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