Category Archives: Australia

Western Reaction to China Shows the Bad Old Days Haven’t Passed

US cartoon from 1899: Uncle Sam (US) demands Open Door access to trade with China while European powers plan to cut up China for themselves. Color lithograph by J.S. Pughe. This image is available from the United States Library of Congress‘s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3b00548.

One of the most tiresome clichés uttered by the western nations, including Australia, is their alleged commitment to the “rules based international order”. By this they generally mean a set of rules of supposed international authority, to which all developed nations are expected to adhere.

Those who allegedly failed to do so are labelled as rogue states, or deviant states, and in some way a threat to good government and a peaceful world. The myth has always had trouble confronting the reality. Australia has been one of the most assiduous articulators of the myth. As recently as this week it was accusing China of breaching the said rules by China asserting its authority over Hong Kong.

When one reads the mainstream media of all the events in Hong Kong what is immediately striking is that Hong Kong’s history seems to go back no further than the 1990s when the United Kingdom and China signed an agreement whereby the United Kingdom would release its rule of Hong Kong.

Conveniently overlooked in these accounts is the slightest hint of real history. Hong Kong had been part of China for more than 2000 years until the 1860s. We will leave to one side what sort of history the United Kingdom could boast of that goes back two thousand years.

The United Kingdom acquired Hong Kong by conquest during the first of the two opium wars, another feature of British colonial history that the mainstream media glides over as though it did not exist. The British invaded Afghanistan three times during the 19th century. They were not bringing the dubious benefits of British civilisation to the Afghanis. They wanted to control the opium production source, then as now, producing the bulk of the world’s heroin production.

China unsurprisingly did not appreciate Hong Kong being used as the entry point for Afghan heroin under British control. They fought back, but lost. Hence the ceding of Hong Kong to British rule. The heroin was therefore able to be imported freely by the British to the extent that by 1900 one in seven adult Chinese males was a heroin addict.

The 1949 revolution changed the government of China but it was several decades before they began to assert their wish that Hong Kong be returned to the mainland. By 1998, when the handover agreement was finally signed, China was still not strong enough to refuse to accept what was a manifestly unequal bargain.

There is no other historical precedent that I am aware of that land colonised by an imperial power and eventually returned to its rightful owner is done so conditionally.

The Chinese are now accused by the British, the Americans, and the Australian governments of not complying with the terms of the handover. That allegation is made by people who have never bothered to read the terms of the agreement.

Even more critically, those same governments are alleging that the people of Hong Kong are being deprived of their “democratic rights” to self-government. This was an argument that was never heard during the entire century plus of British rule.

Among the various benefits that the Hong Kong people have enjoyed since liberation from British rule is that they now have the right to vote. That the people of Hong Kong had no democratic means of determining how and by whom they were governed during British rule, not even having the right to vote, is another inconvenient fact glided over by the present erstwhile defenders of so-called Hong Kong democracy.

It is a fundamental principle of international law that countries are entitled to govern their own affairs. It is also a fundamental principle that the British, and particularly the Americans since 1945, have simply ignored the principle when it suited them.

Where was the West’s “respect for international law” when the United States and its allies (including Australia) sanctioned, bombed, invaded, occupied and otherwise destroyed to a greater or lesser extent at least 70 countries over the past 70 years? The death toll from those illegal activities has been variously estimated at between 50 and 70 million people.

Current illustrations of that point, all of them involving the willing compliance and assistance of Australia, include Afghanistan (invaded 2001 and still there); Iraq, invaded 2003 and still there despite the clearly expressed view of the Iraqi parliament that all uninvited foreign troops should leave; and Syria, invaded in 2015 after years of supporting terrorist proxies in that country by their invaders. The United States currently occupies Syria’s oil region, stealing its oil and keeping the proceeds of sale. Not a word of descent from its Australian ally who clearly has a flexible definition of what the “rules based international order” actually means.

In the case of China, Australian adherence to the United States line goes far beyond the current situation in Hong Kong. Australia was being the loyal United States proxy when it alleged that China was the source of the coronavirus currently causing economic havoc around the world.

On instructions from Washington, Australia proposed a motion for international consideration that the origins of the virus should be investigated in China. Had the proposal being neutrally worded, for example suggesting an investigator of all countries that might have been the source, the proposal might not have been ignored as it was.

All countries obviously include the United States, where a growing body of evidence suggests it is the real source of the pandemic. That, however, would not suit the current suicidal Australian campaign to attack China on various fronts on behalf of its American masters.

Why Australia would want to attack such a vitally important nation, whose importance to the Australian economy extends far beyond being a market for Australian goods, defies rational explanation. The Chinese, unsurprisingly, and in my view completely justifiably, have begun to take measures in response, the result of which will be extraordinary pain to the Australian economy.

The current pandemic should be seen as an opportunity for Australia to discard its colonial status and actually take decisions that enhance rather than hinder Australia’s vital interests. The history of the past 70 years however, suggests that is a vain hope.

The Black Animal

Recently, during a meaningful conversation about the effects of racism and colonization with a friend he mentioned that he did not understand why people of colour seemed to want to be categorized as victims. To support this argument he cited the great misdeeds and evil that was visited upon his ancestral Scottish people. Indeed, the Scots were abused by the Empire. “However,” my friend continued, “they continued fighting and never fell into becoming the victims of the horrors that were visited on them.” He continued to expound on this and although every fibre of my being was screaming that he was wrong, a part of my brain was also thinking about the rationality of this argument. What he said “sounded reasonable”.

My feelings about the stress that people of colour face is reflected deeply in my poetry and my writing. However, I have never allowed victimhood to be a part of my narrative. I envision that victimhood comes from a place of weakness and when I look at the majority of people of colour in my country and the small Canadian town I live in, I do not see weakness. So why did this reasonable-sounding argument, feel so fundamentally wrong? Instinctively I knew that this position was not tenable, but the argument was reasonable.

In my upcoming book, A Sliver of a Chance, I wrote a poem called “Animal”. It was inspired by a picture of an Australian Aboriginal man, dressed in Western clothes and chained to a tree. You can see the discomfort he is in largely written on his face. The poem “Animal”, is not from this poor wretch’s point of view. It is from the person who had him caught and bound to the tree. That was the answer to my question. Bound up within that person was a belief, so insidious and profound that, upon realising it, I was visibly shaken to my core.

I decided to put my theory to the test and went back to read accounts of the horrors visited by the British upon the Scots. There is no denial, they were brutalized. All manner of horrendous atrocities were visited upon them. They were disenfranchised, suppressed and repressed. They were forced from their homes by landowners, to make way for sheep. The potato famine that blighted the Highlands in the 1840s brought yet another wave of clearances and emigration and disenfranchisement. Yet, try as I might, I found one thing missing. One crucial, yet fundamental aspect of their suffering. There is no denying that there was cruelty, but it was visited by one man upon another; and, in fact, a Scot eventually became King of England.

Now, armed with this knowledge, let us turn our attention to people of colour. I have no doubt, dear reader, that you have already discerned the direction of my argument. But, bear with me a while as there is one more point left to make. Before we delve into the reason why the experience of the Scots under the British thumb differs vastly from that of people of colour we must understand religion. Specifically, Christianity. Or at least a specific version of Christianity.

I have often wondered how people who claimed to follow Christ could reconcile the violence visited on other people. Simplistically put, religion did play a role where one side felt the other subscribed to a bastardized version of the ‘real religion’ and therefore were not rightfully under the protection and mercy of the crown that believed in the ‘real religion’. However, what about our poor Aboriginal man tied to a tree? Or the slave dragged from his homeland, bought and sold, whipped and slaughtered for a period of over 200 years? Or the East Indians, whose country was raped and pillaged of all its riches while it’s people were pressed under the British boot? Didn’t the Bible say that it was necessary to bring the word to every human being? Well, yes it did!

To every Human being!

The definition and categorization of these two words would become the line drawn between the rulers and the ruled. These words would be used to justify untold cruelty across the globe in the name of religion. They would be used to defend and rationalize unspeakable horrors upon people of colour, Aboriginals and Indigenous peoples across the globe. It’s easier to defend compelling an animal do the hard work after all precedent was set with horses, camels, cattle and other beasts of burden. These sub-humans from the African plains, on the Indian continent and in the Americas were exactly that. They looked human, and could even be trained to act somewhat human, but, in reality, they were not. This meant that using them for slave labour was an act of mercy; a Christian thing to do. Of course, it was understood that Biblical promises were not meant for them, but this was a moral and ethical argument, not an economical one.

