Saturday 4th of December 2021

the age of deceit...


















For more than 15 years, this little website has tackled some of the biggest issues faced by humanity and its fellow travellers, plants and animals, on this little planet.



And not just the issues of the last decade and a half. On a certain level, we’ve done justice to the natural evolution over four billions of years — a random change that seems to now be in a race towards dangerous settings, under self-appointed human leadership rather than accidental cosmic forces (which are still in the realm of possibilities nonetheless). In a humble fashion, all this rekindled activity to expose the caper, started when George W Bush went on the warpath against Saddam Hussein for what was obvious fake and fabricated motivations at the time, in 2001. For Gus, this was the drop that made the oceans of crap overflow into his lounge-room.


It was “Not Happy John” by Margo Kingston that started this funny ball-site rolling. When Margo’s highly serious Webdiary was unfortunately terminated, John Richardson and Gus developed the idea of being fully satirical whenever possible on this sister platform — which was expanded from a restricted wiki-site for a small group of devotees. The Webdiary was at the time visionary and sometimes too respectful of the dorks who govern us. New websites such as Pearls and Irritations of John Menadue have filled the void left by the disappearance of Webdiary, on a more day-to-day mechanics. 


In regard to satire, we try to bring some level of seriousness when people die — as one is obliged to provide a bit of respect while exposing the dangerous shenanigans of the empire. Presently the major gross idiotic injustice of the empire is to keep JULIAN ASSANGE in prison for bringing us the truth. Unfortunately few people can handle the “truth”, which, despite the claims of preachers, isn’t a religious dietary supplement, as religions are based on delusive imaginings and not on relative reality. Meanwhile, the empire does not want people to know the truth, because the empire uses lies to survive and make us fat like overfed barking dogs on a leash — against the wolves of freedom. The empire employs many lackeys, from new outlets, “intelligence” agencies to “historians” to write its slanted history, according to its cultivated lies. Thus our Democracy becomes a cultivated illusion, like a religious dogma that is valued by a market of supply and demand, based on the cost of sin and repentance. There is a fine line between survival and amusement in the management of fear and pain. Yet we are mostly resilient and plod onwards until our unavoidable death.


Here, full of our own self-importance, we have dreamt of improving humanity through better democratic ideals, but to tell it as it feels, it’s a hard yakka, and let me have another glass of red ned, say necessary slog. Lucky, it’s not the only occupational hazard that we indulge into… Looking back, I can say with pride that we have not slacked off on the many subjects encountered — from promoting secularism to scientific knowledge, while exposing the charlatans, the thieves, the porkie peddlers and the dumb, corrupt or sociopathic politicians. Our work, if we can call this our work as we’re not paid for this, has not been lacking subjects. Everyday comes with its cart of new crap or old revived shit. It’s a feast of choice. For expediency, we have also “borrowed” from current and historical thinkers, articles and ideas that go along the way of our feelings. Yet, despite our reactive light-speed, it seems that as we “progress” towards the future, the list of issues is growing like an infestation of mice in country New South Wales. Thus we have to push on. 


From time to time, as even solutions to problems bring their own problems, I feel we should reflect on the importance of what we have done so far, what has been expressed since 2005 on this platform. I call this re-visiting “ THE PARALLEL HISTORY”… History is never what it seems as it is written by the victorious dudes, and whatever has been recorded in the days of Julius Caesar is always subject to interpretation. Our interpretations of current events could be seen as wrong as well, by snake-oil merchants and truth-seekers alike. We’re not perfect. 


Presently, we feel that, despite what we suspect is a hidden army of physicians and pharmaceutical drug pushers, the old man Biden is about to fall of his perch, even fall off from the low ground of his platitudes, on his cosmetically altered face… We could be wrong… His faculties seems to be diminishing fast, like the size of his disappearing squinting eyes as he reads the autocue without glasses, even as he tries his best to redeem himself from a checkered contradictory past. The greatness of humanity is counterbalanced by its bullshit — presently that of the US government which has developed smoother turdy corners with a few sharp nasty doozies. As our own Australian idiots in charge are in lock-steps with the US, we’re in the same boat — or used as ballast. Our Europeans friends are also tied up to the US follies which we hope will never been acted upon. Sanity isn’t threatening China with nukes...


