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Monday, December 31, 2007

And another thing, Kev....about the body and the law

Miss Eagle is indebted to Dale Hess for drawing her attention to this article by David Marr on locking up the refugees and interfering with citizens' rights to habeas corpus. So how about it, Kev? Is this repeal of laws on your list? Or will it be like the repeals of Work Choices...a bit selective, a few dregs to remain, a few bits of equity not quite addressed?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

David Hicks - free at last!

Photo: The Age

It is over. This chapter - the imprisonment chapter - is over. None of us can ever entirely leave the past behind even if - as so often is said - it is another country.

What one hopes is that the regretful moments of our past result in lessons learned and a new wisdom and maturity. We also hope that the scars of our past are healed, cleanly healed, so they do not impede our further journey.

David Hicks - if he ever did commit a crime against justly implemented legislation - has paid for his actions.

Unfortunately, there are still the self-righteous - The Australian and Mike Rann to name two. Added to this list must be the stupid carrying on of yesterday's To-day show on Channel 9 where there was a phone poll on an alleged apology from David Hicks that was predicted for to-day. No such apology came to-day but we now know the measure of Karl Stepanovic. He stated that he would not accept an apology from David Hicks. No forgiveness Karl? No way back...ever?

This blog has often expressed its questioning on how public forgiveness is achieved when a public figure does say sorry, does publicly express repentance, does seek forgiveness. How is this reciprocated? While no public apology has been forthcoming and - who knows? - may not be {and if so, to whom, for what?}, this question still is not clear. How is forgiveness demonstrated in the public sphere?

Miss Eagle wishes David Hicks well and wellness as he embarks on this new chapter. She prays for all the Hicks family and close friends as they support David. Keep safe, David. Grow your children. Honour your family. Rejoice in your friendships. And lastly, David, have a wonderful rest of your life.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Medical care for the aged = medical don't care in the USA.

Sometimes Miss Eagle thinks that if there was a referendum in Australia on whether Australia should become the 51st state of the United States of America, it would succeed. But if you are an Australian who thinks the USA would be a great place to live with freedom and justice for all, then take a read of this.

Just so there is no mistake in understanding what you are reading:
  • The USA does not have universal medical insurance. Australia does.
  • If you need emergency medical treatment in the USA, you will have to be covered by medical insurance or pay out of your own pocket for medical treatment.
  • Many Americans are covered by medical insurance schemes run by their employers. Not all Americans work for employers who provide medical insurance. These people usually cannot afford the premiums for medical insurance and so they go without.
  • The decision referred to in the link above means that employers will not have to provide coverage to people aged over 65 years of age - even if they have been paying medical insurance for years and years.
  • Australia has the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). The USA does not. Many elderly citizens try to smuggle in pharmaceuticals from Canada and other countries where they are cheaper.
  • In the USA, employer run medical schemes have introduced a system where they will dictate from where the people they cover can obtain their pharmaceuticals. No walking into your local chemists or getting on friendly terms with the pharmacist and leaving your repeats there.

John Howard and his Liberal/National Coalition were never able to abolish Medicare, the universal medical insurance scheme for all Australians. John Howard did all sorts of things to all sorts and classes of people in his eleven years in government. Doctors, in the main, vote for the Liberal Party and hate Medicare. Yet Howard did not change the system. Why? Because he and his government knew that Australians support Medicare and would not tolerate its abolition.

To Miss Eagle, this means that Australians can prevent governments from going against their wishes - if they have a mind too. Howard and his Liberal doctors wouldn't and couldn't change Medicare. At least on that score, Australians held their government accountable.

May Australians recognise just what they can do and continue to hold governments of all persuasions accountable and steer clear of slavishly following the USA.

Please Note: The population of the USA is over 300 million people. The above map estimates that 16% of Americans do not have medical insurance. This means that over 48 million people in that nation have no medical insurance. Following the decision in the report linked above, that is about to grow phenomenally as millions more of elderly people are deprived of coverage.

What were we really thinking? What are Kev and Krew really thinking?

What were we really thinking all through 2007 ... Kevin Rudd topped the polls his me-too-ism made him a small target for the Liberal/National Coalition Kevin and Julia made promises to business about AWAs Kev courted people with religious affiliations who had never voted Labor - ever Bill Shorten of the AWU and Greg Combet of the ACTU trumped pre-selection processes and long standing, faithful sitting members to gain pre-selection and election in safe Labor seats and then rewarded with positions as Parliamentary Secretaries

We - the trade unionists, those who cared about wage and income equity, those who marched for justice - kept putting our views forward persistently. We did not say what we really felt when the ALP policies were watered down into a new reality and The Greens put forward an industrial relations policy we found more understandable. The ACTU did not want to ruffle feathers and merely expressed disappointment.

We were realistic. We wanted Howard and his henchmen and women gone. We knew that this would be a big ask. We understood that Kev and Krew would have to play it cool to get across the line. We were not going to rock the boat. We would stay on message - even if it meant biting the anxious tips of our tongues off.

Kevin got across the line - but, just as Miss Eagle questioned during the campaign the state of Kevin's Spine, she now questions Kevin's gratitude.

There has been much watering down of industrial relations policy in an attempt to mollify business interests. Changes will not be fully in place until 2010.

Let's get frank now, Kev.

You were elected in December 2007. How would it be if we said to you, Kev, "Congratulations, Kev. You've won the election, Kev. You've beaten Howard, Kev. But, Kev, you will not take power until 2010. Until then Howard remains in power and continues to live at Kirribilli. He'll water down his behaviour and his hubris a bit. In fact, he'll try very hard not to use the numbers he has in the Senate to really rock the boat. But, Kev, go away and stay cool until December 2010."

Makes real sense, doesn't it Kev. Highly rational.

In fact, Kev, in 2010 we are due for another election and - if you lose it (I realise it is considered unlikely) - it could be that nothing of lasting consequence will have changed on the industrial front and you will go down in history as Kould-have-been, Kould-have-done Kev.

To my mind, Kev, this seems darned ungrateful and downright rude.

You see, Kev, all those corporations, business people, and corporate councils you mollified or attempted to mollify did NOT turn out the vote for you, Kev. If any of them changed their vote from Liberal to Labor for you, it was precious few and certainly not in tide-turning numbers.

Not like us, Kev. Not like us - the trade unionists, the justice seekers, the footsloggers in march after march. We worked. Agreed - some of us were in targetted electorates with huge support from the ACTU, campaign organisers, and organisations like PolMin. It was these resources - financial, organisational, and human - who turned out the vote for you, Kev. True, some of them - like Miss Eagle - gave their No. 1 to The Greens for their industrial policy while ensuring the final vote went to you. But even so, we turned out more votes for you and made the difference for you in a way that no other sector of the population did - and we did it for at least eighteen straight months.

Your Rights At Work Campaign on Election Day 2007.

