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Category: Accountability

Gaza: The Final Solution?

15 February 2024

As the Israeli army threatens to invade the last part of Gaza, Australia, Canada, NZ, the UN and most of the world ask them to stop.  The citizens of Gaza were already crowded into a very small area. Then they were moved to the South, then into ever smaller areas.  Now military action will kill large numbers who have nowhere to shelter. It is like shooting fish in a barrel.

Netanyahu says that he wants to destroy Hamas and that the hostages must be there somewhere.  Presumably as he has not found them in the areas he is already occupying.

He is still trying to defeat Hamas militarily and always has intelligence that they are hiding in the civilian population.

The idea that Hamas is separate from the population it governs is absurd. It may have a military wing, but it is a political party that was voted in. The reason that they were voted in was because the Palestinian Authority were seen as patsies for the Israeli government, corrupt and concerned with land rezoning kickbacks in the putative capital of the West Bank Palestinian state, Ramallah.

But even if the Israelis killed everyone associated with Hamas, their actions have guaranteed generations of hatred for the Israelis. The ‘war on terror’ was a silly slogan, as terror is a means of fighting that underdogs use, not a religion, a cause or a people.

Which begs the final question; what is Israel doing?  Netanyahu is under a great deal of pressure personally in that he is facing corruption changes and he has actually passed legislation to disempower the courts. This was a cause of many demonstrations before the Hamas raids on 7 October that triggered the current war. He is also dependent for power on far-Right Zionist parties for the survival of his government.  In a way he needs the war.

But I wonder if this final stage is actually the final solution of the ‘Palestinian problem’.  Israel has pretended that there would be a ‘two state solution’ as it pushed Palestinians off their land and out of their Jerusalem houses, gave their jobs to immigrant guest workers so that they had no means of support, and kept them in a gated city, Gaza.  Having deliberately made a two state solution impossible, they then made peace with adjoining countries and talked about a ‘regional solution’, which sounded very like ‘you take the Palestinians’.  Now, they may be saying to the rest of the world, ‘Are you going to open the border and let these people escape to the Sinai or will we kill them all?’  Of course if they go to the Sinai they will be a huge refugee problem, but it will not be Israel’s problem, it will be the world’s problem- a ‘regional solution’, as Israel will not take them back.

Israel is already a pariah. It has nowhere to put the Palestinians and would have to rebuild Gaza, which it will not want to do. It cannot integrate them as is being attempted in post-Apartheid South Africa, as the enmity is probably now worse than it was in South Africa. And Netanyahu’s far-right religious backers probably see this as an opportunity for a final solution. Do we really believe the stated reasons for their actions?  Who will blink first?

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Gaza Outcomes

4 February 2024

As Israel destroys all of Gaza and the refugees huddle on the beach one might ask what is the end point?

Israel claims it wants to destroy Hamas, because it is a ‘terrorist organisation’

But what does this mean? A terrorist is someone who uses attacks on civilians to create fear in a population to achieve a political end.  One could ask if that was what the Israeli occupation of the West Bank was doing already, failing to recognise land title, awarding Palestinian-occupied land to settlers and then sending the Army to defend the donated land for the ‘settlers’.

But leaving that aside, it is true that Hamas or groups associated with it used terrorist tactics on October 7th.  Terrorist tactics are almost always used by the weaker side for the simple reason that they cannot hope to win a more conventional conflict.

But Hamas were the elected government of Gaza, elected largely because the Palestinian Authority was seen to be corrupted by land development money and a patsy organisation for the Israelis.

Palestinians are actually quite an nonreligious people, but saw Hamas as at least on their side.

The Israelis response was at first called ‘self defence’ but the idea that killing 28,000 mostly civilians and flattening a whole city is an appropriate retaliation for 1,200 deaths seems totally unreasonable.

It is also unreasonable to think that Hamas can be defeated militarily. It is not a military problem.  Even if every last Hamas member were killed, their ideas will never be separated from the rest of the Gaza population. They have witnessed this unrestrained killing and destruction of their homes- it would be difficult to believe that in the long term they will not hate Israel.

So what is Israel’s objective? One could answer that it is the short-term survival of Netanyahu politically, but that is too simple.  Israel has pretended it wanted a two-state solution, which means giving the West Bank to the Palestinians. Yet it has systematically placed 750,00 settlers on all the high points of the West Bank, supported them and armed them to the teeth. It has deliberately made a two state solution impossible as a policy for the last 70 years.  As Netanyahu made good relations with Qatar, Dubai and Saudi Arabia, he started to speak about a ‘Regional Solution’ to the ‘Palestinian problem’.  This sounded very much like asking his Arab neighbours to take Palestinians as refugees/migrants.

