Wednesday, January 31, 2007


SILENCING DISSENT - Edited by Clive Hamilton and Sarah Maddison Published by Allen & Unwin

Book Review by Allan Boyd

Silencing Dissent is an appropriate book for an appropriate era. At a time of increasing cultural homogeneity, collective apathy and lack of community participation in Australia, this book examines how for over ten years, John Howard's conservative Liberal-Coalition government has employed intimidation, deceit, obfuscation and conspiracy to silence and ridicule those who seek to dissent its policies.

Silencing Dissent reveals how our Australian democratic institutions, both government and NGOs are being eroded. The very heart of public participation has defected - and this book shows how and why. In John Howard's Australia in 2007, by contributing to the book - each Silencing Dissent contributor is a radical dissident.

The editors - well respected authors Clive Hamilton (executive director of lefty think-tank, The Australia Institute) & Sarah Maddison (lecturer in Politics and International Relations at the University of NSW) - and its 8 contributors have produced an entirely current and highly readable dire warning of a deadening Aussie democracy.

Currently a stacked Senate weakened by coalition reform is buckling under the boot of Mr Howard. The book examines a multitude of cases, all of which highlight Howard's master plan to systematically overthrow the authority of experts and individuals across the nation - in order to control public opinion and rewrite Australian history under the Liberal Party's grand vision. Academics, critics, public servants, social justice seekers and even members if its own Party are targeted and silenced galore - effectively dismantling the crucial checks and balances of government accountability and "weeding out those who are not sufficiently compliant". However Silencing Dissent also shows how those who toe the party line are sufficiently rewarded for their loyalty.

Citing glaring issues from as far back as 1996 (Refugees; Sadam's WMDs; the invasion of Iraq; the $300 million AWB scandal; the Tampa incident; the children overboard debacle; the gagging and guillotining to force through controversial legislative change) as obvious cases, the book delivers myriad evidence of an active hardline government intent on gagging critics of its neo-conservative rule. Silencing Dissent offers countless examples of how "the actions of the Howard Government have put democracy at risk".

Unable to tolerate 'frank and fearless' bi-partisan advice from public servants, NGOs and other highly reputable people, many boards and committees have been dissolved by an ideologically-driven government. Organisations are muted, quashed and conveniently populated with Howard's sycophantic political allies (as in the ABC). Indeed those who are submissive go on to receive obvious rewards, awards and accolades for their subjugated loyalty.

Silencing Dissent describes clearly and concisely how, under the Howard regime, only certain kinds of speech appear to be acceptable.

This book unveils the methods utilised by Howard and his colluders in the ongoing corrosion of democratic dissent. A timely collection of essays written by ten leading social justice experts, academics, thinkers, 'do-gooders' and whistle-blowers, Silencing Dissent will certainly be the target of an "inner circle of ideological warriors"; this "syndicate of right-wing commentators who receive favour from the Howard government". The likes of which determine the climate of public debate - which has arguably shifted a "long way to the right" over the past two decades.

The book, published in February 2007, at the precipice of an election year, details a litany of intimidation, public vituperation, funding cuts, provocation, increased bureaucracy, covert and overt manipulation, outright refusal to adhere to the appropriate tools of accountability etc etc. And the sufferers under the Howard years are people - workers, students, institutions, charities, academics, researchers, journalists, judges, public sector organisations - even defence force personnel are victims under the tyranny of John Winston Howard.

This poignant group of articles shows how since 1996, Howard has managed with much success to stifle critique of his policy and the manner of its implementation in this country. Silencing Dissent describes in detail how our media and public institutions are shaped, abused and dismantled in the pursuit of an ideological dominance.

All brave democratic Australians need to consume this book.

Read it. Steal it if you have to. Make a noise. DISSENT!

ISBN 9781741751017
Price $24.95
Paperback, 300 pages
Allen & Unwin Feb07

Why nuclear energy is not the solution to climate change

February 1, 2007: Faced with unrelenting local and global pressure over climate change, Prime Minister John Howard punches the nuclear power button almost every time he opens his mouth these days. His recent taskforce, looking at alternatives to fossil-fuel, yet stacked with nuclear industry proponents, announced over New Year 2007 that uranium mining be expanded and that nuclear energy is a viable option for Australia.

But nuclear power is not an answer to climate change...

If the argument is about greenhouse gases, Peter Bradford, former member of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, says that: even if nuclear is fast-tracked over all other energy prospects, nuclear cannot provide more than 10-15% of greenhouse gas displacement likely to be needed by 2050.

Bradford says: "Not only can nuclear power not stop global warming, it is probably not even an essential part of the solution to global warming."

Extensive studies have shown that humans urgently need to shift to cleaner, safer energy sources to tackle the challenge of debilitating global climate change. And according to Friends of the Earth, there is no case for nuclear power to be part of the future energy mix. The environmental organisation said in November 2006, that nuclear power was a "dangerous distraction" from the safe solutions to the global crisis of climate change.

Globally, nuclear power currently supplies around three per cent of global energy - albeit at massive economic and environmental cost. Yet Friends of the Earth say renewable energy sources can supply considerably more than the International Energy Agency's highest global energy forecasts.

There are vast solar energy resources in Australia's deserts, for example, which can be converted to electricity by simple and safe mirror-based technologies. Globally, these could generate power on a scale of between ten and hundred times greater than any feasible nuclear expansion. And this technology is available right now.

Yet John Howard regurgitates the uranium industry line that nuclear power is "clean and green," when it is simply not true.

Nuclear power is not good for greenhouse gas reduction, because it requires huge amounts of fossil fuels - for mining, milling and enrichment of uranium. Furthermore, nuclear energy is dependent on the concentration of the uranium ore - and as more uranium is used, the quality of ore is depleted. According to recent analysis, even with high-grade ore, it would take 10 years to "pay back" the energy used in construction and fuelling of a typical reactor. And with lower-grade ore - if nuclear power were to be widely expanded - the net emissions would be far greater than a gas power station. Other studies show that uranium reserves would be depleted within 5-10 years if used to replace Coal as an energy source globally.

Water is also an issue in the nuclear energy cycle, consuming millions of litres of water to produce any fuel. Yet many towns and shires across Australia are struggling to get enough drinking water - let alone enough to satisfy the amount a nuclear station would need to guzzle. This is water that we simply cannot afford as chronic drought and looming climate change dry up water supplies in this country.

There is also the perpetual issue of nuclear waste. The nuclear industry is a producer of highly toxic, radioactive and hazardous waste. Yet in over 50 years, scientists have still not found a viable solution to the ongoing problem of radioactive waste. Nuclear power stations produce the most dangerous industrial wastes known to humankind. Reports estimate that even without expansion, by 2015 there will be roughly 250,000 tonnes to deal with. Beyond the waste issue, radioactive leaks continue. Since Chernobyl in 1986, more than 22 serious leaks have been documented. There are far greater safety issues involved with nuclear energy than any other method of generating power.

In terms of economic efficiency, nuclear power is the most expensive way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Nuclear power is not economically viable without significant government subsidies. It is well known that the nuclear energy industry is heavily subsidised by taxpayers across the planet. Canada for example has a 4 billion dollar debt attributed to nuclear energy. And the USA provides direct subsidies to nuclear energy totalling $115 billion, with a further $145 billion of indirect subsidies.

But similar support has not been forthcoming for renewable energy. If the money invested in nuclear and fossil fuel subsidies were spent on energy efficiency and developing renewable energy sources - perhaps we would be much closer to meeting our needs at a far lower cost to the environment and power consumers.

Wind power, for example, is the fastest growing energy source in the world, and is far cheaper than nuclear. For the same investment, wind generates more electricity, and offers more jobs. Renewable energy is getting cheaper the more we produce in Australia. In recent years, over 6,000 megawatts of wind generation have been installed every year in Europe. This is the equivalent of three nuclear power plants.

Australians want renewable energy. A National Poll in 2003 found that 76% of respondents would pay an additional 5% on their energy bills for a 10% increase in renewable energy - when the alternative was cheap energy at any environmental cost.

Professor Ian Lowe, Australian Conservation Foundation President says, "be in no doubt: renewable energy works. Renewables now account for a quarter of the installed capacity of California, a third of Sweden's energy, half of Norway's and three-quarters of Iceland's. It is time we joined the clean energy revolution sweeping the progressive parts of the world," he said. "Renewables can meet Australia's energy demands. Just 15 wind farms could supply enough power for half the homes in NSW," said Professor Lowe.

