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David RisstromRosa the Policy Watchdog

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 david@davidrisstrom.org. David last updated this site on 29 December 2005.


 

31 DECEMBER 2005

HAVE A HAPPY, JUST AND FAIR 2005

Have a happy, just and fair 2006, wherever you are, whoever you are and for whatever good you wish for the world: Carolynne, David and friends.

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30 DECEMBER 2005

NEW ZEALAND CARBON TAX GONE WITH THE WIND

The Melbourne Age published an article written by Rod Myer today called 'Carbon tax too costly, says NZ'. The article began by stating, "New Zealand has abandoned plans to introduce a carbon tax after deciding it would not cut emissions enough to justify the cost of its introduction, a move that comes as Victoria negotiates with other states for an Australian emissions trading scheme." Below is a comment from Victorian Green, Chris Mardon, and former CSIRO scientist, on what this news may mean for Victoria

With the shift in NZ politics (the Greens are no longer part of the government), they have now abandoned plans for a carbon tax to reduce greenhouse emissions. This article rightly points to the various one-off factors that have helped to restrain the growth in official global greenhouse emissions since 1990, and asks how we can make real cuts in emissions from now on?
 
Bracks is still talking about their supposed agreement between the states for an emissions trading scheme independent of the federal government, but neglect to mention that Queensland and WA are still holding out for some kind of financial deal that would make it possible. No deal, no scheme! Even in Victoria, electricity generation accounts for about half of our emissions, and just one company is responsible for 20% of that. All states have to face the potential costs of achieving real cuts in emissions when export-oriented energy-intensive industries account for about 30% of our emissions. Belt-tightening at the household level will achieve nothing if these industries continue to expand, and are provided with cheap energy to attract investment (and jobs).
 
Many countries have ducked the issue by “grandfathering” emission permits so that existing large emitters are exempted from a carbon tax or emissions trading. However, by doing that, they have reduced the effectiveness of carbon trading. Smelters could use new technology to significantly reduce their emissions, but they have no incentive to do so because their electricity is subsidized.
 
In Australia, the Howard Government has not only failed to introduce any system of emissions trading, but has given a specific exemption to the NW Shelf gas producers so that the government (ie. taxpayers) will pay the cost of emissions permits if any future government decides to introduce carbon emissions trading. Hence, the LNG producers have no incentive to limit their emissions, even though the best areas for geosequestration just happen to be on the NW Shelf. Shell will be using geosequestration to store carbon dioxide from the giant Gorgon gas field near Barrow Island because they need to extract carbon dioxide already present in the gas. As it happens, geosequestration there is economic without additional incentives from the government. What about all the other producers?
 
These are all issues that the Australian Greens need to address.
 
Regards, Chris Mardon

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25 DECEMBER 2005

Have a Happy Xmas and a Wonderful 2006.  May it be good to us all.   

David Risstrom, Carolynne Marks and all the animals and others who share our world.  Woof!

The World

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24 DECEMBER 2005

'TWAS THE DAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS AND ALL THROUGH THE LAND, PEOPLE WERE A' WONDERIN' HOW GREEN WERE THE CHRISTMAS WE'RE ABOUT TO BE HAD.

With a day to go before Christmas, Maelor Himbury, the good spirited information hound who collects news from all around the world, passed on these information tid bits from around the world on the greening of Christmas.

Consumers need carrots, not sticks, to make 'green' choices - EurekAlert 12 Dec 2005

With the amount of shopping days until Christmas fast running out, consumers who would like to make 'green' choices are often helpless to change their behaviour, according to research at the University of Surrey. The project, which was funded by ESRC, warns policymakers that eco-taxes and information campaigns have only a limited impact on how people behave. 'Many people care about the environment but they are stuck in unsustainable patterns of behaviour because they just don't have access to reliable, affordable alternatives. It is wrong to assume that they have free choice in the matter,' says Professor Tim Jackson who carried out the research. 'Consumers need practical incentives to buy 'green' goods and services and a very clear signal that the government is putting its own house in order.'

The Surrey findings are based on a study of the extensive literature on consumption, consumer behaviour and behavioural change. 'Many studies have found a kind of insatiability and irrationality in modern society. People buy more and more stuff - way beyond what they appear to need,' says Jackson. 'But consumer goods play important roles in defining who we are and giving a sense of meaning and purpose to our lives. Asking people to give all that up, without offering decent alternatives, is not really an option.' The research also highlights the social constraints that face more deprived communities in their efforts to act more sustainably. 'Poorer households have less money to afford organic foods, more efficient appliances or fair trade goods,' Jackson explains. 'But they also face a raft of other disadvantages. Access to a clean environment, affordable public transport and convenient recycling facilities are often worse in more deprived areas.'

It isn't all doom and gloom however. The Surrey research documents a range of options open to policy-makers seeking to encourage more sustainable lifestyles. 'Government has a vital role to play in nurturing and supporting community-based initiatives for social change: neighbourhood wind farms, school transport plans, car-sharing schemes, cycle routes and better recycling facilities. Social support is vital in encouraging people to break unsustainable habits,' Jackson says.

 

'Tis the season to be ... wasteful? (13 December 2005)

Christmas may be be the traditional time for over indulgence, but officials are urging the public to try to keep waste to a minimum.

Gobble gobble: English families are expected to get through 16.5 million turkeys this Christmas

Defra and national recycling campaign Recycle Now have teamed up to drive the message home and are asking people not to let their eyes get bigger than their bellies. According to the team investigating Christmas waste, English families will bin an incredible 160,000 tonnes of food over the festive season, enough to fill a flotilla of skips that would fill the Channel between Dover and Calais more than five times over.

3,000 tonnes of foil will be used on wrapping the nation's turkeys alone.

Once wrapping paper, unwanted presents, trees that have served their purpose and all the rest of the seasonal waste is added into the equation, Christmas generates over three million tonnes of municipal rubbish.

The waste reduction team has enlisted the support of TV chef Kevin Woodford. "At Christmas the heat is on to cook bigger and better meals, and time pressures mean we've become reliant on ready prepared food, which is time-saving but packaging heavy, rather than making things from fresh produce," he said.

"We also end up throwing away leftovers rather than use them to cook up another tasty meal.

"It's really easy to create a traditional Christmas feast that is much tastier, and often cheaper, by buying good quality meat and vegetables and sticking to what you need rather than buying lots of food 'just in case'."

The chef has come up with a list of common sense tips to cut food waste.

Confirm how many people you're cooking for so you buy only what you need.

Plan ahead and make a shopping list. It saves a second trip to the shops if you've forgotten something and also avoids waste, as you'll only buy what you need.

Buy your fruit and vegetables such as sprouts, loose and not pre-packed and look for other festive goodies with less packaging. This is good for your pocket as you are buying what you really need and means there is less packaging in your bin. You also get to choose the best items.

Remember to put your fruit and vegetable peelings into your compost bin.

Avoid putting out large quantities of perishable food - cold meats, cheese, bread and salads - and remember to put leftovers back in the fridge.

Think of how left-over food can be used to make another meal instead of being thrown away.

Local Environmental Quality Minister, Ben Bradshaw, said: "We've become used to a throw-away culture for left-over food. But this is wasteful and creates environmental problems.

"This Christmas Britain will generate millions of tonnes of rubbish, most of which will languish in landfill sites. This needn't be so.

"Recycling is easier than it has ever been before, so everyone can do their bit. Even better, avoid throwing it away and use up left-overs."

Julie Brown, of Recycle Now, said: "An extra bin bag of rubbish for every household in the UK of food waste alone is a significant amount, and it would be better at this time of year if we cut back on the waste and the money saved ended up in our pockets instead of our bins.

"It's really easy not only to cut down on the amount of food we waste, but also to remember to recycle as much as possible, especially over Christmas. It's never been easier to recycle.

"Eight out of ten local authorities now provide doorstep collection services for a range of materials - including paper, card, glass, metal cans - and we would encourage people to use them."

Deck the gums, it's Yuletide Down Under - By Bridie Smith, Barney Zwartz and Jane Holroyd, The Age, 17 December 2005

If you haven't noticed, it's the silly season - time to deck the halls with crates of Bolly and enjoy the pine things in life.

It may seem that there is no such thing as a traditional Christmas, what with Christmas cards taking a backseat to e-greetings and text messages, black Christmas trees challenging the traditional green variety and the turkey playing bridesmaid to snags and prawns. But some things, such as unwanted gifts, afternoon naps and left-overs to last a month will never change.

