2007-05-31

Australia to rush to U.S. side in its war on the world

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by Neil Godfrey

One has become painfully used to Australian governments being the first to rush to the side of their favourite major power — once the UK, now the US — whenever it decides to declare yet another imperialist war in defiance of international opinion.

And Australia’s foremost rightwing propaganda machine, the IPA, has taxed its imagination to the limit by borrowing wholesale its culture wars and anti-environmental arguments from the U.S. neocons — see Quarterly Essay discussion

So why be surprised to wake up this morning to read how the US has invited to its side in the upcoming international greenhouse emissions summit one of the smallest greenhouse gas emitters, Australia. The news story is here.

We know Howard’s record on climate change — his silencing of CSIRO scientists, and his total focus on being an agent for the coal and nuclear industries — read Scorcher, The Dirty Politics of Climate Change, by Clive Hamilton — so can there be any doubt that Bush needs Australia to prove he’s “not alone” in his anti-world position at the upcoming summit. Only yesterday I was listening to the rationale for this summit where it was explained it was to consist of the “leading” greenhouse gas emitters! So Bush wants Howard to hold his hand there! The world can get stuffed so long as they help out their oil, coal and nuclear godfather buddies.


2007-05-29

Report from Donna Mulhearn on the Pine Gap Trial

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by Neil Godfrey

Dear friends

Tuesday: Today the trial proceedings finally began (after a colourful procession to court with banners and singing) with some house-keeping, including an attempt by the Crown Prosecutor, Mr Hilton Dembo, to place us under house arrest!

Needless to say we argued back – and we won! He also argued that we not be permitted to be anywhere within 2kms within Pine Gap, (meaning we could not attend our planned demonstrations there on the weekend). We argued back that we had a right to political protest, and we won!

The only other piece of colour today in the usually serious courtroom came from the judge and crown prosecutor. The sun-tanned, silver-haired, gowned and wigged Mr Dembo who a few months ago declared: “what is civil disobedience anyway?” is starting to fit well into a caricature of a bombastic, cranky prosecutor.

He requested that a Australian Federal Police officer be seated next to him at the bar table when the trial begins so that he could assist with exhibits. And, he added: “to be a buffer between myself and the defendants….not that I am scared of them…”

Without missing a beat, the usually poker-faced judge, Justice Sally Thomas commented:

“Perhaps they should be scared of you!”

Meanwhile today, successful solidarity events were held all over Australia to mark the start of the trial. Thank you everyone for your support and thoughts and prayers – we are off to a great start!

Tomorrow we have jury selection at 10am, and after that the prosecution opens its case and the trial proper begins.

Here’s how the media reported today’s events:

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,21815635-1702,00.html

http://www.smh.com.au/news/National/Pine-Gap-protesters-gather-in-Brisbane/2007/05/29/1180205216633.html

http://www.melbourne.indymedia.org/news/2007/05/145591.php

http://sydney.indymedia.org.au/node/51062

Have a listen to late night live with Philip Adams on Radio National on Wednesday night

And this analysis from Crikey.com yesterday:

15. Pine Gap protestors facing the long, cold arm of the law

Greg Barns writes:

Tomorrow, in the Northern Territory Supreme Court, Pine Gap military base protesters go on trial. Nothing unusual in that — the US Australian military facility has long been a focal point for discontent, and the Alice Springs courts regularly process defendants charged with trespass, assault and other petty crime charges. And nearly all of these cases are dealt with a slap on the wrist for the protestors, or at worst, a fine.

But Bryan Law, Donna Mulhearn, Adele Goldie, and James Dowling, who are appearing in the Alice Springs court tomorrow, fac e jail terms because on 9 December, 2005, they managed to gain access to Pine Gap by cutting a fence, climbing onto the roof of a building and taking photographs of the facility.

This quartet of activists self-described as “Christian Pacificists” say they wanted to conduct a citizens’ inspection of Pine Gap. They, like many Australians, are opposed to the war in Iraq, and believe that Australian participation in the Iraq war has made this country more vulnerable to a terrorist attack.

