The following articles were published by The Guardian, newspaper of the Communist Party of Australia, in its issue of December 12, 2012. Reproduction of articles, together with acknowledgement if appropriate, is welcome.
Editorial, 74 Buckingham Street,
Surry Hills, Sydney NSW 2010, Australia
Communist Party of Australia,
74 Buckingham Street, Surry Hills,
Sydney NSW 2010, Australia
General Secretary: Dr Hannah Middleton
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- Make 2013 a year of struggle
- EDITORIAL – Time to end Australia’s national disgrace
- NT Aboriginal Elder calls for repeal of “Stronger Futures”
- Murky debate misses real issue
- The passing of a great comrade and a good bloke
- Basic needs left wanting for 20% of people with MS
- Industry land grab will reignite forest wars
- Gippsland not Gasland (Part 2) – Not just a Nimby issue
- Compact will deliver for traditional owners
- World Premiere of Yagan-Noongar Warrior
01. Make 2013
a year of struggle
As 2012 draws to a close, millions of Australians are struggling economically to keep their heads above water. Living standards are under attack from all directions. Prices continue to rise, wages and pensions are not keeping up. Every week more workers are sacked as companies go into receivership. Employers are on the offensive, casualising jobs, extending hours of unpaid overtime, and their latest target is penalty rates.
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has been forced to reduce the official interest rate to stimulate an economy in decline. But the federal government still has its head in the sand pursuing budget-cutting contractionary policies that will only cause more hardship. The elephant in the room is the GST, as state governments, economists and big business push for an increase in the regressive tax. Neither the Labor government nor the Opposition are prepared to commit political suicide and declare their intentions to raise the tax prior to next year’s federal elections.
The never-ending budgetry cuts and ongoing privatisations to try to bring in a budget surplus are hurting millions of people and the economy. Single parents, pensioners, workers, and students who are on the receiving end of these cuts and higher prices are hurting. The number of retail outlets going into receivership and employees losing their jobs continues to rise as people have less in their pockets to spend.
Housing construction has been hit hard by a reduction in the first home owner’s grant. The plunge in coal, iron ore and other commodity prices has seen mining profits decline from their dizzy heights of recent years and the government tax take fall short of expectations.
The slight drop in the official unemployment rate to 5.2 percent covers up the real situation. Last month the official number of unemployed rose to 648,500. The number of full-time jobs decreased. The unemployment rate dropped because of the number of people of working age who gave up looking for a job. The number in part-time work rose slightly.
The official figures are also deceptive because even one hour of paid work counts as being employed. The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates the under-utilisation rate (under-employment) rose last month to 12.5 percent. For women it is 14.7 percent.
The reality is that unemployment and under-employment are high in Australia. This is not acceptable. Job creation should be a government priority. Unfortunately, there is a high degree of complacency about the situation. The ratings agencies and big end of town who dictate government policy are not concerned about unemployment, unless it reaches a level which causes social unrest and a questioning of the capitalist system.
Their immediate goal is a budget surplus, although some sections of the ruling class are now suggesting it should be postponed for a year. Pursuing a budget surplus when the economy is in decline is shear economic lunacy. Yet that is what the government continues to do.
The stimulus measures introduced during the global financial crisis were temporary, one-off, hand-outs and programs. While they might have served their purpose holding up demand for goods and services during the crisis, they have come to an end.
What the economy needed at the time were long-term, economically expansionary measures, such as job creation programs, particularly in rural and regional Australia. This includes manufacturing of high-tech products, research and development of environmentally sustainable renewal energies, reforestation programs, public housing and public services.
At the same time as its one-off stimulus measures came to an end, the government set about slashing budget spending – the cuts hit the most disadvantaged on low incomes, including welfare recipients, public services and the environment.
The single parent payment and abolition of the dental care under Medicare are two of the most recent cuts. State governments are also furiously slashing and burning, cutting services to the most needy, sacking thousands of public servants, claiming it is necessary to obtain a budget surplus.
There is no economic or social justification for the neo-liberal budget surplus obsession. Budget deficits, when the borrowing is for sound reasons, are not an evil.
Prices outpace incomes
Welfare payments and low wages are not keeping up with the cost of living. For millions of Australians, living standards are in decline, families are increasingly turning to charities to survive. The rise in electricity prices, water, medicines, insurance, rent, etc, leave people with little to purchases other goods and services.
The growth in the economy over recent years has been sustained by the mining boom. Very little of this flowed on to the rest of Australia. With mining fortunes in decline, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP – a measure of national income) fell by 0.4 percent in real terms (taking into account price inflation) in the September quarter.
The RBA stepped in with another cut in interest rates, bringing the official rate down to 3 percent from 4.25 percent a year ago. This is good news for home buyers. But it is a sign of how seriously the RBA views the economic situation. Its main aim is to stimulate a sagging economy and counter the impact of the government’s contractionary measures. It also hoped it would result in a decline in the value of the Australian dollar which is hurting exports, but so far has been unsuccessful in that regard.
