February 28, 2007 - In a successful attempt to stop the deportation of a Falun Gong practitioner to China, this morning some 100 detainees at Sydney's Villawood detention centre formed a human barricade...
The Refugee Action Coalition of NSW said the detainees assembled in and around a recreation room at the centre to protect the man who is inside the room. He was due to be deported on an Air China Flight departing at 12.20pm (AEDT) today.
Ian Rintoul from RAC told Perth Indymedia that detainees fear there may be further clashes with the 40 to 50 guards and detention centre officers.
"There is 100 detainees, people are coming and going but at any one time there is about 100 and they've got him inside," Mr Rintoul said. "The number of guards has increased, they have used force in the past and that is what is worrying the detainees, that there will be a clash if they try to remove this guy.
"Tensions are very high at Villawood at the moment." He told Perth Indymedia Immigration officials may try to grab him tonight - and a 24 vigl will br kept around the Chinese man who fears persecution and even death if deported to China.
Mr Rintoul said people of all different nationalities are forming the blockade, with one man telling him they were prepared to take "any action to protect this man. He said to me 'this isn't just a Chinese issue, this is a detainment issue, so we're all here'," Mr Rintoul said.
The detainee, Falun Gong practitioner Xiang Tao An, fears he will be forced to become part of a live organ trade. Mr An, 35, believes that his religion means he will be incarcerated on arrival in China. He says he has been detained twice by Chinese authorities in the past and claims he was beaten.
An refugee activist in contact with the detainees, Jamal Daoud, said the stand-off eased after Department of Immigration officials told the protesters Mr An's deportation notice had been cancelled.
"One of the detainees told me that the detention authorities even invited the Chinese detainees to BBQ and drinks," he said. "The detainees are very cautious that the department could try to deport the asylum seeker during the night. But for now, the department is very clearly does not want any standoff with detainees, especially if there is some media involvment."
The detainees protesting on behalf of Mr An are mostly Chinese, but other nationalities are involved due to concern over a recent series of deportations, said Ian Rintoul.
The Department of Immigration said earlier this week that Mr An, 35, was an unlawful non-citizen and would not be in danger if he was sent back. He was detained by Chinese authorities twice for practising Falun Gong before travelling to Australia in 2000.
He was taken into Villawood in 2003 while his claim for asylum was assessed, and was interviewed by a Chinese government delegation that was allowed to visit detainees in May 2005. Mr An's lawyer, Michaela Byers, said: "He fears that they will detain him on arrival, and that he may match someone on a data base who needs an organ transplant."
A report published last year, based on investigations undertaken by a former Canadian cabinet minister, accused Chinese authorities of killing Falun Gong practitioners and selling body parts to foreigners. China, which has banned the Falun Gong spiritual group since 1999, denies the claim.
As of February 2, 2007 there are 224 detainees in Villawood Immigration Detention Centre - making a total of 556 in Australia's IDCs.
Contact Ian Rintoul: firstname.lastname@example.org - Phone: 0417 275713.
Contact Villawood Immigration Detention Centre: Phone 02 8718 9220
Falun Gong has been the focus of international controversy since 1999, when the government of the People's Republic of China began a suppression of the movement. China claims to have banned the group for what it considers to be illegal activities. The Falun Gong claims that the ban was the result of personal jealousy of the group’s popularity on the part of Jiang Zemin, a former President of the People's Republic of China.
The suppression of Falun Gong practitioners has been regarded by most western governments as a major international human rights issue. As of December 2005, sixty-one lawsuits have been filed in about thirty countries charging Jiang and several other senior officials with genocide, torture, and crimes against humanity for their roles in the treatment of Falun Gong in mainland China.
Sydney Morning Herald
Detainee fears organ farming
Blog: Villawood Refugees
PDF: DETENTION STATISTICS SUMMARY 2/2/07
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
February 28, 2007 - In a successful attempt to stop the deportation of a Falun Gong practitioner to China, this morning some 100 detainees at Sydney's Villawood detention centre formed a human barricade...
Saturday, February 24, 2007
From the newswire: February 24, 2007 - According to corporate media, a secret deal has been struck between the Australian and Indonesian government to return 85 'boatpeople' back to Indonesia and then to Sri Lanka - without processing their inernationally recognised human rights to claim asylum. Refugee advocacy groups call on Howard to bring the asylum seekers to mainland Australia.
The Federal government's secret plan for an even more offensive version of Howard's controversial Pacific Solution - amounts to a wholesale Refoulment program. Howard's new plan is to assist in the deportation the Sri Lankan asylum seekers home via Indonesia in an outright breach of international refugee conventions.
Greens Leader Bob Brown said: "To send asylum seekers back without assessing their refugee status is a bald-faced breach of Australia's international responsibilities..." Brown said the deal "breaches Australia's responsibilities under the Geneva Conventions and tramples on the human rights of the 85 Sri Lankan asylum seekers."
The asylum seekers were intercepted by the Australian navy near Christmas Island on Wednesday. Its is suspected that the recent escalations in "extra-judicial" killing and abductions by Sri Lankan armed forces has forced the 83 people to flee the country in fear. It has been reported by local and international human rights organisations that "a person is abducted every five hours. Kidnapping, abductions, killings have now become common incidents..." Read more at Tamil News...
Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett says: "The fact that the Government could even contemplate sending asylum seekers back without proper assessment is a complete and utter disgrace." Project SafeCom, a West Australian refugee advocacy group, today said the deal would see Prime Minister John Howard ride roughshod over Australia's international obligations. "Australia's secret deal... could well make John Howard into The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' Most Wanted Criminal, if breaches against the United Nations Refugee Convention had criminal charges attached to them," said Project Safecom's Jack Smit.
Sri Lanka's ambassador to Indonesia said Australian and Indonesian officials had told him the 83 men would be returned to Jakarta, then sent home. He said he expected the men to arrive in Sri Lanka within days.
The Federal Government says the 85 men have been transferred to Christmas Island...
February 21, 2007: One of Australia's most acclaimed authors, Elizabeth Jolley, has died at the age of 83. Professor Jolley died in a nursing home in Perth last week after a long illness. Her remarkable literary range included 14 novels, poetry, short stories and radio plays.
Elizabeth Jolley was born in Birmingham, England, moved to Australia in 1959 and was 53 years old when her novel was first published.
Days after attending the small private funeral with a dozen of Jolley's family and friends, the writer's biographer and friend Brian Dibble said he was sad he had not completed an authorised biography of her life, parts of which she had read and corrected, before she died. But he said the biography, which he hoped to complete this year, would omit sensitive material he was given exclusive permission by Jolley to read in extensive archives of her manuscripts, letters and diaries held at the NSW Mitchell Library.
Dibble, a Curtin University academic who gave Jolley her first teaching job in Perth in the mid-1970s, said the archive contained unpublished manuscripts that Jolley later disassembled and used parts of in her novels.
"And there are certainly unpublished stories," he said. "It's chockablock with material, even shopping lists which she kept assiduously. But she restricted everything beyond the manuscripts themselves."
The sensitivity surrounded diary entries describing aspects of her parents' marriage and her own marriage to librarian Leonard Jolley, who died in 1994. Dibble said Jolley felt strongly that it was not appropriate to make them public while her three children Sarah, Richard and Ruth, who are all in their fifties, were alive, or until about 25 years after her death. Confirming the arrangement, Mitchell Library senior curator Paul Brunton said the library held 67 boxes of Jolley's writings.
"It's a very complete literary collection," he said. "What's not publicly available are her detailed diaries, written before and after she came to Australia." Dibble was sitting by Jolley's bedside with his partner Barbara Millich when she died in a Perth nursing home, aged 83, early last Tuesday morning.
Professor of English at the University of Western Australia, Dennis Haskell says: "She had so many manuscripts in the drawer, Elizabeth seemed to be publishing books faster than anyone could read them," he said. Her novels include Miss Peabody's Inheritance, Palomino and Mr Scobie's Riddle. Professor Haskell says she had an original style of writing.
"She seemed to bring something rather different to our literature, a kind of odd eccentric bunch of characters dealing with often very dark issues, a lot of things about death that were sometimes treated very humorously so she was known for her black humour," he said. He says she was an inspiration to other Australian authors.
"Helen Garner was very close to her and she was very important to Tim Winton, she taught for quite a few years at Curtin University in creative writing and Tim Winton was a student there and they became very good friends," he said.
With her husband Leonard, who was head librarian of the Reid Library at UWA, she raised a family and held down jobs as a librarian, a saleswoman, a cleaner and a nurse. All the while, Elizabeth Jolley would write down her observations on scraps of paper and bury them in drawers, observations which surfaced years later when the publishing world finally recognised her talents. Her first collection of short stories called Five Acre Virgin and Other Stories finally put her on the road to literary success in 1976. A decade later, she won the Miles Franklin Award for her novel The Well.
It's often said Elizabeth Jolley contrived an image of herself to amuse herself and those closest to her. Literary critic Peter Craven said: "She came across like a rather dithery old lady, she was a bit kind of Miss Marple-like and she was extraordinarily talented as a writer, she was a great master of black comedy."
Helen Garner exchanged letters with Jolley for close to 20 years. "I found her completely hilarious and I think, like a lot of writers, she developed a kind of persona to get through the world," Garner told the ABC. "Hers was the batty old grandmother. She was a sort of comforting presence to me, I suppose she was the kind of person who, she would give advice if asked. And I remember writing to her once and saying that I couldn’t sleep after some sad thing had happened to me and she wrote back and said, if you can’t sleep, don’t just like there. She said, get up, make yourself a cup of tea, get a biscuit and do your tax return."
