NEWS AND VIEWS OF DAVID RISSTROM: JULY - SEPTEMBER 2005
WITH OVERSIGHT 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. David last updated this site on 30 September 2005.
30 SEPTEMBER 2005
'WHY STUDENTS SHOULD GET INVOLVED IN POLITICS' - SENATOR BOB BROWN SPEAKING AT MELBOURNE UNIVERSITY ON MON 3 OCT.
Greens Senator Bob Brown will be speaking at Melbourne University on 'Why Students Should Get Involved In Politics.' Approximately one week after former Labour leader Mark Latham offered advice to student not to enter politics, Bob Brown is likely to offer a more optimistic view on how to contribute to public life. As someone who has been through the mill more times than most of his more pragmatic colleagues, Bob is an example of someone whose determination and focus on a better future helps him to continue the good fight, when many around him focussed on more personal goals don't last the distance.
The free lecture, open to the public is at 4:30 pm at the Copland Theatre, Economics and Commerce Building, Melbourne University, and is being presented by the Melbourne University Greens Club.
GREENS DEMAND FIXED TERMS
The following media release was issued by Greens Senator Bob Brown.
"The proposal for non-fixed 4 year terms of parliament increases the power of Prime Minister to manipulate elections for political self gain," Greens Senator Bob Brown said today.
"The Greens want better democratic outcomes. We will campaign for fixed 3 year terms for federal parliament, which needs legislation but no referendum," Senator Brown said.
"If the government pursues 4 year terms, I will recommend to The Greens that we oppose it unless it is for fixed terms - that is, elections held every 4 years on the same date (eg the first Saturday in October)."
"The Greens support keeping the electoral rolls open as late as possible for voters and full disclosure of all political donations over $1500, as is currently required." Senator Brown said.
28 SEPTEMBER 2005
GETTING OVER JOHN HOWARD
Ben Oquist, media advisor to NSW Greens MLC Ian Cohen, wrote an excellent article in the most recent edition of 'The Greens' national magazine that I thought worth posting. Ben wrote another article in early 2004 titled 'The Magic 38', which warned of the potential for the current conservative composition of the Senate. The article was inevitably under-reported, but did run on Crikey.
Had Ben's views been considered more thoroughly by those obsessed with lower house marginal seats and vainly trying to stem the drift of the Alternative Liberal Party to the right, ordinary working Australians might not be fighting to keep a decent income, our phone company would still be our phone company, Universities might still have unionism, and more people would be less scared of their government and those our government blames. I hope you enjoy Ben's article, consider his advice, and help us keep the Senate decent.
Getting Over John Howard
I met a young Green voter the other day. First year in university. Loved the Greens for the optimism they helped put into her life. She said she was over John Howard. Over him? ‘Yes, I don’t really remember ever not having John Howard as Prime Minister and I am over him’, she said.
At barely 8 years old when Keating was Prime Minister, this bright young women couldn’t really remember any other PM except Howard. Yet she could see the future past him better than most. She went on to say ‘I am getting on with making Australia better despite the fact that John Howard is Prime Minister’.
The ongoing and interminable debates about who will succeed John Howard actually misses the point for progressive Australia. When the Prime Minister changes, so does the country -so the famous saying goes. Which seems as true as ever now with many people saying they feel ashamed of what Australia has become under his leadership. But there are more ways to change the country than that.
Just a year ago it seemed impossible to even imagine that it would be under John Howard that all children and families in asylum seeker detention centers would be released. Much more needs to be done and the Nauru camp remains a burning scar on the nation’s conscience, but it wasn’t John Howard’s departure that caused the change. It was years of campaigning by the Greens and the community - combined with a few Liberal dissidents – that forced John Howard’s hand.
Similarly, earlier this year the Prime Minister announced that large tracts of Tasmania’s forests would be saved - barely a quarter of what needs to be protected, but a significant win for Greens and conservationists who have been told for years by the Tasmanian Government that it was simply impossible for another tree to be protected.
And of course there was John Howard’s revisionism on East Timor where a huge outpouring and action from the Australian community saw the Prime Minister, after a lifetime of appeasing the Indonesian dictatorship, adopt Greens policy of independence for East Timor
None of this is to suggest that John Howard is actually an asylum seeker loving tree hugger. Far from it of course. But John Howard is a politician. And successful campaigns – those that generate community support and turn that support into action – have an uncanny way of turning even the most obstinate politician around.
So what would happen if the progressives’ dreams came true and all John Howard’s lies and deceit suddenly catch up with him and he was forced out of office? Would we be left with Peter Costello? The Treasurer who says John Howard’s industrial relation changes don’t go far enough? The man who wants to abolish unfair dismissal laws altogether? A man who is cosy with the right wing Christian fundamentalists from Hillsong.
And perhaps most importantly, getting rid of John Howard does nothing to alter the dynamics in the Senate. Rescuing the Senate from one party's control is the greatest progressive challenge in the lead up to the next election. More important than who is Prime Minister – Howard, Costello, Beazley, Rudd or Carr - is who controls the Senate. It is that dynamic that will most shape Australia.
Imagine the conservatives having another term with the Senate under their control. The current wave of reforms being proposed will look like a picnic. And even if the ALP were to win this election or the next, how many progressive initiatives would pass the parliament if the Coalition still had Senate control?
Yet imagine a Senate with the Greens – not Family First or Barnaby Joyce – in balance of power after the next election. We would see a wealth of positive progressive initiatives, ideas and debates taking centre stage in Australian life.
And this is something within the grasp of the Greens, and something almost wholly for us to determine. Lifting our current support by a few percentage points could deliver this. If our party and Senators can produce the goods over the next two years and bullet proof ourselves from the attacks better than we have in the past, then it matters little who is the leading the Federal Coalition.
The next general election (and half-Senate election) will be held between 4 August and 15 December 2007.
With the Government now in control of the Senate, the next election will undoubtedly see a focus on the Senate beyond anything experienced in past elections.
The Senate has so often been the brake against unpopular initiatives that an over zealous government would have otherwise passed into law.
It will be critical to get the message to all Australians about how important their vote is in the Senate and how dangerous it is to allow one party to control the Parliament. It will be a message that many people will be ready to hear - a message about ensuring that the electorate can have a say between elections.
To rescue the Senate from Coalition control at the next election, the Government will need to drop from 39 seats to 37.
A relatively small swing in the Senate vote (of less than 5% away from the Government and towards the ALP and Greens) could produce four non-Coalition seats in at least three states and possibly one territory.
Such a swing will return the Coalition to minority status in the Senate.
Getting over John Howard requires moving beyond him. He thrives on the attention and power we assign to him. Too much focus on John Howard prevents us doing what we do best - forging a brighter, environmental and progressive future for Australia no matter who is Prime Minister.
Rescuing the Senate
At the next election - the Greens vote must ensure that the Coalition does:
(a) Not win 4 of the 6 seats available in any state (last time they won 4 seats in Queensland), and, either
(b) Not win more than 2 of the 6 spots available in at least two states; or,
(c) Not win more than 2 of 6 spots in any one state and lose a seat in the ACT (the two Territory seats are elected for a three year term only and are 'spilled' at each election)
26 SEPTEMBER 2005
UNSUCCESSFUL ASYLUM SEEKER DEPORTATION ATTEMPT THROWS LIGHT ON DEPARTMENT OF IMMIGRATION FAILURES
The following media release was issued by Victorian Greens Refugee spokesperson, Peter Job.
Refugee Supporters to Protest at Senate Migration Inquiry
To coincide with the Melbourne hearings of the Senate inquiry into the Administration and Operation of the Migration Act, refugee activists will hold an action tomorrow in support of a thorough review of the refugee processing system and against long term mandatory detention. The Senate hearings will take place in the Yarra Room of the Melbourne Town Hall.
The details of the action are12.15 pm outside the Melbourne Town Hall, Tuesday 27 September
Speakers will include Senator Kerry Nettle and Ian Rintoul of the New South Wales Refugee Action Collective.
“Over 100 long term detainees were found to be genuine refugees in the last two years, some after four or five years in detention,” the Victorian Greens Spokesperson on Refugees, Peter Job, said. “Having advocated for some of these cases I am aware of the appalling bias and ineptitude that has characterised some of these decisions.
“The return of an asylum seeker from Dubai after a bungled deportation attempt, when only the intervention of the UNHCR prevented his return to a situation of very serious risk, further demonstrates the failure of the refugee processing system. This kind of travesty of justice is not acceptable in a nation that claims to value freedom and justice.”
Mr. Job also pointed to the failures of mandatory detention.
“In the last few months we have seen numerous protests in Baxter over food. We have seen protests by women in Villawood about food, early morning searches and the mess they leave, and inadequate medical facilities. We have seen the continued use of the notorious Red One isolation compound in Baxter. We have seen a Baxter detainee’s leg broken by guards. What more evidence do we need of a systemically dysfunctional system?”