Now the Gazans will have nowhere to go.  Their city is totally destroyed.  Who would pay for its rebuild?  Who will govern this wasteland?

It seems obvious that the Israelis want the Gazans to go into the Sinai desert in Egypt and then become a refugee problem for the UN and the whole world- i.e no longer a problem for Israel.  It has worked with the Rohingyas in Myanmar.

Biden is talking about a two-state solution, and not having the Gazans go into Egypt. How realistic is this?

 

Fillipo Grandi was Commissioner -General of UNRWA (the UN Relief and Works Agency) and visited Australia as a guest of the UN Association of Australia in 2012. He was Italian, a consummate diplomat and in charge of relief for Palestinian refugees. I chaired a meeting at the Sydney Peace Foundation at Sydney Uni where he was the guest speaker. He was extremely careful not to criticise Israel to the extent that I as a debater and politician marvelled at his skill as he fielded loaded questions from each side of the debate.

According to Wikipedia UNRWA now has 30,000 staff and employs a lot of Palestinian refugees to help administer their aid programme. This is hardly surprising.  There are few jobs for Palestinian refugees and the UN needs relatively cheap staff. Naturally they would use Palestinians to help their own people. It is therefore hardly surprising that with Hamas as the Gaza government, some UNRWA staff would be involved with them, and also unsurprising that some would be sympathetic to Hamas.

We might ask who discovered the connection between a dozen UNRWA workers and Hamas? Israeli security?  Now we see the US, Australia, the UK and others stopping funding to UNRWA.  The Gaza refugees are already starving.  Who does this aid cessation benefit?  Israel of course. The last hope of the Gaza refugees is taken away.

It seemed that the only two possibilities for a resolution of the Israeli/Palestine problem were either a two-state solution or a one state solution as advocated by Jeff Halper in his book ‘An Israeli in Palestine’ which was an Apartheid  reconciliation process similar to what happened in South Africa.  The chances of either of these solutions seems remote now, so the Israeli solution, of bombing and starving Palestinians out of Gaza and into Egypt initially and then anywhere else may be the only one.  In the West Bank, with their land taken and the menial jobs now being done by imported Sri Lankans, Filipinos and Indonesians rather than Palestinians, there will be pressure for them to follow their Gaza compatriots into exile.

I hope that I am quite wrong about this, but I doubt it.

Here is a new word for irreconcilably taking someone’s home, Domicide, in an article in The Guardian.

 

www.theguardian.com/world/ng-interactive/2024/jan/30/how-war-destroyed-gazas-neighbourhoods-visual-investigation?CMP=share_btn_link

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Secularism Australia Conference 2023

3 December 2023
I attended the Secularism Australia Conference on 2/12/23 at the NSW Teachers Federation in Sydney.
There were some interesting features:

Sponsors
There were a number of sponsoring groups, which cooperated to put it on. They were the NSW Teachers’ Federation, the Secular Assoc of NSW. Humanists Victoria, National Secular Lobby, Rationalist Society of Aust, Plain Reason and Humanists Australia. This seems a new level of cooperation, which is encouraging to see.

The Big Picture
Ex-Senator Chris Schacht drew attention to the 2021 Census which had 93% answer the religion question and a very large rise in the ‘No Religion’ percentage:
No Religion 38.9%
Christian 43.9% (Catholic 20%, Anglican 9.8%)
Not Stated 6.9%
Islam 3.2%
Hindu 2.7%
Buddhism 2.4%

It is also noteworthy that younger age groups are less religious with the 15-24 age group at 45.6% and 25-34 at 48.4%. Chris said that the political system and its patronage had in no way responded to this change and that it was necessary that they be forced to do so by more effective advocacy.

He said that a key problem was the reluctance of both Federal and State governments to reveal the true cost of the subsidies to religions. They get huge grants, pay no tax from their activities, not all of which may be charitable, and also have huge tax exemptions from State land taxes and Council rates. It would take quite an effort to get the full total of this, but it seems that neither Federal nor State gover\nemtns of both major parties do not want to draw attention to the issue. That is without considering aspects like private school funding, which is subsidised inequity. One politician when challenged said, ‘I have a 4% margin in my seat, and if I upset the Churches, it might be enough to change that’. Chris points out that if the ‘no religion’ votes were mobilised, it would certainly counter that fear, but most politicians have not considered the matter. And the ‘no religion’ voters have not demanded the end to these subsidies and unquantified tax lurks.

Senator David Shoebridge (whose speech is on his Facebook page) pointed out that there are 15,000 charities who receive government funding of $24 billion in addition to any tax-deductible donations. This is mostly for contracts for hospital or aged care services, but under legislation by Gillard they do not have to produce reports of how the money is spent!