"She certainly broadened our appreciation of what Australian writing might be," said Ray Coffey of Fremantle Arts Centre Press, the publisher who issued Jolley’s first collections of short stories. "She celebrated people in our community who had hitherto been largely neglected. That’s a huge contribution."
"Her other big contribution was as a teacher and mentor to other writers. She also showed it was possible to make a career, to be a writer from this place, to be distinctive and new and original in ways that perhaps hadn’t happened before."
Jolley’s childhood had a profound influence on her thematic concerns as a writer. Both her parents were Quakers — she was educated in a Quaker boarding school — and her mother was the daughter of an Austrian general. During the 1930s the Jolley household was always full of refugees from Europe as the clouds of war gathered.
"My mother and father were both pacifists and they welcomed exiles into our home," Jolley told The Fremantle Arts Review in 1988, the year she was awarded the Order of Australia for services to literature. "It created a mysterious world for us children. My sister and I had to sleep on a slippery horsehair rug. We resented it, partly because we did not know what was happening and also because the needs of the family came second to performing good deeds for these unfortunates. My parents were idealists."
"Looking back at a lifetime’s writing, I have been preoccupied with the territorial needs of people, migration and the refugee experience, the sense of exile."
Elizabeth Jolley was made a Professor of Creative Writing at Curtin University in 1998. She received an Order of Australia and was declared a national treasure.
Thursday, February 22, 2007: 10 arrested by violent thugs as Cheney protesters gather in Sydney
According to ABC News, ten people have been arrested in Sydney during the War Criminal Welcoming Party for US Vice-President and chronic warmonger Dick Cheney. About 250 people were protesting peacefully against the Iraq war and the treatment of David Hicks when they decided to march...
NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Terry Collins had refused to allow a march on the grounds that it would cause unacceptable disruptions to people and traffic in the central business district. However the march did not go very far, as there were dozens of police at Town Hall. Police lined up two-deep to stop the protesters getting to George Street.
A heavy-handed police presence, including officers mounted on horseback, ringed the protesters in an attempt to disrupt the demonstration, some of whom also squabbled with the peaceful citizens. According to the ABC ten people were arrested.
Cheney will be the most senior American visitor to Australia since President George W. Bush addressed the joint houses of parliament in Canberra in 2003. On Saturday, Cheney will talk to Prime Minister John Howard on the US Administration's decision to send a new "surge" of 21,000 combat troops to Iraq.
Cheney, 66, will also meet the leader of the opposition Labor Party, Kevin Rudd, who has pledged to withdraw Australia's 550 combat forces from Iraq. "This war in Iraq represents the single greatest failure of Australian national security policy since Vietnam," Rudd said late on Wednesday.
Cheney's visit comes at an awkward time for Howard, who has slumped to his lowest opinion poll rating in six years, fuelled in part by public opposition towards the war in Iraq and anger over the fate of Australian drifter and former kangaroo hunter from Adelaide, David Hicks, who was captured in Afghanistan with the Taliban in 2001 and handed over to US soldiers. Hicks who has been jailed in Guantanamo Bay for over five years without charge or trial.
A recent opinion poll revealed that nearly 70 percent of Australians either want an immediate pullout from Iraq or at the very least for the government to set a date for troop withdrawal.
Last week, the government agreed to host a ground station for a US military satellite communications system on a remote stretch of desert coastline in Western Australia.
"We think it is time for Howard to say enough's enough to the man who more than anyone is responsible for creating the Iraq disaster on the basis of distorted intelligence and inflated dreams of remaking the Middle East," declared The Sydney Morning Herald in an editorial on Thursday this week.
There will be a protest Friday outside the five-star Shangri-La Hotel, where Cheney will give a speech on US-Australian relations.
ReutersNZ HERALDABC News
Posted by antipoet at 6:58 PM
Saturday, February 24, 2007 - Clean Up Australia has stepped up its campaign for a national scheme to encourage the collection and recycling of drink bottles and cans...
A Newspoll survey commissioned by the organisation shows four out of five Australians believe a 10-cent refund for drink containers is a good idea. South Australia is the only state with a refund scheme. Clean Up Australia chairman Ian Kiernan is using the survey results to appeal to the beverage industry to take responsibility for recycling the waste it creates.
The survey results show 88 per cent of Australians want the beverage industry to help up a national refund scheme for bottles and cans, like the scheme that already operates in South Australia. Mr Kiernan says the beverage industry would need to contribute to any national scheme, and that is the biggest hurdle.
"We have been campaigning on this for a number of years and we have had severe resistance from industry," he said. "They don't want to embrace producer responsibility." Mr Kiernan says he has been campaigning for a national refund scheme to encourage recycling for years, but the industry has fiercely resisted any involvement. "The beverage industry is making money out of selling the goods, they're selling us the packaging and then leaving the community with the responsibility and the cost of disposing or recovering that material," he said.
A 10-cent deposit on drink bottles and cans would dramatically improve recycling rates in NSW and force industry to take more responsibility for the waste it creates, said NSW Upper House Greens MP Ian Cohen. "Clean Up Australia Day is tomorrow week. It is a wonderful initiative that would be made a lot easier for those involved if we produced less waste on the other 364 days of the year," said Mr Cohen.
"Survey figures released today by Clean Up Australia show that 83% of people in NSW believe a ten cent deposit and refund scheme would encourage more people to recycle bottles and cans, and that 89% think drink manufacturers should be involved in setting up such a deposit and refund scheme.
"A 10-cent deposit scheme would force industry to be more responsible for this waste and would also boost recycling rates enormously. In South Australia, where they have a deposit scheme, the recycling rate is over 80 per cent. Container Deposit Legislation (CDL) would work hand-in-hand with council kerbside recycling to reduce waste going to landfill.
"The current national agreement to reduce waste, the National Packaging Covenant, does not force the packaging industry and retailers to take on a fair share of the costs of recycling. Taxpayers continue to foot the bill to prop up kerbside recycling while the companies that create the waste in the first place sidestep any responsibility for where the waste ends up.
"A container deposit scheme would create a level playing field where consumers and producers shared responsibility for dealing with waste. Landfill space is fast running out and more effective ways of recycling are urgently needed. It would also help make Clean Up Australia Day a cost effective exercise for those fantastic people that get involved in it," said Mr Cohen.
The WA government is currently considering adopting a scheme similar to South Australia’s 5c refund on bottles and cans. This will be a great outcome for the environment, more then doubling WA’s recycling rate and removing these items from being littered in streets, streams and parks. Using recycled materials will save tens of thousands of tones of greenhouse gases and billions of litres of water.
It may also provide Scouts and other groups with a source of income – Scouts South Australia make millions of dollars by running recycling centres which they use to fund camps and buy equipment etc.
It is also an extremely popular initiative with over 90% of the WA community wanting such a scheme, see WA Newspoll. Unfortunately, behind the scenes, some bottling and packaging companies are lobbying against it believing it will cost them money.
The Boomerang Alliance is a coalition of Australia’s major environment groups and local government campaigning for better waste management including achieving CD in WA.
The ACF, Clean Up Australia, Conservation Council WA, Environment Victoria, Greenpeace, Total Environment Centre, NSW Local Government and Shires Association and others are all partners of the alliance and a host of other WA based environment groups as well as the WA Local Government Association all support CD being introduced in WA.
Container Deposits work in South Australia, where since the 1970s people recycle around 85% of their containers, whereas WA only recycles 15% of its PET, 21% of its glass, 58% of its aluminium cans and 12% of its steel cans. Nationally, Australians recycle on average around 45% of all materials including paper.
See Boomerang Alliance's Campaign:
And stay tuned for this issue to be amped up in the coming weeks here in WA...
February 24, 2007 - Saturday, 24 February 2007: A secret deal is being struck between the Australian and Indonesian government to return 85 Sri Lankan asylum seekers back to Indonesia and then to Sri Lanka - without processing their Inernationally recognised human rights to claim asylum. Refugee advocacy groups had called on the Government to bring the asylum seekers to mainland Australia or provide access to lawyers for advice on their rights...
Greens Leader Bob Brown said the Howard government is completely irresponsible.
"To send asylum seekers back without assessing their refugee status is a bald-faced breach of Australia's international responsibilities to the Geneva Convention," Senator Brown said. "The deal John Howard has engineered with the Indonesians breaches Australia's responsibilities under the Geneva Conventions and tramples on the human rights of the 85 Sri Lankan asylum seekers."
The Federal government is in secret talks with Indonesia for an even more radical version of John Howard's Pacific Solution. Howard's new plan is to deport 85 Sri Lankan asylum seekers home via Indonesia in an outright breach of international refugee conventions.
The asylum seekers were intercepted by the Australian navy near Christmas Island on Wednesday. The group are set to be taken to Indonesia and back to Sri Lanka after secret talks between the three countries in Jakarta yesterday, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. The 85, all men reportedly from Sri Lanka although some may be Indonesian, were taken aboard the supply ship HMAS Success late Wednesday when their boat was deemed to be unseaworthy.