In its mid-financial year budget review, the government categorically stated: “The budget is returning to surplus as promised, with surpluses growing over the forward estimates. A surplus is appropriate given our strong economic fundamentals and an economy returning to trend growth.”
The government was forecasting a real GDP growth of four percent this financial year (2012-13). Those forecasts were made less than two months ago. They were pie in the sky then, and are still pie in the sky now.
With real GDP in decline, the government last week changed its tune, saying the budget surplus for 2012-13 is dependent on economic conditions. A dose of pragmatism has crept in. Backbenchers and opinion polls indicate there is a limit to how much can be cut without crucifying Labor’s electoral prospects. Watch this space after the elections. If Labor wins it will blame worsening global conditions. If Abbott wins, the Liberals will blame Labor!
Either way savage cuts are on the agenda unless the trade unions and community can exert adequate pressure on Canberra.
GST set to rise
As previously warned in The Guardian, the GST is set to rise. The Liberal state governments, employer organisations and mass media are demanding the GST take be increased, either by extending it to cover all goods and services or for it to rise from 10 to 15 or 20 percent. At present certain goods and services are exempt, including education, childcare, medical and health services, fresh food and religious services.
The total GST take in 2010-11 was $48 billion which went to state and territory governments. If the exemptions were removed, then according to Australian Taxation Office calculations, it would bring in close to another $15 billion. (See Guardian #1553, 27-06-2012)
As pointed out in that Guardian article, “The extension of the GST to all goods and services would cost the equivalent of around $660 for every woman, man and child in Australia. This extra would have to be paid by pensioners, the unemployed as well as by those in employment.”
If increased to 20 percent, the additional cost would be more than $2,000 per person per annum, with a disproportionate amount falling on working class families.
A simple increase to 15 percent, would provide another $24 billion. The states would use this to cut business taxes. The federal government would pull back on its contributions to health, education, etc. Little benefit would flow to social services. Living standards would fall. More businesses go bust as people are short of money.
We will be told the increase in GST is needed to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme, new dental scheme and education reforms. That’s rubbish. Just cut military spending, abolish the $5 billion plus private health insurance rebate and raise the tax on corporate profits and there will be money left over.
The neo-liberal aim is to wind back income taxes (on profits or personal) and increase reliance on the GST for government income. The GST is a regressive tax. It lets the corporate sector off the hook totally. The rich and the poorest of the poor all pay the same rate in the dollar on their purchases of goods and services. What’s more, those on lower incomes pay the tax on a higher percentage of their income.
It is a highly inequitable tax and should be repealed. The company tax rate and marginal tax rate on higher personal incomes should be increased to fund government services. Australia needs a progressive taxation system where the rich and corporate sector pay at a higher rate in the dollar. Not cuts to social security, health, TAFE and universities.
At the same time, employers are on the offensive, backed by Coalition governments, to reduce or remove penalty rates. Low wage workers are dependent on penalty rates. Penalty rates were won by workers with the aim of imposing a penalty on employers, and providing workers with compensation for the impact working unsocial hours has on health, family and social life.
The ACTU has come out strongly against the stripping of penalty rates at a Senate Inquiry into a bill from independent Senator Nick Xenophon to exempt small businesses (less than 20 workers) from penalty rates.
Both the government and Opposition have refused to take a strong stand in defence of penalty rates. Instead, they say it should be left to the “independent umpire”, the Fair Work Commission! This is a cowardly, political cop out, to avoid admitting they do not oppose a reduction in or the abolition of penalty rates.
This will be an important issue for the trade union movement in 2013, along with the struggle for job security and against an increase in the GST. It will be a big year for trade unions, a decisive year in which trade union rights, workplace safety and wages are under attack.
The union movement cannot do this alone. The building of alliances with community groups – also under attack – will be critical. The federal elections provide an opportunity for trade unions, the Greens, Communist and other left and progressive organisations to campaign and stand candidates of their own on pro-people policies.
As previously pointed out in The Guardian: “People want secure well paid jobs, hospitals, schools, public transport, public housing, affordable childcare, they want lower electricity prices. They want aged care now, mental health and disability services now, dental services now. They want free tertiary education and training with income support. They are concerned about climate change, the treatment of asylum seekers and Indigenous Australians.” (#1571, 31-10-2012)
These are not impossible or unaffordable goals, but they will not be delivered by either major party. A new type of pro-people, pro-planet, government is required to do that. Let’s make that a priority in 2013.
02. EDITORIAL – Time to end Australia’s national disgrace
The Gillard government’s treatment of asylum seekers now places it clearly in breach of UN human rights conventions.
This year the government returned 511 asylum seekers to Sri Lanka, most of them involuntarily. It described them as “economic refugees”, i.e. people who emigrate to improve their standard of living, not to escape persecution. This false categorisation is a pretext for enforced repatriation. The desire for a better standard of living in no way invalidates a claim to refugee status, which according to the UN refugee convention is based on a valid fear of persecution in one’s country of origin.
Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority has suffered persecution since the 26-year civil war ended three years ago. The Gillard government has told Sri Lanka it should “take action to reduce and eliminate all cases of abuse, torture and mistreatment by police and security forces” and “all cases of abduction and disappearances”. Nevertheless, on November 30 the government forcibly repatriated 35 Tamils, who were immediately imprisoned in Sri Lanka’s notorious Negombo Jail.
The Tamils are not the only victims. Plenty of Sinhalese have fallen foul of the Sri Lankan government and have a justifiable fear of persecution. Despite this, the Gillard government has forcibly returned both Tamils and Sinhalese, after conducting extremely brief interviews with asylum seekers, who are “screened out” if they admit that their motivation for coming to Australia included improving their economic circumstances. According to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, interviewees were only asked: “Why did you come here?” Peter Vardos, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship declared openly: “Those we returned … were all about the fact that once they arrive they will be able to go into the community and work and then send the money back.”
Interviewed in Negombo jail last week after a savage beating, a forcibly repatriated Tamil said he had told immigration authorities he had been previously jailed in Sri Lanka because he had campaigned for the Tamil National Alliance. However, this information was ignored. He said: “ I had only one interview. … They had already decided to send us back. They didn’t do proper research, they didn’t care about my circumstances, or even look at my documents, they were not honest in their assessment”.
This appears to be a clear breach of the UN refugee convention. A UN High Commissioner for Refugees spokesperson commented: “The current procedures raise troubling questions as to both fairness and accuracy, which we have raised with the Australian government”.
The practice has now come under legal challenge. Last Thursday the government suddenly reversed a decision to forcibly repatriate 56 Sri Lankans. According to Refugee Action Coalition representative Ian Rintoul, the government did so rather than face a High Court hearing into their cases, and “the government … has virtually admitted that it cannot defend the way in which screening out decisions are made”.
The government has also banned asylum seekers who are processed on shore and released into the community from working. Its spiteful non-employment policies blatantly contravene the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, (drafted by former Labor leader HV “Doc” Evatt), which nominates access to employment as a fundamental human right. The Declaration also prohibits discrimination against people because of their political opinion, or their national or social origin. However, the right to employment is now being denied to Sri Lankan asylum seekers, a group of people clearly identifiable under these criteria.
The government has also canvassed asylum seeker support organisations as to whether the employment prohibitions are sufficiently prohibitive to prevent more asylum seekers in transit countries from undertaking boat voyages. According to one organisation: “They’ve been casting around for ways in which to make life in Australia more uncomfortable (and) frightening …(It’s) verging on persecution”.
The government has made highly creditable decisions with regard to other matters such as cigarette packaging and the Disability Insurance Scheme. However, its asylum seeker policies are a total failure and a national disgrace.
It is time for the government to end this tragic farce and abandon mandatory detention, offshore processing, employment prohibition and all the other evil asylum seeker policies which are threatening to extinguish Labor’s feebly flickering “light on the hill”.
03. NT Aboriginal Elder calls for repeal of “Stronger Futures”
Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney (STICS) held a forum last week to mark the United Nations’ Human Rights Day. Speakers reflected on the 20 year anniversary of Paul Keating’s famous “Redfern Speech”, which recognised the horrific impact of colonisation on Aboriginal people.
The forum at the Tom Mann Theatre in Surry Hills, followed the release of a comprehensive evaluation of the income management system which provides clear evidence of ongoing and systematic discrimination against Aboriginal people.
Rosalie Kunoth-Monks OAM, a senior Aboriginal Elder from the Utopia homelands in Central Australia, addressed the forum, demanding the repeal of “Stronger Futures” legislation. These laws continue the imposition of the Northern Territory Intervention for a further ten years.
Mrs Kunoth-Monks says that the NT Intervention is a return to the colonial-style policies Keating spoke against, and has done enormous damage to her community.
“What this is about is our survival. We have been traumatised by the NT Intervention. The decision to continue with these policies under ‘Stronger Futures’ for a further ten years must be … reversed.
“The government says they want to ‘normalise’ us. Well the sooner they free us from discrimination, the sooner our lives can go back to normal. We need to live on our own terms and with strength in our own customary practices. This must include a return to structures of governance in the outback that put our people in full control.
“What does it say about our government when they receive a report on income management which shows clearly that it is discriminatory and yet they are willing to carry on? I feel such pain for our young people, like my grand-daughter, who like calves branded with an iron have been singled out as second class citizens when are trying to find their place in the world and build a bright future,” concluded Mrs Kunoth-Monks.
Jeff McMullen, a veteran journalist and Chief Executive Officer (Honorary) of the Ian Thorpe Fountain for Youth also addressed the forum. Mr McMullen has worked extensively with Aboriginal communities living under the Intervention:
“We raise our voices in Redfern 20 years after Paul Keating challenged Australians to look at the damage done by discrimination. The anniversary of that honest healing speech should compel all of us to examine our government’s enormous hypocrisy and double standards in caging Aboriginal people as second class citizens not worthy of the same rights or protection under law. The ‘Stronger Futures’ laws mean an Aboriginal child born in 2007 will spend their first 15 years officially being singled out for discrimination endured by no other group in Australia”, said Mr McMullen.