School Funding
In terms of the Federal Government’s response to funding schools, Whitlam wanted a needs based formula and Gonski in his original report was similar, but the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) formula under Turnbull was that 80% of Federal money went to private schools and only 20% to public. Chris hoped to change the formula. The slogan should be ‘Excellence through Equity’ not through ‘choice and competition’, which has manifestly failed as Australia tumbles down the OECD Education rankings. Sadly the current Federal Minister of Education, Jason Clare, was photographed with the Parliamentary Friends of School Chaplaincy.

Religion and the Constitution
There was quite a lot of interest in the legal history, with Michael KIrby ex-Justice of the High Court and Prof Luke Beck an academic. The question was whether the government could support religion as the Constitution specifically forbids the government from having an official religion as discriminating on the grounds of it. There had been a prosecution of a Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) in 1894 for illegally working on a Sunday, and he had unsuccessfully argued that their Sabbath was on Saturday and he needed to work on Sunday. The guilty man was fined two shillings and sixpence (=25c) or two hours in the stocks. He chose two hours in the stocks, but it turned out that there were no stocks available and there was a bit of a fuss that the government declined to make any. SDA lobbying may have been the reason that the prohibition on the government sponsoring a religion was included in the Constitution. The precedent of course was the “Church of England’ set up by Henry VIII so he could divorce his first wife. Henry Parkes, the father of Federation did not want any mention of religion in the constitution, but the mainstream churches insisted, so it is mentioned, but not given any practical grounds to empower religious institutions.

When state money was first given to Church schools the Council for the Defence of Government Schools (DOGS) took a case to the High Court that it was unconstitutional to favour a religion. The High Court, whose members mostly came from private schools, ruled against the DOGS, Kirby himself writing a dissenting judgement. He wondered what would happen if the DOGS case were re-litigated today.

Religion and the Radical Right
Chrys Stevenson, a freelance researcher spoke on Christian Dominionism. These folk want a theological world where the second coming of Christ will be when there is a (Christian) God on the top of every mountain on every continent. I was inclined to think that this was crazy stuff, but it seems that huge amounts of money from the Right of US politics links to very conservative Christianity through the Atlas network, the Tea Party Movement and Charles Koch (22nd richest man in the world at $US 60 billion), There are quite a lot of ‘Think Tanks’ funded by these groups. It seems that a preoccupation with letting God fix things aligns quite well with unfettered market capitalism. There have been very successful efforts to put more religious people in political parties, particularly the Right wing evangelicals into the Liberals. The links between the religious Right and the US Republicans are well known. The Labor Party has a lot of Catholics. Chrys wonders if the religious nutters are ‘useful idiots’ for the Right. It may be crazy stuff, but I am less sure that it is irrelevant stuff.

Religious Education in State Schools
There was quite a lot of discussion of religious education in State schools. The National School Chaplaincy program was an idea of Peter Eawlings, taken up via Greg Hunt, Julie Bishop and John Howard. It had been previously called CHIPS (Christians Helping in Schools), but with the new funded program the new name for Chaplains became ‘Student Wellbeing Officers.’ Maurie Mulheron the ex-President of the NSW Teachers Federation noted the lack of qualifications of those delivering religious education in schools, which had increasingly been done by volunteers with a trend towards evangelicals as the only people willing to do it. They see it as an opportunity for recruitment. Bill Browne of The Australia Institute surveyed Chaplains on their knowledge of the National Student Wellbeing Program, which replaced the National School Chaplaincy Program. He asked 50 questions. 71% of Chaplains had not heard of the program, 10% were unsure, and 20% had heard of it.

Most schools had struggled to find alternatives to the Chaplains, and kids who stayed away for a free ‘do nothing’ period tended to be hard to get back to a school focus.

Prof Anna Halafoff had surveyed children 13-18 and found that 52% had no religion, as opposed to 45% in the 2021 census of 15-24 year olds.

A Western Australian teacher said that there was a preoccupation with Christianity, but she was concerned that girls in Muslim schools have to have their menstrual periods recorded as they cannot go to the mosque, which is a significant infringement of their privacy and human rights. She tweets under infidelnoodle.

Ron Williams had challenged religious education in schools under Section 51.23a of the Constitution, pointing out that $1.47 billion was spent on it since Howard initiated it, and that funding of $61 million a year was locked in until 2027. Albanese increased it to $307 million! Williams had run out of money so ran the case himself and lost in the High Court.