Therein lies the difference. The British thought of the Scots as mortal enemies. They hated them and brutalized them but there is no indication that they ever thought of them as less than human. On the contrary, a Scot would eventually sit on the British throne.

Finally, I felt that while the argument my friend made sounded reasonable, it was not. However, there is one final consideration. Many of the systems in North America, like policing, healthcare, justice, business and banking were created on the specific needs and requirements of one particular type of people. While over the ensuing years, people of colour can now interact with these systems, some of the intrinsic prejudices that represent the founders and the foundation of these systems still exist. These historical biases, preconceptions and bigotry are oftentimes so subtle as to be easily missed. For example, the racial bias in pain assessment and treatment recommendations, and false beliefs about biological differences between blacks and whites still haunts the halls of medicine.

What we all need to understand is that people of colour are not downplaying the historical violence that may have been visited upon other races. What they are saying is that while that is now in your past, they are still struggling against those prejudices today. Negative assumptions are still being made and acted upon because of their colour. This is a distinction worth making and it is a wrong that must be made right.

BrianSankarsingh is an accidental poet who, for many years, was standoffishly embroiled in social and political commentary; and who has now decided to maddeningly scream his message from whatever rooftop he can find. You can reach him at: moc.sregornull@rohtua.

Treacherous Accommodations: Australian Universities, Coronavirus and the NTEU

They have been struggling to keep their membership numbers healthy, but the latest antics of the executive that make up Australia’s National Tertiary Education Union suggest why.  For a good period of time, Australian unions have been losing teeth, and not all of it can be put down to the measures of the federal government to pull them.  In the university sector, where unionism should be intellectually vibrant and committed, the issue is one of corporatist accommodation.  Do not rock the boat of management; give executives vast, byzantine powers of disciplining staff; do little to criticise the obscene remuneration packages of the Vice Chancellors and their tribunes.

With the NTEU being, in many instances, retainers for university executives, rather than defenders of the academic work force, the email circulated to members on April 8 by the general secretary Matthew McGowan could hardly have come as a shock.  These are trying times in response to coronavirus, and Universities Australia chairperson Deborah Terry has promised the loss of 21,000 jobs over the next six months in the tertiary sector.

Having revealed that the NTEU had “approached a number of Vice Chancellors, Universities Australia, and the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association to press the need for an urgent national dialogue”, McGowan outlined the grim agenda.  “To protect jobs, we may need to consider measures that we would never normally consider.  These may include deferral of pay rises, providing the ability to direct taking of leave, or other cost saving measures.”

The letter is replete with the weasel words that have come to characterise NTEU-University “dialogues”.  Any harsh measures taken are to be “temporary and proportional to the loss at each university”.  There needed to be “transparency and oversight”.  (Australian universities do a good line in unaccountability and opaque governance, making such suggestions mildly amusing, if not downright ridiculous.)

Having outlined a position of forfeiture and compromise, the sell-out narrative is given the usual garnish: the federal government should throw money at the sector with drunken relish; a “national discussion” (tea anybody?) needed to be had about future international student enrolments.  And to convince the membership that the NTEU executive was being somehow compassionate, McGowan was careful to underline the objectives of the negotiations.  “Our primary aim is to protect jobs and to ensure that job cuts are the last resort. Of course, we believe that universities must divert funds from capital works and other non-staff related expenditure, as well as to take cuts to senior management salaries before staff are asked to bear the burden.”

No “of course” about it.  The NTEU national executive is giving the most generous of signals to university management to make swingeing cuts as long as they, angelic types as they are, make a few concessions of their own.  Its method is a tested and failed one: cooperation (“you can get everything you want through cooperation”, says ACTU secretary Sally McManus), or, more accurately, collaboration.

The ultimate purpose of this arrangement is to create a framework of salvation, with more profitable universities supposedly buffering weaker, less profitable ones.  NTEU National President Alison Barnes, with characteristic lack of conviction, speaks of this framework as “a temporary measure to provide staff and the union with a higher degree of certainty and security than would otherwise occur in an industrial free-for-all.”

The way this will be executed will be through that vehicle that has become a symbol of some mockery: the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement.  While the NTEU tends to congratulate itself about the “better pay, better conditions” line, the pathetically modest improvements, such EBAs are policing tools, controlling staff with such Orwellian notions as the code of conduct and the odd bribe.

Voting on the new EBAs is bound to take place at speed and with little information handy for NTEU members.  The cheeky changes made by the federal government to the Fair Work Act on the time needed to consult over changes to pay and conditions – from one week to a mere 24 hours – is a sign of what is to come.

The NTEU branches have not been impressed, but they can hardly be surprised by the temptations of such feeble treachery.  There has been little in the way of demanding heads on platters and flesh for the gallows.  The preference for the membership is for indignant voting, be they ones of censure or rude notes of awakening.  At the University of Sydney, a vote of 117 to 2 was taken to censure the NTEU national executive for “commencing negotiations on significant concessions”.

As for the universities themselves, the cuts have begun in earnest.  “Non-essential” research and professional staff casuals have been given their marching orders at La Trobe University and RMIT. What is regarded as non-essential would not, you would think, include library and staff in the information technology sections, but then again, a library without librarians is the sort of thing that would make sense to the university politburo.  Instead, we have distinctly non-essential publicists and human resources personnel spreading the cheer, with RMIT having come up with that least essential of positions, a Chief People Officer, to facilitate matters.  The line between ghoulish humour and agitprop has been well and truly crossed.

An awful truth has been let out by the recent antics of the NTEU national executive: members were actually paying fees for their betrayal in the university boardroom.  They would not be consulted; the executive would decide what’s best. But instead of rectifying the situation, the NTEU is seeking a membership drive.  Join the union, and get 3 months free membership!  What a lark!

Drilling for Oil:  A Global Problem on Our Doorstep

These days, local is global.  Dorset is a small rural county on England’s south coast.  That doesn’t mean that its inhabitants aren’t worried about climate change.  They are.  Very.  Unfortunately, Dorset Councillors are more concerned about following government policies, policies that back using public money to invest in climate-damaging projects.  ‘Global’ doesn’t do ‘local’.  Global makes money for corporations and their investors, not the people who have to live with the result.

Sometimes it takes a threat to our own neighbourhood, our own county or country, before we wake up to what is happening across the world.  It will take food shortages before we accept that industrial farming is gradually killing the soil that all life, bar marine life, depends on.  It will take repeated storms and flooding to get the message that weather patterns really are changing; that places are becoming too wet, too dry, too hot – but not too cold.  It will take the flooding of coastal cities before everyone acknowledges that the Arctic, Antarctic, the permafrost and glaciers have melted and the sea-level risen because humans have heated up the earth.

By then it will be too late.  The damage will have been done.  To be honest, we won’t experience the effects of the carbon emissions we are, right now, pumping up into the atmosphere for another 20 years.  Climate change is happening now and it will be bad.  We can’t go backwards.  All we can do is to make it not as bad as it could be (i.e. killing most of the life we know).  The floods, the melting of the ice, the wildfires – that all comes from what we did some years ago.

The conversation has gone on for far too long.  In 1972 the Stockholm Declaration first laid the foundations of contemporary environmental policy.  The first World Climate Conference was held in 1979.  Thirteen years later, the 1992 Earth Summit (dealing with the environment and sustainable development) was held in Rio de Janeiro.  Since then there has been a constant succession of conferences on development, climate and the environment, including the yearly Conferences of Parties (COP), the UN conferences on climate change.  The first COP conference was held in 1995.   1997 gave us the Kyoto Protocol, but it was another eight years before it came into force.

In 2015 Paris hosted COP21, ending with an agreement that the UK ratified in 2016.  In April 2018 it was announced that the UK would be the first major economy to examine how it would meet its commitments and review its long-term target to cut carbon emissions.

Later this year, Glasgow will host COP26.  Note the number: 26.  That’s how many times the ‘world’ (aka politicians and business leaders as well as environmentalists) have met to discuss the problem, and we are still nowhere near seriously addressing climate change.  The ideas are there. The proposals are there.  The ‘in-place-by’ dates are there.  Real actions are not so visible.

On May 1st 2019 the UK Parliament declared a climate change emergency.  Big deal?  No.  It simply demonstrated the will of the Commons on the issue, but it does not legally compel the government to act.  Environment Secretary Michael Gove acknowledged there was a climate “emergency” but did not back Labour’s demands to declare one.  In other words, we’ll make the right sounds but not implement the very necessary actions.

What about all the local authorities?  It seems they take things more seriously – or perhaps they are closer to the people.  According to a list dating from early February, 67 percent of District, County, Unitary and Metropolitan Councils have declared a Climate Emergency, plus 8 Combined Authorities/City Regions.  Many of those authorities have committed to target dates for net-zero emissions, ranging from 2030 to 2050.  This only applies to the authorities’ emissions, not the general public’s, but it does encourage us to follow their lead.

