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As of 2013/09/08, the day after the election of the Abbott Government, it seems likely that the failings of previous Australian governments may well be overshadowed by the failings of the government to come, but I should say (2020/11/14) that among the greatest failings of Australian governments over the last fifty years were (and are):
I've written more recent pages on the Rudd, Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison governments.

Failings and crimes of Australian Governments

This page deals particularly with Australian Governments before the Abbott Government.

A week before the November 24th 2007 election in which Australia's Prime Minister John Howard lost government and lost his seat in parliament, he said that while he recognised that climate change was serious "it isn't going to happen tomorrow".
Does this sum up his failure on climate change?

Contact: David K Clarke – ©
This page was created about May 2002 and was last edited 2023/06/07


"The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance." (John Philpot Curran; Speech on the night of election of Lord Mayor of Dublin, 10 July 1790)

While the concept of God has become a little dated, Curran's sentiment still holds; governments cannot be left to work on their own, those in power must continually be examined by the people, and when governments err, they must be brought back to honesty and justice.

I love this bit in Bill Bryson's book Down Under,
"What made this particularly interesting is that John Howard is by far the dullest man in Australia. Imagine a very committed funeral home director - someone whose burning ambition from the age of eleven was to be a funeral home director, whose proudest achievement in adulthood was to be elected president of the Queanbeyan and District Funeral Home Director's Association - then halve his personality and halve it again, and you have pretty well got John Howard."
Australia is not, at present, a true democracy; it is closer to a plutocracy, a nation ruled by the wealthy. The two major political parties in Australia have become corrupt. They serve big business rather than the Australian people. (See Corporate political donations.)

The greatest threat facing the World in the early twenty-first century is greenhouse/climate change. At least two thirds of Australians want serious action from government on the problem of global warming. That the Australian Government is not taking this threat seriously is demonstrated by the fact that it has not implemented a carbon tax.

Prime Minister John Howard is not intending to do anything concrete about greenhouse until 2010 when he said he will introduce carbon trading. Recently (Sept. 2007, just before the election in which he was removed from power and from Parliament) he announced that renewable electricity would be increased to 30 000GWh by 2020. That is, about 12% of the total electricity generation in 2005/06 (254 144GWh – ABARE). This is too little too late.

Australia's power stations are the most greenhouse polluting in the world. The Centre for Global Development have published data indicating that our electricity generation industry produces 11 tonnes of CO2 per Australian per year. The USA comes second at 9 tonnes per person per year. Australia ranks sixth in the world in the amount of CO2 produced by its electricity generating industry, while it ranks 53rd in the world in population.

PM Howard refused to join Kyoto on the grounds that major developing nations such as India and China were not to be constrained in their greenhouse production levels like more economically advanced nations, yet India has more than 5000 MW of wind power in 2006 and is increasing it by 40% per year while Australia has only 750 MW and this seems to be near the ceiling imposed by the current level of MRET. There are more comparisons between India, China and Australia regarding sustainable energy under Kyoto Protocol.
Dying gums
Dying gums at Crystal Brook, where I live.

This may be due to a natural long dry period, or it may be climate change. How much must we loose before our Government decides that greenhouse is a serious problem?

I am sixty years old. The Howard Government is the worst Australian government that I can remember. I say that because of its involvement in the Iraq war (consequently making Australia a target for terrorism and setting up a 'secret police' system to handle the increased risk), its failure to act on greenhouse, and its unconditional support of the USA in spite of that nation's shocking record of aggression and meddling in the affairs of other countries.

The Whitlam government had very questionable financial competence and secretly approved the invasion of East Timor by Indonesia. The following occupation over the next twenty-five years resulted in the deaths of over two hundred thousand East Timorese people; proportionally a genocide in the same class as those of Cambodia, Rwanda, Armenia, and that against the Jews in World War Two. Bob Hawke was inclined to make stupid promises ("No child will live in poverty in 1990"). All Australian governments from Whitlam to Howard turned a blind eye to the Indonesian occupation of East Timor, until it became impossible to do so. But no government that I can remember was as blatantly unethical as this one.

The Howard government believed, in common with George W. Bush and Adolph Hitler:

All three were willing to damage the world for the short term 'good' according to their ideology.

Australians, USians, and the world will suffer for years because of the short sighted policies of Bush and Howard.


The Abbott Opposition

The Liberals under Tony Abbott cannot be considered as an alternative government because of their lack of any will to seriously reduce Australia's greenhouse gas production rates. Abbott himself cannot seem to decide whether he believes climate change is caused by humanity or not.

In early 2010 it seems that the only voting option for anyone concerned with climate change are the Greens and independents.

271 university economists' statement on greenhouse

The Howard Government's justification for not acting to reduce Australia's very high greenhouse gas production levels has always been based on economic arguments (and on jobs). What do the economists say?

The following is a quote from the Australia Institute's media release downloadable with the document:

"Seventy five professors of economics today called on the Federal Government to stop undermining international efforts to tackle climate change and to ratify the Kyoto Protocol without delay.

The 75 professors are among 271 Australian university economists who have signed a statement drawing attention to the economic damage to Australia of failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

The full statement can be downloaded from The Australia Institutes downloads.

It seems that the economists realise the damage that will be done by greenhouse far outweighs any damage to the economy caused by addressing the problem. I wonder if Howard's real reason for doing nothing is simple pig-headedness; he has always been against it and he's not about to change his mind – to change his mind would be to admit he was wrong, and he never admits he was wrong on anything.

Unable to see ethical point?

PM John Howard and recent Ministers for the Environment have chosen not to see the fact that to consume more than one's share of something is unethical. Australia is using more than its share of the atmosphere.

I cannot believe that people with the intelligence of John Howard and Malcolm Turnbull are unable to understand that Australia has an ethical responsibility to produce no more than its share of greenhouse gasses, calculated according to the nation's population. They must be able to understand that to continue as the worst greenhouse gas polluting country on earth, per capita, is not ethical.

Would it be ethical to go to a birthday party at which there were ten other guests and eat a third of the birthday cake?

One can only conclude that they do not care about ethical considerations. What a terrible example to other Australians!

Liberal Party's climate change denial

The Liberal and National parties contain many who are so scientifically illiterate that they are unable to see the facts or so much in the pockets of the fossil-fuel lobby that they don't want to see the facts. Also see the Liberal's war against sustainable energy.

The Young Liberals, 2007

The Young Liberals – an organisation of the younger members of the Liberal Party – is often more progressive than the main-stream Liberal party. However, at their January 2007 national convention in Melbourne they passed a motion calling on the Commonwealth "not to take any drastic action to address alleged man-made global warming until there is more conclusive scientific evidence of its existence". (Reported in the Adelaide Advertiser, Jan. 30 2007.)

I leave it to you, the reader, to imagine that if the relatively progressive Young Liberals can be so blind to the overwhelming evidence for anthropogenic climate change (see Scientific consensus), where are the mainstream Liberals likely to be, back with the dinosaurs?

2009 – Liberal and National Parliamentarians

In November 2009 Four Corners, on ABC television, exposed the depth of climate change denial in the Liberal Party. (The National Party, the other part of the Coalition, has denied anthropogenic climate change consistently for some time; their most vociferous spokesman on the subject has been Senator Barnaby Joyce, leader of the Nationals in Queensland.)

In Four Corners, Nick Minchin, the leader of the Liberals in the Senate, stated his belief that climate change is not caused by human activity and that the majority of the Liberal Party members held the same belief. Tony Abbot said that he was of the same mind. These two men were cabinet ministers in the Howard Government. Another Liberal Parliamentarian, I believe it was Corey Bernardi, said "It's still raining" and "You can go outside and you don't cook", as if he will not be convinced until it stops raining entirely or the temperatures rise to the point where it will be lethal to go outside.