Fitting solar panels to just half the houses in Australia could supply 7% of all our electricity needs, including industry needs - enough in fact for the whole of Tasmania and the Northern Territory. Currently, nuclear is a marginal energy source, supplying a small percent of the world energy demand.

Nuclear energy only produces electricity and can not replace petrol or diesel as fuel for cars, trucks, ships and planes - road transport is currently the source of 22% of carbon dioxide emissions, and aviation is the fastest growing source of CO2 emissions.

Nuclear power is not a sustainable energy source - it is greenhouse intensive, it is costly, dangerous, and produces toxic waste which hangs around for hundreds of thousands of years.

But don't let John Howard distort and polish the dubious reality of nuclear power, find out for yourself...

- Media Release - FOE
- International Energy Agency
- Professor Ian Lowe. National Press Club, October 19, 2005
- Nuclear Power - Dr Helen Caldicott
- Boston Globe
- John Busby
- Sustainable Development Commission

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Decommisioned toxic nuclear reactor parts to be dumped in Australian desert?

JAN 30 2007: Used reactor parts: Environmentalists have warned against dumping radioactive waste from Australia's Lucas Heights old nuclear reactor parts in the Northen Territory. Federal Science Minister Julie Bishop says its not yet known which site in the NT will be chosen as Australia's first central nuclear waste dump. The 50-year-old HIFAR reactor in Sydney's south is being decommissioned. Minister Bishop shut down Australia's first nuclear reactor today...

January 30, 2007 marks the end of the Sydney's Lucas Heights nuclear reactor in the city's south, after almost 50 years of operation. The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) says it is confident ongoing problems with Australia's next nuclear reactor "will be fixed by the time it is meant to come on line."

The work of the reactor will be taken over by the new Argentinian-designed research reactor called OPAL. The new $350 million OPAL reactor replaces the old facility, which opened in 1958 as Australia's first nuclear reactor.

ANSTO chief executive Ian Smith says he expects the new reactor to be up and running by April, despite some teething problems in the commissioning phase - citing certain leaks as one of the problems.

The federal government plan to build a nuclear waste dump in the NT. But critics have warned against dumping the Lucas Heights reactor's old radioactive parts in the desert. But Arid Lands Environment Centre spokeswoman Natalie Wasley says it would be much better for the old parts of the reactor to remain at Lucas Heights. "The Australian Nuclear Association have all said that there is room here, they have the technology, they have the capability and they have the storage room," she said. "Also there are trained personnel here who deal with radioactive material, and they'll be on site all the time. So that's definitely a lot better option than sticking it out in a remote area in the desert."

Wilderness Society nuclear spokeswoman Imogen Zethoven says the Federal Government should say where it is planning to dump radioactive waste from the decommissioned site. "We don't believe that the dismantled reactor should be shifted across Australia, through local communities, past people's homes and put in someone's backyard that doesn't want it," she said.

"We actually think that the reactor, now that it's shut down, should stay where it is and be managed locally."

The $50 million decommissioning process has begun with the official shutdown of the facility. Fuel will then be removed and fluid drained from the facility, before radioactive materials within the reactor are left there to decay.

NSW Greens senator Kerry Nettle said she feared the decommissioning process of the old facility would not be as successful as hoped. Science was not far enough advanced to safely dispose of nuclear waste, she said.

"Not one single commercial nuclear power reactor around the world has been successfully decommissioned," Ms Nettle said. "We know from the evidence this nuclear site may never become safe, regardless of any new reactor. We don't have the technological and scientific answers of how to dispose of this waste."

The Wilderness Society called on the Federal Government to fully outline its plans for the disposal of radioactive waste from the reactor. "The Federal Government must make clear to local communities where they plan on storing this nuclear waste that remains toxic for millions of years," said society spokeswoman Imogen Zethoven. "Local communities along transport routes will also be concerned about the tonnes of dangerous nuclear waste that will be trucked past their homes."

Over its 40-year life, OPAL will generate several cubic metres of high-level waste, which it intends to store in a remote location in the Northern Territory.


Nuclear group says new reactor ready soon - ABC
Science Minister turns off nuclear reactor - ABC
Nuclear reactor's life coming to an end - ABC
Curtains for Lucas Heights after nearly 50 years - SMH
New nuclear reactor fires up energy debate
Where are they planning to dump radioactive waste? - MIM
Arid Lands Environment Centre

Howard's disingenuous debate about Nuclear Power in Australia

Elliot K - Indymedia Tuesday January 30, 2007

January 30, 2007: Possible nuclear power sites tagged: Canberra-based think tank, the Australia Institute, has identified at least 19 potential locations for nuclear power plant sites. Two thirds of Australians oppose nuclear power plants in their local area according to new research by the Australia Institute. The finding is made in Who Wants a Nuclear Power Plant?, a paper analysing support for nuclear power in Australia by Institute Deputy Director Andrew Macintosh...

"We can not have this debate without considering siting issues..."

Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton, Bundaberg, the Sunshine Coast and Bribie Island have been named in the Australia Institute's final list of possible sites around Australia. Deputy director of the left-wing institute Andrew McIntosh says the sites all met four primary criteria.

"First one was sites near the national electricity market or electricity grid," he said. "The second was near centre of demand, the third one was near transport infrastructure and the final one was near the coast, because you need water or you need sea water for cooling purposes."

However, new research by the institute suggests two-thirds of Australians are opposed to having a nuclear power plant in their local area. Their paper found 50 per cent of people are against having nuclear power plants in Australia, but opposition increases when people consider the prospect of a plant built in their neighbourhood.

"At the most basic level, the public cannot accurately evaluate whether it is willing to support a nuclear industry unless it has an idea about where the power plants are likely to be located. In the absence of this information, the Government is asking the community to make decisions in the abstract without being fully informed," says Mr McIntosh in the research paper, "Siting Nuclear Power Plants in Australia - Where would they go?."

Mr McIntosh says opposition is highest in middle income households and among women. "One of the real blockages to nuclear power being an option is the extent of opposition to it," he said. "But it's mainly because we need to solve climate change rapidly and with this amount of opposition you're just not going to get there. It's going to take you two decades to get anywhere near the position where you're going to be ready to establish a large scale nuclear power industry."

Polling for the Institute by Newspoll shows that while 50 per cent of people oppose the construction of nuclear power plants in Australia, opposition escalates when people consider the prospect of a plant being sited in their local area.

"Middle Australia is most concerned," Mr Macintosh said. "A large 73 per cent of middle income households are opposed to living near a nuclear plant, compared to 61 per cent of low income and 63 per cent of high income households. A large proportion of women (75 per cent) and people with children (72 per cent) are also opposed to living near a nuclear power plant."

In a second paper, Siting Nuclear Power Plants in Australia, Mr Macintosh identifies 19 likely sites for nuclear power plants in Australia.

Launching the papers today, Institute Director Dr Clive Hamilton said "Overseas
experience shows that the siting of power plants is one of the most politically contentious aspects of the nuclear debate. The Prime Minister has called for a thorough and full-blooded debate about nuclear energy," Dr Hamilton said.

"We can not have this debate without considering siting issues"

Based on four primary and six secondary criteria, including proximity to seawater for cooling and access to the national electricity grid, areas identified as possible nuclear plant sites are:

· in Queensland – Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Bundaberg, Sunshine Coast and Bribie Island;
· in NSW/ACT – Port Stephens, Central Coast, Botany Bay, Port Kembla and Jervis Bay/Sussex Inlet;
· in Victoria – South Gippsland, Western Port, Port Phillip and Portland; and
· in South Australia – Mt Gambier/Millicent, Port Adelaide and Port Augusta/Port Pirie.



Siting Nuclear Power Plants in Australia: Where would they go? - January 2007, A Macintosh - PDF

Who Wants a Nuclear Power Plant: Support for nuclear power in Australia - January 2007, A Macintosh - PDF

Media release - TAI
Possible nuclear power sites tagged in Qld - ABC

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Hollow Howard "unhappy" over Hicksy - Not good enough!

JANUARY 24, 2007: "Prime Minister John Howard's unquestioning support of the US military trial of David Hicks needs to end..."

John Howard has issued a hollow ultimatum to the US over the future of Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks. The Adelaide-born man has been held in Guantanamo Bay for more than five years. John Howard says he is unhappy it has taken so long for new charges to be laid.

