Missionary sisters expect miracles
Bougainville ‘dictatorship and suppression’?

Australia deceives Pacific – again

The deceit began with 19th century 'blackbirding'  of slave labour to work in Australia - and it continues to this day in the form of denying climate change impacts on the Pacific

| Guardian Australia | Extract

CANBERRA - The Australian government is fighting to keep secret draft versions of its strategy for helping the Pacific deal with climate change, prompting concerns it may be hiding changes that weakened the final report.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade released its climate change action strategy in November, detailing how the foreign aid program would be used to help developing nations – particularly those in the Pacific – deal with global heating.

The department’s draft report had languished in the office of the foreign minister, Marise Payne, for nine months, and the delays had frustrated foreign aid groups, particularly given Pacific nations have identified climate change as the region’s single biggest threat.

Seeking to understand whether the minister’s office influenced the final version, the Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi lodged a freedom of information request for the draft copy, which the department gave to the minister’s office in February last year.

But the government is now refusing to release the draft, arguing it is not in the public interest and would “undermine the value and authority of the final climate change strategy”.

The department is relying on exemptions in the FOI act that block the release of “deliberative matter” – material that has been used in the making of decisions.

“I consider that there is no identifiable benefit or public interest to release this type of draft information,” the department’s decision-maker said.

“Release of the deliberations that form part of the drafting process would undermine the value and authority of the final Climate Change Action Strategy. I therefore consider that it would not be in the public interest to release the draft Climate Change Action Strategy.”

Payne was previously questioned about delays to the release of the final report during Senate estimates, following reports her office had sat on it for months. She said the release of the final report was delayed because changes were required to “better reflect our international climate change engagement prior to the Paris Agreement coming into effect in 2020, particularly noting – for those who are oblivious – that we have just had a federal election”.

“The government wants to take the opportunity to make sure that strategies such as this and other relevant documentation are contemporary and are relevant to the changes in our commitments, which will be seen under the Paris Agreement,” Payne said in July.

But Faruqi said the refusal to release the draft version “absolutely smacks of a cover-up”. She said the argument that there was no public interest in its release “makes no sense” and raised suspicion about efforts to keep it secret.

“This strategy appears to have sat on the foreign minister’s desk for almost nine months and we simply don’t know how it was altered in that time,” she said.

“The public has a right to know whether the government politically interfered to water down the strategy.”


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Bernard Corden

Dear Arthur, It is also worth looking at Occidental's performance during the Love Canal debacle in upstate New York. The same company was involved in the Piper Alpha oil rig disaster.

Union Carbide have a pretty dubious record and were responsible for the Hawks Nest disaster at Mount Gawley in West Virginia back in the late 1920s. The same company was involved in the Bhopal disaster some six decades later.

WR Grace were responsible for the desolation of Libby in Montana with the mining and manufacture of asbestos contaminated vermiculite.

Ian Ritchie

Industrialisation and coal mining in particular, came with horrific tolls and there is no hiding that.

I fail to see however, why we have been reminded of those tragedies in response to an article substantively about the Morrison Governments secrecy obsession with life, the universe and everything, coupled with their absolute rejection of any and all science indicating calamitous changes to our lives are impacting us right now.

Although "black birding" doesn't relate either, I believe the analogy was simply to underscore the insulting secrecy and disdain the current Australian government is imposing on Australia's close and equally as important, Pacific neighbours.

It's fine to state "citizens can democratically change governments through the ballot box if they dislike a policy", except for two small, but crucial anomalies.

Firstly, no Pacific national except an Australian can democratically change the Australian Government and secondly, one has to know the policy, both the inclusions and the exclusions, in order to make a decision as to whether it is fair and just.

How does anyone do that when the government refuses to disclose the draft versions, which seem likely to contain embarrassing evidence that the policy has been watered down or reliant on smoke and mirror tactics.

I consider the term "Climate Change Action Policy" associated with the Morrison/McCormack Government to be an oxymoron at best and more likely a thinly veiled illusion and any policy shrouded in secrecy and previously so strenuously opposed at every opportunity by this government, should be regarded with a great deal of skepticism and mistrust.

As an adjunct, Arthur Williams' response could possibly be the basis of another PNG attitude topic in relation to the Ramu Nickel comment.

I think it should be clarified that the company mentioned, were the maritime consultants, not the mines predominantly Chinese owners who were responsible for the toxic pollution of the Basamuk Bay.

Paul Oates

I believe the picture is intended to portray the deceit used to 'recruit' South Pacific people to work on the Queensland sugar plantations as Europeans were at that time not expected to be able to do so under the existing climatic conditions. Apparently, the ship's crew offered 'rewards' to entice unsuspecting workers into a life of virtual slavery without much rewards at the end of the work.

The suffering caused by the rich miners exploiting their seemingly powerless workers is nothing new. The Romans just used slaves and when they died, sent the army out to capture more.

Occasionally, the workers revolt as in the French revolution and knock off the king's head but the same type of person replaces the one has just been got rid of. Does that tell us something about the human race? Similar instances occur throughout history. Look at the Marcos regime in the Philippines or the South American endless regime changes. Look at the African dictatorships. No matter where we live, we as a species suffer from the same disease. It's called greed.

So Arthur, we know the problem. What's the answer? No one seems to be able to break free of our genetic make up but there are some positive attempts like when the British voted against slavery and then finally outlawed children working in mines as examples. The problem is that no one wants to know about the world's imbalances until it affects them personally.

We just have to keep trying to make our voices heard and hope someone will listen. Sometimes they actually do.

Never give up mate!

Bernard Corden

A senior executive with Glencore Xstrata is none other than Tony Hayward, who was leading BP during the Deepwater Horizon crisis.