Its is suspected that the recent escalations in "extra-judicial" killing and abductions by Sri Lankan armed forces has made those 83 boat arrivals in Christmas Island to flee the country, an analyst said. "It has been reported by local and international human rights organisations that a person is abducted every five hours. Kidnapping, abductions, killings have now become common incidents. No matter who does it, as a government we are responsible for it," said Mangala Samaraweera, Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Affairs and Port and Aviation Minister on 23 January 2007.
Indonesia is not a signatory to the United Nations Refugee Convention. Australia would be free of any responsibility towards them, and the asylum seekers would almost certainly be their human right to lodge an asylum claim under international law.
Sri Lanka's ambassador to Indonesia, Janaka Perera, confirmed last night that Australian and Indonesian officials had told him the 83 men would be returned to Jakarta, then sent home. He expected the men to arrive in Sri Lanka within days.
"Sri Lanka's position is that they have travelled illegally to another country and they should be returned to Sri Lanka." Both Australia and Indonesia had said they would assist with the repatriation, he said.
Democrats senator Andrew Bartlett urged the Government not to send the men back to Sri Lanka, where civil war rages between the military and Tamil Tiger rebels based in the country's north. Senator Bartlett said the group of men could include Tamil people whose lives could be in danger if they were returned to Sri Lanka. "Tamil people (are) at great risk of harassment, intimidation, arrest, detention, torture, abduction and killing," he said. "The fact that the Government could even contemplate sending asylum seekers back without proper assessment is a complete and utter disgrace."
It is understood that Australian and Indonesian law enforcement and immigration officials discussed the radical plan in Jakarta yesterday. The SM Herald understands the meeting "was told Australia feared it would face a flood of asylum seekers if tough action was not taken against the new arrivals..."
The boat carried the largest single load of asylum seekers to approach Australia since 2001, the year of the Tampa crisis that spawned the Pacific Solution, under which asylum seekers were refused access to the Australian mainland.
Yesterday's meeting discussed directly shipping the asylum seekers back to Java, or flying them to Jakarta. Returning them on their boat was rejected for safety reasons. Indonesia could justify returning them to Sri Lanka as they had arrived in Indonesia illegally.
Project SafeCom, a West Australian refugee advocacy group, today said the deal would see Prime Minister John Howard ride roughshod over Australia's international obligations.
"Australia's secret deal with Indonesia, reportedly sealed yesterday, under which the 85 Sri Lankan asylum seekers are forcibly returned to Indonesia with the intent to send them home to Sri Lanka, could well make John Howard into The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' Most Wanted Criminal, if breaches against the United Nations Refugee Convention had criminal charges attached to them," said Project Safecom's Jack Smit.
"John Howard seems to be clearly desperate to relive in his olden days, his past glory with his wanting to win another TAMPA election, and we will help him, if we must. We will make Mr Howard into Australia's Least Wanted Man by the time he announces the 2007 Federal election," said Mr Smit.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees senior officer responsible for asylum seekers in Indonesia, Shinji Kubo, said his organisation had not been informed of the moves. "We are very keen to know what will happen to them," he said.
Other international officials, speaking anonymously, said it would be legally dubious for Australia not to deal with the refugees itself or to return them to Indonesia, and could create an international test case.
The Immigration Minister, Kevin Andrews, denied reports that the navy had tried to turn the vessel back to sea when HMAS Success intercepted it. But he said the Government wanted to ensure the asylum seekers did not reach the mainland. "I think it is quite irresponsible to be sending a boatload of people on a small vessel, which is proven one way or the other to be unseaworthy."
Senator Bartlett says: "the trouble with this government is their record clearly shows that anything is possible. Normally you'd think, as it used to be, if people were found at sea, asylum seekers or even people just in distress at sea, then they'd be brought to land and to safety as soon as possible and given health checks and a good meal."
"[We] have the same old pattern of just this information blackout while the Government skulks around trying to figure out what it wants to do, and perhaps figuring out what might be to its political advantage, rather than just dealing with the immediate human situation of these people," Senator Bartlett told the ABC.
Deal to send boat people packing - SMH
Outcry over secret refugee deal - Sunday Times
Tamil Sydney News
ABC - AM
Govt may send asylum seekers to Indonesia - ABC
Sunday, February 18, 2007
February 18, 2007: Weld Valley protesters ignore police caution - About 50 protesters have entered a Forestry Tasmania exclusion zone in the Weld Valley, south-west of Hobart. The protesters are trying to stop the logging of two coupes of temperate rainforest, next to a World Heritage Area. In the past week, behind locked gates, wilderness forests in The Lower Weld Valley have been attacked, and their world heritage qualities devalued at an alarming rate. This Sunday people are bearing witness to the beauty and the sad loss of these threatened ancient forests.
Huon Valley Environment Centre Spokesperson Jenny Weber says: "Forestry Tasmania’s unprecedented eleventh hour attempt to put an injunction on the Huon Valley Environment Centre is merely a distraction from their accelerated detruction of wilderness forest. Heavy machinery and chainsaws have been working on overdrive to rapidly devalue this precious landscape..."
Meanwhile Forestry Tasmania has failed in a court bid to stop the protest action. Today, police about inside the Weld "exclusion zone," formally cautioned the protesters, saying they would be charged with trespass if they continued walking into the forest. However, the caution was ignored by all but a couple of the protesters.
Jenny Weber says all that separates the Weld Valley logging coupes from neighbouring World Heritage forest is a line on a map. She says 95 per cent of the trees cut down by Forestry Tasmania will be woodchipped and the practice must stop.
Earlier, a conservationist who protested in the Weld Valley has escaped a conviction for locking himself in a forestry vehicle. Thirty-five-year-old Adam Burling of Lucaston was arrested in the Valley late last year. In the Hobart Magistrates Court, Burling pleaded guilty to trespassing while campaigning against logging in the Weld Valley.
The court heard he sat in the driver's seat of a forestry vehicle and refused to leave. When police used the electronic key to unlock the car, Burling continued to lock it again, but police eventually pulled him out of the car. Defence lawyer Cassandra Gregg said Burling was a former Huon Valley councillor, part-time employee of Greens Senator Bob Brown and a dedicated forest campaigner. The magistrate told Burling actions like his did not tend to further the cause. Burling was not convicted on condition of six months' good behaviour.
Previously, Forestry Tasmania failed dismally in an unprecendented 11th-hour legal attempt to stop a protest march going ahead in the Weld Valley. Three of the protest organisers were served with writs from Forestry Tasmania at their Huonville homes. Forestry Tasmania was seeking an injunction to stop the Huon Valley Environment Centre and six of its members from emailing, texting, handing out pamphlets or posting information on the internet about the "walk-in" rally into the out-of-bounds Weld Valley. It would also have prevented the centre from allowing protesters to sleep at its Huonville headquarters or at any of its named office-bearers' homes.
"It was a shock to get that delivered to your doorstep," said HVEC treasurer and spokeswoman Jenny Weber. "I felt scared and overwhelmed that Forestry Tasmania was prepared to go so far as to engage individuals trying to stop logging in the Weld in court proceedings."
In an embarrassing bungle, Forestry Tasmania was forced to withdraw its application for an immediate injunction. The backdown came after nearly two hours of legal debate, after Tasmania's Chief Justice Peter Underwood ruled the key evidence on which Forestry Tasmania was basing its injunction claim was inadmissible. Justice Underwood also ordered Forestry Tasmania to pay all legal costs of the Huon Valley Environment Centre and its co-defendants, estimated to be between $7000 and $10,000.
Weld Valley protester and president of the Huon Valley Environment Centre, Adam Burling, said he had no doubt the latest legal action was an attempt by Forestry Tasmania to demonstrate a new hardline approach toward protesters.
"We believe there are enough existing laws, such as the exclusion-zones powers at Forestry Tasmania's fingertips. Why do they need to crackdown even more?" Mr Burling asked. But Forestry Tasmania's Huon Valley district manager, Steve Davis, said trespassing protesters had become increasingly reckless in their attempts to impede logging, compromising safety at the site and risking injury to workers.
Forestry Tasmania was supported in its legal action by the Tasmanian Forest Contractors Association. Most of the evidence backing its case presented by Forestry Tasmania was obtained from websites associated with recent protest actions in the Weld Valley near Geeveston, which Justice Underwood ruled could not be accepted by the court as fact since the authorship of internet material was uncertain and unprovable.
Justice Underwood also ruled inadmissible parts of the sworn statement made by Mr Davis and presented to the court, stating that he expected protesters tomorrow to lock themselves to logging machinery, to conduct tree-sits and to "otherwise interfere with forest operations". The judge ruled these were Mr Davis' beliefs and not facts, and as such could not be accepted as evidence by the court.
A victorious Mr Burling, also one of the individuals named in the injunction, described the case's dismissal as a triumph for democracy and free speech. He said the attempted injunction was part of the new "heavy-handed" tactics being employed by Forestry Tasmania and the Lennon Government in the ongoing dispute about the logging of Tasmania's native forests. Forestry Tasmania withdrew not just its injunction application, but an associated longer-term writ based on a conspiracy charge against the named Weld Valley defendants.
"This is a desperate act from the State Labor Government to silence its critics of the unpopular forest industry and to do the biding of Gunns ltd," said Mr Burling. "Forestry Tasmania should be taking note of the Federal court's December decision in the Wielangta case and cease their illegal logging operations, not trying to start new legal case against community groups."
