Recent blog entries

Why I hope Craig Thomson avoids jail

Craig Thomson has finally been convicted of all those fraud charges that everybody has been talking about throughout the years of Rudd/Gillard Government.

It is worth remembering how Gillard deflected all the questions about Thomson:

"Everybody is innocent until proven guilty"

Well, unless you are a refugee or a coloured person (or both).

How to get away with evil

Have you had a fistful of Christmas party invitations this month? In between the hangovers, have you been glued to the TV, savouring the slow, torturous thrashing of England's visiting cricket team as Australia regains the Ashes? If so, you are probably like many other Australians: and the sinister new Government of Tony Abbott has decided that at this moment, when the force of distraction is at its peak, there is no better time to try something truly evil.

France's municipal elections: New shoots in the rubble?

Links International - 5 hours 35 min ago
By Dick Nichols

April 20, 2014 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- After the first round of the French municipal elections (March 23, see here for coverage in Green Left Weekly), the media mainstream obsessed about the rise in support for the xenophobic and racist National Front (FN) of Marine Le Pen. The only other stories found worthy of comment were the collapse in support for the ruling Socialist Party (PS) of president François Hollande and the surge in the abstention rate—to a record 36.5%. (This endnote[1] explains the French two-round voting system as applied to municipal elections.)

According to the Le Monde analysis of that vote, the PS would face losing 90 towns with more than 10,000 inhabitants at the second round (March 30). The FN had a chance of winning between ten and 15 of these.

read more

Categories: Community

Bird of the Week: Mile Jedinak’s Crystal Palace Eagles soar in the Premier League

The Northern Myth - 6 hours 12 min ago


Palace fanatic Glen Dooley’s team beat my team Chelsea – or rather we beat ourselves – by a John Terry own goal a few weeks back. Glen hasn’t stopped giving me hell since. 

Crystal Palace is a classic underdog team.

A south London football team that normally toils away in the second or third tiers of the English leagues, Palace are famed for erratic results and the odd inspirational Cup run.

Their effort in the mid-70’s to reach the FA Cup semi-finals when a third division team hooked me as a life-long fan. In 1990 they played Manchester United in the FA Cup final. Palce held United to a 3-3 draw but lost 1-0 in the replay.

At the moment Palace are in Premier League.

How they got there is a saga in itself. For the uninitiated season 2012/13 saw Palace start favourites to be relegated from Championship League (second tier) to League One (third tier).

They lost their first three games, their manager walked out on them after 10 matches, captain Paddy McCarthy was seriously injured and then, under oddball manager Ian Holloway, they did what Palace does – they rallied.

Making the playoff finals, losing their top goal scorer Glenn Murray to a wrecked knee in the semis, somehow they jagged the third promotion spot and won the right to play the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United in season 2013/14.

Of course, Manchester United bought Palace’s best player Wilfred Zaha and Palace shopped around in the off-season for other club’s cast-offs to add to their squad of retreads.

Arguably, minus Zaha and Murray, they entered season 2013/14 in worse shape than they started in the lower division 12 months earlier.

Naturally the bookies had Palace short priced favourites to be relegated.

Season 2013/14 is Palace’s fifth go at Premier League. In all four previous attempts they failed to hang on beyond a single season.

Kings of the Instant Drop.

The seed for Palace’s incredible current season was planted in 2012.

With Captain McCarthy going down the club made Aussie Mile Jedinak captain.

Immediately Jedinak rose to the occasion. His powerful midfield play, particularly his crunching tackles and brilliant intercepts, gave Palace a flint hard back bone.

In Australia’s latest World Cup warm up match, Ange Postecoglou made Jedinak our nation’s captain.

The former Central Coast Mariner, via Palace, is now a huge chance to lead us at the World Cup.

Jedinak is the rock upon which the current Palace is built.

This season commenced with Palace losing nine of their first ten matches. The erratic but loveable Holloway, after six straight losses, simply announced to the football world “I’m not up to this” and walked.

Enter Welshman Tony Pulis as manager.

Pulis, disciplined, honest, experienced and inspirational had never been in charge of a team that had been relegated in twenty years of management.

It was soon clear the combination of Pulis and Jedinak was the tonic for Premier League survival.

In the 24 matches this combination of footballing grunt have played, Palace have won 12 times.

An incredible about face from premier laughing stocks to premier competitors.

A host of hitherto poorly regarded players such as Puncheon, Chamakh, Bolasie and Delaney have dragged their careers out of the gutter.

Argentinian goal keeper Speroni is the fan’s favourite with his stocky frame pulling off saves the giant goalkeeping spiders can only dream of.

Palace’s current run of five consecutive victories includes edging both Chelsea and Everton.

A boy’s own football annual wouldn’t run such an improbable tale.

Last night Palace beat West Ham 1 – 0 and Jedinak scored the winning penalty goal.

The win made it certain Palace cannot be relegated. Jedinak emerges as a Palace hero. His win against the odds attitude will be prized when Australia play Chile, the Netherlands and Spain in Brazil.

The man doesn’t back away from a challenge and he may end the World Cup a national hero.

Categories: Community

Healing Wishes For Conservationist Hero Emmanuel de Merode

Sea Shepherd - Sat, 19/04/2014 - 01:59
Healing Wishes For Conservationist Hero Emmanuel de Merode

Emmanuel de Merode, Chief Warden at Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of CongoEmmanuel de Merode, Chief Warden at Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Photo courtesy Virunga Movie
The thoughts and best wishes of all of us at Sea Shepherd Conservation Society are now with Emmanuel de Merode, Chief Warden at Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Emmanuel, the husband of Sea Shepherd Advisory Board Member and Paleontologist Dr. Louise Leakey, was shot during an ambush on Tuesday within the park. He remains in stable condition, and we are hopeful that this remarkably strong individual will make a speedy and complete recovery.

Emmanuel is an inspiration to us all, with his uncompromising commitment to conservation and the protection of the Virunga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and all of the species that call it home. Despite the constant threat of violence from poachers and others who would harm this important ecosystem, he has risked his own life to protect wildlife and their habitat.

An anthropologist, Emmanuel de Merode has been Chief Warden of Virunga National Park since 2008 when he was appointed by the Congolese government. He has stood in brave defense of the park against those who seek to pillage it for oil or poach the threatened animals who live there. While it is unknown at this time who shot him, Emmanuel reportedly met with a prosecutor shortly before the ambush and had delivered information about an oil firm’s plans to explore for oil in and around the park. Could oil interests or poachers be to blame for this act of violence against Virunga’s defender?

Emmanuel has also led the fight against bushmeat, forest destruction, and encouraged the use of sustainable energy. Virunga National Park is home to many of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas, as well as a large population of other animals, including hippopotamuses and elephants. “Virunga,” a documentary about the brave protectors of Virunga National Park has just debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival. Emmanuel is featured in the film, along with the park rangers who carry out this important but dangerous work.

