NEWS AND VIEWS OF DAVID RISSTROM: 2004 VICTORIAN GREENS No 1 SENATE CANDIDATE
WITH COMMENTS BY ROSA RISSTROM: 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or Rosa at email@example.com. David last updated this site on 29 June 2005.
29 JUNE 2005
JOIN THE FIGHT AGAINST HOWARD'S ATTACK ON WORKING PEOPLE LIKE YOU
Tomorrow, Thursday 30 June will be a rally to mark the fight against the conservative's attack on working people. With the Victorian Labor Party's preferences having delivered a Family First Senator to Victoria, the Coalition now have a comfortable one vote buffer to pass through draconian laws that will decimate much of what we assumed was part of a fair Australia. While I will not be able to represent Victoria as a Green Senator from 1 July 2005, I will remain a part of the fight against the Conservative time machine that is set to back us to the times of master and slave.
The timetable for tomorrow is: 10am Workers gather at the VTHC corner Victoria and Lygon Street
10.10am Workers to be addressed by union officials
10.35am March to Flinders Street via Russell, La Trobe and Swanston Streets
11.20am Main speakers: Trades Hall Choir - "Solidarity"; Brian Boyd, Secretary Victorian Trades Hall Council; Kim Beazley, Federal Leader of the Australian Labor Party; Rob Hulls, State Minister for Industrial Relations; Greg Combet, Secretary Australian Council of Trade Unions; Ethnic Communities Council - Speaker; Father Peter Norden, Jesuit Social Services; Kemalex Worker - Danna Davic, NUW
28 JUNE 2005
HELP THE NEW ZEALAND GREENS WIN THER ELECTION FROM AUSTRALIA
The New Zealand General election will be held later this year. With the Government yet to announce a date spectators are predicting the poll will be held in September. The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand is aiming to increase it’s representation above the current 9 MP’s in NZ’s 120 seat parliament. Key Green issues are expected to include Energy, Water and Student Loan Debt.
The overseas voters will be very important for the Greens in this election, in the 2002 election The Greens scored 15% of the overseas vote, around double the domestic vote. With so many Kiwi’s living overseas the Greens have targeted Australia, London and America. Part of the Campaign plan to attract votes from ex-patriot Kiwis involves selecting candidates residing in target areas. Former Christchurch resident James Diack, who has lived in Sydney for seven years was confirmed as a candidate at the party’s annual conference in Christchurch on the 4th and 5th of June.
The Greens Office is looking for people who can help with the Campaign, please contact James by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 9519 0877. The first steps in this campaign will be to encourage Kiwi Green supporters to get on the roll. Ex-patriots can check their enrolment and enrol on the NZ Electoral Enrolment Centre website: http://www.elections.org.nz/
25 JUNE 2005
GLOBAL REPORTING INITIATIVE EMPLOYS AUSTRALIAN TALENT TO EXTEND PUBLIC SECTOR REPORTING
The Global Reporting Initiative aims to develop and disseminate globally applicable Sustainability Reporting Guidelines. The Global Reporting Initiatives' international effort to provide a standardised way of reporting on sustainability, was recently expanded to include public sector reporting. As part of a collaboration between the GRI, ICLEI ANZ - Local Governments for Sustainability, the City of Melbourne and the State of Victoria.
Dr. Robyn Leeson, a former invaluable staff member I worked with at Melbourne City Council, will head the newly established "Centre for Public Agency Sustainability Reporting." Hosted by ICLEI in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, details of the work to be done by the new centre is detailed in the 21 March 2005 media release reproduced below. Robyn Leeson can be contacted at ICLEI ANZ on Tel: +613 9660 2249 and email email@example.com
You can download the 880Kb Sector Supplement for Public Agencies by visiting the GRI website at: http://www.globalreporting.org/guidelines/sectors/public.asp
Giant Step in Public Sector Transparency: GRI Releases Sector Supplement for Public Agencies.
21 March 2005. Melbourne, Australia. In recent years, sustainability reporting has been recognised as a key component of corporate transparency and accountability. There is now a parallel and growing interest in reporting as a tool to enhance transparency in the public sector. For example, public authorities at various levels in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Hong Kong, and Japan have already initiated non-financial reporting of various types, including the release of sustainability reports.
Already established as the international reference point for sustainability reporting, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) has now completed the development of a Sector Supplement for Public Agencies to enhance the ability of public agencies to apply the GRI Sustainability Reporting Guidelines. The project was sponsored by the European Commission, along with help from the City of Melbourne, and the Australian Departments of Environment & Heritage and Family and Community Services.
GRI utilised its normal international, multi-stakeholder procedures for the development of the Supplement. A working group of 15 experts were convened from civil society, labour, foundations, research, municipalities, state level agencies, federal agencies, and regional agencies (European Commission).
"Recent interest from public agencies to use the Guidelines created a need for specialised guidance" said GRI Chief Executive Ernst Ligteringen. "The Supplement is a first step in harmonising reporting practices amongst public sector organisations, as well as between private sector reporting and public sector reporting activities."
The Supplement was launched at an event in Melbourne, Australia on Monday. Lord Mayor John So stated "The City of Melbourne is an innovator in sustainability reporting. We are pleased and excited to see this Supplement released, which will do much to promote excellence in sustainability reporting by public agencies."
Also on Monday, a collaboration was announced between GRI, ICLEI ANZ - Local Governments for Sustainability, the City of Melbourne, and the State of Victoria. The partners will establish "The Centre for Public Agency Sustainability Reporting" in Melbourne, hosted by ICLEI, which will house several projects focused on building capacity within the public sector for using the Supplement, potentially including a pilot or "Structured Feedback Process" for the Supplement which would contribute to its further evolution in the future.
"Organisations of all kinds, big and small, need to consider the social and environmental aspects of their activities as well as the economic. This applies to how government agencies conduct their operations just as it does to the mining companies, banks and telecommunications companies of the private sector" said Wayne Wescott, Chief Executive of ICLEI for Australia/New Zealand when asked about ICLEI’s leadership in promoting reporting in the sector.
23 JUNE 2005
GOVERNMENT ADMITS AUSTRALIAN LEFT TO LANGUISH IN US PRISON IN IRAQ
The following information was received from Greens Senator Kerry Nettle.
In question time today Greens Senator Kerry Nettle raised the plight of Australian and Adelaide resident Ahmed Aziz Rafiq who has been imprisoned without charge by US forces in Iraq for over a year.
Senator Nettle asked what the government was doing to arrange his release and why he has had no consular visits for 11 months only to be told by the Minster for Defence that "I'll have to seek further advice...when we all come back in August I'll able to provide the Senator with an answer."
"Mr Aziz is an Australian and has been detained by the US forces in Iraq without charge for 12 months but astonishingly the Minister appears to have only the sketchiest knowledge of his plight," Senator Nettle said.
"Once again it appears that the government is happy to leave this matter in the hands of the US military.
"In answer to previous questions the Minister has said that consular access is hampered by security problems when travelling in Iraq. Today I asked what our ADF security detachment is for if not escorting consular officials when travelling in Iraq.
"If the ADF cannot protect our consular officials on a trip to Camp Bucca to visit Mr Rafiq then why doesn't the government insist that the US forces facilitate such a visit.
"The Minister today could not recall whether Mr Rafiq had been visited recently which is symptomatic of a disregard this government has of the welfare of Australians who have the misfortune of being detained by the US military.
"While the Minister gives me an undertaking to find out the answer to my question by August Mr Rafiq will languish for another two months in Iraq imprisoned by our so called allies."
"Mr Rafiq should be charged or released so he can have a chance to return home to his family in Australia."
SENATE BACKS ACTU CAMPAIGN ON INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS
The following media release was received from Greens Senator Kerry Nettle.
Greens Senator Kerry Nettle today welcomed the Senate's support for a motion backing the ACTU's campaign against the government's planned industrial relations changes.
"There is growing public recognition of the danger for workers and their families of the Howard government's plans", Senator Nettle said today.
"The coming month will see a range of actions initiated by unions including mass meetings, protests and industrial action to highlight the strength of community concern. The Senate in supporting this motion is reflecting that concern by expressing its support for the ACTU's campaign."
The following motion was passed by the Senate this afternoon:
Senators Nettle and Sherry: To move-That the Senate:
(a) notes the launch on Sunday, 19 June 2005 of the advertising campaign of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) highlighting the terrible impact of the Government's planned industrial relations changes on working people and their families;
(b) urges all Australians to support the ACTU's national week of union and community action from 27 June to 1 July 2005;
(c) commends the planned community action to be held across the country from 29 June to 1 July 2005;
(d) notes the growing community concern and anger about the proposed industrial relations changes which will remove many basic rights and conditions that workers have acquired in the past 100 years; and
(e) calls on the Government to withdraw its proposals and commit to a fair and cooperative approach to industrial relations.
22 JUNE 2005
ABC FUNDING CONTINUES ITS FREEFALL UNDER THE CONSERVATIVES
With newspaper reports having recently claimed Channel 10 is paying between $250,000 and $400,000 for an interview with the recently released Iraqi hostage, Mr. Douglas Woods, as A Friend of the ABC my mind turned to two issue raised in the Winter edition of the Victorian Friends of the ABC newsletter 'News and Views'.
The first issue under the heading of 'Independence, not balance, is under threat' related to the recent findings of the Australian Broadcasting Authority concerning a complaint of bias against the ABC lodged by the then Senator Alston in May 2003, acting on public complaints received about the ABC 'AM' program. According to 'News and Views' "A Freedom of Information request revealed that Senator Alston had received only one complaint about AM, a letter from the Federal Director of the Liberal Party.
Finding that AM's coverage of the war in Iraq was balanced, the Australian Broadcasting Authority stated, "The Panel finds no evidence, overall, of biased and anti-Coalition coverage as alleged by the Minister. Nor does [the panel] uphold [Senator Alston's] view that the program was characterised by one-sided and tendentious commentary by program presenters and reporters: the analysis and interpretive reporting, the program's raison d'etre, which allowed the listener to grasp what has happening on the battlefields."
The second article in news and Views titled 'Starvation of ABC continues' posits that "The May 2005 Budget provides no indication the Government has changed its attitude towards independent public broadcasting. The article states, "Figures available after last year's Budget revealed that since 1985-86 (the high point of ABC funding), the ABC's operational funding had declined by almost 30% in real terms. Compared to 996, when the Howard Coalition Government came to office, the level of funds available for programme making was down around $35m per annum."
Government fixes, collects and holds taxation revenue on trust for the public good. This government has refined the art form of punishing its critics and rewarding supplicants.
A functional, independent media is an essential part of a healthy democracy. With the continued political and financial attacks by the Government on the ABC, Australia is going to need a strong willed public to demand the independence of its own ABC.
21 JUNE 2005
GREENS, ALP AND DEMOCRACTS JOIN TO ESTABLISH IMMIGRATION DETENTION INQUIRY
Greens, Australian Labor Party and Democrats Senators voted today to join to establish Senate inquiry in immigration detention The following information disserved from a media release from Greens Senator Nettle's office on 21 June 2005.
Greens Senator Kerry Nettle, today co-sponsored a motion to establish a Senate inquiry into the government's immigration detention regime.
"This Senate inquiry is an important opportunity for Australians to get to the bottom of the immigration detention regime scandal given that the government continues to refuse to set up a royal commission," Senator Nettle said.
"The minister has refused to guarantee that the full contents of the Palmer inquiry will be made public, and the public has been excluded from Mr Palmers investigations.
"This Senate inquiry will have the power to protect witnesses where necessary and make both its recommendations and deliberations public.
The Greens first moved to have the immigration detention regime investigated by the Senate in May this year."
MOTION & TERMS OF REFERENCE
Senators Ludwig, Bartlett and Nettle: To move-That the following matters be referred to the Legal and Constitutional References Committee for inquiry and report by 8 November 2005:
(a) the administration and operation of the Migration Act 1958, its regulations and guidelines by the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, with particular reference to the processing and assessment of visa applications, migration detention and the deportation of people from Australia;
(b) the activities and involvement of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and any other government agencies in processes surrounding the deportation of people from Australia;
(c) the adequacy of healthcare, including mental healthcare, and other services and assistance provided to people in immigration detention;
(d) the outsourcing of management and service provision at immigration detention centres; and
(e) any related matters.
19 JUNE 2005
JUSTICE FOR REFUGEES RALLY
On the eve of World Refugee Day why not join in the 'Justice for Refugees Rally' at midday Sunday 19 June 2005.Melbourne Museum, Carlton Gardens, near the corner of Nicholson & Gertrude Streets. Bring kites and balloons! Music will be provided by Rene & Etienne, and 'Welcome to Country' from Annette Xiberras. Other speakers will include Aladdin Sisalem (who was detained on his own on Manus Island for 9 months); Pamela Curr, from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Ingrid Stitt, the State Secretary of the Australian Services Union, Yarra Councilor Steve Jolly, and Nagamuthu Ramalingam Wickiramasingham (Wicki) from the Victorian Tamil Cultural Association.
The rally will then move onto join Multicultural Arts Victoria's Refugee & Asylum Seeker Festival at Fitzroy Town Hall. All welcome. Passports not required!
MINISTERIAL RIGHTS REMAIN SUPREME OVER HUMAN RIGHTS
The following press release was issued by Green Senator Bob Brown on 17 June 2005.
Greens will amend bill in Senate to insert Petro Georgio terms
The rights of the Minister for Immigration to deny children and families release from detention centres remains under tonight's compromise deal by the Howard Government, Greens Senator Bob Brown said.
"And the right to hold asylum seekers for years also remains, despite a 2 year review by the Ombudsman," Senator Brown said.
"Despite the 3 month timeline for the department and then the Refuge Tribunal there is no right of release once that timeline is passed - simply a report to parliament but with parliament not empowered to act on it.
"The Greens will move to amend the Government's legislation so that it matches the original Petro Georgio terms.
"While the Liberal moderates have forced some minor changes the structure of the Howard Government's inhumane system stands," Senator Brown said.
18 JUNE 2005
3CR RADIOTHON - SUPPORT THIS ESSENTIAL SERVICE HOWEVER YOU CAN!
3CR is Melbourne's most progressive community radio station. It is a working class radio station that has been broadcasting for about 28 years. It is run and operated by the community. It retains its independence by not accepting advertising, sponsorship or government money. The Radiothon, running from 3 June to 19 June is an essential part of keeping alive one of Melbourne's essential services - freedom of speech and the guts to sat things how they are. Please call 03 9419 8377 if you are able to donate any amount whatsoever. You can either ring 3CR Radio on 03 9419 8377, call in at 21 Smith Street Fitzroy or send a cheque to 3CR Radio, PO Box 1277, Collingwood Vic 3066 Australia.
16 JUNE 2005
SENATE VOTES UP CHEN INQUIRY
The following press release was issued by Green Senator Bob Brown.
Senate votes up Chen inquiry
The Senate has voted 35 to 29 to set up an inquiry into the government’s mishandling of the defection of Chinese diplomat Chen Yonglin. The Greens proposed the inquiry last week. The Government voted against the inquiry.
This morning the Senate backed the following proposal after it was jointly moved by Senators Brown, Ludwig(Labor) and Stott-Despoja (Democrats):
That the following matters be referred to the Foreign Affairs and Trade References Committee for Inquiry and report by 9 August 2005:
the responses of DIMIA, DFAT, AGD and their respective Ministers to Mr Chen Yonglin’s approaches or requests to the Australian Government for asylum and/or a protection visa
the application of the Migration Act 1958, its regulations and guidelines concerning the maintenance of confidentiality for any consular officials or staff (including Mr Chen Yonglin, and any other former consular officials or staff) who were applicants for territorial asylum and/or protection visas by Department of Immigration Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and their respective Minister
the involvement of DFAT and the Minister in the deportation, search and discovery of Vivian Solon, and:
any related matters
"Serious questions have arisen including those about information passed to the Chinese authorities by the Australian government after Mr Chen’s defection. This inquiry will enable those questions to be answered,” Senator Brown said.
15 JUNE 2005
ENVIRONMENT GROUPS FUNDING CUT BY FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
The following press release was issued by the Australian Conservation Foundation. I am an ACF Councillor, but was not involved in the production or issue of this press release.
