Australian news, and some related international items

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

Catholic nun’s climate change petition is based on science

Sister Marie takes ‘climate change’ petition to Pirie, 26 Jul 2017 For more than 45 years, Sister Marie O’Shea has been a woman of the Catholic faith.

Now she has a new belief – “climate change”. The Port Pirie-based nun with the Sisters of the Good Samaritan has collected 200 names on a petition calling for stronger action on “climate change”. Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and other people of faith are working with the Catholic Church’s Caritas Australia to raise the petition as the biggest such effort in Australia’s history.

While critics say “climate change” theory is plot to destabilise society, Sister Marie bases her belief on having lived in Kiribati in the Pacific Ocean. The island nation is said to be at risk of being over-run by rising seas attributed to changing environment.

Scientific research suggests increasing carbon dioxide levels, from pollutants such as fossil fuels, are threatening the planet.

Sister Marie said she had many friends among the 110,000 people living in Kiribati where tides were eroding the shore and the sea was contaminating water in wells. “Are we saying it doesn’t matter if these islands disappear?” she said. “The highest part of the country would be no higher than the top of the window in the Parish Centre, in Gertrude Street. “People say the islanders can move to higher land, but there is no higher land.

“The Pope wrote an encyclical letter on Care of Our Common Home and it was for everyone. “It was about his belief that ‘climate change’ is a threat and action needs to be taken.”

Asked whether she thought God could save the planet, she replied: “I think God expects us to do our bit. He gave us free will and provided scientists with the minds to do their research.”

She said concerns had been raised about the world’s temperatures rising by up to five degrees.

“Can you imagine Port Pirie being five degrees hotter?” she said……

July 29, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, religion and ethics | Leave a comment

Fukushima was fuelled by Australian uranium. Time to reconsider this unethical and failing trade

We urgently need a genuine and disinterested examination of the costs and consequences of Australia’s role in fuelling the international nuclear trade.

Earlier this decade the Nobel Peace Prize winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War’s (IPPNW) called for a global ban on uranium mining after finding:

‘Uranium ore mining and the production of uranium oxide (yellowcake) are irresponsible and represent a grave threat to health and to the environment. Both processes involve an elementary violation of human rights and their use lead to an incalculable risk for world peace and an obstacle to nuclear disarmament.’

Six years on from Fukushima: Facing the fallout, Independent Australia,  11 March 2017,  Six years after the Fukushima disaster, it’s long overdue for Australia’s nuclear apologists to face up to their responsibilities, writes Dave Sweeney.

SIX YEARS is a long time to do nothing.     Australian governments of all shades routinely claim they are on the front foot — innovative, agile and responsive. The Australian mining industry’s rhetoric is full of commitments to world’s best practise, highest standards and innovative community engagement.

But when it comes to the under-performing uranium sector, these adjectives and assurances are simply cover for a profound retreat from responsibility…….

While the headlines might have faded, the radiation, dislocation and complexity has not. Lives have been utterly disrupted and altered, and Fukushima remains a costly, complex and continuing nuclear crisis, and an unresolved environmental and social tragedy today.

So what does this sad story have to do with Australian Government, and mining industry inaction and denial?

Lots. Fukushima was directly fuelled by Australian uranium. Fukushima’s radioactive fallout started its life as a rock in Australia.

In October 2011, there was formal confirmation from the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO) that

Australian obligated nuclear material (uranium) was at the Fukushima Daiichi site and in each of the reactors.’

Now, Australia rips and ships many minerals to many places and it would be unreasonable to put too much responsibility on the supply chain — no one holds a local miner culpable for a fatal motor accident in a car made overseas from Australian origin iron ore.

But uranium is different. Continue reading

March 13, 2017 Posted by | religion and ethics, uranium | Leave a comment

Transpacific Partnership now as good as dead

text-TPP-Avaaz-petitionTPP: Trans-Pacific Partnership dead, before Trump even takes office, The Age,  Peter Martin , 14 Nov 16,  Eight years in the making, the giant Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal between Australia, the US and 10 other regional powers is as good as dead after the Obama administration walked away from its plan to put it before the “lame duck” Congress ahead of Donald Trump’s inauguration as president.

Controversial in Australia because it would allow US-headquartered corporations to sue Australian governments in extraterritorial tribunals and entrench pharmaceutical monopolies and copyright rules, the TPP was the subject of a last-minute plea by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to president-elect Donald Trump in their 15-minute phone conversation on Thursday.

It has been signed by each of the member countries – Australia, the US, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Chile, Mexico, Peru and Vietnam – but ratified by none.

Other members including Australia were waiting for a decision from the US because the rules require ratification by members accounting for 85 per cent of the the agreement’s gross domestic product, meaning it can’t come into force without the US as the other members combined have only 43 per cent.

Over the weekend the Senate’s top Democrat Charles Schumer told union leaders the deal would not be ratified. House of Representatives Republican speaker Paul Ryan, who has in the past supported the TPP, said the “votes aren’t there” to pass it.

Mr Trump made opposing the TPP a key part of his campaign, saying America did “not need to enter into another massive international agreement that ties us up and binds us down”. Democrats members of Congress were never keen, opposing by a wide margin President Barack Obama’s negotiating mandate which only passed into law with the support of Republicans.

On Sunday Australia’s trade minister Steven Ciobo questioned whether it would be worthwhile concluding the agreement without the US, even if it was possible.