We at Sea Shepherd know firsthand the risks involved in defending Mother Nature from her many enemies. Recent reports reveal more than 900 conservationists have been killed as a direct result of their work defending the environment in just the last decade. We are thankful for Emmanuel and all of the amazing conservationists and activists around the world who accept these risks. Even now, as violence against these unsung heroes increases, we stand with them in the battle against extinction for so many species.

If you would like to express your thanks and well wishes to Emmanuel de Merode, please comment on Virguna National Park’s Facebook page or send a tweet with your message of support:

Categories: Community

United States: Kshama Sawant -- 'Not enough to boo Democrats, we have to pose a real challenge'

Links International - Fri, 18/04/2014 - 10:37

Click HERE for more on Kshama Sawant's election campaign and those of other socialists around the world at the municipal level.

April 9, 2014 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal --  Kshama Sawant spoke on labour and independent politics at the 2014 Labor Notes convention, April 4-6, in Chicago. Sawant was elected as a socialist to the Seattle City Council in November 2013. She is an adjunct professor of Seattle Community College and a member of American Federation of Teachers 1789.

Production by the Labor Video Project

Categories: Community

Japan’s Northwest Pacific “not-for-purposes-of-scientific-research” Whale Killing Program Could Start Later This Month

Sea Shepherd - Thu, 17/04/2014 - 20:25
Japan’s Northwest Pacific “not-for-purposes-of-scientific-research” Whale Killing Program Could Start Later This Month

Commentary by Erwin Vermeulen

Common minke whale, the main target of Japan's NW Pacific huntCommon minke whale, the main target
of Japan's NW Pacific hunt
Photo: Erwin Vermeulen / Sea Shepherd
On March 31st, a ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) served a devastating blow to Japan’s whaling industry. The court’s landmark ruling stated that the Japan whale Research Program in the Antarctic (JARPA II) was not conducted for the purposes of scientific research. It ordered that Japan revoke the scientific permits given under JARPA II and refrain from granting any further permits under that program.

In a blatant show of defiance of this ruling, Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) last week filed court briefs stating that they intend to return to slaughter whales in the Southern Ocean for the 2015-2016 season with a newly designed "research" program and will seek a permanent injunction against Sea Shepherd.

Another example of Japan’s complete disregard for the wishes of the international community could soon unfold as the Japan whale Research Program in the Northwest Pacific (JARPN II) is scheduled to start this month. According to a Japan Times article of April 17: “The Japanese whaling fleet’s departure for the Pacific Northwest has been delayed to April 26 instead of Tuesday 22nd” because of disagreements between the Foreign Ministry and the Fisheries Agency after the International Court of Justice last month ordered Japan to halt its annual “research” hunts in the Antarctic Ocean after ruling they are not scientific in nature. The Foreign Ministry is concerned that if Japan whales in the Northwest Pacific immediately after the ICJ ruling, anti-whaling countries may sue to halt hunts there as well. The Fisheries Agency insists that whaling in the Northwest Pacific should continue, but at a reduced target catch of 60 whales. The delay “might be a side effect of U.S. President Barack Obama’s planned three-day visit to Japan starting Wednesday.”

Although the ICJ ruling does not include JARPN II, as Australia and New Zealand’s case centered on “their” whales in their “backyard”, even the Japanese government realizes, according to a NHK World article of April 10, that “the court's ruling could be applied to those waters depending on methods used, including the number caught.”

The article continues: “The concern is prompting the government to assess its research procedures. It plans to decide as early as next week whether to go ahead with research whaling in the Northwestern Pacific. Some in the government claim that it should conduct the Pacific research whaling as planned. But others argue that Japan could be sued again if it continues the program without due consideration to the court's ruling.”

Immediately after the ICJ ruling, the spokesman for the Japanese delegation to the court, Nori Shikata said: “Our program in the Northern Pacific is outside the scope of the proceedings before the court, and so they are two separate programs and this ruling is about the program in the Antarctic,”

On April 15th, before a meeting with the president of the ICR, Japan's Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister, Yoshimasa Hayashi expressed willingness to continue whaling in the Pacific despite the ICJ ruling. He said he is determined to "maintain the solid policy of preserving whale-eating culture and securing supply of whale meat."

On that same date, Kyodo Senpaku, which owns Japan's whaling fleet, said it had urged Agriculture Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi to allow the Northern Pacific whaling to take place as usual. "The minister gave us strong encouragement by saying that he would firmly consider it, given that the research itself was not gainsaid."

JSTCW ships in TaijiJSTCW ships in Taiji
Photo: Erwin Vermeulen / Sea Shepherd

Aside from the geographic region and the whales targeted, the JARPN and JARPA programs are identical twins when you look at their goal, construction and history. Thus a large part of the ICJ’s motivation for the ruling on Antarctic whaling can be directly applied to the Northwest Pacific slaughter:

  • A court would find no evidence of any studies of the feasibility or practicability of non-lethal methods, nor find evidence that Japan examined whether it would be feasible to combine a smaller lethal take and an increase in non-lethal sampling to achieve its research objectives.
  • As with the evaluation of JARPA (1988-2005) and JARPA II (2005-2014) by the ICJ, a court investigation of JARPN (1994-1999) and JARPN II (2000-present) will reveal a considerable overlap between the two programs’ subjects, their objectives, and their methods.
  • Both state identical goals such as improving knowledge on stock identity/structure and feeding ecology.
  • As with JARPA II, which called for a significant increase in the minke whale “sample” size and the lethal “sampling” of additional species (humpback and fin whales) compared to JARPA, the Northwest Pacific kill quota escalated from the killing of 100 common minke whales annually under JARPN to 100 common minke whales, 50 bryde's whales, and 10 sperm whales under JARPN II. In 2002 they increased the minke whale quota to 150 and added 50 sei whales. The next year, the minke quota became 160 and the sei whale quota was doubled to 100. In 2008 the program proposal was an annual take of 340 minke whales, 50 bryde's whales, 100 sei whales and 10 sperm whales.
  • The ICJ determined that weaknesses in Japan’s explanation for the decision to proceed with the JARPA II sample sizes prior to the final review of JARPA lend support to the view that those sample sizes and the launch date for JARPA II were not driven by strictly scientific considerations. The same applies to the transition from JARPN to JARPN II.
  • The ICJ noted that there were three additional aspects of JARPA II which cast further doubt on its characterization as a program for purposes of scientific research: the open-ended time frame of the program, its limited scientific output to date, and the lack of cooperation between JARPA II and other domestic and international research programs. All of these aspects apply to JARPN II.

Given these examples, it becomes clear that if JARPN II were under the scrutiny of the ICJ or any other court outside of a whaling nation, the conclusion of that court would sound much the same as in the case of JARPA II: “The Court concludes that the special permits granted by Japan for the killing, taking and treating of whales in connection with JARPA/N II are not ‘for purposes of scientific research’ pursuant to Article VIII, paragraph 1, of the Convention.”

As a result, Japan would have violated the moratorium not only in the Antarctic, but also in the Northwest Pacific.

Beyond all the legal talk, it is of course clear to every rational person that just as Japan’s Antarctic whale program is a disguise for commercial whaling, the same goes for the program in the North Pacific.