Mr. Job said that the DIMIA failures of recent months further strengthened the need for a royal commission into the refugee processing and treatment.
21 SEPTEMBER 2005
SECRET POLICE ACITIVITY NOT CONTRIBUTING TO AUSTRALIAN SOCIETY OR SECURITY
The following release was issued by D. Bob Brown on the appalling treatment of US peace activist Scott Parkin. The Australian Government needs to come clean, and stop using implied threats to impose its idea of public policy through its agencies and servants: a practice is has used many times since its most obvious disgraceful expression in the Tampa incident.
Investigation on peace activist must go public - Greens
The arrest and deportation of visiting US peace activist, Scott Parkin is the most alarming infringement of civil and political rights in recent Australian history, Greens senator Bob Brown said today.
While welcoming the inquiry into Parkin's removal from Australia by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Senator Brown said that the lid needs to be lifted on ASIO's role.
"The very fact that I was refused a briefing on Mr Parkin's arrest before his deportation tells me that ASIO and the government were on very unsure grounds.
"There is a cover up of factors behind Mr Parkin's arrest, and on the face of it, it was a political consideration not a security consideration. I expect that the Inspector General will want to talk with me in the course of his inquiry," Senator Brown said.
18 SEPTEMBER 2005
GREENS' SYDNEY SUPPORT EXTREMELY STRONG
The Greens have received a record breaking strong in New South Wales by-elections this weekend, that arose following the retirement of three senior ALP politicians. NSW Greens MLA Lee Rhiannon forwarded the following release detailing the extent of the gains made by the Greens in New South Wales.
Record Greens vote builds momentum for 2007 state election
The weekend by-elections have shown a big boost in support for the Greens with the party increasing its vote by 11 per cent in Maroubra and 12 per cent in Marrickville.
"The Greens gained 45% of the two party preferred vote in Marrickville and 31% of the two-party preferred vote in Maroubra," Greens MP Lee Rhiannon said today.
"It is encouraging that more voters are turning to the Greens and we thank voters for their support.
"By voting for the Greens, the people of Marrickville and Maroubra have told the government to invest more in public transport, hospitals and schools, and to stop building coal-fired power plants.
"Labor's margin in Marrickville has been considerably reduced with Greens candidate Sam Byrne forcing Labor candidate Carmel Tebbutt to rely on preferences.
"Premier Iemma's allegations of a Greens smear campaign in Marrickville have no substance. Labor's fabrication adds to its long history of dirty campaigning.
"In Maroubra Greens candidate Anne Gardiner picked up 19% of the vote, up from 8% from the 2003 state election.
"These results are very encouraging for the Greens heading into the state election. The Greens are making inroads in inner city seats. Balmain and Marrickville will be seats to watch in 2007.
"It is quite clear that the election analysts, who asserted the Greens had peaked, were wrong.
"Prior to these by-elections the Greens had never won more than 30% of the primary vote in any lower house seat, state or federal. This result is a very clear indication that support for the Greens is still rising," said Ms Rhiannon.
14 SEPTEMBER 2005
FAMILY IMPACTS STATEMENTS MISSING IN ACTION: PERHAPS THE CABINET BAT PHONE IS NOT WORKING?
The following media release was issued by Greens Senator Christine Milne of the failure of the Government to provide a family impact statement for the sale of Telstra, and the failure of Family First Senator Steve Fielding to be present in the Senate to vote to require it.
Government refuses to table family impact statement - Fielding fails to turn up
The federal government today refused to table its family impact statement on the sale of Telstra and Family First's Senator failed to turn up for the vote.
Australian Greens Senator for Tasmania, Christine Milne, moved for debate on the Telstra sale bills to be suspended until Communications Minister Helen Coonan tabled the family impact statement prepared on the sale.
The government refused to support the motion and Family First Senator Steve Fielding failed to turn up for a vote on the matter.
Senator Coonan later told the Senate that the family impact statement had been prepared for cabinet and the government would not be tabling it.
"It is unacceptable for the government to rely on cabinet confidentiality as a justification for refusing to release the family impact statement. Cabinet can release any document it chooses to," Senator Milne said.
"If the full privatisation of Telstra is as good as the government claims, the family impact statement should reflect this. So why won't the government release the document?
"Senator Fielding said he was disappointed the government had not given him the family impact statement and yet he did not turn up to the vote requiring the government to table the document.
"Senator Fielding seems to have as much interest in family impact statements as the Prime Minister, given his failure to turn up for the vote."
Senator Milne also said the government needed to demand a clear response from Telstra about the extent of job losses that could arise from its strategic review, following union concerns that as many as 14,000 jobs could go.
"Telstra has already abolished more than 40,000 jobs over the past 10 years," Senator Milne said. "Further job losses will hurt not only the employees and families directly affected but the regional and rural communities which are already poorly serviced by Telstra."
11 SEPTEMBER 2005
A FURTHER APOCRYPHAL EPISTLE FROM MICHAEL TO GEORGE
US film maker and possum stirrer Mike Moore has sent a further apocryphal epistle to US President George Bush over his Government's limp response to the enlarging disaster in New Orleans. I've reproduced it below.
To All My Fellow Americans Who Voted for George W. Bush
On this, the fourth anniversary of 9/11, I'm just curious, how does it feel?
How does it feel to know that the man you elected to lead us after we were attacked went ahead and put a guy in charge of FEMA whose main qualification was that he ran horse shows?
That's right. Horse shows.
I really want to know -- and I ask you this in all sincerity and with all due respect -- how do you feel about the utter contempt Mr. Bush has shown for your safety? C'mon, give me just a moment of honesty. Don't start ranting on about how this disaster in New Orleans was the fault of one of the poorest cities in America. Put aside your hatred of Democrats and liberals and anyone with the last name of Clinton. Just look me in the eye and tell me our President did the right thing after 9/11 by naming a horse show runner as the top man to protect us in case of an emergency or catastrophe.
I want you to put aside your self-affixed label of Republican/conservative/born-again/capitalist/ditto-head/right-winger and just talk to me as an American, on the common ground we both call America.
Are we safer now than before 9/11? When you learn that behind the horse show runner, the #2 and #3 men in charge of emergency preparedness have zero experience in emergency preparedness, do you think we are safer?
When you look at Michael Chertoff, the head of Homeland Security, a man with little experience in national security, do you feel secure?
When men who never served in the military and have never seen young men die in battle send our young people off to war, do you think they know how to conduct a war? Do they know what it means to have your legs blown off for a threat that was never there?
Do you really believe that turning over important government services to private corporations has resulted in better services for the people?
Why do you hate our federal government so much? You have voted for politicians for the past 25 years whose main goal has been to de-fund the federal government. Do you think that cutting federal programs like FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers has been good or bad for America? GOOD OR BAD?
With the nation's debt at an all-time high, do you think tax cuts for the rich are still a good idea? Will you give yours back so hundreds of thousands of homeless in New Orleans can have a home?
Do you believe in Jesus? Really? Didn't he say that we would be judged by how we treat the least among us? Hurricane Katrina came in and blew off the facade that we were a nation with liberty and justice for all. The wind howled and the water rose and what was revealed was that the poor in America shall be left to suffer and die while the President of the United States fiddles and tells them to eat cake.
That's not a joke. The day the hurricane hit and the levees broke, Mr. Bush, John McCain and their rich pals were stuffing themselves with cake. A full day after the levees broke (the same levees whose repair funding he had cut), Mr. Bush was playing a guitar some country singer gave him. All this while New Orleans sank under water.
It would take ANOTHER day before the President would do a flyover in his jumbo jet, peeking out the widow at the misery 2500 feet below him as he flew back to his second home in DC. It would then be TWO MORE DAYS before a trickle of federal aid and troops would arrive. This was no seven minutes in a sitting trance while children read "My Pet Goat" to him. This was FOUR DAYS of doing nothing other than saying "Brownie (FEMA director Michael Brown), you're doing a heck of a job!"
My Republican friends, does it bother you that we are the laughing stock of the world?
And on this sacred day of remembrance, do you think we honour or shame those who died on 9/11/01? If we learned nothing and find ourselves today every bit as vulnerable and unprepared as we were on that bright sunny morning, then did the 3,000 die in vain?
Our vulnerability is not just about dealing with terrorists or natural disasters. We are vulnerable and unsafe because we allow one in eight Americans to live in horrible poverty. We accept an education system where one in six children never graduate and most of those who do can't string a coherent sentence together. The middle class can't pay the mortgage or the hospital bills and 45 million have no health coverage whatsoever.
Are we safe? Do you really feel safe? You can only move so far out and build so many gated communities before the fruit of what you've sown will be crashing through your walls and demanding retribution. Do you really want to wait until that happens? Or is it your hope that if they are left alone long enough to soil themselves and shoot themselves and drown in the filth that fills the street that maybe the problem will somehow go away?
I know you know better. You gave the country and the world a man who wasn't up for the job and all he does is hire people who aren't up for the job. You did this to us, to the world, to the people of New Orleans. Please fix it. Bush is yours. And you know, for our peace and safety and security, this has to be fixed. What do you propose?
