The Guardian and handful of other news outlets reported last Monday something quite significant: church leaders were arrested for an asylum prayer vigil at Tony Abbott’s Sydney office.
Meanwhile, a simultaneous sit-down protest was held at opposition leader Bill Shorten’s electorate office in Melbourne.
The significance of course is that peaceful, law-abiding civilians with strong religious beliefs are now prepared to be arrested over the horrendous imprisonment of 1,023 children in Australian-run immigration detention centres.
More than that, they targeted both political parties that engage in this cruelty, and came from a broad section of the Christian faith: Catholic, Baptist, Anglican and Uniting churches.
Interestingly Abbott’s goons brought the cops in while Shorten let them stay. It follows similar sit-in protests at immigration minister Scott Morrison’s electorate office in March, as well as the office of foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop. Will non-violent protests against human and environmental crimes define 2014?
Heads up hyper-local media junkies – newly released newspaper circulation figures have seen The Byron Echo increase its domi- nance over The Byron News (APN), with a 48 per cent circulation lead. The figures, which are updated every six months, were released last week by the Audited Media Association.
There’s been a general decline for local daily The Northern Star, owned by Australian Provincial Newspapers (APN). The Star now prints 9,662 copies daily, which is down seven per cent on the same period last year. Its Saturday edition is also down 8.8 per cent.
While independent publishers such as The Echo are holding steady and expanding online, the days of complacency are long over. The media’s existence relies on more than just relevant and informative news; it relies on good relationships with its advertisers.
But as for corporate suckholes like Rupert Murdoch, be wary of those who afflict the afflicted while comforting the comfortable.
Fossil fooled again
While the federal Lib/Nat coalition is committed to a renewable target of 100 per cent ignorance, the federal Labor Party’s White Paper (found at www.ret.gov.au) provides the clearest indication yet that the mining industry owns both the major puppet parties.
‘Over the next two and a half decades,’ the exec summary proudly boasts, ‘Australia’s energy production is projected to more than double, largely due to export growth. We are the world’s largest coal exporter and third-largest uranium producer, and in future years will be the world’s second-largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter.’ Holy fuck.
Meanwhile, the Australian Conservation Foundation said this week that tax breaks for exploration and prospecting have increased from $320 million last year to $550 million this year, while accelerated depreciation for fossil-fuel-intensive assets is now costing the taxpayer a whopping $1.3 billion per year.
We have to remember here that it’s also the federal government’s bright idea to expand fossil fuels, not just the state.
But the federal government has a Clean Energy Future Plan, which claims has begun the ‘necessary long-term transition to a clean energy economy.’ Really? Does it have to be ‘long term’?
No. According to Beyond Zero Emissions’ Zero Carbon Australia Staionary Energy Plan (available at unimelb.edu.au), in ten years we could supply Australians with 100 per cent renewables, including baseload. The plan is based on information from the German Advisory Council on Global Change, and suggests wind and concentrating solar thermal (CST) with molten-salt storage as the two primary technologies.
The climate-change debate often gets muddled by idiotic denialists, but we’re past that now. Low-cost renewable technology will prevail because it is economically more viable.
Dr Karl Kruszelnicki reckons zero carbon is the go. I’d trust a scientist over yabbering idiotic denialists such as Andrew Bolt any day.
Hoi polloi meets polly elite
Every three years one can look forward to seeing first hand the political elite and their understudies in action. The second and only Byron opportunity was the ‘Meet The Candidates’ night, held at the Byron Community Centre last Thursday.
Justine’s victory was inevitable; her preparation was thorough, her answers of pure polly dreams. She did cop a few heckles, but that’s the price for saying to a crowd of train supporters the state, not federal government are the ones to blame for taking the Trains Off Our Tracks. Similarly, Byron library supporters were told funds for community projects allocated to Council are not bound by conditions, so it’s a local government issue. Well done – crisis diverted. So the people of Byron need a new library? At least it’s better than Kingscliff’s one, Independent Julie Boyd told the gallery. This caused an awkward silence but spurred a new thread of conversation into play – the selling of public assets to build infrastructure. Unfortunately both van Lieshout and Nationals candidate Alan Hunter spoke mostly about themselves and with ignorance on complex issues. Democrats David Robinson didn’t speak much at all. It was sometimes just a little embarrassing, but sort of cute. Grandmas and farmers can run for office, just like lawyers.
The intellectual discourse was thankfully projected to a higher frequency by Independent Stephen Hegedus, who opened with ‘I came here instead to talk about philosophy.’ He offered reasoned and empathetic responses to complex issues which is encouraging in a newcomer. Fellow independents Nic Faulkner, Matt Hartley and Julie Boyd along with Joe Ebono of the Greens also displayed knowledge, wisdom, humour and bluntness in their unelectable cause. It was theatre of the absurd and the ultimate in standup comedy – all for the benefit of 150 physical and 100 virtual (web streaming) souls. That figure represents 0.27 percentage of the 91,881 voters in the seat of Richmond. Democracy inaction?
Richmond is no longer a marginal seat. In 2007, ALP primary votes tallied 43.8 per cent, the Nationals 37 per cent and the Greens 14.9 per cent. Back then there were only four minor party candidates. Except for the Democrats, most were religious and/or right wing – this time we have a much more sophisticated free-thinking group of independents, albeit all similar in ideology.
By comparison, Justine Elliot of the ALP doesn’t say or do much, which is a wise move given that this is a safe seat for her. In 2004, Elliot beat Larry Anthony (Nationals) by a margin of only 301 preferred votes. In 2007 there was a national mood for change and she delivered a swing of over seven per cent to the ALP. It is hard, however, to write a glowing account of her achievements. Failure to deliver a light rail system – despite explicit promises – continues to highlight how underfunded our region is. The federal government just gave Queensland a huge financial boost for rail infrastructure, but Ms Elliot doesn’t seem to have the political clout to make it happen here.
Joan van Lieshout of the Liberals was pushed out of her gig as mayor of Tweed by her council ‘colleagues’ last year. In the bigger pond of national politics it is likely her influence would be even less effective. Since the Libs didn’t run a candidate last election, she may pick up some elderly conservative support. Like the Nationals, her campaign has appeal for those knocking on death’s door, but very little in the way of a youthful or progressive outlook. Considering what the demographics are in Richmond this may be clever politics, which is surprising because she doesn’t appear that bright.
Alan Hunter of the Nationals is a nice chap by all accounts, however like the Liberals he is attached to policies and ideology that offer future generations of this country nothing. Nothing. As with most politicians aligned with conservative parties, he is more progressive than his party in terms of climate change and farming practices.
Joe Ebono of the Greens will no doubt poll comparatively strongly, given that the folks who live in the immediate area are generally engaged in the political process and understand complex geopolitical and social issues. Both Gillard and Abbott don’t want to debate Bob Brown. One can only assume this is because of their concern for losing political ground, which highlights why two parties offering little variation in policy keeps stunting the growth of a nation.
If you don’t capture four per cent of the vote, then the $500 it costs to climb into the political arena is not refunded.
Thank you Nic Faulkner, Stephen Hegedus, Matt Hartley, David Robinson (Democrats) and Julie Boyd. It is those who have little hope of winning who can speak more freely. More importantly, they can highlight and examine issues without party approval or retribution. In other words, they can be more truthful.
As mentioned, Richmond is not likely to change sides in this election. What changes the political sheets in this country is a few thousand swinging voters in marginal seats. It is their often short-sighted and ill-conceived views that both sides of parliament believe they have to flatter. Until that fundamental problem can be addressed, our politicians will continue to lead by opinion poll and govern by focus groups.