Australian news, and some related international items

Vatican not happy with Australia getting nuclear submarines (that’s except for George Pell, who backs them)

Vatican drops its oar into Aussie bid for nuclear submarines, THE AUSTRALIAN, TESS LIVINGSTONE   3 Oct 21, The Vatican has raised concerns about AUKUS, Australia’s defence collaboration with the US and Britain, especially the agreement to help the Australian Navy acquire a fleet of eight nuclear-powered submarines.

Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, the main architect of the Vatican’s secretive agreement with the Chinese Communist Party government, spoke to journalists on September 23, during a meeting of the European’s People’s Party in Rome. He is second behind Pope Francis in the church hierarchy.

“The Holy See is against rearmament,’’ Cardinal Parolin said. “All the efforts that have been made and are being made by the Vatican are to eliminate nuclear weapons because they are not the way to maintain peace and security in the world. They create even more dangers for peace and even more conflict.’’

……… Cardinal George Pell, who has returned to Rome from Australia and was questioned last week about Cardinal Parolin’s views, backed the deal and the AUKUS partnership. “I agree, as do the vast majority of my fellow citizens and the political forces of government and opposition,’’ he told Italian newspaper Avvenire……..

October 4, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, religion and ethics, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Red Cross celebrates Nuclear Ban Treaty- an incremental process towards elimination of nuclear weapons

January 23, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, religion and ethics, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Judge’s refusal to extradite Julian Assange is still part of cowardly process to deny freedom of information

The personal conveniently distracts from the political in the Assange story,

Elizabeth Farrelly   Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s refusal to extradite Julian Assange for “mental health” reasons may look humanitarian but is in fact a deft political move. In reducing what should be an argument of law and principle to a test of personality, Baraitser managed at a blow to impugn Assange’s stability, repudiate any suggestion of innocence and open the door for America to prove the comforts of its solitary confinement and thereby win his extradition.

It’s a story of many twists and turns but underlying it throughout is a profound and widespread moral cowardice.

Baraitser’s 132-page ruling found that although the UK-US Extradition Treaty of 2003 specifically prohibits extradition for “political offence”, this provision never became law in the UK and therefore has no effect. In essence, the treaty is worthless.

The court also supported all 18 of the espionage charges against Assange, arguing that WikiLeaks’ hacking and publication “would amount to” offences in English law. Baraitser identified eight charges under the UK Official Secrets Act that would be, she said, equivalent.

Interestingly, this “would have” construction does not apply to the treaty question. Had Assange engaged in the same conduct in America, targeting British government information, he could not have been extradited because America’s “monist” system regards any treaty as law once signed. So it’s ironic that undermining this particular protection is a key US argument.

Anyone who saw the 2019 docudrama Official Secrets, chronicling the leakage by GCHQ analyst-turned-whistleblower Katharine Gun of information on US-UK dirty dealing in drumming up UN support for the Iraq war, will understand just how murky and terrifying such prosecutions can become.

This fear, and the persistent cowardice of yielding to it, is the theme of Assange’s story. I’ve written about Assange several times. I visited him in Ecuador’s embassy. Yet each time, I’ve found myself reluctant.

Seven years ago, when I met him, Assange was ebullient and hopeful, even funny. Now, as Baraitser says, he is “a depressed and sometimes despairing man who is genuinely fearful about his future”. Assange, she said, was at “high risk of serious depression leading to suicide if he were to be extradited and placed in solitary confinement for a long period”.

Baraitser noted the “bleak” conditions of Assange’s likely US confinement would include “severely restrictive detention conditions designed to remove physical contact and reduce social interaction and contact with the outside world to a bare minimum”, with family limited to one supervised 15-minute phone call a month. Detailing Assange’s mental state, she opined that his risk of suicide, in such conditions, was “very high”. This is the loophole she offers the appellant US prosecutor.

Those fears – his of 175 years in solitary (honestly, who wouldn’t top themselves?) and hers of his suicide – underpin her judgment. But there are other, more insidious fears at play here.

Such fears, I see now, feed my reluctance to revisit the Assange story: fear, in particular, of confronting the terrifying truth about our imperial system. Regardless of Assange’s innocence or guilt, the simple facts of what our controlling powers can do to you if you step out of line are terrifying.

But this small, individual fear also operates, very effectively, at nation level.

From the start, the case against Assange has contrived to turn issues of principle into questions of personality. The initial Swedish rape charges, since dropped for lack of evidence as the witness’s recollections after so long were clouded, were extremely personal, spinning off the cancellation of his credit cards upon his arrival in Stockholm, forcing him to accept hospitality; the seductions, the sex – which everyone agrees was consensual – his failure to wear a condom although asked and reluctance to take an STD test. Then the left turned against him because of the Clinton leaks – which one suspects would have been fine, had they been directed at the other side – and perceptions about Assange’s ego. He was vain, it was said, and narcissistic. As if that itself were a crime, reason enough to let him rot in solitary.