Among the declarations is Dorset Unitary Council.  However – and there is always an ‘however’, no target date for actions or results is given.  Seeing that the motion was backed by 69 councillors, with only two against and six abstentions, you would think they’d give a target date.  Again, right noises but little action.

Surely, politicians and global business should be taking note of what is already happening to the climate – while the UK was hit by weeks of storms and floods, Australia burned.  Yet Australia’s Prime Minister refused to accept those horrendous wildfires had anything to do with climate change.  For too many people, their lives were destroyed.  For the ‘climate deniers’ it is business as usual.  In the UK it means building more houses on flood plains and installing more of the same flood defences, despite the fact that they’re really not working any more.  And in case you didn’t know, in 2010 the Labour government’s plan for flood defences got cancelled by David Cameron’s austerity policy.  In Australia business as usual means carry on mining and exporting coal.

The Paris Agreement aimed at keeping the global warming to 1.5 degrees.  We can no longer achieve that.  Even keeping the warming to 2 degrees would require us to pretty well stop everything now.  The global refusal to actually act is putting us on course for 3-4 degrees warming; with sea levels rising and extreme weather events getting worse, we face chaos and disaster.  So – the target dates themselves are questionable.  For one thing, aiming to be ‘net-zero emissions’ by 2050 makes us think ‘we’ve got 30 years, no need to hurry.’  At least the EU is calling for a target date of 2030.

There’s every need to hurry.  Report after report is coming out from worried, despairing scientists, observing and recording how much more rapidly climate change is happening.  Everything is speeding up.  The latest news is that polar icecaps are melting 6 times faster than in the 1990s.  What climate action might have been expected to happen by 2040 could now happen by 2030 or 2025.   New models on climate sensitivity are showing big increases in global temperature.

Here and there authorities and courts are taking the right decisions, based on the rule that every decision, every development, must now take climate change into account.  Bristol Airport’s expansion plans were refused on ‘environmental grounds’ by local councillors.  A third runway for London Heathrow was ruled as illegal by the court of appeal, because ‘ministers did not adequately take into account the government’s commitments to tackle the climate crisis’.

Which puts Dorset Council in an awkward position.

They are being asked to approve a planning application  by South Western Energy Ltd. (SWEL) to ‘allow for the drilling of a single vertical well for the appraisal and production of oil, together with the establishment and construction of the site compound’  in the village of Puddletown.  If enough oil is found, they could be extracting it for the next 20-25 years.  That’s hardly going to help the UK’s ‘net zero emissions’ target of 2050.

With the climate emergency now being one of the main concerns of the public, it goes without saying that first in the queue of objectors were the parish council and residents of Puddletown.  It’s bad enough worrying about global climate change, but when one of the causes turns up on your doorstep that’s another matter entirely.  (It’s worth noting that fracking at various English sites, though given permission by the government, has so far failed to actually produce any gas, largely due to determined residents and their supporters getting in the way, plus some good science.)

SWEL’s justification is:

Oil is critical to transport requirements and will likely remain so in the near term as cars may be adapted to electrification and alternative fuels but aircraft, shipping, military vehicles and large goods vehicles are currently, due to their engine capacities, less adaptable to conversion.

Wrong.  Many manufacturers are already following that path.  DAF and Tesla are selling them, and as the Irish Baku transport team says:

The most exciting thing about the arrival of electric HGVs has to be the environmental benefit. Any truck that can produce zero carbon emissions over the course of its lifetime is a world-changing investment worth making.

It doesn’t mean electric HGVs will be here tomorrow, but they will be here and probably quicker than SWE would like to think.  As new cars are scheduled to be ‘all-electric’ by 2030 (and depending on climate events, that date might be sooner), then this well could prove to be ‘surplus to requirements’.

At a Council meeting on February 18th Kira Robinson, a member of XR, put a question to the councillors.  ‘This proposal,’ she said, ‘is obviously inconsistent with the Council’s efforts to move towards a more sustainable future for Dorset…. The Government’s own wildlife adviser, Natural England, Dorset Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency have all criticised the application’s flawed ecological assessments, especially regarding the threat of pollution to potable water supplies.

Apparently the drilling could go through one of the local aquifers, prompting people’s real concerns about potable water pollution.  SWEL promises to return the proposed site (currently part of an arable field) to its former state after drilling is finished – in two weeks, no less.  How will they repair the compacted soil that will have been contaminated and made inert by the surfacing materials?

Kira Robinson pointed out in her question to the Council that the Dorset Council’s draft 4-year plan had said “It is clear that the climate and ecological emergency must inform the council’s decisions and actions for the foreseeable future“.  Well, that didn’t last long.  The approved 4-year plan has watered that down to something meaningless.

In reply to her plea for the Council to show leadership in saying no to this proposal, the response from Cllr David Walsh leant heavily on ‘government policy’ on minerals and energy that, of course, the Council has to follow.  Not to do so would cost them money.  He said that ‘Dorset hosts nationally important energy minerals which society is still dependent upon until such times as human energy needs can be entirely decarbonised.’  The thing is, you encourage businesses to invest in renewables by not supporting new fossil fuel projects.  You can’t carry on as usual until energy is entirely decarbonised.  It doesn’t work that way.  But, claims Councillor Walsh:

Dorset Council is not in a position to refuse planning permission for oil and gas development on climate grounds. Furthermore, it is unlikely that Dorset Council would be able to change its local policies to resist hydrocarbon development on climate change grounds unless and until there is a change in national policy.

Poor powerless Council.  Not brave enough to do what the earth needs, not as brave as many authorities that are aiming to be net-zero by 2030, and certainly not as brave as Cheshire East Unitary authority that has a target date of 2025.

That all sounds terribly reasonable until one considers the facts that David (‘greenest government ever’ to ‘get rid of all the green crap’) Cameron’s government:

  • Cut down the feed-in tariffs for small solar panel installations in 2015, a real blow to people who wanted to go green but couldn’t afford the total cost.  Under Theresa May, tariffs were scrapped altogether in April 2019.
  • Also in 2015, the government introduced strict regulations which effectively banned onshore wind farms in England.  This year Boris Johnson has given the go-ahead for wind farms because the lower prices of wind farm energy makes it significantly cheaper than other forms of low-carbon electricity.  However, Scotland’s wind farms are way ahead, and are on track to supply 100 per cent of its needed electricity in 2020.

And, regardless of climate change, the Conservatives love fossil fuel (and, through their lobbyists, fossil fuel companies have a huge influence on their politics and policies) they:

  • Have consistently backed fracking and although that is confined to England and on hold, they would be quite happy to allow it in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty such as West Dorset.
  • Continue to subsidise fossil fuel companies at a bigger level than renewable energy, and spend more on fossil fuel than the rest of the EU.  Germany, for instance, provided the biggest energy subsidies, with €27bn for renewable energy, almost three times the €9.5bn given to fossil fuels.  And the UK’s nuclear energy has historically got more funding than renewables.
  • Give tax breaks to major oil companies.  According to DeSmog: ‘Since 2015, the Treasury has given the industry tax breaks worth £2.3 billion’.  DeSmog also reports that UK ‘is the worst of G7 countries for ‘hiding’ fossil fuel subsidies.
  • In 2018 a Platform report showed that, via the government’s Prosperity Fund, money earmarked to support overseas development had been spent on supporting China’s fracking industry, to the tune of £2 million.
  • The Prosperity Fund also financed oil and gas projects in India, Brazil and Mexico.  Twelve of the 16 fossil fuel projects funded by the Prosperity Fund reference the creation of “opportunities for international, including UK businesses”, or an “improved business environment” as an expected outcome.

And as Mike Small, editor of Bella Caledonia, wrote: In this week’s much celebrated budget we were told to expect a “Budget that put climate and environment first” but we got a fuel duty freeze and £27 billion more spent on roads”.  Roads mean vehicles, means petrol, means oil. 

Clearly, oil is there to be invested in, made money from by a chosen few.  The corporate world is not environment-friendly, nor apparently worried about the effects of climate change.  The environment-friendly Triodos Bank’s 2018 annual report. said that: ‘The world’s top banks have poured US$1.9 trillion into fossil fuels since the adoption of the Paris Agreement.’

And surely, if government bodies Natural England and the Environment Agency are strongly critical of the Puddletown proposal, one could and should claim they are also part of ‘government policy’.  They should be listened to.