Gifts

According to the Australia Institute, an independent public policy research body, more than half the Australian population will receive an unwanted gift this Christmas, while 21 per cent will give presents to people without wanting to. Although the results, from a Newspoll survey of 1200 people, don't define what these gifts are, odds are there will be a set of lavender-scented draw liners in there somewhere. Research fellow Emma Rush said 66 per cent of people from households with incomes over $70,000 received unwanted presents as opposed to 38 per cent of households with an income under $30,000. She also said richer households were more likely to give to people they didn't want to.

According to online retailer eBay, gifts that will be well received this Christmas are games consoles, iPod Nanos and the Robosapien V2 toy robot. Borders reports that Harry Potter books and the Da Vinci Code will again be top sellers this Christmas.

Tree

Rather than change the Christmas decorations on the tree this year, some people in Europe are changing the colour of their tree - to classy black or a bright fuchsia pink. Sales of coloured trees are on the rise in Britain says The Guardian, where small trees are sold by online retailers for about $19. And for those who like the pine things in life, there is always the real thing. Fabio Iuele, purveyor of fine pines at the North Pole Christmas Tree Farm in Craigieburn, said most people spent about $40 on their Christmas tree, opting for one about two metres high.

Food

Sure, the traditional Christmas lunch consists of turkey with all the trimmings followed by a hot plum pud with melted brandy butter. But here in the Southern Hemisphere we like to do things differently - Down Under, seafood and barbecues rule. Restaurateur Gary Mehigan believes Australians are abandoning the heavy European-style Christmas lunch in favour of seasonal Australian produce.

Seafood Industry Victoria executive director Ross McGowan said many people were opting for snapper this year for their Christmas roast. Lobster and prawns were also popular choices, with hundreds of kilos of seafood expected to be devoured this Christmas. But Planet Ark warns consumers that this is a time of year when our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs. The organisation estimates that each year Australians throw away nearly 3.3 million tonnes of food. And that doesn't include the scraps that go to the four-legged members of the family.

Religion

C and E worshippers will fill Melbourne churches to overflowing next weekend. That's not Church of England, but Christmas and Easter.

Christmas, above all, is the time many nominal Christians or even non-Christians want to feel connected with their cultural and religious roots.

Many busy Catholic churches will have three special Christmas services - one for the children of the parish school, one for families and the traditional midnight Mass.

Melbourne's Catholic Vicar-General, Monsignor Les Tomlinson, says church attendances over the Christmas weekend will nearly double the usual Mass numbers. Anglican Bishop Philip Huggins agrees. "People are looking subliminally for good news, and the whole story of the vulnerable child is easier for people to enter into than the Passion (at Easter)," he says.

"The magic of the midnight service captures people's imagination. You can imagine the shepherds asleep, the angels crying out. It's coming across the threshold with the symbolism of the nativity scene, the blessing of the crib, the processions, well-sung traditional carols - it's very evocative. There's magic in the air."

At CityLife, Melbourne's biggest church, numbers will rise for Christmas services, but it's not the biggest day of the year, according to senior pastor Mark Conner. Guest speakers or special message series often attract bigger congregations, he says.

Money

It's not all about the material gift - although most Australians will spend between $600 and $1000 on gifts this year with books, clothing, CDs, homewares and toys topping the list of purchases, according to market research company StrategyCo.

But there are alternative gifts such as a donation to charity or a voucher to camp out with the animals at Melbourne Zoo. Brian Walsh from website ourcommunity.com.au, which allows people to donate to any of 670 Australian-based charities, said the number of individual donations made through the site last December was up 110 per cent on 2003.

Novelty gifts of the expensive variety are available at Myer, which launched its pamper packs this year. The most expensive pack costs $2800 - a jet fighter flight, Top Gun style. CommSec chief equities economist Craig James predicts retail trade will increase 6 per cent to $23 billion this December from $21.7 billion last year.

Stress

It's not news that Christmas shopping can be stressful. But apparently it rates up there with workplace anxiety. According to a national survey by BankWest released this week, Christmas shopping causes as much stress as deadlines, problematic co-workers and difficult bosses. Symptoms associated with the thought of crowded shopping centres and finding the money for presents include heart palpitations, sweaty palms, lost sleep, the survey found. And then there are the bills in January. Steve Kane from BankWest said this was one of the most stressful aspects for people at this time of year, with one in five respondents naming financial concerns as their top Christmas worry.

Shopping

StrategyCo research shows that 4 per cent of Australians started their 2005 Christmas shopping at the Boxing Day sales last year - the majority surveyed (31 per cent) said they hit the shops between December 1 and 15, while 27 per cent of the population are mad - they leave shopping to the last week before Christmas. The amount spent buying gifts is under $1000, while most purchases (60 per cent) will be made on credit card and EFTPOS (21 per cent).

Booze

Almost 930 drivers were breath-tested between December 23 last year and January 6, with the highest reading recorded .307. Of those tested, 184 recorded readings of .05 to .069 ($314 fine and 10 demerit points), 248 drivers registering .07 to .099 ($314 fine and six months licence cancellation) and 195 people recording readings between .100 and .149 ($440 fine and between 10 and 14 months licence cancellation).

A further 77 drivers with blood alcohol readings of between .150 and .307 had their licence immediately suspended and were given a summons to appear in the magistrates court.



Recycle for a greener holiday 16 Dec 2005, By Perry Beeman, Register Staff Writer, Des Moines Register

You'll have to depend on the weather for a white Christmas, but you can make the holiday green yourself. Green, as in environmentally friendly.
The gift-giving season creates an especially heavy load of waste - and a big chance to recycle.

Many Iowa recycling programs accept more than you might think: nonmetallic wrapping paper, the tubes the paper came on, catalogs and old greeting cards, for example. Live Christmas trees - an organic, renewable resource - often are chipped and turned into compost or mulch.

The experts say the holiday season brings a 25 percent boom in trash. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the United States churns out an extra million tons of trash a week from Thanksgiving to New Year's.

The nation's discarded ribbon - 38,000 miles worth - is enough to tie a bow around the Earth. Think about reusing it, or skipping ribbons and bows, environmentalists urge.

Many Iowans still do not realize that much of the heap can be recycled.

Weyerhaeuser Document Destruction and Recycling's paper recycling plant in Des Moines sees little of the yuletide castoffs, said Machele Henderson, general manager.

"I suspect they are just throwing it away," Henderson said. "We see about the same volume. We should be seeing a lot of wrapping paper."

Wade Den Hartog, 31, of Des Moines just tosses the stuff. He visits his parents in Sheldon for the holidays, so much of his holiday trash stays there. His apartment in Des Moines has no recycling service.

"It's just something I don't mess with. I feel kind of guilty about it," Den Hartog said.

"If I had more information about drop-off centers, and they weren't 30 miles away, I might use those."

Weyerhaeuser and another Des Moines firm, Mid-America Recycling Co., collect paper from the Curb It! residential recycling program in the Des Moines area, and bundle it for sale.

Some of it is used to make cardboard in Cedar Rapids. Some ends up in cereal boxes in the Twin Cities.

Most of the holiday paper apparently ends up in the landfill as people clear out the clutter following the holidays.

Sarah Rasmussen follows these things. She's a spokeswoman for Metro Waste Authority, which runs landfill and recycling programs in the Des Moines area.

The agency doesn't see much of an increase in the trash load at the landfill or in the recycling bins at the holidays - except for the ubiquitous cardboard boxes.

In fact, trash loads drop all winter before hitting annual highs in the spring cleanup months, Rasmussen said.

"We've looked for a few years, and we really don't see much of a bump," she said.

Natural Christmas trees generally are recycled. They are chipped and added to yard wastes to create a compost sold to developers and others for yards, construction sites, golf courses and other locations. Across North America, 33 million natural Christmas trees are sold each year, the federal government reports.

Artificial trees, of course, are reused the next year.

Dreaming of a green Christmas Dec. 18, 2005. By Stuart Laidlaw in the Toronto Star

Have yourself a Kyoto-friendly Christmas. Make your yuletide green.

Environmentally green.

The holiday season, with its turkey and trimmings, cakes and cookies, is about much more than gifts and gift giving. It's also about food. Lots and lots of food.

That's one reason gyms are so busy in January.

But this year, with Canada having recently hosted a pivotal United Nations' climate-change summit in Montreal, it seems fitting to examine the environmental impact of the feast.

Specifically, how much carbon dioxide was spewed into the air to get that feast to your table?

Among environmentalists, there is a growing discussion of the perceived benefits of locally grown food. It has even led to a fledgling push within the organic food industry to look at how far food travels to our plate.

"Most people don't make the distinction between food and climate change," says Wayne Roberts, policy co-ordinator of the Toronto Food Policy Council, part of the city's board of health. He's among those encouraging consumers to buy more local food to cut down on the carbon emissions they create by simply buying groceries.

