Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Muslim State Invades Muslim State. Israel Blamed. Wodensday Rant

Ambulance Hoax
Originally uploaded by Sydney Weasel.
The picture shows a rusted ambulance that were used to hoax the world press to oppose Israel. It worked. One of the dead victims is walking around ..

Now that a ceasefire in Lebanon has been agreed there will, no doubt, be numerous inquests and questions asked about the month-long Lebanon war. So here's some we would like to ask.

Which country invaded its neighbour in mid-2006 in order to, as they put it, “crush” Islamists threatening regional stability?

Which country killed an estimated 500 people in a week when its artillery began bombarding its long-time guerrilla enemy in late July 2006, causing mass displacement and suffering?

If you think the answer is Israel, you guessed wrong.

On 19th July Ethiopia sent 5,000 troops into Somalia to suppress Islamists who had not even fired one rocket at it, or kidnapped or killed any of its soldiers.

The artillery barrage came from the Sri Lankan army, which continues to pound civilian areas held by the Tamil Tigers. Just a couple of weeks ago, an estimated 50 children were killed when their orphanage was bombed by Sri Lankan warplanes.

So how come our politicians completely ignore these crises and instead choose to focus solely on Israel's campaign in Lebanon?



The Weasel said...

THE very title - Freedom of Information Act - must rank among the most oxymoronic labels ever lumped on a law by any government.

It is so Orwellian, it ranks withthe euphemistic titles with which the totalitarian regimes of Stalinand Mao used to adorn their repressive fiats.

But hang on, it was passed and came into effect on December 1, 1982, under then Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser, now the born-again hero of the civil liberties lobby.

The highly restrictive nature of the FOI legislation was reinforced yesterday by the High Court’s 3-2 decision to turn down an appeal by The Australian against two earlier court findings and a decision by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to reject access to certain Treasury documents.

All that can be said in defence of the High Court is that its decision was based on a fine reading of the law and that, as Australians are being repeatedly reminded, does not necessarily mean that justice has been served.

The tragic reality is that a cult of secrecy reigns at every level of government in this nation, from town and shire governments through to the state and federal levels.

While there are many in the public service who understand that they are servants of the public which pays their salary, there are almost as many who see their role as solely to serve their administrative and political bosses while thwarting the public they are meant to serve.

The Australian’s FOI editor Michael McKinnon sought access to material, including working documents, from Treasury relating to bracket creep in the income tax system and particularly to the first homeowners scheme, including possible fraudulent use of the scheme and the take-up of the $7000 first homeowners’ grant by wealthy individuals.

Treasurer Peter Costello blocked the request through the use ofa conclusive certificate, issued onthe grounds that release of thematerial would be contrary to the public interest.

Section 36(1) of the FOI Act exempts internal working documents from FOI if it is deemed disclosure would be contrary to the public interest. Such documents may include opinion, advice or recommendations presented during the deliberative processes of an agency or minister or of the Commonwealth Government.

Section 36(3) provides that aminister, if satisfied that disclosure of such a document would be contrary to the public interest, may sign a certificate specifying the ground of public interest.

McKinnon’s first port of call was the AAT, which supported the Treasury claim that release of the material would mislead or confuse the public due to its complexity.

The AAT upheld this view and after a further appeal, this was supported by the full bench of the Federal Court before the case was taken to the High Court.

While the High Court decision’s legal precedents may be rolled-gold, there is now another aspect to consider and that is the spirit of FOI, the question of transparency.

Is information regarding bracket creep an issue which threatens the security of the nation? I don’t think so.

\Is the Australian public mature enough to assess working papers and come to an intelligent decision? I think so.

Labor’s shadow attorney-general Nicola Roxon predictably jumped aboard the bandwaggon yesterday proclaiming FOI to be “a joke under this arrogant, out-of-touch Government’’... blah, blah, blah.

Federal Labor, she said, was already committed to the abolition of conclusive certificates. This would ensure the public interest test was applied more thoroughly and consistently and establish a pro-disclosure culture, by changing the objects of the Act. As squadrons of pigs fly by in formation.

She did not mention, as Costello was at pains to, that since the introduction of FOI every Labor Treasurer, with the exception of John Kerin (who wasn’t around long enough to get his feet under the desk), issued conclusive certificates.

That’s right: Paul Keating, John Dawkins, Ralph Willis, George Gear and Brian Howe all embraced the cult of secrecy.

When the AAT found Keating didn’t have reasonable grounds to block the release of information, he did anyway.

Costello’s defence that releasing “working documents, drafts, which are replaced. Quite often they’re not accurate. It would be like asking the judges to release the drafts upon which they based their decision,’’ is as paternalistic as the views of the AAT, Federal and High Courts.

But he has thrown down the gauntlet to Labor with his challenge to the eight state and territory ALP governments to support Roxon and introduce comprehensive FOI immediately. As they say, don’t hold your breath.

This country’s politicians and public servants treat ordinary citizens with contempt and disdain and FOI, and equally repugnant privacy laws, will remain in place because they suit the governing class, just as the judiciary is enamoured with suppression laws that increasingly prevent us from monitoring the administration of justice in suburban courts.