Weld Valley Campaign's Online Home
Mercury Conservationist avoids trespassing conviction
Weld Valley Campaign's Online Home
Forestry Tasmania launches legal attack against community walk
Saturday, February 17, 2007
February 17, 2006: Labor puppet and US military supporter, Peter Garrett has defended US military bases in Australia, saying he accepted the ALP's policy when he capitulated to the party almost three years ago.
Garrett says he fully supports his party's endorsement of a new US military communications base planned for Western Australia. In his previous life as a rock star, Mr Garrett and Midnight Oil railed against US military might with songs such as US Forces, Hercules and When the Generals Talk.
From the moment the ALP bought Peter Garrett for the seat of Kingsford Smith, activists around the country and the planet have been discussing whether the now corporate-suited politician has sold out on his ideals...
He said this week that his position on the US military had certainly changed from when he protested outside the Pine Gap base near Alice Springs in the 1980s - developed by the Hawke Labor government. In the past, the former Midnight Oil singer has called for the US military to be evicted from Australia. But today, it seems, he fully supports US control on Australian soil. This week though he dodged questions about a secret US military base for Geraldton in Western Australia.
"You know, 25 and 30 years ago, like a lot of other Australians, I was involved in making music, in actions and in activities around the country," Mr Garrett said. "Of course you change your mind about some things over time. Many people's views had evolved over time, he said. "Mine have. When I joined the Labor Party I accepted the position that the Labor Party has in terms of supporting those facilities, and that maintains up to this very point in time today."
Garret, the opposition spokesman for Climate Change, environment and the arts was hammered by Libs after refusing to answer journalists' questions about the new unmanned US base, approved after three years of secret negotiations between the US and Australian governments. Garrett said Labor had not received a briefing on the proposal at the time he was questioned by journalists.
"Subsequently, the defence spokesman has made it clear that the Labor Party supports the joint facilities," Mr Garrett told reporters in Sydney. "I 100 per cent support the defence minister on that issue. I want to make it perfectly clear that when I joined the Labor Party I accepted and understood what the policy was for Australian joint facilities... that is a policy I unreservedly accept."
"Twenty-five and thirty years ago, like a lot of other Australians I was involved in actions and activities across this country, of course you change your mind about some things over time, no one listening to this interview would expect otherwise, "Mr Garrett said. "There would be members on both frontbenchers of the parliament, many people sitting in their bedrooms, in their lounge rooms, in the pub today who have views... which have evolved over time, mine have."
In 1986, Garret, on behalf of peace activists launched a national campaign to close the joint defence facility of Pine Gap: "It is our intention to give 12 months notice of termination of the above agreement on the 19th day of October 1986."
Now in 2007, Garret has fully caved to his political masters: "I don’t believe that Pine Gap should be closed. I'm fully prepared to accept the position that Labor has taken. There is no doubt about it, that it is the threat of terrorism and the intelligence that we can gather from terrorism that is now one of the primary and most important things that Australia, in terms of our national security, needs to consider," he said this week.
"Peter Garrett was always going to find it difficult dealing with the compromises of being in the Labor Party. Well, that had been the traditional analysis of his move from environment activist to mainstream politician," said Ben Oquist for Crikey in November 2006. "Reality has played out somewhat differently. It actually looks like Garrett is very comfortable in the grubbiest aspects of party politics..."
--- Midnight Oil was an Australian rock band active from the early 1970s until 2003. Their notable hits include "Beds are Burning" and "Blue Sky Mine". The band was known for its driving hard rock sound, intense live performances, and its overt left-wing political activism, particularly in aid of environmentalist causes... --- Wikipedia
SMHPeter Garrett back flips on Pine Gap - ABC
How Peter Garrett trashed his moral authority - Crikey
February 17, 2007: The Local Government Association says the Western Australian Government has struck the right balance with its proposed new prostitution laws. The state government plans to decriminalise prostitution as part of a bid to regulate the industry. WA Attorney-General Jim McGinty says he will introduce legislation into state parliament this year which would allow brothels to operate legally...
Friday, February 16, 2007: The Local Government Association says the Western Australian Government has struck the right balance with its proposed new prostitution laws. Attorney-General Jim McGinty is preparing legislation to decriminalise and regulate the industry, saying the current laws are a mess.
The new arrangements would introduce regular health and safety checks for sex workers. The association's Bill Mitchell says the new laws will clarify the role of local government in controlling the location of brothels, without placing too much onus on brothel operators.
"It's not that proscriptive as in other states as to force the industry underground," he said. "Our recent experience with eastern states legislation is that very few brothels actually applied for licensing, it was all too hard and it forced the industry underground and that's exactly what we don't want."
Brothels in Western Australia will be able to operate legally under proposed new laws to be introduced into State Parliament this year. Attorney General and Health Minister Jim McGinty said the State Government planned to decriminalise and regulate the world’s oldest profession in order to protect the health and safety of sex workers and provide clarity for police.
“It is time we sorted out the prostitution laws in WA to deal properly with the sex industry, which has been a reality of life for a long, long time,” Mr McGinty said. The Attorney General said the State Government had begun drafting legislation based on the recommendations of the Prostitution Law Reform Working Group, which had studied prostitution legislation in other Australian States and New Zealand.
The working group recommended adopting a minimalist, decriminalised model, where approved operators and managers of brothels and escort agencies would be regulated under a certification system run by the Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor.
All operators and managers would need to be of good character to be certified and not have any serious convictions or charges pending related to sexual crimes, organised crime, drugs or violence.
Operator/manager certificates would be required for premises with two or more sex workers and certification would need to be renewed annually. Penalties would apply for brothels found operating without being certified. Brothels would then be subject to local government planning approvals and controls which governed the operation of other businesses.
“This will mean that for the first time, local councils and the WA Planning Commission can control where brothels are located and ensure they are not operating in inappropriate areas,” Mr McGinty said.
The working group recommended that new prostitution legislation also include:
- minimum health and safety requirements for sex workers;
- creating a new offence for sex workers and clients who engage in sexual activities while infected with a sexually transmissible infection or blood-borne virus;
- provisions to protect children from being involved in prostitution and from being exploited in relation to prostitution;
- requiring brothel and escort agency operators to employ sex workers under contracts of service; and
- giving police the power to enter brothels to ensure that all operators are certified.
Under current laws, prostitution in itself is not prohibited but it is illegal to manage a brothel and live off the earnings of prostitution.
Streetwalking and kerb crawling are also offences and will remain illegal under the new laws. “The current prostitution laws are a mess and we have brothels operating the length and breadth of the State without any proper checks or balances,” Mr McGinty said.
“The Police Royal Commission report of 2004 found that the lack of clear prostitution legislation also created a high risk for police corruption and although there was no specific evidence of wrongdoing, we need to remove that temptation.”
The working group recommended that existing brothels be automatically certified unless they were not well-managed or were causing problems in the neighbourhood. The Attorney General said the working group’s recommendations would enable the State Government to develop laws that would be acceptable to the Parliament after the Prostitution Control Bill 2003 failed to receive majority support in the Legislative Council.
The working group, which was established in September 2006, consulted with numerous stakeholders including representatives from the sex industry, local government, public health groups, churches and legal bodies. The working group comprised Parliamentary Secretary to the Health Minister, Sue Ellery; Labor MLA John Hyde; Greens MLC Giz Watson; Health Department sexual health program director Lisa Bastion; Detective Superintendent Kim Porter from Western Australia Police; and Caroline Wright from the Office of the Attorney General.
Media Release: New laws to put on the red light - McGinty
ABC - LGA praises McGinty's proposed prostitution laws
The Australian: State to decriminalise brothels
February 15, 2007: The Halt the Salt campaign to stop the world's largest salt mine from being built on the sensitive eastern edge of the Exmouth Gulf continues to attract widespread support. Recently, there have been two major developments in the campaign...
Government authorities examining the proposal have now agreed to extend the public comment period by a further two weeks until March 12.
The Halt the Salt Alliance also organised a successful public forum at which leading scientists expressed grave concerns at the proponents' environmental management plans.
Scientific community calls for cautious approach and further research. Leading experts in wetland systems, hydrology, prawn fisheries, marine ornithology, humpback whale migration and dugong behaviour addressed a public forum held in Perth on February 5.
Several presenters said the current research into the proposal for a salt mine was inadequate and required further detailed review of the scientific modelling and risk assumptions used.
Wetlands expert Dr Vic Semeniuk, environmental hydrogeologist Dr Colin Walker, former Department of Fisheries research director Dr Jim Penn and marine ornithologist Dr Nic Dunlop detailed significant risks to the sensitive environment and the failure of the current proposal to adequately address these risks.
They argued the proponents did not have a full understanding of the Exmouth Gulf environment, had failed to address basic questions and were unaware of the impact they could make.
Humpback whale migration expert Mr Curt Jenner and Department of Environment and Conservation dugong researcher Dr Bob Prince outlined the importance of the area to marine mammals and further research required to properly understand how a salt mine operation could impact on these populations.
Forum presentations support Alliance concerns
The Halt the Salt Alliance has repeated its call for the proposal to be scrapped after scientific experts at the February public forum backed its concerns.
Alliance spokesman Chris Tallentire said the views expressed publicly by internationally-recognised experts were a clear demonstration that the Alliance is not alone in its concerns and Straits is risking damage to an environment that it knows little about.
"Speakers at the forum were asked to provide their own independent opinions based solely on their expert backgrounds and credentials in critical areas of this proposal - their criticism and words of warning were a huge wake-up call for the proponent and the government," Mr Tallentire said.
