The Murray-Darling Basin – Extortion and Betrayal

Photo: Irrigated wheat in the Riverina 1976.

In Australia approximately 85% of the population live along the coast, so in a nation this large (7.7 million square kilometres), it’s not surprising that there exists a disconnect between people living in the cities and our cousins in the bush.

In the sparsely populated interior of Australia, it’s difficult for the concerns of minorities to be heard by those living in urban areas. It’s understandable that city people are mostly unaware of the crushing fight for survival going on in parts of the farming heartland of rural Australia. Of course city dwellers have an intensely keen interest in the probity and safety of their food supply, but beyond that, it seems most are more focused on the price of smashed avocado while pontificating about roasted coffee beans. That said urban dwellers perception of country people is probably just as ill-informed.

In the interior of south-eastern Australia, the fiasco and devastation threatening the livelihoods of farming communities relates to the Murray-Darling Basin. In the cities there is very little noise about this issue, with the general perception being that it’s about mismanagement of the environment, but few actually have an understanding of the real turmoil and complexities. I grew up in the Murray-Darling Basin in the 1950’s, 60’s & 70’s so I thought it timely to add a little clarity, based on the realities of my experience.

It is only 100 years since the first locks and weirs were built on the Murray River launching the Murray River Irrigation Plan, a scheme to have a dry river system deliver water to the arid inland that would ultimately create “one of the most productive food bowls and diverse agriculture regions in the country”. See (Dry Rivers, Wetlands, Environmental Water & Awesome Wells).

What subsequently followed in 1949 was an expansion plan to divert water from the Snowy River westward to provide additional irrigation water for both the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers, further supporting Australia’s irrigated agriculture industry. The Snowy River would be redirected beneath the Great Dividing Range with the plan to also include a Hydro-Electricity system to generate peak-load power for the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Victoria.

The Snowy Mountain Scheme was born, with construction completed in 1974 consisting of sixteen major dams, seven power stations (that today provides approx. 7% of Net Energy Metering), transmission lines, a pumping station and 225 kilometres of tunnels, aqueducts and pipelines feeding a large network of irrigation canals and channels. The scheme incorporated the 2,880 kilometre Mulwala Canal, (longer than the Murray and Darling Rivers) the largest irrigation  canal in the southern hemisphere which was completed in 1942 and supplies water to 700,000 hectares of agriculture land.

Also in 1949, construction commenced in far western New South Wales to dam the Menindee Lakes, a chain of shallow freshwater lakes on the Darling River. The irrigation storage scheme also supplied water to Broken Hill and was completed in 1968. Turning the arid inland plains into a productive, diversified food bowl by converting the dry river systems of the Lachlan, Murrumbidgee, Darling and Murray Rivers was an engineering feat, the benefits of which were self-evident; exports for a growing nation, while securing a stable domestic food supply in times of inevitable drought.

So what could go wrong with this sustainable irrigation system; sustainable because the ‘source and use’ of the resource was balanced and well managed, simply storing surplus water for use in the dry.

Well, incompetent bureaucrats and revenue starved state governments soon scuttled the sustainability of the system, when they over-reached and started issuing new and larger water rights to landowners located too far from the source, where 90% of the water was wasted in evaporation and seepage. The ‘use’ increased significantly while the ‘source’ stayed pretty much the same, and as a result the system became perpetually stressed, even during seasons of above average rainfall.

The government continued to knowingly sell ‘water rights’ for water that did not exist. To further bolster revenue, the government concocted a deceptive racket, charging farmers based on their water entitlement, rather than the water they actually used. The injustice is that farmers pay for water they never receive and in some years they pay full price for zero water. In any other industry this type of extortion would be the subject of a Royal Commission. I know I’m stating the obvious but an irrigation farming property cannot be commercially viable without irrigation water! It gets worse!

The system was established to provide sustainable water for primary production and the ecosystems and now the scheme was failing to deliver for the purposes for which it was established. In simple terms the governments increased the ‘use’ without increasing the ‘source’ which would require the building of additional water storage. But they failed to act. It has been approximately 45 years since a dam has been built, meanwhile the population has increased by 70%. So the government’s short sighted delinquent mendacious behaviour is the reason the system has failed.

As stated above, the Murray-Darling Basin scheme was designed to accommodate the needs of the irrigation agriculture industry as well as preserving the long-term sustainability of the rivers and lower lakes ecosystem. Successive governments have totally mismanaged the basin, to the point where there was insufficient water for neither the environment nor primary production. The stress was most obvious during the millennium drought.

With the advent of minority government in recent years, we witnessed the dysfunction of extreme politics, decimating rural community’s right across the basin. Instead of addressing years of mismanagement, governments simply stop supplying water to farmers and started flushing approximately 70% + of total fresh water volumes out to sea; water in the name of the environment. Meanwhile desalination plants in the cities are busy doing the opposite, countering this environmental policy by generating fresh water from the ocean and further contributing to our carbon emissions.

