CRIKEY: Re. “Where are the Arab voices on the BDS coverage?” (Friday, item 14). In the original story by Ant Loewenstein it was stated that Paul Howes has taken Zionist funded trips to Israel. Paul Howes has never been to Israel. The story has been amended to correct the record.


Sam Wainwright, Councillor, City of Fremantle, writes: Re. “Where are the Arab voices on the BDS coverage?” (Friday, item 14). I write to express my admiration for Marrickville Council’s policy in support of the global non-violent  boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights. I won’t dwell on why the policy is so worthy of support other than to repeat the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu when writing to students at UC Berkley on the same topic last year:

“…despite what your detractors may allege, you are doing the right thing. You are doing what is incumbent upon you as humans who believe that all people have dignity and rights, and all those being denied their dignity and rights deserve the solidarity of their fellow human beings.”

Those who say that it’s not appropriate for a local government to take a stand on global human rights and that we should leave all questions of foreign policy to higher levels of government have a very poor understanding of Australian history.

On the eve of the Second World War wharfies at Port Kembla refused to load pig iron destined for the Japanese war machine. They were condemned by Prime Minister Menzies and the media for interfering in foreign affairs. That pig iron later rained down on Darwin as bombs.

How much longer would our involvement in the Vietnam War have dragged on if Australians hadn’t expressed their opposition to it through every forum they could find? For nearly two and a half decades support for the murderous Indonesian occupation of East Timor was bipartisan policy in the federal parliament, despite it being condemned by all levels of Australian society. The Howard government committed our country to war in Iraq despite the clearly expressed opposition of the majority. A million people have died in that country as a result of the invasion.

Leaving foreign affairs to the so-called experts in Canberra has only brought policies based on greed and kow-towing to great powers, with a sad and bloody legacy. Australians have every right to demand a foreign policy based on human rights. They have every right to push for that through every channel they can find. Inevitably local government will become such a forum when our federal government is incapable and unwilling to do what is right.

Marrickville’s support for the BDS campaign is consistent with international humanitarian law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Those who mock or condemn it are ignorant, cowards or bullies. The policy is a positive example for both my and all local governments to follow.

Tony Backhouse writes: I would like to commend the four Labor Councillors who all voted to support Marrickville Council’s BDS motion last December, as their newly found commitment to overturn the policy shows the spineless lack of commitment to social justice issues that their party embraces.

The Media, driven by the influence of Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited, actively campaigned for the replacement of one despotic State Government with another.

With the self assurance of his over-inflated mandate Barry O’Farrell attempts to dictate that a Democratically Elected Local Government cannot take actions in support of its Palestinian Sister City of Bethlehem — Giving 28 Days before sending in the troops.

Is Barry O’Farrell suffering from a belated dose of candidate fever or does he truly believe that he is the re-incarnation of Bob Menzies who saw nothing un-constitutional or un-democratic in trying to outlaw groups holding a dissenting political position?

What will he do next, sack Sydney City Council because Clover Moore holds the dissenting view that Cyclists should be able to travel along Cycleways?

Aboriginal deaths in custody:

Justin Templer writes: Re. “Deaths in custody: 20yrs after a Royal Commission, why are fatalities rising?” (Friday, item 1). Freelance journalist Inga Ting wrote nearly 2000 words on deaths in custody. This was about 2000 too many.

I read Inga’s bureaucratic waffle twice looking for the beef — the causes and preventions of deaths in custody. There was nothing beyond the need for (a) medical and correctional staff to communicate, and (b) rehabilitation (a fundamental concept, but mentioned only in passing).

Sorry Inga, it takes more than regurgitation of other reports about absence of policy, breaches of procedure, incompetence and neglect to fix a problem.

How would you stop a prisoner with a prior history of suicide attempts from trying again? Do you have any solutions?

Goldman Sachs:

Richard Vinciullo writes: Re. “The long and the short of it is Goldman Sachs was in the wrong” (Friday, item 21).It seems bizarre that Crikey would defend Goldman Sachs after its flogging by a bipartisan US Senate Committee.

Anyone who’s followed the fallout from the financial crisis knows that Goldman have a lot more to answer for than a petty conflict of interest. Many journalists have implicated Goldman in criminal conduct that contributed to the crisis and exploited the US Government’s response. Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi wrote the best known piece and the horrendous facts are expanded in his book Griftopia.

