Sunday, December 25, 2005

Pondering over war during Christmas festivities

Photo © Nord-Ouest Production

I saw Joyeux Noël, and excellent european movie, a couple of days ago.

It is one of the best movies I have ever seen. The contrast between soldiers who choose to celebrate Christmas in the trenches of World War 1 and the official response to their actions is heart rending. The movie is inspired by a true story which happened on Christmas Eve in 1914 .

The lunacy of war and those who encourage it is apparent.

I couldn't help thinking about the American, British and Australian soldiers sent to Iraq to solve what George Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard now classify as a "regime change, lack of democracy and terrorism" issues, now that their apalling "mistake" about "weapons of mass destruction" has at least been admitted by George Bush and Tony Blair .

These political leaders should know better than to conduct a war based on ideology and politics; the problems arising from it will haunt future generations like the Berlin Wall did and the partion of Korea still does. The parallels with Vietnam are disturbing too. The Americans will eventually leave Iraq - the question is not if but when, and what will they leave behind.

A monument symbolising peace and to mark the 90th anniversary of the 1914 "fraternisations" is is planned for construction in 2006 in the village of Neuville St Vaast. It is greatly encouraging to see people focussing on and working for peace.

Link to the official movie site

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Family First call for lower petrol prices is irresponsible.

Family First’s call for lower petrol prices demonstrates a lack of regard for the problems of climate change. Global warming is acknowledged as the single biggest problem facing the globe. It is quite clear that low petrol prices only encourage the use of fossil fuels, which is a major contribution to exacerbating global warming.

Petrol prices are rising as oil reserves are being depleted, but the price still does not reflect the true cost of fossil fuels in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Perhaps Steve Fielding should start looking for family friendly ways to reduce our consumption, instead of adding to the problem.

No family impact statement for the IR legislation; none for the VSU legislation, which passed with Steve Fielding’s pivotal vote after confidential meetings with John Howard and Brendan Neilson; no family impact statement for his call for lower petrol prices.

Now funding for child care and other services at Universities will be reduced.

What is Family First really doing for families? Is Stephen Fielding just playing politics and compromising our future?

No regrets on VSU vote: Steve Fielding

Family First calls for fuel excise cut

Friday, December 16, 2005

Take your own action on greenhouse

Submitted as a Letter to Editor

It is most unfortunate that Senator Campbell chooses to cling to the coal industry-sponsored myth that Australia’s dirty brown coal can somehow be “clean and green” for energy production, and that he is prepared to waste money on futile research on this. It is equally unfortunate that he chooses to belittle viable alternatives such as wind and solar power and focus only on economic growth.

Australia’s lack of engagement with and commitment to the rest of the world on setting targets for emission reductions is an abrogation of our responsibility as global citizens - Senator Campbell’s excuses for Australia refusing to ratify the Kyoto agreement are both feeble and impossible to fathom.

Australia is missing a golden opportunity to become a world leader in manufacturing and exporting renewable energy technology. We have the technology, but no political will to promote and encourage industries to create secure long term jobs in this sector.

With our political leaders bereft of any vision or leadership for creating a roadmap to sustainable energy, it is incumbent on us all to do what we can at a personal level. Some easy actions are buying energy efficient appliances and low power light globes. While solar panels on your roof are more expensive, the greenhouse emission reductions commence immediately.

And you can choose carefully whom you vote for in future elections.

Peter Campbell

My talk at Politics Week at Caulfield Grammar School

This is a report on my participation with Politics Week at Caulfield Grammar School, Wheelers Hill Campus.

I was invited to represent the Australian Greens at a Politics Week event at Caulfield Grammar School, Wheelers Hill Campus on 29 November 2005.

The event was organised by the school as an early part of a subject for Year 9 students being provided by the school to improve the student’s knowledge of political processes.

The speakers at this event were:

Paul Kavanagh (Democrats), Kim Wells (Liberal, Scoresby), Noel Maughan (National, Rodney), Peter Campbell (Greens), Maxine Morand (ALP, Mount Waverley).

The speakers introducing themselves to the assembled students and provided some information on their personal background, how/why entered politics and some background on their party’s history and platform, including current issues of priority for the party - on both a National and State level.

