Monday, 30 August 2010

Tweet your way to the top - as recorded by Twitter Grader

Has tweeting become an elite sport/vocation/business off-shoot?  My blogging mate in South Africa, Steve Hayes of Notes from Undergound and Khanya,  has hat tipped me on to Twitter Grader.  

You can find out the best from the city in which you live, the country in which you live.  That old Pro Blogger himself, Darren Rowse, is only coming second in Oz and in Melbourne.  Takes the cake on followers but not on numerical tweets.  Only so many hours in a day, I guess!  And there's no prize for guessing the occupations of the majority of these high rollers, either!  They are in businesses which demand that they be self-promoters and top tweeters!

I am, you are, we are Australian - and Bob Katter is too

I bet the Katter family get sick of it. I know I do.  As a long time resident of the seat of Kennedy and someone who stood twice against Bob Katter Senior in that seat, I know how often people ask about the ethnicity of the Katters.

To-day I have visits to the this blog from people seeking just that information.  Someone wanted to know if Bob Katter was Aboriginal.  No.  Another asked his "ethnicity".  I have heard all sorts of suggestions in the past.

So let's settle it right here - hopefully (but I guess not) forever.  The Katters are of Lebanese extraction.  I will give you a couple of firm bases for this.  Firstly, this newspaper article.  The other is a local history program I heard on Radio National two or three years ago.

It was one of those programs one could hear on a Saturday afternoon - but the ABC does a few history programs so I can't recall the name of this one.  It's major informant seemed to be Richard Anthony, a well known figure in Charters Towers.  He mentions the Katters in that program.

You see, there was this marvellous extended Lebanese family.  Richard described how his grandmother/aunts/mother used to cook for them all.  It was a charming piece of little-known history.  So - let me say it clearly - the Katters are Lebanese.  No, they are not Aboriginal.  No, they are not Syrian. No they are not descended from Afghan cameleers.

But all this was a few generations ago.  The immersion of the Katters and their relatives in northern and western Queensland has been steep and deep.  They are real identities, real locals there.  They are - as we all are who voted on 21 August 2010 - Australian.

Let's not count the difference - albeit we may have political ones.  Let's just rejoice in the fact that Australian soil absorbs us all and turns each of us into something unique - if we let it.

Australian Government: shall we auction it on E-Bay or is it already in the hands of a two-up school?

Networkers, in case you think my proposal  (which you will find here) to give all elected representatives an open Parliamentary forum, without a vote, to discuss how they see Parliament operating, look at what is happening now.

The Nationals are now nagging Abbott for what they want if the Coalition sits on the government benches.

With all that is going on, we might as well put Parliament on the ebay and sell out to the highest and most convenient bidder.

At least Adam Bandt has been clear.  Wilkie is becoming clearer.  Crook, almost certainly, will not support Labor.  So that much is clear.  The three country independents were/are full of good intentions - but the constant media coverage of their doings and thinkings was bound to get up the nose of some and turn others green with envy at all that gratuitous publicity.

Why then can we not hear from one and all 
of those elected to the Australian Parliament 
in a dignified and coherent manner in a legitimate forum?

Australia and the way we are governed risks being brought into disrepute - as if we can roll a dice here, seek some undertakings there, get to the bureaucratic briefing bottom of things and it will all turn out OK.

The situation is beginning to look like a parliamentary two-up game - but I don't think this game is going to favour either the house or the spectators.  The players are have an all-in while the pennies could be weighted and the kip skew-iff - and all in the hands of a dodgy tosser.

Confessions of a lapsed Queenslander - with an Akubra

Miss Eagle at a Plug the Pipe rally last year
on the steps of Victoria's Parliament
wearing her Akubra

Hats - particularly the Akubra
are in the news these days because of the current prominence of Bob Katter.

and the unique condition of being a lapsed Queenslander
- particularly one who has grown up in the Bjelke-Petersen era.

might have been something like growing up in 
Louisiana under Huey Long.

In Queensland, I always felt that the National Party
interfered with the information flow -
prevented new ideas coming in
(Women's Shelters were part of a Marxist plot
and Fred Hollows got kicked out for allegedly spreading Marxism)
and stopped new ideas getting out.

So many of us  were and are open to fresh thinking.

Queensland has changed - but not all that much.
Aboriginal-Settler relations are not wonderful.
but the stridency of bush politics hasn't.
Political corruption is still alive and well
and is not confined to the National Party.