Environment groups cut by $250,000, most state conservation councils zeroed out
Major federal government funding cuts to environment groups, including the total defunding of the conservation councils of the ACT, Qld, NSW, WA, and NT, have placed jobs and important conservation programs at risk, ACF said today.
Environment Minister Senator Ian Campbell announced the quarter of a million dollar cutbacks to the FY04/05 Grants for Voluntary Environment and Heritage Organisations (GVEHO) yesterday afternoon, 12 working days before the end of this financial year.
In 2003/04 funding allocated under the GVEHO scheme was close to $1 million, while the 04/05 allocation is $750,000. The conservation councils of the ACT, Queensland, NSW, Western Australia, and the Northern Territory have had their funding cut by up to $80,000 to zero with just 12 working days left to deal with what are now major holes in their 04/05 budgets. Most will suffer financial hardship as a result of cuts in their annual funding.
ACF Executive Director Don Henry said the quarter of a million cut in funding and the zeroing out of many conservation councils was a very distressing departure from a 30 year bipartisan tradition of support for the work of conservation groups, and in particular the state conservation councils who service thousands of environment groups around Australia.
"The support this government enjoys for its efforts to protect the Great Barrier Reef and whales is built on the years of public education and advocacy of these conservation groups, and to slash their funding 12 working days before the end of the financial year is short sighted and very damaging to them," Mr Henry said.
"The state conservation councils provide support to a wide range of environment organisations - from landcare groups to those working for cleaner cities - and have received important funding from this program over decades of bipartisan support.
"Support for environment volunteers, our nation's unsung heroes, has been greatly diminished by this decision."
14 JUNE 2005
GREENS EXPRESS CONCERN OVER OTHER CHINESE ASYLUM CASES
The following press release was issued by Peter Job, Victorian Greens refugees spokesperson.
Mr. Peter Job, Victorian Greens spokesperson for refugees, today expressed his concern about the cases of the Chinese asylum seekers Professor Yuan Hongbing and his assistant Zhao Jing, and the length of time the department of immigration was taking in assessing their cases.
“It has been almost a year since Professor Yuan and Ms. Zhao sought protection,” Mr. Job said, “Professor Yuan lodged his application in July 2004 and was interviewed by a department delegate on September 3. To date he has heard nothing. This is an extraordinary amount of time for an initial protection decision to take.
“Ms. Zhao had her case accepted by the Refugee Review Tribunal in December last year, but is still to be granted to a protection visa. Once again, this amount of time is unusual.
“In the light of other recent Chinese cases we are entitled to ask whether the department is deliberately making it difficult for Chinese dissidents to seek protection in Australia.”
Mr. Job explained that Professor Yuan is a writer and a former Professor of Law at Beijing University who was imprisoned for six months in 1994 for his work in support of the Chinese democracy movement. Upon his release he was exiled to distant Guizhou Province. He was forbidden to return to Beijing, his books were banned and manuscripts destroyed. Despite threats from Chinese authorities Professor Yuan continued to write.
He left China on a tour group to Australia when he learned from a government source that authorities were aware of his writing and had issued an order to begin collect evidence against him for arrest. Ms. Zhao, his supporter and assistant, also sought protection at this time, Mr. Job explained.
“It would be difficult to imagine clearer cases for protection,” Mr. Job said.
Mr. Job noted that the Chinese foreign ministry had openly pressured the Australian government over the cases, distributing a press release in August 2004 calling for Professor Yuan to be treated as an illegal immigrant.
“We can only hope that such pressure has not played a part in the length of time these cases have taken,” Mr. Job said.
“I am also concerned that delays are often caused by security checks. If security checks are being sought from the People’s Republic of China, the nation that is persecuting the applicants, it would in itself be a grave cause for concern,” Mr. Job said.
“The department of immigration should bring down a decision on Professor Yuan’s case immediately,” Mr. Job said. “Ms. Zhao, whose case has already been accepted by the Refugee Tribunal, should be granted protection without further delay. The Department of Immigration should also explain to the applicants and to the Australian people why these cases have taken this length of time.
“Professor Yuan and Ms. Zhao have fought for democracy and human rights in their own country. If Australia is a country that does value freedom and human rights we should welcome their applications for protection,” Mr. Job said.
For interviews or further information contact Peter Job mobile: 0423 515 603, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
11 JUNE 2005
SENATE INQUIRY NEEDED INTO GOVERNMENT INACTION ON CHINESE ASYLUM SEEKERS
Prime Minister John Howard's claim that the Australian Government will not be influenced by its trade decisions with China when considering Chinese diplomat's Chen Yonglin claim for asylum begs the question, "What is it that is atrophying government action?
In my view, the Prime Minister's claim is unbelievable. Our government's appaulling record of putting parochial interests ahead of Australia's human rights obligations suggests this recent failure is part of a pattern, rather than an aberration.
Speaking at a rally in the Melbourne City Square on Saturday 11 June 2005 I called on the Australian Parliament to investigate the failure of government action in relation to Chen Yonglin and Hau Fenjung, most properly through an all party Senate inquiry.
A Senate inquiry into the government's action is needed for three reasons. Firstly, to establish the truth, secondly to make it clear to the government that their failure to exercise their responsibilities will not go unnoticed, and thirdly, to resurrect confidence for those considering whether they can rely on our government to properly and impartially administer the rule of law.
9 JUNE 2005
An interesting new website has landed in the ethernet that deals with a question many of us have been thinking about for some time: What is 'Being Australian'?
Being Australian describes itself as "an online record of the Australian experience.This is where you get to journal things that remind you of being Australian so that other Australians of today and tomorrow can experience life from your perspective. Our mission is to bring Australians closer together through humour and contemplation about life in Australia. Being Australian is about you -- your real-life anecdotes about things you see and do that remind you of being Australian.
You can visit Being Australian at www.beingaustralian.com.au by clicking on either the title or web address.
Australian Greens Senator Bob Brown has been publicly advocating for the proper processing of the asylum application of Chinese diplomat and defector Chen Yonglin. Below is information taken from a 9 June 2005 media release on Senator Brown's website at www.bobbrown.org.au
CHEN YONGLIN - A CHINESE NATIONAL SEEKING ASYLUM IN AUSTRALIA
Chen letter to Government
Greens Senator Bob Brown has released the full text of the letter handed to the Howard Government two weeks ago by Chinese diplomat and defector Chen Yonglin. Mr Chen has agreed to the release. Senator Bob Brown says the letter reveals a man tormented and having nightmares about his spying on religious and political groups including people he refers to as ‘vulnerable’ and ‘innocent’.
Click here to see a full copy of Mr Chen's letter (120 kb pdf download)
He says he would rather die than return to a job in China which would involve repressing Falun Gong religious adherents. He describes Australia as a ‘second home’ and seeks asylum for himself, his wife and 6 year old daughter.
“Here is a story of unfolding awareness of his Beijing bosses’ ruthless and unforgivable repression of Chinese dissenters. It is a remarkable document of human decency transcending political evil,” Senator Brown said.
“Mr Chen has made it clear to me that he loves China, his homeland, but deplores the Beijing authorities.
“He deserves a much better hearing in Australia from our own government, which, so far, has given him nothing at all. Mr Downer’s criticism that Mr Chen’s letter seeking asylum was not addressed to him is specious.
“It was an appeal to the Australian Government and Mr Downer is the responsible minister. One gets the feeling that had the letter begun ‘oh, great and honourable minister Downer’ it would have been rejected because it was not in capitals.
“The Government’s own guidelines require the Department of Immigration to direct approaches for political asylum to Foreign Affairs,” Senator Brown said.
8 JUNE 2005
ONE OF THESE ENVIRONMENT GROUPS MAY NOT BE LIKE THE OTHERS
Melbourne Age Environment Reporter Melissa Fyfe has made an interesting claim that Australia's newest environment group, the Australian Environment Foundation, has its registered place of business as the right wing think tank known as the Institute of Public Affairs. The group was launched on World Environment Day, June 5.
It is possible that the title 'Australian Environment Foundation' was chosen for its similarity to the long standing and highly reputable Australian Conservation Foundation.'
The Age reports the new group's leader, Dr. Marohasy as saying the group 'was born out of frustration with the current direction of environment groups and that it received no funding from the IPA.
In my opinion, the IPA has been no friend of the environment. While they may wish to package their policies in a way that appears less aggressive towards progressive politics, the disposition of many its pronouncements have, in my view, sustained a lack of understanding of environmental issues and their social consequences.
If Melissa Fyfe's claims are true, it is a surprise to me that the IPA would be the natural nest of an environment group wanting to seriously advance the interests of environmental sustainability. I recall many years ago in a televised debate involving David Suzuki and Des Moore of the IPA, David Suzuki pointing out that their can be no economy without an environment, with Mr. Moore taking an opposing view.
I am a Councillor of the Australian Conservation Foundation. The Australian Conservation Foundation is reported by The Age as having taken action against the Australian Environment Foundation, requesting the new body to stop using the title "Australian Environment Foundation' on the basis that it is 'deceptively similar' to the ACF's own name.
The United States has an interesting history of groups being set up by industry organisations or public relations companies retained by them to provide 'third party' validation for the industries activities. I sincerely hope this new group proves not to be born of similar heritage.
5 JUNE 2005
ENVIRONMENT GROUPS JOIN TOGETHER ON WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY
A large number of environment groups joined together today to release statement reflecting on our environment. I have taken a copy of the Statement from the Australian Conservation Foundation website and reproduced it below. The groups involved are listed as the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, Conservation Western Australia, Conservation South Australia, Conservation Council of the South East Region and Canberra, Environment Victoria, Environment Centre of the Northern Territory, Queensland Conservation Council, Cairns & Far North Environment Centre, Environment Tasmania, Environs Kimberley, Climate Action Network Australia, National Toxics Network, Australian Marine Conservation Society, Friends of the Earth Australia, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, The Wilderness Society and The Australian Conservation Foundation.
This World Environment Day, environment groups Australia-wide have released a statement to draw attention to our proud record of achievements and our commitment to the future.
It has been a mixed year for the environment, according to the 17 state and national environment groups listed below.
"On one hand the impacts of global warming are gathering pace and the hard-won victories of whale protection are under attack" said Danny Kennedy, Greenpeace Campaigns Manager. "The increased talk of uranium mining and nuclear waste dumps in regional Australia also emerged this year as major challenges for the future" said Toby Hutcheon, Queensland Conservation Council Coordinator.
"On the upside there has also been some very limited progress on protecting our priceless forests in Tasmania" said Andrew Ricketts of Environment Tasmania. "The 2004 Federal election showed historic levels of public concern and support for the environment, and even those governments with a poor track record have been forced to deliver some improvements" noted The Wilderness Society's National Campaigns Director Alec Marr.
For Australian environmental organisations the year has also brought challenges and achievements. "The Federal Government's eleventh hour changes to the criteria for the Grants for Voluntary Environment and Heritage Organisations (GVEHO) threaten state conservation groups and their ability to speak out about environmental laws and policy" said Cate Faehrmann, Director of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW.
"Combined with a new round of Commonwealth scrutiny of charitable status, and legal action by corporations against environmental campaigners, many would expect the mood in the environment movement to be downbeat" said Cam Walker of Friends of the Earth. "But these challenges are bringing out the best in environment groups and our supporters"
"The World Environment Day statement reflects the environment movement's optimistic and energised response to the challenges of the coming year" said John Connor, Australian Conservation Foundation Campaigns Director. "With the support of the millions of Australians who care about the environment, we will continue to work for the future of the planet."
World Environment Day Statement: June 5, 2005
Today is World Environment Day, a day to celebrate our environment and the people around the world who care for it.
Many of the great natural and cultural treasures that we enjoy today would not exist without the dedication of ordinary people who have joined together to achieve extraordinary things. Environment groups, large and small, have been central to these victories.
Whether we are working to save our local area or fighting for global change, we have in common a passion for the future. With that passion in mind we seek to present solutions.
We are united as the voice of the millions of Australians who care about the future of the planet and its people. We speak for those that cannot speak - the oceans and atmosphere, for the land, plants and animals, and for future generations. We will not be silenced.
Environment groups take pride in our record of bringing environmental truths to light. Where unjust and short-sighted laws block the way, we stand up to decision-makers. Those in power have shown they must regularly be reminded that a healthy environment is essential to a healthy economy and society.
The environment still faces new threats, some that could undo what we have already achieved. Especially climate change, which will affect almost every aspect of our natural environment and economy.
This World Environment Day, more than ever, the earth needs a voice and environment groups need your support.
Please write to the Prime Minister reminding him that Australians value our environment and the organisations that speak up for it, become a member of an environment group today, or donate to your favourite environment group (www.earthshare.org.au).
Nature Conservation Council of NSW, Conservation Western Australia, Conservation South Australia, Conservation Council of the South East Region and Canberra, Environment Victoria, Environment Centre of the Northern Territory, Queensland Conservation Council, Cairns & Far North Environment Centre, Environment Tasmania, Environs Kimberley, Climate Action Network Australia, National Toxics Network, Australian Marine Conservation Society, Friends of the Earth Australia, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, The Wilderness Society and The Australian Conservation Foundation.
4 JUNE 2005
GREEN GARAGE SALES TOMORROW 5 JUNE 2005 FOR WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY
One of the tenets of environmental sustainability is 'reducing, reusing and recycling'. One of the aims of the Green Garage Sales held across Victoria is to encourage people all over Victoria to hold garage sales that allow all those useful but unused items in your house or garage to be sold or exchanged with someone who will use them.
Details of two Green Garage Sales on 5 June 2005 that I am aware of are:
- Whitehorse Branch: 40 William St., Box Hill, from 9am to 1pm Sunday 5th June
- Lilydale Greens: 8 Seamer Rd Monbulk from 8am – 2pm Sunday 5th June.
I recently rediscovered this opinion piece by Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and former German Environment Minister. I had lunch with Klaus in Athens some time ago and found him very interesting. I thought it well worth reflecting on ahead of tomorrow, World Environment Day 2005. This article was originally published on the Environment News Service on 6 November 2003 to mark November 6 as the International Day for Preventing Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict.
REFLECTIONS AHEAD OF WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY
If There Must Be War, There Must Be Environmental Law by Klaus Toepfer
War must and should always be a last resort, and if armed conflict occurs, warring factions have a duty to minimize the casualties and the suffering of those caught in the crossfire.
Another duty must also be considered, namely to minimize the damage and pollution to air, water and soil supplies.
A post-conflict society will struggle even harder to recover its dignity, its health and its future if the very life support systems upon which people rely have been partially or wholly destroyed. The environment has, since the dawn of time, been one of the casualties of war.
In the fifth century BC, the retreating Scythians scorched the earth and polluted drinking water supplies, to slow the advancing Persians.
At the end of the final Punic war, in the second century BC, the conquering Romans, salted the soils around Carthage to make them infertile and the area uninhabitable. A damaged and degraded land was seen as way to permanently end the Phoenicians' might.
During the Vietnam War of the 1970s, the United States used defoliants to expose enemy positions in heavily forested areas.
Tests were also carried out on rain seeding in an attempt to trigger downpours to impede and bog down enemy movements on the Ho Chi Min Trail.
More recently, during the first Gulf War of the early 1990s, Iraqi troops deliberately sabotaged oil installations with smoke, turning day into night, and oil spills severely polluting the desert and the waters of the Gulf.
The environment is what you might also call an innocent bystander damaged not deliberately but as a result of a hit on a target such as a chemical plant or hydroelectric dam.
The environment can also be a casualty as a result of a military machine deliberately overexploiting natural resources. During World War I, Turkey severely depleted the forests in the Lebanon for fuel for its railways.
More recently, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and the Sudan, rhinos, gorillas and other wildlife have been killed to raise money for armies.
While humankind's ability to wage war continues apace with new and even more potentially devastating weapons, international rules and laws designed to minimize the impact on the Earth's life support systems have lagged far behind.
We have the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 that do have environmental implications. However, their primary aims are the protection of civilians, prisoners of war, the sick and wounded, and cultural objects such as internationally important monuments.
There have also been a myriad of treaties attempting to outlaw specific targets such as dams, or military acts such as torching crops that are seen by many as targeting and attempting to demoralize the civilian population rather than an enemy army.
There are also treaties that attempt to regulate specific weapons that may have environmental implications. One thinks of the Chemicals Weapon Convention of 1997 and ones covering nuclear weapons and landmines.
