Recent blog entries

Sean Christian Price's nasty history and previous convictions

Sean Christian Price, accused of murdering school girl Masa Vukotic, has a dark past.

It has already been revealed that Price had been an inmate at a secure psychiatric institution where he managed to punch Tony Abbott, then Health Minister, during an inspection.

The Herald Sun gives us another clue but without the details: Price's middle name, Christian, comes from his father, of Pitcairn Island.

Spanish Ebola nurse: infected others in holiday swimming pool?

English news reports of Teresa Romero, the Spanish nurse infected with Ebola mention that she had been on holiday when she first started experiencing the symptoms of Ebola.

As most people know by now, a patient becomes infectious the moment that they start to exhibit symptoms.

Australia can't criticize Putin while competing with him

While much of the world is watching the tragedy of MH17 and contemplating the grim fate of 298 deceased passengers sealed into a refrigerated freight train in the middle of a war zone, Australia (with 28 victims on that train) has more than just theoretical skeletons in the closet too.

Abbott may kill more Australians than Putin

Australians are the third biggest group of casualties in the MH17 tragedy this week. Australia's leader, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, is already calling Mr Putin to account before the facts have even been confirmed.

The startling reality is, OECD research already suggests that Mr Abbott's own policies have the potential to kill more Australians.

Balancing a budget with sex work?

Tony Abbott has attracted worldwide ridicule for himself and our country (not for the first time of course) with his infamous wink incident this week.

In fact, people repeatedly sharing this incident on social media are not really adding much to the national debate. Anybody who's opinion actually matters already knew Tony Abbott is not fit to even lead a scout group, let alone a whole country.


Is the wealth of the North a myth?

The Northern Myth - 2 hours 45 min ago

This is a guest post by Glenn Morrison that was first published 1 May 2015 by Rural Weekly NT

 Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles wants to unlock the North to boost Australia’s wealth (Rural Weekly NT April 17). As the member for the Central Australian electorate of Braitling well knows, this particular Myth of The North is an old one.

The story goes like this: The top half of Australia holds vast resources and unlimited potential wealth that must be developed at all costs. Central Australia lies on the southernmost fringe of the North, usually defined as everything above the Tropic of Capricorn.

Nevertheless, Centralians are as keen as any to be included in federal momentum for the North’s development, and any ‘wealth’ that might follow.

But they would do well to pause for breath. As a mythology, the North has roots deep in the nineteenth century. It was at least partly responsible for fuelling a race to the Top End between ill-fated explorers Burke and Wills and the intrepid party of John McDouall Stuart, the first European to cross Central Australia in 1860.

The British had established an outpost at Port Essington in 1835, mainly because it was feared the North might be occupied by the French. However, no-one had yet managed to reach the north from the south.

Starting from Melbourne, Burke came to within a few kilometres of the Gulf of Carpentaria in early 1861. Turned back by mangroves, many in the party did not survive the return journey.

The determined Stuart finally bathed in northern waters in July 1862, cementing his place in Australian history. Stuart even survived the return to Adelaide, but his health was ruined and, returning to London, he died just three years later. His legacy spoke however, of a vast northern potential and various dreams to tap this perceived wealth have been floated ever since.

And, like their explorer forebears, generations of Australians were prepared to overlook the real cost of developing the north in favour of realising the dream.

In 1926 Australian Prime Minister Stanley Bruce declared developing the North to be of “immense strategic importance.” John Curtin dubbed it “essential to future security” in 1944, and in 1969 Gough Whitlam described it as “necessary and urgent.”

Some projects were even built, such as the Ord River scheme, which as later tagged Australia’s biggest white elephant.

In fact, reports this week reveal yet another stumbling block for the beleaguered Ord, as plans for a Chinese company to kickstart the Stage Two Ord Irrigation Scheme were put on hold. Development of the 6000ha Knox Plains site by Shanghai Zhongfu-owned Kimberley Agricultural Investment is in doubt after conditions imposed by the federal Department of Environment proved onerous.

But such difficulties are nothing new for the Ord: Displaced Aborigines have watched crop after crop fail on the rich plains surrounding.

Nevertheless, the North still looms large in the imaginations of Australians and their politicians.

After all, it covers almost one fifth of the continent, with only about 68,000 hectares used for agriculture, of which some 30,000 hectares are irrigated. While covering 17% of Australia’s footprint however, the North accommodates less than 1% of its population.

A northern development white paper launched in 2013 set out the federal position on the North ahead of a 2014 green paper outlining possible activities. Prime Minister Tony Abbott makes clear the federal government’s philosophical stance in the white paper’s opening lines: “No longer will Northern Australia be the last frontier: it is in fact the next frontier . . . ”

On cue, the report emphasises the natural, geographic and strategic assets of the north while declaring them to be underutilised.

Launching the white paper, Mr Abbott called upon the national imagination to exploit the North’s enormous agricultural potential with its “bountiful supply of water.” He stood on the wall of Australia’s largest dam to announce a future ruled by irrigation and the development of gas, mining and agribusiness.

Maybe Mr Abbott has not read Xavier Herbert.

“The blunny place is always either a desert or a lake,” wrote the Australian author in his novel Capricornia. “Rabbits’ve got more sense than them blowbags that write in the Southern papers.”

Herbert’s sentiments regarding the tenuous balance of ecologies at large in the North were published in 1937, and are borne out in later studies.

For the idea of the North becoming the food bowl of Asia is now largely debunked.

An often-quoted piece of research is The Northern Myth: A Study of the Physical and Economic Limits to Agricultural and Pastoral Development in Tropical Australia, by B.R Davidson Published in 1965, Davidson assembled the best Australian research of the day. He concluded the idea to develop the North was “a platitude uncritically accepted by many Australians.”

Except for the existing pastoral industry, the development case was a bad one, Davidson writes.

Now, I hear you: Davidson’s work is more than 50 years old. And I might agree, if it weren’t for the fact that his findings have been reinforced again and again by independent studies since.

For example, a 2009 CSIRO review recognizes the same challenges as Davidson: poor and vulnerable soils, and a highly variable climate.

Another study limits irrigation capacity to between 20,000 and 40,000 developable hectares based on potentially available groundwater.

Reluctant as conservative governments are to admit it, a further constraint now looms: climate change. Perhaps the greatest challenge of all however, is governance itself.

As the Northern Futures Collaborative Research Network suggests in a recent report, three big influences shaping Australia today collide here in the North.

The first is Big Development, characterised by the drive to build major infrastructure projects, including dams and agricultural development, mining and gas.

The second is Big Conservation, which tends to think of the North as untouched wilderness, a pristine ecology requiring preservation.

The third is policy that seeks to promote indigenous well-being.

Our problem, the report authors suggest, is that we tend to consider each of these influences in isolation. Anyone actually living in the North, however, knows these three influences are inseparable.

Instead of adopting Big Development in isolation as their default option, perhaps Abbott and Giles might do better to find where the three shaping influences intersect.

Stuart, and Burke and Wills would certainly have relished knowing the lie of the land in the 1860s.

Some 150 years later, there is no excuse to act as if we do not know a little of this already.

It would be a crying shame if we didn’t avoid the mistakes of our forefathers in our own race to conquer the North.


Glenn Morrison is a journalist, author and musician living in Alice Springs. He came to Central Australia in 1998 to play at the opening of a new pub and decided to stay.

Glenn has been writing about the region ever since and has won several major awards for his work. He recently finished a PhD in cultural studies at Macquarie University entitled Songlines and Fault Lines: Six Walks that Shaped a Nation, which he is busy turning it into a book.

Categories: Community

Historic Verdict for Galapagos Sharks

Sea Shepherd - 5 hours 23 min ago
Historic Verdict for Galapagos Sharks

Ecuadorian Court Rules in Favor of the Sharks and the Galapagos Marine Reserve

 Sea Shepherd/Tim WattersThe notorious Fer Mary is apprehended in Galapagos.
Photo: Sea Shepherd/Tim WattersAn Ecuadorian Tribunal has issued a historic verdict on the notorious Fer Mary case. The Tribunal found the captain and crew of the fishing vessel, guilty of poaching sharks in Galapagos, a protected area and a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site. It is the first judicial conviction of its kind in 17 years, since the taking effect of legislation adopted to protect the archipelago.

This case dates back to July 18, 2011, when rangers of the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR) and the Ecuadorian Navy apprehended the industrial longline-fishing vessel, Fer Mary, some 20 nautical miles inside the GMR: 357 sharks were found in this Ecuadorian vessel.

On July 19, 2011, the Galapagos environmental prosecutor opened a judicial investigation in this case. After four years of intense litigation, which included complex procedural issues, this verdict is welcome. The judges sentenced the captain of the Fer Mary to two years in prison, and the crew to one year. The verdict also orders confiscation of the six accompanying motor launches, as well as the destruction of the Fer Mary. The latter ratifies a previous judicial decision, adopted last year.

Upon evidence presented at trial by the environmental prosecutor as well as the Galapagos National Park, the Tribunal concluded that the Fer Mary deliberately entered into the GMR. This is important because it dismisses the prevalent force majeure theory, by which ‘malfunctioning’ vessels carried out by winds and currents, ‘accidentally’ enter into the protected area.

The Tribunal also concluded that the sharks were the target: Evidence showed that 96% of all fish found in the vessel, were sharks of different species. It also found longline, a prohibited fishing tool in Galapagos. This is also important because it dismisses the inconsistent by-catch argument, often put forward in court.

 Sea Shepherd/Tim WattersFile photo: Landmark ruling in Galapagos will help protect sharks from a similar fate. Photo: Sea Shepherd/Tim WattersThe verdict also focuses on a very important perspective for law enforcement in Galapagos: Capturing sharks in the Galapagos Marine Reserve is against international law, constitutional law and, of course, penal law. This argument was put forward throughout the litigation, not only by the procedural parties but also by civil society, which closely followed the case. Sea Shepherd Galapagos promoted an initiative to go to court on behalf of the sharks. As a result, a legal brief (Amicus Curiae) was signed by different organizations on September 26, 2011, and it was submitted before the court in defense of the sharks of the GMR. The Amicus Curiae stands as testimony in defense of the magnificent sharks — top predators of the oceans — which Sea Shepherd is proud of.

The verdict offers a “rights of nature” perspective that is seldom seen in judicial statements worldwide. This perspective is consistent with the Ecuadorian Constitution, which considers nature to hold certain rights, and with the Galapagos legislation, which highlights its status as a natural protected area.

Sea Shepherd congratulates the Prosecutors Office of Ecuador and the Galapagos National Park for reaching a historic verdict that brings justice to the sharks. It also salutes civil society of Galapagos and the local community for their long-standing and valid concern in this case.

The case is not over: Appeals are likely to come next. Nevertheless, this outcome is an important step in concluding the first phase of litigation. Sea Shepherd Galapagos has been persistent and relentless in seeing this first phase of litigation through to this important stage.

In Galapagos, we are proud to exclaim: ¨La constancia vence lo que la dicha no alcanza,¨ which translates to: “Constancy conquers what luck doesn’t reach.”

 Sea Shepherd/Tim WattersThe Fer Mary captain and crew have been found guilty of poaching sharks in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. Photo: Sea Shepherd/Tim Watters

Categories: Community

Un’altra dimostrazione di sostegno ad Adamo Goodes.

The Northern Myth - 5 hours 45 min ago

Chips Mackinolty, these past couple of years a happy expatriate in the wilds of inner-city Palermo, sent through a note last night on what he calls the weirdness of social media in the cross cultural universe, here in relation to the furore over the booing of Sydney Swans AFL footballer Adam Goodes.

Chips told of an Italian friend of his who saw the picture of the Pitjantjatjara mob expressing their joyous support for Goodes on Facebook and asked him what it was about … in between admiring the dresses the women were wearing … “tipica!

Chips related his tale in his admittedly lousy Italian.

Si! Le parole, alla lingua Pitjantjatjara, Nyuntu wati wiru dicono: “Tu sei un uomo buono“.

La dimostrazione di sostegno è di circa un uomo aborigeno, un calciatore molto importante, che viene abusato dai tifosi razzisti … simili in modi ad alcuni appassionati di calcio europei. Il suo nome è Adam Goodes, e in questa foto è sostenuto dagli aborigeni della regione centrale del deserto dell’Australia.

In English and Pitjantjatjara

Yes! The words, in the Pitjantjatjara language, Nyuntu Wati Wiru say: “You are a good man.”

The demonstration of support is about an Aboriginal man, a very prominent football player, who is being abused by racist fans … similar in ways to some European football fans. His name is Adam Goodes, and in this photo is being supported by Aboriginal people from the central desert region of Australia.

I then sent through some pics from the locals at the annual Garma festival, where the Yolngu bunggul dancers expressed their support for Goodes in their own inimitable fashion.

Chips shot back with this translation as provided to his friend.

Un’altra dimostrazione di sostegno ad Adamo Goodes. Questi sono i ballerini ad un festival nel nord est Arnhem Land. “37″ è il numero sulla maglia da calcio Adam Goodes!

Another demonstration of support to Adam Goodes. These are dancers at a festival in north east Arnhem Land. “37″ is the number on Adam Goodes football shirt!

As Chips noted, “Yeah I know I fucked up by using calciatore, which refers to players of the sport we know as soccer, but somehow regole australiano footballer seemed too confusing (let alone pingpong aereo for the rugby followers). In Europe, including Italy, some teams haver been banned from playing on account of the behaviour of their fans; others play to empty stadiums. Racist attitudes to players of colour is not limited to the AFL, of course.”

Categories: Community

The Danish Giraffe Killer Applauds the American Lion Killer

Sea Shepherd - Fri, 31/07/2015 - 22:43
The Danish Giraffe Killer Applauds the American Lion Killer

Commentary by Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson

Copenhagen ZooCopenhagen ZooWhat do the Grindadráp and the killing of Cecil the lion have in common?

It appears that the Director of the Copenhagen Zoo, Bengt Holst, is a fan of both.

Remember Bengt Holst, the man who murdered Marius the giraffe and then had him dissected in front of a crowd of school children?

He supports the killing of pilot whales in the Faroes, and today he said that he supports the killing of Cecil the lion.

Not surprising from a man who killed a baby giraffe and four lions himself last year.

But what is strange is that a director of a zoo, any zoo, would support what is a blatantly illegal activity.

Cecil was a radio-collared, iconic lion who was lured out of a national park, wounded with a crossbow and tracked for 40 hours before being found, suffering in agony. He was then dispatched with a rifle by Palmer’s guide. 40 Hours of agony and Holst thought that was cool.

Just what is it about this crime that Bengt Holst supports? Does he support poaching a lion from a national park or using an illegal method of baiting a lion? Does he support killing an animal wearing a radio collar in the wild? Does he support killing lions with a crossbow? Does he support sloppy hunting that results in 40 hours of agony to the victim?

What we have here is a director of a major European zoo condoning poaching and unethical hunting. So it’s not surprising that he condones the killing of pilot whales and dolphins, a practice that is illegal in Denmark.

In defending Palmer and the Grindadráp, Holst makes the lame excuse that the critics of the Grind and the critics of Dr. Walter Palmer are alienated from nature.

Right, this coming from a man who keeps animals in concrete, glass and steel enclosures. He actually has the audacity to suggest that Palmer, a dentist who lives in an American city is not removed from nature. Holst seems to believe that unless you’re killing animals, you are alienated from nature.

The Sea Shepherd crew he accuses of being removed from nature have far more experience in wilderness conditions than he will ever have. We have been in ice conditions off Antarctica and Labrador that would probably scare the crap out of him.

I was raised in rural Canada and I’ve tracked wolf hunters in the Yukon and elephant poachers in Kenya. I’ve kayaked up the Amazon and hiked through the wilderness of Alaska. I’ve tackled whalers off Siberia, seal hunters on the ice floes of Eastern Canada and shark finners off Costa Rica, and this animal-killing, zoological city-dwelling bureaucrat says that it is us who are removed from nature.

We all knew that Bengt Holst is a sadistic, animal-abusing, insensitive creature, completely devoid of empathy and compassion, but now we know he is also an advocate of poaching wildlife from national parks.

It’s amazing really. The only other person to publicly support Dr. Walter Palmer is another animal-killing maniac, and that’s Ted Nugent.

Dr. Walter Palmer may be the most hated man in America and Zimbabwe, but now he has these two fans, one in Michigan and the other in Denmark. Having fans like these guys is simply tossing more crap onto his already completely destroyed reputation.

Denmark is rapidly getting a very bad international reputation because of the vicious Faroese massacres of pilot whales and dolphins, and now Bengt Holst could not resist opening his mouth and contributing his own insensitive opinions to further tarnish the view of Denmark.

Holst also said that people should not be giving animals names, like Marius – the giraffe he killed – or Cecil the lion. Who is Bengt Holst to dictate to the world that animals cannot have names? That in itself is an extremely arrogant statement. Holst wants us all to view animals the way he views them, as commodities to be displayed, abused, killed, eaten or stuffed and stuck on the walls of some nimrod’s man cave.

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Categories: Community

Bolivia's green gains the media and critics are not talking about

Links International - Fri, 31/07/2015 - 13:03

Bolivians receive free tree saplings as part of the "My Tree" program, which combats deforestation. Photo via TeleSUR.

For more on Bolivia, click HERE.

By Federico Fuentes

July 27, 2015 -- Green Left Weekly, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- When Bolivia's President Evo Morales announced in May that his government was allowing oil and gas drilling in national parks, mainstream and progressive media outlets alike were quick to condemn his supposed hypocrisy on environmental issues.

Writing for the Associated Press, Frank Bajak argued that although Morales is known internationally for his outspoken campaigning on climate change, at home he faces constant criticism from conservationists “who say he puts extraction ahead of clean water and forests”.

Bajak said this contradiction was a result of Morales’ strategy of developing extractive industries as a means of cutting poverty, regardless of the environmental cost.

read more

Categories: Community

Ecological crisis: Tragedy of the commons or tragedy of the commodity?

Links International - Fri, 31/07/2015 - 04:04
 Oceans Fisheries and Aquaculture by Stefano B. Longo, Rebecca Clausen, and Brett Clark, published by Rutgers University Press (2015). This essay is based on The Tragedy of the Commodity: Oceans Fisheries and Aquaculture by Stefano B. Longo, Rebecca Clausen and Brett Clark, (Rutgers University Press 2015).

By Stefano B. Longo and Brett Clark

July 21, 2015 -- Climate and Capitalism, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- We live in an era of ecological crisis, which is a direct result of human actions. Natural scientists have been debating whether the current historical epoch should be called the Anthropocene, in order to mark the period in which human activities became the primary driver of global ecological change.[1]

read more

Categories: Community

Brandis’ new NT judge, a “gratuitous insult” and “conjecture and speculation the product of ignorance”

The Northern Myth - Thu, 30/07/2015 - 23:40

This morning George Brandis’ most recent judicial selection will be formally appointed to the Federal Circuit Court in a ceremonial sitting in the NT Supreme Court in Darwin.

It has been a mixed few weeks for Darwin barrister Tony Young of William Forster Chambers. On 16 July 2015 Attorney-General George “Bookshelves” Brandis announced Young’s appointment–with the faintest of praise–as a judge of the Federal Circuit Court (previously known as the Federal Magistrates Court) based in Darwin. The Brandis presser did little more than rephrase the content of Young’s web-page at his chambers.

It is a curious appointment for several reasons, not least because Tony Young is chair of the NT Environment Centre, which recently made a successful NT Supreme Court challenge, run by the local Environmental Defenders Office, to a series of decisions involving massive water allocations in the NT by the CLP government. As the NT Environment Centre media release noted at the time, the Federal Government has cut all funding to EDO’s across Australia, and the NT Government has cut all funding to the Environment Centre NT.

Six days after Brandis announced Young’s appointment Justice Stephen Southwood of the NT Supreme Court delivered his judgment in the matter of Lawrie & Wyvill v Lawler, the latest instalment in the NT Supreme Court action bought by former NT Labor Opposition leader Delia Lawrie against Commissioner John Lawler and his conduct of an inquiry into the proposed grant of a lease of Crown land to a local union group during the dying days of Labor’s administration in 2012.

Lawrie claimed that Lawler failed to accord her procedural fairness by not providing her with notice of any adverse findings made against her in his report. You can read my earlier pieces on this matter here, here and here.

Alistair Wyvill SC (head of William Forster Chambers, the largest barristers chambers in the NT, and until early April 2015 president of the NT Bar Association) acted for Delia Lawrie and Deputy Opposition Leader Gerry McCarthy, instructed by solicitor Cathy Spurr of the Labor-friendly local firm Halfpennys, during the Lawler inquiry and for at least part of her Supreme Court action against Lawler.

Tony Young was counsel for Delia Lawrie during the latter pre-trial stages of Lawrie’s matter from some time in November 2014, during the four-day trial in late January 2015 and also during the most recent hearing of applications by Lawrie and Wyvill that Justice Southwood disqualify himself for apprehended bias.

Those applications arose from the employment of Justice Southwood’s wife in an administrative role for an NT government agency responsible for the administration of the ad-hoc engagement of legal advisors on behalf of NT government departments and agencies.

Relationships between Tony Young, for Lawrie, and Justice Southwood were strained from the first day of proceedings in late January. Things didn’t improve during the hearing of the apprehended bias applications by Lawrie and Wyvill on 5 June 2015, when the ABC reported the following exchange between Justice Southwood and Tony Young.

While listening to argument by Mr Young, Justice Southwood said the case had been “mishandled” by Mr Young, to which Mr Young replied “ … quite frankly, that is discourteous, Your Honour.”

As noted above, on 22 July 2015, Justice Southwood delivered his judgment in the matter of Lawrie & Wyvill v Lawler. It is a remarkable document for a number of reasons, two of which I will examine here. The first is not directly related to the applications that Justice Southwood disqualify himself for apprehended bias – which applications were dismissed.

This first issue concerns the analysis by Justice Southwood of the conduct of the pre-hearing stages of the trial, including several apparent strategic failings by Lawrie’s legal team.

The first mention of Lawrie’s case was before Justice Judith Kelly on 11 September 2014 where she made the usual, and wholly unexceptional, procedural orders for provision of various statements and affidavits by the parties to the court and set the next court date. At the next court date in mid-October 2014 Justice Kelly made further orders for the production of documents in relation to assertions made by the applicant in court documents.

Those assertions concerned the reliance by Lawrie and her legal representatives on statements made by Lawler in a letter to them in the early stages of the Commission’s hearings and the state of mind of Lawrie and her legal team in relation to their belief that no adverse findings would be made against Lawrie by Lawler in his report.

Later that month Cathy Spurr filed an affidavit purportedly in compliance with Justice Kelly’s orders, and claimed legal professional privilege in relation to a number of documents that she objected to the production of.

In late November–by which time Tony Young had apparently been engaged by Delia Lawrie in the stead of Alistair Wyvill SC–Paul Maher, solicitor for Commissioner Lawler, replied to Spurr, claiming that legal professional privilege had already been waived for the documents identified by Spurr. Maher called for the documents to be provided to him.

Spurr replied to Maher on 15 December 2014, maintaining that privilege had not been waived but agreeing to provide the documents to Maher on the basis that be seen only by him.

On 16 December 2014 Maher wrote to Spurr, telling her that:

I confirm that we have no present intention to call or cross-examine either you [Spurr] or Mr Wyvill. Neither Mr Maurice [Michael Maurice QC, senior counsel for Lawler] or I want that situation to arise if it can be avoided at all. The only thing that would change our view is if any of the documents produced by you appear to clearly contradict what is in your own or Mr Wyvill’s affidavit.

Those documents were provided to Maher on 22 December 2014 and were examined by both Maher and senior counsel Michael Maurice QC overnight.

The next day Maher wrote again to Spurr, noting that:

Those documents are inconsistent with the position taken in the affidavits of Mr Wyvill, the plaintiff [Lawrie] and you that the plaintiff had no expectation of the possibility of Commissioner Lawler making adverse findings [against Lawrie].

Then followed in January 2015 several interlocutory hearings (now before Justice Southwood), the preparation of affidavits and exchange of correspondence.

On 14 January 2015 Maher wrote an email to an officer in the Department of the NT Chief Minister, the agency responsible for paying the invoices for Commissioner Lawler’s legal representatives, that reveals the remarkable impact of the documents the subject of the failed claim for legal professional privilege by Lawrie’s legal team.

Referring to earlier advice of 18 November 2014 by Michael Maurice QC, Maher told the department that at that time the prospects for a successful defence of Lawrie’s claims were slim.

Mr Maurice felt that the facts were probably against us, based on the facts of our situation.

There was one other potential issue at that time, but neither Mr Maurice nor I really expected it to so dramatically impact on the case. It had seemed at first inconceivable to Mr Maurice and I that Ms Lawrie and her advisers Cathy Spurr and Alistair Wyvill did not expect adverse findings to be made. Even when it was asserted in Ms Lawrie’s Statement of Facts, Issues and Contentions that neither she nor her advisers expected an adverse finding, we found that difficult to believe. We were therefore surprised when both Alistair Wyvill and Cathy Spurr swore affidavits stating that they did not expect adverse findings.

Although Mr Maurice and I felt it highly unlikely that Alistair Wyvill and Cathy Spurr would make affidavits that were not true and accurate, we felt at least we should explore the issue in order to satisfy our obligation to Mr Lawler. The fact that the plaintiff has made those assertions acted as a waiver of the privilege she would otherwise have been able to maintain over communications between her, Cathy Spurr and Alistair Wyvill relating to that issue.

Maher then refers to the correspondence between himself and Spurr and the provision of documents to him just before Christmas 2014, noting that when he and Mr Maurice examined the documents they:

 … were surprised indeed. We had expected they would confirm what Alistair Wyvill and Cathy Spurr had asserted in their affidavits, but the contrary was the case.

The first impact is that it has significantly increased the prospect of success … the argument that we now have is that the plaintiff and her advisers fully expected an adverse finding.

The other significant impact is that in order to run this argument we must cross-examine not only the plaintiff but also Cathy Spurr and Alistair Wyvill.

The prospect of cross-examination of Spurr and Wyvill presented great difficulties for Maher in that he had known Cathy Spurr and Alistair Wyvill for many years, as had Michael Maurice QC known Alistair Wyvill. Maher reported that Maurice QC felt unable to conduct a cross-examination of Wyvill in the manner required. In those circumstances Maurice QC considered it appropriate to step down from the case.

Maher notes that when these concerns were raised with Justice Southwood he was loath to delay the trial and suggested that Maher and Maurice QC engage junior counsel to conduct any cross-examination if required. Finally Maher advised the Department that due to the extra time required for the anticipated cross-examination and the extra cost of engaging junior counsel that his previous estimates of costs had “blown out … extensively.”

This sequence of events came to a head in the opening moments of Lawrie’s substantive case on 27 January 2015, when the following exchange occurred between Justice Southwood and Tony Young in relation to the tender of affidavits—and subsequent exposure to cross-examination on the content of those affidavits–by Delia Lawrie, Alistair Wyvill and Cathy Spurr.

 His Honour: Well, it also has the effect of extending these proceedings and exposing a number of the witnesses to quite serious cross-examination …

Tony Young: It does, your Honour.

HH: Mr Young, with potentially quite serious factual findings open at the end of the day.

TY: Yes, your Honour.

HH: But nonetheless you’re proceeding.

TY: They’re my instructions your Honour.

Following a break to allow the respondents to consider a “late flurry of affidavits,” Young told the court:

TY: Your Honour, during the adjournment I sought further instructions about the conduct of this case on the plaintiff … I don’t propose to rely on the affidavits of Ms Spurr, Ms Lawrie and Mr Wyvill.

Later, in an exchange related to the tender of a document, Justice Southwood noted that Alistair Wyvill should be made available for cross-examination if the document were tendered. Tony Young advised that Wyvill would not be made available for cross-examination and the document was not tendered in evidence.

All counsel in trials—whether as politically-charged as Lawrie’s case or more mundane—make forensic decisions and give advice about the conduct of and strategies in each case. Some in the NT legal profession are more than curious that this matter proceeded as far, and in the manner that it did, when there were such apparent difficulties with the case.

As I’ve noted previously, the findings of Lawler’s enquiry were little more than a political flea-bite for Lawrie and NT Labor. For mine, Lawrie’s continued pursuit of this matter appears to be driven more by hubris and poor advice than sound political reasoning.

Once the cat—the failed claim for legal professional privilege of documents that Lawrie’s legal team should have known would fundamentally undermine their case once provided to the respondents—was out of the bag then in my view the preferable option would—or should—have been to “save the furniture” and Lawrie’s exposure to a costs order.

As Justice Southwood noted, Lawrie’s legal team had been aware since at least mid-January of the likely strategy to be adopted by Lawler’s counsel, including testing the truthfulness and accuracy of the allegations pleaded in two paragraphs of Lawrie’s Statement of Facts, Issues and Contentions, what appeared in the affidavits of Lawrie, Spurr and Wyvill and the inconsistencies apparent from the respondent’s examination of the material previously claimed to be subject to legal professional privilege.

The second issue of present interest emerging from Justice Southwood’s judgment of 22 July 2015 are the claims that Justice Southwood’s wife’s employment and her involvement with the engagement of Paul Maher to represent Commissioner Lawler founded the applications for apprehended bias against the her husband.

Justice Southwood detailed Tony Young’s written and oral submissions supporting Lawrie’s application for apprehended bias and then swatted them away in a blink.

All of the above submissions are utter conjecture and are an attempt to embellish the true situation.

In a lengthy analysis of each ground forming Young’s submissions, Justice Southwood described one as appearing to be “nothing more than a gratuitous insult.”

Justice Southwood also provided as neat a judicial smackdown of submissions from a barrister as I’ve seen in many a long year:

… the irony of Mr Young’s statements … is profound. There is nothing more frightful than the conjecture and speculation which is the product of ignorance.

Hopefully Tony Young’s judicial career will get off to a better start than his career as a barrister has ended.

Alistair Wyvill’s further submissions that Justice Southwood disqualify himself for apprehended bias are adjourned.

* On 29 July 2015 counsel for Delia Lawrie made application for leave to appeal from the decision of Justice Southwood in Lawrie v Lawler of 1 April 2015. The Northern Myth understands that appeal is almost 3 months outside the usual period for appeals in the Supreme Court of the NT and has been adjourned to 10 August 2015.

Categories: Community

Selahattin Demirtaş: 'How Turkish government endangers peace process with Kurds'

Links International - Thu, 30/07/2015 - 12:57

For more on the struggle of the Kurdish people

Selahattin Demirtaş (pictured) interviewed by Ezgi Başaran

July 28, 2015 -- Hurriyet Daily News, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The government of Turkey’s refusal to provide legal guarantees for the Kurdistan Workers Party'(PKK), coupled with the construction of military fortresses, effectively ended the ceasefire in Turkey, Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş (pictured) explained.

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Categories: Community

Sam Gindin and Leo Panitch: SYRIZA's dilemma

Links International - Thu, 30/07/2015 - 04:31
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras during a swearing-in ceremony this month. Alkis Konstantinidis / Reuters

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras during a swearing-in ceremony this month. Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters.

[The Greece-EU “agreement” has set off debates on the left on why the SYRIZA government "agreed" to such harsh terms and what are the next steps for the left in Greece, and across Europe. Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal hopes to contribute to this by providing essential background information, thoughtful comment and presenting the positions of various left organisations.]

For more on Greece's struggle against austerity, click HERE

By Sam Gindin and Leo Panitch

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Categories: Community

Turkey wages war on Kurds under 'cover' of fighting ISIS

Links International - Thu, 30/07/2015 - 03:27

For more on the struggle of the Kurdish people

July 29, 2015 -- Democracy Now!, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Turkish jets have reportedly launched their heaviest assault on Kurdish militants in northern Iraq since airstrikes began last week, effectively ending a two-year truce. Over the past week, the Turkish military has launched combat operations on two fronts: one against the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Syria (also called Daesh and ISIS or ISIL), another against Kurds inside Turkey and in northern Iraq, where Kurdish groups have been fighting against the Islamic State. This means Turkey is now essentially bombing both sides of the same war.

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Categories: Community

The Five Group Railway – good or bad for passengers?

Daniel Bowen - Wed, 29/07/2015 - 10:34

The “five group railway” is something that’s been on the cards for a while. The Age highlights it today in this article: Metro plan to split Melbourne rail network into five lines hangs on union fight

It has its origins last decade — the 2008 Victorian Transport Plan talked about “creating a Metro system”, in the context of strong patronage growth and the evolution of Melbourne’s commuter railway into one that can cope with far more passengers than it can currently handle, reflecting Melbourne’s growth, and in particular the CBD and inner-city.

Melbourne’s railway system was designed as an old style commuter railway, carrying people to and from the city with branches, junctions and single track lines to maximise reach. The City Loop was a major boost to the rail system at the time but the four tunnels have to cope with trains from 10 separate inbound lines

The operation of this sort of railway is complex, the capacity of lines is not maximised and reliability of the service overall falls. One delayed train can affect the whole system.

Melbourne will soon be at the point where we cannot run more train services on key lines. Metro rail systems are designed to run higher capacity trains from end to end of lines using dedicated tracks – the trains can run at higher frequency without interfering with other routes. The focus is on simple timetables, frequent services and consistent stopping patterns.

Metro systems like those in London and New York have key interchange stations to allow people to change trains easily or switch to trams and buses to get to where they want to go.

PTV’s plans for this have also developed over the years. It’s reflected in the 2013 Network Development Plan — this map shows the rail network as it is now (apart from delayed Southland station), with the opening of Regional Rail Link. As you can see: five groups. (Yes, they left Stony Point off the map… I assume because it doesn’t go into the City.)

PTV rail Network Development Plan - stage 1

Metro (to be precise, the current operator, Metro Trains Melbourne, MTM for short) has gone in hard supporting the idea, and bit by bit, is splitting the network into the five groups. The first four are named after the four Loop tunnels, though not all trains would use the Loop:

Northern — the Sunbury, Craigieburn and Upfield lines, all using the Northern Loop.

Clifton Hill — the Hurstbridge and South Morang lines, all using the Clifton Hill Loop.

Burnley — the Belgrave and Lilydale lines, using the Burnley Loop, and also the Glen Waverley and Alamein lines, running direct to Flinders Street.

Dandenong — the Pakenham and Cranbourne (eg Dandenong) lines, using the Caulfield Loop.

…and the fifth…

Cross-city — the Frankston line running direct to Flinders Street then out to the Werribee and Williamstown lines. And also the Sandringham line, direct to Flinders Street and likely to be fairly independent. (In practice some Craigieburn trains share the Cross-City tracks into Flinders Street.)

Independence is the key. At present trains and drivers move from line to line across the day, meaning a delay on one line can quickly flow to another. In fact MTM claim in peak the reduction in interdependencies could mean a punctuality improvement of up to 10%.

From that point of view, separation makes sense for passengers.

Taking it further

Behind the scenes, PTV and MTM seem to be moving towards partial segregation of the train fleet. The High Capacity Metro Trains project will see Dandenong line get its own dedicated fleet of trains, with a maintenance centre at Pakenham, though the same model of train is likely to roll out to other lines later on. More on this in a minute.

But MTM want to take it further, and this is where it starts to get controversial.

Complete operational independence of the groups, including separate stabling and maintenance facilities

Removal of some points that provide connections between groups of lines, which Metro says will speed up services (though in some cases only by ten seconds or so), and reduce track faults
This could help, but of course it comes at the expense of flexibility, such as being able to route trains around obstructions, and limiting the places trains can be terminated during disruptions — leading to longer-than-otherwise sections of line replaced by buses. They wouldn’t want to go too far.

Fleets dedicated to specific groups: in 2013 the plan was for Cross-City to be Siemens, Comeng for Dandenong and Northern, X’trapolis for Burnley and Clifton Hill. Since then the plan has changed to get X’trapolis trains onto the Cross-City lines as part of the Bayside Rail project, which means more Siemens will presumably move onto the Dandenong and/or Northern lines until the new fleet arrives
Provided they don’t actually take steps to make parts of the fleet incompatible with some lines, or with each other. Over time, trains will need to be cascaded through the system as new ones come into service, this makes some sense, as it means more consistent performance (eg acceleration) on each line, and should simplify maintenance.

Restriction of most drivers to specific groups… including not training them to drive on the other groups (thus cutting training costs and time). Drivers don’t like this, though it’s not unusual on networks overseas. MTM would keep a central pool of drivers qualified for all routes for disruptions and other operations.
While getting drivers trained would be quicker, perhaps meaning they can ramp up additional services more quickly, for passengers this could be a problem if the central pool of fully-qualified drivers isn’t sufficient, leading to worsened delays during disruptions. Perhaps the answer is to simply not swap drivers between groups on a particular day?

Driver de-centralisation, where most drivers start duty at outer termini rather than changing over at Flinders Street, including complete segregation of staff within line groups.
Again, controversial with drivers, but it’s not hard to see the benefits of cutting delays at Flinders Street, though theoretically it should be possible to swap drivers there pretty quickly. It largely happens today on the Clifton Hill group.

Some claim that MTM wants to run each group as a separate company — in fact Labor claimed that the original 2014 Dandenong line upgrade proposal was basically geared to be a PPP whereby MTM gained control of the line long after their contract for the rest of the network might have ended.
This of course makes no sense to passengers — we’ve seen the problems before of separate companies running separate lines, leading to competition between operators, fleets made incompatible with some lines, and unnecessarily inflexible operations.

Belgrave train arriving Southern Cross


Many drivers are campaigning against some of these changes, as seen on the MTM Memes blog, for instance this post: Bungled timetable or saving us from Liberal deceit? — I don’t necessarily agree with everything in it, but it raises some interesting points.

I suspect there’s a balance to be found here. Day to day operation, including high frequencies, predictable patterns and reducing the cascade effect of delays across lines would absolutely benefit from operational separation.

Less useful to passengers might be the kind of organisational separation that MTM seems to be pushing for.

It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out.

Categories: Community

Greece: SYRIZA central committee member John Milios on how to end austerity

Links International - Wed, 29/07/2015 - 06:09
A man receiving food from a solidarity network in Attica, Greece. Greece Reporter

A man receiving food from a solidarity network in Attica, Greece. Photo Greece Reporter.

July 21, 2015 -- Jacobin, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission with permission -- Greece continues to be in flux. On July 5, the Greek people went to the polls and voted over 60% against austerity. One week later, the Greek government agreed to a new memorandum in principle after an all-night negotiation that was described at times as “mental water-boarding”. Finally,on July 15, the first pieces of enabling legislation were passed by the Greek parliament with a large rebellion of SYRIZA members of parliament voting against the laws.

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Categories: Community

Pamela Anderson Asks Denmark to End its Support of the Brutal Grind

Sea Shepherd - Tue, 28/07/2015 - 21:07
Pamela Anderson Asks Denmark to End its Support of the Brutal Grind

Pamela AndersonActress and devoted animal rights activist Pamela Anderson has sent a letter to Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, asking thatDenmark end its support of the “grindadráp” or “grind,” the brutal and archaic mass slaughter that claims the lives of hundreds of pilot whales and other small cetaceans each year in the Faroe Islands.

Pamela continues to be an unwavering voice for imperiled animals worldwide, including the marine wildlife she deeply cherishes. Her request to the Danish Prime Minister on behalf of the whales and dolphins comes on the heels of correspondence sent to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Environment Minister Sergei Donskoi to discuss the conservation of whales and other species.

Below is the text of the letter sent by Pamela Anderson to the the Prime Minister:

Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen
Copenhagen, Denmark

Dear Prime Minister Rasmussen,

Last year I had the opportunity to visit the beautiful and enchanting Faroe Islands. It is a place out of a fairy tale, with lovely green mountains and sparkling clean streams with crystal clear waterfalls, sometimes held in the ephemeral embrace of low-flowing clouds. The houses are inviting and the people are friendly.

But like many fairy tales, behind the beauty and the serenity there lurks a dark shadow that lies behind the smiles.

I am of course referring to the Grind.

Mr. Prime Minister, I cannot see any justification for this horrific slaughter, this infliction of such agonizing cruelty and the transformation of such beautiful, intelligent and sociable animals like pilot whales and dolphins.

There is no necessity for the meat of these gentle creatures. The Faroese are a wealthy community of islands. There can be no justification for the great nation of Denmark to send warships to these islands to defend the whale killers from non-violent opposition to the killing.

Eating the whale meat even puts the citizens themselves in danger and this is an egregious offense when such toxic food is fed to children who have not been given any choice of what they must consume.

As we evolve into the 21st Century, humanity must put away traditions based on cruelty and death. This Grind is archaic, barbaric and a disgrace not only to Denmark but to all of humanity.

I would like to respectfully request that Denmark refrain from providing support to the Faroese both in subsidies and with military assistance.

The killing of whales is illegal under the laws of the European Union and thus illegal under the laws of Denmark so the question must be asked, why is the Danish Navy, at a huge cost to Danish taxpayers, protecting the slaughter of whales in the Faroe Islands?

Thank you for your time.


Pamela Anderson

Pamela Anderson

Categories: Community

The Blood of the Whales is Indeed on Danish Hands

Sea Shepherd - Tue, 28/07/2015 - 03:39
The Blood of the Whales is Indeed on Danish Hands

This is Absolutely a Danish-Faroese Issue

Commentary by Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson

With this obscene abomination they call the Grindadráp (the murder of whales), the Faroese whalers disgrace not only Denmark, but all of humanity.With this obscene abomination they call the Grindadráp (the murder of whales), the Faroese whalers disgrace not only Denmark, but all of humanity
Photo: Sea Shepherd/Mayk WendtFor everyone who cares about the lives of pilot whales and dolphins, I am happy to say that Sea Shepherd’s Operation Sleppid Grindini campaign is being well received by the international media and has gone viral on social media. I did a national news interview in France today and I am speaking to Russian television this evening. Over the last few days, the story of the slaughter of the pilot whales has been carried throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and North and South America. There is increasing global awareness and we have no intention of allowing the world to forget the horror of the Grind.

We need to keep the pressure on. More Sea Shepherd volunteers may be arrested, more boats may be seized, but what is at stake here are the lives of intelligent, self-aware, beautiful, socially complex, living, feeling, and sentient beings.

They deserve the risks we must take and the sacrifices we must endure to stop this carnage.

Our enemies, the whale killers, have absolutely no comprehension of the empathy we hold in our hearts for these pilot whales and dolphins. They have no understanding of the risks we have taken and why we have taken such risks to defend life in the sea. They dismiss us, they laugh at us, and they seek to hobble us with discriminatory laws and to hamstring us with arrest and seizures.

They simply have no idea of the passion that motivates our actions and our commitment to the aggressive non-violent defense of life and diversity.

Their lack of understanding is seen in their constant accusations that Sea Shepherd opposes the Grind for profit – a ludicrous charge, but understandable because people who do not comprehend compassion tend to place value only on money. Sea Shepherd volunteers do not do what they do for money, but this is a concept alien to people whose hearts are gilded with the lust for gold. They see value only in the things they understand.

Does Sea Shepherd raise money from the public? Of course, how else could ships and campaigns be financed? However the money received is given voluntarily by compassionate people, unlike the subsidies given to the Faroese by European taxpayers who have no say in where their tax dollars go, and most of whom are angry that they are unwillingly helping to support a cruel slaughter of whales that is illegal under the regulations of the European Union.

The Faroese try to cast themselves as the victims, constantly saying they kill the whales for meat, and thus implying that they depend upon this slaughter for survival when nothing could be further from the truth. The Faroese enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world. They have one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. They have an industrialized fishing fleet, salmon farms and sheep, and they trade these commodities for all the benefits of a materialistic society. They want for absolutely nothing, except for their insatiable lust for blood.

They kill whales because they like to kill whales, and they want the support of Danish subsidies and the Danish Navy to back up something that is illegal under the laws of Denmark – and the Danes are doing exactly that.

And that is the reason that Sea Shepherd has decided to focus on Denmark.

For the Danes to say this has nothing to do with Denmark is untrue.

Danish warships are defending the hunt with two warships including a frigate, helicopters, small boats and hundreds of sailors, at an enormous cost to Danish and European taxpayers. The Danish Prime Minister has a Faroese wife. The Royal Family says nothing. And not one word of criticism from a single Danish Member of Parliament. These facts speak for themselves.

The Grind is just as much a Danish issue as it is a Faroese issue.

Danish complicity is something new. There was no Danish intervention in the years prior to 2014. They did not send their warships in the past. They are doing so now.

This translation from a Faroese newspaper yesterday demonstrates that the Faroese and the Danes are concerned about Sea Shepherd’s focus on Denmark.

“Sea Shepherd moves the grindadráp to Denmark. According to parliament member Sjúrdur Skaale (he is one of the two Faroese seats in the Danish parliament), Sea Shepherd has put great pressure on parliament members to stand up against the Faroese. Sea Shepherd has been very visible during all the pilot whale kills, which have recently occurred in the Faroe Islands, whilst Sea Shepherd has been there this year. But it’s not just on land, that Sea Shepherd are visible. Their plan to stop the grindadráp is so big, that they go up against Danish politicians, because these days all the Danish members of parliament, are receiving hundreds of emails from Sea Shepherd supporters, asking the parliament members to stop the grindadráp. According to parliament member Sjúrdur Skaale of Javnadarflokkinum, Sea Shepherd is attempting to put the Faroese and the Danish up against each other. Before Sea Shepherd turned against the Faroese. But now they have changed their tactics, and are also leading their attention towards Denmark.

‘It is Denmark who is evil. Denmark should be boycotted. The logic is: Denmark has responsibility over the Faroese. It is Danish police. It is Danish authorities. The police are financed by Danish tax money. Because of this it’s the Danish, who should stop what’s happening,’ says Sjúrdur Skaale about the message from Sea Shepherd. Sjúrdur Skaale says, that the email accounts of parliament members, has a very strong spam filter, which makes sure, that the parliament members don’t receive unwanted emails. So he is surprised about all the emails which are now sent. Sjúrdur Skaale says, that neither him, nor the parliament members he has spoken to, has ever experienced such aggressive storms of emails ever before.”

We need to keep the pressure on Denmark, and the message must be that the civilized world will not tolerate this horrifically cruel and ecologically destructive slaughter.

When the beaches of the Faroes run red with blood, the world must respond with the red-hot passionate anger of outrage and disgust.

With this obscene abomination they call the Grindadráp (the murder of whales), the Faroese whalers disgrace not only Denmark, but all of humanity.

Operation Sleppid Grindini Visit our
Operation Sleppid Grindini
site for more information.

Categories: Community

Britain: Why Jeremy Corbyn's Labour leadership bid panics the right

Links International - Tue, 28/07/2015 - 03:23
Jeremy Corbyn joins Pride in London, alongside some of the activists backing his campaign. Photo: Steve Eason.

The surprising support for Jeremy Corbyn in the race for the leadership of the British Labour Party has electrified the left and is terrifiying the right. Below a number of articles from the British left commentators

* * *

Left Unity Newsletter, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal on July 28, 2015-- The movement in support of Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader has set politics alight – and got the media in a panic. Corbyn’s candidacy is demonstrating the mass support that exists in society for the policies he stands for, and Left Unity has also supported since its foundation: an end to austerity and war, a different society based on peace and equality.

This unexpected movement is an expression of the same sentiment that is seeing a new left rise across Europe – with the difference in expression perhaps down to Britain’s archaic electoral system.

Left Unity wishes the campaign all the best. This is an opportunity for the Labour Party to become the party it was founded to be, defending and extending its great achievements of the welfare state – the party that millions want.

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Categories: Community

Productivity while travelling

Daniel Bowen - Sun, 26/07/2015 - 23:50

Peter Martin in The Age yesterday, on driverless cars:

Imagine studying, reading books, watching TV, sleeping or (legally) playing with your mobile phone on the way to work. Whichever way you look at it, the freed-up time will boost productivity.

Sounds great!

Wait a minute, thousands of us do that stuff every day by catching public transport to work.

Being productive on the train 1Being productive on the train 2

Even when it’s crowded and you’re standing, it’s generally possible to steady yourself with one hand and play with a mobile phone with the other.

Oh, and pardon me for being a little cynical, but I suspect the technology has a way to go yet given reports that it still relies largely on highly detailed mapping data rather than actually being able to “see” what’s in front of it:

But the maps have problems, starting with the fact that the car can’t travel a single inch without one. Since maps are one of the engineering foundations of the Google car, before the company’s vision for ubiquitous self-driving cars can be realized, all 4 million miles of U.S. public roads will be need to be mapped, plus driveways, off-road trails, and everywhere else you’d ever want to take the car. So far, only a few thousand miles of road have gotten the treatment, most of them around the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California. The company frequently says that its car has driven more than 700,000 miles safely, but those are the same few thousand mapped miles, driven over and over again.

The article also notes the risk of maps being out of date, of not being able to “see” a temporary traffic light because it’s not mapped.

Of course, computing power is improving by leaps and bounds all the time, but I wouldn’t be holding my breath on this.

Nor should we assume that driverless cars will solve traffic problems (especially if having delivered you, they drive home again to a parking space) or pollution problems (which are down to the nature of the engine and its fuel).

And anyway, has anybody actually tried to work in a moving driverless car? Are they really smooth, or — even if you’re able to take your eyes off the road — is travel sickness a risk?

I have to admit, I can’t read for long on a bus — and I know I can’t read for long in a car when I’m a passenger — I’d imagine it’d be an issue in a driverless car.

Categories: Community

The great globalisation slowdown mystery

Club Troppo - Sun, 26/07/2015 - 07:19

Here’s something I only noticed while writing a short piece for INTHEBLACK magazine: the rise of globalisation is not only slowing down almost to a halt, but in some places (like the Netherlands) may have been slowing down since around the turn of the century. That’s well before the global financial crisis and indeed before the global economic boom of the early 2000s.

It’s obviously very hard to measure globalisation; we don’t even have a clearly accepted definition of the phenomenon. The best measure may come from the KOF Swiss Economics Institute, which tries to incorporate social, economic and political data. The figures in the graph below come from there.

What’s going on here? I really don’t know, and expert commentary seems to be thin on the ground. A few observers have suggested a post-GFC increase in trade protection, but that doesn’t fit the timing shown in the KOF data – and anyway, the post-GFC protectionist surge hasn’t really happened.

Feel free to read the more detailed piece at, and make suggestions (and/or point to relevant research) in the comments section below.

Globalisation slowdown graph

The globalisation slowdown began as early as the start of this century

Categories: Community

Keynes on the arts

Club Troppo - Sat, 25/07/2015 - 15:57

Someone sent me this article by Keynes celebrating the Arts Council in the Listener shortly after World War II had been won in Europe.

A world away, and worth a read.


Categories: Community

Joe Hockey was right – Adam Giles’ push for NT Statehood is a joke

The Northern Myth - Sat, 25/07/2015 - 13:09

There isn’t much that I share with Joe Hockey–apart from a generous girth–but my response to the announcement earlier this week by NT Chief Minister Adam Giles that the COAG meeting had endorsed his bid for NT statehood (I cannot grace this term with the capitalisation due a proper noun) by 2018 matched Joe’s.

Joe was standing before a pack of snappers and scribblers, laughing like a drain. When I heard the news on the ABC I laughed so hard that I nearly drove into a drain.

Despite the hype – and blind panic – following the Giles announcement, the COAG missive was a modest one-liner squeezed at the fag end of the communiqué:

Leaders also supported the Northern Territory Chief Minister’s resolve for the NT to become Australia’s seventh state by 1 July 2018. The Chief Minister will report on progress at the next meeting of COAG.

Get this – the NT will NOT be getting Statehood by 2018 or anytime soon.

Despite the confected outrage of Statehood boosters like NT Legislative Assembly Speaker Kezia Purick, this is a very good thing.

As others have pointed out, it is blindingly obvious that the call for a renewed statehood push by Giles is the act of a desperate man looking down the very short barrel of political oblivion.

Space (and the sheer tedium of detailing the mess that the current crop of CLP politicians have made of a once proud party) prevent a fuller exposition of the fate of what is for mine the worst NT government since self-government in 1978, but the odds are very short on Giles surviving as Chief Minister to Christmas. And if Giles goes then the CLP will deservedly be condemned to the night-soil can of history.

It is an article of faith that every NT government makes the call for statehood–it would be distinctly “unTerritorian” not to do so. But enthusiasm for statehood can usually be measured by the resources and effort each government allocates to the issue. The last sustained effort–the clunkily-named “ntstate7” campaign run by Labor  between 2005 and 2011–was a squib, most likely poisoned by the hangover from the previous failed attempt in 1998 in the closing days of the CLP’s 27 year record run in power.

Labor proposed that a key element to the statehood proposal–the election of delegates to a statehood convention–be conducted on the same day as local government elections. For reasons less than clear then and now, the CLP opposition opposed the conduct of the two elections on the same day. This stymied the statehood delegate election, of which Michael Tatham, then employed on the ntstate7 campaign and now the Clerk and CEO of the NT Legislative Assembly, to make the following comment in a very good paper on the issue.

Concerns were aired that holding the election of delegates in an election year for both the Territory and Local Government might politicise the convention process and confuse electors.

Statehood, Tatham observed, may well be the Lasseter’s Reef of NT constitutional development.