Small group sessions were then held, with a speaker allocated to each. These sessions provided a means to further explain and explore current issues and related party policies, and for questions and answers.

I provided my group with an overview of the Greens and our vision for a fair, independent and sustainable Australia and our platform of supporting and promoting the values of peace, democracy, care for the environment and social justice. I stated that we believe this is important for our shared future in terms of both sustainability and social cohesion.

Some current national issues I covered included the anti-terror laws, public education, climate change and industrial relations. Some local and state issues I covered included improving public transport infrastructure and services, equitable funding for public health and education, improving the liveability and sustainability of our cities, channel deepening impacts, water usage, the Gunnamatta outfall, protecting our water catchments from logging

I got each of the students to ask a question. Interestingly, most of the questions were on national issues. Some of the questions were:

“Will the greens legalise drugs?”

I replied that the Greens will not legalise drugs. The Greens support the removal of criminal penalties for drug users, but not for drug traffickers. We support treating drug usage as a health issue, not a criminal issue.

“Van Nguyen lived nearby and would have brought drugs to Australia that may have killed some of my friends – what to you think about his impending execution ”

I replied that Van Nguyen was a convicted drug trafficker and should have been dealt with appropriately by Australian Law – including a jail sentence if warranted – but that his execution was a very excessive penalty that the Greens oppose. In addition, the drugs he was carrying were already confiscated, and he had confessed, repented for his actions and cooperated with police.

“Where the recent hurricanes in America to do with climate change? Is there any proof of this?"

I replied that the overwhelming body of scientific evidence has now confirmed that the greenhouse effect is real and happening, but that it is difficult to prove that any single weather event is due to it. However, there has been an increase in the number and severity of hurricanes. And the artic seas are very late freezing this year which is causing polar bears to starve as they cannot access their hunting grounds on the sea ice. I also stated that the Howard government’s proposal to invest in research on trying to “make coal green” was a very bad decision and a waste of time and money.

Overall, the students were well informed and up to date on current issues. It is interesting that some of the scare tactics used by the Murdoch press, the Liberals, Nationals, Family First and Lindsay Tanner during the 2004 federal election seem to be still current in many people’s minds. I think we need to continue our efforts and focus on countering this smear campaign and shift the focus to our positive views for our future.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Why I have nominated for Greens preselection for Southern Metropolitan

I believe we need Greens in the Victorian Parliament.

I am seeking preselection as The Greens lead candidate for the Victorian Legislative Council seat of Southern Metropolitan. I am very keen to promote the policies of The Greens during the 2006 Victorian State Election, and hopefully in the Legislative Council if I am elected.

I believe it is vitally important that all Victorians have the opportunity to vote for The Greens and have their views properly represented in parliament. I also believe that both major parties are failing to deliver on many environmental and social justice issues at State level, which makes it even more important for The Greens to be in parliament to work for better outcomes in these areas, and to make sure that all the values embodied in the Greens charter are represented in the way Victoria is governed.

These values - supporting and promoting peace, democracy, care for the environment and social justice – are important for our shared future in terms of both sustainability and social cohesion.

Some important local issues for both Southern Metropolitan and Victoria that I am actively campaigning on and supporting include:

  • Investing in and improving public transport infrastructure and services, including cycle paths. The Brack's government's huge spending on freeways will encourage more motor vehicle transport which will contribute to more congestion and greenhouse gas emmissions in our cities. I have am leading an reinvigorated proposal to develop the Eastern Rail Trail bicycle path along the Box Hill railway line. I believe that commuter quality bicycle paths should be constructed along all of Melbourne's railway easements.

  • Equitable funding for our public health and education systems so that quality health and education services are available to everyone. In particular, more funding is needed for childcare to support families and parents with young children.

  • Improving the liveability and sustainability of our cities, including urban development and planning challenges such as Kew Cottages. The Bracks government has mismanaged plans for both Kew Cottages and Camberwell Railway station. We need genuine and effective community consultation to ensure that Melbourne 2030-related and other urban development initiatives benefit everyone, not just developers.

  • Channel deepening impacts - the Brack's goverment has not got the business case sorted out for this ill-considered project. The environmental impacts and degradation are considerable. Pandering to the interests of business lobby groups at the expense of our local environment is just not on.