But their short and harmless foray into the Pine Gap has been taken very seriously by the Howard Government and its law enforcement agencies. No easy ride through the Alice Springs Magistrates Court for this lot. Instead, the Commonwealth ha s dusted off a 1952 law, passed by the Menzies government at the height of the Cold War, and called the Defence Powers (Special Undertakings) Act 1952. Breach this Act and you can face jail terms of up to seven years.

This is the law which allowed the Menzies government to keep from public view vast tracts of South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory where nuclear tests, including the infamous Maralinga tests, were carried out. It hasn’t been used by the Commonwealth for years. In fact, according to some academic reports, this is the first time anyone has been prosecuted under this law — a remarkable fact given it has been around for 55 years and there have been literally hundreds of Pine Gap protests.

But then, Philip Rud dock is the most aggressive attorney-general this country has seen in years. As he showed when he was immigration minister, he’s prepared to use the full legislative arsenal at his disposal to enforce government policy, even if the law in question is obscure and of questionable validity in this day and age.

The importance of this case in the context of a civil liberties and human rights is evidenced by the fact that high-profile Melbourne barrister and former Federal Court judge Ron Merkel is heading the legal team for the activists.

Many Australians might not agree with direct action protest of the type undertaken by these four activists, but there’s a larger issue in this case. Should governments be using draconian Cold War laws on the citizenry of Australia almost 20 years after the Berlin Wall came down?

More news and pics soon!

We’re excited!

from

pilgrim Donna


2007-04-26

Gallipoli and the Armenian Genocide

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by Neil Godfrey

ABC’s RN had the good sense to play a repeat of a Hindsight program on Anzac Day — a lecture by Robert Manne disussing the direct link between Gallipoli and the Armenian Genocide. It’s talks like these that remind me why I’m an internationalist, not a nationalist.

No transcript or podcast of the talk, but in the same month as the original broadcast Manne had an article based on the talk published in The Monthly.

Continue reading “Gallipoli and the Armenian Genocide”


2007-04-25

Why I always have misgivings every ANZAC Day

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by Neil Godfrey

My childhood memories of school Anzac services are still very strong. I have never forgotten the grim tones of dark-suited men standing beside canon and soldier-statues in the park opposite our school warn us of the horrors of war. Their message was “Lest We Forget” but what was not to be forgotten was the horror of the battles that had brought us together that day.

It is not the same today. Or maybe my childhood experience or memory was limited. Today the government invests huge budgets in funding Anzac memorial services. The message is “Lest We Forget” but there has been a slight detour of direction. Today we are admonished never to forget the sacrifices that bought us our freedoms. Today, the message is that war is a necessary sacrifice to maintain our freedoms. In this way Anzac Day is used to justify with political spin the government’s current wars.

Anzac Day is being used to perpetuate and even increase national lies. No-one died at Gallipoli to protect our freedoms. No-one died in Vietnam to protect our way of life either. Wars have mostly been part of imperial ventures, not desperate acts to save our nation.

Is this also why there is so much emphasis now on “character”, “mateship”, “heroism”? Is this focus meant to ameliorate the horror of the reality? To justify war as an everpresent necessary act of government policy?

I can’t think of a better time than Anzac Day to ask Why our governments sent anyone to their murderous deaths and maimings. That, of course, would be sacriligious in today’s climate. But it would also surely do a lot more for reminding the nation to put a break on their government’s war policies whitewashed by their political spin.

Beside the wreaths and medals on the monuments, let’s start to place images of severed limbs and heads with their brains and eyesockets falling out and bring out for “show” some living victims from the less public institutions. “Lest We Forget”.


2007-04-05

Easter Bunny Must Die to Save the Soul of Oz

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by Neil Godfrey

must die to save

Once again farmer and conservationist lobbies are coming together to try to persuade Australians to scapegoat the easter bunny and worship, buy and eat instead our endangered bilby in its place. The bilby represents, I suspect, a deeply hidden part of the Aussie psyche — what we like to think of as our “unique character”. Not inappropriate, given the possible scapegoat origins of the Christ-myth.

