Farmers: ‘Don’t pray for rain, take action on climate change’

“We don’t need to pray for rain, we need to take serious climate action, now”, was the blunt message farmers delivered to the federal parliament on September 10. They said the drought gripping NSW and Queensland is a wake-up call for politicians to take climate change seriously.

Charlie Prell, deputy chair of Farmers for Climate Action, which organised the action, said: “Our country is locked in drought, yet elected leaders are still fiddling and pretending climate change isn’t happening.” Prell is a sheep farmer from Crookwell.

The farmers' rally warned the federal Coalition government not to ignore the impacts of climate change, such as worsening droughts and bush fires in winter. They are also concerned that the government is attempting to stymie the development of wind power, which provides income for farmers and rural communities when agricultural income falls.

Alcoa strike enters new stage as company seeks to terminate agreement

An indefinite strike by 1600 Alcoa workers in Western Australia that began on August 8 has entered a new stage with the start of a Fair Work Commission (FWC) hearing in which the company is seeking to terminate the existing enterprise agreement. If the company's move is successful, workers at the multi-billion dollar company’s aluminium refineries and bauxite mines would be forced onto an inferior agreement that offers no job security and a possible wage cut of up to 50%.

Timorese present 10-metre-long petition to Australian embassy protesting prosecution of whistleblowers

Activists from the Movement Against the Occupation of the Timor Sea (MKOTT) delivered a 10-metre-long banner covered with the signatures of 1300 Timorese to the Australian embassy in Dili on September 16. The signatures were collected in protest at the Australian government's persecution of former spy Witness K and his lawyer Bernard Collaery, for allegedly blowing the whistle on the 2004 bugging of Timor-Leste Cabinet offices by the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS).

Following Lana Del Ray, Of Montreal pull out of Israel festival, call for protests against Israeli crimes

With a bold call for protests against Israel’s crimes of apartheid, US-based pop band Of Montreal has dropped out of Israel’s Meteor Festival on September 4, just days before it was set to begin.

This follows the cancellation by headliner Lana Del Rey, who nixed her performance on August 31.

'2028' offers quite tame satire, despite rave reviews

2028
By Ken Saunders
Allen & Unwin, 2018
$29.99

This satirical novel is set in Australia’s near future and revolves around an accident-prone Liberal Prime Minister running a hopeless election campaign.  

The setting is near enough to be uncomfortably recognisable but allows Ken Saunders to stretch out today’s neo-liberal realities to the point of absurdity. 

For example, in the world of 2028, Australia Post delivers all articles by drone. As a sideline, the drones do filming for the major TV news services — thus eliminating all human camera teams. 

In fact, in 2028 the only news outlet still publishing a newspaper is Green Left Weekly!  

The book’s cover features rave reviews from some of Australia’s leading comics praising it. Compared to those extravagant claims, I found it rather tame. It is gently humorous and politically, saccharine-liberal.

A celebration of regenerative farmers

Call of the Reed Warbler: A New Agriculture, A New Earth
By Charles Massy
University of Queensland Press, 2017
592, paperback

In Call of the Reed Warbler: A New Agriculture, A New Earth, Monaro farmer Charles Massy has written an excellent book on agricultural change to restore the environment.

Massy talks about his transformation from a land degrader to a land regenerator, and the inspiration he received from dozens of other Australian farmers who have done the same.

The book discusses five key landscape functions that conventional agriculture degrades and which regenerative agriculture addresses: solar, water, nutrient recycling, biodiversity and the human mind.

Plants convert sunlight and carbon dioxide into carbohydrates and humus, but cannot do it on bare ground or short pasture. Therefore year-round ground cover and rotationally grazed livestock are essential.

Daniel Ellsberg exposes extreme nuclear threats to survival

The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner
Daniel Ellsberg
Bloomsbury, 2017
420 pages

After the controversy of US Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning being refused a visa on “character” grounds, Phil Shannon takes a look at a book by one of Manning’s forerunners – Daniel Ellsberg, best known for leaking the Pentagon Papers in 1971, exposing US military secrets.

One of the first reactions of Daniel Ellsberg to his revelatory acquaintance with US nuclear war planning in the 1960s was to decline to join the superannuation scheme of his company, the RAND corporation.

The private sector consultant to the White House and Department of Defence had concluded that he would not last the distance to collect on any retirement pension. He believed that US atomic war strategy made nuclear Armageddon more likely, and frighteningly near.

Malaysia: We must decriminalise sex between consenting adults

In recent days, Malaysia attained international notoriety for caning two women after their being convicted in a religious court of attempting to have sex in a car.

In striking contrast, on September 6, the Indian Supreme Court held that section 377 of their penal code, which criminalised consensual acts between adults of the same sex, was unconstitutional. That is a mature decision that gives 1.2 billion people in India the freedom to have consensual sex.

Were these two contrasting judicial responses in our two Asian countries a breakdown of Asian values? Certainly not. Both Malaysia and India have been using a British colonial-era law that legislated Britain’s Victorian-era contempt aimed at the LGBTI community.

All over the world, not just in the West, the times are changing. There are now more countries allowing consensual sex between adults than prohibiting it.

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