  • Water usage and conservation and ensuring adequate environmental flows to keep our rivers and streams healthy. Mellbourne's appetite for water is impacting regional areas such as Gippsland - large quantities of water are diverted from the Thompson River catchment to Melbourne - which affects the health of the Gippsland lakes.

  • The Gunnamatta outfall - we need to stop the pollution and recycle the waste water - not just doing annual "reviews" of this issue that achieve nothing. We are swimming in our own effluent at Gunnamatta.

  • Protecting our water catchments and old growth forests from logging. The Brack's government continues to allow logging in domestic regional and metropolitan water catchments which impact

  • Reducing greenhouse emissions by shifting to renewable energy. The Bracks government recent extension of the life of the coal burning and greenhouse gas polluting Hazelwood power station is both disingenuous and negligent, as the greenhouse effect is now well and truly upon us. There is no point pretending that brown coal can be green-washed.

  • Supporting the adoption of guidelines for the Victorian Native Vegetation Management Framework and provision of funding for public acquisition over time of a visionary conservation reserve network for greater Melbourne

The Greens will be campaigning on these issues and more during the 2006 Victorian State election, and if elected, for the term of government. Your vote can make a difference. Every Greens primary vote counts, and elected Greens will ensure your issues and priorities are championed in the Victorian Parliament.

More information on my nomination.

What the polls and analysts say

Antony Green Analysis: The Draft Victorian Legislative Council Boundaries.
July, 8, 2005. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)

Greens Gain Two Seats in Victorian Legislative Council, Under Proposed Changes
Finding No. 3877 - July 21, 2005, Roy Morgan Research] Morgan Poll

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Breach of Petro Georgiou's backbencher agreement highlights need for real change

TO: Petro Georgiou, MP
CC: Amanda Vanstone and John Howard

Dear Petro,

The recent breach of the agreement you and other Coalition backbenchers obtained from Prime Minister Howard and Immigration Minister Vanstone on changes to immigration procedures highlights the need for real change rather than backroom deals.

The centrepiece of your immigration deal made earlier this year was that the detention of children would only occur as a last resort. However, the government has kept the infant children recently arrived from Indonesia in immigration detention.

This is a clear breach of your agreement, and shows why the Government needs to make legislative changes to prevent children from being detained.

Backroom deals have simply not stopped the detention of children, which puts Australia in breach of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Migration Act should be amended to forbid the detention of children.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Howard's anti terror laws must be amended to protect our freedom of speech

I believe that John Howard's proposed hastily drafted anti-terror laws will compromise freedom of speech in Australia, particularly the sedition-related clauses.

John Howard and Philip Ruddock should respect the democratic process of the recent Senate inquiry and accept their own Senator's recommendations for amending this legislation.

If these recommendations are ignored, then both our freedom of speech and the fundamental workings of our democracy will be compromised. The current extended Asio powers are sufficient for dealing with the terrorist threat to Australia – which has unfortunately significantly increased since the Howard government ill advisedly committed Australia to supporting the war in Iraq.

We must look for peaceful solutions to conflict and international relations issues rather than continued military action, which is a really only making matters worse in places like Iraq. And of course, neither George Bush nor John Howard has an exit strategy for Iraq.

Prior to the United States-initiated war against Iraq (which was based on the false premise that there were weapons of mass destruction), Iraq was not sponsoring terrorist activity outside its borders, even though there were many serious human rights abuses internally.

After the invasion of Iraq, the killing and disruption resulting from the so-called "war against terror" has contributed to creating a generation of disaffected Iraqis, some of whom may now unfortunately retaliate via terrorist attacks. And serious human rights abuses continue in Iraq.

In short, the “war against terror” has made Australia and the world a much less safer place.

There is now no easy solution to either terrorism or stopping the impending civil war in Iraq.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

IR and terror laws are driven by ideology and mock democracy

If the Victorian Liberal Party senator Judith Troeth and the Liberal-National dominated Senate pass the problematic Howard Industrial Relations laws without alterations then this is making a mockery of our democracy.

Senators such as Judith Troeth are supposed to represent the people, over 150,000 of whom have just protested in Victoria in Melbourne's largest ever rally against these unnecessary and retrogressive laws which are based on ideology rather than any subjective facts or evidence about how to improve our economy.

