Australian news, and some related international items

Today: Does Australia care about Julian Assange?

Apart from th fact that this cruel saga pretty well represents the death of investigative journalism, and its job of holding authority to account – apart from that, – Julian Assange is an Australian citizen

I am mortified, ashamed to be an Australian. Our government has not lifted a finger to save Assange. The corrupt Australian government, and the rather pathetic Opposition have remained in hushed collusion with the USA’s absolute persecution of this man – for his crime of journalism.

”A court has formally approved the extradition of Julian Assange to the US on espionage charges, in what will ultimately be a decision for the UK home secretary, Priti Patel”.

UK court approves extradition of Julian Assange to US.

April 21, 2022 Posted by | Christina reviews | Leave a comment

The US Cries About War Crimes While Imprisoning A Journalist For Exposing Its War Crimes 20 Apr 22, In what his lawyers have described as a “brief but significant moment in the case,” a British magistrates’ court has signed off on Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States, bringing the WikiLeaks founder one step closer to a US trial under the Espionage Act which threatens press freedoms worldwide.

The extradition case now goes to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel for approval, which will likely be forthcoming as Patel is a reliably loyal empire manager. After that point, Assange’s legal team will be able to launch an appeal. 

This is happening at the same time the United States and the United Kingdom are loudly demanding accountability for alleged war crimes by the Russian military in Ukraine, which is interesting because attempting to bring accountability for war crimes is precisely why Julian Assange is in prison.

“He is a war criminal,” President Biden said of Vladimir Putin following allegations of war crimes in Bucha, Ukraine earlier this month. “I think it is a war crime. … He should be held accountable.”

Biden: Putin should face war crimes trial for Bucha killings 4 April 2022

Wikileaks 5 April – 12 years ago today 5 Julian Assange published the Collateral Murder video detailing the gunning down of civilians, children & 2 Reuters journalists. Assange faces a 175 year sentence if extradited for revealing this and other war crimes

This is why the US government is trying to extradite Julian Assange: for revealing the US massacre of civilians, including two Reuters journalists in Iraq

And that’s all I’d like to say here today, really. That this discrepancy is very interesting.

I mean, can we take a moment to deeply appreciate the irony of this? Because it’s so obscene and outrageous it’s actually hard to take in unless you really let it absorb. The most powerful government in the world, which serves as the hub of the most powerful empire that has ever existed, is working to extradite a journalist for exposing its war crimes while simultaneously rending its garments over war crime allegations against another government.

I mean, damn. You would think a power structure that had recently been caught red-handed committing war crimes and is currently in the process of imprisoning a journalist for exposing those war crimes would at least have the sense not to yell too loudly about war crimes for a little while. But this is how confident the empire is in its ability to control the narrative.

Really take it in. Really digest it. The more you think about it, the freakier it gets. Not only is the empire persecuting a journalist for exposing its war crimes while at the same time demanding that others be held accountable for war crimes, it is also attacking the free press for reporting the truth about the powerful while at the very same time engaging in a massive propaganda operation which holds that it is involved in Ukraine to protect its freedom and democracy.

I mean, the gall. The absolute temerity. The balls on this empire, man.

I have said it before and I will say it again: Assange exposed many ugly realities about the powerful in his work with WikiLeaks, but everything that he has managed to expose thereafter simply by forcing them to prosecute him far surpasses the revelations in those publications.

If the highest form of journalism is exposing the darkest secrets of the most powerful people in the world, then Julian Assange is the highest form of journalist.

April 21, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media | Leave a comment

Australian politics – Grift, Lies and Influence

As we lurch from one scandal of misspent public money to the next, transparency and accountability in public life have never seemed rarer. Fiona McLeod is Chair of the Accountability Round Table. Her book, Easy Lies and Influence, documents how community interests have been undermined. Through his fiercely independent news site, Michael West is known for following the money, highlighting those corporations exercising insidious power over our democracy. They ask: where have we gone wrong and what should we do now?

