download - or contact jan.kowalzig@foeeurope.org for special wishes. Note that the Friends of the Earth Europe office has professionally-printed Citizens' Objections in English and in French, which are free to order in any quantity needed.- Print the citizen's objection in your member's magazine. Your members can then sign the Citizens' Objection, tear out the page and send it back to you. Ideally, the opposite page could have an article about the GMO trade dispute and the campaign. A sample article in English is available - Mobilise other groups in your country to also do the above.

Successful national coalitions with other groups (such as organic farming associations and Attac have already started in countries such as the Netherlands and Germany. Setting up a coalition with other groups in your country could result in a lot more success and helps to spread the work. Over 350 groups world-wide are supporting the campaign - including some groups from your country. Email us and we'll give you the contact details of these potential allies.The deadline for signatures is 21 May 2004. Thanks a lot for all your support. We will keep you informed about the hand over of the objections and next steps in the campaign. Best wishes, Adrian Alexandra Wandel and Jan Kowalzighis.

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11 MAY 2004

DAREBIN GREENS CANDIDATE LAUNCH - WEDNESDAY 12 MAY

The Darebin Greens cordially invite you to the Darebin Greens Candidate Launch, 7 pm Wednesday 12 May at the Downunder Curry Cafe 417 High Street Northcote.
• Come along and support your Batman candidate Alex Bhatal and the Darebin City Council Candidates.
• Come and meet Senate candidate David Risstrom
• Music and Kurdish musician Dursan Acar
• and great Indian food - All welcome.
Prices: Full $30, Concession $20. Bookings to Julie Bain 9481 5232. 5 MAY 2004

 

ACOSS - $4.7 BILLION BOOST NEEDED IN BUDGET FOR A FAIRER AUSTRALIA

The following media release was forwarded from ACOSS under embargo until today.

Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) today called for a $4.7 billion package in this year's Federal Budget to meet the urgent need for basic services such as health, education, childcare and housing. The ACOSS 2004-5 Federal Budget Priorities Statement, Blueprint for a fairer Australia contains costed recommendations on key spending areas. "Economic growth has left many Australians behind, and the gap between rich and poor is increasing. Australia can afford to be fairer. The proposals in our budget submission are about sharing the benefits of economic growth and the Budget surplus with all Australians,” ACOSS President Andrew McCallum said.

"ACOSS estimates that $4.7 billion is needed in this year's Budget to deliver real improvements for low and middle income families and disadvantaged groups such as long term unemployed people and people at risk of homelessness.” Key ACOSS proposals* include:
• Better health care. Boost investment in community-based health and allied health services ($300 million). Increase the standard Medicare rebate for GP consultations and provide incentives for GPs to bulk bill all or most patients ($461 million).
• Ease poverty traps. Introduce a single family income test for Family Tax Benefit (A), Youth Allowance and Child Care Benefit and a uniform taper rate to ease poverty traps ($500 million). Reduce high effective tax rates for unemployed people by decreasing the income test taper rate to 60 cents in the dollar for income over $80 per fortnight ($52 million).
• Improve housing affordability. Introduce a tax credit for investment in low cost rental housing ($100million), expand the Rent Allowance ($170 million) to help low-income people cover rent costs and strengthen public and community housing.
• Educate preschool children. Develop with States and Territories a national framework to ensure equal access to one year of free quality preschool education ($0.5 million).Our proposals in, Blueprint for a Fairer Australia can be paid for by clamping down on tax rorts and not eating up the budget surplus with a wasteful and poorly targeted tax cut.”“Public opinion polls have shown repeatedly that people are concerned about shortfalls in the funding of services and are willing to forgo a tax cut to fix these problems. It’s time for all political parties to get their priorities right and make sure all Australians have access to health, education, and community services when they most need it,” said ACOSS President Andrew McCallum. * All recommendations are costed for the first year of their implementation. The Blueprint for a fairer Australia is available on: http://acoss.net.au/news/acoss/1083654235_21174_acoss.jsp?subsite=acotoday

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2 MAY 2004

UNITED CITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS FOUNDING CONGRESS

I am attending the founding congress of the United Cities and Local Government, representing ICLEI as Vice President and as a Councillor for the City of Melbourne. This new organisation is evolving from the merging of the International Union of Local Governments and the United Towns and Cities Organisation. I am facilitator for a Human Rights and Local Sustainable Development session session at 11:00 am on3 May. The speakers in this session are Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director United Nations Environment Program; Konrad Otto Zimmerman, Secretary General ICLEI – Local Government for Sustainability; Alfredo Sirkis: Minister for Urban Environment - Rio de Janeiro; Margaret Pageler, ICLEI Executive member. Seattle: Joan Parpal, and Secretary General Med Cities, Spain.The new organisation, United Cities and Local Governments, is described in the material provided at the congress as follows:

The creation of United Cities and Local Governments signals a new era. In founding a new world organisation, mayors and councillors are fulfilling the commitments they made at the Istanbul COnference on Human Settlements in 1996, where they agreed to establish a single voice for cities, to develop and promote solutions to the challenges of urbanisation, and to address the repercussions of globalisation at local level. United Cities and Local Governments was launched in January 2004, when the existing local government organisations - the International Union of Local Authorities (IULA), the UNited Towns Organisation (UTO) and Metropolis - united their respective global networks of cities and national associations of local governments in a single organisation. United Cities and Local Governments is based on three principles:
• Defence and promotion of democracy
• Local self government
• Decentralisation for the service of the citizen It is the largest organisation of cities and local governments in the world, with members in over 100 countries. It gives a voice to every type of local government - large and small, rural and urban - representing and defending their interests at the global level, and addressing key issues for the future of cities and their citizens.The work of United Cities and Local Governments focuses on:
• Local action for development
• Local action for the defence and promotion of human rights
• Social inclusion and women in local government
• Promotion of peace through city diplomacy
• Innovation in local government

The establishment of a 'Local Democracy Watch' to analyse the situation and evolution of local government worldwide, is also one of its priorities. United Cities and Local Governments is the principal local government partner of the United Nations. Its Presidency, composed of three mayors from different world regions, will be elected on 5 May 2004, during the Founding Congress in Paris, with a mandate of three years. Its Secretary General is Elisabeth Gateau and its headquarters are in Barcelona, Spain.

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30 APRIL 2004

VICTORIAN BAR COUNCIL RIGHTLY CONDEMNS NAURUAN GOVERNMENT USE OF VISA POWER TO DENY FAIR REPRESENTTION

This press release was released by Victorian Bar Council Chairman Robin Brett QC, on 29 April 2004.

Nauru Government uses visa power to deny fair representation

"The Chairman of the Victorian Bar Council, Robin Brett QC, today spoke out against the Nauru Government’s refusal to allow Australian lawyers to appear on behalf of asylum seekers who are currently restricted to special camps in Nauru. Australian barristers Julian Burnside QC and Sam Hay and solicitor Karen Anderson had been retained by asylum seekers challenging the legality of that restriction. The decision to deny the lawyers entry to Nauru was made by the President of Nauru and Nauru’s Minister for Justice. Their visas were withdrawn shortly before the lawyers were due to fly to Nauru last Sunday. A Nauru government spokesperson has been reported as saying that the visas were withdrawn because there was “sufficient representation for the asylum seekers on the Island” (Melbourne Age, 27 April 2004). “This is no justification at all”, Mr Brett said. “Justice requires that every litigant should have the right to be represented by the lawyer of his or her choice. No government should dictate to litigants which qualified lawyers they are and are not permitted to retain. “When the government is itself a party to the litigation, as it is in this case, the injustice is even greater.”

