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February 18 2014

February 17 2014

February 02 2014

Counter Attack Against Western Australian Shark Cull

Save Our Sharks

Save Our Sharks
Courtesy: SCUBASQUIRREL Facebook page


Protests took place on beaches around the nation on 1 February 2014 over the Western Australian government’s shark cull, which has followed seven fatal attacks during the last two years.

On the Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research blog Conversations with AUSCCER, Leah Gibbs and Andrew Warren of the University of New England highlighted the local and international reactions to the shark cull. They argue:

But what exactly is he [Colin Barnett WA Premier] protecting Western Australians from? The cull strategy is based on no scientific evidence and no environmental assessment.

…Perhaps there are two good things coming out of this series of events. First, it has mobilised the community on an environmental issue – something we haven’t seen on such a large scale in Australia in some time. And second, it is slowly highlighting the use of related strategies in other states.

High profile social media responses included @rickygervaise and @richardbranson and Stephen Fry.

Omar Todd of the Sea Shepherd, best known for their concern for the welfare of another ocean creature, tweeted from a Cottesloe Beach rally.

Blogger Rossleigh Brisbane takes a swipe at the Federal government’s asylum seekers policy and Prime Minister Tony Abbott's recent attacks on the national broadcaster the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) with a double dose of satire: ABC Shows Bias In Their Reporting of Shark Cull!

Sharks are attempting to enter this country without a visa, so it’s clear that they’re illegal entrants.

… Once sharks come within a certain distance of shore, they’re in our territorial waters and that that gives us the right to do what we like to them.

Illustrator Ash Nathens is ‘a keen diver, kayaker, swimmer & proud sandgroper [a Westralian]‘.

This shark cull is a hopelessly ignorant task and a shamefully un-Australian endeavour. Stop playing Neptune, Mr. Barnett [WA Premier], and cease this stupidity.

Colin Neptune Barnett

Colin Neptune Barnett
Courtesy: Ash Nathens © 2014 scribblegraph PTY LTD

Clearly there are people supporting the cull. Craig McAllister was swimming against the twitter tide #sharkcull:

But not all shark attack survivors join him:

He's referring to Paul de Gelder:

Paul de Gelder - I'm a shark attack survivor and I don't support the cull

Paul de Gelder
Photo: Paul's blog – Improvise, Adapt & Overcome.

While there are a few mainstream media reports of support for the cull, there has been little noise on social media in recent days.

This oldie but a goodie from Animals1st sums up the online mood:

January 31 2014

Australian Journalist Peter Greste Caught in Egypt's Media Crackdown

Writing in Working Life, Andrew Casey highlights the risks to media freedom in Egypt as international journalists and other media workers face terrorism charges. Among them is Australian Peter Greste, an Al Jazeera journalist.

January 22 2014

Rule of Law Overturned in Nauru

Sydney Asylum Seeker Protest

A protester at the Refugee Action Coalition rally holds a sign reading: ‘Close Manus and Nauru – No offshore detention gulags’. Photo by Richard Milnes © Demotix (22 November 2013)

Democracy in the tiny pacific island Republic of Nauru has been imploding with the sacking of its Resident Magistrate, aptly named Peter Law, the exiling of Chief Justice Geoffrey Eames and the resignation of solicitor-general Steven Bliim in protest. All three are Australians.

Nauru has been the focus of political controversy over the Australian government’s use of the country as an offshore processing centre for asylum seekers who arrive by boat. Currently the detention centre has approximately 900 detainees. Mr. Law was due to hear charges against dozens of asylum seekers who allegedly rioted in July 2013.

The Australian government has been slow to react with some on twitter accusing it of complicity, citing Ben Saul, professor of international law at the University of Sydney, in Guardian Australia’s ‘Comment is free’:

Legal academics have been busy online. Kevin Boreham blogged at The Conversation: Australia owes obligations to the asylum seekers we have transferred to Nauru and we have a legal interest in the maintenance of the rule of law in Nauru.

