The Network

The Network
This blog is no longer updated. Please click the picture to hop across to The Network

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The heat is on and so is the game at the Cole Inquiry

"The heat is on" says the song and, now that Ministers have to make statements to the Cole Inquiry into AWB's dealings with Iraq on wheat contracts, things are hotting up. Last night, the Prime Minister on the 7.30 Report said

it stands to reason that if Cole finds that Downer or Howard were told by AWB that it was paying kickbacks and we did nothing about it, it would be game over.

Kevin Rudd and people associated with him have been sitting in the inquiry keeping count. To-day, Kim Beazley said in the House of Representatives that the Cole Inquiry had been told of 27 occasions when the Australian Government had been told of AWB kickbacks to Iraq. Beazley then declared the game "on".

Miss Eagle thinks that perhaps The Hon Terence Cole AO QC is miffed or at least Counsel assisting the Inquiry, John Agius SC, is. Miss Eagle thinks he is miffed at Howard's hide in the Kerry O'Brien interview last night. Then the "game over" attitude blew out courtesy of Beazley to-day to "game on".

It is clear that Howard is not going to volunteer a further extension of the Terms of Reference to the Inquiry and Cole, who appears to be the essence of propriety, is not going to stretch the situation beyond the norm to pointedly request an extension of the Terms. But Cole is not only a man of integrity. He is a man of intelligence. He has played his cards as they have come but in a well prepared and searching way. The mountain of evidence requires ministerial input before the Inquiry. So it begins with the obvious suspects - Alexander Downer, Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Mark Vaile, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade.

Miss Eagle will be using her eagle eyes to see if the Downer and Vaile statements exhibit ministerial and departmental self-justification and to assess the accuracy and alertness and overall quality of their individual (surely they would not collude) memories.

The heat is on. The game is on. Bring it on!

The sell-off of Medibank Private

Nothing must ever stand between a politician and a pot of money. The latest honeypot to put a gleam in the eyes of John Howard's venal government is Medibank Private. Miss Eagle's medical insurance is with Medibank Private. She has had her moments over her lifetime with Medibank Private but still believes it gives good service, is accessible, and - importantly - more fairly priced although she could have lived without the latest price rise.

Kenneth Davidson points out that, apart from initial seeding money provided by the Australian Government, Medibank Private has been built on the contributions of its members. This, surely, must give Medibank Private members a role as stakeholders in the business of Medibank Private. Please write to your Federal member of Parliament, to the Treasurer, and to the Minister for Health and explain to them your views - no sell-off of this membership driven organisation.

Postscript: Miss Eagle checked the dictionary to ensure she was using the word 'venal' correctly. She thinks the following definition indicates she has used the word appropriately.
1. a. Open to bribery; mercenary: a venal police officer.
b. Capable of betraying honor, duty, or scruples for a price; corruptible.
2. Marked by corrupt dealings, especially bribery: a venal administration.
3. Obtainable for a price.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Vale, Pro Hart

Image hosting by Photobucket
The Three Horse Race by Pro Hart

One of Australia's greatest brushmen of the bush is dead. Pro Hart, a commited Christian, has gone to another place.

Pro Hart was born in Broken Hill, NSW, Australia in 1928. He grew up on the family sheep station "Larloona" situated near Broken Hill, and he was educated by correspondence with this brother Bob, and their mother as tutor. In his early twenties, Pro moved to Broken Hill and worked underground as a miner. In 1960 he married Raylee June Tonkin and they had five children, three boys and two girls. To develop his gift, Pro attended a few local art classes but he was mainly self-taught. He was discovered in 1962 by a gallery director in Adelaide. From there his success as an artist began to flourish. Pro was nothing if not prolific. This together with his longevity has meant that the prices of his paintings were not governed by exclusivity. Even working class Australians could stretch things a bit to own a Pro Hart, even if it was only a small one.

People who loved the Australian bush and the lifestyle and the mystique of The Outback loved Pro Hart's work. He brought life and love to the depiction of our country. In fact, like his Maker with whom he now rests, he is truly a creative spirit.

