PETER SAINSBURY. Sunday environmental round up, 15 September 2019

A focus on the economic aspects of climate change this week: business-as-usual will reduce global GDP but climate action is blocked by potential financial losers; the Adani mine is viable only because of massive government subsidies, while in India investment in coal facilities is plummeting; and hydrogen power seems to have some answers for Australia if the right investments are made. To combat the heat island effect, Singapore is going green.

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Roger Scott. A Response to ‘Trust Me, I’m an Expert’

The podcast ‘Trust Me, I’m An Expert (10 September) is one of The Conversation’s rare forays into Queensland politics. It is a podcast from a much-valued series of gatherings held regularly at the Avid Reader bookshop in Brisbane’s West End. Continue reading

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WASHINGTON POST Editorial Board. John Bolton’s legacy: Chaos, dysfunction and no meaningful accomplishment (11-9-19)

Apparently Mr. Bolton was picked because Mr. Trump had enjoyed watching him on television. The result was to compound the chaos that has characterized the administration’s foreign policy and left Mr. Trump without meaningful accomplishments. Continue reading

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FLAVIA BELLIENI ZIMMERMANN. Lula’s Interview in the Light of the Amazon Fires (Australian Outlook, 3 Sep 2019)

Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro made international headlines for all the wrong reasons. He publicly denied reports released by Brazil’s Space Agency (INPE), which indicated a steady rise in the Amazon’s deforestation, and then subsequently sacked the institute’s director Professor Ricardo Magnus Osorio Galvao. Bolsonaro replaced Professor Galvao with a former Airforce officer. The Brazilian president argued holding “suspicion” that Professor Galvao was “acting on behalf of some environmental NGO.” Then raging wildfires started sweeping through the Amazon’s rainforest, confirming INPE’s satellite evidence and fears of illegal logging, encroaching crop and livestock farming, gold mining and illegal occupations of Amazon’s indigenous reserves. In a controversial twist, the far-right president suggested that NGOs were behind the Amazon fires to embarrass the Brazilian government internationally, offering no evidence to back up his claims. Continue reading

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JAMES CHAPPEL. Weigel’s ‘Irony of Modern Catholic History’ in review.

The pope is far less in control of his flock than most people realize. This has always been the case: no leader in history, let alone one in charge of a billion people across the globe, has been able to claim absolute obedience. It is especially true, though, of Pope Francis, and especially true in the United States. Here, the standard-issue neglect of papal missives coincides with a well-financed effort to conquer the Catholic public sphere in the name of clerical conservatism and libertarian economics. Over the centuries, popes have had to deal with all manner of challenges to their rule, including military ones. And while some of those were devastating to the church, perhaps none were as corrosive as this one to the world the church calls home.

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RYAN MANUEL. The Hong Kong Government is as Leaderless as the Protesters (Foreign Policy, 5 September 2019)

A distant Beijing and a shifting protest movement make it hard to sit down at the bargaining table.

Bruce Lee didn’t like conventional fighting styles, finding them too rigid. Instead, like jazz musicians with their scales, he took his many years of repetitive training in various martial arts and riffed on them to try and take people by surprise, hitting them hard from odd angles. He was a street fighter, not a prizefighter. Continue reading

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CÉSAR RODRIGUÉZ GARAVITO. Bolsonaro is a Regional Threat

President Bolsonaro of Brazil is behind a policy of clearing the Amazon rainforest for more cattle farming and agriculture. He claims that this is a matter for Brazil and no one else. The Amazon basin does not just belong to Brazil. Parts of it are in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela. The Amazon rainforest influences the weather patterns throughout the whole of South America. More importantly it is a significant source of carbon capture for the whole world. Continue reading

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BEN EHRENREICH. The End of the Frontier Myth. – America can no longer run from its past (The Guardian 31-7-19)

The idea of the frontier in US history has been one of endless promise, but the reality has involved violence, even genocide. As this powerful study argues, its latest incarnation is Trump’s wall.

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TROY BAISDEN. New Zealand launches plan to revive the health of lakes and rivers (The Conversation 6 Sep)

New Zealand’s government released a plan to reverse the decline of iconic lakes and rivers this week. It proposes higher standards for water quality, interim controls on land intensification and a higher bar on ecosystem health. Continue reading

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RICHARD BUTLER. The Termination of a Terminator: John Bolton

The departure of John Bolton from the post of national security advisor to Trump removes from a crucial position a person whose belief in the US waging war on what he identified as its enemies was boundless. His recommendation for every perceived foreign policy problem has been to take military action. He was the fourth person to hold the position of National Security Advisor under Trump, during the past 33 months. His predecessors resigned or were “let go”. Bolton’s departure is easily the most dramatic of them.

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PETER HUGHES. The Sri Lankan family – just a case of bloody mindedness

We await further operation of Federal Court processes before the future of the Sri Lankan family being held on Christmas Island is finally known. In the meantime, it’s worth reflecting on why the government has chosen to take such a hard line on this family. Continue reading

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COLIN BROWN. The Indonesia-Australia Closer Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA): A Game Changer? (Australian Outlook, 5 Sep 2019)

Despite their geographical proximity, Australia and Indonesia are minor trading partners. In 2018, Australian merchandise exports to Indonesia were valued at just $6,823 million, and imports from Indonesia $4,996 million. Trade in services was smaller still, as the exports to Indonesia were worth $1,697 and imports were worth $4,068 million. Neither country is in the other’s top 10 trading partners. Continue reading

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ANTHONY ALBANESE. Tribute to Graham Freudenberg (House of Representatives 10 Sep 2019)

Graham Freudenberg climbed inside the soul of the Australian Labor Party in search of the words that lay there. He came back to us with an entire language. When Freudy said the Labor Party was built on speeches, the identity of the master builder was never a mystery to the rest of us. He spoke to us in so many voices, but in each of them he spoke with clarity and power. He moved us, he persuaded us and, in a world where words barely outlast the moment in which they are spoken, he made us remember. Continue reading

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TONY SMITH. What price an early election? Ten grand a head?

As the Prime Minister looks over his shoulder for the inevitable challenge, the prospect of an early election must be tempting. With the New South Wales Labor Party before the Independent Commission Against Corruption and Channel 9 giving the Liberals a $10k a head fundraiser, the contest might be lop-sided.

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NOEL TURNBULL. Some surprising US news – if you haven’t been watching

It is easy to be alternately frightened, appalled and head-shakingly despairing about what comes out of Trump’s United States. Officials deleting all references to climate change from official documents; immigration policies that make Peter Dutton look like a raging leftie; ongoing attempts to ban abortion or make them impossible to get; spiralling defence spending compared with poor health and social services; and, increasing inequality.

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KEVIN RUDD. Democracy overboard: Rupert Murdoch’s long war on Australian politics (The Guardian 7-9-19)

Australia has become a dangerously complacent country, dancing to the reactionary tune of the Murdoch press

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RAGHURAM G. RAJAN. The True Toll of the Trade War (Project Syndicate, 5 Sep 2019)

Another day, another attack on trade. Why is it that every dispute – whether over intellectual property (IP), immigration, environmental damage, or war reparations – now produces new threats to trade?  Continue reading

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REBECCA TAN. How a conservative town in Australia set aside politics to rally for a family facing deportation (The Washington Post, 5 Sep. 2019)

Biloela, population 6,000, is a rural town in northeast Australia. When the town’s first — and only — set of traffic lights was built 10 years ago, residents were sent into a tizzy. Many families still work in coal mines or cotton farms. On weekends, people fish.