Still in the court’s ruling there is this sentence: “The Court finds that JARPA II can broadly be characterized as ‘scientific research’.” How “broadly” exactly do you want to go?

Science thrives on our thirst for knowledge. All valuable research starts with a question. With that question as a foundation, scientists build a research program that might provide them with answers.

Japan has no questions; they had to disguise their continuation of commercial whaling as science. Deciding on an outcome was easy: the resumption of commercial whaling. Then they defined the desired conclusions: “there are plenty of whales” and “these whales eat our fish.” As whales in Antarctica migrate South to feast on krill and not fish, they had to come up with something else there: “minke whales have become too abundant and threaten the recovery of the blue whale and therefore have to be culled.”

Calling this science, even broadly, is an obscenity.

An important point that some might forget in this day and age, where for many science has replaced the gods of old, is that just because something is called science, be it as a guise, truly so or just broadly, that in itself justifies absolutely nothing! We only have to look at what is done to animals in laboratories all around the world to realize that science often lacks ethics and morals. In the definition of the ICJ, probably even the experiments of Nazi doctors in WW II concentration camps could “broadly be characterized as ‘scientific research’.” That doesn’t make it all right…

Regarding JARPN II there is another disguise within the disguise of commercial whaling as science. When Japan in 1988, under US pressure, lifted its objection to the moratorium on commercial whaling, this also ended Japanese Small-Type Coastal Whaling (JSTCW) for minke whales, as minkes are one of the 13 species of larger whales that fall under the jurisdiction of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). In response to the moratorium, four of the last nine JSTCW vessels from Abashiri (Hokkaido Prefecture), Ayukawa (Miyagi Prefecture), Wada (Chiba Prefecture) and Taiji (Wakayama Prefecture) stopped operating. The remaining ships continued killing short-finned pilot whales, Risso’s dolphins and Baird’s beaked whales in Japan’s coastal waters, as these “small cetaceans” are not covered by the IWC’s regulations.

Since 1987, Japan has tried to get a quota from the IWC to resume the killing of minke whales under a sort of aboriginal subsistence whaling scheme as exists for Alaskan Inuits, Northeast Siberian Chukchi, Greenlanders and for the natives of Bequia. The IWC has for all these years refused to grant a minke whale quota for JSTCW because they judge it to be a commercial proposal.

To get around this, the ICR added a coastal component to JARPN II in 2002. The ICR contracts Japan’s Small Type Whaling Association to provide vessels and crew to participate in whaling operations off Ayukawa, now part of Ishinomaki, (Miyagi prefecture) from April through May and off Kushiro (Hokkaido) in September and October to shoot 60 minke whales in each area. The ICR buys the whales from the whaling companies at a set price and then sells part of the meat at a subsidized price back to the JSTCW towns.

In this light, the ICR’s activities in the Northwest Pacific are an even bigger scam than those in Antarctica.

This is the hunt that is about to start on April 22nd, followed a month later by the offshore component that includes the last-of-its-kind floating abattoir, the Nisshin Maru and the familiar Yushins.

All this could just be underway before the annual meeting of the IWC scientific committee starting May 12 in Slovenia. The committee members are almost certain to question the legality of JARPN II in light of the ICJ ruling on JARPA II.

The international community cannot stand by and allow Japan to make a mockery out of its agreements and institutions. It’s time for the world’s leaders to pick up the phone and explain to Tokyo in no uncertain terms why they should keep their whaling ships in port.

Categories: Community

Hope in Bosnia-Herzegovina revolt; Graphic new doco on wave of people's power

Links International - Thu, 17/04/2014 - 15:36

Documentary: Bosnia and Herzegovina in Spring, March 2014.

For more onthe Bosnia-Herzegovina revolt, click HERE.

By Charles Reeve

April 2, 2014 -- Brooklyn Rail -- The perspective of yet one more nationalist clash at the gates of Europe, in Ukraine, doesn’t seem to displease the world’s masters and those who write for them.

Things are going differently, at least until now, with the revolt gripping Bosnia-Herzegovina. This movement began in the first week of February with workers’ demonstrations against the consequences of privatisation and an increase in unemployment. These demonstrations took place in Mostar and especially in Tuzla, an industrial city with a long tradition of struggle dating from the “socialist” era. Tuzla was also one of the rare places where the nationalist madness had little following, even in the worst moments of the war of the 1990s.

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Categories: Community

Ukraine: Government risks whirlwind to halt protests in east

Links International - Thu, 17/04/2014 - 14:50
Demonstrators opposed to Ukraine government policies, in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, April 6, 2014

Demonstrators opposed to the Ukraine government in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, April 6, 2014.

Click HERE for more on Ukraine.

By Roger Annis

April 15, 2014 -- A Socialist in Canada, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Moves by the Ukraine government to crack down on protests against its rule in the east of the country appear to have quickly faltered and backfired. Protest actions are widening.

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Categories: Community

Greater unity, optimism as Italian left backs Alexis Tspiras

Links International - Thu, 17/04/2014 - 04:55

By Roberto Musacchio, translated from Italian by Veronika Peterseil

April 10, 2014 -- Transform! Network -- The project is called “The Different Europe with Alexis Tsipras”. It name is written on a red background. Predictions indicate it could surpass, maybe even easily, the 4% electoral threshold in the coming European elections

In 2009 this threshold prevented both leftist lists, the Partito della Rifondazione Comunista/Communist Refoundation Party (PRC) and the Sinistra Ecologia Libertà/Left Ecology Freedom (SEL), both of which received only a little more than 3%, from entering the European Parliament. This new project, however, is not a mere electoral coalition set up to clear this hurdle. In its foundation and structure it is, in fact, something very different.

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Categories: Community

Boris Kagarlitsky on Ukraine: From the Maidan to the revolution?

Links International - Wed, 16/04/2014 - 04:34

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal has published a range of views from the left on developments in Ukraine HERE.

By Boris Kagarlitsky, translated by Renfrey Clarke, for Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

April 13, 2014 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- In Ukraine, a genuine revolution is unfolding. This may seem strange, but it is something very characteristic of the history of that country.

In Ukraine in 1918, workers’ protests by the “Reds” took place solely in response to actions by the nationalist authorities that had installed themselves in Kiev. The question of how progressive the regime established by the supporters of the Donetsk Peoples Republic and other movements in Ukraine’s south-east will prove remains unanswered for the present simply for the reason that the very survival of these movements is far from guaranteed. But it can already be said with assurance that there is no road back. The point of no return has been passed, not only in in the political but above all in the social sense.

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Categories: Community

One for Your Amazon Wish-List

Club Troppo - Wed, 16/04/2014 - 03:15

French economist Thomas Piketty has been picking up a lot of attention in the rest of the English speaking world – well mainly the US – thanks to the publication of an English translation of his recent book Capital in the 21st Century. Never heard of him? Don’t fret about it – neither had I until I quite serendipitously came across this article in the Guardian a couple of days ago.

The subject of Piketty’s book is obvious from the title. More specifically, it deals with the growing inequality in wealth – and income – distribution which is becoming entrenched in the global economy. At 650+ pages it’s obviously going to be a substantial read when (or perhaps if) I finally get my grubbies on a copy but from what I’ve seen so far probably worth the effort.