“In theory, yes,” he told the ABC’s Insiders. “but is there enough merit to look at a trade deal among the 11 of us? It changes the metrics substantially.”

Mr Ciobo will hold discussions about the future of the agreement at the APEC leaders summit in Lima, Peru on Thursday which will be attended by Mr Turnbull on Sunday.

The US decision leaves two Australian parliamentary inquiries in limbo. The joint standing committee on treaties finished hearing evidence just before Mr Trump’s election and has not yet produced a report. The Senate inquiry has yet to call witnesses.

November 13, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, religion and ethics | Leave a comment

Queensland: Catholic schools recognised by Vatican for solar energy success

church green 1Vatican praise for Townsville Catholic diocese solar scheme By Ben Millington Catholic schools in north Queensland have caught the eye of the Vatican with a solar project that is cutting carbon emissions and saving millions of dollars.

The Diocese of Townsville, which stretches from the coast to Mt Isa in the state’s north-west, has installed solar panels on roofs of all its eligible schools. The diocese has invested $6 million in one megawatt of solar panels, but diocese director of education Dr Cathy Day said this could deliver a much higher return. “The best figures that I like to think is a saving of $40 million over 25 years,” she said.

“Now when you turn that into teachers that we can pay for, or resources for students, that’s quite a substantial amount of money and I think it’s a great investment.”

In combination with the use of low-energy LED lighting, she said, the diocese had cut carbon emissions by 40 per cent, which is equivalent to taking 40,000 cars off the road. Dr Day said her main motivation had been to set a positive example for students and the broader community. “We’ve all got to start investing in technology and energy efficiency,” she said. “This is the way of the future. Our students are going to be in these industries. Nobody’s going to be working in a coal-fired power station in years to come.”

Emissions will eventually be cut by 80 per cent With further investment, Dr Day said they expect to achieve an 80 per cent reduction in emissions through installing more solar and energy-efficient air conditioning, as well as using batteries to store the power generated.

She returned last week from a visit to Rome, where she presented the project to Vatican officials in meetings led by former deputy prime minister and onetime ambassador to the holy see, Tim Fischer, who has become a spokesman for the project. Mr Fischer said the scheme was well received in Rome and he would like to see it rolled out in schools across the world. “What has happened in Townsville is mildly revolutionary and is extremely positive in terms of energy savings because it works and it can be monitored in real time,” he said.

“That’s what caused positive ripples in Rome. They saw in this sustainable, cut-through, realistic energy savings created without massive capital expenditure.”

The project is already being replicated in other Catholic schools in Cairns and the Northern Territory.

July 16, 2016 Posted by | Queensland, religion and ethics, solar | Leave a comment

The ‘ethics’ of nuclear power – theme for May 16

I have been managing for 9 years. With viewers, the most popular posts and pages have been on ETHICS. Isn’t that extraordinary, in this world where money, growth, and material consumption are generally seen as the top priorities?

There is nothing ethical about the nuclear industry. It began with making weapons of mass murder, and with uranium mining poisoning indigenouss lands. Then came all the lies about ‘peaceful nuclear ‘ (always still a front for nuclear weaponry)

doomsday's pic copy


Today, the economically failing nuclear industry tries to save itself with big lies – about climate change, about Chernobyl and Fukushima being “OK”, about ionising radiation being harmless.

Human society now faces big ethical dilemmas. Will it succumb to the blandishments of this immoral nuclear industry?

The public interest in subjects about ethics gives me hope that the world will say “NO” to nuclear weapons, nuclear power, and endless growth and consumption.

May 14, 2016 Posted by | Christina themes, religion and ethics | Leave a comment

Sisters of St Joseph oppose nuclear waste import, defend sacred lands of Aboriginal people

text don't nuclear waste AustraliaJOSEPHITES QUESTION NUCLEAR WASTE PROPOSAL, Josephite Justice Office, Sydney , 29 March 16 Josephites around Australia have joined in questioning the proposal to import high-level nuclear waste into Australia. This is a move that challenges all of us who are committed to an increasingly fragile planet to look closely at the whole question of radioactive waste.

As Josephites celebrate 150 years since their foundation in Australia, they have reiterated Pope Francis’ call to ‘care for our common home and for those who are made poor at this time.’
‘We are deeply concerned that economic considerations are increasingly the motivation for our most significant decisions,’ said Sister Monica Cavanagh, Congregational leader of the Sisters of St Joseph. ‘Surely care of earth and reverence for our land should be our underlying principles. As Pope Francis and Paris COP21 have argued, the abuse of natural resources and the priority given to economic advantage are resulting in devastating results for earth and for present and future generations.’
Josephites fear that the proposed sites for the storage of this high-level waste are likely to be on Aboriginal lands. These are some of the most vulnerable and sacred lands in Australia, and the proposal is clearly in direct conflict with the interests of many Indigenous communities. South Australians have strong memories of the Maralinga lands of the Pitjatjantjara, Yankunyjatjara peoples being used for the British nuclear tests of the 1950s and 1960s. Even after four ‘cleanups’, we know that dangerous materials, including plutonium, lie in shallow burial pits.
The announcement by the South Australian Royal Commission that Australia should welcome high-level radioactive waste from other countries is profoundly troubling. Not one country in the world – not even the USA – has been able to successfully contain its own high level radioactive waste.

Continue reading

March 30, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, religion and ethics | 2 Comments