‘Environmental water’ has devastating consequences for the health of the waterways with prolonged ‘artificial flooding’ causing extreme environmental damage and stress to the ecosystem. The reckless mismanagement of the Murray Darling has accelerated river bank erosion and caused irreversible harm to the forests in the internationally significant Barmah National Park decimating native flora and fauna (see ‘The Choke‘)… not to mention the ecological disaster created when the Menindee Lakes were drained, contributing to the horrendous summer fish kills.

This extreme action has been devastating; transforming the once productive inland plains to what now resembles a desert, occupied by good people in a desperate situation courtesy of populist bipartisan politicians who consider these communities disposable.   

So now we have a situation where the water in the Murray Darling irrigation system is paid for by farmers facing bankruptcy, … so their water can be flushed out to sea … to preserve man-made freshwater wetlands … that were artificially created by damming a tidal salt water estuary … # . It sounds like madness but unfortunately it’s true!

If farmers are not receiving enough water to run a viable diversified farming operation, then they’ll surrender the interior to the desert and make the Murray-Darling Irrigation system redundant. That may be considered a good outcome for some, but what happens when food shortages are felt in the cities and suburban Australia? This is starting to happen now; Australia has been forced to import butter and now wheat from Canada because we cannot produce enough grain to meet domestic demand. The risks of food shortages are real!

# The waters of the Lachlan, Murrumbidgee and Darling rivers all flow into the Murray River which subsequently flows into the lower lakes in South Australia near the township of Tailem Bend. The lower lakes and wetlands were once a tidal saltwater estuary until about 80 years ago when they were dammed; creating a situation where the 500 square kilometres of the lower lakes are dependant on the declining and inconsistent freshwater flows from the Murray River.

Perhaps the lower lakes should be reopened to tidal flow rather than relying on freshwater to protect its ecosystem i.e. return the lower lakes back to their natural form the way it was prior to the 1940’s. That would negate the need to waste water in the name of the environment, our most precious resource and restore the Murray-Darling Basin back to a productive food bowl, as was always intended, provided water rights are issued on a sustainable basis and not controlled by a few big corporations.

Clearly it is not sustainable or equitable when a small number of large corporations, with deep pockets can control the bulk of the allocated water; a commodity that was once a shared resource for the benefit of all rural communities in the basin. Now the collective communities have been cut off and effectively starved of their livelihood, in order to protect the vested interests of a few, like the Sunraysia’s almond industry whose apparent immunity to water shortages is in part, the reason ‘the choke’ is drowning.

Ask how an Italian multinational; the world’s 4th largest confectionery conglomerate can acquire enough irrigation water from the Murrumbidgee River for a ‘demonstration farm‘ to cultivate 1 million hazelnut trees (in a climate unsuitable for hazelnuts), when for the second year in a row, most “irrigators will have little or no water to farm with this year”.

The governments reckless indifference has enabled its own agency to operate like pathological autocrats, as they administer the slow ‘economic eradication’ of vulnerable rural communities. These bureaucratic executives have commissioned ‘compromised academics’ to legitimise the policies of their political masters. They zealously enforce ‘morally corrupt’ rules based on dubious and conjectural (un)scientific research, while apathetically employing strong-arm, browbeating tactics, with a customary quantum of bureaucratic and political bastardry!

24 June 2019

“An incompetent person in a responsible position may cause huge damage. Such a person should act less and think more.” ― Eraldo Banovac

13 Dead Indigenous Children – Washing Hands of Blame by Pointing the Finger

In February 2019 the Western Australian Coroner released her findings into the deaths of 13 Indigenous children in the Kimberley. The report concluded that 12 of the deaths were suicides, with some of the children as young as 10.

The Coroner blamed this Cluster of Kimberley child suicides on ‘tragic inter-generational trauma’. Meanwhile children are still dying, yet the wider reaction from the numerous ‘responsible entities’ was open defiance as they completely denied accountability. This is scandalous although it helps explain the atrocious historical track record of inaction. How is this acceptable?

We witnessed a number of contemptible interviews following the Coroner’s report; the responsible Ministers, Indigenous politicians, bureaucrats and Indigenous leaders representing the countless government-funded Agencies, Aboriginal Councils and Departments. Not one stated ‘what they should have done’, ‘what they will do’ or ‘what they can do to help’; rather they point the finger of blame elsewhere and accepted no responsibility for their inaction; detestable behaviour!

Don’t get me wrong they were empathetic, just not responsible, so what do these professional ‘desk riders’ do for their generous taxpayer-funded remuneration?

If Government funds over $30 billion a year to Indigenous Australia, shouldn’t the entities and agencies accepting the funding be responsive for the devastating outcomes we are witnessing in Indigenous communities.

