Tuesday, October 16, 2007

No justice without apology - Howard must make peace with Aboriginal Australians

October 12, 2007 - After over a decade of refusing to apologise to Aboriginal Australians over their ongoing horrific treatment, Prime Minister John Howard has boldly admitted his own failure to recognise the "importance of symbolism" in healing the rift.

"My goal is to see a new Statement of Reconciliation incorporated into the preamble of the Australian Constitution. If elected, I would commit immediately to working in consultation with indigenous leaders and others on this task," said Mr Howard.

But Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation say the Prime Minister cannot expect Aboriginal people to accept his proposal to recognise them in the constitution unless he is prepared to make a national apology for past injustices...

Dubbed a racist by many during his reign, Mr Howard says he has changed his views on Indigenous reconciliation. On the eve of a Federal election, he said he now believes there should be a referendum to place a preamble in the federal constitution which recognised Indigenous people's "special" place in the nation.
In his speech to the Sydney Institute, the PM set out his new position - promising that if he wins the election he would bring in a bill to include the preamble statement.

Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR) national director Gary Highland says Mr Howard will need to make peace with Aborigines first. Mr Highland says the success of a constitutional referendum will hinge on the wording of the document and the process through which the words are chosen.

"He will need to make his own peace with Aboriginal people and their leaders if he's to make peace on behalf of the nation," he said. "This will have to be a carefully considered approach. "It will have to be genuinely negotiated with but until we see the process and until we see the specific words that are being proposed its too early to tell whether this will be a positive step that the Prime Minister would hope it is."

Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett says he is surprised by what appears to be a dramatic change in Mr Howard's attitude to symbolic reconciliation. "He has, with his mantra about practical reconciliation, actually undermined real genuine effective reconciliation, because of his refusal to accept the importance of acknowledgment of past wrongs," he said. "So I'm surprised, but I'm pleasantly surprised. It's not the be all and end all. We still have to fix up some of the other damage that Mr Howard has done."

Reconciliation Australia chief executive Barbara Livesey said there needed to be consultation with Aboriginal people about the proposed change to the preamble. "We've always said that 'sorry' is an important element of the reconciliation process, particularly for members of the stolen generation.

"Another bloody election promise," former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission chairwoman Lowitja O'Donoghue said. "It's not before time, it's what we've fought for, but who believes him? I don't."

Former Labor president and Aboriginal activist Warren Mundine said the announcement was "a bit surprising". "He has been Prime Minister for 11 years now and he is doing this just days before calling an election. He should go the extra step and say sorry," he said.

Mr Howard says he still does not believe the Government should apologise for past injustices.

the west
Speech Extract - The Australian
brisbane times



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Turnbull approves massive Gorgon project off WA coast

October 10, 2007 - In the wake of his recent decision to allow timber giant Gunns to build their controversial Pulp Mill in Tasmania, Federal Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull has now given approval to the $20 billion Gorgon gas project in Western Australia. Despite staunch criticism from green groups, Turnbull's decision virtually paves the way for the Gorgon oil conglomerates - Shell, Chevron and ExxonMobil to build an LNG plant on Barrow Island, off WA's North West coast.

The island is an A Class nature reserve and environmentalists have argued it should be protected from further development. The WA Carpenter Government recently gave its conditional approval for the project...
Environmental stakeholders say federal approval does not go far enough to protect a fragile island environment exposing it to a massive biosecurity risk - demanding the project should be sited on the mainland, rather than on Barrow island.

Project operator Chevron holds a 50 percent stake in the huge gas field, which is estimated to contain more than 40 trillion cubic feet of gas and has a nominal development life of around 60 years.

Gorgon involves recovering gas from the Gorgon field, Australia's largest known gas resource, near the North West Shelf gas fields. A gas refining and liquid natural gas (LNG) facility will be built on Barrow Island, where Chevron has operated for more than 40 years. The Barrow project is specifically designed around carbon capture and storage from the gas refining process.

Conservation groups have vigorously opposed the project, saying it will threaten endangered species. The WA Environmental Protection Authority also said the project should be blocked to protect the rare flatback turtles, which nest on beaches shared by the proposed plant.

TOXIC LEGACY: Chevron Australia, along with partners ExxonMobil and Shell, says environmental conditions are among the most stringent in the world. Mr Turnbull said the measures built on Chevron's commitment to environmental protection.

However, Chevron's commitment to the environment is currently under question. Chevron is facing an ongoing lawsuit in Ecuador since 2003, which alleges Texaco (now Chevron) dumped more than 68 billion litres of oily wastewater from three decades of drilling. The plaintiffs — 30,000 Amazon Indians and settlers — are seeking $6 billion in damages.