There is a group called FIRIS, (Fairness In Religion In Schools) run by Steven Cowgill and Craig McLachlan. The slogan is ‘Teaching not Preaching’. There is a similar group, ‘Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools’. It was felt that the teaching of religions should be by qualified teachers who would explain that there were diverse views with the object of increasing understanding and tolerance as well as ethical values.

Chaplains in the Military
Collin Acton was the former Director of Chaplaincy in the Royal Australian Navy. He pointed out that there needs to be reform of the Aust Defence Force (ADF) Chaplaincy service as the only training that the Chaplains have is a theology degree and there are a lot of problems in the ADF, PTSD being a major one. He wanted secular Chaplains, but the Religious Advisory Committee of the ADF targeted him and he was forced out. (There is a story about this on the Rationalist website). There are 150 full time Chaplains and 150 part-time ones, and all of them were Christian. The Navy changed this in 2017 and now has 2 Buddhists, 2 Islam and a Hindu. The British Ministry of Defence has its first 3 non-religious pastors! Acton points out that the major social divide in the ADF is between the military and the civilians. The Chaplains are embedded within the ADF so can be visited easily and without attracting attention. Seeing a counsellor or psychologist outside the military is likely to be noticed and may impact adversely on promotion prospects, so the existing chaplaincy service has an immense advantage.

Religion in Parliamentary and Council Governance Rules
There was quite a lot of discussion about the extent to which religion had embedded itself in society. Some politicians found it offensive that the Lord’s Prayer was said at the opening of Parliament every day, and absented themselves as I had while it was read. It is an opinion that since the Constitution forbids Parliament to make laws that favour any religion, the reading of the Lord’s Prayer is unconstitutional, but it has never been challenged, so the practice stays.

A local councillor from Boroondara in Victoria, Victor Franco, had challenged reading the prayer in his Council, which was in their ‘Governance Rules’. He pointed out that in the census 47% of his community were non-religious, 40% were Christians and 10% were the rest. He wrote to other councillors who still did not want to change. He said that he was going to mount a legal challenge with Prof Luke Beck and Morris Blackburn lawyers. A call for public submissions had 86% anti-prayer, and the Council caved in.

He had compiled some interesting figures of how many councils have prayers:
NSW 72/129 56%
Victoria 42/79 53%
Qld 35/78 45%
WA 11/137 8%
SA 23/70 28%
191/522 37%

He commented that because his Council caved in there was no test case that clarified the matter, and that it might have affected State and Federal Parliaments also.

Conclusion
The conference was felt to have been very successful in that a number of groups had come together to organise it.
It was intended to hold more conferences, regularly and in different States to draw attention to Secular issues and the anomaly of funding religions.
The huge rise in ‘no religion’ was felt to have been ignored and there was a large need to educate the politicians that the religious subsidies, tax exemptions and lack of financial reporting were no longer acceptable.
There was pressure on the politicians present to get the figures as to the extent of subsidies, which they conceded was necessary. All three present, Chris Schacht (retired Labor Senator), Senator David Shoebridge (Greens- NSW) and Abigail Boyd MLC (NSW Greens) said that they had tried without huge success, but would try again.
At an individual level, we need to get our voices heard!

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Power: the 50-25-25 rule

16 December 2023

When I was in Parliament someone said to me that big business had 50% of the power, all governments together 25%, and every other power group 25%.

It seemed a strange concept at first, but on reflection, I think it is about right.

Only after revolutions does it change much and historians argue over for how long.

Senator David Pocock, the Canberra independent, spent a lot of time trying to get the Government to release documents between Santos and themselves about the Barossa gas development in the Timor Sea.

THe reason for this was the Environmental Protection (Sea Dumping) Amendment (Using New Technologies to Fight Climate Change) bill 2023.

Santos is the front partner and 50% owner of the Barossa gas field with SK E&S, a Korean company having 35% and JERA, a Japanese company, 15%. They wanted to develop the largest fossil fuel project in Australia, (natural gas), just when Australia is supposedly getting towards net zero carbon dioxide. Quite apart from the fact that methane burns to carbon dioxide, natural gas, having been formed from the decay of carbon products, is usually found with large amounts of carbon dioxide in with the methane. The Barossa gas is worse than usual at 16-20% carbon dioxide. Santos therefore wanted a permit to separate the carbon dioxide, capture it and store it.

Jennifer Rayner of the Climate Council is one of the many environmentalists who point out that CCS, Carbon Capture and Storage has never been done successfully and is just a fudge to continue fossil fuel use. But it gets worse. When the carbon dioxide is supposedly all captured, it is to be piped to a supposedly exhausted gas field, Bayu-Undan, in East Timor 100 km away and injected into the wells there. What could possibly go wrong? East Timor is not a signatory to the Paris Climate agreement. And if that were not enough, the pipeline to East Timor will not be finished until 5 years after the methane is being shipped, so 5 years worth of carbon dioxide waste is simply to be exhausted to the atmosphere.