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29 APRIL 2004

GREEN COLLECT LAUNCH A GREEN LIGHT FOR A SUCCESFUL FUTURE

I joined Deputy Premier John Thwaites, World Vision CEO Tim Costello and a couple of hundreds of others today in a really enjoyable launch of the Green Collect program. I've included some of the information about this great idea as a way of further promoting it.

Green Collect is a new social and environmental enterprise of Urban Seed. Green Collect will offer new work and training opportunities to people facing barriers to employment through the provision of new and innovative environmental services, including regular cork and Mobile Phone collection for licensed premises and businesses in and around Melbourne’s CBD, and Green Office Services including waste, energy, water, purchasing and policy development.

The work opportunities generated through these services are for people who have been excluded from mainstream employment. Through providing a supportive work environment responsive to complex needs, Green Collect will open new pathways back in to work and community. In using Green Collect’s services businesses will address both environmental and social issues in ways that are effective and sustainable. For more information about these services please contact Darren Andrews, Sally Quinn or Nathan Smith. Level 7, 174 Collins Street Melbourne VIC 3000 Phone: 03 9663 8843 Fax: 03 9650 7936 Web: www.greencollect.org Collins Street Baptist Benevolent Society Inc ABN 20 397 160 659: A Social Enterprise of Urban Seed Engaging Faith, Community & Culture

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28 APRIL 2004

GREEN LIGHT FOR THE VICTORIAN SENATE CAMPAIGN

Today is another busy day of activities for both me and the Victorian Greens. At the moment I am sitting in a large city building waiting to speak at the launch of 'Green Collect' , an innovative social company that creates opportunities for community, environmental d businesses to work together for a healthier Melbourne. At midday I will be speaking to a group of young community leaders as part of the Future Leaders' Going Further program, where I will be sharing my ideas on Business, Environment and Heritage.

At 6 pm tonight, I will be chairing a meeting on the Iraq war with Greens Senator Kerry Nettle and Dr. Scott Burchill at the Y in Elizabeth St, Melbourne. At 8 pm there is a public meeting on East Timor with East Timorese activities Cecilio Frietas, who will update us on what is happening in East Timor, and what we can do about the disgraceful stance take by the Australian Government in the current negotiations over the Timor Sea oil and gas resources. I will provide copies of any speeches I make on my speeches page as time allows.

 

PORT PHILIP CHANNEL DEEPENING A LOSE-LOSE PROSPECT

I issued the following press release following further announcements by the State Government that appear to give the green light to the Channel Deepening. Downloadable word and pdf copies of all my media releases are available on this site by clicking on the underlined title.

“The Victorian Greens today welcomed the report by the consultants to the channel deepening project saying it confirms what the Greens have been saying all along, that there are no clear wins in the project.

“I don't understand how this project will benefit any Victorians,” said Victorian Lead Senate candidate and Melbourne City Councillor David Risstrom.

“It seems like a pointless project it is a huge cost to tax payers, it will impact on and is unwanted by local residents and organizations, there are better alternatives, and it will have an very large and negative impact on the environment,” said Cr Risstrom.

“The large majority of people or organizations directly affected or neighbouring Port Phillip are opposed to it,” said Cr Risstrom.

“Channel deepening will have a profound impact on the marine and coastal environment and threaten its very fragile ecosystem and species,” he said.

“The dredging of the port for scallops and prawns is banned due to the massive amounts of environmental damage it does,” he said, “if they ban scallop and prawning how can they permit channel deepening.”

“The report conforms that the environment is not the only damaging aspect of the channel deepening, it will effect tourism, recreation fishing and swimmers,” said Cr Risstrom.

“The Port of Melbourne Corporation claim that they are consulting communities and organizations.” said Cr Risstrom, “What I want to know then is, if they are is stopping the dredging on the cards. It certainly is something the many of the people they are consulting with want.”

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26 APRIL 2004

FIRST GREEN MAYOR IN SYDNEY ELECTED

Randwick Greens Councillor Murray Matson became the first Greens Mayor in Sydney this week on Tuesday the 20th April 2004. He follows Cr Jan Barham of Byron Bay Council in becoming only the second Greens Mayor in New South Wales. The comments below are taken from a media release from Cr. Matson.

Cr Matson said today,"The gaining by the Greens of its' first Sydney Mayoralty has signalled to the electorate that the Greens are ready to assume local Government leadership where it is open to us.

I genuinely believe that what has happened in Randwick this week has broken a political barrier imposed on the Greens by other political parties.

I express my heartfelt thanks to my local group the Randwick-Botany Greens who have remained true to the Greens principle of local grass roots autonomy in achieving this gain for the broader Greens NSW party.

Sydney's next Green Mayor will never have to be produced by the same battle that the Randwick-Botany Greens went through to achieve this break through."

Randwick Mayor Matson's acceptance speech is provided below.

Mayoral Acceptance Speech by Randwick Greens Councillor Murray Matson - 20 April 2004

I acknowledge the traditional indigenous owners of the Randwick City Council area.

Dominic Sullivan (Out going Mayor) I commend Cr Sullivan for his service to the community and I recognise that an important part of his life has concluded. I have always admired the fact that for him the Mayorship was a full time job and that he applied himself accordingly. And I will try to emulate that full time dedication.

New Councillors

I would like to say greetings to the five new councillors and welcome to the Council. I would like to acknowledge the support over the last eight years that I have received from my wife Leeza who has become, to her great shock, the new lady mayoress. I have promised her that it will only be for 5 months.

First Green Mayor

There have been many different Mayors on our Council - many Labor - many Liberal - and many independent. But I will be the first Green. Surprisingly this has not been an easy process for my party to arrive at.We do not hold an absolute majority in our own right and yet we have a reform agenda that we feel we have an obligation to introduce. But it was obvious to us after the results came in on election night that we would need the support of both of the major parties to do so. There are many in my party who feel that the Greens should not be actively pursuing the position of Mayor on Councils. Over the last week many fellow Greens have approached me and urged me to remain in the opposition role and seek to influence the Council direction from that position. I have told my colleagues that I already fully understand the power of the opposition role as I have had first hand schooling in it over the last eight and half years on this Council - and I know its' limits. I genuinely believe that Greens who contest local government elections have an obligation to their voters to also seek public leadership of the Council if it is possible for them to do so.To avoid taking the responsibility of leadership means surrendering it to someone else who our voters did not support us to do so. I believe that it is not appropriate for Green Councillors to routinely abrogate power to Labor Councillors simply because they demand it of us. The Labor party offered the Greens one year as mayor and we knocked it back because we want a real opportunity to implement change. And I personally did not want to go down in NSW history as the Green who sold out to Labor to be their token mayor. The Labor party then offered the Liberals two years as mayor and they also knocked it back because they too have an agenda for reform that they wish to implement.

Inclusiveness

The local Greens offered to both the Labor and Liberal parties an inclusive arrangement to share the leadership on a proportional basis reflecting the relative numbers of representatives. We suggested that all fifteen Councillors agree to sign a document pledging to allocate half a year to the Greens, two years to the Labor party, and two year to the Liberals. It is my great regret that we could not get a unanimous commitment that that all 15 councillors would sign that agreement and commit to owning its objectives. To my even greater regret, there were many Greens across NSW who also could not commit to supporting the objectives of achieving inclusiveness. I rapidly realised that with out the support of the Labor councillors the agreement was untenable and that the Greens would be accused of political opportunism and bias if only ourselves, and the Liberals signed.

