Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Secret NT nuke waste deal cuts into dreaming

May 29, 2007: Northern Territorians should feel let down by the consultation process for a nuclear waste site at Muckaty Station - eight kilometres from where people live at the station homestead. The Northern Land Council has nominated the site, 120 kilometres north of Tennant Creek, as a national nuclear waste repository.

"Our dreamings cross right into that land where they want to put that dump...

If the Federal Government approves the site, the site's traditional owners will hand over control of the land for about 200 years and receive a one-off $12 million payment. Only a handful of people were consulted and the voices of the overwhelming majority are not being listened too.

The only way in which a modern government like the Howard Government should be addressing this issue is to ensure that it has the full consent of communities involved in every way when it comes to the location of a facility, like a radioactive waste dump.

This process has still got a very long way to travel and we haven't seen the details of what has actually been agreed between the NLC, the relevant traditional owners and the Minister - we've only got the reports that we've seen on the wire and heard on the radio.

The secretly negotiated deal has bitterly divided traditional owners of the 2241- square-kilometre Muckaty Station, where the Government wants to build a dump storing 5000 cubic metres of nuclear waste.

Bindi Jakamarra Martin, a Warlmanpa man from the Ngapa clan, said building the dump on a 1.5-square-kilometre would "poison our beautiful land" and "change our dreamings". "Our dreamings cross right into that land where they want to put that dump," he said.

The deal was revealed on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the landmark 1967 referendum granting Aboriginal citizenship rights. The agreement allows the Federal Government to take the Ngapa clan's land for up to 200 years to store nuclear waste from all the states and territories.

Truckloads of radioactive material would be driven from Sydney's Lucas Heights and Woomera in South Australia to the site, which is 10 kilometres from the busy Stuart Highway and eight kilometres from where people live at the station homestead.

Experts will now study the sparsely vegetated site to see if it is scientifically suitable to store nuclear waste.

The Muckaty deal has angered the Northern Territory Government, whose legislation against developing a dump in the territory can be overridden by Canberra. "This potential facility could compromise the social, cultural and traditional ties of Aboriginal people to their country," said Elliott McAdam, a minister in the NT Labor Government. Environmentalists have called on federal Science Minister Julie Bishop to reject the site.

A traditional owner of another site under consideration for a nuclear waste dump has questioned whether all residents of Muckaty Station agree with the nomination. Kathleen Martin from Mount Everard, north-west of Alice Springs, says there was some division over the proposal in the community.

"I'm asking, was that in agreeance with everybody on Muckaty?" she said. "Because the message that came down a couple of weeks ago was that the older people - the older men - had told some of the people there, you sell the land, you sell your soul."

Martin said they decided to vote against the dump after attending several meetings with the Northern Land Council and elders were taken to Sydney to tour Lucas Heights.

William Jakamarra Graham, another traditional owner, said: "We don't care about the money — $12 million is nothing to us. But we care about our land and what will happen to the children of the future. We don't want to leave them a nuclear dump."

Natalie Wasley from the Arid Lands Environement Centre, who has been campaigning against all of the sites proposed, says many of the traditional owners do not support the proposal. "I've spoken with a Ngapa elder this morning, Bindi Martin from the Muckaty area, and he said he still has strong opposition to the dump proposal," she said. "I believe this is a view held by other elders as well.

"I think the Science Minister Julie Bishop will have a hard time showing that there is consent within the Ngapa group let alone the whole Muckaty community for this nomination for the waste dump."

Dave Sweeney, nuclear campaigner for the Australian Conservation Foundation, said Muckaty Station was not selected on a scientific basis and turning it into a dump would be "environmentally irresponsible and socially divisive".

The Northern Land Council says it has all 70 traditional owners' support.

The Age
The Age

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Racist plan to force English for Indigenous people - Mal Brough is not God

May 25, 2007 - Compulsory English 'pure racism'

"There's no need for him to preach to us. Mal Brough is not God."

Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough's plan to make English compulsory for Aboriginal children has drawn stern reaction from the indigenous community. He says he considering quarantining welfare payments to ensure Aboriginal parents send their children to school.

Australian Aboriginal folks have labelled the Howard Government's push to force Indigenous children to learn English as "racist". Native Title holder Rosalie Kunoth-Monks says Mr Brough needs a reminder that he is not God. Aboriginal activist Sam Watson says the Government is pinning the blame on the victims instead of helping them. "I'm absolutely infuriated by this," he said. "The Howard Government seems to be inventing new ways and means of perpetually blaming Aboriginal people and showing cultural disrespect to Aboriginal people."