The Senate probe has just found serious issues with the IR laws, which will now apparently be ignored. So much for due process and accountability. So much for heeding the wishes of the people and acting in our best interests.

The Howard government is hell bent on pushing through a series of ill-considered, poorly drafted laws based on ideology such as the IR and terror laws. They don't have a mandate from the people for either.

This is clearly an abuse of political power and is not in the best interests of social cohesian or the future of Australia.

We need consensus-based laws which take into account the wishes and aspirations of the people, rather than a headlong rush towards extreme economic rationalism, globalism and fear-based politics.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Confusion about terror laws - Howard scare mongering

I am confused. On Thursday 3/11 John Howard said the Australian Government had received specific intelligence and police information this week alerting it to a potential terrorist threat. He also stated that Government was satisfied that the urgent and immediate passage of new terror laws would strengthen the capacity of the law enforcement agencies to effectively respond to the threat. He even recalled the Senate to make these urgent changes.

However, on Friday 4/11 John Howard informs us that we should not expect arrests within days just because urgent terror legislation was rushed through Parliament.

So what is the real urgency behind this? It does not appear to be a specific or immediate terrorist threat, based on the above contradictory statements made by John Howard. Is it a desire to rush through hasty and ill-considered legislation that compromises our human rights?

Rushed legislation has a high risk of being bad legislation. We need leadership from our political leaders rather than scare mongering.

The only thing certain is that Australia has become a less safer place since John Howard sent Australia to war in Iraq based on faulty intelligence. Let’s not make a similar mistake by passing bad legislation in undue haste that will not actually prevent terrorist acts.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Release David Hicks from Guantanamo Bay and censure Howard

I find it completely unacceptable that both George Bush and John Howard claim that setting up kangaroo courts (5 years in the making) outside of any country's established legal system and keeping David Hicks interred in inhumane conditions at Guantanamo Bay is a good and fair process. Clearly it is not.

I also find it completely unacceptable that both George Bush and John Howard justify this by saying that the detainees "have done bad and terrible things". They have provided no proof of this and there is no fair process for testing the evidence. Many of the detainees have now been released without any trial or charges, but not David Hicks.

Even the photo of David Hicks with a rocket launcher published in many newspapers is not relevant. It was taken in Kosovo, not Afghanistan or Pakistan.

John Howard has publicly made several allegations about David Hick’s involvement with terrorist groups, which have not been assessed by any independent legal process.

John Howard has also stated that “the Australian Government is satisfied that the United States Military commission process will provide the proper measure of justice to David Hicks”.

This is not supported by Australian legal experts, nor by the Blair government in Great Britain which stated that the Guantanamo Bay detainees would not be tried under fair standards and that the detainees rights to a fair trial and not to be tortured must not be compromised, and then got all UK detainees released.

John Howard appears to be guilty of a crime against humanity by supporting the “outside of law” treatment of David Hicks by the United States, in breach of his human rights.

It is a sad day when our political leaders take on the role of judge and jury and don’t respect the human rights of Australian citizens. Let us hope this aberration does not extend to them becoming executioners as well.

David Hicks should be immediately returned to Australia then either tried under the Australian legal system or released if no charges are laid.

For more information see Amnesty International report: Guantánamo Bay - a human rights scandal and

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Use tanks to address our water shortage, not new dams

Andrew Bolt’s comments about the looming shortage of water for Melbourne indicate a degree of denial and ignorance about the fact that we live on the driest continent on Earth.

The primary issues concerning our water are that we don’t have a lot of it, we use too much and we waste too much.

Building more dams would be a very expensive stop-gap measure that would not actually improve the situation much. Water taken from another catchment area (such as Eildon or the Mitchell) would be robbing country consumers such as irrigators to send the water to Melbourne, as already happens with the Thompson catchment.

Water quality and quantity can be easily improved if we stop logging our water catchments.

Domestic water consumption can be greatly reduced by using rainwater. Our house in Surrey Hills is self-sufficient for water. We only use a small quantity of Melbourne water for drinking; we use tank water for everything else.

The Government is doing a commendable job encouraging less water wastage in gardens, but they need get serious and stop the ocean outflow at Gunnamatta, which wastes water that could be reused and pollutes the ocean.