The thinking goes like this: if more people buy locally grown food, less will have to be imported. That, in turn, will cut down on the amount of food shipped long distances by truck, plane or boat, all burning fossil fuels and spewing out greenhouse gases.

To test the theory, the Star cooked two meals - one with exclusively imported foods, the other with locally grown. We then compared the carbon emissions generated in transporting the foods for the two meals to Toronto.

"It's important to understand your carbon footprint," says Michel Girard, director of climate change at the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), which assisted in our project.

Preparing the meals were Bruce Leslie and Michael Dixon, who will be souschef and chef de cuisine at Jamie Kennedy at the Gardiner, a restaurant opening at the Gardiner Museum in the spring. They currently work with Kennedy at his wine bar on Church St.

The two in-demand chefs donated their fees for the day's work to the Toronto Star Santa Claus Fund. The food they cooked went to the Touchstone Youth Centre in East York.

We cooked only one turkey, since Canada's supply management system virtually ensures that all poultry sold here is raised domestically. We also had both imported and domestic wines, choosing nouveau entries since they are only available at this time of year, and bottled water.

Leslie and Dixon, despite their preference for local foods, agreed to come up with our imported trimmings, choosing a Caribbean theme of mango and ginger chutney, candied Jamaican yams with almonds, fried plantain, creamed spinach, and mandarin oranges - all made with exclusively imported items.

Helping put together the local dishes were the nutritionist and the cook at the Big Carrot organic store on Danforth Ave., Julie Daniluk and Katherine Hall. To supply what Daniluk termed a "fun menu" at this time of year, they relied on produce that stores well through the fall and winter - meaning a healthy portion of root vegetables.

The local-food offerings: cranberry sauce, rosemary potato pie, roast maple winter vegetables, shredded beet and carrot salad, and baked apple with maple syrup.

The difference between the two meals, with the turkey figured into each, was startling.

Getting the food and wine to our table from Ontario sources resulted in 369 grams of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere. The imported dishes and wine contributed a whopping 15.71 kilograms - 42.6 times the carbon dioxide from the local food.

Our turkey came from a Mennonite farm near Wallenstein, Ont., just outside of Elmira. That's just 117 kilometres away, and in the heart of Ontario's turkey-growing district. Getting the 9.42-kilogram bird to Toronto by truck released 177 grams of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The calculations were done using a website developed with Girard's department at the CSA, which works with companies to figure out their carbon output and find ways to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. The Star's Carbon Counter, a variation on others developed by the CSA so companies can measure their greenhouse gas outputs, is available at http://www.ghgregistries.ca/thestar/news.cfm

Proponents of local foods like to point out that buying food close to home keeps the money in the province, rather than sending it out of the country.

"There's a multiplier effect," says Stephen Bentley, a graduate student of regional planning at the University of British Columbia researching the impact of local food buying.

"The money stays in the local economy and circles around."

Last year, Bentley conducted a study for Toronto's Foodshare, a non-profit food delivery group, comparing the carbon emissions from a lamb dinner made with local produce with one using imported foods, including New Zealand spring lamb.

His results were even more startling than ours.

The imported meal resulted in 100 times the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the air - 11.89 kg for his imported meal, compared with 0.12 kg for his local meal.

Most of that was due to the lamb, which was shipped almost 14,000 kilometres to Toronto and led to carbon emissions of 8.4 kilograms, compared with 0.007 kg for the local lamb.

Canada imported $20.4 billion worth of food last year, including $5.8 billion in fruits and vegetables. Most of that was from the United States, including $835 million in food from California alone.

Around the world, international trade in food has tripled in the past 40 years, jumping to $510 billion by 2002, with almost 900 million tonnes of food being shipped from one country to another each year.

The impact of such booming imports and exports can be quite high, Bentley says.

For instance, he found that carrots from California contributed 840 grams of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, compared with 15 grams for carrots grown in Millgrove, Ont.

Canada imported more than $98 million worth of carrots from the U.S. last year.

Daniluk at the Big Carrot says Canada need not import so much food, though she confesses a weakness for pineapples and avocados.

Root vegetables can be stored and sold all year long, she says, giving a nice alternative to the lighter, more watery vegetables eaten in the summer.

And while greenhouses are already a big industry in Ontario, providing local vegetables almost all year round, she adds, more could be done - such as putting greenhouses on rooftops in the middle of the big Toronto market.

One City of Toronto study is already looking at the potential of such enterprises, which could have environmental benefits and give people guilt-free leafy vegetables at any time of the year.

In Daniluk's words: "You can have your lettuce and eat it, too."



Give peace a chance in the Santa battle By Julia Baird, Sydney Morning Herald December 22, 2005

IS MATERIALISM really ruining Christmas? Pope Benedict seems to think so. Recently he warned: "In today's consumer society, this time of the year unfortunately suffers from a sort of commercial 'pollution' that threatens to alter its real spirit." He advised Christians to celebrate soberly, and with nativity cribs.

We all know who the real target is here: Santa. That crusty ole bearded gent. It often seems to be a showdown between the man from Nazareth and the man from the North Pole at this time of year, as hot, tired, grumbling shoppers protest against a crass materialism which they believe turns a celebration of the birth of Christ - and time with family and friends - into an orgy of greed.

In the first South Park episode ever made - a short film produced in 1995 as a Christmas card that was not aired on TV but gained a cult following on the internet - Jesus came back to Earth to smack down Santa, who he thought was destroying his birthday.

With the help of the bug-eyed, constantly swearing boys, Jesus tracks down Santa in a shopping mall, and cries: "You have blemished the meaning of Christmas, for the last time, Kringle!"

Santa responds: "I bring happiness and love to children all over the world!"

Jesus reminds him: "Christmas is for celebrating my birth!"

And Santa retorts: "Christmas is for giving!"

A brawl ensues and the four boys stand there transfixed and torn - which one should they help? Jesus reminds them God is watching them and that He died for their sins. Santa wheedles: "Stan, remember the choo-choo when you were three?"

It's a tough one. Even if one is a cartoonish fictional figure and the other said he was the son of God. And even if one is a pagan, mythical creature who lassoes childish imaginations and brings mystery to the ritual of giving, while the other was born in a dirty manger and came to bring peace and goodwill.

It's a simple distinction. Santa is for kids. The New York Times reported yesterday that the number of letters sent by American children to Santa is booming, even in this email age. There were 400,000 letters sent last year, with even more expected this year. Five years ago there were 280,000 and in 1993, 65,000. Santa is still a magnet for childhood dreaming and hoping, over-exposed as he sometimes may be. Despite this, each year the great Santa battle continues, and is waged by cranky adults who believe he is making us miserable.

This year, a La Trobe law lecturer, James McConvill, called for a ban on Santa in any advertising material and films. Writing in Online Opinion, he argued: "If we are to pursue a Christmas that is more conducive to human happiness, Santa Claus must go. Santa Claus is largely responsible for the materialistic circus that Christmas has become. These days, as early as October, Santa gets wheeled out and his head is thrown on commercials advertising anything from bras to the latest in barbecue technology … As Kasser and Sheldon write in their paper, Santa is a secular version of Christ 'whose realm is that of material abundance'."

The paper McConvill refers to is by two academics, Tim Kasser and Kennon M. Sheldon, and was published three years ago in the Journal of Happiness Studies. They interviewed 117 people aged between 18 and 80 and asked them about their emotional state during Christmas. They found that people were happier when Christmas was about family and religion, and less happy when it was all about spending money and buying gifts. It won't surprise many women to discover older blokes tended to have the best time at Christmas, as did those who were environmentally conscious.
But studies like this can pose false dichotomies.

Presents do not equate to materialism. Or they don't have to. Nor are presents separate to family, or even religion.

Which is why it is understandable but still odd that everyone mutters about commercialism at this time of year. It is so easy to avoid. If you hate the pressure of buying expensive gifts, buy cheap, thoughtful ones. Make something yourself, write personal cards. Or if even that is too much, offer your time - to mind someone's children, walk their dog, proof read their essays, help in the garden. The point of it all is to spend your time thinking about other people - what they like, what they need, what might make them happy.

It's true Jesus was anti-materialist. But he was also about selflessness and giving.

Santa is just a temporary, childish extension of that. An often joyful one. Whatever you believe, we can surely all agree Christmas is about love, and trying to express that love for each other.

No one won the brawl between Jesus and Santa, by the way. They both apologised, and Jesus offered to buy Santa an orange smoothie. Which sounds about right.

