Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The Refugee Council of Australia - your support is needed

Join us in being a community voice for
humane refugee policies
Dear Friends and Supporters,
When I was appointed CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) 7½ years ago, I never imagined that the situation for asylum seekers in Australia would be as dire as it is today. Last weeks decision of the Australian Government not to grant asylum to anybody for more than six months is deeply shocking. Australia has, in effect, suspended the commitments that it made when it acceded to the Refugee Convention nearly 60 years ago.

It is impossible not to feel depressed when you observe the current situation.
  • Australia is sending all asylum seekers who arrived by boat since July to Papua New Guinea and Nauru for long-term detention and a very uncertain future.
  • No Bridging Visas have been renewed since September, leaving thousands of asylum seekers who are living in the community with no lawful status and in deep anxiety.
  • Most asylum seekers have lost access to government-funded legal aid, meaning that many will have great difficulty articulating the reasons they need protection in a way which meets the provisions of the Migration Act.
  • Thousands of asylum seekers remain in detention in Australia in fear and uncertainty.
  • Well over 1000 asylum seekers, many from Sri Lanka, have been forcibly returned home with no opportunity at all to put their case for protection from persecution.
abdul karim hekmat's message
It is hard to believe that conditions for asylum seekers have deteriorated to such an extent but it is also impossible to believe that current policies are sustainable รข€“ practically, economically or morally. Change must happen eventually but this will occur only if there are credible voices pushing tirelessly for change no matter how difficult the political environment is now
We at the Refugee Council of Australia are committed to being a tireless, credible voice for humane policies for refugees. In the 32 years of our organisation's existence, we have never been busier. In the past four months, we have established four new working groups within our membership network to focus in detail on different aspects of asylum policy i.e. detention, offshore processing, legal aid and policies for asylum seekers in the community. We are working collectively to share what little information is available on asylum seeker policies and taking every opportunity to raise our concerns as clearly and constructively as possible, with Ministers, politicians, advisers, bureaucrats and anyone who will listen.

But to remain a tireless, credible and independent voice on refugee policy, we need your help. The donations and membership fees we receive are our main source of income and are critical to us being able to continue our work. I know well that there are many worthwhile causes but I would ask to consider including the Refugee Council of Australia among the organisations you support.

With your help, in 2014 we will continue to speak out against policies we oppose but also work as constructively as possible on aspects of refugee policy where there are the greatest opportunities for government-NGO cooperation. In the past fortnight, we have completed our annual national community consultations and are now working on a detailed submission to the Government which will form the basis of our advocacy in 2014 on the make-up of Australia's refugee resettlement program and options for improving post-arrival support for refugees.

Our plans for 2014 include even greater engagement with members of refugee communities on education on refugee issues in schools and advocacy on national refugee policy and international refugee protection concerns. In this work, we have excellent advice and support from six Board members of refugee background Abdul Karim Hekmat, Nga Kwan, Ali Nur, Dr Melika Sheikh-Eldin, Bobby Whitfield and Muhama Yotham. We are fortunate also to enjoy the support of hundreds of organisations and thousands of individuals around Australia who share our vision for a fairer nation.

Please support us to continue our work as a credible and independent voice on refugee policy by:

To do this, please donate online by visiting refugeecouncil.org.au/donate.

Yours faithfully,

Paul Power
Chief Executive Officer

The Refugee Council of Australia represents non-government organisations and individuals working with and for refugees in Australia and around the world.

Monday, 30 December 2013


Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been in office less than four months and there are now press reports of a crucial change to the pillar of Australian health delivery, Medicare. As I write, Terry Barnes is speaking on ABC 24. Barnes was a health adviser to Tony Abbott when he was Minister for Health in the government of John Howard.

Interpolation: I am very critical of Abbott and his government but I believe in giving credit where credit is due.  I was very grateful to Abbott as Minister for Health.  Through my life, I had always taken care of my teeth.  I am getting older and had not been able to afford visits to dentists. As well, I was suffering a number of chronic illnesses.  Health not top notch.  Now, dentists - historically - have avoided any form of medicare as if it was the plague.  Under Abbott, a number of Medicare numbers became available to allied health professionals so that areas such as dentistry, psychology, podiatry and so on opened up and people could be bulk billed for a limited number of visits or, in the case of dentistry, a limited amount of money in a particular time period. There were two qualifiers - three chronic diseases and a care plan from your medical practice.  Initially, there were no dentists available anywhere near me making it impossible to take advantage of Abbott's new scheme.  Gradually, however, dentists began to come on board.  I found a dentist and over time received two or three bundles of credit.  For me it was like winning a lottery.  The scheme was closed down under Labor amid accusations of the scheme being rorted by well-off people getting cosmetic surgery.  I can't speak about that but Labor never did mention the boon to aged pensioners like myself in poor health without the ability to get desperately needed dental work.  Surely, if there was rorting by the rich a means test would have rectified the problem.  When the scheme was finally closed in November 2011, Labor put nothing - yes, nothing - in its place. They made a huge fanfare and promised to fund more 'chairs' for public dentistry but that is not due to start in 2014.  I'll be keeping a watching brief on that ... particularly now that there is a new government which does not have to take responsibility for a policy announced but not implemented by Labor.  My betting is that there will be little, probably no, dentistry available.  The major difference between the Abbott program and Labor's proposal is that eligible people could book in with a private dentist like any other patient.  No waiting list as there had been in public facilities.

Now that I have done the niceties with a tip of my forelock to Abbott, back to the matter at hand.  

Barnes's recommendation is part of a commissioned private proposal presented to the National Commission of Audit.  I have not got exact confirmation but I believe that the Barnes report was commissioned by the Australian Centre for Health Research.  [For the Terms of Reference of the NCA, please see the document embedded below. It can be read here on line or down-loaded from this post.]  The term "commissioned private proposal" I interpret as code for saying that this is a Liberal Party generated proposal, more than likely with Abbott's consent, put together by an adviser to the Minister for Health (namely Abbott) in the previous Liberal-National Party Government.  The National Commission of Audit is not a new concept.  The same thing occurred when John Howard Government came to power

The Commissioners for the Abbott Government's National Commission of Audit are:

It seems to me that the personnel of the National Commission of Audit are there for a combination of bureaucratic expertise and political  and business gate-keeping.  The NCA is certainly not informed by either policy or economic vision.  

Back to Terry Barnes and his appearance on ABC 24.

One of the problems that could be brought about by imposition of the $5 co-payment - people opting for an Emergency Department visit instead of a visit to the GP -  is easily dealt with according to Barnes.  No probs, says Barnes.  State Governments could introduce a co-payment on Emergency Department visits in State Hospitals!  In short, there will be gate-keeping either at your General Practice or at the Emergency Department of your local hospital.  

There will be sufficient concessions introduced to induce you not to complain.  Pensioners and concession card holders will be exempt from the co-payment.  Families will be provided with 12 free bulk-billed visits annually.  

Barnes think that the co-payment, even the co-payment at Emergency Departments, is not a big deal.  He compares it, blithely, to no more than the price of a burger and chips. Silly me.  I thought we were trying to encourage a healthy diet away from burger and chips.  Not all poor families frequent Maccas or its competitors.  They care for their budget and they care for their health.  I don't believe that Barnes, those who commissioned his report, and those who will receive it have a clue about ordinary families let alone poor families.  None of those on the Commission of Audit have taken young families to the GP recently ... so how do they have a clue?

Lastly, why has this been spread first all across the Murdoch Press?  Melbourne's Herald Sun is full of praise for the proposal. This then is propaganda.

Why did Abbott not announce this at the election?  Fearful of the polls?
Why did Abbott not have a national conversation about this post-election?  Fearful.

Clearly the Abbott government is determined to implement this policy while maintaining its distance as the conversation goes on somewhere else ... anywhere else but having the conversation take place between the nation, himself and his Ministers, Peter Dutton and Fiona Nash.  No.  This policy is to be introduced by sleight of hand ... or by some amount of apparent coercion by the Commission of Audit.  

We will be told over and again 
>    how this has to happen.
>   how a price signal has to be sent.
  how it is a small and reasonable amount.
>   how it will not prevent people seeing a doctor
ad infinitum, ad nauseam.  

Please continue to follow 
the introduction of a dishonest policy, 
by dishonest people in support of a dishonest government.

CAMPAIGN TO SAVE OUR MEDICARE: Keep health care free and universal for all Australians

The Abbott Government threatens to re-introduce 

a $5 fee for every visit to the doctor.

This policy will unfairly target
those in our community who make frequent visits
to their doctor:
the elderly, the poor, expecting Mums, families with kids.

For years, Medicare has been an Australian institution.

Medicare is the envy of the world.

It provides free and universal health care.

This great and useful policy is now under threat.

Here's how you can help:

- Let your friends and your family know that these changes are unfair.

- Share this post to support the campaign to keep Medicare working for ALL Australians. 

- Tell Health Minister Peter Dutton how you feel by emailing him at



on his Facebook page:

Let's send a message to the AustralianGovernment

Keep health care free 

and universal for all Australians.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Pope Francis, Catholicism, The Vatican, The United Nations, Empire and Women & Children

I have been asked by a few people what are my thoughts on Pope Francis. I warm to what I see but I do reserve judgment. I don't believe that one man can turn around the culture of the insular Vatican or the wide Catholic diaspora. 

I believe there are inhibiting and evil cultures at work within the Vatican and within Catholicism at large. One of them is the culture of almost two thousand years of Roman style administration - the administration of Empire. The Catholic Church has been ruling a physical empire - not just a spiritual one. This flies in the face of Jesus who said his kingdom was not of this world. Central to the continuity through changing times and controversies has been the exercise of power across the world through an administration both Roman and Catholic.

This power has as one of its foundations exclusion. This exclusion is seen most clearly in the church's attitude to women and children. Children are powerless still. Women do have power and agency in this day and age ... but, with only rare exceptions, this is a product of the 20th century.

I don't applaud Pope Frank for having some of the better dressed poor to breakfast. That is not a world first. I will know things are on their way when the Vatican is handed back to the Italian Government and the Lateran Treaty is null and void; when the Catholic Church becomes a stateless entity with no representation at the United Nations.

One other thing is needed from top to bottom and that is a policy of inclusion as opposed to the current policy of preferment. Excluded women and children have to be welcomed into the centrality of the Church. A clear sign that this is happening will be the abolition of required celibacy within the Church. I know there is a long queue of women, particularly in religious orders, awaiting ordination to the priesthood. However, a reformed church will take into itself people from the pews IRRESPECTIVE of age, gender, ethnicity, educational qualifications.

The Catholic Church has long called itself The Universal Church. This is a lie. It is not The Universal Church as long as there are people excluded from its ranks simply on the basis of who they are rather than what they have to contribute.

So dear Pope Frank, I do give you ten out of ten for style. But more than style is required. Substance is of the essence and that must be, as far as contemporary humans are able, enduring. You will have to upset whole tribes of Vatican huggers and preferred prelates ... but I do believe that if you do it well - and you are capable of doing it well - there will be loud applause from the pews and beyond. You might even find many who have moved from the Church finding their ways back to inclusion.


Do not be anxious (Luke's Gospel Chapter 12 Verse 22, Should we be anxious? If we are too anxious, what do we do about our anxiety?

It has stimulated much conversation and information.
Perhaps you might like to visit and make your own contribution?

Friday, 20 December 2013

The Mingling Waters Music Festival at Nowa Nowa in East Gippsland - 18, 19 January 2014

Mingling-Waters-Music-Festival-logo-colour-300x223This post has been taken from Cam Walker's marvellous blog, Mountain Journal

From the organisers:
Mingling Waters Music Festival is a small, grass-roots, high quality, well-organised, community-focused, family-friendly music event, supporting local artists and business, promoting Nowa Nowa as a special place to visit.
We plan to bring new and interesting artists in from the wider community.
We aim to create a scene that brings people together to talk, listen, play, and dance and celebrate together, in a beautiful natural environment!
It is a high priority to pay and look after all the participating artists as best we can.
We hope to do well enough to donate to two local charities, The East Gippsland Rail Trail and Melon’s Cottage.
There will be a small market, including food stalls, a bar, workshops, children’s activities and FINE MUSIC!
Check here for details on tickets, accommodation, etc.

Miss Eagle's Christmas Decorations - 2013

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Australia's first Master of Sustainability and Social Change begins February 2014

Leading Minds Making a World of Difference

Special announcement launching the OASES Masters program for 2014


Applications are invited for Australia’s first Master of Sustainability and Social Change, to commence in February 2014.
It is a globally recognised, fully accredited Masters program.

Are you interested in sustainability? Do you seek ways to create positive change? Are you looking for post graduate courses that are more holistic, where learning takes place within a rich community context, and goes beyond false assumptions that experts and technical fixes will take care of things?

OASES students enter a process that addresses the fundamentals of how we think and act in the world, opening up the true breakthrough possibilities for personal, organisational and social change for sustainability.

"OASES is big picture learning, with real life application." - Jo Walters, Masters graduate

Is this the course for me? (scroll down after clicking this link)

OASES also collaborates with the National Centre for Sustainability at Swinburne University in the Graduate Certificate in Sustainability

Applications for recognition of prior learning (RPL) are invited, including from students of the Graduate Certificate in Sustainability.

Early bird discount and direct debit payment plans are available. 

Last date for enrolments is 17 February 2014.

Please contact us any time to talk about our programs and your interests.

Please also forward and share this news to friends and contacts you think may be interested in this ground-breaking education for sustainability and social change.

OASES is a not-for-profit organisation with a team of dedicated thinkers, academics and practitioners drawn from around the world, in partnership with Schumacher College UK.

For more info, to contact us, and to apply, click here.

Donate to the OASES Scholarship Fund

Support an OASES student today
Every graduate makes a world of difference

Help a student access this ground-breaking Masters program in 2014, knowing that each graduate is another person equipped to better address our most pressing sustainability challenges and opportunities.  
We commonly donate to particular projects or campaigns. Why not donate to assist a student through the OASES Masters program, thereby empowering every community, organisation and project that person ever works with, in creating a more sustainable society? 

The OASES Masters program is one of the highest quality yet affordable programs in Australia. Though for many, it remains out of reach due to financial means. Equity of access is central to who we are, so please help us continue to provide access to our Masters program for people of all means, so we might genuinely enable a more sustainable society for everyone.

OASES is a not-for-profit organisation, and unlike most universities, we do not receive any public funding or government supported places. If you are inspired by this form of education, now is the time to support it.

To make a secure tax-deductible donation, click on the icon below, and include your note if you would like your donation dedicated to the scholarship fund.

Or call us on 03 9819 3502.

Thank you to all our generous supporters!

Bimblebox conversations on Clive Palmer's coal mines - the shame of greed and the threatening of a created and creative world

To read more about Bimblebox read through the links here.

Denis Wilson
to Paola, Maria, Maureen, Russell, me
This has had a wide coverage, but is Queensland listening?
I doubt it, because the Feds have just enacted their policy of no
double-testing of Endangered Species.
Referring all approvals back to the States. So, we know the Reef is
 in serious trouble.  Same applies to Bimblebox, except that the
economists are saying it is not worth the trouble to dig it up, lay train
tracks across Qld, etc. But with Palmer in Parliament and Gina not
needing to be in it, who knows what deals are going to be done?