Recycling a rorter - and then back to Queensland?

Miss Eagle will have to pay more attention. This appointment had got past her - but she thinks it is still worth bringing attention to it.

Mike Kaiser, as a university student, was brought into a select clique of young men, including Paul Lucas who is currently Queensland's Minister for Transport and Main Roads. These young men were destined for careers in or relating to the Australian Labor Party (ALP) in Queensland under the guidance and leadership of David Barbagallo, an expert in student politics as well as IT and former Chief of Staff to the Premier of Queensland, Wayne Goss.

Mike did what was asked of him or, to put it in Graham Richardson's vernacular, did 'whatever it takes' within the Labor faction governed by the AWU in Queensland; became State Secretary of the Queensland ALP; and was later elected to the Queensland Parliament from the seat of Woodridge. And then the excreta hit the rotating blade.

The Shepherdson Inquiry revealed Barbagallo and Kaiser's involvement (as well as the involvement of others) in electoral fraud. Peter Beattie wanted his government to be seen as cleaner than clean and so Kaiser resigned his seat. But it wasn't long before it became clear that Kaiser's resignation was window dressing and there appeared to be interest, including from Peter Beattie, in bringing Kaiser back in from the cold. He went off to be Assistant Secretary of the Federal ALP. Now, it seems, he may only be a step or two away from going to the electorate once again. He has moved from the backroom to become Chief of Staff to New South Wales Premier, Maurice Iemma. It is wonderful what the ALP Right can do. But if Mike is to face the electorate again - and, almost certainly, he won't bother if it is merely a marginal seat - what guarantee do the longsuffering voters have that Mike's ethics have improved?

Seeking justice - Vivian Alvarez Solon

The road to justice for Vivian Alvarez Solon has entered its more formal process in Sydney as she seeks, with the assistance of a legal team headed by Justice Marcus Einfeld, compensation for the grave injustice done to her by the Australian Government. The matter is in private arbitration before distinguished jurist and former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, Sir Anthony Mason.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Religious Right: a fish out of water

This picture was drawn by Erika Aoyama.

Willzhead has a wonderful post where he is certain of the decline of the religious right in the US. To whet your appetite, here is a quote:

I based this expectation on systems thinking, which states that organizations act in certain ways because that is what they are. When they act in ways not in keeping with who they are, they fail. Fish live in water, for example, because they are aquatic beings. Take a fish out of the water and it will eventually die. In this way, it seems to me that Christians efforts for power and domination will eventually fail because they are simply not Christian. The overt exercise of power is a foreign cancer to the Body of Christ and will always need to be removed.

Teaching obscured

Isn't serendipity a wonderful thing? Just after finishing the post below, I was reading Jeshua Erickson's post at And no one heard a word where he had this quote from Tolstoy which, to me, read like a commentary on Doug Soderstrom's thoughts.
The more the understanding of Christ’s teaching was obscured,
the more the miraculous was introduced into it;
and the more the miraculous was introduced into it,
the more the doctrine was strained from its meaning and the more obscure it became;
and the more it was strained from its meaning and the more obscure it became,
the more strongly its infallibility had to be asserted,
and the less comprehensible the doctrine became.
Leo Tolstoy in "The Kingdom of God is within you"

Following Jesus, but he's no Christian

Doug Soderstrom has some interesting things to say about following Jesus.

Perhaps you won't agree with him - but he certainly provides food for reflection.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Prophetic Witness for Peace

Readers of this blog will know that Miss Ealge has blogged in support of the Christian Peacemakers Team held captive in Iraq. One was found dead a fortnight ago. Yesterday the remaining three were released. Miss Eagle does not want to say too much but would refer you to the Free the Captives site and below is the official statement from Christian Peacemakers Teams which says it all:

Our hearts are filled with joy today as we heard that Harmeet Singh Sooden, Jim Loney and Norman Kember have been safely released in Baghdad. Christian Peacemaker Teams rejoices with their families and friends at the expectation of their return to their loved ones and community. Together we have endured uncertainty, hope, fear, grief and now joy during the four months since they were abducted in Baghdad.

