Walk Together and Say Welcome TOMORROW

Hello!

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(Me in July this year at a pub in Brunswick if I remember correctly…. I love seeing these posters about the place!)

A reminder that the “Walk Together – Say Welcome” event is tomorrow, Saturday 31st October. It begins at 11:00 (AM) across Australia – many groups are meeting a bit before then (around 10:30 or so). If you’re in Australia, I hope you’ll attend an event. The pinned post on the blog homepage has more specific details, or go to  http://walktogether.welcometoaustralia.org.au/

I hope the weather is good for it with the way it’s been so topsy-turvy lately! 😛
Remember, Slip, Slop, Slap, Slide (and Seek at the end). It’s going to be fun, but the sun will probably be strong.

I hope some of you can make it!!! Quite a few local celebrities/ personalities/ stars are attending….

An article in several newspapers yesterday about the latest social cohesion survey results by the Scanlon Foundation is a cause for righteous happiness.

“What makes Australia unique,” says Markus, “is its acceptance of immigration and cultural diversity. And it’s strengthening.”

The mission of the Scanlon Foundation is to measure how this migrant nation hangs together. The figures are subtle. Old White Australia is not yet a corpse but Markus found in 2015, “lowered experience of discrimination, heightened acceptance of immigration and cultural diversity, and more positive future expectations”.

So get along to your local Welcome Walk and prove that! We are one but we are many, as that song goes (I have a soft spot for it). We’re certainly not defined by those who would wish otherwise. Let’s show that across Australia tomorrow.

(Does the link below work? I bet it won’t….It’s supposed to “embed” a video – of the sort that the Welcome to Australia organisation have been sharing throughout the past few weeks – but we’ll see how that goes.)

I’m looking forward to it….and I hope to see you there if you’re in my area!

In many of the places there will be live music afterwards. There will definitely be some sort of picnic. So come on. Let’s Say Welcome, people. 🙂

If You’re Happy and You Know It…. (And: Kids Should Be Free To Play)

Heeelllloooo everyone! This right here is my 150th post on this blog, can you believe it? 🙂 In just under a month, I’ll have been blogging for a year.


(Got the image from a Google Search – there are a lot of variations of background. The original link to this picture is here.)

So, I was reading an article in The Conversation the other day. According to the article,

“….happiness is contagious and affects the happiness of others with whom you are connected.

That’s right – according to recent research by the University of Pennsylvania – making yourself and those around you happy is not only possible, but really quite easy. All you have to do, quite literally, is spread the word.

…..

Sharing your positive news also, research suggests, has direct perks for you. Communicating a positive experience you have had with another person heightens the impact of the positive experience itself because you get to re-live and re-savour the experience.”

Check out the full article and its highlighted links above, I enjoyed it and thought the ideas – and implications – were interesting.
For instance: it’s not just fluff that makes people feel positive and enthusiastic – new science discoveries count too.
It also made me think of the poem which heads this post. Isn’t the poem a nice sentiment? So, share your good news, people!

Of course, the reverse occurs too – bad news spreads and negatively affects people, who share the negativity. However, don’t be afraid to share your bad news either. We may be negatively affected by it, but we’ll be negatively affected with you. I saw an opinion piece on another blog yesterday (warning for snark and brutal honesty, which exists in all his posts). The piece suggested that, rather than offering platitudes, our mere presence and offer of support (even silently) can help. It’s not the first time I’ve heard this stated in various ways and I support it.

After all, isn’t that what being part of a community – online and off – is all about? We share each other’s highs and lows, congratulating or supporting as the case may be. That’s what I’d like to think would – and should – occur, anyway. Remember, reach out.


Which brings me to my next part of this post. This week is International Children’s Week – and today is a day of solidarity for children (and their families) in detention. The photo below is of students at Melbourne High, showing what they think all kids should be free to do.

I think that kids should be free to play. Here’s the thing: my job involves hosting kids birthday parties at a particular local centre where I’m employed. One of my favourite things at these parties is watching the kids run or splash around, use the equipment and just have fun. Their laughter and smiles cheer me.

Kids in detention and their families cannot do that. Instead, the endless wait and awful conditions conspire to turn their childhood into a nightmare.

It doesn’t have to be that way though – and the government can put a stop to it. So can the Opposition – or at least they can commit to doing so. Please.
Give these kids back their childhoods. Give their families back their freedom.

What do you think kids should be free to do? (Share please, we want to make some noise about this!)

A Ticking Time Bomb (REBLOGGED)

This annoys me, it really does. There are so many things wrong with Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers right now. A few examples (and a few ‘counter-measures’) are listed below in the article. We should be saying #welcome – instead, asylum seekers and refugees are condemned to remain in concentration camps as the government attempts to break their spirits….or alternatively, they anxiously wait in the community on bridging visas and the like, with no assurance of safety and no hope for the future – even children (see this article from The Age today). Actual acceptance of their claim for asylum seems rare and must be fought for. This should NOT be the case. It’s a sorry state of affairs indeed.