This does not mean that there have not been attempts to specifically address the environmental aspects of war.
One, article 35 of what is known as the Geneva Protocol I, prohibits combatants from " methods or means of warfare which are intended, or may be expected, to cause widespread, long term and severe damage to the natural environment."
The other, the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques, aims to tackle new technologies that might, for example, alter weather systems as a way of waging war.
But most legal experts have concluded that these and others fall far short of what is ideal and what is needed.
In a new report, commissioned by the German Environment Ministry, Daniel Bodansky of the School of Law, University of Georgia, argues that the requirement of proving "widespread, long term and severe damage" renders the Geneva Protocol I ineffective in respect of environmental protection.
The environmental damage caused by the Iraqi forces in 1991 that resulted in nearly 700 oil fires and oil spills 40 times greater than the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska, is a case in point.
The Protocol also appears silent on the issue of long term risk, of the so-called precautionary approach which guides many of our modern environmental treaties covering everything from the the ozone layer to climate change.
It is possible that, 20 or so years down the road, some of the pollution arising from recent theaters of war may prove to be a long term environmental and public health hazard. But the Protocol only applies to expected damages rather than possible ones.
Civilian casualties, the displaced and the dispossessed, will be and should be the focus of our attention during and immediately after hostilities cease. But the environment, which has a key role in ensuring the stability of a country and its citizens, cannot be ignored.
The world is slowly waking up to the powerful links between a healthy environment and national and regional stability, or to use the buzz phrase "environment security." And there there are many ways in which the world can improve the security of natural resources and nature's life support systems during conflict. Some are legal, others are codes of conduct or improved guidelines for military commanders on what constitute legitimate targets.
Should striking an oil tanker sailing near a coral reef be deemed unacceptable or a legitimate act of war? Does the crippling of an enemy's oil supplies justify the killing of an ecosystem upon which hundreds, maybe thousands, of the poor rely for food in the form of fish?
These are the kinds of issues that the world needs to grapple with. International law is in its infancy, war is not. It is time that international law, or at the very least the rules of engagement, achieved some kind of maturity, if not full adulthood.
The original Geneva Conventions have demonstrated that the world can take humanitarian steps designed to minimize suffering, and many countries adhere to these principles.
The United Nations, since the war in the Balkans, has been increasingly linking environmental assessments and clean up with the humanitarian effort, which gives some indication of the importance of the issue.
So, on this second observance of the International Day for Preventing Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict, let us reflect on the next steps needed to bring the laws of war into a more sustainable, 21st, century.
3 JUNE 2005
The Carruthers Group of alpine ecologists and scientists have released their submission supporting the removal of domestic grazing from the Australian Alps National Parks in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria. As the Alpine Project Officer tasked to convince the Victorian parliament to create the Victorian Alpine National Park in 1988, the issue of cattle grazing in our Alps has been a long standing interest for me. I have reproduced the Carruthers Group statement below, but have not been able to reproduce two pictures showing the effect of grazing the submission refers to. I will do so as soon as possible.
CARRUTHERS GROUP OF ALPINE ECOLOGICAL AND SCIENTISTS STATEMENT ON THE PROPOSAL TO SEEK CULTURAL HERITAGE LISTING FOR THE VICTORIAN ALPINE NATIONAL PARK.
A STATEMENT ON THE PROPOSAL TO SEEK CULTURAL HERITAGE LISTING FOR THE VICTORIAN ALPINE NATIONAL PARK
The Carruthers Group of alpine ecologists and scientists has for many years given support to the removal of domestic stock grazing from the Australian Alps National Parks in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria. The Group applauds the Victorian Government for making the decision not to renew grazing leases in the Victorian Alpine National Park.
The removal of grazing from the scientifically significant high mountain ecosystems, sensitive vegetation and groundwater communities is a major step forward in the protection and conservation of these communities and the unique flora and fauna that they support. The end of grazing is also a significant step for catchment management, particularly as the Alps are the headwaters of several major rivers of the Murray-Darling system – the most important river system in southeastern Australia.
The scientific evidence in support of the removal of grazing has been acknowledged for over 50 years. While this contributed to the removal of grazing from Kosciuszko National Park in NSW and Namadgi National Park in the ACT, many years ago, the Carruthers Group also recognises that many external factors and issues have delayed the decision to remove grazing from the Victorian Alpine National Park. A major issue has been the perceived strong link between high mountain grazing and the deeply entrenched folklore created by A.B ‘Banjo’ Paterson in his poem The Man from Snowy River.
This link has contributed to what is now recognised by many people, as the Australian ‘character and ethos’ which should be recognised and retained as part of our cultural heritage but not at the expense of our world-renowned high mountain natural heritage. This natural heritage lies in the diversity and cover of soils, the geology, the botanically significant and diverse flora, the scientifically important fauna, and the complex ecosystems of which these are a part. The ecosystems are very sensitive to external influences of which grazing has been a major impact over the past 150 years. The ecosystems will only survive and remain fully functional if they are managed for their intrinsic values and not for the external factors that have or would continue to utilise the very biota that management aims to conserve and protect in the Australian Alps parks.
Cattle grazing in the high mountains is a part of European cultural heritage but, in the same way as the man from Snowy River himself is immortalised in poetry and folklore, so has and will the cultural heritage of alpine grazing continue to be recognised. The many huts built and utilised by the cattlemen and the many grazier family names which are now a feature of the Alps, have also immortalised the high mountain grazing heritage and ensured it will continue to be recognised as part of the heritage of the Alps.
The family linkages to high mountain grazing will also not be lost, as a ‘living museum’ of this grazing tradition will continue in the high mountains in Victoria in areas other than the Alpine National Park. The European cultural heritage attached to high mountain grazing will, as such still be preserved and recognised, but without impact on the high mountain ecosystems and catchments within the Alpine National Park. The Carruthers Group supports a cultural heritage listing for the Australian Alps as part of a comprehensive listing of all natural and other values of the mountains. That listing should be a celebration of the rich history of the grazing tradition but more significantly, an acknowledgement that the mountain environment can no longer sustain the impact of that activity.
The end of grazing will also provide a real opportunity for all the parks of the Alps to be managed as one biophysical unit; an objective of the interstate co-operative management program, as detailed in the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperative Management of the Alps Parks, signed by State and Commonwealth Ministers for the Environment in 1986.
It will also provide an opportunity and stimulus to pursue appropriate national and international natural heritage recognition and listing for the Australian Alps Parks, which to date has not been possible while grazing continued within them.
Dr Alec Costin, - Senior Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO (retired)
Prof . Frank Fenner – Past Director, John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University. (retired)
Dane Wimbush – Senior Research Officer, (Alpine Ecology) CSIRO –(retired)
Roger Good – Senior Project Manager, Mountain Catchments and Alpine Ecologist (NSW NPWS) – (retired). Ecological rehabilitation specialist
Prof. Ralph Slatyer – Former Director Research School of Biological Sciences, Australian National University
Prof. Jamie Kirkpatrick – Environmental Sciences (Alpine Ecologist), University of Tasmania
Prof. Geoff Hope - Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University
Dr Geoff Mosley – Environmental Consultant, . Past Director of Australian Conservation Foundation.
Graeme Worboys - Vice Chair (Mountains Biome Theme) International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Commission on Protected Areas.
Dr Jennie Whinam – Botanist, World Heritage Area, Tasmania and President International Mire Society
Andy Spate – Karst Systems and Soils Research Scientist (NSW NPWS) – (retired), Environmental Consultant – research and ecological rehabilitation
Dr Catherine Pickering – Senior Lecturer, (Ecologist) Environmental Sciences, Griffith University
Dr John Harris – Senior Lecturer, (Ecology), Canberra University - (retired)
Prof Ralf Buckley –Director of International Centre for Ecotourism Research, Griffith University
1. Background to The Carruthers Group of Ecologists and Scientists.
The Carruthers Group is a network of professional associates who have had a long-term involvement or interest in alpine ecology and research in the Australian Alps. The network has existed for several decades, formerly being known as the Kosciuszko Committee of Interested Scientists. As the Group now takes a more holistic view of research and management across the entire Australian Alps bioregion, it has changed its network name to The Carruthers Group.
This iconic name was chosen as Mt Carruthers in Kosciuszko National Park was the most severely eroded site as a result of domestic stock grazing in the Snowy Mountains.
2. Photographs of erosion and vegetation damage on Mt Carruthers as a result of grazing (a) [Photo not available due to technical difficulties: David Risstrom] and the recovery of the vegetation after extensive and costly rehabilitation and restoration works (b) [Photo not available due to technical difficulties: David Risstrom]
2 JUNE 2005
GREENSFORUM TOMORROW - PROF. MARCIA NEAVE ON LAW REFORM
Professor Marcia Neave of the Victorian Law Reform Commission will be talking on major issues in law reform at the next Greensforum. Come along to CII Restaurant, 470 Little Lonsdale Street Melbourne, between King and Williams St. in the city. There is no admission charge and all are welcome.
The following is a media release issued by Greens Senator Kerry Nettle.
PLANS TO INCREASE URANIUM EXPORTS CONDEMNED AS 'ANTI-ENVIRONMENT, ANTI-PEACE, PRO GREED'
Plans to increase uranium exports condemned as 'anti-environment, anti-peace, pro-greed'
Greens Senator Kerry Nettle today condemned government plans to massively expand the export of uranium as "anti-environment, anti-peace, and pro-greed."
"The Minister for Resources has said the government wants to export 'as much uranium as we possibly can', despite the environmental and nuclear proliferation dangers it poses," Senator Nettle said.
"To facilitate the expansion of the most dangerous industry on the planet is irresponsible, putting dollars before sense.
"Expanding uranium mining and export is will clearly contribute to expansion of the nuclear industry and in some cases nuclear weapons.
"The government has admitted that it is seeking a treaty to allow uranium exports to China, one of the world nuclear superpowers, but the government will not be able to ensure that Australian uranium will not end up in Chinese nuclear weapons.
"The expansion of the nuclear energy industry will act as a disincentive for government to invest in renewable energy whilst simultaneously increasing the level of radioactive waste in the world. It's an environmentally disastrous decision.
"Australia's plan represents another backward step for non-proliferation at a time when the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty talks in New York have failed and the nuclear weaponry industry is poised for further expansion.
"Australia is home to over a third of the worlds know uranium deposits. As a result we have a unique capacity to limit the expansion of the nuclear industry for the good of the planet. This is a responsibility the government is too greedy to accept."
27 MAY 2005
UNFAIR ISN'T OK - LETTER TO THE EDITOR
I wrote the following letter to the editor in response to the announcement that Australian government employment law changes will mean a majority of Australians will be able to be dismissed from their job unfairly.
Unfair Isn't OK
The government’s industrial relations laws will pass easily through the 41st Parliament’s conservative controlled Senate. The reason is that the votes of a majority of Australian’s gave the government the power to pass just about any laws they want to.
The workplace laws the new parliament will pass will allow the majority of employees to be sacked, whether fairly or not. I suspect many who trusted the government’s election appeals to self interest will be surprised if they are the ones who face the consequences of outlawing redress for unfairness.
The experiences of Vivian Solon and Cornelia Rau shone a spotlight on those of many refugees, showing that without the protection of the law, people can easily be treated more harshly than they deserve. Many Australians relying on their job security to feed a family or a mortgage will be hoping the ability to be unfairly sacked is meant to apply to someone else.
23 MAY 2005
DUCK HUNT CHALLENGED
My partner and I took part in the weekend's Duck Rescue at the Dowdles swampland near Yarrawonga. This weekend Duck Rescue was in response to the Field and Game Association's annual 'Duck Hunt Challenge' competition. They must have been disappointed as I understand the organisers' hopes for a turn-up of around 400 was rewarded with about 95 shooters accompanied by 45 rescuers their to greet them. Rosa sends her apologies for not being able to attend.
Finding first hand what it is to walk through ice cold swamps and to see people shoot ducks and other defenceless water birds for 'sport', the weekend was worthwhile, rather than enjoyable. With the air temperature at around 1 or 2 degrees and the water about the same, Carolynne had the fortune to bring in an injured duck who was cared for by the experienced helpers
Media coverage for the Duck Hunt Challenge rescue was very successful with local Prime TV running the story, local and Melbourne radio (ABC & 3AW), the Wangaratta Chronicle and the Herald Sun.
The organisers have passed on their thanks to the two dedicated wildlife groups for being there to help the wounded. Two grey teal were slightly injured and are being cared for at a nearby wildlife shelter and will be released back to Dowdles when the season ends. Four dead grey teal were brought in, one had been plucked and left, probably because it was too small to eat. I found one of two galahs, but only one had evidence of a shotgun wound.
Victoria remains an Australia stand out in allowing the disgusting sport of shooting defenceless birds. Our wetlands and the species they support are under enough threat without people shooting what few birds are drawn to them in these periods of drought. For more information on what you do about duck shooting, please visit the website of the Coalition Against Duck Shooting. I have taken information from this website in May 2005 detailing advances across Australia made to protect ducks. As can be seen from the information, he Victorian parliament has been slow to act.
Thank you to all those good hearted people whose fortune extends to having empathy for beings other than themselves and their family. You are a great gift to the world.
Information from the Coalition Against Duck Shooting website on progress made in ending duck shooting.
The Western Australian Government banned recreational duck shooting in 1990. The then Premier, Dr Carmen Lawrence, in a media release stated: "Our community has reached a stage of enlightenment where it can no longer accept the institutionalised killing of native birds for recreation."
New South Wales
In November 1995, the NSW Government banned recreational duck shooting. Legislation successfully passed through both houses of the NSW parliament.
The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service cracks down on shooters on rice fields in that state. Scientists have commenced a scientific study on rice fields. It is now thought that instead of waterbirds damaging crops, they may in fact be helping rice farmers by keeping the real pests down, such as blood worms, snails and other invertebrates.
South Australia banned lead shot in 1994. Shooter numbers in that state have decreased to about 2,000.
In Victoria, duck shooter numbers have drastically decreased from 95,000 in 1986 to about 20,000 on the Department of Natural Resources database. However, over the last few years, the numbers of duck shooters on the state's wetlands dropped to less than 5,000. In 2001, only about 3,000 duck shooters were active.
The huge decrease is largely due to changing public opinion. The public today sees the shooting of native waterbirds as an outdated, anti-social activity that is no longer acceptable in our society.
The Victorian Labor Party has a policy to ban recreational duck shooting.
In a media-based campaign, public opinion has been the main catalyst in reducing the numbers of duck shooters. The decrease in numbers has also been due to the introduction of a Waterfowl Identification Test for shooters in 1990. Changes to Australia's Gun laws have further reduced the numbers of duck shooters. In 1997, following the tragedy at Port Arthur in Tasmania (where 35 people were shot and killed by a lone gunman), Prime Minister John Howard and state premiers banned semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns: This and the 2002 ban on lead shot have greatly impacted on the remaining few duck shooters.
20 MAY 2005
AUSTRALIA INSTITUTE PAPER RELEASED: VICTORIA'S GREENHOUSE POLICY: THE MOMENT OF TRUTH
The Australia Institute posted a new webpaper to its website, www.tai.org.au, titled Victoria's Greenhouse Policy: The moment of truth. The paper is available online or as a downloadable pdf under the 'What's New' tab
The paper discusses the mooted plan of the Victorian Government to extend to 2031 the operating life of the 40-year old Hazelwood Power Station, the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia. A four paragraph summary is provided below.
- The Victorian Government is considering extending the operating life of the 40-year old Hazelwood Power Station to 2031. The power station is the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia, and its brown coal allocations would run out in 2009.
- About 340 million tonnes of CO2 would be emitted from Hazelwood during the period of extended operation – far more than will be saved by national efforts to increase the energy efficiency of household appliances and industrial equipment.
- The electricity that Hazelwood would produce could be generated with far lower emissions. The alternatives, mainly involving fossil fuels, could be somewhat more expensive, but the costs per tonne CO2 avoided would be modest, and could be distributed equitably within and beyond Victoria.
- The Victorian Government claims to be committed to reducing emissions, and already imposes mandatory solar water heating requirements, which save far less emissions at far higher cost than any of the alternatives to Hazelwood. The true test of its greenhouse commitment is whether it acts to prevent the extension of Hazelwood’s operation.