The people who form the 'alternative government of Australia' have a responsibility to educate themselves. Their failure to see that there is a strong consensus among those scientists who specialise in climate studies, to see that the evidence that the activities of humanity is causing climate change is now overwhelming, is nothing short of shameful. Such ill-informed people have no place in Parliament, let alone in Government. How can anyone take pride in being Australian when even those who would lead us are so ignorant?


A crime against humanity?

Climate change – caused by the production of greenhouse gasses from human activity – will be the greatest disaster that humanity has ever known unless serious action is taken urgently.

National leaders who know about the implications of climate change and do little or nothing to avert it will be thought of by future generations as criminals.

Surely the degree of a crime must be related to the results of the crime. That is, the worse the damage caused by a crime, the greater is the crime.

George W. Bush and John Howard are the leaders of the two nations with the greatest per-capita greenhouse gas production rates. They are aware of what the outcome will be if serious action is not taken. Both are unwilling to do anything significant to avert climate change.

Doesn't it follow that they are, therefore, the greatest criminals in the history of humanity? However, there are mitigating circumstances – see Australians do not care about greenhouse and Greenhouse – Who is to blame?.

Ashamed to be Australian

For most of my life I have been proud to be Australian. When the Howard Government rejected ratifying the Kyoto Protocol protocol I felt, for the first time in my life, ashamed of my country.

When the Howard Government followed the USA into the unjustified, unsanctioned, and unethical Iraq war – which most Australians opposed – I again felt shame to be Australian.

Then, when Australians re-elected the Howard Government in October 2004, I was once more ashamed to be one among a nation of people who cared so little for ethical government.

Before the Howard government Australia had some 'moral high-ground' in the world. For example, Australian governments could criticize the government of China for its abuse of human rights. Since then the Howard government has refused to ratify Kyoto, got Australia involved in the illegal and immoral Iraq war, and refused to allow East Timor redress in the World Court of Justice over the petroleum deposits in the Timor Sea. It will be a long time before any Australian government can criticize the morality of another government with any credibility.

International relations the USA way
Fallujah burning during the siege of November 2004.
My Thuan Bridge, 
International relations the humane way
The My Thuan Bridge (also known as The Friendship Bridge) in Vietnam, built with financial assistance from Australia.
This photo thanks to
Which is the better way to approach international relations?

Aus$50B spending on weapons

In November 2003 Prime Minister John Howard announced that he planned that Australia will spend $50 billion on weapons over about the next ten years.

$50B is about $2500 for every man, woman and child in Australia. Couldn't this money be much better spent on more worthy things, education or health for example?

If Australia spends this much on weapons it is bound to encourage a regional arms race, particularly with sick nations like North Korea and perhaps Burma. Even Indonesia could feel threatened. This sort of militarism should be a thing of the past. It is more aimed at the glory of John Howard and a parochial Australia than it is at keeping the peace.

More importantly, this is not the way that the world should be going. There is at present, with the great powers on speaking terms, a rare opportunity to rid the earth of the danger of nuclear war, and indeed, all types of war involving heavy weapons. If there was a world government that was the sole possessor of all the worlds nuclear weapons and also the only body owning high technology military aircraft and ballistic missiles, then war between nations could be permanently banned.

At this point I'll ask the reader to at least give the suggestion some consideration before throwing out the idea as idealistic and out of the realm of the possible and practicable. This is far from being a new idea, Bertrand Russell advocated it in his 1961 book 'Has Man a Future', and I've no doubt that he was not the first. If some body, presumably some successor of the United Nations, had a large and powerful peace keeping force of international composition, and was capable of stopping nations from manufacturing high-technology and/or heavy weapons, it would be possible to outlaw war.

As a possible alternative, individual nations could have relatively small military forces that would be held available to the UN for international peace-keeping operations. If the UN had the power to direct where and when national militaries were deployed internationally, and nations were banned from deploying unilaterally, then world order would become much more achievable.

Australia and the Iraq War

I will call him Mini Me!
A cartoon that hit the nail on the head. Sorry, I don't know the author.
Also see the Iraq War.

Prime Minister Howard took Australia into the Iraq war without UN sanction and against the wishes of the Australian people; he used Iraq's alleged possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction as the justification. No WMDs have been found. PM Howard therefore seems to be either a liar or a fool. Misleading Parliament is a sufficient crime to justify the dismissal of any parliamentarian; PM Howard has mislead Parliament and the Australian people, and he has involved Australia in an illegal and unjustified war; this is certainly sufficient reason to demand his dismissal.

In March 2003 Prime Minister John Howard committed Australian troops to the unjustified and immoral Iraq War in spite of an overwhelming majority of Australians opposing this. On the eve of the war a News Poll recorded 68% of Australians being against the war (without UN sanction) and only 25% being in favour. The Prime Minister's ignoring of such a definite wish of the Australian people was a betrayal of democracy.

Mr Howard has never given the Australian people a convincing case justifying the Iraq war, nor has he ever explained his slavish devotion to President George W. Bush. Do recent American Presidents have some hold over the Australian government or over the two big political parties?

The war has been seen by many Muslims as a Christian attack on Islam. It is likely to attract the attention of Muslim terrorists to Australia.

Also see 'Who sold Saddam his weapons'.


Australia went to war with Iraq against the charter of the United Nations (under the UN charter no nation must invade another without being immediately and gravely threatened by that nation or without consent of the Security Council). Australia's action demonstrated that the Australian Government believes that resort to force, while ignoring superior authority, is a legitimate way of obtaining national aims.

If a nation can behave in this way, what does that suggest for the behaviour of individuals? If a nation can ignore authority and resort to force to achieve an aim, should an individual also have that right?

Does assassination, for example, become a legitimate way of achieving a political aim?

Subsidising the fossil fuel industry

Subsidy to mining
Facebook, 2013/01/21
The Australian Government subsidises the fossil fuel industry at the rate of at least $2B/year. Considering the greenhouse problem, this is reprehensible, disgusting, shocking, even criminal.

I have received a wad of information on this subject from Senator Natasha Stott Despoja who informs me that, while estimates of the amount of subsidies going to the fossil fuel industry vary greatly; she wrote "It is clear, however, that indirect and direct subsidies are in the billions annually."

The impression I formed from the Senator's material is much the same; it is very difficult to decide in some cases what is, or is not, a subsidy, but if everything that might be called a subsidy is included then the amount could be as high as $6.5B Aust. (This figure from 'Public subsidies and incentives to fossil fuel production and consumption in Australia' by PhD candidate Chris Riedy. 1 November 2001.)

For more on the subsidies to the Australian fossil fuel industries see the section in my page on Greenhouse.


Favouring four-wheel drive vehicles

Government gives several financial rewards to buyers and owners of four-wheel drive vehicles (called sports utility vehicles, SUVs, in the USA).

4WD vehicle use on Australian roads should be discouraged for three reasons:

Air pollution

I am separating carbon dioxide (greenhouse gas) production by 4WDs from 'air polluting gases' here because, while both can be called air pollution, their effects are very different. Carbon monoxide (CO), soot, unburned or partly burned hydrocarbons, produce fairly immediate ill-effects in the vicinity of their production; things like smog and asthma. CO2 does not produce immediate ill-effects, but is the major long-term artificial greenhouse gas.