I am glad to be away from Queensland politics -
particularly the racist overtones and ignorance one finds
across party lines.
It is good to know that a Labor Party can be elected -
even if I dislike some of its actions and antics.

I don't see myself ever living in Queensland again -
but if I do it will be only for family and/or the climate.
Melbourne is great. I suppose the climate has to be
dreadful to stop everyone from wanting to live here.

Aboriginal Australians at the United Nations #1 : Loss of Rights - the despair of Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory

Right click on document to get print and download options
Please note this post is the first in a series of 4.  Please read them all.

Aboriginal Australians at the United Nations #2 : Loss of Rights - the despair of Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory

Please note this post is the second in a series of 4.  Please read them all.


‘concerned Australians’ welcomes the report from the UN Committee  on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

The report calls for numerous changes to the way Australia deals with ‘entrenched discrimination’.  One Committee Member, Patrick Thornberry, referred to, “structurally embedded discrimination in the way the Aboriginal intervention was being handled in the Northern Territory.”

The report calls for the full reinstatement of the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) in the Northern Territory in a manner which ensures that the Act will “prevail over all other legislation which may be discriminatory on the grounds set out in the Convention”.

Aboriginal Australians at the United Nations #3 : Loss of Rights - the despair of Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory - Relevant links

Please note this post is the third in a series of 4.  Please read them all.

Submission to CERD "Loss of Rights" by ‘concerned Australians’

Graeme Innes AM
Race Discrimination Commissioner
Australian Human Rights Commission speaking before CERD 11 Aug

Aboriginal Australians at the United Nations #4 : Loss of Rights - Response of CERD (Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination)

Please note this post is the fourth in a series of 4.  Please read them all.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

A quick response from Mike Symon MP, Member for Deakin: a vote well worth casting

I wrote to Mike Symon, the member for Deakin - and my local MP - a couple of days ago, about my little hobby horse on which I have already posted here.  

This morning, in an email marked 9.10am, I have received a reply.  How about that for speed from your local MP!  Not only did I receive a speedy reply.  I received a reply in which his own opinion was expressed - not ambiguous, bob each way, mealy mouthed wording.  No!  I received a reply expressing a point of view intelligently and intelligibly.  Thanks, Mike.  I know I did the right thing in voting for you.  

Now, while I take Mike's point, I am not sure I altogether agree with him.  I am a sort of "where there is a will there is a way" girl.  And - because there is no vote in the situation I am asking for - I don't think there is much in the way of breaching of the constitution. And I am only asking for it when results are known - so it could be held as first cab off the rank after the opening of Parliament.  The letter is published below.

Trouble at mill, it seems - the Wonthaggi Water Desalination mill

The wisdom and knowledge (or lack of both?) behind the Brumby Governmen'ts management of water resources is in question once again.  My own view is that Brumby and his mob fell for the great desal sell.  The government is still a boys club in the main and boys like techy toys.  What better techy toy than the fifth biggest desalination plant in the world?  And for signing up I am sure we will find there are post-politics benefits for the major political and bureaucratic players?  After all, if the Brumby government can put a representative of a major water industry player on to a State Government water authority i.e. Coliban Water, things can always work the other way around, don't you think?

Trouble is Brumby and the mob can't tell good advice when they see it. They are blinkered to polls and trying to obtain the least level of reaction among the voters.  Certainly they did not want to listen to the bright sparks of Watershed Victoria, the Basscoast Boardriders Club, and Clean Ocean Foundation.  And they didn't even want to take notice of their very own environmental information.

Alas, poor taxpayers?
That  drink of water will cost you more -
when it need not!

Join the campaign to bring the Victorian Water Act into the 21st Century

Environment Victoria and
the Environment Defenders
Office invite you to...
The launch of Environment Victoria’s report 

The Victorian Water Act has been around since the 1880s and provides secure water supplies for agriculture and for our towns and cities. But it doesn’t provide the same security for the state’s rivers and groundwater, which have become stressed and degraded. 

Come and hear about our recommendation to improve the Act to provide greater security and reliability for environmental water, so that we can rescue our rivers and return them to health.

Hear from Environment Victoria and EDO about why reform of the Act is necessary and the
changes we propose to provide a legal basis for protecting river health. 

