Monday, 27 February 2012

Are Victoria Police and #MSM involved in a cover-up?

As Networkers may or may not be aware, I am moving house from Melbourne to regional Victoria.  This involves quite a few trips up and down the Western Freeway between Melbourne and Ballarat.  Late on Saturday afternooon, I was on the road heading for Melbourne when I was delayed - along with hundreds of Victorians at the Bacchus Marsh Parkway exit. Towtrucks, ambulances, and every conceivable style, colour, and logo of police vehicle, marked and unmarked.

We were all good little Australian citizens.  Patient. Not causing any bother. Not asking any questions until a few souls started to wander down towards the scene after we had been parked on the Freeway for quite a long boring time.  The traffic heading for Ballarat was unimpeded.

Those of us involved provided interesting people watching experience.  Some time before being forced to stop, a Thrifty rental bus went whizzing past.  On the back window was a banner declaring Bridal Shower.  Eventually, the young women in the bus must have been getting a bit stiff from sitting still and poured out of the bus in all their bridal shower finery.  The fellow in the vehicle in the lane beside me laid back and had a good snooze.  I spoke to two women in the car in front of me.  They were on their way to a social in Melbourne.

After about 45 minutes, some individuals started to wander towards the crash scene.  I asked one of these returning individuals what he had been able to find out.  He told me that a police vehicle had emerged from the trees beside the Freeway and collided with five motor bike riders.  Well, I thought, that would certainly explain the huge presence of police cars, ambulances, and tow trucks!

Eventually, after an hour or more, we were on the move.  Police were diverting us, so the grapevine said, back to Ballan where people could wait for the road to be cleared.  We were steered by police across a gravel path between the up and down lanes of the Freeway where police had halted the Melbourne to Ballarat traffic so that we could proceed on this U-turn of all U-turns.

I decided I had had enough and returned to Ballarat.  Most of the traffic appeared to head for Myrniong rather than Ballan - so I assume that these people were intent on getting to Melbourne and would see the delay out in Myrniong and wait for the road to clear.

My daughter came up the Freeway from Melbourne a couple of hours later and reported that there were still a lot of people at the scene.

Needless to say, I was curious to hear or read an official and accurate report of the accident that had involved not only me but hundreds of other Victorians.  There has been a deafening silence.  So I went to the Facebook site of the Ballarat newspaper, The Courier.  You can read, dear Networkers, the conversation going on there.  You will see that I was directed to the Harley Davidson Forum - the Poker Run thread.

In the absence of objective mainstream media reports, I have no alternative but to agree with this post from the HD Forum - Poker Run thread.  I find the matter odd.  But, then again, perhaps it's not so odd!

If you have any further information or comment or enlightenment, you have three courses of action open to you, Networkers:

  1. Use the comments section on this post
  2. Go to The Courier Facebook site and leave your comment/information there.
  3. Go to the HD Forum - Poker Run thread and leave your comment/information there.
Postcript added at 12.59pm 2012-02-27
Have now discovered this on line.  It throws more light on the topic.  Certainly the photograph does not reflect the reality and drama of the situation. 

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Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Wayne Swan's words of wisdom

Some days ago, I called for an Ash Wednesday fast with a difference.  Oh well, that didn't get take up at all and, in fact, things got markedly worse when Kevin Rudd did his dummy spit and resignation from the Foreign Minister's role to-night in New York just in time for the early evening news bulletins in Australia ... and this has meant that I - and many others - have been fluttering and twittering for the last few hours.

However, in amongst all the mountains of verbage that have been broadcast, tweeted, phoned, emailed to-night has come the statement below from Wayne Swan.  Swanny does not grandstand.  He is not given to frills, flounces, and florid language.  He is in the mould of old time Labor leaders ... he even referenced Ted Theodore in Question Time recently.  When people don't grandstand, don't air their views regularly (as Miss Eagle does) we tend to value the moments when they do speak seriously, we do put store by their words.  I think this is the case with Swanny's statement to-night.  Make up your own minds.  I have lifted it from the Sydney Morning Herald.