Australia refuses third-party countries from taking its asylum-seekers; claims re abuse/detention could run into $millions = WRITTEN BY UNDERCOVER1

by winstonclose

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There remains the option for third party countries – e.g. New Zealand, Canada or European countries – to take in asylum-seekers illegally imprisoned on Rape Island (Nauru) or Murder Island (Manus), though the current Australian Government refuses to consider such an option as its policy is about exacting punitive measures on asylum-seekers as deterrence. This policy, however, could spectacularly backfire given that Australian lawyers are now signalling that asylum-seekers will be able to lodge claims for millions of dollars in damages against the Australian Government for both unlawful detention and for abuse sustained…

Between 2001 and 2005 New Zealand took in 401 asylum seekers who had been detained by the Australian Government. Also, 208 people rescued by the Norwegian MV Tampa were taken in by New Zealand. Sweden, Canada, Denmark and Norway took in asylum-seekers too and it’s likely that if formally approached these countries or other European countries that have a track record of taking in refugees in their hundreds of thousands – e.g. Germany and Austria – or smaller numbers – e.g. Iceland – could offer to help again. But offers of help are no good if the Australian Government refuses to entertain them from the outset, simply because its objective is to punish (the asylum-seekers).

Meanwhile the Australian Government could face hundreds of law suits or a class action by asylum-seekers, seeking punitive damages for illegal detention, sustained abuse and negligence. In July the Department of Immigration & Border Protection (DIBP) finally confirmed what lawyers such as Julian Burnside and Greg Barns had been saying all along: that Australia has ultimate legal responsibility for what is happening in the offshore detention facilities. At a Senate inquiry a DIBP official stated clearly that “the ultimate accountability for the operation of the centres sits with the Australian Border Force”; consequently, the Senate inquiry declared that Australia – not Nauru or PNG – is legally responsible for the abuses in Nauru and Manus detention centres, because Australia has “effective control” of those centres.

Litigation by asylum-seekers could also include, of course, entities contracted to run these detention facilties – i.e. Transfield Services (renamed Broadspectrum) and sub-contractors Wilson Security (with consequences for their respective shareholders).

This is a ticking time-bomb.

Recently there has been the well-publicised cases of two Somalian women on Nauru, in regard to rape. With one of these cases – that of the Somalian woman, ‘Abyan’ – an article by Greg Barns summed up well what happened…

“This is a young woman who has suffered trauma – she has been accepted as a refugee from war-torn Somalia. She is pregnant in the most awful of circumstances, and English is not her first language. To simply give her access to nursing staff and a GP is well below what a woman in her position is entitled to as a patient. But it gets worse. Abyan is sent back to Nauru, still pregnant, and finds a journalist from The Australian newspaper wanting to interview her. Surely the Commonwealth would understand that to fail to protect Abyan from further mental health deterioration and exposure to the media is not just morally but legally wrong. The treatment of Abyan is symptomatic of the Australian government’s cavalier attitude to its legal duty of care to asylum seekers.”

The Australian Government’s former (?) propaganda specialist, Chris Kenny (see photo above) is the so-called journalist (Assistant Editor, The Australian) who was allowed to go to Nauru – the first Australian journalist to do so for 18 months. His ‘interview’ with ‘Abyan’ was clearly an attempt to discredit her. To do so was, of course, utterly reprehensible and his brief meeting with her not unexpectedly left her in tears.

Also this week the Australian Government confirmed that 80 children were subject to return to Nauru after receiving medical treatment in Australia. This comes only a week after a statement was issued by doctors at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne (endorsed by the Australian Medical Association) that they will refuse to hand over any child to Border Force guards if that child is to be transported to an offshore facility.

It was also revealed this week that the Save the Children offices on Nauru wereraided a second time by Nauruan police, on the orders of the detention centres’s commandant, Berilyn Jeremiah, who attempted to justify the raids by referring to Nauruan laws that are clearly not appropriate – i.e. the raids were illegal. (One wonders how the Nauruan Government’s PR agency, Mercer PR, will spin that story, or the story about how a man convicted of rape was allowed to join the Nauruan police reserves!)

The Border Force Act, which was introduced in July in Australia, criminalises the disclosure of information by staff who work in immigration detention centres. Indeed, the Guardian revealed that over the last 12 months journalists who had reported on the federal government’s asylum-seeker policies had been repeatedly referred to the police in attempts to uncover confidential sources and whistleblowers.

The new data retention law will also make it easier for the authorities to identify whistleblowers. However, there are precautions that whistleblowers can take to avoid detection (even if the authorities raid media offices too). For example, the Guardian uses SecureDrop, a facility that a whistleblower can use to safely pass on information without his/her identity being detected (and providing certain precautions are also taken) as well as an encrypted email service. (See images below from the Guardian’s website and click here for instructions on what else to do.)

Screenshot from 2015-10-22 23:12:10

Screenshot from 2015-10-22 23:13:38

Alternatively, whistleblowers can always try The Intercept (see image below).

Embedded image permalink

See also: https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/29886551/asylum-seekers-still-need-help/

TO READ more articles from UNDERCOVERINFO click on =  https://undercoverinfo.wordpress.com/

REBLOGGED: Why a 4 degree global temperature increase is the new game in town

Oh dear. This doesn’t look good. 😦
Grassroots groups and corporations are sitting up and paying attention – or at least beginning to. They’re divesting from fossil fuels and seeing what else they can do.
Meanwhile, our government has (arrrrgh!) approved the Carmichael Mine again. Will they ever get the memo?
The Paris summit is a month away. While they’re meeting, we’ll be meeting also – to march and show our support for strong action. Just like last year. (More to come next week.)
__________________________________________________________________

Why a 4 degree global temperature increase is the new game in town

by The AIM Network

By Dr Anthony Horton

Numerous recent initiatives intend to precipitate action on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the lead up to the Paris Climate Summit, which is now less than 2 months away. In recent weeks, approximately 2000 people and 400 organisations have made commitments to cease investments in fossil fuel producing companies. Countries were asked to nominate actions they would undertake to reduce GHG emissions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by October 1.