Merry Christmas everyone. jbaird@smh.com.au

Dreaming of a ‘green’ Christmas? Try Friends of the Earth’s twenty top tips - FOE (UK) Nov 15 2005

Are you dreaming of a `green' Christmas? Well, even if you're not, you can enjoy the festive season by taking inspiration from our ideas for presents, parties and decorations which won't cost the earth.

Presents

Try flea markets, antique jewellery and vintage clothing shops for gifts - you'll be giving a unique present, as well as recycling. Indulge with a local, organic hamper made up from the local farmers market or give gifts of locally-brewed beer or organic wine. If you're talented in the kitchen, you could make chutneys, cakes, or chocolate truffles as presents. Or make your own flavoured organic olive oil, adding dried chillies, garlic or herbs to a pretty bottle and filling it up with oil. Treat people to a special experience instead of an item - such as theatre tokens, annual membership of a gallery or a weekend at a spa. For budding eco-enthusiasts, `Save Cash and Save the Planet', published by Friends of the Earth and Collins, is packed with ideas on how you can save money and help the planet. www.savecashsaveplanet.co.uk Take your own re-usable shopping bags with you when you do your Christmas shopping. Around 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging are thrown away over Christmas. Cut down on the stress of choosing presents if you've got a big group of people to buy for, by organising a `Secret Santa' - agree a gift budget which everyone must to stick to, pick one name each out of a hat, then everyone only has to buy one present.

Food and drink

If you can, opt for seasonal local food and drink. A traditional Christmas dinner uses seasonal British produce and buying your food from a local market or grocer helps the local economy and cuts down on `food miles', which contribute to climate change. Buy loose rather than pre-packed vegetables - it'll help cut down on waste packaging. If you're having a party, avoid serving food and drink on disposable plates and cups - they will just add to our growing mountain of waste. Borrow extra crockery from neighbours. Many wine shops lend boxes of wine glasses, if you're buying supplies from them. Around half of the waste produced by households at Christmas could easily be recycled, but last year almost 90% ended up in the dustbin. Instead of throwing away all those sprout peelings, why not put your vegetable leftovers in a compost bin? Around 4,000 million sprouts are bought in the week before Christmas, so there's a lot of composting just waiting to happen. It's tempting to over-buy food at Christmas, but save yourself some cash by trying to plan menus for the holiday season. The average family wastes around a third of the food they buy. More than 10 million turkeys are bought and 4,200 tonnes of aluminium foil are thrown away in the UK each Christmas - if you can't re-use the foil for cooking, make sure you put it in the recycling.

Christmas trees, lights, cards and wrapping paper

Last year we sent around 744 million Christmas cards. If all these were recycled instead of thrown away, it would help to save the equivalent of 248,000 trees. Choose charity cards and wrapping paper which have some recycled paper content. Try the Natural Collection's new paper range made of raffia fibres from the bark of the mulberry tree, coloured with sugar cane or banana. www.naturalcollection.com No trees are cut down to make it, as the fibres keep growing back. More than 8,000 tonnes of wrapping paper will be used on Christmas presents, using the equivalent of approximately 50,000 trees. Last Christmas, DEFRA estimated that 83 square km of wrapping paper ended up in UK rubbish bins. Indoor strings of Christmas lights don't use a lot of energy. If you really want to cut your energy use, you should swap your ordinary light bulbs for energy saving ones, which use a fraction of the energy and last on average 12 times longer. If every UK household installed just one energy saving bulb, they'd save over £80 million per year. If you buy a real tree, and more than 6 million of us do, check with your local council if they will recycle it. Many local authorities grind the trees into wood chips and use them to mulch gardens or parks, instead of dumping the trees in landfill sites.

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15 DECEMBER 2005

GREENS' HEMP SNEAKERS LEAVE A FOOT NOTE: 'FAIR GO OR SAY NO"

The following media release was received on the launch of Greens 'No Sweat' hemp sneakers.

Hundreds of Christmas shoppers have found the festive gift that's good for the environment and promotes fair trade: sneakers made from hemp and natural rubber by non-sweatshop workers in Indonesia.

"When you're shopping for a gift, it's worth considering what's gone into it", said Ben Opie, one of five Greens councillors elected in last month's local council elections, at today's launch of the sneakers. "We're the workers who made it treated fairly and is it environmentally benign?"

The sneakers are an example of what shoppers should look for this Christmas. Each pair includes a disclosure of the wages and conditions of the fully-unionised staff, ranging from maternity payments and medical benefits to allowances for Ramadan and rice.

"With economic ministers meeting this week in Hong Kong to push for freer trade, we call on them to make trade fairer", said Opie. "We in Australia should make the right choice - demand a fair go or say No!"

Tagged "No Sweat" sneakers because they are sourced from a non-sweatshop factory, the shoes are also the first in Australia to be made from hemp, a crop increasingly recognized as having great economic potential and a low environmental impact.

"Industrial hemp produces the most usable biomass over the shortest time for the least water", said Philip Warner, managing director of Queensland-based hemp research and development company, Ecofibre Industries Ltd. "So far only Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia are making a serious effort to promote commercial use of this valuable crop in Australia."

Until about a century ago, hemp supplied most of the raw material for paper and much of the fibre for textiles. The promotion of hemp has suffered from public concern about its potential as a drug. Scientists, however, says hemp shares few of the psychoactive properties of its cannabis cousin, marijuana.

For more information: Peter Hannam - 0425 759 465

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9 DECEMBER 2005

FIELDING FIRST, STUDENTS LAST

The media release below is from Greens Leader Senator Bob Brown.

Fielding First, Students Last

Family First Senator Steve Fielding has put his political relevance first and Australian students last in his VSU deal with the government, Greens Senator Bob Brown said today.

"The real question for Senator Fielding is - what has the Prime Minister promised him in return for his vote? He certainly hasn't secured a good outcome for students," Senator Brown said.

While Senator Fielding's vote was crucial to ensure the passage of the VSU legislation, Senator Brown noted it could not have passed without the support of Nationals Senators, including Senate Leader Ron Boswell.

"The Nationals abandoned the students of regional universities and hundreds of secure regional jobs this afternoon. Regional students will be getting a lump of coal for Christmas, courtesy of the National Party," Senator Brown said.

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2 DECEMBER 2005

LITTLE NEED LEFT FOR A BILL OF RIGHTS, RATHER A BILL OF WHAT'S LEFT

I wrote the following letter to the editor while listening to the Senate debate on Workplace Relations, on the day Truong Van Nguyen was hanged and following the recent passing of terror and sedition laws by the Australian Parliament.

Little Need Left for a Bill of Rights, Rather a Bill of What’s Left

Industrial relations, terror-threatening laws, and sedition laws signal that what many assumed as rights are under attack.

In a creeping return to times medieval, our leaders are making themselves the judge and jury on rights previously protected by our courts and withdrawing taxpayer funded support from their once nation-building, community-building and family-building role.  Our governments, Federal and State, are giving away your long established rights with barely a whimper from their ‘opposition’.

Your rights at work and your rights to criticise your government have been hit for six.  Rights to support and enjoy a family, to have the job security to have a mortgage.  The thing is most of us won't realise what we’ve lost until we need it.

With the Opposition afraid to either stand out or stand up to the Government’s radical changes, what hope has an ordinary citizen have other than to cast a vote and hope. Perhaps as the government wants, voluntarily?

With much of what Australian’s assumed to be the progress of a civilised society under attack, the call for a ‘Bill of Rights’ may soon be better described a ‘Bill Of What’s Left’.

David Risstrom, Northcote Vic 3070

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30 NOVEMBER 2005

MARIBYRNONG ELECTS GREEN MAYOR JANET RICE.

Maribyrnong City Council has elected the west’s first Green Mayor, Cr. Janet Rice.

Cr. Rice was elected Mayor by her colleagues at a Special Council meeting on Wednesday 30 November 2005, following her re-election to Maribyrnong City Council this week with a stellar 37% primary vote.

Mayor Rice is Victoria’s second Green Mayor and Australia’s fourth Green Mayor.

Mayor Rice’s used her Mayoral speech to announce she wanted to “do politics differently” with a strong emphasis on participatory democracy.

As well as the important local work in promoting exemplary community facilities, good transport choices, parking amenity clean streets and laneways, Mayor Rice has pledged to lead the Council in tackling Federal and State and Local issues that impact on Maribyrnong, which remains Melbourne’s second most disadvantaged municipality.

Mayor Rice pledged to work with council and their community to tackle State and Federal issues of cost shifting, transport, the ports, mental health, housing, and indigenous wellbeing.

Mayor Rice also identified the need to support Maribyrnong’s multicultural communities in the face of increasing prejudice and intolerance, fear and insecurity encouraged by the federal government through their anti-terror legislation and support for workers and those who want to work in the face of the Federal Government’s Industrial Relations legislation.

Mayor Rice joins five new Victorian Greens Councillors elected this week during local elections, making a total of 14 current Victorian Green Councillors: Miles Dymott – Brimbank, Ben Opie in, Moonee Valley, Philip Schier in Mount Alexander Helen Harris OAM in Whitehorse and Samantha Dunn in Yarra Ranges Council.

For comment or interview contact: Maribyrnong Mayor Janet Rice: 0439 363 846.

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28 NOVEMBER 2005

GREENS ELECTED TO BRIMBANK, MARIBYRNONG, MOONEE VALLEY, MOUNT ALEXANDER, WHITEHORSE AND YARRA RANGES COUNCILS.

Strong support for Greens candidates has elected Miles Dymott in Brimbank, Helen Harris in Whitehorse, Samantha Dunn in Yarra Ranges, Philip Schier in Mt Alexander, Ben Opie in Moonee Valley, and returned Janet Rice in Maribyrnong. They join elected Greens in Bendigo, Melbourne, Moreland and Yarra Councils.

Congratulations to all who contributed and thank you for voting Green.

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27 NOVEMBER 2005

GREENS GREET NEW GREEN LOCAL GOVERNMENT VOICES IN METRO AND REGIONAL VICTORIA

Greens have been elected to Maribyrnong, Moonee Valley, Whitehorse and Yarra Ranges Councils, with pending results bringing potential wins in Brimbank, Macedon Ranges and Mount Alexander.

On current votes the newly elected Green Crs are Janet Rice – Maribyrnong City; Ben Opie – Moonee Valley City; Helen Harris OAM – Whitehorse City and Samantha Dunn – Yarra Ranges Shire.

Those waiting final counting are Miles Dymott – Brimbank, Megan Hannes-Patterson and Kate Lawrence in Macedon Ranges and Philip Schier in Mount Alexander Shire.

These results could bring the increase of Victoria Green Councillors from 10 to 17.

Green Councillors will bring strong community connections, and a strong interest in democracy, sustainable planning, fixing transport issues, financial accountability, small business, social justice and a commitment to ‘Think globally and act locally’.

Greens local government co-ordinator David Risstrom said, “The Greens have run a strong, honest and open election campaign.  The conduct of Greens candidates during their campaigns has given the community faith that they will govern fairly on their behalf.”

“While many candidates ran good strong local campaigns, yet again many non-Green candidates ran unendorsed when their material and supporters suggested party membership and strong parties ties.”  “Stooges were again a factor in many elections, where so called independent our community candidates remained bound by party rules to preference party colleagues ahead of all others, irrespective of merit”, David Risstrom said.

“It is time that the Local Government Act was amended to require candidates to declare they were a legitimate candidate and not a stooge, by declaring intention to take up office if elected.  If this were law, stooges would be making false declarations punishable by law.  At the moment, in an arrangement that cheats the electorate, stooges can stand with relative impunity.  The community should stop being defrauded of their right to decent and honest representation”, David Risstrom said.

“With a 25% increase in support at the Federal election and a potential 70% increase in the number of Green councillors, the Greens continue to grow in strength every election. On behalf of those who has supported us, we thank you and look forward to giving our Councils a strong green voice”, concluded David Risstrom.

For information and comment by Crs. elect:
• David Risstrom, Greens Local Government Co-ordinator - 0418 502 713.
• Maribyrnong Cr. elect Janet Rice: 0439 363 846
• Moonee Valley Cr. elect Ben Opie: 0407 540 669
• Whitehorse Cr. elect Helen Harris: 9890 9288
• Yarra Ranges Cr. elect Samantha Dunn: 0412 829 840

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12 NOVEMBER 2005

TUESDAY 15 NOVEMBER: NATIONAL DAY OF COMMUNITY PROTEST - MAKE A STAND AGAINST THIS UNFAIR, UNJUST LAW

Tuesday 15 November will be a National Day of Community Protest against the lousy unfair work laws the Howard government is guillotining through the Conservative Controlled Parliament. I have contributed to a newspaper advertisement and added my name to the call to stand up for workplace decency.

As Victorian Greens Senate Candidate, I campaigned on these issues, none of which is a surprise to those who new John Howard's form and aspirations. Which makes the ALPs preferencing of Family First ahead of the Greens all the more a surprise.

The following information is taken from a Trades Hall bulletin forwarded ahead of Tuesday. Rosa, the beautiful policy watchdog sends her apologies to an event she wouldn't miss for the world. Meet at 9 am at Federation Square, for a march up Swanston St. at 10 am, and right down La Trobe to the Exhibition Gardens.

John Howard's extremist IR laws threaten the basic working rights some people take for granted in Australia. This legislation means the end to unfair dismissal protection, the dismantling of the award safety net, and attacks the ability of unions to effectively represent working people. They are draconian and ideologically driven and represent a throwback to a dim age of industrial negotiation.

Australia has a long and proud tradition of workers uniting to stand against unfair and unjust employment practices. The principles of equality and a fair go for all were instrumental in giving birth to our democratic system and in forging this nation. They are principles that are again drawing people together to speak out against this government's workplace relations agenda.

Tuesday 15 November will see Melbourne's CBD come to a standstill as thousands converge to lend their voices to the rising tide of outrage directed at John Howard and his government. Thousands more nationally will be linked up via satellite in the largest simultaneous protest in Australia in years.
Come along and have your say.

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10 NOVEMBER 2005

MY SUBMISSION TO THE INQUIRY INTO THE WORK CHOICES BILL BY THE SENATE EMPLOYMENT, WORKPLACE RELATIONS AND EDUCATION COMMITTEE

I have made a short submission to the very short Senate Inquiry into the Workplace Relations Amendment (Work Choices) Bill 2005 being conducted by the Employment, Workplace Relations and Education Committee. A 36 Kb word copy of the submission can be downloaded by clicking here or on the underlined title. The details of my submission are detailed below.

As I campaigned hard on during the 2004 Federal election, the changes proposed in this Bill have the potential to change Australia's sense of a fair go for generations to come. Despite the 5 day inquiry brought on by opposition parties including the Greens, the majority Conservative Coalition appears to be set to pass, as do many of the rights workers have struggled for years to secure.

My submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Workplace Relations Amendment (Work Choices) Bill 2005

Thank you for your inquiry into the Workplace Relations Amendment (Work Choices) Bill 2005.

The proposed workplace relations changes risk undermining the cohesion afforded Australian society by a world recognised conciliation and arbitration system, that has been supported by the presumptions founded in the Harvester judgment and affirmed many times over in the ability of working people to contribute to the economy while supporting their family.

As a barrister, I am well aware of the power of bargaining.  I am not confident that working people will be able to secure and maintain fair working conditions in the face of an employer having the capacity to hire and fire, whether fair or not.  While such a scenario may fairly be argued an uncommon situation, the employer unwilling to drive down their employee's working conditions will be at a competitive disadvantage, putting further pressure on their enterprise.

Further, the constitutional constraints of the law being founded on the corporations power has the potential to bring extraordinary complexity to the jurisdiction, making its administration expensive, difficult and uncertain for those involved.

Australian business could more usefully gain support from the Parliament in areas of industry development and further investment in education and training. 

Australia could remain both competitive and socially cohesive by increasing its investment in workplace education and elaborately manufactured goods, by developing a stronger tradition of high quality manufacturing, services provisions and by developing a strategy to command higher returns through a longer run view of returns trade in our natural resources and ‘clean and green’ agricultural produce.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that these measures are more squarely aimed at lowering unit wage costs, rather than focus on higher value and higher returns from value adding to the production and sale of the business’ output.

Australia does have a choice on how it conducts its work.  Focussing on the input costs of those having less power in the negotiation of Australian Workplace Agreements may result in a bargain of sorts, but is likely to serve Australia and its citizens a poorer deal than they deserve.

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.

Yours sincerely, David Risstrom: Barrister-at-Law

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7 NOVEMBER 2005

THE WONDERFUL KIWI GREENS CO-LEADER ROD DONALD DIED SUDDENLY AT HOME ON SATURDAY

Dear Green Friends,

With terrible and upsetting news, the wonderful Kiwi Greens co-leader Rod Donald has died suddenly this weekend following a heart attack at his home.

Rod is known to many of us as one of those people who saw the good in much that could be better.  He had that wonderful Green quality of believing better things are possible.

