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.

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.


Thailand Must Confiscate the Kunlun and its Cargo

Sea Shepherd - 5 hours 23 min ago
Thailand Must Confiscate the Kunlun and its Cargo

Commentary by Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson

The poaching vessel, Kunlun, crosses the bow  of the Sam SimonThe poaching vessel, Kunlun, crosses the bow
of the Sam Simon
Photo: Sea Shepherd / Jeff WirthThe Kunlun (Taishan) is one of the “Bandit 6” toothfish-poaching vessels that have plundered the waters of the Southern Ocean with impunity for a decade.

Thailand now has the opportunity to send a strong message to poachers on the High Seas that Thailand’s ports are not places where pirates can fence their illicit cargos.

Last year the Thunder was detained in Malaysia and released with its illegal cargo after paying a fine that was relatively small compared to the value of the contraband in their holds.

If Thailand does the same with the Kunlun, it will simply encourage these poachers.

The captain of the Kunlun has apparently escaped and returned to Peru. Agents from the Spanish company Vidal Armadores were in Phuket, working behind the scenes in their attempts to clear the ship and its cargo.

The good news is that the investigation in Phuket is being led by Police Lt. Col. Panya Chaichana of the Marine Police who has been leading investigations of human trafficking on fishing vessels; he has a good record.

The shipping company seems to be complicit in this illegal operation despite their denials.

From an article from The Phuket News:

South Services, meanwhile, has denied any wrongdoing. A company representative said, under condition of anonymity, ‘The Peruvian captain has already flown home and a new Indonesian skipper and crew are now in Phuket. The ship did not do anything wrong.

Before I agreed to represent this ship I checked their certificates and the people on the ship and established that none of them were on any blacklist.

I also checked the ship’s name and established that it was previously called the Funkau, not the Kunlun.

The only problem is with the product in the containers. Nothing appeared wrong or weird about the online Phuket Customs registration. If it had, I would not have taken on this job.’”

How can it be credible that a ship that is on the INTERPOL Purple list is accepted as legal by a legitimate shipping agency? The record of the Taishan(Kunlun and now Funkau) is well documented.

This company should be investigated thoroughly by Thai authorities to determine if Vidal Armadores had a role in working with South Services to clear this poaching vessel into Thailand with false papers and false cargo declarations.

I sent a message to South Services today, asking how it is that they could accept papers as legitimate from a vessel on the INTERPOL Purple list as a known toothfish poacher.

South Services (Thailand) Co. Ltd.
54 Montri Road, Muang, Phuket 83000
Tel: (66)0-7621-1447 , 0-7621-4117 , 0-7622-0816
Fax: (66)0-7621-3604 , 0-7623-0045

I also sent Police Lt. Col Panya Chaichana a message of support today to tell him I was happy to hear that he is in charge of the investigation.

Read more: Phuket officials waiting for Bangkok's word on "illegal" fishing ship

Categories: Community

South Africa: United Front condemns COSATU's expulsion of Zwelinzima Vavi

Links International - 14 hours 33 min ago

COSATU general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has been expelled from the federation by its pro-ANC leadership.

Read more about recent developments in South Africa HERE.

March 31, 2015 -- United Front, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- As expected, yesterday the Central Executive Committee (CEC) of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) decided to expel Zwelinzima Vavi from his position as its general secretary. The United Front (UF) regards this decision as the final nail in the regrettable terminal decline of what was once a mighty, principled, independent and militant federation of workers’ trade unions.

read more

Categories: Community

Cuba eradicates syphillis, HIV transmission to babies

Links International - 15 hours 22 min ago
A Cuban doctor examines a young patient at the health centre in the city of Jiquitaia in the state of Bahia, north-eastern Brazil.

For more on socialist Cuba's health gains, go to

March 20, 2015 -- TeleSUR English via Portside, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) will visit Cuba soon to review if the country can be certified to have eliminated the transmission of HIV and syphilis from mother to child.

In order to receive the certification from the WHO, a country must have a transmission rate in less than 0.5 per cent of live births in the case of syphilis and less than 2 per cent in the case of HIV. Medical care for pregnant women and access to HIV tests must exceed 95 per cent and antiretroviral treatment must be available for 95 per cent of seropositive pregnant women.

read more

Categories: Community

Essendon and Hird – vindicated after 784 days in the AFL’s anti-doping hell

The Northern Myth - Tue, 31/03/2015 - 23:06

This is a transcript of a discussion between Deakin University legal academic Martin Hardie and ABC journalist Mandy Presland broadcast yesterday on the ABC’s NewsRadio.

Martin Hardie: I really had no idea, given the history of this thing, what was going to happen, but I’ve always been of the belief since I first started looking at the evidence back in early 2013 that Essendon had not used any banned substances. So [I’m feeling] relief and I think vindication. We’ve had over two years now–someone said seven hundred and eighty-four days or something like that–of investigation and claim and counter-claim in the media and we now know that Essendon did not take any banned substances. Which raises a whole lot of questions of course.

Mandy Presland: So now that this finding has been handed down, where to from here?

MH: Well, who knows? ASADA [Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency] – we’ll find out tomorrow morning whether they intend to appeal or whether WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency] intends to appeal but I think there are serious questions about the way this whole matter has been handled from day one, since the time that the Labor Party held that press conference on the sixth of February 2013, since the ACC [Australian Crime Commission] and ASADA – the way that it appears that people within the government and within the AFL [Australian Football League] have tried to manipulate the whole process. The AFL’s agenda, I think, in the long term was to try to get out of the ASADA system. They are all things that will have to be sorted out and discussed and hopefully be investigated properly now.

The other thing that I think is really important to think about is that in August 2013 we had James Hird, Mark Thompson, Danny Corcoran and the club sanctioned. The club accepted a sanction and the others agreed to a settlement – but the effect of that was that somehow these people at the club had bought the game into disrepute. It seems to me that that whole process, not that I think it can be undermined or undone, needs to be questioned. Because effectively what they were sanctioned for was documenting the use of substances that were not banned. So somehow these people are said to have bought the game into disrepute by doing something that was not prohibited, which is fairly Kafkian when you think about it.

MP: Stephen Dank – the sports scientist – where does this leave him?

MH: He is pleased. Dank obviously feels vindicated insofar as it has been found that he did not dope the players and that has been his position all along. But the Tribunal still has got to make up its mind on some other allegations regarding Dank which we will have to wait and see about.

MP: And as far as James Hird is concerned, what can he take from today’s ruling?

MH: Well, he can take a lot from it insofar as he has maintained all along that the club and the players didn’t use banned substances and he fought a fairly noble fight to try and test the legality of the whole process. The sad thing is that what we are left with–him not having gone on to the High Court–is a situation where the Federal Court has essentially sanctioned this kind of trial by media that has gone on for the last two and a half years.

MP: So does he have any recourse now?

MH: I don’t think that he has any recourse at the moment, not any easy avenues of recourse but I think the recourse will now have to be political. Somebody needs to look at the way ASADA operates and how major sports such as the AFL operate. Keep in mind that the reason we had the bringing the game into disrepute charges by the AFL was in order to head off any doping charges being bought against the players. Now that didn’t work and two and a half years later–after all of the character assassination–the players are now found not to have doped. Somebody in government needs to look at why this has happened and how can we ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

MP: And in fact the player’s names have been brought into disrepute …

MH: Oh, the player’s names and … before this case everybody understood that the ASADA legislation meant that these processes should be confidential until there has been a final hearing and when there has been a final hearing you can either say that someone has doped or that someone hasn’t. What we’ve had is that people’s guilt was determined back in February 2013 by the media and since then everybody has been presumed to be a doper or to be involved in doping. Even now there are people who are saying, “Well, who cares what the tribunal says, we knew they doped because we’ve been reading about it for years.”