A US Clean Power Plan which was announced in August this year could reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power stations by 870 million tonnes by 2030 (equivalent of taking 166 million cars off the road). China has committed to peak emissions by 2030, and there are indications that emissions may peak before that. Two weeks ago on September 25,China announced that a national carbon emissions trading scheme would commence in 2017. Shortly after that, Brazil announced a 43% cut in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030.

When the Paris Climate Summit begins, the parties negotiating a deal need to consider the extent to which global warming is already occurring. Global carbon dioxide emissions in 2012 were 58% higher than they were in 1990 and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations have increased from approximately 340 parts per million (ppm) in 1980 to nearly 400ppm today. It is a commonly held belief that in order to limit warming to 2°C the total amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere must stay below 1 trillion tonnes.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we were more than half way to 1 trillion tonnes in 2011 with a total amount of 515 billion tonnes in the atmosphere. If global greenhouse gas emissions continue at the rate of 140 billion tonnes each year, temperatures may rise by up to 4.5°C by 2100. Even if each country fully honours its Paris pledge, it is possible that global temperatures may increase by 3.5°C by then.

Global average temperatures are approximately 0.8°C higher than before the Industrial Revolution and a recent study in the journal Science showed that a suspected warming hiatus between 1998 and 2012 didn’t occur-the cooler temperatures arose from measurements from ocean buoys rather than ships. A subsequent study also found flaws in the statistical modelling in the research that pointed to the hiatus.

The world’s oceans are absorbing most of the heat which is being added to the Earth’s climate system. Arctic sea ice coverage in summer has reduced by more than 40% over the past 40 years, and mean sea levels have risen by approximately 20cm since 1880 and could rise by up to 1 metre more by 2100. The Kiribati Government has recently purchased land in Fiji to accommodate residents in the case of flooding.

Given that fresh water is less dense than salt water, melting sheets of ice interrupt oceanic circulation patterns. It is possible that Europe’s climate may cool slightly as a result of the Atlantic meridional driving cold salt water into the deep ocean and warm water northward. The changes in ocean currents may also be shifting jet streams and altering storm patterns.

According to Simon Lewis from University College London, forest fires in Indonesia could release up to 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. Recent US fires have consumed more than 2 million hectares of forest. Alaska fared worst due to soot from the fires darkening the ice and reducing its ability to reflect solar radiation away from the Earth.

The Arctic region is reportedly warming twice as fast as the rest of the Earth, and if the permafrosts (that store 1,700 Gigatonnes or 1,700 billion tonnes of carbon) thaw out, huge amounts of methane will be released. The big problem with that is the global warming potential of methane is 25 times that of carbon dioxide.

In a paper recently published in Nature Climate Change, researchers from Universities of Cambridge and Colorado estimated that the economic impact of both methane and carbon dioxide being released could be as high as 0.7% of global gross domestic product (GDP) by 2200 using environmental models. Their research did however include a high level of uncertainty.

A little more than a week ago Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney warned that measures necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change in the long term could result in huge losses  in the shorter term by rendering oil, coal and gas essentially untouchable.

See more on the 4 degree warming scenario here.

I have to say I admire Christiana Figueres’ persistence in urging immediate action-seemingly on a weekly basis. As overseer of the Paris Climate Summit in December she has an unenviable task in obtaining an unprecedented global agreement. Her task is not made any easier given the justification with which some countries are defending their Paris commitments (despite considerable pressure from others) and their apparent lack of understanding that we are all residents of the one Earth.

Most developed countries understand that the old “business as usual” approach simply won’t cut it anymore and that they have a responsibility to take the needs of people in developing countries into account, especially as the majority of these countries have made little contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions. Announcements are being made virtually every day on social media regarding renewable energy initiatives and/or countries, states or towns that are moving from a reliance on fossil fuels to larger and larger percentages of renewables in their energy mix.

Whether the global average temperature increase by 2100 is predicted to be 2°C or 4°C, it is inevitable that countries need to join together and help each other, including their nearest neighbours. Australia’s recent move to “throw its toys out of the cot” if the UN established an organisation charged with the responsibility of assisting people that are fleeing from the ravages of climate change surely flies in the face of the need to help those around us.

This article was first published on The Climate Change Guy.

rWdMeee6_peAbout the author: Anthony Horton holds a PhD in Environmental Science, a Bachelor of Environmental Science with Honours and a Diploma of Carbon Management. He has a track record of delivering customised solutions in Academia, Government, the Mining Industry and Consulting based on the latest wisdom and his scientific background and experience in Climate/Atmospheric Science and Air Quality.Anthony’s work has been published in internationally recognised scientific journals and presented at international and national conferences, and he is currently on the Editorial Board of the Journal Nature Environment and Pollution Technology. Anthony also blogs on his own site, The Climate Change Guy.

Conversations…. (REBLOGGED)

Hi again.

Reblogging a couple of posts which make good points about the need for dialogue when talking about “contentious” things. Finding the common ground should be the important thing. Unfortunately it’s much easier to use what I’ve heard called “wedge politics”, where the two sides try to stay as far apart as possible and ‘wedge’ the other side into a tight spot over the issue. It might get them more supporters in the short term, but in the long term…we all really just want solutions. These bloggers (below) are both American and are talking about gun control. However, their ideas about dialogue over argument can be applied to many things.