Aboriginal people are concerned about losing traditional Aboriginal languages, a problem that is not being addressed. They say Mr Brough's proposal could lead to "cultural death"...
Prominent Aboriginal activist Sam Watson said the plan was "pure racism" and dismissed it as a political stunt. "They (politicians) are desperate for anything that will give them any kind of minor political advantage," he said.

"Holding children and their families to ransom for the government's systemic failure to provide the essentials is appalling and an abuse of human rights."

Former ALP national president and Labor candidate Warren Mundine said it was important that Aboriginal children learn to read and write their traditional languages, and learn about their cultural heritage, in addition to learning English, maths and science. "Learning about their culture gives them self esteem and that makes people want to get educated," he said.

Australian Greens Leader Bob Brown says indigenous languages were in danger of dying out. "Of more than 250 indigenous languages in 1788, as few as 60 remain alive and in use as a first tongue," Senator Brown said. "The Howard government's neglect of this national heritage parallels the push to extinction of Gaelic languages in Britain and Ireland in past centuries."

Reconciliation Australia board member Fred Chaney says the Government needs to offer more than rhetoric. "You're going to need to increase resources, you're going to need to do the job better, you're going to need to make sure you've got high quality staff on location," he said. "It's not a case of Aboriginal people having to change. I think the systems that deliver services to Aboriginal people have to become much more skilled and better resourced."

Central Australian Indigenous politician Alison Anderson says it should be up to parents to decide whether their children learn English. The Labor Member for MacDonnell says while she supports all children learning English, it should not be tied to welfare payments. "It's important for Indigenous kids to understand their foundation of who they are and first and foremost they're Aboriginals," she said. "Yes, we do have to learn English to participate in this society and it's up to individual parents. I don't think it should be enforced by governments, but we have to have rules and regulations and children going to school every day so they can participate in society."

Tauto Sansbury from the Aboriginal Justice Advocacy Committee says the Federal Government's move will take attitudes to Aborigines back 60 years. He says the plan is insulting and reinforces old-fashioned stereotypes. "They still want to treat Aboriginal people back in the 30s and 40s, where they're the master and we're the servant and our attitude is 'yes boss, we'll do what you want'," he said.

Central Australian Native Title holder Rosalie Kunoth-Monks says Mr Brough needs a reminder that he is not God. She says Mr Brough should stop putting Aboriginal people down. "To have the freedom in an affluent democratic country to speak your language as well as access that which is outside that will enable you to get jobs and so forth, we're well and truly aware of that," she said.

Australian Education Union says Mr Brough's attitude to Indigenous education verges on racism. Spokesman Adam Lampe says the "big stick" approach is culturally insensitive. Mr Lampe says a model that focuses on punishing individuals for not succeeding in certain areas of knowledge is reminiscent of a 19th-century approach.

New South Wales' first Indigenous MP, Linda Burney, says Mr Brough seems to lack a fundamental understanding of Aboriginality. "I think that he needs to understand that culture and country is incredibly important to Aboriginal people and they will be protected at all costs," she said. "Aboriginal kids do need to be bilingual but it's a bit rich coming from a person who actually is part of a Government that took away funding for bilingual programs in the Northern Territory."

Ms Burney says one of the biggest tragedies is losing traditional Aboriginal languages, a problem that is not being addressed. She says Mr Brough's proposal could lead to "cultural death". "Now, it is important to be bilingual - there's no two ways about it - but it can't be at the expense of your mother tongue."

Labor Indigenous affairs spokeswoman Jenny Macklin says the Government should first improve the resources available to teach Indigenous children "to actually act to improve the English language of Aboriginal children, not just talk in empty political rhetoric".

Prime Minister John Howard has strongly supported the push, telling Southern Cross Radio that Indigenous children should learn English, just as the children of migrants have to.

The Age
ABC Radio
Message Stick

Tenth Sorry Day and the 40th Anniversary of 1967 Referendum

10th Anniversary of Sorry Day and the 40th Anniversary of 1967 Referendum. 27 May 1967 is the date of the most successful referendum in Australian history. Forty years ago the overwhelming majority of Australians voted for changes in the Australian Constitution that the voters believed would give Indigenous Australians a ‘fairer go’ in their own country.

On 27 May 1967 over 90 per cent of the Australian electorate did vote YES on the Aboriginal question.