The Prime Minister says he has asked the US to charge the Australian terrorism suspect by mid-February. Hicks has been detained since his capture in Afghanistan in December 2001. Supporters is showing more signs of mental anguish...

Shadow attorney-general Kelvin Thomson says John Howard's time line for the trial of Mr Hicks is meaningless: "It's a hollow ultimatum, the Howard Government continues to be in denial about the prospect of more legal challenges to an unfair process and the prospect that David Hicks will languish in Guantanamo bay indefinitely," said Mr Thomson.

"I think effectively he is calling for something which he believes that the US authorities intend to do in any event, I think that the Australian Government may well have had a nod and a wink from the Americans concerning their timing," he said. Mr Hicks appeared before a US military commission in August 2004 and pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy, attempted murder and aiding the enemy.

But all charges were dropped when the US Supreme Court ruled last June that the military commissions were unlawful.

Greens Senator Christine Milne says latest regulations concerning the military trial "breach accepted standards and will continue to deny David Hicks a fair trial." "Would Prime Minister Howard allow one of his own children to be tried under these rules?" Senator Milne said. "The chorus of opposition in this country to David Hicks' mistreatment during five years' incarceration and to the Howard government's abandonment of an Australian citizen grows louder each week."

She said Attorney-General Philip Ruddock's admission earlier this month that he has never even asked to see the evidence claims against David Hicks demonstrates the government's disregard for David Hicks' rights: "The government's treatment of David Hicks contrasts with its claims to stand for Australian values of fairness, decency and support of families.


Meanwhile, the US Defence Department has drafted a manual for trying detainees at the American naval base in Cuba. The manual allows terrorist suspects to be imprisoned, convicted and executed on the basis of hearsay evidence or coerced testimony. The Pentagon manual says so-called enemy combatants "are prosecuted before regularly constituted courts affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognised by civilised people".

The Law Council says these new rules fall short of fair trial standards: "After the Military Commissions Act was passed last year, we knew that this new regime... was fundamentally flawed and unfair," council president Tim Bugg said. "The manual, which contains the rules of evidence, simply confirms our fears." Mr Bugg said Hicks could be convicted on the basis of hearsay evidence that he won't have the opportunity to challenge.

"The rules even allow hearsay within hearsay, meaning that Mr Hicks could be placed in a position where he doesn't have the opportunity to cross-examine the person twice removed from the witness who actually made an allegation about him," Mr Bugg said. "The manual also makes it clear that evidence... used against Mr Hicks may come from informants in the field, former Guantanamo detainees long released and US and foreign security agents - none of whom the prosecution is required to produce at trial."

"Regardless of what lip service they pay to defendants' rights, the military commissions are designed to rubber stamp decisions about guilt that were made long ago," says Mr Bugg.

Hicks' defence counsel, US Marine Corps Major Michael Mori, said the new rules were even worse than the old system overturned by the US Supreme Court last year. "We have the same broken-down house with a fresh coat of paint," he said. "There is no difference. The same people who wrote the illegal system created this system..."

Major Mori said the manual denied Guantanamo inmates fundamental rights and placed unfair burdens on the defence. "Actually things are worse under this new system," he said. "Under the old commission system, a military defence lawyer was allowed to see all the classified evidence. Even if David Hicks couldn't, I could. Now they want to, basically, say that I may not see classified evidence. They may only use a summary and I may never get to see to check the classified evidence."

"It's very crafty how they put the burden on the defence to show why the Government's hearsay evidence is unreliable and yet they now give the ability to the government to classify how evidence was obtained and the methods by which it was obtained."

The rules, he said, "just don't provide for a fair trial". Major Mori said the rules diminished his client's rights substantially and made his job as defence counsel more difficult. "The right to a speedy trial - that's gone, any right against self incrimination has been taken away, the right to confront your accuser..." he said. "They say all hearsay can come in and the burden is on the defence to show why the prosecution shouldn't be able to use this."

Major Mori is examining avenues for a legal challenge, but said the US Supreme Court would not rule on such a case before 2009 or 2010, by which time Hicks would have been in detention for up to nine years. He said there was no indication from the Pentagon about a timeframe for laying fresh charges against Hicks.

Laying of fresh charges does not guarantee a quick trial, due to delays from legal battles in the US for those brought before military commissions.


Meanwhile, David's father, Terry Hicks, has expressed concern about his son's psychological state as he enters his sixth year at Guantanamo Bay.

However Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has rejected a suggestion Hicks might not be mentally fit to face trial. "There is no evidence of that from what I have heard from Guantanamo Bay. None at all," he said.

However, a US embassy spokeswoman has confirmed that a staff member spent "five minutes with Hicks" last Friday and a report of the meeting was given to the American ambassador to Australia, who briefed the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

"The official that met David Hicks is not a doctor so it wasn't an assessment as such," the embassy official said. "His quick impression was that David Hicks was physically healthy and mentally alert."

Major Mori questioned Downer's claim that Hicks was mentally fit to face trial. Major Mori said he understood Hicks had been "put on display for some visiting dignitaries". "He's being used as a monkey in a cage for people to come to stare at," he said.

The party included officials from the US embassy in Australia and there were no health professionals involved. "What I'm concerned about is, I don't believe David would want to reveal the problems he's having to the people who are controlling his life down there," Major Mori said.

Law Council slams 'unfair system'
Father's fury at Hicks visit
Hicks like 'a monkey in a cage'
Five years on, Howard sets deadline for US to charge Hicks
PM Howard must demand David Hicks' return in wake of new rules

Monday, January 22, 2007

Qantas bans passenger over anti-Bush t-shirt

January 22, 2007: Qantas turns away passenger over terror T-shirt - Qantas is refusing to let an Australian man board a plane from Melbourne to the United Kingdom because he insists on wearing a T-shirt depicting US President George Bush as a terrorist. Alan Jasson said he was defending freedom of speech through his insistence on wearing the T-shirt. Qantas says the t-shirt was offensive to other passengers, but Mr Jasson has told the ABC he's considering court action...

Alan Jasson, 55, says he wanted to wear the T-shirt, but Qantas says written or verbal comments that "could cause offence or threaten security will not be tolerated." Mr Jasson says he is being denied his right to express his political views.

"I have a right to my political views and no one can take them away from me," he said. Mr Jasson says the ban on his T-shirt is outrageous. "People who have a political view, you know if I say John Howard's a liar, John Howard knew that there were no children overboard, if that's a view at some point you have to say bad luck," he said.

Mr Jasson, an Australian IT specialist who lives in London, is staying with his daughter in Melbourne after he was refused entry to the flight to London at Melbourne Airport. Airline staff argued that the T-shirt, which bears an image of the US president with the slogan `World's number 1 terrorist', was a security risk. The airline earlier had prevented him from flying to Melbourne for Christmas with relatives on December 2 until he removed the shirt.

Domestic carrier Virgin Blue took the same action when Mr Jasson tried to catch a connecting flight to Adelaide, but on a return flight with Qantas on Friday, he successfully wore the shirt. Mr Jasson said he cleared international security checks and arrived at the departure lounge in Melbourne for the flight home when he approached the gate manager, congratulated him over Qantas allowing him to wear the shirt and demanded an apology for his earlier treatment.

"I raised the issue, but I wanted primarily to thank Qantas for relenting when (the gate manager) told me: `I'm surprised you got this far, the staff should have stopped you'," Mr Jasson said.

Mr Jasson said he risked missing his chance of permanent residency if he spent more than two months out of the UK. But the Adelaide-born former Melbourne resident said he was seeking legal advice to challenge the airline's policy and recover costs.

"To be fair to Qantas, they have said I can take another flight if I don't wear the T-shirt but I am not prepared to go without the T-shirt," he said. "I might forfeit the ($2500) fare but I have made up my mind that I would rather stand up for the principle of free speech."

When asked whether the stand was worthwhile, Mr Jasson said: "In Australia today it is very sad that that question has to be asked. "It's very sad that I find that question has to be asked in Australia. It's a very unhealthy situation and it makes me feel very sad. "It's one of the reasons that I now live in the UK."

A Qantas spokesman said: "Whether made verbally or on a T-shirt, comments with the potential to offend other customers or threaten the security of a Qantas group aircraft will not be tolerated".

"People who have a political view, such as saying in my view "John Howard knew there were no children overboard" then that's my view," he said. "If people find that offensive then you have to say at some point, bad luck."

ABC News
'Terror' T-shirt sparks legal row - The Australian

Woolworths: what about the other 364 days of the year?