Public pressure causes comment deadline to be extended
The Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority and Straits Resources have bowed to public pressure and extended the period of community consultation for a further two weeks until March 12.
This decision was a clear acknowledgement that the community does have major, legitimate concerns and they must be properly and fully addressed.
The Alliance expressed its concerns
http://www.haltthesalt.org.au/news/news070102.php to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) over the badly inadequate consultation period for comment on Straits' proposal.
What you can do to support the campaign
Growing numbers of people from Australia and overseas, determined to help protect this unique environment, are making their views known to the Western Australian Government via the pro-forma submission http://www.haltthesalt.org.au/hts_submission/hts_submission.php .
Personalised letters, faxes or phone calls to politicians are also very important and the Alliance website has a full list of contact details http://www.haltthesalt.org.au/main/what_can_i_do.php#politicians.
Another good way of putting your views across is to write a Letter to the Editor and again the Alliance has details of how to make contact with the State's major newspapers: http://www.haltthesalt.org.au/main/what_can_i_do.php#letters or you can spread the word via your own local community newspaper
If you haven't seen a campaign information brochure you can download a copy from this site: http://www.haltthesalt.org.au/main/publications.php or contact one
of the Alliance affiliated bodies.
You can find out more about the extensive support for the campaign
by visiting the About Us: http://www.haltthesalt.org.au/main/about_us.php
and Links http://www.haltthesalt.org.au/main/links.php sections on the
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Thursday, February 15, 2007: The United States military will build a new communications base at Geraldton in Western Australia. Defence Minister Brendan Nelson says he has agreed to host a ground station for a new US military satellite communications system. The plans for the base come after three years of covert negotiations between Washington and Canberra. The new US base will be built at the existing Australian defence facility at Geraldton and will be used by the Americans to monitor regions like the Middle East. It would be similar to the Pine Gap joint military facility in the Northern Territory...
Let Nelson know what YOU think: http://www.brendannelson.com.au/contact_def.asp
Dr Nelson says the details of the agreement will be finalised soon. The Government says it will have full knowledge of the functions and purpose of the base. He said negotiations began in 2003 and were continuing. Details would be made public once the details were finalised. More ground stations might be built at other locations in Australia, Dr Nelson said.
The new US communications base will be the first since the Pine Gap spy base began operating in the Northern Territory more than 20 years ago. Firm plans for the base come after three years of secret negotiations between Washington and Canberra. The base will be a key component of a system carrying orders and intelligence to US and allied troops in the field in some of the world's major trouble spots.
Labor frontbencher Peter Garrett has long campaigned against such facilities but today he is not commenting. "My views are clear and they've been clear since I've come into Parliament," he said. Western Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert says establishing the new base is a dangerous move. "It puts a threat on Perth's doorstep and certainly on Geraldton's doorstep," she said. Democrats Senator Natasha Stott Despoja is also wary. "I'm sure it suits the Government's purposes, I'm not sure how the Australian population will think though," she said.
The deal further entrenches Australia's military relationship with the United States. Visiting fellow at the Australian Defence Force Academy Philip Dorling said that once the base was operating, it would be almost impossible for Australia to be fully neutral or stand back from any war in which the US was involved.
Dr Dorling said the base would have direct military significance and would be a military target, similar to the submarine communications base at North West Cape and the joint facility at Pine Gap with its missile early warning system.
"You knock out the ground station and you knock out the system," Dr Dorling said. "Once again the Howard Government is extremely eager to add another strand to Australia's alliance with the US. If the Americans are involved in conflict anywhere in the Indian and Pacific oceans, basically our half of the hemisphere, Australia will be directly involved by providing vital intelligence and communications links."
He said the Geraldton base would be the link through which the United States would control the satellites. "Geraldton is as far west as you can get on the Australian land mass. That means they can put the satellite as far west as possible so that the Middle East, particularly the Persian Gulf, and south Asia will fall within its footprint," Dr Dorling said.
Construction could reportedly begin within six months. It is the first big US military installation to be built in Australia since the controversy surrounding the joint spy base at Pine Gap more than two decades ago.
The base, about 370 kilometres north of Perth, will control two of five geostationary satellites — those with the highest priority parked over the Indian Ocean to monitor the unstable Middle East. The network will be the military equivalent of the new generation 3G mobile phone system and will provide front-line military units instantly with high quality intelligence information, graphics and maps.
Defence Minister Brendan Nelson confirmed that talks were continuing with the US Defence Department which wanted to build a ground station for its Mobile User Objective System, an array of satellites being developed to provide new generation communications for US and allied forces.
Dr Nelson provided the information in response to a written question from Labor backbencher Daryl Melham.
Mr Melham said it was remarkable that the negotiations for the base had been going in secret for more than three years without the Government being prepared to make any public announcement. "This is deplorable," he said.
Contact the Defence Minister:
The Hon. Dr Brendan Nelson MP: Minister for Defence
Suite MF149, Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600
Tel: 02 6277 7800
Fax: 02 6273 4118
E-mail: email@example.com (Please note: e-mail correspondence should include your full name and postal address. Responses will not be made by e-mail.)
US military base to be built in WA - ABC News
US communications base for WA - News Ltd
US base for WA - Sky News
US gets military base in Western Australia - The Age
Contact Dr Nelson, Minister for Defence
Monday, February 12, 2007
Monday, February 12, 2007: Alcohol causes the death of an Indigenous Australian every 38 hours on average, according to new research from the National Drug Research Institute (NDRI). Aboriginal women as young as 25 years old are dying of haemorrhagic stroke due to heavy drinking. The National Drug Research Institute, which studied every alcohol-related Aboriginal death between 2000 and 2004, says many Aboriginal Australians die from strokes or from suicide...
Disturbing new research by the National Drug Research Institute on Indigenous health shows that alcohol causes the death of an Indigenous Australian every 38 hours. The Institute's Dr Tanya Chikritzhs says trends and numbers vary widely across the country, but that the overall message is an alarming one.
The situation appears to be worse in the Northern Territory than anywhere else, while the trends over time in Western Australia show a significant increase since 2001. Suicide is the most common cause of death for Indigenous males.
In WA’s north, death rates rose from six to 10 per 10,000 between 2001 and 2004. It had the highest rate of deaths due to alcohol for Aboriginals in the country except for the Northern Territory and part of north-west Queensland. Australia-wide, cirrhosis of the liver was the number one killer — 46 per cent of all deaths — followed by suicide at 26 per cent.
"There are a whole range of reasons why there might be high levels of alcohol use. But one of the things to consider is the availability of treatment services and resources. I think for Western Australia, there's one treatment service in Broome which is intended to provide services for the entire northern region, and that's pretty incredible really," said Dr Tanya Chikritzhs.
NDRI has found that the deaths of 1145 Indigenous Australians between 2000 and 2004 were caused by alcohol. The cause of death for more than half was alcoholic liver cirrhosis or suicide, and the average age of death from an alcohol-attributable cause was about 35. The figures are contained in the National Alcohol Indicators Project (NAIP) Bulletin 11, Trends in alcohol-attributable deaths among Indigenous Australians, 1998-2004, released today.
Researchers say trends and numbers of alcohol-attributable deaths vary widely both between and within State borders, which means targeted region-specific approaches are needed to improve Indigenous health.
NDRI Senior Research Fellow Dr Tanya Chikritzhs said this was the first NAIP bulletin to document numbers of alcohol-attributable harms among Indigenous Australians. "This kind of information is important in planning our response to Indigenous health issues and in showing where resources should be directed for the maximum benefit," Dr Chikritzhs said.
NDRI Indigenous Australian Research Team Leader Dennis Gray said the figures, which should be regarded as conservative estimates, showed Australia still had a long way to go to address the inequality between the health of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. "If we are serious about addressing this disparity and reducing death rates among Indigenous Australians, we need to focus on the underlying social causes of that ill health," Professor Gray said.
"For instance, suicide is the most frequent alcohol caused death among Indigenous men, which reflects the despair that many Indigenous people feel."
NDRI, which receives core funding from the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, is based at Curtin University of Technology’s Health Research Campus in Shenton Park, Perth.
National Drug Research Institute WEBSITE:
Death rates by regional breakdown and year are available on page four of the bulletin. Overall, the national alcohol-attributable death rate for the period 2000-2004 was 4.85/10,000.
WA: About one-fifth (19.4%) of all deaths occurred in WA with 222 alcohol-attributable deaths among Indigenous Australians between 2000-2004. The death rate in the WA North region has exceeded the national average in each year presented in the Bulletin. The WA Central and WA South East divisions have significantly exceeded the national average in all but one year.
NT: Almost one-quarter (23.5%) of all deaths occurred in the Northern Territory, with 269 alcohol-attributable deaths among Indigenous Australians between 2000-2004. The death rate in the Northern Territory, in both the NT Central and NT North regions, exceeded the national average in each year presented in the Bulletin.
QLD: One in four (25%) of all deaths occurred in Queensland, with 285 alcohol-attributable deaths among Indigenous Australians between 2000-2004. The death rate in the QLD Far North-West region has exceeded the national average in each year presented in the Bulletin.
SA: South Australia recorded 78 alcohol-attributable deaths among Indigenous Australians between 2000-2004. The death rate in South Australia has exceeded the yearly national average (see page 4 of Bulletin) in each year presented in the Bulletin.