Are we effectively condoning the ‘washing of bloody hands’ by accepting their denials of accountability?

If these taxpayer-funded institutions are not performing, why do they continue to be financed? If they are not capable of doing their jobs; the basics i.e. protect innocent children, then who can? The answer it seems is ‘no one’. Apparently not a single person and $30 billion could save these 13 vulnerable Indigenous children, those with the most desperate rudimentary needs for living!

I’m not sure if it’s a remote tribal problem, between those who control the money in the cities versus those with needs in isolated communities, but what is certain is that very little of the $30 billion a year is being spent where it is needed most, on the front line in Indigenous communities.

In fact, if you look at the conditions on the ground, it leaves you wondering where the money is being spent and whose pockets are being lined? We’ll never know while accounting firms are reluctant to reveal the truth in their audit reports, dare they be labelled racists and face being black banned by the lucrative ‘Indigenous industry’.

If the only reaction from the entities with the power and money to effect real change is to point the finger of blame elsewhere, then something significant needs to change (a complete overhaul) if we are to help Indigenous communities in desperate need.

The sad reality is that the message to the children of the Kimberley is the same, nothing has changed, nothing will change, you’re on your own, and help is not coming!

Meanwhile, after 11 years of the failed Closing the Gap strategy, we still think that continuing to throw more money at the problem will resolve the deeply ingrained duplicitous laundering of taxpayer money that never reaches the remote communities where it is intended and acutely needed.

This deceptive behaviour, in the hands of those who control funding is vaguely fraudulent, where mismanagement (at a minimum) deprives those in need of the intended benefits. Those in control of taxpayer monies are prospering at the expense of those in desperate need, innocent dead children; children whose final act at age 10 acknowledges their desperation, the realisation that they will never have hope for a meaningful future because the promised help and support is not coming.

It’s clear that Indigenous symbolism takes priority, e.g. mourning Invasion Day, the populous protest that is apparently more important than any issue that requires tangible action, like saving the lives of Indigenous children. Who mourns for these kids in the wider national community?

Culpability lies at the feet of all those who take the cash in the name of advocating for Indigenous Australians, those getting fat, by deliver nothing short of banal noise, insincere rhetoric and disastrous outcomes that contribute to the despair and deaths of the most vulnerable and innocent!

A complete re-examination of the immorality of our actions is required if we are to improve the basic Human Condition for Indigenous Australia, or at least those People in the wider Indigenous communities who don’t control or influence the allocation of funding.

Imagine the scandal if there were 13 child suicides in an Australian offshore detention centre, the atrocity would potentially bring down the Australian Federal Government, accompanied by a choir of global condemnation from all quarters. Every citizen would feel the national shame of such a horrendous scenario.

But when it actually happens in an Indigenous community in Australia, the silence is deafening. Why are humanitarians invisible on this, why are Indigenous activists so quiet, why is the wider community unsympathetically blind? There should be indignation and outrage, contrite, guilt, shame, pain, anger, sorrow…. but nothing ….not a drop of cold sympathy…. and you know why!

15 February 2019

Australia’s Road Toll & What Politicians Could do to Save Lives!

As Australia’s summer holiday season draws to a close, we again conduct our synopsis into the horror ‘road toll’ that occurred over the break. Unfortunately, high road fatalities have become an expected and accepted part of our Christmas and New Year’s holidays. There is no doubt that witnessing the carnage is sickening, deeply distressing and plainly sad, as ill-equipped and unbeknownst drivers, many (70% of the population) from our capital cities, hit the highways for their holidays, largely unaware or incapable of adapting to the many perils associated with driving on country roads.

The annual response from the politicians is (as usual) re-active, as they postulate and howl nebulous ideas in typical knee-jerk fashion. Void of sincerity they predictably demand better roads, better vehicle technology and better education. Lost on the tabloid media reporting this political rhetoric is that it’s actually only the politicians who have the power to enact meaningful change in these areas. Continuous education, improved roads and vehicle technology may have actually worked well over past decades, but it’s now time to reassess the current ‘cause and effect’ and implement new changes, rather than chant the same old mantras.

The historical statistics support how effective past initiatives have been in reducing the road toll and sometimes we need to look at where we have been in order to see where we are going. We tend to forget how much ‘things’ have improved, how far we have come and what has been achieved over many decades. In the years since I first got behind the wheel in 1970, Australia’s population was a mere 12.51 million. By 2015 it increased significantly by over 90% to 23.79 million, however, the numbers of road deaths over the same 45 year period declined by 68%.

In 1970 there were 3,798 road fatalities in Australia with the annual count trending progressively down to 1,209 by 2015. The statisticians explain ‘Road Fatalities’ as a measure of ‘losses per 100,000 per year’ which was 30.36 individuals in 1970 reducing to 5.08 in 2015, a decline of 83%. If you overlay 1970s statistics with the present day, the annual road toll would be in excess of 7,300 fatalities, an indication of how effective the safety initiatives have been. This is an extraordinary result.