The personal and emotive nature of all this – the Swedish prosecutor’s refusal to interview him in London, Britain’s willingness to imprison him for a year on bail charges, America’s determination to prosecute him for exposing their war crimes (in the Iraq War Logs of October 2010 and the film Collateral Murder showing air crew shooting unarmed civilians from a helicopter) and the description of WikiLeaks by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as “a hostile non-state intelligence service” – all suggest a bigger picture, and smaller values, than mere truth or justice.

It’s often said that Assange endangered the lives of US informers but, as Baraitser notes, no causality has been shown. Even the Senate Committee on Armed Service said, “the review to date has not revealed any sensitive sources and methods compromised by disclosure”. It is said that Assange, by dumping hacked emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign, gave us Trump. But if she was engaged in skulduggery as alleged, wasn’t it better for the world to make its own judgment?

When you look coldly at the facts it’s hard not to suspect that Sweden was coerced into the original charges and that Britain and Ecuador have been similarly pressured. Certainly Australia’s persistent refusal to intervene for Assange, an Australian citizen who has broken no Australian law, suggests a similar abject timidity in the face of US might.

This is cowardice. It’s yielding to a fear we feel but rarely confront: the existential fear that at some lofty level, morality doesn’t apply. Up there in the imperial military-industrial complex, justice, freedom, truth are only words. Up there it’s a whatever-it-takes kinda world. The bad guys are in charge.

That’s the fear that guys like Assange and Edward Snowden make us confront. And it’s why they deserve, at the very least, a fair and open trial.

January 9, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, politics international, religion and ethics | Leave a comment

Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) question government’s plan for nuclear waste dump near Kimba, South Australia

Time for action over proposed nuclear dump,    Michele Madigan  April 24, 2020   

The Federal Government has recently announced its plans to establish a national nuclear waste ‘facility’ near Kimba on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula. It will comprise a permanent dump for low-level nuclear waste, and an ‘interim’ store for long-lived intermediate-level nuclear waste (LLILW)
Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) includes representatives of religious congregations of women and men throughout the nation. Some time ago they voiced their concerns about this project which depended on particular landholders simply offering a site. As a group historically involved with the education of generations of young Australians, CRA noted well their concerns ‘that short term proposals for the storage of Australia’s nuclear waste will leave insoluble problems for present and future generations’, LLILW remains toxic for an unimaginable 10,000 years. There are no present plans for its permanent disposal.
Former CRA president Sr Monica Cavanagh had cause to ‘question the sense, the expense and the risks of transporting long lived intermediate nuclear waste from where it is temporarily housed at Lucas Heights with the nuclear experts, 1700 kilometres across the country to be temporarily stored in a regional, yet to be built, facility. Given that most of Australia’s intermediate level nuclear waste comes from Lucas Heights many believe that it should be kept there, at least until a final disposal solution is established
Nuclear medicine can continue in Australia regardless of whether the current proposal goes ahead or not. Nuclear medicine lecturer Dr Margaret Beavis notes that ‘hospitals will continue to deal with nuclear waste as long as they treat patients. Almost all nuclear waste from patients rapidly loses it radiation and is then sent on to the rubbish tip after several months’. X-rays and radiotherapy are not nuclear medicine.

The reality is that over 90 per cent of the waste, measured by radioactivity, is intermediate long-lived waste including the nuclear spent fuel rods and also the parts of the previous nuclear reactor.

Shamefully, the Federal Government has decided to move ahead despite the unanimous opposition of the Barngarla Traditional Owners, native titleholders over the area. Excluded from the Kimba ballot last year, Barngarla people engaged the Australian Election Company to conduct a confidential postal ballot. Not a single Barngarla Traditional Owner voted in favour of the dump.

The Barngala initiated a legal action protesting their exclusion. Sadly their appeal has recently been denied. As Barngarla Traditional Owner Jeanne Miller laments, Aboriginal people with no voting power are put back 50 years, ‘again classed as flora and fauna’.

With just 4.5 per cent of SA being agricultural land, many Kimba region farmers are astounded that their combined livelihoods of $80 million per annum have been put at risk by association with a nuclear LLILW dump. SA environmentalist David Noonan’s careful research of government documents has revealed that Whyalla is the most likely SA port to receive the two shipments in the first two years of operation. There is still no government communication on land transport routes for the fortnightly 50 tonne load B-double trucks from Lucas Heights. Accidents happen.