Barrister and human rights advocate Julian Burnside also took to the web, criticising several recent governments who have supported the Pacific Solution, the ‘policy of transporting asylum seekers to detention centres on island nations in the Pacific Ocean, rather than allowing them to land on the Australian mainland’:

…both governments – in Nauru and Australia – have an interest in seeing the rule of law fail in Nauru.

Australia is Nauru's paymaster. It will do pretty much anything we tell it to, because we are its main source of income. That is very convenient for Australia. Howard recognised this; Gillard and Rudd recognised it; Abbott recognises it.

Many on twitter have been calling on the Australian government and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to take strong action such as boycotts imposed on Fiji in similar circumstances:

The Nauru legal system is apparently funded through New Zealand’s aid program:

Meanwhile, in its annual report Human Rights Watch has criticised Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers for its:

…pernicious policies designed to deter asylum seekers at the expense of their rights, including mandatory offshore processing of asylum seekers arriving by boat, “enhanced screening” or fast-tracked deportations after cursory interviews, and withdrawing government-provided legal assistance to asylum seekers.

There is a new twist to this unfolding story:

On its Facebook page, ‘representing independant Members of Parliament in Nauru’, Nauru Eko Dogin warns:

The fact that the New Zealand Government is considering this action [terminating funding] is a significant statement that they condemn the actions of the Waqa/Adeang government and will not continue to support such blatant abuse of power and disregard for democracy, good governance and the rule of law.

Nauru simply cannot afford to risk the support of our neighbours and friends. Whilst our economy is stronger than it was 10 years ago, it remains incredibly fragile and just as quickly as this Government have destroyed our Judiciary, they can also ruin our economy in a flash.

The Nauruan government has made a range of accusations against Peter Law who has threatened to sue.

@NObservers, an ‘independent political observer in Nauru’ tweeted:

For further developments, please follow the twitter hashtag #Nauru. On this island with only 10,000 locals and an area of just 21 square kilometres (8.1 sq miles), not much else is making news.

January 21 2014

Pacific Climate Warriors: “We Are Not Drowning, We Are Fighting”


“We must draw on our heritage and ancestral strength to defend our homes.” Photo by Navneet Narayan for 350.org

This post was written by Fenton Lutunatabua for 350.org Pacific and is published on Global Voices as part of a content sharing agreement.

For many years, the story told about Pacific Islanders is one that portrayed them as mere victims, a far away people who cannot do anything about the causes or realities of climate change. The media has portrayed Pacific Islanders as helpless victims ready to drown with their islands or become refugees.

So in a move to change this narrative and harness more support from people around the region, a new campaign has been launched by 350.org in the Pacific vowing to make 2014 the year that people of the Pacific Islands stand up for themselves in the face of threats to their land and ocean from climate change.

The #StandUpForThePacific Campaign will seek to call upon people throughout the region to pledge their commitment to be active in 2014 in standing up for the Pacific Islands in the face of the regions biggest threat: climate change.

The campaign will allow Pacific Islanders to be positioned within a unified narrative of cultural revival and strength, as Warriors of the Pacific, prepared to rise up to protect their land, ocean and identity.

Already more than 600 people have taken a pledge, to make 2014 the year that the Pacific Islands stand up for ourselves in the face of climate change, and in the face of the fossil fuel industry. Together we will change the narrative from that of “they are drowning victims” to they’re powerful, peaceful warriors, drawing on our cultural strength to confront the fossil fuel industry that threatens our very existence.

As we get further into 2014, we’ll be turning the pledges into action, pressuring multinational corporations that operate in the Pacific Islands to divest from the fossil fuel industry. Let’s just say, if they don’t they will be confronted by peaceful, warrior action.