15 MAY 2005
LET THEM EAT CAKE - LETTER TO THE EDITOR
I wrote the following Letter to the Editor on the unfairness of the Federal budget.
Let Them Eat Cake
Can you imagine your family sharing a cake and the hungriest among you being given a piece 10 times smaller than the others?
That is what the budget is proposing. Richer people will receive tax cuts of over $60 a week, poorer $6. It’s hard to imagine treating members of our family in the way we allow our politicians to treat our less fortunate folk.
In the coming weeks, as politicians wrangle over the budget in Parliament and ordinary Australians argue in the tearoom about what it means to them, we will be standing around the cake.
What we really want is not to be divided into those deserving icing or crumbs.
Australia is a lucky country and its people fair. By ticking off a budget that gives the rich more money and the poor more blame, many of our political and opinion leaders seem to have given up on a fairer Australia.The political game of ‘divide and conquer’ is unwelcome. Ordinary good-hearted Australians know better.
Wouldn't it be better if we treated our fellow Australians with the fairness we want for our own family?
David Risstrom, Greens Senate Candidate
13 MAY 2005
The following is a media release issued by Greens Senator Bob Brown.
Prime Minister Howard's promise to protect Tasmania's old growth forests has turned out to be two parts poison to one part champagne, Greens Senator Bob Brown said today."In the election campaign, he said: 'I would like to see, I think most Australians would like to see, an end to the logging of old growth forests' but today he backs old growth destruction to beyond 2010.
There is only 58,000 hectares of real forest protection - the remaining 94,000 hectares is largely unloggable, or the inevitable leftover of logging required by law such as streamside reserves.
Not one acre of forests gets national park protection. And Mr Howard has the gall to follow Mark Latham belatedly to the Styx with an announcement that means most of it goes to the loggers.
Mr Howard will feed Styx and Weld forests, of world heritage value, to the proposed forest furnace power generator at Southwood and call it 'green power'.
While this sets up the prospect of a wiser future government nominating the Tarkine rainforest for the world heritage status it deserves, the tiny gem of Southern Tasmania, Recherche Bay is not rescued from imminent clump clearfelling, "Senator Brown said.
"This is such a lost opportunity. A great Prime Minister would have put and end to this 'obscene' erosion of the nation's forest heritage in Tasmania.
12 MAY 2005
SENATE OPPOSES BURMESE CHAIR OF ASEAN
The following is a media release issued by Greens Senator Kerry Nettle.
The following is a media release issued by Greens Senator Bob Brown.
The Senate today passed a motion calling for the government to raise Australia's concerns with the impending transfer of the chair of ASEAN to Burma given the Burmese regime's appalling human rights and anti-democracy record.
"The Greens will continue to put pressure on the Government to do more to promote democracy and human rights in Burma," Senator Nettle said.
"Today's motion has added to the record the Senate's view that Burma's upcoming chair of ASEAN is a matter of serious concern given the Burmese regimes appalling human rights record.
"The Greens recognise the importance of the work of the Australian Coalition for Democracy in Burma who supported today's motion."
That the Senate;
(a) Notes that 27th of May marks the 15th anniversary of the last election in Burma
(b) Express concern at the recent bomb blasts in Rangoon and the deteriorating conditions of the Burmese people.
(c) Express continue support for Committee Representing People's Parliament (CRPP) to implement the democratically elected Parliament of Burma
(d) Calls on the Burmese ruling regime to resume the reconciliation process with National League for Democracy and Ethnic Nationalities in co-operation with United Nation Special Envoy for Burma Mr Razali Ismail
(e) Calls on the Burmese ruling regime to cease the military offensive against the Shan, Karen, and Karenni ethnic minorities.
(f) Restates its call for the unconditional release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners in Burma.
(g) Calls on the Government to express concerns to our regional neighbours regarding the Burmese regime's imminent qualification for the ASEAN chair in 2006.
RECHERCHE BAY MORE DOWNED BY LABOR, LIBERAL IN CANBERRA
A move by Greens Senator Bob Brown to have the failure of the federal government to protect Recherche Bay from logging has failed in the Senate, Greens Senator Bob Brown said today.
"However the Labor Opposition, which, with Greens backing, successfully moved a separate motion to inquire into roadwork's damage at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, voted with the government against the Greens' motion," Senator Brown said.
Senator Brown's proposed Senate inquiry read:
That the following matters be referred to the Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee for inquiry and report by 9 August 2005:
(a) whether the new National Heritage List is protecting places of national significance given that only seven places have so far been entered on the list;
(b) the reason behind the National Heritage Council being granted extensions of time, beyond the initial 12 months, to assess 10 sites nominated for the list, including Recherche Bay and ANZAC Cove;
(c) the need to apply the precautionary principle when considering emergency listings of a place; and
(d) the damage or threatened damage to ANZAC Cove and the north-east peninsula of Recherche Bay and the need for any action to stop further degradation.
"It is totally inconsistent of Labor," Senator Brown said.
"Clearly the Tasmanian state Labor Government is dictating policy here," Senator Brown said.
7 MAY 2005
TIME FOR A LITTLE STEADY STATE ECONOMICS BEFORE THE BUDGET HYPE BEGINS
Herman E. Daly wrote a timeless essay some thirty years ago on the need for a steady state economy. The Australian Conservation Foundation has begun thinking about what sort of society our natural environment can sustain. As an ACF Councillor, John Coulter forwarded Daly's essay, reminding me that it is well worth reconsidering. There are limits to growth, but where they lie and what sort of society we will enjoy if we approach them are subject to less debate than they should be.
THE STEADYSTATE ECONOMY: TOWARD A POLITICAL ECONOMY OF PIOPHYSICAL EQUILIBRIUM AND MORAL GROWTH
There is nothing in front but a flat wilderness of standardization either by Bolshevism or Big Business. But it is strange that some of us should have seen sanity, if only in a vision, while the rest go forward chained eternally to enlargement without liberty and progress without hope." G. K. Chesterton
Originally titled "The Stationary State Economy: Toward a Political Economy of Biophysical Equilibrium and Moral Growth," From The University of Alabama Distinguished Lecture Series, No, 2, 1971, Reprinted by permission of The University of Alabama, This version has been revised and expanded,
The fragmentation of knowledge and people by excessive specialization, the disequilibrium between the human economy and the natural ecosystem, the congestion and pollution of our spatial dimension of existence, the congestion and pollution of our temporal dimension of existence with the resulting state of harried drivenness and stress - all these evils and more are symptomatic of the basic malady of growthmania.
"Growthmania" is an insufficiently pejorative term for the paradigm or mindset that always puts growth in first place, the attitude that there is no such thing as enough, that cannot conceive of too much of a good thing. It is the set of unarticulated preconceptions which allows the President's Council of Economic Advisers to say, "If it is agreed that economic output is a good thing it follows by definition that there is not enough of it."
As a sop to environmentalists the Council does admit that "growth of GNP has its costs, and beyond some point they are not worth paying."2 But instead of raising the obvious question "What determines this point of optimal GNP, and how do we know when we have reached it?" the Council merely pontificates that "the existing propensities of the population and the policies of the government constitute claims upon GNP itself that can only be satisfied by rapid economic growth." That of course is merely to restate the problem, not to give a solution. Apparently these "existing propensities and policies" are beyond discussion. That is growthmania. Brezhnev, Castro, and Franco receive much the same advice from their respective Councils of Economic Advisers. Growthmania is ecumenical.
The answer to the avoided question "When do the costs of growth in GNP outweigh the benefits?" is contained in the question itself. This occurs when the decreasing marginal benefit of extra GNP becomes less than the increasing marginal cost. The marginal benefit is measured by the market value of extra goods and services - i.e., the increment in GNP itself in value units. But what statistical series measures the cost? Answer: none! That is growthmania; literally not counting the costs of growth.
But the worst is yet to come. We take the real costs of increasing GNP as measured by the defensive expenditures incurred to protect ourselves from the unwanted side effects of production, and add these expenditures to GNP rather than subtract them. We count the real costs as benefits, this is hypergrowthmania. Since the net benefit of growth can never be negative with this Alice-in-Wonderland accounting system, the rule becomes "grow forever" or at least until it kills you and then count your funeral expenses as further growth. This is terminal hypergrowthmania. Is the water table falling? Dig deeper wells, build bigger pumps, and up goes GNP! Mines depleted? Build more expensive refineries to process lower grade ores, and up goes GNP! Soil depleted? Produce more fertilizer, etc. As we press against the carrying capacity of our physical environment, these "extra-effort" and "defensive" expenditures (which are really costs masquerading as benefits) will loom larger and larger. As more and more of the finite physical world is converted into wealth, less and less is left over as nonwealth i.e., the nonwealth physical world becomes scarce, and in becoming scarce it gets a price and thereby becomes wealth. This creates the illusion of becoming better off, when in actuality we are becoming worse off. We may already have passed the point where the marginal cost of growth exceeds the marginal benefit. This suspicion is increased by looking at who absorb the costs and who receive the benefits. We all get some of each, but not equal shares. Who buys a second car or a third TV? Who lives in the most congested, polluted areas? The benefits of growth go mainly to the rich, the costs go mainly to the poor. That statement is based on casual empiricism - we do not have social accounts which allow us to say precisely who receive the benefits and who absorb the costs of growth, a fact which is itself very revealing. Ignorance, if not blissful, is often politically expedient.
Growthmania is the paradigm upon which stand the models and policies of our current political economy. The answer to every problem is growth. For example:
Poverty? Grow more to provide more employment for the poor and more tax revenues for welfare programs.
Unemployment? Invest and grow to bolster aggregate demand and employment.
Inflation? Grow by raising productivity so that more goods will be chased by the same number of dollars and prices will fall.
Balance of payments? Grow more and increase productivity in order to increase exports. Cutting imports is seen only as a shortrun stopgap, not a solution.
Pollution and depletion? Grow so we will be rich enough to afford the cost of cleaning up and of discovering new resources and technologies.
War? We must grow to be strong and have both guns and butter.
The list could be extended, but it can also be summarized in one sentence: The way to have your cake and eat it too is to make it grow.
Growthmania is the attitude in economic theory that begins with the theological assumption of infinite wants, and then with infinite hubris goes on to presume that the original sin of infinite wants has its redemption vouchsafed by the omnipotent savior of technology, and that the first commandment is to produce more and more goods for more and more people, world without end. And that this is not only possible, but desirable. .
Environmental degradation is an iatrogenic disease induced by economic physicians who treat the basic malady of unlimited wants by prescribing unlimited economic growth. We experience environmental degradation in the form of increased scarcity of clean air, pure water, relaxed moments, etc. But the only way the growthmania paradigm knows to deal with scarcity is to recommend growth. Yet one certainly does not cure a treatment-induced disease by increasing the treatment dosage! Nevertheless the usual recommendation for combating pollution is to grow more because "a rising GNP will enable the nation more easily to bear the costs of eliminating pollution."3 Such a view is patently inept.
The growth paradigm has outlived its usefulness. It is a senile ideology that should be unceremoniously retired into the history of economic doctrines. In the terminology of Thomas Kuhn's book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, the growth paradigm has been more than exhausted by the normal science puzzle-solving research done within its confines. Political economy must enter a period of revolutionary science to establish a new paradigm to guide a new period of normal science. Just as mercantilism gave way to physiocracy, physiocracy to classical laissez faire, laissez faire to Keynesianism, Keynesianism to the neo-classical growth synthesis - so the current neoclassical growthmania must give way to a new paradigm. What will the new paradigm be? I submit that it must be very similar to an idea from classical economics that never attained the status of a paradigm, except for a brief chapter in John Stuart Mill's Principles of Political Economy. This idea is that of the steady-state economy. .
THE STEADY STATE
What is meant by a "steady-state economy"? Why is it necessary? How can it be attained? The first two questions are relatively easy and have been dealt with elsewhere.4 Hence they will be treated rapidly. The third question is extremely difficult, and will be the main focus of attention.
The steady state is defined as an economy in which the total population and the total stock of physical wealth are maintained constant at some desired levels by a "minimal" rate of maintenance throughput (i.e., by birth and death rates that are equal at the lowest feasible level, and by physical production and consumption rates that are equal at the lowest feasible level). The first part of the definition (constant stocks) goes back to John Stuart Mill, and the second part ("minimal" flow of throughput) goes back to 1949 vintage Kenneth Boulding. Minimizing throughput implies maximizing the average life expectancy of a member of the stock.5
Why is the steady state necessary? Not for the reasons given by the classical economists who saw increasing rent and interest eliminating profit and thus the incentive for "progress." Rather, the necessity follows immediately from physical first principles. The world is finite, the ecosystem is a steady state. The human economy is a subsystem of the steady-state ecosystem. Therefore at some level and over some time period the subsystem must also become a steady state, at least in its physical dimensions of people and physical wealth. The steady-state economy is therefore a physical necessity. One may counter this by arguing that we always have the alternative of extinction, and that therefore the steady state is a moral choice, not a physical necessity. But even this is mistaken. Extinction itself is a steady state, the special case of zero stocks maintained by a zero throughput. The choice of stock levels and rates of maintenance throughput requires value judgments, but the attainment of a steady state at some level IS a physical necessity.
Our definition of "steady state" is much closer to the classical than to the neoclassical definition of the term. The neoclassical definition of steady state assumes constant wants and technology (nonphysical parameters) and investigates the adjustment of physical variables to the nonphysical parameters. Our definition assumes constant physical wealth and population (physical parameters) and inquires how the non-physical variables of wants (including the ethical want for "better wants") and technology can be sensibly adjusted to the physical parameters. Furthermore, the neoclassical concept is an epistemological fiction useful mainly as a first step in the analysis of a growing economy. It is in no sense a target for policy or a real state toward which the economy actually tends. Our concept is not an epistemological fiction, but an attempt to describe in broad outlines a real and necessary future state of society.
The above differences represent a paradigm shift in the sense of Thomas Kuhn. The steady-state paradigm will not be easily accepted by those who have been trained in and worked within the growth paradigm. But the arguments are too logical and too simple to be resisted for long, and the weight of anomaly under which the old paradigm is groaning will eventually crush it. An example of a simple argument that cannot be long resisted is the following. All reasonable men by now accept the ultimate necessity of zero population growth. But in addition to the population of human bodies (the stock of endosomatic capital) we must consider the population of extensions of the human body (exosomatic capital). Bicycles and automobiles are extensions of man's legs; hammers and pliers are extensions of his arms and hands; pots and pans and ovens are extensions of his digestive system; the telephone and phonograph extend man's ears; the TV extends his eyes; clothing and buildings extend his skin, etc. Both endosomatic and exosomatic capital are necessary to maintain life. More importantly both endosomatic and exosomatic capital stocks are physical open systems that maintain themselves by continually importing low entropy matter-energy from the environment and exporting high entropy matter-energy back to the environment.6 The same physical laws that limit the population of organisms apply with equal force to the population of extensions of organisms. If the first limitation is admitted, how can the second be denied?
In sum the steady state is necessary. It must be the norm. But once we have attained a steady state at some level of population and wealth, we are not forever frozen at that level. As values and technology evolve we may find that a different level is both possible and desirable. But the growth (or decline) required to get to the new level is a temporary adjustment process, not a norm. At present the momentum of growth in population and capital pushes our technological and moral development. In the steady-state paradigm, technological and moral evolution would precede and lead growth instead of being pushed. Growth would always be seen as a temporary passage from one steady state to another, not as the norm of a "healthy" economy.
When we raise the third question, how to attain the steady state, things become more difficult. First we must give operational definitions to the specific goals contained in the definition of steady state. Second, we must specify the technologies, social institutions, and moral values which are in harmony with and supportive of the steady- state.
To define more clearly the goal of the steady state we must face four questions.
1. At what levels should the stocks of wealth and people be maintained constant? Specifying the stock of wealth and of people also specifies the wealth per person or standard of living. In other words the question becomes the old one of what is the optimum population? So far no-one has given a definite answer, and I certainly cannot. However, it is sometimes argued that it is vain to advocate a stationary population unless one can specify the optimum level at which the population should become stationary. But I think that puts it backwards. Rather it is vain to speak of an optimum population unless you are first prepared to accept a stationary population, unless you are able and willing to stay at the optimum once you find it. Otherwise knowing the optimum merely enables us to wave goodbye as we pass through it. Furthermore, the optimum population is more likely to be discovered by experience than by a priori thought. We should attain a stationary population at some feasible nearby level. After experiencing it we could then decide whether the optimum level is above or below the current level. Also the optimum may be a welfare plateau spanning a whole range of populations and not just one. It is more important to be able to attain a steady state (at any level) than to know in advance which level is optimal.