MP: And this saga, as you’ve alluded to, has dragged on for a couple of years now and essentially there is nothing to show for it. What does it do for the public image for ASADA?

MH: Well I had a conversation with the Director-General of WADA, David Howman, in June 2013 where I that the way that this matter is being handled is going to setback anti-doping in Australia ten years. And I think that is what has happened. People have lost faith in ASADA and the processes and people have lost faith in the whole cause of anti-doping in sport–I think to a large extent–and a lot of people are pointing the finger at ASADA. But we have to remember the AFL played a big part in creating this mess itself, and so did other people within the then government and we need to sort that out so that it doesn’t happen in the future.


You can read more pieces by Martin Hardie and others on the Essendon saga and related issues here.

Categories: Community

Nationalism is Simply a Mask for Abstract Collective Guilt

Sea Shepherd - Tue, 31/03/2015 - 17:35
Nationalism is Simply a Mask for Abstract Collective Guilt

Commentary by Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson

Harp seal near the Farley Mowat Harp seal near the Farley Mowat
Photo: Sea Shepherd / Greg HagerNationalism is a type of insanity where artificial boundaries replace compassion and common sense.

All of my life, with every campaign that I have organized, I have been called a racist or a bigot for opposing each and every atrocity I have encountered. Our campaigns against whaling have been against whalers in Japan, Norway, Iceland, Spain, Australia, Denmark, Canada, South Africa, Russia and the USA. Our campaigns against sealing have been against sealers in Canada, Russia, Norway, and Namibia. Our campaigns against shark finning and shark killing have been against shark killers in Costa Rica, Australia, China, Spain, Brazil, and many other countries. Our campaigns against illegal tuna fishing have been against illegal fishing in Malta, Spain, France and Japan. Our campaigns against the slaughter of dolphins have been against such killers in Japan, the Faroe Islands, Canada, Peru, Venezuela, Mexico and many other countries.

Name any country and there is an atrocity against some animal or animals taking place there, somewhere by someone.

And many of these atrocities are justified in the name of some national culture – be it foie gras in France, bullfighting in Spain, badger killing and fox hunting in England, kangaroo shooting in Australia, dolphin killing in Japan, the seal slaughter in Canada, the killing of wolves in Norway or the USA, and so on.

I have never opposed an atrocity based on the nationality of the person or persons committing that atrocity. It just so happens that when I oppose an atrocity in any place, there tends to be a backlash from offended people based on their nationality, which breaks down into those who defend the atrocity for cultural reasons, and those who defend their nation and oppose the atrocity but take offense at their nation being cited within the overall criticism.

That’s the problem with national identification. People who take pride in their flag and their country tend to be defensive when an atrocity is cited within the borders of their country, and this often leads to such people defending the atrocity for no other reason than national pride.

I was born a Canadian and I am a citizen of both the USA and Canada. All of my life I have opposed the cruel and despicable slaughter of seals in Canada and I’ve defended wolves, caribou, salmon and other species ruthlessly exploited in Canada. I have defended whales, seals, wolves, bears, sea lions and many other species in the USA. I do not get offended by people in Europe condemning the slaughter of seals in Canada. In fact, I appreciate them doing so.

You see, the seals in Canada represent what Canada is more than the red and white piece of cloth that is used to justify the killing of seals when the government of Canada condemns those who defend seals, and lauds the seal killers as being “real” Canadians who defend a Canadian cultural practice.

My Canadianism is the forests, the mountains, the rivers and all those native species that live upon the land and the sea. The same goes for my Americanism. It is the land and the sea, the forests and the valleys that I love and respect.

Some Japanese people cry racism when we oppose the killing of dolphins and whales. Some people in Spain cry bigotry when we oppose the bullfight or the killing of the Galgos. Some people in Australia get offended when we oppose the shooting of kangaroos and some people in Namibia get upset because defending seals is, in their eyes, a form of racism.

I don’t believe in nationalism. When I see a picture of Earth from space, I don’t see any flags or borders. Flags mean little to me, other than pieces of cloth that people rally around like football colors in their need for some sort of tribal identification.

I do not see nationalities. I see a species of primate hominid called Homo sapiens. And what I see is a species that shares the same virtues and the same vices.

There is not a nation on this planet where cruelty and violence cannot be found. There is not a nation on this planet where one group of people are different than any other group from any other nation.

I recognize that culture and tradition are important to different groups and I respect that, but I do not respect any culture or tradition that practices cruelty or slaughter.

Are Canadians all sadistic people because of the seal slaughter? Are Spaniards all ruthless barbarians because of the bullfight? Are Faroese all vicious monsters for the killing of pilot whales?

The answer is of course they are not. All people cannot be judged by the cruelty of a group within the larger group. Unless of course they openly support such slaughter and justify cruelty, misery and death in the name of their culture.

There is only one race and that is the human race, and the evidence is clear that humanity as a race is ecologically ignorant. Overall we are extremely arrogant in our general collective view of other species – so much so that practically every anthropocentric religion places humans in the center of creation as all important.

People are sometimes confused when they ask me my citizenship and I answer by saying, “I am an Earthling.”

My immediate family is somewhat of a United Nations that includes the following nationalities: French and English Canadian, American, Russian, Kazakhstan, Turkish, French, Danish, Scottish, Irish, German, Iranian, Dutch and Chinese. My ships have had crews from at least more than 50 nations. And what I have long realized is that within any group or nationality can be found a diversity of opinions, prejudices, vices, virtues and beliefs.

And I firmly believe that no group has any superiority over any other group. I do however believe that there is one thing that must not be tolerated, and that is the deliberate infliction of pain, suffering, death and inequality upon any human or any other animal in the name of patriotism, culture or tradition.

The matador who kills the bull, the American big-game hunter who kills the elephant, the Namibian sealer, the African poacher who kills the rhino, the Faroese pilot-whale killer, the Taiji dolphin murderer, and the Canadian sealer are all the same, united in their shared perversity of inflicting pain, suffering and death.

Yet at the same time the citizens of Spain who oppose the bullfight, the Australians who oppose the killing of kangaroos, the Africans who oppose the slaughter of rhinos, and the Faroese and the Japanese who oppose the slaughter of dolphins are also united by a bond of compassion.

I often get messages like, “I support you saving whales but the bullfight is part of our tradition,” or “I support your efforts to save seals but you have no right to criticize my eating foie gras.”

All of my positions are dictated against an atrocity or a threat to an eco-system and not against the nationality of the people involved.

Are all Faroese evil? No, but in my opinion all Faroese whale-killers are bad because whaling is evil.

Are all Spaniards evil because of illegal fishing, the bullfight and the killing of the Galgos? No, but the Spaniards involved in the illegal fishing, the bullfight or the killing of Galgos are involved in an evil that I have dedicated my life to opposing.

The dilemma is, how can you oppose the killing of dolphins in Japan by human beings who happen to be Japanese without stating that the killers are Japanese? You can’t, but we do try to point out that not all Japanese are involved or support the slaughter. But this is complicated by the fact that all Japanese vote for and are responsible for the elected government that represents them, and when that government supports the slaughter of whales and dolphins it implicates the entire nation.

It is not easy to say the least, and people are going to believe what they choose to believe and to justify what they choose to justify.

All that I can do is to be consistent in my policy of viewing all humans equally and judging not on nationality, but on actions.

If the people are Faroese and kill pilot whales and dolphins, I oppose and condemn them for that action. It the people are Faroese and do not kill pilot whales and dolphins but support the killing, I disagree and oppose them. If people are Faroese and oppose the killing of pilot whales and dolphins, I applaud and support them.

