October 22nd 2005

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL: JI's blood-stained prints on the Bali bombings

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Howard's biggest gamble since the GST

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Public outcry against human cloning

NEW ZEALAND ELECTION: How Helen Clark snatched victory

CLIMATE: Don't get steamed up over Arctic melting

ISLAM: Why Indian Muslims reject extremism

SCIENCE AND RELIGION: The rise and rise of Intelligent Design

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Too many crooks spoil the broth / Turkey's EU membership and some masterful wedge politics by Austria / Cultural revolution / Look back in anger / Marriage of science with home economics / The decoy ducks

SCHOOL FUNDING: Giving parents greater choice

DRUGS: New cannabis strategy urgently needed

MEDIA: Media authority blasts Ten's 'Big Brother Uncut'

OVERSEAS TRADE: Australia trading at a loss - myth and reality

ENERGY: US Pushes for energy self-reliance

Media cover-up of Saddam's WMDs (letter)

Rural Australians betrayed (letter)

Embryo vs. adult stem-cell research (letter)


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Too many crooks spoil the broth / Turkey's EU membership and some masterful wedge politics by Austria / Cultural revolution / Look back in anger / Marriage of science with home economics / The decoy ducks

by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, October 22, 2005
Too many crooks spoil the broth

A British Red Cross report, commissioned by the Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, confirms our worst fears as to how the aid industries and the United Nations have behaved after the tsunami catastrophe occurred.

$11.5 billion had been donated or pledged worldwide and over 400 charities and organisations shoe-horned themselves in to share the victims, the limelight and the aid provided.

The World Disaster Report found that "many charities duplicated aid, but neglected some of the worst affected areas".

It went on to say: "Some aid agencies, eager to raise their profits, concealed information about the disaster rather than share it with rival organisations."

Banda Aceh had 10 field hospitals and a hospital boat with 20 surgeons "competing" for patients - but were desperate for midwives and nurses.

Clothing came by the ton, but "few organisations considered providing women with sanitary needs, underwear or culturally appropriate clothing". They were gender-blind, wrote the rapporteur Mathias Schmale.

The UN, far from providing the coordinating role, often got in the way of relief efforts. It failed to coordinate its own agencies, let alone other organisations.

Mr Schmale felt obliged to say the UN had done a remarkable job but had been severely challenged by the scale and complexity of the disaster. Surely the UN has had long experience of major disasters since the last war, some involving millions of people at a time.

The UN's tsunami performance is simply on a par with its record in Africa and places like Kosovo, East Timor and Cambodia.

Some of the worst aid culprits - i.e., squanderers of aid monies and donations - were the new inexperienced organisations, often with no previous acquaintance with the country or region into which they have just been pouring funds.

Many new aid groups appear whenever a disaster occurs, with little or no reference to existing disaster or aid organisations. Whether these one-off aid groups liquidate themselves when the reason for their establishment disappears I would doubt.

One very serious consequence of all this is that long-established and reliable domestic charities are being pushed to keep up the degree of public support for their own bona fide activities - activities so necessary to so many Australians.

They are being forced to go in for the same garish, melodramatic and expensive advertising just to hold their ground. The advertisers love this, but are getting money which should be going to deserving clients.

But to go back to tsunami: as Jimmy Durante said, "Every one wants to get into the act."

Turkey's EU membership and some masterful wedge politics by Austria

The manoeuvring to get Turkey, someway or another, into the European Union makes for fascinating reading. Austria, most of whose citizens don't want Turkey in at all, held up the required unanimity vote for 30 hours in a final desperate conference.

Austria's conditions for Turkey even beginning the entry process - and the entry and the ensuing process would take up to 10 years - were that Turkey thoroughly change her human rights attitudes; drop her resistance to Cyprus enjoying full EU membership; agree to Croatia's application for membership to the EU to be fast-forwarded; and for Turkey to admit her primary role in the Armenian genocide.

In the end, Vienna got some of the human rights undertakings from Turkey and an EU agreement to start negotiations with Croatia.

Cultural revolution

French President Jacques Chirac, who was once a strong supporter of Turkish membership, now says Turkey would have to execute a major cultural revolution to gain entry, while Giscard d'Estaing declared that negotiations with Turkey should never have been begun. As he said: "The French people said four months ago, 'We are against Turkey's entry', and here we are, four months later, and it's happening."

Incidentally, a large majority of the French voters oppose Turkey's membership of the EU.

The waves of anti-Turkish, and sotto voce anti-immigration, feelings are sweeping Europe and beginning to affect Britain.

In a sense, Turks are suffering for the sins of some other Muslims. Bush, Blair and the European leaders need to keep Turkey from defecting to the Islamicist camp which is now forming in the Middle East and North Africa. They realise how exposed an independent Kurdish state would be if Iraq broke up, and her big neighbour, Turkey, were to be hostile to her and to the West.

