Fear and silence in the ‘lucky’ country

Australia, once the land of the “fair go”, has collaborated with Guantanamo more closely than any other western government and is guilty of human rights abuses of its own.

National myths are usually partly true. In Australia, the myth of an egalitarian society, or “fair go”, has an extraordinary history. Long before most of the world, Australia had a minimum wage, a 35-hour working week, child benefits and the vote for women. The secret ballot was invented in Australia. By the 1960s, Australians could boast the most equitable spread of personal income in the world.

Today, these are forgotten, subversive truths. As schools are ordered to fly the flag (its Union Jack still mocking from on high), the maudlin story of Australian

— source johnpilger.com | john pilger | 7 Feb 2005

Nullius in verba

Be proud of what you’ve achieved

Sydney Hyde Park, 20 March 2005:

The other day, the Aboriginal film-maker Richard Frankland said this: “When you’ve got a voice, you’ve got freedom, and when you’ve got freedom, you’ve got responsibility. Negotiating with politicians doesn’t work. You’ve got to change attitudes.” That’s the task for all of us here today. It’s not an easy one. In fact, many good people in Australia and other countries believe their voice cannot possibly be heard: that the forces of bigotry and violence are far too powerful.

And yes, they are powerful. John Howard can lie repeatedly to the Australian people and get away with it – it seems. There is no Labor opposition in federal parliament. They’ve become a bad joke, to the point where Kevin Rudd, the opposition spokesman on foreign affairs, refuses to say anything critical of the government that is not immersed in crude sophistry.

We also know that those who are paid to keep the record straight, who are meant

— source johnpilger.com | john pilger | 21 Mar 2005

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No mourning for Kerry Packer

Shortly after Christmas, the Australian media tycoon Kerry Packer died in his mansion overlooking Sydney Harbour, guarded by large, salivating dogs. In Britain, he was remembered as the man who brought hoopla and money to cricket. Here, in Australia, his death provided a glimpse of the changes imposed on societies that once were proud to call themselves social democracies.

Lauded as “Australia’s richest man” who “achieved” a rating on Forbes magazine’s rich list, as if this put him alongside Donald Bradman and the Sydney Opera House, Packer excited a fear and sycophancy not normally associated with Australians. “Laid to rest in his beloved sunburnt country”, said the obsequious banner headline across the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald. The Sydney Sun-Herald topped this with: “Packer’s practical compassion a model for us all”.

Packer was a hulk of man who lost his temper a lot, said “fuck” a lot, gambled and lost huge amounts, admired Genghis Khan (no irony) and ruled by the sheer power of his inherited money, much of it accumulated by having legally avoided paying many millions of dollars in tax – the fail-safe method employed by his principal competitor, Rupert Murdoch. In the mid-19th century the Australian press was one of the liveliest and bravest in the world; today, dominated by the marketing empires of Murdoch, Packer and Fairfax, it is little more than a voice of Canberra and Washington. The government of John Howard is to give Packer a state memorial service. “Kerry,” said the prime minister, “was larger than

— source johnpilger.com | john pilger | 23 Jan 2006

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The making of another America

The other day, one of my favourite cinemas closed down. The boards went up on the art-deco Valhalla in Sydney, one of the world’s best at putting out powerful, political documentaries. The lack of fuss might have seemed surprising in a city whose iconic Opera House is said to embody modern Australia’s pride in the arts. On the contrary, the closure reflected a more general shutting down.

The Valhalla was certainly an anomaly in an Australia so entrapped by the cult of “marketing” that an executive of the Sydney Morning Herald can declare “the answer” is “not smart and clever people” but “people who can execute your strategy”. On 9 February, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris proclaimed Australia the least regulated and most privately owned economy in the western world. This is a country owned and run by businessmen.

The most vivid example is the press. Rupert Murdoch controls almost 70 per cent of principal newspaper circulation. With the exception of the multi-ethnic Special Broadcasting Service and the radio network of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the rest of the media reflect Murdochism and a market ideology imported wholesale from the United States. The remarkable culture wars of the neo-conservative prime minister, John Howard, exemplify this.

Howard believes that “business and sport” are society’s prime movers. The country’s once-respected scientific research laboratories, the CSIRO, have been instructed to take on business sponsors. Almost

— source johnpilger.com | john pilger | 28 Feb 2006

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Mourning a secret Australia

How many days of mourning have I attended? Vivid in the memory are wreaths thrown on to Sydney Harbour, and men in crumpled hats and women in loose frocks standing on foreshores where their forebears saw the first ships carrying white men. On 14 February, there was a day of mourning for T J Hickey, an Aboriginal boy who was chased by police three years ago and ended up impaled on a spiked iron fence in The Block, a ghetto within sight of Sydney’s banks and corporate towers. Commemorative silences were held for “TJ” and his violent death was likened to Australia’s many Aboriginal deaths in custody, such as that of Mulrunji Doomadgee on Palm Island.

