Saturday 25th of November 2017

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by Gus Leonisky on Fri, 2017-11-24 20:09


There are moments in history that come to define the world changing. After years or even decades of doing things a certain way, suddenly, everything changes. We look back, often in bemusement, shame or anger, and wonder how people accepted a certain way of doing things.

Changes once fiercely resisted become archaic: corporal punishment in schools, slavery, women and Aboriginal people denied the right to vote, the death penalty, LGBTIQ people denied the right to marry, the institutionalisation of people with disabilities … the list goes on.


Smart leaders who are at the right place at the right time, sense the zeitgeist, capture a nation’s hopes and dreams and catapult themselves into the history books as the personification of that change. Visionary leaders look to the future, wonder what we’ll reflect back on in 30 to 50 years and take the first steps on an alternative path.

Our world is undergoing a once in a generation period of significant disruption to the status quo.

The “trickle down” neoliberal economy that replaced the welfare-state economy has the stench of decay. Wealth is not trickling down: the rich and powerful have structured our economy so that the fruits of our collective efforts are concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer people. Extreme inequality is a major factor causing people to turn to the old gods of blood (race) and soil (nationalism). But a “wellbeing” state that puts people and planet at its heart could trump the nationalists.

Public concern about the environment and climate damage, combined with technological progress, means the writing is on the wall for coal and big polluters.

The US dominance as a superpower is waning as China is becoming more powerful (economically, diplomatically and militarily). Global tension is rising and economic power is shifting to three of the four most populous countries on earth: China, India and Indonesia as well as Japan.

These are just a few of the major global challenges and opportunities confronting us.

A smart government would grasp the future and get ahead of the curve. Yet on Thursday, the government released a foreign policy white paper that desperately clings to the past while the rest of the world moves on. Its primary focus is terrorism, trade and Trump (even if it doesn’t mention him by name).

Security gets 207 mentions, inequality gets 8.

Trade gets 182 mentions, poverty 29.

Terrorism gets 40 mentions, climate change 29.

It sidelines the almost 9,000 people who wrote individual submissions with consistent messages that climate change, inequality and poverty should be foreign policy priorities, and that Australian aid is a key tool to help deliver a fairer world.

The foreign policy white paper should encapsulate the kind of world we want to live in and the role Australia can play in helping to realise that vision. Instead, it paints a bleak picture for our future world and Australia’s part in it.

The Campaign for Australian Aid has released its own “People’s White Paper” report called One Humanity, which is a starting point for a conversation about our changing world.

A nation blessed with abundant sun, land, waves and wind and with Pacific neighbours facing raising oceans should be leading the world on renewables and action on climate damage.


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by Gus Leonisky on Fri, 2017-11-24 16:57

Mauritania has moved to strengthen a law criminalising apostasy and blasphemy, after a court in the West African nation ordered the release of a local blogger who faced the death penalty for allegedly criticising the Prophet Muhammad.

An amendment to Article 306 of the country's penal code will now see the death penalty applied to "every Muslim, man or woman, who ridicules or insults Allah", his messenger, his teachings, or any of his prophets, "even if [the accused] repents", according to state news agency AMI.

The change aims to "adapt procedures to new situations that were not previously taken into account" when the law was first passed in 1983, said Justice Minister Brahim Ould Daddah.

Officially an Islamic Republic, Mauritania's legal system is based on a mix of French civil law and Islamic law. Previously, any person found guilty of apostasy under Article 306 faced the death penalty if he or she did not repent.

Someone charged with apostasy who showed remorse could be sentenced to up to two years in prison and a fine.

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by Gus Leonisky on Fri, 2017-11-24 15:47

The Prime Minister has received an ominous warning from the head of a blue-ribbon New South Wales Liberal Party branch, calling on him to capitulate and establish a royal commission into the banks or face the issue contributing to a "wipe-out" at the next election.

