Archive for September, 2012

KC’s environment reporter recently travelled through the Galilee Basin, not in the Holy Land but in sunny central Queensland, which locals call Godzone anyway. They’re riding the gravy train of a coal export boom, or rather kilometres long coal trains transporting the black gold to Gladstone for shipping. The countryside is peppered with coal gas exploration rigs too. The town of Emerald, 260 kms west of Rockhampton, is emblematic of new country affluence, with city real estate prices, housing shortages, new Olympic swimming pool, supermarkets full of gourmet foodstuffs and brand new cars for all. Planned expansion of coal mines in the Basin and port facilities to massively increase current output are staggering. Unfortunately this prosperity and magnate-enrichment comes at life-threatening cost to the planet and particularly the Great Barrier Reef if port development goes ahead. Queensland, and the rest of Orstralia, are oblivious or don’t give a stuff. Greenpeace has an entertaining take on this existential challenge.

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KC has been an ardent critic of Australia’s Afghan intervention since its misguided inception in the time-honoured tradition of following Uncle Sam. We have traced its tragic misadventures, and Australians’ apathy in the face of their government’s supine attitude and increasingly threadbare rationales. Our human toll is now 39 Australian soldiers killed and hundreds wounded. Cataloguing the massive cost and loss of life to Western allies, and the long-suffering Afghan people, would fill today’s column, so I’ll keep it simple. And not bother with quotation marks around the weasel words of our political and military leaders.

The war will not be won, terrorism will not be deterred, our mission will not be finished, democracy will not be installed in Afghanistan, the job will not be done, Afghani women will not be saved from sharia-style treatment, the Afghan army will probably not be ready to control its territory, and most importantly the Taliban will not be suppressed. On the contrary, evidence points to its ascendancy, with both the Karzai government and US negotiating with Taliban leaders for a semblance of cover to withdraw occupying allied forces.

A final shred of flimsy rationale for Australia’s ongoing military engagement fell away this week, with the announcement that our command had suspended joint operations with their Afghan protégés. This follows the most recent so-called ‘green on blue’ incident where an Afghan Army soldier turned his gun on Australian comrades, killing three of them. Australia’s training role in Oruzgan province, purportedly preparing the Afghan army for duty after our withdrawal, is effectively in tatters. No amount of weasel words can hide that fact.

Aussies really are a weird mob. Polls have consistently shown that over 60% of us are now against this bad war, and yet protest is mooted, almost non-existent. As commented previously, we have conflated notions of sacred Anzac respect with support for whatever our diggers are doing. But ironically this lack of criticism allows the government to get away with its lies and tokenism, as its leaders attend soldiers’ funerals. It does not respect the deadly commitment of our soldiers. Of course nobody wants to say that lives have been sacrificed in vain. Wake up Australia! What have we learnt from our long history of fighting our allies’ wars? No more Australian lives should be sacrificed to such a transparently misconceived cause. To make matters worse, pundits now forecast a gradual decline into civil war in Afghanistan. My anger just keeps growing.

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The received wisdom about our earliest colonial painters was that they portrayed this strange Gondwana landscape through the prism of their European-trained eyes, producing idealised images of ordered environments very different from the natural world they were confronted with.

Now a fascinating new thesis has emerged in a book by Bill Gammage,”The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia”, challenging that notion.

The Global Mail has an introduction to this seminal work, which demonstrates that those painters accurately recorded the landscape they found; and in fact documented aboriginal land use practices which may have profoundly shaped our continent and its eco-systems right up to European invasion.

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