Building more dams would be a foolish, expensive and ineffective distraction from the real solutions for addressing our long-term water usage and supply needs.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Howard's extremist anti-terrorist legislation smacks of fascism

I find John Howard’s draft anti-terrorist legislation to be both extreme and ineffective. It is highly questionable whether this legislation will prevent terrorist attacks, but it is quite clear that it will compromise basic human rights and freedom in Australia.

If this legislation is enacted you could be arbitrarily arrested and held incommunicado without charge if you were seen with a daypack and police judged you to be a potential terrorist, perhaps influenced by the colour of your skin.

You could also be shot and killed under the “shoot to kill” provisions, as happened to an innocent man recently after the London terrorist bombing.

The lack of safeguards and monitoring of these suggested new powers for police is very worrying, as is Howard’s attempts to conceal the detail from the public under the cloak of confidentiality.

These extreme powers, combined with a lack of accountability for the police who could exercise them, are simply inappropriate in a free and democratic country like Australia. You would expect to find powers like these in a fascist state. Are we now sliding towards this?

The ill-considered war and occupation of Iraq, based on lies about weapons of mass destruction, has fomented a generation of terrorists in Iraq and surrounding Arab states. The Howard government has actually contributed to a worsening of terrorism, despite all their rhetoric to the contrary.

Attempting to put out fires with petrol simply does not work. There is no easy way out of this mess that John Howard has contributed to, but a focus on peaceful resolution of conflict would be a good start.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Confused Environment Minister Campbell wants cattle to resume grazing the Alpine National Park

Ian Campbell seems to be confused about whether he is Minister for Environment or for Agriculture. His latest scheme to resume cattle grazing in Victoria’s Alpine National Park would result in continued damage to our alpine environment and electric fences throughout the park.

Kosciusko National Park has been protected from cattle for decades; the Victorian Government’s decision to protect our Alpine National Park is commendable and well overdue.

In addition, very few graziers enjoyed the special privileges of grazing their cattle in the Alpine National Park and their traditions are protected by their continued access to high country outside the park.

It is high time Minister Campbell focussed on protecting our natural environment rather than pandering to the questionable interests of minority lobby groups.

See also:

Federal plan restores grazing rights (ABC)

Alpine grazing plan rejected (HeraldSun)

Monday, October 03, 2005

Logging blunders unacceptable

Recent “logging blunders” by The Department of Sustainability and Environment (The Age, 3/10) clearly demonstrate yet again that the Department is not capable of managing their conflict of interest between protecting our forests and logging them too.

It is simply unacceptable that these blunders have led to the destruction of our forest that is supposed to be protected, which is home to threatened species such as the long-footed potoroo. With friends like this, our forest doesn’t need enemies.

In addition, breaches of the so-called “code of forest practices” have been occurring for years without adequate policing by the Department. No substantive action has been taken about breaches that have been detected over the last two decades.

Rather than conducting more audits, Environment Minister John Thwaites needs to taken urgent and immediate action and ensure that the Department is prosecuted for all breaches.

He should also reinstate separate management for our National Parks, old growth forests and water catchments that are simply too precious and important to be ignored by a department that is intent on logging at any cost.

Link to The Age article on this.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Nuclear debate is a dead end, renewable energy is the way forward

The opening of the "nuclear debate" does not bode well for our future. Mining uranium, processing it, then using nuclear fission to generate power and produce toxic waste can hardly be regarded as sustainable.

The substitution of nuclear fuels for fossil fuels simply replaces one form of non-sustainable energy production with another, albeit much more dangerous and toxic.

Nuclear power and the transport and processing of radioactive waste are hugely expensive and highly risky.

It is far better for us to focus on developing technology for harnessing and using energy from truly sustainable sources such as the sun, the wind and waves. Australia is still at the forefront of research on solar energy - even though government funding for it has been greatly reduced. We can create both local employment and a thriving export industry for renewable energy technology and products. We need to encourage our political leaders to do this.

Let's aim to get solar panels onto the north-facing roof of our houses. We have twenty on the roof of our Melbourne house and produce two thirds of the power we need. This is far better than extending the life of coal-burning power stations.

We also need to reduce demand for power by encouraging the production and use of low energy appliances and lighting. This is a quick and easy win - but has been surprisingly neglected by our politicians.

