« February 2009 »
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
Entries by Topic
All topics  «
about editor
aust govt
big media
contact us
donations to SAM
election nsw 2007
election Oz 2007
free SAM content
human rights
independent media
local news
nsw govt
nuke threats
publish a story
zero waste
Blog Tools
Edit your Blog
Build a Blog
RSS Feed
View Profile
official indymedia
ecology action Australia
ecology action
Advertise on SAM
details for advertisers
You are not logged in. Log in

sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Gaza local coverage: Murdoch broadsheet expose' of IDF racist murder in "cold blood", ABC 702 insult today?
Topic: big media

Have a look at this horrific story. IDF airforce use white phosphorous shells usually banned as a weapon of war and kill some Gazan Palestinians with terrible burns. The injured and dead are carried by farm tractor to hospital when the two youths driving are shot dead "in cold blood" with arms raised in surrender.

John Lyons, Sydney journalist, has the story here on page 1 and large section of page 2, and feature story on p23 last weekend to the heartland of the conservative readership of Australia. There is no reasonable doubt the soldiers are racist murderers within the IDF:

This story combines with the feature story later in the newspaper here:

Will the cycle be unbroken | The Australian 31 Jan 2009 [though the print version is called "Choice is talk or fight again"]

Then the ABC radio this morning, Cameron show, says they are running a feel good story later today about the Israeli Air Force helping to save birdlife with research for a neat radar device. Not a mention of UN accusations of war crimes for use of white phosphorous bombs. Sydney ABC radio running interference for Israeli propaganda machine on profound evidence of war crimes and murder by racist predators in the Israeli IDF?

How out of touch is that? How offensive to Arabic Australian listeners in Sydney? How pathetic can the public broadcaster be? Or stupid?

Indeed we called the Executive Producer before the story ran with a fair warning that this story will be seen as running a feel good story for the IDF and in particular the Air Force under pressure over demonstrated war crimes. Sure enough the Tel Aviv University researcher confirms research in collaboration with "the Israeli Air Force" has been able to save the birds migrating through the "Gaza war zone". The ABC telephone interview goes all the way into Israel.

And there folks is how a war machine does PR. Too bad our ABC is caught in the manipulation with our tax dollars. Quite shameful in fact.

And that's speaking as a zoology graduate from Australian National University with 15 years at the coal face of conservation campaigning and 6 arrests for peaceful protest on forest issues and the like.

The interview winds up with Polyanna Deborah Cameron in twee form "Isn't he great?" of the Israeli conservationist. She thinks it's a bridge building story across political boundaries - funded by the Israeli Air Force and their white phosphorous shells.

This reportage in The Australian above puts others to shame in big media too such as Paul Sheehan at Fairfax and indeed PM Kevin Rudd as apologists for the racist elements of the IDF in Israel.


Postscript #1 4 Feb 2009: As if to respond to our stinging critique of abc Deborah Cameron show (re deceptive PR for the IDF) we noticed her retreat today from the web media reality to a segment about Old Media same schedule. It's with the letters editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, her old workplace. That's what we call existential angst - which is good. Because she should feel it: Our email response this morning;

Having disgracefully pandered to the Israeli PR regarding the 'moral' IDF and their bird wildlife protection yesterday, well exposed by our web post yesterday, you retreat to the letters page of alma mater .... in the age of the blog and ezine self expression. As if.

Tom McLoughlin

Posted by editor at 9:10 AM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 4 February 2009 9:50 AM EADT
Monday, 2 February 2009
Robbo as minister for corrective services, and neighbour Brett Collins of Justice Action in Sussex St building complex
Topic: nsw govt

John Dowd, former NSW Attorney General sounds miffed. He reckons just now on ABC local radio "What would new Minister John Robertson know about corrective services?"


Well the last time we went into Justice Action office to talk to Brett Collins and crew to take the picture of a mural below - good mates with Lee Rhiannon MP they are too - we happened to bump into ... John Robertson in the lift well.

We talked briefly about Enron: Smartest Guys in the Room and how you can watch it on Google Video for free. He said he had just bought a copy and was about to watch it.

That was mid to late 2008 or so. That's right, Robbo at Unions NSW was a close neighbour of Justice Action a few years. Brett Collins at JA is another shortish tough fit nuggety looking bloke who has beaten the system particularly as a Kiwi avoiding deportation through the application of Rolls Royce administrative law in the 80ies. That's when we met Brett first, intrigued as a law student about this ex prisoner, he giving a talk at the Australian National University to an audience of 5 or so at ... the Student Union. Later we saw his name in the Administrative Law class cases taught by the respected John McMillan, later Commonwealth Ombudsman.