Below a series of photographs depict the warriors from various islands calling upon the people of the land and the sea to become Warriors of the Pacific, regardless of their profession, gender, age, location or creed…

Pacific islanders rising

“We are ready to draw on our traditions and cultures and ignite our warrior spirit to defend our island homes.” Photo by Navneet Narayan for 350.org

Pacific islanders rising

“We will draw on our cultural truths and use that in this fight against the fossil fuel industry” Photo by Navneet Narayan for 350.org

Pacific islanders rising

“We are prepared to work with our Pacific Islander brothers and sisters to take out fight to the big polluters” Photo by Navneet Narayan for 350.org

Pacific islanders rising

“As Pacific Islanders we are ready to take our message to the fossil fuel industry” Photo by Navneet Narayan for 350.org

Pacific islanders rising

“We know we are the least contributors to climate change and yet we are the most affected, we also know what needs to be done and how to get to that end goal of creating a future we all deserve” Photo by Navneet Narayan for 350.org

January 13 2014

PHOTO: Cyclone Ian Devastates Tonga

Impact of cyclone Ian in Tonga. Photo from Oxfam New Zealand.

Impact of cyclone Ian in Tonga. Photo from Oxfam New Zealand.

Online news site NZ Kaniva Pacific presents graphic images of the devastation caused by cyclone Ian in Tonga on 11 January 2014: In pictures: Cyclone Ian aftermath. Oxfam New Zealand has details and links for those wishing to make donations.

January 11 2014

3D Dragon Breathes Life into 7-year-old Girl’s Vision in Australia

3D Dragon

3D Dragon – courtesy CSIRO Facebook page

A 3D titanium dragon and a seven-year-old girl are the ingredients for the best good news story of the 2014 new year. Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) were proud to report on their blog:

Earlier this week we posted about a letter we received from Sophie, a 7-year-old girl. All she wanted was a dragon.

“Our work has never ventured into dragons of the mythical, fire breathing variety. And for this Australia, we are sorry,” we replied.

Sophie's very polite letter

Sophie's very polite letter – courtesy CSIRO News Blog

They continued:

…We couldn’t sit here and do nothing. After all, we promised Sophie we would look into it.

So this morning at 9:32 a.m. (AEDT), a dragon was born.

You can watch it being made here:

Tech news site Gizmodo Australia’s reaction on twitter was typical and has been retweeted numerous times:

KMB clearly enjoyed some uplifting news:

So did Rachael McDiarmid:

Damon Meredith saw the implications in this public relations coup for a government organization:

Hugh Jørgensen was explicit about funding cutbacks:

However, there was a sour note from John Derry:

But Penny Timms liked the happy ending:

It is a girl so its name is ‘Toothless’ as requested by Sophie Lester.

Sophie's dragon

Sophie's dragon – courtesy CSIRO Facebook page


As she waited for the delivery of her dragon, her mother expressed her daughter’s delight:

Mrs Lester said Sophie was overjoyed with the CSIRO's response and has been telling everyone dragon breath can be a new fuel.

”All her friends are now saying they want to be a scientist and Sophie says she now wants to work in the CSIRO. She's saying Australian scientists can do anything,” she said.

January 10 2014

Australia: ‘What Happens When A Politician Pisses Off The Internet’

Controversial Australian senator Cory Bernardi's latest book ‘The Conservative Revolution’ has enraged many netizens, especially his views on abortion, single mothers, IVF and same sex marriage. BuzzFeed Australia staffer Jenna Guillaume complied reactions in Oz in This Is What Happens When A Politician Pisses Off The Internet.

December 11 2013

Australia: Vagina Knitting Not Everyone’s Taste in Art

[WARNING: This post contains content and images that may offend.]

Casing Off My Womb Image courtesy: Casey Jenkins. Photographer Tarz McDonald.

Casting Off My Womb
Image courtesy: Casey Jenkins. Photographer Tarz McDonald.