It is as simple as that. It is the actions of people that we support or condemn and not the nationality of the person involved.

Categories: Community

Vipassana – false consciousness in the midst of queer meditation?

The Northern Myth - Tue, 31/03/2015 - 14:16

This is a letter sent earlier this week from Darwin barrister and art curator Koulla Roussos to the management of the Vipassana Meditation Centre at Woori Yallock in Victoria after her attendance at a course there from the 11th to 22 March 2015.

I want to thank you for the opportunity this recent course provided to me to become more familiar with the theory and practice of meditation. The comfortable environment produced a quiet and contemplative state which was conducive in part to restful enlightenment. The meals were superb and I want to thank the kitchen staff for doing such a terrific job.

I also want to raise some concerns I have about the way the course was structured and delivered. I have given this much thought since leaving the centre in the hope of resolving these issues for myself, however they continue to bother me.

The first concern I have is the separation of the participants into two groups according to biological sex. Unless I misunderstand, and I invite you to clarify this for me, the separation of the sexes is designed to minimise the “distraction” possibly stirred by sexual tensions arising between members of opposite sexes. I understand the whole purpose of Vipassana is to cultivate an alertness and attentiveness towards meditation free from sensual stimuli, however I believe the separation of the sexes merely entrenches heteronormative myths and stereotypes that are prevalent in mainstream society and from which the Vipassana retreat could be expected to offer a respite.

Not only do myths regarding “male” active libidinous desire get perpetuated, but also the female “passive” seductress stereotype become entrenched. Furthermore, it ignores the presence of homosexual and queer meditation practitioners.

The segregation of the sexes either denies the existence of the homosexual participant, or assumes that same-sex desire is weaker, and more capable of being suppressed, or alternately, that gay people have superior will power and self-control. If the latter is the case, then the centre has higher expectations of queer participants than of the straight majority. A centre whose aim is to “enlighten” should employ practices that demonstrate the same expectations of all participants.

The second concern I have is the extent of authority and dominance the male teacher exercised over the meditation hall space which was shared equally by both male and female students. The male teacher had control of the equipment: he was able to monitor the air-vents, the projector screen, and the operation of the DVD. The male teacher made all the announcements. Furthermore, Mr Goenka appeared on screen during the discourse sessions clearly accompanied by a female associate.

I gathered from one of his onscreen jokes that she was his wife and her role was supposed to be as his female counterpart and yet she was marginalised and remained outside the video camera frame for the great majority of the screening.

It is remiss of the centre to practice enlightenment in a way that reinforces the inequality of mainstream society. This was particularly striking given that women in fact formed the majority of participants. Great attention needs to be given to all the messages which through their transmission only entrench the myth of male superiority, misogyny and the subjugation of women.

Considering the reality that many female practitioners who attend the centre for meditation may have been scarred mentally, physically and spiritually by male-perpetrated violence, and continue to be subjected to the risk of personal and political gender specific violence, such sexist practices risk deepening these wounds and make a mockery of the enlightenment aims of Vipassana.

These issues became apparent to me by the fourth day of meditation. I found it extremely difficult to continue. I was able to quell a panic attack, and made myself mentally fit so as to complete the course only to see if these practices were going to change or continue. This was a distraction to my meditation practice, and it is unfortunate that more thought had not gone into the organisation of the retreat in a way that did not reinforce the negative experiences of women and gay people.

Having shared my thoughts and experience with you, I invite your response with the view of generating a debate on what measures if any should be adopted to enhance the autonomy of all participants.


Koulla was assisted in the preparation of this letter by Fernanda Dahlstrom.

Categories: Community

Broken – the best three-hander you won’t see all year

The Northern Myth - Tue, 31/03/2015 - 11:31

Mary Ann Butler’s Broken, which just finished a two week run at Darwin’s Brown Mart theatre, is a brutal and bare-knuckled play that kicks you in the head–and the guts–from the first minute and keeps kicking and screaming for the next hour.

A car rolls in the desert night, a half-broken-hearted man tends the wounded woman in the wreck. He lies about her dog. At home his missus has a bloody screaming miscarriage.

And it all rolls downhill from there with inevitable force and energy of a runaway road-train without any brakes half-way down the Balbarini jump-up.

The set is as sparse as the script is visceral. The actors do all the work in a play of screams and movement and snap-chatted dialogue that bounces from bloody wreck to bloodless soul to bleeding heart and cunt.

Rosealee Pearson, better known as a dancer of note and regard, is stunning as the wreckee Ash in her first acting role. Matt Edgerton, half-bogan-miner, half-stargazing mystic and mender of body and wrecker of hearts is a thoroughly reasonable creep as Ham. Darwin local Ciella Williams is the best of a very good bunch as Mia, for whom we spend far too much time pitying as a pathetic wreck but who emerges as the only real winner from this cock-eyed bob of a show.

As horrible and depressing as all this seems, it is a testament to Butler’s craft that we leave the theatre–white-knuckled but hand-warmed by a standing ovation on the penultimate night of a two week run–somehow uplifted and in serious need of strong drink.

Broken works so well because of the physicality of the actors on the bare stage, because of the punch and power of Butler’s script and the whip-cracking snap of Gail Evans’ direction that drives the script at a blistering pace of cross-cut lines delivered second-perfect in an hour-long three-handed monologue.

I left thrilled, challenged and horrified all at once. You couldn’t hope for much more on a night out in Darwin–unless you pop down to Mitchell Street’s red-light zone on a Friday-fight-night for a pint, a fuck and a punchup.

Broken will be back in town for the Darwin Festival later in the year and should get a run in southern theatres sooner rather than later.



By Mary Anne Butler

Directed by Gail Evans

with Matt Edgerton, Rosealee Pearson and Ciella Williams

Brown’s Mart Theatre, Darwin

17-29 March 2015

Photos by Glenn Campbell

Categories: Community

Treasury ‘White Paper on Tax’ seized upon by an Abbott Government Considering Regressive ‘Reforms’