Collins, a reformed bank robber with 10 years in prison under his belt, is now a Big Media go to expert on the receiving end of the justice system. He's also a pretty friendly bloke, doting father with a fast paced conversational style and an effective advocate. He's no angel but he's no thug either, and arguably an ornament to our democracy in a curious way. He's a living example of rehabilitation perhaps more by individual struggle than anything else.

We think Robbo knows a fair bit more about Corrective Services and maybe even 'Rotten Ron' than big Liberal progressive, former Attorney General John Dowd quite realises. Indeed Justice Action have even been known to quote John Dowd approvingly here in another context. Another close friend of Justice Action would be former senator Kerry Nettle who has been on the same civil right platform as VIP Dowd.

Take the hint Mr Dowd!

Posted by editor at 9:32 AM EADT
Updated: Monday, 2 February 2009 10:22 AM EADT
Biologists studied the basis of co-operation versus cheating first?
Topic: globalWarming

Ross Garnaut talks about the 'prisoners dilemma' in the context of his global warming report. He means folks who cheat on their buddy - the other prisoner - who doesn't know whether he will be turned in. Yet if both cooperate and trust eachother (in this case to stay silent) both will have equal advantage from severe penalty.

He means if everyone behaves in a Kyoto style treaty of international cooperation everyone benefits unless someone cheats - like the USA under W Bush, or like India or China growing with dirty energy.

Then there is Professor Peter Singer the famous ethicist on ABC RN this morning and recent book reviews also wondering aloud about the motives for charity to save child lives versus the selfish. Why some do and others don't.

And in popular culture form it's represented in The Dark Knight by the evil Joker holding two groups of people in separate ships wired with explosives. It's a global warming metaphor and perhaps the political aphorism 'disunity is death'. Who will murder the others based on irrational fear to prevent the same to them? Who will cheat? It's Palestine Israel. It's the whole life experience.

All this takes us back to the 1980ies study of evolutionary ecology at the Zoology Dept of the Australian National University. What causes "co-operation" within some species to evolve? (In writing this we are now reminded that "mutualism" refers to co-operation between species.) Why share when the food and other individual goals like breeding or shelter might benefit the individual cheater more, than pulling ones weight? That is advance the one over the many.

Then proceed to complex theories of shared genetics (kin selection) amongst relatives in a flock or mob versus competitors of the same species. And debates over group (or multi level) selection versus individuals in the test of survival of the fittest. Also analysis of external threats, like large carnivores or maybe temperature regulation, and other benefits of co-operation.

All very apt given the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin father of evolution.


Charles Darwin 200th anniversary book launch - Sydney

Location: Law Courts Building, Sydney

Address: Banco Court, Level 13, Queen's Square, 184 Phillip St

Date : Thursday, 12 February 2009

Time : 5:45pm

Website: www.cis.org.au

Professor Dutton will show how Darwin?s evolutionary ideas not only explain the facts of animal and human biology, but have much to say about the moral, intellectual, and artistic lives of human beings. Evolutionary processes tell us why the arts are central to human life across cultures and ages. This provocative lecture will include an opportunity for questions and answers, with Dutton offering radical new insights into both the nature of art and the workings of the human mind.

Who's coming:
Prof. Denis Dutton


The zoologists and behavioural ecologists have trodden this theoretical path and scientific discussion for literally decades. The economists and ethicists might benefit from talking to some serious evolutionary ecologists about co-operation - where it works and where it doesn't.

A caution applies: The story of humanity doesn't really conform to Darwin's evolutionary theories in any neat form. Short sighted people breed all the time. Others also prosper like cripples with a gift for science, or folks lucky enough to get penicillin for child hood ailments.

But the concepts behind analysing co-operation in evolutionary theory might have some lessons to offer yet.

Posted by editor at 9:15 AM EADT
Updated: Monday, 2 February 2009 10:58 AM EADT
Al Jazeera on Gaza: Splinter group beyond Hamas control breaks ceasefire? Israel airstrike now
Topic: world

Al Jazeera English reports that Al Aqusa Brigade is outside the unilateral ceasefire decision of Hamas that complements the Israeli unilateral ceasefire.

Radio National ABC just before 8 am carried Mark Regev for Olmert Government on its last legs until the election on Tuesday week - in 8 days. RN says they will talk to a senior Hamas representative tomorrow possibly similar local Sydney time.

Posted by editor at 8:11 AM EADT
Updated: Monday, 2 February 2009 9:13 AM EADT
Sunday, 1 February 2009
Fatties Piers Akerman and Michael Moore in sumo death match
Topic: big media

Funny to read son of the empire Piers Akerman getting more strident by the day lashing out against PM Kevin Rudd. Piers in existential angst mode? Interesting to read on wikipedia he was expelled from school in his final year, born in the PNG colony, a baby in India, raised in white supremacist Western Australia.