NSW: One-fifth (20%) of all deaths occurred in NSW, with 229 alcohol-attributable deaths among Indigenous Australians between 2000-2004. The comparatively high number of deaths recorded in NSW is a reflection of the proportion of the Indigenous population that lives in the State. The death rate in New South Wales has not exceeded the yearly national average in any year presented in the Bulletin.
Indigenous population: As at 30 June 2001, the Indigenous population of Australia was estimated to be 458,500, representing 2.4% of the total population. That figure was estimated to be 474,310 at the end of 2004.
In 2001, most Indigenous Australians lived in New South Wales (134,900 people or 29% of the total Indigenous population), Queensland (125,900 people or 27%) or Western Australia (65,900 people or 14%).
Cause of death: The NAIP Bulletin contains a breakdown by gender of the five most common causes of alcohol-attributable death among Indigenous Australians. Suicide was the most common cause of death for Indigenous males and alcoholic liver cirrhosis the most common cause of death for Indigenous females. Overall, alcoholic liver cirrhosis was the number one killer and suicide was the second most common cause of alcohol-attributable death.
Haemorrhagic stroke, which was much more common among females than males, assault injury and road traffic injury each caused about 1 in 10 deaths. The average age of death from alcohol-attributable causes is about 35 years.
Comparing Indigenous and non-Indigenous death rates: Between 2000 and 2004, the overall ratio of all alcohol-attributable deaths among Indigenous Australians (4.85/10,000) versus all alcohol-attributable deaths among non-Indigenous Australians (2.40/10,000) was about two to one. A detailed comparison of non-Indigenous versus Indigenous death rates from alcohol-attributable causes will be the subject of a forthcoming bulletin.
Total deaths, 1998-2004: The total number of alcohol-attributable deaths among Indigenous Australians over the entire study period, 1998-2004, was 1607.
Alcohol killing young Aborigines: report ABC
Indigenous alcohol deaths shock - Sunday Times
Alcohol killed 1145 Indigenous Australians in five years - Media Release NAIP
Alcohol wiping out indigenous Australians - News Ltd
Alcohol killing young Aboriginals - The West
From the newswire February 8, 2007: Perth-based tax minimisation company Great Southern Plantations Ltd (GSP) are responsible for a massive native forest clearfelling project on the Tiwi Islands north of Darwin. GSP plan to expand its massive venture to clearfell to around 80,000 hectares of native bush. GSP's venture is the single largest native vegetation/native forest clearing project in northern Australia. Last year's clearing of 10,000ha is comparable to the total annual native forest clearfelling in Tasmania. Many endangered and endemic species live in these forests and in adjacent rainflorest patches which are being degraded as a result of the clearing.
GSP's forestry project is now under investigation by the Commonwealth Department of Environment following evidence of widespread breaches of the environmental protection conditions that the project is legally obliged to comply with, e.g. buffers around rainforest patches; protection of endangered species etc. This expansion would be "ecologically, economically and culturally disastrous..." 500 local people have petitioned against the company.
Following an action at the Great Southern Plantation's AGM, and a response on Perth Indymedia to a recent feature article about the ongoing Tiwi project, the Environment Centre of the Northern Territory have corrected several misleading statements made by Mr Ikin of Great Southern Plantations in relation to the ongoing destruction of Tiwi Island forest for woodchip plantations...
CORRECTIONS to Great Southern Plantation Ltd's PR manager || Anger over forestry plan || Great Southern Plantations shares fall after protest || Protesters rally at GREAT SOUTHERN PLANTATIONS AGM || Great Southern Plantations Ltd: ripping the heart out of Tiwi Islands
Campaign to Hold Coca-Cola Accountable - Coca-Cola Crisis in India
Communities across India are under assault from Coca-Cola practices in the country. A pattern has emerged as a result of Coca-Cola's bottling operations in India.
* Communities across India living around Coca-Cola's bottling plants are experiencing severe water shortages, directly as a result of Coca-Cola's massive extraction of water from the common groundwater resource. The wells have run dry and the hand water pumps do not work any more. Studies, including one by the Central Ground Water Board in India, have confirmed the significant depletion of the water table.
* When the water is extracted from the common groundwater resource by digging deeper, the water smells and tastes strange. Coca-Cola has been indiscriminately discharging its waste water into the fields around its plant and sometimes into rivers, including the Ganges, in the area. The result has been that the groundwater has been polluted as well as the soil. Public health authorities have posted signs around wells and hand pumps advising the community that the water is unfit for human consumption.
* In two communities, Plachimada and Mehdiganj, Coca-Cola was distributing its solid waste to farmers in the area as "fertilizer". Tests conducted by the BBC found cadmium and lead in the waste, effectively making the waste toxic waste. Coca-Cola stopped the practice of distributing its toxic waste only when ordered to do so by the state government.
* Tests conducted by a variety of agencies, including the government of India, confirmed that Coca-Cola products contained high levels of pesticides, and as a result, the Parliament of India has banned the sale of Coca-Cola in its cafeteria. However, Coca-Cola not only continues to sell drinks laced with poisons in India (that could never be sold in the US and EU), it is also introducing new products in the Indian market. And as if selling drinks with DDT and other pesticides to Indians was not enough, one of Coca-Cola's latest bottling facilities to open in India, in Ballia, is located in an area with a severe contamination of arsenic in its groundwater.
Destroying Lives, Livelihoods and Communities
Water shortages, pollution of groundwater and soil, exposure to toxic waste and pesticides is having impacts of massive proportions in India. In a country where over 70% of the population makes a living related to agriculture, stealing the water and poisoning the water and soil is a sure recipe for disaster. Thousands of farmers in India have been affected by Coca-Cola's practices, and Coca-Cola is guilty of destroying the livelihoods of thousands of people in India.
Unfortunately, we do not even know the extent of the damage as a result from exposure to the toxic waste and pesticides as these are long term problems. Most affected are the marginalized communities such as the Adivasis (Indigenous People's) and Dalits (formerly untouchables), as well as the low-income communities, landless agricultural workers and women. Taken in its entirety, that's a lot of people in India.
Coca-Cola is destroying the food security of the people of the land, and by stealing the water and poisoning the water and soil, it is also responsible for ensuring a life of misery for future generations to come.
The irony is that most of the impacted community members, who are feeling the brunt of the water shortages and pollution, are unable to afford Coca-Cola. Which may be a good thing given that the product itself is poisonous. But it also raises the larger question of development in India. As is the case with the majority of other commodities in the Indian marketplace, only a fraction of the population are the "beneficiaries" of the current development policies. And unfortunately, the majority are not only left out of the so called "development" process, but they have to pay a high price for it as well.
The arrogance of Coca-Cola in India is not going unanswered. In fact, the growing opposition to Coca-Cola- primarily from Coca-Cola affected communities- has spread so rapidly and gained so much strength that Coca-Cola is now on the defensive.
READ MORE: INDIARESOURCE
February 7, 2007 : Free water despite $8 billion 6 month profit
On the back of this morning's announcement of a 6 month profit of $8billion, Greens MLC Mark Parnell has called on BHP Billiton to start paying for water from the Great Artesian Basin as part of a complete renegotiation of the special deal that the Roxby Downs mine receives...
Mr Parnell says most Australians struggling with water restrictions would be very upset to learn that a company making an $8 billion profit in just 6 months is getting 30 million litres of water a day for free.
"BHP Billiton is laughing all the way to the bank - not only do they get special exemptions from a whole range of laws, they have an ridiculously generous deal on water," said Mr Parnell.
Since 1982, the Roxby Downs Indenture Act has granted extraordinary and unique exemptions from basic South Australian regulations and laws that all other miners and developers are required to follow. These include the South Australian Freedom of Information, Environment Protection, and Natural Resource Management Acts.
"On the back of the proposed massive expansion of the mine, and the switch to an open cut process, it is time to renegotiate the whole deal. Everything in the 1982 Roxby Downs Indenture Act should be back on the table, including water," he said.
The Roxby Downs mine is the single biggest user of water from the Great Artesian Basin, and the largest single-site industrial user of underground water in the Southern Hemisphere. When asked specifically by Phil Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald about the amount of Great Artesian Basin water the Olympic Dam mine is using, and is likely to use in its expansion, John Howard stated last week that 'everybody's got to make a contribution to solving this problem'.
"Even John Howard has called for caps and pricing on Great Artesian Basin water, yet the Rann government still continues to give millions of litres of water away free every single day. This has got to stop," said Mark Parnell.
One of Australia’s biggest native title claims was settled on Monday 5th February 2007, nearly eight years after it was registered. The Federal Court has dismissed a native title claim over a massive area of land north of Kalgoorlie, in southern Western Australia. The claim mainly involved the Wongatha group and another seven overlapping claims.
The Wongatha land claim, an amalgamation of 21 previous claims, covers 160,000 square kilometres of northern Goldfields land where native title has not been extinguished by roads, towns, or freehold title.
However, the dismissed claim did not close the door for future claims...
[Goldfields Land and Sea Council is the principal voice for Aboriginal people from the Goldfields-Esperance region on matters to do with land and waters, governance, social and economic development, heritage and other matters of justice. The GLSC is the Federal Government-appointed Native Title Representative Body for the region, enjoying widespread support from communities, organisations and individuals throughout.]
In handing down his decision, Justice Kevin Lindgren said the groups did not all have a similar cultural attachment to the land, and there was no way they could collectively prove such a connection.