All thai was pointed out in Parliament by Pocock and the Greens. There is a carbon offset scheme, where Australian Carbon Offset Units (ACCUs) could be bought, but estimates have been that not enough of these could possibly be created to offset the amount of gas produced by projects currently in the pipeline and the price of ACCUs would rise. The Sea Dumping bill was passed with support from the Coalition. The Greens and Pocock held out, unsuccessfully.

The government resisted releasing the Santos correspondence until after the bill was passed and the correspondence said that Santos’ decisions had already been made and considerable investments undertaken and it would upset the Korean and the Japanese investors if the project were stopped or delayed. It seems that the Koreans and Japanese pressured Penny Wong and the Foreign Affairs Ministry and overcame Chris Bowen and the Environment Ministry. .


All this happened at the same time as the COP28 (28th Conference of the Parties of the 1992 Agreement)in the UAE (United Arab Emirates). UAE is the second largest economy in the Middle East after Saudi Arabia and exports 3 million barrels of oil a day. The president of the COP meeting was Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, who is also Minister of Industry of the UAE and head of the Abi Dhabi National Oil Company. How anyone could have expected a resolution to phase out fossil fuels to come from a meeting so constituted defies understanding. The whole setting seemed beyond satire. The final text, which seems very hard to get actually agrees to phase down fossil fuels but gives no timetable and allows gas as a transition fuel, which is effectively a loophole to increase gas production.

Environment Minister Chris Bowen said that it was ‘no small thing’ to agree to ‘transition away’ from fossil fuels. But what is all this worth with no timetable and no commitment to phase them out?

Pocock is an ex-Rugby player. My local rugby club has the motto ‘Facta non Verba’= ‘Deeds not Words’ and Pocock is true to the breed.

He said ‘As a country we’ve got to make the choice. Do we put our futures and the ..future..ahead of the short-term profits of a handful of companies like Santos?’

The answer it seems is ‘Yes’. Santos tells the Labor government what to do, and the Labor government does it. The Liberals opposed initially as they usually oppose everything, but when they found out about what Santos and the Japanese and Koreans wanted they quickly came on board.

The rule about 50-25-25 seems to hold good. 50% quickly became 75%, then 100%.

It is very hot today, and summer is not yet here. It would be nice to think that next year will be better, but it won’t, maybe ever…

Here is the story in The Saturday Paper. You might wonder why it is not in the other papers.


www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/environment/2023/12/16/emails-reveal-labor-caved-santos#mtr

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The Vicious Circle of Modern Politics by Barry Jones

10 December 2023

Barry Jones was a national quiz champion when Quiz shows tested knowledge not trivia. He became a Science minister in the Hawke Government from 1983-1900 and used to tell Parliament what was happening in Science and what its implications were for the future. It was a bit like throwing pearls to swine. They laughed because his pants were unfashionably baggy. But he did make some difference to policy.  At least knowledge had a voice.

 

He later became head of the Labor party and travelled campaigning for important issues and always taking a long view and a historic perspective. He believed, as we all did, that when more knowledge was generally available, policies would be better. Unfortunately social media, which allows everyone the same access to information also allows the same access to its dissemination, which seems to have given ignorance and simplistic populism a new lease on life.

He wrote in this week’s The Saturday Paper of how a vicious circle is created in modern politics.

www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/comment/topic/2023/12/09/the-shadow-very-bad-year#mtr

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Hospital Crisis is just part of the story.