I am not aware of what arrangements are being made for Rod’s funeral, but I am sure that if he wanted us to remember his gifts, it would be by doing the good things he had encouraged us all to do.

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4 NOVEMBER 2005

FEDERAL HEALTH MINISTER FUNDS BIASED PREGNANCY SERVICES

The media release below is from NSW Greens Senator Kerry Nettle.

Abbot funds biased pregnancy services

Greens Senator Kerry Nettle said today that Tony Abbott's announcement to increase funding to three anti-choice pregnancy services was "biased and wrong."

"Mr Abbott's own anti-choice views are well known, however it is his job as Health Minister to make unbiased decisions and provide all Australian women with access to quality independent professional pregnancy counselling services.

"Last week the Caroline Chisholm Society announced one of its branches was going bust. After lobbying from another anti-choice advocate - Family First's Steve Fielding - Mr Abbott is spending taxpayers money to bail out an organisation that shares his moral views. Mr Abbott is prioritising the wishes of the religious right above his responsibilities as Health Minister.

"The Australian Federation of Pregnancy Support Services (AFPSS) use false and misleading advertising that conceals their anti-choice position. They appear to offer genuinely neutral counselling and referral to all pregnancy related services, but in fact only offer their biased anti-choice views; they refuse to refer women for a pregnancy termination regardless of her wishes.

"Just last month AFPSS services were reported to be telling callers seeking genuine counselling that having an abortion would be 'killing their baby', that abortion is 'murder and a sin' and that the baby 'wont have a place in heaven'.

"Such organisations should be shut down, not given more public money."

"The Foundation for Human Development is also known for promoting its anti-choice views with misleading information.

"Counselling must provide full information on all three choices - abortion, adoption and having a child, and should then reaffirm the woman's values to drive her decision. It seems Tony Abbott would rather lecture women about his religious views rather than ensure they have access to comprehensive reproductive health services" Senator Nettle said.

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2 NOVEMBER 2005

WORK CHOICES RAZING WORKING CONDITIONS

I wrote the following letter to the editor in response to the introduction of the Work Choices legislation by Industrial Relations Minister Kevin Andrews. A 20 kb downloadable word copy is available by clicking on the underlined title.

Work Choices Razing Working Conditions

Kevin Andrews is right, in more ways than one. Introducing the Government’s most radical changes to working conditions since Federation, he said Work Choices was all about ‘raising’ working conditions.
 
Given the hundreds of pages of legislation were only tabled today, one can only hope this isn’t an example of how workplace agreements will be negotiated. If the Parliament can’t secure a fair go, what hope has an ordinary worker? Is this a portent of negotiations to come?
 
Mr. Andrews said Work Choices is all about ‘raising’ working conditions. Given the Americanisation of both our language and workplace relations, the law would more aptly be described as ‘razing’ work conditions.

David Risstrom

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18 OCTOBER 2005

GREENS SECURE NEW ZEALAND JUNK FOOD AGREEMENT FEEDING A BETTER FUTURE

The New Zealand Greens have secured an agreement to improve New Zealand's nutrition and food environment. Particularly timely for those of us who saw the Australian ABC TV Four Corners program 'Generation O' last night, steps to get junk food out of schools and polkaing choices to eat more healthy food are a very welcome development. The information that follows was provided by Sue Kedgley MP - Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Days of junk food in NZ schools numbered by Green agreement

New Zealand will finally tackle one of the most important health issues of our time -getting junk food out of schools and improving the nutrition and health of the next generation, Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

The Greens have secured an agreement to work with the government on a range of initiatives to improve New Zealand's nutrition and food environment. They will be fully involved in developing policy and legislation in these areas, and the government has agreed to allocate funding.

The proposals include a Nutrition Fund to pay for initiatives aimed at creating a healthy eating environment, developing healthy eating policy and guidelines for schools, a traffic light labelling system to enable consumers to quickly identify healthy food, publishing an annual Children's Food Promotion plan that sets out how the Health Ministry intends to develop an environment that encourages children to make healthy eating choices.

"The initiatives aim to encourage healthy eating and protect children from the overwhelming commercial pressures on them to eat unhealthy food. With one third of our children overweight or obese we are facing an inevitable public health crisis unless we take decisive action. We are not prepared to sit back and watch the health of our children being undermined when we have the opportunity to make simple changes with enormous long-term benefits.

"If we are serious about trying to improve the health of New Zealanders, we need to start by improving the our children's diet. Getting junk food and vending machines out of schools will be a priority, along with labelling to make it easier for parents to buy healthier food for children. 

"Other governments around the world are tackling these issues, and it's critical that we do too. 

"We also want to develop criteria to distinguish food and drinks that are considered to be nutritious and which would be recommended as a routine part of a children's diet, form foods which are of low nutritional value, and to develop recommended daily intakes for children for fat, saturated fat, sugar, salt and key nutrients.

"We are seeking an expanded Nutrition section within the Health Ministry to carry out these initiatives",  Ms Kedgley said. At present there are only four full-time staff within the Ministry working on nutrition. This is woefully inadequate when you consider that poor nutrition is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in New Zealand, accounting for 30 percent of premature deaths every year. 

2. Organics are on the NZ government's menu

Organic farming will get a boost thanks to the Green Party and the cooperation agreement it has negotiated with the government.

The government has committed to working with the Greens to provide better support for organic farmers through increased funding for advisory services, Green Party Organics Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

The enhanced support should include financial and other assistance to enable mentoring of new organic farmers by experienced one, education, research and advocacy services.

"Compared to other OECD countries, we provide woefully inadequate support to our organics industry. It's no wonder it still makes up less than 1 percent of our total agricultural output, compared to countries like Sweden where 19 percent of their agriculture is organic. The Dutch government, for example, recently announced plans to invest $61 million to increase the area under organic farming in the next five years from 2.1 percent (at present) to 10 percent by 2010.

"There is enormous potential for growth and innovation in the sector and its crucial that government assists the sector to achieve its potential. We see the enhanced advisory services as the first small step in the provision of a much greater level of support for the sector,  she says.

Sales of organic food have surged by 10 percent in 2004 in the UK including a 25 percent increase in organic milk sales and have increased 10-fold over the last decade.

"New Zealand needs to capitalise on this growing niche market. 

"There are huge environmental savings from organic agriculture and providing incentives to farmers to adopt sustainable and organic techniques makes sense and will be of great benefit to our economy, our environment and our future.

"We hope the advisory service will be a first step in helping to make this happen,  Ms Kedgley says.

Sue Kedgley MP - Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand

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15 OCTOBER 2005

JUDGE OUR SOCIETY BY HOW IT RELATES TO THE YOUNG AND MORE VULNERABLE

Despite many saying so, the industrial relations changes are no surprise. It was predicted by the Greens that if the Howard government were re-elected with control of the Senate that much of the scorched earth program a diverse Senate had been able to hold back would be let loose. And so it is. The phone company has gone. Workers rights are in the gun, and 'liberal' value are being jettisoned as part of a Tampaesque policy to keep us frightened and voting conservative.

Far be it a surprise that young and others with less bargaining power will feel the wrath of the market in the way the more fortunate spivs seem unable to comprehend. Greens Senator Rachel Siewert's media release below is a window into a future that many a less fortunate soul may look through in future times to realise what they were giving up with the re-election of the Conservatives.

Young Australians to be the first casualties of IR shakeup: report

"So I think that employees need to be the more flexible ones now .. It's not the employers that are offering that kind of flexibility with work hours in my industry" - Agnes, paralegal, Sydney.

Research released this morning shows that young people find it difficult to negotiate with their employers, and would rather cave in to unreasonable demands than face their fears. The report, released by Australian Greens Industrial Relations spokesperson Senator Rachel Siewert, is titled 'The impact of proposed industrial relations reforms on young Australians'. …

The research includes work with focus groups in Melbourne, Sydney and Goulbourn. Findings include:

*It is likely that employers will chose those applicants willing to accept inferior wages and conditions over other applicants. Desperation, rather than qualifications, may be the main determinant of which young people are successful.

*many young people are likely to find it harder than other workers to bargain effectively with their employers

*The substantial increase in part time work among younger Australians, and the remaining high levels of youth unemployment, makes is clear that young workers have a more precarious position in the labour market, which will be further undermined by the Government's proposals.

The purpose of this paper is to highlight the fact that young people, as a group, are more likely to be disadvantaged by the changes to the industrial relations system currently being proposed by the Coalition Government. It is being released concurrently with a shortlist of suggested questions for prospective employees to ask of their employers.

"It is now incumbent on the Government to show us how they plan to protect this vulnerable sector of the workforce," Senator Siewert said.