As positive (and grim) as these statistics can be, we can no longer just rely on doing what we did yesterday. Our society and behaviours are continually changing at a rapid pace and if we are to address the new causes of road fatalities, then politicians need to respond and shift the policy direction accordingly. There is so much that can be done to further contain the deaths on our roads, if only politicians got fair-dinkum and tried a more innovative approach, rather than ‘babbling on’ about the same old initiatives that have been in place for years.

The latest and trending cause of fatalities relates to the increased number of individuals now driving unlicensed and or under the influence of drugs, with police detecting nearly as many ice, ecstasy and cannabis drivers (but not cocaine) as those caught drink driving. Drivers on Australian roads are able to get behind the wheel ‘off their heads’ on certain drugs because of a legal loophole that excludes testing for a number of drugs including cocaine.

With Sydney officially the nation’s cocaine capital why are politicians dragging their feet? Why not change the law as necessary and start testing drivers for cocaine, the drug of choice that fuels the benders for glitzy celebrities, the high-class and the top-end of town, the drug with no safe level of use?

It’s time for politicians to act. For example, why are we so busy advocating for driverless cars but choose not to explore technologies that would prevent unlicensed drivers from getting behind the wheel? The technology already exists to immobilize a vehicle without a valid ‘chipped’ drivers licence integrated into the vehicles connectivity systems. A recent government report revealed that 11% of all fatal crashes involved unlicensed drivers, who were considered responsible for the crash in 85% of cases.

The bottom line is that there are preventative measures that can be implemented to further reduce the road toll, but it requires politicians to be bold, to embrace change and not be politically paralysed by simply suggesting further reductions in speed limits!

The large majority of drunk and drugged drivers are unlicensed. We need to implement stricter random testing for all illicit drugs and promote the use of technology that takes control of a motor vehicle away from unlicensed drivers.

Perhaps then we can continue to reduce the unnecessary loss of life on our roads.

22 January 2018

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”Albert Einstein

How the Judicial System Protects & Enables Paedophiles, Misogynists, Bullies, Rapists, Sexual Abusers & Predators

For me, the appeal of ‘blogs’ is the opportunity to broaden my horizons from diverse sources, to potentially absorb a wider perspective or consider many different points of view: ‘ideas’ pitched from the ground floor, void of the rapacious multi-media influences. However, it only really works provided we have the tolerance and empathy to calmly consider and understand a different viewpoint, without having to necessarily agree with it. This is the test of character, the difference between what we say we are, as opposed to what we actually do.

As an example, we like to say we live in tolerant societies, yet looking around our communities and beyond, it is clear that this is not true. Do we tend to lethargically view the world through eyes tainted with inherent preconceived prejudices or through rose-coloured glasses? Are we less likely to consider our own opinions or ‘view of the world’ when we are continuously bombarded by the powerful corporate influences of the 24-hour news cycle that shapes and manufacture our opinons for us?

It amazes me how these media corporations remain credible when the majority of us don’t trust or believe what they say? These are the same powerful corporations who influence, hide, defend and protect misogynists, bullies, rapists, abusers and evil sexual predators: but only if these ‘perverted individuals’ continue to generate sufficient commercial revenue to justify the cost of engaging a firm of lawyers to run protection for their illegal conduct.

Profits drive the ‘business case’ that determines the legal strategies necessary to protect ‘corporate executives’, as they payoff and silence victims, and as a consequence provide license for ‘predator celebrities’ to continue re-offending without accountability; provided they keep generating big profits. Lawyers have the skills that allow the guilty to continue their illegal predatory behaviour against vulnerable people, without having to face a Court of Law. Just another example of how the legal and justice systems favour the Rich and Guilty and not the Poor and Innocent.

A couple of years ago I remember thinking how bizarre it was, the way the tabloid media seemed to dismiss Charlie’s misogynistic behaviour with a large degree of amusement, mere light-hearted buffoonery, promoted under the headline of ‘entertainment’.

Then in a very short period of time attitudes changed completely, a 180-degree turnaround seemed to occur when Donald, rode into town. That started a broad reappraisal and precipitated the downfall of the likes of Harvey, Kevin, Bill and Matt.

The common thread with all these examples is that apparently it was always known that this inappropriate and illegal behaviour had been going on for years. The people in power knew about the abuse, accommodated it, facilitated it, they hid it, protected the filth and used lawyers to enable their disgusting ‘predatory behaviour‘ to continue, instead of stopping or preventing it. These were commercial decisions based simply on the profitable thing to do, yet these corporations have not been held to account nor have they accepted culpability.