April 21, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics | Leave a comment

The Australian media colludes with USA, UK and Australian governments’ persecution ofJulian Assange -”Crikey journal” typifies this

Australian media must stand up for Assange’s freedom,,15918 By Matilda Duncan | 10 January 2022,  For far too long the Australian media has remained silent in the face of Julian Assange’s persecution and that must change, writes Matilda Duncan.

LAST MONTH, Crikey’s legal correspondent Michael Bradley wrote a bizarre analysis of Julian Assange’s impending extradition to the U.S. without any regard for basic facts.

It’s worth examining, as it typifies the failures and absurdities of Australian press responses to Assange going back a decade — filled with lies, smears and false narratives that prevent the public from understanding the significance and substance of his case.

In writing about one of the gravest threats to press freedom in years, Bradley went as far as to include a cringeworthy – if not downright pernicious, given Assange recently suffered a stroke and is in precarious health – reference to a Monty Python quote being inscribed on Assange’s tombstone that ‘he’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy’. 

You couldn’t make this stuff up.

In allowing his thoughts to remain mired in diversionary debates and myths about WikiLeaks and Assange, Bradley completely misses the point of the U.S. extradition case and fails to mention the dire threat to investigative journalism around the world it presents.

He does not confront or condemn the alarming legal precedent of the United States charging a foreign national, one of our citizens, with espionage under U.S domestic law — despite Assange not being a U.S. citizen and WikiLeaks not being a U.S.-based publication.

Bradley writes:

‘WikiLeaks broke new ground but mainly in volume and approach, not content.’

In 2010, Assange and WikiLeaks – in partnership with numerous mainstream media outlets, including The New York TimesThe Guardian and Der Spiegel – published a curated cache of 250,000 diplomatic cables revealing the corruption and destruction of the Bush-era and early Obama-era wars, into which Australia so subserviently followed.

Without Assange’s work, numerous war crimes, mass surveillance schemes and unreported civilian casualties would have gone uncovered. In one year, he generated more consequential journalistic scoops confronting Western centres of power than the rest of the world’s news organisations combined.

Some of the information published by Assange has since become the subject of criminal investigations into the CIA and U.S. authorities before the International Criminal Court, which, as lawyers for Assange testified during his extradition hearing, is further evidence that the U.S. case against him is politically motivated.

Further, irrefutable illustrations of the significance of the “content” of Assange’s work can be found in comparisons between it and the lies and deceptions fed to the Australian population by this country’s press in the Iraq War years. Consider, as just one example of many, WikiLeaks’ publishing of the detainee assessment briefs and manual for Guantanamo Bay, where children as young as 15 were held, in contrast with the vapid first-hand account of the illegal prison presented by one of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s top foreign correspondents, Leigh Sales.  

In 2007, Sales wrote of her second visit to Gitmo:

‘At the same time, my own eyes and ears led me to believe that Guantanamo wasn’t as barbaric as it was made out to be either. None of the detainees came running to the wire, begging for help to get out.’

One Guantanamo Bay prisoner has recently waived his right to appear in court on numerous occasions because he suffered “rectal damage” while in custody of the CIA that makes it too painful for him to sit.

According to Bradley, it’s Assange that’s the “problem”, not the CIA spying on Assange and planning to kidnap or assassinate him with the help of UC Global as he held political asylum inside the Ecuadorian Embassy. After UC Global installed microphones in 2017, all of Assange’s conversations were recorded, including those he had with his lawyers outlining his defence strategy for the current case against him.

This is likely a violation of attorney-client privilege in itself and might be reason enough to throw out the U.S. case against him.

Bradley wasted his words on puerile arguments about Assange being a “tarnished hero” instead of communicating the most pressing things to know about Assange: six of the 18 counts against him are Espionage Act charges that criminalise the obtaining of ‘national defense information’, something journalists that report on their governments do every day.

Ten other counts relate to  the disclosure of national defense information. Again, a regular task for many journalists. One further ‘conspiracy to commit computer intrusion’ count relates to Assange allegedly offering to help Chelsea Manning crack a security code to help her avoid detection while she was obtaining U.S. Government documents.

This is a charge that amounts to an attempt to criminalise a journalist assisting a source to protect themselves, yet another activity that responsible journalists regularly engage in.