Left Focus - Tue, 31/03/2015 - 01:59

The Abbott Government's 'White Paper' on Tax could see big changes to superannuation and the overall tax mix.  But the Paper seems oriented towards the Government's Ideological preference for 'small government', 'low tax' and 'simple/regressive tax' as opposed to a progressive tax system. Labor and the Greens need to enunciate a comprehensive alternative - also informed by a progressive ideology of equity and fairness.  Tristan Ewins looks at the alternatives. Tristan Ewins
The Federal Australian Treasury’s White Paper on tax reform seems to have been received well by the Abbott Conservative Government. 
Amongst other suggestions, it urges slashing the Company Tax rate to make Australia a more attractive place for investment.   
But arguably decreased Company Tax is not the answer and will only lead to further ‘corporate welfare’. 
The white paper complains that 70 per cent of Commonwealth tax revenue is drawn from personal and company taxes.  But what is the alternative?  A higher GST?  More user pays?  More austerity in the context of an-already stunted social wage and welfare state?
Dividend Imputation, Corporate Taxation, Corporate Welfare
On the good side, Gareth Hutchens of ‘The Age’  (30/3/2015) notes arguments have arisen for the potential rescission of Australia’s regime of Dividend Imputation. (tax breaks on share dividends; ostensibly to make up for ‘double taxation’)
For a start, lower Company Tax rates dilute arguments about the unfairness of ‘double taxation’.  Australia’s Company Tax rate has been reduced markedly since the Keating Government which introduced the dividend imputation system.  Countries such as the UK and France – which once had imputation – have now dropped the measure.  It no longer appears ‘necessary’ either for ‘fairness’ or ‘competitiveness’.
To clarify: Nicholas Gruen of ‘The Age’ pointed out in 2012 that the cost of Dividend Imputation to the Australian people (as represented in the Government) of over $20 billion a year!  
The result of falling Company Tax, dividend imputation and other pro-corporate measures has been much lower levels of tax paid by business, and the effective consequence of ‘corporate welfare’, in tandem with other effective corporate subsidies. 
For instance David Holmes  at ‘The Conversation’ has noted– “the fuel tax credit scheme to the mining industry”  which delivered $2 billion in corporate subsidies for mining corporate interests in 2011 alone; and a total of over $5 billion all up.
But it goes much further than this.  Corporate welfare can also be interpreted as taking the form of a falling minimum wage and a falling wage share of the economy. In Australia specifically the wage share fell by about ten percentage points since 1959.  (see the associated graph via the hyperlink above)  That means higher levels of exploitation of working people by business. That is, Australian workers are subsidising corporate profit through lower relative wages.
Further, there is an assault on welfare rights to ‘make room’ for effective corporate tax subsidies; and ‘punitive welfare’ , ‘work for the dole’ etc, effectively reduce the bargaining power of workers because of an insecure and desperate ‘reserve army of labour’.
Also consider the proliferation of ‘user pays’ measures. (for example for access to transport infrastructure;  school ‘levies’; a higher cost of living re: water and energy etc)  User pays mechanisms can only spread as a consequence of lower taxes.  What we do not pay for collectively as tax payers, we will pay for (and usually we will pay more) in our capacity as private consumers.   
Declining levels of corporate contributions to the construction of infrastructure, and the development of skills which the corporates benefit from – means the burden is increasingly paid by workers, consumers and individual (private) tax payers.  More corporate welfare!
Privatisation of communications, energy and water utilities and assets such as state-owned banks also saw an end to progressive cross subsidies. At the same time – progressively from the 1980s and 1990s - a more regressive tax mix (including the GST) ‘began to bite’.
Importantly, the argument that rates of corporate and personal income tax must fall because of ‘competition’ does not apply to all companies and individuals.  Many companies cater to Australian markets and Australian consumers.   The threat of capital flight is not universally applicable; and contributing to a ‘race to the bottom’ on corporate tax will result in spiralling and out-of-control corporate welfare.  Global action is necessary to stop the existing ‘race to the bottom’ on tax. 
To get the situation in perspective: Company Tax (now 30 per cent)  has been reduced by approximately 20 percentage points since the time of the Hawke Labor Government. 
The cost to the Australian people of this is tens of billions in revenue annually - which might otherwise have been directed towards infrastructure and education (which the corporate world benefits from after all), as well as health, social services and welfare. 
Even though a return to the ‘high water mark’ of corporate tax may not be possible, an increase to levels enjoyed by other advanced economies might be doable, and would make a big difference.  (nb: US Company Tax goes as high as 39 per cent; Japan 37 per cent and France 34 per cent – see HERE)
Furthermore, arguably most Australians are not so ‘mobile’ as the proponents of lower income tax suggest either.  Taxes also contribute to the quality of infrastructure and services which underscore the desirability of living in particular country. This includes the professionals which some say are likely to ‘pack up and leave’ if progressive income taxes remain.   Indeed the quality of education, services and infrastructure also acts as a ‘pull factor’ for investment and skilled labour.
Income Tax and GST
Treasury is also pressing for lower income taxes and a higher, less discriminate GST.  (eg: apply it also to education and food)
But because apparently an increase in GST is rejected by the Andrews Victorian Labor Government we might hope for a more equitable alternative.  
Unfortunately, though, it is more likely we will simply see further austerity.
The Treasury white paper apparently complains that only Denmark relies more on income and company taxation than Australia.   But ‘just because other people are doing something’ is not a strong argument to follow suit.  More appropriate would be to consider what –if anything – is wrong with the Danish tax system and economy.
Wikipedia states of Denmark that:
It has the world's lowest level of income inequality, according to the World Bank Gini (%),[8] and the world's highest minimum wage, according to the IMF.[9] As of January 2015 the unemployment rate is at 6.2%, which is below the Euro Area average of 11.2%.[10] As of 28 February 2014 Denmark is among the countries with the highest credit rating.
So Denmark has a strong economy.  It has chosen ‘a different path’, say, compared with the Anglosphere. But its path of high, progressive taxes, labour market regulation and strong social welfare works! 
Finally the Treasury White Paper has considered the threat of bracket creep, and apparently the Abbott Conservatives are considering an increased GST as an alternative.
Bracket Creep refers to workers being pushed into higher tax brackets as a consequence of inflation, and (only nominally) increasing wages.  Both Labor and Liberal governments have a history of dealing with bracket creep by returning the proceeds to tax-payers through tax cuts.  Though even under Labor arguably this has sometimes been dealt with in a regressive way.   Higher brackets have been eliminated or cut - or raised so high as to minimise their progressive impact - and restrict (relatively) strong progressive taxation to only the most wealthy of all.  Arguably this is to the benefit of the upper middle class and the wealthy; and to the detriment of working people, including the working poor.  It means the working class and the poor pay more proportionately; and that those in need suffer with the constriction of the social wage and welfare.
But this is not an honest Liberal-National Federal Government.  Joe Hockey made the ingenuous claim, for instance, that Australians pay 50 per cent of their income in tax.  
As Ben Phillips explained at ‘The Conversation’:
Nobody in Australia pays 50% of their income as personal income taxation. According to NATSEM modelling, around 3.5% of those who have a tax liability actually face a top marginal tax rate of 49 cents in the dollar. Around 25% of taxpayers are paying a top marginal tax rate of at least 39 cents in the dollar.”
To summarise – Australia’s income tax system involves several brackets.  Higher brackets and rates only apply after specific thresholds are met. So as Phillips insists: NO-ONE is paying 50 per cent of their income in income tax! 
Hockey is not stupid.  Surely he understood this.  Apparently he was attempting to tap into populist anti-tax sentiment through a deceptive and false argument.
But depending on your notion of ‘the good society’ tax as a whole needs to go up; and the tax and spending mix also needs to be reformed.
Negative Gearing, for instance, benefits upper middle class investors; but does not create much in the way of new employment.  And important social programs demand higher levels of social expenditure.
Crucial priority areas which need substantial public funding include:
·         Full implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme as well as ‘lifting up’ the standards and resource base for state schools; Extend the NDIS to apply to aged disability pensioners
·         A big public investment in a National Aged Care Insurance Scheme: to provide for the needs of aged Australians both at home and in care
·         Investment in a comprehensive Medicare Dental Scheme
·         Implement Programs to ‘Close the Gap’ on both Indigenous Life Expectancy and Life Expectancy for the Mentally Ill
·         A big investment in new Public Housing stock – solving the housing affordability crisis by increasing supply
·         Fair Welfare and amelioration of Poverty – Raise all welfare payments by at least $35 a week on top of the current indexing arrangements; Thereafter implement fairer indexing arrangements for Newstart, Sole Parents and Student Allowance;  Relax criteria and significantly slow the withdrawal of payments for disability pensioners attempting to re-enter the work-force; Eliminate welfare poverty traps
·         Restructure the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS); raise the repayment threshold and lower interest on debt; suspend all debt for former students who acquire a disability which interferes with or prevents work
·         Public investment in public infrastructure – Including the National Broadband Network – with Fibre to the Home Broadband
At a crude estimate these items would likely cost over $50 billion a year to implement out of an economy valued at around $1.6 Trillion.
Options to fund include Company and Income Tax reform, and withdrawal of Dividend Imputation;  but also the following
·          reform of Superannuation Concessions for the wealthy and the upper middle class*
·         cut Negative Gearing and plough the proceeds into Public Housing;
·         implement an Inheritance Tax;
·         Restore the original (Rudd-inspired) Mining Tax
·         Increase and progressively restructure the Medicare Levy
·         Implement a banking sector tax on super profits
·         Implement progressively-structured infrastructure levies on business and individual taxpayers– to provide for communications, transport, energy-related and water and sanitation related infrastructure – without regressive user pays mechanisms or inefficient/wasteful private finance
·          Implement of progressively structured Aged Care Levy

