Tuesday, February 24, 2009


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG comments on the low standards of both Left and Right in Australian politics at the moment

Tasmanian health fear if climate heats up

This would be a most amusing article if it were not so dishonest and stupid. Quite aside from the basic fact that warm weather is better for you than cold weather (a lot more people die in winter than die in summer), the article is about Tasmania, which has a cool climate. And even under pessimistic assumptions, Tasmania would warm up only to the point where its climate is like Queensland today. And, writing as I do from Queensland, I can assure you that Queensland is flourishing in every way!

TASMANIA faces an ominous and burgeoning epidemic of chronic disease in its climate change future, the State's Director of Public Health said yesterday. Dr Roscoe Taylor said the spectre of an influenza pandemic was also very real. The foreseeable risks to health worldwide had been documented, he said, but Tasmania faced its share of public health concerns brought about after events that could only be attributed to climate change.

He said the increased frequency of extreme weather would cause physical injury and psychological instability, as the population became anxious about storm, drought or extreme heat events. "With changes in Tasmania's weather patterns, we will see more severe weather events," he said. "An ageing population of people living with chronic medical conditions might not readily cope with heat stress."

Longer term, Dr Taylor said drought would threaten reliable, nutritious food sources and water supply. "There are significant threats to public health and nutrition when our natural food sources are affected with seasonal interruptions," he said.

The extreme weather would also bring social isolation and anxiety. "There will be community anxiety about the future. We have to be careful not to transfer our own fears on to our children. "We have to give them a sense that they can minimise the risks and do something about the future."

Very real evidence of climate change across Tasmania's water supply was already playing itself out, he said. "We are seeing the impact of climate change on our water supply with increased and longer algal blooms," he said. "At Ross the population has had to seek alternative water supplies because of an ongoing blue-green algae outbreak, and on King Island blooms are appearing in the water catchment dams. "There are marine coastal blooms in the Huon and Statewide they are extending and lasting longer.

"These are subtle but definite effects of climate change. "It would appear that water scarcity is likely to persist, and a range of adaptation measures will be required to ensure the viability of communities and food supplies in the longer term."


Good idea for reducing bushfires

At least someone in politics is pointing at the totally avoidable cause of the fires

Fran Bailey wants to deny Victoria money for road building if the state fails to keep down bushfire fuel levels. The Liberal Member for McEwen broke down in Parliament yesterday as she revealed 195 of her constituents died in the Black Saturday fires. She called for federal road grants to state and local governments to be made conditional on controlled burning being done.

"Millions of dollars are provided to state and local governments for their roads," Ms Bailey told Parliament. "We need to tie that funding to fuel reduction programs because, unless we do something, nothing will be done. "This is something, colleagues, I hope we can have unanimous agreement on."

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd promised to consider "specific incentives" to ensure recommended fire safety measures, such as prescribed burning were done. He said too many recommendations from inquiries held after major fires had been ignored by governments. "I hate to think how many of those recommendations have not been acted upon by governments of whichever persuasion, of whichever level and at whichever point in history," he said.

Ms Bailey called for schools to be equipped with fire shelters. "Back in 1988, I have discovered, the Victorian Education Department had a plan to build 72 of what I call a community and school safe shelter," she said. "Only one has ever been built. We've got to do better than that." Ms Bailey also said businesses affected by the fires should receive government assistance, and early-warning systems should be introduced as soon as possible.

Yesterday was the first day session Ms Bailey had attended since Black Saturday. She stayed in her electorate to help constituents who had been affected by the fires. For several days, Ms Bailey kept her most precious belongings in the back of her car after deciding not to stay to defend her Healesville home. "I don't want any other Australian citizen to go through what my constituents have," she said yesterday.


Australia likely to cut immigration

Australia will likely cut the number of skilled immigrants allowed into the country next year, following the global economic downturn, the government said Monday. "I expect the numbers of our programme to drop next year as a reaction to the economic circumstances," Immigration Minister Chris Evans told reporters. He gave no indication of the size of the cut, but said the government would also reconsider which occupations should be on the critical skills list. "We will probably have a formal look at that in the next couple of weeks," Evans said.

Around 190,300 migrants were projected to arrive over 2008/09, with skilled workers accounting for most places in a programme designed when the forecast was for rapid economic growth and a skills crisis. But projections for growth have been slashed as the global economy slows, and some industries have already started cutting jobs.

Asian immigration has grown rapidly in recent years while the number of new arrivals from traditional source countries such as Britain and Italy has fallen, the latest census showed last month. "Country-of-birth groups which increased the most between 1996 and 2006 were New Zealand (by around 98,000 people), China (96,000) and India (70,000)," according to the census. "In contrast, European country-of-birth groups declined sharply over the same period -- Italy by 39,000 people, the United Kingdom by 35,000 and Greece by 17,000."

However, while the ratio of Asian immigration to European arrivals changed -- with six of the 10 most common birthplaces of migrants being Asian countries -- 92,000 Britons still accounted for most new residents. Apart from China and India, countries providing increasing numbers of immigrants included Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea and South Africa.


An old, old story

Every now and again, some members of the Green/Left try to practice what they preach. It always ends up the same way

They thought they could change the world but what came of their dreams has haunted them ever since... The Universal Brotherhood was Australia's most celebrated alternative community attracting hundreds of young idealists who gave up everything to follow their very own New Age guru. Now 30 years later they're hosting a reunion to confront the sect's surviving leader about the paradise they created. and lost.

Compass on Sunday at 9.30pm on ABC1 charts the rise and fall of this uniquely Australian `cult' through rich film archive and the testimonies of Linda Moctezuma (nee Ward) and others as they prepare for a reunion, 30 years after it all fell apart.

The Universal Brotherhood was a home-grown spiritual movement that became Australia's most successful alternative community. Born in the early 1970s it flourished on a 300 acre farm near the small country town of Balingup, south of Perth. The movement attracted hundreds of young idealists who turned their backs on jobs, mortgages and a safe life in the suburbs. Instead, they cashed in their savings to follow their very own guru, 80-year old Fred Robinson - a self-styled eco-prophet who wanted to pioneer a model community that could save the planet, and mankind!

Robinson espoused a mixed bag of mystical teachings, New Age philosophies and old-fashioned Christian values. He'd also developed his own cosmic vision of the future involving `elder brothers' from outer space coming in UFOs with Christ to take them away if and when catastrophe destroyed the world. "They even bought a property that had an airstrip on it so that the elder brothers would have somewhere to land, and rescue us.

Now, there's only one thing more amazing than him saying that - and that's us believing it!" says Moctezuma who at 18, desperate to escape the insular world of Sydney's northern beaches, became one of the Brotherhood's first converts.

From a handful of pioneers, the Universal Brotherhood quickly grew. Within a year, it was almost completely self-sufficient: its young `disciples' putting into practice all Robinson's principles of biodynamic farming and holistic living. "And we really believed that it was a turning point for mankind. And we were going to be the spearhead, the leaders of this new age. We were creating the model that the whole world was going to be built on. And so we had this great responsibility to do it properly," says Moctezuma.

Among the followers was a young rock star, Matt Taylor. He'd just released a hit record, but sold everything to join the Brotherhood. "Because number one records weren't as important as finding out how the universe worked," says Taylor. On the farm the Brotherhood took care of everyone's food, shelter and clothing. Everything was shared, and everyone ate, played and prayed together. Life in the Brotherhood was deemed "safe and pure". The world outside increasingly viewed as dangerously corrupt.

Believing they had all the answers, the Brotherhood began cutting itself off from the rest of society. TV and radio were banned. And increasingly, control of the group was left to its governing council, a small group of advisers known as the `Centre Core', made up of Robinson's wife Mary and the Brotherhood's young co-founder, Stephen Carthew, a 23-year old from Sydney. "Mary had her belief that she slept at night and she had dreams and God spoke to her, and we then had to follow what God had said to her," says Susan Allwood who'd walked out of a promising fashion career in Melbourne to join the Brotherhood.

As time passed the Centre Core became more hardline, scrutinising the young followers' behaviour, and punishing them for minor misdemeanours or perceived weaknesses. Few dared to confess any doubt, anger or distress. The Brotherhood's utopian dream was only six years old when cracks appeared. The cult's leadership began to turn on some of its most faithful adherents.

By 1978 the New Age dream was all but over. The mood of the times had changed. Triggered by events like the Jonestown massacre, public opinion swung sharply against religious cults. "When Jonestown happened there was a moment where I thought, if Mary had said to us, `We've reached the right vibration; we don't need our bodies any more. We're all going to drink cyanide.' I wonder if we'd have done it?" asks former member Anita Chauvin.

The film follows Anita, Matt, Susan, Linda and others as they prepare for the reunion, searching for resolution to the years they put into the Brotherhood dream; years many have kept hidden, until now. Founder and former leader Carthew will also be at the reunion. He knows he has a lot to answer for and the scene is set for a dramatic showdown.


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