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DOMINIC O’SULLIVAN. Indigenous people no longer have the legal right to say no to the Adani mine – here’s what it means for equality (The Conversation, 5 Sep 2019)

Last week, the Queensland government extinguished native title over tracts of land in the Galilee Basin so the Adani coal mine could proceed. Continue reading

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LIONEL ORCHARD. Don Dunstan in Perspective: A Review

ANU historian Angela Woollacott has written a major biography of Don Dunstan reflecting on his place in the pantheon of reforming Australian Labor politicians. A review of the biography follows. Continue reading

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YVES TIBERGHIEN. Belt and Road Summit in Hong Kong: Toward a BRI 2.0? (Australian Outlook, 5 Sep 2019)

From 11 to 12 September 2019, the fourth Edition of the Hong Kong Belt and Road Summit is due to take place at the Wanchai Convention Center. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is now in its sixth year since its original launch in fall 2013 refers to the massive mobilisation effort led by China to accelerate connectivity and trade in Eurasia, and also in Africa and Latin America through massive infrastructure investment and other exchanges. It is mostly funded by Chinese development and industrial banks. Continue reading

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MASSIMO FAGGIOLI. Brexit as a spiritual crisis: remain, leave, and an incarnational Church. The whole debate about leaving or remaining in the Catholic Church amid the sex abuse crisis is a form of ecclesial Brexit

In his novel “A Legacy of Spies” John Le Carré ponders the relationship between England and Europe.

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HENRY LITTON. Joshua Wong article in Australian 2 Sep

Joshua Wong, in his article in The Australian of 2 September, made a valid point when he asked rhetorically “who were the ones who did not give young people a stake in society ?” Continue reading

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ANDREW GLIKSON. From climate denial to planetary arson. The planetary consequences of injecting >910 billion tons CO2 into the atmosphere

Last night (6 September) as fires were raging through the desiccated granite belt of southern Queensland, not a single reporter, politician or anyone else had the “temerity” of pointing out the inevitable relation between coal mining, carbon emissions, global and regional heating and the incendiary consequences.

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MUNGO MACCALLUM. Economy circles the drain.

That muffled gurgling sound you heard last week was either the remains of the government’s economic credibility swirling around the plug hole, or the strangled sounds of ScoMo and his team attempting to put a positive spin over the disastrous national accounts figures.

Josh Frydenberg insists they are actually good news – proof of the remarkable resilience of a basically sound economy preparing to turn the corner into a rebound the like of which you have never seen. Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he? Irrational optimism, wishful thinking, is an essential part of his job description. Continue reading

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SPENCER ZIFCAK. The Religious Discrimination Bill

The Religious Discrimination Bill, introduced by the Attorney-General Christian Porter, has its flaws. Nevertheless, it walks a more or less acceptable line between arch proponents and critics of the recent campaign for greater religious freedoms. The Government has produced relatively moderate legislation that mirrors Commonwealth anti-discrimination legislation related to race and sex. In that sense it is familiar and justifiable. Whether it is necessary and appropriate is an entirely different question.

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JACK WATERFORD. Bullshit and hypocrisy cannot hide behind a Secret stamp (Canberra Times 6 Sep 2019)

50 years of public disclosure has never harmed the national security interest

Brian Toohey is a great Australian journalist who, over 50 years, has mostly rated the public’s right to know as being more important than what politicians and public servants have thought the national security interests of the state. He has often embarrassed governments with disclosure about what is being secretly said and done on their behalf. Continue reading

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HAIQING YU. Chinese students in Australia and our responsibility

The discourse on China’s influence in Australia has recently shifted its focus to Chinese students on Australian university campuses. They are seen as pro-Chinese Communist Party nationalists who sing the Chinese national anthem and shout profane abuse at pro-Hong Kong-protest supporters in our universities in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. Continue reading

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AMJAD AYMAN YAGHI.  The case of Mohammad El Halabi and the rabbit hole of Israeli “justice”

It’s been three years and there have been 119 court appearances. He has been separated from his family and lost his freedom.

Yet even though an Australian government inquiry has found allegations against him baseless, and his charges appear ever more outlandish as more is learned about the case, Mohammad El Halabi languishes in an Israeli prison, charged but not convicted, a Kafkaesque nightmare of the kind in which Israel – with its administrative detentions and separate laws for separate peoples – has become expert. Continue reading

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