Interim

Accordingly, yesterday we advised our colleagues and other Councillors that the Greens would not seek to implement the agreement and that we would not enter into any arrangements, promises, or deals of any sort regarding the mayoralty. This left no one obvious candidate with sufficient votes to fulfil the role of Mayor until the coming September elections. To their credit, Liberal Councillors Bruce Notley-Smith and Ted Seng took it upon themselves to ask to me to simply stand as an interim Mayor until the next Council elections in September of this year - with no strings attached. And I was honoured that they trusted me enough to do that and I accepted the challenge that they have asked me to undertake.

Liberals

Many members of the Greens have asked me why I will be supporting a Liberal Deputy Mayor tonight and could it have been avoided. The answer is no, it could not. The time to consistently block the liberals was during the last election campaign up until 6pm on polling day. The Randwick-Botany Greens vigorously opposed both the Liberals candidates with every stratagem we could think of, including the denial of preferences to them. Nonetheless, they were all elected and now serve as servants of the people on this local Council. If the Greens wish to effect change then we must work with the elected servants of the people in a fair and inclusive manner. In fact, the word "inclusive" is taken directly from the Greens NSW Local Government.

Policy

As Greens we can not draw a box around a group of our fellow Councillors and say for us that this is a line that they can never step out of. If we wish to be inclusive then we must find a way of including all of our elected colleagues into our confidence. To do other wise would return this Council to the us-and-them atmosphere that has prevailed over the last four years.

September

In September we will vote again for a new Mayor and Deputy Mayor. I sincerely hope that by then all fifteen of us have resolved to enter into an inclusive agreement on how to allocate those positions over the remaining four years of our term of office. I thank you all.

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25 APRIL 2004

CSIRO'S SMOKING GUN

Greens Senate Candidate Dr. Richard di Natale issued the following media release, which relates to the comments I made in the Sunday Age story on the employment of former Tobacco Institute CEO Donna Staunton.

CSIRO appointment inappropriate

The Victorian Greens call on the CSIRO to review its decision to appoint Donna Staunton as Communications Director claiming that a person who was formerly a professional defender and apologist of the tobacco industry was inappropriate for such a position.

“It is staggering that Australia’s premier scientific research organisation would give someone who was CEO of the lobby group the Tobacco Institute and former Vice President of Corporate Affairs for Philip Morris the responsibility of managing their communication,” said Victorian Greens Senate candidate Dr Richard Di Natale.

Dr Di Natale, the Victorian Greens health spokesperson and public health fellow, said, “Australians need to have confidence that CSIRO’s public face is one of frank and fearless advice based on independent evidence based research and not about spin doctoring the facts.”

“Ms Staunton’s involvement with the Tobacco industry is at complete odds with the internationally recognised work of the CSIRO,” Dr Di Natale said.

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23 APRIL 2004

GREENS NOW ALONE IN DEFENDING UNIONS AND WORKERS

Melbourne Greens candidates Gemma Pinnell issued the following press release today. Downloadable word and pdf copies of all my media releases are available on this site by clicking on the underlined title.

The recent announcement by the Bracks government of further legislative changes to limit the rights of employees to take industrial action demonstrate a dangerous trend in policy, claims Greens candidate for Melbourne Gemma Pinnell.“Labor governments were once seen as the allies of Australian workers and their unions,” she said, “but this decision shows what the new Labor party under the Federal Leader Mark Latham and the Bracks government think of the importance and value of the right to strike”. “Unions have been under attack from corporations, the conservatives and the Liberal Party since John Howard won government in 1996 but it was always thought that they had support from Labor”, Ms Pinnell said. “But now Labor appears to have abandoned unions and The Greens will soon be the only voice to stand up and fight for Victorian workers,” she said.“Premier Bracks is now doing Howard’s dirty work but what I want to know is, is he really just doing the dirty work of Mark Latham?”“The corporate sector, it seems, has got to Latham and Bracks who must see more value for themselves and the Labor party in appeasing the big end of town than in defending the rights of Victorian workers,” said Ms Pinnell. “The government’s intransigence in dealing with nurses’ and teachers’ reasonable demands is also clearly part of this pattern.” Ms Pinnell said, “a healthy economy should benefit all, but Labor wants to reduce the ability of Victorian workers to bargain for their fair share”.“Employees can depend on The Greens’ to support an industrial relations system which protects their rights. That’s why so many active trade unionists are now joining or voting for the Greens,” said Ms Pinnell

 

IRAQ UNDER OCCUPATION AND PROSPECTS FOR INDEPENDENCE: KERRY NETTLE AND SCOTT BURCHILL PUBLIC MEETING 28 APRIL

I will be chairing a public meeting about 'Iraq under occupation and Prospects for independence' in Melbourne on 28 April. Greens Senator Kerry Nettle discusses barriers to genuine independence under the US-led occupation in Iraq. Dr Scott Burchill, International Relations, Deakin University, will discuss the government's deception of the public on the war and occupation in Iraq.The meeting is at 6pm Wednesday 28 April at Hotel Y, 489 Elizabeth St, City. For further information contact Kerry Nettle's office on 02 9690 2038 or at www.kerrynettle.org.au

 

ANDREW WILKIE SPEECH 'THE LIES OF WAR AND AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRACY' AT TRADES HALL HUMANIST SOCIETY MEETING A GREAT SUCCESS

I was amongst an overflowing audience last night to hear Andrew Wilkie speak at a special meeting of the Humanist Society at Trades Hall last night. Andrew was a former employee of Australia's intelligence service ONA, the Office of National Assessment, who made the decision to resign when he felt unable to reconcile the lack of evidence for a war on Iraq with the Government's willingness to join a unilateral coalition to invade Iraq. I am a former member of the Humanist Society and since leaving ONA, Andrew has joined the Greens and is standing as the Greens candidate for Bennelong, John Howard's Sydney House of Representatives seat, so my views may be seen as biased. I had not met Andrew before last night, but had of course heard him speak in countless media interviews. I am well aware that many Australians would like to trust their government's actions, and find it difficult to accept that our government's decision to be involved in the invasion of Iraq was not made for good reason. Nevertheless, hearing Andrew last night, while it was fascinating to hear the facts explained by Andrew, I was particularly struck by Andrew's disposition. Andrew is clearly a thoughtful person whose world is bigger than his own self interest, and who is genuinely troubled by the corruption of a system of frank and fearless advice to the executive government. Having had a long military background in infantry and intelligence, he has contributed to Australia's defence force for a significant time. It was also obvious that Andrew's decision to publicise the government's hypocrisy was one that still weighed heavily on him. This is often the plight of whistleblowers, whose ethical judgment is met by public acknowledgement, but significant personal cost.

Hearing Andrew speak in person, and the humanity evident in the way he spoke and the manner he dealt with questions convinced me that Andrew Wilkie is an extraordinary person of uncommonly forceful but calm leadership. I want to publicly thank him for being what he is and what he has done. I think he has contributed a great deal to what he believes is true. I like many Australians agree with Andrew, and feel betrayed by our politicians and distressed by what it means for the soldiers sent to fight on our behalf and the countless people being killed and injured in a war that has predictably become easier to commence than conclude.

Andrew is completing a book due to be released in July, which I am sure will be a great read and a welcome reminder that being indifferent to history puts us a risk of repeating it.