Key points:

  • Peter McNamee wrote to PM asking him to change his mind on banking royal commission
  • He is the branch president in one of the safest Liberal seats in the country
  • Two Government MPs would need to cross floor to pass commission of inquiry or royal commission in Parliament


The president of the Berowra Waters Liberal Party branch in Sydney, Peter McNamee, has made the impassioned plea, writing to Malcolm Turnbull to appeal for him to change his mind to avoid "deserting" those hurt by the banks who are the "backbone of our country".

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by Gus Leonisky on Fri, 2017-11-24 14:36

The world recently commemorated the centennial of the Russian Revolution, which resulted from the flagrant incompetence of that country’s ruling class in confronting a moment of overwhelming national crisis. The barricades are not yet out in the streets of modern-day London, but a certain sense of déjà vu is appropriate. At the least, we are likely witnessing the slow-motion suicide of the Conservative Party, and, conceivably, of British conservatism more broadly defined.

In the British case, the crisis involves the nation’s referendum vote in June 2016 to withdraw from the European Union. Opinions may differ about the virtues of Brexit as an idea—I opposed it—but once it was decided, most everyone agreed that the process of extraction had to be implemented with great care and single-minded dedication. The actual response of the Conservative government has been deplorable to the point of unforgivable—inept, slipshod, insouciant, and ignorant of even the basic realities of law and process.

Admittedly, the process of withdrawal would be extraordinarily difficult even for a generation of godlike political sages. Withdrawal proceeds under the so-called Article 50, which provides a strict two-year timetable for negotiation and ratification. The British government implemented the article in March 2017. By March 29, 2019, then, Britain will no longer be a member of the EU. Before that point, the two sides must reach agreement on a series of thorny primary issues, including the so-called divorce bill, the sum that Britain must pay to settle outstanding liabilities. Estimates for this bill range from $60 billion to $100 billion. Scarcely less sensitive is the question of Ireland and the virtually inevitable border that must be created between the EU Republic of Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.

Only after those preliminaries have been agreed to can negotiation can then move to determining the future trade relationship between Britain and the EU, an extremely complex and time-consuming dance of interests. When the EU and Canada recently discussed a similar deal, negotiations took seven years, and almost collapsed due to last-minute politicking. The Canadian agreement, incidentally, did not include financial services, which are a fundamental part of the British economy. So all that has to be accomplished before March 2019, but actually, the timetable is even tighter than that. As any deal must be ratified by the legislatures of all EU member states, a solid draft must realistically be presented by around October 2018.

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by Gus Leonisky on Fri, 2017-11-24 14:32


Our aim is to “starve the whole population—men, women, and children, old and young, wounded and sound—into submission,” said First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill.

He was speaking of Germany at the outset of the Great War of 1914-1918. Americans denounced as inhumane this starvation blockade that would eventually take the lives of a million German civilians.

Yet when we went to war in 1917, a U.S. admiral told British Prime Minister Lloyd George, “You will find that it will take us only two months to become as great criminals as you are.”

After the Armistice of November 11, 1918, however, the starvation blockade was not lifted until Germany capitulated to all Allied demands in the Treaty of Versailles.

As late as March 1919, four months after the Germans laid down their arms, Churchill arose in Parliament to exult, “We are enforcing the blockade with rigor, and Germany is very near starvation.”

So grave were conditions in Germany that General Sir Herbert Plumer protested to Lloyd George in Paris that morale among his troops on the Rhine was sinking from seeing “hordes of skinny and bloated children pawing over the offal from British cantonments.”

The starvation blockade was a war crime and a crime against humanity. But the horrors of the Second World War made people forget this milestone on the Western road to barbarism.

Now today, a comparable crime is being committed against the poorest people in the Arab world—and with the complicity of the United States.

Saudi Arabia, which attacked and invaded Yemen in 2015 after Houthi rebels dumped over a pro-Saudi regime in Sanaa and overran much of the country, has imposed a land, sea, and air blockade, after the Houthis fired a missile at Riyadh this month that was shot down.