We rejoice in the return of Harmeet Sooden. He has been willing to put his life on the line to promote justice in Iraq and Palestine as a young man newly committed to active peacemaking.

We rejoice in the return of Jim Loney. He has cared for the marginalized and oppressed since childhood, and his gentle, passionate spirit has been an inspiration to people near and far.

We rejoice in the return of Norman Kember. He is a faithful man, an elder and mentor to many in his 50 years of peacemaking, a man prepared to pay the cost.

We remember with tears Tom Fox, whose body was found in Baghdad on March 9, 2006, after three months of captivity with his fellow peacemakers. We had longed for the day when all four men would be released together. Our gladness today is made bittersweet by the fact that Tom is not alive to join in the celebration. However, we are confident that his spirit is very much present in each reunion.

Harmeet, Jim and Norman and Tom were in Iraq to learn of the struggles facing the people in that country. They went, motivated by a passion for justice and peace to live out a nonviolent alternative in a nation wracked by armed conflict. They knew that their only protection was in the power of the love of God and of their Iraqi and international co-workers. We believe that the illegal occupation of Iraq by Multinational Forces is the root cause of the insecurity which led to this kidnapping and so much pain and suffering in Iraq. The occupation must end.

Today, in the face of this joyful news, our faith compels us to love our enemies even when they have committed acts which caused great hardship to our friends and sorrow to their families. In the spirit of the prophetic nonviolence that motivated Jim, Norman, Harmeet and Tom to go to Iraq, we refuse to yield to a spirit of vengeance. We give thanks for the compassionate God who granted our friends courage and who sustained theirspirits over the past months. We pray for strength and courage for ourselves so that, together, we can continue the nonviolent struggle for justice and peace.

Throughout these difficult months, we have been heartened by messages of concern for our four colleagues from all over the world. We have been especially moved by the gracious outpouring of support from Muslim brothers and sisters in the Middle East, Europe, and North America. That support continues to come to us day after day. We pray that Christians throughout the world will, in the same spirit, call for justice and for respect for the human rights of the thousands of Iraqis who are being detained illegally by the U.S. and British forces occupying Iraq.

During these past months, we have tasted of the pain that has been the daily bread of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Why have our loved ones been taken? Where are they being held? Under what conditions? How are they? Will they be released? When?

With Tom’s death, we felt the grief of losing a beloved friend. Today, we rejoice in the release of our friends Harmeet, Jim and Norman. We continue to pray for a swift and joyful homecoming for the many Iraqis and internationals who long to be reunited with their families. We renew our commitment to work for an end to the war and the occupation of Iraq as a way to continue the witness of Tom Fox. We trust in God’s compassionate love to show us the way.

Living through the many emotions of this day, we remain committed to the words of Jim Loney, who wrote:

"With God’s abiding kindness,
we will love even our enemies.
With the love of Christ,
we will resist all evil.
With God’s unending faithfulness,
we will work to build the beloved

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Underemployment: an economic tool in the national interest?

Image hosting by Photobucket

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has to-day released figures on underemployment in Australia as at September 20005. You can find them here. The ABS figures are numbers. What do they mean? The figures mean that there are Australians out there ready, willing and able to undertake full time employment and they are searching for it. The figures mean that there are Australians out there who are being marginalized from full participaption in national economic life. The figures mean that there are Australians out there who can only find insecure employment. The figures mean there are Australians out there who are

  • having difficulty making ends meet
  • having difficulty getting and paying a mortgage
  • having difficulty funding the best health, education, and sporting activity for their children
  • having difficulty in accessing further education and training to become and remain competitive in the labour market
  • having the prospect of losing what skills they already have
  • having difficulty in building an appropriate superannuation nest egg for their old age.