While the media may appear to be the immediate losers and many in the public enjoy seeing the press take a shellacking, the continuing denial of transparency makes the nation the big loser.

Will it take a Suppression of Information law to give Australia the freedom, openness and transparency it deserves?

Weasel said...

Times columnist David Aaronovitch asks for help. I know he’s of the Left, but his cause is just and I feel we should pitch in:

Today a reader e-mailed me with a question. He had read something by the celebrated Australian journalist, John Pilger, which included the following anecdote:

“During the Cold War, a group of Russian journalists toured the United States. On the final day of their visit, they were asked by their hosts for their impressions. ‘I have to tell you,’ said their spokesman, ‘that we were astonished to find after reading all the newspapers and watching TV, that all the opinions on all the vital issues were by and large, the same. To get that result in our
country, we imprison people, we tear out their fingernails. Here, you don’t have that. What’s the secret? How do you do it?’”
My reader wanted to know if this story was true...............

I said I doubted, judging from the way it was written, that it was something that Pilger had witnessed personally. Indeed it seemed unlikely that anyone he’d met had witnessed it either, otherwise he would surely have said so. Not only that, but the whole story seemed unlikely. I met quite a few Soviet journalists and while - on their own - they might occasionally hint at the difficulties they faced, none ever spoke about torture or prison. In a group, in which there would certainly be a KGB informer, there would, I think, be no chance of such an exchange. Unless, of course, the KGB chap was the one who initiated it.

I did a little searching, and while the latest version of the tale was told by Pilger in a speech at Columbia University, the earliest I could find was in a New Statesman article that Pilger wrote in February 2001. As something of an anorak on the subject of myth and their provenance I would like to ask readers if they can help me track down the origins of this anecdote. Comments for or against Mr Pilger will be slightly beside the point unless they reveal other, similar convenient fables.

Weasel said...

The polarisation of the press is not a recent thing.

Menzies made the ABC when neither Murdoch nor Packer would publish his views.

Lincoln created the Republican party as a unity ticket to draw support from Democrats.

Horatio Nelson was apalled at the revolutionary excess of France in the 1790's. He proposed the unpopular view that England should try to prevent the bloodletting. Nelson was opposed by Fleet Street, and in moves reminiscent of the Queensland Government moving to remove Bob from Steve Irwin, Fleet Street (or was it Grubb?) attacked Nelson's lifestyle.

The irony of the Pilger story is not lost on me, I just think it too recent to be credible.

Weasel said...

Brendan Gleeson, professor of urban management and policy at Griffith University, scientifically explains why releasing more land to give poorer Australians a cheaper house is bad:

Nature’s getting grumpier, the earth less patient with the harm we’re inflicting on it...(L)and can’t be treated as a free gift from nature any more.
If we dare question this faith and ask for more land, Gleeson promises to respond with reason and compromise:

Many of the signatories to the compact city accord, notably environmentalists and influential urban thinkers, had to lay aside ambitions to halt greenfield expansion altogether. If the anti-planning campaign provokes a return to war, the no-growth banner will be unfurled again. Many will rally to its standard, antagonised by the ferocity of the attack on the compact city consensus.

Weasel said...

James Cook University’s Merv Bendle observes:

IT is hard to believe Australian academics take terrorism seriously. Indeed, research into terrorism in Australia faces two main challenges: academic lack of interest and indiscriminate use of the simplistic “class, sex, race” theoretical template to produce predictable research results, showing that it is invariably the West and not terrorism that is at fault.

In 1927, Julien Benda published The Treason of the Intellectuals, denouncing their timidity in the face of rising fascism. Are we facing the same problem now?

He gives examples of our own errant “intellectuals”, including some familiar names:

Such a perspective was provided at a public forum on the causes of terrorism, organised by Deakin University in May. Scott Burchill, senior lecturer in international relations, argued that “most terrorism in the modern world is state terrorism, committed by governments either directly or indirectly. Much of it is Western state terrorism."
Bendle is just the latest evidence that James Cook University has, strangley, become a rare hotbed of good sense.

Add him to the list that already includes Dr Peter Ridd:

I asked another scientist, Dr Peter Ridd of James Cook University’s department of physical sciences, if he’d noticed how the big institutional money seemed to go to the ones who say the scariest stuff on global warming.

“Yes,” he said shortly.

But silly Ridd, formerly with the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences, won’t play by those rules.

He instead points out the “most of the supposed threats to the reef, whether from global warming or agricultural run-off, have in fact been grossly overstated”.

And Professor Bob Carter:

I’m a scientist…it’s my job to be a sceptic, Michael, and those who are not sceptical towards human-caused global warming or, indeed, towards any other fashionable environmental concern, are acting in unscientific manner…religious, even… Is there a social consensus on human caused global warming? Well, yes, on some things. For example, all competent scientists agree that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, but there are huge differences of opinion about the amount of warming that will be caused by increasing the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; there’s no consensus about that at all. And, in fact, overall the evidence suggests that any warming resulting from that cause will be minor.