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by Gus Leonisky on Fri, 2017-11-24 14:21

Queensland farmers are suspected to have defied rare federal government intervention and cleared a large swath of land without commonwealth approval, according to conservationists.

The native vegetation was in a reef catchment, meaning the clearing could worsen pollution on the Great Barrier Reef. In addition, government-commissioned studies show it provided habitat to several threatened species.

Queensland is experiencing a boom in tree clearing – rates jumped 33% in 2016, in a region that is already considered the only “global deforestation hotspot” in the developed world. About 400,000 hectares were cleared in 2015-16, meaning Queensland now has two-thirds the annual rate of deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon.

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by Gus Leonisky on Fri, 2017-11-24 14:18


They were bound to be told sooner or later: stories of men who allegedly raped women, only to later become pastors.

Stories from women who were counselled by priests to stay in abusive marriages and "submit" to their husbands; to cope with violence by praying, forgiving.

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'These women are not just statistics'

These Australian women all died this year. What they have in common is their partners or ex-partners have been charged in relation to their deaths or have been named as the suspect in a murder-suicide. Here, the women's families and friends tell us the stories of their lives.


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by Gus Leonisky on Fri, 2017-11-24 13:16


In a decision that has shocked no one, over 70% of the Australian public voted in favour of legalising same sex marriage on the controversial postal survey.

Across the country, the queer community and allies have joined together to celebrate the support against one of the last vestiges of inequality in the Australian constitution.

One not so happy voter, is head of the Australian Christian Lobby Lyle Shelton who is blaming the Yes verdict on the lack of people voting No.

“It’s completely unfair. This is not taking into account the amount of people who would have voted ‘no’ but didn’t because they have a moral conscience.”

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by Gus Leonisky on Fri, 2017-11-24 13:08


The Turnbull Government is in complete disarray and every day brings some revelation of further incompetence, says John Passant.

THE TURNBULL GOVERNMENT is in complete disarray. 

Good! Let’s send this anti-worker, pro-rich, incompetent Government to the dustbin of history now — not in 18 months' time. We can’t afford to wait that long.

Everything this Government touches turns to shite.

For example, it was not so long ago that Prime Minister Turnbull was defending the marriage equality survey as a great illustration of democracy at work. 

Democracy at work would have been passing marriage equality through the Parliament, rather than pandering to the reactionaries in the party room and concocting a delaying, divisive and destructive "survey" that reflected what we already knew but gave a megaphone to the purveyors of hate: the "No" side.

Young LGBTIQ people now have worsening mental health and a higher risk of suicide. A gay friend of mine will never forgive Malcolm Turnbull for this.

Democracy at work would have been the House of Representatives sitting in the week beginning 27 November. Instead, Turnbull postponed the sitting by a week,ostensibly to allow the Parliament to focus on both the marriage equality bill – which the Senate may by then have passed – and the citizenship declarations.

Everyone knows, of course, that Turnbull postponed Parliament in the week beginning 27 November to avoid debate on and possible passage of a bill for an inquiry into the banks. It is almost as if the Prime Minister thinks Parliament is his plaything — some democrat!

Turnbull’s fear was justified. Without Joyce or Alexander as members, the Government’s effective voting strength on the floor is 73, plus the speaker. The Labor Opposition currently has 69 votes, the Greens one, Nick Xenophon Team one, the Katter Party one, with Andrew Wilkie and Cathy McGowan as independents.

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by Gus Leonisky on Fri, 2017-11-24 11:32

Malcolm Turnbull wants us to keep calm? When leaders say that, it usually means start worrying...

Nothing to see here. Keep calm. Everything's under control.

The trouble with such reassurances is they convey the opposite. There usually is something "to see", which leads us to feel anything but "calm", and realise things are not "under control" after all.

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