As colleagues Penberthy and Hilderbrand migrate to the web. As coffee coloured Obama holds the USA Presidency with grace and wit with a team prepped for the next 4 years hard slog. Likely more grey than brown when it's done.

One becomes increasingly aware that big Piers won't make it to the web frontier or even News Corp mark II post Rupert hegemony.

Centre Left governments all over South America. Former PM Howard here booted from his own seat. W Bush in disgrace. Pro Nazi Nationals out of power in South Africa a good 20 years. Europe collectively committed to global warming policies.

Israel's Right increasingly exposed for their murderous double game of domestic torture of Palestinians not least via local aparthied land law and siren song of international victimhood.

As corporate giants of decades long provenance and reputation stagger, then collapse in rubble. Akerman still sings the capitalist free market hymn.

An amusing anecdote last federal election compared Akerman to a Japanese veteran fighting WW2 .... in 1954 ..... ensconced deep in a jungle somewhere on some mosquito infested tropical island. For younger readers that's 9 years after the war ended.

A man who doesn't change even when the world around him does? Bring on the comfort food?


By contrast we have that other committed fatty Michael Moore, obverse of Akerman. We've been catching the pepperoni pizza loving, still clean shaven one, in series 1 of The Awful Truth 1999 (Marrickville Library) filmed in Obama land Chicago Illinios, and even by the 3rd episode some spontaneous insights:

File:Michael moore.jpg

1. The stage set with large tv screen backdrop reprises Academy Award winning Australian Peter Finch's Network political media satire of the mid 1970ies. A forelock tug by Moore surely to the radical tradition of critique of his own mass media industry. A man who respects history and context complete with slogan "People's Democratic Republic of Television" PDRTV for short.

2. This is not some accidental comic. This is 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore' with intellect and humour ... just like Network. Truly comedy can be deadly serious.. This is The Chaser here in Australia exposing the hyperbolic security industry at APEC. This is brave good work: The 30 year old father standing up in the audience to acclaim for getting his pancreas transplant from the stooges at Humana HMO aka Health Maintenance Organisation aka "pure evil" (story 2, episode 1 "Funeral at an HMO").

3. As if to ram home the comparison with Network by episode 3 Moore notes incredulously "We are still on the air" just like Finch's Howard Beale character defied the odds after a nervous breakdown on air:

File:Peter Finch in I Thank a Fool trailer.JPG

4. James Carville turns up in episode 1 as former campaign director of Bill Clinton, called "A Cheaper Way to Conduct a Witch Hunt" regarding Ken Starr's $50 million investigation of Bill Clinton 'to prove old guys have affairs with young women'. Amusingly Michael Moore points out he could tell you that for $50. We recognise home boy of the South, drawling Carville in 2009 on the panel of the Obama election victory CNN coverage of 4 November 2008.

But the joke was on the American electorate and us worldwide as the US Republicans built their shiny platform for a morals candidate in GW Bush for President for the next 8 disastrous years. Never has a democratic president in Bill Clinton f*cking around caused so much deathly grief.

Posted by editor at 11:20 PM EADT
Updated: Monday, 2 February 2009 8:27 AM EADT
Misconceived Robbo abuse as Big Govt workers comp 'reforms' pay off big time for Big Insurance?
Topic: nsw govt

Is that the best News Corp ninnies can do yesterday page 4 of the Sydney Daily Telegraph?:

Will former union boss John Robertson run NSW one day? | The Daily Telegraph ...By Joe Hildebrand. January 31, 2009

If you are going to attack now minister in NSW John Robertson MP on ideological grounds at least get your facts and history right.

Regarding the protest pictured above, the NSW budget was under pressure early this century from escalating workers compensation insurance payouts and litigation costs. So the then premier Carr tried to 'reform' the sector. Then union secretary Michael Costa led a strong campaign against weakening workers legal rights only to trade his political capital for a cosy parliamentary pension, and implement the 'reform' as a Cabinet minister and more so later as Treasurer.

Trouble is since then we have seen the HIH collapse with huge social disruption and various convictions for fraud in the insurance/finance sector. Also academics and judges have now spoken out about insurance premiums for workers comp going up while payouts to actual injured workers have gone down while company profits have gone up - alot.

Big Govt and Big Business - quite possibly the same thing - are happy. But is it right?


Picture: Screen print of a death: Workers are killed and injured in this state every year in the course of earning a living, guaranteed. People who only work in offices tend to forget this reality.