The 1967 Referendum: On 27 May 1967 a Federal referendum was held. The first question, referred to as the ‘nexus question' was an attempt to alter the balance of numbers in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The second question was to determine whether two references in the Australian Constitution, which discriminated against Aboriginal people, should be removed. This fact sheet addresses the second question.

The sections of the Constitution under scrutiny were:

51. The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to:-

(xxvi) The people of any race, other than the aboriginal people in any State, for whom it is necessary to make special laws.

127. In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth, or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, aboriginal natives should not be counted.

The removal of the words ‘… other than the aboriginal people in any State…' in section 51(xxvi) and the whole of section 127 were considered by many to be representative of the prevailing movement for political change within Indigenous affairs. As a result of the political climate, this referendum saw the highest YES vote ever recorded in a Federal referendum, with 90.77 per cent voting for change.

The right to vote: The 1967 referendum did not give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples the right to vote. This right had been legislated for Commonwealth elections in 1962, with the last State to provide Indigenous enfranchisement being Queensland in 1965.

Australian referendum, 1967 (Aboriginals) - WIKIPEDIA
Collaborating for Indigenous Rights: the 1967 Referendum
The 1967 Referendum - National Archives of Australia

Students of Sustainabilty Conference 2007 - Murdoch Uni - Get some!

Students of Sustainabilty Conference 2007 - Respect Nyoongar Country

SoS_07 - July 9-15, 2007 - Students of Sustainability (SoS) is the largest student-run environment based conference in Australia. The next SoS convergence will happen July 2007 in Perth, Western Australia at Murdoch University...
Check out the website:

So, what is SoS? Each year SoS offers an amazing opportunity for students, activists, academics, environment and Indigenous groups, and members of the wider community from around Australia to come together to share and gain knowledge, skills and information on environmental and social justice issues.

Please feel free to get involved with the organisation of SoS 2007.

We are all students of sustainability!


Rising Tide Perth condem BP/Rio Tinto giant coal plant for Kwinana

MAY 23, 2007 - Rising Tide Perth - Action against Climate Change

Perth Rising Tide crew, are gearing up to take action against the recently announced massive BHP/RioTinto Coal plant for Kwinana...

Rio, BP considering $2b coal-fired power project in WA: 21st May 2007 - Rio Tinto Ltd’s new joint venture with oil giant BP has unveiled plans for a $2 billion clean-coal power generation project at Kwinana.

Hydrogen Energy’s project, which will the subject of a feasibility study, would be fully integrated with carbon capture and storage to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases. The power station could generate 500MW of electricity.

This would be the first new project for Hydrogen Energy, which was formed to develop decarbonised fossil fuel projects around the world, with the contribution of two existing projects in Scotland and in the US.

The industrial-scale coal-fired power and carbon capture and storage plant in Kwinana would generate enough electricity to meet 15 per cent of the demand of South-West WA.

It would capture and permanently store about four million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The plant would draw on locally-produced coal from the Collie region to produce hydrogen and carbon dioxide. A decision to invest in the project is likely by 2011, and it could begin operating in 2014.

Energy Minister Fran Logan welcomed the announcement, saying the project had the potential to provide substantial benefits to WA and the nation.

Perth Rising Tide is a West Australian-based grassroots independent climate action collective. Perth Rising Tide say there are serious climate issues occurring within WA right now that require immediate grassroots action to aid their defence. Lets amalgamate, converge and take positive direct action against rapid-onset human-induced Climate Change at a local level...

Rising Tide Principles:

We invite anyone with an interest in climate change issues to get involved. Join this WA autonomous movement against climate change. Please email us here:


CLIMATE JUSTICE! - International Day of Direct Action against Climate Change and the G8 Friday 8th June 2007: The 8th of June International Day of Action Against Climate Change and the G8 has been called by the International Rising Tide Network.

This is a call for autonomous, decentralised actions appropriate for your town, city, or local area. Use this international day of action to support local struggles against oil refineries, gas pipelines, strip mines and coal-fired power plants. Disrupt the financial backers of the fossil fuel industry. Organise workshops to spread sustainable post-petroleum living skills. Find a weak point in the infrastructure of resource exploitation and throw a literal or symbolic wrench in the works. It’s time to visit your local polluters and give ‘em hell!

By 8th June actions will be planned around the world. Pass this call out on to all environmental justice, climate action, radical sustainability and related movements in all the G8 countries and the Global South.

Rising Tide will create a collection of outreach and agit-prop materials (including this call out in five different languages) that can be used by groups around the world to organise locally.