Coal mines could be 'mothballed'
AAP (Alan Kohler)
Australian coal mines are at risk of becoming "mothballed or abandoned
as China's commodity demands change, new research shows.
A study by Oxford University looked at how coal demand from China, which
accounts for half the world's coal consumption, due to environmental factors
could lead to "stranded assets" in Australia.
Stranded assets have suffered from unanticipated devaluations.
The study, released on Monday from Oxford University's stranded assets
program, outlines the environmentally-driven shifts already underway in
The shifts include a desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce the
exposure to the volatile commodity market and improving energy efficiency.
Researchers found these factors and others could force mine owners to
re-evaluate the viability of developed coal projects and those in the pipeline.
"Demand below expectations, and lower coal prices as a result, would increase
the risk that coal mines, reserves and coal-related infrastructure could become
 mothballed or abandoned," the report states.
"Prices could also drop to the point where it is in the interests of miners to 
cease production, resulting in stranded mines and dependent infrastructure such
as railways."
Apart from the financial impacts on mine operators and magnates, state
governments would also be hurt.
The study highlighted the significant impact posed to Queensland,
where mega-mines are planned for the Galilee Basin.
State governments can reduce the risk of their investments ending up as
stranded assets by limiting the use of taxpayer dollars on coal-related
infrastructure, such as ports and railways.
Stranded assets program director and the study's co-author Ben Caldecott
said these developments were not factored into positions most coal owners
and operators were taking.
"Policy makers need to wake up to these risks as well," he said in a statement.

Bimblebox Nature Refuge
23:50 (8 hours ago)
to Denis, Maria, Maureen, Russell, me
Denis, hold on tight!
Friday is our D DAY for Bimblebox.
Hunt's deadline to send through the airways more bad news.
Abbot is hoping that the financiers ignore the price of coal by giving
them the govt green light...
a bit like me hoping that by writing a submission or two the govt
won't approve the mine.

Russell Constable
00:47 (7 hours ago)
to Bimblebox, Denis, Maria, Maureen, me
Paola what is being done to you guys is just criminal. I pray for good news
for you but hold little hope unfortunately

cheers Russ
Russell Constable
Queensland Conservation "Champion of Conservation 2013"
and proud member of
Bimblebox Nature Refuge
01:09 (6 hours ago)
to Russell, Denis, Maria, Maureen, me
Thanks Russell
they will need to drag us across the country kicking and screaming and
that's the govt real dilemma! Not the one to mine or not to mine a NR
but how to get  rid of us without fuss  as we have been raising the
awareness to the wider public to the fact that conservation areas can
be mined, a notion most are unaware of. I believe people would expect
that tax payers money directed to conservation wouldn't be redirected
to coal profits, that lines in the sand are there for all to see even
if the govt is trying to obliterate them with anti environment
Not over yet, by a long chalk!

Maureen Cooper <Brigadoon.99@bigpond.com>
07:18 (34 minutes ago)
to Bimblebox, Russell, Denis, Maria, me
The Age and even our Border Mail have both been giving the
Abbot Government heaps and the Age had the Oxford story and I did
wonder at the tunnel vision of our Government and all the State
Premiers who are rubbing their greedy little hands together over
the prospect of unlimited development of fossil fuels.  Tony is getting
 a F for failure from most members of the public.  However there was an
 article that said that Hockey was just waiting for Tony to stuff up so badly
 that they threw him out and Jo would step forward to replace him.  
Out of the frying pan and into the fire.

On a brighter note, there is an elderly lady here who is so keen to help
Bimblebox that she is going to organise an afternoon tea for which the
invitees will have to pay to participate and she wants my books and the
critters there and for me to do a talk.  I will get brave and do it for you, Paola.
Every dollar we get will be helpful for a court battle.  We will do it after
Christmas.  The money I banked yesterday was for Critters and books sold
at the Christmas Markets.

Bimblebox Nature Refuge
07:39 (14 minutes ago)
to Maureen, Russell, Denis, Maria, me
Thanks Maureen, you are a trooper!

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