I have an idea, and it isn't a horse show.
Yours, Michael Moore
9 SEPTEMBER 2005
THE PEOPLE'S PARK
I wrote the following letter to the editor in response to the State Government announcement that they are planning to excise more of Melbourne's Royal Park to build an extension of the Children's Hospital.
The People's Park
The Crown in right of the Victorian Government first pinched Royal Park’s open space for the Hockey and Netball Centre, then the Games Village, now the Children’s Hospital. Perhaps tomorrow, a freeway.
Paving over parks is cheaper for Governments than investing in them, as bean counters, Joni Mitchell and yellow taxis know.
But at the rate that our open public space is disappearing under concrete, it might be time for the Melbourne Zoo to grab some native grasses, a few cicadas and a swooping maggie and throw them in a diorama before they disappear.
Seriously, its time the Crown began building up our public open space treasures, rather than raid them, and lent its support for Royal Park becoming The People’s Park. In name and nature.
David Risstrom - Former Melbourne City Councillor and Chairperson Royal Park Masterplan Implementation Advisory Committee.
5 SEPTEMBER 2005
UNSUCCESSFUL ASYLUM SEEKER DEPORTATION ATTEMPT THROWS LIGHT ON DEPARTMENT OF IMMIGRATION FAILURES
The following media release was issued by Victorian Greens Refugee spokesperson, Peter Job.
Return of asylum seeker from Dubai after unsuccessful deportation attempt throws light on Department of Immigration failures, say Greens
The return of an asylum seeker from Dubai today after an unsuccessful deportation attempt threw light on the Department of Immigrations’ failed processes and its refusal to abide by international norms, the Victorian Greens Spokesperson on Refugees, Peter Job, said today. His return to Australia followed legal action by his supporters in Australia together with intervention by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC), Mr. Job explained.
“The most disturbing thing is that the deportation attempt was made despite a previous request from the UN Human Rights Committee that the asylum seeker not be deported while it investigated the case,” Mr. Job said. “I am familiar with the details as I have been in contact with the asylum seeker two years and wrote the initial submission to the Human Rights Committee, and I am confident they will rule in his favour.”
Mr. Job explained that a request from the UN Human Rights Committee is usually respected by governments around the world, including, until now, the Australian government. In this case the Australian government had responded to the submission, extensive additional material had been submitted by the asylum seeker’s legal team, and adjudication from the UNHRC had been expected soon.
“It is astonishing that DIMIA would fly in the face of international norms and attempt to deport the asylum seeker when his case was before the UN Human Rights Committee,” Mr. Job said. “Knowing his case as I do I have no doubt at all he would have been in very grave danger had he been repatriated.”
Mr. Job explained that he had first learnt of the deportation last Wednesday when a contact from Baxter phoned him to tell him the asylum seeker was being deported.
“I then contacted the asylum seeker’s legal team, the UNHCR, and made sure the UNHRC was informed. An injunction was obtained from Federal Court against deportation, but as the flight had already taken off the deportation was stopped in Dubai. The UNHRC and the UNHCR were thus able to put their submissions, which resulted in the asylum seeker’s return to Australia.
“It is indicative of the gung-ho nature of DIMIA culture that this is the third time this year a deportation has been stopped at the last moment by the intervention of refugee advocates,” Mr. Job said.
“The asylum seeker has been in detention in Australia for almost five years, yet anyone familiar with the details can only be convinced by the strength of the case,” Mr. Job said, “Two United Nations organisations apparently feel the same. That he has been allowed to languish in detention for this length of time is an indictment of DIMIA, the Refugee Review Tribunal and the overall refugee assessment process.”
Mr. Job explained that the asylum seeker had asked that his name or details not be made public, as they might endanger his family in his home country.
3 SEPTEMBER 2005
MIKE MOORE LEANS ON GEORGE OVER NEW ORLEANS
US film maker and possum stirrer Mike Moore has sent an open letter to George Bush over the US Government's limp response to the enlarging disaster in New Orleans. I've reproduced it below.
An Open Letter To George Bush From Michael Moore
Friday, September 2nd, 2005
Dear Mr. Bush,
Any idea where all our helicopters are? It's Day 5 of Hurricane Katrina and thousands remain stranded in New Orleans and need to be airlifted. Where on earth could you have misplaced all our military choppers? Do you need help finding them? I once lost my car in a Sears parking lot. Man, was that a drag.
Also, any idea where all our national guard soldiers are? We could really use them right now for the type of thing they signed up to do like helping with national disasters. How come they weren't there to begin with?
Last Thursday I was in south Florida and sat outside while the eye of Hurricane Katrina passed over my head. It was only a Category 1 then but it was pretty nasty. Eleven people died and, as of today, there were still homes without power. That night the weatherman said this storm was on its way to New Orleans. That was Thursday! Did anybody tell you? I know you didn't want to interrupt your vacation and I know how you don't like to get bad news. Plus, you had fundraisers to go to and mothers of dead soldiers to ignore and smear. You sure showed her!
I especially like how, the day after the hurricane, instead of flying to Louisiana, you flew to San Diego to party with your business peeps. Don't let people criticize you for this -- after all, the hurricane was over and what the heck could you do, put your finger in the dike?
And don't listen to those who, in the coming days, will reveal how you specifically reduced the Army Corps of Engineers' budget for New Orleans this summer for the third year in a row. You just tell them that even if you hadn't cut the money to fix those levees, there weren't going to be any Army engineers to fix them anyway because you had a much more important construction job for them -- BUILDING DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ!
On Day 3, when you finally left your vacation home, I have to say I was moved by how you had your Air Force One pilot descend from the clouds as you flew over New Orleans so you could catch a quick look of the disaster. Hey, I know you couldn't stop and grab a bullhorn and stand on some rubble and act like a commander in chief. Been there done that.
There will be those who will try to politicise this tragedy and try to use it against you. Just have your people keep pointing that out. Respond to nothing. Even those pesky scientists who predicted this would happen because the water in the Gulf of Mexico is getting hotter and hotter making a storm like this inevitable. Ignore them and all their global warming Chicken Littles. There is nothing unusual about a hurricane that was so wide it would be like having one F-4 tornado that stretched from New York to Cleveland.
No, Mr. Bush, you just stay the course. It's not your fault that 30 percent of New Orleans lives in poverty or that tens of thousands had no transportation to get out of town. C'mon, they're black! I mean, it's not like this happened to Kennebunkport. Can you imagine leaving white people on their roofs for five days? Don't make me laugh! Race has nothing -- NOTHING -- to do with this!
You hang in there, Mr. Bush. Just try to find a few of our Army helicopters and send them there. Pretend the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are near Tikrit.
Yours, Michael Moore
PS. That annoying mother, Cindy Sheehan, is no longer at your ranch. She and dozens of other relatives of the Iraqi War dead are now driving across the country, stopping in many cities along the way. Maybe you can catch up with them before they get to DC on September 21st.
1 SEPTEMBER 2005
NZ GREENS SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT IN RESPONSE TO A CONSERVATIVE TUNE WE'VE HEARD IN AUSTRALIA
The New Zealand Greens are under attack by the conservative New Zealand 'National Party' in what appears to be a mime of the dirty campaigning used by conservative parties in the last Australian Federal election. Below is a speech delivered by New Zealand Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimmons at a public meeting at Manchester Unity Hall, Ashburton, New Zealand. If only more politicians approached campaigning with this degree of thought, care and compassion.
SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT.
In the past few weeks, National has hit on a new strategy: if they can't win the battle of ideas with Labour, they'll attack the Greens instead. National's constant stream of anti-Green vitriol has been very flattering: it shows that Don Brash considers the Greens a serious threat to his political ambitions and so will take every opportunity to demean, demonise and deride us. The National Party has put out anti-Green press releases at the rate of almost one a day in the past month, and the media have given their smears a great deal of airtime. While the Greens won't descend to this level, it is time to set the record straight.
National opposes the Greens so staunchly because our working relationship with Labour dramatically exposes Don Brash's acute lack of a coalition partner. Kiwis can see that Labour and the Greens are ready to govern together, for the betterment of all New Zealanders. Don Brash, on the other hand, seems determined to kill off or alienate all his potential support parties. Act is terminal and United is polling below the margin of error. The Maori Party has ruled itself out of a National-led Government, and Brash has written NZ First off as "irrelevant". Brash seems determined to go it alone; to govern New Zealand without the hassle of having to work with anyone else.
But New Zealanders voted for MMP because they had watched Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson say one thing and do another with complete disregard for the democratic process and they didn't want anyone to have this much power again.
Don Brash has spoken glowingly about the reforms of the eighties and nineties which turned the economy on its head, put tens of thousands out of work and cut benefits to poverty level. Most damningly, he has spoken as recently as 1998 about how political leaders may have a "moral obligation to lie" to the public if their reforms are likely to be unpopular. That's what he said - not just a right, but an obligation to deceive us. In a man who wants to be our prime minister, I find this scary.