Even more terrifyingly, the case against Assange centres around “national defence information”, a nebulous term that might be applied to whatever information the U.S. Government so chooses. It doesn’t even have to be classified or top-secret information — much of the information leaked by Manning was unclassified and widely accessible to others in government.

It has been recognised with press awards around the world for over a decade now, including a Walkley, and exposed human rights abuses globally. It is plain wrong to say that Assange did not redact the information he released — the compelling eyewitness testimony from Mark Davis can directly attest to that.

Further, there is no evidence of anyone becoming endangered by his reporting. In fact a 2013 investigation by McClatchy found officials couldn’t point to any examples of lives being endangered by WikiLeaks and in 2010, Obama officials privately admitted that any damage from the leaks was “limited” and that their public comments about the leaks having “seriously damaged American interests” were intended “to bolster legal efforts to shut down the WikiLeaks website and bring charges against the leakers”.

‘Like anyone who attains the status of iconic mystery, Assange  not actually seen freely moving in public in a decade  has become less person and more mirror reflecting the meanings we choose to attach to him and his experiences. What he actually thinks is known only to him, and his lawyers presumably.’

Bradley was correct on one thing: using the word “mirror” in connection with Assange. This citizen of ours bravely risked his life and liberty to tell us ugly truths about U.S. imperial power and military machinery, which this country so strongly enables and supports.

He reflected right back at this country snippets of the destruction and mass civilian deaths we willingly participated in. His brave journalism exposed the bulk of our country’s media as the petty, unserious talking heads they are: journalists that don’t actually serve the public, but parrot the lies they are told by governments.

Contrary to what Bradley says, what Assange “actually thinks” has been well-documented for years now.

After seven years of arbitrary detention followed by three years of solitary confinement and other tortures in London’s Belmarsh Prison, Assange thinks of suicide constantly. That the U.S. is slowly killing this Australian journalist, partner and father before our eyes for exposing war crimes while the Australian Government does nothing and the majority of our press either remains silent or – when they say anything at all – write flippant and inaccurate stories about him demonstrates just how broken this country’s media is.

It shows how unaware we are of the press freedom we are about to lose and how deeply needed the work of Julian Assange and others of his ilk is.

April 21, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, media, secrets and lies, Wikileaks | Leave a comment

Scott Morrison, Angus Taylor stack clean energy agencies with fossil fuel mates by Callum Foote | Apr 20, 2022,

The Morrison government has slashed renewables funding and stacked Australia’s renewable energy agencies with fossil fuel executives, leaving the likes of ARENA, CEFC and Snowy Hydro controlled by potentially regressive political appointees for years. Callum Foote reports.

Eschewing common sense and proper process has become de rigeur for Scott Morrison and his energy minister Angus Taylor. And we are not hearing more than a whimper about this from Labor either. Political Mates deals. Jobs for the boys, Jobs for the girls.

Stacking the bureaucracy occurs under regimes of both stripes but, as is their wont, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his energy minister Angus Taylor have taken their undemocratic agendas to the next level, to a grotesque art form.

They have been busy stacking public agencies, supposedly independent agencies, with their own people; not on merit but on party lines. We are of talking highly paid jobs, many between $250,000 and $500,000 going to people on the basis on political affiliations rather than ability or independence.

As if the government’s well-publicised stacking of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) were not enough evidence of blatant abuse of process, the recent spate of mining or fossil-fuel related board appointments to government-run renewable energy bodies ARENA and the CEFC, will favour the agendas, indeed the profits, of large multinational mining companies for years to come.

CEFC Board appointments

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) was created under the Gillard government, dedicated to making investments in emerging clean energy technologies. Originally, and for many years it ran a profit while presiding judiciously over the financing of RE projects.

First, the Coalition under Tony Abbott tried to have it abolished, despite it being a net earner for government – therefore no drag on the public purse. Failing there, the government has undermined its mandate and stacked it with its own ever since. 

The latest: chairman, Steven Skala, AO, has had his position renewed for another five years. 

Skala is vice chairman of Deutsche Bank Australia and has been a director of the Centre for Independent Studies, a libertarian think tank, since 1995.