Isn't this wonderful? Yet the rich personally and corporately minimise their taxes to obscene proportions; pressure politicians for even more tax cuts; and some even wonder why they should pay tax at all.

Full participation in the national economy is important for us all: rich and poor; business and consumer; government and corporate; young and old. An economy that is not built on equity is built on instability, on the volcano that one day might erupt.

Wrongful detention details revealed

Image hosting by Photobucket

The Commonwealth Ombudsman, Professor John McMillan, has to-day released a report into the wrongful detention of more than 200 citizens or permanent residents by that people friendly organization, the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMA). The report is available here. Today's report focuses on the case of an individual identified only as Mr T.

Originally from Vietnam, Mr T is an Australian citizen who suffers from severe mental illness. Officers of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs detained him as a suspected unlawful non-citizen on three occasions between 1999 and 2003. On one of those occasions he was detained for a period of eight months.

The Ombudsman found that evidence gathered during this investigation has revealed many of the systemic failures in the Department previously identified in the reports of the Rau and Alvarez matters. These systemic failures include:

  • a negative organisational culture
  • a poor understanding of the requirements and implications of the Migration Act 1958
  • a rigid application of policies and procedures that do not adequately accommodate the special needs of persons suffering from mental illness
  • poor training of DIMA officers, including the management of mental health, language, cultural and ethnic issues
  • an abrogation of duty of care responsibilities
  • poor instructions, procedures and practices relating to the identification of detainees, including the failure to use fingerprints as a means of identification
  • information systems and database shortcomings
  • poor case management, including no effective review process, a failure to follow up on information and poor record keeping
  • a lack of appropriate arrangements to facilitate the gathering of important information that may assist in the identification of a detainee from Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) service providers.

The Ombudsdman found that, while some departmental officers failed to perform their duties adequately, in his opinion these failures were a direct consequence of systemic departmental failures. Therefore he has not, in his report, singled out individual officers for specific criticism. Again we have, as with Palmer and Comrie, systemic problems including department culture fingered. Yet again, Miss Eagle expects, no ministerial responsibility will be admitted when it is clear that responsibililty for such fundamental malfeasance must go not only to the department head - rewarded and departed to Indonesia - but to the minister at the time of the maltreatment.

Immigration comment is regularly made on this blog.

Blogger makes no provision for categories.

To read further on this matter on this blog, please use the "search this blog" facility.

The industrial relations Pandora's Box doesn't suit some

Image hosting by Photobucket

As Australia gets set to implement the Howard Government's new industrial relations regime starting Monday, the flaws in the legislation are beginning to show. Shoddy draughtsmanship of the legislation - reflecting a lack of any practical knowledge of the real politic and practical dynamics of industrial relations on the ground - is being exposed like cracks in a jerry-built skyscraper. Fancy that - and with all those top flight private sector industrial lawyers doing the work!!!

The private sector industrial lawyers assisting the Howard Government in their appropriation of the Corporations Act for industrial relations purposes include Freehills who boast of their involvement with Australia's largest mining companies and the mining industry organizations, Australian Mines and Metals Association and the Minerals Council of Australia. Freehills have been involved in union-busting activities for a long time. Now their clients are not entirely happy with the legislation they have generated!

It does bring a smile to Miss Eagle's face to hear a company like Rio Tinto and the mining industry organization, Australian Mines and Metals Association, complaining. Rio Tinto, in particular, has wanted to kick unions out of the industry. The huge mining multinational has a long history of undermining unions in the mining industry. They support in principle a centralised and national industrial relations system. Now they have opened Pandora's Box they are bleating to the government. No satisfying some.

Rio Tinto has been happy to emasculate the right-wing AWU, Australia's major metalliferous mining union. Now they want protection from the militant left-wing CFMEU who may find some provisions in the new legislation to their advantage in their battle against the AWU on mine sites around the nation.

IR swings like a pendulum do
Big multinationals, two by two
Unions of workers, the right and the left
And, on the ground, the workers bereft.
(Sung to the tune of England Swings: apologies to Roger Miller)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The secretive police

The secrecy of police increases day by day, particularly under the anti-terror laws. Now policing is not the most transparent activity of government or society. Understandable, Miss Eagle thinks we would all say. But there are areas when one has to ask whom is secrecy serving? This is the case of the Federal Police Disciplinary Tribunal which has no disciplinary business whatsoever because Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty, clearly a secret policeman, prefers to discipline secretively. Apparently, he sees use of the tribunal as washing dirty linen in public. Just a few questions to ask:
  • Was the AFP consulted in the establishment of the tribunal?
  • Did they say they wanted it.
  • Did they say they would work with it?
  • If this was not the case, why was it not the case?
  • If this was the case, then why do the AFP appear not to want it?
  • If this was the case, then why are the AFP not using it?
  • Is it the case that the Tribunal was always intended, both by Government and the AFP, to be window dressing and merely a Clayton's Tribunal (the disciplinary unit you have when you're not having a disciplinary unit)?
  • How much does the non-functioning Tribunal - with such a lovely website and a top QC thrown in - cost the long-suffering and kept-in-ignorance-and-mushroomed taxpayer?
  • Who has accounted to Parliament and how on the non-functioning Tribunal?

Please explain

Smoking guns become a cannonade at the AWB kickback inquiry

Is amnesia in the workplace contagious? Is John Howard suffering from the same failure to recall as Trevor Flugge? He is keen to tell us that there are lots of cables come to his office and that he doesn't see them all.

Well, Prime Minister - Miss Eagle never imagined that you did. You see, you always - well, almost always - look pretty relaxed. None of that ageing in office that she remembers with Malcolm Fraser. And when you are filmed at your desk, it is clear that you adhere to a "clean desk" policy so it has always been reasonable to assume that the cables and correspondence are piled high on someone else's desk.

So whose resonspibility was it to read the cables - and remember they were sent not only to you but to quite a number of ministers? Pass the buck all you like - but in the end it has to stop with you, Prime Minister.

Of course, if office policy has been one-remove-deniability as it appeared to be in the children overboard scandal and no-responsibility-taken as with the great variety of immigration malfeasance, then how are you ever going to see a cable alleging impropriety even if it is the only cable ever received.

You are responsible for setting the pace, Prime Minister,
not only in your office but for the whole-of-government.

Our unrepresentative democracy

Image hosting by Photobucket

So young voters aren't apathetic - but they do feel left out. I've got news for them. They're right. They are left out. Gen Y is ignored. Significant numbers of 16 year olds are in the workforce. Significant numbers of 16 year olds draw social security benefits because they are not in the workforce but want to be. Significant numbers of 16 year olds can look forward to a lifetime of debt as the price of a university education. Isn't it about time that 16 and 17 year olds were included in the democratic process so they can have a say in the economic power that is governing their lives. In spite of the conservative challenges to the education system, young people are well educated.
Let's give 16 year olds the vote.

Where there's a will, there is a way

Image hosting by Photobucket
Have the unions found a way out, a way around, a way through Howard's IR legislation?

Forget competition. Let's play monopoly.

Image hosting by Photobucket

It is one of the wonders of the modern world, that the nation's professional organisations (and, in particular, the medical profession) whose members tend to vote for conservative governments who have such values as "de-regulation", "competition", "free markets", "freedom of choice" and "competition" are, within their organisations, the greatest supporters of anti-competitive policies, of lack of freedom and lack of freedom of choice, lack of competition, and favour closed shops in a way that modern trade unions have been unable to emulate. Now surgeons are facing a challenge on training. Will an alternative to specialist training bring change for the health consumer or will it merely bring new members to the same club?

Forgiveness in heaven. Forgiveness on earth?