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22 APRIL 2004

IRAQ UNDER OCCUPATION AND PROSPECTS FOR INDEPENDENCE: KERRY NETTLE AND SCOTT BURCHILL PUBLIC MEETING 28 APRIL

I will be chairing a public meeting about 'Iraq under occupation and Prospects for independence' in Melbourne on 28 April. Greens Senator Kerry Nettle discusses barriers to genuine independence under the US-led occupation in Iraq. Dr Scott Burchill, International Relations, Deakin University, will discuss the government's deception of the public on the war and occupation in Iraq.The meeting is at 6pm Wednesday 28 April at Hotel Y, 489 Elizabeth St, City. For further information contact Kerry Nettle's office on 02 9690 2038 or at www.kerrynettle.org.au

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21 APRIL 2004

THE HIGH COST OF THE USA-AUSTRALIA FREE TRADE DEAL

I issued the following media release today.

The high cost of the USA-Australia free trade deal

“The secretly negotiated Australia US Free Trade deal will cost Australia dearly, and the Greens will oppose its implementation”, said Victorian Greens Senate Candidate Cr. David Risstrom.

David Risstrom will speak at the ‘Free Trade Agreement’ public meeting at Melbourne Town Hall tonight at 7:30 pm.“The FTA will be legally binding, allowing the might of the USA’s economic power to override Australia’s national interests, and by many economic assessments, make Australia the loser”, Cr. David Risstrom said. “The Australian people will have little role in whether Australia accepts the terms of the secretly negotiated deal as cabinet is able to ratify the agreement without adequate parliamentary scrutiny, unlike the United States were Congressional approval is required”.Aspects of the deal that undermine Australia’s interests include:

  • Weakening of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme through appeal mechanisms that will increase the cost of medicines to Australians.

  • Extensions of copyright laws to a further 20 years, which when applied to drugs, will increase costs due to the restraint on trade against generic drugs.

  • The FTA uses a negative list model for investment and services, meaning ‘barriers to trade’ are removed from all areas of industry, economy and society unless specifically exempted.

  • The US sugar market is excluded and beef and dairy reductions are phased in over 18 years.

  • Lifting the threshold for the Foreign Investment Review Board from $50M to $800M, and remove US investment from scrutiny by the Board

  • The US government and US companies will have direct input into Australian quarantine laws, policies and standards, allowing the weaker United States standards to put our agriculture, environment and rural communities at risk.

  • ‘Positive consideration’ is mandated for accepting US technical regulations as our own.  The absence of labelling of genetically engineered food in the US, their challenge of European Union laws through the WTO and naming of Australian labelling laws as a ‘barrier to trade’, make it clear Australia’s clean and green food production and export status is in their sights.

  • If a government claims a law or policy of the other country breaches the FTA, a tribunal using primarily economic criteria can order an Australian law to be changed or compensation paid using public money without the public knowledge.

“Australia’s commitment to the FTA is about moving political control from democratically elected parliaments to corporate boardrooms, a place the free market oriented major parties appear to feel very comfortable with, Cr. Risstrom said. “We need fair trade, not a free market free-for-all.” “The Australian Government’s endorsement of the Free Trade Agreement appears to be more about special relationships than a good deal for Australia.”This media release was issued by Greens Senate candidate Dr Berhan Ahmed today, opposing the live sheep trade from Australia.

 

GREENS OPPOSE LIVE SHEEP TRADE

Greens Senate Candidate Dr. Berhan Ahmed issued the following media release today.

Victorian Greens Senate candidate Dr Berhan Ahmed said today he supports the attempts of protesters at Port of Portland to block the arrival of the live sheep export ships

The Como Express and Al Messelah claiming that the practice is inhumane, unnecessary and unhealthy. In September last year Dr Ahmed negotiated the deal between Eritrea and Australia that meant Eritrea take the sheep from the Como Express after it was not permitted to dock in Saudi Arabia.

“I have a personal interest in this issue since my involvement helping to resolve the problems  of Como Express and negotiating the deal between Australia and Eritrea”, said Dr Ahmed.

“I saw how the sheep were suffering and offered a solution that resolved the problems for Australia and the ship owners and relieve the suffering of the sheep”, he said.

“This is an inhumane practice, the sheep face incredible hardship and The Greens are very concerned about their welfare”,  said Mr Ahmed. “We call on the Federal Government to find an alternative to the current practices of live sheep export ”, said Dr Ahmed.

“I understand the concerns of the farmers but believe that you can not justify cruelty by claiming that if you stop it someone will lose money”, Dr Ahmed said, “some things are more important than money”.

“We are very happy to work with farmers to find a way to achieve an outcome that will satisfy the farmers and is not cruel to the sheep”, Dr Ahmed said.

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20 APRIL 2004

THE VICTORIAN GREENS IDENTIFY KEY ELECTION ISSUES

I issued the following media release today.

The Greens identify key election issues

Victorian Greens lead Senate candidate and Melbourne City Councillor David Risstrom stated today that the Victorian Greens have identified climate change, justice for asylum seekers and protection of native forests as key issues for the upcoming Federal election campaign. “Both Labor and the Coalition continue to push these issue aside and hope that Victorians will give up on them but they won’t”, said Cr Risstrom.

“Support for The Greens is growing rapidly in Australia and particularly in Victoria”, said Cr Risstrom, “Victorians recognise that The Greens provide a strong voice on issues that other parties ignore or are weak on, and that the best way to get something positive done is to vote for us”.

“The Greens will push for Australia to ratify the Kyoto agreement and set better targets for greenhouse gas emissions”, Cr. Risstrom said.   “The Howard Government told the world that Australia is a ‘developing nation’ when it argued in Kyoto for an increase in Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.  We think Australia is more advanced than that.”

“The Greens will push for permanent residence for refugees in accordance with United Nation agreements”, said Cr Risstrom.

“The Greens will seek permanent protection for high conservation value native forests, and we will stop logging in water catchments.  Our native forests are being destroyed as they are converted into de facto plantations by an industry that is based on low value woodchips.  Ecotourism will provide regional areas with far more jobs in the future if our remaining wilderness areas and forests are protected”, said Cr Risstrom.

“The public are aware that The Greens are the only party that offers a real and effective alternative on these issues and that a vote for The Greens is the best way to have those concerns represented”, said Cr Risstrom.

 

UNITE CASUAL WORKERS' CONFERENCE SUMMARY

This summary of the UNITE Casual Workers Conference I attended at Trades Hall was provided by Steve Jolly. About 80 mainly young casual workers attended the Unite Casual Workers Conference in Melbourne’s Trades Hall last month. After a VJ performance (video and reggae music) on casualisation, the Conference was opened by Lynn Beaton, a left wing academic concentrating on the rise of casualisation. She showed with facts and figures that casualisation is a massive growing feature of Australia’s workplace relations, especially effecting women.

Lynn put the rise of casualisation in a political context. Since the collapse of the post-war economic boom a neo-liberal assault has been waged on workers wages and conditions. This process was sped up after the collapse of the Stalinist block, with capitalism no longer having to put its best foot forward in the face of an alternative (albeit Stalinist alternative). The shift to the Right in the ALP and tops of some unions has allowed bosses attacks including a big push for casual work to succeed. The fight against the unchecked growth of casualisation can't be separated from the struggle to change society.

Casual workers Anthony Alder and Simone Torelli spoke from the heart telling the audience of the stress and insecurity of casual work and the brutal behaviour of many bosses who feel cocky in the absence of unions and a stable workforce.