Adam Schwab claimed that the collapse of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch “were far more damaging than Goldman’s duplicity”, because those collapses required trillions of taxpayer dollars to fix. But this ignores the reported fact that Goldman was also on the brink of collapse in 2008, and was also saved in various ways by taxpayer dollars.

The best known example is the bailout of AIG, engineered by former Goldman chief executive Hank Paulson, of which Goldman collected a cool $13 billion. Goldman was entitled to that money because it bet against the sub-prime mortgages it had been hacking into triple-A rated securities and hocking to retirement funds and local councils the world over.

This is the “duplicity” that Schwab minimises by comparing to an executive selling shares in their company. That analogy only works if he means an Enron executive circa 2001.

Wayne Nattrass writes: Derivatives and Contracts For Difference are the biggest “Elephant in the Room”. They ultimately affect us all; because they are stuffing up the stock market and therefore affecting our shares and superannuation!

They are illegal in the US for retail investors to invest in. They are totally speculative garbage! They should be made illegal or have a separate stock exchange.

At least they could have a small tax on them. the Robin Hood Tax! It’s only 0.05%. In the UK it would raise at least 100 billion pounds per annum!

National Health and Medical Research Council funding:

Carmen Lahiff-Jenkins, Managing Editor, International Journal of Stroke, Melbourne Brain Centre, writes: Last week the Australian government announced they will be slicing 400 million dollars from National Health and Medical Research Council funding in the coming budget. Of course, it goes without saying that a loss of 400 million dollars to the Australian medical research community means lost jobs, defunded projects and ultimately the loss of lives and quality of life for Australians.

In terms of cardiovascular disease in the Australian community, in our cities we are well funded and stroke fatality is in decline; however, the vast land mass that is this enormous island has extreme health disparity.

Remote populations in cities as large as Broome on Australia’s west coast have access to one part-time GP; options like telemedicine are imperative in these communities but the funding behind these concepts must be continued. It is common knowledge among stroke practitioners that neuro-protectants are as yet ineffectual in humans, but animal model testing has shown possibilities of protection.

Imagine a world where a potential stroke could be avoided all together; this is only possible with continued trial funding. S-x, depression, dementia and rehabilitation post stroke are burgeoning areas of study, these clinical and observational studies have enough difficulty in clinically dominant environments receiving funding for best practice trials.

In Melbourne, the new amalgamated Florey Neuroscience Institute has two fabulous purpose built buildings, state of the art labs and collaborations with some of the best practitioners in the field of stroke. What was the point of the government funding these amazing spaces if there is a thinning stream of research outcomes, does it make it worth the communities money, because ultimately in every respect that’s who pays for this enormous budget cut.

Jeff Kennett:

Andrew Crook writes: David Broadbent wrote (Friday, comments) that I had “wrongly” stated that he was a former roommate of Jeff Kennett’s. The “shared a house” reference is pretty clearly stated in this Campbell McComas report on the Scotch College website but given David’s further detail on his days at ANU, a more accurate description might have been “co-resident” or something of that ilk.

However, Broadbent says that I had “more seriously” misrepresented his curriculum vitae. The original story doesn’t say he had been working at the Education Department since 2006, merely that he had worked there after 2006. Further, Broadbent had erroneously listed his Arts Victoria role as his “current” job on his LinkedIn page, which he corrected after our story ran.

Finally, contrary to David’s assertions, many members of the Victorian press gallery did not know about his new role as the Baillieu government’s communications overseer, and the move hadn’t been reported anywhere else in the media, hence the reason for the story.

Climate change:

Martyn Smith writes: Crikey has published comments by Tamas Calderwood (14 April, comments) for some considerable time. I suspect you enjoy the controversy he creates and I must admit that I have learned a great deal about the scientific basis used to prove that human beings are largely responsible for global climate change as knowledgeable people respond to him.

Malcolm Turnbull said something on the lines of, “There is enough evidence proving that humans have a role in climate change for us to take sensible precautions .. rather like an insurance policy. The scientists may be wrong but it is wise to listen to them, and do something about it.”

I’m in Turnbull’s camp, and Calderwood’s attacks on the credibility and personalities of the reputable scientists who warn about climate change are becoming more outrageous as he gets more and more desperate.

Big polluters are in a similar situation to blacksmiths in 1900. The advent of the motor car largely removed horses from the roads so blacksmiths were no longer needed. Soon the fossil fuel industry will be gone, replaced by new technology. That’s life. By all means let Calderwood ramble on but  he should understand that he long ago lost the argument and is in fact, thoroughly discredited.

Peter Fray

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