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 14 April 2005.
31 MARCH 2005
MILLENIUM ECOSYSTEM ASSESSMENT TOO IMPORTANT FOR US TO CONTEMPLATE
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment was released today, with findings and inferences that are quite serious. The limited reporting on mainstream media suggests the issues considered in this report are more difficult to respond to than they require. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment website can be reached by clicking on the title. The following information is taken from that site.
A landmark study released today reveals that approximately 60 percent of the ecosystem services that support life on Earth - such as fresh water, capture fisheries, air and water regulation, and the regulation of regional climate, natural hazards and pests - are being degraded or used unsustainably. Scientists warn that the harmful consequences of this degradation could grow significantly worse in the next 50 years.
"Any progress achieved in addressing the goals of poverty and hunger eradication, improved health, and environmental protection is unlikely to be sustained if most of the ecosystem services on which humanity relies continue to be degraded," said the study, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) Synthesis Report, conducted by 1,300 experts from 95 countries. It specifically states that the ongoing degradation of ecosystem services is a road block to the Millennium Development Goals agreed to by the world leaders at the United Nations in 2000.
Although evidence remains incomplete, there is enough for the experts to warn that the ongoing degradation of 15 of the 24 ecosystem services examined is increasing the likelihood of potentially abrupt changes that will seriously affect human well-being. This includes the emergence of new diseases, sudden changes in water quality, creation of "dead zones" along the coasts, the collapse of fisheries, and shifts in regional climate.
The MA Synthesis Report highlights four main findings:
Humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively in the last 50 years than in any other period. This was done largely to meet rapidly growing demands for food, fresh water, timber, fiber and fuel. More land was converted to agriculture since 1945 than in the 18th and 19th centuries combined. More than half of all the synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, first made in 1913, ever used on the planet has been used since 1985. Experts say that this resulted in a substantial and largely irreversible loss in diversity of life on Earth, with some 10 to 30 percent of the mammal, bird and amphibian species currently threatened with extinction.
Ecosystem changes that have contributed substantial net gains in human well-being and economic development have been achieved at growing costs in the form of degradation of other services. Only four ecosystem services have been enhanced in the last 50 years: increases in crop, livestock and aquaculture production, and increased carbon sequestration for global climate regulation. Two services – capture fisheries and fresh water – are now well beyond levels that can sustain current, much less future, demands. Experts say that these problems will substantially diminish the benefits for future generations.
The degradation of ecosystem services could grow significantly worse during the first half of this century and is a barrier to achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals. In all the four plausible futures explored by the scientists, they project progress in eliminating hunger, but at far slower rates than needed to halve number of people suffering from hunger by 2015. Experts warn that changes in ecosystems such as deforestation influence the abundance of human pathogens such as malaria and cholera, as well as the risk of emergence of new diseases. Malaria, for example, accounts for 11 percent of the disease burden in Africa and had it been eliminated 35 years ago, the continent’s gross domestic product would have increased by $100 billion.
The challenge of reversing the degradation of ecosystems while meeting increasing demands can be met under some scenarios involving significant policy and institutional changes. However, these changes will be large and are not currently under way. The report mentions options that exist to conserve or enhance ecosystem services that reduce negative trade-offs or that will positively impact other services. Protection of natural forests, for example, not only conserves wildlife but also supplies fresh water and reduces carbon emissions.
"The over-riding conclusion of this assessment is that it lies within the power of human societies to ease the strains we are putting on the nature services of the planet, while continuing to use them to bring better living standards to all," said the MA board of directors in a statement, "Living beyond Our Means: Natural Assets and Human Well-being. Achieving this, however, will require radical changes in the way nature is treated at every level of decision-making and new ways of cooperation between government, business and civil society. The warning signs are there for all of us to see. The future now lies in our hands."
The MA Synthesis Report also reveals that it is the world’s poorest people who suffer most from ecosystem changes. The regions facing significant problems of ecosystem degradation – sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, some regions in Latin America, and parts of South and Southeast Asia – are also facing the greatest challenges in achieving the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the number of poor people is forecast to rise from 315 million in 1999 to 404 million by 2015.