Police the bosses! Conference then broke up into three sessions. †The CFMEU's Pat Preston took a session on health and safety and casual workers. †Attendees said this was one of the best sessions. They discussed the proposed changes to the OHS Act in Victoria to include casual workers and the fear factor that makes many casual and labour hire workers keep their mouths shut over health and safety breaches. †All agreed the policing of health and safety laws were as important as the laws themselves.

Women get it worse. Dr Liz Conor and Dr Marty Grace took the session on women and casualisation. Liz in particular highlighted the special and extra pressures on working mothers made worse by the cuts to child care, the marginal tax rate, and unsympathetic employers to name just a few. Her unique presentation captured the attention of delegates. The Executive Director of Job Watch, Zana Bytheway, took a session that included a report on the Westco T-shirt controversy. She played a key role in defending and representing those workers in the days prior to the Conference.

Unions must take it seriously. After lunch, the session on unions and casual workers proved very popular. Media Alliance State Secretary Pat O'Donnell, Young Unionists Network Matt Wilson, and NSW NUW Marisa Bernardi explained how unions had to take up the challenge of casualisation. Marisa in particular gave concrete examples of how her militant union limited the use of casuals and protected those who remain. La Trobe Uni academic Joo-Cheong Tham and Wage Line's Naomi Bleeser explained the different forms of workplace agreements and awards effecting casual workers. Joo-Cheong argued for a limitation on the use of casual workers and pointed out the regulatory gap in Australia’s industrial laws that allow bosses to use casuals in an unchecked way in many industries.

The session on what the political parties have to say about casualisation heard three Federal Senators - ALP's Gavin Marshall, Green's Kerrie Nettle, and the Democrats' Lyn Allison. All opposed the rise in casualisation and Gavin explained how the union he used to co-lead (Victoria’s ETU) had an excellent record on limiting the use of casuals in their industry. Politicians on the back foot.

From the floor, delegates wanted to know how long it would take for an ALP government to implement its new casualisation policy and how they hoped to police it in industries with low rates of unionisation. Others questioned the anti-union record of the Democrats in voting with the Howard government to implement the Workplace Relations Act in 1996.The Conference was closed by Unite's Stephen Jolly who once again gave a taste of what it is like to live your life as a long term casual worker. He said it was utopian to fight casualisation without also fighting the system that breeds it. He moved the three point plan (see elsewhere on this page). 20 new people signed up to get involved with Unite during the day and one delegate (from Channel 31) said it was so well organised that 'you people should go into event management'.

Three point plan agreed at the conference: 1/ Encourage trade unions to be more proactive in organising and taking up the concerns of casual workers in their industries. We lobby Victorian Trades Hall Council to establish an ongoing Action Committee on Casual Workers made up of representatives of unions with casuals in their industries, plus organisations like Unite, Young Unionists Network and Job Watch; 2/ Unite co-ordinates a solidarity network via its email lists, telephone tree, mailing list, etc to support (financially, politically and industrially) casual workers when they move into struggle; and 3/ Unite works to make casualisation an election issue this year, this being co-ordinated at Unite's monthly meetings.

 

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19 APRIL 2004

JOHN HOWARD'S SILLY CLAIMS ABOUT THE GREENS

I issued the following media in response to John Howard's silly media statements during his visit to Gippsland today.

Greens support sustainable farming

Victorian Greens lead Senate candidate David Risstrom has repudiated the Prime Minister's statement made today that the Greens environmental policies are extreme claiming they are just realistic.

Mr Risstrom said The Greens support Victorian farmers and understand the difficulties many face suggesting some of those difficulties relate to the need for farmers to adapt their practices to remain sustainable.

“The Greens were the first party to have the courage to recognise environmental problems that affect rural communities including those relating to salinity, to our limited water resources, greenhouse gas and climate change and genetically modified crops”, said Mr Risstrom.

“These are all issues that are now incorporate into the mainstream environmental policies of both Labor and Coalition governments and are supported and recognised by farmers throughout Australia”, said Mr Risstrom.

“Farmers are also increasingly recognising the need for sustainable practices and the Greens support them”, said Mr Risstrom.“But when we talk about sustainability we aren't just referring to environmental sustainability, we recognise that environmental sustainability is vital for a farm to remain financially sustainable”, said Mr Risstrom.

“Farmers know better than anyone that their livelihoods depend on a healthy environment, two of the most basic elements of a healthy environment are a sufficient supply of healthy water and appropriate weather conditions”. “It is becoming more and more evident that there are limits to these resources and, in many cases, we have exceeded those limits”, said Mr Risstrom.

“The Greens, unlike John Howard, not only have the courage to recognise that our resources are limited but we have the will to do something about it”, said Mr Risstrom.

“We challenge the Prime Minister to have the courage to stand up for the long-term interests of Australia and recognise the necessary changes required to make Australia a sustainable society”, said Mr Risstrom.

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18 APRIL 2004

DOCKLANDS TO BE RETURNED TO THE CITY OF MELBOURNE BUT AT WHAT COST?

The Victorian Government has announced the Docklands will return to the City of Melbourne, subject to a satisfactory due diligence that demonstrates the extent of assets and liabilities associated with the return.

“The return of Docklands to democratic control will be a positive, though two questions remain.  At what cost is the wrongful excision of Docklands from the City of Melbourne to be righted, and why has it taken the Victorian Labor Government 5 years to implement its policy for the Docklands should return to local government control?” said Greens Melbourne City Councillor and Victorian Senate Candidate David Risstrom.

The Kennett Government excised the Docklands from Melbourne City Council's jurisdiction, with the current State Government having refused to implement Labour Party policy to return the Docklands since it was elected in 2000.

“The Docklands was excised with ideological shears to allow the area to crafted as a developer's dream, where corporate control predominated over local democratic involvement”, Greens Councillor David Risstrom said. 

“The result appears to be few services or community facilities and a market driven high-rise development roller coaster.

”Although the City of Melbourne has been contracted to provide a number of services to the Docklands, local government involvement has been strictly curtailed. “The implications of this ideological experiment likely to be in dispute for years to come.” Cr Risstrom said.

“Some are concerned that the Docklands may have accrued liabilities in order of $170M, that may now be consequently transferred to the City of Melbourne's books. This uncertainty is a likely contributing factor to the caveat that the return of the Docklands is subject to a due diligence process”, Greens Councillor David Risstrom said.

“The excision of Docklands from the City of Melbourne and use of its residents to play political football with its boundaries is further evidence of the need to stop arbitrary interference in local government by recognising local government in the Commonwealth Constitution”, Greens Councillor David Risstrom said.

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15 APRIL 2004

LONDON GUARANTEES THEIR NEXT MAYOR WILL BE PRO-CYCLING? WHY NOT MELBOURNE?

This article from BikeBiz, a UK bicycle magazine was forwarded to me by Rosemary Spiedel of the Bicycle Promotion. I think we should follow suit in Melbourne and ask all Mayoral candidates to make a like pledge. I have posted a new Green Achievement titled Pro-Cycling Candidates. Click on the underlined title to see it.