The Treasury ‘white paper’ on taxation seems at a first glance to largely comprise a ‘wish list’ for Liberals pursuing an ideological ideal of small government, low taxes, and high levels of inequality. (which the Liberal ideologues put down to ‘merit’)   Labor and the Greens need to develop their own responses.  And hopefully this post will contribute meaningfully to that process.
*It should be noted, however, that even $1 million in accrued superannuation will  provide a relatively modest retirement income of $33,000 a year.  (compared with a Single Aged Pension of just over $22,000 and in the case of a couple roughly $17,000 each)  This is far from grandiose – though assuming the recipients’ home is owned it provides relative comfort compared with those fully dependent on the Aged Pension.   And it needs to be observed that $33,000/year is a lot compared with fully reliance on the pension. (more than $10,000/year additional income)   But The Australia Institute has suggested that cuts in Superannuation Concessions  - which cost taxpayers tens of billions annually – could instead be channelled into a more robust Aged Pension – lifting the full Single Rate to just over $26,000/year, and just under $40,000/year for couples.   The rate at which the Aged Pension is withdrawn could also be slowed, benefitting those with smaller superannuation accounts – and especially women – who have suffered as a consequence of interrupted working lives and the devaluing of ‘feminised’ professions.
Categories: Community

Operation Icefish Update: Day 103

Sea Shepherd - Tue, 31/03/2015 - 01:29
Operation Icefish Update: Day 103

Commentary by Sea Shepherd Founder, Captain Paul Watson

The Bob Barker in a high seas stand-off with poaching vessel, Thunder, which has now been stripped of its registry by former flag-state, Nigeria.The Bob Barker in a high seas stand-off with poaching vessel, Thunder, which has now been stripped of its registry by former flag-state, Nigeria.
Photo: Sea Shepherd / Giacomo GiorigiThe epic chase of the toothfish-poaching vessel Thunder by Sea Shepherd vessels the Bob Barker and the Sam Simon continues, with all three ships almost 1,000 nautical miles off the coast of Nigeria in the South Atlantic Ocean.

With the poaching vessel Kunlun in custody in Thailand, a third poacher, the Viking, has now been arrested in Malaysia. The Nigerian-flagged vessel is being detained in Tanjung Sedili, Malaysia on charges of illegal entry.

There are 18 crewmembers onboard – one Chilean, two Peruvian and 15 Indonesian. Sea Shepherd has asked that the Viking be investigated for human rights abuses. The Viking also had a recent a name change; the vessel was previously called the Snake.

Operation Icefish has been the longest continuous Sea Shepherd campaign in both duration and in distances covered. Most importantly, it has been successful.

Illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean has been exposed internationally. Interpol is taking action to stop the ships that have been found fishing illegally. 72 kilometers of nets have been confiscated from the Thunder. The cargo of 182 tons of toothfish from the Kunlun has been impounded. The authorities throughout Southeast Asia are on the lookout for the other operating poaching vessels – the Yongding, Songhua and Perlon. The Spanish police are taking action against the fish companies in Spain. For the Kunlun and the Thunder, they have lost their profits for the season and have incurred debts for their costs.

Not since 2003 has there been such activity in opposing the poachers of the Southern Ocean. Enthusiasm died down back then when the Uruguayan poacher Virasa I was found not guilty on technicalities, following what was then the longest pursuit on the high seas, the 21-day chase by the Australian Customs ship Southern Supporter.

The Viking is one of the Bandit Six that includes the Thunder, Kunlun, Songhua, Yongding and Perlon.

Constantly changing names and flags, these vessels have plundered the Southern Ocean for millions of dollars of toothfish, a product that is smuggled into countries around the world and sold in high-end restaurants as Chilean Sea Bass, Mero, Icefish or Antarctic cod. As the numbers of these fish decline in the sea, demand rises in the marketplace, causing prices to rise and fueling more investment to catch these valuable fish. There is a legal toothfish industry that is well regulated, but this regulation is undermined by the unrestricted poaching conducted by these pirate fishing operations.

There are 18 crew onboard, 1 Chilean, 2 Peruvian and 15 Indonesian. Sea Shepherd has asked that the Viking be investigated for human rights abuses. The Viking also had a recent a name change. The vessel was previously called the Snake.

Operation Icefish has been the longest continuous Sea Shepherd campaign in both duration and in distances covered. Most importantly it has been successful.

Illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean has been exposed internationally. Interpol is taking action to stop the ships that have been found fishing illegally. 72 kilometers of nets have been confiscated from the Thunder. The cargo of 182 tons of toothfish from the Kunlun has been impounded. The authorities throughout Southeast Asia are on the look out for the other operating poaching vessels the Yongding, Songhua and Perlon. The Spanish police are taking action against the fish companies in Spain. For the Kunlun and the Thunder, they have lost their profits for the season and have incurred debts for their costs.

Not since 2003 has there been such activity in opposing the poachers of the Southern Ocean. Enthusiasm died back then when the Uruguayan poacher VirasaI was found not guilty on technicalities after what was then the longest pursuit on the high seas, the 21-day chase by the Australian customs ship Southern Supporter.

The Viking is one of the Bandit Six that includes the Thunder, Kunlun, Songhua, Yongding and Perlon.

Constantly changing names and flags, these vessels have plundered the Southern Ocean for millions of dollars of Toothfish, a product that is smuggled into countries around the world and sold in high end restaurants as Chilean Sea Bass, Mero, Icefish or Antarctic cod. As the numbers decline in the sea, demand rises in the market place causing prices to rise fueling more investment to catch these valuable fish. There is a legal toothfish industry that is well regulated but this regulation is undermined by the unrestricted poaching operations by these pirate-fishing operations.

Categories: Community

Second Internationally Wanted Toothfish Poaching Vessel, Viking, Detained in Malaysia

Sea Shepherd - Tue, 31/03/2015 - 00:08
Second Internationally Wanted Toothfish Poaching Vessel, Viking, Detained in Malaysia

The Viking is the 2nd of the “Bandit 6” poaching vessels to be detained this month. (Image courtesy CCAMLR)The Viking is the 2nd of the “Bandit 6” poaching vessels to be detained this month.
(Image courtesy CCAMLR)Another major blow has been dealt to illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean with the detention of the Nigerian flagged poaching Vessel, Viking, in Malaysia.

Held for violations of Malaysian maritime law, Malaysian authorities have indicated that the Viking will also be investigated for alleged illegal, unregulated, unreported (IUU) fishing violations.

The vessel was detained with 18 crew on board; one Chilean, two Peruvian and 15 Indonesian citizens. The Captain of the vessel, whose nationality is unknown, has been arrested.

The Viking is one of the six remaining illegal, unregulated, unreported (IUU) fishing vessels – which Sea Shepherd calls the “Bandit 6” - that are known to target vulnerable toothfish in the waters surrounding Antarctica, and is the second vessel of the six that has been detained by authorities this month.

The Sea Shepherd ship, Bob Barker, is currently engaged in a record-breaking pursuit of the most notorious of the “Bandit 6” vessels, the Thunder, which prior to it being stripped of its registration last week, was also flagged to Nigeria.