One day, I hope, historians and school-kids will learn the true history of humanity from reading this site, archived in the National Library of Australia in perpetuity — or by just looking at the images. We’re approaching 8000 cartoons by Gus Leonisky (say 7500 moments of amazing stupidity invented by our masters and commanders) and more than 6.5 million words in 12,000 entries each with an average of 5.5 comments. My guess… We're approaching our inconsistent 150,000th reader, possibly by the middle of the year. This is pitiful compared to some social influencers and stupid-cat videos that shine in the billion viewers — or to magical writer of Harry Potter’s that have sold by the million in a flash. We’ll let you know… Some 500 cartoons have vanished in site-transmigration and it would take a long time to bring them back from the Gus archives, but the history is still bubbling in the headings and the literary-poor satire… 


So what is this rant about? Just a simple recap as we move towards 2032, having forgotten 4 billion years of historical evolution, we are now walking towards a soft disaster... Not all issues and nuances can be recapped here. But should you feel inclined, you can go back to the beginning and travel forward from 2005 till today on a wild ride, not because of us but because of them. The 1974 movie “Blazing Saddles” express their craziness and their deceit, and hardly anything has change since the last fight scene. Voltaire did the same caper with a bit more elegance than Mel Brooks, while Rabelais went for the fart jokes in the 15th century. Till Ulenspiegel was a naughty kid but he’s nothing in comparison to our presidents, prime ministers and kings. 


Not so strangely, the problems of ruling this planet in a democratic way are not universal, despite some annoying crapologists trying to make us all the same through “globalisation”. These problems already mentioned at the beginnings of this site by some of the early contributors — are still there, but hidden in more efficient but more subtle deceit by the leaders of crap. So as we hope that Julian Assange will be released from prison NOW, many of the articles as written here can be assembled to form our study of humanity — The Age of Deceit — as hinted to, early in the piece. We live in the intellectual Hollowcene in which we hopefully contribute a bit of construction material to the general epistemology.



Gus Leonisky


Rabid atheist.



Here is a short list of places to visit (note the date of publication):


thank god for papal infallibility .....


all fall down …..


mister magic strikes again …..


fractured fairytales .....


better things to do...


"multipolar" world


ideal misty eyedness...


feet of clay, toys of rust...


reflecting poor judgment


an opinion about beliefs...


of art and full frontal...


the wilkie factor...


oversized greed...


winning the booby prize...


ramblings from the top paddock...


of crackpots' and experts' predictions...


ask the experts...


of dragons, demons and djinns...


the complexity of ignorance...


the intent of behaviour...


waiting for godot...


whistle stop...


selling the BBC's soul...


EU tightens 'stranglehold' on Assad regime...



Blood Rivers of Babylon…


and the most recent 200 pages...

the age of madness...


Caitlin Johnstone: The rising threat of nuclear war is the most urgent matter in the world


There is no more urgent matter on earth than the looming possibility that everyone might die in a nuclear war. It’s madness that we’re not talking about it all the time.

US Strategic Command, the branch of the US military responsible for America’s nuclear arsenal, tweeted the following on Tuesday:

“The spectrum of conflict today is neither linear nor predictable. We must account for the possibility of conflict leading to conditions which could very rapidly drive an adversary to consider nuclear use as their least bad option.”

The statement, which STRATCOM called a “preview” of the Posture Statement it submits to the US Congress every year, was a bit intense for Twitter and sparked a lot of alarmed responses. This alarm was due not to any inaccuracy in STRATCOM’s frank statement, but due to the bizarre fact that our world’s increasing risk of nuclear war barely features in mainstream discourse.