These materials will be downloadable from

Direct action and civil disobedience are the rational response in this time of crisis. Support the 8th of June International Day of Direct Action against Climate Change and the G8! Tell us about planned actions for climate justice being planned in your community.

Contact us - and In June 2007 the G8 will understand the meaning of rebellion, revolt and revolution. Their recipe for catastrophe will be met with our global resistance!


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Transparency needed on UMC's bauxite plans for Kimberley

Wednesday, 16 May 2007 - Transparency needed on Mitchell Plateau mining plans

Australian Greens Senator for WA Rachel Siewert has reacted strongly to the announcement by United Minerals Corporation (UMC) that a massive bauxite mine is again on the cards for Mitchell Plateau. United Minerals say that for the last 12 months, UMC's 100% subsidiary Bauxite Australia Pty Limited, has been exploring in areas adjacent to the Mitchell Plateau bauxite deposits. A year 1 drilling program commencing in 2006 made a successful start in identifying extensive bauxite mineralisation on the Company's leases...
Perth exploration company United Minerals, which has discovered deposits of bauxite at its North Kimberley leases, has announced a joint venture with Norwegian company Norsk Hydro. UMC says it has reached a memorandum of understanding with aluminium producer Norsk Hydro to form a joint venture to assess a $4-5 billion bauxite mine and alumina refinery in the Kimberley region.

The proposed project would be based on bauxite deposits in the remote Mitchell Plateau, locted north west of Wyndham. UMC said the potential for an integrated bauxite mine and aluminium refinery was heavily driven by the expected development of gas projects in the Browse Basin, off the Kimberley coast. These projects include Woodside's Browse project and Japanese company Inpex's Ichthys project.

"The joint venture will endeavour to take advantage of this historic availability of major energy sources in the Kimberley for the first time," the company said.

A lobby group set to challenge gas development on the Kimberley coast says it is disturbed by new plans for a bauxite mine and alumina refinery.

Peter Tucker of the lobby group Cultural, Heritage and Environmental Advocacy for the Kimberley (CHEAK) says the announcement confirms what he has been fearing. "In their statement they have made it clear that the industrialisation of the Mitchell Plateau is going to be relying heavily on the availability of gas and this is of grave concern to us," he said.

Senator Siewert said the Greens suspected all along that WA Government support for the construction of large gas plants along the Kimberley coast had everything to do with opening the area up to mining interests. "This announcement confirms that the Kimberley is now firmly in the crosshairs of heavy industry," she said.

"My question is the degree to which the Carpenter Government is pushing these developments behind the scenes while leaving Kimberley people in the dark," Senator Siewert said.

"Will there be even the pretence of consultation, or is open slather mining in Australia's last frontier going to be presented as a fait accompli? The tragedy of the Burrup Peninsula illustrates what happens when the interests of heavy industry are driven over the cultural, social and environmental values of people living in the region."

"The Greens stand behind the Kimberley community in demanding an open and transparent say in the future of their region, within the framework of a regional planning policy, so that the mess on the Burrup is not replicated on a larger scale across the north of our state," said Senator Siewert.

WA Business News
Media Release

DEC Inspectors missed the Esperance lead shed - Inquiry

May 2, 2007 - Dozens of Esperance residents have recorded high lead levels and thousands of birds have died from lead poisoning around the southern port town since December last year. High readings of lead and nickel have also been found in rainwater tanks around Esperance.

A parliamentary inquiry currently investigating the matter has heard illegal lead shipments out of Esperance, which poisoned local residents and left hundreds of water tanks contaminated, were not detected by the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC). The committee heard how an environmental inspector did not go into the loading area, but watched from a distance because he was concerned about his own health...
DEC's Kim Taylor said that during an initial inspection of the port in May 2005, just before the first lead shipment, the inspector did not enter the lead storage shed because his clothes did not meet OHS standards.

On an inspection in February 2007, an auditor again failed to identify lead was being shipped as powder and not as pellets — in spite of the export licence.

The committee was told of widespread contamination of town water tanks, soils and marine sediment surrounding the port, which had left 28 people with lead levels above the international recommended safe guidelines of 10 micrograms per decilitre.

Liberal MP Kim Hames, who is heading the inquiry, says if the committee can do a full inspection of the site in two hours today, a DEC inspector should have been able to do the same. Mr Hames expressed disbelief that no alarm was raised by the department about dust at the port. "We have had submissions from members of the public to say that when the lead is loaded, a cloud of dust can be seen above the ship," Dr Hames said.