Prime Minister Gillard and I and the overwhelming majority of our colleagues have been applying our Labor values to the policy challenges in front of us and we’re succeeding despite tremendous political obstacles. 
For the sake of the labour movement, the Government and the Australians which it represents, we have refrained from criticism to date. 
However for too long, Kevin Rudd has been putting his own self-interest ahead of the interests of the broader labour movement and the country as a whole, and that needs to stop.
The Party has given Kevin Rudd all the opportunities in the world and he wasted them with his dysfunctional decision making and his deeply demeaning attitude towards other people including our caucus colleagues.  He sought to tear down the 2010 campaign, deliberately risking an Abbott Prime Ministership, and now he undermines the Government at every turn.
He was the Party’s biggest beneficiary then its biggest critic; but never a loyal or selfless example of its values and objectives. 
For the interests of the labour movement and of working people, there is too much at stake in our economy and in the political debate for the interests of the labour movement and working people to be damaged by somebody who does not hold any Labor values. 
Julia has the overwhelming support of our colleagues. She is tough, determined, forward-looking, and has a good Labor heart.  She has a consultative, respectful relationship with caucus while Kevin Rudd demeaned them.  She’s cleaned up a lot of the mess he left her and has established a good, Labor agenda.  She’s delivering major reforms, and getting things done that her predecessor could not.  Colleagues are sick of Kevin Rudd driving the vote down by sabotaging policy announcements and undermining our substantial economic successes. 
The Labor Party is not about a person, it’s about a purpose.  That’s something Prime Minister Gillard has always known in her heart but something Kevin Rudd has never understood.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

A media-polling-betting fast on Ash Wednesday? It could ease the tension in all our lives

''We all know why it was on at that time,'' wrote the London Telegraph's rugby correspondent, Mick Cleary. ''TV, the ogre of the age, the monster that must be obeyed at every turn. As long as there are bums on TV seats, anything is possible or permissible.''

From  Here's to Mug Punters by Greg Baum

How could one disagree with Mick Cleary. He is spot on.  Miss Eagle is a dedicated Rugby League gal and Storm supporter.  Ask Storm supporters what they think of News Limited involvement in their club.  Ask Rugby League supporters how they rank involvement of News Limited in League.  I reckon they'd just say "Rank".  Fortunately, the establishment of the new Australian Rugby League Commission (don't they have a website coz I can't find it?!) appears to have seen off News Limited but the Murdoch corporation is still embedded at Storm. Media and everything connected to it now controls sport whether it be cricket or football.   And, as Greg Baum says - the monster must be obeyed at every turn.

It's not only sport, though, is it Networkers?  Seems to me that the The Media have now taken over politics but does it include as well the political influence that the corporations buy, bribe, co-opt?  It seems to me that The Media are now the true political dictators on the Australia scene.  Hence...

Picture from here

Does Shaun Carney want to give us date and time for the play-off?
Certainly the betting agencies are making up their own minds...

And aiding abetting The Media and The Bettors are The Pollsters.
We turn the process into a headcount of limited numbers.
It seems poll after poll is being done and The Media publishes the results.
Then there are the polls we don't hear of.
These are the ones done for the corporate players to advise 
who will be whom in the forthcoming playoffs which
in turn influences their conversations and donations.

And where is The Australian Voter in all this?
Buried in a mire of manipulation.

Lent is almost upon us.
This is the period of 40 days & 40 nights leading up 
to the greatest feast day in the Christian calendar - Easter.
It is a time of fasting not feasting -
of reflection and going without.

How wonderful it might be if we could shut up
The Media
The Bettors
The Pollsters
for forty days and forty nights
so that we might reflect on what is good for this nation.

Forty days and forty nights is almost certainly asking too much.
However, would it be too much too ask that
on Ash Wednesday, next Wednesday 22 February 2012
The Media
The Bettors
The Pollsters 
keep their traps shut
and that
The Voters
Their Elected Representatives and Senators
actually reflect on what will be most important
for the welfare of Australia and its people.

A political fast!
Feel the tension ease....
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Hawke and Hayden, Rudd and Gillard - the gaining and maintaining of leadership

I never thought I'd say this, but the US impeachment process is looking like a highly desirable political mechanism at the moment.  You see, Networkers,  in the USA the President is elected quite separately from Congress or the Senate and the President can only be turfed out by impeachment.  Impeachment is rare and it has to be for a very good reason.  The Republicans of the time would have loved to do it to Clinton but try as they might - and they used all sorts of horrendous tactics - they couldn't quite get there.

Looks like we have another mechanism for turfing out Prime Ministers in Australia.  Once upon a time the most signally abhorrent thing one could do to an Australian Prime Minister was to kick him out of his own seat at a general election - and that shameful incident has only happened on two occasions in over 100 years.  Sure there are the party room swings and roundabouts but it is doubtful this process has been quite so abhorrent as it is to-day.  And I have to wonder if the Australian electorate is not what it used to be either.

What is happening to Gillard has happened once before in modern times and no one turned a hair.  Gillard's mentor, former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, played the role now played by ex-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. In the role of patsy back in 1983 was Bill Hayden.