However Justice Lindgren did not rule out any future claims. He said he believed some native title did exist on the area of land, but it would be likely to be limited to individuals or much smaller groups. The claim includes areas of seven overlapping claims. There were nearly 400 respondents.
The meeting of Wongatha, Mantjintjarra Ngalia, Koara and Wutha claimants was held at the WMC Auditorium in Kalgoorlie. The 160,000km2 Wongatha claim in the northern Goldfields was first registered in 1999. Federal Court hearings for the Wongatha and seven overlapping claims commenced five years ago (February 19, 2002) and ran until early 2004. About 90 witnesses provided evidence of strong on-going rights and interests in their traditional land.
ABC News - 5th Feb 07
The West - 3th February 2007
The West - 5th February 2007
The Age - February 3, 2007
Goldfields Land Council: 29 Jan 07
February 8, 2007: In 2005, Perth-based tax minimisation company Great Southern Plantations Ltd (GSP) took over a massive native forest clearfelling project on Melville Island north of Darwin (Melville together with Bathurst Is makes up the Tiwi Islands). GSP has been very open about its plans to expand its venture to clearfell around 80,000 hectares of native bush from the Tiwi Islands. The deplorable Great Southern Plantations project is the single largest native vegetation/native forest clearing project in the whole of northern Australia. Last year's clearing of 10,000 ha is comparable to the total annual native forest clearfelling in Tasmania. Many endangered and endemic species live in these forests and in adjacent rainflorest patches which are being degraded as a result of the clearing.
If approval is granted, this expansion would be ecologically, economically and culturally disastrous.
Following a response on Perth Indymedia to a recent Feature article on the ongoing large-scale destruction of the Tiwi Islands, The Environment Centre of the Northern Territory (ECNT) have corrected several misleading statements made by Mr Ikin of Great Southern Plantations (GSP) in relation to the ongoing destruction of Tiwi Island forest for woodchip plantations...
CORRECTIONS to Great Southern's PR manager by Environment Centre of the Northern Territory:
The Environment Centre of the Northern Territory (ECNT) would like to correct some of the statements made by Mr Ikin of Great Southern Plantations (GSP) in relation to the ongoing destruction of Tiwi Island forest for woodchip plantations:
"JOBS – Great Southern is the largest private sector employer on the Tiwi Islands, providing non-subsidised, full-time employment for 24 Islanders, with more to come this year and beyond. Current positions include 11 forestry apprentices; two forestry trainees; 10 land & marine rangers; and one Tiwi liaison officer."
FACT: GSP Ltd wrote to ECNT in November 2006 and stated that there is just ONE full time Indigenous Tiwi Islander working on the forestry project; there are TWO part time employees, and 11 apprentices - [who may or may not end up working on the forest destruction project.] This is after five years of project operation. The Land and Sea Rangers is a completely separate program run by the Tiwi Land Council, and assisted by WWF Australia and GSP. Over the years since this forestry project commenced all kinds of exaggerated claims have been made about how many jobs it would provide for the Islanders but up until very recently when adverse publicity started to grow, the employment was all but non-existent.
"THE ENVIRONMENT – Before the first tree was planted, the forestry project was subjected to a rigorous approvals process, involving both the Federal and Northern Territory governments."
FACT: the project was approved by the Commonwealth Environment Minister in 2001 after being subject to the LOWEST POSSIBLE level of environment assessment under the EPBC Act - 'Provision of Documents'.
"Current approvals allow forestry to utilise less than 5% of the land mass of the Tiwi Islands."
FACT: This is a misleading statement because, as recent scientific research has shown (Firth R et al 2006), the company is targetting the highest quality native forest growing on the best soils with the most rainfall - forest that is extremely important for native wildlife.
"Land is selected for plantation development after consideration of a number of factors, including identification of various reserves and offsets around natural features and sensitive zones, restrictions on maximum slope and soil types, protection of vegetation, communities and sites of cultural significance.
FACT: GSP's forestry project is now under investigation by the Commonwealth Deapartment of Environment due to evidence of widespread breaches of the environmental protection conditions that the project is legally obliged to comply with, e.g. buffers around rainforest patches; protection of endangered species etc.
"LEASING OF LAND – The Tiwi have engaged the Australian Valuation office to verify that correct and fair market rents are paid. Establishing a plantation project on a remote island involves significantly different considerations than in well established forestry regions within mainland southern Australia. The Tiwi Islands have very low to nil infrastructure relevant to industry and forestry in general. Great Southern is therefore required to build all roads, ports, power generation etc – all items which in other forestry regions are typically already in existence and available for use."
FACT: The Traditional Owners are being paid FAR FAR less for the use of their traditional lands for the forestry project than plantation companies like GSP pay non-Indigenous landowners in southern Australia. The Tiwi Island traditional owners are being paid $15-$17/hectare/year for the lease of their land while southern Australian land owners are paid sums in the order of $200-$300/hectare/year!
No amount of fudging about the alleged extra costs on the Tiwi Islands can account for such a massive discrepancy. Furthermore, contrary to GSP's claims, much of the infrastructure being established on the Islands for use by the forestry project is being either wholly or substantially subsidised by the Commonwealth and NT governments. This includes a recent $1.5million subsidy for the upgrade of roads.
"In summary, the project has the full support of the Tiwi Land Council and is something that Great Southern is immensely proud to be associated with."
FACT: This is simply not true. There is opposition to the project throughout the Tiwi islands community as reflected in the recent petition signed by almost 500 Islanders and table in Federal parliament calling for an inquiry into the Tiwi Land Council. The petition was initiated by a Traditional Owner who is himsel a member of the Tiwi Land Council.
Environment Centre NT
P.S. When will GSP tell the Tiwi Islanders what became of the millions of dollars worth of high quality native forest sawlogs exported to Asia over the past few years for which they, the Islanders, have received a grand total of just $75,000???
ECNT Peter Robertson's response in the Perth Indy Newswires...
Response from David Ikin, Public Relations Manager, Great Southern Plantations Limited: http://perth.indymedia....
Friday, 9 February 2007 - Back in the 1950s, an electric car was among the fastest, most efficient cars ever built. It ran on electricity and produced no carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Almost 60 years on, as peak oil approaches and with CO2 vehicle emissions contributing to rapid global warming, electric cars are coming back. Despite strong community support, Australia has been slower on the uptake. But tow the Western australian government is calling for a trial of zero emission vehicles..
In an announcement today, the WA Government says it will allow a trial of 50 small zero emission vehicles (ZEV-lites), making it the first and only to do so - provided the Federal Government permits the cars to be imported into Australia.
Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan today said: "These types of electric vehicles are already a common sight on London’s streets where they also attract benefits such as free parking, on street recharging points, and exemption from the congestion charge".
With a maximum speed of around 70km/h and a range of 100km, the vehicles have very low running costs and when recharged using renewable energy such as GreenPower, produce no particulate or greenhouse gas emissions. Even with ordinary electrical energy it is still far more greenhouse friendly than any other low emission vehicle on the road. In the past, safety concerns had been raised as the reason for blocking the use of these vehicles in Australia.
However, French Government figures show that ZEV-lites had lower accident and fatality rates than cars, motorbikes and mopeds. The WA trial would enable a limited number of ZEV-lites to be closely monitored to assess the vehicle’s performance under Australian road conditions. The Federal Government had previously declined to issue import approvals for ZEV-lites claiming that no State had showed an interest in registering the vehicles.
"We urge the Federal Government to reconsider this decision given that WA has confirmed it is prepared to shoulder the burden of managing the trial of the vehicles," the Minister said. Ms MacTiernan said that a combination of climate change and peak oil would require significant changes in the transport sector and that ZEV-lites could offer a versatile and environmentally sound transport option.
The Australian Greens welcomed the WA government's decision to trial 50 Reva electric cars and called on the Howard government to issue an import permit. Greens transport spokesperson Senator Christine Milne said the electric car could play an important role in helping to reduce the growing greenhouse emissions from the transport sector but the "Howard government had so far thwarted a trial. The WA government is to be congratulated for taking on the Howard government over the use of the Reva electric car on Australia's roads," Senator Milne said.
She said the vehicles are approved for use on public roads in many countries but the Howard government has frustrated the efforts of people to import the Reva and has refused to create an appropriate vehicle licensing category for the electric car.
"Instead of promoting fuel guzzling V8 vehicles as Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane is, the federal government should help redirect Australia's automotive manufacturers towards producing vehicles with improved environmental performance, thereby ensuring a long-term future for the industry," said Senator Milne
In November 2006, the South Australian-based owners of an electric car that had been destined to be crushed were given a reprieve by the Western Australian Government. The Solar Shop imported the Reva Electric car a year ago, but has been unable to comply with Australian Design Rules and feared they would have to destroy it to avoid a fine.
The Western Australian Government wrote to the Federal Government to ask for an extension on their import approval certificate. Solar Shop manager Adrian Ferraretto says, while he is happy the car will not be crushed, they were hoping for a different outcome from the Federal Government.
"They've been asking us to treat it as a conventional car as opposed to the category to which it was designed to, which is a heavy quadricycle," he said last year. "The reason why we have issues with this is because pretty much every other country in the world has a light vehicle category and pretty much every electrical vehicle in the world falls within this category, so if we don't have a light vehicle category, we don't have electric vehicles in Australia."
