Monday, December 27, 2010

TH!NK5: Water - Blogging Competition

Please join us at the TH!NK5: Water Blogging Competition, sponsored by the European Journalism Centre.

My BRAINSTORM in progress:



Click the bottom right to pop out. Please make suggestions in comments for topics, sub-topics and links.

Register for Th!nk5 here.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Oprah Down Under: Not Everybody's Cup of McCafe

Cross post from Global Voices: Oprah Down Under: Not Everybody’s Cup of McCafe
Oprah Winfrey’s fans seem to have lapped up her Australian tour which finished with taping of her show at the Sydney Opera House. However her trip also has had its fair share of criticism.

... an indigenous woman has sent a video message to Oprah:

A video prepared for Oprah Winfrey by Chairwoman of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, Bev Manton, …shines a light on the living conditions of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, in particular those living under the NT intervention, an Australian Government program which the United Nations has branded racially discriminatory.
YouTube: A PERSONAL JOURNEY by Bev Manton



More

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Australian Cablegate November 1975 Style

The question in my post WikiWobbles: What is Julia Gillard Thinking? about what US cables might have revealed about the dismissal of the Whitlam government prodded me to troll/trawl the web for documents from the time.

All I’ve found so far are some declassified State Department communications from 1973 -75. They are kept by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). They are mostly bland rehashes of the news of the day. Many are extracts from the Financial Review or The Australian newspapers.

Somewhat unexpectedly Malcolm Fraser’s handling of the Blocking of Supply crisis receives strong criticism from the embassy. Their author did not seem to be a fan of Fraser's, relaying negative comments on his tactics of the time.

The documents include:

Gough Whitlam’s linking of Country Party Leader Doug Anthony with the CIA

From Secretary of State Henry Kissinger:

4 NOV 1975

SUBJECT: WHITLAM ACCUSES ANTHONY OF RECEIVING CIA MONEY

1. YOU ARE AUTHORIZED TO APPROACH THE GOA TODAY AT THE HIGHEST AVAILABLE LEVEL, CATEGORICALLY DENYING ON BEHALF OF THE USG THAT THE CIA PAID MONEY TO THE NATIONAL COUNTRY PARTY OR ITS LEADER DOUGLAS ANTHONY. NEITHER THE CIA NOR ANY OTHER US AGENCY HAS GIVEN OR PASSED FUNDS TO ANY AUSTRALIAN POLITICAL PARTY OR CANDIDATE FOR AUSTRALIAN POLITICAL OFFICE.

2. YOU SHOULD ADD THAT, AS A MATTER OF STANDING PRACTICE, THE USG NEITHER CONFIRMS NOR DENIES PUBLICLY ALLEGATIONS OF THE TYPE REPORTED TO HAVE BEEN MADE BY THE PRIME MINISTER. THE USG REGRETS, HOWEVER, THAT SUCH A CHARGE AGAINST NCP LEADER ANTHONY, IF CORRECTLY REPORTED, COULD HAVE DAMAGING FALLOUT ON OTHER ASPECTS OF US-AUSTRALIAN RELATIONS.

4 NOV 1975

CALL FOR US REBUTTAL OF WHITLAM'S ACCUSATIONS

EMBASSY CANBERRA HAS BEEN RELIABLY INFORMED THAT THE FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND DEFENSE SECRETARIES WOULD WELCOME A FORMAL USG STATEMENT DENYING ANY CIA FINANCIAL INVOLVEMENT WITH AUSTRALIAN POLITICAL PARTIES. THE EMBASSY RECOMMENDS A STATEMENT BE ISSUED PROMPTLY, SINCE A DELAY WOULD ENCOURAG PRIME MINISTER WHITLAM TO CONTINUE IMPUGNING THE US THROUGH CHEAP POLITICAL SHOTS AT HIS OPPONENTS.

