Recent blog entries

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.

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.

Why I hope Craig Thomson avoids jail

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

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

"Everybody is innocent until proven guilty"

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


Trust me, I’m Scott Morrison …

Club Troppo - Fri, 31/10/2014 - 04:18
We can be confident that Tony isn't demonstrating the size of Scott's heart, or his brain for that matter ...

We can be confident that Tony isn’t demonstrating the size of Scott’s heart, or his brain for that matter …

I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago which inter alia condemned the drastic breach of Australia’s fundamental human rights obligations perpetrated by the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014 (currently being considered by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee; Report due 27/11/2014).

The Bill has also been roundly condemned by numerous commentators far more eminent than me, including University of Sydney’s migration and refugee law guru Mary Crock, who referred to it as an “affront to the rule of law”.   However, perhaps the most devastating if unintended condemnation comes from Minister Scott Morrison himself, as quoted in the relevant bills digest prepared by the Parliamentary Library to inform MPs:

This Bill raises a number of human rights implications. Arguably, the most significant and with potentially the most serious consequences, would be Australia’s non-refoulement (non-return) obligations under international law when exercising powers under the MPA and when removing non-citizens from Australia under existing section 198 of the Migration Act. While in effect acknowledging that both measures appear to authorise actions which may be inconsistent with Australia’s obligations under international law, the Government is nonetheless of the view that:

While on the face of the legislation as proposed to be amended, these provisions are capable of authorising actions which may not be consistent with Australia‘s non-refoulement obligations, the Government intends to continue to comply with these obligations and Australia remains bound by them as a matter of international law. They will not, however, be capable as a matter of domestic law of forming the basis of an invalidation of the exercise of the affected powers. It is the Government‘s position that the interpretation and application of such obligations is, in this context, a matter for the executive government.

With respect to Australia’s non-refoulement obligations when removing non-citizens from Australia, the Government is similarly of the view that:

Whilst on its face the measure may appear to be inconsistent with non-refoulement obligations under the CAT [the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment] and the ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights], as set out in the overview to this Statement, anyone who is found through visa or ministerial intervention processes to engage Australia‘s non-refoulement obligations will not be removed in breach of those obligations. There are a number of personal non compellable powers available for the Minister to allow a visa application or grant a visa where this is in the public interest. The form of administrative arrangements in place to support Australia meeting its non-refoulement obligations is a matter for the Government. This consideration is separate from the duty established by the removal power.

So in essence the Minister’s defence is: “Well yes, we may have removed just about all legal protections preventing us from breaching just about every basic human rights treaty known to the human race.  But don’t you worry about that.  Just trust me.  I’m Scott Morrison.”

Categories: Community

What will it take to go beyond 'extractivism'? Federico Fuentes replies to Don Fitz

Links International - Fri, 31/10/2014 - 02:19

A miner in Bolivia.

For more on the "extractivism" discussion, click HERE.

By Federico Fuentes

October 31, 2014 -- Links international Journal of Socialist Renewal, a version of this article appeared first at TeleSUR English -- In recent years, a number of important discussions have emerged among and between environmentalists and solidarity activists. None has generated quite as much heat as the debate over extractive industries, particularly in South America.

This is perhaps unsurprising given what’s at stake: South America is home to some of the world’s largest and most important natural resource deposits. It is also a region dominated by progressive governments that have taken strong stances internationally in support of action on climate change, while facing criticism at home for their positions on extractive industries.

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Categories: Community

Meet the Crew - Operation Pacuare’s Brett Bradley

Sea Shepherd - Thu, 30/10/2014 - 17:17
Meet the Crew - Operation Pacuare’s Brett Bradley

Brett raising awareness about the issues that the turtles faceBrett raising awareness
about Operation Pacuare
Photo: Sea ShepherdMy life is definitely not ordinary, and nor would I want it to be. Growing up having to care for my father who suffers from lifelong injuries sustained while being enlisted in the Australian military, my eyes were open to so much more than that of my friends’. From an early age, most of my free time was spent roaming around the wilderness surrounding my hometown of Fernvale in west Brisbane. It was here that my love for the natural world flourished.

Spending the majority of my free time exploring, I became obsessed with Australia’s incredible wildlife. From the age of 17, my father and I opened our home to care for sick, injured and orphaned wildlife in need of help. It has almost been nine years that the once humble number of animals that would pass through our care grew to over 500. My passion is constantly growing, and I will continue to rescue until I physically cannot. The only time I am away from the shelter is while campaigning with Sea Shepherd.

So far, my time spent with Sea Shepherd has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, but also, one of the most trying. Starting out much like the usual first time volunteer working market/merchandise as well as information stalls, I quickly evolved into more direct involvement in my local chapter of Sea Shepherd Brisbane by becoming Brisbane’s Education Coordinator, and now, a veteran campaign member.

My involvement with Sea Shepherd has so far included: on-shore volunteer and Sea Shepherd Brisbane’s Education Coordinator, Operation Infinite Patience - dolphin defence campaign in Taiji, deckhand on the Sam Simon, Operation Apex Harmony (fighting Australia’s shark cull program as well as exposing the unnecessary shark nets), and currently, Operation Pacuare.

Sea Shepherd’s launch of Operation Pacuare was inevitable; the illegal activities that poachers carry out towards the already pressed populations of the hawksbill, green and leatherback sea turtles would not go unnoticed. I first heard of the poachers’ ruthlessness on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast after the tragic murder of a dedicated young conservationist. As a Sea Shepherd volunteer, I was immediately drawn to this double-edged paradise to do all I could to ensure that no one else would have to pay such a supreme sacrifice defending turtles, as well as to continue the fight for the present and future generations of these incredible ancients of the sea.

During my time on this particular campaign, I have been assigned several duties including night patrols of the seven-kilometre-long beach of Pacuare, guarding eggs in the hatchery day and night, as well as beach clean ups and various community outreach programs. For me, patrolling is both the most challenging and rewarding duty as it can present an array of situations. Although I didn’t get a chance to see turtles nesting, I had spotted fresh tracks from females that had emerged from the water to nest, but had returned to the sea without nesting for unknown circumstances, as well as coming across the tracks of both turtles and humans. The tracks from both these sources meant only one thing, the female had been poached during her most vulnerable stage. A fellow patroller and I followed the tracks, but to no avail, she had been taken and systematically slaughtered the same day. The reality of this event only reinforced my reason for being here; I did not want to see another turtle vanish from the beach at the hands of a poacher.

It is my hope that my involvement as a crew member on Operation Pacuare will have a positive impact towards bringing a rapid end to the illegal activities and exploitation that continues to befall the turtles, as well as having a positive effect on the local community, reinforcing that they’re not alone in this fight. I will return as long as I am able to continue to be a strong presence in defence of the turtles.

Operation Pacuare Visit our
Operation Pacuare
site for more information.
Categories: Community

Scotland: Labour for Independence’s Allan Grogan joins Scottish Socialist Party

Links International - Thu, 30/10/2014 - 13:54

Allan Grogan addresses a pro-independence march and rally in Edinburgh, 2013.

For more on Scotland and independence, click HERE.

By Allan Grogan, founder Labour for Independence

October 27, 2014 -- Real Labour Values, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- This past Saturday I was overwhelmed by the welcome I received by my new comrades at the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) conference in Edinburgh. I made the comment to someone throughout the day that it was so nice to see members of a political party enjoying each others company, respectfully debating issues and uniting in the common good of the people they have set out to represent.

I am delighted to have joined the SSP at a time of great importance within the party. I believe we stand at a crossroads in which we have seen a rejuvenation in not only the party but also what it stands for.

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Categories: Community

South Africa: ANC elite media meltdown reveals crony capitalist shenanigans

Links International - Thu, 30/10/2014 - 12:52

Click for more by Patrick Bond. For more on South Africa, click HERE.

By Patrick Bond, Durban

October 30, 2014 -- Originally published at Telesur English, submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by the author -- The biggest credibility crisis ever to hit South Africa’s independent media is unfolding. There is a serious risk that fewer than a half-dozen power-crazed corporate managers will destroy the waning integrity – and at minimum, the ownership structure – of the country’s most popular TV news station, eTV, which had aspired to become Africa’s answer to Al-Jazeera.

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Categories: Community

The Peris Affair: perhaps ethically dubious but not legally

Club Troppo - Thu, 30/10/2014 - 10:49

I don’t have a particularly high opinion of Senator Nova Peris. I certainly don’t think Prime Minister Julia Gillard should have effectively sacked long-standing and well regarded Senator Trish Crossin to get her into Parliament. Moreover, even if it was reasonable to aim at getting new blood into the Senate and do so by introducing a capable Aboriginal woman, retired Territory Minister Marion Scrymgeour would have been a much better bet.

However, none of those factors justifies publication of the story about Senator Peris’s romantic liaison with international superstar at Ato Boldon, at least with the slant it was given. Let me be clear. I certainly don’t take the Pollyanna attitude that the salacious emails should not have been published at all. Whatever some may assert, I suspect there wouldn’t be a single newspaper editor anywhere in Australia who would have refrained from publishing those emails if he/she had them and had obtained them lawfully (or at least without any specific knowledge about how they were obtained).

If they had merely been published as an avowedly prurient exercise in boosting tabloid circulation (as gossip magazines do on a weekly basis), I would have no problem at all. However, the Northern Territory News attempted to dress up its publication with an element of “public interest” which is almost certainly spurious.

The NT News claimed (and still claims) that the story raises serious questions of “misuse of public funds” on the part of Senator Peris, albeit in 2010 well before she became a politician. However, the facts as revealed by Peris in the Senate this afternoon indicate that no such claim can sensibly be made. Moreover, she asserts that the NT News was aware of all the relevant circumstances before deciding to publish the story.

Judging by the publicly revealed facts, It seems that Peris was working as a paid Ambassador for Athletics Australia at the material time in 2010. Unless her duties involved having some specific role in proposing, assessing or approving visits by overseas athletes like Boldon, it is difficult to see how any claim of “misuse of public funds” could plausibly be made.  Even if her duties did include any such role, it would almost certainly be very minor. Failing to disclose that she had a personal relationship with Boldon might conceivably in those circumstances have given rise to a minor matter of misconduct in employment, but no more than that. Moreover, it would at most be a matter for warning and counselling not summary dismissal. And if she had no role at all in proposing, assessing or approving international athlete visits (as is almost certainly the case), then you can’t even say that there was a conflict of interest. The most you could say is that it might have been preferable in a private ethical sense had Peris disclosed her personal relationship with Boldon. She couldn’t be accused of “misuse of public funds” if she had no role at all in deciding how those funds were used.

If the NT News was indeed aware of all or most of the relevant circumstances, as Peris claims, it might well have significant problems in defending any defamation proceedings that either she or Boldon chose to commence. It is unlikely to be able to defend its publication on grounds of either justification or fair comment.

Nevertheless, if I was advising Nova Peris, I would be suggesting she think carefully before commencing court proceedings. She certainly should demand a retraction and apology from the newspaper, and consider suing if one is not promptly forthcoming, but it usually isn’t a good idea for a politician to engage in an ongoing feud with the only metropolitan newspaper in her electorate.

As for the NT News, I have a great affection for its larrikin style but this isn’t its finest hour.

Categories: Community

Senator Nova Peris. “I stand here today proud of who I am”

The Northern Myth - Thu, 30/10/2014 - 07:37

This is the full text of a speech given by Senator Peris OAM to the Senate earlier today.


Personal Explanation

Senate, Parliament House

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Mr President, I seek leave to make a personal explanation under Standing Order 190.

I rise to give a personal explanation in response to recent media reports relating to a number of private matters. The first thing that I want to say is I am completely overwhelmed by the support I have received from so many Australians.

From my family and friends to my parliamentary colleagues on both sides of the chamber and to hundreds of Australians I have never met.

I thank you all for your support. Yesterday my only concern was my children and family. Today I will provide my side of the story.

There have been media reports about my role in a trip to Australia by Ato Boldon in April 2010 – at a time when I was separated from my ex-husband Daniel Batman who is now deceased.

The NT News has published emails which it claims I wrote almost five years ago.

Many other news organisations have re-published the content of the NT News story.

There are serious questions about how these emails were obtained and passed to the NT News.

I do not have copies of the emails and cannot comment on their veracity. I am aware that Mr Boldon has stated that the emails are fake.

What I can say is that the views attributed to me over the past two days – based on the publication of selected words contained in private emails which I don’t have – certainly don’t reflect my views.

They don’t reflect my values. The evidence of this is the life I have led, and continue to lead. The excuse for the reports is a claim I was responsible for a misuse of public funds. This claim is baseless.

Firstly, I wasn’t responsible for the payment or acquittal of monies used to fund Mr Boldon’s trip. Athletics Australia has confirmed that in April 2010, Mr Boldon toured Australia as an ambassador and mentor for the ‘Jump Start to London’ program. Athletics Australia has confirmed that my role was establishing initial contact with Mr Boldon. Athletics Australia has also confirmed it paid Mr Boldon’s return flights from Los Angeles to Melbourne, his accommodation and reasonable expenses.

Athletics Australia also says – and I quote – “Mr Boldon capably fulfilled his role as mentor and ambassador of the Jump Start to London and provided a boost to the profile of the program and for the sport of athletics in general.”

This afternoon the Australian Sports Commission has said the use of sports ambassadors for programs like this was common, and Athletics Australia has – and I quote – “fully acquitted the funds provided, including independent auditor confirmation that they were spent for the purposes that they were provided.”

Mr President, I categorically reject any wrongdoing.

I have done nothing wrong. It pains me to have to talk about my private life, but the publication of these emails is part of a long running and very difficult child access and financial estate dispute. During this process I have been subjected to many threats. In dealing with these threats I have faced the dilemma of responding to defend my political career or responding to defend my children.

Well, Mr President, it is not actually a dilemma. I have always put my children first and will continue to do so. The NT News has not revealed who provided it with private emails, though News Limited has claimed its source is “credible”.

The facts are these.

On 19 October 2012, the aggrieved party in the financial estate and child access dispute involving me and my children emailed and revealed he had in his possession a folder of information pertaining to Mr Boldon’s visit to Australia.

I did not realise at the time he was referring to these emails.

On 21 March this year, a representative of that aggrieved party emailed me and said that unless his wishes were granted she would take such action, and I quote, “will only result in causing major trauma for everyone, especially the children and damage the reputation of some stakeholders.”

Three weeks ago, on 9 October, I received a further email from the representative of this aggrieved party:

The first line read “I am sending this communication to you today to ensure there is no mistake as to who is responsible for releasing the information in relation to you”. The release and publication of these emails is an attempt to extract money and embarrass me and my family.

With legal options now exhausted, this other party has turned to the media. I can inform the Senate the NT News was well aware these emails were part of a long running family dispute ahead of its publication.

Mr President, I have spoken in person to Cathy Freeman. Our friendship remains strong. And we will continue to support each other.

Despite the hopes of some, this incident will not stop me from serving the people of the Northern Territory and advocating on behalf of Aboriginal Australians.

Last night in the Northern Territory Parliament a report was tabled that showed the number of Aboriginal children that have been taken from their parents and put into care has increased by 26% in the last year. This and many other stories like it deserve this nation’s attention. There is so much to be done for the people I represent in this place.

Mr President, I stand here today proud of who I am. Proud to be a mother, grandmother, daughter and wife.

My children are my universe and I will protect and nurture them no matter what people say about me – now or in the future. I don’t propose to provide any further commentary on this matter.

Mr President, There are three things guaranteed in life. We will all die at some stage. Each day the sun will set. It will rise again tomorrow.

Today is just one of those days.


Categories: Community

South Africa: NUMSA rejects ANC attempts to split COSATU, turn it against socialism

Links International - Thu, 30/10/2014 - 02:50

[For more on NUMSA, click HERE. For more on South Africa, click HERE.]

Statement by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA)

October 27, 2014 -- NUMSA, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- When the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) was born in 1985, the federation brought together many different trade unions with different organisational, political and administrative cultures and traditions.

From 1981, it took four long hard years to emerge from the unity talks with the establishment of the largest federation in South Africa in December 1985.

The COSATU we formed, over its 29 years of existence, has grown and been united, by the following values:

1. COSATU is an independent, fearless and democratic trade union federation: it confronted the Apartheid regime and survived! COSATU is shaped and had existed premised on the following key and core values;

a. COSATU is a revolutionary socialist federation.

b. COSATU is an anti-imperialist federation: it fights against foreign capitalist domination.

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Categories: Community

The “tradies” argument for more roads

Daniel Bowen - Wed, 29/10/2014 - 21:36

The argument for more/bigger roads (particularly motorways) is often that tradies and others need to carry their tools and equipment to jobs, so they can’t use public transport.

Perhaps that’s true, but they are the minority of people on the road.

Swan St traffic

According to a 2012 ABS study, only about 7% of people avoid using public transport (for work or study) because they need to carry tools etc. Another 10% say they have to take their own vehicle.

The more significant reasons are that no public transport is provided (about 30%), they want convenience/comfort/privacy (28%), the services aren’t convenient (25%), or the travel time is too long (18%).

So for the vast majority of people on the roads, it’s because the public transport service isn’t good enough, not because they inherently can’t use public transport for those trips. There might be some overlap in responses of course, but I suspect most people travel most of the time with nothing they can’t carry themselves.

And in fact if you jump on public transport at the right time, such as early morning and early afternoon, you’ll see plenty of blue collar workers using it — presumably those who don’t use personal tools, or are able to keep them securely on-site.

Of course, if building new motorways were really to prioritise those vehicles that have to use them — trucks carrying freight, tool-carrying tradies and so on — there’d be priority lanes to make sure those vehicles got through without getting caught up in congestion caused by individuals in cars. But no roads have such priority lanes.

Source: ABS

Related: Average car occupancy figures – about 1.2, and dropping

Categories: Community

Spirited Scottish Socialist Party conference tackles post-referendum challenges

Links International - Wed, 29/10/2014 - 07:12

The Scottish Socialist Party played an important role in the Yes campaign. This video explores the aftermath for the party and the future of Scotland.

For more on the Scottish Socialist Party, click HERE.

By Dick Nichols

October 29, 2014 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Edinburgh’s Augustine United Church is a cold place when the wind is howling, as it was when the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) held its 2014 annual conference there on October 25.

However, any feeling of chill disappeared when the 200-plus SSP members present got down to tackling the challenges of an inspiring new period in Scottish politics, marked by unprecedented popular engagement in activism and debate over Scotland’s future.

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Categories: Community

Communist resistance in Nazi Germany

Links International - Tue, 28/10/2014 - 13:31

Historian Doug Enaa Greene, as part of the Center for Marxist Education's Red History Lecture Series, speaks on "Communist Resistance in Nazi Germany".

For more by Doug Enaa Greene, click HERE.

By Doug Enaa Greene

October 29, 2014 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- In 1943, a member of the Communist Party, sentenced to die for resistance activities as a member of the Red Orchestra, wrote these final words to his father:

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Categories: Community

Britain: Left Unity leader Kate Hudson on creating a new party for the left

Links International - Tue, 28/10/2014 - 12:19

Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras with Left Unity national secretary Kate Hudson.

For more on Left Unity, click HERE.

October 27, 2014 -- Green Left Weekly -- Left Unity is a new political group in Britain created out of a call last year by filmmaker Ken Loach for a new party to the left of Labour, which has moved rightwards in recent years and supports anti-worker austerity measures. The call was supported by thousands of people and Left Unity held its founding conference in November last year. Green Left Weekly's Denis Rogatyuk spoke with Left Unity's national secretary Kate Hudson, a veteran campaigner who is also general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

* * *

Left Unity’s platform consists of socialism, feminism, environmentalism and anti-racism, among other features. How was this platform conceived? What was the decision-making process behind it?

The origins of the Left Unity project came in November 2012 out of the common struggle across Europe against austerity. There was a coordinated general strike across Europe on November 14 and we wanted to participate in that in Britain.

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Categories: Community

The West’s Ukrainian amnesia

Club Troppo - Mon, 27/10/2014 - 18:47

russia_bear-vs-usa_eagle-war1Monica Attard reports in The Hoopla on a very recent speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin in which he forcefully puts his country’s side of the current conflict with Ukraine.  I was especially struck by this observation:

The US, [Putin] said, had instigated a “coup d’etat” in February to oust Ukraine’s pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovich when he reversed his decision to sign up to a trade deal with Europe rather than Russia.

The stance echoes a fundamental point of a long post I wrote a few months ago on the Ukraine situation.  More generally, Attard puts the broad situation in its Great Power context:

Being pro-western is why 3,700 people have died in Ukraine and the country is on the verge of economic collapse. The conflict has always been a question of big power politics – Russia v the US.

And throughout the annexation of Crimea and the fighting, the west and western media has been anti-Russia. Sure there was a propaganda war being waged between Kiev and Moscow as bombs and guns were killing people. But an anti-Russia narrative, co-created in Kiev and the US, got most of the headlines.

In the west, the story was rarely framed as anything other than Russia’s he-man leader flexing his KGB muscles, snatching Crimea when he had no right to, arming rebels to kill Ukrainians and if you believe Tony Abbott, to kill innocent westerners flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in the tragedy that was MH17. Rarely were events read in their historical context.

Attard, however, doesn’t really proceed to put the events in their longer historical context, nor draw comparisons with an important historical US analogue.  Eastern Europe, especially Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine, has for at least two centuries been seen by Russia as its exclusive “Great Power” sphere of influence.  Its stance is at least as much a matter of national defence and border security as a concept based on neo-imperial aggrandisement.  After all, Russia has been invaded by European neighbours via that corridor three times in the last two centuries (Napoleon in 1812 and Germany during both 20th century world wars).  Through Russian eyes, Eastern Europe provides a bulwark and a cushion against the recent reality of European aggression against the Motherland.

Russia’s increasingly strident re-assertion of its Eastern European sphere of influence must also be seen by reference to the United States’ equally strident and equally long-lasting assertion of Central and South America as its exclusive sphere of influence.  The so-called Monroe Doctrine was first propounded in 1823, drawing a “line in the sand” purporting to forbid any European nation from (further) colonising any part of North or South America. Through the latter half of the twentieth century the Monroe Doctrine was seen (at least by the US itself) as underpinning and justifying a succession of covert military interventions in a succession of South American countries perceived as threatened by Soviet-backed Communist expansionism.

One of the more recent and widely known examples is that of the US-created and sponsored Contra rebels who attempted unsuccessfully to overthrow the democratically leftist Sandinista regime of President Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua.  The only obvious distinction between current Russian interference in Eastern Ukraine and the activities of Presidents Carter and Reagan in Nicaragua is that the former has to date been much more effective at least in military terms (although the Sandinistas were eventually overthrown in 1990, albeit by an election loss rather than directly by US-orchestrated military action)!

It’s worth noting that in The Republic of Nicaragua v. The United States of America (1986) the International Court of Justice held that the U.S. had violated international law by supporting the Contras in their rebellion against the Nicaraguan government and by mining Nicaragua’s harbors.  The ICJ declined to rule that the US had created the Contras in the first place, although that was manifestly the case. The Court  nevertheless awarded reparations to Nicaragua, but the US declined to recognise ICJ jurisdiction and refused to pay.

i wonder whether Tony Abbott will keep all these events in mind when he “shirt-fronts” President Putin in a few weeks time?  Somehow I doubt it.

Categories: Community

To be or not to be?

Club Troppo - Mon, 27/10/2014 - 03:53

It looks as if prominent and obsessively determined euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke may be in trouble again.  He has already had his right to practise medicine suspended and is facing Medical Board disciplinary proceedings arising from a situation a few months ago where he apparently provided telephone and email advice to a non-terminally ill man, seemingly about suicide options.  The man subsequently successfully committed suicide using the so-called “peaceful pill” Nembutal. His relatives later found the correspondence. I will return to this situation later.

The current situation, by contrast, seems morally if not legally straightforward. In August this year Dr Nitschke assisted a 71-year-old man named Martin Burgess to upload the above video onto Nitschke’s YouTube channel. Burgess appealed for someone (anyone) to help him by donating supplies of Nembutal to allow him to kill himself. Burgess was in the latter stages of terminal rectal cancer, was in frequent pain and not being effectively supported by palliative care services, and was pretty clearly not suffering from any mental disability which might have impaired his decision-making process. He made an entirely rational decision to kill himself.  He died last week. To be blunt, I would have made exactly the same decision had I been in his situation. See the slightly longer video below where Burgess describes his situation (try to ignore the irritating background noise).

If the Northern Territory’s Rights of the Terminally Ill Act had still been in force, Burgess would certainly have qualified to access medically-assisted euthanasia. He would not have needed to resort to the desperate expedient of appealing for pharmaceutical help on  YouTube, nor would he have needed to endure a probably lonely death in his noisy flat in suburban Rapid Creek in order to avoid implicating anyone else in his death. The Act in my view contained adequate and appropriate safeguards to ensure that the patient not only was suffering a terminal illness, but also had the requisite mental capacity to make a rational and considered decision to end their life. The existence of a terminal illness had to be certified by two independent medical practitioners, and the patient’s mental capacity had to be certified by a psychiatrist.

Unfortunately, the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act is not still in force. After less than two years of operation, Howard government (and now Abbott government) Minister and God-botherer Kevin Andrews intervened and introduced into Federal Parliament a Private Member’s Bill which when enacted not only nullified the legal effect of the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act but also removed the constitutional ability of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly (and incidentally all other Commonwealth territories as well) to legalise assisted suicide at any time in the future. The Bill successfully passed through both Houses of Parliament with the tacit support of Prime Minister John Howard and a range of Christian MPs on both sides of politics.

The reason why I suggested that Dr Nitschke’s actions in relation to Martin Burgess might not have been legally straightforward is that section 162 of the Northern Territory Criminal Code makes it a crime potentially punishable by life imprisonment to “assist” or “encourage” another person to commit suicide. Hence my suggestion that terminally ill people wanting to put an end to their own suffering really have no choice but to die a lonely death if they want to avoid putting family or friends at risk of drastic punishment.  Other states have somewhat similar provisions in their criminal law. I haven’t examined the case law on such provisions, but you would think there is at least some risk that Nitschke’s actions might run foul of section 162. Clearly those are risks of which Dr Nitschke is well aware. Whether you regard him as courageous or reckless and foolhardy no doubt depends on your personal moral perspective.

The events surrounding Dr Nitschke’s suspension by the Medical Board are more troubling:

The decision to suspend Dr Nitschke using the board’s emergency powers to  ”protect  public health and safety” came after he admitted in an interview with the ABC that he had supported a 45-year-old Perth man, Nigel Brayley, in his decision to commit suicide, despite knowing the man was not terminally ill.

The AMA has cited the same “adverse event”, saying Dr Nitschke’s “professional behaviour … was not consistent with the high professional and ethical standards for the Australian medical profession promoted by the AMA.”

Not only was Brayley not suffering from a terminal illness, but members of his family have also asserted that he was suffering from depression (although whether they know this or are just suggesting it was a possibility is unclear). It would appear that at the time of his death, Brayley was under police suspicion of murdering his wife by pushing her into a quarry. Perhaps his decision to kill himself was a rational one; perhaps it was a tacit acknowledgement of guilt in which he acted as his own judge, jury and executioner.

On the other hand, perhaps he was an innocent man who had just become overwhelmed by the pressure of unjust suspicion and the prospect of a legal ordeal which would at best have left his reputation permanently ruined. Perhaps that perception of his situation might have been exacerbated if indeed he was suffering from clinical depression. In any event, it appears unlikely that Nitschke had enough contact with him to form any view about his mental state. Nitschke asserted in his ABC interview that he did not see it as a part of his role to assess Brayley’s mental state or even to urge him not to commit suicide. Presumably the Medical Board and the AMA regard such conduct as inconsistent with the Hippocratic Oath. However it would be inappropriate to canvass such issues further given that Dr Nitschke’s Medical Board hearing is imminent.

The pressure surrounding Dr Nitschke is even more widespread than that. A recent newspaper report noted:

Embattled euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke is being investigated by police in every Australian state over his possible role in nearly 20 deaths in the past three years, all of them apparently suicides.

The latest investigation, by Victoria Police, concerns the death of a 55-year-old Geelong man who allegedly killed himself using a do-it-yourself kit bought though a company affiliated with Exit International, the pro-euthanasia organisation founded by Dr Nitschke.

All of the deaths being investigated involved the use of the two suicide methods promoted by Dr Nitschke, the lethal drug, Nembutal or a nitrogen inhalant device.

I simply don’t know how many of these deaths (assuming Dr Nitschke was involved in them) involved people who were terminally ill and had mental capacity to make a rational decision. How many involve people like Brayley or for that matter former Territory Senator Bob Collins (not that Nitschke had any involvement in that situation to the best of my knowledge), cheating justice by killing themselves to avoid facing trial for serious crimes?

How many involved people suffering chronic but non-terminal medical conditions involving frequent pain and the prospect of an uncomfortable, undignified life?  Medical science has advanced to a stage where average Australian lifespans are now longer than 80 years, but the quality of that life in its last decade or so is another question entirely.  Should people with such conditions be entitled to end their own lives? Should they be entitled to medical assistance to do so with dignity? in my opinion the answer is yes, but it shouldn’t be left to the unregulated opinions of medical crusaders like Dr Nitschke. Given that many of us will face such a dilemma in years to come, either for ourselves or our close family members, and that our doctors will also face such dilemmas, surely the time has come to enshrine appropriate safeguards in legislation by re-enacting the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act in all states and territories.

Categories: Community

'Dialogue' or Tamil self-determination: a response to Michael Cooke

Links International - Mon, 27/10/2014 - 02:25

Tamil refugees.

By Chris Slee

October 27, 2014 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Michael Cooke's article "Election Monitoring in Lanka"[1] contains a lot of useful information on the history and politics of Sri Lanka, including topics ranging from the burning of the Jaffna library by Sri Lankan police in 1981 to the murder of journalists, the repression of trade unionists and the instigation of anti-Muslim riots under the current government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

However the article has some serious flaws. In particular, Cooke does not deal adequately with the national question in Sri Lanka.

The article is largely based on three visits that Cooke made to Sri Lanka, including two periods as an election monitor (in 2001 and 2005). It is also informed by his extensive knowledge of Sri Lankan history, much of it gained through the research he did for his excellent biography of Lionel Bopage.[2]

Cooke's work as an election monitor gave him a unique vantage point from which to observe Sri Lankan politics. But it was not always easy to find out the truth. Cooke admits that he is not sure who committed some of the acts of violence that he observed.

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Categories: Community

Vasily Koltashov and Boris Kagarlitsky: Will Putin abandon eastern Ukraine’s rebels?

Links International - Mon, 27/10/2014 - 02:10

Vladmir Putin and Johm Kerry: "Let's deal?"

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal has published various left viewpoints from the region on the political situation in Ukraine.

By Vasily Koltashov and Boris Kagarlitsky[1], translated by Gaither Stewart, notes by Renfrey Clarke

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Categories: Community

Metro Bingo :-(

Daniel Bowen - Sun, 26/10/2014 - 21:44

Given the Flemington/Showgrounds line isn’t running this morning, and the Stony Point line has planned bustitution, I’m going to go ahead and declare that we have Metro Bingo this morning due to the storms.


And no, it’s not much better on many of the roads.

Road conditions

Good luck to everybody (myself included, shortly) trying to get to work this morning.

Categories: Community

It’s Time?

Club Troppo - Sun, 26/10/2014 - 14:02

In the midst of all the Whitlam nostalgia over the last week or so I couldn’t help thinking of the contagious hope and excitement that was generated by the “It’s Time” campaign theme in 1972. It still sends tingles down my spine listening to it today.

The year of Whitlam’s election was my first year at the University of Sydney on a Commonwealth Scholarship. My parents certainly could not have afforded to send me there. By the next year it didn’t matter because tertiary education was free, at least for a while. That year I was also looking down the barrel of conscription when I turned 20 in 1973, with the strong possibility of ending up in Vietnam. That prospect also ended with Whitlam’s election.

Can you imagine running an election campaign for Bill Shorten and today’s ALP using the “It’s Time” theme?  Time for focus groups, expedient cynical policies; time for me-tooism on data retention and anti-terror laws, and sending the troops off to make a risky token gesture supporting the Americans fighting ISIL in Iraq. Time for tiptoeing towards supporting Abbott and Morrison on turning back asylum seeker boats.

Exciting, inspiring, no? I can hardly wait to rush down to Labor headquarters and renew my long lapsed membership.

Categories: Community

A good four pointer puzzle from Aronian

Club Troppo - Sun, 26/10/2014 - 08:19


Black to play Shabalov vs Aronian

21. …?
See game for solution.
Difficulty Scale
Categories: Community

Cuba: Teaching the world about containing Ebola

Links International - Sun, 26/10/2014 - 08:12

Havana took up the challenge by hosting a special Summit on Ebola with its regional partners and global health authorities on October 20.

For more on Cuba's health system and its assistance to other countries, click HERE.

By Conner Gorry, Havana

October 24, 2014 -- Guardian Professional -- West Africa needs what Cuba has: a well-trained, coordinated healthcare system. Anything less and Ebola wins.

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Categories: Community