After all, the rabbit is an unwelcome foreigner import that undermines and destroys the livelihood of the “good” foreigners we have brought in — sheep, cattle. Not unlike the attitudes towards unwelcome foreign human counterparts who too many of us see as undermining the way of life of us, the “good” white English speaking imports.

And the bilby is obviously the perfect symbol of our national soul — endangered, fragile, in need of drastic measures if it is to survive — and the main enemy is of course that rabbit pest. We once introduced diseases to the aboriginals, gave it to them in blanket and food gifts — just as we carefully handled the rabbits to give them mixemitosis in hopes of eradicating the lot. Didn’t work in either case. Now the aboriginals have been somewhat redeemed as part of our decorative fauna for tourists and image promotion (— let’s not trouble ourselves that their life expectancy is still 17 years less than the whites’).

What a coincidence all this has against a backdrop of a cultural and political war against the unwelcome foreigners, the Asians, especially the Moslem kind. Africans are okay so long as they are expat whites from the Southern parts of that continent or Sudanese who are on the right religious side (catholic) of the war there.

I feel ashamed of “patriotism” when political leaders are able to so easily able to whip up racist fears among so many compatriots and instil in them such a rabid fear that the “unique character” of Australians is under threat. Enter the bilby symbol.

For more on the bilby check out:
http://www.abc.net.au/science/scribblygum/april2006/

For more links scroll down here.

No no, I’m not against conserving the bilby. Just find it of interest the way national attitudes to bigger issues subliminally find expression through our attitude towards animals — like kangaroos, cane toads, cockroaches, sharks, koalas, wallabies, dingoes, brumbies, rabbits and bilbies.

An interesting read is Adrian Franklin’s Animal Nation: the true story of animals and Australia. Not that he discusses the easter bilby, but the message from this sociologist is nonetheless interesting.


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2007-01-19

My little radio spiel March 2003

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by Neil Godfrey

I gave the following little spiel on ABC’s Bush Telegraph Country Viewpoint radio segment back at the start of the 2003 Iraq war. It looks much better on the good version — ABC’s online site here.

My son decided to join the army at time of the East Timor troubles when people were coming out into the streets begging our government to send our armed forces over there. My son saw service in the army as something to be proud of, an honourable duty. He now faces the prospect of going as part of a conquering force to Iraq instead of joining the liberation force in East Timor. How will he look back on his experience there? If he dies or is maimed there, what will have been the point of that?

I will support my son and hope for his safe return of course, but I have been doing all in my power, and will continue to do all I can, to oppose this war in Iraq. All the advice of our intelligence and foreign affairs experts is that this war is only going to make us less safe from terrorism. Why do Bush and Howard reject the advice of their experts?

In Toowoomba I have been involved with hundreds of others here in public rallies and last weekend more than a dozen of us stood in the rain as part of a worldwide candlelight vigil for peace. At every one of those rallies two things have been stressed; that Saddam has to be dealt with, and our argument is not with our troops and they must always be supported. So why does Howard continue to misrepresent our case accusing us of being naive about Saddam and betrayers of our troops?

Most of the world can see clearly that this war is not a last resort to justify what will inevitably mean the slaughter of thousands of innocents, and no clear case has been made for Saddam being a threat to us. The inspectors were, even if slowly, making progress. It seemed to me it was Bush who was the one not cooperating with the inspectors since he kept saying he would not tell the inspectors all he knew about where the illegal weapons sites were.

I’d rather pay extra taxes to keep pressure on Saddam than see my son come back in a body bag or to have him live with memories of butchery of conquered civilians and soldiers alike, with Australia’s place in the world being less secure than ever before.


2007-01-06

Australian folk culture hijacked or exposed?