These predators have been accused of the same reprehensible behaviour we have witnessed globally following the various inquiries into the culture of ‘entrenched institutional child sexual abuse’, perpetrated against poor, innocent and vulnerable kids. Those without a voice, without representation, terrified, totally alone and exposed, a horrid existence with nowhere to hide nor escape.

These hell holes (institutions) were State sanctioned and operated in the name of charity or God, by individuals who for decades used lawyers to enable ‘predatory behaviour’ to continue; emancipating abusers so they could continue to break the law and ruin the lives of children. These tax-exempt institutions protected their considerable wealth courtesy of a well-educated upper class, while being funded by a naive middle class who found comfort in the knowledge that ignorance is bliss…if you want it.

How can the legal profession conduct these inquiries into sexual abuse with any credibility, charging taxpayers millions of dollars to hand down volumes of edited findings, containing information about paedophiles, most of whom have already faced the courts because they couldn’t afford to negotiate legal protection.

But who investigates and reports on the ‘protected paedophiles’ (including clergy) those who are free to re-offend, because the legal profession protects them, by silencing victims with ‘confidential agreements’.

Let’s face it, the legal professionals have always known the whole truth. They know because they have practised in this space for decades, deriving significant revenue from churches, institutions and corporations to protect predators at the expense of innocent victims…predominantly woman and small children!

These pompous piranhas profit from the misery of the poor and vulnerable, they know who the predators are, because they have essentially protected them by getting them off and setting them free…for money!

Lawyers have a problem with ‘morals and ethics’ if ‘actions speak louder than words’ because they know who the brutalised children are, yet they still defend the rapists and protect paedophiles. Why does the legal profession not have a duty of care to protect vulnerable children or do they really believe that ‘knowing and doing nothing’ is the legal privilege that effectively sanctions child molestation?

Perhaps it’s just a conflict of interest that prevents ‘legally protected paedophiles’ from being included in the ‘Terms of Reference’ for these abuse inquiries or are lawyers just the innocent middlemen offering a ‘without conscience’ service for a substantial commercial fee. Do they believe that their actions are for the betterment of our society? Who represents the victim, who has their best interests at heart? Well, if it’s NOT the churches and institutions, NOT corporations, NOT government and clearly it’s NOT the legal profession or the judicial system, THEN WHO???

The ‘legal professions’ practice of negotiating amoral ‘confidential agreements’ to SILENCE VICTIMS in exchange for small compensation payments needs to cease. This is mere reparation for betrayal in the form of 30 pieces of silver for the suffering of the most vulnerable members of society; those who once looked to the churches and the law for protection and justice, only to be ‘sold out’ by religous institutions who once promised to care for the disenfranchised and downtrodden.

What is the greater evil, the predator or the facilitator whose actions meant that vultures continue to prey on the innocent, the disadvantaged and vulnerable victims? The answer is neither; it’s actually the enabler i.e. the legal profession and the embedded defective judicial system that enables predators to freely re-offend and as a consequence, allow the organisations that facilitate this behaviour to flourish.

They knew the dirty secrets and they hid them, No ethics, no morals, no accountability, no conscience necessary, when you set pedophiles free, so they can continue to repeatedly rape children!

Why is the legal profession so malevolent, why is their duplicity unchallenged, is it just their elliptical language and superiority complex that separates the arrogant privileged from the rest of us?

Now the legal profession has recommended that the church remove the secrecy surrounding the confessional to protect children from paedophiles. What a diversion, all that does is give a free kick to the thousands of paedophiles who are not religious and takes the heat off a few wigs in the judiciary!

Why do hypocritical lawyers insist that the clergy must divulge privileged information, while solicitors still feel compelled to use priviledge to protect paedophiles? Is it that lucrative?

Why is the lawyers ‘client privilege’ more important than the rights of sexually abused children, after all, that is the basis of their argument against the church. What is the difference?

What makes lawyers more righteous than anyone else?

Why not ‘throw open’ the lawyers files and air their dirty laundry to reveal all the protected paedophiles that are not known to the courts. Let’s indemnify the lawyers against recourse so we can find out the truth, find out who these predators are and get them out of our institutions and out of our society. No one can argue that it would not be a worthwhile initiative, no matter how many paedophiles it may uncover in the legal and justice fraternity.

The truth is right in front us, in the files of the legal profession, the same profession that conducts these ‘show inquests’ that purposely deflect our attention elsewhere, so that nothing changes. Let’s get serious about protecting the truly vulnerable. How resolute are the politicians, the lawyers and the judicial system about protecting innocent children and exposing these criminals? Do they have the courage, the capacity and motivation to support changes to the Law?

Unfortunately, it is difficult to be encouraged looking at the government and judicial systems historical track record, when it comes to implementing meaningful policy changes. The records, as they say, speak for themselves.