Bill had been diligently slugging away ever since the Whitlam dismissal to get the ALP into a winnable position.  There was one election when things looked good. 1980.   Good policies in place.  Party balance restored.  But no.  Fraser still held on albeit with a much reduced majority.   The 1980 election brought Hawke into Parliament - complete with the Field-Marshall's baton in his knapsack.  People had predicted great things for Bob Hawke since he was a child - now, in the eyes of many, the future Prime Minister had entered Parliament.  When would he assume his rightful office?

Then came the election of March 1983.   Things looked very good this time.  All that effort of Bill and the party to bring the ALP into serious contention looked like it was about to pay off.  Government was within grasp.

Hawke, like Rudd, was always a threat. If Hawke wasn't the 'cleverest man in the room' as Rudd is thought to regard himself, then he was - arguably - the most popular man in the room. If many thought that a future Prime Minister had entered Parliament in 1980, it was not only people in the Australian Labor Party - and the business community- who held this view.  So did Malcolm Fraser.

It was clear Fraser's fortunes were declining.  Bill Hayden just might pull it off.  However, Hawk was there anxiously pacing in the wings.  Fraser knew who he would rather fight in a general election.  He didn't want to lose but there was still the possibility that, like last time, Hayden wouldn't quite make it.  If Hawke was Labor leader at an election, there was every likelihood of a Labor win.

Fraser was not the only one to make this assessment. A clutch of significant and influential hard-heads in the ALP believed this to be the case as well.  Fraser not only wanted an election for the House of Representatives.  He wanted a Double Dissolution with the Senate off to election as well.  However, Fraser had to provide grounds for a double dissolution to the Governor-General, Sir Ninian Stephen

As can be seen from this article, there is a difference of opinion on events in Canberra on February 3 1983.  And, Networkers, if like me you believe in a sort of natural universal justice without a human judiciary, February 3 1983 is a stand-out day.

Fraser became Prime Minister in 1975 in, what many regard, a reprehensible act by the then Governor-General, Sir John Kerr. Kerr could have forced Whitlam to a general election.  Instead he sacked the Prime Minister.  He installed the unelected Fraser in the office of Prime Minister and the ALP was forced to campaign without the trappings and assistance of office while the keys to Prime Ministerial wonderland and Government were handed, without benefit of election, to Malcolm Fraser.  And the Australian electorate currently is said to be concerned about the manner in which Gillard came to the office of Prime Minister!

On 3 February 1983, events fell in such a way that it seemed justice had been meted out to Malcolm Fraser and Sir Ninian Stephen had redeemed the good name of the office of Governor-General from the odium brought about by Kerr.  And, as in 1972, it was all a matter of timing.  Stephen had to give due consideration, in a day of scheduled appointments, to Fraser's request for and grounds in justification of a double dissolution election.

That was how it was in Canberra.  Far away in Brisbane, Hayden had had the realities of political life explained to him and what Fraser feared most occurred.  Hawke became Leader of the Opposition in time to fight the 1983 election.  By the time Fraser, got the nod for a double dissolution from Sir Ninian Hawke was Leader of the Opposition.  If Sir Ninian had been able to turn around his decision more quickly, the ALP would have remained, for the time being, under the leadership of Hayden.

Hawke had snatched the leadership of the ALP from the hard-working and diligent Hayden.  The ALP felt somewhat bad about this but regret did not halt the march to political victory.  What did happen though was that Hayden could name his price for the resignation and going quietly.  His price was the office of Governor-General. He assumed this position six years later in 1989.  And the Australian electorate understood the reality and silently consented to all of this.

......this is Part One.  Now go to Part Two.

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Friday, 17 February 2012

Iraq descends into sectarian violence - Shia, Christians, and minorities at risk

The dismaying article below is from Independent Australia and posted at the request of its Contributing Editor-at-Large, Tess Lawrence.


Terrifying violence against Shia Muslims and Christians has escalated rapidly since the departure of US troops from Iraq, says the ‘Bishop of Baghdad’, Rev’d Canon Dr Andrew White.

‘We Have Been Left and We Have Nothing!’

The exclamations of the Christians here in Iraq.
None of us thought there would be any change here after the US troops left. They had not been seen on the streets for two years. We were totally wrong; from the day that the US military left, we were in total disarray. Violence increased as religious sectarianism increased again in force. We could not even enter the Green Zone, as any badges issued by the US were no longer valid — new badges were simply not being issued. Total mayhem politically began with the prime minister issuing a warrant for the arrest of the Vice President Tariq Al Hashami. He was accused of terrorism and, sadly, there was a lot of evidence to suggest this was true.
With this action, great significance was placed on the fact that the Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki was Shia and the Vice President was the most senior Sunni political figure in the country. Terrible sectarian violence targeting the Shia began.
There were also coordinated attacks on the institutions of the state, including on the Foreign Ministry, which is very close to St George’s church. With the arrest warrant for the Sunni Vice President being issued by the Shia Prime Minister, the fragile coalition government is fracturing down sectarian lines and turning violently on itself.
What I most feared would happen is happening. I said all along that it wouldn’t make any difference to us if the Americans leave. I was really wrong.
It is becoming really difficult in Iraq right now. Before, we knew that the US were just around the corner, so we could get them if we needed them, but now they are not there. But we won’t give up, we won’t stop our work and, by God’s grace, we will keep going.
Events in Iraq have escalated in recent days, as the departure of the US troops appears to have sparked a series of attacks and disputes within the divided country. Just one week ago, Barack Obama declared:

“We are leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government elected by its people”.