From 1964 to 1992, Texaco drilled for oil in the northern region of the Ecuadorian Amazon, leaving behind 627 open toxic waste pits and other facilities which continue to leak highly toxic waste, affecting more than 30,000 local people.

In the most recent court documents, Chevron faces a massive potential liability for creating levels of toxicity in the rainforest up to thousands of times higher than permitted by Ecuadorian and U.S. law. One soil sample at a Chevron well-site inspected by the Ecuadorian court contained "life-threatening toxins that exceed maximum amounts permitted by U.S. law by 3,250 times."

In 2002, Angola has fined ChevronTexaco Corp $2 million for causing environmental damage. But the company's idea of being green is to launch a $15 million ad campaign touting its greenness while spending a stunning $15 billion buying back its own stock, rather than, say, investing the money in developing new sources of clean energy.

FRAGILE ECOSYSTEM: WA Conservation Council president Chris Tallentire said Barrow Island is a fragile environment which is home to threatened flatback turtles and 21 different species of animals unique to the island. "The government has totally let us down on this one," Mr Tallentire said. He said governments were subsidising the project companies by granting them $60 million to investigate carbon geo-sequestration, to capture and store carbon dioxide produced at the site.

"It's an absolute sham," Mr Tallentire said. "It's totally pathetic, at state and federal levels, the government is subsidising a project which subsequently risks a fragile environment and exposes it to a massive biosecurity risk."

Mr Tallentire said the project should be sited on the mainland, rather than on Barrow island. WWF Australia said the federal government had ignored pleas to locate the project onshore.

"There are no conditions that will ever make Barrow Island, which is one of Australia's oldest and most important nature reserves, an acceptable location for an LNG plant," WWF Australia chief executive Greg Bourne said. "The risks to species found nowhere else in Australia and to the turtles and corals in the surrounding marine environment are simply too great."

WWF says apart from the flatback turtle, other threatened species on Barrow Island include the burrowing bettong, the golden bandicoot and the black-flanked rock wallaby. It is also home to a blind snake, believed to be the only snake in the world that lives entirely underground.


AmazonWatch: Chevrons Human Rights Problems Span Three Continents
Oil Watchdog - Greenwashing
Angola fines Chevron $2 mln for pollution Rescue Barrow Island website

Pauline Hanson congratulates Howard government over racist policy

Pauline Hanson congratulates Howard government over racist policy

Oct 7, 2007 - Senate candidate and notorious racist politician Pauline Hanson has congratulated federal Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews on the decision to cut the number of African refugees allowed into Australia. Alongside Mr Andrews, the One Nation founder says refugees carry disease and escalate crime. Pauline Hanson says "you can't bring people into the country who are incompatible with our way of life"...
Unfortunately Ms Hanson is running as an independent Senate candidate in Queensland at the next federal election. Last week Hanson announced her support of Kevin Andrews' decision to cut the intake of African refugees by a third saying Mr Andrews was acting in the national interest.

"I think the Immigration Minister has taken a strong stance with this regard," she said. "I think he is in tune with how the people feel about it and the response that I have had from people through my emails and how they have contacted me over this issue. I think they are making a stance for the wellbeing of Australia. Do you want to see increased crime on our streets? Do you want to see increased violence?" she said. "Do you want to see your daughter or a family member end up with aids or anyone for that matter?"

African community groups have rejected comments by Hanson and the Immigration Minister, that African refugees in Australia have been slow to integrate into the community. The Federation of African Communities Council says the group's lawyers are lodging a complaint of racial discrimination against the Federal Government with the Human Rights Commissioner.

The Minister has been criticised by community and church groups for singling out Africans, whose share of Australia's humanitarian refugee intake has been cut by 40 per cent over the past four years. The minister says he is concerned about race-based gangs, an increase in crime among African youth, and reports of young African men gathering and drinking alcohol in parks at night.

The Human Rights Commissioner has labelled the Federal Government's stance on African refugees as "un-Australian". Commissioner Graham Innes says singling out a particular race goes against Australian values. "I think it is troubling to single out one community or group as not settling and integrating well and it is not the Australian way to deal with refugees," he said. "People shouldn't be treated differently on the basis of race or ethnic origin," Mr Innes said.

The harsh stance taken on immigration by Prime Minister John Howard has been credited with helping him win the past four elections - and there is now an assumption that Andrews' comments were aimed at influencing voters by again raising the "spectre of Australia being overrun".

Prime Minister John Howard's government has benefited from dogwhistle politics over immigration — especially in regional seats in the past.

Various sources
Hanson supports African refugee reduction
More Sources...
Hansons Website

Wednesday, October 10, 2007



"Empty streets with concrete barriers, high fences and riot squad officers, snipers in buildings and helicopters..." Anti-APEC activist September 07.

In September this year, Australian Prime Minister John Howard hosted the 2007 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) in Sydney - the biggest meeting of world leaders ever held in this country.

APEC brought together thousands of ministerial delegates, corporate executives and government leaders of 21 Pacific Rim nations. It also drew the ire of tens of thousands of Australians who are concerned for their welfare and the rights of those exploited by rapacious global Capitalist systems.

Activist groups and individuals travelled from across the country to participate in the actions against APEC, with Sydney placed into lock-down. Thousands of police lined the city streets during the conference, harassing those who dared display dissent to the exclusive meeting of capitalists.

Activists used APEC to express concern over many of the member countries' behaviour - in particular the US-led war on Iraq, and China's ongoing litany of blatant human rights abuses.

Staged at the taxpayers' expense, APEC is a massive logistical and security event, requiring some 25,000 room-nights at hotels for leaders, delegates and media personnel. Nevertheless, participation at APEC meetings is restricted to senior government officials, corporate big-wigs and the leaders of "member economies."

The APEC nations, know as "Member Economies", include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, New Zealand, Singapore, Korea, Thailand, United States, China, Hong Kong, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Chile, Peru, Russia and Vietnam.

Ostensibly, APEC is a gang of Pacific Rim economies working in virtual secret to bolster and increase economic prosperity and political collusion in the region. But APEC meetings have zero input from the people their leaders are supposed to represent - although corporate giants, including energy giants such as BHP, Rio Tinto, Chevron and Woodside - were all in on the uber-capitalist talk-fest.

The security side of APEC was a brutal and farcical display of concrete, steel, uniforms, guns and batons - with over-the-top media statements promoting outright fear and insecurity. The Australian Government spent over $300 million on security alone to host the forum, with Sydneysiders forced into lockdown mode for over a week. Dozens of police check-points dotted a five kilometre-long concrete and steel wall - excluding the general public from the CBD.

Severe newfound police-state powers resulted in "restricted" and "declared" zones, with a list of some 30 banned "violent protesters" drawn up by NSW government forces. Snipers crept about on rooftops and the Opera House was out of bounds. Tens of thousands of people were disrupted: all for a meeting of 21 government leaders with no suggestion of any terrorist threat.

During the anti-APEC street actions, some 20,000 activists converged to speak out against the invasion and occupation of Iraq and called for Australian troops to return home. Demonstrators gathered to oppose the sale of uranium and the development of a nuclear industry in Australia. They called for the closure of the secretive US Pine Gap spy base, the repeal of Howard's WorkChoices anti-union legislation and for the defeat of the Liberal coalition Government in the upcoming Federal election.

Many protesters raised climate change, democratic rights, "Cage Bush, not Sydney", and refugee rights amongst other human rights issues. Some groups protested against specific government leaders such as the Philippines, Burma and Chile, where trade union and human rights are abused. Police and security were accused of brutality and heavy-handedness, on one occasion removing their badges before assaulting peaceful demonstrators.

Despite John Howard's posturing that climate change would be on the agenda, the APEC's environmental emphasis instead focused on toxic and expensive Nuclear Power - and the mythical "Clean Coal". However, neither Nuclear nor Coal can be considered real solutions to the planet's ongoing environmental crisis. But for the APEC leaders, it was a perfect opportunity to push dirty Australian coal and amp up the uranium export industries through APEC's Energy Working Group.

During a week of overt political and corporate blustering, Australia signed off on a $45 billion gas deal with China, (with Australian mining giant Woodside benefiting) as well as a billion-dollar uranium deal with Russia.

Always a sycophant "deputy sheriff" to the United States, Howard announced Australia's commitment to the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) - a US-led project designed to push nuclear energy worldwide. Australia also signed up to another Defence treaty with the US - giving the US military industry greater access to Australian markets and further integrating Australia's military/security forces with the US.

APEC states its primary objective is to "promote trade and investment liberalisation in the Asia-Pacific Region", thereby assisting economic growth and prosperity. However, it is broadly known that these "neo-con" policies result in further theft of the poor, in order to keep the wealthy elite happy. Corporate interests cannot increase quality of life and prosperity for ordinary working people - who inevitably face attacks on wages and working conditions, especially in developing countries.

Established to foster "free trade" in the region, APEC merely allows corporate bosses and their political representatives to push the neo-conservative policies of privatisation and corporate control.

At its very base, APEC's model of rampant corporate globalisation, shuts out the ordinary citizen, puts the legal rights of corporations above those of people - and enables wholesale environmental degradation.

Indeed, 21st Century capitalism has no real solutions to the problems of global poverty or environmental destruction. Capitalism, at its very core, relies on the desecration of hard-won human rights, it encourages and subsidises the perpetuation of human greed and allows the very ecosystems we inhabit to be damaged beyond repair.

APEC, and other global meetings like it, only exist to exacerbate these perpetual problems.

by elliot K - October 2007