Cartoon by Moir in the Sydney Morning Herald

 

SCHADENFREUDE:  Yes, there is an element of this for many of us towards Rupert Murdoch.  I love Moir’s cartoons – he is one of our best.  Murdoch is the classic example of the 1% owning 40% of the wealth I blogged about last time – those 200 jobs were the first to be sacrificed at the News of the World.  Politicians do his bidding as we know – and I read he encouraged Blair to join the invasion of Iraq.  Hopefully his influence on them will now diminish.  The complicity of the police was particularly shocking, but then, not so surprising.  He owns 70% of the print media in Australia and unashamedly pushes his own right-wing agenda – virtually calling for regime change no less at the moment.  The Government or important issues are not given balanced coverage in his newspapers.  I could give you many examples but that would be boring.  There are some very good journalists working for The Australian, and they must often feel compromised.  Perhaps we readers are also complicit – Rupert’s touch has been identifying what his readers want – gossip.  John Dean, who spent 4 months in prison over his involvement in the Watergate cover-up years ago in the US, says that the scandal will keep running until Murdoch resigns – as President Nixon had to.  He quotes a source that says that money, not ideology, is Murdoch’s prime motivation.  See John Dean’s The Essay,  “Murdoch’s dilemma: himself” Sydney Morning Herald July 23-24.

 

Cartoon by Moir in the Sydney Morning Herald

 

We white Australians have only relatively recently begun to address our real history.  Respected historians such as Henry Reynolds have researched extensively and revealed for the first time the scale of the massacre of Aboriginal people as we took over their land.  The anthropologist W.E.H. Stanner called this in 1974 “the great Australian silence”.  Guess who campaigned in his newspapers seemingly daily for years through a very controversial “historian”, to dispute and minimise the numbers of Aboriginal deaths?  This is why I will never forgive Rupert Murdoch. Click here to sign the AVAAZ petition to end Murdoch’s media monopoly in Australia.

 

Drawing on Memory, Michele Elliot, 1992 (detail)

  

GLOBAL ANIMAL:  I was on a panel recently at this very interesting Global Animal conference at the University of Wollongong.  Human-animal relationships are a fast growing field in animal research, and I suppose Christian is a symbol of that!  In this academic environment I felt like the light relief.  Our YouTube reunion footage with Christian was shown and one participant expressed annoyance at the “disconcerting” Whitney Houston backtrack, and that the “greeting card” sentiments about forwarding the video to “someone you love”, detracted from the human-animal relationship.  I was a little taken aback as people are usually so pleasantly uncritical!  I said I personally get swept along with Whitney’s song “I’ll always love you” (actually written by Dolly Parton), and that I didn’t mind the footage being co-opted as a general message of love. But I acknowledged the point that was being made, and should have replied, “without Whitney and the viral “love” nature of the video, would it have reached so many people, and would I actually be sitting here?” Do see fellow panelist and artist Michele Elliot’s blog –michelelliot.blogspot.com. It is one of the most interesting and elegant ones I have seen. She is one of the growing number of artists who are interested in human-animal relationships. Click here to see her story behind the Tiger image.

 

The Gift, photograph by Michele Elliot 2009

 

CARBON TAX:  Pollution tax! I know I sound like a cracked record…but this saga rolls on here and is still Topic A, and it should be an issue in most countries.  Indeed in many countries the debate has moved on to solutions and the economic opportunities presented.  The Government’s policy was finally released and I respect the Sydney Morning Herald’s economist Ross Gitten’s assessment in his article Gillard’s imperfect carbon plan is just that little bit better.  The price for carbon emissions starts at $23 a tonne, the 500 major polluters will have some incentive to reduce emissions, households will be compensated, and there are billions of dollars for the development of renewable energy sources.  

I thought the tide was beginning to turn in the Government’s favour, although a recent poll gave them only 26% of the primary vote.  Luckily the election is 2 years away. This is the government that got us through the GFC better than any other country in the Western world, but who just can’t sell this achievement.  Today’s headline however was “Big Business has declared war on the Federal Government”.  Like the Republicans at the moment over the US debt ceiling, they seem to view all taxes as against the national interest and a form of wealth redistribution.