The Viking, like its five counterparts, has a long history of illegal fishing. In 2013, the vessel, then called Snake, was the first vessel to be issued with an Interpol Purple Notice for fishing-related violations following a petition from authorities in Norway. The owners and operators of the vessel are suspected of violating national laws and regulations, as well as international conventions by engaging in fraud and fisheries-related crimes.

While Sea Shepherd applauds the detention of the Viking, the organisation is now appealing to relevant authorities to ensure that the owners and officers of the vessel are prosecuted, the vessel scrapped and its catch confiscated.

The Viking (Image courtesy CCAMLR)The Viking (Image courtesy CCAMLR)Captain of the Bob Barker, Peter Hammarstedt said, “In May 2014, the Thunder was detained in Malaysia. Despite being found guilty of illegal fishing activity, the vessel was let off with a small fine and allowed to return to its illegal operations. Seven months later, my crew and I intercepted the Thunder on the Banzare Bank in Antarctica, again engaged in illegal fishing activity. These are seasoned, repeat offenders who will not be deterred by a slap on the wrist. The only way to ensure that the Viking does not return to pillage the Southern Ocean is for the vessel to be impounded, and for the operators and officers to be arrested for their crimes.”

In addition to fishing crimes, Sea Shepherd is calling upon Malaysian authorities to investigate possible human rights violations on board the Viking.

Captain Sid Chakravarty of the Sea Shepherd ship, Sam Simon, said, “Last week, Sea Shepherd reported the attempted suicide of an Indonesian crewmember on board the poaching vessel, Thunder. We have sought the advice of human rights experts who have indicated that the suicide attempt was all in likelihood directly related to the poor and exploitative conditions experienced on board that poaching vessel. In light of this, and the extensive body of information which indicates that a rampant slave trade underpins IUU fishing operations, we implore Malaysian authorities to speak to the 15 Indonesia crew on board the Viking, and to thoroughly investigate the likelihood that human rights violations have taken place.”

Authorities indicate the Viking will be investigated for alleged IUU fishing violations. (Image courtesy CCAMLR)Authorities indicate the Viking will be investigated for alleged IUU fishing violations.
(Image courtesy CCAMLR)In further news, Thai authorities have confirmed that the Captain of the poaching vessel Kunlun, which was chased from its hunting grounds inside Australian waters by the Sam Simon in February, has been charged for falsely reporting its illegal catch of 182 tonnes of Antarctic toothfish as grouper. Captain of the poaching vessel, Jose Alberto Zavaleta Salas, faces further charges for falsely reporting the ship’s flag and registration.

The handler that received the fish, South Services Co Ltd, has also been charged for its role in illegally importing the fish into Thailand.

Captain Chakravarty has praised international policing organisation, Interpol, for their efforts in spearheading the investigations into the Viking, Thunder and Kunlun.

“All three of the vessels that are currently being investigated have been issued with Interpol Purple Notices. By doing so, the Environmental Crime Unit’s Project Scale has set in motion the wheels to bring together international cooperation to tackle poaching in the Southern Ocean. Under their expertise, national investigators now have the chance to investigate fisheries crimes to bring about successful prosecutions of these vessels. From the waters of West Africa to the shores of Mauritius and now the ports of Thailand and Malaysia, Interpol is leading the proceedings to shut down these poachers,” he said.

The poaching vessels are the target of Sea Shepherd's first Southern Ocean Defence Campaign to target IUU fishing operators in the waters of Antarctica, Operation Icefish.

Categories: Community

Attempted Suicide On Board Poaching Vessel Thunder As Nigeria Strips Registry

Sea Shepherd - Mon, 30/03/2015 - 22:28
Attempted Suicide On Board Poaching Vessel Thunder As Nigeria Strips Registry

Sea Shepherd Calls On Navies To Intercept The “Slave” Ship.

 Simon AgerThe deck crew of the Thunder, believed to be trafficked persons under the UN Convention
against Transnational Organized Crime.
Photo: Sea Shepherd / Simon AgerIn a radio communication to the Sea Shepherd ships Bob Barker and Sam Simon, the Captain of the Interpol-wanted poaching vessel, Thunder, has reported that one of the deck crew, said to be Indonesian, has attempted suicide.

The report comes in the wake of the news that the Thunder has been de-registered by its flag state, Nigeria, for violations of its registry conditions; an action that means that the Thunder is now officially a stateless, pirate-vessel as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

In the follow-up to the attempted suicide attempt, the Sea Shepherd ship, Bob Barker, launched a small boat and attempted to deliver notes in plastic bottles to the Thunder's Indonesian deck crew. The notes stated that the Sea Shepherd ships are willing and equipped to take the on board not only the injured crewmember, but the entire deck crew of Thunder.

The notes were intercepted by the officers on the Thunder, who are believed to be of Spanish descent, and thrown overboard.

The Captain of the Thunder then radioed the Bob Barker and stated that the Indonesian crew did not want further communication with the Sea Shepherd ships. Another man, said to be the “Indonesian deck boss”, then read a prepared statement in Spanish, stating that the "captain is a good person" and that they did not want Sea Shepherd to deliver any more messages.

An Indonesian speaker on board the Sam Simon then radioed the Thunder in Bahasa, the local Indonesian language, to verify the contents of the prepared Spanish statement. The Thunder’s Captainresponded, saying the deck boss had "gone to bed" and that Sea Shepherd would not be able to speak to him again.

Despite requests for further information, the Captain of the Thunder would not provide the name of the Indonesian deck boss, or the name of the crewing agency responsible for hiring the deck crew. He also stated that the poaching vessel was equipped to remain at sea for another nine months.

Captain of the Bob Barker, Peter Hammarstedt, responded, repeating Sea Shepherd's offer to take the on board the deck crew of Thunder. The Captain of the Thunder refused the offer.

 Giacomo Giorgi The Bob Barker in a high seas stand-off with poaching vessel, Thunder, which has now been stripped of its registry by former flag-state, Nigeria.
Photo: Sea Shepherd / Giacomo GiorgiCaptain Hammarstedt, said, “I firmly believe that the Indonesian crew of the Thunder are trafficked persons under the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, specifically the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (General Assembly Resolution 55/25) and the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air (General Assembly Resolution 55/25).I also believe that they are being held against their will and know that they are not allowed to communicate freely - this on board a vessel suspected of numerous fisheries crimes and one that has exhibited violent behaviour toward my crew. The attempted suicide on board the Thunder, and the Captain's apparent intention to stay at sea, gives me strong reason to worry about injury and death on board that vessel in the absence of government intervention.”

In light of these latest developments, Sea Shepherd has called upon support from the world's navies to intervene and apprehend the Thunder immediately.

Captain of the Sam Simon, Sid Chakravarty, said, “Article 99 of the UNCLOS states that, 'Every State shall take effective measures to prevent and punish the transport of slaves in ships authorized to fly its flag and to prevent the unlawful use of its flag for that purpose.' Further, Article 110 of UNCLOS empowers naval ships to board a vessel encountered on the high seas if there is 'reasonable groundfor suspecting' that the vessel is 'without nationality' or is 'engaged in slave trade.' The Thunder is now both without nationality and in all reasonable assessment, must be considered to be engaged in slave trade. In the name of human decency, in accordance with international law, responsible governments must immediately send naval vessels to intervene and shut down this floating prison.”

The Bob Barker has been engaged in a continuous pursuit of the Thunder for 100 days since it was first intercepted on December 17 2014, on the Banzare Bank, Antarctica.

The poaching vessel is the most notorious of six remaining IUU vessels – which Sea Shepherd calls the “Bandit 6” - that are known to target vulnerable toothfish in the Southern Ocean.