It is time to get Australia on a genuinely sustainable footing and display some leadership for the future and the benefit of coming generations.

World Leadership...really?

Author: Peter Friend

The leaders of the World met in New York at the UN to try to solve some of the most challenging problems we face. Issues like poverty, inequality, racism, health, and even the great distracter of terrorism.

John Howard naturally attempted to stride (even in micro power walking steps) the stage and made a huge commitment to increase Australia's aid donation. Sorry it was not a commitment but a goal, or was it a target or intent that he may not quite be able to see in the distance, as he won't be around to implement it? Naturally linked to this idealism is the sharp edged sword that says that if anyone wants our help they'd better learn to tow the line, create political institutions that mirror our 'open democracy' drive out threats to national security like peace activists and sign up for free trade. Again John was unable to recognise that in our 'Lucky Country' there is a significant proportion of the population that has terrible life expectancy, poor health, lousy housing, massive unemployment, drug taking as an escape from misery and a level of incarceration that makes the Deep South look positively benign. These people of course are our Aboriginal brothers. Where's the concern for them?

Tony Blair then repeated this bizarre logic of the rescue of the poor through trade. So, Countries of sub-Saharan Africa can solve their problems by turning their arable land over to the production of cash crops such as coffee for us in the West to buy. This leaves the populations with less land to grow subsistence food crops and will drive them increasingly off the land into the overcrowded Cities. Some hasn't worked yet in Ethiopia where most of the beans for Heinz baked beans are grown and bought at prices that are controlled by the buyer who has power over the producers. The other great trade saviour is of course the oil industry with its appalling record of corruption and environmental damage as seen in Nigeria.

Nothing was said about solving the scourge of AIDS that threatens to depopulate such Countries as Zimbabwe and South Africa of their African peoples. Naturally, the religious right won't permit a solution to this problem for a range of reasons. First, the black people of the World are simply reaping the whirlwind they sowed themselves and in the way of 'Third World' politics, where everyone is responsible for their own outcomes, if they caught this disease they earned it and must pay the price. Secondly, they don't have the capacity to contribute to the hedonistic societies that abound in the USA or here, so they have no economic capital that is worth saving, and finally if the drug companies cannot make a profit selling anti-AIDS drugs to Africa then they simply won't sell them at all.

Sometimes I just need to vent my frustration. If things are working out the way they look to be in this country I expect my phones to be tapped and maybe have to explain why I should not be deported back to the land of my birth, despite having lived here for 40 years.

Peter Friend

Saturday, September 10, 2005

LETTER: Stoking the flames of fear

Author: Peter Friend, Heathcote, NSW

Published in The Age, 10 September 2005

NO ONE can deny that Australia faces real threats, and that the Government has an obligation to protect us. But let's be sensible. There has been one terrorist attack in mainland Australia since 1978, and the Sydney Hilton bombing is still wrapped in suspicion about who did it. There were three unfortunate deaths. Even if we include the terrible butchery in the Bali bombing, in which 88 Australians died, the comparison between deaths from terrorism and the more accepted causes is very small. Between 1989 and 2005, 31,779 people were killed on our roads and about 9550 were killed in workplace accidents.

None of the measures suggested in this knee-jerk legislation will stop even a harebrained schemer, let alone a well-trained activist, getting to their target. Someone in the Government is clearly well-versed in the writings of George Orwell in the way that fear and loathing are raised and lowered to suit the political climate. When the heat in the political kitchen gets too hot, light a fire of fear in the backyard to distract us.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Bracks government tries to green-wash brown coal

In early 2003, the second term Bracks Government hosted a meeting to allocate greenhouse reduction targets between various states and territories and establish a timetable of how to achieve it.

Bracks also established the Sustainable Energy Authority to promote renewable energy and ensure Victorians have access to energy efficient choices, programs and rebates. Then he committed to reducing greenhouse emissions from the energy sector via the Victorian Greenhouse Strategy.

Unfortunately, Steve Bracks has now let us down by extending the life of the coal burning and greenhouse gas polluting Hazelwood power station. This decision is both disingenuous and negligent, as the greenhouse effect is now well and truly upon us. There is no point pretending that brown coal can be green-washed.