The Department of Health revealed one in four children tested in the coastal town recorded lead levels high enough to warrant an inspection of their homes by health officials in an attempt to reduce any further lead exposure.

Of 239 children tested who fell into the high risk group of five years or younger, 56 recorded levels above 5mcg/dl and six tested above 10mcg.

Kim Taylor said DEC relied heavily on the Esperance Port and lead mining company Magellan Metals to inform it of any changes to the conditions governing the port’s lead export licence. He said the department, which is involved in the regulation of more than 2500 premises, could not meet its monitoring requirements.

DEC director-general Keiran McNamara, whose department is collecting evidence as part of a legal case against the port, said the responsibility ultimately lay with the port and mining company. Mr McNamara said DEC had also commissioned an independent review of its auditing and inspection processes.

The inquiry will also investigate how the lead was transported 900km from Wiluna to Esperance in dusty granules instead of heavier pellets, which produce fewer airborne contaminants. According to The Australian newspaper, government records show "Magellan was in breach of environmental and mine safety conditions as early as September 2004". Magellan Metals transported and exported lead carbonate through Esperance Port in powdered form rather than pellets.

The inquiry is due to report back to the Legislative Assembly by August 16.


Terms of Reference:
(1) That the Education and Health Standing Committee be requested to inquire into and report by 16 August 2007, on the cause and extent of lead pollution in the Esperance area, with specific reference to the following matters -
(a) how the environmental approval process for the transport and export of pelletised lead enabled the transport and export of granulated lead;
(b) the effectiveness of dust monitoring and reporting in relation to lead levels in the area and the adequacy of the response to those reported levels;
(c) the extent to which handling and other practices at Esperance Port gave rise to the benthic lead levels in the harbour;
(d) whether the Esperance Port Authority properly exercised its responsibilities in relation to the potential lead pollution;
(e) whether the Department of Environment and Conservation’s responsibilities in relation to the Esperance Port Authority processes , practices and procedures, including the legal and regulatory framework, were adequate and properly exercised; and
(f) that the Committee is given power to investigate any other issues pertinent to the cause and extent of lead pollution in the Esperance area.

The West
News Ltd
ABC News
DEC - Esperance Lead
Inquiry into the Cause and Effect of Lead Pollution in the Esperance Area
The Australian
The Australian
1000s of birds die around Esperance - Toxicity? - Perth Indymedia
Government alerts Esperance residents - tests reveal higher than recommended Lead levels

Second desal plan a win for the Yarragadee

Tuesday, 16 May 2007 - The West Australian government has ditched controversial plans to pump 45 billion litres of water a year from the southwest Yarragadee aquifer. WA Premier Alan Carpenter announced a second water desalination plant will be built by 2011. Mr Carpenter said the plant will be built near Binningup, between Bunbury and Mandurah, at a cost of $955 million. He said it will provide 45 gigalitres of water a year, with the potential to increase to 100 gigalitres...

The new plant is expected to produce nearly 20 per cent of Perth's water needs. Similar to the Kwinana plant, it will be powered by renewable energy - possibly geothermal energy. The first major sea water desalination plant to be built in the Southern Hemisphere was commissioned at Kwinana earlier this year. The two desalination plants are expected to increase household water prices by $30 a year.

Mr Carpenter said there were too many environmental problems with tapping the Yarragadee and that the success of the wind-powered Kwinana plant, showed a second plant was the best choice. He said the plant would provide water to Perth, the Wheatbelt and the Goldfields.

The contentious plans to tap the Yarragadee, were protested by the state Liberal/National Opposition as well as countless community and environmental groups. Mr Carpenter said the new plant will be powered by renewable energy and established at Binningup, 130km south of Perth. More than 30 per cent of Perth's water will then come from desalination, cutting dependence on dams and the strained Gnangara mound - Perth's major water source.

Opposition Leader Paul Omodei said using water from the Wellington Dam would have been better than another desalination plant. The Opposition also suggested damming the Ord River, in WA's north-west, and piping water down 3000kms to Perth.

The Water Corporation's Jim Gill, who has been pushing the Yarragadee proposal has left the Yarragadee option open. "We're still very confident that for the future of the southwest of WA it's a magnificent water source. It's not something that will not be tapped in the future," he said.

The head of the Water Research Centre at the University of WA, Jorg Imberger, is disappointed the government has put aside the Yarragadee plan. "I just feel sad for this state because they're obviously no longer governing or taking any notice of the public service whatsoever," he said.