The report will be launched by
at Melbourne University.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010, 5.45pm for 6.00–7.30pm

Meeting Room, 60L Green Building, 60 Leicester St, Carlton

Admission free, refreshments provided

RSVP to Juliet Le Feuvre, 
Environment Victoria Healthy Rivers Campaign Manager,

Friday, 27 August 2010

Emperor Abbott has an option of his own: dumb-thumb down for mayhem and malarkey!

I give you a scenario, Networkers.  Tony Abbott is the emperor - clad in white toga, wreath of olive leaves and all.  There he is sitting above the arena.  The mob are all around.  The gladiators are doing what it is that gladiators need to do down in the arena.  

Abbott the emperor has to make a decision - 
thumb up, thumb down.

I am beginning to suspect that Abbot will give a dumb-thumb down decision.  
  • I don't think the Liberals want an inclusive, warm and fuzzy model of government.  
  • I don't think the Liberals are into information sharing.  
  • I certainly don't think the Liberals want consensus government.
You see there is another little-covered option in the hung parliament situation.  This is the option of game wrecker, mayhem maker.  

At this stage, I hold the view that Abbott and his Liberals are certainly leaning to - if not actually have chosen - the option of wreckage.  This means that unless the Liberals have a clear shot at government - and we know that if they get that now, then it will only be held until 1 July 2011 - they will make all the trouble that is needed to get Australians back to the polls.  

In  short, it is likely that Abbot & Co have chosen destabilization even at this stage.  If this is the case, then it could equal Gough Whitlam's concept of "crash through or crash" in zest, hubris, and bloody-mindedness.

Hat Tip to that well-seasoned campaigner Richard Farmer over at political owl for directions to this Economist article, When the hat doesn't fit.

The article concludes:
Australia now faces an unstable, raucous and barren politics—“like two dogs barking”, as one of the independents put it. Sometimes countries get along just fine without a strong central government. But the states in federal Australia have increasingly seen the centre sap their power on issues such as health care. Moreover, Australia needs sooner or later to address several vital areas of policy.
One is climate change, where the majority’s wish for a bill is being blocked by the minority (including Mr Abbott). Another is immigration, where a debate about the economy’s need for skills and its capacity for a “big Australia” is obscured by scaremongering about refugees on boats. And a third is economics, where Australia needs to work out how to tax its abundant resources and deploy the revenues to build infrastructure and human capital in the rest of the economy.
Sadly, the politicians are not tackling these questions, and voters are duly unimpressed. Australia can muddle through for a bit. But unless its politicians take off their hats and get to work within the next 12 months, another poll beckons.

Ah, so.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Paris, Water - and kicking out the corporates

Among water campaigners, there has been much ooh-ing and aah-ing since the Mayor of Paris announced on June 2, 2008 the re-municipalization of water in that city.  On 1 January 2010, water once again became municipal responsibility in Paris.  Suez and Veolia, each massive French-originating international water and wastewater corporations, would go.  The newly elected Paris city council believes it can offer both a better service and a better price.  

Remunicipalization is not new in the towns and cities of France.  In fact, there is a concerted rebuff of their own French corporations in putting water - a human right and a public good - back into the hands of elected representatives. Anne le Strat in her article Paris: local authorities regain control of water management explains the situation.  If your French is fluent, you may like to flick across to You Tube for two interviews with le Strat.

Here in Victoria our ALP government has had strong contacts with Suez and Veolia.  In fact, a subsidiary of Veolia, until last year ran Melbourne's trains.  As for Suez, they are building and will run as part of a consortium called Aquasure a desalination plant near Wonthaggi.  It will be the fifth largest in the world.  Australia's relationship with these two corporations does not extend back as far a France's.  They have had about 150 years of Suez and Veolia experience and we are just beginning.  'Tis a pity that we don't learn from the experiences of others, don't you think?

In Victoria, our water is not yet in the hands of the water corporations.  Our water boards are, however, corporatised and ready to go very quickly should the government so decide. The government is the No. 1 & Only shareholder of these corporations and does not table balance sheets in the Victorian Parliament.  

In fact, for one water board, the government is allowing a major corporation, namely Veolia, an inside run.  You see a Veolia executive, David Beard, sits on the board of Coliban Water.  How easy would it be, do you think, for this person to make a professional assessment of current government thinking and future government directions for water?  How easy would it be, do you think, for this person to push his company's views and offerings up the pipeline to government?