STRATCOM has been preparing not just to use its nuclear arsenal for deterrence but also to “win” a nuclear war should one arise from the (entirely US-created) “conditions” which are “neither linear nor predictable”. And it’s looking increasingly likely that one will as the prevailing orthodoxy among Western imperialists that US unipolar hegemony must be preserved at all cost rushes headlong toward America’s plunge into post-primacy.

The US has been ramping up aggressions with Russia in a way that has terrified experts, and it looks likely to continue doing so. These aggressions are further complicated on increasingly tense fronts like Ukraine, which is threatening to obtain nuclear weapons if it isn’t granted membership to NATO, either of which would increase the risk of conflict. Aggressions against nuclear-armed China are escalating on what seems like a daily basis at this point, with potential flashpoints in the China Seas, Taiwan, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, India, and any number of other possible fronts.

STRATCOM commander Charles Richard told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that China’s nuclear capabilities are advancing so rapidly that they’re not even bothering with intelligence vetted more than a month ago in their briefings because it’s probably already out of date, urging an upgrade in America’s nuclear infrastructure. Richard reportedly testified that a portion of China’s nuclear arsenal has been recently primed for ready use.

The fact that those in charge of US nuclear weapons now see both Russia and China as a major nuclear threat, and the fact that US cold warriors are escalating against both of them, is horrifying. The fact that they’re again playing with “low-yield” nukes designed to actually be used on the battlefield makes it even more so. This is to say nothing of tensions between nuclear-armed Pakistan and nuclear-armed India, between nuclear-armed Israel and its neighbors, and between nuclear-armed North Korea and the Western empire.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has the 2021 Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds to midnight, citing the rising threat of nuclear war:

Accelerating nuclear programs in multiple countries moved the world into less stable and manageable territory last year. Development of hypersonic glide vehicles, ballistic missile defenses, and weapons-delivery systems that can flexibly use conventional or nuclear warheads may raise the probability of miscalculation in times of tension. Events like the deadly assault earlier this month on the US Capitol renewed legitimate concerns about national leaders who have sole control of the use of nuclear weapons. Nuclear nations, however, have ignored or undermined practical and available diplomatic and security tools for managing nuclear risks. By our estimation, the potential for the world to stumble into nuclear war–an ever-present danger over the last 75 years–increased in 2020. An extremely dangerous global failure to address existential threats—what we called ‘the new abnormal’ in 2019—tightened its grip in the nuclear realm in the past year, increasing the likelihood of catastrophe.

In a recent interview with Phoenix Media Co-op‘s Slava Zilber, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft nuclear policy specialist Joe Cirincione described a ramp-up in weapons technology among all nuclear-armed nations in the world, the future of which he described as “bleak”:

We right now have a global nuclear arms race. Each of the nine nuclear-armed nations are building new weapons. Some are replacing weapons that are getting old. Others are expanding their arsenals. But all of these new weapons represent new capabilities for these countries. So you’re seeing a qualitative and a quantitative arms race that is completely unchecked.

 “If you look at the data that’s collected by the Federation of American Scientists, for example, you see that – since the 1980s at the height of the Cold War – we have slashed the global nuclear arsenals. We went from a world in 1986 where there were almost 70,000 nuclear weapons in the world down to where we are now where there’s just about 13,500 nuclear weapons. Tremendous progress. 85% reduction in the stockpile…

“But it’s flattened out. There really haven’t been significant reductions for years. The 2010 New START agreement was the last successful arms control agreement. That was 11 years ago. There’s been no reduction agreement since then. There’ve been no talks about new reductions agreements. Now I think the future of arms control is bleak. It’s bleak. And I see no interest really in a new round of arms control either from the United States or from Russia. So I’m pessimistic about our prospects.

As I all too frequently find myself having to remind people, the primary risk here is not that anyone will choose to have a nuclear war, it’s that a nuke will be deployed amid heightening tensions as a result of miscommunication, miscalculation, misfire, or malfunction, as nearly happened many times during the last cold war, thereby setting off everyone’s nukes as per Mutually Assured Destruction.