Pragmatists, perhaps, get more things done faster than idealists. It’s a hard lesson I myself had to learn earlier in the year relating to asylum seekers. :/
If we find common ground, then solutions should follow. Even if that common ground is at first hard to find. We can be set in our views. All it takes, though, is a willingness to listen and attempt to see things from the other’s viewpoint. Letting go of preconceptions is hard, but we need to try if we’re to get anywhere at all on so many issues.

First, another piece from Kerri (whose post on gun control I posted this morning).

If only…

If only there could be a conversation, rather than a debate about gun control. Let’s take the politics out of the conversation. Instead of having talking points designed to “stir up the base” what if both sides just took a moment and created a dialogue. If only we took out the extremes and found the middle ground. Imagine instead of reading this:

Pro-Gun Control: The NRA is killing your children and we must ban all guns
Anti-Gun Control: The Liberals are taking your guns and your children will be killed

Neither statement is true, in my opinion.  The Pro/Anti monikers could be interchangeable with Anti-Gun and Pro-Gun ownership.  Let’s take off the labels and consider instead the conversation went like this:

Person: I’m concerned about the amount of gun violence in our country. I feel there must be something we can do, as a society, to make our homes/schools/towns safer.
Person: I’m concerned about that as well (aside–who wouldn’t be?).

Imagine how the conversation would progress if we started as common stakeholders in our community’s safety?

Read the rest here.
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Second, here’s Laurie Works, a gun violence survivor.

LET’S TALK… ABOUT GUN CONTROL

For the last couple of weeks since I wrote my letter to Congress, I’ve been trying to foster dialogue with the people of the Internet and the people of my city (hello, Colorado Springs!).

This has not been easy.

A lot of the replies that I’ve received via my blog or Twitter account have been painful. Painful is a strange word to use, but that is what comes up when I transcend the flash of anger that appears when I first hear certain things: pain.

When people ask me, “What do you think about the armed citizen that stopped the shooter in your shooting?” As if I didn’t realize she was a part of my story.
When people assert that people are the problems, not guns. As if it were not bullets that killed my sisters.
When people say that laws don’t dissuade criminals. As if they don’t set norms in society of what violence equates to, as if they didn’t set the norm that the shooter adhered to.

The list goes on. Each of these replies first pierces my heart and honestly? I want to lash out.

I want to be the same exact person I see all over Twitter. Insulting, and raging, and cursing at people I disagree with. Sometimes, I admit it, I degrade to being that exact person because it hurts so damn much.

But if I can take a step back and look at it for a second, if I get curious, something happens that changes everything.

I meet people.

I’ve heard so many stories in the past 2 weeks. Stories that I am honored to carry, and that you can go read in the comments of my blog. I’ve had amazing conversations with people I would have called “the enemy”, had I continued to react out of pain.

At this point, that means much more to me than being right. I don’t want to be on the “right” side of this discussion. I want to truly meet people and hear their heart.

So while I’m now going to tell you about some of my personal beliefs about gun violence, I want to ask that you do the same. Tell me your stories. And tell me WHY you have them. What beliefs are behind your stories? I’ll trade you, okay? But let’s be people first, and issues secondary to that. Meet me here – I promise to hold your story in a safe place in my heart.

Read the rest here.
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P.S. Don’t get used to twice-daily posts…my blog schedule happens as it happens. Today, I forgot to include the above links and words in this morning’s post, so here it is in the evening. Most of the next few days have scheduled posts – I’m in the middle of exam revision. (Two weeks until it’s over for the year.)

REBLOGGED: Why No Action On Gun Violence?

I tend to keep quiet online about certain things to do with other countries…know your own patch first and all that. Also, with the issue of gun violence, I’ve got the impression that anything Aussies say about it sounds a lot like preaching, at least to some Americans.

However, I will signal-boost. Below is a post (original link here) from an American mother. She makes some good points I reckon. She’d like the message spread, so here goes:

Why are we not taking action?

I have a license to carry a firearm.  So does my husband. So do many of my friends. So know this at the start: I promise I am not trying to take away your right to possess a firearm.  What I am trying to do is make our legislature pass common-sense measures to make our society safer.

Consider what we, as a society, generally do when faced with viable threats:

A man boards a plane with a shoe bomb. We now take our shoes off at the airport.
Children suffer injuries in car accidents. Nationwide standards are created for proper restraint systems.
Drunk driving kills 25,000 people in 1980. MADD is formed and works with legislatures to pass laws to decrease drunk driving deaths by half in 2013.

And yet: In 1991 three students shot and killed 12 classmates, 1 teacher, injuring 21 additional people. More than 260 school shootings have occurred since then, and 19 young people have died at school.  More generally, in 2014, there were 12,563 deaths by firearm. This year, 2015, isn’t over yet and already there have been 10,200 deaths by firearm. Over 500 children under the age of 11, have died or been injured been injured since January 1, 2015. (Statistics: Gun Violence Archive)

School districts have responded; they’re locking their doors, and using already-scarce resources to hire unarmed security guards. Colleges are taking similar measures. But that hasn’t been enough to stop school shootings.

We need to change our laws.

I do not want to take away anyone’s right to have a gun. We have guns in our home. But  I question the ease in which we can obtain a weapon of mass destruction. Yes, mass destruction. Anyone affected by gun violence will attest that it created mass destruction in their lives.