Necessary use of 4WDs

Obviously there are times when 4WDs are needed. This section refers to 4WDs that are being used when a conventional car would be more suitable.

  1. They consume larger quantities of fossil fuels (resulting in greater emissions of greenhouse gases) than lighter vehicles;
  2. Collisions involving 4WDs are much more likely to result in injuries than collisions between lighter, lower, conventional cars;
  3. 4WD vehicles produce more air pollution than conventional vehicles.
For these reasons, unnecessary 4WD vehicle use should be discouraged by government. In fact, the Australian government is more lenient in its treatment of 4WDs than for 2WDs:
  1. Imported 4WDs (very few are built in Australia) are taxed at a lower rate than imported conventional passenger cars (5% rather than 15%, an effective subsidy worth many millions of dollars per year);
  2. Standards for exhaust emissions are less stringent for 4WDs than for conventional vehicles;
  3. There are no fuel consumption targets for 4WDs.
I believe that about one in five vehicles registered in Australia are 4WDs.

Why does government treat 4WDs more favourably than 2WDs?

I am speculating here. 4WDs are generally quite a bit more expensive than 2WDs designed for a similar number of passengers, therefore they tend to be bought by wealthier people. Wealthier people have more influence over government than poorer people.

A similar influence on government would be closer to the politicians and on a more social and personal level. As politicians, especially those with most power, are relatively well paid and move in influential social circles, their friends would tend also to have higher than average incomes. Politicians' friends would therefore own more 4WDs than the general population, politicians themselves would own more 4WDs than the general population.

I suggest, therefore, that politicians are looking after themselves and their friends (looking after your friends is another way of looking after yourself) by their favourable treatment of 4WDs. Duty free alcohol for international travellers is another example of politicians looking after the wealthy and themselves.


Once a politician gains office it seems that he will be looked after by his fellows for the rest of his life.

Consider the ex-Premier of South Australia, John Olsen; the man who promised not to sell the Electricity Trust before the election, then sold it after the election. The man who was elected as state representative by the people of Custance, who then decided that his career prospects were better in the Senate, thumbed his nose at his constituents and resigned state politics to go to federal; only to come back later when he changed his mind. A man who was obsessed with making secret deals and was eventually forced to resign as Premier because he mislead Parliament. The Howard government rewarded Mr Olsen with a lucrative position as, if I remember rightly, Australian High Commissioner to California!

It appears that the unwritten rule is: "I'll hand out favours to ex-politicians while I'm in power, on the understanding that I'll be looked after in my turn".

Goods and services tax

When the goods and services tax was introduced it was touted as "a new tax system"; a single tax that would take the place of many other taxes and simplify tax collection. Instead, we seem to have a more complicated tax system than we used to.

We still have an income tax system that is just as complicated as it ever was; I don't think anyone who had to employ a tax consultant before the GST would now find they don't need one. On top of this, those of us who run any sort of small business also have the dreaded quarterly business activity statement (BAT).


The greatest danger to any democracy is not invasion or terrorism, it is apathy.

It is the apathy of a nation's citizens that allows a government to become corrupt. Checks can be placed in a nation's constitution to help keep the government honest, but this is insufficient if the citizens are not willing to stand up for what is right.

The apathy of the Australian people has allowed our government to bring in unjustified anti-terrorism laws that seriously erode our liberty.

It is apathy in Australians who say things like "all politicians are dishonest" and think that is sufficient excuse to take no interest in trying to make Australia a better place.

Morality in government

The weak point of many Western democratic governments is morality. Any act of government, no matter how good for the economy or for foreign relations or how expedient it may be, is wrong if it is immoral.

Morality should be first on the list of a government's priorities, not, as so often seems to be the case, last.

It is America's lack of morality that has made it the most hated nation on earth, and the primary target of international terrorism.

Making Australia a target for terrorism

Australia's alliance with the USA against Islamic nations like Iraq and Iran is seen as anti-Islamic by many Muslims. Those that are inclined toward terrorism are drawn to Australia as a target because of this alliance. The PM seems unable to perceive the difference between avoiding antagonizing terrorists and bowing to terrorism.

In the trial of Amrosi, one of those accused of the Kuta (Bali, Indonesia) bombings, it has come out that while he was aiming at Americans, he is pleased that Australians were killed because, he said, Australia is with America in its war against Islam.

Making Australia safe from terrorism could be better be achieved by providing aid and justice to Third World nations rather than by bellicosity and big spending on weapons.

Wouldn't Australia do better to take a neutral stance rather than pursue an alliance with a corrupt and imperialistic nation like the USA. New Zealand is not a terrorist target, New Zealanders have the intelligence to keep out of the US wars of imperialism.

Also see Iraq war.

Anti-terrorism laws

In December 2005 the Howard Government brought in what they called anti-terrorism laws. The Law Council of Australia said of these laws (2005/12/04):
"The new laws, which will likely impact on the daily lives of every single Australian citizen, are draconian and disproportionate. The legal profession is profoundly disturbed by their introduction. The community will be gagged, with public debate potentially stifled. People can be pulled off the street, locked up for 14 days and held without charges being laid. The legal profession believes that the ramifications of these laws have the potential to be as terrifying as terrorism itself."
Read more on the Law Council's page.

The Labor party was also generally in favour of these new laws. The Australian Democrats and the Greens were against them.

Australians made huge sacrifices in fighting the two World Wars. It has often been said that they were both fought for our freedom – certainly WW2 was. Yet the Australian people have generally regarded the anti-terrorism laws with their accustomed apathy. I believe that our government and the apathetic Australian people have betrayed those who fought and died in WW2.

Misuse of the laws

When the laws were enacted the stated intention of the government was that they would be used only to protect Australia against terrorism. In May 2007 Foreign Minister Alexander Downer showed that he was quite willing to use them for a purpose quite unrelated to terrorism. At that time the government was keen that the Australian cricket team did not play the Zimbabwe team in Zimbabwe because of the implied endorsement of the brutal regime running that country. The Australian Government ordered that the cricket team not go to Zimbabwe and Downer stated that, at the last resort, he would cancel the players' passports (under the 2005 Anti-Terrorism laws) if they refused to comply.

If the government is willing to misuse the laws in this way, what other ways are they willing to misuse them? Have they already been misused for the convenience of the government?

Relevant quotes

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety".
Benjamin Franklin

"The greatest tragedy that could overcome a country would be for it to fight a successful war in defence of liberty and to lose its own liberty in the process".
Robert Menzies

Airport security

After the US Twin Towers terrorist attack the Howard government posted all Australians a "Be alert but not alarmed" terrorism package. At all major Australian airports we have to be checked to make sure that we are not carrying anything that a terrorist might use to threaten passengers or crew on a flight. Even knitting needles are banned. The impression that we get is that our government wants us to take the threat of terrorism very seriously and that they are taking the threat very seriously.

The first indication that they were not being honest with us came with the leaked report about lax airport security for which Allan Robert Kessing was punished. (Had justice been done he would have been given a medal for services to the Australian people.)

Since then it has been revealed that checked-in luggage is still not being examined for bombs before being loaded on aircraft in any Australian airports (I write this in July 2007). So, a suicide bomber cannot take a bomb into an aircraft in his carry-on luggage, but he can pack a much larger one, with a timing device, in his checked-in baggage!

It seems to me that the Howard government wants to make Australians afraid of terrorist attacks, and they want to make us believe that they are taking all possible precautions to protect us, while they are, in fact, not doing much at all. Terrorism is a threat, but fear of terrorism is also a tool used by government for their own benefit. (A people who perceive an external threat are less concerned with internal misgovernment.)

Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET)

Also see Little action on climate change and 20% by 2020.

While then Leader of the Opposition Kevin Rudd promised an MRET of 20% by 2020 before the November 2007 election, as of December 2009 the Labor Government is not looking like achieving this. (Also see how corrupt Rudd's Solar Credits Scheme is.)

Wind turbines at Wattle Point, Yorke Peninsula
Wind turbines at Wattle Point, Yorke Peninsula, South Australia
In June 2004 the Howard Government in its energy policy supported fossil fuels at the expense of renewable energy. It promised $1B for the fossil fuel industry for research and development aimed at developing low-emission technologies (effectively, carbon sequestration and geosequestration, something that no-one anywhere has demonstrated as economically feasible for coal-fired power stations) and has not increased the MRET.

For every kilowatt-hour of coal-generated electricity consumed, about one kilogram of CO2 goes into the atmosphere. (Bringing five litres of water to the boil consumes about one kilowatt-hour.)

What is MRET?

The government's Australian Greenhouse Office Internet site states that "The Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 requires the generation of 9500 gigawatt hours of extra renewable electricity per year by 2010" and seems to equate that to a 2% increase in the generation of electricity by renewable methods, at that time. (Because of the increase in power consumption since then, I believe MRET is now about 1% of total consumption.)

Recently (Sept. 2007, just before the election in which he was removed from power and from Parliament) PM Howard announced that renewable electricity would be increased to 30 000GWh by 2020. That is, about 12% of the total electricity generation in 2005/06 (254 144GWh – ABARE). Australia could easily generate 20% of its electricity sustainably by 2020 if there was any will to slow climate change in government. Denmark at present generates 20% of its electricity by wind alone, and expects this to increase to 40%.

In late October 2007 Federal Labor announced its renewable energy target of 20% by 2020. (Both these targets, as stated, are not very meaningful; they are too far into the future. The major parties should state intermediate goals, for example, how many percent by 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018. A lead time of 13 years, being much longer than a term of government, is too long. Each government can put off action and in the end, when the target is not reached, the then government can blame those that came before.) Australia has a huge wind resource and possibly even more solar potential, both of which are largely untapped at present.

Most of Australia's electricity is currently generated by coal-fired power stations that release huge amounts of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. If the worst predictions of climate change modelling are to be avoided then the world must greatly reduce production rates of greenhouse gasses. Australia is at present the worst per-capita greenhouse polluter; it has a moral obligation to do its share in bringing the problem under control.

Supporters of the fossil fuel industry say that renewable electricity can not compete on 'a level playing field' with coal-fired power stations. If the coal industry paid for the pollution it is responsible for it would be more expensive than renewables. See cost of geosequestration and no level playing field.


Never admit you made a mistake

An interesting insight into PM Howard's character is given by the quote below (from Quarterly Essay, June 2007: "The corruption of public debate under Howard", by W. H. Auden.) He seems to be saying that it is "bad form" to ever admit that you were wrong or that you made a mistake.
I think in public life you take a position and I think particularly of the positions I've taken in the time I've been prime minister. I have to live with the consequences of those both now and into the future. And if I ever develop reservations, well, I hope I would have the grace to keep them to myself ... You take a position and you've got to live by that and be judged by that – and that's my position.

Peak oil production

Graph 1
Recorded and projected oil and gas production rates
Credit: Uppsala Hydrocarbon Depletion Study
As I write this (2004/08/20) there are many Net sites warning that the world's peak oil extraction rates have been reached, or are about to be reached, while oil consumption continues to increase.

Was this one of the main reasons for the Iraq war? Of course we were told otherwise.

In any case, our government has failed to warn us that this oil supply crisis was coming, and they have failed to prepare for it.

Prime Minister John Howard signed a deal that committed Australia to supply natural gas to China for a period of 25 years a couple of years ago. With the price of petroleum liquids set to escalate sharply it appears that Australia will be supplying China with liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) for many years at what will be considered rock-bottom prices.

In June 2005 oil prices are around US$55/barrel. At this level coal liquefaction starts to become economically viable. So far as I know, little, if any, work is being done in Australia to investigate environmentally friendly methods of coal liquefaction. It seems inevitable, considering society's very slow response to greenhouse, that as the price of natural petroleum continues to rise coal liquefaction will gradually take over as the main source of liquid fuels. Governments should be looking ahead at minimising environmental harm involved in the process. (Coal can also be 'gasified'; you could try searching using 'gasifaction'.)

As the price of conventional oil continues to rise producers will look more to alternatives such as tar sands, heavy oil, and shale oil. The global reserves of these are much larger than remaining reserves of conventional petroleum. However, they tend to have greater environmental impact and particularly will increase greenhouse carbon dioxide production unless they are developed with great care.

Plastic shopping bags

"Responding to reports people dump about three billion plastic shopping bags a year, killing 100 000 birds, turtles, whales and seals, Dr Kemp (Aust. Minister for Environment) said he would wait another 18 months until the expiry of a voluntary reduction program before considering any action." The Advertiser, 2002/09/09.
What's another few thousand needless marine animals deaths due to them getting tangled with discarded shopping bags? We must not rush into anything as drastic as putting a compulsory fee on plastic shopping bags! Even when the 18 months is up, all he is going to do is 'consider' some action.

Political advertising at taxpayers expense

In the lead-up to the 2004 election the Howard Government spent millions of dollars of tax payer's money on advertising to tell the voters what a wonderful job they were doing. Mr Howard claimed that this was not for the benefit of the Liberal Party, but was aimed at informing Australians of the services available to them. One obvious question that he did not answer was: why, if Australians needed to be informed about these services, did he wait until the lead-up to the election?

He did the same in the months before the 2007 election, but I wonder if it is backfiring this time (written June 2007). There is some indication that Australian voters are disgusted at how much of their money PM Howard is spending on political campaigning; at last significant numbers of them have had enough of corrupt government.

Pork Barrelling

2007/10/07 – An article in the Sydney Morning Herald stated that "More than $1 billion has been spent so far this year, with Herald analysis finding three quarters of funds have been directed toward marginal or crucial "must-hold" seats.

Conceived of by the Government during the 2004 election as a way to appeal to green and rural voters, the [Water Smart Australia] fund had been criticised for being underspent. But the dynamics of another election year have opened the eyes of both sides of politics to its pork-barrelling opportunities."

This is another example of the degree of political corruption that exists in Australia. There have been many other examples of pork-barrelling leading up to the 2007 election.

New Australian flag

The new Australian Flag
The new Australian flag
Symbolising Australia's status as a puppet of the USA
A woman emailed me that this flag had 'deeply offended' her and that it is a desecration of the Australian flag.

The Australian flag is the symbol of the Australian Nation. The 'new' Australian flag on the right is symbolic of what the Australian government has done to Australia. Recent Australian governments, the Howard Government most of all, have made Australia a vassal state of the USA, and the USA is the bully of the world; a nation that is environmentally by far the most irresponsible on earth. The flag above represents symbolically what our government has done in reality.

All of my grandparents were born in Australia. I have planted thousands of trees on roadsides around my home town as a way of improving Australia and as a small way of combating greenhouse warming. I would like to be proud of this country.

Our governments have betrayed us; they are subsidising the fossil fuel industry by billions of dollars each year and are not willing to significantly reduce Australia's greenhouse gas production rate, which is on a par with the worst of any nation in the world.

Our governments, through their blind following of the USA environmental vandals are helping to ruin the world. If this flag offends the occasional reader, perhaps they should consider what our government is doing to the ethical standing of our nation.