2. What is the optimal level of maintenance throughput for a given level of stocks? For the time being the answer is probably ''as low as possible" or at least "less than at present." If it is good for people to live longer and for goods to last longer, then it is good to reduce the rate of throughput. Under the constraint of present technology perhaps we could advocate minimizing throughput, but as technology increases the potential life expectancy of people and goods we will surely reach a point where optimum life expectancy is less than maximum - or, what is the same thing, optimum throughput is greater than the minimum. But for the present, minimizing throughput makes vastly more sense than the current practice of maximizing it.
3. What is the optimal time horizon or accounting period over which population and wealth are required to be constant? Obviously we cannot mean day-to-day constancy and probably not even year-to-year constancy. Related to this is the question of the optimum amplitude of fluctuation around the steady-state mean during the accounting period.
Again, I cannot pretend to be able to answer this question. But it must be pointed out that the question of the proper accounting period is a very general one which applies in equal force to standard economic theory. The fundamental assumption of profit maximization is meaningless unless one specifies the length of the accounting period. Surely we do not maximize daily profits, and often not even yearly profits. Behaviour that is "rational" (consistent with profit maximization) over one time period is irrational over another. My favourite example is that of the village idiot who, when offered the choice between a nickel and a dime, always chose the nickel, much to the villagers' continuing amusement. Finally one day a villager said to him, "Look, I know you are not that stupid; you know a dime is worth more than a nickel - why do you always take the nickel?" To which the "idiot" replied "It's obvious - if I took the dime they would stop making the offer!" Idiocy on one time horizon is cleverness on another. But somehow we manage to choose an accounting period and muddle through, and so we could also in a steady state.
Once we have fixed an accounting period, one may then ask how many accounting periods the total system should last. Obviously the carrying capacity of the ecosystem depends not only on the size of the stocks and the rate of maintenance throughput, but also on the length of time over which the stocks are to be carried. This question must at least be implicitly considered in answering questions 1 and 2, since those answers plus the given endowment of non-renewable resources will determine how long the system can continue.
4. What is the optimal rate of transition from the growing economy to the steady state? We can never attain a steady state in the long run if our efforts to do so kill us in the short run. In the case of population there are interesting trade-offs between speed of attainment of a stationary population versus size of the stationary population and the amplitude of fluctuations in the birth rate induced by the current non-equilibrium age structure.7
Once again I do not know the optimum rate of transition. But I think we are very unlikely to exceed it. In any case the sooner we begin deceleration to zero growth the longer we can afford to take and the less disruptive that adjustment will be. The important thing from all points of view is to begin deceleration now. Later we can argue about the optimum rate.
The fact that these four optima cannot be well defined should come as no surprise. In social science all our concepts are dialectical and necessarily imprecise. We may make use of analytical models in which all concepts are given analytically precise definitions that allow logical and mathematical manipulation. But these models are analytical similes or analogies, sometimes useful and sometimes not. They do not remove the dialectical imprecision of our concepts, they merely abstract from it.
As for the above four questions, the immediate directions are clear enough though the optimum magnitudes are vague. We are sometimes too clever in exploiting the imprecision of our knowledge in order to evade moral responsibility for our comfortable inaction.
The questions raised so far seek clearer definitions of the goals of the steady state. A more important set of questions follows concerning the means for attaining the steady-state goals: the appropriate technology, the appropriate social institutions of control for maintaining constant stocks of physical wealth and people and for distributing the constant wealth among the constant population.
The main aim of production technology must, in the steady state, become more analogous to the legitimate aim of medical technology. Just as medical technology seeks (or should seek) to increase average life expectancy, so must production technology seek to increase the durability or "life expectancy" of physical commodities. How? By making individual commodities more durable and designing them for easy repairability, and also by designing for easier recyclability either through man made closed loops or natural material cycles (biodegradability). High biodegradability may seem to contradict "durability" and in a physical sense it does. But what we are interested in is durability as a part of the stock of wealth, not the durability of garbage. Maximizing durability means maximizing the time matter spends as wealth and minimizing the time it spends as garbage. Our current technology does not aim at maximizing durability. It comes closer to minimizing it, in order not to spoil the market for replacement demand.
One extremely interesting technological possibility from the steady state perspective is the "fusion torch" idea being pursued by William Gough and Bernard Eastlund of the AEC.8 An ultrahigh temperature plasma held in a magnetic field is used to provide energy for electric power generation. Garbage is thrown into the plasma, which reduces any material to its basic elements. The elements are then separated and collected electromagnetically and made available for reuse. Although this closes the material cycle there is still the unavoidable problem of thermal pollution. But the idea is to mimimize it by cascading heat downward to lower and lower grade uses. For example the waste heat of power generation would be used for space heating, replacing fossil fuels. There are many technical problems which remain and I am not competent to assess them. But the idea of a fusion torch fits the steady state paradigm very well, a fact which its proponents consider of great importance.
The above example of "cascading heat downward" illustrates the principle that technology should be so designed as to minimize negative externalities. One way of accomplishing this may be to shift to a smaller plant. Smaller scale and reduced power also increase access to tools and facilitate the distribution of both the benefits of technology and the controls over it. As an example Dr. Ivan Illich convincingly argues that the mobility of the entire population of a country would be increased by substituting cheap, repairable "mechanical donkeys" for expensive automobiles, and by reducing the speed limit from seventy to ten miles per hour!
Moreover, the focus of technological efficiency must shift from increasing output per constant period of labor time to decreasing labor time per constant quantity of output. The fruits of technical progress must be taken in the nonphysical form of increased leisure time.
The social institutions of control are of three kinds: those for maintaining a constant population, those for maintaining a constant stock of physical wealth, and those governing distribution. In all cases the guiding design principle for social institutions is to provide the necessary control with a minimum sacrifice of personal freedom, to provide macrostability while allowing for microvariability, to combine the macrostatic with the microdynamic.9
An ingenious institution for maintaining a constant population has been proposed by Kenneth Boulding.1O Unfortunately it has been treated more as a joke than as a serious proposal. The idea is to issue licenses to have children directly to individuals. Each person would receive certificates in an amount permitting 1.1 children, or each couple at marriage would receive certificates permitting 2.2 children, or whatever number corresponds to replacement fertility. The licenses could be bought and sold on a free market. Thus macrostability would be attained, and microvariability would be permitted. Furthermore those having more than two children would have to pay for an extra license, those who have fewer than two children would receive payment for their unused license certificates. The right to have children then becomes distributed equally, and market supply and demand then redistributes these rights. People who do not or cannot have children are rewarded financially. People who wish to have more than two are penalized financially. And the subsidies and penalties are handled by the market with no government bureaucracy.
A slight amendment to the plan might be to grant 1.0 certificates to each individual and have these refer not to births but to "survivals." If someone dies before he has a child, then his certificate becomes a part of his estate and is willed to someone else, e.g., his parents, who either use it to have another child, or sell it to someone else. The advantage of this modification is that it offsets existing class differentials in infant and child mortality. Without the modification a poor family desiring two children could end up with two infant deaths and no certificates. The best plan of course is to eliminate class differences in mortality, but in the meantime this modification may make the plan initially easier to accept. Indeed, even in the absence of class differentials the modification has the advantage of building in a "guarantee."
Two other subsidiary advantages might be claimed. First, the genetic burden of infertility is rather arbitrarily and unjustly distributed among couples. The Boulding plan offers at least some compensation to those who draw a fertility blank in the genetic lottery. It partially compensates for a natural inequity. Also, it allows celibates to influence the quality of the next generation through the discretion they exercise in selling or giving their certificates to others, for they could decide to sell or donate the certificates only to those they felt would make good parents.
Let us dispose of two common objections to the plan. First it is argued that it is unjust because the rich have an advantage. Of course the rich always have an advantage, but is their advantage increased or decreased in Boulding's plan? Clearly it is decreased. The effect of the plan on income distribution is equalizing because (1) the new marketable asset is distributed equally, (2) as the rich purchase more certificates and have more children their family per capita incomes are lowered, and as the poor have fewer their family per capita incomes increase. Also from the point of view of the children it is desirable to increase the probability that they will be born rich rather than poor. Whatever injustice there is in the plan stems from the existence of rich and poor, not from Boulding's plan, which actually reduces the degree of injustice. Furthermore, income and wealth distribution are to be controlled by a separate institution, discussed below, so that in the overall system this objection is more fully met.
A more reasonable objection raises the problem of enforcement. What to do with law-breaking parents and their illegal children? What do we do with illegal children today? One possibility is to put the children up for adoption and encourage adoption by paying the adopting parents the market value, plus subsidy if need be, for their license, thus retiring a license from circulation to compensate for the child born without a license. Like any other law breakers the offending parents are subject to punishment. But the punishment need not be drastic or unusual. Of course no law can be enforced if everyone breaks it. The plan presupposes the acceptance of the morality and necessity of the law by a large segment of the public. It also presupposes widespread knowledge of contraceptive practices. But these presuppositions would apply to any institution of population control, except the most coercive. The moral issue is of such critical importance that it will be considered separately later.
Choice may be influenced in two ways: by controlling or "rigging" the objective conditions of choice (prices and incomes in a broad sense), or by manipulating the subjective conditions of choice (preferences). Boulding's plan imposes straightforward objective constraints and does not presumptuously attempt to manipulate peoples' preferences. Changed preferences due to individual example and moral conversion are in no way ruled out. If preferences should change so that, on the average, the population desired replacement fertility, the price of a certificate would approach zero and the objective constraint would automatically vanish. The moral basis of the plan is that everyone is treated equally yet there is no insistence upon conformity of preferences, this being the great drawback of "voluntary" plans that rely on official moral suasion. Some people, God bless them, will never be persuaded, and their individual nonconformity wrecks the moral basis (equal treatment) of "voluntary" programs.
Constant Physical Wealth
The guiding principle is the same as in the case of population: to combine macrostability with microvariability, or macrostatics with microdynamics. The strategic point at which to impose macro control seems to me to be the rate of depletion of material resources. If we control aggregate depletion, then by the law of conservation of matter and energy, we also control aggregate pollution. J. H. Dales has suggested a scheme of pollution quotas, which has great merit (see his Pollution, Property, and Prices, University of Toronto Press, 1968). However, putting the quotas on depletion rather than pollution seems preferable. How such an institution might work is outlined below
Let quotas be set on new depletion of each of the basic resources, both renewable and nonrenewable, during a given time. The legal right to deplete to the amount of the quota for each resource would be auctioned off by the government at the beginning of each time period, in conveniently divisible units, to private firms, individuals, and public enterprises. After purchase from the government the quota rights would be freely transferable by sale or gift. As population growth and economic growth press against resources, the prices of the depletion quotas would be driven higher and higher. In the interests of conserving nonrenewable resources and optimal exploitation of renewable resources, quotas could then be reduced to lower levels, thereby driving the price of the quotas still higher. In this way, the increasing windfall rents resulting from increasing pressure of demand on a fixed supply would be collected by the government through the auctioning of the depletion rights. The government spends the revenues, let us say, by paying a social dividend. Even though the monetary flow is therefore undiminished, the real flow has been physically limited by the resource quotas. All prices of resources and of goods then increase, the prices of resource-intensive goods increase relatively more, and total resource consumption (depletion) is reduced. Moreover, in accordance with the law of conservation of matter-energy, reduction of initial inputs will result in reduction of ultimate outputs (pollution), reducing the aggregate throughput and with it the stress it puts on the ecosystem
With depletion now made more expensive and with higher prices on final goods, recycling becomes more profitable. As recycling increases pollution is reduced even more. Higher prices make consumers more interested in durability and careful maintenance of wealth. Most importantly, prices now provide a strong incentive to develop new technologies and patterns of consumption that are resource saving. If there is any static inefficiency incurred in setting the rate of depletion outside the market (a doubtful point), it is likely to be more than offset by the dynamic benefits of greater inducements to develop resource-saving technology.
Adjustment of the throughput of depletion and pollution flows to long-run ecologically sustainable levels can be effected gradually. At first depletion quotas could be set at the preceding year's levels, and if necessary gradually reduced by, say, two percent per year until we reach the "optimal" throughput. Stocks will then adjust to equilibrium with the new throughput. Thereafter the constant stock would be maintained by the constant throughput. As we gradually exhaust nonrenewable resources, quotas for their depletion will approach zero and recycling will become the only source of inputs, at which time, presumably, the ever rising price of the resource will have led to the development of a recycling technology. We should not expect that without depletion quotas the exhaustion of resources would be gradual: most likely it would be sudden. Also, without quotas, less incentive to develop the new technology would exist, in face of the uncertainty that some newly discovered reserves would lower resource prices, making the new technology temporarily uneconomic. When the rate of depletion becomes accepted as a societal parameter, it can be depended on, with the result that uncertainty will be lessened. New discoveries of resources would increase the length of time until exhaustion rather than lower the price of the resources.
The social decision that determines the aggregate rate of depletion through depletion quotas can be regarded as the correction of the failure of the market to bring an end to overexploitation. For renewable resources, quotas can be set at a calculated optimum sustainable yield or maximum rent. The quota on renewable resources must be such as to avoid "eating into our capital," and could be dispensed with for privately owned and well-managed renewable resources, where they would not be needed. Since with non-renewables mankind is always eating its capital, determining the rate of depletion for these resources should be a collective decision based largely on value judgments once we are below the disaster thresholds, bearing in mind that two considerations argue for lower rates of depletion and higher prices than now prevail: first, the conservationists' moral concern about future generations, and second, the idea that development of resource-saving technology can be induced by high resource prices. The rate at which the stock of terrestrial low entropy should be depleted is fundamentally a moral decision and should be decided on grounds of ethical desirability (stewardship), not technological possibility or present value calculations of profitability. By fixing the rate of depletion, we can force technology to focus more on renewable resources and on the flow source of solar energy, which cannot be increased in the present at the expense of the future, a point brilliantly developed by Nicholas Georges in "The Entropy Law and the Economic Problem," in this volume. Thus, let technology devote itself to learning how to live off our solar income, rather than our terrestrial capital. Such advances will benefit all generations, not just the present.
The depletion quota plan should appeal both to technological optimists and pessimists. The pessimist should be pleased by the conservation effect of the quotas, while the optimist should be pleased by the price inducement to resource-saving technology. The optimist tells us not to worry about running out of resources because technology embodied in reproducible capital is a "nearly perfect substitute for resources." As we run out of anything prices will rise and substitute methods will be found. If one believes this, then how could one object to quotas, which simply increase the scarcity and prices of resources a bit ahead of schedule in order (a) to achieve the benefits of the new technology sooner, and (b) to conserve resources just in case the new technology is slow in coming?
A further effect of the quota scheme is that factor prices would change, with labor becoming cheaper relative to land and capital. This effect alone would tend to increase employment, which is not a benefit in itself, but is necessary as long as we maintain an income-through-jobs system of distribution. However, reduced aggregate consumption would tend to reduce employment, and might necessitate a reduction in the work week through job sharing or increased reliance on unearned income, such as a social dividend financed out of receipts the auction of resource quotas would provide.
The actual mechanics of quota auction markets for three or four hundred basic resources would present no great problems. The whole process could be computerized since the function of an auctioneer is purely mechanical. Quota auction markets could be vastly simpler, faster, more decentralized, and less subject to fraud and manipulation than today's stock market. Also, differences in the quality and location of resources within the same general category, though ignored at the auction level, will be taken into account in price differentials paid to resource owners by the holders of the auctioned purchase rights.