Image hosting by Photobucket

In June last year in California, James Tramel was ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church of the USA. In themselves, ordinations aren't particularly newsworthy - just the church going about its business. James Tramel's ordination was different. He was ordained while in prison for a 1986 murder committed when he was 17 years old. That is not all. Tramel was due to be parolled last year. The California Board of Paroles had recommended Tramel's release on parole but California's Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger, denied it. This year, Tramel's name came forward again...and Schwartzenegger allowed it to proceed. Tramel is believed to be the only Episcopal priest ordained while in prison. He earned a master's degree in theological studies from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley in 1998. The father of the murder victim does not sound forgiving and below is his comment on Tramel's new life and his release from prison.

Edward Stephenson, Michael Stephenson's father, said last week that he believes Tramel's so-called conversion was a clever way to secure his freedom."Twenty years doesn't fit the crime," he said.
"It was a very brutal and heinous crime. It was his idea. If it wasn't for him, there's a good chance it wouldn't have taken place."

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

'Onya, Einfeld J.

Justice Marcus Einfeld has a distinguished track record. He is one of Australia's most distinguished jurists and one of our most outstanding activists in the matter of human rights. Most recently he was part of the team who dealt - with great sagacity - with the Australian Government on the matter of Vivian Alvarez Solon and her compensation and her repatriation to Australia.

Last night, at the University of Western Sydney, he said

Apparently political transparency is a democratic ideal to which we only pay lip service these days.

He was speaking with particular reference to the support of terrorism by western democracies and with direct reference to the involvement of the Australian Government in the support of the regime of Saddam Hussain by AWB . However, political transparency is an issue for democratic governance in Australia whether it is at Federal level with a Liberal-National coalition or at State level where there is an ALP hegemony across the states. "Commercial-in-Confidence" has become a modern catch cry, a wall government puts up to hide its dealings from public view. This goes hand in hand where government has "de-regulated" and put many areas which once had direct government oversight into the hands of the private sector. This allows government to be at least one remove when accountability and transparency is sought and encourages a culture of deniability. And the Howard Government has become the master of deniability. The Tampa affair and the children overboard matter are areas where the Prime Minister was able to achieve a high level of deniability and was never brought to book by the Australian electorate.

Justice Einfeld asks: far we can allow ourselves to be led away from fundamental liberal and democratic tenets in the name of the fight against terrorism. The anti-terrorism bill - in particular its anti-sedition laws - was, "a Pandora's box of possible abuses if used incorrectly". He added: "This is the hallmark of a society leaning towards an autocratic framework, one in which nationalism, homogeneity and a warped and misinformed concept of 'the other' are thrown together into a heady and volatile cocktail."

Monday, March 20, 2006

Iraq - Bring the troops home

Bring Australian troops home now
Australians have been consistent in their opposition to the invasion of Iraq. Hundreds of thousands marched in the streets across Australia to express their opposition. Polls showed that Australians would only consider armed intervention in Iraq under UN supervision. When Australia eventually became part of the "Coalition of the Willing" and went to Iraq anyway, opposition in the polls diminished. This was more an admission of a fait accompli than wholehearted support of Australia's participation in the American hegemony and the Iraq War. Increasingly, Australians are expressing their opposition to the Iraq War in opinion polls and saying that they want Australian troops brought home.

There are times when the people have a mortgage on wisdom, not their government. Australians proved this in the matter of East Timor when, over 25 years in the face of Labor and Liberal Governments' support of the Indonesian takeover of East Timor, they expressed opposition to the Indonesian takeover of Timor Leste and provided decisive support, finally, for the Australian Government to take armed police/military action to halt the bloodshed caused by the Indonesian military and their bloodthirsty Timorese allies. Australians live in a democracy. Miss Eagle does not believe that Australians are prepared to sacrifice everything to the US-Australian relationship. Perhaps the opinion polls should be including questions based on that proposition.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

AWB and bribes

I haven't posted on the AWB bribery scandal before. It is big, it is complex, it is unfolding. It seems wise to wait - particularly when one hopes that a Government who has turned a blind eye might actually get targetted with some convincing evidence. However, that retired partygoer, Redness, at I'm Over It has drawn my attention to this ad. Get Up! Go see for yourself.