Thursday, August 27, 2009

Water pirates filching the common good

Two articles highlight the corporate exploitation of Australia's freshwater ecosystems.

The first is from the web journal Online Opinion and can be access here:

I've added a comment to it.

The second is the text of a piece called "Stolen Waters" and exposes BHP Billiton's theft of water from the Great Artesian Basin, a theft which is due to multiply many times as the expansion of Olympic Dam into the world's biggest open cut mine gets underway (please note that the dollar amounts cited are constantly changing on the original site at ):

BHP Billiton, the world's richest mining company, plunders Australia's precious -- and FINITE -- artesian water resource without cost, oversight or regulation.

Australia is a desert land and the nation is presently suffering from extreme water shortages. The largest river system in the nation, the Murray-Darling, is in a critical condition -- outflows to the sea have all but ceased and vital lake systems are now dust bowls; YET the plundering Transnational, BHP continues to steal high quality water for its uranium, pollution producing mine, Olympic Dam.

BHP Billiton have helped themselves to

of FREE water from the Great Artesian Basin since 1982
Sydney households pay

$ 776,474,576

for the same volume of water

The massive theft of water is causing environmental damage through:
land and water salinisation
encouragement of the spread of pest plants and animals
reduced pressure in some naturally occurring artesian springs
Since 1999 the Australian Government has spent

$ 80,372,747

of tax payer money in an attempt to repair the damage

Related press & references
BHP: 30 million litres of water per day for free
Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative (GABSI)
Howard urged to make BHP mine pay for water

Thursday, August 20, 2009

US imperialism can break our bodies but not fix those of its own people

US President Barak Obama is facing strong opposition from vested corporate interests to plans for improvements to medical and health services in the US.

According to international lobby group Avaaz, "US healthcare is run by large corporations - it's the most expensive in the world, but ranks 37th in quality, and 40 million Americans can't afford any care at all. It's an awful system for people, but corporations make enormous profits, so they're fighting to keep it."

Public health systems are not incompatible with capitalism as the experience of Australia, Canada and many European nations shows.

However, nothing can be wrested from the capitalist system without a struggle, and once wrested, as the history of Medibank shows in Australia, it must be continually guarded and fought over.

In the US, the big corporate monopolies that control medicine and health services play on public gullibity about "socialised" or "Soviet" medical services. This is only possible because the US media keeps the US public ignorant about public health services in other capitalist countries and of course, about the far superior models of public health in socialist countries.

So we have a situation in which the US imperialists have the most perfect systems for tearing apart the bodies of working people and anti-imperialist patriots throughout the world, yet one of the worst systems for restoring the bodies of their own citizens.

This is an irony developed in the following comment by former Cuban President, Fidel Castro:

Reflections of Fidel

The empire and the robots

(Taken from CubaDebate)

A little while ago, I wrote about U.S. plans to impose the absolute superiority of its air force as an instrument of domination over the rest of the world. I mentioned the project of that country possessing more than 1,000 state-of-the-art F-22 and F-35 bombers and fighter planes in its fleet of 2,500 military aircraft. By 20 years later, the totality of its warplanes will be robot-operated.

Military budgets always have the majority support of U.S. legislators. There are very few states where employment is not at least partially dependent on the defense industry.

On a global level and constant value, military costs have doubled in the last 10 years, as if no danger of crisis existed at all. At this juncture it is the most prosperous industry on the planet.

In 2008, approximately $1.5 trillion was invested in defense budgets. Forty-two percent of world spending on defense, or $607 billion, corresponded to the United States, not including war expenditures, while the number of hungry in the world reached the figure of one billion people.

A Western news agency reported two days ago that in mid-August the U.S. army exhibited a remote-controlled helicopter, as well as robots capable of doing the work of sappers, 2,500 of which have been sent to combat zones.

A robot marketing company maintained that new technologies are revolutionizing the ways of commanding war. It has been published that in 2003 the United States had next to no robots in its arsenal but “today it has — according to AFP — 10,000 ground vehicles and 7,000 aircraft, from the little Raven, which can be launched with one hand, to the giant Global Hawk, a spy plane of 13 meters in length and 35 in wingspan capable of flying at a great height for 35 hours.” Other weapons are listed in that dispatch.