January 22, 2007: Woolworths action "no more than a cynical marketing ploy".

In a major corporate advertising blitz, Woolworths on January 23, will "donate its entire day's profits from all Australian Woolworths supermarkets to the Country Women's Association (CWA) to help farming families with household bills and for research into sustainable farming practices."

Greens MLC Mark Parnell has called on Woolworths to do more for farmers all year round, rather than undertake a "one-day marketing-driven charity drive." There is growing concern across the country about power duopoly, Woolworths and Coles - who together control 70% of the Australian fresh food market and the control they have over the growing, distribution and sale of our food...

The General Manager of the SA Farmers Federation, Carol Vincent, describes Woolworths' National Drought Action Day as an "insulting" public relations exercise. "South Australian farmers don't want a tokenistic hand-out, they just want Woolworths to pay a fairer price for the produce they buy all year round," he said.

"The big two retailers have far and away the highest level of market dominance in the world," said Mark Parnell. "This is an incredibly unhealthy situation. Coles and Woolworths are able to exert too much influence over the size of farms, what crops are grown and what price they fetch - and as a result our farmers, and their communities, are doing it tough, drought or no drought. Because of their market power, Woolworths are in a wonderful position to make a real and lasting difference to our farmers and the wider community."

In 2006, Sunshine Coast strawberry and dairy farmers announced they were "sick and tired of being rorted by the major supermarket chains". According to the State member of Nicklin, "when I was trying to intervene on behalf of the dairy industry, I spoke to senior people in Woolworths and their response was, "we are not in the business of doing what’s good for dairy farmers, we are in the business of making profits for shareholders".

In 2006, Consumer Protection WA charged Woolworths with breaches of regulations relating to fuel pricing. Also the ACCC saw Woolies fined $7 million for anticompetitive behaviour in the liquor market. The CEO of Woolworths, a devout Christian, runs the largest liquor supplier and gaming operation in Australia - 12,000 gaming machines - as well as a major pusher of tobacco.

So far 2007 has seen Woolworths under further attack, first over grocery costs then the cost of fuel. Consumer experts say the nation’s supermarket duopoly is the reason. According to the NRMA, when it came to the cost of fuel, Woolworths are "reducing competition by squeezing independent chains out of the marketplace".

"If Woolworths are genuine about helping Australian farmers, they should stop robbing producers of the real value of their products, and start paying fairer prices 365 days of the year. Otherwise... (the) 'Drought Action Day' should be regarded as no more than a cynical marketing ploy," says Mark Parnell.

Woolworths CEO Michael Luscombe said the Woolworths National Drought Action Day is expected to raise in excess of three million dollars. He said 100% of the donation will be directed to the Country Women's Association. However, corporations like Woolworths, rarely wake up one morning, and decide it would be a good idea to dump a day’s profits into the bank accounts of organisations like the CWA. Woollies reported a billion dollar profit for 2005-6, paid its CEO $12 million, and expects 21 per cent growth.

Alan Matheson a human rights worker and christian minister says there’s a darker side to this retailing predator, which may shed some light on why Woolworths is prepared to overlook a day’s profit. "It’s farmers themselves who’ve been at the forefront of a continuing attack on Woolworths," he says. It’s farmers, and even Federal Government ministers, who see Woolies as a major threat to "the unique rural heritage of Australia". The $3 million the CWA will pick up is "peanuts compared to what is being alleged by farmers, and what the courts are saying about the friendly folks at Woolworths."

Australian fruit growers lost out as Woolworths sourced their Home Brand lines from China and South Africa in January 2006. Then Woolworths was "fined almost $9 million after being found guilty of fixing the price of bread and abusing market power". Growers complain of the "concentration of retail power", that led to grower returns getting less and less.

According to a Woolworths spokesperson, some of the donation "will be helping to put food on the tables, providing farmers with immediate support for household needs including paying bills, buying groceries and fuel." Families will be able to download applications for Woolworths funding from the CWA website starting April 1, 2006. As for the use of the remainder of the funds, the details are sketchy.

Mr De Landgrafft of the Western Australian Farmers Federation (WAFF) says it is encouraging to see farmers not having to rely solely on government handouts. "I think moves away from government assistance and back into industry... is a really good step forward," he said. "That's something that I think we haven't seen on this scale from industry, but I think that it's something [that] really needs to be done in the future."

Meanwhile, Woolworths has applied to New Zealand's competition watchdog to take over the country's largest listed retailer, The Warehouse. Michael Luscombe says the giant supermarket and retail chain may make a full takeover bid for the 85-store discount retailer.

ABC News: Drought-stricken WA farmers pleased with retail support
Courier Mail: Buy up big to assist farmers
Woolworths CEO pledges substantial - Media Release
Melbourne Indymedia
Woolworths: the farmer’s friend!
Why our farmers get so paid little yet we're forced to pay so much
On the right track, but may lack sustainable commitment
ABC News: Woolworths seeks approval to buy Warehouse

Big Day Out - No Aussie flag 'Ban'

January 22, 2007

Big Day Out says it hasn't banned Australian flag - Right wing aussie patriots are frothing at the mouth with the news that the Big Day Out are "discouraging" flag-wavers at the Sydney show.

But organisers of the Big Day Out rock festival say they have not banned the Australian flag at Sydney, but they do want concert-goers to leave it at home this Thursday. The Federal Government says organisers should cancel the event if they are worried about violence, rather than discourage people from displaying the Australian flag.

BDO organisers have issued a statement saying there will be "no official ban" on the flag, but they are discouraging people from bringing it to the event or wearing it on clothing.

News Ltd has reported that organisers of the Big Day Out at Homebush would confiscate any flag or bandanna featuring the national symbol at the gates. BDO organiser Ken West was quoted as saying fans' behaviour last year in the wake of the Cronulla riots and the recent ethnic violence at the Australian Open tennis tournament had forced his hand. "The Australian flag was being used as gang colours. It was racism disguised as patriotism and I'm not going to tolerate it," Mr West said. But organisers today said Mr West had been misinterpreted.

"We are not banning the Australian flag but are simply discouraging its use for anti-social purposes at the Big Day Out," organisers said in a statement on the BDO website.

"In recent times, there has been an increased incidence of flags brandished aggressively and this has led to increased tension. Our only intention in discouraging this activity at the Big Day Out is to ensure that our patrons are not subjected to this aggressive behaviour. With all this in mind and the aim to create a happy, peaceful MUSICAL event, organisers would like to request that fans please leave their flags at home."

The organisers said there was no need for the Australian flag to be waved at the Sydney concert as it was not an Australia Day event. The organisers specifically changed the Sydney slot in 2007 so that it didn't fall on its traditional Australia Day date.

The ban has prompted a cacophony of disapproval from politicians, including Prime Minister John Howard, and the RSL.

"Contrary to the reports in the media, it was never our intention to disrespect the symbolism of the Australian or any other flag," the BDO said. The BDO tours six cities in Australia and New Zealand but the ban will only affect Sydney.

NSW Premier Morris Iemma and the RSL also condemned the BDO decision as "outrageous" and "unbelievable". Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd said the move was "excessive and wrong". "Organisers have got it plain wrong when they try to hide our flag as if it's some symbol of shame. It's not. We should fly it with pride," he said on Channel 9.

RSL national president Bill Crews said he would back the concert being cancelled if the flag ban continued. "We'd certainly support that approach if they don't want to change their mind on the banning of the flag," he told Nine. "This is an incredible decision that I hope organisers will quickly change. It's an unbelievable thing that you ban Australia's national symbol at any event in Australia."

Meanwhile, an Australian man has threatened legal action against Qantas for barring him from a Melbourne-to-London flight wearing a t-shirt depicting US President George W Bush as a terrorist. Allen Jasson, who lives in the UK, said he was defending freedom of speech by wearing the t-shirt. He was refused entry to the flight to London at Melbourne Airport on Friday. His t-shirt depicted an image of the US president with the slogan "World's number 1 terrorist".

Virgin Blue took the same action when Mr Jasson tried to catch a connecting flight to Adelaide, but on a return flight to Melbourne with Qantas, he successfully wore the shirt. When asked whether his action had been worthwhile, Mr Jasson said: "it's very sad that I find that question has to be asked in Australia. It's a very unhealthy situation and it makes me feel very sad. It's one of the reasons that I now live in the UK."

A Qantas spokesman said: "Whether made verbally or on a t-shirt, comments with the potential to offend other customers or threaten the security of a Qantas group aircraft will not be tolerated".