Palm Island is one of the most beautiful on the Great Barrier Reef, yet few outsiders take the short flight from Townsville. Established in 1918 as a detention camp for Aboriginal men, women and children convicted of the crimes of homelessness, rebelliousness and drunkenness, it has changed mostly on the surface. When I first went there in 1980, an epidemic of gastroenteritis was deemed life-threatening. Two years later, researchers discovered in the records of the Queensland Health Department that Aboriginal deaths from common, infectious diseases were up to 300 times higher than the white average, and the highest in the world. In the cemetery, overlooking waves breaking gently on the coral reef, many of the headstones bear the names of children.

On 26 January last, a date known as Australia Day by whites celebrating their “settlement” (Aborigines call it Invasion Day), something very unusual happened. It was announced that a police

— source johnpilger.com | 15 Feb 2007

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Australia: the 51st State

In June this year, 26,000 US and Australian troops will take part in bombarding the ancient fragile landscape of Australia. They will storm the Great Barrier Reef, gun down “terrorists” and fire laser-guided missiles at some of the most pristine wilderness on earth. Stealth, B-1 and B-52 bombers (the latter alone each carry 30 tonnes of bombs) will finish the job, along with a naval onslaught. Underwater depth charges will explode where endangered species of turtle breed. Nuclear submarines will discharge their high-level sonar, which destroy the hearing of seals and other marine mammals.

Run via satellite from Australia and Hawaii, Operation Talisman Sabre 2007 is warfare by remote control, designed for “pre-emptive” attacks on other countries. Australians know little about this. The Australian parliament has not debated it; the media is not interested. The result of a secret treaty signed by John Howard’s government with the Bush administration in 2004, it includes the establishment of a vast, new military base in Western Australia, which will bring the total of known US bases around the world to 738. No matter the setback in Iraq, the US military empire and its ambitions are growing.

Australia is important because of a remarkable degree of servility that Howard has taken beyond even that of Tony Blair. Once described in the Sydney Bulletin as Bush’s “deputy sheriff”, Howard did not demur when Bush, on hearing this, promoted him to “sheriff for south-east Asia”. With Washington’s approval, he has sent Australian troops and federal police to intervene in the Pacific island nations;

— source johnpilger.com | john pilger | 1 Mar 2007

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Australia’s hidden Empire

When the outside world thinks about Australia, it generally turns to venerable clichés of innocence – cricket, leaping marsupials, endless sunshine, no worries. Australian governments actively encourage this. Witness the recent “G’Day USA” campaign, in which Kylie Minogue and Nicole Kidman sought to persuade Americans that, unlike the empire’s problematic outposts, a gormless greeting awaited them Down Under. After all, George W Bush had ordained the previous Australian prime minister, John Howard, “sheriff of Asia”.

That Australia runs its own empire is unmentionable; yet it stretches from the Aboriginal slums of Sydney to the ancient hinterlands of the continent and across the Arafura Sea and the South Pacific. When the new prime minister, Kevin Rudd, apologised to the Aboriginal people on 13 February, he was acknowledging this. As for the apology itself, the Sydney Morning Herald accurately described it as a “piece of political wreckage” that “the Rudd government has moved quickly to clear away… in a way that responds to some of its own supporters’ emotional needs, yet changes nothing. It is a shrewd manoeuvre.”

Like the conquest of the Native Americans, the decimation of Aboriginal Australia laid the foundation of Australia’s empire. The land was taken and many of its people were removed and impoverished or

— source johnpilger.com | 5 Mar 2008

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The power and corruption that makes unpeople of an entire nation

I went to the Houses of Parliament on 22 October to join a disconsolate group of shivering people who had arrived from a faraway tropical place and were being prevented from entering the Public Gallery to hear their fate. This was not headline news; the BBC reporter seemed almost embarrassed. Crimes of such magnitude are not news when they are ours, and neither is injustice or corruption at the apex of British power.

Lizette Talatte was there, her tiny frail self swallowed by the cavernous stone grey of Westminster Hall. I first saw her in a Colonial Office film from the 1950s which described her homeland, the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, as a paradise long settled by people “born and brought up in conditions most tranquil and benign”. Lizette was then 14 years old. She remembers the producer saying to her and her friends, “Keep smiling, girls!” When we met in Mauritius, four years ago, she said: “We didn’t need to be told to smile. I was a happy child, because my roots were deep in Diego Garcia. My great-grandmother was born there, and I made six children there. Maybe only the English can make a film that showed we were an established community, then deny their own evidence and invent the lie that we were transient workers.”

To Lord Hoffmann, “The right of abode is a creature of the law.” In other words, our rights are in the gift of political stooges

— source johnpilger.com | 27 Nov 2008

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Solar meets 100 per cent of South Australia demand for first time

The milestone was reached at 12.05pm grid time (Australian eastern standard time), with rooftop solar providing 992MW, or 76.3 per cent of state demand, and utility scale solar providing a further 315MW – meaning all three of the state’s big solar farms, Bungala 1m Bungala 2 and Tailem Bend were operating at full capacity. On Sunday, that level (94 per cent) was beaten for more than two and a half hours.

— source reneweconomy.com.au | 12 Oct 2020

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