Thursday, January 26, 2006

Australian history and our national identity

John Howard’s recent “ claiming of victory in national culture wars” is yet another example of his penchant for denying both our historical roots and Australia’s current position on national identity and the appalling circumstances that many indigenous Australian’s live in.

He is also divisive and narrow-minded in his use of language by “claiming victory” in a referring to “a war” and labelling considerations about our national psyche and identity as a “phoney debate”.

The Australia I live in is still a colony of Great Britain with a British Queen as the head of state, when I and a clear majority of Australians believe it should be a republic.

Indigenous Australians are discriminated against by Government policies. They suffer low employment, low life expectancy, high substance abuse, very poor health and often appalling housing conditions. They have no treaty, and their attempts to gain native title have been treated with contempt. Equating seven generations of white Australian residency with over 40,000 years of indigenous occupation is a bit rich. But I do agree that there should be better recognition of and education about indigenous Australians, who did lead truly sustainable lives.

With the Cronulla riots, we are also faced with the recent re-emergence of racism, and a level of denial from John Howard. Well John, denying racism it won’t make it go away.

I am not sure exactly how John Howard thinks that changes to the way children are taught about Australian history will improve matters, or what his speculation is based on. Is the Howard Government going to start rewriting our history books based on their neo-conservative and revisionist philosophy? Will they mandate these for state and private school curricular? Will compliance to this be policed?

The way forward to building a more cohesive and forward looking Australia is to acknowledge our true history, make a treaty with indigenous Australians, give them title to their lands and work with them to improve their health and housing. We should also become a republic with an Australian head of state. And we need to counter emergent racism with improved education and by building consensus between all Australians, whatever their origin, rather than a continued focus on division and revisionism. Our national values and character need to be built and embraced by all Australians, not just on the jingoism of neo-conservative politicians. They need to be reflected and protected by a bill or rights.

Our young people are at risk of being served up an education diet of selective and biased claptrap proscribed by a ministry of propaganda, then being scared and frightened by the increased threat from terrorism that the Howard government’s policies have exposed Australia to. Let’s work together to make sure this does not happen.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Julian McGauran abandons his party, principles and country constituents

Senator Julian McGauran is spot on when he states there is no significant difference between the Liberal and National parties on policy matters - the Nationals have been drifting closer to the Liberal party for years.

Both support the fire sale of Telstra, which will compromise communication services in the bush. Both support the dubious and flawed so called Free Trade Agreement between Australia and the US, which benefits the US but not us.

And now we have the combined spectacle and sideshow of Barnaby Joyce pontificating about crossing the floor, but allowing the Howard Government to slash funding for student services and proceed with the sale of Telstra.

Julian McGauran has abandoned his party, his principles and his country constituents to boost his own political fortune and curry favour with the city-centric Liberals.

Abandoned by the Nationals, ignored by the Liberals and overlooked by Labor, country people would do well to consider voting Green at the next election.

LETTER: A red-hot foretaste of the hell to come

Author: Dr Peter Christoff, vice-president, Australian Conservation Foundation

Published in The Age (letter), 2nd January 2006

For the past nine years, John Howard has told the world to go to hell on the issue of climate change. Well, Saturday's record scorcher gave us a foretaste of exactly how hot that version of hell will be. The future is one of temperature extremes, and a catastrophic transformation of the natural - and human world, unless we act with extreme urgency and effectiveness to counter global warming.

Australia has refused to cooperate with attempts to create an effective and binding international treaty to tackle global warming. It is now truly time for the Howard Government to outline a plan of genuine cooperation with the international community on this, the most important and threatening of global environmental issues.

Beginning with ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, such action must also include a national strategy for adaptation to climate change, and substantial measures to wean Australia off its fossil fuel-addicted economy.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Victoria needs more trains and an integrated transport plan

Victoria’s trains are clearly routinely overcrowded, and yet Transport Minister Peter Batchelor is sitting on his hands. The Victorian Government has invested next to nothing on improving our rail transport infrastructure, yet they have spent over $360 million on the Craigieburn Bypass and have completed a $2.5 billion tender to build the EastLink tollway route through Melbourne's east.

Motor vehicles are not the answer to Melbourne’s and Victoria’s transport needs as they require the use of petroleum-based fuels, which Australia will run out of in the not too distant future, and they just clog up our city. The Bracks Government’s priorities are wrong, partly because they have not developed an integrated transport strategy instead of just building more roads, and because they are out of touch with what the public wants.

Now we hear from Mr Batchelor (Age 5/1) that our already overcrowded trains will “still be safe” when we cram in more hapless commuter sardines, despite the lack of a maximum safe passenger load specified for trains. Wake up Minister, we need more trains, more tracks, a more frequent and better integrated service and some forward planning. Instead we are just getting more roads and more ticket inspectors. Public transport is looming as a big issue for 2006 State election. Perhaps this will sharpen the Bracks Government’s focus.

This was submitted as a Letter to the Editor to The Age