In recent times, there has been an increased incidence of flags brandished inconsiderately and this has led to increased tension. Our only goal in discouraging this activity at the Big Day Out is to ensure that our patrons are not subjected to or inconvenienced by this behaviour. We have no problem with people being patriotic, and we certainly do not have a problem with people wearing or displaying what they feel is important. Regardless of how it has been interpreted, this is about audience safety and enjoyment.

With all this in mind and the aim to create a happy, peaceful MUSICAL event, organisers would like to request that fans please leave large flags at home. The substantial increase of flags brought to large public events such as the Big Day Out is becoming excessive and has created complex issues including but not limited to sight line problems.

This is simply a request, not a command.

The Big Day Out is not an Australia Day event, but a music festival showcasing music artists from around the world and aspires to unify people through music. On the whole, Big Day Out audiences have been extremely well behaved and we hope that this has clarified this situation.

Unfortunately media reports were not quoted accurately and we must thank the participating media for wasting everybody’s time including the Prime Minister John Howard, Premier Morris Iemma, NSW RSL President Don Rowe, Keysar Trad (a confidant of the Mufti Sheik Taj el-Dene Elhilaly) and Burt Lane of the Australian National Flag Association...

BDO Media Release - Clarification on the Flag Issue
ABC News: Scrap flag condition or cancel BDO, says Govt
News Ltd: Ban concert, not flag: Robb
Undercover: Should the BDO Ban The Flag?
Melbourne Indymedia: Howard's Legacy, Australian Flag Causes Tension
NZ Herald: Qantas bans man over wearing 'Bush number 1 terrorist' shirt

ACTION: Stand Up for the Burrup this week!

Protest: The needless desecration of sacred art

The Burrup site, containing hundreds of thousands of rock carvings, said to date back thousands of years is under destruction.

From 12:30pm on Monday January 22 and Thursday 25, 2007 vigils will take place at the headquarters of Woodside in Perth to demonstrate against the relocation of rock art and destruction of the heritage values of the Burrup Peninsula.

Imagine a cultural icon six times older than the Pyramids, eight times older than Stonehenge. Imagine probably the earliest surviving rock carvings on this planet. Most Australians have never even heard of these rock carvings on the Burrup Peninsula, and have no idea this silent world treasure is being needlessly pulled apart and destroyed from blind industrial development...

The National Trust of Australia says the Burrup site, in north-west Australia, contains one of the world's largest and most important collections of petroglyphs - ancient rock carvings - dating back as far as the last ice age. It says the collection of standing stones may be the largest in the world.

In December 2006, Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell turned down an application for emergency heritage listing of the Burrup Peninsula rock art site, which is under threat from a major gas installation. Senator Campbell said that he did not believe the threat was sufficient to warrant emergency listing.

The application was made by Australian Greens senator Rachel Siewert, Labor MP Carmen Lawrence and independent MP Peter Andren. Senator Campbell said there were believed to be up to one million pieces of rock art in the Dampier Archipelago, including in the Burrup area. As a result of Campbell's rejection, Woodside will start initial preparation works at Site A, including engineering works and fencing.

Woodside announced last week that it has commenced work to remove ancient rock art from the Burrup. There has been opposition to its location because the company will have to move 150 ancient Aboriginal rock engravings to make way for the development. The plant is due to be operational by 2010.

"Woodside is needlessly vandalising the priceless heritage values of the Burrup when perfectly acceptable industrial land is just a few kilometres up the road," Friends of Australian Rock Art spokesperson Dr Sylvia Hallam said this morning. "The Government has failed to stop the desecration of Burrup Peninsula rock art, meaning it is up to the community to take their concerns directly to Woodside."

"This is a company that should seriously consider how further destruction on the Burrup will affect its' reputation. These vigils will be the first of many opportunities for us to talk directly to people about how Woodside's activities are ruining the ice age heritage of the Burrup."

Dr Hallam said that there are other sites nearby that should be used for Woodside's proposed Pluto LNG facility.

Corner of St Georges Terrace and Milligan Street, Perth
Vigil 1 - Monday 22 January 2007, 12:30 - 1:30
Vigil 2 - Thursday 25 January 2007, 12:30 - 1:30
Contact: Dr Sylvia Hallam 9386 1366 or 0402 664 503

On the 9 January 2007 Woodside announced that work had started on the initial preparation phase of Woodside's Pluto project on the Burrup Peninsula. Woodside said site preparation work for LNG storage tanks will include fencing, road access and relocating cultural heritage material over the first half of 2007.

WA Senator Rachel Siewert says it's not too late to change the location. The Woodside project has drawn criticism because the company plans to move 165 Aboriginal rock carvings. A Woodside spokeswoman said the rock art relocation would start within two or three weeks, depending on the progress of other work.

Australian Greens federal Senator Rachel Siewert said the federal government and Woodside would be remembered as vandals for allowing the destruction of rock art. She said it was not too late to change the location of the plant to an already cleared adjacent site.

"Woodside have not even made the final decision to commit to the project... yet they are still proceeding with initial site works," Senator Siewert said in a statement," said Senator Siewert. "We need to ask why they are rushing to clear the site now, is it simply because in the New Year period they think people won't be paying attention?"

"This Government and Woodside will go down in the history books as vandals for allowing the destruction of rock art on the Burrup", said Senator Rachel Siewert. "I can not believe that in this day and age our Governments think it is acceptable to destroy ancient rock art to allow development," said Senator Siewert.

"It is not too late to relocate the development onto already cleared land next-door to the current site. Surely Woodside can negotiate with its joint venture partners to protect this unique rock art?" said the Senator. "Woodside have not even made the final decision to commit to the project, and reportedly will not be making this decision until later in the year - yet they are still proceeding with initial site works," said Senator Siewert. "I simply cannot understand why the Federal Government is not requiring Woodside to co-locate the plant just a couple of hundred metres up the road - thereby enabling the development to proceed and saving the rock art. Our failure to protect our unique Indigenous heritage is an international shame," she said.

Woodside is Australia's largest publicly traded oil and gas exploration and production company with a market capitalisation of more than A$25 billion

Destruction of rock art to commence on the Burrup - Greens
Vandalism/Destruction of Burrup rock art to begin - International Shame: Perth.indymedia
Protest Woodside's destruction of The Burrup. Perth.indymedia
Burrup tragedy: Campbell sends in the bulldozers. Perth.indymedia
Work starts on Woodside plant on Burrup - SMH January 8, 2007
Campbell rejects listing for Burrup site - The West December 22, 2006
GetUp Campaign to save the Burrup
Woodside reports record revenues. Perth.indymedia
Would the Egyptians knock down the Pyramids? Adelaide.indymedia

Sunday, January 21, 2007

HREOC renews call to end mandatory detention

21 January 2007: Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission - HREOC has released a report on Villawood (Sydney), Baxter (Port Augusta), Perth, Maribyrnong (Melbourne) and Northern (Darwin) Immigration Detention Centres. It details observations made during visits in October and November last year by Human Rights Commissioner Graeme Innes and his staff. In a statement HREOC has renewed its call for an end to Australia's mandatory immigration detention laws...

One activity condemned in the report was the use of detainees to wash staff cars at the Northern centre in Darwin. HREOC said the staff were using detainees for their own personal benefit and the activity should be removed from the internal activities program. HREOC has renewed its call for an end to Australia's mandatory immigration detention laws.

Mr Innes is calling for the mandatory detention policy to be scrapped. He says detention has "an impact on the person's mental health," he said. Mr Innes says the biggest problem for detainees is the length of time they are kept in the centres.

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone says despite serious concerns over detainees' mental health, the Government's harsh mandatory detention policy will remain. She said the government has made some improvements in mental health assessments. "People [are] getting a mental health assessment on the way in to detention, so we pick up the problem earlier," said the Minister.

Mr Innes said detainees were still being held in detention for far too long, and he identified 41 areas for improvement. HREOC wanted mandatory detention laws to be repealed but said if this was not possible there should be greater efforts to release or transfer people out of detention centres within three months.

The HREOC report, "Summary of Observations following the Inspection of Mainland Immigration Detention Facilities - January 2007", states that the main complaint from detainees in the Perth facility is the length of indefinite detention, particularly for those detainees whose visas have been cancelled under section 501 of the Migration Act. Detainees also complained about crowded accommodation.

