Saturday, September 2, 2017

Change the day, but keep the date

Sunday, September 3, is Australia’s Independence Day. This is not a day that is celebrated in this country. The truth is, very few would be aware that September 3 marks the anniversary of the day that Australia first cut the cord to the Mother Country.
In all the current emotional debate around the significance of Australia’s national day it is important to start with the facts. The same goes for all the controversy around Section 44 of the Constitution and MPs’ allegiances.
The main contentious passage in Section 44 reads:
Any person who is under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power … shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.”
The High Court will determine the legalities of MPs’ citizenship status today. However, for the public debate it is important to know that when this was written there were no Australian citizens. There certainly were Australian characters, and the term “citizen”, was used essentially to distinguish between those who lived here and those who were just visiting.
However, Australia’s permanent residents were all British subjects. Therefore when the Constitution referred to “a foreign power”, it meant foreign to the British Empire.
Five years after Section 44 was written, while ruling on a case between the Attorney-General and Ah Sheung, the High Court stated: “We are not disposed to give any countenance to the novel doctrine that there is an Australian nationality as distinguished from a British nationality.”
John Curtin, The first Prime Minister of an independent Australia.

The ANZACs, although made up of troops from Australia and New Zealand, were officially British soldiers under Imperial command.
A quick skim through the newspapers and Hansard in the early 20th century certainly gives the impression that, although Australia was strongly parochial, it was also proudly British.
When the United Kingdom opened the door to independence for its dominions with the Statute of Westminster in 1931, there was no vocal appetite to take up the offer Down Under.
Australia’s independence was forged in the furnace of World War II.
It was 75 years ago, as the war raged in Europe, Africa and the Pacific – with the Japanese bombing Darwin and sending submarines into Sydney Harbour – that the Curtain Government became concerned it did not have any authority over Australian troops on board British ships.
Ben Chifley was the first Prime Minister to hold Australian citizenship, although he remained a British national.

This is when it decided it would be a good idea to action sections of the Statute ofWestminster, declaring Australia’s independence.
“We are an Australian Government responsible primarily to the people of Australia,” said the then Foreign Minister Doc Evatt. “We need this legislation in order to remove burdensome restrictions and unsatisfactory delays which still clog the rights of Australians to control their own domestic affairs.”
Despite reservations of the conservative Opposition, the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act was passed on October 9, 1942, but its affect was back dated to the “Commencement of War between His Majesty the King and Germany”, September 3, 1939.
So the Commonwealth of Australia entered the war as a British dominion and came out as an independent nation, albeit under the Crown.
However, the idea of Australian nationality remained a “novel doctrine”. Australian residents were all still British subjects.
The post-war immigration boom was rapidly changing the nature of Australia down the pathway toward the multicultural society we have today.
“There is amongst Australians a growing sense of our Australian national identity — reflecting the growth in our population and in our stature amongst the nations of the world,” said Australia’s first Minister for Immigration, Arthur Calwell, in 1948. “The Government accordingly considers it to be desirable, progressively and by whatever means are reasonably possible, to give primacy to the expression 'Australian citizen'.”
With that he introduced the Nationality and Citizenship Bill, for its second reading in the House of Representatives.
“The introduction of this Bill is proof that Australia has really grown up,” said the Member for Wilmott, Gil Duthie.
Again the Bill struck opposition from the conservatives.
"We must have a care that in creating the new, we do not destroy the old, and that in this new-found freedom we do not impetuously impair our allegiance to the Mother Country," said Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party Eric Harrison.
“We are drifting further and further apart in outlook from the Mother Country, and it appears to me that we are veering more and more towards a policy of isolationism.”
The Nationality and Citizenship Act was passed in 1948, to take effect from January 26, 1949.
But still, Australian citizens remained primarily British subjects and their nationality was officially British until the Gorton Government in 1969 amended the Nationality and Citizenship Act to give primacy to Australian citizenship.
John Gorton with his wife, Bettina. He was the first Prime Minister to hold Australian Nationality.

It was the Hawke Government in 1984 that finally did away with Australian’s dual citizenship status. From then on they were no longer British subjects.
There is much debate right now about Australia Day, January 26. Both major parties officially support the date, but you don’t have to be clairvoyant to notice it is with diminished enthusiasm.
Nobody is pushing for Independence Day, September 3. Perhaps the way forward is to stop focusing on the raising of the Union Jack on January 26, 1788, claiming the British colony of New South Wales.
Instead we should celebrate the more inclusive January 26, 1949, when the newly independent nation of Australian granted citizenship to its diverse population.