With Pope Francis’s designation of practical Care for Earth as the 8th Beatitude, a wonderful Lenten/post-Lenten penance might be a concerned letter to alert an Opposition or cross bench SA senator at Parliament House, Canberra 5600. The Senate vote is likely at the end of June.

Michele Madigan is a Sister of St Joseph who has spent the past 38 years working with Aboriginal people in remote areas of SA, in Adelaide and in country SA. Her work has included advocacy and support for senior Aboriginal women of Coober Pedy in their campaign against the proposed national radioactive dump. 

May 12, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, Federal nuclear waste dump, religion and ethics | Leave a comment

Australia’s dangerous subservience to the war-obsessed USA

December 30, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, religion and ethics, weapons and war | Leave a comment

A twisted and so-called religious view of bushfires and climate change

November 17, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, religion and ethics | Leave a comment

Australia sells weapons to Saudi-led coalition, is complicit in human rights abuses

Australia’s arms deals ignoring ‘gross violations of human rights’, ex-defence official says  

Defence department says it provides export permits only if satisfied that the weapons will not be used in breach of international law   Ben Doherty, 8 Sept 19,    A former secretary of the Australian defence department says the country cannot justify selling weapons to militaries involved in the five-year war in Yemen, which now stand “accused of gross violations of human rights and likely war crimes by the UN”.

And the Australian co-author of the just-released United Nations report into human rights atrocities in Yemen has said governments that sell weapons to belligerent countries are responsible for prolonging the conflict and contributing to immense humanitarian suffering.

The report found that the conflict had been plagued by human rights abuses, including hospitals being bombed, civilians being deliberately targeted by shelling and sniper fire, civilian populations being deliberately starved, medical supplies being blocked, rape, murder, enforced disappearances, torture, and children being forced to fight.

Australia is one of several countries that sell weapons to those that are part of the Saudi-led Coalition in conflict with the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. The Australian government says it imposes strict controls on exports to ensure they are not used in the Yemeni conflict.

But the former secretary of the department of defence Paul Barratt told Guardian Australia that regardless of whether Australian-made weapons were crossing the border into Yemen, “the fact remains that Australia now has a national policy which seeks and facilitates weapons sales with countries that stand accused of gross violations of human rights and likely war crimes”.

“When did this particular trade in arms become official Australian policy? Even if we are successfully legally tiptoeing around the Arms Trade Treaty, such deals surely cannot be acceptable on moral or ethical grounds,” Barratt said. “As a country that routinely asks other countries to abide by the rules-based international order, it would seem hypocritical, at best, that Australia is now willing to … make a profit from, weapons sales to nations that are openly flouting this international order.”

Melissa Parke, the former federal MP for Fremantle, was one of three UN-appointed experts to compile its report on Yemen.

The report said hospitals had been bombed, civilians attacked and starvation used as a tactic of war, and alleged that there had been a “collective failure” from the international community to intervene in the five-year war to reduce the suffering of civilians; rather, support from international actors had prolonged the conflict. The public report detailed a list of the key military, political participants in the conflict. A confidential list of those most likely to be complicit in war crimes has been sent to the UN.

Parke said Yemeni civilians had “borne the brunt” of a brutal conflict that was being exacerbated by international indifference, and material support from some governments.

September 8, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, politics international, religion and ethics, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Why Australia should absolutely not contemplate getting nuclear weapons

Australia could equally consider acquiring nerve gas or biological weapons as a “deterrent”, but the notion is unthinkable. The acquisition of nuclear weapons, which are far more destructive, should be equally so.

Professor White’s advice to keep the nuclear weapons option open should be rejected outright. It is a recipe for nuclear weapons proliferation, and a world armed to the teeth with self-destructive capacity. We survived the Cold War but might not be so lucky again. Nuclear weapons must be abolished, and the discussion in Australia should be about rapidly getting on board with global efforts to achieve this critical goal. 

Signing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons would be a good start.

Our own nuclear weapons? That’s the exact opposite of what we should do, Sue Wareham  8 Jul 19

Continue reading

July 9, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, religion and ethics | Leave a comment

A grandmother explains the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change

Our Future || Caring for planet is a moral responsibility Thea Ormerod, 30 June 19   

June 30, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, religion and ethics | Leave a comment

Australia’s religious leaders call on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to act on climate change

‘For the sake of generations to come’: Faith leaders unite on climate change   26 June 19, More than 150 religious leaders have issued an open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, urging him to show moral leadership on the issue of climate change.

Faith leaders from across the religious divide have gathered in Sydney to call on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to show moral leadership on climate change.