The reality is swiftly proving to contradict the President’s words.
There have been attempts to ransack both al Hashami’s office and that of al Maliki in recent days. There has even been a car bomb in the supposedly secure Green Zone. The attacks form part of wider and increasing sectarian violence in Iraqi society.
Even as the US troops left Iraq, the fear of the Christians and other minorities has increased.
They say:

“At least before, under the old regime, we were protected — now we have nothing. Those who have set us free from an evil dictator have now left us and we have nothing.”

What is this “nothing”? It is no security, as before the Christians, as a minority, were protected. The evil regime of Saddam was led by man who was not from the Shia majority but a Sunni. When the foreign troops were here, even though we often did not see them, they were not far away and if and when we needed them they were there.
There are times when we ourselves face great danger. Our people have been slaughtered, massacred and murdered, but now we have nobody to turn to. There has been much talk about the security needs of our people. The Iraqi Government has tried to do what it can, but we do not live in a ghetto. The Christians are based all over Iraq, but especially in Baghdad and Nineveh/Mosul. 2,700 years after Jonah, Nineveh is still the place where all Christians come from. So, the Christians and all minorities are less safe than they have ever been.
The problem is far more than security though. Employment is far more limited, not least of all for women. The main industry is now security — and for the educated women Christians, things are more difficult than ever in an increasingly orthodox Islamic state. A state where the rights of women have sadly diminished.
No employment means no money and that means no ability to buy food, pay rent for housing or even posses proper health care. The health care system here in Iraq has seriously collapsed. The hospitals are falling to pieces and many of its leading doctors have been killed, kidnapped or have fled from Iraq.
I may be the leader of a church, but after services each week I also have to give all my 4,000 plus people food for the week. We have had to establish a large clinic with doctors, dentists, a laboratory and specialist units, and also a pharmacy. All treatment is totally free and it is not just restricted to Christians either, but is totally open to all — totally free of charge. In addition to these services, we also have also built a school to provide excellent education to our many children. It is fortunate that we can provide this service for our people, but we did not envisage that, this long after 2003, this would still be necessary. Iraq today is still an insecure place where most of the people have nothing.
Things are difficult for all Iraqis, but for us as minorities it is particularly so. The violence here is known about, terrible, and much of it has come from outside — but now we have another huge problem. It is such a big issue that three years ago we became the top nation in the world in this crime —corruption. Corruption that is so great, we no longer have any idea whom we can trust.
When the Coalition Provisional Authority took control of the nation in 2003, I remember telling one of the diplomatic leaders that we needed to deal with the issue of religion in order to prevent religious sectarian violence. I was told that this was not really an issue in Iraq. First, I was told that water and electricity needed to be dealt with. It was only a few weeks later that this diplomat came to me and said that he could not even deal with water and electricity because religion kept getting in the way.
The "Bishop of Baghdad", Rev'd Canon Dr Andrew White
It was the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, who in the last world war said:

“When religion goes wrong it goes very wrong”.

Sadly, that is what has happened here. Religion here now is not seen as a tranquil means of relating to the Almighty, but a means of fighting for the rights of their own. A fight that sadly often involves violence. The fight that recently arose from Sunni to Shia was just a further symptom of this sectarian violence. If religion is the cause of the violence it must also be the cure. That is the work of the High Council of Religious Leaders in Iraq that we established in 2004.
Many were killed and injured. We, as religious leaders, began an urgent process to try to reduce the sectarian violence. We met in Najaf — the holiest City in the world to the Shia. For the first time ever, we took some of the Sunni religious leaders to Najaf, where we heard first-hand from the Shia religious leaders of their immense fear of the renewed sectarian violence. A few days later, we met with a large number of Sunni leaders in Baghdad. Together, we produced an Islamic Fatwa (injunction) against the Sunni attacking and killing the Shia. Much of diplomatic world still fails to see that this problem or “Religion gone very Wrong” has to be dealt with by religion itself. That is why we are here and what we try and do.
Sadly this radical sectarianism is no longer just restricted to Iraq the so called Arab Spring has greatly increased this risk of this sectarianism in the whole of the region. Will there now be a lot more minorities in the region saying, “We have nothing”?
(The Rev’d Canon Dr Andrew White is Director of the High Council of Religious Leaders in Iraq & Vicar of St Georges Church, Baghdad, Iraq.)