Clearly the Brumby Government in Victoria couldn't give a fig for being seen to be accountable and transparent and keeping more than an arm's distance away from corporates with vested interests in getting the government's attention and its contracts.  And I see no elected representative - not the Liberal Party; not the Greens; not the Independent, Craig Ingram; not the Democratic Labor Party - holding the Australian Labor Party and Coliban Water to account in this matter.  Veolia has done business in the past with Coliban.  It is likely to do so in the future.  As I said, an inside run if ever I saw one.  And if water and waste-water contracting was a horse race, can you guess which horse would be the likely bet?

Related reading
¡Cochabamba!: Water War in Bolivia

Water Supply and Sanitation in Bolivia: 2000 Cochabamba Protests, Water Supply and Sanitation in Bolivia

Water Privatization: Private Sector, Water Supply, Sanitation, Privatization, Water Resources, Public Services, Public Ownership, Water Privatisation in England, 2000 Cochabamba Protests

Further reading

Paris takes back public control of their water services from Veolia and Suez-Lyonnaise des Eaux!

Indigenous languages in education and the attacks on Australian languages and culture

7.30pm 9 September 2010, Charles Darwin University
PHONE:  Phil Gasgow - 08 8931 3133

Languages other than English do not travel well in Australia.  Most support comes from people who have migrated to this country from elsewhere who gain recognition for their native languages through the curriculum.  In short, there are migrant communities who work to continue their native languages in a foreign land.  If you are an Australian who wants to learn French, German, Indonesian etc., this can depend upon where you live and the status of the high school you attend.  

But you would think we might take better care of Australian languages - wouldn't you?  We don't.  It has amazed me that whitefellas go to the Northern Territory to live and yet don't bother to explore the local Aboriginal language.  Yet I am quite certain that should the same people go to live for a year or two in Rome, Italy they would try to pick up, at the very least, a basic working knowledge of Italian!

Just as the migrant communities work to sustain their languages, so Aboriginal communities in the NT work, amidst controversy, to sustain their languages.  It was considered groundbreaking when bi-lingual education came into practice for Aboriginal students.  The topic of indigenous languages in the school room is, many years on, still controversial.  

I ask Networkers, particularly those of Celtic origin, to recall the intrinsic connection between language and culture.  I also ask that people consider what happens to language under the conqueror.  Scotland, Wales, and Ireland suffered greatly under the English policies of eradication of Gaelic in these countries.  Nationalist movements have revived Irish, Welsh, and Scottish languages - but this is not an easy task and much is lost, not only in language but in culture.

Do we want such language eradication to occur in Australia?  Over 250 Aboriginal languages were spoken in Australia prior to white settlement.  See here for details.  This number has dropped to 145 with 110 of those regarded as endangered.  Needless to say, more remote Aboriginal communities are more likely to have a vibrant language culture.  More details here.  

Please click on "Read more" below which will jump to extensive details of speakers and topics.  Particularly interesting, is the precis of  what Joseph Lo Bianco will have to say.

Why can only the country independents critique our democracy? Why can't we hear from the rest?

How do we keep our democracy alive, well and in ship-shape fashion to serve the people of Australia and the generations ahead in the best possible way?  Democracy has altered across the centuries.  Influential barons of one sort or another have bullied kings and sovereigns of one sort or another.  Civil and international wars have wrought havoc and resulted in something more progressive than human slaughter arising from the ashes.  Democracy is very much like a garden - it needs tending.  It needs to be nourished and nurtured.  Some wise pruning is required from time to time.  And certainly strong and creeping weeds need to be kept out.

I write this because I am concerned that there are only a handful of people currently critiquing our democracy.  There are the three country independents (CIs), the Green Adam Bandt, and Andrew Wilkie.  Well, Andrew Wilkie is a maybe at this stage.  He certainly does not favour the bloc behaviour of the CIs.  It has only just become clear that he will win the seat of Denison and he gives every appearance of keeping his powder dry at the moment.

Now, let me be clear.  I have no objection to the CIs or any other independent or quasi-independent maximising their opportunities for their electorates in the shadow of a hung Parliament.  I think this is a responsible course of action.

As part of the wider electorate whom the members of the House of Representatives and the Senators of the Senate purport to serve, we should be considering our situation too.  We made our judgment for good or ill last Saturday.   We have given a result which requires grave consideration and  a bit of working through.  Part of the working through is discussion about the state of our democracy.  But I ask you, Networkers, have you considered who is doing the talking?