Pre-emptive strikes against neighbouring states

Prime Minister John Howard stated that he would hold, as an option, the right to carry out pre-emptive strikes on (unspecified) other countries if he believed that terrorists in those countries posed any threat to Australia.

Later, in December 2004, the Australian government refused to sign The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (alternatively called the ASEAN Non-Aggression Pact). The government excused this by claiming that if they did sign then they would not be able to, for example, criticize Burma's abuse of human rights. This is not true, there is nothing in the treaty that would stop Australia criticizing ASEAN nations on such matters, as a reading of the treaty at the above link will show.

The only reason for not signing the Non-Aggression Pact is to keep the option of American style interference in other nations' affairs open.

Of course these matters greatly concern our South East Asian neighbours.

The Australian government later backed-down and signed the non-aggression pact.

Recommended reading

Noam Chomsky
Hegemony or Survival
Rogue States

David Marr
His Master's Voice: The corruption of public debate under Howard

Peter Singer
How Ethical is Australia?
How are we to live?: Ethics in an age of self-interest

Arundhati Roy
The Ordinary Person's Guide To Empire

Howard Zinn
A People's History of the United States: 1492-Present

Stem cell research

The Howard Government announced a ban on research using human embryonic stem cells in late 2004. One wonders whether this decision was suggested by George W. Bush; its only justification seems to be a fundamentalist Christian type of ethical reasoning. It will stop many lines of very productive research from happening in Australia.

Fortunately, the research will still go ahead in a number of overseas nations, because it has enormous potential for improvements in human health care. Australia and Australian research will be the main losers in the long run. Australian researchers with expertise in the field will be attracted to more open nations overseas.

It should be remembered that this follows closely on the push against abortion by some senior Federal Government Ministers; abortion being another pet hate of the US bible bashers. Who is giving the orders to the Australian Government?

Wikipedia has an extensive article on Stem cells.

Water torture in use in Vietnam
Water torture being used by USA personnel in the Vietnam war.
Photo from the War Remnants Museum, Saigon, Vietnam

UN Protocol on Torture

In 2002 the UN produced a protocol outlawing the use of torture. Australia joined the USA as the only Western Democratic nations to vote against it. A spokesman for the Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, said "This protocol would allow UN inspectors to enter Australian prisons at any time" (to check on whether torture was being used).

One wonders why UN inspectors should not do so. What is there in Australian prisons that the Australian Government would not want them to see?

Australia's shoddy treatment of East Timor

Baukau market, East Timor
A market at Baukau, East Timor, before the Indonesian invasion
Australia's complicity in, and acceptance of, Indonesia's unprovoked and unjustified invasion of East Timor in 1975 and the subsequent 25 years of tolerance of Indonesia's cruel and genocidal rule of East Timor is one of the most shameful acts of Australian government in the history of the country.

It started with the newly elected Whitlam government approving the illegal and unethical invasion and continued for the whole 25 years of tyranny and mass-murder. Both Liberal and Labor parties have blood on their hands, and all Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers of that period are guilty. East Timor was one of Australia's closest neighbours, it was a small and weak nation, it should have had Australia's support against Indonesian invasion.

Amnesty International estimates that 210 000 people died as a result of the Indonesian occupation. In 2002 the total population of East Timor was 779 000, so it seems that the Indonesian treatment of the East Timorese was on a par for bloodthirstiness with the Killing Fields of Cambodia and the Rwanda bloodbath of 1994. The West, including a rich near neighbour, Australia, stood by and did nothing.

The governments of Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke, Keating and Howard are all guilty of betraying the East Timorese people and turning a blind eye on this crime against humanity.

More information

East Timor Retrospective, by Noam Chomsky, October 1999

Death of a Nation: The Timor Conspiracy; a movie exposing the world's shame over East Timor by John Pilger.

Australia and the Indonesian occupation of East Timor; Wikipedia.

Indonesian occupation of East Timor; Wikipedia.

Australia's shame over East Timor; Sydney Morning Herald.

Remembering Darwin … and Timor, February 1942, by Peter Stanley. A largely untold story? The East Timorese suffered following the Japanese invasion in WW2, which itself seems to have been in response to the Australians stationing troops in a neutral territory. 150 Australians and 40,000 Timorese died.

Oil and gas in the Timor Sea

Australia ratified recognition of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1945 and apparently continued in that recognition until March 2002. At that time Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer limited Australia's recognition of the court to exclude: "any dispute concerning or relating to the delimitation of maritime zones, including the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf...".

Can this be anything other than specifically aimed at stopping East Timor from taking Australia to the ICJ and obtaining justice in the ownership of the petroleum resources of the Timor Sea?

This is not the action of a moral government; this is the sort of anything-goes, selfish behaviour that one might expect of Empire USA. Malaysia and Indonesia solved a similar boundary dispute in the ICJ in 2002: ABC Radio Australia.

The reader may like to scan this legal opinion on the subject, which although very long and technical, has an interesting General Conclusions section.

Australia betrays East Timor again

Quoting from Wikipedea 2020/11/15:
"The Australia–East Timor spying scandal began in 2004 when the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) clandestinely planted covert listening devices in a room adjacent to the East Timor (Timor-Leste) Prime Minister's Office at Dili, to obtain information in order to ensure Australia held the upper hand in negotiations with East Timor over the rich oil and gas fields in the Timor Gap."
As if that was not bad enough, when the unethical bugging of the embassy was made public The Australian government punished those who exposed their shameful act. See Witness K and the 'outrageous' spy scandal that failed to shame Australia; The Guardian.

Commonwealth Government's overriding of Northern Territory's Euthanasia law

In about 1998 the democratically elected government of the Northern Territory passed a law allowing euthanasia as an option for people with terminal diseases. The Australian Commonwealth Parliament overruled that law.

This was wrong for several reasons:

  • The N.T. Government should have the right to make laws effecting N.T. citizens without interference from the Commonwealth Parliament except in very exceptional circumstances.
  • The great majority of the Australian people supported the N.T. Government's right to legalize euthanasia and supported the concept of voluntary euthanasia.
  • Euthanasia happens whether or not it is legal. It might as well be legal so that it can be formalized and checks put into place regarding how and when it is done.
  • Voluntary euthanasia is morally correct. Most people would not allow an animal to needlessly suffer if it was terminally ill or injured, in pain, and death was inevitable; why should people have less right to a quick end?
It was Kevin Andrews who introduced this outrageously undemocratic bill into the Federal Parliament.

I have written elsewhere about the relationship between the Christian lobby and voluntary euthanasia and I wrote a page specifically on these laws in February 2018.

Funding the states

The federal government raises most of Australia's taxes while it is up to the states to provide most of the country's services. Therefore, if Australia's federal system is to work properly there must be an adequate flow of funds from federal government to state governments.

From at least 2004 to 2007 the federal government has been talking about how much money it has, while the states have been struggling to properly fund important services like transport, education and health.

The problem seems to be that it is to the short-term advantage of the (Liberal) federal government to withhold funds from the (Labor) states so that it can look like a good financial manager and, at the same time, make the state governments look like poor financial managers.

It is odd that the media do not seem to have picked this up.

State and private schools: funding

The Howard Government has steadily increased the level of funding of private schools in comparison to the funding of state schools. This seems to be a quite blatant plan to look after the more wealthy voters, because it is these who are the main supporters of the Howard Government. Consequently, families who can not afford to send their children to private schools have to make do with a poorer quality of education.