My friend’s son just received his driver’s license. He took a 30-hour classroom course, spent 12 hours driving with a licensed instructor, spent 6 hours driving with his parent, and took a written test combined with a practical one. He had to prove he could actually drive the car.  At the Department of Motor Vehicles after he took (and passed) the tests, he had to take a visual acuity test.

When I received my license to carry a firearm, I took a 4-hour class sponsored by the NRA. I took my certificate to the police station, filled out a form and a background check was performed. Once that was passed I met with the officer for an interview and fingerprinting.  Less than 2 months later I returned to the station to pick up my license.

I never had to prove that I retained the information provided to me during the 4 hour course or that I could handle a live weapon (let alone a fake one). There was no simulated test that I had to pass or a written one.  My vision, depth perception and reaction times were not evaluated.

How can that be? How can it honestly be easier to arm myself then to drive a car to get groceries?

I believe my children’s teacher should not have to worry about protecting them from gunfire. I believe that we need nationwide laws, just as we have nationwide vehicle laws. I believe in background checks—each time you purchase a weapon. I believe in more stringent testing, more class time and actual live fire exercises. I believe when you go to renew your gun license you should have a vision, reaction and cognition test. I believe your gun license should be reciprocal in every State and the same laws should apply in California as in Nebraska.

I believe if you need a gun permit to purchase a gun, you should not be able to buy the bullets that go in that gun without a gun license. In many States anyone can purchase bullets. No license required. A gun is useless without bullets, how is it that you do not need a firearm license to purchase them?

It is up to us, each and every one of us as a stakeholder in our society, to demand the kind of legislative action that will reduce gun violence.

Even with the right laws in place, will criminals still be able to obtain a gun? Of course; after all, there is still drunk driving. But if the number of drunk driving statistics has fallen by half with better regulation, oversight and consequences for operating under the influence.

Why are we not taking action to reduce gun violence?

REBLOGGED: National Security for Political Gain

Of course, it helps that one of Abbott’s last directives was to ask for weekly “informationals” – or something – about national security….

Like Abbott, Turnbull Is Using National Security For Political Gain – WRITTEN BY BEN ELTHAM

by winstonclose

TURNBULLFASCISM

By on October 13, 2015 Australian Politics

A new announcement shows the Turnbull government can be just as draconian and self-interested as the Abbott government was, writes Ben Eltham.

Is the new Coalition government of Malcolm Turnbull really that much kinder and gentler than the administration of Tony Abbott? So far, an analysis of the policies of the two governments says no.

In policy terms, Turnbull has changed little from the Abbott years. There has been a modest reset on higher education policy. But Direct Action is still with us. So is the push to wind back penalty rates for workers. And the government appears to be as rock solid as ever in its tough line on refugees.

Yesterday in Question Time, Prime Minister Turnbull was trumpeting the government’s abolition of the carbon tax and its incarceration of asylum seekers. “We have fulfilled our election pledges of abolishing the carbon tax, of abolishing the carbon tax,” he told the House of Representatives. “We have been able to once again restore the security of our borders.”

It sounded awfully like the sort of thing Tony Abbott (who watched on from his new perch on the back bench) might have said. All that was missing were the familiar three-word slogans.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that the government is continuing with its legislative program on national security. 2014 saw a raft of onerous new anti-terror laws passed by the Parliament. One of them – the mandatory retention of email, phone and social media metadata by telecommunications companies –came into effect today. It’s a sad indictment on the diminished levels of public debate in Australia that many ordinary voters are only just finding out that the government has set up a nation-wide internet spying program, with the whole-hearted support of the Labor opposition.

Like so many of the Abbott government’s laws, the data retention bill was complex, poorly drafted, and difficult to implement. It has already thrown the telecommunications sector into confusion.

A survey by the Communications Alliance found that 84 per cent of internet service providers were not ready to start spying on their customers. Australia’s largest telco Telstra has reportedly applied for an extension to the regime, meaning even it will not be ready.

According to John Stanton of the Communications Alliance, most ISPs haven’t even heard back from the Attorney-General’s Department. “It is no surprise that many service providers won’t be compliant when the legislation comes into force,” Stanton told Delimter’s Renia LeMay. “Many of these because they are still waiting to hear from Government as to whether their implementation plans have been approved.”

With Australia’s largest ISPs non-compliant on the first day, the metadata retention policy has descended into farce. Let’s hope “the terrorists” are not planning any bomb plots today – it will be April before the spooks will be able to get their hands on the incriminating data.

Of course, the targets of this bill are not really terrorists or radicalised youth, whatever the platitudes of the government. Like most of the Abbott government’s security laws, the point of metadata retention was not really to surveil terrorists. Instead, it was all about a power grab by the intelligence agencies, egged on by a government all too keen ring the national security alarms.

As we’ve argued here at New Matilda, many of these counter-terror laws will do nothing to make our nation more secure. They are essentially “security theatre”: good for publicity, but useless for preventing terrorist attacks. You can file the latest announcement on national security – extending control orders to children as young as 14 – in exactly the same category.

What are control orders? They allow police and national security agencies to lock up suspects without charge. As such, they already represent a very significant dilution of one of the common law’s most fundamental rights: the right to the presumption of innocence. Control orders can be applied without the normal criminal safeguards, such as arrest, charge, and trial. As the Attorney-General’s Department informs us, a person can be placed on a control order if “it substantially helps prevent a terrorist attack.”