Paddy Gibson from STICS said:“The legitimacy of the Intervention is in tatters. The evaluation report on income management showed two thirds of Aboriginal people feel discriminated against and three quarters feel the system is unfair.
“The government’s own statistics show suicide rates, Aboriginal incarceration, alcohol fuelled violence and unemployment have all markedly increased since 2007. Plans for an expansion of income management have hit a brick wall of opposition, including union bans on implementation that have stopped any referrals for compulsory income management here in NSW.
“Efforts by Aboriginal people in the NT to resist the Intervention, and its extension under the so-called ‘Stronger Futures’, require urgent support from across Australia. This is a defining human rights issue for our times,” concluded Mr Gibson.
04. Murky debate misses real issue
The dying days of the last parliamentary sitting for 2012 were consumed by one of the murkiest and dirtiest slanging matches on record. Accusations flew back and forth about the Prime Minister’s actions as a junior lawyer with the firm Slater and Gordon in the 1990s. Did she set up the slush fund for Australian Workers’ Union officials? Did her boyfriend live in a house purchased with money from the slush fund? Did Julia Gillard know what the slush fund was going to be used for? How often did she stay in the house? Was her signature on this or that document? And so on and so on.
And while Opposition deputy leader, Julie Bishop, focused on smearing the name of the Prime Minister, the most important questions were not being asked. The real crime was not being exposed. Why were employers funding the re-election campaigns of trade union officials? What did they expect to get back in return for paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars? Whose side were these union officials on?
The media and politicians ignored the apparent purpose of the AWU Workplace Reform Association fund, a vehicle for bosses to ensure a compliant and co-operative AWU leadership. This is the real crime. The comprised (perceived or real) leadership, the sell-out of union members whose interests the union should be putting first.
The real target of any attack should have been on employers and right-wing trade union officials in their pay. What other funds were paid? Who received them?
Funds to support election campaigns are common in trade unions. In some unions, officials on the same ticket make regular weekly contributions to a re-election fund. They use this money to support their ticket in election campaigns.
But when the bosses pour hundreds of thousands into a fund, that is a very different matter, it has a stench of corruption about it, or what is known as company unionism.
The Financial Review is scathing in its attack on the union. “It goes to the heart of the lawless nature of the union side of the industrial relations club”, the editorial of November 26, says. It is not alone in making such claims. Nor is it alone in linking this “lawlessness” to other examples the “lawless nature of this club”, meaning trade unions. Not a word is said about the actions of the companies.
It is critical of community pickets, of “sweetheart deals” with employers and “the unsavoury saga with of the Health Services Union”. The aim is to give the impression that all trade unions are corrupt and beyond the law.
The headline of the editorial spelt out its intentions: “Lawless unions must be made accountable.” Employer groups are waging a concerted campaign to clamp down on trade unions, restrict their use of funds, and the AWU slush fund is being used as a vehicle to promote their agenda.
Never mind the corrupt, lawless corporations that shut unions out of workplaces, kill and injure workers, don’t pay workers their entitlements or make secret contributions to slush funds.
The union movement certainly has some work to do to ensure its independence and accountability to members, but that is not what the big end of town has in mind with its attack on “lawless unions”.
05. The passing of a great comrade and a good bloke
Rex Munn passed away on November 21 after a bravely fought battle with cancer. He was 84. A memorial service was held at the historic Waterside Workers Federation (WWF) Hall in Port Adelaide, a location that featured prominently in Rex’s eventful life. Around 500 people defied the heat of the day the following week to pay homage to the memory of a larger than life local character. The tributes from family and friends were a lesson in good, honest working class politics and in life. After the function, more than one younger person was heard to say “where did he get the time to do all that?”.
Rex was an exemplar of a tough and resourceful generation. He built two of the family’s homes, kept chooks, grew fruit and veg and was a home brewer of note. He raised a family and barracked for the local Tea Tree Gully Football Club. He worked on the Port Adelaide waterfront from the age of 23. That’s already a full life for many people but that was just part of it and, if anything, it just kept getting busier following his retirement in 1987. By that stage he was vigilance officer for his union.
The motto “retired from the workforce but not from the struggle” fitted Rex like a glove. He was active in the MUA Retired Veterans Association, the May Day Collective (a recipient of its annual “Spanner Award”), the Port Adelaide chapter of the National Trust, the Asbestos Advisory Committee, SA Unions Community Action Group, Fair Go for Pensioners and a volunteer at Port Adelaide’s Maritime Museum. He was a member of the Port Branch of the Communist Party of Australia.
From the heart
Rex brought something irreplaceable to all his commitments. He had a mighty voice. Everybody said you could hear Rex coming before you ever saw him. He was a skilled orator and a brilliant singer. If he led off the customary singing of the Internationale you could be sure it would be a rousing chorus that would lift your spirits. He was leader of WWF’s entertainment committee in the 1950s and performed in the South Australian New Theatre production of Reedy River.