Greenhouse/Climate change

Fossil sand dunes near Alford, Yorke Peninsula, South 
Fossil sand dunes that have not been active in the recent past. Evidence that climates do change. Do we want our farm lands changed back to desserts?
The evidence for greenhouse warming is discussed in Greenhouse. Very few scientists would now claim that man's actions in producing greenhouse gasses is not having a measurable effect on the earth's climate. In response the Howard Government has set a Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) of a pathetic 1% of electricity consumption and provide yet another subsidy to the fossil fuel industry, this time to look into the geosequestration of carbon dioxide.

The Howard Government pretends that it is behaving responsibly in regard to greenhouse. To know that this is false you need only consider the following two facts:

  1. All fossil fuel fired power stations in Australia have what amounts to an unlimited license to dump their waste carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. What other industry in the early twenty-first century has unlimited license to dump waste anywhere?
  2. The Australian Mandatory Renewable Energy Target is set at about 1% of all electrical energy produced.

As of 2004 the hottest year since accurate temperature records began (late 1800s) was 1998, the second was 2002, and the third was 2003. See Goddard Institute for Space Studies: Surface temperature analysis.


Subsidising the fossil fuel industry

There seem to be only two justifications for Australia's greenhouse stand: the desire of the government to return a favour to big business in the fossil fuel industry, and its blind and unflinching support for the USA.

The Federal Government subsidises the Australian fossil fuel industry at the rate of $2B/year. This is highly unethical, and indicates a corrupt preference of the fossil fuel industry over alternatives; a pay-back, one must suppose, for big political campaign donations from the fossil fuel industry. Also see fossil fuel subsidy and corporate political donations.

In mid 2004 the Howard Government announced that it would fund research to help reduce the greenhouse gas production of the fossil fuel industry, including geosequestration (the burial of carbon dioxide). Geosequestration has never been proven to be a practicality, and at best it hides the problem, rather than curing it. The cost of geosequestration will, be high, possibly prohibitive, but this is another return of a favour to the fossil fuel industry for electoral funding support.

The International Energy Commission estimates that geosequestration of carbon dioxide will cost from Aust$68 to Aust$83/t. See the Clean Energy Future Report from the Clean Energy Future Group.

Electricity generated from hot dry rock is likely to be much cheaper than that from coal with geosequestration, and it is virtually sustainable, however the Australian government is providing much less funding for the former than for the latter.

The mathematical models of future climates produce various results, we can't be at all sure what will happen, although we do know that sudden changes (in evolutionary terms) will almost certainly produce an increase in the already terrible rate of extinctions of species.

The Chinese say crisis means opportunity, the Howard Government's answer to crisis it to pretend that it doesn't exist. Australian industry is missing out on many opportunities because of our Government's lack of support for greenhouse-friendly technologies.

Germany has 100 times as much area under solar photovoltaic panels as does Australia. This is in spite of the fact that a photovoltaic panel will produce about twice as much electricity in Australia, because of our sunny climate, than it does in Germany. Australia was once a leader in photovoltaic research and development, we have been left far behind countries like Japan because of the Howard Government's preference for fossil fuels.

A quote from, 2007/07/30,

"Overcast Germany World's Leading Solar Power Generator
New data shows that Germany has become the world's leader for generating solar power, despite the fact that two-thirds of the country's annual daylight hours are spent with heavy cloud cover. Germany produces 55 per cent of the world's photovoltaic (PV) energy, using solar panels along the country. So far, solar power generates just 3% of Germany's total energy, but the government hopes to raise that to 27% by 2020. A law was passed in Germany in 2000 that offers huge incentives for companies to invest in solar power. The law, known as EEG, planned 100 000 PV panels across the country. The figure, however, currently stands at 300 000 panels."
If the Germans can do it, Australia, with its sunny climate, could do much better – if there was any will in government.

The Kyoto Protocol

Following Russia's ratification of Kyoto in October 2004, the protocol will come into force in early 2005. Australia and the USA are the only Western countries to not ratify.

The Australian Commonwealth Government is doing much too little to try to reduce Australia's contribution to greenhouse, which, per-capita, is the worst in the world (with the possible exception of the USA). By its refusal to ratify the Kyoto agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions, the Government has brought Australia into disrepute. Early in the Johannesburg conference of Aug. 2002, Australia was being called one of the Dirty Three nations (with Canada and the USA). Before the conference finished, Canada had agreed to ratify.

One of the excuses that the Howard Government gives for its refusal to ratify Kyoto is that the Protocol is not the answer to the Greenhouse problem. While this is true, Kyoto does not go far enough, Kyoto is a first step that most of the Western nations have taken toward fixing Greenhouse. Australia has refused to take this, partially symbolic, important first step.

A previous Minister for the Environment, Robert Hill, excused Australia's rate of greenhouse gas production by saying that, on the grand scheme, since Australia is not a populous nation, Australia's contribution is not great. This might be compared to a town council that is dumping its effluent into the Murray River excusing its action by saying that it is only a small town and that therefore it is having a very small impact on the health of the river. Everyone could use some form of that argument to excuse their action in messing some community environment.

PM Howard's usual excuse in refusing to ratify Kyoto is that it is not fair to limit the developed nations' carbon dioxide emissions while not limiting developing nations' emissions; he particularly names India and China. This argument neglects the fact that the per-capita emissions of developed nations is much greater than that of the developing nations. It also does not take into account the fact that India and China are a long way ahead of Australia in many aspects of renewable energy.

China is by far the most advanced nation in the use of solar thermal energy; International Energy Agency (IEA) figures for 2004 showed that China had 43 400 MWth (megawatt thermal) installed; the second nation was Japan with 5400 MWth. In 2005 China invested US$7 billion on renewable energy development (mostly small hydro and solar hot water), twice as much as the USA. China's wind power targets are 5000 MW by 2010, 15 000 MW by 2015, and 30 000 MW by 2020 (Australia had 746 MW of wind power at the end of 2005). China has more small hydro-power than the rest of the world combined. (China invested a further $10b large hydro-power in 2005; this is not usually considered to be renewable energy.) (These figures were from Renewable Energy World 2006/07.) China had 1260 MW of wind power installed in 2006 (Wind Power Monthly). In November 2009 China had 220 factories producing solar photovoltaic panels, Australia had none.

At the end of 2005 India had 4434 MW of wind power, forth in the world, compared to Australia's 746 MW. India is in the process of building a 1000 MW wind farm – probably the biggest in the world when completed, although these records change quickly – in the state of Maharashtra, and its state of Tamil Nadu had 2500 MW installed. (Wind Power Monthly)

The shrinking solar photovoltaic rebate

At a time when governments in the rest of the world are offering steadily more encouragement for people to install solar and other renewable power systems the Australian Government is reducing the photovoltaic rebate.

There has been a rebate of $4 per peak Watt for solar photovoltaic systems installed on homes. Several years ago it was capped at $8000, then the maximum rebate was limited to $4000. Starting at the beginning of 2006 this was steadily reduced to $3.50 per peak Watt and a maximum rebate of $3500.

In the budget of May 2007 (before the election later in the same year) the government brought the maximum rebate back up to $8000 (one might say, in a cynical vote-buying exercise).

Australia's failure to develop solar power

Australia is developing solar power at a fraction of the rate that it should be. The information for the few paragraphs below was extracted from an article by Giles Parkinson in The Bulletin of 2007/05/01...
Sydney University researcher David Mills, the architect of a new solar thermal technology with energy storage potential and hence applicability to base-load power generation moved to California because of lack of government support in Australia.