The more tense things get, the likelier such an event becomes. This new cold war is happening along two fronts, with a bunch of proxy conflicts complicating things even further. There are so very many small moving parts, and it’s impossible to remain in control of all of them.

People like to think every nuclear-armed country has one “The Button” with which they can consciously choose to start a nuclear war after careful deliberation, but it doesn’t work that way. There are thousands of people in the world controlling different parts of different nuclear arsenals who could independently initiate a nuclear war. Thousands of “The Buttons”. It only takes one. The arrogance of believing anyone can control such a conflict safely, for years, is astounding.

2014 report published in the journal Earth’s Future found that it would only take the detonation of 100 nuclear warheads to throw 5 teragrams of black soot into the earth’s stratosphere for decades, blocking out the sun and making the photosynthesis of plants impossible. This could easily starve every terrestrial organism to death that didn’t die of radiation or climate chaos first. China has hundreds of nuclear weapons; Russia and the United States have thousands.

This should be the main thing everyone talks about. There is literally no more urgent matter on earth than the looming possibility that everyone might die in a nuclear war.

But people don’t see it.

On a recent Tucker Carlson Tonight appearance, former congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard did a solid job describing the horrors of nuclear war and the very real possibility that it could be inflicted upon us due to America’s insane brinkmanship with Russia. She spoke earnestly about how “such a war would come at a cost beyond anything we can really imagine,” painting an entirely accurate picture of “hundreds of millions of people dying and suffering, seeing their flesh being burned from their bones.”


Gabbard is correct, and was right to give such a confrontational account of what we are looking at right now. But if you read the replies to Gabbard’s tweet in which she shared a clip from the interview, you’ll see a deluge of commenters accusing her of “hyperbole”, saying she’s being soft on Putin, and admonishing her for appearing on Tucker Carlson. It’s like they can’t even hear what she’s saying, how real it is, how significant it is.

People’s failure to wrap their minds around this issue is a testament to the power of normalcy bias, a cognitive glitch which causes us to assume that because something bad hasn’t happened in the past, it won’t happen in the future. We survived the last cold war by the skin of our teeth, entirely by sheer, dumb luck; the only reason people are around to bleat “hyperbole” is because we got lucky. There’s no reason to believe we’ll get lucky in this new cold war environment; only normalcy bias says we will. Believing we’ll survive this cold war just because we survived the last one is as sane as believing Russian roulette is safe because the guy passing you the gun didn’t die.

It’s also a testament to the power of plain old psychological compartmentalization. People can’t handle the idea of everything ending, of everyone they know and love dying, of watching their loved ones die in flames or from radiation poisoning right in front of them, all because someone made a mistake at the wrong time after a bunch of imperialists decided that US planetary domination was worth rolling the dice on the life of every terrestrial organism for.

But mostly it’s a testament to the ubiquitous malpractice of the Western media. It’s inconvenient to the agendas of the imperial war machine to have people protesting these insane cold war games of nuclear brinkmanship, so their media stenographers barely touch on this issue. If mainstream journalism actually existed, this flirtation with nuclear war would be front and center in everyone’s awareness and people would be flooding the streets in protest against their lives being toyed with as casino chips in an insane all-or-nothing gamble.

This is so much bigger than any of the petty little things we spend our mental energy on from day to day. It’s bigger than whatever your number one pet issue is. It’s bigger than your disdain for Moscow or Beijing. It’s bigger than my disdain for the US empire. It’s bigger than our political opinions. It’s bigger than whatever argument we might be having on the internet. It’s bigger than whether or not we’ve got a problem with Tulsi Gabbard appearing on Tucker Carlson.

Because once the nukes start flying, none of that will matter. None of it. All that will matter is the fact that this is all ending. If you open the door and see a mushroom cloud growing on the horizon, all of your mental priorities will rearrange themselves real quick.

We should not be in this situation. There is no good reason governments should be playing these games with these weapons. There is no good reason we can’t just get along with each other and collaborate toward a healthy world together. Only the psychopathic agendas of power-hungry imperialists perpetuate this insane balancing act, and it benefits none of us ordinary people in any way.