So, what of the substance of National's allegations against the Greens? We are, National says, "scary". We are scary because we stand up for the environment, for sustainable business, for a diverse, tolerant New Zealand, and for smart energy and transport solutions.
The Greens believe the two most important challenges facing the New Zealand economy - in fact economies around the world - are climate change and the end of cheap oil. Climate change, if not slowed and stopped, will soon do irreparable damage to our economy and our way of life. If we do nothing, droughts will increase on the east coast, tropical pests and diseases will establish here, sea levels will rise and make much of our cities and towns uninhabitable and the certainty and stability that all economic activity depends upon will be undermined.
The end of cheap oil is something that all Kiwis are starting to notice as they pay $70 or $80 to fill up their cars. If we do nothing, it won't be long before only the very rich can afford to drive their cars as much as we all do now, and before business is faced with skyrocketing transport costs that make what they're doing financially unviable.
Faced with these two pressing environmental challenges, the National Party advocates doing nothing. New Zealand is standing on the beach, with a tidal wave coming our way, and instead of putting in place a civil defence strategy, National's intent on putting our collective head in the sand. While the Greens, working with Labour, want to future-proof our economy against these looming environmental threats, National would rather pretend they're not happening at all. Along with reactionary right-wing business interests that prefer short-term profit over long-term economic preparation, National stubbornly rejects the plainly obvious fact that if we do nothing to prepare for climate change and the end of cheap oil now, many Kiwi businesses will go under.
National is advocating pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol. Kyoto, while by no means perfect, is the only mechanism humanity has found for joint action to share the cost of limiting climate change. The movements in our weather patterns, if left unabated, will radically alter our way of life and our ability to undertake the economic activity that is any country's lifeblood. Yet National wants us to walk away from the only international agreement there is to tackle the hardest issue humanity has ever had to deal with.
Only two countries stand out as opposing Kyoto: the United States and Australia. (That's their governments, not their people.) National wants New Zealand to join them out on this environmental limb - part of the climate change problem rather than part of the solution. As with the nuclear issue and illegal invasions of other countries, on climate change National prefers the George Bush approach to the principled, multilateral approach.
We also know that the cheap oil on which our civilisation was built is rapidly running out. Oil has now hit US$70 a barrel, more than four times what it cost five years ago. While National denies the problem, the Greens have real solutions, in the areas of energy and transport, that will allow us to adapt.
- We want much greater investment in buses, ferries and trains because we know that, very soon, only the very rich will be able to afford to drive to and from work. We're also concerned that businesses will soon find it unaffordable to move goods by truck, so we want to re-build New Zealand's capacity to move freight on rail and coastal shipping.
- We want the cars brought in to the country from now on to go twice as far on a tank full so will encourage this with rebates on annual registration.
- We want to develop alternatives to fossil fuels, like biofuels, so that when cheap oil starts becoming a pipe-dream, we have already made other energy sources a reality.
Instead, National wants to pour all transport funding into roads, which all analysis shows will increase congestion rather than solve it. Aucklanders realise this - more than three quarters of them want a transport future that prioritises public transport, cycling and walking. When National warns of increased congestion as a result of our transport policies, it ignores all research showing that continuing on the road we're travelling will lead only to the potholes of worse congestion, much higher transport costs, and much less prosperity.
Our energy policies will also protect us from the worst effects of climate change and the end of cheap oil: We want to put half a million solar water heating panels on Kiwi homes, reject coal, and promote wind. We need to do more with the energy we've got, so we'll also be encouraging energy efficiency initiatives at every opportunity. Getting rid of fixed line charges on electricity and helping Kiwis to insulate their homes will mean that people will be rewarded for using less power while remaining warm in the process. Our aim is to cut Kiwis' power bills by helping you keep warm with less.
Our policies are about choice: about making it easier for Kiwis and businesses to do things smarter, cleaner, and more efficiently.
Government has a role in helping businesses develop new, cleaner technologies to make the transition from the age of cheap oil to the age of renewable resources and efficiency. Only dinosaur businesses and dinosaur politicians could oppose this.
Today, as part of our commitment to helping New Zealand business towards a sustainable future, the Greens are unveiling another of our Green Solutions. These Green Solutions have been a series of Green ideas released during the election campaign. We have floated the idea of free wellness checks for all New Zealanders and a toolbox for preparing for the end of cheap oil. Today, we offer up a third Green Solution, which will help stop the rape of tropical forests in developing countries and at the same time support sustainable Kiwi businesses.
Six years ago the Labour government, with the help of the Greens, stopped the logging of the last of our old growth forests on public land. Okarito, Saltwater and the Buller beech forests are now protected for all to enjoy and attracting a thriving tourist industry. But we have a responsibility not just for the chainsaws we hold, but for the products we buy. Timber from the West Coast forests has been replaced partly by imports of tropical hardwoods, illegally logged from the forests of Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, the Solomons and Sarawak. It is logged in defiance of national laws, with no regard to sustainability of the forests or the rights of the indigenous people who live there and with no benefit to the country where it grows.
It undercuts timber produced from New Zealand-grown plantations of macrocarpa and blackwood, and from native forests on private land grown under sustainable management plans. It undercuts wood products made from sustainably grown timber. In just the last month, two New Zealand furniture factories in the South Island town of Waimate have shut up shop, blaming cheap imports made from illegally-logged timber. Forests in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Malaysia are being ripped off by illegal logging operations that provide no benefit at all to the host country, destroy their forest and ignore the rights of indigenous people. This timber and furniture is being imported to New Zealand and is undercutting our sustainably produced timber and furniture makers who are trying to use sustainable products.
Our Green solution is an immediate ban on the importation of all illegally logged timber and products made from it. There are now traceability schemes functioning which make it possible to tell that timber has been cut legally. But legality is not enough. Over the next few years we would phase in a requirement for all timber and timber products to come from certified, sustainably managed forests.
The Indonesian government has asked for help - 90% of the logging of its forests is illegal. If there is no market, it will stop. This is an example of the Green approach to business: remove unfair competition from unsustainable and illegal businesses, and make it profitable to care for the earth and to care for people.
Jeanette Fitzsimmons, New Zealand Greens Co-Leader
22 AUGUST 2005
SEPT 6 PUBLIC MEETING: NEW WORKPLACE LAWS ATTACK WORKERS, FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES
The Fitzroy Legal Service is organizing a Public Meeting to hear about the Federal Governments proposed changes to Industrial relations laws.
The public meeting on the new workplace laws is being held in Collingwood on 6 September 2005. You can hear how the laws will affect your workplace, union, family & community and have your say.
When: Tuesday 6th September 2005, 7- 9.00pm
Where: Collingwood Town Hall ….. 140 Hoddle St. Abbotsford (Mel Ref: 2C, H10)
Speakers: Michele O’Neil, (TCFUA), Zana Bytheway, (Jobwatch), Marcus Clayton, (Slater & Gordon), City of Yarra, Australian Services Union
For more information, download the 92Kb flyer by clicking on the blue underlined title, see the online flyer on the FLS website at: www.fitzroy-legal.org.au, email FLS at email@example.com or telephone on (03) 9419 3744.
The meeting is endorsed by the Fitzroy Legal Service, City of Yarra, VCOSS, Australian Services Union and Federation of Community Legal Centres.
18 AUGUST 2005
LIGHT MOVIE A GENTLE REPRIEVE
If you have broadband and think good things are possible, consider visiting 'Lightmovie' by clicking on the title.
17 AUGUST 2005
THERE GOES YOUR PHONE COMPANY - TELSTRA TO BE FLOGGED OFF!
The telephone company your taxes have paid to develop will now be sold with the apparent sanction of The Nationals.
With 70% of Australians opposed to the full privatisation of Telstra, where that leaves the old Country Party aka national Party adage 'privatise profits and nationalise losses' is an open question.
Had I been elected as a Green Senator representing Victoria in the 2004 election, I would have voted to keep Telstra in public hands. Look out MediBank Private and Aussie Post!
Given the magnitude of the decision to see off another Aussie icon, I thought I better shoot off a letter to the editor before they get my broadband connection. A 20 Kb word version is available by clicking on the underlined title.
Mobile Phone Company. What Else?- Letter to the Editor
The Federal Government professes to value families. That may well translate to the Government sizing up the family silver so it can sell it off in its drive to transfer public debt to household debt.
With the full privatisation of Telstra now in the Government’s jumbuck with National Party sanction, what else of our family silver we paid for with our taxes is to be flogged off? Medibank Private? Aussie Post? Who knows? It appears everything is up for grabs in the most radical privatisation push Australia has seen for years.