6 November 2023


The hospital crisis is partly because General Practice has been so downgraded that more cases go to hospital than need to. The Federal government starving Medicare has a number of consequences:
Many GPs are simply retiring and there are no enough new ones taking their place, so we are getting towards a serious shortage
GPs cannot survive on the Medicare rebate, so now charge a co-payment.
Since Emergency departments are free, people wait until the situation gets worse then go there.
Emergency Depts are about 6 times the cost of GP visits, so the total cost of the Health Care system rises.
The other part of the Federal government starving Medicare is that the State governments pay for the emergency departments, so it is a case of the Federal government saving money by making it a lot more difficult for the States.
But an overriding fact is that Australia has been convinced by the neo-liberals that tax is a bad thing and government spending must be a small percentage of GDP. Currently this is about 38.4% of GDP, slightly less than the USA, which has very poor welfare and health systems. This means that the governments cannot actually afford to do anything, and behave like a corporation, cutting employee wages and making cuts wherever it thinks no one will notice, or it has the power to do so. Now if Labor ever tries to raise taxes, the Liberals, who are great exponents of small government accuse Labor of being ‘tax and spend’, and Labor, rather than have a serious debate merely retreats. The fact that he Scandinavian countries have government as close to half of GDP and have their citizens much better off never gets mentioned. Denmark is at 49.9%, Germany 49%, Finland 54% and France at 54%. The UK is at 45%.
We now have a failing GP sector, a problem in aged care, a shortage of nurses, paramedics on strike, a hollowed out public service that merely awards its former tasks to private sector operators that it cannot even monitor and Australia falling down the World educational standards table is not a coincidence. The governments have a virtual monopoly of these jobs. They have deliberately let wages fall, so that now people simply will not do them.
We need to stop privatising, rebuild that public sector so that it can deliver services that we need. Profit is merely another unnecessary overhead. We need to decide what needs to be done, and raise enough tax to pay the people to stay in their public service jobs. Education, health and aged care do not need a ‘market’ to function/. If one exists for comparison purposes, that is fine, but there is no actual virtue in having most of the services delivered by corporations that have the choice of good service or good profits. It is a con, and it is time we forced the government to give us Medicare and a health system that actually works for all, and education for all.
Here is a letter from my Medical partner in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

The horror stories now emerging about overloaded public hospitals, ambulances and emergency departments comes as no surprise to anyone following the downgrading of Medicare to a ‘‘mixed billing’’ system. This has made it unaffordable for many people to see a GP. But the real cost of turning Medicare into a two-tier system has been to the public hospital system. The only winners are private corporations, private hospitals, private health insurance funds and their many lobbyists in Canberra. We are going the way of the US, and if people don’t fight for Medicare, we are all doomed.
Con Costa, Hurlstone Park:


Here is today’s Herald Editorial

Health system needs its own emergency care
The state of health of the health system has dominated the lives of Australians for four years, but it has never been in such need of urgent care. Indicative of how working conditions for frontline healthcare workers have deteriorated, people now spend a median of three hours and 36 minutes in NSW hospital emergency departments, the longest wait ever. It’s little wonder that health workers are suffering burnout, stress and bullying and are leaving the industry in record numbers.
The COVID-19 pandemic sharpened awareness of our vulnerabilities and forced extra spending on hospitals, clinical responses, vaccinations and prevention measures.
And when we emerged from the pandemic’s worst days it became evident the health system too was experiencing difficulty recovering from years of stress. It had been deteriorating for a long time already, but post-pandemic we became uncomfortably aware that ambulances were queueing for hours to offload emergency patients and hospitals were under enormous pressure with lengthy wait times in emergency and admission.
GPs bumped up fees, forcing people who could not afford the $11-a-visit hike into hospital emergency departments. The industry is being further destabilised by the exodus of 6500 nurses and midwives a year.
If anything, the situation is worse outside the big cities. Last year, for instance, five deaths in regional hospitals could potentially have been prevented, but not in an overworked hospital system with staff shortages that make mistakes even more likely. The NSW parliament’s health portfolio committee report on rural, regional and remote health 18 months ago found a ‘‘culture of fear’’ which did not encourage or value feedback and complaints. Some workers say they were even punished for making complaints.
Now an investigation by the Herald has revealed a health system sinking further into crisis. Eight nurses and midwives have taken their lives in the past three years, while nearly 2000 NSW Health workers have lodged compensation claims for psychological injuries over the past two years. More than 33,500 NSW Health employees have also claimed they are burnt out, while 21,000 workers say they have witnessed bullying in the workplace. One in 12 ambulance employees hold a compensation claim for a psychological injury.
Experts and unions warn that the data, drawn from documents obtained exclusively under freedom of information laws and the state government’s recently released annual employee survey, People Matter, shows a workplace struggling with staff mental health concerns.
Further illustrating the stress, NSW Ambulance fielded a record 363,251 calls and fired up the lights and sirens for more than 181,000 emergency call-outs between July and September, the most of any three-month period since the Bureau of Health Information began taking records in 2010.
Money seems to be the root cause of health’s problems. Today’s national cabinet meeting will address the rampant cost blowouts in the NDIS and Canberra wants the states to take responsibility for funding treatments. On Friday, Premier Chris Minns and Treasurer Daniel Mookhey meet the Health Services Union over a protracted pay dispute threatening to collapse the NSW triple zero call system on New Year’s Eve. Minns said the money is not available.
The future funding and structure of our health systems concerns us all. It is an area where the federal and state governments share responsibility. The solution to the healthcare crisis is complex and will take time, but it is an area where increased funding must be found.
That clearly calls for a better national approach and the states responding with an end to parochial wheelbarrowpushing and finger-pointing.