This 'reform' has been our own mini Enron, our own whiff of the Madoff and Walls St meltdown. courtesy of Carr, treasury hacks like John Pierce and treacherous Michael Costa. It was a bogus 'reform' deal at the expense of the little people and simply fed the big end of town's insatiable greed.

Fact is the 'reform' was a big business crock of financial and legislative shite.

Robertson as NSW union heavy blockading the gates of NSW Parliament over protection of labour rights has been vindicated on this topic. So this is just more Big Press nonsense. Like the whining over failed energy privatisation in a dead market, which would have destroyed jobs, asset value, state income. Thank heavens it didn't proceed. We are no friend of the ALP but this ideological irrationality and anti ALP tribalism is frankly quite tedious.

See the real financial story below - from the same conservative press 2 years back - with some juicy bits in bold (added except for the first paragraph which is the newspaper's intro). Read this and ask yourself one question - how big were the donations by the insurance industry in NSW and Australia generally to both sides of politics over this period? A good second question: Who in the big parties in parliament got sweet sinecures later on?


Liability of flawed law reform | The Australian

| April 14, 2007

FIVE years ago, David Ipp proved he was no ambulance chaser. At the height of the insurance crisis, the NSW Court of Appeal judge drew up an instruction manual for state governments on how to end the litigation explosion.

It became the bible of tort reform and led to restrictions on personal injury claims that have slashed the amount of litigation around the nation. Plaintiff lawyers, who lost millions of dollars in potential income, still seethe.

Ipp's credentials on this issue are impeccable. And that is why this judge has just become the worst nightmare for state governments.

Ipp has aligned himself with those who have been arguing all along that tort reform had gone too far.

To lawyers, this is the equivalent of St Peter denouncing the Catholic Church for excessive zeal. If the architect of these changes says they went too far, it gives credence to those who have questioned whether Australia gave away too much in order to solve an insurance crisis of the time.

Ipp's intervention has highlighted the fact that the price of solving that crisis goes beyond the realignment of the civil justice system. It has also handed governments the power to strike out a category of litigation that could expose their incompetence.

One of the reasons public liability insurance was unavailable or unaffordable in 2001 was the withdrawal of many insurance companies from the Australian market. They were struggling under an avalanche of litigation, were losing money and, understandably, had no desire to lose more.

Ipp's 2002 report provided the intellectual framework for the legal changes that enticed them back. But he did not have the last word. The insurance industry had a seat at the table and helped state and federal governments design the new civil justice system. A revolution that began in NSW has spread in varying degrees to the other states.

So while it should come as no surprise that lawyers criticise the system that has cost them a fortune, it is entirely predictable that insurers defend it vehemently. It has put them in clover.

The general insurance industry's return on net assets in the year to last December was a healthy 19.4 per cent. And that was no fluke. The year before it was 21.4 per cent, according to figures compiled by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority.

Net incurred claims for the year to December were down 5.1 per cent, following a 0.5 per cent rise in 2005.

The Insurance Council of Australia says the changes are "carefully designed and principled". "The reform brought together the fundamental issues of people in the community taking greater personal responsibility for their lives while providing for the needs of the seriously injured," ICA spokesman Paul Giles says.

Even though insurers still pay for most awards of damages, they have greater certainty over their exposure. They are insulated from thousands of small claims that once would have cost them money. And even when injured people win in court, insurers have the comfort of statutory caps on the amount of compensation.

Tort reform has undoubtedly eased the pressure on public liability insurance premiums, which have fallen by 20 per cent. It has also made it possible for the insurance industry to write 610,000 new public liability insurance policies between 2003 and 2005.

The number of civil claims lodged in the nation's courts has been slashed by 75,376 since 2000-01. More than half of that reduction was in NSW, where Productivity Commission figures show civil claims have fallen by 39,959 cases.

But the new system is far from perfect. Rushed and inconsistent law-making has left so many anomalies and loopholes that Ipp and some other judges are clearly exasperated.

The legislators have left a gap in the compensation arrangements of NSW that is big enough for an injured policeman to fall through.

This system also hands blanket immunity to some government authorities, a change that goes beyond the approach recommended by Ipp.

The judge started criticising NSW compensation arrangements in 2005 when he handed down a judgement that said: "The statutes in this state relating to workers compensation and common law damages claims by workers against their employers and others can be described as a hodge-podge. No consistent thread of principle can be detected."

He removed all doubts about his position last month when he addressed a legal convention after crossing paths with former policeman Gordon "Bennie" Ball, who is seeking compensation for psychological injury.

The judge had been obliged by NSW law to strike out crucial parts of Ball's compensation claim, undermining his chances of winning a payout and lumbering him with a legal bill expected to be between $25,000 and $30,000.