Paul Llewellyn, Greens member for the South West, said he was delighted that the government has seen the wisdom. "To secure our future, we must now become very energy and water efficient. This decision will give us just 10 years relief from our rapidly growing water demand before we need to find yet another 45GL," he said. Mr Llewellyn called on the Government to support the Water Conservation Target Bill to implement a water efficiency, conservation and recycling plan, that will reduce demand on the system by at least 45GL per year by 2020.

"Desalination uses an enormous amount of energy. The plant must be powered by new sources of renewable energy that are legally certified. The Government must pass the Greens' Western Australian Renewable Energy Target Bill in order to be guaranteed a clean energy supply for the plant," said Mr Llewellyn.

WA Conservation Council's Chris Tallentire also welcomed the Premier's decision. "That's great news for the farmers, the conservationists, the scientists, the local government people who have all been involved in campaigning to stop the Government taking water from the south west Yarragadee that's so important to south west ecosystems," he said. He said conservationists across the state had worked hard to stop the Yarragadee project which posed very real risks to the environment. Mr Tallentine warned that the desalination plant would be closely scrutinised.

The proposed site for the plant is at a Water Corporation wastewater treatment facility on Taranto Road north of Binningup - adjacent to a disused limestone quarry. It is expected to have minimal environmental and visual impact on the area, but will be subject to the usual approval processes.

The Premier said that while the SW Yarragadee aquifer had effectively received environmental approval, it remained a source that was still reliant on climate and rainfall. "We can no longer rely on traditional, seasonal climate patterns and rainfall," the Premier said. "Seawater desalination is clearly the best long term feasible and practical option for our State, along with more water recycling initiatives.

"When you compare the seawater desalination process to transporting water from the Kimberley, there is no comparison. Put another way, for the cost of building a pipeline from the Kimberley, we could build at least 12 desalination plants and get three times more water at one third of the price per kilolitre."

He said the Government was also researching a major aquifer recharge recycling project north of Perth, which had the potential to yield an extra 25 gigalitres.

Currently WA's water supply includes 13 per cent recycled water and 17 per cent desalinated water. Opposition leader Paul Omodei said more attention must also be paid to recycling and said the Kimberley water pipeline to bring water from the north of the state also remained an option in the longer term.

Mr Omodei said the shelving of the Yarragadee plan had prevented the Carpenter Government from "taking the greatest environmental gamble the State has ever seen." Shadow Environment Minister Steve Thomas said the South West community would be pleased with the Government’s decision, and would closely watch the development of the new desalination plant to ensure environmental concerns were covered.

The estimated cost of building the plant will be $640million, plus an additional $315million to integrate into the water supply system. Western Australia is recognised as the nation’s leader in water resource management. Perth is the only major capital city in Australia where people can use sprinklers through summer – despite our driest year on record last year.

The Australian
Perth Indymedia
The West
Yarragadee Community Action
Paul Llewellyn - Media Release

Australia "bans" the Dalai Lama

Tuesday, 15 May 2007: The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader is due to visit Australia in June, but the Senate President, Paul Calvert, has rejected the proposal that the Nobel Peace Prize winner be given an official parliamentary reception when he visits Canberra. The visit by the popular 71-year old, who enjoys "rock-star" status across the globe, apparently poses a diplomatic headache for the federal government as it does not want to jeopardise trade with China. Last week China warned foreign officials against meeting the Buddhist figure...

The exiled spiritual and political leader of Tibet is expected to arrive in Perth, WA on the 6 June for a free public event: ‘Spirituality & Sustainability Forum’ - Buddhism, the Environment and Spirituality at the Burswood Dome.

At the Perth event, the Dalai Lama will be joined by Professor Ian Lowe, of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Brett Godfrey, CEO of Virgin Blue, and Anna Rose, founder of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition.

With concern for the environment at an all time high, the Dalai Lama and his fellow speakers will address issues around environmental consciousness and the challenges of climate change. "There is suffering on this planet and there is a need to strengthen our love for our planet and our service to the living Earth,” says His Holiness. "We think we can control nature, which is a false perception."

His Holiness sees the planet and its people as completely interconnected, a view that is increasingly compelling in the 21st century and resonates deeply with millions of people worldwide. "This planet is our own home,” he says. "Taking care of our world, our planet, is just like taking care of our own home. Our very lives depend upon this Earth, our environment."

