Australian news, and some related international items

Bob Hawke – his allegiance to USA was geater than to the union movement

Secret embassy cables cast the Bob Hawke legend in a different light, Guardian,Jeff Sparrow 4 July 21,
Papers show Hawke as a unionist said one thing to his members, and something quite different to his US embassy friends….

The documents uncovered by Coventry date from 1973 to 1979, a period of bitter industrial and political conflict during which Hawke, as leading trade unionist, often featured in the press as a stalwart militant……..

In public, he backed an “independent non-aligned Australia” (a popular stance in the aftermath of the Vietnam war); in private, he told US officials he wanted the Anzus co-defence pact extended beyond a “purely military alliance”.

Coventry says the Americans valued their relationship with Hawke because he “helped protect [US] defence installations, provided information about union disputes and warned officials that installations could be targeted”…….

In 1973, the American Labour Attaché (a figure quite probably connected to the CIA) contacted Hawke about a potential union dispute at the joint American-Australian facility at North West Cape. The cables record that Hawke “volunteered to intervene informally”, saying he felt “concern and surprise at the militancy” of the workers.

The Americans particularly appreciated Hawke’s willingness to deradicalise the labour movement. As Coventry puts it: “Hawke proved useful in pre-empting and pacifying union disputes.”…………

 the context in which it has emerged makes the material particularly significant. The high court recently upheld the constitutional legitimacy of Australia’s new foreign interference laws.

One challenge came from John Shi Sheng Zhang, a political adviser to NSW Labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane. The second challenge, however, came from a rightwing US group called LibertyWorks, which objected to the new legally requirement to register a conference featuring Tony Abbott and Nigel Farage.

That’s because, on paper at least, the new laws criminalise the kind of meddling in which the Americans have gleefully engaged for decades………

Had today’s foreign interference laws been in place in the 1970s, Hawke’s conduct would certainly have invited legal investigation…….

July 5, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, history, politics international | Leave a comment

Wittenoom – largest contaminated area in the southern hemisphere

Wittenoom’s asbestos mining waste continues to lay unresolved after 55 years, ABC Pilbara / Susan Standen 4 July 21 (excellent photos on original0

The legacy of a 1960s industrial asbestos mine site which devastated the lives of Aboriginal people and workers, many which fell victim to the deadly diseases mesathelioma and asbestosis, continues to be a thorn in the side of successive governments.

Key points:

  • Banjima elders call for action by miners and governments for Wittenoom mine waste remediation 
  • The mine tailings dumps in Nambigunha continue to pollute the Fortescue River environment since the mine closed in 1966
  • Successive governments have tried and failed to put a rehabilitation plan into action after miners abandoned it

All have failed to take action over Wittenoom, left with a mess after asbestos miners walked away in 1966 without taking responsibility or undertaking remediation.

The Wittenoom Asbestos Management Area covers more than 46,000 hectares.

Inside the management area Nambigunha, or Wittenoom Gorge, is littered with monstrous piles of washed-out asbestos tailings.

Yampire Gorge inside the Karijini National Park also still contains asbestos piles, only five kilometres from nearby Kalamina Gorge where major concerts are held in the Pilbara tourist season.

It is the largest contaminated area in the southern hemisphere.

Country surrounding the old township of Wittenoom and Karijini National Park belongs to the Banjima native title holders of the Pilbara.

“It’s not only Banjima people, there’s Guruma people, Yindjibarndi people, Ngarluma people, Yinhawangka people, Nyaparli people and Palyku people that used to live in Wittenoom and worked in these mines as well,” said Banjima elder Maitland Parker.

Approximately seven kilometres as the crow flies from the Wittenoom ex-mine site is the Karijini Eco Retreat.

There, the waste is out of sight and mind of the many thousands of tourists who access the park each year.

Now, in 2021, Banjima elders say it has been long enough and want their country cleaned up.

There could not be a more appropriate time to call for the rehabilitation with this year’s NAIDOC Week theme ‘healing country’.

Many language groups affected

Elders Maitland and Slim Parker attended meetings in 2019 with the then-minister for Aboriginal affairs Ben Wyatt to make requests to have the asbestos-contaminated areas remediated to minimise future risk for people, but were met with only promises of ‘ongoing dialogue’.

He said the estimated billions of dollars it will cost to have the area rehabilitated is no excuse.

It is an almost impossible task, but Mr Parker said he was prepared to give up the native title of the gorge if the waste can be buried deep into the upper gorge to stop the pollution.

But it remains to be seen what is a practical solution.

“We are going to fight tooth and nail and take this to the highest level that we can.”

The tailings dumps have been blown by wind and rained on for decades, causing asbestos pollution to move down into the Fortescue River valley and catchment from Wittenoom Gorge after rains flush through the deep gorges of the Karijini National Park.