 However, a majority of economists back the Government’s economic policies and direction, and at a recent conference 79% backed the Government’s carbon tax over the Opposition’s faux Direct Action plan and 74% also backed the Government’s equally controversial Mining tax. The conservative Opposition just says “no” to everything, and with the support of the Murdoch press, ensure there is no considered debate about many important issues. Not surprisingly, consumer confidence is down.

 

Michael Leunig cartoon, in the Sydney Morning Herald

 

THE GREENS: We would have had a similar carbon emissions scheme by now if the Greens had not blocked the last one.  This is an example of why I have some reservations about them, and I have had mail about both my endorsement and my concerns. I think the Greens vary from country to country, although they obviously share many policies and philosophies.  As we have a hung parliament, and the Greens have the balance of power in the Senate (Upper House) they have considerable bargaining power.  There is now a formal alliance between the Greens and the Government, and they insisted Australia must price carbon, which has led to the PM being accused of breaking an election promise.  This is an on-going and serious credibility problem for her, and many people also dislike her for replacing Kevin Rudd as PM.

The Murdoch press hate the Greens needless to say.  For example, there was a recent article by Andrew McIntyre in The Australian on the commissioned book The Greens: Policies, Reality and Consequences .  He writes “In these (Green) policy formulations there appears to be a profound lack of appreciation or understanding of why our society is the way it is” and that their policies would have “catastrophic unintended consequences for this country”.  As Andrew McIntyre was the editor of the book, how could this be an objective review or article? 

COAL SEAM GAS:  there is rising opposition – on all sides of the political spectrum – to mining for coal seam gas which seems to be rapidly expanding everywhere from the suburbs of our cities to our prime agricultural land.  There seems to have been little research into how the chemicals or methods used are contaminating or damaging the water aquifers and the effect this will have on food production in our increasingly valuable “food bowls”.

CATTLE LIVE EXPORT:  this trade to Indonesia has resumed as suddenly as it was suspended, although no new export permits have yet been issued.  There are new animal welfare requirements, but this does not include stunning before slaughter.

MISC STATS:  South Sudan is the world’s 193rd nation and good luck to them although I don’t know what their economic base is… there is a substantial increase in the number and ferocity of natural disasters – 60 in 1975 and 321 in 2009 with 75 million people affected in 1980, and 250 million in 2007… the Queen cost $48.05 million for the year… 161,653,000 pounds was won by a couple ina lottery in the UK…Sydney is the 6th most expensive city in the world (after Tokyo, Oslo, Osaka/Kobe, Paris, Zurich)… 95% refugee applications in Australia are approved, and make up only 2.5% of our migrant intake.

 

Photograph by Glenn Campbell, Sydney Morning Herald

 

ABORIGINES:  They have been fighting many years for the repatriation of tens of thousands of aboriginal body parts from museums around the world that were ostensibly for “scientific purposes” but were mostly “trophies”. Most of these bones in the photograph were collected in 1948.  They have been in the Smithsonian Institution in the US who have resisted for a decade, like many others, their return.

Aboriginal elder Thomas Amagula said in 2009 “When I hear about the efforts and money the American government (like the Australian government) is spending trying to find and identify the remains of their soldiers who have been lost overseas, I wonder how the Smithsonian Institution can justify its refusal to return all the remains who were taken without our permission.  We think this is very arrogant”.  Aboriginal people are connected to the remains and spirits of their ancestors in ways non- Aboriginal people mostly don’t understand.  R.I.P.

 

Bangarra Dance Theatre at the Sydney Opera House until August 20, then touring nationally

 

Aborigines make up 3.5% of the Australian population, but 25% of the prison population.  But between 1994–2008 Aboriginal employment has risen from 31% to 51%.  School retention rates are increasing, as is home ownership.  There was a depressing program recently on the ABC featuring one of Australia’s richest men “negotiating” with a remote Aboriginal community to mine iron ore and which would spoil areas of their sacred and beautiful country. Billionaire Twiggy Forrest didn’t want to pay them too much as it would be bad for them! “Mining welfare”!!!   It showed the uneven playing field for aboriginal claimants, the inequity of the Native Title Act, and Twiggy has dangerously divided the Aboriginal community.  Another wealthy 1% person showing his largesse… see the ABC Four Corners program Iron and Dust.

HORN OF AFRICA:  It certainly looks like a horn which is ironic given the shrinking number of rhinos. More than 10 million people from southern Somalia are under threat by the lack of rainfall, failure of crops and the doubling of food prices.  The Dadaab Refugee camp in Kenya is expecting 10,000 new refugees each month.  It is now designated a “famine” and we can donate through:  savethechildren.org.au; UNHCR’s unrefugees.org.au:  Medicins Sans Frontieres msf.org.au or various other agencies.

In South Africa, although whites are only 9% of the population, they own 55% of the land.  With 50% of young black South Africans unemployed and very slow progress in people’s standard of living, it is not surprising, but scary, that leaders are emerging who are calling for the resumption of this land, without compensation, Mugabe-style.

WORRIED ABOUT:  the Bank of America’s share price… the US National Debt ceiling being $14.3 trillion and if it will be increased in time… the  strategy of the EU for the support of countries like Greece who according to one recent commentator “cooked the books” to gain entry originally…the secret sale by Germany of 200 tanks to Saudia Arabia despite their action against protesters in Bahrain, and the proposed new law to jail anyone criticizing the King…and Egypt not allowing international monitoring of their election later in the year.

MAIL:  Thanks for your emails… Fabienne is going to let us know more about the Bali Villa Kitty and how we may support the cats in Bali…WSPA emailed that generous donations have funded the first stage of the Bali Dogs Vaccination Program aimed at the eradication of rabies with 210,000 dogs in 4,126 villages treated… click here to watch this beautiful video about penguins sent by Hélène… I’ve been very interested in your own family histories and stories… and thanks Barb Heath for reading  back through my blogs and your comments… many of you are helping  the blog  become a good resource and directory of so many people and bodies genuinely concerned about animal welfare and the world we live in, and I thank you.

Our thoughts are with the people of Norway.

 

Michael Leunig cartoon, Sydney Morning Herald

 

 

 

 

MITCHELL LIBRARY:  These images are from a recent purchase of early Australian natural history illustrations by the Mitchell Library.  Six bound volumes and 741 “exquisite” drawings and watercolours were taken to London in 1795 and subsequently purchased by the 13th Earl of Derby.  They are believed to be by the convict artist Thomas Watling.   Europeans were fascinated by the exotic flora and fauna from the Pacific region.

 

 

 

DAVID SCOTT MITCHELL:  The library is named after David Scott Mitchell (1836-1907) who donated what has been described as the world’s largest private collection of a particular region – Australasia and the Pacific, with over 60,000 books, maps, journals, pamphlets, paintings, and a bequest that still financially benefits the library today.

He appreciated the importance of collecting primary sources – “Australia’s DNA”, from which we are still in the process of interpreting our past.  Indeed, we are at the moment still debating  whether to describe the  European arrival in Australia as an “invasion” or “colonisation”.

I am reading the just published Book Life, the life of David Scott Mitchell byEileen Chanin.  It is an exhaustively researched biography which paints a picture of the surprisingly sophisticated Mitchell and Scott families, cultural life in the small colony of Sydney, and the international literary context.  This book is long overdue as very little is known about Mitchell, and the book reveals much more about a shy man who was not as reclusive as reputed, but who still remains elusive.  He was my grandmother’s great uncle and she sometimes stayed with him on her school boarder’s weekends.  Unfortunately I was too young to ever ask her what he was  like.  I only remember her saying he was always reading!  Only much later have I appreciated the value of oral histories – and identifying people in photographs!

Family skeleton: D S Mitchell’s father James was an extremely energetic and entrepreneurial doctor and businessman and conveniently, his wife Augusta Maria (Scott) was wealthy. He was one of the first in the colony to mine for coal in the Hunter Valley of NSW, and this wealth from the now contentious coal primarily allowed David Scott Mitchell to indulge his passion for collecting books, and Australia has benefited from it as well. 

 

 

GLOBAL ANIMAL: Later this week I am on a panel at the Global Animal: an Animal Studies conference at the University of Wollongong (UOW).  I am fascinated by the amount of interesting and wide ranging research in this field in academia, especially about human/animal relationships.  Click here for UOW details.

You may be interested to click on the Australian Animal Studies Group News eBulletin and see the range of activities, articles and national and international conferences and events.  I was asked to contribute to this edition, and I wrote about my visit last year to Kalimpong and Darjeeling in India – where through the efforts of many people (but Christine Townend particularly), management of the community dog population has seen human rabies eliminated from both those areas.  The editor insisted on using a grisly photograph of a dog still out cold from the operation – I wanted to use the pretty white kitten dressed for Diwali celebrations. OK – I seem to have lopped off some tail – last photograph it was her ears!

 

Darjeeling Animal Shelter

 

A BLOODY BUSINESS:  But does gore sell more effectively?  The footage of Australian cattle being slaughtered in Indonesian abattoirs has created a very effective  public outcry and scandal.  Exports of live cattle to Indonesia have been suspended.  The Indonesians are offended.  Our government has as usual seemed slow to respond constructively,  and many cattle owners are left facing huge losses.   The industry is worth $550 million (I read various estimates), and some small compensation to producers is presently being offered.  Animal welfare is for now at least under overdue scrutiny.

ASYLUM SEEKERS:  There has been no equivalent outcry against sending our asylum seekers or refugees to Malaysia, although the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has received many emails of protest.  The shock jocks and irresponsible politicians who have exacerbated and exploited this issue are now being countered by a few serious and informative television programs that are actually putting a human  face to the refugees and showing just what many of them have been subjected to.  Most of them  had to flee their country – they were not just setting off to look for a better life.   

 

 

POLLUTION TAX:  Much better to call it a pollution tax – who wouldn’t want to prevent pollution?  I’m pleased Germany is stepping back from nuclear energy,  retiring their 17 reactors by 2022.  For years now we have been mired in our carbon/pollution tax debate, but the government is about to finally put a price on carbon. Compensation to coal producers has understandably been a sticking point.   The Greens now have a balance of power in the Senate, and are working quite well in an “agreement” with the government.  It may be a future direction as many disenchanted Labor voters (like myself) are now leaning towards the Greens instead. They won 12% of the primary vote last election.  I wouldn’t want the Greens to be running the country on their own, they don’t have the experience for a start – but at times they provide the heart, compassion, integrity and conscience on social justice and environmental issues missing in our political discourse.

Incidentally, Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers seem to be doing everything in their power to force out this government by constantly portraying them as negatively as possible and marshalling opposition at every opportunity – for example, oxygen given to climate change deniers and opponents of the carbon tax.  His mother however, Dame Elizabeth Murdoch, Rupert’s 102 year old mother was a signatory to a recent letter to a (rival) newspaper calling for action on climate change.  A recent Productivity Commission report detailed various actions by many countries, including India and China, and stated that a carbon tax in Australia would not make us uncompetitive internationally. Some critics argue that because of our reliance on coal, comparisons to other economies are difficult.  Worryingly,  although 95% of scientists accept the scientific statistics on climate change, public support is slipping, with 39% of Australians now not prepared “to pay a cent” to combat global warming.  This is indicative of how badly the government has handled this issue, how long it has dragged on, and how effective the shrill opposition to it has been – more rallies and expensive media campaigns are planned.  Isn’t this issue so important that there should be bi-partisanship between the major parties?  

 

Jane Goodall’s Lunch at Taronga Zoo

 

JANE GOODALL:  I recently had lunch at Taronga Zoo where Jane Goodall was the guest of honour.  The Taronga conservation society is in partnership with a new chimpanzee rehabilitation centre – the Tchimpounga Sanctuary in Point Noire, Congo.  Over the fifty years since she began studying chimps their numbers have fallen from about 1 million to 300,000.  “The most efficient and cheapest way of slowing down global warming is to protect and restore the tropical rainforests.  Saving the chimpanzees natural habitat is extremely important….all these problems are so interconnected”.  Last time I heard her speak she explained how local villagers need to have a certain guaranteed standard of living – food, water, education etc before we we can expect them to protect animals or their habitats.  Tony Fitzjohn also emphasizes this with the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust – the needs and involvement of the surrounding villagers are imperative.

Jane Goodall said Australia was not doing well – a failure so far on carbon emissions, a failure to protect water supplies, disappearing endemic species, and no overall environmental strategy to link the surviving patches of habitat.  She reassured us however, that individual efforts “add up”.

I gave her a copy of A Lion Called Christian but she just said “Oh. Thankyou.”, and I wonder if the book was left in the hotel room! 

I admire her work enormously and how hard she works.  There are Jane Goodall Institutes all over the world, and I particularly like the very successful Roots and Shoots program for schools where groups plan and implement “service learning projects that promote care and concern for animals, the environment, and the human community”.

Co-incidentally, I heard on a recent radio program that given the intelligence of chimps and their brain size,  living in groups of 5 is the norm,and in a “village” of about 50, while for our brain size humans have a close group of 7 people on average, and a “village” of 150.

 

 

UNITY BEVIS JONES:  I was recently interviewed by BBC4, and I mentioned Christian’s friend Unity Bevis Jones.  She came to play with him nearly every day.  I was contacted by a friend who said they had recently seen her, and all was fine with her.  After the shop Sophistocat where Christian lived on the Kings Road closed, Unity did not know how to keep in touch with us, and was unaware the shop had relocated to Wandsworth Bridge Road where it still is today.  I look forward to seeing her when I am next in the U.K.

MISC STATS:  We are part of 2 billion users on the internet …. US involvement  in Afghanistan costs $120 billion per year… 85% of Australians live within 50 kilometres from the coast…. 50% of the world population now live in cities.

BRAZIL:  Now the 5th biggest economy in the world, Brazilians seem to be having their day – and with the Olympics, the World Cup, and the Earth Summit to come etc.  Unfortunately their resources/mining boom will  test their environmental credentials   – and their forest protection laws are being “gutted”.  The Amazon provides 20% of the world’s oxygen and 60% of our freshwater, and recently several prominent environmental advocates have been murdered!   Click here to sign the AVAAZ petition to protect the Amazon.

OF THE 1%, BY THE 1%, FOR THE 1%:  A disturbing article in Vanity Fair (Rob Lowe cover) by Joseph E. Stiglitz discusses the implications of 1% of the  population now owning 40% of wealth in the US, a statistic to frighten us all. They haven’t been benevolent in the past, and there is a corresponding under investment in infrastructure, education and research. They are pandered to with low taxation, and this nexus of politics/business/media preserves their privilege. It is hard not to view recent “wars” as business opportunities for arms and weapons manufacturers and companies like Halliburton, and there are spoils like oil to divide.  In Australia we see many of our wealthy opposing the mining tax, the carbon tax, and the NBN national broadband network, and resenting and resisting environmental restrictions, and workplace reforms.

WORRIED ABOUT: …the PM Nuri Kamal al-Maliki in Iraq is sounding more and more despotic… the despot in Syria is hanging on but the people bravely keep protesting… Greece and European debt…that 193 rhinos have been killed already this year in South Africa, many of them in the Kruger National Park…a rush to mine cold seam gas even in the suburbs of Sydney, with real concerns about environmental damage through “fracking” and damage to the water aquifers… the capabilities of Thaksin’s sister in Thailand…a released but restricted and silenced Ai Wei Wei in China… and if you are concerned for Aung San Suu Kyi and democracy in Burma click here to sign an AVAAZ petition. 

 

 

JEFFREY MASSON:  I just adored reading Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson’s The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats.  It is a most authoritative book and extremely well written and readable.  As a fellow cat obsessive I luxuriated in it.  Much of it reinforced my own feelings and my comparatively amateur observations, but there was a lot of new information and ideas to think about, especially about cat’s play and curiosity.  Jeffrey Masson also refers to other obviously excellent books on cats – none of which I’ve read.  I realised I didn’t really play with my cats much, and I never improvise  or buy them toys, but I AM always talking to them and having fun with them.  His cats go for walks with him!  I am under no illusions – food is the foundation of my relationship with mine.  The book made me analyse what I really like about cats.  Briefly, I find them very soothing, very cool and so self contained.  I like their diffidence, their quietness and their natural entitlement.  Everything has to be their own idea.  This behaviour can annoy some people, but I can find it amusing or challenging.  The only thing I really don’t like is how totally irrelevant they make me feel after I have fed them!

Jeffrey Masson is presently researching violence in different species, lions especially, and how much killer instinct they have, and who it is directed at.  I am hoping Tony Fitzjohn with his long association with George Adamson and his own experience and observations of lions may be able to contribute.  I know that the wild lions at Kora waged a full-time war over many years against George Adamson’s introduced lions, and killed several of them, although they also mated with several of the lionesses. They were defending their territory which was inhospitable and had limited resources, against intruders.  It was miraculous that Christian survived although he ultimately had to leave the area.  On his blog Jeffrey Masson described our YouTube reunion with Christian as demonstrating “pure joy” and that “All in all, it remains the single most astonishing video I have ever viewed”.

 

Watercolours courtesy of the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

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