For example, this is what ‘equal justice for all’ looks like in the USA. 25% of the worlds prisoners are in the U.S (2.3 million individuals). 97% of inmates are incarcerated without having their day in court. Based on these statistics and the demographic of the incarcerated, it appears that after 150 years, the judicial system has only managed to re-badge slavery, not abolished it.

So what chance of any meaningful progress if this is how justice works in a free societies?

One wonders if the financial reward for maintaining the status quo in the ‘land of the free’ is so great that the vested interests will never risk overhauling laws to transform the corrupted and ineffectual judiciary system. The United States official motto is ‘In God we Trust’. ‘Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ (John 8:32).

So can someone explain to me how wearing a ‘black gown‘ to the Golden Globes will deter this community of perverted pediphiles and abusive misogynists? We are dealing with a secret society of truly evil parasites who have infiltrated all layers of society, the devil dressed like virtuous angels. They have the power, influence and reach to continue destroying the lives of children, so we must take a stand now and lobby hard for meaningful long-term change and stop the legal fraternity from using the law to sheltering phedoephiles.

As I mentioned right at the start, the test of character is the difference between what we say, as opposed to what we actually do.

2 January 2018

“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Who Starved While You Were at Lunch & How China Can Help!

Every once in a while I have a catch-up lunch with a couple of mates I’ve known for about 30 years or so. They are good blokes: accomplished in their chosen careers, love their families, content and comfortable with their place in the world and also deeply proud of their indigenous heritage. I wouldn’t say they are in their twilight years, perhaps more likely tracking somewhere in the ‘mid- to late afternoon’ range, but they are what I would call salt of the earth people.

These fellas came from meagre means, working class as ‘working class’ can be. Their parents didn’t have much but they made damned sure that their kids had better opportunities in life than perhaps they did. Probably what I’d call ‘obscure old fashion love’ where actions speak louder than words and success is measured by what their parents went without.

Our conversations are predictable, interesting and sometimes insightful. They’re mostly book-ended with humour, more often than not at the expense of our own individual misfortunes. To an outsider we may appear heartless or unsympathetic, for example, we rolled around laughing after fully work-shopping the news that one of us has an impending operation for an enlarged prostate. Who knew that such a subject could create such imaginative and amusing possibilities? In reality (but not obvious), there exists a genuine empathy and a quiet concern, but here the ‘unspoken’ screams louder than the words we frequently scramble to find.

The beauty of the interaction is the level of undisciplined etiquette, where we always start more yarns than we finish, as a simple impromptu subject can unleash a continuous dialogue and a hundred embellished stories. It’s where annoying interruptions around the ‘table of knowledge’ are not only appreciated, it’s openly encouraged (in fact, expected) as the most serious conversations degenerate into nonsensical avant-garde poetry or philosophy. This is what happens when you fuse a couple of beers with bullshit!

This week’s linguistic tour brought us to a discussion on the ‘Rise of China’ and their global influence in our world today. What we found interesting is the irony of the journey China has taken in the short span of our lifetimes. We remember the 1966 Cultural Revolution, the failed 10-year movement to purge all remnants of capitalism, where the death toll was reportedly between 5 and 10 million. The numbers are staggering, incomprehensible; there was a shocked silence of disbelief around the table. Is that right, 10 million?

The only one of us who has travelled to China proceeded to school us on 1960’s Chinese history, as we learn that one of the consequences of the Great Leap Forward was the 1959 to 1961 ‘Great Chinese Famine’ where it’s reported that deaths due to starvation are estimated as ‘at least’ 43 million people. What? The numbers are unbelievable, what sort of pain and anguish does that translate into? Why didn’t I know about it and why is everything about China described as ‘Great’?

Adding to the conversation, I admitted with a degree of ignominy that I had only just learnt that 285,000 people had starved to death in Somalia during the 2011 East African drought. How did I not know about this? What was I doing in 2011 that was so self-consuming that I was not aware of this catastrophe, yet I was all over the 2011 Japanese earthquake/tsunami/Fukushima disaster where approx. 16,000 lost their lives? I later learned that 300,000 Somalians also lost their lives in a similar famine in 1991-92.

These numbers are mind-boggling, yet everyone seems preoccupied, ‘being Kardashianed’ or staying busier than ever posting selfies on social media, then stressing as they wait for the ‘likes’ to feed their narcissistic place in a fake world. Between 1998 and 2004 3.8 million died from disease and starvation in the Congo and in 1996 an estimated 3.5 million people starved to death in North Korea. Would it be racist to suggest that white societies would react differently if these deaths had occurred in white societies?

What can I say, I’m feeling embarrassed that this has been allowed to happen in my lifetime while I was busying myself surviving in a safe middle-class world, subsisting in the dark with blinkers on. So now is the time to be proactive. Let’s not wait for the next round of historical statistics; why can’t we act now before it’s too late?