Comment on the blocking of Supply in the Senate by Fraser’s Coalition opposition

From Percival, US Embassy Canberra:

7 NOV 1975

SUBJECT: AUSTRALIAN POLITICAL CRISIS

6. OPPOSITION LEADER FRASER'S DECISION TO WITHHOLD THE GOVERNMENT'S SUPPLY BILLS IN THE SENATE HAS BACKFIRED BADLY. THE LONGER HE REFUSES TO BUDGE THE MORE LIKELY IT IS THAT HIS PERSONAL POPULARITY AS WELL AS THE POPULARITY OF THE OPPOSITION PARTIES WILL CONTINUE TO FALL. FRASER IS ALSO HAVING INCREASING DIFFICULTY HOLDING OPPOSITION SENATORS TOGETHER. A SENIOR SHADOW MINISTER SAID THAT FRASER WAS RELYING EXCLUSIVELY ON THE ADVICE OF COUNTRY PARTY LEADERS; ANTHONY, NIXON, AND SINCLAIR, ALONG WITH A FEW HARDLINE LIBERALS LIKE SENATOR WITHERS AND DEPUTY LEADER LYNCH AND HARDLY CONFERRING AT ALL WITH OTHER IMPORTANT LIBERAL MEMBERS OF THE SHADOW CABINET. THIS SHADOW MINISTER SAID THAT FRASER WAS QTE ONLY CONSULTING WITH FELLOW GRAZIERS END QTE AND SAID POINTEDLY QTE WHEN SNEDDEN WENT TOO FAR WE HAD TO GET RID OF HIM END QTE HE ALSO STATED FLATLY THAT AT LEAST TWO LIBERAL SENATORS WOULD REFUSE TO REJECT RATHER THAN DEFER THE GOVERNMENT'S SUPPLY BILLS IF THEY WERE ASKED TO DO SO.

8. IN OUR VIEW, WHAT FRASER HAS DONE IS TO RESCUE THE WHITLAM GOVERNMENT FROM AN ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE POSITION AND TO GIVE IT A FIGHTING CHANGE TO SURVIVE UNTIL THE END OF ITS ELECTED TERM IN 1977. IN THE PROCESS HE REVEALED POOR JUDGMENT IN WITHHOLDING SUPPLY AND SHOWED THAT HE IS UNABLE TO BEST WHITLAM IN PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE. FRASER HAS A NUMBER OF POTENTIAL RIVALS WITHIN THE LIBERAL PARTY WHO MIGHT WELL BE TEMPTED TO TRY TO REPLACE HIM AS LEADER AS A RESULT OF HIS PERFORMANCE TO DATE. GIVEN THE PRESENT SORRY STATE OF THE OPPOSITION, WHITLAM MAY WELL INSIST THAT THE OPPOSITION BACK DOWN COMPLETELY AND PASS THE SUPPLY BILLS IN THE SENATE.

This is not the stuff of deep intrigue, though the reported role of the Secretaries of the Foreign Affairs and Defence departments certainly seems at odds with their own government. If the conspiracy theories about the dismissal are correct and evidence is online, it’s hard to find. I wonder how long materials held by the Intelligence organisations are kept under wraps.

Also came across this reference to the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975 and the murder of the Balibo 5. The Timor cable may be of interest to Shirley Shackleton, widow of Greg Shackleton who was one of the Australian murdered journalists, though I’m sure she will have seen it.

Comment on the Missing Balibo 5 in East Timor

From Percival, US Embassy Canberra:

31 OCT 1975

SUBJECT: TIMOR

1. IN A SPEECH TO THE SENATE ON OCTOBER 3, FOREIGN MINISTER WILLESEE REVERSED THE GOA'S POLICY OF NON-INVOLVEMENT IN THE TIMOR CRISIS BY OFFERING TO HELP ARRANGE DECOLONIZATION TALKS IN AUSTRALIA. THE STATEMENT WAS IN REPLY TO LEFTIST ALP SEN. GEITZELDT'S CALL FOR THE GOA TO RECOGNIZE FRETELIN AS THE DE FACTO GOVERNMENT IN EAST TIMOR.

2. SENATOR WILLESEE SAID THAT THE GOA DEPLORED THE FIGHTING IN THE BORDER AREAS AND BELIEVED QTE THE SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEMS IN PORTUGUESE TIMOR SHOULD BE SOUGHT THROUGH PEACEFUL MEANS FREE OF INTERNATIONAL INTERVENTION. END QTE. THE GOA WAS PREPARED TO PROVIDE THE LOCALE FOR TALKS TO DETERMINE JUST WHAT THE PEOPLE OF EAST TIMOR WANT. IN A CAUTIOUS REBUKE OF INDONESIA, VIEWS IN THIS REGARD AND URGED TO PURSUE HER INTERESTS THROUGH DIPLOMATIC MEANS. END QTE.