"Only by understanding the environment and how it works, can we make the necessary decisions to protect it. Only by valuing all our precious natural and human resources can we hope to build a sustainable future," said Kofi Annan, secretary general of the United Nations in a message launching the MA reports. "The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment is an unprecedented contribution to our global mission for development, sustainability and peace."
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) Synthesis Report is the first in a series of seven synthesis and summary reports and four technical volumes that assess the state of global ecosystems and their impact on human well-being. This report is being released together with a statement by the MA board of directors entitled "Living beyond Our Means: Natural Assets and Human Well-being."
The four-year assessment was designed by a partnership of UN agencies, international scientific organizations, and development agencies, with guidance from the private sector and civil society groups. Major funding is provided by the Global Environment Facility, the United Nations Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and The World Bank. The MA Secretariat is coordinated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The MA is recognized by governments as a mechanism to meet part of the assessment needs of four international environmental treaties – the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, and the Convention on Migratory Species. It is supported by 22 of the world’s leading scientific bodies, including The Royal Society of the U.K. and the Third World Academy of Sciences.
The MA’s work is overseen by a 45-member board of directors, co-chaired by Dr. Robert Watson, chief scientist of The World Bank, and Dr. A. H. Zakri, director of the United Nations University’s Institute of Advanced Studies. The Assessment Panel, which oversees the technical work of the MA, includes 13 of the world’s leading social and natural scientists. It is co-chaired by Angela Cropper of the Cropper Foundation, and Dr. Harold Mooney of Stanford University. Dr. Walter Reid is the director of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.
30 MARCH 2005
MY SUBMISSION TO THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE ON THE 2004 ELECTION AND ABOVE THE LINE SENATE VOTING
I have made a submission to the Federal Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Affairs, recommending that voters be given the choice to vote on their Senate ballot papers by numbering all the boxes above the line. The Committee is looking at the conduct of the 2004 Federal election and matters related to it.
Since 1984, voters have been able to number every box below the line or to put a single number in a box above the line. During the 2004 Federal election, where I was the No. 1 Greens Senate candidate, may ALP and Democrat voters were dismayed to find after the event that by voting above the line, their vote contributed to electing Family First ahead of the Greens, due to ALP and Democrats preference deals. A copy of the submission can be downloaded by clicking here or on the underlined title. The details of my submission are detailed below.
Inquiry into the Conduct of the Federal Election and Matters Related Thereto
Thank you for your inquiry into the conduct of the 2004 Federal Election.
I am currently a barrister-at-law, was the Victorian Greens No. 1 Senate Candidate in the 2004 Federal election, and was employed by the Australian Electoral Commission between 1992 and 1995 as an Electoral Educator and in assisting in the conduct of State and Federal elections during the same period.
My primary submission is that the current Senate voting system risks not adequately reflecting voters’ intentions and that the proposal to allow voters to choose to record preferences above the line would improve the correlation between voter’s intentions and the election of candidates. I suggest six other recommendations on page 3.
An example of voter intentions not being reflected in the result occurred in the 2004 Victorian Senate election, where I was an unsuccessful candidate.
Table 1 reproduces information sourced from the AEC pertaining to groups receiving more than 1% of the formal primary vote in the 2004 Victorian Senate election.
Table 1. Groups receiving more than 1% of the formal vote in the 2004 Senate election for Victoria
(ranked in order of % vote received)
% of Formal Votes
|Australian Labour Party
|D.L.P.– Democratic Labor Party
|Liberals for Forests
The quota for election to the Senate division of Victoria was 428,085. Total enrolments were 3,309,800 of which 3,158,641 were recorded as voting. 2,996,594 formal votes (94.87%) and 162,047 informal votes (5.13%) were recorded.
As can be seen from the Table 1:
The Liberal/National Coalition elected 3 Senators with primary votes equalling 3.0869 quotas.
The Australian Labor Party elected 2 Senators with primary votes equalling 2.5282 quotas.