This is not the outcome envisaged by former NSW premier Bob Carr when he introduced the first stage of the Civil Liability Act, which is the centrepiece of that state's tort reforms. "There are fundamental rights involved in what we are drafting and no one wants to deprive the genuinely deserving of compensation," Carr told parliament.

Two days after ruling against Ball, Ipp made it clear he did not like what he had been obliged to do. He told a stunned gathering of lawyers in the NSW Hunter Valley that the legislative inconsistency at play in the Ball case had led to "anomalies and unfairness".

He was referring to the fact that Ball, like other long-serving police, is not covered by the statutory workers compensation system, which only gives benefits to injured officers who were employed after 1988.

Ball is receiving a proportion of his final income. But if he wanted compensation for his injury, he would have had little option but to go to court. That would have put him up against the legal immunity the Carr government gave government agencies in the Civil Liability Act.

Ipp told his audience that tort reform had gone too far and those seeking changes had "really good points".

While adhering to what he said in his 2002 report, Ipp said he believed the legislation put in place had gone further "and sometimes much further" than what he had recommended.

He also revealed that two weeks earlier he had criticised the NSW Government for placing government agencies in a privileged position.

"Public authorities are given a host of novel and powerful defences that are in conflict with the notion that the Crown and government authorities should be treated before the law in the same way as an ordinary citizen," Ipp told a conference marking the anniversary of the Australian Law Journal.

"It is difficult to accept that public sentiment will allow all these changes to remain long-term features of the law."

In 2002, when introducing changes to the Civil Liability Act, Carr said he believed that courts should not have the power to determine how a public authority should spend its money. As a result, public authorities were given immunity from all actions concerning the general allocation of resources.

That might sound reasonable. But in practice, the immunity has allowed the NSW Government to dodge the sensational accusations of mismanagement contained in Ball's statement of claim.

Until he retired, Ball had been crime co-ordinator in the state child protection enforcement agency: the pedophile police.

His statement of claim accuses the Government of almost halving the number of police pursuing the state's pedophiles and child molesters in the late 1990s.

In the five years to 2001, the strength of his unit fell from 50 to just 30 officers, Ball's claim says.

Under-resourcing meant his unit had insufficient resources "to adequately carry out its investigations or prosecute pedophiles", it says.

He also claims staff shortages led directly to many investigations being suspended when he believed they should have been pursued. As a result, he claims he had to prioritise every investigation until he retired on medical grounds suffering from guilt, depression and post-traumatic stress syndrome.

The case has outraged the NSW Police Association.

Association secretary Peter Remfrey accuses the state Government of "hypocrisy" over its handling of the matter.

Instead of testing Ball's claims in court, the Government assembled a high-powered legal team and took him to the Court of Appeal.

The Government's legal team included Crown Solicitor Ian Knight, Paul Menzies QC and barrister Elpi Chrysostomou. They did not challenge the substance of Ball's claim that government negligence had directly caused an injury that forced him to leave the force.

They urged Ipp and the other judges to apply the immunity that rules out claims based on a government authority's general allocation of resources.

The judges found themselves duty-bound to rule against Ball.

By relying on the immunity, the NSW Government might have beaten Ball. His case will need to be re-pleaded on narrower grounds that do not accuse the government of causing his injury by under-resourcing his unit. That will weaken his ability to prove the government was at fault. It could also reduce the amount of any damages.

By invoking the immunity, the NSW Government has pushed the police association into the arms of those who want the immunity abolished.

Remfrey says the government had effectively "legislated themselves out of being liable for their own actions".

He says the police association agrees with Ipp.

"This tort reform has gone too far," Remfrey says. "Why should the NSW Government be able to pass laws making itself immune from the obligations placed on every other employer?

"Police officers are particularly vulnerable under these changes because they are charged with dealing with the implications of shortfalls in spending by all government agencies."

The Law Council of Australia and the NSW Bar Association believe it is time to review the impact of tort reform.

Law Council president Tim Bugg said the fact that the author of the last round of changes believes they have gone too far is a strong reason for calling a second review. "Our starting point is that no wrongdoer should be protected from his or her negligent actions, regardless of whether it is a government instrumentality or someone out in the street," Bugg says.

NSW Bar Association president Michael Slattery QC said any law that gave governments privileges above those of the rest of the community was not sustainable.

"Even worse, why should the community tolerate the suppression of litigation that would have revealed government incompetence and mismanagement?" Slattery says.

"This legislation suppresses criticism of government operations. The Ipp report did not authorise that."