Based on some reactions in Australia and overseas, it is a fair bet that some readers will be offended, even outraged, by this story. The national broadcaster, the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), aired a radio item Is Vaginal knitting art? on 9 December 2013. It concerned a performance art work by Australian Casey Jenkins entitled Casting Off My Womb. She is spending four weeks knitting wool from inside her vagina. SBS2 (Special Broadcasting Service), a TV station that is also government owned, had shown a video a couple of weeks earlier.

Online reaction was swift. Comments on the ABC program website Books & Arts Daily were strongly divided about whether it was art and its suitability. Lux Dentata was very positive:

Of course this is art.
It is creation with a message. If that is not art, what is?
I don't understand people's disgust about inserting wool into your vagina. What do you think a tampon is? Cotton, wool, tomato, tomata…
Well done Casey, It's awesome.

Stan Osmelak’s message was brief but multi-pronged:

1st World self-indulgent twaddle

After suggesting the need for “psychological or psychiatric intervention”, Sue took aim at the messenger:

This sort of topic is also providing fantastic ammunition to the Federal Government that the ABC is not relevant and to cut funding or close it down. For goodness sake ABC – get real.

Casting Off Wool

‘Casting Off’ Wool
Image courtesy: Casey Jenkins. Photographer Leanne Waterhouse

Meanwhile, twitter had numerous reactions in Australia including:

As the hashtag #vaginaknitting clearly shows, there was a global eruption on twitter as well.

In fact, it was too viral for some. ‘American-Australian geek’ Kris Howard sought relief:

December 05 2013

Artist Project Illustrates “Fear and Folly” of Nukes

A map created by Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto – 橋本公 – shows all the 2,053 nuclear explosions which have taken place between 1945 and 1998.

According to the CTBTO website that hosts the time-lapse video, the artist created it with the goal of showing “the fear and folly of nuclear weapons.”

Hashimoto has also created a video that simply lists the names of all the atomic bombs launched in the past century.

December 03 2013

Australia: Celebrating International Day of People with Disability

3 December 2013 is International Day of People with Disability. Award winning blogger Carly Findlay writes about her experiences as a person with the skin condition ichthyosis in Disability has meant finding my tribe:

Disability is showing them – the underestimators. It's a sense of community. It's friendship and a strong sense of empathy with a big dose of laughing at the ignorance of others’ reactions. Disability is a place to belong. It's finding my tribe.

November 26 2013

Indonesia-Australia Diplomatic Tension Escalates Over Wiretapping

Indonesian activists hold a demonstration denouncing the alleged wiretapping conducted by Australia in Indonesia. Photo by Akbar Gumay, Copyright @Demotix (11/21/2013)

Indonesian activists hold a demonstration denouncing the alleged wiretapping conducted by Australia in Indonesia. Photo by Akbar Gumay, Copyright @Demotix (11/21/2013)

A diplomatic row erupted between Australia and Indonesia after a document leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that Australia's Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) has been monitoring the mobile phones of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his proxies for at least 15 days in 2009.

In response, Indonesia is ceasing military and intelligence cooperation starting next year aside from planning to recall its ambassador to Australia. Other affected diplomatic cooperation includes the interceptions of Australia-bound illegal immigrants and parole for Schapelle Corby, an Australian convicted for drug smuggling in Bali.

For the past few days the Australian Embassy in Jakarta has been targeted by protesters who have condemned the Australian government's surveillance as an act which undermined Indonesia's sovereignty. The protesters have been burning the Australian flag and photos of Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Islamist mass organizations have also used the issue to intensify their criticism against Western powers. For example, many Indonesian Path users have been circulating a photo collage to illustrate the protesters’ antics.

demo kedubes australia

Photo collage of an imaginary phone conversation between US President Barrack Obama and Australian PM Tony Abbot regarding the flag burning in front of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta. From Path user Wasis Gunarto.

A group of hackers called Anonymous Indonesia also attacked several websites of the Australian government last week which included the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the Royal Australian Air Force, and the Australian Reserve Bank (ARB).

