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Monday, March 31, 2008

Terry does Tourism

Miss Eagle comes - on both paternal and maternal sides - from a family of talkers, scribblers, and know-it-alls some of whom make or have made their living at doing any or all of these three things professionally. Terry Gallaway of Sky News is one of these. Terry is cruising all the way to Europe and the historic battle fields of World War I with his his dear wife, Coral, on the QE2. You can read about it here.

When you can do nothing else - even on holidays : bear witness.

Pope Benedict, Aboriginal people, and walking a kilometer in another's thongs?

The Catholic Church in Sydney is hosting World Youth Day - a major international Catholic fest - in Sydney in June this year. It is planned that Tall Ships will be in evidence and that Sydney residents, as they do very often, will take to the harbour in everything from yachts to bath tubs to welcome Pope Benedict who will arrive on a sailing ship.

Now this event has not been noted for its consideration of other people. Little or no consideration was given to those in the racing industry when the Catholic Church showed its take-no-prisoners attitude to staging the papal mass at Randwick. Negotiations took what seemed like forever and have resulted in Federal and State Government intervention with Australian and New South Wales taxpayers footing the bill.

One wonders how the Catholic Church will handle another hiccup in its planning agenda. Aboriginal people are concerned about the arrival of Pope Benedict on a sailing ship. Too reminiscent of the beginning of white settlement they say. Presumably, the Pope will be clad in his usual white so it just might be a case of looking like Great White Father, Miss Eagle thinks.

When you can do nothing else: bear witness.

Life's a ball-game


Large, round object. Move it towards the goal; get it through the doorway. Outmaneuver those big, burly guys trying to stop you, trying to take it from you. Be quick. Use your feet.

Sounds familiar? Sounds like my life.

"From everything that one sees or hears about," taught Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, "one should derive a lesson in the service of the Creator."

Perhaps the most popular sport on earth today is the game of soccer (otherwise known as football). As is the case with every phenomenon in G-d's world, this game can serve as a model and metaphor for our mission in life.

The objective of the game is to move a ball into a "goal" or "gate." This would be fairly easy to achieve were it not for the fact that facing the players is an opposing team which will do everything in its power to prevent them from scoring a "goal." But then again, if there were no opposing team, the full extent of the players' skill and power would never be actualised. For such is the nature of the human being: our most potent potentials are awakened only by challenge and adversity.

The ball can be maneuvered with various parts of the player's body, but the game is played primarily with the feet. The game requires much skill, but no less important is the player's speed-much depends on whether a player can outrun his opponent and move more quickly than he.

What can all this teach us regarding our daily endeavors and inner lives?

The earth is a sphere - a fact noted nearly two thousand years ago by the Jerusalem Talmud.The objective of life is to move this "ball" into the shaar haMelech - the gate of the King. By fulfilling the mitzvot of the Torah, we move the world toward the goal of its creation.

At our every step, we are challenged by a formidable opposing team - composed of our own negative traits and habits and a host of external foes - who obstruct our advance toward the goal and seek to move the ball in the opposite direction. But it is the perpetual presence of this opposition that provokes our deepest potentials and maximizes our achievements.

A key factor in achieving victory are speed. The most skillful player will be quite ineffective if his movements are slow, plodding, and unenthusiastic. Similarly, a person's life must be animated with alacrity and joy in order that his deeds should translate into scored goals and a true impact upon his world.

The other important lesson is never to underestimate the power of the feet. To advance the ball towards its goal, we make use of the full array of our faculties, from "head" to "foot" - our minds, our capacity for feeling, our talents and our physical energy. But our most important faculty is the "feet," which represents our capacity for action and "mindless" obedience. Although it constitutes the "lowest" and least sophisticated of our faculties, it is our unequivocal commitment to the divine will and the physical action of the mitzvot that has the greatest impact upon our world and is the most powerful force for its advancement and ultimate realisation.

By Yanki Tauber;
via The Central Synagogue

When you can do nothing else: bear witness.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Seasons of the soul: A peak experience: the three days of Easter

As I write late on the afternoon of Maundy Thursday, it is with the anticipation of embarking on keeping alive the remembrance at the pinnacle of the Christian faith within the cycle of the liturgical year - the Easter Triduum.

The Easter Triduum refers to the three days from the evening of Thursday through to Sunday evening. It also refers to the three major events around which the community of faith gathers: the commemoration of The Last Supper on Maundy Thursday; the commemoration of the suffering and death of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ on Good Friday; and the celebration of His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Holy Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, is a day of quiet and mourning remembering that this was the time that Jesus lay in the grave.

I was thinking to-day that I have kept these traditions for sixty years. Sometimes the Triduum has not been kept in its entirety when health matters have intervened. This has happened a lot over the last decade. But health has improved and I am looking forward to full participation this year.

To-night will be the washing of feet. Last year, this was done with towels and soap and bowls from our local public hospital where St Thom's has a huge and long involvement in chaplaincy and pastoral care. Great symbolism! To-morrow, we go ecumenical joining with the Catholic and Uniting Church in procession and ceremony. Sunday, St Thom's starts at 6.10am with the sun and kindling the new fire followed by breakfast followed by the great rejoicing as the purple disappears and the Gloria that hasn't been heard for six weeks rings out. "He is risen!" is the greeting of the day with the response of "He is risen indeed!". Miss E will be following this with a trip into the Hills to the tiny Quaker Meeting for Worship at Menzies Creek.

When you can do nothing else: bear witness

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Christian Palestinian needs next?

Picture from the website of Sabeel

Following this report, I hope the next thing we hear is that Kevin Rudd will attend a fundraiser for Christian Palestinians - if there are any left in Palestine as their mass exodus continues due to Israel and Hamas et al trying their best to exterminate one another.

In the West, it seems we are either apathetic and ignorant with regard to our Christian brothers and sisters in Israel and Palestine, some of whom trace their Christian origins in a direct line back to the time of Christ, or we are so carried away by Israeli and Jewish propaganda and the Christian Zionist line, predominantly from the United States, that we just go with the flow.
To know more about Palestinian Christians on the West Bank and in Israel, please go here.
Sabeel, the Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, is in the processing of establishing Waves of Prayer. The idea is that each Thursday people will pray at 12 noon in their own time zone with Sabeel for peace and justice in Israel and Palestine. Sabeel intends that Waves of Prayer will begin first in Australia's time zone.
Kevin Rudd mentioned in his speech that the estabishment of the state of Israel in 1948 was "Australian Labor government handiwork". This refers to the fact that H.V. Evatt, Australia's Foreign Minister at the time and later Leader of the Australian Labor Party, cast the first vote for the establishment of the state of Israel in the United Nations General Assembly.

Meanwhile, Christian Palestinians suffer. Christian Palestinians have their lands and livelihoods stolen. Their lives are taken in the violence and they are discrimated against by the Israelis both personally and systematically.
So, Kevin, how about it? In fact, as you and Therese are Anglicans, why not give public support to the Waves of Prayer and, while you're at it, please give Anglicord a ring. Contact details here.

When you can do nothing else: bear witness.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Vale, Clyde Cameron. Your like shall not pass this way again.

Undoubtedly, older AWU officials and members around Australia will have noted the passing of one Clyde Robert Cameron.

Clyde was one of the AWU's more widely known identities - and a unique one. Another great AWU identity, the beloved Mick Young, used to tell of how, when he was an AWU organiser in South Australia, there used to be two union meetings: the one which he, as organiser, held with his members and the one, held by Clyde Cameron with the same group of members, immediately afterwards.

Clyde Cameron was not always the best-beloved of the right of the AWU: and certainly not of the Queensland Branch, the most powerful section of the AWU.

Miss Eagle recalls attending her first Queensland Delegates Meeting of the AWU. Delegates meeting is an interesting concept in recent times because, during Miss Eagle's period at the AWU, there was only one occasion when a rank and file delegate was at Delegates Meeting of the AWU. Delegates Meeting - as far as Miss Eagle could tell - was usually an historic and time honoured summer holiday for AWU officials from the bush to get an all expenses paid trip to Brisbane.

When Errol Hodder was State Secretary he was a modernising influence on the AWU. Miss Eagle's first Delegates Meeting was held at Kooralbyn. Besides the innovations of the venue, and the attendance of female officials for the first time, Errol had arranged for training to be done by trainers from the Trade Union Training Authority (TUTA). As well, as conducting training within individual trade unions and travelling to various locations for training sessions involving a wide cross-section of trade unionists, TUTA had established , in Albury-Wodonga, the Clyde Cameron College.

Errol explained to the unsuspecting TUTA trainer at Kooralbyn that the reason the AWU had taken so long to avail itself of TUTA's service was the unfortunate naming of their training college in Albury-Wodonga! Memories in the AWU run long and deep and both ways!

When you can do nothing else: bear witness.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The cruelty of kidnapping and death stirs memories of ancient times and peoples

Australia sometimes seems remote not only because of its geography but from some of the most important facets of human history. This comes to mind with the reported finding of the body of the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho in Iraq.

A Wikipedia search shows this entry for the term Chaldeans. For Miss Eagle, it brings to mind biblical history, some of the oldest human history which in turn conjures up painful thoughts of the beginning of the Iraq invasion by the U.S. when the museum in Baghdad was looted and pillaged of some of the finest records and artifacts of human history.

The language spoken by Chaldeans, Chaldean Neo-Aramaic, is a living link with an ancient time and an ancient people.

The Chaldeans also connect us with a very ancient Christian community - the St Thomas Christians of India. Christian tradition has it that St Thomas - you recall, dear Reader, Didymus the doubting one - travelled to India and preached the gospel there. Miss Eagle recalls when she lived in Tennant Creek where there is a group of the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa's order of nuns) meeting one of the sisters who had grown up in the Syrian church in India.

So a meeting between two women in a remote Australian outback town can connect the modern 20th century with Apostolic times, Indian history, and ancient human stories embedded in the Middle East.

In Australia, we settlers - with a two hundred year memory of European settlement set within a 40,000 year Aboriginal tradition - have a lot to learn about other ancient ways of being human.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Templeton: making science and religion a prize

Wikipedia says that Sir John Templeton renounced his US citizenship because he didn't want to pay US taxes in his native country. Perhaps, he had an eye on the prize that dual Bahamian and British citizenship might give him - a knighthood that the USA never could provide. Perhaps he just loves the sun of the Carribean.
Now, Miss Eagle professes absolute ignorance of what it is to be absolutely rich. However, a lifelong saturation in the Christian tradition always brings to remembrance entry levels for the rich to the Kingdom of Heaven and comparison with mobility through the size and structure of a sewing implement.
Having said all this, Miss Eagle has to express her fascination with the Templeton Prize funded generously by Sir John. Sir John Templeton asked a big question...
"If even one-tenth of world research were focused on spiritual realities, could benefits be even more vast than the benefits in the latest two centuries from research in food, travel, medicine or electronics, and cosmology?
  • Research and innovation in food products just since 1800 caused over 100 fold more food production per American farmer.
  • Research and innovation in travel methods since 1950, enabled over 100 fold increase in travel by Americans.
  • Research and innovation in medicine just since 1900 caused over 100 fold increase in information about our bodies.
  • Research and innovation in electronics just since 1900 caused over 1000 fold increase in information available to us.

In 300 centuries, humans observed less than a million stars; but just in the last two centuries innovations in methods and research has revealed a cosmos of 100 billion times 100 billion stars."

The Templeton Prize is based on the premise that

progress is needed in spiritual discovery as in all other dimensions of human experience and endeavor. Progress in religion needs to be accelerated as rapidly as progress in other disciplines. A wider universe demands deeper awareness of the aspects of the Creator and of spiritual resources available for humankind, of the infinity of God, and of the divine knowledge and understanding still to be claimed.

The prize money for the Templeton Prize is serious stuff. It is deliberately kept in excess of the Nobel Prize.

Listed below are the prize winners including the just announced 2008 prize-winner Michael Heller.
1973 - Mother Teresa of Calcutta
1974 - Frère Roger, founder of the Taizé Community
1975 - Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, President of India
1976 - Leon Joseph Cardinal Suenens
1977 - Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare Movement
1978 - Prof. Thomas Torrance
1979 - Rev. Nikkyo Niwano
1980 - Ralph Wendell Burhoe, founder of Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science
1981 - Cicely Saunders, hospice founder
1982 - Rev. Dr. Billy Graham, evangelist
1983 - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Soviet dissident novelist
1984 - Rev. Michael Bourdeaux, founder of the Keston Institute
1985 - Alister Hardy, founder of the Religious Experience Research Centre
1986 - Rev. James I. McCord of the Princeton Theological Seminary
1987 - Stanley Jaki
1988 - Dr. Inamullah Khan
1989 - Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, physicist and philosopher, Lord MacLeod of Fuinary, founder of the Iona Community and Indarjit Singh
1990 - Baba Amte and L. Charles Birch
1991 - Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits
1992 - Kyung-Chik Han
1993 - Charles Colson, founder of the Prison Fellowship
1994 - Michael Novak, philosopher and diplomat
1995 - Paul Davies, theoretical physicist
1996 - Dr. Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ
1997 - Pandurang Shastri Athavale
1998 - Sigmund Sternberg, philanthropist
1999 - Ian Barbour, professor
2000 - Freeman Dyson, physicist
2001 - Rev. Arthur Peacocke
2002 - Rev. John Polkinghorne
2003 - Holmes Rolston III, philosopher
2004 - George F. R. Ellis, cosmologist and philosopher
2005 - Charles Townes, Nobel laureate and physicist
2006 - John D. Barrow, cosmologist and theoretical physicist
2007 - Charles Taylor, philosopher
2008 - Michael Heller, physicist and philosopher

Now I am not sure about the scientific credentials of some of the recipients but I do have some favourites with whose recognition I am well-pleased. These include Charles Hard Townes - who was introduced to Miss Eagle on Late Night Live, the lively radio program on ABC's Radio National hosted by the evergreen Phillip Adams - and the cosmologist, George Ellis.

Miss Eagle had the privilege of hearing George Ellis speak in Melbourne in January. Ellis is a Quaker and he delivered the 2008 Backhouse Lecture: Faith, Hope, and Doubt in Times of Uncertainty: combining the realms of scientific and spiritual inquiry (available for download here or in hard copy here; ISCAST review here) at the Australian Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

Miss Eagle has never heard of Michael Heller - but she looks forward to hearing more.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Tony Burke takes the corporate line over and above ethical eating

Dear Reader, I don't think they get it yet. I don't think the Prime Minister gets it. I don't think the farmers and their organisations get it. And it has become patently obvious that the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Tony Burke, certainly doesn't get it.

What don't they get? They do not understand, do not comprehend the interest ordinary, everyday Australians are taking in their food - its nutrition value, the way it is grown, who are the people who grow it, the impact of climate change upon it, and the impact of major domestic and international corporations on it.

It seems to me that the Australian government sees only major corporate entities: the farmers, their organisations; food distributors and manufacturers and their organisations; agribusiness and its organisations. Then there is that strange entity called "the consumer".

Now "the consumer" does not hold weighty conferences attended by all those listed in the previous paragraph plus agricultural researchers and economists. But, last time I looked, the consumer still had a brain, was still a sentient being, and is capable of making reasonable and clear decisions.

We see farmers organisations and their supporters drumming up the so-called "city/country divide". What is not recognised is the large numbers of Australians - who qualify only for the title of consumer - who have moved to the country to establish their own small holdings; who have built relationships with farmers - particularly through Farmers Markets; who are concerned with ethical eating and who are so supportive of the agricultural enterprise that they support drought appeals and angst together with rural residents over the mental health of the farming community.

Australia, with its mild climate across most of the continent, has always been home to keen growers of edible gardens. And most of these gardeners are trying to be organic. Many of them are keen students of permaculture and biodynamics. Lots of them could imagine putting Monsanto and Dupont on trial for agricultural and economic terrorism but instead support seed savers groups and heritage varieties of fruits and vegetables. They are learning not to damage Australia's fragile soils with excessive tilling and their no-dig gardens are multiplying day by day. Primary Schools are teaching children about food from seed to souffle in their own kitchens and kitchen gardens - often aided and abetted by celebrity chefs.

The Minister seems to be entirely ignorant of this movement that votes with its green and dirty thumbs. Why else would he have come out with these statements? (Please take time to read the comments!)

ABARE Outlook 2008 has been on in Canberra. The Minister made his views clear in a doorstop interview there:


[Inaudible] campaigns against food miles, etc. Are you going to invest in advertising or is this something that you’re making comment about?

Certainly, with respect to the animal welfare campaigns, there’s been ongoing investment – and I referred to some of it today – in trying to make sure that we are not just at world’s best practice, but leading world’s best practice in overseas abattoirs and the destination points of some of our live exports.

With respect to food miles, I think we have to take, as I’ve said today, every opportunity to let people know and to let the consumers, both in Australia and internationally know – and I took the advantage today when we had international press here – to make it clear that food miles is a system deliberately designed to deceive. It does not provide quality consumer information and preys on the fact that a lot of consumers – and good on them – want to make sure that they’re doing their bit in trying to reduce carbon emissions.

The problem with food miles is that it takes one tiny [inaudible] of an equation and that’s their entire answer.

So clearly the Minister has a limited understanding of the concept of "food miles": of being near enough to your food to shake hands with the farmer; of caring about freshness and nutrition and value-for-money goodness; and of cruelty free animal lives.

Miss Eagle's solution to these sort of things is - organise. After all, that is what the major corporations and their hangers-on have done. But Miss Eagle looks around and sees organisation: the organisations devoted to permaculture and biodynamics and organics; the increase in retail outlets distributing these types of food products; the countless books, blogs, journals and websites promoting the good, simple, healthy and sustainable life.

Such a mind-set takes one beyond the suburban picket fence mentality and the four walls of a boxy apartment. It takes one into a wider world where nature is valued, treasured, and studied with a view to greater understanding.

Perhaps one day this understanding will reach as far as the board table in the Cabinet Room of Federal Parliament (who will water a Prime Minister's and Minister's edible garden?) and find a forum at ABARE.

The Hon Tony Burke MP Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600
Tel: (02) 6277 7520 Fax: (02) 6273 4120

Monday, March 03, 2008

Is the ACTU under pressure?

Work laws

Miss Eagle was forced to ask the question above after reading this. The ACTU is, perhaps, flinching under the fruit of success. It's wonderful Your Rights At Work campaign was central to the Rudd Labor Government's ascent to the reins of power.

We all watched open-mouthed the me-too campaign run by Labor in the lead up to the election. We wondered if this is what really had to happen to come to power and if Rudd would change his public tune when he came to power. Rudd seems set on being a promise-keeper and appears determined not to follow John Howard down the dishonest path of core and non-core promises.

Rudd and Gillard prior to the election were intent on projecting an image that was business-friendly and business wanted what they had got out of Howard. But, as the union movement is set to remind Rud and Gillard, the Your Rights At Work campaign by the ACTU delivered government. People who had never voted Labor before changed their vote. John Howard's Work Choices were, for most people, a bridge too far. Business has to face that fact. After all, they do love the benefits of a democracy governed by the rule of law, don't they?

And why this magic year of 2010 before things can really begin to change - if at all? Rudd had said that this was because business had to make forward plans. But, really, Kevin. A business that does not factor in the "change of government" risk? A business that can't figure out that industrial relations might change with Labor in power?

People are - by year's end - going to want demonstrable workplace change. They really would like it sooner, like right now. But their patience may stretch to year's end. After that, Kevin and Julia, if there is no demonstrable and meaningful change you will be seen as someone who keeps your word - to business but not to ordinary working Australians.

The left unions are restless. The Socialist Alliance - not an organisation brim-full of burgeoning membership - had a State conference here in Melbourne. The Saturday afternoon panel was devoted to the industrial relations scene and the AMWU, Textile, Clothing & Footwear Union, and the CFMEU as well as the Geelong & Region Trades and Labour Council turned up and clearly expressed their points of view.

The contribution of these unions was indicative of what could be a groundswell from the Left. The AMWU with its strong foothold in a declining Victorian manufacturing base clearly wants a return to the previous way of operating including Pattern Bargaining. While the TCFU outlined lucidly the way in which flow-ons have operated in Australia, the AMWU's dream of pattern bargaining is a wish that Miss Eagle predicts will remain unfulfilled. Somewhere, though, between the traditional flow-on practices and the rigidity and targetting of pattern bargaining there could be an opportunity for some new and negotiated thinking.

Traditionally, there have been unions like the AMWU and the Construction Unions who have set the pace. They have used their clout to progress demands and those with less clout - particularly in industries whose workforce is populated by women and the young - have, in time, been able to apply for flow-ons into their own industrial instruments.

However, back in the 1980s the AMWU and the Construction Unions overlooked one very important factor: the service sector. There was a time back then when the service sector was the one area of the economy that displayed marked growth at the same time as manufacturing entered its decline and some areas of construction were in the doldrums.

The AMWU drove through enterprise bargaining. This was a disaster for workers in the service sector such as the retail and hospitality industries. Enterprise bargaining has potential in the tradeable goods area and in construction. The economies of these industries were the meat and milk of the old Industrial Relations Club. The IR Club knew the ins and outs intimately and its people on a first name basis. The service industries were foreign to them - even to the men who ran the trade unions who serviced these industries. No thought had been given to how they operated: their culture, their economic milieu. I'm not sure that this has occurred yet. Draw an AIRC Commissioner into conversation over a coldie and he (very few she-s) would admit his ignorance.

To put it simply, dear Reader, in Enterprise Bargaining one could negotiate efficiencies in this wise:
If the business was making 500 ball bearings per day but efficiencies were negotiated and work practices not currently facilitated by the industrial award were streamlined and 750 ball bearings per day could now be made, then workers could negotiate a share of the increased productivity. Dead easy.

Then you go to the service industries. A check-out operator has no control over the number of customers served; the room attendant has no control over the number of beds made and rooms cleaned; the bar attendant has no control over the number of customers nor beers pulled. And while, in this day and age, it is possible to measure anything. When people do not want to find quantifiable or qualitative data, that data will never be forthcoming - particularly in relation to the work of women. This is why, in the end, Enterprise Bargaining became associated in these industries not with improved productivity but being forced into giving up conditions and working horrible hours without penalty rates. Of course, the more this sort of Enterprise Bargaining became the norm in these industries the fewer people joined trade unions. Mmmmm.....!

So to-day we look at the linked article which seems to be attributed more to Jeff Lawrence (himself from a Left union, the LHMU) than to the Rudd Government. It is interesting that this has come within ten days of the union panel at the Socialist Alliance. Within ten days of the panel at the Socialist Alliance saying that the current position of the ACTU was quite confused; saying that if the ACTU was to mount any sort of campaign it would be months away.

But the revival of the Australian Labour Advisory Council will hardly be a sop to disgruntled unions. This would have been likely to occur anyway. Similarly, union business committees to consult on legislation - as has been advised by Miss E's AWU contacts. This process is always likely under a Labor Government.

What Australian trade unions don't take to kindly is having a Labor government giving business its wish list or giving business an upper hand to the disadvantage of trade unions and, particularly, trade union rights as spelt out in ILO conventions.

And, as you are aware Kevin and Julia, the CFMEU want the abolition of the draconian Office of the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner forthwith.