While that colossal expenditure on technologies for killing is taking place in the United States, the president of that country is sweating blood in order to bring health services to 50 million U.S. citizens who lack them. The confusion is so great that the new president affirmed that reform of the health system was closer than ever but “the battle is turning ugly.”

“But now’s the hard part,” he added. “Because the history is clear – every time we come close to passing health insurance reform, the special interests with a stake in the status quo use their influence and political allies to scare and mislead the American people.”

It is a true fact that in Los Angeles, 8,000 people – the majority of them unemployed, according to the press – gathered in a stadium to receive medical attention from a free traveling clinic that provides services in the Third World. Most of them had waited there overnight. Some of them had traveled from hundreds of kilometers away.

“‘What do I care if it’s socialist or not? We are the only country in the world where the most vulnerable of us have nothing,’ said a woman from a black neighborhood and with higher education.”

It was noted that a “blood test could cost $500 and routine dental treatment more than $1,000.”

What hope can that society offer the world?

Congressional lobbyists are spending their August working against a simple bill that is an attempt to provide medical care to tens of millions of poor people — the vast majority of them black or Latino — who lack that service. Even a blockaded country like Cuba has been able to do that and, moreover, cooperate with dozens of Third World countries.

If robots in the hands of the transnationals can replace the imperial soldiers in wars of conquest, who will detain the transnationals in the search for markets for their artifacts? Just as they have inundated the world with automobiles that are now competing with humans for the consumption of non-renewable energy and even for foodstuffs converted into fuel, they can also inundate it with robots that will displace millions of workers in their workplaces.

Better still, scientists can likewise design robots capable of governing; thus sparing the government and Congress of the United States that horrible, contradictory and confused labor.

No doubt they would do it better and more cheaply.

Fidel Castro Ruz
August 19, 20093:15 p.m.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Rann, Marathon and crony capitalism

The following article is from the Murdoch rag, the Australian (20 Aug 2009).

On this occasion, we will not hold that against them.

The article underscores what this blog has been saying for more than two years: the stench of corruption hovers all around the Rann government and wilderness despoiler and uranium explorer Marathon Resources.

I won't repeat what I've put in previous posts on this issue (just hit the Arkaroola link to the right if you are interested).

Here's the report from the Australian:

Schacht lobbied Rann for miner

Michael Owen, SA political reporter August 20, 2009
Article from: The Australian

LOBBYIST and former Labor senator Chris Schacht was headhunted to join the board of a uranium exploration company, which was seeking to have a drilling ban lifted and its mining licence renewed by the Rann government.

After his appointment to the board of Marathon Resources, Mr Schacht lobbied Premier Mike Rann and Mineral Resources Minister Paul Holloway in private meetings and during trips to China, including one last October.

Mr Schacht, who company documents show was appointed to the board on January 23 last year, is a shareholder in Marathon and a former consultant for the company controlled by Queensland coal magnate Ken Talbot.

The Rann government refused to respond to inquiries from The Australian about its dealings with Marathon, including whether Mr Holloway had been lobbied by Mr Schacht or other company representatives.

Marathon chairman Peter Williams said after a board meeting in Adelaide yesterday that Mr Schacht had lobbied Mr Rann and Mr Holloway.

The company also employs a lobbyist firm, but Mr Williams refused to disclose the name of the firm.

The Rann government is under pressure because of its lack of action to regulate the activities of lobbyists and establish a lobbyists' register, as the Rudd government and other states have done.
Adding to that pressure has been the Premier's refusal to establish an independent commission against corruption, as every other state except Victoria has done, in the wake of events in Queensland.

Yesterday's revelations about the extent of lobbying by Mr Schacht, a Keating government minister and former ALP state secretary, comes before Marathon's mining exploration licence expires on October 10, and as the government prepares to consider lifting a drilling ban imposed in February last year.

The indefinite suspension on drilling came after the company was caught in December 2007 dumping uranium drilling waste in the environmentally sensitive Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, 700km north of Adelaide.

A month later, Mr Schacht was appointed to the company's board. Marathon aims to develop its Mount Gee uranium project in the northern Flinders Ranges, which is estimated to contain more than 40 million tonnes of uranium ore.

Conservationists and tourist operators want Marathon barred from the sanctuary and its drill sites at Mount Gee, a listed geological monument.

Company insiders said Mr Schacht had lobbied Mr Holloway and Mr Rann on behalf of the company during trips with them to China, and in private meetings, as the state government stood to reap hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties.