Meanwhile, a Blackberry Broadcast Message is circulating in Jakarta where motorists are urged to honk three times in protest whenever they're passing in front of the Australian Embassy:

“Untuk menujukan Protes terhadap Australia yang telah melakukan penyadapan kepada Pemerintahan Indonesia mari kita lakukan protes kepada mereka dengan MEMBUNYIKAN Klakson Mobil atau Motor anda 3 X jika melintas di depan KEDUTAAN BESAR AUSTRALIA …”

To show our protest against Australia which has been conducting wiretapping against our government, let them know by honking your car or motorbike's klaxon three times whenever you're passing in front of the Australian Embassy.

Below are some Twitter reactions over the wiretapping scandal:

Not only Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY)'s phone needs to be protected from surveillance. Everyone deserves communication privacy. None of us would like to be tapped, right?

It is not impossible that the wiretapping frenzy with Australia is a form of play to raise the value of SBY's administration before his end of tenure.

This (scandal) indicates SBY's personal fear and panic, because the First Lady Ani Yudhoyono is among the people under surveillance.

We have to believe that truth will prevail. Time is the key. WikiLeaks: SBY Abusing His Powerhttp://t.co/97KGWPI0JL

Meanwhile, Mark Textor, Tony Abbot's campaign strategist and adviser, tweeted a demeaning comment comparing Indonesian Foreign Minister, Martin Natalegawa, to a 1970s Filipino porn star. Textor has offered an apology for his offensive tweet and deactivated his Twitter account.

Following Textor's remark, a Filipino-owned website Interaksyon launched a poll asking the public which 1970s Filipino adult star resembled Mr. Natalegawa.

November 23 2013

Twitter Farce Follows Revelations of Australia Spying on Indonesian President

It has taken a “conservative political and communications strategist” to catch the imagination of netizens during the current diplomatic standoff between Australia and Indonesia over spying revelations. Indonesia's president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has tweeted to protest phone tapping by Australia's Defence Signals Directorate, which included his and his wife's phones in 2009:

The revelations are contained in a series of Powerpoint slides. This one lists the targets of the phone tapping:

Indonesian surveillance targets

Indonesian surveillance targets
Document leaked by Edward Snowden

On 20 November 2013 Mark Textor, pollster and political tactician for Australia’s ruling Liberal Party, experienced one of those twitter moments: ‘Apology demanded from Australia by a bloke who looks like a 1970s Pilipino porn star and has ethics to match’. [The misspelling is his own.] It was an apparent reference to the Indonesian foreign minister, Marty Natalegawa.

His deletion of the offending tweet did not save Textor from embarrassment:

His deletion was followed by an a denial and apology of sorts.

His twitter apology served to focus attention on Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s refusal to apologise because he will not discuss national security matters:

Tweets also captured the humour of the moment:

Textor has deleted his twitter account, apparently because of death threats but Vermeera has sounded a cynical note:

Inevitably it has been replaced by fake accounts:

It seems that we now have #Textor’s Law: the most social media savvy spin doctors are only 140 characters away from their inevitable brain snap. It has something to do with wishing you could eat your words.

SBY has suspended military and intelligence cooperation with Australia and cooperation on people smugglers. Meanwhile, a small crowd of protestors in Jakarta has burned Australian flags.

Demonstration in front of the Australian Embassy, Jakarta, Photo by Denny Pohan, Copyright @Demotix (11/21/2013)

Demonstration in front of the Australian Embassy, Jakarta, Photo by Denny Pohan, Copyright @Demotix (11/21/2013)

After the leaks by Edward Snowden, Australian security agencies must be wondering about the wisdom of sharing with the United States the Powerpoint about spying on the Indonesian government.