Mentioned in the piece above is a Fatwa. In a separate email to IA contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence in late January, the Reverend Dr discussed the Fatwa – which are often seen as having negative connotations in the West – and its peaceful, healing, intent.
Here, IA includes the full text of the Fatwa, along with Canon White’s preceding remarks to Tess Lawrence.

The Rev’d Canon Dr Andrew White:

“Today I met with some of the most senior clerics in Iraq under the auspices of the Society of Iraqi Islamic Scientists (the senior Sunni Clerics Society). Some of them also came to Najaf with us on Friday. The main issue on the agenda was finding ways to stop the sectarian violence against the Shia. They also delivered a Fatwa (Islamic) injunction against all sectarian violence and publicly declared that most sectarian violence was coming from the Sunni community. Tomorrow the Fatwa will be discussed with the Iraqi Vice President and the British Ambassador.”


In the name of God the Merciful:
Under the conditions experienced by Iraqis and many Middle Eastern people at the present time and in the light of the increase in the level of Iraqi sectarian violence and the volatile situation, we believe that the deteriorating political condition calls upon us as Sunni religious scholars to together as a group to issue a Fatwa.
We wish to declare the sanctity of all Iraqi blood whether Shia, Sunni or Christian. We call for a mechanism to educate the Iraqi Society in order to renounce all sectarian violence and instead create an environment of cooperation with civil society organizations and institutions of civil jurisdiction so not to allow our people in Iraq to divide into sectarian conflicts. We must work towards national unity amongst all Muslims (Sunni and Shia) and Christians; we all have the duty and right to live together in unity in our country Iraq.
Dr Sheikh Khaled Abdul-Wahab Mullah, Leader, Sunni Cleric Baghdad + Basrah
Sheikh Saadi Mehdi Qutaiba Alindaoui Sunni Leader Al Anbar
Sheikh Maher Al Jubori Sunni Cleric Fullujah
Dr Sheikh Kubaisi Jalal Sunni Cleric Rammadi
Sheikh Marwan Al Araji Sunni Cleric Baghdad
Sheikh Hasham Al Dulami Sunni Cleric Fullujah

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Vigil and Vale for Terry Briscoe - another death in the wrong place and at the wrong time

This post is written in the spirit of vigil, a spirit of watchfulness and awareness.

Paddy Gibson has asked me to give attention to the death in custody of Terry Briscoe which occurred in Alice Springs.  Paddy is a researcher for Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning and Co-Editor of “Solidarity” magazine.  Paddy has covered the circumstances of Terry's departure from us here.  There is sadness in the life and the death of Terry.  There is hope expressed in the life of his cousin, Richard Morton

Let us all keep vigil so that these avoidable deaths can disappear from our penal institutions and law enforcement practices.  Let us all keep vigil so that there will always be - for people like Terry - another go at life, love, family and community.  Let us keep vigil so that human life and our own humanity testifies and triumphs.

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Canberra can't be trusted nor can it be believed on Aboriginal Affairs

It is quite clear that, in matters Aboriginal, Canberra - its politicians, its bureaucracy - cannot be relied on nor can it be believed. In a week when we have heard of the mixed blessings of the Close the Gap Report, now there is this. The Australian taxpayer needs a full accounting and full reporting on what the Alliance model of housing provision has cost the taxpayer in actual dollars and Aboriginal communities in terms of not only dollars but in

  •  health, 
  • disillusionment, 
  • continuing overcrowding, and 
  • loss of jobs and work-based skills
And, I would ask, where is the Northern Territory Government in all this?  Will Aboriginal communities who have a history of voting Labor continue to do so at the 2012 NT elections? Is NT Labor taking Aboriginal support for granted?  Can we now say that the Federal and Northern Territory Governments have broken their social contract with the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory?
Further reading:

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The Victoria Climate Action Calendar 17 February to 6 March 2012

Monique Decortis is back at it again producing the 2012 Victorian Climate Action Calendar. It is embedded below and can be read on site or downloaded directly from this site.

Warning for downloaders: This calendar his HUGELY extensive. 

Monique usually covers a wide range - but this calendar includes events at the Sustainable Living Festival in Melbourne.  The SLF is huge and getting huger - as there are not only the main festival events at Federation Square but, these days, many events in Melbourne and beyond - and beyond the main weekend - hang off the SLF brand.
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Thursday, 16 February 2012

Denis - @peonyden - and blogging bragging rights

My dear friend Denis is quietly - and, if possible, modestly - bragging. 
Deservedly so.
Denis runs a heart-warming and informative blog -
The Nature of Robertson.
The Nature of Robertson has hit a significant blogging milestone -
it has just gone past the 250,000th visitor.
Congratulations, Denis.
Well deserved.