The Australian Greens elected no Senators with primary votes equalling 0.6157 quotas.
The Family First party elected 1 Senator with primary votes equalling 0.1317 quotas.
While there is a very high correlation for the Liberal/National Coalition between primary votes and Senators elected, the correlation for all other groups is poor.
The Family First Senate Candidate was elected with a primary vote of 1.88% versus the Greens 8.80%, primarily due to the transfer of preferences from the Australian Labor Party and Australian Democrats to Family First rather than the Greens.
Following the 2004 election, it became apparent through direct contact and media commentary that a large number of people were extremely unhappy that their Senate vote for the ALP or Australian Democrats (and to a lesser extent the Liberal Party) transferred to Family First in conflict with their voting intention.
There were many instances reported to the Green party and myself of exigencies that militated against voters’ intentions being reflected in their choice. These included voters being unable to access to Group Voting Tickets at polling booths, booth helpers handing out How to Vote cards telling voters that by voting ALP or Democrat their preferences would flow to the Greens, and people being misdirected about preferences. I am aware of individuals seeking advice on how to revoke their vote once they realised they had been misled directly or by assumptions based on their lack of inquiry.
This situation could affect any candidate or group in future elections, and risks damaging voter confidence.
As committee members would be aware, in accordance with the amendment to the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, from 1984, voters are required to mark their Senate ballot paper by placing one number in a box ‘above the line’ or to number every box ‘below the line’ in order of their preference.
A vote cast above the line has its preferences distributed in accordance with group preference tickets lodged ahead of the polling day. This information is contained in Group Voting Tickets made available by the AEC. Anecdotally it appears that the majority of voters are unaware of Group Voting Tickets, do not access them, and do not request to see them prior to casting their vote.
Past election results indicate that a very high proportion of Senate votes are cast above the line, typically in excess of 90%. My own observation from involvement in Senate recounts is that the level of informality increases where voters vote below the line. (I admit to seeking a replacement ballot at an election when I made a mistake on a ticket of some 80 candidates!)
The combination of two factors: 1/ the very high proportions of voters voting above the line; and, 2/ the lack of knowledge or scrutiny of Group Voting Tickets means many voters are casting their vote without knowing how their above the line vote will be apportioned during counting.
This is unlike House of Representatives elections, where voters are required to mark their candidate preferences in the order they choose.
I recommend that the advantages afforded by compulsory preferential voting in House of Representatives elections be used in above the line Senate voting.
This would allow voters to cast a vote below the line in accordance with their own choices, or to choose to cast a vote above the line using the groups as a guide to the choices they make.
I understand this is the intent reflected in the Senate Voters’ Choice (Preference Allocation) Bill 2004, though it may not be identical in all respects. I recommend the Committee support this Bill.
Further recommendations I believe would assist and serve to inform voters in future elections, but do not have time to expand upon in my written submission include:
Enforcement of the mandatory requirement to display Group Voting Tickets in polling places.
The provision for How to Vote Cards to be displayed prominently in an accessible area of the polling booth.
The provision to formally recycle How to Vote cards so that waste is reduced and more information can be made available to voters with lower resource demands and wastage.
The extension of the Trades Practices Act requirement to not publish material likely to influence a voter that is ‘false and misleading.’
The extension of the Trades Practices Act requirement to not undertake conduct likely to influence a voter that is ‘false and misleading.’
The maintenance of compulsory voting to ensure ongoing involvement of the majority of the population in choosing their representatives.
For the avoidance of doubt, I give permission for this submission to be made public by the Committee and am willing to make a submission in person if the opportunity arises.
David Risstrom Barrister-at-Law
29 MARCH 2005
HERALD SUN PUBLISHES PRESS COUNCIL FINDING THAT THEIR JOURNALISM WAS IRRESPONSIBLE AND SERIOUSLY MISLEADING
I wrote this letter to the editor following the following the Herald Sun’s publication of the Press Council finding that the Herald Sun engaged in irresponsible journalism which seriously misled readers. The Herald Sun was required to publish the Press Council ruling, but in doing so, appended it to an article challenging aspects of the decision it had previously agreed to be bound by. A word copy is available as a download by clicking here.