A spokesman for NSW Police Minister David Campbell said details were not available on staffing levels when Ball was still in the force.

As well as appointing 40 extra police to prevent and investigate crimes against children, the Government had increased police powers and introduced new laws to protect children, he said.

Newly appointed Attorney-General John Hatzistergos adheres to Carr's argument in favour of the immunity.

"It is not the courts' function to be determining budgets. That is obviously a matter for the executive government," he said. "We need to ensure that duties of care are observed but that the courts, at the end, are not entrusted with a role of resource allocation in the general sense," Hatzistergos says.


More from the labour lobby here quoting former Compensation Court judge and former Attorney General Frank Walker:

Workers Online : Legal : 2001 - Issue 95 : View from the Bench

15 Nov 2005

Posted by editor at 10:34 AM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 1 February 2009 1:18 PM EADT
Saturday, 31 January 2009
Norman Lee father of Ben Lee, a nasty bald headed political raptor expelled by the local ALP
Topic: local news

Some historical 'clarifications' are needed of the Ben Lee cover story in the Good Weekend supplement to the Sydney Morning Herald today regarding his political father Norman Lee. It doesn't behove well to speak ill of the dead especially given one's own alcoholic father was just buried yesterday in Melbourne. But the true nature of Norman Lee the local council politician should be recorded. The truth - not rose tinted. This might also help his son Ben Lee unscramble a bit.

Here's our campaign photo, skinny and hairy, in 1995 with Rosie (medical student) and Lexy (actor) on the successful ticket with about 15 others competing for the last councilor position in Bondi Ward behind Labor and Liberal.

This writer sat 2 seats from Norman Lee for 4 years 1995 to 1999, Cr Peter Moscat (ALP) thankfully between us. That was every Tuesday evening till late and one Saturday a month for 4 years. You knew these people like family members loved or not. Lee was the most loathsome of the 12 councilors plus senior staff around the chamber, not least because of his skills at niggling and undermining of a personal not policy nature. He was an independent for the Dover Heights, Rose Bay, Vaucluse end of Waverley Council. His constituency was in particular the Jewish vote up there.

No problem with that, a significant demographic with an inherent need for democratic cultural representation. He was for most of the next 4 years always an independent aligned personally to Armitage as Mayor for 2 of those years. Apparently he had been booted out of the ALP caucus peviously as unmanageable.

Contrary to the sanitised version in the press today possibly sourced to then mayor Barbara Armitage via journo John Huxley, Norman was an aggressive prick and this was well understood by most councilors.

His clashes with youthful fellow Jewish councilor George Newhouse (in the ALP proper) were often and at times serious. At one point we intervened Gandhi style to prevent a sincere threat of defamation proceedings by Newhouse on Lee over the latter's rumour mongering in their common social networks. This would have infected the reputation of the council and increase friction at meetings already demanding enough. This was not normal politiking, ALP to Liberal or my own Green Party at that time. Lee was a brute and a dinosaur.

From the very first in 1995 Lee took a set against this writer possibly for being a bright eyed idealistic successful Green Party councilor. In reality on many discretionary decisions outside party platforms councilors could chop and change to make shifting and creative alliances. But Lee always spoke against and voted against the Green position if at all possible. It became cliche for to speak in opposition to us far more than any Labor or Liberal councilor cared to or needed to. Indeed he was instrumental in attempting to orchestrate a referral of this writer to the Dept of Local Govt to have us expelled from council for campaigning against the Waterloo Incinerator. Just another example of political bullying.

Some, but by no means all of this conflict with Lee might be explained as normal policy clashes over closure of that facility spewing dioxins. Lee and the ALP under Armitage but not so much now MP, then Cr, Paul Pearce wanted to rebuild it, not closure. It was the closure decision in 1997 by the NSW State Government that saw Paul Pearce take over Armitage's role as leader of the ALP group, the mayoralty and fast track to Ernie Page's seat in Parliament.

Fact is Norman Lee was a nasty little man at Waverley Council 95-99. We always put his abrasiveness down to our position being one of true independence, as an honest broker between the two major parties in a well to do part of the city. By contrast Lee was independent in name only as the crucial last vote keeping Barbara Armitage in power. Never was a mayor more happy than to see Norman return after a serious heart attack late 1997 or so.

True Lee senior was always associated with Norman Andrews House charity for the homeless, and his turf was chair of the Traffic Committee which he did competently. But these were the exception not the rule. More generally he was a brawler and contrarian on his last legs.

A change in tone eventually transpried when he linked arms at a Port Botany picket line against the Patricks Howard Govt takeover of industrial relations. Norman was heard to call the federal Government "fascist" in the council chamber which was surprising given his constant negative attitude to the Greens. He was re admitted to membership of the ALP in his last years of life, possibly on the strength of this renewed loyalty.