While being the vice president of Deutsche Bank Australia, the bank joined JP Morgan and Standard Chartered to loan US$1 billion to Adani Enterprises in July last year.

Matt Howell has been appointed to the CEFC board for the first time, leaving his position as CEO of Tomago Aluminium.

Howell is also a director of the Australian Aluminium Council, an organisation which has been labelled the most militant of the “greenhouse mafia” organisations – as dubbed in a 2006 ABC Four Corners investigation.

The Council funded and promoted the work of the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE), whose “MEGABARE” economic model was, at the time, used to generate reports which were a go-to for Liberal and National Party politicians wanting to argue climate action would spell economic catastrophe.

Rod Campbell, director of research at The Australia Institute, says Howell’s recent switch to pro-renewable energy rhetoric shows he is ”more than willing to play games in the energy space rather than really be involved in constructive long-term planning”.

ARENA Board appointments

Elizabeth O’Leary, a senior director at Macquarie Asset Management and head of MAM Agriculture & Natural Assets, one of the world’s largest private land managers, has been appointed to the board of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

O’Leary joins a long list of Macquarie Bank Alumni working for Australian clean energy financial bodies as revealed by a MWM investigation.

A consortium comprising private equity funds managed by the tax avoiding Brookfield Asset Management and Macquarie Capital acquired Apache Corporation’s Western Australian oil and gas assets for $US2.1 billion in 2019. This created Australia’s third largest oil and gas producer.

Snowy Hydro Board appointments

Snowy Hydro, which has become the government’s tool to intervene in the energy market – check out the highly questionable public subsidies for the Kurri Kurri gas plant – has appointed two new board members. These are Leanne Heywood who spent 10 years as an executive with Rio Tinto.

Timothy Longstaff was the government’s other pick for the role. Longstaff has previously been a director of Perenti, a Perth-based global mining services contractor.

Longstaff was also a senior advisor to the Finance Minister Simon Birmingham as recently as 2021. Birmingham is the minister who announced Longstaff’s appointment. Jobs for the boys, anyone?

Reduction in renewables funding:

The Climate Debt Statement, a measure introduced by Prime Minister Tony Abbott aggregates funding for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Clean Energy Regulator (CER) to work out how much their expenditure contributes to total government debt. It shows a decline in spending from $2 billion in 2022-23 to $1.3 billion in 2025-26.

Angus Taylor attempting to co-opt CEFC

A previous attempt to amend the CEFC’s legislation was abandoned earlier this year, after a group of Nationals MPs – including current leader Barnaby Joyce – sought to move additional amendments to expand the agency’s investments into coal and nuclear projects.

The Morrison government had attempted to open up the CEFC to carbon capture and storage projects, announcing a plan to establish a new Low Emissions Technology Commercialisation Fund using the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).

This was designed to skirt around the CEFC’s legislated ban on funding CCS projects.

Despite the government’s ten-year jihad on renewable energy, there is no stopping financial logic, or common sense for that matter. RE prices have dropped radically over the decade, even more than the sector’s advocates and analysts had anticipated. That is, the cost of building new renewable energy versus the cost of building new coal or gas.

Where government has failed, miserably, investors have taken up the slack, leaving our politicians in the dust trying to prop up their fossil fuel donors with public money. This, even to the point of espousing ludicrous schemes which do not measure up financially: Kurri Kurri, the examination of a new coal-fired power plant for Queensland, the public subsidies for gas companies to frack the NT’s Beetaloo Basin.

April 21, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, politics | Leave a comment

Climate independents to push next government to electrify transport — RenewEconomy

Trio of ‘climate independents’ will push for vehicle efficiency standards and higher EV targets, to slash emissions and boost fuel security. The post Climate independents to push next government to electrify transport appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Climate independents to push next government to electrify transport — RenewEconomy

April 21, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Chinese demand for Australian coal could collapse, experts say — RenewEconomy

ANU experts predict imminent collapse of Chinese market for Australian coal as it seeks energy security and lower emissions. The post Chinese demand for Australian coal could collapse, experts say appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Chinese demand for Australian coal could collapse, experts say — RenewEconomy

April 21, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Last Chance Quiz – the Australian Government’s (non) response to queries on the environment — Sustainability Bites

The Government tinkers with the environment while inflating and conflating its efforts so as to deliberately mislead the people. The final Senate Estimates before the official election period (‘last chance quiz’) poked a few holes in the Government’s carefully contrived environment Budget narrative, but this doesn’t mean we are any wiser about what’s going on.