Damien Carrington, writing in the Guardian, said that:

There is no deadline to save the world.  Everything we do now has to pass the climate test… Taken together, the justice and economic arguments make it imperative that every decision taken every day by governments, businesses and communities must pass the climate test: will it cut emissions? From power plants to buildings, transport to farming, projects commissioned today will be running well beyond 2030. (My emphasis)

But, while West Dorset people fight against the Puddletown oil well, others in Longburton in the northern part of West Dorset are fighting against a plan for a solar park. Puddletown wants to fight climate change, and protect its ecology and water.  Dorset is a good place for solar energy as it is, despite the endless rain over the winter, rated as the sunniest county in England, but Longburton doesn’t want its pretty rural views spoilt.  Climate change doesn’t come into it.  Hence Dorset Council’s dilemma.  If they back the solar park project and reject the oil well, they are recognising the climate emergency.  If they back the Puddletown oil well and reject the solar park, they are saying the climate emergency is unimportant.

And if they back both projects and reject both projects, the Council is suffering from a bad schizophrenic episode based solely on party ideology.

Resisting Interpretation: The Perpetrator and Domestic Violence in Australia

A parliament of tears, or at the very least, a chamber of parliamentarians keen to shed tears.  It all seemed that a feeling of genuine empathy was streaming forth in Australia’s national capital in February.  A mother, Hannah Clarke, and her three children (reciting their names is now political ritual: Aaliyah, Laianah, Trey), had been killed by a former partner and their father.  The ingredients of cruelty, and their cataclysmic denouement, were there: incessant harassment, stalking, nursed thoughts of pre-meditative violence.  Then came the car, the incineration of Clarke and the children, and the perpetrator taking his own life.

How such stages of ceremony preserve their solemnity, and sincerity, is a difficult thing.  Do you ham it up, remain stoic or seek that slim middle ground of balanced sorrow?  Australia has a domestic violence problem on both the levels of reality (it is colossal) and the way solutions are put forth (often inadequate).  Then there is the hypocrisy that comes with political appropriation.  To elevate an act of incessant barbarity to a representative podium can serve to singularise it.  For the Australian context, domestic violence is neither singular nor infrequent.  It patches the landscape of interactions between the country’s citizens.

The deaths have prompted the squirrelling types of the academy to ponder how perpetrators are portrayed.  Those wishing to see things in terms of gender frames take issue with a media that, in Denise Buiten’s words, fails  “to provide domestic violence resources such as 1800Respect in their reporting of these cases.”  The Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, for instance, tweeted on the Clarke killings but finished it with a Lifeline support number.  Even in a message with 280 characters, he was scolded for not providing a list of sources on domestic violence.

Buiten falls into that classic analytical trap: the either-or school of reference, the temptations of a convenient demonology.  Presumption dictates all: the father behind the killings could not have been mentally ill, she implies, but was “gendered” in his approach, a natural born woman hater caged by convention.  The point that he might have been mentally unstable and misogynistically muddled is simply a step too far, the very sort of holistic appraisal that is championed yet rarely applied.  Domestic violence, like the Holocaust, is an absolute that resists understanding.  Wide-ranging efforts to do so will be condemned, if not quashed altogether.

The prime minister is not exempt from this categorising tendency either.  Being obsessed by a country near infallible, an Australia beyond comparison to other countries, he asked parliamentarians how “such evil” happened “on our land”.   The actions of the estranged husband Rowan Baxter were those “of a depraved and evil man”.

Thinking of the perpetrator in terms other than pre-allocated categories dominates the reaction to such horrendous violence.  Leader of the Opposition, Labor’s Anthony Albanese, for instance, inadvertently made the case against interpretation by suggesting that the murderous conduct of Baxter was “quite frankly … just beyond comprehension.”  The nagging sense behind such comments is that explanation constitutes excuse, not reasoning.  Best not make an effort to understand; the darkness excludes.

Sharon Claydon, Labor member for Newcastle, was adamant in her tribute that the slayer was “a cowardly criminal, and anyone who says otherwise is part of the problem.”  An aspect of this came through with the fury against the loose-tongued Bettina Arndt, long known as the female face of male rights Down Under.  Arndt’s colossal faux pas was to suggest that the Queensland police were “keeping an open mind and awaiting proper evidence, including the possibility that Rowan Baxter might have been driven too far”.  For Claydon, her Order of Australia needed to be removed.

The Arndt intervention gave politicians a chance to rage about the granting of honours rather than an explication about the causes of domestic violence.  Labor Senators Penny Wong and Kristina Keneally moved a motion that Arndt’s comments were “reckless and abhorrent” and inconsistent “with her retaining her Order of Australia.”  A luminous alibi for a social ill had been found.

The approaches to such instances of violence become heavy with information kits, attachments for support, ideas that behaviour can be ringed, medicated and domesticated.  The purse is open for more programs on inducing behavioural change.  Social Services Minister Anne Ruston made an announcement in the immediate aftermath of the Clarke deaths that $2.4 million would be made available for four programs.  But even in the tributes, there was a feeling among politicians that money, and community awareness programs, are blunt, poorly evaluated instruments.  Tim Watts, Federal Labor member for Gellibrand, recalled the murder, in plain view of a main street in his electorate, of constituent Fiona Warzywoda.  “Sometimes it feels like we have made very little progress since then.”

An overview of such “behaviour change programs”, specifically directed at men, is delved into by Rebecca Stewart and Breanna Wright.  The authors note that a “minimum standards manual, developed by NTV [the No to Violence initiative], has been highly influential nationally.”  While the object here “is to shift attitudes and beliefs that are well-established drivers of men’s violence against women, so as to change their behaviour”, the material on whether they actually do so is “scarce”.

Some political representatives are keen to use the law, whatever its limitations, to influence the family structure.  Parliamentarian Graham Perrett of Moreton suggested to his fellow lawmakers that the “presumption of equal shared parental responsibility” outlined in the Commonwealth Family Law Act be removed.  Call it, he suggested, “Hannah Clarke’s amendment.”  Its existence “incentivises violent men to litigate and is dangerous to women and children escaping domestic violence.”  The law, as ever, supplies a normative cord that is hard to sever.

Legislation and law makers are limited in terms of altering human conduct, as they should be.  The historical record is heavy with governments and regimes that have insisted on the social engineering imperative, the mechanisms so troublingly depicted by Anthony Burgess in A Clockwork Orange.  Much like humanitarianism and charity, an industry has developed around understanding the insidious presence of violence in the home and behind closed doors between the familiar and the intimate.  The key questions remain stubbornly unanswered, leaving opinion making spoilers and theoretical speculators to earn currency and plaudits.  Moral cant and outrage is often a poor substitute for treatment and healing.

“Leave Our Bloke Alone”: A Little Mission for Julian Assange

I think that now it is time that the government I am a part of needs to be standing up and saying to both the UK and the US: ‘enough is enough, leave our bloke alone and let him come home.’

— George Christensen, Australian conservative MP, Sydney Morning Herald, February 19, 2020

An odd crew and perhaps the sort Julian Assange would have liked.  Australian parliamentarian and government backbencher George Christensen, conservative to the point of parody.  Andrew Wilkie, MP from Tasmania, a man fitfully dedicated to fight poker machines and gambling, formerly of the Office of National Assessments.  Both united by a distinct liking for the cause of Julian Assange and a dislike for his treatment, showing the astonishing cross appeal of the WikiLeaks publisher, a point missed by his detractors and even his own followers.

Visiting Assange in London’s Belmarsh Prison, Wilkie found “a man under great pressure, holding up OK” but showing “glimpses” of a “broken man”.  For his part, Christensen, did not “want to talk too pejoratively about the state that we saw him in but it was the kind of state that you’d expect from a man who’s been absolutely and utterly isolated and who just does not know what is going on.”  Assange had been “depersonalised” and “dehumanised” in confinement.

Their calls chime with those of over 117 doctors and psychologists from 18 nations, whose letter published in the medical journal The Lancet condemned “the torture of Assange”, “the denial of his fundamental right to appropriate health care”, “the climate of fear surrounding the provision of health care to him” and “the violations of his right to doctor-patient confidentiality.”

Both parliamentarians insist, with good reason, on the nagging matter of having a British court deliberate over whether an Australian citizen should be extradited to the United States or not. “There’s a lot of Australians who think Julian Assange is a rat bag,” observed Christensen.  “But he’s our rat bag – he should be brought home.”  Wilkie, on leaving Belmarsh, was “in absolutely no doubt that [Assange] has become a political prisoner in this country and that the US is determined to extradite him to get even.”  Unblemished, Assange could not be accused of hacking or espionage, but merely for “doing the right thing and publishing important information in the public interest”.

Christensen, an avowed fan of British prime minister Boris Johnson, was keen to impress him on Assange’s treatment. “It is highly political what’s going on – it involves values that Boris Johnson as a former journalist holds dear – press freedom.”

The delegation is receiving various mixed messages, some of them heartening.  British Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, soundly beaten at the December elections, is confident he has found a changing mood towards the Australian publisher.  Johnson, he claimed, had given some hope in comments made on the UK-US Extradition Treaty, a document heavily slanted in favour of the United States.  “He accepted that it is an unbalanced treaty and it is not a fair one, therefore I think this is a big change by the British government.”

In of itself, this says little.  Johnson, it is true, did concede to Corbyn in the House of Commons that “there are elements of that relationship that are unbalanced and I certainly think it is worth looking at.”  The point has been admitted as much by various UK politicians over the years.  The report of the Home Affairs Committee from 2012 expressed “serious misgivings about some aspects of the current arrangements” despite favouring an extradition arrangement with the US.  An “imbalance in the wording of the Treaty, which sets a test for extradition from the US but not from the UK, has created the widespread impression of unfairness within the public consciousness and, at a more practical level, gives US citizens the right to a hearing to establish ‘probable cause’ that is denied to UK citizens.”

The treaty is the subject of much conversation of late.  Washington’s curt rejection of an extradition request by the UK of an American citizen accused of causing the death of Harry Dunn, a teenage motorcyclist, has muddied diplomatic waters.  The claim by British police was that Anne Sacoolas, wife of an intelligence officer, was driving on the wrong side of the road.  On returning to the US, she duly shielded herself behind diplomatic immunity.

Sacoolas, through her attorney, claimed that the charges against her carried a disproportionate sentence of 14-years.  She would “not return voluntarily to the United Kingdom to face a potential jail sentence for what was a terrible but unintentional accident.”  The US State Department was irate at the very idea that extradition would be sought in such instances.  “The use of an extradition treaty to attempt to return the spouse of a former diplomat by force,” claimed a spokesman, “would establish an extraordinarily troubling precedent.  We do not believe that the UK’s charging decision is a helpful development.”

A review into the immunity arrangements for US personnel conducted by the Foreign Office subsequently found, in the words of Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, an “anomaly”, namely, that family members had “greater protection from UK criminal jurisdiction than the officers themselves”.

In January, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo scotched the extradition request via an email to the UK government.  To have granted it, he claimed offhandedly, would have rendered “the invocation of diplomatic immunity a practical nullity”.  The decision, according to the Dunn’s family spokesman Radd Seiger, filled Raab with incandescent rage.  That rage, it seemed, had cooled by the time Raab met his US counterpart at an event chaired by the centre-right think tank, Policy Exchange.  “We’re going to work on every aspect of that [regarding the Dunn case] and want to see this get resolved.”

Whether Assange’s case sparks appropriate concern in Downing Street might be another matter.  For one thing, it will provide a test case regarding extraditions for non-British citizens to the United States.  For his part, Johnson is a curious fish, often adjusting his course in infuriatingly erratic, and amoral ways.  While he might well adopt a Bold Britannia line regarding the Australian’s possible extradition, the chances remain slim.  Should the request be granted, it will establish an extraordinarily troubling precedent, to use the US State Department’s own words, a blatant misuse of the treaty for political purposes.

The Priorities of General Motors: Ditching Holden

It seemed to be a case of grand misrepresentation.  Holden cars, those great Australian acquisitions, along with home, lawnmower and nuclear family, gave the impression of indigenous pride, the home brand.  It was also resoundingly masculine.  But behind that image was a mighty American thrust, with General Motors holding the reins on investment as benevolent parent happy to rebadge the car brand when needed.  Poor returns would invariably mean rough corporate decisions untouched by sentiment.

Between 2002 and 2005, things looked rosy.  Sales of 170,000 a year saw the peak of the company’s returns.  But Holden remained a distinctly parochial brand, incapable of moving beyond its Australian and New Zealand markets.

Breathing down the neck of GM’s Holden operations was the realisation that other auto companies were doing their own bit of wooing.  The Australian buyer, over time, developed a taste for other products.  Japanese car culture, with its clever alignments with game culture, seduced and won over buyers.  Vehicles such as the Mazda MX-5 impressed.  Toyota became a mainstay and South Korea’s Hyundai has proven more than competitive.

In 2017, GM ceased its manufacturing operations in Australia, a decision that was already promised by the company at the end of 2013.  Then GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson put it down to those “negative influences the automotive industry faces in the country, including the sustained strength of the Australian dollar, high cost of production, small domestic market and arguably the most competitive and fragmented auto market in the world.”  Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was less inspired before his fellow parliamentarians, and did not “want to pretend to the parliament that this is anything other than a dark day for Australian manufacturing.”

Australia had simply become too dear as a base, and the closure of the Elizabeth vehicle manufacturing plant in Adelaide saw the loss of 1,600 jobs.  Melbourne’s share was 1,300.  What took its place was, in the sexed-up language of GM, “a national sales company, a national parts distribution centre and a global design studio.”

The sweet promise of the transformation remained more aspiration than substance.  The sale run in 2019 proved so poor that it saw the cessation of the Opel-based Holden Commodore and Astra in favour of SUVs.  Such moves spelled doom for the entire Holden enterprise, and on Monday afternoon, February 17, auto-watchers witnessed an announcement by GM and Holden executives that Holden will close at the end of 2020.  Some 600 workers will lose their jobs by June, leaving 200 to provide the relevant customer service for the 1.6 million Holdens that are still on the roads.

A glance at the promotional messages on the GM website should have worried any Holden fan.  On February 16, the company stated in the cold language of the corporate boardroom that it was “taking decisive action to transform its international operations, building on its comprehensive strategy it laid out in 2015 to strengthen its core business, drive significant cost efficiencies and take action in markets that cannot earn an adequate return for its shareholders.”

GM President Mark Reuss was suitably cool in his statement.  “After considering many possible options – and putting aside our personal desires to accommodate the people and the market – we came to the conclusion that we could not prioritise further investment over all other considerations we have in a rapidly changing global industry.”

The federal government was notified a mere 15 minutes prior to the announcement, the sort of brusque treatment one has come to expect from the car manufacturer.  The treatment is even more stinging given that the federal government has, historically, been one of the biggest single customers for Holden cars.  Prime Minister Scott Morrison felt slighted, but despite noting the provision of some $2 billion for Holden over its existence, showed little surprise at behaviour he stopped short of describing as corporate vandalism.  “I am angry, like I think many Australians would be.  They just let the brand wither away on their watch.  Now they are leaving it behind.”

Nowhere in the mournful tributes is the prowess of Holden cars, in all their ranges, mentioned.  Family, sex and racing, yes, but nothing on the everyday competence of the products.  Like relatives past their prime, they are celebrated as figures of mythology rather than the toilers of achievement.  Former Holden worker Cara Bertoli summed up the sentiment of hope over corporate experience.  “There were those rumours going around that yes, the brand name might eventually die off, but I guess it’s one of those things, when you’re loyal to the brand, you hope as much as you can that it doesn’t happen.”

Holden employees, on being interviewed, have shown consternation at GM.  The alien parent, it was stated on ABC News Breakfast, had no idea about what a “home brand” might mean in terms of cars.  Calls to the American offices were ignored; the parent seemed befuddled.  Gary Mortimer, a professor of marketing and consumer behaviour at Queensland University of Technology, saw the Holden as lying at the “core” of a very Australian identity.  “General Motors,” he rued, “took it away.”  Australians may have fallen out of the love with Holden, but that was “because it fell out of love with us.”

Holden cars, repeatedly, tritely called “iconic”, have now lived up to that designation, a museum, or even church brand to be appreciated by collectors and the nostalgic.  Any future manufacture, as the British car-dedicated program Top Gear discovered regarding the Jeep SRT Trackhawk, will be by American enthusiasts.

Three Extraordinary Australian Journalists: Burchett, Pilger, Assange

Australia has produced extraordinary journalists across three generations:  Wilfred Burchett (deceased in 1983), John Pilger (80 years old but still active) and Julian Assange (48 years old, currently in London’s Belmarsh prison).

Each of these journalists made unique contributions to our understanding of the world. Although Australia is part of the western world, each of these journalists exposed and criticized Western foreign policy.

Wilfred Burchett 

Wilfred Burchett lived from 1911 to 1983. He was a farm boy and his experience in the depression shaped his dislike of oligarchs and preference for the poor.  He went to Europe trying to volunteer for Republicans in the Spanish Civil War but that did not work out. Instead, he assisted Jews escaping Nazi Germany.

Burchett became a journalist by accident. Having seen the reality in Germany, he started writing many letters to newspaper editors. One of the editors took note of his fluid writing style and intensity. They contacted him to ask if he would like to report for them. Thus began a forty year writing career.

He covered WW2, first stationed with British troops in India then Burma. Then he covered the Pacific campaign stationed with U.S. troops.  He was the first international journalist to report on Hiroshima after the atomic bomb. He evaded US military restrictions to go to Hiroshima and see reality for himself. In his story “The Atomic Plague”, published in the London Daily Express, Burchett said,  “I write this as a warning to the world” and “Doctors fall as they work”. Immediately the US launched a campaign to smear his reputation and deny the validity of his story. The US military was intent on preventing people from knowing the long term effects of nuclear radiation.

Burchett’s report from Hiroshima was broadcast world wide and called the “scoop of the century”. It exemplified his career based on first hand observation and experience.

Over his 40 year career he reported the other side of the story from the Soviet Union, China, Korea and Vietnam. He wrote thousands of articles and over 35 books.  On China he wrote China’s Feet Unbound in 1952. Two decades later he wrote (with Rewi Alley) China: The Quality of Life.

Burchett wrote Vietnam: The Inside Story of a Guerrilla War (1965) My War with the CIA: The Memoirs of Prince Norodom Sihanouk (1974), Grasshoppers and Elephants: Why Vietnam Fell (1977) and then Catapult to Freedom: The Survival of the Vietnamese People (1978).

Burchett’s life, experiences and observations are brilliantly recorded in his autobiography At the Barricades: Forty Years on the Cutting Edge of History (1980). They reveal the hard scrabble youth and early years, the leftist sympathies, the decades of journalistic work based on first hand observations.

Burchett was vilified by establishment political leaders in Australia. His Australian passport was taken, the government refused to issue him a new one and he was barred from entering Australia. Even his children were denied their Australian citizenship. Finally, after 17 years, Wilfred Burchett’s citizenship and passport were restored when Gough Whitlam became Prime Minister in 1972.

With his unassuming and  affable manner, Wilfred Burchett became friends with leaders such as Ho Chi Minh, Norodom Sihanouk,  and Chou en Lai. Bertrand Russell said, “One man, Wilfred Burchett, alerted Western public opinion to the nature of this war and the struggle of the Vietnamese people.” 

This interview gives a glimpse into the character and personality of Wilfred Burchett.

John Pilger

John Pilger is another extraordinary Australian journalist.  After starting journalism in the early 60’s, he became a war correspondent covering Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Biafra. He worked 25 years at London’s Daily Mirror and then had a regular fortnightly column for 23 years at the New Statesman.

His first documentary, The Quiet Mutiny, depicted US soldiers in Vietnam resisting their officers and the war. In 1974, when Palestine was often unmentionable, he produced Palestine is Still the Issue. Nineteen years later, he wrote the second part and described how Palestine is still the issue.

John Pilger has written/edited over ten books and made over 50 films. He told the story of atrocities in Pol Pot’s Cambodia with Year Zero.  He exposed Indonesia’s strangle hold on East Timor in Death of a Nation: The Timor ConspiracyIn a four year investigation, he showed how working class victims of the drug thalidomide had been excluded from a settlement with the drug company.

John Pilger exposed uncomfortable truths about his home country and its treatment of aboriginal people. He did this through films including The Secret Country: First Australians Fight Back (1985), Welcome to Australia (1999), and Utopia: An Epic Story of Struggle and Resistance (2013).  He gives more history and detail in the book A Secret Country (1992).

In 2002 Pilger produced and movie and book titled The New Rulers of the World revealing the grotesque inequality in this “globalized” world where a few individuals and corporations have more power and wealth than entire countries.

In 2016 Pilger came out with the urgent and prescient video The Coming War with China.

More recently he produced The Dirty War on the NHS which  documents the stealth campaign to privatize the UK’s National Health System. Many of John Pilger’s films can be seen at his website johnpilger.com .

In the 1960’s and 70’s, Pilger’s brave and bold journalism received many awards and he was twice recognized as Journalist of the Year.  But in recent years, there has been less acceptance as media has become more homogenized and controlled. In 2018 Pilger said: My written journalism is no longer welcome – probably it’s last home was The Guardian, which three years ago got rid of people like me and others in pretty much a purge …”  

Harold Pinter, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, says:John Pilger unearths, with steely attention, the facts, the filthy truth. and tells it like it is.

Julian Assange

The third extraordinary Australian journalist is Julian Assange. He was born on 3 July 1971.  He became a skilled computer programmer and hacker as a teenager. Later he studied mathematics and physics at Melbourne University. According to one of his math teachers he was an exceptional student but he clearly had other tasks and priorities.

Assange has edited or co-authored at least four books. For three years he worked with Australian journalist and co-author Suelette Dreyfus to write Underground: Tales of Hacking, Madness and Obsession in the Electronic Frontier.  First published in 1997, the Sydney Morning Herald called it “astonishing”. Rolling Stone described it as “An entirely original focus on the bizarre lives and crimes of an extraordinary group of teenage hackers.” 

In 2012, Assange produced the TV series “The World Tomorrow“. Over 12 segments, he interviews Ecuador President Rafael Correa, the current President of Pakistan Imran Khan, the leader of Hezbollah Hasan Nasrallah, leaders in the Occupy movement, Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali and many more.

In 2013, Assange and WikiLeaks produced the movie Mediastan. It shows WikiLeaks global travels to meet publishers of the secret documents.  In 2014 OR Books published When WikiLeaks met Google. It consists of a discussion between Julian Assange and Google founder Eric Schmidt plus two companions. Assange writes a 51 page introduction which puts the discussion in context: how Google and other internet giants have become part of  US foreign policy establishment.

In 2015 Assange edited The WikiLeaks files: the world according to the US Empire and in 2016 the book Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet was published. Assange and  three other computer experts discuss the future of the internet and whether computers will emancipate or enslave us. One reviewer says, “These guys are really getting at the heart of some very big issues that practically no one (outside of Cypherpunk circles) is thinking about.”

But what makes Assange extraordinary is his work as editor-in-chief and publisher of WikiLeaks.  Following are a few examples of information they have conveyed to the public:

* Corruption by family and associates of Kenyan leader Daniel Arap Moi.

* Corruption at Kaupthing Bank in the Iceland financial crisis

* Dumping of toxic chemicals in Ivory Coast.

* Killing of Reuters journalists and over 10 Iraqi civilians by US Apache attack helicopter in Collateral Murder video.

* 92,000 documents on the war in Afghanistan (and civilian casualties previously hidden)

* 400,000 documents on the war in Iraq (including reports showing the US military ignoring torture by their Iraqi allies)

* Corruption in Tunisia (helping spark the Arab Spring)

* NSA spying on German leader Merkel, Brazilian leader Roussef, French presidents (Sarkozy, Hollande, Chirac) and more.

* Secret agreements in the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership

* Emails and files from the US Democratic National Committee

* CIA spying and other tools  (“Vault 7”).

Julian Assange has received much recognition: Sam Adams Award, Time’s Person of the Year, Le Monde Person of the Year,  Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, Sydney Peace Foundation Gold Medal, Serena Shim Award and others.

But Assange has incurred the wrath and enmity of the US government. The Collateral Damage video and war logs exposed the brutal reality of US aggression and occupation.  Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, said the US invasion of Iraq violated international law. But there has been no accountability.

In response to WikiLeaks’ revelations, the United States has ignored the crimes and gone after the messenger who revealed the crimes. Thus Julian Assange was confined to the Ecuador Embassy for 7 years and is now in Belmarsh maximum security prison.  The US wants him extradited to the US where he has been charged with 18 counts of “Illegally Obtaining, Receiving and Disclosing Classified Information”. The extradition hearing is scheduled to begin on 24 February 2020.

Across Three Generations

Australia should be proud of these exceptional native sons. Each one has made huge contributions to educating the public about crucial events.

Wilfred Burchett reported from the “other side” when the West was waging war on Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and China. He was demonized and even called “Public Enemy Number One” during the Cold War.  But those who read his reports and many books found an accurate and objective writer. His many books stand the test of time.

From the 60’s to today, John Pilger has told stories that were never or rarely told.  He has exposed facts and drawn conclusions which shame or should shame powerful forces, whether in the U.K., U.S.A. or Australia. He has documented the real heroes who are otherwise ignored.

Julian Assange is from the new generation. He has reported and published secret information about military-political power on “this side”. He has revealed truths which powerful forces do not want the public to know, even when it is being done in their name.