Mr Schacht said that as a company director he could not comment.

Mr Williams said there were "regular" meetings with the government, including with Mr Holloway. "We secured Chris's involvement before the problems came up ... Of course he's had lots of discussions with them (Rann and Holloway), and there's no undue influence at all".

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Rudd and Gillard courtesy of Matt Walker

Adelaide photographer and graphic artist Matt Walker has pretty neatly captured the essence of social democracy in the two images above.
Social democracy is the political theory espoused by Labor politicians, a theory that says that capitalism can be reformed peacefully through parliamentary activity, and that only though this avenue of reform can there be improvements in the condition of the working class.
Even the term "class" is discarded by modern social democrats. For Rudd, the preferred term is "working families".
So-called "Labor" and "Social Democratic" parties throughout the world are parties of capitalism.
Capitalist countries generally have a conservative party that is openly reactionary and used by the ruling class to remove all legal and bureaucratic obstacles to their pursuit of profit. They also have an alternative party ("Labor" or some variation of it) that can be used to put in place legal and bureaucratic measures to restore balance between competing sections of the ruling class after periodic bouts of crisis. Traditionally, these parties have also been used to make concessions to the workers when the latter begin to assert their independent interests against those of the bosses.
Rudd, like Howard before him, is an apologist for, and supporter of, US imperialism.
Gillard as Deputy PM has ministerial responsibility for the two key areas of industrial relations and education. She has openly flaunted her commitment to Howard's savage anti-union creation, the Australian Building and Construction Commission. And in education circles, she is fast becoming known as Julia Dullard because of her ignorant championing of bad educational practice sourced from the US and England.
Matt's website is temporarily offline but is a rich source of progressive imagery.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ark Tribe case adjourned until October

(Dave Noonan, National Secretary of the CFMEU, promises a campaign of retaliation if Ark Tribe, about third from left in black top, is jailed)

As the song says, something like fifty men a year are killed in construction industry accidents around Australia, but I've never yet known a boss to go to jail for industrial manslaughter.

Yet a worker who took issue with slack safety standards on his job found himself required to answer questions about a meeting to discuss the issue: who said what, and to whom.

This is under laws bequeathed to the nation by the previous Prime Monster Liberal John Howard, and kept alive by current Prime Monster Rudd and his Deputy Julia Gillard, of the so-called Labor Party.

Ironically, both were put into office by an electorate demanding the protection of rights at work.

Ark Tribe attended his second court appearance yesterday, out at Elizabeth, north of Adelaide, charged with failing to appear at a compulsory interrogation.

The penalty for non-appearance at an ABCC interrogation is six month's jail!

Three hundred work mates, community activists and members of other unions were there to support Ark. It was a great turn-out for mid-morning on a working day.

As the supporters gathered, the Ark Tribe song was played over a scratchy speaker system.

State Secretary of the CFMEU Martin O'Malley described Ark as "this generation's Ned Kelly or Ben Hall...he's a hero."

He introduced speakers including SA Unions leader Janet Giles, and parliamentarians Mark Parnell (Greens) and David Winterlich (Democrats).

"Where's the bloody Labor Party," someone from the crowd yelled, to ironic cheers.

Then it was Ark's turn to again face the courts, his lawyers winning an adjournment to Adelaide on October 30.

Don't expect any bosses to be standing in the dock with him - that will have to wait until we've got people's courts and a people's legal system.

And it will be an Ark Tribe then who sits in judgement on the murderers and maimers of workers!

(Above, Rex with his "MUA - here to stay" flag: "they tried it on the wharfies, with scabs and thugs and lost..." To the far left, as you'd expect...brace's Joe from WA!)

(Above, Bob with the Oath of the Eureka Stockade, still an inspiration in the struggles of today together with the Stockade's magnificent blue and white flag).

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Prof James Anaya puts spotlight on racist "intervention"

Professor James Anaya, who holds the mandate for investigating and reporting on the rights of Indigenous people under the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, will visit Australia in August.

A letter welcoming Prof. Anaya is being circulated (see below) and many individuals and organizations are signing in support of its call for the reinstatement of the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) in the Northern Territory.

The RDA was suspended by the Howard government to give effect to measures such as its quarantining of income payments to NT Aborigines.