We need to transition from burning coal to renewable energy sources, and we need to do it now.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

An energy roadmap for the future - weaning ourselves off oil

Recent predictions of a petrol price rise to $1.30 per litre in Australia should be no surprise. Fossil fuels are non-renewable resources so their price will inevitably rise as demand increases and supply cannot keep up or reduces. Petrol prices will climb to $2 then $3 per litre in the not too distant future – and there is no apparent strategy for dealing with this.

What is really surprising is the “head in the sand” attitude of our political leaders such as John Howard, Peter Costello and Kim Beazley. Australia’s Bass Straight oil reserves will be severely depleted within five years, while our total oil reserves will be severely depleted within thirty years, yet our politicians trundle on apparently oblivious.

Our society has developed an “oil dependency”. Transport of food, goods and people consumes vast amounts of oil every day, so the effects of oil price rises will have serious repercussions on everyone. Lower income people will most affected, as they will lose a much greater proportion of their disposable income.

Yet our politicians are presiding over the building of increasingly grandiose freeways and tunnels – which have the effect of encouraging vehicle usage and therefore oil consumption.

It is time we had a roadmap for the future to promote and develop more sustainable and effective transport options such as public transport, cycling, and CNG and hydrogen fuels.

Here is a site with some interesting information on this topic:

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Article: Blogging to be free

An interesting article on the importance of blogs for free speech, and associated human rights issues.

Blogging to be free
Perspectives | CNET
August 16, 2005, 4:00 AM PT
By Curt Hopkins

"I've never been much of an activist. I lack that certain species of self-regard necessary to join the army of collar-tearing St. Sebastians who populate the peace industry.

But one morning I read an article about the detention and torture of Iranian bloggers. Within half an hour I had conceived and started the Committee to Protect Bloggers, or CPB. Here was a cause that required no hairsplitting. Simply put, no one, for any reason, should be tossed into prison and tortured for what he or she says. I was not alone.

Within a month, thousands of bloggers from around the world, of different creeds, religions and political orientations, had expressed their support. And when, a month after that, on Feb. 22, we staged "Free Mojtaba and Arash Day," tens of thousands of bloggers around the world joined our attempt to focus attention on these two detained Iranian bloggers."

Full text

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Greenhouse emisssion reductions required - Howard government is negligent

After years of steadfast denial that the greenhouse effect exists, the Howard government has now grudgingly concluded it is real, but only after its most recent scientific report has stated what we have known for years – that it is already upon us.

The Howard government’s refusal to ratify the Kyoto protocol, even after it argued for and got an increase in Australia’s greenhouse emissions on the basis that Australia is a “developing economy”, has been a breathtaking display of both ignorance and incompetence. Glaciers have been melting and cyclones, hurricanes, storms and drought have all been increasing in frequency and severity over that last two decades.

Environment minister Ian Campbell is ill-informed if he thinks further investment in dubious, high risk and expensive coal-related technologies is the answer.

We need to avoid building any new coal-fired power stations, and we need to set a roadmap to exit from burning fossil fuels. This may take thirty years, but it is critical that we do everything we can to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We need to promote and invest in wind and solar power – we can even create jobs and exports in these industries.

Rather then entering into a new and dubious environment pact with the United States, we need to set more aggressive reduction targets than Kyoto specifies and re-engage with global efforts to address greenhouse via the United Nations.

Our Melbourne house has twenty solar panels. We have reduced our domestic electricity consumption by over 70%, and we put clean green power back into the grid during times of peak load. Major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved immediately, but we need the political will and foresight to do so.


Sunday, June 19, 2005

A bad outcome, and some other possible factors for Petro's recent stand

I stood as the Greens candidate for Kooyong (against Petro Georgiou) in 2001 and 2004.

In 2001, Kooyong received the highest Green primary vote % of any conservative held seat in Australia (10.7%, +6.67 swing)

In 2004, Kooyong received the tenth highest Greens primary vote in Australia (12.54% +1.82 swing) despite a very negative "anti Greens" PR campaign waged by the Murdoch Press and the Liberal and National parties. Kooyong was one of only 3 seats in Victoria that swung (-1.36%) against the Liberals. The others were Corangamite and Higgins.

In both elections, my platform included ending mandatory detention of asylum seekers.