Quite a few overseas media outlets besides the Guardian have covered Piketty’s book including The New Yorker, The Nation and Forbes, purveyor of ‘Information for the World’s Business Leaders’ (here, here and here). The Forbes articles all disparage Piketty’s ideas but as Piketty holds the ‘World’s Business Leaders’ responsible for rising inequalities in wealth that hardly comes as a surprise.

Locally, Piketty is only just starting to pick up attention: at the time of writing this article by Sam de Brito in the SMH is the most recent. Earlier local coverage includes this syndicated article in WA Today and this again from the SMH, no by-line probably syndicated.  The closest I’ve come so far to finding any local journos and commentators actually talking to Piketty is this Radio National spot where Jonathan Green and a three member panel talk about Piketty’s ideas.

So, what has Piketty said that’s got so many people across the political spectrum into a bit of a lather? This review in the Financial Times gives a good indication:

…the book is built on a 15-year programme of empirical research conducted in conjunction with other scholars. Its result is a transformation of what we know about the evolution of income and wealth (which he calls capital) over the past three centuries in leading high-income countries. That makes it an enthralling economic, social and political history.

Among the lessons is that there is no general tendency towards greater economic equality. Another is that the relatively high degree of equality seen after the second world war was partly a result of deliberate policy, especially progressive taxation, but even more a result of the destruction of inherited wealth, particularly within Europe, between 1914 and 1945. A further lesson is that we are slowly recreating the “patrimonial capitalism” – the world dominated by inherited wealth – of the late 19th century.

Unlike quite a few of the other linked articles I think it’s safe to assume that the review is based on an actual reading of Capitalism in the 21st Century rather than reflexive reaffirmation of the orthodox wisdom based on second hand reports or just plain name dropping on the other side of the argument. It’s going to be entertaining to see how the scholars in our local campuses of the Chicago School of Economics respond when their common room slumbers are finally disturbed by the ructions elsewhere in the world.

Categories: Community

A new train map is coming (and: network status boards)

Daniel Bowen - Tue, 15/04/2014 - 23:55

PTV are trialling a new train network map. They’re seeking feedback on it, and you’ll see it at some stations now (Bentleigh, Malvern and Moorabbin, I think).

Note, just to remove all doubt: unlike the PTV network plan, it’s not a concept for new rail lines; it’s a prototype of a map of the existing network.

 concept design, April 2014

View the map larger, in a new window

My initial impression: I quite like this.

Colour-coding the lines helps make sense of the way the network actually runs (or will run in the near future). It allows them to add detail such as the stations usually skipped by expresses on particular lines, which lines run via the City Loop, and which sections run as shuttles. This helps people navigate — for instance if you’re coming from the Dandenong line going to Armadale, you’ll probably have to change trains at Caulfield.

The caveat here is that the train network is not currently operated consistently. Loop operations (even leaving direction aside) are very confusing. Express stopping patterns are all over the place on some lines. The Frankston and Newport lines are connected… but only on weekdays.

The operational variations on the various lines might need some work. See the difference between Williamstown and Alamein, for instance; potentially confusing.

A big difference is this map also adds V/Line services. With Myki now phased-in for short-distance (commuter-belt) V/Line services, one barrier to city people using them (the need to buy a separate ticket) is gone. This is an interesting move. It does take extra space, thus makes everything smaller — is the benefit worth it?

The part-time Flemington Racecourse line is shown prominently in black. I suppose that’s a good (for occasional users) and bad (implies it’s fulltime). I’m told it’s showing terminating at Southern Cross because that’s how it’s likely to be (at least on weekdays) in the near future, due to rail viaduct capacity issues, so they’d rather encourage people to change there instead of Flinders Street.

Somehow the order of lines shown at Flinders Street seems wrong, but I think that’s because I know Glen Waverley direct services don’t actually terminate next to Sandringham services.

In the first version out in the wild, there were at least two errors: Violet Town and Euroa had been transposed, as had Ballan and Bacchus Marsh, and the colours indicating Myki validity had crept beyond where they should have. These issues have now been corrected, and PTV expect to do quite a few more tweaks over coming months as a result of feedback.

They don’t expect a more general rollout of the map until Regional Rail Link opens next year. It costs a small fortune apparently.

But what’s wrong with the current train map?

PTV Metro train map, 2013Everyone will have their own views, but the current train map (below) has a few problems. For instance:

It doesn’t show where the lines go. Someone unfamiliar with Melbourne might assume there’s a line from Sunbury to Upfield, for instance. And it doesn’t show any operational detail; the map implies all trains run via the Loop, for instance. It gives little hint as to where the best places to change trains are.

Meanwhile, we’re losing two-zone trips next year, so there won’t be a huge need to show zones as at present. The new map started being designed well before this, but it’s good to be able to take advantage of it to show other useful detail.

What about multi-modal?

I think the new map is a good step in the right direction.

But if they’re starting to mix things up on a map (Metro and V/Line), I think another thing they should be looking at is showing the network frequent trams and buses that back up the train network… though of course, that would be a much more complicated and difficult visualisation to get right.

But other cities are moving into this, and you can see the benefits from it, as described by Vancouver’s Translink:

People traveling along FTN (Frequent Transit Network) corridors can expect convenient, reliable, easy-to-use services that are frequent enough that they do not need to refer to a schedule. For municipalities and the development community, the FTN provides a strong organizing framework around which to focus growth and development.

(My emphasis. That’s the most important point. For public transport to be competitive with cars, this is essential. It’s not like, as Jarrett Walker describes, you can only drive out of your driveway every half-an-hour — but that’s what most PT users face.)

The train-only network map is still useful — good for showing the mass transit, backbone of the public transport network. But a frequent network map would be great for showing all the places you can easily get to in Melbourne on public transport — which is a lot more than just the rail network.

Also: the status board, and the bigger picture

Are maps even in important?

Sure they are. Good maps mean people can navigate their way around more easily, so they’re more likely to use the system. More passengers means more impetus to keep upgrading services.

 "Rainbow" network status board

But this is about more than just a map. Related is the trial rollout of “rainbow” network status boards, installed this week at Moorabbin, Bentleigh, Malvern, and in the PTV Hub at Southern Cross. The colours on the board match those on the new map… including Alamein, which has a distinctive colour on the map to draw attention to the fact that you usually have to change at Camberwell.

It’s a little early to judge these, though I note that they don’t show next train departures — this is present on other displays at Malvern, but not at Moorabbin and Bentleigh and most other stations. I’m told they can modify the design based on feedback, so it’ll be interesting to see how this evolves.

And I’d hope that once these are running well, they roll them out quickly to the bigger interchange stations, where they’re likely to be most useful.

Both the map and the status board are part of measures to standardise train operations: the slow move towards more predictable routes, consistent stopping patterns, consistent platforms at the larger stations, and “metro”-like frequent operation on dedicated tracks. And there are also moves to improve the flow of information from operators (on all modes) through to PTV so a better view of the overall network is available, including online.