Last Chance Quiz – the Australian Government’s (non) response to queries on the environment — Sustainability Bites

April 21, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Policy failures leave Australia vulnerable to further fuel price shocks — RenewEconomy

New analysis shows federal policy failures leaves Australians almost entirely reliant on overseas fuel and vulnerable to future price shocks. The post Policy failures leave Australia vulnerable to further fuel price shocks appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Policy failures leave Australia vulnerable to further fuel price shocks — RenewEconomy

April 21, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Election Diary: Taylor’s “implausible” claims, Morrison loves coal, Albanese backs EVs — RenewEconomy

Albanese visits Tritium, Morrison visits Woodside, and Taylor’s scare campaign about rising electricity prices labelled ‘implausible’. The post Election Diary: Taylor’s “implausible” claims, Morrison loves coal, Albanese backs EVs appeared first on RenewEconomy.

Election Diary: Taylor’s “implausible” claims, Morrison loves coal, Albanese backs EVs — RenewEconomy

April 21, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Australia’s election debate on energy ignores the miracle of rooftop solar

Australia’s election debate on energy ignores the miracle of rooftop solar

Saul Griffith

Power harvested from our roofs and stored locally could smash carbon emissions and obliterate household energy bills

April 21, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Why are nature-based solutions on climate being overlooked?

Why are nature-based solutions on climate being overlooked?

Nature-based initiatives have proven effective in making communities more resilient to climate change. But international funding has shortchanged such solutions in favor of more costly and less efficient engineering projects.

April 21, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

‘Climate change isolationism’ puts Australia on par with Saudi Arabia

‘Climate change isolationism’ puts Australia on par with Saudi Arabia

Australia’s “climate change isolationism” has driven a fall from 35th to 52nd in a global ranking of how different nations are responding to the global warming crisis, one rank behind the oil giant Saudi Arabia in a group of nations described as “climate laggards”

April 21, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Future of Antarctica’s Larsen C ice-shelf will have consequences for sea level rise world-wide

 Scientists know the surface of the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica is
melting, making it vulnerable to collapse. For the first time, we can rank
the most important causes of melting over the recent past.

In a new two-part paper in Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, we show how
the amount of energy reaching the ice from the sun is the dominant factor,
followed by warm winds, clouds and weather patterns. These drivers of
melting can interact and overlap to reinforce or counteract each other, so
it is a complex picture.

Understanding what is causing melting over Larsen
C is vital as it will help predict the future of the ice shelf, which will
have knock-on consequences for sea levels worldwide. In 2002, Larsen C’s
neighbouring ice shelf, Larsen B, experienced melting so severe that it
eventually caused the shelf to collapse completely. Larsen C restrains
glaciers that contain enough ice to raise global sea levels by around 22mm. 

Carbon Brief 14th April 2022

April 21, 2022 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming | Leave a comment

An increased 2 degree Celsius world will not be liveable for vast swathes of humanity – but that’s the latest semi-optimistic research result

Christiana Figueres: Should we feel joy or despair that we’re on track
to keep global heating to 2C? The atmosphere does not react to pledges for
the future or reports about past achievements. It only reacts to real
emission reductions.

The research published in Nature last week showing
that the pledges by countries to reduce emissions made since the Paris
agreement could keep warming within 2C, if met on time, has therefore
understandably sparked a series of conflicting reactions.

Outrage that even
if the promises are met, they don’t come close to 1.5C; and optimism that
2C is such a huge improvement on where we’d be headed without the Paris
agreement. On the one hand, we have to acknowledge this looks very much
like failure. A 2C world will not be liveable for vast swathes of humanity,
and half of the world’s children are already at extremely high risk from
the impacts now, including hunger-inducing floods and droughts. 

Guardian 19th April 2022

April 21, 2022 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment