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.


Scotland: Colin Fox on the RISE left alliance's launch and platform

Links International - 7 hours 34 min ago

Click for more on left politics in Scotland

August 25, 2015 -- STV News, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- On August 29 in Glasgow we will see the birth of a Rise, a new left wing anti-austerity movement designed to shake up Scotland's political establishment and win seats at next year's Holyrood elections.

Born out of the referendum campaign using an umbrella model based on SYRIZA in Greece, the alliance brings together activists from different left-wing strands on a platform spelled out by its name: Respect, Independence, Socialism, Enviromentalism.

The group's website carries a statement of intent, which reads: "There is a need for something truly new and original to be born out of the independence movement that can manifest itself at the ballot box in 2016 and beyond. We do not presume to have all of the answers, but we intend to start a conversation around certain core principles that must be represented in politics once more.

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Categories: Community

Stephen F. Cohen on Ukraine: Meeting shows 'Kiev, not Moscow, blocking peace deal'

Links International - 9 hours 22 min ago

Click for more on the political situation in Ukraine.

August 26, 2015 -- New Cold, posted by Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Stephen F. Cohen, contributing editor to The Nation, was interviewed on the the John Batchelor Show, WABC radio in New York City. They discuss the news of a ceasefire agreement in eastern Ukraine for a cessation of hostilities beginning September 1, 2015, and the recent meeting in Berlin on August 24 of Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, France's President François Hollande and Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko.

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Categories: Community

Sea Shepherd Cove Guardian Leader Denied Entry to Japan

Sea Shepherd - Thu, 27/08/2015 - 18:27
Sea Shepherd Cove Guardian Leader Denied Entry to Japan Volunteer Karen Hagen of Norway was Detained and Denied Entry into the Country; Sea Shepherd Considers the Refusal to be an Attempt by Japan to Hide the Brutal Slaughter of Dolphins Documented in Taiji by the Cove Guardians

 Sea ShepherdFile photo: Cove Guardian volunteer Karen Hagen in Taiji, Japan. Photo: Sea Shepherd

Sea Shepherd veteran crewmember Karen Hagen of Norway has been denied entry into Japan to document the brutal capture and slaughter of dolphins and small whales in Taiji as Ground Leader of Sea Shepherd’s Operation Henkaku (Operation Metamorphosis) campaign.

On Thursday, Aug. 27 (Japan time), Hagen was detained by Japanese Immigration upon arrival in Fukuoka, Japan by ferry from Busan, South Korea. After being interrogated for two hours and held for more than six hours, she was refused entry into the country and deported to South Korea. She is currently headed to Melbourne, Australia where she will be volunteering aboard the Sea Shepherd vessel, Steve Irwin. Hagen, a 20-year-old kindergarten teacher and a Sea Shepherd volunteer of two years who arrived in Japan following months in Honduras leading volunteers of Sea Shepherd’s Operation Jairo Sea Turtle Defense Campaign, was set to lead the season’s first international team of Cove Guardian volunteers.

While detained, she was escorted at all times, even into the ladies restroom, by four men in suits, presumably police officers. Hagen’s passport was taken and she was refused a phone call unless she identified the person she was calling and made the call on speaker phone in the presence of a Japanese translator.

Initially, Immigration officials stated that entry was being denied because Hagen had a tourist visa and was not in the country for tourism. Upon being asked why taking photos did not qualify as tourism, officials changed their reason, stating that she did not have a return flight home. When Hagen showed her return ferry ticket, they then stated that last year she wrote that she would be staying in Japan for two weeks but stayed for two and a half months. She then pointed out that she had extended her stay, which is legal, and at that time no further reasons were given as to why she was being denied.

This is not the first time a Sea Shepherd volunteer has been refused entry to Japan; several returning Cove Guardians were detained and sent home upon their arrival to the country last season. In December 2014, then Senior Cove Guardian Campaign Leader Melissa Sehgal was interrogated for nearly nine hours and detained for 24 hours before being escorted onto a flight out of Japan. No reason has been given for the denials, but Japan has claimed that the volunteers arriving with tourist visas are not tourists.

Sea Shepherd believes that these refusals are desperate attempts by Japan to hide the bloodshed that turns the waters of Taiji’s now infamous cove red with the blood of dolphins and pilot whales, and evidence that Japan knows Sea Shepherd has been effective in exposing these atrocities to the world.

“Karen Hagen, like all of our Cove Guardian crew, traveled to Japan to peacefully document and expose the brutal drive hunt in Taiji within the boundaries of Japanese law. Though carried out by a handful of hunters, this massacre of ocean wildlife brings shame to the entire nation of Japan. As Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson, has said, our volunteers are ‘armed’ with the world’s most powerful weapon – the camera,” said Sea Shepherd Campaign Coordinator, David Hance. “The 2015-2016 hunt season marks Sea Shepherd’s sixth consecutive year in Taiji, and our promise to the dolphins remains the same: we will not stop until the slaughter ends. We will have a strong presence at the cove once again – Karen has been denied entry, but that will not stop us. Another ground leader will follow.”

 Sea ShepherdFile photo: A bottlenose dolphin struggles in the cove during a violent captive selection.
Photo: Sea ShepherdMore Sea Shepherd volunteers will soon be arriving in Japan to stand watch along the cove, as Sea Shepherd has done each year since 2010 when Operation Infinite Patience was officially launched, creating a continuous presence of Cove Guardians throughout the hunt season. As the world becomes increasingly aware of the Taiji slaughter and its inextricable link to the global captive trade that fuels demand for wild-caught dolphins and whales, Sea Shepherd has reimagined its Dolphin Defense Campaign, now named Operation Henkaku, and will have a stronger focus this year on raising crucial awareness of the captive industry’s role in the drive hunt. Sea Shepherd believes the profitable trade of live cetaceans for captivity is the true economic reason behind the hunt, and that the sale of dolphin meat for human consumption alone could not sustain the hunt. Just one trained captive dolphin can be sold by the hunters in Taiji for $250,000 USD. Sea Shepherd has long emphasized that the most effective way that individuals can oppose the slaughter is to stop patronizing aquariums, marine parks, and swim-with-dolphin facilities that hold whales and dolphins captive.

Each year from Sept. until March, entire family units, or pods, of dolphins and small whales at a time are driven into Taiji’s killing cove. Banger poles are struck against the side of the hunting boats to create a “wall of sound,” disorienting the sound-sensitive marine mammals and making it nearly impossible for them to escape the drive. Once netted within the shallow waters of the cove, their fate is sealed and the members of these frightened pods will face either imprisonment in captivity or brutal slaughter before the eyes of their families. Killers and trainers work side-by-side to select the “prettiest” dolphins and whales for captivity, those without visible scars. The others are mercilessly stabbed with a metal spike inserted into their backs, just behind the blowhole, to sever their spine. The dolphins slowly and painfully bleed to death or drown in the blood of their family members – others may die slowly as they are tethered and dragged to the butcherhouse, where the once living and free cetaceans are butchered and processed into meat. These inhumane killings are a blemish upon Japan, whose government refuses to sign on to many protection efforts and regulations for marine mammals, despite most of the world recognizing the need to protect these self-aware, beloved and imperiled animals.

Sea Shepherd’s Cove Guardians are the only group on the ground in Taiji daily throughout the six-month hunt season each year, ensuring that no cetacean is captured or slaughtered unseen by the world. “Because we serve as the eyes of the international community at the cove, it is important that we have volunteers on the ground throughout the season. Sea Shepherd is encouraging our supporters around the world to stand with us in Taiji. Those who would like to volunteer to be a Cove Guardian should contact us at to express their interest,” said Hance. “The dolphins need you now.”

Categories: Community

Yanis Varoufakis: 'Our Athens Spring'

Links International - Thu, 27/08/2015 - 04:10

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

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal – This speech was delivered on August 23, 2015, by former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, at the Festival of the Rose, at Frangy-en-Bresse, in the French department of Saône-et-Loire. The festival is organised by the local organisation of the French Socialist Party, which is associated with former French industry minister Arnaud Montebourg. Montebourg was sacked from this post in August 2014 by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

* * *

Let me tell you why I am here with words I have borrowed from a famous old manifesto. I am here because:

A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of democracy. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: The state-sponsored bankers and the Eurogroup, the Troika and Dr Schäuble, Spain’s heirs of Franco’s political legacy and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) of Germany's Berlin leadership, Baltic governments that subjected their populations to terrible, unnecessary recession and Greece’s resurgent oligarchy.

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Categories: Community

John Green: ‘Stasiland’ offers ‘cheap caricature’ of the GDR

Links International - Thu, 27/08/2015 - 03:27

Click HERE for more on 'East Germany'.

Review by John Green

August 26, 2015 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Anna Funder’s book Stasiland seems to have become the touchstone for anyone who wishes to find out about life in the German Democratic Republic (GDR, or East Germany). It was given enormous publicity, has been translated into several languages and is one of the most quoted books of reference on the GDR. Its aim is to show how horrendous life in the GDR really was.

Funder visited the GDR once as a tourist in 1987 and then returned again in 1996 (six years after unification with the Federal Republic of Germany, or West Germany) and wrote her book. It is made up almost entirely of interviews with only three women who suffered under the GDR authorities, plus a former GDR rock star, a television presenter who was loyal to the state, as well as several shorter ones with former officers of the state security services.

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Categories: Community

Impacts of proposed tram and train strikes

Daniel Bowen - Wed, 26/08/2015 - 23:40
Today’s tram strike

The Herald Sun claims trams will start heading back to depots from 8am — but Yarra Trams tells me 9am. They also tell me trams will come back out of depots right on 2pm, but it may take until 6pm for things to be completely back to normal.

Tram replacement buses during industrial action 27/8/2015

Options during the tram stoppage:

Yarra Trams has a list of alternative service — both regular scheduled bus/train services, and special replacement buses on a few routes.

(I think it’s a pretty good effort to put on some replacements. Can you imagine trying to organise bustitution for the World’s Biggest Tram Network(tm) for 4+ hours?)

PTV also has an information page.

For getting around the CBD, walking often isn’t that much slower than tram for trips of less than a few blocks, though the weather may not be the best for it.

You can use the City Loop: the direction changes are confusing, but PTUA has a map of it.

Frequent buses run along some streets in the City and inner suburbs — some of them include:

  • Crown Casino (Queensbridge) via Queen Street to Lonsdale Street: 216, 219, 220
  • Queen St/Collins St along Queen St then along Lonsdale St, Russell St, Lygon St: 200, 207
  • Victoria Market via Queen St, Collins St to Southern Cross, Docklands (Collins St), South Wharf: 232, 235, 237
  • Lonsdale St/King St along Lonsdale St, Victoria Parade, Hoddle St: 905, 906, 907, 908

All of these buses have realtime information via the PTV app and other apps such as Bus Tracker. Remember none of these will be free like CBD trams.

Tram/bus stop, Queensbridge Street, Casino East

Next week’s possible train strike

Some of the actions proposed next week are harmless, some less so.

> Refusing to wear company uniforms

Who’d notice? The trammies did it a few days ago, and nobody noticed.

> A ban on inspecting mykis

The problem comes when there’s confusion over which days/modes it applies.

> A ban on short arrivals and short departures [when trains do not run to the end of the line]
> A ban on station skipping between 9am and midnight
Sounds good? Well, perhaps not. Those changes (along with skipping stations) are sometimes to get delayed trains into position for a peak run. If they are banned, it may mean more delays in peak hour.

> A one-hour stoppage between 3am and 4am Thursday
> A four-hour stoppage between 2am and 6am Friday

No trains run then, but this would cut into train prepping time, affecting early morning services and morning peak hour.

Many of them sound harmless at first, but have real effects on services which may not be immediately obvious.

Hopefully, on both trams and trains, a settlement can be reached without further impacts on passengers.

Categories: Community

Photos from ten years ago: Canberra

Daniel Bowen - Tue, 25/08/2015 - 23:32

Almost all my photos from August 2005 seem to be from a three day Canberra trip (actually the only time I’ve been to Canberra). I remember it being cold but fun.

And many of the photos are from around the Parliament Houses (old and new).

Old Parliament House:
Old Parliament House, Canberra, August 2005

Old Parliament House, Canberra, August 2005

New Parliament House. I think this was the approach from Canberra Avenue. Obviously there were works going on at the time.
Parliament House, Canberra, August 2005

It’s rather impressive up close.
Parliament House, Canberra, August 2005

At the time there seemed to be pretty free easy access to the top. Can you still go up there?
Parliament House, Canberra, August 2005

Inside: the House of Representatives.
House of Representatives, Parliament House, Canberra, August 2005

The Senate. In contrast to some of PM Abbott’s appearances, only two flags — almost seems unpatriotic in comparison.
The Senate, Parliament House, Canberra, August 2005

A panorama from the roof of Parliament House. Use the scroll bar to move across, or view the large size at Flickr.

A typical Canberra bus shelter. They look funny to this Melburnian’s eyes, but you can’t deny they’d provide actual shelter from the weather, unlike the glorified advertising billboards we often get here.
Bus stop, Canberra, August 2005

This was snapped out of the plane window as we left Canberra. Makes you realise how low-rise it is (or at least, was).
Canberra from the air, August 2005

The Black Mountain/Telstra Tower. Shame we didn’t get a chance to go up there.
Canberra from the air, August 2005

Categories: Community

Stop the Voyages to Hell

Sea Shepherd - Tue, 25/08/2015 - 20:40
Stop the Voyages to Hell Whale-Friendly Tourists are not Welcome in the Danish Faroe Islands

Commentary by Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson

 Sea Shepherd/Rosie KunnekeThe 'special' new Grind Laws of the Faroe Islands make it a criminal offense for anybody to not report a pod of whales to the whalers. Photo: Sea Shepherd/Rosie KunnekeOne of the pods of pilot whales exterminated by the Faroese whalers earlier this summer was spotted and reported by a tourist because the "special" new Grind Laws of the Faroe Islands make it a criminal offense for anybody to not report a pod of whales to the whalers.

When tourists have been recruited into being accessories to the slaughter, it is time to discourage more tourists from being recruited.

The issue of cruise ships calling into the Faroes is fast becoming international news and now even the trade publications are pointing out the bad publicity for the cruise ship industry if they continue to call into the Faroe Islands.

Basically it's, "Come to the Faroe Islands and help us kill whales and if your ship is opposed to whaling, you are not welcome in the Faroe Islands."

The Sea Shepherd ship Bob Barker is an EU Dutch-flagged ship that has arrived in the Faroe Islands from an EU Germany port with EU crew, but was denied entry. Never before has a ship from an EU nation been denied clearance by an EU nation (Danish Immigration).

What the Faroese are saying with this denial is that any ship opposed to the slaughter of the pilot whales is not welcome in the Faroe Islands, and this automatically makes any cruise ship that arrives in the Faroe Islands to be understood to support the horrific slaughter of pilot whales and dolphins.

In the Faroes, a ship now has no choice. Support the Grindadráp (murder of whales) or else. And if the cruise ships continue to stop at Faroese ports the public will begin to equate them with supporting this murderous Faroese obscenity.

AIDA, Hapag-Lloyd, P & O and Disney have already decided to avoid the Faroe Islands. We now have to convince the other cruise ship lines, and considering that Faroese law now makes tourists and cruise ship lines complicit in the slaughter it should not be hard to convince these corporations that docking in the Faroes is not a wise business move.

The text below is from the most recent newsletter by Jim Walker of Jim Walker’s Cruise Law News.

"There is a widespread and well-organized movement to boycott the Faroe Islands for its barbaric and heart-wrenching slaughter of pilot whales. Trouble is that most cruise lines tout the Faroes as a key port of call for their cruise ships. But an international coalition of mammal lovers, environmentalists and decent-hearted concerned citizens, organized by non-profits and the powerful and media-savvy Sea Shepherd organization, is making a change. Disney abandoned its plans to go there and three other lines, all European companies, announced that they will no longer support the Faroes in response to social media campaigns geared toward educating the public about the despicable whale slaughter.

But U.S.-based cruise lines are still sailing there regularly. Royal Caribbean, Azamara, NCL, Oceania, and Carnival-owned HAL and Princess all still plan on calling on the Faroe Islands. I have written about the deadly and disgusting practice here. The Faroese locals slit the throats of the little whales and rip the babies from their mothers. Don't read the article if you are squeamish.

Disney was smart enough to get out of the way of the oncoming media blitz. It will maintain its reputation because of its awareness, just like it wisely assigned lifeguards to its pools and installed automatic man-overboard systems on its ships. But the Carnivals and Royal Caribbeans and NCLs are too CEO-egocentric and arrogant to figure out to avoid the train of public opinion coming their way."

We need to make all the cruise ship lines that go or plan to go to the Faroes aware that there is a powerful movement to save the whales from being cruelly butchered on the beaches of the Faroe Islands.

Operation Sleppid Grindini Visit our
Operation Sleppid Grindini
site for more information.
Categories: Community

The raw material of exploitation: Harry Braverman's 'Labor and Monopoly Capital'

Links International - Tue, 25/08/2015 - 14:17

For more by Doug Enaa Greene.

By Doug Enaa Greene

August 26, 2015 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Work sucks. Every day, workers go into jobs they hate, whether in a factory, office or on a checkout line. Workers are made to perform menial and demeaning tasks that have already been outlined for them, down to the smallest details, by management. Their job is so simple that anyone can do it. Ultimately, the worker possesses no control at the workplace.

How that situation came about and what it means for class struggle is the subject of Harry Braverman's classic work, Labor and Monopoly Capital. Braverman's book not only unveils how work is degraded under capital, but remains an important resource for how we understand capitalist society, working-class consciousness, and the class struggle today.

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Categories: Community

The Impact of R&D Subsidy on Innovation

Club Troppo - Tue, 25/08/2015 - 09:30

The Impact of R&D Subsidy on Innovation: a Study of New Zealand Firms by Adam B. Jaffe, Trinh Le – #21479 (PR)


This paper examines the impact of government assistance through R&D grants on innovation output for firms in New Zealand. Using a large database that links administrative and tax data with survey data, we are able to control for large number of firm characteristics and thus minimise selection bias. We find that receipt of an R&D grant
significantly increases the probability that a firm in the manufacturing and service sectors applies for a patent during 2005-2009, but no positive impact is found on the probability of
applying for a trademark. Using only firms that participated in the Business Operation Survey, we find that receiving a grant almost doubles the probability that a firm introduces new goods and services to the world while its effects on process innovation and any product innovation are relatively much weaker. Moreover, there is little evidence that grant receipt has differential effects between small to medium ( in line with recent international evidence from Japan, Canada and Italy which found positive impacts of public R&D subsidy on patenting activity and the introduction of new products.


Categories: Community

Denmark Issues Suspicious Refusal Of Entry Notices To Sea Shepherd

Sea Shepherd - Tue, 25/08/2015 - 09:24
Denmark Issues Suspicious Refusal Of Entry Notices To Sea Shepherd Pressure against the grindadráp builds from within the EU.

 Sea ShepherdThe Bob Barker prepares to depart Sund after its crew is denied entry to the Faroe Islands by Denmark.
Photo: Sea ShepherdThe international crew of the Dutch-registered Sea Shepherd ship, Bob Barker, has been denied entry into the Faroe Islands by Danish authorities.

The conservation ship arrived at the port of Sund in the Faroe Islands yesterday at approximately 12:00pm local time. Upon docking, Danish Customs and Immigration officers boarded the ship, conducting a full search of the vessel and passport inspection of the crew.

Authorities did not indicate there was an issue with entry during the inspection, nor had they when the Bob Barker first notified port authorities on Friday that it intended to dock in Sund.

However, following the inspection of the ship yesterday all 21 crewmembers of the Bob Barker, including 11 European Union nationals, were issued with a Refusal of Entry notice and ordered to leave the 12 nautical mile limit of the Faroe Islands.

Danish authorities notified the Sea Shepherd crew that the Refusal of Entry notices were issued for suspicion of “affecting public order,” although the actual document gives no clear legal reasons for denial of entry.

The Bob Barker is the third Sea Shepherd ship to arrive in the Faroe Islands since June, but is the only one of the three ships whose crew has been denied entry.

 Sea ShepherdDanish authorities prepare to board the Dutch-registered Bob Barker. Photo: Sea ShepherdSea Shepherd believes that the Refusal of Entry notices issued by Denmark are unlawful, and has since commenced appeal processes to fight the order.

Despite the fact that the slaughter of cetaceans is banned in the European Union, including Denmark, the grindadráp continues with the support of Danish police and navy, and with the blessing of the Danish government.

This year alone 490 pilot whales have been slaughtered in the Faroe Islands with Denmark’s backing. A total of 14 Sea Shepherd volunteers, representing the United Kingdom, Italy, Corsica/France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, South Africa, Canada and the United States have been arrested for standing in defense of the whales.

On Friday, charges against two of the volunteers, Tom Strerath of Germany and Susan Larsen of the United States, were dropped due to lack of evidence. Despite the reprieve, the small boat, Farley, which the pair was driving at the time they were arrested, remains in police custody.

 Sea ShepherdThe international crew of the Bob Barker, including 11 EU nationals, denied entry to the Faroe Islands by Denmark. Photo: Sea ShepherdAs Sea Shepherd continues its defense of the pilot whales, international pressure against the grindadráp continues to mount from countries within the European Union.

In early August, two major German cruise-liner companies, AIDA and Hapag-Lloyd, announced that they have cancelled tours to the Faroe Islands in response to the ongoing slaughters.

In the past month, political representatives from Luxembourg, Italy and the United Kingdom have all publically expressed their distain for the on-going practice of the grindadráp, which Denmark actively supports in defiance of the sentiments of their EU obligations.

On August 19, the Scottish town of Wick announced that it had severed its 20-year-long twin-town relationship with the city of Klaksvík, and would not look to re-instate official relationships until the "disgusting" slaughter of whales in the archipelago is banned.

Operation Sleppid Grindini is Sea Shepherd sixth Faroe Islands Pilot Whale Defense Campaign.

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

Categories: Community

Cool graphic. Spot the outlier!

Club Troppo - Tue, 25/08/2015 - 08:42
Cricket Captains

The diagram is here

Categories: Community

The sharing economy: Panel discussion at Grattan

Club Troppo - Tue, 25/08/2015 - 05:52

Above is a panel discussion on the sharing economy with Jim Minifie, Ian Harper and me. There was a lot of good feedback on it after the event, so I was pleased to see it up on the Grattan website.

Categories: Community

Metro rail tunnel ads

Daniel Bowen - Mon, 24/08/2015 - 23:32

Remember the ads for future transport projects that we saw in 2010 and 2014? They’re baaaaaack.

Advertising for Melbourne Metro rail tunnel in a train

The metro rail tunnel isn’t fully funded.

But the ads are a bit different from the ones we saw last year for the proposed (but now scrapped) Melbourne Rail Link (the Coalition’s then-alternative tunnel plan) and the airport rail link (on ice for now).

Although not yet fully-funded, work on the metro rail tunnel project has actually started. There has been test drilling along Swanston Street and elsewhere, as well as a lot of planning work.

Labor is clearly pushing to have major construction started before the 2018 election. This isn’t unreasonable — unlike the Coalition’s East West Link, Labor went to the 2014 election promising it. And of course Labor would be hoping to use the sight of bulldozers and tunnel boring machines as a springboard to re-election.

Hopefully this also locks in the project for completion, no matter who wins in 2018.

Obviously they’ll be hoping for Federal funding. Tony Abbott’s Coalition is highly unlikely to provide any, but if leadership of the Coalition falls to someone else, and/or the Coalition is defeated at the next Federal election, funding is more likely.

And if not? Well it’s a ten year project (by the time it’s finished, we’ll certainly need it), with a cost of about $10 billion. It would obviously be a lot of money, but $1 billion a year wouldn’t be beyond the capabilities of the state… though of course the tunnel will only really work well as part of a suite of train, tram and bus upgrades, for which funding is needed. And of course money is also needed for other projects (transport related and elsewhere).

Metro test drilling

So is this round of ads as extravagant and ill-conceived as those from Labor in 2010 and the Coalition in 2014?

I think not quite. These ads (from what I’ve seen so far) are lower-profile/cheaper, and not as directly/blatantly aimed at re-election.

And at least they have a purpose: to inform of a project that is actually underway, point people towards the project web site, which in turn points people to the online survey.

And of course, I’d encourage everyone to look at the survey and give them your views of the project!

Categories: Community

Q and A on the Faroese Whaling Info Site

Sea Shepherd - Mon, 24/08/2015 - 19:21
Q & A on the Faroese Whaling Info Site The Whalers Answer Questions and I Respond to Their Answers

Commentary by Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson

Questions & Answers

 Sea Shepherd/Cris CelyThe Faroese slaughter targets and extinguishes entire family pods.
Photo: Sea Shepherd/Cris CelyQ: Are pilot whales an endangered species?

A: No. The total number of pilot whales taken in the Faroe Islands can fluctuate from one year to the next. The average catch of around 800 whales a year is not considered to have a significant impact on the abundance of pilot whales, which are estimated at around 778,000.

Captain Paul Watson: The number of pilot whales in the North Atlantic is simply unknown. The estimates given in the Faroes have varied between 128,000 and 778,000. There is no credible scientific validation for any of these numbers. The Faroese slaughter targets and extinguishes entire family pods, removing the entire gene pool – and this impacts the entire North Atlantic population. The pilot whale population off Newfoundland crashed in 1966 after excessive exploitation, and up until the day it crashed the “experts” were saying the population was healthy and sustainable.

Q: Is the pilot whale hunt an annual festival?

A: Whale drives are not an annual festival or ritual, as is often wrongly claimed. Whale drives in the Faroe Islands take place to provide food, and can happen at any time of the year. The driving, beaching, killing and distribution of pilot whales are fully regulated by law and regulations. Catches are shared among the participants and local community.