Assuming a quota depletion system operated within the United States, the scheme could and probably would have to be designed to include imported resources, so the same right to deplete to a quota would be applied to the use of imported resources (though not to the finished goods manufactured from these resources), and thus the market would determine the proportions in which our standard of living is sustained by depletion of foreign as well as national resources. Imported final goods would then be cheaper than U.S. made goods, assuming other countries do not limit their depletion, and goods made within the U.S. for export would then be more expensive than the domestic goods of foreign countries, thus leading us toward a balance-of-payments deficit. But a fluctuating rate of international exchange of foreign currencies for dollars would restore equilibrium. One might object that limiting our imports of resources will work a hardship on the many underdeveloped countries who export raw materials, an objection that is not clearly valid, for such a policy will also force them to transform their own resources domestically rather than through international trade, since finished goods would not be subject to quotas. In any case it is clear that in the long run we do the underdeveloped countries no favour by using up their resource endowment. Sooner or later they will begin to drive a hard bargain for their nonrenewable resources, and we had best not be too dependent on them.
Such a policy is radical, but less radical than attempting the impossible, i.e., growing forever. It does not expropriate land and capital, but does further restrict their use at an across-the-board level. It provides the necessary macroeconomic control with a minimum sacrifice of microeconomic freedom. It minimizes centralized, quantitative planning and maximizes reliance on decentralized, market decision-making.
The basic difference between depletion quotas and pollution taxes (the latter being a tax on effluents, emissions, and residuals - the usual "solution to pollution" offered by economists) is that the former places macrophysical constraints beyond which the market economy may not go, and then leaves the price system alone, whereas the latter' sets no physical constraints, seeking by micro intervention to rig all prices in such a way that the market economy will be made to count the costs of all ecological effects of growth and, as a result, stay within proper ecological bounds. The campaign slogan for pollution taxes is "internalise externalities," which means calculating the full social cost of production and including it in the money price of the product, for each commodity.
Unfortunately the problem of setting the correct pollution tax so as truly to internalise externalities is impossible. Many externalities are unmeasurable in principle (they involve interpersonal comparisons of wellbeing), and most are unmeasurable in practice. Indeed, the reason such costs are left out of account by the market in the first place is often that it is impossible (or very expensive) to measure them. Even when external costs (and benefits) can be measured, these often result from more than one polluting activity and an allocation of the joint cost or benefit to each activity is arbitrary. Moreover, by permitting quantities of goods produced to vary without limit, the pollution tax scheme assumes that external costs increase continuously and gradually, that there are no ecological thresholds or trigger relations (whereby a slight additional increase in pollution could trigger massive ecological damage). Unfortunately costs do not increase continuously and gradually, and there are thresholds. In addition, as a tool of microintervention, pollution taxes require very detailed information and the monitoring of every smokestack, garbage can, and drainpipe in the country. As a practical matter precise internalisation could be bypassed and pollution taxes could be applied across the board, as a macroeconomic tool. But monitoring and auditing would still have to take place in individual firms, and many more firms are engaged in polluting than are engaged in depleting.
But even assuming that none of the above difficulties prevail and assuming perfect success at internalising all hitherto external costs, we find that pollution taxes do not limit growth of the throughput (GNP). They can within limits reduce the resource intensity of a dollar's worth of GNP, but the total volume of GNP (both in dollars and resources) can continue to grow as population growth and economic growth continue. The reason is simple. Every time we "internalise an externality" we increase not only costs, but also incomes. Aggregate expenditure always equals aggregate income. The economy is always "rich" enough to buy as much as it can produce regardless of price. A pollution tax levied on one good could greatly reduce the consumption and throughput of the good. But it does not follow that a general pollution tax levied on all goods could reduce aggregate throughput greatly or continuously. What is true for a part is not necessarily true for the whole (fallacy of composition). If the government accumulated a surplus (by not spending the pollution tax it collected) then growth would be halted. But orthodox, growth-oriented economists will urge government spending, probably even a deficit, in the name of full employment. From the orthodox viewpoint the inability of pollution taxes to limit the GNP-throughput will count as an advantage. But from the steady-state perspective, the best that pollution taxes could do would be to reduce the resource intensive component of GNP to some minimal percentage level, and to hold it there while the absolute level continues to rise. Internalisation of externalities by way of pollution taxes will not keep us from growing beyond ecological bounds.
As a last resort one could forego theoretical optimising and argue that some pollution taxes are better than no pollution taxes. But even this is doubtful, as it runs afoul of the theorem of second best, which says that when all conditions for an optimum cannot be met, it is not true that the next best strategy is to meet as many of the conditions as possible. But I mention this problem. for the benefit of theoretical economists. On practical grounds probably "some pollution taxes are better than no pollution taxes" is a good rule of thumb. Politically, pollution taxes are likely to precede depletion quotas, and there is no point in opposing a step in the right direction no matter how feeble, especially if it is a first step.
Although depletion quotas lack some of the theoretical nicety of pollution taxes, they do offer a number of practical advantages. Entropy is at its minimum at the input (depletion) end of the throughput pipeline, and at its maximum at the output (pollution) end. Therefore it is physically easier to monitor and control depletion than pollution: there are fewer mines, wells, and ports than there are smokestacks, garbage dumps, and drainpipes - not to mention such diffuse emission sources as runoff of insecticides and fertilizers from fields into rivers and lakes, and auto exhausts. Given that there is more leverage in intervening at the input end, should we intervene by way of taxes or quotas? Quotas, if they are auctioned by the government rather than allocated on non-market criteria, have an important net advantage over taxes in that they definitely limit aggregate throughput, which is the quantity to be con trolled. Taxes exert only an indirect and uncertain limit. It is quite true that given a demand curve, a price plus a tax determines a quantity. But demand curves shift, and are subject to great errors in estimation even when stable. Demand curves for resources could shift up as a result of population increase, change in tastes, increase in income, etc. Every time we increase a price we also increase an income, so that in the aggregate the economy can still purchase exactly as much as before. The government taxes throughput and then spends the tax. On what? On throughput. If government expenditures on each category of throughput were equal to the revenues received from taxing that same category, then the limit on throughput would be cancelled out. If the government taxes resource-intensive items and spends on time-intensive items there will be a reduction in aggregate throughput, but it is hard to say by how much. Furthermore a credit expansion by the banking sector or deficit spending by the government for other purposes could easily offset a tax control. Of course all these activities could be coordinated, but given the limited ability of government administration it seems better not to rely on that. It is quantity that affects the ecosystem, not price, and therefore it is ecologically safer to let errors and unexpected shifts in demand result in price fluctuation rather than in quantity fluctuation. Hence quotas.
The pollution taxes usually recommended would seem, if the above is correct, to intervene at the wrong end with the wrong policy tool. There are, however, limits to the ability of depletion quotas to influence the qualitative nature and spatial location of pollution, and as instruments for fine tuning pollution taxes would be a useful supplement. It is clear that two processes using the same inputs can have qualitatively different pollutions, depending on the nature of the process. At this stage we can no longer influence pollution indirectly via depletion controls, but must control the pollution directly either by pollution taxes or quotas levied on specific microeconomic units. Thus pollution taxes are appropriate for giving the fine details to the basic rough shape of depletion quotas. Just as a sculptor first uses a large blunt chisel to hew the block of marble into something resembling a face, then using the small sharp chisels to put specific features and expressions on the face, so economists should use the macro chisel of depletion quotas to carve out something resembling the face of an ecologically sane economy, then employing the micro chisel of pollution taxes to impart a particular visage. To be misled by theoretical pseudoprecision into shaping a new economy with only the sharp, delicate micro chisel will merely result in a lot of broken chisels that have barely scratched the surface of our task.
Focus on pollution taxes and internalisation of externalities is indicative of a peculiar tunnel vision that afflicts economic thought. In an article entitled "The Economist's Approach to Pollution and Its Control," 11 Professor Robert Solow observes that, ''as economic development proceeds many [previously free] resources become scarce. . . . because growing population and increasing production of commodities put more pressure on the limited supply provided by nature. . . . Eventually, as an economy grows, even air and water become scarce." The problem he sees is that external costs arising from the uncharged-for use of these newly scarce resources play havoc with the efficient allocation of resources. The remedy he suggests is "internalisation of externalities" so that we each pay the full cost of our consumption. At a theoretical level this is hard to argue with. Professor Solow recognizes operational difficulties, and suggests moving the tax from the pollution end back toward the input end. Yet nowhere within his very sensible and cogent article is there any suggestion that we need not (and cannot) forever continue to turn free resources into scarce resources. It is all very interesting to know that prices can be rigged so as to allocate newly scarce resources "optimally." But that does not mean that we should continue to allow economic growth and population growth to increase the scarcity of clean air and water, silence, non-congested areas, and unhurried moments. We do have the alternative (and long run imperative) of stopping growth in both the population of human organisms and the quantities of extensions of human organisms that make up physical wealth. By contrast, the depletion quota scheme imposes a kind of birth control on objects.
The orthodox view seems to be that as long as we minimize the throughput per unit of GNP, we need not worry about the total number of units. Growth is still paramount. Or perhaps it is assumed that once all external costs are fully and accurately accounted in prices - so that marginal private cost and benefit coincide with marginal social cost and benefit - then individuals will choose to stop increasing production, consumption, and population at the point where marginal social cost equals marginal social benefit. Such an assumption is a good example of the fallacy or misplaced concreteness, which consists in neglecting the degree or abstraction undertaken in the course of considering an actual entity only so far as it exemplifies certain preselected categories of thought.12
In an economy in which a choice of labor or leisure would be available on a small margin to all individuals, all of whom were relieved from the pressure to work to ward off insecurity by some minimal holdings of personal wealth, it is possible to imagine everyone opting for leisure after achieving a certain real income. But pollution taxes have little to do with such a limit, and a growth-oriented capitalistic economy allows very little labor-leisure trade-off and very little personal security for most people. Furthermore, ecological limits might be reached before the shift from goods to leisure becomes recognized as important Nevertheless, assume that pollution taxes enabled us to reach such an optimum state; could our present economy remain there? No, for without growth and net investment, aggregate demand would fall short of capacity, and unemployment would appear. Distribution problems would be greatly intensified. Our system is hooked on growth per se, and does not see growth as a temporary means of attaining some optimum level of stocks, but as an end in itself. Why? Perhaps because, as one prominent economist so bluntly put it in defending growth: "Growth is a substitute for equality of income. So long as there is growth there is hope, and that makes large income differentials tolerable."13 We are addicted to growth because we are addicted to large inequalities in income and wealth. To paraphrase Marie Antoinette: Let them eat growth. Better yet, let the poor hope to eat growth in the future.
The basic malady is addiction to unlimited growth, growthmania. Pollution taxes are a mere palliative, treating only the symptoms of the disease. Depletion quotas strike at the real trouble, and are radical in the literal sense of getting at the root of things.
Control of Distribution
Distribution is the rock upon which most ships of state, including the steady state, are very likely to run aground. Currently we seek to improve distribution by establishing a minimum standard of living guaranteed by a negative income tax. In the growthmania paradigm there is no upper limit to the standard of living. In the steady-state paradigm there is an upper limit. Furthermore the higher the lower limit below which no one is allowed to fall, the lower must be the upper limit above which no one is allowed to rise. The lower limit has considerable political acceptance, the upper limit does not. But in the steady state the upper limit is a logical necessity. It implies confiscation and redistribution of wealth above a certain limit per person or per family. What does one say to the cries of "destruction of incentive"? Remember we are no longer anxious to grow in the first place! Also one recalls Jonathan Swift's observation:
In all well-instituted commonwealths, care has been taken to limit men's possessions; which is done for many reasons, and, among the rest, for one which, perhaps, is not often considered; that when bounds are set to men's desires, after they have acquired as much as the laws will permit them, their private interest is at an end, and they have nothing to do but to take care of the public.14
The basic institution for controlling distribution is very .simple: set maximum and minimum limits on wealth and income, the maximum limit on wealth being the most important. Such a proposal is in no way an attack on private property. Indeed, as John Stuart Mill argues, it is really a defence of private property:
Private property, in every defence made of it, is supposed to mean the guarantee to individuals of the fruits of their own labour and abstinence. The guarantee to them of the fruits of the labor and abstinence of others, transmitted to them without any merit or exertion of their own, is not of the essence of the institution, but a mere incidental consequence which, when it reaches a certain height, does not promote, but conflicts with, the ends which render private property legitimate. 15
According to Mill, private property is legitimated as a bastion against exploitation. But this is true only if everyone owns some minimum amount. Otherwise, when some own a great deal of it and others have very little, private property becomes an instrument of exploitation rather than a guarantee against it. It is implicit in this view that private property is legitimate only if there is some distributist institution (like, for example, the Jubilee year of the Old Testament) that keeps inequality of wealth within some tolerable limits. Such an institution is now lacking. The proposed institution of maximum and minimum wealth and income limits would remedy this severe defect and make private property legitimate again. Also it would go a long way toward legitimating the free market, since most of our blundering interference with the price system (e.g., the farm program, the minimum wage) has as its goal an equalizing alteration in the distribution of income and wealth.
Without this legitimation there would be no strong case for extending the market to cover birth quotas and depletion quotas as means of institutionalising environmental constraints. Thus, such a distributist policy is based on impeccably respectable premises: private property, the free market, opposition to welfare bureaucracies and centralized control. Moreover, it heeds the radicals' call of "power to the people" since it puts the source of power, namely property, in the hands of the many people, rather than in the hands of the few capitalist plutocrats and socialist bureaucrats. What should we call this thing that is neither capitalist nor socialist and that so resembles Jeffersonian democracy? Following G. K. Chesterton let us call it the Distributive State.16
But what are the. "proper" limits to wealth inequality? "Where do you draw the line?" An answer is necessarily imprecise. However, just because one cannot specify exactly where to draw a line does not mean that no line needs to be drawn, or that one can be drawn anywhere, and much creative thought is dedicated precisely to the task of drawing imprecise lines. On the other hand, Plato was precise in stating that the richest citizens should be four times as wealthy as the poorest. For the sake of political consensus let us propose that the richest be allowed to have, say, twenty times as much as the poorest. Within such limits distribution is governed by market forces. After experiencing a twenty-to-one-ratio for a while we could then intelligently decide how to modify it. Twenty-to-one (or some other) limits would also apply to income, with progressive taxation levied within the limits. Below the lower limit the tax rate becomes negative. Above the upper limit the tax rate becomes 100 percent - in Jonathan Swift's words "private interest is at an end and they have nothing to do but to take care of the public," or tend their own gardens.
Maximum income and wealth would remove many of the incentives to monopoly. Why conspire to corner markets, fix prices, etc., if you cannot keep the loot? As for labor, the minimum property and income would enable the outlawing of strikes, which are rapidly becoming intolerable. Unions would not be needed as a means of confronting the power of concentrated wealth, since wealth would no longer be concentrated. Indeed, the workers would have a share of it and thus would not be at the mercy of an employer. In addition, some limit on corporate size would be needed.
How would such a distributist state look in its specific details? Certainly it would be more complicated than the agrarian vision of three acres and a cow for every sturdy yeoman, with which the idea is often associated. Guaranteeing a minimum limit to wealth is probably not feasible, since one can always spend his wealth, and could hardly expect to have it restored year after year. Therefore, guaranteeing a minimum limit to income would be sufficient. The problems of detail and accounting would be great, but probably no greater than those faced today by the Internal Revenue Service. What is lacking is not technical capability, but the will and the moral commitment.
On Moral Growth
Is the above sketch of a steady state unrealistic and idealistic? On the contrary, it is in broad characteristics the only realistic possibility. The present economy is literally unrealistic because in its disregard for natural laws it is attempting the impossible. The steady-state paradigm, unlike growthmania, is realistic because it takes the physical laws of nature as its first premise.
Let us assume for a moment that the necessity of the steady state and the above outline of its appropriate technologies and social institutions are accepted. Logic and necessity are not sufficient to bring about social reform. The philosopher Leibnitz observed that,
If geometry conflicted with our passions and interests as much as do ethics, we would contest it and violate it as much as we do ethics now, in spite of all the demonstrations of Euclid and Archimedes, which would be labeled paralogisms and dreams.17
Leibnitz is surely correct. However logical and necessary the above outline of the steady state, it is, on the assumption of static morality, nothing but a dream. The physically steady economy absolutely requires moral growth beyond the present level.
Economists and other social scientists of positivistic bias seem to consider appeals to morality as cheating, as an admission of intellectual defeat, like bending the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. In economics there is a long and solid tradition of regarding moral resources as static and too scarce to be relied upon. In the words of the great British economist Alfred Marshall, "progress chiefly depends on the extent to which the strongest and not merely the highest forces of human nature can be utilized for the increase of social good."18
Presumably self-interest is stronger and more abundant than brotherhood. Presumably "progress" and "social good" can be defined independently of the driving motive of society.