We have been warned. There are currently more than 20 million people that are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance i.e. the Yemen Crisis. That is virtually the population of Australia yet it is not even making the evening news because the tabloid media are too preoccupied talking about Trump’s latest faux pas.

How can I possibly come up with an appropriate closing paragraph here? I cannot. It is beyond my capacity to transcribe my feelings, as my mind is incapable of comprehending the magnitude of anticipated fatalities. Perhaps we just keep raising awareness until we can embarrass a wealthy and persuasive nation like China to use their leverage to influence change. Only China has the ability to comprehend the potential consequences like no other; the devastation of millions of people losing their lives by slowly starving to death. China has the advantage of ‘living history’ and understands first-hand the consequences of inaction when dealing with a potential catastrophe of this size

伟大的中国 . 参与世界

25 November 2017

“A man who has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it is committing another mistake” – Confucius.

Human Rights the First Casualty – Australia’s New Detainee Laws

In Australia, we often hear references to ‘COAG’. The term may register in unconscious recall, but the reality is that few know what it is, nor care. COAG is (usually) a bi-annual talk-fest between the leaders of State and Territory governments and their Federal overlord, The Prime Minister. The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) is a forum for mass esoteric debates between politicians with vested self-interests, who bicker, quarrel and generally disagree on almost everything, then return home satisfied that they have defended their patch while achieving very little.

However, this month’s meeting was very different because unanimous agreement was reached by all leaders. This is a ‘red light flashing’ and bears closer scrutiny. The agreement reached was in relation to new anti-terrorism measures (laws) purporting to be in the name of ‘National Security’, although the changes will allow law enforcement to use these new powers for crimes other than terrorism. The Justice Minister indicated that the new laws would also apply to “serious crimes of any nature”.

So National Security was the excuse, not the actual reason.

What was apparent is that no politician wants to risk being labelled ‘soft on terrorism’, so they all blindly agreed to new laws without challenging or scrutinising the potential consequences for individuals who may be wrongfully detained without charge, for up to two weeks including children as young as 10. The new laws are to apply where enforcement agencies deem an investigation relates to terrorism, however as the Justice Minister indicated, the reach is actually far broader.

So what is going on here? A representative of the Australian Federal Police stated: ‘they (Law Enforcement) don’t have the normal luxury to watch, to wait, to collect evidence before we act’. The Prime Minister commented: “This is a battle that we wage to keep Australians safe every day. Everything we do every hour of every day is focused on keeping Australians safe”.

I’m sensing the prerequisite strategic scare campaign to justify hasty action without due consideration of the consequences, as the leaders demonstrated bipartisan consensus before the meeting even started. What we witnessed was the usual sales pitch to the Australian people, that ‘National Security’ takes priority over compromising our Civil Liberties, irrespective of the consequences for the innocent.

These are Civil Rights we will lose forever with no apparent ‘checks and balances’ in place for those inevitable innocent victims who will be accidentally detained under these new laws. The rights of ‘a small number of people’ are acceptable collateral, provided it doesn’t happen to you. Here is some of the extraordinary language used by Territory and State leaders in what was a frightening political back-slapping kumbayah event:

  • There is furious agreement between the States
  • States are in violent agreement on this
  • There is unity across all jurisdictions
  • We have made these changes, they are challenging and difficult but they are necessary
  • We all feel that we live in uncertain times
  • All of us are having to reconsider our Civil Rights and compromise on those things
  • We are going to have to curtail the rights and freedoms of a small number of people in order to keep the vast majority of Australians safe
  • I don’t particularly care about the Civil Liberties of terrorists or potential terrorists
  • Notional considerations of Civil Liberties do not trump the very real threat, the very real threat of terror
  • We have probable threats of terror and they cannot be put to one side – it would be unforgivable to think that we could have done more and we chose not to
  • The vast majority of the public wants us to put security first
  • Frankly that talk (Civil Liberties) that is a luxury that might be available to them. It is not available to political leaders in this country
  • We don’t want to leave anything to chance and I want to be the Premier that has a no-regrets policy. I don’t want to look back and think what could I have done differently or more to protect the community
  • This is us at our best

What is interesting is that in 2015 the Attorney General indicated that there may be constitutional impediments where “a detention without charge could be seen for an unreasonable long period, could be seen to be a form of executive detention, therefore a violation of chapter 3 of the Constitution which prevents the executive government from exercising a judicial power”.

Following COAG, the Prime Minister stated that “everyone’s agreed to us making these changes”. When asked about the constitutional problems previously raised by the Attorney General, he said “well… well… clearly we’ve satisfied ourselves that this… this will comply with the Constitution”.

It feels like they’ve done a job on us. Have we just witnessed the Federal and State governments somehow circumnavigate the Constitution or just The Attorney General?