For Australia Day, we can change the day, but keep the date.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Bob Menzies was a British citizen

While he was Prime Minister of Australia, Robert Menzies did not have Australian citizenship. His nationality was officially British.
He retained his British citizenship all his life.
In fact every Prime Minister and MP up until the Hawke Government in 1984 were British citizens.
Why was this not a problem under Section 44 of the Constitution? I guess that’s a question for the High Court.
The fact is the term “citizen” of Australia was just an administrative concept to distinguish between those who lived here and those who were just visiting.
Up until World War II – when Prime Minister John Curtin shunned Britain and  legislated Australia’s independence – Australia was a British colony and its citizens were all officially British nationals.
So when Section 44 of the Constitution refers to a “foreign power” it was referring to nationalities other than British.
So why is it a problem that National Party Deputy Leader Fiona Nash or Senator Nick Xenophon are entitled to British Citizenship?  I guess that’s a question for the High Court.
Australian nationality was not formally introduced until 1969 when the Government of John Gorton passed an amendment to the Nationality and Citizenship Act (1948).
But even after that, Australians continued to be British subjects until the Hawke Government repealed British citizenship for Australians as part of the Australian Citizenship Amendment Act 1984.
So does that mean Bob Hawke or John Curtin are responsible for all the problems of dual citizen MPs we are facing right now?
I guess that’s a question for the High Court. 
John Curtin and US General Douglas MacArthur meet at Parliament House on 26 March 1942. Picture Courtesy the National Archives. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

September 3: Australia's Independence Day

There is much debate right now about Australia Day, January 26. Like loyal subjects we celebrate the day we became a British colony and raised the Union Jack. I guess as we are still under the Crown, it is disloyal to celebrate – or even talk about – Australia’s official Independence Day, September 3.
Loyalist, I guess, back in the day felt that declaring Australia’s independence was a slap in the face to the then King of England.
But for the record, the United Kingdom granted many of its colonies the permission to be independent nations with the Statute of Westminster, December, 1931.
Australia finally took up this offer during World War II on October 9, 1942 with the Westminster Adoption Act. However, it’s effect was official backdated to the beginning of the war, September 3, 1939.
If we really want a national day that all Australian’s can celebrate, it should be Independence Day, September 3.

Siamo Dio, We Are God.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Flow

Being one with the flow takes constant thought and effort
A river is hard to read.
Just when you think you are floating effortlessly along it takes a turn,
Mid-stream moments ago is now marooned in a dank pool
Amid the polystyrene and the plastic bottles.
A river is so much more than water.

Dedication to traditional technique is a trap
“Stay with the fast water.
“Anticipate, left, left, one right, left, left, left, now two”
Devotion to rosary rhythm leads you blind
Past the wrens and willy wagtails under the willows.
A river is so much more than water.

Routine can run into rapids round any corner
“Can I buy you a drink?”
“Daddy look at me.”
“I’ve found someone else.”
“I’m afraid I’m going to have to let you go.”
“You’d better be sitting down for this.”
Ronald Dworkin died as the meteor exploded over Siberia,
The brunette dressed as a man stole ten minutes
For coco and a cupcake,
Bloody Sunday widows won fifty grand for their dead,
And the summer breeze lifted a skirt in Acland Street.
It’s the flow,
That mystical moment when moving becomes dancing,
The rocks part as you sail through with the white water.
A river is so much more than water.

Suddenly stillness.
The banks retreat towards the horizon,
The water vanishes into tranquil reflections.
Sky, stars, moments, those words, that day.
Moving like the Hajj, we all drift past the shore into the vast blue.
A river is so much more than water.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The World’s Great Big New Year’s Resolution

Steady on with all the cheering over the Paris Agreement adoption. Let’s just keep this in perspective. It is essentially an early New Year’s resolution. The good news is all the politicians of the world seem to be aligned.
In order to achieve that alignment they have issued lots of politically promises. We all know how solid political promises are. These promises don’t even have a deadline. They will be delivered “As soon as Possible”.
My New Year’s resolution is to go on a diet, become a vegan and lose half my weight “As soon as possible”. Which can also mean “When Hell Freezes over”.
The Australian ABC’s reporting of this historic event – like sadly much of the news media – is factually wrong, and if it was true to its Charter it would immediately issue a correction.
In its summary of the deal it states that:

 The Historic Climate Deal
  • Deal to limit global warming to "well below" 2C, aiming for 1.5C (wrong. This is only a wish. The current international pledges go nowhere near this goal)
  • Greenhouse gas emissions need to peak "as soon as possible", followed by rapid reduction (“as soon as possible” means “whenever”)
  • Deal will eliminate use of coal, oil and gas for energy (This is just wrong. The agreement makes no mention of “coal”, “oil”, “gas” or “fossil fuels”)
  • Fossil fuels to be replaced by solar, wind power (Again there is no mention of “solar” or “wind” power)
  • Developed countries to provide $US100b a year from 2020 to help developing nations (this is a political promise. “Show me the money”)

The Paris Agreement is a great achievement, but it is the first step in a long journey. It is certainly not what the ABC and many “Green” organisations and news media are hailing it as.

If you want the reality, read the New York Times

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

ISIL recruits our right-wing politicians and shock jocks

Terrorism is extreme public relations. This is not some new phenomenon that has suddenly arisen in the Middle East and is threatening the free world. It is simply warfare 101 – propaganda.
The objective is to manipulate public opinion in order to achieve your goals. The weapon of choice is the oldest and most powerful known to mankind – fear.
Success for the current ISIL terrorists will depend on their ability to recruit politicians, commentators and, most importantly, members of the media into helping them spread fear and division in our communities.
Terrorists use fear in the same way politicians use it to win votes, media use it to sell papers or attract viewers and advertisers use it to sell everything from insurance to soap.
So what exactly are the terrorists after?
A key objective of wartime propaganda has always been to win over our vulnerable youth – young boys and, albeit to a lesser extent, young girls. Those going through that malleable, impressionable, often rebellious stage of life – from teens to mid-20s.
The young ones that World War I poet Wilfred Owen referred to as “children ardent for some desperate glory”.
Most of our soldiers are recruited in their salad days. We’ve all heard the stories of boys lying about their age in order to qualify to be sent to their slaughter.
It’s that idealistic, “invincible” age when our kids are most at risk of dying in a speeding crash, suicide, or being lured into some cult or cause, like Philby, Burgess and Maclean.
It’s also a beautiful age when they are searching and passionate like the early years of Dylan, Jagger, Joplin, and Cobain.
ISIL is after our youth, and they need outspoken, opinionated journalists, broadcasters and politicians to help round them up and push them towards the cause. They need people who promote division, fear and rage in the community.
The debates about the burqa are just perfect. Any comments or actions that marginalise muslims is just what ISIL needs right now.  
Their objective is to use fear to tap into those rich veins of xenophobia flowing through our sprawling white-bread suburbs in the same way our politicians do.
Those who can, terrorise communities by delivering “ordinance” – napalm, cluster bombs and even nuclear bombs – from 30,000 feet. Those who can’t have to be more innovative, like the IRA and the Jewish Underground fighting British rule after World War II, the Resistance fighting Nazi’s during World War II, or the Palestinians today.
One big mistake that many of our politicians seem to make is assuming that foreigners who don’t speak English must be stupid. They need us Westerners to tell them what to do – to train them.
As Kurt Vonnegut said: “Do you think Arabs are dumb? They gave us our numbers. Try doing long division with Roman numerals.”
ISIL has proved that today you don’t need expensive ordinance and mass killing machines. A knife, a well-chosen victim, Youtube, a few naïve politicians and media personalities can be assembled into a very effective terrorist weapon system.
The result is to spread fear and energise xenophobes into assaulting muslims, and attacking mosques in our communities. 
“Our concern is young men, very juvenile in their outlook and often very insecure,” as Professor Greg Barton, director of the global terrorism research centre at Monash University, said in the Australian Financial Review. “If they have an experience where their mother, their sister or family member was treated badly, that only contributed to their anger and sense of alienation.”
But it doesn’t even have to happen to their family directly. When they witness attacks in the media they can well imagine it happening to them and their families.
Almost all the messages and information coming out of Iraq and Sudan at the moment, from all sides of the conflict, reek of propaganda.
We are getting all sorts of stories about how “evil” this “death cult” is and the atrocities they are inflicting on the hapless people of Iraq. Some of this may well be true, but I feel most of it is about as true as the stories of Iraqi soldiers going into hospitals in Kuwait and murdering babies in humidicribs in the lead up to the first Gulf war.
I find it hard to believe that ISIL could have such spectacular success on the ground war without considerable support from the communities they were invading/liberating. Remember they haven’t come down from outer space – they are Iraqis and Syrians.
This looks very much like the war so many warned would be the result of the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
It’s just a run-of-the-mill turf war in the Middle East that we have for some reason decided to join in.
Thanks to the excellent work of our security services and police, ISIL would find it impossible to get its soldiers into our country. So it’s up to their propaganda corps –the terrorists – to infiltrate our communities and turn just a handful of our young people into terrorists. Just like the British boys who blew themselves up on the London Underground in 2005 with devastating results.
So far – with the help of our tabloids, politicians and the usual racists – they are doing a bang-up job.
We need to be aware. This is war. Words are powerful weapons and very dangerous in the wrong hands.
Sacrificing our liberties is a mistake. We need to stand up for our principles. To create an environment where everyone feels free to express their true feelings – where our angry youth can vent their vile rage without fear of prosecution or persecution.