November 18 2013

Australian Prime Minister Downplays Sri Lankan Torture Allegations

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott visits the Sri Lanka Navy vessel Sayura in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Photo by Chamila Karunarathne, Copyright @Demotix (11/17/2013)

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott visits the Sri Lanka Navy vessel Sayura in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Photo by Chamila Karunarathne, Copyright @Demotix (11/17/2013)

Australians have been flabbergasted by the contrast between two conservative Prime Ministers over Sri Lanka’s human rights record, namely their own PM Tony Abbott and the UK’s David Cameron.

Cameron put Sri Lanka on notice over war crimes allegations. PM Abbott was far more conciliatory:

The Australian Government deplores any use of torture. Sometimes, in difficult circumstances, difficult things happen. The important thing is to act as quickly as you can to bind up the nation's wounds.

Many onliners took these remarks at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo [CHOGM] to be tacit approval of human rights violations including torture. These tweets were typical of the initial responses:

There was the inevitable parallel with the Nazis [Godwin’s law] and misquote:

Abbott's contentious words were reinforced by the Australian government’s gift of two patrol boats to the host country to help stop asylum seekers fleeing down under.

Bloggers have been slow to take up the issue but TURNLEFT2013 was quick off the mark. Tony Abbott condones Torture: Music And Politics features a song by Welsh band Manic Street Preachers ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next':

If we tolerate torture of others, our children may one day be next.

Sample lyrics:

The future teaches you to be alone
The present to be afraid and cold
So if I can shoot rabbits
Then I can shoot fascists …

And if you tolerate this
Then your children will be next
And if you tolerate this
Then your children will be next

Jeff Sparrow, editor of progressive magazine Overland, wrote an opinion piece, Refugees and human rights abuses: we can’t pretend that we do not know, in Guardian Australia’s Comments are free section:

…we have a responsibility to oppose Australia’s shameful refugee policy, it’s not simply for the sake of asylum seekers caught up in our jurisdiction, but because of the consequences for oppressed people elsewhere.

It received some comments arguing for a ‘realpolitik’ approach to human rights in Asia. TheGreatCucumber argued:

I'm afraid that worries about universal human rights have become a luxury that the developed world is increasingly unable to afford. The UK has enough trouble in maintaining our current level of development for our citizens without having to worry about saving the world's waifs and strays.

Another comment by trevofbillysville on the same post echoed the earlier responses on twitter:

Abbott, mouth in gear as usual ,brain not.Slogans are all he knows .What a shocker.

November 05 2013

Melbourne Cup Brings Mixed Emotions

melbourne cupMelbourne Cup day, 5 November 2013, has been a day of mixed emotions. Favourite Fiorente’s win has been a triumph for trainer Gai Waterhouse. She became the first woman to train the winner of the race that stops a nation. It certainly stops its home city where there is a public holiday that brings a crowd of up to 110,000 people.

However, the glory was dimmed by the death of one of the runners, Verema, which had to be put down afterwards. It was owned by the Aga Khan IV, one of the sport of kings’ richest patrons.

Twitter was a mixture of…

Elation:

Fabe Keily, is CEO of Women In Management Australia ‘What Working Women Want'.

Some humour:

Followed by sadness with the news of the “euthanized” horse.

Plus a fair bit of anger:

With some black humour:

In a sign of the online times, the Wikipedia entry for the Aga Khan was updated within two hours of the race:

Thoroughbred horse racing

…On 5 November 2013, one of Aga Khan's horses – Verema – fractured it's right fore cannon[90] and was put down at the Melbourne Cup, Australia.

October 25 2013

VIDEO: “Myths and Murals” of East Timor

East Timorese and Australian artists have come together to reflect and create around Myths and Murals, ”promoting a common sense of national identity through art and story and collaborative strategies for engagement”.