The report also outlines many other issues. The greatest problem in the Maribyrnong centre appears to be the indefinite periods of time for which detainees are held. There is particular frustration for those detainees whose visas have been cancelled under section 501 of the Migration Act, as many of them have strong family ties in the local community. It seems that detainees do not have legal assistance. They are apparently not entitled to legal aid or any other free immigration assistance. Further, it seems that there are no bridging visa options available to those detained under a section 501 cancellation.

In Baxter IDC, where six detainees attempted suicide in 2 days late last year, detainees complained about the quality and variety of food amongst other issues. The report noted that the notorious Red One compound (Solitary Confinement) is still used for "behaviour management purposes".

In 2004, HREOC found that Australia's immigration detention laws, as administered by the Commonwealth, and applied to unauthorised arrival children, create a detention system that is fundamentally inconsistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The Commonwealth's failure to implement the repeated recommendations by mental health professionals that certain children be removed from the detention environment with their parents amounted to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of those children in detention.

Inside the Villawood complex, there is still a real fear about asbestos after the earlier removal operations. Another concern was that most mental health nurses are on short contracts, making it difficult for detainees to gain trust in any one staff member. Further, many of the mental health problems happen at night when there are no mental health staff available.

The human rights of hundreds of people are being abused daily, hourly by the Australian Federal government.

The full report is available here

HREOC renews call to end mandatory detention - ABC
Detainees used to wash cars - The Age
HREOC - Media Release
National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention
Submissions to the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention
HREOC: Scrap mandatory detention - GLW

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Exmouth Gulf Under A-Salt

January 13, 2007 - The Widerness Society say the Exmouth Gulf is Under Assault. Straits Resources plan to construct 411 square kilometres of evaporative salt ponds along the eastern Gulf coast to produce salt for use in industrial processes...

Exmouth Gulf Under A-Salt: Straits Salt Pty Ltd is proposing to construct and operate a 10 million tonne per annum solar saltfield (known as the Yannarie Solar Project) on the eastern margin of the Exmouth Gulf.

Exmouth Gulf is one of Western Australia’s most productive marine ecosystems: adjacent to Ningaloo Reef, it contains seagrass beds, micro-algal habitats, mangrove nurseries and creek interfaces and is home to hundreds of species of fish and invertebrates as well as being an important resting place for Humpback Whales, and a breeding place for endangered Green Turtles and Dugongs. The mangrove forest on the eastern Gulf is a vital nursery for crustaceans and fish, supporting significant commercial and recreational fisheries.

The Gulf is the remnant of an ancient delta system, which floods after tropical cyclones: feeding nutrients from the land to the marine environment along the entire eastern side of the Gulf.

This nutrient input has created an unusually productive and diverse marine ecosystem, highly dependent upon a healthy outflow system.

Under Assault: Straits Resources plan to construct 411 square kilometres of evaporative salt ponds along the eastern Gulf coast to produce salt for use in industrial processes.

This will:

* Require diverting creeks and drainage around the salt project, heavily impacting the flow of nutrients from land to sea and having a radical effect on natural creek drainage and sensitive mangrove systems, starving Gulf marine ecosystems of vital nutrients.

* Create a toxic waste product called “bitterns” - highly toxic concentrated salts and heavy metals that need to be contained from entering the marine environment. Regular cyclones in the Exmouth region threaten the integrity of proposed bitterns tailings dams.

* Lead to dredging of the Gulf to admit the massive transport barges, mobilising silt from the ocean floor and smothering sensitive seagrass beds and degrading water quality, causing drastic effects on fisheries and the local pearl industry.

* Require excavation of the inland harbour which may expose acid sulphate soils, contaminating water and land areas and destroying mangrove and algal mat habitat.

* Bring massive carriers, barges and service vessels into the area, which are likely to disturb and disrupt local endangered fauna such as Humpback Whales, Dugongs and Sea Turtles. International shipping poses the risk of introducing exotic pests into the pristine environment via ballast discharge.

TAKE ACTION: Tell the Environmental Protection Authority's Dr Osborne to protect the Exmouth Gulf and reject the Straits Salt Project!

Straits Resources plan to construct 411 square kilometres of evaporative salt ponds along the eastern Exmouth Gulf coast to produce salt for use in industrial processes. This project threatens one of WA's most productive marine ecosystems, right next door to Ningaloo Reef and will: threaten endangered species such as the Green Turtle, Humpback whale and Dugong; create and store highly toxic waste in tailings dams near the fragile marine environment; divert creeks effecting nutrient flows to sensitive mangrove systems; dredge and excavate sections of the Gulf for shipping and construction.

Act now and tell the EPA to reject the Straits Salt Project and protect the Exmouth Gulf. You can help stop this massive industry from devastating our precious marine environment at Exmouth Gulf and Ningaloo Reef. Tell the EPA's Dr Sue Osborne, Premier Alan Carpenter, and Opposition Spokesman for the Environment, Steve Thomas. Please join TWS Cyberactivist Network and send your cyberaction to Dr Sue Osborne by completing the online form. Take action - every voice counts!

Go here to send a message to the Govt:


The proponents say: "Yannarie Solar is a long term sustainable project for the Exmouth region. It will provide significant economic and social benefits for the Western Australian community. The solar salt process represents a renewable and sustainable solution for delivering lasting benefits to generations of Western Australians..."

Tell them why it isn't. Visit Straits in Perth:

Straits Resources Limited
Level 1, 35 Ventnor Avenue, West Perth WA - 6005 Australia
PO Box 1641 - West Perth WA 6872 Australia
Telephone (61 8) 9480 0500 - Facsimile (61 8) 9480 0520

Exmouth Gulf Under A-Salt - Twiz
Straits Resources Limited
Yannarie Solar Proposal
Executive Summary - PDF File
Volume One, Environmental Review

Blundies to be made overseas

Wednesday, 17 January 2007 - Tasmanian bootmaker Blundstone is about to move its manufacturing operations to Asia within months. The Aussie icon company, was founded in the 1870s. Blundstone says it can't compete against low-cost imports. The company says it will shut its doors within months after 137 years of operation and move to Thailand and India to reduce high manufacturing costs.

Up to 300 workers in Tasmania and 60 in New Zealand will lose their jobs.

The closure highlights the need for the Howard government to abandon its push for a free trade agreement (FTA) with China...

"Since 2003, we have not been able to pass the price increases - fuel increases, inflation, and labour - on to consumers," Blundstone manager Steve Gunn told the corporate media. "If we hadn't made this decision, the market would have determined Blundstone boots irrelevant in a relatively short period of time."

Mr Gunn said it was not worth asking governments for further assistance and said Blundstone would not be the last manufacturer in the sector to close onshore operations. "I would make the point that we are not the first Australian manufacturer to make this call there are others that have been identifying the need to do it," he told ABC Radio. "I don't believe that manufacturing in Australia is a sensible option."

The factory closure and the loss of 300 jobs in Hobart is a "major blow for the state and for Australian manufacturing," said Greens Senator for Tasmania, Christine Milne. "Blundstone did everything it could to keep the business operating in the face of falling tariffs and cheap wage competition from overseas. But the company was let down by the inherent contradiction in federal government policy which lowers tariffs and gives industry restructuring assistance knowing full well that such assistance will never be enough to compete with low-wage economies," Senator Milne said.

"The Howard government's headlong rush into FTAs must stop. Prime Minister John Howard must be the only person in Australia who believes that he can negotiate an agreement with China that will benefit Australia rather than the Chinese," said Senator Milne in a media release. "Australia should identify those manufacturing opportunities in the industry sectors of the future, such as energy efficiency and renewable energy, and build competitive advantage in those."

"Blundstone has been forced to leave because it can't compete with low
wages whereas Vestas and Roaring40s have gone offshore because of Prime
Minister Howard's stubborn refusal to move Australia to a low carbon
economy and develop innovation in industry accordingly," said Senator Milne.

"The Howard government has an obligation to look after the 300 workers who will lose their jobs because of its ideological commitment to free trade and zero tariffs. It is not enough to merely provide short-term financial assistance. Retraining must be accompanied by industry innovation and development, particularly in renewable energy in which Tasmania already has competitive advantage."

The textile union is also blaming the Federal Government's trade policies for the imminent closure of Blundstone's factory, and warns more jobs in the sector will go if changes are not made.

Tony Woolgar, national secretary of the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union, said the Federal Government's trade policies were ruining Australia's manufacturing industry. "We've got a Government hellbent on doing a free trade agreement with China, we're allowing a flood of imports into Australia from China in the TCF sector, and unless the government is prepared to change it's policy on trade, then I think you'll see this sort of thing continue to happen," Mr Woolgar said on ABC radio.