SHARPEN YOUR PENCILS: 1 SEPTEMBER 2005 RED PEN DAY TWO WEEKS AWAY
The 'iron cage of bureaucracy' that Max Weber identified more than 100 years ago has precipitated the creation of a new phenomenon called 'Red Pen Day' and 'The Brazil Project' The Brazil Project is based on the Monty Python film Brazil in which 'The world of Brazil is a world out of control a world in which the infrastructure of daily living has become so complex that it requires the intervention of a quasi-supernatural being when things go wrong in the lives of its inhabitants.' If you identify with this, you might wish to visit and lend your support to the Red Pen Day Website by clicking the underlined title. The Red Pen Project describes itself as follows:
Red Pen Day is the focal point of The Brazil Project, the brainchild of Ron Elisha, a GP in Melbourne, Victoria, who looked up one day and saw the writing on the wall. And guess what? There was so much of it that he had to erect another wall.
This country - and, indeed, the world at large - is literally drowning in documentation. Most of it is there purely to appease the 'suits'. Most of it will never be read. Most of it does nothing either to enhance the quality of the task at hand or to hasten its completion. In fact, it does precisely the opposite. It gets in the way.
We've all heard of the shortage of nursing staff in this country, for example. Solution? Get rid of useless documentation. Shortage gone. Overnight.
Every worker in every office and every institution in every state throughout the land is hurting. Productivity is being virtually halved. We are being held to ransom by the legal profession. We can no longer afford the luxury of mistrust.
So when Red Pen Day comes around on September 1 2005, you can have your say. Voice your protest loud and clear.
PS: As a Barrister-at-Law and Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Victoria and High Court, I am duty bound to advise you that you should seek legal advice before acting on anything aforementioned. [I am joking!: David Risstrom]
11 AUGUST 2005
STATE GOVERNMENT SACKS ANOTHER LOCAL COUNCIL
Media reports today have stated that the Victorian Local Government Council, Glen Eira, has been suspended. While no information appears to be available on the Government's website about this claim, and radio reports I have heard made it clear that not even the Council members themselves were informed ahead of the announcement, it appears that four months ahead of their scheduled 25 November 2005 election, that an administrator will replace the elected Councillors. I will provide more information as it becomes available.
LATEST LAW COUNCIL REPORT ON GUANTANAMO BAY AUSTRALIAN DETAINEE DAVID HICKS
The following message was taken from the Victorian Bar's August news update 'In Brief' The Law Council of Australia (LCA) released on 18 July 2005 the second report by Lex Lasry QC on the military trial of alleged terrorist and Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks. Mr Lasry is the LCA's independent legal expert observing the military trial of Mr Hicks. Mr Lasry's report, which follows his first report in August last year, was released at a press conference at the Law Institute of Victoria. To download the 43 page report as a 275Kb pdf download, click on the underlined title above or go to http://www.lawcouncil.asn.au/HicksUpdate.html and click on the title 'Second Report by Independent Observer, Lex Lasry QC'. Related information is also listed on this Australian Law Council site.
GREEN SENATOR RACHEL SIEWERT'S INAUGURAL SENATE SPEECH
Western Australian Green Senator Rachel Siewert presented her inaugural speech to the Australian Senate on Thursday 11 August 2005. Congratulations Rachel. I have reproduced a transcript of her speech below, which is also available as a 160Kb pdf download by clicking either on the highlighted title or here.
Senator Rachel Siewert's Inaugural Senate Speech
I’d like to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of this country, the Ngunnawal people, and by showing my respect for the first peoples of this land.
It always was and always will be Aboriginal land, and it is incumbent on us who have been chosen to represent this nation that we take responsibility for past wrongs and seek to redress current injustices.
I am not afraid to say ‘sorry’ to our Indigenous peoples, and I look forward to the day when we will acknowledge their voices and do them justice by enabling their true representation in the governance of this nation.
It is to our shame that we are the only developed nation which has failed to achieve this, and that the plight of our Indigenous peoples continues to worsen.
I stand here as the fourth in a line of determined Green women from the West to take on the Senate and progress the Green vision.
It is my great pleasure to acknowledge the presence of Dee Margetts in the public gallery – thanks for your support Dee.
At the heart of our values is a vision of community.
- A community that extends beyond the borders of our neighbourhood, suburb or state.
- A community in which people care about each other and the future of our planet, and act carefully and responsibly to ensure its ongoing success.
- A community that embraces diversity, and understands that people living creative fulfilling lives are more innovative and productive and will make a greater contribution to society.
I am deeply concerned about the direction this nation is heading.
The nation's current policies are based in a naïve and outdated belief that “the market will deliver”, and embody greed and selfishness and an attitude of everyone for themselves.
This has lead to increasing influence of the business sector on government, at the expense of the wider community.
It is becoming abundantly clear that the pervading culture of greed and selfishness is not delivering – as even the 'successful'
individuals are finding that wealth accumulation alone does not bring happiness.
Recent surveys of public wellbeing show that our improved standards of living in Australia have not made us any happier.
Despite most of us having more than we’ve ever had, we are less happy and more stressed.
We are learning that having more stuff doesn’t lead to being more happy.
The current approach is unjust and unfair.
It degrades our environment, and leads to unhappy, fearful, unhealthy communities.
It weakens democracy in this country, and puts key elements of civil society at risk.
Participation in political processes and policy development is a key part of a healthy democracy – and in Australia we have a large number and wide variety of community groups and non-government organisations who make an invaluable contribution to this process.
Having worked for a community organisation for many years I know the important role the sector plays in advocacy and community development in providing information to Government, the Opposition and minor parties, to business and the broader community, and in providing access to community members who find it difficult to engage the political system and have their say.
Community organisations commit hundreds of thousands of hours of voluntary time each year to making our nation stronger and fairer.
In many cases they are the institutional memory of Government, and they hold Government accountable.
Consistently their involvement improves policy and leads to better outcomes.
They don’t have vested interests, other than the good of the community they represent or issue they are working on.
I am deeply concerned by the manner in which over the last decade the role of non-profit community organisations as community advocates has been undermined and attacked.
Their funding has been reduced or taken away completely - as evidenced in the recent slashing and in some cases complete removal of funding from the Conservation Councils around Australia.
We have recently seen attempts to used tied funding in an effort to restrict groups from speaking out and we’ve seen a failed attempt to remove tax deductibility status from groups involved in advocacy or political lobbying.
This is a blatant attack on advocacy.
In my eyes this type of action undermines the consultative process and weakens the effectiveness and legitimacy of our governance.
Ironically, at the same time the legitimacy of these not-for-profit organisations has been under attack, we have seen a rise of the influence of the corporate sector on government.
Community organisations are accused of failing to be representative enough – ignoring the fact they are voluntary organisations accountable to a broad voting membership who are there at their own volition and can opt out at anytime.
The same criticisms are never levelled at big business lobbyists - who are accountable only to the interests of their shareholders and the market forces.
At the same time that government has been undermining community organisations they have been increasing the demands on the community sector - by cutting government services and outsourcing welfare services - and expecting volunteers to pick up the slack.
So on the one hand it is thought OK for the community sector to care for the disadvantaged and the environment - but it is not acceptable for them to try to actually improve their circumstances.
A healthy democracy requires open communication channels between government and both the community and corporate sectors, and it is crucial that there are mechanisms in place to maintain this balance.
Otherwise those concerned, caring people who work hard behind the scenes looking out for the disadvantaged, caring for the poor and sick, preserving our environment and our way of life will lose the capacity or volition to help, and we will all be worse off.
As Greens we want to see a healthy corporate sector that plays a valuable role in our community, and call for the development of policies that encourage corporate responsibility as a basis for sustainable growth.
Now workers rights and conditions are under attack again.
The so-called Industrial Relations ‘reform agenda’ seeks to undermine the award system, reduce workers wages, strip away workers conditions, and attacks the right to collective bargaining.
It clearly aims to break unions and sells out working families.
These actions will not contribute to the nation’s collective wellbeing, instead they will further concentrate this nation’s wealth in the hands of a few.
These reforms are ideologically driven, and are an attack on human rights of Australians.
The changes will hit hardest those least advantaged in our society – young people, women, those in low paid work, casuals and temporary workers.
This is neither fair nor just.
Taken with the new ‘welfare to work’ provisions - such as those that are pushing single mothers back into the workplace - we have a recipe for injustice.
For example, working mothers are more likely to be taking part-time or casual positions where pay loadings are no longer guaranteed.
They are also more likely to need the sick and family leave provisions that will be stripped away.
They will not be in position to bargain, and both they and their children will ultimately lose out.
The Greens believe that workplace laws should be fair, protect all workers from unjust treatment, promote industrial harmony, and enable us to organise collectively to negotiate fair pay and conditions.
The proposed IR changes are not in the interest of working Australians, families or small businesses.
They will not strengthen our economy or improve our way of life - in fact they will undermine it - by lowering wages and stripping back awards, rights and conditions… Conditions that we have fought so hard for over the last century.
They are a none-too-subtle effort to destroy the Union movement and make the already powerful in our society even more powerful.
As evidence of further injustice we need look no further than the plight of the first people of this nation.