Denis also has co-ownership permissions for this blog -
but chooses not to use them.
His involvement is by occasional comment and providing material I might use.

Denis has suffered many trials and vicissitudes over the years -
and I have been his friend for most of his blogging years.

He has done valiant battle against lymphoma -
and triumphed even when badly set upon by the disease.

He has had to manage extensive home renovations -
and continue blogging.

He has recently seen through to success a hip replacement.

Denis is dedicated to nature - in so many ways.

He is a walking, talking, writing, lecturing, guiding expert
on birds, plants (particularly those blooming ground orchids!),
with occasional forays into insects and fungi.
No National Park in the Southern Highlands 
is left unexplored, unremarked.

Denis is an activist - water, coal seam gas, and rivers in particular.

He is a former Commonwealth public servant out of Canberra -
and he brings these skills to significant submission writing and representation.

Denis has many friends - in Robertson and further afield.
Many of them have come to him through the shared interests 
displayed on The Nature of Robertson.

I am pleased to be a friend - among many - of Denis's.
Thank you Denis.
Even though I have driven you absolutely nuts at times,
you have been there as co-activist, co-conspirator,
support, confidante, and sharer of the good and bad times.

More power to your blog!

This Peony - Bowl of Beauty - from Denis's blog.
Denis chose Robertson to live to grow his beloved peonies.

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Queensland National Party breeding - Katter and Joyce

Picture from Twitter via @Maranoa Greens and @MikeJones68

As a politically experienced Queenslander - and from Bob Katter's Federal seat -
the National Party in Queensland
breeds a certain type of politician -
the type who talks loud and blustery and does absolutely nothing.

Don't believe me?
I put forward as Exhibit A - Bob Katter
and as Exhibit B - Barnaby Joyce
I rest my case

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Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Can Citizen Journalism enliven a distracted, de-professionalised media?

Picture at left from here.

In Australia, Murdoch and Fairfax are making their way to some form of transition from the print to digital age with more or less success, and more or less revenue. In Britain, The Guardian makes no bones about what it is about. It's policy is definitely digital. As part of its digital publishing, The Guardian is mixing its stable of traditional journalists with enthusiastic laypeople.  

I am out of love with large sections of the media - print or otherwise - these days.  My trust is given to only a handful of very senior (yes, you can read very old into that!) journalists.

Once upon a long ago, journalism was much like learning a trade.  A university degree was not required.  Some, like my cousin, graduated from being a linotype operator writing about motorbikes for his favourite magazine to real-life journalism and crime reporting.

Getting ink on fingers seemed to be a prerequisite.  Learning was experiential and transmitted - transmitted from those who had gone before.  It seems to me - and I apologise to Networkers who have heard this chant, this plaint before - that our current crop of journalists has only five minute memory and no research skills in spite of having a university degree.  How else to explain the display and promotion of ignorance regarding national affairs that seems to permeate the news stream without correction? How else to explain not being able to see the wood for the trees?  How else to explain the elevation of the unimportant into national catch-cries? And the serious points cast into the darkness of a netherworld never to trouble an intelligence?

'Citizen journalism' can do no more harm than current journalistic standards.  It may well do better.

Besides requiring good memories, hefty diaries, and excellent and deep research skills, I would require a strong community base from the citizen journalist.  Our news is filled with churned out press releases repeating themselves from every quarter - served up to the general public without question and - in many cases - without any alteration.  Journalists go to politicians, corporate and financial players for their 'serious' reporting.  They espouse the cause of celebrity whether it is physically talented sportspeople or vacuous vamps.  Out there in the interaction of real life , community affairs are ignored - except for ambulance, fire engine, and police car chasing.  Oh, I'm sorry. Like the politicians, the journalists are in awe of polls and focus groups and sampling. I must also draw attention to the stentorian  voices of racism, bigotry and populism which promulgate lies and manipulate ignorance.  All this is part of what passes for professional journalism in the second decade of the 21st century.

Some of us can do better than that.

And thank you to the Public Interest Journalism Foundation 
whose latest newsletter contained the link to the article 
which stimulated this rant.

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Increasing Rates Risks Social Contract Between Banks and Australian Public: Greens MP - International Business Times

The Social Contract
It seems that Australian banks don't think 
they are part of this nation or 
owe Australians any consideration whatsoever. 
 They are:
  • taking government considerations to prop them up during crisis and recession
  • making record profits
  • laying off staff who contributed to those profits
  • lifting interest rates paid by Australian people
  • continuing to pay huge salaries, benefits, and other forms of remunerations to senior executives
  • participating in unethical behaviour

What do Australians have to say to the banks on this?
English: Australian flag seen flying in Toowoo...