That’s pretty vague. It’s also presumptive of guilt. How do we know if the control order will really prevent a terrorist attack? No-one can see into the future, least of all Attorney-General George Brandis. Control orders can also be applied if a person has:

  • trained or participated in training with a listed terrorist organisation, or
  • engaged in a hostile activity in a foreign country, or
  • been convicted:
    •  in Australia of an offence relating to terrorism, a terrorist organisation or terrorist act, or
    • overseas for an offence that would, if occurred in Australia, be a terrorism offence within the definition of the Crimes Act.

It may well make sense to keep known, dangerous terrorists under control order. If this is true, however, there can’t be too many of them in Australia – because authorities have hardly ever used control orders. Since their creation in 2005 by the Howard government, control orders have been used only twice: in 2006 for David Hicks and Jack Thomas, and in December last year for two men in relation toOperation Appleby.

The examples of Hicks and Thomas should give us pause for consideration. Neither was convicted of any terrorist charge. Hicks was not found guilty of any Australian offence (he confessed to a US charge of aiding terrorists, which was itselfeventually ruled to be invalid by the US Supreme Court of Appeal). “Jihad Jack” Thomas was also cleared, after the Victorian Supreme Court threw out his conviction in 2006.

In hindsight, it appears that the control orders placed on Hicks and Thomas were more about politics than security. One of the reasons that control orders are not used very much is that they appear to be quite resource-intensive.

As former National Security Legislation Monitor Bret Walker told the ABC today, control orders are expensive and time-consuming – but not necessarily effective.

“Somebody who is prepared to do terrible things as happened just recently is not likely to be somebody who will feel obliged to comply with a control order,” Walkertold ABC Radio this morning. “So we do have to be careful about just adding layer after layer of law in relation to dealing with people who probably require to be surveilled, investigated and in appropriate cases – charged.”

We are yet to find out if the men placed on control orders after Operation Appleby were connected to 15-year old Farhad Jabar, the boy alleged to have shot New South Wales police employee Curtis Cheng on October 2. An 18-year old man is currently being held by the Australian Federal Police – without charge – in connection to the Cheng shooting.

But the obvious point needs to be made: a control order would not have prevented Jabar shooting Cheng. The teenager does not appear to have been tracked or surveilled by law enforcement agencies. If we didn’t know he was a potential terrorist, then we can hardly have slapped a control order on him.

But, of course, yesterday’s announcement is not really about preventing another terrorist attack. It’s about making George Brandis and Malcom Turnbull look tough. Another pointless counter-terror law. More national security theatre. How different is the Turnbull government, really?

TO READ more articles from NEW MATILDA click on this link = https://newmatilda.com/

REBLOGGED: The Second Marshmallow

The Second Marshmallow

by Victoria Rollison

Two Marshmallows

We need to start encouraging our society to wait for the second marshmallow. I’m not suggesting this will be an easy task, but I am arguing that the left needs to find a way to do it.

For those unfamiliar with the marshmallow test, it’s a simple study into self-control and delayed-gratification. You offer a child one marshmallow which they can eat now. But if they are willing to wait fifteen minutes, they can eat two marshmallows. Researchers found that the children who are able to wait for two marshmallows ended up with better grades in high school and better life outcomes than the impatient snatch and gobble children, therefore concluding that the ability to put off immediate rewards for a larger reward in the future is a more successful life strategy. But what does this idea mean for our whole society?

I like to generalise as it saves time: right wing voters are ‘give me the marshmallow now, hurry up, where’s my marshmallow, why didn’t I have my marshmallow yesterday’ people. Left wing voters are much more likely to wait, bide their time, invest their patience and look forward to the second marshmallow which will be to their betterment in the end. Too simplistic? Look at climate change. All Abbott’s Liberals had to do to scare people into voting down the Carbon Price was to threaten their next power bill. Labor was asking us all to think about the future of something rather important: the continuation of our planet. But unfortunately the next power bill won out and the Carbon Price is no longer. The Liberals have done similar ‘take the one marshmallow now’ campaigns with a range of different policies, appealing to voters who can’t see further than tomorrow in their voting interests and are therefore inclined to vote in the best interests of their short-term opportunism by damaging their two-marshmallow-long term interests and the interests of their children and grandchildren. Voting is all about interests today or interests tomorrow!

In fact, when you look at Abbott’s successful 2013 election campaign and his entire narrative throughout the last 6 years, he is the one-marshmallow-man. Kill the NBN. Destroy the mining tax and your future superannuation savings. Destroy Medicare because you don’t need it today, so don’t worry about tomorrow. Slash funding for healthcare even though you will definitely need the health system in the future. Burn funding for education, and don’t worry about the fact that our future economic growth depends on the children of today being smart enough to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow. Completely ignore the infrastructure needs of the future. Kill renewable energy and keep loving coal, which is not only destroying the planet but is also running out. Abbott liked three word slogans. He could have just gone with me me me. Or now now now. Or ‘give me marshmallow!’ Sadly this whole campaign was very effective.