Rex was the archetypal wharfie yarn teller. Guardian journalist Anna Pha, who accompanied him as part of the Australian contingent of a study tour to Bulgaria, recalls how Rex would have his comrades in stitches night after night during the students’ rest time. It was six weeks before Rex needed to repeat a joke! But this flair for entertaining had an extra element – a humanism and warmth that came from struggle by the battlers of this world against those who would bully them.
ABC Radio host Peter Goers (who interviewed Rex more than once on his nightly program) alluded to this in his contribution at Rex’s funeral. “He was always glad to see you and he made you feel better about yourself. He was just a bloody good bloke.” State Premier Jay Weatherill also spoke, stressing the positive, constructive relationship he always had with Rex and the Communist Party in SA. Rex exuded a pride in the collective achievements of his comrades in his union and the Party. He would recall with emotion the fact that local CPA Branches supported a full-time functionary, the late Jim Moss, and once raffled a new Holden car in that cause.
Two great loves
MUA state secretary Jamie Newlyn spent a lot of time discussing union activities with Rex. Jamie recalls Rex would always greet him with a “how goes it in the struggle?” and leave him with “gotta get home to my darling”. These were the two great loves of his life – his union and his second wife, long-time Party member Marcia Munn.
The MUA interviewed Rex late in his life and a video of part of that record can be seen at vimeo.com/54420179
Rex loved his union and the history of struggle on the waterfront. The Maritime Museum once hosted an event at which Rex played the part of the “bull” – the stevedores’ hated recruiters of body-hire labour in the days before the WWF began to assert itself. It was an awe-inspiring performance. Rex and Marcia were invited to local schools to pass on the people’s history of Port Adelaide. He brought to life the days of back-breaking work among filthy, dangerous cargoes and long, lean weeks on strike. Rex’ enthusiasm for this history means we have a rich record of our past from the worker’s point of view.
We are rapidly losing the generation that links us to those pivotal episodes in the history of class struggle in Australia – the effective organisation of workers under the legendary Communist leaderships like the WWF’s “Big Jim” Healey and the Seamen’s Union’s Elliot V Elliot. The size of the debt we owe them was there for all to see at Rex’ send-off at the Wharfies’ Hall. Their hearts were big and so were their boots that we now need to fill.
State Labor member for Florey, Frances Bedford, recalled Rex in a speech to Parliament last week. She said that his memory, like the MUA, is “here to stay”. She noted he was the “beloved husband of Marcia, and the loved father and stepfather of Norma, Michael, Janet, Mary, Ruth, Jane, David (deceased), Sally and May. He was the treasured poppa and grandpa of Michelle, Kirstin, Damien, Stacey (deceased), Benjamin, Joseph, Tara, Jenna, Chloe, Marcia, Rick, Jennifer, Michael, Paul, Carl, Rachael, Meagan, Thai and Nantale, and he was cherished by his great-grandchildren.”
06. Basic needs left wanting for 20% of people with MS
According to a new study, nearly one in five Australians with multiple sclerosis (MS) struggle to have essential home modifications and equipment, like wheelchairs, shower rails and ramps, which are needed for basic living. For nearly half of them, it is due to their lack of funds to purchase or install them.
This is one of the key findings in the National MS Needs Analysis 2012 launched by MS Research Australia December 3, International Day of People with a Disability.
Key points for interview
The analysis thought to be the largest ever conducted in Australia surveyed nearly 2,900 people with MS
It found that one in five people with MS are battling without essential aids and equipment – in 50 percent due to lack of financial assistance
This has led MS Australia to call on the federal government to urgently commit to future funding of the National Disability Insurance Scheme to ensure basic needs are met for those living with a disability
Living with MS often results in reduced income and reliance on support pensions, making the purchasing of essential aids and equipment prohibitive
NSW case study
Fiona Hall, 58 of Newtown feels like she is wearing a “cloak of invisibility” as a person living with a disability. Having lived with multiple sclerosis for 32 years Fiona has learnt how to navigate an exceptionally difficult and tedious government system in order to have some of her basic living needs met. However, after all this time she still finds it too hard to get a wheelchair or a portable scooter – equipment which would enable her to go to dinner with friends and see art exhibitions (one of her passions).
She says the drama of applying for a wheelchair is so difficult that she has placed it in the “too hard basket” and believes that the only way you get things done is to be hospitalised so the system is forced into giving you the things you need.
Due to her MS Fiona can’t work and is on a pension so paying for basic things like a shower chair are extremely difficult. Recently when her current (non-portable) scooter failed she had to rent a replacement scooter on her credit card, as she simply couldn’t leave the house without it. Such debt adds enormous strain to people like Fiona who already have immense pressure.
She is passionate about the need for an NDIS and is very articulate.
For more information visit
07. Industry land grab will reignite forest wars
NSW Nature Conservation Council CEO Pepe Clarke told a state parliamentary inquiry last week that the forest industry’s calls for access to more than a million hectares of national park for logging would trigger a powerful community backlash.