The Herald Sun seriously misled its readers in the lead up to the 2004 Federal election.
The Australian Press Council found a 31 August 2004 Herald Sun article headed ‘Greens back illegal drugs’ to be ‘irresponsible journalism’ which ‘seriously misled’ readers and damaged the Greens. The Herald Sun’s appeal against that decision, the Press Council’s most severe ruling that I am aware of, was rejected.
The Herald Sun stated, “We reject that finding” (that the article was irresponsible journalism and seriously inaccurate), in its publication following the loss of its appeal, entreating readers with “You be the judge”.
While the Press Council found “the actual electoral impact cannot be known”, as the Victorian Greens’ 2004 Senate Candidate, my belief from first hand experience is that the Herald Sun’s attack had a major impact.
That should be no surprise. In my experience, most of us are more likely to believe a newspaper they want to trust, than politicians they try not to. Especially if the correction is months after the election is over.
A further irony is that some of the information wrongly passed off as Greens’ policy looks very much like claims made in a Liberal Party document, also misstating Greens policy.
The 2004 election gave the Coalition control of our Parliament, and despite the Greens vote climbing to more than four times that of Family First, preference deals by the Liberals, ALP and Democrats gave Family First a ‘full back pocket’ position in a Coalition flooded Senate.
Like footy, politics is a rough game. Players take knocks and things get through to the keeper behind the scenes. But ultimately, like footy, it should played for the good of the people it serves.
The Herald Sun failed to fairly represent the Greens. It should accept the result of the umpire, as I have had to.
Among the privatisation of Telstra, changes to the tradition of a living wage with which to feed, clothe and house your family, and everyone’s right to affordable healthcare through Medicare, one of the radical changes likely after the Coalition takes control of the Parliament is to media ownership rules aimed at protecting your choice of media to read, listen to or see in your hometown.
Whoever gets the broadcast rights for our democracy in the future, lets hope the competition is as vigorous, free and fair as it can and should be.
Ross St Northcote
Victorian Greens Senate Candidate
5 MARCH 2005
HERALD SUN FOUND GUILTY OF IRRESPONSIBLE JOURNALISM AND SERIOUSLY MISLEADING READERS
Senator Bob Brown issued the press release on 4 March following the release of the Press Council's determination that the Melbourne Herald published material during the 2004 Federal election campaign that constituted irresponsible journalism. A copy of the Press Council determination is shown below.
Herald Sun Found Guilty of Irresponsible Journalism and Seriously Misleading Readers
The Australian Press Council has labelled a Herald Sun news article attacking the Greens policies in last year’s election campaign ‘irresponsible journalism’ which ‘seriously misled’ readers and damaged the Greens.
The high profile article, which was widely distributed by Greens opponents in several states, including Tasmanian loggers, was written by senior Herald Sun journalist Gerard McManus, ‘in discussions with an election coverage editor’.
The article came a day after Prime Minister Howard flagged an expose of ‘kooky’ Greens polices. It continues to be used by the Liberal Party, most recently in WA election pamphlets.
The Herald Sun is part of the Murdoch stable.
“The Press Council adjudication speaks for itself,” Greens Senator Bob Brown said.
“This manufactured news, which misled readers of Australia’s highest circulation daily, is a disgrace to the profession of journalism.
“It perverted democracy. When a journalist misinforms readers on their way to the ballot box democracy is sacrificed.
“This was no accident or mistake. The aim was to attack the Greens, not through the editorial column, but through the news pages. The outcome of the false concoction of the Greens policies was to lose our party tens of thousands of votes and, in my calculation, seats in parliament.
“The Herald Sun failed to be faithful to its own readers,” Senator Brown said.
Further information: Ben Oquist 02 62773170 or 0419704095
The Australian Press Council Adjudication No. 1270 is reproduced below and available as a 32Kb word download by clicking on the title.