London's next mayor is pro-cycling, guaranteed

London’s mayoral candidates agree on little but they are united on one front for the forthcoming election: all four have pledged their support for a ten-point cycling manifesto drawn up by the London Cycling Campaign. This includes 20mph limit in all streets where Londoners live, work or shop, and free cycling training for every schoolchild. Cycling in Central London has increased by 20 percent since the congestion charge was introduced.  London Cycling Campaign, which gives maps, information and advice to the city’s cyclists, believes new measures are now needed to ensure the capital becomes one of the world’s first-class cycling cities. Tom Bogdanowicz, campaigns manager for the London Cycling Campaign, said: “Cycling is enjoying a boom in London and we are delighted that all the candidates have backed our manifesto. We now want to see this very welcome support put into practice.“ The manifesto calls for guaranteed funding to deliver the London Cycling Action Plan, which aims to increase cycling by 80 percent by 2010, safe routes to school for all of London’s children and dedicated patrols to fine motorists who block cycle lanes and advanced stop lines at traffic lights. “I fully support LCC’s Cycling Manifesto for London, which I think is a very helpful document," said Labour's Ken Livingstone, the current mayor and odds-on favourite to win again. "I want to dramatically increase cycling’s modal share in London,” he said. The LibDem and Green candidates also endorse LCC's manifesto. Steven Norris, the Conservative candidate, has the best cycling credentials of all four candidates: he recently stepped down as chair of the National Cycling Strategy Board in order to focus on his campaign to be London mayor. He is currently lagging behind Livingstone in the polls. “I can happily sign up to LCC’s campaign commitments," said Norris. "I intend to make London a city in which cycling is as safe, enjoyable and widespread as it can possibly be.”

London City Council’s Cycling Manifesto for London: 

  • Guaranteed funding to deliver the full TfL London Cycling Action Plan, including the London Cycle Network+.

  • 20mph as the standard speed limit in all streets where Londoners live, work or shop, and a radical expansion in the number of home zones.

  • Free cycle training for every London schoolchild, including on-road training.

  • Safe routes to school for all London’s children, with sufficient secure cycle parking at all London schools by end 2006.

  • Sufficient secure cycle parking at all major London rail, tube and bus stations by end 2005, and as a legal requirement in all new developments.

  • A major campaign of action on cycle theft, with cycle theft reduction targets for all London boroughs and a London-wide database of stolen cycles.

  • Enforcement of all cycle lanes, cycle gaps and advance stop lines by a Green Route Patrol, including using the same decriminalised enforcement as currently exists for bus lanes.

  • A concerted action plan in conjunction with all other relevant agencies to prevent cyclists’ deaths from HGVs and skip lorries.

  • A dedicated programme to open up cycle corridors across key green spaces and along London’s waterways.

  • A major programme to reallocate road space and priority to cycling and walking, including the upgrading and widening of cycle lanes.

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14 APRIL 2004

MELBOURNE CITY COUNCIL SUPPORTS MY CALL TO SUSPEND CAMERAS PROGRAM

At last night's City Safety and Health Committee, Melbourne City Council supported my motion to suspend the operation of the Safe City Camera Program pending proof it is: 1/ an effective contribution to city safety; and 2/ a necessary function for Council to fund. I put the motion following Council's consideration of the Safe City Cameras Program Evaluation 2003. The report failed to provide adequate evidence that the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of Council dollars on the camera program was producing tangible improvements in city safety. I issued the following media release following the committee meeting last night.

More Cameras Not Making Us More Safe

Melbourne City Council moved last night to suspend the operation of the Safe City Camera Program pending proof that it is an effective contribution to city safety, and a necessary function for Council to fund.

Greens Councillor David Risstrom moved the camera program be suspended after having received the Safe City Cameras Program Evaluation Report 2003.  The report found the cameras “are not perceived to be a strong contributing factor to people feeling safe in the CBD.” Cr. Risstrom said.

"This system is costing us hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, yet all of the research shows that the cameras don’t make people feel safe, nor do they deter crime”, Greens Cr. Risstrom said. “Police on the street would appear to be a much better investment in crime prevention.

"The Safe City Cameras Program Evaluation Report 2003 made a number of observations:
# The cameras are not perceived to be a strong contributing factor to people feeling safe in the CBD.
# The presence of cameras would make people less likely to contact the police.
# According to surveys of those likely to be have been monitored by the program, knowledge and awareness of the program had minimal impact on their behaviour and lifestyle, with 75% saying they were no less or more often deterred from committing crime.
# Almost one-half of the general public surveyed disagreed that the program is effective in achieving its purpose.
# More than one third of city users criticised the program on civil liberty grounds while a further one third remained undecided. One quarter believed it unfairly targeted certain groups of people.
# The absence of reliable police statistics is a major limitation for the capacity of CCTV programs to articulate quantifiable evidence.
# Victoria Police has no resource allocation responsibilities for the program’s establishment.
# The cameras are used to co-ordinate major public events, such as demonstrations.

"It appears the money spent on more and more cameras watching us could be better spent on more effective policing", Cr. Risstrom said.

"Putting hundreds of thousands of dollars into more and more camera surveillance raises the question of what sort of society we wish to encourage.  A ‘1984’ model of ever increasing surveillance or one that puts an emphasis on building social capital and a sense of community", Cr. Risstrom said.

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12 APRIL 2004

PUBLIC MEETING DIARY HOTTING UP AS PEOPLE SWITCH OFF 'THE BILL' RE-RUNS TO HEAR THINGS FOR THEMSLEVES

The Climate Justice Tour will start this month and visit various cities and towns in Eastern Australia. It hopes to show how people are going to be affected by climate change; specifically peoples of the Pacific Islands given the severity of impacts predicted for this region, and the comparatively minor greenhouse gas emissions from these communities. The tour aims to bring the experience of living with climate change into the public debate on climate change in Australia, as well as highlighting the impacts of the oil industry of communities in the global South. The Melbourne public meeting on 'Oil, refugees and climate change' is on Monday 26 April (ANZAC Day). It is presented by Friends of the Earth Australia and Oxfam Community Aid Abroad and co-hosted by the Globalism Institute.
Location: Storey Hall, RMIT, 344 Swanston st, Melbourne. 7 pm, $5-10 sliding scale
Further details: Cam Walker 9419 8700 or email at cam.walker@foe.org.au

Key speakers include three acknowledged leaders in their field: Fiu Mataese Elisara-Laulu (Fiu) , community advocate from Samoa as the director of O Le Siosiomaga Society, and president of Samoa Umbrella of NGOs (SUNGO) and Pacific Concerns Resource Centre; Penieli Metia (Penny), secretary of the Tuvalu Association of Non Government Organisations (TANGO) and executive committee member of the National Council of Women (Tuvalu); and, Nnimmo Bassey, human rights activist from Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria, The tour is organised by Friends of the Earth Australia, with Oxfam Community Aid Abroad and AID/WATCH as project partners. For further details and a full program, please see: http://www.foe.org.au/climate.

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9 APRIL 2004

KERRY NETTLE'S REPORTS FROM IRAQ

Kerry will be posting reports directly to her website on the "Inside Iraq" campaign page, giving day-by-day info on her trip to Baghdad. Kerry's flying out of Sydney tomorrow and is due back on Tuesday 20th April. The direct link to Kerry's Inside Iraq page is available by clicking on the underlined title. Kerry's first public appearance to speak about the trip will be Wednesday 21st 6pm at Sydney University. Stay posted for more details.

THE CAMPAIGN: HIGHLIGHT OF THE COMEDY FESTIVAL AND YOU ARE INVITED!