So, Kev, guess what? We don't give a fig for 2010. We want industrial change now. We want equity now. We don't give a fig about what you had to say to business because we think your first loyalty is to us and not to them and that there are more of us in the Australian polity than there are of them.

I realise, Kev, that it is a long time since you and Therese felt the need to have the Union help you achieve some sort of justice for yourselves in the workplace. But perhaps you might pause to think how much Unions have helped you to Christmas Dinner at The Lodge. We ask you to think about that Kev, you and your Krew, and you might be a bit indigenous about it. It is pay back time. Time to show recipricocity, recognition and gratitude. Time to be well-mannered and acknowledge how you got to be Prime Minister. Thanks, Kev. Over to you and Krew.

Your Rights At Work Teams Celebrating Kevin Rudd's Victory, December 2007

Monday, December 24, 2007


It is amusing. Downright amusing. It is not new for bloggers to comment on strange search items shown in their Sitemeter having turned up surprisingly on their blogs. But, late last night, a Melbourne visitor landed on The Eagle's Nest after a search for spiritual development for strippers. How interesting, me thinks. How Miss Eagle would love to know more. To enlighten her please email to misseagleatbluebottledotcom.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Aboriginal peoples and issues - an abstraction for most Australians.

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
The words of Martin Luther King quoted by
Bev Manton, Chairperson, NSW Aboriginal Lands Council,
9 July 2007

In all the trials besetting Aboriginal Australians, Miss Eagle believes that the majority of Australians are of good will and want wrongs to be rectified and great strides to be made in bringing Aboriginal people into the same situation of the majority of mainstream Australians.

Miss Eagle also believes that most Australians are ignorant of how and where Aboriginal people live. They are not attuned to what Aboriginal people themselves are saying, what has been done, what has not been done. In short, Miss Eagle has come to the firm conclusion that, for most Australians, Aboriginal people are an abstract issue. Issues affecting them are somewhere out there in the ether. There is little recognition in reality that Aboriginal people are PLU - People Like Us; that we should obey the Christian commandment and love them in the same way that we love ourselves.

Here is a report on one Australian, the distinguished Fiona Stanley, who clearly finds the plight of Aboriginal people to be real - no abstract, not somewhere out in the ether.

Oh, that more could feel this way: that more Australians could be better informed and more active in listening to and working with Aboriginal people to demand greater accountability by governments and bureaucrats in spending our taxpayer dollars to provide citzens' entitlements to ALL citizens.

The Archbishop and Childhood Depression

Please sign the Archbishop's Petition.

It is just over twelve months since Philip Freier was installed as Archbishop of Melbourne. Miss Eagle is unable to comment on whether Ab Philip is a good administrator of the affairs of the Archdiocese. She is also unable to comment on what sort of guidance, counsel and spiritual leadership the Archbishop provides to the clergy and laity. However, there is no gainsaying the public leadership provided by the Archbishop in 2007. It has been constant and remarkable.

He began with his Prayer4Melbourne quest. This twelve month program has seen the Archbishop out and about in all sorts of places and settings meeting all sorts of people. This has promoted awareness of Melbourne not only for the Archbishop, a newcomer to Melbourne, but within the Anglican constituency itself. The quest has also given the Archbishop and the Anglican community an enlarged profile in Melbourne.

In tandem with the quest, has been Conversations with the Archbishop. The conversations, which are held at BMW Edge in Federation Square, have received great attention and interest. The quality of the speakers has been excellent. The Archbishop has handled his role well.

[A small contingent from St Thom's at Upper Gully will be fronting up to this Wednesday's conversation with Hugh McKay. This is no mean feat because none of us are young and we will be catching the 6.32am train. This will get us there a few minutes late, Archbishop, but we'll be there with our Christmas bells on!]

One exercise of communal and Christian leadership was the Archbishop's address in reply to Patrick Dodson's speech in Brunswick in October. It was a tour de force.

One of the Archbishop's conversations focussed on childhood depression when, on November 14, he held a public conversation under the title Our crisis of childhood depression. Ab Philip was joined by the Director of Women's Forum Australia, Melinda Tankard Reist, and Professor Alasdair Vance, the Head of Academic Child Psychiatry, Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne. The Archbishop has called for a national inquiry into the state of childhood in Australia. He has renewed his call to-day in The Age.

Archbishop Philip has highlighted Mission Australia's 2007 Survey of Australia's Young People. Read of its major findings here.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

There are two major factors in the City of Brisbane becoming the modern city it is to-day: Clem Jones and its unique system of local government wrought through the council amalgamations of 1925 which formed Greater Brisbane.

To-day we have word that Clem Jones is dead. At the height of his powers, Miss Eagle remembers Clem doing a weekly talk-back program on 4BH. People would ring up about the usual local government stuff - ditches, drains and dunnies. They would complain about an overgrown culvert on the corner of Dirt Lane and Bush Street in the suburb of Whoop Whoop and Clem would be able to give up to the minute details of planning and maintenance and the caller would go away content. What Clem didn't know about Brisbane wasn't worth knowing.

Clem was a Labor Lord Mayor and it was under Labor that Brisbane became, in 1925, the largest city in the world - in area. In these modern times of economic rationalism, conservative governments allow and Labor governments are too afraid to change the ratty little fiefdoms in places like suburban Sydney and Melbourne with their dress circle little councils in the city centres.

If people were serious about economic management and administration of major cities, they would do what Brisbane did in the first quarter of the 20th century. Brisbane is a City-State. Its aldermen service City Wards as large as State Electorates and they are remunerated at the same level.

Brisbane controls its own road transport system and controlled, for many years, its own electricity supply.

Clem brought Brisbane into modern life with sewerage. Clem is/was famous for lots of things but it was sewerage that made all the difference and for which he will be historically remembered. No more outside dunnies and la-la men picking up the cans. Brisbane went modern.

Modernisation happened again under Labor with Lord Mayor Jim Soorley in more recent times. Jim Soorley was a surprise packet. He came from almost complete anonymity to defeat the incumbent Liberal Lord Mayor Sallyanne Atkinson.
Atkinson was considered to be highly popular but turned out to be highly beatable. Late and secret polling given to the Australian Labor Party in Queensland showed she was beatable. The ever astute Wayne Swan, now Treasurer of Australia but then Secretary of the Queensland Branch of the Australian Labor Party, had next to no money for the campaign but put a last minute effort in: crumb-y black and white ads on TV, old fashioned door-knocking, old-fashioned trucks with loud speakers trawling the suburbs. It paid off and Soorley defeated Atkinson.

Under Soorley's leadership, Brisbane modernised once again. This time in its spirit - and outdoor dining became its most classic manifestation. That wonderful climate and no one had bothered before. But in the late 80s, with the Expo and the Commonwealth Games, Brisbane had a taste of something different. Under Soorley, it got it.

So for those who wonder what life will be like under wall to wall State and Federal Governments dominated by the Australian Labor Party - go north. Take a look at Brisbane - the home of the two most senior elected officials in the nation: Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister and Wayne Swan as Treasurer.

