The myth of ANZAC

http://www.4zzzfm.org.au/news/audio/2015/04/25/mark-cryle-origins-anzac-day-part-one

Mark Cryle: The myth of Anzac

Australian governments have spent $325 million dollars on the hundredth commemoration of the Australian and New Zealand invasion of Turkey in 1915 (largely ignoring the British, French, Senghalese, and Indian contributions), a commemoration which reaches its peak today. Over the century an enormous propaganda campaign has tried to establish ANZAC Day as Australia’s co-called ‘foundation myth’. But how real is this foundation myth? How was the myth made? MARK CRYLE is a historian writing his PhD on the history of ANZAC Day. In this interview with 4ZZZ’s Dr John Jiggens he discusses the history and the prehistory of Anzac Day.

http://www.4zzzfm.org.au/news/audio/2015/04/25/mark-cryle-origins-anzac-day-part-one

 

 

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The heroism of Chelsea Manning

Ciaron O’Reilly on the heroism of Chelsea Manning (Bay FM interview)
Anchor: Ciaron O’Reilly is an Australian anti-war activist who served two years in US and Irish prisons as a result of Ploughshare actions against the wars in Iraq. O’Reilly has devoted the last six years to solidarity actions for Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning.He spoke to Bay-FM’s Dr JOHN JIGGENS about the release of Chelsea Manning.
JJ: Ciaron O’Reilly what is your reaction to the release of the US military whistleblower Chelsea Manning after seven years imprisonment?

CO: Great relief. At the end of last year I was fairly convinced that Chelsea would attempt suicide again. There were two suicide attempts at the end of last year and it looked very bleak. It felt like she was coming to the realisation that she couldn’t do the rest of her 35 year sentence. So it was great relief.

Chelsea is very much a hero for our time and it is important to have such acts of heroism recognised. I think it is very important to build up a culture of solidarity with our people who are facing court or are in prison. I think the anti-war movement failed to do that with Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange.

I think people have to learn about solidarity. When you march against the war – and in London 2 million people marched against the war in 2003 – you implicitly incite people to non-violently oppose the war and to take risks against the war.

Ironically if you look at most of the resistance against the war, most of it, even the non-violent resistance, has come from people in the military, in terms of jail sentences, refusing to deploy, putting their weapons down and denouncing the war.

More of that kind of resistance came out of the military rather than the civilian anti-war movement. I think there’s a lot of posturing – there is this good phrase, what they call ‘virtue signalling’ – instead of real organising and resistance and solidarity.

This is a long war. It began 26 years ago. Chelsea was only four years of age at that stage when George Bush senior attacked Iraq, dropping the equivalent of eight Hiroshimas on the people of Iraq. After that it morphed into the sanctions under the Clintons, killing a million children by denying basic medical supplies and other equipment. And then, of course, a full-blown invasion under George Bush Junior and the occupation, and now it’s at another phase with IS, which we know organised in the dungeons and prisons of Iraq, so it’s been a long war. Chelsea was only 14 when the invasion happened in 2003, a war which she became part of when she was deployed there a few years later.
So the war hasn’t gone away. It is the anti-war movement that has gone away.

JJ: Why did you get involved in the solidarity campaign for Chelsea Manning?

CO: It comes out of my own experience of being an anti-war prisoner. I spent about two years in prison in the United States, and also Australia and Ireland, and I learned about the importance of solidarity, nourishing the spirits of political prisoners. I also felt that nonviolent resistance and exposing the war is the most significant thing that can be done. I think there is not much non-violent resistance going on at the moment because there is not a culture of solidarity. It is very significant to build a culture of solidarity, building that praxis.
Many historians argue that Chelsea’s exposure led to the Arab spring. They also probably led to the United States pulling out militarily. Once US war crimes had been exposed to the Iraqi government, they wouldn’t grant American troops immunity. That’s the reason why Obama withdrew the troops initially.

JJ: I am looking at a photo of you with Chelsea Manning’s mother Susan. How did you come to meet Chelsea’s mother and the family?

CO: Yeah, well most of our activism before the court martial in 2013 and the sentencing was in London and we did a lot of presence, along with Veterans for Peace and others at the U.S. embassy, whenever Chelsea was brought to court. The court martial ended up being three months long and once the sentencing happened we were in Britain and that’s where the maternal family was.

Chelsea’s mother Susan is a Welsh woman who met an American soldier, and married. The first child was born in Wales and then Bradley was born ten years later in Oklahoma. So she has six sisters and one brother and I travelled up to meet them after the sentencing and they had an Irish father themselves. Chelsea’s maternal family was from Dublin.
So I had a lot of contacts in Ireland from my own trials there, anti-war trials. It was a great move at the end of 2013 to bring the family over to Dublin. And Gerry Conlon who was one of the Guilford 4, the film “In the Name of the Father” was based around his experience – he served sixteen years in jail for something he didn’t do – he was willing to come down from Belfast and we had quite a big event. It was the first time the family of Chelsea Manning was with a large group of people that actually supported what she’d done.
That relationship developed, and actor/playwright Donal O’Kelly within about six weeks of that event brought a dozen artists, musicians and activists over to Wales. And there was probably five or six occurrences like that over the last 3 years when the family has come to Ireland. This Sunday actually, Chelsea’s mother will be in Dublin for a celebration of the release.

JJ: The family have issued a media statement about Chelsea’s release. It begins, “Chelsea has endured seven years loss of liberty for her whistleblowing actions while those whose wrongdoing she exposed have gone unpunished.” Could you speak to that?
CO: Chelsea is arrested when she is 22. She was actually in the military I think for a year or two before that. And was heavily bullied in the military, was actually been discharged when they needed more techie people in Iraq. And then was deployed to – I think it was Operation Base Hammer in Baghdad. And she came across evidence of war crimes and initially went to her commanding officer and said “this looks like a war crime!” and was told to ignore it, and then leaked the information.

Initially Manning tried to approach the New York Times and the Washington Post, but they weren’t interested, before going to WikiLeaks. So she was arrested in May of 2010. Their priority always, I believe, has been to get Julian Assange. She was initially tortured in Kuwait. She was kept in a cage in a tent where they kept changing the light and disrupting sleep, and other harassment before being taken to Quantico where she was also put in isolation and tortured – I think with the hope of breaking her to make up a story implicating Julian Assange.

JJ: What do you think of the mainstream media’s coverage of this issue?

CO: I think what they have learnt since Vietnam is how to wage war on the imperial perimeter, in this case in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Africa, while keeping a sense of normalcy at the centre, in North America, United States, Europe, Australia. In Australia we have troops from Brisbane’s Gallipoli Barracks deployed in the Iraq theatre at the moment. And we have bombers from Amberley dropping bombs from on high on Syria

You wouldn’t know it, there is no anti-war movement, there’s no tension about this. Occasionally someone is killed and they bury them, a bit of a form sentimentality rolled out by the government when that occurs. So the media plays a very, very significant role in maintaining a sense of normalcy while war is being waged. And all that is asked from us during this period, unlike Vietnam when they had conscription, unlike WW2 when they had rationing and a whole society mobilised for war, is our silence and our sedation.

All they ask of us is to avert our gaze and look the other way. And that’s what Manning refused to do in Iraq. She could have easily looked the other way and never had suffered for the last seven years.

It’s a great testimony to her heroism that she refused to do that!

 

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The Seige of Julian Assange

THE SEIGE OF JULIAN ASSANGE

Ciaron O’Reilly is an Australian activist who has spent the past years supporting Julian Assange, acting as a non-violent bodyguard for him during his court appearances, and vigiling outside the Ecuadorian embassy.
In this interview with Bay-FM’s Dr JOHN JIGGENS he gives a picture of Assange’s life in his Ecuadorian asylum, under seige by the police, while the spectre of rendition to the US holds him a prisoner there.

JJ: Ciaron O’Reilly, firstly can you describe Julian Assange’s living quarters in the Ecuadorian embassy.
CO: Yes the Ecuadorian embassy is located in a building just across a small road from Harrods. The embassy only takes up half of the ground floor, so as you enter the building on the left is the Ecuadorian embassy and on the right is the Colombian embassy. The Ecuadorian embassy is about five rooms, Julian is in one of these rooms. At the moment he is in a small room at the back of the building. There is no natural source of sunlight for him, only a small area to move around in. For three years the British police were visibly surrounding the building. Initially they had dozens and dozens of police there when Julian first entered the embassy five years ago.
Just before the United Nations ruled the detention was illegal, that it was arbitrary detention, the Christmas before last, they took away the visible policing. They had spent 11 million pounds on sustaining a 24/7 police presence outside the embassy. And when you consider the Chillcot Inquiry into the Iraq War – why Britain was in Iraq – cost 10 million pounds, it’s pretty ridiculous and outrageous.

JJ: So how is Julian handling his confinement?
CO: He is a remarkable person. He is obviously very bright and very committed to his work. He has pretty much been doing this stuff since he was 16 or 17, so that’s nearly 30 years I guess. And I think it is really the work that sustains and nourishes him in these tough times.
He is someone of great mental and psychic strength, to be under this pressure, not knowing when this will end – when this arbitrary, indefinite detention will come to an end. So it’s not like doing a jail sentence when you’ve got a finishing line in mind and a finishing date. It is an open ended kind of eternal now.

JJ: Why did Sweden drop the charges against him?
CO: Well there were never any formal charges. There was an inquiry and when it started in 2010 Julian reported to a police station in Stockholm and the Chief Prosecutor of Stockholm came to the conclusion that there was no absence of consent, there was no crime, and he could go on his way, which he did. And then another Prosecutor in Gothenburg resurrected the inquiry. So there was never any formal charges.

I think this Marianne Ny, this Prosecutor, her mission, or vendetta, or whoever she was working for… it didn’t require much effort from her. She pretty much sat on her arse for the last five years and wouldn’t come to England and interview Julian. Julian was quite willing to be interviewed in England before he went into the embassy and while he’s been in the embassy or he could have been interviewed via Skype. She finally, they came in December last year and the conclusion they reached is that they are now finishing the inquiry.

JJ: So even tho the Swedes have dropped the charges, the British police are still determined to arrest him. Why is there such a determined exertion by Britain, the United States and Sweden to get him?
CO: The big thing, and why Julian has received political asylum from the government of Ecuador, is the case the United States has been building against him and WikiLeaks through the Grand Jury. America is an empire and you even had Julia Gillard, the Labor Prime Minister of Australia, offer to take away Julian’s citizenship and passport back in 2010, when this first came out. So that’s a Labor government willing to turn over Julian, let alone the British or the Americans. So that’s an ongoing inquiry and the head of the C.I.A. came out recently at a press conference and said it was a big priority for the new administration to pursue Julian and WikiLeaks

JJ: If the US get their hands on Assange, what fate awaits him.
CO: I think anything from execution, to life without parole, to a similar sentence to that Chelsea Manning got. I remember in 2010 when I first heard of Julian, I thought this is the guy in history who has pissed off the most amount of powerful people in the shortest amount of time. And he hasn’t backed off from the work he has chosen to do with his life and he is still upsetting lots of powerful people.
All he has done is what the New York Times and the Guardian and other newspapers did, which is to publish these leaked, classified documents. If they are going to pursue Julian, they should pursue the Guardian and the New York Times as well. That’s an argument still to be had. I suppose that if Julian stepped out of the embassy now, the police would arrest him and I assume that the Americans would have an extradition warrant ready for him. He could appeal that, and there would be some legal struggle in England, but I guess he would be put on trial in the United States.

JJ: In its first four years, WikiLeaks broke story after story that shook the powers of the world. Given his extraordinary achievements as a journalist and publisher, what do you think of Assange’s treatment by the mainstream media?

CO: I think most contemptible has been for Guardian newspaper which he worked with on the releases in 2010, who’ve abandoned him and also abandoned other whistleblowers like Edward Snowden – people willing to put themselves at risk and then are exploited by what’s supposed to be a liberal left media newspaper.
The Guardian’s consistent character assassination and attacks on Julian has probably undercut what natural forces of support that would have come from England from the liberal left. There’s a lot of hostility to Julian in England, much more so than in Australia and United States, and that’s got a lot to do with the campaign the Guardian has run.
Why they have run these lines? There’s a number of different theories: one is that they detest him because he’s basically an Australian hippy kid and they are all upper class people who have gone through Oxford and Cambridge and they resent the rock star status that he had in 2010. But I was talking to a Guardian feature writer on one occasion and he said, no, it’s more serious than that. He said what journalists value is being the gatekeeper of secrets, who get to know how much they get to know and when they get to know. And WikiLeaks comes along with the primary data and throw it up in the air and says, go work it out yourself! So it kind of undermines and undercuts their economic base and their status as journalists.
The Guardian’s technique is to create cynicism around Julian to accuse him of being arrogant – as if they’re not! (laughs). And it really is a cowardly response from Australians, or the left in London, or whoever, to have a cynical position about someone who is indefinitely detained in London for exposing the machinations of the US war machine. It is outrageous and people need to be outraged by it.

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Was Australia intended as a hemp colony?

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/ockhamsrazor/was-australia-intended-as-a-hemp-colony3f/4240480#transcript

Robyn Williams:  There’s as book on my desk which features the glossy portrait of a man you know in all his finery, red sash, large medallion, buttoned great coat and the face – all authority, determined jaw and imposing brow; for it is Sir Joseph Banks, whose name resounds all over Australia from Bankstown to banksias representing our firm link to a scientific tradition from the very beginnings of the European colony.  But then there’s the title of the book Sir Joseph Banks and the Question of Hemp.  Can this be serious? Was Joe a hippy? What’s the story?  Well here for your edification and mine is historian Dr John Jiggens – make of it what you will.

John Jiggens:  In 1995 I helped organise an Australian tour for Jack Herer, the author of a book called The Emperor Wears No Clothes, which was subtitled the true authoritative history of cannabis hemp.  Herer was an amateur historian and a crusader against marijuana prohibition who had discovered that marijuana was also this plant called hemp, which had once been an extremely important plant, but was now banned because it was said to be an evil drug plant.  During his research Herer discovered the founding fathers of the US, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, had grown hemp, while the sixth president, John Quincy Adams, had even written an essay on the growing of hemp in Russia when he was Consul there.

Herer concluded that hemp had been the most important plant on the planet and he developed the theory that marijuana prohibition had come about as a back door attempt to make hemp illegal.  Hemp had been banned because of the economic competition it offered to the plastic industry, to paper from trees and to new synthetic fibres like Nylon.

As a historian I found Herer’s history of cannabis remarkable, yet he was such a cannabis enthusiast that some of his conclusion seemed far-fetched. I set to work researching the history of hemp in Australia and I was surprised to discover that Herer’s claims about hemp’s historical importance were justified. From reading the documents about the founding of Australia and from reading books like Blainey’s The Tyranny of Distance I came to see how central concerns about hemp were in Britain in 1786 when the decision for New South Wales was made.

The history we had been taught at school that convicts were the original reason for settlement was simply a cover story.  New South Wales was intended as a hemp colony. For Europeans in the Age of Sail, cannabis did not mean marijuana; it meant hemp, the long vegetable fibre extracted from the stem of the European hemp plant.  The word canvas comes from the Dutch word for cannabis.  To fit out a first rate man-of-war required 80 tons of hemp for sails, cables and rigging and to produce that much hemp 320 acres of Cannabis sativa had to be grown.  Because it was the basis for sail and rope, hemp was as central to sea power and empire in the Age of Sail as oil is in our era.

Just as the oil industry provides the technological basis for our commerce and our warfare, 200 years ago hemp was basic to the technology of war and trade.  As oil supplies and alternatives to oil occupy some of the greatest minds of our era, 200 years ago, Sir Joseph Banks was preoccupied with hemp supplies and alternatives to hemp.

In the course of my research I became aware that Sir Joseph Banks played a central role in planning the colony of New South Wales and that Banks was deeply interested in hemp. Just as the founding fathers of the US were hemp enthusiasts, so was the founding father of Australia.  My breakthrough came while reading Joseph Maiden’s biography, Sir Joseph Banks – The Father of Australia, where I discovered a reference to a file in the Kew Banks’ collection called Hemp 1764-1810. For many years I have been sifting through this file, laboriously deciphering Banks’ gout-crippled handwriting, trying to understand the history it contained.  Having long suspected Banks’ central role in British hemp policy I was pleased to discover that the file more than confirmed my view.

The conventional explanation for the British settlement of New South Wales was that Britain needed to find an alternative outlet for disposing of its burgeoning criminal classes.  Since the British sent out convicts on the First Fleet it seemed reasonable to believe that they simply wanted Australia as a gaol.  Yet the cost of establishing a convict settlement halfway round the world was so great that historians like K. M. Dallas suggested that ‘the dumping of convicts view’ was too simple and that there were hidden reasons.

In Sir Joseph Banks and the Question of Hemp I suggest that the hidden reason  behind the settlement in New South Wales was the need for a replacement hemp colony, rather than a replacement prison. My analysis of the hemp trade between 1776 and 1815 shows that the need for a hemp colony was a recurring theme in British strategic thinking during the Georgian era.

Banks’ hemp file was my entry point to the question of hemp.  In 1797 at the height of the French Revolutionary Wars Sir Joseph Banks was appointed to the Privy Council Committee of Trade, the main instrument of the British state dealing with trade and colonies. At this crucial point in the struggle with France, Banks assumed charge of hemp policies for the British Empire.  The file, ‘Hemp 1764 to1810’ contained Banks’ working papers on hemp during this period.  The major document in this file was a report on the hemp question that Banks delivered to the Committee of Trade in 1802.

An important reason for the differing opinions about the founding of Australia is that we lack substantial documentation to explain the intent of the British government in 1786. Apart from the 15 paragraphs in the Heads of a Plan for Botany Bay there is an historical vacuum.  One of the 15 paragraphs in the Heads of a Plan is concerned with the importance of the New Zealand hemp plant for naval supplies.  There is substantial corroborative evidence in the journals and the letters of the early governors and officers to support the hemp colony theory; however this paragraph has been the major evidence that British government concerns over hemp prompted the Botany Bay decision.

This explains why Banks’ Privy Council file on hemp and the Indian Office files on the Indian hemp experiment are so important.  What these files disclosed was a second British hemp experiment in the Georgian era in India, but a much better documented hemp experiment, with the question of hemp comprehensively addressed in Banks’ report to the Committee of Trade and in George Sinclair’s memorial to the East India Company. Although there is a dearth of documentation on the New South Wales hemp experiment, these files on the Indian hemp experiment contained hundreds of pages of discussion and analysis of the hemp question.  Because of the short interval between the two hemp experiments, it can be confidently inferred that the benefits that were advanced for the Indian hemp trial were identical to those that prompted the New South Wales hemp trial.

Banks’ scheme to solve the question of hemp with cannabis plantations in India was undone by an error in cannabis taxonomy.  Although he was informed that hemp grew well in India, the cannabis of India, Cannabis indica, was different from Cannabis sativa;  Indian hemp or ganga had been developed as an inebriant, not a fibre crop.  Because they looked similar, the British assumed the plants were the same and that the Indians were foolishly ignorant of ganga’s quality as a hemp. And so the British grew plantations of ganga for hemp in India, unaware that they were trying to turn dope into rope.

But ganga, Cannabis indica, is a separate species to hemp, it is not a fibre crop just as hemp is not a drug crop. As well as revealing British hemp policies, Banks’ hemp file records his meeting with the Indian hemp plant. The existence of a drug variety of cannabis was puzzling to Banks and his investigators, because hemp does not have the same intoxicating qualities as ganga. Having procured a source of the drug Banks supplied the poet Coleridge with a quantity of Indian hemp.  Not only was Banks a substantial cultivator of the drug cannabis, he was also the first recorded supplier of drug cannabis in England!

The species question in cannabis is contentious, but over the centuries the polytypic theory of cannabis, the idea that there are several cannabis species, has developed.  First argued by Lamarck, Banks’ contemporary, and extended by the Russians in the early 20th century, the polytypic theory contends that there are three species of the genus cannabis, sativa, indica and ruderalis. This view is reinforced by the disappointment of Banks’ Indian hemp experiment, which failed because the British incorrectly assumed that the Indian hemp plant ganga was the same as European hemp.

In revealing how this error was made, I hope to clarify the cannabis debate and allow for more sensible cannabis laws.  At the moment hemp, Cannabis sativa, is regulated as though it were ganga, Cannabis indica. We ban hemp on the pretext that it is marijuana.  As a consequence the growing of hemp is illegal in many jurisdictions and in others it is so heavily regulated that the industry can barely survive.  I hope that this disambiguation of hemp and marijuana will aid the revival of this important plant.

In its day hemp was the most important vegetable on the planet.  During the age of oil hemp has been dethroned, slandered and banned.  The resulting mineralisation of the economy has been a major cause of growth of greenhouse gasses.  The re-vegetabilisation of the economy that a revival of the hemp industry will bring offers us the chance to change this.

Robyn Williams: Dr John Jiggens in Brisbane maybe he wants us to return to sail, it’ll be more serene, unless there’s a storm of course, but should take a little longer.  His book is Sir Joseph Banks and the Question of Hemp.  I’m Robyn Williams

References:

Herer, Jack The Emperor Wears No Clothes, Ah Ha Publishing, Van Nuys, CA, 1985

Hemp 1764-1810, Kew Banks Collection

Dallas M The First Settlement in Australia, considered in relation to sea-power in world politics THRA P&P, 1952, No. 3,12,

Hemp and Flax 1790-1805,IOR/H/375

Heads of a Plan for Botany Bay, Historical Records of New South Wales, Volume 1 part 2

Schultes, Richard Evans, Klein, William M, Plowman, Timothy and Lockwood Tom E. Cannabis: An example of Taxonomic Neglect (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard Botanic Museum, 1974

To order book go to Sir Joseph Banks

 

 

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Seneca, Revenge and Game of Thrones

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Game of Mates

Dr  Cameron Murray is an economist whose interests are environmental economics, rent-seeking and corruption, and property markets. At the Cracks in the Concrete conference he spoke about his research, which examined the characteristics of landowners whose lands were rezoned by the Queensland government agency, the Urban Land Development Authority, and landowners whose proposals were rejected..

The rezoning of their land by the authority very generously gifted successful  landowners, increasing the value of their holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars.  Dr Murray discovered that you were far more likely to be rezoned if you had connected relationships – common business connections, membership of lobby groups, or had directors with business connection to the regulating board.

In the successful group, 90% were clients of professional lobbyists. The lobbyists had a 100% success rate, with no landowners who employed lobbyists missing out on the rezoning. And 70% of rezoned landowners were political donors. These donors special mostly donated to both sides of politics – they were “equal opportunity” donors.

Dr Murray concluded that success depended on how well you played the Game of Mates, which was a process of joining the club of insiders who were connected to the regulators. He identified three core ingredients in the political favouritism that contributed to the Game of Mates.

The first was that there must be a honeypot; a valuable economic gain able to be given to private entities with a degree of discretion about who receives it, and in his study, this was the untaxed wealth gained through the process of rezoning.

The second ingredient necessary is that there must be loyal group of mates who are able to sustain an implicit system of trading favours, a powerful club, which other powerful players can join, and which has a revolving-door relationship with the regulating authority.

Thirdly, there must be a plausible story to let the public believe that this trading of favours is in the public interest.

The Honeypot
The honeypot arises from the many discretionary decisions in the planning system. Councils have a massive amount of discretion over the interpretation where developers seek to exceed codified limits, such as height and density restrictions. Worse, under the new planning laws recently passed in Queensland, the person making these interpretations can now be chosen by the developers themselves.

Dr Murray argues that we can remove the honeypot  by charging for additional rights given to landowners and developers through the planning system.

Such a system has been successfully implemented in the Canberra since 1971. They charge landowners 75% of the value gains from the higher value uses they undertake. They also do not allow private developers to convert land from rural to urban uses, ensuring a public agency captures these value gains as well.

The ACT raised $183 million from these systems last year. Scaling up, that could be $1.8 billion in revenue in a single year to the Queensland government and councils that is currently given away to landowners through planning decisions.

Loyal group of mates
The second ingredient the Game of Mates needs is a loyal group of mates. Handing out favours is only politically expedient when you get something in return.

By establishing a loyal group through common membership of clubs and industry groups, family and business connections, and by signalling your intention to reciprocate with political donations, politicians and other group members are able to give favours, knowing they will receive them in the future. The code is simple: mates look after mates. Instead of taking direct bribes for each decision, they simply give favours to other group members, who later reciprocate, ensuring that any wealth diverted to the group is eventually widely shared amongst all members.

The property mafia

Dr Murray describes this as a Mafia-like system, and argues that it must be tackled by making it more difficult to return favours, such as extending cooling-off periods for politicians. At present Queensland politicians are able to walk out of the government office on Friday, and start work f a develope r on Monday. The independence of the planning system needs to be policed.

 

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Looking for the alternative heart of West End on a Friday night as related by the Reverend Hellfire

Looking for the Alternative Heart of

West End

songsnotbombs

Songs not Bombs

on a Friday Night

As Related by Reverend Hellfire

And so our Expedition set off for the bright lights and overwhelming aroma of Souvlaki that is West End’s Boundary Street on a Friday night.

Our Mission; to celebrate Kurilpa Poets’ Secretary John Treason’s advancing years and, on a professional level, find the legendary, Alternative Heart of West End on a Friday Night.

 

“It’s there out somewhere”, the Editor of the Kurilpa Citizen assured me, “possibly lying broken in a gutter, but it’s still there! I know it!!” and he wiped away a tear as he turned back to his 1978 Whole Earth Catalogue (1968: Ed.).

*

Now my Editor may be a sentimental old hippie, but he had a point. I mean, West End/Kurilpa has a Reputation doesn’t it?

Only the other week the Courier Mail’s right-wing crank-in-residence, Des Hougton, was calling us Kurilpa residents a bunch of progress-hating, sandal-wearing, carrot-chewing, bicycle-riding vegan anarcho-lesbians, and he made it sound like a bad thing.

But it’s a Reputation, ironically, that those most inimical to it’s interests often like to trade off. You’ve seen the glossy ads spruiking Real Estate to yuppie property investors; “Come live in vibrant, cosmopolitan West End and help drive out those who made it colourful and vibrant in the first place”.

And indeed, how much of that Reputation is still deserved these days, with the concrete towers rising up around us and the remaining pockets of tin and timber becoming the preserve of the Gentry who bought property here to fall within the State High Catchment Area. Does West End/ Kurilpa still have a Rebel’s Heart? Does it tuck that Heart into its sleeve like a pack of cigarettes and go strolling down Boundary Street on a Friday night? Does Rock n Roll George‘s phantom FJ Holden still come rolling down from the hills like fog? It was my job to find out.

*

I assembled a lively crew of ratbags, and as we rolled down first Sussex Street and then Boundary Street, our Mass attracted smaller bodies who became trapped in our Gravitational field and joined our group. Singer/waitress, Jem Sparkles, aka, the Queen of Sussex Street, was a valuable addition to our quest at this stage and later we enlisted the talents of local Poet & “Life model”, Fiona Privitera in our search for West End’s Revolutionary Soul.

It was good to see that St Andrews Church on the corner of Sussex and Vulture is still contributing to the area’s Alternative Vibe. With a large billboard out the front boldly proclaiming support for the Rights of Refugees, in the hall out the back you’ll find the Ecstatic Dance mob whirling and twirling every Friday night between 7-9 pm.  There’s a kind of sufi/hippie vibe happening here, a little bit of bush-doof culture sprouting in a suburban church hall. It’s always looked like enormous fun when I’ve peered through the windows, and one Friday night when I have itchy feet and $15 in my pocket (apparently the door charge) I shall go in and join them.

*

But dancing was scheduled for later in the evening so we proceeded on down towards the Big Lizard, where we were rendezvousing at the Rumpus Room. As always Buskers were strategically placed along Boundary street’s length providing a smorgasbord of sound, honing their craft, paying their dues and hopefully making a few dollars in the process. (I never made any money busking; decent folk would cross the street to avoid me while the street lunatics would cluster round, taking me for one of their own.)

The Boundary Street Buskers help stoke the pulse and beat of the Street scene on a Friday night. Make sure you have some change in your pocket and lets hope some Bureaucratic Bastard doesn’t get the bright idea of making them get a permit.

*

I must admit a growing fondness for the Rumpus Room (though I do think they should change the name to “The Big Lizard”).

The relaxed vibe, the friendly, casual staff, the regular “happy hours” and the usually excellent music grooving away inside, (not too loudly for conversation) all contribute to a suitable setting for sociability.

It also possesses what may be Brisbane’s best DOSA  (Designated Outdoor Smoking Area) where you can smoke in the company of civilised, consenting adults. Yes, when it’s not raining, the smoking section of the Rumpus Room is the place to be, right at the tip of the little spearhead of land where Russell Street meets Boundary and the Big Lizard looms large and lordly on his throne. The mixed crowd has a kind of “Ric’s Place” ambience (Casablanca reference here) and you never know who’ll happen by and join you. This is the perfect place to sit and watch the Heart of West End pulse and throb on a Friday night. Or if you don’t want to spend money, sit on the other side of the railings with the street people hanging around the Big Lizard, who it must be said, makes a very comfortable backrest.

*

Anyways, it was here we made our Base of Operations.

At intervals people went off to forage for a cheap meal. The Night Markets are now located in the warren of former alleyways and car parks behind the shops lining Boundary Street and were doing a roaring trade that night.

Several of our crew went grazing there and their reports indicated the food was generally satisfactory if a bit on the pricey side. My Personal Assistant sniffed something about “Botulism Alley” and opted for a huge hamburger from GRILLD down the road, which she promptly gorged and pronounced, “Better than McDonald’s”.

The Night Market’s food-stalls looked a bit touristy to me, and besides, I was looking for West End’s Alternative Heart.

Something old school was called for.

So I went back up the street and around the corner to KING AHIRAMS on Vulture Street, a genuine West End Institution and still home to the best (and cheapest) Falafel Roll in Brisbane. Ahirams has been there as long as I can remember (circa 82) and while I think it may have had the odd name change along the way, it’s generally always been known as “the Falafel Shop” by its many patrons.

Succeeding generations of back-packers, students, musicians, punks and drunks, hippies and vegetarians have all been nourished at its ancient, scratched counter, and pecked at by its feral pigeons.

Happily they haven’t felt the need to make any changes to fit in with West Ends’ new up-market image. No, they will never smile at their customers, but who cares? I get a damn fine Falafel with chilli, a couple of hot, crumbly cheese puffs, and a big hit of sugar in the form of one of Ahirams deadly Turkish Delights.

“Ah when Ahirams goes, that’s it for the Old West End!” I prophesized darkly to my Personal Assistant as I retook my place in the DOSA.

We fell prey to Nostalgia for a moment then for old Icons lost; Remember the Hellas Deli and the lovely ladies who worked there, we sighed? What about Georges, the best old-school fish and chip shop in Brisbane- now just another plastic eatery for the well-heeled and called the Catchment. Ah well, time for another Gin & Tonic.

Back in the Present across the road in the little People’s Park, the big-hearted “FOOD NOT BOMBS” crew have cooked up a great alternative-style feast for all, and are busily distributing to the Dispossessed, and those who choose to eat with them. The food is generally the traditional share-house rice and beans type vegetarian concoctions; hot, simple and satisfying on a cold Winter’s night.

Also in the park, providing a suitably alt-rock soundtrack is a kind of avant-garde girl punk band. (Though they have a boy drummer who appears to have mounted his drum-kit on a bicycle) I’ve been told they’re called “Songs Not Bombs“, though I can’t vouch for it. Their raucous sounds really seem to capture the mood of Boundary Street on a Friday night and I made a note to look out for future gigs.

*

Interesting noises had also been drifting down from the Boundary Hotel for some time, so eventually we decided to investigate. Alas we missed the band that had been playing upstairs, but we were in time for to see Spook Hill start their set in the Public bar. They immediately won our esteem by virtue of having a Theremin on stage. Always been a sucker for a good Theremin. It’s all those B grade 50’s science fiction/horror films I watched as a child. Anyways Spook Hill were smart enough to use it sparingly, and thus, rather than just a novelty noise, it provided another tasty texture to their overall Mix, a classic, gritty sound in the Brisbane Pub-rock tradition.

*

The Boundary Hotel was starting to get a bit of a “Meat Market” thing going last year (all air-head, bleach-blonde bimbos in embarressingly short dresses and an attendant swarm of predatory and aggressive males) but after local objections, the Boundary, to its credit, has listened to Community sentiment, reversed direction and now seems more inclined to continue the tradition of supporting local bands. A lesson learned; Boundary Street, West End is not the Brunswick Street sleaze-strip in the Valley.

Neither is it a yuppie eatery enclave like Oxford Street, Bulimba.

Boundary Street is untidy and alive and in a flux of social forces jostling for space. It is the last place in Brisbane where posters and flyers adorn every wall and telegraph pole. The Blacks and the Street People still maintain a presence despite continual police harassment (Hey Jonathon SRI! How about more benches for Boundary Street so you can sit down without having to buy something?), buskers still ply their trade, students can still afford to eat out cheaply here, young people still come here to live an “Alternative Lifestyle”. But the Forces of Greed are salivating over our little enclave, and it is rare that They don’t get Their own way.

Boundary Street is in the process of becoming something Unique. Or it’s being swallowed up by Faceless Gentrification.

Time will tell which.

*

Come the Chimes of Midnight we are dancing in the Public Bar of the Boundary Hotel to the sleazy rhythms of Stagger Lee as rendered by Spook Hill. Slippin’ and sliding over the tiled floor, it seemed an appropriate climax to the evening.

“Well” asked Secretary Treason, as the Bouncers later moved us inexorably towards the Exit,” Did you find it?

Did you find West End’s Alternative Heart?”

“Yes, actually, I did”, I replied, “It’s here”.

“The Public Bar of the Boundary Hotel?” he frowned,

“well, I guess..”

“No you Fool,” I cried, “Its Here!”

And I placed my hand on my Heart.

“For wherever I go, surely there is the Alternative Heart of West End!”, I said, smiling like a Saint, or possibly ET.

He looked at me with what I first surmised to be Wonder.

“Amazing,”he said at last, in a deadpan tone that turned out to be sarcasm, “it’s like you’ve got absolutely no Ego at all”.

“Mocker! Doubter!” I levelled an accusing, Old Testament finger, “For I tell you, where-ever two or three are gathered in my name and sitting on a bench waiting for cheque day or up a quiet back alley sharing a joint, there I am also! For I am the Spirit of West End! Seriously, I should get a grant from the West End Traders Association just for turning up in my traditional native costume and amusing the bus loads of Asian tourists that are always carefully shepherded to the Sushi Joint near Nandos“.

“Yes, and you could pose for pictures with Scandinavian backpackers at $5 a pop”, Mr Treason proposed, well, that or sell them drugs.”

“True”, I agreed, “we must be flexible and nimble in today’s shifting market conditions. Privileged First World Tourists cannot be overlooked as an income stream if the West End Counter Culture is to survive as a parasitic organism! There are Lifters and Leaners in Life, John, and I intend to do all the leaning I can!”

 

“By the Gods!”, he exclaimed”, “you really are the Alternative Heart of West End!”

“I always suspected I was”, I humbly confessed.

 

 

***

 

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Brisbane residents break the Boundary

boundaryOn the last Saturday of winter, as the sun set over West End, local residents created a new public square by occupying Russell Street and throwing a protest party.

The headline act, local eight-piece The Mouldy Lovers, electrified the crowd with their big band beats prompting dancing to spontaneously break out in the street. What had moments ago been a dead sea of bitumen was instantly transformed into a buzzing social space.

Dubbed a protest with a twist, Break the Boundary was organised by Right to the City Brisbane. The group had held an ideas fiesta, Cracks in the Concrete, earlier that day. Pushing for more public space with greater community control, the group employed tactical urbanism as a means to achieve their goals on the night, if only temporarily.

In recognition that Brisbane was built on stolen  land, the Sovereign Women United were invited to participate in the occupation. Old hands at impromptu, powerful  actions, they arrived with red, yellow, and black paint for children to mark the giant fig with hand prints.

Roundly declared a success, the street occupation lasted for just under three hours before it was peacefully shut down by police with no fines issued. In refusing to apply for a protest permit, the organising group intended to raise the question as to who has the right to regulate and control how communities organise and exercise their democratic right to peaceful assembly.

In order to explain the logic behind the group’s actions, a beautifully illustrated zine was distributed on the night. Now available online, the zine included a call for a community debate to decide whether support existed to move ahead with a trial of the proposed square.

Break the Boundary challenged the traditional notions of what constitutes a protest. There were no political speeches and many passers-by may not even have realised it was a political event at all. Inspired by LGBT+ Pride, an event which is equal parts protest, community event, and a celebration of diversity, one of the goals of the night was always to blur the line between protest and street party.

Volunteers from the night reported a natural high that lasted for several days after the event. In exercising our collective right to the city, they experienced a rush of power quite alien to those of us who have grown used to contemporary Australia’s extreme regulation of public space.

In the months leading up to Break the Boundary, volunteers from Right to the City Brisbane put forward the idea to local residents and businesses and found there was almost universal support for the trial square.

Confidence piqued, the weekend prior to the event organisers knocked on the doors of local residents and popped into nearby business to let them know of the planned closure. There were no objections raised, many accepting the invite to come along on the night.

Break the Boundary is only the first of many interventions Right to the City Brisbane will be staging. We hope to have inspired our fellow neighbours to look at our city in a slightly different light. There is power in numbers and for those who wish to get more involved, join us at 6:30 pm on September 15 at The Red Brick Hotel, Woolloongabba for our next strategy and organising meeting, Streets of our Town.

 

 

 

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Comrade Reeves: Tony Reeves (1940-2013)

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Tony Reeves 2007

The award-winning author and journalist Tony Reeves was your classic leftie, a genuine class warrior and true believer. He strove hard to be a modest and common man but was continually undermined by his uncommon compassion, commitment, larrikinism, humanity and grace.

He defied being pigeonholed but would not have objected to being variously labelled as a Marxist and a socialist – he would proclaim in a rare deviation from his unswerving atheism, “God forbid, call me anything but a rat and class traitor, an ‘effing’ Trotskyist”.

Tony Reeves was born on May 6, 1940 in Essex, then the family moved to Wales, away from the war. Treeves, as he was commonly known, learnt the language and his later Welsh choirboy impersonations were frightening.

In 1954 Treeves moved to Australia and turned his hand successfully to activities from cultivating roses to silversmithing, and also sewing. But his innate love of life, dedication to truth, unavowed commitment to bolshie left-wing beliefs and love of all things wordy and English led him into journalism.

No formal education, no degrees, but an uncanny love of the language and unadulterated life experience drew him to journalism on the chance he may be able to right the wrongs in his obsessive dislike of perpetrated corruption, deception, duplicity and outright criminal tendencies.

Starting as a copyboy on The Daily Telegraph, Reeves worked through his grades – no mean feat as he had no respect for authoritarian chiefs-of-staff and editors. He quickly became an investigative journalist and went on to work at the Daily MirrorThe Sunday Telegraph, the Sunday Australian, the Nation Review and the ABC. It was his forensic and multi-dimensional reporting that helped to bring about the Moffitt royal commission into organised crime.

In 1975 Reeves joined his close friend and investigative journalist Barry Ward in trying to unravel the apparent murder of Kings Cross newspaper publisher Juanita Nielsen.

They were continually rebuffed in their efforts to have the book published or to force a commission of inquiry to expose the truth behind this sordid tale of police and political corruption, of betrayal and heinous brutality.

Early on in Australia, Reeves also decided that the Labor Party was the best vehicle to implement his radical agenda, particularly his fearless advocacy of public housing, public transport and support of the green bans movement.

His drive and energy led him to spend seven years as a councillor on the Sydney City Council from September 1977.

Reeves fought to preserve Sydney’s historic sites from demolition and worked overtime to save inner-city suburbs, such as Woolloomooloo and The Rocks.

He was prepared to talk any time on urban conservation and his various campaigns saved many inner-urban tenants of low-rental homes from eviction and communities from disruption and dislocation.

In 1992, he moved to Queensland with his partner Kamala and organised a super-leftie branch of the ALP.

He was impressed by a rather left-wing barrister at one meeting saying, “I would far prefer to have a small cadre of left-wing comrades in this branch than a thousand careerist apparatchiks destined to embrace the ministerial leather in some sellout Labor government.”

In Brisbane Reeves returned to his freelance writing and publishing career. His interest was rekindled in investigating the criminal behaviour and corruption he had witnessed first hand as a young reporter in Sydney. His first book Mr Big: Lennie McPherson and His Life of Crime (2007) won the Crime Writers’ Association Ned Kelly Award for true crime. He followed this with Mr Sin: the Abe Saffron Dossier (also 2007) and The Real George Freeman (2011).

 

Jack Saunders

 

 

 

 

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Brisbane residents break the Boundary

On the last Saturday of winter, as the sun set over West End, local residents created a new public square by occupying Russell Street and throwing a protest party.

The headline act, local eight-piece The Mouldy Lovers, electrified the crowd with their big band beats prompting dancing to spontaneously break out in the street. What had moments ago been a dead sea of bitumen was instantly transformed into a buzzing social space.

Dubbed a protest with a twist, Break the Boundary was organised by Right to the City Brisbane. The group had held an ideas fiesta, Cracks in the Concrete, earlier that day. Pushing for more public space with greater community control, the group employed tactical urbanism as a means to achieve their goals on the night, if only temporarily.

In recognition that Brisbane was built on stolen  land, the Sovereign Women United were invited to participate in the occupation. Old hands at impromptu, powerful  actions, they arrived with red, yellow, and black paint for children to mark the giant fig with hand prints.

Roundly declared a success, the street occupation lasted for just under three hours before it was peacefully shut down by police with no fines issued. In refusing to apply for a protest permit, the organising group intended to raise the question as to who has the right to regulate and control how communities organise and exercise their democratic right to peaceful assembly.

In order to explain the logic behind the group’s actions, a beautifully illustrated zine was distributed on the night. Now available online, the zine included a call for a community debate to decide whether support existed to move ahead with a trial of the proposed square.

Break the Boundary challenged the traditional notions of what constitutes a protest. There were no political speeches and many passers-by may not even have realised it was a political event at all. Inspired by LGBT+ Pride, an event which is equal parts protest, community event, and a celebration of diversity, one of the goals of the night was always to blur the line between protest and street party.

Volunteers from the night reported a natural high that lasted for several days after the event. In exercising our collective right to the city, they experienced a rush of power quite alien to those of us who have grown used to contemporary Australia’s extreme regulation of public space.

In the months leading up to Break the Boundary, volunteers from Right to the City Brisbane put forward the idea to local residents and businesses and found there was almost universal support for the trial square.

Confidence piqued, the weekend prior to the event organisers knocked on the doors of local residents and popped into nearby business to let them know of the planned closure. There were no objections raised, many accepting the invite to come along on the night.

Break the Boundary is only the first of many interventions Right to the City Brisbane will be staging. We hope to have inspired our fellow neighbours to look at our city in a slightly different light. There is power in numbers and for those who wish to get more involved, join us at 6:30 pm on September 15 at The Red Brick Hotel, Woolloongabba for our next strategy and organising meeting, Streets of our Town.

 

 

 

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