The joint press conference kicked off with Rabbi Johnathan Keren-Black blowing a ram’s horn to symbolise raising the alarm.

Environmental Advisor for the Council of Progressive Rabbis, Rabbi Keren-Black said the world is facing a “climate emergency”.

“We blow the horn to awake slumbers from their sleep and to sound the alarm, so we blow it to sound the alarm for the climate emergency, for the sake of the world, for the sake of generations to come,” he said.

Judaism believes that we have a responsibility to be caretakers for God’s world, and we’re not doing a very good job of it at the moment.”

More than 150 religious leaders – including the heads of the Uniting Church in Australia, the Federation of Australian Buddhist Councils, Muslims Australia and the National Council of Churches – on Tuesday issued an open letter to Mr Morrison.

The letter calls on the Prime Minister to make addressing climate change his number one priority.

Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) President Thea Ormerod described climate change as a moral issue that needs to be urgently addressed.

“We have an urgent challenge which we all share, a moral challenge. It’s not just a political issue or an economic issue, it’s also a moral issue and all of us are standing together with one voice today,” she said.

Under the banner of Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, the group is calling for a stop to new coal and gas projects, stopping Adani’s controversial coal mine in central Queensland and moving to 100 per cent renewable energy by the year 2030.

Despite the differences in our faith, we all regard addressing the climate emergency as our shared moral challenge. We stand together for our common home, the Earth,” the letter says.

“Will you and your Government have the courage to agree to this simple threefold agenda? We pray that you will.”

Loreto Sister Libby Rogerson said there is a sacred responsibility to care for the earth and all living beings.

“We are concerned for the poorest and most vulnerable, and it is the poorest and most vulnerable of people and nations that are affected by Climate Change,” she said.

Federation of Australian Budhist Councils Spokesperson Gawaine Powell Davies also attended the press conference, and said climate change is driven by “human foolishness”.

“We have a very sharp analysis of human foolishness which has led us to put greed and short-term benefit ahead of the long-term interests of ourselves and our children, and our grandchildren,” Mr Powell Davies said.

The Grand Mufti of Australia, Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, along with senior Rabbis, bishops and theologians have also signed the letter.

June 27, 2019 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, religion and ethics | Leave a comment

Catholic Religious Australia: temporary nuclear waste dump will cause serious future problems

Catholic Religious Australia  1 August 2018

Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) comprises representatives of religious congregations of women and men throughout the nation. As a group historically involved with the education of generations of young Australians, CRA is concerned that short term proposals for the storage of Australia’s nuclear waste will leave insoluble problems for present and future generations.

Three sites, all in South Australia, have been shortlisted by the Federal Government for a nuclear waste facility that will permanently hold low-level nuclear waste and temporarily hold intermediate level waste, toxic for up to 10,000 years. Two are close to the international grain farming area near Kimba and one near Hawker in the iconic Flinders Ranges. All three sites are strongly contested.

‘Our members’, said CRA President, Sr Monica Cavanagh, ‘question the sense, the expense and the risks of transporting long lived intermediate nuclear waste from where it is temporarily housed at Lucas Heights, 1700 kilometres across the country to be temporarily stored in a regional, yet to be built, facility.’ ‘It is disturbing,’ she went on, ‘that it is not clear how long the intermediate level waste will be simply stored at this temporary site as there is no plan for its permanent disposal.’

CRA warns that acknowledging ‘Aboriginal peoples’ strong relationship to the land’ must be more than words. We are uneasy that acknowledgement and the promise of ready, substantial money to under-funded communities/regions both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, has exerted unfair pressure to expose their lands and community members to such risks now and for countless generations.

CRA points out that the unknown dangers of groundwater contamination have not been sufficiently examined and that transport accidents are a real possibility. Moreover, the Barndioota site, and the entire Flinders Ranges, is considered seismically active. Understandably, the Kimba international grain farming markets are also at risk by association.

The submissions to the Senate inquiry make sobering reading. This process makes communities feel powerless – no support is given to those with opposing views, it is a process that is heavily favoured towards those pro-nuclear and when the rules keep changing to suit those in favour it really gives people a sense of hopelessness. Kimba resident (Submission No. 61)

Given that most of Australia’s intermediate level nuclear waste comes from Lucas Heights many believe that it should be kept there, at least until a final disposal solution is established.

‘Surely care of Earth and reverence for our land should be our underlying principles’, concluded Sr Monica.

August 1, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, religion and ethics | Leave a comment

‘Merchants of Death’: Profiteering from the arms trade

Sisters of St Joseph   January 2018 ,  The Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, the religious Congregation founded by St Mary MacKillop, challenges the newly released plan of the Federal Government to increase weapons exports.