Now Assange is in prison and in danger of being extradited to the United States. If this is allowed to  happen, it will mark a crushing setback and perhaps the death of independent investigative journalism.

John Pilger is a major supporter of Julian Assange. So is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer. In a blockbuster interview he says:

I have never seen a comparable case….The Swedish authorities … intentionally left him in limbo. Just imagine being accused of rape for nine-and-a-half years by an entire state apparatus and the media without ever being given the chance to defend yourself because no charges have ever been filed.

He goes to describe reading the original Swedish documents, saying:

I could hardly believe my eyes…. a rape had never taken place at all…. the woman’s testimony was later changed by the Stockholm police… I have all the documents in my possession, the emails, the text messages.

Melzer describes the refusal of governments to comply with his requests. He sums up what is happening and the significance.

A show trial is to be used to make an example of Julian Assange….. Four democratic countries joined forces – the U.S., Ecuador, Sweden, and the U.K. – to leverage their power to portray one man as a monster so that he could be later burned at the stake without any outcry. The case is a huge scandal and represents the failure of Western rule of law. If Julian Assange is convicted, it will be a death sentence for freedom of the press.

The three extraordinary Australian journalists were all rebels and all international. They all depended on freedom of the press which is now at stake.

Consortium News Strikes Back: London’s Five Eyes and Freeland’s Nazi Roots Stand Exposed Again

A David vs. Goliath battle between the independent Virginia-based online journal Consortium News and the gigantic Security Communications Establishment of Canada has begun this week. As Consortium News’ Editor-in-Chief, Joe Lauria wrote in his recent press release:

Consortium News has sent libel notices to the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Canada’s version of the US National Security Agency, and to a major Canadian television network, Global News, for a report that said Consortium News was “part of a cyber-influence campaign directed by Russia.”

To the knowledge of this Canadian-based writer, no analogous instance of such a lawsuit has ever occurred and the subject of this lawsuit will undoubtedly bring to light some of the ugliest skeletons in the Canadian establishment’s closet that many powerful forces would prefer remain obscured and forgotten.

The Gist of the Fight

On December 10, 2019, Global News ran a widely circulated story citing a classified CSE report which claimed that the Russian Government had used proxies to spread anti-Christia Freeland slander in order to “undermine western democracies”. The CSE report cited by Global News asserted without any evidence that a leading protagonist used by the Russian Government in this endeavor was Consortium News which had run a story on February 27, 2017 entitled the “A Nazi Skeleton in the Family Closet” which explained how Freeland had knowingly covered up the fact that her grandfather Mykhailo Chomiak was a high level Nazi collaborator during WWII.

Since the publication of this 2017 article and the work published even earlier by John Helmer, a fuller picture of Freeland’s Nazi family history and broader post-WWII use of Nazi-affiliated Ukrainian nationalists, has become a thoroughly documented embarrassment for Freeland and the broader deep state/Five Eyes Intelligence conglomerate trying to run the world. This history is even more awkward since the use of hives of second and third generation descendants of these Nazi collaborators both in Canada and Ukraine resulted in the toppling of the pro-Eurasian Yanukovych government in 2014.

After decades of myth-making and spin-doctoring, the Canadian spy agencies managing mass perceptions of the population have developed more than a little hubris as their lies have too often passed unchallenged by their victims, making this situation a nice slap of reality.

Since so much has already been written on the issue of Canada’s Nazi problem (namely here, and here and here and here), I would like to do something a bit different and address the deeper question: What is the Canadian Communication Security Establishment exactly, and from where did the Five Eyes arise over the course of the previous century?

Getting at the Heart of the Five Eyes

To properly answer this with a full appreciation into the historic forces at play, it is vital to jump back in time to the founder of the Rhodes Scholar program that birthed the Freeland phenomenon in our modern age (Freeland after all is a leading Rhodes Scholar and it would do us well to fully understand what that means). This exercise will take us to Cecil Rhodes, Governor of Rhodesia, father of systemic colonial rape of Africa and all around degenerate.

Here we shall find ourselves looking at this degenerate’s 1877 will and testament. It was here that the self-described “race patriot” and “priest of the Church of the British Empire” called for a re-organization of the decaying empire when he said:

Why should we not form a secret society with but one object the furtherance of the British Empire and the bringing of the whole uncivilised world under British rule, for the recovery of the United States, and for the making the Anglo-Saxon race but one Empire… [emphasis added]

Upon Rhodes’ 1902 death, his will served as a manifesto or “guiding spirit” underlying the formation of the deep state and later Five Eyes throughout the 20th  century. Rhodes’ followers and upper level financiers of London like Lord Nathaniel Rothschild and Lord Milner established a scholarship in his name to indoctrinate talented youth from around the world in the halls of Oxford in order to be redeployed back into their home countries in order to infiltrate all branches of influence, public and private, with a focus upon departments of Foreign Affairs. As the late Georgetown Professor Carrol Quigley documented in his Anglo-American Establishment, an international group was created by Rhodes’ disciples named The Round Table led by Milner, Lord Lothian, Leo Amery, and Lionel Curtis who created branches in all Anglo-Saxon nations to coordinate this new British Empire under the banner of “Round Table Movements”.

This group found an early opponent in the form of a Lincoln-admiring Canadian Prime Minister named Wilfred Laurier who had then been striving for deeper cooperation with a USA and independence from Britain (the USA at this time still had a very strong anti-imperial political culture). Sadly in 1911, Laurier’s government was taken down by a Roundtable-steered coup resulting in the defeated Prime Minister famously stating:

Canada is now governed by a junta sitting at London, known as ‘The Round Table’, with ramifications in Toronto, in Winnipeg, in Victoria, with Tories and Grits receiving their ideas from London and insidiously forcing them on their respective parties.

That comment was made in 1915.

By 1916, the Group, under Milner’s leadership, initiated a soft coup in Britain unseating the Labour Party’s Herbert Asquith in order to shape the terms of the post WWI order.

The CFR and Death of the League of Nations

During the Versailles Process of 1919, the Round Table Group, then firmly in charge of the British Government and Foreign Policy infrastructure, created a powerful new think tank called the Royal Institute for International Affairs (aka: Chatham House) which set up sister branches in Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The American branch of the RIIA took the name Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in 1921 and was fully staffed with indoctrinated Rhodes Scholars and Fabians all loyal to Rhodes’ vision. This was the group that attempted to impose world government under the League of Nations throughout the 1920s-1930s until it was finally killed by American (and Canadian) nationalists who preferred not to sacrifice their sovereignty to a bankers’ dictatorship.

If you want to know what caused the Five Eyes to come into being and how the USA lost its core anti-imperial character during the 20th century, you would have no satisfying answer if you avoided this fact as too many are in the habit of doing.

In spite of resistance from Laurier’s leading anti-Round Table allies who took back power in 1921 and anti-imperial forces in America who resisted Round Table control over the U.S. State Department under President Harding, the British/CFR problem only became more pronounced by the end of WWII as FDR stated to his son in a moment of frustration in 1943:

You know, any number of times the men in the State Department have tried to conceal messages to me, delay them, hold them up somehow, just because some of those career diplomats over there aren’t in accord with what they know I think. They should be working for Winston. As a matter of fact, a lot of the time, they are [working for Churchill]. Stop to think of ’em: any number of ’em are convinced that the way for America to conduct its foreign policy is to find out what the British are doing and then copy that! I was told six years ago, to clean out that State Department. It’s like the British Foreign Office….

FDR’s son ominously recorded his father saying: “I’ll take care of these matters myself’ was Roosevelt’s now usual response on matters of crucial policy. ‘I am the only person I can trust’.”1

The Five Eyes grows over FDR’s dead body

Even though American-British coded signal sharing began in 1943, no institutional takeover of American intelligence had yet occurred and Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was still firmly under control of American nationalists loyal to FDR’s anti-colonial philosophy.

All of that changed with FDR’s April 1945 death and the Round Table groups embedded throughout America’s bureaucracy quickly took over as an Anglophile puppet named Harry Truman became president. Under Truman, the OSS was disbanded, and a new order was installed with the Anglo-American Special Relationship, the UKUSA Signal Intelligence Agreement of March 5, 1946 and the September 8, 1947 formation of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Patriots loyal to FDR’s post-war vision like Henry Wallace, Harry Dexter White, and Paul Robeson were torn down under the FBI dictatorship known as McCarthyism.

The policy of cultivating useful Ukrainian intelligence agents, who had been loyal to Hitler’s agenda and could again be useful in the new war against the Soviet Union in the newly emerging Cold War, was hatched in the dirty basement of this post-OSS intelligence complex.