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Closing the Gap - Prime Minister's Report 2012

Day 2: The search for the smoking gun : the media won't let up

The media feel cheated.  They have felt cheated since 24 June 2010 when Kevin Rudd lost the leadership of the Australian Labor Party to Julia Gillard.  You see, Networkers, Senator John Faulkner - the honest broker in all those proceedings and privy to more ALP secrets than a Labor-supporting Catholic priest - made it clear he wasn't going to talk.  Confessional silence! Julia Gillard made it clear that her lips were sealed on the events of that night and that she had given guarantees accordingly.  As far as we know, Kevin Rudd kept mum - at least on the public record.  And the sealing of lips headed the media off before it got to the pass.  What a great and glorious shame!

Since the airing of The Comeback Kid on Monday night and the be-still-my-beating-heart revelation that a staff member in Julia Gillard's office had been writing an acceptance of the leadership speech during the fortnight prior to the events of the evening of 24 June, the media have been off and running.  They want to be able to piece together a minute by minute expose of what happened that night - and, for almost two years, they have been thwarted. Hell hath no flurry like a thwarted journo!

To-day we have another minute revelation of questionable proportions.  I'm not certain that even the happy little Vegemite remnants of the Kevin 07 campaign will be all that interested in this.

Meanwhile, we are about to be told about the success or otherwise of the government Aboriginal policies via the 2012 edition of the Closing the Gap Report.  What energy and knowledge will the media bring to the scrutiny of this report? And how thoroughly combed over and headlined will that "news" be by the breathless media still searching for the smoking gun.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

4Corners, The Comeback Kid, and the Forces of Darkness and the Faceless Men

So, Networkers, did you watch The Come Back Kid last night - the 4Corners insight into the Gillard/Rudd leadership entanglement?

If you watched it hoping that Rudd and/or Gillard and/or those close to the events of THAT NIGHT ejecting Rudd from the Prime Ministership would shed light into dark corners, then you probably felt disappointed.  However, there was more to last night's program than you might think.  Come sit by me and I'll put some things before you for your consideration.

Every time the Forces of Darkness in the Opposition or an ill-informed, short memoried, unresearched media want to beat up the leadership change to their own advantage there is frequent mention of "the faceless men" behind the leadership change.  In this scenario Kevin Rudd becomes a victim.

One has to question the motivations of people who misplace a fifty year old description of another time, another place, and a different cast to play political mischief in the 21st century to an audience of whom a significant number were not born at the time.

To find out to what the 'faceless men' analogy refers  please read this edited extract from Alan "The Red Fox" Reid: Pressman Par Excellence, by Ross Fitzgerald and Stephen Holt.  The analogy relied heavily on photography.  If you were around at the time - even if taking only the slightest interest in politics - the photographs became etched in the mind.  And here are the photographs taken from the site of the inimitable Bruce Hawker.

One of the interesting pieces of history about this episode, is that it led - eventually - to reform of the structures and decision making of the Australian Labor Party.  It was this reform which helped to build the credentials of Gough Whitlam as a reformer and - eventually - resulted in the It's Time election of 1972 which brought a modernised ALP to government.

The other thing that is ridiculous about the 21st century usage of "faceless men" is that faceless people are rather rare in this internet day and age - particularly if those people are political players.  Now, if your interest in politics is intermittent and relies heavily on Rupert's Rags, then you will undoubtedly regard many non-faceless people as faceless ... even if you have read this post. But for those who are interested here are some faces which will provide a background to last night's 4Corners program.  Some of the faces were not in the program last night but you need to know who they are because they do play significant roles in the drama.
Bill Ludwig. Paul Howes (with whom Bill is photographed) and Bill Shorten are credited with significant roles in Gillard's ascension to the Prime Ministership.  However, they could not have done all this without the permission, tacit or otherwise, of Bill.  Prior to the Gillard ascension, Ludwig was critical of her hair - and he the master of the three-strand comb over.  Bill is the father of Senator Joe Ludwig.  Bill masterminds the numbers and ensures Joe maintains a winnable place on the Queensland Senate ticket.  It is noteworthy that Gillard formally became Prime Minister on 25 June 2010 and on Sunday 27 June 2010 she was in Brisbane at an AWU-organised fundraiser.  The AWU involvement had its basis in the mining tax controversy.  To explain the AWU history in the context of the mining tax which in turn led up to Rudd's ejection is quite involved - too much to discuss in this post.