Putting aside constitutional and representational issues there are at least three very good reasons why statehood should, in the words of someone be left to rot, “dead, buried and cremated” as a bad idea whose time should never come soon.

The first of these is that States–even borderline basket-cases like Tasmania and South Australia–should be able to pay their way. As I observed earlier this year, the NT isn’t within a clean-skin bull’s roar of financial independence:

As [Nicolas] Rothwell notes, the tax-payers of the Australian south-east fork out around $4 billion a year to keep the NT running. Divide that number by the 220,000 people in the NT—-about the population of your local shire council but without the productivity and contribution to GDP—-and the figure is around $18,000 per head.

On Friday last the ever-acerbic Jack the Insider usefully noted that:

Under these circumstances statehood would be akin to handing out cash and prizes for profound and abject administrative failure. And the big prize in this case would be immunity from Commonwealth oversight over spending what is substantially other Australians’ money … there are serious issues that need to be examined. Top of the list is whether the NT should be able to continue spending other Australians’ money in the profligate way they have for almost a hundred years.

The second reason that the NT will not achieve statehood anytime soon is that, unless the process incorporates the legitimate expectations of Aboriginal residents–who make up about one-third of the NT population–any new statehood proposal would be doomed. Of the 2011 push for statehood David Ross, Director of the Central Land Council, said that:

“The Central Land Council isn’t interested in statehood until a Royal Commission is held into the expenditure of funds by successive Northern Territory governments on Indigenous affairs since self government in 1978. Numerous reports and studies have shown repeated mismanagement and rorting of funds that were supposed to be spent on addressing Aboriginal disadvantage but were not.

“Only a Royal Commission will get to the bottom of how big the problem is and enable a clear way forward.

CEO of the Northern Land Council* Joe Morrison told the ABC that the NT government had ignored Aboriginal interests.

“There’s been nothing thus far that’s given any comfort to Aboriginal people in the NT that the Northern Territory is a state that can do the right thing for Aboriginal Territorians.”

The third–and for mine the most compelling reason why the NT will never achieve statehood in my lifetime–is that as I and others have observed, the NT provides the Commonwealth with a social engineering laboratory par excellence.

There are myriad examples of far-reaching Commonwealth control and influence in the daily life of NT locals–think euthanasia, uranium, radioactive waste disposal facilities and aboriginal land for a few–but the most egregious and long-lasting is the NT Intervention.

For many here the Intervention has faded into history but the legislation continues (with modifications) in application and the mindset of many Commonwealth bureaucrats and politicians remains to a substantial degree as expressed by John Howard when asked why he imposed the Intervention on a polity that was, particularly in comparison to the current government, travelling relatively well.

On 21 July 2007, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Howard responded: “Why now and why in the Northern Territory? Because we can …

The value of a social engineering laboratory like the NT is not something a central government would surrender without good reason. It is only in the NT that experiments like the BasicsCard, which allows for the quarantining of welfare payments, can first be tested on a (relatively) hapless Aboriginal population for fine-tuning before being introduced for all welfare recipients.

Finally, there are serious questions about the commitment of the Giles government to statehood. Earlier this year the current Minister for Statehood, Bess Price, was asked a relatively straightforward question in Estimates Hearings about the operations of her portfolio. As the ABC reported at the time, Price:

… stumbled when trying to explain her position on the NT’s application for statehood, when addressed in budget estimates hearings.

Ms Price paused for 40 seconds and then said it was a complicated issue. “Yes I am the minister responsible and I work closely with the Chief Minister because there is complex issues that are involved,” she told the estimates hearing. And statehood is yes … that’s where I sit with statehood.”

She also confirmed there was no funding for statehood in the recent budget.

It’s no way to run a territory, let alone a state.

* Bob Gosford is employed as a legal adviser at the Northern Land Council in Darwin.

Categories: Community

The Murder of the Whales, Courtesy of the Royal Danish Navy

Sea Shepherd - Fri, 24/07/2015 - 22:53
The Murder of the Whales, Courtesy of the Royal Danish Navy

Commentary by Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson

 Mayk Wendt / Sea ShepherdThe blood seeps through the fjord.
Photo: Sea Shepherd/Mayk Wendt142 pilot whales were slaughtered last night on the beach at Torshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands. 1,100 people and more than a hundred boats participated, backed up by two Danish Navy warships the Triton and the Knut Rasmussen.

Earlier in the day, more than a hundred pilot whales were also slain in an orgy of slaughter on the island of Vagur.

Four Sea Shepherd crewmembers were arrested at Vagur, two on the beach by the Faroese police and two arrested at sea by the Danish Navy. Last night another volunteer was arrested at Torshavn and a second had his camera taken and the video deleted.

These people are volunteers driven to action in the face of abject cruelty. They are opposing this atrocity with only two “weapons,” their cameras and their bodies. They have been abused, their human rights slapped aside, and today five of them remain locked up in a Faroese jail on charges of willful compassion. In the Faroes, empathy is a crime and kindness is ridiculed.

The Faroese have been celebrating their lethal victory over the whales. With between 200 and 300 corpses lying on the beaches, their bellies ripped open, their guts spilling onto the sand and the waters stained with blood, the Faroese appear to be gloriously happy, almost drunk with the thrill of slaughter.

In 2011 not a single whale was slaughtered while Sea Shepherd patrolled the waters of the Faroes. In 2013, when Sea Shepherd was not present, more than 1,300 whales were slain. Last year in 2014, when Sea Shepherd returned, the kill was 33.

Why is it different this year? Why are so many whales dying this summer?

The answer is the Royal Danish Navy. Despite the fact that killing whales is illegal under European Union regulations, the government of Denmark has thrown their weight behind the killers. Sea Shepherd, as a non-governmental organization that practices non-violent intervention, is at a complete disadvantage against two Danish warships, their helicopters and their small flotilla of commandos in fast small boats plus the boats and officers belonging to the Faroese police.

In addition, the Faroese have passed discriminatory new laws that target any opposition to the killing of whales.

 Sea ShepherdChristophe Bondue and Rosie Kunneke are thrown to the ground by police. Photo: Sea ShepherdIt is a contest between compassion and courage on our side and power and cowardice on their side. The utilization of tens of millions of Euros in military assets is astoundingly shocking.

Denmark has chosen to exercise a policy of overkill to protect the savage interests of their little vicious vassal group of islands where a population of some 50,000 people demand the right to spill the blood of defenseless and innocent sentient beings.

Why would the Danes be so eager to be accomplices with the killers of the Faroes? Why are they so eager to jump into this toxic pool of blood to frolic alongside the savage killers of these gentle creatures? The answer may well be oil. With oil exploration promising possible profits in the future, Denmark seems quite willing to ignore their own laws protecting the welfare of animals and the EU regulations that outlaw the killing of whales.

The Faroese are bragging about their "victory". What I saw yesterday was a mob of blood-thirsty killers descending on pods of stressed pilot whales with knives and spears.

This "tradition" utilizes such traditional tools as motorized boats, hydraulic winches, radios, sonar and warships. It is a perversion of a culture in which whales were once killed for necessity by people in need and are now slaughtered for amusement and sport by a people who today enjoy the highest per capita income in Europe, thanks to the welfare payments given to them by the European Union.

Convincing the killers of the Faroes to stop whaling may not be possible. It is like trying to reform serial killers. Psychopaths have no remorse, no conscience and no recognition of right from wrong.

We need to focus on those who enable this perversion and that means we have to focus on the nation that provides the warships, the subsidies and the political support for these atrocities.

Denmark and the Danish people have sanctioned this cruelty and this despicable slaughter, and no matter how much they claim this is out of their hands, that it is a Faroese responsibility, the fact remains that between those who attempt to save the lives of the pilot whales and dolphins and the blood being spilled on the beach sits the Knut Rasmussen and the frigate Triton, both symbols of Danish power, Danish complicity and Danish involvement.

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