Just last month that well-known ‘left-wing’ think-tank the Productivity Commission found in its ‘Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage’ report that a large gulf remains between Aboriginal and other Australians, and that on most of their key indicators things are clearly not getting any better.
To quote its Chair, Gary Banks - It is distressingly apparent that many years of policy effort have not delivered desired outcomes; indeed in some important respects the circumstances of Indigenous people appear to have deteriorated or regressed. Worse than that, outcomes in the strategic areas identified as critical to overcoming disadvantage in the long term remain well short of what is needed.
Rather than addressing the causes of this disadvantage and seeking to empower Aboriginal Australians to improve their standards of living, our government has taken away any form of Indigenous elected representation or control - and it has blamed them for the failure of mainstream services to deliver outcomes to remote and urban indigenous communities.
The proposed ‘solution’ to these problems, the further ‘mainstreaming’ of services to Indigenous communities, ignores the wealth of data and experience which clearly shows the difficulties that mainstream agencies encounter - in reaching out to their Indigenous clients, and in providing appropriate and accessible services.
It ignores the fact that two of the main areas of disadvantage are health and education - areas where services were always provided by mainstream departments (and not by the much-maligned ATSIC).
It also ignores the requirement for healing.
The Greens believe that true reconciliation is the first fundamental step in this healing, and will not be able to make real progress in addressing Indigenous disadvantage until we say we are sorry - until we overturn the myth of Terra Nullius and acknowledge the original owners of this land - until we deliver the treaty demanded by the British crown all those years ago - and until we return to them the means to sustain their communities through their relationship with their mother land.
I met with representatives of the Aboriginal tent embassy earlier this week – who came to me to express their concern that moves are afoot to redevelop the embassy site.
They have been excluded from the so called ‘community consultation’ process and are now fearful that they will soon face eviction.
This morning the Senate was given notice of a motion by my Green colleague Senator Bob Brown dealing with the scourge of petrol sniffing in Indigenous communities.
I would urge you all to support the introduction of a comprehensive roll-out of non-sniffable Opal fuel throughout the Central Desert Regions of Australia.
It is a small step to make in addressing the disadvantaged faced by Aboriginal Australians, but this relatively small amount of money could make a great deal of difference to the lives of those affected.
As Greens we support the vision of our Indigenous leaders and argue that the answer lies in – strong communities with active cultures that support safe and healthy family environments.
We recognise that the economic sustainability of Indigenous families and communities is fundamental to their wellbeing.
Indigenous health and child development must be national priorities.
We need a national Indigenous health plan that delivers:-
1. Primary health care on the basis of need through Indigenous community controlled health services.
2. Comprehensive prevention and early intervention programs.
3. A significant increase in the health workforce including more places for Aboriginal health workers.
4. Significant improvements in the delivery of basic services to Indigenous communities, and
5. Recognition that the health of Indigenous families cannot be separated from the health of Indigenous communities and organizations.
Aboriginal Australians learned the lesson of this harsh land with its ancient soils and variable climate.
Their message for us is this - By looking after the land, our mother, we look after ourselves.
It is a family relationship in which we look after each other and are taken care of through our own caring, - getting back all the more in our giving.
To put this in terms of the triple-bottom line, ecological sustainability is the foundation on which a sustainable society rests - and a healthy economy, the balance of exchange between each other through the land, is the means to this end.
Throughout my adult life I have had a commitment to the sustainable use of our natural resources, and have been working closely with concerned farmers to address the sustainability of farming in the WA wheat belt.
This commitment comes from my experience in studying Agricultural Science at University, working as a Research Officer in salinity and soil conservation in Jerramungup, and two decades working with the natural resource management community of Western Australia.
As a result I am determined to ensure our rural communities can continue to survive and thrive.
Unfortunately, Australia's prosperity has come at enormous expense to the environment.
We have severely degraded our natural resources - our rivers, soils, biodiversity, wetlands, estuaries and coastal waters.
They are all suffering – in WA alone nearly 2 million hectares of agricultural land has been lost to salinity, with predictions that up to 6 million will be affected.
This represents one third of our agricultural land, and in addition 450 endemic plant species, and over 900 regionally significant species are also under threat of extinction due to salinity.
European settlers did not understand the complexity and fragility of the Australian landscape when, with best intentions, they put in place unsustainable European farming systems that ultimately degraded the landscape.
Government policies aimed at developing rural industries and exports strongly encouraged land clearing and advocated ill-suited farming systems.
The result is landscape fragmentation, loss of biodiversity, environmental weeds, salinity, and degraded rivers and wetlands.
Australia now faces a complex environmental crisis to which there are no easy answers.
We don’t have the excuse of ignorance any longer and we must take action.
The necessary, integrated, long-term solutions require government, agribusiness, land managers, farmers and the community to work cooperatively at landscape-scale reconstruction to develop and implement new agricultural industries that can be profitable and sustainable in the long term.
As Greens we share the concerns of our farmers and rural communities for the sustainability of their communities and their lands.
We have a vision of a new uniquely Australian agricultural landscape – filled with deep rooted perennials, harmonious and teeming with life – in which a profitable and sustainable agriculture sustains vibrant, growing rural communities by mimicking the natural ecosystems we once displaced.
In this landscape farmers and land managers can be proud custodians who deliver clean air and healthy water to urban communities
in addition to food and fibre.
This requires long term commitment and strategies.
We need large, ongoing investment in this landscape reconstruction, and acknowledgement that we need to do things differently.
Sustainable agriculture requires radical change to the way we manage our landscape.
The Greens approach to all we do is based on four principles - social justice, peace and nonviolence, participatory democracy and ecological and economic sustainability.
We have a vision for society where we have peaceful and healthy communities with a respect for one another.
- Where all community members have access to basic services such as health and education.
- Where your right to participate in civil society is unquestioned and your ability to do so is equal.
- Where not only do we have a responsibility for oneself but also for others.
- Where our opportunity to achieve fulfillment is met, and
- Where we have systems and laws that protect our rights and our environment.
We need to remember that we live in a community, not an economy – that our economy is one means of sustaining that community – an important part, definitely, and one we need to get right - but it is not the be all and end all.
Ultimately what we all want is the opportunity to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives.
If instead of striving to be richer we could strive to be more equal – everyone's well being would improve, and we would have healthier communities based on compassion, honesty, fairness, justice, respect, and equality.
I've had great privilege in my career to work with the most amazing people.
In closing, I would like to say thank you to all my friends and family, my colleagues (Senators Brown, Nettle and Milne), and my team members (Fluff, Scottie, Nic, Bec & Bridgett) - who whom it is such a pleasure to work. Thank you for your tireless support.
I would particularly like to thank my family and parents Jack and Paddy Gorst without whose love and support I wouldn't be here today.
And finally I would like to acknowledge that I come from the great State of Western Australia – I am committed to representing and progressing the interests of all West Australians and will strive to work effectively on their behalf.
10 AUGUST 2005
GREEN SENATOR CHRISTINE MILNE'S INAUGURAL SENATE SPEECH
Tasmanian Green Senator Christine Milne presented her inaugural speech to the Australian Senate on Wednesday 10 August 2005. I have reproduced a transcript of her speech below, which is also available as a 44Kb word document download by clicking either on the highlighted title or here.
Senator Christine Milne's Inaugural Senate Speech
It is a great honour and privilege to take my place in the federal parliament as an Australian Greens senator standing up for the place I love: my home, Tasmania. I am standing up for its wild forests, its undeveloped coastlines, its endemic species of plants and animals, and its people. Seventeen years ago, I joined the farmers of Wesley Vale who, for the first time in Australian history, took to the streets on their tractors ablaze with the slogan ‘Save our soil, sea and sand; Protect the land’. It was a courageous stand about: … a people’s right to exercise some control over their destiny … It was a stand for country against a huge kraft chlorine pulp mill which would have polluted some of the best agricultural land in the country, carved it up in railway corridors and destroyed a rural community’s way of life.
Wesley Vale is my place. It is my country. It is framed by the Dial Range to the west, Mount Roland and Cradle Mountain to the south, Narawntapu National Park to the east and Bass Strait and beyond to the north. It is where I was brought up in the fifties and sixties on a small family dairy farm. As was the wont of country children then, I roamed around the farm with my father, catching tadpoles and rabbits and watched the changing seasons and the wild ducks leave and return. I got to know the way the light fell across the paddocks on late summer afternoons and the way people helped each other out and the way they argued in milking sheds and sale yards about whether it would rain and whether the local team would win.
It was knowing and loving that country, Wesley Vale, its stories and way of life and standing up for them that was the crucible of my political life. I thank all of those in that community and my family, who are here today in the gallery, especially my mother, June, and son James, my other son Thomas in London, my nieces and my extended family in Tasmania and my friends for their support in my journey. Through it, I came to realise that my own experience was not unique; that all over the world people like the Wesley Vale farmers are struggling to hold onto their special places, their country, their values and their way of life.