“Weapons are designed to kill and maim human beings,” said the Congregational Leader, Sister Monica Cavanagh. “We completely reject the philosophy which finds it acceptable to boost industry, create jobs, increase exports and protect local manufacturing via the arms trade.”

“We agree with Pope Francis that those who seek to benefit from trading in weapons are ‘merchants of death’,” she concluded.

Six major issues concern the sisters:

  • The “mutually assured destruction” of the last forty years cannot guarantee deterrence in the future. Violence is escalating in proportion to the availability and destructive effect of new weapons.
  • There is enormous difference between a defence manufacturing industry to protect Australia and the development of a weapons export industry.
  • It is a matter of great concern and sorrow that Australia’s overseas aid has dropped to its lowest level ever, while at the same time plans are underway to increase the sale of weapons.
  • The government’s assurances about establishing and maintaining “controls” over which nations access Australian weapons lack detail on methods of oversight and on how such controls would be policed.
  • Australian capacity to deal in arms ethically is not evident in Australian history. Australia continued to provide military hardware and training to Indonesia between 1975 and 1999 during the occupation of East Timor in which up to 182,000 people died violently.
  • Australia’s considerable design and production expertise would be better used in projects which promote peace among nations and care of earth, particularly in places and electorates where people lack employment opportunities.

The Sisters of St Joseph call on the Australian government to prioritise education, health and good governance initiatives among the deprived peoples and nations of the world, rather than spending billions of Australian people’s dollars on producing and exporting the means of destruction.

“We strongly urge the government to resist the hypocrisy of talking about peace while financing and supporting the arms trade,” Sister Monica reflected. “Over 90% of those who die in war zones are not soldiers, but civilians, including so many of the most defenceless humans – the children. It is reprehensible for government and industry authorities to pursue   financial and electoral gain through promoting the weapons which enable the escalation of violence.”

February 2, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics, religion and ethics, weapons and war | 1 Comment

A band of right-wing religious politicians are stopping climate action in Australia

The fact is that the great majority of religious leaders – from the Pope to the Dalai Lama – share Pickard’s views about the urgency of addressing climate change.

Yet in this country the resistance to any meaningful action to ameliorate climate change by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases is led to a substantial degree by those politicians who claim Christian faith.

Last year released a list of the most implacable opponents to climate change action. At or near the top of the list were the following names: Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce, Kevin Andrews, Cory Bernardi, Eric Abetz, George Christensen and Zed Seselja. These politicians are bound together by their strong and frequently touted religious belief.

How the religious right stall climate actionWhile most religious leaders accept climate change, the Christian right in Australia and the US make scepticism a tenet of their politics. Saturday Paper, By Mike Seccombe. 26 Aug 17  It has been more than three years now since Stephen Pickard penned his letter to the religious believers among our federal parliamentarians, arguing the case for action on climate change. Continue reading

August 26, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, religion and ethics | Leave a comment

Australia’s religious leaders unite to oppose Adani coal mine expansion

The Adani coalmine will hasten a climate catastrophe. As faith leaders, we must act
A Buddhist leader has told environment minister Josh Frydenberg he would stand in front of machinery if digging started. All people of faith should join him,
Guardian,   Jonathan Keren-Black and Tejopala Rawls, 23 Aug 17 
  Earlier in August, six faith leaders met Australia’s environment and energy minister, Josh Frydenberg. Our group included Bishop Philip Huggins, the president of the National Council of Churches, a Uniting Church reverend, a rabbi, a Catholic nun and an ordained Buddhist. This is not the start of a joke, but a polite and serious exchange.

It might seem that religion has little to do with the environment or energy. Yet each of us at the meeting wanted to raise a matter that, when we consider the deepest values of our respective traditions, is of grave moral concern: the proposed Adani coalmine. We were there to ask the minister to revoke its environmental licence.

The delegation reminded the minister that a number of faith leaders from across Australia wrote him an open letter about it on 5 May, to which he had not yet replied.

Around the world a great many people of faith are deeply concerned about the climate crisis. Continue reading

August 25, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, religion and ethics | Leave a comment

Sunshine Coast church communities unite in concern about climate change

Why Sunshine Coast church groups fear climate change, Bill Hoffman | 8th Aug 2017 CONCERN for the welfare of future generations and protection of the environment were the principal concerns that drove more than 1000 people of faith on the Sunshine Coast to sign a petition calling on the Federal Government to do more to address the looming impact of climate change.

August 9, 2017 Posted by | climate change - global warming, Queensland, religion and ethics | Leave a comment