This new order of integrated intelligence saw the birth of the NSA in America, the Communications Security Establishment in Canada and sister organizations in Australia and New Zealand, all coordinating closely with the Royal Institutes/Round Table groups located in each Anglo Saxon nation. This was the fulfillment of Rhodes’ vision and the origins of the Five Eyes. Approaching modern history from this standpoint allows the mind to see clearly that while the American NSA/CIA hand certainly played a dirty role in the post-WWII order, the true guiding mind has always been found an ocean away from America.

The Cat is Stuffed Back into the Bag

Throughout the first three decades of the Cold War, the Five Eyes remained a total secret even to elected politicians. Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was so shocked to discover the existence of covert intelligence connections between the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) alongside its American and British counterparts that he fired its director in 1975. In response to the Prime Minister’s defiance of imperial policy, Sir John Kerr (Australia’s Governor General and actual Head of State) sacked Whitlam in 1975, proving that contrary to popular belief, the Crown’s powers are much more than the symbolic image which today’s perception managers wish us to believe.

In America, a decade of assassinations as well as blatant CIA-run coups abroad resulted in a popular indignation and demand for justice resulting in the famous Church Committee hearings on CIA abuses. In response to this exposure, upper level Deep State assets like Henry Kissinger, Cyrus Vance and Zbigniew Brzezinski conducted two purges of the CIA (1970 and 1978), abolished what little remained of the Board of National Estimates in 1973 and moved many of the CIA’s international covert operations to a new organization which came to be known as the National Endowment for Democracy as outlined in my previous article on the subject.

In Canada a documentary aired on the Fifth Estate entitled  “The Espionage Establishment” in 1974 exposing the public to the Five Eyes and shed light for the first time to the Communications Security Establishment of Canada resulting in hearings in the House of Commons and Senate and a modest restructuring of the organization. While nothing systemic was ultimately addressed, lipstick was put onto the pig as the newly renamed Communications Security Establishment absorbed into the Department of Defense. When CSIS was created in 1984 (after the RCMP’s Intelligence branch was caught red handed organizing the FLQ terrorist cells one too many times), the CSE and new spy agency began coordinating closely with each other and today occupy adjacent buildings from each other in Ottawa.

The natural righteous indignation felt by the masses petered away under a culture of consumerism, cynicism and conformism resulting in a slide into decay which no patriot of FDR’s generation could have imagined possible. Occasional bursts of angst and rage in the popular zeitgeist were absorbed and redirected by Hollywood films like Soylent Green (1973), The Network (1976) and 1984 (1984) (to name a few). Rather than empower the population such films were designed to amplify impotent cynicism, defeatism and misdirect anger towards un-nameable shadowy corporate forces (Soylent Green), Saudi oil barons (The Network), or human nature itself (1984).

With the belief that the causes of injustices could either not be understood, or were supposed to be intrinsic to the human species, the population went to sleep and dream-walked into the New World Order.

Those core moral principles, which leaders like John Kennedy or Martin Luther King fought to awaken in the nation, were rejected by the majority of baby boomers as mere naïve fantasy with no connection to “reality” as they were told it to be. But sadly, without core principles, post-truth liberalism found fertile soil to spread its roots. It is this post-truth order which serves as foundation of today’s liberal order which Freeland has chosen to champion on behalf of those forces and heirs of Rhodes’ vision who wish to become the lords of a uni-polar world.

At this point, you might be asking me: what was the point of writing all this? Wasn’t this article supposed to be about Consortium News’ legal suit against the Communications Security Establishment? Wasn’t it just about exposing Freeland’s Nazi pedigree?

While that is true, as I also said at the beginning, this article is also about David vs. Goliath.

David could not defeat Goliath physically under any circumstance that muscle ruled the fight, but David understood his opponent even better than his opponent understood himself. The fact is by taking on the Canadian branch of the Five Eyes’ protection and use of bona fide Nazis past and present, Consortium News has potentially opened up an infected wound which has nearly brought our civilization to gangrenous levels of decay.

By really understanding the nature of today’s enemy in the same manner as David understood Goliath, and then recognizing a few tiny weaknesses visible in its armor, even a small stone can accomplish miracles.

  1. Elliot Roosevelt, As He Saw It, (1946).

Incendiary Extinctions: Australian Fires and the Species Effect

Cocooned as it is from the world of science scepticism, the handling of the bush fire catastrophe unfolding in Australia is going to one of the more notable (non)achievements of the Morrison government.  They were warned; they were chided; they were prodded.  But the measures lagged and the flames came.

To a certain extent, this remains unfair.  Australian governments, across colours and persuasions, have found managing the environment a problematic, and inconvenient affair.  Being a country rich in resources readymade for digging and export, environment ministers have become the executing tribunes of mining rights and interests before the preservation of flora and fauna species.  Miners, rights, not Earth rights, are what counts.  Talk of climate change responses is heavily weighted in favour of pro-emission and polluting measures; greening projects look like acts of ecological pantomime.  Australia remains a country transfixed and terrified by Nature, even as it mangles or ignores it.

With that in mind, the flames that continue to consume Australia have not merely destroyed agriculture, property and human life; they have had an impact on animal species that remains hard to measure.  As a general rule, these events now have the makings of the unprecedented, at least in terms of human records.  There are fire fronts that stretch like scars of battle across terrain.  Smoke plumes half the size of Europe have been noted.

Updates on the progress of the flames resemble a relentless disaster narrative.  Over 25.5 million acres of land, or territory the size of South Korea, is a figure that has caught the eye of news outlets.  Images from NASA’s Earth Observatory, its Suomi-NPP satellite and the Himawari 8 Japanese satellite of the Japanese Meteorological Agency, have shown the international print being left by the fires.

Little wonder that the more terrestrial assessments of impacts have turned their focus on species extinction, a point that was bound to happen given Australia’s already unflattering honour of having the highest rate of mammal extinction on the planet.  They are far more than the shrieks and howls of pain coming from koalas as they are incinerated to death, or the charred remains of kangaroos left in a funereal silver-ash landscape.   It is the post-apocalyptic aftermath, when species find themselves in a world of ash and remains, with food and shelter miserably scarce.

The extinction literature, speculative and more solidly grounded, is burgeoning.  Six Australian professors have stuck to the safe, if dark premise by claiming in The Conversation that “most of the range and population of between 20 and 100 threatened species will have been burnt.  Such species include the long-footed potoroo, Kangaroo Island’s glossy black cockatoo and the Spring midge orchid.”

Another unnerving estimate from January 3, and applicable to the state of New South Wales alone, put the toll of birds, mammals and reptiles affected by the conflagrations at 480 million.  (The number did not include insects, bats or frogs.)  “Many of the affected animals are likely to have been killed directly by the fires, with others succumbing later due to the depletion of food and shelter resources and predation from introduced feral cats and red foxes.”

Within five days, an updated assessment from Professor Chris Dickman almost doubled the initial NSW figures.  Across the continent, a billion animals are said to have perished.  In an interview with National Public Radio in the US, Dickman suggested that the figures were exceptionally staggering.  “I think there’s nothing quite to compare with the devastation that’s going on over such a large area so quickly.  It’s a monstrous event in terms of geography and the number of individual animals affected.”

The disaster for such species is one of ongoing affects; the fire leaves the initial destructive mark, with these being particular savage.  According to wildlife rescue volunteer Sarah Price, “We are not seeing the amount of animals coming into care or needing rescuing that we would normally anticipate.”  The implication is hard to avoid: “We think a lot perished in the fires.”

Some animals might well survive the scorching, but insatiable and uninterrupted land clearing coupled with the busyness of introduced fauna varieties does the rest.  The impacts of fire events also remove habitat sanctuaries for wildlife, be they layers of fallen leaves, specific shrubs important as food sources, or log and tree hollows.

Should there ever be an ecological tribunal vested in powers to assess government actions over the years on the subject, the failure to put in measures to protect species from calamity may well have to top the list.  A reckless, occasionally malicious stupidity might count as motivation, but by then, not much will be left to protect.  Any punishment will be left without a purpose.

The management of biodiversity and ecosystems, involving measures taken to bolster and buffer against the next catastrophe – for there will be more – matter far more.  The discussion, as it stands, remains asphyxiated by the smoke and rage, with an overwhelming focus on human suffering, the calls for donations to human survivors, the search for compensation.  The earth and its non-human inhabitants remain the statistics of silent suffering and, after this event, some will go the way of their doomed ancestors. As ever, Australia remains, as Dickman claims, the canary in the coal mine in terms of climate effects and human response.  And the canary is not looking too good.