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said the Government was disappointed, but said Australian companies found it difficult to compete with lower wages in Asian countries. "The textile, clothing and footwear industry in Australia has been under big pressure since the mid-1980s and that pressure has come from right around the world, as other countries have moved and Australia's standard of living has continued to rise and... wage rates rise, making this industry a little uncompetitive compared to that product coming out of Asia."

"We have committed almost $1.5 billion as a government towards supporting the textile, clothing and footwear industry in Australia and the company itself has been a recipient of many millions of dollars worth of assistance," he said.

Meanwhile the CFMEU – which represents almost half a million manual labourers – will shortly unveil its campaign to stop Blundstone’s management from moving offshore. "The majority of Australia’s 500,000 construction workers were proud to wear Blundstones, knowing they were supporting a great Australian company," CFMEU national secretary Dave Noonan said. "All that would be put at risk if Blundstone takes the low cost road to off-shoring production."

The legendary brand produces about a million pairs of boots a year.

All workers are expected to be paid their full entitlements.

Senator Milne Media Releases
Tas bootmaker to move operations offshore - ABC
The Australian - Government blamed for Blundstone move
Union ban on Blundstones - Daily Telegraph

REJECT NUCLEAR POWER - nuclear energy is not an option

Prime Minister John Howard pushes the nuclear power button almost every time he opens his mouth these days, but upon a bit of rational analysis, nuclear is not the solution to Climate Change Nuclear energy is not carbon neutral.

Indeed, the Nuclear energy cycle contributes millions of tonnes a year to global greenhouse emissions, so nuclear power is not an effective option in combating greenhouse gas emissions.

Claims that nuclear power represents a solution to the problem of climate change are laughable. The nuclear power option is expensive, ineffective and absolutely unnecessary...

REJECT NUCLEAR POWER - Nuclear energy is not an option!

Why does John Howard continue to regurgitate the Uranium industry line that Nuclear Power is "clean and green," when it is simply not true...?

Upon analysis, nuclear power is definitely not the way to achieve necessary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions - and besides those with a vested interest, nobody seems to want it.

The planet does not need another dirty industry to add to the litany of human-induced problems we custodians of the mighty eco-sphere have caused.

In June, Mr Howard set up an energy review, to be headed by former Telstra boss Ziggy Switkowski. The review is part of a push for nuclear power to be considered in the nation's future energy mix. and Howard is pushing the barrow for the nuke industry.

But he is wrong.

Nuclear power is not, as suggested by some, a good example of greenhouse gas reduction. This is mainly because of the significant fossil fuel energy requirements for mining, milling and, particularly, enrichment of the uranium for the fuel rods. These energy inputs are highly dependent on the concentration of the original ore.

According to recent analysis, even with high-grade ore, it would take 10 years to "pay back" energy used in the construction and fuelling of a typical reactor. And with lower-grade ore needed - if nuclear power was widely expanded - the net emissions would be far greater than for a gas power station for example.

Water is also an issue: The nuclear energy cycle uses millions of litres of water to get the job done. Yet many towns and shires in across Australia are struggling to get enough drinking water, let alone enough to satisfy the amount a nuclear station would need to guzzle. This is water that we simply cannot afford as chronic drought and climate change dry up water supplies.

And what a waste! Nuclear power stations, in the course of normal operations, produce the most dangerous industrial wastes known to humankind. Unfortunately for the industry, humanity, and the biosphere, this orgy of construction was undertaken without any clear idea of what to do with the waste.

Reports estimate that by 2015 there will be roughly 250,000 tonnes to deal with if the industry is not stopped.

A producer of highly radioactive and hazardous waste, the nuclear industry has not, in over fifty years of trying, found a viable solution to the problem of nuclear waste.

What do you do with hundreds of millions of tonnes of radioactive poison?

Safety is also a problem: Beyond the waste issue, radioactive leaks continue - since Chernobyl in 1986, 22 serious leaks have been recorded.

There are far greater safety issues involved with nuclear than any other method of generating power. Highly toxic radioactive waste is generated at every step of the nuclear cycle and the possibility of an accident, such as Chernobyl or Three Mile Island, amounts to completely unacceptable risk.

Efficient? No way. Nuclear power is one of the most expensive ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, despite massive historical government support for the industry globally. It is heavily subsidised by taxpayer money across the planet. Canada for example has a 4 billion dollar debt attributed to nuclear energy.

The same level of support has not been available for energy efficiency and renewable energy. In countries such as the US and Britain, where it has had recent relative exposure to competition, the nuclear power industry has been in the economic doldrums for the past 20 years.

Dubbed a "sunset industry," many believe the renewed global push for nuclear power is a last ditch grasp by a nuclear industry "on its knees."

Climate Change experts are saying Australians must focus on renewable energy rather than fossil fuels. The needs of the people and the environment should come before those of the vested interests promoting and cashing in on nuclear energy.

People's voices and actions matter: In Australia, Local Government led the way with the implementation of Nuclear Free Zones across many council areas as far back as the 1980’s. Governments, and the people that elect them continue to recognise the enormous risks that nuclear technology represents.

There is near-unanimous opposition among environmentalists to nuclear power, suggestions that we are split over the issue are purely misleading.

Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation of nuclear weapons continues to occur because weak international safeguards of fissile materials are ineffective. When Australia exports uranium overseas we inevitably contribute to the global proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Greenhouse emissions: But the key problem here, is the significant greenhouse gas generation across the nuclear fuel cycle from mining and milling of uranium, construction and decommissioning of rectors, transportation and management of waste including reprocessing and disposal.

Even if it were a viable option, replacing fossil fuel fired electricity plants with nuclear does nothing to address the problem of global warming.

If the money invested in nuclear technology and fossil fuel industry subsidies were spent on energy efficiency and developing renewable energy sources we would be a lot closer to meeting our needs at a much lower cost to the environment and consumers.

Wind power, as an example, is the fastest growing energy source in the world, and is now far cheaper than nuclear. For the same investment, wind generates more electricity, and offers more jobs.

In recent years, over 6,000 megawatts of wind generation have been installed every year in Europe, the equivalent of two or three large nuclear power plants.

By comparison, only one nuclear reactor has been built in the past six years, and it takes around 10 years to build the next. In the US, the last new reactor was ordered in 1978.

Furthermore, nuclear is not a renewable energy source, as it needs scarce uranium to fuel its reactors.

If we would replace all fossil fuels with nuclear power, the world would run out of uranium in less than four years.

Currently, nuclear is a marginal energy source, supplying only two percent of the world energy demand, and there is no realistic scenario in which this could be significantly increased.

Clearly Nuclear Power is not the answer. It is a problem...

NUCLEAR ENERGY IS NOT AN OPTIONWhy nuclear power is part of the problem
The nuclear power option - expensive, ineffective and unnecessary
Nuclear is not the solution to Greenhouse<
wikipedia: Nuclear_power
Once a sunset industry, the Uranium Lobby Paints a Green Dawn

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Missing radioactive canister still on the loose in WA

Tuesday, 16 January 2007 - On 21 December last year, the Western Australian Department of Health announced that a canister containing the radioactive substances, Beryllium and Americium had been lost somewhere between Perth and Dampier in November. The radioactive substance is used by the mining industry to search for minerals, oil and gas.

The Department of Health told Perth Indymedia today that the canister, which emits a very low levels radiation, still remains unfound...

The Department of Health warned people to avoid contact with a mining industry exploration tool that went missing on route from Perth to Dampier. The canister, containing radioactive substances may pose a potential health risk if tampered with, say the Department of Health.

The 52cm-long canister contains Americium-Beryllium, used to search for minerals, oil and gas. Schlumberger Oilfield Services had imported it from the US to use in Dampier.

Acting Director General of Health Dr Simon Towler said the canister, which was imported from the United States by mining company Schlumberger, arrived in Perth on November 13. "The canister was due to be transported to Dampier by freight company Toll on November 18 and the mining company raised the alarm when it was discovered the canister did not arrive," he said in a December 21 media release.

"There is no suggestion of foul play but police have been helping with the investigation since the Schlumberger Radiation Safety officer notified the department last Friday. The canister does not pose a hazard while it remains in the shipping package but people should not interfere with the container in any way or try to open it."