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by Neil Godfrey

Okay, there’s almost certainly no one Australian “folk culture”. But I came away from Woodford disturbed after hearing one of Australia’s most popular folk singers, John Williamson, call on “true blue aussies” to stand up for the environment and to take on the chin insults that will surely follow, insults like being called “green” or “red”! John Williamson included a song in which he heartily extolled the pride of a bush worker killing off animal pests. I was reminded of Adrian Franklin’s “Animal Nation” (interviewed on Late Night Live March last year) where current public hostility to immigrants, the other, is reflected in our policies and attitudes towards the “non-native” wildlife.

But why should the word “green” be sung as an insult against those wanting to protect wildlife? Aren’t the Greens doing probably more than anyone at the moment to protect Australia’s heritage? And why is “red” also an insult to one widely seen as carrying on the 19th century mateship and working class values I thought had been extolled by the likes of Peter Lawlor and the Eureka Stockade, Henry Lawson, Banjo Patterson, C.J. Dennis? Weren’t a good portion of the returning diggers from World War 1 proud to be “red”? Wasn’t the government (the troopers) so scared of their “redness” that they quickly resettled them all over the scattered lands to prevent them from posing a serious threat in numbers in the cities?

Then it hit me slowly like a freight train in a nightmare slow motion. This most popular of Australian singers was leading thousands to take great pride in their “Australian-ness” — but it was a non-thinking bigotted Australian-ness — the type of which I have come to be ashamed. It is the type that votes for a man who smashes Australian values and undoes 150 years of Australian history and struggle by telling the willfully blind sheep that he is “the working man’s best friend”; — but does he totally smash our values or does he expose them?

Weren’t the Lawson’s also racial bigots? Didn’t the mateship of the gold fields come with a generous serving of racial vilification that eventually entrenched right up to recent times the White Australia Policy?

Were our historical “reds” also our rednecks?

Greens go beyond nationalism and are presenting a broader world humanist philosophy. Is that too much for little people who cannot even say “sorry”?

John Williamson also sang of aborigines. But I was not sure if he was singing of them as part of the “beautiful” Australian landscape. I listened in vain for a hint of a “sorry” amidst the strains of tough and hard beauty.

Maybe all that has changed is that where once it was the Left that was the political mouthpiece of “aussie values” — now it is the Right that has become their expression — nothing has changed except the custodians. Yes?


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2006-11-21

Against Paranoid Nationalism: Searching for Hope in a Shrinking Society / Ghassan Hage (Pluto Press, 2003) Review

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by Neil Godfrey

This was the first book I read by an Australian Lebanese academic and I found its discussion of fundamentalism and suicide terrorism most informative. It opened my eyes to seeing how our own Australian nationalism can be seen by non-westerners as just as fundamentalist as any other kind: Continue reading “Against Paranoid Nationalism: Searching for Hope in a Shrinking Society / Ghassan Hage (Pluto Press, 2003) Review”


Australia’s blackest sporting moments: the top 100 / Stephen Hagan. (Ngalga Warralu, 2006) Review

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by Neil Godfrey

Caveat: I am one of 14 contributors to this book. Anti-caveat: I receive no remuneration whatever from this book!

Compiler and commentator academic and aboriginal activist Stephen Hagan is highly controversial, especially in his (and my) hometown Toowoomba which the Bulletin once reported was voted the most rednecked town in Australia. Toowoomba has been the centre of his years-old campaign to have the name “Nigger” removed from a local sporting stadium, a campaign that has taken him to the Australian High Court and even to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Hagan wrote of these experiences as part of his biography in “The N Word” which won a Deadly Award for Outstanding Achievement in Literature at the Sydney Opera House in 2005. With this background one might expect this new book to be a list of the sins of the whites, but Hagan with engaging honesty confronts the racism found among both the blacks and whites on Australia’s iconic sporting fields. Continue reading “Australia’s blackest sporting moments: the top 100 / Stephen Hagan. (Ngalga Warralu, 2006) Review”