But the Australian Greens say the Howard government is grovelling to the Chinese regime by refusing to host a parliamentary reception for the Dalai Lama. The Senate president's letter states: "as I am sure you will understand, I have to be mindful of international sensitivities." Greens Leader Senator Bob Brown said that this was a craven capitulation to the communist bosses in Beijing.

"Beijing rules," said Senator Brown. "This is in such stark contrast to the Prime minister's $2 million allocation to have Australian cricketers withdraw from the tour of Mugabe's Zimbabwe. President Hu represses political and religious dissent and has 23,000 police monitoring citizens emails. If a Chinese citizen seeks a website about freedom in Tibet, the police are knocking on their door within the hour. There are more than 100 political prisoners in jail in Tibet alone," Senator Brown said.

"If John Howard tried to set up a Liberal Party in Beijing he would go straight to jail. Yet the Senate President, who is acting under Government direction, has banned the Dalai Lama at president Hu's pleasure - it is Howard Government kowtowing to President Hu and it lets down Australia's proud self-image of defying dictators and welcoming peace makers."

Senator Brown said it was clear Chinese President Hu Jintao had Prime Minister John Howard "round his little finger". "This is the presiding officers of this parliament and the Howard government kowtowing to the communist bosses in Beijing," he told reporters.

"The Dalai Lama is a peacemaker, he's an environmentalist, he's a compassionate human being, he's a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and he deserves to have a full reception in the Great Hall of this parliament," he said. "It's time that we had governments with the gumption to stand up for democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of religious worship - the rights that we take for granted in this great country of ours." Senator Brown also said the Dalai Lama's visit was a test for Kevin Rudd, and called on the Labor leader to meet with him.

Recently the Dalai Lama criticised Chinese policies in his Tibetan homeland, calling on rulers in Beijing to grant Tibet "autonomy". Currently in Chicago, the 71-year-old exile said dissatisfaction with Chinese rule runs wide and deep.

"Ninety-five percent of people in Tibet are very unhappy... there's deep dissatisfaction," he said. "Once we get meaningful autonomy... we will be loyal and there will be more unity and genuine stability... and genuine prosperity for Tibet," said the Dalai Lama. "We are trying to tell the Chinese government the present policy is counterproductive."

During earlier visits across the USA, the Nobel Peace Prize winner said Tibetans would live in harmony with the Chinese if the ruling Communist Party would allow them to govern themselves.

The Dalai Lama, whose worldly name is Tenzin Gyatso, fled Tibet in 1959 after the Chinese quelled a popular uprising. He is still widely revered in Tibet, though he is now based in Dharmsala, India, where he heads a government in exile.

Senator Brown said that he is working with MPs from other parties to co-host a parliamentary reception for the Dalai Lama in Parliament House's Main Committee Room between 4.30pm and 5.30pm on Tuesday, 12th June after the Dalai Lama's Press Club appearance.

The Age
Associated Press
The Sunday Times
Perth Indymedia

Mining industry is bluffing on AWAs

14 May, 2007 - Mining industry is bluffing on AWAs: Kevin Rudd should not to be bluffed by the WA mining industry...

The Australian Mining and Minerals Association's Chris Platt says that the removal of AWAs is "a means of handing power back to union bosses and facilitating an increase in union membership."

Mr Platt writes, in an opinion piece for the Herald Sun, that Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) make the taking of industrial action during their term illegal: "Simply put, employers need to guarantee that they will not be subject to industrial action in order to attract and retain business and enhance our export reputation. AWAs also restrict the involvement of uninvited unions. A union cannot involve itself in the negotiation of an AWA unless an employee appoints it as his or her bargaining agent."

"he question remains, will the mining industry be able to continue to maximise the benefits of the boom period or will the industry's future be put in the hands of trade unions whose own management performance is abysmal?" said Mr Platt.

However Greens Senator Rachael Siewert says: "Quite frankly, what the WA mining lobby has been saying about AWAs underpinning the mining boom is nonsense. The boom was up and running well before Work Choices was in place," said Senator Siewert. "The resources sector is facing a serious shortage of skilled workers, and are having to offer huge wages to pull people out of other sectors of the economy. It is ludicrous to think that an award safety net and collective bargaining could undermine the boom as the mining sector claim."

"The mining industry are simply throwing their weight around. They have the WA state government under their thumb and think they can push around the whole nation. Mr Rudd needs to think about the long-term future of Australia and its workers, not pander to any one section of the economy for short-term gain.