Commencing in December last year, Operation Icefish is Sea Shepherd’s first Southern Ocean Defence Campaign to target IUU fishing operators in the waters of Antarctica.

Categories: Community

Public transport timetables finally in GTFS format

Daniel Bowen - Mon, 30/03/2015 - 22:25

Information is power, so they say. So it follows that good accurate information on public transport services is needed to make the most of them.

Back in 2005, before the first wave of Real smartphones prompted by the iPhone, Google launched Google Transit.

The idea is simple: with access to all of a region’s public transport timetables, people can easily find out how they get from A to B — as easily as they can plan a trip on foot or in a car.

PTV-liveried train, tram and bus

Various transport agencies, including Victoria’s then-Metlink, have launched their own Journey Planners over the years, many based on proprietary software from a mob called… Z-something. (I’ll find the name later, but the same company did the planner for London.)

Metlink also did a substantial amount of work to get the data together to make those Journey Planners work — in an environment with numerous small bus operators, for instance, some of the minutiae of minor bus services was actually known to very few people, and not very well documented!

Despite quite a clunky user interface, the Journey Planner more-or-less works most of the time. It had some pretty weird results early on, but these were mostly problems with the data rather than the software. But it has bugs — recently using it, it was telling me it couldn’t work out a trip for me, but then did so anyway — and none of the maps I clicked to display would work.

The Victorian authorities have dipped their toes into the area of publishing the timetable data. Back in 2009 it was published as part of a Victorian Government initiative called App My State. The PTUA used the data in a 2010 study to prove that buses didn’t connect very well with trains (with a web-based App to fulfil the conditions of the data’s use). I think that put a few noses out of joint, and that data set was pulled offline and never updated.

Then last year PTV published an API (that’s Application Programming Interface to non-geeks) to look up bits of the data. But the nature of the API is you can only see a little bit of data at a time. It’s what’s used by the official Journey Planner, but ties developers to a specific method of access.

The official journey planner, or indeed any online journey planner worth its salt is often easier than ringing up to ask for advice, and easier than wrestling with dozens of printed timetables and a Melway (which is what I used to do). But they’re all clunkier than Google’s offering, which started as a super-smooth desktop web site, and has morphed into a super-smooth experience on phones and tablet devices — and is built into many devices, making it very handy for visitors.

Google Transit covers every state except Victoria. (August 2014)

The pressure has been on the Victorian government to release data in the open GTFS format (which Google Transit accepts) for years. (My notes indicate I raised it with Metlink as early as 2008.) Every other state has already done it, with Google Transit covering numerous cities around Australia.

Now, announced via a post on Reddit on Monday afternoon, they’ve finally done it.

Apart from enabling Google Transit, because it’s an open format, it also means a myriad of other innovative tools can use the data, though Google Transit is one of the best and most widespread thanks to its integration into Google Maps.

Some things to note:

Firstly, for now it’s timetable data, not realtime data. I’m told realtime is coming — GTFS has a realtime capability — but given at my local station they have trouble getting realtime train information from a display onto the platform relayed to the display outside on the street, I’m not holding my breath on that.

Secondly, it’s not actually in Google yet. a GTFS feed isn’t the same as it actually being in Google. Google has to sort that out with the government, so that the data is slurped in, on a regular basis as things change. But the biggest barriers to that are now gone.

Hopefully it’s not too far away, and the joy of easily planning trips using the World’s Best Journey Planning tools, currently available in every other state of Australia, is finally possible for us in Victoria.

It’s only part of the puzzle of course. The trip the Journey Planner advises for A to B right now might be quite different an hour later, thanks to many routes being unpredictable, inconsistent, or infrequent. That makes things difficult for users to remember, and problematic if there are delays en route. A frequent, consistent, legible network will help with that. But that’s another story.

Categories: Community

Sam Simon Resupplies Bob Barker for On-Going Pursuit of Poaching Vessel, Thunder

Sea Shepherd - Mon, 30/03/2015 - 20:43
Sam Simon Resupplies Bob Barker for On-Going Pursuit of Poaching Vessel, Thunder

 Simon AgerCrew of the Sam Simon resupply the Bob Barker for the ship's on-going pursuit of the Thunder.
Photo: Simon AgerYesterday, the Sea Shepherd ship Sam Simon rendezvoused with fellow Sea Shepherd ship, Bob Barker, at 7˚ 27' South 02˚ 19 West, in the Atlantic Ocean. It is the second time the vessels have met during the course of Operation Icefish, Sea Shepherd's current Southern Ocean Defence Campaign, which commenced in December 2014.

The Sam Simon will be resupplying and lending support to the Bob Barker as the ship continues its world record breaking pursuit of the internationally blacklisted, Nigerian-flagged poaching vessel, Thunder.

Captain of the Bob Barker, Peter Hammarstedt, said, “The return of the Sam Simon is one more nail in the coffin of the Thunder. With it comes the reminder that we have at our disposal a ready support network that can, and will, outmatch anything the Thunder has available to them. We have the resources and we have the determination to see this chase through to the very end.”

The Thunder was first intercepted by the Bob Barker on December 17 on the Banzare Bank, Antarctica. Since that time, the Bob Barker has maintained a continuous pursuit of the poaching vessel, travelling from the Southern, to the Indian and now the Atlantic Ocean, over a staggering 98 days.

The Sam Simon departed from Port Louis, Mauritius, on March 9 where it had been for 10 days. The Sea Shepherd ship had travelled to the island state in order to hand-over evidence of the Thunder's illegal fishing activity to an international investigative team, coordinated by local authorities under the direction of a Criminal Intelligence Officer from international policing organisation, Interpol.

The Sam Simon also used the time in port to gather fresh supplies for the Bob Barker.

 Jeff WirthCrew of the Sea Shepherd ships coordinate the resupply operation through constant radio contact.
Photo: Jeff WirthCaptain of the Sam Simon, Sid Chakravarty, said,We have travelled over 15,000 nautical miles through the course of Operation Icefish, starting in the South Pacific and meeting today with the Bob Barker in the South Atlantic. The rounding of the Cape of Good Hope in pursuit of the Thunder, first by the Bob Barker and then by the Sam Simon, is nothing short of legendary. The crew of the Bob Barker have been at sea for 111 days today and we are delighted to be by their side and it fills our hearts with joy and respect for these brave ocean warriors.

The Thunder is the most notorious of the six remaining toothfish poaching vessels – which Sea Shepehrd calls the “Bandit 6” - that are known to engage in Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing for toothfish in the Southern Ocean.

The vessel has a long history of fishing violation and in December 2013 was issued with an Interpol purple notice for suspected illegal fishing activity, following a joint effort by New Zealand, Australian and Norwegian authorities.

The Thunder was the first of three “Bandit 6” poaching vessels that have been intercepted by Sea Shepherd during Operation Icefish. On February 2 this year, the Sam Simon intercepted the Kunlun and the Yongding in Australian waters west of the Ross Sea. The Sea Shepherd ship then engaged in a pursuit of the Kunlun, chasing the poaching vessel out of its hunting grounds in the Southern Ocean.

The Kunlun is currently in detention in Thailand, following a coordinated effort between Interpol and Thai, Australian and New Zealand authorities.

Commencing in December last year, Operation Icefish is Sea Shepherd’s first Southern Ocean Defence Campaign to target IUU fishing operators in the waters of Antarctica

Categories: Community

Kurdistan: Political and cultural revolution unfolds in Rojava

Links International - Mon, 30/03/2015 - 12:26

Front line in Kobane, December 2014. Demotix/Jonathan Raa. All rights reserved.

[For more on the struggle of the Kurdish people, click HERE.]

By Evangelos Aretaios

March 15, 2015, 2015 -- Open Democracy, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- News of the fight of the Syrian Kurds has reached many in Europe and the US over the last year as TV channels around the world have covered the resistance of the Kurds against Daesh (self-proclaimed “Islamic State”) in Kobane. The fighting was indeed a great human endeavour, often portrayed in heroic, almost mythological terms. Behind the men and women fighters of this heroic resistance lies a large but still unknown political and cultural revolution that is in full effervescence in Rojava, Syrian Kurdistan.

read more

Categories: Community

Ireland: Sinn Féin launches a 'People's Pact' for Westminster election

Links International - Mon, 30/03/2015 - 12:20

Click for more discussion of Irish politics.

March 30, 2015 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams TD points out that Sinn Féin's progressive politics is the only alternative to austerity.

Gerry Adams said:

Sinn Féin is totally and absolutely opposed to austerity north and south.

Any parties, which contemplate endorsing or supporting a cabinet of millionaires who are behind budget cuts, cuts to public services and cuts to social protections are ignoring the needs of the people in favour of narrow self-interest.

The people need to have the opportunity to have their say and their voice needs to be heard.

The parties at Westminster are committed to further austerity.

Sinn Féin’s progressive politics and commitment to the rights of citizens is the only alternative to that.

We want to see a society based on equality, inclusion and safeguards for children with disabilities, adults with severe disabilities and the long term sick.

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Categories: Community

Spain: Podemos leads left gains in Andalusia poll

Links International - Mon, 30/03/2015 - 12:20

Podemos’s lead candidate Teresa Rodriguez.

Click for more on Podemos and politics in Spain.

By Dick Nichols, Barcelona

March 25, 2015 -- Green Left Weekly, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The March 22 regional elections in Andalusia, Spain’s most populous and second-poorest region, opened this year's critical election calendar.

This election cycle includes local government and 13 regional elections on May 24 and a September 27 poll in Catalonia that will double as an independence referendum. It will culminate in national Spanish elections in November.

The future course of politics in the Spanish state and Europe will greatly depend on the results of these contests.

read more

Categories: Community

The power and passion of privatisation

Club Troppo - Mon, 30/03/2015 - 05:39

Grossly offensive political ads about the alleged dangers of Chinese purchase of electricity “poles and wires” during the last week of the New South Wales election campaign say much more about the Labor-affiliated unions who placed them than they do about the Baird government’s privatisation plans. It seems that Richo’s “whatever it takes” political philosophy remains alive and well in the ALP.

As for the power privatisation policy they were seeking to demonise, my own attitude is succinctly summarised by Ross Gittins:

I’m never sure who annoy me more, the business types who are certain every business is better run if privately owned, or the lefties who oppose every sale of government-owned businesses on principle.

As a general rule, privatising a natural monopoly is a dumb idea, because the monopolist will extract monopoly rents and prices paid by consumers almost inevitably rise. However, as Gittins points out, the situation is different with power in Australia because of the tight regulatory regime surrounding the industry:

The obvious starting point for consumers is: would selling the businesses lead to electricity prices being higher than they would be under continued public ownership? Or would there be a decline in the quality of service, such as blackouts?

In this particular case, the answers are more certain than usual: no and no. That’s because, the networks being natural monopolies, the prices they charge are controlled by the Australian Energy Regulator, which believes they’re already too high. Service quality is also tightly regulated.

Long-term effects on the New South Wales budget, because of loss of the ongoing dividend stream from power distribution infrastructure, are also dealt with by Gittins:

This being so, the main issues of contention concern state government finances. The critics of privatisation stress that it’s no magic pudding: sell these profitable businesses and you lose the dividends they were paying the government, along with the equivalent of the company tax they were paying to the state (because state-owned businesses don’t pay tax to the federal government).

That’s obviously true. But remember that, according to economic theory, the sale price of any business should be the “present value” of the stream of income it’s expected to earn in coming years.

If so, the seller is perfectly compensated in the sale price for the loss of future dividends. Why else would they sell?

Just as importantly, the “asset recycling” nature of the Baird government’s policy is worth examining. Flogging off power infrastructure to build much-needed road and rail projects prima facie makes sense as long as the cost-benefit analysis of the road and rail projects stacks up. However, that’s where Baird/Berejiklian’s plans run into trouble. Essentially the whole of the proceeds from the sale/lease of electricity “poles and wires” is intended to go into financing the proposed new WestConnex toll road/tunnel project. But a recent NSW Auditor-General’s report casts serious doubt on the processes and business case surrounding WestConnex.  At the very least it highlights the importance of a long-time hobbyhorse of mine, namely the proposition that all major publicly-funded infrastructure projects should be compulsorily subjected to cost-benefit analysis by Infrastructure Australia. NSW Labor might at least have won itself some brownie points, and possibly even electoral credit in overcoming its epic reputation for dodgy dealing, had it made an election promise along those lines.

sydney tollways

Nevertheless, I must say that my own tentative view, as a born-and-bred Sydneysider who drove taxis for years, is that WestConnex is a critical part of Sydney’s future transport infrastructure that really must be built in the near future. You only have to glance at a map of Sydney’s current motorway network to see how essential it is to create a link between Port Botany and Mascot Airport to the south-east of the city and the booming western suburbs.  I’d be surprised if a kosher cost-benefit analysis doesn’t stack up, especially on the new alignment shown on the map above. In fact, I reckon the NSW government would be well advised to go into hock and borrow the billions extra it would need to expedite construction of the northern extension and western harbour tunnel (for both road and rail) also shown on the map.

The problem with public discussions of transport infrastructure in Australia is that they divide predictably on ideological lines in a fairly similar way to the privatisation debate. Lefties tend to favour public transport spending especially railways, and are knee-jerk opponents of motorway/tollroad projects, while the Right pushes a private sector-driven California Dreaming vision of endless concrete motorways and apparently sees trains, trams and buses as infernal contrivances patronised largely by Labor and Green-voting hippies.

Fortunately, the Baird government appears to have a much more balanced and rational approach to transport infrastructure than Tony Abbott and his ilk. The reality is that any workable long-term transport plan for fast-growing major cities like Sydney and Melbourne requires balanced emphasis on both road and rail. Heavy rail is essential for high-volume commuting to and from the CBD, while motorways are equally essential for journeys between places other than the CBD.

Categories: Community

1915: When socialist women united against WWI

Links International - Mon, 30/03/2015 - 03:31
Clara Zetkin

Clara Zetkin.

Read more on World War I.
100 years ago: The first international socialist conference against World War I

By John Riddell

March 28, 2015 --, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- Eight months into World War I, socialist women united across the battle lines in adopting the first international socialist appeal to stop the war.

Their statement, translated below, ended, “Down with capitalism, which sacrifices untold millions to the wealth and power of the propertied! Down with the war! Forward to socialism!”

The 29 conference delegates came from Russia, Poland, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands, France and Britain. They met March 26-28, 1915, in the People’s House of Bern in neutral Switzerland.

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Paris COP21: Seattle-style shutdowns or another climate cul de sac?

Links International - Mon, 30/03/2015 - 03:02

400,000-strong climate march, New York, September 21, 2014.

Click for more on the struggle against climate change.

By Patrick Bond, Tunis

March 29, 2015 -- originally published by TeleSUR, submitted to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal by the author -- Looming ahead in eight months’ time is another "Conference of Polluters" (technically, the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP). The last 20 did zilch to save us from climate catastrophe. Judging by early rough drafts of the Paris COP21 agreement recently leaked, another UN fiasco seems inevitable

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