The Greens Melbourne Branch have negotiated your preference for the upcoming Federal election and recommending a ticket of laughs before the big one hits later this year. The Campaign, written by former ALP member for Melbourne has been described by a parting insider as follows: The Labor Party have their backs to the wall in the State Seat of Hopetoun.

Michael Murphy, the sitting Labor member is confronted by the threat of the Green Party, who for the first time ever look like defeating Labor in this otherwise safe labor seat. Amidst the crisis, turmoil, mayhem and despair, Michael Murphy provides even more crisis turmoil, mayhem and despair. The only thing that will save Labor is preference deals and the decision to save the Wombat Forest from destruction.

The Campaign is on at the Carlton Court House Theatre, 379 Drummond St. Carlton on at 6:30 pm Wednesday April 21st. Tickets available through Rose De la Cruz for $17 full or $12 concession. Click on the e-mail link to contact Rose.

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8 APRIL 2004

FALUN DAFA MOOMBA APOLOGY FORCED, LATE AND EXPENSIVE

I issued the following media release following the publication of Justice Bowman's decision against Melbourne City Council in the VCAT case concerning the unlawful exclusion of Falun Dafa from Moomba.

"The majority decision of Melbourne City Council to ban Falun Dafa from Moomba has been proven wrong on political, ethical and legal grounds, and has wasted tens of thousands of dollars", said Greens Lead Senate Candidate and Melbourne City Councillor Cr. David Risstrom.

A vote of six to three taken by Melbourne City Council on 27 February 2003 to ban Falun Dafa from the Moomba Parade on the basis of their political associations prohibited Falun Dafa from joining the community parade.

"My view, now confirmed by VCAT, is that the Council's actions were unlawful. I predicted this series of events at the time I opposed the decision, and find it frustrating that the intransigence of the majority decision has been costly in so many ways", Cr. Risstrom said.

"Melbourne City Council's defence of the indefensible in VCAT has wasted tens of thousands of taxpayers money, when good judgement and decency was available without charge", Cr. Risstrom said.

"The need for a legally settled arrangement to provide an apology does little to enhance the Council's reputation", Cr. Risstrom said. For further comment: David Risstrom. 0418 502 713

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7 APRIL 2004

WHY WE NEED TO BRING AUSTRALIAN TROOPS BACK KNOW FROM IRAQ

The Greens have held firm that the unilateral non UN sanctioned invasion of Iraq was a mistake built on a tissue of lies. Events have strengthened our claim, but the costs to stability and security have been enormous. The Australian Greens believe we should bring our troops home now, and not compound or continue complicity in the allied military occupation of Iraq, particularly given that government justifications at the time of the invasion have simply not held true. Greens Senator Kerry Nettle has provided a very thorough explanation of the Greens position.

Why we need to bring Australian troops back from Iraq now - by Greens Senator Kerry Nettle

In the last Senate sitting Bob and I sat alone on one side of the Senate chamber supporting a Greens motion calling for the immediate withdrawal of the Australian Defence Forces from Iraq with the exception of any personnel required to protect Australian diplomatic representatives.

A Roy Morgan Poll released the same week showed 46% of Australians back The Greens position. The idea that a US occupying army can force peace and stability on Iraq is a myth. The US led occupation of Iraq is fuelling instability in Iraq, the Middle East and across the globe. To bring stability to Iraq and ensure that Iraqis are in control of their burgeoning democracy, the occupation must end. Australia can lead this process by removing its military presence as soon as possible. US forces would take months to withdraw, during which time elections could and should be conducted. These withdrawals will not necessarily end the violence but nor will they necessarily result in civil war. History, from Palestine, and Vietnam, and Afghanistan tells us that there will never be peace in Iraq whilst occupying military forces remain, the sooner they start withdrawing the closer Iraq will be to peace.

Resistance to the military occupation of Iraq is growing. Millions of Iraqi people are peacefully organising against the US led occupation but the media focuses on the violent resistance. On March 19, the anniversary of the invasion 5-7000 Iraqis from secular political organizations, Sunni and Shia Islamic groups, Christian, Turkomen, Assyrian parties, labour unions and tribes marched peacefully together in Baghdad calling for an end to the occupation.

Violence in Iraq is perpetrated by opportunistic foreign jihadists and increasingly Iraqi resistance targeting the occupation forces and their supporters, who themselves instigate violent attacks. There is a smaller amount of violence resulting from the growing conflict between Iraqi religious, ethnic and political groupings. Unfortunately these tensions, often painted as the start of a civil war, are being stoked by the US led occupation's concentration on ethnic and religious criteria in their political manoeuvrings and by foreign jihadists who are newly active in Iraq since the invasion.

Only when free and fair elections occur in Iraq can the government of Iraq legitimately command the respect of the Iraqi population. But this is not the project of the American occupiers. UN experts entered Iraq recently to help the private company contracted by the US to "democracy build" in Iraq. Decisions about the process for handover are controlled by the US and this private company. The company describe their work in Iraq this way, "Let us be clear. These are not elections. These are all processes of selections."The Americans do not even pretend that they are handing over control on June 30th. Mr. Bremer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority and other top American officials say they believe Security Council Resolution 1511, which conferred the mandate for the American-le dalliance, can be used to provide legal justification for the American military command to operate until Dec. 31, 2005. European and United Nations diplomats in contrast said recently that American control would have to be approved by the Iraqis taking office on June 30 2004. That control, said a United Nations official, "is not likely to survive the transfer of sovereignty unless the successor government approves it." The interim constitution of Iraq enshrines the laws made by the US commanders as binding and a US general is in command of the Iraqi army for two years after June 30. It's not hard to see why many Iraqis are skeptical about the coming 'democracy'.

Australia can and should assist the rebuilding of Iraq, but this cannot be done by our military. Iraqis need humanitarian assistance which we can provide if asked. This is the responsibility we should live up to and one which will not contribute to an illegal and inflammatory occupation.

A statement from Iraqi groups marching in Baghdad on March 19 reads: "For more than three decades, Iraqi people have suffered only too much, first under a bloody dictatorship, then under a criminal embargo and now under occupation. During each period, it was the same countries and the same governments that supported the dictatorship, that organised the sanctions, and that now occupy this country.

"The time has come for the Iraqi people to be allowed to determine their own destiny. For this future to be a peaceful one it is clear that Iraq must be free of US occupation and that the people must have free and fair elections. Sadly there is no route for the Iraqis that can guarantee peace in the short term, but we can be sure that this much needed peace will not be found at the end of a GI's gun.

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6 APRIL 2004

READING ON THE JOB

I think it was Winston Churchill who said it is the victors who write history. Our own John Winston Howard and his workplace deputy, Mr Abbott might not like to extend that compliment to modern times if the existence of a new history of the BLF is evidence of the battle having been won. Details of the 30 April book launch for Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win! by Liz Ross, as forwarded to me, are shown below.