Lee made it easier in the end for the Green Party to make a decision to sell off vacant public land for house blocks in Dover Heights - Norman's turf - in order to transfer the income for construction of the new Waverley Library in Bondi Junction. Norman wanted them to be tennis courts to promote outdoor sports, which meant in effect no library. And intrusive floodlights and noisy balls going bop, bop, bop all day or night in a built up area. Ironic therefore to see his name and ours on the same plaque (below). A travesty really of history albeit good unity politics by the Labor machine.

It's true Norman Lee was proud of his son Ben, explaining how he played music from the youngest age at BeeBees bar and lounge when it was on Curlewis St Bondi , now a phone shop if memory serves. To paraphrase John Lee Hooker when a kid has the boogie woogie in him it has to come out.

True Lee senior was entertaining at times, recalling the Liberal Mayor of the 1980ies at a Red Cross charity dinner going from table to table at the end of the function and finishing every leftover half glass of wine. He was an alcoholic and said to be a Force of Darkness for the developer lobby. This was the time of ICAC corruption finding against then director of planning Don Stait pursued to the end by Armitage and Lee providing the muscle for her protection.

For these achievements of throwing out the spiv white shoe brigade at Waverley in the 1980ies when it counted the community can and should be grateful but the vicious grip on power afterwards late 90ies was unhealthy. In 1999 the Green Councilor numbers tripled from 1 to 3, though this writer stepped down for other interests. Richard Davidson as leader of the Liberal Group including now Mayor Sally Betts told us in 1999 if only we had stayed "you would have been mayor" with 3 Green and Liberal votes. A position he of course really aspired to. Ah yes Richard, but then possibly only to end up like Norman Lee.

And how pray tell would that help save the forests?

Posted by editor at 9:29 AM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 1 February 2009 10:33 AM EADT
Friday, 30 January 2009
Green Senator Milne seeks 2nd pulp mill notch on her belt with referral to ASX and ASIC?
Topic: corporates

For a while now we have held the view that political corruption by Gunns Ltd would inevitably also involve financial deceptions. We assumed it would be flushed out, if ever, by say new rules requiring auditors to answer written questions of shareholders (thank you John Howard!).

But here we read today of alleged failure to disclose correct market sensitive information relating to an expert report. This project has a bad whiff of dead cat about it just like the Franklin River Dam project of the early 1980ies. Another bad project by a bad company.

Green Senator press release follows:

Did Gunns mislead ASX? Full investigation needed immediately

Hobart, Friday 30 January 2009

The Australian Greens are today calling for a full ASIC investigation
into whether Gunns misled the Australian Stock Exchange yesterday.

Gunns yesterday released the Herzfeld hydrodynamic modelling Report,
which Senator Milne has been attempting to obtain since April 2008. In
releasing the report to the ASX, Gunns claimed that Minister Garrett had
approved Module L of their environmental impact assessment, a claim
denied by Minister Garrett this morning.

"In trying to spin their way out of Dr Herzfeld's frying pan, Gunns may
well have landed themselves in a much bigger fire," Australian Greens
Deputy Leader, Senator Christine Milne, said.

"The ASX must immediately commence an inquiry into whether or not Gunns
misled investors yesterday, and refer the issue to ASIC for a full

"The Herzfeld Report is deeply embarrassing for Gunns. It confirms that
Gunns' pulp mill will pollute Bass Strait and will jeopardise the
precious marine environment."

Dr Herzfeld said: 'this creates the possibility for high concentrations
to be carried significant distances from the source and will certainly
reach Commonwealth waters [and the coast] under conducive forcing

Dr Herzfeld goes on to say that, based on criteria prescribed in the
State Pulp Mill Permits 2007 regarding chlorate, Gunns would be in
breach of the conditions 'on an almost daily basis'.

"Gunns has spent the past four years trying to persuade the Tasmanian
community that its pulp mill would not pollute Bass Strait," Senator
Milne said.

"Gunns is clearly trying to spin the Herzfeld report as superseded on
the basis that Minister Garrett has approved Module L, but the Minister
has made it clear that nothing in Module L is set in stone. Minister
Garrett has said that, not only has he not approved Module L, but that
he will not do so until he has all the necessary science in front of him
from the real time hydrodynamic modelling, which will take a further 18
months to be completed.

"Gunns' claim that Dr Herzfeld's report has been superseded is desperate
and misleading spin from a company increasingly on the back foot.

"Far from being superseded, the facts remain that Gunns will dump 64,000
tonnes of effluent, including dioxins, every day into shallow Bass
Strait waters.