The rising threat of nuclear war is the most urgent matter in the world, and it’s absolute madness that we’re not talking about it all the time.

Let’s do what we can to change that.



Read more:


Now, you might understand the strange post above... and the cartoon. The toon was made when a conflict of interest happened between a cemetery that demanded land from an adjacent golf club, to dig more graves... It represent the craziness of our conflicted purposes... which presently are on the way to the oblivion of us...




the age of consciousness...

As humans, we are equipped with an amazing tool: consciousness. So too are many animals species. This is to say we are aware of our environment mostly in real time, and can make choices of purpose. We are aware of our environment through sensors that give us perceptions. We are able to recognise patterns of events and memorise these. So do many animals species. The case of the bird species that “forgot” its song, is telling of such:


A rare songbird has become so threatened that it has started to lose its song, say scientists.


The regent honeyeater, once abundant in south-eastern Australia, is now listed as critically endangered; just 300 individuals remain in the world.


"They don't get the chance to hang around with other honeyeaters and learn what they're supposed to sound like," explained Dr Ross Crates.



It seems that language is essential in expressing communicative understandings and thus develop consciousness to a high level of complexity. Language for the hearing deficient is the ability to understand sign language and/or lip read.


In 1994, the problem — or say the question — of consciousness was stirred by an Aussie philosopher and cognitive scientist, David Chalmers, at a conference on the mind. he presented a lecture at the inaugural Toward a Science of Consciousness conference.


My "understanding" of consciousness began before David was even born. At the deepest darkness of depression that overtook me in less than a minute, I lost cognition. As I explained before on this site, extract from my (nearly published — the publisher got cold feet about the atheistic slant) 1994 book on solving depression for creative minds, I could not “mesh” my memory of things with what I perceived. I had no idea what I was looking at. Everything went grey, not because of my eyes, but because my brain seemed to refuse to know. Frightening? Yes if you’re not depressed — but when you are depressed, nothing matters, Nothing makes sense. One comes without care for oneself. The body/mind shuts down towards death. 


It was only when I could parallel the vision of a tree with my memory of the word I had learned since I was a child that I could recognise a tree. The delta of consciousness starts at this simplest level of perception and cognition through memory. The human brain, dare I say the animal brain, is able to compute at high speed, position of the self and of its relative purpose. For the bird in flight, the purpose is to find food, a mate and where the nesting site is. The position of the self is to fly without hitting a tree or a rooftop, at a sufficient speed, and twists and turns, managed by using the wings. Bird learn to fly. Eventually this cognition, from the time of being looked after by parents, is refined into specific “bird songs”. The song of the young magpie is very different and seemingly more complex than that of an adult — possibly learning to outdo each-other to prove their existence. Even flying young magpies will be under supervision of their mothers for a while, to teach them where to find food on the ground and in the trees. Such young will still often ask the mother to feed them. This would be the lazy way. Knowledge demands the learning.


What could be said here is that WE LEARN CONSCIOUSNESS. We need the memory of what “HAS BEEN/IS" in order to be conscious. At this level, plants could be said to be conscious of the patterns of the environment. How and when plants, especially in the Australian “unpredictable” weather events, know when to flower? 


For humans, our reactivity to knowledge is extended through our memory being greater than what is needed for mere survival. This created a level of “uncertainty” in our choices. We had to develop an understanding — TRUE OR FALSE — of what we had to choose — in which we used the natural levers of animalistic aggressiveness and submissiveness to feed our hunger and procreate. Our flexibility in adaptation and our ability to recognise the usefulness of tools as an extension of our hands and feet, led to the inventions of the bicycle and the smartphone. Meanwhile, in many cases, the successful promotion of erroneous knowledge led to lies and deceit as tools. We also invented purpose beyond mere survival to fill the void in our extra uncertain memory. For many humans, uncertainty is to be avoided. They thus invented god: problem solved. For artists and philosophers, uncertainty is a boon. It is the motivation for quests, including that of understanding consciousness. 