Book launch Friday 30 April: Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win - Builders Labourers Fight Deregistration 1981-1994

An inevitably controversial look at the history of the struggles on the Builders Labourers Federation and the twenty year campaign to smash Australia's most militant union.Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win! If one phrase can sum up the militant Builders Labourers Federation it was this. Because they believed this, and backed it with action on the job - the courts and governments of the 1980s declared the BLF had to go. Conservative governments took the first steps, but it was Labor - backed by leading members of the ACTU and union movement - which finished the job. Subject to a Royal Commission, accusations of corruption against union secretary Norm Gallagher, trials, Arbitration Commission hearings and coordinated federal and state legislation the BLF was under siege for years. Then in 1986 the full force of governments and their police fell on the union when it was formally deregistered. But this is not a story of defeat and despair. It is a story of resistance, much of it told in the words of the most important actors in this drama - rank and file workers. Builders Labourers and their supporters in other unions and the community waged a long struggle for union rights and militancy that has important lessons for today. While highlighting the rank and file struggle, Liz Ross pulls together all the threads in this complex story and provides a left-wing analysis of the role of the employers, ALP and union leaders, and the historic ALP-ACTU Accord. Here is the full story for the first time. The book is meticulously researched, with extensive use of archives, original union material and fifty-seven interviews with participants. The author was also directly involved in many of the events she describes. Liz Ross is a long-standing left wing activist in Melbourne. She was a union delegate in the Department of Social Security for ten years during the Hawke years. She has been a campaigner for women's and gay liberation from 1972, a member of socialist organisations from the late 1970s, and active in solidarity with union struggles. Her history of the 1986 Victorian Nurses' strike is included in the book Rebel Women in Australian Working Class History. Liz is a member of Socialist Alternative. When: Friday 30 April, 6 pm Trades Hall (New Ballroom, upstairs near the bar).

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6 APRIL 2004

A TEN POINT PLAN WORTH DOING

I had a lovely dinner with Bob Brown in Melbourne tonight after a heavy day of appointments for Bob for the successful launch of his book 'Memo for a saner world.' Included in Bob's book is a 10 point plan listed below titled 'A 10-point plan for future prime ministers: How to make Australia a proud, compassionate, independent nation:
1. Commit to guaranteed, free, quality public education from pre-school to university, which means ending the HECS scheme:
2. Guarantee a universal public health scheme, ensuring access for all to a family doctor, dentist mental health professional and hospital.
3. Make Australia a world environmental leader by protecting old growth forests, woodlands and grasslands, restoring our rivers, ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, and investing in clean, efficient public transport.
4. Give Australia back its humanity, and save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars annually, by closing down the long-stay detention centres and ending temporary protection visas.
5. Abandon the US-Australia free-trade agreement, which will leave Australia disadvantaged by threatening our environmental and quarantine safeguards and our public utilities while not removing US agricultural protection.
6. End Australia's involvement in the war in Iraq by bringing home our troops.
7. Return to the belief in multiculturalism and develop an independent foreign policy, rather than continue subservience to the White House.
8. Give justice to Australia's first people: rekindle the plan for national land-rights legislation abandoned by Bob Hawke.
9. Drop plans to disempower the Senate and instead campaign energetically for a democratic Australian republic.
10. Lead a global effort to divert some of the US$1 trillion annual weapons budget, so that every child on Earth has food, clean water and a school to attend.

 

GREENS OFFICIALLY A NEW FORCE IN NEW SOUTH WALES LOCAL GOVERNMENT

The Australian Greens show they have earned the trust of their community, with official results from the NSW local government elections confirming that 57 Councillors across 33 Councils, with three new Green Mayors among them, joining the growing ranks of elected Greens. The NSW Councils and the Councillors that will serve their communities are:
Ashfield 3 - Cr. Mary Hawkins, Cr. Lance Dale, Cr. Marc Rerceretnam
Auburn 1 - Cr. Malikeh Michaels
Bega Valley 1 - Cr. Keith Hughes
Bellingen 1 - Cr. Jill Cranny
Blue Mountains 2 - Cr. Kerrin O'Grady, Cr. Pippa McInnes
Byron Mayor + 3 - Cr. Jan Barham (Mayor), Cr. Richard Staples, Cr. Tom Tabart, Cr. John Lazarus
Campbelltown 1 - Cr. Julie Bourke
Canada Bay 1 - Cr. Bernard Rooney
Cessnock 1 - Cr. James Ryan
Coffs Harbour 1 - Cr. Gavin Smithers
Eurobodalla 1 - Cr. Chris Kowal
Gosford 1 - Cr. Terri Latella
Great Lakes 1 - Cr. Linda Gill
Hawkesbury 1 - Cr. Leigh Williams
Hornsby 1 - Cr. Wendy McMurdo
Kiama 2 - Cr. Howard Jones, Cr. Nerissa Bradley
Leichhardt 4 - Cr. Jamie Parker, Cr. Rochelle Porteous, Cr. Kate Hamilton, Cr. Michele McKenzie
Lismore 1 - Cr. Vanessa Grindon-Ekins
Maitland 1 - Cr. Wendy White
Manly 1 - Cr. Judy Lambert
Marrickville 5 - Cr. Saeed Kahn, Cr. Fiona Byrne, Cr. Colin Hesse, Cr. Peter Olive, Cr. Sam Byrne
Newcastle 4 - Cr. Ian McKenzie, Cr. Michael Osborne, Cr. Keith Parsons, Cr. Cassandra Arnold
Orange 1 - Cr. Jeremy Buckingham
Pittwater 1 - Cr. Natalie Stevens
Randwick 3 - Cr. Murray Matson, Cr. Margaret Woodsmith, Cr. Bradley Hughes
Rockdale 1 - Cr. Lesa de Leau
Ryde 2 - Cr. Mara Melhem, Cr. Tom McCosker
Shoalhaven 2 - Cr. Richard Bates, Cr. Rebecca Rudd
Sydney City 1 - Cr. Chris Harris
Tweed 1 - Cr. Henry James
Waverley 3 - Cr. Dominic Kanak, Cr. Mora Main, Cr. George Copeland
Wingecarribee 1 - Cr. Jim Clark
Woollahra 2 - Cr. Tanya Excell, Cr. David Shoebridge

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5 APRIL 2004

HUNTER LOVINS LIFTS THE LID ON LOCAL SUSTAINABILITY AT MELBOURNE TOWN HALL

I had the good fortune to introduce Hunter Lovins, author of Natural Capitalism to an interested and engaged audience of local, state and federal government people who came to the Melbourne Town Hall to hear about how worthwhile and straightforward the need and the applications of sustainability are in our community. If you haven't read 'Natural Capitalism' I recommend it. It is a book identifying what is possible and having been already done, which is great use to a naturally skeptical and practical Australian audience. As Bill Clinton described it 'This is big deal.' I guess that is a good sign.

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4 APRIL 2004

PALM SUNDAY A GREAT MELBOURNE EVENT

Palm Sunday was another great event where Melbourne people took to the streets to show that their interests extend beyond themselves. With the good work of Julie Bain, Alison Clarke, Alex Bhatal and others, the 'Sea of Hands Project' was a great success.Rosa and I really enjoy waking down Swanston St anytime of the night or day, but it is all the more uplifting being joined by tens of thousands of people who believe Australia is more capable of good than the current folk in Canberra seem to think. I look forward to the change, on a number of fronts.

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1 APRIL 2004

THOSE WHO FAIL TO LEARN FROM THEIR MISTAKES ARE DESTINED TO REPEAT THEM!

David and Rosa's News and Views has grown to such an extent that I must create a new page every three months. This page provides my news and views from 1 April 2004 to 30 June 2004. The previous edition of current news and views are available by clicking here: News and Views January - March 2004

 
 
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Cool Green Tip Of The Week -

23 April 2017: Only those who decline to scramble up the career ladder are interesting as human beings. Nothing is more boring than a man with a career: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918 -1956.

This site is written, authorised and maintained by David Risstrom , 377 Little Bourke St. Melbourne, Australiaand had more than 1,003,082 visitors and 3,052,017 hits when updated on Sun 23 April 2017.