The Paradise Papers revealed that Glencore secretly loaned tens of millions of dollars to Dan Gertler, an Israeli billionaire, after it enlisted him to secure a controversial mining agreement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo:


Arthur Williams

This extract tells nothing about the newly announced climate change action strategy but only The Guardian’s annoyance at not knowing how it was formulated. Most I believe would prefer to know the policy announced. After all citizens can democratically change governments through the ballot box if they dislike a policy. The silly picture of 19th Century ‘Blackbirding’ I think bears no relationship to climate policy- good or bad. The writer fails to explain what it is.

However it is worth recalling that at the same time as Pacific 'Blackbirding' in the UK until a 1842 Mining Act children under the age of 10 were allowed to work in Britain’s mine along with females. The women worked from 6am to 6pm and were paid sixpence a day; so God knows what the poor little kids received. After the new Act females were uplifted to working at pithead brows and there continued to do hard graft; with apparently the last so called ‘brow-lasses’ finishing in Harrington#10 Mine in Cumbria in 1972..

In the Cymmer Tunnel disaster of 21st April 1876 not far from my maternal grandparents’ home, near Maesteg, Glamorganshire, they could only identify a 13 year lad killed in the explosion by his dismembered fingers.

In 1970 at Bruce Rock W.A. I asked a colleague why do they have so many small toilets in the railway yard here. She replied, “Don’t be daft those are the huts for the aborigine workers to sleep in when the wheat is being loaded!”

Lilian Hobbs in her 2008 talk ‘Miner’s Wife’ to BBC said, “What I didn't understand was that my husband used to take the soles of my slippers for his knees, so I just assumed that at some time or other he was working on his knees. I didn't realise that he'd spent the whole seven hours that he was at the face working on his knees, because the height (of the coal seam) was actually two foot eight

In Britain’s worst coal mine disaster 440 died due to bad management at Senghenydd on Oct 14 1913. My grandfather was involved with feeding the rescuers. Of the victims 60 were under 20 and of that figure 8 were merely 14 years old. After a long inquiry the colliery manager was fined £24 and the Company was fined £10 with extra £5 costs. According to Wikipedia: ‘The Merthyr Pioneer’ wrote the fines meant a miner’s life was worth just over 15d or £13 at today’s value.

Prior to the above disaster South Wales had seen far too many other in the 2nd half of the 19th century.
• 1856 Cymmer 114 dead
• 1860 Risca 142 dead
• 1867 Ferndale 178 dead
• 1878 Abercarn 268 dead
• 1880 Risca, 120 dead
• 1880 Penygraig 101 dead
• 1890 Llannerch, 176 dead
• 1892 Parc Slip 112 dead
• 1894 Cilfynydd, 290 dead
• 1905 Wattstown, 119 dead

Those are the big disasters in just one region of the UK but daily all over Britain there were other similar mine deaths from explosions, roof falls, flooding; while the odd one or just a 'few' deaths were not even worth more than a paragraph in a local newspaper.

We are all pleased to possess compact mobile phone and most of us never think about its components. Yet daily in its manufacture our mobiles need cobalt. We all know of our Ramu mine but that is small beer compared to the 50% of all cobalt used being mined in the DRC or Democratic Republic of Congo. Last June 27 thirty six miners were killed in a collapsing rock face. In a mine owned by a Glencore subsidiary. In 2017 the parent company Glencore was earning US$23 million per day. Surely enough to provide safe working conditions for its operations worldwide.

With Xstrata they were involved in PNG’s putative Frieda mine but they since sold out to PanAust. Perhaps the Sepik people are better off without them. A brief read of the history of Glencore ‘.reads like a spy novel’ said ABC Stephen Long on AM 11/02/2005. Wikipedia is well worth a read.

These historical events tell me that ‘blackbirding’ was merely a symptom of the much lauded 19th century improved or modern capitalism. It was aided in the UK by the 1844 Companies Act and indeed all over Europe similar legislation was described as the tool to improve commerce. However what was then and is ever thus is that the capitalist system inherently exploits the weakest or most vulnerable in any society whether it be from poor labour conditions and minimal wages, even modern slavery or its exploitation of resources sourced in badly and often corruptly governed nations with oft resulting environmental degradation.

Yesterday I posted a small comment on The National’s story of the Minister of Conservation etc telling us there is nothing to worry about in the sea off the RamuNico project – the Nickel and Cobalt miner in Madang
It reported told readers that the ocean survey company had given the all clear from the pollution on August 19th when there was an 80000 m3 slurry leakage. The company was called BMT Eastern Australia Pty Ltd. I found that it had used that name for merely one year from 11/10/18 only until 2/10/19 or 5 weeks after the slurry escaped. Since then it has changed its name to Bmt Commercial Australia Pty Ltd. For unknown reasons to a silly old fool like me in fact the company has had 20 trading names in ten years.

I have long thought that a bad aspect of modern company legislation is that a single person can set up a company. The obvious ease with which such an entity can be manipulated by ‘commercial spivs’are legion. What with that sort of advantage, coupled with secretive holding companies and off-shore tax havens the wealthy of this world are growing exponentially richer.

A single company like Glencore has assets of US$204 billion which is more than 135 nations GDP.
NZ 51st at same value;
PNG 109th with 23 billion
DRC 137th with 11 billion

(Oh Australia is 14th in GDP with US$ 1376 billion)

So it ain’t just blackbirding we should be worried about but that the majority of the world’s people are becoming mere Wage Slaves.

With the policy being kept secret by the Australian government, how could Guardian Australia possibly tell us how it was formulated or even provide any detail of what the government was proposing? I think the Guardian's conclusion is compelling: that the government not releasing any detail shows it has something to hide - KJ

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