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68th Walkley Journalism Awards- 23 November 2023

23 November 2023

The 68th Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism were presented in 30 categories, announced in Sydney on 23 November.
For those who like transparency, it does give rise to hope.
Edmund Tadros and Neil Chenoweth have won the Gold Walkley, Australian journalism’s highest honour, for ‘PwC Tax Leaks Scandal’ in The Australian Financial Review.
Antony Loewenstein won the Walkley Book Award for The Palestine Laboratory (Scribe Publications) for his analysis of how the Israeli arms industry tests its weapons and population control technologies on the Palestinian population, then uses this ‘testing’ as a sales advantage.
In addition this year, the Walkley Judging Board unanimously decided to present Chris Masters and Nick McKenzie with a special prize, the Walkley Honour for Media Freedom to recognise their Ben Roberts-Smith stories published in The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and on Nine/60 Minutes from 2018 to 2023.

www.walkleys.com/68th-walkley-awards-winners-announced/

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What is Israel’s End-Game?

25 November 2023

It is hard to see an end to the Palestinian conflict.

Zionists believe that God gave the Jews the historic land of Palestine, and this idea has been supported by some Christians who took the Old Testament literally.

After WW2, the Zionists did terrorist attacks on the war-weary British who let them return to Palestine. In 1948 they ‘Declared the State of Israel’ when they were about a third of the population, killed a village of Palestinians, which made the others flee. They then said that no land title prior to the State of Israel existed and all land titles had to be re-registered and all unoccupied land belonged to the State.  They have then declined to register Palestinian-owned land, so they can give away farms in the West Bank or even unoccupied houses in Jerusalem. Settlers, especially from Eastern Europe, are willing to fight to retain land that they are given on the West Bank.

In Jerusalem, the Palestinians had the menial jobs, which made it hard to pay the high rents there, and more recently Sri Lankans or others are given the jobs, so the Palestinians have to go to Ramullah to find work, which does not pay as well, so they have trouble paying their Jerusalem rent. If they move out or do not visit much, as checked up on by their electricity, water or phone location records, their houses are ‘unoccupied’ and given away. The bottom line of all this is the Palestinians being gradually squeezed out of the West Bank and Jerusalem. If they ever leave Israel they may not be permitted to return.

The settlements on the West Bank are now in a pattern on the high ground linked by roads so that the Israeli military can support any settlers troubled by the Palestinian farmers, now defined as terrorists, who try to defend their land. In Jerusalem, Jews own the West side and now take houses in Palestinian East Jerusalem, house by house.

As all this has gone on incrementally for years, Israel has pretended that it has a ‘two state’ solution, as it put the 700,000 settlers in the area that could or would have been Palestine. In other words it was happy to pretend that there was a ‘two state solution’ as they systematically made it impossible.

Hamas recognised that this was a nonsense. They won the elections in Gaza because the Palestinian Authority was corrupted by land deals.  Israel bullied Jordan and Egypt into compliance then started making wider friendships with Qatar, Dubai and Saudi Arabia and started to talk about ‘regional solutions’ to the Palestinian problem. It looked like the ‘solution’ for them was to go as refugees to anywhere but Israel.  This is why Hamas struck. Naturally everyone is upset about this, but no one suggests what they might have done as an alternative. Perhaps just attack an Israeli military base?

Now Israel has struck back. It is hard to see that flattening Gaza is a rational response.  Netanyahu, being personally corrupt, has retained power by sharing it with evermore dodgy coalition partners, from the fanatical Zionists to the fanatical Right wing. He has also tried to undermine the judiciary to avoid personal corruption charges. Now the much-vaunted Israeli spy network has been caught off guard, probably because they relied on AI tracking of Palestinian communications networks, which Hamas, sensibly enough, decided not to use.  Netanyahu, who was in trouble already and will now be blamed for the Hamas success has hit back to be the strong man.  But simply flattening a city with all its civilians may be revenge, but it is not a solution. He has flattened the Northern half of Gaza, while telling the citizens to move to the South, but cut off all food, water and medical supplies. Now he is bombing the South as well.

Where to from here? Israel seems more bent on revenge than having any rational policy. The other possibility is that they will make Gaza unlivable, and force the US and UIN to allow the Gazans into Egypt as refugees, which will start as temporary and become permanent as Israel does not rebuild Gaza, or let them return to Israel.  Israel will be pariahs, but they are already, and the refugees will be someone else’s problem. Numerically there are as many Palestinians as Jews and even if the Gaza population were moved, the West Bank Palestinians would remain.