“Native forests in this state are being cut down faster than they can regrow, which is causing significant loss of biodiversity and a deterioration of water quality in catchments where logging occurs,’’ Mr Clarke said.
“The state government has tolerated these impacts simply to prop up an industry that by its own admission is supplying a dwindling market for low-value woodchip exports.
“Now the NSW Forest Products Association wants to widen the destructive impacts of its industry by opening our much-loved national parks to logging.”
A national poll in 2010 found that 90 percent of people supported protection of high-conservation-value forests in national parks, while 77 percent supported an end to native forest logging.
“If loggers were allowed in, it may well reignite the bitter forest wars of the 1980s,’’ Mr Clarke said. “The environment movement in NSW calls on the government to publicly reject these ambit claims from the logging industry and guarantee that our national parks will not be opened to logging.’’
Mr Clarke said the forestry industry had been managed unsustainably in NSW for decades.
Native forests are being logged at a financial loss and taxpayers, through Forests NSW, are effectively subsidising the native logging industry at the expense of the plantation sector.
“The FPA’s proposal to remove one million hectares from the reserve estate is an ambit claim that will not provide certainty for industry and will reignite conflict in regional communities,’’ he said.
not Gasland (Part 2)
Not just a Nimby issue
In a recent CSG mining joint report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOM) and Colorado University, they found that certain gas fields were “losing about 4% of their gas to the atmosphere not including additional losses in the pipeline and distribution system”.
CSG is a methane gas and is a significant contributor to greenhouse emissions. The Australian government’s Department of Climate Change and Energy states, “Methane is currently responsible for almost one-fifth of the enhanced greenhouse effect, second only to carbon dioxide. However, methane has a warming potential more than 20 times greater than carbon dioxide on a volume basis”.
Not just a Nimby issue
This is not a case of whingeing Gippsland farmers saying “Not in my backyard”. Setting aside the obvious impact on metropolitan food supplies, we now have the dangerous situation where CSG exploration is taking place in the catchment areas of the two main dams supplying water to Sydney. Licences for CSG exploration have been granted in the Woronora and Warragamba dam catchment areas. Apex Energy’s exploration lease covers Sydney’s catchment and it hopes to drill 150 to 200 wells. Apex Ormil has commenced drilling in the Warragamba catchment supplying 80% of Sydney’s water. All life revolves around water and yet we are playing Russian roulette with this vital resource on the driest continent on earth.
We have been greatly inspired by the community fight back against CSG mining, firstly in Queensland, then NSW, and now here in Victoria.
Because the media is controlled by a privileged few, there has been very little exposure of the massive interstate community demonstrations, arrests and blockades against CSG mining. Go on the web to YouTube, type in “NO CSG” and see it for yourself. How many of you would be aware that two squads of riot police turned up outside the Gunneda Hall NSW during a CSG meeting? The anti-CSG rallies in Lismore, Fullerton, Perth, Kyogle, Newcastle, Byron Bay, Perth, Casino, Jondarayen west of Toowoomba? I could go on!
In October last year, following a huge community campaign against CSG mining in the Otway’s region of Victoria, the company ECI International surrendered their exploration permit. To quote the Greens Senator Richard Di Natale, “Local residents were very vocal in their opposition to CSG mining in this area and this outcome demonstrates the power of a united community”. This is the second time a CSG permit for Western Victoria has been surrendered following local opposition.
If you know South Gippsland, you will know a pretty little town, Tarwin Lower, a pub and an adjacent store on the way to Venus Bay. On a bitterly cold winter Sunday morning two months ago, more than 150 farmers, environmentalists and concerned citizens crammed into the local hall to oppose CSG mining. Similar meetings have been held at Wonthaggi, Leongatha, Inverloch, Bunyip and Mirboo North. Again. I could list other places!
This is the reason the local Liberal Bass MP Ken Smith (Speaker of the House) has had to come out against CSG mining. This is why all candidates in the local government elections throughout South Gippsland have had to come out against CSG mining in their pitch to voters. The Deputy Premier, Peter Ryan, faces a huge CSG backlash in his Gippsland electorate and been forced to direct the “window dressing” on fracking and the use of some chemicals.
So what is our alternative?
Communities want all CSG exploration and mining to cease until there has at least been a transparent, independent and comprehensive investigation into the likely effects of this industry on:
pollution of underground and surface water resources
the many side-effects on adjoining farmland and food security
dislocation of local communities and including economic impacts
adverse effects on biodiversity and resulting greenhouse emissions
adverse effects on tourism and, in particular, tourism based on our natural environment
designation of areas that should be exempt from exploration as they have been identified as significant in terms of the environment, agriculture or tourism.
We further require that all state and federal governments allocate sufficient resources to build and develop alternate, renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind in preference to CSG and other polluting energy sources.
So if you think that this matter will not affect you, think again. This is not the fight of our lives, this is the fight for our lives!
