Critics have dubbed the Intelligence Services Legislation Amendment Bill now before parliament the “WikiLeaks Amendment”. It will strengthen the powers of Australia’s spy agency ASIO to target any individual or organisation that opposes the interests of the Australian government, even if Australia’s defence interests and international relations are not at stake. This would include Australian citizens involved in non-violent political activities abroad, which do not constitute a threat to Australia’s security.
In a new twist to Tasmania’s forest industry crisis, two wealthy environmentalists, Graeme Woods and Jan Cameron, have bought the Triabunna woodchip mill from notorious woodchipping company Gunns Ltd. Gunns had almost stitched up a deal with a pro-logging company called Fibre Plus (owned by Aprin) but this fell through due to problems obtaining finance.
A health scare developed at Villawood detention centre in June after an asylum seeker was diagnosed with leprosy. Despite assurances from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, a whistleblower revealed the extent of asylum seekers’ poor health care. International Health and Medical Services is the private health provider contracted to provide health care to people held in Australia’s immigration detention centres.
Green capitalism is on a roll at the moment. On July 8, a group of New Zealand business leaders launched their “Pure Advantage” campaign with full-page ads in the daily papers headed: “Even if you don’t believe in climate change, there’s money to be made doing something about it.” This was followed by the classic: “There’s money in being green and we need to start turning Green Growth into wealth.” That says it all, really.
The federal Labor government released a discussion paper, Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory, on June 22. It suggests the continuation of much of the NT intervention after the Northern Territory Emergency Response legislation expires next year.
As the 28th Australian soldier was killed in Afghanistan, four Christian activists were arrested during a peaceful blockade of the secretive Swan Island military base in Victoria. News of the death of Sergeant Todd Langley, 35, came on the second day of the week-long “Peace Convergence” in opposition to Australia's ongoing military involvement in what activists have called an “unnecessary and ineffective war in Afghanistan”.
There’s been so much political spin around the Julia Gillard government’s carbon tax announcement. Of course, there’s the predictable hysterical hollering from Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce and the climate change denier’s camp, but there is also tons of bullshit from the Labor government. However, a couple of developments have provided a much-needed reality check.
Action on climate change is one of the most important issues of all. But the Gillard government’s carbon price plan is not a serious response, grounded in the climate science. The biggest problem is that it aims to take ten years to cut Australia’s emissions by just 5% (based on 2000 levels). This is nowhere near enough. It’s so far from enough that even if it succeeds, the world will still be pushed into an unstable, dangerous climate system. See also: Carbon price: what’s in it for renewables?
Climate campaigners have been understandably happy about the funding bodies for renewable energy contained in the carbon price package. It seems that these measures are largely in place because of strong campaigning by the grassroots climate movement and the Greens MPs in negotiations.
You could be forgiven for thinking that when the Labor government says its new carbon price plan will cut Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 5%, it means Australia’s emissions will fall by 5%. But you would be wrong. Treasury modelling for the carbon price says Australia’s domestic emissions will go up by about 12% on 2000 levels by 2020.
An impoverished Indonesian mother, in front of an Australian journalist, lies on a cement floor clutching a photograph of her 16-year-old son who is now in an Australian adult prison and whom she hasn't seen since he was 14. Abject and acute poverty ravages Indonesia, a country where only 10% of the population has a refrigerator, where most people do not have electricity let alone a television, where many people live half lives working in sulphur mines and where most folk will never rise out of the shanty towns and villages they are born to die in.
It’s been a fascinating few weeks in Tasmanian politics. On June 16, the Labor-Greens government handed down a shocking budget that cut funding to public health, education, police and other services. Thousands of public service workers gathered on parliament lawns that day to condemn the plan, saying that services were already struggling to meet demand. The education cuts included a plan to close 20 schools. Education minister and Greens leader Nick McKim started a process of “consultation” with affected school communities around the state.