The ‘son of Wesley Vale’ now threatens the forests, the Bass Strait and the Tamar Valley. It is a tragedy that the same struggle has to be fought all over again. Through Wesley Vale, I realised that the struggle of the people at Ralph’s Bay for their coastline and for the habitat of migratory birds is the same struggle as those who campaign for wetlands in Saemangeum in Korea; that the struggle to save native forests and ecosystems all around Tasmania from the Weld Valley, South Sister and the Blue Tier, from the Tarkine to the Styx valley and from Reed Marsh to Weilangta is the same as the struggle for forests in Papua New Guinea, Borneo and Amazonia; that the fate of the Tasmanian devil is the same as the fate of the mountain gorillas in Africa. Both are dying from disease because of human impacts. I came to realise that you need to know and love a special place in order to empathise with other people’s special places and that to stand up for one special place is to begin the process of standing up for them all. It is the beginning of becoming a global citizen.
It seems fitting, therefore, that I should have begun my service to the Australian community here in the Senate by standing up once again for the land, by being driven on a tractor to the Senate doors today by the next generation of young farmers from the very same district in which my own roots stretch back over five generations. These Tasmanian farmers and the processing workers who depend on their ability to stay on the land and produce high-quality food are the human face of the free trade agreements that Australia has signed. They are the victims of globalization and the downward pressure on prices, wages, human rights and environmental protection that such agreements have wrought on this nation. The Greens have opposed them all and last year, when both major parties supported the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement, I was overwhelmed by the scale of the sell-out and all I could think was, ‘Poor fellow my country.’
This nation needs to have a full, frank and inclusive debate about values, about what it means to be Australian. It is imperative that this struggle to define what our major national values are is named and reclaimed by the community as a fundamental debate in Australian politics, for whichever set of values emerges dominant from the current debate will define who we are as Australians for decades to come. It will shape the lives of each and every one of us, our children and our grandchildren, our environment and our global standing as a nation. Indeed it is already doing so. Not to engage the debate means that the mean-spirited mediocrity of today will by default become our national character tomorrow.
It used to be that every political party could be defined by values, by the values it prioritised in the hierarchy, but it is no longer clear which values underpin mainstream politics. Every political decision is a values based decision, from tax cuts, which prioritise individual self-interest over the common good, to the slashing of incomes for single parents and people with disabilities. This is a matter of justice and justice is something that you either value or you do not. The abolition of student unionism is being dressed up as an issue of freedom of association, but isn’t it more an issue of equal opportunity for young Australians?
There has been a concerted effort to quarantine the values debate to matters of private and personal morality, deemed ‘family values’, in order to avoid a values debate on public economic and social policy. The prosperity gospel has been adopted to legitimise consumerism and materialism and to advance the economic rationalist agenda of conservative governments. The notion of ‘family values’ is confined to a narrow range of values to suit a particular agenda. Where I grew up, honesty, kindness, respect, justice, fairness, tolerance, love and forgiveness were family values. Discrimination against and vilification of minorities, lying, misrepresentation and meanness of spirit were not family values.
This quarantining of the values debate in such a narrow way is designed to do two things: firstly, to send a signal to the electorate that the government has a strong values base; and, secondly, to declare that all other issues are value free, so that it seems possible to have strong values and at the same time trample the very values of honesty, equality, freedom of speech, compassion, tolerance and a fair go which Australians hold dear and which are at the heart of all the world’s great religions and humanist philosophies.
We have to ask ourselves how we can collectively save the world’s climate when the world’s superpower, the United States of America, and our own country fall back on the principle of national sovereignty to justify refusing to take any action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that will require a change of lifestyle or a commitment to fixed targets. This government condemned the Kyoto protocol for its modest targets, and yet it has entered into an arrangement that has no targets at all and which relies on unproven technology and so condemns our children and our economy to massive disruption in years to come if their gamble fails.
How can we as a global community uphold human rights if we do not do so in Australia? As long as our Indigenous people suffer high rates of infant mortality, low life expectancy and poor health, as long as we lie about ‘children overboard’, as long as we detain asylum seekers and put innocent people behind razor wire, as long as we ignore the Geneva conventions and tolerate torture at Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo Bay, we have no moral authority on human rights.
How can we protect global biodiversity if our own Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act fails so abysmally to protect biodiversity and fails so spectacularly to authentically domesticate our global obligations under the Convention on Biodiversity and the World Heritage Convention?
How can we protect our borders and our ecosystems from alien invasive species and disease and promise farmers around the world biosecurity—including those vegetable, apple and pear and salmon farmers from Tasmania—when the provisions of the free trade agreements prioritise trade over biosecurity and ecological integrity?
How can we strive for world peace and at the same time join a coalition of the willing to invade Iraq on a false premise? How can we say, this very week, ‘Hiroshima: never again’, and wag our finger at Iraq and Iran, whilst at the same time negotiating a nuclear cooperation agreement with China to increase our export of uranium?
How can we accuse other nations of corrupt behaviour and label them failed states and insist on governance reform when we in this country engage in a politics: … in which no one responsible admits responsibility, no one genuinely apologizes, no one resigns and everyone else is blamed.
There are those who would argue that we can do all of these things and invoke Australian nationalism and co opt all our national symbols, including the Anzac spirit and the flag, to justify them. They say that they are standing up for Australia and the Australian way of life. But it is they who are selling out the country. It is they who are suffocating the spirit of Australia.
Australians do not feel good about themselves when the government acts as if our bank balance and consumption patterns can and should be secured at the expense of other people and other species. The community understands the global boomerang effect of fear and oppression, of driving down working conditions and environmental standards and ignoring human rights. They are worried about what happens in China today because they know that it will happen in Australia tomorrow. They know the consequences of the war in Iraq and that our involvement in the war will rebound on us. But equally the spirit of the nation does rally when the government acts in a way that makes it proud. The recent reaction to Japan’s attempt to reintroduce commercial whaling is a case in point.
What gives me hope is the increasingly loud and urgent cry from the hearts of Australians everywhere for a return to what we know in our heart of hearts is ‘country’— a return to the spirit of the land and the expansive values of goodness, honesty, justice, fairness, equality, generosity, freedom and ecological stewardship that are for Australians inherent in the concept of ‘country’. The second thing that gives me hope is that democracies are self correcting and the campaign to rescue the Senate is well under way. This concept of ‘country’ that I am talking about is a precious insight we have learned from our Indigenous people. It incorporates the land and their stories. It is not jingoistic. In talking about country, I take this opportunity to acknowledge that we are gathered in Ngunnawal country and I pay tribute to the traditional owners. Just as we must as a nation progress reconciliation with Indigenous people, we must also progress our own reconciliation with ‘country’—our own sense of place and identity.
The Tasmanian experience can assist in that process. Change comes from the periphery, not from the centre. From Tasmania has come a new way of seeing the world, a new way of identifying country. Greens politics globally began in my home state with the establishment of the United Tasmania Group in 1972 as a response to the drowning of Lake Pedder. At the outset, it was a politics of values, a new ethic. It recognised that at the same time we are citizens of local communities, nation-states and one world in which the local and the global are interconnected. It is a politics dedicated to bringing forth a sustainable society based on a respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice and a culture of peace and participatory democracy. These values underpin the Greens vision of reconciliation between humans and the natural world.
WB Yeats once said, ‘In dreams begins responsibility’. The formation of a political party to achieve that dream of reconciliation was an acknowledgement that the founders of the UTG were prepared to take responsibility for the earth and future generations. I honour the memory of Dr Richard Jones as I honour all the founding members of the UTG and all those people who have supported the Greens vision in the intervening years and have made it possible, 33 years later, for me to join my colleagues Senators Brown, Nettle and Siewert in this parliament, and others in dozens of parliaments around the world, as the Greens representatives.
We are the only political party at the beginning of this century that is global in its reach, global in its thinking and global and local in its action. Such a global perspective is critical for decision makers in every parliament of the world. In the absence of a democratically elected, global decision making forum, each national parliament is charged with coming to terms with a world community interconnected by ecosystems but struggling to resolve the contradictions and seemingly intractable problems thrown up by a combination of a global population of six billion, global warming, the unprecedented movement of people and goods around the world and the increasing scarcity of environmental resources like fresh water and uncontaminated soil. The need for global democracy, cooperation and multilateralism has never been greater. How 2½ billion people in India and China exercise their right to develop will be the key to whether or not global ecosystems can continue to sustain us all.
That is why the Green Charter, based on the Earth Charter, is so important—because it provides us with a framework in which to think. Whilst it does not promise right or wrong answers, it allows the questions to be asked in such a way as to elicit an ethical answer. But an ethical answer can only be found by inclusive, vigorous public debate and not by silencing dissent. It can only be found where academics feel free to speak out, where public servants are free to speak out without the threat of losing their jobs and where the community can speak out without fear of being sued. The notion of cooperative and inclusive politics does not sit easily in the Westminster system, but the arrogance of absolute majorities, one ideology and simplistic solutions, does not sit easily with the complex thinking required to address our common future.