You can help even if you live in the city
Contact your state and federal MPs, and local government councillors have been very supportive.
Get on the web and search for “Lock the Gate”, that is a coalition of farmers and community groups preventing mining companies from coming onto properties to explore and drill for CSG. They have regular updates on activities across Australia.
Buy an “Anti CSG” core flute placard and fit it on your front gate. You are in good company: actor Nicole Kidman and singer Keith Urban have their no CSG placard on the front gate of their $6.5 million Southern Highlands country retreat.
Take a free DVD which we have available and it goes into more detail on the issues raised today. It is copyright-free, so pass it on.
See last week’s Guardian (December 5) for part 1.
09. Compact will deliver for traditional owners
A new Social Compact to support Aboriginal traditional owners in the Gladstone region during negotiations around projects on Aboriginal land is an important step in closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, the Maritime Union (MUA) of Australia says.
The compact is between the Gureng Gureng peoples and 17 Queensland unions. MUA assistant national secretary, Ian Bray, said the agreement was crucial to ensuring Aboriginal people got their share of Queensland’s $50 billion mining and minerals processing industries.
“This social compact agreement is historic because it puts reality-based concrete steps behind good intentions,” Mr Bray said.
“The framework of an agreement will mean that project and wage negotiations will pave the way for a further closing the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander peoples, who are the traditional owners of the economic resources, and the rest of the community.
“It will also mean unions are partners with the Gureng Gureng when it comes to future development agreements.
“This agreement strengthens and builds on the role the MUA has always been proud to play in the advancement of social justice.”
Rio Tinto Alcan Yarwun alumina refinery situated ten kilometres north-west of Gladstone
10. World Premiere of Yagan-Noongar Warrior
On a balmy evening at the Burswood Open Air Theatre not far from the banks of the Swan Riveror Beeliar, the world premiere of the movie Yagan, was screened before a packed audience of Noongar and non-Noongar people. The story of Yagan, the son of Wadjuk tribal leader Midgegooroo is a deeply intriguing and inspirational yet sad tale of an Aboriginal peoples’ attempts to fight for land rights and resist subjugation by the invading white English colonialists as they established the Swan River colony in the first four years following the arrival of Captain James Stirling in 1829. (Whadjuks is a tribe of the Noongar people of the South West of Western Australia)
The film is neither solely a documentary nor a dramatised account of Yagan’s struggle with the colonists but a moving tale of the many twists and turns spanning over 160 years from his first encounter with the white people to his murder and the repatriation of his remains from England and final burial in his ancestral lands.
The writer and director of the film, Kelrick Martin, made the film in various parts of Yagan’s traditional lands along the Swan River plains using local actors including Noongar-Yamitji man Clarence Ryan who played the lead of Yagan. There is an element of authenticity in using the slim athletic Ryan as the lead as the Noongar people of the time enjoyed a healthy diet which had none of the calories and fat of the foods which the white man brought with them.
The film is also the story of outstanding Noongar elder and activist for his people, Ken Colbung, who as a soldier in the Australian army in the 1950s started his search for the remains of Yagan which had ended up in a house in England after his death in 1833.
The recounting of the story of Yagan which begins a year after the founding of the colony when the Noongar people noticed not only that these people weren’t going to leave but that they had begun to appropriate their best hunting and gathering lands, and to run fences through, clear, till and plant crops on their land.
As a consequence of their land being appropriated they discover that the crops planted by the white invaders are also edible and proceed to help themselves to their potatoes and other crops. As a consequence the servant of one of these white settlers decides in December 1831 to ambush and shoot dead one of a group of Noongar people who were taking potatoes from his master’s garden.
Shortly afterwards a band of Noongar led by Yagan and his father Midgegooroo returned and besieged the house and eventually they kill a different servant of the settler, based on the Noongar law of payback. This is when if one life is taken then balance is restored through the offering or killing of someone from that group of people who had killed one of their kin. Yagan and his party killed two other servants of the settler Archibald Butler and the colonial authorities placed a bounty on his head of 20 pounds which was close to a year’s wages for most inhabitants of the colony.
Yagan was eventually captured and brought in to the authorities and was about to be executed when an unusual man (for the time) Robert Lyon, suggested that he be treated as a prisoner of war as Yagan and Midgegooroo were not bandits but chiefs who were resisting the over-running of their land.
Robert Lyon convinces the colonial authorities to allow him to take the three men including Yagan to Carnac Island, a treeless uninhabited place a short distance off the coast south of Fremantle for six weeks to convert them to Christianity and in return learn a bit about their customs and language. Lyon had hoped to use the three men as ambassadors of the Noongar people who would then be able to tour the colony to give an insight into their customs and ways to the colonialists. However, his goals are cut short when Yagan and the other two men become homesick for their country and awaken early one morning and commandeer the one boat on the island and return to the mainland.
However, relations between Noongars and settlers continue to worsen and Yagan’s administration of Noongar law causes such concern that the bounty is lifted to 30 pounds.