Don’t get me wrong, I accept that we may need to change laws and as a result forego some civil liberties, but only with conditional provisions to protect the Human Rights of innocents. What happens if you are the innocent individual detained for two weeks without charge, all because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time or look similar to the wrong person, or you are arrested because of incompetent bureaucrats, corruption, mistaken identity, identity theft or fraud?

There are inhuman consequences: a loss of Human Rights for those individuals, who through no fault of their own find themselves the innocent victim of these new laws, without any protection, recourse, reparation or compensation. Now you may ask what are the chances of being detained in Australia ‘without charge’ in 2017. I’m not trying to evoke the memory of European fascists in 1930/40s, but it has happened in Australia before. See The Haneef affair.

Just imagine being in the shoes of Doctor Haneef who in 2007 was falsely accused by Australian authorities of aiding terrorists, arrested and detained without charge. Some three years later he was awarded defamation compensation by the Australian Government for an undisclosed ‘substantial amount’. Do ‘innocent victims’ relinquish their rights for compensation under these new laws, as Government indemnify itself against breaches of basic Human Rights?

As a society we need to resist the slide into a totalitarian State where police are given ‘shoot to kill’ powers to fight terrorism, at the same time as frontline police seek ‘shoot-to-kill’ immunity to protect officers from recrimination. It will be ‘open season’, potentially adding a new dimension of consternation for those who already feel they are targets of racial profiling by Police.

In the absence of an efficacious media in this country, we need to start challenging our political leaders and ask what are the real reasons for this wide-ranging draconian legislation. Why the ‘fear mongering theatre’ masquerading as an anti-terrorism initiative when its consequences have ramifications well beyond the stated purpose. Why do we need to deny justice for any of our citizenship when they are innocent? Why is it reasonable that they should forgo their rights and freedoms and the safeguard of ‘due process’?

How wrong are State and Federal Law Enforcement agencies getting it, if we need to change the law to protect and indemnify the Government against the consequences of their incompetent actions?

The spirit of a country is reflected in its National Anthem. Australians sing: ‘let us rejoice, For we are young and free. I’d question whether children as young as 10, detained without charge are free!

Advance Australia……FAIR?

19 October 2017

“Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time” – George Bernard Shaw.

Australia For Sale

In the midst of Australia’s worsening Energy Crisis and the debate around extending the life of old ‘dirty coal’ Power Stations, many Australians are asking: why does Japan pay less for Australian LNG (gas) than Australians do?

You would think that this bizarre situation would be ringing alarm bells in Australia but not so, as stupidly, Australians don’t tend to be too concerned or worried about the sustainability of their country’s long-term natural resources and assets. Meanwhile, our Asian neighbours are taking full advantage of our complacency. They act to secure their own nations’ future by implementing inter-generational food security plans, by purchasing Australia’s productive farmland courtesy of an ignorant and complicit constituency.

Take China for example: they have a population of approx. 1.4 billion people with an increasing demand for a nutritious, secure, clean, and sustainable food supply. They could purchase agricultural produce from Australia, but soon won’t need to, because Australia is selling their prime farmland instead.

I’m not against balanced foreign investment, clearly it’s a necessity, however, I do question the wisdom of allowing one country to increase its stake in Australia’s farm land ‘tenfold’ in the short space of 12 months, with China now owning 25% of agricultural land in Australia according to the SMH/Australian Tax Office’s Agricultural Land Register.

What happens if this trend continues? Should Government act immediately to control Australia’s sovereignty?

This shift in the ownership of agricultural land in Australia is of critical concern as it means that a significant proportion of local agricultural produce may no longer be available for supply and consumption in domestic markets. The new owners are not interested in making commercial profits in Australia, nor do they intend to trade produce on local markets. They are only interested in producing, processing and transporting the finished product directly into China to meet their growing consumption needs.

Not only are we losing ownership of the land, but also the food it produces. It is also an effective loss of future export revenue for Australia, recurring revenue which has been surrendered forever in exchange for a short-term capital gain on assets we now have no chance of ever owning.

We have been continually warned of the consequences of accepting excessive Chinese investments by the likes of world-leading economist Professor Niall Ferguson yet we choose to blissfully ignore the bleeding obvious.

At the current rate of change, Australian agricultural produce will be unavailable to Australians in much the same way as Australian LNG is restricted or in limited supply for the domestic market, because Australians have sold off control of their own natural resources.

Can you imagine not being able to buy an Australian Prime Steak in Australia unless you can afford to import it from China? If Australia keeps ‘giving away the farm’, we’ll end up with massive food inflation or more likely, Australians just won’t be able to buy food produced in Australia.

It will be a sorry reminder for those old enough to remember the restrictions imposed on Australians under the old British-Australian Meat Agreement when you couldn’t source or afford to buy locally produced meat: only this time the arrangement will be permanent.

17 October 2017

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. Martin Luther King Jr.