I could be really smug at this point and piss off all Abbott voters, who don’t read my blog anyway, by saying that left wing voters are inherently more emotionally intelligent than right wing voters who are too easily conned into voting against their long-term-two-marshmallow interests by opportunistic tactics, such as Liberal fear campaigns, convincing them that the one marshmallow now is really their best option when it clearly isn’t. But it is not as simple as that. I can see in my own life that worrying about the future is hard when you have worries today. A perfect example is climate change. I worry a lot about climate change. I know pretty much all there is to know about the dangers of climate change which we are experiencing now, and will get worse as we continue to do nothing effective to slow it. But when I do catch myself worrying about the climate, and feeling guilty about the dangerous world my daughter is growing up in, I also notice this worry appears at times when there is nothing more pressing to worry about. Then I wonder whatis more pressing than the continuation of our planet, and the truth is, to individuals on that planet, the realities of life is that there are many things we have to worry about just to get through the day. I have a four month old daughter and since she arrived, there are hundreds of immediate worries. My husband and I have a mortgage, many bills to pay and busy jobs that keep our minds focussed on meeting short-term deadlines. For something as big as climate change, even if you are worried about it, even if you consider yourself a climate activist, there is very little, on a daily basis, you can actually do about it. And my family is by no means poor. For those struggling to survive on welfare, or in very low paid jobs, for those living in poverty, there is no such thing as worrying about tomorrow. A recent study as proved this, by finding that ‘people who live in poverty tend to make poor long term financial decisions because their economic situation makes it difficult to focus on anything but the near term’. So we have a vicious cycle. Short-term thinking neoliberal conservative governments result in growing wealth inequality which keeps more people poor, controlled by a very few rich-Turnbullites who are happy to continue to win the class war by keeping the poor on this short-term thinking track.

All of us, particularly the poor, rely on those in power, who are in a position to look after our long term interests, to do just that. But when our own government is only interested in the one marshmallow at the expense of all of our futures, and are hording thousands of marshmallows in their own privileged little world, stuffing more and more into their mouths until they literally look like marshmallow men, it is easy to feel even more individually-powerless and less hopeful about the whole society ever seeing our second marshmallow.

So back to the start of this post. We need a two-marshmallow government. That is why people should vote for the Labor Party. The Labor Party needs to do a better job of encouraging people to wait it out for the second marshmallow and then once in power, the Labor Party must make sure the second marshmallow is worth the wait. My daughter’s future depends on it. Everyone’s futures depend on it.

Young and Free? We Can Do Better than That….

Adding to the post I put up this morning, have a look at this: https://theconversation.com/young-and-free-why-i-declined-to-sing-the-national-anthem-at-the-2015-afl-grand-final-49234

The national anthem, like the flag, says something about us as a nation – or it’s supposed to. It’s supposed to represent us. Right now, it doesn’t – not really. An alternative is suggested below, having been around since 2009. I like it. What do you think?

P.S. Would appreciate being told whether the formatting works. This article was originally published on The Conversation and this is the first time I’ve tried their resharing option like this.

___________________________________________________________________

<h1>Young and free? Why I declined to sing the national anthem at the 2015 AFL Grand Final</h1>

<span><a href=”http://theconversation.com/profiles/deborah-cheetham-198525″>Deborah Cheetham</a>, <em><a href=”http://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-melbourne”>University of Melbourne</a></em></span>

<p>It’s every performer’s dream. To stand in front of the largest live audience you are ever likely to see and perform the national anthem. Last month I was invited by the AFL to sing Advance Australia Fair at the 2015 Grand Final. I knew it was honour to be asked but I simply can no longer sing the words “for we are young and free”.</p>

<p>Don’t get me wrong: I wanted to find a way to make it OK. I told the event organisers that I was available to perform but I made it a condition of my appearance that I would be permitted to replace the words “for we are young and free” with “in peace and harmony”.</p>

<p>To their credit the AFL gave my request consideration but decided that they were not able to openly support this change of lyric. So I made the only decision I could make – I turned down the opportunity to sing the national anthem in front of more than 90,000 people at the ground and potentially millions more watching on TV.</p>

<p>People aware of my career will know that I have sung the anthem for significant occasions in the past. So why not now?</p>

<h2>The silence around Indigenous culture</h2>

<p>Let me be clear: it was an honour to be asked. The problem is, as an Indigenous leader I simply can no longer sing the words “we are young and free”. For that matter, as an Australian with a strong desire to deepen our nation’s understanding of identity and our place in the world, I believe we can and must do better.</p>

<p>Over the past half-century Australians have come to realise much about the persistence, sophistication and success of Aboriginal Australia. The 1967 referendum, the <a href=”https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-social-justice/publications/bringing-them-home-stolen”>Bringing Them Home Report </a> (1997) and the <a href=”http://www.australia.gov.au/about-australia/our-country/our-people/apology-to-australias-indigenous-peoples”>Apology to the Stolen Generations</a> (2008) have all caught the nation’s attention and raised awareness of our shared history.</p>

<p>But many people have remained content to leave it there, to settle for what little information they received during school years. For such people, most of Australia’s Indigenous cultures remain unwrapped, unacknowledged and unexplored.</p>

<p>They are content to know that Indigenous culture exists without troubling themselves to find meaningful engagement. More worryingly, though not surprisingly, many still toil at a kind of all-consuming denial, which demands an extraordinary amount of commitment and energy to maintain.</p>

<h2>Not so young and free</h2>

<p>Our national anthem tells us that we are young and free. Blindly, many Australians continue to accept this.</p>

<p>But it’s not true. Setting aside for a moment 70,000 years of Indigenous cultures, 114 years on from Federation and 227 years into colonisation, at the very least, those words don’t reflect who we are. As Australians, can we aspire to be young forever? If we are ever to mature we simply cannot cling to this desperate premise.</p>