The cross-cultural public art and literacy project, between artists from Melbourne and the East Timorese free art school Arte Moris, takes on the well-known legend of the creation of East Timor, The Boy and the Crocodile, to create a series of murals throughout the territory, as the synopsis of the project explains:

13 murals will be painted in public locations in each of the 13 districts of East Timor. The murals will leave unique cultural heritage for cultural tourism and serve as a symbolic reminder of East Timor's shared identity and the spirit of collaboration. Using The Boy and the Crocodile in a workshop environment, artists from East Timor's free art school, Arte Moris, lead students through the visualisation of their region’s myths. Students and teachers then collaborate on painting these stories.

October 19 2013

Sydney's Devastating Early Season Bushfires Spark Climate Change Brawl

Takver Takvera examines the devastating Spring bushfires in New South Wales that have destroyed nearly 200 homes so far on his Climate Citizen blog: Raging Bushfires surround Sydney with early start to Fire season: Is there a link and is it appropriate to air the debate while the disaster is still unfolding?

October 16 2013

Australian Catholic Cardinal Center of Child Sexual Abuse Scandal

This Human Rights post is part of Blog Action Day on 16 October 2013.

Two sisters were repeatedly raped by their parish priest in an Australian primary school. One later committed suicide. The other became a binge drinker and is disabled after being hit by a car. Their parents want laws to make the Catholic Church look after victims properly. Their mother told the story in her book Hell On The Way To Heaven.

Since its publication in 2010, action is finally being taken. There are currently three government inquiries in Australia into institutional responses to sexual abuse of children.

As Clerical Whispers reported in May 2013, the State of New South Wales investigation followed police whistleblower Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox's allegations of Catholic church cover-ups in the Hunter Valley region.

In the State of Victoria, the Family and Community Development Committee of parliament has the task of reporting:

…on the processes by which religious and other non-government organisations respond to the criminal abuse of children by personnel within their organisations

The committee was set up after admissions by the Catholic hierarchy of forty suicides among 620 victims of child sexual abuse by its clergy. It is due to report in November 2013.

Then Prime Minister Julia Gillard established the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in late 2012. The commission is examining:

…how institutions with a responsibility for children have managed and responded to allegations and instances of child sexual abuse.

…any private, public or non-government organisation that is, or was in the past, involved with children, including government agencies, schools, sporting clubs, orphanages, foster care, and religious organisations.

Despite the broad brush of the terms of reference, the Catholic church has taken the brunt of public criticism so far. In particular, the Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell has been the centre of the controversy for his approach to offenders and victims over an extended period. His appearance at the Victorian committee in May 2013 created a storm when he admitted church cover-ups.

Ian Richardson's reaction was typical of the twitterverse:

Rock in the grass was incensed by the Cardinal's moralising:

Sam Butler made the inevitable comparison with Rupert Murdoch’s evidence in 2011 to the British parliamentary committee concerning the phone hacking scandal:

It was just one of a multitude of tweets linking to well-respected journalist David Marr’s report for the Guardian.

Meanwhile Cartoonist Jon Kudelka had his usual eye for The Details:

Kudelka - The Details

Cartoon – The Details. Courtesy Jon Kudelka


At The Conversation blog Judy Courtin assessed Pell’s apology:

If we were to rate his performance as an actor with his apology he would have just passed as an actor. The apology, along with any empathy or compassion, was entirely lacking.

Subsequently David Marr has written an in-depth essay for the September Quarterly magazine: The Prince: Faith, Abuse and George Pell (Essay 51):

He [Pell] knows children have been wrecked. He apologises again and again. He even sees that the hostility of the press he so deplores has helped the church face the scandal. What he doesn’t get is the hostility to the church. Whatever else he believes in, Pell has profound faith in the Catholic Church. He guards it with his life. Nations come and go but the church remains.

Jeremy von Einem's tweet is representative of the general reaction to Marr’s essay:

John Lord captured the revulsion and the anger that many readers felt:

Whilst reading it I had to stop many times and reflect on the enormity of the sins of the fathers. More than once I shed a tear whilst uttering the word, bastards.