ADJUDICATED: 24 FEBRUARY 2005
ISSUED: 25 FEBRUARY 2005
FOR GENERAL RELEASE: 4 MARCH 2005
THE HERALD SUN: 3 MARCH 2005
THE AUSTRALIAN PRESS COUNCIL AJUDICATION No. 1270
The Press Council has upheld a complaint by Senator Bob Brown against The Herald Sun, Melbourne, for an article, headed Greens back illegal drugs, published on 31 August 2004 in the lead-up to the 2004 federal election.
The Council views this article as irresponsible journalism.
In the article a number of false claims were made about Greens Party policies. The article was accompanied by a graphic entitled ‘What they stand for’. The graphic listed 20 broad proposals claimed to be advocated by the Greens.
Sen. Brown said a number of claims made by the paper in the article or graphic were wrong, including:
an alleged policy of a 33% hike in company tax to at least 49 cents in the dollar (which did not reflect current Greens policy);
suggestions that people would be forced to ride bicycles more often and eat less meat and business people to use alternatives such as rail, boat and teleconferencing (no coercion is advocated in the policies);
existence of policies to keep out business immigrants, introduce taxes on family homes, drive farmers from their land and reduce infrastructure to 1995 levels (no such policies exists, Sen. Brown says); and
a desire to cut the population by 2 million (Sen. Brown says there is no such policy and the claim is based on a Liberal Party paper).
Additionally, regarding the headline on the article, Sen. Brown said that it was ‘manifestly wrong’ and that Greens policy was a call for ‘a study of options’.
Given the sweeping and unqualified nature of the claims, the newspaper ought to have checked the veracity and currency of the policy claims. Prior to the publication of the article, the reporter rang Sen. Brown’s office asking for the Greens’ policies. He was informed ‘that all current policies were available on the website’. There is evidence that, as well as any use made of the Party’s website in writing the article, the reporter preferred other statements of Greens’ policies, some erroneous and hostile to the Greens.
In the context of an approaching election, the potential damage was considerable. The actual electoral impact cannot be known but readers were seriously misled. On the day of publication, Senator Brown addressed his concerns with the article to the bylined journalist during a press conference, but no redress was forthcoming. In fact, a follow-up article, published the next day, was described by Sen. Brown as “derogatory”.
An article by Sen. Brown, which responded to some points in the 31 August article, as well as comments by Treasurer Costello in a subsequent article, was published by the paper a month later.
The claims made in the original article were seriously inaccurate and breached the Council’s guiding principles of checking the accuracy of what is reported, taking prompt measures to counter the effects of harmfully inaccurate reporting, ensuring that the facts are not distorted, and being fair and balanced in reports on matters of public concern.
* * * * *
Telephone inquiries: The Australian Press Council (02) 9261 1930 Level 10.02, 117 York Street Sydney NSW 2000
The Australian Press Council is a body which studies the performance of every section of the press in Australia, including non-members. Representatives of publications complained against abstain from any discussion of, or vote on, such publications.
4 MARCH 2005
VICTORIAN UNIVERSITY ENVIRONMENT CONFERENCE A SUCCESS
Victoria University held a successful half day conference called today. Victorian Supreme Court Justices Frank Vincent and Stuart Morris both spoke to the need for strong representation for the environment, both philosophically and more practically through the planning system and its use of third party right. Other speakers, including Terry Ahern of the Victorian EPA, Chuck Berger from ACF and Michele Quigley SC, spoke to practical issues on advocating for the interests of the environment and populations they support.
MY PROPOSAL FOR LEGAL STANDING AS FRIEND OF THE ENVIRONMENT WHERE LIKELY MATERIAL DETRIMENT EXISTS
The question of who represents the environment in legal proceedings has been long standing and long unanswered.
In Family and Children's Court proceedings there has been a long standing legislative capacity for the Court to act in the best interests of the child where their interests are not independently and adequately represented. In criminal cases, the High Court has confirmed the right of defendants to be adequately represented in Dietrich's case, where access to legal aid was nominated as a right.