By stringing Turkey along for 10 years - assuming that the Turks would agree to this - Europe would buy time for Kurdistan and themselves. Otherwise, trying to force Turkey down the throats of a reluctant European public, as is occurring, makes no real sense.

The Croatian coup by Austria shows the general level of EU politicking - EU and UN politicking.

The chief prosecutor for war crimes committed in the old Yugoslavia, Carla del Ponte, had only a few days earlier accused Croatia of not cooperating with the war crimes tribunal - so accession talks between Croatia and the EU were suspended.

After Austria's performance, del Ponte suddenly announced Croatia was now cooperating (so the EU talks could start again).

Nothing in fact had changed in Croatia during those couple of days.

Look back in anger

I have just finished reading former Labor leader Mark Latham's diaries, and a most refreshing book it is.

Once again, I recommend it. You won't get many honest and quite intelligent accounts of the labour movement, as it really is, as this cry from the heart.

Our Canberra Observed correspondent ("Can Labor ignore Latham's message?", News Weekly, October 8, 2005) highlighted the devastating realities implicit in Latham's diaries. So I won't repeat his dire observations.

But political vignettes and cameos abound in this book. Here is one about Lindsay Tanner and the Shoppies, i.e., the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association (the SDA).

When shadow treasurer under Crean in 2003, Latham submitted to the shadow ministry proposals to "beef up the Trade Practices Act" on competition policy, i.e., to target restrictive practices, so as to ensure fair competition, a level playing-field, and the blocking of the formation of monopolies, oligopolies and cartels - that is, to see that economic actors don't acquire dominant market share.

These should be sentiments dear to the hearts of Adam Smith and all genuine advocates of free enterprise. (Both Latham and Tanner call themselves economic rationalists).

To Latham's surprise (page 241), his submission met with strong resistance from Tanner. Latham remarked: "How's this from the intellectual spearhead of the Labor Left? He says we shouldn't touch the supermarket duopoly, because they have an agreement with the SDA, the Shoppies".

There is a note at the bottom of the page, entitled "The Shoppies". It says: "The SDA had an agreement with Coles and Woolworths to maintain unionised workplaces. Inside the ALP, the Shoppies have lobbied to protect the market share of Coles and Woolworths against competition from independent grocers and retailers."

So fragmented is the parliamentary party that Latham identified 31 of the 88 MPs as power-brokers and the three main factions to be made up of 19 sub-factions, which he names and identifies in Appendix One (pages 415-16).

That a union like the SDA can be listed, or rather its spokesmen, as part of a fraction - with Latham identifying the Shoppies as part of the Victorian Right, in a faction called the Shoppies, and again in the WA Right under Bishop/Shoppies - will make many of us unhappy.

A union, or any pressure group, can only get this degree of clout when a party is fragmented, with few shared policies or purposes, and only when the party membership is miniscule.

However, in this instance, it makes things very serious for small and medium grocers, retail suppliers and their workers.

Both parties profess to support small business and the rights of workers to join a union or not; but in reality the two retail Molochs have been given a free run.

From 50 per cent control of relevant retail trade, they now run 80 per cent - obviously with help from their friends. And they have had governments change closing times, invade weekends and religious days, with no resistance from conservatives and only token resistance from Labor and their unions.

Now we know why.

Marriage of science with home economics

Bob Hawke has surfaced with the brilliant suggestion that Australia volunteer to be the dump for all the world's nuclear waste, for there is Big Money in it.

Currently, moves are being made here and worldwide, to increase the generation of nuclear power, i.e., more nuclear plants, more waste. Big Money! And in uranium exports. Big Money in that! As Mark said, just look behind every political affirmation for an economic motive (except his, of course!).

But it does seem a relevant question: Which is the doctor? Which is the disease?


The decoy ducks

Irrespective of one's views on workplace relations, I can well understand the Government spending millions of dollars to put voters in the picture as to what the legislators' arguments might be.

The orchestrated censorship or rigging of government statements - done as a matter of course by the public media, and whenever the commercial networks are pursuing an agenda or a ministerial enemy - such news management makes government advertising necessary and prudent.

And Labor and the unions are going to get millions of dollars of free publicity for quite a time over this one, especially from the Nine Network.

Legislation to change the media rules will be coming up this session, and the big players are making their concerns very clear. They want more freedom for themselves, but no increase in genuine competition or new players from outside.

In order to make the government see reason, what better way than to use their networks for a propaganda blitz using industrial relations - though it could be a hundred other issues - as a decoy duck.

Incidentally, their own relations with their workers are often such that no self-respecting worker would accept employment from them.

  • Max Teichmann


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