I lost some of my abilities after my deep depression. I had to restructure my “consciousness of language and ideas”. I became like a robot, with little emotional values. I also removed “mind blocks” to bypass my “damaged" structured memory into "transic" solutions. But some of the problems of languages cannot be “bypassed”. My knowledge of mathematical linguistic symbols had vanished. I have relearned some of these, but it’s still rudimentary. I preferred the world of imaginings though I often try to be didactic to reality (whatever that is I perceive through my senses). Imagination is a tool like a chisel.


Chalmers is best known for formulating what he calls the "hard problem of consciousness," in both his 1995 paper "Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness" and his 1996 book The Conscious Mind. He makes a distinction between "easy" problems of consciousness, such as explaining object discrimination or verbal reports, and the single hard problem, which could be stated "why does the feeling which accompanies awareness of sensory information exist at all?" The essential difference between the (cognitive) easy problems and the (phenomenal) hard problem is that the former are at least theoretically answerable via the dominant strategy in the philosophy of mind: physicalism. Chalmers argues for an "explanatory gap" from the objective to the subjective, and criticizes physicalist explanations of mental experience, making him a dualist. Chalmers characterizes his view as "naturalistic dualism": naturalistic because he believes mental states supervene "naturally" on physical systems (such as brains); dualist because he believes mental states are ontologically distinct from and not reducible to physical systems. He has also characterized his view by more traditional formulations such as property dualism.

In support of this, Chalmers is famous for his commitment to the logical (though, importantly, not natural) possibility of philosophical zombies.



I know the feeling. nearly every day, I have moments when my mind goes into “zombie mode”, like a massive mind block. For an hour, sometimes two, I blank out. This does not worry me. I often go for a siesta and a “mind reset". By nine o’clock, every night, I drop off. By three in the morning, I’m bright as  button and can indulge in reading “Processive RNA polymerization and promoter recognition in an RNA World”… and “UNDERSTAND IT”.


This is the study of the PRIMARY self-replication of amino acids in early life — a process started 4.5 billion years ago and still going on today — that led us to become aware of our own existence and invent atomic bombs, to wipe each other out. 



Boy haven’t we used our amazing consciousness for doing stupid things?…



But as we are told: "God gets the last laugh: Atheist Richard Dawkins sent to woke purgatory for questioning progressive dogma”. Here comes Robert Bridge — an American writer and journalist. He is the author of 'Midnight in the American Empire,' How Corporations and Their Political Servants are Destroying the American Dream:


The author of ‘The God Delusion’, the atheist’s bible, is under attack by his erstwhile supporters for questioning a main tenet of progressivism, the transgender movement. So religion is fair game, but quasi-science is not?


At this confused stage in an otherwise illustrious academic career, with the woke inquisition breathing down his back, British atheist Richard Dawkins may be praying for some divine intervention. The social justice warriors rarely take prisoners, while acts of contrition on bended knee only have the effect of digging one’s grave deeper. So what was Dawkins’ great transgression that has provoked this collective fit of leftie outrage?


Take a seat, dear reader, this is biblical. Apparently believing that his lofty status placed him comfortably above the eye of the mob storm, Dawkins hit send on a tweet that had all of the impact of pushing a dynamite plunger, potentially wrecking a lifetime of godless achievement in the process. The offensive message read, and I quote: “In 2015, Rachel Dolezal, a white chapter president of NAACP, was vilified for identifying as Black. Some men choose to identify as women, and some women choose to identify as men. You will be vilified if you deny that they literally are what they identify as. Discuss.”




Robert Bridge concurs with Dawkins:


In conclusion, at the behest of the transgender/identity movement, man is attempting to usurp God as the ultimate creator. Whether a newborn comes into the world as male or female, black or white, makes absolutely no difference to this new Lucifer-inspired doctrine; simple man, armed with nothing more than chemicals and a surgeon’s scalpel, is playing God and has set out to redesign the individual according to his own rules. What is truly worrying about this radical new church, this insane religion that is bereft of any and all moral guidelines, is that nobody – not even the world’s best known atheist Richard Dawkins – is permitted to scrutinize it. That must be of tremendous concern to every human being on the planet.   



