25 January 2007
Australia Day (Jan 26th) is meant to be an occasion of national pride when we celebrate the many positive features of Australian life, especially the freedom we enjoy and spirit of harmony, generosity and goodwill towards others which generally characterises life here.
Perhaps Australia Day can also be an occasion to look beyond these characteristics in which we rightly take pride, perhaps it can be more than just an occasion for flag-waving and basking in sporting success. Perhaps we can also look honestly at the darker side of our society, ask ourselves what kind of Australia we want in the future and ask what we intend to do to help bring that about.
Concerns about the misuse of the national flag to incite racial hatred and violence at the Big Day Out concerts are a reminder that a strand of racism has always been present in our country. Recent public comments by community leaders implying Sudanese, Muslims or Aboriginals are largely responsible for violent behaviour in our community can be seen as manifestations of this.
In a society where groups of people are excluded, marginalized, dispossessed and denied economic and educational opportunity it is not surprising that substance abuse, family dysfunction and disintegration and violence will follow.
It is to be hoped that 2007 will be a year when Australia can make real progress towards becoming a nation in which all of its people are treated with dignity, where rights are respected, where all can share in its prosperity and where a new respect and sense of care for the earth can be discovered.
It is hoped that in a small way this bulletin can assist in that goal.
The comments place further pressure on the Australian government to address the plight of David Hicks in the face of widespread criticism of the recently announced procedures which will be permitted for his 'trial', news that the revised charges he faces will be downgraded significantly and with disquiet increasingly being voiced by members within the government’s own ranks.
The US government has decided that hearsay evidence and evidence obtained under torture will be admissible in any trial of Hicks, a decision that has provoked outrage and dismay in legal circles. The issue has never been about what Hicks may or may not have done, but about just and fair legal processes. Clearly the treatment of David Hicks fails to meet appropriate standards of fairness – something that is almost universally recognized, except by the leaders of the Australian government.
It would appear that, as in the case of its continued justification of the decision to invade Iraq, the government stubbornly refuses to acknowledge it has made an error and is prepared to continue to sacrifice the rights of an individual Australian citizen in order to save political face.
Those who would like to dissociate themselves from the treatment currently afforded to David Hicks can support the Get Up campaign (and receive their free billboard for display) or sign the Amnesty online petition to bring David Hicks home or join the international campaign online flotilla demanding the immediate closure of Guantanamo Bay.
A group of scientists from the nations major research institute (CSIRO) have stated that Solar Thermal Energy could provide all of Australia's future electricity needs. The claim was made in a report prepared for the Cooperative Research Centre for Coal in Sustainable Development.
Although the report has not been made public, a summary of its findings appeared in an article in the "Canberra Times"
"It would only require about 50 kilometres by 50 kilometres in the centre of Australia somewhere to provide all of Australia's electricity needs in 2020" according to CSIRO scientist Wes Stein.
According to the report, Solar Thermal Energy "is poised to play a significant role in baseload generation for Australia" and will be cost-competitive with coal within seven years.
A similar scheme using solar energy from the Sahara desert has already been proposed to supply the energy needs of Europe and the Middle East by the Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Corporation (TREC) The technologies that are needed for the realisation of this concept are already fully developed and have been in use for decades. Several studies by the German Aerospace Center have confirmed the viability of the concept.
So why has the CRC report not been made public? Why is the government looking to nuclear energy given that uranium is a finite resource and given the risks associated with its utilization? Why are Solar energy alternatives not being promoted and encouraged more strongly?
The lack of urgency in promoting renewable energy alternatives prompts the question as to whether the government is more interested in appeasing the vested economic interests associated with the coal and mining industries than in seriously addressing issues such as climate change and global warming?
The statement was reported on the Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good website and coincided with a call from Bishop William Skylstad, President of the Conference of the US Catholic Bishops urging the US government to seek effective ways to withdraw its troops at the earliest opportunity that allowed for a responsible transition in Iraq.
In his statement Bishop Skylstad noted that both the The Holy See and the Bishops’ Conference had previously expressed grave moral concerns about military intervention in Iraq and the unpredictable and uncontrollable negative consequences of invasion and occupation. In light of current realities, their support for a broader regional and international engagement to increase security, stability and reconstruction in Iraq was reiterated.
This weekend hundreds of thousands of Americans will march on Washington DC to demand peace and justice in Iraq and the Middle East. The global partnership Avaaz is working to raise a worldwide voice of solidarity through an international virtual march.
Avaaz supporters at the demonstration in Washington will carry banners, placards and the flags of countries representing internet marchers from all round the world who have registered there support online at the above website who have joined the call to oppose the military escalation and demand a real plan to end the war.