The centre of Australian gravity has moved north to Brisbane. You can even have a cabinet meeting there these days! It is helped along by the most moderately priced real estate of the eastern state capitals. But, Brisbane is what it is to-day because occasionally Labor has done its job brilliantly.
  • Labor established sound municipal administration.

  • Clem Jones took the reins

  • Soorley brought fresh and humane eyes and ideas

These days, the Liberals have the position of Lord Mayor of Brisbane while Labor dominates the city administration with the most councillors under the leadership of Miss Eagle's old friend, David Hinchliffe. One could say that David is the de facto Lord Mayor of Brisbane.

The Lord Mayoralty of Brisbane is the only seat of government of any significance held by the conservative parties in Australia. Labor will ensure they can't muck that up as well.

Prophets of a future not our own....

Simon Barrow
Simon Barrow has to be one of the busiest - and most talented - people around. He is Co-Director of Ekklesia (who has long been linked from this blog). I am indebted to Simon and his blog, faithinsociety, for referring me to the wonderful thoughts of Oscar Romero expressed below. His thoughts seem so fitting for the sort of work this blog tries to do. The thoughts expressed here are frequently uncomfortable for mainstream people - including mainstream Christians. But seeking justice where there is none is never comfortable. Speaking out for the marginalised is never welcome when people are seeking only to make themselves and their own comfortable.

Long ago, a journalist named Finley Peter Dunne referred to comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. Miss Eagle thinks that this is what Christians are - or should be - about. In fact, it should be what thinking people who care about humanity are about. This blog tries - but, as Romero points out, the job is never done. What is being built here is not the work of a master builder. Only the Master Builder can complete it.

Ab. Oscar Romeo, Martyr


A prayer/poem by Archbishop Oscar Romero(martyred, 14 March 1980)

It helps, now and then, to step back
and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of
the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Sentencing: Crime and Punishment - Victims and The Oppressed

On Sunday, 25 November 2007, the Feast of Christ the King and the last Sunday in the Year of the Church, Jonathan Chambers - who heads Anglican Criminal Justice Chaplaincy in Victoria - delivered the following sermon at the Church of St Thomas, Upper Ferntree Gully.

The Reign of God in Luke’s Gospel .
Feast of Christ the King 2007 UFTG
Nature of the Kingdom of God -What sort of Kingdom?

Jesus’ Final Words to another human being before he died were to the Criminal beside him “….Today you will be with me in paradise”

The Kingdom of God is not something in the future- It’s NOW
“Today you will be with me in paradise”
Why would Luke finish this way?
What clue does it give us to the Nature of the Kingdom of God?

To understand the nature of this Kingdom, it is necessary to go back to Nazareth and the Jesus Manifesto, his campaign speech:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.
And he rolled up the scroll,
gave it back to the attendant, and sat down.
The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.
Then he began to say to them,
Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.

……“Today you will be with me in Paradise”
The Reign of God which Jesus declared and commenced with his ministry was about:
God’s Justice
Relief from poverty
Release to Captives
Recovery of sight to the Blind
Freedom for the Oppressed

In Luke, we see Jesus living out His Manifesto about the Reign of God - and what it looks like - in his life, ministry and teaching

Good News To The Poor
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.

Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation
blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.

And then there were:

The Rich Man and Lazarus
Zacchaeus – the rich man who shares his wealth. Salvation has come to your house Today

Jesus was concerned about the gap between Rich and Poor
Luke was concerned about the gap between rich and poor in the Christian Community for which he wrote his Gospel.

Look at:
Housing at Docklands and the High Rise Commission Flats of Fitzroy or Flemington
Median Household Income in Braybrook is $575 pw
Median Household Income in Kew is $1850
(Median Household Income in Upper Ferntree Gully [where St Thomas’s is] is $1277)
25% of Victoria's Prison intake comes from only 13/647 in Victoria

The Reign of God is about the rich like Zacchaeus sharing wealth with the poor; and including the socially disadvantaged through equal education, maternal health care, adequate housing, employment.

Hugh Mackay in yesterday's Age spoke of reclaiming egalitarianism- a fair go - which was part of our Australian culture only 15 years ago.

Release To The Captives
Jesus brought release and community inclusion from captivity of sin. He included the sinful woman who anointed his feet; release and inclusion to the Leper; release and inclusion to the sick woman bent over for eighteen years; release and inclusion of the hated Samaritan Leper who returned to thank him for healing.

In the Gospels, Jesus didn’t spring anybody from prison.
But in the Book of Acts, Luke records four occasions when early Christians were released from prison by Divine intervention. Demonstrating God did indeed come “to set the prisoners free”

“Holding people captive” is a foundation of our Criminal Justice system in Victoria in the hope that paying people back with deprivation of liberty will deter them and others from offending again.
But 62% of those who go to prison will return.
The payback system.
How does it sit with Jesus command to love your enemies and do good to those who hate you?
If someone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also.

In the story of the Prodigal Son, contrast the response of the Loving Father and the Older Son to the Prodigal. We are challenged and overwhelmed by the generosity of the Father who doesn’t “give the prodigal what he deserves”

The wisdom of God’s Reign as shown in this story is demonstrated in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa following apartheid.
“Healing through truth telling”.

Jesus shows the futility of inflicting more harm in order to “pay the price for the harm done”
Walter Wink says:
“As a society we run the risk in endeavouring to fight evil with evil – of becoming the very evil that we hate”.

God’s Reign and Kingdom looks to the future and aims to restore and repair the harm done. It builds up. It doesn’t beat people into submission.

Recovery Of Sight To The Blind
I discovered that The Blind in Luke’s Gospel were not the physically blind - whom Jesus healed - nor the spiritually blind who regained sight like Zacchaeus.

The Blind were Scribes and Pharisees who always complained about anything Jesus did to help anybody. “Tut tutting”. They are like Older Brother who complains that the son isn’t getting what he deserves, or like the Pharisees who complained that Jesus was breaking the rules.

In Victoria, The Blind - as far as the criminal justice system is concerned - are the Community in general. Because what goes on in prisons is hidden, we don’t know – other than what the press tells us. Or what the Ombudsman reports, as we saw this week.

The Press, generally, only report newsworthy stories- ones that will reinforce peoples’ beliefs and, particularly, prejudices. They don’t portray people as someone’s son or daughter, but dehumanise them stereotyping them as “Monsters” and defining them by the crime.
Murderer, Rapist, Paedophile, Thief.
Truly dangerous serial offenders = 2%.
The rest are tarred with same brush.

So the public are blind to the true story - and so there are calls for tougher sentences and longer jail terms.
  • Academic studies by psychologists, criminologists and sociologists point to the futility of locking people up.
  • Anyone who works in the prison system agrees it is counter productive and makes people worse.
  • Politicians associated with the prison system know that it’s costly and ineffective, but not one is willing to risk the electoral backlash if they appear to be “soft on crime”

With no other voices, other than the media, the Community continues to be Blind.
We like to believe it’s a Just system,.
Collusion terms are there like “Collateral Damage” in War.
We talk about:
Humane containment. Duty of Care. Modern prisons.
We hide the damage done by kidding ourselves we are rehabilitating
And we euphemistically call the govt dept ‘Corrections Victoria’ – when 62% return !

You can’t bring about a change of heart when you’re holding someone under force, isolated from the community. We each need community to survive.

The Reign of God is demonstrated by the story of the Shepherd who would care for each lost one so much that he would do the irrational thing of leaving 99 to go after that one. And when he finds it, like the loving father who found his son, throw an extravagant party.

The kingdom of God is not about condemning the lost by exclusion,

but by seeking them out, costly caring and celebrating –

even when they don’t deserve it.

To Let The Oppressed Go Free
The oppressed in the Gospels are those who are captive. To Roman and Jewish Laws- which were oppressive. Served law makers – not the people.

In the Criminal Justice system “The Oppressed” are the Victims of Crime- who, because of our legal process, don’t get a fair hearing. Crimes aren’t against a victim; they are offences against the State.
Therefore the only reason for involving a Victim is to call them as a witness.

Howard Zehr:
We don’t listen to what they have suffered and need
We do not seek to give them back what they have lost
We do not help them recover
We may not even let them know what has transpired since the offence.

Consequently, Victims feel that no justice has been done which recognises their loss. There is no closure .Which leads to anger, fear, and demands for vengeance.

Consequently Victims of Crime Groups are angry –
because they are oppressed

A Restorative Justice system, focussed on healing the wounds, with compassion as seen in the tender treatment of the Good Samaritan to the victim of crime on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho would go a long way to letting these oppressed go free.

A compassionate system which gave a place for victims to be truly heard and which still held offenders accountable to restoration could result in more Victims of Crime becoming Survivors of Crime.

The Reign or Kingdom of God as shown by Jesus actions and teaching in Luke are clearly at odds with the values of the Kingdoms of this world.

The Day of the Lords Favour, which Jesus declared began with his ministry
“Today this scripture had been fulfilled”.

If God’s Reign, which commenced in Nazareth is to continue, then WE are called too - as Christ’s Body to-day -to practice what we preach.

We are to do what we can to:

  • Restore the poor.
  • “Make poverty history” not just overseas but for the households of Braybrook who receive $570 per week
  • Set the captives free.
  • Work to find better ways of making offenders accountable rather than locking them up. Impossible? We did away with the death penalty. They said you couldn’t abolish slavery yet Wilberforce knew about the Kingdom of God. As did Mandela.
  • Open the Eyes of The Blind.
  • We need to let the Community know the truth about what harm prison does. We need to inform politicians that they will lose their seats if they let this injustice continue. Because God’s justice isn’t about payback. It’s about restoring right relationships.
  • Let the Oppressed go free.
  • We need to change the legal system – so that it is not combative with winners and losers. To change it to a place where victims are truly heard and offenders are truly held accountable. A place where people don’t just look at an offence and say : “this is what you will have to pay for breaking the law”, but instead we ask the Victim “what can we do to heal the damage, what can the offender do to bring restoration, what reparation should be made to the community, and what can we do to help prevent this offender from needing to offend again.”

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus’ final words to another human were addressed not to his disciples but to a criminal. Most of his followers had abandoned him. They were words of inclusion to the outcast who on his own admission was guilty - but who sought Jesus’ acceptance.
Today this scripture has been fulfilled
“….Today you will be with me in paradise”

Can we be as inclusive –
so that the Kingdom may come on earth as it is in heaven.
I believe yes, we can –
as people who want to live in the Reign of God and God’s Justice.

Jonathan also handed out a document with the title Victoria's Prison Population: 2001 to 2006. It, along with its statistical documentation, can be found here. It is a publication of the Sentencing Advisory Council.
For more about Howard Zehr and his work with Restorative Justice, see here.

A new deal for new settlers?

Miss Eagle has been a supporter of A Just Australia since its earliest days. Those who seek justice and a better deal for asylum seekers and refugees in Australia are looking to the new Australian Government for the humanity in immigration and refugee policy which was lacking in the policies of the harsh regime that was the Howard Government.
To-day, Miss E has received the following email from AJA. Of particular interest is the advice on how to campaign against the term "illegal/s" in the media by using the Press Council decision against such usage.

The work continues
After the election, AJA staff and board have been analyzing the need for an organization like A Just Australia to continue. It is clear to us that while the sector is in a much better position to achieve positive policy change, there is still work to be done. Luckily most of that work is now advising and negotiating on policy implementation, as opposed to developing public pressure campaigns to simply get the previous government to admit that change is needed.There have already been announcements that the 7 Burmese on Nauru will be resettled in Australia before Christmas, and the 72 Sri Lankans found to be refugees may be settled shortly in the new year. Today there was also an announcement that Labor is living up to the pledge to review the 45 day rule, which prohibits some asylum seekers from working.AJA will continue to advocate for change to policy using as a guide our
10 Steps to Clean Up Our Act. We hope that most of these steps will be adopted by the new government which will achieve our objective of putting A Just Australia out of business, which is our ultimate goal!But we cannot continue without your support. Early in the new year we will be running our membership drive again. We hope that all memberships will be renewed, and we can pick up some new members and donors to continue the work towards making a more just Australia.In the meantime, happy holidays to everyone. Lets all hope that the ALP gets rid of TPVs very soon, so that refugees who have been separated from their wives, husbands or children by the previous government's policy of denying family reunion, can celebrate the festive season next year with loved ones by their side.

Where to from here?

AJA coordinated the convening of a planning meeting in Melbourne with many of the key advocacy groups and legal/health practitioners. Out of that meeting came two clear objectives:
1. The identification of 6 high priority areas of reform that were needed immediately. These were seen as righting the most grievous wrongs, such as bringing people off Nauru, conversion of TPVs and THVs to permanent visas and giving split-family reunion priority to those who had been on TPVs, removal of vulnerable people from detention and halting any imminent removals of people refused Ministerial Intervention and a review of those cases.
2. That A Just Australia and the Refugee Council of Australia were seen as the best agencies to take those matters to the Minister on behalf of the sector..A Just Australia is hard at work at preparing those policy recommendations along with other organizations.

There have already been some informal discussions with the Minister's office and we feel very positive about the direction that we see asylum seeker and refugee policy taking over the coming months. Change is not something that can happen overnight, but we feel assured that it is coming and it will be change that achieves compassionate policy creating an 'orderly migration system' that is not at the human rights expense of the world's most vulnerable people - refugees.

News from our Annual General Meeting
A Just Australia held our AGM on 10th December, Human Rights Day.There have been some changes to the board makeup:Mark Madden has stepped down from the chair, a position he held for two years. Mark worked tirelessly behind the scenes on the strategic direction of AJA, providing key policy writing and directing the fundraising efforts of our membership drive. Great thanks are extended to him from the rest of the board, as well as the staff of AJA. We would not be in the position we are today without all his efforts.Dianne Hiles has stepped up to the role of chair. Dianne is a founding member of ChilOut (Children out of Detention) and a passionate speaker on children's rights .A long term supporter of Amnesty International, Dianne was elected to the Board of A Just Australia in April 2006 and became Secretary at the last AGM.John Ball has remained as deputy chair and Ian Anderson has also remained as Treasurer. Both have made a great positive impact on AJA and will continue to do so. Sean Cleary has taken the role of Secretary, and Mary Stuart and Phil Glendenning remain as board members. Philip Adams is expected to continue but was unable to attend due to illness.The board gratefully acknowledges the work of Sarina Greco and Josh Bornstein, previous board members who resigned their positions at this year's AGM.

Complaint on use of term 'illegals'
For many years the term "illegals" has been used by both the media and the previous government to describe unauthorized entry asylum seekers. The use of such terms has contributed to the
here harmful stereotyping of asylum seekers and has had a serious negative impact on public opinion. This term is not only incorrect, but it is inflammatory and does not add any positive input to public discourse about a sensitive area of public policy.This term did fall out of use under Amanda Vanstone, but was brought back by previous Minister for Immigration, Kevin Andrews in many media statements. See here or here , just to name a few. He even uses this term in his profile on the Liberals website. The first story that we have seen attributing comments by Senator Chris Ellison makes use of the term 'illegals.' There is no direct quote by the Senator, so this may be the fault of the journalist in question. However we will be keeping a watch on any future use of this term.A Just Australia wrote to the West Australian newspaper to complain about the article, based on a Press Council ruling on the issue. We also wrote to the Press Council, as a previous letter of complaint on another article had no response. We did get an immediate response to our 2nd letter. AJA encourages any supporter who sees an article, or hears the use of the term illegals on the radio to make a similar complaint. Our vigilance will ensure that the term stops being used by the media, which will have an enormous impact on public opinion. This allows for greater room for movement towards compassionate policy reform, as there will be less voter backlash. See our letter below for ideas on how to structure your complaint.AJA notes that Mira Wroblewski was the person who went to great lengths to make the original complaint to the Press Council back in 2004. She won the ruling we can now all use to ensure accurate media reporting on this issue. Good on you Mira!

Dear Paul Armstrong,
I am writing to you to make a strong complaint about a story written on the 11th December by Rhianna King "Keep Pacific Solution: Opposition"Our concern is with the line "Senator Ellison - the former justice minister appointed as shadow immigration minister last week - urged Labor to retain the coalitions Pacific Solution, in which all illegal boat people were detained on Nauru then resettled in a third country."
Such claims made by the media are inflammatory and do not add any positive input to public discourse about a sensitive area of public policy.
I refer you to the Australian Press Council guideline No. 262:
The Australian Press Council has received complaints about the terminology that is applied, and ought to be applied, to those arriving in Australia who do not have normal immigrant credentials. Technically in Commonwealth immigration legislation they are referred to as "unlawful non-citizens". However, they are often referred to as "illegal immigrants", or even "illegals".The problem with the use of terms such as "illegal refugee" and "illegal asylum seeker" is that they are often inaccurate and may be derogatory.
The Council cautions the press to be careful in the use of such unqualified terms in reports and headlines.See also the adjudication on a complaint made to the Press Council on a similar case:
I also attach a letter of complaint we sent on 27th November re another article by Rhianna King and Nick Butterly, which contains the same problem. This letter was sent to you via email and to date we have had no response from you.I would like to know any action to intend to take both for the published articles and to ensure that these terms are not used in any future publications.
Yours sincerely
Kate Gauthier
National Coordinator

The West Australian wrote back the same day with a positive response:
Dear Kate Gauthier
RE: Use of the term "illegals" in The West Australian.
Your letter has been referred to me by the editor Paul Armstrong for response.The reporter who wrote both stories, Rhianna King, has now been counselled about the misuse of the term "illegals" in her reports.An internal message has also been sent to all reporting and sub-editing staff on the newspaper urging caution about the use of the term and referring them to our long-standing style point. The message states:Please exercise caution with the terms "illegals", "illegal boat people", "illegal asylum seekers", "illegal refugees", "illegal detainees" etc. In most cases the word "illegal" is not appropriate, is inaccurate and can be seen as us using derogatory language.Our style is quite clear yet this has happened twice in the last month.
Our style is:
illegals - do not use when referring to detainees or asylum seekers.
Australian Press Council has even issued a guideline on the matter (Number 262), in which they caution newspapers "to be careful in the use of such unqualified terms in reports and headlines".
Yours sincerely

This newsletter is brought to you by A Just Australia Inc..To contact us, email:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dinki-di indigenous? Or all Greek?

Miss Eagle is indebted to Langguj Gel for this

Could there be light at the end of the gambling tunnel?

Some lessons are only learned, it often seems, when a monetary penalty is imposed, when someone sues for civil damages. The tobacco industry is a case in point. Science could not put them in their place, but damages claims can. It is to be hoped that - in time - gambling will suffer a similar fate.

To-day, in Australia, we may see some light at the end of a tunnel. We hope it is not extinguished.

A well-heeled problem gambler has established at law that he has a case against Crown Casino here in Melbourne.

Currently, gambling venues get away with grand larceny. They can lure and entice to their hearts' content and disclaim any responsibility. Problem gamblers can steal from their employers and lose the money over the gambling tables or down the machines but gambling entities are not held liable for receiving stolen property and are never forced to repay it. Families and their property can go down the drain because of a problem family member but no corporate entity is ever held to be liable.

To-day, Justice David Harper may well have set in train events which could change all that. Miss Eagle sincerely hopes so.

NOTE: Justice Harper was appointed a Queens Counsel in Victoria in 1986 and in New South Wales in 1989 after a distinguished career at the Victorian Bar which began in 1970. He was appointed to the Supreme Court in March 1992. He is currently Chair, International Humanitarian Law Advisory Committee of the Red Cross (Victorian branch). He has had a long and active involvement with the Victorian Bar (1980-91) and was the Chairman in 1990-1. Justice Harper served as a part-time Commissioner of the Victorian Law Reform Commission from 1991 until its abolition by the Liberal Government in 1992.

Words fail Miss Eagle

Miss Eagle frequently waxes loud and lyrical on issues affecting Aboriginal people - or rants and raves, depending on your point of view. Miss Eagle is not writing about the trial of under age youth for the pack r-pe of the young girl at Aurukun. Miss Eagle's words would fall like lead into such an abyss. The only insightful material that I have read is by David Martin in Crikey.

David Martin has had close connections with Aurukun for over 30 years, including living there as a community worker for eight years from the mid-1970s, and later spending a further two years there conducting research for his doctoral thesis. He has close family connections with Aurukun, and has raised children there. He gave evidence into the Aurukun hearings of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and provided advice to the Fitzgerald Cape York Justice Inquiry. David is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at the Australian National University and an independent anthropological consultant. He spoke to Thomas Hunter for Crikey.

Miss Eagle finds that First Dog echoes her sentiments. What else can be said that has not already been said? At least until the next time I wax loud and lyrical and rant and rave about racism and governance in Queensland - and remind you, dear Reader, how far away in distance, culture, comfort, and support Aurukun on Cape York is from Brisvegas and its comforts, freeways, casino, ignorance, and failure to listen and to consider!

Friday, December 07, 2007

When will they ever learn...?

When will they ever learn? There is a dictum in the Christian tradition - and its sentiment appears in a number of other faith traditions - Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Miss Eagle asks if Andrew Fraser and Warren Pitt are prepared to live and work in Aurukun. If not, why not? And, if Aurukun is not good enough for Fraser and Pitt, why do they think it is good enough for other Australian citizens. Yes, that's right. Aboriginal people living in Aurukun are citizens of Queensland and Australia and have the same rights, responsibilities, and needs (well, actually more given Aurukun's history and neglect) as other Queenslanders and Australians.

BTW, correction Philip.
Judy Spence is Queensland's Police Minister and has been for many years. Not Andrew Fraser.
Judy Spence is currently Minister for Police, Corrective Services and Sport

Andrew Fraser was Minister for Local Government, Planning and Sport and is now Treasurer.

Warren Pitt was Minister for Communities, Minister for Disability Services Queensland, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Minister for Seniors and Youth.
He is now Minister for Main Roads and Local Government.

One would think, if Pitt and Fraser were really listening and paying attention at Aurukun, that Aurukun could get a look in with the following:

  1. Funding across all relevant departments

  2. A decent all weather road connecting it with Cairns - probably through Pitt's electorate of Mulgrave?

  3. Improvements in Local Government (Aurukun Shire Council site is here) and its ability to meet the needs of its constituents.

  4. Pitt could personally mentor small business in Aurukun.

But then again...

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Liberal Party's Federal Front Bench

Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson has announced his front bench. Miss Eagle posts it for the record and without comment. But you, dear Reader, please feel free to make whatever comment you like.

Julie Bishop: employment, business and workplace relations
Malcolm Turnbull: shadow treasurer
Andrew Robb: foreign affairs
Nick Minchin: defence
Tony Smith: education, apprenticeships and training
Tony Abbott: Indigenous affairs, families, community services and volunteer sector
Ian Macfarlane: trade
Joe Hockey: leader of opposition business; health and ageing
Greg Hunt: climate change, environment and urban water
Bruce Billson: broadband, communication and the digital economy
Christopher Pyne: justice, border protection and citizenship
Bronwyn Bishop: veterans affairs
Stephen Ciobo: small business, the service economy and tourism
Michael Keenan: shadow assistant treasurer
Warren Truss: infrastructure, transport and local government
Nigel Scullion: fisheries, agriculture and forestry
Helen Coonan: human services
Peter Dutton: finance, competition policy and deregulation
Chris Ellison: immigration and citizenship; manager of Opposition business in the Senate
George Brandis: shadow attorney-general
Michael Ronaldson: special minister of state
Sharman Stone: environment, heritage, arts and indigenous affairs
Bob Baldwin: defence science, personnel and assisting shadow defence minister
Sussan Ley: housing, status of women
Pat Farmer: youth and sport

A working class hero is farewelled...

My friend Patricia Corowa - who has been mentioned on this blog before - yesterday went to the State Funeral for Bernie Banton (pictured above with his wife, Karen). Here is the Vale to Bernie posted last week on The Eagle's Nest. Patricia has given a beautiful report on the State Funeral and has kindly given permission for it to be published. Thank you, Patricia.

Dear Family and Friends:

Just want to let you all know:

I went with a Maori friend... John Ake... to the State Funeral of Bernie Banton AM, at Acer Arena at Olympic Park yesterday... in the teeming rain...

It was a good send off to an ordinary working man... who did extraordinary exploits... with a processional guard of honour of about 100 High School Students from Kings School... Parramatta... where Bernie and his brothers and sister were born... and where he grew up and worked in the James Hardie Factory nearby...

His Sons and Nephews were Poll Bearers... There was a 12-piece string orchestra... his Brother, Rev Bruce Banton (Full Gospel Ministry) officiated... with tributes from his Wife, Daughters-in-Law, Grand-daughter... and official Tributes (all there in person) from PM Kevin Rudd, NSW Premier Morris Iemma, and Greg Combet, MP for Charlton and Parliamentary Secretary assisting the Minister for Defence...

The Eulogy was given by his Sister, Grace... who now lives in Texas, USA... His son Dean read Psalm 121... and there were more tributes from his brother, Brian Banton and the closing address by Rev Bruce Banton... Hymns were It is well with my Soul... and The River... and as the cortege left the assembly... the John Rowles song If I only had time was sung by a male soloist

There was a Guard of Honour of NSW Unions with their banners as the cortege was brought out of the Acer Arena to the Hearse... still in the teeming rain... to go to a private family burial... and PM Kevin Rudd was there with Karen Banton, Bernie's widow, right up till then

As the service progressed... we heard... that Bernie was of Irish and Jewish descent... and that he and his family are Christians

In his closing address... Rev Bruce Banton related how Bernie's passions were FMH... Football, Meat Pies and Holdens... and how towards the end of those 102 of a possible 153 of his last days on this earth... Bernie called him to have communion with him in hospital... so that he could forgive... as set out in the disciples' prayer (of Matthew 6:9-13... and the admonition of Jesus to them of verses 14 and 15... that if we do not forgive those who have wronged us... our Heavenly Father will not forgive us our wrongs)... and be ready to meet his Maker...

As they took communion in that hospital room... the remembrance bread representing the body of Christ... was a meat pie... So wonderful... I wept!

I thanked God for Salvation... amongst that crowd of witnesses... who were there to mourn the passing... and to celebrate the life of an Australian hero

He did what it was in his heart to do... even unto death


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Only a bird in a gilded cage?

Karen Murphy says:

Years ago, when I first went into the world and embraced feminism as an equalising movement, not one based on hatred, resentment or superiority, my mother expressed doubts.
She said that she foresaw a time when women would be under more pressure, rather than less, with less respect rather than more, falling further behind rather than stepping out in front.
Then I thought her fearful and reactionary.
Now I think her wise.

Miss Eagle didn't have the prescience in this matter of Karen's mother. But I do give her some credit.

Miss Eagle's feminist credentials have always been sound. I was never in the radical, separatist camp. And I didn't swap my husband for a same sex partner. I have always called myself a fair-go-feminist or, more technically, an equalitarian.

I wanted a fair go: a fair go to be myself, not to be impeded because of my gender or marital status or fertility or child caring and rearing responsibilities. I love men - or some of them. And I care about the way some men are treated and how many of them - for one reason or another - don't get a fair go. I wanted to earn the good money the boys always ensured for themselves. I wanted women to cease to be their own worst enemies by their always-trying-to-please-mentality. I was sick and tired of a system that kept women happy by giving them a nice title, a nice office, don't-get-your-hands-dirty work, and lousy pay.

I hate Secretary's Day. To show appreciation to and for your Secretary/PA/EA, forget the ad in the paper. Ditch the roses. Give her decent money, time flexibility, a fair degree of autonomy, treat her as a professional member of the team, and value her work!

And titles. One of the feminist trademarks was "Ms." Even down to Gloria Steinem's magazine. But Ms was an indication that marital status was my business not yours. And believe me the stories that abounded back in the 70s in relation to single mothers and their treatment by electricity companies!

To Miss Eagle, the title is important. So important that she doesn't want any. She was not born with a title. She is not a miss - nor has she been missed.

I have a first name, a middle name, a last name. You can call me by my first name (my preference - even if you are a six year old) or you can call me by my last name. I don't want Miss, Ms, or Mrs. This has been the Quaker way for the last 350 years. If there is a Quaker title, it is merely Friend.

As for how to address the mail, use names or initials. Ms has still not lost the stigma of being a very, very radical title. Rubbish, poppycock and horsefeathers! Any good old fashioned stenographer will tell you that when you don't know the title of a woman (whether it is Miss or Mrs) you can always write M/s. This was the forerunner of the feminist Ms.

Many organisations - business, political, feminist - have, since the 70s, always addressed their mail Ms. But imagine my shock in recent times when I received a letter from Kevin Rudd address to me as Mrs.... !

Now, for those of you who are archaic, yes I am a Mrs. But I don't wish to be called Mrs and how dare Kevin or who ever prepared that letter assume, since they are complete strangers, my marital status. It is none of their ever-so-polite business. Why could the letter not have been addressed to FirstName LastName or FirstName Middle Name/Middle Initial Last Name. The salutation could have been Dear FirstName. What is so difficult about that? What is so bad mannered about that?

And then what bugs me is that, so often, computer programs give no option. Very few in the title box have an option saying "None". So I pick my own - if someone is willing to play along. My favourite Melbourne book store sends me their catalogue - courtesy of the assistance of a rather cute young man on a sunny Melbourne morning - using the title Saint: Saint First Name Last Name. Heaven knows what the postie thinks!

Back to Mrs Murphy and her prescience. Is she right? Julia Gillard is now next to the top of the tree and there are a lot more visible women in public and corporate life than ever before. Our efforts have not been for nought. But even more visible are the sexual libertarians and their camp (no: not gay: ancient phrase) followers.

Karen Murphy explicitly lays the blame and I support her:

And I blame women because winning equality and respect was always going to be our fight, wives and mothers, sisters, friends and colleagues, but we seem to have walked away before serious battle was even joined.
Capitalism lurks somewhere behind it, of that there is no doubt, the notion that earning money is without a moral component. But it goes deeper than that, as if we have all been sold the emperor's new clothes of sexual glamour.
No, ladies, it's not glamorous, it's just naked.
In particular, I hold to account:
■All the lap dancers, strippers, topless barmaids and well-educated prostitutes who do it for the money.
■Women participating in pornography.
■Women who post tawdry "raunch" photos of themselves on the internet.
■Women who model in degrading advertisements (think Windsor Smith shoes) who do it for the money.
■Women who have cosmetic surgery just when their faces are becoming interesting, and breast enhancements to make themselves desirable.

■Women who claim they have Brazilian waxes for themselves.
■Women who refuse to have an argument with their male partners over the sharing of household duties.
■Women who have caesareans so that their vaginas remain tight.
■Women who claim stiletto heels are comfortable.
■Mothers who give their daughters make-up or hair dye before they turn 10, and are more likely to ask if the child has a favourite boy at school rather than a favourite subject.
■All the women who participate in soft-porn music clips.
■All the women who do pole dancing instead of a non-sexual gym workout.
■All the actresses that strip when their careers are in trouble.
■All the female sports stars that strip to raise money.
■Those women who still believe it is more important to be beautiful on the outside than the inside.

Is this what the liberation of women, the freedom of choice and social movement for women is all about? If so, as Mrs Murphy predicted, it has devalued the currency. Not only has the currency of the free will of women being devalued but it is affecting our children, particularly our daughters and our grand-daughters.

We now have people who consider pole dancing a mainstream activity appropriate for teaching to little girls. We now have sexually-inspired clothes for little girls. Our little girls are not only playing with their mothers' cosmetics but seriously wearing cosmetics at a younger age than ever before.

The women who use their freedom for only these practices have sold their birthright for a mess of pottage. Instead of building wider horizons for themselves, they have narrowed the supposedly gilded cage. There is a wide and beautiful world out there waiting for women to explore and make their own. There are those who want to encase us in heavy clothes and imprison us in our homes and leave us naked on our beds.

We have to continue to fight to establish ourselves in the physical, mental and spiritual freedom our Creator Spirit intended for us.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Postscript: The Australian Public Service, working with us...?

Miss Eagle is indebted to people who know so much more than she does. Take the other day when ELP left a comment on the blog here. Miss Eagle would rarely, if ever, make a comment on defence procurement but ELP's insights were valued. And, while Miss Eagle, did not reply - daring not to show complete ignorance - she is grateful that this blog's good friend - Denis from The Nature of Robertson - replied. Call again, gentlemen, any time.

And, following this morning's post, about the Australian Public Service, Denis has come to the rescue with the following email:

Here is the Canberra Times report on new Senior officers of the APS.
Nobody in the Media knows the public service better than the Canberra Times.

Boxall has been a senior Federal Deptl head for many years. He came from South Australia, but he might have started out in Canberra. Lisa Paul is someone I do not know, but she sounds like someone who is "in favour". She has the critical Department (Julia's).

The full Administrative Arrangements Order is available here:

It tells you every Department - full title - and every Act administered by each one. It is the key document which shows how real powers have or have not been shuffled around between Depts.

It is mind-glazingly dull, (but absolutely critical to Government's day-to-day operations).
There are little gems hidden away in there.

For example:
Attorney-Generals administers Native Title Act 1993, except to the extent administered by the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.
That title of the Dept tells you lots about how Aboriginal Affairs has sort of been sidelined, but partly it fulfils Rudds promise to not treat Aboriginal issues any differently from other people. THAT IS A TWO-EDGED SWORD IN MY MIND. The Hansonites argued for that position, don't forget.

If you read at his blog what Denis has been doing in the preparation of policy documents for the Save Water Alliance fighting for local control of water in the Southern Highlands, you will understand the sound insights that Denis brings to public administration - and the appreciation expressed by his colleagues.

Thank you, Denis. Good to have the record straight.

The Australian Public Service; working with us...?

To-day is Day One of the brand, spanking, shiny new Rudd Labor Government. From here the work begins. Now we know who the ministers and parliamentary secretaries are as well as those with any form of leadership responsibility. We know who are the political drivers, movers and shakers that we, Australian voters, elected.