Clearly they’ve got a long way to go, but this is a step forward.

Other maps:

Categories: Community

Western Australian Fisheries in league with Japanese Whale poachers

Sea Shepherd - Tue, 15/04/2014 - 19:12
Western Australian Fisheries in league with Japanese Whale poachers

- Fisheries, Fish for the future, continue their assault on our healthy marine environment

- 2 large tiger sharks caught off Perth metro beaches, one released injured and one shot 3 times and dumped.

Monday 14th April, 2014 - This morning off the Perth Metro meat curtains (aka Barnett's drum lines), Sea Shepherd's Bruce the RIB, witnessed the following:

08:00 am AWST - Drum line approximately 1km off Scarborough Beach - 2.7 metre Tiger shark caught, injured and released

Bruce the RIB noticed that due to the drum lines being drawn together and tangled that something had tragically been hooked over night and was waiting a visit from the WA Fisheries Department. The Fisheries officers inspected the caught and injured tiger shark before he/she was pulled aboard the Fisheries boat, then was released bloodied and injured back into the water approximately 1 kilometre off Scarborough beach.

Captain Mike Dicks on board Bruce the RIB stated, "One can not imagine what these sharks go through to be hooked over night, to not be able to swim and get oxygen to their vital organs, slowly slipping into a state of tonic immobility. Everything about this shark cull defies logic and sense on every level, most importantly the fact that it makes public safety worse with sharks being drawn closer to our beaches stimulated by bait."

Fisheries Department hooks a undersized tiger sharkFisheries Department hooks an undersized tiger shark  Tim Watters/Sea ShepherdFisheries Department snares and further injures the undersized tiger shark before releasing.

10:15 am AWST - Drum line approximately 1km off Mullaloo Beach - 3 metre plus Tiger shark caught, injured and thrashing about before Fisheries shoot 3 times to the death

A second tiger shark was hooked by Barnett's meat curtains this morning, a large 3 metre plus tiger shark had been hooked over night off Mullaloo beach.

She was in a very distressed state and was thrashing around with a hook through her head, before being dragged along side the P.V. Houtman, the WA Fisheries boat with the hypocritical slogan "Fish for the future" on the side of the boat.

She was then shot, not once, not twice, but three times before being hauled aboard and dumped out to sea. No tagging, no research, nothing learnt, a complete waste.

Fisheries prepares to shoot the SharkFisheries prepares to shoot the Shark Fisheries Department hauls shark onboard, it could be pregnant based on its wide girthFisheries Department hauls shark onboard, it could be pregnant based on its wide girth

Sea Shepherd crew member Tim Watters stated, "I have now seen first hand the barbaric, senseless, cruel and tragedy of the WA shark cull. I have seen today a beautiful female 3 metre plus tiger shark in such a stressed state, thrashing around for her life, before being pulled alongside and shot three times. Given the time of year, she was most likely was pregnant. I have just returned from defending the whales in the Antarctic Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and can not believe what I am seeing right off our WA coast, it rivals that of any cruelty and insanity of the Japanese whale poachers"

  • The Japanese whale poachers are targeting protected species, just as the WA Fisheries Department do.
  • The Japanese whale poachers try and run Sea Shepherd out of fuel just as the WA Fisheries Department do.
  • The Japanese whale poachers try to hide from the world their cruel and barbaric slaughter of marine life, just like the WA Fisheries Department do.
  • The Japanese whale poachers have no respect for human or marine life, just as the WA Fisheries department don't by attracting sharks closer to shore and stimulating them with bait, right off popular Perth swimming beaches.

The WA Fisheries Department have the following statement on their website, "The presence of many species of shark as 'apex predators' – occupying the top level of the food chain – is an indication of a healthy marine environment.".

With just over two weeks to go until the drum lines comes out from this insane three month trial, the WA Fisheries Department continue their assault on WA's healthy marine environment.

Sea Shepherd will not rest until the Australian Government use the worlds best practices that help minimise the threat of shark incidents, instead of worlds worst practices that not only kill our precious marine life that we all rely on, but also make our beaches less safe.

All photos: Tim Watters / Sea Shepherd

Categories: Community

Artists Resale Royalties : On Bullshit part four

Club Troppo - Tue, 15/04/2014 - 05:31

Below is a before and after, ‘pie chart’ of the Artist Resale Royalty schemes distributions to Dec 2013 . The first picture is of the whole pie:


There are 7,800 individual slices in this Royalty pie

 Bellow is a picture of the of the pie after the biggest individual slices (the top 7%) have been consumed:


Not much left for the masses after the Top 20 best selling Artists
(or their estates) have taken their ‘share’.

A  study of the information sheet re the schemes distributions, as supplied by CAL, when cross-referenced with answers supplied to Senator Gary Humphries Questions on notice feb 2013,) shows that the ARR scheme is already showing its true, anti-progressive colors.  The top 21 individual royalty payments have garnered about 25% of all the money collected , and only one of the 11 highest value payments was to a indigenous artist (or estate).  And the next top 500 of individual royalty payments have garnered a further 20%-25% of all the money collected.  The top 7% of all royalty payments, by value, has already  gotten about 50% of all the royalty money paid.  If the scheme was to “continue” this pattern must, in time, become more and more pronounced: The vast majority of art resales by value are of art works by a handful of Top 20 mostly, dead , non indigenous artists – therefore the vast majority of art resale royalty payments, by value, must in time, go to the top twenty of, mostly dead and non indigenous artists, most favoured by the market.

It is time that this bullshit scheme and its funded promoters were , finished.


For those interested the calculations are below the fold

CAL’s info sheet states :

-”84% of eligible resales have a sale price between $1000 and $5000.”

The Royalty payment on a $5,000 resale is $250. In other words 84% of individual payments have been $250 or less.
-”…the highest volume of royalty payments (49%) have been between $101 and $500 for   eligible resales valued between $2,001 and $10,000. ”
-”The next highest volume of royalty payments have been between $51 and $100 (2946 royalties: 44%).”


In fact fshowed that of the approximately 5,000 royalty payments to December 2012:
-the bottom 2,000 royalty payments totalled $115,379 ‐ an average value of $55 each. And -the middle, approximately 2,400 royalty payments, had a total value of $396,964 an average value of about $164 each.

CAL gives the total value of  resale royalty collections (to dec 2013) as “nearly $2 million”.

According to CAL’s information sheet  44% of the royalty payments(2,946 ) were between $51 and $100. If the average value of these payments was  $55, then the total value of these 2946 payments is about  $162,000 -  that is not even 10% of the total value of royalty collections. And according to CAL’s information sheet, royalty payments between $101 and $500 made up 49% of the total number of payments, which is given as totaling 7,800, 49% of 7800 is 3,822 .
If the average value of these 3,822 payments was about $165 then the total value of these payments is about $630,000.  That is about 32% of the total value of all royalty payments up to Dec 2013. Therefore  the total value of  93% of all individual royalty payments – those between $51 and $500- is likely to be about $800,000 . Less than 50% of the total value of all  royalties collected as of dec 2013.

In its information sheet CAL also states that: “95% of the artists who have received a royalty were living artists. Those artists have received 76% of the dollar value paid”. In other words 24% of the total value paid to Dec 2013 has gone to dead artists- if the scheme was allowed to  “continue” i.e spread to more and more resales of the same 20-30 blue chip, mostly dead artists, it can only get worse and worse. 



My previous post  Artists Resale Royalties: on bullshit, part three established that the total value of the 21 biggest individual payments was about $400,000. These 21 payments are just 0.3% of  the total number of payments , yet they account for about 20% of all the money paid.

Categories: Community

A comradely response to Mike Gonzalez’s 'Letters from Venezuela'

Links International - Tue, 15/04/2014 - 04:24

Example of Chavista graffiti in an area where Dan Gent was living in Merida. The opposition barricades are way down the road, where you will not find any of this graffiti. 

See also "Federico Fuentes replies to Mike Gonzalez". For more discussion on developments in Venezuela, click HERE.]

April 11, 2014 -- RS21 -- Dan Gent, writes from Venezuela having witnessed the events surrounding the opposition riots. It is offered as a comradely response to Mike Gonzalez’s "Letters from Venezuela". This piece was originally published on the Comrade Markin blog, where there are more photos that Dan has taken in Venezuela. Dan was a participant in the most recent solidarity brigade organised by the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network.

* * *

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Categories: Community

Things to Think About as the Federal Budget Approaches

Left Focus - Tue, 15/04/2014 - 04:22

above:  Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott will claim Australia 'is living beyond its means' - but behind this rhetoric there is simply an Ideology of small government - regardless of the human cost. Tristan Ewins
As the Federal Budget approaches for 2014-2015 there has been speculation to the effect that the Government may resort to PAYE income tax bracket creep or a GST hike in order to fund its spending.   The ALP is rightly critical of any GST option that is not part of a broader progressive package. (perhaps Shorten may not even support a GST increase in any form or context) Increasing the GST base - either generally, or by ‘broadening its base’ to apply to food and health -  could be highly regressive.  But the bracket creep option is also potentially regressive – as low income earners could see themselves pushed upward into higher brackets without any real increase in their disposable income. (Again: it depends on the ‘overall package’ of the tax/welfare mix)
Further, the Government is considering raising the age of retirement, or cutting back Aged Pension eligibility.  Some are also agitating for a cut back in the Disability Support Pension rate – and possibly also eligibility.  That includes the Treasurer himself, Joe Hockey.
The ‘pension option’ is deemed by some to be ‘inescapable’ because of the ageing population, and the ‘incentive’ for people to claim the DSP as opposed to NewStart. 
We are living longer, it is true – but it is not true for all of us.  And indeed – while some are living longer – they are also living with loneliness, frailty, and sometimes indignity.   This begs the question why higher Aged Care expenditure is not on the agenda – as opposed to pension austerity.  
There is also the question of what matters most in life: the chronic capitalist commitment to endless economic growth regardless of the social cost – or the opportunity for older Australians to enjoy a retirement in comfort and dignity; enjoying opportunities for personal development not possible beforehand during their working life.
Finally – we need to maintain perspective. 
‘Deloitte Access Economics’ claimed the Government could save $2.4 billion over four years by limiting increases in the disability pension to inflation.  But when placed into perspective this is pittance to the Government when compared to the effects on the comfort, dignity and relative independence of the disabled.   And even if this amount would grow as the aged population increases,  according to ‘Wikipedia’: “the economy of Australia is one of the largest capitalist economies in the world with a GDP of US$1.57 trillion.”  Despite an ageing population – caring for those people will still be ‘well within our means’.
So while the Disability Support Pension costs “$15 billion a year” and the Aged Pension currently costs $38 billion  – probably rising to $55 billion in 2050  – that needs to be considered in the context of a (current) GDP of approximately $1.6 TRILLION. (Aus dollars; and a much larger GDP by 2050 also!) 
And while the Government claims it will not attack existing disability pensioners – the cost over the years might be high in the form of attrition against new disability pensioners.
Indeed, there is even the danger that the National Disability Insurance Scheme itself may come under threat; or that only those with the most profound physical disabilities will be considered worthy of support by a government trying to ‘wriggle out’ of previous (pre-election) disability commitments.

So while the Government could save some money through attacks on the living standards, dignity and relative independence on the disabled (linking the pension to inflation rather than wages growth), it should be honest that its real motive is not some ‘budget emergency’ – but an Ideological commitment to small government no matter the human cost.
‘Pension austerity’ needs to be considered in the context where all Australian families should benefit from the social insurance paid collectively by all of us – for the sake of our peace of mind – both for ourselves and our loved ones.  And also hopefully because we care about each other as a society.This must include a robust disability pension alongside robust disability insurance.
For those who care about distributive justice, and compassion for the poor and vulnerable, surely there must be better solutions than what is apparently being considered by Hockey and the Liberal Cabinet. 
And indeed there ARE better solutions.  Superannuation Concessions could be wound back – and income tax increased on the basis of a progressive restructuring. Tens of billions could be saved here alone.
To elaborate: It is true that tax cuts delivered overwhelmingly to upper and middle income Australians during the Howard years were recently estimated as costing the Budget around $40 billion a year alone.  And as Richard Denniss has argued on several occasions – superannuation concessions have been of benefit largely to the top 5 per cent income demographic (millionaires basically), a well as the ‘upper middle class’; and more broadly are estimated by the Treasury as costing “$45 billion a year by 2015.”
To summarise: The Government has several potential alternatives on the table they could consider – and the Shorten Opposition should be pursuing these progressive options also.
First: Wind back superannuation concessions for the wealthy and the upper middle class, saving tens of billions.
Second:  Restructure personal income tax.  Perhaps allow bracket creep in the higher brackets – but INDEX the lower two brackets. And perhaps add a bracket for the highest income earners.
Third:  Increase the GST – but only as part of a ‘total package’which includes increased welfare, tax credits or other tax cuts for lower income Australians, maintenance of exemptions on food and health, and extension of GST exemptions to funerals as well.  Calibrate the overall ‘tax mix’, here, to deliver more progressive outcomes.
Fourth:  Embrace the necessity of ‘larger government’ if ‘the Australian way of life’ is to be preserved – including a fair age of retirement and protection of the most vulnerable from grinding poverty. In this acknowledge that ‘the size of government’ in Australia is already low by international standards.
Fifth:  If the Government is concerned there is an ‘incentive’ for pensioners to apply for the Disability Pension because of the extraordinarily low Newstart unemployment benefit – then INCREASE NEWSTART to respectable and socially sustainable levels – and acknowledge that while the Disability and Aged Pensions are higher – disability and aged pensioners are still living in poverty!
Sixth:  Reconsider spending priorities with ‘upper middle class welfare’. Specifically, reconsider the structure of ‘Paid Parental Leave’, and impose tighter means tests of Private Health Insurance Rebate payments.
Budget pressures also need to be considered in the context of a growing infrastructure crisis.
Federal and State Liberal Governments are at odds with construction unions – not only because of  alleged criminality – but more crucially because there IS an infrastructure deficit – which when combined with robust conditions for workers in the Construction industry make it harder to maintain ‘small government’ alongside basic transport, communications and education infrastructure demands.  And construction workers should not have to pay the price for a right-wing Ideological fixation on reducing the size of government.
Regrettably, there is also an Ideological opposition to public housing at the same time as the dream of home ownership has drifted out of the reach of so many young Australian families since the Howard-era housing boom.
Some Liberals had  considered the GST option perhaps because they realise the infrastructure deficit will have consequences that ‘flow on’ to the private sector.(though in Victoria Napthine now rejects the GST option)   
We need to consider both the impact upon our competitiveness from the ‘infrastructure deficit’– but also the social cost to poorer families in emerging suburbs which lack transport infrastructure and schools.Finally, today's Conservatives could do worse than to consider the example of the German Christian Democrats from the 1950s – who embraced a "social market" model. As Eric Aarons has explained,this approach suggested "a social vision couched in moral as well as economic terms…", and "recognition of the fundamentally social nature of organised production". Further, it implied a "moral community" "required to legitimate the social order…" , and the"[prevention] of the emergence of a 'two-tier' society" including a layer of permanently poor. (Aarons pp 33-34)Christian, 'compassionate conservatives' in the Liberal Party do not have to follow the austere, heartless path of economic neo-liberalism. While this writer is a proud liberal democratic socialist as well as a Christian, sometimes it is necessary to promote lines of communication when so much is at stake. We cannot support this kind of 'neo-liberal class war' against the vulnerable and disadvantaged: a budget which hits the poor and the vulnerable in order to redistribute wealth towards the wealthy and the upper middle class. Aarons, Eric; Hayek versus Marx And Today’s Challenges; Routledge. New York, 2009   
Categories: Community