Another British economist, D. H. Robertson, once asked the illuminating question: What is it that economists economize? His answer was "love, the scarcest and most precious of all resources."19 Paul Samuelson quotes Robertson approvingly in the latest edition of Economics, his influential textbook. Nor are economists alone in ruling out reliance on moral resources. The reader will recall from the previous reading that in his "Tragedy of the Commons" the biologist Garrett Hardin identifies a class of problems with no technical solution.2O He rules out moral solutions as self-eliminating on a somewhat farfetched evolutionary analogy, and advocates a political solution: mutual coercion mutually agreed upon. This is fine, but where is the mutual agreement to come from if not from shared values, from a convincing morality? Political scientist Beryl Crowe, in revisiting the tragedy of the commons, argues that the set of no-technical-solution problems coincides with the set of no-political-solution problems and that Hardin's "mutual coercion mutually agreed upon" is politically impossible.21 Between them they present a convincing case that "commons problems" will not be solved technically nor politically, assuming static morality. Mutual coercion does not substitute for, but presupposes, moral growth.
Going back to Robertson's repulsive but correct idea that economists economize love, one may ask, "How"? Mainly by maximizing growth. Let there be more for everyone year after year so that we need never face up to sharing a fixed total. Unequal distribution can be justified as necessary for saving, incentive, and hence, growth. This must continue, otherwise the problem of sharing a fixed total will place too heavy a strain on our precious resource of love, which is so scarce that it must never be used. I am reminded of Lord Thomas Balough's statement that one purpose of economic theory is to make those who are comfortable feel comfortable.
To paraphrase the above, we are told "Don't worry about today's inequities, but anxiously fix your attention on tomorrow's larger total income." Compare that with the Sermon on the Mount: "Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day's own evil be sufficient for the day." The morality of the steady state is that of the Sermon on the Mount. Growthmania requires the negation of that morality. If we give our first attention to the evils of the day we will have moral growth, though not so much economic growth. If we anxiously give our first attention to tomorrow's larger income we will have economic growth but little or no moral growth. Since economic growth is reaching physical limits anyway we may now find the Sermon on the Mount more appealing and easier to accept.
The same idea is stated in Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Cancer Ward, in the chapter entitled "Idols of the Market Place," in which the position of "ethical socialism" is advocated. The main theme is "ethics first and economics afterwards" a theme which finds as little acceptance in the Soviet Union as it does in the United States, perhaps even less. The following words are from the character Shulubin (page 443): Happiness is a mirage - as for the so-called "happiness of future generations" it is even more of a mirage. Who knows anything about it? Who has spoken with these future generations? Who knows what idols they will worship? Ideas of what happiness is have changed too much through the ages. No one should have the effrontery to try to plan it in advance. When we have enough loaves of white bread to crush them under our heels, when we have enough milk to choke us, we still won't be in the least happy. But if we share the things we don't have enough of, we can be happy today! If we care only about "happiness" and about reproducing our species, we shall merely crowd the earth senselessly and create a terrifying society.
There are other sources of moral support for the steady state besides the Sermon on the Mount. From the Old Testament we have two creation myths, the Priestly and the Yawistic, one which gives value to creation only with reference to man, and one which gives value to creation independently of man. In Western thought the first tradition has dominated, but the other is there waiting to receive its proper emphasis. Also Aldo Leopold's "land ethic" is extremely appealing and would serve admirably as the moral foundation of the steady state. Finally Karl Marx's materialism and objection to the alienation of man from nature can be enlisted as a moral foundation of the steady state. Marx recognized that nature is the "inorganic body of man" and not just a pile of neutral stuff to be dominated.22
In writing this chapter, I've considered the steady state only at a national level. Clearly the world as a whole must eventually adjust to a steady state. Perhaps ultimately this recognition will promote unity among nations - or conversely the desire for unity may promote the recognition. However, when nations cannot even agree to limit the stock of "bads" through disarmament it is hard to be optimistic about their limiting the stocks of "goods." There is no alternative except to try, but national efforts need not wait for international agreement.
Finally, one rather subtle, yet very powerful, moral force can be enlisted in support of the steady-state paradigm. That is wholeness. If the truth is the whole, as Hegel claimed, then our current splintered knowledge is so far from truth that it is hardly worth learning. I believe this is why many of our best university students do not work very hard at their studies. Why continue mining the deep, narrow, disciplinary shafts sunk into man's totality by the intellectual fragment-makers? Why deepen the tombs in which we have buried the wholeness of knowledge? Why increase the separation of people by filling separate heads with separate fragments of knowledge? The malaise reflected in these questions is very grave, and is, in my view, a major reason for the new surge of interest in ecology. Ecology is whole. It brings together the broken, analysed, alienated, fragmented pieces of man's image of the world. Ecology is also a fad, but when the fad passes, the movement toward wholeness must continue. Unless the physical, the social, and the moral dimensions of our knowledge are integrated in a unified paradigm offering a vision of wholeness, no solutions to our problems are likely. John Stuart Mill's idea of the stationary state seems to me to offer such a paradigm.
Notes and References
1. Economic Report of the President, 1971. p. 92. 2. Ibid, p. 88.
3. Neil Jacoby, "The Environmental Crisis," The Center Magazine, Vol. III, No.6, November December 1970.
4. See K. E. Boulding, "The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth" in Henry Jarrett, ed., Environmental Quality in a Growing Economy, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1966; reprinted in this volume on pages 121132. See also the introduction to this volume.
5. The slower the water flows through a tank of fixed size, the longer the time an average drop spends in the tank.
6. For a brilliant and extensive development of this theme see N. Georgescu Roegen, The Entropy Law and the Economic Process, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1971. The essay printed on pages 3749 of this volume is a short summary treatment.
7. See Thomas Frejka, "Reflections on the Demographic Conditions Needed to Establish a United States Stationary Population Growth," Population Studies, November, 1968.
8. William Gough and Bernard Eastlund, "The Prospects of Fusion Power," Scientific American, February, 1971.
9. See Daniel B. Luten, "Teleoeconomics: The Microdynamic, Macrostatic Economy," Department of Geography, University of California, Berkeley (Mimeo).
10. Kenneth E. Boulding, Economics As A Science, New York: McGraw Hill, 1970, p. 149.
11. Robert Solow, "The Economist's Approach to Pollution and Its Control," Science, August 6, 1971. .
12. We might select "yellowness" and "fourwheeledness" as defining characteristics of a bus, but the fallacy of misplaced concreteness prevents us from repeating the old saying, "If Grandmother were yellow and had four wheels, she'd be a bus." Likewise, from the concrete interdependencies of life we might abstract those pecuniary links which operate through a market as the defining characteristics of all interdependence, and then we go off in all directions painting "internal" and hanging a price tag on everything in the ecosystem. But alas, the ecosystem is not just a market economy writ large any more than Grandmother is a bus.
13. Henry C. Wallich, "Zero Growth," Newsweek, January 24, 1972, p. 62. 14. Jonathan Swift, "Thoughts on Various Subjects," reprinted in The Literature of England, G. B. Woods et al., eds., New York: Scott, Foresman and Company, 1958, p. 1003.
15. John Stuart Mill, "Of Property," in Principles of Political Property, Volume II, London, John Parker and Son, 1857, Chapter I.
16. G. K. Chesterton, The Outline of Sanity, Methuen and Co., Ltd., London, 1926.
17. Leibnitz quoted in A. Sauly, The General Theory of Population, New York: Basic Books, 1970, p. 270.
18. Alfred Marshall, quoted in D. H. Robertson, Economic Commentaries, London: Staples Press Ltd., 1956, p. 148.
19. D. H. Robertson, Economic Commentaries, op. cit., p. 154.
20. Garrett Hardin, "The Tragedy of the Commons," Science, December 13, 1968. Reprinted in this volume on pp. 133148.
21. Beryl Crowe, "The Tragedy of the Commons Revisited," Science, November 28,1969.
22. Karl Marx, Karl Marx's Early Writings, Translated and edited by T. B. Bottomore, New York: McGraw Hill, 1963, p. 127.
6 MAY 2005
JOHN CLEESE ON THE BRITISH RETURNING TO TAKE BACK THE CROCKERY FROM THE BOSTON TEA PARTY
This message, purported to be from John Cleese, was forwarded to me by Peter Christoff. I wonder if John Howard has similar ideas for Australia. His political mentor did but see her passing by, but with the Queens' return to Australia for the 2006 Commonwealth Games perhaps John Cleese knows something we don't.
To the citizens of the United States of America, In the light of your failure to elect a competent President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective today. Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories. Except Utah, which she does not fancy.
Your new prime minister (The Right Honourable Tony Blair, MP for the 97.85% of you who have until now been unaware that there is a world outside your borders) will appoint a minister for America without the need for further elections.
Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire will be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed. To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:
1. You should look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary. Then look up "aluminium". Check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'favour' and 'neighbour', skipping the letter 'U' is nothing more than laziness on your part. Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters. You will end your love affair with the letter 'Z' (pronounced 'zed' not 'zee') and the suffix "ize" will be replaced by the suffix "ise". You will learn that the suffix 'burgh is pronounced 'burra' e.g. Edinburgh. You are welcome to respell Pittsburgh as 'Pittsberg' if you can't cope with correct pronunciation. Generally, you should raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. Look up "vocabulary". Using the same twenty seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. Look up "interspersed". There will be no more 'bleeps' in the Jerry Springer show. If you're not old enough to cope with bad language then you shouldn't have chat shows. When you learn to develop your vocabulary then you won't have to use bad language as often.
2. There is no such thing as "US English". We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter 'u' and the elimination of "-ize".
3. You should learn to distinguish the English and Australian accents. It really isn't that hard. English accents are not limited to cockney, upper-class twit or Mancunian (Daphne in Frasier). You will also have to learn how to understand regional accents - Scottish dramas such as "Taggart" will no longer be broadcast with subtitles. While we're talking about regions, you must learn that there is no such place as Devonshire in England. The name of the county is "Devon". If you persist in calling it Devonshire, all American States will become "shires" e.g. Texasshire, Floridashire, Louisianashire.
4. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as the good guys. Hollywood will be required to cast English actors to play English characters. British sit-coms such as "Men Behaving Badly" or "Red Dwarf" will not be re-cast and watered down for a wishy-washy American audience who can't cope with the humour of occasional political incorrectness.
5. You should relearn your original national anthem, "God Save The Queen", but only after fully carrying out task 1. We would not want you to get confused and give up half way through.
6. You should stop playing American "football". There is only one kind of football. What you refer to as American "football" is not a very good game. The 2.15% of you who are aware that there is a world outside your borders may have noticed that no one else plays "American" football. You will no longer be allowed to play it, and should instead play proper football. Initially, it would be best if you played with the girls. It is a difficult game. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which is similar to American "football", but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like nancies). We are hoping to get together at least a US Rugby sevens side by 2005. You should stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the 'World Series' for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.15% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. Instead of baseball, you will be allowed to play a girls' game called "rounders" which is baseball without fancy team strip, oversized gloves, collector cards or hotdogs.
7. You will no longer be allowed to own or carry guns. You will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous in public than a vegetable peeler. Because we don't believe you are sensible enough to handle potentially dangerous items, you will require a permit if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.
8. July 4th is no longer a public holiday. November 2nd will be a new national holiday, but only in England. It will be called "Indecisive Day".
9. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and it is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean. All road intersections will be replaced with roundabouts. You will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.
10. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips. Fries aren't even French; they are Belgian though 97.85% of you (including the guy who discovered fries while in Europe) are not aware of a country called Belgium. Those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called "crisps". Real chips are thick cut and fried in animal fat. The traditional accompaniment to chips is beer which should be served warm and flat. Waitresses will be trained to be more aggressive with customers.
11. As a sign of penance 5 grams of sea salt per cup will be added to all tea made within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, this quantity to be doubled for tea made within the city of Boston itself.
12. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all, it is lager. >From November 1st only proper British Bitter will be referred to as "beer", and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as "Lager". The substances formerly known as "American Beer" will henceforth be referred to as "Near-Frozen Knat's Urine", with the exception of the product of the American Budweiser company whose product will be referred to as "Weak Near-Frozen Knat's Urine". This will allow true Budweiser (as manufactured for the last 1000 years in Pilsen, Czech Republic) to be sold without risk of confusion.
13. From November 10th the UK will harmonise petrol (or "Gasoline" as you will be permitted to keep calling it until April 1st 2005) prices with the former USA. The UK will harmonise its prices to those of the former USA and the Former USA will, in return, adopt UK petrol prices roughly $6/US gallon - get used to it).
14 You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not adult enough to be independent. Guns should only be handled by adults. If you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist then you're not grown up enough to handle a gun.
15. Please tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us crazy. Tax collectors from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all revenues due (backdated to 1776).
16. Last but not the least, and for heaven's sake.....it's Nuclear as in "clear" NOT Nucular.
Thank you for your co-operation and have a great day.
4 MAY 2005
A MANIFESTO FOR WELLBEING.
Clive Hamilton of the Australia Institute had forwarded a message about an excellent new initiative called A Manifesto For Wellbeing. You can go to the website by clicking on highlighted titles.
A New Manifesto
The Manifesto for Wellbeing is the foundation of a new politics committed to promoting our wellbeing rather than relentlessly focusing on the economy and money.
We can direct the benefits of economic growth towards renewing our society rather than encouraging ever more materialism.
We can build a society in which we have fulfilling work, control over our time, a healthy natural environment, better education, less materialism and stronger relationships.
These goals are not wishful thinking, they can be achieved simply by shifting our priorities.
The Manifesto for Wellbeing provides a new vision and a new ethos for Australia. Several prominent Australians have already endorsed it.
. Read the Manifesto
. See who has endorsed it
. Sign up to it yourself
Go to the website www.wellbeingmanifesto.net
Please circulate this email to your friends and colleagues.
Clive Hamilton, The Australia Institute
1 MAY 2005
5 MAY - GREENS AUSTRALIAN ELECTORAL COMMISION CITIZENSHIP AND DEMOCRACY SESSION
I have organised for the Australian Electoral Commission Electoral Education Centre to run a 2 hour session on ‘Citizenship and Democracy’ for Greens members, old and new.The session is a tailored introduction to the electoral process for Greens. We will explore, 1/ The history of democracy in Australia; 2/ The three levels of government; 3/ Federal Parliament; 4/ Representation and participation: 5/ Voting; and 6/ Different electoral systems.
Participants will take part in a mock Federal lower house election as part of the fun and games. The session is free and each participant will get an information package of goodies to take home.
When: 6-8pm Thurs 5 May 2005. Where: Melbourne Electoral Education Centre, 565 Bourke St (enter from Church St)
RSVP Email to email@example.com by 24 April, 2005. David will reply by return email to confirm.
A Local Government information session is booked for August 2005.
30 APRIL 2005
AUSTRALIAN CONSERVATION COUNCIL 103rd MEETING CONSIDERS HOW GOOD OUR ENVIRONMENT'S FUTURE COULD BE
The elected Council of the Australian Conservation Council is meeting today for three days to consider what our role is in helping Australia be a better place. As an elected Councillor for Victoria, I am involved in discussions with people from across Australia which were a real delight to be involved in. The discussion was timely given the recent release of the Victorian EPA's report on Australia's Ecological Footprint. The report was featured in today's Melbourne Age and is well worth a look.
29 APRIL 2005
BUSH ENERGY ADVISOR PUTS PEAK OIL ON WORLD AGENDA.
The following media release was forwarded from the New Zealand Greens, highlighting increasing acceptance of the emergence of Peak Oil, the idea that global oil supply has probably peaked. Expect the conservatives with their head in the oil soaked sand approach to do little, then suddenly declare something dramatic like nuclear is needed to compensate for their inaction. Perhaps conservation and acting as if non-renewable oil resources were non-renewable would pay some dividends, but that is expecting people with short term views to take a longer and more generous view of what they will allow future generations to inherit.
The following missive came to me from Greens member Chris Mardon, whose knowledge of major engineering issues is quite exceptional. This will be the first of a number of insights to come from Chris on these pages.