This is part of our uncertainty. We become afraid to discuss the colour green because of the human rights of ten percent of males who are colour-blind. At some stage, it’s part of acting on our consciousness. We are actors in our own mind. We learn some behaviours, we learn how to walk, we learn how to chew, we learn to be of a higher consciousness as we develop our abilities to understand. We also are influenced by nature — and dare I say, the chemicals we have invented. The weight of all influences are difficult to judge until we have understood EVERYTHING. And we know we could be right or wrong. God does not exist? That’s for sure considering the debunk-able doozies attached to the religious dogmas.


A tool isn’t useful unless there is a brain attached to it. Then a tool can become dangerous if used in the wrong hand that is attached to the other side of the brain… As well, “old men are not allowed up ladders” because our balance isn’t what it used to be. Many old people who get up in the middle of the night, fall down, often breaking something or dying on the floor, like my grandmother, aged 97. And personal consciousness vanishes…





Thing-me-ging maker...



selling your dead bones?...


BY John Hewson


The separation of church and state has always been a foundational element of our political system. The constitution of Australia prevents the Commonwealth from establishing any religion or requiring a religious test for any office. This section of the constitution (section 116) does not apply to states, however: they are free to establish their own religions. Although no state has ever introduced a state church, two referendums have failed to extend section 116 to states.

Clearly this has never been a front-of-mind issue. The Australian people are generally supportive of the idea that faith can inform politicians and are accepting of the Christian framework of our parliament, where daily sessions begin with the Lord’s Prayer and the Bible is offered as a basis for swearing acceptance of office.

Still, a couple of policy initiatives have raised the separation of church and state over the years, most notably on school funding and the National School Chaplaincy Program. Recently, the implementation of the Gonski reform of school funding to reflect disadvantage has highlighted the issue.

Rumours are rife in the sector about Perrottet’s activism on the curious issue of cemetery management, most conspicuously trotting Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher to meetings with Gladys Berejiklian, when she was premier.

While for most religious schools the funding was done from the centre, the Catholic Church launched a campaign to ensure that it received favoured treatment by being allowed to determine the allocation of funding within an agreed umbrella amount to their own schools, rather than have the government make the designation as part of its overall strategy to reset the budgeting and reflect disadvantage. It has been reported that the Catholic concept of “disadvantage” wasn’t consistent with the spirit of the Gonski reforms – apparently some of the posh Catholic schools were not that “disadvantaged” in their allocation.

The latest development in New South Wales politics – the ascension of a new premier, Dominic Perrottet – may soon see the increased influence of the Catholic Church in matters of NSW government administration. With Perrottet widely known to wear his extreme conservative Catholicism on his sleeve, it seems likely he may more actively engage the Catholic Church in the conduct of his government.

Rumours are rife in the sector about Perrottet’s activism on the curious issue of cemetery management, most conspicuously trotting Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher to meetings with Gladys Berejiklian, when she was premier, and key ministers, as well as facilitating the appointment of some of the most high-powered lobbyists and PR types to campaign on the issue.

The issue at hand is the NSW government’s intention to create a single ownership structure for cemeteries. Presently, Crown cemeteries are managed through five trusts or land managers including the Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (CMCT), which is controlled by the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney. CMCT has mounted a legal counterpush to the Crown concept, wanting to take over the management of the cemeteries run by the other trusts. It is not clear whether they would want ownership of these cemeteries as well, although they have made a takeover bid in the past. Empire-building has always been a feature of the church, and Archbishop Fisher is certainly an empire-builder.

But a Catholic takeover would be a disaster. It would be incredibly offensive and divisive, and shows an appalling misunderstanding of the empathy required in the provision of cemetery services. Already a number of serious faith and ethnic voices have been raised, expressing outrage and indignation.