Captain Paul Watson: No it is not an annual festival but each drive kill is treated as a festival. The killing can happen at any time throughout the year but primarily occurs during the months of June through October.

Q: Is pilot whale killing commercialized?

A: No. The catch is distributed for free in the local community where a catch takes place. This traditional community-based sharing of catches also ensures that the larger the catch, the more people get a share of it. However, in some supermarkets and on the dockside, whale meat and blubber is occasionally available for sale.

Captain Paul Watson: It is either commercial or it is not. When a tourist can purchase a whale stew in a restaurant in the Faroes, it is commercial.

Q: Do pilot whales suffer when they are killed?

A: Faroese animal welfare legislation, which also applies to whaling, stipulates that animals must be killed as quickly and efficiently as possible. Whales are killed on the shore and in the shallows of bays especially suited and authorized for the purpose, under the supervision of locally elected officials and by people with a required license.

Captain Paul Watson: In every case where animals are slaughtered, the killers will always argue that the killing is humane. I have seen seal pups skinned alive and I have seen them convulsing in pain, but the Canadian government insists that the seal slaughter is humane. It is noticeable that the answer given says that the legislation stipulates that the animals must be killed quickly, but does not say that they are in fact killed quickly. We have observed and documented the killing. The whales scream in pain and they thrash about in agony. They are also subjected to intense stress while being driven towards the shore. It is interesting that they do not actually answer this question – just provide a vague response. Do the whales suffer? Yes or No? Their answer does not say no and to me that implies that the answer is yes.

Q: Is whale meat and blubber contaminated?

A: The high levels of mercury/methyl mercury as well as other contaminants deriving from global industry, such as PCB and DDT in pilot whale meat and blubber, are well documented and are continually monitored.

Captain Paul Watson: They cannot deny this because Faroese doctors have exposed high levels of mercury toxicity in whale meat. Health officials would ban beef, pork or chicken if it contained the same levels of mercury, yet pilot whale meat is mysteriously given an exemption.

Q: Why do the Faroese eat contaminated whale meat and blubber?

A: Faroese people are well aware of the risks associated with consuming too much pilot whale meat and blubber. The health authorities have made recommendations on the safe limits of consumption, and people have taken these onboard. For example, pregnant women are advised not to eat whale meat and blubber.

Captain Paul Watson: People smoke when they know it will affect their health. Humans have the ability to be in denial of poisons that slowly kill them. Mercury affects the brain, literally eating away brain tissue, so the very fact that the people consume mercury could be the cause of their failure to appreciate the consequences of ingesting mercury.

Q: Is the contamination a big issue in the Faroe Islands?

A: Contaminant levels in pilot whales are a matter of considerable concern to the Faroese, who are so dependent on the sea and its resources. That is why the elimination of pollutants at their source should be the major focus of governmental cooperation and campaigns to ensure binding international commitments to clean up the oceans that are our common heritage.

Captain Paul Watson: We agree that the oceans must be cleaned of toxins and Sea Shepherd is very much involved in this effort. However the Faroese like to present themselves as victims of industrialization when they are equally participating with their industrialized fishing fleets, salmon farms and importing of automobiles, computers and all the other consumer goods that other societies consume. The Faroes are not apart from the problem; they are also a part of the problem.

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John Riddell on Zimmerwald, 1915: New socialist resistance against war

Links International - Mon, 24/08/2015 - 12:38
Site of Zimmerwald Conference

Site of Zimmerwald conference

Click for more by or about John Riddell.

By John Riddell

August 21, 2015 --, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- The Zimmerwald conference, a small gathering held in Switzerland 100 years ago, on September 5-8, 1915, marked a turning point in the world socialist movement. Socialists from many countries issued an appeal that united anti-war socialists during World War I and helped prepare the revolutions with which it concluded. To mark the Zimmerwald centenary I am presenting links to three major documents of the conference in new translations, together with my short introduction.

Documents of the Zimmerwald conference

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RISE: Scotland's new left alliance to launch

Links International - Mon, 24/08/2015 - 06:47
Click for more on left politics in ScotlandNew political force will launch on August 29

August 24, 2015 -- Scottish Left Project, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- We are pleased to announce the name under which the new coalition of the left being launched on August 29 will stand. Our name -- RISE, Scotland's Left Alliance -- reflects our political outlook and organisational make-up.

Respect: We stand for a society where we end racism, sexism, discrimination on the grounds of sexuality and where people of all backgrounds, colours and creeds are treated with respect and dignity.