University of NSW researcher Shi Zhengrong returned to the more favourable technology climate of China to commercialise his solar technologies. He leads the $40bn solar manufacturing company Suntech, which employs more than 2500 in China. He is about to export his goods back to Australia.

A decade ago Germany and Australia were installing about 5 MW of solar capacity each year. Last year (2006), Australia installed 10 MW while Germany installed 800 MW.

Australia's potential for solar power, with our climate, is obviously much greater than Germany's, yet because of the Howard Government's stand against renewable power, we are falling well behind more progressive Germany. Even the USA, in spite of their obstructive federal government, are embracing solar and other renewables because of some very progressive state governments.

Solar water heating

Australia has a climate that is eminently suitable for solar water heating. If more solar water heaters were installed in Australian homes (only 5% of Queensland homes have solar water heating, for example) huge reductions in greenhouse gas production rates could be achieved. The initial capital cost is fairly high compared to conventional water heating, a federal government incentive is needed; even a low interest loan would be useful. There is a government rebate, at least in South Australia, but plainly it is not sufficient to cause the majority of Australians to change to solar water heating.

PM Howard and his various Ministers for the Environment talk about reducing greenhouse gas production. Encouraging solar water heating would be one very effective and economical way of doing this; yet we see no action!

A carbon tax

In Australia industry is allowed to dump waste carbon dioxide into the atmosphere adding to the enhanced greenhouse effect and climate change. Very few countries allow their industries to dump wastes into rivers or lakes or onto the land, why should dumping waste into the atmosphere be any more acceptable?

The Howard Australian government has refused to place a tax on carbon because it says that to do so would damage Australia's economy.

It could equally well be argued, truly, that taxing anything damages Australia's economy; but taxes have to be raised to run public services and build state infrastructure.

Taxes are unavoidable and greenhouse gas production has to be reduced. Combining the two is logical. If a tax was to be placed on all carbon in fuels, either mined or imported, then an equal amount of tax could be taken off in other areas to make the exercise tax-neutral.

Another page covers this topic in greater depth.

Also see Fossil fuel electricity in perspective and No level playing field.


Prime Minister John Howard has often said that he will not do anything to jeopardise the coal industry because there are too many jobs involved. He conveniently neglects the number of jobs that would be created in the renewable energy industry that would replace the lost coal industry. A quote from an article by Giles Parkinson in The Bulletin, of 2007/05/01...
Susan Jeanes, executive director of the Australian Renewable Energy Association, says suggestions that action on climate change would have a net loss of jobs were "just rubbish". She points out that wind power is actually more labour intensive than coal, and requires 2.5 time more units of labour for every MW of electricity produced. With a potential 6000 MW of wind capacity on hold, as opposed to just 800 MW installed, that translates into thousands of lost job opportunities in this country alone.
The same journal quoted Michael Müller, German parliamentary state secretary at the federal Ministry for the Environment as saying, "Renewable energies are an asset for Germany in terms of economic growth and employment".

Nuclear option

In early 2007 the Howard Government seems willing to accept only one alternative to fossil fuels: nuclear power. Why the blindness to sustainable power? I can only suppose that there are two factors here:
  • PM Howard has fixed in his mind the idea that anything sustainable is 'left-wing greeny nonsense' and must be avoided;
  • Howard totally dominates the Parliamentary Liberal party to the point where his ideas, even those that are outdated and/or quite wrong, are accepted without serious questioning.
Nuclear power should be considered as an alternative to fossil fuels, but should not be given priority over sustainable alternatives. Sustainable options should be favoured because they are sustainable while nuclear is not, they can be brought on-line much more quickly than nuclear, they are more decentralised than nuclear, and because they do not leave the long-term problems associated with nuclear: that is,
  • The very high cost of decommissioning old nuclear power stations;
  • The possibility of some of the elements and/or isotopes created in the reactors being diverted for weapons, dirty bombs, etc;
  • The unresolved problems of the disposal of nuclear waste.
Another factor that must be taken into consideration, but seems almost universally neglected, is that nuclear power stations will provide a target for terrorist attack and also for an enemy in any future conventional or nuclear war. A bombed nuclear power station would release far more radioactive material into the environment than a nuclear weapon. (There are many tonnes of highly radioactive materials in any nuclear power reactor that has been running for a considerable period, at most only a few tonnes are produced by a nuclear weapon.)

Nuclear power stations make a much better target than solar or wind power stations in war time because so much can be destroyed by one or a few well aimed bombs. Solar and wind power must be, by their nature, spread over large areas; a single bomb can destroy, at most, one wind turbine or a few solar collector panels.

Greenhouse refugees

The following quote is from an article in The Advertiser by Clive Hamilton in early May 2007...
In 2001 at the Pacific Island Forum in Samoa 15 nations, including New Zealand, tried to include reference to "environmental refugees" and compensation for people affected by climate change in a statement to the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Outnumbered 15-1, Australia nevertheless insisted the reference be removed. After a tense stand-off the 15 nations backed down.
Obviously there will be many environmental refugees from Pacific islands (and other places, especially the very densely populated great river deltas) due to rising sea levels. The Australian government wants to keep public attention off this as much as it can.

Australia has the per-capita highest rate of greenhouse gas production in the world. As the worst offender in climate change Australia, can expect to have to pay greenhouse refugees huge compensation of one sort or another in the future. The compensation might be financial, or it might be in providing an alternative place for the millions to live. There will be many millions of refugees from places like Bangladesh (Ganges delta), Egypt (Nile delta), and Vietnam (Mekong and Red River deltas). In Clive Hamilton's article he estimated 200 million to 450 million people likely to be affected by rising sea levels.


Subservience to the USA

As discussed in The Real USA, Australian Commonwealth Governments have for years toadied to USA Governments. Why? The US has a terrible moral record, and what has it ever done for Australia? (Oh yes, without the USA Australia would have been invaded by the Japanese; but they had to fight the Japanese, they had been attacked too. We helped them as much as they helped us – in proportion to our populations; and that was more than 50 years ago anyway.)

Australia owes nothing to the USA, yet our Prime Ministers, in particular, seem to consider themselves (and us) to be at the beck and call of American Presidents. This has lowered international respect for Australia, and those who consider themselves as the enemies of the USA, often for good reason, are likely to also consider themselves to be the enemies of Australia.

Israel and Palestine

The Australian Government, like the US Government, when speaking about the current conflict between Israel and Palestine, is very pro-Israel. When discussing the killing of Israelis by Palestinian suicide bombers they seem to forget that many more Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli army. When discussing the Palestinians illegally importing weapons they seem to forget that the Israelis are legally importing more and bigger weapons. When discussing any part of the issue they seem to forget the key point, Israel is, and has for decades, illegally occupied Palestine; the Palestinians are fighting for a free nation the only way they can.

With the very strong Jewish lobby in the USA one can understand, but not condone, the bias of the USA. Why the bias in the view of the Australian Government? Another case of its attempting to curry favour from the Americans?

Also, governments, it seems, tend to support other governments. Governments, generally, do not support freedom fighters (who generally fight against one or more governments and may or may not be terrorists). I suppose it's a case of 'you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours'. Another case of morality being forgotten for the sake of expediency.

The widening gap between rich and poor


I suspect that nations grow most quickly economically when people are allowed, perhaps encouraged, to amass personal fortunes by exploiting others. The forced sharing of wealth, on the other hand, probably slows economic growth.

If this is so, then should one look for a balance between the growth produced by rampant greed on one hand and the forcing of wealth sharing and social justice on the other, or should it be accepted that there will be alternating periods of greed-induced growth and social justice?

