The Special Court for Sierra Leone has found Charles Taylor guilty of aiding, abetting and planning serious crimes after a five year trial. Taylor is the first former head of state to be found guilty by an international court since the Nuremberg trials sentenced Karl Doenitz to 10 years imprisonment in 1946. The trial was significant as Taylor failed to quash the charges on the basis he was head of state at the time of the indictment.
Shwe and Sein are military men but the US used the promotion of the latter to press for reforms. In return the US would ease crippling sanctions and urge its allies to do the same. Sein released Suu Kyi from house arrest and released political prisoners in exchange for diplomatic relations. Sein gave his first foreign interview in January to the Washington Post and said they not only wanted to engage with the NLD but also with the 11 ethnic groups Burma was at war with. Sein brought up the constitution to defend the right of the president to appoint the commander in chief of the armed forces. But Wapo did not follow up with a question of the validity of that constitution.
The Governor of Queensland Penelope Wensley AC was in Roma and Mitchell this weekend and I caught up with her in both towns. The Governor met flood victims though her visit was organised off the back of an art gallery exhibition opening in Roma last night. The Governor is patron of 120 organisations one of which is Royal Queensland Art Society. Brisbane husband and wife artist team Joan and Len Cooper are holding the exhibition in Roma as they also celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary and invited the Governor and her husband Stuart McCosker to attend.
Governor Wensley noted Roma was celebrating its sesquicentenary. Founded on the site of three pubs in 1862, it is 150 years old this year. It was one of the first towns to be gazetted after Queensland separated from NSW and the town gained its name from the wife of Queensland’s First Governor Lady Diamantina Bowen (nee Roma). In Wensley’s speech it was Bowen’s wife she identified most with, not Queensland’s First Governor.
The young Contessa Diamantina di Roma was born on the Greek Ionian island of Zante near Corfu in 1833. Corfu had briefly been in French hands during the Napoleonic era but by the time of Roma’s birth her aristocratic Venetian family ruled Corfu for Britain. Her mother was Contessa Orsola, née di Balsamo and her father Conte Giorgio-Candiano Roma was president of the Ionian Senate and known to Queen Victoria who appointed him poet laureate.
George Ferguson Bowen was a protestant Irishman educated at Oxford and served briefly in the Navy. In 1854 he was made chief secretary to the government of the Ionian Islands, where he met Diamantina. They married in April 1856 and they stayed on Corfu until 1859. That year Queensland broke free from NSW and Bowen was called by his country to serve as first Governor. Lady Bowen headed to unfamiliar territory but was made immediately welcome by 4000 people on the Brisbane docks waving British and Greek flags.
The colony of Queensland was officially declared on Saturday, 10 December 1859. Two days later there was a function for the new Governor and his wife at the Botanic Gardens. Bowen remained Governor of Queensland for eight years, an occasionally unpopular interventionist. The colony began with debts after NSW closed down all its Queensland bank accounts and he had to create a civil service from scratch. It didn’t help his politicians were naive. Robert Herbert had arrived as Bowen’s private secretary and was just 28 when he became Queensland’s first premier.
But Queensland would thrive as did the Bowens. Without the demands of office, Roma was extremely popular. Governor Wensley said despite her privileged upbringing in Greece, Lady Bowen loved Queensland. She felt instantly at home in the climate and brought a sense of nobility and grace lacking in the young rough and tumble colony. Three of her six children were born in Brisbane. She was active in social welfare and patron of many charitable societies. Her daughter, also Diamantina, married a Queensland grazier. Bowen and his wife later served in New Zealand, Victoria, Mauritius and Hong Kong before retiring to Britain.
Twenty-three more governors of Queensland followed Bowen before Wensley took over in July 2008. A distinguished diplomat, she was appointed after predecessor Quentin Bryce became Governor-General of Australia. Penelope Wensley was a country girl born in Toowoomba in 1946. She joined the Australian Foreign Service in 1968 – the only woman selected in an intake of 19.
Wensley had a stellar diplomatic career across the world following in Bowen’s footsteps as Consul-General in Hong Kong. She helped put together the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the UN Convention to combat Drought and Desertification. She is keenly interested in humanitarian and human rights issues, women’s rights, and environmental and sustainable development. When she told Roma and Mitchell flood victims this weekend she would act as an advocate for them with the new State Government, it was easy to believe her.
Bernard Keane called Brown’s career a third party triumph. Keane said Brown went from being the only Green in parliament between 1998 to 2001 to the leader of nine senators in 2010 with a vote of 13 per cent. “At a time when politics is increasingly professionalised and parties are pushing younger, less experienced people into senior positions, Brown was a traditional conviction politician, forthright in attacking the most sacred of cows in Australian public policy on economics, the media and foreign policy,” Keane said.
But it wasn’t Murdoch’s papers that forced Brown out; it was his own sense of the need for party renewal. It is not quite generational change. New leader Christine Milne will be 59 next month. Milne followed Brown into the Tasmanian Green movement, then the State Parliament, then Canberra and now the leadership. She is determined to put a new stamp on the party, talking today of the need to appeal to ““progressive business”. With her rural background, she said the Greens must also appeal to rural and regional voters.
As someone who now lives in a rural area, I know this will be a mighty challenge despite obvious synergies. Rural people and the Greens claim to love the land, but see stewardship of it in different ways. Most rural people are suspicious of the Greens as a city-based organisation with little knowledge or empathy about how country folk live their lives. The Greens don’t have any organisation or presence in the bush. They also treat country voters with contempt by placing people in elections that don’t live in or even visit the constituency or cannot be bothered to talk to local media. Greens Warrego candidate Graeme Maizey in the recent Queensland election was rewarded for his lack of engagement with just 2% of the vote.
Perhaps Milne can draw on the work of another Queensland template. Former Queensland Green senate candidate Drew Hutton is now working closely with Queensland farmers as president of the Lock the Gate Alliance against the coal seam gas industry. The Alliance is a national group of over 120 community, industry and environmental groups and over 1000 supporters concerned with “the devastating impact that certain inadequately assessed and inadequately-regulated fossil fuel extraction industries are having on our short and long term physical, social, environmental and economic wellbeing.”
The Alliance is likely to appeal to Milne as she seeks to grow the party towards its next stage of evolution. Brown has achieved much since starting the Greens from the ashes of the United Tasmania Party culminating with the election of Adam Bandt and the agreement with Labor in 2010. But as he said today “we don’t just want to keep the so-and-sos honest, we want to replace them.” Outright power is still a long way away for a party that polls in the low teens. Their biggest vote is among young people but as Pollytics analysed in 2009, it is a volatile demographic. If Milne can somehow reach across the suspicious rural divide, there may well be room for renewal.
Matters worsened in 2010 after former colonial power Britain slashed $4.5m from its annual $33m aid budget when Malawi bought a $13.26 million presidential jet. Britain said aid criteria were based on three principles of government: commitment to poverty reduction, sound public financial management and human rights. Malawi relies on aid for 40 percent of its budget and the country is desperately undeveloped. Only one in 20 of Malawi’s population has access to electricity while the rest depend on charcoal for cooking and paraffin for lighting.
When Mutharika died, information minister Patricia Kaliati said Banda could not take over as head of state because she was in opposition. Strong calls from the US, EU and Britain and stopped a resistance movement to her ascension from gaining traction. One of Banda’s first actions was to sack Kaliati.
The 61-year-old Banda is no relation to Malawi’s founding president Hastings Banda who achieved independence for Nyasaland from Britain in 1963. The earlier Banda chose the name Malawi based on a corruption of Lake Maravi. Following a typical African post-colonial trajectory, Banda turned Malawi into a one party state and he became immensely wealthy. A pro-Western proxy, his power and support faded after the Cold War and by 1993 the internal pressure for democratic change was intense.
In the 1994 elections Banda was defeated by Elson Bakili Muluzi. Muluzi proved as corrupt as his predecessor and siphoned off millions from the sale of Malawi’s food reserves. Despite this Muluzi was re-elected in 1999 and tried to change the constitution to run a third time in 2004. He was frustrated by parliament, the courts and demonstrations in the street and was forced to stand aside, anointing Mutharika to replace him. Within 12 months Muluzi was apologising for his choice of successor and aimed to run in 2009.
But an anti-corruption investigation in 2008 crippled his campaign and the country’s Electoral Commission and the courts combined to stop him from running again. Mutharika was at the height of his powers having overseen an increase in agricultural production. But the subsidies Mutharika paid to lift harvests could not be sustained after Britain cut its aid budget.
Joyce Banda was one of Mutharika’s earliest ministerial appointments. A single mother and refugee from a violent marriage, she ran several successful businesses before entering parliament in 2004. She proved her mettle rising to become Foreign Affairs minister after just two years in office. She was made deputy for the 2009 election but felt betrayed after Mutharika endorsed his brother as successor.
Peter Mutharika now becomes crucial as Banda attempts to establish her presidential credentials. Mutharika is relatively new to Malawi politics having lived in the US for decades as a law teacher. He congratulated Banda on her appointment but is likely to be her biggest issue as he becomes DPP leader.
Mutharika’s brother’s death was not greatly mourned. As Al Jazeera said, many of Malawi’s 13 million people saw him as an autocrat responsible for an economic crisis. Fixing Malawi’s flailing economy presents a great challenge to Banda. There is plenty of time between now and 2014 for her to become unpopular allowing Mutharika an easy run at bringing the leadership back into the family.
I just had time to lean back out of the way and the wheels went over my foot. It also went over my camera bag but somehow did not smash the lens. A little surprised but otherwise unhurt, I turned towards the goat and rider which trundled its way back on track. The goat was feisty but hardly distressed and there was no other damage done.
Animal Lib has been concentrating on northern NSW and has been successful in closing down three goat races. Bundarra had to end its goat race due to adverse publicity. Lightning Ridge has also replaced its Easter goat race with a big dig for opals in the main street. The last straw was a Today Tonight report of 21 October 2011 which was a grab of selected crashes at a NSW country meet in Woolbrook. The Channel Seven report appealed to “think of the children” mentality while also making itself the story. The footage showed safety and wellbeing could be improved at Woolbrook (there was no examples of pulling goats by the horns in Roma). But the report did not prove Animal Liberation’s claim it was “barbaric and cruel”.
However the taint of such publicity is now affecting Roma. One of the major Easter in the Country sponsors is threatening to pull out because of the goats. Easter in the Country is as a not for profit organisation. Unpaid volunteers spend 12 months getting ready for the next event and rely almost totally on sponsorship. They get little financial support from Council (mostly in kind) but bring a lot of tourist dollars to Roma and the region.
The Easter in the Country committee knows the goat races are a drawcard and believes its goats are treated safely and humanely. I saw no evidence to the contrary today (my careless moment aside). Yet they cannot deliver a festival without sponsorship and unless a generous patron can be found that does not believe goat racing is cruel, the practice is unlikely to continue in 2013.
The sponsors who don’t condone goat racing are hypocrites. Animal welfare is not their primary concern. If it was they would also have objected to other Easter in the Country events such as horse racing, bull ride and rodeo. The real reason is possible negative public relations coming from the association between the company and a national media story about cruelty.
Perhaps the future will prove me wrong and goat racing will go the way of bear baiting and fox hunting, despite our collective appetite for animal sports. Seeking a halfway house, Roma could perhaps take its solution from overseas. London has its annual Oxford versus Cambridge goat race, but these goats fly solo, unencumbered with carts or riders. Oxford lost last year due to its goat slowing down to do a poo. Oxford apparently gained such revenge when it won the inaugural stoat race. I hope no-one tells Animal Liberation.
If there was any doubt that News Ltd have too much power in Australia, it should be dispelled by their aggressive handling of the allegations of global Pay TV piracy this last week. The issue was launched internationally by a BBC Panorama program called “Murdoch’s TV pirates” and it was given a local angle with long time Murdoch tormentor Neil Chenoweth’s series of articles in the Australian Financial Review (Chenoweth was also an adviser to the BBC program). News Ltd has tried to bully the AFR out of their allegations while also questioning SBS for showing the documentary hinting it does not correspond with the station’s code of practice.
The Panorama program focussed on a British issue. It alleged News Corp security arm NDS (headquartered in Israel) hired an expert team of Pay TV hackers from the piracy site called The House of Ill Compute (THOIC). Originally known as News Datacom Systems, NDS established the “Operational Security” group in the 1990s to ensure the security of Murdoch’s growing pay TV interests. Cracking codes is not illegal but spreading the cracked code to encourage piracy is. NDS busted THOIC piracy but instead of prosecuting them they hired them. The THOIC brief was to open up the security codes of NDS competitors, Canal+ (from France), and flood them on the market. This action, Panorama said, was directly responsible for the death of On Digital (later called ITV Digital) which used the Canal+ system. On Digital was the biggest pay TV threat in the UK to Murdoch’s BSkyB which had smartcards made by NDS.
Panorama tracked down Lee Gibling, the former head of THOIC who told them NDS hired him to break competitors’ smart card systems. Panorama also secretly filmed two other key witnesses, former NDS employees Ray Adams (previously a Metropolitan Police commander) and Len Withall and aired the footage without their permission. The footage found evidence that emerged in 2002 showing links from THOIC to News Corp. Canal+ sued News Ltd who dealt with the problem by spending $1 billion on an Italian Pay TV company called Telepiu, owned by Vivendi Universal which was on the brink of bankruptcy. Vivendi Universal also owned Canal+. The terms of the deal was to drop the lawsuit and the Canal+ Tech team that developed the smart cards was also disbanded.
In Australia, the AFR published the end of what they called “a four year investigation” into similar allegations into the local pay TV market. They published an archive of 14,400 Ray Adams emails and said piracy cost Australian pay TV companies $50 million a year at its height in 2002. It helped cripple the finances of Austar, which Murdoch’s part-owned Foxtel (which uses NDS) is now buying. The AFR published emails which were submitted in legal cases brought against NDS by rival pay TV operators in the US (DirectTV, Echostar) Europe (Canal+ and Sogecable) and Malaysia (Measat). Like the way they dealt with Canal+, News Corp bought 34 percent of DirectTV to end that case. In the only one to go to trial, Echostar won three of six counts, but won only minimal damage and had to pay court costs.
In Australian law, unauthorised access to electronic networks and illicit modification of databases are criminal offences. But Bruce Arnold, Law Lecturer at the University of Canberra, is only prepared to say News Corp may have exacerbated the issue. “Academic and industry research over two decades indicates the problems experienced by the defunct or ailing television networks were primarily attributable to poor management, poor marketing and inadequate capitalisation,” Arnold said.
Finding hard evidence is not easy, as Terry McCrann alluded to when hauled out by the Herald-Sun to defend News. McCrann wanted to see an email quoted in the AFR. “You know, something like: Murdoch to 007: My plan for world pay-TV domination rests on your piracy skills. Let’s target one million pirated cards by Christmas.”
McCrann was flippant but giving the nastiness at the heart of News Corp exposed in the Levinson Inquiry, it not beyond the bounds of reason to think Murdoch wanted to see exactly that: one million pirated cards on the marketplace by Christmas. Such thoughts never make it to an email. Britain’s TV regulator Ofcom is examining if Rupert and James Murdoch are “fit and proper” to be in control of BSkyB based on the phone hacking scandal. One of the hacked MPs Tom Watson says the pay TV allegations should be added to that investigation.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is reviewing the $1.9 billion Austar takeover bid. With such a cloud over the Empire, it seems beyond belief the Australian Government should allow yet another contraction of ownership in the most concentrated media landscape in the western world. Yet time after time, Murdoch gets his way in Australia. Robert Manne explains why this is a problem: “The more the media is concentrated, the greater is the problem for the health of democracy”, Manne writes. “Yet the more the media is concentrated, the less likely it is that the issue will be debated freely in the only appropriate forum for the discussion, the media itself.” News Ltd Australia should be broken up, not expanded.
Sheridan doesn’t offer a shred of evidence to back this claim. He admits “the vast majority of France’s six million or so Muslims do not engage in anti-Semitic violence” and are law abiding. But the minority “attracted to a jihadist interpretation is disturbingly large.” How big exactly? We don’t know, Sheridan doesn’t offer any facts to back up his disturbances. Instead he rushes on towards a fait accompli discussion of Islam as anti-western religion.
Sheridan’s “leaderless jihad” is a variation on the “faceless men” beloved of those outing conspirators acting with great intent when there is no evidence to support the suggestion. The fault of the jihad belongs to the civil libertarians for not allowing police to work out Merah’s intentions from his friends or his internet behaviour. There follows some breathtaking conclusions. Merah was a fundamentalist, ergo Africans have failed to integrate in Europe as have Pakistanis in the UK.
The lesson for Australia, says Sheridan, chutzpah intact, is the “legal and orderly” process (mandatory detention, temporary protection visas and off-shore processing) for accepting refugees should not be changed. The fear about the dismantling of Howard’s Pacific Solution is that “16,000 people have arrived in Australia in unlawful boats, the majority of them Muslim and from countries with strong traditions of Islamic extremism.” Sheridan doesn’t name those countries, Afghanistan and Iraq, because it would inconvenience his argument to remind readers why those 16,000 are on the run: long wars in their country which Australia has been involved in.
As Kaurismaki and his honest and engaging characters in Le Havre remind us, refugees are not fundamentalists. They are people trying to find a better life in a more prosperous and peaceful country. Marcel Marx has cleaned enough shoes in his time not to forget this and he never questions Idrissa’s motives. Le Havre is magical realism but more grounded in the facts of human migration than Sheridan’s ponderous and sinister diatribe. If the Weekend Australian is serious about promoting public debate in this country then they should offer its opinion pages to open up that debate not close it down in anachronistic ideological wormholes.