Yagan eventually meets an undeserved and cowardly end at a location along the Swan River, near Upper Swan, through the opportunistic actions of a couple of young shepherds, William and James Keats, who were known to and were friends with Yagan.
William shoots Yagan dead while he is not looking and is himself speared while the other who has not been speared runs off and escapes. A passing settler observes the body of Yagan and aware of the significant bounty on the head of the warrior, cuts the head from the body and attempts to claim the reward. The body is to this day not located.
However, many in the colony are not only fearful of reprisals but appalled by the actions of the two youths which are reported in the Perth Gazette as, “a wild and treacherous act; and not the heroic and courageous deed which some unthinkingly have designated it.” (Perth Gazette 20 July 1833)
Thereafter the movie follows the story of the attempts to locate and repatriate the head of Yagan in 1997, from a cemetery near Liverpool and the final burial in 2010, at the location near where he was murdered 177 years ago.
The poignant telling of the story of Yagan is the first major film project (he has been making documentaries for 12 years) of director Kelrick Martin, a man of Aboriginal descent from the Broome area of Western Australia and his company Spearpoint Productions. Following the community screening of the film the writer was able to interview the director about the project.
Richard Titelius: When filming Yagan, little or no attempt was made to obscure the contemporary references to the city of Perth and surrounds. What was the intention of shooting the scenes from the movie about Yagan’s life with the backdrop of the skyscrapers of Perth, tractors in the Swan Valley and fully clothed Aboriginal extras?
Kelrick Martin: In making the movie I wanted to do something contemporary. It is not relevant today to make a movie about Noongar history without reference to where Noongar people are located within their contemporary situation. Their culture is a living breathing thing that is still here. One is still walking through the Whadjuk Noongar country but with Western Civilisation added to it. There is a continued connection to Noongar territory.
The story of Yagan and the ability to tell the story through film is a victory for Noongar people and Aboriginal people around Australia general as Yagan was trying to resist white invasion of their land. The way that the film was made was to draw a connection between the past and the present.
RT: Did you seek permission from or consent from Noongar elders to undertake the making of the film and what was their reaction to the making of the film?
The film uses a Noongar narrator and a white narrator to bring the story together. Why did you decide to use an Aboriginal and a non Aboriginal storyteller?
KM: The use of Richard Wilkes was an obvious choice as he was a direct descendant of Yagan’s father Midgegooroo and was also one of the original group of Noongar elders who went over to London in 1997 to recover Yagan’s skull.
It was important to have cultural experts to oversee the project and one of the major groups involved was the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council who were also involved in the successful native title claim over the South West in 2006, which included the Perth metropolitan area.
The white historian used for the narration between the black and white history of the story of Yagan was Neville Green – a no brainer for his extensive knowledge of the race relations at the time. The scenes of the narration take place at a table outside the Fremantle Roundhouse – a site of significance to Noongar people as it was one of the first jails used in the Perth colony.
RT: At the premiere of the movie at the Burswood Open Air Theatre, you said the identity of the Noongar people was bound up in the story of Yagan. Why do you believe the story of the life of Yagan is such a powerful story?
KM: I was drawn to Yagan’s attitude and approach in regard to the arrival of white settlement and his struggle at the time to be recognised and heard which resonates with the way that Noongar people today continue with their struggle to be heard and recognised.
There are many Noongar people today, including a lot of young people who think they know Yagan but do not know about some parts of his story such as the relationship between the Scottish settler Robert Lyon and Yagan who gives Yagan a reprieve at the time of an early capture. The telling of the film also attempts to search for the “emotional truth” of what happened at the time – what people felt and believed and not just a historical or recorded truth. The legend of Yagan the chief and warrior as the “Wallace of the Age” in reference to the 13th Century patriot can often serve to defeat the truth. Telling the story of Yagan through the film allows Noongars and non-Noongars to more easily connect with Yagan, the man of flesh and blood, and of his strengths and weaknesses.
RT: What makes Yagan’s story different from other Aboriginal stories such as Jandamurra from the Kimberley region and Rabbit Proof Fence of the Pilbara?
KM: In making the film about Yagan I wanted to do justice to the Noongar people and not tell a story that was an ill fit of the story of who he was and what he did.
In a way it was intimidating to me as a director to write and direct this movie – to not just shoot a few bush scenes which would in a sense be a static and lifeless representation of the person. I sought to make a film – part re-enactment, part documentary which would allow people to connect with Yagan while also making it more contemporary.
RT: Has there been interest locally, nationally and internationally to have the film screened publicly … in particular in the Noongar area of the South West?
KM: The movie was commissioned for the ABC which also invested funds in the project with the view to including it on their programming schedule. I have been in discussions with the ABC following the recent completion of the movie with the view to screening it in June/July 2013, which would be the 180th anniversary of the death of Yagan.
However, while there are no local film distributions planned it was important to have a community screening to ensure Noongar ownership and acceptance of the film – which after the warm reception and the large turnout at the Premiere, has been achieved.
I have entered the film into the international festival circuit and will see what happens.
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