The answer comes from blogger Iain S Thomas: “Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”  

Friday, October 10, 2014

Time to make the faux fur fly

The growing movement to get churches and universities to divest their share portfolios of fossil fuels would have to go down as one of the most pathetic, naïve campaigns in history.
As a journalist who has worked in the fossil fuel industry for many years I can tell you selling their shares is not the way to hurt the industry.  Many of the major fossil fuels companies are buying back their own fracking shares for Christ sake!
So here’s a bit of inside information for Bill McKibben,, and all those municipal councils, churches and universities who have joined or are joining the fossil-fuel divestment movement – stop splashing around in the kiddies’ pool.
If you really want to hurt the fossil fuel industry I have two words – faux fur (“fake fur” for those too young to remember Brigitte Bardot).
If you really want to hurt the “big polluters” don’t boycott their shares, boycott their products.
And what better way to start than by mobilising Hollywood and the fashion industry. Faux fur is pure fossil-fuels, it’s made from petrochemicals and coal.
Get Hollywood to go back to Mink. How hard can that be? They may not openly admit it, but you know the women would love it! Have you ever felt a Mink coat?
And for the men, bring back hunting! Oh yes, if you’ve ever tried it, you will know deep down how much you’d love to go back.
Think of the environmental benefits here in Australia if we could turn all our feral animals – rabbits, foxes, camels, pigs, deer -- into furs. The bilbies would be dancing in the forests.  
Believe me if you can get celebrities and the fashion industry to go fossil-fuel free that will do far more damage to share prices than a few unis and churches selling their interests.
Promoting divestment of fossil fuels while continuing to be a loyal fossil-fuel customer is only cutting off your nose to spite your face.
If your objective is fossil-fuel free, you need to get out of the kiddies’ pool, put your togs on and swim some laps.
Fashion is just the beginning. Once we get rid of faux fur, spandex, nylon, polyester etc, you could then take it to the next phase.
 Google “How to turn my car into a chicken coop”.
I guarantee if you can get that movement going the oil companies would start divesting their own shares.
Then it’s time to focus on going 100 percent renewable energy for our electricity.
Again, as an insider, I can reveal that this is a lot easier than they are telling you.
They are distracting you wind and solar – again, kiddies’ pool.
Apart from being hopelessly inadequate – wind and solar are both dependent on fossil fuels for their raw materials – silicon, lubes and greases. So forget about them.
Real renewable energy comes from hydro and biomass – we need more dams and more wood.
For relatively little cost we can convert Hazelwood into a wood burner.  This has proved to be a very effective tactic for meeting renewable energy targets in Europe.
Even Australia exports wood pellets to Europe to help meet renewable energy quotas and in some cases burning wood is cheaper than coal.
Well we could really ramp up this energy by burning wood for baseload power in our coal plants. Think of the jobs created by resurrecting our timber industry. Then watch what happens to the price of coal shares.
If you are serious about going “fossil-fuel free”, don’t get churches to divest of their shares, get the congregations around the world to divest of fossil-fuel products.
For Lent, Catholics could rid themselves of their synthetic clothes, plastics, smart phones, computers, TVs etc.
Go back to hunting for Lent! Then watch who divests of fossil fuels.
Dive into the deep end, really go fossil fuel free.

If you don’t, you’re obviously a “climate sceptic” who doesn’t care about our planet.