A decision in favour of the Catholics would risk undermining what has been one of the most significant national successes since World War II, namely the building of a successful and tolerant, multi-religious and multi-ethnic society – NSW has been a leader in this transition. In providing cemetery services, you are dealing with people under the extreme stress of grieving the death of a loved one. For many, this would be one of the most difficult times of their lives, which requires very careful sympathy and understanding of the significant differences in attitudes to death among various faiths and ethnic practices.

It has been a basic tenet of our society that no particular faith or specific ethnic group should be elevated above another and that a firm separation be maintained between the church and state in such matters. Moreover, the issue is divisive beyond the ethnic and faith communities; it is very divisive between government ministers, key bureaucrats and even within the Catholic Church.

To be clear, the administration of cemeteries and crematoriums is an area of social policy that is in need of urgent and genuine reform. It is an area of government where there has been inadequate ministerial engagement and is bedevilled by bureaucratic turf wars between the likes of the Treasury, Crown land, and Planning and Industry. In addition, the regulatory body – Cemeteries and Crematoria NSW (CCNSW) – has consistently failed to deliver the essential leadership and overarching co-ordination of the administrative activities of the various cemetery owners and managers.

The current mix of owners and managers is a mishmash. There are state-owned Crown cemeteries, local government cemeteries, non-profit cemeteries owned by churches and charities, and private for-profit operators. Recently there was a notionally independent (regular, statutory) review of the area, and of the CCNSW Act, which recommended a single body to run all cemeteries. It was not recommended that this be passed to the Catholic Church.

Most citizens of NSW would find it hard to accept, given the inevitability of the growing demand for plots and for space in memorial gardens, that there has been no statewide acquisition strategy for new cemetery lands. None of the so-called “city plans”, nor the local environmental plans, make adequate, if any, provisions for new cemetery space, where existing cemeteries are filling up rapidly. Most of the oldest Crown cemeteries are already full, unable to accept new burials, with the remaining operational cemeteries due to be exhausted within 10 to 12 years.

A takeover of NSW cemeteries has been on the agenda of the Catholic Church for some time. It has been reported that the church made an unsolicited bid back in 2017 (with CMCT to take over the administration) to privatise the remaining Crown cemeteries and pass the management of the cemeteries to the Catholic Cemeteries Board Ltd.

The bid was unable to proceed as it didn’t satisfy the normal requirements for an unsolicited bid to the NSW government, which suggests that any attempt at privatisation would need to go through a transparent tender process. The church has since opposed, by way of legal action, the government’s in-principle decision to create a single ownership structure. While some of the ethnic and faith communities have supported a single entity for cemetery ownership, they have clearly opposed the idea that the Catholic Church be that entity.

What’s really behind the curtain here? Some fear this is just another profitable business opportunity for the Catholic Church, with minimal accountability. Does anyone seriously believe this will improve the effectiveness and contain costs of funeral services in NSW?

This issue of cemetery reform is one I have been deeply involved in for several years. I was chairman of one of the Crown trusts for five years, and am therefore acutely aware of the complexities and sensitivities of the issue. In this regard, I have been a strong supporter of a structure based on single-entity management. But there is no logic, only downside, in handing control of such an entity to a particular faith or ethnic group.

The two main pressing issues for such a board to consider are the acquisition of land for new cemeteries and the funding of the perpetual maintenance responsibilities.

    Of course the former will assist the latter – one of the present constraints in cemetery management is the age of cemeteries, being full and unable to sell new gravesites. Some ethnic and faith groups will want a deal to ensure an adequate supply for their members – this is especially true for Muslims, who’s faith doesn’t allow cremations, and for Jewish people.

There should be little doubt that Dominic Perrottet will lead a notable, reformist government. He demonstrated his reform credentials as treasurer in relation to possible reform of our federation and taxation, proposing to replace stamp duties on real estate transactions with a land tax.

It would be a tragedy, with his reform potential, if he were to define himself by passing the administration of cemeteries to the Catholic Church. Being on top of the hill, he should remember, does not make you closer to God.


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