Mr Parker is concerned the country all the way to Millstream may be polluted, making it unsafe for Aboriginal people to do their cultural business while fishing, swimming, camping, and visiting the affected areas.

“The rain of past years all contributes to the flushing of these [Karijini] gorges down into the Fortescue Valley,” he said.

…………………. Although Yampire and Wittenoom gorges are officially closed to the public, these areas are still accessed by unauthorised people camping.

In a statement, Lands Minister Dr Antonio De Paulo Buti said the Banjima people — who have native title rights and hold significant cultural sites in the area — will be invited to the steering committee during next sitting of Parliament when the Wittenoom Closure Bill is reintroduced.

July 5, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Australian government’s unnecessary crackdown on charities and on peaceful protest

The government is clamping down on charities — and it could have a chilling effect on peaceful protest, The Conversation,  Krystian Seibert
Industry Fellow, Centre for Social Impact, Swinburne University of TechnologyJuly 2, 2021  The Australian government introduced new regulations last week that could have a major chilling effect across Australia’s diverse charities sector.

The government’s aim was clear: the regulations are intended to target “activist organisations”, and specifically crack down on “unlawful behaviour”.

Despite this rhetoric, there is no evidence unlawful behaviour by charities is a problem of any significance. By clamping down on charities in this way, the government is not only curtailing their ability to organise peaceful protests, it is imposing more unnecessary red tape on an already highly-regulated sector.

What would the regulations do?

The regulations would give the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) new powers to take action against a charity if it commits, or fails to adequately ensure its resources aren’t used to commit, certain types of “summary offences”.

These are generally a less serious type of criminal offence, and can include acts such as trespassing, unlawful entry, malicious damage or vandalism.

If the ACNC commissioner believes a charity is not complying with the regulations, they would be able to take enforcement action, which may include deregistering the charity. This would lead to the charity losing tax concessions — one of the incentives for people to donate to them.

In effect, the regulations mean that if a charity organised a protest in front of a government department and initially refused to leave, this could be considered trespassing. And this could then be grounds to have the charity deregistered.

Are these regulations necessary?

There is little, if any, evidence of a need for the regulations.

First, a comprehensive review of the ACNC legislation commissioned by the government in 2018 did not identify any issues with unlawful behaviour by charities.

In fact, the review recommended removing the ACNC’s existing power to take action against charities that commit serious breaches of the law. It pointed out that charities must already comply with all laws that they are subject to, and it is not the ACNC’s responsibility to monitor compliance or impose sanctions for breaches.

Despite this, the new regulations would extend the reach of the ACNC and expand its existing powers even further.

And importantly, there is no evidence charities — or their staffs or volunteers — are engaging in widespread unlawful activity. When questioned at a recent Senate Estimates hearing, ACNC Commissioner Gary Johns said the commission’s data did not indicate this was a problem.

Even the government’s own regulatory impact assessment asserts only a “small number” of charities have engaged in unlawful behaviour. However, even this claim is not backed up by solid evidence, with the assessment saying it is based on.

Charities are already highly regulated

Charities in Australia are already highly regulated and subject to a broad range of obligations. They must also abide by any number of laws, for example, occupational health and safety and criminal laws.

And the ACNC already has extensive investigation and compliance powers. If charities breach any of the laws they are subject to, they can be sanctioned just like other organisations — and the same applies to their staff.

In addition, charities are already required to take steps to ensure their directors comply with duties, such as acting with reasonable care and diligence. This includes monitoring and managing risks arising from a charity’s activities.

Drafted in a vague way

Perhaps most concerningly, the proposed regulations are worded in a very vague manner, and although improvements were made in response to public consultation on a draft version, major problems remain………………..

July 5, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

The space tourism plans of Bezos, Musk and Branson are morally reprehensible,

Ben Bramble sets out a problem that ought to be so obvious – that this space travel push is a wasteful, and even childish example of the rich boys club doing its thing –   Bezos, Musk, Gates, Branson  etc trying to outdo each other        
But there is a more sinister side to space travel and space research –   the national rivalries, started with Donald Trump’s plan for a Space Force –     nuclear reactors, nuclear-powered rockets, and nuclear weapons in space.   Those billionaires are all too well connected with NASA and this space military push. The thought of a nuclear war in space is horrendous.   But what else could possibly go wrong?

The space tourism plans of Bezos, Musk and Branson are morally reprehensible, The Age, Ben Bramble, 5 July 21.

With billionaires Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson soon to send paying customers into space, members of US Congress are askingwhether and how to regulate commercial spaceflight. But there is a more basic question: Should there be such an industry in the first place?