At least two other questions need be asked. Is economic growth essential, and how can the environment be protected in these alternatives?

The rich in Australia are getting richer and at the same time there are an increasing number of people who are living in poverty.

Wealth brings with it power. Wealthy people have more influence and political power than do poor people. This makes it relatively easy for rich people to become richer at the expense of poor people. It is the duty of governments to reduce the gap; Australian governments have failed in this duty for the past several decades.

An example of Government looking after the rich
Duty free alcohol

The quantity of duty free alcohol that can be brought into Australia by international travellers has been doubled in recent years, it is now about 2.125L. Since it is the wealthy who most frequently travel overseas it is the wealthy who gain by this change; they can avoid paying as much excise as they would, had they bought their booze in Australia. For example, a business man or a federal member of parliament who might travel overseas twice a year would be able to buy all his spirits duty free. The poor can't avoid paying excise on their booze because they can't afford to travel overseas.

This is simply a tax avoidance method that has been made available to the rich and denied to the poor.

Of course cabinet ministers travel overseas as often as anyone.

Corporate political donations

Big businesses donate large sums of money to political parties; often the same multi-national company will make donations to both of the two major opposing parties. The citizens are content to allow this on the grounds that it is better that business pays for political campaigns than those costs coming out of taxes; but is it? The managers of big businesses are not stupid; they would not make donations unless they believed that they would get favours in return.

The federal government's immoral support for the fossil fuel industries (and relative neglect of greenhouse friendly industries) must be repayment for favours received from the former; what other reasonable explanation is there.

Corporate political donations are a form of corruption and they are a means that the wealthy use to obtain more power. It is unlikely that the big political parties will put a stop to corporate political donations without being forced to, because the practice advantages big parties over small parties and independent members of parliament.

Land clearing

The rate of destruction of native scrub in Australia is among the highest in the world; it is much worse in Queensland than in any other state. Destruction of old growth forest continues in several Australian states; although I believe it has recently been greatly reduced in WA.

Removing woody perennials in the past has caused soil salinisation in many parts of Australia in the past, it seems incredibly naive, if not stupid, to assume that continuing to clear scrub will not cause even more. Clear felling of old growth forests and scrub clearing both reduce biodiversity. I suspect that we will not realize the full importance of biodiversity for many years, and then, of course, it will be too late.

These are matters for Commonwealth and state governments, neither have done enough.

Tibet and China

China has committed and possibly still is committing genocide in Tibet. China has taken freedom away from Tibetans and is flooding the country with Han Chinese immigrants.

The Australian government is not willing to say a word against the numerous abuses of human rights that China is committing in Tibet; there is too much money to be made by trading with China to risk upsetting the Chines government. Morality takes a poor second place to profits.

Water Commission Secrets

In late 2004 a new National Water Commission is being set up by the federal government. That seems like a good move, but the government intends that the proposed commission not be allowed to release any information on the state of Australia's water supplies without ministerial approval.

So we Australian citizens will not be told about the health of our water supplies by our tax-payer-funded commission unless it is politically convenient to the Howard government for us to know.

David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib

A quote from Winston Churchill

"The power of the executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious, and the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist."

David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib are Australians who were captured by the US with Taliban soldiers in Afghanistan in 2001. Both were held under inhumane conditions in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for a number of years. Neither ever had a fair trial; Hicks at least was tortured by US soldiers. Habib was eventually released without charge. Hicks pled guilty to a charge of providing material suport to terrorism, a 'crime' trumped-up while he was held in Guantanamo Bay. There is little doubt that he only pled guilty because he was promised release to Australia in return.

The Howard Australian Government did nothing to demand these men's rights as Australian citizens and human beings, preferring instead to toady to the George W. Bush administration.

In October 2003 a Red Cross official took the very unusual step of publicly expressing his concern about the conditions under which the prisoners are being held at Guantanamo Bay. The Howard Government continued to do nothing.

In November 2003 Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said that if Hicks and Habib were brought back to Australia they could not be tried, the government would have to release them. Apparently he believes that they are not guilty of anything under Australian law, yet he is happy to have them locked up without charge in an American prison! Is there any morality in this? I can't see it.

Orange-bellied parrot

The Federal Environment Minister, Ian Campbell, vetoed the Bald Hills wind farm in Victoria's Gippsland because, he claimed, it added to the risk to the endangered orange-bellied parrot.

That the parrot is endangered is not in dispute. That the wind farm posed any risk to the small remaining population of parrots is very questionable. I will confine my comments to two quotes:

Rob Hulls, Victorian Planning Minister:
"There is a potential for one dead parrot every 1000 years"

Clive Hamilton, The Australia Institute:
"Really, the minister is a disgrace. He's not Minister for the Environment, he's the minister against the environment."

For more information, The Australian had an article on this dated 2006/04/21, and the ABC's 7.30 report discussed it on 2006/04/17.


Whistleblower and airports

A whistleblower and former Customs officer, Allan Robert Kessing, was found guilty of leaking two classified reports and faces a possible several years in jail.

A quote from The Australian of March 29, 2007:

"The revelations Kessing was convicted of leaking were of massive public interest when they appeared in The Australian on May 31, 2005. They exposed flaws in security at Sydney airport, including the operation of organised crime and surveillance black spots, prompting the federal Government to appoint British security expert John Wheeler to examine aviation security.

The result was more than $200 million spent on airport police commands, strike teams and better surveillance.

The prospect of jail and the cost of defending the charges has been devastating for the 59-year-old retired public servant who has spent $40,000 – more than half of his superannuation nest egg – in legal costs."

The reports that Kessing leaked had been ignored by the officials of the Customs Service for several years. The information obviously had to be made public so that it could be acted upon. Kessing did the public a huge favour and now it seems he will be jailed for doing his duty to the Australian people.

Australia's public servants must have the right to speak out when it is in the public's interest that they do so. At present Public Servants serve the departments and/or the ministers; they should serve the public.

Thank you Allan Kessing. All Australians are in your debt.

Coal liquefaction

The Howard government is obviously addicted to coal, but it is also sadly lacking in foresight. The world is running out of petroleum. It doesn't take a genius to see that there will be a future for producing liquid fuels from coal (coal liquefaction). China is investing big money in it. The Australian government seems to be completely neglecting it.

Of course coal liquefaction is highly undesirable from the greenhouse gasses angle, it results in even greater levels of CO2 production per unit usable energy than the direct burning of coal as a fuel.

Aboriginal child molestation problems?

With PM Howard's reaction to the report that stated child molestation was a problem at crisis level in Aboriginal communities I wonder if he learned anything from the Iraq war. In both situations he used similar strategies: invasion, send in the troops!

Is this likely to produce the needed results? I believe the NT government pointed out the magnitude of the problem a year earlier and asked for federal help in controlling it; the Feds didn't respond then. It rather looks like this response is more to do with trying to win votes than fix problems.

What are the primary causes of the problems in Aboriginal communities? Surely you'd have to say that they were things like lack of education and lack of employment. The first, of course, tends to lead to the second. The lack of employment leads to a feeling of uselessness, inferiority, and a lot of time to be used up in some way other than working at a job.

Will sending in police and troops improve the percentage of Aboriginal kids who go to school? Will it provide more useful employment for adolescents and adults on the Aboriginal lands? Will it give the people more self respect? It seems to me that what is needed is not a once-off send-in-the-troops reaction, but rather a long-term commitment to getting more Aboriginal kids in schools and getting more Aboriginal adolescents and adults into useful and productive jobs. That's not going to be easy. It's not the sort of thing you can do all at once in a way that will impress the voters.