"The silver container, which looks similar to a household gas cylinder, is about 42 cm in diameter, 52 cm long, weighs 61kg and has various labels including one with the words, radioactive material. If anyone finds the canister they should stay at least five metres away as it emits a low dose of radiation, and they should contact their local police."

The Health Department told Perth Indymedia that Toll and Schlumberger are working with Fire & Emergency Services Authority (FESA) to try and locate the canister. According to other media, the State Security Investigation Group and local police have also been searching for the dangerous consignment.

"We believe it would be very difficult to open. If you were to be exposed to it for any substantial period of time, like any radiation, that would be when there is a significant risk," he said. "It is appropriate that people take care if they discover the device. If you are exposed to any form of radiation you can in fact become quite sick over time," he told local media. "The radiation is dependent on time and exposure, you can get skin damage, quite often you can get damage to the bone marrow."

Mr Towler said the canister did not contain material which could be used to make a bomb or explosive device. Toll Holdings said it was confident the canister was not lost while in its possession.

Australian Greens senator Rachel Siewert is demanding why it has taken so long to start the search. "This thing has been missing since the 18th of November, why are alarm bells only ringing a month later? Either Australian safety standards are inadequate, or they have been breached by the companies responsible for its safe transport."

Dr Towler said police had told him the canister did not contain the sort of material terrorists were interested in. "It cannot be used to create a bomb... it’s not explosive material," he said. "But radioactive material is by its nature dangerous."

WA Department of Health Media Release
The West
Sunday Times
ABC News

Ancient Aboriginal graves washed away in Esperance storm

Aboriginal elders in Esperance in Western Australia have revealed ancient graves were washed away in the severe storm that ripped through the area over a week ago...

Esperance councillor and Aboriginal leader Doc Reynolds says part of a burial ground in the dunes next to the Bandy Creek Boat Harbour was washed away when the weir gave way to raging flood waters.

Mr Reynolds is seeking State Government support to get some bones tested in Perth after they were discovered in the harbour area. "There is a couple of bones there that I'm seeking a way to send away for further advice and hopefully once they get that advice then we can put in remedial action to what we do," he said.

He says local traditional owners and elders will now assess if action needs to be taken to preserve the rest of the burial site. "They are pretty devastated at what has happened but they want to make sure that our sensitive needs are being taken place because some of these burial sites are hundreds, if not thousands, of years old," he told ABC News.

Mr Reynolds says the site was located in the dunes on the eastern side of the harbour. He says the remains now lie in the sand-filled harbour. He says local elders are now working with the Shire and State Government to determine if current excavation work will further disrupt the burial ground.

Meanwhile, Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan said excavation of thousands of tonnes of sand, which settled in the harbour as a result of flooding earlier this month, has commenced.

Commercial fishing operations should resume from the Bandy Creek Boat Harbour in Esperance by the end of January and the harbour should be fully restored later this year, she said in a media release.

The Minister said hydrographic surveys of the harbour undertaken over the past week were being used to calculate the quantity of sand needing to be dredged and identify navigable water depths within the harbour. "We estimate that the first and second parts of the recovery plan will have a combined cost of up to $3million. When these are completed, we will reconstruct the Bandy Creek weir to a design that takes into account the impact of the recent flood," said the Minister.

Emergency services were called on to help deal with severe flooding in homes and businesses in the coastal town of Esperance, which bore the brunt of the state's largest summer storm in almost 30 years. About 100 houses in Esperance were damaged in the severe storm.

A 200 metre stretch of the foreshore was gouged away and some 37,000 sheep were also reported to have died as a result of the storm. The strongest recorded wind gust was 111 kilometres per hour at Esperance at 9pm on Thursday last week.

This broke the previous highest January wind gust in Esperance of 104 kilometres per hour in 1975.

abc news
Media release: Esperance boat harbour back in operation by end of month
Harbour work underway at Bandy Creek
Dozens of homes damaged in severe storm - ABC January 5, 2007.
Esperance area storm kills 37,000 sheep - ABC News
Severe summer storm lashes Australia's south-west - Chinapost
Heavy rain breaks records in the southeast of WA - BOM

Desert tragedy claims prominent Indigenous artist

It has been confirmed one of two men who died on a remote track in Western Australia was a prominent Pitjantjatjara artist, senior law man and healer...

Monday, January 15, 2007 - Desert tragedy claims Indigenous artist

The body of respected Aboriginal artist Kunmana Dawson was discovered on Friday near a broken down four-wheel drive, about 350 kilometres east of Kalgoorlie. The discovery was made after a three day air and land search. The body of his travelling companion was found 3.5 kilometres east of their Land Cruiser.

Dawson, 69, and Jarman Woods, 45, were found dead near a remote track about 320km east of Kalgoorlie last week after being reported missing on January 9.
Both men been living in the West Australian Wingellina community near the borders of SA/NT. According to news reports, the pair had been reported missing a station hand found what was believed to be their vehicle and Dawson's body on Dog Fence Road last Friday. Police said it appeared their car had mechanical problems as they were returning from Kal to Wingellina.

Daily air searches began last week when community members told police the pair had not arrived at the Tjuntjuntjarra community 650km north of Kalgoorlie as expected.

Mr Dawson was a Pitjantjatjara man, traditional healer and senior law man broadly recognised for his paintings and carvings of the central desert Ngaanyatjarra lands. He also had been a board member of Desart, an association promoting central desert Aboriginal artists.

In June last year, Mr Dawson travelled to Paris for the opening by French President Jacques Chirac of the Musee du Quai Branly, dedicated to Indigenous art from around the world.

Dawson's work hangs in the National Gallery of Victoria.

Critics have paid tribute to the late artist and Aboriginal elder known as "Nyakul Dawson," saying his authority and wisdom was internationally respected. Desart chief executive John Oster said Dawson brought enormous personal integrity to everything he did.

"He had a personal magnetism that was full of insight and wisdom and humour. He always had a twinkle in his eye and you knew (that) conveyed meaning and understanding beyond the power of words," Mr Oster said.

Dawson's paintings, carvings and traditional shields depicted the 'tjukurpa', or dreaming, stories of his country, Mr Oster said. "These were objects imbued with enormous cultural value. You might be talking about a very traditional looking shield, but the shield was etched with story in often the most roughest and rudimentary but the most powerful way."

Hetty Perkins, the curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art at the NSW Art Gallery, said Dawson's wisdom and charisma shone through. "I was struck at that time by the ease and composure with which he conducted himself," Mr Perkins said. "He was a great ambassador and a very experienced lawman and ceremonial leader for his people and that was borne out in Paris in his engagement with the international arts and political community."

Nyakul Dawson grew up living nomadically in the desert with his parents. Dawson's work brought people from his Ngaanyatjarra area to national attention.

Some of Dawson's work depicts the places he went as a boy with his mother and father in the western desert region of central Australia. A traditional healer, Dawson is known among the Irrunytju people as a highly respected law man and traditional healer.

Working beside his grandfather, he trained as a ngangkari when he was still a boy. He learnt to use traditional tools and techniques, combined with spiritual knowledge and tjukurpa. He used mapanpa (sharp stone blades) to find splinters in the flesh and removed sickness by sucking out bad blood, touching, kneading and massaging the body," his bio reads.

He worked with prospectors and his memories of this time include the "terrible smell of the fallout from the nuclear testing at Maralinga" and being removed from his country to the mission at Warburton by Native Patrol Officers in the 1950s.

Nyakul Dawson, a senior Pitjantjatjara law man and Ngangkari (traditional healer), was born around 1930 at Aaran, on the wati ngintaka (goanna man) Dreaming track. He lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle for many years with his family, during which time he was taught about how to survive in the desert, learned about the country and the Dreamings associated with it.

He remembered when he first saw whitefellas, riding camels across the desert, and remembered the terrible smell of the fallout from the Maralinga nuclear testing. Today, Nyakul lives with his wife Anmanari Brown in a wiltja (humpy) at Irrunytju.

Nyakul Dawson represented Irrunytju Arts at the official opening of the Musee du Quai Branly in Paris in June 2006, attending a reception for the commissioned artists at the Presidential Palace and various media events at the Australian Embassy.

Nyakul Dawson's art on the web

WARNING: the following links may contain images of deceased Aboriginal persons!
SMH Article
flexegate gallery

ABC News
SMH - Critics pay tribute to Aboriginal artist
The Australian
Police hope desert deaths probe prevents future tragedy - Abc news
DESART - Central Australian Aboriginal Art and Craft