PolyluxMarx: A guide to reading Karl Marx's 'Capital'

Links International - Mon, 14/04/2014 - 04:59

For more reading guides and educational material, click HERE.

April 14, 2014 -- PolyluxMarx -- For several years now, people have been starting to dust off Marx and return to his analysis of society. This is mainly due to the social turmoil in global capitalism, weaknesses in prevailing explanations of economic relationships and the harrowing crises the world has faced since the 1990s.

In particular, a younger generation of readers – untainted by former ideological battles – is starting to read Capital. Whether in universities, educational institutions, unions or in their own living rooms, small groups are discussing Marx’s critique of political economy.

This is exactly what PolyluxMarx aims to support. This website provides a collection of annotated PowerPoint slides that illustrate the central arguments from Capital. We also use concise introductory texts and notes on methodology and learning to make Capital easier to read.

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Categories: Community

Napthine promises Airport rail

Daniel Bowen - Sun, 13/04/2014 - 14:10

Victorians will be able to catch a train to the airport with Premier Denis Napthine today announcing that the upcoming State Budget will outline the Coalition Government’s commitment to build a new rail link from Southern Cross Station to Melbourne Airport.

Coalition Government commits to Melbourne Airport Rail Link in State Budget

Really we’ll have to wait for the Budget to see the detail, as it’s pretty vague at the moment.

Here’s the route:

Rough route for airport rail promise. No financial details. In May budget.

— Brendan Donohoe (@BrendanDonohoe7) April 13, 2014

Given the track will run via Sunshine, presumably it’ll use the RRL tracks, which include provision for future electrification.

They haven’t stated a fare cost, but I’m hearing it won’t be standard Myki fares. All they’ve said is it’ll be “affordable”. It’d better be. Skybus is now $18 one way — it’s still cheaper than a taxi for a single person, but a big discouragement for groups.

They haven’t said when it’ll be built, or how much it’s costing.

The airport station will be elevated. I’d been under the impression for some time now that there was existing provision under the terminals for the station. Oh well. Hopefully that means easy level access to the Departures level of the main terminals.

Brisbane Airtrain at the Domestic Terminal

Travel time of 25 minutes is slightly slower than Skybus in off-peak, but considerably faster than peak. And capacity will be much better — Skybus currently gets overloaded at peak times, and it’s very common to see full buses at off-peak times.

Frequency 10 mins in peak is good. What will it be off-peak? Not sure. There seems to be some talk of also 10 minutes in daytime, which is promising.

They’ve decided the Metro tunnel does not need to be built first. The existing (but unconfirmed) RRL service plan says initially 16 trains per hour from Geelong/Ballarat/Bendigo in peak, and the capacity is 24, so there’s space.

True, it doesn’t allow for much future growth, but that’s a problem to solve later. Waiting for a multi-billion-dollar rail tunnel nobody seems willing to fund shouldn’t hold up other projects indefinitely. There are measures you can take when capacity runs out: upgrade the signalling, run longer/higher capacity trains, and of course build more tracks.

Anyway it makes more sense to use express tracks for an express service than fit them onto suburban tracks into the tunnel which have stopping trains on them. It also allows airport trains to be a dedicated fleet, designed specifically for passengers with luggage. (Counterargument: running via the tunnel would provide better access to the CBD, and better connections to other rail lines, assuming it runs down Swanston Street.)

But it’s not clear where they’ll terminate at Southern Cross. Given a premium fare, they might want dedicated platforms to isolate those users and do proper ticket checks, though this would still be a problem at Footscray and Sunshine.

It’s all come out of nowhere, of course. One observer said it sounded like they’d figured it all out on the back of an envelope.

But the politics is encouraging. A few months ago their only major transport pledge was the toll road. Now they’re talking about PT, and the Dandenong package in particular includes real money. It seems they’ve finally realised promising a tollroad when the majority want PT wasn’t going to win them the election.

Oh, and the fact that they mention frequency in the press release? That’s also a good sign that the past myopic focus on infrastructure (with little regard to service quality) might be starting to change.

Categories: Community

The “Typhoid Mary” of NT politics and the Blain by-election.

The Northern Myth - Sun, 13/04/2014 - 10:53

The first toast at the celebrations by NT Chief Minister Adam Giles’ Country Liberal Party headquarters after their skinny victory at the Blain by-election on Saturday should have been to the “Typhoid Mary” of NT politics, Alison Anderson.

The election of CLP candidate Nathan Barrett has saved the Giles and his government from reliance upon chook-farming independent Gerry Wood to hang on as a minority government and Giles will be able to govern through to the next NT election in late 2016 with the skinniest of majorities.

If he lasts that long.

The second toast of the evening should have been to leader of the local teachers union, Matthew Cranitch. Cranitch drew 8.6 per cent of the vote on the night, though most of those appear to have been CLP voters and the CLP would have picked up most of Cranitch’s preferences.

Both circumstances are bizarre, but then the default switch for political life in the NT has been on the crazy position for some time now.

Anderson’s role in saving Giles is something she’ll never take credit for and that Giles will never admit but, as comments to the door-knockers in the electorate and the result made clear, driving Alison Anderson and fellow rebel CLP MLAs Francis Xavier Kurruppuwu and Larisa Lee out of the party may have been a political masterstroke.