But this essay is as much about Pell (I don’t feel the need to be particularly aware of protocol and use his title) the man as it is about child abuse. When all is stripped back we see a man of very little love for flock but great love for the institution of church, the privileges that come with it and the power it commands. Consequently Pell is adored by the church but despised by the people.

Cardinal Pell responded to the essay with a written statement:

A predictable and selective rehash of old material. G.K.Chesterton said: ‘A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; a bad novel tells us the truth about its author. Marr has no idea what motivates a believing Christian.

The Prince has its critics. Andrew Hamilton is consulting editor at Eureka Street, the online publication of the Australian Jesuits. In his analysis Marring the Cardinal's image he sees the essay as “elegant” but “unfair”:

The limitations of Marr's account are the obverse of its virtues. It is not a dispassionate judgment but a prosecution brief. It sifts Pell's motives and words but not those of his critics, and simplifies complexities.

Kate Edwards at Australia Incognita is a critic of Cardinal Pell but thinks Marr missed the ‘Real Story’:

The article provides no new insights on the Cardinal's various disastrous interactions with victims and the laity in relation to the scandal; no new insights into just why he and many others in the Church were so reluctant to listen or act. To me that seems a great shame.

Despite being the central player in the sordid history of abuse and cover-up, the Catholic Church was not first case study off the rank at the Royal Commission public hearings. That dishonour went to the Scouts, reinforcing a long-held stereotype.

The Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council has made a lengthy submission to the Commission’s Towards Healing processes. Meanwhile, an appearance at the inquiry by Cardinal Pell is eagerly awaited by both critics and supporters.

Outside the Victorian inquiry, support group CLAN (Care Leavers Australia Network) spoke for people brought up in “care”:

Care Leavers Australia Network outside Victoria's Parliament House

Care Leavers Australia Network outside Victoria's Parliament House. Courtesy CLAN website

The Royal Commission is expected to take several years to complete its investigations and make recommendations to the Federal government.

September 28 2013

Crowd-funding Revives Australian Climate Council After Government Axe

Climate Council Facebook update 28 Sep 2013

Image: Climate Council Facebook update 28 Sep 2013

One of the first actions of the newly elected conservative government in Australia has been to axe Labor’s Climate Commission on 18 September 2013. Its purpose was “to provide all Australians with an independent and reliable source of information about the science of climate change”. Thanks to crowd-funding online, its ghost has arisen as the not-for-profit Climate Council with the same board members chaired by former Australian of the Year, Tim Flannery.

Over 800,000 Australian Dollars ($USD 730,000) have been raised in its first three days according to its Facebook page:

20,000 incredible Australians have chipped in over $800,000 in just three days. Together you have crowd-funded science with people power – and put us back in business!

Another inevitable metaphor of reincarnation is a famous mythological bird. Solar company Energy Matters argued in an online article entitled Out of the Ashes : The Climate Council:

But a phoenix has arisen from the ashes after an outpouring of support and offers of donations from the public to maintain the crucial work.

Twitter has been used to spead the word but there were notes of cynicism:

But not from Linda Vergnani whose tweet has a Climate Council video promotion:

Anne Teller is one of several tweeting this attack on Flannery. The link is to a post at conservative Quadrant Online:

Torin Peel, at progressive blog Independent Australia, has a very different take:

The new council is a godsend for our democracy, and will provide independent information Australians need to know the real facts about climate change. Because our new government is not willing to spend money researching, investigating and reporting this valuable information, it is fantastic that this initiative has been implemented to deal with it.

Back on twitter duszynski uses a oldie but a goodie:

New Prime Minister Tony Abbott has promised to scrap the previous government's carbon price and emissions trading scheme and replace it with a direct action program. To do so he will need to change the legislation but that's a future story.

[Please Note: The author of this post, who is a member of the opposition Australian Labor Party, has made a donation to the Climate Council.]

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