But there is a layer of decision-making and moving and shaking below them whom we do not elect. These are the senior executives of the Australian Public Service.

The motto of the Australian Public Service Commission is working with you - but do they? Do they always? They are responsible to their political masters - but not to us. They know nothing of having to go out into the electorate and face the music. They are insulated from that.

By the time a senior executive in the Australian Public Service has reached his/her exalted position quite a few skills and defensive mechanisms have been learned. They have learned how to snow ministers, defend their positions, dodge blame, pass bucks, and cleverly word documents and legislation.

One of the reasons why the British TV comedy, Yes Minister, was such a success is because it reflects - and not necessarily with exaggeration - reality: the reality of parliaments and the public and civil service within the Westminster system of government.

In Miss Eagle's experience, governments come to power with a slateful of promises to implement. These promises, in the best of all possible worlds, have been developed by community consultation and lobbying from their own constituencies such as party branches, business or worker organisations. But, if a government has any measure of longevity, these commitments are exhausted within one three year term at least; and, if not, by half way through the second term.

One of the lessons from the Hawke period of government is that branches and party forums were sat upon. There could be no public voice let alone dissent. The solemn and hard facts were that input from party branches and forums dried up. Policy input from the bottom up virtually disappeared. This is likely to be repeated under Rudd.

What then happens is this. The reforming government gets its slateful of promises put to bed and dealt with. Government then turns around to see what is next to keep the policy ball rolling and the body politic interested and paying attention.

There is no difficulty finding what is next: there is the agenda of the non-elected senior executives of the Australian Public Service. They have a full to over-flowing slate of policy suggestions, dear Minister!

Australians learned for themselves what a difference a head of department makes when Whitlam took the reins of government in 1972 but still had a public service with a history of and symbiosis with 23 years of Liberal Party government. Adjustments then began over time in the public service which has lead to its clear (rather than obscured) politicisation.

Part of this has been the move to short term contracts which, to some of us, has meant that the senior executive service can not always pride itself on giving impartial advice to government without fear or favour.

Miss E has not the time or space to give instance after instance within the tenure of the Howard Government but Miss E suggests a detailed examination of Immigration, Defence and Attorney-General's would keep you busy for quite a long year, dear Reader.

Rudd has come out of the Australian Public Service. He held the most senior position in the Queensland Public Service under the Goss Government. He certainly has not made the mistakes of the incoming Whitlam government. He gives no public appearance of rushing to judgment on senior executive appointments although detailed scrutiny finds some ripples on the water.

Peter Shergold is still in place as Head of the Dept of Prime Minister and Cabinet. He has made it clear he wishes to leave the APS and his history makes it clear that he would not be a boon companion to the incoming government. However, Shergold is a public service professional and there is little doubt he will provide sound transitional service to the Rudd/Gillard team. Ken Henry in Treasury seems, at this stage, in little danger. He, too, is professional and has, at times, dissented from his political master, Peter Costello. It will be interesting to see how Wayne Swan manages Henry's advice.

But the departments that Miss E will watch with interest are:
  1. Gillard's superportfolio of education, industrial relations and workforce participation which she sees as, virtually, a department of productivity
  2. Immigration - can the culture really be changed?
  3. Defence - will the senior executive service throw up talent appropriate to the extraordinary political leadership now in place
  4. Attorney-General - it would be good to see true Labor traditions shining through the A-G portfolio in a manner comparable at Federal level with the manner in which Rob Hulls in Victoria has managed that state's A-G portfolio. It is necessary to counteract the stealth and development of pro-terrorism responses coming from the ghostly Philip Ruddock.

And Miss Eagle is also waiting to see the colour of the Rudd government's money on social inclusion. What will it mean in practice?

In fact, what will public service appointments within the senior executive service mean for the Rudd government and what will be measure of its service to the Australian people?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Water, water everywhere in the Outer East.

The previous post was talking about our lack of water and water restrictions. Clearly, a day is a long time in weather and climate. This afternoon, there was no shortage of water in the Outer Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Huge downpours this afternoon and flash flooding all over the place.

For the first time in three years, the creek in front of our house is full and flowing: flowing fast, in fact.

Water, edibles and the elderly in the vege patch

Here is some of Miss Eagle's vege patch & pots.

Water is at a premium in Australia - and Victoria is no exception.

This morning we got a very welcome drop of rain.

But water is an issue with veges.

We are warned that there will some food shortages this summer along with higher prices for fruit and vegetables.

So it makes a lot of sense to grow your own.

You can eliminate the chemicals. Go organic. Plant permaculture.

And get a lot of pleasure and good nutrition all at the same time.

But water is an issue and Marika Wagner wants us to join her in lobbying the government about our needs. Marika knows what she is talking about. She works at the marvellous Bulleen Art and Garden here in Melbourne.

Marika says:

Produce gardens provide us with the very fruit, vegetables and herbs we eat, and many of us have worked hard to create these gardens with much of our own time and money.

It's understood that keeping higher water use ornamental gardens and lawns can be seen as luxury items in times of water shortage, but forcing us to let our produce gardens become unproductive and/or die is an outrage. Only being able to water on two pre-specified days of the week is not the most efficient way to keep a garden alive and productive and can lead to stressed and unproductive plants, defeating the purpose of this type of garden. Produce gardens should be allowed efficient, mindful watering, when required.

Education to efficient water use, is the key to saving water for Victoria, not forcing gardens to dwindle & perhaps perish.

To be able to grow our own food:-
1) Saves water for Victoria, according to a study done by David Holmgren, co-founder of ‘Permaculture’, (Holmgren Design Services), efficient backyard growers can use only one fifth of the water compared to commercial growers per $ value of produce.

2) Saves up to 25% of greenhouse gases by eliminating ‘food miles’, this means our fruit and vegetables don’t use excess energies of ; being machine harvested, transported to sorting sheds, stored in cool rooms, transported to market, then to supermarket, lit up by fluorescent lights and then transported again to homes to be then stored again in the fridge, whilst losing vitality and freshness along the way.

3) Reduces the overall Australia wide use of biocides like herbicides, pesticides and fungicides. This is because home produce gardens are naturally quite biodiverse, therefore resilient, and easy to apply natural pest control methods to.

4) Brings people and families together outdoors to gain healthy organic produce, fresh air, exercise and an awareness to our connection with nature.I believe that it is our right to grow and monitor our own fresh, healthy, chemical free food in our backyards. I am asking for an exemption from current water restrictions or for introduction of more appropriate water rules for our important produce gardens.

So, dear Reader, please pop across here and sign Marika's petition. And then, when you have done that, please let all your friends know and get them to sign too. Let's make Tim Holding and the Victorian Labor Government sit up and take notice. Otherwise, civil disobedience?

Miss E also supports Kevin Walsh's idea for a new E level of restriction: for the elderly and edibles. How sensible.