The Australian Mines and Metals Association said in March that the Howard Government's spread of individual workplace deals (AWAs), had not led to a "race to the bottom" as Labor and unions had claimed. The AMMA said Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed miners' average wages had risen to $1684 a week over the 12 months since Work Choices - up $642 a week. Mr Platt said about 30 per cent of miners were signed up to AWAs.

In Western Australia, he said, the proportion was 80 per cent. In the same period, time lost due to industrial disputes had fallen dramatically. Mr Platt said Labor's pledge to abolish AWAs was "economic vandalism" and would put at risk Australia's reputation as a stable business environment.

ACTU secretary Greg Combet rejected this, saying collective wage agreements could offer the same "human resources outcomes" and the same rewards in productivity and efficiency. He said the AMMA had conveniently omitted that workers covered by collective agreements earned an average $107.50 a week more than those on AWAs.

"Everybody knows we are experiencing a resources boom, but what about when the boom ends?" Mr Combet said.

Australian Mines and Metals Association
The Australian
Herald and Weekly Times

Police Violence Report: G20 Protestors attacked "unnecessary" and "unprovoked" by cops

Tuesday, May 15, 2007 - Police used unnecessary force during G20: legal study

A report into the G20 actions in Melbourne in November 2006, has found police used an "excessive amount of force." Victoria's Federation of Community Legal Centres released the study, finding only a small proportion of protesters were acting provocatively over the three-day event. The study found a police baton charge on protesters outside the Melbourne Museum was "unnecessary" and "unprovoked"...

Victoria’s Federation of Community Legal Centres (FCLC) today called for improved police responses to future protests, following the release of the Federation’s Human Rights Observer Team’s Final Report on the protests surrounding the G20 Meeting.

Much of the violence was directed at protesters who posed little or no perceptible threat to officers' safety, the report says.


"At the barricades, a police officer took his baton all the way behind his back... and with a full swing hit a protester on the right of his temple," wrote one observer of an incident on Saturday afternoon at the corner of Collins Street and Alfred Place. "The protester was bleeding significantly... he fell back onto a woman and as a result she suffered a sprained ankle."

In the lead up to the G20 Meeting held in Melbourne from 17-19 November 2006, the FCLC established a Human Rights Observer (HRO) Team to critically monitor the response of Victoria Police to the protests. The HRO Team was an independent and non-partisan project with trained volunteer observers present over the 3 day meeting to monitor the police response to the protests and promote rights to peaceful protest and democracy.

The observer team wrote that "police authorities cannot justify or rationalise abuses by pointing to the poor conduct of some protesters". The Report found that there were numerous observed incidents of inappropriate use of force and potentially unlawful police behaviour towards some protesters.

These included dangerous overhead baton strikes, arbitrary arrests and the reported failure by police to issue warnings prior to a baton charge on a peaceful group of protesters.

Another observer reported seeing a man standing alone in Exhibition Street after protesters had vandalised a police truck. "This man was not threatening to the police in any way," the observer wrote. "The man was struck on the legs with a baton by a police officer. He was knocked to the ground. The police officer hit him about once more … members of the public who were clearly not demonstrators began screaming in distress and asking the officers to stop."

The Report notes several key improvements in Victoria Police’s response to the protests and commends Victoria Police on its willingness to review and improve its practices. It also makes recommendations as to how police responses to future protests may be improved.

Federation of Community Legal Centres’ Executive Officer Hugh de Kretser said the project was an important tool in protecting basic human rights: "This report contains analysis and recommendations about improving policing practices. We look forward to working constructively with Victoria Police to promote greater safety for police, protesters and the community and to better protect our rights to peaceful protest and democracy."

Police should also provide assistance to injured persons as soon as possible during protest events, even if the person has been injured as a result of police action, the team says. "Rights to democracy and peaceful protest are fundamental to our society. The police response to protests can either undermine or strengthen our democracy," said Hugh de Kretser.

In March, it was revealed that people allegedly injured by police in the November violence had received confidential sums. Recipients included bystanders, tourists and elderly protesters.

Download the Full Report as a PDF here:


Further information:
Anthony Kelly - Author of report and co-ordinator of HRO team - 0407 815 333
Hugh de Kretser - Executive Officer - 0403 965 340

Media Release - PDF
Federation of Community Legal Centres (Vic.) Inc
Final Report: G20 Protests - PDF
The Age
Coverage of the G20 actions in Melbourne - Engage Media
G20 Activist Forum
Solidarity with g20 arrestees - Melbourne Indymedia
A Space Outside - interactions with radical thinkers
Police attack G20 protesters at Melbourne Museum - November 19, 2006