Predominantly, we have heard from the CIs.  The Greens air their views.  Members of the Australian Labor Party, the Liberal Party of Australia, and the National Party of Australia (give or take the West Australians where The Nationals claim to be an autonomous body not connected to to the NPA) appear constrained from speaking out.

There are people in the Senate who could speak - but we aren't hearing from them.  They have freedom to speak - but, if they are commenting intelligently, I don't hear them.  I am thinking particularly of Senator Nick Xenophon - a true independent from South Australia - and Senator Steve Fielding who represents Family First but is their only member in the Australian Parliament.  So I would really like to hear the views of Senators Xenophon and Fielding on the state of our nation and our democracy.

So I have a proposal, Networkers.  I have, in the last 24 hours, emailed various members and Senators with the letter below.  It outlines what I propose.  I am publishing it in the hope that people might use it as a basis or a starting point for devising and writing their own letters to the politicians they wish to influence.  I hope you agree with the sentiment expressed and I would appreciate your comments.  I am particularly interested in hearing from you if you think you can improve on my idea.  But do keep it simple.

I write to express concern that only a few people are passing comment on the state of our nation and its democracy.  My view is that all elected representatives ought to have the opportunity to express their views on our system of government and how it might serve us better.
To this end, my suggestion is that when the ballot is declared by the AEC, the Prime Minister – either Gillard in caretaker mode – or whoever is Prime Minister in his or her own right – should convene Parliament for a debate on the state of our nation and our democracy.  This debate could be along lines similar to a conscience vote debate with one exception – no vote at the end.  People from all sides of politics could be given the opportunity to operate as Acting Speaker.  There would be some additional very clear rules:  no name calling; no blame gaming; no axe grinding.
I want to hear from all our elected representatives.  I want an intelligent all inclusive debate.  What a good start to the Parliamentary term, in the Reps and in the Senate, that might be.
I hope you can give the suggestion some consideration and, if you are in agreement, find a way to promote the idea to a wider audience.

It's up to you, Networkers.  The ball is in your court.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010


Tony Windsor, Rob Oakeshott, Bob Katter Jr
From here.

The trio - the cup, the saucer and the plate - have cup up with a degustation menu of seven courses which menu has now been released for public savour.  Here 'tis

Requests for information


Clearly, Jason Wood learned one life lesson very, very well.  That is the lesson of Robert the Bruce, the cave and the spider: if at first you don't succeed try, try, and try again!

Networkers who come here regularly will know what I am talking about: Jason (and his helpers) repeatedly attempting to hand out political propaganda on the Belgrave Line and being continually rebuffed and called to order by Metro rail staff. You will find relevant posts here, here, and here.

There has been much interest in these posts - even post-election.  I don't know if Jason, his staff, his helpers, or his party ever visited, but if they had seen the last link they will have seen the regulation which Jason and his helpers had breached.

Now it appears that Jason is a serial offender and one is left to conclude that he is dumb or considers himself above and beyond the law.


I have received this email to-day from Alex from the Melbourne Anti-Intervention Collective.  
Alex is apologetic that his missive is not more extensively researched and says 
that this represents his'preliminary investigations' into Bob Katter 
and his views on the NT Intervention. 

So, it appears that Bob Katter is actually against the NT Intervention
Historically, he is 'pro self-determination' in a self-responsibility kinda way. He is also against privatisation in regional areas, for market failure purposes. These two ideologies clash to some extent i.e. how can you take control of your own life, if you are starved of basic services?
Katter is regarded as being a progressive advocate when he was Aboriginal Affairs minister. At a press conference yesterday, Katter told reporters to find the two books in which he is mentioned in the university reading guides from when he was Aboriginal Affairs Minister in Queensland in the 80s. 
Basically, he is saying that he is prepared to fight for his ideas. 
What does this all mean? Hard to say. 
Two of the Independents are now on record as being against the Intervention (I'd guess that Wilkie is likely to be against it too). 
It will only matter if we can get the NT Intervention onto the national agenda as a racist policy that needs to be stopped NOW. Which is why continuing the grassroots activism is the most useful thing we can do. 
And joining me now from Cairns is the Federal MP for Kennedy, Bob Katter. 

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