While Petro has taken an admirable initiative in proposing his private member's bill on ending mandatory detention (I have sent him two emails of support), it think it is interesting to note that:

  • He has nothing to lose by this initiative as he is on the outer circle of the Howard government.
  • He has had an undistinguished career on the backbench for 8+ years. There is not really much to show for his claimed "influence in the party room".
  • He has been losing votes in a blue ribbon seat - Kooyong is now held by less of a margin (9.58%) than Aston (13.15%), which was a marginal seat in 2001.
  • He stands to gain votes on this issue in Kooyong, where the treatment of asylum seekers has been causing a lot of ongoing serious concern for both conservative and ALP voters.
  • He has now done a deal with Prime Minister Howard and gained some concessions, but not ended mandatory detention, in exchange for not tabling his private member's bill.

The outcome looks to me like it is being regarded as:
  • a "win for Howard" - softening the Liberal's stance slightly (but little substantive policy changes). Letting the children out of detention is a good thing - but they should never have been there in the first place.
  • a "win for Petro" - for his bold initiative and "taking on John Howard". He has gained a lot of uncritical media on this issue - despite not having delivered much. He has not succeeded in ending mandatory detention.
Unfortunately it is a loss for Australia as we still have a policy of incarcerating innocent people - in breach of their human rights - as a deterrent against more coming, and we have granted further discretionary powers to a minister (Vanstone) who has proven her reluctance to use them.

It is also a loss for our democracy. Yet again, our parliamentarians don't have to vote on an issue that is of critical importance to the social health and international reputuation of Australia. Howard has gone to extraordinary lengths to stop the proposed private members bill.

Every vote in parliament should be a conscience vote, rather than along the "party lines" which are written by apparatchiks.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Conscience vote required

Sent: Monday, 13 June 2005 4:58 PM

I think Petro Georgiou is doing a fine job as my local member representing me on the issue of Australia's treatment of asylum seekers. I have conveyed to him that I find the locking up of children and asylum seekers for an indefinite period behind razor wire to be barbaric and inhumane.

The Howard government uses mandatory detention as a deterrent to would-be boat people. This puts us in breach of basic human rights and the United Nations convention on the treatment of refugees.

Georgiou and the other "renegade Liberals" are to be commended for seeking change to this inappropriate policy via his private members bill.

Our democracy is in a sorry state with John Howard desperately seeking to prevent the bill being tabled. In addition, both John Howard and Kim Beazley have flagged a likely block of a conscience vote on the private members bill.

This would be an abrogation of our democracy. Let's have true representation, conscience, and see how our parliamentarians vote outside the shelter of indefensible and morally bankrupt "party lines" of both the Coalition and the ALP.

Peter Campbell
Former Greens Candidate for Kooyong, 2004 Federal Election

The Wellbeing Manifesto & conscience votes

Starting this blog to enter my thoughts and observations on the environment, living sustainably and breathing some life into Australian democracy.

I attend the launch of the Wellbeing manifesto in Melbourne tonight. It was an inspiring event - highlighting the need to guiding principles in society and better democracy. I commented that every vote in the Australian Parliament should be a conscience vote, and we should get to vote on referendums for substantive issues like going to war or policies such as mandatory detention of asylum seekers (see the letter I have written on this in the next post).

Currently, major party policies are created in the back room by apparatchiks with little or no member participation. They are trotted out to buy votes during elections and to score political points. Then we vote for an MP who never knows what his electorate wants and can't represent us anyway because they have to vote along party lines ...

The ALP moves to the right to try and gain economic credibility, the Howard Government moves to the left by handing out cash to buy votes in marginal seats.

Where is the vision and leadership we so desperately need?. We run out of Bass Straight oil in 3 years. World oil production has just, or very soon will, peak, yet we are still building freeways.

I ran as the Greens candidate for Kooyong in the 2004 and 2001 Federal Elections and the 2002 Victorian State Election. Our success in 2002 was rewarded by repeated attacks and smears by the likes of John Howard, John Anderson and Peter Costello. Despite all this, the Green vote increased 2% to 14%, putting Kooyong in the top 10 Green seats in Australia.

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." Mahatma Gandhi.

Good on Petro Georgiou for pushing his two private members bills on ending mandatory detention of asylum seekers. Let's hope they get tabled and voted on in parliament.