It was claimed at the time that the measures were required in order to deal with the effects of alcoholism and of child abuse and neglect.

Whilst some individual instances of improvement have been noted, the measures have caused widespread resentment in Aboriginal communities.

The Rudd government differs little from its predecessor in its heavy-handed and paternalistic treatment of NT Aboriginal communities.

Both governments refuse to listen to and empower the communities.

There is continuing conflict around the takeover of town camps; attempts to restrict services to and drive people from homelands (“outstations”); removal of people from the CDEP scheme which, for all its faults, at least provides income in return for work; having to shop at designated stores with a “basics” card; suppression of bilingual education; failure to reduce the gap in health services and life expectancy; failure to improve and expand housing. The list goes on and on.

There is turbulence in the administration of Aboriginal affairs by the NT government. Aboriginal MP Marion Scrymgour (left) resigned as deputy head of government and minister for Indigenous Affairs and then left the Labor Party. Her replacement, another Aboriginal MP, Alison Anderson (right) threatened to resign when told that no houses had yet been built in remote communities, and that less than a third of the money in the program would be spent on housing. After giving her government a deadline for action, she followed through two days ago and resigned.

Rudd and Macklin compound the turbulence and resentment, saying that they will reinstate the RDA but continue the discriminatory and paternalistic measures of the Intervention as “special measures” allowed under the RDA for positive discrimination.

Hopefully Professor Anaya will see though all of this to what is essentially a land grab on behalf of mining giants and other business interests, and use his office to support genuine consultation with Aboriginal communities.

To sign the letter to Prof. Anaya send your name, location and email address to .


Dear Professor Anaya,
Many Australians, Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal, are hopeful of your support in communicating the following views to the Australian government.

There is strong support for the reinstatement of the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) in a manner which complies with human rights principles, and does not impose ‘special measures’
‘Special measures’ in their current and proposed form are discriminatory and opposed to by very many Aboriginal people

‘Special measures’ were imposed on Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory in 2007. These ‘special measures’ are racist and would have been illegal had the RDA not been suspended.
The current ‘consultations’ process based on the ‘Futures Directions - discussion paper’ is flawed and any findings must be disregarded. The document is complex, biased towards preferred government policy, written in the English language and presented without the regular use of interpreters. Consultations are not transparent and no records of meetings are available.

Government must re-commit to the recently articulated principle that ‘one size does NOT fit all’, and provide choice to individuals and communities, including the choice to accept or reject any or all of the special measures.

Re-engagement in genuine negotiation with Aboriginal elders and their representatives must be commenced as soon as possible. The process must be transparent and independent facilitators should be engaged for the purpose. In this regard attention should be paid to the statement from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission:

As Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Christians, representing many different denominations and backgrounds, we are united against the NT Intervention in its current form” and ask government to, ‘Recognise the right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to negotiate agreements with governments. We stress negotiation as distinct from consulting with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples about the implementation of policy and programs which have already been already been developed and decided on”. (4 June 2009)

Professor Anaya, we welcome you to Australia and we call on you to encourage our government to respect and recognise the views of all Aboriginal people through genuine negotiation and respect for human rights. Consultations in their current form are manipulative and are aimed at maintaining racist legislation.

Yours sincerely,

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Traditional owners want Beverley Four Mile Stopped

The Coober Pedy Regional Times newspaper, in both its print and online versions, has been a courageous champion of the environment.

The report below is sourced from the online CPRT.


Posted on July 28, 2009 by Coober Pedy Regional Times

Traditional Owners call for immediate halt to uranium operations at Beverley 4 Mile

Vada Ardlanha (above) is a place close to the mine site where the spring water is constantly hot and in the winter has steam rising off it. Traditionally Vada Ardlanha is a religious site, intricately connected to Adnyamathanha understandings of radioactivity and the uranium ore.

Traditional Aboriginal owners of the country that includes the Beverley 4 Mile uranium deposit are outraged with mining operations having commenced prior to the completion of State and Federal approvals processes.

Last week Traditional Owners visiting the site were greeted by new fences and locked gates. They were advised by company representatives that future visits would require company consent and supervision as the mining site was ‘already operational’.

Community members believe the company has pre-empted the Australian approvals process as Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett has not yet approved a Monitoring and Management plan, a Mine Closure plan and a Community Engagement plan, all of which are required prior to the start of mining works at Beverley 4 Mile.