Bush energy advisor puts Peak Oil on world agenda
A significant international oil industry conference in Scotland has acknowledged the imminent threat of Peak Oil and it‚s time New Zealand's Government did the same, says Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons.
The latest Guardian Weekly, on New Zealand newsstands this morning, leads with reports that Matthew Simmons, an adviser to US President Bush and chair of Wall Street energy investment company Simmons, told Depletion Scotland, an oil supply conference in Edinburgh last week, that "Peak Oil - when global oil production rises to its highest point before declining irreversibly - was rapidly approaching even as demand was increasing".
"Matthew Simmons is a leading international energy analyst, so his call is making decision makers worldwide sit up and take notice," said Ms Fitzsimons, the Green Party's Energy and Transport Spokesperson.
"The most startling part of his reported statements is that Saudi Arabia may well have peaked in production in 1981. Coupled with Peak Oil geology expert Colin Campbell's new estimate that production could peak as soon as next year and the International Energy Agency moving its estimates forward from 2037 to 2013, both mentioned in the same report, Simmon's statement takes the issue to a whole new level internationally.
"The Greens therefore repeat our call for the Government to urgently develop a program for reducing New Zealand‚s oil dependency.
"We need a careful analysis of every major sector of our economy and our trading relationships to establish where they are most vulnerable and how that can be changed.
"We can only mitigate the impact of Peak Oil. But it will be much easier to take steps such as building a truly effective public transport system and a national rail system, which use a lot of energy to build but not much to run, while energy is still relatively cheap.
"We need to stop importing inefficient cars and go for the most fuel efficient models. We need to start to develop low energy farming systems now and look at how to carry our exports and imports with less energy.
"Change is inevitable, but we can try to make that change more gentle, more humane and more democratic than just going cold turkey on oil," said Ms Fitzsimons.
CHRIS MARDON ON THE IRREPRESSIBLE PUSH FOR INFRASTRUCTURE WHERE INTELLIGENT SOLUTIONS SUFFICE
The current push in NSW and WA for the construction of water desalination plants is another example of the push by investment banks, consultants and construction companies to encourage state governments to invest in major infrastructure projects funded by PPPs that provide a nice cash cow for the banks and more work for construction companies -- JOBS!!
If built, the Sydney desalination plant would be the biggest in the world, but it would only supply one third of Sydney's water supply. As well as producing significant greenhouse emissions, the plant would also produce a highly saline effluent to be disposed of. In Victoria, we have had various water restrictions that have succeeded in reducing water use, and the use of rain water tanks and grey water recycling in urban areas is now legal, but there is still a proposal to pipe treated waste water back to the Latrobe Valley for use in the power stations. Would the power stations pay for this? You're kidding! Taxpayers would have to pay for it, and they would also have to pay for the electricity required to pump it uphill. Water from the Thompson Dam comes to Melbourne by gravity, but it would need power to send it back up again.
Rather than treating the water and pumping it uphill, it would be better if we continued on our current path of saving water and recycling it locally so that we do not need to take water from the Thompson Dam in the first place. The power stations do not even pay for water from the Latrobe River, so why should we pay to pump water from Melbourne? Like freeways, the Channel Deepening and other major projects, desalination plants are a way of extracting more money from taxpayers. They often make little sense in achieving the stated purpose, and ignore other alternatives that would make sense, but would not be as profitable for the people behind the push to build more infrastructure. It is true that a lot of our old infrastructure is past its use-by date, but with rising energy costs and the threat of global warming upon us, we should not be stampeded into more of the same kinds of infrastructure.
Regards, Chris Mardon
A JUST AUSTRALIA APPEALS FOR YOUR HELP FOR A DECENT TREATEMENT OF EAST TIMORESE REFUGEES
The following message was forwarded from A Just Australia. As a member of the Australia-East Timor Association, and supporter of East Timor, I felt it was worth promoting their initiative as far and wide as possible.
Dear supporters of A Just Australia,
After more than a decade of waiting for the Government to grant them permissions to stay under humanitarian grounds, this week 21 East Timorese asylum seekers were personally handed a letter from the Minister for Immigration, Senator Amanda Vanstone, saying they were not welcome.
These are families and individuals who have been living amongst us in Australia for between 9 to 12 years. Most are families who have worked hard and contributed to Australia, with some of their children even born in Australia with English as their first language. Within 28 days these children are expected to leave their classmates behind to be sent to a war-ravaged country they have no knowledge of, unless support from the Australian community can change this decision.
This small group is among the last of the 1500 asylum seekers who escaped from the Indonesian occupation. All the others, including some family members of these 20, have received permanent residency in Australia. None of these latest cases have been provided with reasons as to why the visas were denied. As many of these cases are identical to other cases already accepted, there appears to be no logic to the rejections.
The rejection letters were hand-delivered to asylum seekers' homes or places of work, increasing their distress and humiliation. It is unclear why these cases have been handled so differently than in the past.
They have been offered a one-way ticket to Timor and $2000 re-settlement money which they will risk if they appeal again to the Minister. Should such an appeal fail, they could be sent to a detention centre, losing the financial incentive to leave. The Australian Government has informed the East Timorese Government that all these cases are voluntary returns, when they are not.
We must remember that this is a group of people who have been uprooted already due to war in East Timor and have had to put their lives on hold for more than a decade only to be told they are once again being uprooted. Most of these people are well-established, fully employed and paying taxes - they do not just fit into the Australian community, they ARE the Australian community∑our neighbours, class mates, work mates and members of our congregations.
It is unfortunate that this has happened so soon after Anzac day. Has the Government forgotten so soon how many East Timorese gave their lives to stop the Japanese sweeping through South East Asia and approaching Australia?
A Just Australia calls on the Minister for Immigration to show compassion to this small group of asylum seekers and grant them permanent visas. We ask each of you, our supporters, to get behind this request by making your voice heard.
What you can do
Please write a letter to either the Prime Minister, Amanda Vanstone, the Minister for Immigration or the acting Immigration Minister, Peter McGauran If you can, forward this request to 10 friends or colleagues and have them do the same. I have added some points to make in your letter below, but it is best to use your own words.
Kate Gauthier for the A Just Australia team
We believe that Australia's policies toward refugees and asylum seekers should at all times reflect respect, decency and traditional Australian generosity to those in need, while advancing Australia's international standing and national interests.
We aim to achieve just and compassionate treatment of refugees, consistent with the human rights standards which Australia has developed and endorsed.
A Just Australia has joined with the Mary Mackillop Institute and the Edmund Rice Centre to print postcards on this issue to send to John Howard. They will be available by next Thursday 5th May. If you can distribute some at schools, your workplace, to family or friends, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your address and how many you‚d like. Feel free to ask for as few as 5 or even 100 (or more!) if you can hand out that many.
Address letters to:
Prime Minister, The Hon John Howard MP, House of Representatives. Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600, Fax: (02) 6273 4100
Minister for Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, The Hon. Senator Vanstone, Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600, Fax: (02) 6273 4144
Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, The Hon Peter McGauran MP, House of Representatives, Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600, Fax: (02) 6273 0434
Points to make:
All other East Timorese have been granted humanitarian visas. After 10 years and with close ties to the Australian community, these people should also be granted visas to stay.
These Timorese asylum seekers have been cooperating with the Government‚s processes and waiting for 10 years. People, particularly children who speak English as their first language, should not be deported after living in the Australian community for ten years. They are a vibrant part of our community and we want them to stay.
Australia is their home and their life now and East Timor is in no position to adequately resettle returnees. Many Timorese severed ties with their communities in Timor as a way of coping with painful memories. To force them to return would cause significant retraumatisation.
What connection is there between the timing of these decisions and the current Timor Sea resources talks?
Has the East Timorese Government been told that these people wish to return, when they clearly do not?
27 APRIL 2005
This message was forwarded by the Genethics network, reflecting events that deserve considerable concern if the extent of the breaches are shown to be true. The fact sheet below attributed to Food Standards Australia New Zealand was also forwarded by Genethics and dated 21 April 2005.
GENETHICS CALL FOR BT10 CORN TESTS AND BAN
Fact sheet: Release of unapproved genetically modified (GM) corn
Syngenta's GE Bt10 corn is not approved for human consumption. Bt10 was grown by US farmers for 4 years and entered the food chain, probably globally. At least 180,000 tonnes of Bt10 corn was produced.
The US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) and Syngenta waited six months before advising the public of the contamination and USFDA has not recalled affected corn products. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is also taking no action, following assessment of information from Syngenta (see their statement below).
In contrast, European authorities banned American corn products except those certified Bt10-free.
Agri-chemical company Syngenta will not seek approval for the experimental Bt10 corn as it contains an ampicillin antibiotic resistance marker gene which the European Food Safety Authority recommends, "should be restricted to field trials." The international food standards agency, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, also advises against antibiotic resistance markers.
A small quantity of a GM corn variety, known as Bt-10, was accidentally grown and released into the food and animal feed supply in the United States (US) between 2001 and 2004. Although Bt-10 corn is not approved for such release in Australia or in other countries including the US, there is a small chance that some may have been present in animal feed or processed food exported to Australia during this period.
A large agricultural biotechnology company, Syngenta, is responsible for inadvertently producing several hundred tonnes of Bt-10 corn over a four-year period between 2001 and 2004. The accidental distribution of the unapproved Bt-10 corn, was reported in an article published in the scientific journal, Nature, on 22 March 2005. Although Syngenta disclosed the information to the US authorities in late 2004, it has only recently come to the attention of Australian authorities, including FSANZ.
According to Syngenta, the amount of seed produced from Bt-10 corn would have constituted only a very small fraction (0.01%) of the total corn acreage planted in the US over the four year period. While unlikely, Syngenta has stated that extremely small amounts of harvested Bt-10 grain (0.002%) could have been used in animal feed or in processed food products that may have been exported from the US to countries including Australia. Australian quarantine controls require all imports of corn feed to be devitalised and crushed.
The Bt-10 corn is very similar to Bt-11 corn, a genetically modified corn variety that has been approved for food use in Australia since August 2001. Bt11 is also approved for import for food and feed use in the European Union, Switzerland, New Zealand, Taiwan, the Philippines, China, Russia and Korea.
FSANZ sought and received scientific information relating to Bt-10 corn from Syngenta. This information allowed FSANZ to conduct a safety assessment of Bt-10 and compare its characteristics to the approved Bt-11 corn. The two varieties have been modified in the same way and produce the same novel proteins. The presence of a non-functional antibiotic resistance marker gene (BLA) in Bt-10 corn, that is not present in Bt-11, has no impact on the safety of food produced from Bt-10 corn. FSANZ has previously assessed this marker gene for safety and its use is approved in Australia for use in a number of food commodities.
FSANZ has concluded that there are no food safety concerns with corn products imported from the United States since:
* The amounts of Bt-10 corn that could have accidentally entered the food supply in Australia would have been extremely small;
* Assessments by both FSANZ and the US regulatory agencies have confirmed that novel proteins present in Bt-10 are identical to those present in Bt-11 corn, a fully approved product for animal feed and human food use in a number of countries around the world, including Europe and Australia.
FSANZ will be formally contacting Syngenta and other biotechnology companies to advise them that they are expected to provide early information on any issues of possible concern regarding GM foods.
16 APRIL 2005
PUBLIC MEETING ON 20 APRIL: ABORTION: AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE - AS LATE AS NECESSARY CONSERVATIVES OF WHATEVER PARTY
Organised by Socialist Alliance. Speakers: Marg Kirkby - abortion councillor active in the Women's Abortion Action Campaign since 1978, Annette O'Rourke - Women's Group, Victorian Greens, Pat Brewer - pro-choice campaigner involved in the Australian Capital Territory Prochoice campaign and member of Socialist Alliance.
Wednesday, April 20 @ 7pm, Resistance Centre, Druids House, Level 5 407 Swanson St (opposite RMIT in City) Entry by donation. Tel: Kim or Margie on 02 9639 86 22
15 APRIL 2005
CONSERVATIVES OF WHATEVER PARTY
I wrote the following letter in reply to a letter in Crikey by Nathan Lambert.
Conservatives of Whatever Party
I would like to thank Nathan Lambert for his compliment that the ALP thought my election to the fifth Victorian Senate spot was a certainty and that the final Senate seat was a two way contest between the Liberal Party and ALP, but I simply don’t believe what he says.
Election to the Senate in 2004 required a vote of 14.3%. Polls showed the Greens Senate vote climbing to 8-12%; enough to be elected with good preferences. When the group voting tickets were released, it was clear the ALP had given Family First the political oxygen to win a Senate seat. As so they did, electing Labor’s first Family First Senator with a primary vote of 1.9%.
With a Liberal Party document making false claims about Green policy and a Herald Sun media attack reflecting them (described by the Press Council as having seriously misled readers and damaged the Greens) it is highly likely our 8.8% Senate vote could have been higher. But to suggest that ahead of those attacks the ALP wasn't knowingly taking a risk in preferencing religious right parties ahead of the Greens is a furphy.
With Family First preferencing the Greens last, their preferences would always flow to the ALP ahead of the Greens. The ALP machine offered their supporters’ votes for little return.
Many ALP voters who unknowingly had their vote elect Family First will not risk voting ALP again. For those who do, they would probably feel more secure if the ALP acknowledged it made a mistake they will not make again. That is not what I am hearing.
If the ALP thought it better to risk electing Family First then be straight about it. Voters can take that into account at the next election.
A related and unanswered question is whether the ALP will now back Andrew Robb’s plan to raise the quota to 33% by dividing each State into six Senate divisions in a thinly disguised move to exclude anyone except the current two major parties?
The Nationals, Greens, Democrats and Family First parties and independents could be wiped out from the next election, but Liberal and Labor combined could do it overnight.
Most of us have been eating our Weeties long enough to know there were once Labor and Liberal parties that stood strongly for the ideals associated with their names. With the conservative controlled Senate installed in July and a convergence of the major parties, Australia could face a future of a two party system choreographed by two dimensional policies with differences that are increasingly paper thin.
The only thing certain about the next three years is that, in whatever guise it takes, the conservatives of whatever party they belong will radically change Australia.David Risstrom
14 APRIL 2005
LABOR'S FIRST FAMILY FIRST SENATOR
I had the following letter published in Crikey today, recounting how the Australian Labor Party elected their first Family First Senator in October 2004.
Third man in: Risstrom on Labor's dodgy deal
Greens Senate candidate David Risstrom writes:
I was the unsuccessful Victorian Green Senate candidate who with a primary vote of 8.8% outpolled Family First by about five to one but lost on ALP and Democrat preferences. I have read the exchanges on the Senate election between Christian Kerr and Ben Oquist with much interest but less joy. Stoushes may be interesting but the consequences of an unchecked conservative coalition with complete control of the Parliament matter more.
Well before the election, Family First repeatedly stated its intention to preference the Greens last, so presumably the ALP didn't need to do anything to receive Family First preferences ahead of the Greens. Therefore, Labor made a decision to preference Family First ahead of the Greens when it didn’t need to do so. The Democrats also preferenced Family First ahead of the Greens, though its smaller vote was less critical.
Labor’s decision to put Family First ahead of the Greens, delivered 200,000+ votes to Family First, guaranteeing election of their only Senator on a primary vote of less than 60,000 or 1.9%. With it, the ALP gave the Government a very useful one vote buffer to create a conservative coalition in the Senate. The election is long over now, but I haven’t met too many Victorian ALP and Democrat voters who are pleased their parties helped them elect Family First.
It is empty rhetoric for Labor to handball political power to a conservative coalition and then to carry on about industrial relations, the full privatisation of Telstra, the emaciation of the Committee system or the dumping of any other meaningful progressive economic, social or environmental policies into the conservatives’ high temperature incinerator.
The ALP can swear on a stack of Bibles that they didn’t want or expect this to happen, but I think they are more capable than that. They knew what they were doing; they took a risk they didn’t need to take and in doing so elected Labor’s first Family First Senator.
So be it.
1 APRIL 2005
WE DID BUT SEE HERR ROSA PASSING BY
My propensity to open my muzzle more often than banks close their branches has meant Rosa's Rave has had to move to new pages each three months. This page provides my news and views from April 1 to June 30 2005. The previous edition of current news and views are available by clicking here: Rosa's and Dave's News and Views: Jan-Mar 2005: David.