<p>How much better would it be if were to finally acknowledge the nuanced and sophisticated society discovered by those who arrived 230 years ago was deliberately and systematically overlooked? What if the next person to sing the anthem at the AFL Grand Final were to reach beyond the Western imperial history and harness the power of 70,000 years of accumulated wisdom and knowledge?</p>

<p>If it is time for Australia to grow up then how is this to be done? I believe that as a nation we can’t mature until we value, understand and embrace the fact that we alone in the world can lay claim to the longest continuing culture.</p>

<p>In terms of our national anthem I have written and spoken about the need for change for some time.</p>

<h2>A new song</h2>

<p>In 2009 I was privileged to help launch alternative lyrics penned by Australian legend Judith Durham in consultation with Muti Muti singer songwriter Kutcha Edwards.</p>

<p>The words are as inclusive as they are beautiful. Please take the time to read the words below and imagine the day when we can write (or sing) the next chapter in our nation’s development.</p>

<p>I believe one day we will sing these words at grand finals and other important events and that they will serve to bring us together.
Australia, it’s time to sing a new song:</p>

<blockquote>
<p>Australia, celebrate as one, with peace and harmony.<br>
Our precious water, soil and sun, grant life for you and me.<br>
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts to love, respect and share,<br>
And honouring the Dreaming, advance Australia fair.<br>
With joyful hearts then let us sing, advance Australia fair.<br></p>

<p>Australia, let us stand as one, upon this sacred land.<br>
A new day dawns, we’re moving on to trust and understand.<br>
Combine our ancient history and cultures everywhere,<br>
To bond together for all time, advance Australia fair.<br>
With joyful hearts then let us sing, advance Australia fair.<br></p>

<p>Australia, let us strive as one, to work with willing hands.<br>
Our Southern Cross will guide us on, as friends with other lands.<br>
While we embrace tomorrow’s world with courage, truth and care,<br>
And all our actions prove the words, advance Australia fair.<br>
With joyful hearts then let us sing, advance Australia fair.<br></p>

<p>And when this special land of ours is in our children’s care,<br>
From shore to shore forever more, advance Australia fair.<br>
With joyful hearts then let us sing, advance … Australia … fair.<br></p>
</blockquote>

<img alt=”The Conversation” height=”1″ src=”https://counter.theconversation.edu.au/content/49234/count.gif&#8221; width=”1″ />

<p><span><a href=”http://theconversation.com/profiles/deborah-cheetham-198525″>Deborah Cheetham</a>, Associate Dean, Music, <em><a href=”http://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-melbourne”>University of Melbourne</a></em></span></p>

<p>This article was originally published on <a href=”http://theconversation.com”>The Conversation</a>. Read the <a href=”https://theconversation.com/young-and-free-why-i-declined-to-sing-the-national-anthem-at-the-2015-afl-grand-final-49234″>original article</a>.</p>

REBLOGGED: A Flag for the Future

What do you think? (Especially Aussies.) I like #5, #7, maybe #8, #12, #18 or #19 (though for the last two I’d colour the stars white, not green and/or yellow)….
Maybe if #19, right at the bottom, had the features (wattle and white stars) in ‘dot-painting’ style? Or maybe #19 with the background an imprint of an Indigenous dot painting…
I’m open to ideas. To those who might think it’s ‘not the time’ to focus on this…if not now, when? At least let’s start a conversation… The comments over at The AIMN are illuminating.

A flag for the future

In November this year, Kiwis will be asked to take part in a postal referendum in which they will rank five flag alternatives from most to least preferred.  In March there will be another referendum in which they will be asked to choose between the current New Zealand Flag and the preferred alternative design selected in the first referendum. The results of both referendums are binding.

It struck me, as I watched the people protesting against a mosque being built in Bendigo, that I now associate our flag with racism and colonialism. It has become a symbol of intolerance, a cloak or brand meant to be worn by real Aussies – the sort who took part in the Cronulla riots, the sort who want to stop immigration, the sort who want to relax gun laws, the sort who attend Reclaim Australia rallies and campaign to ban halal certification for food.

bendigo-protest-2

It’s time we reconsidered our ‘patriotism’ and our allegiance to a flag that no longer represents our country. Our flag should symbolise more accurately the nation to which we all belong rather than the notion of White Supremacy.

Here are a few suggestions.

Ken Done Williamson 1

Rieben Bob Bradley

Ralph Kelly Aussie Push

brendan Jones Poulos

Couzens Sunburnt

Markwick https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/64/Australian_Flag_Proposal_%28Southern_Horizon%29.svg/320px-Australian_Flag_Proposal_%28Southern_Horizon%29.svg.pngJames Parbery Williamson 2

Ausflag 1991 https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/47/Seven_Golden_Stars_2012.svg/320px-Seven_Golden_Stars_2012.svg.png

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f5/Australian_Flag_New_E._R._Cattoni.jpg/320px-Australian_Flag_New_E._R._Cattoni.jpg

Do any of these inspire you?

Note:  The original artists and the meaning of their flags and some more alternatives can be found here and here.

[The ones below come from  the comments on the AIMN article.]

https://i2.wp.com/www.flagsaustralia.com.au/images/Coulin.jpg  https://i2.wp.com/www.canberratimes.com.au/content/dam/images/3/1/t/b/c/image.related.articleLeadwide.620x349.31ss7.png/1391208735070.jpghttps://i1.wp.com/www.australiandesignreview.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/New-Australian-republic-flag-design-John-Warwicker-Professor-of-Design-at-Monash-Art-Design-Architecture.jpg