Independence: We stand for Independence for Scotland. But our Independence is based on ending neoliberalism, austerity and the membership of NATO. We are for ending the monarchy and putting people in charge.

Socialism: We are for a social alternative to capitalism where people run the affairs of our society democratically and where the vast resources of society are utilised in common, rather than for the super-rich.

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Grecia, ruptura en Syriza: ¡Nace 'Unidad Popular'!

Links International - Mon, 24/08/2015 - 06:20

Panagiotis Lafazanis.

[English at]

Por Stathis Kouvelakis, Athens

21 de agosto de 2015 -- Viento Sur -- Esta mañana, a primera hora, 25 diputados de Syriza abandonaron el grupo parlamentario del partido para crear una nueva formación bajo el nombre de "Unidad Popular". La mayor parte de estos diputados están afiliados a la Plataforma de Izquierdas, pero se han unido también otros como Vangelis Diamantopoulos o Rachel Makri, una estrecha colaboradora de Zoe Konstantopoulou.

Este es un acontecimiento importante en la política griega, pero también para la izquierda radical en Grecia y a escala internacional.

Se deben subrayar tres elementos:

El primero es que "Unidad Popular" es el nombre de un nuevo frente político que reagrupará a trece organizaciones de la izquierda radical, aquellas que firmaron el texto publicado el 13 de agosto a favor de la constitución de un "Frente por el NO". Este frente es por lo tanto el primer resultado tangible de la recomposición de la izquierda radical de Grecia. Una recomposición que extrae todas las lecciones de los últimos cinco años y, por supuesto, de la experiencia de Syriza en el poder y de la catástrofe en la que ha desembocado.

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Regional Rail Link funding: a short history lesson

Daniel Bowen - Sun, 23/08/2015 - 10:22

It must be difficult for Tony Abbott’s loyal MPs to defend him in matters like public transport, where he refuses to fund it, while heavily funding motorways.

But of course they try. What’s fascinating is when they get their basic facts wrong. This morning there was a discussion on Twitter about a Coalition-run forum about Geelong area public transport:

@PTNotTraffic @SHendersonMP Yep. Also be nice to see Federal MPs talking about PT and prepared to fund it, which they won't under Abbott.

— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) August 22, 2015

One of the forum organisers, member for Corangamite Sarah Henderson, responded:

Just rubbish Daniel. Look beyond metro Melb. Under @TonyAbbottMHR, our govt provided $1.5b to #RRL. #thefactsmatter

— Sarah Henderson MP (@SHendersonMP) August 22, 2015


Regional Rail Link opened in June 2015. Despite its name, the entire project was within metropolitan Melbourne. It was indeed part funded by the Federal Government.

As the project web site says: “The $3.65 billion project was jointly funded by the Australian and Victorian governments.”

The only problem with Ms Henderson’s claim is that the Federal funding came some four years before Mr Abbott became prime minister.

As this statement from May 2009 says: “The Federal Government will invest $3.2 billion in this important project.”

(Amusingly it also refers to the metro rail tunnel as the “East west rail tunnel”)

Tarneit station, evening peak

Essentially, RRL got funding from the Feds (and the state) because it ticked multiple boxes: boosting rail capacity, urban development in Melbourne’s outer west, and as economic stimulus to help fight the GFC. The project had undergone several years of early planning previous to that, and while it had a haphazard start, the project was able to get underway pretty quickly. The first rail closures for major works occurred in mid-2011.

Mr Abbott wasn’t PM until September 2013. Happily for the RRL project, by then the work had been underway for some years — and he couldn’t claw back the money. But he did pull money out of numerous other public transport projects in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and elsewhere.

There hasn’t been zero funding for public transport. Indirectly, Canberra’s light rail has got funding via the Federal Coalition’s asset recycling policy. The Gold Coast light rail extension may get funding as part of Commonwealth Games preparations. Any others? I’m not sure.

Ms Henderson may disagree, but given Abbott’s strong anti-PT stance, I sincerely doubt Regional Rail Link would have got any Federal funding at all under his government.

To claim Abbott actually funded it is a distortion of the truth.

Happily, Abbott’s stance doesn’t seem to be shared by his colleagues. Malcolm Turnbull is well known for his support for public transport, and Warren Truss seems to have been supportive of the metro rail tunnel. So even if the Coalition stays in power, things may change for the better, as long as it’s not Abbott who’s still in charge.

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