The report is available online at http://www.rachelsiewert.org.au/files/campaigns/extras/ir-and-youth.pdf

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12 OCTOBER 2005

WORLD BANK WARMER ON CLIMATE CHANGE THAN AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT

Greens Senator Christine Milne has shown again shown leadership in the Senate on important issues. Rather than calling for a further cut on excise, and compounding the unequal impact of high fuel prices, Senator Milne is calling on a public inquiry to highlight the need to consider conservation, efficiency and reduced wasting of our invaluable fossil fuel resources.

For further information on practical policies I took while a Melbourne City Councillor, please visit The Moving Melbourne section of 100 Green Achievements.

National leadership, not populist proposals, required on fuel crisis: Greens

Long-term answers needed to fuel price rises

Calls by Australian politicians for cuts in fuel excise or greater tax advantages for business in the face of rising petrol prices are a failure of political leadership, Australian Greens energy spokesperson Senator Christine Milne said today.

"Instead of this populist approach, Australia needs an action plan so that as the oil crisis bites deeper and deeper into the pockets of Australian families and businesses, the nation is made as resilient as possible," Senator Milne said in Canberra.*

"Political leaders who are suggesting that high petrol prices are a temporary problem fail to understand the oil crisis and expose Australia's economic future to an increasingly unstable fuel market.

"Reducing excise to provide temporary price relief is also socially inequitable. Research by the Greens shows that the poorest 20 per cent of households account for only eight per cent of retail consumption of petrol.

If excise were reduced by 10 cents, they would receive $336 million in benefit, at a cost to revenue of $3.8 billion. Those who rely on public transport, often the most disadvantaged, would receive no direct benefit from reducing excise.

"On the other hand, the richest 20 per cent of households, who spend a disproportionate amount on petrol, would receive a benefit of nearly $1.2 billion per year, or more than three times the benefit received by low income households.

"The Australian Greens are the only party willing to admit that oil prices are likely to continue to rise and that the sooner we take actions to protect ourselves as much as possible from such increases, the lower the costs to Australian families, businesses and the Australian economy will be.

"The Senate will have the opportunity tomorrow to establish an inquiry proposed by the Greens to look at the future of oil supply and demand in Australia, the likely impact of these pressures on petrol prices, and the impact on society of price rises.

"This is a challenge to the old parties, to abandon their short-term thinking and help set Australia on a course for a sustainable future."

* Senator Milne's speech to the Senate today on this topic is available on request by contacting Katrina Willis on03 6234 4566 or 0437 587 562.

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7 OCTOBER 2005

WORLD BANK WARMER ON CLIMATE CHANGE THAN AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT

Greens Senator Christine Milne points out that despite a World Bank report on the effects of climate change, the Australian Government continues to undermine practical measures that would avoid climate change and strengthen the economy.

World Bank confirms climate change impact

Australian renewable energy growth to stall. A World Bank report on the devastating human health and ecological impacts of climate change reinforces the need for urgent, serious action by the federal government, Australia Greens energy spokesperson Senator Christine Milne said today.

The report, released in Washington, said environmental degradation is contributing to illness and deaths, particularly among the world's poorest people, with more than 150,000 premature deaths attributed to climate change impacts in the year 2000.

It also found that global warming will increase the spread of dengue fever and malaria, and is already lowering crop yields and causing salination of coastal areas.

"The World Bank report should ring alarm bells in the federal government. It reinforces the Australian Greens' call for the government to take urgent, serious steps to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions," Senator Milne said in Hobart.

"It follows the Australian Conservation Foundation and Australian Medical Association report which forecast as many as 15,000 Australians could die each year by the year 2100 from heat-related illnesses if we allow emissions to continue to grow.

"Instead of finding ways to prop up the old polluting coal and nuclear energy industries, the government should be moving Australia to a low-carbon economy, investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy, and introducing a cap on greenhouse gas emissions.

"Yet the growth in renewable energy capacity is about to stall because of the government's short-sighted approach.

"The paltry Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) of 9500 gigawatts for 2010 will be reached this year, and the Australian Business Council for Sustainable Energy has warned that Australia faces a fall in investment in renewables at the very time when increased capacity is imperative."

"The Howard government should immediately increase the MRET to 10% by 2010.

"The international climate talks in Montreal next month provide an opportunity for the government to change direction," Senator Milne concluded.

TASMANIAN UNION 'LOG OF CLAIMS' GIVEN NEW MEANING

Greens Senator Bob Brown's media release sheds new light on some of the previously inexplicable supplication of the Tannin division of the CFMEU to John Howard during the final week of the 2004 Federal election.

Revealed: How Howard's $4m trumped Latham's $800m, with the loggers cheering

"This secret union gift deceived voters" - Brown

Mark Latham's offer of $800 million compensation to Tasmania to protect Tasmania's old growth forests was trumped by a secret $4 million to a forestry union outfit 3 days before the last election, Greens' Senator Bob Brown said today.

"The rapturous reception by loggers for the Prime Minister in Launceston's Albert Hall made no sense at the time. John Howard was offering $70 million and Mark Latham $800 million in their similar forest saving packages. But key to the renegade forestry division of the CFMEU's backing of Howard was the secret $4 million gift to the advisory board dominated by Michael O'Connor, the CFMEU boss, as revealed in today's Australian newspaper. It was the most expensive standing ovation in history."

"Launceston's Albert Hall became Australia's Tammany Hall. The Prime Minister went there to buy votes and found them readily on offer. However, Tasmanians lost $730 million in the trade," Senator Brown said.

"The Howard deal stinks to high heaven. It is politically corrupting. Why were details of the $4 million offer not made public then and there? John Howard deceived the Australian voters on their way to the ballot box."

"The key Howard promise that no loggers' jobs would be lost has been broken. Scores have lost their jobs due to the industrial change and many who cheered the PM last October are now feeling cheated and are very, very angry.

"This episode speaks volumes about the real John Howard. One minute he is bashing unions as having no role to play in a modern economy, and the next he is propping up the most backward and anachronistic union in Australia."

Senator Brown said that he will move next Monday for a Senate inquiry into the deal but predicted that the Prime Minister would use his new Senate majority to block the investigation.

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5 OCTOBER 2005

SOME PEOPLE VOTE WITH THEIR FEET. OTHERS PUT THEM IN THEIR MOUTH

The media release below from Bob Brown on Liberal Senator Eric Abetz's proposals for voting reform makes for interesting reading.

Abetz proposals aim to keep Liberals in office - Brown

The changes to electoral laws proposed by Special Minister of State, Eric Abetz, aim to entrench the Liberals in power, Greens Senator Bob Brown said today.

A problem, however, is that some changes may also boost the Greens.

1. The not-so- hidden agenda to dump compulsory voting is, polls show, unpopular with Australians. But it is also assumed to favour conservative candidates. The problem for its Liberal Party advocates is that the Greens (who back compulsory voting) have the highest proportion of tertiary-educated voters who are most likely to vote without compulsion.

2. Raising the disclosure threshold for donations from $1,500 to $10,000. The Greens will oppose this change which will increase the risk of corrupt power buying and is obviously favourable to the Liberals' big donors. Canada recently abolished all corporate donations and the Greens will move to do the same.

3. Closure of the rolls at the beginning of election campaigns. This will disenfranchise some 80,000 voters, enough to alter who wins government. Instead, the government should be exploring enrolment right up to election day. The move is likely to favour the Liberals.

4. Removing votes for prisoners. This will favour the Liberals as white collar crime is much harder to prosecute. The move is one of politics overriding the power of courts to impose the penalty of fitting the crime. It breaches the Constitutional right of all Australians to vote. But it favours the Liberals.

5. Electronic voting. Technically unsafe and central to the outrage about President George W Bush's 'fake' win in Florida in 2000 US elections. No system is safer and fairer than the ballot box.

6. Voting above the line for the Senate. This is the Greens' proposal, first introduced to the NSW Legislative Council elections. It will obviate a repeat of Victorian Labor's preferencing Family First's Stephen Fielding (2% primary vote) over the Greens' David Risstrom (9% primary vote) against Labor voters' expectations and wishes.

7. Watchdog powers to the Electoral Commission on truth in advertising, advocated by the Greens, have been shunned by Senator Abetz. This favours the Liberals' backing of untruthful attack ads on opponents.

8. Four year terms. The government should first legislate for fixed 3 year terms (ie. a set date every three years for elections) - a change which does NOT require a referendum. This removes the Prime Ministerial power to manipulate election dates in favour of the government of the day. Any move to 4 year terms must also have fixed elections dates, for the same reason.

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4 OCTOBER 2005

I'LL GET BACK TO YOU: CAN YOU PERHAPS SWIM IN THE MEANTIME?