Con Sciacca. First, I wish to declare that I have dealings with Con Sciacca's (Con pictured right) law firm.  Networkers will have seen Con on 4Corners last night.  Con's Wikipedia entry doesn't mention that he was for many years the legal adviser of the Qld Branch of the AWU.  For all I know, Sciacca - or his firm - may still do this.  The AWU - while a right wing union - is large enough in Queensland to be an ALP faction all on its own.  Needless to say, Con was/is a member of this facton.
Wayne Swan. One of the reasons I am taking the trouble to do this post, Networkers, is that key players and their factional affiliations are too frequently omitted - and yet for them not to be part of the 'in' crowd, for it to be thought that they are not part of the planning, for it to be thought that their views are not sought or they are not consulted, is stretching credulity beyond breaking point.  Wayne is a member of the AWU faction.  I assume, with his national responsibilities, that he is no longer the leader of the faction but there was a time.....

I have not discussed Bill Shorten's and Paul Howe's involvement in Gillards ascendancy.  That is well reported.  I merely try to point out that there are some other faces which need to be known.


I would advise Networkers that when analysing material one should not only look at those who are speaking or being referenced.  One should consider who is not speaking, who is not being referenced.  In this context, who did we not hear from last night on 4Corners.
  • Voices of the left faction/unions were absent
  • Voices of the NSW right were absent
So what are we to make of what we heard.  For my money, Janelle Saffin and Alan Griffin were minor players and not highly influential n the ALP leadership stakes.  Graham Richardson was at great pains to tell us how small his role in the matter was.  I am happy to accept that at face value.  I don't consider he would have any influence beyond that he described - of bringing two particular people together to sing from the same song sheet. 

 Joe de Bruyn does have influence on the Labor Right.  There are sitting politicians, some significant, who hold their positions at the behest of the SDA.

Troy Bramston's contribution to the program is significant.  This is an eyewitness account from the coalface.  The only axe Troy has to grind is to sell his book and to tend his future career which - at this stage - does not appear to be heading for elected office.  One hopes that what he has to say penetrates to the headspaces of the happy little Vegemites who still dwell in happy Kevin 07 land.  I lived in Queensland when Kevin Rudd was a significant player in running Queensland under Wayne Goss.  It was a particularly unattractive place - and the ALP grassroots membership was most unhappy about it.  So, while I was happy to see Rudd oust Howard, I was never starry-eyed about his Prime Ministership.  Whatever Rudd's talents, he makes contributions which are less than optimal for those around him.  I found this statement by Bruce Hawker out of kilter with my knowledge:   The thing about Kevin Rudd, though, is that he's not a creature of the factions, and I think that made certain people who were faction leaders uneasy about his Prime Ministership.  As far as I knew, Rudd was always a member of Labor Unity, the Right faction.  Did Hawker mean that Rudd was not manufactured, moulded by a faction? I can buy that - but to imply that he had no factional history seemed at odds with the Rudd of my remembrance.  

And the washup from the 4Corners program?  I wonder what the lead up to the program was.  4Corners gathering material, Hawker getting wind of it?  I think so.  I think it likely that decisions were made on Hawker's advice that the ALP would insert itself into the 4Corners program and, in doing so, would act to staunch, even cauterise, the bleeding.  
Not only would Hawker have been looking at the Federal impact.  Hawker, in my view, aimed to put shots over the bows of the Federal MPs touting Rudd.  The campaigning Hawker also would have one eye on Queensland.  
The media has been touting the positive impact of Rudd in Queensland.  This, in the context of the Queensland election campaign, is a double-edged sword.  Positivity and receptivity for Rudd might bring/save seats in Queensland.  And then....?  A revitalised Rudd bringing the kudos back to Canberra campaigning?  A Rudd calling in debts in Queensland from a returned Labor Government? In the event of a loss, more negative slanging matches from the LibNats and a gloating Campbell Newman?
I believe that 4Corners acted to capitalise on what it held in regard to the events of June 2010 - but the cards held by 4Corners did not amount to a full hand on its own.  Having ear-to-the-ground Hawker on board could flesh things out ... but Hawker had significant impact on the Labor voices coming through.  Hence, frequent cuts to Sciacca ... the voice of the AWU.  

If what ensues from The Comeback Kid is well handled and followed up by the ALP, the outcome could be quite positive.  The bleeding wound could be cauterised and Hawker could reach for a soothing balm with which to salve the wound and create new skin growth in the lead up to 2013.  

Whatever the outcome, the record is clear.  We now have - beyond doubt and probably beyond contradiction - the skinny on the behind-the-facade Rudd.  The pebble has been thrown in the pool.  The ripples will reverberate.

Unless otherwise credited,
photographs are from

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