The Federal Government says the calls for a new category are unrealistic.
In November 2006 Greens WA MLC Giz Watson said it was time the Federal Government recognised the need to establish a new category and suitable safety standards to facilitate the rollout of clean green cars in Australia.
CAR makers are dragging the chain on introducing alternative-fuel vehicles into Australia, despite high oil prices and growing consumer demand.
Despite countinuosly higher petrol prices, Australian car makers have no immediate plans to go greener. American parents of Ford and Holden offer several alternative-fuel options in the US, where hybrids made up 1.2 per cent of vehicle sales. Environment groups are calling for government intervention to ensure the introduction of cleaner, more economical vehicles.
"We would buy them if they were here," Jeff Angel of the Total Environment Centre said. "The more they produce, the cheaper these cars are going to become. Car manufacturers should start becoming part of the solution."
WA calls for trial of zero emission vehicles - Media Statement
Greens welcome Reva car decision - Media Release
Top car makers stall on hybrids in Australia - SMH
WA intervenes to save electric car - ABC News. November 6, 2006
Road, safety chiefs 'ganged up' to stall electric cars - Sydney Morning Herald, 4 October 2006
Who killed the electric car? - Giz Watson
REVA Australia website
Start your (electric) engines: the race to revive the electric car is on - WWF
Movie: Who Killed the Electric Car
Reva wins ‘Most Ethical car’ award in the UK - ENS News
Saturday, February 10, 2007
February 9, 2007: Australian of of the Year, Professor Tim Flannery, said exporting coal is not in Australia's national interest and the Federal Government should no longer be supporting the industry.
"This government has let the country down. This government has become a menace to the future of our children."
Greens Leader Bob Brown says Australia should phase out coal exports within the next three years. Brown's proposal follows comments by Professor Flannery, who said the "social licence" of coal is being withdrawn across the globe because of its massive contribution to greenhouse gas emissions...
Prime Minister John Howard is at odds with Australia's most celebrated climate scientist over coal. After being named Australian of the Year and vowing to criticise the government, Professor Flannery has called for an end to coal exports.
Dr Flannery said exporting coal could no longer be considered to be in Australia's national interest. "The social licence of coal to operate is rapidly being withdrawn globally, and no government can protect an industry from that sort of thing occurring," he said. "We've seen it with asbestos, we'll see it with coal." Professor Flannery said it was too late for the planet to clean up coal.
Dr Flannery said rather than dirty coal, solar thermal and geothermal technologies could form the basis of meeting Australia's energy needs and they were better options than, for example, nuclear power.
Senator Bob Brown agrees. "Neither the Howard Coalition nor Rudd Labor will tackle our biggest cause of climate change - burning coal. Both the parties support burning more, not less," Senator Brown said. "This is an extreme position considering the massive economic and environmental crisis the world is facing."
"The nation should rapidly transform to being the world's largest exporter of solar power technology, other renewable energy options and energy efficiency technology - creating thousands of jobs and a multi-billion dollar export income in tandem with the replacement of coal," Senator Brown said.
However Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce says Australians would be "living on the streets under a tarpaulin" if the country adopted the plan. Senator Joyce said coal was Australia's major trade export earner, and ceasing exports would cause untold economic harm. Senator Joyce said Australia should be pursuing research into clean-coal technology, but not at the expense of the coal industry.
Senator Brown said Howard's silver bullet of "clean coal" technology was at least a decade away and the government could not wait to phase out coal over 30-years.
Senator Brown proposed a reduction of coal exports and their replacement with exports of renewable energy. He said Australia had fantastic solar energy research which could save the planet but which was being purchased by foreign companies. "We do need extreme measures compared to what has happened in the past," he said. "This government has let the country down. This government has become a menace to the future of our children."
Senator Brown said the Greens saw it as politically unacceptable to have a phase-out over 30 years which would wipe out the lifestyle, economy and jobs of future generations. "The Greens are talking about intervening on the market. The big parties won't and so are therefore saying let this country and the rest of the planet go to perdition because we won't take action," he said.
"We are a rich and wealthy country. We can look after the coal miners and we can replace their fortunes with a much more job-productive industry." Senator Brown said he was proposing a reduction of coal exports and replacing them with exports of renewable energy.
He said Australia had fantastic solar energy research which could save the planet but which was being purchased by foreign companies. Australia can no longer put its head in the sand. Even if we do nothing to phase out coal exports, our customers will. The Europeans are already talking about sanctions and restrictions on coal imports. The issue is not just what we think the future of coal is, but what our customers think the future is. Business in Europe is not going to accept the Australian government freeloading with coal," Senator Brown said.
Greens MP Lee Rhiannon has called on NSW Premier Morris Iemma to meet with
Professor Tim Flannery to discuss the future of the coal industry. "The best thing Mr Iemma could do ... is to announce an end to coal exports and no new coal projects. Voters are looking for leadership and real solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Now is the time ... to move past the coal age. A good place to start would be to talk with Professor Flannery," Ms Rhiannon said.
"The links between the expansion of the coal industry and global warming are beginning to resonate with the electorate. We can have a win for the environment and for jobs by phasing out coal. Generating a unit of energy from wind power creates about four times the number of jobs as coal. The Greens are working with a range of community groups to plan for a just transition from the era of coal to a renewable and energy efficient future," said Ms Rhiannon.
Others are saying Professor Flannery should address Parliament about his proposal for solar-thermal geothermal energy to replace the dirty coal industry. WA Rights group Project SafeCom said "Mr Howard stumbles around in Parliament like a greedy child in a pitch-dark school tuck shop on environmental issues, and that Mr Howard can only do what he thinks is best - and that is to support his 20th Century friends in the coal industry."
"The Prime Minister either has no idea that solar technology already can supply all base load energy for Australia's energy needs, or - more likely - that he tries to hide these options at all costs, even showing that he and his government is prepared to lie about the baseload generation capacity of these technologies. Tim Flannery can wake them up, and make them think clearly again. He should be given the opportunity to make his case in Parliament in a joint sitting of both Houses." Mr Smit said.
Greens climate change and energy spokesperson Senator Christine Milne said Labor's refusal to accept that coal is part of the greenhouse problem shows it has failed to come to terms with climate change and the actions needed to combat it.
"The Australian Labor Party cannot expect to be taken seriously on climate change while it adopts the coal industry's line that exporting fossil fuels to power the world is of no consequence for global warming," Senator Milne said in Canberra. "Australia under the Howard government has spent 11 years evading its international responsibility to help reduce emissions while making handsome profits from selling coal. We have plenty of other options, including solar thermal power, wind, biomass and geothermal. It's time to get on with creating more jobs and wealth from building these industries."
Meanwhile, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, which represents coal miners, declared its support for establishing a carbon market. "Coal miners have voted to support carbon trading and, frankly, it is a disgrace that the Howard government has taken 10 years to even start talking about it," CFMEU president Tony Maher told the ABC. The prime minister disagreed. "Union leaders don't necessarily speak for workers," Mr Howard told parliament. For the last 10 years, a lot of coal miners have voted for us."
Mr Howard said coal-fired power stations were a very cheap source of energy in this country, and Australia was the largest coal exporter in the world. Ignoring the benefits and availability of Renewable energy, Mr Howard said as "clean" coal became more expensive, we could then start to look at nuclear power. "At the moment nuclear power is not economic, compared to dirty coal. But if you apply new technology to that, the cleaner technology becomes dearer and make nuclear power economically more feasible."
Professor Flannery said that in the future, coal would be seen as just as dangerous as asbestos is now. "As the situation unfolds and the matters get more critical, the world is not going to allow people to pollute our common atmosphere, as occurs at the moment," he told ABC. Dr Flannery said solar thermal and geothermal technologies could form the basis of meeting Australia's energy needs and they were better options than nuclear power.
His comments were immediately dismissed by the Prime Minister, John Howard, who said money would be better spent on developing technologies to clean up coal production.
Meanwhile, Beach Petroleum last month announced a $30 million investment in Petratherm's hot-rock project in South Australia. If successful, the project will supply electricity to the Beverley uranium mine and eventually link to the national grid. Petratherm is also working to help China establish its geothermal potential.
The Earth's atmosphere is not as big as many assume it is, for example, it is much smaller than the ocean. Professor Flannery says our thin atmosphere is about one 500th the size of the ocean.
He says "that explains why we've had three atmospheric emergencies, if you want, through my lifetime, you know. We had acid rain, then we had the hole in the ozone layer and now we’ve got greenhouse gases and climate change. We haven’t yet precipitated a global oceanic pollution crisis. It is not that we don't throw rubbish into the oceans, it’s just that the oceans are so much bigger."
Coal exports earned the nation $25 billion last year. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, coal mining employs 28,300 workers. Over the last 12 months, employment growth was over 299,000.
PM fights Flannery at coalface - February 8, 2007 News Ltd
PM, Flannery clash on coal industry - February 8, 2007 SMH
Brown back eventual coal export ban - February 8, 2007 The Australian
Flannery should address solar-thermal power - February 8, 2007 SCOOP
Labor's climate policy in tatters over coal exports - February 8, 2007 Greens Media Release
oyce blasts Greens over coal exports- February 9, 2007 The West
Coal will be the new asbestos, says Flannery - February 9, 2007 SMH
The Australian Editorial: Keeping the message cool on climate - February 9, 2007
ABC LATELINE Tim Flannery