3. COMMENT: THE FOREIGN MINISTER'S STATEMENT MARKS A RELUCTANT CHANGE IN THE GOA'S PREVIOUS POLICY OF NON-INTERVENTION IN TIMOR WITH TACIT GOA SUPPORT FOR A GOI TAKE-OVER. AS NOTED IN REFTEL, THE ALP LEFT HAS BECOME INCREASINGLY CRITICAL OF THE GOA'S TIMOR POLICY. PRESS REPORTS WIICH INDICATE THE POSSIBILITY THAT FIVE AUSTRALIAN JOURNALISTS WERE FIRST SHOT AND THEN BURNED BY INDONESIAN SUPPORTED FORCES IN TIMOR HAVE HEIGHTENED THIS CRITICISM. THE ALLEGED REFUSAL OF ANTI-FRETELIN FORCES TO PERMIT AN AUSTRALIAN OFFICER INTO THE AREA TO EXAMINE THE BODIES FURTHER AROUSED SUSPICIONS AND PUBLIC REACTION. THE GOA'S ACTION OFFERING AUSTRALIA AS POSSIBLE SITE FOR TALKS ON THE TIMOR PROBLEM WAS PROBABLY THE MINIMUM THE GOVERNMENT COULD TAKE TO PLACATE THE ALP LEFT. PROTESTS AND OPPOSITION WILL BECOME GREATER AS THE EXTENT OF GOI MILITARY INVOLVEMENT IN EAST TIMOR BECOMES KNOWN. THIS WILL PRESENT THE WHITLAM GOVERNMENT WITH A MOST UNWELCOME, POTENTIALLY DEVISIVE ISSUE DURING A PERIOD OF DOMESTIC POLITICAL CRISIS.

Shirley was awarded the Best Book Award for The Circle of Silence at the 2010 Walkley Awards on 9 Dec. In her acceptance speech she says that , “our democracy is under threat because of WikiLeaks …”. The video of her speech is below.


There are lots of other documents from those years. But it’s more a job for post-grad Politics or History students than a busy citizen journalist.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

WikiWobbles: What is Julia Gillard Thinking?

Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard must be wondering why cyber history is repeating itself, as her government’s reaction to WikiLeaks stirs widespread and vocal resentment.

The Rudd government stubbornly pursued Senator Stephen Conroy's Internet filter proposal. Arguments about its potential misuse or its ineffectiveness aside, this policy has been a political debacle. It was not a vote winner. Its unpopularity united people from diverse backgrounds, ages and political leanings and alienated many in the party's base. It was also a major distraction from the ready vote catcher of the National Broadband Network.

For the Labor Party itself, it underscored and hastened the growing loss of faith among traditional supporters. This was especially true of those who have embraced the online world. The abandonment of the Emissions Trading Scheme following Copenhagen was the clincher for many. The ranks of the Greens swelled with former ALP members who were campaigning against the so-called clean feed and for immediate climate action.

Many party activists would have recognised familiar faces standing behind the new Greens MHR for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, during his victory speech. Ironically the retiring Member, Lindsay Tanner, was one of the few Rudd Ministers who seemed to understand the importance of the Web and he advocated its use for more open government. Another was Senator John Faulkner who is one of the three panel members on the Party review of the 2010 election.

Now we have Web Blunder 2.0.

Perhaps the Prime Minister and her Attorney General Robert McClelland have based their strident attacks on Julian Assange on genuinely held matters of principle.

Perhaps they hold a genuine belief that the leaks were a real threat to national security or endangered people’s lives.

We should expect more from experienced lawyers. If these are the motivation, they have not argued their case effectively or ethically. Moreover, they have shown scant regard for freedom of expression or the rights of Australian citizens. My posts about the Melbourne WikiLeaks Forum cover these aspects in greater depth.

Perhaps there has been some kind of political strategy behind their statements. Some possibilities are:
  • an attempt to neutralise leaks that may touch on Australian politicians by discrediting the source;
  • muddying of the waters until the United States silences Julia Assange and WikiLeaks in some way;
  • a desire to be seen as sticking up for our strongest ally;
  • a populist stance based on woeful misreading of public opinion.
As we left the WikiLeaks Forum on Thursday, I joked that Labor Party heavies believe that getting the Australian voters offside on an issue like Cablegate may not necessarily result in electoral defeat. However, it is certain that the US government can and will destroy our government if they feel antagonsied.

The Whitlam years are an ever present bogey for the ALP. The cables between Marshall Green, US Ambassador in Canberra during his government, and the State Department would make interesting reading. If anyone knows if any secret communications have been published, please let us know.

Melbourne WikiLeaks Forum Update

The Age newspaper has two items today that follow up Thursday's Melbourne WikiLeaks Forum.
A MELBOURNE lawyer and former boss of Prime Minister Julia Gillard has criticised her government for its handling of WikiLeaks and its Australian founder, Julian Assange.

Peter Gordon, whose legal firm made Ms Gillard the first female partner of Slater and Gordon, said her comment that Mr Assange had broken the law was baseless.

He said the fact that people such as Ms Gillard and Attorney-General Robert McClelland - both of whom he knew to be good lawyers and decent people - could be driven to behave in this way was a sobering reminder of ''the seductive and compulsive draw of power''.
Click here to find out more!
Legal fury at 'war on free speech' (The Age 11 Sep 2010)
There is also an opinion piece by Peter Gordon:
If the WikiLeaks disclosures tell us anything, it is that no political leader, whatever their colour, is going to hesitate for a nanosecond to conflate the notion of ''national security'' with ''my own career security''. It's time to provide genuine protection for people who take the bold step of coming forward with important information. It's time to make the process cheaper and speedier.

...I always admired John Brumby. To hear him say that he needed to know certain information about the desalination plant, but we didn't, was a disappointment. Likewise Attorney-General Robert McClelland and Prime Minister Julia Gillard. I have worked with both of them and know them to be decent people. It is disappointing to me that their approaches to the WikiLeaks disclosures have seemingly lost sight of three of our democracy's real ''foundation stones'': the presumption of innocence, the right to free speech and the protection of the rights of Australian citizens abroad.
Insidious attack on free speech (The Age 11 Sep 2010)
The political implications of the Australian government's response may be far reaching. Watch this space for some reflections.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Melbourne WikiLeaks Forum Condemns Politicians


Julian Burnside, well known and respected human rights lawyer, has condemned calls by United States politicians and media commentators for the assassination of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. He spoke at a forum hosted by the Law Institute Victoria in Melbourne on Thursday 9 December.

He also attacked the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and Attorney General Robert Mcclelland, for their responses to Cablegate:
It is extraordinary that our government can so lightly abandon one of our citizens.

...It is the primary obligation of any country to protect its citizens.
According to Julian Burnside, WikiLeaks has:
...cast a light into some dark corners of what governments get up to when they think no one is watching.

...if they want to avoid being embarrassed by that maybe they need to learn to stop doing embarrassing things.
Julian Assange's Australian lawyer Robert Stary chaired the crowded meeting. Jon Faine of ABC 774 radio's Mornings (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), solicitor Peter Gordon, and Liberty Victoria President Spencer Zifcak also spoke in defence of WikiLeaks.

They focused on freedom of speech, freedom of the media, and the rights of Australian citizens.
Last night Mr Stary convened a meeting of lawyers, human rights activists and criminal law advocates in Melbourne to discuss the legal issues surrounding Mr Assange and his arrest - and particularly relating to the presumption of innocence.
Lawyers demand protection for Assange (The Age 10 Dec 2010)
This newspaper report by Nick McKenzie and Paul Millar has the usual inaccuracies, naming Peter Gordon as President of Liberty Victoria. It also refers to a "small group of protesters outside". In fact a couple of people were handing out leaflets about a WikiLeaks rally in Melbourne and selling a political paper. The rally is at State Library Lawns on Friday December 10 - 4:30pm - 7:30pm.

Peter Gordon has been a legal colleague of both Gillard and McClelland and a political supporter of the PM. He expressed astonishment that power can change "good, decent people" so much.

Julian Burnside's complete speech is contained in the video above. (A link if you're not sure of the references to Philip Ruddock) Liberty Victoria has issued a media release condemning the Australian PM and Attorney General:
The civil liberties organization, Liberty Victoria, today criticized the Prime Minster and the Attorney-General regarding statements that each have made about the legal situation of the Director of Wikileaks, Julian Assange.

...The President of Liberty, Professor Spencer Zifcak, said today that it was wrong for the Prime Minister in effect to declare Mr Assange's guilt before any law he may have broken had even been identified.
Liberty Victoria Criticizes PM and AG over Julian Assange comments

Thursday, December 9, 2010

One Story from Madagascar

"Just one story to represent over 1.4 billion poor rural people who live on less than $1.25 a day. This is the story of Séraphine and her daughter Maria who live in rural Madagascar."



For more from the International Fund for Agricultural Development: IFAD

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cancún COP16 Live

For Cancún COP16 Live, follow the OneClimate Channel:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Julian Assange: Outlaw in His Own Country

Julian Assange is being treated like an outlaw, even by his own country. Melbourne's Sunday Age newspaper reports:

AS THE net closes around WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the notorious whistleblower has accused Prime Minister Julia Gillard of betraying him as an Australian citizen in her eagerness to help the United States attack him and his organisation.
PM has betrayed me: Assange

It's interesting that the journalist Josh Gordon doesn't seem to know the difference between the whistleblower (the person with access to the documants who leaked them) and the publisher (WikiLeaks). Media outlets such as The Guardian, the New York Times and online sites such as this one have presumably broken the same laws, if any, as Assange. And The Age!


My crosspost at Th!nk4: Climate Change and Global Voices: WikiLeaks' Julian Assange: Oz Hero or Villain looks at the Oz blogosphere's reaction:
WikiLeaks' Julian Assange is either a hero or a villain in his home country of Australia. Many people, both here and abroad, are demanding the head of the WikiLeaks founder. Others see him as a peoples' champion.

Local bloggers have focused less on the content of the cablegate disclosures and more on ethical issues and possible consequences for effective governance.

More

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Global Voices WikiLeaks Special Coverage

Wikileaks logo Global Voices Special Coverage of WikiLeaks
State secrets exposed this year by whistle-blower website Wikileaks keep causing the world to shudder. A video showing Iraqi civilians killed by U.S forces; a compilation of tens of thousands of documents about the war in Afghanistan; hundreds of thousands of documents about the war in Iraq; and now 251,287 leaked United States embassy cables.


On Global Voices, we have looked at worldwide online citizen media reactions. The leaked documents contain so much information, both journalists and bloggers have struggled to make sense of them. The initial excitement is huge. What happens next?

Selected posts about WikiLeaks on Global Voices



03 Dec - Brazil: blogosphere reacts to WikiLeaks
02 Dec - Azerbaijan: First Lady responds to Cablegate criticism?
01 Dec - Latin America & Cablegate: Analysis, Reactions & Questions

30 Nov - Africa: Cablegate: Does the US care about Africa this much?
30 Nov - Caucasus: Revelations & Confusion over Cablegate
30 Nov - Central & Eastern Europe: Initial Reactions to WikiLeaks' Cablegate
29 Nov - South Asia: The Morality Of Exposing Others' Secrets
29 Nov - Jordan: Wikileaks' “Cablegate” Raises Questions
29 Nov - Middle East: The Not-So-Secret US Embassy Secret Cables

12 Aug - Afghan Bloggers on Wikileaks War Logs
26 Jul - Liveblog of global reactions to Wikileaks Afghanistan war logs

This will be updated here: WikiLeaks and the World 2010

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Climate Cablegate: Lowering Expectations at Copenhagen

Climate Cablegate

Benno Hansen and myself are blogging about Cancun at Th!nk4: Climate Change. We are working together on climate change revelations in Wikileaks’ Cablegate. Benno has an introductory blog in Danish: Hvad Wikileaks lægger til COP15-skandalen

I’ve been looking at some of the cables and will post in detail later. Below are 3 cables sent in the lead up to COP15 at Copenhagen. Numbering refers to cable order. It's quite clear that the backroom game was 'lowering expectations' at Copenhagen.

More

It is just a sample of the behind-the-scenes geo-politics of climate change action. There is plenty more in the pipeline.