Getting rid of the troublesome “bush bloc” was seen a positive by at least some of the voters in Blain. There may well be some support in the bush for the stand – as confused and confusing as it is – taken by Anderson and her colleagues but in the towns most whitefellas just see their position as noise in the system that threatens the fundamental structures – as flawed as they may be – of the Giles government.

It seems that for some voters in Blain, Giles deserved some small reward for isolating Typhoid Mary to the NT’s political equivalent of North Brother Island.

Matthew Cranitch is, for now at least, the President of the NT branch of the Australian Education Union, which has torn itself apart over his candidacy and is unaffiliated with the ALP. The AEU is embroiled in a tense dispute with the Giles government over EBA negotiations for its members, and Cranitch directed his preferences to the CLP, after describing his union as being run by “Labor lackies.”

There has been more than a sniff of arrogance about Adam Giles in recent weeks and months and it appears that he cannot bring himself to be gracious even in lucky victory.

Tweeting from CLP celebrations last evening, the ABC’s Mark Di Stefano reported Giles as calling Labor “liars and smearers” (sic) and saying that “with all humility the Labor campaign was treacherous to democracy.”

Despite her unwitting contribution to the CLP’s success, Giles was reportedly no less complimentary of Anderson, describing her conduct in recent weeks as “disgraceful.” Giles also – still – can see a place on his backbench for Francis Xavier Kurruppuwu.

That Giles and the CLP can get a political bounce out of the long-standing stoush with Anderson is more dumb political luck than good management.

For Labor’s Delia Lawrie the loss in Blain will be crushing, despite the spin about a 10 per cent swing to her party and Labor’s candidate Geoff Bahnert’s claims that he’d be back to run in Blain at the next NT general election in 2016 as a “fitter and leaner” prospect. As a candidate, Bahnert was a dud and is surely underserving of a third bite at the Blain electoral cherry.

Lawrie is an unpopular leader – not least among her own party – and despite her claims last night that she wasn’t “looking over her shoulder” and “had the full support” of her caucus her continued leadership must be seen as tenuous at best.

In September 2013 Lawrie stared down a leadership challenge by Fannie Bay MLA Michael Gunner, considered by some as Labor’s coming man but who is nonetheless viewed as a lightweight yet to reach his undoubted potential.

Others reported to be in line for Lawrie’s job include Nhulunbuy MLA Lynne Walker, a useful parliamentary performer but apparently reluctant to challenge due to family commitments. Barkly representative and deputy Labor leader Gerry McCarthy is seen as the best of the potential challengers but is unwilling – at present at least – to put his hand up for the top job.

For many Lawrie’s problem is that she does too much of the heavy lifting in the parliament – she is Labor’s best scrapper in the NT legislative Assembly – and that more of that burden should be carried by her senior colleagues. This failure by Lawrie to delegate the role of parliamentary attack dog – a role usually performed by the deputy leader – is seen as either a managerial failure or a sign of paranoia.

Labor desperately needs a to find a new parliamentary hitman if it is to keep Lawrie as leader through to 2016. That would free her up to concentrate on policy and positives sufficient to take what should be an easy win for Labor.

Giles, too will have to lift his game to survive through to the next election. Word is that he remains as Chief Minister only because of the paucity of suitable replacements from within the CLP. Expect to see plenty of jockeying by the wannabes in the coming months.

Alison Anderson has pulled off a failure of masterful proportions. Not only has she gifted Giles victory in a by-election he should have lost but she has condemned herself, Lee and Kurruppuwu to two and a half years of utter irrelevance on the cross-benches.

How long they’ll survive there remains to be seen. Larisa Lee and Francis Xavier Kurruppuwu will invariably fail in any attempt to run as independent candidates in their electorates in 2016. Both are on skinny margins and one benefit of party membership is the support – financial and in-kind – that a party provides during a campaign and which they will be denied at the next election.

Anderson’s electorate of Namatjira will most likely be substantially re-jigged in the electoral redistribution due before the next general election, in part because of the obvious animus by the CLP – which effectively controls the redistribution process – and also because of changing demographics.

Residents of the many small – predominantly Aboriginal – townships in her electorate are reported to be effectively abandoning their bush homes for the bright lights of Alice Springs. Anderson – sitting on a 68.6 per cent two party preferred majority – may well be facing the perfect electoral storm, with a dwindling local electorate that can only be balanced by the import of suburban Alice Springs voters who are just as unlikely to be sympathetic to her pleadings as those voters in Blain that rewarded Giles.

Lee and Kurruppuwu may read the very large writing on the wall and choose to retire with a modicum of grace well before facing the ignominy of inevitable defeat. Anderson, who has previously said she would only stand in the NT parliament for one term – may well follow suit.

That prospect is only enhanced by the prospect of seemingly endless months of the hell that is independence without a cause in a parliament with no need for their vote and no ears for their pleas.

Neither Labor nor the CLP will take the votes of Lee and Kurruppuwu while they stand by Anderson.

The Weekend Australian this past weekend published an op-ed piece by Anderson that is more self-serving re-writing of recent NT political history than reasoned argument for the continuing relevance of her increasingly fragile “bush bloc.”

Anderson’s piece is a bold but fundamentally flawed pitch aimed more at Tony Abbott – who would be wise to continue to ignore Anderson’s imputations and plea for Federal intervention in the NT – than at a local audience.

Anderson argues that the only path to advancement for the NT’s aboriginal population is with her self-described “bush bloc.”

For Adam Giles and just about every other politician in the NT she couldn’t be further from the truth if she tried.

Notwithstanding that there at least some small grains of truth in the bush bloc’s argument that too little is being done in the bush, a close look at some of the major townships in Larisa Lee’s Arnhem electorate – for example – shows that, while the money may come from Canberra and many of the projects were approved under previous NT Labor governments, there is substantial capital and infrastructure investment in the bush.

It may not be enough to address the longstanding capital and infrastructure deficits manifest in the bush, but it is more than Anderson and her bush bloc are giving Giles, previous governments and Canberra credit for.

Thats the rub.

As I’ve argued before, Giles has lost momentum and credit for failing to point out the flaws in the bush bloc’s position. Giles needs to do better, or he will lose his job and the trust not only of Territorians in the bush, but those in the town as well.

Categories: Community

Michael Lebowitz: Venezuela's economic problems; Trans-Pacific Partnership an imperialist assault

Links International - Sun, 13/04/2014 - 09:27

[For more articles by or about Michael Lebowitz, click HERE. For more on Venezuela, click HERE.] 

April 4, 2014 -- Newsclick -- Michael Lebowitz, a Canadian economist who has written extensively on Latin America and is a former resident in Venezuela, talks to Newsclick on the economic problems facing Venezuela and the recent protests there.

He says these protests have been orchestrated by right-wing forces that want to get rid of the left-wing government. They are happening in rich neighbourhoods; the poor are not participating.

Saying that these protests will not go very far and will fizzle out, Lebowitz points out that there is an underlying serious economic problem that did not originate with President Nicholas Maduro and have been building for quite a while.

Lebowitz says the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement is an international assault on the people and it can be countered only by an international response.

Categories: Community