This is the philosophy I brought to the Tasmanian parliament during my 9½ years there, six of them as leader of the Greens. By doubling the size of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, in saving 22 small schools from closure, in achieving gay law reform and in driving the process for gun law reform and a tripartite apology to the stolen generation, the Greens were able to demonstrate that you do not need to be in government to drive change and innovation. We will not disappoint the nearly one million Australians who voted for the Greens at the last election.
In this Senate the Greens will continue to innovate. We will work with the Australian community to find not only solutions that we as Australians would want to live with but also solutions that we would be happy to have imposed on us. If fear, indifference and greed can have such powerful ramifications, imagine what hope, compassion and generosity might do for Australia and for the world.
In Canberra in 2001, I was privileged to be chairing the plenary session of the Global Greens Conference when, with a resounding standing ovation, the Global Greens Charter was ratified. The moment was captured by a young Nigerian environmentalist, Nnimmo Bassey, when he said:
That men women and youth could join hands across the oceans and other divisions of this world to face our common challenges was simply encouraging and empowering. It gave us hope and with hope we can face the future.
It is hope for the future and empowerment of the many that the Greens bring to this Senate. It is to be the voice of those who feel that they have not been represented that the Greens take on the role of advocate.
7 AUGUST 2005
GREENS WILL TEST NEW SENATE ON DAY ONE
The first sitting of the new Senate. elected in the 2004 Federal election, is scheduled for this week. While I am very disappointed to not be taking part of that sitting and providing a very much needed Green voice for Victorians, it is great to see my colleagues put themselves forward in what is a clearly conservatively controlled Senate. Of particular interest to me will be how Family First will reflect their views in the new Senate. Deciding to preference the Greens last in the Federal election without even reference to a complete policy platform, the extent to which Family First convert their rhetoric 'If its good for the family we're for it, If it is bad for the family we won't' will be being watched my many people. My major concern is that rather than provide a coherent platform that serves the interests of ordinary Australians, as for a number before them, Family First risk being drawn into the spiders web, to be seduced by the temptation afforded by power lent to them by the Government. As the government did with the Democrats on industrial relations and the GST, and One Nation and the 'Trust For Honest Politicians' Family First will be feighted by the government, by ultimately consumed by them for the utility they afford.
Meanwhile, despite a concerted, and perhaps coordinated campaign against them, the Greens vote continued to grow and its numbers in the Senate doubling from two to four. As a sign that the battle for decency will continue on, the following media release was issued by Greens Senator Bob Brown today.
The four Greens Senators will put the Howard Government's one seat majority to the test on the first sitting day of the new Senate by:
* Nominating Senator Kerry Nettle for the President against Liberal Paul Calvert
* Nominating Christine Milne, who has extensive parliamentary experience in Tasmania, for the Deputy President against incumbent Labor deputy John Hogg
* Moving Senator Brown's motion, introduced last June, for Australian David Hicks to be returned from Guantanamo Bay to Australia for trial
* Reintroducing the Greens 2003 'Truth in Food Labelling Bill' as farmers protest outside the parliament
"The Greens' action agenda will test both the old parties on the cosy arrangement that the government selects the President and the opposition the Deputy President," Greens Senator Bob Brown said.
"In terms of real capacity, the Greens' nominees should win.
"The Senate will need highly competent presiding officers this term and that is what we're offering.
"On truth in labelling, both the Coalition and Labor voted down my move to have 'Made in Australia' mean 100% made in Australia in 1998.
"Our 2003 truth in labelling bill to label all foreign food content as well as GE-free foods and pesticides residue levels will be reintroduced.
"It is time that the National Party, at least, joined the Greens in insisting farmers and shoppers be able to easily see and rely upon 'Made in Australia' labelling," Senator Brown said.
3 AUGUST 2005
DISCUSSION PAPER: THE FUTURE IS NOW - PATHWAY TO A STEADY STATE ECONOMY - DR. GEOFF MOSLEY AM
As a Councillor of the Australian Conservation Council I have been taking part in discussions about what the future might involve, both for the ACF, Australia and the planet. As part of those discussions and exchanges of ideas, ideas about the potential and need for for a steady state economy have re-emerged. Below is the introduction to a paper produced by Dr. Geoff Mosley AM, fellow ACF Councillor and conservationist. The full paper is available as a 640Kb downloadable pdf by clicking on the blue or underlined title. If you would like to contact Geoff Mosley or make comments please feel free to email Geoff at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Future Is Now - Pathway To A Steady State Economy by Dr. Geoff Mosley AM.
The future us now. What we do now or fail to do now is making the future or wrecking it. (Sir Keith Hancock (1972), Discovering Monaro, CUP, Sydney)
How we live today is very different from how people once lived but just as the present was forged in the past the future is now in our hands. What we do over the next few decades will determine the lives of our descendants.
We have a choice. We can continue with our unsustainable and unfulfilling way of life, or we can set a course for a very different future. IT IS UP TO US.
The ‘Future Is Now’, or FIN Project is about that choice. It charts a new course for your consideration. Bear in mind that all major changes have had small beginnings. There are only two necessary preconditions: a willingness to consider change and a faith in our ability to help bring it about.
The project has three parts concerning: where we are NOW; HOW we can change; and the goal of a STEADY STATE SOCIETY.
To plot a successful course to a steady state society we need to understand where we are now. This will affect the route we take during the journey from an unsustainable to a sustainable way of life. But, of course, where we stand now must not constrain that route. If it did the prospects for a sustainable way of life would be poor indeed. To get from now to then requires a mixture of practicality and vision and above all a willingness to consider new ways and outlooks.
One thing is clear – that if we delay fundamental reform the problem of achieving it will become very much bigger. We can either start out now or run the risk of never being able to get there.
Living on the world’s natural capital has deluded many into believing that there is no need for change, while others are determined to take advantage of the situation for their personal benefit at the expense of others. At the present time it is still possible to make an orderly change; that is if we move with a sense of urgency. The alternative is having to tackle a very much bigger problem in a situation of widespread environmental collapse. Another thing is certain, half measures will not suffice.
If we care to notice, the beginning of this collapse is already in evidence. Perhaps we could best sun it us as a ‘quiet crisis’ because many people are not aware of how far things have deteriorated. Still more are in denial out of self interest and a further aware group feels powerless to do anything about it.
Any movement for change has to start somewhere and it is the last group which needs to spearhead the move by overcoming its feeling of helplessness and refinding its voice. Prominent among this group are conservationists whose chosen role in life is to be concerned about the needs of the future. We can make it our job to not just make people aware of the drastic situation but to show them an alternative and the pathway from one to the other. The task is the hardest one that conservationists will ever tackle, partly because of the great inertia in any society but also because of the fierce opposition that can be expected from those who see their interests challenged.
In setting out to initiate the move in the belief that we can act as a catalyst for fundamental social change there are two main benefits we can espouse. The first is the need to change to avoid disaster. The second is that a steady state society would provide for more fulfilling ways of living anyway.
With regard to the first argument we need to include in our pleas information on what is likely to happen if we do not make fundamental changes. We need to paint an accurate picture of a world approaching a state of collapse in which the richest nations raid the earth for its last valuable resources and we no longer have the means to embark on a new course and begin the long task of rehabilitation. We can best do this by pointing to the cracks which are already evident in the global environment. We need to illustrate how in this ‘everyman for himself’ situation of an overpopulated and overdeveloped world the powerful will impose an authoritarian rule like nothing ever seen before.
With regard to the alternative of a steady state society we need to stress the likely benefits in terms of what it would offer for healthier, more creative living and compare the impact on every human being of the two options – living in a state of global collapse versus living in a steady state society.
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If you would like to contribute to this debate, please fell free to send an email to me at: email@example.com
30 JULY 2005
CHALLENGING THE LEGACIES OF FRENCH NUCLEAR TESTING
For thirty years from 1966 to 1996, France conducted 193 atmospheric and underground tests at Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls. Many people in French Polynesia are still living with the environmental and health effects of exposure to radiation.
Tahitian unionist and anti-nuclear activist, Roland Pouira Oldham, President of Moruroa e Tatou (Moruroa and Us) - the association of former workers from the French nuclear test sites at Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls. is in Australia to speak about the legacies of French nuclear testing and the work of Moruroa e Tatou.
Friends of the Earth are extending an invitation to those interested to hear Roland Oldham at 6:30pm, on Thursday 4 August 2005 at the Friends of the Earth, 312 Smith St Collingwood. For further information, phone 0421 840 100.
1 JULY 2005
WE DID BUT SEE HERR ROSA PASSING BY
My propensity to open my muzzle more often than banks close their branches has meant that these news pages have had to be moved each three months. This page provides my news and views from July 1 to Sep 30 2005. The previous edition of current news and views are available by clicking here: Rosa's and Dave's News and Views: Apr-Jun 2005: David.