Some may argue that environment rights can only be represented by people whose environmental rights are being affected. More developed understanding of the environment in modern times makes that argument less solid. The case of air pollution such as carbon dioxide designed to plume into the upper atmosphere is one that may clearly cause detriment to the environment, but may be difficult for adjoining land owners
My proposal is that where on application a court or tribunal determines that a proposed activity or development is determined as likely to have a material detriment to the environment, that the Court or Tribunal declare that a friend of the court be appointed to independently represent the interests of the environment This would require the court or tribunal to be satisfied that the environment wa adequately represented, but not that the court or tribunal financed that representation. The role of representative may be filled by an experienced community representative, a private lawyer or legal aid lawyer.
Costs could therefore be borne by pro bono effort, private or State financing. One of the most effective means of self funding would be to empower magistrates and tribunal members to order financial settlements or penalty provisions in environmental cases that contributed to funding better representation for the environment.
Ultimately, the result will be a consideration by an independent court or tribunal as to whether the interests of the environment are being adequately being represented with material detrimental is threatened. Ultimately, if our environment is not considered, it may fail to support us.
27 FEBRUARY 2005
SECRET VICTORIAN GM CROP SITES REVEALED
The following media release was forwarded from Genethics.
GeneEthics has published locations of Bayer's secret genetically manipulated (GM) canola releases in Victoria. Four Western District sites threaten the GM-free products of farmers and beekeepers.
"The Department of Primary Industries gave us the locations on Friday, when our Freedom of Information challenge was on appeal to VCAT, " says GeneEthics Network Director, Bob Phelps.
"Our appeal was set to succeed, so the government handed over the GPS co-ordinates of four releases:
Mokepilly Rd, about 25 km North of Horsham
(photos at http://www.non-gm-farmers.com/index.asp);
25 km SW of Horsham - about 12 km South of Natimuk;
near Antwerp, about 20 km North of Dimboola; and
near Branxholme, about 25km SW of Hamilton," he says.
"Until now, the number, location and size of these sites was hidden from the many primary producers who may be adversely affected by GM pollen and seed contamination," he says.
"Victorian secrecy was irrational as the Office of Gene Technology Regulator and the South Australian Government both publish the locations of Bayer GM crop sites under their control," he says.
"The pretext for secrecy, that sites my be damaged, has proven to be completely unfounded," he says.
"We now want Agriculture Minister, Bob Cameron, to permanently ban further GM crop releases in the state because of the economic, social and legal dangers they pose to organic, dairy, honey and oilseed producers," Mr Phelps says.
"Exemptions from Victoria's Control of Genetically Modified Crops Act 2004, which allowed Bayer to secretly grow GM canola, broke government promises to ban all GM food crops until 2008," he says.
"This betrayed the United Dairy Farmers of Victoria decision, at their annual meeting last year, to endorse the GM ban because of strict GM-free rules now required by dairy companies," he says.
"For organic growers, detection of GM pollution in their products can mean de-certification, lost income, or responsibility for the extra costs of rejected shipments or product recalls," he says.
"Many honey producers must certify that their bees have not been closer than 5km from a GM crop, impossible to guarantee when GM sites are secret," he says.
"The Victorian government must not betray its GM-free promise again," Mr Phelps concludes.
More comment: Bob Phelps 03 9347 4500 (O) 03 9830 1592 (H).
19 JANUARY 2005
OUR FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS A SHAMEFUL DISGRACE
I wrote this letter to the editor following the Federal Government claim it will cost $280,000 to repatriate Mamdouh Habib to Australia from Guantanamo Bay. A word copy is available as a download by clicking here.
Our federal government is a shameful disgrace!
The Australian government’s poisonous attempts to highlight the transportation costs of returning Mamdouh Habib to Australia are a smoke screen to cover the fact they appeared to do next to nothing to assist an illegally detained Australian citizen and their apparent inability to come to terms with long standing tradition that people should be assumed innocent until proven guilty.
Holding a person in detention without charge for years and denying them rights to fair process undermines the commitment to the rule of law that governments are entrusted to uphold.