"Tasmanians do not want their precious coasts, marine life and seafood
compromised by Gunns' polluting pulp mill," Senator Milne concluded.

Posted by editor at 11:40 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 30 January 2009 12:32 PM EADT
Big press commentary on NSW Cabinet recruits surprisingly immature
Topic: big media

Strewth column in The Australian today correctly notes that Alex Mitchell in Crikey.com.au, as entertaining as he is, got it wrong to say factional organisers Obeid and Tripodi have no influence anymore. To be so categorical was indeed immature for a veteran like Mitchell (or deliberately tendentious which is not quite journalism Alex, as participation). We suggested as much on his comment string.

But then The Australian's serious reportage elsewhere same edition has some real flaws: Imre Salusinszky has been infected with a bout of the cliches, possibly reading too many hyperbolic Lisa Carty articles, referring to "firebrand" John Robertson getting his promotion.

Strange too to see their editorial caterwauling about the lost debate over privatisation of state energy assets: A famous victory of the left wing in society - sparing jobs and the public balance sheet in reality which are both national goals. This has bent all the commentary out of objective shape today. None of the market fundamentalists have the grace to note the Global Financial Crisis means a sale decision then would mean an absolute slaughter of the public revenue in a fire sale of energy assets now or later. This is a real giveaway of their hopeless economic rationalist bias.

The Oz is not alone for laughably referring to Robertson's mere '3 or 4 months in Parliament'. Give us a break. He led the NSW union movement in a tough decisive federal election victory in late 2007 for his side of politics playing both the industrial relations and climate change issue like a virtuoso violinist. He's hardly a political neophyte by any measure - age, experience, skills, demonstrated ability to win. To be off the front bench would be a joke. Is that why the big press are really annoyed? Because it empowers Labor?

Then the speculative intrigue by Clennell (Sydney Morning Herald), and Benson (Sydney Daily Telegraph) today, pursuing alleged internal power games. What it all presents like is a case of Big Press projection of their own power mongering aspirations: We decide whose going up and down; We decide the government in fact. And the hope rather than the reality of splitting the ALP government with their Big Press power. Not since web 2.0 would be our view.

None of them make the Politics AO1 observation that Steve Whan MP, whether he is left, right, green, red, yellow or brindle, is in an extremely marginal seat of Eden Monaro wrenched off the National Party; That green issues will play large in the marginal politics of that forested and coastal seat and he will need every opportunity to build a margin via a complementary ministerial profile. His promotion again is a sign of real preparation to fight a 2011 election to win. It's sound logic whether via Tripodi, Obeid, or manager of the Wiggles.

As we say in the headline, the media commentary today is immature which is surprising (and ironic) given this is the implicit criticism of a youthful 40 year old premier Nathan Rees. Oh, and Rees and big union man Robertson are both lefties. Of course the former wants the latter within Cabinet for future stoushes there.

What the conservative Big Press in Sydney don't seem to understand is that they lost the last federal election, their PM was dumped out of his seat - over IR, climate and civil liberties amongst other issues and the electorate have moved to the left, and to the green. And they wonder why their circulation is going down?

Posted by editor at 10:36 AM EADT
Updated: Friday, 30 January 2009 12:27 PM EADT
Thursday, 29 January 2009
The era of the brilliant Bill Leak every 24 hours may be over at The Australian?
Topic: big media

Even allowing for convalescence it may be the public consumer of mass media will have to moderate their expectations.

Bill ran a cartoon about a week back in The Australian here:


It's a bit jarring for our taste. Very confronting. Not quite sure about it. Bush's redneck reputation? Record on capital punishment? White supremacists voting for Obama? Bill has always been a take no prisoners kind of cartoonist and often brilliant like David Rowe at the Australian Financial Review/Sunday Herald.

There is something just too over the top about a corpse on a rope even in cartoon form.

For Bill's undoubted artistry to really work he also needs to get across the current affairs material in a 24 hour cycle. We imagine his job as catching the political economic context of his audience awareness just right - like the take off surfing a wave, not too far ahead where the water has already broken, not too far back so the pulse leaves you behind dithering.

And that's very demanding and why he was really so good pulling it off most days. It's hard enough for this writer to keep a weather eye without a serious brain injury to recover from, let alone drawing it too.

We fear that we may never quite see Bill at the cutting edge again day after day with a ground breaking insight.

It's a shame because there is an obvious hole in the principal cartoon space of the opinion page in The Australian bravely filled by Kudelka and Nicholson lately, but not really to the old Leak standard.

Posted by editor at 4:34 PM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 29 January 2009 4:52 PM EADT

Newer | Latest | Older