Some have speculated as to why things went so wrong in New Orleans. Could it be that with successive governments having made it their purpose to dismantle government infrastructure, when it is needed, the infrastructure, knowledge and experience is no longer in place to respond?

There could be, or course, more obvious reasons, as the picture below suggests.

Picture: Calling George Bush

US President George Bush either 1/ Dealing with the New Orleans disaster; or, 2/ Calling his down under man of steel, John Howard.

With the US and Australian demonstrations' response to climate change being relatively non-existent, the situation in New Orleans may prove to be an early warning for many unpredictable climatic disasters the planet will face in the future. If disaster does strike, stay by the phone. John or George are sure to call. Perhaps if only to apologise for their inaction about climate change.

ANOTHER OPEN LETTER FROM MICHAEL MOORE ON DISASTER RELIEF PROGRESS IN NEW ORLEANS

Friends,

My staff has been down in New Orleans and on the Gulf Coast for nearly a month now setting up and running our own relief effort with Veterans for Peace. The overwhelming response from so many of you has directly affected the lives of thousands of people. Here's what we've been able to do with your help:

** Over 500 tons of food, water, clothing, medical supplies, baby products, feminine hygiene products, cleaning supplies, power tools, and a boat and trailer for reaching those still flooded by water have been distributed directly to those in need

** Over 10,000 aid packages have been sent by you via UPS and FedEx to our camp and distributed

** Over two million dollars in donations, food, water, and supplies have been sent and distributed

** Tractor trailers, dozens of 20 foot trucks, six school buses, and other vehicles arrived loaded with supplies.  Most stayed on to help distribute donations

** Over 200 chainsaws, 100 generators and 2,000 gallons of bleach have been distributed

** Over 100 people were walked through the FEMA application process

** Doctors, Physician's Assistants, Nurse Practitioners, Psychologists, Registered Nurses, LPNs, Paramedics, Emergency Medical Technicians, and Social Workers have volunteered from across the country and joined forces to create several mobile medical units providing prescription medication, first aid supplies, diabetic testing equipment, insulin and tetanus shots for those digging through the rubble of their homes

** 14 people were reunited with their families

But beyond all these statistics are the personal testimonies of what my staff has witnessed. Electricity was provided to a family whose young son suffers from Cystic Fibrosis, allowing him to continue his treatment until electricity in his neighbourhood was restored. A 60 year old woman on a respirator was found, still in her home despite a gaping hole in the roof. We patched the roof and gave her food and water. Supplies were delivered to the Houma Indians, who had received no help (not even a visit) from the Red Cross or FEMA.  A roof was put on their Cultural Center in Golden Meadows and a generator was provided to keep a years supply of seafood from spoiling in the sun. A man in Lefitte was found sitting on his porch, the house surrounded by four feet of water. A canoe-load of supplies was paddled to his doorstep by two of our volunteers. New Orleans evacuees joined our efforts. They served as our guides, leading us through now decimated communities and taking us to the areas of greatest need.

You can read more of these in the diaries on my website.

The harsh truth that I must report to you is that the federal government and Red Cross relief efforts are still a disorganized, embarrassing mess with little or no help reaching most people -- this more than a month after Katrina. It is the freelance guerilla efforts like ours that are getting through. We aren't waiting for approval and we aren't stopping. We will make sure Bush and Co. pay for their failure later, but right now hundreds of thousands are homeless, hungry and in need of medical attention. And the rest of us have a responsibility to help them.

We have joined forces with Saving Our Selves Katrina (S.O.S.), an organization that began as a temporary coalition of pre-existing community organizations. They are doing amazing work with volunteers and believe that concrete aid from community church-based organizations must fill the gaps when the government fails us. They have become, with your help, a bright light offering immediate relief to the families who have lost everything.  Find out what SOS and other similar relief groups need, right now, from you.

Thanks again, everyone, for lending a hand. We won't give up and we know you won't either.

Yours,

Michael Moore
MMFlint@aol.com
www.michaelmoore.com

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3 OCTOBER 2005

10 BOB'S 1O GOOD REASONS FOR BEING IN POLITICS

The 'Not the 10 commandments' from Bob Brown provides 10 good reasons for being in politics: Green politics of course.

This afternoon, Senator Bob Brown gave a Greens' rejoinder to Mark Latham's lecture at the University of Melbourne. Mr Latham told students to stay away from politics. Bob Brown says "Go for it!"

10 Good reasons why young people should enter politics

A quarter of a century ago, in our blackest days when the bulldozers were in the Franklin River valley, I wrote "10 good reasons why the Franklin River should be saved".

Now the river is safe, a beautiful region of the world and its wildlife remains alive and the economic and employment bonuses for the West Coast of Tasmania keep rolling in. It is a good feeling.

If I could go back I might add an eleventh point: never give in to despair. Now, here's 10 good reasons why we should all get into politics:

1. Democracy is the golden glue of humankind's future on the planet. Democracy with its very simple idea of distributing power - that we are all equal - is not just a good recipe for local elections; it is the key ingredient to peace on Earth. Go out and defend it, be an active part of it, take your share of it.

2. True democracy means 'one person, one vote, one value'. While 'one person, one vote' is written into our Constitution, the 'one value' part is not. We have to fight for each person's vote to be of equal value. No one is barred from the arena of that fight, so join in - even if it puts demands on your own constitution.

3. The alternatives to democracy are plutocracy, autocracy or theocracy - that is rule by the rich, by a dictator or by those who mistakenly believe they are acting on behalf of god (they are always mistaken). Of these, the first is the most subtle and insidious and most liable to strangle democracy on a global scale. Power is inversely proportional to poverty. Money is power. So for example, there is good reason why corporations should not have the peasants' recourse to libel laws. The problem already is the unfair power of the rich to buy advertising space, have dinner with the Prime Minister, and to lobby Cabinet. All those are features of a plutocracy.

4. There are two options here: go into a life which above all values shares; that is, join the plutocracy. Or join the Greens where we, above all, share values such as true democracy, human compassion and a defence of the Earth's ecosystems which sustain all life.

5. Get out of the consumerist rut and into politics. The bonus is real personal fulfillment. Next time you see an ad telling you that this or that produce will make you a more desirable person, revolt. Spend the money on membership of a community campaign organization or join the Greens instead. Real happiness comes from sharing your wealth, in particular, your skills, your compassion and your care for the future of people on our planet. Besides, consumerism will short sheet you. It is 'me now'. But thinking about 'them later' is much more rewarding.

6. The Greens differ from the old parties in having a long term vision. Here is our fundamental, simple, yet revolutionary question to all political decisions: "will people 100 years from now thank us for this?". If the answer is 'no' or 'not sure', don't do it. This brings in what I call the smile factor. Imagine people just like ourselves looking back in 2105 at all of us now, and what we're doing to this planet Earth. It's a pretty bleak and aggravating scene. But let that bleak mob see the rise of a political movement which insists on the 100 years rule - on treating them as ourselves - and you will see a smile come onto their faces. When we can see our grandchildren smiling back, we can smile forwards. It's a great feeling.

7. If you think the whole 'rotten, infested' lump of politics can't be changed, read a little history. I suggest you catch up on the victory of the suffragettes, the abolition of slavery, or the crumbling of the Berlin Wall. None of those breakthroughs came from giving up or copping out of politics. All of them involved committed people, just like us, getting involved in and transforming the hopelessly unfair, rotten, stinking politics of their day.

8. Avoid extremism, whether it be of the sort that entertains violence, hates human diversity or more subtly, arrests and deports people who advocate peace.

9. On the other hand, don't be bound by rules which cut across basic human and Earthly rights such as clean air, and water, uncontaminated foods and respect for the planet's future.

10. Have fun. Don't panic. Assume there is time to save the world. For as America's great social revolutionary of a century ago, Emma Goldman, said, "I don't want your revolution if I can't dance."

Oh and here's one area in which I agree with Mark Latham:

11. Don't join the old parties. Their ways are irremediable. Especially, don't listen to Grandma Labor when she says "why my little red dearie, come and change me from inside." Join the Greens instead. We are the fresh breeze through the dank air of the world of politics - where just a fraction of Tony Blair, George W Bush and John Howard's spending on Iraq this year could give every suffering child on the planet good food, clean water and a local primary school with a computer.

Bob Brown, Melbourne University 3 October 2005

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1 OCTOBER 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 October 1 to December 31 2005. The previous edition of current news and views are available by clicking here: Rosa's and Dave's News and Views: Jul-Oct 2005: David.

 
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Cool Green Tip Of The Week -

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

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