Perhaps this should be no surprise, as this government, and opposition decisions that support them, have made a tradition of attacking those without the power of reply. Given our now internationally notorious treatment of asylum seekers, and our supplication in the unquestioning use of military force, unfortunately for Mr. Habib, this is more business as usual for our hardened government.
The Australian government’s undermining of our long-standing humanitarian reputation provides surprises at every twist and turn, as it rarely misses the chance to substitute spin for humanity. The dog whistling must stop.
If our government has forgotten what citizenship involves, it may be left to its citizens to remind them.
Ross St Northcote
Victorian Greens Senate Candidate
14 JANUARY 2005
GUNNS FIRE AT GREENS
I issued the following press release ahead of the demonstration outside of the Victorian Supreme Court.
Greens Senator Bob Brown will be at the Victorian Supreme Court in Melbourne today (Friday 14th January). A rally will be held at 1pm in William St outside the Supreme Court.
Tasmanian Forestry giant Gunns will seek $6.3 million worth of damages, alleging that 20 people, including Bob Brown, Peg Putt and the Wilderness Society, have been involved in campaigns against it.
Gunns have filed a 216-page writ in the Victorian Supreme Court that alleges conspiracy and interference with trade and business.
The Greens argue Gunns action is an attack on democracy and the right to freedom of speech.
Victorian Greens 2004 Senate Candidate and barrister, David Risstrom, said, “The issue of how our forests are managed is a matter of important public debate. Our democracy requires such issues should be freely debated.”
There is a growing legal trend known as ‘strategic litigation against public participation’ or ‘SLAPPs.’ SLAPPs have been used by corporations to intimidate citizens involved in protecting public assets by engaging them in expensive and time consuming legal battles, therefore potentially achieving their goal even before a court had determined whether it is just.”
Forest spokesperson for the Victorian Greens, Marcus Ward, describes the legal action taken by Gunns as unprecedented.
“Australia is one of the few countries that doesn’t have a bill of rights, so we really depend on our parliamentarians to defend these ‘implied’ rights”, Ward said.
Mr. Ward is initiating a letter writing campaign that urges members of parliament to provide a response to Gunns legal action against the 20 defendants.
“Parliamentarians are elected on the basis that they provide a voice for their constituency. This is a community issue and having no comment is not good enough”, Ward said.
‘Gunns 20’ is a campaign to defend free speech, democracy and the forests, that the Greens are proud to support.
For interview contact: David Risstrom: 0418 502 713 or Marcus Ward: 0427 235 254.
5 JANUARY 2005
1% FOR HUMANITY
I sent the following email to Stephen Mayne at Crikey on my 1% For Humanity policy that encourages us to fairly painlessly share our fortune with others in need.
Thank you for putting so much support into people helping people in suffering and loss following the tsunami. I have put in $150 dollars, which is not much.
As someone whose ethics have led me to be a Green, relying on our governments to act ethically can be torturous. As part of a policy platform I pursued while a Melbourne City Councillor, I developed a policy called ‘1% for Humanity’, that encouraged giving to those less fortunate overseas, which collaterally through tax deductibility, forces even mean spirited governments to support civil munificence.
The idea of ‘1% for Humanity’ is for people to commit to donate 1% of their taxable income to an organisation of their choice that assists developing countries.
I developed the idea from reading Peter Singer’s book ‘One World: The Ethics of Globalisation.’ The policy is on my website at http://www.davidrisstrom.org/100GreenAchievements/100GA-1PerCentForHumanity.html
Individuals choose to make a donation or donations to organisations such as Community Aid Abroad, Amnesty International, World Vision, Medicines Sans Frontiers or International Help Fund Australia that have strong reputations for providing unconditional assistance to people of less fortunate developing countries. I have made a personal commitment to donating 1% of my previous year's taxable income to Community Aid Abroad and/or Medicines Sans Frontiers or other organisations I become convinced will use my donation in the best interests of the recipients.