The other alternatives are:

  1. The ‘Two State solution, with Israel either moving its 700,000 settlers from the West Bank, or getting them to live with the Palestinians sharing the land that they once owned or
  2. Israel grants equal rights to Palestinians within Israel, admits it was an apartheid state and has a reconciliation process based on the South African model.

In that the ‘Two State Solution’ and the ‘Apartheid reconciliation’ model both look absolutely impossible with the bloodshed, killing and bitterness that has been rekindled as never before, it is very hard to see a solution.  Yet there are still those who want Israel forced into a ‘Two State solution’ by sanctions, as seen below:

 

Two solutions for the “Question of Palestine”

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Argentinian Populist Wins Election

25 November 2023

I visited Argentina, Uruguay and Chile  for 4 weeks over Christmas 2018-9.

Argentina was a pleasant, orderly, developed country. The people were friendly, and you could sit in cafes in town squares where flamenco dancers performed, supported by tips from the enthusiastic locals and tourists.  The main part of Buenos Aires had been built, modelled on Paris around 1900, when Argentina was relatively rich because of beef prices. As commodities fell in price relative to manufactured goods, their economy has suffered. But the fine buildings in the centre of the city remain.  They have alternated between leftist governments that nationalise and take resources from the foreigners and right wing governments, usually supported by the US, who privatise and encourage foreign investment, then use repression to control the people.

The government, when we were there was middle of the road, but having trouble controlling inflation, which was at around 40%.  From a visitors point of view, things were cheap, a meal for two with wine less than half what it would have been in a Sydney pub. We did not feel unsafe.

Because of the concerns with the inflation problem, there were worries about democracy in the future, given the history of right-wing coups in many South American countries.

There had been a military coup in 1975, which seems to have been US-facilitated and the military junta had been in power from 1976 to 1983. Approximately 30,000 people who had been arrested ‘disappeared’.  They were part of a wider ‘Operation Condor’ to persecute and eliminate political, social, trade-union and student activists from Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil by the right-wing governments in those countries.  The US CIA provided the database so was well aware of what was happening.

Even now, every Thursday at 1pm the mothers and sisters of ‘The Disappeared’ dress in white and walk in pairs around a statue in Plaza de Mayo outside the Parliament.  The women had started protesting in 1977, but anything more than two people walking together was termed a crowd’ and thus illegal. Of those who perpetrated this atrocity only one soldier actually told the tale of what happened. Some of the disappeared had simply been shot in mass graves, but others went to the Naval training headquarters in Buenos Aires where they were kept in the attic and tortured in the basement. Some  were released, but others were drugged with thiopentone, loaded into trucks, then planes and dumped into the Atlantic Ocean.  Some were made to call their families with a gun at their heads and say that they could not talk, but they were happy  in a new life in Paris or some other unlikely tale.

Survivors described how they had a hood over their head at all times and could only see their feet. They described the steps and the colour of the walls, and where the phone was that they had to speak on and the lift next to the phone.  Later, the government came, took out the lift and the phone and painted the walls of the Naval training centre a different colour, so that the building would not match the descriptions of the inmates. Naturally there were no plans of the building changes available. The area was a museum when we were there and there was a small research area, still trying to identify individuals and what had happened to them. They were worried that the government would defund them and close their museum.

Now a far-Right populist, Javier Milei, has won the election, promising to abolish the Central Bank, change the currency to the US dollar, privatise everything and make guns freely available.  He denies climate change and the crimes of the previous military junta.  He has been congratulated by Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, the recently defeated populist from Brazil. He also wants to re-take the Malvinas aka the Falklands.  There is little hope of this simplistic nonsense improving anything in Argentina.  The worry is not only that the ‘Museum to the Disappeared’ will disappear, but that it will all happen again.

www.theguardian.com/world/2023/nov/20/argentina-presidential-election-far-right-libertarian-javier-milei-wins-after-rival-concedes

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Apartheid Education Buses

23 November 2023

I live near a turning circle in a good area of Sydney.  There is a Bus Stop there and the government bus there has an ad with a picture of a forlorn looking schoolgirl saying that she cannot have a decent education, so would I donate to The Smith Family so she can.

As the ad displays there, 8 shiny new buses take private school children from the turning circle to 8 different private schools.

It seems that our governments are happy to subsidise ‘choice’ so that they do not have to fund a fair go and we are happy to tolerate an apartheid education system.

 

www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2023/nov/23/australia-100-wealthiest-schools-earnings-income-data-education-department?utm_term=655e79e42ab1fedfc11542549409ff2e&utm_campaign=AustralianPolitics&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&CMP=aupolitics_email

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