Posted: September 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

A little while ago, Canberra columnist Don Allan, who used to write his column in The Chronicle before being “made redundant”, issued an invitation to donors to his new website page “ACT Opinions” to contribute an article to it. I accepted and the article, entitled “Change”, was posted on 15 September 2012.

Allan Takes Aim Blog

“Change” is the first of what I hope will be many contributions from donors. So thank you Marylin but let me add that, as the first donor to make a contribution, you could not have picked a better subject because, as a donor you know that ACT Opinions itself has come about as a result of change.

So let everyone read and enjoy. Don Allan

CHANGE

Change is not always easy to accept. Everything that lives, changes. It grows, it flourishes, it declines. Finally, it dies. Individuals, families, political parties, countries, civilizations, life-forms, stars, planets, galaxies… Everything is constantly changing, evolving.

Sometimes, we wholeheartedly embrace change. Sometimes we dig in our heels and fight it, tooth and nail.

From up here on my perch, safely away from the agitation below, the elderly bird that I am surveys the panic caused by any hint of change in Australian habits.

I have…

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Posted: July 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

Don Allan has been censored again in The Chronicle, so I am reblogging the article that the paper didn’t publish. The Editor has changed but the censorship has only become worse. This time, the whole article disappeared.

Allan Takes Aim Blog

Found on this website only but linked to Twitter, Facebook and Linked In

Any resemblance to existing people or country in this fable is purely coincidental.

Once upon a time there was a land called Zo whose history was shrouded in mystery. Indeed it was so shrouded in history that when the captain of a ship from the Tribian nation came upon Zo just over two hundred years ago, he thought it an empty land. However, after landing at a place now known as Tobany Bay, he and his crew met some people on the beach. Later he came to know them as one of the many tribes called Ebaringosi that had long been settled in Zo.

After taking time to get his land legs when the captain began exploring, he noted that that Zo’s flora and animals were quite unlike any they had seen before. He noted also…

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***

The pen, mightier

Than the sword, sharpens its tip

To write a haiku

***

Great Barrier Reef

In danger of death due to

Politicians’ greed.

***

Inspired by something seen and heard on Channel 10’s The Project last night.  Definitely a stain if allowed to continue.

Today is Australia Day, and I would like to be able to say “Happy Australia Day to all Australians, wherever you are, at home or overseas!”.  Unfortunately, I can’t do that because, for some of us, it would be in very poor taste.  The date of 26 January, which commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet in Botany Bay, in 1788, does not seem to me to be appropriate in XXIst Century post-“Apology” Australia.  (a Smudge)

To start with, the said Fleet was full of condemned criminals.  This includes the soldiers sent as guards, who had been given the choice between death and Australia.  And in spite of a few attempts at whitewashing this first lot of settlers, most of them were very real criminals and absolutely none of them, convict or guard, wanted to be in this country.  So why on Earth celebrate their arrival?  Surely we could have found a better date.  If this one is the best we can do, we are a very poor country indeed.  (another Smudge)

A second and, in my eyes, much more important reason for this date needing to be changed, is that it excludes our Aboriginal peoples from what is supposed to be a National Day of Celebration for all Australians.  Aboriginal Australians remember the 26 January 1788 as the first day of the invasion of their country by these uncouth British rejects and, if obliged to think of it at all, see it as a day of mourning rather than a day of celebration.

Aboriginals welcomed the First Fleet to Country, showed them where to find fresh water, showed them which berries were edible, and generally behaved toward these “visitors” just like any other civilized human being would in the presence of a guest who had travelled far.  Messages went back to Great Britain about “the natives” being “friendly”.  I think “courteous” would have been a better word, but it was impossible for these narrow-minded, pallid people to see a naked, dark-skinned person as civilized.  If you didn’t build a house and didn’t wear clothes (in 45 degrees Celsius heat), you were obviously some sort of inferior race, possibly not even really human.  (a Stain)

These British criminals brought not only their brutality and violence but also their illnesses.  Our Aboriginals started dropping like flies.  On top of this, as more and more of these disrespectful invaders arrived, sacred sites were violated and anger erupted.  From welcoming a guest as an equal to tolerating that he trample all over your customs and beliefs, there is a giant leap that, understandably, the First Australians refused to take.  Deaths occurred on both sides, but we all know who won the war.  (another Stain)

In 2008, Prime Minister Rudd apologised to our First Australians for previous governments forcibly removing their children from their families “for their own good”, thereby causing, not only the natural distress that can be imagined in such a situation, but also the break-down of cultural ties going back tens of thousands of years.  Adults were kept in what have been described as “concentration camps”.  Children were “educated” to become servants for “white” people.  The girls, and possibly even the boys, were often raped by their employers.  They were beaten.  They frequently didn’t receive their pay.  Some didn’t even know that they were supposed to be paid.  Until fairly recently, Aboriginals were not allowed to circulate in Australia without government permission.  This also includes going away to fight in both World Wars, where they were treated as equals by other soldiers, before returning to being… well, not even second-class citizens, when they came home, because they were not citizens of their own country at all, and obviously couldn’t vote.  (Stains)

Today, theoretically, Aboriginal Australians have the same rights as all other Australians.  However, all that they have suffered over the last couple of hundred years has made a lot of them prisoners of their own minds.  It takes a lot of courage and encouragement for our young Aboriginals to be able to take a deep breath and plunge into the waters of modern Australia, without drowning.  To succeed, they need to bathe in their different cultures, re-connect to Country, find their roots, and remember exactly who they are.  Some are now doing this.  Particularly in the Arts and Sports.  But there is still a long way to go.

Meanwhile, we must remember that Australia’s multiculturalism gives us the beauty of the Australian opal.  It is the multitude of our colours and cultures that makes us precious.  So why on Earth are we still using the commemoration of the arrival of the First Fleet as our National Day?  It means absolutely nothing to those Australians who do not have British roots (and the ones who do, like myself, are not particularly proud of those beginnings) while it is frankly insulting to our Aboriginal peoples.  It is definitely time for a change.  Any suggestions?

“We don’t need tears.  There’s been enough water around here already.”

(Queensland flood victim, heard on WIN News today.)

So, no more tears.  It is true that they had been streaming down my face as I watched water take over 75% of Queensland, and heard horror stories of parents being swept away from children, and children being swept away from parents.  And that man who has lost his wife and two of his children, talking his one remaining child up a tree and encouraging him to hold on through the night until help arrived.  The boy doesn’t know that his mother and siblings are dead.  His father doesn’t know how to tell him.  He declared that, if it hadn’t been for his son, he would have let go of his tree and let himself die.

Even those who still have all their family members, have lost all of their possessions, including houses and businesses.  Nothing can be salvaged.  It will take years for some houses to be declared fit for habitation.  Others will just be pulled down.  Some have already been swept away.  Their owners have come home to a concrete slab.  Everything else has gone.

In Queensland’s capital, Brisbane, the waters are going down.  The Brisbane River is settling back between its banks.  People are starting to clean.  The stench and health dangers are growing.  Volunteers work beside soldiers.  Looters have been arrested.  Scammers have made their appearance, like the vultures that they are.  But unlike vultures, who do a useful job, this scum’s only merit is to demonstrate how low human morality can descend, while the population of Queensland, and volunteers from elsewhere, are demonstrating just how high it can rise.

While Queensland is mourning its dead, and cleaning the mud and debris from its homes, four other Australian States are falling victims to rising flood waters.  New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia are all affected in varying degrees.  Only Western Australia appears to be flood-free.  Its present danger is from bush fires.

While we are grieving for our deceased humans, let us not forget all the animals that have been killed in these floods.  Both domestic and wild animals.  Not to mention all the chemical pesticide and fertilizer filled mud that has washed down onto the Great Barrier Reef, where it will doubtless make more victims.

When the waters have receded and the cleaning has been done, serious issues will need to be studied.  The Earth is trying to cleanse itself of our pollution.  If we don’t seriously limit the mess we are making, things are going to get a whole lot worse.  The Queensland gentleman whom I quoted at the beginning of this piece is right.  Now is not the time for tears.  Now is the time for action.  Tears can come later, when all that can be done has been done.  Right now, we are very far away from that.

In this blog, I usually limit myself to Australian subjects.  There are enough things needing the attention of our politicians in this country, without having to go overseas for them.  However, with Australia wanting to see herself as a regional leader, she should be addressing a few regional problems, other than those, like immigration, which directly affect her.

Tigers are magnificent creatures of myth, mystery and majesty.  One hundred years ago, there were still 100,000 of them left in the wild.  Now, there are only 3,200.  A blot.  The Caspian Tiger, the Bali Tiger and the Javan Tiger are all extinct in the wild, (stains) and the South China Tiger has not been observed in its forest habitat for over thirty years.  Blot.  Some leading tiger reserves in India are empty.  Stain.  Others have fewer than ten tigers left.  Blot.

Tiger habitats have shrunk by over 40% in the last decade alone.  Blot.  Tigers are now limited to only 7% of their historical range.  Blot.  In Indonesia and Malaysia, their habitats are being destroyed to produce timber and palm oil.  In Russia and China, it is logging.  In the Mekong and Vietnam, road-building is to blame.  As their forests shrink, and they lose their prey, tigers are coming into more frequent contact with humans.  Deaths are occurring on both sides.

Illegal trade in wildlife is the world’s third largest form of organized crime, after arms and drug trading.  Stain.  To poachers, tigers are worth more dead, than alive.  Despite official bans on the use of tiger parts in traditional Asian medicine, there is still a booming black market.  A lot of money can be made from the illegal trade of tiger meat, bones and skins.

If we put a stop to poaching, clamp down on the illegal trade of tiger parts, protect tiger habitats on a much greater scale than we are now doing, and put tigers back at the top of political agendas, we can bring them back from the brink of annihilation.

There is to be a Government Tiger Summit, hosted by Russia’s Prime Minister Putin, in 2011.  It will bring together influential leaders of the 13 countries where tigers are still found.  The summit aims to secure unprecedented high-level commitment for tiger conservation.

The CEO of WWF – Australia, Dermot O’Gorman, says:

“Over the years, I have worked alongside the WWF Global tiger team in Nepal, India, China and the Mekong.  During my time with WWF – China, we supported the first-ever government conservation strategy for tigers in north-east China.  […]  Without direct intervention from governments, the tigers’ fate hangs in the balance […]

“WWF is working with partners on grassroots awareness efforts in tiger countries.  We’re running education programmes, and helping local communities get compensated quickly for lost livestock, so that they can live alongside the tiger in harmony. […]

“WWF has worked for many years with TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.  We are determined to stamp out poaching, by exploding the myths surrounding the health benefits of tiger parts.

“Scientists, globally, say the situation is so bad that, if no action is taken, the tiger faces extinction in the wild by 2022.  We are determined to ensure that today’s tigers will not be among the last ever to walk the Earth.”

WWF’s goals in this domain are:  to restore tiger distribution to at least 20% of their former range in 13 landscapes by 2020;  to double tiger populations from 3,200 to at least 6,000 within ten years;  to establish tiger conservation as a high-level political priority across their range by 2015;  to eliminate the trade in tiger parts and products by 2020.

WWF is asking for donations to help it step up its efforts at government level, help it increase its work with communities, and help it increase anti-poaching patrols.

Visit  the website at http://wwf.org.au/tiger .  Facsimile :   (02) 9281 1060 ;  Telephone :  1800 032 551 (8.30 am – 5.30 pm EST Monday – Friday) ;  Mail : GPO Box 528, Sydney, NSW 2001 ; Email :  enquiries@wwf.org.au .

Australia needs to help save this magnificent creature.  At the very least, in the countries of her own region.  Australia is not a tiger country.  But that should not stop us.  We are part of the human species, and humans are wiping out tigers.  We need to contribute to their rescue.  Australian politicians must get involved.

Today is Australia’s National Threatened Species Day.  It is supposed to draw attention to what we are doing to our wildlife.

Since Europeans first settled in Australia 222 years ago, we have managed to wipe out over 50% of our native fauna species.  A stain.  We have also eliminated at least the same percentage of flora species, if not more.  Another stain.

Today, there are over 1,600 native plant and animal species facing extinction.  A blot.  Over 140 of them are on the critical list.  A stain.  Human activity is almost entirely responsible for this.  Stain.  The land and ressources that we use for living space, food, clothing, housing, fuel…  The invasive plants and animals that have been, and sometimes are still being, introduced into this country…  The things that we buy, the waste that we produce…  All of these things contribute.

Australia’s international image is partly founded on our unique animals.  However, at the moment, only about 11% of Australia’s land is classed as protected areas.  A blot.  Less than five per cent of our marine environments are protected from industrial activities and mining.  A stain.

We need to reform legislation to save what is left of our wildlife, including plants, landscapes and seascapes.  We need to protect our unique biodiversity, control pests, weeds and pollution, and enhance our system of national parks and reserves.  This needs to be done in complete co-operation with our Aboriginal peoples.  They have thousands of years of experience with Australia’s different environments.

Dermot O’Gorman, CEO of WWF – Australia, draws attention to five endangered animal species.

Carnaby’s black cockatoo can live for more than 20 years in the wild and forms a lifetime bond with his partner.  Flocks of them fly over Parliament House in Perth, on their way to King’s Park.  The flocks are dying of heat-stress during increasingly hotter summers.  They fly in wider and wider circles in search of food, over sprawling suburbs, where heath and banksia woodland used to be.  They need us to protect the habitat necessary for them to forage and roost, as well as their breeding habitats, and prevent dangerous climate change that is causing more extreme weather conditions.

The graceful coastal-dwelling dugong lives in clear, shallow water with a direct view of the sky, in the company of  family and friends.  He spends his days eating seagrass, and can live up to 70 years.  Toxic pesticides and chemical fertilizers are affecting the seagrass that he eats.  Rampant coastal development, increasing boat traffic and inappropriate land-clearing are having a dramatic impact on the dugong’s survival.  The dugongs need us to stop dangerous chemicals and pesticides from washing down into the waters where they live.

The yellow-footed rock wallaby‘s joeys are taken by feral cats and foxes.  It is more and more difficult for her to find food for her family, with invasive goats, rabbits and sheep competing for food around her home.  All that the yellow-footed rock wallaby needs is better protection, so that she and her joeys can live in peace, with ample food, safe from the ravenous appetites of foxes and cats.

The rare and very recently discovered snubfin dolphin often carries brutal scars from propellers, vessel strikes, fishing nets, and fishing lines.  They won’t survive unless we can protect them through marine sanctuaries and protected areas.

Nature’s little digger, the woylie, is now one of Australia’s most endangered species.  This is due to extensive landclearing, and being hunted almost to extinction by foxes and feral cats.  To survive, they need a safe place to live, protected from invasive species.

Mr O’Gorman gives a list of things that must be done by Australia’s new Government, when we finally get one.

1.  Establish a network of marine protected areas over Australian waters, and manage them effectively.

“The critical habitats of our marine mammals are threatened by industrial activities in our oceans, and by development along the coast.  Marine sanctuaries will protect marine species such as turtles, whales and dolphins.”

2.  Ban dangerous pesticides that pose unacceptable risks to people and wildlife.  The previous Government committed to reducing reef pollution.

“Every year, 14 million tonnes of mud, pesticides and chemical fertilizers wash into the Great Barrier Reef.  Endosulfan, banned in over 60 countries, is still available for use in Australia.  Herbicides such as Diuron and Atrazine are being detected in harmful concentrations inside the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

“The risk from pollutants is critical for some of our most vulnerable marine mammals.”

3.  Build a network of wildlife corridors and provide wildlife conservation.

“No government should allow more species to become extinct, yet Australia’s threatened wildlife populations continue to decline.

“We need our government to commit to a “Linking Landscapes” programme of grants to Australian landholders who protect wildlife corridors and other important habitats on their properties.”

4.  Boost funding for new nature reserves.

“WWF will continue to work with the new government so that it commits to programmes that will boost the likelihood of survival for hundreds of Australia’s beleaguered native species.

“National parks and nature reserves are among the most successful and effective on-ground conservation programmes, bringing critical habitats and climate refuges into the National Reserve System.”

Mr O’Gorman adds:

“Losing a species to extinction robs future generations of great natural riches and can unravel ecosystems on which all our lives depend.”

The WWF website can be found at http://wwf.org.au .  Emails can be sent to enquiries@wwf.org.au .  The telephone is 61 2 9281 5515 (or 1800 032 551 for credit card donations).  The facsimile is 61 2 9281 1060.  Online donations can be made at http://wwf.org.au/threatened-species/