Similarly Petratherm announced the commencement of drilling without community consultation being satisfied and without a Risk Assessment being obtained to satisfy community concerns of their intentions regarding chemicals use and contaminated waste disposal procedures.

“On the 4 Mile a number of important South Australian Aboriginal heritage assessment processes are also currently unfinished or incomplete. This was not the deal. The company has jumped the gun. Our community is being left out and our concerns are being ignored,” said Adnyamathanha elder Enice Marsh.

“We want the Federal and State governments to make this company stop work now.”
Traditional Owners and custodians are deeply saddened and angered by the position taken by the mining company Quasar Resources, an affiliate of the US weapons and nuclear energy corporation General Atomics (see attached statement).


Adnyamathanha Elders Turned Away from Sacred Lands


A disastrous Work Area Clearance under Native Title left one Adnyamathanha woman extremely distressed by the attitude of the mining company; as a result she went missing for hours and a full scale search was required.

‘This is not respectful consultation, this is extreme bullying and treating women like dirt’ says Enice Marsh who experienced this frightening event as one of the party went missing for hours.

‘And neither Heathgate nor the anthropologist has spoken publicly on this dreadful event that may have ended in tragedy; there’s just been a big cover up over the whole thing. And those of who took part in the site survey back in April 2009 have never received a copy of the Anthropological report, nor have the Native Title Named Applicants that represent Adnyamathanha.

‘We haven’t even seen the report in draft form, so we could make comment on it before the Anthropologist sent it off the Heathgate’ claims one person. We are just left out in the cold, used up by the mining company to make it look like they are doing the right thing’.

‘It’s the land that is precious to us, not the money that Native Title offers as a bribe. On a visit to the area last week we followed the route we used since we were small children living on the area with our parents … only to find that this route has now been fenced off and locked up. We were then told by employees of Heathgate Resources that the Beverley Four Mile mining site is ‘already operational’ so the only way we can visit is through the main gates as supervised guests of the company.


Our reaction was one of shock and disbelief: ‘How can the extension at Four Mile Mine already be up and running? What about the heritage investigation that’s taking place’ said one distressed Elder.

‘We want to be able to visit our land in private, not have mining company people gawking at us as we share our stories of how important the land is to us and our old people that have passed on’ said another Elder. ‘Leave it then, let’s not visit … we will just have to sit around the fire back at our campsite. We have no choice but to sing our songs somewhere else, share our stories about our love for our Yarta (country)’

The heritage survey formally instigated by Minister Jay Weatherill is still underway, yet the mining proponent continues on, uninterrupted in their destruction of our lands.

Aboriginal people are only being employed in low paid and unskilled jobs; where are the apprenticeships and long term investment of money for our future generations? They are just not there.

This is the reality of so-called ‘benefits’ for locals – damage to our cultural sites, unrestricted pollution of the water and contamination of the soil, destruction of animal habitat – these can never be rehabilitated.

And due to lack of environmental best practice rehabilitation is simply not necessary in the eyes of SA government and the mining industry. Shame on the Rudd Labor Government for allowing mining companies to openly abuse the lands and waters of South Australia!


‘The local people in the region are being shafted – black and white.’ says Mrs Marsh. ‘People are being forced into going along with the Native Title process on both sides and it’s time the public started to see the full picture. The precious little amount of water we have in our State is being polluted right under our noses, yet water is the lifeblood for people in arid Australia. And the only way people will get the full picture is from those of us who really care about the environmental and cultural value of the land in South Australia, from the local people. Our government Ministers are behaving just like the miners – it’s ‘snatch and grab’ and leave the mess behind for future generations to have to deal with’ .


The governing committee for Native Title known as ATLA did not make a submission when the Four Mile PER was out for public comment, yet there are many sites on the floodplains that have been identified by old people that needed to be properly protected. This should have happened before exploration started. ‘The female Anthropologist that went out with us recorded some of our sites, but we have not yet seen the final report. And we know now that the mining company is already in there under the Mining License’ says Mrs Marsh.

Old people say that ATLA has a duty of care to all Adnyamathanha yet it fails to act to protect our sites and speak up for the people that are subject to abuse by the mining company. ‘

Why should it be left up to the Elders to speak up for our country? When is ATLA going to start working for Yuras instead of the mining companies and lawyers?’