Each of us could commit to making donations totalling 1% of our current taxable income, or 1% of our taxable income in the previous income tax year, so that you can be aware of the size of your donation ahead of the time you decide to make it. A person could choose to give whichever amount they found easier to calculate or plan for.
Although the United Nations set a target for development aid of 0.7% of Gross National Product (GNP) Australia's foreign aid is currently around 0.24% of GNP. As personal income tax deductions are effectively subsidised at your marginal tax rate; ie, if you donate an amount to an accredited organisation you can claim it as a deduction that reduces your tax by the amount you would have paid on it if you earned it, you are allowing our government to contribute more by your decision.
I think Australia’s contribution has fallen from 0.27% to 0.24% in the realm of the current government, which followed a similar trend from previous governments of other flavours. I am happy to be corrected, but I think only Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands give beyond the modest 0.7% target.
With Australians being amongst the richest and luckiest people in the world, and with the realisation that climate change will almost certainly deliver more frequent and fierce natural disasters upon the most vulnerable people in coastal and lowland areas, it is not much to ask for as to give in proportion to our fortune.
What better way to make the world more secure than by being fair, and doing it by choice, not force?
Former Melbourne City Councillor and Greens Senate candidate.
PS: Stephen. I had to put Rosa the beautiful Policy Watchdog to sleep on Monday, due to cancer. I am very upset, as she was the most wonderful friend with four paws I have ever known grace the earth. I would like to thank all those who were good to her.
My heart goes out to all those in the path of this tsunami who are suffering in circumstances that are not fair and for pain and loss that is never deserved.
4 JANUARY 2005
THANK YOU ROSA
Rosa the beautiful German Shepherd passed away yesterday.
Rosa the Policy Watchdog, Rosa Claus (aka Santa Rosa) and Rosa the City Girl - with love.
Rosa, my most beautiful friend, has died. I miss her terribly. She has brought so much joy to this world in her short ten years. She developed cancer that overcame her strength and has taken her away much earlier than I can bear.
Rosa, thank you so much for all that you are.
For being gold and black. For having innate enthusiasm for all that you love in the world. For continuing to walk whenever and wherever you could, on older legs that weren't as sure. For the boundless stick work, ring work and ball work you caroled unsuspecting visitors into once you’d made their measure. For being my good friend, however deserved or not. For keeping a distance to survey all was ok. To countless times walking with us down Swanston St in defence of rights you didn’t know existed. For loving driving and giving me reason to be with you. For being able to look out my right rear vision mirror and seeing your muzzle enjoying the wind in the way in can be. For welcoming me on many nights when a larger world was less so. For anything I can think of. For not living forever but allowing me to think you would. For letting me cry about my things and being what you are. For accepting that life is more than one crowded hour. It is a life of doing what we can. For helping me believe animals are a window. For letting me impose you on the world and without betraying that trust. For walking city streets and never once being mean to those less generous or fearful. For having a beautifully soft nose that with the passing of the years you let me stroke and kiss as you sat by me. For so many things that words are not enough for. For being the best Melbourne City Council Policy Watchdog the world has seen, and for doing your best as Chairdog of the Senate Oversight Committee in the face of a cynical expression of politics in the 2004 federal election.
As a large German Shepherd, you often faced a prejudice that judged your more severely than your golden heart deserved. I am sorry for that.
Without a belief that we travel beyond our deaths, what we are and do can be very important. Is very important. What we appear may craft how we share with our world.
Thank you little one for sharing so much of your life, even when my preoccupations with a world beyond you let me give you less than everything you deserved. That all the people and animals in the world deserve. Love and fairness and family and friends.
Rosa, the world is better for you. Much better. Thank you.
Forever with love, your friend, David.
1 JANUARY 2005
HAVE A HAPPY, JUST AND FAIRER 2005: DAVID AND ROSA
Have a happy, just and fairer 2005, wherever you are, whoever you are and for whatever good you wish for the world: David and Rosa
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 January 1 to March 31 2005. The previous edition of current news and views are available by clicking here: Rosa's and Dave's News and Views: Oct-Dec 2004: Rosa.