Supporters of such an industry, such as Republican Kevin McCarthy, cast these billionaires as modern-day Wright brothers, innovating commercialspaceflight in a way governments either can’t or won’t. While billionaires will be the first in space, they say, soon everyone will get their chance.

But this is clearly not feasible any time soon, given Earth’s environmental crises. It is unsustainable for humans to keep consuming resources at the rate we currently are, let alone if space tourism were to become commonplace. The fact that a product can be made cheap enough for many people to afford it does not show that it is environmentally sustainable for many people to actually consume it.

Still, you might say, what could be wrong with commercial spaceflight reserved for the ultra-wealthy? This wouldn’t significantly worsen our environmental crises.–

But there is something morally distasteful in the extreme about space tourism exclusively for the ultra-wealthy when so many people on Earth are in such great need. Going into space, in full view of the many billions of humans who are struggling on a daily basis, is a little like enjoying a pop-up Michelin star meal in front of a homeless shelter.

This is not to decry all luxury goods. But there is something particularly objectionable about spending so much money on a fleeting experience for oneself and others, who are already among the best off on the planet, when so many cannot even make ends meet (through no fault of their own).

At present, there seems a clear tendency to reserve moral criticism for people who cause bad things or who set out to harm others. Such behaviour is certainly bad and merits criticism. But we should feel grumpy also at people for failing to help others when they easily can. Those who display an indifference to the plight of others or who are too wrapped up in themselves and their own self-serving projects are morally criticisable even if they are not the cause of others’ suffering. While it is true that Bezos has recently become a major sponsor of the environment, much more is needed. Every dollar spent on sending billionaires into space is money that could have been used instead to help save the planet or bring others out of poverty.

It is worth adding that many billionaires have contributed to Earth’s problems. Our environmental crises are largely due to excessive consumption, something that companies such as Amazon have played a major role in making possible, affordable and accepted……….

Bezos has said that one of his reasons for founding his company Blue Origin is that “we’re now big compared to the size of the planet”. Like Musk, he thinks we need to look beyond Earth to survive our present crises. But this is far too premature. We can still save the Earth. But to save it, we’re going to have to re-engineer our consumer cultures and economies. This, and not space tourism, is the great engineering challenge of the 21st century. I’d like to see these billionaires use their brilliant minds to help save the Earth, rather than flee it. If this means smaller growth for their own companies, so be it. …..

July 5, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Global heating: “unprecedented” heatwave temperatures will become routine.


With the global climate warming, such “unprecedented” heatwave temperatures will start to become routine. Some parts of the world may simply become too hot for human habitation. Not only will heatwaves become more common, but hotter, drier conditions will lead to more wildfires.

Times 4th July 2021, Canada experienced its highest recorded temperature last week as the mercury surged to 49.6C in British Columbia on Tuesday. This is not onlythe highest temperature for Canada, but the hottest ever recorded above the 45th parallel north, roughly the latitude of Bordeaux and Bologna. In the US, the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho also broke records.

The Pacific northwest is roasting. Hundreds have died. In Pakistan, the city of Jacobabad can reach 52C. As temperatures hit nearly 50C there last week, ts scorching streets were deserted as people tried to shelter at home, most without air-conditioning. The hospitals were flooded with heatstroke victims.

With the global climate warming, such “unprecedented” heatwave temperatures will start to become routine. Some parts of the world may simply become too hot for human habitation. Not only will heatwaves become more common, but hotter, drier conditions will lead to more wildfires.

In January last year, before Covid-19 dominated the news, Australia was aflame with massive areas of bushfire. Hurricanes and typhoons will also become more intense. Tropical diseases will spread. We’ll find it harder to feed
ourselves. And the problems won’t be shared evenly. Some regions will receive less rainfall and lose crops to drought, others will receive more and lose crops to flooding. There will be a global reconfiguration of where food can reliably be grown, and where people can safely live.

The climate refugees of today are only the first trickle of what could become a mass migration of people into parts of the world still offering habitable conditions – a movement of humanity unlike anything seen before in history. It is unlikely that this large-scale population disruption, combined with dwindling resources such as fresh water, will come without conflict.

The next wars could well be climate wars. It was human ingenuity and resourcefulness that got us into this mess, and I am hopeful that our same capabilities will find the way out again too.

July 5, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

July 4 Energy News — geoharvey

Opinion: ¶ “Can We Trust Our Power Plants To Keep Us Cool During Dangerous Heat?” • In this week’s astonishing temperatures, reliable electricity and the air conditioning it powers were often the only thing keeping dangerous, even deadly heat at bay. But how do different types of power plants actually stand up to the soaring […]

July 4 Energy News — geoharvey

July 5, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment